Camp NaNo Update


Wedding Party Table

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 28
Despite the constant interruptions of LIFE (You’re hilarious, LIFE — quit it!), I’ve made it to the midpoint of my goal right at the middle of the month. That never happens. This is an unedited excerpt of Calla, my Camp Nano project.

Time for her speech and toast.

Standing and walking over to Gibson, Calla pulled a face at the good-natured comments from the wedding guests.

“It’s your turn, Calla!”

“Girl, you’re the last one!”

“Marry me, Calla!”

Her poker face grew into a wide, warm grin. She looked around the room, seeing people who’d known her for a lifetime, knowing they only wanted her to be happy.

When Calla raised the mic to speak, Gibson, who was still at her side, pulled the mic in his direction.

“Don’t worry, Reedsville fam, I have plans for Miss Calla.”

Catcalls and whistles rose in the room again, with a noted deep growl from Birdy Ellison, the man who’d shouted, “Marry me, Calla” only moments before.

With a smile of pure innocence, Calla pulled the mic back to her mouth. “Don’t you have enough ex-wives, Gibby?”

Flinching, Gibson grabbed his chest, feigned a stumble and laughed all the way back to his seat as the crowd applauded Calla’s witty response.

Calla tried to control her own laughter as she raised her hands to quiet the room.

“I can’t remember a time in my life which didn’t include Tena Evers. We played with dolls together as little girls. When we got tired of the dolls, we forced the boys to let us play cowboys and Indians with them. We watched all the dance shows and practiced the latest steps. Once our moves were flawless, we’d go to the dances and make the boys dance with us.”

Peers yelled out in agreement. Members of older and younger generations nodded and commented on how nothing ever changes.

“Something happened in high school. Those same boys we’d bossed around as kids, we were now afraid to even speak to. But we would look. Oh, my lord, we would look. What I didn’t know at first was Tena was only looking at one boy we didn’t know well. She confessed to me after she and the boy met at their fathers’ company picnic.”

Calla turned to her best friend.

“That fall, we went to our school’s first football game. We bought programs like we always did, but could never find by the end of the game. Not this time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Tena never rolled or folded her program. A few weeks later during a sleepover at Tena’s, of course, the conversation turned to boys. I teased her about Ronnie Calvert following her around all the time.”

Seated at a far table, Ronnie Calvert laughed out loud only to be smacked on the arm by his wife, Pam, a large, sober-faced woman with no sense of humor.

“Tena laughed and shook her head. She walked over to her dresser, took something out and turned around.”

Calla looked at the crowd and smiled.

“It was the program from the football game, without a wrinkle or tear. She held it with near reverence as she returned to sit on the bed. Opening it, she turned past all the ads and team photos, stopping at the individual player headshots. Handing me the open program, she said, ‘Ronnie’s a nice guy, but I’m going to marry him.’”

Calla looked back to the newlyweds.

“I took the program, and I was staring down into the face of Reedsville High’s star wide receiver, Lloyd Taylor.”

Thunderous applause erupted as wedding guests took to their feet in approval.

Lloyd caressed his new wife’s cheek, lost in her eyes.

Calla held up her hand once again to quiet the crowd.

“Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, you know when you’ve met the love of your life and two hearts bond. It’s a bond time and distance and other people cannot break. It’s the bond Tena and Lloyd share and which has brought them to this day.”

Calla raised her glass, joined by the wedding guests.

“To Mr. And Mrs. Taylor!”

Calla winked at Tena, grinned mischievously and said, “And they lived happily ever after!”

Tena roared with laughter. She should have known her best friend would go through with the dare.

Lloyd looked between Tena and Calla, puzzled.

Calla smirked and sipped her champagne.

Before Lloyd could question his bride, Neeri appeared to rush them to the center of the room for their first dance as man and wife.

While all eyes watched the happy couple dance and sing along to “Spend My Life with You” by Eric Benet and Tamia, Calla settled into her chair, grateful to be off her still aching feet.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

Hypocrite


Stapler

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 27
A scene from an ongoing (never-ending!) WIP. Quinn Landon can’t get a break! Determined to divorce the adulterous Oscar Landon, she can find no respite from her family’s judgment and harassment. Quinn draws a line in the sand when older brother, Aaron Clark, shows up at her job.

Aaron held out his hands in front of him. “Quinn, be reasonable. Just because a man has a little fling or two on the side, it does not mean he doesn’t love his wife.”

She froze, willing herself to not throw the stapler on her desk at her brother.

“What does it mean, Aaron?”

Caught off his guard, Aaron scrubbed his hand down his face, “It just a guy-thing, Quinn. Not a big deal.”

Quinn dropped the stack of files she was holding and leaned across her desk.

“What about you, Aaron? Is it just a guy thing for you too?”

Aaron Clark folded his arms across his broad chest again and returned her glare. “This isn’t about me.”

In the span of seconds, Quinn saw the truth in his eyes.

She was crushed.

Quinn covered her gaping mouth with her hand, shaking her head. She stood and walked over to her office windows still reeling from her brother’s non-admission.

Tears formed in the corners of Quinn Landon’s eyes. No. She would not cry. Enough tears were already shed over a situation that didn’t deserve them. Quinn looked over her shoulder at Aaron.

“This isn’t about Oscar’s infidelity, is it? This isn’t about his betrayal of our marriage, or my… what did you call it? Inability to be reasonable?”

She turned and fully faced him.

“This is about male privilege. Guys just being guys, right? Who else, Aaron? Who else gives lip service to their marriage vows? Junior? Clinton? Daddy?”

“Now, sis. If you’d just calm down and think-”

“Oh, I’m calm, Aaron. Probably calmer than I’ve been in the last five years. I’m glad you came here today, Aaron. You’ve given me not only true clarity, but the resolve to follow my heart and my mind. Now, get out.”

“Quinn-”

“I said get out. And Aaron… never come here again. If you do, I’ll have you removed by security.”

“Quinn! Listen to what you’re saying! We’re family, for god’s sakes!”

“We’re siblings, Aaron. Something we had no say about. But family?”

Quinn returned to her desk and sat in her chair. With a small, bittersweet smile, she continued.

“Family is always there for you. They support you, lift you up and cheer you on. They love you unconditionally. My family doesn’t do that for me. When I think about it, the Clark family abandoned me and supported Oscar even before we were married.”

“But it all makes sense now. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. No one was shocked and appalled when I found out about Oscar’s first affair. It was me everyone told to calm down. It was me who was told to not do anything hasty… to think things through.”

The small smile faded from her lips.

