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A high stakes victory and an unseemly confession bring about a peculiar compromise between love and loss.

copyright 2014, Kara Ashley Dey.  All rights reserved. Concept / Line editor: Tania Cardenas. Stock Images used in cover: depositphotos, katalinks

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Charleston Twisted -- Short Story

Located across the street, the Charleston Chihuahua pet shop’s orange neon light illuminated my approach to the home. Quietly I noted changes to the building’s front, some subtle and others outstanding: new flowers, faded graffiti, broken windows and older cracks.

I ignored the round glowing doorbell and the tarnished brass knocker. My gloved hand lifted and curled long fingers into a soft fist while its shadow stretched against the formidable old door. I barely heard the sound, the rap of my knuckles upon it, soft and dull against the massive wood.

Ineffective. I almost hoped this as my nerve began to slip.

We cannot return to the past, my mind warned me. It is altered. Never as we dreamt it.

It was a bit late, I reasoned, and turned to go, but the door cracked open then swung fully. The petite figure of a woman stood in silhouette behind the door. She stepped closer to reveal the level gaze of bright green eyes behind dark-rimmed spectacles perched on a freckled nose. My heart twisted in a mixture of relief and disappointment.

“I beg your pardon,” I spoke briskly while backing toward the stairs. “Forgive me. I thought I knew who--”

“Good evening, Mr. Forte,” the woman said. “I am Amanda, Miss Cora’s personal assistant.” She paused, her mind moving quickly behind those bright eyes which then widened as if remembering some instruction she’d forgotten. Amanda took a step back into the entranceway and bowed formally. “The mistress is expecting you.”

Barely making a sound on the expensive stone floor, the personal assistant--now playing some bit part in Cora’s planned theatrics--gracefully walked into the grand foyer which seemed impossibly large compared to the building’s modest exterior. The enchantment of such city designs was a lost art, I lamented.

Amanda stopped at the foot of the stairway and inclined her head toward me. Yes, of course. I understood. Pick up the pace for the mistress should not be kept waiting.

As I mounted the first step, the young woman turned and left the grand foyer by way of the dining hall. Beyond, the faint twittering of a cell phone was heard followed by the assistant’s muffled response.

I listened for a moment, reflecting on a time when girls like Amanda had fainted at my feet, their faces flushed and their lips parted from the sheer pleasure of my attention. I laughed to myself, admittedly a mite bitterly, for my roguish dalliances had ended long ago.

My gaze returned to the remaining stairs. I planted my foot firmly on the next, vowing this was doable, I could outwit her, I had in the past, and this only had to work once.

If Cora had thought I could find my way, well, she was right. I could. But I took my time feeling the texture of the Brazilian cherry wood banister and noting the pattern of Italian marble tiles below it. As I reached the top, I walked to the left and turned, enveloped in shadow for but a moment. Hidden, I took a deep breath and smelled the hint of the mistress’s perfume then continued on my journey, stepping into the subtle light of the long hallway.

I could not shake the feeling of walking backward in time with each step down the long, mahogany paneled corridor. With every click of my heel upon the marble floor, with every glance at the yellowed pictures displayed upon the walls--ah! I found me on safari on the right, another lower, of me in a sombrero, and to the left, one when last we had parted here in Charleston--and with every flicker of the walls’ pink tinged gaslights, I felt the strange sensation of invading an altered history. I quietly breathed relief as my feet stepped upon soft, modern carpet.

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