New Hire #WritingChallenge


Glasses of Wine

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 36
An excerpt from current WIP, “Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child Book 2).” Even while attempting to organize her life and move forward, Olivia Chandler manages to help someone else.

Olivia Chandler was exhausted. She had too many open cases for one attorney with little backup. The Chandler Group attorneys were all carrying multiple cases. Olivia was grateful business was good because it meant children weren’t being shut out of the conversation on their care. But it also meant families were splintered and bickering… and sometimes it had nothing to do with the minor child involved.

She needed help.

Olivia had witnessed Glendon Kane in the courtroom firsthand and found him to be an adept litigator and brilliant legal strategist.

And too good for Borst & Peckham.

On impulse… and one hundred percent out of character, Olivia called Glendon and invited him to an early dinner to discuss a business matter.

“Thank you for accepting my dinner invitation, Glendon.”

She could see the fatigue lining a brow far too young for such things.

He gave Olivia a genuine smile.

“As if I’d say no to you, Olivia. Beautiful women don’t ask me out every day.”

“Oh, Mr. Kane. That is not the story I heard.”

The attorneys shared a laughed. Glendon raised his hands in defeat.

“Okay, Okay, Women do ask me out. But I never saw myself sharing a meal with the great Olivia Chandler.”

She smirked and waved him off.

“Don’t even try it. My office manager doesn’t miss much of the courthouse grapevine. I think she may even be responsible for half the info making the rounds, and she says you’re pretty popular with the ladies.”

“Ah, the magnificent Margot.”

“She’ll love that you called her magnificent.”

“She is. But tell her most of my dates never get further that one or two dates. And a third date is unheard of.”

Olivia sobered, not wanting to ask why but curiosity… and empathy showed in her eyes.

Glendon laughed and shook his head.

“Fortunately, it’s not what you think, Olivia. The problem is women find out I work for B&P and they see dollar signs. But when they find out I’m a low-paid associate, their interest fizzles.” He pointed to his face. “Not even these amazing good looks can keep them around.”

Olivia slid her wine glass aside and folded her hands on the table.

“I heard about the Getner lawsuit… and the blame being laid at your feet, Glendon.”

His smile caught Olivia off guard. She frowned.

“Yeah, the last couple of days weren’t the best. This was not a difficult case, but dumb and mega-dumb kept sticking their noses in where they didn’t belong. Paulina Getner did file a lawsuit. And I can’t say that I blame her, but she and I talked… again, and I’ve negotiated a good settlement. Now all I have to do is get Tanner to issue a public apology.”

Olivia shook her head in disbelief.

“Why do you do it, Kane? You’ve more than put in your time. Why do you stay? Your record is exemplary. Any firm would be lucky to get you.”

“B&P have just enough money to keep me invisible in this state. The larger firms are owned by their friends and the smaller firms are bullied into ignoring me. My meager savings are not enough to start my own practice… so I remain the whipping boy.”

“There are forty-nine other states.”

“But my dad is here. It’s just been he and I for the last twelve years. He’ll never leave the home he shared with my mom… and I’ll never leave him.”

He sipped his wine.

“So, B&P’s money keeps me locked in even though they only toss pennies my way.”

Unable to keep the smug look from her face, Olivia Chandler leaned back, her head tilted to the side.

“Maynard and Samuel’s millions… and their connections don’t scare me.”

Glendon Kane’s face brightened.

“Olivia? Are you offering me a job?”

“Yes.”

Incredulous, Kane scrubbed his hand down his face. Returning his gaze to Olivia, he searched for the words.

“The Chandler Group… wow. Your reputation is flawless and you guys do some awesome work.”

Glendon abruptly held his hands up.

“You realize Maynard and Samuel won’t just let me walk away?”

“Are you in the middle of a contract with them?”

“No. My last contract ended over five months ago. They’ve been slow to write up another because they don’t want to make me a partner… or increase my pay. I’m still working under the terms of the contract we signed two years ago.”

Olivia leaned forward.

