New Release ~ Olivia

21 Mar

So, there I was, stumbling my way through the humdrum days of post-Christmas winter, hammering away on a dead-end rewrite, praying for inspiration to strike, crying into my coffee cup that my muse was MIA, questioning my sanity, my talent, when I received an email. Short, sweet, to the point: “Did you finish Olivia? Do you want to publish with me?”

Uh…. Hellz yeah!

Sorry, Jimmy Rogan, but your moody butt is being sequestered to the confines of my dusty hard drive. Olivia Hanson, put down that beer, girl, and get the heck over here. It’s your time to shine!

I mentally shifted gears, ran a comb through Olivia’s hair, and hired an editor (correction–an amazing editor), Carol Weber. Carol is not only grammatically gifted, she is also refreshingly honest and forthcoming with her opinion, a quality I treasure. Olivia was more of a mess than I had remembered her being, so I also called in the heavy artillery–Niecey Roy–a fabulously talented up-and-coming author with a wicked sense of humor and a keen eye for detail.  Six weeks of no sleep, continuous editing, emailing, and one massive re-write later, Olivia was ready for the public.

But, first, there was a little hiccup.

Long story short, I did not publish Olivia under the name of the independent press as I had originally planned. After much debate and a minor (major) panic attack, I decided it was best go the self-publication route with the novel. My reasoning is this: I love to write, and I’m all smiles when people tell me they enjoy reading what I have written, but I am terrible at self-promotion. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable. I’m trying really hard to let go of my shy-girl mentality, but haven’t had a lot of success so far. For now, I prefer hanging out in the affable glow of “off-Broadway,” where I can do what I love without constantly fretting about sales numbers and rankings, and whether or not I am squandering someone else’s money.

Since this was my first foray into the intimidating world of formatting for Smashwords, Kindle, CreateSpace, etc., I called in more help–good friend and Nebraska author, G.M. Barlean–who, in turn, called in the self-pub pro, NYT best-seller, Victorine Lieske. On a sunny, unseasonably-warm Friday afternoon, the kind of day when a normal person would have been playing hookey from work so they could be outside enjoying Mother Nature’s rare gift of summer in late-winter, we three sat indoors, huddled around a laptop. Never said I was smart, but I am determined. That determination, plus the wisdom and guidance (hand-holding) of G.M. and Victorine, paid off.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce…OLIVIA!

(Now available in e-book format. Paperback coming soon!)

Excerpt: Chapter One

The first time Olivia Hanson fell in love it was with a boy named Paul Peters. He stood a few inches taller than Olivia, had blonde hair and blue eyes, could hit a baseball over the back fence at Harris Field, and had the unfortunate nickname of Pee-Pee. His parents weren’t rich, but they were on their way. He lived on the good side of town, which, in Juliette, Nebraska, was anywhere north of the tracks. When Olivia fell in love for the final time, it was with another sandy-haired, blue-eyed guy. In between the two, there was Mitch.

Mitchell “Mitch” Toler was a dark-haired, brown-eyed boy. Like Olivia, he hailed from South Juliette. He was a little bit older than her twenty-five years, and they met by chance at the Get ‘n Go on a Tuesday afternoon at exactly 1:55 p.m.

He was “getting” and she was “going,” and she was going fast. She was going so fast she didn’t look behind her and backed her rusty, red Buick Century right into his brand-new, black Dodge pickup parked at pump number four. She slowed down long enough to throw her insurance information out the window, and then she got going fast again. As usual, she was late for work and had only stopped at the gas station to buy a pack of Marlboro Reds and a giant, fountain Dr. Pepper.

Those two essential, daily purchases were the only things that got Olivia through her ten-hour shift as quality control at Garretson Enterprises. Every day, from two until midnight, she sat on a hard, metal stool and spot-inspected stamped metal that ran past her on a conveyor at speeds that had to be topping a hundred miles-per-hour. She had never asked how fast it was going, and had never clocked it herself, but judging from the cuts she got on her hands if she forgot her Kevlar gloves, it was flying pretty damn fast. She hated her job, as did everyone else who worked at Garretson, including her best friend, Isabel “Izzie” Bergman.

Newly-married and annoying about it, Izzie was the person responsible for Olivia being condemned to a life of misery at Garretson in the first place. Olivia and Izzie crashed into each other on the AYSO soccer field when they were nine-years old, and had been inseparable ever since—mainly because Izzie hated to do anything by herself, including filling out a job application. On the morning Izzie went to apply at Garretson, she sat in her car in Olivia’s driveway, laying on the horn, dressed in her Sunday-best, begging Olivia to come with her. Since Olivia was already up and somewhat dressed, and had nothing better to do that day anyway, she tagged along.

When the HR manager told Izzie what the starting pay was at Garretson, Olivia quickly calculated it as her way out of South Juliette and across the tracks to the greener pastures of Northside in no time at all. Without thinking it through, or even bothering to ask what the job entailed, Olivia quit her minimum-wage, cashier gig at Dickie’s Drugs via text message and signed her life away alongside Izzie.

Olivia worked one day and loathed every second of it. It was dirty and loud, the room sweltering hot. The metal dust in the air coated her teeth with grit. Everything about the job sucked—big time—but worst of all, the smock they issued her smelled like Corn-Nuts. At exactly midnight, she ripped off the stinky smock and peeled out of the parking lot, diving straight into oncoming traffic and swearing at the top of her lungs that she was never going back there again. Ever.

But she did.

She went back the next day, and the day after that. She never stopped going back. On their five-year anniversary at Garretson, Izzie baked a cake to celebrate their accomplishment, and dished it up in the break room during lunch. Olivia didn’t see five years of her life wasted at Garretson as an accomplishment. It felt more like a death sentence. She swore with a wave of her fork around a mouthful of rum cake that, seriously, she was never coming back.

Yet there she was, two weeks later, still half-asleep and hung-over at 1:55 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of August in 2007, the Year of the Pig, buying smokes and sixty-four-ounces of watered-down Dr. Pepper in a super-size Styrofoam cup, rushing off to Garretson to the job she hated when she slammed right into Mitch’s beautiful truck.

She never looked at him. She didn’t have time. She spewed out an apology that sounded half-hearted even to herself, scratched out her name and her insurance agent’s information on an old Taco Bell receipt, shoved the scrap of paper into his hand, and pulled out onto the highway before he said a word. She wouldn’t have heard anything he might have said anyway. Her stereo was cranked and blasting out Godsmack’s “Sick of Life” at high volume through her crappy speakers. It was her personal theme song.

