Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Kati of Terra, Books 1, 2, and 3 Free on Amazon Kindle this week (Feb 14 to 18, 2018)

Kati of Terra, Books 1, 2, and 3 Free, for Valentine's week

All three Kati of Terra books are on free on Amazon Kindle this week (Feb 14-18, 2018).  We will soon be coming out with a new adventure in the Kati universe, so we want to give readers a chance to experience all the adventure and romance of one or all of the original Kati books.

Kati 1 - Escape from the Drowned Planet
Kati and Mikal's escape from the alien slaver Gorsh.
Amazon U.S.: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00811WVXO
Amazon U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00811WVXO


In saving her small son from alien abductors, a 24-year-old Earth woman, Katie, finds herself abducted instead. She awakens from a drug-induced coma on a spaceship, in a room full of children, both human and alien, and two other women, younger than she is. The young women adapt to the situation as best they can, keeping the youngsters calm and entertained. But, when a drugged alien man wearing a uniform is added to the captive cargo, it becomes clear that this is an intergalactic slave operation. 

The slave traders implant their captives with “translation nodes” in order to allow communication among various groups. These are living entities, normally docile, merely enhancing certain brain functions, such as language acquisition. However, Katie discovers that she has accidentally received a very special “granda node”, a long-lived node with its own cantankerous personality, including a fondness for criminality and lethal weaponry. Fortunately for Katie, it also values its freedom. With its help, she escapes on a fringe planet, dragging the peace officer along—also at the granda’s suggestion. 

She finds herself on a strange world, with a somewhat deranged personality, quite possibly a killer, in her head, and partnered with a man from an advanced civilization who abhors killing. He is a Federation Peace Officer, captured by the slavers while attempting to bring them to justice. His task is complicated by the fact that he has sworn to avoid the taking of sentient life during the performance of his duties. He can and does, however, make vigorous use of non-lethal weaponry. Since, before leaving the ship, Katie had promised to help her co-captives gain their liberty, she and the alien peace officer find that they have a common cause. 

But first they must find their way off the primitive planet and get to the Federated Civilization, avoiding the slavers who have been left on the planet to re-capture them. Their flight is complicated by the fact that the planet has had a global warming catastrophe some centuries back – the locals refer to it as the Drowned World. This has forced the inhabitants to revert to a pre-industrial state of development; however, they are a wily and resourceful people, mostly helpful, but they can also be dangerous. 

Kati (to mark her escape, she adopts a slight name change) and Mikal seek a Federation beacon, which had been hidden on this planet ages ago, to aid in situations such as this, (in accord with a longstanding Federation policy for fringe worlds). They must embark on an arduous trek across two continents and an ocean, seeking the temple that holds the beacon. They travel on foot, by cart, by riverboat, by tall sailing ship, and on pack animals, always pursued by the dangerous slavers. 
 
They must rely on their wits, guile, charm and acting abilities to avoid recapture, while their chasers have advanced technology and ruthlessness on their side. Fortunately, they are able to make many friends who help them along the way, and their quest becomes a series of adventures, both frightening and funny, and involving a cast of engaging characters. 
To complicate matters, Kati finds herself falling in love with Mikal, the strange, handsome and amusing alien. He seems to be reciprocating, though they both struggle against an untimely romantic entanglement. 

Will Kati and Mikal escape from the Drowned Planet? Can they ultimately bring the slavers to justice, as Mikal has sworn to do? Can they free the remaining captives of the slavers, as Kati has promised to do? Read this book and the rest of the series to find out all. 
 
Kati 2 - On Assignment on the Planet of the Exalted
Kati and Mikal follow the trail of justice to the planet Vultaire.
Amazon U.S.: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0H15CC
Amazon U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D0H15CC
After narrowly escaping the pursuit of the slave trader Gorsh on Makros III, the Drowned Planet, Kati of Terra has arrived on the planet Lamania, the home world of her alien companion and fellow escapee, Mikal r’ma Trodden. While exploring her new environment, she is confronted with the realization that Gorsh has spread his tentacles into the Star Federation.

She agrees to take the lead role in an undercover investigation of the venerable Federation planet, Vultaire, which seems to be implicated in the lawlessness. Apparently the members of the planet’s upper class, known as the Exalted Citizens, have grown corrupt, some of them even taking up slave-ownership, alongside numerous other vices. Meanwhile, Mikal, the Federation agent, is sent to explore the Xeonsaur connection to the slave trade.

