SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘In the Nothing’ — COMING JULY 1st!

In the Nothing cover final2“So how good a friend is Skylar?”

Trinity and Parker were on the subway, headed to a place in Midtown where they were going to meet up with two of Parker’s girlfriends. The train, like the bridge leading her and Ethan into the city, was fascinatingly grimy, loud and pretty uncomfortable. In comparison, the trains in the DC Metro system were opulent. Boarding the actual train when they made it down to the platform had itself been an adventure. By habit, Trinity stood aside to let people off and was shocked that no one else—Parker included—seemed to be preoccupied with such pleasantries. Instead, they shouldered their way past the exiting passengers, jockeying for position without regard for whomever they might displace.

Now, standing on the jostling train, wearing borrowed shoes and clothing, Trinity was still so distracted by her surroundings that it took her a moment to process Parker’s question. Parker, who was trying not to look at her as she asked, probably because the question was loaded and they both knew it.

“She’s a friend.” Trinity shrugged, wondering if her answer was true.

Skylar sometimes showered her with attention and affection, inviting her places, hugging and kissing her, toying with her hair and telling her she was “super-pretty”. She had given Trinity a few of her cast-off outfits, expensive pieces from Banana Republic and Lacoste, and even shoes from L.L. Bean and Bass, which she declared “way too preppy” for her current “style aesthetic.” Trinity didn’t even know what her own “style aesthetic” was, but she knew that it would be stupid to pass up perfectly good, barely worn clothes that she never would have been able to afford.

But the gifts and the attention alternated with periods of coldness, or even outright cruelty, when Skylar would make fun of the way she pronounced a particular word, or random things, like … her never having had raw oysters. There had been days when Trinity had awoken to find that Skylar had turned inexplicably hostile overnight, speaking to her only when absolutely necessary and in monosyllables; or sometimes not at all. Shooting daggers across the room with her eyes, Skylar’s lips would curl in unspoken contempt and Trinity’s heart would sink.

And then the next day or the day after that, the sunshine of Skylar’s friendship would shine on her once again, and Trinity’s mood would soar because despite herself, she craved Skylar’s favor, just like everyone else.

“I only ask because …” Parker took a breath. “Oh, what the hell. I ask because Skylar, is a fucking nightmare. I met her only a couple times, but she’s just … ugh.”

“She’s not so bad,” Trinity said. Again not knowing for sure that what she said was true.

“I don’t know. You live with her. But one thing I do know? Guys like Ethan always seem to get ensnared by someone like that. I rescued Mitchell from his own little Skylar.”

At that, Trinity turned, holding on to the pole a little tighter.

“She was his girlfriend for like, three years or something when we met. And even though I knew I was pretty much intruding on an existing … situation, I made it my mission to take him away from her.”

Before they’d left the apartment, Parker had opened a bottle of wine and had two glasses of her own, so she may have been saying more than she normally might have done. But Trinity wasn’t inclined to stop her. Occasionally brushing a wisp of her wavy auburn hair from her face, Parker’s green eyes had a heavy-lidded tipsy look about them.

“So yeah, I broke them up or whatever,” she continued. “But it wasn’t easy, let me tell you. Mitchell—like Ethan, I’m guessing—is one of those rare guys who like to ‘do the right thing’. And the agonizing he did …” Parker groaned and rolled her eyes. “I was like, ‘Jesus dude, just dump her and get on with it! She makes you fucking miserable and who cares how many years you’ve been together, just do it already!’ And finally he did. And hasn’t looked back.”

Parker shot her a beatific smile, then reached out and squeezed Trinity’s arm as though in final punctuation of her monologue.

“I don’t know why you’re telling me all this,” Trinity said.

Parker smiled again. “Because of the way you look at him.”

“The way I look at him? I don’t think I …”

“Oh, girlfriend, it’s all over your face. But I’m not trying to embarrass you or anything. It’s just that I have a good instinct about people, Trinity. I know I don’t know you at all, but something tells me you’re a good egg.”

Trinity laughed. “A good egg who shouldn’t hesitate to step to her roommate’s boyfriend?”

Parker gave her a coy look, and a shrug of one shoulder. “No. I would never say anything like that. That would be reprehensible, wouldn’t it?” She winked. “But what I am saying is, don’t let your morals prevent you from saving Ethan from someone who probably has none.”

 

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BLOG STOP: Jacinta Howard, author of ‘Less Than Forever’

JHoward

Jacinta Howard has been a favorite of mine since I read ‘Better Than Okay’ and I’ve read everything of hers since. Her novels are populated with young, hip, urban professionals trying to make sense of life and love, making mistakes and eventually finding their way. I credit her work with helping remind me why I like new adult fiction, and inspiring me to finish something of my own that had been languishing for literally years.  So it’s my pleasure to feature her book on my blog this Saturday. This is one I’ve been looking forward to …

About ‘Less Than Forever’: Raven Daniels and Dorian Thomas have been best friends since college. But while the free-spirited bond they share holds their relationship together, it’s also the reason they both know they’re better off as friends—flirty friends, but friends.

So when Raven decides to leave her old life and cheating ex behind in Fort Worth, TX and move to Dorian’s turf in sunny Miami to take a job as a middle school art teacher, they’re both excited about the prospect of being around one another full-time. As the social media manger at a prominent company, Dorian knows his city, and he’s eager to show his girl the ropes.

But one night, emotions run high and everything about their platonic relationship is put to the test. A series of events is set in motion that neither one of them is prepared for, events that force them to answer the question… is love always worth it?

Less Than ForeverFrom ‘Less Than Forever’:

“I guess this is the part where we talk about what happened and what it means,” he said as they were getting dressed, after their third session.

She didn’t look at him, fluffing her hair in the mirror that was across from the very unmade bed.

“We don’t have to talk about anything,” she returned, too casually.

“I didn’t mean that how it sounded,” he said, bending to tie his sneakers. He stood and grabbed his Suns baseball cap off the bed, placing it backwards on his head, before perching on the edge of the desk that was pushed against the wall near the TV. She stared at him and then looked away.

