Welcome to another Charity Sunday blog hop. Last month I commented that I hadn’t highlighted an animal or environmental cause in a long time. Perhaps it seems trivial to focus on animals when so many human beings are in dire straits, affected by disasters, conflicts and health emergencies. However, the state of the non-human creatures on this planet is tightly linked to our own. All too many of the crises afflicting humanity today result from unchecked expansion of our species and thoughtless exploitation of the Earth’s resources. When wild animals struggle to survive, we should recognize that they’re mirrors of the risks we face. When bees, amphibians, insects, the core species that prop up the ecosystem, are dying out, we should recognize that we’re likely to be next.
In any case, this month I’ve decided to support an organization that was one of my favorite charities when I lived in the U.S. - The Mountain Lion Foundation. This non-profit, located in California, is dedicated to research, advocacy and education to help save North America’s critically endangered big cats. MLF works with communities to reduce conflicts between people and lions; with scientists to study the behavior and ecological dynamics of the species; with legislators to craft laws and regulations that protect mountain lions, their habitat, and their human neighbors.
Of course, anyone who has hung around my blog for any length of time knows I am a huge ailurophile. I love felines, large and small. Supporting the MLF is perhaps a bit self-indulgent, but I haven’t donated to them in many years. Hence, I will give them $2 for each comment I receive on this post, between now and the next Charity Sunday.
Meanwhile – I don’t have any stories that include big cats, but here’s a snippet from Miranda’s Masks. My heroine Miranda, who’s a PhD student in literature, has a cat named Heathcliff, who actually has a pivotal role in the plot.
Shy and serious by day—insatiable by night.
Betrayed and abandoned by her first lover, shy and studious Miranda Cahill freezes in response to any sexual attention from someone she knows and likes.
During the day, she works diligently on her doctoral thesis. At night, she finds herself drawn into increasingly extreme sexual encounters with strangers. Public coupling, multiple partners, age play, spankings, bondage, lesbian lust—each experience reveals new dimensions of her depravity. Her anonymous secret life begins to take over when she discovers that the masked seducer she meets in a sex club and the charismatic young professor courting her are the same man.
Dickens scholar Mark Anderson seems like an affable, uncomplicated Midwesterner, but he has hidden depths, myriad talents, and an unlimited appetite for erotic variety. With Mark as her guide, Miranda gradually comes to understand and accept the intricacy of her own desires, as well as to trust her heart.
She took her plate and a glass of white wine back to her desk, where the brass lamp made a warm pool of gold in the darkened room. A mild night breeze ruffled the drapes and whispered in the corners, fragrant with spring. Intoxicating. Voices soft in the alley, the creak of a door hinge, the distant wail of a saxophone—the city breathed outside her window, full of mystery.
Miranda felt alert, wired, electricity in her veins. She ate thoughtfully, pondering her actions and feelings over the past few days. I thought that I knew myself, knew what I wanted, knew what was important, she mused. Now everything is unclear, everything except this lust, which blazes up in me without warning.
She had an inspiration. Perhaps she should write about it, record her feelings and experiences, externalize it all. Through most of her childhood and adolescence, she had kept a journal, using it as a mirror to confront her fears and her desires. Only after Geoffrey left her had she stopped. It was just too painful to write and to remember.
Miranda recalled the leather-bound Victorian diary. Perfect. The irony somehow pleased her—a modern student of Victorian excess using the historic journal to chronicle her own lustful explorations. She retrieved the diary from her desk drawer, located her fountain pen, opened the volume to the first page.
The blank, velvety parchment invited her. Confide in me. Trust me with your secrets.
How should she begin, though? Miranda sat for a long time, pen poised over the paper, reviewing the events and emotions of the last few days. Heathcliff sat on the corner of her desk, fixing her with his typical unblinking stare.
Miranda ignored the feline, her eyes focused inward. Heathcliff’s gaze became a challenge. Still, she did not respond. Deliberately, the cat reached out a striped paw toward her wine glass. With the graceful economy of motion typical of his species, he nudged at the stem, just enough to send a torrent of Pinot Grigio spilling over the desk and diary.
“Heathcliff!” Miranda sprang from her seat to avoid being drenched with wine herself. “Bad cat!” She rushed to get a towel to sop up the moisture. “Oh, Heathcliff,” she said reproachfully, “how could you?”
The cat curled up on the corner of the desk, looking not the least chagrined. Meanwhile, the diary, though wet through, did not appear to be damaged. Miranda arranged it under the lamp, hoping that the heat from the incandescent bulb would help to dry the pages, and went out to the kitchen to wash her hands and refill her glass.
She returned to a marvel. The cream-colored pages baking in the lamplight were no longer blank. Even as she watched, writing darkened and became more distinct.
The hand was even, ornate, old-fashioned. And definitely feminine. Miranda could hardly breathe with the excitement. Someone else had confided in this diary, someone so chary of her secrets that she used disappearing ink for her confessions. As Miranda watched, the date at top of the page became clear.
June 12, 1886
I scarcely know how to commence this account of my adventures and my sins. Indeed, I do not fully understand why I feel compelled to commit these things to writing. Clearly, my purpose is not to review and relive these experiences in the future, for in twenty minutes’ time these sentences will be invisible even to me. Perhaps in the years ahead, I will trail my fingers across the empty parchment, colored like flesh, and the memories will come alive without the words, coaxed from the pages by my touch like flames bursting from cold embers.
I have a secret life, another self, and that secret has become a burden that I clutch to myself, and yet would be relieved of. So, like the Japanese who write their deepest desires on slips of rice paper and then burn them, I write of secret joys and yearnings, and send that writing into oblivion.
Want to know more about the diary’s secrets? Miranda’s Masks is available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other online bookshops.
Meanwhile, I hope you’ll leave a comment. Every message from you means two dollars devoted to saving North America’s great cats.
Be sure to visit the other bloggers participating in today’s Charity Sunday. You’ll find their links below.