‘The Fall’ – COMING APRIL 20th

TheFall_Forrester_EBOOK (2)

A note from the author:

You may remember Lorna Terry from my book, ‘Commitment’; Riley’s mother, the professor who resented her daughter’s decision to marry a rapper of all things, but more than that, as a radical feminist sometimes resented the very idea of marriage.

Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Lorna Terry seemed to be the most sure of who she was and came to me feeling ‘whole’–like there was very little for me to do but put her on the page. I didn’t wonder how she became the self-assured woman she was, she just … was. But no one comes ‘whole’. We’re all the product of little tiny pieces of experiences, lessons, prejudices, assets and flaws. So I wanted to deconstruct Lorna, figure out who she is, and why she is the woman we see in ‘Commitment’. What I uncovered was someone much more flawed than I expected, and much more layered. I loved writing this book. And for the first time in a long time, I didn’t want to leave the characters.

On April 20th, I introduce you to her. I hope you love her –with all her flaws and complications–as I do.

About the book:

In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” Having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.

But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …

It cometh before the fall.

From ‘The Fall’:

“It’s so weird visiting you here,” Riley said walking around the office. “I don’t recall ever coming to your office when I was actually enrolled at the college.”

“You didn’t. But I wasn’t in this office. When you were here, I had the much smaller one in Rayburn Hall.”

Riley had left Shawn with the kids for the day and driven up. For lunch was what they said, though they both knew the real reason was to finish the conversation that had been started in Riley’s kitchen a few days after she brought Cassidy home from the hospital. Already, her daughter had resumed the size she was before her pregnancy—breastfeeding and her father’s genes, probably. Lorna remembered carrying around an extra twenty pounds for months after Riley’s birth. And of course, she hadn’t breastfed at all.

“Which classes are having their reunions this year?” Riley asked lifting and inspecting a book on Lorna’s desk.

“Not sure. I usually leave town for all that brouhaha.”

“Which I’m sure makes the deans mad at you. I bet lots of people come just to meet you.”

“Don’t kid yourself. They come to get drunk and sleep with their old college boyfriend or girlfriend, to see whether all those sweet romantic memories are accurate.”

Riley laughed. “Ever the cynic. I had lots of college flings. I can’t imagine being even slightly interested in any of them now.”

“Remember how you never wanted me to meet them?” Lorna asked gathering her bag and keys. “Now that you’re older I can ask: what the hell was up with that?

“I don’t know.” Riley shrugged. “I was probably afraid of them falling in love with you or something.”

“Riley!”

“No, seriously. You always seemed to attract younger men in droves …”

Lorna thought of the grad student, whose name she now knew well—Todd Williamson. And she thought of Malcolm, who lately had begun to seem less and less young.

“That’s not true. Is it?”

“Yes, Mom. Seriously? You don’t remember?”

“No, I don’t. Like … who are you talking about?”

“Like I could remember their names.” Riley scoffed.

Though Lorna knew she didn’t mean it to be cruel or judgmental, the comment stung. There had been men, for sure, but when Riley entered Gilchrist, Lorna hadn’t yet turned forty. She was in her prime, so of course there were men.

“Did I …” She paused while locking her office door. “Did I introduce you to them all?”

“If you could call it that. I ran into some in our kitchen when I stopped by the house, or in the bathroom, or …”

“How is it we never talked about this?”

“What was there to talk about? You had lovers. You never hid that, and you always taught me it was nothing to be ashamed of. So I didn’t …” Riley shrugged again. “It was mostly no big deal. I can’t believe you’re saying you now don’t remember any of this.”

“No,” Lorna said. “I’m not saying I don’t remember any of it. I guess I just remember it differently, that’s all. There were men who were around for longer. There was Earl, there was …”

Riley seemed to detect her consternation and touched her on the forearm. “Lorna, like I said, it was no big deal.”

“You said it was mostly no big deal, actually. That’s not the same thing.”

“Well I meant ‘no big deal’. So anyway, let’s go find someplace to eat. I feel like Italian. How ‘bout you?”

They ate at Andiamo! which was a favorite of the Gilchrist community because of its enormous antipasti selection and could-stuff-a-horse entrée portion sizes. Riley ordered like someone who was still eating for two, but Lorna didn’t bother remarking on it since her daughter never seemed to gain an ounce anyway, and wouldn’t have cared if she did. Lorna herself had only recently begun to care about things like pant sizes and the number on the scale.

“So I want to talk more about me being a bad mother,” Lorna said once they’d placed their orders.

Riley looked at her, freezing just as she was about to dip a piece of bread into the plate of olive oil and cracked pepper between them.

