Newest Addition

Greetings, All!

My name is Obelia Akanke. I’m one of the newest members of Authors of Main Street. I am a spoken word poet, and I also write short stories, novellas, and novels. My focus tends to be sweet, contemporary romance and women’s fiction…with humor because I’m easily amused.

My writing tends to focus on interpersonal relationships with a message. My background is in social services, so I like to write poems and stories to help others understand the “why” of a character’s actions. My topics range from light (ex. a date gone wrong) to heavy (ex. male sexual abuse). I tend to address hard topics because I’ve found many people want to say something or ask questions but may not feel comfortable enough to speak up for whatever reason.

I’ve released a short story and novels #1 and #2 in the Heart of Crystal series. The bonus book should be out within a month, and I expect the final book to be finished by spring. It’s a new adult sweet romance centered around a college student learning to trust herself again after an incident with her ex-boyfriend caused her physical injury.

As you’re probably aware, the Christmas boxed set is about to be released. My contribution is titled The Family Gift. I wrote it with my grandmother in mind, so it’s a way of honoring her and sharing some of her personality with others. Have a peek at the first chapter.

***When the family matriarch is hospitalized after a fall, the elder granddaughter, Parker, steps up to attempt to earn and save enough to take care of the family and prevent the house from being sold at auction.***

 

Chapter 1

Parker Johnson forgot how to dial 9-1-1. Her grandmother lay on her side on the bedroom floor, writhing in pain and screaming out prayers. Wendi flapped her hands as she moved side to side around their grandmother crying and on the verge of hyperventilating; she made the situation worse.

“Oh, help me! Don’t let me go out like this. Not in front of my grandbabies.” Ethel beat her fist against the floor and grabbed at strands of carpet each time she released her fist to beg for mercy. “Please just make this pain stop! Knock me out. I can’t take it!”

Parker pushed the button to get a dial tone so she could call for an ambulance. Her grandmother had insisted on having a landline so people could reach emergency personnel in case there was ever a power outage. Parker carefully dialed as she verbalized “9-1-1,” concentrating on the task at hand – getting an ambulance.

“We’re at 1057 Sycamore Lane. It’s the blue house at the end of the drive. My grandmother fell down and said it hurts too much to move. I think something’s broken. Please hurry.”

The operator asked questions about how the injury occurred.

“My grandmother said she went to sit on her bed to take her pills and slid off. I think she hit the metal rail on the way down because her elbow is bleeding. She’s on her right side and yelling that she broke her butt.” Parker gave directions to Wendi. “Put a pillow under Grandma’s head. Try to keep her comfortable. Stop freaking out. Grandma will believe it’s worse than it is if you don’t calm down.”

Wendi fanned her face, breathed out as if she were doing Lamaze exercises, and followed instructions. “Grandma, you’re gonna be alright. Parker’s on the phone with the paramedics, and they’re on the way.”

“How am I going to be okay when you’re over here about to give birth?” Ethel called out to Parker. “Child, tell them to hurry. My butt’s broke, and your sister done gone into labor! Why now? Why? I’m too old to be raising more children.”

Parker went to her grandmother’s side to rub her uninjured arm and try to help her relax. “Grandma, Wendi’s not pregnant.”

“Then why she over here hee hee hoo hoo breathing in my ear like she about to push out a 10-pound baby? Got my nerves all worked up. My blood pressure already through the roof. I’m laying on this floor and can’t move. Some strangers about to come in and see me in my nightgown.” She tried to fix her gown with her left hand. “Oh, my word. I can’t let them see me with my thighs showing. Help me get covered. Grab that throw blanket and put it over me.”

Parker reached behind her grandmother. The blanket was partially under Ethel, so Parker draped the rest across Ethel’s legs then instructed Wendi to unlock the door and wait for the paramedics.

“And straighten the front room.” Ethel called out after her. “We can’t have people coming here, thinking we live in a pigsty.”

Wendi turned and opened her arms as if to question why she was worried about cleaning the house at that moment, but Parker shook her head and gave a forward wave for Wendi to let the comment pass. Both women knew their grandmother would not tolerate a dirty house. They always picked up after themselves and helped clean. Visitors to the house meant an additional once-over to make sure everything was in order. Parker knew her grandmother’s routine. Whenever anyone left for longer than a couple of days, extra measures would be taken to ensure they returned to a clean house. She figured her grandmother knew she’d be gone for a long time and wanted to leave the house in good shape.

Within a few minutes, sirens could be heard, and voices and the sound of wheels and metal moving through the house alerted Parker that paramedics had finally arrived. They moved around Ethel and decided the best way to help her onto the stretcher.

“Grandma, I’m going to drive Wendi to the hospital. We’ll meet you there, okay? We love you.” Parker made sure her grandmother could see her until the doors to the ambulance were shut. She grabbed her keys.

They got to the emergency room and were told their grandmother was being seen. They would have to wait for someone to give them an update. Parker checked her cell phone for messages. She tried to emotionally distance herself by working on the monthly budget. Wendi paced in the waiting room.

“Do you mind pacing over there? I’m getting dizzy.”

Wendi wrung her hands. “I’m sorry I can’t be as calm about this as you, Parker. Grandma’s seriously hurt. What are we going to do? I’m not ready to live without her.”

“First of all, that woman prayed and screamed so loudly, death would be too scared to get her before she’s ready to go.”

Wendi giggled.

“Secondly, who said it’s time to panic? You’re worried about news you haven’t even gotten yet. Grandma’s strong. You heard how she was still trying to run the house and make sure everything’s in order while stuck on the floor.”

“Yeah, you got that take charge attitude from her. Why didn’t I get that kind of confidence?”

“Because as the older sister, I had responsibilities you didn’t have – like babysitting you.”

“Hey, I wasn’t a bad kid.” She pretended to be insulted.

Parker smiled. “I never said you were. I just said I had different responsibilities. I was expected to do the right thing and to look out for you to make sure you did what you were supposed to do. I was the first one to wash dishes, learn to cook, get a job, graduate. I was the practice child. By the time you came along, all the kinks were worked out.”

Wendi giggled again. “Well, I guess that’s good to hear.” She looked at the clock on the wall. “I wonder when they’ll let us go back to see her. Not being able to talk to Grandma is making me more nervous.”

“I’m sure they’re doing what they can. Maybe you should try to take a nap until then. It’s already after 1 a.m., and you’ve got school in the morning.”

Wendi sat beside her sister and laid her head on Parker’s shoulder. “Don’t you have to work tomorrow, too?”

“No, I’m going to send an email then call in the morning to make sure they know I won’t be there. I’m sure they’ll understand.”

Parker stayed awake and read articles from her phone about falls in elderly patients. Their grandmother was 71, so every injury as a senior citizen was an increased risk of death, extended recovery time, and increased likelihood of additional injuries. She determined that she would do whatever was necessary to take care of the household now that she would need to make decisions. Parker, Wendi, and Ethel had already discussed what would happen in case Ethel passed away. Ethel made the sisters swear to her that they would support each other and not let things deteriorate through family arguments. As the elder sister, Parker would take over whatever was left of the estate and ensure Wendi had appropriate provisions. Ideally, the goal would be to keep the property maintained, but there would be fair distribution in case there was need to sell it.

Wendi rubbed her eyes and stared at the words on Parker’s paper. “What are you writing? A grocery list?”

Parker added cinnamon and brown sugar. “Yes. This list is for groceries. This is my ingredients list for cookies so I can make sure I don’t forget anything while I’m shopping.”

