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A working professional and part-time writer, full-time Mom and modern day Alice in Wonderland...

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Five Remarkable Books

30-Day Blogging Challenge - Oct 17th
Share a list of your top 5 favorite books and give us a short blurb on each.

I have to start off by stating that these five are in no particular order. I have always loved to read and over the years, I have found that these five books have stayed with me the most among the hundreds I have digested over the years.

"Salem's Lot" was Stephen King's 2nd published novel and though I read most of his work, this early novel has never been unseated as my favorite. The novel takes place in Jerusalem, Maine. Writer Ben Mears returns to his hometown to discover that the townspeople are being systematically turned into vampires. It is wonderfully campy, borrowing on all those original, "bump in the night" fears from one's nightmare landscape. King's descriptive prowess is on full display here, making even the most predictable scenes read with razor edge tension. It is a classic good verses evil story that pits faith and conviction against fear and corruption.

“You have forgotten the doctrine of your own church, is it not so? The cross… the bread and wine… the confessional… only symbols. Without faith, the cross is only wood, the bread baked wheat, the wine sour grapes.” Barlow, Salem's Lot

Jim Lynch's "The Highest Tide" is an almost complete departure from my first choice. It tells the store of Miles O' Malley, a thirteen year old boy who battles insomnia by searching the tidal flats of Puget Sound for exotic sea specimens to sell. It is at the same time, about so much more. This is a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a boy who finds a mysterious creature on the beach at night. At the same time Miles is making his discoveries, he is also dealing with the fear of his parent's impending divorce and a man-sized crush on the girl next door. At all times this book is sweet and sensitive but packs a really meaningful and engaging story. Lynch's descriptive phrasing is broadly appealing, especially for those who appreciate the ocean and its creatures.

"A feisty entourage of purple shore crabs scurried alongside the snail, their oversized pinchers drawn like Uzis. I thought about grabbing the moon snail, but I knew that even after it squeezed inside its shell like some contortionist stunt, it would still hog too much room in my pack. So I noted where it was and moved on until I saw the blue flash. It wasn't truly flashing, but with moonlight bouncing off it that was the effect. I steadied my headlamp and closed in on a starfish that radiated blue, as if it had just been pulled from a kiln. But it wasn't just the color that jarred me. Its two lower legs clung strangely together in line with its top leg and perpendicular to its two side legs, making it stand out in the black mud like a blue crucifix." Miles, The Highest Tide

"Of Love and Other Demons" by the amazing Colombia author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is the book that made me fall in love with words. Marquez's prose is so breathtaking beautiful, I can only imagine how much more compelling it would read in his native Spanish. The story is about a young girl, Sierva Maria, who is bitten by a rabid dog. She is sent to a monastery to presumably live out her days in isolation. She meets and begans a relationship with a young cleric there named Father Cayetano Delaura. It is a tormented love story that is ripe with beautiful anguish.

And without giving his panic an opportunity, he unburdened himself of the dark truth that did not permit him to live. He confessed that every moment was filled with thoughts of her, that everything he ate and drank tasted of her, that she was his life, always and everywhere, as only God had the right and power to be, and that the supreme joy of his heart would be to die with her. He continued to speak without looking at her, with the same fluidity and passion as when he recited poetry, until it seemed to him that Sierva María was sleeping. But she was awake, her eyes, like those of a startled deer, fixed on him. She almost did not dare to ask:
"And now?"
"And now nothing," he said. "It is enough for me that you know."

Peter Straub was another author I discovered at an early age. His novel "Ghost Story", was the first book that really scared me. It kept me up at night, literally. There is such an amazing story that kicks off with four men discussing the one tragic night and horrific mistake they all have in common. It is a tale that travels through decades with characters that climb right out the page and sit, waiting for you in the dark corners of your room. Both this movie, and Salem's Lot were made into movies...and neither film came anywhere close to being as good as these books were. Aptly titled, Ghost Story, this is the one you will compare all others too.
From its ominous opening line, it grabs on and doesn't let go.

