SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’

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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.”

SAMPLE SUNDAY: From ‘The Education of Miri Acosta’ — coming 2014.

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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-two, and just graduated from university she is finally supporting herself instead of living off her parents, or her baseball superstar brother, Mark. 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.

At first, Miri can’t stand ‘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. Or at least how to pretend to be one.

EXCERPT:

She was late. Again.

Miri Acosta looked down at her outfit and cursed herself for not leaving enough time to change. Taking a deep breath, she rang the bell and waited, praying that her sister-in-law would be the one to answer the door. Hearing the steps approaching inside, making clicking noises on the terrazzo tiles, Miri exhaled in relief. Only a woman’s shoes would make that sound, so she was safe.

“Miri!”

Her sister-in-law Dylan pulled her in to a tight hug and then held her at arms’ length to look her over.

“Shh,” Miri said, putting a finger over her lips before she could say anything more. “I need to borrow a top or something before I go in and see everybody.”

It was only then that Dylan seemed to truly take in what Miri was wearing—skintight jeans and an equally snug white sequined tank with black stilettos.

“Where the heck are you coming from at this time of the afternoon looking like that?” Dylan asked. “Were you …?”

Shh!” Miri said again. Grabbing her sister-in-law’s hand she pulled her toward the staircase opposite the front door.

The entire family would be out back, everyone talking and laughing, waiting for Sunday dinner to be served in the large formal dining room. Except that the Acostas didn’t do formal, so now it was just the ‘family dining room’, or at least that’s what Miri’s eldest brother Mark liked to call it.

“Your brother would …”

“I know what he would,” Miri said as she and Dylan ascended the stairs. “That’s why I need you to loan me something to wear.”

“What have you been doing?”

“I haven’t been doing anything. Just out with friends, that’s all.”

“Do you need to take a shower or anything?”

Dylan led her into the large master suite. The home, which her brother and Dylan had purchased shortly after Mark signed with the Mets, was stunningly beautiful, and conveniently large. So Miri would have no problem showering, getting cleaned up and dressed in something more appropriate to face her three brothers, parents and whomever they’d invited over this time for the customary family Sunday dinner.

“Anyone else down there today?” Miri asked as she sat on the edge of the bed, peeling off her jeans.

“The new guy on the team. Mark invited him over because he’s got no family in the States. You know …”

“Lemme guess,” Miri said rolling her eyes. “Some nice Dominican country boy?”

Dylan laughed. “Something like that.” She stood in front of the mirror and fussed with her shoulder-length, wildly curly hair, twisting and releasing it so that it exploded in a mass about her face once again.

Miri watched her. Dylan was always fussing with her hair. Miri had a suspicion that what she really wanted was to chop the whole thing off. But she never would because Mark liked it. And what Mark liked, Dylan tried to comply with. As much as Miri loved and respected her brother, and adored her sister-in-law who was more like a best friend, their traditional man-wears-the-pants marriage was precisely what Miri didn’t want for herself. If in fact she ever decided to get married. The jury was still out on that question.

In her time at Columbia a lot had changed for Miri. Even though she was just barely a year out of university, she was determined never to lose those parts of herself she found while there—the independent, assertive and opinionated young woman she’d never dreamed she was at heart. If her family had anything to say about it, she would get a nice, not-too-challenging career, meet a nice Dominican man and settle down to pop out some babies.

Well, they wouldn’t have anything to say about it. Or that was Miri’s plan anyway.

“Where’s Jordan?” Miri asked once she was undressed. “If she isn’t downstairs, I want to kiss her before I jump in the shower.”

“Downstairs, attached to her father probably,” Dylan said shaking her head.

Dylan and Mark’s three-year old, Jordan was Miri’s only niece. Her other brother Peter had a son, Pedro, who was about to turn five. Her third brother Matt, Peter’s twin had no kids. He was the consummate bachelor and black sheep of the family. Black sheep because they had no idea what Miri had been up to, anyway. By Dominican standards, they were a small family. With four kids, all of age, Miri’s parents were beginning to yearn for a houseful of grandchildren as much as they doted on the two they already had.

