Minus One… finally

Marriage Cert

There’s always that one piece of unfinished writing which haunts a writer.

This is mine.

My 2014 NaNoWriMo project, Plus One.

It was my first time taking the NaNoWriMo challenge, and I got off to an amazing start. But as an uninformed pantser, I had no idea what I’d set myself up for.

Words flowed as my word count surpassed two-thousand daily. However, as I neared the 40K mark, I ran out of words. And ideas. And energy. All I had was the sound of crickets buzzing in my head. My total word count for the next eleven days was 547 words! I was so disgusted, after November ended, I couldn’t finish or revise it.

The experience taught me even a pantser can benefit from a bit of prep work, and I’ve had no problem finishing NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo ever since.

But there’s still this one. Sitting on my hard drive… mocking me.

I try to pull it out once a week and work on it. I went back to the beginning and created an outline, character sketches, and plot points. I will complete and publish it sooner than later. I have to. It’s a moral imperative. 😀

~~~~~~~~~~

Perri Norton was exhausted.

Her joints throbbed with each step. Beads of sweat ran down her back as she approached the parking garage. She should never have come alone. She should have told someone, and asked them to come with her. Three blocks were a breeze for a healthy person, but for someone dealing with multiple chronic illnesses like her, they may as well have been a marathon.

It had been much easier making the short walk when she’d arrived three hours earlier. Now, not only was the sun high in the sky, Perri was certain Los Angeles would record a new high temperature for this mid-August day. Combined with the slight incline back to the parking garage, Perri knew she could trigger a flare-up which would leave her immobile for days. She said a silent prayer as she reached her Lexus LX SUV.

Giving her car remote a click, she opened the rear driver-side door. A blast of heat hit her in the face, taking her breath away. The car’s interior was stifling. Another quick click started the car, and Perri was grateful she remembered to leave the air conditioning settings on high.

Setting her bag on the back seat, Perri removed her linen blazer, grabbed her cell phone from the pocket and the manila folder from the side of the bag. She laid the blazer over the bag and closed the door to give the car time to cool off.

She turned and looked out at the Los Angeles skyline. Thick, brown smog hung over the city like a blanket. Perri could not wait to get back to the less oppressive environs of Brentwood. She loved the frenzied, cacophonous atmosphere of the shopping district, but it was humid, smoggy days like this that reminded her why she moved away.

Her lips curved into a faint smile as she glanced at the Los Angeles Court House. The few hours she had spent there, and the exhausting walk back to her car was a small price to pay for what the folder held inside. She opened the car door and stuck her head inside. Satisfied with the cooler temperature, Perri slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door. A sense of euphoria washed over her as she stared at the folder. She opened it, removed the formal document and read the bold heading.

FINAL JUDGEMENT FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE,”

It was over. Leaning back against the seat, Perri ran her fingers over the paper. No more pretending.

No more phony smiles or empty promises.

No more sad, pitiful looks from family and friends.

No more dreaming of the day when her farce of a marriage would end. Today was that day.

She knew she should feel remorse or regret, but Perri had to stop herself from laughing out loud. She was giddy… happy, and she wanted to celebrate.

Sobering, Perri realized again no one knew where she was. It was no secret she had filed for divorce. The week after Marlena’s eighteenth birthday party, Perri hosted another small dinner party and made her announcement during the first course. No one was surprised. Most were relieved and applauded her decision to dump Parker. Her children were ecstatic. There was no love lost between them and their father.

But no one knew today was the official end to the Norton marriage.

However, they all knew Parker well enough to know he would never just agree to a divorce, and he had not made it easy for her. But as Perri prevailed and walked away, she still had the hope of a reconciliation between Parker and their children… children who had long ago reconciled their feelings for the father who all but ignored them.

Had the twins, Daniel and Ethan, had their way, she would have sought a divorce seven years ago. The young men had the misfortune to witness firsthand their father’s adulterous ways and wanted their mother as far away from him as possible. Having grown up in a household ripped apart by the ugliness of divorce, Perri assured her two oldest children that evening she knew of their father’s after work “activities”, and she could handle it for the time being.

A few short months away from their twenty-first birthday, and less than a year away from their college graduation, Perri’s boys argued that she should at least start the proceedings and they would return after finishing school to help with their two younger siblings. She remembered the pride she’d felt seeing the seriousness in their faces. Perri wasn’t in the habit of explaining herself to anyone, but her children were the life’s blood that kept her going. It had taken most of the evening, but her boys understood and had promised not to confront their father. Ethan was even complimentary on her way of thinking, saying he almost felt sorry for anyone who was silly enough to underestimate her.

Underestimate.

