Contest Time!

Hello, my lovely readers!

I just wanted to give you a pssst! If you like contests, here’s a perfect one! I’m a Featured Contest Author over at Coffee Time Romance! I’m giving away a $20 Amazon Gift and an e-copy of my new book, The Feria!

Come on by!

http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/ContestPage.html

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When a Burden Comes a’ Calling

When a Burden Comes a’ Calling

     I sit here tonight very pensive under my covers with my laptop at my knees. I interviewed another friend tonight for my WIP, “The Baby Symphony.” I had not had the privilege of hearing her amazing story until tonight. I am 50,000 words into my manuscript and feel the overpowering sense that this book has so much more to say. Her journey to have a baby was one paved in tears, sadness, lost faith, and hopelessness, until one day… her life would finally be complete. I sat there at her cousin’s 7th birthday party, activity buzzing all around us, but I was immune to it. I was utterly fixated on her words, her eyes, her story. I watched her two young daughters zipping around the pizza place, and I was completely enamored. I will spend the rest of the night and probably into the morning with my WIP, with a deep burden, to do justice to these precious women’s stories, their very fingerprints in every part of this writing journey.

The Baby Symphony: The Moments that Change Us

     People have moments that impact their lives every single day. Whether it’s a feeling of happiness, of feeling blessed, of paying that last car payment, getting that A on your final, getting that “YES!” from a publisher or agent. But these moments aren’t always so beautiful. We’ve witnessed the passing of those we love, maybe we’ve held someone’s hand as their diagnosis was given to them, maybe we’ve helped a friend through divorce. These moments, the good and the bad, change us, they dwell in us. They’re inescapable, and they’re real.

 

     I’ve had plenty of these moments myself, of course, moments that have driven me into new direction in life, some wonderful, some deeply sad. With permission, I’d like to share with you today, a glimpse of a journey of a dear friend of mine. I won’t name her, but I have her blessing. We’ll all her “Angel,” because that’s what I feel she is. I had the sad experience of being with her one day on a moment of impact.

 

     My friend, Angel, has struggled with becoming pregnant. And once she’s pregnant, she struggles against her body, to keep that baby inside of her. Her body dispels the very thing it wants, it needs, the very thing her heart sings out for. This has happened each and every time. And while for most of the time, I see her after and hold her hand and support her through it, there was a time when I was with her when her baby left us.

 

     Being there for her moment of heartache will stay with me always. Though she’s not yet a mother with children she can physically present to the world, she is a mother. I have watched her grieve over her lost children. I watched her grieve that day as well. And sadly, she is not alone. There are so many beautiful women out there who have experienced this loss, this difficulty.

 

     My latest book, “The Baby Symphony,” is a look into the life of Emilia Hyatt, a woman begging to become a mother, but finds a tragedy each time. But slowly, ever so slowly, with her husband by her side, she finds healing, hope, and even a renewed love for him and the many other blessings her life.

 

     While Emilia is not real, her character carries my heart for every woman out there who faces this. Some I know, and many I don’t know, but because of my sweet friend, my heart knows you, and I honor you all with this book. You are beautiful. You are strong. You are loved. Thank you to all the kind women who have shared their stories with me. Emilia is a piece of each of you.

 

Excerpt:

 

“Some say that hope is a seed that can only flourish if watered with faith.”

 – Author Unknown

 

     The darkness of our bedroom swallows us. There is no sun today. Appropriately hidden away, withholding its brightness, its joy, we’re left to the merciless clouds that hide it away. The rain taps at our window as if asking permission to come in. Perhaps it wants to wash away our sorrow, but I don’t think so.

