There are signs.
Some are good, some aren’t so great.
1. You Have Hot Flashes
Gods above. Below. And everywhere in between.
There have to be gods—and they have to be guys. No woman would do this to one of her own.
You know you’re a middle-aged woman when you’re sweating like you’re sitting on a Caribbean beach during the apex of summer, butthe sweat freezes to your skin because the temperature is actually -22C. And you are rolling naked in the snow.
2. You Experience Increased Mental Acuity
You know what everyone is thinking. You know because people are thinking whatever you tell them to think. No one—I MEAN NO ONE—argues with a middle-aged woman having hot flashes.
3. You Hold the Answers to Life, the Universe, and Everything
AND YOU AREN’T SHARING. The world, the universe, and everything in them can solve their own damn problems. Because you have to deal with hot flashes. And the stress of having to tell people what to think.
4. You are a Trend Setter
Right now I’m wearing hand knit socks, men’s sweatpants, a yoga shirt, and a men’s hoodie. Everything is three sizes too large. Nothing matches. I’m warm, I’m comfortable, and I’m setting a trend with those elements in mind. It’s also anyone’s guess when I last shaved my legs. Because I’m a middle-aged woman. Therefore—people will think what I tell them to. And I say I’m stylin’.
5. You Wear Glasses
But only if you want to see something.
When I clean my house I take them off. When I empty the dishwasher, I take them off. When I put on make-up, I take them off. Because the world is a prettier place when I’m not wearing them.
6. Your Good Habits are Losing the Race
The lazy bastards. You spend your entire adult life nurturing them and they run out of gas when you need them the most. You’re forced to cut back on drinking, salt, and fatty foods. This is why people die. It’s not from old age. You slowly lose the will to live from middle age on.
7. You Aren’t Afraid to Ask Questions
You will never, ever be able to DVR anything unless you ask questions. You can’t set up entertainment systems using instruction manuals, good instincts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree anymore. You can’t program alarm clocks with “extra features,” either. Fortunately I have a computer tech, a sound engineer, and a civil engineer in the family. I’m not afraid to ask them questions. They, however, are afraid not to answer them.
8. You Start Making Bucket Lists
The lists aren’t for you. They’re for your kids, your parents, and your neighbours. Sometimes your younger sisters. But you know better than to give one to your husband. He’d expect you to participate and you have no interest in whitewater rafting in the Amazon. That’s how fights start.
9. You Give Unsolicited Parenting Advice to Strangers
People gave it to you. You’re passing it on, because really. Who doesn’t want to hear how you raised your children in the eighties and nineties? So what if you haven’t held a baby in twenty years? You may be middle-aged but your memory is good. Right?
10. You See the Hot Photos of Half-Naked Men on FB, and You Realize They’re the Same Age as Your Sons, and You Find it Creepy
Sometimes I think they’d be perfect for one of my heroines. Either way, I guess I’m just not cut out to be a cougar. I “like” those photos, though. I may be middle-aged, but I’m also cool. Hip. Whatever.
Overall, I’d be okay with middle age if it wasn’t for the hot flashes. The gods can have those back. And they know where they can put them.
Because they will think what I tell them to.
Sometimes it is.
But most often it’s not.
We’re in the midst of home renovations. That means the Foreign Guy is yanking stuff out of closets and bedrooms, dumping it all in the middle of the living room floor, and then walking away, wiping his hands and whistling. In all fairness, the junk is mine. He and #1 Son are the tidy ones in the family.
As I was sorting through boxes of papers and photos, I came across class notes, lab reports, and old exams from two third year university biology courses I took mmph number of years ago. The Foreign Guy, who doesn’t have a Canadian degree, had asked me to take a couple of classes for him.
I have a degree in Social Anthropology. No background in science. Physiology of Aquatic Animals and Fish Health were a BIG stretch for me. But I was game to give them a try. Because yes. I am that person. I like a challenge.
And those classes were HARD.
(Did I mention the arts degree?)
My first lab, I was the only student who didn’t know I was looking at a red blood cell under the microscope. I had to borrow a first year biology text book and basically educate myself in order to get up to speed. I’d write down any words I didn’t understand and look them up later. I created my own thesaurus. I even resorted to calling my old high school biology teacher to get help with some of the homework.
He chuckled. Loudly. With far too much evil pleasure. “Bet you wish you’d paid more attention in my class now, don’t you?”
I passed those two classes. In fact, I did really well. But some of my notes are hilarious. I’d written in the margin during one class, “Another effing graph.” The sadist professor liked to use them to illustrate points and I couldn’t read them. I still can’t. Don’t judge me.
What I remember the most, however, was the huge sense of accomplishment when I did well in an area that did not, by any stretch of the imagination, come easily for me. In fact, looking over my old notes now (the information, not the swearing), it’s like they’re written in a foreign language.
