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Once Upon An Us
Once Upon An Us
Once Upon An Us
Ebook220 pages3 hours

Once Upon An Us

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Kayla and Drew spent every summer in high school as star performers at their local Renaissance Faire. Their chemistry on and offstage was stellar, but their lives had two very different plans after high school that didn’t offer them a happily ever after. Kayla had chalked all those lingering memories up to a combination of nostalgia and getting over a recent breakup until a letter arrives inviting her to return to the small Connecticut town for a Valentine’s Day charity event benefiting the Ren Faire. Though she hasn’t been home in years, Drew never left, and seeing his name—and his personal note—at the bottom of the invitation letter has Kayla wondering about choices she made long ago.

PublisherBritt DeLaney
Release dateFeb 4, 2022
Once Upon An Us
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Britt DeLaney

Britt DeLaney lives and writes near Philadelphia. In her spare time she watches too much Netflix, eats too many Pop-Tarts, and is currently writing her ass off.

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    Once Upon An Us - Britt DeLaney



    KAYLA BEDFORD HAD a headache just under her left eyebrow. It throbbed in a staccato beat that wasn’t likely to end any time in the near future. She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, rubbing gently in the unlikely hope of massaging it away.

    Singing zombies. It was a flat statement, and a weary one.

    Yup. Singing zombies.

    The person on the other end of the Zoom meeting was her assistant, Ellis, who—to his credit—had a smile on his face. His perky purple hair and matching eyeliner were usually a welcome sight on her laptop screen, but today they didn’t lift her mood. She was just plain burnt out.

    They pitched it as a post-apocalyptic survival story, Ellis continued, but sometime between last week and this week they decided to add in a quirky dance number at the end, which gave them the brilliant idea to turn it into a musical. So we’re back to ground zero with the script, and it completely changes the parameters of the project. They’re working up a new treatment now and should have it over by the end of the month. 

    Kayla took a fortifying sip from her mug, wishing it contained tequila instead of coffee.

    So that sets us back.

    It does, Ellis agreed. Also—Daphne from Nederlander emailed and they want you working the Gershwin project. I took the liberty of setting up a meeting for the fifteenth.


    "I know that hmmm. Don’t tell me you’re going to turn them down."

    No, no of course not. Kayla waved a dismissive hand. It’s just—I’m going out of town for Valentine’s Day. I need you to apartment sit and take care of the cat, by the way—and I don’t think I’ll be back on the fifteenth. Probably by the sixteenth. Can we push to then?

    You’re going out of town? Why don’t I remember this conversation?

    Because we didn’t have it yet, she said. I’ve been going back-and forth about it, and finally decided this morning. So can we do the sixteenth?

    That won’t work for Daphne, he said, shaking his head. We’d have to push into the following week, and you know how pissy Daphne gets when someone keeps her waiting.

    I know, I know.

    You’re not going to put a contract this big on the line to spend Valentine’s Day with that pretentious twat—

    If you’re talking about Greg—

    Girl, you know I am. 

    We’re not exactly together at the moment, Kayla said. Consider that my Valentine’s Day gift to you.

    I prefer cash, but that’ll do, Ellis drawled. He dumped you right before Valentine’s Day?

    He didn’t dump me. We’re on a break.

    So, he dumped you.

    I’m the one who told him we needed a break, Kayla said. The headache was now under both eyebrows and felt like it was spreading slowly downward, encompassing her whole body. He’s been pushing so hard when I don’t take him to some of these events—it’s starting to feel more and more like he wants my connections more than he wants me.

    Ellis laid a thoughtful hand against his cheek, his eyes going comically wide. Oh my, you don’t say.

    You warned me, she said. Go ahead and say ‘I told you so.’ I deserve it.

    What you deserve is a new man. Please tell me that’s why you’re going away.

    Kayla gave a faint smile. Not a new man, exactly. Just a trip back to my hometown. It’ll be good to see some old friends.

    "You said not a new man, exactly. Ellis pointed at her. Is one of those old friends a man? A man you want to see? A man with rippling biceps and a devil-may-care smile?"

    Don’t you have work to do? We’ve got a Hallmark movie, an opening night gala, and a location scout for a singing zombie movie that need your attention, Kayla reminded him.

    All in good time, Ellis said. What about Daphne? She really did want to meet right after Valentine’s Day.

    Does it have to be in person?

    You know how she is, Ellis said. Daphne is old school.

