Journey’s End-Chapter One: The Man in the Room

Author’s Note: Well, here we go, the beginning of what I hope to be a great journey that we’ll take together.  I suppose the first thing I should mention is that I hope no one will expect updates on this story to come particularly rapidly.  I have some parts hashed completely out, and some parts that will take quite a bit of work before I can put them down in full words.

But procrastination will only lead away from one’s destination, I suppose.

A quick note.  This chapter does start off a little slow, and there’s a specific reason why that I discussed a little with my friend Kathy who is going to help me keep this story nice and tidy.  The main reason is that when I first started telling this story to my daughters, the main character was originally much younger.  But it became quickly necessary to grow the main character up a bit, which is what accounts for the kind of slow exposition that leads into the story.  I could have done this a different way, but at that point we would have had to burn several chapters just to get to the real story, so I made a choice and ran with it.

Other than that, I truly hope you enjoy!

Journey’s End

For Kalani and Camryn

Chapter 1: The Man in the Room

Lindsey and Sara were sisters. No, not just sisters; sisters hardly seems adequate to describe the relationship the two girls shared. After all, some sisters hardly ever speak, others speak an awful lot, but usually when they “speak,” their speaking is better defined as screaming and shouting and swearing.


Some sisters go their entire lives without seeing each other, while other sisters will smile and talk sweetly to one another, the whole time harboring old grudges and grievances behind their pleasant masks.

Not Lindsey and Sara. When I say they were sisters, I mean to say that you would be hard pressed to find two girls who cared more for each other, who loved each other more unconditionally, and who were as fond of each other as these two.


Lindsey was the elder of the two by one and one half years. Quiet and somewhat shy, Lindsey’s big brown eyes were often found buried in a book, be it a school book or one of the many adventures she had stocked in her bookshelves. She was pretty, mind you, and friendly if given half a chance, but being around people always made her a little self-conscious and far too uncomfortable for her liking.


By contrast, Sara often found little use for books, instead preferring the company of the many friends she seemed to make just about anywhere she visited.


In fact, Lindsey and Sara were opposites in many ways. Where Sara was adventurous and seemingly fearless, Lindsey was cautious and reserved. Where Sara liked to wear loud clothes and keep her hair in spunky pigtails, Lindsey preferred muted dresses and no nonsense pony tails.


And yet, for all their differences, the two sisters found no better company in any one person than in each other. Lindsey, who always excelled in her school work, naturally helped Sara whenever she was having trouble with her math homework, or studying for an English test. Sara, who never liked to see her sister sitting alone, always managed to find a way to squeeze Lindsey in whatever social group she found herself in.


This was how the two girls grew up. Instead of letting their obvious differences wedge them apart, the sisters continuously found new ways to use those differences to tie them even closer together.


At least, that’s how things were until Lindsey started high school.


Though, because of their age, the two girls had been separated by schools before, and suffered little because of it, high school, for some reason, was different. It wasn’t as though they began hating each other all of a sudden, nor was it that they missed each other much; they still shared a bedroom.


But as Lindsey plodded her way tortuously through that first year of high school, she came to realize that the place itself was so different from everything else she had experienced. She loved Sara, appreciated Sara, and was most grateful for the fact that she never minded helping her big sister meet new friends; but she never felt as though she would be completely and totally lost without Sara.


High school was different. She felt… She felt like a little girl lost among a world of adults. Her plain and simple dresses felt so unnatural in a world where all the other girls wore women’s clothes, evocative clothes, the kinds of clothes that even Sara wouldn’t wear. And the social castes that existed; those took Lindsey’s breath away.


Sure, she had been used to being something of an outcast without Sara to prod her along, but in high school there were full blown communities that moved in packs; even the outcasts had their own little pecking order, and none of them, from the elite debutantes to the lowest geek squad, none of them seemed to notice her in the slightest.


In this strange new land caught somewhere between being a child and being an adult, without Sara, Lindsey felt completely and totally invisible.


And over the course of that first year, for the very first time, Lindsey began to resent her sister a little. She hated how dependent she had become on Sara, and when she felt at her most invisible, when she felt as though the entire world was spinning while she continued to stand still, she could feel herself blame Sara at least a little bit.


This was made all the worse when the Summer came as Sara’s rapid fire questions forced Lindsey into lying to her sister for the first time in memory.


“What’s it like?” Sara would ask, her legs crossed beneath her and her eyes wide as she perched herself on the foot of Lindsey’s bed.


“It’s… It’s great,” Lindsey would tell her, trying desperately not to let her face betray her true feelings.


“Oh, and the boys… I’m so tired of the boys in junior high. I bet the boys in high school are gorgeous.”


“Some are,” Lindsey would say.


And on, and on. For Lindsey, high school had become little more than torment, but to see her sister as the days of Summer slowly drew to a close, Lindsey would have thought that there was no greater place on Earth.


How can she be so excited? Lindsey would often wonder. She just couldn’t understand it. To be sure, she understood full well her sister’s excitement, she just couldn’t understand how it was so easy for Sara when it was so hard for her.


What did Sara have that Lindsey lacked? And why did Lindsey lack it?


She never grew to hate Sara. But as Sara’s first day at high school neared, Lindsey found herself blaming her little sister more and more until, on the night before school was to begin, she had finally come to a realization.


Lindsey was being unfair.


If anything, it was her fault for relying upon Sara so much; for not taking control over her own life.


But how to do these things for herself, that was the question.


With the horror of a new school year only hours away, Lindsey laid awake in bed, her thoughts racing. When she finally decided to talk to Sara, to quit hiding the feelings that continued to eat away at her, the little red digits on her alarm clock that cut through the darkness told her it was eleven o’clock at night.


“Sara?” she whispered. There was no answer.


“Sara, are you still awake?” she tried again, but she didn’t need the reverberating silence to tell her what she already knew; Sara had fallen asleep much earlier.


This would be yet another thing that differed greatly between the girls. While Lindsey would lie awake for hours staring at the dim shadows that crawled across their ceiling through the darkness of night, her mind busily leaping from one stream of thought to another, Sara had the enviable gift of falling asleep almost as soon as her head touched her pillow.


Lindsey sighed. She supposed she could wait until the next morning; they had a sufficiently long walk to the bus stop wherein Lindsey could ask her sister, perhaps years too late, what it was that she had been doing wrong all this time in private. But with a sinking feeling, Lindsey remembered Sara earlier explaining that she had a group of friends that would be joining them on their morning walk.


