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The sky is a kind of periwinkle; dusky and undecided if it is lavender or blue, and the full leaves of the chestnut trees are black against the sodium backlight from the streetlamps. Ethereal is the word for them, as within the wrought iron casings are nothing more than softly glowing orange globes. They may as well be faery lanterns.

But that is my imagination running away with me again, so I bring my attention back down from the sky and the leaves and the imaginary world that lies in the space between them, back to the quiet pleasure of my company. She's done up in scarlet tonight, which is my favorite color on her, and one she so rarely wears at home, but it complements her olive skin and her dark hair and makes her shine. She's smiling at me again in that way that says she knows I was drifting and it amuses her.

"Where did you go just now?" she asks.

"Sorry, darling."

"It's alright, but do I wonder where you go."

"Oh, up among the trees."

"Is it pleasant there?"

"Yes," I smile at her teasing me. "It's a wonderful night. The weather is fine. Care to come up?"

She shakes her head and laughs.

Moscatel tastes sweet and a few small bats flutter by, wings mixing frantically with the waving chestnut leaves. Blossoms from said trees come down like soft snow on my companion and I as we take our digetifs and enjoy the breeze.

And that is what I'll tell you if you ask me to sum up Spain in May.

Or at the very least, Madrid. It's hot in the capital, even at this time of year - thirty centigrade or too-damn-hot in American - but the heat of the day leaves quickly after sunset. On the slight wind comes the faint smell of growing things. This, so my companion tells me, is the only time of year to find growing things in this part. In this way, she says, it is not at all like the north. Things are always growing in the north. But the center country, tucked away inside the brown, rocky mountains, is rough cut and forged in heat, celebrating a green season for only a few short, precious weeks. I'm happy we came to see it now.

Simone seems more beautiful than ever here. All the growing things had their affect on her. It's gray and raining still in Paris and her Spanish side was hoping for a little sunlight, I think.  It is as if the darker, more mysterious parts of her are more prevalent here. And I do not mean dark as in evil, but deep, the dark that reminds me of old tales of Moors and spices and things I've not yet come to know. She is calm and she sits quietly as she ever does, but she laughs more here. When she smiles in Paris it is guarded for there are always predators about, people who would hunt her, but here the smile is broad and kind and happy. It's my smile, only for me, and I guard it jealously.

And I imagine those old stories and quests are inside her, just behind her dark eyes, some kind of wild majesty that only comes out when we're alone and far from home. Sometimes she tells me tales of this hot land in our more quiet moments and I can tell it stirs more of her up to the surface than she ever lets show outside. I've seen it sometimes in her paintings, this glimpse of a fire-spirit simmering somewhere deep inside her and it makes me want her more than I already do. That is a hard thing to accomplish, believe me.

And still I cannot find the correct words to describe what I'm sensing. I would that I could write her, but I never can completely. I seem to only ever catch a small facet and miss the others, for there are too many and they are constantly shifting. I could never write something so complex, it is unfortunately beyond my skill. Sometimes I wish I could paint as she does, for if I could I would paint her all of the time, trying to catch each facet as I see it.

So we sip the last of the moscatel and I fumble inside my brain for words that don't fit my mot juste for her, while an accordion the next block over plays la tumbona.

"We could dance to this," she suggests.

"You could. I doubt I could."

"You do not give yourself enough credit." She takes my hand. She always has more faith in me than I do. Up I go and into her arms, which is my favorite place to be.

We dance a few steps, but I'm right, and I'm horrible at it. But she has worlds of patience with me and all of my insecurities, so when I stumble she only laughs.

"I'm sorry, you see I'm only ever graceful with my words."

"I adore you anyway. Are you still thirsty?" she asks.

"Only for company."

"You have many good lines."

"I suppose I'm in the right profession, then."

"Would you like a sherry?"

"I suppose I would."

We take a walk down San Jeronimo to a small place, out of the way, on a cross street I can't pronounce. I ask her twice but I can't get it. I never had an ear for Spanish. She tries to teach me words on the way but I can only pick up the words for cheese and wine and precious little else. She laughs and tells me that's all I really need. Just before we get to the bar I lift her hand up in mine and give her a little twirl; her scarlet skirts swirl about her and she has that carefree smile again.

It has the best sherry I've ever had. She has the manzanilla fino and I have the amontillado.

"How literary!" she exclaims.

I grin. "I couldn't help myself. But I haven't immured anyone, don't worry."

I'm feeling tipsy and I touch her dark hair, because it takes a golden kind of tint in the indoor lighting. She lets me for a moment before pulling away and beckoning me with her. She is a bit coy tonight, and sometimes I don't mind. But sometimes when my heart aches I wonder if she pulls away because hers does as well. Sometimes I wonder if she's afraid of how I feel. Maybe she's afraid of how she feels.

