Solitary Sky ~ On Sale Now!

Solitary Sky is available in paperback from amazon.com or my e-store! =D

The Kindle version is coming soon, also an e-book version on Barnes&Noble.com.  =)

I'm planning some fun giveaways on my website, ShannonTaylorHodnett.com ...stay tuned there to see what you could win and to keep updated on all things Solitary Sky! ;o)



Waiting for Proof

Well, I've finally finished all editing for Solitary Sky.  Truthfully, I could go back and change little stuff, rearrange sentences, add, chop, and more ad infinitum...but I had to cut myself off.  I had to be firm and remind myself it will never be perfect and I don't want to spend the rest of my life editing.  (O.O)

Tuesday of next week I will get my proof copy and if all is well, SolSky will be released mid to late next week. If I have to make changes (god forbid) and send it back there will be more of a delay.  Obviously Tuesday I will be able to give more specific info. ;o)

The whole process of writing this book...finishing it and going through all the details of getting it published has been such a crazy experience for me.  Crazy because it has encompassed so many different emotions from the highest highs to the lowest lows.  It's been a real education not just in the literal sense, but also in the discovery of who I am here at the beginning of my 5th decade of life...as well as who I was always meant to be.

The journey is of course ongoing, but I'm taking what I've learned with me...and hoping the crazy ride never stops. =)



Almost There

Just thought I would pop in for a quick update.  The cover is almost finalized...the formatting is done...I just have to wrap up a few details next week--then if everything goes smoothly, the book will be released before the end of October! =)   I will post the release date as soon as I know...which should be sometime next week. ;o)

Until then, here's a sneak peek at the cover and a bonus picture of Lilah:



Progress Report

No, I have not been ignoring my blog for the past 2 weeks...well, not intentionally anyway. ;o)

I have been working like crazy to try and get this formatting done...also final editing as I go along, which is what's taking so long.  I had no idea it would be such a long process. =P    Actually it hasn't been that long...for at least 10 of those days I was ill so nothing got done on those days...still, I'm finding that 10 pages can take me 10 hours to finish...and there are over 300 pages. =P


Still, I'm feeling much better now (knocking on wood) and I'm working my as--butt off to get all the formatting finished this weekend ...I'm already near 200, so I hold out high hopes! =)  
Also hope to finish the cover this weekend...I'll post it here as soon as I'm done. 

So around the middle of next week I'll post with more specific info on the release date...see you then! ;o) xoxo



Release Date, TBA

Well, today was supposed to be the day that Solitary Sky would be released, but unfortunately it's not happening. =P
The release is still going to happen...and still in September...but it has been delayed just a little.

Formatting issues along with being ill for over a week now has held things back a bit...but it's life, this is what happens.  To be honest, I kind of expected this would happen.  In the back of my mind when I announced the book was set to be released 9-10-11, I sort of thought in my head "tentatively"...I think I even actually said tentatively at some point.  But I am feeling better now (knock on wood) and I'm very eager to make the release announcement as soon as possible.  I'm actually very close to being ready...I will post updates on my progress here and on twitter and I'll be able to give a definite release date soon...maybe sometime this week.  =)



Liebster Award

Here as I'm rushing around in preparation for the release my first novel, I got my very first ever blog award! =)
This kindness was bestowed upon me by Doralynn Kennedy at her amazing blog: My Publishing Diary
Thank you so much for thinking of me, Doralynn...also for taking the time to read my chapters and leave such nice comments about them! ;o)  xoxo

Here is the beautiful, shiny award that just so happens to match my blog perfectly:

"liebster" means friend =)

the rules:
1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the internet — other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the love.

Now I get to choose 5 blogs with under 200 followers who I think also deserve the award...I get to share the love...& that is always a good thing! ;o) ♥ 

I chose the following 5 blogs because these are 5 awesome people who just happen to be awesome writers as well! =)

1.  Sharon C. Williams, aka @NewEngland_Muse, The Musings of a New Englander
2.  PHC Marchesi, aka @PHCMarchesi, Musings of a Writer
3.  Liz Cabrera, aka @Singinglizzy, One Flew Over the Ghetto's Nest
4.  Karen Hansen, aka @Karenof4, My Writing Journey
5.  Robin Raven, aka @RobinRaven, RobinRaven.com

...and then I wanted to mention the following because they are also awesome writers, artists, & people...and I'm such a noob when it comes to blog awards, I wasn't sure if they fit the rules. ;o)

Sarah James, aka @_sarahjames  Sarah's Blog
Deb Bryan, aka @deb_bryan, The Monster in Your Closet.
Heather Matthews, aka @RomanceNovelist, Heather Matthews.
Dean Harkness, aka @Deanus, DeanHarkness.co.uk

Thanks again to Doralynn for my first blog award! xoxo



Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is finally up, but I had some formatting errors...the font becomes a little bigger after the beginning.  I tried to fix it, but it was beyond my HTML capabilities. ;o)  Please try to enjoy anyway. 

Sunlight streaming through the window woke me earlier than usual on a Saturday morning.I blinked my eyes until the room came into focus and I remembered where I was.The warm smell of fresh coffee and Gram's banana nut muffins filled my room, tempting me out of bed.I followed it downstairs to find Gram scurrying around the kitchen in her silky blue pajamas and matching robe.

     "Good Morning, roomie!"  She waved a potholder-covered hand and flipped steaming muffins from the pan out onto a plate, setting them next to the other plates of food lined up across the bar.

     "Morning," I said. "What’s all this?"

    "Well, I didn't want to wake you to ask what you wanted, so I made a multiple choice breakfast—scrambled eggs, veggie sausage, hash browns, and banana nut muffins."

     "Um…wow,” I said, rubbing my eyes.  “I’ll have a little of each.”

     "Take as much as you want, I already ate."

     "Gram, this is really great, but you didn't have to cook for me.  I can fend for myself."

     "I know, but I don’t get to make breakfast for anyone but myself…sometimes the dogs," she said, filling my glass with orange juice. “Thought I’d make your first morning special.”

     "Okay, but from now on I’ll make my own, or have whatever you made for yourself.  No going out of your way."

     "Sure, sweetie.” She winked, handing me a plate.

     I piled some eggs, a spoonful of hash browns, a link of veggie sausage, and one muffin onto my plate and carried it to the bench table in the dining room.  I ate slowly, basking in the morning sun that poured through the large picture window while Gram darted around the room looking under couch cushions and rummaging through the bookshelves.

     "What are you looking for?" I asked.

     "My appointment book," she said, "I always keep it in my purse but it's not there."

     "I didn’t think you psychics ever lost stuff."

     "Lilah Claire! I am not a psychic—I am an animal communicator. You know the difference."

     "Of course I do," I said.  “Just wanted to make sure you were still sensitive about it.”

     "Ha-ha. Now how about gettin’ off your butt and helping me find the blessed thing."

     "Have you checked the minivan?"

     "Not yet," she said, tightening the belt on her robe and slipping on her shoes, "but I swear I brought it in with me after that emergency call last night.”

