Featured Authors

I am dedicating this page to authors who would like to post a longer sample of their book.  If you are an author and would like to submit your sample, please email me at breezeemc@yahoo.com and send a PDF file with 3 chapters of your book, a brief synopsis and a link where it can be found.

Our Featured Author for this week is Julie Christensen, author of "Searching for Meredith Love" and "The Truth About Dating"

This week's free sample is an excerpt from "The Truth About Dating"

                 Buy it on Amazon/Kindle for .99 cents or Amazon UK or Nook

My lastest Match.com person wanted to meet. Horace suggested a meeting for the next night, at the café in Barnes and Noble. I agreed.  I was getting so worn out by Match.com dates that I barely even felt any jitters.
My neighbor was coughing next door. I’d started to listen for him, nightly, because I’d begun to worry that he might die without anyone noticing. I’d made him another batch of food over the weekend. He’d taken it without a thank you, and returned all my Tupperware a few days later. The containers were so clean they looked brand new.
I knew I was pushing the envelope, but I’d scheduled a house viewing just before my meeting with Horace. My realtor, Flora, picked me up at work and we drove together to the home I’d found on the Internet. The neighborhood was a little bit bad. The house was on a block where jobless men stood outside all day and talk into parked cars filled with more idle men. As I started to undo my seatbelt, my realtor hit the power locks and locked me in. I looked over at her. When we had first met, she had said, “There are two things we must have clear. First, you will not work with another agent while you are working with me. And second, if I make an appointment to see a house with you, you must go inside. I don’t care if we spend three seconds in the house, I have to leave my card.” Her requests seemed reasonable and I’d agreed.   
Now we sat, locked in her car, and she said, “Quinn, I cannot in good conscience show you this house. You’d be liable to try to buy it and I simply could not sleep at night, knowing that you were living in this neighborhood.”
I looked around. There was garbage on the street. The house itself had a sink in the yard and a broken window with a piece of cloth stuffed the hole. Sheets hung where curtains would normally be. The other houses had junk in their yards. Two of the cars parked on the street had flat tires and violation stickers on the window.  I could see her point. Probably that’s why it was in my price range.  “But what about your rule?” I asked.
She whipped out her cell phone. “I’m calling the realtor,” she said. “Hi, Martin, this is Flora. Yes, I am sitting in my car right now, outside your property on 24th Street. My client is a sweet young woman who is looking for her first house. This property just isn’t a match for her. She is all alone and she’s got no family in town.” Flora listened to Martin and rolled her eyes at me. “No, she’s allergic to dogs. And what dog will protect her on the walk from her car to her front door?” She paused. “Yes, I’ll have her take a look at that property. She can decide if it’s a better match.” Flora snapped her phone shut.
“What property?” I asked.
“Nothing you’d be interested in,” she said as she started up the engine.

So I made it to the café with about twenty minutes to spare. I did some window-shopping and finally arrived at our agreed upon time, six o’clock on the dot. Horace was not inside. About 30 seconds after I had taken a table, he appeared. Were these men hiding somewhere across the street, and waiting till they saw me before they came inside? Was that shyness? Or were they planning on bolting if they didn’t like what they saw? My profile picture showed me dressed up, it’s true, but it was a pretty realistic idea of what I look like.
Horace’s picture had shown a man with blond hair, green eyes, and a warm, friendly smile. In real life, he had the hair and eye color, and also, a hunchback. I stood to shake his hand. He didn’t look younger than 44. In fact, I would have guessed his age to be about 48. He was noticeably shorter than me. I was certain that wasn’t on his profile. “Hi Quinn, it’s nice to meet you.” He spoke with a lisp.
As I sat back down, I wrestled with my vanity and my sense of right. Get to know him first. You liked his personality. “So, tell me about France  What was it like to live there?” I asked.
“It was the best.” He coughed. He had a hacking, croupy cough. The waitress came to take our order. “Do you want something to eat?” he asked as I ordered a red wine.
“No, thanks.”
“I’ll order food.”
I didn’t want to be committed to dinner with this guy. “I don’t want any food.”
“I insist. I’ll order food.”
“I’m not hungry.”
He ordered a beer and left it at that. “I just got back from Australia. That country is beautiful.”
“I’ll bet. You know, I saw a really neat film from Australia not too long ago. ‘Rabbit Proof Fence.’ Did you see that? It’s a true story about the government’s policy to take children of mixed race and raise them in camps to be culturally white. It’s about three little girls who escape the camp and travel thousands of miles by foot to get home to their aboriginal mother.”
“I know all about that policy and the fence. Australians are racists.”  
“Well, the policy is no longer in effect. I don’t think you can call an entire group of people racist.”
“Even they say they are racist. It’s in their museum.”
“Their policies were racist. But I don’t believe every person in that country is racist.”
“Well, sure, the Aborigines aren’t racist.”
I took a sip of my wine. “If you are going to make a blanket statement like that about a country, then you might as well make it about ours. We have racial problems. Is every white American racist?”
Horace looked taken aback. “No, of course not!”
“Well then, how can you say it about the Australians?”
He spoke slowly and clearly. “Their own museum says that about them.”
A little Izzy in an angel suit appeared on my right shoulder and said, Don’t fight with him. Let it go. I took a deep breath and I let this go.
“Tell me about France.”
“Well, it’s a lovely place. I spent a lot of time in the south.” He drew a map of France on a napkin and gave me a geography lecture.
“Did you spend much time in Paris?”
He coughed again. “Of course. I lived in Paris for several years.”
“What did you think of the Centre Pompidou?  I’ve heard that it’s kind of controversial.”
“I saw many things there and I loved them all.”
“But did you like the Pompidou?”
“I’m sure I did. I can’t remember everything I did.”
I thought, If you don’t know what it is, why don’t you just ask me? You “taught” me about French geography for ten minutes and now you can’t ask me what the Centre Pompidou is? I was getting the feeling that he had to be the parental figure. Maybe that’s why his dating range was so low. “The Centre Pompidou is the museum of modern art. It has all the brightly colored tubes coming out of it.”
“So what do you do?” he asked.
“I’m an audiologist.”
“Huh?” He laughed at his joke. “Actually, I saw an audiologist not too long ago. I have an inner ear problem.”
“Do you?”
“Yes, I had fluid in the inner ear. I couldn’t hear anything. The ear doctor had to puncture the drum to drain the fluid.”
“That sounds like your middle ear,” I said.
“Actually, it was the inner ear.”
I thought, Actually, your inner ear is imbedded in your temporal bone and it’s supposed to have fluid and if you wanted to puncture it, you’d have to take something like an ice pick and drive it into your skull. And then, I suddenly had an epiphany: I was not having fun Internet dating. I didn’t like meeting strangers and pretending to be more outgoing than I really was. I didn’t like making banal conversation with men who were probably not listening to a word I said and were just judging me based on my looks.
“So, you haven’t mentioned age tonight,” Horace said, unmindful of my inner thoughts.
“Should I?” I asked. I really just wanted to leave.
Horace smiled. “It’s just that I expected you to comment on how young I look. Everyone is always shocked when they learn my true age.”
“You already told me you are 44.”
“But if you didn’t know, how old would you guess I was?”
I wrestled with truth/meanness and lies/kindness.
“Come on. What would you say?” said the short, lisping hunchback in front of me. If he thought he looked young, who was I to burst his bubble?
“Thirty-five is what everyone says,” he told me.
“So, Quinn, why don’t you tell me about your travels?” he asked.
I took another sip of my wine and congratulated myself for ordering no food. The wine was half gone. I would be out of here in less than fifteen minutes. “I’ve lived in Venice and Barcelona. And I traveled to Czechoslovakia…”
“It’s the Czech Republic, actually.”
“Actually, in 1992 it was still called Czechoslovakia, but they voted to split on my last day there.”
“Have you ever been to Israel?”
“No, but I’d like to.”
“It’s incredible. If the Palestinians would just leave, it would be perfect.”
“Well, it’s their home, too.”
He shook his head. “Actually, it belongs to the Jews. They have lived there for thousands of years.”
“They weren’t the only people to live there, for thousands of years, and they weren’t the first either.”
“Yes they were.”
“There’s evidence of prehistoric man there. And as far back as we have names for groups, there were many different tribes living there, including the Jebusites, Midianites, and Canaanites.” Do I normally know stuff like this, Reader? No! But I had literally, the day before, started reading a tourism book about Israel. It was like…I was fated to contradict him!
His face faltered. “Well, they’ve been there longer than the Palestinians.”
I swallowed the rest of my wine. “Do you think that we should give this country back to the Native Americans?”
“What? No, of course not!”
So, I’d hit a nerve. Interesting. “Because you’re saying that about Israel. That the Jews were there first, as were the Native Americans.”
“It’s completely different. Judaism is a religion. It’s sacred. God chose them to live there.”
“I’ll bet the Native Americans would say God chose them to live here.”
He shook his head. “You’re wrong.”
I shrugged.
He smiled and extended his hand across the table. “Let’s shake on agreeing to disagree,” he said.
“I can’t shake your hand,” I said.
“Why not?”
“Because, you’re sick. You’ve been coughing on your hand all night.”
“Are you seriously not going to shake my hand?”
“I don’t want to get sick.”
“This is ridiculous.” He held his hand out. “Shake my hand.”
“Not unless you wash it.”
“You are seriously not going to shake my hand?”
“So, tell me about your job.”
“I can’t believe this. You won’t shake my hand?”
I shook my head.
“What if I dunk my hand in my whiskey,” he shouted. “Then will you shake my hand?”
Adjacent tables were looking at us. “Get over it,” I said, quietly. “We’re past that now and talking about your job.”
“I’m not done with the hand conversation. God, you’re so American.”
“You’re American too.”
“I’m going to go wash my hand.”
“Let’s just shake hands mentally.”
“No, I’m going to wash my hands.” He left for the bathroom. I wondered if he was really going to wash his hands or not. When he came back, he held out his hands. “Washed.”
I leaned my nose in to smell them. There was that cheap, public bathroom soap smell on them. I put my hand out. He pulled his away.
“I’ve changed my mind,” he said. “I don’t want to shake hands.”
I looked at my watch and said, “Well, I should really be going.”
“Wait. Let me get you another wine.”
“No thanks.”
He turned and called our waitress. “I’m going to order some food. And I’ll have another beer and she’ll have another wine.”
“I don’t want any wine.”
“She’ll have another wine.”
I looked at the waitress and said, “No, I won’t.”
“I insist you have some food.”
“As I’ve said, no.”
He had a desperate look in his eye. Maybe he thought that force-feeding me food and alcohol would make the date go better. “I’m going to have another beer,” he announced. “Please, let me get you a glass of wine.”
I stood up. “It’s been a pleasure, but I really must go.”
“I’ll walk you to your car,” he said, standing and pulling out his wallet.
“Nope. I’ve got it from here.” I put money on the table to cover my drink.
“I insist.”
“I’m really fine.”
“I’m walking you to your car,” Horace said.
It was getting kind of funny, to see him try to take over and fail. “You aren’t,” I said in a friendly tone. “Good-bye.”
“Wait,” he said.  He had followed me onto the sidewalk. “When will we see each other again?” He looked angry. He was like a spoiled child, expecting to get his way.
“I don’t think we’re very compatible, do you?”
“Yes, I think we are.”
I was floored. “Well,” I finally said, “I don’t. So, good luck with your life. I’m sure you’ll meet someone who’s a better match for you.” I turned to leave. I walked about half a block and paused at a window display to discreetly look behind me. He was walking away, in the opposite direction. He was such a freak, though, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to double back. I took out my cell phone and called Ann, who was my contact person tonight.
“It’s me. He was a weirdo and angry that I don’t want to see him again. I’m talking to you as I walk to my car. If it sounds like I’ve been tackled from behind, it’s probably him. Horace.”
“What happened?”
“He didn’t understand basic infection control. He didn’t listen to anything I said. He’s racist. He is several inches shorter than me, he only dates younger women but looks four years older than his age, and he is hunchbacked and speaks with a lisp.”
“Maybe you should try to date women,” Ann said.
“I’d almost consider it,” I said, finally reaching my car and locking myself inside. I sighed. “The first liberal I’ve met in Omaha. Practically the only liberal on Match.” I checked my watch. “God, he went on and on. I had one glass of wine. I need to wait fifteen more minutes to make it an hour before I can drive. I don’t want to walk around the market in case he’s stalking me.”
“Fifteen minutes seems like adequate time to tell me every detail of tonight’s date. Oh, and the house? How did that go?”
“They were both a bust. Poorly maintained, bad location, and, I’m no engineer, but I think that, over time, major structural damage would have been revealed in both.”
“Why don’t you just get a dog?”
“I know the right man is out there,” I said.
“Just probably not in Nebraska,” Ann said.

Our Featured Author for Last Week
Faith Mortimer, author of
The Crossing  $3.99 on Amazon or buy it at Amazon UK


Faith Mortimer



To the gallant men of the British Royal Navy Coastal Forces who served with such bravery and distinction during the Second World War.


Germany 1945

Billy collected his ‘treasures’ together and laid them at the end of his ramshackle bunk in hut 19. There wasn’t a lot to account for three years incarceration at the hands of the sometimes-brutal Germans, but his treasures represented his life and more importantly his soul. He thought about the refugees who had filed past the gates of his camp. Old people, women with children, babes in arms, the injured, burned, terrified, deranged. All were fleeing from the horrors. The Christians among them struggling to believe and reconcile their religious beliefs with Nazi cold-blooded excesses and mass murder.
He considered his pitiful little pile: Christmas cards from Penny, her heavily censored letters and her simple but evocative poetry, the hand-made playing cards, two cigarettes, the German soldier’s – Dieter’s – belt buckle and Nathaniel’s penny whistle. Nathaniel. Billy shook his head in regret and fought back the familiar choking feeling that arose in his throat whenever that memory arose. He thrust his dark thoughts aside and continued picking over his possessions. He would take as many clothes as he could carry. He had nothing heavy; he’d given his Bible away, hopefully to someone who would put it to better use than he. Gathering up his things, he tied them into a bundle with his faded and much darned pullover, and slung it over his shoulder. He straightened his back, lifted his head and stood as erect as his gammy leg allowed. I’ll march out of here proudly he thought. Together with his comrades they formed into ranks and marched smartly up to the gates. The weak and sick were supported by their stronger colleagues, their spirits rising. They didn’t know where they were going, but it had to be a better place than this.

