Are You Doing it Wrong? 5 Tips to Wash Your Family’s Laundry Right with method!

We all have budgets to stick to (as closely as possible), and that includes money spent on buying clothes and washing clothes. What we don’t all know is that some of the things we are doing may be working to kill our budgets on both ends!

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Check some things that many of us are doing wrong – these are tips that can help save your clothes – which is what method detergent aims to do.  In fact, they have partnered with ASOS to create easy-to-clean, functional fashion pieces.

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These tips can help you keep your clothes looking amazing!

Read and Respect the Label

Those irritating pieces of fabric that are stitched into your clothes serve more purpose than just making you itch! I know, it surprised me too. It turns out there are very important pieces of information scribbled on the tags, and that information can help you avoid disaster. In short, if it says ‘Dry Clean Only’, then, please, take it out of the washer and put it in the car. Go to the cleaners! Your garments will last longer, look fresher, and you get those cool wire hangers that you can’t get anywhere else.

If It’s Decorated, Turn it Inside Out!

We have 2 girls and one of them is decorated to the proposition that all clothes should be adorned with sparkly things – glitter, sequins, layers of fluttering fabrics, or any other embellishments that can catch the eye. So, when its laundry time, what’s a mom to do? You can save the integrity of the decorations by turning garments inside out prior to washing.

Flipping the clothes inside out lets them go safely through the washer without snagging the decorations on the machine or other articles while laundering.

You Bought the Machines, Use Them Right.

When you picked your washing machine and dryer out, you selected them based on more than just the color. You were likely very interested in all of the features and benefits the machines contained. Your machines almost certainly contain alternatives for temperature settings, fabric types, and timers – use them!

Select water and dryer temps to complement the fabric you are washing. If you are concerned about the possibility of the fabric shrinking, use cold water. Want to kill germs, check out the advantages of washing in hot water. See #1 – your labels will let you know what temps the manufacturer recommends.

Don’t Skimp on the Detergent

I am using method 4x detergent on our family’s laundry because it works great in cold water and gets the clothes clean without dulling the colors. Plus, its hypoallergenic and can be used to pre-treat stains that you know your family will bring in the door. Select your favorite scent from among some distinctive choices (ginger & mango, spring garden, beach sage, and fresh clover, or even scent free.

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You save $3 on your bottle of method 4x when you enter code: THREEFORME and order here.  Plus, it only requires a little bit of detergent (each bottle washes 66 loads!).  Look how small the cup is!

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Be Delicate with your Delicates

When it comes time to wash your delicate items, try using a lingerie bag designed especially for the purpose. Putting pantyhose, bras, etc. in a lingerie bag to protect them from other items in the washer lessens the chances of fabric tears or snags. Once you get them out of the washing machine, make sure you hang them up to dry so you don’t ruin your garments.

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Beautiful Air By Design with Renuzit

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Oliver and Sunny are two indispensable members of our house – they are also two of the smelliest! When we are looking for something to use as an odor neutralizer, we try to find products that are long-lasting air fresheners and aren’t overpowering by themselves. Renuzit Pearl Scents® is an attractive and effective product that meets the demands of our home.

Our family has an active calendar, so between horse shows, chorus concerts, and family trips to the park or cross-country training, there isn’t always time to make sure that the dogs both get hosed off weekly, or that all of the horse blankets get washed the day we get back from a show (we do make sure that the kids get showered regularly). To keep our home smelling fresh and clean, we have tried so many air fresheners that only covered the odor, or scent eliminators that didn’t outlast the stink. Renuzit Pearl Scents® accomplishes long-lasting odor neutralization and very pleasing aromas that create ‘beautiful air by design’.

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Renuzit Pearl Scents is strong enough to stand up to the aromas of our two dogs and our two kids (the runner’s up for smelliest) by neutralizing odor, not just masking the smell. With 5 distinctive colors and scents consisting of Blue Sky Breeze, Serenity in purple, Sparkling Rain in green, Tranquil in a darker blue, and Seductive Pineapple in gold, there is a Renuzit Pearl Scent® to match every room and a scent to neutralize every odor the kids and dogs can generate!

Three lucky Mama Games readers have the opportunity to try out the Renuzit Pearl Scents® themselves by entering this giveaway! Three winners will each receive a coupon redeemable for a free Renuzit Pearl Scents® aroma of their choice. Which room in your home could use some ‘beautiful air by design’?

