Between now and June 1st, royalties from the print, audio, and electronic editions of DEAREST MOTHER AND DAD will be donated to the Otsego VFW Post 3030. (Dad was a member.)
I submitted my one act play back in December. Last week, the Allegan Community Players announced the lineup for the festival:
Purple Roses by Christina Thompson
Potential by Scott Mullen
The Band Currently Known as the Apaches by Les Abromovitz
I’m in! A first for me. I’m honored. What’s even crazier is that those characters are from my Chemical Attraction Series, which is set in a town based on Allegan.
The play was originally a short story. The scene takes place at Sylvia’s Bed & Breakfast, modeled after the Delano Mansion Inn in Allegan’s downtown area. The scene is a prequel to Chemical Attraction—before my main characters Joe Roberts and Madeline Pierce actually meet and fall in love. While mourning the death of her husband, Madeline’s Aunt Sylvia focuses on getting Joe and Madeline in the same room at the same time. The conversations of loneliness between Joe and Sylvia and then between Madeline and Sylvia break my heart.
Sylvia has become one of my favorite secondary characters in my series. In fact, I’m in the process of writing a new novel where she’s the main character trying to navigate in a world without her husband.
My head knows these characters are a figment of my imagination, but my heart knows their emotions are real. It’ll be strange to see these people, who have been in my life for so many years, become tangible on stage at the Griswold Auditorium, which I have also referenced in my series.
In Chemical Attraction, a fundraiser is held in the lower level of the Griswold. (I call it the Hartford though.) Then, in Chemical Reaction, a couple characters hide in the backstage area.
What a surreal experience this will be! I may cry. No, I guarantee I will cry. I’m aware the director may change the props and dialogue; this is a collaborative project after all, but I believe the emotions of the scenes will stay true.
If you’ve enjoyed my Chemical Attraction Series, this is a must see. Please, join me. I’ll be the one sobbing before the festival even starts.
Friday, April 22nd at 7 pm
Saturday, April 23rd at 7 pm
Sunday, April 24th at 2 pm
401 Hubbard Street
Allegan, MI 49010
All tickets are $5 at the door.
For more information, visit the Allegan Community Players.
For more information on my series, visit The Chemical Attraction Series on Amazon.
Although written five years ago, this short story about the characters from The Chemical Attraction Series is still a topical subject. Those of us left behind after the death of a loved one can struggle to cope with our responsibilities while we grieve.
I think these characters must have been real in a previous life for me to know their rich backstories. In fact, I love them and know them so well that I used Matt Connor’s father, Orrin, as the main character in my novel, Dearest Mother and Dad, set during the Korean War. I consider “Devastation” a lead into Dearest Mother and Dad and Chemical Attraction.
On the overcast September day, Police Chief Matt Connor jumped out of his cruiser in the circular drive of Allenton General Hospital. Glancing around, he strolled briskly toward Emergency Services and the Occupational Health Department, which shared a large waiting room. He had to warn his wife, Eva, of the torrential hailstorm bearing down on her.
Even before he had become Chief seven years ago, Gail Connor had used her influence to bend people to her way of thinking. Then, she felt entitled. After all, her son was the Chief of their rural town and her daughter-in-law worked at the town’s small hospital. Seeing through Gail’s gossiping and demanding persona, he loved her. However, today was tougher than usual.
Leaning on the counter, he waited for Nettie Day, the semi-retired nurse, to look up from her paperwork. She had shown his wife the ropes years ago. The staffs’ hatred of Gail carried over to Eva. His meddlesome mother had pretty much blackmailed the hospital president with a lawsuit about false gossip that he and Eva had secretly married. The president caved and gave Eva an internship earning her the job after graduation.
Within two months, Eva won the nurses over when they saw her devotion to him and David. She had also squashed any criticism of him like an aphid eating the roses in her garden. The hospital employees appreciated that Eva stepped up and dealt with her mother-in-law’s visits and appointments, which she did rather tactfully he thought.
Nettie slid open the glass window. “Hello, Chief. Eva’s with a patient.” With a dark chignon popular in the fifties, she puckered her lips in disdain. “Did you know your mother left two messages about coming early for flu shots before the clinic even starts? Your mother’s a piece of work.”
OccHealth provided pre-employment physicals, drug screens, and treatment for work-related injuries to area businesses. They also organized the influenza inoculation clinics and the Allenton County Health Fair for the community.
He glanced at the front entrance and cringed. Gail, Orrin, and their seventeen-year-old grandson, David, headed this way. “Yes, and that’s why I’m giving you a heads up,” Matt said. “I’ll run interference until Eva’s available.”