Olivia clocked into work at exactly 2:05 p.m. and her boss, Sam Dubaugh, called her into his office exactly one second later. Olivia loathed Sam, as did everyone else who worked at Garretson, except for Stephie Klinger who was screwing him in a desperate attempt to be promoted to the front offices. Stephie was the only one dumb enough not to realize Sam would never give up a free piece of ass just to make her happy and promote her. If she was too stupid to figure that out, that was her problem. It wasn’t Olivia’s responsibility to spell it out for her.

“Olivia!” Sam called out again when it took Olivia too long to snap to his command.

“Alright, alright,” Olivia muttered under her breath. She slid her timecard back into its slot in the metal rack and crossed the narrow hallway to Sam’s office.

As always, the room smelled like Sam’s feet.  As soon as she crossed the threshold, she became a mouth-breather to avoid the worst of the stench. He glared at her as she plopped onto the plastic chair that sat across from him. She hated that chair. Sitting in it made her tummy feel flippy like it used to whenever she had been called into the principal’s office when she was a kid. She’d hated that butterfly feeling back then, and she hated it even worse now, but she played it off as if it didn’t exist as she glared back at him over his cluttered, metal utility desk and waited for her daily butt-chewing to begin.

Sam’s office was barely big enough to swing a cat in, made even smaller by stacks of paper covering every available flat surface in the room. He had production reports on the file cabinets, quality reports on the floor. Personnel files perched precariously on the corner of the desk by his elbow. Those stacks of paper were Sam’s life. One good gust of wind from the barrel fan that always blew on the production floor would destroy the man.

Olivia dreamed of wheeling that fan in and watching him crumple.

Sam leaned back in his chair, the tension spring screaming for mercy as he crossed his meaty arms over his chest and scowled. “You’re late.”

Sam was always trying to look big and badass, but Olivia didn’t know why he thought he needed to. He was a huge son of a bitch, standing six-foot-six and made of rock instead of flesh. He didn’t have to try to intimidate. He intimidated everyone simply by breathing. Everyone, except Olivia.

“Sorry. It won’t happen again,” she promised, not sounding the least bit sorry as she sucked on her Dr. Pepper. They both knew damn well she would more than likely be late again before the week was up, but this routine of theirs was scripted, and that was her line. She was obligated to say it. “Can I go now?”

“That’s your fifth tardy this month.”

“Sixth actually, but we’ll go with five because it wasn’t my fault this time. Honest.”

Sam grunted. “Uh-huh.”

He never believed her.

“Seriously! I got into an accident at the gas station.”

“You back into the pumps again?”

“No,” Olivia grumbled. “This time it was a Dodge pickup.”

Sam’s frown deepened as he stared her down. She stared back. Neither of them said a word as the second hand on the ancient, electric clock hanging on the wall above his desk silently swept two full rotations around the number plate. Without breaking eye-contact, Olivia brought her lips back to the straw sticking out of the gigantic Styrofoam cup, and sucked.

“Don’t let it happen again,” Sam finally said, dismissing her with a wave.

He was a pushover.

Olivia took her time putting away her purse and putting on her smock, and then took a potty break. She didn’t need to go, but she was right by the restrooms, so she went. By the time she perched on her little stool it was 2:17 p.m., and Louise tsked in disapproval.

“Sorry.” Olivia tried her best to look apologetic, but as soon as the old woman turned her back, Olivia stuck out her tongue.

Louise hated Olivia with a passion, and the feeling was more than mutual. The woman was older than dirt and truly believed her shit didn’t stink. Olivia had no clue if Louise’s shit did or didn’t stink, and she had absolutely no intention of ever finding out.

Carla Rain snickered at Olivia nanny-nanny-boo-boo’ing the back of Louise’s head, hiding the laugh in a cough. Carla was a five-foot-tall, ninety-five pound, fifty-five-year-old alcoholic with a dirty mouth and no kids. She said if God wanted her to have children He would have handed them over to her fully potty-trained and old enough to drive her to the liquor store. She tried marriage once and didn’t like it, but she was too cheap to get a divorce. The last time she saw her husband was in 1994. As far as she knew, he was still alive. No one had ever told her otherwise.

“Spring washers today?” Olivia groaned as she grabbed her calipers. She hated the little parts, especially when she had a hangover. She’d be cross-eyed and half-blind before ten.

Carla dipped her gloved hand into the fast moving conveyor trough. “Only for another few hours, and then it’s battery contacts.”

“Awesome,” Olivia said, heavy on the sarcasm.

Garretson was top of the line in all of its manufacturing practices, except one—quality control. Old Man Garretson insisted the human eye was better equipped to find flaws than a fancy piece of machinery with lasers and a computer program designed to find the flaws and reject the pieces as they were made. Until he kicked the bucket and his son took over the company, Olivia and the other girls made up the entirety of the quality control department.

Armed with nothing more than a pair of calipers and a thick book of CAD drawings, they sampled less than one-half of one-percent of the product going out the door. Since the production machines were so much faster than they were, if they happened to find an issue with one of the parts, pretty much the entire order was already packed and strapped to pallets. It went out the door anyway. Most days Olivia just tried to look busy. Her job was pointless.

“Looks like someone had a good time on her blind date last night,” Izzie said with a smug smile. Of course she was smug. She was the one who had set Olivia up. Knowing Izzie, she’d probably spent her entire evening planning Olivia’s wedding and naming her first-born child.

“Good drinks, shitty time.”

“What was wrong with Ryan? He’s a nice guy with blonde hair and blue eyes, and he’s a Northsider—everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Quit being so picky.”

“Have you ever actually talked to the guy?” Olivia asked. “He could put Ambien out of business.”

“Well, no, not exactly… He’s a friend of John’s. They golf together.”

“Since when does John golf?” Olivia laughed at the mental image.

Izzie’s husband, John, worked as a trash man for the city of Juliette. Tall and wide, with biceps the size of ham hocks, every inch of John’s body was covered in tattoos. He shaved his head bald, bought all his clothes at the Harley-Davidson store, and sported a goatee that hung down to the middle of his chest. Basically, he was a really scary-looking dude. But, somehow, he came across as cute and cuddly at the same time. It was weird.

“I don’t know…” Izzie thought about it, causing her perfectly-plucked brow to furrow and her pretty, little nose to wrinkle. “Three weeks ago maybe?”

