Cosmic Metaphors

I often craft metaphors about space. 

I unwrap the science behind the almighty light of the stars, the synchronous phases of the moon, the mighty gravity of black holes, and the unfathomable infinity of galaxies in the paragraphs of my stories.

But outside the pages, when my hands are without ink and at a distance from keys, I don’t like pondering the formidable power of the sun, the colossal size of the planets, the hazardous potential of asteroids, and the immensity of the universe because it terrifies me. 

Looking up at the night sky makes me wonder, shrinks me down, and most of all, it reminds me that as many unknowns lie above as reside on earth. 

Perhaps I constantly turn my mind to space when coming up with turns of phrase to confront the uncertainties that frighten me. 

By bringing each factor to the ground, by covering each foreign stardust with recognizable soil, I try to make sense of the unfathomable. 

None of my cosmic metaphors defeat my fears or answer all enigmas. 

Still, they help convey to readers and to myself that space and life inspire wonder because of their mystifying and incomprehensible complexities.

Yellow Flowers

Jane ran through the movie she’d watched last night in her mind as she sat at the table. Who was that actor who played the love interest? All those types of characters seem to blend into one man. They all have lethally sharp cheekbones, luscious brown curls, and swoon-worthy smiles. Jane, however, didn’t consider their smirks swoon-worthy. It was like they had a muscle defect that didn’t allow them to smile properly.

“Have you decided on the flowers for the wedding yet?” Monica, Jane’s soon-to-be mother-in-law, asked.

Jane looked down at her salad, trying to get a crouton and a piece of lettuce on her fork simultaneously. “No, I haven’t.”

She went to the florist a week ago, but her lips turned down at every flower. Every inch of the room had romantic red, elegant pink, and beautiful purple flowers. To Jane, all those flowers looked like frauds. Each petal represented an emotion they didn’t intend to pursue.

Jane had walked out of the shop that day before even talking to the florist.

“Well, when you do, you mustn’t choose peonies,” Monica advised.

“Mom, if Jane wants peonies, then we’ll have peonies,” Danny said from beside Jane, smiling thinly.

Jane’s memorized all of Danny’s smiles. This one was his “you’re unpleasant, and I’m holding back from banging my forehead against the wall” smile that he gave to annoying customers at his café.

“Flowers set the stage for weddings,” Monica said, lowering her glass. “Peonies are easily bruised, a rather un-sturdy flower. You don’t want to start your marriage on the wrong foot, do you?”

“Of course not. But I hardly think that the flowers are going to doom our marriage.”

Monica sighed deeply. “Maybe peonies would suit you better. You don’t seem like you could be a rose, standing tall in a glass.”

Jane refrained from flinching, letting the insult roll off of her. However, her hand was a bit shaky as she raised her glass of water to her lips.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Danny asked.

Monica waved her hand through the air. “I just mean that not everyone’s cut out for an extravagant wedding—that’s all.”

Danny’s face was turning red. Jane reached under the table, placing a hand on his knee.

It’s not worth it,” she communicated with a tap of her hand.

But Danny, who grew up as a red-haired mutt in a pure-bred Pomeranian family, didn’t listen. He’s the youngest of three brothers who all went to Dartmouth and had jobs that were as easy to brag about at the golf court. If Danny wanted to get heard, he had to speak loudly.

“Having a big wedding full of bullshit decorations doesn’t prove anything, mom.”

“But having a bride standing at the altar full of bullshit does,” Monica sniped.

Jane leaned back in her chair, getting comfortable as Danny and Monica entered one of their bickering matches. The caterer soon appeared, taking all their plates away without even blinking.

How did any couple manage to get past the planning stage of a wedding? Right now, Jane wished to be away from all this pretentious food. She craved over-salted fries and a juicy burger. Jane planned out her order in her head, wanting to get everything on Monica’s food allergy list crammed inside one bun.

Except for onions, Danny was allergic to those.


She currently sat at her desk at the public defender’s office. When Jane heard a knock on her door, she told them to come inside. Her shoulders slumped when she saw that it was Karen.

Karen was a divorced mother who worked in the room right next to Jane’s. She sometimes heard the voices of Karen’s children through the walls. Jane brought headphones with her on those afternoons.

“What can I do for you?” Jane asked.

“I was wondering if you had the transcripts for the Ellen Keller phone call.”

Jane nodded and opened her desk drawer to get the files. As she handed over the folder, Karen’s mouth fell open.

“You have an engagement ring,” Karen said, her voice strikingly higher than before as she pointed at Jane’s finger. “When did this happen?”

“Oh, a few months ago,” Jane shrugged, pushing the file into Karen’s hands.

Karen grabbed the chair on the other side of the desk and moved it next to her. Jane could see the bags under Karen’s eyes up close and a smear of blue paint on the elbow of her blazer. It probably was from one of her children prodding her with a paintbrush.

“When’s the wedding?” Karen asked.

Jane rolled her chair back. “I haven’t picked a date yet. We’re both busy with work, and are waiting until things calm down.”

“Believe me, things aren’t going to calm down from now on,” Karen chuckled. “Everything will keep speeding up once you’re married.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” Jane said curtly.

Karen stared at her expectantly, making Jane nervous. Was she supposed to say something? Should she giggle along with Karen? Should she talk about her marriage as if she was ordering a package, one that came with two kids, a house with a fence, and a photogenic dog?

“So, how did he propose?” Karen asked, bouncing a little in her seat.

The proposal had been exciting yet unceremonious. Jane and Danny had been eating takeout and watching trashy television when he pulled out the ring. Jane smiled and said yes, and that had been that. Afterward, she hadn’t squealed on the phone or posted a picture of the ring online. Jane never could react the way it seemed like she was supposed to when it came to things like this.

“It was just at our apartment,” Jane said simply.

Karen leaned across Jane’s desk, her expression similar to when she changed tactics cross-examining a witness.

“So, who’s going to be a part of your wedding party?”

Jane stared at her blankly, making Karen’s smile falter.

“You know, the bridesmaids and your maid of honor,” Karen explained.

Jane hadn’t thought about it much. She didn’t have many friends that lived nearby. She didn’t have any siblings to ask either, except for ones that might not even recognize her.
Jane bit her lip. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“Oh, that’s alright. You have plenty of time.”

After a few ticks of the clock on the wall passed, Karen stood up awkwardly. She began to walk to the door. When Karen opened it, she turned back around towards Jane.

“You know, if you ever need any help—I’m here,” Karen said. “I’ve been to plenty of weddings and had one myself. You could come to drinks sometime, and we could swap ideas.”

Jane went to after-work drinks at the bar with her co-workers a few times, but she never stayed long. While others hated small talk, Jane enjoyed it. It led to conversations about stuff that didn’t matter, making it easier to walk away.

While a no was forming on her lips, the surprisingly earnest look on Karen’s face made her pause. Jane instead responded to Karen with a single nod. It wasn’t a promise, but it was a possibility.

After Karen left, Jane stared down at her ring, suddenly feeling as if it was heavier than before.


The woman leading them around the hotel named Kimberley had a dress with polka dots and a bright headband that helped show off her perfect Zooey Deschanel bangs. She looked like she belonged in a kindergarten classroom with a puppet in her hand, talking about the water cycle.

