Friday, July 24, 2015

A Question Of Age, An Overdue Apology, Possible Surgery by BJ Neblett

            A couple of summer back, I was accused of not being forthcoming, or open and honest about my age. While that Sunday first date could have admittedly gone smoother, it certainly didn’t do much to endear me to the object of my affection. I have never been one to be coy about my age. Truth be known, I was so enamored and totally taken with the beautiful young woman that I stuttered and stammered my way through the encounter like a naive schoolboy on his first date. As a result of my uncharacteristic shyness, I managed to blow what I still believe can be a remarkable relationship. Live and learn… but it still stings… quite a bit. And the way things were left between us still haunts me today. Some say it’s just the hopeless romantic in me. But it’s more than just that… a lot more… and goes a lot deeper. All I ever wanted was a chance; a chance for us to talk; to get to know one another; an opportunity for her to meet the real me, and to see where it all may lead. For my conspicuous, confusing and faltering behavior, to the lovely lady in question, my sincerest apologies. But sometimes the heart does what it wants without asking the brain. I only hope my words reach their intended destination.

            Closer to my real persona, I often jape that I am 64, look 44, feel 24, and act 14. Perhaps I should have just lead with those words two years ago. But actually, there is a lot more truth than humor to that statement. I have been blessed with great genes, and with being very youthful and fit. Perhaps baseball/softball is the real fountain of youth. I have pitched baseball and softball all of my life, and still possess the control, skill and finesse of someone half my age. Providence, however, does have its price. Just as someone in their prime, I seem to have possibly developed a condition that is the bane of professional pitchers. Tommy John Elbow, named after the famous Dodgers/Yankees pitcher, is damage to the UCL, or ulnar collateral ligament below the elbow, which connects the humerus to the ulna. Through excessive use and strain, such as a pitcher encounters, the ligament can become stretched and distended, losing its elasticity; much as a rubber band can be stretched out of shape. Worst case scenario calls for surgery, a procedure named Tommy John Surgery, in which the damaged ligament is replaced by a tendon harvested from another part of the body. It’s scary stuff, indeed. The good news is that a complete and full recovery, including returning to pitching, is the norm.
            I had my first, initial exam this week, and will be seeing a professional in sports medicine specializing in elbows and shoulders in the weeks to come. That, I am sure, will be followed by MRI’s, CT Scans, and a host of other test and procedures designed to provide a definitive diagnoses of the problem.
            And before you ask: The condition has limited the range of motion in my right elbow. Yes, I am continuing to play softball and to pitch. We play slow pitch softball and the condition has not seriously affected my pitching game. It has somewhat affected my ability to throw overhand. Yes, it is a bit painful, more so at times. I am wearing an elbow brace to help limit the amount of damage and pain. And yes, as you already know… see posts to this blog, September 16th, 23rd, and 28th, 2014… I’m not real good with hospitals. As they say, stay tuned for further developments. Your comments and questions are, as always, welcomed.
            Finally, as a request, next weekend I will be reviewing stories published in July’s eFiction Magazine. You can click the picture to the right for more info on this great publication, and to obtain a copy.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

New Stories Published And Posted by BJ Neblett

I have a story published in this month's eFiction Magazine, just click the image to the right. In this edition you will notice a story by a new author, Alissa Berger. Alissa is a close friend and a very talented writer, and this is her first time being published. But I promise you will be hearing a lot more from her! Enjoy the mag. In the mean time, below is a romance story from a couple of years ago that appeared in Romance Magazine.
Also, be sure to click over to my poetry blog for a new post! The link is to the right.

BJ Neblett
© 2013

            Joraleah’s life ebbed and flowed like the waters that surrounded her and marked her existence. It came in waves of feats and failures; troubles and triumphs; confrontation and consolation. And, like those same waters that could rage in violence or settle in serenity, Joraleah had learned to rise to the challenges and recognize the consequences.