“What was the worst thing you've ever done?
I won't tell you that, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me...the most dreadful thing...” Peter Straub, Ghost Story

My final entry to my top five is one of my favorite authors...James Lee Burke. While I have read all of his novels, "Tin Roof Blowdown" was my first introduction to this master storyteller. No writer can transport me to places better than Burke. His descriptive powers, in my opinion, are unrivaled. His characters are teeming with life and vitality. This particular novel kicks off with a shooting of two looters in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This wasn't the first book to feature his recurring characters or the setting of Southern Lousiana, but it endeared Dave Robicheaux and his buddy Clet Pursell to me forever after. Burke has expertly crafted their characters and over the years, has given them lives that you can almost swear must exist outside the pages of his books. I repeated find myself reading a paragraph over just to more fully appreciate the care in which he has described a particular place or feeling. He is an absolute master of the craft.

"MY WORST DREAMS have always contained images of brown water and fields of elephant grass and the downdraft of helicopter blades. The dreams are in color but they contain no sound, not of drowned voices in the river or the explosions under the hooches in the village we burned or the thropping of the Jolly Green and the gunships coming low and flat across the canopy, like insects pasted against a molten sun." Dave Robicheaux, Tin Roof Blowdown.

There are so many other books that come close to making the cut that I can recommend. Like, Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants", "Horns" by Joe Hill, anything by Greg Iles...If you loved the show Stranger Things, I would highly recommend you check out, "Summer of Night" by Dan Simmons. I could go on but this entry is already pretty long and I surely must have lost most of my readers by now...

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What She Remembers...

Admittedly I woke up in a bit of bad mood this morning.  The day seemed it would be another rain-soaked drizzlier like so many others before it. I was already fighting fatigue and a blooming foulness when I signed on to yahoo news and saw the headline about our President mocking Christine Blasey Ford.  In some ways perhaps I was already primed to have a bad reaction, I’m not sure.  Normally I avoid clinking on political links that seem overtly sensationalized but, perhaps because I had myself been so recently triggered by Ms Ford’s testimony, I went ahead and did it this morning. 

The US political machine, and Trump supporters near and dear to me, often try to convince me that the liberal media loves to malign and misquote him.  I have to tell you that the unfavorable opinions I have come to hold about our President are not due to watching a biased news channel or listening to democratic senators take him to task over policies and principles.  No, my opinions are formed exclusively and concretely by the words I hear coming from his own mouth. They are formed by his personal actions, by his arrogance, and by this, a seemingly default knee jerk reaction to rally his base and choose his own political agenda and fragile ego over common decency and respect.   

I understand that he is supporting his nominee.  I will even allow that he feels an attack on his nomination is perceived as yet another attack on him and his administration by the Democrats and their political agenda. I will also concede that politics are always at play especially in the high stakes arena of the Supreme Court appointees. However, what kind of human being doesn’t watch Ms. Ford’s compelling testimony and not acknowledge that indeed, something traumatic happened to her?  What kind of person sits through her account, unmoved?  What kind of father, son, brother, husband…ignores her obvious discomfort and distress at recalling the details on an event that had so clear and profound effect on her life?  What kind of leader ignores the pain of woman’s assault and questions her credibility to garner cheers on a public podium for political gain? 

There are many details Ms. Ford does not remember, this is true statement. It is the details she does recall though that tear and wound.  She can remember some details with disturbing clarity – the hand over her mouth, the feeling of being over powered, the laughter. These are the details she can never forget. These are the memories that haunt her, lie in wait for her in the dark.  These are the details that had to be dealt with professional help and dedication.  These are the details that rise up in therapy like unwelcomed intruders.  These are the details she had to work hard to move past, to move on. 

This is how it is with sexual assault. We might not remember exact dates, we may be foggy on the timeline but we won’t ever forget some things. Some details will come back over and over again, even when we have never tried harder to pretend something didn’t happen.  Some memories can always reside with us, buried long ago with our shame and our fear, only to be unwittenly triggered by the testimony of others. 

I could not tell you the date of my assault, even the day of the week. I’m also a little foggy on the events leading up to it. I might have had certainly had a drink myself.  To this day, I’m not 100% sure how the situation so quickly morphed outside my control. However, I can tell you what I remember with startling, visceral clarity. 