“Okay, so I’ll clean up and meet you down there. Just tell them I needed to make a phone call or something. I won’t take too long.”

Dylan gave her a look, which Miri knew meant that she hated to lie to everyone. Dylan and Mark’s marriage had been through a baptism of fire in her brother’s rookie year in the league and now they were one of those sickening couples everyone hated, who had no secrets and told no lies. If coupledom were something she aspired to, Miri supposed that in that respect at least, she wouldn’t mind being like them.

“Be quick about it,” Dylan said. “Or soon your mother’s going to come looking for you.”

__________________

After she’d showered, Miri found a pair of jeans in Dylan’s closet and an appropriately chaste white blouse and grey cardigan to wear over it. Though they wore the same numerical size, Dylan’s clothing felt roomy on her slender frame and Miri wished for the millionth time that she wasn’t quite so sylphlike, and that she might wake up one morning having grown boobs and a nice round booty like Dylan’s. Men liked that, and for sure her brother couldn’t seem to keep his hands off Dylan’s.

Raking a comb through her long auburn hair, Miri found a few bobby pins to secure it at her nape, and borrowed one of Dylan’s lipsticks in a muted coral shade. Checking in the mirror once more, she grimaced at her reflection. She looked eighteen again. Like the innocent, sweet-as-pie girl from the South Bronx that she used to be. The image didn’t bother her so much, except that it wasn’t true of who she was anymore. She just wished she had the guts to apprise everyone in her family of that fact.

Look at me! I’m all grown up now! She sometimes wanted to yell the words out loud. But they were so invested in the image in the mirror that Miri doubted they would hear her even if she did.

Making her way downstairs and toward the back of the house where her family was gathered, Miri heard their voices as she went. Her father’s and Mark’s, Peter’s and Matt’s, Dylan’s and that of Xiomara, Peter’s wife. And as a backdrop, there were the squeals from her niece and nephew who loved each other like siblings.

At the door to the veranda, Miri paused and scanned the faces of the people she loved so much, recalling in an instant that no matter how she complained about them all, she loved them fiercely and knew they loved her back just the same. Why else would she eschew every single Sunday afternoon activity her friends tried to tempt her into just to come all the way up here to Westchester to be treated like an infant?

Today, following their long night of clubbing in the Village, Miri’s friends were on a quest to get cupcakes at some new bakery in Midtown that was rumored to have revolutionized ‘the art of the cupcake.’ That’s what her friend Vanessa had called it—“the art of the cupcake.” Nessa was everything Miri hoped to be, if she could just find the room to pull it off—the quintessential New York It-Girl with the beautiful hair, chic clothes and living in a hip neighborhood.

But of course, Nessa was free to reinvent herself. Her family was safely in Nebraska somewhere, and needn’t know that their sweet Vanessa had cut her hair short, pierced her navel and wore black lipstick. The third in their little crew was Marisol, a mouthy Nuyorican who like Miri had to live a double-life just to avoid friction with her family. Still, as much as Miri loved those girls she loved these people more—this maddening group of people who any minute now would notice she was there and start prying into her business, asking questions about her whereabouts that she would have to evade.

But they didn’t notice she was standing there. At least not at first. Instead someone else noticed. Sitting at the edge of the crowd, wearing a white linen short-sleeved shirt and loose khaki pants was a stranger. The country boy Miri presumed. But far from countrified and unsophisticated, he was, well, stunning—a deep, dark, brown complexion with curly, coal-black hair, his quiet and stillness stood out among the noisy Acosta brood. And yet he seemed perfectly comfortable, one leg resting on the other ankle to knee, leaning back in his chair, a slight smile on his lips as though enjoying the warmth, family and fellowship.

Or at least that was what Miri thought he was enjoying until she realized she was staring directly at him, her mouth not completely closed.

His smile widened as he took her in, and his eyebrows inched upward.

Was he amused at her expense? Miri bristled at the thought, forcing herself to clamp her mouth shut, and then slightly jutting out her chin, refusing to be intimidated by his beauty.

A voice at her ear startled her, and Miri jumped. It was Dylan. She had approached and was inches away without Miri even noticing.

“So,” she said. “I see you’ve spotted ‘Duardo.”