“Mail Call”

Although under the weather for almost three weeks, I tried my hand at writing lyrics. Surprisingly, the words flowed. I believe “Mail Call” is the essence of my novel, Dearest Mother and Dad.

*

“Mail Call”

*

Giddy anticipation from family so far away,

Mama’s note reverting man to boy of yesterday,

Perfumed letters like the sweet taste of my gals’ necks,

Help us forget we’re heading for a god awful wreck.

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

*

Protecting my mother unknowing of what I see,

Gives me courage to be what I need for adversity.

Hiding my anxiety is what helps my ability.

Why should more worry besides me?

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

*

The mundane lies believed more humane.

But we’re not at a resort with caviar and champagne.

My sister demands to know my bitterness

Therapy is confessing my sins for forgiveness.

*

Some say they’re afraid of how we’ll return.

Violent or depressed and ending in an urn.

Others will pretend the war never happened,

Pick up where we left off as though abandoned.

We’re far from home it doesn’t matter now.

We just want to survive this hell somehow.

*

Our letters home have tough drawbacks.

But ya gotta write something for a tall stack.

To tell the truth or make up lies, which one do we voice?

More stress upon us at the complicated choice.

Devastation

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.

“Devastation”

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.”

“Thank you.”

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.

xxx

Continue reading about my favorite people:

Searching for Her: an anthology of short stories

Chemical Attraction

Dearest Mother and Dad

Year End eBook Sale

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.

YEAR END EBOOK SALE $0.99

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During the Korean War, Dearest Mother and Dad brings to life the history of two Navy corpsmen fighting with the Marines.  These best friends debate whether to share their horrific experiences in the letters home.

YEAR END EBOOK SALE  $0.99

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Within a blink of an eye, Samantha is entangled in a plot to assassinate the U.S. President.  Stranded in the middle of nowhere, she asks a trucker for help.  Can they trust each other to prevent the unthinkable?

YEAR END EBOOK SALE $0.99

From Pen to Needle

Setting aside my pen and paper, I picked up a needle and worked on a few Christmas presents, infusing each with positive energy to be released into their new homes.  As a former holistic practitioner, I will forever instill love and gratitude into all my creations—crafts, books, food—Reiki’s hands on healing through Universal energy.

Why am I sharing the pictures now? My adult children don’t follow my blog. (On a side note, I’m okay with that.)

Crafting also gave me a chance to meditate about what I wanted to accomplish next year.  The biggest writing project I’m considering is deconstructing the novel that follows Chemical Reaction, the fourth book in the Chemical Attraction Series.  I wrote the story years ago.  It requires an overhaul.

2021 may be the year I rip it apart, deleting characters and adding new subplots. I think I need to be brutal and strip it to the bare bones.  How difficult will it be?  Will my characters let me change their future?  Do I have the energy to tackle it?  I have no idea.  

Are there any writers out there who have done something similar? Any advice?  Are you a fan of the Series? What would you like to see happen with these characters?

Thankful For This Family of Dorks

My mom, my siblings, and I have been sorting through boxes of old pictures.  We haven’t made any progress because we’re too busy mocking each other.  I love this one taken in 1978.  That’s me on the left in the back row.

So much weird in one picture!

My youngest brother looks like he has his shirt on backward. He said it was the style of shirts back then, but I have my doubts.  My other brother has his eyes crossed.  What a goof!   He’s still a goof.  My sister is hiding her face.  “Yeah, sis, I should have, too.”

My dad’s whole ensemble is quite the fashion statement from his red socks to his crazy shorts.  He always had his pack of cigarettes in his shirt pocket or rolled up in his sleeve.  He gave up smoking cold turkey in the late 80s.  We were banned from giving encouragement or talking about his decision to quit.  (I guess we all grieve in our own way.)

My mom has on her iconic 50s cat eye glasses. She didn’t change that look until the 90s when she went with the round owl style…similar to mine in this pic. Apparently, I was a trendsetter.  (Correction: I wasn’t a trendsetter. My siblings laughed too hard at that comment.)  Standing in front of our beast of a car, we had the makings of a 70s sitcom or as my brother put it, “A 70s horror story.”

We’re a family of nerds, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Is it any wonder I grew up to be a writer? Embrace your Weird!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Only Love Remains

“It all happened within minutes. For some, it would last a lifetime.”