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The Inn at Ocean’s Edge By Colleen Coble {Book Review}

* I was provided with a free copy of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Inn at Ocean's Edge

About The Inn at Ocean’s Edge

Claire’s visit to a luxury hotel in Maine awakens repressed memories, threatening all she holds dear.
In 1989, Claire Dellamare disappeared from her own fourth birthday party at the Hotel Tourmaline on the island of Folly Shoals, Maine. She showed up a year later at the same hotel, with a note pinned to her dress but no explanation. Nobody knows where Claire spent that year—and until now, Claire didn’t even know she had ever been missing.
But when Claire returns to the Hotel Tourmaline for a business meeting with her CEO father, disturbing memories begin to surface . . . despite her parents’ best efforts to keep them forgotten.
Luke Rocco lost his mother under equally mysterious circumstances—at the same time Claire disappeared. After a chance encounter reveals the unlikely link between them, Claire and Luke set out together to uncover the truth about what happened that fateful year.
With flashbacks swimming just beneath her consciousness and a murderer threatening her safety, Claire’s very life depends on unscrambling her past . . . even if her family refuses to acknowledge it. Someone-maybe everyone-is hiding something from Claire Dellamare, and it will cost her everything to drag the truth out into the light.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book and found myself ready to read more even when it was time to put the book down.  It is quite suspenseful from the very first flashback!  Claire is very likable – she is very confident, which is why being struck by a panic attack upon her arrival at the Inn.  When Claire meets Luke, the mystery starts to build, and it becomes very difficult to tease out who the real bad guy is.  The book takes a lot of twists and turns, and it’s a fun to try and figure out how the murder investigations fit together and exactly what happened to Claire, and who is trying to kill her.
This book won’t disappoint for mystery fans!  I also really enjoyed the setting – it made me want to go to the beach!

Win an Awesome Prize Pack!

You can help the author celebrate the release of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge and maybe win a Kindle Fire!  RSVP to her May 5th author chat party!


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One grand prize winner will win:

  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Heart’s Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart’s Obsession
  • A copy of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge

The giveaway ends on May 7, and the winner will be announced on May 8th on Colleen’s website.

 


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Dial Sugar Cane Husk Scrub + Giveaway

* The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Sugar Cane Husk Scrub in exchange for a product review.  However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

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Are your hands super rough after winter?  I know mine are!  They get chapped so quickly, especially because I habitually lose my gloves!  Dial has the perfect solution! I was so excited to try their new Sugar Cane Husk Scrub!  This is the newest product in the Dial Boutique Collection Hand Soap line, and it is truly a luxurious experience!

The scent is awesome – it is a like a very expensive sugar scrub at a very enticing price.  The soap does suds right up –

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The best part is the microscrubbers!  Along with the moisturizing formulas and skin conditioners, tiny microscrubbers help remove dirt and leave your hands exfoliated.  They come out SO soft and smooth!  I definitely recommend that you try them out if your hands have been beaten up by Old Man Winter!

3 lucky Mama Games readers are going to get a chance to win a coupon for a free bottle of Dial Sugar Cane Husk Scrub Hand Soap!  Come back every day to enter!  US Only 18+.

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Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap Infused With Marula Oil

* The Dial brand provided me with a sample of Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap in exchange for a product review.  However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

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We live in a house with 2 kids, 2 dogs, one very chubby ferret, 12 fish, and there are 3 horses in the barn! Between the animals and the kids, someone is always DIRTY! So when the kids are covered in mud and muck we now go straight for the deep cleansing  hand soap Dial Miracle Oil!

This time of year the heater dries out our skin inside the house and the mud covers little hands while we are having fun outside. Once we finally corral pets and kids back into their cages (pets) and the house (kids), the last thing I want to worry about is whether or not the soap we use is going to leave behind any residue on the hands, arms, and elbows of our little ones! Thankfully, Dial Miracle Oil Handsoap came to our rescue with a conditioning soap that provides refreshing moisture and deep cleansing family soap that everyone loves.

Because Dial Miracle Oil Hand Soap is infused with micro-scrubbers and Marula Oil with Micro Oil Technology, I don’t have to worry about the kids (or my spouse) spreading germs or oily, soapy residue around the house. Dial Miracle Oil soaps are super clean rinsing so once you have washed off the dirt and debris, all you are left with is soft and clean skin!

Whether you have a houseful or just value a hard-working conditioning soap that pampers you by giving you refreshing moisture for your skin while providing the deep cleansing power of a family soap, Dial Miracle Oil will make you smile!

