Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Prior Engagements

Romance, Everett decided as he stomped down the altar’s runner, was entirely useless.

He’d spent more than two and half years courting Miss Lavender, and now today of all days, she announced she wouldn’t be marrying him.

Not even to his face.

She’d sent a letter.

The last six months of wedding preparations had to be undone. At least half of what he’d spent was permanently lost. That much he’d expected for some places, especially for the church. They used the fees and money to help keep the church in running order.

The fact he’d had the priests offering their condolences as if someone had died was what bothered him the most.

He yanked the church doors open, striding outside without looking at what lay behind. A yelp and he fell backwards, having collided with someone on their way in.

“I’m so sorry.”

Her voice was gentle and Everett looked up. Her basket had spilled, dried flowers and a few carefully letter papers littering the steps. All the same, she held a hand down to him.

“It’s not your fault,” Everett said. “I shouldn’t be letting my temper get me into a mood to stomp around.”

She smiled as he took her hand. He hardly needed the help up, but accepted. Everett straightened his vest and bent again, scooping up the things he’d spilled when they’d collided.

“Thank you,” she said. “Although, may I ask what has you in such a mood?”

Such a light, gentle tone, like kisses from the air. He had to chuckle, a little darker. “My bride-to-be had decided she won’t be marrying me. I’ve spent most of the day running around and trying to undo all of the wedding preparations. I…” He glanced back at the altar.

It looked like any other day of the week with how it was set now. Three bowls. One each for the land, the sea and the sky. On his wedding day they would have been surrounded by sprays of flowers and ribbons. Their rings would have been blessed in each bowl before they were allowed to place them on their fingers.

Thoughts for another time, Everett decided and turned with a shake of his head. “I am sorry,” he said as she counted her papers. “Like I said, I shouldn’t be letting my mood make me stomp around.”

“For something that heartbreaking, it’s understandable. Just, perhaps, be a little more observant before you run into someone else, please?”

The soft smile on her face melted some of his anger away. “Of course,” he said. “I—I’m so sorry, I don’t even have your name.”

“Blair,” she answered and inclined her head. “And you’re Everett Atoll.”

“Uh—yes. I don’t recognize you.”

“I’d be surprised if you did. My father’s one of your newest business partners. Ashton Carrier.”

Blair Carrier. He’d not only run into a young, gentle woman, but Blair Carrier herself. Masterful writer and champion of charities across the region.

“I’m so sorry Miss Carrier,” he said. “Please, let me make it up to you.”

“Blair!”

That wasn’t her father’s voice but she turned towards it all the same. The man who came up had to be at least ten years older than her. He caught her hand with affection on his face. “Are you alright?”

“Fine, Jacob. A little mishap, nothing more. I just need to see these are handled properly and then we can get back home.”

Everett knew Jacob. He’d been introduced as a family retainer during one business meeting. Doubtless sent to help Blair with her errands today.

Jacob sighed and offered a mocking bow. “As the lady demands.”

Blair laughed and turned, lifting one side of her skirt as she bowed to Everett. “I have some things to see to. If you need help with anything, I’m happy to assist.”

He couldn’t hep but smile. “Thank you, but unless you happen to know someone in need of a white lace dress, I’m afraid everything else is out of my hands.”

“White lace? I might know someone,” Blair said.

“Really?’” It surprised him and Blair laughed.

“I do like having a few nicer dresses.”

“It’s—uh, perhaps I can help you here and show you the dress? It’s at Missus Cleary’s now.”

“I’d love to. Oh, Jacob. I’m sorry.”

Jacob however, held up a hand, a smile on his face. “It matters little and gives me time perhaps to ensure lunch isn’t forgotten before someone else finds a need of your aid for some reason.”

Blair laughed and shook her head before she turned another smile on Everett. “Give me the hour and then shall I meet you at Missus Cleary’s?”

“Absolutely,” Everett said. “Thank you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” she said and offered a little wave. He returned it as his mood lightened.

She vanished into the church and Everett gave himself a little shake while Jacob beamed after her. “She is a marvel,” Jacob said and inclined her head. “I’ll see to it that the cost of the dress is covered for Miss Blair.”

