Giving Back #WritingChallenge


Medal of Honor

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 43
An excerpt from Heartburn (formerly For Worse), last year’s NaNoWriMo project, releasing early in 2018.

For almost forty years, the Chase-Holland Veteran’s Outreach Center warmly welcomed military veterans from all over the country.

Named for Graham Chase and Lawrence Holland—two twenty-one-year-old Army privates killed in action during the Vietnam War, the center never charged veterans for any services received, and they never turned anyone away.

As a twenty-two-year-old Army clerk, Richard Chase, who was ten when his older brother was killed, found out Graham and another soldier, Lawrence Holland, had sacrificed their lives by drawing fire away from a small group of women and children fleeing an attack on their village.

An unpopular war with much of the U.S. in the sixties, countless acts of courage and bravery were never acknowledged.

After leaving the Army two years later, Richard Chase enrolled in college full-time. While studying to become a history teacher, he began a campaign tell the story of his brother, Holland, and so many others who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Vietnam. A university professor who’d lost an older brother in the Korean War joined Richard’s campaign and steered his influential friends and university alumni to Richard. What started out as an idea for a book grew into a fund for a memorial.

When it was learned the growing homeless population included veterans, Richard knew what his ‘memorial’ would be… a center where vets could go anytime—day or night— and receive a meal, a place to rest, and assistance to end their homelessness.

Two wealthy brothers heard about the campaign and wanted to help. One made a sizable cash donation and the other donated a piece of property just outside of West Hollywood.

The Chase-Holland Veteran’s Outreach Center opened its doors in March of 1990 and served tens of thousands of veterans over the years by helping them find housing, apply for vet benefits, and get medical and psychological treatment.

Quinn Landon was relieved to find street parking in front of the center. More than a few car doors and fenders had received nicks, dents, and scratches in the tiny center parking lot located behind the building.

“Hey, Fred. Our girl is back.”

Grinning, Quinn didn’t have to turn around to know who was shouting from across the street–Noel Adams, Vietnam war vet, cancer survivor, dialysis patient and recently, diagnosed with diabetes.

A well-known figure at the center and in the community, seventy-year-old Noel sat in his wheelchair on the tiny porch of his bungalow across the street from Chase-Holland.

Fred Alizo waved to Quinn as she exited her car.

“Woman, if I could run I’d hightail it over there and kiss you.”

More reserved than his neighbor, Fred’s remark surprised both Quinn and Noel.

Shaking her head at her two favorite troublemakers, Quinn crossed the street to hug Fred. She crossed their short side street to hug Noel.

“We thought you’d forgotten about us, young’un.”

Fred spoke up before she could respond.

“What he said was you probably had a baby and mommy-duties.”

Noel flipped Fred off as Quinn looked back and forth between the two men.

The realization her pending divorce no doubt cost her a chance at being a mother flashed through Quinn’s mind. She pushed it aside and chuckled.

“Sorry, guys. Life got busy… Super busy. While I do love my job, I realized I missed doing other things I love too, like spending time with friends.”

The two men beamed.

Leaving Noel’s yard, she backed the few short steps to the corner, still talking to the vets.

“Let me get inside, get caught up and work for a few hours…” Quinn stopped at the corner. “And when I’m done,” she pointed at each man. “…and if you’ve managed to stay out of trouble, maybe I can catch up with you guys… over pastrami burgers.”

“Don’t worry, Quinn. I’ll keep Noel out of trouble.”

Giving Fred the ‘thumb’s up’ gesture, Quinn roared with laughter at the annoyed look on Noel’s face.

She was still laughing as she entered the center.

“The past had scarred them all…”


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Leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, Lennie stared across the empty living room. The day Duncan ran from her had been one of her most painful. He had always been a high-spirited child. More prone to wander, break a rule, or lead his younger brothers astray. However, he’d never done anything that warranted more than a time-out. Duncan had never been cruel to anyone or deliberately put anyone in harm’s way. Had someone told Lennie the argument in the high school parking lot with her son would take place, she would have thought them crazy.

But it did happen.

Insistent on not entering counseling, Duncan had run from Lennie. The anger building inside her at his disrespectful tone dissipated immediately at her last glimpse of his eyes.

Confusion.

Pain.

And fear.

The memory of it all in her son’s face made Lennie even more determined to get him to a therapist. She would not allow this to scar his life… not if she could help. Ranard had received no help for the verbally abusive childhood he had because of his father. Lennie knew his failure as a husband and father were directly related to his relationship with his father.

Duncan deserved a better life.

The memory played on rewind in Lennie’s mind.

*

Sitting in her Chevy Tahoe, still taking glances in the direction Duncan had gone. She wanted him to come back… but knew he wouldn’t. The despair Lennie knew he felt would now be enhanced by the shame of his behavior with her.