“Ooh, you’re making cookies again?” Wendi sat up and looked at her sister. “Wait. You must be worried. You bake when you get stressed.”

Parker put the top on the pen and forced a smile. “Sometimes, I bake for other reasons. Right now, Grandma is going to want food from home. If I bring her cookies, too, she should perk up and know everything will work out. So, tomorrow, she’ll get pork roast dinner and the first cookies she taught me to make.”

“Brinmons.” Wendi’s face lit up.

“Yes, but we only named them that because you couldn’t say brown sugar and cinnamon.”

“Ms. Johnson?” A doctor stood by the registration desk.

“Yes?” Parker and Wendi answered.

“Follow me please. We moved Mrs. Johnson to a room in ICU. She’s on heavy medication. She wants to see you both, but she’s also very sleepy. If you could keep your visit to one to two minutes, it would help her by allowing her to see you but also to get the rest she needs.”

The sisters tiptoed into the dimly lit room and kissed their grandmother’s cheeks.

“Hi, Grandma.” Wendi hugged Ethel across her shoulders to keep her from trying to turn for a hug. “You scared me.”

“I know baby,” Ethel whispered. “I’m still here. I’m not going anywhere until it’s my time. Where’s Parker?”

“Right here.” She put her hand on her grandmother’s shoulder.

“Hey, baby. You know they’re going to keep me here for a while, so take care of everything until I get back.”

“I will, Grandma.”

“Oh, and can you bring me some stew or something to eat? I don’t want to have to ask for salt or sugar. I’m already gonna be here for breakfast and lunch. I want a dinner cooked from home.”

“Already got my list for your pot roast.”

The doctor peeked into the room.

Parker hugged Ethel. “We’re going to let you get some rest now. I’ll be back tomorrow after I take Wendi to school and buy groceries.”

Dr. Burton spoke to the sisters outside of the room. “Mrs. Johnson has a fractured hip. Although she did hit her elbow in the fall, it’s not broken, which is good. I will be talking to the orthopedic specialist and team to review her other medical history from her primary care physician to determine the best way to treat her. From what I’m seeing now, it looks like she will need surgery, physical therapy, and plenty of time to recover.”

“When are we looking for surgery, and what kind of recovery time are we talking?”

“After speaking with her physician and checking insurance, we’re hoping to have a decision first thing this morning so we can operate today – tomorrow at the very latest. It’s a hairline fracture that we might recommend healing on its own in younger, more physically active patients. For patients with increased risk of falls, brittle bones, or slower healing times, we recommend pins in the hip. As far as recovery, I’d say prepare for a few months before she’s feeling comfortable enough to move around as she did before.”

Sneak-a-Peek

My latest book, LOVING LEXI, which will be out soon,  sat on a back burner for more than a couple of years. Originally it was part of a five book anthology author arrangement. Eventually we decided to publish on our own. I’ve spent many hours changing character’s names, the town, etc., and rewriting the book.

I hope you enjoy the first two chapters.

LOVING LEXI

Chapter 1
“South Carolina?” Lexi Warner spun on one heel to face Ralph, her short-term boss. Her reflection darted back to the last time she’d been in South Carolina. “You expect me to travel to South Carolina in this heat?”
“Well, Sugah…”
Lexi bit down on her lower lip and fired a hazel-eyed glare Ralph’s way. “Lexi. My name is Lexi. Remember? Please. Don’t call me Sugah—okay?”
“I’m aware of your name.” Ralph blew out a long breath, then saluted. “Fine. Lexi it is.”
Why she’d agreed to work for Ralph at The Whisper Rag escaped her for some oddball reason. He’d always gotten under her skin, and at five in the morning, the loss of sleep didn’t help matters. At all.
Oh yeah. She remembered why she’d taken the job with Ralph.
Her checking account had sadly dwindled after her mom had called and pleaded for a loan to make her mortgage payment. Again. Repeatedly, as she had now, her mom traveled out of town without her checkbook and often failed to pay her mortgage.
Who did her mom call? Right. Me.
Lexi missed not having siblings more than ever, especially in times like these. Even if she’d had siblings, the outcome probably wouldn’t have made any difference since her mom had always relied on and trusted her. Lexi had many regrets, but taking care of her mom wasn’t one of them. She loved her mom and protected her, so she made sure there was always enough left in her own account to cover her mom’s mortgage. Just in case. And there was always a just in case…and always a loan.
A loan? Yeah right. More like a gift, as usual.
Today, her checking account balance was close to bordering on bone-dry. She had reason for concern. She’d left her checkbook back home, and adding nine-hundred to her credit card balance was out of the question if she were to purchase the bedroom set she’d had her eye on. Her stomach tightened as much as her bank account had when she’d eye-balled her balance. Still, she’d transferred funds from her savings and sent an online check to her mother’s mortgage company, whose account was now listed as a permanent bill pay from Lexi’s account.
Hoping to keep her mother at home more often and with a bit of luck, occupied, she’d presented her mom with a laptop computer. Despite patience and persistence, Lexi had zero positive results teaching her mother simple tasks on the computer. The tech personnel visited her mom more than she did. She simply didn’t get it. Lexi had eventually given up until she could convince her mom to enroll in a beginner’s computer class. Not that she thought she’d take the suggestion in a positive manner. But if it were her mom’s idea, that would be a bird of another species.
Since Lexi was in Miami on assignment from the Corner Post News, in Owen Pines, Georgia, she’d taken the assignment at The Whisper Rag, to make ends meet. Lord knows the ends needed a boost. Then again, if she had requested, her editor would have wired the money to get home, or insist she use her expense account, but she was in no mood to discuss why she had so little money. Frankly, some things weren’t meant to be shared.
Her finances were her business. Well…more like hers and her moms.
Expense account? Lexi was tight with her own money and just as frugal with the mag’s money. The expenses would be legit, but she wouldn’t take advantage, especially since her tightened budget was her responsibility, not her employers’.
Lexi breathed in the scent of the print shop. Printing and that scent were in her blood.
“Lexi. Hello there!” Ralph waved a hand in front of Lexi’s eyes to get her attention. “What’s the difference whether you’re in Florida or South Carolina? It’s hotter than a grill chock-full of red-hot charcoal here in Miami.”
Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina’s weather were one and the same to her. She rolled her eyes and cast a dubious glance at Ralph. “Haven’t you been to South Carolina in the heat of summer? The humidity is more than mind-boggling. If you want an extra shower, you have only to step outside.”
“No, I haven’t, but I know the heat can be extreme. The season has nothing to do with the sensational story you’re going to cover. The trip will be worth your time, not to mention your bank account. Hideaway Harbor won’t be as harsh as you think, especially with the bay breeze. I might suggest you book a flight into Savannah, pack and be on your way today. That is if you can get a flight out.” Ralph pulled a card from his wallet. “Once your flight is confirmed, call Art, at Best-Rent-a-Car. He owns the franchise and always gives my reporters a discount.”
There was no reason to keep debating the weather and pretending she wasn’t going to take the assignment. “Check.” Lexi tossed the card in her purse and flipped her shoulder length chestnut hair into a ponytail, then slid a rubber band from Ralph’s messy desk around the thick mass.
Ralph studied Lexi, then crossed his arms.
“Shouldn’t you tell me who to contact once I get there? Who and what is the story about? What makes it so sensational?”
“Of course, I’m getting to the details.” Ralph reached across the desk and picked up a long yellow envelope, then handed it to her. “You’ll want to read over this information before you get there. You may be there longer than expected, which should be a week, two at the most, so pack accordingly.”
“Why so long?” In her mind, Lexi was already throwing clothes in her bag. Most everything she’d brought to Miami was still in her suitcase, with the exception of hang-up clothes. Used to traveling on a shoestring, within an hour, she could shower, dress, pack, and be on her way to the airport and out of town, depending on when she could grab a flight.
“Do you remember the story in connection with Tate Hunter’s wife about a year and a half ago here in Miami? She met with a boating accident during an outing with Tate.”
Lexi closed her eyes and brought up headlines in her mind. “Yes. I do recall the story. Sad he lost his wife. I didn’t know him, but was relieved when suspicions of murder died down.”
“We were danged lucky to have someone give us a call who thinks he spotted Tate in Hideaway Harbor, South Carolina.” Ralph looked at her over black-rimmed glasses that sat at the end of his nose. “If indeed he is there, he won’t be pleased to see you. Especially, when he finds out why you’re there. So, prepare yourself accordingly.”
“Thanks for the heads-up,” she said, while twisting her chestnut ponytail tighter into the band. “Would you care to tell me why aren’t you covering the story yourself?”
“I may be wrong, but considering the circumstances, I think he’ll be more approachable if a female reporter is on the job. Besides, I don’t have the time to cover stories any longer.”
Lexi, frowned. “Why now? What’s the interest in Tate after so long? Shouldn’t you leave the poor man alone? He has lost his wife. Are you heartless or just snooping for that, ‘give the mag a push’, story?”
Ralph blew out a noisy breath as he eased a hip on top of the desk’s edge.
“Mr. Hunter left town and hasn’t been heard from since a few months after the drowning. His wife’s sister has still been on the guilty kick toward Tate even though no further evidence at the inquest was necessary to bring charges against him. Never-the-less, his sister-in-law’s on a rampage again. Tate worshipped his wife. Anyone who knew them would bear witness to their affection for one another.”
“Everyone except his sister-in-law.” Lexi rolled her eyes. “So why not look for him here first?”
“I’ve had someone on it already. While it’s unlikely Tate’s still in this area, rumor has it that he’s been seen in Hideaway Harbor. Maybe he’s settled down there, maybe not, but if he is, I want to be the first to break the story. I want to know what Tate’s been up to, or if he’s seeing anyone. You know, get the low-down on him. He was the best announcer WCJD ever hired. There must be some exciting news on him by now. Drop by the Hideaway Harbor times and speak with the owner, Garrett Webb. He may be able to give you a lead on Tate’s whereabouts.”
“Ralph. I don’t like being a part of creating distressing news and dragging someone through the mud, especially someone I don’t know.”
“Come on, Lexi. You’re a reporter. Get over it. Just bring me the story. We aren’t dragging Tate through the mud, as you put it, simply bringing him to the forefront. By the way, a company credit card is in the envelope. Use it for expenses.”
You can bet I will.
Though she wouldn’t abuse it, Lexi would have no problem applying Ralph’s card for her expense account.
None at all.
Ralph waved a hand toward the side of the room. “If you’d like to make some calls, you can use the corner office.”
As luck would have it, Lexi was fortunate enough to grab a flight at two in the morning. The flight should take about two hours and forty minutes. The drive from Savannah up the coast to Hideaway Harbor was about an hour and half, so allowing time to pick up a rental car, and what other incidental popped up, she should arrive between five-forty-five and six, give or take, in the morning.
Good. She wanted to get this trip and the story over with, and the sooner the better. She had a house to furnish, a mother to care for and deliver herself from her overbearing temporary boss. She and Ralph occasionally worked together and understood each other though, so she wasn’t burning any bridges. That was her expectation anyway.
Though leery about tearing into someone’s private life for no good reason, Lexi was ready to meet the extraordinary Tate Hunter, interview him and get back to her life.

