Thursday, March 19, 2015

A SNEAK PEAK of A Side of Hope

I don't normally do this.

But I saw the doctor today for a problem I'm having with my hand, and the meany is making me wear a brace on my right hand for 2 weeks to see if it helps, on top of some medication.

While I can type with it, it isn't the most comfortable thing to do for a very long period of time (and honestly, my hand is throbbing, woe is me!) And since I'm a writer, I'm trying to preserve my typing time!

I was going to just do a repost of an old blog post, but thought of something else I could do with minimal typing

In just a week and a half *gulp* my newest novella, A Side of Hope, is releasing! So I thought I'd give you all a sneak peak at the first chapter....

Hope you all enjoy it! Release date will be March 31st!

Chapter 1

What a cruddy day.
Slamming the door of her Chevy coupe, Tilly Davis wanted nothing more than to go inside, take off this stupid outfit, throw these heels in the trash, and soak in a nice, hot bubble bath.
Yes. That sounded just about perfect.
How stupid could she get? Everyone had dropped hints about her birthday for weeks, and every time, she’d reminded them how she did not want a big production made out of her fortieth birthday. She was turning thirty-five for the sixth time. That’s all. No big deal.
But as much as she did not want a big fuss over this day, never in a million years had she imagined they would actually listen to her—especially Beth, Maddie, and Allie.
Because of her love for her friends, she'd decided to be a good sport about whatever they were planning behind all their whispers and conversations that quickly changed when she entered a room. She’d taken a little extra time with her clothes this morning. Worn a skirt instead of dress slacks. The only skirt in her closet, actually. And heels. Yes, she had walked around the Sandwich Emporium, schmoozing with customers, helping frazzled waitresses, talking a few of the kitchen staff out of spitting in irritating customers’ food, all the while wearing stupid, stupid, stupid cursed heels. She almost broke her ankle on three occasions, too.
And all that misery, for what?
Beth, her best friend and bowling partner extraordinaire, had dropped off a card this morning and hugged her, then rushed off to do a showing with one of her clients. Reuben had waved and called “Happy Birthday!” as he headed home for the day, and reminded her that she could take off at seven. His “gift” to her or something. Maddie, Reuben’s wife, had called to let her know she couldn’t have lunch with her as planned because the babies would not stop rolling around and kicking each other in her belly, causing some not-so-stellar digestive issues. Tilly had stopped her before getting a graphic play-by-play of the issue.
Her mom and stepdad mailed her a sweater that looked like it’d come from Martha Stewart’s closet, and her dad had wired her his annual $1,000 and sent a postcard from some Caribbean island she’d never even heard of. It was signed from him and Brandi—the "i" dotted with a heart—whoever that was. One would think at sixty-five, he’d have settled down by now. Yeah, not-so-much.
There had been no other phone calls or well-wishes.
Even the other girls on the bowling team had been quiet.
So yes. Here she was. The Big Four-Oh. Her birthday. All alone. With feet that probably had bunions on them. That’s what old people got, right? Oh, and gray hair. Then again, she’d taken to dying her hair various colors for years. She’d recently ditched the red, cut off and straightened the curls, and opted for a layered, chin-length dark brown. She wouldn’t know if she had a gray spot unless her hair stylist told her so.
And Cheri was much smarter than that.
This was not where she had envisioned herself being at forty. At twenty, she'd had dreams of spending this day with a husband at her side and a couple of kids. Settled. Happy.
Most days she'd argue that she was exactly where she wanted to be in her life. But a little voice in the back of her head screamed at what could have been if she'd only spread her wings a little all those years ago.
But she hadn't, and no amount of wishful thinking could change the past. She wasn't even sure she wanted to change it.
Making her way to the back door, she shivered at the November wind that bit at her skin. A weary breath escaped her lips. This day was almost over. She’d sulk for a few more hours in her “early” inherited house, then wake up tomorrow, fully forty, and take on the world.
Only a few more hours….
She put her key into the back door and let herself in. The house was dark and quiet.
Like it is every day. A tinge of sadness gripped her heart, but she quickly brushed it away.
Shedding her shoes, she tossed the evil things into the trash. She would tear off her skirt right there in the mudroom and trash it too, but that would mean having to buy another one the next time there was a wedding or funeral to go to. And considering her idea of a shopping spree was cuddling up on her bed with her laptop and credit card, the thought of having to go to a store to clothes shop was enough to keep her skirt on.
Stepping into the kitchen, she flipped on the light.
Surprise!” Party horns tooted and black streamers fluttered across the room.