“So, here is the library,” Kimberley said as they entered the room. “Many people like having their reception in here. It’s a bit different than a traditional venue.”

“It’s nice,” Jane said, eyeing the oak shelf crammed with novels.

“And, it has an open bar.”

Danny walked over to the bar, situated in front of the history section. “I like those even more than books.”

“Me too,” Jane said.

“Aw, now I see why your soul mates.” Kimberly clapped her hands together. “Alright, I’ll go find the manager. She loves talking to potential clients.”

Jane sat down at a table after Kimberly left the library. She mindlessly touched a book on the table, her fingers running along its spine. It felt well-used, and the paperboard underneath the cloth cover was exposed.

Danny eyed her worriedly., sitting beside her. “What’s wrong?”

Jane moved the loose binding of the book back and forth. “Nothing—I’m just tired.”

“So am I.”

She snapped the book closed, but the sound was more pathetic than impressive due to its weathered state.

“Are you trying to compete with me for who’s the most exhausted?”

“No, I’m not. Are you trying to compete for the most irritable?” Danny said with a new edge in his voice.

They stared at each other for a few seconds before Danny looked away, sighing.

“What’s been up with you?” he asked. “You’ve been off since we went registry shopping this morning.”

Jane opened her mouth to respond, but her words never came as Kimberly walked back into the room with an older woman at her side. As she saw who it was, her eyes went wide.

Kimberly gestured to her. “Jane and Danny, this is—.”

“Carol,” Jane muttered, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Oh. Do you guys know each other?” Kimberly asked.

Jane looked into Carol’s eyes, begging them to recognize her own. But there was nothing—no echo of detection of who Jane was in them. Jane felt a sinking feeling reside in her stomach and shook her head.

Carol brushed off the odd exchange with a bright smile. “Well, I’d love to show you two around. My daughter got married here last month.”

“Daughter?” Jane asked, eyes growing wide.

“Do you think that I look too young to have a twenty-three-year-old daughter? Oh, you’re too kind.”

Danny mouthed “Are you alright?” to Jane when she remained silent.

Jane didn’t respond to this as she didn’t know if he said it out loud or not. Her ears were ringing.
“Will you excuse me?” Jane asked, taking a step back. “I need some fresh air.”

Jane rushed out of the room before anyone could respond.

She walked through the halls of the hotel and out the back door. It led out to a small lake. She made her way to the dock and sat down. Once she did, she pulled her knees to her chest and sat her chin on top of them.

Jane didn’t know how long had passed when Danny appeared. He sat down next to her, looking out at the water.

“I prefer lakes over oceans. My family drove out to the beach and went sailing, but I was never too fond of going. I didn’t like the saltwater and how it would sting my cuts,” Danny said lowly. “My dad would tell me to embrace the pain. But he never seemed to be in pain. He always seemed untouchable.”

Jane frowned. While Danny was an open book to her, she often forgot about the torn pages among the faultless ones.

“I’d sneak off with some friends and go to the lake on the other side of town instead of the beach,” Danny continued. “I’d wade my feet in the water, trying to make myself sit still even though I wanted to get up and go.”

“Go where?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “Just go.”

After a few seconds passed, Jane started to laugh.

“What’s so funny?”

“You spend your childhood trying to run away from your family, and I kept trying to run towards one,” Jane explained. “It’s ironic.”

“In a bad way?”

Jane shook her head. She splayed out her legs, so they hovered just above the water. “I’m sorry for what happened in there.”

“You want to tell me about it?”

Near the edge of the lake, a few white-water lilies floated in the water. The flowers looked at home on top of the leaves as if they all belonged there. When she plucks a flower out, it was surprising how easy it was released—the plant’s roots connected to the leaves instead of the flower itself. Jane frowned at the flower that now sat limply in her hands. She began plucking out petals and throwing them into the lake.

“I know Carol—or I knew her. She was one of my foster parents growing up.”

He grimaced. “Was she the one who—?”

“No,” Jane said, cutting off his train of thoughts that led somewhere she didn’t want to return. “I liked Carol. I stayed with her the longest. She taught me how to braid my hair, brought a new pair of pants to school when I got my first period, and she got me this beautiful doll. I thought it meant something when Carol gave it to me, you know? But she kept it when I got sent somewhere else. I guess she wanted to give it to her own daughter.”

“I’m sorry.”

Jane shook her head, picking out the flower’s last petal. “It doesn’t matter. Love isn’t something you can hold onto anyway. It’s like all that stuff at the registry store; the towels, dinner plates, and that goddamn newlywed cookie jar. They are all just things. You buy them, they break, you throw them away, and you get something else.”

Danny scooted closer to her. “I’m not going to want to get something else.”

“You think that now, but at that store, you were scanning stuff like none of it mattered,” Jane said while dropping the last flower petal into the lake. “Like everything was interchangeable.”

“I was scanning what mattered, what I wanted,” Danny insisted.

Jane didn’t look at him, watching the pink petals slowly sink underneath the water.

“We should go back inside,” Jane said after a while.

She tried to stand, but Danny grabbed her elbow.

“I love you,” he said, his words firm. “I say that enough, right?”

“You do. It’s just—you say it so easily.”

Danny studied her momentarily, trying to understand the issue that Jane herself found hard to comprehend. His hand on her arm drifted down to grip her hand. “Let’s go home.”

The mention of having a home to go to gave her the strength to stand.

They walked a few steps before she stopped, and said, “I love you too.”

Danny gently tugged at her hand. “Then let me take you home.”

Jane walked beside him off the dock. She spared a glance behind her, seeing a few white petals still floating in the water. When she turned back around, she hoped that at least one would stay afloat.


Jane and Danny’s hands swung together as they walked through the church’s sanctuary. Every square inch of the place was white. There weren’t many other colors in the room. The walls seemed to stretch on and on. She wondered if they’d ever been able to get a balloon down from the ceiling if one drifted up there.

Jane sat down on one of the benches, gazing at the altar. Danny sat next to her, joining her staring contest with the stage.

She blew a breath out of her cheeks. “Well, this is very big.”

“Tell me about it. I used to come in when no one was here and scream. The acoustics would make my voice echo, almost like something was yelling back at me.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You’d come into the church and scream?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, drumming his hands on the pew in front of them. Danny was always jittery. Jane liked that about him; he was continually brewing with energy. It probably had to do with all the coffee and tea that he drank for his job, but she also thought it was just the way he was. Like he needed to be ready to take action at a moment’s notice. “I’d do it when I was frustrated or when something bad happened.”

“Why would you scream in here?”

“The priest always spoke about taking your feelings to God. I figured that screaming here would make me feel less alone while I was doing it.”

She looked up at the stained-glass window above them, watching the sunlight bleed through the sanctuary. There, she saw more of a Holy Spirit than anyway else in the room. She felt warmed by its light. As she looked around, seeing the endless number of pews, she shivered.

“I don’t think I could fill up more than a handful of pews for the ceremony,” Jane said, whispering as if something would smite her for saying it. “Some friends from law school and a couple of teachers I’ve had over the years. But that’s about it.”

Danny turned to her, his eyes soft and expression completely open.

When they first met, this unguarded look frightened her. She was used to seeing walls in front of people. Her foster parents had walls of bricks, looking at her as a temporary addition until they could get a kid of their own. Kids she stayed with at different homes had concrete walls, building them to protect themselves.

