Knowing the outreach center was in west L.A., Quinn found it after only two searches.
Finally acknowledging a Clinton Clark did receive occasional treatment there, the kind, but resolute center director, Vince, would not give Quinn any more information as he walked her to the door.
“Please understand, miss. Most of our vets experienced trauma that has yet to end for them. Some are at the lowest points in their lives and vulnerable. All sorts of folks come in pretending to be family or close friends… just to get a signature on divorce papers, land deeds, and bank accounts. One poor fella thought he was updating his son’s insurance, when in fact, he was signing away his parental rights.”
Quinn couldn’t hide her stunned expression.
Vince rested his hand on the door handle. “I know it sounds deplorable… because it is. But those kinds of situations happen more than the public is aware of. We have to do what we can to protect our vets.”
Quinn thanked the man as he held the door for her. She was glad Clinton had someone looking out for him, but Quinn was determined. She would see her brother.
She talked with Mike Matthews during her drive home. Giving him the short version of her evening, Mike didn’t give her a chance to ask for time off.
“Take all the time you need, Landon. You’ve always got my back. And besides, without you here putting out all the office fires, I get to see what the rest of this team knows… or doesn’t.”
They shared a chuckle before Quinn ended the call, grateful for a boss like Mike.
Quinn was grateful again when she pulled into her South Pasadena driveway, but for a different reason.
Oscar had not returned from her parents’ home yet.
Entering the mud room from the garage, she hoped he would opt to go to his parents’ home instead of coming home at all.
Or to see his newest side piece.
The revelation of his latest affair and his limp, unapologetic apology changed Quinn Landon.
It wasn’t Oscar’s first affair, but it was the first time blame was laid squarely on her shoulders by her parents.
They reasoned if Quinn quit her job and left the stresses of work behind, she’d get pregnant, and Oscar would be happy.
Finding an airline ticket stub and hotel receipts from San Diego were the swan song for the Landon marriage.
It was insult enough Quinn knew the trip was funded by money from their joint account… the money she worked for and saved… but it was the same weekend Oscar backed out of their planned trip to northern California for a jazz festival.
Oscar Landon had no intention of changing his adulterous ways.
She made a turkey sandwich, grabbed a bottle of Perrier and headed for her bedroom.
Making sure the bedroom door was locked, Quinn wolfed down her sandwich and took a quick shower. She threw on her favorite Green Bay Packers jersey and placed a pair of jeans and a light sweater for tomorrow at her dressing table.
Quinn spent the next two hours in her work email—responding to inquiries and clearing up pressing matters.
Her eyelids became heavy as fatigue washed over her.
Activating her out-of-office email response, Quinn placed her tablet on the nightstand and crawled into bed. She had almost drifted off when she heard the front door. Moments later, there was a soft tap on the bedroom door.
Ignoring her husband, Quinn turned over and let sleep take her.
Awaking before her alarm clock sounded five short hours later, Quinn laid in bed staring out her east-facing bedroom window as the sun began its ascent. The golden rays peeking through the trees energized Quinn and gave her strength.
She would call Morris Dabney next week. This time, Quinn would go through with the divorce. No amount of badgering or guilt trips from the Clark and Landon families would stop her this time.
Quinn rose and made her bed as she organized her thoughts.
She couldn’t remember what it felt like to love her husband unconditionally. Oscar’s endless lies halted Quinn’s love from growing. His disrespect of her and their marriage vows broke her heart and soured the happiness Quinn once enjoyed.
But it was Oscar’s determination to play the victim and join their families in blaming Quinn for his many dalliances which turned Quinn’s once full heart to a hardened pebble, beating enough only to maintain her existence.
Slipping into her jeans and sweater, Quinn found her favorite dark brown hiking boots in the back of her closet.
Dressed, she stood in front of the window lost in thought.
She needed to put the house on the market. She didn’t want any memories of any time shared with Oscar Landon and he couldn’t afford the house on a school administrator’s salary.
The loud chime of We Are Family snapped Quinn from her reverie.
Not in the mood to talk with any of her family, she grabbed her keys, put her phone on silent and headed for the outreach center.
Nothing would stop Quinn from seeing her brother today.
Aaron held out his hands in front of him. “Quinn, be reasonable. Just because a man has a little fling or two on the side, it does not mean he doesn’t love his wife.”
She froze, willing herself to not throw the stapler on her desk at her brother.
“What does it mean, Aaron?”
