Category Archives: Excerpts

#TBT: Oil & Water

Here’s a scene from a book I started back in 2008 or ’09. It was a YA about Christian, a black girl with a screwed up past and Abel, a white guy who doesn’t have much hope for the future. They meet, fall in love, and, well…you know. A novel happens.

 I only got halfway through about three different versions of it before I put the manuscript down and never picked it up again. I still like going back and skimming through it, though. Below is one of my favorite scenes. 

#TBT: His favorite things.

As I’m sure just about every writer does, I have a TON of random, under-developed, unfinished pieces of writing stored on my computer (& in my phone, in my iPad, in countless flash drives…), so in the spirit of #ThrowbackThursday, here’s an an excerpt from an old, forgotten idea.

2313: At First Sight (excerpt)

“Welcome to your first college party, my boy.”

Dropping his arm around Abel’s shoulder, Mason Parke gave his cousin a firm squeeze as he pressed a red cup into his hand. “Welcome to the jungle,” he said.

Gazing down at the brown liquid in the cup, Abel took a deep breath and swallowed it down in one gulp, struggling to subdue the discomforted expression that tugged at his features until the burn in his throat subsided. Clapping him hard on the back, Mason said, “That’a boy. C’mon.”

Following Mason into the large house, Abel gazed around at his surroundings in awe. It was everything he expected out of a Frat party, only louder, stuffier, sweatier. The music blared from the large speakers scattered strategically, and pulsated through each room. Bodies occupied every inch of space, most of them moving, most of them against one another. Almost everyone he passed had a drink in their hand, and when they reached the kitchen, Abel realized why.

The table, the counters, even a line of coolers stationed against the wall, were occupied by alcohol. Cans of beer, bottles of rum, vodka, whisky, scotch, mixers, soft drinks, and enough untouched water to fill a well. Large kegs sat in the corner, all surrounded by people.

Mason poured himself and Abel another plastic cup of whisky. “Excuse me, ladies,” he said, meeting the gazes of two girls as he reached past them for ice. He grinned that grin of his, the one that no one— especially not any members of the opposite sex— could resist since him and Abel were kids. When they were younger, Abel had wished they’d been able to spend more time together, if only to learn how to emulate his older cousin’s irresistible charm.  Not that Abel had any problems enchanting the pants off— sometimes literally— a girl or two of his own. But when Mason got a girl in his sights, when he looked at her the way he did, smiled at her the way he did, spoke to her the way he did, the results were always in his favor. Always.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but you both look beautiful tonight,” Mason said, lowering his eyes as if he had an ounce of shy in even a single bone in his body. Of course, they both giggled, yucking it all up. Before either one of them could reply, he said, “Anyway, enjoy the rest of your night.”

Tapping Abel, he turned to walk away but one of the girls grabbed him. “We were just about to do shots. Want to join?”

“Us?” Mason said with false surprise. “Shots? Yeah, that sounds good. What do you think, Abe?”

Abel nodded. “Shots sound fantastic.”

“Alright, then, shots it is,” Mason said.

“I’m Elaine, by the way,” the taller girl said, extending her hand to Abel. She was pretty, Abel thought, but nothing special. He couldn’t imagine there weren’t at least a dozen better versions of her wandering around the place. Still, he justified, she wasn’t a bad start to the night.

“Abel,” he replied.

Her friend, shorter, blonder, with big blue eyes and pink slits for lips seemed too busy laughing too hard at one of Mason’s jokes to offer her name. “That’s Liz,” Elaine said. “You guys go to East Pine?”

“Mason does,” said Abel. “I start next week.”

Elaine tilted her head to the side and grinned. “A freshman, huh? Fresh meat?”

“Hey,” Mason cut in,  “Not that fresh.”

They all laughed and Liz held up two cups. “Here guys,” she said, handing them to Elaine and Abel. Once she and Mason had theirs, they all raised them. “Toast, to the first of many,” Mason said.

The first of many what? Abel wondered. Shots? Parties? Girls? Maybe all three. Either way, he swallowed down the shot quickly before consuming another, each reaching his stomach smoother than the last. By the time he started on his second full drink, he felt the buzz of what he’d already ingested.