Lindsey sighed again, rolled over, and closed her eyes with the hopes that sleep would soon come to her. But it didn’t. It never did, not when she had this much weighing on her mind, which, lately, was most of the time.


Frustrated, she opened her eyes again and stared at the ceiling. She thought of the scuffed and faded walls of that place, and the concrete floors. God, how she hated that place, from the tired looking buildings to the ever present sound of shuffling feet and idle chatter. She didn’t know how much more of it she could take, how many more days and weeks and months she could stand having everyone walk by her as if she didn’t even exist.


And then a terrible thought crept into her head. What if that is how it had always been but she was simply too ignorant to notice? What if it wasn’t high school at all, but her?


In the darkness of her room and her own thoughts, she surveyed her short life, looking for some signal, some sign that it wasn’t just her; that it was instead that place she had learned to hate, but nothing came.


That thought stung a little. It wasn’t just high school—it was her. It was as though she was like a puzzle piece thrown in the wrong box, one that simply never fit. Earlier on in her life it didn’t quite matter so much because there were so many other pieces like her, pieces that had yet to become a part of the greater picture. But now time was running out and with the picture nearly fully formed she could tell that she didn’t belong; her colors were wrong. Her shape was wrong.


This left her to wonder if there was a place out there for her. If so, where? Would she ever find it?


Her thoughts continued like this as the minutes tracked by her glowing red alarm clock ticked by and collected into hours and still sleep would not come.


Rolling over for what felt like the hundredth time, Lindsey cast a wary glance at her alarm clock. Great. One in the morning. Not only did she have to begin another year at high school in just a matter of hours, she would have to do so with big bags under her eyes and a whole body full of muscles and joints aching to go back to bed all day long.


But then something else caught her eye.


After fifteen years of sleeping in the same room, in the same bed that had not been moved since Sara had outgrown her crib and their parents had to rearrange the furniture to accommodate two full sized beds, Lindsey knew what her room looked like after bedtime. She knew the way the light of the street lamps crept in through the slats in the window blinds and cast the opposing wall in thin bars of dark gray. She knew the way the shadows of the desk and night tables and drawers all lurked in their places, blurry and nondescript. She even knew the different lights that snuck in under her door; there was the yellow light from the hall when her parents were making ready to go to bed, and the faint orange light from the hallway nightlight. She could even recognize the faintly flickering eggshell blue light that darted back and forth whenever her parents were watching television.


But the light that she saw poking out from beneath the bedroom door was most definitely different.


It was dark blue, and for the briefest moment Lindsey mistook it for the light that signaled her parents watching tv, but this light was dark, deeper, and did not jump back and forth. Besides, at one in the morning, her parents should be in bed by now.


She sat up, thinking that what she saw was just a trick of the light, but even as she squinted at the narrow opening beneath her bedroom door, the dark blue light did not go away. Lindsey rubbed her eyes and tried again, but the strange light persisted in being there.


Strange, she thought, and padded her way towards it.


Standing at her bedroom door, she could see her toes bathed in the light, her toe nails glistening ever so slightly. That’s not a trick of the light, she thought and, curiosity getting the better of her, she turned the door knob.


Half expecting to be bathed in darkness, Lindsey was shocked to find the entire hallway cast in that eerie blue glow. Could Mom and Dad have left the tv on? she asked herself. It wouldn’t be the first time, she knew, but at this point she also knew that she didn’t really believe that this was the case.


She was trying to justify something that simply didn’t make any sense.


At that moment, Lindsey faced a simple decision. She could just close the door and go to bed, pretend she didn’t see what she thought she was seeing, and when she woke up she would pretend nothing had happened and go about her normal life. She could take the two or three steps to her parents’ bedroom, knock on their door, and with wide eyes tell them about the blue light.


Or she could investigate it on her own.


There was no going back to bed after this; that much was obvious. But what about her parents? No, that wouldn’t do. The mere thought made Lindsey feel as though she were three again and running to her mommy and daddy to get away from the monster under the bed or in the closet.


No, there was only one thing she could do.


With a look over her shoulder at her sleeping sister, Lindsey took a step into the hallway. She kept a hand braced against the wall as she slowly crept her way down, past her parents’ bedroom, past the bathroom, past the cramped little office where her father did most of his work.


It did seem as though the light was coming from the living room, the front room that forked off to the right at the end of the hall as pitched in shadow as ever. It was off to the left, through the dining room, the kitchen and into the living room where the blue light seemed to be getting stronger.


And that is when Lindsey heard it; a noise. No, not a noise but music, faint and low, and it was picking out the same melody over and over again.


Boom-ba-da Boom-ba-da Boom-ba-da Ba-da-da Ba-da-da


It was like listening to the heartbeat of a heart that forgot the way that hearts were supposed to beat, and just this thought alone forced Lindsey to pay attention to her own heart which was thumping furiously against her chest.


It wasn’t like she was afraid, exactly; at this point it seemed the worst case scenario was that someone had broken into their house to play music in their living room. But there was a kind of anxious thrill running through her, as though something was waiting for her, something dark, something that rested on the tip of her tongue like the name of that song that you just barely overheard and you would know the title if you could just hear a little more of it, but then it’s gone like a memory that never was.


Still she pressed on, inching ever nearer, her fingers continuing to glide over the smooth wall until she noticed that it was no longer smooth but rough and scratchy and she turned to look.


That’s odd, she thought, but odd was an understatement. Beneath her fingers was no longer the off white painted wall she had grown up with, but brick, dark red brick that looked purple or maroon in the blue light. There was never brick there before, and she looked behind her, half expecting the hallway from which she came to be lined in the stuff, but instead she saw only the familiar doors and familiar off white walls, and she thought, for the second time, that she could still just go back to her bed, go to sleep, and forget any of this was happening.


She shook her head at the thought, and continued down the increasingly less familiar hallway.


Lindsey didn’t get far, though, when she noticed a change in the music. Not a change, exactly, but an addition. Now, along with the low, almost sleazy feeling base line, she could just make out a staccato rhythm softly tapping its way out on what sounded like a hi-hat or a cymbal.


Tss-ta-ta Tss-ta-ta Tss-ta-ta Tss


The two independent strains of music wound themselves around each other, mixing and mingling, becoming almost a single entity, but not quite. It was mellow, but edgy, harmless but dark, and it lured her ever closer until she realized she was standing in her dining room.