“You let me worry about those two. I need help, Glendon. I love my job, but my current caseload is out of control.  I don’t have the time to train or hold anyone’s hand. You’re amazing in the courtroom… a force to be reckoned with. Your concern for your clients is genuine and you’ve won some near-impossible cases because you weren’t afraid to buck the system. I’m sure your billable hours are more than those four doorstops combined.”

Her face softened.

“Come to work for me… after the appropriate notice to Borst, of course. I’ll have something drawn up in the morning, but it will include a significant pay increase, an expense account, full medical… and no weekends.”

“Olivia, you had me at “Come to work for me.””

Olivia Chandler laughed. “Seriously though, Glendon. Email or call Margot in the morning with your particulars. We can meet for a late lunch or another early dinner to go over the contract. You can give Borst notice by the end of the week.”

Kane reached out and grabbed Olivia’s hand, firmly shaking it.

“At this point, Olivia, the wording of a contract is not an issue. You’re respected and held in high regard in the state’s family law system and internationally in the public interest community. I appreciate the opportunity… and honestly, I think you’re saving my life.”

She gripped his hand, returning his handshake.

“Glendon, we’re saving each other and I look forward to working with you. Now, let’s order a couple of those thirty-two-ounce Big Texan steaks and see how much we can eat before we get sick.”

“You’re on!”

The attorneys chatted and joked amiably. Olivia relaxed, proud of herself for following her first thought and offering the harried Glendon Kane a position.

Maynard Borst and Samuel Peckham would be furious. They would be full of piss and vinegar and issue empty threats, but Glendon would come to work for her… that she was sure of.

Her workload would lighten and she would have free time. Something she’d never wanted before, but there was no Bruce Bellamy before. Olivia looked forward to spending more time with Bruce and his huge, loving family. She felt like she was a part of something important and she liked it.

Glendon was laughing and telling a story from his law school days as Olivia said a silent prayer for her future with Bruce… and that she didn’t do anything to ruin it.

©Felicia Denise 2017

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Mediation #WritingChallenge


Marriage Cert

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 35
Reworking parts of ‘Heartburn’ and this is a deleted scene… for now. Who knows where it will end up?

“Quinn, you can’t! My parents are still well thought of in the school community even though they both retired years ago. Having this come out would kill my mother.”

“I don’t give three twisting bitches about what may or may not kill your mother!”

“Quinn!”

“For our entire marriage, she’s smiled in my face; stuck her nose where it didn’t belong and tried to talk me into quitting my job just to be a full-time wife to you — a man who can’t keep his pants zipped! Then when you commit the ultimate betrayal, she helps you hide it. Honestly, Oscar — she can kiss my ass!”

“Quinn!”

“Shut up! Stop yelling my name and sign the damn papers! I’m done with this… and you!”

“Quinn, baby — don’t do this! We can work this out. I’m serious about the marriage counseling. It’s not too late. We can fix our marriage, baby”

“The marriage wasn’t the problem, Oscar — you were. Sign.”

“Baby, please. Let’s take a vacation… spend some time together, and talk this out. Just the two of us.”

“Sign… or my next stop is your boss’ office.”

Oscar reached out towards Quinn, and she leaned away from the table. “Quinn…please…?

She stared at him, her jaws set.

Defeated, Oscar nodded to his attorney and retook his seat.

Opening the ominous file folder that always laid in the center of the table during each meeting, the attorney glanced at Morris and Quinn, then addressed Oscar.

“Are you sure about this, Oscar?”

Oscar looked at his wife and for the first time, she saw real emotion.

Quinn almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

Nodding, Oscar took the document and signed in the three marked places then slid it back to his attorney who also signed before sliding it back to the center of the table.

Morris pulled it in front of Quinn, who signed quickly with a flourish.

Morris Dabney added his signature.

“I’ll file these with the court before the end of business today and make sure your office gets copies”, he directed to the other side of the table. He turned to Quinn. “The court will set a formal hearing date, and without any more objections”,

Morris looked pointedly at Oscar, “the marriage dissolution will be final in a few short months. Neither of you will have to appear at the formal hearing since the documents are signed.”

