Sacrificial Daughter | #WIP

Sacrificial Daughter

NaNoWriMo lives! This unedited excerpt is from my 2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter, currently in revisions.


Thirty minutes passed before Ana Sellers returned Jeff Russell’s call. Expecting a receptionist or machine, she was surprised when Jeff answered the phone.

“Russell and Peters, may I help you?”

“I’m returning a call to Jeff Russell.”

“Analeigh?”

Pulling the phone away from her ear, Ana stared at it, incredulous. He knew her? Sixteen years had passed since the day she left Corwin without looking back.

“You know me?”

You were a year ahead of me in school.”

The name still didn’t ring any bells so she would have to take his word for it.

“I see. And now you’re an attorney in Corwin.?”

“Yes, my cousin, Adam, and I took over the practice from our dads about seven years ago.”

“And… and why d-do you need to speak to me, Jeff? What is the urgency?”

Silence was his response.

“Jeff? Still there?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’ve been looking for you for over two weeks.”

“Please tell me what this is about and why you’ve been looking for me.”

She heard an exhale escape from him, gruff and harsh.

“Analeigh, Rosie Chastain passed away.”

Ana froze. Rosie? Gone? No. No way. She spoke to her dear friend… three weeks ago. Damn it. Rosie said she was coming down with a cold but was looking forward to flying to Georgia in July to see her good friend and surrogate daughter.

Ana pulled at her chest, trying to ease the pain gnawing at her heart.

“W-What happened?”

“Heart failure. She told everyone she had a cold, but it was pneumonia. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to handle it. Rosie had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Three days later, she coded. There was nothing the doctors could do.”

Her dear friend was gone. Ana’s skin prickled with anxiety as she fought to keep grief from overwhelming her.

“Jeff, how did you find me? What made you even look for me?”

“Like I said, it took some time, Analeigh. Rosie didn’t get out much the last few years. The few people she did talk to said she was disgusted with the changes and direction of Corwin.”

Ana knew that was true.

She tried to avoid the subject of Corwin when she and Rosie talked. Ana didn’t need memories of the place flashing through her mind, and Rosie said it decayed into nothing more than a political cesspool. The town’s first families — the Burfords, Foleys, and Lakes held all the offices of power. They treated Corwin like it was their personal kingdom and speaking out against them killed social standing and sometimes worse.

“Rosie had no family, and at the beginning, we thought she had no will. After wading through the legalities, we were able to enter her home. We found her will, drawn up by an attorney over in Spradlin. We also found your name and number, but the number was disconnected.”

Damn it! After a mini-battle with her cell provider over dropped calls and shoddy service, Ana switched carriers… and got a new number… four days after she and Rosie last spoke.

Analeigh didn’t bother to wipe away her tears when she realized by the time she activated her new number… Rosie was already gone.

“Analeigh?”

“I’m here, Jeff. Just trying to take all this in.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Analeigh.”

“It’s alright. I do appreciate the call, Jeff… and thank you.”

“Wait, Analeigh. I didn’t hunt you done just to tell you Rosie was gone. In her will, she left everything to you. Her home and the store.”

The buzzing in Ana’s ears roared over Jeff’s voice. Analeigh Sellers sat there overwhelmed and in shock with a sense of dread taking over.

 

Image from ThinkStock
©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

No More Excuses


No More Excuses

Another snippet from ‘Heartburn’ and Quinn Landon’s journey to free herself from her judgmental family and adulterous husband.

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

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

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

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

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

All except Quinn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To find my brother. No more excuses.”

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

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Retta


Woman in the Mirror


This is unedited excerpt from my 2017 NaNoWriMo project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She brushed her long, dark tresses without thought, mesmerized by own her gaze.

The dark brown eyes, once vibrant and alluring, were now dull and lifeless, witnesses to her lifetime of abuse and excess.

The lines which used to appear around her eyes when she laughed were now permanent fixtures her best makeup couldn’t conceal.

To be seen, her thin lips needed the deep red lipstick tones she favored, or she always appeared cross and sullen.

At fifty-seven-years of age, Margaretta Marie Sellers was still an attractive woman.

But she no longer met her own standard of beauty.

Retta’s looks made her stand out among her contemporaries, which was a point of contention for more than three decades.

But it wasn’t enough for Retta. She wanted to be a standout, regardless of age.

She wanted… needed to be admired and envied by younger women.

Retta wanted to be an icon.

That desire was her downfall.

Blessed with a perfect mezzo-soprano voice, Retta longed to perform in the spotlight like her idols, Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price.

While her parents, Mae and Albert Sellers had the means to finance a music education for their daughter, neither thought it a practical career and pushed Retta towards a business or teaching degree.

Headstrong and determined, seventeen-year-old Retta ran away to find her destiny.