Her boyfriends over the years had walls in front of them too. Every time someone told her that they would stay or that they wouldn’t do it again or were the only ones who loved her, they put another stone onto their wall. It made her fingers bleed from trying to beat through them.

But the wall in front of Danny was made of glass—allowing her to see through to him.
He’d also made her wall lose some blocks. When they fell, she’d hold it in her hand and only then realize how much weight she’d been carrying around.

“Where would you feel more comfortable?” Danny asked.

“I don’t know. A place as large as this makes me feel claustrophobic.”

“That might not make much sense, but it’s true. I’d rather get married in some place the size of your café.”

“Then let’s do it.”

She blinked in confusion. “Do what?”

“Get married in the café.”

“Really?”

“Why not? We could push back the tables, get married behind the cash register, keep the food in the kitchen. It would be nice.”

Jane felt another block fall off her wall.

“Yeah,” she said. “It would be nice.”


Jane isn’t particularly fond of the color yellow. The shade is abrasive on most things. The sun in the corner of a child’s drawing looks overly golden, lemons make her lips pucker from the sight of them alone, and the highlighted lines in her law textbooks made her eyes burn.

When Jane went back to the florist to choose the flowers to make up her wedding bouquet, she discovered yellow flowers in the shop in the corner of the room. She liked the daffodils, lilies, and marigolds the most. When she saw them, she felt like someone had just pinched her, reminding her she was awake.

The yellow flowers looked genuine as they got tied together by the florist, embodying feelings without embellishment. Their color reminded Jane of the dandelions that sprouted in her backyard—the ones she could rely on growing no matter the season.

She picked the yellow flowers to be in her bouquet. Danny grinned, grabbing a stem of one and placing it behind his ear with a smile.

Uncertainty cloaked decisions about the wedding, but the choice of flowers was a simple one.

Castles in the Clouds 

There has always been a king in the clouds.  

Every generation, a new king sits on the throne in the sky. They reign over the ground without ever hearing the sound of a leaf crunching beneath their foot or experiencing the feeling of dirt stuck in-between their toes.

Each king bends water droplets and ice crystals to their will, forming beautiful castles that frame the atmosphere. The authority of each king looms over their kingdom. Citizens have to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of their leader.           

Sometimes the castle is a cloud darkly brewing with storms. The king who builds this kind of castle has a long and trialing reign. Hail erupts and hammers down from the clouds to the houses below, forcing citizens in bed to bolt upright in fear. They prepare for a downpour at a moment’s notice, knowing only too well the danger of getting drenched by the ruler’s anger.  

Other kings shape wispy-like castles. The buildings on the ground have much more durability than these castles overhead. Their clouds falter each time the wind blows. These monarchs disappear whenever they spot trouble on the horizon and don’t provide enough shade for the citizens below.  

Power-hungry kings inhabit specks of the sky that are beyond the limits of their kingdom. These clouds span far, making the walls of the castle thin and easy for others to attack. The pinnacles of their castle end up falling onto subjects below.

However, most kings end up create castles that are identical to their predecessor. They form similar cotton-like structures as the previous king to play it safe. As they sit comfortably inside their light scattering barricades, nothing changes for the kingdom below.

The 49th king had this kind of castle.

He sat on his throne a few years into his reign, waiting for the birth of his heir. When his wife went into labor, the palace walls shook. The castle trembled from her screams. The servants who were walking by the moat fell in as the cloud quaked beneath their feet. 

On the twelfth hour, when the sun started to shine upon the castle, the baby entered the world. The cloud became still, and the King jumped off his throne and rushed into the delivery room. Any worry he had dissipated once he spotted the Mother. The light pouring from the her eyes was ultraviolet as she beheld the child in her arms. 

But, when the King saw his child, he took in a sharp breath. He gawked at his heir, the one who would someday receive the crown that currently resided on his head. 

It was a girl.  

For the first time in the kingdom’s history, the ruler of the castle in the clouds would be a Queen.  

… 

For years, the royal advisors pressured the King to have another child. They thought that constructing a castle and leading a kingdom was no duty a woman could wield. But the Mother could not withstand another pregnancy. They tried to get rid of the Mother, claiming that she was not living up to her duties. But the King loved the Mother and did not want to wed another.

The royal tutors continuously reminded the Girl to obey her training as she grew up. However, the Girl was not like the other sovereigns they schooled. She never readily agreed and questioned every rule so she could assess its merit herself.

One day, she asked the King one of her relentless questions from the castle’s battlement. 

 “Why do kings create castles in the clouds?”  

The King kept his gaze forward, not letting the Girl rupture his peace. “Ruling up high allows me to see the kingdom better.” 

The Girl’s scrunched up her nose, leaning on her heels to look over the railing. “If you see them as the size of ants, I don’t think you’re really seeing them.” 

His eyes flickered to his daughter—only briefly, before shaking his head.  

“If I resided close to our people, I’d never get the whole picture of the kingdom as I do up here.” 

She tugged on the King’s sleeves, determination arching her lips. “But, your picture is out of focus.” 

The King hardened his stare towards the people on the ground, but all he could see was aimless bodies moving around in blurs.  

“Go now,” the King said to his daughter, his fingers twitching at his sides. “It is time for your lessons.” 

When she left, he held his head a fraction lower than usual.  

… 

The Girl sat near her window the day she turned sixteen. A frown ached her cheeks as she observed the harsh winter outside. Every breath that escaped from the citizens’ quivering lips was visible in the air. She wanted to reach out to the people, to pass her warmth that felt stolen.

When the King marched into her room, his daughter kept her stare out the window.  

“You must attend your birthday celebration. Stop your daydreaming nonsense!”  

She rebuffed his command by opening the window. The wind blew into the room with pent-up aggression. Her hair, restricted by pins, unraveled and danced through the air

“How come we get to be so warm when they are so cold?” she asked.  

The King walked towards the Girl and pulled the window closed. The sound of the latch locking into place echoed in the room.  

“This castle blocks the sunlight from our people so it can provide us warmth.” 

“It’s not fair,” she said. “We force our people to be cold when we should be ensuring them heat.” 

The King hated his daughter’s relentlessness. It was a trait of many of his predecessors, but her spark of determination was of a different flame. It burned so brightly, and he feared the way the spark would spread if it got fanned with the slightest encouragement.

He placed a firm hand on her shoulder. “There cannot be a clear sky for our people all the time. The clouds hold up the castle we rule inside.” 

“Does the kingdom need our castle to be in the sky?” 

“Of course, they need us in the clouds.”  

The Girl’s face didn’t waver after his response.

 The King uneasily shifted his feet. “Go to your party. There’s a sunroof that lies above the center of the ballroom. We need as much sunlight as we can get during these winter months.” 

“Our people get none. I will not bask in the light while they shiver.” 

The Girl jumped up from the window seat, wanting to be anywhere that the King wasn’t.  As she reached for her bedroom doorknob, the King whistled. Two guards appeared in front of the Girl. Their swords crossed together, loudly clinking and blocking her way. 

When the Girl turned back around, she saw the King standing as tall as ever. The light from the closed window horrifyingly illuminated his silhouette.  

“One day, you will appreciate what you’ve been given.” 

