Saturday, July 10, 2010

Billie Williams Blog Tour

Hello Billie Williams, welcome to my site. It is nice of you to stop by on your Blog Tour.

Today is your day! Say Hi to Billie, everyone. I had the privilege of living in the same neighborhood as Billie for awhile and we used to have our daily stroll together. It always amazed me when I would stop over at her house that she was writing yet another book. There seems to be no end to the flow of ideas that drift through Billie’s mind.

When I had my newspaper, The Pike River Community News, Billie was one of my contributors. She wrote a column for me. I always looked forward to seeing what she would write about.

Each person who comments on my blog will have a chance to win either a $100 note pad, a $100 pen, or a $100 bookmark magnet. (They all incorporate the hundred dollar bills into their design). That is for today while Billie is here. So let Billie and I know you stopped by and ask her some questions or just say Hi.

Best Selling and Award winning Mystery/Suspense author Billie A Williams is a fiction, non-fiction and poetry author and has won numerous contests for her short/flash fiction stories, essays, and poetry with over two dozen works published. She is published in various magazines such as the literary magazine Thema; Guide, a Magazine for Children, Novel, Writing Etc., and Women In The Arts newsletter as well as Sister’s in Crime, to list but a few.
Her articles, columns and features have appeared regularly in newspapers. Short stories, Flash fiction, poetry and book reviews have appeared in Mystery Time, True Love Magazine and various anthologies and on line e-zines and web sites. She writes a bi-monthly column titled “Whodunit?” for Mystery Fiction’s Voices in the Dark and is a contributing editor for a Blueberry Press Newsletter. She also hosts her own writer’s group, Word Mage Writers and Readers as well as The Amberg Writers Group that meets at her home monthly. She is an active blogger; and A website for writers is at where you can find plenty of tips, tricks and good reads, as well as a current novel in progress serialized in her newsletter, “Printed Words.”
Williams is currently a member of The Wisconsin Regional Writers Association (WRWA) Upper Peninsula Writers Association (UPWA)National Association of Women Writers (NAWW) Sister’s in Crime, Women in the Arts Program, Electronically Published Internet Connection (EPIC), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (SCBWI) and Children’s Book Insider, and the Children Writers Coaching Club. Her website
She lives with her husband and Lady Slipper the Maine Coon Cat she received the day she got her contract for The Pink Lady Slipper bed and breakfast murder mystery from Wings ePress so of course the kitten got the name. Amberg, is home, a small Northern Wisconsin community where the winters are cold and long, but the people are warm and friendly.

Here is a preview of one of Billie's new books, Money Isn't Everything.

Money Isn’t Everything – It isn’t love, it isn’t security, and it doesn’t buy loyalty. It can be a tool, -- OR-- a murder weapon.
Mary March is a CNA in a nursing home (Idle A While) when she discovers patient abuse, she investigates and that leads to Jayde Blarney being fired. Jayde goes to work as a fitness trainer in a local health club, (Rainbow’s End). Now, she is out for revenge against Mary for two things. Getting her fired and for encroaching on her, as she perceives it, Doctor Tanner Irish who she is head over heels in love with. Tanner can’t see Jayde for dust as he is infatuated with Mary.

Tanner Irish is almost the proverbial cliché in Mary’s mind. She thinks Tanner is a spoiled little rich boy used to having everything his way, handed to him on a silver platter. He is filthy rich. He thinks money talks, she insists Money Isn’t Everything and she won’t be one of his conquests.

Mary uncovers a connection to the missing funds that lead to Edith Erhoes (Director of Nursing) and Fern Fish (Head of the Accounting Department). Edith’s attitude is the rich can afford it. And they have always gotten the wheat while she has always gotten the chaff, she wants the heart of the wheat and is angry that the young whipper-snapper with money, Dr. Tanner Irish, gets more money catering to old ladies and old men who’ll be dead soon anyway. Life is unjust—and fate is fickle, she is out to change the odds.

Mary will try to find where the abuse stems from and who is taking the money from the coffers as well as how.

Within minutes security had the box of dead rats, Dolly and Ebony had their walking papers; Edith thought the abuse was now all cleared up. Mary wondered what Jayde might do next. Until they were all locked up there would be no peace for anyone at Idle A While Nursing Home.

Thanks again for visiting my site Billie. Here’s to all your writing endeavors.

The next stop in Billie’s Blog Tour is Elaine Cantrell. Elaine was born and raised in South Carolina. She holds a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority
for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writer’s of America and EPIC authors. Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books. At present she teaches high school social

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

After Affects of a Stroke

After Affects of a Stroke
Learning to Cope

Isn’t it amazing how complex your brain is? What happens to that complex, well functioning brain, when you have a stroke? One person said it was like having an earthquake in your kitchen and all your dishes got messed up.
The funny thing about it is it affects everyone differently. Oh sure, there are the usual things people struggle with, like learning to walk again, swallow, talk, or getting use out of an arm or hand. But there are other things that are unexplainable.
Have you ever heard of anyone losing the letter “N” in their alphabet? According to one speech therapist, he had never come across that problem, nor had his professor in thirty years of practice. Yet it did happen.
Speech is affected in many people who come through a stroke. It is embarrassing to be working as a cashier and hand someone $4.00 and say “four o’clock.” Or trying to sell something and wanting to tell them that you have a good deal and what comes out is, “I’ve got a real good Marshall for you.” That’s not your normal speech problem, but that’s the unique way a stroke affects different individuals.
They say sex is like riding a bicycle. Once you learn it you’ll always remember how, even if you haven’t ridden one for a long time. Oh really? What if you forget how to ride a bike? That can become an impossible feat after you have a stroke. It is rather humbling to watch your three year old great niece riding her little bike all over and you fall over and crash into things every time you get on a bike, even if you can even succeed to figure out how to get on it. Now the sex part is questionable, but you get the drift.
Did you ever ask anyone for directions? They can be hard enough to follow as it is, but if you can’t decipher the difference between right and left it becomes almost impossible. You can overcome that by pointing left when they say left and pointing right when they say right but there is a delay time in there so by the time you point right he could already be telling you to go left. You kind of look like a policeman directing traffic. Just have them draw you a map.
What if you are a writer? What happens then? You have all kinds of challenges. Can you imagine revising a book where your “be” comes out the end of your fingertips as “me” and your “it” becomes “if” and on and on you go? The written voice in a writer can be affected more than the verbal voice. If you can’t speak it out properly and it doesn’t come out of your pen properly either, you have a problem.
There are lots of words in the English language that sound the same, like “ate” and “eight”, “night” and “knight”, “dear” and “deer”. When you say them out loud you can’t tell the difference, but if you can’t hear the difference when you write your brain doesn’t know the difference either and they come out all wrong. It becomes very difficult to figure out which one is right. Or is that write? Course it could be rite. The more you try to figure it out, the worse it gets, just like when you are speaking and can’t get the right word to come out. Sometimes you just have to let it go and let the other person figure it out.
Balancing your checkbook is a very important function. Knowing how to add and subtract properly is helpful. What happens when you know how to do both but when you write the numbers down they come out adding instead of subtracting? You better check with a trusted friend or your banker quite often. Whatever you do, try to stay away from credit cards or debit cards.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who talks a mile a minute? Sometimes we just say “yup” a lot, or nod our heads. The problem some have is by the time even a slow talker gets to the end of the third sentence, one can’t remember what the first sentence was. The whole conversation makes no sense whatsoever. What do you do then? Keep your mouth shut and they’ll think you’re a fool? Open it and they’ll believe you are. You can’t tell them they don’t make any sense. It is you that can’t make sense out of it.
Being on time to work is a good way to keep your job. But when you have to be to work at 10:30 am and you live a half hour away from work, you can’t get out of bed at 10:00 and think you’ll make it to work on time. The concept of time is very difficult for some and they come late to many functions. They aren’t lazy, they just don’t remember how much time it takes them to put on their underwear and brush their teeth.
Having a calendar is good to keep track of where you are supposed to be and when. But you have to remember to write it down, and you have to remember where the calendar is in the first place. You have to remember to read it, and if you read it you have to remember what it says. If you tie a string around your finger you’ll never remember what it is for. That definitely is a problem. Just keep looking.
There are probably a dozen other odd ball things that surface after you’ve had a stroke, you just can’t remember what they are. It takes time, determination, hard work, a willingness to get your ego out of the way, and a sense of humor to go on after a stroke. Become aware of difficulties that come up, find a way around them, and don’t take yourself so seriously. You just haven’t found all your dishes yet.