 I can tell you how the fear started.  It was a slow burn in my gut that blossomed into a panic that rattled against my ribcage when I realized he was stronger than me and I could not get out from under him. I can tell you how he tasted of stale cigarettes and popcorn and the way my fingers got tangled in his blonde curls as I struggled against his advances. I can recall the way he turned into a stranger, his body taunt and unyielding, driven by one need.   I remember the way I disappeared under him, became a non-person with no voice and no power of objection.  He failed to hear or see me as anything other than a vessel to pour his rage and grief into. I remember the abrupt release, the dismissal and the almost immediate snoring that ripped through the room as I scrambled for my clothes.  I can remember the pain of it, a brutal rawness I nursed for days after and the numbing fear that something inside me had been tore beyond repair.

I don’t remember the walk back to my own room, only that I felt wrapped in a heavy blanket of shame with the hot whispers and his excited keening playing in my head and my burning ears like an obscene soundtrack.  I remember the self-loathing and the shame, the guilt I placed on my own shoulders for being naïve and foolish.  I remember wanting to forget everything. I had never wanted anything to disappear more than those minutes of my life.  

The reality of assault that President Trump doesn’t seem to understand is that the details you fail to recall do not erase those you can. The fact that you can’t remember dates or times, or the minutes leading up to an event, do not render that event untrue, they do not disqualify the experience as having happened. I don’t know if Mr. Kavanaugh is the one who assaulted Ms. Ford, but she seems to 100% believe he was.  I can tell you first hand, the decades don’t erase the face of an assailant.  I can tell you, someone absolutely hurt that woman. I don’t need her to tell me how she got to that place to know someone assaulted her there or that she was alone and she was afraid.   I don’t need the time or the date to know that someone robbed her that summer of something she can never get back. My heart breaks for the details she can never forget and there is nothing political about a victim’s pain…ever.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Legacy of Words & Finding Hope

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 2097 August 16, 2018
size:5}" “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there." ~ Ray Bradbury
Do you agree or disagree? If so what will you leave behind?

Without question, I will leave my daughter my words.

I have, it seems, always been writing in my life but the moment my daughter became the seed in my soul, she also became my muse. I have written about the joy of expecting her delivery, the trials of being a new mother and struggling to find balance as a working mom. I have written about the incredibly vulnerability you feel bringing a life into the world and of the fierce and all-consuming love that makes you both terribly afraid and immeasurably happy all at once. I have written about my daughter's growth, about her amazing milestones, our battles and all those sweet moments that made my heart melt.

I continue to write about her, marking her years with all the insights I can about who she is and what she is like at her various stages and ages. Her aggravating love of slime is forever immortalized in my my blogs, as is the lovely character of her laughter and the summer she fell in love with horses. I try to capture all her burgeoning beauty, grace and personality that seems to come at a rapid fire pacing I feel I can barely keep up with. My hope is that one day she can read through all my entries, all my stories and blogs and see how I saw her at age 3, age 7, age 18...and that this might tell her something about herself, about the woman she has become and most importantly, about how she was the absolute world to the woman who raised her.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1703 August 16, 2018
Prompt: Hope.
I had hope. It wasn't much hope but it was a little. Then it turned out to have a thousand pieces, Scattering it in all directions. Hope for the best, expect the worst. When is the last time you felt all hope was lost but things got better?

There have been many moments when I have felt hope scattered around me like so much broken glass. There were times when the darkness was so close to pulling me down that it seemed I could not draw enough breathe into my lungs to live another second for myself. Even in those moments, I must still have held onto hope because I did breathe. I did find a way to get back on my feet. I think I wanted so badly to know a different life, I wanted to be a different woman. I did not want to cower forever or live a life when I could not tell the difference between passion and violence. I wanted to love in another color besides red. I think I had hope even then, when a weak man's rage had me curled into a frightened ball at the base of my stairs, that this would not be my life and that it would get better...that I would love better and find someone in turn who did the same. I remember staring at my bloody fingertips and thinking, "someday it will be me or him, and I will have to chose me". Those words seemed so impossibly loud in my head and thinking them gave me hope, and that hope eventually gave me the strength to do exactly that.

Hope is this amazing thing that resides in our souls...quietly waiting until it is needed the most. In those dark times, it can be the light by which we find our way out.

"Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all" Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Jaden's Summer of Ponies

There has likely never been a summer when I have needed to write more and in a twist of cruel irony, have never had less time to do so.

