Writing 101: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon

Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

This is it.  Jillian thought.  There’s no way earth I will ever see this man again.

It had been almost a month since Jack waltzed – or Samba’d, rather – into Jillian’s life. She hadn’t come here looking for a man to date, but Jack Shepherd was beyond unexpected.  He was amazing.  If she could paint a picture of a man who was perfect for her, it was the man standing outside the glass doors of the room where she was packing.  The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the timing.  She had made up her mind that she didn’t have time for a relationship, and he had agreed.  At least he had in the beginning.

Now that it was their last day together, Jack had become quietly distant.  As the day wore on, his mood had burned with anger with her decision to cut him out of her life. His words from earlier that afternoon came to her mind.  

“How can you throw this away?  You know we are good together.”  Eyes blazing, he stood inches from her, daring her to answer.  “Is it my deployment?  Do you think I won’t be faithful to you?  Because I have enough faith in us.  Hell, I’ll put a ring on it if that’s wh…”

Jillian put her finger up to his lips to stop him mid-sentence.  With her soft, sad gaze on his lovely face, she gently reminded him of what they’d agreed on together.  “Jack it’s not that, and you know it.  How many times do we need to have this conversation? We’ve barely just met, we both have big changes and commitments in front of us.  It’s just not the right time.”

In his eyes and in the set of his jaw, Jillian saw Jack’s demeanor chill.  He took a step back and let her hand fall.  He appeared every inch the soldier as his stood rigidly before her with his hands at his sides.  The atmosphere between them cooled.  After some time, Jack broke the silence with four words that would replay in Jillian’s mind for years to come and make her question the decision she had made.  

“Have a nice life.”

She stared out the window.  She could see him leaning against the far railing of the deck.  His face was toward the ocean.  His dear face had become so familiar to her in these past few weeks that she could almost imagine the stoic expression he wore.  She wanted to reach out to him.  She wanted to call him back.  She didn’t want to part like this knowing they may never see each other again.  

Twelve years later, Jillian found herself on board the Daedalus, a deep space carrier bound for another galaxy.  She hadn’t been able to make the orientation meeting with the entire senior staff, but Rodney assured her there would be plenty of time during travel to Atlantis.  Nothing could have prepared her for her first meeting with the commander of the expedition, Dr Weir and the military commander, Lieutenant Colonel John Shepherd.

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prompt for today’s post suggested that I reminisce about an important conversation that will always stick with me.  Once upon a time I ended a relationship.  The guy in the equation told me to “have a nice life.”  The finality of my decision struck me right away, but I didn’t feel like I was able to change my mind.  Many times over the years, that phrase has come to mind.  It has come to represent many of the choices I made, and later questioned, around that time in my life.  I wanted to give Jillian the chance to rethink her choices as well.


DAY FIFTEEN: It’s Saturday afternoon, you’re not at home.

*I am stuck in Jack&Jill mode.*

Jack led them to a bar on the beach within the resort.  They chatted easily along the way, but avoided the obvious questions about what brought them there.  Jillian continued to appraise the tall handsome stranger with the perfectly messy hair and warm eyes that seemed to change color with his mood.  Right now those eyes were so light and playful they were almost golden.  That’s what she was thinking when she saw him pull out a pair of aviator style sunglasses and slip them on.  Even though they covered up those gorgeous eyes, she had to admit he looked pretty hot wearing them.

“Thirsty?” His question startled her.  Had she been standing with her mouth open and her tongue out?  She certainly felt that way as she stared at the man beside her.  She knew she was awkward around men, but certainly it wasn’t that obvious.  “We’re almost to the bar.  Are you thirsty?”

Smiling with relief, she nodded.  “Yes, I suppose I am.  I’ll have a…”

“Wait let me guess.  You want one of the tutti fruitti bahama mama frozen things with an umbrella on top.”

Jillian gave him a mock scowl.  Truthfully, she had been about to order a strawberry margarita.   It was the only thing she knew she enjoyed.  Back home she didn’t drink that often unless it was wine with dinner.  Then again, she didn’t go out for dinner very often either.  “I’ll have whatever you’re having.  Thanks.”

She found a seat at an empty table on the boardwalk built over the beach.  The wind played off the water just enough to create a cooling breeze as she sat in the afternoon sun.  Once again, she appreciated the form of the man buying her a drink at the bar.  I am so out of my league here.  This is not me.  But then again, isn’t this what I came for?  To get away from all the stress and worries of the last few years and have some fun before joining the “real world?”

Jillian had just graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with her masters in anthropology and an undergrad degree in physics.  After starting college at 16, she fast tracked through undergrad work and finished her masters by 24.  All of that, along with part time jobs and extra cirriculars had left little time for a social life.  She wasn’t sure she even knew how to carry on a a social conversation with a man like this.  Sure, the guys from class had always fawned over her, but she was a woman in a male dominated course.  And none of them looked like the man sauntering toward her with two beers and two shot glasses in his hands.