Izzie was so pretty and perfect it made Olivia gag. Mainly on her own raging jealously. Izzie had it all—a beautiful face, a killer smile, a musical laugh. Her boobs were perfectly aligned and looked fake even though they weren’t. She was the kind of girl who could wear a mud mask, flannel nightgown and foam curlers to a wedding and still draw all the attention away from the bride. Compared to Izzie, Olivia felt like the turd floating in the punch bowl.

“Why were you late today?” Stephie butted in. Since Stephie was screwing the boss, she thought that made her the boss, which pissed Olivia off.

“None of your business,” Olivia said.

“Sleeping off your hangover?” Carla guessed.

“No, I backed into some guy at the Get ‘n Go.”

“Was he cute?” Izzie asked.

“I have no idea.” She hadn’t looked at him. For all she knew, he had three heads and a forked-tongue. “Knowing my luck, he was probably hot as hell, and I just smashed up his truck.”

“He was probably your Carl Jr.,” Melanie Neilson chimed in from across the room. She sighed with a dreamy, little smile as her hands fluttered up to her heart. And then her eyes teared up and she started to sniffle. Her chin began to quiver. Her hands fanned her face as she tried to fight it, but as usual, she lost the battle and ran for the restroom. No one followed her. That was just Mel. She cried all the time.

Mel was twenty-five, the same as Olivia, and already married and divorced with four kids. Her ex, the aforementioned Carl Jr., was supposedly a good man who just couldn’t kick a meth addiction. Mel was certain one day he would find the Lord and get clean.

Their love for each other bordered on obsession. She only divorced him to get better government assistance after their fourth child was born. What little income Carl Jr. did manage to bring home—whenever he wasn’t high—was just enough to disqualify her and their children for most assistance programs. And they desperately needed the assistance. With bills mounting, a stomach filling with ulcers, and an eviction notice on her door, Mel had given Carl Jr. an ultimatum: kick the habit and hold down a job, or she’d kick him to the curb. He chose meth—or, more accurately, meth chose for him—leaving a heartsick Mel with no other option but to end their marriage. If she had waited a few more months to file she would have received the assistance anyway. Carl Jr. was arrested a few miles outside of Omaha for driving the wrong way on I-80, nearly killing a family of four from Maryland on their way to a family reunion in Colorado. He was sentenced to five-to-ten in the state pen for possession with intent to sell, and Mel was lost without him.

Izzie drew in a deep breath. Before Izzie could exhale, Olivia rushed to pop her ear buds into her ears and hit shuffle on her crappy, ancient mp3 player. Whenever Izzie took a deep breath she was about to delve into a long and winding, painfully-tedious story about John and how fabulously wonderful he was. Usually it was one Izzie had already told Olivia the night before, either over the phone or between shots at Kitty’s, the bar they currently favored because George Gregory Valish was the bartender and he was hot and made their drinks strong. Olivia would give her first-born son to the devil for one night in heaven with George, and she told him as much late one night after way too many whiskey sours. He had yet to take her up on the offer, but she was holding out hope.

The night limped along and Olivia ran out of Dr. Pepper by the third hour. She took two extra smoke breaks to make up for it. Stephie made a point of marking an obvious note on her clipboard both times Olivia came back through the door, but she had clocked out so Stephie could kiss her ass.

What Olivia did off the clock was none of Stephie’s business. Besides, Olivia knew for a fact that Stephie didn’t bother to clock out when she and Sam disappeared into the back corner of Shipping and Receiving for upwards of an hour every night to inspect product. Everyone knew exactly what they were inspecting, and it most definitely was not included in Garretson’s vast product line.

Izzie and John were trying to make a baby, so Izzie rushed home at exactly midnight. Carla had a crush on Gregory House, MD and had a new episode on her DVR calling her name, so that left Olivia on her own as she walked into Kitty’s with plans to suck down as many beers as she could before last call. She threw a quarter into the jukebox, eliciting a collective groan from the room as the first bars of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” played.

George slid a bottle down the bar to her. “You need to pick a new favorite song, Liv.”

“Aw, you all love it and you know it,” Olivia said with a smile before chugging half of her beer. She always smiled whenever she looked at George. It was an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction to how incredibly hot he was. Dark hair, tan skin, the face and body of a Roman god—mmm, doggy! The man was sexual perfection.

She set the bottle down on the bar and danced around the room, clapping her hands in time to the music. As usual, Kenny Waters played the part of ‘Jack’ to Olivia’s ‘Diane,’ Lonnie Otts performed the drum solo, and the entire bar sang the choir. Most nights George came out from behind the bar to dance with her, but this time he simply watched her hips sway to the music.

When the song ended she perched on the stool at the end of the bar and pointed to her empty bottle. George handed her another one and leaned into her. The glorious scent of “sexy” filled Olivia’s senses, and she breathed deep, inhaling his essence.

He swatted her with the towel he always wore draped over his shoulder. “So, whaddya know?”

“Nuttin’, honey,” she said. “Same as yesterday.”

“Who’s the guy you were with last night?”

“Jealous?”

“Maybe.”

“Some guy, Ryan, that Izzie hooked me up with,” Olivia said with a roll of her eyes.

“What was wrong with him?” George asked.

“Dull, dull, boring, dull—the guy owns a cat, for goodness sake.”

“Ah.” George moved down the bar without another word.

“You really were jealous of him, weren’t you?”

George smiled and Olivia felt a rush of warmth. Damn, he was hot.

“So, when are you gonna grow a pair and ask me out?” she asked.

“Someday, Liv,” he promised with a wink. “Someday.”

She rested an elbow against the bar, and as she drank her beer, she surveyed the thin crowd. Kitty’s was packed on Fridays and Saturdays, but on a Tuesday night it was dead, save for a handful of alkies and other nightshift workers like her. The majority were holdovers from the previous owner of the bar, Helen Pochop.

When Helen had owned the place it had been called, appropriately, ‘Helen’s Place.’ Helen had been a bitch who had not-so-lovingly referred to her five, grown children and their spouses as “those greedy, bloodsucking leeches.” She had not only cut all of them out of her will, she had also specifically mentioned that they were not to inherit one red cent of her fortune. When Helen died, her fortune, after years of back taxes were paid, amounted to just under sixty-three dollars in cash, and the bar. She had left it all to her cat, Miss Kitty Cat.

