I had to put FAIRLAWN aside to work on THE NATIVITY STORY, but now that the latter is turned in and edited, I'm back to work on the book.
The following is the first scene. What do you think? Does it draw you in and still raise a few questions in your mind--enough questions to keep you reading?
A grieving woman, I’ve decided, is like a crème brûlée: you begin in a
liquid state, endure a period of searing heat, and eventually develop a
By the time we sell the house I am pretty much crusted over, so I’m
honestly surprised when the real estate agent slides a check toward me and tears
blur my vision.
Ms. Nichols doesn’t seem to notice my streaming eyes. “That’s a tidy little
profit, even if it is only half of the proceeds,” she says, eyeing the bank
draft as if she can’t bear to let it slip away. “If you’re in the market for
“I’m pretty sure we’ll be renting for a while.” I lower my gaze lest she
read the rest of the story in my tight expression: This money is all we
Apparently oblivious to the rough edges in my voice, the realtor babbles
on. “Our agents also handle rental properties. If you’re interested, I have a
nice listing inside the Beltway--”
“Anything I could afford near the
District wouldn’t be big enough for me and my boys.”
Ms. Nichols frowns, probably wondering how a woman who’s just been handed
forty thousand dollars could be so miserly, then she shrugs. “I’m in the book if
you want to take a look. I’m here to serve.”
She stands and thrusts her hand into the space above the desk. “A pleasure
to work with you, Mrs. Graham.”
I stifle a grimace. Do I still have the right to be called Mrs.? The title
fits about as well as my wedding band, now two sizes too big and consigned to a
box at the bottom of my underwear drawer. Stress has whittled flesh from my
fingers and added years to my face. My boys haven’t noticed, but my mother
certainly has. Before we turn out the lights tonight, I can count on a lecture
ranging from “Why You Shouldn’t Have Married that Louse” to “What Will Become of My Poor Grandsons Without a Father to Play Ball With Them?”
I stand and accept the realtor’s outstretched hand. “If the new owners have
any questions, they can reach me at my mother’s house. We’ll be there until we
can find a place to rent.”
Ms. Nichols laughs. “Oh, we don’t encourage interaction with buyers after
the sale. If one of their pipes bursts next week, you don’t want to be around.
Walk away and don’t look back, that’s the best thing for everyone.
Easier said than done. I give the woman a stiff smile, then turn and leave
the office, trying to follow her advice. I’d love to walk into the future
without looking back, but how can anyone walk away from sixteen years of
marriage without feeling like an emotional amputee?
I reach the car and catch my reflection in the driver’s window. Why am I
feeling this urge to throw myself a pity party? I am far from helpless. I am a
twenty-first century woman and I’m holding a check for forty thousand dollars.
It’s not a fortune, but it’ll tide us over until I find a new job and a new
I meet my mirrored gaze and order up a mini-lecture in the same no-nonsense
vein I’d use with one of the boys: “Look forward, not back. You’ll find
someplace to live; you’ll find a job. Until you do, you can depend on Mom.”
Oh yeah, I’ve come a long way, baby--from chief of staff for a respected
U.S. Senator to a woman who goes around talking to her reflection.
Lifting my chin with a determination I don’t feel, I unlock the car and
slide into my aging minivan.
~~Angie, probably sitting in the dentist's chair while you read this . . .