All the sheltered, naive teen found instead were men with little interest in her natural vocal talent and more interest in her shapely, young body and exotic looks.

With promises of fame and lucrative contracts, Retta bounced from party to party on the arm of different men who plied her with alcohol and drugs.

Less than three years after leaving home, Retta returned an alcoholic junkie.

Albert Sellers rushed his baby girl into rehab.

Mae was less welcoming and had little to do with her daughter. During Retta’s absence, her younger brother, sixteen-year-old Joseph, succumbed to rheumatic fever. Mae was devastated. Her gifted and studious son had a bright future ahead of him before illness took him. Yet, her selfish, narcissistic daughter ruined her voice and her life abusing anything she could get her hands on and she still lived… and manipulated her father.

Albert tried to be the cushion between the two women but never got to see them reconcile.

A week before Retta was discharged from the rehab center, Mae dropped dead from a coronary embolism.

Retta came home drug-free and sober but her partying ways were still with her.

Craving the attention of men, Retta put her appearance first and abstained from liquor and drugs.

During a south side party for a local city commission candidate, Retta connected with her first love, Ham Burford.

Now a college graduate working for the city’s finance department, Hamilton Charles Burford fell in love with Retta Sellers when they were fifteen-years-old.

But despite the above average living Albert Sellers made from his co-op farming business, Ham’s parents considered Retta socially unacceptable and forbade Ham from seeing her.

The smitten couple sneak around and get together when they can, but after Retta learned her parents wouldn’t support her music career, she changed, becoming depressed and more withdrawn.

It was bad enough she’d never get a life with Ham, but to also not have a life in music was more than she could bear, and she left on a morning train bound for Chicago.

Now they were both back in Corwin, but any dreams Retta had about being with her first love were snatched away when Ham introduced Retta to Belinda Foley, his fiancé.

Retta Sellers has no time to mourn her broken heart when Albert is injured in a farming accident and dies two days later.

The sole survivor of her family, Retta feels cheated by life and closes off her heart.

She continues to stare at her reflection, her jaws tight and as hard as her heart.

Her hand shakes as she lowers the brush. Her chest burns with anger for the betrayals by those closest to her.

The man she loved.

And the daughter she didn’t.

Retta launched the brush into the mirror, not bothering to shield her face or body from the glass shards.

Satisfied, she stood and left the room.

©2017 Felicia Denise

Hypocrite


Stapler

A scene from an ongoing (never-ending!) WIP. Quinn Landon can’t get a break! Determined to divorce the adulterous Oscar Landon, she can find no respite from her family’s judgment and harassment. Quinn draws a line in the sand when older brother, Aaron Clark, shows up at her job.

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.”

“Quinn-”

“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?”

“Quinn, you’re-”

“How would you feel if Vanessa had an affair? Or two? Three? How many have you had, Aaron?”

“Vanessa would never-”

“Hypocrite!”

“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.”

“Quinn-”

“I believe you were leaving.”

“Quinn-”

“Goodbye… brother.”

“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?

 

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Moving Right Along


Desk

Another scene from an ongoing WIP and continues on from Good Morning, Mother. Quinn Landon returns to work and updates her perky assistant on her meeting with Morris Dabney, not sharing with her the Ace she’s holding to force Oscar’s hand.

Quinn breezed into her office grateful her meeting with Morris had only run twenty minutes over her one hour lunch. Dropping her handbag under her desk, Quinn was about to listen to her voicemails when her assistant, Priscilla Cooper, entered her office at near running speed. The petite, perky dynamo stopped abruptly in front of Quinn’s desk. Fighting back the urge to grin, the assistant human resources director again reached for her phone.

“Really, Quinn? Really? You’re just going to act as if I’m not standing here dying to hear how your meeting with your DIVORCE attorney went?”

Looking surprised, Quinn relaxed into her chair.

“Good afternoon, Pris! How are you? Did you enjoy your lunch?”

“Quinn! C’mon, no fair! Did you sign the papers? Are you on the road to freedom?”

Deciding not to torment Priscilla any longer, Quinn chuckled and nodded.

“Yes, Mrs. Cooper, I signed my divorce papers less than an hour ago.” Quinn hadn’t finished her sentence before Priscilla was bouncing up and down, clapping.

“Well, alright! I’m so happy for you, and even happier you went through with it this time.”

Her assistant was one the very few people Quinn confided in. The group of women Quinn had known most of her life and considered friends, firmly sided with Oscar and their families. Quinn found this out the hard way five years ago when she shared her anger and resentment of both their families defending her adulterous husband, and her mother called her enraged, repeating what Quinn had said word for word.

“I signed the papers, Pris, but this isn’t over… yet. I still have a mediation meeting next week.”

Priscilla scoffed.

“Do you believe he won’t sign and drag this out more, hun? What has he to gain? Why is he putting you through this?”