“Well, it was nice talking to you girls,” Mason said. “We’re going to circle the room, but hopefully we’ll catch you later?”

 Looking Abel straight in the eyes, Elaine smiled and said, “Hopefully.”

He took another sip from his cup and nodded. “Nice to meet you.”

 

Two girls danced on either side of Abel. Both of their hands were on him, moving up his back, down his chest, around his neck and over his shoulders. They pressed themselves to him, let him press himself to them. His fingers groped them, each of them, in places he never imagined touching a girl he’d never spoken a word to. But it seemed as if the music and the flashing lights and the alcohol consumed all of them— their thoughts, their bodies, their inhibitions. Was this college? he wondered, looking down at the girl before him. Her head only came to his chest, as it was with most girls, and her head was thrown back, eyes closed, bottom lip tucked under teeth. She was sweating and her low cut shirt left little to the imagination, and her arms were around his neck. It was like a fantasy, something he’d always dreamt about when he pictured himself in college, but never thought it would actually happen. Would it always be like this?

He felt a hand on his face, pulling his gaze toward its owner. Another girl, he realized. Elaine. Her eyes told him she’d had plenty more to drink since he last saw her. Her lipstick was faded, a thin layer of sweat made her skin glisten under the dim lighting. “Dance with me!” she yelled over the music, tugging at his hand.

He let her pull him from the embrace of the two girls, neither of whom seemed to notice, and into hers. As if on cue, the music switched to slow, sexy tune. Elaine wrapped her arms around Abel’s neck and they began rocking back and forth. “I love this song,” she told him.

“Yeah, it’s a good one.” She giggled and dropped her head on his chest. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing, it’s just that…” She paused. “Don’t think I’m a slut or anything, but this song always makes me want to have sex.”

Abel’s eyebrows went up. “So why don’t you?” he asked.

She shrugged, and he wondered how girls could be so transparent. She’d basically came out and said it, why didn’t she just come out and say it?

Let’s fuck.

Direct and uncomplicated. Straight to the point. Did they really need to waste the next five minutes beating around the bush? Did he really have to stand there and pretend to convince her to do something she’d already decided to do? Maybe the very first moment she set eyes on him.

“I don’t get much action these days,” she said.

“I can help you out with that,” he replied, “if you’d like.”

She giggled again, shook her head. “What could you possibly help me with, freshman?”

He stopped dancing and took a small step back. “Let’s go somewhere and I’ll show you.”

“Look at you. Starting your semester off right, huh?”

“Mine and yours, too, if you let me.”

She shrugged. “I’ve been drinking.”

“Me, too. My car’s parked outside.”

With that, she threw her head back and laughed. “You want to fuck me in your car? You’re not in high school anymore, freshman. My place isn’t far from here.”

“Your place? Just yours?” Abel couldn’t fathom such a luxury. He still lived in the tiny house he’d grown up in, with his parents and his younger sister. Him and Jade had shared a room up until just a few years ago, when they’d finally converted the basement into a bedroom for him. It was still dingy and damp and barely large enough to accommodate his height, but it was the only place in the entire house that afforded him a shred of privacy.

“I have two roommates, but they won’t mind.”

“Alright then,” he said, scanning the party for Mason. He knew his cousin would be proud. Getting laid only halfway through his very first college party. By an older girl, at that. Elaine was at least a junior, he’d guessed. His eyes moved across the whole room, then stopped abruptly upon falling on her.

She was dancing by herself, eyes closed, arms raised above her head, the sides of her full lips turned up into the shadow of a smile. She stood on the piano, above everyone else, but as she moved to the sound of the sultry beat, Abel guessed that she’d forgotten about the mass of people just below her. With a half empty bottle of whisky in her fist, her hips rocked and dipped, her free hand moved down her torso and up again, through the wild, thick bushels of unkempt curls that kept falling in her face and over her shoulders. It moved freely with her bobbing head, never staying where she moved it. Not that she seemed to notice too much.

