April 19, 2023

We haven’t had any downtime since 11:06 PM on April 18, so I’m cautiously optimistic that the site issues are resolved. They moved me to a new host machine, and apparently there were a lot of issues that weren’t immediately detectable. I spent most of Monday on a chat queue trying to get it sorted out.

I’m very sorry that it took so long to get things sorted out — I didn’t even realize there was an issue until late Saturday. For some reason, the alerts I’m supposed to get from WordPress about the site being unresponsive got sent to spam, and the problem got pretty bad on Sunday when it was literally down every hour.

I made two updates on the weekend in case you missed either:

SATURDAY: I didn’t write flash fiction, so I posted some bonus material from Fool Me Twice. Chapters 50 & 54 from Book 2 which are both Liason centered, and Book 1’s flashbacks organized in chronological order.

SUNDAY: Flash Fiction, Invisible Strings – Part 20

I’ll see you this weekend for more flash fiction!

April 16, 2023

Update Link: Invisible Strings – Part 20

Back Up Form: https://crimsonglass.boardhost.com/index.php

Took a little longer to write this entry because my online support agent finally responded to my support ticket regarding the downtime issues. They swear it’s related to a backend issue that should be resolved now. But just in case, until I’m satisfied, I’ll be posting on the backup board for Flash Fiction.

This was supposed to be the last part, lol, but I didn’t quite get where I wanted to, so we’ll have another weekend of this story. See you then!

This entry is part 20 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Invisible Strings

Written in 65 minutes.

Cameron shook off the vestiges of his illness in rather short order, only remaining in bed for another day to get some much needed rest.  On a bright morning in early February, Cameron bounced down the stairs into the kitchen where he was sure to sneak a rasher of bacon from a distracted Alice before taking Pip out for a quick watering of the snowy ground.

In truth, he recovered far more quickly from actually being ill than his anxious parents did. Elizabeth returned to tucking him in every night, listening as Jason read from Great Expectations, and they both lingered in his room until Cameron fell asleep. And during the night, Jason more than once went into the room while the little boy rested to be sure the fever didn’t return. Elizabeth wasn’t surprised when she woke some some mornings to find Jason sleeping in the chair by Cameron.

She pondered the situation over the next few weeks as storms came and went, and the child she carried made itself more widely known. She tired easily, taking long naps in the early afternoon, and ate more than she had in her entire life. Jason’s smiles were tighter than they’d been once, rarely reaching his eyes. Cameron’s illness had been upsetting, but she knew that it must have caused memories of another little boy who had survived to resurface.

Elizabeth left Cameron in the kitchen, grinning and dusted with flour as Alice showed him how to knead dough for their bread and went out to the porch that wrapped around the house. Jason stood there, dressed in nothing than his shirtsleeves. The man claimed not to feel the cold—

She grimaced — lucky man. She was already chilled by the time she reached him at the railing, clutching her shawl more tightly. “Cameron is helping Alice with the weekly baking, so apologies if the bread is less than edible.”

Jason turned at her words, and his brow drew down. “You shouldn’t be out here—”

“It’s not as cold as it was a few days ago, and at least I can claim to be wearing wool.” Elizabeth touched the thin cotton of his shirt. “If one of us is to catch their death from the cold, it’s you.”

Jason sighed, then looked out again over the horizon, to the pond frozen over for the season, to the distance foothills of the Rocky Mountains, their snow-capped majesty barely visible. The sky was a clear, beautiful blue with no cloud to be found. She hoped that the worst of winter was behind them, though she’d been told snow could continue to fall into April.

“Johnny said the road into town was passable again,” Elizabeth said. “I’d hoped we could go and see Lila on Sunday. We haven’t been since the assembly, and I know she must miss you and Cameron.” He didn’t answer. “Jason?”

“I’d prefer if we stuck close to the ranch until winter ended. You shouldn’t be traveling in your condition—”

“It’s hardly traveling, and I was operating a textile loom until the day Cameron was born, and then back the day after.”

Jason’s mouth pinched. “The day?” he echoed.

“Yes. He was born in the late afternoon, and he was kind enough to wait until I had completed my work. A quick and easy delivery, all things considered. It was difficult to find someone to care for a baby so young, but I managed.”

“You went back to work the day after,” he muttered turning back to the horizon. “Your parents should be ashamed of themselves. My mother rested a week after Emily was born, and Caroline—” He closed his mouth.

“Women have been managing childbirth for centuries, Jason. Yes, it can be dangerous, and I ought to have been more scared. But I didn’t know any better, which was a blessing in many ways. I had little choice. The only way to have more support from my family would have been to live my life their way. I couldn’t have given my little boy away like he didn’t matter.”  She paused. “So a bit of a ride into town won’t hurt.”