Sighing, Quinn leaned forward onto her desk. “Well, in no particular order, because he can; both our families are on his side; he believes he’s going to win this battle of wills, and it’s not a good look for a school district administrator.”

“But his ‘winning’ means the two of you stay married. Why? He’s put you through so much. If he wants to sleep around, why are you expected to just put up with it? Have you had the man’s mental competency checked?”

Both women laughed.

“If I start checking mental competency, I’d have to line up my parents, his parents, all our siblings, and nearly everyone who’s ever met us to be tested, because I am considered the spiteful, vindictive bitch-of-a-wife who’s ruining her own marriage.”

“I’m sorry, Quinn. You are a fantastic person. You do not deserve any of this. Whenever you want to talk, just find me… here or at home. You know you have an open invitation to the Cooper abode.”

“Thanks, Pris. I’m blessed to have you as an assistant AND a friend.”

Priscilla pulled a face and pointed at Quinn.

“Yes, you are! And we’ll go into more detail on the friendship when you take me to lunch sometime next week. And, we can discuss my next merit raise after we clear this week’s calendar!”

Shaking her head, Quinn simply laughed.

“I’ve created a monster, but you get away with it by being the best assistant and facilitator in the building, and for keeping me on point. So, yeah… we can discuss that raise later this week.”

Stretching her arms out at her sides, the Nia Long look-alike leaned her head back.

“I am awesome!”

“Alright, Your Awesomeness, how does our afternoon look? Did Bennie send the promo copy up?”

“He sure did, and it looks amazing! Your new layout looks tons better than what marketing threw together. Bennie said Fletcher was there while he was printing it out and seemed quite impressed with your work.”

“Pris, don’t start.”

Priscilla tried to fake a hurt expression but dissolved into giggles.

“I was just passing along information, ma’am… nothing more.”

“Whatever, Priscilla. Did we hear back from Martech?”

“Yeah…and it’s not good news. They’re raising their premiums across the board in eighteen months. Even if employees only have a twenty percent co-pay, it will cost entirely too much. Any of the staff with more than two dependents would be working solely to afford healthcare.”

“Damn. Okay, at least we saw it coming, and they were nice enough to confirm the increase. I’ll see what our remaining HMOs have to offer before I approach new firms. Anything else?”

When her assistant didn’t respond, Quinn looked up to see Priscilla standing with her arms folded across her chest and a sullen look on her face.

“No…just no. I know that look, Pris. It’s a non-subject, for several reasons.”

Returning her gaze to her computer monitor, Quinn continued. “I pulled seven resumes off jobs.com for the administrative assistants Accounting wants. We need to contact the applicants for convenient time frames, then we can-…”

Realizing again Priscilla remained silent, a quick glance in her direction showed she stood rigidly in front of Quinn’s desk, lips tightly pursed.

“You’re not going to be happy until you have your say, so go ahead.”

Sitting back in her chair, Quinn braced for the verbal reprimand she knew was coming.

“Sue me if I want to see you happy with a man who truly appreciates and adores you for the remarkable person you are.”

“And that man is Fletcher Morgan?”

Priscilla threw her hands up.

“I don’t know — it could be. Or Don Jarrell… or Leonard Parkes… or Brandon Reynolds… or a guy you haven’t met yet. But you won’t know until you make yourself available, will you?”

“No, Pris…I won’t, but the fact of the matter is I’m not available. No mat-…”

“But you’re ne-…”

Quinn held up her hand.

“Let me finish. No matter how many papers I sign, until a judge bangs their gavel and declares my marriage over, I AM a married woman. No, there is no way I’ll reconcile with Oscar, but I cannot conduct myself as a single woman when I’m not. It’s not a good look, Pris, and it’s not who I am. I would love nothing better than to find ‘the one’… in my case, the REAL one this time, but I need to free myself of Oscar and learn how to deal with the disapproval of my family. Down the road, any man I bring into my life is going to have to deal with my family, and it would be wrong to subject any man to my family drama right now. He’d probably run from me screaming in the other direction.”

“But Quinn…-”

Quinn stopped her again.

“And those names you called out? No…just no. All nice guys, Pris, but never someone in the workplace. That never ends well. I love my job, and don’t want to lose it over a bad affair.”

“Quinnie…Fletcher is so delicious, though. He’s got that Keanu Reeves ‘John Wick’ thing going on, only not as stiff.”

Priscilla mimicked a wooden soldier’s walk in front of her boss’s desk.

Quinn couldn’t help but laugh.

“Of course, you’d push the one who’s not black.”

“Whatever, Miss United Nations! I know you dated interracially before you met Oscar. And this is 2016. You’re allowed to be with whoever makes you happy, and anyone who doesn’t like it should mind their own business and move along.”

“You should be up in the EEOC office, not here in Human Resources.”

“I’m far too radical for them!”