Tilly clutched the door jam, praying her aged heart wouldn’t completely give out on her. Everyone she could possibly think of stood around her kitchen, breakfast area, and even into the dining room. Her bowling girls—Beth, Lena, and Lauren. Reuben, her boss, and his wife Maddie. Allie, Stew and their crew. Pastor Greg and his wife. Rachel and Cam, a few waitresses from the Emporium, and some familiar faces from the singles group at church.
As the chaos and cheers started to die down, Tilly shook her head and scanned the crowd. “What—How—?”
An over-sized Maddie waddled forward, looking all adorable in her belly-hugging black top and maternity skinny jeans. “Did we surprise you? You didn’t guess, did you?”
Tilly pressed a shaking hand to her hip. Thank you, Jesus, for making me keep my skirt on. “I—yeah. You definitely surprised me.”
Reuben walked up beside Maddie and put his arm around his wife, then lifted his other hand that held a fluted glass in the air. “Sorry for all the secrets. I know you wanted low-key, but you know my sweet Maddie.”
Tilly smiled, ignoring the warring feelings inside her—relief that her friends hadn’t forgotten her and embarrassment for such a fuss being made. “You know, a simple cake and card would have done the trick.”
Maddie pulled her toward the kitchen table, clearly ignoring her. “Come on. You have to see the cake.”
On the table stood a two-tiered, zebra-striped cake. On the side was written in hot pink fondant, “40 is Fabulous!”
The cake was so completely opposite of Tilly’s tastes she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. “It’s—lovely, Maddie. Thank you.”
The young mommy-to-be elbowed her in the side. “Thought we’d bring out your inner diva.”
Yeah right. Back in the day, maybe.
Lately, she felt more “dud” than diva.
She stood up straight, not caring that her 5’9” frame towered over most every woman in the room. Today was her day. Maddie was right. Maybe she needed to unleash her diva just a bit.
Beth, Tilly’s only close single friend, pushed her way through the crowd and squeezed her with a hug. "Happy Birthday, Til. Are you surprised?"
"You have no idea. I never imagined you guys would sneak into my house."
Her friend shrugged. "I have a spare key, remember? Maddie did the rest."
Reuben began to light all the candles, then tossed Stew the matchbox. “Help me. Otherwise we’ll be here all night.”
Tilly looked at the cake again, taking in what she’d missed at first glance. An obscene number of candles lined both tiers of the cake. “Don’t tell me you really put forty candles on there.”
“Of course we did.” Maddie linked her arm around Tilly’s waist. “A girl only turns old once.”
Oh, geez Louise. “You better be glad you’re pregnant right now.”
She winked. “Only reason I knew I could get away with it.”
A few minutes later, the cake stood in a blazing glory of black, white, and pink, and Allie started everyone off in a slightly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
As the lights flickered on the cake, Tilly stared, knowing that at any moment, she’d be beckoned to make a wish and blow them out.
The background noise and people faded from view, and all she could see were the flames, licking at the frosting, as if begging to consume more than the tiny wicks they were perched on.
Maybe that would be her wish.
For years, she’d been content with her tiny perch. Had fought for it. Refused to relinquish it, grabbing hold with all her might. She didn’t need a lot of extra stuff to make her happy. Stability was what she’d craved and thrived on, anything to avoid the topsy-turvy era of her youth.
But now she was faced with the fact she was no longer a spring chicken. Hadn’t been for quite some time. Maybe—maybe there was more out there for her than just this little box she’d created for herself and taped off long ago.
Eighteen years ago, to be exact.
As a chorus of “blow out the candles” rang in her ears, she inhaled the largest breath her lungs could hold, made a bold wish, and let the air out in a long, slow, controlled whoosh.
Cheers erupted from those looking on.
The cake stood dark, flames completely extinguished.
A blur of commotion followed. Beth ushered her into the dining room, sitting her at the head of the table, and plopped a plate of cake and ice cream in front of her along with a large stack of cards.
Tilly fingered the first card. “You guys didn’t have to do this.”
With a grunt, Maddie lowered her prego self into the chair beside her while Beth went back to serving. “Oh, hush. We wanted to. You do so much for everyone else. It’s exciting to finally be able to do something for you.”
She made her sound like some philanthropist, which she definitely was not. “I don’t do that much.”
“Last week you came over and cleaned my house after I told you I’d been having trouble getting enough energy to do it myself these days. Last year you came up with the idea to donate the leftover bread the restaurant can’t use to the food pantry. Not to mention the fact you singlehandedly created the church’s food pantry a few years ago and do most of the running of it yourself. And then—”
Cheeks warm, Tilly squirmed in her seat. “You don’t have to list my activities. I’m well aware of how I spend my time.”
“But you aren’t well aware of how much we appreciate you. Throwing you a birthday party was the least we could do.”
