Sunday, August 22, 2010

Listen ...The Cabin


THE CABIN by Smoky Trudeau
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


Chapter 1


1846


There was a deep connectedness between mountain women in the Allegheny Mountains of Virginia, a connectedness that transcended the tangible, yet was as real as the forest itself. It was a part of the mountain magic, her grandmother had taught her when she was a young child, and it was particularly strong between Corrine and her sister, Catherine.

For this reason alone, Corrine never doubted her sister would know when it was time to come; would know when her baby was about to make her entrance into the world. Whatever distance lay between them, with Corrine living in the cabin on Hoffmann Mountain and Catherine in the valley below, one always knew when she was needed by the other. Just as Corrine, gifted in the healing properties of herbs, had arrived on Catherine’s doorstep with willow bark tea and a soothing slippery elm elixir hours after Catherine had taken to her bed with fever and cough, Catherine, blessed with a midwife’s knowledge and skill, had sweptinto the cabin as the first pains of labor gripped Corrine’s belly.

The childbirth had been difficult, far more difficult than what she’d experienced when her son was born three years prior. But Catherine had remained calm, her voice soothing, encouraging Corrine through every contraction while William, Corrine’s husband, fretted a trail of footprints from the bedroom door to the hearth and back again as he tried to console Cyrus, who, bewildered by his mother’s screams of pain, wailed with equal intensity.

“I’m going to die,” Corrine whispered to her sister. “I saw it in a dream. William, and Cyrus, and the baby, but I was gone.” She let out a gasp as yet another contraction wracked her body. Catherine took her sister’s feet in her hands, pressing firmly on the soft pad of her heel and the inside corner of her ankle until the pain eased and the contraction passed.

“You aren’t going to die. I’m not going to let you die.” Catherine dipped a rag into a pitcher of water, and mopped the sweat from Corrine’s face and chest.

“Promise me…Catherine, look at me!”

Catherine put down the rag.

“Promise me, if anything happens to me…” One last contraction and with a bloodcurdling scream, she pushed her daughter into the world.

Corrine could hear the forest calling her, whispering her name as the soft winds of spring warmed the mountain. She’d never gone so many days without walking through her beloved forest, along its streams and game trails. Since Elizabeth’s birth, she had been too tired and weak to do more than walk to the creek and back. But with Catherine insisting on staying on to help out with the children, she had finally regained her strength and at last was free to escape the stifling confines of the cabin and roam the mountainside once again.

True, it made her husband nervous when she went off by herself. She wasn’t sure why—William was a circuit rider preacher, and often was gone for months at a time as he rode the circuit, preaching the gospel at every home and village in the Shenandoah Valley that would have him. Perhaps when he was gone he simply imagined she stayed tucked cozily into the mountainside cabin, never venturing beyond the gardens, small pasture and barn. And while she didn’t wish to cause him anxiety with her forays away from the safety of the cabin, he really did worry needlessly. She felt as at home walking through the woods as a bear or bobcat might. Corrine was raised in the mountains. Mountain women were both strong and intuitive. She was confident William knew in his head she was as capable of fending for herself and their two children, but she recognized his heart often told him something different.





Listen ...Bartlett's Rule


BARTLETT'S RULE by Chelle Cordero
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


Prologue

“He is a pompous ass!”

“I agree. But he is also a big name and he has to be kept happy if we are going to pull this acquisition off successfully.”

Paige sat and fumed. She couldn’t believe that Jeanmarie was asking her to charm and entertain this male chauvinist pig who penned a weekly column on how men were God’s gift to women.

“Why can’t you just buy him dinner and tickets to a Broadway show for him and one of his many adoring hordes?”

“Excuse me?” Jeanmarie grinned mischievously.

“I said hordes.” Paige emphasized the “D” sound. “Seriously, I’m sure that Lon Bartlett would prefer to choose his own company for the evening.”

“Paige that would be fine if we were just sending some executive a simple holiday remembrance but we need to court this publication. And if we want the publisher happy, we make his star writer happy.” She looked down at her phone as if trying to hurry the young woman from her office. “This requires a more personal touch. Take him out, wine and dine him. Do whatever you have to and make him happy.”

Slowly a frown settled on Paige’s face. “I hope you’re not suggesting...”

