Writer Wednesday | “Family Matters”

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Even though loss shaped Olivia Chandler’s life, she never learned how to deal with it. Thrust into the foster care system as a child, little Livvie Chandler was told to ‘just forget’ and ‘be good.’ And for twenty-eight years, that’s what she did.

In this short snippet, Olivia finds out Willis Benson is terminally ill. The executor of her father’s will has been protector, mentor and surrogate father to the closed-off attorney.

Olivia moved on after her father’s death and her mother was sent away, but this could be the loss that sends her spiraling out of control.

***

“How long has he known?”
“Since July.”
“July?” Thoughts and images raced through Olivia’s mind. She spent time with Willis five or six times in the last four months. And never suspected a thing.
“How-”
“No one knows. Two weeks… two hours. Any answer would be a guess.”
“That’s unacceptable, Ian. His condition must tell them something. Who is this doctor? Maybe we should get a-”
“Olivia, stop.”
She frowned.
“Dad signed a DNR.”
Dizziness and nausea gripped her. Heat enveloped her body as sudden fatigue caught hold and dragged her toward the floor.
Ian was the only reason Olivia didn’t fall. He held on and propped her against the wall.
Ian spoke to her but Olivia heard no words. Her jumbled thoughts were of Willis Benson, the man in the brown suit she met as a ten-year-old. The only constant in her life since that fateful day when everything changed.
Ben Chandler planned well for his daughter’s future. But it was Willis Benson who fought for Olivia… and her mother. He risked his own job future and status in the firm to carry out Ben’s wishes.
When Olivia turned eighteen and took partial control of her inheritance, Willis was at her side. He answered Olivia’s questions and gave mild guidance, but Willis insisted she make her own decisions.
Years later when Olivia refused to visit her mother ever again, Willis accepted it and continued to stand by her.
Now Olivia needed to accept the fact if… no, when Willis suffered another cardiac episode or seizure, no life-saving measures would be taken.
He would die… and leave her.

****

After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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Sunday Snippet | “Family Matters”

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Near the end of In the Best Interest of the Child, heroine Olivia Chandler admitted she needed help to overcome her emotional demons and made the giant step forward to enter counseling. But the savvy child advocate attorney is too smart for her own good sometimes and nothing is ever easy with her.

This small snippet is from one of Olivia’s counseling sessions. Psychologist Diane Payton is as tough as her client and doesn’t give Olivia any slack.

***

Without a word, Diane went to her desk and retrieved the lone file from her In basket and returned to her seat.

“You have the right to review your file at anytime, Olivia, so just pretend you made a request and read the highlighted section for me please.” She passed a document to Olivia. “Aloud, please.”

Confused, Olivia found the section and began to read.

“Client is agitated and fidgets. Doesn’t maintain eye contact. Hands/palms appear to be sweaty. Voice tone is raised and speech is rapid. Almost childlike. Client is reliving the experience.”

Olivia read the passage again in silence. She frowned and looked to Diane for explanation.

“That was you as spoke of some of your former foster homes, the physical abuse you suffered, and life without your parents.”

Olivia Chandler couldn’t help but think of how horrible a childhood she had.

“Now read this one.”

Taking the document from her therapist, Olivia did as she was told.

“Client is the most relaxed I’ve seen her to date. Sitting in upright chair, legs crossed, hands clasped around knee. Her speech is animated and eyes are bright. Client appears content. (Happy?)”

“Diane, when was-”

“When you talked about Bruce.”

Olivia shook her head.

“This doesn’t prove anything.”

Her therapist smirked.

“You’re right, it doesn’t.” She leaned toward Olivia. “Or… it does.”

“She scoffed. “Now, you’re being facetious.”

“And you’re in denial.”

****

After winning her young client’s custody battle, Olivia Chandler knows she can no longer hide from her own childhood trauma. With support from Bruce Bellamy and his family, she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother for the years Olivia spent in foster care. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of forgiveness?

Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. But her continued refusal to visit her mother pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce. The unexpected death of her mentor blind-sides Olivia causing her to withdraw back into the darkness of her mind. She pushes everyone away… including Bruce Bellamy.

Defeated, Olivia Chandler believes it her fate to concede to the same trauma-born mental illness that took her mother. But two voices, one from the present and one from the past, will challenge her to fight for the future her father intended for her to have… or succumb to madness.

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Writer Wednesday


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Unedited snippet from Family Matters… coming soon!

***

“No, don’t do it.”
Olivia smirked as she removed the spiked heel black boots and white shoulder-length wig.
“Aw, you’ve ruined my fantasy.”
“Sorry, not sorry, Bellamy. But if you would like to wear them, feel free.”
Bruce laughed, holding out his hand to Olivia.
She took his hand and curled up next to him on the sofa. He kissed her forehead.
“You win… again. And besides, fantasy doesn’t compare to the reality I have in my arms.”
Olivia buried her head in his chest, embarrassed. Bruce raised her chin until he could see her eyes.
“Still can’t take a compliment, I see.”
“I can… on my work. On the things I do to keep children safe. I’m proud of that. But when the compliments get personal? I don’t know, Bruce. I guess I don’t feel…”
“Worthy?”
Olivia averted her eyes.
“I get it, sweetness. What’s all the fuss about, right? We’re all little worker-bees doing our part to make the hive better.”
He didn’t continue until she looked at him.
“Only we’re not, Olivia. Some people don’t give a damn about the greater good. As Rena’s case proved, some people are only out for self… at any cost.”
Bruce held her tighter and smiled. “Then, there are the people who give their all. They dive into the problem head first and failure isn’t an option, even if it costs them personally.”
Bruce kissed her hand.
“Rena’s case costs you, sweetness. It brought back pain you believed was hidden and took you to darkness you thought no one else could see. You were never less than professional, but those who cared about you could see the case was emotional and traumatic for you too.
That’s why two groups of people who didn’t know each other came together tonight. To honor the woman who put self aside. You saw a child with the deck stacked against her and you re-dealt the cards to make sure she won.”
Overcome with emotion, tears pooled in Olivia Chandler’s eyes. She longed for the day she could see herself as Bruce did. He was her constant cheerleader.She hadn’t been looking for Bruce but was grateful their paths crossed.
“Rena wasn’t the only winner.” She reached up and caressed his cheek. “I won too.”
Stretching his arms out across the back of the sofa, Bruce Bellamy crossed his legs.
“I am a prize, aren’t I?”
Olivia dissolved into a fit of laughter, falling onto her side. What was she going to do with this man?

***

FM Choice

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Another Loss #WIP


Sunset

Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. The loss of her longtime protector, mentor, and father-figure, Willis Benson, devastates Olivia Chandler.

An hour late, Olivia strode past Margot’s desk, her eyes focused on her office door.

Margot watched her pass, unhappy with what she was about to do. Setting her workstation to away status, she followed her boss into Olivia’s office.

Olivia appeared not notice Margot’s presence and fumbled around, pulling out her laptop and opening file folders.

Standing near the door, Margot folded her arms across her chest… and waited. She watched Olivia move folders around her desk several times before placing them in their original positions.

Lost in thought, the attorney remained standing at her desk, head bowed. When at last she looked up, Olivia was startled at seeing Margot.

“What’s wrong?”

“You tell me, Olivia. You’ve been in a fog since you got here… late. You’re never late.”

“We all have off days, Schultz.”

“You don’t. Not when it comes to your job.”

“Well, guess I’m due then, huh?”

“Maybe. Olivia, what’s-”

“How’s the day shaping up? Bowers custody hearing at one, right? Does Louis have the background check done for the Nealy case?”

“Yes, the background check is back… and on your desk,” she gestured at the mess Olivia had created, “somewhere. Mr. Bowers has asked for a thirty-day continuance and Mrs. Bowers isn’t arguing against it. Judge Whelan is ready to grant it as long as you don’t have a problem with the custody arrangement for the kids.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“I have no problem with the custody arrangement.”

