Tags: tuesday teaser

unquiet cover



by fandoria

Soft laughter filled my ears. Still choking on the dust, I looked up to see a pair of moccasins. I followed them up until I found Sage’s face. She was laughing at me. The longer I laid on the ground, clutching the now furious lizard, the harder she laughed. My face flamed with humiliation, but I wasn’t about to give up. I struggled to my feet, holding my hands out to her. “I caught…” I gasped, “this… for… you.”

Sage raised her eyebrows, her laughter turning to scorn. “No you didn’t.”

“Yes!” I insisted. “For you. Look!” I opened my hands to show her the lizard, but it was gone. All I held was a handful of dirt. It slipped through my fingers like dry rain.

Sage shook her head.

Shame washed over me. I couldn’t meet her mocking eyes. “I’ll… I’ll try again.”

“Oh, Rider,” she said. But her voice had changed. I looked up. She wore Rachel’s face.

I blinked and she disappeared. So did the desert. Now I stood on the mountaintop where I’d given up on my vision quest.

The wind whistled across the snow-covered peaks, whipping snow into the air. It stung my skin. I shivered, my teeth chattering. What was I doing there? How had I gotten there? I crouched, tucking my body into a ball, trying vainly to stay warm. Even with the snow obscuring my vision, I knew I was alone. I felt it in my bones. No, it was deeper than that. Pure isolation. I was hollow inside. Like I’d lost even myself. Despair filled me and I didn’t have the will to fight it. Let it take me. I was nothing but a failure anyway. No one would miss me.

“Rider.” It was barely a whisper dancing on the wind. Blowing close enough to tickle at the edges of my hopelessness and then darting away again.

“Rider.” A little louder this time.

I lifted my head, straining to see through the blur of white. I thought I saw someone moving away from me. Someone familiar.

“Mother?” I called. The wind stole my voice and threw it far away from me.
There was no way she could have heard me and yet she paused, glanced over her shoulder at me, then continued on.

I straightened my stiffening legs and forced them through the deep snow, hurrying after her. Only a few steps, then I fell. Everything turned dark.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by fuguemacabre

Rose glanced down at herself. She’d been thin and beautiful like Laila once. But that seemed another lifetime ago. Now, her body was tired, it sagged and wrinkled. Her legs were lined with blue veins, her hands arthritic and malformed. She ran shaking fingers through her hair that had long ago changed from black to white, and was now short instead of the long hair Garth had loved so dearly.

She is so much like I was. Like I was when it all began. I will not have her bear what I’ve known.

“I was fourteen when I killed my first man.” Rose waited for the realization of what she’d said to sink in. She knew when it did. Laila’s body stiffened and she sat the glass down hard on the bar top.

“What did you say?” She turned to look Rose in the eyes.

Rose let her mind drift back to that day. “It was 1914. I was mucking out our family horse stables. He came out of nowhere, a German solder with a rifle slung over his shoulder, and a pistol strapped to his waist. When he unbuckled his belt, I knew what he was about to do. I tried to run but he grabbed me around the waist.”

“Dear God, Gram. What did you do?”

Rose cocked her head to the side and gazed at the girl staring at her. She’d never noticed how much she resembled her best friend. As if on cue, Monet appeared at Laila’s side appraising the girl with a look of approval.

The sting of unshed tears forced Rose’s eyes closed. Everything was crowding in on her. The memories. The pain. The fear.

“I managed to get his pistol out of his holster and I shot him. Papa came running. He was so angry at me. ‘What have you done, daughter?’ he asked. Did he care that that man had stolen her virtue? No, all he cared was that the whole damned German army was going to come and murder them all.” Rose swallowed hard, fighting back bitter tears.

“What the hell was a German solder doing here in America?” Disbelief clouded Laila’s eyes. “No, Gram, you’re mixed up.”

“Foolish girl. Our farm was outside Paris. Papa trained and stabled horses for the rich families in the city.” She sat back against the window sill and glared down at her rose garden below. Wandering among her roses were the ghosts of those not welcome inside her home. How could something so beautiful, be a reminder of such horrific memories? “If you want to hear, I’ll tell you about my life. Your father has asked me hundreds of times over the years to tell him, but I wanted it to go to the grave with me. But now, now I know I have to let it go. Your life may depend on it.”