Kati and Mikal must make their separate ways and overcome separate obstacles and dangers, before re-uniting in the struggle on Vultaire. Together, they need all the resources and ingenuity that they and their companions have, to stay alive, and to help heal the Vultairian society, as well as the very planet itself from the sickness that the corruptions have caused.
 

Kati 3 - Showdown on the Planet of the Slavers
Kati and Mikal must battle Gorsh on his home turf.
Amazon U.S.: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KHBN8FG
Amazon U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00KHBN8FG
Kati of Terra and Star Federation Agent Mikal R’ma Trodden join forces with the beautiful female reptilian, Xoraya, and the young Tarangayan mathematics and engineering genius, Lank, to chase down the Slaver Gorsh and bring him to justice. The evil Waywardian Gorsh was responsible for Kati’s abduction from Earth, along with numerous other victims from many other worlds; among these were many small children from Earth and other planets.

Their quest begins on an obscure Fringe Space Station which houses a reputable used space ship yard, the services of which they need if they are to journey along the Space Trade Lanes. Odd and dangerous events start to shadow them while they are on the Space Station, Qupar, and never really cease during the course of their mission. It begins to look like there is much more at stake than merely bringing to justice a slaver, and rescuing the people he has enslaved and sold - an unnatural and unspeakable evil of cosmic proportions may well be at the center of events.

The group gains new members, even while it loses Mikal and Xoraya into Gorsh’s hands - Kati and Mikal are once again separated, and have to struggle to perform their tasks apart from one another. However, neither of them is a quitter; they are resourceful and in love, so no force in the universe can keep them separated for long. The manner in which they and their allies overcome the obstacles that they face makes for an exciting, amusing, and romantic tale.

This is the thrilling conclusion to the dramatic story which began in Escape from the Drowned Planet, and continued in On Assignment to the Planet of the Exalted. Kati and Mikal can now take a breather from adventure - or can they? Time will tell.

This is a full-length novel of about 260,000 words (equivalent to a paperback of about 550 pages). Please note that the Kati of Terra novels are written so that they can be read as stand-alone books, so Kati of Terra Book 3 can be enjoyed by readers who have not yet read Kati of Terra Book 1 or Book 2. Naturally, we encourage people to read the entire trilogy to experience all the adventure and romance of the Kati of Terra series.

Free Romantic and Family Fiction by Helena Puumala, for Valentine's Day - Up There Came a Flower



For Valentine's Day, here is a new short story by Science Fiction and Romance writer Helena Puumala.  It is a companion piece to an earlier short story, "Love and Rebirth on the Prairie", which you can get in ebook form from Amazon.



The two stories center on the themes of romantic love, as well as the bonds of attachment created by family relationships, that can span the generations and perhaps even last longer than than that.

We hope that you enjoy it.  It will be on the blog for a limited time, then available on Amazon in ebook form, in a few weeks.

Make sure to read to the end, for another limited time free romance offer (or two).   😎

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------

Up There Came a Flower

By Helena Puumala

Copyright Helena Puumala 2018.