“Thank you, Morris.”

Quinn reached for her bag and headed for the door. She had to leave this room while she could keep her anger in check. She had so much more she wanted to say to her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Things she should have said. But, she knew it would all fall on deaf ears as Oscar felt his infidelities were mere lapses in judgments… mistakes.

Quinn reached for the doorknob when Oscar called out to her. She turned to face him.

“I’ve made some mistakes, but I do love you. My heart will always belong to you.”

Quinn left the conference, stalking towards the elevator, her jaws clenched so tightly, a dull ache radiated down to her neck.

Jabbing the call button, Quinn was grateful when the lift doors opened and equally grateful no one else boarded.

Quinn pressed the button for the parking garage level, then leaned against the wall.

It was over.

She was closing the book on nine years of her life and moving on. Quinn knew it wouldn’t be easy. She may be rid of Oscar Landon, but her family wasn’t going anywhere. Oscar would waste no time in telling them Quinn had BLACKMAILED him into signing the divorce papers.

She supposed she’d done just. But Quinn felt no guilt or regret. The mental and emotional duress Oscar put her through, not to mention the risks to her health and life, left Quinn feeling justified in doing whatever it took to secure her freedom.

Quinn knew her family, descended from generations of pious, self-righteous folk who didn’t believe in divorce, wouldn’t see it her way. Quinn was glad she’d moved out of the home she’d shared with Oscar long ago and into her own home, miles away from both sides of the family.

She had won the war, but the battles were just beginning.

©Felicia Denise 2017

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“Thinking It Through”


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 34
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.

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.

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.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

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No More Excuses


No More Excuses

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 32
Another snippet from Quinn Landon’s journey to free herself from her judgmental family and adulterous husband.

Though she went to bed fatigued and stressed over the late-afternoon argument with her brother, Quinn Landon woke refreshed. She was anxious to get to the veteran’s outreach center and focus on something other than her problems.

Several months had passed since Quinn last volunteered. Increased job duties and her failing marriage consumed her time and energy. Renewing her commitment to community service was important to Quinn.  It was her way of giving back for all the support and encouragement center director Vince Saxton, and his incredible staff had given her brother, Clinton.

After over a decade in the Army, Clinton Clark returned home six years ago with PTSD, night tremors, and considerable anger.  It was a shock to the Clark family to see what service to his country had done to Clinton. Eddie and Katherine Clark soon overcame their initial shock, however.

Insisting Clinton needed time alone to sort out his thoughts while receiving treatment, his parents found a tiny apartment near the outreach center and moved their son right in. They never mentioned his name or visited him.

His siblings were confused at first but soon adopted the same mindset as their parents-out of sight, out of mind.

All except Quinn.

She was devastated by her brother’s mental and physical condition and angered at the ease their parents had at removing him from their lives.

Katherine Clark made the situation even worse when she refused to share Clinton’s address.

“Just leave him be, Quinn Avery. He’ll come back to us when he’s himself again.”

“And what if that never happens, mother? What if he’s never himself again, then what? Do we even know what happened to him?”

“Clinton will be just fine, I’m sure of it. And we were told there was some sort of ambush and quite a few members of his unit were killed. I don’t want to know any more than that.”

“That’s just awesome, mom! Your son’s living in his own personal hell and you don’t care why, nor do you intend to stand by him. Someone is sure to give us a Family-of-the-Year award!”

“Quinn! That’s no way to speak to your mother.”

Oscar slumped, his body shrinking in size from the cold gaze his wife pinned on him. He thought better of saying any more, sure Quinn wasn’t past her anger at finding out about his latest affair.

“Thank you, Oscar, but I’m more than used to my youngest child’s flair for drama.”

At first surprised at Katherine’s comment, Quinn’s features morphed into a smirk.

“I learned from the best.” Quinn turned to leave her parents’ home.

“Just where do you think you’re going, Quinn Avery?”

“To find my brother, mother. No more excuses.”

