Posted in Focused Posts

Who Will Survive?

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Here’s the next excerpt of Cheryl’s Adventure. Starting Monday, I’ll return to regular writing pieces but I may continue her story on Fridays as a break from my novel for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. We’ll see… Let me know what ya’ll want.

He dived down, just spotting Cheryl’s honey blond hair in the dim water.
Struggling to breath, he managed to reach Cheryl and, grasping her arm tightly, dragged her back to the surface. As they broke through the surface, he began gasping for breath and she began coughing.
Just then, X came back up from where he’d been searching the water for Izzy, “Anyone see Izzy?”
They all shook their heads, she wasn’t on the opposite shore, floating in the water with them, nor could anyone see them below.
“Sam, Cheryl, did you see her go down with either of you?”
They both shook their heads and X, frown on his face, “Come on, we need to get out of this water. While that thing apparently couldn’t get through the waterfall, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something else in the water on this side.”
“Something else that got Izzy.”
“That’d be my guess.”
As they swam for shore, Scott and Kenny helping Sam and Cheryl respectively, Nica and Lori called Izzy’s name, hoping she’d answer. Hoping that perhaps she’d made it shore and had, being the adventurous sort she was, decided to enter the cave to check it out before them. But she never answered, and they had to accept the fact that she’d disappeared in the water.
Cheryl’s chest was heavy, the first victim and they weren’t even in the cave yet, beginning the rituals. How many of them would survive this? For the first time since she’d translated the words, she was beginning to regret having decided to help X with this quest for his family fortune.
Once they were all out of the water and standing on their own feet, they gazed at the foreboding entrance to the cave.
X asked, “We still want to do this?”
They all hesitated before Lori answered, “Yes. We have to now or Izzy’s loss will have been for nothing.”
No one could argue with that point so, X leading the way followed by Cheryl, they entered the cave. None of them knew it would be the last time some of them would be seen alive.

As they entered, before Kenny could ask about the flashlights in the now soaked backpacks, torches suddenly flickered on.
“That’s spooky.”
“Someone knows we’re here.”
“Or rather, something.”
Kenny added, “Well, it’s helpful. It lets us save the flashlights, provided they still work, for later, preserving their batteries.”
“They should still work. I wanted to be prepared for anything, so I bought us waterproof backpacks.”
Lori came to a dead stop.
“What is it, Lori?”
“What did Izzy have in her backpack?”
They all paused, struggling to remember before Scott cursed.
“She had half our food supply!”
“We’re going to starve to death!”
“No, no, we’re not. We’ll make it out of here and be fine.”
“What are we supposed to eat in the meantime?”
X ended the panic, “We’ll have to carefully monitor how much food we have and how often. Cheryl, you said there was another way back after we’re done, right? Other than going back through the jungle?”
She nodded, “The book wasn’t 100% clear but after the quest is complete, we return to the village in a faster way than going back through the jungle.”
“Alright, then. We just have to complete the ritual and we’ll be fine.”
The other teens were still unsure but realized there was no point in debating, it was time to just continue forward.
They headed down the tunnel until it suddenly opened into a large cavern that appeared to have no exit.
Spreading out, they searched the walls for their next destination but there were no doors.
“Now what?”
The same torches had lit up, but Cheryl wondered if perhaps they were still missing something.
She pulled a flashlight out of her backpack, flip the switch and thankfully it fired right up. She shone it on the walls before looking at the floor.
The others had settled on the floor, unsure of what to do next and comfortable in letting Cheryl figure it out since she was the one that had gotten them here.
They joined her around the center of the room where she’d uncovered a diagram on the floor.
“This must be the first ritual. There, it’s more of the language.”
Cheryl rifled through her backpack, “I decided, just in case, to bring the book I used the most in my translations.”
“Thank goodness for that!”
Settling down around the diagram, they took a break while Cheryl worked to translate what they were to do with this and what would happen.
“Got it. Anyone have a knife?”
Scott pulled one out of his backpack.
“Give it to X. Because this is your family, you have to begin the ritual process by dropping enough of your blood in the center of the star to make them glow.”
X held up his hand, “So I just slice my hand and bleed, that’s it?”
As he started to do so, Cheryl grabbed his wrist, “Are you nuts! Not only does the palm of your hand have multiple nerves, making it the most painful place to cut, but then we’ll have to bandage it and you’ll lose most of the use of that hand for weeks. No, just a cut on your finger should do it.”
X nodded his head and proceeded to just make a small paper-like cut on his finger.
Just a few drops later, the star began glowing and he stemmed the bleeding. As Lori bandaged his finger, Scott stuck the knife back in his backpack. Sam noticed that Scott didn’t clean the blade but didn’t say anything. After having nearly lost each other before this quest truly began, he wasn’t about to argue any precautions Scott was taking.
As the star grew brighter and brighter, the cavern began shaking.
“This is supposed to happen.”
“What’s about to happen!”
“It’s going to take us into the next ritual cavern.”
Cheryl steadied herself as the shaking grew larger and larger until it simulated an earthquake. She felt someone behind her and realized the twins were now standing behind her while Lori, Nica and Kenny flanked X.
It made sense she supposed, X was the one that would get them through this while she was the one that would translate each step he would need. They were the ones that had to remain safe.
“Wait, are we moving?”
“Uh, yeah…”
Lori shook her head, “No, I mean, is the floor moving? I didn’t think the ceiling was that high just a minute ago.”
They looked up and realized the floor of the cavern was lowering down.
“Oh, great. So, this is going to be underground… Like a dark cave wasn’t bad enough.”
Nica hadn’t admitted it before now, but she was claustrophobic and this was not a place for someone like her. But she’d refused to abandon her friends even as she discovered where they were headed.
“It’s okay, Nica. We’re with you. We’ll get through this.”
No one wanted to admit they were terrified. This had been an adventure they were all excited about until reality hit with a sledgehammer when Izzy vanished.
The shaking finally tapered off and they realized the floor had stopped moving as well.
“Now where are we?”
The torches didn’t light and so, they all dug out the flashlights and turned them on.
“Which way do we go? There’s two tunnels.”
“Don’t even think about suggesting we split up.”
“No!! That’s the number one way they all die in the movies! We’re not doing that!”
“Suggestion then?”
“Eenie, meenie, miney, moe?”
Scott shrugged.
Kenny turned to X and Cheryl, “Any ideas? Is there anything within either of you screaming which way to go?”
Cheryl shook her head, she wasn’t related to the family that began this so how would she know.
But X tilted his head, “Honestly, something’s pulling be down to the left.”
“Alright then, that’s the way we’ll go.”
The teens headed down the tunnel to the left, hoping this wasn’t the greatest mistake of their shot lives.
© Paula Crofoot

