Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I learned at the Writers Workshop...

I am very excited today!

Not because my cold is starting to dissipate, or because I've just caught pink eye from one of my lovely chillens, but because I just returned from an Awesome Writers Workshop!

Yes, this blog is going to be about writing, so before you tune out I just want to say that I feel very hopeful about my future!

It was an interesting workshop. Eight writers, including myself, in two cabins for five days, writing. Sounds fun right? My husband said he'd rather hang himself, but to each his own.

Anyway, it was great and I mean that. I met an agent who told me my story sounded old-fashioned and she didn't know where she'd put it on the shelf, and I still think it was a great experience. In fact that's what made it so positive. I didn't go away with my head full of myself, but with a plan. A foundation to take me to the next level.

So this is the latest plan of attack. I'm going to read like crazy. Pick a genre and read the heck out of everything being spewed from the publishers mouth so I can figure out where I belong. I'm also going to be practising these writers drills so I can find my "voice". That's what they all want. A clear, strong voice and someone that knows for sure what genre they are writing in. So the next few months for me are going to be soul searching. What the agent reiterated was that you have to find your "niche" and stick with it. Only when you are famous can you hop around and hope to have any sort of a following. After all it is a business. Somewhat grudgingly I'll accept this, though I really don't like being labeled or pinned down, but I get what she's saying.

Any writers out there want to share how they picked their genre? Or maybe you could pass along some favorite books for me to read.

I always love your thoughts.
Until next time

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It's December already?

It's ten o'clock Thursday night. I'm sitting in the darkened living room staring into the abyss and feeling totally overwhelmed. My nose is the size and color of a strawberry and I've got ten little drummer boys beating against my already swollen sinus's and I'm thinking, Bah humbug.

Normally I look forward to the holidays with much anticipation. We usually go traipsing through a Christmas tree farm, or in the very least a grocery store parking lot to get our tree right after Thanksgiving, and the lights--the lights are always up before the first snow flies, which around here would have been about two weeks ago. Yet here I sit. And I've got nothing.

I don't know what is happening, but my life is in a tailspin, and I can't keep it all together anymore. Hubby is working an hour and a half away and often stays away for two or three days during the week and I don't know, I just need him to come home and do a bunch of stuff. But really what is kicking me in the tail, is this monster of a cold I've come down with. Sinus pressure, ear ache, and the ugliest snotty nose you've seen since your two year old nephew wiped his mucus on your new pair of pants.

It doesn't get better at night either. It's one of those, gagging, wake you up in the middle of the night, cause you must have water before you choke to death, kind of coughs. Then there's the post nasal drip to think about. What's there to think about? How I'm going to wedge a little piece of tissue up my nostril without it tickling me into a sneeze, or worse,worrying that it will become lodged until spring. It's ugly. I'm ugly and my head is so full of gunk that I don't even want to think about Christmas yet. And don't even get me started on those steamy things you stick up your nose to drain all the...Okay I have said way too much about this.

But this is what is so cute about having children. I was lamenting the fact that we still didn't have a single Christmas decoration up, let alone a tree and my little three year old piped up, "Yes we do!" and then she climbed off the couch, ran upstairs and came down with a little Christmas tree that has been the only piece of landscaping for the barbie house all summer, (since we forgot to put it away last Christmas see, and I was feeling way too lazy to pull down the Christmas box just for one tiny little piece of greenery.

So here is our Christmas tree. Cute isn't it? And how proud Macy was for making everything all better. You know what was the best though? We didn't even have to walk across the parking lot to get it. That's my kind of Christmas Tree!

Monday, November 30, 2009

What would you do?

Do you ever do something and then later doubt whether you made the right choice? I do this all the time. Split second decisions, lamented for days, sometimes weeks afterwards.

Here is the set up:

Black Friday-
Waiting in Aeropostale to buy a pair of jeans for oldest son who won't stop growing and can't keep a pair of pants longer than six months. Sorry to blather about my growing boy... Anyway,

back to the subject at hand: There are two checkers and they are both helping other people. No one else is in line, so I stand at the front, but get distracted with one of those jewelry turn tables just to my left. I probably spent one minute admiring all their really cool necklaces.

I turn around and realize that while I was being distracted by dazzling silver and gold, four or five people have found their way into the partitioned line and I have edged myself almost out of the line all together. I panic, thinking that they don't know I am in line. The line gets longer by the second. The lady in front of me is still at the checkout, but I don't know if the other lady at the checkout is the same one from before.

And I'm hot. My coat has added about ten degrees to my body heat and I've got a list a mile long to get through. I stand there mulling over whether to go to the back of the line or if I am still considered in line. The girl behind me is the same one I was behind in Old Navy. She took forever! Seriously I watched the other checkers go through three or four additional people in the time it took for her to check out! I'm not thinking it's payback time, but I AM thinking I do NOT want to get behind her again!

A checker is free. It’s time to pony up or go to the back…

Now I want to hear what you think I should do next. What are the etiquette rules for standing in line? If you are not religiously watching the checker are you out? If you miss your turn and someone goes in front of you is it back to the end of the line for you? If someone gives you a dirty look did you break etiquette or could they just be having a bad day? I want to hear your ideas. Some of us weren’t born with white gloves on and have to learn it the hard way.

Counting on your wisdom to guide me along...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Let's Talk Turkey...

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that's all good and fine, but what I really want to talk about is what you all think about this "Friend" business on Facebook.

It goes like this. You add a friend, say a few pleasantries and three months later you have a little picture of your new friend on the side of your wall saying you should be friends because you have a bazillion friends in common. You think to yourself, "But we are friends, aren't we?" And then you type in their name and sure enough you are locked out,shut off and banned from friend-dom. Is this a phenomenon that happens only with me or have any of you had this experience?

I can only think of a couple reasons to "un-friend" someone. They are offensive, rude or annoying. Any other reasons? Maybe you want to keep the number down below 200 and suddenly you find you are at 201 and somebody MUST go. Do you play eenie meenie minie moe, or just delete someone randomly? Or perhaps more commonly,you didn't want to be friends with this person in the first place. However, under laws of social graces you said yes, waited a week or two, and then when they weren't looking, cut them off cold. Hmmm. Sounds probable. Don't get me wrong; sure it hurts momentarily, even when its done by someone you have no desire to play scrabble with on Friday night, let alone say hello on their wall, but there are no hard feelings on my side. I get it, really. My husband does it all the time. Says he didn't ever really know these people and doesn't need to be friends with them now. But I can't help but wonder if it wouldn't just be better if you denied them from the beginning. No false pretenses, no fingers crossed behind your back, just out and out I'm not interested in swapping status's with you, or looking at the many family photos in your album. Wouldn't that be a more honest way to let people down? Anyway, it's just a thought. But just so you know, if I say yes to you I promise not to unfriend you behind your back. One thing I've never been accused of is being a fake friend. I tell it like I see it. Get's me in trouble sometimes, but I sleep better at night for it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's New Moon Premier Week!

It's finally here!

That’s right folks, it’s New Moon premier week! I have to admit, and I’ll do it proudly, that I have been a Twilighter longer than most whippersnappers. I picked up the books three years ago and practically inhaled them. It was like they were a drug and I was an addict. I started the first book on Friday, read LATE into the night and into the morning and then was forced to go to a Super Saturday crafty thing, and read with the book hidden on my lap between painting clocks and making chocolate covered pretzels. Pathetic I know, but I couldn’t help it! It was too good to put down.