            These traits developed in no small measure as the result of a cruel joke of genetics. Being an only child – an anomaly in the fertile Johnston clan – made Joraleah uncomfortable. Growing up she felt more a curiosity, an outsider to countless cousins and assorted aunts and uncles. The proverbial square peg in an ever expanding round hole, Joraleah was looked upon by most as an out of place piece of furniture; the strange object d’ art; the enigmatic bibelot, wrapped in a tattered apron by Great, Great Granny Gianna, and clutched tightly to her bosom as the family escaped some historically insignificant rebellion.
            But Joraleah – always Joraleah, never Leah or Jory or J – sprang from a close, loving family. Born of strong middle class heritage, the Johnston family called white collar suburban Philadelphia home. Johnston family tree roots ran deep reaching down to a proud, curious mix of Eastern European old countries including Romania. Mysterious Great Aunt Althea claimed the lineage actually sprang from Transylvania, with the family name being bastardized from its original Jahnstein. While this curious bit of ancestry, intriguing as it may be, had never been satisfactory proven, to Joraleah the inherited gypsy spirit brought with it an unspoken inner sense of confidence.
            Always remaining true to her nature, Joraleah grew to be at once as gentle and refreshing as the name she carried, and as formidable as a wind tossed sea. Her eighth Christmas witnessed an obscene onslaught of games, toys and clothes. Everything Joraleah could want but the one thing she desired the most, an unimposing Beanie Baby. That winter a determined Joraleah traded her Saturday skating lessons in favor of a snow shovel. Tirelessly clearing blanketed sidewalks and driveways, she soon earned enough money to purchase the coveted Beanie Baby, a tall unassuming blonde fellow with a cute heart shaped mole on his left temple.
            On her thirteenth birthday Joraleah wished to see Disney World. Disappointed but without complaint, she settled for a pair of mouse ears bestowed upon her by one of a dozen costumed characters hired to entertain guests at a rented Chuck-E-Cheese. Concentrating on her English classes, a year later Joraleah entered an essay contest, easily winning and securing a family vacation to the popular Florida attraction.
            In high school, Joraleah received an overwhelming number of write-in votes for the mundane position of treasurer. Undeterred, by senior year she had parlayed her acumen for saving and investing into the office of class president.
            And so the quiet teen grew into a strong, self-sufficient young woman, confidently regarding her life as a chrysalis in an ever evolving cocoon. Whenever life presented seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Joraleah found solace in a sudden spring shower and comfort in the refreshing autumn rain. Yet if there was one area of Joraleah’s life which was lacking, it was romance. Plain of features and shy by nature, Joraleah carried an inner beauty that shone with an intriguing and captivating aura to anyone taking the time to notice. The ones who bothered found her to be a trusted and valued friend, and Joraleah treasured the few close relationships she developed. And an indomitable inner spirit repeatedly reassured her that love lay just around the next corner.
            Longing to escape the well meaning but stifling judgments of family, after graduating from Drexel University, Joraleah discovered the welcoming liquid intimacy of life in the Pacific Northwest. Now approaching thirty, Joraleah was comfortably and happily hidden away from the always questioning, always critical, usually annoying world around her. She worked ten hours a day in a non-descript cubical, in a non-descript library, in a non-descript small college town as a senior research assistant. But Joraleah’s days continued to flow like the life giving fluid that surrounded and defined her existence.
            And that was just the way Joraleah liked it.
            “Here ya go, Lady J.” The student intern dropped a large stack of dusty file folders on Joraleah’s cramped, cluttered desk, “These need to be fact checked.” He grinned and headed down the dimly lit corridor. “By Monday,” he called back over his shoulder. “Have a nice weekend!”
            Joraleah sighed deeply to the drab beige walls of her cubical. “Thanks a lot,” she cried aloud, “and don’t call me Lady J!”
            It was an automatic gut reaction. She had no plans for the weekend. While maintaining a close circle of cherished friends, most of Joraleah’s weekends were spent curled up on her small sofa in her garage apartment going through a large dusty stack of file folders inconsiderately dropped on her cramped, cluttered desk. She had grown accustomed to being on her own; secure in the notion that true love would one day wash over her.
            Joraleah yawned and stretched like a waking cat. Blinking her tired eyes, the plastic wall clock came into a fuzzy focus: 10:14. She looked around. Hers was the only light still lit among the half dozen cubicles. “Of course,” she said to no one, “its 10:14 Friday night. Everyone else has plans, dates, and friends.” She shook her head. Long strands of unpinned chestnut brown hair fluttered about. “Wake up girl, time to go home… way past time to go home. What you need is a shower. Maybe a good wet soaking will revive you.”