Tilly scooped up a spoonful of cookies n’ cream and shoved it in her mouth, excusing herself from responding to the over-the-top praise. The cold cream swirled on her tongue, bringing back unwanted memories.
Memories of being so poor that dinner had consisted of a shared scoop of ice-cream—and that was it.
It was a good memory, though. One of the rare ones she still held onto from that brief time in her life.
The party guests all squeezed into the dining room, some sitting, most standing. Reuben instructed her to start opening cards.
One by one, she complied.
They each held gift cards to various stores, including one to a nail salon in Chicago from Rachel and Cameron, friends of Reuben and Maddie’s, and by default, friends of Tilly’s. She’d never drive that far, period, much less to get her nails done, but it was the thought that counted. She smiled and thanked them.
One card left. She opened it, but no gift card sat inside. Instead, a handwritten message.
“Your gift is an extra vacation day with pay and three escorts to Chicago to spend all your loot! Yup, a day of shopping and pampering with Maddie, Allie, and Rachel! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”
Nervous prickles bounced on her skin at the thought. Suddenly, she was regretting her birthday wish. Not that she didn’t love these crazy women. But shopping with them for a whole day was almost akin to punishment, not a birthday gift. Especially in the city. She hadn’t been farther than Yorkville since she was a teenager and intended to keep it that way.
But still, she wouldn't hurt their feelings for the world. She’d figure out a way to beg out later, although she’d happily take the vacation day.
She stood, card in hand, and surveyed the group. All friends. People she loved and would do most anything for. Some days she felt so alone, but at this moment, she couldn’t remember why. “Thank you, everyone. You have no idea how surprised I am and how much I appreciate all of this. I’m overwhelmed.”
Maddie clapped her hands. “Okay, game time!”
Games? Planned by Maddie? Oh no. Tilly opened her mouth to protest, but the chime of the front doorbell interrupted her. She glanced at Maddie. “Were you expecting someone else?”
“Nope. Everyone who said they were coming is here.”
Reuben squeezed in behind her and nodded toward the front TV room, known as the “porch” to most who came here. “I’ll see who it is.”
Glancing at the clock on the far wall, Tilly frowned. It was a quarter ‘til nine. Too late to start crazy Maddie birthday games, and definitely too late for uninvited guests.
She turned to thank Allie and Maddie again and find a way to delicately suggest they forgo “birthday games,” but a hush from the crowd brought her gaze back to the doorway.
Air lodged in her lungs. Her body refused to breathe. Blood rushed to her head, and the world tipped on its side.
Her hands grasped for something to hold her up and fell upon the back of the chair. It didn’t make sense. Why was he here? Today? After all these years? “A—Adam?”
Reuben stood, arms folded across his chest, giving the new guest a fierce look. “Tilly, you know this guy?”
The man with dark hair and sharp gray eyes fiddled with his hands for a moment then shoved them into his pocket. He looked—older. Age had only agreed with him, though. Light lines creased his eyes. His jaw was still strong and solid, covered by short stubble that begged for a razor. Gone was the immature “boy” whom she’d once thought she would love forever. In his place was a man whose presence threatened to destroy everything. “I—I didn’t realize you had this much company.”
Words jumbled in her brain. “It—it’s my birthday. I didn’t know—I mean, they surprised me.”
Stew, Allie’s husband, flanked Adam on the other side. “Tilly, who is this guy?”
She blinked and swallowed. What should she say? Most people—those few who even remembered him—probably thought Adam a good-for-nothing guy who was long gone years ago. No one had even mentioned him for well over a decade, and no one, not even her best friends, knew her secret.
Her eyes set on Adam again, and suddenly the years slipped away. She was twenty-two and facing the man who chose a career over love and shattered her heart into a million pieces in the process. Words stuck in her throat, hollow and lifeless. She blinked. The only thing she could think to say was the truth. “I’m sorry. Everyone—” She looked around, her eyes touching on confused and bewildered faces. “This is Adam. My husband.”

*************************************************
Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romanceand A Side of Faith. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at http://www.kristaphillips.com. She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.

4 comments:

Robin Mason said...

well i WAS gonna just say I'm glad she didn't toss her skirt in the trash. but then, wow - i did NOT see that last bit cming!!! can't wait to read the whole thing!!!

Krista Phillips said...

Thanks, robin! And I'm glad filly kept her skirt on too.... Lol!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great hook at the end!! Good luck with your hand, Hope it heals quickly!

Sue

Glynis said...

Ahh! No! Don't stop there! LOL Can't wait to read the rest, Krista. Hope you're feeling better soon.