Book 1

Chapter 1

The Atlantic 2005

Richard knew he had no choice. It had to be now. He’d never get another chance. Taking a deep breath he pushed off the heaving wet deck of his yacht and with sheer determination dived for the rescue-net. He hit the water, his lower torso disappearing into the black froth that fiercely clawed and clutched at him. Somehow, he managed to stretch out and grab the harsh net with one arm, feeling it tangle around him. The ship lurched and this time he was fully immersed in deep water. What seemed like minutes later he broke the surface, coughing and choking, the salt stinging his eyes. He clamped his other hand to the netting and clung to it like a limpet. The water roared and hissed around his ears, terrifyingly black. He knew he must climb the rescue-net fast as his energy was rapidly ebbing away and conditions were not going to get any better.
Moving one arm higher, he found a rung and hauled himself slowly up, grunting with exertion as he did so. His hands were bleeding from fresh cuts where he had smashed against the rough barnacles on the ship’s hull. Fatigue was fast overcoming him. The past few days of untold stress and lack of sleep were taking their toll. Gritting his teeth, he managed to move up another foot of net and then slowly, by willpower alone, pulled himself up rung by rung. Faintly he heard the encouraging cries of the crew far above him. He paused and looked up and saw a line of faces peering down at him; his adrenalin surged and with renewed vigour he at last collapsed thankfully on the ship’s deck.
Utterly exhausted by his ordeal, Richard lay there not quite believing where he was. Water streamed from his body and he vaguely knew that soon they would all begin to feel the cold as it seeped through to their bones. Coughing and retching seawater, Richard sat up and became aware of the ring of sturdy looking sea boots clustered before him. He attempted to stand and felt strong arms supporting him. He braced his legs against the motion of the deck and looked round. A circle of anxious faces stared back; a stocky bearded fellow whom he assumed to be the captain, four or five crew members and an ashen-faced Toby.
The captain cleared his throat, about to speak. Again, Richard looked around his surroundings and forestalled him by hoarsely saying, ‘Where’s Connie? Where’s my wife?’
His voice wavered and he felt his heart thump wildly in his chest. There was a silence. No one spoke. All sounds drifted away from him. He was in a dreamlike glide and the reality was too strange to comprehend. He felt as though his actions were slowing, as if seen in a slow-motion film, frame by frame passing by. Everything took an eternity, a raised hand placed on his shoulder, a sentence spoken by someone slowly, but everything seen with an achingly clear focus, sharply defined. He imagined her limp in his arms, her head thrown back and the curve of her throat, so beautiful. She was gone.
The slow world turned crimson red. It spun wildly on its axis, and then rushed up to engulf him as his head hit the hard deck with a thump.


Sometime later, Richard struggled to clear the mistiness away from his brain. As fast as he reached out and clawed at the blackness that engulfed him he was drawn back down again into his own violent hell. He tossed and turned in delirium on the sweat-drenched bunk where the crew had placed him after he had collapsed on the outside deck.
The ship’s medic had quickly examined Richard’s head wound and although it was a minor laceration he was more worried about the state of his patient’s mind once he regained consciousness. As he observed Richard and listened to his feverish cries of anguish he could only guess at the nightmares that coursed around his brain. The medic knew from Toby a little of what had happened on the yacht’s fated voyage and he shook his head in pity as he again wondered how Richard was going to cope. He had had everything going for him he had been told, and now this. How the hell had it all gone wrong?

Chapter 2

Richard William Barker was hoisted a dizzy fifty-nine feet up in the air. A climbing harness cruelly encircled his loins; threatening to severely limit any last minute plans for fatherhood, whereas his chest felt decidedly crushed by the extra security rope looped tightly under his armpits.
‘Up a bit more, more, more, that’s it hold it! Stop!’ he shouted down to Toby who was on the deck below, manning the electric winches. Toby took an extra turn of the rope round the winch and made it fast in the jammer. He then took up the slack on the second security line and secured it snugly onto a substantial looking cleat.
Richard could now change the tricolour bulb at the top of the mast and check the radio antenna at the same time. Toby gazed up at Richard and couldn’t repress a slight prickle of fear. He remembered the one and only time he had gone up the mast himself when they were anchored off the Isle of Wight in the Solent. It had been a beautiful, hot sunny summer’s day for once with very little breeze and subsequently very little movement on the water in the anchorage. That was until the inequitable jet-ski roared past thirty feet from the yacht, its wash creating a sick making roll to the boat from side to side. The offending jet-ski owner had laughed and jeered at his puerile jest and in panic Toby had clung to the mast, his eyes tightly closed. Toby thought he wasn’t a coward at heart but he vowed never to willingly volunteer to go up the mast again if he could help it.
Right now he was perfectly happy to sit in the cockpit, take Richard’s shouted down orders and maintain a watch on the safety lines. Soon as this job is done it will be too late to start anything else with a bit of luck, he mused. Time for a nice cold beer and discuss where to go for tonight’s dinner.
He stretched out lazily along the teak seating in the cockpit and looked around the Santa Cruz marina in Tenerife at the other sleek boats tied up alongside the pontoons. It was a large harbour and motorboats and other yachts surrounded Ellentari. They were all slowly bobbing on the slight swell. Although it had been a perfect day for a sail around the Canary Islands the majority of boats were snugly secured in their berths. The light breeze of about eight knots ruffled the oily marina water and set the gaily coloured flags a flutter. Loose halyards tinkled against metal masts and gulls swooped noisily down to inspect debris floating in the water.
If you added up the value of all the moored boats it would run into many millions. Toby’s accountant brain thought, what a waste. They should be used more. At least Richard was utilising his boat to the full. Ellentari was a beautiful yacht and clearly a sound investment. Toby knew good well-built solid boats kept their value well and this forty-five footer was no exception. He leant back and looked up at Richard still aloft. With a bit of luck it was only a bulb that required replacing now and the radio antenna just needed to be more securely screwed in place. Better to check it here now in the relative calm of the marina than being tossed around sixty feet up aloft when at sea.
 ‘OK. Can you turn on the tricolour now please?’ called down Richard. Toby’s reverie was broken as he climbed down from the cockpit into the boat’s saloon in response. The instrument panel was on the starboard side bulkhead and he reached over and pushed the appropriate labelled switch. A glowing red light indicated it was on.
‘Great! That appears to be fine now. Turn if off and then you can slowly lower me down.’
Toby climbed the companionway ladder back into the cockpit. He adjusted the two lines holding Richard’s life in his hands and slowly paid out the rope.
Richard landed safely on the deck, deftly untied the safety-line bowline and eased himself out of the climbing harness, wincing as he did so.
‘Thank God I’ve got that off, it’s not exactly pleasant being trussed up like a chicken! Anyway that’s a job well done and for a change relatively simple. Thanks for your help,’ Richard said laughing, coiling and stowing the ropes away.
 His thin angular face was creased in good humour. Straightening up he was a good six feet three inches, of slim build with a tanned muscular body. His straight hair was from a sun-washed blonde to light brown, flecked through with grey and cut fairly short. The tan looked good on him giving him a more youthful appearance than his forty-nine years. Women from sixteen to seventy often gave him a second glance.
Good-looking bastard Toby thought, although he was himself attractive in his own smaller and darker way. Richard’s got the money, the time, the boat and a kitten of a wife whom he doesn’t appear to appreciate as much as he should. Aside from that though, he and Richard had been friends for fifteen years now and he really didn’t begrudge him his current good fortune.
‘I think a beer or two on board, and then off to the Plaza to find a restaurant, don’t you?’ said Richard.
‘My thoughts entirely, old boy, the sun must be well over by now. I expect Connie would like one too,’ he agreed raising his voice a little.
As expected a tousled head appeared in the aft cabin hatch. ‘I most certainly would. Just let me finish changing and I’ll be right with you.’ She ducked down and both men grinned at each other.
‘Never misses out does she?’
‘Only when there’s dirty work to be done,’ replied Richard dryly.
‘You relax a bit. I’ll go below and get the drinks.’ Toby clattered down the companionway into the shady saloon. He was really looking forward to the sailing trip. Like the others this was his first Atlantic crossing. He was relishing the thought of blue waters, starry nights and glorious sunsets. Of course once across and established in the Caribbean he was sure that rum punches, bikini-clad beauties and reggae ‘jump ups’ would take precedence. No tedious commuting to town from his house in Esher and a break from the machinations of daily office parlance.

Richard had always had a lifelong dream of skippering his own yacht across one of the great oceans of the world and meeting all the personal challenges that would be thrown at him. He didn’t know where this deep-seated yearning came from but for most of his life he had felt an almost overwhelming pull to go out, buy a boat and explore. Now the dream was just beginning; coming to fruition, as Richard and Connie finalised their preparations for their planned sail across the Atlantic. The huge golden orb of the sun was sinking fast, casting long deep-mauve shadows on the surrounding hills. It had been ‘another perfect day in paradise’ using the yachties’ much hackneyed but true cliché. The temperatures had been in the high seventies, with a slight cooling breeze and a cloudless cerulean blue sky.
When Toby reappeared in the cockpit with their drinks, he was accompanied by Connie. Richard studied Connie with a familiar deep affection. Small, dark-haired and neat, described her outward appearance. She stood about five feet four inches in her bare feet with a slim build. Her legs were nicely shaped, rising to a firm little bottom, nipped in waist and medium sized breasts. Handful sized Richard would say, anything bigger would be a waste. She had recently had her hair cut short, as she knew long hair would be too hot and a pain in a tropical climate, besides, water on a yacht had to be managed. Her newly shorn hair was slightly curly from the salty air and not unattractive as it framed her violet-blue eyes. Connie enjoyed a refreshing Campari and orange juice; the ice cubes tinkling against her glass when she lifted it for a sip, relishing the slight bitterness of the fortified spirit against the sweetness of the fruit. Richard preferred a long cool local beer. He sat quietly contemplating the condensation as it slowly ran down the outside of his glass forming a small wet ring onto the coaster. He wiped it away with his hand. He was both excited and yet a little bothered at the same time. His excitement was caused by their almost imminent departure from Tenerife. In a day or so – all being well – they would have completed their tasks and boat preparations that they had set themselves in getting ready for a long extended cruise. They planned to leave the comparative safety of the Canary Island waters and sail across ‘The Pond.’ In other words, they had two thousand, eight hundred miles to sail across the Atlantic in a small boat. It was well known to be a vast, lonely and sometimes inhospitable sea, but it was an adventure that many an amateur sailor had undertaken without mishap, thoroughly enjoying the challenge and eventual achievement.


Richard’s long-term plans had come together nicely. They now had all the necessary ingredients: the time, the money and a partnership that complimented each other for the majority of their time spent together. After a heady, passionate early marriage they had both settled down with only the occasional stormy row to punctuate their steady relationship. He loved Connie; there was no doubt about his feelings towards her, but as Richard was fairly undemonstrative he usually kept his inner feelings much to himself.
His business he had placed in the trustworthy hands of his manager besides which, with today’s technology he could stay in daily contact if he wanted by satellite telephone and email.

Now, with almost everything in place Richard was eager to be off. There was no great hurry as the weather window stretched from now in early November to early February. The only urgency was Richard’s own excited impatience to get going, set sail and make the Caribbean in time for Christmas. He sighed and took a swallow of beer. He still had this small niggle though.
Connie was not as passionate as Richard about sailing, and much preferred to be within sight of land. However, she had jumped at the chance of leaving her position as a surgical ward sister and was enjoying the newfound luxury of being her own boss. She found she actually had time for herself. Having enrolled in a dive class before they had left England she was looking forward to exploring the coral reefs around the British Virgin Islands as they were supposed to be fabulous. She had also rediscovered her old schooldays’ talent for painting and looked forward to catching the colourful Caribbean on canvas. Their comfortable furnished aft cabin with its scandalously large double bunk had a whole locker dedicated to the paraphernalia that went along with her artistic inclinations. She meant to enjoy herself; the sailing would mainly be Richard’s interest with her doing her bit. Richard thought back to a day or so ago when he and Connie had been alone on their boat. They had been relaxing at the end of a busy day. Connie was immersed in yet another doorstep of a book and Richard had been fidgeting on his seat before finally addressing Connie.
 ‘You’ve clearly got something on your mind. I know you have. OK what is it?’ She placed her bookmark inside the book and then laid it down closed on the cockpit table barely suppressing an irritated sigh at being interrupted.
He reached over for her left hand and imprisoned it within his.
‘I do. I had a call from Toby earlier today with a request.’
‘Why do I have this feeling of trouble I wonder?’ She suddenly laughed. ‘You know what he’s like! Come on then. What does he want now?’
Richard took another swallow of his beer enjoying the sharp bitter taste and then proceeded to relate to Connie his telephone conversation earlier today with an excited and persuasive Toby.
In the early cool of that morning Connie had taken herself off the boat to buy some last minute provisions in the fruit and vegetable market. She particularly enjoyed the freshness of the local produce, knowing that it hadn’t yet been irradiated for sale and storage in refrigerators abroad. She had probably overbought but they would certainly eat well in the next few weeks. Toby must have rung whilst she was out. She turned her attention back to what Richard had to tell her.
He had answered the call on his mobile telephone and inwardly sighed when he recognised Toby’s clipped tones and cultured accent on the line. Toby didn’t beat about the bush. It soon transpired that he had suddenly found himself with six months leave; nothing planned and wouldn’t it be an excellent idea if he came along and gave them both a hand?
Richard had to think fast. As friends they had spent various weekends sailing together in the Solent and occasional trips across to France, with a couple of longer voyages in the summer weeks. Although Toby was only what you would call a ‘weekend’ sailor his sailing knowledge was good; he had done a few training courses and best of all he didn’t usually suffer from the dreaded ‘mal de mer.’ He was certainly being very persuasive and knew with instinctive certainty that to convince Richard of his usefulness, indeed his highly significant inclusion to the party, was of paramount importance. He suggested that Connie was not perhaps as strong as a man and might not relish any heavy hardships encountered on the way. Richard couldn’t of course retell this bit to Connie, as he knew she would be incensed. Instead he listened to Toby’s suggestion that he would be a valuable asset and she could also enjoy (as they both would) shorter watch hours.
‘I know she would. Three crew means that you and I, and her of course, could share the watches and we would benefit from shorter watch hours and a longer stretch of sleep. Much more civilised than with just the two of you. Don’t you think?’ he had enthused.
 ‘Well I’m not sure. It’s a bit short notice and we’ll have to think about it. How about I let you know tomorrow after I’ve discussed it properly with Connie later.’
They had finished their telephone conversation leaving Richard to mull over this new idea. He was not 100 per cent certain, but he knew that Connie would be keener than he was.
So, they now had to come to some agreement over this new proposal. They both liked Toby; it wasn’t that. They had each in their own way relished the idea of taking this challenge with just the two of them and without any other person’s influence. This was an entirely different matter. As skipper, Richard had the final say. But he did realise the added bonus of another pair of hands. What if one of them was ill or injured? It was hellishly more difficult to sail solo than with someone else helping at your side. Maybe he wasn’t being entirely fair to Connie either.
The discussion of the pros and cons continued over their dinner in the square in Santa Cruz. Connie was generally in favour and said so as they sampled the local tapas and a dozen oysters, followed by a delicious sea bream grilled simply with olive oil and herbs washed down with a crisp white Marques de Caceres; one of their favourites. They forego the coffee, preferring to stroll hand in hand slowly back across the cobbled square to their yacht, taking in the balmy cooling night breeze. They reached their pontoon and in the silvery moonlight Ellentari shone, her tall mast and spreaders thrusting loftily up into the blue-black sky.
They had decided. Toby could come for the crossing and, depending on how they all got along during this period, maybe, just maybe extend his stay for a short spell in the Caribbean.


