Jessica – Chapter Two

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Here’s what happened in Chapter One:

IMG_1777

Chapter Two is all about Jessica’s brother Stevie.  Why did he leave her?

“Stevie”

Stevie ran when he left us. He didn’t look back except to say to me, “Hang in there Jes, your time will come.” I watched his figure leave through the kitchen door, and saw his dark eyes and bitter face turn to me one last time, his hair hanging in front so I couldn’t see the whole Stevie. I wondered what would become of me. I didn’t get the chance to say to him, “Take me with you. I’ll go wherever you go.”

Something changed in Stevie as we grew. Like a slowly moving iceberg that’s broken away from land, it was a distinct separation from me and from Mom and Dad. And, it was permanent. As I got older and felt some of my own desire to break away, I still did not fully understand the fierceness with which he left me and Mom and the anger that had somehow built up in him until he exploded out of our house.

Stevie’s anger started with Dad, I think, for trying to make Stevie into something he wasn’t, but it took them both years before they knew Dad’s vision wasn’t going to happen. Maybe Dad saw a younger part of himself in Stevie and couldn’t help but think he could form his son to be the same. Tall and muscular, Dad was the ultimate athlete, always moving or posing in an assertion. His high school career boasted three letter sports and he could have played any one of those sports in college, he told us, but he made it clear to us that it was his choice. “I needed to concentrate on school,” he said, “so I could start making money for you guys.” But the way he talked about sports so much and how he’d sometimes say, “If I’d played football in college, the Eagles would have been after me come draft time,” it made me wonder if that was true or if my father felt safe bragging about something we could never confirm.

It didn’t matter much to me because Dad’s focus was on Stevie and I just watched. Make the boy into the man. Teach him how to throw and catch. Teach him how to compete. If Dad had looked a little closer, he might have noticed that I had a ball in my hand.

In the beginning, Stevie went along with Dad. They played in the back yard. Dad signed him up for teams. He played football, basketball, baseball. “Just like your old man,” Dad would say.

Stevie went along with the plan at first, but by the time he was in middle school, he started to withdraw. He didn’t want to do the same things anymore and Dad couldn’t find a way to connect with him. The harder Dad tried, the worse it got, until one day I heard him loading all the gloves, the bats, the footballs, the basketballs, the nets and cleats into the trunk of his car. He drove off with that gear in his trunk and came back acting as if nothing big had happened. I knew it had and I snuck out later and opened Dad’s trunk. When I saw the empty space, I knew I wouldn’t be using that bat or ball either. The magic link between father and son was broken, but there still wasn’t room for anyone else. I was still on the outside.

And then we all just moved on as if it didn’t matter.

By then, Stevie spent most of his time out of the house or up in his room. Dad worked more. If he couldn’t build his son into something, he would just build something else, by himself.

But he still postured himself and talked about his company’s softball league like it was the World Series or about his new passion, racquetball, a sport he told us was the perfect place to make business contacts. I was still a girl then and bought into what he said. I sat and listened to him talk and hoped he’d ask me about my softball team and how we were doing.

Once Dad left, Mom had to handle Stevie on her own. But Mom wasn’t assertive or a good fighter. Stevie knew it and he enjoyed going head-to-head with her. He knew he would win. They went days without talking after a blow-up and Stevie didn’t seem to care. He’d stand in the kitchen where Mom was making dinner and he’d jut out his chin and flip his long and scraggly hair out of his face when he looked at her. But it wasn’t to see her face. It was an act of aggression, a statement of war. He would watch her cook dinner and just when it was time to eat, he’d grab his keys and say he was going out. Mom couldn’t fight like that and she couldn’t pretend it didn’t bother her. I’d look at her and could see her face dropping, her eyes growing dark. Maybe she was lost in thought, but she did not know how to turn him around.

She tried to break him by refusing to cook for him. But Stevie didn’t break. He came banging home, challenging her with his noise, throwing his keys on the table. And he grabbed the things from the pantry like he owned them. He sat at the kitchen table and ate cereal and peanut butter sandwiches, eating quickly, staring across the table into an empty space, daring anyone to look at him or to speak. And then he bolted out of the house.  Mom wanted him back in our fold so bad that she kept the pantry full of things he could grab, just like Stevie knew she would. And so the pattern formed. That’s how Stevie knew he had the upper hand.

