Fiction Fix, Writing Stuff

Write: Girl Unclaimed

I threw the stick and watched Daisy run after it, her tongue lolling to one side, her stubby little legs pumping unrestrained excitement.

I glanced out over the water and became momentarily mesmerized by the light flirting with the small ripples from fish nibbling algae on the surface of the lake.

And then I saw it – a yellow spot among the tall, green grass gently swaying in the sweet twilight breeze. I narrowed my eyes to try and pick out the object without having to actually move closer to it. My peripheral vision blurred as I concentrated on the object that did not belong in this secluded spot. A slow feeling of dread started in my sternum and gently crept up to give my heart a warning squeeze.

Daisy dropped the stick on my sandal and I jumped – I had momentarily forgotten all about her. I bent to pick up the stick, my eyes never leaving that spot of yellow. From my lowered vantage point, my eyes focused on something new. Was that … an arm?

I quickly stood up, my breath caught behind the sudden fear in my throat.

I gripped the stick tighter in my hand and cautiously moved toward the object in the grass.

Daisy happily skipped alongside me. Her gait faltered as we got closer, her nose lifted and she suddenly growled low in her throat.

“I know, Daisy. Chillax,” I crooned in an attempt to keep her calm and not start a barrage of barking. The less noise we made the better.

I held the stick out in front of me – I guess I thought I could use it as a weapon. Though not long or sharp, it was thick enough that it might do temporary damage to a skull, or two.

My eyes never left the object, but I was keenly aware of where I was stepping. I had enough combat experience to slip back into that persona with very little effort. I had thought I had lost my edge but moving toward the target brought back a barrage of memories and I involuntarily winced as horrific images began to flicker and flit through my consciousness. Memories I had spent countless hours in therapy trying to eradicate.

My eyes narrowed as I got closer. It was definitely a body, a woman, no, a girl. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-years old. I paused to assess my surroundings. I looked out over the lake and studied the parameter. No movement. The birds continued to sing, a raccoon edged toward the far end of the lake and carelessly swiped at the water gently lapping the shore.

A soft breeze swept over the body. I crinkled my nose. Decomp – she had probably been dead for at least 24 hours.

“Damn it.” I sighed and slowly stepped back from the body. I couldn’t afford to leave any trace of myself on the body. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. I pressed 9-1 and then stopped.

Even if I called in anonymously, they would still track my cell phone down. I couldn’t afford to be found. Not yet anyway. Not after I had spent the last three years making sure every trace of my existence had been erased.

I studied the girl’s face and slowly put my phone back into my pocket.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered regretfully. My apology dissipated on the summer breeze.

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Workshop – Point of View

This post was originally published on Write Anything, October 21, 2008.

Welcome back to Write Anything NaNoWriMo workshop week!

“The choice of the point(s) of view from which the story is told is arguably the most important single decision that the novelist has to make, for it fundamentally affects the way readers will respond, emotionally and morally, to the fictional characters and their actions.” David Lodge

Let’s talk a little bit about point of view.

When I first became interested in writing, point of view confused me.

A lot.

First of all, I couldn’t keep them straight. I think the writing teachers I had back in school took great delight in watching our faces contort into all sorts of bewildered masks as they stood in front of the class and talked about the various points of views and when you should, or should not use them.

And if you learned NOTHING else from them, you did not, under any circumstances, combine them in the same story!

*insert horrified gasp*

That point was pounded so much into my brain I actually graduated from college with a lop-sided skull.

Now, you’re lucky if you read a story, any story and from any genre, that doesn’t have at least two different points of view in them. And in some stories, points of view change so fast that it leaves readers scratching their heads trying to figure out 1). which character they’re supposed to be following and 2). exactly whose story is it, anyway?

Even though I understand the difference between the points of view now, I still hesitate over which POV I should write my stories from, because a lot of times, picking the right point of view can make, or break, your story.

But first things first – let’s define the various points of view:

First-Person Singular POV

The most natural POV is the first-person singular, since all stories and trials originate with someone, an “I,” witnessing what happens.

The first person narrator can tell a story with herself as a central character or she can be one of the minor characters. Or she can tell somebody else’s story, barely mentioning herself except to show where the information comes from.

First-Person Multiple POV

You use several first-person narrators and alternate among them, usually beginning a new chapter with each change of narrator. This strategy offers a diversity of voices, viewpoints and ways of thinking without the arrogance of the omniscient sound.

Some pros and cons for First-Person POV:

Pro: It’s technically the least ambiguous. Readers always know who is seeing and experiencing the story. It’s subjective. You’re a bit more free with the voice – using slang, bad grammar, etc. And first person offers smooth access to a character’s thoughts. (You don’t have to worry about awkward switches in pronouns – which CAN get tedious).

Cons: We can’t take an outside look at our POV character. Sure, you could use a mirror, but that’s been overdone and is in fact, cliche – avoid that technique if at all possible. In a suspense story, it’s pretty much a given that an “I” character will survive – kill off your “I” character and the story dies with him/her. And it’s hard to create a compelling new voice for each story.

Third-Person Omniscient POV

In this POV, which is used infrequently in contemporary writing, the author knows everything about all the characters, places and events involved. The reader observes from many angles. The “camera” is conveniently set wherever the action is, akin to television coverage of a basketball game.

Third-Person Limited POV

This POV – and its variants – is the most common one used. There are at least three kinds of third-person limited POVs:

Third-person subjective POV – resembles first-person POV except it’s usually done in standard English rather than in the character’s voice.

Third-person objective POV – You don’t reveal the viewer – the way you don’t see the person holding a camcorder.

Third-person limited omniscient POV – this combines the objective and the subjective approaches.

Third-Person Multiple POV – this sounds like omniscient POV, and the difference may be subtle, but it’s best to see it as a series of third-person limted POVs minus authorial intrusions.

Objective POV (or theatrical POV) – this perspective is blurred under the third-person objective POV, but we should distinguish an objective POV, which does not focus on one person, from the limited objective POV.

Second-Person POV

The author makes believe that he is talking to someone, describing what the person addressed is doing. But the “you” is not the reader, though sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the impression that the author is addressing you directly. This POV is the least popular as it puts the readers on the defensive, most people do not like to be told how to think or what they are to do, even in stories.
(Source: Josip Novakovich, Fiction Writer’s Workshop)

There are a few more, but in essence, they are a combination of the ones listed above.