Consumed with the situation with her eldest son, Lenore Porter drove home. Pulling her vehicle into the garage, she exited and went through the garage’s rear entrance to her back door… and found Duncan sitting in the old swing near the Sugar Maple tree.

He shook his head slowly without meeting her gaze.

“I’m sorry, mom.”

“I’m glad you’re safe, sweetheart.”

“I shouldn’t have run away like that.”

“You were feeling overwhelmed. Looks like you still are.”

“I’m not crazy, mama… I’m not.”

Lennie’s chest tightened. He had not called her that since second grade. Sitting her bag at the bag door, Lennie walked over and took the swing next to Duncan.

They both silently rocked for a few minutes.

“Most people who go to counseling aren’t mentally ill, Dunc. Life just has a way of dumping too much on us at once,” she touched his hand, “the drowning feeling you mentioned? That’s where it comes from. It happens to us all at some point during our lives.”

“Have you ever felt like you were drowning, mom?”

“Not drowning so much as helpless.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, don’t take this as clinical or anything, but I knew the problem, and I knew the cause. I just couldn’t fix it.”

“Dad.” It was a statement, not a question.

Lennie’s smile was bittersweet. “Yes.”

“He hasn’t been very nice to you, mom.” Taking a deep breath, Duncan continued. “But you never gave up. You’ve always been… mom.”

“Darlin, the obstacle doesn’t exist that could separate me from my Porter Patrol. Good days or bad, you and your brothers always got the best of me, and you always will. I couldn’t give you the stereotyped version of a good family life, but I tried to make sure you have a good life. I don’t think we’ve done too badly. This is a bump in the road, and-”

“Can you make me another appointment with the shrink?”

Duncan laughed at the smirk on her face.

“Okay, okay. Counselor, therapist… whatever. I still don’t want to go, but I’ve let you down enough.” He stared at his feet.

“Duncan?”

Lennie didn’t speak again until he looked at her.

“You have never let me down. You’re sixteen years old and going through a bad time because of the actions of adults. You haven’t done anything wrong. But this is something you have to want. You cannot do it for me, baby. You don’t have to want to go to counseling… you have to want to get better and be your old self again.”

“So, you’ll make the appointment?”

“Well…”

“What, mom?”

“We haven’t missed today’s appointment yet.”

“Huh?”

“I was picking you up from school early… to give us time to talk before the appointment.”

Lennie looked at her watch.

“We’ll just make it. Run in and wash up and change your shirt. I’ll wait right here.”

Nodding, the teen stood and headed for the back door, but turned, walked back and kissed his mother’s forehead.  Still silent, Duncan entered the house.

The smile on Lenore’s face faded as Duncan walked away. Her son was angry… and afraid.

The past had scarred them all.


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“A thirty-minute conversation changed their lives…”


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“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise

#99cents #KindleUnlimited

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Snippet

Lennie leaned down, kissed his forehead and placed the napkin across her father’s lap. Just as she got it in place, Burt looked up at her.

Lenore was gutted.

More pieces of her already broken heart fell away.

His ashen skin, mottling and in different shades of brown and gray unsettled her. His slack jaw and visible body tremors made Lennie shudder. His eyes were her undoing. The mischievous gleam responsible for so much laughter, which had helped to comfort, console, and encourage her… was gone.

Father and daughter were still eye-to-eye, the reality of the situation holding Lennie in place when she felt his frail hand cover hers.

“Thank… you, baby girl.”

Lennie smiled and kissed his cheek, comforted with the knowledge she made her father happy. “You’re welcome, Daddy… always.”

Before Lennie could retrieve his dinner plate, Linda Kelimore was already cutting the meat into tiny portions.

“Lenore, take the other plate for yourself.”

“But that’s yours, mom.”

“It will be cold before I get to it. Go on, eat. I know you’ve been on your feet since the lunch rush.”

Just like that, Lennie was twelve years old again, doing as she was told.

Picking at her food, she tried not to stare at her parents. But Lennie couldn’t help but be mesmerized. Watching as her mother fussed and cooed in loving tones at Burt to take his time and chew each tiny bite of food. Linda caressed his cheek between bites. Burt rested his hand on her knee, never taking his eyes off Linda’s face.

Feeling like an intruder on a private moment, Lennie did force herself to look away.

Anyone who knew Burt and Linda Kelimore knew they were totally devoted to each other.  More than half a century had passed since the day they each ran into a mechanic’s shop in need of quick repairs. Though they were both on their way to meet other people, a thirty-minute conversation changed their plans for the evening and the rest of their lives.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

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Lenore Porter’s life had not gone as she planned. The marriage she put her heart and soul into failed. The man she sacrificed so much for abandoned her. But Lennie refused to be broken. She pushed on, running a successful business and raising her three sons alone.