    Send her bagels from that place she likes tomorrow morning—you know, that one down by the firehouse. And flowers, Kayla suggested. And tell her I’ll take her to dinner for the next meeting.

    Will do. When do you leave?

    Tonight. I’ve only got that one meeting tomorrow and that’s a phone call. How much can you clear out of Friday?

    Honey, if it involves a potential man for you, I’ll tell everyone to go to hell and send you a bottle of champagne, Ellis vowed fervently.

    I don’t pay you enough. You know that, right? Kayla said with a smile.

    You pay better than my last six jobs. And you’re much more entertaining. Now get packing!

    Kayla gave a mock salute. Yes, sir. I’m off to the wilds of Connecticut.

    Ellis gave a wave in return. Beware the dangerous packs of roving milk toast.

    Kayla ended the connection with a chuckle, then leaned back in her chair, clasping her hands behind her head as her mind reviewed all that she needed to do before she could leave. Her eyes drifted to the pile of mail on her desk, and she made a grumbling sound when she realized she had set her coffee cup down on one of the envelopes.

    She moved the mug, carefully wiping the envelope against her jeans, trying to minimize the coffee circle on the corner. Carefully pulling the edges of the envelope apart, she slid out the invitation and laid it on the desk in front of her, staring at the familiar picture on the front.

    Whoever the artist was, they’d captured the towering stone gate and cobbled streets beautifully. The façades of the buildings, the thatch on the rooftops, the pushcarts full of produce and baked goods, were all rendered in vivid detail. Off to one side was a knight on a horse, extending a lance toward a princess in a fluffy pink ball gown, who held out a delicate handkerchief—a favor to tie on the end before he rode off into a tournament.

    She traced the knight and the princess with a finger before opening the invitation to reread the inscription for what had to be the thirtieth time.





    FEBRUARY 14TH, 6PM - 10PM






    Merrymount. She hadn’t thought of the place in years. Last she’d heard, the Renaissance Faire had closed for good when the family that had owned it moved out of the area—that was four years ago, maybe five. One of her old high school friends had mentioned it on Facebook. 

    Kayla had felt a wistful twinge when she’d seen the post. Some of the best summers of her life were spent at the Merrymount Renaissance Faire, away from the confines of her overly sheltering parents, shoveling french fries in her mouth as she laughed with friends on the threadbare couches in the big barn that served as a cast lounge. She remembered the music, the smells, the applause.

    God, how she missed it.

    And woven into all that nostalgia, so much a part of all those warm and wonderful memories, was Drew.

    Her breath hitched as her eyes slid down the invitation to the scrawled note at the bottom. She knew that handwriting—would have known anywhere, despite not seeing it for the last ten years.


    It would be great to have you back with us again.

    You’ve been missed.


    Just a general greeting. He probably put it at the bottom of every invitation that went out to a former Faire performer. And he knew she lived in Manhattan and had some wealthy connections. He was just looking to leverage them. Everybody has an angle. She shouldn’t read too much into this.

    It had been nearly ten years since she told him goodbye.

    Ten years since she swore she would never look back, and here she was doing just that.

    He probably had a wife and three kids. He probably still worked at Cooper’s Mini Mart. Or maybe he took over his family’s tree farm. 

    He didn’t mean anything by the note.

    Kayla started to stuff the invitation back in the envelope but changed her mind and left it laying on the desk instead, with the knight and the princess keeping her company as she packed.



    THE GIRL BEHIND the counter looked up at the sound of the front door opening. She stared for a moment, blinked her ebony eyes, and then her face broke into a wide grin.


    Kayla’s answering grin was every bit as wide as the girl rushed out from behind the counter and enveloped her in a warm hug.

    Sonny! She pulled back, studying her friend at arm’s length. You look wonderful.

    You lightened your hair, Sonny said, lifting a lock.

    Kayla laughed. Just grew out of my emo phase and stopped dying it black. It’s back to the original boring brown. And I pay other people to cut it now.

    Oh my God, remember how badly you wrecked it before middle school graduation? Sonny laughed as well. You had lopsided bangs for a month!

    Lopsided bangs that were a half-inch long. Kayla put a hand over her face. I was such a rebel, flying in the face of fashion.

    Well, at least we’ve both aged incredibly well, Sonny observed.