She stepped into the corner of the room, rooting her feet in the only area of shadow.  

“One day, you will see that we’re not truly using what we’ve been given.” 

… 

The time came for the Girl to show her plans for her castle to the royal court a few years later. As expected, her sketches were met with roars of disapproval.  

“Your draft for the next castle is inadequate,” the King said once the room emptied.  

“Why?” she asked with a glint of amusement hinted her eyes. “The castle is similar in structure to the one we have now, it is just not made out of clouds, and its destination is at a lower latitude.” 

“If this is the castle you build when you are the Queen, you would be living on the same level as the peasants!” 

She looked back at the paper residing on the table. It illustrated her plans to build a castle out of stone. It sat on top of the ground in the middle of their kingdom.  

“What’s wrong with that?”  

The King’s face wandered into his hands. “A ruler is meant to be above their subjects. Otherwise, why did our ancestors choose for castles to be high above others in the clouds?” 

“Because being untouchable gave them power, that same power you wield.”   

“The same power you one day will wield, and your future heir will as well,” he pointed at her. The jewel on one of his rings catch the light and flash into her eyes, causing her to wince. “We must be above as God is above. The distance keeps our control over the people.” 

The Girl stood up and neared his side. “He doesn’t gain control through distance. He is a king who invites everyone close.”  

“Royalty is sacred—I am sacred!” he bellowed. “Not just anyone can touch me.” 

She crossed her arms across her chest. “God is sacred, yet he lets his people wash his feet and washes theirs in return.” 

“I wash my people with the rain our cloud provides. It feeds their crops and hydrates their bodies. So, I am just as sacred as He.” 

“The water which you speak of is not pure in intent,” the Girl explained softly. “The rain comes from the clouds of your castle, which the work of the water cycle maintains.” 

“That work benefits me as well as our people.” 

“But who is it that rests securely on high each night? Who sits away from the troubles of the earth? Who reaps only the rewards of the rain while everyone else suffers?” 

The King jerked away from her. Even though the Girl was shorter than he, the King felt as if her mere presence loomed over him.  

 “If we continue building castles in the clouds, our kingdom will continue to weaken,” the Girl said. “Things must change.”  

“No. If I’m not above our people, I will no longer be worthy of my title.” 

The Girl inched towards the King, forcing him to meet her eyes. “Worthiness does not come from our destination, but by our actions.” 

The King walked towards his throne. She looked at him hopefully, wanting the words she spoke to sink in for once. When he sat on the throne and readjusted his crown, she frowned, knowing they hadn’t.  

“I will use my actions to prove my worthiness and yours. Perhaps a year of banishment to the ground will give you some perspective.”  

The guards flooded into the room as he banged his scepter on the floor. The Girl did not resist as they ushered her away, but she couldn’t help the tears stinging her eyes.

… 

The gates of the castle swung open for the Girl’s arrival a year later. In the throne room, the King waited for her return. When she entered, he smiled for the first time since her banishment.  

“You have returned to us,” the King crowed. “What do you have to say about your experience on the ground?” 

The Girl pursed her lips, her eyes firmly locked on the King. “I have seen our people up close this past year. I saw only their figures before, but now I know their faces. I saw their moments of joy as well as pain up close. That is why I wish to rule while my feet touch the earth.” 

“What is this?”  he barked in surprise. “Have you learned nothing?”   

 “Quite the contrary. I have learned so much. I am ready to become the Queen. However, I will not be the Queen you wish me to be.” 

The king took a moment to observe her. The Girl’s hair flowed unrestrained past her shoulders, and her features had sharper edges. She also held herself with greater confidence than before, and her eyes blazed with a knowledge he couldn’t understand. 

The King scowled, his hands gripping tightly onto the arm of his throne. “Then I refuse to pass on my crown. I will not witness what you will make of the monarchy. I will rule until I am old and grey.” 

“Until your mind deteriorates and you lose all understanding of the kingdom that sits so far away from you?” she challenged, raising an eyebrow at him. “Would you truly risk their welfare to ensure your own?” 

The King paused. The Girl could see the cogs of his brain turning, the sound rusty from a lack of use.  

“I have a proposal,” she stated, trying to keep her words even, but she could hear how they shook slightly. “Let me rule one year and build the castle I designed. You will come down to the ground and watch all that occurs. If you truly think the kingdom is worse off with my leadership, I will relinquish my crown forever. I will even relinquish my title as your daughter.” 

The King slowly stood and walked towards the Girl. After a moment of debate, he held out his hand.  

“So be it.” 

With a shake of their hands, the kingdom’s fate was set into motion.  

… 

It had been a grueling but prosperous year.  

The Girl started to implement changes as soon as her feet touched the ground. She built a small castle in the middle of the kingdom. Citizens came to the Girl, voicing their struggles, needs, and suggestions. She listened to each person and put forth actions to address their requests. The King couldn’t deny that things were improving in the kingdom. The monarchy no longer impacted the proper progression of the weather. With no castle intruding the sky, clouds formed only naturally in the air.  

The King had turned a blind eye to the struggles that the citizens faced when he lived in his castle. Now, he realized that a lifetime of lessons in the clouds taught him nothing about the ground where his kingdom resided.  

“I barely recognize our people,” the King murmured to the Girl as they walked through the village.  

“That is because we are now on equal footing. You see the kingdom as it is, not through your obscured lens in the clouds.” 

The King looked down at his feet and grimaced. “How do we help our people?”      

 “We can take the authority given to us, and try our best to serve them, instead of servicing ourselves.”  

“Now that the year is over, you will not be the one relinquishing your title.” He slowly reached up to his head, taking off his crown with trembling hands. “I will.”

He gently placed the crown on the Girl’s head. She straightened her posture, adjusting to the weight with a strength he knew he no longer possessed. The King, now finally a father, bowed to her. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he grinned proudly at the Queen. 

“I shall try my best to be a good leader,” the Queen said, watching the citizens around her. She viewed each person as a responsibility, a purpose, and a reason to do better. “I’ll keep an eye on the sky with my feet on the ground.”

The Father looked above him, seeing the sky beginning to become shrouded by clouds.  

“Even with my castle in the clouds gone, other clouds are taking its place. I wish that you will keep the people from the darkness completely, for I have come to fear it,” he shuttered. “The light that engulfed me actually kept me in the dark.” 

 “Some of our people will walk into the shadows. Even though you walked away from it, you cannot force others to do the same,” she said, sighing sadly. “You can only invite them and hope they follow.” 

He nodded and stepped behind her. It was no longer his time, and he must let the Queen lead the kingdom into the future.   

Why Marvel Waited Until Now to Call Wanda “The Scarlet Witch”

“This is Chaos Magic, Wanda. That makes you the Scarlet Witch.”

One of the biggest reveals to come out of WandaVision wasn’t really a reveal at all. In fact, it was something fans have known for a long time. 

In episode eight, Agatha takes Wanda on a journey through her past. We see Wanda as a child when her parents were killed and as a teenager when she volunteered for Hydra and gained her powers. We also get a flashback of her and Vision at the Avengers Compound, her trip to SWORD after “the blip,” and we see the moment she created Westview. 