Caught off his guard, Aaron scrubbed his hand down his face, “It just a guy-thing, Quinn. Not a big deal.”
Quinn dropped the stack of files she was holding and leaned across her desk.
“What about you, Aaron? Is it just a guy thing for you too?”
Aaron Clark folded his arms across his broad chest again and returned her glare. “This isn’t about me.”
In the span of seconds, Quinn saw the truth in his eyes.
She was crushed.
Quinn covered her gaping mouth with her hand, shaking her head. She stood and walked over to her office windows still reeling from her brother’s non-admission.
Tears formed in the corners of Quinn Landon’s eyes. No. She would not cry. Enough tears were already shed over a situation that didn’t deserve them. Quinn looked over her shoulder at Aaron.
“This isn’t about Oscar’s infidelity, is it? This isn’t about his betrayal of our marriage, or my… what did you call it? Inability to be reasonable?”
She turned and fully faced him.
“This is about male privilege. Guys just being guys, right? Who else, Aaron? Who else gives lip service to their marriage vows? Junior? Clinton? Daddy?”
“Now, sis. If you’d just calm down and think-”
“Oh, I’m calm, Aaron. Probably calmer than I’ve been in the last five years. I’m glad you came here today, Aaron. You’ve given me not only true clarity, but the resolve to follow my heart and my mind. Now, get out.”
“I said get out. And Aaron… never come here again. If you do, I’ll have you removed by security.”
“Quinn! Listen to what you’re saying! We’re family, for god’s sakes!”
“We’re siblings, Aaron. Something we had no say about. But family?”
Quinn returned to her desk and sat in her chair. With a small, bittersweet smile, she continued.
“Family is always there for you. They support you, lift you up and cheer you on. They love you unconditionally. My family doesn’t do that for me. When I think about it, the Clark family abandoned me and supported Oscar even before we were married.”
“But it all makes sense now. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. No one was shocked and appalled when I found out about Oscar’s first affair. It was me everyone told to calm down. It was me who was told to not do anything hasty… to think things through.”
The small smile faded from her lips.
“It was me who was shamed because I wanted to end my marriage. All because my family doesn’t see adultery as wrong… for men. They rant and rave about the sanctity of marriage and how it’s ordained by God, and is forever. But adultery… it’s just a little thing. A minor detail. Forget that it’s listed in the Bible as a reason for divorce, or on God’s top ten list. No… no. Men are entitled to a little tail on the side every now and then. God’s a guy, he understands, right?”
“How would you feel if Vanessa had an affair? Or two? Three? How many have you had, Aaron?”
“Vanessa would never-”
“I take care good care of my wife. I’ve given her everything she’s ever wan-”
Quinn bolted from her seat.
“Except honesty and fidelity!”
“I’ve always been honest with Vanessa.”
“Oh! Well, that’s different. If you tell her up front you’re a lying, cheating asshole, it’s okay.”
“I believe you were leaving.”
“This isn’t over, Quinn Avery.”
“Yes, Aaron. For me, it is.”
He held her gaze as he backed toward the door.
“No, it isn’t. If you go through with this divorce, you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.” Aaron left, leaving her office door open.
Stunned, Quinn stood there, her mind replaying her brother’s words.
“… you’ll pay a steep price you’ll never recover from.”
What the hell?
Filter words act like a veil between the reader and the character
This article provides a list of writing filters, with practical examples of how to replace them. You’ll also find exercises that can double as story prompts.
All words exist for a reason. Use them wisely to create engaging narrative.
Filter words form a barrier that distances readers from a story.
Bertie felt the warm sand between her toes as she walked.
Bertie’s experience is relayed secondhand. When word economy is critical, this approach works. However, wouldn’t you rather become so involved that you almost feel it yourself?
With a few tweaks, we can strengthen the sentence.
The sand trickled between Bertie’s toes, radiating warmth with every step she took.
Strong verbs, trickled and radiating, amplify the sensory impact.
Most people can name…
View original post 74 more words
Calla Barrett is a modern-day Cinderella.
Okay – not really.
She’s an accomplished RN and head of nursing at Montford Jones Rehabilitation Center. Calla is attractive, intelligent, respected, and well-liked.
She’s also thirty-four, single with no prospects… and she lives with her eccentric mother, Rose, who may or may not have a mild case of dementia.
Motivated by a close friend’s wedding and the bold heroines of her favorite novels, Calla sets a new course for herself and plans to escape the tiny farm town of Reedsville, Missouri.