Shelley stared at the gravestone, focusing on the name which had been etched into the lower right-hand corner of it.  Maya Catherine Josephson.  Plus the dates of birth and death; there were only two weeks' worth of days between the two, and they were both more than thirty years in the past.  The only other name on the marker was that of Maya's father, Curtis Joseph Josephson, and it had been added much more recently, less than a half-decade ago.
Shelley was not a Josephson, her last name was Westbay, but ever since her father, Micheal Westbay had courted, and then married, Curt Josephson's widow, she had developed a habit of coming to the grave site to ponder life's problems.  She felt that she was communing with the dead Maya then; and well understood that most people would have consider her a fool for that.  Certainly her mother, Joanne, who had (whew!), in an outburst of anger and pique, moved to Toronto from the Prairies within the past year, would have laughed loudly to hear of it.
“Really, Shelley?” she imagined her mother saying to her.  “You take your troubles to the grave site of a dead infant?  Have you completely lost your mind?”
There would have been no way to answer Joanne, of course.  She would not have listened to Shelley's explanation of how the daffodils that Maya's young, grieving mother had planted on the grave of her lost child the autumn after her death, had not sprouted until decades later.  That had been when the issue of whether Shelley should accompany her mother to Toronto, or stay on the Prairies with her divorced father and his new love, Maya's mother, had come up.  The family had taken the appearance of the flowers as a sign that Shelley should remain with the Josephson-Westbay clan, and she had done so.
The unexpected sprout of a patch of daffodil bulbs more than thirty years old, from the Prairie soil, had fascinated Shelley.  The flowers had come up the previous spring, and they had been beautiful—yet there had been no ordinary explanation available for how they had come to grow when they did.  Why had the daffodil bulbs not rotted in the intervening years?  Or why hadn't the ground squirrels or gophers eaten them?
To Shelley, it was Maya's magic, and meant that Maya approved of her.
Thus, ever since the flowers had appeared, she had felt a connection with the spirit of the tiny, lost girl, a feeling that there was more to Maya than a child who had died long ago at the age of two weeks.  Shelley sensed a strong, wise spirit, and she had come to look upon that spirit as someone she could bring her troubles to, and who would give her advice, sage advice, without ever looking down on her, or laughing at her problems as trivialities.
This winter Saturday, however, it felt like Maya's spirit had fled.  The cemetery plot, and the gravestone were just a grave on the hard-frozen Prairie.  A cold wind was whipping across the graveyard from the northwest, making the teenager shiver in spite  of her warm hat, coat, and boots.  She sighed, sad to not have felt the connection that she had sensed at other times, and disappointed to not have any words of wisdom inserted into her mind.  She would have to return to her father and stepmother's abode without having received counsel.
And then....
“Well, hello Shelley!” a woman's voice called from behind her back.  “Meditating, are you, at Curt and Maya's grave?”
Shelley turned around, and had to grin.  An old lady was walking briskly towards her, looking spry in spite of her advanced age.
“Mildred!” she responded, her spirits rising at the sight of one of her favourite people in Poplar Grove.
She and Mildred were old friends from before her father had married Meg Josephson.  In fact, the teenager and the senior had been instrumental in bringing the widowed Meg, and divorced Mike together as a couple, after it had occurred to the oldster that the two would make an excellent, middle-aged match.  Mildred had been right about that, and Shelley had soon discovered that she fit rather well into Meg's family of two sons in their twenties, and one daughter-in-law.  Curtis Jr., and Jonathan had decided that Shelley was a proper replacement for the sister whom they had never known, and Tonya, Curtis' wife, had been delighted to welcome another young woman into the family circle.
“Shelley, sweetheart,” Mildred said to the girl when she reached her, “you are absolutely freezing!  How long have you been standing there, contemplating the dead Josephsons?”
Without waiting for an answer, she grabbed hold of Shelley's arm, and started leading her away.
“Good thing I decided to walk this way on my way home from visiting Betty Amos in her sick bed!” she added without waiting for an answer to her question.  “We're going home—my home—for a spot of hot tea and apple pie!  Then you can tell me what's troubling you—don't try to tell me that nothing is, girl!  I know you well enough to see when something is, even if I didn't happen to know that you like to come to the graveyard to lay your troubles at Maya's nonexistent feet!  And don't look at me like that!  Of course I know about your visits to the grave!  Nothing's a secret in a place the size of Poplar Grove, and Meg, Mike, and I are friends.  Of course I asked them about the reason for your graveyard visits, and they explained that you found it easier to think problems through at the grave site than anywhere else.”
Shelley shook her head at this torrent of words, but allowed herself to be drawn along by the older woman.  Hot tea and apple pie—Mildred made excellent pies—sounded wonderful, besides which she liked the old lady a lot.  Plus, Mildred was nobody's fool; quite possibly she had something very useful to say once Shelley had laid out the dilemma to her.
Suddenly her eyes opened wide in the cold air.  Maya was helping her, of course she was!  She had sent Mildred to Shelley!  Somehow she had induced Mildred to come by the Cemetery on her way back home from the Amos residence!  The route was not the shortest one between the Amos' house and Mildred's home, and the weather was not exactly clement!  For Mildred to have chosen that route....  Shelley did not finish the thought, but taking it that far, even, gave her spirits a boost!
Surely Mildred would have some helpful input to offer!