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Through watching those flashbacks, Agatha learns that Wanda is the Scarlet Witch. While Agatha’s declaration makes Wanda’s superhero alias sound like new information, it’s not. At least, it’s not to the viewer. In Elizabeth Olsen’s first appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron (or in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if you count end credit scenes), she was introduced as Wanda Maximoff, which is the Scarlet Witch’s real name in the comics. However, Wanda was never called the Scarlet Witch in that film, or any that followed. 

Marvel has tip-toed around using Wanda’s superhero name in the past because of copyright issues. Until Disney’s recent 20th Century Fox acquisition, Fox had the rights to all of the X-Men characters. However, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch were caught in the middle, as both characters appear in Avengers and X-Men comics. 

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This conundrum involving the Maximoff twins forced the two movie studios to compromise. When Fox acquired the X-Men, they could use Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, but they couldn’t mention them as Avengers. Similarly, Marvel could use Wanda and Pietro but couldn’t identify them as mutants or connect their parentage to Magneto. But this all changed when Disney acquired Fox in 2019, giving Disney back the rights to use their superhero names. 

Fans expected Wanda to be called the Scarlet Witch in the next film she was in, conveying that everyone in the MCU has known her as that the entire time. But instead, Marvel decided to go a different route. In episode five of WandaVision, it’s revealed that Wanda doesn’t have a code name. The director of SWORD, Tyler Hayward, asks, “Does Maximoff have an alias? No funny nickname?” to which Agent Woo replies, “Not a one.” 

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When Agatha calls her the Scarlet Witch, it’s the first time Wanda’s superhero name is spoken aloud in the MCU. But it turns out that Scarlet Witch is more than just a “funny nickname.” The Scarlet Witch is prophesied in the “Book of the Damned” as a witch whose power surpasses that of the Sorcerer Supreme (Dr. Strange). It also foretells that she’ll destroy the world. 

The prophecy makes it seem as if Marvel had this plan for Wanda all along. However, Marvel didn’t have permission to use the name Scarlet Witch until 2019. So, this hasn’t been in the works since her entrance into Marvel in Avengers: Age of Ultron. But once Marvel acquired the rights to the name Scarlet Witch, it opened up the door for them to dive further into Wanda’s character in WandaVision. By revealing her identity as the Scarlet Witch in a new context, it introduces the greater role Wanda will have in future MCU projects. 

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At the end of WandaVision, Wanda is seen living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, studying magic. This leaves fans to wonder if her destiny as the Scarlet Witch to “destroy the world” will come into play in the upcoming film Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Whether or not Wanda’s identity as the Scarlet Witch will lead to the destruction of the world or saving it is yet to be seen. But whatever way Wanda ends up wielding her newly discovered magic, it’s sure to be entertaining. 

Michael Schur’s Recipe for Iconic TV Couples

“I love you, and I like you.”

Healthy relationships are hard to find on television these days. Often, couples in TV shows display toxic traits and break up repeatedly for the sake of drama. Penny and Leonard on The Big Bang Theory and Ross and Rachel on Friends are prime examples of this. However, many sitcoms have healthier depictions of romance. This is especially the case for any sitcom created or produced by Michael Schur. 

Michael Schur is an American television producer, writer, and actor. He’s created shows like The Good PlaceParks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and served as a producer and writer for The Office. His sitcoms are acclaimed for their diverse casting, refreshing comedic writing, and optimistic plots.

The romances in Schur’s sitcoms are especially beloved. But, why is this? Well, let’s get into the ingredients included in Schur’s recipe for iconic TV couples to find out!

1 cup of respect

Jake and Amy are one of the main couples on Schur’s sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which focuses on detectives who work for the NYPD. Jake Peralta starts to have feelings for his co-worker Amy early on in the series. But Jake doesn’t try to ruin Amy’s relationships out of jealousy, as many other shows have their love-struck characters do (ahem, Ross on Friends). He respects Amy, knowing it’s his fault that she doesn’t know how he feels. He wants her to be happy, even if it’s not with him. 

2 teaspoons of commitment

Many shows like to drag fans through the wire about whether a couple will be together by the end of the series. But Schur doesn’t use the classic will-they-won’t they formula with Jake and Amy. Instead, Schur creates tension between them in other ways, such as having them struggle to conceive or contemplate job changes. Jake and Amy also stay together throughout the entire series. They work through every trial or tribulation because they’re committed to each other.

Mix the romantic ingredients with the ensemble ingredients until fully combined

Another great thing about Schur’s TV couples is that they don’t become the show’s center. The friendships between the ensemble of characters are usually the sitcom’s main focus. An example of this is Leslie and Ben on Parks and Recreation. While their romance becomes a part of the plot, it doesn’t shift the series’s premise. Leslie’s dedication to Pawnee and her love for all her co-workers (well, except Jerry) remains the heart of the show.

4 tablespoons of friendship

Jim and Pam from Schur’s series The Office highlight how friendship is an important aspect of romance. They are best friends but also have feelings for one another. Their relationship becomes rocky when Pam breaks off her engagement, and Jim starts dating someone else. In the episode “Beach Games,” Pam gives a speech about how she misses spending time with him, and they shouldn’t let their romantic feelings ruin their relationship. Schur makes them heal their friendship before they get involved romantically to show the importance of friendship. Jim and Pam become such a strong couple in the future because they built their relationship on friendship.

5 teaspoons of “opposites attract” extract

Eleanor and Chidi are a romantic pairing in Schur’s sitcom “The Good Place.” They fit into the typical “opposites attract” trope commonly used in storytelling. This trope can be problematic when the show romanticizes fighting. But Schur avoids this, as he gives the couple enough commonalities to counteract their differences. While Chidi is an academic nerd and Eleanor is a wild card, their interest in ethics bonds them together. They balance one another out and become the best versions of themselves when they’re together. 

Work the dough until they become soulmates

Schur also redefines the word “soulmate” in his sitcom “The Good Place.” In the words of the character Michael, “If soulmates do exist, they’re not found, they’re made. People meet, they get a good feeling, and they get to work building a relationship.” This is precisely what Chidi and Eleanor do. Long-lasting relationships are built on hard work, understanding, and respect—not destiny.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and your iconic couple is ready to serve!

Romances in Michael Schur sitcoms are iconic. All of them are as entertaining as they are inspirational. His TV couples represent a kind of love that audiences should strive for in their own lives.


What is your favorite Michael Schur sitcom? Tell me in the comments below!

10 Moments from “The Viscount Who Loved Me” Fans Want to See in Season 2 of “Bridgerton”

After Netflix announced that Simone Ashley got cast to play Kate (Anthony’s love interest), fans are even more excited to watch the next season of “Bridgerton.” The second season will be based on the second novel of Julia Quinn’s book series, titled “The Viscount Who Loved Me.”

The novel centers around the eldest Bridgerton sibling Anthony, who doesn’t want to fall in love. It also stars Kate, a woman who suffers no fools and will not let her sister Edwina marry one. Anthony and Kate are at odds, as he wants to marry Edwina. But as the two fight, they are inexplicably drawn to one another.

Let’s get into the top ten moments from “The Viscount Who Loved Me” that fans are hoping to see in season 2 of “Bridgerton!”