            The still September night air was heavy, humid and pungent. They must have cut the grass on the mall today, Joraleah thought, wrinkling her nose to the sharp odor. As she crossed the deserted campus, the dozen file folders in her backpack caused the straps to pull at her shoulders. From nowhere a mild breeze arrived, tugging at the hem of her midi length skirt. Far above, a witch’s moon played hide and seek with the dark clouds slowly gathering from the south. Joraleah gave the ominous sky a discerning glance. “The old gods must be restless tonight. Oh, well…”
            The first raindrop touched Joraleah’s elbow, causing her to jump. At first she thought an insect had bitten her. The fallen drop seemed to glisten with a soft golden yellow hue in the waning moonlight. Another raindrop found Joraleah’s slightly turned nose. It burned, tickled and stung all at once, causing Joraleah to flick the unexpected visitor aside. In no time the moon had disappeared behind a blanket of inky black clouds. Joraleah quicken her pace, the wooden heels of her knee length boots echoing a rhythmic click off the smooth white pavement. She knew she wouldn’t make it home in time. Sudden autumn showers were no stranger to the area. But the quickness with which this one had developed sent a disquieting shiver through Joraleah’s body. Be careful what you wish, she thought, smiling to herself, this isn’t exactly the shower I had in mind.
            By the time she reached her front door, a light steady drizzle was falling, tickling her bare arms and causing her simple make-up to run. Shedding the bulging backpack, Joraleah reached for a soft gray bath towel and retreated to her bedroom.
            Late that night Joraleah sat upright in her bed, rubbing her red, weary eyes. She was surrounded by open file folders, hastily scribble notes on yellow legal paper, her lap top computer, an empty bag of Cheetos, and half a can of Hires root beer. It was 4:11 in the morning and she had finished checking the dozen or so facts in the final file folder. With a satisfied feeling of accomplishment, Joraleah slipped down into the welcoming covers, recalling the touch of the sudden shower on her skin. Her hands and arms began to tingle. Her slightly turned nose twitched once… twice… and Joraleah fell into a long, deep comfortable sleep.
            Sunday morning the sun shone brightly through the lace curtains of the single bedroom window. Exhausted from the week’s work load of researching half interesting topics ranging from the number of casualties in the Crimean War to the distillation of active amino acids, Joraleah had slept Saturday away. It was a routine that was quickly becoming a regular part of Joraleah’s life. As the sleep slowly left her, Joraleah vowed to spend more time away from her desk. The sound of a distant lawn mower filled the tiny bedroom. Mr. Green was mowing his lawn. Someone should ask him not to do it so early on Sunday morning. As she stretched, the scent of the freshly cut, dew laden grass reached Joraleah. It smelled sweet and brought with it pleasant thoughts of a summer long gone.
            Happily recalling the forgotten memory, she rose to start her day.
            Later that afternoon, Joraleah sat on an old wool blanket in a corner of a popular park. It was a ritual as predictable as the rest of her predictable existence: Sunday afternoons, the park, the old wool blanket, and a dog eared copy of romantic Elizabethan poetry. A bright sun warmed the early fall day. Joraleah looked around. A yellow tennis ball bounced past followed closely by a leaping black Lab and a laughing young boy. Not far away a group of students from the university were playing Hacky-Sack. A couple kissed tenderly as they relaxed in the waning shade of a thinning maple tree.
            Taking in the tranquil scene, Joraleah smiled, her thin lips curling to one side. She loved watching the children, and their games, and the obviously budding romances of those around her. She considered herself to be a hopeless romantic at heart. But Joraleah was more of a watcher, a timid observer of life. She lived vicariously while her heart remained cautiously closed; shuttered away against the world around her.
            But something was different today.
            Something was amiss within her safe routine.
            The fragrances of the fresh autumn day didn’t trigger her asthma. In fact, Joraleah found herself intoxicated by the patchwork of perfumes that floated on the air. They brought with them memories, memories of childhood days and family outings; pleasant, comfortable memories believed lost to the passage of time.