Monday, June 28, 2010

All For Love

One night as I sat down to write another beginning came into mind. I'm doing good at all the beginnings, now all I have to do is decide which one to work on and finish. Or maybe the best thing to do is to work on each of them. What are some of your ideas? Here is the first chapter of my newest creation.

All For Love
One day in early spring Joan Ratcliff went for a walk along the beach. She took off her shoes and let the sand ooze between her toes. Her life was in shambles and she didn’t know where to turn. Her fiancé had left her and all she had were memories and a little life growing inside her. Her parents were separated and she couldn’t talk to either of them. Neither of them knew they would be a grandparent within the year.
Somewhere deep in her soul Joan knew she wanted to keep this child but how could she raise a child on her own when she didn’t even have a job? High school graduation had equipped her for an office job but the market was slim and she had not been able to find a job yet. Her parents wouldn’t support her and the child. Tom didn’t know about the child but he had left her so he didn’t need to know.
It would be easy to just walk out into the waves and let nature do the rest. She shed her beach coat and walked into the waves. The icy water sent her to her knees. What was she doing? This wasn’t the answer, but she didn’t know what the answer was. As she looked out over the breakers she had a glimpse of a cabin in the woods. Her uncle had a cabin up in Flagstaff Arizona. He hadn’t used it in years and if she remembered right she still knew where the key was. The thought of leaving California and living alone in a cabin in the woods made her stomach turn over but that was better than what she had been anticipating.
She left the beach and headed for home. Her mom was asleep on the couch with a bottle still in her outstretched hand. A cigarette was smoking in the ashtray. Joan carefully removed the bottle and the ashtray and put out the cigarette. She swore her child would never come home to find her like this. She didn’t blame her dad for leaving, but he wasn’t much better than her mother. If it wouldn’t have been for the alcohol she figured they would still be together.
Joan took the money she had meant for college and packed her bags. Her mother wouldn’t wake up until well after she was gone. That was a good thing. She wrote a quick note telling her not to worry but that she would be away for a long time. It was time for her to grow up now and move out on her own. She would keep in touch when she could. She laid it on her pillow figuring someday her mom would check in on her. Hopefully someday she would get it together.
The drive to Flagstaff would take about 10 hours. Joan stopped at the bank and drew out the last money she had in there. She would need everything she had to make it through her stay at her uncle’s cabin. If she was careful she could make it all the way there and not have to stop too much along the way. Joan thought about calling her uncle but decided it was best if nobody knew where she was.
The sun was shining bright in a cloudless sky but Joan knew that in the mountains the weather condition can change any time. It was spring and not yet monsoon season but this winter had been wetter than normal. Usually the sky could be overcast and you wouldn’t get a drop of rain, but lately there could be a cloud as small as a hand and within an hour in could be pouring. That was one time you didn’t want to be in the mountains.
Joan looked for the truck stops along the way. There was safety in numbers and the food was always more than you could eat for a reasonable price. The truck drivers were always ready to open the door for her and grace her with their smiles. Other days she may have enjoyed that, but today men were the farthest thing from her mind. She would live her life as far away from them as she could. She didn’t need them. Whatever she had to do she could do by herself.
The farther she drove into Arizona the hotter it got. Her air conditioner was blowing air but it didn’t seem to be cooling the car off. Joan rolled down her window to get some air and noticed the difference in the atmosphere. Smog was so much a part of her life in California that she was surprised to breathe the fresh air, even if it was warm air. She stopped at a couple of scenic overviews and took a lot of pictures. They would chart the beginning of life on her own.
The sun was going down when she arrived in Flagstaff. She still had another 45 minutes to go to where the cabin was located but she thought she better stop and get some food and necessary items to take with her at the trading post. A couple of Native Americans were chatting behind the counter when she came in and both of them ignored her. She could smell something cooking in the backroom and her stomach started doing the rumba. There were no bathrooms that she could see. Joan ran out of the door and spotted a glorified outhouse. She made it, but the smell in there was her undoing.
After what seemed like an hour the nausea left her and she was able to clean herself up by the small mirror above the sink. She looked terrible but nobody would notice anyway. Joan pulled a tongue at the image in the mirror and splashed water on her face. It was funny that people called this morning sickness. For her it was morning, noon, and night sickness. Number one on her list needed to be crackers so she could keep things down better.
The sun was nowhere in sight when she walked out into the night. There was no light in the trading post either. They must have closed up for the night. That wasn’t a good thing. She heard a noise behind her and she turned quickly to see what it was. All she could see was the end of a cigarette.
“Are you all right Ms?”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
“You were in there a long time. I was getting worried about you.”
“Just a little on the queasy side, I’ll be all right.”
“Which way are you headed? The roads north of here are getting treacherous.
“I appreciate your concern, but I can make it.” Joan walked back to her car and rummaged through the cooler to try and find something that she could eat. Her stomach was empty after getting rid of everything she had eaten during the day. She found an apple to nibble on. That should carry me over until I get there, she thought. When she got there the cupboards would be bare though. Joan looked back toward the outhouse and saw that the glow of the cigarette had not moved.
She decided to backtrack a bit and drive into town a ways. There should be something open at this time of night. That would bring her to the cabin later than she had intended, but at least she would have food and things to sustain her through the next week. The drive into town took longer than she thought with all the road construction and uneven lanes. She was glad to see a Fry’s sign ahead. She pulled into the parking lot just as the first torrent of rain hit her car.
Joan thought about sitting in her car and waiting for the rain to stop but with the way her luck was running they would close the store before she got in there. She’d just have to get wet and pick up an umbrella when she got in the store. She locked the door and ran for the store. The sign said they were open until midnight. That was good, even if she got late to the cabin at least she’d get her shopping done.
Candles, matches, and a flashlight were thrown in with the groceries. She wasn’t going to take any chances. Toilet paper, she couldn’t forget that item. Four boxes of crackers were added to the already growing cart. When she got to the cabin she would have to unload all of that stuff too. She sure hoped the rain would be over by then. Joan tried to remember what the terrain was like around that cabin but she couldn’t be sure. She’d just have to take her chances.
There was a drizzle in the air when Joan walked out to her car. After piling everything in the trunk she grabbed a box of crackers and a coke and got behind the wheel. She spread out her map to make sure she knew where she was going and circled the turn off to her uncle’s cabin. It shouldn’t be too hard to get to. It would be another hour probably but that would still get her there before 11:00.
As Joan pulled out of the parking spot she spotted someone standing in the shadows of the building. All she could make out clearly was the glow of a cigarette tip. She shook her head. Now don’t go getting paranoid, she chided herself. Yet, she couldn’t help wondering if it was the same man. She turned on the radio to drown out her suspicious thoughts. The news caster was just telling about an escaped convict from the Tucson Correctional Facility. She flipped the dial until she found a country oldies station and then headed for her uncle’s cabin.
The drive was slow and treacherous. The guy with the cigarette was right. The wind was so strong it felt like the car was going to blow off the road. There was a car following her so she knew that at least the road was still being traveled on. Up ahead she could see the tail lights of another vehicle. That helped her tell when a bend was coming in the road. A coyote crossed the road in front of her and she had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting him. She relaxed her grip on the wheel. It sure would be good to get to the cabin. Judging by the time and the miles on the odometer she figured the turn off would be coming up soon.
Straining her eyes against the wind and the rain she scanned the woods to the right. Then she spotted it. She couldn’t believe they still had that old bucking bronco sign up there. It was faded and hardly readable, but pointed the way to the café just the same. She wondered if it still existed yet. If it did you would have thought the least they could do is paint the sign. Maybe she could do it. She had never painted a sign before but it couldn’t be that much different than a canvas.
As she turned onto the road the car behind her turned too. Joan couldn’t remember too many neighbors up this way but it had been many years and there were sure to be more people living up there now. She stifled a yawn. Only ten more minutes to go and she’d be there. Then she’d have to carry everything in the house and make sure the electricity was working and the water was running. The thought of scorpions crossed her mind but she chased that thought away. No scorpions, anything but scorpions. What about snakes? She never heard her uncle talk about snakes either so those were out too. Snakes were not good house partners.
Joan was glad to see her uncle’s mailbox. He always went all out and built a barn around his mailbox. It was on a wooden pole that swung out of the way when the snow plows came along. That was the big difference up here in Flagstaff; you still got a lot of snow. She’d deal with that when the time came. As she pulled into the driveway she looked back. The car that had been following her stopped. All she could see was the glow of a cigarette. Then it slowly drove ahead. She shivered. Something did not feel right about this whole business.
The lights worked, the water worked, and there were no snakes or scorpions in the cabin that she could see. The rain stopped as she carried in the last bag of groceries from the car. Perfect timing she thought. It waits till I’ve driven all the way here and then it stops. It could have stayed away until I got here. She made sure the door was locked and then she ran water for her bath.
Joan slid under the bubbles and lit a candle so she could read one of the books she had brought along. It felt so good to get rid of the chill of the last couple hours. She’d just read for a little while and just relax and then she would crawl in bed for the night. It had been a long day. Her eyes were getting heavy when suddenly there was such a racket in the kitchen that it made her throw her book clear across the room. It hit the vanity mirror and ended up in the sink. Joan’s heart was beating like a drum and she wasn’t sure if she should get out of the water or hide beneath it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Clue in the Attic