In Mildred's warm kitchen Shelley settled into a chair at a wooden table covered with a cheerful cloth, while Mildred set the kettle on, brought out the teapot and mugs, and collected the apple pie.  Jack, Mildred's husband came into the kitchen to say hello, and to ask his wife to make enough tea for a mugful for him, too.
Shelley was quite fond of Jack, although she well knew that the Poplar Grove gossips considered him an ill match for the gregarious Mildred, since he was seen as a bit of a taciturn curmudgeon.  Shelley did not agree with the gossips, and she knew that her father and stepmother also did not.  Jack was just quiet, was what Mike had often said, and Shelley had noticed that the old man appreciated those who understood his introverted nature, and made an effort to be pleasant to them.
She gifted him with a bright grin, and was pleased to see his weathered face break into an answering beam.
“How are you today?” she asked him.  “My father tells me that you haven't been by his shop for a while and hopes that you haven't come down with the flu that has been going around.  Have you had any problems that way?”
“Nah.”  Jack shook his head.  “Those flu bugs avoid me.  But the weather has been kind of miserable lately, and my old bones don't like the biting north wind, not when it adds itself to already cold temperatures.  So I tend to sit at home, wrapped in one of them afghans that Mildred has knitted over the years, reading the books that I never had the time to bother with in my younger days.  Borrowed a bunch from Mike and Meg in the fall; should be ready to return them in the spring.”
This was a long speech from Jack, and Shelley appreciated the fact.
“Oh, good,” she replied.  “Dad and Meg will be pleased to hear that you are reading them.  They're old-fashioned enough to think that reading books is a better way to spend time than staring at a video screen.”
Jack chuckled.
“And you disagree with them about that,” he said, even as Mildred shooed him out of the kitchen, telling him to go and continue his reading in “the den”; she would bring him tea as soon as it was ready.
Once he was gone she sat down across the table from Shelley, and gave her a searching look.
“So what is it that had you standing in the graveyard, staring at Curt and Maya Josephson's headstone, on a cold winter's day, Shelley?” she asked.  “You weren't freezing your butt for the fun of it, I'm sure.  You do tend to gravitate to that grave site when you're troubled about something.”
This time the girl's smile was somewhat wan.  She took a moment to order her thoughts before answering.
“I may just be an interfering fool,” she finally said, drawing figures on the table cloth with an index finger.  “Maybe none of it is really my business, but....”
Mildred's kettle began to whistle and Shelley got a moment's reprieve while the old lady got up to fill the teapot.  When she sat back down, Shelley discovered that her thoughts had settled into a retrievable form, and she did not need any prompting to continue:
“You know, of course that I've been staying the weeks at Curtis and Tonya's place—Meg's house—during the school year, coming here to Meg and Dad's only for the weekends.  That way I didn't have to change schools for my last year of high school.  It's been a good arrangement; Curtis and Tonya are easy to live with, and the house is plenty big enough for three people.  It's not a big house, but Meg and her first husband brought up two kids in it, so it really is plenty roomy for three people.”
Mildred nodded when Shelley stopped to draw a breath; she wondered where this was heading.  Meg had said on occasion, she recalled, that Tonya and Curtis liked having Shelley in the house; she carried her weight when it came to chores, and she was good company.  Tonya, especially, apparently enjoyed having another young woman in residence.
“Well, now that the two of them have settled down to a regular life—not gallivanting across the globe any more, and living hand-to-mouth—with decent jobs, if maybe not the dream careers they might aspire to, they've started thinking about starting a family.  It's only at the thinking stage at the moment, mind you.  Nothing definite has been done; no birth control has been tossed into the trash.”
Mildred nodded again.  She was not surprised.
“I think that those two would make great parents,” she commented.  “Curtis has his father's easygoing mannerisms, and patience.  And Tonya seems like the kind of a young woman who would enjoy fussing around with babies.  Isn't she working at a daycare these days?”
“Yeah, and she loves the job, if not the pittance of a salary that she earns.  Isn't it crazy how poorly we value those who take care of the little children?  But the money she earns does help, although with Curtis having a decent income, and Meg not charging them a high rent, they could manage without it, if it comes to that.”
“But there's a problem?  And you are aware of it?”
Mildred got up to fill the tea mugs.  She cut a piece of pie for Shelley, and placed it on a plate with a fork, in front of her, with the tea.  She then took a moment to bring Jack's tea to him; and, finally, settled into her chair again, with her own, steaming mug in front of her.  Shelley marveled at how she timed the interruptions.  It was as if each one was designed to give her a chance to mull over what she wanted to tell the older woman.
“The problem is Tonya's mother,” she said, and transferred a forkful of apple pie into her mouth, savouring its delicate texture and taste.
“Tonya's mother?” Mildred asked, arching her eyebrows.  “Is she, or isn't she looking forward to a grandchild?”
“She's not.”
Shelley took a moment from gobbling up the delicious pie to heave a sigh.  Then she added:
“She's of the opinion that Tonya's older brother's two boys are all the grandchildren that she needs.  She wants Tonya to go back to school, and get a university degree, or, preferably, more than one.  And do the career-track thing.  You know, get a high-powered, high-paying job that would turn her into a very important person!”
“I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I really don't see Tonya scrabbling up the corporate, or government ladder,” Mildred said thoughtfully.  “Not that she isn't a bright young woman; she's definitely that.  But she doesn't strike me as having the kind of driving ambition to succeed that anyone who wants to make a splash in today's world needs.”
“Oh, Mildred, I'm so glad you said that!” Shelley exclaimed.  “That's exactly how I see it!  I don't see any need for her to twist herself into knots!  What would make her happiest is living a simple family life!”
“Mind you, a simple family life is never that simple,” Mildred said with a chuckle.
“Don't I know it,” Shelley muttered, finishing her piece of pie.
She was thinking of the roller coaster her life had been, between battling parents.  Her mother had been ambitious, and had worked hard.  Unfortunately that had meant that she had had little time for, or interest in her only child, except as an asset to be trotted out on calculated occasions.  It had been Shelley's father who had showered the girl with love and affection.
Mildred gave her a shrewd glance as she removed Shelley's empty pie plate from the table.
“You know, some women are able to combine the responsibilities of motherhood with ambition,” she said.
“I do realize that,” Shelley said.  “When I think of what I'd like to do with my life, some variation on that kind of a thing always comes to mind.  And having met Tonya's mother, I think she could have managed it, if she had tried.  But she didn't make the effort, and now she seems to be pushing Tonya to achieve what she herself had wanted to achieve—only Tonya is quite the different person.”
“Ah.”  Mildred thought that she and Shelley were getting close to the crux of the matter.  “So Tonya, upset with her mother, came to talk to you, asking for advice in dealing with a difficult female parent.  Since you had dealt with one all your life, she thought that perhaps you could offer some pointers.”
“More or less, that's it,” Shelley said, unable to suppress a chuckle.  Mildred could be counted on to hit the target almost all the time!
She sipped her tea while arranging her thoughts.

