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Trifecta Lane

I wrote this short story a while ago, inspired by the recent trend of eco-friendly burials. Enjoy! ~Christina Delay

 

The dead chatter in the branches. Their blood runs through the veins of every leaf. Their bones feed the souls of the trees.

Don’t ever go into the forest.

 

“Grams, you can’t. It’s not…” I look out the hospice window and search for the right word. “Natural.” Outside, trees whisper in the slight breeze, leaves rustling against each other like old, dry skin.

Grams raises one tattooed brow at me and recrosses her legs under her tie-dyed skirt. The bangles on her arms jingle in defiance. Cheeriness vs illness. Life vs death.

“I’ve got one month and I’ll not spend it fighting.” She crosses her paper-thin arms. Stubborn to her end. “Besides, I want to be buried next to your Grandpa.”

“This isn’t being buried. It’s being planted!”

“Allie, I’ll not tell you again. Don’t defy me, child.”

I pick up the brochure she’s thrown at me. The front picture has a giant seed pod with a tree growing on top. The caption “Help the planet and live on through the life of a tree” is typed underneath. On the inside of the brochure, images show how the deceased is folded into a fetal position and stuffed inside a biodegradable shell. From which a tree feeds and feeds and feeds. I toss it back onto the generic nightstand next to the hospice bed.

“But Grams…”

She holds up a shaky finger. Thins her lips. If she were stronger, and if I were nine instead of thirty-five, I’d be sent to a time out.

“We just got each other back. Please. Don’t fight with me.”

The guilt of my past bombards me. The powers-that-be had finally let me out of witness protection. Grams had been the one person they’d warned me not to contact, and the only one I could.

I look down at my own set of crossed arms. Despite years of doing everything I could to not be like Grams, I’d turned out just like her. I even married my own bad-boy-turned-convicted-felon.

Grams coughs, a never-ending trainwreck of spasms that shudders her entire body like it’s falling off her life’s tracks. I jump up from the chair, wrap an arm around her shoulders, and help her sit up. The hospice-provided pillows slump behind her back. I rest my forehead against her shoulder.

One month. I just got her back. Only one month left with the only person in the world who cares, or even knows, I’m alive.

And she’s almost dead.

***

The doctor lied. Grams didn’t have a month left. She had a week. I thought I’d have a month to come to terms with losing her, but nope.

If I’d had a year, I don’t think it would have made losing her any easier.

“I’m sorry, what?” I tune back into the funeral director’s words. Flowers surround the funeral home and overpower the air with rose and lily.

“Your grandmother has chosen to be a part of the prison system’s replanting project. As a spouse of a deceased convict interred into this program, she elected to be buried next to your grandfather.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“There’s a problem.”

Awesome. Just what I need while dealing with Grams’s death and executing her will. A will I strongly disagree with. Problems.

I take a deep breath, one that threatens to poke through my numbed emotions. “And that is?”

“The prison’s records are a little…disorganized. This is a relatively new program and kinks are still being worked out.”

“Meaning…”

“We don’t know where your grandfather was buried.”

My heart folds in two. Relief at not having to see my Grandpa’s burial place scuffles with panic at not being able to fulfill Grams’s one request. Grief throws a knife in the middle of the fight.

“But we can guess.” The funeral director concludes. He seems like a nice man. Probably goes home to his wife and two children. Tells them stories about his day. Drinks light beer.

I hate him.

“You want to guess? Bury my grandmother next to some random convict? A murderer or a rapist or a child abductor?”

The director peers over the top of his smudged glasses. “Remind me what your grandfather did?”

I shoot him a Smith & Wesson 9MM glare.

“Death row inmates were buried according to date and crime. It’ll help us better identify his location.”

I swallow back the bite of shame, seasoned with a few pinches of guilt, and answer. “Boss of the Chicago Outfit.”

Mr. Funeral Director develops a tick beneath his right eye. “Ah. He’ll be on row nine then. Trifecta Lane. ” He turns a map depicting a large square with rows of straight circles. “Either this tree, or this one.” He taps two circles with his pen.

“What’s Trifecta Lane?”

“Death row inmates convicted of three or more felonies.” I hear the hesitation in his tone, though his words don’t falter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my family legacy.

***

I drive down a country road to a fenced off field. Dirt kicks up around my car and poofs behind my tires. I turn off the road at a painted sign that reads Renewal Fields. In other words, the state’s federally sanctioned experiment on executed inmates. Turning their bodies into a forest. Very eco-friendly.

But something about it gives me the creeps.

Another five minutes passes full of nothing but empty fields. Am I in the wrong place? There can’t be too many cemeteries of trees, right? I pull over to the side of the plowed road. Dust catches up with my car and settles around the windows, leaving a film of red powder. I turn on my wipers and clear the windshield, and…there, yes. On the horizon. A group of buildings.

I pull back on the road. As I get closer, the empty fields turn into planted rows of saplings. The tallest are six feet, slender and bowing under branches full of leaves. The smallest, capped by a protective dome and less than a foot tall. I park in front of the first building. Made of cut stone and marble, it looks every inch a mausoleum, but a gold plate on the outside claims it’s an office. Again, creepy.