Another beginning of a book we tried with three of us. We were each going to write a paragraph and see what we could come up with. My sister Bev was not at all comfortable with it because she says she is not a writer even thought she does write beautiful poetry and is very talented. It is a book that I will finish on my own unless I can talk Billie Williams into continuing the adventure with me. I thought you would all like a look at the fist part of Clue in the Attic.

By Janice S. Kaat
Billie Williams
Beverly Teetzen

Fiona Windimere gazed up at the row upon row of books lining the shelves of Lord Greenwhich's library. This morning she had been a servant girl, working for Mr. Beezlie, and tonight she was the owner of this mansion. The look of pure hate Mr. Beezlie had sent her after the reading of the will, still made Fiona's skin prick. She looked again at the slip of paper the lawyer had handed her. Why would Lord Greenwhich insist on her reading Green Sleeves and where in all these books would it be? A sound from above made her look up. A book slowly slid forward and tumbled off the shelf.
The little mouse almost fell off the shelf with the book. She wondered, was he part of a plan or was it just coincidence. Fiona picked the book up from the floor and read the title "Cause of Death," was emblazoned on the cover. Why on earth did she figure it would be "Green Sleeves," her mind must be working overtime. Fiona browsed the shelf. On the one side of the now empty space was "Ann of Green Gables," on the other "Green Hornet Mysteries." As she perused the shelf she noticed, all the books on that shelf had the word green somewhere in the title. But was it a book Lord Greenwhich had in mind or was it the words "green sleeves" - as she eyed the cover of "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett graced the cover in her green drapery turned dress, the green sleeves billowing from the frock. Fiona sat in the high back chair and pondered the note. Each word, the way it was placed, she turned the paper over. A map, a diagram of sorts indicating.... What she wondered?
Fiona yawned. Glancing at her watch she was surprised to find it after midnight. The diagram still made no sense after careful study and she hoped that a good night sleep might help her see it differently in the morning. She turned the paper over once more to glance at the note. Something puzzled her about the wording but she just couldn't put her finger on it. Oh well, maybe in the morning. Laying the paper down she turned to go upstairs. After a few steps she hesitated and turned back to pick up the paper and took it upstairs with her.
Sleep refused to come. The note bore a hole in her subconscious mind. Something about this whole thing puzzled her. Why her? Why had Lord Greenwhich left her this mansion? Were there treasures hidden somewhere? Was that what the note was all about? The picture of a trunk on the note, she had seen that some where, but where? It had to be when she was cleaning one day. Yes, now she remembered. It was in the attic. She'd have to check that out in the morning. Fiona threw back the covers and flicked on the light. She studied the note again. It still didn't make any sense. Her mind must have gone to sleep, even if she couldn't. Something told her to take the note to bed with her. She slipped it under the pillow, and flicked off the light. The creaking of the floor boards made her catch her breath. She heard the shuffle of footsteps in the hall and a beam of light shown from underneath her bedroom door.
Fiona slipped out of bed and waited behind her bedroom door. As the foot falls paused at her door she held her breath. She knew every sound in the Old Greenwhich place. She should, she had been living there since she was born. Her mother had worked there right up to the day she died and Fiona recognized the walk behind the footfalls that were paused at her door. Soon, they moved on. She pulled her heavy robe from the closet and slid into it and then her corduroy slippers as she listened. The attic door squeaked as it opened. He was going for the trunk, the one place she thought the answer to Lord Greenwhich's clue might be.
Hurrying over to her closet she slipped in, slid open the secret panel and cautiously climbed the ladder-like stairs to the attic. What was it he wanted besides the trunk? Her breathing was labored. She worried he might hear her as she watched through the peep hole she had discovered as she played spy as a child. How many eons ago that seemed now. So many things had happened.
She watched as he put something into a carpet and wrapped it around it. He picked up the picture shaped package and headed back down stairs. She would ask him for his keys back tomorrow, he had no reason to need a key. No longer frightened, only curious as to what he needed to steal - she wondered what he couldn't comfortably ask her to give him. There weren't many things in the old mansion she wanted. Most of it had become fixtures to her. She never saw them anymore. When you live in a place for thirty some years and nothing changes, the only thing you notice is when something disappears. Fiona had a good idea of what it was Dorchester took from the attic. What she wanted to know now was why?
Carefully, she crawled back down the ladder stairs and back through the closet to her room. No sense in trying to sleep now. She was too angry at the arrogance of the intruder. Perhaps she would have all the locks changed. That would be easier than trying to get all the keys back that may be floating around. She was determined her safety and security would not be compromised by greed or revenge.
She pulled her journal from her writing desk drawer, flicked on the lamp so she could write. The lamp shade glowed and eerie green against the picture of her mother on the wall above the desk. "Okay mom, talk to me. What did Lord Greenwhich mean - reread Green sleeves?" She needed a copy of the will, she needed the exact words. She continued to write as words flowed from her pen. The mystery, the clues, pushed to the back of her mind for the moment, she wrote about Lord Greenwhich. Had he really died of natural causes? Did Dorchester have a hand in his death? Perhaps an autopsy would be in order, but first she needed proof. She made a list of things she needed to do first thing tomorrow. Find the book Green Sleeves or at least read the part in the will that mentions it, learn when Lord Greenwhich gave the lawyer that note. Was the hand writing really Lord Greenwhich's? She had so many questions.
Rising from her desk to prepare for the day ahead, Fiona again remembered the look of pure hate Mr. Beezlie had sent her after the reading of the will. That he was not pleased with her inheritance was obvious. Why? Had he been hoping that Dorchester would inherit the place, therein securing his continuing employment or had he hoped to inherit the Old Greenwhich place himself? Fiona sure wished she had someone she could talk openly with. Having no other family left since her mother died, she didn't know who she could turn to. Funny how in the past it had never bothered her that she didn't know who her father was and even if he was still alive. It was one thing her mother always refused to talk about, except to always say, "Some day, if the time is right, then we will talk.” Well, now she would never know but she sure wished for a father right now that she could talk to.
Fiona decided to go back to the library before going into town to talk with the lawyer. She wasn't sure what she was looking for, but somehow she felt the answer to the riddle was in the library. When she entered the library she saw a book on the floor. "Stupid mouse," she said to the books on the shelf. Bending over to pick it up she noticed the title was the "Green Hornet". Green, Lord Greenwhich must have had something about green. She flipped through the book and her eyes fell on certain words that were underlined. This was a thought of another color. She wondered if there was some importance to it all. Going back to the beginning of the book, she fanned through it slowly, and every time she saw an underlined word she wrote it down on a pad of paper. It was like a line of poetry. The words read: Back panel is gate to upward climb. Now what did that mean? Did all these books have words underlined in them? Was it talking about the back panel in her wardrobe that led to the secret staircase?