“Who said anything about ..? See this is why we never have these kinds of conversations. When it’s about you, you get incredibly sensitive. And yet you insist on doling out brutal truths to everyone else when it’s about them.”

“What you described earlier, men coming and going, is a pretty shitty mother, that’s all.”

“That’s your judgment of yourself. I never said anything like that.”

“I don’t know how else to …”

“Look, I came here because I wanted to ask you some questions about my father. And suddenly it’s about you. It’s always about you, Lorna.”

“Ah. And now we get the truth.”

“I always tell you the truth. And the truth is this: I never said you were a bad mother. Did I sometimes wish you made it to more PTA meetings? Sure. Did I wish my house didn’t reek of pot when my friends came over when I was in middle school? Of course. Did I occasionally want you to bake some fucking brownies? Yes! But I never said you were a shitty mother!”

Riley raising her voice was so unusual that Lorna was for a few minutes, literally without words.

“I don’t know what narrative you have in your head about yourself that you’re hoping I’ll confirm for you,” Riley continued in a calmer tone. “But I had a pretty good childhood. Some of it not so good, but on balance, good. I don’t know what else you want me to say.”

“I’m … sorry.”

Riley looked up. She seemed surprised. Lorna knew it was because those two words were ones she didn’t often say in sequence. The second one she didn’t often say, period.

“You’re right. This isn’t about me. But I think some of what you said may have triggered me. Made me think of my own mother.”

“What about her?” Riley asked slowly. “We never … You’ve never told me much about your family. I don’t even know if there’s anyone left.”

“I don’t know either,” Lorna said ruefully.

“Mom. Look. If today you don’t feel up to …”

“No. You came up here, so let’s talk.” She nodded. “Let me tell you about your father.”

Riley bit into the crusty bit of bread in her hand, brushing away the crumbs that fell onto her shirt. “Okay, so …”

“It’s hard to talk about him,” Lorna acknowledged.

“Why? Was he like, I don’t know, an asshole to you or something?”

Lorna laughed. “No. Quite the opposite, actually.”

She leaned back and took a deep breath before beginning to speak.

 

 

Babymaking: A Tracy and Brendan Drop-in

BabymakingThis is an unedited excerpt from a longer piece, coming in 2017:

Given that it was almost one a.m., Brendan was sure Tracy had long departed seriously-pissed-off and was somewhere approaching ballistic. But there hadn’t been any way to avoid it. The men he’d been entertaining all evening had flown in from Dubai. They were young Saudi sheiks, or sons of entrepreneurs or some such thing, with money to burn and looking to invest in music.

The Saudis were always hard to shake. When they came to the States they didn’t just expect to be shown a good time. No, these guys wanted pure debauchery. Strip clubs, loose women, hard liquor—the whole nine yards. That was the part of his business that Brendan seldom talked about with Tracy. She didn’t like him being around women in power-suits let alone those in G-strings shaking their tail in his face. And while Brendan never partook in that manner of festivity, he was definitely expected to be along for the ride.

Tonight, his charge had been a twenty-three year old with a potential $2.5 million investment who happened to like blondes. But he and his entourage had two very specific requests: full nudity and twerking. Easy enough in New York City, right? Wrong. Because dude also wanted them to have big butts. Like, really big. The stripper aesthetic differed from city to city, and big butts were more of a down South thing. New York clubs were more into toned and athletic girls, some of them more on the slender side. So they’d been to three clubs before Karim or Jahir or whatever-the-hell-his-name-was had found the perfect dancer who met his and his friends’ requirements. And then they’d spent the better part of three hours making it rain. What should have been a perfectly respectable evening having a few early drinks with potential business associates had turned into a frat boy’s wet dream.

And a husband’s nightmare.

Brendan couldn’t hear her as he opened the front door—the house was completely silent—but he knew for a fact that Tracy was wide awake. Wide awake and waiting.

Making his way up the stairs slowly, he tried to avoid the loud spots, but of course, failed. The door to the master bedroom, which was directly opposite the top of the stairs, was ajar. They were staying in Brooklyn these days, in the house that Tracy owned before they got married. Layla was starting to need more space and they’d agreed that the apartment in the city had way too many perils, not the least of which was the beautiful but child-unfriendly spiral staircase that led up to the loft.

Pausing before going in, Brendan instead decided to go check in on his little girl. The second bedroom, once Tracy’s home office, had been transformed into an explosion of pink, ruffles and butterflies, at the center of which was a “princess sleigh-bed”. And in the center of that bed, his baby girl lay, sleeping sweet little-girl dreams, her long wild, reddish-auburn hair spread around her head like a halo, her rosebud mouth slightly open, her breaths soft and even.