 

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3 lucky Mama Games readers are going to get a chance to win a coupon for a free bottle of Dial Sugar Miracle Oil Hand Soap!  Come back every day to enter!  US Only 18+.

 

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Blogger Opportunity – Barbara Freethy Book Tour

Is there anything better than falling in love with a new book? How about falling in love with a whole new series?

Well, here’s an awesome opportunity for you! Now you can get to know the New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romance series by #1 NY Times Bestselling Author Barbra Freethy as part of a fun publicity event. Each Callaway novel is filled with romance, suspense, and adventure. You can read all 8 books in the Callaway series for free (or, if you choose, you can give the series a try by reading just the first book, or you can host a guest post or interview instead—there’s lots of options). How cool is that?!

Barbara Freethy Brand Kit (1)

The event will run from April 6 to April 11 and will celebrate the strong women in our lives with guest posts and interviews from the author, Callaway excerpts, and–of course–your reviews! We’ll have lots of prizes to give away too, including Amazon gift cards, autographed books, and Callaway swag!

 

 

Don’t have time to read and review? That’s okay, you can still participate and compete for these awesome prizes by hosting a guest post, excerpt, or interview–but I hear you’re going to want to read all about the Callaways. Once you get started, it’s so hard to stop.

To sign up for this tour, visit www.novelpublicity.com/callaways. To learn more about the author and her bestselling series, keep reading J

 

About On A Night Like This, Book #1 of the Callaway Series

From #1 NY Times Bestselling Author, Barbara Freethy, comes a romantic new contemporary series about the Callaways, a big, blended Irish family born to serve and protect.

The second oldest of the Callaway clan, Aiden Callaway veered from the family tradition of urban firefighting and became a smokejumper, never questioning his choice until the job took the life of his friend, Kyle, and left Aiden with injuries and fractured memories. Everyone blames Aiden for what happened, but he doesn’t remember, nor is he sure he wants to remember. The truth may clear Aiden of blame but destroy Kyle’s reputation and hurt the people he left behind.

Aiden seeks help from an unlikely ally …

Sara had always been untouchable, sweet, innocent, his sister’s best friend, and the girl next door. But one reckless night in their youth took their relationship to a new level. Sara has never forgiven or forgotten the way Aiden brought it crashing down, but she’s no longer that girl with the crazy crush. She’s a woman in search of her own truth.

The sparks between Aiden and Sara have been smoldering for a very long time. Sara is afraid to take another chance on a man who broke her heart, and Aiden knows better than anyone how dangerous an intense fire can be.

As teenagers they weren’t ready for each other. Are they ready now?

ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS is the first book in an eight book connected contemporary romance series featuring the intriguing Callaway family. Love, mystery, adventure — the Callaways have it all!

About the Author

Barbara Freethy is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of 40 novels. Traditionally published for many years, in 2011 Barbara began self-publishing her backlist and has sold over 5 million ebooks and as of today she is the bestselling KDP Author of ALL TIME! Nineteen of her titles have appeared on the NY Times and USA Today bestseller lists. Her book SUMMER SECRETS hit #1 on the New York Times and remained on the list for seven weeks.

Barbara writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is known for writing emotional and compelling stories about love and family, sometimes with a little suspense, sometimes with a little magic.

 

The Perfect Egg is All It’s Cracked Up to Be {Book Review}

* Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Perfect Egg from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Perfect Egg

 

About The Perfect Egg

A cookbook all about eggs, with 70 diverse recipes for meals, snacks, and desserts, from the team behind the beloved food blog Spoon Fork Bacon.

Eggs are one of the world’s super-star foods: inexpensive, protein-rich, versatile, and easily renewable. Every culture has its own take on eggs—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and The Perfect Egg features a dazzling, delicious variety of globally influenced dishes. From Blackberry Stuffed Croissant French Toast to Hot and Sour Soup, and from Poached Yolk-Stuffed Ravioli to Creamy Lemon Curd Tart, the more than seventy recipes in The Perfect Egg offer a fresh, unique, and modern take on the most humble of foods.

My Review

Confession.  I love eggs.  I love friend eggs. I love scrambled eggs.  I love hard boiled and softboiled eggs.  I love poached eggs…well, you get the picture.  So I was super excited to review The Perfect Egg.

There are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try – I love the take on what I call “nest eggs” in my house (chicken eggs in toast), called “Mini-Toad-in-a Hole Sandwiches” which uses quail eggs.