My fingers reach for the handle and tremble against the silver-painted plastic. Am I ready to bury Grams? The last of my family?

No. No I am not.

I open my door anyway.

A breeze kicks up, blowing dandelion seeds around the air. My black dress pushes the back of my legs into a walking motion. That’s all the past few days have been. Motions. Not actual actions. Just mechanics of living.

She’s here, she’s here, she’s here.

A round of whispers ride on the breeze and a cold finger bumps along each ridge of my spine. I shoot my gaze around the area. The grounds are empty, save the circle of trees rustling in the wind, which dies down and sucks the whispers away.

My head has been stuffed full of death for a month and now I’m hearing things. Awesome.

I head into the small office. It’s a windowless block of a room, with one rose sitting in a clear vase on a marble-topped desk. I ding a shiny gold bell. The tinny cling echos against the close walls. If someone didn’t hurry, I’d catch claustrophobia.

“Hello? Anyone here?”

A low, grating sound like thick claws on a chalkboard shakes the water in the rose vase. My heart startles, stops, hesitates to beat. My breath fastens to the back of my throat.

The back wall of the office swings open. A woman the size of a raisin, and with more wrinkles, scurries out.

“You rang?” she says in a spot-on Lurch voice. Then she laughs so hard she slaps her own knee.

“Uh…” I shake my head, blink a few times. Nope, still a tiny, old, probably crazy, woman that just walked out of a wall. “I’m here to bury my grandmother?” My words tilted into a question at the end.

“Ah, yes. The DeLuca planting – er – burial. Come, come with me, girl.” She snaps her fingers and turns on her garden boot. “I’m so sorry for your loss, by the way.” She tosses over her shoulder as if it’s a spilled grain of salt.

“Sure you are,” I mutter and follow the raisin through the back wall and into a sunlit glass room. The room is full of tiny trees in big pots, fertilizer, garden spades, and potting shelves. Orchids line the walls. Ferns create a walkway.

“S’cuse the mess. We’re still getting everything ready for visitors. You know, you’re the first.”

“Visitor?”

“Yup. No one ever seems to make it to these burials. Can’t quite figure it out.”

“Maybe because they’re all convicted criminals?” I suggested.

“Nah. That ain’t it.”

“Maybe because this is all a little weird?” I gesture at our surroundings.

The raisin spins on her heels and sticks a finger with dirt-lined cuticles in my face. “Now you tell me what, what is weird,” here she shakes her hands around in the air, “about Mother Nature taking back what’s hers?” Her hands plant themselves on her hips and she waits for my answer.

“It’s just…different.”

“And when did we define different as bad?” She spins back around and walks quickly through the greenhouse, talking with her hands and her hips. “All the greatest inventors were…” she glares at me over her shoulder. “Different.”

“I’m sorry. Did you invent this process?”

“Hell, no. I’m just the gardener. Come on. Better find Mrs. Deluca ‘fore she starts composting.”

I follow Raisin into another greenhouse. This one is even less ready for visitors. The bottom half of each wall is made of corrugated plastic and lined with steel shelving units. Something sweet permeates the rich loam and fertilizer riding on the air. Not a good sweet, but a dead-squirrel-in-the-wall sweet.

“This ain’t supposed to be a part of the tour, but since it’s just you and me, eh. Rules, schmules.” She shrugs and offers me a girlfriend grin. And then she points to a corner of the greenhouse.

In the corner, blending in with the corrugated plastic and mounds of dirt, sits a six-foot-tall egg. Light brown shell. Shadow of a crumpled human inside.

“Is that…” I trail off as the bones in my knees disappear. I grip onto the nearest shelving unit to hold myself up.

Raisin gives me a double-take, seems to realize for the first time that this isn’t a tour of a museum, but a burial for my grandmother.

“Sorry, girl. Better with plants than people. Why don’t you wait outside?” She chins toward a door hidden at the back of the greenhouse. “I’ll be right out.”

I plow through the swinging door and into a row of saplings and rest my hands on my knees. Air plays hide and seek with my lungs. Grief penetrates the novacane I’ve injected into my emotions, twists my heart in opposite directions, and slices through my chest.

She’s here, she’s here, she’s here. The leaves rustle in the wind.

Why did Grams have to do this? Why couldn’t she be cremated or buried in a box or live? Why did she choose to die, rather than fight?

Why did she leave me alone?

A sharp prick stabs my toe through my shoe.

I jump into the arms of a tree and catch a glimpse of a sharp stick slithering back into the ground.

That can’t be right. Sticks don’t slither.

I shake my head and head back to the greenhouse. The door swings open and Grams in her seed pod is wheeled out by Raisin.

“C’mon then. Minister’s here. You ready to say goodbye?” She pats Grams and I’m not sure if she’s talking to me, or Grams.

I follow any way.

We walk along the edge of the field, toward the back where the first planted trees stand tall. Grandpa is under one of them. Feeding one of them.

Because of me.

I wait for the dart of pain, but this time, I can’t feel.

Raisin wheels Grams into a line of trees. A man in black with a white collar waits a few feet in. Behind him, a giant hole is carved into the earth.

There is no one else.