Tonya had knocked on her bedroom door one evening during the past week.  The knock had been hesitant; Tonya well knew that Shelley was in her last year of high school, and keen to keep up her marks in order to gain admittance—and some financial help, if at all possible—to the local university.  Thus she seldom disturbed Shelley at her homework; the fact that she had done so this evening had been proof of how upset she had been.
Shelley had not actually minded, as it happened; her homework load had been light that day.  Plus, she had noticed earlier that Tonya was having difficulties; she had been later than usual getting home from work, and had been close-mouthed during the supper which Shelley had put together with Curtis' help.  Shelley was often the first person to arrive home, and had made a habit of getting supper started for all three of them.  Her step-father, Zacharias, had been an accomplished cook, and had taught her many of his tricks during the late afternoons when the two of them had waited for her mother to get home from her demanding job.
Tonya had looked distraught when she had entered Shelley's room at her invitation.
“So sorry to disturb you,” she had said, “but Curtis suggested that I talk to you before I start howling with frustration, or burst into tears!  He thinks that you may, at least, understand my dilemma, and maybe even be able to offer some insight into how I ought to handle the situation.”
“Oh, come and grab a chair,” Shelley had said, turning away from the books on her desk, and indicating the single armchair in the room.  It was one of the pieces of furniture that Meg had left behind when she had moved from the house, and into the large apartment above Mike's woodworking and furniture shop in Poplar Grove.  It was worn, but very comfortable; Shelley thought that it would have been a pity to have replaced it with a new, modern seat.
Tonya had gratefully dropped her backside into the chair.
“I guess you noticed that I was late getting home, and not in a good mood when I did arrive,” she had said, sounding a little rueful.  “Of course you did.  As Curtis says, 'the blonde among us doesn't miss much.'”
Shelley had grinned encouragingly.
“Yeah, when you live with a strong-minded, crazy woman like my mother is, you learn to look for signs of moods.  Sometimes, when you're small, your life seems to depend on knowing what the least offensive reaction to her snarling might be.”
She well knew that Tonya did not get on particularly well with her mother.  Although those two women were not nearly as badly matched as a parent and child as Shelley and Joanne had been.  Corinne, at least, loved her daughter dearly, even though she seemed to want to live her life for her.
“You probably think that I'm complaining about nothing much,” Tonya had sighed.  She had heard the stories about Joanne's manipulative behaviour.
“Not really,” Shelly had responded.  “I think that because your mother really was mostly kind and loving towards you, certainly during your early years, you never had to develop the thick skin that I eventually grew when it came to dealing with Joanne.  So you're quite vulnerable now that Corinne has decided to push her agenda on you.”
“So you've noticed that she has an agenda?” Tonya had asked.  She had been biting her lower lip.
“It's been hard not to,” Shelley had said.  “Not that she has been coming around much, lately.  I guess that she's figured out that neither Curtis nor I are on her side.  We both think that you should do what you want to do, not what somebody else wants you to do.”
“Curtis is keen on us having children, now that we've settled down, and he has steady work.”
“True.  But he would never insist on it if you told him that you weren't ready to do it.  He said to me that he thought you were pretty anxious, too, to start a family, now that it's possible.  At least, judging by the discussions that you two had had on your way home to Canada.”
“He's right about it.  I've always liked kids, and I got the adventuring out of my system during the 'travel foolishness', as my mother calls it.”  Tonya had sighed.  “She really didn't like us doing that.  She thought I was wasting time which would have been better spent getting some useful training that would have allowed me to latch onto a job with 'advancement potential'.”
She had made a face as she had spoken the last words.
“But you went to see her this afternoon?” Shelley had prompted.
“Yeah.  I actually got off work a bit early, today.  The parents all picked up their kids on time, for once, so we were able to close up shop without having to wait for the tardy.  So I thought that I'd grit my teeth and drop in on Mother and Father—I wanted to see Dad, anyway, since he and I get along fine.  But going after work gave me an excuse to not stay long—I had to come home for supper even if you and Curtis could be counted on to cook it.”
“But your ruse didn't really help, did it?” Shelley had asked.
Tonya had shaken her head vigorously.
“Not one bit.  She lit into me before she had even offered me a cup of coffee.  When was I going to start taking night courses in accounting, or something?  Or was I planning to be a daycare worker for the rest of my life?  And surely I wasn't planning on my own babies yet—these days women with even a shred of ambition waited until they had good career prospects, and were in their mid-thirties before starting a family!  I wasn't old enough to start a family as yet; surely Curtis understood that!
“Oh, Shelley, I just sat there at her kitchen table, wishing that Dad would come home and he and I could talk about something else!”
“Like you asking your Dad:  'How about them Oilers, Pa?'” Shelley had suggested with a crooked grin.
That had got an answering grin from Tonya.
“Yeah, that would have done.  I could have told him how much Curtis bemoans that team's losing ways.  But apparently I should have asked about Dad when I made the quick call to let Mom know I was coming.  He wasn't going to come home until late tonight; he had a union meeting, or something.  So Mom had me all to herself, and could harass me all she wanted.”
She shrugged.
“Oh well, I guess I could have been rude, and got up and left,” she had added.
“Actually you had every right to do that,” Shelley had said a touch testily.  “I mean, she was being very rude to you, don't you think?”
“I guess.  But she's my mother....”