The word brought Margaret Gower Bradford front and center to Perri’s mind. The unsympathetic family matriarch was adamant Perri caused all her own problems. From her straying husband to her chronic health issues. If Perri had done enough, given enough, been enough… none of her problems would exist. Margaret didn’t even see them as problems, but more like Perri’s issues. She had cautioned Perri to not even consider divorce. Marriage was forever in the eyes of God. This sentiment from a woman who had been divorced for forty years, refused to remarry, and still found a reason to fight with Maynard Bradford anytime they were in the same zip code.

No, Perri would not be calling her mother anytime soon.

She thought about her small, close group of friends — or the “old broads” as she liked to refer to them. They hated that label. Tory, Sara, Connie and Valerie were always the cause of Perri’s fits of hysterical laughter. None of the women had an OFF button. No subject was sacred and anyone with a pulse was fair game for their biting, caustic remarks. She picked up her phone and dialed Tory’s number, but hit End instead of Call. A celebration with the girls would involve a long evening with way too much alcohol. Better to save that party for the weekend. She’d call them all later and set it up.

Glancing down at the court documents again, Perri knew there was only one person she wanted to call. The only person who knew all she had gone through and understood. The only person who was always there giving her unconditional friendship and emotional support. Her fingers hovered over his name on her contact list. She hadn’t told him about this morning’s court date. He would be upset. He would have offered to come with her.

Perri dropped the phone on the seat. She would not tell him over the phone, but he would be the first one she told. After all the years he’d held her together when she thought she was at the end of her rope, she owed Grayson that much.

Easing the car into the flow of mid-day L.A. traffic, Perri focused on the task at hand… surviving the drive home. No one could maneuver the crush of downtown traffic or its many surrounding freeways unless they were a bit unbalanced, and she fit right in for sure today. Perri couldn’t name the light, bouncy, but apprehensive feelings that buzzed just under her skin. It didn’t matter. She liked it. She liked it a lot.

She felt reborn.

©2014 Copyright Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Another Loss #WIP


Sunset

Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. The loss of her longtime protector, mentor, and father-figure, Willis Benson, devastates Olivia Chandler.

An hour late, Olivia strode past Margot’s desk, her eyes focused on her office door.

Margot watched her pass, unhappy with what she was about to do. Setting her workstation to away status, she followed her boss into Olivia’s office.

Olivia appeared not notice Margot’s presence and fumbled around, pulling out her laptop and opening file folders.

Standing near the door, Margot folded her arms across her chest… and waited. She watched Olivia move folders around her desk several times before placing them in their original positions.

Lost in thought, the attorney remained standing at her desk, head bowed. When at last she looked up, Olivia was startled at seeing Margot.

“What’s wrong?”

“You tell me, Olivia. You’ve been in a fog since you got here… late. You’re never late.”

“We all have off days, Schultz.”

“You don’t. Not when it comes to your job.”

“Well, guess I’m due then, huh?”

“Maybe. Olivia, what’s-”

“How’s the day shaping up? Bowers custody hearing at one, right? Does Louis have the background check done for the Nealy case?”

“Yes, the background check is back… and on your desk,” she gestured at the mess Olivia had created, “somewhere. Mr. Bowers has asked for a thirty-day continuance and Mrs. Bowers isn’t arguing against it. Judge Whelan is ready to grant it as long as you don’t have a problem with the custody arrangement for the kids.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“I have no problem with the custody arrangement.”

Margot glared at her boss as her patience wore thin.

“I haven’t told you what the arrangements are yet, Olivia.”

A pained look marred Olivia’s features. She fell back into her chair… silent.

Margot turned and closed the office door. Her brow knitted with worry, she took a seat in front of Olivia’s desk.

“Talk to me. Olivia, what happened?”

“I’m fine, Margot. It’s an off day. It hap-”

“Stop it.”

Leaning forward, the office manager’s voice hardened. Her eyes bored into Olivia.

“You were late. In the ten years I’ve worked for you, Olivia, you’ve never been late. Not. Once. You didn’t take any of my calls or texts. You haven’t taken any of Bruce’s calls and the man is crazy with worry.  He drove by your house twice last night and wanted to call the police when you weren’t there. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. But we care about you, Olivia, and we don’t deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.”

Margot stood and walked toward the door, still talking. “Please let me know how you want to proceed after you read the Bowers’ custody arrangements.”

Olivia’s shoulders slumped, shame bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. As Margot reached for the doorknob, Olivia called out but for all her effort, her voice was low, soft and quavered.

“Margot, I’m sorry.”

The offended woman stopped, leaving the door closed but she also didn’t turn around.

“You’re right. I’m being unfair. I-I… don’t know why I have such a problem processing-”

Margot whirled around. “Olivia, dammit! What happened?”

Grief and anxiety won. Olivia wilted deeper into her chair as the first tear fell.

“Willis died last night.”

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

The Afghan


White afghan