This is not a funeral people attend. This is not a life people celebrate. It’s an inevitability. A lonely inevitability.

The leaves brush against each other, louder than before, wind picking up and playing a symphony of she’s here all around us. The minister does what he’s paid to do, leads me in cupping a handful of dirt on top of Grams’s seed, gives me his blessing, and leaves.

Raisin pushes a button on the wagon holding Grams and the seed moves forward over the hole and is gently lowered into the earth. The dirt the minister and I so carefully poured over her shell shakes loose, falls to the ground. A smudge of dirt the color of ashes marks our goodbye.

I wait until Raisin pulls the wagon away from Grams’s new resting place. I wait until dirt is poured on top of Grams and she disappears under a cascade of rich earth. I wait until the hole is filled and Raisin leaves and the whispers on the wind die.

I wait until I find the courage to leave and face what’s left of my life.

If I could, I’d wait until the hole Grams has left in my heart is filled with something as rich and dark and all-consuming as the earth she now rests in. But some holes are meant to stay holes.

***

Twenty Years Later

When you get the call that someone you once loved has died, it’s amazing how mundane tasks become the entire world. When the prison calls about Nate, I’m drying a coffee mug. A freebie from some place or other, but it becomes imperative that every drop of water is soaked up by the towel and the cheap porcelain is buffed to a shine.

Two days later, I pull into Renewal Fields. The painted sign has been replaced by a brick marquis with gold lettering. The R in Renewal hangs upside down, held on by one nail. The empty field has turned into an overgrown forest. Only the tops of the trees give any nod to their once orderly rows.

I drive down the entrance road, now gravel and tree-lined. The program had been discontinued years ago due to a change in administration. Not sure why or how Nate chose to be planted rather than buried. Not sure why he requested me, his ex-wife and reason he was in jail to begin with, to be at his funeral. But the woman on the other end of the line had said, repeatedly, that he would be buried at Renewal Fields and it was his last wish that I attend.

The trees grow thicker and taller the closer I get to the office. The once white stone and marble building is covered in vines.

“Hello?” I call out, no wish to go into that office. But there’s no answer. The trees scrape against each other. I shoulder my purse, shut the car door, and walk inside. The office door resists my tug, but finally releases. Whatever company manages this place needs to be fired. Everything is in disrepair.

Inside, not much has changed. The bell, a little worse for the wear, still shares the marble desk with a rose.

My gaze travels back to the rose. The rose has grown roots.

I look closer.

No vase. Must be a statue. The rose statue’s roots grow along the marble top and fall to the ground.

Not a choice I’d make for my home, but this is a funeral home.

“Hello?” I ding the bell. No answer. The hidden door in the back wall stands ajar, so I push it open and walk through.

“Anyone here?” I feel the emptiness of the place. There aren’t even shadows to keep me company.

“You made it.” A gnarled voice jumps out of nowhere.

I spin around. Raisin sits in the corner.

“I did. Ex-husband this time.”

“Good ol’ Nate. Always was a carogna.”

Last time I was here, Raisin didn’t speak Italian. Raisin didn’t know Nate. Raisin certainly didn’t know Nate was an asshole. The only person who had ever called him one in Italian was dead.

“Excuse me?” The sharp ends of my ribs stab into my stomach. Another thought hits the back of my neck and shoots razor-edged chills down my spine.

Raisin should be dead. She had to be over 100 by now.

“It’s good to see you, mia bambola.

No. No, no, no.

I back away. I hadn’t heard that endearment since I gave testimony against Grandpa thirty years ago. Betrayed him, my family. Sent my own husband to jail along with him. Had to live years in witness protection.

Raisin gets to her feet, but it’s more like she is pushed up from behind. Her legs go straight and then, she’s standing. How do you stand without bending your legs?

She jerks toward me, her feet drag along the floor with each step. Her head lolls around on her neck.

Ferns brush the back of my legs, and I catch myself just before I fall backwards. Raisin takes another step towards me and raises her head.

Her eyes are gone. Replaced by two twigs that hug her upper eyelids. She opens her mouth, and inside, a web of small, budding branches replace her teeth. Tree roots have embedded into her legs and make her twitch. Make her move.

“Took me some time, but I figured out a way to see you again.” Her mouth moves in time with the words, but it’s not her.

It’s Johnny DeLuca. Chicago’s most notorious mafia boss in history.

Grandpa.

A throat-ripping scream shreds my vocals and propels my feet. I run. The glass above my head darkens. Cracks. I look up.

Thick vines race overhead, track my every movement. The greenhouse plunges into twilight. I fumble for the door leading to the next greenhouse, push against the vines covering it. Tiny pricks of pain lace the inside of my arm. One, last, push. I break through. Slam the door shut behind me.

My arm is covered in a hundred miniscule droplets of blood as if I’ve been poked with a hundred needles. I shake it off. My heart drums against my throat. The vines above have disappeared. Did I lose them?

Or did they let me go?

I tiptoe to the end of the greenhouse. My internal alarms switch to silent mode. Flashing lights, no ear-breaking screeching. The door pops open in a cloud of dust, breaking through years of disuse. No vines in sight. No tree roots.