Abel watched the slow roll of her waist and the graceful bounce of her behind, round and plump against the thin cotton of her white shorts. The back of her shirt was split completely open and his eyes moved up her long spine to where her curls reached down just past the small of her back. How long had she’d been there? At the same party as him, in the same room as him? How long had she been up on that piano, dancing like that? How had he missed her?

“Brave girl,” Elaine said, snapping Abel out of his awe-induced daze. “Wearing sandals to a party like this.”

Indeed, the girl’s feet were covered by nothing but the tan straps of her sandals, and Abel realized that even her shiny, red toenails were something to be desired. “Are you ready?” Elaine asked, nudging him. “The song is about to end. I may lose the urge.”

Abel didn’t want the song to ever end. He never wanted the girl atop the piano to stop moving. “How ‘bout I meet you at the front door in five?” he told Elaine, barely looking back at her. “I just have to go let Mason know I’m leaving.”

“What is he, your keeper?” he heard her ask, but he was already walking away from her, making his way through the crowd.

Toward her.

As Elaine had anticipated, the song ended. To Abel’s dismay, the girl stopped dancing. She took a swig from the whisky bottle before letting her eyes flutter open, but when they did, they fell right on him.

It was as if she could feel him making his way to her. For a moment, she stared at him, and he stared back at her, suddenly more aware than ever of how large the room actually was, and how difficult it was the maneuver through a thick horde of drunken college students.

Suddenly, the girl spun around as if someone called her name. Someone was saying something, speaking to her. She was looking behind her, down at the crowd. Don’t get down, Abel silently begged. He was afraid of losing her. But whoever it was that got her attention, was helping her off her small stage. “Wait!” Abel yelled to her. But there was no way she could hear him over the music. She wasn’t even looking at him anymore.

When he reached the piano, he shoved desperately through the remaining people that stood in his way. He could still see the back of her head as she, too, made her way through the dancing swarm. It wasn’t until he reached the kitchen was he free from the crowd’s stuffy, sweaty embrace. And there she was, too. Just feet away from him, so painfully within his reach.

And standing before her, grinning that grin of his, was Mason.

Abel instantly deflated. Of all the girls in the entire party, why did his cousin have to be speaking to her? Her.

Meet the New Boss (excerpt)

“We have a new boss!” August’s eyes furrowed in confusion and Daniella nodded emphatically. “Mr. Riche is moving to Europe to run the London branch full time!” Daniella whispered. “His son is taking over this one!”

“He has a son?”

“More like an angel,” she said. “August, he is gorgeous. Like runway gorgeous. He gives Ethan a run for his money.”

“No way,” August said in disbelief. As angry as she was with Ethan, there was no denying his beauty. Needing to see for herself, she followed Daniella around the corner to the main floor where Ethan stood with Mr. Riche and another man, a younger version of Mr. Riche, and as stunning as Daniella promised.

August recognized him right away.

Sucking in a sharp breath, she slapped her hand over her chest. “I know,” Daniella whispered, nudging her, but August couldn’t manage a reply. “Look at his eyes,” Daniella continued. August did. They were as dark and tranquil as she remembered. 

He stood nearly as tall as Ethan, and equally intimidating, if not more. He was the boss, after all. The big boss, as Daniella called him. His voice was low and even, but everyone listened intently as he spoke, August especially, though she was more captivated by the sight of him, his mere presence there in her office, than by his words. What were the chances?

Suddenly her own words came back to her. Everything she’d said, about herself, about Ethan and Riley and… She glanced around. Josh Andrews sat beside her. Josh watches porn at his desk…

Roger stood behind Ethan. My supervisor is, like, bipolar or something… I leave him love letters sometimes, from his ‘secret admirer’. And how could she forget, I’m just a shitty secretary, anyway… I only do the shit no one else feels like doing… Maybe I’ll just quit…

She could have died. She wanted to die. Or disappear, forever. She took a step back, then another, prepared to flee. She planned on quitting anyway, why not save herself the embarrassment of having to face the man she’d spilled her entire life to in a drunken, crying stupor?