What’s going to happen next? Can anyone guess? Will they all survive or is this all for moot?


Posted in Mondays

What is in the Deep of the Water?

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! As I’m sitting here writing this entry, I am currently in the middle of a dog-sitting gig. My new friends and I have been enjoying ourselves. My pet-sitting business is taking off, I just booked another two gigs today and have three more coming up as well as a meeting with another client about another possible gig. I call them my clients as I consider customers someone you just want to sell something to and once you have, you’re done and more than likely never see each other again. Whereas with clients, you build a base with them, you’re on a first name basis with them and you’ll likely see each other again depending upon your business. So, I’ll keep you updated on my business.

This week’s question: One thing I’ll never regret is ___, because…
My answer: One thing I’ll never regret is never giving up because when you don’t give up on your dreams, you will achieve them. I’ve not given up and now my dreams are beginning to be achieved and will continue to achieve them as I continue to work hard.
What’s your answer?

This week’s baking and cooking: This week’s cooking didn’t happen as when I went to make the spicy southern corn, I was missing a can of corn that had been eating without me realizing as I’d been tired that night. There isn’t a new recipe this coming week as I am not at home, currently being on a sitting job. Likewise, while I baked Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake bars, I will not be baking anything new this next week. I am not at home, so it is not possible. Perhaps next Monday I’ll have plans for a new recipe the following week. We’ll see.

Edited Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

This week’s writing: Two days passed before they finally reached the waterfall that hid the cave they needed.
As Lori stumbled up the hill behind everyone else, “Are we anywhere close yet? I’m exhausted!”
Nica agreed, “We’re not used to this kind of exercise. Please tell us we’re close.”
“I can’t tell you we’re close.”
A groan rose though the other teens and Cheryl grinned, “What I can tell you is that we’re here.”
“Wait, what?”
Cheryl pointed at the waterfall currently right in front of them.
“There’s the waterfall that is hiding the cave. Within that cave are the rest of the instructions to the rituals before we follow the rest of the directions in the book to return home.”
“Let’s go then!”
The teens filed down the hill not realizing that Cheryl had left a key part out of her statement.
Yes, this cave was where the rituals would take place. Yes, the instructions to those rituals are inside. However, the directions in the book were only for if the rituals failed and the fortune wasn’t restored. That is, the directions to return home were for if there was anyone left after the backlash of failed magics.