     "It’s probably still out there."

     "Hope you’re right," she said on her way out the door.

     I smiled to myself and finished off my eggs.  Outside I heard the dogs barking and getting all excited like they always do when they think they’re going for a ride.  Less than a minute later Gram walked back through the door with her appointment book in hand.

     “I knew it,” I said, satisfied with myself as I carried my plate to the sink.

     "Now who's the psychic?" she teased.

      Gram asked me to go with her on the appointments she had lined up for the afternoon.  I knew I’d have enough time to unpack and spend the day with her before going out with Val tonight, so I said yes.
     I was eight-years-old the first time she brought me along, after years of begging.  She let me gently pet the animals while she “talked” to them.  It was a magical experience seeing her connection with the animals. Back then I was convinced she had super powers. As I got older I just thought she had really good intuition, but the family “gift” she told me about yesterday was something entirely different—like a supernatural gene passed down through the generations.  I still had a hard time believing Gramma Saqui’s stories could be true, but between Gram’s gift and my own visions, my wall of doubt was crumbling fast.

     Our first appointment was with Tracy, a teacher at the elementary school.  Her three month old kitten, Rocky, was having trouble eating.
     "We took him to the vet and they ran all kinds of tests, but they can’t find anything wrong with him," said Tracy with a concerned frown. “I don’t know what to do—he still won’t eat.”
     “The problem likely isn’t medical,” said Gram, putting one arm around her shoulder and giving a reassuring squeeze. “Don’t worry, hon, we’ll find out what the problem is.”
     Tracy and I stood in the kitchen and observed quietly as Gram scooped Rocky up and sat down on the couch, gently scratching his head and closing her eyes.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was literally taking a cat nap, but that was how it worked.  Her communication with animals wasn’t about any kind of verbal back-and-forth.  She’d relax her body and clear her mind, waiting for them to send her a “message”.  Sometimes the messages would come in the form of pictures or emotions. Sometimes they were sensory.  Once she came home and rinsed with mouthwash ten times after the client’s dog “told” her he’d been sneaking treats out of the litter box.
     "Did you change Rocky’s diet recently?"  asked Gram.
     Tracy nodded her head. "I bought him the inexpensive food at first, but thought he might like the kind the vet recommends better."
     "Go back to the cheap stuff—he loves it."
     “I might still have some,” said Tracy, running to the pantry.  She emptied what was left of the old cat food into Rocky’s bowl.  He heard the food hit the bowl and sauntered into the kitchen, eying us and the food suspiciously.  He crept up and sniffed the ocean fish flavored kibble, then dug his nose in hungrily, taking crunchy little kitten bites. 
     Tracy broke into a huge smile, her eyes misting up, and hugged Gram hard. "Thank you so much, Audrey—you are amazing!" she gushed, turning to hug me, too.  "And it was nice having you here, Lilah—thank you.”
     “You’re welcome,” I said, though I hadn’t done anything but watch.
     We said goodbye to Tracy and Rocky and headed back out to the minivan.
      “Are you feelin’ OK?” asked Gram once we were inside.
      “Yeah, why?”
      “You’ve been kinda quiet this morning.”
      I yanked the seatbelt over my shoulder and latched it, staring at my lap a few seconds before responding.  “Last night…I had another one.”
      “Another vision?”
      I nodded my head. “It was Val this time.  She was with Jason.”
      “Oh, no—not that again.  What is she thinking?”
      “She says she hasn’t talked to him.”
“Yeah, well you better keep an eye out. She’s got a weakness for that scumbag.”“I’m here to make sure she stays away from him.  He will never hurt her again.”

     Gram and I saw two more clients that afternoon—one spray-happy Tabby cat and a Chihuahua with a mean streak.  The cat was a quick fix, but the Chihuahua took most of the day.  Little Sophie had recently been adopted from a rescue.  Her owner, Kathy, told us she was sweet and shy most of the time, but if anyone came near while she was holding her, Sophie would turn into a vicious, spitting mess.
     When we got to Kathy’s house, Gram asked her to leave the room so she could work one-on-one with Sophie, reassuring her that it was absolutely necessary.  I followed Kathy into the kitchen where she fixed us a sandwich and iced tea.  She took full advantage of a captive audience, rambling on about her daughter’s brand new baby and worthless husband.  I listened intently and gave a few sympathetic responses.  The woman was clearly in need of some human conversation.
     Nearly two hours later, Gram called us back to the living room.
     “Sophie had a lot to say.” Gram still held the sleeping Chihuahua in her lap.  “She had a rough go in her previous home.  She loved her owner dearly, but the owner's husband physically abused her while she was holding Sophie.”
     “Oh, that’s terrible!” gasped Kathy.
     “It made Sophie feel very angry and protective, so she lashed out at the husband every time he came near,” Gram continued. “Eventually she was lashing out at everyone—all because she wanted to protect someone she loved, the poor thing.”
     Gram suggested several more sessions to help Sophie understand that she's in a safe place now.  Another abundantly thankful client, more hugs and tears, and we were done with Gram’s clients for the day.  I looked down at my watch.
     Maybe I'd get lucky and Val would be running late—or better yet, she'd call and cancel altogether.

     "She's here!"  Gram yelled from downstairs.
     I was just slipping into my shoes and grabbing my purse and overnight bag when I heard her car pull in the drive and start beeping.  I flew down the stairs and gave Gram a quick kiss on the cheek on my way out the door.
     "Bye, girls—have a good time," she called from the door.
     I waved and blew one more kiss before jumping into the passenger seat and slamming the door.