Spinning around, she slammed right into Joseph, the mail guy. All the envelopes he’d been cradling in his arms went sailing in every direction. A startled shriek escaped August, and she immediately felt every pair of eyes in the office on her.

Her entire body grew hot, her cheeks burned. Without turning around, she quickly knelt down to help Joseph gather the mail. Keep talking, she silently begged the men at the front of the room, but before she knew it, the young Mr. Riche was at her side, gathering the mail with her and Joseph.

“Thank you, Sir,” Joseph said politely.

“No problem,” he replied. “Call me Alexander.”

Alexander. That was his name. She hadn’t caught it before she passed out in the back of his car that night. He didn’t look at her yet. Maybe he wouldn’t. She kept her head down, just in case, slightly turned away from him.

“What’s your name?” Alexander asked Joseph.

“Joe,” he replied. “And the bulldozer that nearly knocked me over is August.”

At the sound of her name, August’s heart dropped. Alexander looked at her at last, his eyes flickering with recognition. He paused a moment, took in the sight of her. She must have looked like another person to him, dressed in something other than a wedding gown. Not crying. Sober. Conscious. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Riche,” she choked out.

He nodded. “Likewise. Call me Alexander.”

With a tight smile, she stood and returned to her desk, barely breathing, certainly not focusing. For the first time since her wedding day, Ethan was the last thing on her mind. Instead, it was Alexander she thought about, and all of the incriminating, humiliating, completely personal things she’d told him. And not only about herself, but about half of the office.

It didn’t matter that she planned on quitting, he was going to fire her. He was absolutely going to fire her.

“He was flirting with you,” came Daniella’s voice from right beside her. “He was like, an inch from your face, staring right in your eyes. He didn’t even blink, ” she said excitedly. But August wasn’t listening to her friend.

“August,” came  Ethan’s voice from Alexander’s office. Her heart pounded against her chest. Had Alexander told them? Did he divulge the details of August’s drunken tirade to Ethan and Mr. Riche?

In an anxiety induced trance, she slipped into her go-to pumps under her desk and made her way across the office to where Ethan stood. “Yes?”

“He wants to meet you,” he said, then added, “Formally.” August swallowed hard. What did he mean by that? Was he insinuating that he knew they’d met before?

She nodded and stepped into the office after him. Mr. Riche stood with his back to the room, looking out the window at the skyline. Alexander sat behind the large maple desk that was now his. “Mr. Riche,” Ethan said. Both Alexander and Mr. Riche looked up, then laughed.

“He’s Mr. Riche,” Alexander said, motioning toward his father. “I’m Alexander.”

Ethan nodded. “Alexander, then. This is August Kidd.”

Alexander gave her a once over and grinned. “August, is it?”

“Yes,” August replied, unable to look away from his piercing stare.

“I hear you’ve become quite an addition to the company,” he said. “Ethan, here, speaks very highly of you.” He raised a knowing eyebrow and August felt her face flush red.

She glanced at Ethan who was watching her. He nodded. “I hope I don’t bog you down with even more responsibilities, then. I assume you already have a lot on your plate?”

All I’m assigned are pointless, menial tasks… I only do the shit no one else feels like doing.

She couldn’t even speak. Thankfully Ethan came forward. “Absolutely, ” he said. “But only because she can handle it. She’ll catch anything you throw at her.”

Alexander nodded. “Impressive. I’m sure the agents must love you, then.”

I bet if I did quit no one would even notice. They don’t appreciate me.

“They certainly do,” Ethan assured.

With a polite grin, Alexander asked, “Would you excuse us a moment?”

Ethan’s spine straightened and he glanced at August then back at Alexander. “I’m sorry?”

“Will you give Miss Shannen and I some privacy?” he clarified. “You, too, Dad.”

Mr. Riche headed toward the door and after another moment of hesitation, Ethan followed. Once they were alone, Alexander stood and went around to lean on the front of his desk. “So,” he said with an amused grin. “This is your shitty job?”

The Hard Place

“What’s that?” Daniel asked, nodding toward August’s hand. She followed the direction of his gaze before her fingers curled into a tight fist. Still, the engagement ring couldn’t be hidden.