Meanwhile, back in England Toby Ellis had already got out his sailing gear and was methodically sorting out which was appropriate for tropical climates and what was not. Definitely not the sea-stained heavy-duty waterproofs, better known in sailing circles as oilies. The expensive leather sailing boots could stay home too. He’d take his own lifejacket and harness as they fitted him well and he felt comfortable in them. Deck shoes only for when they cast off, then barefoot would be the order of the day. He picked out lots of short-sleeved shirts and swimming shorts. Passport. In his bathroom cupboard he found a suntan factor thirty and a lighter one once he was more used to the sun. He’d need plenty of credit cards of course and some dollars for cash. Those he could pick up at the airport. Easy!
He knew that Richard would agree after talking to Connie. She had a soft spot for him and he found her pretty cute himself. But then he usually found most women pretty cute. They were one of his weaknesses. This thought led him to recall what had happened earlier that day at work and how he was now in this position, much to his satisfaction.

That grey, grim London morning Toby was reeling from the acid lash of the senior partner’s tongue.
‘For Christ’s sake what the hell do you think you were doing?’ he’d stormed. ‘Michael’s got enough trouble being married to a younger woman and trying to keep her satisfied without you rubbing his nose in it,’ he jabbed a finger angrily at Toby.
 ‘What’s more she means everything to him and absolutely nothing to you. You only pursued her because you could and, frankly I find your behaviour disgusting!’ he thundered.
He leaned back heavily in his leather swivel office chair and regarded Toby with open contempt. This time he had gone too far. As senior partner in Holmes and Benton, Chartered Accountants, Tom had to ensure that Toby grasped the significance of his misconduct. He couldn’t actually force him to stop his affair with the unlucky Michael’s young wife, but he could remove Toby from the day-to-day exposure to Michael.
‘Michael’s only got six months before he retires and I want him to enjoy his last six months with us. Furthermore I want him to enjoy his well-earned retirement. It’s not been easy for him losing his first wife to a brain tumour and I think he deserves better than this. You, as far as I know have never suffered a serious heartache in your life. You go through women at a distasteful rate and never consider the consequences. Call me old-fashioned if you like but, I have built this company up from nothing and my long-standing partner deserves more respect than this. I place Michael in high esteem.’ He paused and breathed heavily, he was clearly irate.
Toby tried to remonstrate with Tom but the senior partner held up a heavy hand to stop his voice. ‘No, I don’t want to hear any of your protests. Michael is entirely blameless in this and has been caused enough pain already. This is what I am proposing and you have one of two choices. You either accept, or you decline and leave this company’s payroll. Your work is good but as Associate partner you are expendable. However, I hope you do accept, as normally we have a good working relationship and you have talent and work well under pressure. Also unlike Michael you have a good few years before you retire. So, my suggestion is that while Michael works out his six months you take an extended leave during this time. A sabbatical if you like. Once everything has cooled down and Michael has retired you can return and resume your career. Well? What do you say?’ he put his elbows onto his mahogany desk and continued to glare at him.
Toby was at first momentarily shocked at this proposal and wanted to argue his case but something in Tom’s steely look stopped him. He was an old windbag, and what a fuss over some little bint. He considered himself not entirely to blame; she was no delicate young virgin and although someone else’s wife had given him plenty of encouragement. But, he did like working for the firm and knew that Tom had a full partnership in mind for him later on. So, he held his tongue in check, managed to look contrite and nodded an acceptance.
Besides, he much preferred the chase and she had given in far too quickly. A piece of cake really. He fleetingly thought of how many other bored young wives there were; wealthy, spoilt and sitting alone at home. All in all he considered that he had got off lightly. What’s more he had six fantastic months all to himself! Excellent. What a bonus, what fun could be had. He already had a plan formulating in his quick devious mind.
 His friend Richard was at present in Tenerife, busily preparing his yacht for his forthcoming transatlantic voyage. He had spent and enjoyed many a weekend sailing with Richard and his sexy, beautiful wife Connie. What if he could inveigle Richard into letting him come along as the third crew member? Winter in the Caribbean would be tremendous!


Richard had enjoyed the sail down to the Canaries. He and Connie had left the Hamble River in September; rather late for a Biscay crossing but they had been lucky. The Gods had looked down on them and they had had a good trip down. For once the dreaded and notorious Bay of Biscay was calm with hardly any wind and they had motored half of the way across it. The slow swell coming from the southwest had gently buffeted Ellentari as she rose on each small wave and then slipped down into the green trough on the other side. The sea chuckled down her starboard side and left behind a long sparkling foamy wake. Early each morning they had breakfasted on deck and together they had gasped with delight at the huge pods of dolphins and Minke whale that tore across the molten sea towards them. Forty, a hundred, two hundred silver and steely blue, glistening bodies turning, diving, spinning and splashing, their toothy grins leering up at them, and then lazily flipping over onto their sides and gliding down beneath the meniscus of the deep.
They had put into a few ports down the west coasts of Spain and Portugal. They had enjoyed the heady, gaudy fiesta in Bayonna, eaten delicious seafood in Cascais and loved Oporto with its gleaming terracotta roofs. Lisbon was hot and listless and they had detested the foul smelling river full of effluent that poured out from the city’s sewage system. Fewer dolphins escorted them now, nervously staying clear of the fishermen’s nets that crisscrossed the waters down to Cape St Vincent. Rounding that corner paying off the main, Ellentari had seemingly picked up her skirts and screamed along at nine knots. Richard had roared with delight while Connie had snuggled down safely in the lee of the cockpit.
Lagos on the Algarve was great fun. It had been wall to wall with other yachts preparing for the ‘ARC.’ Every year about 250 yachts of all sizes from about thirty to seventy feet took part in an organised voyage across the Atlantic from Gran Canaria to the Caribbean to arrive in St Lucia in time for Christmas.
Richard preferred the more muted departure from Tenerife sharing relevant information and informal drinks parties with their immediate neighbours. There was less frenzy and commercialism than in Gran Canaria.
He was calm and capable, a good dependable sailor. He considered that with careful planning there was no reason that their voyage should not be straightforward and easily accomplished. He was in short a firm believer of the old adage that a good ship would always take care of its crew. This explained why he’d spent many years studying yacht manufacturers’ brochures and specifications, visiting numerous yacht builders’ premises, checking performance versus comfort and safety, and occupied countless hours crawling in the deep recesses of potential purchases.
In his younger years he had first learnt to sail dinghies on the Isle of Wight and then by badgering friends and friends of friends he’d inveigled his way onto various different yachts as crew. He remembered hours spent wet and cold and sometimes seasick. But, he maintained if you could sail in the Solent and cope with everything thrown at you from lousy weather conditions, ferries, tanker ships, idiot motorboat racers, sudden wind changes, huge tidal differences and the sheer large numbers of craft afloat then you could sail anywhere. Richard had always worked hard in ventures in which he was most passionate and this presently was sailing. He had set to hone his skills diligently and with perseverance. Years ago his father had been a sailor in the Royal Navy, but most of his experience had been gained during World War Two and he had been largely reticent about talking about his own exploits. His only advice to Richard had been, ‘don’t enlist yourself boy!’ Even so maybe this was where Richard had got his first yearnings to sail at sea.
 The senior William Barker – recently deceased – had been a quiet man, often lost in his own deep thoughts. He and Richard hadn’t shared a particularly close relationship to which now Richard expressed some regret. His mother had died in the seventies at a comparative young age, leaving behind Richard in his twenties and a much older sister. William had doted on both wife and daughter caring for them with a fierce love and loyalty. When Richard was born it had been a shock to the little tight knit family of three. Although he was of course loved and cared for, he occasionally found himself on the outside; looking in as it were. Perhaps this was why he had found it hard to settle down to steady employment and forge a career for himself. He had drifted from job to job with only a handful of ‘O’ levels as qualifications. Eventually, after many false starts he had ended up working for a large removal company and became involved in the machinations of a staff buy-out. He had a good hunch about this and invested every spare pound he could lay his hands on into buying shares. His hunch paid off. With a new stock market flotation, overnight he had made a small fortune. He quickly sold his shares and reinvested most of the capital in something less risky. He was now at a loose end. He didn’t particularly want to work for anyone else in some dead end job so he decided to renovate his tatty Georgian flat. He found the work satisfying and soon found himself buying another and then another rundown property to completely work over and sell for a tidy sum. He bought dozens of books on period property and taught himself how to renovate properly. And so, he suddenly found himself sitting with the title of ‘period property renovator’ around his neck. Now, some years later with some considerable funds in the bank, a row of discrete houses rented out to discerning tenants, he was able to buy his first large yacht and fulfil a long awaited dream. To cross an ocean, the mighty Atlantic!

Chapter 3

The morning dawned on Ellentari, and on deck the excitement had been palpable. Nobody had slept much and one by one they had risen and dressed within ten minutes of each other. Gathered on deck, a moist November wind ruffled Connie’s hair. She looked alert and full of energy despite only about five hours sleep.
‘I couldn’t sleep, I’m too excited I suppose.’
She smiled at Toby as he came and stood next to her on deck.
‘Me too. I thought I’d make some tea and sit on deck until the sun rose. Like some?’ he asked.
 She nodded. Toby climbed down below to the galley and filled the kettle. The slight phut and smell of camping-gas rose from below decks. Galley sounds reached Connie: mugs rattling and the fridge box door being opened and closed.
Richard walked along the deck and stood at the front of the yacht. The tapering bow was gently rising and falling with the motion of the teal-coloured water. He gazed out in the direction of the harbour wall entrance and paused, to lean against the stainless steel guard rail. A salty, fishy smell wafted up to him from where the water sucked and gurgled. After a few minutes, he walked softly back to the cockpit and looked at Connie and smiled, the skin crinkling around his blue eyes. He was so excited; he could hardly catch his breath.
‘Well today’s the big day.’
She smiled back and hugging herself, shivered slightly. ‘I feel just like a child at Christmas. You know getting up early before anyone else has stirred, and knowing that today was going to be very special. Nobody else was up as early as me, except Daddy, and he and I would sit and drink tea – mine was very milky. We would sit and whisper with our toes turned to the fire that he would relight. We ate chocolate biscuits, a special treat then, and waited until the other sleepy heads woke up and started screeching ‘Merry Christmas’!’
Richard was surprised at this picture of her early childhood. She was always a very reserved private person, sometimes almost superficial. Her eyes glowed warmly in the half-light and she looked up at the lightening sky, neck outstretched long and tanned. She was quite pretty in an unusual way and her smile never failed to make him feel good even after their fourteen years together.
‘Tea’s up. Who’s for a bacon sandwich then? I’m making,’ Toby reappeared with three steaming mugs and broke into their moment.
‘Thanks,’ said Richard. ‘It’s a good idea to have breakfast now. We’ll do a few last minute safety checks and ease her out from her berth. No wind to speak of, so it should be dead easy.’