Even though George couldn’t stand his Aunt Helen, he was the only relative whom Helen had tolerated, and she had named him executor of her estate. Out of some misguided sense of loyalty, he had volunteered to run the bar while the lawyers fought out the ownership rights in court, and he left a fairly good-paying job in Omaha in order to do so. As a joke, he had crossed out Helen’s name on the sign above the door and changed the name of the bar to Kitty’s Place. It caught on.

He changed a lot of things about the place, slowly turning a seniors’ hangout into a fairly-lively weekend nightspot for a little town like Juliette. Olivia knew George secretly wished he would be granted ownership of the bar, but she also knew he was not the type of person who would ever ask for it. Unless some sort of miracle happened, one day in the not-so-distant future, he’d be gone, and a bloodsucking leech would be manning the bar.

Olivia pulled her eyes away from George and smiled at Kenny Waters as he slid onto the stool next to hers. “Kenny G. My man.”

“Whuzzup?” Kenny asked in a slow drawl.

“Not a damn thing. What’s up with you?”

Kenny dressed and acted like a thug, but he was all heart under his wife-beater tee. He sent his wife flowers for no reason and bought her jewelry ‘just because.’ His kids were cute, always clean, and actually said “please” and “thank-you” without prompting. On weekends, he coached Little League and loved to throw a barbeque. He worked with Olivia at Garretson, but whereas Olivia’s quality job was a joke, Kenny’s maintenance job was very real. As the only maintenance man on second shift, the poor guy was solely responsible for ensuring the entire plant remained up and running between the hours of two p.m. and midnight, and he worked his ass off to make sure that happened. Of any of the Southers, Kenny and his family were the only ones who deserved to move to Northside, but he never would. He actually liked living in South Juliette. It was his only flaw.

“Saw your car out in the parking lot. Back into the movie drop-box again?” he asked with a teasing grin.

She rolled her eyes. “As if.”

Olivia’s car and the movie-return box at Movie Mania had an unnatural attraction to each other. She had backed into that stupid metal box not once, not twice, but three times. The poor box looked like crumpled, rusted soda can because of her. After she backed into it the second time, Charlie Wayne, the owner of Movie Mania, had Rogan and Sons Construction out of Allman Falls install thick concrete barriers around the box. But Charlie was an idiot and wouldn’t let the Rogans bolt the barriers through the concrete of the parking lot. The third time Olivia backed into the drop box she not only bent the frame of her car but also managed to shove one of the concrete barriers through the side of the box. Olivia had paid for the damage, but Charlie had pocketed the money and left the barrier impaled through the box. It wasn’t her fault the movies got wet when it rained, but Charlie sure did love to blame her for it.

“I backed into a pickup at the Get n’ Go,” she said.

“You know that little mirror on the windshield is for more than putting on lip gloss.”

“Seriously?” she asked with mock surprise. “Huh. Who knew?”

“How bad’s the truck?”

She shrugged. “I have no clue, but I’m sure I’ll find out when my rates go up again.”

“Your insurance guy must absolutely love you.”

“Oh, Reggie hates my guts. He’s dying to drop me, but I pay my premiums so he’s stuck.”

“He could drop you if he wanted to.”

“I know.” She poked his arm. “I heard you’re gonna be a daddy again. Congrats, man.”

“Thanks, Liv.”

“Maybe you’ll get your boy this time.”

Kenny crossed his fingers as he took the last drink of his beer. With three little girls already, the poor guy was drowning in pink ribbons and baby dolls. “I’m gonna head out, catch some z’s. See you tomorrow, Liver.”

“Same time, same place.” She watched him make his way to the door, pausing to talk at every table along the way.

George picked up Kenny’s empty. “Last call, Liv.”

She held up two fingers as she downed the last swallow in her bottle.

“You know you can’t do that.”

“The other one’s for Kenny,” Olivia lied.

“Fine,” George said with a sigh. “You’re lucky Kenny’s still in the bar.”

“And he will be for the next twenty minutes. He’s just starting to say his goodbyes.”

“Then he can drink his own beer.”

“Don’t mess with me.” Olivia cocked an eyebrow, giving George her best impersonation of Sam’s intimidation expression. “Hand ‘em over, bucko.”

George laughed and handed her both beers. “You know if you quit spending so much money here every night you’d have been able to move to Northside a long time ago.”

“So you’re saying I should quit tipping you?”

“When have you ever tipped me?” George asked.

“Start bartending with your shirt off and I’ll start tipping you.” She wiggled her eyebrows as she threw some money at him to pay for the beers. What she really wanted to do was tuck the dollar bills into his underwear, after she ran her hands all up and down his oiled, muscular body. But, alas, he was fully dressed. It would seem weird.

“You’re too much sometimes, you know that?” His tone played irritation, but he winked at her. Oh, yeah. He liked it.

The patrons slowly trickled out, each of them calling out a goodbye to Olivia as they left. Bar regulars are a bit like family—you can’t pick ‘em, you can’t get rid of ‘em, and if you ever make the mistake of borrowing money from one of them, heaven knows they’ll lord it over you for the rest of your natural-born days. For the most part Olivia liked her bar family better than her real one. They actually talked to her, and seemed to care if she were still breathing.

After the last customer left, George turned the chairs onto the tables then headed into the backroom to get the mop bucket. “Time to go, Liv.”

“But I haven’t finished my beer yet.”

“Drink faster!” he called out over the sound of running water.

She ignored him and grabbed the broom from behind the bar. She wasn’t ready to go and he wouldn’t force her out. He gave up trying to enforce Kitty’s posted hours on her months earlier. As they did almost every night, Olivia swept and George mopped, then they both washed the last of the glasses. He handed her another beer, grabbed one for himself, and they went into the office so he could do the books. She flipped through his CDs until she found The Killers and slipped it into the stereo, cranking the volume up. George frowned. She turned it back down, one bar at a time, until he stopped frowning.

George started sorting the day’s receipts and asked the same question he always asked, “How’s your dad?”

She gave her standard answer, “He’s good.”

George and her father, Eugene, had sat on her deck drinking together once. Neither man had spoken a word to the other while George polished off a six-pack of Bud and Eugene nursed a two-liter of Coke and chain-smoked Camels, but apparently the experience had bonded the men for life. Guys were weird like that.

Olivia’s tummy growled. “Do you have anything to eat around here?”

George opened the top desk drawer and pulled out a half-eaten granola bar. He tossed it to her and she finished it off in two quick bites.

“Got anything else?” she asked.

