…stories and poetry to touch, teach, & turn the heart toward truth.


The Wedding

Preparations careful,

All intentions clear—

Anxiety is building;

Behind it follows fear.

What does the future hold?

What will tomorrow bring?

Does love tarnish like the gold

Of virgin’s shining ring?

The bridesmaids flutter busily

All must be just so.

The groomsmen saunter lazily

Grinning as they go.

This day has been prepared

With vast anticipation.

The guests arrive with giddiness.

Each usher mans his station.

Gifts are brought to start things off—

Necessities supplied,

Splurges too, desired by

The dream-inspired bride.

Vows are made to last a life.

The time has fin’lly come.

Years to follow, joy and strife—

Two becoming one.

The softest touch will leave entranced

The twosome all impassioned.

Their hands tight clasped,

Their eyes deep fastened,

Hearts pulsing like a river.

Dreams are coming true.

The mothers’ eyes soft tears deliver—

Happiness shines through.

As with all the days ‘til now,

Tomorrow soon will come.

Two singles as one couple bow

Until their days are done.



Real Love Is Not Afraid to Grow

The gentle rain holds steady,

like the mercy of your heart.

Your faithful love sings softly,

as I rest in tender arms.

Your grace is what astounds me,

for I know where it was found.

Because God has loved you fully,

your love grows in depth untold.

You forgive me when I’m selfish,

your gaze soft upon my shame.

You confess when you have wronged me,

follow gladly where I lead.

Your compassion still confounds me,

but I know Who taught you love.

Because God forgave us fully,

our love grows in spite of storms.

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A Heartbreak Love Song That Probably Applies to Someone


Why can’t loving you be easy?

Why am I out here alone?

We said we could prove love’s living.

We said we would be the ones.

Now we’re fools, with hearts in pieces.

Are we just one more statistic?

Just two fools, with bitter mem’ries

Did we prove ourselves all wrong?

More statistics

Proving why

This world is hurting

Running dry

Is love a fable?

Can my hurt heal?

I don’t want to see love’s downfall

One more promise meeting doom

I’m losing hope with every moment

Finding peace in losing you

This is hard and I don’t like it

But I’ll give it one more try

Let’s be fools, and try this over

Look our mistakes in the face

Just two fools with little to lose

Wanting just to prove love heals

Just to prove love heals

More statistics

Proving why

This world is hurting

Running dry

Is love a fable?

Can my hurt heal?

I don’t want to see love’s downfall

One more promise meeting doom

I’m losing hope with every moment

Finding peace in losing you

We can’t prove what we don’t understand

Love’s too big for our simple minds

It’s no wonder love’s elusive

‘Cause so few look in the right place

More statistics

Proving why

This world is hurting

Running dry

Is love a fable?

Can my hurt heal?

I don’t want to see love’s downfall

One more promise meeting doom

I’m losing peace with every moment

Finding hope in loving you

Let’s be fools, and try this over

Look our mistakes in the face

Just two fools with little to lose

Wanting just to prove love heals

I think we can prove love heals

Can love heal?


The Toll of a Secret, Part 3

Post image for Pumpkin Bread

“Yum! That smells absolutely delicious!” The heavy scent of pumpkin bread literally seemed to ripple through the air of the small kitchen of Nana’s flat. Lex loved being here. It was the only place in the world he actually felt at home.

“Alexander, you’re home! Just in time too, I was beginning to think you weren’t coming.” She was the only one who called him by his full first name–the only one allowed to–but he didn’t mind. He’d probably let her call him “Kitten” if she liked, and he hated cats.

“Well, I’d be an utter fool to miss Sunday brunch with my favorite Nana in the whole of England!”

She smiled at that, and he was glad. He wished he knew better how to thank her for taking such good care of him.

“You know, there was a day when my grandson showed up early enough to help his old Nana fix the food as well as eat it, but I’m sure you’re far too busy these days for that, now aren’t you?”

“And too wise,” Lex added. “I can’t imagine how I was ever gullible enough to actually work for my breakfast.”

With that, she rolled her eyes dramatically and said, “Well, as long as my eggs and bacon keep bringing you back, I’ll keep fixing them. Here, dear, have some of this pumpkin bread. You know it’s your favorite.”

She was right; it was. “Thank you, Nana,” Lex mumbled, feeling a bit embarrassed by her doting.

“Now, tell me how things are. Are you still taking good care of that dear Daina? She’s a good girl, you know. ” She pressed, eyeing him more seriously now, “You haven’t brought her with you in a while. I’m beginning to wonder about you two.”