The engine coughed into life and gently rumbled as Richard took the wheel. Toby and Connie eased the mooring lines and stood ready to fend off if the wind caught her. Richard drove her out of her berth and Ellentari slipped from the Santa Cruz marina and ghosted out beyond the harbour walls. The familiar chug of the seventy-five horse power diesel engine had rebounded loudly in the marina confines until they were clear and able to set her sails. Coasting along in the gentle early morning breeze they swiftly brought in and stored the fenders and mooring lines in deep deck lazarettes.
‘You do realise that we won’t need those for another two to three weeks don’t you?’
‘English Harbour, Antigua, West Indies, first stop!’ they all chorused together. Tenerife to Antigua, nearly three thousand nautical miles as the seagull flies. How exciting!
Within hours the crew of Ellentari were experiencing the Atlantic at its best. A dark indigo-blue sea with the slightest of swells was gently buffeting the starboard quarter.Thereafter each day the sun rose not long after the pearly dawn. A glimmering ball of seemingly dripping gold casting its long reaches across the sea. Sea birds had followed them until they were too far from land and now they only saw the occasional wing above the little crested waves, dipping and gliding above the surface hunting for a glimpse of moving silver. The days became hot, the decks smelling that beautiful warm smell of clean wood reminiscent of a sauna room. They were happy, relaxed and settling down to shipboard routine.
They knew the voyage could take them anything up to a month depending on the wind and sea conditions.
 As far as Richard was concerned the boat was as near perfect as she was ever going to be. Everything that he could think of had been serviced, checked and replaced where necessary. Richard knew that he was quite a taskmaster and anyone who didn’t realise the importance of good planning and preparation would even consider him pedantic. However, he was not concerned with what anyone thought of his running of his yacht. Richard had taken delivery of a new life raft, plenty of emergency flares, both short and long wave radios, and a special receiver for weather forecasts. He had also invested in a satellite telephone and an EPIRB that would flash their latitude and longitude position if activated in an emergency. Heaven forbid, he thought that they would need any of this equipment but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Ellentari was a forty-five foot sloop with a deep fin-keel. Her hull was white with a double blue stripe running along under the toe-rail and the rigorous sea tests had pronounced her as a well-found yacht and extremely comfortable to sail and live onboard.
Now Tenerife was far behind and they had quickly settled down to shipboard routine. The conditions were kind; cloudless sunny days not yet too scorchingly hot, balmy soft-aired nights spent watching the amazing Milky Way with its numerous shooting stars. They had good steady breezes giving them an average of six to seven knots and seas that were for the most part perfect, no huge waves or swell. Occasionally the wind would die away and they would slow down to a ponderous two or three knot speed. Then, the boat would develop a roll in the Atlantic swell as she rode up one long wave and then slipped down into the following trough. When the boat really slowed down they would rig a safety towline behind and take it in turns to take a swim off the stern, keeping a sharp lookout onboard for any sinister fin following their wake. The swims were exhilarating and refreshed both spirit and body.
The days seemed to slip away and no one seemed to experience any boredom. There was always plenty to do. Books were read in a day or two, meals to cook, crossword puzzles; Richard took his guitar up forward and lost himself in his music.
 Connie was steadily turning a wonderfully lustrous shade of gold and loved nothing better than lazing in the cockpit book in one hand and a cold juice in the other. Work seemed such a dirty word and belonged back in cold, depressing and dreary England. Sighing in contentment Connie turned over onto her stomach.
 ‘Can you rub some suntan lotion onto my back please Toby?’ She asked sleepily.
Toby was very happy. He relished the idea of triumphantly arriving in Antigua and then spending the next five months on Ellentari as she weaved her way down the necklace chain of colourful Caribbean islands. He remembered a couple of eventful holidays spent in Jamaica and Barbados and looked forward to visiting Guadeloupe, St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, Dominica, and the tiny gems of The Grenadines.
Toby had come to terms with his banishment. He had been careful not to let Richard and Connie know the real reason for his six month leave and knew that he had actually done very well out of it ironically and he was enjoying the time spent in Richard and Connie’s company.
He rubbed lotion over Connie’s smooth skinned back. Especially Connie’s!
Connie he was particularly fond of, which he found rather perplexing. Toby enjoyed most women’s company but, he still regarded them as if not exactly inferior to men, certainly not quite equal. Connie he treated with much more care than he usually did most of the others.
His careless behaviour to his past lovers bore clear evidence to this. He enjoyed chasing women, bedding them and then ditching them when he was bored. Apart from that he didn’t have a lot of use for them per se. He just didn’t care enough for anyone more than himself.
So, it was to his surprise that he was drawn to Connie and enjoyed being in her company. Perhaps she was more immune to his very obvious charms and didn’t fall for his usual sexual innuendo. A very confident woman, she would listen to his carefully rehearsed, well practised string of patter and then with a mischievous glint to her eye skilfully manoeuvre the conversation around to her own advantage. He playfully suggested, she teased. He never missed the opportunity to openly flirt with her and Connie appeared to enjoy the thrill of being in charge and on top. It was fun and the time passed miraculously.

The sun had climbed over a light blue sky and a sea shot through with sparkles. The yacht ran sweetly in her groove just before the wind. The song of the sea was running down her side and in the soft creak of the mast and boom. They had had a few hours of doldrums, the yacht lying melancholy with limp, idle sails in a damp oppressive heat under a cloudy sky and rolling on a smooth swell with only a capricious breeze ruffling the surface of the oily-sea. Most nights the heavens were lit from rim to rim with pinpricks of stars, held by the black warm velvet. The bloody moon rose until most high and, it seemed like the heat emanated from its imperfect globe.
They had been at sea now for six days and had logged about 875 nautical miles. They had experienced good sailing with very little periods of being becalmed. The skipper was happy with the yacht’s progress. Richard knew that traditionally the Trade Winds kicked in stronger as they approached the western Atlantic, and they could then hope for an even faster passage. They were doing better than he had hoped for.
Today had been particularly eventful. The huge golden sun had swiftly risen in the early morning with a promise of yet another glorious day. Very soon the teak deck had warmed in the sun and the sweet wood smell permeated throughout the open cockpit. Half a dozen flying-fish had been discovered marooned on the forward deck and had soon disappeared into the frying pan for breakfast.
Richard settled down at the chart table, and using his Global Positioning System plotted their longitude and latitude course on the large Admiralty Atlantic chart in front of him. Their progress across the Atlantic could be seen by a series of ‘fixes’ taken at regular intervals daily and pencilled in on the sea map. The miles were being eaten up, Antigua beckoned. He thought about how sailing today compared to when his father had been at sea. Back then, small boats had nothing like the electronic and safety equipment that you could buy now. It must have been almost an entirely different experience, especially during the wartime years. He wished that he had pestered his father into telling him a bit more about his early sailing life. It was too late now of course.

Both the mainsail and the headsail were up and fully laden with a good seventeen knots of wind hard on the starboard quarter. That is, the wind was just behind their mid-ships and on the right-hand side of the boat. The sea state was moderate, and that fantastic deep inky shade of blue that is only seen miles off shore. They hadn’t had any dolphins for company for a few days, but they had recently passed through scores of turtles going the opposite way. One ship had been seen on the horizon and occasionally they would see the telltale slipstream of a jet far above in the brilliant blue sky. The temperatures were now rising; hot during the day and falling back down to a more gentle heat at sunset. It was true what the old sailors used to say, ‘sail south until the butter melts and then turn right for the Caribee.’
Toby had two fishing lines trailing behind the yacht. The boat came smoothly off a slighter larger wave and careered down the other side picking up another half knot. Connie was sitting idly watching him from the starboard teak seat at the back of the yacht. ‘It’s just like a roller coaster ride at the funfair,’ she shrieked with laughter.
‘Yep, only this is more impressive,’ Toby agreed, letting out more line as he did so. ‘Of course you can’t get off though,’ he continued.
‘Get off the ride my sweet.’ Toby looked over to her and flashed a smile. His dark hair and tan contrasted heavily with his expensive dental treatment. He had lost a little weight in the time they had been aboard, and the daily exercise routine he practised on board was tightening up his slightly fleshy body.
‘I don’t mind. At the moment if the conditions stayed like this I wouldn’t care if we went all the way to Brazil.’ She laughed and ran her hands through her hair. ‘Phew, it’s getting hot earlier today though.’
‘You wait until we really near the Caribbean. If the humidity is high then it’ll be stonking. Would you like me to fetch you another cold drink?’ he asked her.
‘Ooh, yes please. I feel so lazy here in the sun. I know I should be doing something creative or cleaning something but sitting here is so much better.’ She smiled up at him as he stood over her.
‘Sitting here watching you turn a darker golden-brown and trolling a fishing line is good enough for me too. And I especially enjoy watching you practise your yoga on the front deck.’ he replied as he took himself down below to fetch their drinks.
Connie smiled to herself. He really was a flirt. She hadn’t known that he watched her when she went up to the forward deck for her daily yoga exercises. Having two men fancying her was a bit of a turn on. Although she knew Richard loved her he was sometimes too quiet and far too undemonstrative. She knew that Toby had loads of women friends and couldn’t remember ever seeing him without some hot beauty attached to his arm. I wonder what he’s like in bed, she mused. He’s probably very good. Still I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out, not with Richard around anyway. She laughed to herself as her mind drifted off to consider sex in the sun, in front of the mast, or lying in the cockpit or stretched over the binnacle. It was fun to play the tart sometimes!
Suddenly, the line trailing from the port quarter went taut and the rod wheel screamed as 200 feet of nylon was whipped out behind the boat. Connie jumped, bewildered for a moment and forgot her daydreaming.
‘Fish!’ she yelled. ‘Toby we’ve got a fish!’ She leapt up from her seat. ‘Slow the boat down.’
Toby rushed up into the cockpit and met Connie coming the other way; they collided with each other and Connie would have fallen if Toby hadn’t put a protective arm round her.
‘Easy my sweet,’ he murmured.
Connie released the port genoa sheet and the sail bagged and flapped with the decreased pressure. Toby was releasing the load on the mainsheet and soon both sails were flogging and the boat’s speed was reduced to a bare three knots.
Richard appeared in the cockpit, a questioning look of concern on his face. He had been forward in the side cabin immersed in the spares locker. What was happening? He hadn’t given any order to slow the boat down. He noticed both Connie and Toby on the back deck, so both crew members were present and unhurt. That was a relief anyway. He then noticed a red-faced Toby at the stern; he was holding the rod in both hands and feverishly trying to reel in at the same time. The strain showed in his bulging arm and neck muscles. Connie watched with interest.

‘It’s a huge one! I saw it jump a minute ago. Look, there!’ he puffed. The iridescent Mahi Mahi leapt four feet into the air way behind the boat. It was desperate to dislodge the treacherous hook from its jaw. ‘Give us a hand will you, it’s bloody heavy,’ he continued, sweat running profusely down his face and soaking his chest.

Connie squealed in excitement as she saw the fish, while Richard hurried onto the aft deck. Together they heaved and reeled the fish closer to the yacht until it was near enough to gaff and haul on board. The fish lay there gasping from the struggle and fight it had put up. Its body was beautiful, glowing with all shades of blue, green and yellow.
Connie held the squeezy bottle of cheap spirits reserved for fishing and carefully poured a little into its gills. The sudden spirit seeping into the fish’s gills caused it to die a quicker death instead of the twenty minutes or so of painful bloody thrashing around on deck. It flapped wetly a few times and then lay still, its eyes glazing over and the beautiful turquoise colours of its skin already fading to a darker murkier blue-grey.
‘Must weigh a good six to seven kilos,’ Toby said looking triumphant, ‘have you room in the freezer?’
‘We’ll have some tonight and I’ll make ceviche for tomorrow’s lunch. I’m sure I have enough space now as we’re eating well into the meat rations.’ Connie replied. ‘Well done! Well done both of you for hauling it in. It looked like hard work.’
Toby grinned and nodded his agreement. ‘I’ll clean the fish for you and cut it up into fillets, OK?’
He swilled the remaining blood from the rear deck after gutting the fish. A lone shark swam stealthily behind Ellentari, it’s grey fin showing clearly in the boat’s wake. It paused, unseen and swiftly snapped at the dumped entrails before continuing on it’s journey.

Richard was reading a weather fax he had downloaded onto his laptop computer. Everything looked fine for their area. There seemed to be a blow some way to the south of them. The winds were strong and were going from a southeast to a westerly direction, but it was predicted to pass in front of them. Storms were not unheard of in November, but usually the weather was benign.
He decided to keep a close watch on it, just in case it crept nearer to their sailing area. It always paid to be prudent. If it did come closer then they could always slow down and let it pass on ahead. He made a few notes and then closed down the computer and stowed it safely away. A mention of the weather report was made in the log and then he decided to join the others on deck. He climbed halfway up the companionway ladder, the hot, bright sun hitting him squarely in the face forcing him to squint. Silently, he took in a scene of Toby quietly massaging suntan lotion onto Connie’s back. Still thinking of the weather report he was slightly mesmerised and didn’t immediately react to Toby’s hand lightly trailing across her browning skin. It was only when Toby slowly slipped his fingers under her bikini top that he realised what he was watching. Startled, he climbed the remaining two steps up into the cockpit. What was Toby playing at?
Toby looked round at the sound behind him and swiftly removed his offending hand. He covered his movement by reaching for the suntan lotion. He didn’t look discomforted in any way; instead he held the bottle out to Richard and drawled, ‘Your job I think old boy.’


The wind had persisted around a steady fifteen to seventeen knots all day, and coming from the northeast. During Toby’s watch from midnight to 0300 hours, the wind freshened and the boat heeled over at a steeper angle. Their boat speed increased and soon they were charging along at a good nine knots. The full main and genoa sails were still up and Toby wondered fleetingly if they had more sail out than was needed. Half an hour later and the wind had gone up a notch. Maybe it’s a good time to reef down, he thought. There’s no need to wake the others. I know what to do. He carefully released the tension in the genoa sheet, slowly letting it slip on the winch. When the sail started to flog he immediately started to wind in the genoa deck line and the sail began to shorten. When it was about two thirds of its original size he tensioned up the sheet. The large mainsail was still causing them to heel over and the yacht’s automatic pilot was finding it difficult to maintain her course. A reduction in this sail could only help calm everything down. Connie hated being heeled over; reducing sail would earn him brownie points.

The night was beautiful, a clear sky with no light pollution. The profusion of stars in the Milky Way was stretched out above his head and, with a gigantic golden moon hanging over the horizon he could see almost as clearly as if it were day.