“It was me who was shamed because I wanted to end my marriage. All because my family doesn’t see adultery as wrong… for men. They rant and rave about the sanctity of marriage and how it’s ordained by God, and is forever. But adultery… it’s just a little thing. A minor detail. Forget that it’s listed in the Bible as a reason for divorce, or on God’s top ten list. No… no. Men are entitled to a little tail on the side every now and then. God’s a guy, he understands, right?”

“Quinn, you’re-”

“How would you feel if Vanessa had an affair? Or two? Three? How many have you had, Aaron?”

“Vanessa would never-”

“Hypocrite!”

“I take care good care of my wife. I’ve given her everything she’s ever wan-”

Quinn bolted from her seat.

“Except honesty and fidelity!”

“I’ve always been honest with Vanessa.”

“Oh! Well, that’s different. If you tell her up front you’re a lying, cheating asshole, it’s okay.”

“Quinn-”

“I believe you were leaving.”

“Quinn-”

“Goodbye… brother.”

“This isn’t over, Quinn Avery.”

“Yes, Aaron. For me, it is.”

He held her gaze as he backed toward the door.

“No, it isn’t. If you go through with this divorce, you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.” Aaron left, leaving her office door open.

Stunned, Quinn stood there, her mind replaying her brother’s words.

“… you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.”

What the hell?

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

Calla


Calla Lily

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 26
Evidently I don’t have enough to do — or I’m a glutton for punishment, because I’m adding July Camp NaNoWriMo to my never-ending (or ever-growing) to-do list. Calla, a romantic comedy, is my 30-day project.

Synopsis

Calla Barrett is a modern-day Cinderella.

Okay – not really.

She’s an accomplished RN and head of nursing at Montford Jones Rehabilitation Center. Calla is attractive, intelligent, respected, and well-liked.

She’s also thirty-four, single with no prospects… and she lives with her eccentric mother, Rose, who may or may not have a mild case of dementia.

Motivated by a close friend’s wedding and the bold heroines of her favorite novels, Calla sets a new course for herself and plans to escape the tiny farm town of Reedsville, Missouri.

No one wants Calla to leave—especially sisters Daisy, Iris, and Violet. If Calla moves away, they will have to take care of their mother. Wealthy sportsman, Birdy Ellison is determined to marry Calla… and teach her to skin a deer.

Calla Barrett’s first steps to a new life give her hope, but a newcomer’s temporary stay in Reedsville tests Calla’s determination… and her heart.

When family and friends butt in, chaos ensues, and Calla will have to pull out all the stops to get her happily-ever-after… and not skin any deer.

 

Tiny Possible-Snippet

Determined to kill the annoying fly, Rose raced around the room swatting in its general direction, overturning her iced tea and breaking a vase in the process. The fly flew through the doorway into the kitchen with Rose in hot pursuit.

“Look at her, Cal. How could you leave her? She needs you here.” Older sister, Daisy Barrett-Newman, was close to tears.

Sitting in the corner nursing a tumbler of gin, Violet Barrett raises her glass. “She’s right, Calla.”

“And what about Vi, Cal? You know she hasn’t been herself since,” Daisy leaned towards Calla, whispering, “you know…”

Giggling, Violet sets her glass down, pops off her prosthetic leg and waves it in the air.

“The accident, Daisy, the accident. Say it with me, “Since Violet lost a leg in a car accident!””

Rolling her eyes, Daisy glared at Calla as if to say, “See?”

“It’s my turn, Daisy. I missed out on moving away for college. I had to turn down a marriage proposal-”

“Oh, he wasn’t the man for you-”

“But that was my decision to make, not my family’s. I’ve lived my entire life in this house. I want out of it and Reedsville. I want to see the world… or some of it. I want to experience new things and meet new people. I want a life. I want to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I want to take photos at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I want to walk into a New York pizzeria and order a slice!”

Violet pointed her fake leg at her older sister. “She’s right, Daisy.”

Daisy waved them both off. “Now you’re just sounding like one of those broads in those crazy bodice rippers you always have your head buried in.”

“Way to date yourself, sis. They haven’t been called bodice rippers in a generation.”

“Then what are they called, Miss Well-Read?”

“For your information, they’re called historical romances, and they’re just one of the literary genres I enjoy reading.”

Calla smirked, a maniacal gleam in her eyes.

“I also enjoy psychological thrillers. The kind where the ever-put-upon, loving sister snaps, has a mental break, murders her entire family, then rides off into the night… laughing.”

Daisy takes a step backward, horrified.

Rose Gentry Barrett re-enters the room carrying a white bone china dessert plate… with the dead fly lying in the center.

“Told you I’d get him.” Sitting the plate next to the spilled iced tea, Rose grabs the remote and turns on the large, flat-screen television.

The sisters watch her in silence while Rose turns to her favorite station… The Weather Channel.

“Gonna rain in Topeka!”

Lowering her voice, Daisy continues her pleading. “Cal, be reasonable.”

Defiant, Calla crosses her arms across her ample chest.

“Snaps, Daisy. Murder.”

Emptying the gin bottle into her glass, Violet continues her giggling. “I don’t want to read that book. I want to see the movie!”

Moving Right Along


Desk

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 25
Scene from an ongoing WIP and continues on from Good Morning, Mother. Quinn Landon returns to work and updates her perky assistant on her meeting with Morris Dabney, not sharing with her the Ace she’s holding to force Oscar’s hand.

Quinn breezed into her office grateful her meeting with Morris had only run twenty minutes over her one hour lunch. Dropping her handbag under her desk, Quinn was about to listen to her voicemails when her assistant, Priscilla Cooper, entered her office at near running speed. The petite, perky dynamo stopped abruptly in front of Quinn’s desk. Fighting back the urge to grin, the assistant human resources director again reached for her phone.

“Really, Quinn? Really? You’re just going to act as if I’m not standing here dying to hear how your meeting with your DIVORCE attorney went?”

Looking surprised, Quinn relaxed into her chair.

“Good afternoon, Pris! How are you? Did you enjoy your lunch?”

“Quinn! C’mon, no fair! Did you sign the papers? Are you on the road to freedom?”

Deciding not to torment Priscilla any longer, Quinn chuckled and nodded.

“Yes, Mrs. Cooper, I signed my divorce papers less than an hour ago.” Quinn hadn’t finished her sentence before Priscilla was bouncing up and down, clapping.

“Well, alright! I’m so happy for you, and even happier you went through with it this time.”

Her assistant was one the very few people Quinn confided in. The group of women Quinn had known most of her life and considered friends, firmly sided with Oscar and their families. Quinn found this out the hard way five years ago when she shared her anger and resentment of both their families defending her adulterous husband, and her mother called her enraged, repeating what Quinn had said word for word.

“I signed the papers, Pris, but this isn’t over… yet. I still have a mediation meeting next week.”