Lex had grown to dread this question a little more each week–even from Nana. He realized this was probably because he wasn’t too sure of the answer himself. He still liked Daina, and knew she was getting fed up with him, but he just wasn’t sure of where things were going with her. Their’s was becoming one more relationship in which he felt increasingly out of control and terrifically uncertain. There were too many of those in his life. As always, this thought sparked others, and he was quickly running back through the same nightmare of memories he couldn’t seem to stop reliving in his mind.

Lex had been moved out of his parents’ home when he was five to be sheltered from his mother’s neglect. Since he’d been old enough to turn on the TV, she would leave him alone at the flat from morning until just after dinner most days. Lex would never know here whereabouts, or when she would return. She never bought groceries, but would bring home scraps of leftovers from whatever pub she’d had dinner at that night.

His father would only come home long enough to sleep most nights–some not at all. He was too addicted to his job. Lex still knew very little about what his father did, aside from handling the business handed down to him from his father–Nana’s deceased husband. As Lex grew older, he became increasingly aware of the secrecy associated with his father’s job, and was now almost completely convinced that it was probably illegal.

Lex remembered that on Sundays–which became his favorite day–sometimes they would walk through the park together. He loved having his parents together and with him, like a real family–like the ones on the telly. When they were all together, he would dream for a few fleeting hours that they were just like the American Brady Bunch, but with fewer people. He just knew that if they all were together more they would be happy.

It didn’t take long for his dreams to die, between his parents’ arguing and the fact that Sundays together were a rare occurrence at best. By the time he’d moved in with Nana, Lex couldn’t remember the last time they’d done anything as a family.

On Lex’s fifth birthday, Nana–she was his father’s mum–had stopped by to see him. When she discovered that Lex would go all day without eating, and hadn’t had a change of clean clothes in weeks, she’d nearly set the house on fire. Never the confrontational type, though, she’d quietly left a note for his parents and took him with her. Taking his small, bony hand, she’d spoken softly, “It’ll be better this way.”

He hadn’t seen his parents since. They hadn’t tried to retrieve him either. After experiencing life with Nana for one, blessed week, Lex stopped caring if he ever saw either of his parents again.

Now that Lex was in his twenties and lived on his own, his father would stop to visit Nana. Sometimes she would tell Lex how his parents were. “Still together,” she would say with a sigh, staring out the window, “I’ll never understand what’s become of that mother of yours. She was the complete downfall of my son. The poor girl doesn’t even seem to know she’s completely wasted the two best things that ever happened to her.” She would look at him then and smile gently, “That’s what you are, you know, dear…your father was the best thing that ever happened to me, and you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to any of us.”

She willingly chose to overlook much about his father’s crookedness, he knew, but she sure knew how to make him feel like he was worth something. Despite her faults, Lex loved his Nana, and didn’t like to differ with her. After what she’d done for him, he could certainly afford to be tolerant.

Looking up at her now, across the table from him, Lex mumbled a response to her question about Daina, “Things are fair enough, I suppose. Daina’s fine. I’ll have to bring her with me next week.”

Had he said that last week? Probably.

Nana looked at him knowingly, and caught him off guard by speaking plainly, “Alexander, you don’t have to avoid the truth with me, dear. I know you too well for that.”

He nodded and looked down at his food. It didn’t look as appetizing anymore.

“Daina discovered the secret, Nana, and I can’t seem to figure out what to do about it.”

Nana’s eyes grew wide, very wide. Then they grew dark. No one was to know the secret.

Lex expected Nana to ask how Daina knew, but she didn’t. Instead, she simply wiped egg yolk from her upper lip with a white cloth napkin and said, “I’ll take care of it, dear. Don’t worry about a thing.” Forcing a smile, she assured him, “You won’t need to bother yourself over that girl any longer.”

Lex wanted to defend Daina, but he knew he wouldn’t. The secret must stay hidden, and that was definitive.

As he’d done so many times before, he reminded himself now, “It’ll be better this way.”

Also read: The Toll of a Secret, Part 1 & The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

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The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

Here are the ingredients I was given:

  1. Caustic tongues
  2. Pumpkin Bread
  3. Bikini Atoll (note the story title)
  4. Volleyball
  5. Hawaii
  6. Love Story

Enjoy part two!

The Toll of a Secret, Part 2

By Clayton E.

Two Weeks Earlier – London

“Your tongue is sharp as a razor,” spouted an agitated British accent, “and I’ve had quite enough of it!” The athletic twenty-something brunette grunted, as she lunged for the volleyball that came briskly at her over the net.

A male voice responded, slathered with sarcasm, “Well, surely your perception of ‘enough’ will completely demand my decision to discontinue in my sarcasm, dear lady. Pray tell your heart’s desire for the future utterances of my heretofore caustic tongue.” He spouted the words smoothly. Spiking the volleyball back across the net, he hit t

he wooden floor just before his contestant in her failed attempt at a save.