Izzy looked at the pouring water from the waterfall and asked, “This is probably a stupid question, but is there anyway to go through the waterfall without getting wet.”
Scott remarked, “You’re right, that is a stupid question.”
“No, this is involving magic, for all I know there’s a platform or something that prevent us from getting wet.”
“No, there isn’t anything mentioned in the book. IT’s probably a part of the trials.”
Cheryl had put the book back in her bag, there was little point in referencing to it when nothing more they’d be doing is inside.
They came to the edge of the lake that the waterfall fed into and Sam pointed out, “I hate to point out the redundant but does anyone see a way in that doesn’t involve swimming?”
In response, Scott dropped his backpack and jumped in.
Sam darted to the edge as his brother vanished underneath the water.
He soon came up and Sam told him off, “Are you nuts! What if there was something in the water! Or the water wasn’t as deep as it looked. You could’ve been hurt!”
Scott shrugged, “But I’m not.”
“Not yet, you mean!”
They looked where Izzy was pointing and Scott swiveled his head.
“Don’t just float! Swim!”
Sam didn’t have to tell his brother twice and Scott immediately swam for shore.
Kenny and Sam grabbed hold of Scott’s arms as Xavier reached over and grabbed the back of Scott’s shirt, the three yanking him to safety just as the creature in the water nipped at his feet.
“What is that?”
Cheryl shook her head, “I don’t know. It looks like it should be a shark but I’ve never seen one that color.”
“OR with that many teeth.”
“Yeah, that looks like twice as many teeth as any I’ve ever seen in an aquarium.”
“It can’t stepped onto land, can it?”
They all stepped back as Izzy spoke, “It shouldn’t be able to.”
“But we’ve never seen anything like it so we can’t be sure.”
Fortunately for the eight teens, the shark-like creature stayed in the water.
“Okay, now how do we get in there?”
“Well, at least we know we’re in the right place.”
“True, there wouldn’t be something guarding this waterfall if we weren’t in the right place.”
Nica had been walking along the edge of the water as they were talking and called their attention to the far edge of the pond.
They all traipsed over to where she was pointing and X spotted it first, “Stepping stones.”
“Yeah, but how do we use them without the shark-thing making a snack out of us.”
“I guess we run?”
“Over water?”
“Technically, it’s not over water, the stepping stones are just below water level. It should be enough to allow us to run but not be slippery as it would be if it was simply wet stones.”
“But how do we go fast enough it doesn’t get any of us?”
X picked up a small stone and commented, “What if we all grab stones and throw them as we run. With enough distraction on either side of the pond, it should, hopefully, not know which way is the prey.”
“It’s worth a shot.”
“We have to get in there somehow.”
They all picked up fairly good sized stones.
X asked, “Everyone ready?”
“As ready as we’ll ever be, I think.”
“I’ll lead.”
X took off, throwing his first stone across the pond, followed by Izzy, Cheryl, Nica, Sam, Scott, Lori and Kenny, each throwing their first stone as they take the first step. Everything went smoothly until they hit the actual waterfall.
As soon as X stepped through the water, his feet went out from underneath him; taking him down with the force of the water. As he yelled, it was too late to warn the others behind him and they quickly followed his path. They didn’t stand a chance, immediately landing in the water, still holding their stones. They each struggled to right themselves and come back to surface.
Kenny, Scott, X, Nica and Lori managed to come back to surface to see the shark-thing circling outside the actual waterfall.
“Can it not come in?”
“Who cares, where’s Sam?”
Scott saw a pair of hands flailing a short distance from him and, recognizing them, grabbed the wrists, pulling up until his brother popped above, gasping for air. He pointed, unable to talk, and Kenny dunked down to see what he was pointing at.
He popped back up long enough to take a deep gasp of air before diving back down.
© Paula Crofoot
So, what is Kenny diving down for? Is it something good that he wants or horrible and he doesn’t realize it yet? Where are Cheryl and Izzy?

Monday Motivation: Your Big Opportunity may be where you are now.

Writing Prompt: They broke the wrong parts of me. They broke my wings and forgot I had claws.

Music I’m listening to as I’m posting this: Lasst Uns Erfeuen: Reflections-Piper’s Dance

Posted in Focused Posts

Was This Really the Way to Win Her Heart?

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Without further ado, the next segment of Cheryl’s adventures. Its’ beginning to make sense now.

A couple of hours later, the driver wished them luck before getting out of there. No one went near the abandoned part of the jungle if they could help it.
The teens hitched their backpacks into comfortable positions before all falling in line behind Cheryl. As the only one who had translated the book, she was the only one who knew exactly where they were going.
“How long are we going to be gone on this adventure?”
Cheryl answered Izzy, “I expect likely to the end of the week. It’ll take us some time to hike to where we need to go, if we don’t run into any unforeseen problems. Then, once we’re there, from what I’ve deciphered, there’s quite a process for X to regain his family’s fortune.”
“Just what kind of process are we talking about here?”
Cheryl decided now was a good time before they got much deeper into the forest, unable to return on their own. A part of the process was a way to return without needing to re-hike the jungle. If they got there and X changed his mind, then they would have to come back the original way and run a high risk of getting lost permanently within the jungle, if they didn’t run out of food and water and starve to death first.
“Just hear me out.”
“Oh boy.”
“That’s never good.”
Scott shushed them, “Listen to her, hear her out like she asked.”
“I didn’t believe what I was reading, I retranslated it multiple times to make sure I did it right. Then, I did some research on history of this little island in Indonesia. It’s all backed up. Apparently, X, you have to perform a ritual to regain your family’s fortune.”
“I know how it sounds. Like I said, I did considerable research, that’s why it took me so long to ‘translate’ the pages. I had it done within the first few days but wanted to back up what I’d read before I believed them, much less told you.”
“Makes sense. What kind of ritual.”
“That’s where it gets a little foggy. I have directions to the cave within a mountain where we’re to head for the ritual and words you’re to say for each step. But what each step is missing. I’m guessing there’ll be clues or directions within the cave.”
“Why this ritual? Where did it come with.”
As they hiked, still following Cheryl, Cheryl told them what’d she’d translated out of the book.
Xavier’s first recorded ancestor, the first Jinn, was a regular member of the small village on the island. The same island the teens were staying in the hotel within and had just left. He’d fallen in love with one of the most beautiful woman on the island. But he didn’t consider himself to have anything to offer her, not compared to the more influential men on the island. So he’d gone to their Gods and asked to be blessed so that he may win her heart. The Gods granted his request, giving him a fortune to make anyone green with envy. However, they didn’t just grant his request, giving him conditions he had to follow. He had to leave the small island in Indonesia. He and his newfound bride could not remain in the village; they were to leave for a new country. There had to have at least one son each generation, that son had to marry a woman of either equal fortune or greater. Once the fortune began dwindling, they were to return to Indonesia, perform the necessary ritual and sacrifices to regrow the fortune the Gods had given them. Once performed, the heir or head of the Jinn family was to leave Indonesia once more; never to return in his lifetime and the next Jinn to return was only to do so to regain the family fortune.
By the end of Cheryl’s tale, they were deep into the forest and Cheryl asked, “Are you willing to perform the sacrifices and rituals necessary?”
X wasn’t sure about the marriage part as the girl he was interested in at the current moment was not of the fortune his family formerly carried. But he would cross that bridge when it was time, he was just 19; there was not a deadline that he had to be married by.
© Paula Crofoot

So, what’s going to happen once they reach the cave? Will Xavier really go through the sacrificial rituals his ancestor performed?