Jeanmarie laughed suddenly. “Oh gosh no! All I want you to do is schmooze with him a little bit. Make sure his evening is pleasant.” She stopped and stared at the young woman pensively. “You know Paige, a lot of the women in the secretarial pool would die for this chance to spend an evening with a man like Bartlett. This is a great opportunity for you... professionally.”

Paige bit the inside of her cheek to keep from retorting. She spent two years in the secretarial pool waiting for a promotion into the public relations department of this company. Of course though, she thought to herself, the first time she was given an opportunity to prove herself it had to be with someone whose ethics she couldn’t tolerate.

“I just need to know that you can do this Paige.” Jeanmarie had taken a huge personal gamble by pushing Paige’s name when this opening came up.

“I’ll make sure he’s happy.” She nodded even though she was filled with all kinds of self doubts. In reality, Paige wasn’t worried about refusing the man’s possible advances, she was afraid she would be tempted to accept them.




Listen ...Loving Her


LOVING HER: Short Stories of Love and Life Between Women
by L.E. Harvey
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


She lay on the futon, wrapped up in her blue chenille blanket, not moving. Her ‘80’s ballads CD played “Every rose has its thorn.” She couldn’t even count how many times she heard it today. She didn’t care. It was a dreary, cold, rainy night. She wanted to move, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t do anything. Her bruises, wounds and injuries were tremendous. No words could describe her pain and misery; no actions could take that pain and misery away.


They met at a pizza parlor, when the cute little blonde walked hurriedly by trying to attend to all her tables. It was Philadelphia, a college city, on a Friday night. Of course, it was jammed. A male college student behind the counter handed Linda her the two pies too soon. She wanted to see the blonde again, but she had disappeared into the sea of faces.


Linda handed the young guy the money, took her pies and went outside. Amazingly enough, as she walked out the backdoor, there was the little blonde cutie smoking. She didn’t reach five feet tall. Her shiny, sun colored hair was pulled back into a short pony tail. Her dark blue eyes reflected the stars in the night sky. Both girls paused a moment and smiled sheepishly at each other.


“Hi,” Linda said. Linda’s voice was deep and raspy. Not very feminine, but it was somehow very attractive to Katie.


“Hi, I’m Katie,” the little blonde spoke. Her voice was as cute and bubbly as her face.

“I’m Linda,” Linda replied. She was fishing for something, anything clever to say, but nothing came to her. ”Busy night, huh?” It was pathetic, but at least it started a conversation.


“Yeah,” Katie replied. “Fridays always are. Hopefully I won’t have to put up with this for much longer, though.”


“Oh? How come?”


“I’m a third year vet student at U Penn. Next year is all my clinical rotations and being on-call, so I can’t work here much longer. Thank God!” Katie chuckled.


Linda smiled. “Good for you. I hope – ”


The young guy from behind the counter came out and told Katie she was needed inside.

“I guess I gotta go,” Katie said hesitantly.


"Wait,” Linda begged. Quickly, she grabbed a pen out of her pocket and leaned on the pizza boxes and wrote her number on a napkin. “Here’s my number. If you ever get a free moment and want to – Uhh..Ummm – hang out, just – uhhh – call me – if you want to.” She thought she must have sounded like a babbling idiot, and she didn’t know if Katie understood her level of interest, but Linda prayed she did.


Katie’s face lit up brighter than the moon that hung over her head. “Thanks!” She took the napkin, folded it, put in her pocket, and disappeared quickly.


Two weeks later, Katie and Linda were on their first date, walking through University City District after a very filling dinner at the restaurant of the Culinary School at Walnut Hill College. The conversation had been flowing smoothly all night. It was getting late, but neither girl knew it, they were enjoying themselves too much. As they walked in the crisp October night air, Katie’s watch beeped, signaling that it was midnight.


“I should get back. I have class early in the morning.”


“Ok,” Linda said softly.


As they headed back to Katie’s dorm, Katie mustered up the guts and took Linda’s hand.


Now, silently, they walked hand in hand.






Saturday, August 21, 2010

Listen ...To Be Continued



NOW WHAT? by Charmaine Gordon
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats



Chapter 1

Sun sneaked through blinds. Eyes shut tight. Not quite ready to open.

Elizabeth Malone wanted to revel in memories of the great sex she and Frank, her husband of forty years, had last night. At his insistence, for God’s sake. She practically had to seduce him before they did it anymore; was on the verge of suggesting those little blue pills the girls talked about, when out of nowhere he became amorous. And it was great. No. . .wonderful. No. . .Fan—fargin’—tastic!