As soon as I escaped the craft thingy I bee-lined it for the nearest bookstore and bought book two and three. (Eclipse had just been released the previous week). I rushed through New Moon thinking, "Edward. Must have more Edward," and finished Eclipse on Tuesday. Hungry for more, it was like you couldn’t fill me up. I won’t even go into what this did for my bedroom life, but lets just say, husband dearest would occasionally sit the books on my nightstand--just in case I wanted to read them again.

Now I understand there are two types of camps:you devoured Twilight like me, or you really don’t get it. Just like we have a two party system, we must have two opinions about Twilight. And that's okay, just don't ever try to convince me that she is not a brilliant writer. Seventy million books and a bazillion dollars later,I'd have to beg to differ.

I will spend this next paragraph trying to explain the phenomenon to those that don’t get it. In a nut shell: first, Stephenie NAILS the feelings of first love. There is something so intense about ones first love that you never forget it, or them. Secondly, she gets the big break-up thing and the sometimes physically painful experience it can be. It doesn’t matter if you are seventeen or seventy, heartbreak hurts. Mixed with the allure of the all powerful love triangle and you have yourself the basics for a good story. Thirdly, Stephenie understands what women want, and it has little to do with the physical, though we do like the very slow-- like four books slow-- approach.:) What we DO want is a man to love us unconditionally; have us as their whole world. Listen to us, ask questions about us, be curious to know everything about us. Let us talk about ourselves, and act like there is no where else on earth they'd rather be than listening to us talk! Sigh... See why this could only happen in fiction? How do I know I am right about this? The millions of women and girls from twelve to seventy all over the world screaming Edwards name, that's how.

So here’s a question for you. What team are you on? Team Edward or Team Jacob and what was your experience like reading Twilight? How many times have you read the books and do you have tickets to the midnight show come Thursday night? Not to brag of course,but my sister, Love her! Got me a ticket to a 5:00 show on Thursday. I don’t know how she did this, nor do I care. I’m just glad to see it before two in the morning. Can’t wait!

We’ll see ya at the movies fellow Twihards!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A soldier,and a dream to keep us free

Happy Veterans day!

This morning I was rummaging through the front closet, searching for my flag. There were too many coats and backpacks taking up space, and like a jungle safari, I had to cut through the growth to find it buried in the back. Today I will fly my flag in honor of all those who serve our country. I am forever grateful for those who are willing to sacrifice their time, families, and often careers to serve in the military. I am no respecter of divisions. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, they are all needed.

To be perfectly honest I haven't known a lot of "military" in my life. My father, Grandfathers', and brothers' all missed major conflicts. My husband's father and his grandfathers' were in the Vietnam war and World War II respectively. But I had a dream a few years ago that really changed my attitude towards those that wear the uniform and made me feel like I knew what it was like to be deep in the trenches, if for only a few minutes.

A forewarning and a promise: I have a lot of dreams. And they are usually weird, but I vow not to dig them up and display them on these pages unless they are poignant. This one is poignant. Really.

So I had this dream one night that my family and I were at a restaurant, say something like Texas Reds, and we were talking and laughing, and eating (of course), and having a great time. I looked over my shoulder and spied two Army guys dressed in fatigues silently staring into their beers at the bar, and I wondered what it was like for them to return from combat and be thrown back into a normal society. And like an answer to a question I was suddenly whisked into their world.

And it was scary.

Really scary.

Not ghost and goblins scary, but like my life might end with one wrong turn-- the unknown lurking just around the corner-- scary. And it felt so real! A dusty hot street in Afghanistan, an old rusted out car careening down the dirt road, windows broken, garbage strewn, a fowl smell of burnt garbage in the air, a few turban wrapped men following me, and fear thumping in my ears so loud I couldn't hold a normal conversation. I don't know when I've ever been so vulnerable. Fear gripped me so real and so raw I believed there was no way out. Granted I hadn't had any of their training, and that could be where my fear stemmed from, but all I can say is I wanted out of there and fast! I pulled a Henry Fleming from Red Badge of Courage and hid in an empty building until I found an elevator, and was quickly whisked back to the USA. It led me to a parking garage of a shopping mall. Women with their bags of treasures, laughing and talking leisurely with their children or friends, unaware of the dangers lurking on the other side of the elevator. The change was jolting.

I stood there telling them about my harrowing experience. It wasn't just the dangers that I wanted to warn them of, but the utter poverty and despair amongst the people.

Images seered into my heart.

They smiled politely, but did not listen. I gave up and returned to the restaurant, this time standing alongside the two military personnel, my feet rooted to the floor, unwilling to leave their sides, like I understood now. It was a dark feeling. A lonesome feeling, and as I glanced around at the hoards of happy people, I wondered if they had any idea the price that had been paid for their freedom. Then I turned inward. Did I have any idea? What gratitude had I shown these men and women? Had I ever thanked any of them? Didn't I take our wealth and prosperity for granted also?

I know it was a dream. But I have never looked at those in uniform the same again. Honestly. I don't mean to talk out of my neck, cause I recognize that I don't really know what it is like, but for some time after my dream, I felt a common bond with them. "Hey I had a dream I was in Afghanistan last night. I know just how you feel." Hmmm. Okay, maybe not so much, but it was as close to it as I've ever come.

So on this Veterans day I wish to say God bless our Military, God bless the U S of A and God bless each of us that we will be worthy of his guiding hand.

Do you have an experience you'd like to share? Some one you'd like to honor today? I'd love to hear your comments!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Eyes of the Beloved Part 3 of 3

It's time to add the last installment of my story "Eyes of the Beloved". If this is your first time reading check out the links on the top right of the blog and click on "Eyes of the Beloved" it will take you to all the posts regarding my book. You must start at the beginning if you are joining us for the first time.

And now the last installment of my newest story "Eyes of the Beloved"

““She is here Madam.” A somber voice called from the doorway. It was Mrs. Croft the housekeeper, her face expressionless, her hair still tight in a bun. Mrs. Gates stood stiffly from the chair that she had but occasionally lent herself from in nearly twelve hours. “Oh sweet mother Mary” She whispered in gratitude. Darling Esther had returned and brought the old woman with her. A small glimmer of hope warmed her icy limbs. Throwing her hands through her matted and loose bun, she sighed deeply and headed towards the door. Esther, red-faced and out of breath from the cold October night air, met her mother in the hallway.


“She is outside on the front porch. She refuses to come in until arrangements are made.”
“She has one other stipulation.”
“What does she want?” Caroline asked resigned.
“She asks to be alone with Lillian while she works.”

Caroline Gates stopped short. She opened her mouth in a vehement objection. “Absolutely not! I will never let that ogress alone with my eldest daughter. I will never agree to it!”

Suddenly Mr. Gates appeared at the top of the stairs and slipped one arm around his wife’s waist while grasping her hand in his.

“Caroline, remember,” He whispered softly into her ear. “There is nothing else for us to do.” The feel of his hand and heat of his breath softened her. She pursed her mouth in frustration. Her eyes pleaded with Michael and then Esther. Finally she nodded in agreement,

“If that is what she requests, then we shall oblige her willingly.” Her voice was controlled, though the ringing of her hands gave away a deep apprehension. They walked down the curving staircase. With a nod from Mr. Gates, Mrs. Croft opened the large wooden door.

The withered woman, draped in a black cloak and nearly invisible in the darkness, stood hunched and done-in. A gust blew across the porch and the black hood flitted in the breeze exposing the yellow of her deeply sunken eyes. Caroline stepped back instinctively. Her husband, who had been standing silently behind her, grabbed her arm and squeezed it. She forced herself to meet the ancient eyes, and as she did coldness ran through her veins, sending an icy chill through her.
She shivered. The chime of the Grandfather clock interrupted the otherwise silent exchange.

