5 Handicaps that put a spoke in from the beginning
Generally, when two people decide to get hitched for a reason other than love, they already know each other, presumably they already like each other, and each of the bring into the marriage something that the other want. As this is not a love match to start with, there is nonetheless the hope, and the possibility, that they might come to mean something more to each other in time. But at best, marrying for a convenience is dicey, as it could be a beneficial partnership, or it could turn into a living hell.
So, in A Convenient Marriage, as the title implies, a couple does it because it is convenient for them. But these two were handicapped more that most in similar situations.
In the first place, neither of them believed that the marriage would be ‘real’, because, as they both had an agenda of their own, it was supposed to be a temporary affair and easy to undo. The convenience was that they each needed something from each other – and it wasn’t s.e.x.
Secondly, and this was their own fault, they never met each other in person beforehand, so they didn’t have the opportunity to discuss what they each were after, until they were already married. They were complete strangers to each other.
Thirdly, they didn’t reckon with the undue influence Holly became the victim of from the moment she accepted Joshua’s proposal, and it would be only after the wedding that she discovered why she was being followed around by a ghost.
And in the forth place, they forgot that they wouldn’t be isolated in this, but that their families and friends all would influence their relationship, just as family and friends normally do.
And saving the best for last, to be convincing as a couple and achieve what they set out to do, they had to pretend like they never have before, and they had to pretend to be, well, in love.
This was a huge slice of cake they served each other. Could they do it?
The idea of two complete strangers getting hitched has always intrigued me, for one simple reason—why would they do such a thing? Could such a relationship succeed? By successful relationship, I understand not only the longevity of the marriage…but is it possible for the participants to actually fall in love with each other in such a strange arrangement? I write romance, after all, and love is found in the most unexpected places.
A Convenient Marriage grew over a number of years. The basic story was simple—a divorcee with two children, an ex-husband being difficult over visitation, as well as a fiancée unable to commit. Holly’s friends suggested that she needed a new husband, placing an advert in the paper for one behind her back. Joshua was struck by a simple plan when he saw the ad and responded to it. Boring stuff, huh?
The problem was motivation. Why would Holly marry a man she’d never met, and why would Joshua respond to an ad for a husband, then actually propose to a woman he had never clapped eyes on? So, in came the dawdling fiancée, Nicole. Both Holly and Joshua were justified in not planning the marriage to be a real one, because they each had an agenda of their own, but Nicole was the injured party. For their plan to succeed, they had to marry—the real kind, down to that all-important piece of paper married—and they had to seem to be totally in love with each other. Holly needed to be married to take her ex on for custody of her children, while if Joshua wanted to motivate his reluctant fiancée into church, he had to be off limits to Nicole. That would make him very attractive to her again, and maybe she would even set a date for their wedding.
And here comes the ‘but’. Holly and Joshua’s plans go awry from the moment they meet on the steps of the chapel where their fake marriage is to take place, when both recognize the immediate attraction. Back at Joshua’s wine estate—yes, he is a rich landowner where Holly expected him to be a pauper—Holly meets Joshua’s mother, his brother and sister-in-law, and Nicole, the fiancée, who found out about Joshua’s duplicity in a room full of people. No one can blame Nicole for being a tad upset. Or can they? To add to Holly’s woes, she seems to have acquired a ‘ghost’ demanding she tell a story.
Amidst Nicole’s shenanigans, Joshua’s mother’s disapproval, Holly’s ex’s aggression, and the ghost following Holly around, will these two accomplish what they set out to do? Or will life get in the way?
Joshua’s and Holly’s journey through the uncharted seas of a blind marriage, where no rules apply, is a stormy one.
I have written about ghosts in the past, but they aren’t all I am interested in. Owls are another passionof mine and are repeatedly used in my novels. My owls always act in unusual ways, for instance—they fly together, like a flock of birds would do—which owls never do in real life; they attack humans, which is highly unlikely; and they guard or protect a human being, which is also not in their nature. This is the fun part of being a novelist. To serve the purpose of my story, owls may behave in any way I want them to, although I mostly stick to known facts.
We all know the basics of owls. They are birds known for their distinctive call, they are nocturnal, and their flight is silent. They’re also deadly if you happen to be a tiny creature. Owls are right up there with bats and spiders as the most popular creatures used for Halloween.
Owls are classified into two categories—barn owls have a heart-shaped face, and true owls have a round face. In each category, there are of course several species: 16 Barn Owl species and 190 True Owl species, to be exact. They don’t build nests, but make their home using anything that is convenient, from a nest built in the ground by other birds or burrowing animals, to a nook in a tree, to old abandoned buildings.
They are carnivorous and will eat rodents, small mammals, nocturnal insects, fish and even other birds. After digesting their food, owls regurgitate hard pellets of compressed bones, fur, teeth, feathers, and other materials they couldn’t digest. A barn owl can eat up to 1000 mice each year, and farmers try to attract barn owls to help control rodent populations in agricultural fields.