Only, it didn’t look much like her dining room. It looked sort of like the place where she and her family ate dinner every night. But the floor was different, replaced with smooth concrete, just as the walls continued on in the red brick that began back at the hallway. The once wooden table was now made of black wrought iron with a grated surface.


Lindsey continued to stare at this strange reflection, or parody, of her dining room as she crossed the threshold into the kitchen only to find that the kitchen hadn’t just changed; it simply wasn’t there anymore.


While the hallway and dining room both at least bore a resemblance to what they once were, the kitchen and living room were completely different. The breakfast bar where she and her sister forced down toaster waffles every morning was gone, along with the refrigerator, the couches of the living room, the television—all of it.


What took their place was what appeared to be a restaurant of some sort, with miniature versions of the wrought iron table in the dining room scattered about, flickering candles shielded in blue glass in the center of each. Posters for film noir titles Lindsey had never heard of hung from the walls next to framed photographs of beat poets and jazz musicians while small circular frosted windows tucked high up in the walls hinted at a dark, arc sodium lamp lit night outside.


The shock of all of this, however, paled in comparison with what Lindsey found all the way on the other side of the room. There, where their modest television should have been, was a three piece band, still playing that strange tune.


They were dressed in white, which shone pale blue in the brilliant blue spotlights that illuminated them. A short, troll-like man plucked a bass that towered over him, whilst in the center of a staging area a chubby, cherub-faced man continued to tap out the rhythm on his little drum kit, his white sports coat looking as though its seams might bust at any moment, and yet he didn’t seem to care. In fact, from the way his dim eyes stared off into space, Lindsey wondered if he even realized where he was at that moment.


Off to the side, the third man stood, his thin figure scarecrow like as one hand held a trombone, and the other snapped lazily in time with the music. A pristine white wide-brimmed hat covered nearly the entirety of his face, and even when he finally raised the brass horn to his lips Lindsey still couldn’t make out the barest details besides shadows and nothing more.


He blew a slow, sad dirge that felt almost, but not quite, out of place to the rest of the music. At first, the mismatch was so glaringly obvious that Lindsey likened it to nails across a chalkboard (she could NEVER stand that noise, and even the thought of it made goose pimples break out all over her arms), but either she acclimated quickly to the strange blend of rhythms, or the horn man subtly adjusted to be more in keeping with his band mates for the effect quickly faded.


Lindsey could feel the music moving through her, moving her, touching her in a way that music hadn’t done in a long time. She had only ever listened to what Sara listened to because Sara was the one that knew which bands were popular and which weren’t, but those bands always felt so terribly empty and two dimensional, as though you could almost reach out and peel off the veneer and all you would find underneath were simple mathematic formulas (Lyrics A + Rhythm B + Instrumental C = $$$$).


This was different. This was deep. Without speaking a single word, this little band was saying more than any song Lindsey ever heard on the radio, and despite the absolute impossibility of her situation, she found herself gently moving in time with the music.


“You can sit wherever you like, Miss,” a low voice spoke from behind her, making Lindsey jump.


She turned to see a tall thin man in black slacks and a crisp white button up smiling at her. It was a kind smile, toothy beneath a thick moustache and made all the kinder by his shiny bald head and the crinkles at the corners of his eyes. He was motioning to the tables, and, catching the intense feeling that standing wasn’t exactly smiled upon, Lindsey pulled out the closest chair to her and sat.


“Would you like anything to drink, Miss?” the kindly looking man asked, and at first Lindsey began to shake her head, but something in the man’s eyes darkened. It was almost imperceptible, nothing that Lindsey could actually describe, but still there was… something there. Something not nearly as kind as the toothy grin and reflective pate.


“Um,” she fumbled. “Can I have a glass of water, please?”


“Come now,” he said, that dark edge in his eyes solidifying even as his grin broadened. “Let’s not be coy. We’re night people—night people don’t drink water when they’re burning the midnight oil, do they?”


Somewhat bemused, Lindsey shook her head.


“Would you like a coffee? We have a fine selection, Miss, some of the most exotic coffee beverages in the world.”


“Yes, please. I’ll have one of those.”


“Which one?”


“I… uh… um…” Lindsey wasn’t much of a coffee drinker. Her parents liked to visit coffee shops where they did all sorts of things to the coffee, but Lindsey had never been particularly fond of the stuff.


“I see,” the man said, and as he did so his eyes darkened even more just as his smile seemed to stretch to its very limit. If he smiles any further, Lindsey thought, his head is going to split in two. But it remained quite intact as he added, “I’ll select something suitable for you, how does that sound, Miss?”


“Uh… That sounds fine,” Lindsey whispered, nodding, trying to appear as natural as one could given her circumstance. But the waiter, if that was indeed what he was, only continued to give her that smile which was now quite far from kindly, and had stumbled into being downright chilling.


He gave a curt little bow, turned, and Lindsey watched as he briskly walked back to where the kitchen should be. He pushed a couple of swinging double doors open, and for a brief moment there was the pale yellow light of a restaurant kitchen, but none of the sounds and smells and wafts of steam that should have issued forth ever came. Then it was closed, and the man was gone.


Lindsey had shifted in her seat to go back to watching the band, but before she could give them her full attention, the man had returned with a steaming ceramic mug roughly the size of a punch bowl.


“Enjoy,” he smiled at her, his grin itself nearly an insult, and before she had a chance to thank him, he had already turned heel and darted off back towards the kitchen.


Lindsey shrugged. As far as she was concerned, the quicker he left, the better.


The waiter gone, the music again washed over her. It was violent, but calm, harsh, and yet soothing, three ribbons; drums, bass, and horn, all interwoven in a stream of contradictions, and with each new note she grew more entranced.


What was more, the aroma of the coffee before her seemed to blend with the sounds, slithering a rich kind of bitterness into the constant melody and forcing the wordless song to take on new meaning.


She peered inside the enormous cup. There was a creamy kind of froth that covered the surface, and in the center was a sprinkling of what looked to be some sort of red spice; paprika? Nutmeg? She wasn’t sure. What she was sure of was that the sights, sounds, smells, all began to coax her, to form around a single coherent thought where none existed before, two simple words.


“Drink me.”


She did.