“It’s already paid for,” Everett said and turned. “I’m happier that I don’t have another reminder of my prior engagement hanging about. Perhaps I should have mentioned it was a wedding dress.”

Jacob chuckled as he followed Blair inside. Everett watched over his shoulder a moment longer before he shook it off. He’d get rid of the wedding dress—perhaps offer to have some alterations added so it wasn’t as clear what its intended purpose had been.

Besides, he decided, it was only Blair Carrier being the kind young woman she was known to be. It wasn’t as if Everett would be foolish enough to romance another woman.

Not at least, so soon after his prior engagement.


by A.J. Helms

If you enjoyed this, you can find more of my works by visiting my books page or picking up a copy of my newest release, Crimson and Gold for Kindle.

Posted in Stories

Short Story: The Dead End Road

Everyone said Sunray Road was a cursed road. It was a dead end with broken and faded asphalt no one bothered maintaining. No one lived down it and there was nothing at the other end.

Jake stood at the public end of it, his arm still sore from where he’d been grabbed and the forming bruise on the side of his face making his cheek tender. He was sure if he cared to look he’d find more bruises.

If Sunray was cursed, it couldn’t be any worse than his father’s fists.

The road curved back on itself, hiding whatever lay at the end behind overgrown weeds, grass and trees. What little remained of the sidewalk had been covered with plant life and cracked by the constant push of roots.

If there was nothing at the other end, he reasoned, why was it supposedly cursed? Even his friends at school weren’t about to explore Sunray, and they’d been brave enough to sneak into Old Man Sam’s yard and steal all the toys lost over his fence.

Stepping carefully to avoid the worst of the holes in the asphalt, Jake began down the road. Once there had been lines, but now all that remained were disjointed flakes of white paint.

He rounded the curve and stopped, listening for any sign of danger. A few birds chirped, and the distinct whine of a flying insect somewhere to his left, but no sounds indicating people. Just the rustles of plants as the wind caressed them. He smiled, liking the peacefulness of it.

Sunray curved a little farther back before it finally revealed the end to Jake. He’d thought it was a dead end, but in reality, it was a cul-de-sac. A single house stood on it, looking old and forgotten.

For the first time, worry made him stop. No one had ever said anything about a house on Sunray, and even the signs at the opening said it was a dead end with no exit.

It was the quiet that convinced him to move forward. Jake knew fear, he knew anger and he knew danger. They sounded like doors opening too roughly and harsh voices. They didn’t sound like soft rustles of plants or a sparrow singing.

There was no mat on the front door, and Jake doubted anyone would even answer, but his mother had taught him manners once upon a time, and so he knocked. The door squealed a little as it opened and he jerked back from the movement.

With no other movement however, he hesitated for a moment before stepping closer.

“Hello?” His voice chose that moment to crack, making him sound younger than he was. No response came out and he swallowed. “Is it alright if I come in?”

Still no response, and he dared step inside, looking around.

The furniture had been covered in now-dusty sheets to protect the cloth. Moving from the front living room into the kitchen he saw pots and pans still hanging on the wall and an outdated refrigerator.

It was quiet, and it was empty, and for the first time, Jake felt like home


By A.J. Helms

Posted in Stories, writing

Plot: Crimes of Passion

Legally, a crime of passion is a crime committed during intense moments of emotion but in writing crimes of passion are those acts committed on or against a character’s loved ones by the character themselves. You can check out all of the plot scenarios here.

  • The perpetrator commits a harmful act against a loved one.

The simplicity of this plot leaves it wide open to variation. This act might be done unknowingly, or it might be done in the name of a greater good or cause. Of course, true crimes of passion such as those found in the mystery genre are covered under this. Another way to twist this scenario is based on who’s telling the story. The perpetrator knows why they did what they did, but getting to the act itself may take time and leave you with space to build tension and drama. From the point of the loved one, the damage and trauma will need to be dealt with as they unravel the why behind it.

As a main plot, the act itself is frequently a major plot element and will need time spend to explain the how and why of it. Depending on where this actually occurs, this could work best as either a climax, or as one of the opening events.

As a minor plot, it can help sort out character dynamics and blends well with both plots for revenge and redemption. In that case, the how may become less important than the why.