Priscilla scoffed.

“Do you believe he won’t sign and drag this out more, hun? What has he to gain? Why is he putting you through this?”

Sighing, Quinn leaned forward onto her desk. “Well, in no particular order, because he can; both our families are on his side; he believes he’s going to win this battle of wills, and it’s not a good look for a school district administrator.”

“But his ‘winning’ means the two of you stay married. Why? He’s put you through so much. If he wants to sleep around, why are you expected to just put up with it? Have you had the man’s mental competency checked?”

Both women laughed.

“If I start checking mental competency, I’d have to line up my parents, his parents, all our siblings, and nearly everyone who’s ever met us to be tested, because I am considered the spiteful, vindictive bitch-of-a-wife who’s ruining her own marriage.”

“I’m sorry, Quinn. You are a fantastic person. You do not deserve any of this. Whenever you want to talk, just find me… here or at home. You know you have an open invitation to the Cooper abode.”

“Thanks, Pris. I’m blessed to have you as an assistant AND a friend.”

Priscilla pulled a face and pointed at Quinn.

“Yes, you are! And we’ll go into more detail on the friendship when you take me to lunch sometime next week. And, we can discuss my next merit raise after we clear this week’s calendar!”

Shaking her head, Quinn simply laughed.

“I’ve created a monster, but you get away with it by being the best assistant and facilitator in the building, and for keeping me on point. So, yeah… we can discuss that raise later this week.”

Stretching her arms out at her sides, the Nia Long look-alike leaned her head back.

“I am awesome!”

“Alright, Your Awesomeness, how does our afternoon look? Did Bennie send the promo copy up?”

“He sure did, and it looks amazing! Your new layout looks tons better than what marketing threw together. Bennie said Fletcher was there while he was printing it out and seemed quite impressed with your work.”

“Pris, don’t start.”

Priscilla tried to fake a hurt expression but dissolved into giggles.

“I was just passing along information, ma’am… nothing more.”

“Whatever, Priscilla. Did we hear back from Martech?”

“Yeah…and it’s not good news. They’re raising their premiums across the board in eighteen months. Even if employees only have a twenty percent co-pay, it will cost entirely too much. Any of the staff with more than two dependents would be working solely to afford healthcare.”

“Damn. Okay, at least we saw it coming, and they were nice enough to confirm the increase. I’ll see what our remaining HMOs have to offer before I approach new firms. Anything else?”

When her assistant didn’t respond, Quinn looked up to see Priscilla standing with her arms folded across her chest and a sullen look on her face.

“No…just no. I know that look, Pris. It’s a non-subject, for several reasons.”

Returning her gaze to her computer monitor, Quinn continued. “I pulled seven resumes off jobs.com for the administrative assistants Accounting wants. We need to contact the applicants for convenient time frames, then we can-…”

Realizing again Priscilla remained silent, a quick glance in her direction showed she stood rigidly in front of Quinn’s desk, lips tightly pursed.

“You’re not going to be happy until you have your say, so go ahead.”

Sitting back in her chair, Quinn braced for the verbal reprimand she knew was coming.

“Sue me if I want to see you happy with a man who truly appreciates and adores you for the remarkable person you are.”

“And that man is Fletcher Morgan?”

Priscilla threw her hands up.

“I don’t know — it could be. Or Don Jarrell…or Leonard Parkes…or Brandon Reynolds…or a guy you haven’t met yet. But you won’t know until you make yourself available, will you?”

“No, Pris…I won’t, but the fact of the matter is I’m not available. No mat-…”

“But you’re ne-…”

Quinn held up her hand.

“Let me finish. No matter how many papers I signed until a judge bangs their gavel and declares my marriage over, I AM a married woman. No, there is no way I’ll reconcile with Oscar, but I cannot conduct myself as a single woman when I’m not. It’s not a good look, Pris, and it’s not who I am. I would love nothing better than to find ‘the one’… in my case, the REAL one this time, but I need to free myself of Oscar and learn how to deal with the disapproval of my family. Down the road, any man I bring into my life is going to have to deal with my family, and it would be wrong to subject any man to my family drama right now. He’d probably run from me screaming in the other direction.”

“But Quinn…-”

Quinn stopped her again.

“And those names you called out? No…just no. All nice guys, Pris, but never someone in the workplace. That never ends well. I love my job, and don’t want to lose it over a bad affair.”

“Quinnie…Fletcher is so delicious, though. He’s got that Keanu Reeves ‘John Wick’ thing going on, only not as stiff.”

Priscilla mimicked a wooden soldier’s walk in front of her boss’s desk.

Quinn couldn’t help but laugh.

“Of course, you’d push the one who’s not black.”

“Whatever, Miss United Nations! I know you dated interracially before you met Oscar. And this is 2016. You’re allowed to be with whoever makes you happy, and anyone who doesn’t like it should mind their own business and move along.”

“You should be up in the EEOC office, not here in Human Resources.”

“I’m far too radical for them!”

Quinn shook her head.

“How does Cameron handle you? That poor man probably doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.”

Priscilla’s face softened at the mention of her husband of twenty-two years.

“He handles me just fine.”

Quinn waved her hands in the air with a mock look of horror.

“No need to overshare, Pris. Especially to the lonely soon-to-be-divorcee. I want to be you when I grow up.”

“Trust me, you don’t. I’ve got three teenagers I’m desperate to unload. Is the circus coming to town anytime soon?”

“Oh, please. You’d go all mama bear on anyone that looked at your boys the wrong way.”

“True. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t considered boarding school every time I see piles of laundry or an empty fridge less than a week after I bought groceries.”

Quinn rose from her seat and walked around her desk. Bending down, she gave her assistant and friend a tight hug.

“I’m glad I have you in my life as a friend and a co-worker, Pris. But don’t worry so much. I’ll be fine. I’ve come through the worst part of this and I’m still standing. I haven’t even reached forty yet… still a lot of good years to find Mr. Right.”

“I know, Quinnie, and I’m sorry. I know I get pushy sometimes.”

Quinn raised an eyebrow.

“Alright, I’m pushy all the time, dang! But I have good intentions. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Before Quinn could answer, a cell phone began to ring. Quickly whipping it from her pocket, Priscilla answered, and Quinn knew immediately it was Cameron. Priscilla only got that moony, dreamy look when talking to her husband.

Mouthing and gesturing that she would work on contacting job applicants, Pris quickly backed out the office, closing the door behind her.

Feelings of loneliness and pangs of yearning assaulted Quinn. She stared at her office door, knowing Pris and Cameron were having their regular afternoon update call. He called every day after lunch, without fail. They would remind each other of after-school activities or games for their kids, or make plans to meet for dinner after work.

