“The world needs you right now,” the Commander said. “It’s time to put all those experiments to work.”
“Seems like the world doesn’t want our help,” I bargained, recalling the glares and shouts.
“They may think that for the moment. But when Breame releases his army upon them, we’ll be waiting. That’s what we do. Humanity will always be worth fighting for. Individuals exist who choose good, who live simple lives amidst the turmoil and corruption and hate. Surely they merit defense. We fight for them.”
“And what about those who choose to be plain outright mean? Unappreciative? Who throw stones and yell at us?”
“We stay the course,” the Commander sighed. “That’s when we dig in and follow the directive. Place the mission first. Never accept defeat.”
I nodded and joined in. “Never quit. Never leave a fallen comrade.” I tacked on the additional condition. “Fight for the man standing next to you.”
The Commander blinked in approval, providing a simple nod of affirmation in his firm look. “Pain will come and go. The trials, the hardship, the sweat, it all cycles around. It’s short. It’s the dirt in the mountain. The fire. But you, sticking it out, you’re the diamond being etched. The gold smelted. Your efforts will last. Quitting will not. I’ve always known you to hang in — now is the time to use that grit and audacity to lead others into the unknown.”
~ Excerpt from Indelible ~
(Insurrection trilogy, Book 3)
Whenever I write, life ebbs into the themes. Hopefully my readers find multi-layered stories when they dive in with me, and with each reading, find a new little gift. With the books releasing and as I’ve tossed my gut into the wide world of social media marketing, I’ve found more struggle than victory. I’ve discovered a new horrible side of myself, one who is unabashedly jealous, who cries just way too much, and who can’t see the long side of the field. I don’t like her. She cray.
But in the muddy puddles as of late, I’ve also found a wealth of freedom, in finding some simple truth. "Tis a gift to be simple. Tis a gift to be free" (Joseph Brackett). So let’s share this simple truth I’ve found, in hopes that you may dwell richly as well:
Whatever you crave is what you need to create.
Whatever you need, give away to others.
Whatever you are not willing to give up is what will drive you mad. In giving away the Things you want most, you find they return in ways you'd never expect. Do you need peace? Offer peace. Do you need a hug? Give one. Do you need to learn how to do something better? Teach someone what you do know. Need encouragement? Give that away like water at a marathon.
But do not give in order to get. Don't give pridefully. Lavish. Release. Extend. Shower upon others the breezes of hope. Reflect grace.
I may not be able to make it into any hall of fame, but I would love to help someone else get there. Maybe I'm not strong enough, but maybe I can help someone else be. What a gift that would be, to be a part of the training of heroes.
I'm a background person. Always have been, always will be. Ain't no life of the party over here. Introverts unite, amiright?! So to force this dream I have upon others has been a dreadfully painful nightmare. But I'm waking up. Oh, wake up, sleepers! Don’t just believe in yourself, but believe in the work you can and need to do.
Fight in the name of the man standing beside you. In so doing you raise the arms of giants, and together extend life across the kingdom.
Young Adult book lovers have plenty of exciting, clean fiction to keep them company during these breezy spring days! From mythical tales in faraway lands, to contemporary romances, and epic science fiction adventures, this list of new releases from Clean Reads offers something excellent and fresh for every reader.
Book blurbs and buy links included! Comment with your favorites!
Dating The It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager
Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator's son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon's world and it doesn't help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren, seems determined to get back into his life, along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you're dating the it guy.
Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan
On the first day of her new school, wounded Eden wants to finish her senior year and escape to college. It can’t be too much to ask for, can it?
Noah has spent two years not knowing why he failed to come of age as every one of his ancestors has. Two years drifting aimlessly, searching for direction…
When the two meet the connection is instantaneous and undeniable. A connection that has Eden running and Noah burning to know more.
A connection destined to be the catalyst for a prophecy that neither knew existed. A prophecy others are willing to kill for.
