Good morning, readers, and Happy National Book Lovers Day! I hope your August is going well.
It hasn’t been the greatest month for me so far. My dog passed away last week and I’ve been pretty devastated. Matilda was adorable and devoted and wiggly and goofy, and I just miss her like hell.
I’ve been alternating between throwing myself into writing/research and binge-watching Netflix to drown my sorrows. But there’s only so many hours you can sit in the easychair watching House of Cards and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend before your eyes start to cross, so work it is. I am in the heavy research stage of a new novel, one that I’ll likely be writing for NaNoWriMo this year. It’s an idea that has been rolling around in the noggin for a couple of years at least, and it’s finally starting to gel enough that I’m ready to put pen to paper. I’m very excited. It’ll be the most challenging thing I’ve written, at least in terms of research, so I’m a bit nervous, but so far it has been a dream. I thought I hated research, but it turns out that I’m totally in my element. My heart is currently residing somewhere in 1930s rural Georgia among the cotton farmers.
But you’ll all have to wait for that, though, because I’ve got other irons in the fire. On Friday the first Goodreads giveaway for Ka Kite goes live, and I’ll be posting the link here.
A few friends have asked me to post more excerpts of my writing, and I had a short story all at the ready (at one point a couple of months ago, I was researching this new project, in the final editing stages of Ka Kite, and stopped both for several weeks to write eight short stories. Because I am insane.) but then I thought, nah. It can wait. Because it’s all about Ka Kite right now. I’m still coasting on the fact that I’ve finished my sequel and that the world of Aroha is done. I’m proud of it! And I want you all to read it!
So here it is, an excerpt from Ka Kite, just in time for National Book Lovers Day.
Coders, if you can tell me why my “read more” tag isn’t working, I’ll lurve you forever. I’ve messed with it for eons. Ugh.
But back to the excerpt. If you enjoy it, click over to Amazon and score yourself a copy. Or wait until Friday and try your hand at the giveaway. And don’t forget to leave reviews! Whether you do so on Amazon, Goodreads or your own blog, they help indie writers like me more than you can imagine.
I excused myself from the hospital room and literally sprinted to the bathroom, my chest on fire. I could feel it coming on from a mile away, and I didn’t want to alarm Moira. The last thing she needed at this moment was more stress; she was a goddamn trooper to be holding up the way she was already. I ran by a nurse in sea-foam green scrubs who looked up from her clipboard, alarmed, and advised me in a stern but slightly concerned voice to “slow down, no running in the hospital”. I ignored her. I pushed my way into the ladies restroom and threw myself into a stall, the panic closing over me like a black curtain drawing over my eyelids. I became vaguely aware that I was crouching down on the floor, hugging the toilet. Déjà vu washed over me, and I remembered doing this same thing back at Mom’s house, in Alabama, the night I’d first tried to kill myself and failed so miserably.
My stomach was heaving but nothing was coming up. Oh, if only I could puke up all the feelings inside me, the panic and the hatred and terror, and most importantly, the grief, the all-consuming grief that was threatening to overtake me and throw me headlong into a nervous breakdown. I could feel it coming, the devastation and loss something I hadn’t felt ever before, not even when Dad had died. I had been spared raw grief then, because I was so young. This new grief felt like a violation, literally violent, pulling at me, threatening to suck out my life force. It was not wanted, but it did not care.
“She’s in shock” one of the young nurses had said about me when we’d first come in with Moira. I was trying to fill out paperwork for her, and having a hard time remembering even the smallest details, like the date. I had looked up sharply at her, meaning to argue – of course I wasn’t in shock – but suddenly had trouble forming words. I’d let my eyes fall limply back down to the paper, and let the nurse guide us all into the waiting room without uttering a peep. The pen in my hand had clattered to the floor, my fingers too weak to even make a fist or clutch at the dry hand that held my own.