“If that’s what you want, then that’s that we’ll do.” He glanced down at the curve of her belly. “You said sometime in May, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” She hesitated. “When you will begin building the cradle? Will you wait for warmer weather?”

Jason nodded. “Yes. It won’t take above a week—”

“Or we could reconsider Lila’s offer,” Elizabeth said in a rush. “For the family cradle.”

“No,” he said almost before she’d finished speaking, very nearly interrupting her. “No. I told you. I’d prefer to make it—for Cameron to help—”

“You said so before, but—” She tipped her head. “You slept in that cradle. So did your brother and sister. Your father. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have—”

“It doesn’t belong to me. I don’t want it.” Jason took her by the elbow. “You look chilled. We should go inside—”

“It belongs to Michael, doesn’t it?”

He stopped, dropped his hand. He wouldn’t look at her. “Yes.”

“It ought to have been his. The eldest child. Your brother to his son.” He continued to stare straight ahead. “Dillon—when Cameron fell ill—he told me about Michael. How you cared for him—”

“I don’t want to—”

“I know. But I think you might need to. Even if it’s just once. Dillon said you were with him every moment of his illness. Holding him until his last.”

His shoulders were tight, and his expression might have been carved from stone, but his eyes were shattered when he finally met her gaze. “Yes.”

“And then you washed him, carried him to the coffin, and then to the burial.” Her throat was tight. “He was never alone. Not for a moment.”

“He was too young to be scared,” Jason said finally. “He fought the medicine. Fought me. Fought everyone. Until he had no strength left. He just…” He looked away again. “You can’t know what it’s like to hold a child in your arms, and actually feel the life leave them. There’s a terrible stillness—it’s different than sleep.”

Elizabeth exhaled slowly, tears burning her eyes. “No. I can’t know. And I hope to God I never do. I am so sorry for his loss.”

“He wanted to play,” Jason murmured. “To go outside. It was the last thing he said. Just before the end. Could we go outside?” He dragged a hand down his face. “I don’t know what good it does—”

“Because a few weeks ago you held another little boy and cared for him every moment of his illness. Making sure he was never alone. That if, God forbid, he left us, you’d be there to hold him.”

“It’s not the same. I don’t—I’m not replacing Michael with Cameron—” His voice was rough as he turned to face her. “You can’t think that—”

“I didn’t—”

“I was very careful about that. I wouldn’t let Lila send any toys or things that belonged to him—and I never took Michael fishing or riding—the pony—”

“Jason—” Elizabeth put her hands on his forearms, and he closed his mouth, the strange rush of words cutting off abruptly. “You’re an amazing father, and I know that Cameron loves you. He couldn’t love you more if you’d been present every day of his life. And Michael is a part of your family. He will always be part of you. You needn’t hide anything about him. And it isn’t replacing him to love Cameron or let your children use his possessions.”

“I—” Jason took her hands, closing them between his larger palms. “I know that logically—”

“We don’t have to use the cradle. I like the idea of Cameron helping you build something his little brother or sister will use. I just worry if you keep holding in this grief, Jason, it will continue to sneak up on you the way it has.” Her eyes searched his. “You rarely speak of the family you lost.”

“It’s difficult,” Jason said after a long moment. “We were—I wasn’t on the best of terms with my father or grandfather at the end. I had left home, started the ranch. My father wanted me to go into business in San Francisco and my grandmother wanted me to take over the mines—” He shook his head. “And I just wanted the open space and to be left on my own.” He waited a beat. “By the time word got to me out here, by the time I got into town,  my parents had already died. My aunt, too. AJ and Caroline lingered for a few more days. And then Emily got sick—”

“Alice told me you’d thought Michael was spared.”

“He hadn’t had any contact with anyone—they’d kept the nursery maid clear, but somehow—” Jason stopped. “It was Michael, I think, that killed my grandfather. He’d lingered, fought harder, I think, but once Michael was sick, all the fight just disappeared. Michael was the last. I don’t know how my grandmother survived burying a husband, two children, two grandchildren, and a great-grandson.”

“You and Dillon, of course.” Elizabeth wound her arm through Jason’s and let him lead her back into the house. “She’s special, your grandmother. I might have crawled into my bed and stayed here.”

“No. You wouldn’t have.” Jason brought her hand to his mouth, brushed his lips across her knuckles. “Look at what you did for Cameron.”

“You do what has to be done. And worry about everything else later.”

The conversation they’d shared on the porch lingered with Jason for days, as he thought about how much lighter he felt, having acknowledged that some of the fear driving him during those dark days of Cameron’s fever had stemmed from the misery of Michael’s death.