            And there was something else.
            The normally offensive sun that tended to burn and dry Joraleah’s sensitive skin felt warm and welcoming on her face and arms. Without much thought or concern, Joraleah relaxed back on the old wool blanket. Opening her book to a favorite poem by Christopher Marlowe, Joraleah began to read aloud:
                                    Come live with me, and be my love:
                                    And we will all the pleasures prove…
            Monday began like every other Monday in Joraleah’s life. Her cheeks did appear a bit rosier in the bathroom mirror. The handsome young cashier at Starbucks did look up as he handed back her change for the tall, non-fat mocha. And the usual pleasantries and head nods exchanged as she walked across campus did seem a bit more friendly and genuine. But by the time she reached her cubicle the curious sensations were forgotten. It was time to get to work.
            By 3:30, Joraleah was deeply engaged with a sixteenth century account of accepted social practices among members of the Protestant Reformation. Faintly aware of the presence of someone within her space, Joraleah continued to study the tome before her. “Just drop them on the desk with the others, please,” she said without looking up.
            “I’m sorry…”
            The voice was deep yet gentle and smooth, like crushed velvet to the touch. It seemed vaguely familiar.. Slowly looking up, Joraleah found herself peering into a pair of soft beagle brown eyes. “Oh, I’m… I’m sorry, I thought…”
            “It’s ok. I didn’t mean to interrupt your concentration.”
            Momentarily lost for words, Joraleah shuffled nervously in her chair. The visitor was tall, over six feet, with sandy blonde hair hastily parted to one side. He sported a worn tan corduroy jacket, the elbows capped with oval leather patches mostly out of necessity rather than fashion. The friendly brown eyes were framed with gold wire rimmed bifocals. She did know him. She had seen him a few times around campus and at the university book store.
            “Hello, I’m Edwin Notus.”
            Joraleah rose, accepting the outstretched hand in greeting. His touch was electric, pulling the smitten research assistant from her temporary reverie. “Yes, yes I know. You’re Professor Notus.” Feeling her cheeks redden, Joraleah shifted her gaze. “You’re from the history department. I‘ve read several of your papers.”
            “Yes, that’s what I’ve come to talk to you about.” So this was the mysterious woman he’d heard about in idle cafeteria chat and water cooler gossip. The bookish brunette who mostly kept to herself, eating lunch alone in her cubicle and staying buried in work. He’d often pondered the flowing, exaggerated initials that graced the bottom of his corrected documents. She was the one who was at least in part responsible for the success of the papers he’d published. Her proven and trusted research had even helped him to attain notoriety among his peers. “Please, call me Edwin.”
            Her smile was genuine, her timorous manner affecting. She was nothing like he’d imagined. The rumors and stories about ‘Plain Lady J, the research recluse’ were wrong. This woman was lovely. Her soft features and genteel face proclaimed an inner beauty that most overlooked.
            The unaccustomed nervousness began to settle a bit. Joraleah found herself becoming fascinated with the handsome visitor. “Yes, whatever you say, Professor… err… Edwin… My name is Joraleah.”
            “What a beautiful and lyrical name. You must be aware of its meaning.”
             For the first time she became conscious of the cute heart shaped mole on his left temple. “Thank you. No, not really, I’m not. It’s actually a combination of my parent’s names, Jordan and Leighanna.”
            “Joraleah,” he said softly, “it means gentle autumn rain.” Reluctantly, he allowed her slender hand to slip from his. “As I said, most beautiful; it suits you.”
            Butterflies once again filled her stomach. “Oh… well… what… what can I do for you?”
            “I have to present a paper on The Influence of Greek Mythology On 20th Century History. I have only a couple of weeks to finish and I am in desperate need of an assistant. I’d like for you to join me”
            The bout of nerves returned and Joraleah felt her stomach start to bubble. She’d met handsome men before. But the queasiness was a new sensation to her and not entirely unpleasant. She realized what the request would mean. There would be long hours and surely many late nights. The research alone would be overwhelming. But the thing that excited Joraleah the most was the fact that she’d be working closely with this intriguing man who affected her so strangely. “Gee, I don’t know. I’m already well behind in my work.”