“Gram, I’m calling the doctor.” She managed to get a few feet away from the door when Rose began.

“Papa had been worried about the chance of war since July after news had reached France about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife the Countess Sophie by a group called The Black Hand. He’d been right. The German’s declared war on France in August that same year.”

She took a deep breath and glanced at Laila to judge her attention. “Papa sent me away after we buried the soldier. He told me I was never to come back. When I arrived in Paris WWl was all around us…….”

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by melissawyatt

“Is he dead?”

“Just faint. Don’t try to bring both them pails up at once. One at a time and mind you don’t spill!”

When Pog had gone, she knelt by the divan and pushed back the front of the man’s great coat. Underneath, he was wearing evening clothes. Dressed like a gent indeed. A very young gent. His skin was smooth as a girl’s and there was little sign of a beard on his long, elegant jaw. His hair dropped in luxuriant fat gold curls over his forehead.

It was a familiar face. Where had she seen it? Yes! At the Royal Academy. Not this face, exactly, but in a painting. Once, Miss Sara had taken her there and they had both stood transfixed before a painting of a knight in armor.

“He looks more like one of them angels in the church than a knight,” the girl had said.

Miss Sara had given her one of her thoughtful looks. “That’s just what he was,” she said. “He was an angel knight.” And she told the girl the story of Galahad. Miss Sara knew so many stories like that.

But this Galahad was proving a problem. If he was badly hurt, she would have no choice but to call for a policeman. She was no nurse and there was all of the work still to be done. The dough needed to be set to rise a second time and then the baking, not to mention all of the fancy goods she hadn’t even started. She had no time for nursing a sick man, a stranger, no matter how beautifully angelic he might be.

And so with hands strong from hours of kneading bread dough, she wrestled off his great coat and evening jacket. Underneath, the left shoulder of his white shirt was red with blood, the fine linen slashed through. She sat for a moment, staring. She had seen blood before. Had seen wounds and she knew what this was. A knife wound. So he had fallen among thieves as the carter said. Why then would he refuse to involve the police? And why had the thieves not taken the watch that still bulged in his waistcoat pocket along with its heavy gold chain and the row of gold studs down his shirt front that looked to be set with real rubies?

The girl picked up his coat and jacket. The knife had run through all three layers of his beautiful clothing, but she didn’t have time to mourn the damage. Instead, she ran her hands through the pockets. She had no idea men’s coats had so very many pockets. Inside the breast of the jacket, she found a flat leather purse, tooled over in a complicated geometric pattern, surrounding the initials CEE. The men who searched him in the alleyway must have felt it. Why hadn't they taken it? It was full of sovereigns! But no identification beyond the initials.

She tried again. Inside a tiny breast pocket, she found a crushed pink flower and a small cache of presentation cards. Each card bore the same four words: The Earl of Dorincourt

So. An earl was bleeding all over the old divan in Mrs. Brown’s bakery.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by Michelle H.

A name for a cartoon character
or a dog
or someone's grandmother.
But not for an eleven year old girl
who only wants to be
an Emily
or a Sarah
or a Katie.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by newport2newport

I punch my shovel into the compacted clay and dig until my muscles ache, force the blade downward, again and again, until a crack-line runs the length of the handle. Then I drop to my knees, eyes blurred by a sea of salty wet, and paw at the earth until it crumbles.

The hole yawns wide but shallow—wide enough for the rose bush I’m planting in her honor, but not deep enough for the tangled web of secrets. Shrouded by her death, they eventually come to light, and I am the one who disinters them.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by Neva F.

I arrived at her yellow and white clapboard house, she greets me at the door. Her bright hazel eyes still lively, while twin dimples peeked through her crevassed cheeks. “Just lug the durn things down to the living room, I’ll do all the sorting. Most of it will have to tossed in the garbage anyway.”

