The black and silver sequins on her shirt reflected the stage lights. A sparkly bracelet on her ankle flashed a jaunty twinkle, a hint of what was to come. The recorded piano thrummed alive in the background and Christian Faith began to sing the Martina McBride country hit song Anyway. Christian balanced in the wheelchair, buckled in snugly, never once flinching or holding back a breath. Her confident smile allowed only one message to be relayed that evening at the Texans Got Talent contest:
You can pour your soul out singing
A song you believe in
That tomorrow they'll forget you ever sang.
Sing it anyway.
Yeah, sing it anyway
(Martina McBride, Anyway)
You know what’s pretty amazing about miracles? They often happen right in front of your eyes and you might not even realize they’re happening. You know what’s important about recognizing miracles? They remind of all the good, all the light, in this life.
A small water bubble welled up in the corner of my eye. Her words continued to echo around the auditorium. Christian’s heart and talent brought down the house.
She has an amazing story to tell and allowed me to send her a few questions to share with you.
Read along and meet one amazing spirit who reminds us that no matter the outcome, no matter the challenge, no matter what if… do it anyway.
Do you have a particular name for what makes you physically so unique? Have you been able to find a community of others who offer support?
The medical term for my condition is called Amelia. Basically I was born without all of my limbs not including my small leg. I do have a friend who happens to be quite similar to me but with little difference. Her name is Niki Browder. She’s 36, and we have a lot in common.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day I guess you could say is just like anyone else’s except for the simple fact that I might need to work a little harder to achieve daily activities like primping and others like feeding myself. I do everything with my foot. Just like others I’ve adapted to life in my way. I’ve created a unique lifestyle.
What has been one of the biggest challenges you've faced?
You would think that I’ve come against some huge challenges in my life, but honestly I don’t think that I could ever tell you of a time where I’ve absolutely dealt with something huge that I couldn’t handle it. Everything I’ve ever desired to do in life I’ve accomplished with Faith and a strong mindset. My family has always been so supportive as well, and they’ve helped me accomplish so much in my 22 years.
How long have you been training vocally?
I’ve been singing since I was 2 years old. When I was younger I used to watch my grandfather sing. My whole family is musically proficient, so it wasn’t that hard to pick up on. I did however take vocal lessons from the ages 6 to 11, so I guess you could say I’ve had some experience.
Are you doing anything currently to pursue singing or another career?
I am pursuing a career in the music industry. I’ve taken some online courses with Berklee College of Music, but unfortunately I wasn’t financially capable to finish my studies with the school due to my grandfather becoming ill. My family has to pay for occasional medical bills, and other sorts of needs he has. I do however look forward to furthering my career in any way that I can.
Have you written any of your own songs or are you more of a cover artist?
I’m a Singer/Songwriter, so I have written some of my own songs. A few of my originals are called Forever Reign, Oh Holy King, Stop Sign, Can’t Change Me, Falling in Love, Daddy Owns a 12 Gauge, The Middle, Mama’s Little Girl, Daddy Hold Me, Mama Said, Done Deal, and so many more.
Have you participated in many talent competitions? What type of musical gigs are you currently finding?
I hope this doesn’t appear too boastful, but I have won so many talent competitions in my life that I have lost count. The biggest competition I have ever won was at 17 years old in Stamford, Connecticut. It was called Talent America, and I was competing with people from all over the U.S. and parts of Africa. I brought home the 1st place win, and it was one of the greatest thrills in my life. I was scouted by all kinds of agencies at that time, but felt as if I was still a little young to start my career officially. I had offers to move to Nashville and New York, but felt that I wasn’t fully matured enough at that specific time to take on a huge task in my life such as the one I’m pursuing although now I feel that I’m highly capable of doing so. I do get paying gigs at weddings, restaurants, charity events, etc.
Do you have a favorite song or artist?
I love music so much that I would have to say I don’t have a favorite song or artist, because I’m open to each song I’m exposed to as an artist. I like all kinds of music, but my favorite genres would have to be Christian, Country, Bluegrass, Pop, and R&B.
Why is singing so important to you?
Singing is so important to me, because from the time I was a little girl it has been the easiest way to express myself, and I think it has become an essential part of who I am as a person. I’ve been singing all of my life.
What is the hardest thing about singing/performing?
The hardest part about performing is knowing at first that everyone is not always gonna be open to me, because I’m different, but once I open my mouth and sing then everyone becomes enlightened to me as a person.