    We have, haven’t we? Kayla put her hands on her hips and surveyed the shop, breathing in delicate florals and heavy spice, her gaze shifting across the shelves full of candles, lotions, soaps, and aromatherapy products.

    So, this is your shop, she said. You know I recommend your stuff to everyone.

    I know, Sonny laid a hand on her shoulder. You placed your first-order just a few days after you found me on Facebook, and within a month I was getting all kinds of orders from people in New York. I assume that was you.

    I don’t know if I can take credit for every order in New York, Kayla said demurely. But okay—if that gets me a discount.

    There will always be a discount with your name on it, Sonny assured her. Did you just get into town?

    Just rolled in. Traffic wasn’t bad at all. Kayla had the grace to look chagrined. It didn’t even take me two hours to get here and I’m acting like I drove halfway around the globe.

    It might as well have been. You haven’t been back in forever.

    Life got really busy once I got out of college and you remember how it was with my family, Kayla said. They wanted me in business school, not majoring in Theatre. Once I got out on my own, I really didn’t want to come home much—and then they moved out of the area, anyway.

    You could’ve stayed with me, you know that, Sonny replied. I would’ve been happy to put you up this weekend, too.

    I’m not going to take advantage of an old friendship like that. Besides, I found a gorgeous bed-and-breakfast just down the road.

    Sonny smiled. "You must mean Willow House, since it’s the only one around here. Matt and Raul have done a really good job on the place. It used to be that old secondhand shop—remember? The place always used to smell like mildew.

    That place? Now I’m not so sure I should have passed up your offer.

    You wouldn’t recognize it these days, Sonny told her. They gutted it down to nothing on the inside—only the original stone exterior remains. So, it still looks like a quaint, authentic old stone farmhouse, but inside they spared no expense. It’s kind of a hidden gem around here. Their restaurant is five star.

    Kayla unwound the scarf from around her neck, warming up now that she was out of the cold. 

    I can’t believe I’m back, she said softly.

    It’s about time, Sonny said. There aren’t too many of us old-timers still here in town, but people have been asking about you. And with the push to reopen the Rennaissance Faire, everybody was wondering how you were doing in the big city.

    Kayla gave a self-deprecating laugh. Yeah, if they were looking for me on Broadway, they were bound to be disappointed. I never got there.

    You could’ve been there, Sonny said firmly. You really could’ve, you know.

    I tried that route for a while after I graduated college, Kayla said. Even got as far as off-Broadway. But there’s just so much rejection—and most of it isn’t based on your talent, or your lack of talent. Most of the time you’re cast in a show because you look like the person who had the role before you. And if you’re lucky enough to get in on a new show, by the time it’s gone through its paces off-off Broadway and off-Broadway, it ends up morphing into something completely different, especially once the producers and backers get involved. It’s all such a circus, and it’s exhausting. They grind you down.

    Kayla looked up, realizing she had been venting. Sorry. Guess I’m a little bitter that those bright lights weren’t what I expected them to be. But I like what I’m doing now. I really, honestly do.

    You’ve got a production company, right?

    Yeah, I did a lot of regional theatre and indie projects early on while I was getting my legs under me, Kayla said. I really like directing and I had a natural talent for marketing and promotion. Eventually that moved into producing, and now I live in a nice apartment in the East Village.

    And last week you were at a dinner with Lin Manuel Miranda.

    Kayla looked sheepish. Yeah, I was bragging a bit on Instagram.

    Just a bit. Sonny gave her an indulgent smile. You hungry? Would you like a cup of hot tea?

    Yes to both.

    Matt and Raul also run a bakery out of the restaurant at the Bed & Breakfast. They have the most amazing scones, and they bake a red velvet cake that will make your eyes roll back in your head, Sonny explained as she moved behind the counter again, motioning for Kayla to follow her into the back room. And I have a wonderful blend of soothing herbal teas that pair perfectly with both. They carry my brands and serve them to all their guests.

    Nice! Kayla glanced back toward the empty shop. Do we need to stay out front? I don’t want you missing any customers because of me.

    It’s Wednesday afternoon—there’s nobody here. And that’s why I have a bell on the door, anyway. Sonny motioned for her to sit at the small table located near one of the windows, right next to a long workbench laden with dried flowers, spice jars, bottles of oil, and a mortar and pestle.

    It smells amazing in here, Kayla said. "This place is really beautiful. I mean, it looked quaint in the pictures on your Facebook page, but it’s a lot bigger than I thought

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