This is all giving me a dastardly migraine - I can no longer worry my head over this until I can't see straight. I must go out to the garden where I can let my mind work on its own while I spend my time and energy accomplishing something worthy of my effort. All this clue stuff is for Agatha Christie or Hercoute Perot -- I need fresh air and sunshine. Fiona gathered her wide brimmed straw hat and a pair of gloves she used for the garden. Perhaps a bouquet of flowers would cheer her gloomy mood. She slipped out the service entrance door into the kitchen garden. Perhaps a few herbs and vegetables would ease her tattered soul. She snipped here and there, pulled here and there - "Weeds," she said in a huff. "If you aren't on top of them they take over."
"I'm working as fast as I can Ma'am. This garden was nearly let to go to ruin. Look here by the mulberry tree. You couldn't even sit on the bench and admire the view. Oh I'm sorry. I know you must be Mistress Fiona Windimere, Lord Greenwhich hired me to be your gardener only recently."
"And your name would be?" Fiona questioned. Though she rarely blushed, the dashing young man stammering to catch his words on the fly made her feel as though she should. She straightened her hat and her skirt in her embarrassment - Why am I acting like a blabbering school girl, she thought and turned from his direct eye contact pretending she needed one more flower for her basket.
"Verdant, Ma'am," he said wiping his hand on his trousers and offering his hand. "Mark Verdant."
She offered her gloved hand and was forced to look deep into those disturbing dark eyes. "Fine, carry on." she said as she hurried away back into the mansion and safety.
Setting her basket of flowers down, Fiona's thoughts were still on the young man she had just met. Shaking her head as if to clear all thought of him, she decided it was time to visit the lawyer. Maybe the short walk would help to clear her mind and she just might find the answers to a few of her questions. Entering her room to fetch her shawl, she spied the note on her desk. Picking it up, she slipped the note into her pocket so she could study it on her walk to the lawyer’s office. The first line of the note seemed etched in her mind, "Within the cover's you shall find, words that always seem to rhyme". She couldn't help but wonder if somehow the words she stumbled on earlier had to fit into some pattern with the lines of the note.
"Within the cover's you shall find, words that always seem to rhyme".
"Back panel is gate to upward climb".
An idea was starting to form in her mind. She would visit the lawyer and then return to the library to check out her hunch.
Fiona took a short cut through her back yard to a path that ran along the river. She did not pass unnoticed.
"Where are you going, Miss?" the gardener asked.
"I'm just out for a walk."
"It is improper for a young lady to be off by herself. Would you like to be escorted?"
"No, thanks, I've been this way before. Besides, you have work to do. Carry on."
She smiled as she turned her back on him. It's improper for a young lady to be off by herself. Humph, little he knew about her. She knew these back ways like she knew how to climb the stairs. She'd heard it all before. Just like it was improper for her mother to have her and not be married. So, she had been an improper thing since the day she was born. Who cared? Men! They were all alike. Thought they knew what was best at all times, and they were the ones that messed things up.
Anyway, how could she study the note if she wasn't alone? She took it from her pocket and looked at the words and the little drawings. "Reread green sleeves." Was there a book by that name? Or did it mean something else? Was there something in a painting? The picture of the chest she understood. But in the other corner was a key and right underneath it were the words, "Within the covers you shall find, words that always seem to rhyme." Was that a real key, or did it mean that the key to the whole mystery was inside the covers of the books? Fiona was so intent on looking at the note that she wasn't watching where she was going and ran right into someone. She looked up into the eyes of Dorchester.
“I didn’t mean to startle you Miss Windimere,” Dorchester said reaching out to stop her from falling head first into the briars that lined the path in that particular part of the trail.
“I, I never expected to run into another soul on this path. I’m fine. Please unhand me.” She said with a pout pulling the corners of her mouth down, like a child who was trying to be grown up after having made a faux pas. She brushed at her dress as though he had soiled it by touching her. This amused him.
He immediately dropped his arm. In the other she noticed he carried several books. “I was returning these. They are part of my father’s collection. He loaned them to me months ago with the admonition that I should re-read “The Green – something. Never could remember what he said. Nonetheless, I have no use or place to keep these. You should have them I expect since he wanted you to have everything.” He passed the books to her. “I’ll be on my way then.” He hesitated looking at her standing there waif like, he couldn’t tell if in confusion or perhaps loneliness. “Are you going into town? And if so, would it be presumptuous of me to offer myself as your escort?”
Fiona accepted his offer. “Allow me to carry the books at least until we part company than,” he said as he retrieved them from her grasp. “Another matter that I wanted to discuss with you is,” he said clearing his throat. “I have some paintings I should like to take from the estate if it meets with your approval,” a look of concern clouding his face.
“You know anything you wish to retrieve from the mansion is totally acceptable. He was your father. I’m sure all the things there mean more to you than to me. Tell me which paintings you want and I will have Mr. Beezlie set them aside for you.”
“There is one called Green Sleeves that I am particularly fond of. Eight ladies in the picture and seven in nearly white dresses, but your beautiful mother is the center of the group dressed in a gown the color of her emerald eyes. She was a stunning woman your mother, and father loved that painting. I would choose that if you allow it.”
And a servant to your family, she wanted to reply. Why would he want the picture? She never realized it was her mother in that picture; she must have been a mere girl when that was painted. “And what of the others you choose to have?” she asked.
There is one painted from on the green, from the south of the green that is. It’s before the old mansion began to show the rigors of what the war had done. I believe there are seven all together. They are all in the attic. I can come by next week to retrieve them if you will be so kind as to allow it.”
“They belong to you Mr. Greenwhich, more than me. Come when you will. Thank you for the company, but I am at my journey’s end.” She said reaching for the books. She wanted to ask him what he had taken from the attic the other night. Why hadn’t he taken all the pictures he wanted then? Perhaps he couldn’t carry them all at once. But, why not ask for that one too as he asked for the others now? She thought better of the idea.
As he passed the books back to her a slip of paper fluttered to the ground from between them. He hastily retrieved it. “Oh this, by Loreena McKennitt—I believe it was your mother’s favorite.”
Fiona glanced at the parchment’s neat calligraphy in a woman’s delicate hand writing. The top of the page titled “Green Sleeves”. She wanted to immediately read the verse, but didn’t dare in front of Dorchester. She hurried into the lawyer’s office leaving him in the street staring after her. Her hands trembled as she read the page.
Loreena McKennitt - Greensleeves
Alas my love you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously;
And I have loved you oh so long
Delighting in your company.
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.
I have been ready at your hand
To grant whatever thou would'st crave;
I have waged both life and land
Your love and goodwill for to have.
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.
Thy petticoat of sendle white
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of silk and white
And these I bought thee gladly.
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves my heart of gold
Greensleeves was my heart of joy
And who but my Lady Greensleeves.
At the end, signed in a strong male signature
Your slave forever my darling emerald eyes, DBG
She couldn’t stop her hands from shaking. What was the implication – what were the things she was becoming privy to?
“Won’t you come in,” the lawyer said breaking her thoughts from the poem and the quandary that was beginning to pull perspiration from her in embarrassing dampness. Was that the Green Sleeves Lord Greenwhich had meant? Who was DBG? Better yet who was Emerald Eyes? She quickly folded the parchment and slipped it back into one of the books and followed the lawyer into his office.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Escape to Ruby Valley