I think you get the point (of view – haha).

Here are a few POV exercises to try:

1. Take a piece of your own writing and rewrite it in
(a) a different viewpoint
(b) a different tense (changing from present to past, for example).

2. Take a passage from a favorite novel and rewrite it, changing viewpoint and tense. How does that change the story? Does it read better?

3. Relate one of the following scenes in 300 words, first from one viewpoint, and then from another:

The first day of school. A young teacher, fresh from college, faces his/her first class. (The viewpoint of the teacher, and then one of the pupils).

There has been a road crash. (Viewpoint of a by-stander, and then the crash victim).

A young woman helps an old blind man across the road. (Viewpoint of the woman, and then the man).

(Source of exercises: Nigel Watts, Writing a Novel)

It may take some time to settle on a particular POV for your story, but a POV that works for the story will make it better and more interesting to readers.

One word of caution: switching POVs often irritates readers and certainly most editors, unless you establish the pattern early in the story, writers should respect POV. Keep your readers inside one character head at a time and if you switch, make sure the switch is obvious by either starting a new chapter from another POV, or even a new paragraph – never in the same sentence.

Finding the best POV for your story is difficult and may take some experimenting. The only rule about POV is that there is no rule. If a particular technique works, use it. And if your story is not working with your current POV, rewrite it and change the POV and see what happens.

Next: Plot

Fiction Fix

Fiction Fix: The Smell of Freedom

“Mama,” I swallowed the tickle from the back of my throat and forced myself to take slow, even breaths, “I’m leaving.”

I quietly set my bags down next to the sagging front door. It was time. I wasn’t, until this very moment, sure that I had the courage to actually go through with it.

Breathe in, breathe out, I silently reminded myself. I could feel my heart slamming against my ribs and a low squeeze in my kidneys.

I suddenly had to go to the bathroom.

My mother continued to sit on the living room sofa, a cigarette dangling from one hand, her other hand buried deep into a bag of potato chips. The room was dark save for the small, lonely light above the stovetop and I immediately wished I had thought to turn it out before making my announcement; I felt exposed and raw, like a weeping wound. The light shone directly on my face; she would be able to see my hope, my deep seated need to leave the hellhole I was forced to call home.

I wished with all my heart the light would simply flicker and die in that moment, somehow that would have seemed fitting – a perfect summary of my life.

My mother snorted and roused herself from her television-induced stupor. The bluish-gray light from the box sliced across my mother’s large frame and cast ugly shadows across her hard face. She didn’t turn around to look at me, nor move from her position on the sofa, but her voice projected so clear and sharp I felt like she was standing right next to me.

“Come here, girl.”

I had expected the summons, but I jumped, nevertheless.

I shuffled my feet across the dirty, threadbare carpet, my secondhand moccasins making a soft swishing noise as I moved to stand near her, but far enough away that she couldn’t reach me if she were to reach for me. I had learned, from years of experience, to always be on my guard around my mother.

“What did you say?” she asked as I completed my journey across the room.

I knew she had heard me, she had excellent hearing. In fact, her hearing was almost canine in nature. She could hear the slightest sigh or the softest mumble the entire length of our trailer, with the doors closed and the television volume turned all the way up. In fact, her hearing was so acute, that I used to wonder if my mother didn’t somehow have super natural powers.

“I, uh,” I mumbled and I jumped once again at my mother’s sharp tone of voice.

“Speak up, girl. You know I can’t stand it when you act like a whipped dog.”

Now there was an apt description, I thought bitterly to myself.

I stood next to the ratty, stained sofa and absently stared at the reddish-brown stain that nearly covered on threadbare arm. That stain had prompted several questions and numerous jokes over the years – the stain remained a mystery.

I could feel my mother’s coal black eyes staring a hole into my face. My answering blush only teased my sense of anxiety and small beads of sweat began lining my upper lip.

“You better answer me now, girl. You’re making me miss my soaps.”

I could feel my shoulders slump and my body curl inward, my confidence began to ebb and I forced a dry, blob of nervousness back with a swallow. My counselor told me this might happen. He also told me what to do when it did.

My eyes shifted toward the TV, now boldly airing a commercial for a female hygiene product. I wanted to laugh out loud at the sheer absurdity of the situation – didn’t they know that women like my mother would never elect to spend their precious cigarette money on something as inconsequential as feminine wash?

And as if the thought provoked the smell, or maybe the smell had been there all along and I only now recognized it for what it was, I could smell my mother’s sour body. The origin of the smell originated somewhere deep beneath the dirt, sweat, beer, smoke and oily skin – it was somewhat yeasty and not altogether unpleasant.

“Damn it!” She pounded a meaty fist on top of the mysterious reddish-brown stain and I involuntarily flinched at the movement. “Are you trying to piss me off, girl?”

Girl. I straightened at the term, for that was all my mother every called me. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time she had actually said my name.

“She will likely mock you,” my counselor’s voice rang in my ears. “Do not allow her to make you feel guilty or insecure. You deserve this. You deserve to start your own life.”

I smiled at the thought. Not because of the unkind things my mother has said over the years, but at the thought of someone having faith in me, in my future.

My mother’s brow arched at my smile. “What the hell is wrong with you, child. Are you on drugs?”

No, that’s your thing, mother,” is what I wanted to say, but instead I simply cleared my throat and repeated my earlier words. “I’m leaving, mama.”

She stared at me for long moments. Her face was expressionless, her eyes cold and hard, her lips a thin, straight line of disapproval and then, without warning or provocation, her mouth began to tremble and a low rumbling sounded in the back of her throat.

For a split moment, I thought she was going to start choking and I quickly ran various emergency procedures through my head.

But I needn’t have worried; my mother wasn’t choking, she was laughing. The sound that squeezed past her fat lips was a cross between a squeaky wheel and a burbling brook.

“Yer what?” She repeated, gasping for air. “You ain’t goin’ nowhere. You ain’t got no friends and you certainly ain’t got no man,” she stopped abruptly and narrowed her eyes at me. “You ain’t got ya a man, do you?”

“No mama,” I said quietly and she nodded once in approval.