“How did you mean it then?” She sat down on the bed, pulling on her strappy black heels, still refusing to look at him.

“Raven, come on. Don’t put this all on me.” She looked at him then, growing agitated.

“Put what all on you?”

“This,” he said, waving a hand between them. “Like I’m the only one required to offer an explanation. Or a solution. Or to know where we go from here.”

She finished with her shoes and sighed, running her fingers through her hair.

“Okay. So…” she shrugged and stared at him. As prepared as she was to get upset with him for not having any, she didn’t have answers either.

“I know we can’t do the shit where we pretend to be ‘just friends,’” he offered, raising his cap and scratching his head. “And I know I can’t do the thing where I pretend that this one time, that last night was even close to being enough for me either.”

His voice lowered and he stared at her, his eyes soaking her up and making her fidgety and hot all over again.

“Are you ready to be in a committed relationship?” she asked.

“Are you?”

“I asked first,” she responded.

He rolled his eyes, his dimples blaring as he frowned. “So we’re twelve now?”

She sighed, tapping her foot against the carpet. “I don’t know what I’m ready for, Dorian.”

“And you’re not gonna be pissed at me for not knowing either, right?”

She looked up and he met her eyes deliberately. She turned away again and he sighed.

“We shouldn’t have even…” she started, but his head snapped up and he stared at her.

“Don’t go there. I don’t regret this. At all,” he said. His eyes traveled over her. “And if you’re real, you don’t either.”

There it was. That brazen confidence that she loved so much but infuriated her at the same time.

“I know you were emotional and probably overwhelmed by everything,” he paused and she lowered her eyes to the floor. “But what happened last night was about more than that, Raven. You know it and I know it. It was only a matter of time before we acted on what’s been there for a while now.”

She released a breath, still studying the floor. “But that’s the problem,” she admitted, meeting his eyes. “I know you, Dorian. We didn’t act on it for a reason.”

“What’s that mean?”

He stared at her like he might’ve been angry and she leveled a look at him. He sighed.

“Look, Chipmunk,” he said, pushing himself off of the corner of the cheap hotel desk and crossing the room to sit beside her on the bed, “I don’t even think I have the words for what last night was…or this morning.”

He reached and twirled a strand of her hair around his index finger and she couldn’t help but smile at him. He grinned too, then leaned toward her, brushing her temple with his nose before kissing the same spot. Her eyes drifted closed and he dropped a kiss on the corner of her mouth.

“We obviously had a lot of pent up shit we needed to… express.”

“That’s what that was? Us expressing ourselves?” She arched an eyebrow and he grinned.

“Hell yeah,” he said, biting his lip as he smiled, causing her breath to catch in her throat. “I was expressing the hell out of myself. I’d say you were too.”

Her face heated and he grinned again, chuckling softly at her expression. His hand trailed to her waist and he pushed her back gently onto the bed, and leaned over her, balancing his weight on his forearms. His brown eyes were serious as stared down at her. She couldn’t stop her eyes from trailing to his lips, those lips that had touched every inch of her body last night. He was so sexy it almost hurt to look at him. He grinned at her as she took him, no doubt reading her thoughts, because she felt the beginnings of his erection against her abdomen.

“I’m not gonna pretend that last night was less than it was,” he told her. “And you shouldn’t either,” he tacked on when she started to speak. “I think we should just see what’s up with us, you know? Explore the possibility with no pressure.”

“And by ‘no pressure’ you mean while you continue to screw everything that moves?”

She stared up at him pointedly and he rolled his eyes, shaking his head. He pushed himself off her and slowly, she sat up beside him. Their shoulders were touching and she looked up at him.

“I’m not sharing you Dorian,” she said quietly. “I can’t share you.”

The admission made her insides hot. It was embarrassing how territorial she already was. He grinned slightly.

“I don’t want to share you either, Raven. Especially with those off brand dudes you always seem to like and attract.”

“I do not.”

“You do,” he countered.

“So, what?” she asked, ignoring him. She stood because she couldn’t sit still any longer. “We’re not ready to be committed but we don’t want each other seeing anyone else? What does that even mean? We can’t be just friends anymore but we can’t be not just friends any more?”

He stared at the floor, narrowing his eyes as he shook his head. He looked up at her.

“I guess we don’t need to figure everything out this second, right?”

She released a breath and stopped pacing.

“I guess.”

They stared at each other for a full minute, both of them knowing they’d reached another turning point and neither of them willing to make the decision to bend.

About the Author:

Jacinta Howard is the author of new adult and contemporary romance with a real-life edge. Since 2014, she’s released three novels, including the well-received Love Always Series which includes the titles ‘Better Than Okay‘, ‘More Than Always’ and the final installment, ‘Less Than Forever’. She also released the USA TODAY Must-Read Romance, ‘Happiness in Jersey’.

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BLOG STOP: Kim Golden, author of ‘Maybe Forever’

Maybe ForeverI first “discovered” Kim Golden with her book, ‘Maybe Baby’ and fell in love with her storytelling skill, effortless prose, the deft characterization and strong sense of place. I reviewed that one, and then set about reading all the others. So, it is with great pleasure that I host her to talk about her return to my favorite couple, Laney and Mads, in ‘Maybe Forever’.

Welcome Kim!

In all three of your Maybe … stories, Sweden as a country is as much a character as New York City is a character in the Candace Bushnell’s ‘Sex & the City’ Tell us a little about how your personal expat experience informs your work.