     We drove eighteen miles to Selinasville and pulled into a parking lot right off the side of the road with a huge sign in the front that said, "Dusky's Detour".  It was an old, crumbling brick building that had been a gas station before the highway project came through and rerouted traffic.  Dusky lost a lot of business and almost went bankrupt until he came up with the idea of turning it into a bar.  Now beer flows from the pumps instead of gas, there's live music every weekend, and Dusky's is busier than ever.  It was so packed we had to park way out in the grass and make the hike back up to the door.
     I was a little uncomfortable using Val’s sister’s friend’s fake ID—not that I was worried about getting in trouble.  It was more my family history with fake IDs…and bars.  I tried not to think about it as we neared the entrance.  The bouncer snatched up both of our IDs at once with his big beefy hands and held them up to his flashlight.  He looked between us and the IDs a few times, then handed them back.
     "You ladies enjoy your evenin’," he said with a gold-toothed smile and a look in his eyes that made me squirm.  We smiled nervously and pushed past him into the lobby.
     "Eww, what a creeper," said Val, "but, hey—we got in!"
     We wove our way through the crowd toward the bar.
     “I’m getting a beer, what do you want?” asked Val.
     “Just get me a soda water and lime.”
     “You sure?”
     I nodded and Val flagged down the bartender.
     "Let’s sit as close to the stage as possible," she shouted into my ear as she handed me my drink.  We moved to the "garage" area where the band was setting up.  On the way, some stumbling drunk girls behind me shoved up against my shoulder, causing my drink to splash all over the guy in front of me.
     "What the f—" he said, whipping around.
     "Sorry, they pushed me," I said, pointing to the drunk girls.
     "No, no…it's okay," he said, his expression softening, "Hey, my name’s Kyle, lemme buy you another drink.”
     “You don’t have to—“
     He leaned his face in close to mine, his breath reeking of alcohol and words slurring as he snaked his hand around my back.  “Your drink is almost gone now—it’s the least I can do, right?"
     "No, really," I said, removing his hand. “I’m good.”
     “Mmm, yeah I bet you are,” he mumbled into my ear, and revulsion rolled through my stomach.
I quickly turned to Val and nudged her to go, not bothering to look back for his reaction.  We dodged through the crowd, hoping he wasn’t following us, until we found the lounge area.
     “Did we lose him?” asked Val.
     “I think so,” I said, looking back.  “Let’s hang out here a few minutes just in case.”
     The lounge was in the back of Dusky’s, behind the bar and set far from the live music.  A row of six low-backed booths lined the far wall and small tables were scattered everywhere else.  It was a quieter atmosphere with soft lighting and a slight haze in the air from all the people stopping in for a smoke and some drunken conversation.
     We scooted into an empty booth in the back and almost immediately, Val got a text from her sister. While she texted back, I played with my straw and scanned the room, noting the random things they decided to hang up on the walls after the renovation: old tires with Christmas lights strung over them, long-expired license plates from nearly every state, and a poster-sized picture of a hot air balloon race that someone had autographed.  Plastered along the entire back wall above us was a collection of old pin-up calendars, some dating back to the early fifties.  I searched through the crowd for our stalker, but only found a room full of random faces talking too loud, laughing too much, and trying way too hard…except him.
     He was alone in the corner booth at the other end, looking down at a pile of papers on the table and mindlessly turning a beer bottle in his hand.  Despite the low lighting and smoky haze, I could see the silvery highlights shining in his dark, careless hair and my heart launched into my throat.
     It’s him…
     I wrestled with the urge to run away and the curiosity of wanting to go ask his name.  Instead I sat staring like a preteen with a crush, but I couldn’t stop.  Then, as if he could feel my eyes on him, he lifted his head and looked directly at me, sending my insides into a full-on panic.
     "Hello?  Lilah…did you hear me?" Val's voice snapped me out of it.
     “No, sorry…what?”
     "I said let's go get a table, they're about to start."
     “Okay, I’m coming,” I said, taking a long, deep breath before scooting out of the booth and following her out of the lounge.  On the way I turned to sneak one last look at the guy in the corner, but he was gone.
     We wandered through the packed garage several times but couldn’t find an open table. 
     “Where are we gonna sit?” asked Val. “I don’t wanna stand in the back of the room…this sucks!”
     “There.” I pointed to a small empty table off to the side of the stage where two inebriated guys left to join a group of friends at another table.  Val and I rushed over just as the lights went down, but the table next to it stole the chairs before we got there.
     “Screw it, we’ll just stand here!” Val stood in front the table and raised her hands over her head, yelling and clapping as Modern Myth took the stage.  They played though a few songs and Val went through a few more beers.  She screamed and waved at the lead singer, singing along through every song.  The singer paid a lot of attention to her, even signing an autograph and snapping a picture with her during their break.  By the end of the second set, she was about to burst.
     "I can't hold it anymore, I gotta go!” she said as she ran off toward the bathrooms, motioning for me to follow.  She busted through the bathroom door, throwing her purse back to me as she hurried into the first open stall.
     “Oh, sh—the lock’s broken!” she shouted.
     “I’ll hold it for you.”
     “Thanks, Li-lah.”
     “Sure thing, V.”
     After a quick wash and the required amount of primping, we exited the bathroom.  He was standing right outside the door—like he’d been waiting for us. 
     "Heeey…there you are," said Kyle, slurring even worse now.  "What about that drink?"
     He flung his arm around my neck, pulling me closer to him and his 90 proof breath.
     "I’ll get one for your cute little friend too."
     "No," I said, unwrapping myself from him.  "We're leaving."
     "Where’re we going?" he asked with a droopy-eyed grin.
     Val rolled her eyes and held her tiny hand up in his face.  "Hey, Stalker-dude?  We're leaving now and you’re not—get it?"  She bulldozed past him and headed to the door with me right behind her. We ran out to the parking lot, trying to put as much distance between us and him as possible.  We kept running until we were sure he wasn’t following us.  Val shuffled along with her arm hooked in mine and talked nonstop as I nodded my head and pretended to listen.
     "That was awesome!"  she said way too loud.  "It was literally the best night of my life. Modern Myth rocks so hard…I love them!"
     "They love you, too," I teased.
     "You think so?  This does say, 'Love, Marco'."
     She read the note he scrawled on a bar napkin aloud over and over the rest of the way back to the car.
     "Give me your keys, Val.”
     She tossed them in my direction but overshot by several feet, landing them in the grass. I went over and bent down to get them. When I stood back up, Stalker Kyle was standing next to the car.
     "Crap," I muttered to myself, reluctantly walking back.
     "You girls are fast," he said. "You almost lost me."
     "That was the idea,"  said Val.
     “We’re going home,” I said for what seemed like the hundredth time.
     "Whoa, wait," he said, creeping closer to me.  “You girls shouldn't be all alone.  I’ll go with you."
     "You wish," Val scoffed.
     "Look, Kyle, we said no—so back off!"  I yelled at him, hoping I sounded forceful in spite of the panic taking hold of me.  I unlocked the door and grabbed the handle to jump in, but froze as I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I whirled around ready to scream, but it caught in my throat.  He was standing next to me.  The lips that had kissed mine with so much passion in my vision were real, and close enough to make that kiss happen.  I tried to speak, but a wave of white hot heat washed through me, sucking all the air from my lungs.  All I could do was stare into his eyes again—up close this time where I noticed they were a deep shade of grey, like the night sky lit by a full moon. My eyes traced down the slope of his nose to his slightly-parted lips curved into a smile that only made my blood course warmer through my body.
     "Ready to go?" he asked casually.
     "I...uh," I stammered as my breath partially returned.
     "Yeah, let's go," said Val.
     I shot her a puzzled look.
     He nodded at me and sidled up to Stalker Kyle.
     "I don’t know if you’re too drunk or too stupid to know these girls want nothing to do with you, but you need to walk away...now,” he growled.
     "Who the hell are you?" snapped Kyle.
     “I don’t think you heard me.”
     He moved inches from Kyle’s face and mumbled something too low for us to make out.  Kyle stumbled backwards as if he'd been pushed and walked off without saying another word.
     "Sorry.”  He turned back to us, his voice softening.  "I didn't mean to startle you.  Seemed like you were having a hard time getting rid of that guy."
     "Thanks." I said barely above a whisper.
     “Yeah, you totally saved us,” said Val.  “He followed us around all night.  He would not go away.  I mean, maybe he’s a nice guy who was just like really, really drunk, but I don’t think so.  He could be a rapist, or murderer. I don’t even wanna think about what he was planning to do to us!  Guess we’re lucky you found us—unless you’re a killer-rapist, too.”
     “Val!” I said, mortified.
     “Just sayin’.”
     “It’s OK,” he said. “I’m not a killer…or a rapist.”
     Val and I smiled at him and each other, launching us all into an awkward silence.  I glanced over his shoulder into the parking lot watching people gather and cars drive off into the night, but I could feel his eyes only on me.  I wanted to just tell him goodnight and get the hell out of there, but another part of me wanted to find out who he was, where he came from—and why is he here?
     "So what’s your name?” asked Val.
     “I’m Hunter,” he said, shifting his eyes to her.
     “Hi, Hunter. I’m Val and that’s Lilah.”  She pointed at me over the roof of the Bug.
     “Lilah,” he echoed, the sound of my name from his lips sending ripples through my stomach.
     “You look kinda familiar,” said Val.
     “I just moved here. My brother opened a book store in Gentian.”
     “The one downtown?  That’s where I know you from.  I went there with my mom the day you guys opened. You helped her find a book on pottery—her latest thing.”
     “Yeah, that was probably me.”
     “So, are you a senior?” she asked.
     “A senior what?”
     “At Gentian High?”
     “Oh, I—uh already graduated.”
     I stood quietly, hearing their conversation, but nothing was sinking in.  My mind was scrambled.
     What is wrong with me?
     I didn’t want him to think I was some weird girl who never talks, but the harder I tried to find the right words, the harder it was to get them out.  So I smiled and nodded, trying not to stare at his lips as he spoke.
     “We’re headed back to Gentian, do you need a ride?” said Val.
     “My car’s right over there.”  He gestured to a small, silver convertible across the lot.
     “Okay, then.”  Val opened up the passenger side door.  “Maybe we’ll see you around.”
     “Maybe,” he said, looking back at me.
     “It’s a small town,” she said, getting in. “Trust me, we will.”
     He opened my door and motioned me into the driver’s seat.  “Goodbye, Lilah…Val.”
     “Bye.” I smiled and Val waved.
     He closed the door and backed away as I started up the engine.  I laid my foot down heavy on the gas and we lurched into motion.  I guided Val’s car through the crowded parking lot toward the exit, but couldn’t stop my disobeying eyes from drifting up to the rear view mirror.  Hunter was already in his car, sitting with headlights on, but not moving.  I got my eyes back on the road and tried not to think about it—about him as I pulled out of Dusky’s.
     “What is with you?” asked Val once we were down the road.
     “Nothing,” I said, trying to make it true.
     “C’mon, Lilah, you didn’t take your eyes off Hunter and you said maybe two words to him.”
     “So what?  That Kyle guy got me all weirded out, then Hunter showed up out of nowhere and—”
     "Came to your rescue like a knight in shining armor?" she said with her hands clasped together at her shoulder.
     "I think I just tasted vomit."
     “Deny it all you want, L, but you’re crushing on him.”
     “You are.”  She sang the words like a song.
     “Just drop it, Val!”  I yelled and she looked hurt, but that was probably more the fault of the alcohol than me lashing out at her.  She stayed quiet the rest of the way and I kept my focus on the road.  I was angry, but not at her.  I was ashamed at myself for letting Hunter have such an effect on me.  I got overwhelmed by the way he made me feel even though my vision had given me warning. 
     And I was terrified thinking that Val might be right.


