SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘LIFTED’

Anzu promo

From LIFTED':

“Do you think I’m too dependent on my brother?”

“What’s ‘too dependent’ mean?” Anzu asked, looking over her shoulder.

She’d stopped by to hang out after a fight with her girlfriend and since it was Tessa’s night off, they decided to order Chinese and watch movies. While waiting for the delivery, Anzu was pouring them glasses of wine from the bottle she’d picked up on her way over.

“I don’t know. That’s the thing. I think my shrink is on some kind of a mission to prove I’m too attached to him, or something.” Tessa took the glass of red Anzu handed her.

“Well forget her. Who’s she to say what’s too attached? You lost your parents and he’s the only person you have.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Tessa said.

She didn’t point out that that wasn’t exactly true anymore. She had Shayla. And she had—and had always had—a large group of friends. She and Trey even had extended family, though they hadn’t made much effort to get to know them over the years. Only now, with Shayla’s parents and family were they both becoming a little more interested, and curious about their relatives beyond the two of them.

“But …” Anzu sat cross-legged on the floor near Tessa’s feet. “Well, anyway, forget it.”

“No. What? What were you about to say?”

“Okay, but I want you to take this with a grain of salt,” Anzu began carefully. “Because I’m an only child so there’s a good chance I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, okay?”

Tessa nodded. “Go ahead.”

“You do preface a whole lot with, ‘my brother would just die …’ or ‘Trey would kill me if…’ It’s almost like a reflex with you, no matter what, to think about what he would think, or what he would do,” Anzu said slowly. “I’ve stopped trying to figure out whether you do the things you do because you want him to react, or you do them in spite of how he would react. Sometimes I wonder if you know why you do them.”

Tessa said nothing for so long that Anzu put down her glass of wine and turned, getting on her knees and placing both hands on Tessa’s thighs.

“Look,” she said. “I told you I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, I just …”

“No, it was an honest answer,” Tessa said, putting her hands over Anzu’s. “You …”

Just then the apartment door opened and Ty was standing there. Wearing sweats and a white-t-shirt, he looked like he’d recently worked out and was in need of a shower, his complexion flushed, his hair tousled. He paused, taking in their position—Tessa sitting on the edge of the futon, Anzu on her knees in front of her. He said nothing.

“Hey!” Anzu stood. “Want in on this? We ordered some food and I’ve got some vino here that’s supposed to be pretty good.”

Still, Ty didn’t speak. Tessa’s eyes met his inquisitively and it took her a moment before she realized what things may have looked like when he walked in, what he probably thought.

“No,” Ty said finally, his eyes still fixed on Tessa. “I’m good. Just stopped by to shower and maybe see whether Tess was up for …” he shrugged. “Anything.”

“Oh. Well we don’t have any plans except to hang out,” Anzu said. She had poured him a glass of wine and was extending it toward him. “C’mon. Go get showered and join us.”

“Nah. I’ll probably just head home. Looks like you were in the middle of something, so …” He backed out of the apartment.

“We weren’t in the middle of …” Tessa began.

But Ty shut the door, and was gone.

“Wait,” Anzu said after a moment, turning to face Tessa with wide eyes. “Did he just let himself in? Does he have his own key?”

“Yeah,” Tessa said, staring at the now-shut door. “It just seemed to make sense. He’s always here, so I gave him one.”

“Holy shit,” Anzu emptied the glass of wine she intended for Ty. “Are you guys screwing yet or not? I thought you said you hadn’t done it!”

“We haven’t,” Tessa said.

She was way out of her depth. Ty obviously thought he’d walked in on her and Anzu about to get something going. Though he had to have been upset, he hadn’t shown any sign of it. Or maybe he just wasn’t upset. Maybe he was one of those creeps who thought sex between women didn’t even amount to sex and didn’t count. Or maybe he wasn’t upset because he was perfectly fine having her sleep with other people.

Other people? What the hell was she thinking? She’d never been with just one person exclusively. Never. And for her to be thinking that way now was just crazy! She wasn’t with Ty, and he wasn’t with her. Right? They were just exploring.

Wait, but then did that mean he might still be with other people? They’d never talked about Zara for instance. Not directly. Tessa had assumed he’d gotten rid of that skank, but she didn’t ask and he didn’t say.