As many of you know from previous posts, my dad was a Navy Corpsman with the Marines during the Korean War.  He never shared his experiences.  After he died, I read the letters he wrote to his parents during the war and finally understood (reading between the lines) why he was hard and emotionally absent.  I think the war had affected him more than he had let on.

Although Dearest Mother and Dad is historical fiction, I believe my dad was beside me as I wrote it. You may love the story.  You may hate it.  This healing process dissolved my anger and pain. Only love remains.

I’ve shared some of my dad’s pictures from Korea in my book trailer photo album.  I used them to visualize and create the story.  Take a look.

To all our Veterans, thank you for your service and sacrifice.

Dearest Mother and Dad on AMAZON

Dearest Mother and Dad on BARNES&NOBLE

Courage, Strength, and Unconditional Love

What is the ultimate gift?

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.

“What?”

“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.

Continue reading The Garden Collection on AMAZON

A Steamy Kiss

… Joe spun Madeline around and the song ended. As he dipped her low, her long brown hair brushed the floor. With his face a few inches from hers, she was panting. Lost in his vibrant green eyes, she lifted her head and kissed him. She barely touched his lips, but the nerve endings in hers sent an electrical shock throughout her body. A wave of heat followed. Her body lit up with awareness as if a bolt of lightning shot out from her toes …  ~ Chemical Attraction

“…the Perfect Mix of Mystery, Suspense & Romance…”

Chemical Attraction on AMAZON

Chemical Attraction AUDIOBOOK on AUDIBLE

Ima Liar Liar

“What’s real? What’s not?”

These are two of the biggest questions I’ve gotten since publishing Dearest Mother and Dad, and, frankly, it surprised me.  I mean all my books are fiction.  Even though I researched a few truths for each book, they’re mostly lies…made-up stories.

For example, can you use nano-drugs to control a person’s actions like the drugs in Chemical Attraction?  Not unless there’s top secret research going on.  So, I guess it seems plausible.

Can you shape the inside of a diamond to look like an American rose similar to the one in The Garden Collection?  It would be cool, expensive, and plausible.

Can you transport a Russian satellite inside the trailer of a semi-truck like the one in The Trucker’s Cat?  Who knows what’s inside those non-descript trucks, but it seems plausible, too.

If you’re asking what’s real and what isn’t in Dearest Mother and Dad because it’s historical fiction and based on letters my father wrote to his parents during the Korean War, here are those answers.

REAL: the Korean War

REAL: the battles

REAL: the dates

REAL: Orrin’s (my dad’s) letters to his parents  (Names were changed to protect the innocent … and the guilty.)

FAKE: the rest of the story

My dad didn’t share his experiences, so I made it up. Isn’t that what writers do?  They lie.  We’re liars although I prefer the term fiction writers.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Christina’s Author Page on AMAZON

 

 

 

Gotta Love a Challenge

I’m changing direction once again. Why? Because I love a challenge. I started writing romance. Thrillers and espionage followed. Then I tried my hand at historical fiction.  I’ve adapted Chemical Attraction and The Garden Collection into screenplays—mostly to see if I could do it.  After many drafts, I believe I did a darn good job.

What’s my next project?   Thanks for asking.

This time, I’m working with a partner—my fifteen-year-old niece, who has an artistic soul. Maggie writes short stories and poetry. She plays the bass, violin, guitar, flute, and a little piano. This talented young woman composed the music to my book trailer Dearest Mother and Dad. (Listen to it HERE.)

She enjoys trying new things like I do. She has even acted in the high school productions of Annie and Cinderella. I’m in awe of her vision and creative voice. I think she’s the perfect partner to help me adapt my novel Dearest Mother and Dad into a stage play.

I had pictured my other novels as movies when I wrote them. Dearest was different, but I couldn’t put a finger on why until a recent conversation with my sister, Trish. She thought it would make an interesting play. A lightbulb went off as we visualized the scenes on the stage. Later, she mentioned it to Maggie, who texted me with “love the idea”.

Bam! I found a partner for this passion project. (After all, it is based on her grandpa’s letters to his parents during the Korean War.) I have a feeling I’ll learn a lot from her.

I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Updates to follow. In the meantime, you can find Dearest Mother and Dad on these sites:

AMAZON

BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO

APPLE BOOKS