“I agreed to marry Jack,” she said at last.

Daniel inhaled sharply. His jaw tightened and he glared at her, though her eyes remained in her lap. “So, the other night—”

“Was a mistake,” she said. “Even if I wasn’t marrying Jack. The other night was a mistake.”

“Look at me, August.”

She couldn’t. Not without breaking. And she needed to stay whole, even if just for a little while longer. “I’m sorry, Daniel,” she said, getting to her feet. “I have to go.”

Still avoiding his eyes, she started for the door but he stepped in her path. “Look at me,” he repeated. Finally, she did. His features were contorted with pain. Confusion. August swallowed hard, blinking back the tears that welled behind her eyelids. “Be honest with me. For once, just be fucking honest.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she said.

“I want you to tell me the truth!” he lashed out. “I’ve been in love with you since we were fifteen! And just when I think maybe you’ll put me out of my fucking misery, you do this. I understood back then, but I’m not accepting it now. You don’t love that guy, and don’t stand here and tell me you do. Why, August? Why? What is it about me that drives you into the arms of every other man?”

She shrugged, struggling to keep her eyes on him. It was like torture; looking at him, hearing his voice and his words and his anguish. “I do love him,” she replied, her voice just above a whisper.

“The truth, August!”

“That is the truth!”

The truth!” he bellowed.

“Fine!” she shrieked. “You want the truth? The truth is I’m still in love with Mason! Alright? Are you happy now? I love your brother! I always have and I probably always will!” Spinning away from him, she began to pace the room. “Sometimes I imagine myself ending up with you. Even when we were kids, I thought about it, pictured it, considered it. But I love Mason, Daniel. I love him in a way that I can’t get myself to love anyone else. Five years later, and I still dream about him miraculously coming back to me. Just showing up at my doorstep so we can pick up where we left off. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I just can’t get past him. He’ll always have a piece of me. And you deserve a girl who can give you a hundred percent of herself. A hundred and fifty percent. I’m not that girl.”

When she turned back to him, he was expressionless. He stared down at her with empty eyes. And then he chuckled, though humorlessly. “Fine,” he said, turning toward the door.

“Daniel, wait—”

“He’s not going to show up at your doorstep, August. Not for another five years, anyway. And by then, it’ll be anything but miraculous.”

Without waiting for her reply, he left.

Home Invasion: Safe Keeping (excerpt)

“Haven’t you ever been curious about your neighbors?” he asked, glancing at her over his shoulder with a small grin. “I have. Fortunately for me, I have the keys to all of their apartments.”

She gasped. “And you just come in and… snoop around?”

“Pretty much,” he said, tossing the keys down on the coffee table as if he owned the place. He casually picked up a stack of mail and began to flip through it. “Bills,” he said, frowning.

“We should go. What if he comes back?”

“He won’t. I know the schedules of the tenants as well as I know my own. Go ahead, take a look around.”

Her eyes widened. “Me?”

“Well I’ve seen it all,” he said with a shrug. “I already know what goes on behind the closed doors of the sickos this building seems to attract.”

She shook her head, backing toward the door. “No. No, I’m not going to just go through this guy’s stuff!”

Gnar looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “You’re sure? You won’t believe what there is to find,” he said. She kept her arms crossed defiantly over her chest, not moving from her spot, despite the growing curiosity budding in the pit of her stomach.

Finally Gnar shrugged and grabbed the keys from the table. “Fine, we can go.”

“Wait,” she conceded, stepping forward. “Are you sure we’re safe?”

He smiled. “Positive.”

“Alright. Show me to the goods.”

He led her to the bathroom attached to Keith’s room and pulled open the medicine cabinet. She gasped, leaning forward to get a better look the bottles upon bottles of prescription pills that neatly lined the narrow shelves. She reached out to grab one, but Gnar caught hold of her wrist. “Don’t touch anything,” he instructed.

She nodded, tilting her head to read the small labels. They were all prescribed to Keith Henry, Jr. “Oh, my God. Is he…a drug addict?”