The first part of this book is all about eggs- you’ll learn about different kinds of eggs, and more importantly, tips to prepare eggs.  So if you don’t know how to make a French omelet, this is the book for you!  The first section is also all about “basic recipes” which include things like mayo, hollandaise, creme anglaise, bernaise, basic egg pasta, etc.  This is a great little “primer” section and I can’t wait to master these recipes.

The rest of the book is arranged into sections of:  Morning, Snacks, Afternoon, Night, and Sweets, and the recipes are amazing.  From typical things you would expect, like creme brulee, to the unexpected spaetzle with Swedish meatballs, this is a book that will have something for every chef.

Buy The Perfect Egg

Buy The Perfect Egg  on Amazon for $15.12 (Hardcover)

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show {Book Review}

* I received a free ebook of Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show

 

ABOUT LUCAS MACKENZIE AND THE

LONDON MIDNIGHT GHOST SHOW 

Publication date: November 18, 2014                                    Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.                                                             Author: Steve Bryant

Lucas Mackenzie has got the best job of any 10 year old boy. He travels from city-to-city as part of the London Midnight Ghost Show, scaring unsuspecting show-goers year round. Performing comes naturally to Lucas and the rest of the troupe, who’ve been doing it for as long as Lucas can remember.

But there’s something Lucas doesn’t know.

Like the rest of Lucas’ friends, he’s dead. And for some reason, Lucas can’t remember his former life, his parents or friends. Did he go to school? Have a dog? Brothers and sisters?

If only he could recall his former life, maybe even reach out to his parents, haunt them.

When a ghost hunter determines to shut the show down, Lucas realizes the life he has might soon be over. And without a connection to his family, he will have nothing. There’s little time and Lucas has much to do. Can he win the love of Columbine, the show’s enchanting fifteen-year-old mystic? Can he outwit the forces of life and death that thwart his efforts to find his family?

Keep the lights on! Lucas Mackenzie’s coming to town.

My Review

If you are looking for a great new middle grade book, you have to check out Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show!  The length is perfect for a quick read at only 173 pages, and the action moves right along – no bored readers here!  It has great universal themes like growing up and finding yourself.  There is also a tinge of romance (discussing kissing and such).

If you object to ghosts, vampires, Ouija boards or other supernatural events, this is definitely not the book for you.  This kind of thing doesn’t bother me (quite the contrary), but be aware if this is your thing.  There are also some anachronistic type things that some modern kids may not get – like references to Shirley Temple.  But as a whole, this one should be a winner for middle grade readers!

ABOUT STEVE BRYANT

 Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a 40+ page monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction; and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals (his most recent article was about the séance at Hollywood’s Magic Castle).

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Buy Lucas Mackenzie

Chapters Indigo | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD | Indiebound

 Win Your Own Copy!

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Fingers in the Mist {Book Review and Giveaway}

*Disclaimer:  I received a free ebook copy of Fingers in the Mist from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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About Fingers in the Mist

Sixteen-year-old Caitlyn Foster never believed in the legend of the Redeemers. That was before the trees started to whisper her name. Before a murder of crows attacked the town. Before she and her family came home to find a bloody handprint on their front door, marking one of them as a sacrifice. As Caitlyn’s friends are ripped from their homes, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the Redeemers come for her. Caitlyn has the power to stop the terror, but she’ll have to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice herself to save those she loves.

Publication date: February 24, 2015      

                                                       Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.                                                          

Author: O’Dell Hutchison

My Review

I loved this book from the minute I started it…and in all honesty I finished it in one day because I couldn’t put it down.   When I first started the book, it reminded me a little of bit of M. Night Shymalan’s movie “The Village” combined with “Children of the Corn” as it is set in a rural farm community that is hyper-religious in a cultish way, believing in “Redeemers” which essentially come and steal your children in the night.

Caitlyn Foster is a fantastic main character, and I quickly became enthralled not only with her, but her choices as she attempts to cope and deal with the exceptionally odd situation that she is faced with.  She is wonderfully flawed, but has a good heart, and I found her absolutely likable as a main character.  I was cheering for her the entire time.

Plot-wise, the story moves at a GREAT pace – like I said, I couldn’t put it down.  There were certain elements to the plot that were a bit predictable for me, but not NEARLY as much as your average YA novel.  O’Dell Hutchison kept me guessing throughout the novel, and this was a refreshing thing for a YA novel. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but it is safe to say that you will be engaged throughout the novel.