This is another unedited excerpt from my NaNoWriMo2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She smiled standing in her friend’s room. It was one hundred percent Rosie Chastain, appearing light and delicate, but held up by a solid sturdy foundation.

The ninety-year-old high-back rocking chair still sat in the corner. Made from thick oak by Rosie’s Uncle Preston, with pale pink cushions hand-sewn by his wife, Delia, it was Rosie’s special place. Whenever she had to sit and think about something, pray over something or someone, or collect her thoughts after a bad day, Rosie sat in the rocker.

Ana ran her hand over the smooth, glossy wood.

Next to the rocker was a massive nine-drawer dresser. Ana wasn’t sure what tree the dresser’s wood came from, but she remembered hearing workmen swear at the dresser’s weight when Rosie bought new carpeting and it had to be moved.

She opened drawers, not surprised at the order and neatness. Ana walked into the closet and was overwhelmed with memories of Rosie. The scent of the light jasmine and amber cologne Rosie loved was still in the air. Nurse’s uniforms, surgical scrubs, and lab coats took up a full third of the closet. Ana looked through the dress clothes, smiling at her friend’s love of silk.

She walked out of the closet and stood next to the large four-poster bed. Like the dresser, the bed was made from real wood and took four men to move it.

Sitting on the side of the bed, Analeigh buried her face in her hands.

Rosie was gone and now she had to get rid of these precious things.

How?

Jeff told her to leave anything she didn’t want in the house and the auction company would include it in their inventory and sale.

Ana didn’t think she could part with the bedroom furniture. She had no space for it in her modest two-bedroom condo back in Columbus, but these were the pieces Rosie loved and cherished most and they were important to Ana too. She would find premium movers and storage until she made decisions about her future.

Ana reached for her notepad and realized it was on the kitchen counter.

Headed for the kitchen, Ana stopped when she saw something behind the bedroom door. She closed the door to find a dark leather ottoman. It was large and square… and Ana had never seen it before.

Rosie must have bought it after Ana left Corwin.

She knelt for a closer look and saw the tiny brass hinges. Ana raised the ottoman’s lid and clutched her chest with a raspy gasp.

Her eyes filled with tears as she reached into the ottoman to retrieve the treasure.

Sitting on the floor, Ana hugged the one hundred percent Merino wool afghan. She rubbed her chin and cheek against it, incredulous it was still as baby soft as the day she and Rosie completed it.

 ~ ~ ~
Ana made a few bracelets and necklaces, but she never had the patience for jewelry making and working with crystal the way Rosie did. She had no passion for it. When a friend told Rosie about loop knitting and arm knitting, she thought they might be something Ana would enjoy, and it was a creative endeavor.

She was right.

Ana was thrilled when Rosie presented her with the bulky snow-white yarn. She watched the accompanying video four times over two days before she would even consider beginning her project.

On the third day, Rosie laughed as a giddy Ana dumped the first bag of yarn on the dining room table.

A small piece of paper clung to one of the skeins. Ana picked it up and read it. Her mouth gaped open as she backed away from the table.

“What’s wrong, Analeigh?”

Shaking her head, Ana opened her mouth to speak but the words didn’t come.

“Analeigh? What’s wrong, honey? You okay?”

Rosie took a step towards her, but Ana threw up her hands, the slip of paper clutched in her fist.

“You spent almost five-hundred dollars on yarn? For me? Rosie that’s crazy. You have to take it back.”

“Is that what has you so upset? The cost of the yarn?” Rosie waved her off. “The cost is not important, sweetie. The look in your eyes and the smile on your face is what matters. The sense of accomplishment you’ll have at trying something new… being creative, that’s how we grow. Accepting challenges. Now, calm down and let’s get-”

“No, Rosie. You have to take it back.”

“Stop talking nonsense, child. I’ll do no such thing. And haven’t I taught you it is rude to refuse a gift?”

Ana walked over to Rosie, lifted one of her hands and placed the receipt in it.

“Yes, you did, Rosie, but this is too much. I’m not worth it.”

Rage erupted in Rosie and her tawny brown skin glowed as heat suffused her body. She crumpled the receipt in her hand and stalked around the table. Her arms flailed, and her gaze darted around the room.

Analeigh Sellers took a step back, afraid Rosie would send her away and not be her friend anymore.

“I’m sorry, Rosie.”

The wiry old woman rushed to Ana, grabbing and clutching her to her chest.

The teen didn’t understand, but held on, not wanting to be sent away. When Rosie pulled back, Ana saw her face was wet with tears.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?”

She smoothed Ana’s hair down and cupped her cheeks in her hands.

“Some folks think the worst way to hurt a child is physically… beat on them, smack them around. But, sweetie, what’s been done to you is just as bad… worse in some ways.”

“I don’t understand.”

Rosie Chastain tilted her head toward the table.

“Child, if I spent ten-thousand-dollars on that yarn it was worth it to me to see you smile because you are worth it. You are important to me. You matter.”

Ana opened her mouth to argue, but Rosie stopped her.

“You can’t put a price on people, Analeigh, everyone has value. Everyone matters because they are here… alive. There isn’t one of us who is better or more worthy than anyone else. I know that to be true. I’ve seen a lot in almost seventy years on this earth, but I’ve never come across a person who was better than anyone else.”