He sat down across from her and lifted one of the shot glasses.  With a look, he encouraged her to take hers as well.  She eyed it warily, but he didn’t let her off the hook.  “It’s a Saturday afternoon.  You’re not at home.  The view doesn’t get any better.  Live a little.”  After handing her one of the small glasses, he passed her a beer with a slice of lime sticking out the top.  Picking up a salt shaker from the table, he asked, “You know the drill, right?”

“Of course!”  Honestly, Jillian had never done a shot of tequila or any other kind of alcohol.  She had seen them though and figured her genius IQ could fill in the blanks.  Ducking her head to hide a blush, she quickly licked the back of her left hand and reached for the salt.  Jack merely flashed her his crooked grin and grabbed her hand, adding the salt himself.  With that, they clinked glasses and tossed back their drinks.

Jillian barely got the lime to her mouth before she found herself on the verge of coughing and ended up laughing self conciously.  Quickly, Jack handed her the beer and enouraged her to take a drink.  The cool crispness of the liquid helped soothe the burning sensation the tequila had left.  He was smiling at her in a way that seemed more like laughter.

“Ok.  Now that we’ve got the ball rolling, let’s just start with your basic, banal small talk.  My name’s John Shepherd, but please call me Jack.  Grew up in the northeast corner of Colorado.

Jillian replied in kind.  “Jillian Reynolds, but I go by Jill.  I have ever since I was a school girl in Vancouer.”

‘”Vancouver, Canada?” Jack asked incredulously.

“Vancouver, BC.  Canada.  Yes.” Jillian answered with a shy smile.  Unsure what to say next, she picked up her beer to have another sip.  Uncomfortably, she tucked her rich auburn hair behind her ear and stared into her lap.  She hated being so uncomfortable around this guy.  He was so handsome and so nice.  It never failed, whenever she was around a guy she found attractive she saw herself as a gawky teenager again with bad skin and braces.

Thankfully, Jack rescued her from her own thoughts when he spoke next.  “You’re a long way from home then.  What brings you to the land of sandy beaches and cabanas?”

Glad to have been given direction for the conversation, Jillian looked up and answered.  “Well, I just graduated at the end of last month and decided I owed myself a vacation before starting my job this fall.”

“And what job is that?”  Jack asked, leaning back casually and comfortably in his chair.

“I’m taking an assistant professor position at the Central  Washington University.”  In spite of the sunglasses, Jillian could see Jack’s eyebrows raise in what she assumed was surprise.

“I see.  That’s,” Jack paused as he searched for the right word, “unexpected.”

“How do you mean?”

“It’s just that I didn’t expect to find a book worm dancing the samba in Cabo.  Most of the women around here have other priorities in mind.”

Jillian looked down again, unsure how to take this comment.  After a brief yet uncomfortable silence, Jack spoke again.  “What will you be teaching?”

Again relieved to be prompted into speech, Jillian looked up with a big smile on her face.  She loved talking about her studies and her future career.  “I’ll be assisting with an anthropology course with a personal focus on cultural anthropology.”

“Shouldn’t you be digging for bones and plates in Egypt or something?”  Jack asked without guile.

“Close, but you’re thinking of archaeology.  Anthropology is a broader field but they’re both focused on the study of man.  What’s more, I’ve already been on two digs during college and I imagine I’ll go again when I get the chance.”

Now Jack really was impressed.  The women he had met before here had been mostly shallow socialites looking for a distraction between spa visits.  He found himself studying the pale complexion and dark blue eyes of the woman across the table.  She was slender with the long lines of a dancer.  Her words interrupted his wayward thoughts before they got too far. “Enough about me,” she said in a way that proved she really didn’t want to talk any more about herself. “What is it that you do?”



Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

Today’s prompt will be used to tell a portion of John & Jillian’s back story.


The sun was high and the day was warm when Jillian stepped out of her cabin.  She had spent her first 2 days in Cabo without talking to a soul and had loved every minute of it.  She couldn’t remember the last time she had read a magazine or novel for the mere enjoyment of it.  Now she had completed 3 novels and devoured every gossip magazine she’d found at the airport.  That type of reading wasn’t really her style though, and now Jillian needed another distraction.  If she stayed inside, she would dive into work or into some self-prescribed course of study.  She needed to get out.

Along with her breakfast each morning, she received a newsletter for the resort activities.  This morning as Jillian scanned over the items, she found one that stood out.  In one of the main buildings away from the beach there would be a beginners’ salsa class.  She had dismissed the idea at first, but the paper laid on the counter, calling to her all day.  What could it hurt? she thought.  It would be a nice way to get out, see some fresh faces, and have a little fun.

After strolling across the resort grounds to the main lodge, Jillian stepped into a spacious room that had been cleared and transformed into a makeshift dance studio.  Scattered around the room were around a dozen people.  Most of them stood in couples or groups.  A few were close to her own age, but many of the students looked like they were in their retirement years.  Their chatter was hushed as they rocked from one foot to another in anticipation of what was coming.  Jillian began to worry that it was a couples only class and she was the only single dancer there.  Even when the instructor walked in to introduce himself and begin the class, no other single dancers had arrived.