Mmmm.”

Fingers crept along the sheets searching for her mate. They groped to where Frank could be found most early mornings except on golf days or scheduled surgery. She touched the edge of his pillow but no Frank.

Turning her head, she called his name. At the same time she saw an envelope lying on top of the pillow. Never like Frank to leave a note but how sweet is this? A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth and she sat up. The sheet slipped down and there she was. Naked. Liz, you’re such a slut. Where oh where is your nightie, you naughty girl. A heap of green satin lay on the floor next to the bed, evidence of last night’s pleasure.

With care, one long polished nail sliced through the envelope. The nail snagged on an edge and broke. “Shit.” Nothing was going to spoil the moment because this was the first letter from Frank in all the years of togetherness and she planned to keep it. She withdrew the letter.

Stumbling off the bed, letter clutched in her hand, she groped for reading glasses, found them, dropped them, on hands and knees patting the carpet, found them again. Naked on the floor, she read:

Dear Lizzie, It’s not you. It’s me. I have been uncomfortable in my own skin for a long time and have decided I must make a change in my life. I sold my half of the practice to George. You, dear Lizzie, are well taken care of. Call Bruce Bradley. He has all the papers, investments, everything you will need to live in comfort. The house is yours. Last but not least, I signed my portion of divorce papers so whenever you want to, sign yours. Bruce will take care of it.”

She leapt up—made it to the toilet and retched. Foul taste in her mouth, Elizabeth returned to the bedroom and stared down at the despicable letter. “He called me Lizzie. Twice. He knows I hate that name. Liz was okay but the despised Lizzie, never.” Her skin crawled with pain and fury. “Oh God. What am I going to do?” No answer in the silent room. “Divorce,” She shouted to the empty house. “People like us, we don’t divorce, you stupid ..” Tears streaming, she pounded her chest with the letter, crumpled it into a ball and flung it across the room.

She staggered to his closet, slid open the mirrored doors, heard empty hangers clicking against each other before they came in sight. Gone. Wiped out. Nothing left but dust and a few empty shoe boxes, lids tipped over. Elizabeth’s knees buckled and she sank to the floor, head in hands. After a few moments, her head snapped up. When did he do this? Maybe he slipped a little something in my drink last night to make sure I slept while he packed and flew the coop. “That son of a bitch. That God damn son of a bitch.”








Listen ...A Chaunce of Riches


A CHAUNCE OF RICHES
by Chelle Cordero
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


PROLOGUE

He was sitting in the large den feigning patience while waiting for his new assignment to show up. The room was expensively and garishly decorated and Ben wondered about the owner who lived here. As far as he was concerned, the room was merely a boastful display of riches that screamed, “I think I’m better than you” to all who entered. Ben knew by the address his employer had given him that he was going to be spending some time in the wealthier section of town, but he still had to curb his cynicism when a butler answered the door. People with money had always bugged him ever since he was just a little kid looking, and looking, at all the rich kids’ toys.

He thumbed his way through the file he was carrying again. Even though Ben had already read about the case multiple times, it gave him something to do while he waited for the widow of the late Julian Chaunce to make an appearance. He was growing more disgusted by the minute and he silently fumed that she was so inconsiderate of another person’s time. But then, as far as Ben was concerned, people with money always thought they were the only thing that mattered anyway.

Chaunce had been a very successful tycoon and was renowned in the publishing world. The trade magazine that had started his company, Chaunce Publications, was still out there and very much alive in the roofing industry. He had sold it years ago and used the tremendous profits to establish new magazines that were all equally successful. Even the security agency Ben worked for had a Chaunce publication delivered to their main office every month. The magazines had called him a self-made man but Ben was convinced that he must have help from somewhere.

Only in his fifties, Chaunce had died suddenly while using a treadmill at a private gym. He left a wife and son and loads of business rivals behind. Now someone was sending threatening notes to the company and the house. Flipping through the folder, Ben frowned and shook his head. The family had tried to keep themselves isolated from the public, probably in an attempt to protect themselves from the same kind of journalists their own publications paid on staff. While there was an occasional headshot of Julian Chaunce, Ben had seen no pictures of the family. He was expecting to see a bland middle-age woman when the door finally opened.

“I am so sorry to keep you waiting. My son was having a bit of a crisis...”