It was hot, but not scalding, and rich, but not overpowering. The coffee before her was, quite simply, the most delicious thing she had ever tasted.


Lindsey redirected her attention to the band, consciously aware of how her senses again were assaulted, now from within even as the blue lights and the music and the aroma of her drink pelted her from without. Her mouth danced with an intricate combination of chocolate and coffee, the warmth of the drink sinking down her center and spreading outward and she was all of a sudden very, very relaxed.


Just as the warmth seemed to slowly fade away, Lindsey turned to take another sip, and nearly jumped right out of her seat, spilling her coffee all over herself and the floor…


…and the man that was silently sitting across from her.


“W-who are you?” she asked, thrusting her shaking hands under the table in a vainattempt to not let on how startled she was. It wasn’t just that he had snuck up on her, but that he himself was disconcerting. He looked more like a cartoon than a man; his scarlet suit and wide brimmed hat all but hanging off of what appeared to be a matchstick frame, his bone white skin and ruby red lips giving the impression less of a living breathing man, and more of some distorted harlequin doll in a zoot suit.


“Me?” the man asked in a soft, low, silky voice, a voice that fit him far better than his oversized clothes. “I’m your host, of course. Or your guest, depending upon your perspective, I suppose.”


“My host?”


He smiled, his mouth the only part of his face that Lindsey could make out from beneath the hat, and she noticed that his teeth were uncommonly large, and white, and sharp. “Yes, your host. I brought you here. That is, you’ve always been here, but I made here here, you see?”


The man waved his arm across the room in a broad gesture, showing it off like some showroom model sports car. Lindsey shook her head. “No, I don’t see.”


“Of course,” the man said. “This is a lot to take in, I admit.”


Lindsey gawked at him, unsure if he could see the look on her face, but giving it anyway.


“Oh, don’t worry, Lindsey. Everything will make sense in time, I’m sure.”


“You know my name.”


“Why wouldn’t I?” the man cooed. “This has all been arranged for you; the lighting, the music, the coffee. How do you like your coffee, by the way?”


“I like it fine,” she said. “Wait. Just… Wait. Let’s start from the beginning. You still haven’t told me your name.”


“My name,” the man parroted her. He seemed to contemplate the query intensely, his broad smile tugging down ever so slightly, threatening to turn into a frown. Finally, with a subtle shrug, he said, “You may refer to me as Mr. M.”


“Okay,” Lindsey offered cautiously. “Mr. M. Could you explain to me what’s going on?”


The bright red hat bobbed quickly up and down. “Yes. You’ve been selected.”


“Selected? Like, for a prize?”


“Oh, for something quite a bit better than a prize. I’m offering you a whole new life. A new world, a world where…” He paused. Lindsey instantly got the intense feeling that he was studying her, that his eyes were boring through the brim of his hat, and surveying her, looking into her and searching her deepest thoughts. “A world where you belong.


She gave Mr. M a wan smile. “Um, Mr. M; I think I belong here. Well, not here, but here. In my house, with my mom and dad and Sara.”




She nodded.


“But what about that place. That place where you feel like such an outsider, an alien. Misfit doesn’t begin to cover it, does it? Oh, I know you. You’ll sit and wait for Sara to cram you in where you don’t belong, like she always does, but what makes you think she’ll be there for you this time.”


“I don’t… I don’t need her, you know. I’m perfectly happy with the way things are now.”


“Don’t lie to me,” he said, his lips contracting into an exaggerated pout. “Lindsey, don’t you understand? I can hear the tears your heart weeps every day. I know the torment you feel as the world passes you by, never giving you even a glimpse of recognition that you exist. You can’t tell me this doesn’t get you… get to you.  I know.”


Lindsey sat stunned. Her thoughts were her thoughts, safe and private, and she preferred them that way. This, however, was dangerous. She speaking her own thoughts out loud would be bad enough, make them real enough. But for this stranger to voice her darkest secrets; it was as though they weren’t just made real, but breathed into life, into large hulking beasts lurking just beyond the periphery of her vision.


“And I know you’re just waiting for your little sister to hold your hand and drag you through it, just as she always does, and maybe she will tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. But what happens when she grows weary of forcing you into a light that rejects you? What happens when she gets a real boyfriend, and no longer wants her awkward big sis around? What will you do then?”


Lindsey gaped. Her mouth worked open and closed several times, her mind trying to formulate something resembling a response, but she couldn’t get beyond marveling at listening to her own anxieties spilled out before her.


“I offer you something so much better, Lindsey. I offer you a place where you fit. Isn’t that what you want? A place where people notice you, understand you, where you are a part of the big picture?”


Mr. M’s words melted into the music, and the taste, and the smell of the coffee and the continuous glow of the blue light and the way it collided so magnificently with his crimson clothes. She seemed entranced, enthralled, hyper aware. She found herself focusing on the strangest things, like the way Mr. M’s slick black hair curled up at the nape of his bone China neck ever so slightly, or the way she could trace faint, vein-like, cracks in the concrete floor.


And all the while, her mind continued digesting Mr. M’s words. Go somewhere I belong, she mused. Go where I fit into the big picture. It was, to say the least, an intoxicating proposal. What would such a world look like? Would she really be happy there?


Happier, she supposed, than where she was and where she knew she would have to go in the morning. Anything was better than that.


Lindsey could feel her will eroding within her, feel herself warming up to the proposal Mr. M had put before her. It would be an adventure, the kind of adventure that she didn’t need to lean upon Sara…




That name. Her sister.


Lindsey twisted around in her chair and looked back through her house.


“What are you doing?” Mr. M asked, and despite his smooth delivery, Lindsey could hear, what, exactly? Apprehension? Worry? Something to that effect creeping into his voice.


She didn’t care.


The blue light cast itself deep into her house, past the remnants of what was once her kitchen, and into the transformed dining room. And if she craned her neck just so, and squinted just right, she could make out the hallway, the same hallway that led to her bathroom, and her parents’ room, and her room where Sara was sleeping.


She thought about her sister. Lindsey imagined what it would be like in any kind of world, whether she belonged in it or not, without her sister at her side. That was one question she wasn’t particularly interested to find the answer to.


Without turning to face him, Lindsey asked, “Does Sara get to come along?”


“What would be the point in that?” Mr. M countered.