The boat raced on with the water cascading down the portside deck, gurgling out of the scuppers and over the stern transom. The boom creaked in protest and somewhere a metal shackle started up a rhythmic tempo against it. Wearing his safety harness and lifejacket, Toby moved behind the large cockpit steering wheel and began to prepare the reefing line and mainsheet. The electric winch ground noisily and reverberated through the deck. A figure suddenly loomed at his side. Richard had awoken to the different motion of his yacht and with a quick glance took in the situation.
‘We’re going to have to bring her more head to wind to reduce the power in the sail to reef. It’s impossible at this point of sail. When I say so, take her off auto and bring her around starboard about one hundred degrees, and hold her there until I tell you to turn back onto our right course. OK?’ He shouted to make himself heard above the increased wind.
Richard took over the reefing line. Toby stood behind the wheel and steered by hand, turning the wheel when Richard gave the order. The boat responded quickly and the motion immediately changed; large waves smacked at the bow and more water rushed down both decks. The boat shuddered and bucked with the force of the water as she came to a near stop. The lightened mainsail whacked and cracked as it hit the wind head on. Richard took in a third of the sail and gradually retightened the line securely.
‘OK. Now start to bring her back slowly, I’ll –.’
 Bang! The boom shot across to the other side – the wrong side. Toby had turned the wheel the wrong way and had inadvertently gibed the mainsail.
‘No take her back, take her back! Otherwise the headsail will back and we’ll be in trouble,’ Richard yelled.
Toby stood stock-still, confused. The boat continued to turn. Richard reacted by grabbing the wheel and turning hard to port; the boat responded sluggishly.
‘Pull in the mainsheet or we’ll gibe the boom again. MOVE!’ Richard shouted frantically.
Toby woke up from the moment’s panic and flung himself across the cockpit, somehow entangling his legs in his harness safety line in his movement and grabbed the mainsheet with his left arm. Bang! The boom swung across to its correct position, the mainsheet stretching out tautly from its outer end. There was a sudden crack and a scream from Toby as the rope tightened round his wrist and snapped it. He fell down into the well of the cockpit, bellowing in pain, his arm trapped. Richard swiftly put the yacht back on its autopilot course, and bent down to help Toby. The boats’ motion had calmed down enough for him to gently release the tight rope and secure it in the jammer. Toby continued to moan and clutch at his wrist while Richard carefully sat him up on the bench seat. Toby whimpered in protest, completely shocked and dazed.
‘Connie,’ Richard roared. ‘Connie, we need you up here!’
Amazingly she had slept through the drama, her dreams probably only registering less heel to the boat and a gentle slowing motion.
 Toby’s face appeared deathly pale in the bright moonlight; an abrasion stood out clearly on his right temple. He opened his mouth to say something and promptly vomited on the cockpit floor. Connie appeared, clutching a thin sarong around her body. Richard filled her in with the last few minutes’ events and she quickly got the message. Toby needed a plaster of Paris splint and an injection of 10mg Nalbuphine hydrochloride analgesic to help the pain.
 A grim-faced Richard was left to clear up the vomit.


Richard was livid. It showed in his face and in the firm set of his jaw.
‘Why the hell didn’t you call me?’ he thundered. ‘You know it’s always difficult to reef a boat this size on your own, and especially risky at night!’
Toby looked slightly abashed. He raised his head and the bruised temple stood out vividly. He had a moustache of sweat on his top lip and beaded perspiration on his brow.
‘I thought I could handle it. We’ve done it dozens of time before,’ he argued.
‘You could have caused a lot of damage and endangered us all, apart from the injury to yourself.’
‘Well I didn’t and as you rightly say the only damage is to me. Now if you don’t mind Captain B I’m officially off-watch and I’m going to bed.’ Whereupon he clumsily heaved himself up with his good right arm and walked unsteadily forward to his cabin. He slammed the door crossly behind him.

Richard was shocked. Apart from the injury to himself, he could have seriously wrecked the boom or mast. Where would that have left them? A thousand miles from the nearest hospitable land, that’s where. He knew the rules about calling for help at night. Richard had made it plain. Nothing was to be done without his say so. There could only be one captain on a boat and his word went.
‘Arrogant bugger,’ he exclaimed.
‘Don’t start. Stop being grumpy,’ said Connie packing away the medication into the well-stocked first aid box. ‘He feels bad enough about this I’m sure. It’s just shock and the pain he’s in. I’ll go and speak to him.’
‘Leave him for now. Bloody jerk. Let him sleep off his petulance. He’s really annoyed me the last few days.’
‘Oh why’s that?’ She looked startled as she looked over at Richard.
‘Well apart from tonight’s little fiasco let me list the things.’ He held up his fingers to count.
‘He left the fridge wide open whilst he was fishing, spilt coffee all over the new Atlantic chart, left the forward heads shower dripping, broke the toggle on the radio, scratched my latest Stones CD, blocked his heads once – no twice now, and scoffed the last of the Bounty bars! He’s just bloody careless and thinks of no one but himself. OK? Isn’t that enough to make anyone grumpy? And now he’s got you running around like the proverbial. No leave him to stew alone.’
‘Oh for goodness sake anyone could have had bad luck. He’s just a little accident-prone. Don’t keep acting like Captain Bligh. You make us both feel uncomfortable sometimes. Even I have to keep making sure I don’t break any of your rules.’
‘I’ve explained there has to be rules,’ he sounded exasperated. ‘Safety is paramount on a small ship and there is only one skipper. It is my responsibility to ensure that my crew and yacht are safe at all times.’
‘I know all that, it’s just that sometimes you –,’ she stopped and shrugged. ‘Oh I don’t know, you’re just a little too intense sometimes. Anyway, I’m still going to look in on Toby, I just want to make sure he’s OK. I’ve just given him a strong analgesic for the pain and to help him sleep. He is my responsibility as my patient. Have a good watch.’
With that she turned round and walked forward to Toby’s cabin. She tapped quietly on the door, and then softly called out to Toby. On hearing a muffled response she went in and shut the door behind her.
Richard stood for a moment and glowered at the closed door. No sound came from within. His blue-grey eyes looked bleak and then gained a steely glint. With a sickening feeling of exclusion and misunderstanding he once more donned his lifejacket and climbed up into the cockpit.


Morning dawned. The sky gradually lightened in the east with streaks of pearly mauve and grey. The rising sun caught the tiny white cumulus high above and fringed the edges with gold. The sun suddenly burst over the horizon and soon the inky black deep was charged with golden bands.
Richard had stood a double watch this night, Connie hadn’t relieved him and his pride forbade him to go below and request her presence on deck. He had moodily sat in the quiet of the cockpit, trying to read or listen to music. He was now a little cold and extremely tired. He needed a hot shower, breakfast and some rest. He presumed Connie had kept her vigil on Toby throughout the night. Apart from his broken arm, she said she wanted to ensure that the bump on his head was nothing.
At that moment she appeared in the galley. She too, looked tired and dishevelled.
‘I’m going to make Toby some breakfast. Would you like some?’ she asked.
‘No thank you. What I really want is some sleep. So if you don’t mind I am going to bed. Do you think you could stand watch for a few hours at least?’ He watched her carefully.
‘Sarcasm doesn’t become you Richard, of course I can. Go to bed. I’ll call you if I need you.’
 She turned away and started the makings of breakfast. The bacon smelt delicious as Richard closed his cabin door.
‘Men,’ she thought. ‘Why are they so childish sometimes? Talk about melodramas and amateur dramatics!’


For the rest of the day everyone suddenly developed either very good manners or sat with extremely long silences. Connie stood her watches and devoted a lot of her time to Toby. She was forever fetching him cold drinks, snacks, medication and meals. He had ventured out into the salon but Richard’s all too apparent forced good nature soon had him scuttling back to the confines of his cabin. Richard had decided to bite his tongue and say no more about the matter sang-froid. Toby took the easy way out.
At present, Connie was closeted in Toby’s cabin, as Richard knew she would be. Injection time again it appeared. There was a little laughter from behind the closed door and then silence.
Richard gritted his teeth and chewed the end off his pencil in anger. He had just finished taking a fix and he now wrote the yacht’s position in the ship’s log. He had written a full report on the accident and was still very tired and needed a cat nap. He wished she would come out and he could go and have a sleep. Surely he wasn’t going to have to go and get her? I bet there wasn’t any lack of discipline during Dad’s time on board he thought to himself sourly.
The cabin door opened, and Connie slipped out smiling at Toby over her shoulder. He heard Toby say something and she let out a slight gasp and then a low laugh.
 Christ! She actually giggled like a schoolgirl Richard thought.
Connie walked through to the salon, the spent syringe in her hand.
‘What are you playing at?’
Connie coolly studied her husband. ‘I’ve no idea what you’re talking about but, I think I can guess. Stop looking at me like that. He’s hurt and feeling sorry for himself. Can’t you understand?’
‘Hhmp! I understand that I need to sleep. It’s your turn now.’ Richard got up from the chart table and stomped off down into their cabin.


By day nine, Toby considered that he’d probably wrung every last bit of sympathy out of the situation and calmly announced that he could resume his watches. He sat in the cockpit under the sun awning, sure of himself now and acting slightly cocky. Richard remained annoyed from his overall behaviour, but knew that they still had a long way to go and peace had to reign on his boat. An argument, annoyances, niggles and character traits all became way over the top if you let them in a closely confined boat. It was much better to let things settle down. Let everything blow over and try to get back to something like a status quo. After all, Antigua was what, a week away? As soon as they arrived Toby could see a doctor and then he was off the boat as far as Richard was concerned. He could do what he liked, but he was sure he’d have to fly home. Richard’s responsibility towards him would then end and he could start enjoying being alone with Connie again. He was sure they could get back to the normal loving relationship they had had before Toby had arrived and upset things.

Richard was surprised how much the past few days had annoyed and unsettled him. He’d always felt Connie and he had a good, trusting and happy relationship. He didn’t understand Toby’s aggressiveness and Connie’s seeming indifference to her husband’s feelings. Richard spent more time on his own, playing his guitar or reading. The boat claimed a lot of his time too as he maintained the yacht’s equipment and keep a beady eye on the weather. The weatherfax had now changed the status of the ‘blow’ that was forecast into a late season storm. Thankfully, it was not one of the huge catastrophic hurricanes that regularly beat down on the Caribbean islands and Florida during the summer season. According to the data Richard interpreted from his laptop computer it still looked like it would pass them by and they would remain unscathed. He’d get another weatherfax a bit later on that day, and if necessary change the boat’s course if they were in any danger of running into bad weather.
What with Toby’s injury and his wife’s surprising behaviour and now this nearby storm, life wasn’t quite as good as when they had first left Tenerife.

Last Week's Featured Author: 
Talia Jager, author of


Damaged: Natalie's Story  $2.99 Kindle Edition or Buy it on Nook     and
Teagan's Story: Her Battle With Epilepsy $2.99 Kindle Edition or buy it on Nook