     Shoes left unworn litter the entrance to our closet and our blankets are disheveled from days of lingering in this bed. I’m no longer subdued by loss of blood and medication, and I’m fully aware of the tragic circumstance that brings Devin and me back to this place, to this darkness, where we shut out the world and grieve. My eyes sting from the endless tears and the inability to close. The red veins in the whites are swollen grooves, like ridges of mountains. I sigh. This is Gymnopedie. Specifically, Gymnopedie No. 1. The fluidity of the harp, the beautiful moan and whine of the strings in their upper register, the answering winds. It’s all I can think of playing in my head in harmony with the crackle of the rain on our patio pavement and putter tapping at our window. The weeping strings cry with me and for me when I can’t find a tear left. And then like the rain outside, the tears renew with no present end. I feel Devin’s foot rub against my calf. A sign of life. He reaches out to spoon me closer to him. When his hand finds my wrist, he stops abruptly. I feel him peel away from me and hear him shuffling in the nightstand drawer. In seconds, I feel a steady hand carefully inserting cool metal. With a flick, my hospital bracelet falls to the floor. He puts his blade back in his nightstand drawer and cradles me to him.

     I was carrying twins but only for a brief time. Once the first one left, the other, I’m sure, took it as a sign that my womb was no good.  Not for one baby, much less two. They must’ve been our kids. Smart like Devin. In and out of sleep, new nightmares visit me. I am cradling, nursing, dressing, bathing, loving two whole babies. The pleasure is painful. So painful, that even in sleep, I expect to wake and find a sword stuck firmly through my heart.

     After Devin and I escaped the prison of the darkened confines of grief in our bedroom, I decided to begin sleeping on the tan sectional in our den. Tonight marks the third night. I tell Devin it’s because it’s easier to get in and out of with the pain and all.  The time displayed as glowing green numbers on the cable box toy with me. I’m wide awake, and the numbers have hardly changed for the last hour that I’ve watched. I sit up for a moment, debating, fighting the pull of my sanctuary in our bedroom. Devin.

     My confounded husband, leaving me to grieve, wonders what he did wrong. He questions me with those blue eyes. They beg me for answers. Silent tears blame me, I’m sure. He did nothing wrong. He’s done nothing but right since the moment he saved my life. It feels like so long ago. I devour the memory, hoping a ray of happiness can block out the gloom that seems permanently permeating on me.

     It’s the fifth-day anniversary, down to the hour, that I lost our children. The white shutters, blue in the moonlight are open and I can see the stars. I feel like they are visiting me, my precious ones that have listened to my wishes for so long. I’d pluck them out of the sky, one at a time if I could. It would give me some happy activity here again in this witching hour that haunts me. I’d wish for a baby. Again. And not a dead one, either.  I don’t even need two, just one will do.

      I hear soft unsure footsteps. They stop at the mouth of the den. One of our dining chairs creaks. I debate playing possum, sleeping through his visit. But I can’t. Even with my eyes closed I can see his sorrowful face, just like on that poisonous night. Before I can stay myself, the rebellious word escapes.  “Devin.” I’m surprised by my own voice. It’s a stranger, disobedient. I think it’s my heart calling out to him, the one thing that is truly and rightfully his. He fought for it, after all, and he won, winning over the trust and love of a then wounded and hesitant young girl a decade ago.

     He is quickly standing over me, looming, lost. He eagerly accepts the hands I reach out to him, bringing him to sit by me. Our fingers intertwine, just like they used to. It was their dance. The silence is deafening, awkward, but there isn’t much to say.

 

 

 

 

Consequences and Returns (and a story for you!)

     So, along with a hectic schedule that includes caring for my family and teaching developmental English at our local college, I got a wild idea that perhaps I should go back to school and further my education. I’ve been putting it off for, well, several years actually. And after years of research and reflection, I went for it and started a really amazing MFA program in Creative Writing.

     Because I’m a writer, I really wanted to expand on that, and this MFA program presents an AWESOME opportunity to hone my craft! I have the most incredible critique group that includes talented students who are all writers and working professionals, as well as a professor who will tell you like it is. The best part? They are bought and paid for with my tuition! Ha!

     I still can’t say if it was the right decision to do it this minute, and the pressure of balancing family, life and work with school now toppled in, has been very overwhelming. I have cried several times already this semester and have even considered deferring til’ my twins are in school like the rest of my children. Thankfully, though, I’ve got a great husband who keeps me calm… well… after the breakdowns that is. LOL. Sometimes you just need that breakdown to get it all out!