Their arguments were always about control. “You can’t stay out all night, Stevie,” Mom would say. And Stevie would answer, with a disgusting snort, “Watch me.” With the naïve and false clarity of someone who didn’t understand the struggle was about more than a curfew, I wanted to say to Mom to just tell Stevie that if he stayed out late, she would take away his car keys. Mom argued weakly with a passive strategy that consistently handed away the victory and Stevie took it.

I felt empty and helpless during these times and jumped whenever Stevie raised his voice. I wanted Stevie to apologize to Mom for being so aggressive with her. How could he think that Mom, who was a foot shorter and had a tiny frame and who cowered when he was around, how could he think she could match what he had? I wanted to ask him that, in my wildest fantasy of talking about what was really going on in our family. But I knew the answer was that Stevie just wanted to crush someone with the force of an undefined anger and Mom was the perfect victim.

And I wanted Mom to see his side. Maybe she did remember that he was once a little boy with freckles and shaggy hair, who had only in the last few years begun to tower over Mom and me. Maybe he was still the same, but just in a different size and harder to reach. Maybe he had problems he didn’t talk about. I wanted Mom to consider these things. I wanted our small family to stay together. I didn’t think Mom was as mad as she was hurt and I didn’t think Stevie was as mad as he was misunderstood.

“You know Mom is buying that food in the pantry so you’ll have something to eat,” I told him one day.

“Yeah, so what?” Stevie answered, not looking at me, but listening, I hoped.

“Just that she’s doing it for you, Stevie.”

“Well, I didn’t ask her to do that and I don’t care either way, Jes. Stay out of it, okay?”

Sometimes I tried to talk to Mom. “I think Stevie likes that you’re putting food in the pantry. Maybe he wants to eat dinner with us tonight,” I said.

Mom’s face lifted at the suggestion and her blue eyes brightened and for a minute it looked like she was planning a dinner he might like. Then her face fell into sags. Maybe she was remembering the empty dinner tables before Dad left for good.

“No, that would mean I’m giving in to him and that’s not what I want to do.”  I didn’t know how to break the pattern. I wanted Stevie with us. I was afraid of what was happening to our family.

And then he left for good and I was lonely for the brother I used to have, before he grew and broke from us. I wanted him to come in the door one more time to say, “Jes, I came back to get you. I forgot that you would want to come too.”

But Stevie never called and I hadn’t seen him since that first Christmas when he showed up. Maybe he came back then because he was homesick, but he was drunk and high when he blasted through the door. I was sitting in the kitchen and he said, “Hey Jes, kiddo,” like he had just seen me that morning. Mom came in the kitchen. “Stevie,” she croaked, emotions jumping out of nowhere.

For the six months Stevie had been gone Mom still made sure there was food for him in case he came back. And in the beginning she left his room the way it was, like he’d be right back. After he’d been gone a week, she changed the sheets and made up the bed, maybe hoping he’d know there were fresh sheets waiting for him.

She never talked to me about this change, never spoke Stevie’s name or acted like he had ever even lived here. I wanted her to explain to me why we were the only ones left in this house.

When Mom heard Stevie come in that Christmas, she walked into the kitchen and said, “Hello, Stephen. Are you home for Christmas?” And Stevie, pumped up with anger and pride, looked straight at Mom and, instead of saying, “Merry Christmas” all he said was, “I just came back for some of the stuff I left in my room.”

My stomach dropped because I, too had thought like Mom, that maybe Stevie was coming back to stay, even for a little while and that maybe we could somehow pull ourselves into a small group, even if it was without Dad.

But Stevie walked past me as I sat at the kitchen table, and towards Mom as she stood in the doorway. He had not said the right thing, but I still had hope.   Instead, Stevie brushed right past her, half stumbling, half pushing, showing a force that was telling Mom to stay away. Fear passed over Mom’s face as she felt the violence of his movement past her. Stevie turned to look at her and saw her reach for the door frame to steady herself and he smirked at how easy it was to rankle her. He walked back through the living room and up the stairs and we listened while he banged his way around his room and stuffed things into a bag.