She stopped short as Ben stood up from his chair and turned to face her.

After seeing him her face drained of color. Other than that, he could only think how young she still looked in her light blue slacks and the tailored striped man’s shirt she was wearing. Her hips were a little wider, a little womanlier, but she was still as lithe as she ever was. His gaze traveled up to her face. It had been years since he had seen those eyes staring back at him.

“Sam?” His lips felt parched as he managed to say her name.




Listen ...Forces of Nature


FORCES OF NATURE
by Marilyn Celeste Morris
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


It was going to be a two-shoe day.

Howard the Weatherman woke with what he referred to as That Certain Dread and a bad taste in his mouth, to boot. The birthday party for his youngest granddaughter the previous evening was the cause, even though it was just ice cream and cake and no booze, befitting his solid Southern Baptist background.

The feeling lingered on the fringes of consciousness until he was fully awake.

Glancing over at his sleeping wife of forty years, he considered waking her and telling her about his dream. No, he would prepare for work first, and let Neva sleep a while longer.

He eased out of bed and padded into the adjoining bathroom. He allowed the shower head to spray stinging hot water over his face and body, all the while he was reciting his usual morning prayers: “Father, I thank thee for this day that thou hast made. I will rejoice and be thankful in it.”

He continued with his intercessory prayers for his family and friends, and for the nation as a whole. “And so I beseech thee, Dear Lord, heed my prayers. I pray in the name of my savior, Jesus Christ.” Normally, his prayers would have ended at this point with a heart-felt “Amen”, but this morning he added softly, “And Lord, if it be thy will, spare us the agony of this day, and keep us safe from harm. Amen.”

Neva was up and in the kitchen when Howard stepped out of the shower. Wrapping his robe around him and combing his thinning hair, he walked down the hallway past the empty kids’ bedrooms and into the kitchen.

“Morning,” Neva said, setting a cup of coffee at his usual place. “Sleep well?”

Howard paused before replying, “Fine.” There was no sense in telling her now. “You?”

“Fine, until you began tossing and turning. What was that all about, Howard?” She sat across from him and studied him over her coffee cup.

“Nothing. I don’t remember,” he evaded, knowing full well what Neva was going to say next. Why did he even try?

“It’s the dream again, isn’t it?”

He sighed, then nodded. “I knew I couldn’t keep it from you. You know me too well.”

She smiled softly.

“Honey, it’s going to be a bad one today.”

“They’re all bad, Howard. Even small tornadoes that don’t send people to the hospitals, or kill them. Property damage, schools, businesses, all suffer.”

Howard finished his coffee and shook off his wife’s gesture of handing him a plate of bacon and eggs. “I’m gonna be late if I don’t leave now. I should have the official National Weather Service information the first thing when I get to the station. Then I’ll have to butt heads with our new station manager about interrupting the regularly scheduled programs for weather bulletins.”

“It’s going to be that big?” Neva followed him into the bedroom.

“Stay close to home today, honey. I want you close to the cellar.”

Howard wouldn’t have wanted it known that he had a “fraidy hole.” Having been born and raised in southwest Oklahoma known as Tornado Alley, he had spent many hours in the safety of his parents’ cellar while monster winds roared above, snapping power lines, tossing huge trees like matchsticks. To this day, Howard could recall the pungent smells that filled the old cellar: his mother’s canned peaches and preserves, and potatoes by the tow sack full mingled with the faint odor of field mouse droppings.

Howard thought back to one particular day when he was still in high school. He had told his family early in the morning that there would be a tornado that day. His family had come to respect his gift, and they followed Howard’s calm statement of fact: “There’s gonna be a tornado sometime this afternoon.”

He had dreamed of a tornado the night before; he saw dreadful winds ripping huge trees apart, snapping power lines and shrieking its way across the land. Sometimes he woke in a sweat, panicky, while he tried to still his thumping heart and not wake his brother who shared his room. He lay quietly and reviewed the dream, feeling clammy and cold and sweaty all at the same time, until finally he would dispel the feeling – which he soon began to recognize as a certain dread – until it came time for the storm to present itself on the horizon.

Sometimes the Certain Dread came upon him minus the accompanying dream. Or, he had the dream but didn’t remember it. Even as a high school student, he would be sitting in school, gazing at the object of his affections, and scheming a way to get her off to the side in the hallway so he could talk to her. Just talk to her about anything at all except what he really wanted to say, and that was that he loved her and wanted to marry her and live with her the rest of his life, but he was afraid she would laugh at him, because he was, after all, only seventeen.

