The ace photographer and the supermodel, they should have been a match made in heaven. Instead, they fought like the demons of hell.
Complicated, surly, and sexy, Manav Apte was probably the only photographer who resented his muse. From the day he’d seen her, there had been no other. Unfortunately, she was the one woman he could never have.
Passionate, talented, and gorgeous, Diana Severes refused to give the temperamental ass behind the camera the satisfaction of knowing he got under her skin. It was, however, impossible not to notice him or his glowering disapproval that trailed her everywhere she went.
Their dislike and distrust of each other is legendary in the fashion industry and yet, the sparks that fly when they come together for work are enough to light the sets on fire.
Will the Golden Girl of India’s fashion scene be able to see beyond his hatred to the love he’s desperately trying to mask? And will the country’s most talented photographer realise that his true talent lies not in what he views through his lens but what he sees through the filter of his heart?
About the Author:
Shilpa Suraj wears many hats – corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.
An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.
Hello everyone! I am so honored to be able to share a special post today. I was recently contacted by an incredible author named Kathy Martone, whom I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing and reviewing here on my site in recent months. She asked me to share a couple of her original short stories, along with one of her essays, and I thought this would be a fun new idea to share to you guys. Please enjoy these incredible stories and this essay, and if you enjoy them be sure to follow me on my website and follow Kathy as well. Enjoy everyone!
Her name was Moana. Moana Despeara. Outta nowhere she showed up and ruined my life. Just knocked at my door polly please as if she knew me.
“Gimme a minute,” I said. “Be right there!” Looked in the mirror first; made sure my hair looked okay.
Opened the door slowly. Peered out into the blindin’ sunlight. “Can I help ya, young lady?” Why I coulda been starin’ at a mirror, dat girl lookin’ so much like my own self, scat bit younger though. ‘Bout my height and weight, shoulder length curly hair – I be danged, with the same type barrette too – only her hair was bright yellow and mine mousy brown.
Lookin’ like a stray cat, her head down and eyes at half mast, she peeked up at me through straggly hair and asked, “Kin I come in?”
“S-s-sure,” I said surprisin’ myself. “Have a seat in the livin’ room.” Shuffled as fast as I could to folla her. Didn’t want her to think I was a pushover or nothin’. Eased my achin’ bones down onto the chair and stared at her with eyes full o’ questions.
“Uh-h-h, um, well, uh, I don’t rightly know how to say this,” she stumbled. “But I’m in need of a place to stay.” She stared right at me with her big green eyes, just like mine.
Met those big eyes straight on, didn’t want her to know how nervous I were. Why would a stranger knock on my door and ask fer a bed? Very odd. “Well okay,” I heard my voice speak out loud. “But you’ll have to pay; I ain’t got no handouts for no down and out youngster lookin’ fer a place to land. And I’ll need some information, if ya please.”
Sittin’ there watchin’ her fill out my list, I felt no jitters a’tall, a bit surprisin’ with me just axin’ this lost and fersaken’ girl into my home. Money’ll come in handy though, I thought to myself. Seemed polite enough; fingernails were clean; clothes a bit wrinkled but otherwise tidy; hair could’ve used some work.
“Thank you ma’am,” she said as she cleared her throat. “Can’t tell ya how much I ‘preciate this. Life’s been a bit of a struggle fer me, ya know? Havin’ a room of my own should make all the diff’rence.” Raisin’ herself up offa my chair, she yawned and stretched her back. “May I?” she asked, her eyes fillin’ with tears.
“Oh yes, of course. Of course. Lemme show you.” Stood up as quickly as I could and showed her the way into the extra bedroom. “All yours,” I continued as I slipped her check, quiet-like, into my brassiere. “Bathroom’s on your left. Help yourself to the closet and dresser drawers.”
“No need,” she replied. “I don’t come with nothin.”
“Only one other thing. Don’t never touch that chest in the corner, ya hear?”
“Sure ’nuff,” she mumbled.
Not waitin’ round to hear more, I made my way back into the livin’ room and grabbed her application. Heard her door shut behind me. Big sigh of relief. No time to waste on other people’s problems. Or so I thought.
Ever’ night since she arrived, its the same thing what happens over and over like some old movie replayin’ itself on the wheel o’ one of them old fancy movie projectors. Moan groan weep. Moan groan weep. Bedsprings creakin’ like a buncha tree frogs. All to the up and down of my own simmerin’ pot of unrest. Don’t that woman never sleep?