“Not quite,” Gnar replied, kneeling down and pulling open the cabinet beneath the sink. She kneeled down beside him and peered into the space where she, in her own bathroom, kept the cleaning supplies. Her eyes bulged when they fell upon the large bags of marijuana and an even bigger assortment of pills.

“He’s a drug dealer,” she concluded aloud.

“That’s what it looks like,” Gnar agreed.

“Maybe he’s doing it to pay for college,” she suggested, feeling a strange need to defend the boy.

“Maybe,” Gnar replied, rising to his feet. “Anyway, we should get out of here. I have an even better one for you.” He pulled a rag out of his pocket and began to wipe down the surfaces of the bathroom.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Fingerprints” he said. “Just in case.”

The next apartment was on the fifth floor. “Who lives here?” she asked as Gnar led them inside.

“Reverend and Mrs. Pittman,” he replied. “They’re an older couple who walk around here turning their noses up at anyone who doesn’t go to church three times a week. Once I came in to fix their toilet and he pretty much told me I was going to hell after he found out I’m not baptised. A Jehovah’s witness used to live next door to them, but the Pittman’s ran her out of her after just a few months.”

Inside of the apartment, she noticed the crosses immediately. They were everywhere, spread throughout the apartment, all colors and sizes, paired with scriptures and rosaries and religious poems and pictures of J.C. himself. The next thing to catch her attention was the four-foot statue of Virgin Mary, standing next to the arm chair like a house guest. “Wow,” she said, bewildered.

“Holy shit,” Gnar said. “No pun intended.” He and Maxie exchanged glances and a chuckle. “C’mon,” he said. “Let me show you the bedrooms.”

She followed him to the first bedroom. It was small and plain, painted a pale blue with oak furniture. There were more crosses, a big one hovering over the bed like a dark cloud on a sunny day. A few family pictures were scattered about, and they even had a small television on the dresser. “I like to call this their day room,” Gnar said.

She glanced at him, confused, and he motioned for her to follow him. They went to the second bedroom next, which had to be unlocked. Maxie stepped inside and gasped, placing her hand on her chest as she peered around. Black curtains over the windows darkened the room, and there was no furniture, just…devices. The room resembled a mid-evil times torture chamber with its chains and locks and…swings. There were whips, and gags, and blindfolds, and leather costumes. Sex paraphernalia decorated the room like trophies, like art. She wrapped her arms around herself as she stepped further inside, afraid to touch anything that had previously been somewhere less than sanitary.

“They’re masochists,” she said.

He is,” Gnar said. “She’s a dominatrix.”

“Oh, my Go—”

“Don’t even say His name,” he interjected, peering around the room. “Those two walk around judging everyone else. I have no problem with strange fantasies and fetishes. But the hypocrisy.”

Maxie moved to the armoire and pulled the doors open to reveal a large, flat screen TV accompanied by a broad collection of S&M inspired porn DVDs. “Better than any sex store you’ve ever been in, huh?” he asked.

She shuddered. “Let’s get out of here. I’m starting to feel violated.”

He chuckled and they headed toward the front door, stopping short when the knob clicked and Mrs. Pittman’s voice carried from the other side…

 

Safe Keeping

Dinner: Forget Me Not (excerpt)

Excerpt from Forget Me Not! Chapter 1, coming soon!

 

“Maxie,” Isaac spoke up. “Why don’t you sit down and eat?”

Everyone looked at him. Then at her. Then back at him. “Actually, can you grab me a knife first?” Tony said.

“And some napkins, please,” Kathy added. “Anyway, speaking of work. Are you going back anytime soon, Isaac?”

“Ugh, I keep telling him to give it some more time,” Van said. “He wants to go back next week! His head isn’t even healed!”

“It’ll just be for a few hours a week,” he said quietly. “You’re the one who says we should try to go back to normal as much as possible.”

“But a boxing gym, Isaac? What if someone tries to roughhouse? What if you get hurt even more?”

“I won’t.”

“How do you know?” Kathy demanded.

He shrugged. “It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

She shook her head.  “That’s ridiculous. Why don’t you just let yourself heal?”