I moved to Sweden for love, so I think it made my experience a bit easy. I was twenty-five when I moved here and I moved to a country where nearly everyone speaks English, which also made it easy. When I loved to Stockholm, there were not many blacks living here. I sometimes felt like a fish out of water, but it was an interesting experience. Because I was different, people would approach me, talk to me in a way that Swedes don’t normally do (they usually will not approach strangers, they don’t usually strike up random conversations or do small talk). Most of the people I met here were very friendly but it took a while to really feel like I’d made friends. Swedes can be a bit difficult to get to know—they’re reserved, they don’t often open their social circle unless they really like you—and initially I was struggling with the language. You can live here without learning Swedish, but you’ll never really feel like you’ve come into society. I’d moved here here for love and wasn’t planning on moving back to the US unless things really went pear-shaped, so I threw myself into studying Swedish, making friends absorbing as much as I could about living here and not falling into the rut of only being around other Americans.

Inevitably, all of us expats end up knowing one another. The contrasts of being an expat were definitely something I wanted to capture when I started writing the Maybe… series—how everyone seems to know everyone else, how you can pretend you don’t know the language to avoid conversations you don’t want to have, how sometimes you feel more like a Swede than an American or how life back home slowly becomes foreign.

I also wanted to capture the way that being a black woman living here meant I didn’t have to live up to these pre-conceived notions of what it means to be black. I could try new things and not be told I was trying to be white or something equally ridiculous. It’s something that gets my goat when I am back home in the US. How some people constantly say “You can’t do that because you’re black” or “only white people do that”  if you show an interest in something that isn’t “the norm”. I wanted to write about women who were free from that, even if sometimes it pops up or gives them pause. I think a lot of this comes through in my writing.

When you picture ‘your reader’, who is she/he? Do you have a target audience?

When I first began writing, I never really thought about who was my reader. I wrote the sort of stories that I wanted to read. When I wrote my first short story, I wanted everyone—men, women, black, white, whatever—to read it and love it. After a while, I realised I needed to have more focus. I knew I liked writing about relationships, specifically interracial/multicultural relationships since I had experience with it, and I thought I would gear my fiction more towards women. Probably my target reader is women, 25-40+, African American (though I found out recently I have a few fans in Lithuania and Estonia). I want *all* women to read my books, but I know there are still readers out there who won’t buy a book because they think they cannot relate to a black heroine.

I find that sometimes writers return to themes that intrigue them. I like to write about ‘broken people’ or people with secrets. Do you have a recurring theme that you return to in your work?

Infidelity seems to be a recurring theme in my books. I never intend to write about it, but it inevitably pops up—why do people cheat, what makes someone who never thought they would cheat do so… Second chances at love is another theme that pops up a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen quite a few people around me who’ve reconnected with loves from their pasts and actually made it work. Or it could be that I am just a hopeless romantic (even if I think of myself as being a bit cynical).

Is there one character in ‘Maybe Forever’, male or female, that you identify with more than others? And if so, why?

I would love to be able to say that I identify most with Eddy—she’s so fearless and she doesn’t care what other people think—but I think I identify most with Laney.  In some ways, we have a similar background. My parents stayed together for the sake of the kids, but my father was often emotionally absent. We had a love-hate relationship. He didn’t understand his bookworm daughter and I didn’t understand why he was always angry. I knew I wasn’t his favorite child. I felt like a rootless tree and I always longed to be elsewhere. Laney is the same. In her case, she is rootless following the death of her mother and being abandoned by her father.

 Of all your work, which stories/books did you feel compelled to write?

Probably ‘Maybe Tonight’. I wanted to tell Mads’s side of the story. I felt like I had to dig deeper with him and get to the core of just why did he want this life with Laney so much, why did he pursue her even when he knew he probably shouldn’t have. It was interesting writing Maybe Tonight as a serial novella and getting into his head. I think it also helped me understand Laney even more, seeing her through his eyes.

Of all your work which was the hardest to write?

Maybe Baby was the hardest to write. I knew that some readers would instantly dislike Laney simply because of the infidelity angle and I wanted her to be a difficult (though likeable) character. It helped that I wrote the first draft for NaNoWriMo—it kept me from letting my inner critic sidetrack or discourage me from finishing the project. But the revision process was difficult as I tried to add deep point of view to flesh out her story. Maybe the fact that it was such a hard story to write is why I ended up loving this book so much.

Now that you have a good body of work under your belt, what’s your writing ambition? What do you want to do writing-wise that you have not yet done?

I don’t really care about being the #1 bestseller. I just want to reach readers who will enjoy my work. And I want to get to the point where I can write novels full-time instead of having to fit it around a full-time job. I know I have a lot more stories to write, so I’ll just keep writing them because it makes me happy. I would love to write a thriller similar to Paullina Simon’s ‘Red Leaves’ or a paranormal novel. I’ve got an unfinished ghost story set in Scotland with an African American heroine. Maybe I will finish it one day.

Maybe Forever PromoNow let’s talk about Mads and Laney, the couple in ‘Maybe Forever’. Pretend you’re describing them to a friend who’s never met them. Begin with ‘Laney and Mads are that couple who …’ and tell us a little about them and their relationship dynamic.

Laney and Mads are that couple who love each other so much that they sometimes forget the rest of the world exists. I like the intensity between them. I like that, for them, the connection they have and that spark that drew them together, still burns bright. They were both orphans of sorts, looking for someone who would understand what it’s like to be the one left behind (both of them lost their mothers when they were teenagers and had absent fathers), both of them felt lost or like something vital was missing from their lives and they were going through the motions of everyday life, accepting this and settling. And then they met and that recognition of finding your kindred spirit took over.

What made you want to write this one, the third book in the Maybe … series? What do you want to say that hadn’t been yet said in Mads and Laney’s other stories?

I never really planned to write this story. I was going to focus on Maybe Tomorrow and let Laney and Mads remain in their bubble of love. But one day I was talking to a friend about how her marriage nearly fell apart due to the pressures of trying to hold it together with a new baby, a toddler and trying to be perfect, and I began to wonder what would happen to Laney in that situation. Also, I felt like I wanted to strip away the perfect veneer of their lives. Yes, they love each other—they were meant to be together, but they are human, flaws and all. And I wanted to capture that story. I felt like it needed to come out.

If you had to sum up the ‘conflict’ between Mads and Laney in this book, what one word would you use, and why?

