Happy Sunday, and May the Fourth be with you!
After a blogging hiatus—too busy, too much writing (is there such a thing?)—I’m back!
You may have noticed things have changed around here, but no worries, I’ve managed to be tech savvy enough (insert laughter here) to figure out how to redirect thewhineandcheeselife.wordpress.com to my new website, so any blog followers should automatically wind up here. Check out the new digs and get comfy!
My big, belated thanks goes out to Jim Naprstek, http://jimnaprstek.com/ for designing and setting up reedsandwrites.com.
To celebrate finally rolling out my new site and finally getting back to my blog, I’m sharing with you a free Life, A.D. bonus story. You can grab your copy of Life, A.D here and here. Canadian readers can get theirs here and here.
Be warned, spoilers will be found after the break below, so if you haven’t read Life, A.D. proceed at your own risk! Dez dies in the first pages, but the bonus story delves into the details of her death, which don’t come until later in the book.
You’ve been warned!
I’ve heard feedback from readers who’ve said they’d love to know what Dez’s mom was calling her about. I’ve always had the conversation in my mind, so here it is!
I’m in the car driving to my cello lesson, my window down despite the chilly, hazy morning. After a long winter, the smell of spring is enough to make the blast of cool air worthwhile. I smile as I take a deep breath of the sweet scent. The breeze blows against my face, bringing with it a promise of long summer days to come. Days like this are about as perfect as they come.
I drive past the last farm before a large tract of forest. Even the cows, gathered around a feed bin, seem happy today. Their tails flick as they munch serenely on hay.
My last summer before college is almost here. Dad’s already taunting me with talk of my mystery graduation gift, but I can’t even get Mom to give me a hint as to what he’s planning.
Some big gift?
His poker face is world class, and no amount of begging, buttering up, or cajoling has ever cracked him.
I guess I’ll just have to wait.
My mom left a CD in the stereo, but for once I don’t mind, or even lament the lack of an iPod connection. I turn up the volume and sing along, but my ringtone interrupts my duet. Still singing, I turn down the music and reach into my purse. My hand searches past my wallet, lip gloss, gum, iPod—I have a lot of stuff in there—fumbling around for my elusive phone. True to form, my purse tips over and the phone falls out and slides across the seat, just out of reach.
I lean over and stretch out my fingers, my eyes fixed on the road, the phone still inches beyond my grasp. I hear my mom’s voice in my mind, ordering me to not even think of what I’m about to do, but that’s her ringtone squawking at me.
It must be important, because she never calls when she knows I’m driving.
She was just answering a call from Grandma when I left.
Grandpa just got out of the hospital two days ago after a bunch of tests. Is something wrong? Is his cancer back?
It will only take a second, so I unbuckle my seatbelt and lean a bit farther.
Success! My fingers close around the phone. I straighten in my seat and balance my still-ringing phone on my knee while I click the seatbelt buckle back into place. The car drifts to the left as I finish my behind the wheel maneuvering. An oncoming semi crests the approaching hill and I give the wheel a jerk to the right, bringing the car back into my own lane. Despite my quick correction, the driver gives me a blast of his horn as he passes.
That was close.
I tap “answer” on my phone’s screen and let out a quick breath. “Hey, lady,” I say by way of greeting.
“Are you driving?”
“Mom, it’s fine.” I glance in my rearview mirror. The semi disappears over the next hill.
“Are you?” she presses.
I sigh—half annoyed, half amused—and it’s all the answer she’s getting.
“Desiree Ann Donnelly, you put the phone on the seat and pull over. I will wait.”
“I’ll take Helicopter Parenting for two-hundred, Alex.” I roll my eyes.
“Spare me the indignation and the eye roll you’re no doubt giving me,” she says. “Studies have shown talking on a phone while driving impairs you as much as driving drunk.” Her lecture continues; her voice gets smaller as I drop the phone from between my ear and shoulder and let it fall to the seat.
I flip on my indicator and pull off to the side of the road. The gravel pops beneath the tires as the car comes to a stop. I throw the shifter into park and grab the phone again. “Safe and sound on the shoulder, now. I even signaled.”
“That’s my girl. You could’ve let me go to voicemail, you know.”
“And miss all this fun? Maybe on the way home I’ll see if I can drive with my eyes closed, and steer by memory. That should really get you going.”
“Very funny,” she snaps. The stern tone she’s trying on fits her like a too-big parka in July.
“You’ve gotta work on your mean voice, Ma.”
“Is Grandpa okay?”
“You were talking to Grandma when I left.”
The car sways as a pickup truck speeds by.
“He’s fine,” she says. “Is that why you answered?”
“She called to check if we have a headcount for your graduation party.”
“Graduation’s almost two months away,” I say, puzzled, until the reason jumps into the forefront of my distracted mind. “Oh, the cake.” My grandmother owns a local bakery. She’s put herself in charge of making my graduation cake, which will no doubt be an over the top display only a grandma could manage. “Don’t let her go too crazy.”
Mom chuckles. “You go ahead and tell her that.”
“No thanks.” My grandmother sees the baking she does for family as directly connected to, and a reflection of, her love. One does not argue food with Grandma. “We’ll make all the guests take extra slices home with them.”
“We can hand them out at the door. Nobody leaves without cake.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I laugh and glance at the little clock on the dashboard. My lesson is in fifteen minutes. “So what’s up?”
“I need to ask you for a big favor,” Mom says, as though she can sense my need to get back on the road.
“Like, hiding a body, big?”
“Not quite.” I can hear the smile in her voice.
“Good, I’m wearing my favorite jeans, and don’t want to get them dirty traipsing around in the woods. Plus, the ground’s still frozen. That’d make for hard digging.”
“You’ll have to get your cardio some other way. No dragging corpses around for you, today. I need you to pick Dad up from the airport.”
“Ava’s coming over this afternoon. I have to help her study, remember?”
“Shoot.” Mom sighs.
“Language, Mother,” I tease. “I thought you were picking Dad up.”
“I promised to go with Anne for her mom’s surgery, which is at two o’clock. Double shoot!”
“Is her mom okay?”
“She fell last night and broke her hip, but they’re hoping for a full recovery.”
“Why don’t you book Dad on the shuttle? Ava and I can pick him up at the drop-off when he gets in.”
“Tried that. First available reservation isn’t until ten tonight. He’s going to be dead tired as it is. If he has to wait until ten o’clock, I may as well just book him a room at the airport Hilton and pick him up tomorrow. I hate to waste our points on it, though. I’ve been saving them up for our Cabo trip.” Mom is beginning to ramp up to full-fret mode.
“I’ll message Ava and have her come with me to the airport. We can study when we get back.”
“Are you sure?”
“It’ll be fine. We’re more ready than she thinks. It’s always a confidence thing with her.”
“I could ask Grandma to go get him.”
“And then we’d have a week of him complaining about her driving 62 in the fast lane and taking over two hours to get home. No thanks.” I check the clock again. “It’s no biggie. Ava and I will go get him.”
“I owe you one.”
I flip the visor down and glance at my reflection. “And don’t you forget it.”
“Just don’t you go texting while you’re driving. Wait until you get to your lesson.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I smile and flip a few of my braids off my shoulder.
“You two go get Dad, and lunch is on me.”
I check the side mirror as another car blows by. “Cash up front and you’ve got yourself a deal.”
“You drive a hard bargain.”
“You know it.”
“Love you, my girl. See you soon.”