No one wants Calla to leave—especially sisters Daisy, Iris, and Violet. If Calla moves away, they will have to take care of their mother. Wealthy sportsman, Birdy Ellison is determined to marry Calla… and teach her to skin a deer.
Calla Barrett’s first steps to a new life give her hope, but a newcomer’s temporary stay in Reedsville tests Calla’s determination… and her heart.
When family and friends butt in, chaos ensues, and Calla will have to pull out all the stops to get her happily-ever-after… and not skin any deer.
Determined to kill the annoying fly, Rose raced around the room swatting in its general direction, overturning her iced tea and breaking a vase in the process. The fly flew through the doorway into the kitchen with Rose in hot pursuit.
“Look at her, Cal. How could you leave her? She needs you here.” Older sister, Daisy Barrett-Newman, was close to tears.
Sitting in the corner nursing a tumbler of gin, Violet Barrett raises her glass. “She’s right, Calla.”
“And what about Vi, Cal? You know she hasn’t been herself since,” Daisy leaned towards Calla, whispering, “you know…”
Giggling, Violet sets her glass down, pops off her prosthetic leg and waves it in the air.
“The accident, Daisy, the accident. Say it with me, “Since Violet lost a leg in a car accident!””
Rolling her eyes, Daisy glared at Calla as if to say, “See?”
“It’s my turn, Daisy. I missed out on moving away for college. I had to turn down a marriage proposal-”
“Oh, he wasn’t the man for you-”
“But that was my decision to make, not my family’s. I’ve lived my entire life in this house. I want out of it and Reedsville. I want to see the world… or some of it. I want to experience new things and meet new people. I want a life. I want to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I want to take photos at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I want to walk into a New York pizzeria and order a slice!”
Violet pointed her fake leg at her older sister. “She’s right, Daisy.”
Daisy waved them both off. “Now you’re just sounding like one of those broads in those crazy bodice rippers you always have your head buried in.”
“Way to date yourself, sis. They haven’t been called bodice rippers in a generation.”
“Then what are they called, Miss Well-Read?”
“For your information, they’re called historical romances, and they’re just one of the literary genres I enjoy reading.”
Calla smirked, a maniacal gleam in her eyes.
“I also enjoy psychological thrillers. The kind where the ever-put-upon, loving sister snaps, has a mental break, murders her entire family, then rides off into the night… laughing.”
Daisy takes a step backward, horrified.
Rose Gentry Barrett re-enters the room carrying a white bone china dessert plate… with the dead fly lying in the center.
“Told you I’d get him.” Sitting the plate next to the spilled iced tea, Rose grabs the remote and turns on the large, flat-screen television.
The sisters watch her in silence while Rose turns to her favorite station… The Weather Channel.
“Gonna rain in Topeka!”
Lowering her voice, Daisy continues her pleading. “Cal, be reasonable.”
Defiant, Calla crosses her arms across her ample chest.
“Snaps, Daisy. Murder.”
Emptying the gin bottle into her glass, Violet continues her giggling. “I don’t want to read that book. I want to see the movie!”
A scene from an ongoing WIP. Much to the horror of her family, Quinn Landon has filed for divorce from her adulterous husband. Her family doesn’t miss an opportunity to bully and berate her for ending a “sacred” union, and the number one bully is her mother.
Feeling rejuvenated after a good night’s sleep, Quinn danced around the kitchen to her favorite playlist while making herself a quick breakfast.
Today was the end of the work-week for Phero’s staff since Friday was a company holiday — the founder’s birthday.
Ronan Gaetan decided if countries could celebrate long-dead presidents, document signings, and wars, why couldn’t the company he started from the ground up celebrate his birthday as a paid holiday? For twenty-four years, Phero’s four sites in the U.S., Italy, and France honored their founder by not working on the date of his birth.
Quinn knew it was a concept American corporations would never embrace.
She planned to spend her day off at the Veteran’s Outreach Center. Quinn found volunteering there for the past five years personally rewarding, and it had given Quinn perspective.
Her current situation was not ideal, but helping others get back into the mainstream of living made Quinn realize how fortunate she was. Work kept her from volunteering for several weeks, and now she was anxious to reconnect with the men and women whose trust she’d earned.
Pouring her first cup of coffee, Quinn headed to her breakfast nook to go over her calendar for the day when her phone rang. Swearing under her breath, she reached for the cell, knowing only one person on the planet would call her before six in the morning.