Posted in Mondays

What Have They Gotten Themselves Into?

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Happy Late St. Patrick’s Day! I don’t know if I’m Irish or not, I’m awaiting results from a DNA test with Ancestry. But I have been to Ireland and would totally go back in a heartbeat. I loved it there, I could see myself living there for a few years. Perhaps not permanently, I am American, and the United States of America is my home, but I wouldn’t mind living in Ireland for a few years. If, for whatever reason, I couldn’t stay in the USA, Ireland is definitely my second choice. What about ya’ll? What country other than your native country would ya’ll want to live in?

This week’s question: If you won the Lottery, what would you do?
My answer: Now, this might not be the best answer. But first, I would pay off my debt. I have student loans as well as a couple of credit cards and my current car payment from an accident a few years ago. Once I’m completely out of debt, I would buy the property and build the home of my dreams. Or rather, the ranch. I can already see it, am actually already designing it. Once it’s built, I would begin my own business. I have a couple running already, Imaginative HandiCrafts and Paula’s Pet Paradise; but I have one, or rather two in one, more in mind. I’m not going to go into detail about it here, I don’t want to jinx it’s future. Perhaps on a later date, if it’s getting going or I’m making progress on making it a reality. I will say that it deals with food and my baking I’m doing each week is practice for it. Then, any that remains, I’ll invest some and put the rest into savings, minus what I’m living on if necessary, and focus on the businesses and my writing as I will be published eventually. That may not be the most fun answer, but it’s what I’d do, along with perhaps a few fun purchases just because.
What’s your answer?

This week’s baking and cooking: This week’s cooking, the Five-Minute Hula Hula Coleslaw was actually really good. I’d never thought of putting fruit in a coleslaw, that just seems horrible. But it wasn’t, the pineapple and mandarin oranges added just the right touch without being overly sweet or juicy. This next week’s cooking: Spicy Southern Hot Corn promises to be just as good but I’ll keep you updated per usual. I baked Cookies and Cream Cupcakes and Peek-A-Boo St. Patrick’s Day Cake that were both good. They were both moist and the frosting on both were really fluffy. The cake was supposed to have a shamrock inside of it, but I don’t have a shamrock cookie cutter. I did have, in a spring cookie cutter set, a sheep and since sheep are often connected to Ireland, I used it instead. Pictures are below as well as on my Instagram. I really need to start remembering to take pictures of the cooking. I’m just not one to take pictures of my meal before I eat it whereas I take pictures of each baking for my Instagram. I’ll try to do better from here on out. Next week’s baking will be Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars. They sound really good, here’s hoping they’re better than the last bars I baked.

This week’s writing: a continuation of Cheryl’s Adventures.
Cheryl’s driver dropped her and the twins off at the airport. They were meeting the other five at the gate.
“Let’s go. We don’t want to miss our flight. The next one won’t be until tomorrow and it’ll already take a day of our allotted time to get there.”
The twins nodded, silently following Cheryl. It didn’t take too long before they were through security, checked in, through the gate and on the plane, meeting up with Izzy, Kenny, Nica, X and Lori along the way.
Once the flight was underway, Lori turned to X, “You ready for this? You’re essentially returning to your homeland.”
“Not that I’ve ever actually been there. Actually, no one of my family has been back since the immigrants that came to the US, that was 12 generations ago.”
Cheryl remained quiet, the bit more she’d translated of the book since X had handed it over to her three days before; she was worried about if they would all return from this trip. And if they did, would they all be sane or broken?

“Geez, you’d think they’d make those tin cans more comfortable for flights more than three hours.”
Nica grinned as Izzy stretched her back and Sam commented, “They are better accommodating for flights over three hours. Remember the plane we originally got onto before the transfer at O’Hare?”
“Yeah, that thing was a bucket. But still.”
Scott chimed in, “We had more comfort than some considering we were in first class, thanks to Cheryl.”
Izzy had to concede the point as Cheryl pointed out their ride to the hotel for the time being, X’s family having long since sold their property here.
Once they were at the hotel and dropped their suitcases off, they gathered in the girls’ room for the next step in the plan.
“Well, it’s noon here.”
“Shouldn’t it be midnight? The flight took a day, right? Or about that?”
“Yes, but Indonesia is 12 hours ahead of us in Oklahoma. So back home, we’d still be asleep, or going to bed, as it’d midnight on Saturday. However, here, it’s noon on Sunday. So we probably just need to get a feel for the city.”
“Village, you mean.”
“Hey, there are more people here than there are in our town in Oklahoma.”
“Fair enough.”
“Then, we’ll get an early start in the morning. Prepare to hike as we’ll going into remote places, so also pack your backpacks tonight after we pick up what we couldn’t bring.”

The next morning, before it was even light in Ambon, they were outside the hotel, waiting for their ride to the outskirts of the city.
“Just how far are we going?”
“The driver’s agreed to take us an hour out of the city, to the jungle. After that, we’re on our own.”
“And this’ll get X his family fortune back?”
“If we follow all of the steps I’ve translated, yes.”
“I’ll explain that as we go along.”
“Why are you holding back?”
“I don’t want you making your decision based on what I tell you. It needs to be on what you see once we’re there and what your gut says.”
“This isn’t going to be easy, is it?”
“Not even.”
© Paula Crofoot

Monday Motivation: When the sun is shining, I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.