The old woman spoke first. “Well…what is my payment to be if I save your daughter’s life?” She demanded bluntly.
Michael stood shocked in the hallway, looking from Mrs. Gates to the housekeeper and then to the old woman. “I’d rather discuss this in private. If you please step into my office I’d be happy to discuss-”

“You damned old fool. I don’t play your games. I have a mind to walk away right now. Your daughter is lying near death and you want a private meeting.” She spat roughly on the porch floor. The other three stood staring at the puddle of phlegm, wrestling the urge to wipe it up.

Her black eyes bored into Mr. Gates “I want thirty pounds in gold. In advance.”
He stood staring at her in shock. “How will I come up with that kind of money?”

She cut him off. “ I believe you know exactly where you will get it. Do not be fooled. Your daughter will be dead within the hour if I do not help her.”

His eyes became cold and dark. Finally he spun around and disappeared into the library. The grandfather clock’s tick-tick continued to fill the empty silence. Caroline avoided the old woman’s eyes but the old woman never stopped watching her.

Finally the old woman asked. “Are you going to leave me out here in the cold?” the frozen air swirling from her mouth like an obscure cloud of smoke.

Mrs. Croft glanced at Caroline who gave a quick nod. Mrs. Croft motioned stiffly for her to enter. The old hag struggled up the threshold, grasping the door casings for support, her breathing heavy. She pushed by Caroline, carrying a velvet, paisley bag that seemed too light to be of any consequence. Caroline’s heart pulsed with a foreboding as she imagined the contents, disturbed at the look, the feel, the presence of this old, morose and ancient looking woman— worried about what she was planning and what cost they would pay.
She lifted the candle box up to illuminate the way, cupping the flickering light to prevent it from blowing out as the door closed loudly behind her. Just then the door to the library slid open and Mr. Gates appeared, carrying a brown cloth bag, heavy with gold.

“I was certain coming up with the money wouldn’t be a problem.” She coyed, stealing it from his hands and poking her nose into it. She grunted, “Well then, lead the way.”

Mrs. Croft held a candle up to lead the way. The flame reflected off the elaborately papered walls casting eery Shadows that danced erratically as they climbed the curving staircase. The old lady grunted and gasped as if each step might be her last behind them. Upon reaching the second floor Caroline stopped in front of the first bedroom on the left. Esther, who had been watching from the top of the stairs, stayed frozen in place. The old shrew pushed past Mrs. Croft and Caroline, “No one is to enter this room while I work.” She demanded harshly before slamming the door shut. The echo of the slammed door reverberated through them. This thing they were doing felt so appalling that avoidance of one another seemed the only thing bearable. Mrs. Croft, ever the dutiful servant, was the first to go, disappearing through the hall and down the servant’s staircase. Esther followed after her and then Mr. Gates, with a slight grimace to his wife, disappeared down the sweeping staircase from which they’d come. Lillian’s mother stayed near the door, pacing— with one eye on it at all times, determined to be nearby in case something happened. She strained to hear what the old crone was up to, but all was quiet on the other side.

Esther— relieved to be home and still alive curled up in her favorite quilt next to the parlor fireplace and closed her eyes. But sleep failed her. For try as she might—she could not erase the awful picture of that woman from her mind. She also remembered her words. She had meant what she had said when she’d told her that she would sacrifice her life for her sister’s. But all the same she stayed hidden in the parlor, waiting and listening; straining to hear any noise, but there was only an unsettling silence filling the dusty corners of the house. She pulled the quilt up around her ears and stared into the smoldering fireplace; waiting for something to happen.

Mr. Gates sat in his large wing back leather chair in the library. Perplexed how the old woman knew of the gold he had stashed away, he crossed his leg, lit a pipe, and took two or three puffs. As the sweet smell of tobacco rose he felt his shoulders begin to loosen. His jaw relax. There was a hostile feeling ripe throughout the house; a reeking to this business that he could not shake from his thoughts, like the stench of over-done manure. He took another couple drags and peered intently into the fireplace, waiting for sound. For being such an old unhealthy ogress earlier; she seemed surprisingly light on her feet now. It seemed she could walk and not give away so much as a creak to expose her movements.

Upstairs Caroline continued to pace. It had been several minutes and still not so much as a noise from the room. Red-eyed and sick with worry Carline stopped and stood at the door that was a locked gate to her. How much longer would they have to wait? span>

After several more minutes of unreeling silence, wisps of smoke began seeping through the door cracks. The air was filled with a medicinally pungent scent while slithering its web-like fingers up and across the sides of the wall.

Caroline inhaled the bitter smoke and staggered as the fumes clouded her head. She breathed in deeply, unable to control the urge. Everything around her began to ripple in a dance-like motion. She grabbed at the walls to steady herself.

Smoke now billowed through the cracks and the strange aroma nearly overpowered her. She coughed sporadically as she struggled for more air. The walls began to shudder, swaying to some soundless resonance. A ringing pierced her ears and everything around her acted as if it might swallow her whole. She opened her mouth to cry out, but the intensity of the funnel was too great and she finally succumbed, dropping heavily to the ground.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Eyes of the Beloved Part 2 of 3

Happy Halloween week!

At the end of my last post we left thirteen year old Esther Gates standing at the rotting door of a strange old witch’s hut; sure her life is about to be snuffed out.

Hopeful that the old hag has the power to save her beloved sister Lillian, and unyielding in her quest to help her, she resists the urge to bolt and instead stands firm in her tracks, ready to face this demonic and sinister old woman and ask for a miracle.

Just in time for Halloween, let’s join them now and see what happens to sweet innocent Esther, her sister Lillian and the menacing witch. Enjoy part two of “Eyes of the Beloved” and again, “Thanks for reading!” Becky,

A voice smoldered coarsely in the darkness.
“What feeble minded imbecile hopes to sneak upon me?” It snarled.
Mustering all the courage in her thirteen-year-old soul she cleared her voice and managed somewhat insecurely,“I am Esther Gates. My Father is Michael Gates. We live at 521 Camden Lane…” Her voice weaker than she had meant.
The old woman cut her off sourly, “I know who you are and from where you come.” She growled severely. “What shameful thing has that idiot father of yours done now? Sending his child through the woods in the middle of the night? Does he have no care for your welfare?”
Esther prayed silently for strength to calm her shaking knees.
“My sister Lillian is very ill.” She offered between shallow breaths. “The Doctors’ do not believe she will live through the night.” She swallowed, trying to keep the lump in her throat down.
“So what— all must go down into the earth when their time is past. What have I to do with it?”
The moon once lost, now glowed brightly through a hole in the sky, exposing the old woman’s sagging face; her stretched jowls hovering beyond the tip of her rounded chin and wide, but sunken eyes that seemed exposed, as if she was missing all her eyelashes.
Something reflected in her hands. It was a long rusting knife. Esther shuddered and finished in one breath.
“My father begs of you to come. We have nowhere else to turn and are desperate for your help.”
“Desperate, eh?” She cajoled while coyly playing with the edge of the jagged and rusty knife with her grey coated tongue before pointing it at Esther. “And what do I get in return? A warm welcome into town at dawn in celebration for my heroic deed… or a witch burning at sunset?” She mocked, exposing her yellowed and rotting teeth—edging the knife at Esther’s thin white neck.
“I believe my father will reward you for your kindness.” She believed.
“Please come. You are our only hope.” She begged.