A wry smile filled Lex Walton’s face, and a dark glimmer sparkled in his eyes. He had her now, just precisely where he knew she would be most vulnerable. Though he still spoke with sarcasm, the directness with which he’d asked for her response was enough to set her off guard. He could see her considering whether or not to provide a response.

Daina Teany responded, eyes searching his. “Well, you might try…” she paused, allowing him to believe she was about to be transparent, giving him what he wanted just long enough to drive home her impending jab, “saying something intelligent for once.”

It was weak, she knew, but it accomplished its intended effect. Lex chuckled and spouted, “You tell me to stop, and then you start. Women.”

“You would, you pig.”

Lex rolled his eyes, “Listen, perhaps if you could just grow up and deal with the petty injustices of life, you’d be able to put up with a little tease. People aren’t going to ask you for your permission to speak. They’re going to say what they want. I don’t see why I need to be any exception. You act like I’m your enemy rather than your boyfriend. Not everything’s a competition, you know. By the way, I win.”

With that, he spiked the ball once more. Daina lost her third game in a row.

Lex and Daina had been together for nearly four years. It was long enough to be past the naive, sappy stage, but not quite long enough to be tired of each other…yet. Daina liked Lex. He used to be a sweet guy, tender and open.

Lately, though, Lex was almost mean in the way he spoke to her, like he was beginning to resent her. She could think of no reason for him to feel this way, but was finding such behavior to be contagious. The more his biting sarcasm got to her, the more her’s grew. She didn’t like it, but she wasn’t about to let him walk all over her for no good reason. She was his girlfriend after all, not his slave…nor his wife.

It was becoming more and more difficult to talk about anything important with Lex–really hard. She didn’t even seem to be getting across to him that she didn’t care for his incessant rudeness. If he knew, he certainly didn’t seem to care.

During one of their silly spats, she’d actually asked him if he was tired of her. His response? “No, but I might be tired of your face, if you don’t stop looking at me like you’re my mum or something.”

She’d gone off on him then, knowing he was just making a rude joke, but tired nonetheless of him avoiding the issue. Maybe things weren’t going to work out for them after all. She really didn’t know.

He never acted like he truly wanted to be away from her. He still called to “just talk.” Daina knew that Lex had suffered a rough childhood and valued her friendship. Lately, though, the more they talked, the more he treated her poorly. The more he treated her poorly, the more she pulled away from him to protect herself.

Unless he decided to treat her better soon, things might just have to be over with them. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take from him.

She let herself consider this possibility. She might be okay with things being over between them. Then she remembered that one, small complication–his secret.

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Story of Hope, Chapter 11

A soft sniffle broke through Olly's weighty thoughts as he walked with Nina away from Jamin. He looked down at his daughter's lowered head. In the corner of his eye, he noticed a gloved hand reach quickly and silently up to wipe something from her eyes. Nina was crying. His heart sank as he realized what he'd just done.

Why hadn't he even considered Nina's thoughts and desires during his exchange with her young friend back there? Did she think she was in love with this young man? Why hadn't Nina or Monica told him about Jamin? Why was Nina meeting with him in the streets after dark? Was their rendezvous really as innocent as they'd both claimed? He was not prepared for a teenage daughter! He was still very numb to the idea of Nina being sixteen years old. She was only a little girl in his mind, in his heart.

What would Monica be saying right now if she'd been privy to his calloused response toward the polite young man? He could see the disgust in her eyes now, and hear the criticism she would be hurling at him for not caring any more about his daughter's feelings. She was one to talk.

He could hear Monica's incriminating words from not even an hour ago proclaiming the severity of his absence. With fresh conviction, they came ringing back to his ears, and his heart sank deeper. Should he be keeping these two young hearts apart? Was he replacing his absence in Nina's life with anarchy? Did protecting Nina have to look this way?

Olly had already severed fellowship with his wife this night. He didn't want to lose his daughter as well!

Coming to an abrupt stop, Olly turned toward Nina and looked gently into her eyes. “Were his words truth?” he asked her before he lost his nerve.

Trying to look strong, she nodded, “Yes, Daddy.” There was no deceit in her face.

“And you feel the same way about him that he does about you?”

She nodded, hope growing.

For good measure, and to lighten the mood, he asked with a twinkle in his eye, “And you really are sixteen? That's not just in my imagination?”

She managed a small laugh, and rolled her eyes. “Yes, Daddy, I really am a big girl now–believe it or not–and yes, I like him very much. Will you just give him a second chance before he rides away and I may never see him again?”

Now he felt like crying, but he gave a slight nod, and looked behind them to where Jamin and his ride were clodding away. “Young man!” he called.