As families rupture and struggle to realign, as their hearts connect and ignite, Eden learns to trust. But with their love and life on the line, Eden must find the power to believe.
Prophecy Awakened is the first book in Tamar Sloan’s Prime Prophecy Series. If you enjoyed Stephanie Meyer, Lauren Kate or Maggie Stiefvater, then you’ll love a series that captures their best traits in an epic, captivating story of a love that defies boundaries.
Just Claire by Jean Ann Williams
Thirteen-old ClaireLee’s life changes when she must take charge of her siblings after her mother becomes depressed from a difficult childbirth. Frightened by the way Mama sleeps too much and her crying spells during waking hours, ClaireLee just knows she’ll catch her illness like a cold or flu which hangs on through winter. ClaireLee finds comfort in the lies she tells herself and others in order to hide the truth about her erratic mother.
Deciding she needs to re-invent herself, she sets out to impress a group of popular girls. With her deception, ClaireLee weaves her way into the Lavender Girls Club, the most sophisticated girls in school. Though, her best friend Belinda will not be caught with the likes of such shallow puddles, ClaireLee ignores Belinda’s warnings the Lavenders cannot be trusted. ClaireLee drifts further from honesty, her friend, and a broken mother’s love, until one very public night at the yearly school awards ceremony. The spotlight is on her, and she finds her courage and faces the truth, and then ClaireLee saves her mother’s life.
Beautiful One by Mary Cope
Elizabeth Ryan is a beautiful, shy, naïve high school senior. Having never dated she meets the boy of her dreams, Aidan Mitchell. Despite his history of womanizing Liz is drawn to him. Soon Liz becomes the envy of all the girls on campus, when they become a couple and her dream boyfriend sweeps her off her feet and into the dating world that is all too new and strange for her. When other guys start to take notice of Liz, Aidan is troubled with fits of jealousy.
Elizabeth then meets the ruggedly handsome, Spencer Hayes and they quickly bond over their passion for music. Liz begins to struggle with the feelings that spark between them.
In the end Elizabeth finds herself torn between helping Aidan overcome his jealousy and anger and giving into what her heart truly wants.
The 12th Girl In Heaven by R.J. Conte
Macy Bandele's goals are simple: get good grades, don't make waves at the university, and find some place to belong. The mysterious princess sorority, Rho Lambda Tau, seems like the answer to her problems. If only the handsome Dillan Noughton didn't keep challenging her way of thinking. What sinister plans do the sorority hide? And can Dillan help save her from herself?
Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.
The Marked by Emerald Barnes
Myka Williams has never fit in with her peers, and although her adoptive parents are loving and supportive, she feels most at home alone in the woods.
When she's offered a full scholarship to Knight's Academy in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, she takes the opportunity for a fresh start. She soon learns that Knight’s Academy is more than just a school. Within the stone walls of the institution, humans and vampires are mixing, and their offspring are going unnoticed.
As Myka falls prey to the evil plan of the school, she makes a chilling discovery about her own heritage and realizes that she’s at the Academy for more than just an education. Myka must yield to her birthright at the risk of losing everyone she loves or succumb to the fate that Knight’s Academy has in store for her—a fate worse than death.
Celeste by Ann Evans
Megan Miller doesn't believe in ghosts or in reincarnation. But that soon changes after moving to a new city and a new school. It starts with feelings of déjà vu. Vague feelings at first that remain annoyingly just out of reach. Then the flashbacks start – memories of ancient times and frag-mented dreams of when she had been called Celeste. Then comes the haunting. After visiting the old bombed out cathedral, Megan believes some dark ominous presence is haunting her, following her, whispering in her ear. And always the same question, where did you hide it? Megan becomes entwined in a frightening and heartbreaking world as she slips uncontrollable between her present life and her medieval past. But the links are fiercely strong and she fears that a new friend is actually a past enemy – and evil has followed her through the centuries.