Insecurity. Both Laney and Mads are struggling to deal with their own insecurities. Laney is struggling with motherhood and not feeling adequate; Mads is struggling with his own in fear of failure, of comparing himself to Laney’s ex and fearing that—at least financially, he may not measure up. And this escalates, leads them both to do and say things they regret.

How do you write your books? Do you think of characters first, or plots? Which came first in the Maybe … series?

Usually, the characters come first. It was that way with ‘Snowbound’ and with ‘Choose Me’. And it’s definitely been that way with my new WIP (Under the Milky Way). With the Maybe… series, the characters definitely came first. I was sitting in the outdoor bar of a hotel when the characters came to me. The story flowed from there.

What should we expect from you next?

I’m finishing up another book in the Maybe… series—this one focuses on Eddy (Laney’s cousin) and what happens when she meets Henrik (Mads’s cousin) on Midsummer’s Eve. It’s called ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ and is set in Copenhagen and New York. I’m also working on a futuristic story called Under the Milky Way’ that focuses on a woman trying to come to terms with her future, an astronaut who is losing his humanity the longer he’s out in space, and a robot who falls in love. And this one is also an IR/MC story—even if it sounds like pure sci-fi. ☺

EXCERPT:

“Are you attracted to her?”

He glanced away. I saw the tension building inside of him. Instead of answering me, he began undressing. Was he ever going to answer me?

I didn’t want to cry anymore. I didn’t want to think about Benny or what he might have done with her. I kept telling myself that maybe I was overreacting—maybe there was nothing going on between them, but the telling silence continued to fester. Mads went into our en suite bathroom. As soon as I heard the shower sputter on, I ended up following him. He was already in the shower stall, his back to me as the water streamed down his body. I watched as he rinsed off a day’s worth of sweat…maybe even another woman’s scent…from his skin. But standing there watching him…I hated that I still wanted him. I still wanted him to want me and only me. And I knew that tonight might be the last time I could have him to myself. Maybe it was already too late. I was trembling, still unable to stop this unsettled feeling inside me. And when he finally turned off the shower and reached for his towel, I ran my hands along his hips and pulled him close. He turned and the tight expression on his face nearly sent me away. I steeled myself. He exhaled slowly and leaned into me. He captured my lips with his, kissing me tenderly at first, his lips grazing mine, the tip of his tongue gently urging me to let him in. I squeezed my eyes shut and let my arms tighten around him.  For a little while the rising heat between us was enough to make me forget. I let him peel away my camisole, let him push down my shorts. I kicked them aside. My body was coming alive for him even while my doubts were whispering to me, “This won’t help…”

Author Bio

Kim GoldenI grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spent most of my childhood summers in Smithfield, Virginia. I’m not sure where my love of words comes from, but I’ve loved books since I was a child and I’ve loved writing stories for as long as I can remember.

My parents wanted me to do something practical–be an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant. But I always dreamed of doing something completely different. I knew I wanted to be a writer, even if it took a bit of time for me to get to that point.

It led me to spend more time writing stories than studying physics and chemistry in high school. It’s what led me study literature and then work on an MFA in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. And when I finished my master’s degree, love led me away from the US and brought me to Sweden.

So what do I write? I write about relationships, about love. I often write about interracial relationships. I like reading stories about people who are different, who see past the differences and fall in love. And those are the stories I also enjoy writing. I write stories for people who know that love comes in many colors.

Other Books by Me

Maybe Baby (Book 1 in the Maybe… series)

Maybe Tonight (Book 2 in the Maybe… series)

Snowbound

Choose Me: a novella

Linger: a short story

30 Days, 30 Stories (a Wattpad exclusive)

How can new readers find your work?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/AmazonUSMaybeBaby, http://bit.ly/AmazonMaybeTonight, http://bit.ly/KindleMaybeForever

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/NookUSMaybeBaby, http://bit.ly/NookMaybeTonight, http://bit.ly/NookMaybeForever

iTunes: http://bit.ly/iBooksMaybeBaby, http://bit.ly/iBooksKGMaybeTonight, http://bit.ly/iBooksMaybeForever

Kobo: http://bit.ly/KoboKGMaybeBaby, http://bit.ly/KoboKGMaybeTonight, http://bit.ly/KoboMaybeForever

How can your readers get in touch with you?

Email: kimtalksbooks@gmail.com

Website: http://kim-golden.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SeeKimWrite

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kimigm

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kimigm/

Wattpad: www.wattpad.com/user/KimGolden

 

 

Posted in Authors, Books, Popular Fiction, Romance | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

SAMPLE SUNDAY: ‘In the Nothing’

In the Nothing promo ‘In the Nothing’ is my first planned New Adult novel. Trinity, daughter of a heroin addict and unknown father starts thinking about building a life outside of the housing projects where she lives, and begins to take the first cautious steps to get it.

Lately, this character’s voice has been dominating, so I may release earlier than planned. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m in charge or anything. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.

N.

From ‘In the Nothing’:

“So what? I’m just s’posed to let you walk out of here without a thought to where you’re going?” Aunt Sheryl demanded.

Trinity barely looked over her shoulder as she continued packing.  There wasn’t much – it all fit very neatly into the suitcase she’d bought from Target the day before.  There were also a few books, a framed picture of her mother and some toiletries.  Her belongings were pitifully few.

“You said you wanted me to take responsibility for my life and so I am,” she said keeping her voice level.

“But who are these people you think you’re moving in with?  Where’d you meet them at?”

“I told you; I met them at work,” Trinity said.

“And where is that?” Aunt Sheryl grabbed her shoulder and spun her round forcibly.  “Now that I think about it, you been real secretive and sneaky lately, Miss Thang.  I want to know exactly where this place is and who you been hanging out with that put this idea in your head that you . . .”

“I’m eighteen,” Trinity said calmly, ignoring her questions. “I can do whatever I want, go wherever I please.”