Pain mixed with the confusion on Ana’s face and she looked away.

Rosie gently turned her head back to see her eyes.

“Child, I could tell you how special and worthy you are all day long, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.”

~ ~ ~

Ana wiped her eyes remembering that day. It took a little more time, but she soon learned to walk with her head held high. Because of Rosie Chastain.

~ ~ ~
For the next three weeks, Ana stopped by after school every afternoon, and she and Rosie worked on the afghan together. Methodically matching loops and rows.

On the last day, Ana locked the final stitch and the women complimented each other as they admired their handiwork.

“We’re pretty good, huh?”

“Child, you could sell this for twice what the yarn cost.”

“No way. I’ll never sell it.”

“Does my old heart good to hear that.”

Rosie ran her hand over the blanket.

“Just a month ago, this was piles of yarn, no shape or form, sitting on the store shelves waiting to be purchased. I bought the yarn and you, Analeigh, studied the process. You decided on a pattern and we worked together, keeping the blanket uniform…no loose ends. And now we have this beautiful creation.”

Ana admired her handiwork until she realized Rosie stopped speaking. She glanced in her direction only to find Rosie’s eyes locked on her.

“This blanket is you, Analeigh.”

Ana’s brow knitted in confusion.

“Your young life here… in this town, was just a pile of loose ends. No one tried to give you structure and guidance. They just grabbed a loose end and pulled. But you’re growing into a beautiful young woman and forging your own structure without anyone’s guidance. You’ve got the pattern, Analeigh, time to make your own creation.”

“If I did any of those things, Rosie, it’s because of you.”

“Oh, no, child. I was the shelter from the storm. We all need one sometimes, and we all act as one. You’ll be someone’s shelter one day too so they can have the opportunity to figure it all out. That’s all I did for you.”

“No, Rosie… it’s not. You gave me structure and guidance. And love. And Rosie you saved my life.”

Ana gathered the ends of the snow-white afghan and placed them in Rosie’s hands.

“That’s why I want you to have this.”

~ ~ ~
Ana closed the lid on the ottoman.
Rosie Chastain broke down in tears that day. Ana knew the spry senior citizen was fond of her, but she’d always felt Rosie acted more out of pity. A sense of dread stayed nestled close to her heart, fearing the day would come Rosie would no longer consider Analeigh worthy of her time.

The bond between the two friends was cemented that day. Ana knew she would leave Corwin and its suffocating judgment behind. Leaving Rosie Chastain wasn’t an option.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise
Image by jdurham

Priorities #52weeks52stories


dumpster


Cinna’s designer heels clicked against the pavement as she left the office building.

It had been a long day. A long disappointing day.

After seven weeks of knocking herself out, the promotion she wanted more than anything went to someone else.

Cinna didn’t deny Elsa had more experience and more seniority at Langley, but the woman’s natural bad attitude and inclination to pick a fight over the most trivial office task would only lead to endless headaches for the accounting department.

She wasn’t looking for more headaches, Cinna wanted to buy a home. The increase in pay for department manager would have made that possible.

Clicking the remote on her car fob, Cinna opened the door to the Lexus and dropped into the seat as though she bore the weight of the world on her back.

Selling her condo would still get her the down payment for a house, but she’d planned on hanging on to it as an investment and lease it out.

Dammit! Nothing ever worked out for her.

She would be thirty-three-years-old next month and wasn’t where she wanted to be in life. She didn’t have her own home… or a husband and children to share it with.

Cinna sent Art Clarey on his way early last year.  After four years together, Cinna knew the hapless optometrist didn’t hold her happily-ever-after.

In no mood to cook, Cinna stopped at Boston Markets, but after several minutes could only decide on an order of macaroni and cheese.

Her mind raced as she returned to her car. What would she do now? She didn’t have a plan B. Cinna wanted forward movement in her life. She thought about checking what positions were available in her field when she heard a noise. None of the other customers coming and going didn’t seem to notice, so Cinna continued on to her car.

She heard the noise again.

Something slammed shut, and someone cried out.

Turning, she followed the walkway to the edge of the storefront.

Glancing toward the back of the parking lot, Cinna saw a woman and two young children. One of the children–a boy– was holding his hand and crying as the woman lifted the lid of the trash bin.

A mother and her two children… hungry and looking for food.

A myriad of emotions washed over Cinnamon Hinkley… shock, disgust, anger, pity… and shame.

She didn’t have the things she wanted, but she had everything she needed. She didn’t have to wonder where her next meal would come from or where she would sleep each night.

A mother and her children.

Cinna didn’t know what led them to this moment in their lives rummaging through a trash bin, but it didn’t matter.

She went back into the store and placed a different order… a much larger order. She couldn’t solve all their problems, but they would not eat from a dumpster tonight.

 

©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Song Lyric Sunday | “6, 8, 12” – Brian McKnight

Song Lyric Sunday was created by Helen Vahdati from This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time. For complete rules or to join in the fun, click here.

The theme for Song Lyric Sunday this week is “numbers”. 