Nettie nodded. “Best Chief ever,” she said, before sliding the window closed. She disappeared to inform Eva.
“Matthew, what are you doing here?” Gail asked.
“I took a break to visit my wife,” he replied, watching David sit in a corner chair. Resting his elbow on the arm of the chair his head leaning on his fist, he looked bored and tired.
“Are you getting your flu shot early?” Orrin asked.
“No,” Matt replied. “The clinic starts at one, Mother. You’ll have to wait an hour, but you will be first in line.”
“I have time right now,” Eva said from behind him.
He turned away from his parents and whispered, “The nurses are going to love you more than they already do.”
“Will you love me more than you already do?” she whispered back.
“It’s not possible,” he replied as he kissed her cheek. “I’ll stick around and escort them out.”
“Let me get a vial,” she said, waving the family back to their small lab area.
Gail sat on the only stool while Eva opened the fridge for the serum.
“Looking for these, Eva,” Dr. Ellis asked from behind her. As gaunt as his patients in the morgue, he held out two vials. “I have the rest in the little fridge in my office. Chief, make sure you get yours, too.” He chuckled and left. Matt thought Ellis’s weirdness came from his other job as county coroner.
Eva prepared the needle. As she swabbed Gail’s arm, she smiled. “So this is finally my payback from years ago.” She pretended to stab her in the arm before gently administrating the shot.
Orrin laughed as David quietly leaned on the doorway.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Gail replied, standing. “Orrin, take your payback.”
An older, grayer, and quieter version of Matt, Orrin sat on the stool. “I always behave.”
Eva gave him the shot then kissed his cheek. “Yes, you do.”
Standing, Orrin smiled. “David, you’re up.”
Seeing Nettie at the OccHealth counter, Gail harrumphed and walked in her direction. Orrin quickly followed. Matt hoped Dad would stop any mayhem. Without a word, David plopped down onto the stool while Eva drew serum from the vial. She swabbed his arm with alcohol then paused. Frowning, she felt his head.
“Honey, you’re burning up,” Eva said. “We’ll do this a different day.”
Matt felt David’s head with his hand to confirm. “I’ll drop him off at home before I head back to the station,” he said.
“I’ll do it. Someone should stay with him,” she said. Eva quickly put the serum back into the vial. “We have enough extra hands for the clinic today.”
While Eva let Nettie know, Matt walked with his son toward his parents in the atrium.
“I’m not a baby,” David said without much energy.
“Your mom likes taking care of you, so just enjoy her pampering,” he replied.
After the averted drama at the hospital, Matt headed to the station. Eva, thank God, had an enchantment spell calming the storm into a gentle rain. He smiled. She had mesmerized him from the start. His dull and dry life had bloomed into this vibrant garden, Eva the rainmaker.
At the end of his day, he swung by Hillcrest Floral. The intoxicating smell in the tiny shop enticed him to open his wallet wider. He chose a bouquet of colorful wildflowers, three red roses in its center.
“You in trouble, Chief?” Mrs. Fletcher asked as she slid her reading glasses attached to the chain around her neck onto the edge of her nose.
“No, Ma’am. A Thank You for putting up with me,” he said.
“And to gain a few extra husband points for when you do mess up?” she asked.
“That, too.” Hmm, he wondered if he should cause a little trouble; their disagreements had paid dividends in the bedroom.
In a mischievous mood, he parked the cruiser in the garage and entered through the mudroom. Coming out of David’s bedroom, Eva held a washcloth. She smiled at the flowers and met him in the kitchen.
“What did you do?” she asked in mock anger.
He winked. “Nothing yet. How’s David?”
She ran cold water over the washcloth. “He has a hundred and one degree temp.”
He was about to say, Does he need to go to the doctor? But he stopped himself from getting the eye roll from his physician assistant wife, who knew almost as much as a doctor. Before he could speak, his cell rang. While he answered, Eva took the compress to their son.
“Matthew, come over,” his mom said, coughing. “Dad’s collapsed.”
“On my way,” he said, tossing the flowers on the kitchen table. “Eva!” She shut David’s door and shushed him. “Dad’s collapsed,” he said in a higher than usual tone.
After telling David they’d be back in a few minutes, she grabbed her doctor’s bag then beat Matt out the front door. At six in the evening, they raced across the dark street. Still in his uniform, Matt shoved open the front door. His parents, unconscious on the living room floor, looked flushed and sweaty. Reddish brown vomit partially covered his mother’s sleeve and the carpet beside her.
“Shit,” Eva said, racing for Orrin.
Adjusting his gun on his utility belt, Matt knelt down beside his mother. “She’s barely breathing.”
“Orrin’s not,” she replied.