“Hey.” Anzu was looking at her strangely. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. Where’s that damn Chinese food? I’m starving.” Tessa got up from the futon and grabbed the menu and then her cell phone.

“Wait one second,” Anzu said, snatching it out of her hand. “Was he jealous because I’m here? Is that what ..?”

“Who cares what he was?” Tessa snapped, grabbing the menu back.

Anzu laughed. Clapping a hand over her mouth, she sank onto the futon. “Are you guys, like, serious and shit? Like in-a-relationship serious?”

“Shut the hell up. No one’s serious and no one’s in a relationship.”

Anzu ignored her. “Now that I think about it, he did have boyfriend-face when he came in. Yup, he definitely had boyfriend-face.”

“You’re getting on my nerves,” Tessa said.

“Okay, fine, but I would go after him if I were you.”

Tessa looked at her. “You would?”

Anzu shrugged. “Why let him think something that’s not true? You and I haven’t been together like that in eons. And come to think of it, you haven’t hooked up with anyone else either that I’m aware of. He likes you, you like him. Stop the insanity.”

Tessa spluttered.

“I mean it,” Anzu said. “These kinds of misunderstandings are only cute in Jennifer Aniston movies. In real life it’s just tedious and unnecessary.”

“Me running after him through the streets of San Francisco would be exactly like a Jennifer Aniston movie.”

Anzu thought for a moment. “Okay, good point. So let’s eat the Chinese food if it ever gets here, and drink the wine, and then you go after him.”

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Meet Lisa: An Outtake from ‘LIFTED’

Lisa Promo

“Why do I get the distinct impression you’re not listening to me, Lisa?”

Maybe because she wasn’t listening to her.

“I am, Mom. I’m just exhausted. I had an entire day of hearings and another tomorrow. And then I fly back on the red eye.”

“Well, your career is important. I wouldn’t dispute that. But at the moment, your father and I are concerned about Tyson. You’re sure he hasn’t called you?”

“I’m sure,” Lisa said.

It wasn’t quite a lie. Ty hadn’t called her. At least not since he told her he was leaving school and wanted to crash at her place for a little while. She hadn’t heard from him in five days, and could only assume based on this frantic call from their mother that the dumb-ass had gone through with it—took off and left school in pursuit of some indistinct ‘new life.’ This was not their family’s first dog-and-pony show with her brother.

Ty had always been wild and hard to control, restless and unpredictable. And as he grew older—though never wiser—everyone was beginning to come to terms with the fact that maturity wasn’t the issue. Ty was just one of those people. Telling him the stove was hot had never sufficed for him as a kid, he had to touch it to find out for himself. Well, this time, he was definitely going to get burned, because their parents were at the end of their rope with him. Lisa could hear it now in her mother’s voice—the exhaustion, the resignation and defeat beneath the worry.

“If he does, will you call me? Right away?”

“I promise,” Lisa said, looking at her watch.

It was almost nine-thirty, and some of her colleagues had gone for dinner in Georgetown to a steakhouse one of them read about someplace. Lisa begged off as being too tired, but now she was beginning to feel a restless energy and thought she might hit the streets after all. Since she was in DC at least once a month, she had her own favorite haunts in the city, and was already running inventory in her mind, trying to decide which one to visit.

“You don’t think he’s just … left, do you?” her mother asked, a thin reed of apprehension in her voice.

“No, Mom. I wouldn’t worry about that. Of course he hasn’t. Where would he go? He’s probably just taking some time to think or something.”

“When Ty ‘thinks’ he rarely seems to reach the correct conclusions.”

Lisa bristled for a moment on her brother’s behalf. That was the kind of thing they said directly to his face, as well as behind his back. No wonder he kept trying to escape the gilded cage of their parents’ so-called love. No wonder he was always running away.

“Okay, Mom. I’ve got to get something to eat. It’s late and I have another early day tomorrow.”

“Alright, well, call me if …”

“Yes, yes,” Lisa said, rushing her off the phone.

This time she was staying at the Mayflower Renaissance, the historic and upscale hotel where then-NY governor Elliot Spitzer had his tryst with a high-priced call girl, ruining both his reputation and political future. Lisa liked the Mayflower though the rooms were in need of some modernization. But the Old World feel of the place was what attracted its guests, Georgetown dowagers, and socialites in town from Virginia horse country for a tea with friends. Or at least, that was who it used to attract. Elliot Spitzer’s reputation and career hadn’t been the only casualty of the call-girl scandal.