1. The Pall-Mall Game

Kate gets to know the Bridgerton family is playing a game of pall-mall at Aubrey Hall. However, the family plays by a different set of rules—namely, there aren’t any rules. They’re all extremely competitive, especially Anthony. Kate takes the chance to best him, using his mallet known as “the mallet of death.” While she ends up behind in the game, Colin declares her the winner when she hits Anthony’s ball into the lake. We hope we get to see this hilarious competition take place next season.

2. Kate Hiding Under Anthony’s Desk 

In an attempt to avoid Anthony as he flirts with an opera singer (who they may change to be Sienna in the Netflix series), Kate goes to hide into the closest room. But unfortunately, she doesn’t realize that room is Anthony’s until she’s already inside. She hides under his desk and almost gets away with it until Anthony spots her. This leads to a very heated argument and then a passionate make-out session. They definitely fit the enemies to lovers trope, and we are all here for it.

3. The Thunder Storm 

During a thunderstorm, Kate is petrified with fear. Anthony finds her hiding under a table in the library and holds her to soothe her nerves. The two have a conversation about their childhoods, which brings them closer together, physically and metaphorically. This scene would show the softer side of Anthony and a more vulnerable side of Kate.

4. Colin Playing Matchmaker

When Colin meets Kate and hears her talk poorly of his brother, he concocts a mischievous scheme. He tells Anthony that Kate couldn’t speak enough about him, which makes him look like a fool when Colin introduces them to one another. Colin teasing his brother and playing matchmaker would definitely start the first episode of the season off right.

5. The Bee Sting 

Kate gives Anthony her blessing to marry Edwina, but a bee interrupts them. Kate isn’t bothered by it, but its presence terrifies Anthony because his father died from a bee sting. When it stings Kate near her chest, Anthony panics and sucks out the venom. The two are caught in a compromising position by their mothers and Mrs. Featherington, and the latter proclaims they must get married. While season one had a very intense proposal scene in the middle of a duel, the proposal from a bee sting would definitely top it.

6. Colin and Benedict Reacting to Anthony’s Marriage Declaration 

Lady Whistledown and the entirety of London agree–Anthony Bridgerton is a rake through and through. So, when he tells his brothers that he’s going to get married, they’re startled, to say the least. One falls out of a chair, and the other chokes on a piece of food. We’d love to see this reaction from Colin and Benedict in the show, but we hope no harm will come to them during the scene’s filming.

7. Kate and Anthony Dancing 

Kate and Anthony engage in a round of witty banter on the dance floor. Kate also purposefully and accidentally steps on his foot multiple times. We hope next season will give us more classical covers of pop songs for them to dance to. Perhaps “Boys Like You” by Dodie would be fitting, or a slowed-down version of “Toxic” by Britney Spears, as it would capture the sexual tension between them.


8. Chasing After Newton 

While walking in the park, Kate loses control of her troublesome but lovable corgi named Newton. This causes her to chase after Newton and Anthony to chase after her. Long story short, Anthony ends up drenched in water from getting the dog and Edwina out of the lake. This moment causes a rift between Kate and Anthony but leads to the iconic exchange below.

9. The Most Beautiful Woman in England

Kate’s worried that Anthony doesn’t desire her. She asks if he’s picturing Edwina on their wedding night. Anthony finds the notion absurd, telling her that she’s “the most beautiful and desirable woman in England” and that he’s never felt about anyone the way he feels for her. His passionate speech is one of the best moments in the book and is sure to be one of the best moments in the show if it’s included.

10. Anthony Saves Kate

Anthony believes he’s destined to pass away young like his father, so he’s determined never to fall in love, as it would only complicate matters. However, Kate turns his plans upside down. When she’s trapped under a carriage, he finally confesses that he loves her and saves her. The author assures the readers that Anthony will live to “the ripe old age of 92” at the end. We hope the show will give audiences the same promise!


What moment from “The Viscount Who Loved Me” are you most excited to see in season 2 of “Bridgerton?” Comment your favorite part from the book down below!

Hit or Miss Tropes: Enemies to Lovers

The “enemies-to-lovers” trope is used commonly in stories. It’s when two characters hate each other because they are on opposites sides of a war or conflict. But the audience starts to see that there’s more between them than just hatred. They get too close to one another when they argue and have a chemistry that is impossible to deny. When the audience sees them kiss, it feels inevitable. Once the internal or external war between them is over, the two enemies become lovers.

Some of the most entertaining romance stories use the enemies-to-lovers trope, including classic novels like “Pride and Prejudice” and movies like “The Proposal.”

But while the enemies-to-lovers dynamic can be incredibly entertaining to watch, it can often promote toxic relationship ideals. In some instances, it romanticizes abuse by excusing it for “passion.” 

So, is the enemies-to-lovers trope still valid, or should it be retired? Let’s get into it! 

It helps the characters develop and the story progress

The enemies-to-lovers trope can be useful to writers, helping them develop characters and move the story forward. When characters start as enemies, they have to work towards building their relationship. They have many heated interactions, which become more affectionate as they learn more about the other. Once they form mutual respect, they reassess their previous prejudices. They can then work together to overcome the obstacles in their way and secure a happy ending.

One of Shakespeare’s famous plays, “Much Ado About Nothing,” is all about this trope. Beatrice and Benedick hate one another, which leads them to have many passionate arguments and battles of wits. But when they think the other is in love with them, and they start to spend more time together, they see that their hatred was ill-founded. The two have a lot in common, and they end up falling for one another. Once they admit to their feelings, they work together to restore Hero’s good name, which Claudio slandered. It’s evident to the audience that their connection resolves the story and leads the characters to become better people.

It’s entertaining and satisfying 

The love at first sight trope is an easier trope to implement in a story, but it’s often dull. The viewer doesn’t have much reason to root for them when their romance comes easy to them. But when two characters start in a rockier place as they do in an enemies-to-lovers relationship, it’s more entertaining. We get to see them grow closer and closer, forming a deep bond. The trope also provides more tension to the story, making the resolution where they finally get together feel like a big payoff to the audience.

The love at first sight trope is easy to implement in a story, but it’s often dull. The viewer doesn’t have much reason to root for the relationship when their romance comes easily. But when two characters start in a rockier place as they do in an enemies-to-lovers relationship, it’s more entertaining. We get to see them grow closer, be vulnerable with one another, and form a deep bond. The trope also provides more tension to the story, and it feels like a big payoff when they finally get together.

It’s driven by understanding

To be someone’s enemy, you have to know what makes them tick. While knowing their strengths and weaknesses helps fight, it’s also beneficial in a romantic relationship. You can better anticipate their needs and support them when you know how they operate. Enemies-to-lovers couples have great chemistry because of their profound understanding of the other. 

Emma and Hook from “Once Upon a Time” are good foes because they have keen insight into the other’s insecurities. Their kindred understanding of one another leads them to grow closer once the conflict between them ceases. Emma knows Hook’s struggle to overcome his darkness, and Hook knows Emma feels like an orphan who has to do everything on her own. So, the two become good romantic partners, as they know how to help the other through any obstacle. Enemies-to-lovers couples like them have a healthy relationship, as they’re aware of one another’s flaws and love them regardless.

It can promote abusive relationships.

The enemies-to-lovers trope, when implemented poorly, can instill toxic relationship ideals. This usually happens when the story doesn’t develop the characters or their relationship enough. They go from physically harming the other to kissing within seconds. Also, the enemies-to-lovers trope can be harmful by romanticizing violence. The line between “passion” and actual “abuse” can become blurred if the writer doesn’t tread carefully.