Their training kicked in. Eva started CPR on his dad while he monitored his mother’s breathing and called for an ambulance. Thankful that his role as Chief took priority with dispatch, he set his cell aside.
“Mom. Mom. Can you hear me?” he asked, feeling her neck for a pulse. None. “Shit!”
He and Eva continued CPR on his parents as the two EMTs burst through the door. “My father’s been unconscious longer. Help him first,” Matt said.
The EMTs had to zap his dad twice before they got his heart started. Eva held the oxygen mask on Orrin as they loaded him into the ambulance. Briefly conscious, his mother coughed and threw up on the lawn before they lifted her stretcher into the bus. Food poisoning?
On the crowded ambulance, Matt tried to ask her what had happened, but the tech wiped her mouth and attached an oxygen mask. Three minutes later, the ambulance stopped next to the ER entrance. Two nurses and a doctor rushed to his unconscious parents quickly wheeling them into the building.
Matt hopped out then lifted Eva out by the waist. She briefly hugged him before she hurried inside. Neither said anything, too stunned to even complete a thought. In the empty waiting room, he paced. Should he demand to go back there? He was the police chief of this damn town. Instead, he scrubbed his hands over his crewcut in frustration and let the doctors do their jobs.
A half hour later, he watched their friend Madeline Pierce escort her sobbing aunt from a treatment room to the waiting area. Sylvia Folkert stumbled. Matt caught her before she fell and easily lifted her thin frame to a chair.
“What’s happened?” Matt asked, on a knee beside her.
“He died,” Sylvia whispered in shock. “We were happily dancing yesterday.”
“Herbert?” Matt asked, looking at Madeline. Her red eyes and nose confirmed the answer.
“They said it was the flu,” Madeline replied. “He got a shot earlier today. I guess it didn’t have a chance to work.”
Matt hid his horror. The EMTs thought his parents had the flu, too, not food poisoning.
“Chief, would you walk us to my Jeep?” Madeline asked. “We’re both a bit shaken.”
“Of course,” he replied, helping Sylvia stand. He had a firm grip on her elbow. Leaning against him, she rested her other hand over his.
His distraction was short-lived as he walked back to the waiting room that had been empty ten minutes ago. Fifteen would-be patients were hacking, coughing, puking. Their distraught family members offered futile comfort.
Looking though the reception window, he saw Eva wearing a mask, her mascara smeared from tears. His heart sank; he knew. He raced through the Authorized Personnel Only door. Her body shook.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered against his uniform shirt. “The doctors couldn’t revive them.”
My God! Both of them? Stunned, he silently hugged her. Three people had died from the apparent flu; others with symptoms waited to be seen. His first thought: David.
“Honey, I need you to go home,” Matt stated. “I’ll call Bobby to come and get you.”
“Matt, I can stay and make arrangements,” she replied, stepping back.
“No, David needs you.”
Reading his mind, Eva gasped and nodded. “Tell Bobby I’ll wait out front. Come with me,” she said.
“I need to stay and coordinate with the hospital about a possible outbreak,” Matt replied.
She handed him a mask from the lab drawer. “Protect yourself then. I’ll call the funeral home and make the initial preparations.”
“I love you, too,” he replied. “Please, avoid the waiting room while I call Bobby.”
By the time one in the morning rolled around, the hospital reported twelve deaths. Matt stayed to listen to the administration discuss their procedures for those with flu symptoms arriving at the hospital. With the hospital preparing for the town’s crisis, Matt called the station and informed his officers about their protocol for dealing with illness calls.
The hospital’s president would make a basic statement about flu prevention to the news crews in the morning. Matt offered to stand beside him to show that the professionals had the situation under control—a necessary lie against any disorder and chaos.
From the hospital, Matt walked the mile home at two in the morning. He needed the time to process this ordeal before the media frenzy. Pushing down any thoughts of losing his parents, he entered the house through the mudroom next to the garage.
Eva greeted him. Her makeup removed; her soft features red and puffy from tears. The smell of bleach and lemon disinfectant overpowered his senses.
“Strip here then shower. I’ve scrubbed every surface with bleach,” she said. “I’ll wash your uniform and wipe down your badge and equipment.”
“How’s David?” he asked, setting his utility belt on top of the washer.
“His fever has dropped to ninety-nine. No cough, chills, or nausea. He’s sleeping now, but he’s in the denial stage of grief. I am, too,” she said, wiping her eye with the back of her hand. “I heard that Herbert Folkert died.”
He nodded and stripped to his boxers. “Twelve deaths so far.”
“So far? Oh God,” she whispered.