Quinn shook her head.

“How does Cameron handle you? That poor man probably doesn’t know if he’s coming or going.”

Priscilla’s face softened at the mention of her husband of twenty-two years.

“He handles me just fine.”

Quinn waved her hands in the air with a mock look of horror.

“No need to overshare, Pris. Especially to the lonely soon-to-be-divorcee. I want to be you when I grow up.”

“Trust me, you don’t. I’ve got three teenagers I’m desperate to unload. Is the circus coming to town anytime soon?”

“Oh, please. You’d go all mama bear on anyone that looked at your boys the wrong way.”

“True. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t considered boarding school every time I see piles of laundry or an empty fridge less than a week after I bought groceries.”

Quinn rose from her seat and walked around her desk. Bending down, she gave her assistant and friend a tight hug.

“I’m glad I have you in my life as a friend and a co-worker, Pris. But don’t worry so much. I’ll be fine. I’ve come through the worst part of this and I’m still standing. I haven’t even reached forty yet… still a lot of good years to find Mr. Right.”

“I know, Quinnie, and I’m sorry. I know I get pushy sometimes.”

Quinn raised an eyebrow.

“Alright, I’m pushy all the time, dang! But I have good intentions. Doesn’t that count for something?”

Before Quinn could answer, a cell phone began to ring. Quickly whipping it from her pocket, Priscilla answered, and Quinn knew immediately it was Cameron. Priscilla only got that moony, dreamy look when talking to her husband.

Mouthing and gesturing that she would work on contacting job applicants, Pris quickly backed out the office, closing the door behind her.

Feelings of loneliness and pangs of yearning assaulted Quinn. She stared at her office door, knowing Pris and Cameron were having their regular afternoon update call. He called every day after lunch, without fail. They would remind each other of after-school activities or games for their kids, or make plans to meet for dinner after work.

Another thing that was always the same was Priscilla smiled during the entire conversation. Quinn could just imagine Cameron smiling too. The successful ophthalmologist scheduled his day around his adoring wife, and Pris was constantly on the lookout for rare sports memorabilia to surprise him with.

Quinn loved their relationship, but if she dwelled on it too long, depression would set in.

Returning to her seat, Quinn tried to concentrate on the healthcare provider listing. Her hands tightened into fists as anger distracted her.

Why couldn’t she have what Pris and Cameron had? Why didn’t she have three active teenagers and an attentive husband?

Quinn had such high hopes for the future when she and Oscar first married. He’d been loving and attentive, and she thought he’d hung the moon. They did everything together — make dinner, laundry, shopping — mainly because they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and were very creative when it came to locations to make love.

Quinn and Oscar spent their first four wedding anniversaries in exotic locales soaking up sun… and each other.

Halfway to their fifth anniversary, Oscar changed, leaving home early in the morning and returning late at night with little or no contact with Quinn throughout the day. Quinn was looking forward to their fifth-anniversary trip — Paris, France. She’d dreamed of seeing the City of Lights since her early teens, but every time she brought up the subject with her husband, he’d promise to check the vacation calendar at work and get back to her.

Six weeks before their anniversary, Oscar told Quinn they couldn’t go. Two administrators accepted jobs with other districts, and one had been terminated. With the school year about to end, his workload was immense.

Quinn was devastated but knew how serious Oscar was about his job.

Oscar told Quinn not to toss out any of her notes for the trip, saying as soon as the school year was wrapped up, they would make the trip. He was sure they would get to Paris for Bastille Day in July.

Quinn never got that trip. By the time May fifth arrived, the only thing she got was confirmation that her husband of five years was an adulterer.

©2017 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved

Save

Save

Not a Date #WritingChallenge


Not a Date- meatloaf

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 49
This is another excerpt of my WIP, Sacrificial Daughter, currently at 69K. Ana is having dinner with a sheriff’s deputy and former “schoolmate.”

Murphy’s Family Restaurant topped Corwin’s annual food listing of favorite places to eat.

It wasn’t gourmet fare, secret recipes, or old family recipes which brought the crowds in, but the folksy, down-to-earth atmosphere found there 6 am to 9 pm seven days a week.

Third generation owner, Joe Murphy, welcomed every patron who walked through the door, and if he wasn’t available, his wife, Silvia, did.

Joe, Silvia, and the wait staff would have rolling conversations and included patrons. Topics were light, easy and fun. It wasn’t unusual for calls to come in inquiring not about the daily special, but what was the current topic of the day.

Analeigh Sellers pulled into Murphy’s parking lot at five minutes to six. Exiting her rental, she grinned when she saw Walt Gaskins leaning against a signpost near the entrance.

“How many demerits did you get for being late before you arrived early to everything?”

Ana laughed aloud.

“Believe it or not, I’ve never received a demerit for anything… and I’ve never been late.”