Stevie was gone fifteen minutes later and afterwards I wondered if he had even been there. I looked in his room and I saw a mess. He had pulled the covers off his bed and the sheets were thrown in a messy pile on the floor. The mattress was exposed in its hideous flowery pattern. It was bare and Stevie was gone. He ripped off those covers just to show Mom he didn’t care what she did to his room because it didn’t matter, he wasn’t coming back.

I went into Stevie’s room and I closed the door so Mom wouldn’t see and I took those sheets and covers and I made Stevie’s bed up just the way Mom had done. Maybe I hoped too that Stevie would come back. Or

Thank you for reading.  All comments are welcome!

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Remember tomorrow is BCM’s Friday Fiction!

I hope you will check back tomorrow to read Jessica – Chapter Two.  Here’s what happened last week:

IMG_1777Chapter Two is all about Jessica’s brother, Stevie.  Why did he leave her?

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

What’s up next? The Inquisitor’s Mark, by Dianne K. Salerni

I just started reading The Inquisitor’s Mark, the second book in the exciting Eighth Day series.  Here’s a copy of my preview post of this new Young Adult book.

InquisitorsMark_revised_final
The Inquisitor’s Mark
by
Dianne K. Salerni
Now Available

One of my favorite authors, Dianne K. Salerni, is getting ready to publish a new book. It’s called The Inquisitor’s Mark and it is the second book of her exciting fantasy adventure series for Young Adults. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Eighth Day and I’m excited to see what will happen next. I just re-blogged my review of The Eighth Day so check it out to see what the series is all about!

Dianne sent me this terrific preview of The Inquisitor’s Mark today. It will be available on January 27, 2015.

The Inquisitor’s Mark picks up just days after The Eighth Day ends, with Jax, his liege lady Evangeline, and his guardian Riley in hiding from their enemies and making plans to find Evangeline’s missing sister. Out of the blue, Jax is contacted by a man claiming to be his uncle. This man, Finn Ambrose, provides proof of their relationship and demands that Jax be turned over to his custody. Furthermore, Finn reveals that he’s a vassal of the notoriously corrupt Dulac clan and that he has kidnapped Jax’s friend, Billy, to coerce Jax into meeting him.

Last year, when I was still teaching, I read The Eighth Day aloud to my class. When they asked about the premise of the second book, I told them, “It turns out Jax has a family after all, but they’re the people who assassinated everyone in Riley’s family.

One of my students slapped her desk with her hand and exclaimed, “Mrs. Salerni! How could you do that to Jax?!”

As an author, I loved her response, because she understood what a terrible choice this would be for my main character. As a teacher, I loved her response because she understood that the author had deliberately put him in this position!

The Inquisitor’s Mark was fun to write. I enjoyed the interactions between Jax and his younger cousin, Dorian, who’s uncomfortable with his family’s nefarious activities but has never found the courage to speak his mind. To Dorian, Jax seems tough and adventurous and brave. One of my students pointed out that Dorian looks up to Jax the way Jax looks up to Riley. My favorite character, however, is probably the devious Uncle Finn – who has sinister plans for Riley and Evangeline, but who sincerely wants to give his brother’s son a home.

Plus, there’s expansion of the Eighth Day world, including magical vermin, mysterious tunnels through time, and even a monster. Much of the book takes place in New York City.

There’s a devastating betrayal at the Balto statue in Central Park.

"Balto the Dog" statue in New York's Central Park
“Balto the Dog” statue in New York’s Central Park

And a really fun chase scene through the Central Park Zoo.

Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from The Inquisitor’s Mark, which takes place immediately after Jax has learned about his real identity:

Who the heck am I? Jax Aubrey or Jax Ambrose?

He was surprised by how quickly the answer came to him.

Names change. That’s what Evangeline said. But I’m her vassal no matter what.

Jax didn’t have fifteen hundred years of tradition behind his vassalhood, like Mrs. Crandall, but he knew who he was.

Dad told me a lot of lies, but what do I know is true?