After his shower, he found his wife using a disinfecting wipe on his handcuffs. All his equipment laid in a row on the kitchen table. She handed him a wipe for his gun and holster. Without speaking, they sat at the kitchen table and focused on the items. Eva had even disinfected his keys, nail clippers, and change from his pants pocket. He used a few wipes on the inside of his cruiser. Better safe than sorry.
In the bedroom, Matt set his alarm for six and slid under the sheet next to his wife. Eva cuddled next to him. He wanted to tell her to stay home, not to go into work, not to be around those sick people, to hide away until the crisis passed.
She must have read his mind. “I’m staying home to care for David. Mr. Banks from Gordon’s Funeral home has Orrin and Gail’s premade wishes on file. When you’re ready, we’ll stop by to confirm a date and time for their funerals.”
“I have a feeling I’ll be dealing with the chaos. Will you set up a time in the afternoon to meet with him? Then remind me?”
“Yes, of course.”
For three days, Chief Connor worked to calm everyone distressed over the flu epidemic. Twenty-three people from Allenton had died; funerals had taken over their somber town. The public schools had closed as a precaution giving crews time to disinfect everything inside. Local stores had bare shelves where cleaning products had been.
The hospital suggested that everyone stay home, if possible. People were upset that the flu vaccine didn’t work. BennTech, having developed the serum, issued a statement that the strain from the epidemic wasn’t what the CDC had recommended for this season … talk about passing the buck.
Defeated and exhausted, Matt stripped off his black tie in their bedroom. In a black dress, Eva slipped off her black heels for a brief reprieve. They had attended Herbert Folkert’s funeral and then his parents’ right after. Eva’s family—well, his only family now—had joined them for Orrin and Gail’s joint service and now relaxed in the living room giving them a little quiet time.
Matt had no time to process his parents’ deaths. He still had to go through their house and find their financial papers and wills. What was he supposed to do about the house? Would he sell it? Rent it out? He had so many questions, and he just buried the man who always had the answers.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, he rubbed his hands over his eyes suddenly overwhelmed. Strong and stoic for his son, his wife, Sylvia, Madeline, and his town, he hadn’t had much sleep.
Eva sat beside him. “They’ll understand if you want to take a nap.”
“I just need a few minutes,” he replied.
Standing, she lifted his face with her hands and kissed his forehead. “Take your time,” she said, before shutting the bedroom door.
Eva gave him strength. He felt bad that they hadn’t talked much, talking even less to his son. David’s teenage hormones caused him to be sullen and moody as he processed their family tragedy. Matt needed to reconnect with them.
With another sigh, Matt stared at the tie on the floor next to his pinching black dress shoes. Hearing a ruckus in the hallway outside the closed bedroom door, he waited not moving from the edge of the bed. His energy had long drained from his body to react to the commotion.
“I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to!” David yelled.
A second later, Joe said, “In there. Now.” His serious tone, not often used, made David stomp into the guest bedroom. Matt could hear them through the wall. Joe continued, “I understand you’re mad at the situation.”
“The situation? I’m angry at them. Why couldn’t they have fought harder to stay alive?” David demanded. “They helped raise me, and now they left me alone.”
Matt groaned. He felt that way, too.
“Listen, Kid,” Joe said. “I sympathize. Eva, Taylor, and I went through this when Taylor’s parents died. It sucks. However. You are not even close to being alone.”
Matt pictured David crossing his arms in defiance.
“I know,” David said. “It’s just … Dad hasn’t been around much … too busy dealing with town business.”
That was true. Rubbing his hands roughly over his head, Matt listened.
“David, consider this. Fair or not, your dad has responsibilities to this town, and he may not have had a chance to sort out his own emotions yet. He is a son who just lost both of his parents. No matter how old you are, it affects you. Instead of causing a problem, you may want to offer support,” Joe said. “Whenever you feel lonely, you pull your family closer. That’s what I do.” Joe spoke with authority and experience on the subject.
A few minutes later, Matt was splashing water on his face when someone knocked on the bedroom door. “Come in,” he said through the open door of the master bath.
“Hey Matt,” Joe said. “Peter got a call from work, so we gotta leave.”
He quickly dried his face. “Of course, I appreciate you and Peter coming today.” He gave Joe a bro hug with a back slap. “And thank you for talking to David. You’re right.”
“Wait. What? I’m right? Would you mention that to my sisters?” Joe chuckled. “And I got your back with the kid.”
Leaving his suit jacket and tie on the bed, Matt followed Joe to the living room to see him and Peter out. Eva and Stuart talked while David humored seven-year-old Lily by playing with her and her Barbie Dolls. Matt would rather play than cope. He hadn’t much experience with dolls though. When his stomach growled, he headed for the kitchen and ogled all the casseroles and side dishes on the table. By the sink, Taylor turned from rinsing a plate.