Margot glared at her boss as her patience wore thin.

“I haven’t told you what the arrangements are yet, Olivia.”

A pained look marred Olivia’s features. She fell back into her chair… silent.

Margot turned and closed the office door. Her brow knitted with worry, she took a seat in front of Olivia’s desk.

“Talk to me. Olivia, what happened?”

“I’m fine, Margot. It’s an off day. It hap-”

“Stop it.”

Leaning forward, the office manager’s voice hardened. Her eyes bored into Olivia.

“You were late. In the ten years I’ve worked for you, Olivia, you’ve never been late. Not. Once. You didn’t take any of my calls or texts. You haven’t taken any of Bruce’s calls and the man is crazy with worry.  He drove by your house twice last night and wanted to call the police when you weren’t there. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. But we care about you, Olivia, and we don’t deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.”

Margot stood and walked toward the door, still talking. “Please let me know how you want to proceed after you read the Bowers’ custody arrangements.”

Olivia’s shoulders slumped, shame bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. As Margot reached for the doorknob, Olivia called out but for all her effort, her voice was low, soft and quavered.

“Margot, I’m sorry.”

The offended woman stopped, leaving the door closed but she also didn’t turn around.

“You’re right. I’m being unfair. I-I… don’t know why I have such a problem processing-”

Margot whirled around. “Olivia, dammit! What happened?”

Grief and anxiety won. Olivia wilted deeper into her chair as the first tear fell.

“Willis died last night.”

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

New Hire #WIP


Glasses of Wine

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 Peckham to issue a public apology.”

“His father will be livid.”

“He should have kept his baby boy on a short leash and out of my case.”

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 been just 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.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

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It’s Time


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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.

©2017 Felicia Denise

Another Loss #WritingChallenge


Sunset

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 42
Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. The loss of her longtime protector, mentor, and father-figure, Willis Benson, blindsides Olivia Chandler.

An hour late, Olivia strode past Margot’s desk, her eyes focused on her office door.

Margot watched her pass, unhappy with what she was about to do. Setting her workstation to away status, she followed her boss into Olivia’s office.

Olivia appeared not notice Margot’s presence and fumbled around, pulling out her laptop and opening file folders.

Standing near the door, Margot folded her arms across her chest… and waited. She watched Olivia move folders around her desk several times before placing them in their original positions.

Lost in thought, the attorney remained standing at her desk, head bowed. When at last she looked up, Olivia was startled at seeing Margot.

“What’s wrong?”

“You tell me, Olivia. You’ve been in a fog since you got here… late. You’re never late.”

“We all have off days, Schultz.”

“You don’t. Not when it comes to your job.”

“Well, guess I’m due then, huh?”

“Maybe. Olivia, what’s-”

“How’s the day shaping up? Bowers custody hearing at one, right? Does Louis have the background check done for the Nealy case?”

“Yes, the background check is back… and on your desk,” she gestured at the mess Olivia had created, “somewhere. Mr. Bowers has asked for a thirty-day continuance and Mrs. Bowers isn’t arguing against it. Judge Whelan is ready to grant it as long as you don’t have a problem with the custody arrangement for the kids.”

“Okay.”

“Okay, what?”

“I have no problem with the custody arrangement.”

Margot glared at her boss as her patience wore thin.

“I haven’t told you what the arrangements are yet, Olivia.”

A pained look marred Olivia’s features. She fell back into her chair… silent.

Margot turned and closed the office door. Her brow knitted with worry, she took a seat in front of Olivia’s desk.

“Talk to me. Olivia, what happened?”

“I’m fine, Margot. It’s an off day. It hap-”

“Stop it.”

Leaning forward, the office manager’s voice hardened. Her eyes bored into Olivia.

“You were late. You didn’t take any of my calls or texts. You haven’t taken any of Bruce’s calls and the man is crazy with worry.  He drove by your house twice last night and wanted to call the police when you weren’t there. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. But we care about you, Olivia, and we don’t deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.”