“No, but I hear the grocery store does. It’s that big building on the highway with all the lights, and tons of food on shelves.”

“Hardy har.” She stretched out on the saggy, plaid sofa in the corner of the office. It smelled like an ashtray dipped in rancid fryer grease from living in the bar for the past twenty years, and was still harboring stray tufts of Miss Kitty Cat’s fur under the cushions, but it was comfortable.

“I also hear they have stuff you don’t have to cook. Why don’t you go check it out?”

She lit a cigarette. “I’ll have you know I’m a very good cook, thank you very much. I just choose not to do it.”

“Warming up SpaghettiO’s doesn’t count. And put that out.”

She rolled her eyes and took a drag. George hated when she smoked in his office, but she didn’t see why. It wasn’t like one cigarette’s worth of tar was going to further ruin the upholstery. “You got any job openings?”

“No.” He waved futilely at the ribbon of smoke drifting his way, but returned his attention to the stack of receipts in front of him without another admonishment.

“Not even for me?”

“Especially not for you.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

George looked up at her with a sigh of exasperation. “Isn’t it past your bedtime?”

“As a matter of fact, it is.” Olivia smiled. “You wanna come tuck me in?”

“Go home, Liv.”

She watched him punch numbers into his adding machine, his fingers dancing across the buttons like child’s play. He could type words blazing fast as well. She was more a hunter and pecker of the keyboard herself. He’d told her once what he used to do for a living when he’d lived in Omaha, before he’d moved to Juliette to run Kitty’s, but she couldn’t remember what he’d said. Insurance, or sales… finance, maybe. Whatever it was, she was sure he’d been really good at it. Try as she might, she couldn’t picture him wearing a suit and tie to work every day, but she wondered if he missed it.

“Hey, George?”

“Hmm?”

“What did you think of that Ryan guy from last night? He texted me this morning and wants to go out again.” She tapped her ashes into the mouth of an empty beer bottle sitting on the end table. “Do you think I should say yes?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t like him,” George said.

“How come?”

“No reason.”

“Izzie thinks he’s perfect for me.”

“Izzie’s wrong.”

Olivia smiled. They’d known each other for less than a year, but George knew her better than anyone else in the world. It was almost instinctual.

They fell into silence as George concentrated on his bookkeeping and Olivia finished her cigarette and sipped her beer. It was late, the time most people were tucked tight into their beds, fast asleep, but Olivia was a bundle of energy. The longer they sat without talking, the antsier she became. Her knee bounced, her tongue clicked, her fingers drummed anxiously. Before long, every molecule in her body was buzzing and hopping and popping and dancing the Watusi.

“Oh, my gaaawd, I’m bored,” she cried to the ceiling when she couldn’t take the Killers-laced silence any longer.

“Then go home.”

She hopped off the sofa. “Dance with me.”

“Not tonight.”

“Come on, George, just one little dance. Please, please, please.”

Olivia was in love with George for many reasons, but numero uno was the way the man danced. His ass was hot when he stood still, but when his hips were tucked up against hers and her hands were on those amazing cheeks and their bodies gyrated together… mm, mm, mm. She was horny just thinking about it. She should’ve put in a little Missy Elliot or a slow jam instead of synthpop. He’d have been out of his chair and wrapped around her body without her even having to ask.

“It’s never one dance with you,” George said. And he was right. Dancing with George was like eating potato chips—once Olivia got the taste of his body in her mouth, so to speak, she couldn’t stop until she ate the whole bag. If they started dancing now they would dance until dawn. He looked tired so she changed tactics.

“Then take me for a ride in your truck.”

“Go home.” George picked up a pile of cash. He rapped it on the desk twice, then licked his thumb and forefinger and started counting bills just as fast as he had tapped buttons moments earlier. The man had mad skills.

“Come on, George.” She bounced around to his side of the desk. “Come out and play with me.”

“I’m busy. Go home.”

“Let’s go TP Louise’s house.”

“No.” He let out a whispered curse, and started counting the cash over again from the beginning.

“Come on, Georgie. When’s the last time you threw a roll of toilet paper into a tree?”

“Not since I was eleven, and I don’t plan to do it again.”

“Come out and play with me.” She leaned over his shoulder and gave him a cheeky grin. “I promise I’ll be on my best behavior.”

He set the money down with a sigh and scrubbed his face with his hands. “You don’t know how to behave.”

“Sure I do.” She pulled his chair away from the desk and swiveled him around until he faced her, then grabbed his hands and tried to pull him to his feet. But he wouldn’t budge. She pulled and tugged and grunted and pulled some more, but he stayed glued to his chair and glared at her.

“Are you done yet?” he asked.

She shifted her grip and pulled harder. “Nope.”

She grunted and tugged, putting all her weight into it this time until she was practically sitting on the floor, but he remained solidly seated in his chair.

“God, you’re a pain in the ass.” He gripped her hands and jerked back on his arms so hard she popped up off the floor, and slammed into his chest with an audible oof! He locked her in tight with his arms as his lips came crashing down onto hers.

Oh Lordy-be, he was an amazing kisser. She couldn’t help but whimper out in wanting when his tongue slipped inside. He responded immediately, intensifying the kiss until her insides dissolved into liquid fire.

When he finally pulled away for a jagged breath, she smiled. “You love me anyway.”

“Heaven help me, I do,” he whispered, his eyes dark with wanton lust.

Her lips returned to him to nibble and tease his neck as his hand slipped under her shirt and blazed along her skin. He tasted so good he was like candy—hot, sexy, melt-in-your-mouth, man-candy. When her lips settled on the sweet spot below the square corner of his jaw, he breathed out a heavy sigh that turned into a groan of un-masked pleasure. It vibrated under her lips and undulated throughout her body.

Her lips worked a little magic on him. His hands worked a lot of magic on her. He got hot. She got hotter. His lap got quite crowded. And then, when she least expected it, he shoved her off his lap, and onto the floor. She landed square on her rump with a solid thud. Damn.

“Now, go home. I’ve got a ton of shit to get done and you’re bugging the hell out of me here, Baby Girl.”

“One of these days you’re not going to be able to stop kissing me.” She bounced back up to her feet and leaned over him, the tip of her nose kissing his. “And I won’t stop you either.”

“Go home, Liv.” He was still breathing a little hot and heavy, but he didn’t make a move to take her back into his arms. He was done for the night.

Olivia let out a sigh of disappointment as she straightened. “See you tomorrow.”