“Did you know I have a thick, homemade cookbook with all your mom’s recipes?” Taylor said.
Matt smiled. “Eva has one, too.”
“Yeah, and we probably made all of them today to keep busy,” she replied. “So I guess Gail is here in spirit.”
Matt nodded and picked a clean plate up from the table. He’d always remember the smell of Mom’s cooking.
“It’s okay to reminisce. Find comfort that your parents loved you and were so proud of your decisions raising David, marrying Eva … well, eventually … and then becoming the Chief,” Taylor said, casually. She turned back to the sink to finish washing the plates.
“You know, Mom always dominated the conversation never letting my dad get a word in edgewise,” Matt said with a sad chuckle. “But he had a knack for supporting me without ever speaking. I’ll miss that.”
Taylor dried her hands and hugged him while he held his full plate. “As we remember the ones we’ve lost, we must appreciate those with us now. They are the ones who make life worth living.”
“Are you always this deep?” Matt asked, giving her a one-handed squeeze before stepping back.
“Ha! No. I’ve been through this before,” she said.
“Well, thank you for those wise words,” he replied, sitting at the table suddenly starved.
After they put away the food and said goodbye to their family, Matt collapsed onto the couch. He stared at the blank TV screen. In a t-shirt and sweats, David plopped down beside him. Neither made any move toward the remote. Wearing Matt’s old police academy t-shirt and yoga pants, Eva sat on the other side of David. They continued to gaze at their reflection on the screen, the house silent.
Finally, David blew out a long even breath. “Wow. That was one big ass storm that hit town.”
“The clean-up may take a while,” Eva added.
“We’ll get through it though,” David replied.
“Yeah?” Matt asked.
“For starters, we can watch Grandpa’s favorite movie—Rio Bravo,” David suggested.
“Sounds good,” Matt said. David grabbed the remote.
“I’ll make popcorn,” Eva said, jumping up.
At Joe’s suggestion, Matt, David, and Eva pulled their family closer with Orrin’s tradition of silent support.
Continue reading about my favorite people:
In the dark snowy woods, the old trees with snarled and arthritic fingers reach for the sparkling red box that illuminates the small clearing. They want the Ultimate Gift, too.
“Tender and hopeful, painful and sad…”
“The struggle Brianna experiences is all too real.”
Find out in my New Year’s Eve romance
Cool off with a frosty New Year’s Eve Chapter One excerpt from The Garden Collection, a story of courage, strength, and unconditional love. I’ve posted the New Year’s Eve Prologue to this sweet romance a few years ago. If you prefer to start there, here’s the LINK. Enjoy.
Friday, December 31st – Present Day
Standing behind the counter at Mason’s Diner, Brianna Carlson waited for Henry Mason to pass her orders through the grill window. The breakfast and lunch crowd had her running. Now, the late lunchers filled only three of the ten stools at the counter and two of the eight booths along the windows.
Her half-sister Chloe’s paper snowflakes covered all of the windows as if another blizzard had hit town. Multi-color Christmas lights blinked around the window frames. By the cash register next to the counter, a two-foot-high fake Christmas tree held so many of Chloe’s homemade ornaments the patrons couldn’t see the branches.
Catching her breath, Brianna stared at the poster behind the register and smiled. Lucy had suggested Bree put her own doodle sketches to good work and enter the competition to design the New Year’s Eve Gala poster. Out of one hundred applicants, she won. She had drawn dark snowy woods where the old trees have snarled branches. The trees’ arthritic fingers reach for the sparkling red box with a bright white bow that illuminates the small clearing. The caption reads What is the Ultimate Gift?
Bree was proud of herself and so were the regulars at the diner. They celebrated her excitement by encouraging her to attend the gala. As the winner, she received one hundred dollars and a ticket to the party. She had saved her money for three weeks to buy a dress with matching purse and shoes.
“Bree, your order’s up,” Henry yelled from behind the grill. She saw only his eyes and the top of his bandana-covered baldhead through the open window.
The retired men along the counter chuckled. “Are you daydreaming again, Cinderella?” Charlie asked as he took off his baseball cap that had covered his thinning gray fringe.
Blushing, she laughed. “Maybe I’ll find my Prince Charming tonight,” she replied, picking up the BLT and cheeseburger platters.
George unrolled his silverware from his napkin. “Are you ever going to tell us what’s in the red box from your poster?”
She set Charlie’s BLT in front of him and grabbed the ketchup from under the counter. “What do you think is in the box?” she asked, handing George the bottle for his burger and fries.
“Money?” George asked.
