Broken hearted Tara is fighting to hold on to the last bit of integrity she has. One devastating night of betrayal by her boyfriend, unleashed rage and anger she never knew existed. With bitter tears she struggles to overcome the pain of deception and the agony of rejection.
But when she meets a dark companion with an insatiable appetite for revenge, everything she knew or thought she believed in changes. Torn between good and evil; wrath and forgiveness; she is thrust into an enchanted realm filled with wizards and witches; magic and nymphs.
Here she must fight for her life and ultimately decide her own truth. Dark and enchanting; romantic and sad; debut novelist Tammie Taylor puts a whole new spin on fairytales; while revisiting an age old truth.
“You liar!” Tara gasped with tears streaming down her cheeks. She put her face in her hands and fell to her knees. A puddle of tears formed in her palms spilling on the sand. Chaos had erupted. “She’s pregnant!” The words seared in her brain like a hot iron.
A strange woman with a huge belly stood in front of Josh. Her face was red as a beat. Her eyes were swollen. She was crying too. Josh had the look of fright on his face. He looked as if he had seen a ghost.
“What the hell is going on?” yelled Meredith as she laid her hand on Tara’s shoulders.
Tara never looked up. She couldn’t think. She could not breathe. Everything and everybody’s voices were loud in her ears like ringing bells. She crawled away on her hands and knees, trying to escape the crowd. Somewhere amongst all the commotion, she heard people laughing. “She’s such a fool. She thought she was all that. I knew she wanted to be the prettiest bell at the ball but he certainly fooled her.”
Tara kept sobbing. She’d managed to crawl out of the chaos. Nobody knew she was gone. Nobody saw her. She stood to her feet and looked back. Everybody was talking, pointing and laughing at the strange girl. Josh and the girl exited the crowd.
Tara yelled for him. “Josh, Josh come back!” Josh never turned around nor did he look back. He walked away with the girl holding her by the arm. Tara watched them disappear into the crowd. She turned and walked to the other side of the beach. Where was she going? She didn’t know. She didn’t care. Nothing mattered anymore. Now she was invisible. No one saw her cry. No one cared about her tears. No one felt her pain.
The voices of the naysayers and hecklers began to fade. All she heard was the roar of the waves crashing against a large grey rock. Tara sat down and stared at the moving current. The waters were no longer blue but black as if it had been mingled with dark oil. Over and over the roaring tide turned slapping the waves around. The night air dried the tears on her face. She stared into the ocean.
The moon played peek-a-boo; occasionally poking its head from behind a cloud then suddenly disappearing again. The air grew chilly. Tara couldn’t tell. Her body was growing numb. The world around her had changed. One of her worse fears had been realized. The one she loved the most had betrayed her. Now she was the laughing stock of the entire town. Could she face anybody again after what had happened?
Her nasal cavities started to swell from crying. She couldn’t breathe. She opened her mouth to let air in. Climbing down from the grey rock, she sat on the sand. Still staring at black waves she wondered if life was worth living. She lay down on her back and stared at the sky.
“What are you going to do now?” a voice said. “How will you recover from this? Josh is gone. All this time he has lied to you. He made you the laughing stock of the town. As a matter of fact, did you hear people laughing? Get ready to deal with that for now on!”
Tara grabbed her temples with both hands. “No!” she shouted. “This can’t be happening to me. None of this is my fault. I’m a good person. I didn’t deserve any of this.” She ran her fingers through her disheveled mane. Her breathing grew more rapid as an eerie feeling surged through her body. She sat upright and looked around. She couldn’t see well. The ground was warped. The ocean was close yet distant and looked as if she were seeing it through someone else’s glasses.
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hands. Nervously, she shook her head back and forth. “What’s wrong with me?” she said to herself. She looked at her arms and hands. She felt as if her soul was being pulled out of her body. She tried to stand up. “Oh God, what’s happening to me? Am I dying?” She sat back down. She was still too dizzy to move. She turned around and looked behind her. She was far away from the bonfire. No one could hear her yell. Panic gripped her heart as it beat in her chest like a rhythmic drum. “Fuck you Josh!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “I hate you! I hate you!” she screamed. She fell on her back and blacked out.
The moon peeped from behind a cloud casting a silvery trail on the surface of the water. Through parted lids, Tara gazed at the shimmering path. In the distance, a dark silhouetted figure walked on the water. A light breeze stirred and the moon recoiled behind the cloud again. Tara wiped her eyes. Everything still looked blurry. The ocean waves stirred against the grey rock coupled with the soft jingle of jewelry. The breeze stirred again. The moon reappeared bringing with it the same silvery glow that sparkled against the surface of the water.