The old woman, in no hurry to go anywhere or to help anyone and whose heart was cold and calloused, felt only slightly amused at the child’s pleadings.
“Your parents are fools.” She licked her over sized lower lip with her slithery tongue. “I should slice both their throats as they sleep in their beds.” She sniffed disgustingly— put out by this annoyance. She knew the kind of business that Michael Gates dealt in dark alleyways and behind closed doors. It would serve the old miser right to suffer for all his under the table transactions that were drudged about in the dark circles she occasionally lent herself to. She felt justified in slamming the door on this young girl with the pleading eyes and innocent face. But as she began to step back the blue eyes stopped her.
There was something pure and truthful in them. Her features were simple. And brave. Undoubtedly brave to come all the way here in the midnight hour to the shadowy abode of a witch. Not possibly more than twelve or thirteen and yet here she stood waiting for an answer.
“Why should I help your sister? Do you love her?”
“Oh more than anything in the world.” Was her breathless answer.
“The only way for me to save her… the only way she will survive is that another be willing to sacrifice their life. Are you willing to do that?”
“If it would save my sister, yes I would. She is more beloved than I ever will be.”
The old woman stood in shock, staring at this young child with the pure face. Her love for her dying sister was unparalleled to anything she had seen in half her life time, which was, as near as anyone could tell, nearly as long as the trees.

Intrigued, a tight smirk spread across her gnarled purple lips.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eyes of the Beloved Part 1 of 3

My latest story, Eyes of the Beloved, is an urban romance that whisks us away to a dark,stormy October night in 1889 with Lillian Gates on her death bed. Her parents, desperate to save her life, summon an old witch in hopes that their daughter may be saved. What happens behind those closed doors is unknown as we flash forward to the present day when Architect Tom Dylan is commissioned by his sister and her husband to restore their recently purchased and run down, nineteenth century Victorian mansion in Black Creek, Virginia. He is immediately inundated with the unexplainable: a sealed attic door, strange noises in the middle of the night, and acts of violence directed at him, making the rumors of the house being haunted seem true. Amid all this he comes across a portrait of the beautiful Lillian Gates, the woman believed to have died in the house over a century ago, and he sets out to discover the deep rooted mystery surrounding Camden House, Lillian’s death, and the mysterious presence behind the attic door

This was a fun story story to write and a great read for October. So enjoy my first installment of "Eyes of the Beloved" PART I
Until next time,happy reading! Becky

October 13th marked the beginning of the end for Lillian Gates.

From the commencement of the red- skied morning to the distant thunder grumbling across the blackening sky, one servant projected to another that both were bad omens for the Gates family. The head servant, a Mrs. Croft, shuddered while whispering that last she checked, Miss Gates was still and white as a ghost in her bed.

Lillian indeed lay in her darkened bedroom, her breathing shallow, her pulse weak. She had laid there unconscious for three days, and today the despair hovered like a murky fog over the house.

When Doc Barrett exited the bedroom, Lillian’s younger sister Esther watched him from behind the banister, his grave shadow hunched and bloated upon the wall. Drawing his spectacles with one hand and rubbing his blood shot eyes with his other; he whispered in a low, hoarse breath that “Sweet Lillian was in God’s hands now.”

Lillian had been her father’s pride and joy—his angel; the daughter every father wished for and like prisms held up to the sunlight, she radiated like a colorful rainbow—flowing auburn hair and eyes that shined like emeralds. When Lillian walked down the street with a sun umbrella in one hand and yellow dress in the other, every eligible young man paused, lifted his hat and nodded in admiration. Little girls wanted to be like her, old women envied her, and her little sister Esther worshiped her.

After the Doctor disappear down the lane in his black top carriage; mud flipping erratically from his large wooden tires, a strange grief settled over the great house and Michael and Caroline Gates stared absently into the black night. All servants, excluding Mrs. Croft were dismissed and Esther shushed herself into a silent corner. It felt cold and damp—as if nothing could warm the soggy air. Not even the undersized and lifeless fires smoldering in the Library and parlor could tepid their bones.

“What is to be done Michael?” Caroline had whispered as she buried her face in her hands. The house was still, the air dead. Michael sat his chin on his fist and stared into until something resembling a surge of hope brought him back to life. He nudged Caroline’s arm. They spoke not a word, but communicated as only two who have been together for what might seem like a lifetime can— reading every microscopic facial gesture, every hesitation or raised eyebrow. The way Caroline always knew when Michael was upset, or irritated—his lips a thin line, his eyebrows burrowed ever so faintly; an easy read.

She followed him to the library. He promptly closed the door behind them, leaving Esther in the hall slumped against the wall, her knees hugging tightly into her chest. There they whispered urgent words. Words that fell short of Esther’s childlike ears, who— too stunned to cry— stared at the closed door until the swinging of the pendulum arm and the late hour lured her into a light sleep.

When the clock chimed midnight Esther was startled awake. At that very moment her father stepped into the hall and in a pressing manner, called out to her. Obedient, she tiptoed across the hall, the parquet wood floors cold against her bare feet and slipped silently into the room. As if on cue distant thunder grumbled across the sky. A streak of lightening flashed across her father’s cold white face. A shiver ran down Esther’s spine. And then her father began to speak.

Dressed in a black wool overcoat and bonnet, Esther now slipped across the dank open fields like a ghost in the shadows, all lost to the darkness except a telltale swirling moisture that rhythmically rose as she breathed. At thirteen, Lillian’s younger sister of six years was athletic, with liquid blue eyes, freckles that dotted her unremarkable face and blond, nearly white hair in long braids. Her agility had never served her well until now when her parents had no other choice, but to send their youngest daughter out into the darkness. Esther summoned courage from within and set out immediately on a journey that would take her nearly three miles on foot.

She cut across an open field; her breathing strong, her legs fast and sure. Damp sheaths of underbrush thrashed against her skirt causing the wet hem to cling to her stockinged legs. The moon was beginning to peak through the dark clouds, shining its light on an inky black spot just ahead of her. With no time to think she attempted to jump the puddle. Her boot caught an edge, splattering muck across her legs and skirt, but Esther kept running — ignoring the dripping cold mud that was now oozing down her leg and seeping into her boot. With only the moonlight to guide her, and the howling winds to carry her on she inched closer to saving her sister.

Eventually shadowy beginnings of an ominous forest—much like a towering fortress against a blackened sky, came into view. The path wound around a dry creek and then veered left. Each additional step stretched her: lungs and throat burned, blood pulsed, as her legs brought her closer to saving her sister. It was here she must go right, as her father had instructed. There would be no path, only tall grasses that disappeared beneath the soaring trees. Dark tales of witches and ghosts swirled threateningly in the wind. Esther remembered Lillian and pulled her chin up, her wet eyes shining in the cold and then stepped into the darkness.

The moonlight was snuffed out. Her knees threatened to buckle, and she contemplated turning back all together. Only once had she been this close to the forbidden hut; it was when she was but eight years old. She had given in to a dare all because of that frog-faced Herbert Lixson who couldn't stop his relentless teasing about her being too afraid to enter the woods on her own. She had held her head up high and had done it. But this night, this midnight hour, surrounded only by the whistling trees and the darkish veil of night, the realization that she was completely alone terrified her.

Just as she was about to turn back a small dilapidated shack rose out of the mist. The hut was nearly enveloped in shadow excepting a single waft of smoke that plumed tellingly out of an iron stack chimney. The roof was rotting and sparsely shingled. There was something sinister in its position, as if it were alive, watching out its two filthy windows and breathing thin, sickly breaths through the chimney. She became frozen in place as fear coursed down her legs and out through her toes.

“As God is my witness, I am going to die this night.” She chattered through her teeth.

At that very moment the door creaked open, echoing through the empty night, its sound cutting into her spine. Just a sliver of light shown through, but Esther felt the old Lady watching. All bravery gone, her already shaky legs turning to soft butter, she could neither speak nor move...