Thanks for reading...and please comment. ;o)



Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 2

(For chapter 1, please click here.)

Chapter 2

     Bridgeton is a big city.  Not by L.A. or New York standards, but the fact that the buildings downtown are more than three stories high qualifies it for the title around here.  It sits deep inland from the coast, separated by mountains on the eastern edge.  I was born in Bridgeton, but the over-crowded streets, the constant buzz of activity, and the faint stench of exhaust fumes hanging in the air have never been home.
     Finally heading down the long stretch of highway out of town, I passed a sign that read: “You are now leaving the City of Bridgeton—come back soon.”
     Not likely.

     Gentian is a four hour drive through the mountains, heading east from Bridgeton.  It stretches from the foot of the mountains on the other side all the way to the shoreline.  The drive through the mountains is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in early fall when trees coated in warm fall colors spread out like an elaborate patchwork quilt across the landscape.  Claire used to hate taking off a whole day from work to make the drive to Gram’s.  She’d whine the whole way about steeply sloping roads and “death-beckoning” curves.  I usually ignored her, knowing the ride back to Bridgeton would be my turn to whine.
     I took the last exit off the main highway and veered right onto route 75, guiding the wagon down a rutty two-lane road.  Changing trees towered overhead, filtering late evening sun through patches of leaves already surrendered to fall.  The smell of fading summer blooms mixed with resin from the pines flooded in through the partially-opened windows, refreshing my smog-choked senses.
     I  rounded the curve and saw Gram’s house less than a half-mile down the road.  My stomach went wobbly with anticipation as I neared the driveway.  The small white frame house with black shutters sat beneath sprawling aged oak trees that hung over the roof, creating the perfect summer shade.  Acres of treeless green carpeted the surrounding land down to the tree line in the distance.  Gram was waiting on the front porch swing, her mess of blazing red hair twisted up and held in place with a pencil as she read the newspaper.  Two oversized mutts stretched out like useless sentries at her feet. Both dogs perked up when they heard my tires crunch onto the driveway gravel and came running to greet me.  Gram jumped up and tossed her newspaper aside.
     "Lilah!" she squealed, a huge smile forming creases around her soft blue eyes.  
     I killed the engine and stepped out onto the driveway, enthusiastically greeted by jumping dogs and a warm hug from Gram.
     “You look beautiful,” she said, squeezing me tight.  “Happy birthday, Babygirl.”
     “Thanks, Gram,” I said, straining.
     “I’ve got you a present inside,” she said, releasing me.
     “You didn’t have to do that.”
     “I’d have done more if I could.  It’s just a little something.”
     “Whatever it is, I love it.”
     “Is that all your stuff?”  She pointed to the two large suitcases and one overflowing box in the back of the wagon.
     “For now,” I said.  “A van’s bringing the rest next week.”
     “Oh, okay,” she said hesitantly, “Exactly how much stuff are we talking about here?  I don’t have a lot of extra space, but I suppose we could just move some of it into storage.  Or we could ask—”
     “Gram, relax.  I was just messing with you.  This is all of it.”
     “Did you hear that, girls?”  She glanced down at Bones and Chepi.  “She thinks it’s funny to tease old ladies.”
     Both dogs barked back at her.
     “Guess they think it’s funny, too,” she said, grinning.  “C’mon, let’s get your stuff inside.”