Right round 5:00AM ever’ mornin’ things go quiet. Real quiet. Like graveyard quiet. Don’t never see her durin’ the day. But then I never see her a’tall. Gotta wonder where she goes, what she’s doin’, who she’s talkin’ to. Always locks her door, though. Not that I’d snoop; I’m ever mindful o’ my rights n’ wrongs.
Middle o’ the frickin’ night. Sittin’ here starin’ at that dang door. Can’t get no rest no more. That suzy cutesy what paid for my bed ain’t got no worries ’bout who she bothers. Got so many black circles ‘neath my eyes, why you’d think I was some kinda monster from one o’ them ghost tales my dear old marm used to read to me. The kind that scared my little ticker so bad, couldna’ sleep back then neither.
Tossin’ and turnin’ in my bed, sleep still playin’ hard to get. Don’t know how many more nights like this I kin handle. Guess there ain’t no way to ‘scape these demons what haunt my private spaces. But where do these downheartenin’ feelin’s come from? Just makes no dang sense! Used to be, I was so chatty happy. Ever’one always said so. Where did all those bubblin’ up with joy experiences go to? This just ain’t like me a’tall. Just cry, cry, cry. All the durn time. Stupid stupid tears wettin’ my pillow night after godawful night.
When did it become so dang hard just to git outta bed? Coffee sounds good; legs movin’, left right left right left right. Kitchen light on, eyes half shut, coffeepot on. Amazin’ how the aroma of gurglin’ caffeine can be so calmin’. One o’ the few body pleasin’ happenin’s done left to me, surely. Mebbe this missy who shares my house done brought down a curse on me. Wonder when was the last time I had some fun? Just seems as so I don’t have none no more. Just always feelin’ low and fraught with worry.
Ah, what’s this? Moana’s key? Wonder what that sassy frassy’s up to? Come to think on it, she ain’t paid her rent this week. Why surely she wouldna’ checked out without so much as a bye and bye, without collectin’ her deposit. Guess I’ll think on that later; coffee won’t stay hot forever.
Surely feels good to get some rest fer a change. Ain’t heard one peep from that girl fer two days now. Guess she’s surely gone after all. Should I or shouldn’t I? Why, this house b’longs to me. I have ever’ right to open that door! Makes me a might nervous though – what if she be lyin’ inside deader ‘n dead? Oh, best leave things be! Standin’ here with both my eyeballs glued to her door ain’t doin’ me no good no way.
Ain’t lately heard nothin’ more from that room. Why’s my hand shakin’ so? Such foolishness ain’t suitable for one such as me. You’d think I stole m’self into this here house or somethin’. Deep breath. Ever so slow – why, glory be, the door’s open!
Raise m’sef up on my toe tips and ease inside, quieter’n a mouse. Room’s dark, curtains drawn against the risin’ sun. Flip the light. Eyes wide open in surprise. Why those be my clothes on that there bed! Whip my gaze ‘cross the room. Chest wide open with my belongin’s scattered ever’where! What the blazin’ devil, I begin to curse.
Grabbin’ the lavender underlies and matchin’ brassiere from the tangled bedclothes, I march into the bathroom and flip that light switch. Lookin’ at my reflection in the mirror, all the color drains from that face peerin’ back at me. That face! It’s Moana Despeara. Moana Despeara who’s been inhabitin’ my house, my clothes, my soul.
The dream began like all dreams – shrouded in magic and mystery.
My black haired sister and I walk hand in hand as we head for the dark woods. The deep silence of the forest quickly descends and we are swallowed by the vast network of trees. Entering a large open glade lit by the pearlescent glow of the full moon, we lie down on a moss covered stone and fall asleep, entering the dreamscape as one. In the dream we stand in a large meadow in the middle of a forest. The full moon casts her alabaster net strewn with stars across the firmament, her luminous halo transforming the scene into a mythical landscape of unparalleled beauty. Soon we are confronted by a massive wild boar with ivory tusks who charges at us and carries off my beloved sister. Overtaken with fear, I awaken from the dream to find that my sister is gone.
I rouse myself from the dream, confused and disoriented. Who is this dark sister of mine and what happened to her? Her tortured cries as the beast carried her away linger in my head. Glancing at the clock on the table beside my bed, I see that it is only five minutes past midnight, the witching hour. Dare I return to the land of sleep? Can I save this mysterious sibling of the murky moon? And how does one go about such heroic efforts with wild beings who inhabit the shadow realms?