High Summons by Eli Celata
Jon Blythe is sick of waiting for his Yoda. After years of hiding his magic, he's ready to retire from his mortal life, drop out of college, and jump into the world of demon hunters. He just didn't really expect a bleach blond bookstore clerk with light up toys for weapons. Unfortunately, Jordan is Jon's only hope. When rogue magic users come to Rochester with a malicious plan, the odd couple strikes out to save the day. Jordan might not be what Jon expected, but between demons and Econ homework, the demons win every time. Wild nights drag Jon further from normal into the world where his father vanished. Maybe he's becoming an addict. Maybe magic just comes with a price. Either way, he’s hooked.
Healing Rain by Katy Newton Naas
Some people just naturally seem to have it all. Until five months ago, sixteen-year-old Rain Sawyer was one of those people. She had the perfect life, with a loving, wealthy family and a strong Christian faith, complete with popularity, sports, clubs, and good grades.
When one tragic incident shatters everything Rain thought she knew, she finds herself five hours away, starting over in a small town very different from her glamorous big-city life.
Armed with a different outlook on life – one that no longer includes her faith – she struggles to create a new identity for herself. Determined to keep her dark past as secret, she navigates through a new school year, a new town, and new relationships while trying to figure out who she wants to be.
Accepted by Coleen Lahr
Ashley Smith spent her life being shipped from one family member to the next. When Ashley’s estranged father dies, she finally has the money to go to college and the chance to find a place where she belongs.
Within days, Ashley has found the one thing she’s always longed for – a family. She may have even found love. There’s only one problem. Ashley likes Colin…a lot, but so does Randi, and everyone likes Randi. Randi’s approval is the single easiest way to belong. Falling in love with Randi’s crush is the single easiest way to find one’s self on the outside for the next three years.
When Ashley arrived at college, she never dreamed she’d find this kind of happiness. Will she allow herself to hold on to this happiness, and Colin, or will her fear of losing her friends, the only friends she’s ever known, dictate her actions?
The Devil and Danna Webster by Jacqueline Seewald
Danna Webster, a shy fifteen-year-old high school student with a talent for art, is studying in the school library with her friend Joyce when a dark, handsome boy starts flirting with her. Rich bad boy, Kevin Moore, continues to pursue her. But Danna is pulled in another direction by Gar Hansen, football quarterback and honor student who has been assigned as Danna’s math tutor. What is Kevin’s connection to the eerie stranger who offers Danna everything she could ever want in life—in return for her soul?
The Dragon's Ring by Debra Daugherty
Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.
Shadow Fire by Kimber Leigh Wheaton
Ashlyn – a free-spirited teenager whose peaceful life is shattered when the village elders honor her with a perilous quest to recover a stolen relic.
Zane – a jaded mercenary, torn by his undeniable desire for Ashlyn and the dark secret that could make her hate him forever.
Delistaire – a malevolent sorcerer driven by an insatiable lust for power.
All three are bound together by an ancient relic supposedly infused with the power of a Goddess.
As Ashlyn and Zane race to stay one step ahead of the evil lurking in the shadows, their passions are ignited and their bond strengthens. But will they find the relic before Delistaire? Or has their entire quest been orchestrated from the very beginning by a madman in pursuit of ultimate power?
Six Pack: Emergence by B.W. Morris
Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.
Different by E.A. West
Jezebel Smith is different. She can’t talk, she doesn’t look like anyone in her family, and no matter what she does it’s always the wrong thing. God accepts her for who she is, but He’s the only one who does. Then she finds an unconscious man in her favorite cave, and her life is turned upside down. New people and new rules collide with the old, leaving Jezebel unsure of which set of rules apply to her life. When the strangers in town attempt to help her out of the nightmare she’s grown up in, it promises to change her life forever.
Unexpected Rewards by Jane McGarry
Olivia Davenport is looking forward to her future. After all, Prince Liam has professed his love and King William has promised her a reward for her role on a recent mission. She fully expects to continue her knightly training while enjoying a blossoming romance with her Prince. The King, however, has other ideas, appointing her as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Helen.