“Do not worry, Senorita.”  The instructor purred.  “You may pair with me during the partner dances.”  Jillian was barely able to stifle a laugh as she pictured herself partnered with the man.  He was six inches shorter than her and easily 30 years older.

Still amused by the image in her head, Jillian loocked around as the teacher turned to address the class.  Just then a side door opened and a new arrival to class stole in.  He was so quiet, no one but Jillian seemed to notice his entrance.   And notice him she did.  He was tall with a lean, fit body and dark tousled hair.  His hazel eyes darted around the room, trying to avoid detection by the teacher.  Jillian found herself staring and smirking with appreciation.  The man didn’t look like he wanted to be here any more than he looked like he belonged.  Just then the stranger’s eyes caught hers.  After a moment of surprise at the bold look, he sauntered over to where Jillian stood.

“It looks like you’re missing a partner.”  He thrust his hand out between them.  “I’m Jack.”

“Jill,” she said, giving him the shortened version of her name she’d used since childhood.

Shaking her hand, the smirk spread to his face.  “It must be fate.”

Staring into those warm eyes, she barely registered what he said.  After a pause that was only just too long, she said, “What do you mean?”

“I’m Jack.  You’re Jill.  You know, the two kids that went up the hill?”

Laughing, she pulled her hand away from his and did a slight curtsy.  “Nice to meet you Jack.  And yes, it appears I do need a partner.  Thank you.”

Their attention was drawn to the front of the room where the instructor was speaking to the class.  “Alright everyone, I see you all have a partner now, bien!  I am Salviano Ávalos Gil.  You may address me as Maestro Sal, or simply as maestro.  We will begin today with a basic cha-cha-cha to get you moving to the latin beat.  Everyone turn to your partner and get into hold.”  Maestro Sal began to explain the proper form to the class.  Jillian looked around as people began to move their stiff and untrained bodies into position.  Lifting her torso into a raised position and raising her hands to rest on her partner, Jillian was surprised to find his hands in their position on her back and supporting her uplifted right hand.

Without a word, they stood and listened as the maestro covered the basics of hold, correcting more than a few postures in the class.  Finally, he came up beside the two of them and chuffed.  It seemed he was disappointed at the lost opportunity to dance with Jillian.  “Good form,” he mumbled and turned back to the class.  “Now, the basic moves fo the cha-cha-cha are simple.”  Maestro Sal continued his instruction, eventually starting the music as he talked through the steps.  Without waiting for direction, Jack and Jill started to move through the simple steps.  Without breaking eye contact, they wandered through the basics before venturing into more advanced steps.

Jillian found herself confused.  Was she leading this man through the moves or was he actually able to dance?  With a slight tilt of her head and a raise of her eyebrow, she asked the unspoken question.  With a soft laugh he answered, “you seem capable of keeping up.  Good, because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

With that, she found herself being whirled around and led through the more complicated facets of the dance.  Before long the rest of the class had stopped to stare.  Even Maestro Sal was watching with his mouth slightly agape.  As the music ended, Jack dipped Jillian in his arms until she felt her hair against the floor.  Breathless, she stared up into his hazel eyes.  For just a moment, this whole thing seemed a bit unreal.  Maybe she had fallen asleep in her hammock while reading again and this was all some fairy-tale world dream.

The light applause of the others in the room broke the reverie and Jack stood her back on her feet.  The maestro came close to them both.  “Maybe you don’t belong in a beginners’ class.  You go now.  Show your moves in the clubs, not here to show off.”

Although his tone was gruff, his eyes were twinkling when he turned the two of them toward the doors.  Before Jack walked through it, Jillian saw Maestro Sal slip him a business card.  “This place you can dance.  It is safe part of town and good for tourists.”  With a shrug he backed away and turned again to the class.

Standing again in the warm afternoon sun, Jillian pivoted to face this dark handsome stranger.  She was trying to size him up; to figure out what to make of him.  He came across as a nice enough guy.  He seemed like the kind of guy who could make anyone feel as if they had been friends for years.  She convinced herself that’s all his friendliness was.  She was a bookworm, a nerd, and no one a man like him would be interested in.  Making up her mind, she decided to get out before things got awkward. “It was nice to meet you Jack.  I’m sorry we didn’t get to dance more.  I guess I’ll just be…”

His warm eyes snapped up to meet hers as he flashed a lopsided grin.  He caught hold of her right hand as she heard music begin to play again inside the building.  “Not so fast, dancing queen.”  Jack’s arm dashed around her again to lead her into a dance right there on the sidewalk.  Embarrassed, she could only follow his lead and laugh with self concious trepidation.  “The guy was right, we’ve got moves.  It would be a shame to deny ourselves the pleasure.”

Oh, those words went straight to her belly and coiled there tightly.  She could only imagine what type of pleasure this man could bring.  As they continued the dance Jillian felt freedom from all the burdens she was here to get a break from.  Even as others started to gather around them, she didn’t mind.  She just kept looking at the enjoyment on Jack’s face and couldn’t hide her own.  As the music ended, some people began to clap, others began to slip away and a couple others even tossed money near their feet.

Laughing, Jack took her hand.  “What do you say we get out of here?  I could use a drink.”