“It’s probably the only thing he has left that even relatively familiar.” That was Maxie, setting down Kathy’s napkins and Tony’s knife. “Anyone else need anything?” But no one replied. Their eyes were on her; Tony’s amused, Van’s annoyed, Kathy’s full of suspicion, and Isaac’s full of… of something

“Yeah,” he said. “Exactly.” How did she understand him when no one else could? He wanted so badly to remember her. He couldn’t comprehend not knowing someone who knew him so well.

Waving them off, Van said, “I still think it’s too soon. But he’ll do what he wants.”

“Maxie,” he said again. “Food’s getting cold. Just sit and eat.”

“No one needs anything else?” she asked.

Kathy opened her mouth to say something, but Isaac said firmly, “No. Just sit.”

Not raising her eyes to him or anyone else at the table, Maxie nodded and grabbed a plate, only to realize there were no more seats. “Where’s the extra chair?” she asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Van said. “The leg broke last week. I’ve been meaning to tell you.”

Isaac looked at Van and frowned. “Well, where am I supposed to sit?” Maxie asked.

Van shrugged. “Sorry, Max. I figured by the time you sat down, someone would already be finished.”

“Are you serious?” Isaac said through clenched teeth.

“Well, when does she ever sit down and eat with the rest of us? Everyone’s usually done by the time she starts. You’re the only one who waits for her.”

“You wait for her?” Kathy asked.

“Is she supposed to just stand?” Isaac asked.

“It’s fine, I’ll just take my plate in the living room.”

Isaac turned to her, appalled by the idea. “Bullshit!” he snapped. “You cooked. You’re going to eat at the table with the rest of us.”

“Why don’t you just sit on the counter?” Kathy suggested.

“Yeah, I’ll sit on the counter.”

I’ll sit on the counter,” he said, rising to his feet. He took his full plate, which he hadn’t even touched, and switched it with her empty one. “To be honest, I’m not even hungry anymore.”

Isaac,” Van moaned. “This dinner is for you.”

“You’ve done enough for me.”

“I’m just going to go in the living room,” Maxie said.

Kathy rolled her eyes. “Here she goes. Being antisocial again.”

Isaac looked at Kathy, bewildered. “Are you joking?” He looked at Maxie again, who stared at Kathy in a way that made his heart ache. Then an image of her flashed through his thoughts:

She’s standing somewhere dark, outside maybe? Her hair is long again, pulled back in a ponytail and hanging down her back. She’s crying. Her face is red, her moist lips are trembling, she’s shaking her head as a tear drops down her cheek and wets her white shirt.

She hates me, she sobs. She’ll never forgive me. She hates me.

And then he blinks and the image is gone. But Maxie, Maxie now, is still standing there, the same pain in her eyes. And then she turns and goes to the living room. He knows he shouldn’t look at her, he knows Kathy is watching him like a hawk, but for the life of him, he can’t help it.

Alexander on passion

“Without passion it’s just…succint. But love should be intangible . Have you ever had someone ask you why you love them? You can tick off superficial reasons on all your fingers and toes but the real reasons… there aren’t any. They’re just infinite feelings, in your heart and in your brain and in your fingers when you touch them and your eyes when you see them, pulsating through you like blood in your veins whenever they’re around. You can’t explain it, no words will suffice. That… is passion.”

Square (excerpt)

The houses seemed to grow larger and larger and spread farther and farther apart as August and her mother drew closer to her aunt’s house. August peered around at her surroundings. There was so much land, so many trees. No stores, though. No restaurants, no cafes, not a person in sight. She assumed they all must have been hiding in their great big houses up their long driveways, in one of their million bedrooms.

“AJ,” came her mother’s voice from the driver’s seat. “Augie, baby, light my cigarette for me, will you?”

August turned and glanced down at the ciagrette her mother was trying to give her, and then glared up at the woman’s face before turning back to the window. Evangaline sighed. “C’mon, Aug, give me a fucking break.” She stuck the cigarette in her mouth before fumbling with the matches while still trying to steer. She lit three that all went out before she frsutratedly threw the matchbook at her daughter. “Light this fucking thing!” she yelled.