Let her go, let her go, let her go. The trees whisper. All those years ago, it hadn’t been the breeze, but the whispers of the dead.

I don’t hesitate. I run for my car. Each step pounded into the dirt is a risk. Just like twenty years ago, those tree roots could stab out of the earth.

The car handle is in my hand when the dirt around the office cracks. The marble and stone walls shift. The building caves in. I slam myself into the car, lock the door, shove the key in the ignition.

A tree root as big as the greenhouse shoots into the sky, Raisin speared on one end. She crumples in from the middle, and is sucked inside out. Bits of bloody flesh hit my windshield like hail.

I reverse out of the parking lot, throw the car into drive. The road is a five minute drive at normal speeds. I could make it in a minute. How far did his roots reach? How far?

The pedal touches the floorboard under my foot. I can see the county road. I can see the entrance sign. I can see…

The world turns upside down and I fly. My bones shake and something important rattles loose when the roof of my car plows into the dirt. Roots beat at the windshield, sneak in through the air vents and I am trapped. Upside down, held prisoner by my seatbelt.

I fumble for the release and punch it in. My head bangs against the roof of the car.  Blood leaks from my arm, from my head and distracts the roots for a precious second. I push my way out of the door and run.

One foot makes it past the fence’s boundaries.

The other is speared in a fiery attack of pain. Grandpa’s voice and a thousand others fill my head at once.

“I, too, once thought I was almost free. When mia bambola took the stand, I thought, I am saved.”

The root is needle-like and pushes through my heel, into my leg bone. Adrenaline ices the pain.

“But you betrayed me.” The root wrenches and thrusts deeper. “You betrayed Nate.” It splits my foot open and a distant part of me screams, screams, screams.

“You deprived my wife of a husband.”

Is Grams in here, too? Do I have a savior in her? No, no. Grandpa holds power over the rest of the trees and the souls trapped in them. They are one mind. His mind.

I’m going to die.

The root squirms in my thigh, drinks my life out of me. Feeds the trees. Trees brought up on human flesh and bone and innards. They crave more. They’ll feed on whoever enters this forest. Grandpa, just like in life, is a cancer in death. Unstoppable, untreatable.

Inescapable.

I reach for my purse wrapped across my body and dig out a pen. I stretch as far as I can, and am able to just reach the white fence post. Maybe no one will read this. Maybe the forest will spread, destroying cities as it multiplies. But maybe someone will read, and be saved.

The pen digs into the wood.

The dead chatter in the branches. Their blood runs through the veins of every leaf. Their bones feed the souls of the trees.

Don’t go into the forest.

 

Dream Goals Challenge

One of my favorite things to talk with people about is how they discovered or how they are in the process of discovering their life’s purpose.

See my post over at Jami Gold’s site to read what I went through to discover mine.

Long story short, by the time I hit my 30th birthday, I could already see my life’s path and it was going down a direction I never intended.

Since then, I’ve become passionate about helping other discover and hold true to their life’s purpose. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said:

“THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT DAYS OF YOUR LIFE ARE THE DAY YOU ARE BORN AND THE DAY YOU FIND OUT WHY.”

WHAT’S YOUR WHY?

Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s going back to school to get the degree you should have gotten. Maybe it’s something that terrifies and excites you all at the same time. (By the way, that’s how you know you’re on the right track.)

But once you figure it out, you can’t let it remain a dream you fantasize about.

BE YOUR OWN FAIRY GODMOTHER.

The only way to turn dreams into reality (and there’s no magic wand here) is to set achievable goals and work towards them.

THE FRIDAY DREAM GOALS CHALLENGE.

Will you join me?

Post in the comments below the ONE THING you are doing this weekend to work toward turning your dream into reality. Just ONE THING every weekend will soon have you running down the path to achieving your life’s purpose.

C’mon – it’s just one thing! It could take five minutes, it could take an hour. The important part is that you do your one thing!

TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CHALLENGE:

  1. Enter your Dream Goal by Midnight Friday in the comments below.
  2. Sign up for my newsletter.
  3. Share this post with friends and family and ask them to support your dream by liking your comment!

WIN A CONSCIOUS INK TEMPORARY TATTOO PACK

You-Have-Wings...-Rumi_580x@2xyou-have-wings-learn-to-use-them-and-fly-rumi_580x@2xOn March 31, the person with the most goals posted will win a pack of temporary tattoos from Conscious Ink. *In case of a tie, tied entries will be entered into a random winner generator.

Dream Goals Challenge

One of my favorite things to talk with people about is how they discovered or how they are in the process of discovering their life’s purpose.

See my post over at Jami Gold’s site to read what I went through to discover mine.

Long story short, by the time I hit my 30th birthday, I could already see my life’s path and it was going down a direction I never intended.

Since then, I’ve become passionate about helping other discover and hold true to their life’s purpose. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said:

“THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT DAYS OF YOUR LIFE ARE THE DAY YOU ARE BORN AND THE DAY YOU FIND OUT WHY.”

WHAT’S YOUR WHY?

Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s going back to school to get the degree you should have gotten. Maybe it’s something that terrifies and excites you all at the same time. (By the way, that’s how you know you’re on the right track.)