“I didn’t think so. Don’t you go and git yerself tangled up with no man. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble, hear me?” She lifted a pudgy arm and swiped the back of her hand across her nose, smearing a thin line of mucus across her upper lip. “They’ll screw you, take yer money and then leave ya high and dry.”

I couldn’t help but wonder which of the long line of men my mother might be referring to. None of them had been any better than abusive beggars.

Continue reading “Fiction Fix: The Smell of Freedom”

Parenting, Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Severing the Friendship Ties

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

I will just tell you, right off the bat, that this story is based on real life. Stick around, I need your input at the end.

_______________________________

Severing the Friendship Ties

Matt clutched his paper lunch bag tighter between his fingers. He hated lunch, mainly because he never knew where to sit.

And it was the only time period in the day when he had to endure Lance.

Matt stepped behind a group of teenage girls and kept a few paces back from them as they entered the lunchroom. Maybe Lance wouldn’t find him today. Maybe he wouldn’t have to listen to Lance’s loud voice or put up with this immature attitude.

He lifted his head a bit to look over the girl’s shoulder in front of him. So far, so good. The girl, sensing him behind him, glanced back and gave him a disinterested once over.

Matt flashed a lop-sided grin and moved past the girls and toward a table at the edge of the lunchroom.

The noise was deafening. But even though it was loud in the lunchroom, it was nothing compared to Lance’s boisterous antics.

He gingerly sat down and opened his bag. He smiled. He loved the lunches his mom packed for him. They were always full of good stuff. He pulled out a crust-less peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Cheez-Its, a can of root beer and a baggie stuffed with mult-colored Twizzlers.

His favorite candy.

He popped the tab on his can and looked around. He didn’t really mind eating lunch by himself. It was a welcome relief from his day – it gave him a chance to unwind and de-stress a bit before he tackled his afternoon classes.

He released a long, soft sigh and ripped open his sandwich. His fingers dug into the spongy bread and his smile grew. He loved the frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, especially when they were soft and gooey. He lifted the circular sandwich to his lips when he heard it.

Lance’s voice, calling out his name.

In the middle of the lunchroom.

People began to twitter in amusement and turned their heads trying to locate him.

Many found him. And to Matt’s utter horror, so did Sarah. The girl he had been in love with since 4th grade.

He sighed and slowly lowered his sandwich, his appetite dissipating into wispy smoke.

“Matt! Dude! I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Matt didn’t answer.

“So, what’s up?”

Matt very calmly, and with precise movements, pulled out his book with one hand, and lifted his sandwich with the other.

He took a generous bite and was chewing quietly when it happened.

The temper tantrum.

“What the heck? Why are you ignoring me? What, I’m not GOOD enough for you?”

Matt tried to ignore the stares from his peers, but he knew they were looking – and laughing.

At him, most likely.

“I DON’T LIKE BEING IGNORED, MATT.” Lance crossed his arms and openly pouted.

Matt took a breath. He kept his eyes trained on his book and though he appeared outwardly calm, his heart was hammering so hard in his chest he felt light headed.

“You’re embarrassing me, Lance. I’ve already told you. I don’t want to hang out with you if you don’t learn to control yourself. I’m right here,” he glanced quickly at the boy, “you don’t have to yell.”

“WHO SAYS I’M YELLING?”

Matt just looked at him with raised eyebrows. He shook his head and went back to reading. The words wavered before his eyes and he had no idea what he was reading.

He never thought he would ever think this, let alone mean it, but he was actually looking forward to going back to class.

And away from Lance.

_______________________________

Matt? Is MK. Lance? Is MK’s “friend.” We’ll continue to call him Lance.

Let me explain …

We are now into the fourth day of the school year and MK is miserable. Not because of his teachers, his classes, or even his peers, but rather because of one lone boy – a boy he’s known since second grade.

This boy has always been loud (and in my opinion, obnoxious). And MK has always rolled with that loudness and seemed to like this boy and liked to hang out with him.

Until this year. Apparently, MK has done a bit of maturing over the summer and he no longer finds this boy quite so amusing. In fact, this boy is still stuck in grade school, apparently, because MK tells me that a lot of kids are now making fun of this boy and his loud voice and overly-dramatic gestures and attitude.

In fact, MK sort of thinks the boy acts feminine – if you catch my drift.

But that’s not even the real issue (though that makes him uncomfortable). The real issue is he’s not sure how to handle this. He’s tried talking to the boy, “Dude, you’re embarrassing me. Cut it out.” And the boy gets all bent out of shape, raises his voice and just causes a scene so that it’s just better to endure his behavior than try and confront him about it. (And yes, MK has tried to talk to him privately, but it still escalates into a problem, from what MK tells me).

MK’s other friends are too freaked out to be around Lance, so they avoid him, leaving MK holding the embarrassment. MK doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t want to hurt this boy’s feelings, he’s tried talking to him but Lance doesn’t seem to get the message.

MK is now thinking about emailing the boy – maybe Lance will actually LISTEN to what he has to say instead of making a scene and getting all defensive.

What would you advise your son to do if you were in my shoes?

EDIT: MK and his friend talked on the phone last night. He told the friend that he’s under a lot of stress this year with all of his music activities and he doesn’t have time to stress about his freinds’ behaviors. I was very impressed with how he handled himself – he was very mature and understanding, “I know you’re like that … I understand … but this is how I feel.”

I don’t know if anything was resolved but it was a very proud momma moment – we are really raising this kid right. It’ll be interesting to see how this kid handles the “truth.” Hey, if you don’t have honesty, then what do you have.

Prompt Fiction

Picture Fiction: Gemini

Still busy.

Still INSANELY busy. School starts Monday here and I’m up to my eyeballs posting updates and syllabi on the seven school websites I maintain. Well, actually, I maintain six but I’m uploading a new high school website today! (Ack! Pray it goes well!!)

And I’m finishing templates for a new school website as we speak. (By the way, if your school needs a website, I’m the woman for the job!! Contact me and let’s talk!) I’ll post links to “my” schools soon.

Anyhoo, I don’t have time to write new fiction this week, so I’ll post an oldie (and hopefully a goodie). This was originally published on my self-hosted blog January 11, 2006. It’s what I call “Picture Fiction” – where I take a Creative Commons picture from Flickr and write a short story around it. I should start doing this again – it’s really fun and challenging. *makes note to self*

Catch ya later!