Chapter 2
At five-thirty in the morning, Tate rubbed a hand down his scruffy beard, and then brought the plastic-covered, cardboard coffee cup to his lips. He’d been up since four-forty-five, gotten in his run, showered, and prepared for the day.
He threw away the wrapper from his blueberry muffin and drained the coffee cup. As he pulled away from one of Sally Cakes’s parking slots on Main Street, he watched Travis Turner kiss his girlfriend, Emma. Willie hugged her, then turned and jogged down the sidewalk toward the Bay, and down toward the Myra, a shrimp boat owned by his father, Leo.
Kind of early for a date, Willie.
Tate had an uncomfortable feeling about Willie. If his dad didn’t discipline him properly, he’d have his hands full…full of big time young man trouble. Tate had a soft spot in his heart for Willie and guided him in the right direction every chance he got.
Tate knew all about trouble. Since the age of six, he’d been tossed from one foster home to the other. Like any other child, each time a new family would visit the home to adopt; his hopes resonated high along with the other children’s anticipation, at St. Patrick’s Home for Children.
By the time he’d celebrated his ninth birthday, reality had set in. His dad was never coming back. Of course he’d resigned himself to that truth long ago, but in anticipation of his young state of mind, he’d still thought about and hoped his dad would show up one day. The second worst part was being shoved from one family to another. For one reason or another, about the time he got used to a family and their ways, he’d be jerked from that home and placed into another.
After a while, he’d soon become the kid no one would foster for a long period because of his unruly attitude. He’d hated being yanked around. Convinced he was doomed to live out his days at the home until high school graduation, he’d made sure he wasn’t chosen for another foster family. He knew all the tricks to avoid selection…and he was too old to be adopted. He’d learned the behaviors on how to deter a family from choosing him…and they’d worked. He totally knew how to deal with the bad stuff, people in charge, dished out. Tate fled the home on his eighteenth birthday and hadn’t looked back.
Tate dropped his hat in his lap, ran a hand through his sandy blond hair, and shook off childhood memories. Those days, and hopes of having his dad back in his life, were long gone. He’d made himself a promise. If he was ever blessed with a child, he or she would know love and the security of a home. No matter what.
Maggie nuzzled his shoulder and looked expectantly at him. He massaged her neck, then offered a snack. “Here you go, girl.”
Someone had abandoned the half-starved Maggie on the side of the road. Tate hadn’t hesitated to take her into his home. He’d seen the beauty that lay beneath the pitiful Chocolate Lab’s skin and bones. And he’d been right. A beautiful dog, Maggie had turned out to be a loving companion.
After he’d had Maggie, as he’d named her, checked over and cared for at Danielle’s  Veterinary Clinic, two weeks had passed since he and the Vet had attempted to locate the owner without success. Maggie was now his. She’d taken to him right away and was a sweet comfort to him at night. They’d both needed someone, and now neither of them were alone.
***
As Tate pulled up in front of Danielle’s Veterinary Clinic, Maggie began to whine when she saw where she and her master were. “Don’t worry, little girl, I’m not going to leave you forever. Everything’s going to be all right. You like Dr. Danielle. Remember?”
Maggie dropped her head, lay down across the passenger seat, stretched her paws over Tate’s leg, and whined again. He scratched behind her ear, gave her a pat, and then encouraged her to climb out of the SUV. “Let’s go get you a bath and your nails done, girl.”
Maggie hesitated, then whined again as she slid inside the front door. Dr. Danielle grasped the leash Tate offered, and gave Maggie a treat while leading her to and around the exam room door.
Dr. Danielle turned to face Tate with a smile. “You’ve done an excellent job. Maggie’s full of energy and looking much healthier than when you first brought her in. She’ll be ready when you finish your work day. Remember we close at six, so don’t be late. Otherwise I’ll have to keep her overnight.” Dr. Danielle grinned at Tate. “And…that’ll cost you.”
“Of course.” Tate scrunched his nose and smiled back at her. “I’ll be here. I know you’ll give her the once over, but please check out that spot on her ear. I think it’s healing nicely, still you’re the doc.”
“I will. You’re such a worry wart when it comes to Maggie. Though I think it’s quite thoughtful, she’ll be fine once you leave.” Dr. Danielle grinned at Tate while running a hand up and down Maggie’s back. “Trust me. Maggie’s in good hands. Now get out of here or I’ll have you running to Sally Cakes.”
Tate snapped his fingers and turned on one heel while looking back over a shoulder. “I completely forgot. Be back in a sec.”
He was back in a flash with a box and a chuckle. “I wasn’t sure what you liked so I bought a mixed dozen of muffins and scones. Whatever you don’t like, offer them to your customers. The orange scones and blueberry muffins are scrumptious. They’re my favorites.”
“Thanks so much, Tate. You may have saved my life. I’m famished.” She pulled a blueberry scone from the box and savored the first bite. “Umm…just what I needed.” She turned back to Maggie, then tilted her head toward Tate. “Don’t forget six is closing time. On your way out, grab yourself a cup of coffee.”
“Now that I will do. I won’t forget. See you at six.”
***
Tate relaxed for a few minutes while he took in the morning, then checked his watch. It was a little after six. He downed the remainder of his coffee Dr. Danielle had so graciously offered, dropped the cup in a holder, cranked the SUV, then headed downhill to the bay.
The sun had begun to rise over the bay, its rays peeking through a mist that added shimmers across the water’s ripples like thousands of diamonds. He listened to the hypnotizing, soft laps against the shoreline and welcomed the breeze that floated up from the bay. Tate’s opinion was that morning remained the best part of the day, for him anyway. He drew in the scent of salty sea air and knew today would be a good one.
Tate maneuvered around town for a few minutes toward the marina, and since he had a few extra minutes, stopped for gas and checked his oil. He grabbed a bag of chips, a candy bar, and a couple of sodas for lunch on the boat, then paid his bill. As he whistled a happy tune while he headed out of the station’s shop, a car pulled up to the pump behind his vehicle.
He jerked his head toward his SUV when a loud thump stopped him in his tracks. The car hadn’t rested until his SUV brought it to a standstill.
The bump wasn’t hard enough to hurt the driver, but these days you never knew what claims drivers could, or would create.
Just what I needed so early in the morning. He stepped toward the car and peeked inside the car. “Are you okay, lady?”
A swirl of chestnut curled around a lovely face that peered out from the window. She raised her eyes, which were glazed over, and nodded. “I’m fine.”