Shelley shook her head after describing the conversation to Mildred.
“I asked Tonya how she wanted me to advise her,” she said.  “I told her that, offhand, all I could think of is that she needed to insist on doing what she wanted to do, and not let her mother push her into doing something that might make her unhappy.  Her response was that she didn't know how she could resist Corinne.”
“After all,” she had said unhappily, “she is my mother.”
“In other words,” Shelley had responded, “you want a solution that she and you can both embrace.”
“I guess,” Tonya had said.  “If that's at all possible.”
“Well, you don't have to make any decisions right this minute, huh?  Let's think about this for a few days and see if either you or I, or Curtis, even, comes up with some ideas.  Sometimes letting a problem just sit there for a while makes it go away, or makes you come up with a really good solution.”
“So I sent her off, at least somewhat relieved,” Shelley said to Mildred, “but now the issue has become a sort of a 'brain worm' for me.  The rest of the week I gnawed at it, like a dog worrying a bone!  I kept thinking that surely there must be a way to solve the dilemma!  Because, you know, Tonya and Corinne really are quite fond of each other.  I think that Corinne honestly believes that Tonya will, sometime in the future, regret burying herself in domesticity.  But Tonya is one of those women who wouldn't mind a life measured in diapers and snotty noses—such women do exist!  Although Corinne clearly did not enjoy a life like that, and I don't see me going that route.”
“Yes,” said Mildred thoughtfully.  “I agree with you that Tonya would love to lead a simple life with kids and a husband.  That's why she accepted the day care job, although it doesn't pay nearly as well as one might wish it did.  And Curtis will support her, of course, and he'll love fatherhood.”
She peeked into the tea pot, and refilled the kettle.
“This calls for more tea,” she said, taking the pot to clean it in the sink.  “How about some more apple pie?”
Shelley looked at the pie on the counter and shook her head with a sigh.
“Sorry, Mildred,” she said.  “It's absolutely fabulous stuff.  But Dad and Meg are cooking, so I better not spoil my appetite.  Meg's pretty big on healthy eating, and I try to go along with that—at least whenever I'm here, staying with them—since it's actually good for me.”
“I bet that eating is pretty healthy at Curtis and Tonya's, too,” Mildred said with a chuckle.  “Meg would have brought up her boys right.”
Shelley giggled.
“Yeah, these days I have to hide my chips and chocolate bars in my room,” she said.  “If Curtis sees them, he will, oh so accidentally, throw them out.  Tonya thinks it's really funny, me having to stash my junk food in the closet of my room.  Sometimes she and I go out together for poutine, and never tell Curtis about it.”
“Sounds like you and Tonya have a good relationship.  Though, on occasion, at Curtis' expense.”
“Only very slightly at Curtis' expense.  Tonya knows that she has got herself a great guy, and I never, ever, expected to luck into big brothers like Curtis and Jonathan.”
“The three of you didn't grow up together,” laughed Mildred, “so you never had to put up with them pulling your hair, or mangling your dolls.  And you didn't have the chance to tattle on them for whatever sins they committed.”
“You know, it's actually a pity that never happened—couldn't have happened,” Shelley said.  “Being an only child is not all that it's claimed to be—though I did get my Dad all to myself a lot of the time, and that would not have happened if I had had siblings.  But wait a minute....”
Her words faded into silence even as she watched Mildred refill the tea pot from the now-boiling kettle.
What was it that Mike had said to her one time when she had been a preteen, and had lost it on the topic of Joanne's habit of ignoring her daughter?  What had it been that time that Joanne had or had not done?  Oh yes, she had forgotten Shelley's birthday—again!  And had called to say that she would be working late—again!
How can a mother forget her only child's birthday, Shelley had raged!  Why was everything work-related so important for Joanne that nothing else seemed to matter?  The only time that she seems to care whether I'm alive or dead is when she wants to parade me to her work colleagues, competitors, or customers, she had snivelled.  “Look at what a pretty daughter I have!” was the message then!  At other times it was “Go away, don't bother me, can't you see that I'm busy earning money?”
Her father had listened to the anger and the tears, while the present that he had bought her  sat unopened beside the bakery-made cake which he had picked up on his way home from work.  Now Shelley thought ruefully that in her upset over Joanne's behaviour she had been ignoring her father's efforts, yet he had never neglected her, or shunted her aside.