"Come with me, we'll go to the park."

I tell her I always follow where she leads.

The park is big and it has grand iron gates that are still open at this end. We walk to the Estanque, a large reflecting pool with a grand statue of some long dead king. Several pigeons fly up, spreading out their Chinese-fan tails, and settle along the railings far from us. I look up; a few stars are visible through the encircling fingers of the blooming chestnuts. She always tells me that I am always looking up. I always say it's better than looking back.

She leans on the railing and her skirt raises to just a little above the knee as she bends over to spot the goldfish floating lazily near the surface. There is a big white one and that's the one we can see clearly.

"I have never painted the Estanque," she says. "I will paint this one fish. Come and see him, he is like the moon."

"He's beautiful," I say, but I'm looking at her, and she sees that. She smiles but she leans a bit away from me, just out of my reach. It isn't the coyness now, it's the distance come again. She is always there for me except in these times where I come to close.

I want to ask her to marry me, but I can hear the conversation in my head before it happens:

'You've asked me twice already.'
'Well, I'm asking you again, I suppose.'
'David.'


And then we both go silent. Or she asserts her right to her own life. Or how things are fine the way they are now, and I concede because I hate to think I'm scaring her, but I'm left insecure and aching, and she is not mad at me per se, but distant just the same.

How do I tell you then, Simone, without destroying the whole thing? Sometimes I feel she is a wild animal, maybe a fox; clever and shy, beautiful but fleeting, prized by all the hunters in the land and yet caught by none. But I am not a hunter and I can only think to sit here, quietly, with a hand outstretched, letting her come as close as she dare on her own terms and in her own time. Yet all the while yearning to put my hands through her soft fur, to connect, to share. Not to own, my darling. To share.  

Love is not a chain and not a prison, marriage is not a tomb, I want to tell her. But these are poetries and philosophies and those are more my realm. She understands feelings and things that she can sense.

I am aching again and doing it to myself this time. But then she turns and smiles at me, and her dark hair flies for a moment in the wind, then lays against her cheeks and curls beneath her delicate chin and I see the wild majesty again, unchecked, unafraid. For a brief moment again I feel the fox fur between my fingers. I'm afraid to let it go. Then it dawns on me that perhaps I've been saying the wrong things all this time.

She lets me put my arms around her, and she's warm despite the cooling night air. I kiss her forehead.

"Are you somewhere?" she asks me.

"No, actually, this time I am right here with you."

"What is the matter, David?"

I look down at her, into her dark eyes and see miles of silk roads and a thousand and one nights of stories and adventure and complexities that I will gladly spend the rest of my life studying and trying to figure out.

I should say it. Fear be damned. We never get anywhere being afraid, do we?

"I love you, Simone. Do you know that?"

"I do."

"Darling." I tip her chin up so she has to look at me. "Listen. I love you. I will keep on loving you, no matter what happens."

"David…" She's getting nervous again, I can tell, and I feel the fox skittering back from my touch.

"Shh. No. I'm not asking again. It's fine. No, really, it is. I don't care if we get married, if that's not what you want. I just want to be with you."

"But… if we don't?"

"Then I don't care."

She is studying me with slightly narrowed eyes and I try to look back and impart all the things I've been thinking. I don't know how to say them, though. I get them organized in my head but when she looks at me they fall apart. So I try to will them to get to her by looking.

I take her hands. "I mean it. We'll be together, right?"

"I would hope so."

"Well, then, Simone, my love, will you please not marry me?"

And now she laughs, but her eyes are dewy and incredulous. "Why, yes," she says, bewildered, and she lays her head against my chest. "Why yes, I will."

I hold her tightly to me and run my hand through her silk hair. I think I feel the fox curl up in my lap. Maybe it understands now. Desperately, I want to keep this connection, but I don't know what else to say. Wise men are often wise enough to know when to shut it, I think, and I say nothing.

We stay like this for a long while, breathing, and I try to breathe in unison so I can feel her chest rise and fall with mine and I press my lips and nose to the top of her head. Behind us the white fish swims 'round and 'round the top of the water in wide, broadening circles, and the chestnut blossoms fall along the surface of the pool, making beautiful, unruly patterns of white on dark.

"You really want to get married, don't you?" she murmurs against me.

"I want what you want."

"But you do really want to, don't you?"

"Yes," I say. "I do."

"Ask me again next year," she tells me.

"Shall I?"

"We'll see about next year."