Kylo Ren and Rey from the new “Star Wars” trilogy are an example of how the trope can take a wrong turn. Besides physically torturing her, Kylo also gaslights Rey, making her think that she’s nothing without him. Even when Kylo joins the light side and helps Rey in “The Rise of Skywalker,” their relationship’s toxicity remains. Kylo’s rushed redemption arc doesn’t excuse his past abuses. All of this leads their kiss to feel unearned, as the writers didn’t do enough groundwork in their relationship.

Sometimes the enemies part of the equation is over-emphasized 

The enemies-to-lovers dynamic thrives on the sexually charged aspect of the trope. This makes the trope incredibly entertaining. However, when the characters don’t complement one another well enough, their bond feels hollow. It becomes all about the passion of their relationship. The character’s relationship becomes hollow, as their differences keep them at odds with one another continuously.

The main couple on the sitcom “Cheers,” Sam and Diane, shows how the enemies-to-lovers trope can fail when the character’s antagonism is at the forefront of their relationship. They argue all the time and lack a real understanding of the other. Despite their obvious attraction, their relationship fails because they lack a proper balance. 

So, is this trope a hit or a miss? 

It’s a hit!

The enemies-to-lovers trope isn’t foolproof, as it becomes problematic when mishandled. However, when the trope includes character development and depth, it’s a hit. It’s incredibly engaging to watch two characters’ progress from one end of the spectrum to another, from hating each other with all their might to loving one another with everything they have.


What’s your favorite enemies-to-lovers story? Comment down below!

5 Surprising TV Couples People Loved and 5 People Hated

Television show writer’s often pre-conceptualize which characters will end up with who from the beginning. Nick and Jess from “New Girl” are an example of this. Elizabeth Meriweather, the series’s creator, stated that the two would become an item in her series pitch. So, the writers hinted at the two having feelings for the other from the beginning.

However, other television couples are not written in the stars. Sometimes, the writers notice two actors have chemistry together or want new ways to spice up the plot, so they change their plans. This happened with April and Andy on “Parks and Recreation.” They weren’t intended to be together when the show started, but the characters organically came together and brought an entertaining dynamic to the series.

So, which surprising TV couples like Andy and April did people love? And, which ones did people absolutely hate? Let’s get into it!

Loved: Oliver and Felicity

The computer whiz Felicity Smoak immediately became a fan favorite in her first scene of “Arrow.” She was intended to be a one-off character, but her chemistry with the lead character Oliver was undeniable. She was updated to a series regular and became a part of Team Arrow, as well as Oliver’s love interest. Fans loved this couple so much, that “Olicity ” won Ship of the Year in 2015 and 2016.

Hated: Fez and Jackie

The last season of That 70’s Show is hard to watch. One of the primary reasons for it becoming the most skipped season of the series is because Fez and Jackie become a couple. The writers try to paint Fez as the man who was under Jackie’s nose the entire time. However, her feelings for him felt awkward and forced. Fans preferred Jackie with Hyde and were left wishing the show had ended a season earlier.

Loved: Jeff and Annie

The study group in “Community” forms because Jeff wants to hook up with Britta. But along the way, Jeff starts to have deeper feelings for Annie. The pivot from Britta to Annie wasn’t the original plan. However, their will-they-wont-they relationship became part of the show because fans and writers liked their dynamic. While Jeff and Annie never actually became a couple, they had many heartfelt moments, including the two sharing a kiss in the last episode.

Hated: Joey and Rachel

While some modern viewers don’t mind the pair, most fans detest Rachel and Joey’s dalliance in later seasons of “Friends.” The lead up to their relationship is longer than their actual relationship, as they end up breaking up merely a few episodes into dating. They quickly realize that they’re better off as friends, which the audience already knew.

Loved: Monica and Chandler

In contrast, people loved the other surprising relationship on “Friends,” Monica and Chandler. The show didn’t intend for them to get together. But, the writers decided to make their hook up a cliffhanger in season four. In doing this, the creators stumbled onto something extraordinary. Monica and Chandler became the stable couple viewers could rely on to juxtapose Ross and Rachel’s instability.

Hated: Tom and Ann

Thankfully, the fling between Tom and Ann on “Parks and Recreation” was short-lived. Ann cringes at almost everything Tom does, and we cringe at their attempt to date. While the series has many well-written duos, Tom and Ann aren’t one of them.

Loved: Barney and Robin

Robin and Barney were legen–wait for it…dary! They’re very similar and seemed made for each other despite the unplanned nature of their relationship. The two ended up falling in love and getting married. But the creators had pre-tapped the end of “How I Met Your Mother” with Ted’s kids telling him to get back together with Robin. Even though they changed the show’s direction over time, they ended up reverting to their original idea, making Barney and Robin get divorced, which enraged fans who loved the pair.

Hated: Rumple and the Evil Queen

Regina and Rumple on “Once Upon a Time” had a student and teacher dynamic, making their love connection in later seasons deeply disturbing. When Regina splits the evil from her body, the Evil Queen becomes an individual entity who tries to get with Rumple. Watching them kiss made fans sick, and they were happy when the heroes defeated the Evil Queen.

Loved: Ben and Devi

“Never Have I Ever” is about Devi, who wants to date Paxton, the most popular guy in school. But as the show progresses, we see Devi grow closer to Ben, her nemesis. Ben wasn’t intended to be her romantic interest at the start of the show but became one after seeing them interact on screen together. While a good portion of viewers still want her to be with Paxton, many strongly support the more surprising but genuine connection she has with Ben.

Hated: Sam and Rachel

Many weird flings happen on Glee, but the one between Rachel and Sam was the most unsettling. After Finn’s death, fans were heartbroken. While they wanted Rachel to find love again, finding that with Sam felt odd. It was like the writers didn’t know who she should date, so they stuck her with the character who was the most similar to Finn. This couple didn’t last very long, and fans reacted better to Rachel’s reunion with Jessie that occurs later on in the series.


What surprising couples do you love, and which one’s do you hate? Comment down below!

The Art of Hovering

She tries not to care.

Really, she does. 

Mirabelle digs too far into the pint of chocolate ice cream, distracted by glaring at Rue in the corner of the parlor. She ends up giving the six-year-old kid inline the scoop of their dreams and of their parents’ nightmares.

She has no reason to be mad at Rue, well—no sane reason, at least. But she admits more readily than most would that she’s not a sane person. 

Well, technically, she’s not a person at all…

But that’s beside the point. 

Don’t get her wrong, she’s not insane or anything, she’s not about to fling the ice cream scooper at his head. But she wouldn’t mind giving him a slap or two with her wings. Not too hard, but just hard enough for him to get the message. 

He walks up to the counter with a gleaming smile on his face. It doesn’t work on Maribelle. But that smile could cause a human to fall onto their knees in awe.

“Can I get a ‘hopscotch and butterscotch’ in a cone?” Rue asks and then laughs. “Man, if humans put as much energy into solving scientific equations and curing diseases as they put into coming up with new ice cream flavors, they wouldn’t need us here.” 

“Speaking of not needing someone here, you don’t need to be here,” Maribelle reminds him while handing him the cone aggressively. 