I pull the frayed rope that lowers the trap door in the ceiling. The ladder extended to the floor and I start the steep climb up the wobbly rungs. The narrow, musty attic is crammed with Gramma’s precious memories. My nose burns with each cautious inhalation and I search for a place to begin. Beyond the mildewed cardboard boxes, I spot a large, pockmarked copper kettle filled with yarn and beside it looms an old, high-domed trunk.

Fascinated, I raise the heavy lid while the rusty hinges protest at being disturbed. On the top shelf I find black high-top shoes, a wide brimmed prairie bonnet and a musty Bible.

Underneath I discover a folded quilt wrapped in delicate tissue paper. The quilt consists of various patches of material and I marvel over the thousands of tiny, hand-made stitches. Holding it, I feel objects tucked deep inside. From within the folds I fish out an egg-sized lump of black coal and a small book.

I run my fingers across the ancient tooled-leather binding, embossed with the word journal. Scrolled on the first yellowed page, in old-fashioned penmanship, is a date and name.

April 24, 1861 – Miss Alexandria Roselyn McLeod

Our Trials and Travails to Oregon

I know this name. She is my grandmother's grandmother.

Deciding to take a few minutes to examine the intriguing memoir, I clear a spot on the floor, sit upon the quilt and open my newfound treasure. For the first time in weeks, I forget about the cancer and step into another place and time.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by swhisted

I’m in an unfamiliar classroom, a piece a chalk moving on its own against the chalkboard, writing over and over again: Run. The screeching sound makes my skin crawl.

Seated in a chair-desk combo, my feet and butt feel glued in place. I try to stand, but it’s impossible. The writing on the chalkboard gets faster, sloppier, like an urgent warning of impending doom. I shake the desk and try to wiggle free again without success.

Outside the classroom windows, the sky grows sinisterly dark, a whirling wind whipping against the glass. I hear lockers slam open in the hallway, a wind of some sort thrashing through it too. Still prisoner of the chair, my heart hammers in my chest as panic finally settles in.

Overhead the lights flicker on and off. The word run grows in size as it reaches the bottom of the blackboard. The last time it’s written, it’s large and bold, written with harsh strokes. The remaining chalk falls to the ground with a crack and suddenly the room is eerily quiet.

The lights cut out completely and the classroom door bursts open, the hallway dimly lit with red emergency lights. The chair and floor release me and I jump up out of it before it can capture me again.

I stare at the door, unsure if I should leave the room or hide. When the desks start squealing against the floor, converging on each other against the window, I choose the dimly lit hallway. I’m cautious as I step out into the red light, looking both ways, though I see no end on either side.

Instinct tells me to turn right and I hope my gut’s leading me in the right direction. I walk slowly, for a long time, the darkness in front and behind me always feeling the same distance away like I’m making no progress at all.

Footsteps that don’t belong to me bring mine to a stop. Without my glasses on, I strain my eyes as I glance around, willing them to see whoever approaches. When I face forward again, there’s a hallway to my left that I’m certain wasn't there a minute ago, and with it, the echo of footsteps, walking away from me.

My legs take me down the new hallway without thinking and immediately regret the decision. Behind me the walls shift, closing in on the hallway I’d just come from right before my eyes. Once closed, the walls in this hallway move closer too, slowly narrowing in on me. The sound of morphing metal and wood makes my heart feel like it will explode.

I run, faster than I ever have, until the checkered linoleum floor beneath me starts to feel like quicksand. Ahead of me, I hear the footsteps again and scream, “Help!” They change course and I run towards them, doing everything I can to keep from getting stuck in the floor.

Just as a figure comes into view the floor stops trying to swallow my feet and the red light’s eaten by darkness. It leaves no time for me to see who they are before we collide.

An arm snakes around my neck and pulls me backward until we’re flush with the moving wall. I’m shoved into what feels like a closet, through a door I didn't see before. A raspy voice growls, “Wake up!” before shutting me in.

And I can’t be sure, but it sounded a lot like Harper.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by Vickie M.