By the time she’d showered and changed out of her power suit, Lisa had decided to grab a quick bite at a Thai place she knew in DuPont Circle and then head to Cobalt. Though she definitely went to gay bars back in San Francisco, it was funny how much more ‘out’ she felt in DC. Maybe because no one knew her here, and she could be one of the anonymous crowd. Her coworkers were safely some distance away in stodgy Georgetown, so she could be whoever the hell she wanted to be tonight.

Being in the closet in San Francisco of all places made her feel like a coward. And she kind of was.  Coming out in San Francisco wasn’t like coming out in the conservative small Connecticut town where she and Ty grew up. In San Francisco, coming out was joining an already-established community. Even at her job, where she was most careful to conceal her sexuality, there were dozens of gay men and women living their truth.

But instead of just declaring herself one of them (not in word, because she would never do that, but in deed at least) Lisa pretended. She pretended and then went out on Fridays to places like Hood Range, where women like Tessa Denison strutted around like they owned the world and casually amassed lover after lover after lover.

As she waited for the doorman to hail her a cab at the curb, Lisa wondered whether she’d made a mistake letting Tessa stay at her place when Ty was expected. Would she say something, do something, that would give Lisa’s secret away? She hadn’t been thinking clearly when she asked Tessa to house-sit for her. She didn’t even need a house-sitter, for heaven’s sake. She had a wireless security system that would text her if there was anything awry at her apartment, and if that failed, a bunch of nosey neighbors would be her fail-safes.

But Tessa was like no one Lisa had ever met before and she was a little high on her when she made the suggestion, wanting to know that as soon as she got back from DC, she would see her. And because she was somewhat of a live wire, you never knew with Tessa whether she might just up and disappear or something.

For weeks before they hooked up, Lisa had watched Tessa at the bar, admiring her ease in her own skin. She picked up women the way other people picked lint off their shoulder—casually, thoughtlessly, and with the barest modicum of effort. It seemed like all Tessa ever had to do was smile at someone and they were hers for the asking.

If ever she was in a serious relationship, Tessa was definitely not the kind of person Lisa would do that with. She could only imagine the agony that awaited anyone who came along who was dumb enough think Tessa Denison could be held down. But for now, she was perfect—perhaps some of her bravery, her brash manner of living would rub off, and Lisa could stop carrying this oppressive, heavy lie of a life.

____________________

 

“So, San Francisco, huh? What’s that like?”

Lisa tore her eyes away from the slender, dark-haired woman a few seats down the bar and back to Kim, the woman next to her.

She’d approached just as Lisa sat down and asked whether she could buy her a drink and Lisa agreed, because she didn’t want to sit alone while eyeing someone longingly from afar. But Kim was not her physical type at all. She was blonde, for starters, and had what looked to be about twenty extra pounds on her. Lisa thought being overweight was a sign of indiscipline. She could stomach many things, but lack of discipline was her biggest pet peeve. In some things she could let it slide, but control over one’s own body was just basic. If a person couldn’t manage that, she had no time for them.

“It’s like living in any other large city, I guess,” Lisa said, her eyes shifting once again to the dark-haired woman. “Different enclaves, that kind of thing.”

Kim picked up on her inattention and looked over her shoulder, catching sight of the woman Lisa had been staring at. “She’s pretty,” she said. “More your type, I take it.”

A tone in Kim’s voice made Lisa look at her again. She wasn’t interested, but she didn’t want the woman to feel she was a complete nonentity, either. So she smiled at her.

“A weakness for dark-haired beauties,” she admitted. “What’s your weakness? Physically I mean.”

Kim gave a little smile. “Women who look like you, I guess.”

Lisa took a sip of her wine. “Oh.”

“That wasn’t a play for a pity-lay by the way. Just an honest answer.”

“I wouldn’t think … I didn’t think that,” Lisa blushed. “And besides, I doubt you need to make people sorry for you to want to sleep with you.”

“No,” Kim acknowledged. “But since my divorce, I guess I’m a little down on myself.”

“You were married?” Lisa sat forward.