If you are a fan of YA paranormal fiction – you have to get this book!  You will not be disappointed.   For those of you who monitor the content of your YA books, I would have no issue giving this to my 13 year old, but if you object to references of drug use (in an addiction context) or teenage pregnancy references, you might want to give this a read first.

About the Author

 O’Dell was born in a small rural town in Idaho. There were no Redeemers living there (that he knows of). After attending college in the Pacific Northwest, he found his way to the Houston area. By day, he is a Business Systems Analyst and at night you can either find him sitting at home, dreaming of random super powers he wishes he had, or directing plays and musicals at various theaters around Houston.

Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter Facebook Goodreads

 Giveaway

Five (5) lucky winners will receive a digital copy of Fingers in the Mist by O’Dell Hutchison (INT)

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Buy Fingers in the Mist

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD

 

Prologue Reveal for Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty

M9B Friday Reveal: Prologue for Nobody’s Goddess by Amy McNulty and Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

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Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we will be unveiling the prologue for

Nobody’s Goddess (The Never Veil #1) by Amy McNulty

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Nobody's Goddess

In a village of masked men, each loves only one woman and must follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Where the rest of her village celebrates this mystery that binds men and women together, seventeen year old Noll is just done with it. She’s lost all her childhood friends as they’ve paired off, but the worst blow was when her closest companion, Jurij, finds his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever loved her: she is in fact the goddess of the mysterious lord of the village, a Byronic man who refuses to let Noll have her right as a woman to spurn him and who has the power to fight the curse. Thus begins a dangerous game between the two: the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither Noll nor the veiled man is willing to lose.

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Title: Nobody’s Goddess (The Never Veil #1)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Amy McNulty