________________________________

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

Taking a random photograph from Flickr and weaving a short story around it. It’s Picture Fiction!
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Gemini

null

There was something wrong with me. I knew it. I felt it. There was a splitting of souls inside the dark, smelly place I called a heart, one good, the other, not so much. I never knew who was in control. The loving husband who doted on his three-year-old son; or the promiscuous thirty-eight year old man who disappeared for hours at a time after work only to collapse on his front stoop, drunk and reeking of urine?

Why can’t I control the blackness? Why do I find myself succumbing to its seductive allure more and more?

I hear Sharon’s cries. I see the confusion in little Anthony. I can smell their fear. I can hear her, I can see him, I can sense their apprehensions, and yet, I do not care. A cold, evil animal lurks deep in my gut and no amount of coaxing will persuade the beast to venture out of his cave and seek the warmth his family offers on a daily basis.

A part of me is scared and dying. It’s as if I’m in a boat, looking toward shore, and see the good part of me sadly waving goodbye. This goodness shrinks with each passing stroke of the oar while the evil monster inside grows in both size and strength hogging the vessel more and more.

I cannot stop it. It has consumed me. The animal has been released and no one dares capture it.

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Sometimes, There Isn’t a Choice

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

This was based on the stranger than fiction headline: Man jailed when daughter fails to get diploma. If you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you had to know this would be the one I chose, right? 😀

____________________________

Sometimes, There Isn’t a Choice

“Dad, what the hell are you doing?”

“I’m dropping you off at school,” was his overly sarcastic response.

Leyna released a long pent-up sigh and rolled her eyes. “Duh. I mean, why aren’t you dropping me off at the curb?”

“Because I can’t trust you not to go into the building.”

“What are you kidding me?” Leyna huffed and sank back into the truck seat. “I’m nearly 18. I can do what I want to do.”

“You can do what you want to after you graduate. Right now? I’m making sure you GET that diploma.”

“School SUCKS!” she yelled and chomped on her gum.

Earl’s shoulders slumped and he gave his daughter a wary, side-long glance. “Look Ley,” he began, “you only have six months to go. Six months and you’ll be free to do whatever you want to do. You can get your license …”

She shot him a hateful glance at bringing up that sore subject.

He continued, “You can move out. Get your own job, your own money, live your life however you want to but for right now, for the next six months at least, you have to go to school. And you HAVE to go to class. If you miss any more school, you’re not going to have the credits you need TO graduate. Don’t you understand that?”

“I’m not stupid, dad,” she said succinctly, the words oozing venom.

“That I’m quite sure of,” he answered back despondently.

“I wish mom were here.”

He ran a hand over his tired eyes and returned his gaze to the numerous cars moving at a snail’s pace in the school parking lot before answering. “Well, she’s not, okay? So … we’ll just have to deal with all of this without her.”

“I hate this,” she hissed out while shooting venomous looks toward the school building.

“No one likes high school, Ley. That’s just the way it works, buck up.”

“The teachers are stupid. The other kids are idiots – I’m like surrounded by insanity. Why can’t I just drop out and get a job?”

“And what kind of job are you going to get if you don’t have a diploma? Flipping burgers?” He snorted in disgust.

“Mom didn’t finish high school and look at her.”

“Yes, let’s look at her for a minute, shall we?” he snapped back.

Leyna blinked in surprise. Her father never raised his voice with her. She sat up a little straighter and looked at him with new interest.

“One,” he ticked off on his fingers, “your mother didn’t graduate from high school and in fact, quit when she was a junior.” He shot her a meaningful glance. “Two, your mother has never held a job for longer than three months – ever.” Yet again another quick glance at her as he navigated traffic. “Three, she quit our marriage. She never even gave us a fighting chance.” He said quietly. He paused for long moments before clearing his throat and continuing. “But the one I can not ever forgive her for, the one thing that I think she quit that is truly unforgiveable?” He turned to look at her. “She quit being a mother to you. What kind of person leaves her child, Leyna? Do you think your mother has led, or is possibly leading a better life now? Is that what you want from your life?”

Leyna squirmed and stared with unusual interest at her backpack. She absently fingered the zipper before answering. “Not really.”

“That is exactly the sort of life you’re going to have if you don’t finish what you started. Sure it’s hard. Sure it sucks. But if you don’t finish, then you’re just setting yourself up to fail later. And I don’t know about you, but no daughter of mine is going to fail.”

Leyna immediately stiffened at his words. “I can do what I damn well please.”

“Not on my watch, you’re not,” he answered while pulling up to the door.

“You can’t make me do anything, dad.” Leyna tilted her chin and looked down her nose defiantly.

“Leyna …” he began before issuing a sigh. “Grow up.”

She blinked in surprise at him again. Why was he being so harsh with her? Her chin dropped an inch and doubt began to swallow her confidence. “Why are you making me do this, dad? You’ve never made me do something I didn’t want to do in the past.”

“And I regret that now,” he shot back without blinking an eye. “I’ve been too easy on you, Ley. Mainly because I felt bad about Zoe leaving. But I realize now that that attitude has only hurt you, and not helped you. Look,” he jerked the transmission into park and twisted to give her his full attention. “We have a lot of issues, Leyna. Issues that are actually a lot of my fault. I’d like to talk about these things but,” he glanced around, “this isn’t really the time or place to talk about all of that. But I’m going to tell you something and I want you to listen.”

Leyna slipped on her dark sunglasses and pushed them into place on her nose. This was a side of her father she had never seen before and she wasn’t quite sure how to process the emotional influx that suddenly closed around her heart.

“I got a call from the school board a few days ago.”

Leyna’s spine started tingling and she could feel a headache tickling her temples.

“If you skip any more school, they will be forced to file charges against me. Do you want to see me go to jail?”

Leyna’s eyes widened at the news. “Oh, come on. They can’t do that, can they? How can they do that?” her voice rose with each word until it was hovering just below hysteria.

“It’s a law, Leyna. Parents are required to make sure their children receive an education. You’re not in school, so how can you be getting that education?”

“Dad,” Leyna whined.

“Do it for me, Ley,” he said quietly.

Leyna continued to stare at her father. She was certainly surprised to hear that the school had contacted her father, though she supposed it was bound to happen. She had indeed been skipping too much. At first, it started with leaving after lunch. And when nothing was said about her absence in her afternoon classes, she began skipping a day here and there. And still, when no one called her on it, she began skipping consecutive days – now she was lucky if she made it a full day in a week’s time.