Tate stalled momentarily while he drew in a lungful of air as he stared into wide hazel eyes. “Uh…I’m glad you aren’t hurt. What are you doing pulling so close to my car?” Tate threw the bag full of snacks in the car, then slammed the door. “Didn’t you see my vehicle?”
The lady backed up the car, then jumped out with a hand placed over her heart. “I’m so sorry.” She bent over to get a look at the damages, then straightened up and placed hands on her hips. She leaned against her car door and raised her eyes to meet his. “Yes, I saw you. My sandal snagged on the gas pedal.”
He drew in a ragged breath and gazed at her. “Lady. Who taught you to drive?”
“You needn’t be so nasty. It was, after all, an accident. I’ve already explained the gas pedal caught my shoe.”
Tate shoved his hat tight against his ears, while he looked down at thin strips of leather wrapped around her feet. “You might consider losing the shoes, at least while you drive.”
Lexi glanced down at her sandals. “I think not. The problem is they’re my favorites.” She delivered him a wilted nod, all the while digging through her purse, when she came up with her phone. “I’ll call the police so they can write up a report.”
“Hold on. Don’t be so hasty. Let’s check the damage first. If your car isn’t damaged, I’m willing to overlook whatever damages you did to my SUV and let it go.”
“Really?” Lexi bit down on her lower lip. “Let it go?” A frown crossed her face, once what he’d said seemed to sink in. “Why would you do that?”
Tate checked his watch. “I really don’t have the time to deal with an accident. A charter of six are most likely waiting for me right now. I have fifteen minutes to get there and take them out.”
Lexi gasped. “Take them out? Out where? Oh Lord, are you a killer?”
Tate laughed at the confusion that crossed her face. “Take them out fishing. On my boat, Hap’s Catch.”
“Oh. So you live here then.” She breathed a sigh of relief and offered a handshake. “Lexi Warner.” She dug around her purse again. “Here’s my card.”
Lexi met Tate’s eyes. He could barely drag his eyes away from her wide hazel eyes. His fingers fumbled with his wallet as he withdrew a card, then bent down to examine damages to both vehicles.
“You can see for yourself there’s no more than a small scratch on my bumper. Yours is barely there. I think it can be buffed out, or repaired easily enough. If you have time, I’ll call Ed at the auto shop to see if he can get to it this morning. I’ll also have him pick up the car for you…if that’s agreeable.”
When Lexi smiled at him, the dimple on the side of her upper lip was hard to miss. Tate had a thing for chestnut and dimples. This gorgeous chestnut haired woman, with dimples.
“That’s a generous offer. I’d appreciate it. This is a rental car and I’d rather not turn it back in damaged. I can imagine how much my insurance would sky-rocket and that’s one thing I don’t need right now.”
Tate shrugged. When he did, the muscles on his chest left an impression on a thin T-shirt that read, Hap’s Catch. He’d caught her staring.
“And…I’d rather not deal with my insurance company. It’s such a minor incident. I’m more than happy to be of assistance,” he said.
Lexi averted her eyes from his chest. “You’re kind to offer and I’m relieved not to have to deal with the rental company and their insurance company either.”
Tate had a hard time keeping his eyes off Lexi. Something about her drew him to her and brought old memories to the surface. He checked the name again on her card, then slid it inside his wallet “Like I said, I’m happy to do what I can. May I call you Lexi?”
“Sure. No problem. You’d probably like to be on your way. If you can direct me to a motel, I’ll get settled.”
Tate thumbed his hat up an inch or so. “Unfortunately the motel is small, besides it’s probably filled. Fishermen, flood the town this time of year. The Willows is a bed and breakfast, about three blocks from here. I highly recommend it, and I’ve no doubt you’ll be happy staying there. Mrs. Romy Stone owns the place and will treat you right. Romy is dedicated to the business she fought to buy. A neighboring land-grabber had the chance to purchase the property, tear down the Victorian home and build a motel. But, Romy wasn’t having any of that.” Tate grinned. “Do you mind if I call ahead and reserve a room, if she has one available?”
“Thank you. I’d like that. I must say, dealing with someone who just damaged your vehicle, you’re being terribly considerate about the whole ordeal.”
Tate no longer listened to Lexi, but raised a hand and covered the phone with the other. “Not a problem. Hang on.”
Tate spoke kindly over the phone, thanked the person on the other end, then slipped his phone in a pocket. “You’re all set. Romy at The Willows has a room and is waiting for you.”
“Thanks. Give me directions and I’ll be on my way. My cell phone number is on my card. By the way, should I call you when I’m settled?”
“Absolutely. Call my cell. The number is listed on my card. If I don’t answer right away, I’ll return your call. I may be busy on the boat, and it’s hard to hear over the chatter and waves sometimes.” Tate turned to leave. “Ed will call you this morning. Keep your phone handy. I hope you don’t mind that I give Ed your number?”
“Not at all. How else is he to contact me? Thanks for your help and understanding.”
Tate tipped his hat, slid onto the seat of his SUV, then drove into the misty morning, toward the marina with a captivating woman and a dimple running through his mind.
***
Tate’s thoughts rested on Lexi as he pulled into a parking space at the docks, the softness of her voice, the natural smile, and that dimple.
Lexi was a gorgeous young woman…Too gorgeous. He wondered what she was doing in Hideaway Harbor. With his luck, she was only passing through.
No stranger to a woman’s charm, he found himself in hopes that her passing through wasn’t the case. He didn’t care for the feeling he got when he looked at her, but admitted she definitely had the attributes to draw him back into a woman’s clutches.
His dead wife’s beautiful face materialized in his mind. He brandished Lexi’s smile and the scent of her from his head.
Am I ready to plunge into something my heart has for so long resisted and couldn’t accept?
Foolish thought. He wasn’t so sure about this woman. This charming woman who’d sent his head and heart into a tailspin.
I should’ve known I’d meet a woman like Lexi at some point in my life. It was bound to happen.
She was the first woman who had come close to shattering the grip he’d maintained on his emotions. Only…he wasn’t ready for her and the changes that were sure to come his way, should he lose all resistance, and wander down that path again. He doubted if he would ever be fully prepared.
We’ll see, old man. We’ll see.
Tate gritted his teeth. He thought himself as a tough guy, but losing in love hurt. And then there were the scars he carried around as proof. Lexi Warner was a one-chance meeting for which he wasn’t equipped to deal. He’d also had no plans of putting his heart out there again. Now, depending on Lexi’s plans to remain in Hideaway Harbor, his plans could well receive a sharp turn-around.
There was something about her he couldn’t quite shake. But…she probably wouldn’t be here long enough to get to know her anyway.
Lexi Warner just might be the one to upend his plans if she stuck around long enough.
Lord help me.

