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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2251523
Maggs finds love in a far away place.
Maggs stepped out onto the street still in a daze. Her mind swam with images of Tony with Denise, together in their bed. Their sexual frenzy echoing within the frazzled corridors of her mind. She blinked through the blur of tears that now began to stream from her eyes in silent torrents. Her future dashed.

Their wedding was only a few weeks off. She had suspected nothing. If she hadn't lost her job and come home early, she would probably still not know.

Her maid of honour had no honour. Her fiancé, a lying bastard. She knew she was better off, but the pain was crushing and the betrayal cut deep.

**

Feeling every bit the failure, she returned to her childhood home to commiserate and slowly find her way back to herself. She refused to let Tony win.

She received emails from several writer friends who had heard that she had been let go from the company. She was amazed to hear from them and their comments boosted her spirits and had her re-thinking her options.

"Just because the company re-organized, does not mean they kept the good people, You, Margaret, are my go-to and I was so disappointed to hear they let you go. Can I still count on you to edit my work?"

Deciding freelance was the way to go, Maggs had agreed.

In the months that followed, she laid low in the small apartment over her parents garage, creating a website and advertizing her editorial services. The few writers who wanted to stay with her, were only too happy to pass on her name and before she knew it she had a thriving business.

She began to write again. It had been her first love, but when she and Tony had gotten serious, she had stopped. A vital part of herself closed off and almost forgotten. No wonder she had lost sight of who she was. The writing helped her to heal. As her confidence grew, she began to submit pieces for publication and was amazed to find this too was possible.

Her sister, Janey and her mother were concerned about her.

“You’re working too much,” they told her one afternoon after they managed to convince her to meet them for lunch.

“It’s one thing to find work you enjoy, but you have to have a life outside of work,” her sister told her. “It’s all about balance.”

Maggs knew her big sister was right. Still, she felt nervous about venturing out, putting herself out there again.

“You need a partner,” her mother began.

“Some friends,” Janey said giving her mother a pointed stare that almost had Maggs laughing. “What happened was awful, but don’t let it imprison you from trying again. Meeting people. Getting out. Living. Don’t let them win. You need to get your social groove back.”

Janey was right. She knew just what to say. She would hate to let Tony or Denise win.

**

After that conversation, Maggs decided she would not hide out where she was for the rest of her life. She set her sights and her savings on travel. There were so many places she wanted to go. So many places her ex had been adamantly against it because he could not handle a flight longer than four hours. This was her chance. Besides, if she could work from anywhere, why not?

Her sister was so happy for her and together they researched places to go and what to see.

“I am so envious,” Janey said as they looked up a variety of places.

“You’ll travel too,” Maggs assured her.

“I’ll be awhile,” she said as she rubbed her swollen, pregnant belly, “I’ll have to live vicariously through you for awhile.”

Maggs smiled wistfully. “I promise, I won’t go until after the baby is born. I don’t want to miss meeting my niece.”

Being away from her family left an ache, but she knew she needed to do this. The more she planned the more she wanted to get away and see more of the world. She was feeling constrained.

**

By the time she had a comfortable nest egg built up, the weather was beginning to turn and the snow beginning to melt away.

She spent the next year wandering the globe. Paris had been blissful and she had made many good friends there. One woman lived in Wales and invited her to visit. She had and her experiences had enriched her. Her confidence grew and so did her talents.

She had taken to writing travelling on a budget articles and they’d sold. She wrote about the less touristy places and blogged about her adventures. Amid the traveling, writing and editing, she found time to work on a novel she wanted to write. Things were going well.

**

In each of the places she’d traveled, Maggs felt herself grow and expand. Gone was the timid little copywriter who had felt splayed open when she had been let go from her first real editorial job. That young girl who had stumbled home after being dismissed to find her fiancée in bed with her best friend was finally buried. Traveling and stepping into her own talents had allowed her to shed the skin that had contained her in past expectations. Expectations that had her contorting herself into something she was not.

She was finally becoming a person she was meant to be and living her life fully. She pushed herself to want more. Freelancing was scary at first, but now she reveled in the challenges. She gained confidence in her own writing and made a few really good friends along the way.

But sometimes, in the dark of night when she would stand looking out into the bright lights and bounty before her, she could not help longing for someone to share it with. Someone to wrap their arms around her and love her. Loneliness lingered in the shadows.