Writing Prompt: I actually have a visual prompt for you this week.

Sometimes they win

Music I’m listening to as I’m posting this: Intimacy: The Corrs-Talk On Corners.

Posted in Focused Posts

Road Trip, or rather, Flying Time!

Hiya, Welcome Back to PEP!
Here is the latest segment of Cheryl’s Adventures.

Nica caught Cheryl’s glance as she strode up, “You like?”
Cheryl nodded, honey blonde hair waving in the movement, “I do, actually. I’ve never seen something like this.”
Nica grinned as they call climbed in, Cheryl claiming shotgun since she instigated this meeting, “That was the idea. I hate blending in with everyone else.”

They arrived at X’s home, surprising Cheryl as he clearly came from money, like her family. But unlike her family whose fortune had been made in the last few decades; X’s family was clearly old money from the appearance of the rambling Victorian manor they lived in, clearly in need of some upkeep. They pulled up the drive as the twins and Kenny were piling out of a simple blue jeep.
X met them at the door, after the butler had let them in.
He waved them all with him to the study.
Cheryl didn’t waste any more time, “Okay, we’ve all been patient, now cough it up.”
A grin played across X’s lips before vanishing.
He pulled out a book, binding barely held together by copious amounts of tape.
Placing it on the large desk he’d sat behind, “This book has been in my family for generations. It’s said to hold the key to our fortune, but we weren’t to translate it until the money was nearly gone. You can probably see by the state of the manor that the money is dwindling. The problem is, in the last six generations, the knowledge of our native language has died alongside our original heritage. The longer we’re in the US, the less we know of where we came from. When Kenny introduced us to you, Cheryl, I had a gut feeling that if anyone could translate it, you could.”
Scott asked, “Why translate it. If you’re that far gone from the origin of the fortune, why not remake it in America?”
X frowned, “We’ve tried. As we watched the fortune dwindle, my grandfather and father tried to pad it. But while they’ve made some money, it never built up into any significant savings. Instead, every time the savings approached $50,000, we lost it all. The original fortune was never touched but every bit of the additional money was gone. We’re down to the end of it. By the time I have kids, should I have kids, the money will be gone. So, will you help me?”
Cheryl frowned thoughtfully, knowing what it said. She had a feeling, if X was telling the full truth, the knowledge of just how the fortune was made in the first place was also lost.
“On two conditions.”
“Depends. What are they?”
“One: I see the rest of the book and translate it. The pages stop suddenly so I know you didn’t give me everything. I can’t direct you on what to do if I don’t have all the knowledge. That leads me to my next condition. I go with you when you go to Indonesia and direct you. I can tell you from what I’ve translated, you’ll need to return to where the fortune was made originally.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
“Then you better get a job and be careful to not make more than $40,000.”
X huffed, “It was just me, I would. But my grandmother is still alive, as well as my parents. My grandmother depended on my grandfather and my father’s grown discouraged from his failures. If I don’t rebuild the fortune, they’ll die paupers and likely on the streets as this house will crumble to the ground eventually.”
“Then we better pack.”
X scowled which deepened with Scott’s next words, “If she’s going, we’re all going as well.”
“IF it’s too dangerous for her to come with, why do you think it would be safer for you.”
Sam interjected, “I’m sure he meant all of us.”
Scott, Kenny, Izzy, Nica and Lori nodded.
“Sure, it might be too dangerous for two of you. But safety in numbers.”
X rubbed a hand over his face, exasperatedly.
“I can’t change your minds, can I?”
The other seven shook their heads.
“Alright, fine. I was planning to go over Spring break two weeks from now.”
Cheryl spoke, “I’ll buy the tickets.”
HE opened his mouth and she interrupted, “There’s no point in you using any more of your fortune than you have to, and this ensures you don’t try to leave us behind out of some misguided sense of protecting us.”
“Fair enough.”
© Paula Crofoot
So, just what’s going to happen in Indonesia? Just how did Xavier’s family make their fortune and will he want to repeat the actions?

Posted in Mondays

Just what’s in that Book??

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Finally, knock on wood, a week where nothing went wrong. But rather, baking was done, writing was continued, I had an interview that looks like it might turn into a job offer and I had a couple of dog gigs. Now if this streak could just continue for a little while, I’d be thrilled. How have all of your weeks’ been?

This week’s question: A list question: Name three things you do well.
My answer: Three things that I do well are writing, baking, and organizing. That last one might seem a bit out of order with the first two but it’s something that I not only do well but actually enjoy. I have an organization system for everything, from my kitchen to my bedroom, from my books to my movies, from folders on my computer to folders in my file cabinet. Everything has its place and 95% of the time, you can find it in its’ place. That 5% is if I’m using the item in question. Then I may leave it out if I’m still using it. I’m good at writing and enjoy it, it’s one of my top passions; it’s the same with baking. I enjoy creating worlds and people who inhabit them, coming up with their journeys in their new worlds, experimenting with flavors and textures, seeing what goes well together and what doesn’t, seeing what others would enjoy.
What’s your answer?