Smiling, Brendan knelt next to the bed and inhaled, kissing her lightly on the cheek and then on the forehead. In her sleep, Layla stretched out her arms, waiting to be lifted. He smiled, and gently pushed her arms back down to the covers. Around the time she turned a year old, things had been so hectic at work that he rarely made it home before her bedtime. So it had been his practice, as he had done tonight, to go into her room just to pick her up, hold her while she slept and walk back and forth in her room for a few minutes. The weight and warmth of this incredibly beautiful little being—the most amazing thing he had ever done in his life—was something he couldn’t even begin to describe.

Tonight he didn’t pick her up, but just looked, smelled her, kissed her and went back down the hall to face his wife.

When he opened the door to the master suite, Tracy was sitting up in bed, back straight as though she was in a yoga pose, her hair loose about her shoulders, arms folded on her lap, and legs stretched in front of her atop the covers. Still the most beautiful woman he had ever known, Tracy struck him right in the chest and in the gut whenever he walked into a room and caught sight of her. Tonight was no different.

“Is it important to you that we have another baby?” she asked, without greeting him first. Her voice was scarily calm.

Trick question, incoming.

“Of course it is. You know me. If it was up to me, we’d have a few more.”

“It is up to you, Brendan. All you have to do is make it home during the window.”

“Let’s not talk about ‘the window’ at one-thirty in the morning. I don’t think I have it in me right now to talk about ‘the window’.”

“According to the book, it’s our best chance for …”

“I know. You read The Book to me every morning for the last few months while I’m trying to get dressed for work, so I know all about it.”

“So you know today is …”

“Yep. I know. Ovulation Day.”

Brendan shed his shirt and began working on his pants. As exasperated as he was by the conversation, he was mostly relieved that she wasn’t angry after all. By Tracy standards, this was nothing short of a miracle. His wife was not one to take it well when things didn’t go according to plan. Particularly if the plan was hers.

“Are you making fun of this process?”

“Nope. Not at all.”

Tossing his clothes over the back of the bedroom armchair, he turned toward the bed, pausing only to switch off the overhead lighting, throwing the room into almost complete darkness. The only illumination came from the hallway where they always kept a dim light on in case they needed to make their way to Layla’s bedroom in the middle of the night.

Climbing on to the bed, Brendan grabbed his wife by the ankles and pulled her toward him, causing her to topple onto her back.

“Brendan!”

“Shh,” he said, spreading her legs. “You’re going to wake Layla.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” Tracy asked as he grasped her behind the knees and lifted her legs.

“We’re about to make a baby …”

“No.” Tracy said.

“No?”

“No, Brendan. It’s too late now. And anyway, you don’t get to come in here smelling like a distillery, hours later than you promised and get some purely-for-enjoyment sex.”

“What’s wrong with purely-for-enjoyment sex?” he asked, turning his head to kiss along her inner thigh. “That’s the only kind we used to have, remember?”

“I remember.”

Her voice had softened somewhat and she sighed as he made his way up her right thigh toward the apex, and her chest had begun to rise and fall more visibly. Baring his teeth, he nipped her lightly and was rewarded with Tracy swatting him on top of his head.

“You suck,” she said. “We missed the window because of you.”

“I don’t suck,” Brendan said sliding a hand up and under her nightshirt. “But I will …” He tweaked a nipple and Tracy’s pelvis lifted off the bed.

“You always think you can placate me with sex,” she said.

“Because I always can.” Brendan moved up her body so that finally, they were face-to-face.

Tracy’s greenish-amber eyes blinked slowly, and her perfect bow-shaped lips curled into a smile. Her hair was wild and disheveled, spread around her head and shoulders on the pillow. It caught what little light there was, so that it seemed streaked in gold.

Brendan smiled back, and for a few long moments they just looked at each other. He loved the hell out of this woman, with all her edges, and moods and complications. But among the things he loved most was how hopeless she was at hiding all she felt for him. Even now, pissed as she was, he saw it in those incredible eyes of her.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “I should’ve been here.”

Tracy reached up and swatted the top of his head again. “Yeah. You should have,” she said quietly. And then a pause. “So … where were you?”

Brendan froze, weighing the odds that Tracy’s surprisingly mellow mood would persist if he told her the complete truth. He felt her legs, wrapped around his torso slacken a little.

“Out with a potential investor. Young guy from the Middle East. He wanted a little … Western-style entertainment.”

“So you were at a … country-and-western bar?” Tracy asked sweetly.

“No,” Brendan said slowly. “Not exactly.”

“Brendan …” Tracy’s voice hardened.

“Sweetheart …”

“Brendan, tell me you weren’t at a …”

“Yes. But I swear I didn’t enjoy it.”