Look What I Found in My Closet

collectibles

A long time ago, before I had kids, I had a lot more time on my hands (and a bit more money) to devote to my hobbies. Back when I met my husband, 20+ years ago, we were both deeply into 1960s music. I went to memorabilia shows and bought vintage collectibles related to my favourite classic bands, the Beatles and the Monkees.

Here is most of my collection – trading cards, magazines, postage stamps, buttons, cake toppers, a record case, etc. My favourites are the adorable Monkees finger puppets. (There was no Peter Tork puppet, since he’d left the band by then; I ended up with two Mickys since one of them had boots and the other had a complete necklace.) Eventually, I put everything in a box and stashed it in my closet. I sort of forgot about it until recently. I probably won’t add any more to it, but I still think it’s groovy.

Do you have a favourite collection, from the past or present?

Christmas, Cookies and Main Street

Hello, my name is Ashlyn Storm. I am a writer, and mother, who lives in Suffolk Virginia. I usually write fantasy, although I do dabble in contemporary fiction. Sweeter than Honey is one such case and will be my first published book.

It came about when one of my friends, E. Ayers, approached me about an anthology set she was working on for the Authors of Main Street. The theme was Christmas, and I happily agreed to enter the world of Santa Claus and sugar cookies a full six months early to get into the spirit of the holidays.

But I didn’t know where to begin. I considered doing a ladybug theme, although after some consideration, decided the little insects just didn’t fit. So, I changed the bugs to bees, made some cookies using honey, and started writing. 

My main character, Brigitte Bailey, also uses honey in her recipes. She has cinnamon hair, emerald green eyes, and is the proud owner of B’s Bakery. In the book I had her trying to come up with a new cookie recipe while dodging her grandmother’s matchmaking attempts. Most notably, to the new police officer in town, Todd Sweeney.

While writing, I experimented with a few cookie recipes of my own. Using infused honey, just like in the book,  I made two flavors. The first was Apple Pie. Along with the honey, I used cinnamon sticks and apple slices to make a sweet tasting treat. The second flavor I made was called Yuletide. It had cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange slices. It was still sweet but had a distinctively holiday taste. Still, I liked both flavors, and so I decided the best thing to do was to give a taste test. Luckily, my son and my three nephews  were nearby. I gave them each a Yuletide and an Apple Pie cookie and asked them to vote on their favorite. Their votes were as follows:

Matthew (9 years old) “Um… actually… both.”

Zachery (6 years old) “BOTH!”

Christian (2 years old) “Yum.”

Bryson (7 years old, and my son) “Yuletide is better.”

Apparently, my son is the only one who understands how to cast a vote. And he confirmed my suspicions. Yuletide is the Christmas cookie of choice.

With the cookies decided, my next step was to come up with a name for the book. I considered using Yuletide Honey, but never really warmed up to it as a title. Although, I did like the idea of using honey in the name. I played with several different possibilities, including Cookies, Honey, and Christmas, Honey do Christmas, and Baked with Honey. But I disliked all of them, and instead focused on writing the story. By the  time I was finished, I had the title. Sweeter than Honey. 

Most of Sweeter than Honey was written and edited in local coffee shops along the Eastern Shore. If there is one thing I can tell you, it is to never underestimate the power of a good pastry and a strong cup of coffee.

Ashlyn Storm

Reading & Writing Outside the Box

writing1Have you ever written outside your genre?

Do you read outside your favorite genre?reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading for me is easy. I love it. Reading fiction or non-fiction is escape – MOST OFTEN. I’m rarely invested beyond my enjoyment and the edification to be gained. If what I’m reading I don’t like after about 25 pages, I stop. That number used to be higher, 50+ pages. As I get older, I’m more conscious of the time I’m spending – or maybe it’s a product of instantaneous things to read. Good things.

 

25

 

Reading is easy.

Writing – for me – is hard. I’ve chosen a path which has required more business writing these past few months. It’s informed my fiction – which coincidentally isn’t easy either.

What writing outside my comfort zone has taught me is that when I do have the time to write for me, I need to focus on what I love. What I’m proud of. What makes me excited.

As life moves forward this October – I’m reading more and giving myself the birthday present of writing what stirs me.reading1

What are your thoughts on writing and reading?

Happy October,

Leigh

Miracles (Christmas and otherwise)

Do you believe in miracles? In a few weeks, the Authors of Main Street’s latest Christmas box set will hit the world. In many ways, this will be a layering of  miracles. Miracle heaped on miracle. How crazy is it that the Authors of Main Street–a gaggle of writing women from all over the world–found each other and decided to collaborate?516u+AN4U7L

Our first box set, back in those heady days when indie-publishing was new and no one had even considered lumping books together for a box set, truly was a marketing miracle that sky-rocketed all of us here on Main Street into Amazon bestseller status. But even better than numbers, we forged friendships. And to be able to call people I’ve never actually met (in person) a good friend is, I think, a miracle.

As a child dreaming of my writing career, I never could have imagined the internet–let alone the possibility of publishing and selling books on my own and sidestepping publishing house. Technology is a modern day miracle.

Everyday, we’re blessed by the miracles of others, big ones like Thomas Edison’s electric light blubs or Madam Curie’s penicillin, and small ones like a loved one sensing your need and sending you a loving text, or a child drawing a picture of you that makes you feel beautiful, not because their drawing was stupendous, but because they drew it out of love.

My latest contribution to the Authors of Main Street Christmas box set is The Christmas Coins, a miracle story built around the parable of the lost coin. I hope the story will touch your heart the way it touched mine.

CHAPTER 1

 

Zoe grabbed her purse off the shelf and slid her feet into her ugly but comfortable Sketchers. “Let’s go, Lori!”