This week’s baking and cooking:
This last week’s cooking was the last recipe of February, a few days late, Tex-Mex cream of turkey soup. It was delicious, despite the name. The next week’s will be the second recipe of March, Five-Minute Hula Hula Coleslaw. I’ll let you know how that goes, we’re putting it with my pulled pork and store-bought potato salad. I have a potato salad recipe but I knew I wouldn’t have time to make it so I picked up store-bought. Krogers potato salad is good as well.
This last week’s baking was the Root Beer Float Cupcakes. They don’t look quite like they should, as the frosting didn’t work out. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, except that the recipe may be a bad one. Looking at the picture and the edits the cookbook author had made on the bottom of the page of substitution you could make to the recipe, I realized the picture isn’t even of the made-frosting, it’s of the store-bought cream cheese frosting you could use. So, they didn’t even use the recipe for the pictures… As such, when it didn’t work out, I ended up using some left-over chocolate frosting I had in the fridge from another recipe. But there wasn’t really enough of it for all of them so, they’re not quite as fluffy looking as they should be. When I finished the cupcakes, I wasn’t entirely sure I had enough sugar and flour for the cookies and cream cupcakes, so I’ll be making those this week with the peek-a-boo St. Patrick’s cake I’m baking for next Saturday. I know I’ll have enough flour and sugar now as this week was not only grocery shopping at Kroger’s but bulk-shopping at Sam’s as well and I got the flour and sugar there, $4 each for 12 and 10 lbs. each, which is way more flour and sugar for only a couple of dollars extra each. This way, even with as much baking as I do, I know I won’t need to buy it every other time I go to the grocery store. I’ll keep you updated as usual.

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

This week’s writing: As promised on Friday, this is the next piece of Cheryl’s Adventures.
She decided the only way to find out was to translate the papers.
Two weeks later, she stalked up to where her ‘friends’ could always be found between classes. She dropped the heavy manila envelope on the table between her and X, startling them all.
Kenny’s brown eyes furrowed in concern, “You alright, Cheryl?”
Izzy added, “Yeah, girl, you don’t look like you’ve slept lately.”
Cheryl ignored them, staring down X, “What the hell are you doing with this book.”
The twins, Izzy, Nica, Lori and Kenny were stunned, they’d never heard Cheryl curse. This was the girl who’d, when she’d stubbed her toe on the table just a few weeks before, exclaimed, ‘oh, for heaven’s sake!’
X blinked, blue eyes glinting with worry, “What book. I never said it was a book.”
Cheryl snapped, flipping open the folder, “Save it! These shadows on the photocopies tell me these are out of a book. What are you doing with a book like this!”
X reached for the folder only for Cheryl to close it and pull it back towards her, leaving her hand splayed on top of it.
“Not until I get my answers. Clearly you have an idea of what the book is about, or you wouldn’t be worried about the fact I know it’s a book. But you also don’t know the language, so you need my translations. Cough it up.”
X peered at the others who kept looking back and forth as if they were watching a tennis match.
“Not here.”
“If you think I’m going anywhere alone with you after translating this, you’re crazier than I thought. They’re your friends, aren’t they? Tell all of us.”
Kenny spoke up, “Go ahead, man. Clearly you’re involved in something over your head.”
X huffed, “Fine. But still not here. This is not the place to talk about this. Meet me at my house after school.”
He left before any of them could ask any more questions.
Cheryl dropped her translations back in her messenger bag before turning to the others, “I don’t suppose I could get a ride? I don’t have a car, nor do I even know where he lives.”
Nica offered, “Sure, I’ll give you a ride. Meet Izzy, Lori and me in the parking lot after last class.”
Cheryl walked off to her next class, barely getting around the next corner before she heard her name being called. She turned to find Scott jogging up to her.
His sapphire blue eyes were worried, “Everything alright?”
Cheryl sighed, she’d found herself growing closest to Scott as despite appearances, he was the kinder twin, she could never get a firm read on Kenny or X, and the girls still scared her a little.
“I hope so. The language is one that died out years ago and yet, here it is again and what I’ve translated scares me. There’s no reason anyone should have this manuscript, much less an 18-year-old not even graduated high school.”
Scott peered around, “Well, for one, X isn’t 18. He’s 19, he was held back a year freshman year. Something about an incident where he was badly hurt and missed a lot of school.”
Cheryl’s chocolate brown eyes narrowed, “That might explain some. Do you know anything about the incident itself?”
Scott shook his head, “Nope, Kenny brought him into the group, just as he did with you. I only know of the incident cause Lori knows all of the gossip, what with her cousin being one of the popular kids.”
“Ya’ll have all kinds of connections, don’t ya’ll?”
Scott smirked faintly, “Yep.”
Just then, the school bell rang.
“I suppose I’ll see you at X’s after school?”
“You know it.”
Just as Scott turned and began to walk away, he turned briefly, grasping Cheryl’s arm lightly.
“By the way, you look good. You should definitely wear clothes like that more often.”
Before Cheryl could respond, he was gone, lost in the wave of students heading to their next period. She glanced down at her clothing, a simple pair of jeans, a light blue t-shirt, and sneakers.
She tilted her head in consideration before heading to her next class, she supposed it was different to her normal outfit of an A-line skirt, button up shirt (all in bland colors) and sturdy sandals. She was tired enough that morning, she’d just tossed on the first things she’d found in her closet.
That afternoon, it was easy enough to find the other girls gathered around Nica’s old convertible that she’d clearly fixed up as Cheryl had never seen that shade of red on any other car. Much less the flames streaking up both sides.
© Paula Crofoot

Monday Motivation: I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.


Writing Prompt: “I have found so much beauty in the Dark as I have found a lot of horrors in the Light.”

Music I’m listening to as I’m posting this: Conga: The Chipmunks-Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip Soundtrack

Posted in Focused Posts

Looks like Cheryl’s about to go for a Wild Ride!