     And after the breakdown comes, there’s one sure way to make myself happy. Is it chocolate? Shopping? Nope. It’s writing. It always has been. That love affair is pleasurable beyond any words I could put on a page. And more exciting… now writing is more than a hobby, with school, it’s a MUST. I’m getting wonderful story ideas and writing pieces that could essentially turn into bigger pieces, as well as critical information from my peers about what works, what doesn’t, and I’ve got a professor who teaches us the craft with the greatest of passion. Becoming a student again has taught me not only how much better to work with my own students, but it’s helped me FORCE myself to get on a schedule. And I’m getting there with that… I mean I do carve out that school work time, and it’s usually successful… until I accidentally open a new word document and start dabbling with a new project. I’ve actually finished writing and editing two books, both novellas, in the last month! It feels wonderful to be consumed with writing at so many different levels, professionally, personally, and now in my education. I’d like to share with you one of my assignments. Tell me what you think! Did I get it right?

 

Write a story where a character thinks he or she wants one thing and is determined to get it, but what they really want is something else, so their actions take them in a direction they didn’t expect.

 

    “I’ll see you later.” Darren presses his lips firmly into mine, grabbing me by the waist and locking me into place before him. Our kiss is long, our breathing fast. My husband’s  photo witnesses our discretion.

     Darren and I exit through the back of my office building. It’s already late out. One last peck and embrace, and it feels like we have to peel away from each other. And that’s how it started, a string of affairs that began and blossomed into something much stronger than a few simple flings

     Six months later, I’ve hardly touched my husband, Tim, and his attempts to reconcile us are futile.

     “My sweet Juliette, you are my everything.”

     “My love, I thought of you all day today.”

     These notes were usually attached to some kind of token, a new purse, a flower bouquet, a pretty lipstick.

     The breakfasts in bed are very inconvenient, usually occurring when I have an early work meeting, or in most cases, an early morning rendezvous. I even yelled at him last week when he dropped in on me at work with a surprise lunch from my favorite restaurant. His visit was a close call. He missed his best friend, Darren by a literal 15 seconds.

 

     The darkness of the bedroom swallows us. There is no sun today. Appropriately hidden away, withholding its brightness, its joy, I’m left to the merciless rain clouds, and I deserve them. The rain taps at the window as if asking permission to come in. Perhaps it wants to wash away our sins, but I don’t think so.

     My high heels, his Nikes are left unworn, littering the side of the bed along with the clothes we shed in our haste.

     “Look at you!” Darren smiles in appreciation and slaps my abs.

     “What?” I shy away, my eyes looking down and to the side.

     “You’re just so… amazing. So fit. I wish Julie was this fit.”

     I bite the inside of my cheek. While I hate for him to mention Julie, I feel offended for her. “Julie has had three of your kids, you know?” I snap back. But why defend her? I’m no better, sleeping with her husband.

     “Yeah, well, she didn’t have to let herself go. I’m sure you wouldn’t let yourself go. I mean, why would you let all this go just because you’ll be fat for nine months?”

     And there it goes again. The mouth that is a double-edged sword. While it can bring immense pleasure, it also ruins him, almost every time he opens it, I’ve learned.

     I’m quiet.

     “What? You’re mad now?”

     He tries to tickle me, but I push his hands away.

     In frustration he lays back down onto the pillows, the disheveled blankets settling under his bare body.

     “I’m a good husband, you know.  He folds his arms. “And a good boyfriend. Or… whatever you call this.”

     The shift in our once passionate and new relationship is beginning to show. These tiffs are becoming more frequent. It must be frustration. An affair, especially one with emotion, is difficult to weather.

     “I never said you weren’t a good husband.” I only thought it.

     “I just sent them to Disneyland. They are having a blast on my dollar. I cleared the house for two days and bought you a plane ticket to show your husband so he’d think you were out of town for work. What more do you want?”