She’d always been fascinated by those gay couples who just …went for it. It was one thing to be out—something she couldn’t even begin to consider doing just yet. And quite another to just live out loud like that, get married and everything like straight people. Again, Lisa thought about her cowardice.

“I like to tell people that my ex and I were among the first wave of gay marriages. And the first wave of gay divorces.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Since then I put on thirty pounds and started questioning every little thing about myself. So if I sounded a little down on myself before, that’s all it is. Residual divorce stuff.”

“What was your …”

“Wife,” Kim supplied.

“Your wife’s name?”

“Candace. We were Kimberly and Candace Merchant.”

“Big wedding?”

“Huge. A real show wedding.”

“Were your families ..?”

“Yeah. On both sides. It was a great party. Great day.”

“Then I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” Lisa said sincerely. “That must have been very painful.”

“It was.”

“Want to … tell me about it?”

Kim grinned at her. “This has to be the worst date etiquette. Bending your ear about my failed marriage.”

“Well, we’re not on a date.” Lisa shrugged. “So you should feel free to bend away. And besides, I asked. I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t interested.”

“Okay,” Kim nodded. “Since you insist, I’m going to hit you with it. The Kimberly Merchant Marital Tale of Woe.”

“Hit me,” Lisa said.

____________________

 

Lisa still couldn’t believe they ended up in bed. The entire time she kept telling herself that Kim was not her type, definitely not her type, not that attractive, dammit, not her type. But after their conversation in the bar, Lisa had found herself overlooking the extra pounds, the blondeness, the somewhat dumpy and unfashionable clothes. All of it fell away and instead she focused on the bright intelligence in Kim’s eyes, the pleasant crinkling at their corners and their overwhelming and vivid shade of green.

When Kim was naked, Lisa didn’t even have to look away from the slight paunch, the soft indistinctness of her arms, and the way her breasts splayed slightly to the sides with their own weight. Lisa had looked at her head on and still, to her oft-repeated surprise while they made love, wanted Kim just as much as if she was the most perfectly-sculpted bombshell of a female specimen.

Now though, it was almost four a.m. and she had to think about preparing for her hearing on Capitol Hill that morning, which meant that her enjoyment of Kim’s company notwithstanding, she needed to be alone and get her game-face on. The Senate hearing was the long-awaited crescendo to a hard-fought legislative campaign, and it had to go well. Though she knew she had little control over that, Lisa still liked to be prepared. She would be sitting next to her company’s CEO, feeding him information that it was up to him to deliver with all the sincerity and conviction of the Pope delivering Mass in the Vatican. And though she couldn’t deliver his lines for him, she believed her confidence might fuel his.

She hoped that the sound of the shower would awaken her guest, and she would discreetly exit the suite before Lisa was done. That way she could review her notes, gather her thoughts and spend some time on choosing among the five suits she brought along as options. But when she got out and heard signs of movement in the next room, Lisa sighed, realizing her hope was in vain. Kim was still there.

“Hey.”

She was dressed and sitting at the edge of the bed at least.

“Hey,” Lisa said. “I had a good time last night. But I hope you don’t mind if …”

Kim broke out into laughter that sounded like it had been barely-repressed up until that moment. “I made a bet with myself,” she explained. “About how long it would take before you asked me to leave. I lost. I thought five minutes at least. You took five seconds.”

Standing there in the hotel robe, Lisa blushed. This was the second time Kim had made her blush in their very brief acquaintance. Something she rarely did.

“You make me sound like such a bitch. I’m sorry, but I just have this …”

“Yes, you told me last night, remember? The hearing. That’s a big deal. Don’t worry, I’m getting out of your way in just a moment.”

Kim slid on her flats and stood, going to the mirror to rake her fingers through her hair. Lisa watched her.

“You could … I’m about to order room service coffee if you want to have a cup,” she offered.

“No. Thank you,” Kim said. “Last night was lovely. But I know we’re not in that place anymore. You’re here to work and I was …” She shrugged. “It was very nice spending time with you, Lisa.”

Kim turned to leave.

“Wait,” Lisa said.

Kim turned, her expression quizzical.

“I’d like it if you’d stay.”

“Would you really?” Kim didn’t sound insecure, just skeptical.