And in that moment Lindsey had attained clarity. The music was dulled, the scent of the coffee did not reach her enose, and the blue lights that assaulted her were, from this vantage point, casting more shadow than illumination, and she then realized that it was all something of a trick. The lights, the music, the coffee, even Mr. M’s silky voice, had slowly put her not in a trance exactly, but at the very least in a state where she was uncommonly agreeable.


Once she understood this, she willed herself to block them out, to think for herself, and when she pushed them all away from her senses she found her thoughts fully back under her control.


She turned to look at the man in the red suit. “No,” she said simply. “I’m going back to bed now.”


He laughed. “I tried,” he said, shrugging, his palms face up, the effect of the gesture further exaggerated by his loud clothes and clown-like grin. “You seem to misunderstand me, Lindsey; you’re coming whether you wish to or not.”


She raised an eyebrow at him, stood, slammed her chair against the iron table, and walked away.


The blue light guided her back to her room, the music now a dull echo in her head, and she could feel, as the bricks gave way to off white paint, the world returning to normalcy again.


When she gripped the knob to her door, it felt right; simple, small, metallic, warm, and when she turned it, it made the familiar rattle-click noise she was so accustomed to. The door squeaked feebly when she got it halfway open, and with a heavy sigh, she looked at the red digits on her alarm clock and saw that it was now two in the morning.


She flicked her light back on, not really so she could see where she was going so much as to reaffirm that her room was indeed her room, and that everything was in its place as it should be.


And for the most part, everything was. Everything, that is, with the single exception of Sara who was no longer sleeping soundly in her bed.


12 Responses to Journey’s End-Chapter One: The Man in the Room

  1. Ginzig says:

    Kyle, that was amazing! I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but it definately surpassed everything I hoped it would be. I feel very awed right now. I’m glad I took notes or I would be bumbling for something to say.

    There was not anything I didn’t like about the chapter. As always, your descriptions were incredible. There is so much about Lindsey that I recognize in myself and you captured different emotions and thoughts so damn clearly that I swear you had to have somehow seen what I’ve been hiding inside me.

    The descriptions of sisters, I loved. It can go for siblings as well. 🙂 Made me think of my two. Even after Katie throws a rock and hits Scott in the head and he kicks a bucket into her face and gives her a bloody nose in retaliation, they are still vastly protective over one another (no one is allowed to hurt one of them, they are only allowed to hurt each other) and the love that’s there takes my breath away. I felt that in your opening.

    Your description of high school was perfect. I never want to return there. For me, it was exactly how it was for Lindsay. Trying to fit in, but never finding a place. I ended up floating from one group to another and back, never finding my place. The puzzle analogy was pefect.

    And I was also struck by your description of Lindsey laying in bed at night. I always wished I could just turn my brain off at night so I could stop all those thoughts that just wouldn’t go away. Hell, I still feel like that sometimes, especially lately with everything going on (which reminds me I need to email you today). You captured the thoughts and doubts in perfect words. Unfortunately, it brought back a lot of unhappy memories for me, but please don’t take that badly. I think that it is a testament to what an amazing writer you are that you were able to take all the thoughts, emotions, and doubts and make me feel them all over again. I hope that makes sense and you understand what I’m trying to say here.

    I absoltely was blown away with ‘gone like a memory that never was.’ Hell, I know that feeling and again you nailed the description. The same with the music moving through her like it never had before. Powerful. And Harelquin doll in a zoot suit. I liked that one too.

    I would really like to try the coffee she had. I’ve never much cared for coffee, but you made what she was drinking sound intriguing. Is it something from your head or based off something you’ve had? Because I might actually want to try that.

    The part about the effect of speaking words allowed, giving them more power that way and making them real, but it’s even worse or more difficult when someone else voices them for you. Damn, you nailed it there too. The way you are able to put some of those complex emotions and thoughts into words with such power, I sincerely mean it when I say, you are incredible. You know I love to read. I do not think I’ve ever had an author touch me so deeply in a first chapter. So many similar thoughts and emotions made it even more real and personal for me.

    Okay, I’ve run out of notes. I know there is tons more I could say and I seriously could keep going. And this is only your first chapter, I can only imagine it getting better and better. You are stuck with me now. I have to see it to the end.


  2. proudgryffindor says:

    Man i don’t think that there is any way for me to top that review that Kim just left. to be honest with u, i’m way too tired to be leaving this review right now, so i’ll apoligize since it probably won’t be as thorough as i could be, but i just couldn’t go to bed without leaving a review, seeing is how its all fresh in my head now… ok one word for this chapter….. WOW!!!! u said that it starts off really slow, but i don’t think that there was anything wrong with it at all. we got a great little backstory into lindsay and sarah, and i definitly agree that u captured the aspect of siblings perfectly. even though they were closer then most siblings, u still are gonna have that bit of jealousy, or “sibling rivalry” if u will. especially considering the fact that they are so different, it was only a matter of time before lindsay would start feeling the way she was. i’ll go along with kim in saying that one of my favorite things about ur writing is, ur ability to fully capture emotion and perfectly describe that emotion to the reader in a way that they almost can feel it themselves. i completely loved the line about the puzzle piece, and if u wouldn’t mind id love to write that line into a new song that i’m working on for this second band that i just joined.. i had to chuckle when i was reading about mr. m, and i hope this doesn’t make me sound like i’m holdin onto harry potter or ur fanfiction too much, but he reminded me a lot of rathius. the first thing that had me thinkin this was the way u described his smile, and how it didn’t reach his eyes, which were cold and dark. the fact that he has bone white skin doesn’t help either!! the other thing that really reminded me of rathius was just his whole demeanor, and his general attitude towards lindsay. putting out that vibe that he knew way more than he should, and the way he wouldn’t really give lindsay straight answers about where she was or why she was “selected”. im sorry but i can’t really think of much else to say right now, kim having covered about everything i could think of, and i still wanna respond to what she said on the ratbone part 3 post. i’ll just say that i’m extremely glad that i decided to give this story a try, and i know too that its only gonna get better and better, and i honestly cannot wait to read the next chapter, and i will be reading this till the end… Keep those words flowing kyle and be sure to read what i write below cuz there will probably be some things u can appreciate as well.