 ~~~~~

6, 8, 12–a song about devastating heartbreak appears on the album Back At One (1999) and on the album From There to Here: 1989-2002 (2002).

See my Song Lyric Sunday selection on Nesie’s Place.

Disclaimer: I have no copyrights to the song and/or video and/or hyperlinks to songs and/or videos and/or gifs above. No copyright infringement intended.

6, 8, 12

Brian McKnight

Ooh, ooh

Do you ever think about me?

Do you ever cry yourself to sleep?

In the middle of the night when you’re awake,

Are you calling out for me?

Do you ever reminisce?

I can’t believe I’m acting like this

I know it’s crazy

How I still can feel your kiss

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

I miss you so much and I don’t know what to say

I should be over you

I should know better but it’s just not the case

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

Do you ever ask about me?

Do your friends still tell you what to do?

Every time the phone rings,

Do you wish it was me calling you?

Do you still feel the same?

Or has time put out the flame?

I miss you

Is everything okay?

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

I miss you so much and I don’t know what to say

I should be over you

I should know better but it’s just not the case

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

It’s hard enough just passing the time

When I can’t seem to get you off my mind

And where is the good in goodbye?

Tell me why, tell me why

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

I miss you so much and I don’t know what to say

I should be over you

I should know better but it’s just not the case

It’s been six months, eight days, twelve hours

Since you went away

Sing it for me

Ooh, ooh

Songwriters: Brian Kelly Mcknight / Michael Brandon Barnes