Refuge

by Fabrice Poussin

It is hard to catch up with the character she plays
running from word to word, passing a period
down to another paragraph to the end of a chapter
so eager she is to reach the grand finale of her own story.

Always she wants to close the cover and find refuge
within the sheets of the unfinished romance
in a perilous cliff-hanger safe from the rest of us
alone in the dark corner of our unwanted thoughts.

Timid to the outsider she never looks from the page
dark spectacles give shelter to those disturbing gazes
hearing not a sound, she awaits the moment
when she too will commune with her dreams.

Peace is the only aim of this trembling soul
once trapped in the vise of a frenzied mob
life flows in her crimson rivers as in torrents
and all she wanted was an instant with her knight.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.

Last Sip of Champagne

by John M. Carlson

Julia wondered if it was a good idea having a glass of champagne that night. One of her medicines had been making her feel a bit clumsy as it was, and alcohol might make that problem even worse. She didn’t want to be clumsy tonight.

But champagne was a tradition. Every fall, Julia and Stuart, her husband, visited California. They traveled about, visiting family and friends. They always ended up at a quaint inn located by a scenic lake. On their last evening at the inn, they sat by the lake at dusk, and enjoyed a bottle of champagne. Their champagne tradition hadn’t changed in twenty years, except they now were able to afford real French champagne, instead of André.

She didn’t want to break the champagne tradition. Not this year. Not since it would be her last year staying at this inn. Her oncologist made it very clear that she wouldn’t live much longer.

That night, Julia and Stuart sat in silence. They sipped champagne, and looked at the lake as the sun slowly set.

This was always the best part of these vacations, she thought. Stuart’s sister was always nasty. Then, there was so much rush-rush-rush visiting other people and places. But there was peace here at the lake. The lake was also a small chunk of paradise on earth. Discovering this place was the best thing that had happened during their marriage. There were times when she even thought it was the only good thing that had happened during their marriage.

“It’s sad to think that this will be the last time I’ll ever be here,” she said.

“You don’t know that!” Stuart’s voice had fake cheer in it. “The doctor could be wrong!”

“He hasn’t been wrong about anything up till now.” Julia sighed. “I’d once dreamed of moving here when you retire.”

“That would never happen. It’s nice visiting this place. I like it. But retire here? With taxes like they are in California? No lake is scenic enough for that!”

“Anyway, I want to make something clear. This place is special. Very special. And I don’t want you bringing some other woman here after I’m gone.”

“I won’t. I promise.”

“So you say now. But I know you. I’ll die in a few months. After a suitable period, you’ll go out and find someone new. You’ll haul her down here to meet your crazy sister. And, on the way home, you’ll probably stop by here to show her the lovely inn you learned about during your first marriage.”

“Trust me, that won’t happen,” Stuart said. “I won’t be getting married again. I learn from my mistakes.”

“I’m not only thinking about a new wife. This also includes girlfriends.” She pulled her gun out of her large purse.

“Are you crazy?” Stuart yelped. “Bringing your gun to California? You don’t have a license here!”

“What will they do if they catch me? Put me in prison for life? That wouldn’t be a very long sentence in my case.”

She stood, feeling a bit unsteady on her feet, thanks to the champagne and the doctor’s wonder drug. She snapped the gun’s safety off, and pointed the gun at Stuart.

“I’m going to make sure you never bring another woman here! Ever!”

“Julia! I promised you! Isn’t my word good enough? Haven’t I stayed with you, honoring my marriage vows?”

“Oh, you did an absolutely wonderful job honoring those vows. You think I don’t know about Kimberly? Or Carrie? Or Nancy? Or Stacy? Or Consuela? Why don’t you be honest? The only reason you stayed with me was because I come from a good family, and that helped you professionally. Face it, Stuart, there is no reason to believe you won’t forget any promise you make now. Or you’ll laugh about your promise when you bring some 21-year-old bimbo here. So I’m going to make sure you never, ever bring another woman to my lake. Goodbye, Stuart. I’ll see you on the other side of the grave, if there is an other side.”

“No!”

He said “no” like he was saying “no” to a dog threatening to vomit in the middle of the living room. You’d think he’d beg for mercy, she thought. No matter.

She pulled the trigger.

She was a good shot. And she hit her target perfectly now. Stuart slumped in his seat, dead.

She sat back down. She picked up her glass, and finished her last sip of champagne. Her last sip ever.

She put the gun into her mouth. Then, while staring at the lake she loved, Julia pulled the trigger.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website.

The Monsters That Broke Me

by Linda M. Crate

i think i left
bits and pieces
of myself
behind
so i could restring
myself together
with new burning stars
of the galaxy,
stars that don’t know the sting
of your name or the limitations
you would put upon me;
which is for the better because my
temper is like a wild fire
burning down forests and out of control
once a grudge is felt
so consider yourself lucky
i promised myself never to become
the monsters that broke me.


Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

Morning Devotion

by Nicole DeVincentis

When he woke in the morning, he ran his hands through his wavy blonde hair and turned toward the sleeping figure lying next to him. His clear blue eyes settled on her face, as the morning light caressed her cheek, finding the red in her dark hair. He shifted closer, curling on his left side, not wishing to wake her just yet.

Her hair was strewn across the pillow, and her face was turned toward him. One hand rested beside her head, and the other was lying lightly on her slender stomach. He rearranged the blankets, covering her up, and then settled back against his pillow. He exhaled gently and her thick, black lashes fluttered, though she remained asleep. Her white tank top contrasted sharply against her tanned skin, and her breathing was deep and even. One thought ran through his head, repeatedly: how lucky he was to wake up to her each morning.

He leaned forward to place a kiss on her nose, and felt her stir. As he leaned away, he noticed the smile on her face, and she opened her eyes. Her doe-like, brown eyes stared back at him in adoration. He held her gaze for a few seconds, before saying, “Good Morning.” He reached forward to tuck a strand of hair that had settled on her cheek, back behind her ear.

She stretched slowly against the pillow, “Is it morning already?” she asked, squinting into the sunlight playing across the sheets.

He smiled broadly, “Yes, it is.” He covered the hand that was placed over her stomach with his own. “Back to reality.”

“Reality?” she laughed. “Is this a dream?” She said, turning on her side and facing him. She curled her fingers with his and closed her eyes, relaxing to the feel of his thumb stroking her hand.

“If it is, I don’t ever want to wake up.” She kept her eyes closed, but a smile curved her lips upward. Her fingers squeezed his lightly in a loving gesture.

She lay listening to the sound of his gentle breathing, lulling her back to sleep. He was content to stay exactly as he was, admiring each of her features. She must have felt his eyes on her, because suddenly, she smiled. “Stop staring,” she said, keeping her eyes closed.

His hand moved to play with her long hair, running his fingers through the even strands. She snuggled closer, nestling her head against his shoulder and letting her hand rest on his bare chest. He rested his cheek on the top of her head and continued playing with her hair. It was a while before he spoke and when he did, it was almost too quiet for her to hear. “How did I get so lucky?”

Her eyes flicked open, and she inclined her head to look directly at him, stating in a sober tone. “I’m the lucky one.”

His face was mere inches from hers and he shook his head, “You’re perfect.” She started to say something, but he put a finger to her lips. “I love everything about you.”

She squinted her eyes at him. “Everything?” she asked, slightly teasing. But what he said next made her heart race, reminding her why she had fallen in love with him.

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed each of her fingers, ticking off the reasons for his devotion.

“You are the most precious thing in my life,” he said, with a kiss to her forefinger. “I love the way your eyes shine when you smile.” A kiss to her middle finger. “I love the sound of your laugh, and the way you snuggle with our children before bed.” Another two kisses.
At this point, he looked up from her fingers to see her staring intently at him. He released her hand and moved to hover over her. She lay back against the pillow while he looked down at her, resting his weight on his forearm.

“I love hearing you sing in the shower,” he kissed her forehead, and then added, “even when you’re off-key.” He said, laughing lightly. She playfully smacked his arm, laughing along with him. He pulled her close, and rolled them so that he was lying back on the bed, with her chest flush against his. Her hair fell like a dark curtain over her shoulder, tickling his bare arm.

He smiled and cupped her cheek, so that he could look directly into her eyes. “I love the way you look at me. The smile that stretches across your face every morning, when you open your eyes. I love the way you love our children. I love how you take care of us, and how gentle you are with my heart.”

Her lips parted and her eyes began to tear. His thumb stroked her cheek, “As yours is mine, my heart belongs to you and it always will.”

Tears started slipping down her cheeks, “I never imagined someone could love me like you do.”

“I do.” He curled his hand behind her head and brought her forehead to rest against his. “And if you let me, I will spend the rest of forever proving it to you.”

She lowered her lips to meet his, and kissed him sweetly, then nuzzled her head into the crook of his neck. Placing her palm against his chest, she felt his heartbeat and sighed contently. She was very aware of her own heartbeat, and how it had slightly accelerated when they kissed, and now, had settled to a steady pace, beating in rhythm with his.


Nicole DeVincentis is an aspiring editor and hopes to work in the publication industry soon. Reading and writing are her passions, among nature walks, workouts, music, and martial arts. Currently, her genres are fiction and fan fiction, but she’s also dabbled in poetry a bit, and continues to spread her wings.

Life Path

by Inkibitz

My thoughts meander down paths like game trails through the thick green forest boughs. Dark shadows add softness and contrast to dappled meadows and sunlit streams. I search through the mysteries of ideas based on my history of experience.

I push aside the tall grass of unfounded belief and step out boldly onto firm rock cliffs of the faith that I know. In my mind I see, and in my heart feel, what I will find at the end of my wandering ways, but my joy is the journey I take.


Inkibitz is a published poet and short storyist who writes children’s books, and YA Fiction with an occasional nonfiction essay thrown in. Inkibitz enjoys writing that gets to the point and says what it has to say without beating around the bush with a lot of words.