Another thing that was always the same was Priscilla smiled during the entire conversation. Quinn could just imagine Cameron smiling too. The successful ophthalmologist scheduled his day around his adoring wife, and Pris was constantly on the lookout for rare sports memorabilia to surprise him with.

Quinn loved their relationship, but if she dwelled on it too long, depression would set in.

Returning to her seat, Quinn tried to concentrate on the healthcare provider listing. Her hands tightened into fists as anger distracted her.

Why couldn’t she have what Pris and Cameron had? Why didn’t she have three active teenagers and an attentive husband?

Quinn had such high hopes for the future when she and Oscar first married. He’d been loving and attentive, and she thought he’d hung the moon. They did everything together — make dinner, laundry, shopping — mainly because they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and were very creative when it came to locations to make love.

Quinn and Oscar spent their first four wedding anniversaries in exotic locales soaking up sun… and each other.

Halfway to their fifth anniversary, Oscar changed, leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night with little or no contact with Quinn throughout the day. Quinn was looking forward to their fifth-anniversary trip — Paris, France. She’d dreamed of seeing the City of Lights since her early teens, but every time she brought up the subject with her husband, he’d promise to check the vacation calendar at work and get back to her.

Six weeks before their anniversary, Oscar told Quinn they couldn’t go. Two administrators accepted jobs with other districts, and one had been terminated. With the school year about to end, his workload was immense.

Quinn was devastated but knew how serious Oscar was about his job.

Oscar told Quinn not to toss out any of her notes for the trip, saying as soon as the school year was wrapped up, they would make the trip. He was sure they would get to Paris for Bastille Day in July.

Quinn never got that trip. By the time May fifth arrived, the only thing she got was confirmation that her husband of five years was an adulterer.

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No More


Marriage Cert


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 24
Scene from an ongoing WIP and continues on from Good Morning, Mother. Quinn Landon stumbles upon a long-held secret of still more betrayal by Oscar and plans to use the information to end her husband’s endless delays to their divorce.

“If you grip that pen any tighter, it’ll break.”

Quinn looked up at her attorney, not missing the concerned look in his eyes.

“I guess I am a bit keyed up, huh?” She exhaled heavily. “This day has seemed out of my reach for far too long. You have no idea what it means to me to sign these documents.”

Morris Dabney chuckled easily. “Did you forget who you’re talking to?”

The young woman bit her lip, heat flooding her face.

“Sorry, Morris. I forgot… you’ve been through this too.”

“Been through it? My dear, four divorces make me an expert at divorce, my profession notwithstanding.”

Quinn signed her name one last time with a marked flourish.

“Done!” She slid the papers across the table. “And you’re just too easily distracted by a pretty face, Morris. You can’t marry all the pretty women.”

“Yes, they were all attractive, but they also were able to make me believe they truly cared about me… loved me.”

Quinn’s heart broke at the sadness in his eyes.

Morris smacked the conference table and grabbed the signed documents. “Fortunately for you, and all my other clients, I’m a far better litigator than I am a judge of women allegedly interested in me.”

He stood and walked to his desk, adding the documents to a file folder. “I know you’re relieved to at last sign dissolution documents for the filing, Quinn. But you know at this point, it still isn’t a done deal, right? Oscar can still contest the divorce and drag this out for some time.”

Quinn Smirked.

“He can try.”

Morris considered her remark, eyebrow raised. He retook his seat across from her.

“This is the third time we’ve been here, Quinn. The first two times, you seemed more fragile, more broken. Your emotions were all over the place.”

“The first time was so hard for me. Finding out that the man you love with all your heart and soul is cheating on you is a real confidence killer. Then to have him get on his knees and beg for forgiveness and another chance… well, it’s the stuff romance novels are full of. I believed him because I wanted to believe IN him.” She shook her head slowly. “Things were okay for a while… a short while. I began to have female problems, and it only took a visit to my doctor to find out I had a serious STD… courtesy of my husband.”

“And yet, you didn’t go through with the divorce proceedings either time, Quinn.”

Nodding her head, this time it was Quinn who stood. She walked over to the large office window overlooking the river.

“I know, I know. I was so confused. I knew I had the right to divorce Oscar. But our families, especially our parents, they just… kept at me. All their ‘marriage is for a lifetime’, ‘it’s sanctioned by God’, and my personal favorite, ‘for better or for worse’.”

“I’m sorry, Quinn. I didn’t know of your religious beliefs.”

“Religious beliefs? Please. Religion has nothing to do with it. During one of my mother’s pseudo-religious rants, I interrupted to remind her that committing adultery was breaking one of the Ten Commandments… and she called me JUDGMENTAL!”

Folding her arms across her chest, Quinn paced. “You know what the Clark/Butler family prides itself in, Morris? Longevity. And not just longevity of life… but of marriages. Do you know my mother has photos of her parents and grandparents hanging in her family room? And the common denominator is not that they’re family, it’s that the photos were taken after each couple celebrated at least fifty years of marriage.”

Morris’ eyes widened.

Quinn waved away his surprise. “Dad’s family was the same way. His grandparents were married for sixty-four years before my great-grandmother died of respiratory failure.”

“I don’t know what to say…”

“There’s nothing to say, Morris. I’m sorry I didn’t share all of this with you before. I was just too ashamed and embarrassed to admit I’d allowed myself to be bullied and too terrified to stand up for myself. I didn’t want to go against our families.”

“I’m your attorney, Quinn. I look out for your best interests.”

“Yes, you do, Morris, and I’m more grateful than you know. Not many attorneys would be bothered with a crazy lady who kept changing her mind about getting a divorce.”

“Getting a divorce is a major decision. Everyone second guesses themselves at some point. It’s normal. But tell me. You changed your mind twice, yet here we are a few months later with signed papers. Care to share?”

Quinn’s smirk returned with an eerie malevolent tinge.

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Good Morning, Mother

Breakfast Tray

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 23

A scene from an ongoing WIP. Much to the horror of her family, Quinn Landon has filed for divorce from her adulterous husband. Her family doesn’t miss an opportunity to bully and berate her for ending a “sacred” union, and the number one bully is her mother.


Feeling rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, Quinn danced around the kitchen to her favorite playlist while making herself a quick breakfast.

Today was the end of the work-week for Phero’s staff since Friday was a company holiday — the founder’s birthday.

Ronan Gaetan decided if countries could celebrate long-dead presidents, document signings, and wars, why couldn’t the company he started from the ground up celebrate his birthday as a paid holiday? For twenty-four years, Phero’s four sites in the U.S., Italy, and France honored their founder by not working on the date of his birth.

Quinn knew it was a concept American corporations would never embrace.