Laurel snatched up her backpack, checked her reflection in the hall mirror, and tidied up her pristine ponytail. Laurel’s posing reminded Zoe so much of her sister Courtney that Zoe’s heart twisted just a little.

But since she didn’t have time for sentimentality, Zoe bustled her niece down the stairs. Together, they rushed out of the house, passing the door that led to Ethan and Hannah’s apartment.

Zoe wrinkled her nose at the odor of bacon and the sound of the Beatles floating through the window.

“Meat eaters,” Laurel said in the same tone she’d use to say dog poop.

Zoe didn’t comment, but placed her hand on Laurel’s small, bony shoulder and guided her to the Bonny Baker van standing in the driveway behind Ethan’s old Thunderbird convertible.

The van still carried the scents of yesterday’s deliveries—yeasty loaves of bread, cinnamon cookies, and pies. Zoe placed her purse in the center console where she always kept it, slid on her sunglasses, and snapped into her seatbelt. Once she was sure Laurel’s seatbelt was also secure, Zoe checked the rearview mirror and spotted Ethan and Hannah climbing into the T-bird.

Their open car doors blocked the driveway. Zoe blew a breath out of her nose and tightened her grip on the steering wheel. Zoe lived her life according to what she called her cookbook rules—everything at the proper moment, in the proper order, and baked at the proper temperature. Not only had Laurel interrupted her morning routine by sleeping over, but Ethan raised her temperature. He had this power over her and she didn’t like it.

Laurel lowered her window and waved. “Hi, Hannah! Hi, Ethan!”

Secretly, Zoe hated that Laurel called Ethan by his first name. She didn’t think adults and children should be on a first-name basis, but since Ethan insisted, there was little she could do. She tried not to flinch every time Hannah addressed her as Zoe.

Hannah, a smaller, female version of her dad with thick auburn hair, large eyes, and full red lips, returned Laurel’s wave and smile.

Zoe tamped down her impatience and stuck her head out the window. “Good morning! Would Hannah like to ride to school with us today?”

“You’re going to Canterbury?” A wrinkle appeared between Ethan’s brows.

“Ancestor Day,” Zoe told him.

Ethan barked out a laugh and climbed into his car. “You don’t look old enough to be a grandparent,” he said through the open window.

Zoe bristled. “I’m not, but I can talk about our ancestors.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you there.”

She was trying to be nice—and punctual. “There’s no need for us both to go.”

Ethan’s back straightened. “I work there, you know.”

“Oh! I didn’t know. When did that happen?” Not that she had time for this conversation. If he worked there, neither of them had time.

“At the beginning of the school year.”

A dangerously handsome man. He was probably driving all of the Canterbury girls—and a few of the teachers—mad and man-hungry. That could happen at an all-girls school. Zoe knew this, because she’d attended Canterbury herself.

“What are you teaching?”

“Art.”

“Oh, of course.”

Ethan’s convertible roared to life and he gave her a dismissive smile. “I’ll see you there,” he repeated.

Zoe mentally ticked off her daily agenda as she followed Ethan down the driveway. She’d been up since 4:00 a.m. making bread, cookies, and pies. Her assistant, Claire, was now manning the bakery, but Zoe needed to return in time for the lunch rush.

At the stop sign leading to Main, Ethan surprised her by turning right while she and Laurel took a left on Elm Street.

This seemed symbolic of their relationship.

#

Ethan took note of his daughter’s mismatched socks. One was a crisp white and matched the school’s navy and red tartan uniform while the other had a pink tinge to it—like it had gone through the wash with a red sweater. Which it probably had. Ethan thought about saying something, knowing the stringent adherence some of the teachers liked to pay to the school’s uniform policy.

He glanced at his daughter with her sweet rosebud lips, pink cheeks, and clear blue eyes—a surprise gift from his wife. She clutched the family Bible in her hands and stared straight ahead.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m sorry Gram or Gramps couldn’t be here today.”

“It’s okay,” she said in a tight voice without looking at him, letting him know that it was definitely not okay. “I understand.”

Ethan blew out a breath. “It’s so far for them to come.”

Hannah nodded. “I know. And they have so many grandkids that live in Rose Arbor, they probably have to go to Ancestor Day once a week.”

A ripple of guilt traveled down Ethan’s spine. If he lived closer to his family, Hannah would be surrounded by cousins, aunts, and uncles, not to mention his parents. He could have just as easily gotten a teaching job in Washington.

His phone buzzed and he tapped the icon igniting the blue-tooth.

“Ethan!” Desmond’s voice floated into the car. The fussy gallery owner always sounded on the verge of a breakdown, but today the panic sounded real.

“Good morning, Desmond. What can I do for you?”

“Hi, Dezi!” Hannah called out.

“Ah. Pumpkin. What are you doing in the car with your father?”

“We’re going to school, Dezi,” Hannah told him.

“Oh! Are you still doing that?” His voice carried equal helpings of scorn and surprise.

Hannah giggled. “Of course.”

“I think he was talking to me, button.” Ethan cleared his throat. “I like teaching.” And he needed the money if he was ever going to get his own gallery, but he couldn’t tell that to Desmond.

“We had a break-in,” Desmond told him.

Ethan braked too hard at the stoplight, sending Hannah forward in a lurch. Instinctively, he shot out his hand to keep his daughter from bonking against the dashboard. “Was anything taken?”

“Small stuff, cash from the till.”

Ethan glanced at Hannah, bit back a curse, and pulled into the intersection. “Do you need me to come by?”

“Your paintings are all insured, of course,” Desmond said, trying to sound calm.

“I thought you said small stuff…” It took at least two burly men to carry most of his paintings. But then his heart sank. “Harold?”

“I’m sorry,” Desmond said in a strangled voice.

“Daddy?” Hannah asked.

“I’ll be there in a second,” Ethan said, searching for the next place to make a U-turn.

“But Daddy…” Hannah whined.

“I’m sorry, button. This should only take a minute,” he lied.

Hannah tightened her lips and glanced out the window at the town flashing past. A thick marine layer had settled during the night and had yet to burn away under the Southern California sun, leaving the town in a shadowy gray mist. Ethan pulled the car along the curb beside the Oak Hollow Gallery.

Desmond, one of his first fans, had started showcasing Ethan’s work even before his graduation from Pasadena’s Art Institute. Ethan’s early career had begun at Warner Brother Studios, where he’d worked in set design. That was where he’d met Allison. At first, their friendship had been about sharing paints and brushes—Ethan tended to lose pencils and Allie had always carried extra. He’d soon learned to depend on her for not only his drawing instruments but for everything. She’d been his world.

He shut down the painful memories and slammed out of the car. Hannah trotted after him.

Inside the gallery, Desmond fluttered like a small trapped bird not knowing where to land. A tiny man, he spoke with a slight French accent, despite being originally from Oxnard. He wore a meticulously trimmed goatee and a matching set of plucked, highly arched eyebrows.

A burly policeman stood between a gleaming bust of a bald head and a glass sculpture. He looked as out of place as a Michelangelo painting in the Musée d’Orsay.

While Desmond talked with the officer, Ethan patrolled the gallery, looking for missing objects. Hannah stared up at the policeman, entranced and awed by the man’s size. She clearly found him more interesting than The Darling Detective shows she liked to watch.

“Who are you?” The policeman pointed his pencil in Ethan’s direction.

Ethan stepped forward. “Ethan Lawrence.”

“He’s my dad,” Hannah piped in. “He’s an artist. A very famous one.”

Ethan rubbed the back of his neck.

