Taking Flight, a Reworked Celtic Myth
Firstly a big thank you to Ofelia, for inviting me to visit today! I’m here to blatantly pimp my new release, Taking Flight, which came out a couple of days ago on Tuesday 13th July. I was also here a few weeks ago, talking about the collection generally and how I started writing them. (I don’t want to call it a series, because that implies they’re connected, and they’re not really, only by the fact they’re all based on the myths). You can find that post here!
It’s a story I’ve had in my mind for a while, chewing over and over, wondering how I could make it into a contemporary queer tale. I had problems to begin with because the story of Brânwen from The Mabinogion is quite complicated and I didn’t want this to be a full length novel. I was aiming for about ten thousand words and it’s come in at fourteen, which is more than I wanted really. To get it down to that I’ve had to radically chop the original tale up and focus on Brânwen/Gwyn’s escape from their imprisonment in the kitchens.
Once I’d decided to focus on a much smaller part of the legend, it all seemed to fall into place and the story more or less wrote itself. Okay, that’s not quite true, I did get stuck for a week, which involved lots of sulking and eating of carbohydrates, but generally, it suddenly clicked. I really hope it’s as easy to read as it was to write!
I’ve got an excerpt for you here today, set just as Gwyn and Darren have left and are waiting for the bus!
Excerpt of Taking Flight
“All right?” Darren asked, sitting down next to him.
“Hurts,” he said, briefly.
He felt rather than saw Darren nod, shoulder pressed against his on the narrow seats. It was warm and comforting and nice to have someone to lean on, just a little bit.
“There should be a bus in about fifteen minutes,” Darren said, “but I’m never quite sure whether they’re reliable. If we miss this one it’s four hours until the afternoon ones start again, so cross your fingers. Although we could hitch I suppose.”
Gwyn pulled a face without opening his eyes. “I’d rather not,” he said. “But better than hanging around here for four hours. I don’t think he’ll come after me. But he might.”
Darren was silent for a few minutes beside him. Then he said very gently, “You know I’ll listen if you want to talk, don’t you? I know we’re not close friends, we haven’t known each other long. But I’m here.”
Gwyn bit his lip. He couldn’t answer. He’d cry if he did. He drew in a sharp little breath and Darren nudged him gently with his shoulder.
“It’s all right. Don’t worry about it. Let’s get on the bus and get down to Dublin. We can find somewhere to stay overnight and get the ferry in the morning. It’ll all look better when we’re further away from here.”
Gwyn nodded carefully, eyes still shut and head tilted back. Projecting everything is fine, honestly, vibes as hard as he possibly could.
“Thanks, Darren,” he finally managed to find voice to say. “Thank you.” He swallowed. “I wouldn’t have found it as easy to leave without you backing me up. I could have phoned my brother…,” he trailed off, “…but it’s complicated.” He swallowed again. “I just want to go home. I should probably have gone before, but…like I say.”
Darren patted him on the knee. “Don’t worry about it now. Just rest. Have you taken any painkillers? I’ve got some, I think.”
Gwyn shook his head and then regretted the movement. “No, I haven’t. I didn’t think.”
“Here.” Darren began to root through the front pocket of his enormous rucksack. “I’ve got paracetamol and ibuprofen. Take two of each. That’ll help.”
Gwyn heard him rustling about and the sound of the pills popping out of their little foil nests. And then a water bottle being opened.
He had to open his eyes, he knew. He didn’t want to.. It was nice sitting here in the darkness, pretending the rest of the world didn’t exist for a bit.
It wasn’t too terrible though, opening them and seeing Darren looking at him cautiously. He was a nice-looking man. Smaller than Gwyn’s 5’11, with brown eyes and heavy brows that were currently creased with concern. His black hair was buzzed down to half an inch all over—Gwyn had noticed he’d cut it twice in the six weeks Gwyn had been at the hotel. Too hot in the kitchen otherwise, he’d told him.
Gwyn took the proffered pills and the water bottle and swigged them down.
“Drink the water,” Darren advised. “I’ve got another bottle.”
Gwyn nodded, and then regretted the movement.
“Shitfire,” he said. “It hurts quite a bit actually.”
“I bet. Let’s get down to Dublin and then go and get it looked at. I’d feel better knowing you’re not going to die in the night. And we’ll have time.. We’re going to miss the ferry by the time we’ve dicked about getting tickets and such. e’ll have to find somewhere to stay overnight.. We can go to A&E.”
“Okay,” Gwyn conceded. “If it’s still as bad when we get down there.”
Darren nodded and poked at the water bottle. “Finish it up, then. The bus’ll be along in a minute.”
True enough, as Gwyn was putting the cap back on the empty bottle the red and white bus came into view around the long bend to the north.
“Told you,” Darren grinned as he jumped to his feet, disturbing the big flock of starlings that had come down in the field behind the bus-stop so they flew up in a huge, chattering cloud . “Come on then. Do you want a hand with your bag?”
Gwyn Mabler is on secondment at the Kings of Ireland Hotel at Tara. He and his brother Brân are in the process of buying the place and Gwyn is getting to grips with the everyday running by shadowing the current owner, Mal Reagan.
Gwyn’s an idiot, though. Mal made it clear from the start he’d like to get Gwyn in his bed and after a couple of weeks of pursuit, Gwyn gave in. Mal was hot and pushy and just the kind of dangerous to pique Gwyn’s interest. He honestly thought Mal knew he was trans.
Since that horrible night, Mal has had Gwyn ‘workshadowing’ Chef in the deeply unhappy kitchen. He doesn’t want to go home and cause a fuss that might make the sale fall through, but when a huge row breaks out over a flour delivery and Mal backhands Gwyn across the face, he finally decides enough is enough. With the help of Darren Starling, one of the line-cooks with whom he’s formed a tentative friendship, he leaves.
During the two-day journey from the middle of Ireland home to Wales they have plenty of time to exchange confidences. Could the delicate pull of attraction between them grow into something stronger? Is it safe for Gwyn to out himself to Darren? Will Darren want to go out with a trans guy? And how will his brother Brân take Gwyn’s arrival home with a stranger?
A 14,500-word short story in the Reworked Celtic Myths series.
About A. L. Lester
Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, Morris the badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.
She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.