With an annoyed sigh, August obliged and then turned back to the window. Evangeline smoked a moment before August sucked her teeth. “I realized a long time ago you don’t care about me, Mother, but could you at least roll down your window so your second hand smoke doesn’t kill me before we get there?” August would have rolled down her own but nothing on her side of the old car functioned correctedly. Sometimes she couldn’t even get the door open and would have to climb out of the driver’s side.

“I don’t care about you, huh?”

“You wouldn’t be dumping me with some relative that you don’t even like if you did.”

“I’m doing this because I do care about you. And I never said I don’t like her. She’s my sister. Jesus, August.”

“She’s batshit crazy. You said said yourself, those were your own words.”

Evageline rolled her eyes as she exhaled a mouthful of smoke. “She’s not that bad. Who knows, maybe she’s gotten better with age.”

August glared at her mother, shaking her head. “You don’t even sounds like you believe yourself.”

Evangeline shrugged. “Can you please just try to be reasonable. Fuck, AJ, we both know I’ve been a shit mother, alright? I’m trying to make up for it.”

“By abandoning me. Good start, Ma.”

“No, by giving you a good home where you can go to one of the best schools and make friends who are worth something. By getting myself together so when we are together again, I can give you a halfway decent life.”

August swallowed the lump that found its way to her throat. “Why can’t I just stay with you?” she pleaded, her voice coming out as barely a squeak.

“Because I’m going to fucking rehab, AJ. When have you heard of mothers bringing their
children to rehab with them? Can’t you see I’m doing this for us?”

August shook her head. “You shouldn’t have started drinking in the first place,” she murmured.

“Yeah, well, I did. But now I’m trying to stop, alright. I’m trying to right my wrongs so give me some fucking credit, will you?” She handed her daughter another cigarette. “Light this.” August lit it and watched Evangeline take a long drag. “Look at the bright side. Juliette is filthy-fucking-rich. You’ll probably have every thing you’ve ever dreamed of wanting. And you get to live with that young husband of hers, and look at him all day. I don’t know how she got herself such a catch. At first I thought he was after her cash for sure, but it turns out the guy has bank of his own.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” August said.

Evangeline rolled her eyes. “Your such a square. Do you know that? If you take nothing from this car ride, Augie, take this: Don’t be such a square. No one likes a fucking square. It’s no wonder you don’t have any friends.” She shrugged. “Who knows, maybe it’s for the best. I was no square and look at how I turned out. And look at Juliette. She was as square as they come and she grew up to be some big shot fucking model living in a mansion with a rich, gorgeous husband half her fucking age.”

Evangeline took another deep drag of her ciagrette before flicking it out of the window. She didn’t look back at her daughter as she exhaled the smoke, and she didn’t say anything else. August watched her for a moment. Were there tears in her eyes? August looked away before she could be sure. She didn’t want to feel sorry for her mother. She was done feeling sorry for her.

Red Balloon (excerpt)

Sleep weighed heavy on her and she was a bit disoriented, but before she even opened her eyes, she knew where she was. Or, at least, she knew where she wasn’t.

Gone were the days when she would wake up in a hysterical daze, desperately trying to blink away the remnants of slumber as she gaped at her surroundings in confusion. Where am I? Where am I now? Where was I yesterday? For a moment or so, questions and panic consumed her. Until, of course, she would remember that it was just a new bed she was lying in. Another new bed. In another new room. In another new place.

That initial waking panic faded with time, however. Now she recognized the unfamiliar. Recognized it and embraced it. Before she opened her eyes in the morning, she stretched her arm out and reached for the one constant. The one things that never changed. The one thing that remained by her side even when everything else seemed to disappear.

Home wasn’t a place to her. No, home was him.

Her hands found his skin, warm under the morning sunlight. He let out a small groan under her touch. His fingers laced through hers and she breathed out as her eyes fluttered open.

Her gaze met the new ceiling. The new walls. The new window. The new bed, the new pillows, the new sheets. Then her gaze met his.

Yes. She was home.