She planned to spend her day off at the Veteran’s Outreach Center. Quinn found volunteering there for the past five years personally rewarding, and it had given Quinn perspective.

Her current situation was not ideal, but helping others get back into the mainstream of living made Quinn realize how fortunate she was. Work kept her from volunteering for several weeks, and now she was anxious to reconnect with the men and women whose trust she’d earned.

Pouring her first cup of coffee, Quinn headed to her breakfast nook to go over her calendar for the day when her phone rang. Swearing under her breath, she reached for the cell, knowing only one person on the planet would call her before six in the morning.

“Good morning, mother.” She could hear Katherine Clark chuff over the phone.

“You sound awfully pleasant this morning. I’m at a loss at why you’re so chipper when you’re breaking your husband’s heart.”

And there it was… again.

“I’m doing great, mom… thanks for asking. How are you and daddy doing?”

“Don’t be flippant with me, young lady!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, mom. Give me a blindfold and a cigarette at dawn if I’m ever flippant.”

“Where did I go wrong with you? Honestly, I believe you’re being stubborn just to defy me.”

Quinn inhaled slowly… her anger building.

“Yes, mother. This is all about you. I’m divorcing my lying, cheating, low-down snake of a husband just to spite you.”

“Quinn Avery! Do not speak to me in that manner.”

“What do you want, mother? I mean, besides for me to stop the divorce proceedings, which is never going to happen. What do you want?”

“I want you to be reasonable, dear, and think this through. No good can come of a divorce. It will only leave you both bitter and disillusioned.”

“Too late, mom. I got over the bitterness after Oscar’s THIRD affair… you know… FOUR affairs back? But the disillusionment? That’s still hanging around. Mostly because I cannot understand why MY family paints me as the villain when it was Oscar who mocked his wedding vows and disrespected our marriage.”

“You’re still young dear, and learning about the little indiscretions of men.”

Quinn had enough.

“I’ll let you get away with saying one affair is an indiscretion, mom, but seven? That’s just an unfaithful, disrespectful jerk. And I’m three years away from forty, mom — hardly a child. While some women may feel it’s okay for men to stray, I’m not in that club. I hold everyone to the same standards — honesty, fidelity, trust. I no longer have any of those with Oscar. Way past time to end our farce of marriage.”

“Marriage is for a lifetime, dear… and ordained by God.”

Ding, ding, ding! Katherine Clark was hitting all the markers today.

“The union of marriage is ordained by God, mother, but if God didn’t bring two people together, why is He used to keep them together? And, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce in the Bible? And isn’t it listed in the Big Ten?”

Katherine Clark was silent.

“Oscar has been to church only a handful of times since we were married — you don’t get to play the God-card with me, mom.”

“People in our family do not get divorced, Quinn. You know this.”

Quinn chuckled.

“Yes, I do know, mom. I’ve seen the photos of long dead relatives who would rather have had their tongues cut out than divorce.”

“Quinn-…”

“I watch my brothers and their wives, barely able to be in the same room with each other, but too afraid of upsetting you, so they languish in marriages that should never have been. I do not intend to spend my life that way. I’m not stopping the divorce.”

“Your brothers are all happily married!”

“No, mother. YOU are happy they’re married. Myron and Aaron both never smile anymore. They bring their families for Sunday dinner to appease you and daddy, but always look like they’d rather be somewhere else.”

“You do not know everything, young lady. Aaron and Cecelia are talking about having another baby. They’re very much in love.”

“Oh mother, please! They’re talking about it because you suggested it. Cecelia is just as unhappy as Aaron and wants to be closer to her family back east.”

“Cecelia has loving family right here.”

“No, she has you and daddy, always butting in trying to run their marriage.”

“Quinn Avery! How dare you? I will not tolerate your disrespectful attitude!”

“Then we should end this call, mom, because I’m just being honest. I refuse to live in your fairy tale. Enjoy your day, mom.” Quinn ended the call, gripping the phone tightly. She took a couple of deeps breaths, then gently placed the cell on the counter.

Quinn emptied her now-cold coffee down the drain, and poured a fresh cup. A faint smile graced her lips. She’d endured one of her mother’s self-serving phone calls and was already mentally moving past it — all in less than twenty minutes.

Quinn remembered times when the same phone call would have thrown her off her game and ruined her entire day.

Not this time.

Things were definitely looking up.

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The Visit

River Ridge


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 22 – Scene from current WIP. Still struggling to overcome her issues of abandonment and salvage her personal life… and sanity, attorney Olivia Chandler attempts to visit the mother she hasn’t seen in five years and who’s been a resident at a private mental facility for almost thirty years.

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie were always teasing Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, overstuffed chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here…in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues. Most of the residents have signed up for hayrides next week for Halloween, and…” she leaned in towards Olivia, “I heard Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 that includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!

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After Work: #WritingChallenge #Week21

Elevator photo

Week 21: 52-Week Writing Challenge.

A scene from a current WIP which I am absolutely clueless about!


Making her way to the elevator just after 6:30, Quinn was glad to see the end of the day. She spent the afternoon wheeling and dealing like a Wall Street broker securing new health plans to replace Martech after their premium rate hike. Quinn was successful so far, but at the expense of a migraine trying to form behind her eyes.

Pushing the down button, Quinn leaned her head against the cool, marble wall while she waited for the elevator.

“That kind of day, huh?

Quinn turned to find Fletcher Morgan… standing unusually close to her. She hadn’t even heard him approach.

“Unfortunately, yes. But it’s over… for now. It’s safe to make my escape.”

Fletcher nodded, knowingly. “Funny how a forty-hour work week so easily turns into sixty… or more. It seems like we’re always here. I’m sure your husband will be happy to see you walk through the door.”

Quinn quickly looked away and was saved from responding when the elevator doors opened.

Frowning, Fletcher followed her into the car. “Where are you parked?”

“Um… garage level four. Thanks.”

“I’m on four, too.” Pushing the button, Fletcher leaned against the lift wall. “Quinn, did I say something wrong?”

She stared at the descending floor numbers.

“Quinn?”

Smiling faintly with a half shrug, Quinn looked into Fletcher’s eyes for the first time. “I’m going through a divorce, Fletcher.”

The young man froze… momentarily speechless.

“Quinn, I-I… dammit! I feel like such an idiot! I had no idea. Please forgive me for speaking out of turn.”

“It’s okay, Fletcher. You didn’t know. Although, I’m pretty sure you’re probably one of the last few in the building who didn’t know.” She laughed easily.

Fletcher watched her… confused.

“Well… um, you seem to be dealing with it pretty well.”