Tracy thrashed around beneath him, trying to get free, and shoving fruitlessly against his chest. “Get off me,” she ordered.

“Tracy, c’mon.”

“C’mon nothing! You know how I feel about those places, and yet you …”

“I go where the investors and clients want to go, Tracy. You know that. You think I want some sweaty-assed chick who’s been groped by a dozen guys grinding on me?”

“What do you mean grinding on you? Did you get a freakin’ lap-dance?”

Brendan sighed and rolled over onto his back. “No, sweetheart, I didn’t get a lap-dance.”

“You’d better not have, Brendan. Or …”

“Okay, okay. Let’s fight about this tomorrow. Are we having sex or not?”

“Not.”

“Fine. G’night then. I’m exhausted.”

After getting up to switch off the bathroom light, Brendan climbed back into bed. Next to him, though they weren’t touching, he felt Tracy’s tension and wakefulness. She could never sustain her anger at him for very long. She flared, and then she cooled, and then they were all over each other again. Knowing that by morning the whole disagreement would be a thing of the past made it much easier for Brendan to be sanguine about it. Still, it would probably take her another hour to drift off as she tried to talk herself down from her annoyance, while he could already feel himself slipping beneath the soft cloak of sleep. His wife was nothing if not intense; and once she made up her mind to do something she was single-minded until it was accomplished. And having a second baby was definitely her new mission.

The pregnancy with Layla had been far from uneventful. Even their daughter’s conception had happened somewhat against the odds. Tracy had been on and off the pill, and only occasionally having periods. And Brendan definitely hadn’t been trying to get her pregnant back then, because they weren’t married. He only began to reconcile himself to fatherhood—and acknowledge how much he wanted it—when Tracy almost miscarried in her first trimester. But after Layla was born, that was it, he was all the way gone, and the future he imagined for them included a large family.

But unlike Tracy, he was willing to trust that it would all happen in the fullness of time—they didn’t need to orchestrate everything. But because family, their family, was Tracy’s only occupation—since she had left her job to be a full-time homemaker a year after they married—Brendan was happy to let her be in charge of all things home-related, including the baby-making. The problem was, knowing his wife, if she couldn’t have even a modicum of control over the process, she would grow increasingly tense.

“Hey,” he said to her in the dark.

“What?”

“Come closer.”

He heard and felt Tracy move toward him, but still, they didn’t touch.

“Closer,” he said again.

This time he felt her arm brush against his.

Closer.”

“Brendan …”

He dragged Tracy closer still, so that her head was on his chest and his arm. Heaving a deep sigh, he shut his eyes again. “Good. There,” he said. “That’s where you’re supposed to be.”

“You still suck,” Tracy whispered.

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Fall’

The Fall Promo

About the book:

In the summer of her fifteenth year as a professor at Gilchrist College, Lorna Terry is at a crossroads and, she fears, also on the downswing of her career as the “sole remaining radical feminist in academia.” Having built her life on a theory of non-attachment, she is disturbed to find herself becoming very much attached to the somewhat younger, Malcolm T. Mitchell. A writer-on-the rise, and her college’s newest wunderkind, Malcolm is about to challenge everything she thought she ever knew about her life, her loves, and her work.

But her growing attachment to Malcolm may well be the least of Lorna’s worries. For some in her academic community, she has risen too far, and too fast. And for others, she is much too smug in her accomplishments, enjoys adulation she doesn’t deserve, and is much too proud. And you know what they say about pride …

It cometh before the fall.

From ‘The Fall’:

Malcolm had just backed out of the driveway of his small, college-owned house when he thought of her. So rather than resist the urge, he called. The first ring sounded in the confines of his car. He waited through a second and then a third, fully expecting that he would be sent to voicemail; so her voice was a surprise. It was smoky, smooth and sounded like that of someone who had not too long ago woken up. But that was the way Lorna Terry sounded all the time, and it just about drove him crazy.

“I wondered whether you might want to keep me company for a little bit,” he said.

“Who is this?”

Her humor. That was another thing he liked about her. It was biting and sharp, not for the feint of heart. He could only imagine the number of men whose balls shrunk in the face of a woman like her.

“You answered.”

“I seem to recall having been ordered to do so.”

“I was bluffing,” Malcolm said.

On the other end of the line, Lorna sighed. “I’ll remember that the next time you order me to do something.”

“You never would do anything you didn’t want to do anyway.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I can occasionally be coerced.”

“I don’t believe it,” he said. “When was the last time anyone ever coerced you into anything?”

“Just this afternoon. Steven insisted I change the title of one of my courses. You walked in on the tail-end of the coercion as a matter of fact.”