Quinn went out the front door, rage making her deaf to Katherine and Oscar’s cries for her to come back.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

It’s Time


It's Time banner

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 31
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.

©Felicia Denise 2017

Dread


moon river

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 30
Another Camp NaNoWriMo is nearly over. I validated four days ago, exceeding my word count goal. But, of course, the story isn’t over. This is another unedited excerpt of Calla, my Camp Nano project.

Exiting the banquet hall Calla smiled, reinvigorated by the sweet scents of spring carried on the night air from nearby Golds Lake.

The clouds carrying the rain Tena feared would ruin her wedding day, at last, gathered in the late evening sky but even their dreary darkness couldn’t hide the brilliance of the full moon.

Gazing toward the lake stirred feelings of wanderlust in Calla.

Though small and not a true lake, the body of water was just one of many tributaries winding its way through the small towns of eastern Missouri to join with the mighty Mississippi River a couple of hours away.

Even the water was going places.

Shaking her head, Calla clicked the release button on her car remote, opening the back hatch of her Chevy Equinox.

She’d stayed far longer at the reception than planned. But after Tena and Lloyd made their departure for their hotel and Tanya had to get her fussy two-year-old home, Calla felt obligated to pack up Tena’s personal items used before the ceremony and help Neeri oversee the hall’s cleanup.

Her mood darkened as she deposited garment bags and overnight cases into the large compartment.

Slamming the hatch with more force than needed, Calla stalked to the driver’s door, flung it open and launched herself into the vehicle with all the grace of The Hulk.

Exasperated, Calla slid down in the seat, burying her face in her hands.

Why do I allow this to bother me?

Most people look forward to going home, but the thought of it is bringing on a migraine.

No longer avoiding the inevitable, Calla flipped open the center glove box, took out her cell phone and turned it on.

An array of musical tones and beeps played for a full minute while messages loaded. Swiping the screen, Calla knew the nine most recent texts were sent from Mavis’ phone, candid shots of the bridesmaids during the reception.

Ignoring the rest of her notifications, Calla opened the reception photos, her good mood returning with the first photo.

All five of the bridesmaids were grouped together around Lloyd with stern faces and clenched fists, as if to say, “Hurt Tena and we’re coming for you!” The goofy grin on Lloyd Taylor’s face proved the photo was in jest… especially since Tena photo-bombed the shot doubled over in laughter.

A photo of Calla and Tena tugged at Calla’s heart. Her lifelong friend had been there for Calla through everything, good and bad. The two women had never had a single argument. They each had a way of speaking truths the other didn’t always want to hear, without judgment or meanness.

Happy for her friend, Calla would miss their girl-time together. After a three-week honeymoon with stops in Vegas and Hawaii, the Taylors would return home and to work.

Tena promised a girls-night out the week she returned, but Calla knew better. Newlyweds only had time for each other, and that was the way it should be. Both thirty-four, Calla also knew her friends wouldn’t waste any time starting a family.

The joy in Tena’s face made her smile. She got her happily ever after.

Studying herself next to Tena, Calla wasn’t sure what she saw.

Large, dark ringlets left out of her formal up-do hung down the side of her full, cherubic face. Her maid of honor dress was the same pale straw shade of gold as the other bridesmaids, but Calla’s dress didn’t have an empire waist or sweetheart neckline. Instead, Calla’s dress hung from her shoulders and cinched to one side, showing off her full, hourglass figure while the color made her smooth honey brown skin glow.

She looked good.

Calla also looked happy, which she was… for Tena. But a closer, more thorough inspection would find the sadness in her eyes.

She tossed the phone into the passenger seat and massaged her lower abdomen.

The slow burn she’d ignored for most of the evening was making itself known again, searing a feverish path across Calla’s stomach.

She had only herself to blame.

The peptic ulcer was all but gone after weeks of bland foods and Calla’s rock-solid determination to not allow things to upset her, but the champagne and rich foods of the wedding reception found their way to the weak, still open areas of the ulcer and went to work.

The pain wasn’t easing up and Calla had no antacid with her, so she started the car and headed home… to the cause of the ulcer.