But while Howard was trying to figure out how to speak to his vision of bliss, the feeling came over him and dispelled any other emotion he may have had. It almost overwhelmed him, causing his head to spin and his heart to pound just as it did in the nightmares. He knew for sure he had to get out of school, go home and warn his family that a twister was on its way and to go to the cellar.

So strong and certain was this feeling that he got up from his seat during French class conjugating verbs, causing Mrs. Dosser to frown and ask him where he thought he was going.

“I have to go home, Mrs. Dosser,” he said simply, and as he passed Neva’s desk he whispered to her to come join him in the hallway. Astonishing both himself and Mrs. Dosser, she did just that.

As she stepped out of the classroom, he told her, “There’s a tornado coming. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. Go home. Tell your family to get to safety. This is gonna be a real bad twister.”

“They’re all bad, Howard.” Yet she nodded, as if she had known all along about his strange gift. “The others?” She glanced back inside the classroom.

“You think they’d believe me?”

A moment’s pause, then she placed her hand on his arm. “I believe you.”






Listen ...Courage of the Heart


COURAGE OF THE HEART
by Chelle Cordero
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


PROLOGUE


He trailed kisses down her neck while he let his hands explore the recesses of her body. Davie shuddered when he found the warmth between her thighs with his fingers.

"Am I hurting you?" He was concerned. Even though he had made it a habit not to get involved with any of his partners, she had made him pause. There was something special about this girl; there was something about her that had stayed in his mind ever since their first meeting.

"No…oh, Adam, that feels so good." Davie kissed him back as she felt her response spiraling toward the unknown. "Adam…Adam…" Her breath caught.

"What Sweetheart?" It was easy to see how excited she had become and it felt good to know that he had that effect on her.

"Adam…" She felt very timid. "I've never felt like this before."

"I'm glad." He thought of how good it was going to feel when he entered her. "I'm so very glad."

"Adam…teach me…"

He mated their lips and wrestled his tongue with hers. "What do you want me to teach you?" He smiled against her neck.

"Teach me how to…ooh…" She arched her back and pressed herself into his palm. "How to make it good for you."

Oh lord, so sweet, he thought as he took a delicate nub into his mouth. "How could it not be good for me? You are so beautiful…"

Davie felt another shudder run through her. "But, I don't know…Adam, I," She inhaled sharply as she felt his fingers probing inside her. "Adam…I've never…"

For the first time, Adam remained motionless. "Never…what?"

"I've…never been with a man before." She sensed his withdrawal before he actually pulled away.

Adam's brow was furrowed, "What are you saying, Davie?"

The icy chill that Davie felt left her feeling embarrassed to be lying naked in bed with this man. She pulled the bedsheet over her exposed breasts. "I've never been with a man…before"

He sat upright in bed seemingly unaware that he was just as naked as she was. "Are you telling me that you're a virgin?"

Davie sat up clutching the bed linens tightly to her body. "Yes."

"Damnation!" Adam got up from the bed angrily. "You couldn't have told me that before?"

Her eyes welled with tears. "I didn't know we were going to wind up in your bed…"

They had gone out to dinner, again, and a walk in the park. His kisses turned into an invitation back to his apartment. She wasn't na├»ve, she knew that they might…get closer, but she was so spellbound by him…

"Dammit Davie! I have never taken a virgin before and I certainly don't intend to start with you!"

She watched incredulously as he pulled a pair of jeans on. "I'm sorry…I…" Suddenly Davie felt angry. " If you thought that I thought it was going to be some kind of commitment, you don't need to worry. I got carried away…don't worry, it won't happen again." She stood taking the bedsheet with her to cover herself. "If you don't mind giving me some privacy, I'll get dressed."

Her anger made him feel contrite and he responded in much gentler tones. "I'll take you home as soon as you're ready."

"Don't bother! I'll manage on my own." She stared at the bedroom door pointedly, but he didn't budge. "Fine!" Davie dropped the linen to the floor and picked up her clothing.

Earlier, Adam's body had felt as cold as if he had been blasted with icy water, but as he got another glimpse of her astonishingly beautiful naked body again, he was happy he had donned his pants to hide his reaction.