The clip-clop of the horse's hooves paused on the hard surface of the street, and Jamin's head spun in their direction. “Sir?” came the uncertain reply.

“I…may have spoken a bit in haste. If the two of you would like a few more minutes together, perhaps you could walk my daughter home. I will meet you there.”

Still looking at Jamin, Olly squeezed Nina's hand, which was still in his, then turned–head whirling–and started home. Before he rounded the corner of the street, he turned to look back at them once more, and smiled–just a little bit–when he saw Nina running toward Jamin's glowing face.

There wasn't much to compare in this world to the joys of young love.


Story of Hope, Chapter 10

Were his fears about to come to full realization?

Jamin braced himself for what may come when he looked up and saw a burly red-headed man behind Nina storming across the street toward them. He’d never heard a description of Nina’s father–not even his name–but one look into that man’s eyes told him this was her father. That look was unmistakable, not to mention the haunting resemblance to Nina’s own eyes.

A prayer filled Jamin’s heart, as a groaning sigh escaped his lips. Nina’s face filled with confusion when he gently stepped away from her. She noticed the direction of his eyes, and her’s followed. A gasp escaped her soft, pink lips, when she caught the intimidating sight of her father’s approach.

“Daddy?” she started.

“Nina,” his voice was tight with concern, “I, uh, certainly didn’t expect to see you out here. I thought you were at Anna’s?”

“I was on my way home when…Daddy, I want you to meet Jamin.” She looked between them with unmasked hesitancy, but the honesty in her eyes and voice seemed to diffuse her father’s tension a little.

“Young man, it doesn’t seem we’ve had a proper introduction yet. I’m Captain Oliver Swarth.” It was obvious that he hadn’t said all he’d wanted to, but Jamin was deeply grateful that Captain Swarth was giving him a small chance to prove himself. He wasn’t about to let it pass.

“Sir, I’m pleased to meet you,” Jamin dipped his head respectfully. “My name is Jamin…Opalinksi. My uncle is a farmer several miles outside of town, and we have a produce stand at the city market. I had the privilege of meeting your daughter while working the stand several weeks ago, and came to town tonight in hopes of finding her. I was about to give up, not knowing her last name or where she lived, when I saw her walking here. I was also hoping to meet her family, and, well, it looks like my prayers have been answered. I hope you will take my word concerning my very honorable intentions toward your daughter. It would be my deepest regret to think that my interest might cause turmoil for your daughter or for you, and if that is the case I will seek to be as compliant as possible to your wishes as her father.”

Captain Swarth looked surprised at Jamin’s monologue, but any violent or negative reaction seemed to have been avoided. He hoped.

“Well, Mr. Opalinski,” Captain Swarth looked intently into Jamin’s eyes, “I appreciate your willingness to be upfront with me, and I’m sure you’re intentions are honorable enough for someone…of your age, but I’m afraid, honorable or not, my daughter is not available for your attentions at this time. Nina is not yet of an age that I consider appropriate for any relationship with any young man, honorable or not. So, you would excuse us, my daughter and I have a home to return to, as I imagine is the case for you as well.” He nodded, looked at Nina, and finished, “Have a good evening.” Captain Swarth turned to leave, arching his arm for Nina to take in her hand, “Nina?”

She seemed as stunned as Jamin, but followed silently with a soft nod. Her eyes met Jamin’s briefly as she turned. Through the bewilderment, he saw a regretful apology, and the swelling of silent tears. He attempted a reassuring smile, wishing there was something he could say, something he could do to change the events taking place before him.

Truth be told, though, the captain’s calm-spoken rejection of him had stung more painfully than any violent reaction might have. He was at a complete loss, and felt the verification of every fear of inadequacy he’d ever known. What was he going to do?

Trying not to lose his composure, he turned back toward Cowboy and climbed atop the saddle. He felt like a complete idiot now, with his stupid suit and worthless hat. It was no wonder the whole town had stared at him as he’d searched for Nina. He was just a naive, ignorant country boy, smitten by a girl he couldn’t have, and too ignorant to know it.

It was going to be a long ride home, and a very, very long winter. Jamin’s fears had become reality tonight, but they weren’t the fears he’d expected. This was much more devastating than he was ready to handle. 

Nina was the one person who’d been a real beacon of hope to him in the past couple of months. The thought of seeing her, of being around her, had been his fuel for waking up each day, for pushing through the fears and insecurities. It was her silent acceptance that had shown him who he could be. Did her father have any idea of what he’d just done to Jamin? Did Captain Swarth even care about Nina wanted? Jamin knew that Nina felt as strongly about him as he did her. She’d said it herself!

Why had Jamin chosen to remain quiet back there? Why hadn’t Nina tried to defend him, to defend herself? What was he going to do without her?