Walt threw his hands up in the air.

“Oh, my god, you’re a drill sergeant’s dream come true. Poster girl for the military.”

They both laughed as Walt opened the door for Ana and they headed for the wait stand.

“I said I never received demerits, but I was far from a DS’s dream recruit.”

Before Ana could continue, a loud bellow came from the other side of the restaurant.

“Walt. Hey. It’s always good to see you in the place.”

Without an ounce of shame, the large man gave Ana an appraising once over and nodded in approval.

“Walt, my man, your taste has improved a thousand percent. Introduce me to your beautiful friend.”

Walt and Ana’s smirks matched.

“You don’t recognize her?”

“Like I could forget these eyes. I never for-” Resting a hand on his waist, the confused man raised the other to scratch his head. Tilting his head, he stared at Ana again. His eyes widened in recognition.

“Analeigh?”

She looked from him to Walt and back.

“We’ve met?”

Walt explained.

“Analeigh, this is Joe Murphy, Jr. His family lived just outside the city limits and he didn’t go to our high school, but he spent a lot of time in town… working here and hanging out with the guys.”

“So, we never met.”

It was a statement, not a question.

“No, but I saw you around. I always thought you were so pretty. You left a big impression on me. I always hoped I’d see you whenever I came to town.”

“Thank you, Joe.”

“Dude, can we get a booth or are you going to keep drooling over my date?”

Joe, Jr. roared with laughter and gestured for the couple to follow him.

Ana wasn’t feeling the calm that showed on her face. Anxiety buzzed in her head while she tried to ignore Walt’s remark.

Date? He called her his date. Walt was over-the-top hot and gorgeous, but she only had room for one man in her head and her heart. She hoped Walt was simply using a figure of speech.

“How’s this?”

“Perfect, Joe. Thanks, man.”

“No problem. Wait staff will be right over. Enjoy.”

He looked at Ana again and walked away with a smile on his face.

Ana settled into the booth and admired the view from the large tempered window.

Acorn Fields, the city’s biggest park, stretched out for miles behind Murphy’s. Despite the evening hour, the vibrant colors of spring were still visible under the setting sun.

“Okay, remember I told you it’s meatloaf day, and it is amazing.”

“I had it a time or two when I came here with Rosie. Can’t remember if I liked it or not.”

Walt clutched his chest, feigning shock.

“That’s blasphemy. Everyone loves Murphy’s meatloaf. And order the mashed potatoes. They’re made fresh… no instant tater flakes here.”

Ana pushed her menu aside and folded her arms in front of her the table.

“Okay, but if I don’t like it, I’ll forever question your judgment.”

He mimicked her action with his arms.

“That’s fair.”

Walt’s smiled dimmed.

“How does it feel to be back, Analeigh?”

“Not as bad as I thought it would, but still a little unsettling. But I think it’s because Rosie’s gone.”

“You guys were close, huh?”

Ana shrugged a shoulder. “She made it bearable. I don’t know where I’d be today If I didn’t have Rosie in my life.”

Walt fidgeted in his seat.

“Analeigh… about when we were kids-”

“Thank you, Walt, but we need not rehash that. It won’t change the past.”

“I need you to understand. I never believed all those things I heard about you. Most kids didn’t. But it wasn’t just mean girls like Macy and Judy fueling the fire with rumors. Some of us had parents just as bad.”

“Walt, it wasn’t a fun time in my life, but it-”

“I’m sorry, Analeigh. I wanted to be your friend, but-”

The occasional glances cast her way from other customers since they entered were now outright stares. Swallowing her anxiety again, Ana touched Walt’s arm.

“It’s okay… honest. I’m fine. Let’s talk about something else.”

Walt ducked his head with a bashful grin.

“Thank you for being so gracious, Analeigh.”

Gracious? Was she being ‘gracious?’

Ana flashed a benign smile at Walt and ducked her head. She was glad Walt didn’t know this non-date was instead a trial-by-fire for her before the eyes of Corwin.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

My One Takeaway From NaNoWriMo #MondayBlog


NaNo winner banner


Another NaNoWriMo is behind me.

Did I learn anything? Were there any takeaways?

Oh, sure. Planning is good. Plotting can be a friend… even to a pantser like me.

Maybe only character-driven writers will understand this, but all the planning and prepping in the world still guarantees you nothing.

I was plodding right along, words flowing like a cool stream, when all of a sudden, my beloved protagonist looks around with the malevolent grin of a serial killer and dumps a plot twist in my lap. (We’re still not speaking.)

Okaaaay. Now what?

I went with it.

The scene I was writing looked nothing like the one I sketched out six weeks ago. But, hey. Words were flowing… from somewhere, so I kept writing—and making notes.

I gave a cursory glance to my journal every morning, wondering if the completed scene would resemble what I’d planned in any way.

It didn’t.