     The warm, chocolaty smell of double fudge brownies greeted me as I walked through the front door.  I paused in the doorway to take deep breaths, almost tasting them with each inhale.  Stepping into the living room, I looked all around to the adjoining kitchen and beyond to the breakfast area.  Everything was the same as the last time I was here.  The small, red couch was still fixed in front of the fireplace and covered with a dozen different patterned throws.  On the walls and nearly every other surface were framed pictures of family—some human, some animal.  The hardwood floor still seemed like a misnomer with its scuffs, scratches, and random accumulations of fur—courtesy of the dogs.   It was the lived-in feel of Gram’s house I always loved so much.  It was more comfortable than back home, where Claire always tried to act like she was a clean-freak even though I was the one who did most of the housework.
     "Fresh baked.”  Gram pointed to the brownies. “Help yourself."
     I went up to the bar and scooped a warm brownie onto a napkin.  A small, white box wrapped in a pink ribbon next to the plate of brownies caught my eye.
    “What’s this?” I asked, knowing exactly what it was.
     “You didn’t think those brownies were your birthday present, did you?  Bring it over here and open it,” she said, motioning to the couch.
     I picked up the box and added one more brownie to my plate before joining Gram in the living room.  The pink ribbon around the box fell to the floor with just one tug.  I lifted the top and pulled out a silver mp3 player.
     “Hope it’s as good as the one you lost.”
     “It’s better,” I said, reaching for another big hug.  “Thanks, Gram—I love it.”
     “I thought about gettin’ me one of those things, but I can’t figure out how to get my Joni Mitchell records in there.”
     I laughed, taking a sip of tea and she looked back at me with her head tilted and a contented smile.  “I’m really glad you’re here, Lilah.”
     “Yeah, me, too.”
     “How did things go with your mom?  Did she give you any trouble?”
     “She’s so freaked out that Tony left I don’t even think she noticed.”
     “He left?  When did that happen?”
     “He moved in last week, but three days later they got into a huge fight and he bailed on her.  I think it might be a record.”
     “Well, I guess it’s for the best,” she said.  “I didn’t much like him. Claire could do better.”
     “She’s definitely done worse.”
     “So, how was the drive up here?”
     “Not too peaceful, I hope.  Driving on those long stretches of highway can get hypnotizing.  Good thing you got plenty rested up before you came.  I had nightmares about you falling asleep at the wheel.”
     I bowed my head and fidgeted with my tea cup.  She couldn’t be more wrong.  Sleep hadn’t come easy for me since I had that weird dream.  Every time I tried to sleep my thoughts went straight to that blinding light.  It got to where I’d just lay there waiting for it to happen.  It never did, but its looming presence kept me from getting any real rest.  Maybe I was afraid of it happening again, but mostly I was worried that it wouldn’t.  No matter how many times I denied it to myself, I wanted to see the vision again…to catch another glimpse of the kiss in the garden.  I wanted to feel that rush of emotion radiating from the girl who looked just like me.
     “Lilah?”  Gram eyed me closely, “On second thought, you don’t look well-rested at all.”
     “I haven’t been sleeping much.”
     “What’s the problem?”
     “I had this weird dream…thing,” I said, already embarrassed for mentioning it.  “It’s so stupid, but I can’t stop thinking about it, even though it was so long ago.”
     “Tell me about the dream.”
     “I don’t know if that’s even what it was.  I was half awake.”
     “Go on,” she said.
     “I was almost asleep, then a huge flash of white light exploded inside my head—like taking a picture, but it lasted longer.  The light faded away and I saw this beautiful garden, full of trees and flowers…a boy and girl were standing right in the middle.”
     “Just standing there?”
     “No…they were kissing—like really kissing.”  I saw her eyes widen.  “I know, it’s crazy, huh?”
     “Oh, honey, no.  It’s not crazy at all.”
     “But there was something strange about the girl.  I couldn’t see her clearly at first, then she turned her head and she looked just like me.”
      “Wow,” said Gram, smiling big.  “This is wonderful!”
     “It is?” I asked, confused.
     “I knew it might skip a few generations, but I always hoped you would be the one.”
     “Gram, you lost me.  What the hell are you talking about?”
     “When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me stories from her tribe.  My bedtime stories were full of Tonkawan legends and tales of our ancestors.  It was your Great Grandma Saqui’s way of staying connected with her heritage and keeping it alive through me.  When she told me some members of our bloodline were blessed with special gifts, I thought it was just another story—but it wasn’t.”  She set her cup of tea down on the coffee table and took my hand in hers, attempting to explain as I sat in stunned, wide-eyed silence.  “Her Uncle Mokee could understand the animals.  He had a special bond with them just like I do.  Her Great Aunt Talah could read the thoughts of anyone she touched, and her cousin, Mayeta, often communed with the dead…but every few generations, someone was blessed with ayayana—like Grandma Saqui and her great-grandfather, on back through the generations.”
     “What does it mean?”
     “Ayayana is a Tonkawan word for the gift of prophecy.  It literally means ‘to see the other side’.  It’s what Gramma Saqui used to call her visions.”
     “O-okay, I think you’re messing with me now.  I get it—and we’re even.”
     “No, it’s real.  She described her visions as a burst of light one-hundred times brighter than the sun, with moving pictures that told a story...and the story would soon come to pass.”
     My breath stopped short as I gaped at her in disbelief.  “You’re telling me what I saw was actually a psychic vision...and my future involves kissing some random guy?”
     “Yep, sounds like it,” she said, smiling proudly.
     “But it only happened that one time—how is that a gift?”
     “Oh, believe me, it will happen again—but for goodness sake, don’t be afraid.  These visions are an inheritance from your ancestors.  I’ll say to you what Gramma Saqui’s mother said to her when she got her first vision: Cherish what you’ve been given and use your gifts wisely…their purpose is to guide your future along the path of your greatest happiness.”
     “This is way too much for me right now,” I said, shaking my head.
     Gram was about to respond, but got cut off by the shrill buzz of her phone.
     “Hold that thought,” she said to me before answering it.
     She listened intently, nodding her head and saying “Uh-huh” a few times.  She excused herself and cupped her hand over the receiver.  “It’s a client.  Why don’t you go on up to your room and I’ll be up there in a bit.”
     “Okay,” I said, rising unsteadily.  I grabbed both suitcases and lugged them up the stairs, thumping the big one on each stair along the way.  I dragged them down the hall and around the corner to the door with the black cursive “L” sign on the door.  My room was just as I left it on my last visit—flowy black curtains trimmed in gray and a super soft black and white damask bedspread…both remnants from my "dark phase" a few summers ago.  The walls were still coated in a soft gray to match the charcoal carpet.  Gram had managed to sneak in a few spots of color around the room since then—assorted shades of red throw pillows piled on top of the bed and a dark red oval rug beside it.  Gramma Saqui’s hand-carved rocking chair stood out from the rest of the décor.  It was in its usual spot by the window with one of her handmade harvest quilts thrown over the back.  I walked over and eased down onto it, gently moving forward an back as I wondered what she thought when she had her first vision.  Was she freaked out? Probably not.  She’d grown up knowing it might happen to her someday.  I never had a clue.
     I stopped rocking when I noticed a vase full of flowers on my dresser.  Fresh chrysanthemums and carnations in golden orange and other shades of fall were neatly arranged in a bronze vase with a maroon ribbon tied around it.  I went to the dresser and ran my fingertips across the petals, inhaling their sweet scent.  My eyes fell closed as I thought of my vision...of his lips that were touching mine amidst the sea of flowers.  If Gramma Saqui’s stories were real, that kiss could happen.  But did I really want it to?  My only purpose in coming here was to get away from Claire and focus on graduating—not to fall for some guy with dark wavy hair and soft, full lips that made me run my tongue across my own every time I thought of them.