“Good morning, mother.” She could hear Katherine Clark chuff over the phone.
“You sound awfully pleasant this morning. I’m at a loss at why you’re so chipper when you’re breaking your husband’s heart.”
And there it was… again.
“I’m doing great, mom… thanks for asking. How are you and daddy doing?”
“Don’t be flippant with me, young lady!”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, mom. Give me a blindfold and a cigarette at dawn if I’m ever flippant.”
“Where did I go wrong with you? Honestly, I believe you’re being stubborn just to defy me.”
Quinn inhaled slowly… her anger building.
“Yes, mother. This is all about you. I’m divorcing my lying, cheating, low-down snake of a husband just to spite you.”
“Quinn Avery! Do not speak to me in that manner.”
“What do you want, mother? I mean, besides for me to stop the divorce proceedings, which is never going to happen. What do you want?”
“I want you to be reasonable, dear, and think this through. No good can come of a divorce. It will only leave you both bitter and disillusioned.”
“Too late, mom. I got over the bitterness after Oscar’s THIRD affair… you know… FOUR affairs back? But the disillusionment? That’s still hanging around. Mostly because I cannot understand why MY family paints me as the villain when it was Oscar who mocked his wedding vows and disrespected our marriage.”
“You’re still young dear, and learning about the little indiscretions of men.”
Quinn had enough.
“I’ll let you get away with saying one affair is an indiscretion, mom, but seven? That’s just an unfaithful, disrespectful jerk. And I’m three years away from forty, mom — hardly a child. While some women may feel it’s okay for men to stray, I’m not in that club. I hold everyone to the same standards — honesty, fidelity, trust. I no longer have any of those with Oscar. Way past time to end our farce of marriage.”
“Marriage is for a lifetime, dear… and ordained by God.”
Ding, ding, ding! Katherine Clark was hitting all the markers today.
“The union of marriage is ordained by God, mother, but if God didn’t bring two people together, why is He used to keep them together? And, correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t adultery the only acceptable reason for divorce in the Bible? And isn’t it listed in the Big Ten?”
Katherine Clark was silent.
“Oscar has been to church only a handful of times since we were married — you don’t get to play the God-card with me, mom.”
“People in our family do not get divorced, Quinn. You know this.”
“Yes, I do know, mom. I’ve seen the photos of long dead relatives who would rather have had their tongues cut out than divorce.”
“I watch my brothers and their wives, barely able to be in the same room with each other, but too afraid of upsetting you, so they languish in marriages that should never have been. I do not intend to spend my life that way. I’m not stopping the divorce.”
“Your brothers are all happily married!”
“No, mother. YOU are happy they’re married. Myron and Aaron both never smile anymore. They bring their families for Sunday dinner to appease you and daddy, but always look like they’d rather be somewhere else.”
“You do not know everything, young lady. Aaron and Cecelia are talking about having another baby. They’re very much in love.”
“Oh mother, please! They’re talking about it because you suggested it. Cecelia is just as unhappy as Aaron and wants to be closer to her family back east.”
“Cecelia has loving family right here.”
“No, she has you and daddy, always butting in trying to run their marriage.”
“Quinn Avery! How dare you? I will not tolerate your disrespectful attitude!”
“Then we should end this call, mom, because I’m just being honest. I refuse to live in your fairy tale. Enjoy your day, mom.” Quinn ended the call, gripping the phone tightly. She took a couple of deeps breaths, then gently placed the cell on the counter.
Quinn emptied her now-cold coffee down the drain, and poured a fresh cup. A faint smile graced her lips. She’d endured one of her mother’s self-serving phone calls and was already mentally moving past it — all in less than twenty minutes.
Quinn remembered times when the same phone call would have thrown her off her game and ruined her entire day.
Not this time.
Things were definitely looking up.
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.
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?”
“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.”
“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.”
He reached out and touched her arm. “It will get better, you know?”
“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.
Perri Norton was exhausted. Her joints throbbed with each step. Beads of sweat ran down her back as she approached the parking garage. She should never have come alone. Perri should have told someone. She should have asked someone to come with her. Three blocks were a breeze for a healthy person, but for someone dealing with multiple chronic illnesses like Perri Norton, they may as well have been a mile.
