Authors, would you like to share approximately 100-200 words about a current work in progress on a future WIP Wednesday? If so, please e-mail the details to erinoriordan AT sbcglobal DOT net.
Amber Lea Easton: I'm working on a WIP that I'm really excited about. It's definitely a work in progress at this stage--only 100 pages written but flowing fluidly. Although I'm a published romantic suspense author, this is going to be more of a Jodi Picoult-type book--definitely not a happy ending but filled with suspense.
Little Earthquakes Chapter One (partial)
Bloodstains remained on the hardwood floor despite the endless bottles of bleach and hours of scrubbing. Someone—maybe her mother—had bought a shag rug to cover it. She nudged the corner with her toe.
The house reverberated with emptiness despite the people gathered downstairs, talking about her life as if it were an impersonal news story. And the questions, the endless questions…as if she had any answers. Ten days ago her life had been whole, maybe not perfect but definitely whole. Family trip to Hawaii: snorkeling with sea turtles, Mai Tais in the moonlight, beach walks with the family…and she had been clueless the entire time.
Sure there had been trouble, but that was why they had gone on the trip. De-stress, reconnect, all the buzzwords she had used in desperation of holding the family together.
Lesson learned: buzzwords sucked.
Fingertips traced the top of the dresser, mind lost in all that had been and would never be. Teeth bit into her lip. Body shook with restrained emotion. Every ounce of strength had propelled her through the day, had held her up while she spoke at her husband’s funeral, had dragged one foot in front of the other as she guided her children down the church aisle.
And it wasn’t over; this was the threshold.
There hadn’t been a moment of peace since Marshall had pulled the trigger and blown his face off right in front of her. Chunks of his skull had embedded themselves in her hair, blood had roped across the bed like insane silly string and his body had crumbled where she now stood dressed in a black funeral dress.
She could still hear it…the gun going off, the kids screaming, “daddy, daddy” from the doorway…could still feel the disbelief gripping her mind, could still feel his lifeless body beneath her hands as she had knelt over him and begged him to stay alive.
“People are asking about you,” her mother said from the doorway. “You need to—”
“I know, I know, I know…” she rubbed her hands over her hair.
“Riana? Are you okay?” Her mother took a step inside the room.
Okay? Hell no. Her husband had killed himself five days ago. Of course she wasn’t okay. She doubted she even knew what that word meant anymore.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” she said.
“We’re all taking this hard, you know.” There it was, the accusation that maybe—just maybe—she should feel guilty for grieving her husband.
“There are a lot of people here. You need—” “I need everyone to stop telling me what I need and let me take care of myself and my kids.” An overwhelming desire to slam her hand into the mirror quaked through her. “Just go. I said I’d be down in a minute.”
She wanted to throw up, curl into a ball on the bathroom floor and escape into numbness. But that wasn’t allowed, not here with these people. That would be seen as weak, as less than whatever the hell it was they thought she should be. As far as she could tell, there wasn’t a manual on how to survive this, let alone how to act on a minute-to-minute basis.
“You don’t need to be bitchy. This is a tough day for everyone. We all loved Marshall.”
“Believe me, I wouldn’t want to make it harder on you or anyone else, that’s for damn sure.” Back to her mother, she stared at Marshall’s truck in the driveway.
If only she could have one more conversation, one more chance to understand, one more…anything. One more kiss. One more hug. One more knock-down-scream-the-walls-down argument.
“People are here to see you, Riana. You have a responsibility as the widow.”
Widow. Silently, she repeated the word, tried it out in her mind…it didn’t fit. Widow. She cringed at the word. Too young. Only thirty-seven. Widow. The sound of it twisted the knife deeper into her heart.
Blowing out a long breath, she squeezed her eyes closed and summoned more strength to keep standing. She heard her mother stir behind her, approach without touching and then leave.
Hands shaking, she grabbed one of his sweaters he had left hanging on the chair and held it against her chest. Even now she expected to hear his voice any moment, see him walking from the shower wondering what all the chaos was about, see his quick smile and feel his hands move over her arms.
But none of those things would happen ever again.
She pulled the sweater over the dress and walked downstairs. One foot in front of the other. Forward momentum.
In-laws, friends, relatives, and various acquaintances filled the house. Raised voices from the kids outside confirmed their whereabouts. She paused at the picture window on the landing to look at her two children, only 7 and 8, who played in their church clothes as it this were only a big party instead of a memorial for their father. And she prayed and prayed and prayed that they would survive this trauma without too many scars.
“I don’t know what to say, Riana. I…if there is anything we can do for you…anything…” A hand closed over her shoulder.
“Thank you.” She looked into the eyes of Marshall’s friend Ron. “I appreciate it.”
He rocked back on his heels as if he wanted to say more but lacked the courage. She stared him down; waiting for a confession that he had known what Marshall was capable of, that he knew the why. Tears filled Ron’s eyes. With a shake of his head, he backed down a few steps before retreating completely.