    Now kim, to respond to what u had wrote to me on the ratbone post. first of all, lemme just say thanks to the little bit of advice that u gave me on reviewing. i tried to really do that for this first chapter of JE, and i even took a few notes myself on a few things that i definitly wanted to touch on. allthough i am trying to get better with leaving constructive reviews, especially so i can support JE and help give some actual rieviews instead of just small talk, i will agree one hundred percent that the wierd and random comments can spark a lot of great conversations.. i never used to review, and when i first started i was just pretty much saying extended versions of “hey nice story” but once i did start leaving longer reviews with more depth and wierd and random comments, i started to converse and gain inside perspectives from a lot of amazing people, (the main one being kyle of course). i hope this doesn’t sound wierd, because i am by no means a loner who chats online all day or anything like that, but i do feel like i can consider both you and kyle to be friends of mine, and all of this started from me asking a few wierd, crazy, random questions to kyle. i honestly think that he was one of the best authors on mugglenet, and it was amazing to hear some of the reasining behind different aspects of his work. one thing i would love to see though is more people partaking in this blog, and leaving their comments on here. JE is gonna be an amazing story, and id hate to just be me and u commenting on it all the time (regardless of all the fun that the three of us have going back in forth lol)… anyways i think thats all i have for now, and i’m almost falling asleep while i’m typing, but i can’t wait to hear both yours and kyle’s responses….. soo until next time!!!


  3. Well guys, it’s been a big night in politics, and I got some chores to do at home once i get off of work before I can even think about writing politics, which I’m going to have to do a lot of. But I will answer these in full at some point, I promise.

    I did want to talk about reviews though, because I’ve really grown to love them and rely upon them in many a ways.

    Really in depth reviews aren’t really necessary. They’re totally appreciated and the more someone says the better, but there’s a lot of talk about weird and random stuff, and what you gotta realize is that ANYTHING, in depth or weird and random, is a huge help because, as was pointed out, it just gets the discussion going.

    You know, I’ve had a lot of reviews, and really all it ever would take would be just that one idea that led me to start thinking, okay, why did I do this this way, or why did I do that that way? And so criticism is great, it let’s you improve, but just touching on certain threads and asking certain questions is really what gets me focusing on the process of writing.

    So really, it’s just the discussion, regardless of how reflective it is, that really counts, and I think I picked up on this because, well, I liked getting reviews, so, aside from just story telling I tried anything I could to get people to leave more reviews, so I would respond to each review in these long answers.

    And I realized that, you know, even in the short reviews, if someone said, “Hey great story, I liked this part the best.” That alone would be enough to begin that introspective process.

    Okay, well, my equipment is acting up on me, so let’s see if I can’t address some of the stuff you guys have left about the story.

    First first first, thank you so much. You’re praise has really encouraged me to keep going. There are going to be some chapters I’m anxious about, but that’s okay, we’ll see them through, and even though I hope this becomes a publishable work, there’s nothing in it that can’t be changed or edited before that happens.

    Emotions, and the first half of the story. As you guys know, I love to write emotions, and I think one of the reasons why is that you get perhaps the most freedom in writing them. Also, they let you really get to know your own characters. When you’re describing them from the experiencing character’s point of view, I think you have to talk the way they would talk, but you really have to FEEL the emotions. You have to know what those emotions are like, and you have to be able to relate those emotions according to, I would say, three different standards.

    The first is in your own standards, and your own understandings of the emotion. The second is in the language and understanding of your character, which really touches upon one of the things I like about writing these stories is because you get to pretend. If you really want to convey that separate individuality, you not only have to describe, but you have to be that character as you write. The third is in such a way that your audience can connect with, and to this end, I sometimes try to use metaphors, analogies, and synonyms that are very commong and universally understood.

    In this instance, there’s the jigsaw puzzle, and I’m so happy I came up with that because, you know, how many of us have done them? And life really can be like this journey where you are simply trying to figure out where you fit in the puzzle, but what happens when you see most of the other pieces fitting, but you’re that last piece in the box?

    The coffee. Actually, it’s nothing real that I know of. I think the quick little inspiration came from I Married an Axe Murderer, where it opens up with that huge coffee drink going to Mike Meyers’ table. And in fact, the whole place was supposed to be this kind of beatnik lounge that I see occasionally in various entertainment, such as in IMAAM, or in Grim Fandango, or even in the musical episode of Buffy. I just love that kind of swanky, low, sleazy, almost contradictory feel of a place being edgy and dangerous, but low key as well.

    Kind of… I don’t know, Film Noir-ish.

    Lindsey laying in bed, well, that obviously stems from the fact that I’m something of an insomniac, and have been there many times before.

    And hey, I’m at the point where I’m almost addressing everything, so, yay, if i don’t get to the rest of it later!

    One last thing I’ll comment on, and if I can I’ll come back and hit the rest.

    Does Mr. M have any Rathius in him? mmmm… maybe a skosh, but not much. At first, and when I first conceptualized the story years ago, and I’ll talk about that, perhaps in a new post or something, originally, Mr. M was actually The Devil, and the story would have been about trying to buy the main character’s soul. But as I continue to flesh out this world and this storyline, I have moved away from that, and M now has a back history and a storyline and motivations of his own that have put him where he is and why he has “selected” Lindsey, and I’ve got some ideas and plans so we may take this story far beyond Journey’s End, but I can say that while I did probably borrow a thing or two from Rathius, he’s most definitely his own person in many a way.

    Okay, I really have to cut it there, so thanks both of you, and I’ll talk at ya later.

  4. Ginzig says:

    Hey Kyle, I know just how a big a night in politics it was! One main event taking place only a few miles from my home! I wish so much that I could have seen Obama last night. Damn. The news said that people started lining up at 7:00am yesterday morning, by 5:00pm the line circled the Ex-Cel arena twice and contined down to Rice Park which is many blocks away. I think the Ex-Cel holds like 20,000 people (I was there for a concert once and it is HUGE) and the news said they estimated another 10,000 outside hoping they would put Obama on the jumbotron. The police were worried about crowd control, but there wasn’t any problems I heard of. Okay, sorry, I was just excited about last night too and had no one to share it with.

    I know in my review leaving, I tend to be very positive (I’m generally a positive person except with my own life which you’ve probably figured out). I don’t like giving criticism unless I know the person well. I feel comfortable enough with you, Kyle, that is there was something glaring out of place or just not right I would tell you. I could definately tell that this chapter had been well thought out and planned for a long time. Even though I’ve never heard your voice, I could imagine you reading it to your lovely daughters. When you have those chapters you are nervous about, maybe then my reviews will be a little different, but most likely not because of your calibre of writing. And I know my review was long winded, but I was just so damn excited and seriously have never fell in love with a character so quickly (not even Harry Potter). I see so much of a younger me in her that it scares me a little. She has her journey and I have mine.

