I know, I know, I slacked off and skipped Thursday Poncy Poetry for the second week in a row. Next week, I promise. I’ve just been so focused on editing Ka Kite that I haven’t had time for almost anything else (though I did take several breaks to ride my new bike, which was a gift for Mother’s Day. I do much of my plotting while cycling, so my excuse is that it’s really part of work).
It’s almost done, guys. I’m excited and nervous.
In honor of Friday the 13th, which is usually a day of good luck for me, and to put the cap on a hellish week of second-round editing (I’m seriously ready to throw this book on a funeral pyre), I’m posting a little excerpt below. Just something small, a teaser, really. It will raise more questions than it answers, which is true of all the best teasers. Enjoy!
I suddenly heard the sound of the phone ringing over the rushing water. I turned off the faucet and put my shirt back down. I’ll get it!” I screeched at Mom, running into the dining room. She was one of the last remaining clingers to keep a landline, but she had no answering machine, so when people called it just rang and rang until finally, you caved. She was in the laundry room, doing a load of washing, and singing Motley Crue at full volume. She didn’t even hear.
I wrenched the receiver from the wall, out of breath. “Hello?”
“Oh yes, hi.” The voice on the other end was uncertain. “May I please speak to Miranda Robbins?”
I frowned. Probably a telemarketer, but the person was British. She had a very clipped, proper accent. I hesitated, then answered. “Speaking.”
“Oh? This is you, then. Hello, Miranda.”
“Hi.” I replied, wary. “Who is this?”
“My name is Moira. Moira Kelleher Baldwin.”
“What can I do for you?” I looked wistfully behind me, down the hall, where the warm bath I’d just run was slowly turning cold. I was still streaked with dirt from my little trip with Dusty, and there was mud drying in my hair.
“Well.” She hesitated again. Definitely not a telemarketer; she was far too nervous. “I-I got your name from a mutual friend.” She began. “I hope it isn’t too much of an inconvenience, my contacting you. But I just…” She trailed off.
I was beginning to get annoyed. “What’s this about?”
“…Nick.” She said. “It’s about Nick.”
My hand flew to my mouth.
Had she said her last name was Baldwin?
“Um.” I said, tittering. “Look, I don’t know who you are, or who gave you this number, but I really can’t talk right now.”
“Oh.” She said, “But if I could just-”
“Nick isn’t really a subject I want to get into.” My voice was shaky and I hated it. “And I certainly don’t want him contacting me. Or putting anyone up to contacting me.” I put some acid in my tone for her benefit. Just the thought of answering the phone with Nick’s voice on the other end of the line made my blood run cold.
“Oh, no, no!” She exclaimed. “I’m not calling on his behalf…no, nothing like that. The opposite, actually. I uh…” she paused. “Well, I’m – I’m trying to – to get things sorted and…it all feels rather useless right now. I just…I was hoping that maybe – I could get some insight, some support-” she laughed, a joyless thing. “Oh, bugger. You must think I’m raving mad.”
I could hear the below-the-surface panic simmering in her reedy voice, and recognized it immediately. He’d lined up another one, then. This Moira wasn’t so different from who I had once been. My heart softened, but as it did, my blood pressure began to spike. I wasn’t ready for this. I had hoped it would never happen – but somewhere deep inside, I had figured it would. It seemed like a thing that was done – us former victims, we sought each other out, looked for companionship and solidarity, once things went to hell. We were the only ones who understood women like us, after all.
I was still wary, though. He’d taught me to be. “So he didn’t put you up to this? You didn’t get my number from him?” I supposed he might still have Mom’s number. She hadn’t changed it in decades.
“I didn’t, no.” She said. “I swear. I got it from a mutual friend of ours, as I’ve said. And if I’m bothering you, I’m happy to hang up-”
“No, no.” I sighed, sitting down on one of the bar stools, my head feeling light. “You just took me by surprise. Mentioning his name.” Curiosity was getting the better of me. “So…Baldwin, you said. I assume that means-”
“Yes.” She said. “I’m Nick’s wife.”
It felt like a blow to the face. I shouldn’t be shocked. Of course he’d get married again. Naturally. Why did I feel shocked? And hurt? “Ah. Well hello then, Nick’s wife. I’m Nick’s ex-wife.”
“I know.” She said. “I know quite well who you are. I’ve heard all about you.”
“I can’t imagine that any of it was good,” I replied bitterly. “If your account came from Nick.”
“Some of it did.” She admitted. “But the majority of it came from Hemi.”
I stopped breathing.