It’s not that she wanted her father to get into trouble, but she just couldn’t stand the whole dull routine of going to class. She felt like a piece of meat being lead by the nose from one stall to another to be closely examined and criticized for her actions and thoughts.

She wouldn’t allow herself to dwell on the fact that she didn’t understand half of what they were trying to teach her and she was too embarrassed to ask for help.

She blinked back the sudden moisture in her eyes and without another word, snatched up her backpack and slid out of the truck. She slammed the door shut, purposefully not meeting her father’s gentle hazel eyes and maintaining a purposeful stride, she entered the torture chamber.

“Whoa Leyna, you’re here!” Her best friend, Peaches, greeted her just inside the door. “What’s up girlfriend? I thought we were going to meet at Starbucks in about,” she glanced at her black, alligator skin watch with the lime-green triangle face before continuing, “ten minutes. What are you doing here?”

Leyna lifted her sunglasses to her head with one hand and thumbed behind her to indicate her father’s truck, still idle at the curb with the other.

“Ah. The old man is watching you, eh?” She gave her friend a knowing wink. “Let’s move in a bit so he can’t see you anymore.” She took her arm and they moved into the sea of students surrounding them. “Give it a few minutes, he’ll take off.”

Both girls glanced back out the doors and when Leyna’s father moved back into the flow of traffic, she released a sigh of relief. “Wow. He was really riding me today,” Leyna complained before rudely popping a bubble.

“Yeah, parents.” Peaches rolled her eyes and then started toward the front door. She glanced back when she realized that Leyna wasn’t with her. “Are you coming?”

Leyna shuffled her feet and looked down at her holey black Converse sneakers. “Um, I’m thinking I might stick around today.”

Peaches burst out laughing and then realizing her friend was serious, immediately sobered. She quickly glanced around before moving to stand in front of her. “Are you nuts?” she asked, the glitter from her lip gloss sparkling in the overhead light. “We’re so far behind now, we’ll never catch up. It’s too late, man. Sticking around is just a waste of time. Let’s go grab a coffee.”

Leyna licked her lips and looked longingly at the front door of the school. Bright sunlight bounced off the sidewalk and shimmered around the bare branches of the trees. It was almost as if it was opening its arms and inviting her to appreciate its beauty.

She didn’t want her father to get into trouble, but Peaches was right. It had been so long since she had been to class, she knew she was several assignments behind. It really wouldn’t do any good to go to class – she had waited too long to listen to her subconscious.

“Right. Let’s go.”

Peaches looked relieved and smiled. She hooked an arm through Leyna’s and fell into step beside her; they headed toward the front door. They had just reached the point where they had exited through one glass door and was getting ready to exit the second glass door to the outside when Leyna stopped cold in her tracks. Peaches stumbled.

“What the … what are you doing?”

Leyna nodded toward the husky, attractive man with a slight limp coming toward them. “My father,” she swallowed and stared at the male moving toward them, his steps determined, his jaw set. “He’s back.”

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Haircut Hotties

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

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Haircut Hotties

“Oh come on mom, do we have to?” Dustin whined from the back seat of the car.

“Please don’t start on me, Dustin. I’m getting a headache.” Janet leaned forward to look at the overcast sky. Even though she did indeed get headaches when the weather changed, she highly suspected the real reason her head was starting to pound was because it was time to take the boys to get their haircut.

She hated taking her boys to get their haircut.

“But I just got a haircut,” Dustin lamented.

“That was nearly three months ago, right after you got out of school.”

“Yeah, and?”

Janet sighed and pinched her nose to try and ward off the impending pressure. “Seriously, don’t. You need a haircut, end of story.”

“But this makes like the millionth time,” her pre-teen son said while slumping down in his seat and crossing his arms in a huff.

“Right. So what’s one more?”

Dustin mumbled something incoherent – Janet felt it was wiser to ignore his disgruntled mumblings.

“Where are we going?” Her teenage son muttered in the seat next to her.

“Do I have to actually grace that with an answer?” Janet ground her teeth and made a left turn.

“I mean,” Robert said with exaggerated patience, “I thought that haircut place was the other way.” He sat up a little straighter in his seat and looked around with growing interest. “Where the hell …”

“Robert,” she warned and her son issued a long-suffering sigh. She didn’t exactly oppose cursing, God knew she had a problem with it herself, but it somehow sounded more … obscene coming from her children’s’ mouths.

“Okay, where the HECK are you taking us, mom?” Robert smirked and shot her a cheeky look.

“We’re trying a new place.” She braced for the impact.

She wasn’t disappointed.

“What?!” Robert’s deep brown eyes widened in sudden terror. Her nearly 17-year old son abhorred change of any kind. “But I was used to the other place.”

“Yeah, but they take forever and I don’t feel like waiting around twenty minutes for them to get started on you.”

“That’s only if you don’t have an appointment,” Robert smirked.

“We have had appointments every time we’ve gone there, Rob.” She shot him an impatient glance. “Look. The ladies are nice there, and they do a good job, but you have to admit, they are sloooow. I have things to do. I can’t afford to sit around all afternoon while they gab and snip. Wouldn’t you rather get back home so you can bury your nose in your new game?”

Robert shrugged and Janet savored this one small victory. There weren’t many victories nowadays; she would take what she could get.

“So, this new place …” Robert began, his eyebrows disappearing into his shaggy bangs.

“Is different,” Janet answered and shifted uncomfortably in her seat. She wasn’t exactly sure how her boys would react when they reached the new place.

“What’s it called?” Robert asked.

Janet waved a nonchalant hand and murmured her response.

“Wait, I didn’t catch that. What is it again?” Robert turned to give her his full attention and she sensed Dustin leaning forward from the back seat.

“Uh, well,” she gulped, “I think it’s called ‘Cut by Hotties.’”

Dustin burst out laughing and Robert stroked the peach fuzz on his upper lip. “I think I’ve heard of that place,” Robert said with a grin.

“Yeah well …” Janet wasn’t sure how Robert had heard about the revolutionary barber shop and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know, quite frankly, but she was ready to try anything if it meant she wouldn’t be forced to sit and watch testosterone-driven movies for two hours while the boys got worked on at the other place.