     I need to call Val.
     I dragged my cell phone out of my pocket and found the picture of a girl with long, untamed blonde hair and an imperfect smile.  I met Val Spencer during a trip to Gram’s the summer I turned twelve.  Her family had relocated from Florida after her dad bought a used car dealership in Gentian.  They moved into a house about a mile down the road from Gram’s, just past the third big curve.  Gram brought me along when she visited Val’s family with a big plate of welcome brownies.  Val and I have been friends since that day. We saw each other every time I went to Gram’s and she visited me in Bridgeton a few times, but we mostly kept in touch through emails and extra-long phone conversations.  She lived far away, but she was the closest friend I’d ever had.
     “Lilah!” she squealed.
     "Hey, Val."
     “Are you still on the road?”
     “Shut. Up.  You’re here?  When are you coming over?”
     “Leaving now.”
     “Cool!  Let yourself in and come find me—I’ve got a big surprise.”
     As soon as we hung up, Gram knocked on my door.  “Was that Val?”
     “Yeah, she wants me to come over.”                                                          
     “Oh, good.  I’ve got to go and see a client.  Her dogs are all riled up about something.”
     “So you’re leaving?”  
     “Yep.  Have fun with Val, but please be home before midnight.  I know you’re officially an adult now, but that doesn't mean I get to worry about you any less."
     "I promise I’ll be home early.”
     She kissed me on the cheek and ran out the door.
     I’ll be home.
     I pulled into Val’s driveway behind a shiny, yellow VW bug sitting the spot where her dad's old sedan used to be parked.
     Her big surprise.
     I walked up to the front porch and opened the door, leaning my head inside.  "Hello?" I said, but thumping bass from down the hallway was the only response.  "Val?"  I stepped inside and turned down the hallway toward her room.  As I neared her open door, the music stopped.  She burst out of her room and pounced on me with a hug, nearly knocking me to the floor.
     "Sorry," she said, grinning. "I just can’t believe you’re finally here!"
     "I have been here before." I smiled back.
     "Yeah, but this time’s different.  You’re not leaving in two weeks.  You’re staying and going to school with me—which means my senior year won't totally suck!"  She locked her arm in mine and dragged me into her room, chattering non-stop.
Val's room was still the same as when we first met—a frilly pink lace bedspread, pillow, and canopy with perfectly matching curtains; wood furniture painted white with yellow trim; and light lavender on the walls. The only difference was the framed art and posters of her favorite band now hanging on the walls instead of unicorn pictures and ballet slippers.  She hated when I referred to her pastel rainbow theme as “fairy vomit”, but it was an accurate description.  
     “I’m gonna go get a soda—you want one?” she asked.
     Val bounced off to the kitchen and I sat on the edge of her bed, checking out all the new additions to her walls.  A wave of dizziness hit me out of nowhere and before I had time to wonder what was happening, the whole room was awash with white light.  I leaned back on the bed as another image of a boy and girl appeared inside my head…only this time the girl definitely wasn’t me.  I watched Val run out of her house and jump into the passenger seat of Jason’s car, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek before they sped away.  The image faded and Val’s room slowly returned to focus.  I pressed my hand to my head and tried to cool down the anger rising inside me.
     Jason was Val's boyfriend for most of last year.  I hated him.  He was always mean to her and tried to control her every move, but she couldn’t see it because she was “in love”.   I begged her to dump him, but she never would.  One night he took her to a movie and they got in a big fight.  He called her a “stupid whore” and walked out, leaving her there all alone as she cried into her popcorn.
     “You okay?” said Val standing in the doorway with a soda in each hand.
     “Yeah.” I sat upright. “Are you?”
     “What?”  She looked at me, puzzled.
     I couldn’t hide the anger in my voice. “Are you seeing Jason again?”
     “What—no! I saw him a few times over summer, but we don’t even talk.  
Why are you asking me that?” 
     I glanced across the room and saw Jason’s picture inside a tiny pink jeweled frame on her nightstand. “He’s still there?”  I said, pointing to the frame.
     “That? Oh, it doesn’t mean anything,” she said with a nervous twitch.  “You know me, Miss Procrastination.”
     “He’s gotta go.” I reached over and slammed the frame face down.  “You know what he’s like—promise me you won’t get back with him.”
     “I swear.  I’d never give him the chance to hurt me twice.”
     I decided to let the Jason issue rest for now since I wasn't sure if either of my visions was actually going to happen.  “Let’s talk about something—anything else.”
     She handed me my soda and we settled  into the pile of pillows underneath her window.
     “Can you believe we’re actually seniors now?” she said.
     “I don’t think it’ll be that much different.”
     “Maybe not in Bridgeton, but here if you’re not a senior, you’re nothing.  No one even notices you.”
     “So you want to get noticed?”  I said. “By anyone specific?”
     “Well, there is Jared Slone—he’s so hot.  I’ve been in love with him since eighth grade, but he’s got a girlfriend.  Jason is total history, but there is someone who might have potential—this guy in my art class last year.  He has this whole emo thing going on, but I’m starting to kinda dig it.”
     “Brooding artist…interesting.”
     “I’ve got someone in mind for you, too.”  She lifted the can of soda to her lips.
     “His name is Ian and he’s super cute .”  She ignored my heavy sighs and continued.  “He did have a little drug problem last year, but his parents sent him to rehab.  I saw him over the summer and he’s doing great.”
     “Not interested.”
     “Ugh, you are so frustrating!”  She threw a pillow at me.  “When are you gonna join the rest of the teenage world and give in to your hormones?”
     “Ew—you sound like Claire.”  I tossed the pillow back.
     “Let me give Ian your number.  If you hate him I won’t say another word, but at least give him a chance.”
     “Val…”  I groaned, sliding both hands down my face.  I thought about mentioning future-guy from the garden and my newfound “gift”, but I didn’t want to get her started.  
     “Fine, I give up.  You can be lonely and miserable all year.  I’m gonna go after emo kid.”
     “Then you might want to invest in some black.”  I pointed to her closet full of springtime colors and cheery prints.
     She got up and rifled through the closet, bringing out a black tank top with spaghetti straps.  “Here’s something…hey, I could wear this tomorrow night.”
     “What’s tomorrow night?”
     “Oh, I haven’t told you about the surprise yet!"
     "You mean it’s not that shiny, yellow thing in the driveway?"
     "No," she said. "Well, yeah, that too—it’s awesome, my parents finally caved—but no, there's something else."
     "Guess who’s gonna be in Selinasville tomorrow night?” she said, excitement sparking in her eyes.
     “I don’t know...who?”
     “Modern Myth is playing at Dusky’s!  I absolutely have to be there—will you go with me?"
     “Isn't Dusky’s twenty-one and up?”
     “Not a problem. I got my sister’s ID—and her friend’s for you.”
     "How’d you pull that off?"
     "Paid them fifty bucks each."
     "You are insane," I said.  "She’ll kill us both if we get caught."
     "L, relax.  Anyone with an ID gets into Dusky's."
     “Please, please, please come with me.”  She tugged at my arm.  “Don’t make me go by myself."
     "Okay, I’ll go."
     She jumped up and gave a little a happy squeal, throwing her arms around my neck.  “We’re gonna have so much fun!”
     “What time does it start?” I asked.
     "9:00, so I’ll pick you up around 7:30—don’t forget to tell Gram you’re staying over at my house."
     “I am?”
     “Yes, and I have another surprise for you.”  She handed me a blue gift bag with silver stars all over it.
     "You didn’t tell me what you wanted for your birthday, so I picked something out.”
     I opened the bag and took out a green leather-bound journal with a tree branch and flower design pressed into the cover.
     “I got it so you could write about all the great memories you make in Gentian,” she said.
     “It’s perfect.” I smiled and hugged the journal close to my chest.  “Thanks, V.”