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Prologue

When I had real friends, I was the long-lost queen of the elves.
A warrior queen who hitched up her skirt and wielded a blade. Who held her retainers in thrall. Until they left me for their goddesses.
Love. A curse that snatches friends away.
One day, when only two of my retainers remained, the old crone who lived on the northern outskirts of the village was our prey. It was twenty points if you spotted her. Fifty points if you got her to look at you. A hundred points if she started screaming at you.
You won for life if you got close enough to touch her.
“Noll, please don’t do this,” whispered Jurij from behind the wooden kitten mask covering his face. Really, his mother still put him in kitten masks, even though eleven was too old for a boy to be wearing kittens and bunnies. Especially ones that looked likely to get eaten for breakfast by as much as a weasel.
“Shut up, I want to see this!” cried Darwyn. Never a kitten, Darwyn always wore a wolf mask. Yet behind the nasty tooth-bearing wolf grin—one of my father’s better masks—he was very much a fraidycat.
Darwyn shoved Jurij aside so he could crouch behind the bush that was our threadbare cover. Jurij nearly toppled over, but I caught him and set him gently upright. Sometimes I didn’t know if Jurij realized who was supposed to be serving whom. Queens shouldn’t have to keep retainers from falling.
“Quiet, both of you.” I scanned the horizon. Nothing. All was still against the northern mountains save for the old crone’s musty shack with its weakly smoking chimney. The edges of my skirt had grazed the dusty road behind us, and I hitched it up some more so my mother wouldn’t notice later. If she didn’t want me to get the blasted thing dirty, she should have let me wear Jurij’s trousers, like I had been that morning. That got me a rap on the back of the head with a wooden spoon, a common occurrence when I was queen. It made me look too much like a boy, she scolded, and that would cause a panic.
“Are you going or not?” Darwyn was not one for patience.
“If you’re so eager, why don’t you go?” I snapped back.
Darwyn shook his wolf-head. “Oh, no, not me.”
I grinned. “That’s because you’re scared.”
Darwyn’s muffled voice grew louder. He stood beside me and puffed out his chest. “I am not! I’ve been in the commune.”
I poked toward his chest with Elgar, my trusty elf-blade. “Liar! You have not.”
Darwyn jumped back, evading my blow. “I have too! My uncle lives there!” He swatted his hand at Elgar. “Get that stick away from me.”
“It’s not a stick!” Darwyn never believed me when I said that Elgar was the blade of a warrior. It just happened to resemble a tree branch.
Jurij’s quiet voice entered the fray. “Your uncle lives there? That’s awful.” I was afraid he might cry and the tears would get caught up in the black material that covered his eyes. I didn’t want him to drown behind the wooden kitty face. He’d vanish into thin air like everyone else did when they died, and then we’d be staring down at Jurij’s clothes and the little kitten mask on the ground, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giggling. Some death for a warrior.
Darwyn shrugged and ran a hand over his elbow. “He moved in there before I was born. I think a weaver lady was his goddess. It’s not so strange. Didn’t your aunt send her man there, Jurij?”
Jurij was sniffling. Sniffling. He tried to rub at his nose, but every time he moved the back of his hand up to his face, it just clunked against the button that represented the kitten’s nose.
I sighed and patted Jurij on the back. “A queen’s retainer must never cry, Jurij.”
Darwyn laughed. “Are you still playing that? You’re no queen, Noll!”
I stopped patting Jurij and balled my hands into fists. “Be quiet, Darwyn! You used to play it, too!”
Darwyn put two fingers over his wolf-mask mouth, a gesture we had long ago decided would stand for the boys sticking out their tongues. Although Darwyn was the only one who ever did it as of late. “Like I’d want to do what some girl tells me! Girls aren’t even blessed by love!”
“Of course they are!” It was my turn to put the two fingers over my mouth. I had a tongue, but a traitorous retainer like Darwyn wasn’t worthy of the effort it took to stick it out. “Just wait until you find your goddess, and then we’ll see! If she turns out to be me, I’ll make sure you rot away in the commune with the rest of the unloved men.”
Darwyn lunged forward and tackled me. My head dragged against the bush before it hit the ground, but it still hurt; I could feel the swelling underneath the tangled knots in my hair. Elgar snapped as I tried to get a grip on my attacker. I kicked and shoved him, and for a moment, I won the upper hand and rolled on top of him, almost punching him in the face. Remembering the mask, I settled for giving him a good smack in the side, but then he kicked upward and caught me in the chest, sending me backward.
“Stop!” pleaded Jurij. He was standing between us now, the little timid kitten watching first one friend and then the other, like we were a dangling string in motion.
“Stay out of this!” Darwyn jumped to his feet and pointed at me. “She thinks she’s so high and mighty, and she’s not even someone’s goddess yet!”
“I’m only twelve, idiot! How many goddesses are younger than thirteen?” A few, but not many. I scrambled to my feet and sent my tongue out at him. It felt good knowing he couldn’t do the same to me, after all. My head ached. I didn’t want him to see the tears forming in my eyes, though, so I ground my teeth once I drew my tongue inward.
“Yeah, well, it’ll be horrible for whoever finds the goddess in you!” Darwyn made to lunge at me again, but this time Jurij shoved both his hands at Darwyn’s chest to stop him.
“Just stop,” commanded Jurij. Finally. That was a good retainer.
My eyes wandered to the old crone’s cottage. No sign of her. How could she fail to hear the epic struggle outside her door? Maybe she wasn’t real. Maybe just seeing her was worth twenty points after all.