“I’m Officer Mack.” The policeman gave Hannah’s uniform and Ethan’s matching tie a sharp look and shook Ethan’s hand.

Ethan wondered if Mack was the officer’s first or last name, but didn’t have time to question him. Mack, though, had questions enough for both of them.

“Looks like you two belong at that fancy school up the hill,” Officer Mack said.

“I attend Canterbury Academy,” Hannah said. “My mom used to teach domestic arts there, and now my dad teaches just plain old art.” She froze and her hand flew to her mouth as if she could recapture her words. “Sorry, Daddy! Your art isn’t plain or old…although you haven’t made anything new in a really long time.”

Ethan stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He loved his daughter, but sometimes he found her eleven-year-old honesty brutal. He wasn’t going to admit to anyone, let alone himself, that the smell of paints reminded him of a happier time and set his stomach rolling.

Officer Mack glanced at his watch. “You’re not supposed to be at school now?”

“Are you a truant officer?” Desmond asked with a sneer.

Ethan shot the gallery owner a quick glance, hoping to convince him to play nice with the police. They would need the cops’ help if they wanted to recover Harold as well as the other missing work.

“One of my statues was stolen. It’s—” His voice cracked.

“Priceless!” Desmond interjected.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Ethan said, “but it was an original.”

Officer Mack scribbled something on his notepad. “We’ll need to get an appraiser out here as well as an insurance adjuster. Any idea how the perps might have gotten in?”

While Desmond led Officer Mack to the back office, Ethan motioned for Hannah to follow him to the car. Rage and frustration thrummed through him. If he owned the gallery, something he desperately wanted to do, beefing up the security system would be high on his to-do list. This never would have happened if Desmond had taken the needed precautions.

Outside, the marine layer hung in the air, and the cold and damp did nothing to lighten his mood.

“So, when is Desmond going to sell you the gallery?” Hannah asked him, echoing his thoughts.

“I don’t know, sweetie.” Ethan hoped Desmond hadn’t heard her and pulled open the convertible’s passenger door so she could climb in.

After slamming inside, he ruminated over her question.

“He should let you buy it since everything he sells in there is yours,” Hannah said after he’d settled behind the wheel.

A sad smile lifted his lips. “Not everything, button.” He turned the key and the convertible roared to life.

Hannah huffed and folded her arms across her chest. “Most everything. I mean, who else is going to buy the place? That Misty lady?”

“Maybe. She’s a good artist.” Ethan steered the car onto Oak Hollow’s main drag.

“Her name sounds like fog.”

Ethan shot his daughter a glance.

“How much is Tomato Face worth?” Hannah asked.

“A lot.”

Hannah considered this, and Ethan could practically see the thoughts churning in her head. Had she guessed the real reason Ethan had taken the teaching position at the school? He could, of course, go back to Warner Brothers, but the thought made him ill. They’d have to leave Oak Hollow. He’d need to hire a new nanny—one who could cover the long hours the studio would demand.

Or he could go back to Rose Arbor. Live in his parents’ basement. Find a job teaching at a public school. Churn out hotel room art in the evenings and on the weekends. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the wheel.

He didn’t want to leave Hannah with a babysitter for sixty hours a week, nor did he relish the thought of living in his parents’ basement in dreary Washington. “You want to stay here, right?” Ethan asked. “With Mrs. Hancock and all your friends?”

“Hmmhmm,” Hannah murmured. “That’s why I’m going to say a prayer that you’ll get enough money to buy the gallery!” Last week, she’d heard a sermon about answered prayers, and since then she’d started praying over nearly everything.

“That’s sweet, button, and noble, but not very useful.”

“What do you mean? Pastor Lynn said we should pray over everything, including our flocks and pastures. Your paintings are like flocks, but they smell better, and a gallery is like a pasture without ticks.”

Despite his worry, a small chuckle escaped.

“It’s not funny. It’s true. Pastor Lynn would want you to pray.” She jutted out her chin. “I bet God wants to find the bad guys who stole Harold. And if He wants to punish them, we should let Him.”

“Sweetie, let’s not bug God. I bet he has a lot of really important things to do.”

“What could be more important than bringing Tomato Face home?” She gasped and her eyes went wide. “I bet he’s scared!”

Ethan thought about pointing out that Harold was a one-foot-high sculpture incapable of having feelings.

Hannah folded her hands in her lap and refused to look at him. After closing her eyes, she began a simple yet sincere prayer that Desmond would sell the gallery to Ethan and that the police would find Harold and bring him safely home.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

Zoe stood in front of the classroom. A dozen little girls dressed in tartan uniforms stared back at her expectantly. They looked sweet, but Zoe knew better. At this age, she had attended Canterbury herself, so she knew sweetness might only be on the surface, like ganache on an eclair. Something ugly could lurk behind the pigtails and shiny lip gloss. But still, because she loved Laurel, she held out one of her prized possessions for the girls to see.

“This small wooden box holds something very precious to me,” Zoe told the girls. She unlatched the leather strap to open the lid and extract the small gold coins. “These were collected by my ancestors. When John Lewis first came to this country from Wales in 1849, he was a poor man. He’d been a miner in Great Britain, but somehow, he’d managed to put together enough funds to travel to the United States and take the train as far west as it would take him, which in those days was to Iowa City. From there, he hitched up with a wagon train that would take him to California, where he hoped to strike it rich in the Gold Rush.”

“Are those coins from the Gold Rush?” a little girl in the front row asked.

“Sadly, no.” Zoe closed her hands around the coins for just a second. “He didn’t find gold, but I think he found something better.”

Another girl wrinkled her nose. “What was that?”

“He found my great-great-grandmother! And together they started a farm in Twain.”

“Where they found gold?” a redhead quipped.

“No. They never found gold,” Zoe told them.

“Then where did the coins come from?” another girl asked.

“When John was still a young man, he placed a gold coin in this box and he wrote a note.” She pulled out a piece of paper. Of course, the ink on John’s original note had long ago faded and the paper crumbled, but one of John’s descendants had transcribed the note. She didn’t think she needed to tell the girls this. “John wrote: To my children and my children’s children, I leave you this coin as a remembrance of me. May it bless your lives.” Zoe picked out the oldest coin and handed it to Laurel, who held it in the palm of her hand and paraded it past all the girls seated at their desks.

“The really cool thing is,” Zoe continued, “ever since John, all of my ancestors have purchased a gold coin and left it in this box for their children and their children’s children.” She poured the other gold coins into her hand for the girls to see. “These probably aren’t worth a whole lot of money, but they are definitely worth something, and when I think of my ancestors—many of them poor and facing economic hardships, especially during the Great Depression and the world wars—they didn’t spend the coins. Instead, they followed John’s example and kept them safe. They held them sacred.”

Maybe sacred was too strong a word, but it came to her lips and she went with it.

“Who will you give the coins to?” a girl asked.

Zoe opened her mouth, but for a moment, no words came. Finally, “My child, of course.”

“Does that mean you’ll have to have a boy?” a girl asked.

“No,” Zoe said. But it did mean she’d have to have a child, and that was looking as unlikely as John himself personally handing her a coin from the grave. “I’m not a boy and the coins came to me.”

“I bet it does mean you’ll need to have a boyfriend,” another girl quipped.

“Not necessarily,” Zoe hedged. She started to feel warm.

“Maybe they’ll be mine someday,” Laurel said.

“Probably,” Zoe said. “Here, do you want to show the girls the rest of the coins?”

Laurel skipped to the front to gather the other nine coins.