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Here is the next excerpt of Cheryl’s Adventures. It looks like she’s about to go for quite a ride, one that she is not ready for. I’ve figured out that it’ll likely take more than the next three weeks to give ya’ll all of Cheryl’s story so I’ll be putting up pieces of it in my Monday posts as well. I’m looking forward to seeing where she and her new ‘friends’ go.

A couple of weeks later, Cheryl stepped out of her last class only to be brought to a halt by the sight of X sitting outside of her classroom. While she’d gradually grown more comfortable with the group over the last days, she and X hadn’t spoken beyond the first greetings.
Cheryl figured X was there to see her as the others’ final classes weren’t anywhere near here and, deciding to be brave, she approached him first.
“Hi, X.”
He nodded, still silent. She’d figured out that was simply his modus operandi as he was nearly silent even with the others.
“What brings you over here?”
He gazed at her straight on, allowing her to finally see his eyes and she was startled by the crystal shade of blue they were. Much like Izzy’s green hair, she’d never seen blue eyes like these before.
“I need your help.”
Surprised he’d actually spoken but still wary of this new group she’d found herself a part of, “With what?”
X pulled papers out of his ever-present messenger bag and handed them over.
Rifling through them, she discovered that none of the words were English.
“What language is this?”
“I was hoping you could help me figure that out.”
Figuring that translating papers couldn’t cause any harm, Cheryl agreed.
Later that evening, once she’d finished her homework, she pulled the sheaf of papers out of her notebook where she’d stuffed them after X had left them with her. He’d assured her they were copies and she could make any notes on them she needed.
Cheryl could just make out shadows on the edges of the papers that hinted these were copied out of a book. She hoped it was a book X owned or that he had legally borrowed.
She pushed her concerns away, eager to solve the puzzle that had been presented to her. Knowing her parents weren’t home and wouldn’t be for weeks, it gave her full access to the family library without questions.
She decided the first book to try would be her encyclopedia of languages. If a language was known, even abstractedly, it would be in here with a sample sentence. Even just letter formation matching the that of her papers would give her a clue.
Two hours later, she was nearly to the end of the book and still hadn’t found even a similarity between the mystery language and any other language. She was beginning to wonder if X had come across an unknown language when a sentence on the last page of the book matched the printing.
Comparing the letters, she discovered that X’s papers were in Xandi, an exceptionally rare, thought to be dead language of the east.
What on earth was a high school senior doing with a book bearing a dead language of Indonesia?

Posted in Mondays

Who was She Hearing?

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! I swear, problems come in packs. Last weekend, we had no heat, no cable and the internet chip was out on one of the computers. We got heat back, cable back and bought a new pc. This weekend, the modem for the internet died Saturday night and has been back sporadically. It’ll be up and just when you think everything is good, it’ll die again before eventually coming back. Because it’s the modem, we still have tv but internet and phone are gone. Because our phone is tied into the modem, our company is sending someone out today(Sunday) since it’s illegal in the States to leave a paying customer without access to 911 service via the landline they’re paying for. They just needed to put a new modem and router on and we’re good to go. The first computer’s internet chip is indeed out but now we know that for a fact after testing it with a new ethernet cord. Hopefully, this’ll be the last of things breaking down and needing repairs. The last three weeks, all we’ve done is have things replaced or fixed. There is good news though. I had my first official gig with my new pet-sitting business Saturday and it went really well. The dogs were well-behaved and a joy to sit for. Their owner seemed pleased so hopefully they’ll be repeat clients. I also have a couple of potential jobs I may get interviews for. Here’s hoping Murphy’s done with me for the moment. I know what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger but I’ve had enough strength-building exercises for the time being.

This week’s question: When I’m in pain, physical or emotional, the kindest thing I can do for myself is?
My answer: The kindest thing I can do for myself is step back and take time for myself. If the pain is emotional, I need to take a break from who or whatever caused the pain in the first place. If the pain is physical, I likely need rest anyway for whatever muscle I pulled or bone I broke so taking time for myself would be best. My taking time for myself is usually reading, writing, playing video games, or just chilling by myself.
What’s your answer?

This week’s baking and cooking: This week’s cooking was Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup and I made the first recipe of March, scalloped red skin potatoes. The chicken tortilla soup actually tasted like the chicken tortilla soups I’ve had at Mexican food restaurants, like Posadas. The scalloped red skin potatoes were good but they had a boil-over in my new oven. Just now did the burnt milk finally get cleaned up, three days and multiple attempts later. So, this week’s baking of root beer float cupcakes never got done. However, I’ll be cleaning the house today for its monthly deep cleaning. Then, tomorrow, Tuesday, I’ll be baking the root beer float cupcakes and the cookies and cream cupcakes so I’ll have an update for you next week on the baking front.

This week’s writing: For those that read Friday’s short story, I’ll be continuing Cheryl’s new adventure on Friday. Who knows just what her new friends will get her into, hopefully nothing illegal (so we hope).
It’s 3 am. Her partner got out of bed to use the bathroom, she guessed. She never turned over. After she felt him return to bed and she was drifting back to sleep, there was suddenly a knock on the bedroom door.
She lifted her head but before she could ask who it was, her boyfriend asked, “Babe, why’d you lock the bedroom door?”
Her heart stopped, the bedroom door doesn’t have a lock on it, how was he stuck out there and if he was out there…
Her head twisted to look behind her and she stopped breathing, jaw dropped, at the sight of the insanity in the blue eyes looking at her from under tangled black hair. He lifted a finger to his lips, twisted in a snarl.
She shakily closed her mouth, not daring to utter a word. The insanity in his eyes promised torture if she did.
She turned her head to look at the door, wondering how he’d got the door to lock when it didn’t have a lock. It was the last thing she ever did.
The next morning, yellow tape crossed the front door of their house, neighbors gathered in the street in front of the unsuspecting house.
The cop who’d answered the 911 call asked the cop, “Any ideas who would do something like this?”
“No. But clearly they wanted them to be found since none of the neighbors have any idea who called 911 and 911 traced the call to their own landline.”
“How’d they die?”
“At first glance, she was choked from behind, never making it out of bed. He was found in the hallway, stabbed 16 times. The coroner places estimated time of deaths at 3:05 for him and 3:15 for her. But we’ll know more after the full autopsy. We’ll find who did this.”
© Paula Crofoot

Monday Motivation: If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride- and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.