**

When she arrived in Sydney it was two years to the day she had discovered Tony’s infidelity. She couldn’t imagine her life with him now. She barely recognized herself. She let those thoughts drift away as she took in the view below her as the plane circled and made it’s final descent.

Sydney was a fresh experience. The harbour truly was spectacular. The cab dropped her off at a hostel not far from the university. A quaint little place just perfect for a traveler with a limited budget. Having a room with its own bathroom was a nice touch and she gloried in a luxurious bubble bath that evening to wash away the traveler's dust.

There was something about the place that just seemed right. Like she was supposed to be here; like this was her place. It was the first time in a long while she felt like she was home. Strange that it was so far from her native land, but maybe that was the point. Place, like her past, needed to be shed to bring out the full person.

**

That night she slept well. She awoke refreshed instead of travel weary. She couldn’t wait to get out and explore.

As she ambled along one of the city’s streets, she felt a strange sense of being centered. It had been awhile since she had felt like this. She moved along taking in the sights; soaking it all in. After awhile, she found herself in front of a quaint little used bookshop and wine bar. The combination intrigued her and she had to go in.

The place was seeped in memory and bulging with history. Maggs pulled in a deep breath and could not help smiling as the musty sweetness of old books mingled with new ones. The shelves rose up from floor to ceiling, piled full of delightful treasures. A booklovers paradise.

"I will only let myself have two," she told herself as she smiled over at the bookseller who smiled back. She moved through the aisles with a reverence most people reserved for church. Each bookshop she had ventured into on her travels, had its own unique character and charm. Maggs felt a stirring connection here. Something magical. She let it swirl around her like a cat around your ankles careful to move slowly so as not to disturb the creature that rubbed affectionately at your legs.

The Artist and Creative Writing section brought her to a snails pace. There were many titles she coveted.

She climbed up on the edge of a lower shelf to help her reach one of the titles just beyond her reach. Clasping it, she lost her balance and sailed backward.

Her own strangled scream was mingled with an "umph." she heard as her body met with a solid mass of muscle.

"Oh, I'm so sorry..." she began as strong hands caught her and helped her to right herself. She turned to face a man. Her eyes widened at the sight a chiseled jaw and mesmerizing, deep blue eyes. She could still feel herself falling as he smiled at her. Her heart skipped a beat then raced, leaving her feeling light-headed.

"Not to worry. Though you can use the little ladders Alexander has about the place to get up to the rafters." He pointed to the object and she dragged her gaze away from his to see the squat grey ladder leaning in the corner.

"I wasn't sure if I was supposed to use that and I didn't want to bother..."

"You'll not bother Alex. He likes helping damsels in distress, but I will admit, I do as well..."

Maggs could feel the blush of crimson begin to creep up her neck and flush her cheeks. She watched him bend and pick the book she had been pulling from its high bough. He smoothed his hand over it reverently before handing it to her.

"A fan of __, I see." he said as their fingers brushed and Maggs felt the jolt of electricity zing up her arm.

"I heard about this book and wondered if it were any good..."

"Oh, it is," he said giving her a mischievous grin. "Any writer would be proud to keep it at the ready... I have my own copy. Signed, in fact."

"Really, you got to meet her?"

He nodded. His lopsided grin charming her. "I have the best connections." He wriggled his brows at her and she chuckled.

He grinned at her. She was about to ask him more, when someone called out his name “Daniel”.

“Sorry, Alex calls. It was nice running into you.” He bowed gallantly, then was gone.

She watched him walk away hoping for another chance to chat. It had been so long since any man had caused her heart to flip, in fact, no one had. He intrigued her.

Shortly after, she saw him leave the shop. Disappointment flickered through her. Just her luck. ‘Probably already taken anyway’, she told herself as she tried to push him from her mind.

**

The next day after she had walked for what seemed like miles upon miles, she found herself at lovely cafe. The perfect place to stop for lunch and do some people watching.

She took a seat where she had a good view of the whole place and took out her notebook. She jotted notes while she waited for her lunch. She was interested in soaking in the local charm.

She watched a rather beautiful woman with long blond hair approach the counter to order. She exuded a confidence that Maggs envied. The woman smiled at the barista and chatted with ease. Maggs wished she had that kind of carefree ease. When the woman glanced her way and smiled, Maggs smiled back feeling her old shyness flare up.