My heart beats a staccato rhythm against my chest wall as I contemplate this scenario. Fearful of facing the moon beast again, I decide to get out of bed and read for a bit. I pad my way into the pitch black confines of my kitchen looking for a glass of wine to calm my nerves. Not wanting to blast myself back into full consciousness with overhead incandescent light, I grope my way along the granite counters until I find the bottle of red wine where I left it earlier. Somehow just holding onto the dark vessel gives me a small measure of comfort, as I slowly begin to orient myself back into non-dreaming reality.
I hold the cool glass of ruby liquid close to my heart as I tiptoe out of the kitchen and into my living room, where I search the bookshelves for something to occupy my thoughts. The fact that I stand here bathed in moonlight – that same crown of light that highlighted the inexplicable kidnapping I just witnessed – does not escape me. Blindly I let my fingers play along the spines of the books before choosing a thin volume of unknown title.
Both hands now fully occupied, I take a seat on my red velvet Victorian couch and sigh deeply. Setting the wine glass and book on the coffee table, I lean back against the plush red and purple pillows and gaze up at the ceiling while trying to whisk away the cobwebs of dream memory in favor of some concrete facts – like I’m here, now, safe, now, in my home, now, no wild-eyed monsters here.
Some moments later, feeling a little less anxious, I take a long sip of the Italian wine savoring its warm slow journey down the pipe of my esophagus and into my solar plexus. Exhaling fully, I let my eyes wander over to the chosen volume still lying on the table. I lean forward to position the glass of wine next to the book as my consciousness wavers between realism and mysticism. Placing my right hand on the green cover, I close my eyes and bring the text onto my lap. The trepidation of facing yet some new additional horror makes me nervous about opening the novel. But I am fully awake, I remind myself, fully awake and safe at home.
Determined to conquer the demons who occupy my mind, I grasp the hardbound copy with both hands and open my eyes to read the title. Werewolves of London screams silently back at me, my eyes wide with fear and shock. Quickly I drop the bewitched volume back onto the table and gulp down the remaining wine as I careen violently between nightmare and sleep, magical beings and concrete facts, bewitchery and reality.
Leaving the book and the now empty glass of wine on the antique wooden table, I race back into the bedroom and dive under the bedclothes seeking safety and comfort. How much time passes, I do not know. But I eventually find myself dreaming once again.
I am asleep on the moss covered stone in the moonlit garden. The sound of some savage creature barreling through the underbrush awakens me. Holding my breath and casting my eyes about for a place to hide, I spot the white tusked wild pig with beady, red-rimmed black eyes. He stands at least 6 feet tall and his breath fogs the air about him with the smell of rotting flesh. Motionless, he remains standing at the edge of the forest, simply staring at me.
The entire jungle goes silent as the censorship of death and rebirth takes charge. No more chattering cicadas, no more rustling branches, no more hooting owls. Just the stillness of graveyards and timeless journeys into space. Spinning out of control as my thoughts try to grasp the scene unfolding before me, I am stunned to see my dark haired sister seated upon the back of the beast, smiling at me. She wears a mask of exquisite beauty, black and red sequined feathers glittering in the moonlight as they frame her own ebony eyes. The scene fades as I lose consciousness.
Later I awaken to find a bag made of animal skin and filled with masks. As I spill the contents onto my green carpeted bed of stone, a group of women gather in a circle, dancing before me, their black and red feathered veils shimmering in the pale light of the moon.
I awaken in my bed, the morning sun peeking around the window frames and brightening up my room. Lying on top of my bedspread sits a black and red feathered mask dotted with sequins and crystals.
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, I stare at the image looking back at me. Who is she, I often ask myself. This older woman with graying hair, wrinkles around her eyes, parchment paper-thin skin, old age spots. And yet, she looks oddly familiar, this unedited version of myself. I decide I don’t like her and try to banish her from my life. But she is persistent and returns every time I look in the mirror. Make-up, youthful clothing, and hair dye both seem to move her to the corners of my eyes where I don’t have to look at her square on. This has worked for several years but now she has invaded my inner space, talking to me from inside my head. There is no escape, it seems. I feel trapped. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to hide. Destiny is in control.