Most people will know that an owl’s eyes are fixed in their sockets, so that they have to turn their whole head to find their prey. You might have heard the tall tale that because of their fixed eyes, should you circle an owl, it will wring its own neck watching you. As the owl can only turn its head 260 degrees, this claim is impossible. Because their eyes are fixed, they have binocular vision, a necessity for hunting in the dark. An owl has three eyelids, one for blinking, one for sleeping, and one for keeping the eye clean and lubricated.
Their ears are asymmetrical, as well as being different sizes and heights on their heads. This gives the birds superior hearing, and the ability to pinpoint where the prey is even before they can see it. The flattened facial disk of an owl funnels sounds to the bird’s ears and magnifies it as much as ten times to help it hear noises humans can’t detect. Some owl species have ‘ear’ tufts on their heads but they aren’t ears at all. These tufts of feathers may indicate the bird’s mood and help keep it camouflaged.
Owls have zygodactyl feet, which means they have two toes pointing forwards and two toes pointing backwards. This gives them a stronger, more powerful grip on their prey. Their feathers have been especially adapted to muffle the sounds of flying, and their broad wingspan and light bodies help make them nearly silent in flight. Handy for stalking prey.
For most owl species, females are larger, heavier, and more aggressive than the males, with the females being the most colourful.
Hooting is not their only form of communication. They are capable of a wide range of sounds, such as screeches, whistles, barks, and hisses. During the nesting season, an owl’s calls can often be heard up to a mile away. And they sing duets with their breeding partner, who they mate with for life.
Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that a group of owls is called a parliament?
Owls have been found in the fossil record up to 58 million years ago. The largest recorded owl fossil, Orinmegalonyx oteroi, stood about three feet tall. Images of owls have been found in cave paintings in France, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even in Mayan art. Most cultures focused on the dark aspect of the owl, mainly because of man’s inherent fear of the dark. Because the owl is nocturnal, and the medical fact that most deaths occur at night, the owl became associated with death.
The biggest modern threats to owls are habitat loss, pesticides that poison the birds and their food supplies, and human persecution because of negative superstitions.
Unfortunately for the owl, they have been much maligned by folklore and superstition. In ancient Greek mythology, Athena, Goddess of the Underworld and Wisdom, had a companion owl on her shoulder, which revealed unseen truths to her. The Japanese believe the owl warns them of impending danger. In Celtic folklore, the owl was sacred and endowed with magical powers. To the Welsh, the owl symbolised death, renewal, and wisdom. Today, owl superstitions still associate the birds with bad luck, death, and the stealing souls in many cultures. In paganism, the owl is associated with the goddess, wisdom, underworld deities, and prophecies.
Owl symbolism used in meditation and ritual can help you interpret dreams, unmask those who would deceive you, and find hidden spiritual truths.
For me, personally, hearing an owl hoot at night means something good is about to happen.
I couldn’t find another picture of an owl, so here’s a black rose, another passion of mine.
Ghosts and apparitions have held great interest to humankind throughout the ages. At first, ghosts of the dearly departed were accepted as fact, forming part of everyday life and rituals, but as we gradually became more technologically sophisticated, so scepticism set in. It is a basic instinct to fear what one doesn’t understand, or can’t reasonably explain.
Because ‘ghost hunting’ isn’t a real science and has depended on amateurs with imperfect methods and imperfect equipment, knowledge has remained rather sketchy. Of course, ghost stories are steeped in folklore. As tales are passed on from generation to generation, they become embellished and distorted. These stories were told to warn and to entertain—not necessarily meant to be accepted as fact.
Personally, I’ve always been interested in the paranormal and have started to question the nature of apparitions of the dead. I wanted to know why the spirits of some people linger after death and others not. To find answers, I first had to explore the nature of ghosts in general.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all heard inexplicable little sounds at odd times for which we couldn’t find reasonable explanations. And because we’re scared of ghosts and things that go bump in the night, it makes one feel better to blame the noisy neighbours. And what about the movement we catch from the corner of the eye that we assign to shifting light casting shadows? Sometimes, when we can’t come up with a logical explanation, it’s just more comforting to blame our own overactive imagination. But is it possible that all this space around us is not empty?
We’re all born with the ability to ‘see’. Unfortunately, our perception changes over time as we mature. Through the process of socialisation, the ability is blocked when it’s assigned to the child’s imagination.
Here are a few interesting ‘facts’ regarding the experience of ghostly activity:
• Whereas children can see ghosts, only about one in ten adults retain that ability.
• Women are more likely than men to see a ghost.
• The higher the IQ, the lower the likelihood of seeing a ghost.
• People actively looking for ghosts are the least likely to see one, and by the flip of a coin, those who disregard their presence are quite likely candidates to have a ghostly experience.
1) The most common explanation of what ghosts are, is that they’re the spirits of people who have died prematurely and so still have unfinished business to complete. The soul incarnates into each new life with a set of prescribed tasks to complete in that life for the development of that soul. When death comes unexpectedly or early, some of the tasks might still be incomplete and the soul is unable to cross over to the spirit world. The spirit then lingers around his or her old haunts, friends, and family. This kind of sighting is highly interactive, and not only is a conversation possible, one may even capture the spirit in a video or photo. Some people stick to this theory of the nature of ghosts because they seem to accept it as proof of life after death.