Thrust into unfamiliar territory and left to fend against the malicious women of court, Olivia feels awkward and confused. With the help of her new friend, Kat, and her sister, Anne, she tries to find her footing among the courtiers, their protocol, and the added complication of Jocelyn Crawford, a lady who has her eyes set on becoming Liam’s bride.
When, a disturbing prophecy puts the safety of the King in question, fear spreads through kingdom. Intrigue abounds at the palace with an enigmatic witch and a strict Friar at the center of the controversy. Olivia must use her training and instincts to unravel what is truly going on in order to protect the King. Through it all, she questions if she will ever be able to fit into Liam’s life and if, in the end, their love can prevail.
Kitishi Island by Jordan Elizabeth
Serena Cole can kick serious butt thanks to young women only she can see. School bullies aren’t a problem, but Serena’s mental health might be. To shield Serena from a dark secret, her family tries to convince her that her friends are imaginary.
Fleeing her distrustful aunt, Serena joins her mother on an archeological dig at Kistishi Island. There, Serena discovers an ancient scroll and realizes her invisible friends are goddesses native to the island, and they are in danger of enslavement for their abilities. Only Serena can save her friends if she can discover the past her family has hidden her entire life – the reason why only she can see the goddesses.
Incomplete by Kadee Carder
Power within her. War without. Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must clench the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Today is release day for Bob Morris, a fellow Clean Reads author! Check out his original young adult sci fi, "Six Pack: Emergence," book one of an exciting new trilogy!
What if society was controlled by a drink, but there was another drink that might allow one to change the way things were?
Tyler Ward is set to graduate from secondary school when he learns the truth about the nation of Novusordo and how the government controls the population. He and his five friends visit a professor’s house, consume another drink and gain strange powers. Now they find themselves part of a movement against the government and must learn to control their powers and how they might change society. But can they trust the movement… or even each other?
Six Pack: Emergence, a young adult, science fiction, dystopian novel is written by B.W. Morris, a longtime writer for small-town newspapers, though it took him a while to embrace his inner comic book geek and put his overactive imagination to work through novel writing.
Morris was born in Texas but grew up in Colorado. He has also lived in New Mexico and Oklahoma and currently resides in Kingman, Kansas, a small community 40 miles west of Wichita. Morris is a member of the Kansas Writers Association and loves pizza, barbecue and a good breakfast burrito. He cites the likes of Greg Weisman, George Orwell, Suzanne Collins, Stan Lee and Conor Friedersdorf as inspirations for his writing.
Six Pack: Emergence is now available in ebook format through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Smashwords and iTunes.
Buy for ONLY $3.99 on:
Barnes and Noble
Learn more about the book by visiting Morris’ blog at relaxingwithsixpack.blogspot.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support art! Support exciting dreams! Grab your copy today!
Power within her. War without.
Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must seize the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
Volume Two of the Insurrection trilogy is NOW AVAILABLE! Get your copy now for only $4.99, and continue Saylor's adventure on Isla Barina!
Join me for a fun celebration on Facebook, the Incomplete Release Party. We'll have confetti, games, and an hour of clinking virtual sparkling drinks, and freebies. RSVP HERE and hang where all the party people roll. :D
Call for submissions! Members of the military and law enforcement, we need your amazing stories. You get to learn, see, and do remarkable things, and us civilians would love to read your wisdom and experiences. Submit a 250-300 word paragraph illustrating an important moment, piece of wisdom you learned during training, or a memorable experience you've had in training or on the field. What kept you going when times got tough? What made you keep those boots on the ground? We'd love to hear it!
Please send your stories to email@example.com by March 1, 2017. I'll make them available in a blog mid-march and have my readers vote for their favorite. The top five will receive a free copy of Insurrection, and the grand prize winner will also receive a free copy of Incomplete.
Please try to keep the language clean! And let me know if you have any questions. I cannot wait to hear your stories. Keep 'em coming! And thank you so much for all you do.