The aching thrums and fades out to nothing, and then I don't have to worry about timing my breathing with hers. It just happens. "Alright, little fox," I tell her. "I'll ask again next year."
Finally I came up with something. Dave and Simone on holiday in Madrid.

Not that the background is needed but it's sometime in 1926 or 1927, they normally are found in Paris. Dave is a soldier turned writer (terrible soldier, evidentally a good writer. I think he's better than I am.) Simone is half Spanish and otherwise a bombshell of awesome. Back in the 20s particularly in europe getting married meant giving your man control of all your stuff and your life decisions. Simone things that sucks. Dave doesn't really want any of that, he's just a hopeless romantic.

All of the places described really do exist. If you look hard enough, you may even find them.

mot juste is the modernist concept of 'one word is the best and most appropriate word' for a thing.

and of course, it's Dave, so you know he totally made a Casque of Amontillado joke.

Written (mostly) under a chestnut tree.

Crit for tWR: [link]

Crit Questions:
:bulletpurple: O please tell me there are no more typos. I think I got them all out but I'm having trouble proofreading today, so let me know if you see anything.
:bulletorange: Does the story flow well enough and give you enough to go on without knowing the info in the artist's comment?
:bulletblue: Anything that stands out as clunky or weird? It's a first draft so fire away.

Dave, Simone (c) Yo
selection of sherry drinks (c) La Venecia
chestnut trees (c) Madrid City Planning
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:iconannecat:
This is a lovely portrait of both characters -- I like that there's a very clear conflict/resolution, even in such a short piece, and it gives us a great sense of Dave's voice and temperament. I also get a feel for Simone through his eyes, though it's still a little bit hard for me to interpret her as a full person and not just as the object of his desire. What I mean is, I do see in this piece that she is a lovely, mysterious, passionate woman who is unobtainable, skittish, serious, and sometimes coy, with an inner fire and determination; but I feel like I don't know what makes her unique from other mysterious, exotic, passionate, unobtainable women; what makes her so specifically Simone. I'm not sure what would bring her into clearer focus for me, but I do feel like Dave is more of a unique individual here than she is. (The strongest moments to me were when she said she would "paint this one fish," and "he is like the moon;" and also when Dave twirled her; but I see strong shades of *you* in those moments, maybe more so than Simone. Plus, Dave just mangled his dancing attempt; would he lead her in a dance move again so soon?)

I love your environmental descriptions. The background of the chestnut trees in full leaf, and periwinkle skies, the bats and the snowy chestnut petals and the descriptions of the Estanque... all very nice and vivid and immediate. And, of course, seeing through Dave's eyes is just beautiful; he's such a poetic soul. The metaphor of the fox is all too apt, and he expresses it well.

A few little things, for possible editing:
* I think the streetlights would have been incandescent; that is, 'normal' electricity. Sodium lamps weren't really around until the '70s, I think. So the light would have been white or yellowish and 'true to color.'
*"pleasure," not "pleasantry," which is a polite or joking remark to lighten the mood or ease conversation.
* "She understands feelings and things that she can sense." --> a bit repetitive, maybe just "She understands things that she can feel."
* "for words that don't fit my mot juste of her" confused me the first few times I read it -- it sounds like he's trying to add words to an already-existing mot juste rather than seeking that mot juste itself; maybe try to reword that idea a bit. I really liked the thought, once I understood it!
* "her dark hair flies for a moment in the wind, theN lays against her cheeks." Get that N in there! (also, maaaybe shake up the "again" "against" "again" in this paragraph.)
* I adore everything from "I want to ask her..." to "To share." It's just so precise in conveying how he feels. That little imagined conversation, and its imagined aftermath, is the strongest glimpse I have of Simone, as well.
* "if it is lavender or blue" and "I am right here with you" seem like they should be contractions because they're so conversational; the second even being spoken aloud.
* I love his moment of seeing the 1001 nights and silk roads in her dark eyes. Man, he's one lovesick puppy.
* Not sure about "dewy" eyes, as that implies innocent and naive and childlike, sort of more childlike than I imagine Simone to be.
* As for that cask of amontillado, they don't drink it in the story, either, which makes me wonder if he'd reference it a little differently, maybe mentioning being sealed up in a wall.
* Same with the "discretion is the better part of valor;" he'd know its original context and it's really not a flattering comparison to make with oneself (Falstaff being a big chicken who runs out on his friends to go hide in battle), plus it's contradictory in the face of his earlier "we never get anywhere by being afraid" thought. You could try to rephrase it in a way that's more closely related to the fox/hunter/tamer metaphor.
* I love that moment of him trying to breathe in unison with her, with his face buried in her hair.
* "swishes 'round and 'round" doesn't need the apostrophes.
* I love the simplicity with which you wrote his anxiety evaporating in the last few lines of the piece. It feels just right.