When his father was in danger, he’d asked Riley to be Jax’s guardian. Not his own brother.

So I’m not going to trust Uncle Finn. But Mrs. Crandall didn’t detect any lies in what he said today.

And Jax’s uncle said they would let Billy go when they got Jax.

What would Riley do?

That was easy. When Evangeline and Jax were abducted by Wylit’s vassals, Riley had delivered himself bound and gagged into enemy hands, just to get close enough to rescue them. Riley had traded himself out of loyalty to his friends. Put like that, Jax’s course of action seemed clear.

 The Eighth Day is the first in this series:

the eighth day

Dianne K. Salerni is the author of two other great books, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves.

 wehear the caged graves pic

Be sure to visit my reviews of these two earlier books, as well as my interview with Dianne Salerni:
We Hear the Dead:
The Caged Graves:
Interview with Dianne Salerni
Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Rhe Brewster is at it again!

Death in a Dacron Sail cover

Death in a Dacron Sail
A Rhe Brewster Mystery

by N. A. Granger

Rating:
4 book marks

When Peter Barnes finds a small finger caught in his lobster trap, Rhe Brewster is on the scene, just a short step behind her brother-in-law, Sam, Pequod’s Chief of Police. She isn’t just nosing around. She carries a badge as a special consultant to the Pequod force. Rhe has a knack for investigating and Sam knows he’s going to need his ace sleuth on the job.

It doesn’t take Rhe long to discover that the finger belongs to a young girl who’s gone missing. Some additional digging turns up two more unsolved cases and Rhe immediately senses a connection. And a fourth case, the unsolved disappearance of Rhe’s best friend nearly twenty years before, makes this investigation personal.

Death in a Dacron Sail is the second book in the Rhe Brewster Mystery series. It’s a fun mystery, despite the sober subject of child kidnappings and abuse. Set in the fictional coastal town of Pequod, Maine, it’s full of New England color and Maine personality. There are lots of shady characters to challenge your own detective talents and there’s plenty of amusing banter between Rhe and Sam and the town regulars she meets up with during her investigation. Granger’s characters drink gallons of coffee and eat all kinds of delicious baked goods and stick-to-your ribs fare from the local eateries. I think I may have gained a couple pounds trying to keep up with them!

After reading and enjoying Granger’s first book, Death in a Red Canvas Chair, I can tell you that Rhe’s character is developing nicely into something solid. This time, she is three months pregnant and can only fuel up on decaf. But that doesn’t hold her back. True to character, she acts on instinct and finds herself in a variety of dangerous situations. And tension at home with her husband, Will, complicates matters as the two of them juggle work and family time with their young son, Jack.

I enjoyed reading this entertaining mystery for a number of reasons. Granger takes you up and down a variety of roads and the story’s ultimate conclusion has plenty of action and suspense. I love the Maine setting and think the characters are just right for the town of Pequod. References to actual places and features of Maine make the town seem real. And great characters, such as Ruthie from the police station, who knows everything about everyone and the very green Agent Bowers add a nice layer to the story.

Death in a Dacron Sail is a murder mystery, but don’t worry, it’s not too violent or gruesome, something I appreciate. Granger adds a little romance to keep things interesting and there’s a little bit of extra spice in there to raise your eyebrows. It all fits into a terrific town of characters and I can only imagine what kind of trouble Rhe will find herself in next!

I received an ARC to review Death in a Dacron Sail, which will be released on March 2, 2015.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The Versatile Blogger Award

versatile-blogger-award

Thank you Sayling Away for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

In turn, I hereby nominate the following 15 terrific blogs.  Be sure to check them out!

nominate buttonA Sign of Life

Between the Lines

Black and Write

Explore Newness

Forgottenmeadows

From the Laundry Room

Ginger’s Grocery

Mom Goes On

Mom Mom’s Apron

Momaste

My Poetry

Notquiteold

Stuff Jeff Reads

Susan Wingate

Triskele Reviews

…and here are seven things you might not know
about Book Club Mom:

  1. I played with Barbies until I was 12.
  2. My college girfriends and I called ourselves
    The Wild Women of the Eighties.
  3. I used to race sailboats.
  4. I broke my arm on the slopes.
  5. I was once kicked out of a hat store for being too rowdy.
  6. I wanted to be a twirler in high school but I didn’t make the squad.
  7. My family thinks pillows on a couch are unnecessary.