As I begrudgingly accept her presence – this uninvited and unwanted caricature of myself – I am pleasantly surprised to discover how much I enjoy her company. Often witty and humorous, serious and introspective, she lays out the contradictory puzzle pieces of the map of my life, her ongoing narrative providing depth and wisdom to the flat contours of my memory. She speaks to me of a life lived and another life to come. She reminds me that there is much more to this human existence than I ever considered, inviting me into a dance of understanding and wisdom, a song of pain and beauty, all intertwined around a central axis of soul fiber – the true source of human nourishment, she explains.
And so, I sit myself down in front of this reflection and ask her permission to speak. Silently nodding, her upturned mouth and twinkling eyes signaling her assent, we begin crafting our relationship – a relationship that will survive beyond eternity. My teacher, my Self. The unfolding of the chrysalis of enlightenment, nourished in the womb of silent introspection.
We begin our wordless dialogue, this Other and Myself. Telepathically, I complain about her intrusion into my life. “I don’t like being invisible,” I begin. “I want to be seen and recognized, understood and valued. When I walk into a room, no one pays any attention, whereas when I was young and beautiful, heads always turned whenever I entered a room. I miss the power of physical attraction,” I finish with a sigh.
Almost hidden behind folds of skin that inhabit her orbits, her eyes widen with mirth and undeniable interest as she moves closer to me. “Why, my dear,” she clucks thoughtfully. “You’re describing the state of emptiness and humility that accompanies spiritual evolution. Why would you bemoan such gems of transcendence? This is what we’re all after in this life journey, is it not? Our time is better spent exploring the invisible realms not complaining about them!”
Gulping down feelings of shame and embarrassment at not having understood this obvious truth, I bow my head and try to gather my thoughts. Memories of my childhood begin to flood my mind/body system – a tsunami of images, thoughts and emotions swirling and crashing along the fault lines of old scars and threatening to reopen ancient wounds. My eyes begin to well with tears. “Why is my life still so difficult?” I almost yell at her. “I thought life was supposed to get easier! My childhood was hell but this is not much better. My body talks to me constantly – which is really annoying – and demands so much of my attention. As you know, I have always been anxious but now there is so much more to worry about – like having enough health insurance to pay for all the necessary maintenance for this bag of bones. And what will happen to me if I should fall and break a piece of this fragile skeleton? I feel so fucking vulnerable and everything is harder than it used to be. Wasn’t I supposed to be feeling stronger as I age? No one prepared me for this and I’m not happy about it, let me tell you!”
The old woman in the mirror stares at me, unblinking. Soon a tear slowly cascades down the hills and valleys of her wrinkled and sagging face. Now I’m really ashamed of myself. I didn’t mean to upset her. But I keep quiet, holding my breath and hoping for more pearls of wisdom. Standing shakily on spindly legs and grasping her walking cane with her gnarled fist, she turns and inches away from the glass, disappearing from my view. Where could she have gone, I wonder. Soon, the sound of distant music makes its way to my ears – the soft strains of a flute and a violin floating gently in the air and wrapping itself around me like a cocoon of remembrance. But remembrance of what? Surrendering to the magic of the calming melody, I close my eyes only to jerk them open again as I shield my eyes from the bright white light that floods me. Out of the luminous glow comes a voice – the now familiar inflection of my elder self. “Do you remember now, my Sweet One?” her words ring in my ear. “Do you remember who you really are? For, without the crucible of pain and suffering, without the burning away of all things mortal, you would never recall that, at your core, you are a Being of Light. Everything else is irrelevant. This envelope of skin and bones is simply a distraction and inhibits us from the knowledge of our true essence. Yes, life is painful for everyone. And I grieve with you the intensity of such suffering but remember, there is always a reason. You’re being called to remember that you are more than flesh and bone, you are much more than you ever thought you were. And bless the fires that have purified you!” As the music fades away, so does the light. The reflection of my wise elder stares back at me, a beatific smile radiating from her holy face.
“But why does it have to be so hard?” I blurt out without thinking. Slapping my hands over my mouth, I hope she has not heard my careless utterance.
“It really doesn’t have to be,” she whispers, her words like thin sheets of parchment paper blowing in the wind. “Remembering is often the key to release. Remembering the trajectory of your past with its joys and its pain, its suffering and its delights, will help you to navigate more easily the path of your present and that of your future. But you must season your remembrance with the sweetness of compassion and self-love. Sprinkle liberally with that awareness that only comes from years of experience.”