But once you figure it out, you can’t let it remain a dream you fantasize about.

BE YOUR OWN FAIRY GODMOTHER.

The only way to turn dreams into reality (and there’s no magic wand here) is to set achievable goals and work towards them.

THE FRIDAY DREAM GOALS CHALLENGE.

Will you join me?

Post in the comments below the ONE THING you are doing this weekend to work toward turning your dream into reality. Just ONE THING every weekend will soon have you running down the path to achieving your life’s purpose.

C’mon – it’s just one thing! It could take five minutes, it could take an hour. The important part is that you do your one thing!

TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CHALLENGE:

  1. Enter your Dream Goal by Midnight Friday in the comments below.
  2. Sign up for my newsletter.
  3. Share this post with friends and family and ask them to support your dream by liking your comment!

WIN A CONSCIOUS INK TEMPORARY TATTOO Pack

You-Have-Wings...-Rumi_580x@2xyou-have-wings-learn-to-use-them-and-fly-rumi_580x@2xOn March 31, the person with the most goals posted will win a pack of temporary tattoos from Conscious Ink. *In case of a tie, tied entries will be entered into a random winner generator.

Resolution

The coffee shop buzzes around me and my best friend, Kris. The regulars are oblivious to the fact that my best friend may have gone loony. I stare into the clear jar she’s placed on the table, full of tiny paper slips. Pink and orange and blue folded paper fill the jar like tiny fortune cookies, supposedly written with the memories of the past year.

“Seriously, Kris. What on earth…?”

Kris, blonde and typically put together, shakes her frizzy curls and runs her wrinkled silk scarf through her fingers once again. “I don’t know. Beth, this is the weirdest thing. I spent all year writing everything that happened on the pieces of paper. Saw it on Pinterest. I put them in the jar and started taking them out this morning, New Year’s morning, and it’s like they never happened.”

“I don’t understand.”

Kris sucks in air and presses her lips together. She takes a moment, bites her lip like she does when she’s picking which guy to hit on at the bar, and lets her breath go.

“Okay. Open the jar.” She pushes the mason jar toward me with one press-on nail, as if she’s afraid to make skin-to-glass contact.

I wrap my hand around the pink gingham covered lid and twist. The lid resists, then pops and releases its stronghold on the jar. Scents wash over me and for a millisecond, I relive some of the past year. The day Kris and I went ring browsing, just in case Tag popped the big Q to me on Valentine’s. Drinks with Kris the night after Tag dumped me and jumped up and down on my heart, making sure to burst every single artery. Kris bringing me flowers and pouring the vase full of water on my head when I refused to get up and shower.

A year of memories of my best friend saving my life.

I lick the sudden nervous-sour taste off my lips. What if she isn’t making this up? What if taking out these slips really does make it as if the memory never happened? What if this jar can erase the past?

“Pick one. Just one Beth, okay. And try to make it a small one. Or a really bad one.” Kris wraps her hands around her teacup and holds so tight her rings scrape against the porcelain.

I reach in and pull out a small blue slip.

Kris shoves her hands under her legs and rocks back and forth.

“Do it.” She says and closes her eyes.

I open the slip.

March 27th, 2013; Dad died today. I’m going to miss him, but I’m so glad he’s not suffering anymore. What does a little girl do without her daddy?

I remember that day. Kris had called me crying and then…

My mind goes blank. I try and reach for the memory I know I was just having, but…

Nothing.

I read the slip again.

Kris’s dad died?

The loud murmurs of the coffee house fade away until all I can hear is Kris’s staggered breathing, all I can see is her too still posture, all I can know is this-is-impossible.

“Kris, March 27th. Do you remember what happened?”

“Nu-uh. Why? Is it bad? What happened?” She grips the edge of the table, her hot-rod red nails strain against the fake wood.

My heart lodges behind my knees and a giant fist punches the inside of my throat. “Your dad died.” My voice scrapes out as a whisper.

“Dad…no, he’s still in the hosp–” her words fall into oblivion and I can see her searching for the truth, but, just like my own memory, it’s gone. Truth has disappeared, taking our memories hostage.

I slide the blue slip across the table to her, so she can see, in her own handwriting, her father’s death.

“Oh my God.” Kris hovers her fingers above the slip, not touching, as if touching would somehow make it more real than it already is.

“Maybe we can put it back in the jar, and you’ll remember again.”

She shakes her head. “I’ve already tried that. I-I’ve gotta call Mom. Maybe she remembers.”

But she wouldn’t. From what I’d seen, that jar made everyone forget. The past ceases to exist.

*****
I sit the jar on my kitchen table, after Kris insisted I take it home with me. The jar scared her. And since she was the more accident-prone of the two of us, she thought it’d be safer with me. On the top shelf of my closet. In a box. With a lock.

But here it sits. On my kitchen table.

I fold my arms on the table, rest my cheek on my hands, and look through the glass. Between the gaps in the papers, I can just make out a picture on the other side of the room. The one of me and Tag at Disneyworld. He had put a princess hat on my head and told me he’d make me his queen.

That was before he found some other princess to screw.

I get up, yank a glass out of the cabinet, and fill it with grape juice colored wine. So what if it’s ten in the morning. If it looks like grape juice, then I say it’s grape juice.