“It didn’t just happen. It’s been a few months, and honestly — I waited far too long.” Before Fletcher could respond, the elevator doors opened. Quinn quickly exited the lift, heading for her car, pausing long enough for a quick goodbye. “Have a good eve-…”

“How are you really doing, Quinn? I know it’s stressful. My divorce two years ago had me drinking way too much.”

“That bad, huh?”

He nodded.

“It has been stressful. He keeps finding ways to stall, and while he’s stalling, he, along with our families gang up on me trying to make me change my mind.”

“He’s still in love with you?”

“Oscar is in love with Oscar… and the thought of marriage.”

“If he’s going through so much trouble to stall, maybe he’s learned his lesson and reconciliation is possible.”

Quinn smirked.

“It might be a possibility for him, but not for me. He should have thought about that before he cheated… several times.” She saw a flash of anger in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

“Are you kidding me? The man was married to you”, he pointed at her, “and he cheated? Is he a sighted man?”

The laugh escaped her lips before she could stop it.

“Seriously, Quinn Landon. You’re a beautiful woman. I don’t know you well personally, but I hear nothing but good things about you around the company. Forgive me for being so forward, but I think your husband — soon-to-be-ex-husband — is an idiot.”

Ducking her head as heat flooded her face, Quinn was grateful her mocha skin hid her blush.

“Thank you, Fletcher. That’s so kind of you to say.”

“You’re welcome. May I ask if you have a good attorney? Your assets being protected?”

“He’s a great attorney, and I’m not giving up a thing. What’s mine stays mine.”

“Good. My ex-wife came into the marriage with nothing, attempted to spend half of what I had while we were married, and tried to take the rest with her after I filed for divorce. This is a community property state, but no need to get carried away.”

“Exactly!”

He reached out and touched her arm. “It will get better, you know?”

Quinn nodded.

“I know. I’m just ready for the storm to pass. I need some sunshine in my life.”

Fletcher nodded in agreement, the firm set of his jaw instantly making Quinn think of John Wick. Damn that Priscilla! She bit the inside of her jaw to keep from smiling.

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Downsized

Supermarket

Week 20: 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word prompt – downsized

 

Ramsey felt God had punished him enough.

An honors graduate of Northwestern with nineteen years professional business experience should not be managing a second-rate grocery store.

He fumed thinking about the brand new sixty-foot boat his brother now owned.

Ramsey Carter’s pulse quickened remembering the sadness of his wife’s eyes viewing the photos from her sister’s European vacation.

The former new accounts director owned a boat once. Ramsey took his wife to Europe for their eleventh wedding anniversary… thirteen years ago.

But that was all in the past. The boat was sold two years ago in Ramsey’s second full year of unemployment. Unless they won the lottery, the Carters may never see Europe again.

Closing his laptop, Ramsey pinched the bridge of his noise. Grateful the new work schedule was complete, Ramsey wasn’t looking forward to the usual employee complaints. His penny-pinching regional manager decreased Ramsey’s allotted monthly staffing hours again. The deli and bakery would have to close five hours early to keep checkout lanes and customer service staffed.

Senior employees would scream. Insisting they’d already paid their dues by working the inconvenient shifts and doing grunt work, being scheduled for swing or short shifts was a slap in the face to long term staff.

Ramsey Carter agreed with them. He believed years of service and loyalty to an employer should mean something… have some value.

Or at least he used to.

He believed it right up to the day Bentek Corp’s security escorted him to the parking garage. Security manager Dick Roddy took Ramsey’s employee identification card, handed him an envelope, and walked away.

Downsized.

So, while understanding employee anger at their situation, Ramsey had a job to do. Take the newly allotted hours and staff the store for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

At least he wasn’t firing anyone. Yet.

Easing his tired body from the chair, Ramsey headed for shipping and receiving to double check the evening lock-down.

Passing through Household Goods and hearing his name called, Ramsey turned. The throbbing in his head was immediate along with the bitter taste in his mouth.

Delia Pennock, health and beauty clerk, teetered toward him on heels too high… and unsafe for the workplace.

How many times would Ramsey have to warn this woman?

Before Delia caught up to him, Ramsey’s inter-store walkie buzzed. The display showed the call was coming from Ramsey’s intended destination — shipping and receiving.

“What’s up, Minas?”

“Need you back here, Ramsey. Now.”

“On my way.”

Red-faced and out of breath, Delia reached Ramsey as he returned the walkie to his belt-clip.

“Ramsey, I know you’re working on the next schedule. Do be a dear and not schedule me for the opening shift or on the checkout stands.”

“Sorry, Delia. The schedule’s done. You open on the express checkout week two of the schedule.”

He turned to leave, but Delia caught hold of his arm. Ramsey looked back to find the bottle-blonde attempting a full-fledged pout. Pursing his lips, Ramsey stepped out of Delia’s grip.

“Ramsey! Six in the morning is just too early for someone with a social life as active as mine.”

“It’s your turn, Delia. You know the rotation.”

Delia had gall. He had to give her that. Most employee scheduling concerns were about babysitting issues, evening classes and caring for disabled family members. Only Delia would want special treatment so she could sit in a bar all night.

Though her employee file carried a birth-date making Delia thirty-nine years old, Ramsey Carter would swear in open court sitting on top of Bible-mountain she was older than his forty-seven years. Even from where he stood, Ramsey could see the layers of makeup on Delia’s face intended to hide wrinkles. It didn’t.

“But, Ramsey-”

“I have to go, Delia. Problem in S and R. And Delia,” he looked at her feet, “the shoes.”

“Oh, okay. We’ll talk… later.”

Ramsey walked away in double-time to keep from laughing in the woman’s face.

If the employee rumor mill were to be believed, Delia Pennock lured three of the last four store managers into sexual trysts outside… and inside the store. The fourth manager was female and not into women, even though it was said Delia tried anyway.

Ramsey Carter had no intention of becoming the over-the-hill party girl’s latest conquest.

Toni Temple-Carter was the sunshine in Ramsey’s life. He’d loved her since the day she’d walked into their seventh-grade English class. But the shy, awkward Ramsey Carter resigned to be just friends with the dark-skinned beauty. For six years Ramsey watched Toni date other guys, his heart breaking piece by piece each time. When he learned Toni would also be attending Northwestern, it cheered him to know he would still get to see Toni from time to time.

Ramsey’s world spun out of control the day Toni Temple plopped down on the bench next to him in the Student Union.

“Do you like me, Ramsey… at all?”

Ramsey, still gawky at nineteen, sputtered for the right words.

“Huh? Like you? Of… of course, Toni. We’re… friends. Have been for a l-long time.”

“Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”

Ramsey’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“Ask… you out? Because… I thought… we’re friends. I didn’t think-”

“Ask me out.”

“Huh?”

“Ask me out.”

Understanding registered with Ramsey and the two young people shared a grin.