Writing Prompt: I saw my reflection blink so I smashed the mirror. Big Mistake.

This is the first Monday post of March so here’s the Monthly Chain:
“Go to Hell!”
“Been there. Devil didn’t like me and spat me back out.”
The blond’s mouth hung open, acidic comment on the tip of his tongue, surprised by the retort. Most people that were told to go to hell weren’t able to respond. He was the first person to actually fire back.
The brunet grinned sardonically.
“Wasn’t expecting that, were you?”
He scowled, surprise quickly faded.
“No. But if even the Devil doesn’t like you, doesn’t that give you a hint?”
The brunet clutched a hand to his chest, “Oh, that hurts.”
Straightening, sarcastic light bright in his blue eyes, “Not.”
The blond sneered, “Take a hint, will you. Get lost!”
“Nah, even without a map, I’ll find a way back to you. You’re too fun to needle.”
Anger settling in his green eyes, “I don’t like you harassing me. Leave!”
“Nope. This is a public space, I have just as much right to be here as you do.”
Muttering words under his breath too low for the brunet to hear, the blond whirled and started walking away himself.
The brunet grinned, this was the most fun he’d had in a while.
He wasn’t about to let this go and quickly caught up with the blond.
What’s next? Does the brunet keep needling the blond? Why doesn’t the blond like the brunet?

Music I’m listening to as I’m posting this: Plan B: MuteMath-Reset EP

Posted in Focused Posts

Poor Cheryl, what did she just find herself in the middle of??

Hiya, Welcome back to PEP! Today is the first focused post of March. In preparation for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, March’s posts will be on writing. Whether it is sharing how I plot and plan my writing, the bit that I do anyway, or sharing a short story. Today is sharing a piece of a short story. If I get enough likes or enough comments asking me to do so, I’ll continue this piece on another day.

“You’re weird.”
“No, that was a compliment.”
She blinked at him in surprise.
“It was?”
“Yep. I like weird. Want to be friends?”
She hesitated, clutching her books to her chest, scanning him for lies. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s pretended to like her to get something from her. Only to leave as soon as they’d gotten what they wanted.
“Great! Are you at lunch now?”
“Come on, then. I want you to meet my other friends. We gather over here. Do you need to get food?”
She shook her head, she didn’t usually eat on campus, waiting until after the last class of the day.
He grabbed her hand, she automatically shifted the weight of her books to her other hand, still against her chest, and led her to where his friends had apparently gathered to eat.
She could feel the looks from the other students gathered in the quad and couldn’t blame them. A blond guy in all black pulling along the school nerd would attract attention wherever they were.
“Hey, guys. This is my new friend, sorry, what was your name again, darling?”
“This is Cheryl.”
Pointing to each person in turn and waiting for them to acknowledge he was pointing at them, “This is Sam, Scott, they’re twins; Izzy, Nica, Xavier, though he prefers X, and Lori. And I just realized I never even introduced myself, I’m Kenny.”
She waved in return to each person, taking stock of the group she’d suddenly found herself on the outer edges of.
Though Kenny said Sam and Scott were twins, they barely looked it. Scott wore all black, similar to Kenny, but his brown hair was to his shoulders, loose, and had piercings covering his ears, lips, nose and she could see what looked to be a tattoo peeking out of his sleeve. Whereas Sam was nearly the complete opposite, wearing black slacks, a white button-up and an open vest with combat boots, his brown hair was just as long but pulled back in a neat and trim ponytail, no piercings and no signs of a tattoo.
Izzy was the first person she’d ever seen this close with neon green hair, she had just as many piercings as Scott did but whereas Scott and Kenny were in all black, she was in an array of neon colors. Nica was Izzy’s opposite much as Sam was Scott’s opposite. Simply wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes, she screamed skater chick with the skateboard at her feet.
Then there was Xavier, sorry, X. His black hair was shaggy, and in his eyes, she couldn’t have told you what color they were. He was in all black but minus the piercings that half of his friends seemed so fond of. But instead from what she could see, though she knew he had to just be 18, X was covered in tattoos. He also made the shortest eye contact, content it seemed to keep to himself.
Similarly, to his friends, Kenny was in all black but while he had the ear piercings, he lacked any piercings on the face and while his blond hair was just as long as the twins’, like Sam, he kept it in a neat ponytail.
“Come, come, have a seat. We don’t bite, I promise.”
Izzy smirked, “Not much, anyway.”
Kenny frowned, “Now, now, don’t scare her away, Izzy. Don’t mind her, Cheryl. She likes being a brat sometimes.”
Cheryl gingerly took a seat, baffled by the turn of events that brought her here.
© Paula Crofoot

That’s all for today. Let me know if you’d like me to continue the adventures that poor Cheryl just found herself in.