Maggs dipped her eyes to her notebook. She jotted more thoughts trying to capture the fullness of the moment. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the woman take a seat not far from her.

A short while later she glanced up to see the young man from the bookshop enter. Maggs let out a small gasp of recognition, then dipped her head. She could feel her cheeks flaring. She was caught in the vortex of wanting to be noticed and talked to and wanting to be invisible. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, transfixed by his tall, athletic build. He wore Khaki board shorts and a t-shirt that hugged his fine torso.

The man clearly took care of himself. His light brown hair was cut short, but not too short. His muscled arms had a dusting of light hair over a sun kissed tan. There was an ease to him. Maggs tried hard not to stare or let her mouth hang open.

When he smiled at her she nearly swallowed her tongue as she realized she had not been doing such a good job of observing covertly. Drooling, more like. What was wrong with her. She dipped her head back down to her notebook just as she heard the other woman call out to him.

"Figures," she thought morosely, "any man that good looking has got to be taken."

**

"Daniel, you finally showed. I thought for sure you were going to stand me up again this time," the blond woman chided.

He chuckled. A deep resonant sound. Maggs could feel it like a caress along her spine. She shifted to hide the tremor of awareness that skittered across her skin.

"So have you finally got that manuscript done?" the woman asked when he slide in across from her after getting his own coffee.

Maggs ears perked up at the word manuscript. She listened for more, careful to keep her eyes on her notebook.

She could see him shrug as he let his head lull from side to side a moment as he said, "almost. I still want to do another pass before I let you read it."

"Ever the perfectionist," the woman teased.

"No, just getting it right. It is far from perfect, I'm sure. What about you? You meet with your editor yet?"

Maggs was captivated by the sound of his smooth, Australian accent.

"This afternoon, then I’m taking a couple of days to slum it before the next phase of real work begins. I want to hit the market; the beach; a night club or two. You'll come?' the woman paused expectantly before adding, "You can bring Stella, I suppose."

Maggs saw the man's smile tighten around the edges before he said, "Stella's history."

"Oh, really. Why am I not surprised,"

"Chelsea," his tone was one of censure.

"Oh, fine, but I still think you are so much better off without that..." Chelsea bit off the words she clearly wanted to say.

There was a pause. Maggs looked up to catch a dark look from the man before she dipped her head back down.

"I still think, if you hadn't been dealing with her drama you would be finished your Masters and celebrating your published book by now. You are so much more than that."

"I happen to like teaching..."

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that. Personally, I think you could do better kicking it in the publishing world and not just dabbling."

"I’m not dabbling,"

"You're playing it safe. I say, jump in, the water's just fine."

"Yeah, well I don't have the kind of resources you do and I want to finish my Master’s."

"Ah, Daniel. You don't need those kind of resources to make it. You just have to have a little faith and a willingness to dive in."

Daniel took a sip of coffee as he considered her words.

"Besides, resources or not, I'd still be doing this now. I'm young. Plenty of time to make up for a misspent youth if I don't measure up."

"Yes, but you do measure up."

"Why thank you. that means a lot."

"Just say it how I see it."

"Well, still, I appreciate it." After quirking a brow, she went on, ""I can't interest you in joining me at the writer's conference in a couple of weeks? I'm a presenter."

He smiled, "You know I can't, but congratulations on being a presenter. That's really great. Good for you."

"Well, thanks," she said while rubbing her nails on her shoulder in a show of 'that was nothing'. They laughed.

"So, what say you to joining me for some adventures around here. Get away from stuffy academia and let loose. I want to check out some old haunts. Shappiro? You up for it tomorrow night? I need to talk to Alex anyway.”

"What about Aaron? Did he join you this time?"

Chelsea shook her head, looking a bit peevish, "I kicked his arse to the curb. I decided I was far better off without his lying bullshit."

Daniel nodded, then added, "I could probably arrange it..."

"Say seven?" When he smiled his acceptance, Chelsea smiled radiantly, then asked, "and what about the night clubs?"

Daniel just smiled as he rose from his chair. "We'll see..."

"You're gettin' stoggy, Dani boy."

Daniel laughed. He tossed his cup and headed out past Magg's table. She looked up and caught the smile he aimed at her. She couldn’t help smiling back. She just hoped it was not too dopey.