(Thank you blog.ispe.org for the great “Nominate” graphic!)

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s up next? A new Rhe Brewster Mystery!

Death in a Dacron Sail coverDeath in a Dacron Sail
a Rhe Brewster Mystery

by
N.A. Granger

Today I started reading Death in a Dacron Sail, by N.A. Granger. It’s the second book in the Rhe Brewster Mystery series and it is set to be released on March 2..

In this story, Rhe is called in on the discovery of a small finger, caught in a lobster trap. Rhe and her brother-in-law, Sam Brewster, who is Pequod’s Chief of Police, worry it could belong to a missing child and they get to work right away. A search points to three missing children in a span of three years, and a fourth, Deirdre Dunn, who went missing more than twenty-five years ago. Deirdre was Rhe’s best friend and the memory of this tragedy makes this case personal right away.

Rhe is a relentless fact-finder, so I’m sure she won’t rest until this mystery is solved. And this time, she’s pregnant, so she’ll have to juggle that with her job as an emergency room nurse and with her role as wife and as mother to seven-year-old Jack.

Granger’s story is off to a great start – I’m looking forward to following Rhe through her newest investigation!

About the author:

Noelle Granger
Noelle Granger

I found this interesting bio on Granger‘s Amazon page.

Noelle A. Granger grew up in Plymouth, MA, in a rambling, 125 year old house with a view of the sea. Summers were spent sailing and swimming and she was one of the first tour guides at Plimoth Plantation, a museum in Plymouth.

She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and from Case Western Reserve University with a Ph.D. in anatomy. Following a career of research in developmental biology and teaching human anatomy to medical students and residents, the last 28 years of which were spent in the medical school of the University of North Carolina, she decided to try her hand at writing fiction.

Death in a Red Canvas Sail is her first book and features an emergency room nurse as the protagonist. The book is set in a coastal town in Maine, similar to Plymouth, and she has used her knowledge of such a small town, her experiences sailing along the Maine coast, and her medical background to enrich the story.

She has also had short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, published in Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, the Bella Online Literary Review, and Coastal Style Magazine. Her second novel in the Rhe Brewster mystery series, Death in a White Dacron Sail, was released in February 2015.

N.A. Granger lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband Gene, a physician, and is the mother of two children.

Be sure to check out Granger’s blog, SaylingAway to see what else she has in the works!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

 

Jessica – Chapter One

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Jimmy

I used to love to drive the two-lane road that led to Jimmy’s house. I raced through every twist and turn, but it was never fast enough. My heart pounded every time I saw Jimmy and when I felt my body against his, I knew the joy that ripped through me would make all the other things that pushed down on my heart melt away. Jimmy was the center of my life.

As I was racing towards Jimmy, I was also running away from my house, just an empty frame that was once filled with happiness. There was a time when Dad would walk in through the side door with a loud “Hello! Who’s here?” and Stevie and I, small and excited, would drop what we were doing and shout, “We are!” Mom would laugh and call out “Me too!” with a wink to Stevie and me. And Dad would stand there looking at her with one of his warm and open smiles that told us there was something real between Mom and Dad.

None of us was like that now, not me, not Mom. And Dad and Stevie were long gone. Whatever the special thing was that had held Mom and Dad together then had unraveled or dissolved or exploded into nothing and one day when I was twelve, Dad walked out the same door he’d been coming through all those years. He left and he didn’t come back.

For awhile it was just the three of us, but we were already broken by then and hanging onto nothing or reaching for something that was gone. Stevie hung around for a few years, but they were ugly and sad years full of anger and shouting and on most nights they left Mom sitting alone at the kitchen table staring at the wall. As soon as Stevie graduated high school, he left our house and never came back either except for the one time at Christmas that gave Mom and me a moment of false hope until the shouting began. Then Mom and I were left again to pick up the pieces, but we never did figure out how to carry on the right way.