The shadowy figure was closer now. Slowly strolling across the surface of the water, dazzling jewels flickered like miniature stars. Tara rubbed her eyes again and sat upright. With squinted lids, she peered into the darkness. Her lips parted as nervous energy slid up her spine. “I’m going mad,” she said to herself as the dark figure came into focus. It was a woman adorned in jewels with piercing blue eyes. Her black mane whisked around her head like birds as she glided across the water’s surface. Tara closed her eyes. She fainted.
Morning light crept into Tara’s bedroom while painting the sky with pale shades of pink and indigo. She opened her swollen lids and stretched her arms high above her head. She gasped; sat upright in the bed and looked around. Her bedding was covered with grains of sand. She grabbed her temples and swung her legs to the side of the bed. Holding on to the bed post, she stood. Her feet and toes were covered in sand. She wiped her feet clean with the palms of her hands. The particles fell to the floor. With baby steps, she walked to the bathroom.
Suddenly, she discovered something was different. The world had grown silent. She could not hear. Fear gripped her heart as tiny sweat beads formed on her brow. She looked at herself in the mirror. “Oh my God. I’m having a nervous break down.”
The doctor examined Tara. He performed MRI’s and CT scans. The results came back normal. There was no damage to her internal auditory canals, Eustachian tubes or anything anatomical. Because she could not hear, the doctor communicated with her by using a writing pad. She eyed the physician pensively as he spoke with Meredith. She wanted to know what everybody was saying. However, all she could do was sit there.
On the drive home, tears streamed down her face as she peered out the window. Fall had arrived. The leaves on the trees were decorated with hints of orange, gold and brown. Soon the trees would be barren. Winter was on its way; bringing chilly winds with it. “Everything in life eventually changes just like the seasons”, she thought to herself.
Meredith pulled up to the driveway and took out a note pad. She began to write to Tara.
“The doctor said you needed to get plenty of rest. This is only a traumatic event. Your hearing will come back, but you have to relax. Your results are normal so don’t worry. This is not a permanent condition. If you need me, text me. I’ll be back to check on you tomorrow. Love you much!”
Tara started to weep silent tears. Slowly she nodded her head. Was this the only communication she had with the world? The two girls hugged. Tara got out of the car and Meredith went back home. She stood in the yard until Meredith was out of sight. She checked her cell phone. Still, no messages from Josh. Her heart began to ache again. She went into the house.
Days went by. Tara lay in her bed curled in a knot. “I can’t believe this has happened to me. I can’t believe Josh abandoned me. I hate him! The fucking son-of-a-bitch.” Tara clinched her fist in anger. “If he were here right now, I’d rip his eyes out!”
Tara sat upright on her bed. Her lips were pressed firmly together and her heart filled with rage. “How long am I to suffer? Why must I bear the burden of choices he made? It’s not fair!” She began to cry again. Flinging her body on her bed, she grabbed her temples. “I can’t live like this. My hearing should have been back by now and it’s not!” She picked up a lamp from a nearby table and threw it across the room. The lamp crashed to the ground shattering into tiny pieces.
Tara jumped up from the bed in surprise. She grabbed her ears. “I can hear!” she exclaimed in a loud voice. She touched her ears over and over. “Oh God thank you so much!” This time she wept tears of joy.
While sitting on her bed sobbing, she heard footsteps in the hallway. She looked up. “Hello, hello is anybody there? Meredith is that you?” She stepped out of her room. She didn’t see anything.
The hallway had a dark and sinister appeal. Her embroidered curtains danced in the wind like sheer ghost. A nervous chill crept up her spine. She could have sworn she heard someone in the house. She walked to the window and closed it. “Maybe it’s my imagination.” Swiftly turning on her heels she walked back to her room. She grabbed her cell phone to call Meredith.
The sound of more footsteps echoed in the hallway as the front door opened. Tara dropped her phone and ran to the front door. She stood on the porch and looked around. She didn’t see anyone. She stepped into the yard and looked around again. Her heart raced with adrenaline and her palms were sweaty. This time she was certain that someone had been in the house.
She walked around the yard. Still, she didn’t see anyone. Nervously she wiped her brow and headed back inside. The legend that surrounded the home burned in her brain. The house Tara lived in was an old sorority home built in the 1900’s. It was owned by a lady name Mary Moore. Mary was from a well to do family. Because the family was strong advocates of education, they donated the house to the university.
Local towns’ folk told various stories about the house saying it was haunted. According to legend, although the Moore family were prominent members of society, the family had dark secrets. It was rumored that Mary and Harry Moore were actually first cousins. Folks said they had a disfigured child they kept in the attic. Because relations between relatives were taboo, people insisted Mary killed their illegitimate child and her dead offspring haunted the house.