Covering my face with my hands, I pull my focus inward, searching and seeking, always looking for the elusive answers to the meaning of my life. Peeking through my splayed fingers, I’m amused to see the Crone, hands covering her own face, eyes forward, staring back at me. I chuckle; she echoes. Pulling her hands down from her face, she looks at me questioningly. “I just…..I just really hate it….I don’t understand why I’m still struggling with the same issues that plagued me when I was younger. Wasn’t I supposed to evolve? I mean, I’ve spent most of my life seeking consciousness and self-understanding. I immersed myself in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and made a 6 week pilgrimage to Tibet. I’m still in therapy and meditate regularly. But I seem to be standing in the exact same spot with the exact same challenges. What gives?”
“Spiritual and psychological transformation take time, often many life times,” she replies. “It’s a process, not a product. From where I stand, it seems to me that the only thing missing from your profound journey is empathy for yourself. Humans never thrive unless they are seen for who they truly are – Light Beings repeatedly caught in the struggle to emerge from the restrictive human experience. You would do well to enlarge your perspective and excise the judgment. And now, I’m getting tired. Shall we take just one more question before I retire?”
Breathing deeply to collect my thoughts and prepare the query I have purposely left for last, I gaze lovingly into the eyes of my new spiritual friend. “So, what about death?” I ask.
“What about it?” she shoots back with a thin smile creasing her thin lips.
“Well, uh, I was just thinking,” I begin haltingly. “My mortality is always lurking around the edges, reminding me that my time is short. And – I have so many things I still want to do with my life. I’m curious about death and yet, also afraid of being in pain, afraid of being afraid. I‘m just not ready….” My voice trails off.
“So, with all those past life memories you’ve excavated – soul journeys, if you will – you don’t trust that death is a welcome doorway into another dimension, another life experience? A chance to further the work you have only just begun in this life? Death is not an ending, just another beginning – and one that you’ve experienced before. You survived death in the past and you’ll survive it yet again. Remember. Its always about perspective – seeing the future from the perspective of your own ancient and eternal past. Does that help?” she asks as her form begins to dissolve, like particles of sugar in a glass of water. Left behind is the reflection of a woman just a bit younger, still with wrinkles and graying hair but a more acceptable and not so decrepit version of myself. I breathe a sigh of relief – not that old yet. And definitely not dead – yet.
About the Author
Dr. Kathy Martone is currently an author and artist living in a small Victorian town in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. She and her husband also manage two small BnB’s in their charming turn of the century village.
Before retiring in 2015, Dr. Martone was a Jungian psychologist in private practice specializing in dream work, women’s spirituality and shamanic journeys. Prior to this, she was the director of a small mental health clinic and then she served as company psychologist for Southwestern Bell Telephone. She taught classes at Colorado Free University, The Jungian Ministries International, Naropa University, and Iliff School of Theology. For the past 35 years she has studied with Richmond K. Greene, past chair of the New York Jungian Institute.
The magical world of dreams has fascinated and intrigued Kathy for as long as she can remember. Inspired by a dream in 2005, she began making velvet tapestries imprinted with the image of one of her own dream figures and embellished with ribbons, rhinestones, feathers, glass beads, Swarovski crystals, antique jewelry and semi-precious stones. As a Jungian psychologist and shamanic practitioner, energy and depth of meaning are very important to her. So frequently she will accent the tapestries with symbolic objects, such as old pieces of jewelry, the lining from a purse that belonged to her grandmother, or a piece of ribbon she wore as a little girl. Layering these materials into a meaningful image evokes for her the multi-layered realms of dreams, myth and metaphor. Like the magical nets of ancient shamans, these colorful tapestries ensnare the features of her dream spirits as they stare back at her from their watery dimensions. Her work has been displayed in galleries in Denver, Colorado as well as in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
In 2006 Dr. Martone self published her first book titled, Sacred Wounds: A Love Story. The book chronicles the author’s relentless quest for self understanding and provides a blueprint for other seekers who are looking for spiritual enlightenment while grappling with painful life experiences. Written in easy to understand language, the book explains how various spiritual and psychological practices were brought together in an alchemical blend to produce a potion of timeless healing. Weaving its way through such healing practices as psychotherapy, shamanism, Buddhism, Jungian thought and dream work, the reader is given a clear map for psychological and spiritual change.