Excerpt from Interior Designs:
When the alarm went off, I was not ready to jump out of bed. I groaned, turned over, and glared at the clock.
Why did I have to wake up so early, anyway? I was my own boss. I could certainly change those hours for myself and for Caroline, too. Or maybe she could start at 8:30 and I could meander into the office an hour later.
But then I remembered Meadow. School would not be out for another couple of months. Since when had I been marking time this way? Once upon a time I used to revel in each day and look forward to the moments with Meadow. Or had I?
Maybe the secret in my life was how much I had always hated the obligations and the pretense. Maybe I, too, wanted to be a slacker, or even run off to the city to experience life. Perhaps I would like to find myself, too. Enjoy decadent nights and love affairs.
Well, I had done that part, anyway. That thing with Zach, who, by the way, hadn’t called me back. I’d left the message for him days ago. What was up with that?
Before I could allow myself to go there, though, I stumbled out of bed and into the shower. I could already hear Meadow stirring in her room. Sometimes she actually read or watched TV in there before she came to my room.
I enjoyed the time to begin the day without the pressure.
When had I started feeling stressed and pressured by my own daughter?
Guilt slid over my shoulders along with the shower spray. It sluiced across my body and covered me like a thin skin of doubt and shame. In moments like these, my mind traipsed along memory pathways again, and I was back there, plotting evil with Miranda Templeton. And that had turned out very badly.
An excerpt from An Accidental Life reveals two characters, moving slowly toward one another, cloaked in their individual fears.
Autumn slipped toward winter, its days beginning with that hideous, low-hanging fog that characterized this part of the valley. But Melody woke in the mornings feeling something akin to happiness. Taking her large mug of coffee over near the tall side windows, where she had set up a little table and wicker chair, she would spread out the newspaper. Reading, sipping her coffee, and occasionally glancing toward the guesthouse, waiting for the first sign of Hugh so she could invent some excuse to saunter on over.
Since their first encounter a few months back, the two of them had established a more or less regular routine. One or the other would initiate contact, they would chat for a bit, and then they would end up in bed. Melody still felt wonder when she reflected on their moments together. What an unlikely pairing they were.
She felt the heat rising in her face as her thoughts raced backward and she quickly fanned herself with the front page of the paper. Despite all the passion the two of them generated, however, she sometimes walked away afterwards wondering who Hugh Kincaid really was…They never really talked about anything substantive. Oh, they had shared the superficial biographical sketches. He knew that she had been in Haight-Ashbury in the sixties and on the road for awhile in the seventies. He knew about the trust fund that had brought her this house. She knew that he’d retired from a state job as an engineer, that he loved photography as art, and that he had been married once…But had no children.
Her brow furrowed as she tried to focus on the newspaper. Her thoughts refused to cooperate, continuing instead to ramble in Hugh’s direction. She realized that she wanted to know more. And she was even willing to share more of herself. The realization surprised and worried her at the same time. What did it mean?
In this excerpt from Chasing Stardust, Colin (the bad boy) meets Carly (the bad girl).
At sixteen, Colin looked much older than he was. His muscles were hardened by his compulsive workouts at the gym; he went there to escape the control of those in authority, especially his mother. Everyday, he checked himself out in the mirrors, flexing his muscles, taking his measure, so he knew that he looked every inch the Bad Boy. And he could tell that she wanted him, just by looking at her tight little walk as she tried to pass him by.
“Hey!” He reached out, lightly touching her arm.
“I’ve been watching you,” he continued, grinning charmingly, and running his other hand through the rakish curl that hung over his forehead.
“Are you some kind of creep?” She stared back at him boldly, but she didn’t seem offended at all.
“Yeah, right,” he laughed, matching her steps with a shorter stride.
He headed in the opposite direction, just so the two of them could walk side by side. “I’m Colin…Colin Winslow,” he offered suddenly, grinning again, and then blatantly stubbing out the cigarette on the wall.
Her eyes widened at his open gesture of defiance. And then she laughed. “Oh, I’m supposed to be impressed by how bad you are,” she laughed, and then stared straight at him as if wondering just how cool he really was. And then, as if satisfied, she grabbed his arm and leaned in toward him. “I’m Carly Santos,” she purred.
He didn’t need any more information than that. He’d heard the guys talking about this new girl, this Carly Santos; she was supposedly as wild as he was. She’d even been in the juvenile detention center a couple of times already. He also knew that she was only fourteen and a freshman. But despite that obstacle, there was no way that he would let this one get away.