Margot stood and walked toward the door, still talking. “Please let me know how you want to proceed after you read the Bowers custody arrangements.”

Olivia’s shoulders slumped, shame bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. As Margot reached for the doorknob, Olivia called out but for all her effort, her voice was low, soft and quavered.

“Margot, I’m sorry.”

The offended woman stopped, leaving the door closed but she also didn’t turn around.

“You’re right. I’m being unfair. I-I… don’t know why I have such a problem processing-”

Margot whirled around. “Olivia, dammit! What happened?”

Grief and anxiety won. Olivia wilted deeper into her chair as the first tear fell.

“Willis died last night.”

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

Admissions #WritingChallenge


Dinner Table

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 41
Another snippet from the dinner scene in Family Matters which will be published one day… in this lifetime. SMH.

“You have two weddings coming up? Wow.”

He gestured holding up a finger. “Yes, but I only have to pay for one of them. Farren, Pat’s fiancé, is the daughter of two attorneys. I’m sure their wedding will be glorious.”

“Two attorneys? What’s Farren’s last name?”

“Foster.”

“Her parents are Collins and Catherine Foster?”

Pat and Bruce both nodded.

Olivia’s eyes widened. “That wedding will be more than glorious. It will make Hollywood A-listers jealous. The Fosters are the go-to investment attorneys in this part of the state. They have a waiting list… and they’re not cheap.”

“You know them, Olivia?” Bruce asked.

“Very well. I was a client a few years back.”

Bruce sat back in his chair, his mouth hanging open. His children all stared at Olivia with surprised expressions too.

“What’s wrong, Bellamy?”

“A successful law practice, that amazing house, and you’re a client of high-powered financial attorneys.” He leaned forward and smirked. “Who are you, Olivia Chandler?”

She grinned. “I’m merely a humble attorney who’s smart about managing her money.”

Bruce cast a doubtful look at her. “So you say.”

Before Bruce Bellamy could continue, Breck spoke up. “What made you decide to become an attorney, Olivia?”

Bruce’s jaw tightened, but Olivia smiled, regarding Breck warmly.

“My father was an attorney. Estate Planning and Management.”

Casey Bellamy frowned. “Really? What made you choose child advocacy instead of following in your dad’s footsteps?”

Bruce started, but Olivia reached out her hand in his direction. “It’s okay.” Clasping her hands together, Olivia regarded each of the young faces.

“When I was ten-years-old, my family was involved a very bad car accident.”

Pat returned to his seat and Shaun made no move to leave.

“M-my father was killed instantly. My mom and I suffered serious injuries. She was in a coma twice. We’d been taken to different hospitals, and I didn’t know how she was…or get to s-see her…”

Bruce had to stop her.

“Sweetness, may-…”

“It’s okay, Bruce. I’m okay.”

Casey looked from Olivia to her father, the term of endearment not lost on her.

Olivia took a deep breath to settle herself before continuing.

“When I was well enough to be discharged, my mother was still in a coma. We had no other family, so I was put into temporary foster care.”

Casey’s gasp was the only sound in the room. Pat glanced at his father, while Shaun slid down in his seat and Breck stared down at the table surface, his features marred by anguish.

“I can tell by your reactions, you know a little something about foster care. It’s not a death sentence, but it’s no walk in the park either. But I did get to go home a few months later. My mom was weak but her physical injuries were healing.” Olivia stared at her clasped hands. “Her mind was another story.”

“What happened, Olivia?” Casey question was soft and whisper-like.

“I didn’t understand it at the time, but my mother was losing touch with reality… a day at a time. Not to mention, her mental issues were hindering her full recovery from the injuries she suffered. Her doctors decided she needed care she couldn’t get at home and admitted her to a private mental facility.”

“And you went back to foster care.” It was a statement, not a question uttered by the youngest Bellamy.

Olivia nodded.

“But you went to college… and law school. You’re successful, right? Your mom got well and came back, right?”

Olivia Chandler’s jaws tightened for a fraction of a second before she raised her head and answered Casey.

“No. My mother is still in that facility.”

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

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