Now that she knew her a little better, Lisa was quite certain Kim wasn’t insecure as a rule and that it was just like she said, that her marriage had thrown her for a loop.

Lisa held up a hand. “Swear.”

“Maybe I can give you some of my tips for Senate hearings in the meantime,” Kim suggested.

“Tips for ..? Wait, are you a lobbyist too? How come you never said anything last night?”

“Not a lobbyist, no. I’m on staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee. And we never talked about my career last night. We talked aboutyour career, and my marriage.”

“You must think I’m a self-centered bitch.”

Kim shook her head slowly. “No. I don’t.”

Lisa smiled. “Well, let’s order that coffee and then, yes, I’d love to hear some of your tips for testifying at Senate hearings.”

Note to the Reader: The preceding excerpt is NOT a part of the novel, but a segment that wound up on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll check the book out.

‘LIFTED’ is AVAILABLE NOW ON:

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘MOTHER’

Mother promo1From ‘MOTHER':

Watching as she scooped up her hair and fastened it at her nape while opening the container of Singapore rice noodles, Jay smiled at his wife’s perfect double-cantaloupe ass. Wife. He rarely thought of her that way. She was still his girl—in all senses of the word, that was the way Jay tended to see her, something less than a grown woman, his homegirl, his lover, holding it down, and putting it down. His girl.

Walking directly into her backside, Jay pressed Keisha into the kitchen counter, loving the way she instinctively let her head fall to one side so he could kiss her shoulder and the length of her neck. Even as he did that, Keisha reached for the chopsticks and filled her mouth with the curried noodles.

“You don’t want to heat that up?” Jay asked against her skin.

“Nope. Too hungry. Too tired,” Keisha said, over a mouthful.

“Too tired, huh?” Jay reached around in front of her and slid his hand down into the front of her underwear.

“Uh huh.” Keisha widened her stance, making way for him and pressing backward a little.

She ate as he stroked her, eating and moaning, moaning and chewing. Jay laughed into her hair.

“You want to eat after, maybe?” he suggested.

“No. I’m going to sleep right after. So we have to multi-task.”

“Uh uh. I need your undivided attention.”

Jay reached around and took the chopsticks from between her fingers, dropping them on the counter and unzipping himself. He dropped his jeans and underwear only as low as was absolutely necessary and crouched slightly, angling so he could press himself between Keisha’s legs. Arching her back, she gave a sudden gasp as he entered her. She was already wet. It didn’t take much with them.

“You’re so full of it,” Keisha teased. “All you need is for me to open my legs and you’re good.”

“Nah,” Jay said tonguing the back of her neck and wrapping an arm about her waist. “I don’t just need your body. I want your mind … your … soul.”

Keisha gasped as he gave her a deep upward thrust. “You have all that,” she said.

You have me.

That was what she’d said to him one night when Jay had gotten into his head the dumb idea that he needed to take her out for a night on the town in the city. They’d been married only a few months, and he’d been concerned about her adjustment to small town life. The club excursion was a disaster. The minute she’d come downstairs in that halter top and tight jeans looking the way she looked when she dressed up, Jay should have torpedoed the whole plan.

As any idiot could have predicted, once they got there, dudes kept hitting on her. If Jay was more than five feet away, it only took a second and they descended like hyenas. He never had to step in because Keisha immediately rejected all advances, proudly displaying her simple gold wedding band. But it still bothered him in a way that was much more pronounced than it had before they were married.

Jay thought he’d contained his discomfort pretty well, and planned to hang in there for the rest of the miserable evening, not wanting to ruin Keisha’s fun with his irrationality. But before long, she was the one who was suggesting they go home.

In the truck, just as they’d pulled onto West Side Highway, she grabbed his arm without turning to look at him.

I don’t need all that anymore, she said, her voice loud in the silent cab. Nightclubs and parties and stuff? I don’t need it. I’d much rather stay at home with you.

And Jay had glanced at her then, wanting to see her eyes and assure himself of her sincerity. She’d smiled at him, and nodded.

Really, she said. And as for all those fools who try to talk to me? Jay, you don’t never have to worry about that. You have me. You have me.

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘LIFTED’ COMING SEPT. 15

LIfted cover final

 

“Have you ever … been with a guy?”

Anzu’s gaze lifted from her nails to Tessa’s face. “Lots. Why?”

