After Work

Elevator photo

A scene from Heartburn 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.

©2017 Felicia Denise, Al Rights Reserved

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Sacrificial Daughter | #WIP

Sacrificial Daughter

NaNoWriMo lives! This unedited excerpt is from my 2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter, currently in revisions.


Thirty minutes passed before Ana Sellers returned Jeff Russell’s call. Expecting a receptionist or machine, she was surprised when Jeff answered the phone.

“Russell and Peters, may I help you?”

“I’m returning a call to Jeff Russell.”

“Analeigh?”

Pulling the phone away from her ear, Ana stared at it, incredulous. He knew her? Sixteen years had passed since the day she left Corwin without looking back.

“You know me?”

You were a year ahead of me in school.”

The name still didn’t ring any bells so she would have to take his word for it.

“I see. And now you’re an attorney in Corwin.?”

“Yes, my cousin, Adam, and I took over the practice from our dads about seven years ago.”

“And… and why d-do you need to speak to me, Jeff? What is the urgency?”

Silence was his response.

“Jeff? Still there?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’ve been looking for you for over two weeks.”

“Please tell me what this is about and why you’ve been looking for me.”

She heard an exhale escape from him, gruff and harsh.

“Analeigh, Rosie Chastain passed away.”

Ana froze. Rosie? Gone? No. No way. She spoke to her dear friend… three weeks ago. Damn it. Rosie said she was coming down with a cold but was looking forward to flying to Georgia in July to see her good friend and surrogate daughter.

Ana pulled at her chest, trying to ease the pain gnawing at her heart.

“W-What happened?”

“Heart failure. She told everyone she had a cold, but it was pneumonia. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to handle it. Rosie had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Three days later, she coded. There was nothing the doctors could do.”

Her dear friend was gone. Ana’s skin prickled with anxiety as she fought to keep grief from overwhelming her.

“Jeff, how did you find me? What made you even look for me?”

“Like I said, it took some time, Analeigh. Rosie didn’t get out much the last few years. The few people she did talk to said she was disgusted with the changes and direction of Corwin.”

Ana knew that was true.

She tried to avoid the subject of Corwin when she and Rosie talked. Ana didn’t need memories of the place flashing through her mind, and Rosie said it decayed into nothing more than a political cesspool. The town’s first families — the Burfords, Foleys, and Lakes held all the offices of power. They treated Corwin like it was their personal kingdom and speaking out against them killed social standing and sometimes worse.

“Rosie had no family, and at the beginning, we thought she had no will. After wading through the legalities, we were able to enter her home. We found her will, drawn up by an attorney over in Spradlin. We also found your name and number, but the number was disconnected.”

Damn it! After a mini-battle with her cell provider over dropped calls and shoddy service, Ana switched carriers… and got a new number… four days after she and Rosie last spoke.

Analeigh didn’t bother to wipe away her tears when she realized by the time she activated her new number… Rosie was already gone.

“Analeigh?”

“I’m here, Jeff. Just trying to take all this in.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Analeigh.”

“It’s alright. I do appreciate the call, Jeff… and thank you.”

“Wait, Analeigh. I didn’t hunt you done just to tell you Rosie was gone. In her will, she left everything to you. Her home and the store.”

The buzzing in Ana’s ears roared over Jeff’s voice. Analeigh Sellers sat there overwhelmed and in shock with a sense of dread taking over.

 

Image from ThinkStock
©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Meeting the Family #WIP


Dinner Table

Olivia’s dinner with Bruce and his adult children continues in Family Matters.


Olivia was still smiling at the empty doorway when Bruce walked up behind her and pulled her back against him.

“And you were worried they wouldn’t like you. I think they like you more than me.”

She turned and pulled him into a deep kiss.

Bruce leaned into the kiss, allowing her to lead.

Olivia paused and whispered against his lips.

“Don’t worry, Bellamy. I’ll always like you best.”

Cupping her face in his hands, Bruce continued the kiss.

Leaning his forehead against hers, Bruce sighed.