Hi, today I thought I would share with you the beginning of a book that I am writing called Escape to Ruby Valley. My last novel that I wrote, Second Chances is at the publishers now and will be available real soon through Megellan Books. I'll let you know details later. I'm really excited about that! So, here is the beginning of my Mystery.



Andrea Jackson slowed her Mazda to fifteen miles an hour. The hairpin curves and fallen rocks made relaxation impossible. She grasped the steering wheel with white knuckles. She could feel the tension in her arms and neck. Her foot felt like it was locked in one position. She loved the mountains but she didn’t like driving through them. Ruby Valley, fifteen miles, she read. Thank goodness, that sounded like as good a place as any to stop.
Everything was so quiet. So wonderfully quiet. Unlike Chicago with its ells and horns honking and the voices of a thousand people mingled together, Ruby Valley, Colorado was peaceful. It wasn’t a small town, it had lots of possibilities, but to Andrea it felt just right.
Her cell phone rang as she turned into the Econo Lodge parking lot. The caller ID told her it was David. Andrea didn’t want to talk to him but she thought she might as well say goodbye.
“Andrea, where are you?”
“What do you care?” Andrea stepped from her car to stretch her legs.
“I tried calling the apartment and they said the phone was disconnected. I tried at your work and they said you had quit. What’s going on?”
Andrea took a deep breath of the mountain air before answering. “The Oasis, I was there on Monday. I saw your car. I saw you, and Felecia. Your embrace was enough.”
There was silence on the other end of the line. He couldn’t even say he was sorry. To think she almost married him. “I’ll send your ring back. Have a good life.” She flipped the cell phone shut. Tears stung her eyes and she squeezed them shut, blocking out the pain.
After checking into the motel Andrea took her camera and went for a walk. She wanted to capture the very essence of the mountains. Now that she didn’t need to watch the road she could appreciate the beauty around her and snap all the pictures she wanted. Tomorrow would be soon enough to look for a job.
The Ruby Valley Park was beautiful. The pond with its fountain, the gazebo, and the fall colors grazing the hills were a welcome sight. Andrea wanted to get all three elements in one picture. She kept backing up to get more of it in the view finder. One more step and it would be just perfect.
A horn blew and Andrea dropped her camera.
“You have a death wish? Watch where you’re going.”
Andrea looked down at her camera or the pieces of it anyway. “Did you have to blow your horn? Look what you did to my camera.” The man was standing with the door open, one arm on top of the door. She noted he was well dressed and not bad looking.
“A camera can be replaced, your life can’t. I’d suggest you get your priorities straight.” With that he climbed back in the car and drove away.
“Men,” Andrea said. She ruefully picked up her broken camera, wondering if she could some how save the pictures. She decided to worry about that in the morning.
After a leisurely dip in the pool Andrea felt a whole lot better. She wrote in her journal about her travels, the peaceful town of Ruby Valley, and the park at the foot of the mountains. The incident with her smashed camera was brushed over briefly, but she did note that the man was good looking. She had to give him that much.
A trip through the yellow pages revealed that there was a newspaper office in town. Ruby Valley Reporter, she’d have to apply there first thing. With her credentials she was pretty confident about getting a job, if there was an opening.
The trick would be finding a place to live. Andrea had enough for her security deposit and first months rent, but she’d almost need a job first to prove to them she wasn’t a risk. She’d have to check on to see what was available. That would have to wait until morning.
A good night’s sleep, a dip in the pool, ad a cool shower was all Andrea needed to equip her for the day. She reserved her room for the rest of the week and asked directions to the Ruby Valley Reporter. It was only a short distance away, she could walk.
There was security tape around a small café called Ruby Red’s Café. Andrea’s reporter background kicked in and she wondered what had happened.
“Down right shame,” an old lady said, shaking her head. “Who would have wanted Ruby dead? She never did anything but good.”
“What happened,” Andrea asked.
“They found her with a butcher knife in her chest. You know, the funny thing was, nothing was taken except for the clock on the wall.”
The old lady looked over at Andrea. “Oh, you’re new around here. Forgive me, I’m Bessie Sue.” Andrea shook her hand and introduced herself. “Sure is a shame,” Bessie said again.
Andrea walked the last two blocks to the newspaper office. She entered the front door and took a deep breath. She loved the smell of the ink, and the sound of the rollers as the printing press spewed out its pages. She felt right at home. Fifteen years as a reporter and she still relished the smell of newsprint.
“You have any job openings for a reporter?” Andrea asked at the front desk.
“Well, there may be. That would be up to our new editor.”
“Could I speak with him?”
“Let me see if he will see you now.” The receptionist picked up the phone and punched in a number. Andrea walked over to look at some recent issues of the Ruby Valley Reporter. The heading for one was Ruby Red Stabbed to Death.
“Mr. Nelson will see you now. Take the elevator to the second floor. His office is the last door on the left.”
Andrea straightened her hair as she rode the elevator. Her compact assured her that she looked her best. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Relax, he’s just a man,” she told herself.
Kurt Nelson, Editor the sign read. Andrea raised her fist to knock and the door opened. Her fist stopped inches from his face. Oh no, Andrea thought. Standing in front of her was the man for the park.
His eyebrows went up and he extended his hand. “This is a surprise, Miss …”
“Andrea Jackson.” She liked his firm hand shake. Some were like floppy fish, cold and damp. But his was firm and sure.
“Sue says you were looking for a job as a reporter, Miss Jackson. Do you have any experience?”
Her chin came up. I worked as a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times for the past 15 years.”
“Commendable. Do you have a portfolio?” Andrea handed him her credentials and he looked them over carefully. “I don’t suppose you have any pictures to show me.”
The blood rushed to her face and she had to bite he tongue so she wouldn’t spit out an answer. The man irritated her. “I’m sure I’ll have some for you tomorrow,” she said shortly. She would have loved to wipe that smirk off his face.
His face became serious. “We have some new developments we are working on right now. I’m not sure if I’d have time to show you the ropes.”
“Are you talking about what happened to Ruby?”
Kurt looked surprised. “Yes, you know about that?”
“I’m a reporter,” she said with a smile. “Isn’t it odd that the only thing missing from the café was the clock on the wall?”
He studied her with new interest. “All right, you bring in some pictures for me tomorrow and anything else you can dig up about Ruby Red and you got yourself a job.” The phone rang and he motioned for her to leave. After acknowledging the caller he put his hand over the mouth piece and said, “Don’t step out in front of any cars.”
Andrea gently closed the door behind her. What a cocky jerk. It should be interesting working for him. Men, they thought they were better than everyone else. Well, she didn’t need them. She knew how to do her job just as good as any man. She’d show him what she was made of.
As she walked past the Ruby Red Café, Andrea spotted footprints under the front window. It was funny she hadn’t spotted them earlier. Should she cross the line and check them out? Andrea jumped as a hand rested on her shoulder.
“Thinking about disregarding sheriff’s orders?” Andrea looked up into the eyes of the sheriff of Ruby Valley. Tim Kincaid, his badge said. She liked him immediately.
“I was just noticing those footprints. They weren’t there this morning.”
“You must be the new reporter. Kurt told me to keep an eye on you.” He gripped her hand firmly in his. “Where are you from?”
“What brings you to a small town in Colorado?”
“I just needed to get away from all the noise and commotion.”
Tim sighed. “Everything grows, even Ruby Valley. And as it does, so does the violence. Used to be we didn’t need to even lock our doors.”
“Did you check out those footprints?”
“Yup, you’ll find they match my boots perfectly.” He laughed at her expression. “Would you like a look at the crime scene?”
Andrea gladly accepted his offer and followed him into the restaurant. Blood still stained the floor where the outline of Ruby’s body was drawn. She noticed the white spot on the wall where the clock had hung.
“Nothing was missing but that clock as far as we can tell,” Tim said. “They didn’t even take anything from the till.”
The kitchen was undisturbed. Everything was nice and neat. Ruby must have finished cleaning up before her attacker entered. “Was there finger prints on the knife handle or the door?”
“Nope, whoever did this must have worn gloves.”
Andrea walked around the restaurant, studying it from all angles. She looked toward the chalked outline again. An object was reflecting the light. It was lying against the cooler door.
“Tim, look at that.” She pointed to the object. Tim bent down and carefully picked it up with a cloth. He studied it closely.
“It looks to me like a stone from a man’s ring. Black Onyx it looks like.” He slipped it into a plastic bag and put it in his pocket. “Good eye, Andrea. Good eye.”
“Thanks, Tim.”
Everything else seemed in place and of no value to the investigation. Whoever did this must have been known by Ruby and trusted by her. There was no sign of forced entry, no sign of struggle, just one thrust of a butcher knife to the chest. Andrea figured the best place to start was by talking to all the regulars that came to the restaurant. Bessie Sue was a good one to start with.
Tim let her out and locked the door behind them. He had things to do and said he would catch up to her later. Andrea walked back to her car and headed for Radio shack to see if they could save anything from her camera. They assured her they would try and sold her a new one in the process.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Marshall Cook Day

I'm sure many of you have heard of Marshall Cook. In fact I told you a bit about him in my introduction post. Today I want to share my blog with him and post something he wrote about when he wrote for my newspaper The Pike River Community News. It is a great piece and I thank him for it. Check out his books and also sign up for his newsletter. This blog is to share so if you have anything to say please let me know and I'll include yours as well.