That was chapter 2...as always, I hope you liked it!  
Please leave a comment and don't forget to come back tomorrow for chapter 3! =) 



Solitary Sky ~ Chapter 1


     Dirty, claw-like fingers thrust from the shadows and seized my throat.  In half a breath I was off the ground, my legs flailing frantically.  I dug my nails into cold, course flesh, trying desperately to free my neck from his inhuman grip as pitch black eyes watched in amusement.  I wanted to scream but the sound was trapped in my throat as I gulped and gasped for air.  His hold on my throat tightened, crumbling the last of my resistance as it gave way to exhaustion. Billowing curtains of darkness draped my consciousness and I felt myself slipping into the black.
     I closed my eyes and hoped that death would come quickly as I lifted a trembling hand to clutch the cold piece of heart-shaped metal hanging from my neck.
     Where are you?

Chapter 1

     I peeked through the back door window and saw Claire sitting at the kitchen table, still wearing her dress and apron from work. She held a cup of coffee and cigarette in one hand while going through mail with the other. I tossed my purse and book bag to the side of the porch and sat down on the grass hoping to wait her out.  The last thing I wanted today was a conversation with my mother.
     She got up fifteen minutes later, but only to refill her cup.  I sighed and slung my bags over my shoulder, lifting myself off the grass.  
     “You’re home,” Claire said as I rushed through the door and past her. “Hey, get back
here, Lilah. What’s wrong with you?”
     “Nothing.” I said, avoiding her overly made-up eyes.
     “Well you look like crap. Have you been crying?” She pursed her lips and blew the steam rising from her cup, waiting for me to answer.
     “No, I’m just tired.”
     She pulled a chair out from the table and patted her hand on the seat.  This was her mother-who-cares act, but I wasn’t buying it.  Did she really expect me to sit and talk with her about my life over piles of old mail and breakfast dishes she’d left for me to clean up?  I shifted my bags to the other shoulder and stood with my arms folded against my chest.
     “Fine.” She shoved the chair back under the table. “I’m not gonna beg you to talk to me.”
     “There’s nothing to talk about.” 
     “Then I don’t understand why you’re in such a foul mood. You’ve got the whole summer to look forward to. Wish it was me, but no—I’ll be fluffing pillows and hauling my cart around the Magnolia Motel while you stay holed up in your room, wasting all that good sun.”
     I glared at her. “Claire, I told you I’m pulling double shifts at the bakery all summer. Don’t you ever listen to me?”
     “Jeez…so touchy. Did you and your boyfriend break up or somethin’?”
     “That guy who came by here a few weeks ago. Didn’t you go out with him?”
     “Yeah, but not like that.  I haven’t even talked to him since.”
     “Why not?”
     I didn’t answer.  She wanted details, but not out of concern—she was just nosy.
     “He seemed nice to me. What happened?  What did you say to him?  Y’know you can be a little bitchy sometimes. Were you on your period?”
     I rolled my eyes and turned to walk out of the room, but she grabbed my arm.
     “Tell me you at least kissed him.”  
     I shook my head and jerked my arm free.
     “Oh, Lilah,” she said in the most motherly tone she could muster. “There’s your problem. How is a boy supposed to know you’re into him if you won’t even let him get to first base?  I’m not saying you have to give it all up on the first night, but boys are very physical. If you don’t give them something, they’re gonna move on to the next girl who will.”
     I opened my mouth, about to tell her the fifteen different things wrong with what she just said, but held my breath instead.  She wouldn’t hear anything I had to say.  I just kept quiet and prayed for our little mother-daughter talk to be over.
     “Oh well, no biggie,” she continued. “But now you need to get yourself back out there. You’re only seventeen and you spend every weekend at home or working. You’re too young to live like that…hell, I’m too young to live like that.”
     “Guys are kinda like shoes. You try them on and walk around a while to see if they fit.  If they don’t, you just take ‘em back and look for another pair.  Y'know, I tried on lots of heels before I found Tony.” Her face beamed at the mention of his name.
     “You should keep looking,” I said.
     “No way. I’m not lettin’ this one go. He calls me everyday from work like we're married—God, I love that man!”
     “How can you say that?  You’ve only known him, what—a week?”
     “Two weeks,” she said, looking down at her cigarette as she crushed it out. “Maybe three.”
     “Oh, that’s much better.”
     “I know it’s not very long, but it feels like I've known him forever.” She stopped to curve a loose strand of caramel brown  hair behind her ear. “We’ve gotten really close.”
     My stomach lurched as I thought of all the nights Tony had stayed over in the past few weeks. I had to keep the volume on my headphones cranked up to drown out the sound of them getting “really close”.
     “What I’m saying is you need to put yourself out there—even if it means getting hurt.  If you don’t, you’ll wind up alone and bitter…like Mom.”
     “Gram is not bitter.”
     “But she is alone. It’s been over twelve years since Dad died and she hasn’t been out on one date.”
     Her raised eyebrows and self-satisfied expression was too much for me to take. “What makes you think you can give me and Gram advice on our personal lives when all you do is bring home random losers that only want to sleep with you or mooch off you—or both.”
     “They aren’t all losers. Tony’s got a steady job…and remember Bill?”
     “Which Bill?”
     “The one who drove a BMW.”
     “Wasn’t he married?” 
     “What is with your nasty attitude?” She narrowed her pale green eyes. “I’m sorry you had a shitty day, but don’t come home and dump all over me.”
     “You were the one who wanted to talk.”
     “Yeah, I did.” Her voice went flat as she stood up. “What the hell was I thinking?”
     She flung her coffee cup into the sink and stomped off to her bedroom, slamming the door like an angsty adolescent.  I wandered over to the sink and carefully removed broken pieces of the cup and wrapped them in paper towels before tossing them into the trash.  TV chatter blared from behind Claire’s door as I ran upstairs to my room, hoping she was done with me for the night.