“Lots? Is that what you just said? Lots?

Anzu shrugged. “Yeah. But that was a long time ago.”

“You never told me …”

“It’s not the kind of thing that comes up in casual conversation, if you know what I mean,” Anzu said her eyes dropping once again to her nails. “I have a long and storied past as a high school floozy.”

Tessa sat back so she could look Anzu directly in the eyes. And before she could stop it, her mouth fell open.

“You mean with …”

“With guys, yeah,” Anzu said. She shrugged again. “Look, I was a Japanese girl from a very traditional family, growing up in conservative Orange County. How the hell was I going to tell my first generation Japanese-American parents that I was having dirty thoughts about blonde cheerleaders?”

Not too much rendered Tessa speechless, but for some reason this did. Of course, she knew that the path to self-acceptance was rocky for far too many lesbians and gay men, but very few of her friends had ever shared their coming-out stories. Coming-out stories were more of interest to straight people. If you were gay, it was the same ol’-same ol’.

“So you had sex with them? These guys?”

Anzu looked her directly in the eye. “Yup.”

“But …” Tessa replaced the cap on the nail varnish and watched as Anzu began blowing on her fingernails to dry them.

“Why?” Anzu finished for her. “Is that what you’re about to ask? Because I was determined to be straight, that’s why. It was like my little secret afterschool project. Screw as many guys as I could until I started to really like it. Why d’you think LGBT youth have some of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies?”

“Well did you ever? Start to like it I mean.”

Trying to make eye contact with her friend, Tessa realized after a few failed attempts that Anzu didn’t want to. Finally, she got up and went into the bathroom and after a moment, there was the sound of running water. Anzu was running cold water over her fingers to help speed the process of setting the color.

“Why’re you so curious about hetero sex all of a sudden?” she asked without answering Tessa’s question. “Are you …?”

There was a long pause, and then Anzu was sticking her head out of the bathroom, her eyes as wide as saucers.

“Oh my god! Did you and the pretty boy …”

“No!” Tessa said quickly. “Why does everyone think that Ty and I..?”

Anzu leaned against the doorjamb and stared at her. “You serious right now?”

“Yes, I’m serious right now! I want to know precisely why everyone thinks that Ty and I could be screwing. Particularly since I’m the gayest person you know.”

Anzu laughed. “Let’s not go overboard on the ‘gayest person’ stuff. Just because you sleep with a lot of girls doesn’t mean …”

“Stop.” Tessa held up a hand. “I think I’ve heard this speech. From Lisa, remember?”

Anzu came back to the futon and sat cross-legged directly in front of her, shaking her head. “I’m not about to say anything as vile as that bitch said to you. I’m just sayin’, it’s not about what’s here …” Anzu indicated her crotch. “It’s mostly about what’s here …” pointing at her head, “…and here.” Her heart.

“What does that have to do with me and Ty?”

Anzu smiled. “Seriously?”

 

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State of Mind

state-of-mind-smallIt’s not writer’s block. But there’s this thing … this crazy thing that sometimes happens to the state of a writer’s mind, and you know, without knowing how you know, that your writing–if you do it right now–will not be … right. Sometimes it’s because you’re too tired, or too busy, or in love, or falling out of love, having too much sex, or not enough. Or it might be because the dry cleaner told you your clothes would be ready on Wednesday and you got there and they weren’t.

I’m not kidding–the state of a writer’s mind is a delicate thing. A part of me thinks we’re all half-crazy anyway, living our most significant lives in our heads while others live them in the “real world”.  In that ‘head-world’ of ours, things have to be just so, the balance has to be just right for the words to come.

I know when my balance is off. I know when the words will be wrong, so I’ve learned to just let it alone and not panic. You see, while all other things may be in flux, one thing is certain about the state of the writer’s mind — no matter what, no matter how long it takes, it will always, eventually, finally, relentlessly, seek to … create.

That’s all.

N.

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘LIFTED’

Tessa6 promo flat“How’ve you been, Tess?”

“Excellent.”

Tessa leaned back into the plush fabric of the sofa and propped her boots up on the coffee table. Dr. Young’s mouth twitched a little. She was a fastidious little woman in appearance, so Tessa could only imagine how it irked her. But she lived to irk Dr. Young.