The boys had never liked getting their haircut. Even when they were little, they would bicker, cry and generally throw a fit anytime anyone showed up with a pair of scissors in their hand. And though they had mellowed over time, it still wasn’t top on their priority list. They were beyond the causing a scene stage now, but their stony silence and their heated looks nearly always made the stylists nervous causing them to either not take off enough so that Janet had to trim them up when they got home, or they would take off too much and Janet would be forced to listen to them whine and complain until it grew back to an acceptable (and unruly) length.

As a result of the haircut drama over the years, she took them to several different places, always looking for that one stylist who would cut their hair like they wanted or who wouldn’t tremble under their obstinate behavior.

So far, they had all failed to stand up to the boys’ unrealistic expectations.

She had stopped taking them to her stylist years ago simply because she got tired of having to explain her sons’ behavior every time she went in for a color and a trim. She could understand the boys’ reluctance to have anyone touch them or put their fingers in their hair, but enough was enough. Everyone had to have their haircut at some point – it was no big deal.

She pulled into the shopping center and parked the dark blue Corolla in front of the ‘Cut by Hotties’ shop.

No one moved.

The trio sat in the car, all eyes trained on the activities inside the salon. The place was crawling with pretty girls hovering over numerous men in barber chairs. Several men were sitting along the front wall in various stages of having their hair worked on. One man was in a reclined position and was eagerly exposing his neck for a shave. Another man was talking animatedly and using his hands to make his point while keeping his eyes trained on his stylist in the mirror. Yet another man, his back to his stylist was seemingly staring straight at them.

“What’s that dude staring at us for?”

Janet felt a slow flush creep up her neck and cleared her throat. “I really have no …”

She paused as something caught her attention in her peripheral. Two women, both attractive and both wearing what looked like a skimpy uniform, were ambling toward the front door of the salon. One wore comfortable flips-flops, the soles slapped softly on the warm pavement; the other woman wore three-inch backless baby blue heels and looked like she was about ready to topple over trying to walk in them.

“I, uh,” Janet began while pointing to the women. “I’m assuming he’s staring at them.”

The man in the salon wasn’t the only person staring at the women. Robert was staring so hard his glasses began to steam.

“I remember this place now,” Robert said slowly. “It’s like a place for guys to come and get their hair done and,” he jerked his head back to the salon, his eyes greedily scanning over the girls in short red skirts and tight multi-layered black and red spaghetti strapped tunics, “the stylists are supposed to be hot.”

“Yes, well.” Robert’s interest was beginning to make her feel uncomfortable. “It’s for guys and I thought, uh, you might feel more comfortable here,” she finished weakly.

“Cool, let’s go.”

Before Janet could remove her keys from the ignition, Robert and Dustin were out of the car and opening the door to the salon.

“Swell,” Janet mumbled while dropping her keys into her purse. She rolled her eyes and slowly followed her boys into the salon. She noted the “Please tip the girls” sign prominently displayed on the glass door.

Just what kind of a tip are we talking about here? Janet thought as she approached the bubbly brunette behind the counter. “Uh, hi,” she began feeling immediately intimidated by the pretty girl and self-conscious that she was the only female customer in the place. “Robert and Dustin for one o’clock.”

“Right,” the girl responded while chomping on her gum. “We’re all ready for them. Won’t you have a seat?”

Janet looked around but couldn’t see anywhere to sit down. “Where do I sit?”

“Oh,” the girl waved a manicured hand airily behind her, “Just take one of those massage chairs, if you want. They’re quite comfortable.”

Janet slowly walked back to the red leather chairs and sank down, her buttocks perched primly on the edge. She gripped her purse and stared up at the big screen TV – it was tuned to a sports’ channel.

She had never felt so exposed in all her life. Now she knew how men felt when they went into a more traditional salon.

She didn’t like the feeling.

She cleared her throat and tried to look around without actually meeting anyone’s eyes. Maybe her boys wouldn’t like this place either and they could go back to a more traditional-style salon – one that smelled like hair dye and fingernail polish remover.

Janet finally located her boys. They were side-by-side and caught up in a conversation with their stylists.

They didn’t look unhappy. In fact, they looked like they were in a trance, a silly, sappy grin plastered on both of their faces. Robert caught her eye in the mirror at his station and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

Janet carefully schooled her face into a mask of indifference, yet she doubted if anyone would have noticed the lone, frumpy woman in the red leather chair anyway. She gave Robert a little wave as she blindly dug into her bag for her cell phone. As discreetly as possible, she speed-dialed her best friend, Tonya.

“Tonya?” she began, her voice balanced somewhere between amused and worried, “you know that restaurant Hooters?” She waited until Tonya responded before continuing. “Well, we now have a Hooter’s for Hair. Guard your husband, it’s enemy territory over here.”

Prompt Fiction

Fiction: Caught on Tape

Thursday Thread
Thursday is the day I post a bit o’ fiction.

This was originally posted May 16, 2007.

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Caught on Tape

“What in the world does she hope to gain by doing this?”

“I’m not sure,” Sharon replied, her eyes glued on the fourteen-year old girl on the TV monitor. “I honestly don’t know what to think.”

Kathy placed a comforting hand on Sharon’s arm. “I’m really sorry about this, Shar.”

Tears welled up in Sharon’s eyes and she blinked them away impatiently. “I have to say, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.” Sharon could sense Kathy nodding beside her. She sighed. “What am I going to do? I mean, do I ignore this and hope it’s a phase? Or do I confront her so she can act oblivious and lie to my face?”

“I … honestly don’t know.”

“If it were your daughter going through your jewelry box …” Sharon slapped a hand against her thigh and gestured hopelessly at the screen, “and now going through your purse, what would you do?”

The two women watched the girl pocket three twenty-dollar bills into her jeans and then dangle a gold necklace from her fingers. She appeared to be mulling over whether or not she should take it.

“Maybe she won’t take the necklace,” Kathy offered helpfully. The girl shrugged and stuffed the necklace into her pocket. “Or maybe not …” Kathy’s voice trailed off.

“I simply can’t believe my own daughter would steal from me. I mean, if you hadn’t talked me into planting a video camera in my bedroom, I never would have bought this crap.”