    I too wondered, like Phil, if there was a bit of Rathius in Mr. M. And I’m thrilled that you told us you may have plans to take this story beyond JE. I would love it if it was several novels long. Katie may be a little young for it, but Scott already is reading (with a little help) the Harry Potter books and I can already tell he would love JE! I was curious why you chose to call him Mr. M? (I’ve wondered since you first mentioned writing this and partly because of your email address.) Damn, I had another questions and I lost it for now. Maybe it will come back to me before I’m done. Ooooh, will this always be from the persepective of Lindsay? I’m already quite attached to her, so I wouldn’t mind a bit.

    And Phil, what you said makes perfect sense to me. I too have met a lot of amazing people (Kyle absolutely inculded) by what just started out as leaving reviews and asking questions. And I have formed some deeply seated friendships through Mugglenet. And yes, you can consider me a friend. I have had fun chatting with you since you joined us. I also agree with you that Kyle is one of the best authors on Mugglenet. Thinking about my favorites, he is in the top three and I refuse to try to sort them any further because they are very different in their writing styles and it would be unfair to judge them against one another.

    I may be wrong, but I suspect there are many out there reading, just not leaving comments. I think having more people leaving comments would definately make for some amazing conversations. For anyone else reading, this is to help Kyle out, people! Join us!

  5. Well, I’m not going to turn this into a political blog; I have one already. If I turned this into a political blog, I’ll need a break from this blog as well, and considering that this blog was intended to be my break from my other blog, it would just get too confusing.

    But I will say this; if you have a chance to see Barack Obama live, go do it. The first time I saw him speak live was when he came down here to Virginia to campaign on behalf of then Lieutenent Governor Tim Kaine (who won the governorship a few weeks later, thank you very much). I remember, after Obama was done, my friend grabbing me by the arm and saying, “I think we just watched a future president speaking.”

    I shrugged it off at the time. He was too new, too black. Vice President, maybe, but there was no way, and believe me, I wanted it to happen, but there was no way a black guy would get the nomination.

    How wrong was I?

    Anyway, you guys pretty much sum up what I love about this kind of format for storytelling. It’s not just about the story, though the story takes center stage and is the glue, but the discussions that surround it. It’s like the modern, internet age version of the old book clubs, but the members are telling the stories, not professional authors. So, definitely, it’s a great thing.

    I do think there are more people who are reading that haven’t spoken up yet, but they will, things take time, and I’ve only got the one chapter of Journey’s end written, so we’re still at the beginning.

    At the first site I ever posted Right Here at, I only ever got twelve reviews for that story. Compare that to what I have in reviews now, and I’m not worried yet. Not by a mile.

  6. proudgryffindor says:

    Wow kyle u live in virginia and u don’t know where ocean city is?? its in maryland, which is where i live. Now that u mentioned right here, i guess that makes a lot of sense y not too many people are speaking up yet.. i guess i’m just used to seeing the massive amounts of reviews that u get on mugglenet! i too definitly love this format for storytelling, because i love being able to really interact with the author and other readers and get everyones input on the story. i’ve honestly been having tons and tons of fun just conversing and going back and forth with just the two of u, so imagine how much fun its gonna be when more people start speaking up! anyways, going back to something said like 2 or 3 comments ago, kim u mentioned something about ur top 3 favorite authors on mugglenet, and i was wondering from both u and kyle what some of ur guys’ favorite authors and stories are on mugglenet. i’ll tell u that besides kyle some of my all time favorite authors and their stories on mugglenet are “colorofangels”, who has a story called “life happens”, which is an amazing story about harry and ginny’s friendship and eventually relationship that starts right after book 5 and goes way way into the future. it doesn’t really have too much action but its not at all some big ball of fluff. theres tons and tons of drama and character conflict. two of my other favorites are “tear_away”, who writes a story called “Harry Potter and Beyond the Veil”, and “QwayMelqnu”, who writes a story called “Harry Potter and the Seven Year War”. both of these are also catagorized as harry/ginny, but neither just center on those two, and both of these have tons and tons of action and are amazing stories. all three of these stories are still works in progress, and they are all very long, but if either one of u are ever bored and looking for something to read, i would definitly recommend any of these, and i would love to hear your input on them. one thing though is if u decide to read “colorofangels”, she no longer posts on mugglenet but rather, under the same penname. ok thats it for me but if u two don’t mind i would absolutly LOVE to hear what ur favorite authors and stories on mugglenet are, because i’m always looking for new stories to read. until next time….


  7. proudgryffindor says:

    oh yeah kim one more thing.. i never responded to somethin u said awhile ago so i was just wondering how “the princess'” birthday party went for u with those eleven screaming kids? LOL!!


  8. Ginzig says:

    I should be sleeping and I will regret this tomorrow morning, but even if I did go to bed I would just be staring at the ceiling wishing I could turn my brain off, so here goes….

    Kyle, ok no more politics. I don’t want you to need a break from this blog. I like your analogy of the old book clubs. oh, which by the way, I did download the first several chapters of 7th Son the Descent one…. I will find time to start it, I just need to finish reading another book I started, but it’s there and ready to go.

    Phil, I too love Life Happens. I’ve been following that one for years. But it wasn’t one of my three favs. On of my favorite authors is Khyrs on mugglenet. She wrote ‘The Boy Who Could Live’, ‘Her Other Half’ (which I’ve helped her with by doing a little beta’ing/soundboard kind of thing) and a bunch of other stories. She is also one of my best friends in the world. She got me started writing and beta’ed for me when I was working on my story. My other favorite author deleted his story off mugglenet awhile ago. It was a post-hogwarts, very action, very gripping, and I’m very very sad that he has stopped working on it. But I understand how real life takes over, so I cannot fault him for his decision, especailly since it’s been months (shudders) since I’ve written a word.

    Okay, now I really have to go to bed. It’s only 7 hours until the kids are up and I’ll be lucky to sleep 4 of those hours.