But Moira needed me right now. If my two choices were total shock or absolute grief followed by panic attacks, throwing up and absolute nervous breakdown, then I chose the former. I somehow managed to wrench myself off the cold bathroom floor and out of the stall, over to the sink. The bathroom smelled sterile and clean, like pine sol and lavender soap, but also had that slightly cloying, underlying smell of sickness, body odor, and waste that no bathroom, no matter how clean, could ever be truly rid of. I took a deep breath with an open mouth, trying to swallow down the nausea, and looked in the mirror. My eyes were hollow, sunken in and not my own. Before I’d taken off for the café, what seemed like years ago now, I had deftly applied eyeliner and mascara, going for a look of put together confidence. I’d nailed it, I thought. Now that eyeliner was smudged and raccoon-like, a smoky-eye I hadn’t intended, and a generous blob of it was now trickling down my cheek, in the one tear that had escaped. It left a trail, inky black and jagged on my skin. I grabbed a rough paper towel, held it under the tap for a second, and wiped it off. The problem with waterproof eyeliner was that it never fully washed off of your skin without scrubbing half a layer of epidermis off, and even then half the time it remained. I had a dull black streak going down my face. Oh well. Let it mark me, a dull, yet stark reminder of my trauma. Not that it mattered. Nobody was looking at me.
I took a few more deep breaths and exited the bathroom, wishing I had some breath mints. My mouth still tasted like the burnt, stale coffee the policeman had kindly offered me hours ago, and my tongue felt scratchy and sore from where it had scalded. Hospital coffee, hotel coffee, gas station coffee – they were always boiling. Why was that? My breath mints were in my purse. My purse was in the boot of Nick’s car, where it had fallen.. The car was likely being towed to some impound lot, where it would be scraped of all its leaves and mud, and then examined for evidence. Or whatever it was that happened in these situations. At any rate, I wouldn’t be getting my breath mints back any time soon. Maybe a nurse had a peppermint, or something else to drink. Tea, maybe. You always saw kindly people giving out cups of tea when people were hurt or having nervous breakdowns. Then again, I didn’t have the best track record with tea, if the scar on my leg was any indication.
My thoughts weren’t making sense. My own brain was failing me.
At some point I needed to call Rae and Sylvia, I knew that much. But my phone was in my purse, along with my breath mints. No doubt full of missed calls. They would be frantic, I knew. I hoped the police had already gotten in touch with them; I was pretty sure that in my brain fog I had managed to tell them to do that. I remembered them asking me if there were any loved ones I could call. But honestly I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t remember much of anything.
I walked back down the hall, passing by the nurse in her sea-foam green scrubs again, and this time she gave me a gentle smile. “Are you okay, love?” She asked. “You don’t look so good. Want to sit down?”
“No.” I said. “I’m fine. I’ve got to get back. My friend.”
She fell in step beside me, her clipboard clacking against her leg as we walked. I was irritated; I didn’t want company. “Who is your friend?” She asked. “I’m heading back to the ward anyway, I’ll walk you. You look a bit peaky.”
I supposed that was a polite way of putting “you look like teetotal shit and I’m afraid you might keel over and die any minute.” I opened my mouth to tell her, and realized I could not remember Moira’s last name. Which was ridiculous, because her last name was the same as Nick’s. Which was the same last name I had legally held (though hadn’t gone by, because Nick had never let me) when we were married. When had that been, again? Suddenly my concept of time was messed up, too. I stuttered. “Moira.” I said. “Moira…Moira. She just came in. The police brought us.”
Recognition dawned on her face. “Oh, yes.” She said. “There were three of you. And his…the wife – she’s-” I nodded. She did, too. “I know who you mean. Have the two of you been checked out? You and your friend, the other one?”
“I can’t remember.” I said.
“Well, let’s go and see.” She said. “Then I’d like to give you a once over, check your vitals. Your friend’s as well.” She said. “The redhead.”
“All my friends are redheads.” I said, and started to laugh. I felt another tear roll down my cheek. “I don’t suppose you have any makeup remover?”
Her eyes were wide and blue and kind. “Oh, dear.” She said, and gently took me by the elbow. “Come on, love.”
She was a few paces ahead of me now, and I was grateful, because I couldn’t remember the room number, even though Moira’s room was only just down the corridor from the bathroom. She pushed open the door to room 207 and I followed her, hoping I looked a little less scary than I had in the bathroom. Everyone in the room looked up, seemingly relieved that I had returned alive. Moira was in the bed, a light sheet pulled over her, breathing hard and concentrating on some unknown point in front of her. Her stomach loomed huge in front of her, a slight, liquid shift perceptible from under the covers.
“I’m here.” I said to Moira, but my tongue felt fat in my mouth. It came out sounding like, “Libe hell.”
“Oh shit.” I heard from far away. “Lisa, help me. She’s going down.” I was fainting again. I was happy to do it.