We moved this summer. It has been a challenge in several, largely unanticipated ways. The unforgiving summer humidity coupled with adapting to a new home with a host of issues, has strained every relationship I have at some point. I'd like to say that with each room I "finish", we are settling in and feeling more at home but some days, that seems to be merely sugar-coating it. I know that we will reach a point when we no longer feel overwhelmed and things will become easier, more natural. I look forward to those days with the kind of hope reserved for much larger things in life. For now, I try to go day by day. I try to see the positive, I try to appreciate the progress we are making. I look for the things about this summer that are undeniably joyful.

Jaden is having a remarkable summer. She has grown into a leggy, outspoken girl who has discovered a myriad of new loves and abilities. Like a greenhouse flower, she has blossomed amid the heat and humidity, seemingly unperturbed by the dog days of a summer running a bit too long in the tooth. A surprise week at horse camp has radically transformed a unsettled summer into an adventure. She has fallen in love with horses and with trailing her Aunt Becky through her world of ponies and puppies. Jaden has become the child my sister always dreamed she'd convert from Barbies to show horses and trail rides. The first day of pickup at horse camp, I discovered my fastidious daughter covered from her head to her toes in grime and horsehair, smiling a 100 watt smile and looking as happy as I have ever seen her.

So, a week in horse camp as turned into three thanks to the generosity and stubborn persistence of a favorite Aunt on a mission. Each morning she pulls on her riding tights and laces up her paddock boots. She grabs her helmet bag, a present from her Aunt, which houses the pretty pink riding helmet and riding gloves, and heads into the barn. It has to be unbearable hot most days and the smell is...well, let's just say that it is not my cup of tea, and still she pops out of bed like a daisy, eager to get the to barn and get her pony tacked up. I get videos of her lessons sometimes and I can hardly believe its the same shy girl, posting proudly in her saddle and urging her mount into the rolling canter she loves. I am proud of her and immensely happy to see her bond with my sister as she has this summer.

Bat Houses & Butterfly Wings

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1695 August 8, 2018
Prompt: "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it turned into a butterfly." What are your views on this? Write anything you want about this.

These days I feel far more like a terrestrial garden slug than a caterpillar, nevermind a butterfly. Moving twice in as many months has left me drained. It has been an incredibly humid summer and the unforgiving weather has felt like a plague. Settling into our new home has been rough going. At times it has felt like a depressing treasure hunt where you find delightful little problems like shoddy plumbing and carpentry work around every corner. Some days it has been a challenge to find the beauty in the home we had so readily fallen in love with. We have made progress on fixing the showers, waged war on the ants, even made a kind of peace with the resident bat who comes and goes from one of the outside window eaves. I tell myself it a few short weeks that bat will move on to warmer climates and when and if he returns, we will have installed a far more suitable bat house for him as an alternative. We are making progress. We are adapting to our new life, our new home but it has been surprisingly difficult some days.

I don't feel like a butterfly although the transformation sounds like just the sort of miracle I could use. I've struggled to find time for myself, for those improvements I desperately need to make. I need to build back in an exercise routine, meal prep and self-care regime. I need to fix my hair, attempt to grown my nails again...and at least start shaving my legs with some regularity again. Moving has been all-consuming. I hardly feel like myself in a house where everything feels strange and new. I try to be grateful for the potentially wonderful home we are making, remember how blessed we are...I try to find the positive. I try not to get overwhelmed. I try to remember to be patient and know that things take time. I try to be the caterpillar looking for that perfect limb on which begin my new life with wings.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Work Ethics & Truth Telling

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
DAY 1665 July 9, 2018
Prompt: “Examine your words well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings.” George Eliot
Why is telling the exact truth so difficult? Your thoughts…{/i}

Telling the exact truth takes a lot of courage, because truth can be painfully hard to hear for some. I have learned valuable lessons about family and loyalty through some of my own truth-telling, lessons that still leave marks...like wounds you thought healed that suddenly flare up and fester. I have always written without self-censorship and while the old adage may say, "the truth will set you free", it will also often isolate you and leave you exposed. That is the risk and one I have come to understand too well. These days however, if I feel pressed to blog or write about something to process it or just to better understand my own perceptions, I find myself taking a pause. I don't want to write purely from a place of anger anymore. I give myself a few days then I try to articulate my feelings, try to express myself as candidly as possible. In the past I have gone back and re-read a piece and thought that it sounded more angry than I might have intended it to. I don't ever want to totally white-wash the anger out, or censor the truth but I also don't want to lose myself completely in it either. I run the risk of being angry a lot, of turning my writing into a tool to lash out rather than what it should be, a tool to process my emotions and feelings. So...I take a step back, I take a breath...I "examine my words well" and make sure that what I am committing to electronic ink is the most honest version of myself that I can, the person who doesn't give in solely to the hurt and the anger, a person who reflects rather than simply reacts. One last word about truth...it is always 100% perspective - what you believe is your truth is personal and you should never have to apologize for how you feel or how you perceive someone or something.