  9. Ginzig says:

    damn, I just saw Phil’s question about my princess and her birthday party…. it went actually a heck of a lot better than I ever thought possible!!! We had Katie’s party at a place called Pump it Up, it’s an inflatable jumping place, but it has an obstacle course, several giant slides, a bouncy basketball court, stuff like that. All the kids loved it and tired themselves out. I lost some hearing with all the screaming and I think that it’s finally now returning (a week later). The nice thing about this place is that I didn’t have to do a SINGLE thing!! The staff played with the kids and watched them for safety. They staff cut and served her birthday cake. They passed out her presents and wrote down who gave her what. They cleaned everything up. sigh That was the easiest birthday party I ever had to give. Really, all I had to do was write out the invites and thank you notes.

  10. jediprankster says:

    Wow, that was a fantastic beginning. I can’t wait for the next chapter. From my experience reading (and the tiny bit of writing I’ve done so far) fanfiction, as well as published fiction, I would say that most writers fall into two categories. The first is the writer who can craft a wonderful story, yet lacks the skill with language to write it properly. The second is the writer who writes wonderfully, but doesn’t have much of a story to tell. You are one of the rare authors who falls into a third category. You craft a stunningly engrossing story, and your use of the english language to tell that story is nothing short of stellar. I have to echo the sentiments in Ginzig’s review. The specific points mentioned were the same ones that stood out for me. I especially liked the blue light flickering back and forth under the door from the parents watching television. I wonder why that light is always blue, regardless of what is being watched. I had never really thought about it, but now that I look back, it was blue. I suppose it’s not because I’m red/green color blind, because someone else described it as blue. That little detail was the one that stood out the most for me. I’m not sure why.

    Now to join in the conversation about favorite stories and authors. I have to agree about colorofangels. It’s sad to have her not on MNFF anymore. She is one of the top ten favorite authors on that site. And her stories ‘Life Happens’ and ‘Just Married…Kinda’ are in the top ten favorite stories on that site. ‘Disagreements’ with the mods have led to her leaving MNFF. I also agree about QwayMelqnu. I love her ‘…Seven Year War’ One of my favorites is Huskers. He wrote a story called ‘Harry Potter and the Blood Traiter’ and a sequel called ‘Harry Potter and the Unlocked Mind’. I also really liked ‘Finally Home’ by Weasley Mom. It was one of the better stories I’ve read. At times the writing seemed a bit rushed, but overall, it was an enjoyable read. It had a sequel called ‘From the Ashes’, but it had been abandoned for over a year, so it was deleted during the site revamp. And I would also like to mention ‘Ancient Magic’ and ‘Blood of the Heart’ by kjpzak. Of course as good as each of these are, they are not even in the same league as the ‘Epilogues’ trilogy by Grimmrook. Kyle, I haven’t read anything that even compared to your stuff. Just try not to let all this praise go to your head 😉

  11. I’ll do what I can not to, jedi.

    It’s interesting that that detail that you picked out is what stuck with you; the blue tv light.

    I’m not exactly sure why it is, but for the most part the reflected light from a tv tends to be a kind of phantasmic blue. Occasionally, if one color REALLY overtakes the rest, then that will be reflected, but I’ve just noticed, partly as a result of spending so much time in the dark, that it’s nearly always blue.

    But that you picked it out is interesting to me because when I first started writing fanfic, consciously I would intentionally pick specific details to hone in on, and try to convey the emotion and the theme of a scene through that detail. And then it got to a point where I was just kind of doing it automatically.

    And, on a whole, I think that is something the mind does, especially in times of stress, you know? You get yourself so worked up, and you automatically just latch onto these details with this kind of realization that while everything is topsy turvey for you, there’s a part of the world, just going on by like you never even existed.

    But here specifically, that similarity, tv light and the spotlight light, and even the walk through the hall, who doesn’t remember walking with trepidation from your bedroom far later than you were supposed to be up, your parents still awake, maybe watching tv, and while daylight is around, you would run in without a care, there’s this kind of child like curiosity and wonderment and even fear of what happens after you’re supposed to be sleeping.

    And I think that might be exactly the kind of feeling I was going for in that particular part, just this, wow, okay, what’s going on?

    You know, as I continue to build this story in my head (and I am, and it gets longer), I get more excited. One of the things that I think allowed me to fall in love with Nightshades the most is that, now that everyone was far removed from Hogwarts, and that, over sixteen years, enough could feasibly change that I be given some freedom, it allowed me to kind of recreate the whole HP universe to my needs.

    Now, I’m getting this totally blank slate and I’m starting to REALLY fall in love with it. As I’ve said, I have chapter 2 written, and I’m hoping I can get it to you guys soon, but I think with the next chapter, that goes in a totally different direction than the one before it, I think you’ll see EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

    And then, for chapter 3, I do it again. And again… And again… and just the places that I’m building in my mind alone get me truly excited, and the character’s we’re going to meet, and the action scenes.

    Over the course of the past couple weeks, and keep in mind I’ve been telling this story to my daughters for MONTHS now, I’ve added so much, and sometime this week I think I’m going to discuss an idea I’ve had for a while now that I fall in love with more and more that, well, it incorporates both the Journey’s End, the Nightshades, and so much more.

    But I’m getting way way way ahead of myself.

    I expect to post Chapter 2 some time this week, NO later than next week. Then after that, there may be a wait as I don’t get to write this Friday like I normally like to (Or I may get the chance, who knows, but I’m not banking on it).

    Anyway, that’s enough yammerin’ out of me, thanks for dropping by!

  12. Ginzig says:

    Jedi- I’m glad you brought up ‘Ancient Magic’ and ‘Blood of the Heart’, I had forgotten about those, but they are both good reads. I also remember ‘HP and the Unlocked Mind’. I think I liked that one, but it’s been so long ago that I read it… I just can’t remember. With everyone talking about ‘The Seven Year War’, I will have to find the time to read that one. I’ve checked on fanfiction and it’s been awhile since colorofangels has updated either of those stories. sigh I really miss them. I hope she will update eventually.

    I’m also very glad that Jedi mentioned the part about the blue light. I had forgotten about that. I liked that too. And I do remember having that feeling, reading Lindsay walking down that hallway when she was supposed to be in bed, remembering that feeling of being out of bed when it was so late, afraid of being caught…..

    Kyle, have you told the girls that you’re writing JE right now or do you plan to wait until it’s done? And you’re teasing again, telling us about an idea you might discuss later this week…. Well, at least you’ve given me something to look forward to with starting the new job and all the other stress. Looking forward to hearing more about this idea!

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