It had been much easier to make the short walk when she’d arrived three hours earlier. Now, not only was the sun high in the sky, Perri was certain Los Angeles would record a new high temperature for this mid-August day. Combined with the slight incline back to the parking garage, Perri knew she could trigger a flare up which would have her immobile for days. She said a silent prayer as she reached her Lexus LX SUV.
Giving her car remote a click, Perri opened the rear driver-side door. A blast of heat hit her in the face, taking her breath away. The car’s interior was stifling. Another quick click started the car, and Perri was grateful she had remembered to leave the air conditioning settings on high. Sitting her bag on the back seat, Perri removed her linen blazer, grabbed her cell phone from the pocket, the manila folder from the side of her bag, and laid the blazer over the bag. Closing the door to give the car time to cool off, she turned and looked out at the Los Angeles skyline. Thick, brown smog hung over the city like a blanket. Perri could not wait to get back to the less oppressive environs of Brentwood. She loved the frenzied, cacophonous atmosphere of the shopping district, but it was humid, smoggy days like this that reminded her of why she moved away.
Her lips curved into a faint smile as she glanced at the Los Angeles Court House. The few hours she had spent there, and the exhausting walk back to her car was a small price to pay for what the folder held inside. She opened the car door and stuck her head inside. Satisfied with the cooler temperature, Perri slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door. A sense of euphoria washed over her as she stared at the folder. She opened it, removed the formal document and read the bold heading.
“FINAL JUDGEMENT FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE,”
It was over. Leaning back against the seat, Perri ran her fingers over the paper. No more pretending.
No more phony smiles or empty promises.
No more sad, pitiful looks from family and friends.
No more dreaming of the day when her farce of a marriage would end. Today was that day.
She knew she should feel remorse or regret, but Perri had to stop herself from laughing out loud. She was giddy… happy, and she wanted to celebrate.
Sobering, Perri realized again no one knew where she was. It was no secret she had filed for divorce. The week after Marlena’s eighteenth birthday party, Perri hosted a small dinner party and made her announcement during the first course. No one was surprised. Most were relieved and applauded her decision to dump Parker. Her children were ecstatic.
But no one knew today was the official end to the Norton marriage.
However, they all knew Parker well enough to know he would never just agree to a divorce, and he had not made it easy for her. But as Perri prevailed and walked away, she still had the hope of a reconciliation between Parker and their children… children who had long ago reconciled their feelings for the father who all but ignored them. Had the twins, Daniel and Ethan, had their way, she would have sought a divorce seven years ago. The young men had had the misfortune to witness firsthand their father’s adulterous ways and wanted their mother as far away from him as possible. Having grown up in a household ripped apart by the ugliness of divorce, Perri assured her two oldest children that evening she knew of their father’s after work “activities”, and she could handle it for the time being.
A few short months away from their twenty-first birthday, and less than a year away from their college graduation, Perri’s boys argued that she should at least start the proceedings and they would return after finishing school to help with their two younger siblings. She remembered the pride she’d felt seeing the seriousness in their faces. Perri wasn’t in the habit of explaining herself to anyone, but her children were the life’s blood that kept her going. It had taken most of the evening, but her boys understood and had promised not to confront their father. Ethan was even complimentary on her way of thinking, saying he almost felt sorry for anyone who was silly enough to underestimate her.
Underestimate. The word brought Margaret Gower Bradford front and center to Perri’s mind. The unsympathetic family matriarch was adamant Perri caused all her own problems. From her straying husband to her chronic health issues. If Perri had done enough, given enough, been enough, none of her problems would exist. Margaret didn’t even see them as problems, but more like Perri’s issues. She had cautioned Perri to not even consider divorce. Marriage was forever in the eyes of God. This sentiment from a woman who had been divorced for forty years, refused to remarry, and still found a reason to fight with Maynard Bradford anytime they were in the same zip code.
No, Perri would not be calling her mother anytime soon.
She thought about her small, close group of friends — or the “old broads” as she liked to refer to them. They hated that label. Tory, Sarah, Connie and Valerie were always the cause of Perri’s fits of hysterical laughter. None of the women had an OFF button. No subject was sacred and anyone with a pulse was fair game for their biting, caustic remarks. She picked up her phone and dialed Tory’s number, but hit End instead of Call. A celebration with the girls would involve a long evening with way too much alcohol. Better to save that party for the weekend. She’d call them all later and set it up.