He’d been so terrified that he’d feel Cameron’s body go limp, that he’d feel the heartbeat slow and stop—but he hadn’t. And that was important. Jason had to remember that Cameron hadn’t died in his arms. There would be no miniature coffin for his son, no burial in the graveyard.

A few days later, Cameron was excited when Jason took him into the carpentry shed attached to the stables. The little boy practically hopped and skipped along the thawing ground — they hadn’t had another snowfall in the few days and the temperature had risen above freezing.

“I get to cut stuff,” he told Johnny on the pathway. “Papa will let me use the big knife.”

“No, I won’t—” Jason put a hand on Cameron’s shoulder and edged him into the shed. “You’re going to sand things down. And maybe, maybe,” he stressed, “I’ll show you how to carve your initials.”

“Initials?” Cameron’s sandy brows drew together as he watched Jason look over the collection of wood, and gather pieces that would suit them. “What are those?”

“The first letter of your last name and first name. CM.” Absently, Jason reached for a woodturner from the shelf—then caught Cameron’s bewildered look. “Cameron Morgan.”

“Mama say I’m Cameron Webber. When we rode on the train, she made me say it over and over and over and over again.” Beleagured, he sighed. “Case I get lost, so I could tell everyone I Cameron Webber, son of Elizabeth Webber, bound for Port Charles, Colorado.” He beamed. “I remembered.”

Jason nodded. They hadn’t discussed it yet, but likely because he’d assumed it was understood. “That was smart. And I’m glad you didn’t get lost  before you and your mother got to me. But now you’re here. And we agreed a long time ago I’m the papa and you’re the son.”

“Oh.” Cameron considered that. “And Mama is the mama.”

“Yes. Do you remember the church last year? You and Mama came down the long aisle with me, and we said words?”

“Yes. Because I got my room. I never had a room before. Not all to myself. And then I got Cinders. And Pip. The words changed things?”

“They did.” Jason knelt in front of Cameron. “I made promises to your mother, but to you, too. They’re called vows. People say them when you get married. You promise to honor and cherish. To take care of each other. And when you marry someone with a child, like I did, you make those promises to the child. Your mother became Elizabeth Morgan, and you Cameron Morgan. When you go to school next year, you’ll answer to that name.”

“I didn’t make any promises.” Cameron looked worried now. “I shoulda made promises.”

“You don’t—”

“No. No. I make promises. Um—” He screwed up his face. “I don’t know what to promise. You need to tell me. I’ll do it.”

“All I need from you, Cameron,” Jason told him, “is a promise to be kind to other people, to look after your mother, and to be yourself.”

“That doesn’t seem hard.” Cameron nodded. “Okay. I promise to be kind, take care of you and Mama, and be me.” He beamed. “Good. Now I’m Cameron Morgan.”

Jason tousled his hair, charmed as always by Cameron’s easy acceptance and zest for life. “You already were, but I’m glad we made the promises.”

“We keep promises,” Cameron said soberly. “Mama said.”

“Mama’s right. Let’s get this cradle started or your little  brother or sister won’t have a place to sleep.”


Hello! Apologies if the site has been down for you lately. Dreamhost, the company where I’ve been since 2006, recently made changes to my account, and I’ve had nothing but issues since. (AND they’re charging me 30% more). I have a VPS (virtual private server) account which is supposed to help account for the memory usage that WordPress uses, but lately it’s been down constantly.  If this keeps up, I may have to consider converting back to a static website, which would be a GIANT pain in the ass, so let’s hope I can get this fixed.

Until then, I have a back-up forum that I’m going to link in the top of the updates, where I’ll post anything I post here. Now, hopefully the next email you get from me is an update for Flash Fiction. I am updating that in about an hour (1:20-1:30 PM EST) so bookmark that link above and check there.

April 15, 2023

Download Links: Fool Me Twice, Book 2 – Chapters 50 & 54 | Book 1 – Just the Flashbacks

Hey! So as part of my promise to find material to post every time I can’t update something on schedule, I’m here to offer some REALLY good stuff, lol. I was planning to do Flash Fiction, but my dad is coming up to do some work at the house, so I can’t write while he’s here, and he didn’t tell me what time (and I was afraid he’d  changed his mind if I asked lol, which seems dumb but there you go), so I just can’t get to it tonight. I will be writing tomorrow, late in the morning.

In the place of Flash Fiction, I’m giving you some chapters from Book 2 of Fool Me Twice. I’ve been working on the story structure this week, making the chapters a bit more focused and shorter. This comes from about 20% of the way into the book. (Chapter numbering picks up from Book 1, which ended at Chapter 38). This is a first draft which means some of the dialogue has to be tweaked or revised. (NEITHER of these chapters were planned at the beginning, lol, they just happened.)