“I haven’t seen you for almost a month. What moved you to make your appointment this time?”

“Nothing in particular. Just thought I’d stop in and make sure my brother’s money isn’t being wasted.”

“You could always tell him you no longer need these appointments. I’d be happy to validate that view. If you aren’t a partner in this process there’s no point in our continuing.”

“I’m sorry I missed my last two appointments,” Tessa said. “Are you happy now?”

“It’s not a question of making me happy, Tess. It’s a question of whether or not you’re willing to be here. And if you’re not, I don’t think …”

“I wonder if for once you could express a genuine emotion,” Tessa said. “Just say you were disappointed I didn’t come. If you could do that for me, maybe I’d be more likely to be honest about my emotions as well, Dr. Young.”

The doctor smiled. “Fair enough. I was disappointed you didn’t come in for your last two appointments. I thought we were making some progress talking about your parents, and your brother. I’d hoped we could continue.”

“We can continue,” Tessa said affably.

She looked about the doctor’s office at the carefully neutral décor. Things were selected to look like personal objects but were actually impersonal. The art, the rug—all homey, but probably not at all like Dr. Young’s home. She’d been coming here for over a year, but felt like she knew nothing of this woman, her fifty-something year old shrink.

Trey had insisted on it, thinking that she needed someone as her safe harbor because she was moving to a new city and starting a new life. He was worried she would start messing around with drugs again because she was so far away from him. Her brother worried too much. And the irony was, the biggest stressor in Tessa’s life wasn’t her life, it was the fact that her brother worried about her life.

Trey, who had taken care of her, Tessa now felt like she had to take care of. At least emotionally. His problem was that he loved too much, too hard.

He loved her that way, and he loved his wife, Shayla that way too. Like he would lose it if anything happened to either of them. Whenever she put herself in dangerous situations—and she had done that far too many times to count—Tessa never wondered about her own safety, she wondered instead about how her brother would cope if she were seriously hurt or killed.

“So shall we pick up where ..?”

“I can’t believe you used the word ‘shall’,” Tessa said. “Like in casual conversation. Who does that?”

Dr. Young smiled. “You’re being passive-aggressive. Why?”

Tessa rolled her eyes. “I was just wondering something out loud. How is that aggressive?”

“I think you want to deflect. Not talk about your parents and your brother, so you tried to put the focus back on me.”

“Okay fine. Let’s talk about Trey and my parents again.” Tessa sighed her defeat.

“Or, if it makes you more comfortable, we can talk about why you felt like coming back here today. What’s going on with you, Tess?”

What the hell? The woman was being paid. May as well use her for something useful for a change.

“Lisa, the woman I’m sleeping with asked me to brunch with her and her parents.”

“Ah.” Dr. Young sat forward. “So the relationship is getting serious.”

“No,” Tessa said quickly. “Or at least she’s pretending it isn’t. She’s pretending it’s about Tyson her brother—long story—but I think that’s just a ploy to get me to meet her parents. Which is weird since she’s not even out to them.”

“So maybe she thinks this is a way to connect two important parts of her life, even if the two parts have to remain largely separate in other ways.”

“Exactly!” Tessa let her feet fall to the carpet and sat forward. “A ruse. She’s introducing her girlfriend without saying I’m her girlfriend.”

“Are you?”

“Her girlfriend? Hell to the no! That’s my point. All we’re doing is hooking up and now I’m wondering whether she thinks this is some love affair or something. And I am so not down for that.”

“And you’ve told her this?”

“Many times, yeah. But women are complicated. They say one thing, mean another.”

“You’re a woman. Do you say one thing and mean another?”

Tessa looked at her doctor. “No … sometimes maybe, but …”

“So Lisa may justifiably think you’re saying you don’t want a relationship but don’t actually mean it.”

Tessa leaned back. “Oh my god, Dr. Young. I think you just earned your fee!”

The doctor smiled. “It’s just a theory.”

“No! I think you might be right. There is no way I should go to this brunch. What if she thinks I’m on some hard-to-get shit?”

“Is that something else women do?” Dr. Young asked.

“Ye-ah,” Tessa said.

“You have very fixed stereotypes about female behavior, Tess. Have you ever wondered why?”

“No, because they’re not stereotypes. They’re opinions formed from personal experience.”