Glancing down at the court documents again, Perri knew there was only one person she wanted to call. The only person who knew all she had gone through and understood. The only person who was always there giving her emotional support. Her fingers hovered over his name on her contact list. She hadn’t told him about this morning’s court date. He would be upset. He would have offered to go with her.
Perri dropped the phone onto the seat. She would not tell him over the phone, but he would be the first one she told. After all the years he’d held her together when she thought she was at the end of her rope, she owed Grayson that much.
Easing the car into the flow of mid-day L.A. traffic, Perri focused on the task at hand… surviving the drive home. No one could maneuver the crush of downtown traffic or its many surrounding freeways unless they were a bit unbalanced, and she fit right in for sure today. Perri couldn’t name the light, bouncy, but apprehensive feelings that buzzed just under her skin. It didn’t matter. She liked it. She liked it a lot.
She felt free.
Anderson is my protagonist for a proposed full-length romance novel. This is not a story excerpt, but more character development.
How many seafood wholesalers does it take to sell five hundred dead lobsters? Just one. One slimy, sleazy, lying bag of garbage! Rage still coursed through Anderson Bell. Focusing on the road, he took deep breaths trying to calm down.
This was a rare feeling for the forty-seven-year-old restaurateur. Running an upscale restaurant with as many as one hundred employees during the summer months had its own unique stressors. Overbooked reservations, rude dinner guests, sick employees and late supply deliveries were weekly issues Anderson had long ago put in their proper place…deal with it and move on.
He’d learned this as a child from his father.
But the lobsters. The dead lobsters. The five hundred. Dead. Lobsters.
A sense of foreboding swept over Anderson when the delivery truck driver rang the exterior bell for entrance to the back lot.
He was six hours early.
Anderson immediately headed for the delivery bay. Falling into step behind Vance and Eric, two members of his stock crew, the three men silently approached the bay doors. Eric threw the release lever, and the doors began to rise. Anderson couldn’t wait. Just as the doors reached waist height, he bent over and went under them, walking out to the end of the dock.
The driver was already at the rear of the semi, releasing chains and keying in codes to get to his precious cargo. However, before he was finished Anderson could smell it. Spoiled food. Decay. Rot.
The driver smelled it too. He frowned as he caught hold of the door latch and swung the door open.
Simultaneously, the four men took several steps back and turned away. The odor was indescribable. During a special assignment, back in his Air Force days, Anderson’s unit had stumbled upon the decomposing bodies of murdered locals. The fumes coming from the truck were ten times worse.
Vance suddenly ran to the truck, slamming the door closed.
Feeling a wave of nausea, Anderson took a few more steps away from the bay and tried to inhale fresh air in through his nose. Turning back to the truck, he saw Vance advancing on the driver.
“Man, what the hell is this? You got shit for brains or something? Those lobsters have been dead for days!”
“I-I…I didn’t know. I just picked the trailer up less than an hour ago!” He backed away as Vance approached, his hands raised in front of his face.
Returning to the edge of the bay, their words replayed in Anderson’s head. Dead for days. Picked up the trailer less than an hour ago. He didn’t like where this was leading.
Jumping off the dock, Anderson’s face didn’t reflect the pain that shot through his recently repaired ACL. Gesturing for Vance to stop, Anderson questioned the driver.
“What’s your name?”
“Dell. Dell Hanks.”
“Was this a scheduled run for you, Dell?”
“N-No, sir. I just got in this morning with a load of coffee from Georgia. I was ahead of schedule and my boss will get every damn second out of you he can. Anyone else would have let me go home to sleep. But Paul said he’d just got a call for a local run I had to do before my shift timed out. He gave me two addresses. I was to show up at the first one, and they would hook up the trailer, then take the load to the second one — here — and it would be unloaded.”
“Son of a bitch!”
Anderson glanced at Eric who had figured out what Anderson was already thinking.
He’d been scammed.
Anderson Galen Bell had been a mild-mannered, easy-going person all his life…much like his father. A successful and well-respected dentist, Arthur Bell believed life was far too short to spend it angry and vengeful. He and his wife, Sara, had taught their boys it wasn’t so much about turning the other cheek, as it was deciding their own path and who they allowed to control them. His line of thinking didn’t always work, but it had served Anderson well for most of his life.
Now was not one of those times.
“Eric. Vance. You guys get the protective gloves and masks out of storage. And bring some for Mr. Hanks, here.” The driver tried to protest, but Anderson cut him off. “This goes above and beyond anyone’s job description. You, as well as my men over there, will be well compensated for disposing of this nightmare.”