And the other file is just a PDF collection of the Flashbacks from Book 1 organized in chronological order. I tossed it together as story tool for myself, but you guys might find it interesting, too, especially if you skipped them in the first read through, lol.

See you tomorrow morning!

April 10, 2023

Update: Invisible Strings – Part 19

Today was the first day of the break I felt like doing anything other than vegging out 😛 I prepped some school work, finished a chapter of Fool Me Twice, did my laundry, and washed my hair — all before noon. Woot! Then I have to get an x-ray and clean the kitchen. Glad I have one more day of break that doesn’t have so much scheduled.

See you tomorrow!

This entry is part 19 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Invisible Strings

Written in 55 minutes.

It was nearly three hours before a trio of horses rode through the gates of the ranch, and Elizabeth watched their approach to the house, fretting over the dark storm clouds looming ever closer.

The horses came right up to the house, Johnny followed by Dr. Drake and Dillon—Elizabeth went to the door, pulling it open just as the group reached it. “I’m so relieved you’ve made it back, but—”

“Don’t worry about the storm,” Dillon said, patting her arm and steering her away from the door as Patrick and Johnny brought in the supplies that had been stored in the saddlebags. “Patrick and I will get back to town before it hits. I didn’t want him riding on his own.”

“Where’s my patient?” Patrick asked, picking up the dark bag he’d brought.

“Upstairs. I’ll show you—”

“Best let me do that, missus,” Alice said, bustling past them. “Mister Jason won’t want you to get too close—” She began the climb to the second story, and Patrick followed. Elizabeth stared up mutinously. Surely a few seconds wouldn’t hurt—

“Johnny said Jason was handling everything on his own.”

“He worries for the baby.” Elizabeth rested her hand against the curve of her belly. “And I know that makes sense—”

“Here, let’s go in by the fire.” Dillon swept off his hat and led Elizabeth into the parlor. He checked the fireplace, adding another log. “Jason just doesn’t want to risk you. Can’t imagine anything worse than having to lose you and the babe—”

“I—I know that.”

“And the little mite is going to need you when his fever breaks,” Dillon continued. He spied the tea tray Alice kept refilling. “Let me pour you—”

“I just—he’s my son. I haven’t—” She sank onto the chaise, her eyes round with worry. “I’m frightened,” Elizabeth admitted finally. “That all of the efforts will not be enough, and we’ll—” She closed her mouth, unable to even allow the words out into the open.

“If Jason could will it to be done, Cameron would already be skipping around with his dog.” Dillon dragged a hand across the back of his neck. “Don’t know how he’ll manage if it happens again.”

“Again—” Elizabeth paused. “You’re speaking of Michael. Alice said Jason looked after him during the illness.”

“Before, during, and after,” Dillon said with a nod. “My cousin—his brother—AJ wasn’t much of a father. He and the wife, Caroline, were rarely here, always in San Francisco. Once little Michael was able to move around, Jason brought him out here a few times a week.”

“Oh. I didn’t—”

“Wouldn’t be surprised if Michael knew Jason better than his own father. When Michael fell ill, Jason wouldn’t let anyone else touch him. Don’t know how he did it. Barely slept. Barely ate. But nothing seemed to help. Michael couldn’t keep anything down. Jason kept dribbling water and broth—anything he could. But he just…faded.” Dillon’s voice was rough as he stepped over to the mantel, resting a hand against it. “Jason washed him once last time and put him in the coffin himself.”

“I didn’t realize—” Elizabeth fisted her hand in her lap. “He’s spoken a time or two of his nephew, but I don’t think I realized that Michael was more like his own son.”

“Yeah, well, I guess I didn’t think about it much until Grandmother sent me out here with the cradle. Jason sent me back almost immediately. Michael was the last baby to use it. Probably can’t stand to look at it.”

“No, I don’t imagine he can.” She rose. “You’ll want something warm to eat before you head back, and so will Dr. Drake.”

Upstairs, Alice hovered in the doorway, worried to come any closer as Patrick leaned over Cameron, laying flat on his back, his skin still hot.

“Fever dropped a bit,” Jason said, lacing both his hands at the back of his neck. “After a snow bath. We gave him honey syrup with ginger for the throat. It worked for a while, but it’s wearing off.”

“Won’t hurt to repeat that every few hours, but best I can tell, Jase, you’re doing all you can here.” Patrick straightened, went to the wash stand where a pitcher of water awaited. It had been set out the night before so that Cameron could wash when he woke in the morning. Now, Patrick used to wash his hands, face, neck.

“All I can.” Jason flicked his eyes back to his son, restlessly turning back and forth, unable to become comfortable. “But it might not be enough.”