Small town boy in the Internet age
by Marshall J. Cook
Several years ago, I had the joy of writing a regular column for the Pike River Community News. It was a wonderful paper-- key word “community” -- completely local, personal, folksy, reflecting the loving kindness of its editor, Janice Kaat.
Actually, Janice was a whole lot more than editor. She was founder, funder, publisher, primary writer, photographer, janitor, layout and design department, chief finance officer, and IT consultant. She put her heart and soul as well as her money into that paper, and it showed.
My column was called “Small Town Boy in the Big City.” The small town was Altadena, California, where I grew up in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. The “Big City,” (relatively speaking) was and is Madison, Wisconsin, where I moved with wife Ellen and son Jeremiah over 30 years ago.
The “boy,” well, that was me. I was that barefoot lad with cheeks of tan (sunburn, actually) playing pick-up baseball all day in the summer, taking a break only to walk down to Salibee’s for a soda or one of those disgusting plastic tubes filled with cherry or grape guck. After you drained the guck, you could chew on the plastic tube for the rest of the day and pretend it was chaw, just like the big leaguers used.
I wrote about overcoming my terror and discovering the joys of winter in the Midwest, about how hard it was to order “just” a cup of coffee in a cappuccino latte town, about getting used to the constant noise of living off of a big street. And I wrote a lot about my growing up time in that little town in southern California (back when there were little towns in southern California).
You can take the boy out of the small town, but, well, you know.
Jan let me write about whatever I wanted, which was part of the joy and the wonder of her newspaper for me.
When I’d get my copy of the new News each month, I always checked my own column first. (Don’t all writers do that?) But I read everything else in the paper, too, the recipes (especially the ones Jan’s mom wrote up), the local color and gossip, the inspirational pieces, the captions to Jan’s great photos.
Although I never set foot in the community or dangled my toes in the Pike River, I got to feel as if I knew the place well and would one day go “home” to visit.
I was so sad when Jan had to fold the paper, sad for her, sad for the loss to the community, sad for myself because I knew I’d miss it.
Now I write a regular column called “Keep the Day Job” for Ned Burke’s fine online magazine, The Perspiring Writer. It’s another wonderful gig, and Ned’s another great editor to work with. I like the company I’m keeping there, too, especially Madonna Dries Christensen, who also writes for Ned’s other online magazine, Yesterday’s Magazine, and for my own online newsletter, Extra Innings.
Adjusting to online publications is a bit like making the transition from small town to big city, I think. The process of shaping the words into what I hope will be sense -- and, better yet, fun -- remains the same, and the “pages” look just like a print publication on the screen. But it’s different, of course, more immediate and also more transitory. I love it, but I still cling to my old ways and print out my columns, so I can hold them in my hands and keep them in the same big binder where I stored all of my old pieces for Jan’s Pike River Community News and other magazine pieces I’ve written over the years.
I know that publishing online isn’t just the future but the present, and I want to be a part of it for as long as I can push the keys. But I’ll always be a child of print, just as I’m a child of the small town where I grew up, and I’m betting that words on paper and small towns will survive and thrive right alongside the Internet and the metropolis.
Wherever we live and whatever the delivery system, we will always need our stories, our local news, and our connections with far away folks we’ve never even met.
You can read back issues of Marshall’s newsletter, extra innings, by visiting
and email Marshall at

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Chapter of Second Chances

As I promised, here is my first chapter of my novel Second Chances.