But of course they came back for me. I might have known. I should learn to trust. I need to learn self confidence; self worth. Then I could have made the best of the situation. You can't live in fear. (But they could have told both me and Izzie what was going on.) When they returned, I realized their departure had nothing to do with hurting me or Izzie. And it couldn't have been that they were fighting, either, because when they came and got me, they were smiling. I hadn't eaten, and Mom said they could hear my barks, right through the vet's brick building. Thank goodness, I won't be going there, again. It was so good to be home, and Izzie was there, too. We wrestled and played a bit. I later found out that they went to Chicago to look at a college with Megan. (Megan's just not gonna quit until she finds a way to leave home.) What I don't understand is, why they didn't take me. Or Izzie. Well, I got on my favorite kitchen chair to ponder all this a bit, and then did something I never did before. I . . .

 photo grapevine-1.gif

TEASER TUESDAY: Grapemo Week 2

Thank you!

by fandoria

By the time evening rolled around, I didn’t know which was worse: the mistake I’d made in going to church after all, or the way Dad’s misery hung oppressively in the air at home. He still wouldn’t leave his room. I was left to eat lunch and dinner by myself. I surfed the internet for a while, half-heartedly researching more on alternate dimensions. I even tried working on my painting, but today, art was just a painful reminder of Mom’s absence. I wished Sharon would call so I wouldn’t have to feel so alone. But it was eight o’clock and I still hadn’t heard from her. Had she forgotten too?

I picked up the phone and dialed. She answered on the first ring.

“Hey, I was just about to call,” she said.

“Oh. I was wondering if you’d forgotten.”

“Of course not! I’ve just been busy. How’s Dad handling today?”

A tinge of resentment shimmered through me that Sharon hadn’t asked how I was doing first since I was the one she was talking to. But then I thought of Dad holed up in that dark room, wallowing, and I shook it off. “He hasn’t gotten out of bed since yesterday.”

“That’s not good.” My sister. Master of the understatement. “He’s never done that before.”

“I know.” Not that he hadn’t tried in the past, but Sharon was always somehow able to coax him out.

"Have you checked on him?”

“Yes. Several times. But he won’t answer me.”

“You should just go in there, Rach. Dad shouldn’t be alone today.”

“I’ve tried! But he won’t respond to me. He won’t…” Tears suddenly welled up and chocked my voice. “He won’t let me in.” He never did. And Sharon would never get that. As much as I loved my sister, I sometimes hated her for refusing to see how things really are at home. Between Dad and me. She always assumed that it was somehow my fault. Did it never occur to her that if it was something wrong with me, I’d have changed it by now? Did she honestly think I liked feeling as though I’d never be good enough for him?

“Maybe you just haven’t tried hard enough,” she said as though it were that simple.

I closed my eyes and forced myself to breathe evenly. To not get upset. I failed. “You know, Sharon, Dad’s not the only one who shouldn’t be alone today. He’s just the only one that’s choosing it.” I hung up before she could respond.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by swhisted

“I got a car,” I suddenly announce and I’m not sure why. I don’t typically brag, but it seemed worth mentioning since I’m the only one of us who has a ride now.

Johnny got a new car last year when he got his license. Some expensive fancy thing I always felt uncomfortable in, like those pretty couches in living rooms no one’s supposed to sit on. But Johnny totaled it within a month of getting it. He’s lucky he didn’t die, really. And his parents refused to replace it until he graduated. Probably the wisest restriction they’ve ever put on him.

“No way, dude!” Johnny says, punching my arm. I can see that subtle hint of jealousy in his eyes.

“How? What kind?” Logan asks, intrigued.

“I’ve been saving for a while and my parents threw in the rest as my birthday present.” I don’t mention that my do-gooder ways with Mrs. Womack this summer proved to them that I deserved the car. “It’s nothing special, just an old Honda Civic, but it’s a ride. Sure beat walking in the rain on the first day of school.”

I smirk at Johnny, who’s been secretly obsessing over his rained-on hair all morning. He punches me in the arm again, a little less playfully this time. “You prick! No wonder you don’t look like a wet dog today. Why didn’t you pick me up?”

Brandon and Logan’s laughter over his reaction is loud enough to draw attention to our table. I can’t help but laugh too. Johnny’s so red, like we purposely planned for his hair to get messed up today in the rain.