Education, it turns out, is my adrenaline rush. Some people skydive. I buy Physics for Dummies. I understand the second law of thermodynamics now, although I’ll never, in this lifetime, be able to do the math. I know my limits. I’m still trying to figure out entropy and measuring the disorganization of a system, too. I understand it in theory. I can’t remember the flow. It looks too much like a graph.
I pace my adrenaline rushes. I’m not insane. After I took those courses, I checked out every Georgette Heyer book the local library had. Thanks to Ms. Heyer, I also now know what ratafia is.
I can use that.
I’m celebrating today with a bottle of bubbly Brut from a local winery, Benjamin Bridge. I love this wine!
Just look at all the pretty, pretty bubbles (and, of course, those abs!):
And what’s a bubbly without music? Because I like to shop local–mainly because local in Nova Scotia is completely amazing–I’ve also put together a Canadian playlist of songs, mostly from the Maritimes:
The Trews, Hope & Ruin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwcac7sqOnQ
Lennie Gallant, Pieces of You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAiGmm_iFJ8
David Myles, One in a Million http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L10DUX22cgo
Classified, Inner Ninja http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGhyL8zg3_I
Bruce Guthro, Through it All http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQACcBTybSU
Gordie Sampson, Hanging by a Wire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOSTPp5Jekw
Gordie Sampson, Davey Jones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4gz4ZPgQ_4
Rose Cousins, Go First http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdI1qj851BU
Chris Hadfield and The Barenaked Ladies, I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvAnfi8WpVE
Sarah McLachlan, I Will Remember You http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSz16ngdsG0
Sarah McLachlan, Fallen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWsM5CAsafs
Have a great day, everyone!
Release day is fast approaching. I love Blade so much! Find out more about him in the days before Black Widow Demon opens, and why he left a comfortable life behind him:
Sleep eluded Blade.
He would have thought the opposite should be true, considering this was the first time in years he had approached it without pain. Perhaps it was because he was alone in Ruby’s bed.
Each of the women who lived at the saloon had two attached rooms at their disposal. One, they used for working. The other was private. When Blade shared Ruby’s bed, he stayed in her private room. He punched a pillow to distribute the feathers more evenly.
He did not know what to make of the half-demon. Airie, he corrected his thought. Or her relationship with Hunter. He pitied his friend though, and envied him, too. Not because of her looks, which were stunning enough, but for the way she seemed to occupy Hunter’s thoughts so completely. He could not remember Hunter ever allowing a woman to distract him before. The fact that she had done so told Blade far more about her character than her healing of his leg.
Hunter’s hatred of demons, however, ran far deeper than Blade’s. He did not know what had happened in Hunter’s past to make this a truth, but he did know that Airie was going to have a difficult time getting beyond it, assuming she’d want to try.
He stretched out on his back beneath Ruby’s plain cotton sheets. Faint light trickled through the drawn muslin curtains, but he could see the contents of the room clear enough. A small writing desk with a ruffle-skirted chair, a chaise longue adorned in many multi-colored silk cushions, delicate oil paintings on the walls he suspected she’d created herself in another lifetime. She was feminine but practical. He rested the back of his head on his bent arm and stared upward at nothing in particular.
Now that he had a life to offer her, he was going to ask her to marry him. They had been friends a long time. Together, they would run the saloon. They would offer a haven to more women who needed one. And now that he could protect them properly, the women would not have to work on their backs unless they wanted to—which, Ruby assured him, some of them did.
Airie had given him back so much more than the use of his leg.
It was early yet. In another hour, the women would rise and head to the kitchen to prepare for the day. The majority of the saloon’s business tended to happen in the late afternoon and early evening because Blade did not encourage the rougher, late night crowd. The potential for roaming demons proved another deterrent to customers.
He rolled from the bed, drew on his trousers, and took the back stairs to the kitchen where he knew Ruby would have taken the little boy so she could work.
The scene he walked in on was what he had expected. Ruby stood at the stove, her hair caught back with a scarf and her face shiny from the heat, while Scratch—Hunter needed to do something about a real name for the boy—sat on the floor near her feet. She had given him a pot and spoon to play with.
Scratch smiled up at him, and Blade’s heart caught. He wondered what a child of his own might look like. She glanced up from the stove. Her eyes darted to his leg, then away, as if she didn’t want to be caught staring.
As far as Blade was concerned, she could stare all she liked. She had seen him at his absolute worst. Now she could see him for the whole man he had once been, although he hoped he had grown better than that over the years.
He was not proud of his past. Before he asked her to marry him, he planned to tell her about it. He cleared his throat, nervous now, and she stiffened as if she knew he was about to say things she didn’t want to hear.