To Jenny McFaye, the night seemed ideal. Love Me Tender played on the radio and the sun was still shining brightly, warming her cheeks. The top was down on the jet-black 1957 Chevy and Jenny’s long golden curls blew in the wind. This is the life, she thought.
She studied Brian’s profile. Even in his fishing garb he was a knockout. If only they could stay this way forever.
“I love you, Brian Weber.”
“I love you too, Jenny.”
“Brian, where are we going?”
“I can’t tell you. I have a surprise for you.”
Jenny smiled. So he had a surprise for her. Two could play that game. She wanted him to know now, but she decided to wait until he wasn’t driving to tell him. He might get excited and go off the road with the car.
The Chevy sputtered a couple of times and Jenny looked over at Brian.
“Come on, Bessie. Don’t fail me now.”
“I thought something was wrong with it when you picked me up.”
“Yup, she has been having a mind of her own lately.”
The lights dimmed, the engine backfired, and the Chevy stopped. Brian reached for the key and turned off the ignition. He waited for 30 seconds and tried to start the car. Nothing happened.
“Oh, man! Come on, Bessie!”
Brian shut the motor off and turned out the lights. He tried starting it again. He still had no success.
“What do you think is wrong with it?”
“There’s probably dirt in the fuel line.”
He tried starting it once more, and this time it roared to life leaving a cloud of smoke behind them.
Brian pulled off the main road and turned onto Moonshine Hill Road. The leaves in glorious fall colors were spread as a carpet over the roadway. “It’s like a picture,” she said. Brian just smiled at her. After traveling about two miles he turned right onto a laneway. By the weeds, ruts and holes in it, Jenny figured it hadn’t been used much lately. Brian skillfully maneuvered the car around the rocks and parked it beneath an old oak tree. He ran around to her side of the car and helped her out. They walked towards a group of pine trees and Brian stopped.
“Close your eyes,” he said.
“What do you want me to close my eyes for?”
“Just close your eyes.”
She did as he wished and he led her by the hand.
“Now open them.”
Jenny opened her eyes and saw the cutest white house with red shutters and doors and a porch that ran the complete length of the house. It needed a coat of paint, a few minor repairs, and the yard was in a state of neglect, but she could see the possibilities.
“It’s beautiful, Brian.”
“You like it? You’re not just saying that?”
“I do, Brian. It’s lovely.”
“There’s plenty of room to build a swimming pool and deck in the back, and you can have the garden you’ve always wanted off to the side there.”
“Is this your surprise?”
“Well, partly. Come, I want to show you something else.”
Brian took her hand and led her behind the house and onto a path that led into the woods. The sun was slowly sinking in the west and Jenny eyed him curiously.
“Don’t worry. It isn’t too far.” They followed the path until they came to a river. The roar of the water cascading over the rocks was music to Jenny’s ears.
“I love it.”
“I thought you’d like it. It’s like the first time we met.” He pulled her down on a rock that overlooked the river and gazed into her eyes. “I thought you’d like this too.”
He reached in his pocket and handed her a black velvet box. “Open it.”
“Just open it.”
Jenny knew it would be a ring but she wasn’t prepared for the splendor of it. Her eyes stung from unshed tears. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Will you marry me, Jenny?”
Jenny hesitated only a moment. “Yes, a million times, yes.”
Brian took the ring and slipped it slowly on to her finger. He gazed into her eyes before gathering her in his arms and kissing her until they had to come up for air. He brushed back her hair and smiled at her.
“Mrs. Jenny Weber. What a beautiful sound that has!”
“Yes, I like it too, Mr. Weber.”
Brian chuckled. “I can see life with you won’t be boring. Say, what’s the surprise you had for me?”
“I got a letter from Attorney Williams today.”
“The letter said my aunt Cora died and I’ve inherited her house in Montana.”
Brian’s jaw dropped open and he stared at her. Jenny tried to determine if he was angry or just surprised.
“You don’t plan on moving to Montana do you?”
“No, but I need to go there to sign papers and stuff. I thought if I don’t like it I can always sell it. That would help with the cost of fixing this house up.”
“That doesn’t sound like what she had in mind.”
“Maybe not, but it won’t make any difference to her now.”
“Well, just make sure you do sell it.”
“You’re not angry, are you Brian?”
“Of course not, honey. I’m just shocked.”
“There is something maybe you don’t understand. My aunt was a rich woman. She lived in a big mansion in Montana.”
“Oh, well you’re not exactly poor yourself you know.”
“I know, Dad left me plenty to live a comfortable life, but if I can help out financially in any way I’d be glad to.”
“Hey, let’s go celebrate!”
Brian took Jenny’s hand and led her back to the car. He took her in his arms and held her close, cupping her face in his hands, and kissed her gently on the lips.
“I still can hardly believe it. First you say you’ll be my bride, and then you tell me you’ve inherited a mansion. Life can’t get any better than this. I’ll always be there for you Jenny. I’ll love you till the day I die.”
“Oh Brian, you’re all I’ll ever want.”
She slipped her arms around him and relished the feel of his hard body next to her and the smell of his Old Spice. She knew if they stayed this way much longer they would succumb to temptation and spend the night under the stars. She put her hand on his chest and looked into his eyes. “Let’s look inside the house.”
“We can’t do that tonight because I wanted to wait until I knew if you’d like it or not. I got another surprise for you. Wait here.” Brian opened the trunk and got out a blanket and a paper bag and slammed the trunk shut with his elbow. He spread the blanket on the ground under the old oak tree, reached for Jenny’s hand and pulled her gently to the ground. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out a bottle of wine and two plastic glasses.
“You planned this all along? Sometimes you take too much for granted”
“I hoped you’d say ‘yes’ so we’d have something to celebrate. I wanted to make a toast.” Brian poured the wine while Jenny held the glasses.
“To the Weber’s, may they have a long and fruitful marriage.”
Jenny touched her glass to his and took a sip of the wine. She puckered her lips together and tried not to cough.
“What’s the matter? Is this your first time?”
Jenny nodded her head.
“It gets easier after a couple of swallows. You might find you actually like it.”