I put my hand on his shoulder just as the lunch bell rings. “Chill out, dude. Your hair looks fine.”

 photo grapevine-1.gif

by Vickie M.

It started out like any other normal day. Mom let me out, gave me a treat and then my pills, let me eat, and then back in the cage for my two hours. Well, when I woke up, I saw that everyone was home, and there was a lot commotion. What were they up to now? It's always something. I got past the gate, ran upstairs like I always did, but wasn't supposed to, and saw that Izzie's cage was missing. Well, they probably realized how annoying she is, and got rid of her. But, oh, that is so not like them. They SAVE in this house, not send AWAY. But, I decided to enjoy it. Now they can put their full attention on me. I danced around and whirled my bone up, wanting someone to play, and then it hit me. This was a hollow victory. Remember how happy I was when they brought the first fuzz home for me? (Delilah, God bless.) Well, I was just starting to like Izzie. Then I realized you should be careful what you wish for, because it just may happen. Izzie was gone. My hair was standing up, the way a cat's does, in panic mode, before a big hiss. And, I leaned against the wall, neutral ground, instead of my mom's side. WHAT IF I WAS NEXT? WHAT IF THEY GOT RID OF ME? Then the rest is kind of a blur. They took me to a vet, a different vet, at that. She looked me over, put this nasal stuff up my nose, and then they left. I went in a big cage, with a towel from home and a couple bones I didn't even like, and a place to run. They treated me like a dog. There were other abandoned dogs there, too. But this was so unlike my family. To do this to me. I didn't like it one bit. I lie there for days, so sad that my family was gone. I was beyond tears.

 photo grapevine-1.gif

Tuesday Teaser: From THE UNQUIET

It's been a while. I may have posted this before, but I'm really grasping with this one-post-a-day-thing. :-)

~ ~ ~

If Annaliese were alive, she’d be Mom’s age now. Maybe she’d still be living here, sleeping in that canopy bed. 

Maybe she and her grandmother would plant flowers together. Play checkers. Laugh at TV shows. Count fireflies on a summer night. All the things Nana and I used to do. 

I hear them now: Annaliese, saying, “Grandma, I love you the best.”           

Mrs. Gibbons: “No, you don’t. You love your mother the best.”           

Annaliese: “If my mother loved me she wouldn’t have sent me away.” 

Mrs. Gibbons: “She only wants to keep you safe.” 

Annaliese: “I don’t care. I love you best, more than anyone else.”           

Mrs. Gibbons: “I think she might be sad if she knew you felt that way.”           

Annaliese, slyly: “Then we’d better not tell her, right?”           

But maybe Annaliese’s love for her grandmother won’t be enough. She’ll come home one day, call for her grandmother, and no one will answer. She’ll wander from room to room, searching, confused. She’ll reach the attic stairs and walk up them, one by one, still calling for the person she loves more than her own mother—           

—only to discover a tipped chair. 

A discarded slipper.



Teaser Tuesday

The next time one of those brats bumps into me—they’re spinning around, making themselves dizzy, while their mammoth moms hoot and guffaw and crack their bubble gum—I bump him back, hard. He lands on his butt and stares up with saucer eyes. My face must horrify him. I’m sure he’ll have nightmares.

I fake a concerned smile. “Oops.”

“Dammit it, Junior! Git up off-a that floor.” One of the moms reaches down to yank him up, dropping a pile of plus-sized sweaters in the process. She shakes him roughly. “Behave yourself!”

Now I feel bad about shoving the poor kid. What kind of a mother treats her child that way? With a real smile this time, I mouth at the boy: “Sorry about that.”

Unimpressed, Junior sticks out his tongue.



I twist the knob, push open the door. Blake’s room’s all dark green walls with gold trim, and black furniture. He’s at his desk, pouring over a school book.

“I brought back your phone.”

He nods, but doesn’t look up.

Crossing the room, I lay the cell on the desk by his hand. Whatever he’s studying, it’s more important than me.

My thumb comes up to my teeth. “I’m sorry, Blake. I should have done better with Maisy.”


The word slides through my chest, leaving a thin, narrow hole in its wake. He could have denied it, could have said…but Blake’s not a liar. Never has been.