“How about keys to a yacht?” Charlie added.
“I know what’s in the box,” Chloe said from the end of the counter. Her long brown hair in a thick braid matched her big sister’s. Chloe bit into a French fry and grinned.
“Well, my sweet one, please share with us,” Bev Mason said from behind the cash register. With her wrinkled smile, she played the elder matron with ease.
Chloe looked at her. “Can I tell them?”
Bree laughed and nodded. “I always thought it was obvious,” she said, absently touching her gold locket tucked under her Mason’s Diner t-shirt.
“Tell us right now,” George demanded. He winked at Chloe as he wiped his mouth.
“It’s love, sillies. I can’t believe you never guessed it.”
“Oh, and you’re a genius?” Bev asked
“I’ve gotten all excellent marks so far in first grade,” Chloe stated.
Brianna nodded. “You have a lot of wonderful tutors,” she said, glancing at her work family.
Chloe had grown up on that stool. They had put her name on it. Bree felt blessed that Bev and Henry let her work and care for Chloe at the same time. Over the years, the regulars had taken turns keeping her occupied. She and Chloe had many aunts and uncles.
As the men teased Chloe that they had made her smart, Officer Eddie Kent stomped his feet inside the door. In his dark blue uniform and auburn crew cut, he sat at the opposite end of the counter. Having known Eddie since they were in kindergarten, Bree greeted him with his usual glass of milk.
“It’s not ready yet?” he asked.
She frowned. “I wasn’t sure you were working today. I’ll get right on it.”
Bree quickly entered the kitchen and helped Henry with the order of rare steak and scrambled eggs with a side of raw onions and garlic toast. Eddie ate it every day he worked. Superstitious about his job, he said it kept him safe. For the last year, that’s all he ate. She carefully set his plates in front of him. She had learned not to stand too close afterward.
“Bree, don’t worry. I’m here if you need anything,” Eddie said, reaching for the knife.
“Kent! I will explain it,” Chief Mason said, taking up the entire doorway.
Brianna looked at Cameron Mason, the Chief of Rushing for the last ten years. With his bushy brown mustache, he reminded her of a young Sam Elliott from the Western movies. He had the deep voice like him, too. All he needed was a cowboy hat. Bev and Henry were proud of him and his profession although Bev hoped he’d marry soon. She wanted grandbabies.
Bree thought of him as an overly protective big brother. Since she didn’t have a car or a license for that matter, he’d give them a ride occasionally across town to their tiny loft apartment. He also lectured her on safety. She and Chloe paid attention to all of his rules.
Chief Mason smoothed down his thick mustache with his thumb and finger and pointed her to the end booth. His business-like manner unnerved her. With a hand over her stomach, she sat.
He stopped Chloe from jumping off her stool. “Stay put. I want to talk to Bree in private.”
“Cam, what’s wrong?” she asked as he sat across from her.
“I just found out Wayne got parole.”
She gasped. “When?”
“He’ll be released tomorrow. Because of overcrowding, he’s being let out earlier than I had expected. There was nothing I could do.”
“Oh, God.” She placed her shaking hands on her lap. Chloe stared at her reaction. “Do you think he’ll come back here?” she whispered.
“I honestly don’t know. Follow my rules, Bree. They’ll keep you safe. If you see him anywhere in town, call my cell,” he said, pulling out his card.
She stopped him. “I still have it memorized.”
Cam nodded and left for the kitchen to talk to his father. She stared out the window at the two fresh inches of snow. What should she do? Wayne’s letters from prison promised to take Chloe away from her. She had no legal rights. Could he come back and reclaim his daughter? She would not let that happen. He would never lay a hand on Chloe. Bree had taken the brunt for years so he wouldn’t hurt her.
Chloe knew next to nothing about her father. Bree had told her that he was in jail because he had hurt them. Bree had preached taking responsibility for your actions since Chloe could talk.
Chloe thought it was like being grounded for doing something naughty. That pretty much summed it up. Although Bree didn’t think Wayne would learn anything from the experience except more contempt toward her for putting him there. He would return to make her suffer. She had to leave. She jumped as Chloe slid in next to her.
“Bree, what’s the matter?
She hugged her. “Nothing for you to worry about, my sweet Clover,” she said, nudging her out of the booth. “I have to get back to work.”
While she made plans in her head, she absently cleared the tables. While carrying the tub of dirty dishes, she banged her shin into the metal cart behind the counter. The tub crashed to the floor. Plates and mugs shattered. With tears in her eyes, she rushed to clean the mess. This usually happened when she was stressed or tired. With partial blindness in her left eye and a limp from a healed broken leg, her coordination sometimes made her clumsy.