They walked silently for awhile until they reached the chain-link fence surrounding the campus. “Got another cigarette?” She reached out, slipping her hand into his pocket. As she retrieved the pack, she let her hand linger there over his chest, slightly stroking him while gazing into his eyes. Her eyes seemed backlit, burning with a flame that could not be extinguished.
He grabbed her hand, and then held it while he flicked the lighter, leaning in to connect with the tip of the cigarette.
The gesture reminded her of a scene from a movie. She inhaled, and then blew the smoke into little rings, showing off, hoping he would be impressed.
He lit his own cigarette, and they silently smoked, leaning against the fence, barely touching.
As she ponders the negative memories from the past, Karen Kendall makes a choice to focus on the good in her life in the moment. Excerpted from Miles to Go.
She could still remember very clearly the times when she had known she was about to be moved from a foster home. The foster parents would be distant, walking around the house, carefully avoiding her, not looking at her directly. Then would come the apologetic “We need to talk,” followed by the gathering together of her things in those large, black trash bags. That was the worst! So humiliating, to have everything that was yours, usually so little, bagged up together into three or four giant trash bags. Sometimes she would come home from school and find that her things had been packed already. That would be the clue to a terse and hasty departure. And sure enough, within the hour, the social worker would appear in the inevitable county car, cheerfully greeting her, as if they were going on an adventure, and, usually without any explanations, she’d be off to the next home.
Sometimes there would be no foster homes and she’d have to stay in the children’s shelter, with impersonal staff. In some ways, this was better. At least they didn’t pretend to want her, didn’t show her that false welcome.
Now, breaking into a slow jog, Karen turned the corner onto 24th Street; she stayed on this course for a little while and then doubled back. As she reached Donner Way again, she reveled in her enjoyment of this street, centered by a grassy strip, punctuated by large trees. Arriving at the front door marked “2445,” she stomped her feet slightly, then removed her sneakers. She glanced up at the brick façade and took in the dark green shutters alongside each window; her eyes trailed upward to the top floor…Hers and Ashley’s…And she inhaled gratefully. She had something great right now and she mustn’t spoil it by these negative memories! Even though she still didn’t feel as if she truly belonged in this new life, she continued to wake up each day, here in this home, greeted by Rainbow, who was warm and loving…What more could she ask?
For the first few seconds of every day, before reality hit, she felt her body floating in a cloudy tangle as she came up from her dreams. Beautiful dreams of sunny days filled with music, ice cream and lots of laughter. She could still remember a time when her days had been like that; she’d been much younger then, granted the indulgences of early childhood. Those moments usually happened in the warm, cozy rooms at Grandma’s house, when she’d had a feeling that everything would work out somehow.
But she was not at Grandma’s today, and as she tossed aside the heavy tangle of sheets and blankets, she knew she wouldn’t be going to Grandma’s again any time soon. Father had other plans for her. Her summer days would be full of farm chores, beginning in the early hours of the day and ending only when the last box of fruit had been emptied and the last peach had been cut and placed on the trays. In the shed, with its overhang that shielded from the hot summer sun, the smell of ripening fruit made her gag, but she had to stifle the urge. Otherwise, she could end up with a far worse punishment than cutting fruit all day.
Margaret shuddered as she recalled some of those punishments.
She hadn’t trusted in the myth of “happily ever after” for a very long time, but despite herself, she had believed that he was going to be the love of her life. After all, the two of them had been hanging out pretty regularly now for a couple of months. He came to the roadhouse where she worked, usually right after he finished up with his construction crew, and they had fallen into the habit of leaving together after her shift ended. But tonight had been different, right from the start.
First of all, he had barely acknowledged her presence when he got there. Still, she had tried not to take it personally, telling herself that he was just catching up with the guys. But then he’d started flirting with some of the other girls who had come in halfway through the night. Toward the end of her shift at the roadhouse, she had watched Buck walking out with that little twit, the one who had been hanging all over him all night long, and she could see the handwriting on the wall: he was moving on.
She had struggled along anyway, trying to pretend that none of it bothered her, until finally she was able to leave for the night. She headed toward the parking lot, and after she climbed into the old beat-up pickup truck, she huddled up inside for a few minutes wishing she could somehow disappear. She wished she could close her eyes, and then, once she opened them again this whole day would have magically turned out to be nothing but a dream. A nightmare, of course, but just a dream all the same! The humiliation of it all! She could still see the faces of the others as Buck had turned on his heel and walked out that door with someone else.