“We never know, do we?” Patrick murmured. “Maybe the day will come when we do. But until then—you keep up with the usual. Wash with soap every time you leave the room. Have your housekeeper do the same—” At Jason’s confused glance, he continued, “Read a new article from a journal in San Francisco. Dr. Lister’s germ theory. Anyhow, you want to make sure your wife doesn’t fall ill. She won’t have the same reserves to throw it off, and unborn babies don’t do well with fevers.”

“I’ve told the others I’ll handle it.” Jason followed Patrick to the hall. “But that’s it. Nothing else we can do?”

“It’s the grippe, Jason. There’s no cure. We treat the symptoms. Keep his fever down, make he rests. Eats, drinks. Ease the pain in the throat to make that easier.” Patrick pressed his lips together. “When this storm passes and the roads are safe, I’ll come back out this way.”

“Thank you.”

“Soap and water,” Patrick tossed over his shoulder as he headed to the stairwell. Jason grimaced and went back to Cameron’s room. He peered out the window. The storm was still another hour or so away—they’d need to do another snow bath quickly or else it would be too dangerous to leave the house.


The slurred words drew Jason’s attention, and he all but leapt to the bedside, kneeling down so that his face was only inches from his son’s. Cameron’s eyes didn’t open, his cheeks and neck flush with fever.

“Hey, kid.” Jason touched his forehead. “What do you need?”

“Mama. Mama.”

Jason squeezed his eyes closed. Cameron needed his mother, of course he did. Until the last year, she’d been the anchor in his life. He dared not to risk her, but—

“Don’t be angry.”

He whipped his head around and saw Elizabeth at the doorway. He rose. “Elizabeth—”

“Dr. Drake told me about the soap and the water. And he said—” Her eyes were round and wide, hopeful. “I couldn’t—for longer than a moment. But, oh, please, just for a moment.”

“Yeah. Of course.” Jason exhaled in a rush. He went over to lead her to the wash stand — best if hands were clean going in, and then cleaned again, right? That made sense.


“Hello, my darling boy.” Elizabeth perched on the edge of his bed, and Cameron smiled. “Is Papa taking good care of you?”

“Bestest…” Cameron forced his eyes open. “Hurts. Everywhere.”

“I know, I know—” A tear slid down her cheek, but she made herself smile. “But you’ll listen to all that Papa says, and you’ll be feeling fit in no time.”

“Okay, Mama. Good boy.”

“You are a good boy. The absolute best.” She touched his cheek, then rushed out of the room, her heels clicking hard against the floor. Jason followed, finding her across the hall in her room, washing her hands fervently.

Wordlessly, he joined her there and washed his own hands. Then he drew Elizabeth into his arms the way he’d wanted to earlier, praying Patrick was correct. That the illness was less likely to spread.

“I’ll do whatever I have to make him well again,” Jason found himself promising, though it was a foolish offer to make, and he felt her body jerk in response. “Elizabeth—”

“That is not your promise to keep,” she murmured. She drew back, her eyes searching his. “But I know that you’ll do what you can, and we will pray it is enough. He was a strong, sturdy boy. That can matter sometimes.”


“And sometimes it doesn’t matter how healthy the child or how well-loved he is. How devoted his guardians are—” Elizabeth touched his jaw, the tips of her fingers brushing across his lips. “Sometimes the world is cruel for no reason at all. Whatever happens, I know that you will have done all you could.”

He kissed her fingertips, then drew back. “I need to get back to him.”

“And I need to be sure Dr. Drake and Dillon start back to town and that we are well-supplied. That storm looks worse than the last.”

Jason walked her to the stairwell, gave orders for a snow bath in a quarter of an hour, then returned to Cameron’s bedside. He picked up the book on the table, found their place, and continued to read. “‘His spirit inspired me with great respect…'”

Elizabeth watched Patrick and Dillon ride off under the gate, then made sure with Alice that they had all they needed—and checked their supply of soap.

“Imagine a thing such as soap keeping a man from being ill,” Alice murmured, staring at the chunk Elizabeth placed next to the washstand in the kitchen. “Makes sense, I suppose, don’t you think, missus?”

“It can make a man smell sweet which is no easy feat.” Elizabeth washed her hands again, the third time since she’d left Jason upstairs. It had been worth the risk for the moment with her son, to hold Jason in her arms. “And we’ll follow the doctor’s orders.”

“That we will, missus. And that includes making sure you have your meal.” Alice set down a plate at the kitchen table. “You eat up while I take these pails snow upstairs.”