Kathy sighed next to her. “Teresa is my friend, Sharon. I knew she wasn’t the type of person to steal from you. She’s been cleaning my house for, oh God, years and we never had any problems. I just didn’t want you to falsely accuse her of something.”

“So instead of firing my housekeeper, now I have a delinquent daughter to deal with.”

They continued to watch the girl rummage through Sharon’s purse before finally giving up, glancing one last time through the room to make sure everything was in its place and finally leave.

“This is going to break her father’s heart,” Sharon mumbled. “I can’t let her out of the house with her stash.” She spoke the last word bitterly. “Is she going to buy drugs? What else would a fourteen-year old girl need money for?”

Sharon stood up and headed toward the door. She paused and turned around. “Unless …” she swallowed. “She doesn’t need the money for drugs. What if she’s …” Her eyes widened in horror. “And she needs the money for a doctor …” Her hand flew up to her mouth and she hurried out of the spare bedroom after her daughter.

“Sara!” She walked briskly to the stairs and grabbed her first-born child by the arm before she could get away from her. “We need to talk.”

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I started a new tweet (I guess that’s what you call them) on Twitter called, appropriately enough, Blog Fodder. Every day I post a writing prompt, just something extra to help you get through the blogging humps. It’s not really a question, per se, but rather something that might trigger a memory, or something you can use as a springboard to write a story, or a blog post. Anything goes. Use the prompt any way you wish.

Blog-a-thon 2008

Blog-a-thon ’08: Welcome Home [12]

Want to know what’s going on? Visit this page.

This an ongoing story that I’m posting over the next few hours. I’m not sure how I’m going to end this, any suggestions? I’m writing this on the fly, so this story is rough, really rough, but I thrive on this impromptu stuff so … there you go. 🙂 Just two more installments to go! Thanks for reading!

___________________________

Welcome Home

The crowd surged forward, then abruptly fell back to make room for the exiting passengers. Squeals and cries echoed off the airport walls as loved ones were reunited. Excited chatter soon built in volume and it was hard to think straight let alone hold a conversation.

The three women politely stood out of the way, but they kept craning their necks, their eyes constantly searching for Carter and Pierce.

As the wave of departing passengers began to ebb, the women’s hopeful expression began to fade.

“Where are they?” Alecia asked, desperately trying to keep the panic from her voice.

“I’m sure they were on that flight,” murmured Margie as she dug into her handbag to pull out her boys’ itineraries. “Excuse me, sir?” She asked a large security guard with a protruding belly. “Do you know if that was flight 207 from Washington D.C. that just came through here?”

The man grunted once before picking up a clipboard and checking the timeline. “Yep, that was 207.”

“Do you know if all of the passengers have exited the plane?” She asked.

“That, I don’t know. Sorry.” He turned his attention back to the passengers in line who were currently taking off their shoes.

“Okay, I’m confused,” Jessie said. “This is the flight. And Carver called you from the plane, they should be here by now. What do you think …”
Jessie’s words trailed off as she spotted Carver and Pierce.

A tall man with large arms and a head full of buzzed black hair was pushing another man in a wheelchair out of the security checkpoint. Both men were wearing fatigues.

“Oh my God,” Margie mumbled at the same time that Alecia shrieked in utter delight.

“Carver!!”

She sidestepped an elderly man and ran up to her husband. She stopped a foot in front of him and suddenly offered a shy smile. “Hi,” she said, her voice silky smooth and heavy with emotion.

“Hi,” he responded, his eyes drinking in every part of her face. His smile was wide, boyish and completely besotted.

“Welcome home, my love,” she whispered and she closed the remaining distance with a last lunge forward. They wrapped their arms tightly around each other and would have remained that way for quite some time if Lisa hadn’t squawked in protest to make her presence known.

Alecia and Carter laughed together as they reluctantly separated.

“And who do we have here?” Carter asked, his eyes sparkling with moisture. He smiled at the baby and gently took one of her tiny hands in between his thick fingers. “Hello pretty girl,” he said gently, his voice incredibly deep and rich with unspoken emotion.

Lisa studied him for long, serious moments. Then she blinked and began smiling, the dimple in her cheek deepening noticeably.

“Oh Alecia,” Carter breathed in, “she’s absolutely gorgeous. Look at those beautiful eyes and look,” he grinned, “she has my dimple.”

Alecia sniffed and ignored the tears running down her face. She laughed and nodded. “She definitely has your dimple.” The couple leaned in close and finally, after ten long, grueling, emotional months apart, kissed and re-sealed their devotion to each other.

When they stepped away from each other, they continued to gaze into each other’s eyes for long moments until Margie cleared her throat to get their attention.

“Hello! There are more people around you.”

Carter laughed, the sound full, rich and overflowing with happiness as he scooped his daughter into his arms and kissed his mother on the cheek. “Hiya mom. What’s shakin’?”

Margie laughed and walked into his one free arm for a hug. “You probably don’t want to know, son.”

Alecia stepped back and fished a tissue from her pocket (she had been prepared for the tears) and moved toward Pierce and Jessie, who were talking intensely.

“Hey you two, I hate to break up the little party,” Alecia interrupted, “but I haven’t had a chance to say hello to my brother-in-law yet.” She smiled down at Pierce and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “What sort of mischief have you been up to now?” She purposefully kept her tone of voice light, but braced herself for whatever he was about to tell her.

“Oh, it’s nothing. I just broke my leg, no biggie. I should be out of this cast in another six weeks or so.” He blushed.

“What happened?”

“Well, we were surrounded by the enemy see …”

“He fell off a stage,” Jessie said with mock disgust. “He was doing karaoke with the guys, drunk,” she smiled down at him, “and took a dive into the front row.”

“Hey! That was supposed to be our little secret!” Pierce assumed a mock-hurt look.

Alecia burst out laughing as Carter came up behind her and put an arm around her shoulders. She settled in close to his body.

“And I saw the whole damn thing, too.” Carter said with a laugh. “There’s no way you can sugar coat this one, bro.”

Pierce started to mutter a curse but caught himself in time when Jessie nudged him and pointed to the baby. “So you have a daughter, eh? Let me take a look at this little squirt.”

Carter placed Lisa on Pierce’s knee, but kept a firm hold on her. The baby again seriously examined Pierce’s face before she slapped him on the thigh.

“Hey now! You give daddy a big grin but you give me a slap? What gives?”

