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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After Work: #WritingChallenge #Week21

Elevator photo

Week 21: 52-Week Writing Challenge.

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


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

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

“That kind of day, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

“Um… garage level four. Thanks.”

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

She stared at the descending floor numbers.

“Quinn?”

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

The young man froze… momentarily speechless.

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

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

Fletcher watched her… confused.

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

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

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

“That bad, huh?”

He nodded.

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

“He’s still in love with you?”

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

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

Quinn smirked.

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

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

The laugh escaped her lips before she could stop it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Exactly!”

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

Quinn nodded.

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

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

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