Eddie Kent laughed as he finished his meal. “Bev, have you run out of plates yet?”
Bree looked up at her. “I’m sorry.”
Bev smiled. “Honey, it’s an hour past your shift. We know it’s not your fault. Why don’t you and Chloe take off? Tonight’s the big night.”
As she put the last broken plate in the tub, she slid it to the side and stood. Charlie grinned and asked, “You’ll save me a dance?”
“I’m first in line. She promised me yesterday,” George added.
Bree smiled as they tried to cheer her up. “Only if you can recognize me. It’s a masquerade ball after all.”
She helped Chloe with her coat, hat, and mittens. Stepping outside, she took a deep breath. They would make a run for it. They’d hide, and Wayne would eventually give up looking. With a purpose, she reached for her sister’s hand.
“Bree, do you want a ride?” Eddie asked, absently patting the gun at his side.
Resisting the urge to wrinkle her nose at his horrid breath, she shook her head. “We have errands. Thank you though.”
Bree gently tugged Chloe’s hand down the street. They had three stops before she dropped Chloe off with Lucy, who was recuperating from a sprained ankle. Luckily, the stops were in order of the direction they were going. Chloe shuffled her boots through the snow on the sidewalk and sang “Let it Snow.”
After closing out her savings account with one hundred and twenty-six dollars, she pulled open the door to the pawnshop. The stifling heat hit them in the face as they wiped their boots on the rug just inside the door. She spotted Gus Fuller wearing a Santa hat. He had played Santa at the diner’s Christmas party. With a long white beard, he fit the part perfectly.
Bree sighed. “I need to talk to Gus for a moment. Do you want to wander around?” Chloe nodded and headed for the stack of board games while Bree met him at the counter. “I’d, uh, like to see what I can get for this,” she said, slipping her precious locket over her head.
Gus turned it in his hand. “This is a high-end piece. I’d say it’s worth about two grand. I can only give you five hundred, but Donovan’s Jewelry may give you more.”
She groaned. Robert had spent too much money on her. Her eyes started to water. She quickly wiped her face. This is about responsibility and survival not sentimental trinkets. She took the locket back from him and stared at it. She wore it all the time and touched it often. She was surprised the etched ivy hadn’t worn off. Finally nodding, she set it back on the counter. She had to protect Chloe. As she tucked the money into her wallet, Chloe joined her with a magic kit.
“Bree, do we have extra for this? It’s three dollars,” Chloe said.
Gus smiled. “It’s yours for a hug.”
Chloe laughed and ran around the counter. After paying with a hug, she kissed his cheek and tugged his beard. “Thanks, Gus.”
With slouched shoulders, Brianna moved toward the door.
“Bree, take care of yourself,” Gus said quietly.
She wanted to grab her locket and run. Instead, she limped out the door. There would be no turning back.
The bus station had one last departure at five tonight for Chicago. She didn’t think they’d have time to pack so she opted for the ten o’clock trip tomorrow morning. She wanted to be selfish and go to the gala. Her one last hurrah.
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Thank You for the Awesome Reviews! I’m so proud of this book.
“Thompson has composed a magnificent story that brings the Korean War to life with unforgettable characters that you truly care about and who stay with you long after the pages run out. I absolutely loved this book and will recommend it highly!”
“Set during a time of war, this is a beautiful love story between a son and his parents, especially his mother, and the unbreakable bond between friends. Especially poignant knowing the story is based on actual letters.”
Although Chemical Attraction is the third book in the Series, it can also stand on its own as Joe’s life finally heats up. Destiny’s grand plan brings him and Madeline together when they need each other the most, saving lives throughout their journey.
“Explore sinister scientific research and the intense chemistry of love and lust.”
Dr. MADELINE PIERCE, a dedicated scientist, has pain in her heart from an abusive relationship. With her Ice Queen persona set, she hides within the realm of her research.
His charisma hiding his loneliness, FBI Agent JOE ROBERTS is a womanizer on the surface. Deep down, he’s searching for an instant chemistry with his soulmate, the one person who will love him “for” his faults not “in spite” of them.
When Madeline discovers discrepancies at her medical research facility, the FBI sends Joe as a courtesy. They soon realize they have bigger issues to deal with other than their Chemical Attraction.
I firmly believe in the Synchronicity of the Universe. All of my life’s choices, good and bad, steered me toward writing this story. What do you think about Synchronicity? Is it Destiny? Coincidence? Hooey? Hokum?
Thanks for stopping by.
[My dad is the one in the front row far right side.]
“The hill wasn’t a casual slope of tall green grass like the ones at home. The Korean hills had jagged, protruding rock formations with narrow ridges at the top and clusters of leafless bushes throughout the area. The trees had been blown to bits long ago.