Aunt Sheryl looked momentarily dumbstruck.  She looked across the room to Chanelle who was watching the proceedings with interest, bouncing Khalil on her lap.  Trinity tried not to look at Khalil, because he was the only person here she knew she would miss.  If she could bundle him up and make a break for it she would, but what then?  She tried not to think of what his life would be like – never mind ten years from now, ten days from now.  Chanelle’s love for her son was unpredictable at best.  She doted on him when his father was around, and when she had nothing else to do but quickly tired of him and looked to the nearest and most convenient way to pass him off to someone else when she did.

“So this is it then, huh?  You gon’ walk outta here and not come back.”

“I’d . . . I’d like to see Khalil,” she said trying not to betray how important it was to her.

Chanelle looked down at Khalil in her arms as though surprised that he was there and that someone else had noticed him at all.  Aunt Sheryl sneered.

“What for?”

“To see how he’s doing,” Trinity said casually.  She was done packing and could leave anytime now.  But this was the one thing she wanted settled.

“He’ll be just fine,” Aunt Sheryl said coldly.  “You want to leave, then leave.  Don’t half-step.”  She moved aside and indicated the door.

Trinity walked past her and headed for the front door.  She didn’t look back as she lugged her suitcase toward the stairs.  She would take a cab on the corner and go directly to the house.  It didn’t matter if it cost her fifty dollars.  It was worth it to get out of here as quickly as possible.

“Trinity!”

She was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she heard Chanelle, calling to her from the stairwell above.  She looked up.  Chanelle was leaning over, looking down at her, her braids partially obscuring her face.

“You can come see Khalil whenever you want to,” she said in a stage-whisper.  “I would like it if you did.”

Trinity gave her a half-smile and nodded.

“See you ‘round the way, cuz,” Chanelle gave her a brief wave and was gone.

The taxi cost thirty-seven dollars which Trinity happily paid.  She alighted from the cab and was greeted by the sight of Emily sunning herself on the steep patch of grass in front of the house next to the steps.  She had a book in front of her face and her bare legs extended before her.  As Trinity made her way up to the house, she lowered the book and her face brightened.

“Hey!” she said.  “You’re here.”

She jumped up and rushed to help with the suitcase and heavy satchel of books.

“Is this all you’ve got?” she asked.

“Yes,” Trinity said.  This is everything.”

“Wow.  You must have like a zero carbon footprint.  C’mon, let me show you everything.”

Trinity barely listened as Emily showed her about the house, telling her all about its idiosyncrasies – the windows that stuck, the rules about food in the fridge, the days she was expected to do certain chores, their signals for when they had overnight guests.  All she could think about was the moment when Emily would leave her alone and she could sit in her new room.  It was the smallest in the house, but had windows on all sides.  The former occupant had left behind a futon and a small dresser.  There was also a desk and chair set up under one the window that looked out onto the backyard.  The walls were painted a pale robin’s egg blue and there was a mural of clouds on the ceiling.  The only thing she needed was a light bulb since someone had evidently pilfered the one from the overhead light fixture.  It would be the first time in more than two years that she’d had a room of her own. The idea of being able to sit alone with her thoughts, of being able to shut the door and turn the key in the lock was almost intoxicating.

Skylar was working a shift at the Green Banana and wasn’t expected until that evening, so she would have the luxury of silence the first day in her new home.  She couldn‘t help but smile.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Emily concluded.

“Me too,” Trinity said honestly.

She was in the room lying on the bare futon staring at the clouds on the ceiling when the doorbell rang.  It took her a moment to realize what it was – the chime was in the tune of a Snoop Dogg rap song.  She laughed out loud and went to the landing to see who it was. Emily opened the door and greeted Ethan.  He was in painter’s overalls with a long sleeved paint-spattered shirt underneath and combat boots.  His hair had been pulled back into an untidy ponytail.  He looked up and spotted her standing at the top of the stairs.

“There you are,” he said.  “I have a mission and you’re going to help me fulfill it. C’mon down.”

Trinity descended the stairs, wondering what was up this time.

“Skylar is cooking you a welcome dinner,” he said.  “So I’m supposed to somehow secretly figure out what you like to eat and then go buy it so she can surprise you.”

“Way to keep a secret, Greenwald,” Emily said shutting the door.

“I was getting brain pain trying to think of a way to pry information loose about your favorite foods,” Ethan said to Trinity apologetically.  “And anyway, something tells me you’re not the kind of girl who enjoys surprises.”

“You’re right,” Trinity said.  “I don’t.”

“Am I good or what?” he said.  “See Emily? She didn’t want a surprise.”

Emily rolled her eyes.  “No one wants a surprise, Ethan.  But we enjoy it when it comes.”

Trinity looked at him over Emily’s shoulder and shook her head.

“I disagree,” Ethan said.  “Anyway, don’t tell Skylar I ruined it. Trinity and I will be out shopping for her surprise party tonight.”  He opened the door and held it for her.

Once they were in the Saab and pulling away from the curb, Trinity looked at him.  He had a day old shadow in addition to his goatee and looked as though he’d been up all night.

“So, Greenwald?” she said.

“Yes?”

“No, I meant I didn’t know that was your name. Greenwald.”

“Yup. That’s my name.” He looked at her.  “Wanna make something of it?”

His tone held a teasing note as it often did.  It was difficult to tell when he was serious about anything.

“No. I just never knew what it was.”

“Well there it is,” Ethan said. “I’m a nice little Black Jewish kid born and raised in DC.”

Trinity tried not to show her surprise.  Black Jewish kid. She looked him over out of the corner of her eyes – she could see it now.  He was bi-racial, like she was.  Presumably.

“Are you . . . a practicing Jew?” she asked, hoping she didn’t offend him.

“I’m a practicing agnostic,” he said.

“No such thing,” Trinity murmured.

Ethan laughed.  “Fair enough. Let’s just say I believe enough to be chicken-shit about claiming atheism.”

“I wrote a paper about atheism for extra credit,” she said.  “That it’s kind of a religion itself.”

Ethan looked at her, interested now and serious for a change.  “How so?”