Visit next week when I post part two of Eyes of the Beloved.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Writing Made Easy

“Writing is easy, you just sit down at a typewriter, open up a vein, and bleed it out drop by drop.”-- Red Smith.

I remember staring at a copy of this quote in English class years ago. It’s the truest statement to what writing is really like I’ve ever seen. And if you haven’t at least felt like you have done just this in your writing, then you need to go back and try again. To really write well you have to be willing to bleed yourself out; reach deep into your inner soul and pull out the smells, sights, sounds, feelings. Ugly, hot, sour, whatever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. All of us must start at the beginning: an idea. A story, whatever it is that interests you. You see a dog on the road that has been hit, moaning and in great pain and you take it in, or you wonder what would happen if the money you have stashed away behind your desk drawer could take you on a journey; escaping from your humdrum, or maybe painful reality. The possibilities are endless. I happen to be interested in love and so my stories generally are about love and all that goes with that sometimes wild ride. And then I sit down and begin writing.

The best advice I ever received was to not be afraid of writing badly. A first draft is generally pretty awful and not something you want to share with a lot of friends, but still you must “bleed out” the ideas. Get them written down the minute you think of them. I like to keep a pad of paper by my bed and in the car for any ideas that come my way. More often than not we forget the inspiration that comes to us, though we don’t think we will. We are all busy and easily sidetracked. So write down those ideas.

Some writers are disciplined enough to start with an outline. For me that is paralyzing. I have to just start writing and let it take me where it may. It’s like a rollercoaster ride sometimes and even I don’t know what is around the bend half the time.

So don’t be afraid to spill a little blood. It will only hurt for a minute, and the reward of having something written down forever is priceless.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

See Jane run

I love to run.

I didn't always. Hated it actually. I remember running with a friend in High School once and thinking my throat was going to burst and spew blood everywhere. I don't think we even made it a mile before my lungs were literally on fire and I began pleading that we turn around. I was totally pathetic.

My husband is a runner. One day he tricked me into doing a 5K with him. He promised to push the stroller and if I got too tired I could just walk . Oh please--whatever! All the women from my whole neighborhood were there running. Talking and laughing--telling stories. To make it worse they were all ten years older than me, well into their forties even! And there was no way I was going to let them show me up. So I ran--slowly-- the whole way! And amazingly, it felt AWESOME! Okay, so I could barely move the next day as every muscle in my entire body was screaming at me for doing such a stupid thing, but from that moment on I was hooked. Plus I had to keep running, cause I never wanted to experience that kind of pain ever again!

So yesterday my youngest set off to preschool and I realized I had two hours to do whatever I wanted! I couldn't get my shoes on fast enough. I can't explain the great high that comes from running, because well, it's hard to explain. It's sort of like right before you gather around the Christmas Tree, or when you've got your spoon all set for that hot fudge sundae--expect instead of those obvious fun moments, I plan on inflicting great amounts of pain upon myself. But still I am excited. I'm walking across my grass, a song pumping through my ear pods, the sky a most brilliant good morning blue and I am ready! That is until I actually run twenty steps, then reality sets in and I am already fatigued. I don't get it. I've been running five years now and the first three miles are still my hardest.

But never mind that. The point is it's hard and I still do it and feel great for it. A runner's high if you will. It's cleansing,it's solitude. It's therapy!

I ran Hollow road yesterday. A quiet, usually deserted country road dotted by an occasional house, field of wheat, or cow pasture. If you've done the Top of Utah Marathon, or 1/2 marathon you remember this road. Last chance to you know what in the bushes. ;)
Along this road there is a piece of land that I'd like to sink my teeth into, or wallet if I could. I often wonder if they have any idea the golden nugget they have. It's a dairy farm. You can have the dairy farm part of it, but it's the other side that I'm in love with.
Think perfect cow pasture. A stream along the front of the property. Big cottonwoods edging the creek and in the spring, the most beautiful green grass with an occasional old deciduous to offer shade. Those cows must be in cow heaven, and sometimes I want to join them under a shade tree and rest for a while. Drink from the stream and sit and listen as they moo to one another. Maybe even join in. Blissful tranquility.
This is why I run. This is joy. This is peace at it's finest and this is what I will miss when I have to leave this place.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Short story/ First chapter

This is a picture of me and my sister Amy. She has been asking when I am going to write a story with her in it. I decided to surprise her and stick a short story on here with, you guessed it, Amy in all her glory as the main character's older sister of four years. (Sound familiar Amy?)

Now I need to explain a little about this story. It is not a comedy. Far from it actually. It is about three people effected by one event that not only changes their lives, but sends them in very different directions looking for peace and purpose.

I really enjoyed writing this. I was determined to write a short story and keep it to around 4,000 words and well, I didn't quite make it, but I was only a thousand over, and believe me that is pretty good self control considering my first story has about 84,000 words and my second story has around 119,000 words. I don't know if you can blame it on being wordy, or if it's just that I love to tell a story.

So here it is, my debut for all of you to see, a short story, or rather a first chapter to a future novel. I'd love to know what you all think.

Thanks for reading.

Hay Fields in Spring

My toes were numb, legs stiff and aching, throbbing actually to be removed from their cramped position. Crouched under an old cracked and burnt smelling tractor tire for nearly an hour- the heat from the rubber searing into my bare skin, my only respite was that I would be branded the most brilliant hide and seek player of this century. But this brilliant spot was fast becoming my own Grant’s tomb. Still I stayed in this fetal position, peering just over the edge of the massive tire, craning my neck to steal a peak as they passed by, unsuspecting of my most simple and yet clever location. Something sharp pulled in my back as the weighty chunk of rubber and weathered slab of plywood pressed against me.

There were voices hovering nearby. Of course I recognized them. One was the reason I was playing this stupid kid game in the first place. His name was James Maughn. The heart throb of the neighborhood with eyes of sapphire that could go from blissful to brooding in seconds. His eyes told it all. And I had felt them fall on me more than once, and when they did, every bone in my body turned all noodley. Every hair on my arm, raised, aware of his stare, while a strange emotion deep in my gut, churned me like butter.

As he passed by, unsuspecting of my hiding place, I felt my stomach lurch. A pang of jealousy and spite rip through me. He was walking shoulder to shoulder with the brunette, their arms swaying playfully, shoulders bumping. Elbow touching. My face colored red as the tomato I realized I was.

They weren’t looking for me.

They had conjured up this false game of hide and seek to get rid of me, and give them time to talk. Well those sobs didn’t realize I was anything but a kid. I’d been fourteen for a whole month. I wasn’t a child anymore. I had even grown me some breasts, well nothing to brag of unless I wore just the right shirt, which I had today, in hopes that James might notice, but as Amy turned sideways I could see by her own ample curves that I was never going to measure up.

She used to be my best friend, one I could tell every secret to, but now she was the KGB. A stranger. A traitor and I hated her. She was my sister.

Four years is a big gap, the Grand Canyon in ones youth. Seventeen and beautiful, with flowing milk chocolate hair and hazel eyes, my sister was something to be reckoned with. And what made it all work was she had no idea. Honestly didn’t realize how she was like honeysuckle to delirious bees the way she swayed through life. Lovely voice, supple rose lips. A laugh that rolled like flowing water across a brook, she was un-phased by their attention. Maybe scared them even in a sexually charged way by the way she looked boys in the eye, like she could see through their souls, sending shivers of elation through them, just by her smile.

She was sexy without having to flaunt it. And with a body like hers it dripped off her like coconut oil.