“Same time, same place.” He winked and turned his chair back around to face his desk.

Olivia left Kitty’s with George’s kisses still hot on her lips and perpetual disappointment in her heart. She only had herself to blame for the lovesick feeling. No matter how much she wished otherwise, she knew George would never go beyond kissing her. She wasn’t his type.

She was average height, average build with smaller than average breasts and unruly, mousey-brown hair that poofed like cotton candy in the humidity. The more she worked with it, the more it misbehaved, so she usually made do with twisting it into a clip and hoped it stayed in all day. When she bothered to put on make-up she ended up looking like a two-dollar hooker, so she didn’t bother. Her wardrobe consisted mainly of athletic clothes that she’d never sweated in and cheesy t-shirts. Basically, she was a mess. And not even a hot one.

George liked athletic. George liked stylish. George liked rich, caramel skin tones and thick, dark hair. And she was almost one-hundred-percent certain that, despite his obvious physical response to their kisses, George preferred his women to be of the male persuasion—but she was holding out hope that she was wrong.

Approximately a month after George moved to Juliette, he had taken her completely by surprise with an invitation to his place for a late dinner and a few drinks. This was a few days after she had drunkenly revealed her willingness to make a deal with the devil for a night of passion with him. She had been in high-heaven, convinced he planned to take her up on her offer.

While he had been busy whipping up something in the kitchen that smelled wonderful and had a French name, she had been busy snooping through his personal effects. In his bathroom she discovered his addiction to dental floss. In his bedroom she found out he preferred boxer-briefs to boxers or briefs. And in his office she uncovered a framed photo he had hidden underneath a package of printer paper.

The photo was of George and a man with a deep tan who was as ruggedly handsome as George, maybe even more so, standing in front of a cute little bungalow with green shutters, a pink crabapple tree in full bloom and a “Sold” sign in the yard. George and the man weren’t touching each other in the photo, but something about the way they stood next to each other screamed intimacy in a way that a blatant kiss could not. It was the exact same feeling she got whenever she looked at pictures from Izzie and John’s wedding or walked into a room that only they had occupied a moment before. The love they shared was so undeniable it seemed to ooze out of their pores, spilling into the world around them.

Disappointed, but not defeated, Olivia had tucked the photo back where she’d found it and returned to the living room. She never made mention of it to George, and she never changed the way she threw herself at him with obvious disregard to common decency. She never wanted him to know she had discovered his secret. If he wanted her to know, he would tell her. She also knew that even though the majority of the world didn’t care about sexual orientation, Juliette, Nebraska was not in the majority. For that reason alone, he probably wouldn’t be telling her any time soon, no matter how much he trusted her.

Olivia climbed into her Buick and drove the few blocks from Kitty’s to Valley View Trailer Court where she was the not-so-proud owner of a 1950-something, Atlas mobile home on Lot Number 14. The trailer was more a glorified camper than a house, but the woman who had owned it before Olivia had spent a fortune encapsulating it in its 1950’s glory.

When Olivia bought the home, it came fully-furnished in pieces actually from a 1950’s Sears catalog, and was decorated in an oddly-comforting array of clashing colors. The kitchen walls were painted baby blue, the upper cabinets sunflower-yellow. The base cabinets were white, topped with fire-engine-red countertops. The living room was also blue, the bathroom sea-foam green, and the bedroom an almost-indescribable shade of pink. Rainbow Brite would’ve been in hog heaven living there.

Seven trailers had been for sale in the court when Olivia first began looking. Of the seven, two had been in her price-range. The other one had been bigger, and had two full bedrooms as advertised, instead of trying to pass off a closet as sleeping quarters like the Atlas owner had done. The other trailer had also come fully-furnished, decorated in neutral tones. Olivia had disliked them both, but she had ended up choosing the 1950’s flashback simply because it was located clear on the other side of the trailer court from her father, Eugene.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from visiting, as evidenced by the fact that he was sitting on her deck, chain-smoking and bouncing his knee up and down in agitation when she pulled up to her home-sweet-home and parked in the carport.

Her father was a tall, thin man with long, thinning hair, thick glasses and a goatee. She used to tell people she was adopted, but no one ever believed her. Other than the fact that she probably outweighed his scrawny ass by a good fifteen pounds, Olivia looked exactly like him—minus the facial hair, of course.

“Hey, Eugene,” she said on a heavy sigh.

The excess of energy she’d had at Kitty’s had disappeared on her drive home. It took everything she had to pull her heavy body up the steps to the wooden deck attached to the trailer. She didn’t move in to hug her father, and he didn’t get up from the plastic lawn chair he was sitting in to hug her. Her family did not touch.

“Chester ran away,” he said without making eye contact. Her family didn’t look at each other, either.

“He’ll be back,” she assured him, same as she always did.

Chester was her father’s horny Boston terrier. The dog could smell a bitch in heat anywhere within a fifty-mile radius, and had sired over a hundred offspring before the humane society finally convinced Eugene to have the dog neutered. It stopped the unwanted puppies, but not the incessant humping of every female dog in Juliette and the tri-city area. Even without fully-functioning balls, Chester still ran away at least once a week to get his groove on.

Eugene didn’t hug or pet or cuddle Chester, but it was obvious in the way he said the dog’s name that he loved the horny little bastard more than he loved Olivia. Depressing, yes, but Olivia had come to terms with that sad fact of her life a long time ago.

Olivia unlocked her front door. “You want to come in for awhile?”

By way of answer, he took a long drag off his cigarette and his boney knee bounced away.

“Ok… Good night, then…”

Olivia waited for a response, but she shouldn’t have bothered. Eugene wasn’t much of a conversationalist. He was a little like Rain Man, but with a milder case of obsessive compulsive disorder. He wouldn’t look at you, touch you, or really talk to you, but he had never met a broken small appliance he couldn’t fix better than new.

Eugene spent his days, and a good portion of his nights, repairing toasters and coffee makers and waffle irons for people who were too cheap or too poor to fork over the thirty bucks at Walmart to buy a new one, but he refused to take any money for it. He’d been collecting disability for as long as Olivia could remember, and he worried Uncle Sam would find out about the extra income and throw his ass in the slammer. Due to his deep, debilitating fear of forced human contact that jail would entail, Eugene insisted all payment for repairs made come in the form of one of the three C’s—Camels, Coca-Cola, or Cheez Doodles—or a combination thereof.