The wine hits the back of my throat with a slight burn. It’s about a week old and a little rancid, but who cares. It’s New Year’s Day and I’m alone, ringless, and manless. I down the full glass like a double shot.

“Round two, anyone?” I eye the two stuffed animals Tag won for me at last year’s carnival. “Just me then? Party poopers.” I fill the glass again and plop onto the couch next to Bonnie and Clyde, also known as Party Poopers One and Two.

I grab Bonnie by her hot pink tail and hug her bear body to mine. My apartment is filled with memories of Tag.

“Tagged by Tag,” I giggle and hiccup. Wine must get stronger with age.

I eye the jar. I knew, the minute I took the jar from Kris, that I would do this. Erase Tag, erase this past year, erase the good and the bad. Because if there was no good with Tag, then the bad wasn’t bad. And if even the bad was gone, then maybe, I could start over.

For the past year, I’d been stuck in an endless loop of having my heart broken every morning I woke up without Tag by my side. Every night I tried to avoid going to sleep, because I knew I’d only wake up having to remember he was gone.

I should be glad and I should be ready to move on. But when you give your heart so completely to someone else, sometimes, you never get it back.

This was the only way.

The only way to save my life. To get a life.

I take another drink, grab my notebook, and write.

April 12; Meeting Tag at the bar.
June 16; Tag said he loved me.
September 21; Tag moved in.
December 25; Christmas at Disneyworld with Tag.
February 14; Tag dumps me; admits he’s found someone else.
February 20; Found Tag banging my boss in her office.
February 21; Quit my job because of Tag.
January 1; Every memory associated with Tag. I want, I need him, to be erased.

I get tired of writing it all down. The last one should take care of the rest.

I tear each memory into a little strip. Eight memories written on white lined paper, folded into less than a handful of slips. Eight memories that had taken the power to control my own heart.

Eight memories I could erase and get my life back.

I stuff them in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Refill my glass. Watch a movie to give the jar some time to work its magic, or whatever. Watch another movie to procrastinate. Start in on a new bottle of wine.

Three p.m.

Time to take control of my life.

*****
Four p.m. My apartment seems strangely empty. Photos of my trip to Disneyworld last year, stuffed animals I won at the carnival, everything seems in place. But something is missing.

I look down at the table. Seven blank strips of paper are unfolded on the table.

One strip of paper has something written on it.

Every memory associated with_____. I want, I need him, to be erased.

I picked up the phone and call Kris.

“Hey, it’s me. If I were to erase a guy from my memory, who would it be?”

“Beth, you didn’t.”

“Apparently I did.” The room started to waver. “And apparently I’ve had too much to drink.”

“It’s not even five yet.”

“Yup.” I hiccup.

“I’ll be there in twenty.”

Fifteen minutes later, Kris unlocks my front door and walks in, not even bothering to knock. I’m laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, and tossing a hot pink bear into the air with my feet.

“You stupid idiot. Why would you do this?”

“I guess I thought it was a good idea at the time.”

She walks over to the table and picks up the slips of paper. “Even his name is erased from the slips. So we don’t know who he is, what he looks like, nothing.”

“Yup,” I laugh. “I think it’s a good thing, though. I haven’t felt this happy in forever. We’re going out tonight. And I’m wearing that red leather skirt you bought me last year.”

“Why would I buy you a red leather skirt?”

“Who cares?” I jump up from the couch and twirl into the bedroom. “Where’d you get that jar, anyway?”

“Back of some antique shop. I think I should’ve left it there. Damn Pinterest.”

*****
“Beth! Kris! My little chicas!” Sam, the bartender older than the ancient margarita machine, clears a space for us at the bar. “Haven’t seen my two favorite senoritas in too long. Where have you been?”

“We’ve been cheating on you, Sam. Going to the Corner Bar for the past few months.” Kris wiggles her hips onto the barstool.

He grabs his chest. “No, mi amor!”

“Don’t worry. We’ll never leave you again.” I speak up and scoot onto the empty seat next to Kris. My leather skirt rides up my legs and earns a few glances from the group of guys playing pool.

I turn away. Tonight’s girl’s night. But tomorrow’s a new day.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

A warm male voice tickles my cheek. I turn and fall into a pair of hazel eyes.

“Hmmm…” I pull away and take a good look at him. Tall, goes to the gym, but doesn’t live there, can put an outfit together but nothing too metro. Cute. Not bad at all. “I’m not sure yet.”

He smiles and my heart does a quick two-step. “What’s your name?”

“Beth. Yours?”

“Tag.”

“Strange name. I’ve got a bad feeling about you, Tag.” I say, and strangely enough, I kind of do.

“Funny. I feel if you don’t let me buy you this drink, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”

“Well, since you put it that way. Sam, this gentleman will be buying my drinks this evening.”

“Whatever you say, chica.”

Sam slides our drinks across the counter.

Kris raises her glass. “A toast. To a Happy New Year, and new beginnings.”

“And may the past be a memory, best forgotten,” I add.

Clink.

Dream Goals Challenge

One of my favorite things to talk with people about is how they discovered or how they are in the process of discovering their life’s purpose.

