Mona Lisa Smile #WritingChallenge


Rainy Day

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 37
Flash Fiction: Word prompt – Mona Lisa smile

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

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

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

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

She was remembering.

When he said he loved her.

When he said she was the one.

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

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

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

Good times?

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

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

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

And he turned off his phone.

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

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

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

It didn’t matter.

It was over.

She went home and waited.

Waited for him to tell her.

Two days.

Five days.

A week.

She emotionally removed herself from the relationship.

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

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

He had to say the words.

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

She knew.

He left quickly… because of work.

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

And he told her… at last.

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

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

She turned away… and he left.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her Mona Lisa smile grew. She loved the rain.

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

“Is this your ring, ma’am?”

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

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#FunFact Standalone vs. Series?


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#FunFact In the Best Interest of the Child


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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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“Toughen up because life’s tough.”


Family Matters Teaser1

“Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child Book 2)”

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Olivia Chandler’s day of reckoning fast approaches.  Start her journey from the beginning!

 

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“In The Best Interest of the Child Book 1”

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It’s Time


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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