The cone breaks, causing some ice cream to drip from his hand onto his bright yellow shirt. Rue looks down with a slightly bothered frown. He touches a finger to the stain with a single touch, causing it to disappear. 

“I know I don’t have to be here, but I want to be here.”

“Ruel, please leave,” Maribelle says with a sigh, rubbing a hand on her forehead even though she can’t get headaches. But gestures are eclectic. She learns more and more of them every time she has a job on earth. “I don’t need you hovering over my shoulder.”

“I can’t help it. It’s in our cosmic makeup to hover over people’s shoulders.”  

“Over human’s shoulders, not over other angels’.”

He doesn’t answer her, taking a lick of his ice cream. “This is delicious. I’m so glad your human owns an ice cream shop.”

“Maybe you should have applied to be part of the ‘scoop troop’ instead of me.”  

“No, you know how this works. You were assigned to guard Claire. There’s a reasoning behind every station we’re given.”

Maribelle frowns, wiping her hands on her apron. 

“Even if that reason is to fail?”

Rue frowns. “Maribelle, you protected Matt. You didn’t fail.”

She scoffs, causing him to reach out, placing a hand on top of hers on the counter.

“It wasn’t your fault. It was just his time.” 

“Oh, it was just his time?” Maribelle asks, snatching her hand away from his. “His time to die was after I guided him through escaping his foster parents, after getting through addiction, and after he finally fell in love with someone even though I watched his heart break and mend over and over again? That’s when it was his time to be hit by a random car?” 

“God works—.”

“I know, I know, in mysterious ways,” she interrupts with a wave of her hands. “I just wish His ways were a little less mysterious sometimes.”

He leans over the counter, using a bit of extra stardust to get a twinkle in his eyes. “There’s no fun in life without a little mystery.” 

She doesn’t smile, but she does feel her wings rise from their drooped position. While no one else would notice the change in mood as her wings are invisible to the human eye, her sibling, of course, notices, causing Rue’s smile to widen. 

“Why are you really here?” she asks. Rue opens his mouth to respond, but she holds up a hand. “Don’t say it’s because of the ice cream. You could go anywhere for that.”

He takes a step back with an exhale. “I knew this would be hard for you, starting your first job after Matt. So, I wanted to be here for you.” 

Maribelle raises a brow. 

He rolls his eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. How human of me, right? To want to be there for someone even though you can’t fix their problems.”

“I don’t think humans comfort one another to fix things, it’s about just being in each other’s presence. Kind of like what we do for those in our charge as guardians.”

Maribelle looks away from Rue for a moment, observing the ice cream parlor. There’s families sitting together and laughing. There’s groups of friends splitting bowls of ice cream, talking about an assignment. Then, there’s a few alone, a cone in their hands and a weight to their shoulders she wishes she could lift. 

She turns back to Rue, a sad smile on her face. “We stick by their side, nudging them one way or the other to avoid dangers, but we ultimately letting them walk down their own path.”

“Matt’s path wasn’t bad, you know,” Rue says because her well enough by now to know where her train of thought is going. “He left a lot of good behind him through his actions and through the people that loved him. They’re better because they knew him, and they wouldn’t have known him at all if you hadn’t kept him warm on his coldest nights.”

Maribelle leans against the cash register, the cold metal chills her skin that shouldn’t get cold. 

“But why did the bad have to happen at all for good to happen?”

“I used to think it was because of all that stereotypical stuff you see on greeting cards down here. You can’t have a rainbow without rain, and there’s always a silver lining, that kind of thing. But I don’t think any of those phrases are quite right,” he says, tilting his head as he tries to piece together his thoughts. “You don’t need bad things to happen for there to be good things, but God can make good out of the bad that does happen.”

Maribelle swallows thickly, memories of Matt and all the good he left behind despite the pain he went through lingering in her mind. 

Rue leans over, tapping her shoulder and shaking her from her thoughts. “Looks like your boss is coming this way.” 

She looks up with wide eyes, her back straightening. 

Rue chuckles. “Not that one, the human one.” 

Maribelle lets out a breath of relief, her shoulders relaxing. She sees Claire approaching from the back room, walking towards her. 

She nudges Rue away. “Scram. This is my first day. I can’t be caught slacking with you.”

He does what she says and backs away, walking towards the corner booth to enjoy the rest of his ice cream cone. 

Claire’s dark hair is pinned up in a bun, donning an apron despite being the parlor owner and not spending much time working behind the counter. She approaches Maribelle with a friendly smile, but there’s an exhaustion in her eyes that are easy to miss if you’re not looking close enough. 

“Belle, you’re doing great,” she says sweetly. “You’re a quick learner.” 

She nods with a smile. “Thanks, Ms. Rendell.” 

“Please, call me Claire.”

“Ok, Claire, then,” Maribelle says, but her voice is faint as she becomes overwhelmed by the wave of emotions radiating from Claire. 

Guardians are tied to the humans they protect, which makes her get a strong sense of what Claire’s going through when Maribelle’s near her. Sometimes for angels, the emotions take a while to settle and understand, as humans can feel a multitude of things all at once. It’s like a painter who swirls colors together on a canvas. An observer doesn’t know the full image, even though the painter can see the entire illustration in their minds before they’re done.

Maribelle takes a deep breath, the emotions spanning through her feathers, taking the shape of a melancholy kind of sadness—one that’s loud but has turned into a white noise from playing in the background for so long.  

“You alright, Claire?”

Claire looks taken aback by the question but gives a shaky smile. “Yes, yes, I’m fine… I just had a rather unpleasant phone call. Nothing for you to worry about, though.” 

Maribelle holds back a grin as if her entire purpose wasn’t to worry about her. 

“Why don’t you take your break?” Claire suggests, leading her out from behind the counter. 

“Uh sure, where do we usually go for breaks?”

“The breakroom is in the back, or you can step outside to get some air. You can go wherever you want. As long as you’re back in fifteen minutes.”

“I find a lot can happen in fifteen minutes.” Maribelle hums. “History can be made, you can fall in love, or you can accomplish great achievements in that time.”

“I could use one of those fifteen minutes right about now. But even fifteen minutes seems like too long.” 

It’s the kind of statement that could easily slip past the cracks. One that made your ears prick up a little, but you would brush off as nothing eventually. But Maribelle’s been taught to pick up the signs. She can more easily see the weariness in their shoulders or hear the heaviness in their words. She takes a step towards Claire, putting a hand on her shoulder. 

“Wait another fifteen minutes Claire. The weather can change from a cloudy day to a sunny one in that amount of time, too.”

Claire looks up at Maribelle in amusement. “Have you always been this positive?”

“Not always.” She looks towards the booth where Rue has been sitting, giving her an encouraging nod. “But sometimes, you just need a reminder that things can get better.”

“How do you know they will?” Claire asks, scanning her with curiosity. 

“Honestly, I don’t know they will,” Maribelle admits. “But that’s where faith comes in, I guess. You reach out, and something’s bound to pull you back up.”

“Something, or someone?” 

Maribelle undoes her apron. No one’s heads even perk up as her wings span their full width across the room. She smiles but makes sure to tone it down its power so she doesn’t cause anyone in the room to drop their ice cream.

“The fun is in the mystery.”

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