Carter sputtered a loud laugh and patted his daughter on the head. “That’s my girl.” He hauled Lisa back into his arms and stood back. “So … you two,” he gestured between Pierce and Jessie, “you okay or what?”

Pierce looked at Jessie, Jessie looked at Pierce and they both shrugged. “We’re working on it,” Pierce said and Jessie visibly relaxed and offered a smile.

“Cool,” Carter said and turned toward Margie. “Where’s dad?”

Alecia stiffened next to him and he noticed the movement. He looked from his mother to his wife and tilted his head. “What’s up?”

“He’s fine, Carter,” Margie said with a soft smile. “Let’s all talk and catch up at my house, shall we? I’m sure your father is dying to see you both.”

Alecia grabbed the stroller and pushed it as Carter looped an arm around her shoulders as they all exited the airport and started walking toward their cars in the parking lot. She didn’t know if Margie’s play on words was an accident or not, but suddenly, she didn’t care. They would deal with whatever happened because that’s what family did – together.

She kissed her husband’s stubbled cheek. “Welcome home, Carter.”

Blog-a-thon 2008

Blog-a-thon ’08: Welcome Home [10]

Want to know what’s going on? Visit this page.

This an ongoing story that I’m posting over the next few hours. I’m not sure how I’m going to end this, any suggestions? I’m writing this on the fly, so this story is rough, really rough, but I thrive on this impromptu stuff so … there you go. 🙂 Just two more installments to go! Thanks for reading!

___________________________

Welcome Home

All three women fell silent. The sounds of the airport surrounded them and wrapped them in a tight glove of introspection.

Finally, Margie glanced at the man standing next to Jessie. “He’s not staying.”

This wasn’t a question.

“Now Margie,” Jessie began.

“I will NOT allow you to ruin this homecoming, Jessie. You’re more than welcome to stay, but he HAS to go.”

“Yeah, who’s gonna stop me grandma? You?” The man snickered in Margie’s face.

Jessie placed a gentle hand on Margie’s arm. “I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry.”

Alecia watched the three of them in disbelief. Was this happening? Had she fallen asleep? It was like watching a bad play with no direction. What now?

Margie sniffed, turned on her heel and walked over to sit next to Alecia. Though her mother-in-law was tough and could stand her own ground, it was all Alecia could do to hold back her tears when she noticed Margie’s hands shaking. Without saying a word, she placed a hand over Margie’s and offered a tender smile of encouragement.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if that girl spoils this for Pierce,” Margie said with a teary voice. “He’s worked so hard. He’s been through so much …”

“Jessie’s not all bad, Margie,” Alecia said quietly, her eyes remaining on the couple now openly fighting in the middle of the airport. “She’s just been so hurt. And there hasn’t been anyone around to help her get through it. She misses Pierce, more than she allows herself to admit.”

Margie nodded and took an unsteady breath. “I see Lisa finally conked out.”

Alecia smiled down at the sleeping infant. She slowly lifted a hand and very carefully swept a tendril of hair off to one side of her forehead. “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her, Margie. It was so, so …” her voice broke and she forced herself to take a moment or two to gain her composure. “It was so hard when Carter left. I have never prayed so hard … in my entire … life. I’ve never been more terrified, yet more proud, of another human being as much as I am for Carter. He’s my everything.”

Her mother-in-law nodded sympathetically and placed an arm around her for a quick hug.

“Lisa was a God-send,” she said. “I probably would have ended up like Jessie – bitter, scared and alone. At least this little girl has kept me busy for the past few months. Jessie didn’t even have that.”

Margie glanced at her other daughter-in-law and sighed. “I should have been there for her.”

Alecia stared down at her daughter. “I’ve never thanked you for being there for me.”

Margie watched Jessie and the man leave the airport before turning to Alecia. “Have you heard from your mother?”

“No. And I don’t expect to.”

Margie sighed. “Don’t take it personally, Alecia. She’s sick. It’s not your fault.”

She shrugged. “I’ve stopped caring, quite frankly. I’ve accepted her illness for years now, even if she hasn’t.”

“Has she been to any more AA meetings?”

“The last time I talked to her, which was just after Lisa was born, she swore to me that she had been going every week. But who knows. I haven’t been able to trust anything my mom has said for years.”

“I don’t suppose your father …”

“Still MIA.” She gently shifted her baby daughter from one arm to the next.

“Do you think she would sleep if you put her in her stroller?”

“Maybe,” but Alecia didn’t make a move to put her there. Her thoughts were still focused on her parents. “Margie, can I tell you something?”

“Of course, dear.”

“I wish … I wish I had had a mom like you. Carter is always telling me what a great childhood he had, what a happy kid he was –”

“Really?” she interrupted. “He said that?”

Alecia nodded. “Yes. He’s always telling me stories about when you guys traveled to Florida every summer, or the fishing trips him, his dad and Pierce went on …”

Margie smiled. “That is really good to hear, Alecia. I never knew the boys looked back on their childhood like that before. It’s … satisfying to hear we did a good job.”

Alecia returned her smile and then laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“You. Us. If my girlfriends could see how well we get along, they’d be horrified. You know, being the monster-in-law and everything.”

Margie laughed. “Well, that’s good to hear, too. I think.”

They were both still laughing when Jessie reappeared.

“Well, he’s gone,” she said as she sat down next to the other women.

“For good? Or just for now?” Margie asked.

Jessie sighed and tucked her blonde hair behind an ear. “For good.”

“Oh? What happened?” Alecia asked.

Jessie leaned back against her seat, defeated. “I can’t do this anymore,” she sobbed quietly.

“Do what, Jessie?” Margie asked quietly.

“I can’t stay angry anymore. I’m so TIRED of being angry. I just want my life back. I want my baby back. I want …” she hiccupped and sniffed, “I want Pierce back.”

Margie reached into her bag and retrieved two tissues, one for Jessie, and one for herself. “You never really lost him, honey.”

Alecia jumped as her cell phone went off. She hurriedly reached into her pocket and pulled it out. Her movements caused Lisa to stir in her arms.

“Oh my God,” she said quietly, both Jessie and Margie looked at her. “It’s Carter.” She flipped the phone open with one hand. “Hello?” She listened for a few seconds and looking at the women, smiled. “They’re here.”

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It’s time for a chance to win this journal!

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