Damaged: Natalie’s Story

By Talia Jager

Chapter 1

I was seventeen and a senior in high school when I met him. He was the new kid in school. His light brown hair was just long enough to hide his big brown eyes. I first noticed him in the office getting his schedule. I watched him from afar that day, admiring his style. He wore jeans, a T-shirt, and a flannel tied around his waist.
I caught him stealing glances at me throughout English class, which I was delighted to know we shared. Our eyes locked and his mouth curved up in a half smile. I bit my lip trying to hide my own smile.
I felt heavy-hearted when the day was over. I yearned to go up to him and say hi, but I was too shy. I would have to be satisfied by looking forward to the next day when I would see him again.
I was walking down the hall when he ran into me, literally, knocking me to the ground. “Oh! I’m so sorry,” he apologized outstretching his hand to help me up. I put my hand into his, which was warm and strong. Tingles shot through my body.
“Thank you.” I blushed, feeling flustered as I was inches from his body. Our eyes were locked again and I noticed what a beautiful shade of brown they were. 
He looked away first, “I really am sorry.” He bent down and picked up my books.
“It’s okay.”
Handing me my books, he gazed at me for a minute. The bell brought us back to the present, “I’ve got to go.”
I watched as he hurried down the dimly lit hallway. He was much more striking close up. I stood frozen until he disappeared around the corner. Finally, I was able to shake the spell he seemed to have over me and went on my way. From that perfect moment on, whenever he saw me in the halls, he would smile and I would smile back. “Do you like him?”
I spun around coming face to face with my best friend, “Yeah, Sophie, I do.”
Sophie’s beautiful tri-colored hair hung half way down her back. The red shirt that hung snugly on her body brought out her natural red highlights. Her eyes were hazel and they danced when she laughed. We had known each other for years and she was a terrific friend. We always had fun together and more importantly, we were always there for each other.
I was drawn to this boy more and more each day. I wanted desperately to be his girlfriend, but I wasn’t sure he was interested in letting it go that far.
As I was rushing to English class, I ran into him outside the classroom. We both laughed, “I guess we’re late, huh?”
He grinned, “Yeah. We can’t keep running into each other like this.”
“I know.”
“Do you… ah…”
The door opened and our teacher, Mrs. Leon stood there, “Would the two of you care to join us?”
I blushed and scooted to my seat. A few of the kids snickered. I glared at Mrs. Leon, temporarily hating her for interrupting. I was positive he was about to ask me out. Fuming about it for the rest of the period, I didn’t hear a word she said.
When the bell rang, I purposely took my time getting my things together, hoping he’d want to finish our conversation. He hopped over a chair and strode up to me, “As I was saying, would you like to go out this weekend?”
I smiled feeling the blood rush to my face, “On a date?”
He laughed, “Yeah, on a date.”
I nodded, “Sure.”
“Good. I’m Josh. Joshua Kory.” He stuck out his right hand.
Taking his hand in mind, I responded, “I’m Natalie Jarrett.”
“How about I pick you up at seven on Friday night?”
“Sounds good,” I answered as I quickly jotted down my address. As I handed it to him, I deliberately let my fingers graze his hand.
Sophie called me later that night, “Where do you want to go tomorrow night?”
“Actually, I can’t tomorrow,” I told her.
“You can’t?”
“Well, why not?” she asked.
“I’ve got a date.”
“You’ve got a date?”
“Yeah,” I smiled thinking of him.
“With the new kid?”
“Uh-huh, his name is Josh.”
“But, we always go out on Fridays,” she pouted.
I was glad she couldn’t see me rolling my eyes, “So, we’ll go out on Saturday.” She agreed and we hung up.
I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I couldn’t stop thinking about Josh. How he looked at me. How his eyes glistened when he smiled. I couldn’t believe someone so good looking had asked me out. Out of all the girls at school, he had chosen me. I imagined us at our prom, how gorgeous we’d look together, and how all the kids would talk. That image was the last thing going through my mind as I finally drifted off to sleep.
When I got home from school the next day, I grabbed a snack and hurried upstairs. I took a shower and after turning on my iPod, stood in front of my closet for what seemed like ages. I finally decided on short black shorts and a red sleeveless top. I put on deodorant and a dab of perfume. I opened my make-up drawer and chose a couple things. I put black eye liner and mascara around my blue eyes.
Then I took the towel off my head and brushed my hair out. I took after my mother with my natural red hair. She had the same hair color, but she wore her hair shorter. I had a small birthmark about an inch from the corner of my left eye. I rubbed some gel in my hands and ran it through my hair. I scrunched it up a bit and then sprayed it with hair spray. 
The door opened and my sister walked in. “Nat, do you know where the… Oh, don’t you look nice. Where are you going?” She stood next to me as I looked in the full-length mirror. At 5’6”, she was an inch taller, but I was just a little skinnier.
“Out. You never knock!” I smiled.
She smirked and shrugged, “Out with Sophie?” I shook my head. “Do you have a date?” she asked teasingly. I nodded trying not to let her know how elated I was. “Do Mom and Dad know you’re going on a date?”
“Of course. I told them yesterday.” I played with my hair. “Miranda, can I borrow your angel earrings?”
“Sure, as long as you give them back,” she answered. I rolled my eyes and nodded. She left and came back with the earrings. “So, who is it? Do I know him?”
“No, he’s new. His name is Josh and he’s really hot,” I smiled.
“I’m home!” I heard my mother yell. “Miranda? Natalie?”
I opened my door, “Be right down, Mom!” Miranda waved as she headed out.
I did some finishing touches, turned off the music and went downstairs, “Well, you look lovely, Natalie.”
“Thanks,” I sat down, not sure lovely was what I was going for, but it would be weird for my mom to tell me I looked sexy. “How was your day?”
“Good. Busy,” she said unloading groceries with Miranda’s help.
Dad walked in about ten minutes later, “Hey girls.” He walked over to my mom and gave her a kiss. Her blue eyes still sparkled when she was near him. He was a few inches taller than her with dark blond hair and hazel eyes. Miranda and I had both gotten Mom’s hair, but our eyes were different. Mine were blue eyes like our mother; hers were hazel like our father.
I always wondered where my birthmark came from. I was the only one in the family who had one. Mom used to tell me I was extra special because God had kissed me. I still wondered if I was “marked” for some reason.
“How was class today, Miranda?” Dad asked her. She was in her second year at the local community college.
She shrugged, “It was okay. How was your day?”
Dad owned an auto mechanic shop and my mother worked as a nurse in a pediatric doctor’s office. “Fine, thank you.”
The back door opened and my Uncle Carl walked in. “Hey everybody!”
“Hi, Uncle Carl,” I smiled. “Just get out of work?” He was still dressed in scrubs.
“Yeah, I spent the day helping out in the OR,” he said. Uncle Carl was a hot shot doctor. He was a surgeon and did a lot of the executive type stuff. I liked hearing about his cases, but didn’t care too much to hear the boring stuff. My grandfather had been a surgeon as well; it seemed to run in the family. I toyed with the idea of going into the health care field, but I wasn’t sure yet.
“Natalie, you look beautiful,” Dad kissed me on the cheek.
“Don’t get me dirty!” I took a step back.
“A date, huh?”
“Why is everybody making such a big deal over a date?” I asked getting a little frustrated. I knew I hadn’t had one in a few months, but it’s not like I had never gone out.
My family laughed, “We just like picking on you.” I rolled my eyes.
Finally, seven o’clock came and the doorbell rang. Miranda got to the door before I could. “Is Natalie here?” I heard him ask.
“Natalie, your date is here!”
I hurried to the door. Josh stood there looking dashing as always. He only wore jeans and a t-shirt, but it looked perfect on his muscular body. I bit my lip as I met his eyes and smiled, “Hi.”
“Well, Natalie, is this your date?” My dad asked coming into the room.
“Dad, please!” I jumped in between Josh and my dad.
“I’d like to see who my little girl is dating.”
“I’m seventeen!” I blushed.
“It’s okay Natalie, I don’t mind,” Josh smiled. “Hello Sir, I’m Josh Kory.”
Dad shook his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Josh. I’m Ben Jarrett and this is my wife, Allison.” Josh politely greeted them and shook both their hands. “So, where are you taking our daughter tonight?” Dad asked.
“We’re going to dinner and a movie,” he smiled looking amused with the whole situation.
“You’ll have her back by midnight?” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes Sir.”
“Very well then, we’ll see you later.”
I said good night to my family and we got to leave. Josh opened the car door for me. When he got in, I apologized, “I’m really sorry about that.”
“It’s okay. They’re normal parents,” he chuckled.
He took me to Friday’s. We talked through dinner getting to know one another. “Where did you move from?” I asked wanting to push his bangs to the side so I could see his eyes better.
“South Carolina.”
“Wow, why did you move all the way to New York?”
“My parents wanted a change.”
“Do you have siblings?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, a brother, Jarrod. He’s two years older. What about you?”
“Just my sister, she’s a couple years older as well.”
“Is she the one who answered the door?” I nodded taking a drink. He studied me for a moment, I blushed again. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Your beauty makes me speechless sometimes.” I think at that particular moment I blushed more than any girl ever has. “What do you want to do after you graduate?” he asked, changing the subject.
I hesitated for a moment, “I’m not sure yet, but I think I’d like to be a nurse. Do you have any plans?”
“I’d like to be in law enforcement,” he answered proudly. I nodded approvingly.
We soon finished dinner and went to see a movie, which ended up being one of those movies that was just okay. I was more interested in being with him, then paying attention to the storyline. Our fingers kept touching when we would reach for the popcorn and we’d steal a quick peek at each other. Once it was gone, he took my hand into his. I smiled even though I didn’t look at him. I felt ecstatic. I sat back, relaxed and watched the rest of the movie.
After the movie ended, he drove me home. We pulled up in front of my picture perfect house. It was nice cozy home with four bedrooms. I loved both the front and the back porch. The front porch and the hallway lights were the only ones on. “I had a good time.”
“Me too,” I smiled. “Thank you.”
“Would you like to go to the dance next weekend?” he asked.
“Yeah, I would like that.”
He leaned over closer to me, I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, he smelled so good. I felt his warm breath on my lips and then they touched my lips ever so gently. It was the perfect first kiss. He broke away first, “See you Monday.”
“Mhmmm,” I couldn’t say anything. I got out of the car and walked briskly into the house. It was dark and quiet. Carefully, I went upstairs and poked my head in my parents’ room, “I’m home.”
My Mom mumbled, “Okay.”
I went to my room, which was in the front of the house and peered out the window, he was looking up at me from his car. I put my hand up and waved, he waved back and took off. I stayed awake for a while thinking about Josh. He was so good looking and charming. I turned on the radio and listened to some music before finally drifting off to sleep.
The following night I went out with Sophie. We went to our favorite dance club, the one we had gone to almost every Friday night for the last year. The crowd was different since it was a Saturday, but we still had a good time. We just danced by ourselves and with each other. We were there for a good time, not to meet anybody. Sophie danced with a guy a couple times while I stayed at the table and daydreamed about Josh. We got home pretty late. I realized that Josh had called my cell phone, I must not have heard it with the loud music, and I figured it was too late to call him back.  
The next morning, I flipped through the channels on TV. I could never find anything interesting on Sundays. It was either religious programs or sports. Sometimes we went to church, sometimes we had a big dinner, or sometimes we did absolutely nothing. This particular Sunday, I did my homework and cleaned my room. I had a full size bed with stripes, all different shades of blue. The curtains and lamp matched the bedding. My walls were decorated with a peace pinboard and peace wall decals. As I was rearranging the pictures I had on my pinboard, Sophie called and we talked for a while.
Monday morning I practically flew to school in the blue Toyota Corolla that I shared with my sister. I couldn’t wait to see Josh. He was waiting by my locker. “Hi,” he smiled.
“Hi,” I blushed, my mind flashing back to the last moment I had been with him.
“Did you have a good weekend?” he asked tilting his head. I nodded and opened my locker. “What did you do Saturday night? I tried to call.”
“Sophie and I went dancing, I didn’t hear the phone.”
“Oh, did you meet some new guys?” he asked sounding upset.
“No,” I laughed. “It was just Sophie and me. We usually go Friday nights, but since I had a date with you, we went Saturday instead.”
“So, you didn’t dance with any other guys?” he glared at me.
“No, I didn’t,” I smiled, brushing off his tone.
“I don’t like the thought of you with anybody else,” he said sternly.
“Honestly, Josh, it was just a girl thing.” He paused for a minute, then took my hand and walked me to class.
I thought about our conversation all day. He had gotten so worked up about the possibility I may have met a guy. It bothered me that he didn’t take my word for it. At lunchtime, I sat down with Sophie and we talked. I rambled on and on about how much I liked Josh, but I still couldn’t get that uneasy feeling out of my head.