     “I want you, I guess.”

     “Well, you have me.”

     My silence is enough of an answer as to how I feel about that.

     At about noon, the fairytale is over. I pack up my small suitcase and pull out of Darren’s three-car garage in the airport rental car. I know this whole set-up is a very rare event, but is it really worth all the trouble?

     Before I left, he kissed me passionately and reminded me that soon, he’d leave Julie and I’d leave Tim. I feel guilty as I pass the large portrait of his children framed over the fireplace. But at least he’s already got children. I’ll never have to worry about that.

 

     When I pull up to the house, my husband is waiting at the door with a dozen roses.

     “How was your trip?” His smile is wide.

     “It was okay.” I take the bouquet and feel so unworthy of him.

     He pulls me into his tight embrace and inhales. My roses are crushed against my chest, and I wish those thorns would stab me in the heart.

     When we enter our home, I only briefly glimpse at our fireplace. There is no portrait of children there.

     Tim guides me into the kitchen. It’s filled with the smell of spices and peppers..

     “Walah!” Tim is proud. Teriyaki chicken and rice adorns our table along with a chocolate cake.

 

     I feel dirty as I make love to him that night and overcompensate in trying to please him. He is so grateful.

     As we lay in the dark of our den, he pulls me into him. I reach up and kiss his chin.

     “You’re amazing,” he says.

     “No. I’m not,” again I protest.

     I’m horrible. I should be pulling away, not making him want me more.

     “I missed you so much. Those two days apart really made me think of how I don’t show you enough, just how much I love you.”

     “Yes you do. Of course you do. I know every day that you love me.”

     I have to stop my hands from slapping my mouth closed. With that admission, I feel something in me turn.

     The next morning, Tim’s high school sweetheart, Victoria, comes into the office. We ran into her once at a community event. He introduced her as a friend, only telling me later how serious they were. If you can really even be serious at 17, that is. She needs legal representation for her divorce. I pretend I still don’t know she and Tim were an item so long ago, but I have a brilliant idea. I open my heart to this woman and listen to her pour out hers, and I make her feel like I am the kindest, most giving woman in the world. Not only do I agree to handle her divorce for almost pennies, I convince her that Tim would be so happy to see her and she should come over for dinner.  She doesn’t hesitate, as she’s shared all of her pain with me and thinks we’re now bonded. I grin as she leaves, certain that if I can reconnect these two, surely a relationship will come of it, and my troubles with Tim will be over. I’ll willingly give him to her.

 

     I can see Tim’s face turn seven shades of red when I tell him she’s coming. I play the pity card.

     “Tim, I couldn’t help it. She was so needy, so sad. I just threw the invitation out there.”

     The doorbell rings and ushers in two hours of eating, drinks and conversation.

     I pause only for a brief second when she lays a hand on Tim’s shoulder. Their laughter dances around the dining room. She’s behaving completely out of bounds. I can see she’s tipsy, but unfortunately, so am I. Tim observes us both and offers to drive her home. When my anger surges, I remind myself that this is what I want, what I need to happen. If Tim and I are over, I know Darren will feel the pressure to leave Julie.

     Tim takes longer than I think he should have, and he explains to me that he had to walk Victoria up to her apartment. He appears nervous, shaken. He can’t meet my eyes. I wonder if she made a pass at him, if he accepted, but it’s not my place to ask. He’s acting the same way I do after my meetings with Darren, but I’m too tired to press the matter and fall asleep until it’s time to get ready for work.

 

     During my lunch hour I get a text from Tim that we’re meeting Darren and Julie for dinner. I feel like Darren and I are mocking Julie and Tim when we have these double dates, especially when Darren is rubbing me under the table at the restaurant.

 

     At six on the dot, Tim is pulling up to my building and we’re headed over to Soirée. When we walk in, Tim takes my hand and I’m startled. I hate to show affection in front of Darren. As we take our seats my eyes meet Darren’s, and I smile. I settle in beside him in our four-person table, and feel my cheeks burn when his leg presses into mine.