“Shelley,” he had said to her in his usual quiet way, “your mother is what she is, who she is.  I couldn't change her, and you can't either.  Sometimes you have to make your peace with what is, and live with it, or reject it, and go away.  Right now you can't leave your mother, since she is your mother, and you're still a child, so you will just have to make the best of the situation, and learn to tolerate her, even when her indifference to you is painful.”
She had stopped her tirade to look at him, really look at him.  For the first time she had realized that he was more than just her Dad, he was also Joanne's husband, and had had to deal with his wife's coldness, and her contempt for him, for years.
“Why have you stayed with her?” she had blurted out.
He had smiled at her.  The smile had been a bit thin, but totally genuine.
“Because I love my daughter,” he had answered.  “And, since your mother never has actually abused you, I didn't think that I'd ever gain custody.  Courts in this country give preference to mothers, and that, usually, is not a bad thing.  But, once I realized what she is like, I didn't want to leave you alone with her, even part-time, so I chose to stay—at least until you got old enough to understand a few things.”
It had not been all that much later when things had truly fallen apart, and Mike had moved out while Joanne had begun divorce proceedings.  And Shelley had insisted on being allowed to spend her weekends with her father.
The memory faded, unexpectedly, into an image of flowers—daffodils.  Shelley's mind danced among the daffodils for a moment; then returned to Mildred's kitchen.  She was not quite sure from whence the image of the flowers had come to her; was Maya mixed up in it, somehow?
She turned her attention towards Mildred who had been sipping tea while waiting for her to speak.
Shelley explained where memory had taken her.
“So, I'm thinking that the key words that apply to Tonya's situation are 'Sometimes you have to make your peace with what is',” she said to Mildred.  “In this case I think both Tonya and Corinne are going to have to face up to that.”
“The trick is going to be to make them see that,” Mildred said.
“Right.  I guess I'll be talking and talking at them, until they see reason,” Shelley sighed.  “Tonya needs to understand that capitulating to her mother's wishes is really not an option for a grown woman.  And Corinne has to realize that her daughter is a grown woman, and has the right to live her life as she chooses to.”
She scrunched up her forehead thoughtfully.
“There's something else,” she added tentatively.  “Something about the flower images I keep seeing.  Something meaningful.”
“Flower images?” Mildred asked.
“Yes.  Images of Maya's daffodils keep swimming across my mind's eyes.  As if trying to tell me something.  It just happened, again—just before I returned from going down the memory lane.”
Abruptly her face cleared into a smile.
“Oh, Mildred, I get it!” she exclaimed.  “The flowers, the daffodils on baby Maya's grave took a long time to appear, and to bloom!  Years... three decades, in fact!  But they did bloom, and they will bloom again, now that they have found their time and place!
“There's always enough time for us to do what we want to do, if we just believe it, and in ourselves!  Tonya's young, and has her whole life ahead of her.  If she wants to have children now, she should!  If she changes her mind, later, and wants a career, she can do that, too.  There will be a right time for that, too, just like there was a right time for Maya's daffodils to blossom!”
“You have the right of it, Shelley, as far as Tonya is concerned,” said Mildred.  “There is no reason to think of it as an either/or situation.  Think of Meg, and how she lived her life.  She took her teacher's training after her boys had started school, and she's still teaching; she's a very respected teacher, as a matter-of-fact.”
“Hm.  I think that I now know what to tell Tonya—and Corinne,” Shelley agreed.  “Thank you for the tea and wisdom, Mildred.”
Mildred chuckled while shaking her head.
“I didn't provide much wisdom,” she protested.  “Only a listening ear.  I think you and Maya—or Maya's flowers—injected whatever wisdom was needed, into this conversation, my dear girl.  And that is exactly the way things should be.”
Shelley finished her second mug of tea, and stood up.
“I guess I better go see how Meg and Dad are managing in the kitchen,” she said.  “And you will have to feed Jack.”
She glanced at the world outside the window, and gave herself a shake.
“It's starting to get dark, so I definitely better go.  The sun goes down awfully early at this time of the year.”