“And in your personal experience, are all women alike?”

“Of course not.”

“Then those views are stereotypes. Do you see why?”

Tessa spread her arms across the back of the sofa. “Sometimes it’s exhausting talking to you, y’know that?”

“How so?”

“Because of that – how so? The incessant questions.”

“Would you prefer I provide answers?”

“Yes, I really, really would.”

Dr. Young smiled yet again. “Only you have those, I’m afraid.”

Tessa shrugged. “Well then I’m going to tell my brother he’s wasting his money,” she said, concealing her smile.

Posted in Lifted, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘Mother’

 

Mother cover mistress FINAL

From ‘MOTHER’ coming Summer 2014

No.”

The word was out before Keisha could stop it. Before she’d even completely thought it. And from the look on Jayson’s face, it surprised him, too.

“No?”

“I mean …”

“You don’t want to?”

“I meant not now,” Keisha amended. “Just not now, that’s all.”

Ignoring the hints had been simple enough, especially since she was sure he couldn’t possibly be serious. They’d been married less than a year, and things were still up in the air, with his new business, her new career.

“I don’t mean now either,” Jay said. “I meant maybe in a year or so. But you’re taking those shots and that’s for like, three months, right? What if we decide to do it sooner?”

And so there it was.

He might say he didn’t want babies now. He might think he didn’t want babies now. But once she wasn’t taking her Depo shots, all bets would be off.

Keisha lifted her eyes from her plate and focused instead on her husband. Standing in front of the fridge, reaching in for orange juice turning to pour them both glasses, he had no clue that he’d just dropped an atom bomb.

Having babies was not something Keisha was willing to contemplate. They were something she hadn’t been forced to discuss before they were married and she’d been operating under the vain and foolish hope that somehow, she could avoid the subject for, say, the next thirty or more years ‘til she was too old to have them. But that wasn’t true either, because even before the ‘I do’s’ Jay had mentioned wanting sons and she’d easily avoided talking about it because neither of them had been confident about taking care of themselves let alone children.

“Tea or a cappuccino?”

Jay had moved on to making the hot breakfast beverages. Following their Saturday morning routine of eating early at their kitchen table and talking about their week, Keisha was going with him to the store.

Almost a year ago, Jay had acquired a small photo business in town, a modest place that was barely enough for him to eke out a living at. But now it was taking off, because he’d turned it into a photo studio where he took family portraits and vanity shots, booked events and did natural light photography of engaged couples and women seeking glamorous headshots for dating sites.

“Cappuccino.”

It was the only way Keisha was able to have caffeine—with frothy, warm milk that almost masked the taste. Jay had gotten her a machine for her twenty-sixth birthday, his attempt at a joke about her past as a barista in a Brooklyn coffee shop. The real gift had been four days in South Beach, a belated honeymoon in a resort where all their needs were taken care of from sun up to sundown. Hands down, those days had been the happiest of Keisha’s life—just her and her man, thinking about no one and nothing else, wrapped up in the newness of being married, and in each other. The way it was supposed to be.

After eleven months of marriage, Jayson Holmes was still the most incredible stroke of luck to have happened to her in her entire life. Every day began with her staring at him, and wondering at the cosmic mistake had led to her finding him, and having him fall in love with her, of all the women in the world who might have had him.

“So what d’you think?” Jay asked looking over his shoulder. “You stop taking the shots and then take the Pill instead so that if we want to get pregnant sooner, it’ll only be a month before we can try for real.”

“I don’t know,” Keisha said, shoveling a piece of toast in her mouth to avoid giving a full answer.

“Or,” Jay said, “we could just … roll the dice.”

At that, Keisha almost choked on her bread. She swallowed hard, now eager to get some words out, because that ridiculous suggestion could not go unanswered.

“We’re nowhere near ready for something like that. Your business just got off the ground, I’m going to …”

“But you’re assuming it would happen right away. Sometimes it takes a while. And I read that when you’ve been on the shots, it sometimes takes longer.”

“Where have you been reading stuff like that?”

“The internet. I looked it up.”

He’d been looking up stuff about going off birth control and conception times? Holy shit.

Posted in Jayson, Keisha, Mistress, Mistress part 2, Mistress Trilogy, Mother, nia forrester, Wife | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments