“Hit me,” I say, sliding onto my favourite bar stool. “And make it strong.”
Maudie eyes my dirt-encrusted skin and bloody fingernails as she grabs the kettle. “Oh honey, what’d she do this time? Bury you alive?”
“Fire last week? And poison yesterday?” She pats my hand. “Either this is going to be the most thrilling story ever or she’s a bona fide pantser.”
She slides my Earl Grey (white with one) over and I take a sip, my tense muscles easing instantly.
I take another sip and gaze around. Maudie’s Basement Bar is busy tonight. Usual crowd. Most of the regular characters are sporting genre-specific injuries but I blink when I see Donny near the window — the dashing English gentleman is now half cyborg.
I raise my eyebrows.
Maudie shrugs. “His writer’s switched to a Sci-Fi / Romance mash-up.”
I chuckle. “Guess I’m lucky mine sticks to Action and Adventure. On Earth.”
She takes my empty cup. “Refill?”
“Where’s that nice young lady you came in with last time? The nuclear physicist?”
I look away. “Gone. Written out completely in the latest edit.”
“Oh honey, what a week you’ve had. Perhaps you need something stronger than tea?” She winks and hands me an enormous slice of chocolate cake.
“Thanks, Maudie. You’re the best. I don’t know what I’d do if this place didn’t exist. We all appreciate it, you know. The things our writers put us through… just knowing we can come here for a brief respite makes all the difference.”
I glance at my watch. Almost time to get back.
I close my eyes and stretch out my arms. My fingers bump something feathery soft.
“Watch it, mate,” a gruff voice says.
Startled, I open my eyes. A stunning pink and purple butterfly glares at me.
“Sorry, little lady. Didn’t see you there.”
“Not a lady.” He lands on the bar. “Hit me, Maudie. And none of that tea nonsense. I need the hard stuff.”
“Rough day?” I inquire.
He laughs. “Something like that.”
Maudie pours his water. “What’s wrong, hon?”
“I’m sick of being a background element,” he says.
“I hear you,” I reply. “I’ve been the bad guy forever. I mean, why can’t I be the hero just once?”
The butterfly nods.
I appraise him closely. “Actually, everyone loves pretty butterflies. You would make a perfect undercover spy.”
I grab my hat and stand up. “See you next time, Maudie,” I say. She doesn’t respond. Too busy scribbling in that tatty notebook of hers.
“Today we’re joined by bestselling author, Maudie Jones-Smith.”
“Hello everyone, happy to be here.”
“Maudie, you’re renowned for your inventive plots but your latest release definitely takes the cake. A reformed criminal and a butterfly teaming up for a spy mission? Amazing! Please tell us, how do you come up with these super creative ideas?”
Maudie smiles. “I just listen to what the characters tell me.”
Jane Brown is a web programmer and short fiction writer who lives by the beach in Australia. Her stories have been published in The Centropic Oracle, Etherea Magazine and Every Day Fiction.