2) Another theory is that high impact events are recorded in the surroundings where those events take place. The recording is then replayed—so to speak—over and over, but can only be seen by people who have retained the sensitivity. This could manifest as the actual seeing of the apparition, but it could also take the form of recurring smells or sounds. The recording consists of a very strong emotion or violent event. As this is only a recording of an event, it makes sense that there can be no interaction with the ghost as such. This is what is called a residual haunting. A poltergeist is attached to a place or house, or even a single room in a house, and doesn’t respond to the people occupying the space. Poltergeist means noisy ghost, because they are known to throw things around and make sounds.
3) A third theory of what ghosts are, states that they are naturally occurring electromagnetic events. We all leave impressions on the places we visit during our lives. So, one place could have the impressions of many people who visited it over time. I’m not sure if these impressions would be interpreted as ghosts, though.
4) Similarly, there is a theory that ghosts are actual people living in parallel dimensions that overlap our dimension for a time. I suppose one must consider all options, but this one seems unlikely to me.
5) And the theory that ghosts live only in the imagination would seem to satisfy only those who have lost their ability to perceive.
Whatever the nature of ghosts, I believe they are there, whether one accepts them or not. And remember, if you don’t believe in the existence of such spirits, you stand a much better chance of being visited by one.
Yay! Friday at last! I thought we could end the week with a real “ghost” story and I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have.
One “person” who should be haunting Simon’s Town, but who by all accounts aren’t, is Able Seaman Just Nuisance, R.N. This is a great story I stumbled across while looking for Simon’s Town’s resident ghosts. I wouldn’t mind bumping into this fellow on a dark and stormy night!
Born on April’s Fool Day 1937 in Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa, this Great Dane pup was sold to Benjamin Chaney, who moved to Simon’s Town to run the United Services Institute. It was here where this large dog became a legend.
It was a dog’s life – the sailors on the base at Simon’s Town fed him all sorts: beer, pies, etc., and took him for walks. He was a friendly dog and was loved by everyone. He started to follow the sailors around the base and the docks and eventually onto the ships themselves – HMS Neptune was to become his favourite vessel. Only thing was, he chose his spot to lie down at the top of the gangplank, making boarding the vessel difficult, eliciting “You’re just a nuisance!” from the sailors.
He regularly followed the off-duty seamen on their jaunts to Cape Town, 22miles and 27 stations north of Simon’s Town. But he knew exactly where he was going. The conductor was not sympathetic and put the dog off at the next station. Undeterred, the dog would just board the next train. Sometimes people even offered to pay his fare, but a stream of complaints was sent to Mr Chaney, demanding that he controlled his dog’s movements. It was only when the railway threatened to have the dog put down that, due to the massive outcry from the sailors and other people who have come to know Just Nuisance, that the Commander-in-Chief decided to enlist him into the Royal Navy, making him one of the world’s most famous dogs.
He was enlisted on August 25th, 1939, his first name became “Just”, his trade “Bone Crusher” and his religion “Scrounger” later upgraded to Canine Divinity League – Anti-Vivisection, for the rations. His duties seemed to have been self-imposed. He didn’t like his friends to squabble and he made sure they got home to barracks after a night in the pub.
Just Nuisance was more than just a dog. He did much for the morale of the sailors in the Second World War, but he was no angel. His rap sheet was long and distinguished, including offenses like going AWOL, traveling on the trains without his free pass, sleeping in the petty officer’s bed and refusing to leave a pub at closing time.
RIP Just Nuisance
Nuisance was involved in a traffic accident on January 1, 1944 which left him with thrombosis which slowly paralyzed him and on April 1, 1944, 7 years after he was born, he was put to sleep at the Simon’s Town Naval Hospital. The next day he was buried with full military honors that included a gun salute and a lone bugle’s rendition of The Last Post, on top of Red Hill.
He is not forgotten, though. His legend lives on at the Simon’s Town Museum, where his official papers, his collar and many photos of him are on display. They even run a look-alike competition yearly, ensuring that the legend of Able Seaman Just Nuisance R.N. continue for a few years to come.
Assumptions are invariably incorrect. Yet, people will stick with what they believe. Just as Rubi believed herself to be married for six years, until it was proven that she’d never been married at all. Finding herself a free agent again after years of waiting for her elusive husband, Rubi needed a man.
Upset by the echoes of her sordid past, Nathan walked into her life at precisely the right moment. Handsome, hot, and gay, he could only be a temporary distraction, or so she assumed. But what she didn’t take into account was that Nathan might have other plans for her. Even so, she wanted the real thing—a relationship, stability, and love—and Nathan couldn’t give that to her. Or so she assumed.
To prove her wrong about him, he abducted her and took her to the place where they first met, at Dane and Eloise’s wedding the week before. Back at the lodge, they find themselves in the same haunted room. Between the ghosts and Rubi’s insistence that he is gay, would Nathan succeed in changing her perception of him?
To add to her doubts, there’s also the matter of a certain secret he’s not ready to share.