“Is that why you looked so put-out and annoyed? I thought that was because of me.”

“You’re vastly overestimating the effect you have on my moods, Malcolm,” she said.

He smiled. Another zinger. A man would have to bring his ‘A’ game every single time with her, for sure.

Malcolm heard sounds like her moving around crockery, perhaps washing dishes, or grabbing a mug for coffee? He was curious about her life, and what she did to occupy it. Did she read in the evenings? Drink a glass of wine? Watch trashy television and drink flowery teas? Did she write, or entertain lovers? Everything about Lorna Terry intrigued him from the moment they’d met, and for a while he was proud of himself for having ensnared someone so fascinating, until his unreturned calls forced him to admit that it was she who had ensnared him.

“So what was the title of the course you were coerced into changing?”

When she told him, Malcolm spluttered into unexpected laughter. On the other end of the line, Lorna laughed with him.

“I don’t think it’s that shocking,” she said finally, a smile still in her voice. “I mean, do you know what young people are up these days?”

“No, I don’t know. Do you?”

“Well, no, but …”

“It can’t be much worse than what went on in the sixties.”

“I know you’re an English professor, but your math is terrible. I have no idea what went on in the sixties. I was born when all that was over—Kennedy had been shot, Dr. King was gone—and I missed the whole free-love party.”

He was beginning to think the whole age thing was more of a soft spot for her than she was acknowledging even to herself.

“I didn’t mean you’d experienced it, Lorna. Just that there’s nothing new under the sun.”

“Well, men’s squeamishness about women co-opting their vocabulary to refer to our sex is definitely not new. So I guess I should have known that the word ‘pussy’ would have Steven clutching his pearls.”

God, he could talk to her all night. He hadn’t been kidding when he said what he had at dinner. She made his dick hard, just because of her intellect alone. And that there was all the rest of it? Well, that just made the whole package infinitely more appealing.

“So have you come up with anything? Anything other than ‘pussy power’ I mean.”

“No,” Lorna said sourly. “I think my brain is rejecting the exercise entirely. It’s refusing to help me. Maybe you can help me think of something.”

“No ma’am. I’m staying well clear of this one.”

“Oh I didn’t peg you as a coward, Malcolm T. Mitchell.”

“I’m not. I just steer clear or coming up with, or using clever names for women’s anatomy,”

“That’s not what I remember,” Lorna said.

Malcolm felt a twitch at his crotch, but said nothing.

“And speaking of cowardice. Why are you talking to me on the phone and not here with me in the flesh?”

The way she said the word ‘flesh’ positively dripped with sex. If he wasn’t careful, this woman would have him whipped, quick and in a hurry.

“I’m not about to let you use me for my body, Professor Terry,” he said, trying to keep the tone light.

“So what would you like me to use you for?

“Well, I don’t want to be too hasty on the body thing. You can use that at will. But I want to be more than that. And I have an instinct about you.”

“Really? What’s that?”

She was practically purring now, and Malcolm felt himself developing what felt like an honest-to-goodness woody. Just from talking to her.

“My instinct tells me that you’re a woman who doesn’t value anything that comes too easily.”

“Trust me. You’re far from easy,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to work this hard to get laid a second time by a man I’ve already slept with once.”

Malcolm laughed again. “I don’t know what to do with you.”

“Yes you do. You’re just too frightened to do it.”

“Hey. Not frightened. Cautious,” he chided. “I want us to get to know each other better. Is that so terrible?”

“Not at all. In fact I look forward to it. But there’s no reason we can’t do that and sleep together too.”

“You’re being too agreeable. I think you’re messin’ with me.”

“Not at all. So come over. I’ll leave the door open for you.”

For a split second, Malcolm shut his eyes. Christ, he wished he could.

“Can’t tonight. On my way to the city to see my girls.”

“Oh. Another time then.” Lorna sounded as though it made no difference to her one way or another. If it was the last thing he did, he was going to make this woman beg for him.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

“Well …” She let the word drag out. “Tomorrow’s tricky for me.”

“You didn’t say anything about it being tricky when I mentioned it earlier. What’s tricky about it?”

Down boy. You’re the one who’s begging right now.

“I told you, Steven wants …”

“Bullshit,” Malcolm said. “I’m coming for you at one, just like I said.”

“Malcolm …”

“G’night, Lorna. I better go. This is a weird spot for cell service.”

“Malcolm …”

He hung up on her and waited. If she called back, then she was serious about canceling. Malcolm counted to ten very slowly but his phone didn’t ring.

Twenty. Thirty seconds. A minute.

The phone remained silent.


Coming soon!