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 2058: July 9, 2018
Prompt: Work Ethic. Write whatever you want about this subject. If you have a favorite quote share it.

I have been working for most of my adult life, starting pretty early on in my father's business. I was the kid that always wanted to go to work with him, taking on menial tasks...more of a mascot than any real help around the office. Over time though, that interest developed into a career which as times, can be more consuming than might be advisable. It is what I grew up around though, my father was never really not working...
There wasn't a family vacation where we didn't spend some time standing outside a phone booth in the blazing hot Florida sun, or after the invention of cell phones, following my Dad around like little ducks as he talked with the office with one of those big, white, early Motorolla's pressed to his ear. As a business owner, my father was always working, rarely inaccessible in those early years. It is only now, after decades of near constant work, he is taking more true breaks, he actually feels like he can step back and let others step in and handle things more. Still, the moment something heats up, or goes wrong...he's right back. He is hands-on, even at the age and level of success where he could be retiring, he rarely shows signs of slowing down. I'm not sure my father is the retiring type...he's worked his whole life, how does one turn that off? To me that is work ethic...to give what's needed and more to the job and when it is your own business, to be there for it when it needs you most. I'd like to think the man raised me the same way, to understand that kind of dedication to the work.

© Copyright 2018 MD Maurice (UN: maurice1054 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Ella's Lion

"Blogging Circle of Friends "
DAY 2056 July 6, 2018
Use these words somehow in your writing- enchanted, twilight, fireflies, rose, carousel, lion, and tinman.

The old porch fan rattled and buzzed each time it completed it's wide arch rotation, an offending interruption to the otherwise soft summer evening soundtrack. Ella quickly padded across the porch in her bare feet and switched it off. She returned to her swing and curled her long fingers around her still steaming mug of rose tea. She watched the fireflies painting brief and brilliant patterns of light all across the wide open field. The haystacks stood like silent sentinels against the darkening twilight.

Ella sat back, feeling for just a moment, a bite of pain in her stomach that took her breathe away. It was fleeting spark but she knew it would be back. Soon Ella knew she would need to swallow more of the little white pills to keep the pain from radiating through her guts, stretching its cruel fingers through her joints and delicate organs. The pain was getting harder and harder to contain, certainly an unwelcome but not wholly unexpected side effect of the cancer. Ella tried not to think about the pain now. She focused on the sweet chirping of the peep frogs and the gentle rustle of the tall grasses as the night breeze picked up and raced across the fields. Ella leaned her head back and closed her eyes. She soon slipped into her memories...

A much younger Ella raced through the gates of the tri-county agriculture fair. As she ran, her long dark tresses flowed out behind her, the only feminine thing about the rail-thin girl in the dirty overalls and duck boots. She was immediately assaulted by the smell of cinnamon sweet fried dough and fresh spun cotton candy, her favorite treats. She barreled past the tempting vendors all the same, heading to the carousel. They always set it up dead center of the fair and there was always a line. She heard the carousel's rousing tune before she saw it, rising up like an mirage from the dust and grime of the fairgrounds.

Ella was enchanted by the carousel. It was an antique marvel of engineering and art. Instead of horses, the carousel was made up of wild animals imported directly from the plains of Africa. The animals were beautifully crafted, the mahogany creatures painted and polished to a high glossy sheen. The elephants had tusks that looked like real ivory and the giraffes gazed at you with deeply soulful eyes. The hippos were comically wide, their wide mouths open revealing fat pink tongues. Nothing could have been more exotic to a farm girl from the Midwest and she would ride it several times, every day the fair was running. Ella's favorite though was the African lion. There was only one of those, a big male with a russet colored mane and broad back and massive paws. He looked so alive, the incarnation of all the power and might one would expect from a king. She loved the lion and there was little that came close to the joy she felt slipping onto his smooth back and wrapping her fingers around the leather halter looped at the beast's neck.