Do you have a verse or quote serving as a reminder for what you hope to accomplish?
I look to all of God’s word to find hope, but Luke 1:45 is one of my personal favorites. It says “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” I know that God has a purpose for my life, and I’m trusting in Him to continue molding me into who I’m supposed to be.
If you could say that you have one thing in particular you'd like to leave as a legacy, what would it be?
I want my known legacy to be the woman who served as proof that with Faith you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, and I hope everyone will know me as the woman who set the perfect example of how EVERYONE is special in their own way. We are all masterpieces of The Most High God!
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and give one piece of advice to the younger me it would be, “Never doubt yourself, because you are so strong!”
Listen to some of Christian's performance at Texans Got Talent 2018:
I drummed the coin against the table. Three fast, one slow, then repeated. My foot tapped. Jitters ran down my legs, and every few minutes, I’d hold still. Not even a breath would escape. Then I’d begin again. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched the sun dip lower, inch by inch, in the sky. It trickled down like a waterfall of gold sinking below the darkening cityscape. The steady warmth of summer faded with each vanishing ray though August – in name alone – would remain for another few days.
“Come on,” I whispered.
The sky shifted. My leg stilled. Metal paused, hanging above then falling to sit against the wood. As the sun fell down below the horizon, the Void Hours came in spades. Evening turned to night inside the bookshop, but I still pressed into the rising tension. A figure shifted down the street, but I kept my eyes straight ahead. The street lights buzzed and flickered on. Lemniscates shimmered over the window panes. From one side of the glass to the next, the sideways figure eights connected one into the next like linked chain. Inhaling, I let my eyes shut as the world hummed around me. Then the angel rang, and the door opened as if by a gust of air. The whole shop stretched out in the same breath and eased back with a sigh as the door locked. Fingers tapped the chalk remnants on the door before unhooking the ringer.
I smiled, opening my eyes. “Welcome back to the States.”
Sometimes the fairy tale’s end is just the Grimm beginning.
Enjoyed this excerpt from Eli Celata's new novel, Grimm Remains? Then be sure to check out the whole thing, available for $3.99 now on iTunes, Amazon, Nook, and more!
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Back Cover Blurb:
Mammon’s summoning turned Rochester into a beacon for the denizens of Hell. As demon activity increases, Jon settles in for a new academic year, and Jordan moves in as the city’s protector. Unfortunately, the young warlock of Rochester might not be around long if the Devil’s marine legion has a say. Havfine, demonic mermaids, don’t often leave deep lakes and ocean waters. They’re better known for drowning mortal sailors than hunting magic users, but something has sent them upstream from Lake Ontario. When three orphans vanish from a magical sanctuary in Toronto, their caretaker – the Wizard Monday – dredges up a part of Jordan’s and Jon’s father’s history that Jordan would have rather forgotten. In this race against the Bane of Hamelin, more than three souls may be on the line.
Eli Celata was born in Rochester, NY and currently attends Binghamton University as a doctoral student in Biological Anthropology. When she isn’t studying bones or working on interdisciplinary experiments, Eli writes science fiction and fantasy.
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-----Missed Chapter One? Read HERE-----
Shuffling through the paperwork and stacks of unopened mail, Ellie sniffed back the mixture of dust mites meeting loss. She bit back angry words and shameful complaining, noting the two store employees working in silence by the counter of the workshop. Her grandfather’s toy store seemed hardly the place for diatribes or whining, and Ellie knew their spirits already hampered with the funeral earlier that week. She’d assured them their jobs would be safe and asked that they continue their work filling orders and running the store until all the paperwork finalized.
The chair squeaked under her slight weight, the chair itself an antique mess of wood chips and chiseled paint particles. Her grandfather had kept his office in the workshop on the back-end of the store front, “So I can stay closer to my little friends,” he’d say. The toys, of course, were his obsession and great endeavor. He’d crafted wooden sculptures, knickknacks, collectibles, furniture, and toys since he became apprenticed as a twelve-year old, and loved the sport ever since day one. Toy-making served as a delight for him, a channel for the creating of puzzles and magical mystery for children to entangle themselves. He’d loved the whimsy of it all. He’d loved the simplicity of it all. But he was gone on to other adventures, leaving Ellie as sole proprietor of a shop where she’d spent many a summer of her own behind the industrious counters watching and learning.