My legs are thick, stiff, unwilling to take the few steps to the hallway. It takes all my will to move them, to reach for the doorknob.

“Goodnight, Blake.”
~ ~ ~



He started to wade into the field, leaving a trail behind him in crushed wildflowers. Marked out against the mountain, against the sky- he looked small. The world was great and wide, and Montana's horizons proved that on an epic scale.

Plucking a fuzzy-headed stem, I brushed it against my chin as I followed him. "You come out here a lot?"

With one more step, Brandon suddenly rose out of the field. He must have found the pitcher's mound, because now he stood above the nodding, bowing grasses that surrounded us. "I just wanted to get you alone."

Fear and delight played through me. Blustering, I put my hands on my hips and asked, "Well, you did. Now what?"
~ ~ ~



There was a strange, hand painted scent in New York City that morning, the stenciled breath of things about to happen, things about to change. Not that Kiera really could compare New York today to any other day—she’d only been here a handful of times, despite living just an hour away in Portland.

Portland, Connecticut, that is. Not to be confused with the home of the trailblazers (Kiera had never even been to Oregon), Portland, Maine, a random town in Australia, or a prison in the UK. Population 9,000, Portland was home of 1 Dairy Queen, 2 gas stations, 1 family grocery store, a Dunkin Donuts, and a bed and breakfast. Most people didn’t even notice it as they cruised to or from Middletown on the Arrigoni Bridge. Today, in the vast, towering expanse of New York, Kiera could breathe a sigh of relief.

Yet despite being away from home, with her friends on the day-long senior trip, Kiera couldn’t feel truly at ease. She couldn’t find her colored-pencil set that morning, so she was forced to think in black and white on the pages of her art notebook. The black lead drew her to the words all around her—the plain, modern lettering on the New York Public Library, a semi truck with a curiously unreadable brand name, and a graying man who looked suspiciously out of place—even in the streets of New York—in blue janitor-like clothes with the name Mark scrawled on his nametag in what Kiera could have sworn was Lucida Sans.
~ ~ ~



“Your aunt did what?” Andrew slammed his locker shut and walked over. I was so busy staring at Ethan I hadn’t even noticed him until now. Maddy and I glanced at each other and shrugged.

“Oh, nothing,” I said, though deep down inside I wished some of my aunt’s magic had helped me get the guy. What was wrong with wanting that?

Andrew readjusted his backpack. “Hey, you want me to carry that?” He pointed to one of my books that at the moment hung precariously close to the edge.

I tried to push the book back up but Andrew grabbed it just in time.

“Wow, my hero,” I said.

Andrew blushed deep red and took a step back. “Hey, we better get to class. Don’t want to be late and risk getting detention.” He didn’t wait for our comment, instead made his way down the quickly empting hallway.

Maddy tugged my arm. “Now if only Andrew was Ethan.” She made a dramatic sigh. “Then you’d have it made. Though you have to admit he is kind of cute.”

“Yeah, in a brother kind of way.”

Maddy giggled. “Right.”

I wrinkled my nose, avoiding the strange sensation spreading through my body. Andrew and me? Nah, never in a bazillion years. Then why did I feel warm all of a sudden?
~ ~ ~



Rory grudging keeps lookout while I insert my sturdy hooked wire and a tiny screwdriver into the lock. My technique sucks; lock-picking is something you really have to practice, and I bet Kyle could jimmy this in sixty seconds or less. Whenever I get one pin to pop, another one drops back down. Twenty minutes later I've gotten nowhere. Sweat drips. My knees are killing me.

As his impatience mounts, Rory carries on a soliloquy. “You sure you can do this? Seriously, pick a lock? Who knows how to do that? California, my ass. I bet you’re from the Bronx—”

I jam the wire for the ninety-ninth time, cussing the stubborn pins. “I know what I’m doing! Quit distracting me.” Jiggle, push…jiggle, push…I’m about to give up when I hear a satisfying pop. “Ha!”

“Sweet.” He sounds genuinely impressed.