And that is that! Good luck and <3s for your story.
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:iconsammur-amat:
Sammur-amat Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012   General Artist
Congratulations on another well-deserved DLD, you lovely, lovely lady! :tighthug:
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Professional Writer
:glomp:
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:iconsammur-amat:
Sammur-amat Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012   General Artist
:iconlovehugplz:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012   Writer
Congratulations on the DLD. What a surprise, eh?
I like this very much and think it has enough 'lit crit' already. I can't add a word except-> thank you.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Professional Writer
It was a bit of a surprise, chiefly because I'm not precisely happy with this. I would welcome more lit crit. I cleaned up the language in it a bit but really I feel like something is missing or that I need to expand or characterize them both a little more.

The trouble is I just finished a novel about these two so I'm not sure what there is to say about them that I didn't say there... I just don't feel like it stands alone without the novel backing it up :/
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012   Writer
I wonder if it's the novel you wrote about them that makes you feel this piece is somehow incomplete.

But I'll return with lit crit soon[ish].

By the way, you can hide the first two 'comments' I made about a feature I began today.

It's really featured here [link]

If you don't want to hide them, I understand. Lotsa' folks don't do that, and I don't mind looking a bit silly.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012  Professional Writer
Done and done! thanks so much :heart:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2012   Writer
:iconyourewelcomesignplz:
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:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by =DailyLitDeviations in a news article that can be found here: [link]

Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article. Keep writing and keep creating.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional Writer
:heart: Thank you thank you!!
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:iconholymaiden:
HolyMaiden Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It had a strong fairy tale feeling to it. It was magical, in a way. :)
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you very much. It was a magical time of year, here. I thought it deserved a story.
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:iconisabellamichel:
IsabellaMichel Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2012  Student Writer
I love this. :heart: It's exactly the story that ended up being my last nanowrimo novel but it's an absolutely gorgeous short that has great character in the dialogue. Wonderful job!
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2012  Professional Writer
:heart: Awesome, great to know! And hey - great minds think alike? :D
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:iconisabellamichel:
IsabellaMichel Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2012  Student Writer
:giggle: Indeed.
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:iconhyperfluxy:
hyperfluxy Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2012   Writer
This is wonderful, and it makes me feel like I am there and that is brilliant. You took something that could have easily been sappy and turned it into something purely touching. Very, very well done.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2012  Professional Writer
Thank you so much, this was a great piece of feedback to receive. I always ride a line with any romantic stuff I write, hoping I'm not pushing it into the realm of sap. I feel like love and courting are two things that are very easily turned cliche, just due to how much they're talked about (and so subsequently become overused).
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:iconhyperfluxy:
hyperfluxy Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2012   Writer
You certainly aren't, its very well done. Keep at it! :)
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:iconanapests-and-ink:
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner May 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I truly love this piece. Dave's voice is so strong; every sentence feels like a complete characterization. I also love the Simone/fox metaphor. Have to admit, my first thought was of "The Little Prince"--the bit about taming the fox just by sitting near its burrow every day at the same time. Which I suppose works here, too. Simone strikes me as both being 'fox-like' and 'foxy'. I think the whole thing's just perfect. :)
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 24, 2012  Professional Writer
Oh, thank you so much. I adore Dave's voice. I could listen to him read a phonebook. Also, I love the little prince but I hadn't been thinking of it at the time. I wrote a whole book about these two, hopefully it's as catching as the short.

And thanks for the fav! :heart:
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:iconanapests-and-ink:
anapests-and-ink Featured By Owner May 24, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
I would love to read it.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Let's cross our fingers that someday it'll be out in print and you can!
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:iconclassically-depunk:
Classically-DePunk Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This really tantalizes the senses reading such crisply vivid descriptions of Simone and the surroundings. It appeared implied that Simone's charm holds sway of the surroundings, or rather, it is like they are part of her composed personality.
Given how Dave is poetic, he views her with an almost Dante-esque admiration, like a distantly sublime object admired but never quite obtained into his own life/hands. the natural beauty they are in, Simone seems to compliment it with herself.
As Dave focuses on his affections, his pursuit to be connected more solidly with Simone, and he seems to eluded by her allure; like she's wandering off from him and he cannot keep pursuing her. Like a man after a spirit of some sorts that keeps beckoning him.

Simone is like a fox. Elusive, and can outwit most, but those she can't she leads on and on in many directions, even she herself may not see the final direction to go on with.