"I…I'm sorry", he turned his back to her. "I…I just can't be…the first…"

"What?!"

"I'm sorry…" He left the room.





Listen ...Observations of an Earth Mage


OBSERVATIONS OF AN EARTH MAGE
by Smoky Trudeau
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats


Prologue: I Am Nature



The patch of earth between the side walkway and my house was a riot of color: deep purple, red, yellow, white, and pink, each shade more brilliant, more beautiful, than the one next to it. After months of ice and snow, of being cooped up inside the house except on the rare occasion when I was allowed to venture outside, bundled up so tightly against the wind and the cold I could barely move, it was spring, and the tulips were in bloom.

I wandered down the path and into the back yard. The fragrance hit me first: apple blossoms, perfuming the air so sweetly I could follow my nose around the corner of the house to the tree hidden behind the garage. I giggled. It sounded like the tree was singing. Thousands of bumblebees flitted from fragrant blossom to fragrant blossom, gathering nectar, spreading pollen.

Unfazed by the bees, I climbed up onto the picnic table beneath the tree, then into the tree itself. This was one of my favorite spots to sit. It was especially pleasant on this day, barefoot for the first time in months, hidden from sight by the riot of flowers and bumblebees.

I sat quietly in the branches among the flowers and the bees, smelling the blossoms, listening to the tree hum, just being. Someone called my name; I did not respond. I was the tree. I was the bee. I was not who they were looking for.

The soft white blossoms each were punctuated with the bright black and yellow stripes of the bumblebees. The hum of their wings was in perfect pitch, one single note, one ohmmmmmm. I hummed too, adjusting the hum up, then down, until I too matched their pitch. I was the bee. The bee was me. We hummed in the tree, the bees and me.

I closed my eyes and felt for the pulse of the tree in the trunk beneath my fingertips, for surely this tree had a heart that beat like mine. The trunk warmed beneath my gentle touch as my branch swayed in the easy spring breeze. It felt like the tree was breathing. I matched the rhythm of my own breath to that of the tree. I was the tree. The tree was me. We breathed and swayed, the tree, the bees, and me.

That was the moment that defined my place in the natural world. The moment I understood that I, a human being, was not above the other creatures of Creation. Not better than the bees and the birds and the bears. Not superior to the snakes and the snails and the swallows. I was Nature. Nature was me.

Thus began my life as an earth mage. Not someone who performs magic—I’ll leave that job to Mother Nature—but rather, someone who sees the natural world as a magical place, full of wonder and miracles. I was three years old.

Fifty years have passed, and every time I set foot outside my door, I am still as awestruck as that three-year-old girl sitting in the apple tree. Whether I’m giving myself a dirt manicure by planting tomatoes and marigolds in my garden, walking my dog around the neighborhood, or standing on the peak of an ancient mountain, the magic of creation never fails to enchant me.

Welcome to my world, as told through stories and poems I’ve written and published in various magazines and on my blog. Come hike the trails of our national parks and take a stroll along an ocean beach. See the magic in a tiny dragonfly, a humble hermit crab, and the spectacular waterfalls of Yosemite.

Be enchanted. Be an earth mage. Come.




Listen ...Falling for Autumn


FALLING FOR AUTUMN by Sandy Nicks
Available in Print and All Ebook Formats



Chapter One

Desperation can do strange things to one’s psyche.

Autumn glanced at her notes. Three job interviews all on the same day? Surely, I’m beyond desperate. I’m insane.

She’d spent the past few weeks unpacking her belongings and adjusting to her new residence. It was lonely settling into the new place without Trevor. Yes, Rutgers University was only a forty-five minute drive from where she lived, but it still felt like she was forty-five hundred miles away from her son. She glanced at his picture on the refrigerator and smiled. She was so proud of her only child. He was her whole world. Unfortunately, that world had been reduced to weekends and school breaks now that he was nineteen, living on campus and no longer under his mother’s watchful eye.

And where was she now? Searching classifieds. She shook her head. Fortunately, despite her lack of work experience, obtaining an interview wasn’t as difficult as she’d imagined. Then again, it wasn’t like she was applying for top level management positions. These were entry level. No experience required. Computer knowledge helpful, but not necessary.

What else could she expect? She wasn’t coming out of the starting gate as a new college graduate. She’d been a homemaker for the past twenty years. It was like she’d been playing a role on a television show that had been abruptly canceled, and now she was being forced to audition for parts she’d never performed before.