We cringe at the frigid air as the door swings open. I also came prepared with a flashlight, and a clothesline I found in our gloomy cellar. Rory watches with distrust as I tie the rope to my belt loop and hand him the other end.

“Whatever you do,” I say, breathless, “do not come in after me. Just pull me back by the rope if, you know, haha, I get attacked by something.” My feeble laugh dies at his furious expression.

“One dumbass move, you twit, and I’m yanking you in like a walleye.”

“Ooh, I love it when you talk sexy.”


Thank you!


Storm clouds got caught on the mountains.

I saw 'em when I walked through Dad's garden toward the field. The color of a black eye, three days old, swirling and swirling. Little waves crossed the reflecting pool, and the late roses shivered.

Parker shivered too. Out by the end of the pasture, she crossed her arms tight and ducked her head. But she didn't move; she stood there against the fence, watching I don't know what. The meadow laying down? The trees waving at the sky?

"You cold?" I asked.
~ ~ ~



My chest tightened and the photo blurred through a veil of unshed tears. My hands shook as I willed myself not to cry.

“What is that?” a voice asked.

I screamed and jumped, almost losing my hold on the frame. I spun around, my heart racing and just like that, my fear switched to fury.

“What are you doing here?” I lurched to my feet, backing away from Rider who was as transparent as he’d been the last time I saw him. “I thought I told you, this is my cave! And how dare you sneak up on me like that?”

I groaned and rubbed a hand over my face. Leave it to me to chastise a hallucination for sneaking up on me.

“I’m not really going crazy,” I whispered to myself. “It’s just stress and this is how it’s manifesting itself.” I was so full of crap and I knew it. When I first saw him last week, I hadn’t been stressing.

“You still don’t believe I am real?” he asked.

I peeked at him through my fingers. Even though he was transparent, I could still see a lot of detail. Once again, he wore animal-skin leggings, though this time he had on moccasins. His chest was bare and smooth, dark hair pulled into a tail hung past his shoulders. But his face was still as cloudy as before. I couldn’t make out any of his features. Was that some kind of symbolic thing? My warped mind’s way of telling me I didn’t yet know what I wanted?

“How could you be real?” I asked. Before he could answer, I held up my hands. “I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to repeat that dreamwalking theory you came up with last time. But I’m not sure I buy it.”

If I was smart, I’d take it as an easy out. I mean, I didn’t want to be crazy, but what he claimed was just too impossible.
~ ~ ~



His expression’s hard to read. The sun’s gone now, and the only light in the truck comes from the dashboard. His voice though is quiet. “Hey.”

“Hey,” I say back.

He stares so long, I think he’s going to ask me what happened, and I sink further into the seat. I can’t go there, can’t think about it. Not without crying.

Instead he says, “Where do you want to go?”

“Anywhere. Just not home.”

He puts the truck in gear and the wheels kick into motion. “Have you ate yet?”


“At all?”


“Geez,” he says, tone teasing. “How the hell do you survive?”
“Honesty?” My voice cracks at the edges, and I breathe deep against the sudden upsurge of pain.

“I have no idea.”

His hand slides across the seat and finds mine, covers my cold fingers with his stubby ones. My hand warms up, then my arm, then the rest of me in bits and pieces, soothing out the chill. It’s like drinking hot chocolate through my skin instead of my throat.

Or maybe it’s the truck’s heater kicking in.
~ ~ ~



“Did you check out her expression? If I didn’t know any better I’d say she saw a ghost.”

A pained expression flashed across Dylan's face. He smacked his forehead. “Please don’t tell me this is what I think it is, because knowing one person who sees the dead is more than enough for me right now.”

“Ssh,” I said, grabbing his elbow. “Don’t tell the whole world.”

Dylan rubbed his arm. “Wow, all that rescuing is giving you muscles, Steph.” He smiled his one dimple grin. So adorable. How could I stay mad at him?

“Right.” I continued down the hallway to class, squeezing pass others. “As if that will help me right now.”

Seriously, too bad it didn’t.

A Tuesday Preview

In lieu of a teaser from my current wip, I thought I'd post an except from STW, possibly one of the two I may read at my signing on Saturday.