But, I stayed with it, because that is the point of NaNoWriMo. Get the words out of your head and on paper…fifty-thousand of them at least.

I reached the halfway mark and wondered if Hemingway ever struggled like this. Then I realized he drank… and a glass of wine doesn’t sound bad. But should I drink it or give it to my protagonist?

Nah. I’m still not happy with her… the wine is mine.

After one glass of Sweet Red, I understand why Hemingway drank!

It gets you out of your own way. The wall of doubt and fountain of inhibitions fall and you write like you’re on fire.

Or maybe that was just me.

No, I’m not advocating drinking while writing. Our liver is our friend and unlike plots, we can’t get a new one with every manuscript.

But, a writer writes because they have to. It is a deep-seeded need that can only be fulfilled by putting words on paper. Anything else is unacceptable.

If you get hit with a dose of writer’s block, get out of your way. The characters didn’t change and the words remain the same. The problem is you.

Remember why you write.

Remember the freedom you feel.

Remember the sense of accomplishment you feel regardless of if it’s five, five hundred, or five-thousand words you leave on the paper.

It took me a couple of years to “get it” but the NaNoWriMo rule of no editing makes perfect sense. It makes me get out of my own way to just write. Of course, by doing so, I’m also giving my characters free reign, but that’s a completely different blog post.

I’ve spent the first three days of December making notes and moving things around in my MS, however, I’m putting it away until after the holidays. But sometime in January, I’ll have to decipher all those red squiggly lines and double blue lines, and wonder if I was typing in alien code.

And there may or may not be wine involved, because… Hemingway.

 

The Park #WritingChallenge


Scissors

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 48

NaNoWriMo is over, but the writing continues. This is another excerpt of my WIP, Sacrificial Daughter, currently at 62K. This is part of a memory Ana has which led to major changes in her life and changed its direction.


Analeigh exited Dot’s Five & Dime clutching the bag which held her new spiral notebooks and pencils. She headed for home, eager to get to the solitude of her bedroom and add to her story Sadia, the Beloved African Princess.

Excited, Ana planned the wedding scene between Sadia and mighty warrior, Manu Owon, in her mind. She didn’t hear the group of girls approaching her from behind until they surrounded her.

Macy Burford and Judy Lake each gripped one of Ana’s elbows, pulling her along at a brisk pace.

“What are you doing? Let go of me!” Ana pulled and tugged to break free, but stopped when she felt Macy’s nails dig into her skin through the thin jacket she wore.

“Aww, calm down, Analeigh. We only want to hang out with you,” Judy cooed.

“No, you don’t. We’re not friends. Let go!” Ana stopped, trying to wrench herself free, but a sharp jab to her left shoulder caught her off guard. She turned her head to find Angela Feltner glaring at her. Next to Angela stood Corinne Beeman, her eyes filled with sympathy and fear.

Macy jerked Ana forward. “C’mon. We don’t have much time.

“Where are we going? Macy, what do you want from me? Just let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”

The taller girl scoffed and responded through gritted teeth.

“I don’t give a damn who you tell. No one will believe the town whore’s bastard daughter.”

Ana accepted what her mother was long ago. She could do nothing to change it. But being reminded of her anonymous father stung.

“Macy, just let me go. Judy, please. I have to get home before dark.”

Angela giggled. “Why is that, Analeigh? Do you have to help your mama service her men? Is that it, Analeigh? You raising your dress and spreading your legs for a long line of men every night?”

“You’re disgusting!”

Angela clipped Ana’s shoulder with a balled fist.

“Don’t call me disgusting… that’s your mama, not mine-”

“And what she does has nothing to do with me.”

Despite the late afternoon’s cool breeze, perspiration trickled the length of Ana’s back, fueled not by fear but anger.

Where were they taking her? What did they want? What gave them the right to control her?

The group reached the corner and turned right on Mt. Pleasant Boulevard.

“Shut your mouth and keep moving.”

Jaywalking, they crossed the desolate side street.

Ana realized they were heading straight for the back entrance of Symphony Park.

“Why are we going to the park? C’mon, you guys, let me go. Please?”

“We want to spend time with our friend, pretty Analeigh Sellers. We want to know how you always have the answers and get all those A’s. You doing special favors for teachers after school, Analeigh?” Macy smirked, marring her plain features even more.

Once the group was through the gate, Macy shoved Ana to the ground.

Ana threw her hands out and caught herself, her mouth mere inches away from the dirty, cracked cement. Pain shot through her wrist and heightened her anger.

“What the hell do you want?”

Macy leaned toward her. “If I had my way, you’d die, Analeigh. You and your slut of a mother make me sick.”

The crazed look in Macy’s eyes confused Ana, but anger won out. She kicked her leg out, catching Macy in the shin. Ana rolled to the right, missing the hard stomp of Angela’s booted foot.