Coward, she thought. Looking around the room she wondered who amidst this group knew the why. She didn’t. She had no idea. Well, maybe she suspected, but she didn’t know the facts. She didn’t know the real reason why.
As if dragging her legs through mud, she walked to the corner with a good view of the yard.
“Big group.” Jenna, an old friend from high school, leaned against the wall next to her. “Want a glass of wine?”
“Thought so.” Jenna handed her a full glass of white wine. “Do you even know half of these people? It’s like the whole town has shown up.”
“I know.” Both palms cupped the wine glass. “Terri Reynolds even asked me if I was getting life insurance because of the suicide. I have maybe had two conversations with the woman in my entire life.” Her laugh sounded as brittle as she felt. “And look at Marshall’s family from San Diego. In the ten years we’ve lived in this house, they have never bothered to visit. Now here they are, acting like hosts. His uncle even asked me for a tour of the place.”
“A tour?” Jenna snorted. “I caught your cousin what’s-her-name coming out of your bedroom earlier. She snapped at me to leave her alone.”
“My room? No one is supposed to be in there.”
“I told her that. I think she is trying to communicate with his spirit or something.”
“Whack job,” she muttered before taking a long sip of the wine. “She met him once last Christmas and then again this Easter. Total. She didn’t know him.” Her entire vibrated with the realization that most of the people here were mere acquaintances, that none of them really knew the family at all. Marshall had been her best friend. Not only had they married and raised a family together, they had also worked together. Other people hadn’t been a priority.
Jenna laid her hand on hers. “It’s okay, Riana. I shouldn’t have mentioned Piper. She’s—“
“We’re all subject for gossip now, aren’t we?”
The wine glass crashed to the floor.
She squatted down to pick up the shards while blinking back the tears that wanted to flow. Helping hands echoed her motions on the hardwood floor, murmured words of encouragement fluttered into her consciousness.
“Mom, can we go to the rec room?” Her daughter Vanessa’s shoes crunched on the one remaining piece of glass. Blond, blue-eyed, tanned and flawless, Vanessa grinned. “I want to show Sara the air hockey table dad set up.”
She doesn’t get it, the thought whispered through her mind. Leaving the mess to Jenna, she squeezed Vanessa’s shoulders.
“Sure. You go.”
“Shouldn’t the kids be changing clothes?” The cousin in question stepped to her side. “I can help them, watch them, make sure—”
“They’re fine. Let them play.” She looked at Piper. “I heard you were in my room.”
“This is all so difficult for me.” Piper’s eyes liquefied in an instant. “It’s bringing up so much from grandpa’s death, my dad’s death, my brother…you know. I have had so much grief in my life. I just—”
“My bedroom is off-limits.”
“I wanted to be close to Marshall.” She tossed a strand of bleach blonde hair from her face and blinked at the tears.
You want to be immersed in the drama, she wanted to say but didn’t.
“Be close to him somewhere else,” she said through clenched teeth.
“And don’t worry about what people are saying.” Piper squeezed her upper arm. “You’ll be fine.”
“What are people saying?” she asked Jenna after Piper walked away.
“Do you really care?”
“Riana,” a woman she recognized as one of Marshall’s patients wrapped her arms around her, “I am so sorry. What are you going to do?”
Do? Stand here. Survive today. Survive tomorrow.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard.” The woman held on, her voice slurred with either alcohol or tears. “You’ll have to close the practice. What a tragedy for everyone. How could he be so selfish?”
“Why would she close the practice?” Jenna asked.
She broke free of the woman’s clutches, her mind struggling to remember her name and concentrate on her words.
“Obviously that’s the only choice.” The woman’s voice lowered to a whisper. “It doesn’t invoke confidence when the most reputable psychiatrist in town kills himself. I doubt—”
“I need some air, excuse me.”
She half-stumbled, half-ran to the deck. Hands clenched the railing, face lifted toward the sun, lungs struggled for breath. Close the practice. She hadn’t even considered such a thing. They were both psychiatrists. What was her fate now? Lose the husband, lose the career…what next?
“Who cares? I care.”
“What?” She blinked, startled by the comment.
Marshall’s biological father stood behind her, face twisted into a sneer. Winston Warren hadn’t spoken to his son in over three years, yet here he stood acting like a victim for all to see.
“Never say I didn’t care,” he muttered.
“I didn’t say it.”
“Bitch.” With that, he walked back into the house.
“Riana,” someone called her name but she ignored it.
She walked down the deck stairs, onto the grass and toward the stream. Fallen leaves crunched beneath her feet. Aspen and pine trees stretched toward a flawless blue sky. Air smelled like late autumn, crisp and rich.
Numb, she sank onto a rock, squeezed her eyes closed, wrapped the sweater tight around her, inhaled the sweet mountain air, and listened to the garbled whispers of the river.
“Damn you, Marshall,” she whispered, mouth wet with tears. “Why did you leave us?”
Diamond Head Image: VideoFrog, Creative Commons license
White wine: Tim Parkinson, Creative Commons license
Autumn aspens: © Andrew Dunn, 1992, Creative Commons license
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