Cameron’s fever raged on for five full days and four nights as a blizzard pelted the house with snow for three of those days. Johnny kept them well-stocked with logs for the fireplaces, and he himself hunkered down in one of the guest chambers to be ready if Jason needed anything.

Elizabeth tried very hard not to go into the sick room again, but she hovered in the doorway from time to time. Jason developed a routine quite quickly — medicine and a snow bath every four hours. Alice kept a pot of broth simmering on the stove, ready whenever Cameron seemed able to keep down his food.

Cameron coughed and wheezed, rarely able to do much more than lay in bed or in Jason’s arms while Alice changed his sheets, sometimes more than twice a day. Alice looked for any small chore she might be able to accomplish towards Cameron’s recovery.

Elizabeth scarcely slept through any of it, pacing the floors of the parlor and her own bedroom, worried sick for her entire family. What would she do if she lost her little boy? Would Jason ever forgive himself? And would she able to keep her own promise if the worst happen? Would she be able to believe that they’d done all they could?

But finally, finally on the six day, Elizabeth woke in the early morning hours, the sunlight streaming in through her bedroom window — the first truly sunny days in more than a week, which meant the clouds had gone.

Elizabeth got to her feet, slid her feet into slippers, and drew on her dressing gown. She stopped to wash her hands, then went across the hall.

Jason sat in the big chair by the window, his head lolling to one side, his arms wrapped protectively around Cameron, curled up in his lap, a counterpane wrapped around the little boy. It was the first time she’d seen Jason asleep at all, and it was a—

Her thoughts stumbled to a stop as she looked more closely at the pair, and gasped. She went into the room, pressed a hand to Cameron’s forehead.  Tears gathered and she sank to her knees, a sob rising in her throat.

At the sound, Jason jerked awake, his arms tightening around Cameron. “What—” He stared at Elizabeth, at the tears. “Elizabeth? You shouldn’t—”

“His fever—” Elizabeth could barely say the words. “Oh, his fever. It’s broken, Jason.” The tears slid down her cheek—tears of relief, of victory. He stared at her for another moment, before looking at their son, at the damp sweat on his cheeks, his neck— Jason sat up, his eyes bloodshot.

“His fever is gone—” Jason closed his eyes, pulled Cameron against him, and rocked gently, the little boy stirring slightly. “You’re all right. You’re all right,” he repeated. He kissed Cameron’s damp forehead, a tear sliding his cheek. “You made it.”

April 9, 2023

Update Link: Invisible Strings – Part 18

Happy Easter! Hope everyone has a great holiday. A little bit sad here — I’ve only got two days left of spring break, which seems insane, lol. There’s talk of adjusting the schedule to match the surrounding areas. We’re a K-8 district, and our sister high school district (where most of our kiddos matriculate after they leave us) has a full week, so it’s hard for parents to handle childcare and vacations. Let’s cross our fingers because your girl really needs more than a long weekend. I feel like I spend most of these breaks resting and recharging and there’s not really a chance to enjoy myself.

Anyway, hope the day is good for you 🙂 Going to kick back and watch my Phillies sweep the Reds (rough start to the season but we’re back on track), then head to dinner with sister and family. Love you all!

This entry is part 18 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Invisible Strings

Written in 60 minutes.

Elizabeth knew that she ought to simply accept Jason at his word and allow his reassurances to soothe any lingering doubts, but it proved to be more difficult in the days that followed the assembly.  She told herself that Jason had never been anything other than honest, but she also knew he was kind and could find ways to shade a truth and cloak it with that decency.

Perhaps it was the child she carried that had caused these worries to resurface after months of lying dominant. And the cold, bitter winter that set in during early January, she thought, hardly helped. There had been a brief respite from the heavy snowfall when she and Jason had taken Cameron into town for a winter fair, and he’d begun teaching Cameron how to ice skate.

But then another storm hit shortly after that confined Elizabeth and Cameron to the house, only Jason braving the outside to tend to the horses and other animals out in the stables and barn — most of the ranch hands had left for the season, heading south for warmer weather as they did every year.

“How are you feeling today, Miss Elizabeth?” Alice asked cheerfully, setting down a breakfast plate. “Have you felt the new baby kick?”

“Flutters—” Elizabeth pressed a hand to her belly, the curve just beginning to deepen. “It was a few more weeks with Cameron.” It had been such a blessing to feel that movement, even when it had been painful and uncomfortable—it had reminded Elizabeth in the dark days after she’d left home and struck out on her own—that she wouldn’t be alone forever.

Alice drew her brows together. “Speaking of our young master, he’s not come down yet.” She smiled again, touching Elizabeth’s shoulder. “You stay and eat, miss. I’ll fetch him. Likely, he’s been distracted by that puppy.”