Ella reached the spindly gate of the carousel, alarmed to see she was pretty far back from the front of the line. She watched the other children hand their tickets to the attendant and gleefully charge up over the sides and clamoring for their animal of choice. Several children began to bicker over the camel and Ella saw one little girl struggling to climb the lion's flank. Disappointed, she stepped aside when she reached the front of the line explaining to the stoic attendant that she would wait for the next ride. He looked down at her and shrugged with a tin man's indifference, and left to check that the riders were all properly seated before putting the carousel into motion with a palm punch to a large red button.

Ella rode the carousel that day a record sixteen times before her parents made her go home. It would be the last year the carousel came to the fair, having been replaced the very next fair by a shoddy operation with dully painted horses sporting wide eyes and gaping mouths that Ella thought looked macabre. These new horses bounced under the riders who reached for tiny gold rings and they swirled past. She never rode that carousel. Oddly, it held no magic for her.

The rising pain brought Ella to the the surface, trailing her fading memories like a gossamer wake. She opened her eyes and found her tea was cold and the night had fallen like an inky curtain. She slowly sat up, the pain now a hot cinder in her side. Ella pulled herself to her feet, gritting her teeth against the agony. It made her light-headed and her vision blurred. She rubbed at her eyes and her knuckles came away with a coating of hot tears. Then, off in the distance, she caught of glimpse of something through the veil of water in her eyes.

She limped down off the porch and into the yard, straining to get a better look at the thing that was impossibly perched on the edge of the farthest field. Ella's heart rallied even as her brain told her in no uncertain terms, that the thing was absolutely not that magnificent carousel from her youth. But, as Ella drew closer, she saw that somehow, indeed it was the very same one. Her ears began to pick out that familiar lilting tune and there, yes, right there as he'd always been, was the lion. Her lion.

Ella barely registered the pain now, it was as if it was fading, giving her space to breath again.

With an energy that surprised her, Ella rushed the last few yards to the gate. She swung it open and stood, looking at the beautiful beast with his flaming mane and soft eyes. Without a moment's hesitation, Ella swung herself up, onto his broad back. She pressed her cheek against his cool smoothness, closed her eyes and felt the carousel begin to slowly move.

"Blog City ~ Every Blogger's Paradise"
Day 1662 July 6, 2018
You've met three people on your way to do an errand. They're all talking about something they overheard but are positive you're the reason it's happening. Are they right or wrong? Weave us a tale about the three people and yourself and whatever is happen

Christina felt the frown forming despite her best efforts to keep it at bay. She knew the three women were talking about her. Not for the first time that day, Christina cursed the small town with its limited resources and its one and only, tiny pharmacy. It was hard to avoid people in a town this size, the very reason she had left for the big city with its legions of bustling strangers. There had been an absolute certainty she was going to run into someone she knew on the brief dash into town but here she was, annoyed to find it had happened after all. Despite her mother being a bit of a recluse, she had been well-known in town and the rumor mill was incredibly small but efficient here.

One of the women had clearly been appointed as emissary. She made her way toward Christina, rearranging her features into a mask of sympathy.

"We were all so sorry to hear about your Mother. She was such a nice lady. You look just like her!"

Christina bit back an acidic response and only nodded, allowing the woman to rub her bicep awkwardly for a few moments before she spun back to her troops. The pharmacist called her name and Christina rushed up and snatched the bag and dashed out of the store.

What could she have expected? Of course her mother's death would be fodder for the people she lived, or mostly, lived among. Though Ella has been private, most people had known about the cancer diagnosis and of her stubborn refusal of treatment. They had all known she preferred to live out her days in the farmhouse among the fallow fields her family once tended, despite the doctor's advice and Christina's agonized pleading.

Two nights ago, Christina had gotten the call she had long dreaded. Her mother had been found, inexplicably at the far edges of the family property, just lying in the field. She had passed away sometime in the night and by all accounts it had been a peaceful passing, even though given the late stage of her disease, she must have been suffering in considerable pain. The man who found her told Christina she had looked like she was sleeping, dreaming the most wonderful of dreams. Her plain face rendered beautiful in death by an oddly childish smile.