See my post over at Jami Gold’s site to read what I went through to discover mine.

Long story short, by the time I hit my 30th birthday, I could already see my life’s path and it was going down a direction I never intended.

Since then, I’ve become passionate about helping other discover and hold true to their life’s purpose. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain who said:

“The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

What’s your why?

Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s going back to school to get the degree you should have gotten but didn’t due to X, Y, or Z. Maybe it’s something that terrifies and excites you all at the same time. (By the way, that’s how you know you’re on the right track.)

But once you figure it out, you can’t let it remain a dream you fantasize about.

Be Your Own Fairy Godmother.

The only way to turn dreams into reality (and there’s no magic wand here) is to set achievable goals and work towards them.

The Friday Dream Goals Challenge.

Will you join me?

Post in the comments below the ONE THING you are doing this weekend to work toward turning your dream into reality. Just ONE THING every weekend will soon have you running down the path to achieving your life’s purpose.

C’mon – it’s just one thing! It could take five minutes, it could take an hour. The important part is that you do your one thing!

To Participate in the Challenge:

  1. Enter your Dream Goal by Midnight Friday in the comments below.
  2. Return on Monday, reply to your Dream Goal comment, and let us know how you did!
  3. Sign up for my newsletter.
  4. Share this post with friends and family and ask them to support your dream by liking your comment!

Win a Conscious Ink Temporary Tattoo

You-Have-Wings...-Rumi_580x@2xyou-have-wings-learn-to-use-them-and-fly-rumi_580x@2xOn January 2, the person with the most goals posted and met will win this temporary tattoo from Conscious Ink. *In case of a tie, tied entries will be entered into a random winner generator.

 

 

Psychological Suspense Inspiration while Parasailing

While in Mexico, I found inspiration for my Psychological Suspense Novel

While in Mexico, I had a serendipitous run-in with a jet ski.

Really, it was more of a battle between the ocean and my ribs. The ocean used the jet ski as a battering ram and it totally won.

The serendipitous part…I’ll get to that in a second.

Here’s what happened:

My husband decided to take me parasailing for the first time while in Mexico for our anniversary. It was really sweet, but (there’s always a but) as we stood on the beach with the waves crashing at our feet, waiting for the jet ski taxi to take us to the parasailing boat, I began to have doubts.

See, I’m the most accident prone individual you will ever meet.

If someone in a group is going to be hurt, it’s going to be me. For example, my dad and brother used to hunt when we were growing up. They’d bring back quail, and I’d bite into the one bullet left in all of the meat. Every time. Not just once, but every single time. If there’s something to stub your toe on in a mile radius, I’ll find it for you. Bang your hip? I’ll test it out. Bird poop on you? They got to me, first.

So when I saw this little jet ski fighting the big ocean waves, and it was supposed to carry a large Mexican driver, myself, and my husband, I began to get anxious.

The jet ski rolls in on a wave. There are two people holding it in place, and my husband is steadying the back. “Go on, Christina,” they said. “You get on first.”

They all missed my eye roll. But, I got on. Blindly trusting these three strong men to hold this one jet ski in place. What’s the worst that could happen? Three against one. The odds were in my favor.

Except…it’s me.

The ocean decided to throw an extra large wave at us as soon as I reached for the jet ski. The jet ski rammed into my side, flipped me over, feet in the air, and hit me three more times. Somehow, I grappled onto the thing.

It was already hard to catch my breath. I knew, like my aching knees know when the weather is changing, I knew, this was going to hurt for days. But, I had a few hours left before the pain really sat in.

We went parasailing. It was fine. Peaceful high in the sky above the Caribbean blue water, whatever. My ribs hurt.

They hurt bad.

We got down, boarded the jet ski taxi of death, and rode back to the beach without another incident. Probably the universe had decided almost cracking my ribs was enough for one day.

By dinner, my entire side was swollen. The phrase baseball-sized hail kept coming into my mind. It hadn’t started bruising…yet. I couldn’t breathe deep, couldn’t laugh, couldn’t even sleep. My whole side radiated with pain.

And I was so, so grateful.

See, I have this character in my psychological suspense novel, Traveler. Her name, sometimes his name, is Jesse David. She / He is a fluid-gender adult on vacation with her / his abusive mother. At one point in the book, the mother crushes her cane into Jesse’s side, cracking her ribs.

But, the scene has been bothering me. I couldn’t have Jesse’s ribs actually crack. Jesse needs to do things which require physical effort to complete the story. Cracked ribs turn into broken ribs turn into punctured lungs…that didn’t work.

My jet ski incident helped me understand that bruised ribs are horrible. Horrible enough to cause a lot of pain and discomfort, but not so horrible that a person is temporarily disabled.

For a writer, every experience is writing fodder. Even almost being killed by a runaway jet ski.

I’ve used emergency room visits, being hooked up to an IV, being covered in vomit…all these horrible musts of life, I’ve used in a book.

And honestly, it makes the going through of the pain much easier to deal with, because by focusing on each little owie of pain from a writing perspective, it gives the pain purpose. Meaning.

Instead of just being an accident-prone being living on earth, I’m an accident-prone writer who can use these so called accidents to torture my characters with.