“Will you go out me, Toni?”

“Yes, Ramsey Carter. I thought you’d never ask.”

They’d been inseparable ever since, marrying five years later.

Committed to each other, the Carters had avoided most of the pitfalls which darken some marriages. When their second son entered college, Toni and Ramsey were excited about the future and making plans. Plans which imploded less than a year later when Ramsey was downsized out of Bentek Corp.

Toni was steadfast, never complaining about their financial situation. At the end of her work day, the nursing manager would often pick up extra hours in patient care to help with their household budget. Toni never blamed Ramsey or even Bentek for their lot and Ramsey was in awe of her. Each time he looked at her, Ramsey saw nothing but love in her eyes.

Other downsized Bentek employees lost everything… homes, savings, and their marriages. But Toni was Ramsey’s fortress, holding him up and shielding him from the depression which threatened to take him.

Yes, the Carters sold their boat, the cabin upstate, and their timeshares. And they no longer splurged on artsy furnishings or ate out. But they had saved their home and kept both their sons in college. Toni often said they were an unbeatable team, but Ramsey knew better. Toni’s love for him was his armor against the world, but her endless faith in him gave him the strength to keep moving forward.

When Ramsey suggested putting their artistic sides to good use by getting into the on-line graphic arts business, Toni not only agreed, but she researched and found the best on-line classes they could afford. Eighteen months later, the couple was close to realizing their dream and beginning a new journey together. Ramsey knew it would be a struggle at first, both of them working full-time while trying to start their own business.  But Ramsey looked forward to the day when he was his own boss.

Opening the security door separating shipping and receiving from the rest of the store. Ramsey Carter gawked at the sight before him.

Department manager, Minas Fortuni, stood at the bay doors attempting to unbend metal around a three-foot hole in the door.

“What the hell?” Ramsey inched forward, his stomach churning at the paperwork in his immediate future. “What happened, Minas?”

Shaking his head, Minas gave up his futile attempts to close the hole.

“That last delivery guy… from Buckley Dairy… didn’t swing the back end of his trailer wide end enough. Backed right into the door. He leaned out the window and saw what he’d done. Know what he did then, Ramsey?”

The store manager stared at the hole in the door, still incredulous.

Minas continued. “He said, “Oops, sorry, dude” and drove off. Just like that.”

Ramsey hung his head defeated. He was tired, hungry and he wanted to go home. This day had to end.

Ramsey Carter decided it was time to delegate. “You busy this evening, Minas?”

“No, and I already put in a call to Rolla-Doorz. It’s going to cost extra, but they’re sending a guy over.”

“Good thinking, Minas. If you’re willing to stay and cover for me, I’ll authorize the overtime… as long as it takes.”

“Of course, I’ll stay. It’s Patty’s turn to host girls’ night. You’re saving me from watching a bunch of baby boomer females get drunk and cavort around the house to the soundtrack from “Grease.” It’s a win-win situation for us both. Go home, man… I got you covered.”

“Thanks, Minas. I owe you for this… big-time!”

Returning to his office in record time, Ramsey made quick notes about the incident and put the Buckley Dairy file on his desk for tomorrow. Before Ramsey could lock his file cabinet, Dale Johnson from the meat department leaned into his office.

“Hey, Ramsey… got a slip and fall near aisle twelve. The woman says the floor was wet and Good Buy Foods is going to pay for her pain and suffering.”

Ramsey leaned against his desk, ready to scream.

“Is the woman okay? Anything broken? Bleeding? Do we need to get paramedics here?”

Dale smirked. “Ramsey… she’s fine.”

“Is someone with her?”

“Yeah. Gail from the front desk.”

“Okay, on my way.”

Ramsey pulled an accident report from the file cabinet along with the store’s Polaroid and headed out of his office. He stopped and returned to his desk, grabbing his cell phone.

Ramsey had to let Toni know he’d be late getting home… again.

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Addiction

Internet Addiction

Week 18: 52-Week Writing Challenge  Word prompt: addiction

Laura cringed as his finger found the trigger. Though it was aimed away from her, the blast of the shotgun knocked Laura off her feet.

Scrambling in a half-crawl half-walk, she tried to push past him when another blast rang out. Sinking to the floor, Laura howled in anguish.

“Why? Why did you do that? It wasn’t necessary!”

Without responding, Cory Ganz checked the gun’s chamber, wiped the barrel, and replaced it in its pristine case. He then turned and faced his hysterical wife.

“It had to be done.”

Laura crawled over to the devastation her husband of twenty-one-years had wrought. She reached out an arm but pulled back, glaring at him through her tears.

“You did not have to shoot my laptop!”

“Yes, I did, Laura. And I’m not sorry. I had to get your attention.” Cory left the room and returned a few minutes later with a shovel and a box. He began to scoop up the remains of the still smoldering device.

Laura Ganz stood and paced around him.

“Get my attention? For what? What is so important you had to take out a deadly weapon and shoot an inanimate object? That cost me nine hundred dollars, by the way.”

Cory took a deep breath in an attempt to quell his anger. “Let’s work backward, shall we? When we agreed you needed a new laptop, we also agreed on a price and that we’d pay cash. The very next day, you spent three times the amount decided on and you used our credit card… our emergencies only credit card.” The frustrated husband dragged his hand through his collar-length dark hair. “And you didn’t even tell me, sweets. I had to find out when the bill came in the mail.”

Laura hung her head in shame, then tried to rebound. “But I thought it would be a good investment.” The words rang hollow to her own ears.

“Investment in what, Laura? Neither of us works on-line. We’re not in school or distance learners. Hell, we can’t even get the bill-pay program to work right.” Cory leaned the shovel against the desk and approached his wife.

“But you know what does work for you, honey? Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, iChat, Facetime.” He raised a finger as he named each social network. “You’re LinkedIn, you StumbleUpon, you have Pinterest, and don’t even get me started on your blogs! Enough already!”

Red-faced and defensive, Laura folded her arms across her chest. “I enjoy the Internet. Is that so wrong? Dena Gibbs is out four nights a week spending hundreds to play Bingo. Ann Kemp spends thousands of dollars in Nordstroms and she doesn’t even have a job!” She unfolded her arms reaching out to her husband. “I was wrong to buy the more expensive laptop, and I was wrong for not telling you, but honey, is it really such a bad way for me to spend time? For a few bucks a month, I chat with friends on-line. I’m not like Leslie Van Dyke, hitting the male strip clubs every time Harvey works a double shift.”

He would have laughed if their situation weren’t so serious. “A few bucks? You spent two hundred dollars on Amazon last month! And you upgraded our basic Internet package to premium… that’s an additional forty bucks a month.”

“So this is about the money.”