My family and I went roller skating last weekend. I hadn’t used real roller skates since middle school. So after more than fifteen years of standing on my feet, the wheels beneath me shuddered. And then they flew.
As I rolled around the rink, oh soooo wobbly at first (or, well, the entire two hours) by the end I was able to take a hearty look around me at the crowd and muster an exhilarated sigh. I’ve missed skating. Skating is not entirely cardiovascular, as my iWatch didn’t notice I’d spent two hours wheeling around a flat floor and instead noted eight whole minutes of activity. Womp womp. But skating is a task of wonder and thrill. It made me pause and observe, and note just how much life is like a skating rink.
Skating is a challenging activity.
Balance. Wobbling. Fear. Chaos! Total fun. Cramping shins. Let’s accent that last one. Within five minutes on the floor I had to take a break because my shins burned like a thousand fires of Armageddon. And I do sprints regularly! All around me on that floor, kids, teens, and adults alike ate dirt, toppling and tumbling to the ground.
My daughter is learning to skate and she’s frustrated. It’s a mix of balance, freedom, carefreeness, and knowing how to hold your center in just the right way. And then swinging those arms crazy as the balance shifts around the corner. Ah!
There’s no one single “this is how you skate” tutorial. Skating feels different for everyone. Some people catch on quick, some need this magical contraption the rink owners rent out, of something like a walker on wheels, to give the littles something to hold while rolling. To skate is to know the feel of your foot along the sole of the shoe; to skate is to fly free and yet hold just so. Each skater will learn in a different manner, in a different timing, in a different location, after a different amount of falling.
Get back up. Find your poise. Compose your grace.
People fall down.
Simply observing when I had to sit and rest, and even amid the crowd on the floor, there was one constant in the rink: People fell down. There was never a single person not on the ground. At any given time, more than one person lay sprawled on the wax. Skating is a game of falling down. And learning how to navigate around those who do.
Several times, children sprinted before me, wrapped around the pillars, and splattered along the floor. I had to navigate the open waters, like a minnow in a shark pool. The fallers couldn’t always help it. They are learning. They are discovering. They are stumbling over things on the floor.
The falling is embarrassing. The falling hurts. The falling causes a domino effect.
Their actions affect everyone around them. The skater who wishes to remain vertical must look ahead, look around, and be prepared to stumble. When another skater falls down, everyone has two options: either help the other one up or skate around them. It’s easy to be angered by the faller downer. It’s easy to gripe and cast angry glances, but often these lead to the falling down of one’s own self.
Instead of wasting time and energy being frustrated at those who fall, know they are part of the game. Know that the person stumbling is dealing with the floor. The floor isn’t so friendly. But you can be. So since you’re still on your feet, be kind and move along your merry way.
You have to observe the big picture.
The more people fill the floor, the harder it is to navigate the perils of the rink. Little kids bob around, wobbling, tossing their fists every which way, while teens dart and dash and topple like marbles on a slip-n-slide. You have to keep your eyes up, watch for the open path, and navigate even those last-minute adaptations and pivots to the plan. Be ready for change. Because you’re rounding the corner, friend, so expect someone to shoot in front of you.
The more I kept my vision above the horizon, beyond my own feet, the more I could easily maneuver the scene. Getting caught up in wheels and feet and legs is easy. Seeing that it’s only four other bodies in a large room puts it in perspective. There’s more to the story than the skates in your way.
People sit on the sidelines.
You either skate or you sit on the sidelines. You can laugh all you want at the people skating -- their balance, their wobbling, their stumbling, their sporadic waving of the arms -- but at least they’re on the floor. At least they are attempting to do the Y-M-C-A while rolling around the rink. Who cares if they look like a monkey on a frozen pond? Applaud the skaters, cheer them on, for they’re operating vividly and fully engaged. What’s life on the sidelines but a hard bench and a noisy crowd? The floor is much more open and inviting, my friends.
Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
I noticed as the time wore on that the floor grew emptier. Exhaustion, sweat, sore muscles, and celebrating birthdays drew out the engaged from the spent. It’s crucial to know when you’ve met your limits. It's also crucial to enjoy cake. But also, know that limits are invisible. And cake makes you tired. If you want to skate, then skate on my friend. The best ending to a day in the rink is time on the rink. Shake until the last song. Don’t snicker at the weary, don’t slight the onlooker, but roll on, roll on. Dance with the music and slide along the floor. Time and again I had to remind my daughter -- just have fun with it. The more fun you have, the better you do. And that’s life, friends. It’s all just skating anyway. Might as well spend the time rolling. Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
To my friend who is struggling with the slick floor, skate on. To my wobbly wheeler, steady. I won’t hold your hand because we’ll both fall down, but I’m here in the rink with you. Getting on the floor is the hard part, but stopping is even harder. It’s more fun on the floor. Come on in. I hear it’s almost time for limbo.
Power within her. War without.
Between the lines of flirtation and justice, Saylor must clench the missing pieces of her fate. While harnessing her ability to communicate with deadly weapons of mass destruction, attending the annual gala, and fighting her growing feelings for the hunky Australian soldier, Saylor’s instincts become increasingly distressed. Tempted by greed and independence, she must determine what she stands for and on whose side she belongs.
The second book of the Insurrection trilogy will be available on February 28, 2017! You can reserve your copy NOW on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! Stay tuned for updates. Plus, save the date for Feb 28 and be sure to rsvp on Facebook in the Release Party. There will be freebies, fun, and a celebration of the fabulous. Please join me for an hour of excitement as Saylor's story unfolds.
See more HERE on the Incomplete page on my website. Feel free to share with your friends and anyone who needs a good adventure. And thanks for reading, friends!
Here's a new little writing project I've been working on. Hope you enjoy Ellie's adventures in this new holiday novella, "The Christmas Room.
Perhaps the greatest fault of clutter is its insistence upon collecting dust. Ellie swept the shelf-full of knickknacks, toys, dolls, colorful stacking boxes, and mangy-haired dolls into a dingy cardboard box she’d brought from the office, while holding in a sneeze. These items would be packed up and stored in the garage. These items do not sell a house. Clean-cut lines, shiny place settings, crisp drapes and flooring, and fresh paint would sell a house, and Ellie knew it. Her job at Grand Market Real Estate was to make sure their listings booked it off the market. Toys did not sell homes; toys did not bring in buyers. Ellie brought in buyers.
“Pam, I’m going to need a new chair for this room,” Ellie called to the brunette in the next room, setting down the box in the corner next to the door. She wiped her hands against each other, feeling the nit and grit grinding upon her palms. “And a tube of cleaning wipes.”
“Make that two chairs,” Pam replied, holding up her list, “Because I hear the rules of feng shui have updated to include even numbers.”
“I think you’re wrong about that.” Ellie’s smile lit up a laugh in her jingling voice. “How about you look up ‘revised ancient rules of organization from Japanese culture,’ on the interwebs and see what you find.”
“Tsk!” Pam chided. “I saw it in an article yesterday.”
“On what blog?”
“It was in the Current.”
“You know the Current is not current.”
“Well then you tell me this room doesn’t need a matching chair.”
“Fine,” Ellie gave in. “In the name of matching’s sake.”
“And my obsessive compulsion.”
Pam’s white linen pants swished as she emerged from the second bedroom, her brown leather purse bumping against her leg. “I’m assessing the bathrooms next. You want the Master or the third bedroom?”
“The bedroom.” Ellie leaned over the marble slab counter, gazing at the sketch before her. The white-blonde side French braid swept over her shoulder, its curled edges tickling her cheek. “My kitchen is about ready.”
Ellie’s phone buzzed just as Pam’s curly hair bobbed around her nodding confirmation, and Ellie flipped over the black device as it went to voicemail. Ellie sighed, letting the breath whisk out of her mouth as a round, “O,” as if to complain, “Oh, why is he calling now?”