Through health scares, severe family dysfunction, and trauma which forever changed their lives, the Porter family clung to each other to keep from sinking into the darkness. With her marriage over long ago and her adult sons living their own lives, Lenore Porter decides to sell the cold fortress she worked so hard to make a warm, loving home.

A short, final inspection of her former home turns into a confrontation with ghosts from the past, and decisions and events Lennie felt she’d dealt with and moved on from.

Free, a Novella is a short, clean read recounting one woman’s determination to not be broken by life or lose her identity.

 


 

“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise #ExcerptReveal


In this short excerpt, Lenore Porter is reading a letter from her beloved Aunt Diane who recently passed away.


In every area of your life, you always stood out. You never tried to be the center of attention or sought the limelight, but it found you! It always found you! Your beautiful inner light shone like a beacon drawing people to you. You were never a vain or prideful child, but your dignity and grace were evident long before you reached your adult years. Why are you allowing this man to dim your light?

And you are allowing it, Lennie. I don’t for one minute believe that Ranard controls or dominates you in any way. He’s more like an unruly child acting out and you’re the tolerant, long-suffering parent.

That’s not what marriage is about, Lennie.

I’ve watched you both when you weren’t looking. I’ve never seen him hold your hand, or kiss or caress your cheek. I’ve never heard him compliment you, or say anything positive about you. But I held out hope. You have a reason for everything you do, so I knew there was a reason you married that man. But was it love, Lennie?

As your third anniversary fast approaches, you’ve already been married longer than Conrad and me. But we had so much joy and laughter, Lennie. We were disappointed I didn’t get pregnant before he shipped out, but it didn’t dampen our happiness one bit.

Where is your joy, Lennie? What makes you happy? It has to be more than your children because they will grow up and leave for their own life journeys. I speak from experience even though I wasn’t blessed to be a mother. I shared my sister’s heartache and anxiety when you left.

I also shared my concerns about you with her after our vacation. I was both relieved and saddened to find out she understood and felt the same way. Relieved because I now had someone to talk to about it – I couldn’t talk to you, Lennie. I knew you’d be angry and I didn’t want to lose you – and I was also sad because if Linda saw the same problems, they were real and not the overactive imagination of a nosy old woman.

I’ve always known you would be my heir. I almost told you on a couple of occasions, but I knew you’d insist that I sell everything and donate the money to some organization saving whales, or hamsters, or gophers… or whatever is all the rage at the moment. But no, I want you to have what was mine. It gives me peace to know I can do this one last thing for you and the children.

However, I am not done. I’m sure you’re fit to be tied by now. Clutching this letter with both hands, beads of perspiration forming on your forehead as you think about digging up my body to tell me about my bossy self.

My sweet Lennie Penny.

I hope you are sitting down because if you are angry with me now, by the time you finish this letter, you WILL dig up my body!


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“Free, a Novella”

Author: Felicia Denise

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: May 30, 2017


Synopsis

Lenore Porter’s life had not gone as she planned.

The marriage she put her heart and soul into failed.

The man she sacrificed so much for abandoned her.

But Lennie refused to be broken. She pushed on, running a successful business and raising her three sons alone.

Through health scares and severe family dysfunction and trauma which forever changed their lives, the Porter family clung to each other to keep from sinking into the darkness.

With her marriage over long ago and her adult sons living their own lives, Lenore Porter decides to sell the cold fortress she worked so hard to make a warm, loving home.

A short, final inspection of her former home turns into a confrontation with ghosts from the past, and decisions and events Lennie felt she’d dealt with and moved on from.

Free, a Novella is a short, clean read recounting one woman’s determination to not be broken by life or lose her identity.

99¢!

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Goodreads   http://bit.ly/FreeANovella

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“She made so many mistakes.”


Free, a Novella cover


“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise

#99cents #KindleUnlimited

Amazon US – bit.ly/LindenLane
Amazon UK – bit.ly/LindenLaneUK
Amazon CA – bit.ly/LindenLaneCA
Amazon AU – bit.ly/LindenLaneAU

Goodreads – bit.ly/FreeANovella

Snippet

She made so many mistakes.

While trying to give her sons the best life possible, Lenore Porter had misjudged her own situation. By first ignoring Ranard, and subsequently divorcing him, Lennie felt she kept her focus on her boys at all times. But were they her true focus?

Lennie buried her face in her hands as her heart screamed the truth.

It was a lie.

Her commitment as a mother couldn’t be denied, but Lennie floundered as a wife… and as a woman.

In the early days when they were dating, Ranard was always so attentive… always holding her hand or stroking her hair. When they became intimate, he couldn’t seem to get enough of her. The sex wasn’t mind-blowing compared to her past relationships, but Lenore cared deeply for the awkward young man and reveled in his constant attention.