Because of Eugene and his phobias, Olivia learned how to clip coupons before she mastered coloring inside the lines. Eugene had done the best he could to raise her, but he was wired for living a solitary life, preferably in a cave somewhere. It wasn’t that he didn’t like people, he just didn’t like them being anywhere near him. How Olivia had managed to be conceived in the first place was one of life’s greatest mysteries.

Her mother, Camille, was a bit of an enigma. Olivia knew for a fact that she existed, but that was pretty much all she knew about her. Olivia didn’t even know if Camille was her mother’s real name. No one ever talked about her, especially Eugene, which had made her even more intriguing to Olivia as a child.

Olivia was born at the Women’s Correctional Facility in York, Nebraska, where her mother had been imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. Other than the five minutes her mother had held her immediately after she was born, Olivia never saw her again. When Olivia was a little kid she used to tell people she was an ex-con released on good behavior, like her mother, but once she realized how pathetic she sounded, she decided to quit talking about her con of a mother and the story of her birth altogether, and has since kept that bit of information to herself.

Olivia gave up on waiting for a response from Eugene and went inside. George’s granola bar had done nothing to fill her up, so she made a bowl of cereal and flipped channels while she ate. Nothing was ever on in the wee hours of the morning, except infomercials. She had her choice of learning about a mop that could suck up a swimming pool amount of water or how to Be-Dazzle pretty much anything. She chose the mop.

Not long after she finished her cereal, Eugene came in and sat on the opposite end of the sofa from her. She pulled a half-eaten bag of Cheez Doodles out from under the coffee table and tossed it to him. They sat in silence, except for Eugene’s incessant crunching, and watched the overexcited television host pawn his wares until dawn.

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G.M. Barlean, author of Casting Stones

8 Feb

Today is a very special day for me! A dear friend of mine, G.M. Barlean, author of Casting Stones, has graciously agreed to drop in for a visit and share her journey to publication. As fearless in her writing as she is in real life, G.M. paints her world with words so rich in texture and meaning that as you read you feel as though you have slipped inside the pages and become one with her story.

G.M. Barlean: Donna, thank you so much for having me as your guest. Your support is truly appreciated.

Although I have written for years, my concentrated effort to write fiction began in 2009. I completed my first novel, Dead Blow, (with Donna’s help if I remember correctly!) in the summer of 2010. I became a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, participated in National Novel Writer’s Month (NaNoWriMo), and joined the Prairieland Romance Writers of Nebraska that fall. When participating in NaNoWriMo, I began writing the novel, Casting Stones, which I just published. I reached the goal of writing 50,000 words of this novel during NaNoWriMo, and then went on to finish the book by February of 2011.

I spent the remainder of 2011 working to fine-tune the book, and I also took two different online writing courses. The process of finishing my book included many friends reading and helping me make it the best product it could be. In the spring of 2011, I attended an event called, Write Across Nebraska. At this event I met C. K. Volnek. Later that year, C. K. (Charlie) invited me to join the Seward Writer’s Group. C.K., I, and three other writers (Victorine Lieske, Kathy Gillmore, and Sabrina Sumsion) have also created another writing support group we call, The Local Muse. This support has turned out to be the most important link in my chain to publishing. By November of 2011, the book was ready for professional editing, and then it was off to be published and printed.

It should be noted, as said above, I could never have written this book without the help of many friends, one of which was you, Donna. Another friend of note, Victorine Lieske, created the book cover for Casting Stones. She also guided me along the way and answered so many questions regarding how to publish. I also firmly believe that God has led me to all of the people who have helped me along the way, from my first reader, Donna Sturgeon (author of Millie’s Rose) to my most recent relationship with my new editor, Carol Weber of carolscorrections.weebly.com/. Of course, my husband, family, and friends played an essential role as well (specifically the hubs!).

Casting Stones is a dramatic fiction, set in Missouri and Nebraska during the years 1926 through 1945. It is a story about struggle and survival, retribution and redemption. If you wish to meet the characters, please visit my blog Moments of Clarity. Want a little free reading? I’ve written a short story prelude to the novel. The prelude gives a glimpse into the main characters and sets the stage for the trouble that will come. You can get a free copy of this short story either from my website: GMBarlean.com, or from Smashwords.com. Do you like movies? I have created a book trailer and posted it on Youtube.com. I think you will really enjoy watching this. A friend of mine, Rae Welch, created the original music for this short film, and it is perfect. The e-book for Casting Stones is available on Amazon, and Barnes and Nobel. Both of these sites offer a sample of the novel.

Thank you so much for allowing me to let your readers learn about my book. I hope some of you will consider buying, Casting Stones. In the mean time, I would like to give away a free E-book to a randomly selected person who comments on this blog! Comment away from now thru Saturday, and at the end I’ll let you all know who won!

From the cover: 1926 – A simple error in judgment leaves James Raven a broken man – his wife dead, and his infant son, motherless. He goes back home seeking solace, only to find more sorrow – and Esther Barton, his father’s hired girl – a woman he holds in contempt.

Missteps seal James’s fate. The penance? His child, now in the care of the one he had scorned, suffers abuse and neglect. The woman James judged unacceptable, now judges him. Trapped and helpless, he can only watch in horror.

Who will save the Ravens when they cannot save themselves…and at what cost?

Their salvation ends with blood on their hands, and they must bury their sins, deep in the Loess Hills of Missouri.

Determination

16 Jan

Jared repairing his broken XBox 360

     

 

“Never

never

never

never

   give up.”

  ~ Winston Churchill

Excuses, Excuses

14 Jan

Well, I made it twelve days without breaking my New Year’s resolution of posting every day about something that makes me smile. But then Friday the 13th did me in.

I did post yesterday, but it was not about a smile. In fact, what I posted was actually quite depressing to write. I get a little too deep into my characters sometimes, and that character in particular tends to suck all the happy right out of me. I could come up with a million more excuses — I was cleaning my disaster of a house, I had a headache, work has been draining my brain — yadda yadda. All of it true, but none of it a reason not to smile.

I probably did smile yesterday. Once. I think. I don’t remember for sure. I was pretty crabby.

My house is still a bit of a disaster, the kids are exceptionally loud, the television in the background even louder. I missed supper because I got called into work. Blake Shelton’s in town and I’m not within kissing distance. Yeah, I’m still kinda cranky. But when I look at these two furry faces, both of them stubbornly refusing to get out of my chair, I can’t help but roll my eyes at how damn cute they are.