“September first and those crazies are already playing Christmas songs!” Darcy moaned in the background.
“You’d think they would wait until the other holidays are over. Or at least Halloween,” Declan squinted up at her through his thick, black-rimmed glasses. “Let me wear a scarf or two before we rush into the death grip of winter.”
“Wow. Death grip?”
“Why do you think Christmas happens so early in the winter? If it happened in February when it’s actually cold in Texas, nobody would be around to celebrate. By February, everyone is tired.”
“Valentine’s Day is in February, Declan. The holiday of looove.”
“Because they all want to leave for the equator by that point. The greeting card companies needed a holiday to keep everyone at home.”
“You are so dramatic.”
“Realism, honey. I’m planning a revolution.” Declan shoved his glasses up his nose and focused closer on the wooden block in his palms.
“For what? Scarf-wearers anonymous?”
“For the storm-weary travelers! For the hard-working, bare-knuckled grunts who make this country move!”
“You need to drink less coffee, Dec. Watch where you point that knife.”
Ellie looked up from the stack of bills in her hands. “Guys, what’s this?”
Declan and Darcy glanced over at her from their stools.
“Yes, ma’am?” Darcy asked.
“This notice from the county tax board?”
“Was it in the pile of opened or unopened?”
“Well, let me look, there.” Darcy wiped her palms together, scraping off curlicues and wood crumbs. In rising, she towered above Declan’s wiry frame, whisking new scents of coconut sugar butter in the air with her swishing blue capris.
"This one,” Ellie continued. “About a late tax payment?"
"I'm not sure," Darcy said. "Elwood took care of all the paperwork. I work the front register. I can tell you exactly how many dollars are in the till right now but I have no idea about the office work. Elwood always did all of that."
"Well I guess I just need to sort through everything," Ellie muttered, trying to offer a smile toward the two assistants. She flipped her wrist over to check where the misguided numbers sat accusing her of being late to the office. "This might be a late evening for me."
"Want me to close up shop?" Darcy leaned over the counter hours later, studying the blond head bobbing behind three innocuous, haphazard piles now coating the desk. "Declan clocked out. I've got the door locked. Fridays, Elwood liked to count out, but I can do it."
Ellie blinked up at Darcy, scrunching her eyes in the dim light. She twisted her head and rubbed the back of her neck with one hand.
“That would be great. If you can count down tonight, I’ll work with you next week on getting that figured out. I think I need to get caught up on these piles before anything else.”
“Makes plenty of sense to me, girl. You just let me know if you need help with those stacks.”
“Well. I did have one question. Or a thousand.” Ellie unwrapped her legs from the chair, solidifying her numb feet on the floor before standing up. She flipped through a thinner stack on the edge of the desk for a pink sheet of paper. “There’s this renewal notice for the business license. And enclosed in it was a brochure for the mall development across the street.”
“Psh.” Darcy spat out the distaste before thinking. “He’s been pushing for that development for two years.”
Darcy giggled. “Mr. Something-or-other Jones. He’s a big-city big-shot who wants to buy up all the real estate. He thinks the town has a lot of ‘charm’ but could use some sprucing up.”
Ellie’s lips curled up at Darcy’s description. “He could be right, Darcy.” She stifled her own giggle.
“Oh no.” Darcy shook her head, like a cat shaking away a fly. “He wants every empty building downtown. Plus the full ones. He’s funding the mall expansion and has wanted to buy this lot since he arrived into town. Wants to knock down the shop and put in a parking lot.”
“He even dared to tell Elwood he’d give him a prime location for his shop on the mall’s third story.”
“The mall doesn’t have a third story.”
“Did he think Grandfather would fall for that?”
“He certainly did. Elwood chased him out with that plastic pistol he keeps in that drawer next to ya.”
Ellie’s shoulders shook at the mental picture, and she slapped a gritty hand over her mouth to keep from spitting out the hearty chuckle. “Now that’s Grandfather.”
“Jones came back with a packet of letters saying he’d give a spot on the first floor by the food court. I don’t know if Elwood were considering or not.”
“Never said anything to you?”
“Nope.” Ellie admitted. Without a word, she admitted she hadn’t even spoken to the man since her birthday in February. Her eyes blinked to pull away the guilt and stuff it onto another pile to sort through later on. “I guess that answers that question.”
“I’ll go finish the registers.”