“All right. Thank you.” Elizabeth was grateful — she tired easily and the thought of taking those stairs again so soon was too much. She picked up her fork and began to eat.

Jason shoved another log onto the fire in the parlor, grimacing out the front window. He could see the dark storm clouds on the horizon and hoped it wouldn’t bring as much snow as the last one. Otherwise, they’d be trapped out on the ranch for weeks.

“Mister Jason.”

He turned to find Alice in the doorway, her hands clutched in front of her. “Alice? Is something wrong?” Her face was pale, her mouth pinched. His breath caught. “Elizabeth?”

“No, no, the missus is eating in the dining room. I don’t wish to alarm her in her condition—I went to check on little Cameron, and oh, he’s running a fever.”

A fever. Jason swallowed hard. It could be nothing. Children ran fevers. There were small colds and sniffles. But Alice had raised a son. Had looked after Michael and Emily. She knew when to worry. “Be sure Elizabeth stays down here,” he told her. “I’ll check on him.”

He forced himself to take the stairs slowly—the sound of his heavy footsteps rushing up the stairs would only carry and the very last thing he wanted was to worry Elizabeth before there was a good reason.

The little dog, Pip, was whining when Jason pushed open the door, circling and likely needing to be taken out side. The room was darkened — the sunlight was too weak to carry much light.

And Cameron lay on his back in the bed, the bedclothes kicked off. His blond hair was damp against his forehead. Jason gently perched on the edge, his pulse skittering as he drew closer—he could feel the heat from the little boy’s body even before Jason could touch him.

Jason brushed his hand against Cameron’s cheek. “Cam?” he murmured, still hoping it was nothing more than a simply illness. “Cam? Can you open your eyes?”

His eyelids fluttered but didn’t fully open, nothing more than a sliver of blue. “Papa.” The words were hoarse, pained. “Hurt.”

“Where?” Jason murmured, checking over his small body, praying he’d find no evidence of rashes. It could be so many things—

“Head. Feet. All over.” Cameron rolled over and curled his body into a fetal position. “Hurts.”

“Okay. Okay.” Jason smoothed his sweaty hair back off his forehead, then jerked back as Cameron began to cough violently, his small body wracked with tremors. It wasn’t a dry cough—

He exhaled slowly. The grippe. Fevers. Coughs. He’d had it as a child and survived, but he’d known several other children in town that had been killed by the high fevers. The body could only handle so much heat—and it was contagious. Highly contagious.

“All right.” Jason drew the covers back over Cameron. “Stay here. Rest. I’ll bring you something to help.”


“I know. Close your eyes. I’ll be back.”

Jason left the door open a crack and carried Pip downstairs. “Alice,” he said, finding the housekeeper hovering at the bottom. “I need you to take care of the dog, and then I need—” His mind raced. “It’s the grippe,” he told her.

Alice’s breath rushed out. “Oh, oh. Oh, dear. I have some honey syrup, and, oh, I stocked up on ginger when I was last in town. And I’ll get Johnny to get a snow bath ready.”

“Good. Good. I need to tell Elizabeth. And Alice—” He stopped her as she headed for the back of the house. “It’ll just be me looking after him. I won’t risk Elizabeth falling ill, and you need to take care of her.”

“You can depend on me, Mister Jason.” Alice always did better with a mission, and with her shoulders squared, she continued back towards the kitchen.

Jason went the opposite way, finding his way to the dining room where Elizabeth was finishing her breakfast. She had a teacup in her hand and a smile on her face when she saw him on the doorway. “Oh. Good morning. I slept so late—” The smile faded when he remained where he stood. “Jason?”

“Cameron has the grippe,” he said, and she was on her feet in a flash. “No,” he said, holding out a hand. “Don’t come any closer. I’ve already been in with him, and this can spread fast.”

“He’s my son—”

“And he’s mine, too,” Jason said. “I’ll see to him. We can’t risk you—”

“But—” Her eyes filled even as her hands rested protectively over the child she carried. “Jason, you could fall ill—”

“I know it. But I’m an adult, and I know how to take care of myself. Cameron’s still young. He’ll fight the snow baths and some of the medicine. If you weren’t—”

“If it were just me.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. Nodded. “Of course. Of course. You’re quite right.”

“I better head back upstairs.” He hovered another moment, hating that he couldn’t touch her, couldn’t hold her and offer more hope. He wouldn’t, of course, promise that Cameron would come through this. The odds were in their favor, but Jason knew better than most how fragile life was.

Particularly slight little boys like Cameron.

“I’ll take care of him,” Jason said, instead, holding her gaze.

“I know you will.”

Jason turned and went upstairs to await Alice.