I thought I had found another way to feel right and that was with Jimmy. He was broken like me and together we had built ourselves into something. We’d met two years earlier in high school and from the start we could sense the need in each other and feel the comfort of being together.

Mom didn’t like Jimmy. “He’s not steady, Jessica,” she’d tell me. “You can do so much better than that.” She thought Jimmy was holding me back.

Mom couldn’t see what Jimmy and I were building. She thought I should be going to college to build something for myself. “You’re throwing away your future, Jessica,” she’d tell me. But I didn’t want to go. I was making money and I was saving it for Jimmy and me.

“How would you pay if I went to college anyway, Mom?” I’d asked her.

Mom’s face pinched tight. “Your father has the money for your college education.”

My father. I hadn’t talked to him in seven years. He didn’t care enough to stick around while I grew up, but he had money for me to go to college. I didn’t want it.

“Tell him no thanks,” I answered.

Jimmy wasn’t weak, he was hurt like me, but I thought he’d had it worse. At night Jimmy would pull me close and I could just feel his body pulling strength from mine. “Don’t ever leave me, Jes. I need you,” he’d say. Those words gave me joy and purpose and I lived for that feeling. If he needed me, I was there. I believed in him.  Jimmy was my family.

Jimmy had a job in Farmington, fixing computer equipment. He didn’t want to work for his brother Stu, building decks. “Stu’s always telling me what to do and it’s never good enough for him,” he’d tell me. “Let Gene follow him around and take his orders. I don’t need him.” So Jimmy let Stu take over their younger brother’s future and Jimmy stayed clear.

After high school I got a job waitressing at the Springs Diner in East Lake. Every night I drove to see Jimmy after we both got off work. We spent most of our time at Jimmy’s house, but on warm nights we’d head to the lake. We had each other and we had a future. I already knew I wanted to marry Jimmy. I was just waiting for him ask.

At night, Jimmy and I would sit in the front seat of his truck, parked far away on the other edge of the lake, down a barely visible dirt road we knew about and felt we owned. He’d pull out a six-pack that he’d taken from his brother Stu and flip up the top for me before he handed me the lukewarm beer and I would think he was so gallant, doing that nice thing for me. I knew the small things were just as important as the big ones. But Mom never could see that Jimmy was good. She only saw weakness. I didn’t see weakness. I saw a life and it was in reach.

Jimmy lived with his dad and his two brothers, Stu and Gene.  They weren’t much of a family. They were just four people living in the same house. It hadn’t been the same for them since Jimmy’s mom died. His dad fell to pieces after that. He could have pulled Jimmy and his brothers close to make them strong. Instead he gave up. Stu was sixteen back then. Jimmy was ten and his little brother Gene was eight. “That’s when Stu started running my life,” Jimmy told me.

Last week I drove the long way to work past Jimmy’s house. I liked to take the long way so I could pass his house and see his truck parked in the driveway. It made me feel close to him. Seeing his house and his truck in the driveway reminded me of what was great between us and what lay ahead. Jimmy and I were working toward the same thing, us.

Only five hours earlier I had crawled out of his bed and gone back to my own house to sleep until dawn and to get ready for work. My radio was blasting that morning. I was living in the moment of that music and I turned it up louder. The sound was full, with noisy guitar and screaming lyrics and I felt strong and bursting with power as it played. I liked the same kind of music Jimmy liked and I played it loud the way he did because I could feel it draw us together.

As I drove towards Jimmy’s house, I knew that soon he would be getting ready for work. I smiled when I thought about how he might do the same thing in a couple hours, play his music loud and think about me.

I was singing as I turned my head to see his truck in the driveway. I was sure I would see his red pick-up, but the spot where he parked was empty. My stomach tightened. I wanted to stop but I would be late to the Diner. Where was he? Why hadn’t he told me what he was doing?

That was the beginning of a flood of uncertain feelings and anxiety that flowed through me and took hold of me, like a lost log in a raging river, bouncing against rocks and the river banks, becoming tangled in branches and debris, and moving towards an unnamed place.

_____

Thank you for reading.  All comments are welcome!

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.