And smile.

 

Lost

13 Jan

Jimmy wiped the last of the spilled water out of the cabinet base and packed up his tools. He listed the parts he used and his time on the work order, but it was more for his own records than anything else. He never billed Pastor Tom for repairs.

As he left the restroom, the door squeaked. He opened and closed it a few times, listening, and then set his tool box down. With a mallet and screwdriver, he popped out the offending hinge pin, cleaned it, and added a bit of chain lubricant. When he tested the door again, it was silent.

If only his mind could be as easy to silence. Squirt on a little lube, shut it up. Johnny Walker worked, sometimes, but only for a night.

He repacked his toolbox and lifted its heavy weight in his left hand. As he walked the narrow hallway that led to the exit near the sanctuary, the fingertips of his right hand brushed along the wall, an old habit he didn’t resist this time. The horsehair plaster was cool to the touch, uneven and heavily painted. His fingertips bumped over cracks, dipped into craters, the path foreign. He stood a good foot taller now than he had the last time his hand had traveled the wall. His stride stretched longer. He dropped his hand, and continued on without reaching.

In the archway, he paused. The afternoon was bright, but except for where the sunlight played in rainbows through the stained glass, the sanctuary remained shrouded in shadow. The church was old, gothic revival in design. Cherry paneling covered the walls. Ornate chandeliers hung from the ceiling. The pews could hold a hundred people, twice that if they really packed in, and they had on many a Christmas Eve of past. He wondered if they still did.

After a moment of hesitation, he set his toolbox down and stepped inside. The air smelled cleaner than he remembered, free of the perfume of flowers and women, the cigarette smoke clinging to the jackets of men, but it still carried the comfort of lemon oil and sweet sage.

He slid into the pew on the left-hand side, second from the back, and slowly inched his way down to the other end, close to the wall. He placed his hands on the pew in front of him and closed his eyes, sitting without moving, without breathing. He heard nothing, except the screaming of his own mind. About his father. Brayden. What he’d lost.

About Ky.

Always, about Ky.

“It’s still there, you know.”

Startled, Jimmy turned in the direction of the voice, and watched as Pastor Tom settled into the pew behind him.

“What’s still there?” Jimmy asked, though he knew.

“Your name.”

Jimmy slid the hymnal in front of him over in the rack, revealing the first half of his name, carved into the cherry wood long ago. He traced the letters, the lines no longer splintered and fresh. They had been aged by a buildup of wood oil, smoothed by the polishing of other’s hands, his presence a shallow scar time was threatening to erase.

His thumb caressed the letters. “I sat and stared at this every Sunday morning for years. My mom thought it was remorse…” He shook his head. “I just hated that I got caught before I could finish.”

“If I let you carve the rest, will you come back again?”

Jimmy traced the J. The I. The M. The unfinished remainder of who he had once been. “I wish it were that simple.”

“It can be.” Tom set a folded pocketknife on the seat of the pew. “Once you realize you’ve been searching for Someone who has never left your side.”

****

This short was written for the “Where is it?” prompt on Story Dam. Write a descriptive piece (fiction or non-fiction) in which you or your character has lost something important.

Smile #12 ~ Generations

12 Jan

     “Generations pass like leaves fall from our family tree.

      Each season new life blossoms and grows,

     benefiting from the strength and experience

     of those who went before.” ~ Heidi Swapp

Smile #11 ~ INFP

11 Jan

The more I write, the more I have come to realize that one of my greatest challenges is consistency of character. As I go through and edit, I find I have inserted my own personality into my characters’ thoughts, their actions, their emotions. Even their dialogue. My workaholics become procrastinating coffee-addicts. My girly-girls poo-poo their heels and start lounging around in jeans and flip-flops. My tough guys cry. It would be easy (and awesome!) to write a novel full of little mini-mes, running amuck in my imaginary land, but one personality living in harmony with itself does not make the world go round. In all honesty, if I ever happened to find myself surrounded by a whole bunch of me, it would probably be far from harmonious. I can be a bit of a handful sometimes. It takes a personality like my husband’s to balance me out and keep my world on an even keel.

The best thing about people is how different we are from one another.  We see different. Taste different. Speak of different things in different languages. We hold different beliefs, want for different things, act and re-act in different ways. We love one another because of these differences. Unfortunately, our difference are also why we fight with one another. We don’t understand different. Different can be scary, especially when one who is different than us tries to strip away our differences and turn us into something that more resembles them. We go to war to make countries of mini-mes because ‘I’ am not scared of ‘me.’ I understand me. I find comfort in me. It is you who is different, so it is you who must change.

But is change even possible? According to the experts, personalities are already established at birth. Society can influence you, but not completely alter you. We have to embrace our differences and learn to live together.

In order to better understand the differences between myself and others, I must first better understand myself. And, by knowing who I am, I can identify which of my fictional characters’ personality traits are true, and which are mere reflections of myself.  At least that was my reasoning when I sat down to take The Keirsey Temperament Sorter personality test this afternoon. Seventy, quick, easy, painless, multiple-choice questions…. “Is it better to be (a) just or (b) merciful”… “Waiting in line, do you (a) chat with others or (b) stick to business”… It took about ten minutes to answer the questions, another ten to tally up the score, and then I was off to the Myers-Briggs website to look up what the heck INFP meant! This is who they say I am:

“Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened.”

Cool. But I needed more. A lot more. I wanted to truly understand what makes me “Me.” According to Keirsey, INFP translates to Healer:

“Healers live a fantasy-filled childhood…”

“They have a gift for interpreting stories, as well as for creating them, and thus often write in lyric, poetic fashion….”

“Healers are adaptable, welcome new ideas and new information, are patient with complicated situations, but impatient with routine details….”

“Healers have very high standards. Consequently, they are usually hard on themselves, and don’t give themselves enough credit….”

“Healers can be both extremely romantic and extremely independent. They are likely to want a mate who won’t shrink from their expansive imagination…..”

*cue dramatic music, beam of light* Ahhhhh!

Finally, someone managed to explain me! I felt as though I was reading my biography. I tried showing it to my husband, “See? See? This is why I do what I do! Why I am who I am!” But he wasn’t interested. He says personality tests are no different than horoscopes, written to mimic just enough of everyone so they apply to all who read them. Hrmp! Maybe he’s right, but I’m a compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted, and imaginative Pieces, and proud of it!

“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where they overlap.” ~Ani DiFranco