(at the funeral)

Sit, stand, kneel, pray...I could do this in my sleep. I have to force myself not to doodle on my program as I listen to Father Bernacki. You can tell he never met Mom in his life; his droning, generic words could apply to anyone. As he wraps it up in obvious relief, I notice a growing commotion—and then Schmule’s voice rises from the back of the sanctuary. “No, I want to! Why can’t I?” 

Father Bernacki squints out over rapidly swiveling heads. “Ma’am?”

Fran, flushed, half rises from the pew. She swipes for Schmule, missing him by an inch. Schmule rushes down the aisle, dodges Poppy’s chair, and runs up the steps to Father Bernacki’s podium. God must have hit the master pause button of the universe; aside from Dad’s rapidly crunching jaw, nobody else moves. Even Poppy’s rhythmically bobbing chin halts for the moment.

“I have something to say,” Schmule announces, glancing anxiously at Father Bernacki. Father B smiles, adjusts the microphone, and smoothly steps back. “My name is Schmule Goodman—” He jumps back in horror as his voice thunders through the speakers. Recomposed, he adds, “I want to say some stuff about my mom.”

LeeLee whacks me with her knee. I know what she’s thinking: why does Schmule want to talk about Fran at my mother’s funeral?

“I loved my mom a lot,” Schmule begins. “And so, when my other mom asked me why I loved her so much, I started to think about all the things that made me really love her. So I guess this is gonna be, like, a whatchamacallit, a eulogy?”

“Other” mom? This isn’t about Fran at all. Oh, God! If there’s anyone here who doesn’t know about my mom, they’re about to find out—and Dad’s going to spaz!

Don't blame Schmule, Shawna. You're the only one who ever kept me a secret.

Not true, Mom. YOU moved two states away. If you were so proud of being gay, why didn't you hang around?

How twisted must you be to carry on a conversation with your dead lesbian mother in a Catholic church? I pick up the missal and thumb pointlessly through the pages.

“I loved my mom because she was the smartest person I know. When I asked her a question she always knew the answer. If she didn't know the answer, she’d make me look it up. And if I couldn’t find it, she’d say, well, it must not be important.”

That’s Mom, all right.

“I loved my mom because she liked poetry. She used to read it to me all the time. I liked listening to her read. I really miss her voice.”

Funny how I'm still hearing it…

“I also loved her ‘cause she liked to take pictures. Sometimes she’d follow me around all day with her camera. Once when I was little, she took a picture of me crying. That really made me mad, so I told her to throw it out. I’m like, ‘Quit taking pictures of me, it gets on my nerves.’” Schmule pauses. “But then she said that someday I’ll grow up, and that if she didn’t take my picture now she’d forget what I look like. She said she wanted to keep, like, pieces of me. I said she already had lots of pictures, so she should throw that one away. I didn’t want people to see me crying like that.”

He stops again. The church stays silent except for the relentless tapping of Aunt Colleen’s pointy-toed pump on the padded kneeler.

“But Mom said she wanted all of my pieces. Not just the good ones. She said that when I grow up I won’t be able to cry like that anymore, that men don’t cry. And even if they do, they never let anybody see ‘em. She wanted to keep that picture so that when she’s an old, old lady she can look back and remember what I looked like that day.”

LeeLee reaches for my hand. Dad plays with the dial of his watch. Aunt Colleen’s shoe tap-tap-taps. I blink, and one tear splats on the missal.

“After that, I let her take pictures of me whenever she wanted. But then she died last week and nobody expected it…so now she’ll never know what I’m going to look like when I’m grown. I’m sad because she’ll never be that old, old lady and I won’t be able to take care of her like she took care of me. So now I keep thinking of all this stuff I’d like to tell her, but now it’s too late. That’s kinda the worse thing of all, not telling her stuff.”

His breath shudders into the microphone. The shoe tapping stops. I hear Poppy snore.

“So now when I grow up, I’ll think about all the stuff she’ll never know about me. That’ll make me miss her even more, so then I probably will cry. Even if I’m, like, forty or something.” Another ragged breath, and then he finishes so softly I have to strain to hear him: “I think she was wrong. I won’t even care if anybody sees me.”