Mrs. Lacombe, a retired history professor, bought her clothes from a local consignment shop. Today, she wore a sailor suit—minus the hat—and she strode around the classroom like she had a deck to swab. “Let’s all give Ms. Hart a big Canterbury thank you.” She clapped her hands and all the girls joined in.

Zoe dipped her head and took her place at the back of the classroom with the other visiting ancestors, while Dr. Edwards, an elderly man wearing physicians’ scrubs and carrying a stethoscope, took center stage beside Mrs. Lacombe.

During Dr. Edwards’ talk on his family’s role in medical research, Zoe collected the coins and placed them back into the box. She carefully placed them on the table with all the other items the students had chosen to display. One girl had brought in a picture of her movie mogul grandfather posing beside his Hollywood Star, another had brought in a World War 2 bomber jacket, and someone had brought a handcrafted cuckoo clock. Her box looked humble and shabby amongst the other collectibles. Someday, they’d need a bigger box. Who would make that decision, and what would the world be like then?

She only lived a few hundred miles from where John and Emily had settled in Twain all those years ago, but her life was radically different from theirs. She didn’t depend on a garden or livestock for food. But the one thing she’d be sure to do, like John and the others, was to purchase a gold coin and add it to this collection.

It felt wrong to leave the box of coins for display, but she trusted Mrs. Lacombe and knew most of the girls were from extremely wealthy families and wouldn’t be tempted by her collection of gold coins.

#

When Ethan picked up Hannah from Mrs. Hancock’s after school, she glowed with happiness. “Daddy,” she said, rocking onto her toes to hug him. “Today God answered my prayer!”

“He did?” He gave her a tight squeeze and inhaled her fresh scent of apple essence shampoo.

“Don’t you want to know what he gave me?” Hannah asked. “Gave us!” she corrected herself. “It’s for both of us!”

His gaze met Mrs. Hancock’s over the top of Hannah’s head. Mrs. Hancock, a seventy-something little old lady who dressed in purple or pink jogging suits, liked to take strolls around the park and feed the ducks in the lake, in spite of the “no feeding the birds” signs clearly posted along the shore. She answered with a shrug.

Hannah dug into her backpack and pulled out a handful of coins. “Look!”

The gold glistened in her small palm. They couldn’t be real, could they? “Hannah, where did you find those?” Ethan asked.

She cocked her head and folded her fingers around the coins. “I told you. God answered my prayer.”

Ethan swallowed and held out his hand. “May I please see them?”

Hannah pursed her lips. “You won’t try and put them in the bank, will you?”

Hannah had been suspicious of banks ever since the one time his ATM card had failed and their evening plans to go to the movies had been thwarted. He motioned for her to hand him the coins, which she did, although with hesitation.

He fingered them and read the stamped dates. “They look like they’re real.”

Mrs. Hancock, a tiny woman with frizzy gray hair, drew closer to get a better look. “Goodness,” she breathed. “Those look like they’re worth a pretty penny.”

“Not pennies, Mrs. Hancock!” Hannah said. “They’re dollars. Made of gold.”

“Hannah, where did these come from?” Ethan asked again.

“I told you. God heard my prayer, and He gave them to me so we can buy the gallery.”

“Sweetie.” Ethan tried to temper his voice and mask his frustration. Squatting to her eye level, he met her gaze. “I told you, as much as I’d like to buy the gallery, it’s not for sale.”

“You said not yet.”

“And maybe not ever,” he said gently.

“Then you should get another one.”

If only it were that simple. Oak Hollow wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a metropolis, but it was the closest town to Canterbury Academy. Allie had taken a job at the school because she was friends with the owner. Ethan had gone along because he’d fallen in love with the area’s gently rolling foothills.

“Let’s go and look for one right now!” Hannah suggested.

Ethan nodded, knowing that a stroll down Oak Hollow’s Main Street would take less time than trying to change his daughter’s mind.

“Did you feel the earthquake today?” Hannah asked later as they strolled down Main Street.

“I did.” He cast her a glance. “I didn’t see you in the auditorium with the rest of your class.”

“I didn’t know they had gone there,” she told him. “You know we got there late. The earthquake happened right before I went to class, so when I got to homeroom, everyone had been evacuated. It was so weird to be in there all by myself. But then I saw the coins, and I knew God had put them there for me to find.”

Ethan didn’t know how to argue with this logic, so he didn’t try.

Get Started

 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.   –Mark Twain

 

 

In October I gear up for Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) 50,000 words in 30 days in November. Just like I talked about last month on this blog, I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone in life and in my writing. For Nanowrimo this year I’ll be working on a women’s fiction story–a first for me. I love writing romance but this idea just came to me. I’ve written the first hundred or so words to get the idea started, but it will be my project for Nanowrimo. The title is That Moment. It is about two women, best friends all their lives. One commits suicide and the other is left to wonder where her friend’s life went so wrong. Was there a That Moment that would have sent her friend on a different path? A different direction that would have set everything right? And, if she could change it, would she? Should she?


(unedited, first draft)

From monumental to mundane. From beautiful to banal. Each moment of your life is ‘that moment.’ That moment when you make a decision. A decision to stay home with your family on the perfect September day and not go to work at the World Trade Center. A decision to not call in sick because you’re out of sick days and a psycho decides today, he will show the boss he won’t be pushed around anymore. A simple decision to go on that blind date and maybe meet your soul mate—or not. An easy decision to have beef or chicken for dinner.

Each decision you make is a pebble thrown in the smooth, glassy surface of the lake of your life. From a boulder creating a splash and setting ripples inside ripples across the pond to a skipping stone making ripples lost before they are gone and out of sight. Only, they aren’t gone, just out of your sight. They still touch the sandy beach across the water, the barely-hanging-on tree with its exposed roots grasping the muddy bank, the sweep around the bend, hidden behind the trees.

Every decision doesn’t just affect you. Just watch It’s a Wonderful Life to see how one person affects so many more. Most of us will never know if a ripple of a decision will affect someone else. But . . . sometimes we do.

Chapter 1

Shelly is dead. Would my best friend have still killed herself if she’d known the ripples of that decision would rip open time and space? Would she still have done it if she’d known it would rip my heart out? Would she still have done it if she’d known what I would do to make it right?’ Funny thing about time and space. You just don’t know. Until you do.

Shelly Benedict killed herself on a Wednesday. Did she know that made it easy for me to plan her funeral by Saturday? Knowing Shelly like I did, I’m sure she did. Just like she calculated how many pills it would take to never wake up, I’m sure my best friend wanted to make it as easy as possible for me. That was Shelly.

God knows, she didn’t make life easy for herself. If there was a poster child for every way your life could suck, it was Shelly. It sucked right up to and including her funeral. How can you live fifty years on this planet and have four ex-husbands, six children, your parents still alive, and your best friend is the only person at your funeral?

Wait, I take that back. The only person besides the minister who didn’t know Shelly and the men waiting for me to leave so they can finish their job. It hurt. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to see the clear blue sky and the gentle sun on that May morning. It hurt to know my best friend was gone and no one cared but me.

I tried from when we were teenagers until her last day on Earth to tell Shelly and show Shelly, she was the person I saw her to be. None of it sank in. Her life became a series of What If? questions.

What if her parents had loved her for the person she was? What if she’d had some self-esteem and didn’t fall for every loser on the planet? What if she hadn’t let her children abuse her just as much as their fathers had? What if she’d cared for herself, just a little?


How do you get motivated to just get started?

Jill James, author of Sugar Sprinkled Memories/Christmas 2019