Ana jumped to her feet, ignoring the pain of her injured wrist.

“Why do you hate me? What did I do to you? None of you even know me.”

“Pretty Analeigh. Smart Analeigh,” Angela mimicked. “You’re a whore’s daughter, which makes you a whore. But the boys and teachers think you’re so wonderful.”

Ana shook her head, her eyes full of sadness.

“You’re wrong. No one thinks I’m wonderful.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Macy bellowed. “None of it matters.”

All eyes were on Macy as she pulled a large pair of silver-plated scissors from her bag.

“You need a haircut, Analeigh.”

 

©Felicia Denise 2017

The Afghan #WritingChallenge


White afghan

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 46
Mid-way through NaNoWriMo2017 — YES! – and this is another unedited excerpt from my project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She smiled standing in her friend’s room. It was one hundred percent Rosie Chastain, appearing light and delicate, but held up by a solid sturdy foundation.

The ninety-year-old high-back rocking chair still sat in the corner. Made from thick oak by Rosie’s Uncle Preston, with pale pink cushions hand-sewn by his wife, Delia, it was Rosie’s special place. Whenever she had to sit and think about something, pray over something or someone, or collect her thoughts after a bad day, Rosie sat in the rocker.

Ana ran her hand over the smooth, glossy wood.

Next to the rocker was a massive nine-drawer dresser. Ana wasn’t sure what tree the dresser’s wood came from, but she remembered hearing workmen swear at the dresser’s weight when Rosie bought new carpeting and it had to be moved.

She opened drawers, not surprised at the order and neatness. Ana walked into the closet and was overwhelmed with memories of Rosie. The scent of the light jasmine and amber cologne Rosie loved was still in the air. Nurse’s uniforms, surgical scrubs, and lab coats took up a full third of the closet. Ana looked through the dress clothes, smiling at her friend’s love of silk.

She walked out of the closet and stood next to the large four-poster bed. Like the dresser, the bed was made from real wood and took four men to move it.

Sitting on the side of the bed, Analeigh buried her face in her hands.

Rosie was gone and now she had to get rid of these precious things.

How?

Jeff told her to leave anything she didn’t want in the house and the auction company would include it in their inventory and sale.

Ana didn’t think she could part with the bedroom furniture. She had no space for it in her modest two-bedroom condo back in Columbus, but these were the pieces Rosie loved and cherished most and they were important to Ana too. She would find premium movers and storage until she made decisions about her future.

Ana reached for her notepad and realized it was on the kitchen counter.

Headed for the kitchen, Ana stopped when she saw something behind the bedroom door. She closed the door to find a dark leather ottoman. It was large and square… and Ana had never seen it before.

Rosie must have bought it after Ana left Corwin.

She knelt for a closer look and saw the tiny brass hinges. Ana raised the ottoman’s lid and clutched her chest with a raspy gasp.

Her eyes filled with tears as she reached into the ottoman to retrieve the treasure.

Sitting on the floor, Ana hugged the one hundred percent Merino wool afghan. She rubbed her chin and cheek against it, incredulous it was still as baby soft as the day she and Rosie completed it.

 ~ ~ ~
Ana made a few bracelets and necklaces, but she never had the patience for jewelry making and working with crystal the way Rosie did. She had no passion for it. When a friend told Rosie about loop knitting and arm knitting, she thought they might be something Ana would enjoy, and it was a creative endeavor.

She was right.

Ana was thrilled when Rosie presented her with the bulky snow-white yarn. She watched the accompanying video four times over two days before she would even consider beginning her project.

On the third day, Rosie laughed as a giddy Ana dumped the first bag of yarn on the dining room table.

A small piece of paper clung to one of the skeins. Ana picked it up and read it. Her mouth gaped open as she backed away from the table.

“What’s wrong, Analeigh?”

Shaking her head, Ana opened her mouth to speak but the words didn’t come.

“Analeigh? What’s wrong, honey? You okay?”

Rosie took a step towards her, but Ana threw up her hands, the slip of paper clutched in her fist.

“You spent almost five-hundred dollars on yarn? For me? Rosie that’s crazy. You have to take it back.”

“Is that what has you so upset? The cost of the yarn?” Rosie waved her off. “The cost is not important, sweetie. The look in your eyes and the smile on your face is what matters. The sense of accomplishment you’ll have at trying something new… being creative, that’s how we grow. Accepting challenges. Now, calm down and let’s get-”

“No, Rosie. You have to take it back.”

“Stop talking nonsense, child. I’ll do no such thing. And haven’t I taught you it is rude to refuse a gift?”

Ana walked over to Rosie, lifted one of her hands and placed the receipt in it.

“Yes, you did, Rosie, but this is too much. I’m not worth it.”