            Once again Edwin’s soft brown eyes found Joraleah’s. “Please…”
            She felt herself yielding to his hypnotic gaze. “I… I’m…”
            “I’ve already cleared it with your department head. She’s given me the liberty to make full use of your time.”
            Edwin gathered Joraleah’s hands in his and the bubbles in her stomach began to effervesce.
            “Would you like some coffee?” Edwin and Joraleah sat in an old wooded booth in a secluded corner of Antonio’s Italian Villa Restaurant. The remains of lasagna with meatballs for two and a shared slice of cherry cheesecake littered the table. “Or would you prefer some more wine?”
            They had been working nearly non-stop for three days. Their first evening together he had walked her home. Late that night, she had come to the conclusion that she enjoyed the Professor’s company. Now, despite the work load still pending, Professor Notus managed to talk the reserved research assistant into accompanying him to dinner. The break from the dry, highly detailed work was a welcome and needed one. On the surface, Edwin Notus seemed a simple and honest man who loved history and loved teaching even more. He lived modestly in a small house on campus provided by the university. He was easy going, and Joraleah found herself increasingly drawn to him. Then again, Professor Notus was only one of a small number of men since her junior year in college with whom she’d shared more than just a few casual minutes.

            His name was Brad and he possessed an earthy, rugged handsomeness and unrelenting confidence that Joraleah found strangely attractive. She’d been paired with the brash young mid-westerner as a study partner in her Comparative Literature class. The semester progressed smoothly enough, Joraleah easily sidestepping his amours advances. However, her mixed feelings towards the BMOC often left her confused and frustrated. During Christmas break, a protracted argument with her parents about her chosen career path and desire to move away after graduation had resulted in Joraleah returning to college early. A few days after New Years, feeling particularly alone, the vulnerable coed confided in her study partner. That evening, as they lay across her dorm room bed preparing for mid-terms, Brad took the young coed into his powerful arms, kissing her neck, her cheek and finally her moist lips. Joraleah found herself giving in to the considerable charms of the smooth talking young man from Oklahoma. It wasn’t Joraleah’s first time with a man. But the encounter made her feel clumsy and awkward, and wishing that Brad would take notice of her timorous movements. He didn’t. Joraleah was left shaken and unfulfilled. A week later the semester ended, as did the brief relationship.

            Joraleah sat considering her dinner companion from across the table. He is a handsome man, she told herself, the cute heart shaped mole on his left temple stirring a long buried memory. Following her ill conceived dalliance with Brad, Joraleah had become disenchanted with the idea of a relationship. A few men entered her life, but she concentrated rather on her studies. As always, she reminded herself that one day love would come along. She just needed to be patient. But if there was one advantage to living on the outside it was that it afforded the opportunity to observe and study people. And Joraleah considered herself to be an excellent judge of people, at least from a distance. Yes, she decided, he is a kind and handsome man.
            “Hello, Earth to Joraleah.”
            The comment pulled Joraleah from her momentary reverie. Edwin sat poised across the table, a half empty bottle of vintage 1998 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay in his hand. He appeared to be studying her as closely as she had been studying him. The thought was at once flattering and embarrassing. “Oh, I’m… I’m sorry. No, I’d better not. I’m afraid any more wine would just make me giddy.”
            Undeterred, Edwin topped off her glass. “And would that be such a bad thing?”
            Joraleah’s cheeks grew full a blush. She diverted her eyes, fiddling uneasily with her napkin. “Well, I’m not…”
            His smile brightened the intimate booth. With an affectionate wink, he passed over her glass. “Then maybe you should.”
            In a rush of conflicted emotions, Joraleah returned the smile. She accepted the goblet, and glanced nervously about the cozy inn. “You know, I actually come here often. I really love this old place.”
            Edwin’s words flowed like a song on the air:
                        “It lies not in our power to love or hate,
                        For will in us is overruled by fate…”
            Joraleah’s surprised gaze found his. Her soft clear blue eyes danced in the flickering candle light, the words coming freely and in a sudden rush:
                        “When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
                        We wish that one should love, the other win…”
            They clinked glasses, holding each other’s gaze in a distended embrace, and drank deeply. The clear pale wine was sweet and cool and comforting. It reached Joraleah’s stomach causing her toes to ball into tiny fists. As the tender moment ebbed, Joraleah found a voice for her thoughts. “How… how do you know Christopher Marlowe?”