“Thanks, Darcy. I’ll owe you.”
“Just keep paying my check, lady. That’s all I ask!”
Ellie caught the jab and threw it back with a grin. “As long as those registers line up, you’re set. I might even let you take over if you sweet talk me enough.”
Darcy left after a hefty hug and two last offers to buy pizza. Ellie had declined, saying she had a salad in her purse, but the truth was she had half a squashed protein bar and a packet of balsamic vinaigrette in the side pocket, next to a coupon for one dollar off a salad at Hall’s Quick Stop. Her stomach hadn’t rumbled all day, but instead filled with a thick, hollow resolution to sort through the mess and straighten it up. If it took all night, she’d clean up the tedium left by her grandfather and make it her own. It was, after all, her own, whether she wanted it or not.
Around 1:48 am, and Ellie knew the time because she had checked her watch, she heard a rattling click from the front windows. What sounded like metal tapping against glass caught Ellie’s quick attention.
Ellie jumped in her spot, shaken and rattling herself. She ducked down behind the desk. Clattering against the worn tiles in the storefront, glass shards broke open to the elements and to the base of Ellie’s spine. Her mind a blending concoction of exhaustion, expense reports, unpaid bills, and sudden powerlessness, she flew toward the nearest door, stumbling over her purse on the way. The cement floor became an unwelcome guest banging against her knees.
Voices whispered from the storefront. Clenching her quivering jaw, Ellie held in a terrified yell, all while terribly frustrated at the leather straps of her purse. Blasted cross-body purses. A single beam of yellow light flitted through the door to the storeroom and then disappeared back into the storefront. Ellie yanked the strap off her bare foot. That door still sat shut only four feet away, and Ellie hurled herself into it, whirling the handle in her palm and sliding it shut without a sound. The storage room.
Complete darkness surrounded Ellie. She knew boxes in stacks piled high of — everything — filled the room. Years of unsold inventory, extra parts, spare tools, old tools, receipts, taxes, who-knows and whats-its, all crammed into that blank sauna of a storage room.
Feeling through the cobwebs, shuddering and flinging her hands away from her body, Ellie shoved the nearest stack in front of the door. She gripped her bare feet against the cement in order to wrangle the demanding boxes from their spot. Sweat even began to build up as she willed her bodyweight against the — four? five? boxes — away from their comfort zones. Surely they will think the door is busted and move on, if they try to get in here, Ellie thought.
Wiping her palms against each other, Ellie considered the options. She slung the leather purse strap over her head into its familiar slot against her neck, and dug into the contents. Her fingers slid around the smooth purple wallet, the slick, shiny tube of retired lip gloss, and the prickly pink hairbrush. As she rifled and rooted for her phone, that startled brain of hers began to untangle from its coiled state of petrification. It seemed to cough, and then sneeze. Your phone’s on the desk.
My phone’s on the desk.
Ellie closed her eyes against the void, wrinkling her nose like she did when something ridiculous obstructed her path. She wrinkled her nose at flat tires, at delayed mail, and expired coupons. And Ellie wrinkled her nose at the phone on the desk. It couldn’t see her, but it felt her exasperation and shrugged with a sheepish smile.
Fine! Ellie again wiped her palms together, curling her cold toes against the cement. I’ll stay here and wait for the robbers to come kill me. Or I’ll move another stack of boxes in front of the door.
The darkness bit its lip.
Ellie slid one foot toward her left, against the cool concrete and the dust covering it, and then waved her hand to feel for cardboard. Another step, sliding, and a waving of the hands, and smack, she found more boxes. Wiggling through the gritty dust beneath her toes, she glided to the other side, wedged against the other boxes, and coerced the stack into moving. Slithering between the stacks, she inched the bundle, as tall as her frame and three times as wide, behind the first barricade stack.
After quite a bit of huffing and heaving and silent groaning, Ellie’s mind began to quell. Nobody can get through the two stacks. Oxygen bumbled around her throat and cleared out of her chest, leaving room for chaos. Her eyes had still not adjusted to the lack of light, and the enormity of murky space began to whirl before her eyes.
Her brain began to click, filling the silence. This is the only door, right? Ellie scrunched her nose, pursing her lips.
I think – I don’t know. Maybe I can find another way out. Or a place to sit.
Ellie’s eyes began to tingle in the shrill silence, and, blinking, she let her palms lead the way.
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