“I was an assassin before you met me,” Blade said to her back.
Some of the stiffness went out of her spine. Her tone, when she replied, was neutral. “That’s not a surprise.”
Of course it wasn’t. She’d seen him practice with his knives. She knew he’d murdered the woman Mamna had condemned. What she did not know was how he had become one.
“I killed my uncle when I was fourteen.” That earned him a bit more of her attention. “He raised me after my parents died. I hated the bastard. He beat me and made me work in the mines like a slave. There wasn’t a bit of kindness in him.”
“Then it sounds as if he deserved it.”
Blade had always thought so. The rest of the community, however, had not shared his belief. The mining tunnels his uncle owned had collapsed shortly after, leaving them unworkable, and he had been blamed for the bad luck.
“My uncle was a leader of the Godseekers. He had been one of the goddesses’ favored, and according to local legend, chosen by them to become the Demon Slayer. I had no choice after I killed him as to what I’d become. Only the lawless would do business with me.”
For the first few years he had not asked questions regarding who they contracted him to kill. Women and children had been among their numbers, although very rare and speedily done. As time went on and his skills improved, he had become more select. But when he’d tried to cross the desert on his own, his lost battle with a demon meant he again had no choice with regard to his future.
Until he met Hunter, and then Ruby, he had made very few choices of his own other than that initial decision to kill his uncle.
He did not regret that one.
When he finished talking, and laying out the bare facts, he waited a long time for any response. She continued to stir the pot on the stove, a frown on her face, and beckoned for him to remove the fresh bread from the oven. Above them, he could hear the other women starting their day.
She banged the spoon on the edge of the pot before setting it on the counter and turning to face him. “Does Hunter know you were once a Godseeker?”
“I was never a Godseeker.” He had never admired them or followed their beliefs. “But Hunter knows I was from the north. He knows I killed my uncle.” He gave her a half-hearted grin. “Apparently I babble when I’m feverish.”
Blade did not ask what he had babbled to her about. Her manner suggested he might not want to hear it. “He knows the Godseekers are trying to kill him. He doesn’t know my uncle was predicted to become the Demon Slayer because that no longer matters. Hunter is the far better choice.”
“Your uncle was chosen by the goddesses,” Ruby said.
Blade could not hide his distaste. “That was what he would have people believe. He was a handsome man, who was nothing more than one of their pleasurable toys, although so arrogant he couldn’t see the truth of that. He could as easily have made up the story to give himself greater importance than he deserved.”
“Is it true that a goddess will lead the Slayer against the demons?” she persisted.
He shifted his weight, forgetting his leg no longer needed to be favored, and straightened. He felt as if he had grown several inches taller overnight, and his back was stiff from the change in his posture. “You can’t believe stories that are told second hand.”
She watched him with thoughtful eyes as he stretched his back muscles. “What if Airie is that goddess?”
“She healed your leg,” Ruby said.
“That doesn’t make her one of them.” He exhaled. “I grew up on stories of the goddesses. I remember their visits to the northern mountains from when I was a child. They were never what the world would have you believe. Call them goddesses and demons if you like, but in the end they are all immortals, one and the same.” He heard doors opening and closing upstairs and knew he had to hurry. “I have something I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time,” he began. He wouldn’t ask her now, not when privacy was no longer assured, but he’d give her an opportunity to think about it rather than spring it on her unannounced. “Perhaps tonight?”
Her smile became fixed and falsely bright. “We’ll see,” she said. “The last few days have been poor ones, moneywise. If business picks up, I may be working. If not, there’s a child in the house to consider.” She nodded at Scratch, who had been so silent he was next to invisible. Blade wondered that he had not stepped on him when taking the bread from the oven. “You should go back to bed for a few more hours,” she advised him. “There will be plenty of time for questions in the future.”
She did not want to talk. A sense of unease assailed him, but he let it go. “You’re probably right.”
He climbed the back stairs to her rooms. Instead of her private bedroom, he slipped into her working area.
She’d chosen red as a color scheme, an obvious play on her name. The room was decorated in satins and silks, with lush dressings hanging from the walls and varieties of intimate lace strategically spilling from open drawers. Beneath the king-sized bed she kept a box filled with what she referred to as the tools of the trade, but she had never offered to use them with him.
He sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, mentally comparing this room to the one he occasionally shared with her. He realized that he knew very little about either her or her background. In fact, she knew far more about him. He rubbed his leg out of long habit.
Ruby knew what he wanted to ask her. She was going to say no.
And he, fool that he was, was going to ask her anyway.
Join me on Tuesday, when I add the final scene that sends Blade off into the desert to find himself in Black Widow Demon, coming November 26th!