     I let my purse and book bag slump to the floor as I collapsed into the rumpled mess of sheets and blankets on my bed. It never stopped being strange to me when Claire attempted to insert herself into my life as if she’d been a real mother to me all along.  I usually only got the privilege of her attention during the small stretches of time when she didn’t have a boyfriend.  Once in a while she’d perform some motherly deed that gave her enough charge to go on until the next time.
Between her performances I had to figure out life on my own.  Gram was there to help, but Claire always made sure we were a safe distance from her “meddling”.  I would plead with Claire to let me go live with Gram, but she always said no.  As long as I was living with her, she could still convince herself that she was a good mom.  I was forced to settle for occasional visits to Gram's, but even those stopped a couple of years ago when Claire got it in her head that spending time there was giving me a “negative attitude”.
     Like it or not I was stuck here until the end of summer when I’d turn eighteen and Claire couldn’t stop me from leaving her…or Bridgeton.  She’d probably act devastated.  She’d cry convincingly and go on about what an “ungrateful little bitch” I was before begging me to stay.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt about leaving her to fend for herself, but I had to get away.  I never wanted the responsibility of taking care of my own mother.  She was supposed to take care of me.  If I stayed with her any longer, I’d get crushed underneath the weight of her neediness.
     Claire always had someone to take care of her—first Gram and Grampa, then an endless string of men she attached herself to.  She even started to depend on me, once I was old enough to read the electric bill.  I watched as she clung desperately to any man offering sweet words and a warm bed...and stood by, ready to nurse her broken heart every time they walked away.
     My dad had been no different than the rest.  He met Claire one night when she and her friends used fake IDs to sneak into a bar. She was sixteen, he was nineteen.  Claire was in love, but Doug was only in the moment.  When she told him she was pregnant, he disappeared fast.  Gram said she saw him at the hospital on the day I was born, watching me through the nursery window.  What he saw through that glass wasn’t enough to convince him to stay, but who could blame him?
     I was a package deal.

      An urgent buzz ruptured the silence, yanking me from my thoughts.  I reached down and dug my phone out of my purse, catching it before the first ring.
     “Babygirl!” The sound of her voice was a shot of instant calm.
     “Hey, Gram.”
     “I just tried calling your mom, but she’s not answering. Is she out with Tony?
     “No, she’s in one of her pissy moods. We had a fight.”
     “I swear you two act more like sisters than mother and daughter.  Are you sure I didn’t give birth to you, too?”
     “Not entirely.”
     “Hang in there…not much longer ‘til you’re out on your own.”
     I pulled the calendar off of the wall behind me and flipped to the twenty-third of August marked with a big red smiley face. “I’m leaving on my birthday.”
     “Have you told your mom you’re staying with me?”
     “I mentioned it to her last week when we picked up my car, but I don’t think she took me seriously.”
     “You got a car?”
     “Yeah, an old blue station wagon
you’ll love it.  It’s all tricked out with wood paneling on the side.
     "Do you think it's sturdy enough for the drive down here?”
     “Don’t worry, Gram. It'll make it.”
     “Good.  Now, I was thinking we should have a party when you get here—sort of a birthday and welcome party all in one. Do you wanna have it here at the house or should I see about the banquet hall downtown?”
     “Neither.  I don't want a birthday party.”
     “C’mon, it’ll be fun. We could invite some kids from the high school so you can meet them before school starts.”
     “Please, Gram…no.”
     “Okay then,” she sighed. “No parties for now.”
     Her enthusiasm undeterred, she launched into a long list of places she planned to take me—including a nearby jazz festival and a tour of all the new shops in Gentian.  I let her ramble and gave the occasional “okay” or “mm-hmm” while I gathered a load of laundry and put it in the washer.  Halfway through the rinse cycle she had to take a call from one of her clients.  I cleared the breakfast dishes from the table and stuck a pizza in the microwave.  After switching the laundry over, I took my pizza upstairs, managing to avoid Claire the rest of the night.
     I'd hoped that a longer and hotter than necessary shower would help me get to sleep, but it had little to no effect.  Silence was all around me, interrupted by the occasional car whizzing past on the freeway.  couldn't clear my head enough to get to sleep.  Frustrated, I threw back the covers and pulled my DVD case out from under the bed. I flipped through the titles looking for something to take my mind out of reality.  My fingers stopped at Pretty Woman.
     Perfect...the story of yet another girl who falls under the spell of love and gets her heart broken, only to end up with her happily ever after anyway.  A fairy-tale romance that doesn't exist in the real world...but aren't they all?
     I shoved the DVD into the player and nestled myself under the covers.  Soon I relaxed and let myself get captivated by the impossible love story.  Vivian had just finished her famous shopping spree when I began to drift offhalf in, half out of consciousness.  Suddenly a jolting flash of white was invading every corner of my brain.  I opened my eyes, but the white light was still everywhere.  I thought I might be going blind until an image started coming into focus.  It was a young couple standing in the middle of a garden, lush with trees and a million multi-colored flowers, growing brighter and more vivid with every second.  No distance was between them, their bodies held together like magnets.  They were bound by a kiss so passionate it was getting uncomfortable to watch.  
     I couldn't see their faces, but her hair was dark auburn like mine, and fell in waves down her back.  His was charcoal black with random strands of silver that shined in the moonlight and spilled carelessly over his intriguing profile.
     Watching them, I felt like a voyeur inside my own head until slowly the image darkened on the couple, still locked tight in the kiss.  Before it went completely dark, the girl moved her head slightly, giving me a better view of her facemy face.  
     I bolted upright in bed and scanned the room to make sure I was back to reality.  The familiar surroundings of my bedroom flickered in and out of light from the TV, as the balcony scene from Pretty Woman played on the screen.  I took a long, measured breath and reached over to click off the TV just as Vivian and Edward were making out on the fire escape.  
     It was just a dream...a really strange dream.
     I laid my head back down on the pillow and curled the covers under my chin.
     Of course it was a dream.
     I tried to convince myself, but it seemed like more than a dream.  It was so surreallike watching myself in one of those ridiculous romantic movies.  That girl was not me, but I felt somehow connected to her.  She looked like me, but she didn't feel like me.  Her emotion was raw and intense...my head was still spinning from being being close to it.
     Was that love?  Was that the feeling girls get when they allow themselves to get caught up in a romantic whirl and forget who they areall because of some guy?
     I shut my eyes and drifted off again, the image of the couple replaying only in my thoughts this time.  The less conscious I became, the more I recalled the intensity of her emotion.  She wasn't just caught up in some whirl...she was in love.
     Buried somewhere deep in the last gasps of consciousness,  I started to wish I was that girl.

Hope you liked chapter 1! 
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to leave a comment. =) 
Chapter 2 will be up tomorrow...see you then! ;o)