“Well if you define religion as a dogmatic belief system, then atheism is a religion that hinges on non-belief in a deity and replaces it with a dogmatic belief in the self.”

Ethan said nothing and before Trinity could react, he pulled over at the nearest curb and shut off the engine, turning to look at her full on.  His eyes were slightly narrowed and after a moment the corners of his lips turned up into a slight smile.

“Well hello, Trinity,” he said quietly.  “Nice to meet you at last.”

___________________

Living at 2012 Macaw Circle was like stepping into a new world; one that had been deliberately and maliciously concealed from her before now.  Trinity could scarcely believe that no more than seven miles from the Carver Apartments, kids her age had been living like this while she and Chanelle eked out what amounted to a pitiable existence in comparison.  Almost every weekend there was an event of some kind.  The roommates planned happy hours and house parties, hiking in Great Falls or trips to orchards in West Virginia to pick apples – they were almost never home and Trinity was always pleasantly exhausted by Sunday night.  Ethan would drop in unexpectedly a few nights a week, invariably bringing food for everyone and telling funny stories about his day while stroking the back of Skylar’s neck or giving her a foot massage.

Intermittently, Vanessa would have an overnight guest, some guy she met in a bar or at her summer job as an event planner for the Four Seasons.  She would stumble in with her high heels slung over her shoulder, hanging onto some blue-suited Capitol Hill staffer and later there would be soft moans emanating behind the closed door of her room.  Emily was a musician and stayed out late every night playing Spanish guitar for tips in local clubs and restaurants as part of a trio.  She wore colorful floor-length skirts and an assortment of tank tops with heavy, bejeweled belts.  She was the sweetest natured of the roommates and sometimes knocked on Trinity’s door with a mug of coffee in the morning.  Travis was still somewhat of a dark horse.  He spent time with the roommates but clearly felt a little bit superior to them.  He didn’t talk much, but when he did it was generally to correct someone else’s misstatement of what he liked to believe were the facts of any given situation.  He sometimes passed Trinity in the hallway or kitchen without speaking and she suspected that he considered her presence a reminder of a battle with Skylar in which he had not prevailed.

And Skylar was, well, she was Skylar.  Always the center of attention, always the dynamo.  She had what she liked to call “capers” every once in awhile.  “Capers” were the nights she wound up in the bed of some guy other than Ethan.  She never brought them back to the house but everyone knew what she’d been up to when she didn’t respond to texts or calls and would later come straggling in at two or three a.m., sometimes hammering on the front door because she’d left her key in parts unknown, or calling one of the roommates’ cell phones from a random place in the city and demanding that they figure out a way to come pick her up.  Occasionally, Ethan would stop by when she was MIA.  Trinity fell easily into the conspiracy of silence about where Skylar might be and what she was doing.  Ethan generally waited around for a few hours, sitting on the living room floor and watching television or chatting with Trinity before finally giving up and going home.  Trinity didn’t mind those nights.


 

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

EduardopromoEduardo Cruz had barely arrived in New York before he was swept into a large community of Dominicans. It was a relief, because everything he’d heard from guys who had gone before him, told him that New York could be loud, crowded and sometimes even frightening. Not much frightened Duardo, but he didn’t like the idea of being in a jungle of skyscrapers and cars away from the trees, beaches and wide open spaces he was used to. But he had a talent, and if he used it well, he could take what was best about this experience and send it home—the money. The gobs of ridiculous sums of money that the New York team was willing to pay him.

The game was important to him too, of course. But he could play the game with the same joy near the sugar cane fields of San Pedro de Macorís, as he could on a multimillion dollar baseball diamond. So being in New York, was mainly about the money. Para mi madre. It was practically his mantra since he’d arrived in this godforsaken place. For my mother.

Still, missing his mother and his country was dulled somewhat by being with the Acostas. When his teammate, Marcos had invited him to his home, Duardo was reluctant. He’d heard that he shouldn’t expect Dominicans in New York to be the same as the ones back home. In New York he heard, they’d adopted new ways, and new values, and none more so than the men like Marcos Acosta, who had come into millions of dollars through the game. And upon arriving at the house, he was sure Acosta was one of those who had lost his way—the place was large enough to accommodate five families of four, and to raise a herd of cows out back.

But he was pleasantly surprised when he was introduced to everyone. They seemed remarkably untouched by their good fortune. Family seemed to be their priority and all Duardo had heard once they all settled in was repeated inquiries of, ‘where’s Miri?’

His baby sister, Marcos explained, had graduated from university and was living on her own in the city, which was a constant source of worry for them all. She was the only missing piece before the meal could commence. So Duardo waited with everyone else, wondering when this mysterious young lady would make her appearance. He was only slightly curious, but very hungry. Once this Miri arrived he could eat. That was his predominant thought.

Until she appeared.

Standing at the door leading from the house, she seemed to have manifested from thin air. Wearing clothes clearly not her own and a mixture of annoyance and affection on her face she looked at her family, Miri’s eyes finally alighted on him. And when they did, Duardo felt as though she’d reached out and touched him with one of her small hands. A literal chill spread across the surface of his skin as she stared at him. Duardo stared back. Her mouth fell open a little and he tried not to smile.

So it’s not just me. She felt that too.

Then Marcos’ wife was there, whispering something in her ear and Miri’s eyes drifted away from him and around to the general company. Duardo watched as she went to greet her parents first, kissing them both; then Marcos, then each of her other brothers before turning her attention to the children. That she had naturally gravitated towards the elders before everyone else meant that Miri Acosta was not entirely the modern young woman that he had been led to believe she was. Or even if modern, she had a bedrock of traditional values.

In a few house parties that he’d been to since coming to New York—most to the homes of other players—Duardo had been a little surprised to see people show up and make a beeline for the food and alcohol, spending several minutes socializing before even going to say ‘hello’ to the older relatives in attendance.

“You have to meet Miri.” Marcos’ wife was extending a hand to him, and Duardo stood, smiling and nodding at her.