“We’d better stop before I embarrass us in front of my kids.”

Olivia placed a quick kiss on his lips and backed away with a smirk.

“Can’t have your kids thinking I want you just for your body.”

Bruce considered her remark as Olivia backed away. He loved playful, flirty Olivia. She let her walls down and there was no sadness in her beautiful eyes. She looked at him like he mattered… like he was important to her. Bruce knew their relationship became serious faster than most, but since the day they met, Bruce knew Olivia was the one.

Bruce unbuttoned his jacket.

“Let me take your coat so I can put you to work setting the table. We’ll investigate your obsession with my body later.”

Olivia smirked as she unbuttoned her pea coat. Remembering the black tee underneath, she pulled the coat tighter around her.

“Bellamy… this shirt. Maybe it’s not such-…”

The rest of Olivia’s comment died in her throat as she watched Bruce remove his jacket. He struck a pose, and Olivia got the giggles all over again.

“It’ll be alright, sweetness.”

Olivia ripped off her pea coat and they stood there laughing at each other.

Hearing the laughter and not one to miss out on fun, Shaun Bellamy stuck his head out the kitchen door.

“What’s so funny-…”

Before he could finish, his father pulled Olivia to his side. They continued to laugh like teenagers.

Seeing their shirts, Shaun chuckled, shaking his head.

“I wondered what was up with your shirt, dad. I thought you were re-living the election. Now it makes sense.”

“Just emphasizing the point, son.”

Bruce gestured to his shirt which said, “I’m with HER!” as he slipped an arm around Olivia and grinned at her tee which read, “I’m with HIM!”

Shaun backed into the kitchen, and Bruce and Olivia could hear him say, “Guys, those two are going to be trouble!”

Bruce kissed Olivia’s forehead before hanging their coats in the hall closet.

Olivia chided herself for dreading this dinner. Bruce’s children were warm and genuine. Being in Bruce’s home didn’t feel odd. It was comfortable and inviting.

It felt like home.

Olivia wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Dressed to Unimpress #Snippet


New Balance Running Shoes

Snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. Attorney Olivia Chandler is stepping further out of her comfort zone for new love, Bruce Bellamy.

Olivia argued with herself the entire drive to Bruce’s home.

The New Balance running shoes felt foreign on her feet.

Purchased over a year ago, Olivia wore the shoes two to three times a week when she worked out in her home gym.

But she’d never worn them outside of her home, much like any athletic apparel…or the jeans she wore today.

She adopted a habit of wearing tailored business suits and heels before leaving law school. The only things which varied were the style of the suit and height of her heels.

Olivia slowed and stopped at a traffic light rubbing her hand down the leg of her jeans.

Margot was right. Olivia was wound too tight… and boring.

Her idea of casual dress leaned toward a light, spring dress accompanied by a blazer, and ballerina flats… but only on non-court days.

The light turned green and Olivia accelerated through the intersection.

Get over yourself, Chandler! People dress casually every day, stop trying to have an anxiety attack. This is for Bellamy, so suck it up!

Warmth enveloped her body as thoughts of the man she was falling in love with filled Olivia’s head. Anxiety over clothing vanished. The corners of Olivia’s mouth twitched as she remembered his admonishment.

“Under no circumstances are you to show up in your lawyer clothes, counselor.”

He chuckled at the horrified expression on her face.

“Please, Olivia? Do this for me. I want the kids to see the real you, not the Olivia-mask the world sees every day.”

Olivia sobered at his words and promised to dress casually.

Bruce pulled her into his arms. “Besides, my specialty dish is considered comfort food and best enjoyed… while you’re comfortable.” He’d claimed her lips before she could respond, kissing Olivia deeply. He pulled away and pushed a small shopping bag into Olivia’s hands. Bruce backed toward the front door.

“Whatever you decide to wear,” he motioned to the bag, “you have to wear that with it.”

Olivia didn’t miss the mischievous gleam in Bruce’s eyes as he all but ran out the door to his truck. He winked as he slid into the driver’s seat and blew her a kiss as he sped away.

She stood in her doorway shaking her head. Remembering the Halloween costumes Bruce chose for them, inklings of dread caused her to shudder. Olivia stepped back inside her foyer, closing the door. She held the bag out at arm’s length and smirked.

“Now what have you gotten me into, Bellamy?”

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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2017 52-Week Writing Challenge – Winner! #MondayBlog



When the Writing Cooperative announced their 52 Week Writing Challenge in January 2017, I thought long and hard about entering. I wasn’t fond of writing challenges and had problems sticking with some which were only ten to fourteen days.

But a year? Me?

I threw caution to the wind and signed up and figured any amount of time in the challenge would be good practice and help me work out a writing regimen I could stick with.

I sailed through the first three months.

I mentally reprimanded myself for fearing something which was too easy for words.

And then April happened. Hello Reality check!

Between my husband’s hospitalization for a serious infection related to his ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) and me, getting hit with the mother of all Fibromyalgia flare-ups, I was done.

I had two submissions saved in Scrivener and decided after posting them, I was out of the challenge. I’d missed editing and publishing deadlines for my debut novel’s book two, no way could I also be stressed over a writing challenge.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

Writers can be a quirky bunch, and whether we’re burning the midnight oil editing or rising before dawn to flesh out characters and plots, we make our families (and close friends) aware of our projects and schedules.

Why?

So, they’ll understand missed appointments, preoccupations with fictional characters, or if dinner is late… or pizza… again.

But we also keep family and friends in the loop because they’re our first level of support… and our biggest cheerleaders.

Time passed, and I submitted the two completed pieces to the challenge with no plans to continue.

My family had other ideas.

Our three adult children took turns passing through and staying for a night or two with me until their dad was discharged.

(Told you guys I needed a supervisor!)

When the mister was finally discharged, I was ready to sleep for a week.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

The oldest blindsided me with, “Is your weekly writing challenge done?”

I was floored. This is the guy who thinks I write Victorian romances starring Fabio! God’s honest truth… I kid you not! Other than a couple of early story outlines, he’s never read a word I’ve written and probably never will. So, when he called me out, what else could I do but write?

That was the week I wrote Dumped, based on a true encounter I had with a homeless man when I was six months pregnant with HRH, the firstborn!

I won’t say it was easy, but I never considered quitting again after that.

And it paid off… even if the timing wasn’t the best.

Just hours after we lost my mother-in-law on January 12th, I received a congratulatory email naming me the winner of the 2017 52-Week Writing Challenge.

I was shocked, excited, and grateful… still am. But Life and family had to come first.

We’ve fallen back into our routines again, and it’s time to go to work.

My prize is a publishing package from the great folks at Standout Books, so I need to give them something to publish.

Wish me luck.

 

 

Mona Lisa Smile #FlashFiction


Rainy Day

Flash Fiction: Word prompt – Mona Lisa smile

His chair was empty and cold just like the coffee he hadn’t drank.

She stared at the cup of coffee, unblinking and unmoved, the Mona Lisa smile still gracing her face.

She tried to remember the words he’d said. Something about ‘not working’, ‘better as friends’, and ‘he’d met someone.’

He had said more, but she wasn’t listening.

She was remembering.

When he said he loved her.

When he said she was the one.

When he asked her to marry him and slipped the ring on her finger.

She looked down at her hand, the ring still in place, heavy and laborious.

He told her to keep it and remember the good times.

Good times?

Instead, she remembered when he said he had to work late and turned off his phone.

She remembered him canceling their weekend trip to Vegas because the ‘big project’ at work was past due… and he turned off his phone.

Lastly, she remembered how he canceled their dinner… on her birthday… because of work.

And he turned off his phone.

She’d told all her friends she was spending her birthday with him and refused to sit home alone.

She went out to dinner and saw him… with her.

She didn’t know if it was a casual fling or a new beginning.

It didn’t matter.

It was over.

She went home and waited.

Waited for him to tell her.

Two days.

Five days.

A week.

She emotionally removed herself from the relationship.

She pulled away from his hugs and turned away from his kisses.

She knew she should walk away but she wouldn’t let him off that easy.

He had to say the words.

One day, he looked into her eyes and he saw it.

She knew.

He left quickly… because of work.

Three days later, he called and asked to meet her for coffee.

And he told her… at last.

She never spoke but just sat there before him cloaked in serenity, Mona Lisa smile in place.

He stood to leave, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

She turned away… and he left.

Looking at the two-karat emerald-cut ring on her finger, a wave of sadness passed over her.

Not for herself but for the woman she replaced… and the woman who replaced her.

They were all members of a club by default. There would be no meetings, only dues paid in full. His new woman would pay hers soon enough.

Gathering her things, she stood and placed a ten-dollar-bill on the table for the coffee no one drank.

As an afterthought, she removed the ring and left it on top of the cash.

Heading for the door, she noticed new customers arriving with wet umbrellas and damp jackets.

“It’s really pouring out there,” an older man said as she walked past him.

Her Mona Lisa smile grew. She loved the rain.

She reached to push the door open and felt a tug on her other arm. Turning, her waitress stood next to her, holding out the ring.

“Is this your ring, ma’am?”

She shook her head once and said, “Not anymore,” and stepped out into the cleansing rain.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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It’s Time


It's Time banner

In book 1 of In the Best Interest of the Child, child advocate attorney, Olivia Chandler, finally admits she can no longer hide from the childhood trauma which took her father, incapacitated her mother and landed Olivia in foster care. In the upcoming book 2, Family Matters, Olivia takes hesitant steps toward mental wellness. This is a short, unedited excerpt.

It wasn’t too late to back out.

After the emotional upheaval Olivia Chandler experienced while handling the Averest case, re-entering counseling seemed like a sound idea. Olivia knew she had avoided her personal demons for far too long. Sorting through her issues with the past and laying them to rest was the only way she could move on to a future which was hers for the taking.

A future with Bruce.

However, now as the elevator neared the tenth floor of the Monarch Mental Health Center, Olivia wasn’t so sure.

What would she gain from talking about the period in her life where she suffered the most? Why had she promised Bruce she would do this? They could be happy together without her going through this.

The whisper-quiet, stainless steel doors parted and the conflicted attorney knew what she had to do.

Olivia stepped out of the lift and looked around for suite numbers. After a quick glance at the floor directory, she headed for suite 1055.

The familiar anxiety buzzing behind her ears reminded Olivia why she would not back out of counseling.

She was tired.

Even without the Rena Averest case… and Bruce Bellamy entering her life, Olivia Chandler always knew there would be a day of reckoning, and a battle for her soul and sanity.

Until a few short weeks ago, it was a battle Olivia expected to lose.

Olivia gave herself a last-minute pep talk as she entered suite 1055.

It’s time, Chandler. No more excuses. You promised Bellamy you would do this, but this is for you and no one else.

The center of the room held two black love-seats and a large, flat screen television. A tunnel slide sat in the corner on the right side of the room between a wall of books and a wall of cubbies filled with toys. Two round tables covered with puzzles sat in the opposite corner.

Waiting was sometimes a necessary annoyance, but Leo and Diane Payton had given considerable thought to their clients’ time when decorating this room. Olivia was impressed.

Walking up to the reception window, Olivia saw a middle-aged woman approach from the other side of the counter.

“Olivia Chandler?”

Olivia recognized the warm voice from her first phone call. “Yes. Marilyn?”

“Tis’ I!

The women shared a laugh and shook hands.

“Good to meet you, at last, Ms. Chandler.”

“No, no! It’s Olivia… please.”

Okay, Olivia. I must commend you on completing your online questionnaire. I realize some of the questions can be exhausting, but I’ve never seen one as complete as yours in the seventeen years I’ve been here.”

Olivia averted her eyes while fiddling with her earring. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad, Marilyn.”

“Trust me, it’s a good thing.”

Nodding once, Olivia watched as Marilyn reached for a file folder.

“I’ve printed everything out, Olivia. I just need your signature in a few places and we’re all set.”

Minutes later, consent papers signed, Olivia sat on the black leather love seat listening to the host of a cooking show rave about the flavor of beer can chicken.

Beads of sweat inched down Olivia’s back.

A hum buzzed behind her left ear and grew in intensity until it caused Olivia physical pain.

She crossed and uncrossed her legs at the ankle while tugging on the hem of her skirt.

The warm, metallic taste of bile tickled the back of Olivia’s throat and she glanced around the waiting room. Seeing a restroom sign perched high on a door in the corner of the children’s play area, Olivia judged the distance from her seat.

Annoyed with herself, she swallowed, determined to fight off the anxiety and nausea.

What is it with you, Chandler? Sitting here getting all worked up and trying to find reasons to run out the door when you need this! You need to rid yourself of this dark baggage. Leaving now will only keep you rooted in the same spot you’ve been in since — …

“Stop that.”

Startled and embarrassed, Olivia looked in the direction the voice came from.

A Rubenesque African American woman stood near the reception counter, a file in one hand and a knowing smirk on her face. She approached Olivia.

“Excuse me? Stop what?”

“Stop trying to talk yourself into leaving… or staying.”

Stunned she was so well read by a stranger, Olivia faltered.

“D-Does this happen to everyone on their first visit?”

Stopping in front of Olivia, the woman smiled and shook her head.

“It happens to anyone doing something they’re not sure they want to do.”

She extended her hand. “I’m Diane Payton.”

Olivia rose and shook Diane’s hand.

“Nice to meet you, Diane. Olivia Chandler. Does it ever happen to you?”

Gesturing for Olivia to follow her, Diane Payton responded.

“Of course! Every single time we take our children to an amusement park, or the zoo, or the skating rink.”

Olivia followed Diane down a long hallway.

“I ask myself, “Do you want to be trapped with your children and thousands of rude strangers all day?”

Two closed doors stood at the end of the hallway. Diane opened the door to the right and motioned for Olivia to enter first.

“What do you decide, Diane?”

The therapist entered and closed the door behind her.

“Oh, no way do I want to be in any of those situations! But at the end of the day in the van when I’m tired and sweaty and my feet hurt, I look over at my husband, happy and relaxed driving us home. I look in the back seats at our tribe already sleeping like the dead after having a great day,” she shrugged, “and I think I was crazy for not wanting to come, and look forward to making more memories with my family.”

Diane tilted her head toward conversational chairs across the room.

“C’mon, Olivia. Let’s talk.”

The buzzing in her ears had stopped and bile no longer tried to claw its way out of her stomach. But as Olivia Chandler crossed the room, her steps were slow and weighted, part of her mind still rebelling against being in Diane Payton’s office.

And it was that part of her mind Olivia pushed back against and took a seat.

©2017 Felicia Denise

The Visit

River Ridge


Scene from the Upcoming Family Matters. 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!

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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“Thinking It Through”


Excerpt from ongoing WIP. Title updated from For Worse to Heartburn. This scene occurs after No Excuses but before the scenes with Quinn’s mother and brother, Good Morning, Mother and Hypocrite. Everyone confused? Alright!

Knowing the outreach center was in west L.A., Quinn found it after only two searches.

Finally acknowledging a Clinton Clark did receive occasional treatment there, the kind, but resolute center director, Vince, would not give Quinn any more information as he walked her to the door.

“Please understand, miss. Most of our vets experienced trauma that has yet to end for them. Some are at the lowest points in their lives and vulnerable.  All sorts of folks come in pretending to be family or close friends… just to get a signature on divorce papers, land deeds, and bank accounts. One poor fella thought he was updating his son’s insurance, when in fact, he was signing away his parental rights.”

Quinn couldn’t hide her stunned expression.

Vince rested his hand on the door handle. “I know it sounds deplorable… because it is. But those kinds of situations happen more than the public is aware of. We have to do what we can to protect our vets.”