After he passed out of the café, Maggs watched him go until he was out of sight. When she turned back she found Chelsea looking over at her with a knowing smile on her face.

"Well, that was interesting." the woman mused quietly.

"I'm sorry, I missed that." Maggs asked caught between embarrassment and the skittering emotions of Daniel's gaze.

Chelsea's brows shot up. "Okay, now that accent is not from around here...

Maggs smiled, "I'm Canadian."

Chelsea nodded. The smile on her face grew. "Even more Interesting."

The chime from a cell phone had Chelsea glancing down to read a text. “Oh, man. I’ve got to go... just when it was getting interesting.” She winked at Maggs as she got up to go.

**

After a good bit of lunch, Maggs set off for something a little more peaceful. She found a park stretching out before her. The grass lush and the flowers fragrant.

She moved along the path that entered into a grand canopy of fall foliage. It still amazed her that it was really autumn. The colours were gorgeous.

She could not resist taking off her shoes and socks to stand barefoot on the carpet of green grass that whirled and swirled itself around beds of flowers in full bloom.

Any lingering stresses slipped away, leaving her feeling the most uplifted she'd felt in a long while.

She found a spot under a wonderfully vibrant tree and spread out her blanket. She didn't care that she might be the only one. This was the perfect place to relax and get her bearings.

She pulled out her notebook and pen and setting her backpack behind her, she eased back and relaxed. She took time to scribble down her thoughts of her journey so far. She could not help mentioning the handsome stranger she had met. She’d seen him twice already.

At a snuffling sound, she looked up to see a young, black lab grinning over at her. The dog's tail was waging furiously.

"Well, hello there," she said holding out her hand for the dog to sniff and was rewarded with a sloppy kiss. She laughed.

The dog's ears perked as she heard a male voice call out. Maggs followed the dog's gaze to see the same good-looking young man who clearly was looking worried until he noticed the dog and jogged over.

"I'm sorry about this, Lylah has a mind of her own. I stopped just long enough to tie my shoe and she sprinted off, Oh hello again," his warm grin tipped up the edges of his lips.

"Well, then you shouldn't be wearing shoes," Maggs said wriggling her toes and laughing when the dog licked then.

"Apparently," he said giving her a boyish grin. "She really does like to make new friends."

"I'm Maggs," she said confidently. It surprised her that she did not feel her usual discomfort at meeting strange men. Maybe it had been because she had met him briefly already and he shared a love of writing.

"Daniel... and this is Lylah," he said giving the dog and hearty rub.

"You come here often?" she asked, not wanting him to disappear again too soon.

His lopsided grin deepened as he nodded. "It's one of our favourite walks, or in today's case, runs." He hunkered down beside the dog to give her another rub, before saying, "it's not too often we see anyone out here on a Thursday relaxing on a blanket."

"Well, I needed a place to read and I’ve been doing a far bit of exploring. I figured fresh air in a park was a good bet. I love the colours. Fall is such a special time. When I left home it was the beginning of Spring."

He arched a brow as he asked, "Where's home?"

"Canada,"

"Well, that explains the accent."

"I don't have an accent.... you do." They laughed.

"So, if people don't lay around on blankets on a Thursday what do they usually do?" she asked reaching out to give the dog's fur a rub.

"Well, any number of things..."

"But what about you, specifically," she asked wanting to know more about him. Her boldness surprised her.

He grinned at her before saying, "other than stalking bookshops...meeting friends in cafes or walking my dog on my lunch break... I can be found at the university working on my dissertation."

"Your Master's... what area of study?"

"Creative Writing."

"Wow! That's great."

He motioned to the book that lay open on her lap, "what about you? You don't strike me as someone to just lay about."

A blush tinged her checks as she dipped her gaze down to the book and fingered it nervously, "well..." Her throat swelled like it usually did when the conversation turned to her and her dreams.

"Ah, let me guess. You are on your way to becoming the next best selling author and decided Sydney was a great place to get your juices flowing." His tone was light and when Maggs glanced up to see if he was being serious, she was met with a mischievous grin.

A chuckle escaped as she shook her head, "nothing quite that dramatic, I'm afraid..."

"Ah, but you do have aspirations."

Maggs bit her lip nervously and nodded, "I do."

His grin deepened. "Then you have come to the right place. This may seem a little forward, but I am meeting a friend tomorrow night at that same bookshop. It is a favourite spot..."