Misery really does love company.

What about you? Are you accident-prone? What are some ways you cope with being known as the person who will trip over their own feet? (Seriously, I’m looking for coping mechanisms!)

Young Adult Book Club

BookLore July Book Club Meeting

Young Adult Book Club
Welcome to our July book club meeting! We’re discussing all things about Red Queen! It’s a BYOQ kind of day, so post your own questions and let’s get some fun discussion going!

And don’t forget – there’s a FREE BOOK up for grabs for all my commentators! Winner will be drawn next Friday, July 15, 2016, so you’ve got all week to join in!

About Red Queen:

Genre: Young Adult Book – Fantasy and Romance

Publisher: HarperTeen

Blurb: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal.

New to BookLore? It’s not too late to join!

Subscribe to BookLore Book Club

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So let’s get this book club discussion started! I’ll go first:

What was your favorite quote or passage or scene or moment from the book?

 

Fantasy and Siren Book Club

BookLore Book Club June Meeting

June Book club Meeting
Welcome to our last book club meeting of June! We’re discussing all things about A Court of Thorns and Roses! It’s a BYOQ kind of day, so post your own questions and let’s get some fun discussion going!

 

And don’t forget – there’s a FREE BOOK up for grabs for all my commenters today!

New to BookLore? It’s not too late to join!

Subscribe to BookLore Book Club

* indicates required



So let’s get this book club discussion started!

I’ll go first – Do you see a love triangle forming in the next book? What’s your take on love triangles in books? Love them or hate them or tired of them or can’t get enough?

Fantasy and Siren Book Club

BookLore – Book Magic

When I was little, I was part of this awesome book club. We’d read at lunchtime in the teacher’s breakroom and discuss books like Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time or A Wind in the Door. It was a time of magic and imagination… a select group of kids who loved to read. We could totally geek out and no one cared.

I miss that time.

So Jenn Windrow and I have created BookLore. An online book club where you get to geek out. And stay in your pj’s or yoga pants or whatever. It’s the best of the reading world, really.

Will you come read with us?

It’s easy to sign up – just fill out the form below. You’ll receive a monthly newsletter and get access to freebies and giveaways. We’ll discuss the books on our blogs. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be geeky.

It’s going to be bangarang.

We’ll start reading our first book together in May. Between now and then, we’ve got some fun news and exciting giveaways…but you have to sign up to get them!

Sign up today and we’ll enter you in a giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card! So basically…read for free! What book are we reading?? Keep…well…reading…

 

Become a BookLore Member!

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BookLore Book of the Month – May 2016

A Court of Thorns and Roses: by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.


Race the Darkness: Cover Reveal and Excerpt

I’m so excited to be part of Abbie Roads‘ cover reveal for Race the Darkness! It’s a dark, gritty, emotional and sexy romantic suspense by an uber-talented debut author! Read to the end for an excerpt!

Race the Darkness, a Gritty Romantic Suspense

From Sourcebooks

First in a gripping paranormal romantic suspense duo by a Golden Heart finalist debut author whose clinical work gives her chilling insights…

Cursed with a terrible gift

Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.

That threatens to engulf them…

Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.

About Abbie Roads, Romantic Suspense Author

Abbie Roads, Romantic Suspense Author

Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.

Race the Darkness will be available on October 4th. Pre-order now!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/22nGnVk
B&N: http://bit.ly/1pwghOK
BAM: http://bit.ly/1RmOgoN

 

A special note from Abbie Roads:

Dear Readers,

I wrote Race the Darkness from start to finish three different times, with three different story lines, and with three different titles! The only thing that ever remained the same between the versions was Xander and Isleen. I believed in them and the story they wanted to tell. I hope you love reading about their tragedies and triumphs as much as I enjoyed writing them… All three times! And isn’t the cover amazing, beautiful, gorgeous? I cried the first time I saw it! It made all the hard work to get this book to you worth it!

Abbie Roads

An excerpt from Race the Darkness:

No fucking way was he going to die running. He stopped, turned and faced the truck barreling toward them. The tires ate up the ground at an indecent rate. He clutched Isleen tighter to his chest. For her sake, he wanted it to be a quick death. No more lingering. No more pain.

That thought infuriated him. None of this was right. They shouldn’t be on the verge of death. Again.

The truck kept coming—twenty-five feet.

Everything slowed, happened as if through the quicksand of time. A white dandelion floaty meandered on the breeze directly between them and the truck. His heart no longer ran a staccato rhythm. Duh…duhm. Pause. Duh…duhm. Pause.

His life didn’t flash before his eyes. The future did. Isleen’s future. In an ethereal dream beyond time, her skin was gilded by firelight, her eyes void of sadness and fear, her body whole and healthy. She smiled, an expression so full of warmth and tenderness and undiluted joy that it plunked itself down inside his heart and wouldn’t leave.

He ached to create that kind of smile on her face, but their lives were over and it all could’ve gone so differently if he’d only listened to her, believed in her, found her years before now.

 

**Sign up for Abbie Roads NEWSLETTER for exclusive content and giveaways!**

You can find Abbie Roads here:

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

TWITTER

 

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