We headed to the outpost just below the top along the sub-ridges. Tonight, we supported the Marines surveilling the area. Another squad of Marines patrolled along the valley at the bottom of Reno.
This hill had gone back and forth so many times it had worn areas from mortar fire. The trenches with high sandbag walls were all shot to hell. Razor wire, mines, and booby traps from us and the enemy scattered throughout the valley and hills. Nobody could keep track of it all. It was one big crapshoot.”
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Release Date: May 21st, 2020
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Corpsman Orrin Connor’s faithful letters with a touching twist shield his parents from the horrors of war. His buddy Rawley Armstrong’s poignant letters give his sister the harrowing truths. Throughout their dangerous assignments during the Korean War, they debate the consequences of their choices. Orrin gains comfort in downplaying his experiences while Rawley feels a healing purge. As they get to know the Marines in their charge, the corpsmen gather a variety of opinions. Although Orrin and Rawley disagree, their friendship remains true until the bitter end.
“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”
Based on her father’s letters to his parents throughout the Forgotten War, author Christina Thompson has produced this work of historical fiction to pay tribute to Navy corpsmen by remembering their service to their brothers and their country. Imagining her father had guarded his parents from the carnage of war, Christina elaborates on what could have happened while staying true to the dates and experiences her father shared in his actual letters.
To celebrate my December 31st birthday, my New Year’s Eve romance, The Garden Collection, is on SALE for $0.99 until 12/31/19. In this story, Robert Donovan learns that home is where his heart is.
I took a single defining moment from my childhood to create a story with the theme about the energy of words and how they affect us. You can read that embarrassing story here.
A few words of encouragement can stay with you for a lifetime.
Robert and Brianna’s childhood friendship grew into respect for each other and their ideas. Robert gave her the confidence to stand up for herself. Brianna helped him see his artistic potential and encouraged him to travel for his inspiration. He found it in the letters she wrote.
BRIANNA CARLSON, an optimistic realist, appreciates the little things in life. Working at the local diner in their wintry rural town in West Michigan, she pushes the stress of caring for her half-sister, CHLOE, aside focusing instead on the unconditional love she gives and receives.
Her best friend’s brother, ROBERT DONOVAN, regally proper and polished, balances his business acumen with his artwork for his family’s jewelry store.
In THE GARDEN COLLECTION, a Cinderella-esque romance, Brianna receives news that her abusive step-father will be released from prison. She’s terrified he’ll come back to hurt Chloe this time. She decides to leave town.
After traveling the world, Robert returns home and discovers Brianna had lied in every letter she sent. She never received any of his. Before he can demand answers, she disappears without Chloe. As Robert learns about Brianna’s life during his absence, he sets out to find her and convince her to trust him again.
Grab a copy of The Garden Collection, write a review, and/or share this post. I appreciate your support. Thank you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I recently did a podcast with C.K. Brooke, a fellow 48fourteen author and gracious hostess. In my usual awkwardness with social media, I had a pit in my gut for a week leading up to this interview. This fun chat between authors made me want to barf. (FYI: I suck at small talk.) However, my New Year’s resolution was to do new things.
I’ve never used Skype so my tech savvy son and daughter gave me a tutorial—basically Look there, Click here. Great! Got it!
Luckily, my son, an avid gamer, set me up using his equipment. I wasn’t totally clueless—listen through the headphones and talk into the microphone. I’ve seen his charismatic stream on Twitch many times so I would try to channel my inner Son.
To practice, I Skyped with my daughter. Surprisingly, I had fun with her—talking like Johnny Fever spinning records in his booth. (Yeah, I know. I dated myself.)
The morning before the call, I paced. I already had a list of possible topics to keep from freezing up. My big concern now was choking, figuratively and literally, but my son pointed to the mute button for those emergencies. With two thumbs up, I took a deep breath, flashed back to Mr. Martin’s high school speech class, and then cringed.
C.K. Brooke was an absolute delight. With my background in holistic health, I talked about my experience with Past Life Regression and how it related to my writing. She had written a series on the topic, The Past-Life Chronicles Vol. 1 and The Past-Life Chronicles Vol. 2. (I already downloaded my copies. The idea of past lives has always fascinated me.)
C.K. has a natural gift as an interviewer and she understands the nuances of promoting on social media. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from her. She. Is. Awesome.
After the interview, I wondered why I was so nervous. Would I do this again? Sure. Would I still be nervous? Of course.
So how did I do? You be the judge.
You can also subscribe to C.K. Brooke’s YouTube Channel and listen to her interviews with other authors.