She tapped her finger on the table. She had never expected to be single again at thirty-nine years old. She’d always thought her life with Kevin would last a lifetime. She even had imagined that once Trevor had gone off to college, she and Kevin would spend mornings sipping coffee, afternoons browsing book stores, and nights making love.

Of course the bastard would get the chance to do all those things, because he’d already found someone else.

When Kevin had told her he wanted a divorce, she’d felt blindsided. Yes, she had noticed things beginning to change between them, but nothing she thought was life altering. Yet here she was, a year later, removed from her beloved home and sitting in the small kitchen of her new townhouse. Alone.

She looked around the kitchen. It wasn’t big but it had new oak cabinets and the counters were done in a beige swirl. The previous owner had recently installed tan ceramic tile on the floor and the diagonal pattern cast an illusion, making the room appear larger than it really was.

She then glanced into the living room. It was long but not very wide. Her furniture set had to be broken up. The couch, coffee table and entertainment center fit fine, but the oversized chair and ottoman had to be placed in Trevor’s room—also known as the finished basement.

She frowned. Ok, so the new place wasn’t a house, but at least she owned it. Her initial fear was that she’d be forced to rent an apartment, but thankfully she’d made enough money from the sale of her old house to be able to put down a large amount on this one. The new mortgage actually turned out to be less than what renting a house would have cost.

She picked up her notepad. It was so easy being married and having Kevin take care of the taxes, car insurance and monthly living expenses. If I don’t find a job soon, how the hell am I going to make it on my own?

She eyed the notes again. The first interview was with Edith’s Bra Boutique. The specialty bra and panty store was in need of a combination cashier and stock person. The second was for We Have Scents- a faux designer perfume store in need of the same. Sterling Advertising was the last one of the day. They needed a personal assistant.

Oh the choices—bras, perfume or kissing ass.

She turned her attention to the sliding glass doors that led to the little deck off her kitchen. A light rain fell from the gray skies, and the drizzle wasn’t expected to end until evening. She watched the droplets slide down the glass and her thoughts drifted back to the day the divorce was finalized. The day she went back to being Autumn Winters. Now that Trevor was nineteen, she’d decided to drop her married name of O’Reilly. What was the point of continuing to be someone she wasn’t? Although she wasn’t fond of her maiden name due to the cruel jokes she’d endured as a child, the choice to change it gave her power and a sense of liberation. If Kevin no longer wanted her, why should she go through the rest of her life carrying his name?

She breathed a heavy sigh. How she wished that she could just curl up on the couch with a good book. Rainy days made her feel that way, but that couldn’t happen today. She’d promised her mother she would volunteer at the animal shelter to walk the dogs.

Buddy, her yellow lab, nudged his head against her leg, jarring her from her thoughts. “I’m sure you’ll be on the couch or my bed all day,” she teased.

He wagged his tail in response.

She gathered her notes for the interviews and set them on the counter. Today she would walk dogs in sweatpants and a raincoat. Tomorrow, she’d be wowing potential employers in a business suit.

Except…I don’t own a business suit!

She slapped her forehead. She glanced at the clock on the microwave. She had roughly twenty-four hours before the start of the interview marathon. She had casual separates and dresses for weddings and funerals, but definitely no suits. Over the years, while she was at home raising Trevor, she’d lived in jeans. Driving from one sports meet to another didn’t call for a power suit. It called for power bars and gallons of coffee.

Panic set in and grew with each beat of her heart. Clothes that screamed they came from a former decade would surely lessen her chances of securing a job. She hurried into the living room and grabbed her sneakers. The quicker she finished her volunteer duties, the sooner she could get to the mall and take care of this fashion crisis.

A loud knock, followed by Buddy’s barking, interrupted her thoughts and she hurried to the door. “Who is it?” she asked.

“It’s me.”

She opened the door. “Hi, Mom.”

Daisy’s blue eyes sparkled as she stepped over the threshold. “I’d like you to meet Julia. You know, she volunteers at the shelter with me.”

Autumn extended her hand to the older lady who followed her mother into the house. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Mom talks about you all the time.”

Julia gave Buddy a pat before shaking Autumn’s hand. “Likewise, dear.”

“Honey,” Daisy began, “We’re here to do a quick cleansing since you refused when you first moved in.”