            The disarming smile broadened.
            By the time they left Antonio’s, a gentle rain was falling. The cool drops elicited ringlets of wispy steam from the sun warm sidewalk. Strolling through the fine white mist, Joraleah found her hand resting comfortably in Edwin’s. A confection of feelings raced through her. To Joraleah’s surprise his grasp felt good; natural. As they reached her doorstep the rain picked up and Joraleah’s body began to relax. At first she thought it was the wine taking affect. A moment later she understood. Surrendering to the moment, Joraleah allowed the feelings to wash over her like the refreshing clear rain pouring down from above. Several raindrops touched her lips. The taste was sharp and satisfying.
            Without a word, she took Edwin’s face in her hands, pulling him close.
            The kiss lingered in the late September shower.
            Joraleah lay in her bed, joyously recalling the last three days of her life. A dozen new feelings had found her; a dozen old ones, long since boxed away had escaped their confinement. She felt at once alive with new sensations, yet betrayed by her own instincts. Following the previous night’s intimacy, Joraleah had panicked. There was no other word to describe her behavior. Acting no better than a silly school girl on her first date, she had panicked. Suddenly breaking away from the kiss, she had bolted into the house.
            Joraleah laughed aloud, “Where does one run to escape from feelings?” The question gave her cause to wonder. As she showered, Joraleah thought about her life. She thought of college and of Brad. She thought of the other men in her life, the few who tried in vain to capture her heart. Unconsciously she adjusted the shower head. The warm water felt good as it rained down on her smooth skin.
            It stung.
            Like the bite of mosquitoes.
            At work, Joraleah found it nearly impossible to concentrate. The nearness of the man who affected her so powerfully clouded her mind; betrayed her judgment. Several times she was asked to recheck an important fact, or verify a date, only to find she had made an error. Looking up from behind a stack of reference books, Edwin removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Hey, are you ok? You seem a bit distracted today.”
             “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
            “Maybe it’s due to a little too much wine last night?”
            “No, it’s nothing like that.”
            With a sagacious smile, Professor Notus turned to his work partner. “Something’s going on in that complex but pretty head of yours. And I need my assistant’s full attention today. C’mon, give, what’s up?”
            Joraleah shifted uneasily. “I’m not really sure. It’s… it’s complicated.”
            “It’s about last night, isn’t it?”
            She didn’t answer. Sitting at his side, Joraleah continued to stare blankly at the notes scribbled on the yellow legal table. Yes, yes it was about last night. And it wasn’t. It was about too many last nights, and about not enough. It was about him; and about her; and about him and her. She could feel her arms ache to hold him; her lips yearn to kiss him. And yet her heart remained conflicted, longing for the feelings offered, yet afraid to accept. God, how could she ever begin to explain it to him? She didn’t understand it fully herself.
            Gently lifting her chin, Professor Edwin Notus gazed deeply into Joraleah’s azure eyes. “Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies!”
            Joraleah melted into Edwin’s tender embrace as their lips met; their tongues touched. This time she didn’t fight the feelings. This time she didn’t run.
            The next ten days seemed to fly past. The tedious workload of checking and rechecking each factoid, every entry increased. But the deadline wasn’t the only thing growing closer. Since their passionate kiss in the Professor’s office, Joraleah could feel herself falling for Edwin. Accepting what seemed to be inevitable, she’d permitted her thoughts, and her feelings to run free. Joraleah felt alive. She awoke each morning feeling refreshed and happy. She looked forward to the day’s activities as well as its challenges. She’d permitted an outsider a furtive look inside of her private cocoon. With each passing day, Professor Edwin Notus was peeling open the cover that surrounded her existence. And Joraleah liked the view slowly revealing itself before her.
            But her heart remained stubbornly distant.