He was right. Cameron fought like a wild man when Jason lowered him into the bathtub filled with snow. “No! No! Burns!”

“I know,” Jason said, wincing. The tiny fists that flew at him barely made an impact, but the tears and sobs of the miserable child did. But Cameron was burning up and he had to cool down his  body.

Alice hovered near the door, the container of honey syrup and a glass in her hand. After a few minutes holding Cameron down in the bath, Jason lifted him out, quickly wrapping him on a long dry cloth.

“Hurts,” Cameron sobbed, but he’d lost much his energy in the earlier fight and just slumped against his stepfather. “Papa.”

“I’ve got you,” Jason murmured, sitting in a chair in the corner of the room, cuddling Cameron in his arms, keeping him as far away as possible as Alice and Johnny removed the bath. When they were gone, Jason gave Cameron the syrup, unsure whether to be relieved or worried when Cameron didn’t fight on the medicine, only let the spoon between his lips with a grimace at the strange taste.

He dressed Cameron in a fresh, wool nightshirt, then kept him in his arms, sitting back in the chair as the exhausting and trembling boy curled back into his embrace. The fever still burned, but not quite as high, Jason thought.

“Johnny’s riding to town for Doc Drake,” Alice said from the doorway.

Jason frowned at her. “But the storm—”

“Still aways off, and the snow is packed hard enough. We need a few supplies, and you’ll want your family to know—not Miss Lila,” Alice added. “But Mister Dillon. In case—in case.”

If the worst happened, Jason wouldn’t have to leave Elizabeth to inform his grandmother. He nodded grimly, tightening his hold around Cameron as if that alone could protect him.

“And I’ll see to the missus. She’s already fretting something fierce,” Alice added, “but I know she feel better knowing you’ve got in all in hand.”

Alice disappeared down the hall, and Jason exhaled slowly. He certainly hoped that was true. He readjusted Cameron and reached for the book on the table beside him. “‘At the appointed time I returned to Miss Havisham’s'”, Jason read,  “‘and my hesitating ring at the gate brought out Estella….”

Elizabeth was pacing the length of the parlor, unable to consider the basket of mending at her side. Her little boy, the center of her world, was ill, and she couldn’t touch him, couldn’t look after him—

She knew Jason had made the right choice—that she had more than just Cameron to think of, but, oh, it felt as though she were choosing between her children—and what if—

“Now here, missus—” Alice bustled in, a tea tray in her hands. “You need to rest. Keep off your feet. Mister Jason will do better if I can bring him good news of you—”

“How is Cameron?” Elizabeth asked, allowing Alice to settle her back in the chair. Then the housekeeper poured tea. “I heard—”

“He didn’t enjoy his snow bath, but he already looks better,” Alice said, patting Elizabeth’s hand. “Mister Jason knows all about caring for little ones. He saw to little Michael all on his own, you know.”

“No, I—” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I didn’t realize that.” And cholera was a nasty illness—it would have been dreadful to watch a small boy waste away like that. “How awful.”

“Wouldn’t hear of anyone else. We were so thankful at first,” Alice said, “for the little master had been tucked away in the nursery and we thought he’d been spared. He and Miss Emily. Such a sweet girl. You have the care of her Ruby, you know.”

“Jason said as much. And I know Cameron’s pony was meant for Michael.”

“We’d already lost Mister Alan and his son. Mister Edward hung on for as long as he could, worried over his Lila.” Alice’s voice had roughened. “And my boy. My Ryan. We lost him within a few days.”

“Alice, I’m so sorry—”

“But little Michael—” Alice pressed a hand to her chest. “Well, that felt too much, you see. As if perhaps we’d been forsaken by a vengeful God. I know that might be blasphemous, but he was just a baby. Only just beginning to speak and be his own person—” She cleared her throat. “But Mister Jason took care of him from beginning to end. You shouldn’t worry about that.”

“I don’t.” And she realized that was true. She knew her son would receive the best care—that Jason loved Cameron as his own. “But it won’t stop me from worrying at all.”

“No, of course not. That’s a mother’s lot in life. But we’ll do our best, missus, and pray for mercy.”

April 8, 2023

No Flash Fiction today, but I did promise daily updates (I just woke up feeling a bit off, so I’m resting my brain). Last week, Susan told me that the ebook for Mad World, Book 1 had a chapter issue (Chapter 10 had been pasted in twice, one in place of Chapter 6). When I went to update that, I realized, I never formatted the second half of Book 4. So I spent about an hour doing that today.

All four books are available now as ebooks in the following formats: .epub, .pdf, and .mobi. Let me know if there’s a format you need for your reading device! I fixed my ebook compiling issues in Scrivener, so I’m going be looking at getting my older stuff updated into ebooks.

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