“Get out of my way, you baby!” shouted Darwyn. “So what happens if I pull off your mask when your queen is looking, huh? Will you die?”
His greedy fingers reached toward Jurij’s wooden animal face. Even from behind, I could see the mask tip dangerously to one side, the strap holding it tightly against Jurij’s dark curls shifting. The strap broke free, flying up over his head.
My mouth opened to scream. My hands reached up to cover my eyes. My eyelids strained to close, but it felt as if the moment had slowed and I could never save him in time. Such simple things. Close your eyes. Cover your eyes. Scream.
“DO NOT FOOL WITH SUCH THINGS, CHILD!”
A dark, dirty shawl went flying onto the bush that we had ruined during our fight.
I came back to life. My head and Darwyn’s wolf mask spun toward the source of the sound. As my head turned, I saw—even though I knew better than to look—Jurij crumple to the ground, clinging both arms across his face desperately because his life depended on it.
“Your eyes better be closed, girl!” The old crone bellowed. Her own eyes were squeezed together.
I jumped and shut my eyes tightly.
“Hold that shawl tightly over your face, boy, until you can wear your mask properly!” screamed the old crone. “Off with you both, boys! Now! Off with you!”
I heard Jurij and Darwyn scrambling, the rustle of the bush and the stomps of their boots as they fled, panting. I thought I heard a scream—not from Jurij, but from Darwyn. He was the real fraidycat. An old crone was no match for the elf queen’s retainers. But the queen herself was far braver. So I told myself over and over in my head.
When the last of their footsteps faded away, and I was sure that Jurij was safe from my stare, I looked.
Eyes. Huge, bulbous, dark brown eyes. Staring directly into mine.
The crone’s face was so close I could smell the shriveled decay from her mouth. She grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “What were you thinking? You held that boy’s life in your hands! Yet you stood there like a fool, just starin’ as his mask came off.”
My heart beat faster, and I gasped for more air, but I wanted to avoid inhaling her stench. “I’m sorry, Ingrith,” I mumbled. I thought if I used her real name, if I let her lecture me like all the other adults, it would help me break free from her grasp. I twisted and pulled, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch her. I had this notion that if I touched her, my fingers would decay.
“Sorry is just a word. Sorry changes nothing.”
“Let me go.” I could still feel her dirty nails on my skin.
“You watch yourself, girl.”
“Let me go!”
The crone’s lips grew tight and puckered. Her fingers relaxed ever so slightly. “You children don’t realize. The lord is watching. Always watching—”
I knew what she was going to say, the words so familiar to me that I knew them as well as if they were my own. “And he will not abide villagers who forget the first goddess’s teachings.” The sentence seemed to loosen the crone’s fingers. She opened her mouth to speak, but I broke free and ran.
My eyes fell to the grass below my feet as I cut across the fields to get away from the monster. On the borders of the eastern woods was a lone cottage, home of Gideon the woodcarver, a warm and comfortable place so much fuller of life than the shack I left behind me. When I was near the woods, I could look up freely since the trees blocked the eastern mountains from view. But until I got closer …
“Noll! Wait up!”
My eyes snapped upward on instinct. I saw the upper boughs of the trees and almost screamed, my gaze falling back to the grass beneath my feet. I stopped running and let the gentle rustlings of footsteps behind me catch up.
“Jurij, please.” I sighed and turned around to face him, my eyes still on the grass and the pair of small dark boots that covered his feet. Somehow he managed to step delicately through the grass, not disturbing a single one of the lilies that covered the hilltops. “Don’t scare me like that. I almost looked at the castle.”
The toe of Jurij’s boot dug a little into the dirt. “Oh. Sorry.”
“Is your mask on?”
The boot stopped moving, and the tip of a black shawl dropped into my view. “Oh. Yeah.”
I shook my head and raised my eyes. There was no need to fear looking up to the west. In the distance, the mountains that encircled our village soared far beyond the western fields of crops. I liked the mountains. From the north, the south, and the west, they embraced our village with their jagged peaks. In the south, they watched over our fields of livestock. In the north, they towered above a quarry for copper and stone. And in the east, they led home and to the woods. But no girl or woman could ever look up when facing the east. Like the faces of men and boys before their Returnings, just a glance at the castle that lay beyond the woods against the eastern mountains spelled doom. The earth would shake and threaten to consume whoever broke the commandment not to look.
It made walking home a bit of a pain, to say the least.
“Tell me something important like that before you sneak up on me.”
Jurij’s kitten mask was once again tight against his face, if askew. The strap was a bit tangled in his dark curls and the pointed tip of one of his ears. “Right. Sorry.”
He held out the broken pieces of Elgar wrapped in the dirty black shawl. He seemed very retainer-like. I liked that. “I went to give this back to the—the lady. She wasn’t there, but you left Elgar.”
I snatched the pieces from Jurij’s hands. “You went back to the shack? What were you going to say? ‘Sorry we were spying on you pretending you were a monster, thanks for the dirty old rag?’”
“No.” Jurij crumpled up the shawl and tucked it under his belt. A long trail of black cloth tumbled out immediately, making Jurij look like he had on half a skirt.
I laughed. “Where’s Darwyn?”
“Home.”