“No, it’s not about the money! This is about you and us… your family! Donna and I have been on our own for months! She cooks, I do the laundry. She cleans the house, I shop for food. We eat our meals alone… because you’re in front of the laptop, caught up in the personal drama of people you don’t even know!”

“You are upset because you actually have to do some work around the house? Take care of OUR home… take care of yourselves? Excuse me for discontinuing maid service!”

Cory’s jaws were rigid, the timbre of his voice a full octave deeper. “Knock it off, Laura! You know better than that!” He sat on the arm of the sofa, resting his hands on his thighs.

“Your shift begins at six in the morning. You sit on-line until one… sometimes two in the morning. When you fall into bed… if you come to bed at all, you have your cell in your hand. It’s like you can’t miss a second of anything happening on the Internet. When you come home from work, you start all over again. It needs to stop, honey. Your life is here… with your daughter and your husband. Not the world wide web.”

“I think you’re over-exaggerating this-”

“You have a problem, honey… an addiction… to the Internet.”

Backing away, Laura began to laugh. She waved her arms in front of her. Glancing at Cory every few seconds made her laugh harder.

His expression was blank as he watched his wife.

“Oh, Cory… honey! Addicted to the Internet? Really?” She wiped the tears from laughter off her cheeks. “Okay, I may have over-indulged just a tad bit, but, honey… let’s not add to the madness.” Laura motioned toward the box containing her former laptop.

“You called into work twice this month… sick. Only you weren’t. You spent both days typing… chatting… whatever, on-line.”

“Baby, c’mon! You know those days were more of a protest because Rina gave the lead operator position to Willa. I’ve been a 911 operator for ten years. That position was mine. Hell, I trained Willa!”

“And you would have gotten that position and the raise which comes with it… were it not for all the recent reprimands in your personnel file.”

Laura’s laughter was replaced by a smirk. “I only did it twice.”

“That you told me about,” he said. “You know logging on-line at your job is a serious infraction. Hackers are always looking for a way into the 911 database. You opened a port for them and risked your job just to chat with friends.”

Tired and embarrassed by her husband’s lecture, Laura walked toward the kitchen. “Are we done here?”

“You called in today.”

Laura whirled around to face Cory.

“You saw me when I woke up! Eyes puffy and swollen, sinuses draining… and I could barely talk. I need my voice for my job, Cory.”

“Yes, I did, and yes, you do. But I also saw you grab your sinus pills and a bottle of water and park yourself in front of the laptop. I had to call your name twice to get your attention before I left… to remind you of the assembly at Donna’s school this afternoon.”

A mournful groan escaped her lips. Donna was one of four students being honored for maintaining a perfect grade point average for their entire school career. The honor students were to be presented with full four-year scholarships to USC in neighboring California, and checks for twenty-five hundred dollars each. Laura had missed it all.

“I-I… I’m so sorry. So, so sorry. Was she upset?”

“Oh, yes! She said, “Guess I’m not important enough for mom to drag herself away from her precious laptop.””

Laura shook her head as the tears began again. “I was just chatting with friends… updating my blog. Oh, my God. How do I fix this? Can I fix this?” She had missed a very important event for her child and hurt her… all because she was in an on-line book party for an author whose books she had no interest in reading. Because her friends were there. Because she felt empty when she wasn’t logged into a social network.

Cory pulled his wife into his arms. They rocked back and forth while he stroked her long, dark hair. Pulling back, he regarded her. “We can’t do it alone.”

“I don’t see what I’m doing as a problem, Cory. And definitely not as an addiction. But, I don’t see what you see. What our daughter sees.” She rested her head against his chest. “I’m ashamed for what I’ve put you through and my behavior. But most of all,” she looked up into his eyes. “I’m ashamed because even though I know I’ve caused my family pain and possibly jeopardized my job, I’m thinking about how I’ll replace the laptop.”

“I’ll replace the laptop, honey after we get you some help, and they-”

“Some help? What kind of help?”

“Allan says there’s a psychologist who works with the police department and has experience with Internet addiction. He gave me the guy’s number.”

She was horrified. “You told your brother about this?”

“Honey, I just dislodged a firearm… twice! I didn’t want SWAT surrounding our home.”

“And he agreed to this?”

Cory kissed Laura on the forehead and began gathering the shovel and box of laptop remnants. “Yup! My gun is registered and we live outside of the city limits, so I didn’t break any laws or ordinances.” He looked down into the box. “And it had to be done. I didn’t know how else to get your attention and make you see how serious this is.”

He headed toward the garage, stopping to plant a quick kiss on her cheek. “I’ll call this guy in a sec and see if I can get us an appointment for next week.”

Laura frowned. Next week? She was already feeling anxious. She’d never make it.

“What am I going to do until next week, Cory? I’m already anxious and it’s been less than an hour.” She looked around the room feeling trapped. “I can’t do this, Cory, I can’t!”

Re-entering the room, Cory squeezed his wife’s shoulder on his way to the kitchen.

“Yes, you can… we can. We’re in this together. I’m going to call this guy and lock in an appointment time. Donna will be home soon and we’ll go out for a nice dinner… as a family.”

Laura wrung her hands as her husband left the room. She looked over at the desk only to have the char marks remind her of what had just happened.

Evening approached. All her friends would be on-line. They would wonder why she was absent. There would be new followers on Twitter. New posts on Facebook. Charlene would be posting new photos from the author’s convention.

She was missing it all.

Standing in the middle of the room, Laura turned in circles several times.

Now what?

Tears threatened to reappear when Laura saw her handbag sitting on the vestibule table.

Her cell phone!

She dashed to the handbag, stealing several glimpses over her shoulder to make sure Cory didn’t catch her.

Grabbing the cell phone from the side pocket, Laura swiped the screen several times, confused. Had Cory done something to her phone? She tried again and realized her hands were shaking and the cell screen was wet… because her hands were wet… from perspiration.

This doesn’t make any sense.

Shaking her head, Laura caught her reflection in the mirror over the table. Her eyes were wild and frantic, and her skin flushed. A tiny sheen of sweat was visible on her lips. Dropping the cell as if it burned her, Laura backed away from the hall table until the wall stopped her. She slumped to the floor in a heap, staring at her shaking, sweaty hands.


While this is a fictional story, Internet addiction is real, and is characterized by excessive or poorly controlled preoccupations, urges or behaviors regarding computer use and internet access that lead to impairment or distress. There are no evidence-based treatments for internet addiction. Cognitive behavioral approaches may be helpful. There is no proven role for psychotropic medication. Marital and family therapy may help in selected cases, and online self-help books and tapes are available. Lastly, a self-imposed ban on computer use and Internet access may be necessary in some cases.