The young couple found out Lennie was pregnant with Duncan a few months into the marriage. Their lovemaking all but stopped. With all the changes in her body and hormones racing, Lennie read books, crawled through the Internet, and daydreamed of new ways to seduce her husband. A few times the seduction worked, but more often than not, a rejected Lenore Porter would leave their bedroom in tears finding solace in the guest bedroom or on the living room sofa.

Ranard would offer a heartfelt apology the next morning, with promises of candlelight dinners, followed by slow, passionate lovemaking. Frustrated, Lennie turned to the person who knew her best for advice – her mother.

 

 

“A thirty-minute conversation changed their lives…”


Free, a Novella cover


“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise

#99cents #KindleUnlimited

Amazon US – bit.ly/LindenLane
Amazon UK – bit.ly/LindenLaneUK
Amazon CA – bit.ly/LindenLaneCA
Amazon AU – bit.ly/LindenLaneAU

Goodreads – bit.ly/FreeANovella

Snippet

Lennie leaned down, kissed his forehead and placed the napkin across her father’s lap. Just as she got it in place, Burt looked up at her.

Lenore was gutted.

More pieces of her already broken heart fell away.

His ashen skin, mottling and in different shades of brown and gray unsettled her. His slack jaw and visible body tremors made Lennie shudder. His eyes were her undoing. The mischievous gleam responsible for so much laughter, which had helped to comfort, console, and encourage her… was gone.

Father and daughter were still eye-to-eye, the reality of the situation holding Lennie in place when she felt his frail hand cover hers.

“Thank… you, baby girl.”

Lennie smiled and kissed his cheek, comforted with the knowledge she made her father happy. “You’re welcome, Daddy… always.”

Before Lennie could retrieve his dinner plate, Linda Kelimore was already cutting the meat into tiny portioreadersofins with this, Lenore. Take the other plate for yourself.”

“But that’s yours, mom.”

“It will be cold before I get to it. Go on, eat. I know you’ve been on your feet since the lunch rush.”

Just like that, Lennie was twelve years old again, doing as she was told.

Picking at her food, she tried not to stare at her parents. But Lennie couldn’t help but be mesmerized. Watching as her mother fussed and cooed in loving tones at Burt to take his time and chew each tiny bite of food. Linda caressed his cheek between bites. Burt rested his hand on her knee, never taking his eyes off Linda’s face.

Feeling like an intruder on a private moment, Lennie did force herself to look away.

Anyone who knew Burt and Linda Kelimore knew they were totally devoted to each other.  More than half a century had passed since the day they each ran into a mechanic’s shop in need of quick repairs. Though they were both on their way to meet other people, a thirty-minute conversation changed their plans for the evening and the rest of their lives.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

“But now… in this moment, she understood what it meant to hate someone.”


Free, a Novella cover


“Free, a Novella” by Felicia Denise

#99cents #KindleUnlimited #NewRelease

Amazon US – bit.ly/LindenLane
Amazon UK – bit.ly/LindenLaneUK
Amazon CA – bit.ly/LindenLaneCA
Amazon AU – bit.ly/LindenLaneAU

Goodreads – bit.ly/FreeANovella

Snippet

Lennie leaned down, kissed his forehead and placed the napkin across her father’s lap. Just as she got it in place, Burt looked up at her. Lenore was gutted. More pieces of her already broken heart fell away. His ashen skin, mottling and in different shades of brown and gray unsettled her. His slack jaw and visible body tremors made Lennie shudder. His eyes were her undoing. The mischievous gleam responsible for so much laughter, which had helped to comfort, console, and encourage her… was gone.

Father and daughter were still eye-to-eye, the reality of the situation holding Lennie in place when she felt his frail hand cover hers.

“Thank… you, baby girl.”

Lennie smiled and kissed his cheek, comforted with the knowledge she made her father happy. “You’re welcome, Daddy… always.”

Before Lennie could retrieve his dinner plate, Linda Kelimore was already cutting the meat into tiny portioreadersofins with this, Lenore. Take the other plate for yourself.”

“But that’s yours, mom.”

“It will be cold before I get to it. Go on, eat. I know you’ve been on your feet since the lunch rush.”

Just like that, Lennie was twelve years old again, doing as she was told.

Picking at her food, she tried not to stare at her parents. But Lennie couldn’t help but be mesmerized. Watching as her mother fussed and cooed in loving tones at Burt to take his time and chew each tiny bite of food. Linda caressed his cheek between bites. Burt rested his hand on her knee, never taking his eyes off Linda’s face.

Feeling like an intruder on a private moment, Lennie did force herself to look away.

Anyone who knew Burt and Linda Kelimore knew they were totally devoted to each other.  More than half a century had passed since the day they each ran into a mechanic’s shop in need of quick repairs. Though they were both on their way to meet other people, a thirty-minute conversation changed their plans for the evening and the rest of their lives.

Save