     I laugh at Tim in my head. He’s so pathetic. But my boisterous thoughts are stopped in their tracks, and my mouth hangs open when our waitress greets us and it’s none other than the now Miss Victoria. I feel betrayed. After our heart to heart in my office, she failed to tell me that she works here. I’d of avoided it like the plague. \

     I look at Tim who’s lit up like a Christmas tree, and Victoria is the same. She takes our drink orders, stuttering throughout, dropping menus, avoiding Tim’s gaze.

     “What’s wrong with that one?” Julie chuckles.

     I throw a glare at Tim who shrugs his shoulders.

     “Excuse me,” Tim gets up and heads for the restroom.

     I peer my head trying to see if that’s where he really goes, and if Victoria is anywhere near him. Coincidentally, Julie excuses herself too, and as soon as her back is turned, Darren is groping me under the table.

     “I’ve missed you.”

    I’m completely unfocused, watching for Tim and Victoria that I barely hear Darren.

    “Hellooo?” He’s annoyed.

     I settle into my seat as Tim returns, my eyes glued on him, gaging his behavior.

     Darren gives my leg one last squeeze before Julie returns and takes her place at the table again.

     Suddenly, Victoria returns with our drinks, still flustered, and Tim is again bright red.

     When she takes our orders and walks away, I can’t take it any longer.

     “Is there something you need to say?”

     My eyes cannot be lifted from the tablecloth.

     “Perhaps something you want to admit to your wife?”

     I can feel the gaze of everyone burning into my head, but it’s Darren’s voice that jolts me to attention.

     “Juliette, what are you doing?”

     Then comes Julie’s frantic voice. “What’s she talking about, Darren?”

     “Julie, it’s not what you think. I swear.”

     I force myself to look up and see Julie’s face contorted to that of a demon’s.

     I can’t find my voice. I’m trying to clarify that it was a question intended for Tim, but I can’t make myself speak.

     Julie’s chair scrapes and she darts away and Darren follows close behind her pleading with her. He wants her. But I realize that I don’t care.

     “What was that about?” Tim has suddenly forgotten his own hot seat.

     “That question was intended for you.

     “Me?” He sounds confused.

     “Yeah, you. The man who can’t even look at me when Victoria comes to the table.” I’m trying my very best to adjust to these emotions that are making me believe that I care about Tim, that I’m happy Darren’s wife knows he’s scum, and if she stays with him he’ll be on a tight leash, one too tight for meet ups with me.

     “Victoria came onto me that night. I put her in her place, and came straight home. She wasn’t herself, I understand that, but either way, it’s embarrassing to see her, and yes, I feel very guilty. I’ve wrestled all this time with how to tell you. I know you’re fond of her.”

     Once again, Tim is proving to me how unworthy of him I am.

     “Well, why avoid her? You can be with her, you know. She can probably give you babies, too.” I am spitting fire.

     “I don’t want babies if I can’t have them with you.”

     “You can’t have them with me because I can’t have them.”

     “Then I’m content enough with only you.” He reaches for my hand but I pull it away as though I’ve touched a hot pan.

     “I’m not good enough for you.” I can feel tears blooming. It’s finally been said. I’ve carried it within me for far too long, and I finally feel free.

     Tim moves his chair closer to mine and holds me to him.

     “You are perfect,” he whispers and kisses the top of my head.

     I’m not perfect, but Tim is. I finally allow myself to accept how much I love this man. I’m tired of fighting that. I feel the world leave my shoulders as I accept this. I love him. I really and truly love him.

    He throws a wad of cash onto the table and we head for the exit. We walk past Victoria who stops and stares while I smirk a little. I guess I can’t represent her anymore. We exit into the night and see Julie and Darren hugging at their BMW. It doesn’t look like he named me by the way she waves goodbye. But Darren’s eyes are quick to see my and Tim’s hands locked. I’m sure I’ll hear from him tomorrow. But for now, for right now, I’m in love, and it’s with my husband. Our fingers intertwine in a special dance and we head for the car.