“Hey, Kiddo, it’s Dad. Wanted to check in with you to see if everything is alright with you. Look, hon, I hate to call early in the morning; I know you’re at work. I’d rather talk to you in person. Your mom’s dad isn’t doing so well. When we went to visit him last night, the—well, hon—the doctor doesn’t think he has much longer. Please call me back when you get a chance. I hope you’re having a good time with those houses. We’re both proud of you. Um. Hope you can call soon, hon. Talk to you then.”
Back at the office, Ellie plucked at the various keys on her laptop keyboard, setting up the inventory request forms like usual. Her desk towered with massive piles of folders, papers, wallpaper sample books, paint chip samples, three to-go cups of coffee, a large open-lidded box of pens, and one solar-paneled bobbling Hawaiian doll dancing an endless hula. Aunt Kay sent one every holiday and Ellie kept the latest on her desk, the others filling the kitchen windowsill. She allowed herself one cluttered space at home, because the dancing figurines reminded her of the sun’s warmth, even when she couldn’t see past the clouds. But just the one. Her office was another story. The room needed all the sunshine it could get, as the dreary October days seemed to settle layer by layer over the small town, one gray sheet of clouds at a time, until the light and warmth squelched out under everyone’s plastic rain boots.
“Ellie, have you seen the order from Sherlin’s Paint?” Greg stuck his head around the corner in the hall.
“Nope. No deliveries from Sherlin’s yet this week.”
“Keep an eye out.”
Because her desk sat in the front room of their converted house/real estate office, Ellie often shared the receptionist’s tasks. Ellie knew she stood a mere step above Marla on the ladder, because she’d started off doing the exact same thing, and had only worked into her new position after bartering personal office space for a pay raise. Greg gave few handouts, unless a prospective client needed a pen, and even then he’d add a supply fee in the final round of paperwork. But Greg knew good when he saw it, and Ellie exuded results. He even provided the desk for her.
“Ellie, you’ve got a call on line two,” Marla stated, pressing a button on the body of the phone and replacing the receiver. “Said it’s Walt.”
“Okay,” Ellie murmured, closing her eyes. Dad never called. And absolutely never twice in one day. Heaving in a breath, she prepared for news. Grabbing her handset, she fixed a smile on her lips. The listener can hear it, after all. “Hey, Dad.”
“Sorry I hadn’t called back yet. It’s been so crazy today.”
“I’m sure. I didn’t want to bug you, either, but I needed to get hold of you.”
“That’s why I’m calling, Ellie. He’s not doing well. He wants to see you, asked specifically for you.”
“I’ll try to get up there after I get off work this afternoon.”
“Dad.” Ellie lowered her voice, glancing over at Marla, and then buried her face against her shoulder. “I am on a tight deadline right now. The office needs me and I cannot spare a moment before we close.”
“Ellie, I’m afraid you’re going to regret waiting. Life doesn’t wait for your work schedule.”
“It has to today. I’m sorry.”
Walt held his breath, absorbing the news, before clearing his throat. “Good, then. I’ll tell your mom you’ll be here as soon as you possibly can. We appreciate it. See you soon, hon.” He tapped the ‘end’ button, finalizing the phone call, just as the heart monitor inside the room behind him flat-lined. A stout, searing wail of an alert rang from the bedside device and several nurses rushed in.
Walt grimaced, his forehead furrowing, and he took the few steps to stand in the doorway. Meryl sat next to her father, holding his hand, her eyes fixed on his blank stare facing the ceiling. Meryl’s head lowered and Walt strode over to her, placing his warm, weathered hands on her shoulders. His hands squeezed, offering whatever hope or peace they could, knowing the lives of his family would change forever. If only he knew how much.
**** Stay tuned for Chapter 2! ****
Feel free to share with a friend who needs a happy holiday story. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, friends.
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