Dylan Acosta was pretty, with a smooth toffee-brown complexion reminiscent of so many women in his country, but Duardo already knew she was not Dominican. The scandal, involving her and another Mets player had made it to DR, so her name was for a time synonymous with what could happen when Dominican men, suddenly wealthy because of their talent for baseball, got taken in by a wily American gold-digger. But apparently the rumors about her had been untrue, and later—though with comparatively less media fanfare—it was acknowledged that she was nothing more than collateral damage in the disintegration of someone else’s marriage.

Since he had gotten there, Dylan had been very much the gracious hostess, spending a lot of time making sure he was comfortable, and checking in with him every half hour or so. His tendency to be quiet, while he sized situations up had probably given her the impression he was uncomfortable, or shy. Duardo was used to people making this assumption about him, but the simple truth was that he was untroubled by silence and not inclined to fill it with the sound of his own voice unless he had something very particular to say. Given the boisterous liveliness of the Acostas, he was unsurprised that Dylan Acosta would misinterpret his relative quiet.

“Miri!” She called over to her sister-in-law who was now sitting in the grass with the little ones, helping them build fort out of oversized Lego blocks.

Miri Acosta looked up. And when she did, Duardo felt once again, the same mix of familiarity and curiosity he experienced when their eyes first met across the patio, minutes earlier. She had large eyes, almost hazel, but not quite; and her complexion the smoothest dulce de leche Duardo had ever seen. Up close, she looked even younger than she had standing at the door to the veranda, her limbs were long and very slender, and seemed new to her, as she had difficulty arranging them comfortably, like a baby gazelle who had not yet learned to run, and could barely stand. It was charming.

Duardo smiled. “Good to meet you,” he said.

“You too.”

Miri Acosta extended a hand for a quick shake, forgoing the more familiar greeting of a brief kiss, or brushing of cheeks. And she didn’t make eye contact either, instead looking just past his face.

“Duardo is …” Dylan paused and laughed. “Oh god, I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten which position you play.”

“It’s not important,” Duardo said, his eyes still fixed on Miri.

“Not important?” Marcos, who emerging from the house with two beers in hand, heard the exchange and was shaking his head. “Eduardo is the designated hitter, baby.”

“Which sounds like a big deal, but you know I have no idea,” Dylan said shrugging.
Marcos winked at his wife and handed Duardo one of the bottles, which he took though he was not much of a drinker.

“And let me guess,” Miri Acosta said, sticking her chin out as though defiant. “You’re from San Pedro.”

“Yes. You know it?”

“Only as the place that seems to have a factory that produces Major League Baseball players.”

“But you’ve never been?”

“When we go, we pretty much stay in La Romana,” she said. She was still avoiding his eyes.

“It’s very beautiful there,” Duardo told her. “You should go one day.”

“I’ve been meaning to,” Marcos said, answering for her. “So I can see what’s in the water.”

“Or in the sugar cane,” Duardo said, smiling.

He was proud of his town’s legacy of producing major talent in baseball, though it had come at some cost, mostly in the loss of relationships and the fracturing of families. Some young men came to the States and weren’t as fortunate as he had been, but stayed anyway, often without documentation, and tried to eke out a living at menial jobs, and sending money back home to support their immediate and extended families.

“So, should we continue this conversation over dinner?” Dylan suggested. “Now that everyone’s here, we may as well get started.”

“Yes! Let’s eat!” Miri turned and headed for the house, somewhat too eagerly, Duardo thought.

Smiling once again, he followed his hosts, eyes fixed on the retreating back of their “baby sister”.

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SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

Miri3 promo flat

About ‘The Education of Miri Acosta':

Coming from a large Dominican family that takes their gender roles very seriously, Miri Acosta has always enjoyed the protection of her three older brothers.

Until now.

Almost twenty-three, and just graduated from university she is finally on her own instead of living with her parents. Eager to experience every bit of what she’s missed her whole life living in the most exciting city in the world, Miri decides to buck her family’s wishes and become a modern, single woman. ‘Modern’ means clubbing, dating, and … casual sex.

Just so long as her brothers don’t find out.

As she’s about to put her ‘modern woman’ plan into effect, Miri meets Eduardo Cruz, the newest player on her brother’s MLB team who is exactly what she’s running from—a bossy, overbearing, traditional Dominican walking bundle of machismo.

Miri isn’t sure what to make of Duardo … but she can’t stay away from him, either, so she decides that he’s just the right man to get her started with the whole casual sex thing.

But Duardo isn’t interested in a ‘modern’ relationship. If Miri wants him, she’s going to have to learn how to become a more traditional Dominican girl. And once he gets her, whether she wants to or not, he’s playing for keeps.

FROM ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ – COMING SOON!

Though she kept her eyes down, Miri couldn’t help but listen. Eduardo had the kind of voice that made you want to listen. It was deep and hoarse, confident and steady. His English was vaguely rather than heavily accented, and there was even the hint of an American accent to it. He spoke Spanish like someone who had been bilingual all their life, and not just recently.

When he paused in the middle of his description of his home, Miri looked up and saw that his eyes were on her, as though he had been focused on her all along. Next to him, her brother Matt noticed the mutual staring and tilted his head to the side, his eyebrows lifting. Matt would no doubt tease her later about her obvious and naked attraction to Mark’s new teammate.

He was very handsome, so how could she not be attracted? And every time she looked at him, he was looking at her too, so the feeling might even be mutual. But that didn’t mean she was going to do anything about it. If she wanted to do something about it, she wouldn’t have known how.

Her inexperience with men embarrassed her. Especially when she was around her friends. Only Marisol knew she was still a virgin, and thankfully, she kept Miri’s secret from Nessa who probably would have taunted her mercilessly. Nessa, who reported her every conquest with R-rated detail, could not possibly understand what the hold-up was, and why Miri would be “saving herself.” But she wasn’t saving herself exactly; she just hadn’t met the man who made her want to give herself.