Teagan’s Story: Her Battle With Epilepsy

By Talia Jager

Chapter 1

I stood frozen in front of the two-story brick building. My feet felt as if they were stuck to the sidewalk. To me, the building looked enormous from the street. I didn’t want to go in, and yet, I knew I had to. I fought back the tears and slowly started walking towards it.
Over the door, in big, white letters it read: NORTHSIDE HIGH SCHOOL. Teenagers swarmed around the door and on the front lawn near a flagpole. The flag flapped in the wind high above their heads.
My mother had sheltered me from all this. Many times I hated her for it. Now, I could only wish this was all a nightmare. Maybe I’d wake up any minute and be back at home with her. But, it didn’t happen. I didn’t wake up because this was real.
Reaching the front door, I pulled it open. The weight of the door surprised me; I hadn’t expected it to be so heavy. I went in and spotted the office to the right, enclosed in glass. I walked through the open door. “Can I help you?” An older lady with obviously dyed, black hair asked.
I swallowed, “Yes, my name is Teagan Kavanagh. I’m starting here today.”
She picked through a pile of folders, “Ah, yes, right here. The guidance counselor has your schedule. Their office is right over there,” she pointed across the hall. “Ask for Mrs. Tavi.”
“Thank you,” I said and stepped back into the hallway. I let out a deep breath. Step one done. Onto step two. I walked into the guidance office. It was much bigger than the main office. A bookcase full of college books took up one entire wall. “I’m here to see Mrs. Tavi.” I told the lady at the front desk.
“What’s your name, dear?” she asked her voice thick with a Spanish accent.
“Teagan Kavanagh.”
Her nameplate read: Mrs. Torres. She picked up the phone, “You have a student up in front. You’re welcome.” She hung up. “She’ll be right out.”
Seconds later, a lady with light brown hair appeared. “Hello Teagan. Come on back.” She led me to her office. The walls were covered with letters from students, some kids’ drawings, and pictures of what I assumed were her family. “Please sit down.”
“The office told me to pick up my schedule from you,” I told her. I really didn’t want to talk. But, I had a feeling she wanted me to.
“We’re glad to have you here. Of course, we’re sorry about the death of your parents,” she said putting on her thin-rimmed glasses and looking over my file. I nodded. “I understand you have been home schooled.”
“Because of your epilepsy?” she looked up.
I looked away, my eyes moist, “Yes.”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Teagan.” Her hazel eyes seemed to search my face. “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it now,” she smiled sweetly.
“It’s just hard.” I bit my bottom lip.
She patted my hand, “You did well on the placement tests you had to take. You are right where you should be, if not more advanced. Do you have any certain subjects you’d like to take?” she asked, handing me a tissue.
I shrugged, “I’m not really sure. I like most of them.”
“Okay. Is there anything you don’t like?”
“The boring stuff.”
She laughed, “Well, I’m sure every subject can get boring.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Do you have any friends here?”
“A couple. I had friends on the street where… where I used to live.”
“Good. It has to be difficult coming here in your junior year.”
I nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”
“I hope you can make friends easily. I hope the students here treat you well. If you have any problems, please come see me.”
“Thank you.”
 “Do you have a lot of seizures?”
I nodded, dabbing my eyes. “That’s why they kept me home.”
“You’re on medication, correct?”
“Yes. I think it helps some, but not completely.”
“This worries you, doesn’t it?” she asked.
“Sure, I could have one at any time. Nobody here knows me, how are they going to react when I have one? Will I make any friends at all?” I immediately regretted my outburst.
“I’m sure you will. We’ll figure it out. I’m going to walk you over to the nurse, I want her to meet you. By that time your ‘buddy’ will be here. She is in some of your classes can take you around and help you out,” she told me.
Mrs. Tavi led me out of the office into the crowded hallways. Homeroom would begin soon. A few kids looked at me, probably wondering who I was. I tried to smile or nod or say hi. I didn’t know what to say or how to act around all these other kids. The nurses’ office wasn’t too far. Mrs. Tavi walked in and introduced me, “Mrs. Becker, this is our new student Teagan.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” she smiled. Her round dark eyes looked me over. “I read the file. You have epilepsy.”
“I see that you are on Depakote and Topamax?” she asked, flipping her long, dark hair back.
“How well does that work for you?”
“It doesn’t.” I had to keep from laughing.
“So you have breakthrough seizures?”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“Are they grand mal?”
“You also have petit mal episodes?” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Yes,” I nodded getting bored of the questions. “Actually, they usually call them absence seizures and tonic-clonic seizures,” I corrected her.
“Right,” she nodded, making a note in my file. “How often do they happen?”
I knew she was just doing her job, but I hated answering all this. It was probably a good thing my parents kept me home. I’d go nuts if I had to explain to everybody. Sighing softly, so I wouldn’t upset anyone, I answered, “It varies. Sometimes they happen a couple days a week, sometimes I go a couple weeks without one. Sometimes more, sometimes less.”
“Wow. The doctors can’t do anything?”
“Not really.”
“Do you go to the hospital when you have a seizure?”
“Only if they’re really long or I hit my head,” I told her. “Something requiring medical attention. Otherwise, I just do my thing. I come out of it and go to sleep for a while.”
“Okay, well, I will make sure all of your teachers are aware of this. Maybe we’ll get lucky and you won’t have one while you’re here.”
Yeah right, I thought.
The bell rang just as Mrs. Tavi and I got back to the guidance office. We went inside, “Ah, Madalyn. Thanks for coming down. This is Teagan, your buddy.”
“Hi,” she smiled at me. Madalyn’s chocolate brown hair was pulled back in a big clip. She wore some makeup, not a lot, but more than just foundation and lipstick. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You too,” I smiled hoping she really was nice and wasn’t just putting on a show for the guidance counselor.
“Here you go,” Mrs. Tavi handed both of us a copy of my schedule. “You’ll see that you are in many of the same classes or right near each other.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome. Come on back during your study hall and I’ll get you set up with a locker and anything else you need.”
I nodded and left with Madalyn. “We’re in the same homeroom,” she told me. “Then we have first period, English together and a couple other classes. Homeroom is this way,” she led the way. “Where are you from?” she asked.
“Here,” I didn’t want to totally make stuff up.
“But, you didn’t come to this school?”
“No, I went elsewhere,” I said.
She looked at me like she was expecting more, but then she looked down the hall. “It’s the second room from the end.”
We continued walking. ‘Thanks, Madalyn.”
“You can call me, Maddie,” she said. “Teagan is a unique name.”
“Yeah, it’s a family name. My parents are from Ireland.”
“Oh yeah? Like they immigrated?”
I nodded, “Yeah. My brother and I were born here, but the rest of my family is in Ireland.”
“That’s neat,” she smiled. “Here we are.”
I took a deep breath and walked into the room. Here goes nothing. Please God, please don’t let me have a seizure today, I pleaded. Maddie walked up to the teacher. He was very tall with grey hair and a short beard. “Yes, Miss Kembel?”
“This is Teagan Kavanagh. She’s new here.”
“Oh! Welcome Miss Kavanagh. There are a few empty desks in the back row. Pick one,” he said motioning to the back.
“Thank you,” I hurried past the kids who were staring at me and sat down. Maddie sat down in the second row and started talking to some girls near her. Even though many people were looking at me, nobody said anything. I didn’t mind. I didn’t know how to answer their questions. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weird quite yet. I knew it would happen eventually. Once I had an episode in school, people would know.
The principal came on the loudspeaker and asked us to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. After the morning announcements, the teacher took attendance, and the bell rang.
Maddie walked over to me and said, “English is just down the hall.” I nodded following her out. “The teacher is really great.”
We walked in the room. The desks were arranged in half circle with the teacher’s desk at the mouth of the circle. Maddie walked up to the teacher who was sitting at her desk. “Mrs. McGee?”
She looked up. Her face was smooth, her lips thin, and her eyes sparkled. “Good morning, Maddie. How can I help you?”
“This is Teagan Kavanagh, she’s new to the school,” she introduced me.
Mrs. McGee shifted her attention to me, “Well, hello. It’s nice to have you here. Do you enjoy English?”
I nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”
She smiled, “Please, call me Mrs. McGee. Ma’am sounds so old.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
Her long brown hair fell over her shoulders as she looked down, “I have a couple extra desks. We can put one at either end of the row. Do you have a preference?”
“No. Either one will be fine.”
“Okay,” she got up and pulled over a desk into the half circle. “There you go. Let me get you a text book.”
I sat down at the desk. Maddie sat at hers as more kids dwindled in. She was only two down from me. “You have math next with Mr. Adams. He’s okay, but he’s tough. I’m next to you in a different class. Then we’ll be in the same computer class, lunch and study hall,” she told me.
I smiled, “Great!” I tried to sound enthusiastic when I really just wanted to go home. Just to curl up on the couch sounded like a dream.
The bell rang and more kids flew into class. Mrs. McGee looked up, “Be on time tomorrow!” she warned them. “Here you go, Teagan. Write your name in it and cover it please.”
I nodded, “Thank you.”
I saw the people looking at me. “We have a new student in class. This is Teagan. Please make her feel welcome,” Mrs. McGee said. I smiled again trying to show I was normal.
English class was good. They were going over a book they had just finished reading and the teacher assigned a new one. She also gave out spelling lists and vocabulary words. “The test is Friday, study them. Next Monday, you will have the test on the first five chapters of the book.”
When the bell rang, Mrs. McGee dismissed the class, “Teagan, could I speak with you a moment please?”
“Sure,” I got up.
“I’ll wait for you outside,” Maddie said.
I went up to the teacher’s desk. “I got a memo about you,” she smiled. “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Maddie or anyone else. You’ve been home schooled for up until now?”
“Usually the school doesn’t tell the teachers the medical problems of their students unless it’s extremely important. In your case it was very important for all of us to know. I understand you often have seizures?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “It says you have both absence seizures as well as tonic-clonic?”
“Yes,” I was thankful someone knew at least some of what they were talking about.
“If you miss something in class, please let me know, I will go over it with you.”
“Thank you.”
“My sister has epilepsy. Hers is controlled though. I don’t think she’s had any episodes in years.”
“I wish that would happen with me,” I sighed.
She nodded understandingly, “I’ll let you go now. You should make sure all of your teachers read the memo and know what’s going on. If you have an episode in class, not all of us will notice, so you may have to come on up later on and tell us.”
“That’s really great of you. I appreciate it,” I smiled.
“Go on now,” she looked back down at her books.
I met up with Maddie in the hall. “What was that about?” she asked.
I shrugged, “Just a couple getting to know you questions.”
“Hey Maddie,” a hot looking guy smiled at her.
“Hey,” she said back. We had to go upstairs for the next class. Math. Math didn’t thrill me. I could do it, but I didn’t like it. Maddie said hi to some more people on our way. More people looked at me, but nobody said anything. Maybe they all knew about my illness. Maybe that’s why nobody would talk to me. No, I dismissed that idea. The school could get in trouble if they released that information to the students.
“Here’s your class,” she stopped at a door. “Mine is right there,” she pointed next door. “I’ll see you afterwards.”
I went into the class and introduced myself. Mr. Harmon was an older man. The wrinkles covering his forehead made him look stern, but he was nice enough to find me a seat and give me a book. “I hope you can get your place and keep up with us,” he said.
I nodded. “Sir, did you get the memo about me?” I asked quietly as kids were starting to come in.
“Yes, I did. But, no excuses in this class. You do the work or you fail.”
“Of course. I just meant that if I have an episode here in class… could I come to you afterwards and see what I missed?” I tried to ask it like Mrs. McGee had put it.
He looked up at me, “Well, I suppose if that was necessary…” The bell rang. “Please take your seat.”
I nodded and sat down. A girl with dark black hair sat next to me, “Hey.”
I smiled, “Hey.”
“You new?” she asked.
“Yup,” I said back.
“Tough to be thrown in here.”
I nodded, “Sure is.” She had black fingernail polish on and a lot of dark make-up. Her clothes were black too. My mother would have called her a “Goth girl”. She seemed friendly though. “How is this class?” I asked.
“Boring. Harmon picks on me all the time because of the way I look. He doesn’t think I’m smart. I always get him though, because I answer correctly and that angers him,” she told me with a smirk on her face.
I laughed. “I’m Teagan,” I introduced myself.
She scoffed, “Cute. I’m Eve.”
The teacher started class. He did go fast, but the work wasn’t as hard as he made it out to be. He did call on me a couple times and I answered his questions. He seemed quietly impressed.
Afterwards, Maddie met me in the hallway. “How did it go?”
“Not bad. Where to?” I asked.
“Back downstairs and to the other wing. This is a longer walk,” she told me. “Are you starting to figure out where everything is?”
“A little. It shouldn’t take me too long.”
“So, were you into any clubs at your old school?” she asked.
“Um… no. I used to take music lesson, but I stopped. I didn’t really get a chance to get into anything else,” I told her.
“Well, if you want to get involved, I’m sure there are clubs that would like to have you.”
“I don’t think I’m real talented at anything,” I said. I had so many other issues to deal with that, taking on a hobby, joining a club, those weren’t in the plans.
“Well, just in case.”

Last Week's Featured Author:

Lia Fairchild Author of   In Search of Lucy on Amazon or Nook  or  fReado

Chapter 5

“I’ll drive,” Anne offered as the two stood in the hallway about to leave. Anne was taller than Lucy, 5’7 to be exact. She had blonde hair that was long and straight. She was sweet and a bit naïve, and more on the cute side rather than pretty. It surprised Lucy how Anne was drawn to her even though Lucy was not very inviting. Anne was very laid back and friendly, and never took the things Lucy said personally. It didn’t seem to faze her when Lucy was closed off or negative.

The club was about ninety percent full when they arrived, and the girls sat at a table more towards the front. Benny’s friend Zach was on stage and about to finish up. They had missed the first guy and there would be a short break before Benny, who was third out of five.

The girls chatted a bit, but it was mostly Anne talking and Lucy listening. She wanted to tell Lucy all about a guy she was interested in at the hospital. She spoke as if they were in High School, saying things like, “totally hot,” and “awesome.”  Lucy was just about to excuse herself to the restroom when Benny came on stage.

To start the night, Lucy had a couple of beers at home before she met Anne outside Mrs. Allen’s apartment. She added to that the two drinks that came with the cover charge. Before Benny was through with his bit, she was feeling pretty out of it. Not being able to sit there any longer, she told Anne she was going to leave.

“I just gotta get outta here,” Lucy said swaying in her chair just a bit. “It’s too hot in here.”

“Okay, let’s both go then,” Anne said. “I’ll drive us back. I’m fine.”

Laughter bellowed through the room as Benny delivered his quips and stories in a conversational voice. That was part of his style. He wanted the audience to feel as though they were just hanging out talking with him. The bright lights on stage made it difficult to make out any intricacies in the audience, so he didn’t notice that the girls were talking and not paying attention.

“No, Benny will be so bummed. You stay here and I’ll take the bus.” Lucy started to get up and tried to look totally in control.

“Are you sure, Lucy?” Anne sound worried.

“Really, I want to take my time going home anyway. I’ll see you later.”

Anne looked concerned but said, “Okay, be careful.” She knew not to argue with Lucy. When she wanted to be alone, that was it, end of conversation.

Lucy walked to the back of the bar, out of sight, and stood for a few minutes. She couldn’t quite leave yet because she actually wanted to hear some more of Benny’s act. He was talking about his family being poor when he was growing up and how he and his brothers used to eat breakfast. He explained how they used to eat their cereal with a fork, then they’d pass the bowl with the milk to the next person to use. She laughed and on impulse looked around at the other people laughing. She noticed a man at the bar staring at her. He looked vaguely familiar and mouthed a “hey” that seemed to say he recognized her.

While she was still looking at him, he got up from the bar and walked toward her. Lucy’s first instinct was to take off. Caught off guard and with a pretty good buzz, she turned too slow and the man was suddenly in front of her. He was clean shaven, wore a business suit and had short sandy-colored hair.

“Lucy…Lang.” He snapped his fingers. “I thought that was you.”

“Hi…uh,” Lucy replied. She did think he looked familiar but still couldn’t place him. She looked straight ahead as if she were engrossed in what was going on up on the stage.

“Kyle,” he said as if everyone should remember him. “Kyle Benson, Westen High School, we had Mr. Beamer’s Science class together.” He put his hand out even though she wasn’t looking at him.

“Oh, yeah, right, Mr. Beamer.” She nodded and smiled but wasn’t a hundred percent sure she remembered him. Then she took his hand and shook it.

“It’s good to see you, Lucy,” he said as if they had been long lost friends.

“Yeah, you too.” Sure, she took that class, but that was a dozen years ago. And, she didn’t really date too many guys in her class. She had to give him credit though. He remembered her, and he still approached her. Maybe he didn’t remember everything about her.

Kyle crossed in front of her and stood on the other side as if to cause a distraction. Their eyes met for a moment and she noticed his deep blue eyes focusing tightly on hers, as if to get a read on what she was thinking. “How’ve you been, Lucy? You look great.”

This was actually one of her better looking nights. Typically, due to her budget and motivation Lucy’s wardrobe consisted of mostly jeans and t-shirts. Tonight, she had her hair down and wore just enough make-up to show up on her light olive complexion. She had on black and silver croppy pants and a short sleeve black shirt that fit snuggly against her thin body. She would have normally felt uncomfortable talking as if they were old friends, but was in the mood to play along. “Good, and you?”

“Great. I’m working for a marketing company now. Some of us go out together after work…but everyone pretty much left.” He gestured toward the door. “Were you leaving?”

“Actually…, yeah. But, good seeing you.” She turned to walk away half hoping he would stop her. It had been months since she had dated anyone and almost two years since she’d had a boyfriend. It would be nice to talk to someone new since she rarely had the opportunity to meet new people.

Reaching out and grabbing her arm he said, “You need a ride?”

Lucy stopped and smiled, trying not to let on that she was happy, or that she had been drinking. That was a skill she had mastered over the years. “I was going to take the bus…but sure, thanks.”

Chapter 6

Kyle had a black Toyota Four Runner and was parked just outside the club. As he opened her door in the full gentleman role, she felt a hint of hesitation. These were the situations that parents warned you were dangerous. Lucy knew that, but was in the mood to take chances. She got in and while Kyle walked around to the driver’s side, she took a quick look in the mirror. She felt a twinge of excitement as he rounded the back end of the car and opened his door.

In the car, there was a brief moment of awkward silence until he began to search for music. He pressed number three on the CD player. “You like Green Day?” he said looking straight ahead.


“I remember now…you never did talk that much in school.” He chuckled.

That was an unsettling statement to respond to. She didn’t want to just start rambling like an idiot to prove him wrong, or keep sitting there like some wallflower. The pressure of the silent seconds ticking in her head caused a sudden, yet casual, “Sor-freakin-ry.”

Taken by total surprise he burst out laughing. “Well I didn’t expect that.” He put a hand on her knee. “I’m the one who’s sorry,” he said. “Listen, I’m supposed to meet some friends for a get together. Do you want to go? It’s just a few people for drinks and it’s not too far from here.”

“Sure, why not,” she replied surprising herself.

“I just need to stop by the store. I always hate walking in empty handed.”

Now at JPs Market, Lucy waited in the car while Kyle ran in to grab some wine for the party. Sitting there, Lucy suddenly began to feel that this was a big mistake. Her fight or flight was kicking in and she thought the latter would be a much better option. She wondered why she had agreed to go with him. But, she knew why. Did she really think she could make it through a party being nice and polite to total strangers; enough for Kyle to like her and want to spend the night with her? Was she even sure that was what she wanted? The anxiety was rising in her and she was starting to lose the buzz she earned earlier in the evening.