“Tell Meg and Mike to come by for a piece of pie tomorrow,” Mildred said to Shelley while she climbed into her boots, and wrapped herself into her coat, hat and scarf.  “And keep me posted on how it goes with Tonya and Corinne.  Remember, I'm always ready to help.  If it comes to that, you can bring them over for a visit so that I can natter at them.”
Impulsively, Shelley leaned over to gather the old lady into a hug, a bear hug it was, what with all the winter gear she was wearing.
“Oh, Mildred, you are so wonderful!” she said; then opened the door into the falling winter dusk, and slipped out.

THE END

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Here's the poem by Tennyson, from which the title is derived.  

The Flower
Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed.
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.

To and fro they went
Thro' my garden bower,
And muttering discontent
Cursed me and my flower.

Then it grew so tall
It wore a crown of light,
But thieves from o'er the wall
Stole the seed by night.

Sow'd it far and wide
By every town and tower,
Till all the people cried,
'Splendid is the flower! '

Read my little fable:
He that runs may read.
Most can raise the flowers now,
For all have got the seed.

And some are pretty enough,
And some are poor indeed;
And now again the people
Call it but a weed.
Alfred Lord Tennyson

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And here are a couple of other romantic short stories, available for free this Valentine's week:


Love at the Lake


U.S.:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IPSZKL
U.K.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00IPSZKLS
Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00IPSZKLS
Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00IPSZKLS
Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00IPSZKLS
 
This romantic short story (approx. 5000 words) tells about the first days of a summer vacation of two couples with young children, who have cottages on a Northern Ontario lake. Both of their marriages are affected, in different ways, by the arrival of a luscious, blonde eighteen-year-old, at a neighbouring cottage. Janice is a flirt, at the least, and Mary Anne and Doris have to decide how they will deal with the attention that she is showering upon their not unattractive spouses. And their husbands, Tim and Ross have to figure out what is the most important to each of them. Is the opportunity to bed a beautiful young woman more important than an established family of wife and children?


Mid-Summer Morning's Dream at the Lake

Amazon U.S.  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
Amazon U.K. http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
Amazon Canada http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
Amazon Australia http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q 
Amazon Germany http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
Amazon France http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
Amazon Japan http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B0125Y7O1Q
 
Here is another wonderful story by writer Helena Puumala, one of her warm, emotional “at the Lake” stories. It is a sequel to “Love at the Lake”, which involved the consequences of marital infidelity, real and imagined, within the relationships of two young couples.
What happens next? Can love be recovered after thoughtless betrayal? Perhaps, but only with a little help from a mysterious dark haired woman, in this modern-day spin of a fairy tale for adults.

This is a short story, of about 9000 words, suitable to be read in about 45 minutes to an hour, by a typical reader.