She took another sip and thought about the taste. It wasn’t that bad after all. The warmth flowed through her with each drink and she felt herself becoming aware of her body.
Brian had finished his and he refilled their glasses. He crossed his arm over hers and tilted his glass so she could drink from it. She did the same to him. The wine went down so smooth that the second glass was soon empty. Jenny felt a rush of warmth to her face.
Brian set the glasses to the side; he pulled Jenny against him wrapping his arms around her middle. They sat that way, watching the sun set everything on fire as it slid down behind the trees. The pinks, purples and lavenders that graced the skies made Jenny feel like she was part of a picture. The only thing to spoil the picture was the ominous cloud that was building up in the west.
Brian lowered his face into her hair and kissed the nape of her neck. He brushed her hair back and moved his mouth over her neck and up to her ear. He took her ear lobe in his lips and breathed softly into her ear.
“Brian,” Jenny whispered leaning into him. Brian slowly lowered her to the ground and lay beside her. He kissed her lips, gently, caressing them with his tongue. His thumb gently stroked her cheek. “I want to make a dozen kids with you, Jenny.”
Jenny ran her fingers through his hair, returning his kisses. She opened her mouth slightly to touch his tongue with hers. She could taste the wine on his tongue as he slid it between her teeth.
Thunder rumbled in the distance and lightning flashed across the sky. The wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Jenny shivered. “I have a feeling we are in for nasty weather,” she said.
“Humph, I guess we’ll have to take up our celebrating indoors.”
They reluctantly got up from the ground and quickly gathered the blanket and wine up as the first raindrops pelted them. Together they put up the top on the car and he helped her in, running his hand gently down her arm before closing the door with a determined thud. Brian put the key in the ignition, looked over at Jenny and gazed into her eyes.
“I meant what I said, Jenny. I want to make a dozen kids with you.”
Jenny blushed. “Who says I want a dozen kids? There you go again, taking me for granted.” Brian frowned, but quickly changed to that endearing smile again.
“I love it when you blush. It makes you even prettier than you are.”
“Thanks, kind sir, I’ll try to remember that.”
The car bumped along the laneway and Brian kept his eyes focused on his driving so he could avoid the obstacles in their path. “The first thing we will have to do is get this laneway fixed up so I don’t wreck the car.”
Once they were back on the road Jenny cracked open the wing window and sat back against the seat. She loved the feel of the wind in her face, the smell of the trees and the feeling of freedom that the country brought with it. She watched the woods for deer as they drove along.
Jenny was happier than she could ever remember. She breathed in the damp air mingled with the smell of pine. She was totally at peace with her surroundings. She looked over at Brian. He had lost his smile. She didn’t like being taken for granted, but she loved him anyway. Overcome with emotion she slid over next to Brian and kissed his neck.
“Cut that out, little one. That’ll get you in trouble for sure.”
His eyes left the road for an instant and he looked into her eyes. The sound of the train whistle brought them to full attention in a flash. Brian hit the brakes and the car went into a skid. The rain on the wet leaves gave them no traction. The car spun out of control.
Brian tried desperately to gain control of the car. By the time he got it stopped it was too close to the tracks for the train to pass. He floored it, hoping to get out of the way, but the car died, leaving them right in the path of the oncoming train. There was nothing they could do to escape certain death. Jenny stared in horror at the bright light bearing down on them.
Her eardrums vibrated with the blast of the whistle, the grabbing of the brakes, and the rumbling of the wheels. A horrendous explosion rocked the car and lifted it off the track. Fear knifed through her body and nausea engulfed her.
The train pushed the Chevy down the tracks. A scream penetrated the night. Jenny wasn’t sure if it was hers or Brian’s. Glass exploded around her. Sparks flew. Metal crunched beneath the wheels of the train. Pieces of the car flew through the air.
Her heart was hammering in her chest. She felt Brian fall over her. “Brian!” He didn’t answer. He’d never answer. Somehow she knew that. Her eyes stung and she became oblivious to everything but the thought of Brian. She screamed his name amid the deafening roar. He said he’d be there for her. Said he’d love her till the day he died.
Pain erupted from the center of her being. She heard in the far recesses of her mind the sound of breaking bones, the screams of pain and the explosions that erupted around and within her. The awful grinding of metal on metal, the rumble of the freight train wheels, and the squeal of the brakes were sickening sounds. The smell of sulfur wafted its way into her foggy mind.
Between the clouds of fog she felt as if she were being dragged over a barbed wire fence. Her mind screamed for closure of the intense pain that racked through every part of her body.
She felt like she was beginning to float. Slowly, round and round in a tunnel she went. Cold air blew over her. There was a light far in the distance. As she circled closer and closer to the light, her spirit became quiet and a peace engulfed her as none she had ever experienced.
The light was brighter now. Brian was there. Arms stretched out. That smile, oh how she loved it. Beautiful waterfalls, there were seven waterfalls. An eagle soared overhead. Wild horses raced through the meadow. Everything was so beautiful. There was a river, a red, sizzling river. It was warm, that river, heated by the bright sun. The water reached her hips. Brian’s arms were open. So close, yet she couldn’t touch him. The water washed over her chest. Their fingertips touched. The river touched her chin. She felt his embrace. The eagle landed, cocked his head and blinked his eyes. Brian turned and walked away. He turned to her when he reached the shore.
She wanted to follow him. One more step. She saw him through the waves. An undercurrent swept her down away from the light, away from Brian, away from the waterfalls and away from the eagle. She drifted back to the pain, the darkness and the silence. Again she heard the train. The squealing of the brakes more intense until with one last shudder and hiss it stopped. Everything was dead silent.