Is a Kiss More Than That?
Bench Pressing Strong Verbs
How mysterious writing remains.
In the beginning, most of us want to tell stories. And we pour our hearts into our tales, reveling in the act of creating, delighting in odd twists, and laughing at unexpected endings.
Then…something else sets in…curiosity about writing better, and we discover craft. And, like others before me, I wanted to make each word count. At some point I discovered strong verbs, and eventually made a little game of writing impromptu stories using verbs drawn randomly.
In that spirit, today’s strong verbs are: struggle, convey, resist, prove, nullify, disabuse, evoke, adhere, reap, and contrast.
Let us return to Tammy, a young tour guide in a mysterious Baron’s Chateau.
Rich, deep burgundy red carpet runners swallowed Tammy’s footsteps, capturing the half-formed echos while the fine wool sprang back, erasing all hint of her passage. Where did this journey lead? Had she no will to deny her fate?
At the foot of the broad marble stair she struggled with all her might to halt her step, to stop. But, a prisoner in her own body, another person took the steps, one by one, precisely, unflinching. Reduced to numbness, she no longer bothered to count the steps.
If her mind remained hers, she might yet fight, find a way out, stay true to herself, to be a person, not an object. And, with a plan—
“Ah, my dear.” The Baron, oiled black hair combed straight back to accent a widow’s peak, pulled himself straight until he stood a head taller, then clicked his heels and offered a small bow. “Let me convey my delight renewing old acquaintances.”
Unable to resist months of training at the Chateau, her head lowered and she offered a curtsy in return. But how to get out of this?
“Come, let us retire to a more convivial place.” He smiled, showing fine white teeth, canines perhaps a bit longer than normal, and motioned to an alcove populated with overstuffed chairs facing a small, unlit fireplace. Then an eyebrow raised. “You have nothing to fear, my dear.”
“I…want to believe that, your Lordship,” Tammy said, mouth dry. Did other servants watch from secret places, fearing for her. Or did they count themselves fortunate Tammy remained the object of the Baron’s attentions? But the situation required that she focus, for any rescue must come from within, not without. Face heating, she managed a shrug.
“Ah…perhaps you wish me to prove my honorable intentions?”
“No…wait.” Without meaning, Tammy stepped forward and rested a hand on his forearm. Jolted, she stepped back, thoughts shattered, and moaned “I didn’t say…”
The Count stepped back, slightly, eyes wide…soft, brown, warm.
What had happened? Try though she might, no clear thoughts formed, leaving her devoid of a plan.
Then he shrugged and turned away, head bowed. “I had thought to nullify all those things others in the village say, to disabuse you of the rumors. But I have failed.”
She stared at that finely tailored jacket stretched across broad shoulders. Did he play some game, designed to evoke the coldness clutching her heart, squeezing it, not for herself, but for him. But his voice ached of sadness and loneliness begging to be shared. Had she so misjudged him?
He stood, back to her, unmoving.
Many heartbeats later she leaned and lightly touched the rich satin covering that broad shoulder.
Still, he remained statuesque.
She swallowed, then stroked his arm. “Look at me. Please?”
Still he didn’t move.
Only when she tugged his arm, did he turn. She sought his eyes, but they remained closed. Wetness stained his cheeks. Surely no threat lived here. She smiled. “Please?”
Finally, his eyes opened, and new wetness joined that which had gone before.
Heart swelling, she wiped away a tear. “Why do you cry?”
He shook his head.
“Won’t you speak? Or do you adhere to some strange notion of honor or duty? Help me understand. Please?”
After a deep breath, he kissed her hand.
Still looking into those brown eyes, she shivered, suddenly light-headed. But this was insane. She couldn’t fall for him. Had he already ensnared her, another conquest, leaving Tammy to reap what he sowed.
Then his lips found hers, firm and insistent, and strong arms pulled her tight, his cologne wafting past, shared body heat, the universe shrinking.
Eyes closed, lips parting, her arms ached to encircle his neck, to mold herself, clinging against his body.
His tongue darted, stabbing—
Wait. What had she done? Hands against that broad chest, she pushed back.
His arms flexed, resisting.
Head clearing, she pushed, gently, steadily “No.”
Face flushed, he stepped back, forehead glistening, pupils dilated. “Why?”
“Contrast me with those village girls, too terrified of your attention to deny you.” She shook her head and smoothed her jacket and skirt. “I remain a person, with free will. And I have not chosen.”
He sighed, and nodded. “I have failed with you.”
“I cannot stay,” Tammy said, and patted a stray lock of raven hair back into place. “I must go home.”
“Of course.” The Count nodded again. “I have kept you over long, I fear. At least allow me the honor of purchasing a plane ticket.”
She shook her head. “I have enough.”
A soft, wistful smile played on his lips. “I cannot change your mind?”
“May I know your address?”
She offered a small smile. “I have yours.”