Rage erupted in Rosie and her tawny brown skin glowed as heat suffused her body. She crumpled the receipt in her hand and stalked around the table. Her arms flailed, and her gaze darted around the room.

Analeigh Sellers took a step back, afraid Rosie would send her away and not be her friend anymore.

“I’m sorry, Rosie.”

The wiry old woman rushed to Ana, grabbing and clutching her to her chest.

The teen didn’t understand, but held on, not wanting to be sent away. When Rosie pulled back, Ana saw her face was wet with tears.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?”

She smoothed Ana’s hair down and cupped her cheeks in her hands.

“Some folks think the worst way to hurt a child is physically… beat on them, smack them around. But, sweetie, what’s been done to you is just as bad… worse in some ways.”

“I don’t understand.”

Rosie Chastain tilted her head toward the table.

“Child, if I spent ten-thousand-dollars on that yarn it was worth it to me to see you smile because you are worth it. You are important to me. You matter.”

Ana opened her mouth to argue, but Rosie stopped her.

“You can’t put a price on people, Analeigh, everyone has value. Everyone matters because they are here… alive. There isn’t one of us who is better or more worthy than anyone else. I know that to be true. I’ve seen a lot in almost seventy years on this earth, but I’ve never come across a person who was better than anyone else.”

Pain mixed with the confusion on Ana’s face and she looked away.

Rosie gently turned her head back to see her eyes.

“Child, I could tell you how special and worthy you are all day long, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.”

~ ~ ~

Ana wiped her eyes remembering that day. It took a little more time, but she soon learned to walk with her head held high. Because of Rosie Chastain.

~ ~ ~
For the next three weeks, Ana stopped by after school every afternoon, and she and Rosie worked on the afghan together. Methodically matching loops and rows.

On the last day, Ana locked the final stitch and the women complimented each other as they admired their handiwork.

“We’re pretty good, huh?”

“Child, you could sell this for twice what the yarn cost.”

“No way. I’ll never sell it.”

“Does my old heart good to hear that.”

Rosie ran her hand over the blanket.

“Just a month ago, this was piles of yarn, no shape or form, sitting on the store shelves waiting to be purchased. I bought the yarn and you, Analeigh, studied the process. You decided on a pattern and we worked together, keeping the blanket uniform…no loose ends. And now we have this beautiful creation.”

Ana admired her handiwork until she realized Rosie stopped speaking. She glanced in her direction only to find Rosie’s eyes locked on her.

“This blanket is you, Analeigh.”

Ana’s brow knitted in confusion.

“Your young life here… in this town, was just a pile of loose ends. No one tried to give you structure and guidance. They just grabbed a loose end and pulled. But you’re growing into a beautiful young woman and forging your own structure without anyone’s guidance. You’ve got the pattern, Analeigh, time to make your own creation.”

“If I did any of those things, Rosie, it’s because of you.”

“Oh, no, child. I was the shelter from the storm. We all need one sometimes, and we all act as one. You’ll be someone’s shelter one day too so they can have the opportunity to figure it all out. That’s all I did for you.”

“No, Rosie… it’s not. You gave me structure and guidance. And love. And Rosie you saved my life.”

Ana gathered the ends of the snow-white afghan and placed them in Rosie’s hands.

“That’s why I want you to have this.”

~ ~ ~
Ana closed the lid on the ottoman.
Rosie Chastain broke down in tears that day. Ana knew the spry senior citizen was fond of her, but she’d always felt Rosie acted more out of pity. A sense of dread stayed nestled close to her heart, fearing the day would come Rosie would no longer consider Analeigh worthy of her time.

The bond between the two friends was cemented that day. Ana knew she would leave Corwin and its suffocating judgment behind. Leaving Rosie Chastain wasn’t an option.

 

©Felicia Denise 2017
Image by jdurham

NaNo Diaries: POV #NaNoWriMo2017


Writing Banner


POV (point of view).

It can be a struggle, especially for authors still trying to find their ‘voice’… like me.

First person POV or alternating POVs among lead characters seem to be the standard or preferred. I read them, but I prefer Third Person Close because I like to know what everyone is thinking, not what someone assumes they’re thinking.

I’ve read books where I loved the second lead, all the BFFs, the parents, nosy neighbors… even the antagonist.

But the lead hero/heroine/protagonist?

Just wanted to push them into oncoming traffic.

And this character that I’ve come to loathe gets to tell me their story their way.

Meh.

Flip the script and  I cringe re-reading things I’ve written… the head-hopping is epic. It’s a fine line, and a struggle—writing that person, that character who gets to tell the whole story… as it relates to them.

And, make them interesting, likable, and flawed so at the very least readers won’t want to push them into oncoming traffic.

I give my characters a lot of room to tell their story.

But if I get annoyed… I’ll kill them off myself.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 11 word count – 1885

Total – 21,777 / 50,000

 

Keep Writing!