It was probably because she’d been raised in the Church, and from the time she was a toddler had been taught by the nuns to envision the sad face of the Blessed Virgin when she was about to sin. While her brothers went to public school where they were raised in the Bronx, Miri had gone to Saint Francis, where nuns clad in brown hammered into her all the various punishments for different types of sin. The sin of fornication was a bad one. Now, older and wiser, Miri wasn’t sure she believed everything she’d learned at Saint Francis, but those lessons were ingrained in her and all she could do was modify them … not flout them altogether. She might fornicate, but only if the urge to do so was overwhelming, and so far it hadn’t been.

She had been passionately kissed, had a couple times been felt up under her clothes, and had only once gone further than even that; but the ultimate act had never happened. Marisol on the other hand, also raised Catholic, said she had rid herself of her virginity at the first opportunity, which came freshman year in college. She told Miri that when her boyfriend pushed himself inside her, her body had resisted as determinedly as though he had been trying to press his thumb through the palm of her hand.

And the blood, Marisol said shaking her head. I don’t even want to tell you about the blood.

The thought of it almost made Miri swoon. She wasn’t completely innocent, and knew that some—maybe even most—women bled the first time, but she had heard very few firsthand accounts of what The First Time was like. A couple girls at Saint Francis had boasted of being sexually-active, but at the time, Miri wasn’t much interested. She wasn’t part of that crowd. She was one of the studious ones, more interested in her lessons and books than in parties and boys.

And why was she even thinking about that now?

Que precioso.”

Eduardo had ended his colorful description, and her mother was practically swooning, her father smiling as well.

“My mother thinks it’s madness to come to New York when you can live back home,” Mark said. “Even though I can’t persuade her to let me buy her a house there.”

“No. You save your money,” their mother said. “I am used to living here now. Maybe when I am old …”

Miri and her brothers exchanged smiles. None of them dared tell her that at almost sixty-five, they thought she was at least approaching old age. And certainly no one would bother reminding her that Mark now had more money than he knew what to do with. Relative to his wealth, the small things their parents accepted—some home remodeling, new appliances and a car—were akin to trinkets.

“You mustn’t encourage your mother to come here, Eduardo,” their mother continued. “Life here is very different … aislado … very isolated. Not very much …” She struggled with her English. “Not very much … comunidad.”

“Mom, that’s his and his mother’s business if she should come,” Miri jumped in, embarrassed.

Her parents always wanted to adopt the new Dominican ball players, treating them for a time like one of their own children, doling out unsolicited advice and even scolding them on occasion. One guy who had wound up in the papers for driving intoxicated, her mother had grabbed by the ear when he came over for dinner one Sunday, telling him he had shamed his family.

“No, but I’ve considered that,” Eduardo said. “I would not want her to be unhappy. She has friends in San Pedro. And her church.”

“Yes. Very important. Do you go to Mass, Eduardo?”

“Mom,” Matt groaned. “Stop. Bad enough you strong-arm the rest of us into going.”

“I shouldn’t have to … what do you say … strong-arm you into church, Mateo. But …” Their mother threw up her hands in defeat. “But … you meet your Maker at the end. So it is your choice whether you meet him in a state of grace or not.”

“I go on holidays,” Eduardo said, smiling politely. “Not much more than that, to be honest. And usually, I was strong-armed as well.”

“You young people today …” Standing up, her mother looked at Dylan who also stood. “Time for our chaca, Dylan?”

Her mother and sister-in-law headed for the kitchen and the little ones followed, lured by the promise of a sweet dessert. Her brothers and father continued talking among themselves and Xiomara leaned in to finish what remained on her plate now that she was freed from coercing Pedro into eating his own meal.

“How about you?” Eduardo asked.

Miri felt her face warm when he addressed her directly. The heat spread down her neck and to her belly. “What about me?”

“Do you often go to Mass?”

“No.” She shook her head. “Not often.”

Eduardo smiled, and she couldn’t figure out what that smile meant. What conclusion was he drawing from the fact that she too, had to be forced to Mass? Although why she should care about the conclusions he drew was beyond her.

“Are you staying tonight, Miri?” Mark asked from the head of the table.

“No. Too difficult to get to work on time from here.”

“God forbid you should be a little late to your high-powered job as a proofreader,” Matt smirked.

“High-powered or not, they expect me to be on time,” Miri snapped.

She hated it when her brothers treated her like she was a flibbertigibbet. She was doing what most people did after college—working at a job that paid the bills until she could figure out her next move. But she supposed the fact that her job didn’t actually pay the bills was part of what caused them to ridicule her.

After she graduated, Mark had continued depositing almost fifteen-hundred a month into her checking account. Of all her brothers, he was the one who would have had standing to inquire about when she was going to “get serious” about her life, and yet he did not. Matt and Peter on the other hand were relentless in their quest to prove her a spoiled brat. Like either of them had a leg to stand on.

Mark had bankrolled Matt’s new venture, a baseball camp for Little Leaguers; and Peter’s auto body shop that specialized in tricking-out luxury cars for irresponsible athletes and hedge-fund millionaires with too much disposable income on their hands. And just because both businesses were doing well, they conveniently forgot that it wasn’t their own ingenuity that had led to their success, but Mark’s money and good reputation. Although Acosta was a common name, the family resemblance to their famous brother opened lots of doors.

“So I’ll take you home after we’re done eating,” Mark said, smoothly avoiding yet another sibling squabble by bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand. “I need to take Duardo anyway.”

“Or you could take us to the train,” Eduardo suggested, unexpectedly. “I’d like to see what that’s like.”

Mark hesitated. “I think Dylan would kill me if I dropped you at the train station, man.”

“I would prefer it,” Eduardo said, more firmly this time. “So long as …” He looked at Miri. “So long as I have a guide to make sure I am not lost.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Miri saw that Matt was smirking again.

“Sure,” Miri said, feeling a tremor in her voice that she hoped no one else could hear. “I’ll be your guide.”

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‘When Clouds Touch’ by Ey Wade

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