I on the other hand, hadn't any need for boys. That was until James started working at my dad's farm. Since that time something inside me had been awakened. He was sixteen and rugged looking. Not harlequin romance rugged, but still boyish, a fuller face, nose not perfect, but with sweet full lips and sparkling wide eyes. Watching him throw hay bales onto the truck with his massive russet arms, his brown skin gleaming, his tousled dirty blond hair unkempt and in his eyes— something inside me came alive; a strange new sensation stoking my fire whenever he smiled and especially when he winked at me.

Even though he was several grades older and I had absolutely zero chance with him I’d literally become obsessed with the guy. Setting my alarm before the sun even rose, just so I could spy through my father’s hunting binoculars as James climbed onto the old John Deere, his silhouette outlined by the soft amber grey of morning. Granted I couldn't’t see his face as he plowed through the fields, cutting down the sweet smelling green hay that amply grew behind our house, but I knew it was him and that was enough.

The sound of the old tractor idling in the field was a serenade to my ears, and when work was over for the day I’d sneak into the cab and breath in his scent: sweat mixed with old spice,while touching the steering wheel where the heat of his hands still lingered. I’d dream of the time when we might actually be together. When our hands might join and lips might touch.

And the most amazing thing about him? He noticed me. Honest to goodness. He listened to what I said, even laughed sometimes, commenting on what a riot I was. Every day he sought me out at lunch time and we’d sit under the big apple tree and drink straight from his thermos of ice water. I’d bring his lunch along with mine from the fridge and we’d eat together. His consisting of turkey or ham on white homemade bread, chips, an apple and some kind of candy bar that we passed back and forth until there was only one bite remaining, of which he’d insist I finish. I never knew what I was eating. My mouth was unable to register taste. Food tasted like cardboard when he was around. This new sense I was experiencing overwhelming any other.
It took all my effort just to swallow, for food was only a prop in my pursuit to satisfy this craving.

With each interaction I’d fallen more for him. And today had been a bonus. He’d finished the fields early and while my friends and I were hanging out in the yard, jumping on the trampoline and swinging on the swings (all carefully crafted of course to have a bird’s eye view of him), he’d pulled the tractor up, hopped out and plopped down on the grass, teasing us for having nothing to do this early June day but play. He then sighed, laid back in the grass and closed his eyes. My heart had gone into a frenzy of pounding beats, hard enough to explode through my shirt. My reaction to his sudden appearance was not alone. My two girlfriends Gretchen and Sadie turned giddy, covering his body with grass. Mark my boy cousin from down the lane was coaxing him to throw the football with him.

That's how it was. Everyone was attracted to him, boys and girls alike, but for different reasons. Somehow he had this ability to make you feel important, and the way his eyes sparkled when he smiled at me, that quick side-wink, I felt sure that he had quit early just for me.

Then my sister had shown up unannounced, carrying a glass of ice water for James so cold that the condensation dripped like a fast moving waterfall over her long fingers, which he took appreciatively from her feminine supple hands and quickly chugged. He’d handed the empty glass back, wiped his mouth and then thanked her for being so thoughtful. My heart had burned with rage. I would have had a drink for him if I’d known he was going to be finished an hour early! How had she known? Had she been watching from the kitchen window? Was she in love with him too? Granted I hadn’t told her how I felt about James, but that didn’t matter, she had enough boys calling on her, did she really need him too? He was the only boy I had ever cared about and here she was sidling up to him like a coy deer, her hair long partly hiding her beautiful creamy complexion, her sailor striped tank top, embellishing her voluptuousness, and her cut-off shorts exposing her long lean legs. She was a pig. And she was now the enemy.

“Let’s play a game!” I had called out, hatching a plan. Everyone gathered. James and Amy agreed, but it was Amy who chose.
“Let’s play hide and seek. You all hide and James and I will try to find you.”

Again, the enemy was quicker than I. I was careful not to show how angry I really felt towards her and determined to use her strategy against her. Isn’t that what the best secret agents did? Fraternize with the enemy? They’d began counting, turning their backs to us and leaning against the massive trunk of the old apple tree as we scattered through the farm yard.

It was a fantastic place to hide: rusted and weathered machinery, trucks and pieces of abandoned equipment littered the yard between the house and barn. Scraps long rejected, waiting to be recycled, or buried deep into the earth: old tires, parts of wagons, yellow, rusted out hay balers gave us plenty of places to squeeze behind. I felt too old to play,like she'd conjured up the game to put us in our youthful place, but I’d be danged to be left out, or appear the spoiled little sister.

Now nearly an hour later they seemed to be in no more hurry to find me then they’d been the first go around. I was beginning to perspire under my arms and between my small A cup sized breasts. This was not how it was suppose to work. By the time he found me I would be a stinking sponge of sweat mixed with layers of dirt. A mop of dripping tangled hair. The smell of the burning rubber and old dung, stung my nostrils. The weight was becoming unbearable. A mighty elephant on my head. I couldn’t stand the stench, the heat, the pressure, the space that was encroaching on me. I knew the minute I tried to stand my wobbly legs would give out and riddle me with sharp pins and needles; a human voodoo doll. The pain would be unbearable, but I couldn’t lay here trapped in this position for one more minute.

Miraculously James rounded the corner just then, and he seemed to be alone. It was now or never. I pushed with my arms, scootching across the dirt and pulled myself midway out of the tire in hopes to catch his attention before Amy caught up to him. The sun was blinding. I squeezed my eyes shut and took a deep breath. The fresh hot air, a relief from the stifling hiding place I'd stuffed myself in. Sure enough, my legs were dead weight. But not completely numb as tingling sensations began to course through my legs and feet and down to my toes. I squeezed my eyes shut to block out the pain that was now searing through my extremities. Why did something so dumb hurt so bad? A shadow passed over me. Hung more like. I kept my eyes shut, hoping against all else that it was James minus his looser other half. I was the sleeping princess ready and waiting.

“Look what we have here.” He breathed, so quietly I could barely make out the words. He leaned over my quiescent face.

“Cass. Are you sleeping?” He wondered in a whisper that brushed against my skin like tickling feathers. I kept my eyes shut, deciding how to react to this moment. Contemplating what he might do next if he really thought I was asleep.

“Cassidy.” He called to me in a sing song tone. My skin turned to goose flesh. I prayed that this moment might not be ruined by someone’s witchy sister before he might have the courage to kiss me.

“She’s faking.” A voice accused.

Ding dong, the witch was not dead. I felt so annoyed I wanted to smack her sweet lips for ruining what could have been the best moment in my life. Instead I focused on what he was saying before completely blowing it.

“I don’t know, she looks pretty rested to me.” He answered as he softly nudged my arm. I played along, stirring gently and eventually lifting my eyelids and then blinking in reaction to the light.

“What happened? Did I fall asleep?” I tried, whispering and yawning to complete the effect.

“You are such a liar!” She accused.

“I am not!”

“You were not sleeping and you know it. What a drama queen.” She pegged , while rolling her eyes. She straightened up and with a hand on her hip sang out-

“One, two three on Cassidy!” Then she hunkered over me and with a smug grin whispered, “Now you and your friends are it while we go hide!” she turned to leave, but stopped when she realized that James had taken my hand and was helping me out of my hiding place, my legs all but jelly as I tried to stand on them. A mermaid with new legs.

“Spot on hiding place Cass.” He whispered as I worked the dust off my yellow shorts. He slapped my back, causing a smoky spray of dirt to fly off my already grey tank top.

It was at that moment my mother came around the corner. “Have you guys seen Coop?” Her face was scrunched in a wrinkle of concern.

Coop was my little brother. Almost five and nearly as big a pain as my sister.

“I saw him pass by a while ago.” I remembered guiltily.

“I didn’t even know he was out here.” Amy conveniently exonerated herself.

I only bit my lip, embarrassed that I had been so unconcerned.

We began searching for him. Calling his name. No sign of him, which wasn’t a surprise as he was the most curious kid I knew. Gretchen and I made our way to the old abandoned barn. I could barely squeeze through the sliding door that had been stuck in the same position for years. I hollered through the nearly empty barn. No answer. I peered into the darkness. Dust caked the tops of the old worn out bicycles, and old black and white stove that once belonged to my Grandparents. Besides the hanging rusted metal chains and other animal bits that had hung on the wall for decades without being moved it appeared to be empty.

My mother met me in the yard, her face perspiring, her thin lips set in worry, her eyebrows furrowed. A look of distress I hadn’t seen before burned into her face.

“How long ago did you see him Cass?” She demanded, hopeful that I had some kind of answer.

I shrugged, trying to remember how long it had really been. “I don’t know. Thirty, forty minutes ago maybe.”

“And what direction did he head?” I turned to see what she was staring at. My eyes were immediately drawn to the swift moving canal that ran along the side of our property.

I didn’t know. I hadn’t paid him any attention. I just wanted him to bug off before James came around. Guilt gripped me. Coop was harmless. Such a cute guy with wide blue eyes and white hair and freckles that dotted his sun kissed face.
“He wouldn’t go to the canal Mom, he knows better.”

“I’m not so sure.” She said, as panic crept into her already wavering voice. She and James shot off towards the canal with Mark trailing behind. Gretchen, Sadie and I circled the yard again, this time peering under tires, sheets of scrap metal, old boards, anything that he might have gotten under. We yelled his name over and over, but heard no answer.

“I’ll go check the house again.” Amy yelled as she ran past my friends and I who were now standing forlornly by, unsure of where else to check. I had never seen my mother like this. She was usually so calm and never assumed the worst in any situation, but now, seeing her so upset, something deep inside me began to thud a dull aching warning in my stomach. He’s fine, he’s fine. I kept telling myself as I wiped the sweat off my glistening forehead. Standing in the full sun was turning me into a melting candle. My mouth was suddenly dry, parched even. My lips were glued together with some kind of gunk, but taking a break to get a drink seemed incredibly selfish. I suppressed the need and instead wiped the white substance off my lips with the back of my hand.

Soon my mother returned. Tears glistening in her eyes.

“Cassidy, please think. We can’t find him anywhere. I don’t see him near the canal, but the run off is heavy. Please, do you remember anything?” she was begging me for an answer I did not have. The guilt was nearly consuming. Why hadn’t I paid any more attention to him?

James’s voice cut into the silence as he yelled across the yard, “I FOUND HIM!” Relief flooded over me. James had come to the rescue!

I ran to where his voice had called from.

“Call 911.” He suddenly yelled. He was climbing down the side of the old hay baler with a limp lifeless Coop in his arms. My mother ran towards them while screaming for me to get the phone and call 911. I hesitated briefly, too afraid to turn away from the horror as James lay my little brother in the tall grass and began doing CPR on him. Briefly he looked up and noticed I was still standing there frozen, fear stretched over me like a paralyzing parasite.

“Get an ambulance here!” He yelled in frustration. His disappointment stinging like a sharp slap across my face. I turned on my heels and ran as fast as I could back to the house, tears blinding me as I ran.

That was six years ago.

Sitting in the infamous Baler that my little brother got trapped in and died of heat exhaustion, the rain poured down in buckets against the glass, blurring the outside world into unrecognizable blobs of gray and blue. It seems like it had happened only yesterday. The coroner said he probably became so hot that he laid down and fell asleep. Everyone bought it. It sounded better that way.
Something chilled me to the bone and I buried my hands deep into my jean jacket. Heat exhaustion wouldn’t have been an issue today. I couldn’t help but think.

The last six years had been pure hell. Sure I managed to squeak by. Faked my way through a miserable existence called High School. Hid my guilt and shame until I couldn’t stand to see myself in the mirror. Found a way out of it called alcohol and managed to get myself kicked out of college near the end of my Freshman year. It was then and only then that my parents became aware of my addiction and I couldn’t bring myself to face them. So I didn’t go home right away. Instead I roamed the campus globe, mooching off my drinking friends until I knew they’d had enough of me sleeping on their couch and drinking all their beer. Everything I had valued in my life became of not in that dark place I buried myself in. I did things that shamed me in ways I’d never share with anyone and the drinking spiraled to an all new low, until I was arrested for drunk driving and put in jail. My parents had to come and bail me out. Total humiliation for them. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to good parents like mine. And especially does not happen to good girls like me, but hell, I wasn’t good anymore and I was done being their little princess.

I remember the drive we took after the police station. My parents had remained silent for several minutes, until I noticed the car was going south instead of north towards home. Upon my confronting them with this strange anomaly my father had pulled off to the side of the road and informed me that we weren’t going home after all, but that they were taking me to a rehabilitation home for people like me. I was so angry I would have jumped out of the car if he hadn’t had the foresight to lock the doors. I added them to the list of traitors that I hated. My sister being on the top of the list, followed closely by James, my one and only love, who had gone on to be Mr. Wonderful to everyone he came in contact with. Last I’d heard he was headed to medical school. Maybe even engaged. Well, la-de Freekin- da, Wish we could all be so great and wonderful.

Now after eight months I was home and alcohol free going on one hundred days. I’d slipped up once, got a pass to go to dinner with an old friend, who had only meant to get me totally plowed, just so he could have his way with me. It had worked and I no longer called him a friend. I have no friends now.

It’s weird. My life had been such a charmed one at one point. And then everything was turned on its head. And here I was a recovering alcoholic, at the scene of the worst day of my life and I wanted a drink so bad I could taste it on my tongue, My head longed for it, my skin crawled for it and I craved it so much that I feel like crying. I know why I wanted it. Therapy has helped me understand my desire to numb the pain and crushing guilt I have bottled up inside. I drank to ease the horrific memories and recognition that I alone was responsible for my little brother’s death. And now I was home and feeling completely incapable of overcoming this addiction. I’d only been home three days and I was already planning my escape to oblivion land.

The tears began to pour down my face. My blurry eyes matched the blur of the rain drenched windshield and my head began to ache from the rising pressure. I could see a dark figure coming from the house. It would be my mother, worried about me. Watching me like a hawk, looking for signs that I was falling off the wagon. But what she didn’t understand was if and when I did fall off, she wouldn’t become aware for quite some time. Hell, I had made it through high School without her even knowing I drank. I’d become quite an expert at deceit.

I wiped my tears away and took a deep breath. As theshadow came closer, it was clear that it was not my mother. This person was much taller than my mother’s petite frame of 5’2”, and they were wearing a cowboy hat, which canceled out Amy, and by his youthful brisk walk, also canceled out my father. Suddenly he was standing on the kick plate and knocking on the old metal door. I remained still, wishing to vanquish myself into the old ratty torn and sun stained vinyl upholstery. The door slowly creaked open. I held my breath.

Standing with rain dripping off his hat was James, looking grown up and amazing all in one full swoop. His face was long and square, thinned out. His body strong and lean, his eyes, still had that happy spark that had sent my heart palpitating wildly when I was young. Only now it pained me deep inside, as he was completely unattainable. I would never be good enough for the likes of him. I blushed at the realization that he must know where I’ve been. How he knew I was home was a mystery, but the word of my whereabouts, most assuredly had gotten out to all the concerned neighbors.

“Hey.” He stated simply.

I felt something sting in my nose, like I might start to cry any minute.

“Hey.” I answered flatly, pretending not to care.

“Thought I might find you here. Do you mind if I join you?” His face shined pure and happy as the rain dripped off the edge of his cowboy hat. I glanced around the cab. There wasn’t much room for two, but I simply nodded and slid over to give him room to sit on the old rickety seat beside me. He pulled off his wet hat and sat it on top of what remained of the giant old dash. I threw my hand through my hair, realizing I was a mess. No make up, wet hair from the rain, facing James for the first time in three years. This sucked. But good impressions were a thing of the past for me. I was ruined.

We sat in silence for several minutes. I had no idea what to say to him. Every time I stole a glance at him I felt another piece of my heart shatter, thinking of what I would never have because of who I had become. Finally he spoke.

“I’m sorry Cass.”

His words were a complete shock. Why was he apologizing?

“You have nothing to be sorry for.” I reassured him. What did he think my wild ways were really his fault?

“I tried Cass. I really tried.” He bit his lip. His voice suddenly quivering.

“I don’t blame you.” It was all I could choke out.

“Still, it’s my fault. The whole thing. Six years. And it still is as fresh as if it was yesterday.” That was it. My throat swelled, my eyes blurred with tears. My head hurt.

“We both know it wasn’t your fault.” I managed to squeak out. “There was nothing anyone could do at that point.” I felt suddenly angry. My lips pursed, my eyes narrowed as I stared out at the unrelenting rain. “We know whose fault it really was. So let’s not play games.”

He turned with a start. His eyes forcing mine to meet his. His liquid blues swimming in confusion. “You don’t hold yourself responsible do you?”

“Please James, this is too difficult.”

“No, I want to know how it was your fault?”

“I saw him.”

“I know that, but that doesn’t mean it was your fault.

“He wanted to hide with me. I told him to beat it and go find his own hiding place. Okay? Everything nice and clear for you?” There it was, my most painful secret spilled like blood in front of James.

He was suddenly silent. So was I. I really didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Nothing I could say would change the past.

“So is that why you’ve been so hard on yourself?”

Why was he doing this? I remained silent, staring out the side window, hoping he wouldn’t notice the tears flowing down my face. My chest felt so heavy with pain, guilt and sadness I was sure it might explode if I didn’t let go of the choking cry I was suppressing. Finally a sob broke through. My hands flew over my mouth to silence it. I held my breath until I felt I might drown in my own tears. I had to let go and breathe. My head was pounding like a bomb about to go off. I couldn’t hold it back. All hell broke loose. I was sobbing in front of James. What could be worse?

He tucked his arm behind me and pulled me in close. I buried my head into his canvas barn jacket. I could smell his aftershave, he smelled like leather and spice. It was all rather surreal. I had not even talked to him in years. We had maintained a distant friendship, a wave and hello in passing, mostly because I chose a very different crowd then he did, and then he went to college. And now all these years later and I was bawling into his jacket, his arms loose around me, like he wasn’t sure what to do with them, or me.

As sudden as it had come on it was over. I wiped away my tears and sniffed repeatedly, wishing I had remembered a tissue. I could feel my eyes had turned red and puffy. I kept my face turned away from his. My head pounding worse than ever.

“Well, I probably should get going.” He offered shortly obviously embarrassed. “Did you know I’ll be working for your dad this summer? ”

“I thought you were headed to medical school.” I said in between sniffs.

“I took a few months off. I’ll go back in the fall. This is probably my last summer here. After that it’s summer school and internships and then residency. You know how it goes.”

“No, I don’t. I didn’t even make it through my freshman year.” I offered, choking back a laugh/cry. Feeling humiliated to admit that I have become a failure.

“Whata ya’ say we pray for some sunshine so I can get this hay cut before it’s totally ruined.” He offered, lightly changing the subject.

“Sure, don’t want to see you get too bored with all that free time.” I offered, wishing he wouldn’t leave, but not knowing what we could possibly have in common anymore.

“You heard anything from Amy lately?”

There it was. Our something in common.

“Working in Springfield right now. I haven’t seen her yet, but I hear she is doing well. Not married of course.” I hedged.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could all get back together again?” he reminisced.
Yeah, that would be really great. I thought flatly, not wanting to be a part of that party. The pain of seeing my beautiful successful sister flirt with James could well lead me off the wagon sooner than later.

“It would be great.” I lied, not wanting to ruin his daydream.

“I guess I’ll see you soon then. Tell Amy hi.”

“Soon as that sun starts shining again. And I’ll tell her.” The big squeaky door opened wide and then he jumped down onto the wet grass. He replaced his hat on his head as I held the door open. We stood in awkward silence, neither able to face the other, instead looking up at the grey sky. The rain was beginning to lighten. The smell of the sweet, wet hay thick in my nostrils. Without another word he turned and started up the yard. I watched him until he had disappeared around the front of the house. He had been friendly. Hadn’t even mentioned my trip to rehab, but I knew he knew. Maybe he was trying to get in good with me, for Amy’s sake, but it wasn’t necessary. Heavens knew that Amy had adored him for years, and unlike me she hadn’t turned to drugs or alcohol to clear her conscience of my brother’s death. Instead she had taken her pain and worked through it, achieving great things, honor society, full-ride scholarships, graduating Magna cum laude, a great achievement that I missed witnessing due to being on some kind of binge. Now she was working as a lab technician in the hospital.

Come to think of it, they really would make a lovely couple. I needed to rid myself of any unfounded jealousy. My days of hoping to land a Mr. Wonderful were way, way over. All I could hope for was someone who maybe at one time had been as screwed up as I had been so that he could understand my struggles and we could help each other get through it.

But I had been wrong about one thing. I did have a friend. And his name was James Maughn.

Brooke White and Michael Johns concert

Last weekend Hubby and I went to Brooke White and Michael Johns concert in SLC. I was a big fan of them both during their run on American Idol so I was looking forward to this little excursion. The singer opening for them was a fellow Utahn named Benton Paul. We listened to his CD all the way to SLC and may I say, he had me at his song "Paris" Wow! Talented crooner!! We are now official big fans of his and if my radar for that "something" that some people are gifted with still works I would hedge that this guy "has got it"

Good luck to Benton Paul. Glad to say we knew you back when.

Back to Brooke and Michael; Because our friends had special passes, we were able to meet them all in person. They were as lovely in real life as they seemed on TV. Genuinely nice people and I wish them much success.

I had a little taste of touring in college when I was a part of a singing group:every night a different venue, some better than others, meals on the go, sleeping on the bus, same songs over and over- I tell you, you have to love it, otherwise it wouldn't be worth it! So anyway, between Benton's and Brookes Cds', their songs play in my head twenty-four/seven! I can't stop singing them and it is beginning to get on my nerves. Love them all, but enough is enough. Luckily, I just downloaded me some Muse. Their newest album is fantastic!
I didn't mean for this to turn into a music review, but they have done it again. Go out and get you some, you won't regret it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In the beginning...

When I was in grade school I wrote silly little stories that never went anywhere, but my parents listened patiently to every one of them, commenting on what an interesting idea it had been, or what a good job I had done with my character development. Parents are that way, they can see the potential their children have long before even their children can. That's what is so great about the set up of families. When I doubted myself it was my parents who encouraged me to continue trying. And it's not just my parents who prodded me on, but teachers, my friends parents and my neighbors.

Julieanne Hill was one of those people. In eighth grade I tried out for cheerleader and didn't make it. It was a heartbreaker. But there was my best friends mom, the first one out of the gates giving me a big hug and warm words of encouragement. She believed in me and reminded me that there was always next year and I would make it because I really was good enough. Of course I cried. Having someone who believed so much in me really touched me. Twenty-five years later I've still not forgotten it. And it is because of people like this that I am writing this blog. Telling stories and trying to get them "out there"

This is my journey. Let's hope it's a good one.