The old ghost story rang in Tara’s head like bells. She shook her head back and forth, rationally dispelling the myth of any supernatural beings residing in her home. She turned to walk back to the house when out of the corner of her eye she saw a dark figure standing at the edge of the woods. The mysterious person wore a black cloak with a hood over its head.
Panic gripped her heart. “What in the world?” she murmured in a low voice. She stared at the figure for a while with her mouth agape. Her knees began to shake. “Excuse me, excuse me,” Tara shouted. “Can I help you?” Her voice quivered and her neck hairs stood on end. The dark figure didn’t answer; yet stepped to the side and moved swiftly into the woods. Tara took a small step forward. A lump began to form in her throat. “Maybe I should just let it go,” she reasoned. The entity disappeared out of sight. Tara breathed a sigh of relief and ran back into the house. She locked the door behind her. Walking over to the nearest window, she peered outside. The dark stranger was back standing at the edge of the woods. Tara ran outside shouting. “Hey, hey this is private property. You can’t be out here.” The stranger slowly turned around and walked casually into the woods. This time Tara followed. “Excuse me, excuse me. Do you hear me talking to you?” The figure did not respond, but continued to move deeper into the woods.
Quickly, Tara made her way through thickets and brush. After several minutes, she lost sight of the stranger. The dark entity faded into the shadows. The sounds of nature echoed around her. A sinister feeling crept over her body. She grew uneasy. The wind seemed to whisper some unknown language. Tara pulled her sweater tight against her chest. She was tired of looking for the stranger. She turned around and headed back home.
A noise resounded in the distant. She looked over her shoulder. The stranger with the cloak stared at her. This time she could tell it was a woman. She moved closer to her. “Hello ma’am. Are you lost? Can I help you?” The lady did not respond yet strolled casually along the thickets and brush. Tara followed her to a large clearing. The woman stood on top of a rock and stared into the creek.
“Ma’am can I help you? Are you hurt or something? Do you need for me to call for help? Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Whatever it is that happened to you. I’m pretty sure it’s not worth ending your life over.” The lady still did not respond. She only stood there with her long cloak flying behind her back like eagle’s wings. Tara swallowed hard. She was getting nowhere with this lady. She decided to walk back home and call the police. “Maybe they can get her to talk,” she thought.
“No need to summon the authorities” said the lady. “I mean you no harm”. Tara quickly turned on her heels. A cold chill crept up her spine. She stared at the lady for a while and then she spoke. “Who are you? Why are you here? Please don’t jump. Let me find someone to help you.”
The woman turned around and Tara took a step back. More chilling energy pierced her body again. She fell to her knees and grabbed her chest. A cold wind rushed through the trees. It blew intensely and howled through the forest like a banshee. Tara’s body throbbed with pain. She looked up at the strange lady. Her eyes were as blue as sapphires. They almost seemed to glow and flash with hints of light. Tara’s breathing grew shallow and she was very afraid. Sweat formed on her brow as her entire body grew weak.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the strange lady. “I’m your guardian angel”. Tara screamed in fear and pain. She rolled on her side and clutched her belly. The trees towered overhead like shadowy giants. The entire forest went black.
Tara awoke with the gentle patter of rain on her face. Night had fallen and she was alone. Gathering her senses, she slowly stood to her feet and grabbed her temples. She had a horrible headache. She walked back home with the rain pounding against her head. After reaching the house, she closed the door behind her and leaned against the door. She thought she was losing her mind. Staggering to her room, she undressed and lay across the bed.
Tara sat in class twirling her dark curls around her fingers. She stared out the windows. Her professor’s voice echoed against the walls like mindless chatter. She was growing tired of school. Graduation day could not come soon enough. Although she was only 23, she felt like she’d been in school her whole life. Normally she was attentive in Dr. Sheffield’s class, but today her brain was on overload. Life as she knew it had changed and she had to change along with it. She was drained. She didn’t know what was real anymore. Not only did she have to deal with breaking up with Josh, but now she was seeing things. “What happened to me the other day?” she kept asking herself. “Was any of that real?”
Leaning her head against her hand she closed her eyes. She’d decided to make an appointment to see a counselor. She sighed deeply and rubbed the back of her neck. The sudden laughter of the class interrupted her chain of thought. She looked around nervously.