Nervously, Lucy looked at her phone, then out into the store window. She glanced around all the angles of the car to see who was around. For a second she almost opened the door to get out and leave. In the back seat she noticed a small bag that looked like it was for toiletries. She grabbed it and began to rummage through it. It seemed to hold the usual stuff: mini toothpaste, floss, shampoo. Then she saw a prescription bottle. She yanked out the bottle and turned until she saw what it was; Vicoden.

Looking up she noticed that Kyle was not at the cash register yet. What was she considering here? What would he think of her if he found out? At this point she didn’t really care. Besides, he wouldn’t miss a few and it’s always good to have a few pain killers around for emergency. Not to mention the fact that she needed to ease her current tensions. Popping open the bottle, she poured four pills into her hand. Holding them tightly in her hand, she replaced the cap and put the bottle back in the bag. She opened her purse and pulled out her wallet. On the side there was a zipper which she opened and tried to pour the pills in. To her dismay, only one pill fell in and the other three dropped between her legs. She looked up in a panic to see where Kyle was and found him paying at the counter. Now she really felt idiotic. She dug down and pulled one out and dropped it in the wallet. Two more she thought. Kyle grabbed his change and headed back to the car as Lucy dropped her wallet in her purse and set it on the floor.

“Hey,” he said as he slid in the car. He reached in the bag, pulled out a candy bar and handed it to her. “Here, I got you a treat,” he said smiling.

Lucy took the chocolate and replied, “Oh…thanks.” She couldn’t decide if that was strange or sweet, but she was leaning more towards sweet.

Kyle set the bag on the back seat next to the little black bag.

Lucy smiled, trying to act casual, and put her hands between her thighs as if she was cold, which actually she did feel a little chill. In the dark he wouldn’t notice her looking for the pills so she began feeling around.

“Oh, I’ll turn the heater on for you,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said still running her fingers around. Then, she felt them in the crease of the seat. “Mind if I have a sip of your water?” She gestured to a bottle with her head.

“Sure, but it’s been there a few hours.”

“That’s okay. My throat is really dry.”  She turned her head to look out her window, popped the two of them in her mouth and took a long drink from the bottle. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” He smiled but kept his eyes on the road.

Ten minutes later they arrived at a two-story home in a family-style neighborhood. Kyle grabbed the bag, got out of the car and started to walk around to her side intending to open her door. Before he got there she was already opening the door to get out. The cool breeze felt exhilarating on her skin and flying through her hair. She froze for a brief moment to enjoy it and then her expression faded.

“Don’t worry,” he said as stood next to her. “Everyone here is really nice.”

“Did I say I was worried?” She walked up the driveway towards the house as Kyle followed closely behind. He thought about the women he’d been dating lately compared to Lucy. There was something intriguing about her, but he couldn’t put his finger on why he already felt an attraction to her. Hopefully tonight he could make her feel comfortable enough to reveal more about herself.

Walking through the door without knocking, they were greeted with “Kyle!” shouted in unison from half a dozen people. Lucy noted his obvious popularity. Like magic, a woman appeared from a doorway and handed them each a margarita. That will work. For the few cars that were outside, there were more people than she expected.  The house was dimly lit and there were several candles lit throughout the main living area. Most of the guests were standing in and about the living and kitchen area and a couple was sitting outside, talking as if they were having a very serious discussion.

Kyle introduced Lucy as a friend to most of the guests but she barely remembered anyone’s name.  They’d only been there for about thirty minutes, but the alcohol-pills-alcohol schedule she was executing caused her head to spin, fast!  She spied a seat at the end of the sofa and went straight for it without letting Kyle know. She didn’t want to interrupt his conversation with a beautifully dressed woman who appeared to be the hostess. From the sofa, she watched as Kyle smiled and touched the woman’s arm during their conversation. Instinctively it made her smile for a moment. All around her she listened to bits of broken chit chat on various topics, until Kyle finally turned and noticed her on the couch.

“I’ll be right back,” he said softly in her ear after walking over to her. “Do you need to go?” He gestured toward the hallway and she assumed that meant the restroom.

“I’m fine,” Lucy replied taking note of the gentle way about him. It was like he was speaking to a timid child. She assumed he was that way with everyone based on her earlier observation; otherwise she may have been offended. Or maybe he was treating her with kid gloves. She wasn’t sure of anything at that point except that her head was starting to feel inflated.

Lucy watched Kyle as he walked off and disappeared down a hallway. How the hell did I get myself into this on? she thought. She figured that her best bet was to apologize and ask him to take her home. On the other hand, she absolutely hated asking people for help or being an imposition. Before she knew it, she was off the couch and headed for the door. Walking past a sea of blurry faces, the door seemed to be getting further and further away. An arm that didn’t appear to be attached to anyone reached out to her.

“Are you okay?” a voice murmured in slow motion.

Lucy picked up the pace and started running. She finally reached the door and bolted outside. There was no way she could make it home like this. She wanted to puke it out of her, but she was well aware it was too late for that. Her head was blowing up, spinning, but if she could get to a bus stop she was home free. About a year ago, Lucy was without her own transportation and completely mastered the bus system. She slowed from her run to a speed walk until she got to a main road, and miraculously tracked down a bus stop. After a few minutes of standing under the dimly lit bus sign, next to a thin Hispanic man, the bus finally arrived. She thought about jumping in front of it instead of getting on. How she made it back from there to the Sunset Vista apartments is a complete blackout.


When Benny’s set was over, Anne was there waiting for him with a giant grin. “You were so great,” she cheered while doing little mini claps with her hands. She had explained that Lucy left, but saw most of his time. She also told him that Lucy apologized and said that Benny did a great job. He knew better. That didn’t sound like Lucy, and Anne was always trying to smooth things over.

“Thanks, Anne,” he said modestly. “But I blew that bit about bosses.” 

Benny had insisted on them following each other home to be safe. He enjoyed taking on that big brother role since he didn’t have any sisters of his own, just brothers. Normally he would be going out to continue the laughs with his buddies, but he had to admit he was tired from all the apprehension of the night.

Returning from the parking lot, Benny and Anne walked back to the apartment. They talked and laughed about the show and hadn’t even noticed that they were about to step right on top of Lucy. There she was lying on the ground a few feet away from the stairs.

“Oh my God, Lucy!” Anne screeched as she ran and kneeled down next to Lucy.

Benny was right behind her and took a swift glance around to survey the situation. “Lucy!” He grasped her shoulders and shook them slightly to see if she would jar awake. The night air was cool and thick and the full moon seemed to be providing the spotlight they needed.

“Do you think she was attacked or mugged or something?” Anne looked desperately at Benny. She was not used to this type of situation. “Should we call 911?”

“Hold on a second.” Benny checked her pulse and breathing. He was composed and acted as if he had experienced this many times before. “She’s breathing. Let’s see if we can get her conscious first.”  He shook her again only a bit harder this time. “Lucy, can you hear me? C’mon Lucita, wake up!”

“Benny! We’re wasting time.” Anne grabbed her purse and began searching hysterically for her cell phone. “I’m calling 911.”

“Don’t make me kick your ass,” a slurred and quiet voice came from below. Lucy stirred slightly and groaned.

Benny and Anne shook their heads and smiled at each other.

“Lucy, you scared us,” Anne said. Thank God you’re okay. I mean, are you okay?”

“God…kill me now,” she moaned and rolled over to her side.

“C’mon girl, let’s get you inside.” Benny picked Lucy up like a new bride and carried her up the stairs to her apartment. “Anne, grab her purse.”

“Got it,” she said trying to sound helpful. She gathered up both purses and followed them up the stairs. Before reaching the top, Anne was able to find Lucy’s apartments keys to open the door.

In Benny’s arms Lucy’s eyes were closed but she spoke quietly. “I don’t need you Benny. I don’t need anyone.” A tear rolled down her cheek and landed on Benny’s arm.

“I know,” he whispered.

Chapter 4


People say if you hear something about yourself enough times, you begin to believe it. Lucy experienced more than her share of negative criticism and hostility throughout her life. Her mother Linda had gone from a sweet loving mom to a bitter, cruel woman. And, as many victims of abuse blame themselves, Lucy carried her anger, guilt, and sadness around like a bullet proof vest. It kept her safe from being hurt, yet made her stiff and impenetrable. She wondered if there was something more she could have done to help her mother. Maybe if she had been more supportive and less defensive. On the other hand, she wondered how her mother could have done that to her. How could she turn things upside down and then just leave? With no one else to turn to Lucy did her best to cope and handle the situations that came up. To her that meant protecting Katie, even if it also meant that Lucy would take the brunt of the backlashes from Linda.


Lucy could see now that a turning point came when she was in High School. When she was around sixteen, she was basically taking care of herself and Katie. There were times when Linda didn’t even come home at night. She’d leave some cash on the table, tips from her waitressing job she was barely hanging on to. Often times they’d wake up in the morning to her passed out on the couch. On two occasions, child protective services received anonymous calls and a case worker was sent to the house. Both times Lucy was able to convince them everything was fine, even though Linda wasn’t even home for one of the visits. Another ghastly example of the country’s economic crisis; overworked social workers.


One particular night when Linda didn’t come home until about two in the morning, Lucy awoke to the sound of Linda talking loudly to herself. Lucy realized that she had been looking at the bills that were on the counter. She was swearing about a bill from a hospital they had taken Katie to. Katie had been very sick and wasn’t getting better on her own. When she took a turn for the worse, Lucy convinced Linda to take Katie to the hospital where they ran a few tests. The insurance company was not covering the entire balance and sent the remaining amount to Linda.


Lucy could hear the yelling getting closer, then farther as if Linda were pacing. “These damn kids! What the hell do they ever do but cost me money.” Then there was shuffling around, noises in the kitchen, more yelling, glass breaking. Lucy became expert at knowing what each sound meant, especially when Linda was drinking. What worried her this time was that Linda sounded much more agitated than her normal sloppy drunk disposition. She prayed that Linda hadn’t been doing more than just drinking. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time she had been concerned about that.


Lucy had been lying there for about an hour until she was sure Linda was done with her ranting, and fell asleep. The next day Lucy got Katie up early and the girls left for school without even having breakfast. Lucy also arranged for Katie to go home with her friend after school just in case things hadn’t blown over at home by the time they got there.


When Linda woke up around one in the afternoon, she wondered where the girls were. She actually thought it was Saturday and not Thursday. She spent the next couple of hours fuming. By the time Lucy walked in around three-thirty, Linda reached her boiling point. She was sitting in a chair just staring at the front door.


“Where the hell have you been?” Linda held without moving a single muscle. Her dishwater blond hair was no longer sprinkled with gray, it was drowning in it. Lack of proper health and nutrition exacerbated the cruel pilfering that age was already executing on Linda’s facial features. Instead of looking sophisticated and beautiful as most would have expected from her, she was haggard and beat down.


“School.” Lucy said as she passed Linda and headed for the kitchen.


“You liar!” Linda jumped up from the chair and followed Lucy into the kitchen.

“What could you possibly be doing at school on Saturday… and where’s Katie?”


Trying to sound calm, while feeling the complete opposite inside, Lucy said, “Today is Thursday, mom. You can check the calendar if you don’t believe me.”


“Don’t talk to me like I’m an idiot! Where’s Katie?” Her breathing was fast and heavy.


“She’s at Kelsey’s house.” Lucy set her things down on the table and then moved back toward the living room. She struggled to keep her voice steady.


“Her mom picked them up after school so they could work on a project.”


Linda grabbed Lucy’s arm as she was walking by her. “You call her and get her back here right now!” Their eyes met only for a second, but it was long enough for Lucy to see where this was going.


“No!” Lucy jerked her arm away and ran toward her bedroom. Her mother chased behind, but Lucy was able to shut and lock the door just before Linda grabbed the knob.


“You little bitch! You better open this door right now!” Linda banged on the door with a closed fist. “Don’t you dare think you are in charge here. You’re just a stupid little girl!”


Lucy slid down the back of the door with her hands over her ears. She knew the cycle, and she knew this outrage would eventually turn from anger to sorrow and then eventually, sometimes, pity. It was a standoff and with her will, she knew she would win. She thought of prisoners in solitary. How long would they sit, staring at that door waiting for it to open? She’d wait forever if she had to. She wouldn’t crack under pressure.


“I’m your mother… and you have to… listen to me.”  Linda banged a few more times but her head couldn’t handle the noise or the force. Her arm fell to her side. “You’re not in charge of Katie, she’s my…baby!” Her body slumped to the ground and propped against the door. “I’m in charge,” she cried. “I’m the mom around here.”


They both cried, Lucy silently, on either side of the door for twenty minutes before Linda made the first move. She went to the kitchen and began cleaning the mess from last night. Then she reached in her pocket, pulled out a wad of cash and plunked it on the table. Lucy stayed in her position against the door. Her face and eyes were still wet, but she was passed the emotional storm. Now she had to figure out what to do next. She could hear the rustling around going on in the other room but found herself still glued to the floor. After a few more minutes, there was a door slam, and then silence.


Still hesitant, she waited in her room until she felt safe, and then opened the door a crack to peak out. She knew her mother was gone because that was the only thing Linda could do when she felt guilty. Lucy went to the living room and then into the kitchen and noticed the money on the table along with a small white piece of paper. She walked over and picked up the paper which had only two words on it, Forgive Me.


Lucy began to cry again as she crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash. She couldn’t take a chance that Katie would see it. As bad as things were, both Linda and Lucy tried hard to make things seem normal when Katie was there. Walking sullenly back to the living room, Lucy collapsed on the couch. She grabbed a pillow and pulled it tight against her as she closed her eyes in complete exhaustion.


Lucy never felt more alone than she did at that moment. Not only did she believe there wasn’t a sole out there that could help her, she was also very confused about her life and where it was going. Was that how things were supposed to be? How much longer could she go on like that? She couldn’t have known that it would be six more years of being on that emotional rollercoaster. 


Now the ride was over, but the aftermath was still very unstable. How could Lucy figure out who she was, or who she could become, if she didn’t even know who she used to be? She couldn’t find a place in her own family let alone the world. At times Lucy was a daughter, a sister, and a mother, but now she was nobody.


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