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“It’s Just a Dance.”


Shoes at a Wedding

52 Week Writing Challenge: Week 29
This is another unedited excerpt from my Camp NaNo project , ‘Calla.’

“I cannot believe you said that!”
Calla grinned, shrugging one shoulder.
“She shouldn’t have dared me.”
Calla’s grin was replaced by a dramatic eye roll when staccato clapping sounded behind them.
Neeri.
“Okay, Taylor Bridal Party! Prepare to join the bride and groom on the dance floor, please.”
Cherri’s face fell. “Do we have to wear shoes?”
Neeri shot the young girl a withering look. “Of course, you do!”
“Then we’re not dancing.” Mavis leaned back in her chair, done with the conversation.
“Of course, you’re dancing! It’s tradition! Tena is counting on you!”
“We’re done with you playing the Tena-card, Neeri.” Donna motioned toward the dance floor. “Look at her. She doesn’t see anyone or anything except Lloyd.”
The rest of the group nodded in agreement.
“A lot of time and money have gone into this event. I know you ladies will not ruin it by doing something as common as,” she raised her hand to her chest, “dancing barefoot?”
Fuming, Mavis smacked the table. “Common? Excuse me? That’s it! I’m not dancing!”
Cherri, Donna, and Calla all crossed their arms, daring Neeri to argue. Before she could speak, Tanya did, taking a different approach.
“Gilda, look around you. This isn’t New York or even Chicago. It’s Reedsville, Missouri, home to farmers and factory workers. You’re one of us and know we’re not common… we’re just small-town folk.”
The wedding planner bristled at the use of her birth name, but she was also fighting panic. The song was nearing the mid-point. She had to get the bridal party on the floor.
Smiling sweetly for anyone who might be watching, Neeri responded through gritted teeth. “Fine! Just please get ready.”
More staccato hand claps summoned the groomsmen from the other end of the table, and with all the flourish of a symphony conductor, Neeri directed the group to the dance to surround Tena and Lloyd.
Before Calla had cleared her chair, Gibson grabbed her hand, dragging her behind him. Twirling Calla around twice, Gibson pulled her into his arms, holding her closer and tighter than Calla thought necessary.
“Ease up, Gibby. This isn’t our wedding dance.”
“It could be, pretty girl. Just say the word.”
Laughing, Calla gave him a wary look.
“Gibby, you just delivered a beautiful, moving best man’s speech about love and how it continues to elude you. Don’t you know it will until you get serious and stop falling into insta-love with every female who crosses your path?”
“Ouch, Calla! Every female? Am I that bad?”
She answered with a smirk.
“Okay, okay. I love women. Sue me.”
Calla grinned. Gibson twirled her twice again, dipped her low and pulled her even closer against his broad chest.
“What if you’re the one? What if you’re the woman my heart’s been waiting for to share forever with?”
Laughter erupted so deeply from his dance partner Gibson felt it vibrating against his chest.
The sadness in his eyes halted her laughter.
“What do you want from a man, Calla?”
Without missing a beat, Calla Barrett looked over at Tena and Lloyd, still dancing, lost in whispers and kisses.
“I want that.”
Gibson pulled back, frowning.
“No, I don’t mean their love… but that kind of love. Unwavering, unbreakable.”
Gibson looked at his younger brother, understanding.
“Life and family didn’t make it easy for them, but you’re right. What you said in your speech. Their hearts bonded and withstood everything thrown at them.”
Calla patted Gibson’s chest.
“And that, dear friend, is how I know we’re not a match. I will be enough for the man meant for me. You, on the other hand, will forget about me as soon as this dance ends.”
Gibson laughed in spite of himself.
The song ended and Calla started for their table but Gibson grabbed her hand, stopping her.
“I know you’re right, Cal… but I do wish things were different between us.”
“Who knows, Gibby? Maybe in another life.”
Backing away from her, Gibson Taylor winked, turned, and headed straight for the group of women watching him from the dance floor’s edge.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

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

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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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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