“All I’m saying Dr. Sheffield is that women can’t keep up. It’s too hard to maintain the status quo. Now, women have families, we work fulltime jobs, we have school. We don’t have time to think about clothes, hair and makeup. Once you become a mother you’re more worried about PTA meetings and soccer practice.” Dr. Sheffield listened attentively as the student gave her mini lecture about today’s contemporary women. Of all the professors Tara had, she loved him the most. She’d taken all the classes he taught and now this one was her last; Family Dynamics 303.
Dr. Sheffield was a young man with dark brown eyes and hair. He was built like an athlete and stood over 6 feet tall. He had a warm smile with a very engaging personality. All the girls loved him and all the boys envied him. Not only was he popular among the students, but he was well liked by his colleagues. According to the rumor mill, he wasn’t married because he was still looking for the right one. Unfortunately, some of his female students thought they had a chance with him because most of them came to class every other day wearing stilettos. Sometimes Tara and Meredith laughed at how ridiculous those girls were. That man was only there to teach. He had no interest in romancing the student body.
Tara kept doodling in her notebook and listened to the rest of the class debate. A boy in her class raised his hand to speak. Dr. Sheffield pointed to him. “Mr. Williams, do you have something to add to the discussion?” The boy cleared his throat and turned to face his classmates. “Although Kelsey’s point is well taken, it does not negate the argument that men are visual creatures. We understand that women have very busy schedules because we do too, however that doesn’t mean that a person can just let themselves go. You still have to keep yourself up if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner. That’s all I’m saying.”
Tara leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest. She waited for her female classmates to move in for the kill. This time Kelsey didn’t address Dr. Sheffield but turned around in her seat and faced the boy. “So tell me what would you do if your wife gained weight after giving birth to your children? Would you leave her?” The boy’s eyes widened. He shifted his gaze from the left to the right hoping some of his male counterparts would back him up. “If my wife gained weight, I wouldn’t leave her, but I would assist her in finding a plan that would help her lose weight.”
Kelsey pressed her lips firmly together. “So tell me, how is she supposed to balance her time between her children and your work-out regime simply because you don’t approve of the way she looks?”
“No that’s not what I’m saying. The point I’m trying to make is when you agree to be someone’s partner, you agree to present yourself to them in a way that will make them happy.” Kelsey abruptly turned around in her seat. It was obvious she was pissed. Her face started to turn as red as a beat. She stared at Dr. Sheffield hoping her would shed an educated light on the heated debate. The professor smiled devilishly. He loved for the students to challenge each other’s thinking.
“I tell you what,” he added. “When you come back on Friday I want you to read page 450-470 which outlines the Hierarchy of Family Dynamics. Answer questions 1-10 at the end of the reading.” The class let out a huge sigh as the room became noisy with the sound of moving chairs and rustling paper.
Tara slowly packed her things and exited the room. She yawned. “I’m glad that’s over,” she thought to herself as she made her way down the hallway. Usually, she didn’t mind class discussions, but today she was just tired of everything. Her thoughts were riddled with questions as she recalled the strange lady in the forest and her break up with Josh.
On her way home, Tara rolled down the window and turned on the radio. Collecting her thoughts she tried to relax. The night of the bonfire set her nerves on edge. Leaning on her elbow, she stared blankly a head. She was riddled with anxiety. The dull ache in her chest returned as her heart screamed for Josh. Images of the strange girl with the huge belly burned in her mind. Tears streamed down the girl’s cheeks as she clinched her belly and screamed at Josh. Tara felt nauseous. Images of the two of them together mad her want to hurl.
She pulled on the side of the road while activating the emergency flashers. She stepped outside the car and fell to her hands and knees. She threw up. Her abdomen knotted and twisted. Brown vomit poured out of her mouth like a faucet. Tears rolled down her face and dropped to the ground. Uncontrollable sobs escaped her orifice as images of Josh and the strange girl burned in her brain. She tried to escape the photos inside her head, yet her imagination was unforgiving. It was as if some unseen entity forced her to watch the scene with the both of them together, joined united; with their bodies melting together like warm syrup. “Oh no…no…please Josh what are you doing with her? Take your hands off of her! Stop it! Stop it!”
The images grew more vivid. Josh’s body glowed with perspiration as the strange girl ran her fingers through his auburn mane. Their lips twisted and turned as they clung to one another. Running his hand down her thigh, he squeezed her buttocks as his tongue traced a blazon trail down the side of her neck. The girl cried out with passion as she wrapped her legs tightly around his waist.
Tara’s eyes flew open. she screamed in agony. “Josh…no…no. How could you do this to me? I loved you…I loved you!” She fell on her backside and wrapped her arms around her torso. She rocked back and forth with her eyes tightly shut. Tiny sweat beads graced her brow as her breathing grew more rapid.