"Are you now?'

He grinned that charming boyish grin before adding, "Of course, and I was wondering if you were interested in meeting us there. She’s a writer, as well, and I have always thought it’s important to meet people from your tribe."

"Oh, I wouldn't want to impose..."

"Nah, it's no imposition. Chelsea would love to meet you."

"But it's your date..."

He began to laugh and shake his head. His nose crinkled as he said, "Chelsea is like a sister. We've known each other since we were kids."

"Well..."

"No pressure.... You can decide, but it would be great if you came." He glanced at his watch and grimaced, “Seems Layla and I need to get going. Please come. You would be more than welcome. Think about it."

With that said, he and Lylah stood and backed away. He grinned and waved before the two of them turned and jogged off along the trail away from her.

Maggs watched the two of them until they were out of sight. In this huge city she had seen the man twice in one day. That had to mean something. She smiled to herself. Meeting some new people would be good for her and she had liked what he had said about them being a ‘tribe’. Having writing friends felt good. She noted the time he had said at the top of her page, then settled back to write a bit more before packing it in and heading off to get settled into her room at the hostel.

**

Before she could change her mind, she dressed in a light causal dress and good walking sandals. She took the light jacket she had packed and headed out. If she waffled any more about going, her nerves would get the best of her. She decided to be brave and go.

Wanting to see him again drew her like a magnet. She was also curious about his childhood friend, a woman he had known since childhood.

The Bookshop and Wine Bar was different at this time of night. With evening darkening and the bookshop closed, the tiny string lights on the wine bar’s patio seemed to welcome her. She took a deep breath and stepped into the area scanning the tables for any sign of Daniel and his friend.

His smile captured her as he waved her over. He stood as she approached and pulled out a chair for her to slip into. No man had ever done that for her before and it made her feel special. She could not help smiling as she greeted both of them.

“Chelsea, this is the woman I was telling you about...”

The woman smiled and chuckled as she said, “The girl from the café… Daniel is not one to pick up strays so I figured there had to be something special about you and I can see for myself why he is smitten.”

Maggs snuck a glance over at Daniel to see he was blushing at his friend’s words. He also did not deny her comments which warmed her heart and caused the butterflies in her stomach to flutter.

“He’s always been rather shy with woman....”

“Well, I did kind of fall into him,” Maggs pointed out.

“True, that helped I’m sure,” Chelsea said clearly amused at her friend’s discomfiture.

Daniel cleared his throat, then asked, “Ladies. Another glass of wine, Chelsea and for you Maggs?”

When he moved off to get their drinks, Chelsea leaned in and whispered, “I do love to rattle him. He makes it so easy,” with a light chuckle she sobered and said, “But he did mention you are a writer.”

“I try... much of my time these days is split between freelance editing and writing travel articles.”

“Oh, really. Now that is good to know. One could always use a good editor. Mine is horribly strict, but you don’t strike me as such.”

Maggs smiled, “Ah, but I am not your editor.”

“True, but your strike me as... human.”

Maggs laughed with Chelsea and the two of them looked up at a returning Daniel with bright eyes and big smiles.

“What have I missed?” he asked setting down the glasses of wine.

“Maggs here, is also a freelance editor,” Chelsea told him with an impressive air about her.

Maggs chuckled despite her nerves, “It’s paying my bills... not that I have many.”

“So you could work from anywhere?”

“Technically, so could you Chelsea,” Daniel pointed out.

“True, and I have done a bit of travelling. Where else have you been?”

Maggs told them of the places she had seen and highlighted some of the sights she had experienced.

“Well, I applaud your courage,” Cheslea said raising her glass in a cheer. Maggs and Daniel touched glasses and took sips.

The wine was quite good. A selection of nibbles was ordered and shared. The conversation flowed. Maggs was glad she had come, not just to see Daniel again, but to meet people.

By the time they walked out of the place at closing time, she had a shopping date with Chelsea for the next morning at the Glebe Point Market and an invitation to join Daniel in the afternoon. He promised to show her the sights.

**

By the time Daniel walked her home and said good night, Maggs was floating on air. She could not believe this was her life.

She had come so far in two years. Part of her was scared to follow her heart, let herself be hurt again, but part of her felt a peaceful intensity that let her know she was ready. Daniel was worth it and she was going to take a chance.

Word Count = 4754.
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