Dell’s eyes widened at the thought of making a few bucks.
“You’re not going to call my boss, are you?”
“As far as I’m concerned, Dell, you made your delivery and went on your way.”
The long-distance trucker visibly relaxed.
“Now, do me a favor, and pull the rig around to the incinerator. It’s to your right over there, down a small incline. Eric and Vance will meet you over there and you can give these poor crustaceans a…proper cremation. Don’t dump the water. God only knows if it’s toxic or not. I’ll go call the water treatment plant.”
Trying not to visibly limp, Anderson returned to his office. Placing a call to the water treatment plant, he wrote down the instructions for getting rid of the tainted water. He then made out three checks, each for five hundred dollars and sealed them in individual envelopes. Turning to his computer monitor, Anderson scrolled through his recent invoices until he found what he was looking for, and made several notes.
Satisfied, Anderson attempted to stand. Pain shot through his knee, causing him to cry out and fall back into his chair.
Dammit! Dr. El-Kass had warned him about doing too much too soon. He had not been happy when Anderson cut his physical therapy short and returned to work. The doctor told him one wrong move could not only undo the repair but also do additional damage.
Anderson Bell had grown tired of sitting around at home with his leg up.
He had an efficient staff and good managers. Luminarias did good business whether he was there or not, and the customer feedback box was always full of compliments for food and staff. But the summer months were special to Anderson. As a child growing up just outside Detroit, Anderson’s family made several day trips to Bayview during the summer, and always spent the first two weeks of July there, without fail. Those trips were the best times of his life, and Anderson couldn’t miss out on another chance to try and recapture the simplicity and innocence of his youth.
Bayview was gearing up for the arrival of tourists and no less than ten festivals before the cool breezes of fall swept in off the water.
Anderson had to be a part of it. It was all he had to look forward to. The restaurant and the days of summer.
Not much of a life, but it was his.
He’d lost his dad to bone cancer six years ago. Sara Bell died less than a year after her husband from a heart attack. Anderson’s brother, Lawrence, lived in northern California. His parents each had one brother and neither had ever left Pennsylvania as his parents did. Anderson knew little or nothing about them or his cousins.
He was alone.
Taking a deep breath, Anderson slowly rose from his seat. The pain was subsiding, his knee almost numb. He knew that meant swelling.
He didn’t have time for this.
Anderson grabbed the bottle of anti-inflammatory pills and swallowed two without water.
Taking a few steps toward his office door, Anderson tried not to limp. He didn’t want to stress his knee or appear weak in front of his staff.
He also couldn’t appear weak during the errand he was about to run.
Clutching the envelopes in his hand Anderson Bell went in search of his day manager, Gayle Norman. He frowned finding her office empty. Passing the banquet rooms, Anderson heard Gayle’s deep throaty laugh. Following the sound, he found Gayle at the beverage counter instructing the newest member of his summer staff on the proper way to change the filters in the ice maker.
“Did I demote you?”
Gayle turned at the sound of Anderson’s voice, already laughing at his comment.
“Bennie’s wife went into labor, Nina had a flat tire on Old Highway 14, and Willie fell off his porch this morning. Broke his wrist. I am the wait staff right now.” Laughing at her own words, Gayle gestured at the young woman next to her. “This is Donna, the new hire I told you about a couple of days ago. She wasn’t supposed to start until next week, but she has prior experience, which I need today. Donna, this is Anderson Bell, the owner.”
Anderson shook hands and exchanged greetings with the pretty African-American young woman, and turned back to Gayle.
“Vance and Eric are doing a disposal job at the incinerator. A delivery driver is helping them. When they’re done, give them each one of these.” He handed her the envelopes. “And give this to Vance — I have a quick errand to run.” Giving her the instructions to dispose of the near toxic water, Anderson was already thinking about his next stop.
Shaking her head, Gayle pointed at Anderson’s leg. “That knee says otherwise.”
“I’ll be fine, Gayle, and this won’t take long”, bowing as he backed away, “thank you, ma’am!”
Anderson almost believed he would be fine until he reached the doorway and turned. The jolt of pain caused him to freeze in his tracks. Checking over his shoulder, he saw the two women were back to work and hadn’t noticed his misstep.
Exiting his restaurant, Anderson quickly made his way to his late model Chevy Tahoe. Taking one more look at the address he’d scribbled down, his anger easily reared its head again as he pulled out of the parking lot.
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