I like to write about women, figuring out who they are and what their “stuff” is. You know what I mean, right? The things that drive them, the things that hold them back, the things that block them from having the kind of life they deserve. That’s it. If I had to sum up the central theme of every single thing I write, that would be it.
And if I had to sum up my approach to writing, it would be “searching for realism.” I am rarely (okay, never) completely satisfied with anything I write, but on the occasions that I am somewhat satisfied, it’s because I think I may have struck a note of realism close to what I wanted.
For that reason, I love ‘Ivy’s League’. Love. Ivy has more than a few personal characteristics that I relate to, or have myself. But more than that, her story was one that felt real to me, and unfolded completely organically on the page–I didn’t map or chart it out, or even know where she would end up, I just let it happen as I wrote. And I also love that in her life, there’s an absence of drama other than the purely personal and domestic kind; her struggles are those that most women face in one form or another. But I’m not going to say too much more about Ivy since I’m doing an online Book Chat about her story today at 7 PM EDT, here.
And of course, I’ll be at Wine with Writers in person in two weeks. Tickets are going pretty fast, so get yours now, if you’re going to be in the DC/MD/VA area. I’ll be hanging out with Tia Kelly and Xyla Turner, talking books and drinking wine and signing my brand new release (slated for release just before ‘Wine with Writers’) ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’.
So … about Miri: I know some folks have been anxiously waiting for her. And honestly, I had a hard time understanding why. Miri was a quiet and small character for me. Someone who lived in the shadow of the much larger characters of her brothers. So writing about her was challenging. Here’s a little secret. If writers struggle, it’s for one reason only: we’re having a hard time figuring out what our characters want, and how (or whether) to have them get it.
Apart from life getting in the way of our writing, there is pretty much no other reason for writers being “blocked” other than that. And until we figure those things out, the book just ain’t gon’ come. Miri, now that her story is about to be released, remains in some ways a small and quiet character. But I figured out what she wants, and whether (and how) she gets it. So she’s on her way in very short order.
In the meantime, I thought I’d let you visit with these two very different women–both of whom have just enough slice of “real” to satisfy me. And I hope you as well.
The sound of the door opening and shutting sent Miri scurrying back to the bed, clutching the sheets around her naked form. And then she felt silly. After all that happened the previous evening, shyness seemed ridiculous. So, while she listened to the movement in the next room, she found a t-shirt and pulled it on, recalling that Duardo had offered her one the night before, though she never got around to putting it, or anything else, on. Taking a moment to check her hair—which was pretty much a disaster—Miri went out to join him in the living area, pausing only to brush her teeth with her fingers in his small bathroom, and to splash water on her face.
Duardo looked up when she entered and spoke to him but did not answer.
Expecting some warmth, or acknowledgment of the previous evening, and not getting it, Miri was disappointed. Instead, his expression was inscrutable. But she felt brave, and more importantly, he looked incredibly hot, in a stark white t-shirt that only emphasized his sun-darkened skin; and baggy grey sweats. His scruffy and unshaven face reminded her of how it felt against her own face, and later, against her inner thighs. So Miri went to him, and while he removed what smelled like breakfast from a paper sack, she wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Resting her face against his broad and firm back, she felt her entire body heave in a sigh.
“Will you not speak to me?” she asked, feeling emboldened by the way he leaned oh-so-slightly backward and into her embrace. “¿Estás enojado conmigo?”
“No,” Duardo said after a long while. But still he didn’t turn around to return her embrace.
“So if you’re not angry, what is it?”
“I crossed a line with you,” he said, turning around and looking down at her. “After everything that your family …”
Miri exhaled impatiently and pulled away from him. “If we’re going to talk about how what happened between you and me—two consenting adults—affects my brothers, my family? If that’s what you’re about to say, I’m going to fucking scream,” she said.
Duardo looked surprised, though he did not comment on her cursing.
“I’m serious,” Miri said. “I walked in here on a high and you’re just going to … wreck it. I’m starting to feel like I would have been better off going home with Stephan Payne.”
And that was precisely the wrong thing to say. Duardo grabbed and pulled her back against his chest, his hands grasping her arms and holding her tight, his face inches from hers.
“Don’t you ever say that to me. He doesn’t get to touch you. He doesn’t get to go near you. ¿Entiendes?”
Being manhandled should have alarmed her, but it did the opposite. It made Miri confident, and even calm. Because she knew Duardo would never hurt her, and because she now knew that his stoic distance of a few moments earlier was the only way he knew to maintain control over the riotous emotions that were now so clearly visible in his eyes.
“I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want him near me. I want you,” she said, shrugging. “I just want you.”
“So why do you say these things?” Duardo let her go, running a hand over his head. “Just to … provoke me?”
“Because I want to get past this part,” Miri said. “This stupid part where we pretend like we don’t already know what’s going to happen.”
At that, Duardo gave her a grim smile. “And what’s that?” he asked, his eyes searching hers.
“We’re going to have an affair,” Miri said, staring back at him evenly.
From ‘Ivy’s League’ Available Now.
Eli looked up just in time to see her coming down the sidewalk. Holding the hem of her gown up so it wouldn’t sweep the ground, Ivy looked like something out of a dream. Her dress was yellow, a soft shade like the faintest glow of morning sunlight and made of a foamy fabric that swayed as she walked. Cut in a straight line, binding her across the chest, it left completely exposed Ivy’s smooth brown shoulders and long, graceful arms. Under the hem of the dress, Eli could just make out gold strappy, high-heeled sandals that looked like something a gladiator would wear. If a gladiator was a five-foot nine, slender-as-a-reed, breathtaking Black woman in a yellow gown.
Ivy spotted him and he opened the window on the passenger side, disengaging the locks. She leaned in, her lips pursed and stern. She looked even more beautiful up close. Her hair was pulled back into a high, regal mass of kinky curls, her makeup subtle but iridescent. A stab of possessiveness impaled Eli right in the center of the chest.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Get in,” he said.
Ivy seemed poised to protest but instead sighed and opened the door, getting in next to him. Turning, she took another breath. “Eli …”
He kissed her. Hard. Hard enough to shut her up, steal her breath, and make her gasp all at once. She didn’t resist, but she didn’t respond either. Not at first, but he persisted until her lips softened and she kissed him back—tentatively at first, and then with all the feeling he had become accustomed to from her. She tasted sweet, like white wine, and smelled even more amazing than usual. Eli turned even further and reached over to pull her toward him by the waist, awkwardly in the confines of the truck’s cab.
That awkwardness provided an opening and Ivy took it, wrenching herself free and shaking her head.
“Eli,” she said again. But this time her voice was trembling a little.
He answered her by starting the engine, and pulling out into traffic away from the curb. Ivy looked frantically behind them, and then back at him.
“Eli!” She said his name yet again. “I’m working. My boss is at that dinner.”
He slowed the truck to a crawl. “Is she going to fire you if you don’t come back?” he asked pointedly.
Ivy opened her mouth to speak but did not. Her shoulders heaved, and shaking her head, she leaned back against the seat, staring straight ahead.