            They had spent every waking hour of the last six days together, cramming to finish. Long hours of study and research, fueled on coffee and excitement were followed by a quick dinner and more research, usually in the study of the Professor’s home. All the while Edwin remained the proper gentleman. They shared tender caresses and lingering good night kisses at her door; each arousing new feelings and exciting sensations within Joraleah. And each night the Professor would return to his home, reminding her of work yet to be accomplished. Joraleah appreciated the unhurried pace with which Edwin led their growing relationship. It afforded her the time she needed to understand and accept her emerging feelings for this striking man who had come so suddenly and unexpectedly into her life.
            “Don’t you think maybe you’ve had enough?” Joraleah shifted uneasily on the plush, crushed red velvet sofa. Glancing about, she began to question her recent choices.
            From across the fancily decorated room, Edwin Notus turned, eyeing Joraleah with an uneasy leer. “Don’t be silly. This is a celebration. We are celebrating, aren’t we?” Notus laughed out loud. “Well, at least I am! I was brilliant tonight!” With that he turned his attention back to the massive wooden bar and the glass pitcher of Cactus Flower Margaritas.
            “Yes, yes you were brilliant tonight, Edwin. I was very proud of you. I just thought…”
            “Well stop it!” The rough comment sounded to Joraleah more like an order than conversation. It caused the surprised young woman to jump in her seat. Striding across the deeply woven carpet, a fresh pitcher of margaritas in hand, Professor Notus continued. “That’s what’s wrong with you my dear, you think too much! Too much… too long… too deeply… all the time! You don’t know when to stop, or how to relax! Well, I’ve got the cure for that right here.”

            It was three AM Saturday morning, and Joraleah and Edwin sat in the spacious living room of a luxury suite in Las Vegas’ famous Bellagio Hotel. Earlier that evening Professor Notus had presented his research paper to some seventy five top minds in the fields of history and anthropology. The large gathering was attentive and receptive to the Professor’s words, eventually rising in a polite standing ovation. At the reception and dinner afterwards, Joraleah was a vision in the softly shimmering turquoise evening gown she had purchased especially for the occasion. With her hair flatteringly coiffed, and more make-up then she had ever worn highlighting her expressive eyes and genteel features, Joraleah looked and felt beautiful.
            Edwin barely seemed to take notice.
            As the Professor circulated among his colleagues, Joraleah shyly melted into the background. After all, this was the Professor’s big moment. Buoyed on alcohol and egotism Notus eagerly basked in the spotlight of his sudden popularity. His speech had been an overwhelming success, his paper an academic triumph, and he seemed determined to make the most of his personal fifteen minutes of fame. Joraleah understood and watched proudly from the sidelines. The evening, indeed nearly every day and night of the past two weeks since Professor Edwin Notus came into her life, had been filled with new and exciting feelings. But now, as she stood in polite silence, Joraleah felt a new sensation, a new feeling washing over her. Yes, Edwin had formulated the hypothesis, written and presented the paper. But it was her research; her corrections and fact checking; and her tireless attention to detail that had made the paper a success.
            A sudden flash of anger came over the pretty research assistant, followed immediately by waves of confusion and self doubt. Joraleah quickly brushed them aside. She had a right to feel jealous and jaded. Joraleah raised a crystal flute of mediocre champagne to her painted lips, but then stopped. Was it just the alcohol affecting her thinking? This was Professor Notus’s moment. He deserved the praise and accolades being lavished upon him. But she deserved some notice as well. How many times in the past had this same scene played out, in other hotels and conference rooms, with other professors and doctors presenting papers and findings on a myriad of topics she had researched and corrected?
            The twinge of jealousy flared up again. Joraleah had smiled to herself, set the glass of potent liquor aside, and returned to the hotel room alone.

            Professor Notus’ sudden and uncalled for remarks touched Joraleah, hurt her feelings. She had done nothing to warrant this attack on her character. Joraleah rose from the sofa.
            “Oh, sit down, Jory! Don’t be such a child. You know perfectly well what I meant… Here…” Notus filled a tall, salt rimmed goblet with the reddish gold concoction, shoving the over flowing glass in front of Joraleah. “This will do you some good.”