Of course. I found out later that Darwyn had whined straight to his mother that “nasty old Noll” almost knocked his mask off. It was a great way to get noticed when you had countless brothers and a smitten mother and father standing between you and any form of attention. But it didn’t have the intended effect on me. I was used to lectures, and besides, there was something more important bothering me by then.
I picked up my feet to carry me back home.
Jurij skipped forward to join me. One of his boots stumbled as we left the grasses behind and hit the dirt path. “What happened with you and the crone?”
I gripped the pieces of Elgar tighter in my fist. “Nothing.” I stopped, relieved that we’d finally gotten close enough to the woods that I could face forward. I put an arm on Jurij’s shoulder to stop him. “But I touched her.” Or she touched me. “That means I win forever.”
The kitten face cocked a little sideways. “You always win.”
“Of course. I’m the queen.” I tucked the broken pieces of Elgar into my apron sash. Elgar was more of a title, bestowed on an endless number of worthy sticks, but in those days I wouldn’t have admitted that to Jurij. “Come on. I’ll give you a head start. Race you to the cavern!”
“The cavern? But it’s—”
“Too late! Your head start’s over!” I kicked my feet up and ran as if that was all my legs knew how to do. The cool breeze slapping across my face felt lovely as it flew inside my nostrils and mouth. I rushed past my home, not bothering to look inside the open door.
“Stop! Stop! Noll, you stop this instant!”
The words were something that could easily come out of a mother’s mouth, but Mother had a little more patience than that. And her voice didn’t sound like a fragile little bird chirping at the sun’s rising. “Noll!”
I was just an arm’s length from the start of the trees, but I stopped, clutching the sharp pain that kicked me in the side.
“Oh dear!” Elfriede walked out of our house, the needle and thread she was no doubt using to embroider some useless pattern on one of the aprons still pinched between two fingers. My sister was a little less than a year older than me, but to my parents’ delight (and disappointment with me), she was a hundred times more responsible.
“Boy, your mask!” Elfriede never did learn any of my friends’ names. Not that I could tell her Roslyn from her Marden, either. One giggling, delicate bird was much like another.
She walked up to Jurij, who had just caught up behind me. She covered her eyes with her needle-less hand, but I could see her peeking between her fingers. I didn’t think that would actually protect him if the situation were as dire as she seemed to think.
“It’s crooked.” Elfriede’s voice was hoarse, almost trembling. I rolled my eyes.
Jurij patted his head with both hands until he found the bit of the strap stuck on one of his ears. He pulled it down and twisted the mask until it lined up evenly.
I could hear Elfriede’s sigh of relief from where I was standing. She let her fingers fall from her face. “Thank the goddess.” She considered Jurij for a moment. “There’s a little tear in your strap.”
Without asking, she closed the distance between them and began sewing the small tear even as the mask sat on his head. From how tall she stood above him, she might have been ten years older instead of only two.
I walked back toward them, letting my hands fall. “Don’t you think that’s a little stupid? What if the mask slips while you’re doing that?”
Elfriede’s cheeks darkened and she yanked the needle up, pulling her instrument free of the thread and tucking the extra bit into the mask strap. She stood back and glared at me. “Don’t you talk to me about being stupid, Noll. All that running isn’t safe when you’re with boys. Look how his mask was moving.”
His mask had moved for even more dangerous reasons than a little run, but I knew better than to tell tattletale Elfriede that. “How would you know what’s safe when you’re with boys? You’re already thirteen, and no one has found the goddess in you!” Darwyn’s taunt was worth reusing, especially since I knew my sister would be more upset about it than I ever was.
Elfriede bit her lip. “Go ahead and kill your friends, then, for all I care!” The bird wasn’t so beautiful and fragile where I was concerned.
She retreated into the house and slammed the door behind her. I wrapped my hand around Jurij’s arm, pulling him eastward. “Come on. Let’s go. There’re bound to be more monsters in the cavern.”
Jurij didn’t give beneath my pull. He wouldn’t move.
“Jurij?”
I knew right then, somewhere in my mind, what had happened. But I was twelve. And Jurij was my last real friend. I knew he’d leave me one day like the others, but on some level, I didn’t really believe it yet.
Jurij stood stock still, even as I wrenched my arm harder and harder to get him to move.
“Oh for—Jurij!” I yelled, dropping my hands from his arm in frustration. “Ugh. I wish I was your goddess just so I could get you to obey me. Even if that means I’d have to put up with all that—yuck—smooching.” I shivered at the thought.
At last Jurij moved, if only to lift his other arm, to run his fingers across the strap that Elfriede had mended. She was gone from my sight, but Jurij would never see another.
It struck them all. Sometime around Jurij’s age, the boys’ voices cracked, shifting from high to deep and back again in a matter of a few words. They went from little wooden-faced animals always shorter than you to young men on their way to towering over you. And one day, at one moment, at some age, earlier for some and later for others, they looked at a girl they’d probably seen thousands of times before and simply ceased to be. At least, they weren’t who I knew them to be ever again.
And as with so many of my friends before Jurij, in that moment all other girls ceased to matter. I was nothing to him now, an afterthought, a shadow, a memory.
No.
Not him.
My dearest, my most special friend of all, now doomed to live or die by the choice of the fragile little bird who’d stopped to mend his strap.

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---About-the-Author

Amy McNulty

Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Giveaway

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