Quinn thanked the man as he held the door for her. She was glad Clinton had someone looking out for him, but Quinn was determined. She would see her brother.

She talked with Mike Matthews during her drive home. Giving him the short version of her evening, Mike didn’t give her a chance to ask for time off.

“Take all the time you need, Landon. You’ve always got my back. And besides, without you here putting out all the office fires, I get to see what the rest of this team knows… or doesn’t.”

They shared a chuckle before Quinn ended the call, grateful for a boss like Mike.

Quinn was grateful again when she pulled into her South Pasadena driveway, but for a different reason.

Oscar had not returned from her parents’ home yet.

Entering the mud room from the garage, she hoped he would opt to go to his parents’ home instead of coming home at all.

Or to see his newest side piece.

The revelation of his latest affair and his limp, unapologetic apology changed Quinn Landon.

It wasn’t Oscar’s first affair, but it was the first time blame was laid squarely on her shoulders by her parents.

They reasoned if Quinn quit her job and left the stresses of work behind, she’d get pregnant, and Oscar would be happy.

Like hell.

Finding an airline ticket stub and hotel receipts from San Diego were the swan song for the Landon marriage.

It was insult enough Quinn knew the trip was funded by money from their joint account… the money she worked for and saved… but it was the same weekend Oscar backed out of their planned trip to northern California for a jazz festival.

Oscar Landon had no intention of changing his adulterous ways.

She made a turkey sandwich, grabbed a bottle of Perrier and headed for her bedroom.

Making sure the bedroom door was locked, Quinn wolfed down her sandwich and took a quick shower. She threw on her favorite Green Bay Packers jersey and placed a pair of jeans and a light sweater for tomorrow at her dressing table.

Quinn spent the next two hours in her work email—responding to inquiries and clearing up pressing matters.

Her eyelids became heavy as fatigue washed over her.

Activating her out-of-office email response, Quinn placed her tablet on the nightstand and crawled into bed. She had almost drifted off when she heard the front door. Moments later, there was a soft tap on the bedroom door.

Ignoring her husband, Quinn turned over and let sleep take her.

 

Awaking before her alarm clock sounded five short hours later, Quinn laid in bed staring out her east-facing bedroom window as the sun began its ascent. The golden rays peeking through the trees energized Quinn and gave her strength.

She would call Morris Dabney next week. This time, Quinn would go through with the divorce. No amount of badgering or guilt trips from the Clark and Landon families would stop her this time.

Quinn rose and made her bed as she organized her thoughts.

She couldn’t remember what it felt like to love her husband unconditionally. Oscar’s endless lies halted Quinn’s love from growing. His disrespect of her and their marriage vows broke her heart and soured the happiness Quinn once enjoyed.

But it was Oscar’s determination to play the victim and join their families in blaming Quinn for his many dalliances which turned Quinn’s once full heart to a hardened pebble, beating enough only to maintain her existence.

Slipping into her jeans and sweater, Quinn found her favorite dark brown hiking boots in the back of her closet.

Dressed, she stood in front of the window lost in thought.

She needed to put the house on the market. She didn’t want any memories of any time shared with Oscar Landon and he couldn’t afford the house on a school administrator’s salary.

The loud chime of We Are Family snapped Quinn from her reverie.

Not in the mood to talk with any of her family, she grabbed her keys, put her phone on silent and headed for the outreach center.

Nothing would stop Quinn from seeing her brother today.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise

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Downsized

Supermarket

Flash Fiction: 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 would 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.

Swearing under his breath, Ramsey eased his large, brawny frame from the cheap, aluminum office chair. Though he’d been tempted to bring in his own chair, Ramsey resisted. That spoke of a long-term commitment to Good Buy Foods he wasn’t interested in making. Grabbing his store keys, 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.

“I love how you’re letting your hair grow out, Ramsey. Those dark curls are sexy and rakish.”

He ignored her attempt at flattery. “What can I do for you, Delia?”

“Well, 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, and 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.

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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