            Painting on a half hearted smile, she accepted the drink. Maybe he was right; maybe she did need to relax a bit. This was supposed to be a celebration. She was in a beautiful hotel suite in the most exciting city in the world, with a handsome man whom she admired deeply. It was time; time for Joraleah to emerge the beautiful butterfly, but in a different way.
            Joraleah raised her glass.
            “To the new Jory,” Notus proclaimed.
            “No!” The reply was sure; determined. “It’s Joraleah!”
            He ignored the sudden declaration. Notus’ glass clinked against hers and they drank deeply.
            With a sudden harsh laugh, the Professor snatched the glass from Joraleah’s hand, impetuously flinging it and his own aside. The expensive crystal shattered into a thousand tiny pieces in a corner of the room. Grabbing her delicate wrist, Notus pulled Joraleah to him, forcefully kissing her tender lips. Unaccustomed to the harshness of his embrace, Joraleah resisted. But as the potent liquor reached her head, and the heat of their passion spread throughout her quivering body, Joraleah found herself surrendering to the moment.
            As if on cue, Notus became a man possessed. Holding the stunned woman at arm’s length, he tugged at the plunging neckline of her gown, tearing the delicate material, exposing her modest breasts. Towering over her, Edwin’s mouth found the smooth nape of Joraleah’s neck, kissing and nibbling hungrily. His grasping hand roughly cupped her exposed breast, as he continued to kiss his way down the front of her trembling body.
            Joraleah was trapped, betrayed by her own pent up emotions. Her head spun dizzily as her aching body melted in the professor’s powerful embrace. Sweeping her up in his arms, Notus carried his willing captive into the bedroom.
            In an instant he was on top of her, pulling at the remains of her once beautiful gown, pawing avariciously at her aching flesh. In a sudden single violent thrust he had entered her, taken her for his own.
            Joraleah’s mind raced wildly in a blur of maddening desire. Yes… yes… wasn’t this what she’d longed for… to be taken… to be needed… wanted… and desired?
            Monday morning Joraleah arose, a thousand thoughts filling her anxious mind; a million sensations flooding her body. She felt renewed, reborn, and alive.
            Was she in love?
            Were these the feelings, the emotions, the pleasures she longed to find?
            Thick grey threatening clouds followed Joraleah as she hurried across campus. Heading up the old wooden stairs of the university’s history department, she approached the receptionist’s desk. “Is he in?” she asked, “Edwin… Professor Notus, is he in yet?”
            “Oh, I’m sorry,” the receptionist replied, “didn’t you know? Professor Notus is gone.”
            “Gone… what, what do you mean… gone?”
            “The Professor accepted a position at UCLA as head of their history department. I assumed you knew about it, everyone else on campus did. He tendered his resignation over a month ago. Last Friday was his final day.”
            Throwing open the unlocked door, Joraleah stepped into a darkened paneled office. Before her an expanse of gently worn wine colored carpet led to a large antique oak desk, its top uncluttered and desolate. Massive floor to ceiling book cabinets lined three walls, the shelves empty and barren. A lone trash can, filled with crumpled papers and discarded file folders sat in mute testament to the painful truth. On top lay a book of Elizabethan poetry.
            Joraleah turned towards the door. Blinking back a tear, she wandered down the deserted hall and stepped out into the overcast fall morning. The air was heavy, humid and pungent. Slowly she crossed the campus. The wooden heels of her knee length boots echoed with a rhythmic click off the smooth white pavement. From nowhere a mild southern breeze arrived, tugging at the hem of her midi length skirt. Joraleah gave the ominous sky a glance and smiled. “The old gods must be restless today. Maybe a good wet soaking is what I need.”
            Be careful what you wish, she thought, remembering the last two weeks; recalling Brad and the other men that had come in and out of her life.
            The first raindrop touched Joraleah’s elbow. It glistened with a soft golden yellow hue. Another raindrop found Joraleah’s slightly turned nose as she raised her face skyward. Soon a steady rain began to fall. It matted her hair and streaked her light makeup. The cool drops felt good on her skin as they washed away her tears.
            “Now this is more like it,” Joraleah called to the rain, laughing aloud. “Love will find me… someday. But, if it doesn’t…”

            With a knowing smile and a contented sigh, Joraleah headed off across campus.