The imagery is vivid, I can even smell and hear the cold water and swishing of fishes.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 22, 2012  Professional Writer
Thanks. I had a hard time putting as much of Simone as I wanted into this but.. .well she's extra prevalent in the book so that counts for something. The environment is so beautiful here in the late spring, particularly at night. I was in and around the estanque when I wrote it, and there is one white fish in there that I see now and again...
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:iconclassically-depunk:
Classically-DePunk Featured By Owner May 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Simone, I think with the progress of the chapters, will grown more prominent in description.
From your description, it must be heavenly. I can even sense the scents from there in your writing.
Ah, I love to stare at brightly colored fishes in fountains and ponds, so your writing on the fish gave such a vivid sense.
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
But that is my imagination running away with me again
I think you can strike this, it doesn't really add anything to the sentence.

the center country, tucked neatly away
"Neatly" sounds a bit out of place with the description that follows, especially when it says that it is "rough cut and forged in heat": it just doesn't ring like something you'd call neat.

I wonder if she pulls away hers does as well
because hers does as well?

Desperately, I want to keep this connection
Here, have some adverb poison, just a little bit.

I heartily dig the fox metaphor too. And Dave playing the little conversation of quiet heartache in his mind, because that's how writers roll when they're lost for the things they (are supposed to) master.
Now, having read the whole novel, I know a lot about Simone already, but I think elaborating a bit more on her in this short might be very helpful for readers who don't know the rest of the story. Perhaps expanding on her painting career, or showing more of how she acts in Spain - fox in its natural environment sort of thing?

Said natural environment, by the way, is very beautiful. The descriptions of Madrid do have some vaguely magic quality to them, enhanced by the fact it's just Simone and Dave and no one else, not even a waiter or a barman: at first I thought it was a bit off, but by the end of the story, I had changed my mind and maintain it keeps the focus on the two of them a lot better than more dialogue and unnecessary interactions.

And, cask of amontillado joke is :giggle: But yeah Dave, don't you let a woman who get that joke slip away from you! It may be difficult to find another and such a pretty one for that matter...
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Writer
wheeee! thank you for the crit. I actually saw and corrected the because she does before i saw the comment. I dunno man I ran over this thing 7 times and still I find shit I should have fixed! Bad editing day. But that's why I have yooooo my baby :heart:

You're right, neatly and desperately are out of sense/not needed both.

Oooh, i'm glad the foxy metaphor works. And you know I was thinking the same thing about just a little more Simone in there besides what Dave things, give it a little more bulk. I'll play wit it, but thank you for confirming that.

Also, Madrid at twilight is... well, magical. And you really can just go around the city with a loved one and not even feel the other people all around you.

Lol yeah, Poe jokes for the win. She's a keeper, Dave.
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
Talk about bad editing days. Everyday for me is bad editing day, eeeeeh. (You can guess that I've been tinkering with early novel chapters: dear God, AHHHHRGH MY EYES!)

Moar Simone plz yesh. Character development aside, you can never get enough of a mystery bombshell with a fox spirit. I bet Dave will be happy too.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Writer
Tried putting more of her in there. Is it enough or is it not working?
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:iconvfreie:
VFreie Featured By Owner May 21, 2012
Much better. That little part about the predators in Paris even strengthens the metaphor, yay!

Only one further thing to nit-pick at:
We dance a few steps but I'm right and I'm horrible at it. Poor clumsy oaf, but she has worlds of patience with me.
This line sounds repetitive: you could break it so that it avoids the double "but".
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Writer
rock on, thank you. :heart: :heart: :heart:
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:iconoboe-wan:
oboe-wan Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Oh Dave Miller, you are so darn smitten. It is adorable. I love how much he plainly adores Simone, even though she mystifies him. You really captured a sense of selfless devotion. It's also lovely how he has this sense of wonderment at everything - from the beautiful descriptions of the sky and the fish in the pool, to his whole dynamic with Simone. He's just such an admirer of beauty, it makes him an excellent narrator. I love his tone - I've really missed it! Simone is right, he has a wonderful way with words. I love the fox metaphor, it works so well for wily, graceful Simone (and it makes me wonder if Dave knows about the Japanese folktales about men who marry kitsune disguised as women - I think he'd be amused!).

Beautiful work. It's lovely to see one of your former doughboys actually healing, not just carrying his scars.
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:icondoughboycafe:
doughboycafe Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Professional Writer
ohhh I knooooow right? My only concern is that we don't see enough of her doing as she does to explain why he's so in love with her but i might add that in later. And yea I know what you mean about him just... wondering at everything. I'm so glad he wasn't in the war long enough to get too messed up. Unlike some people.

:heart: fox metaphor, I'm so glad it worked!
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