Archive | October 2017

When Tis Done – Part 4

When Tis Done coverHeath overhears Brian talking to Chase and sits the boys down for a talk. He explains that the Circle will pick a new person to replace Dora Finley, Chase’s mother, now that his father is dead. He also tells them that if Chase and Marissa can’t resolve their differences, one or the other could leave the Circle and a replacement would be found.

“Nope. From time to time, the force around us make mistakes. It’s bound to happen. Our choice of a mate may be pre-destined, but it’s not written in stone. Sometimes, your intended isn’t really the best person for you. So, an alternate is provided. You only get a second chance, not a third or fourth. This isn’t a dating service, after all. But it has to be a mutual thing and you both have to agree which of you leaves the circle. If neither of you wants to, then you’re stuck with one another. But solve this now before you get married. Or before you take your relationship further.”

“You mean sex,” Chase said.

“Yes. I went about it the wrong way, Chase. I almost lost the two most important things in my life; Jackie and the Circle. Until I hovered on the edge of that decision, saw the pain in her eyes because of my stupidity, I didn’t realize how important they both were. Don’t put yourself in that position. You and Marissa need to have an in depth talk. Jackie and I will be happy to mediate, because you’ll need to have someone there who’s been in your shoes.”

“I’d appreciate that, Mr. Barrett. Thank you. When?”

“Well, tonight is set aside for a party.”

“What are we celebrating?” Brian asked, feeling somewhat subdued after Heath’s revelation.

“Our Circle is mending itself,” Heath said. “We lost our Brother, gained a Sister, but now we need to find our Balance. Tonight at Chase’s house, we’ll be meeting our newest member.”

“Does this mean Mom is leaving the Circle?”

“Yes,” Heath said softly. “She doesn’t want to stay without Cliff, anyway. It doesn’t mean you’re moving or that you have to leave your Circle. And she will always be a part of us….” Heath sniffed loudly. His head dropped as he sniffed again.

Brian put his hand on the older man’s shoulder, doing his best to give comfort. He knew that Cliff, Heath and his father had been closer than brothers, brought together by their presence in the Circle. He felt that way about Chase and the others in their Circle. He didn’t know how his parents and the others in their group were coping with this break. It would be like having his heart ripped out and stomped on.

Heath clasped his hand, smiling at the boy who was working so hard to be the man he needed to be. Pride flooded through him when he met Brian’s intense blue eyes. They’d almost lost him twice, but he came back stronger. He seemed invulnerable, given what he’d been through and survived. Heath dearly hoped that invulnerability wouldn’t be put to the test again anytime soon.

“Party tonight. You’ll like this guy, boys. He’s a real pistol popper.”

“I don’t even know what that means, Heath,” Brian admitted. “Sounds like something my granddad would say.”

“He probably did. He’s a hell of a guy. Come on up, or Jackie will skin us alive if we’re late for lunch.”

“How do you know?” Chase asked.

Before the question was completely out of his mouth, the door at the top of the stairs opened and Jordan called down.

“Get up here now, or Mom swears she’ll skin you alive!”

Heath pointed over his shoulder with his thumb. “Cause that. You’ll see when you progress past a peck on the cheek. Brian knows.”

Brian trotted up the stairs ahead of them, heading to the small bathroom under the front stairs, to wash his hands. Chase held Heath back a moment, his eyes full of pain.

“I do love her, Mr. Barrett. But—”

“You feel like there’s something more out there.” He nodded. “I’ll talk to Jackie.”

“Thank you.”

Forcing smiles, they took their places at the table. Jackie gave blessing and they dug into the meal. She might be a vegetarian, but she did eat fish. She’d prepared a feast of fried catfish and hush puppies, along with fried green tomatoes, fried dill pickles and fried squash.

“Why all the fried foods, Mrs. B,” Marissa asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “Just had a craving for it. I’ll have to figure that out when I meditate.”

Heath’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing. Jordan watched her father carefully as he examined his wife for something. Soon, his face relaxed and he went back to his meal. Jordan had the distinct impression that he’d been checking her aura for something. Whatever it was, he was pleased by it, so she let the matter drop.

The rule of the house was if the women cooked, the men cleaned up, and vice versa. The women relaxed on the enclosed back porch as the men loudly and boisterously washed dishes and put up the leftover food.

“Talk to me,” Jackie directed at Marissa. “I haven’t seen you this despondent since Cliff passed.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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Author Interview for So Much It Hurts by Dellani

SoMuchItHurtsbyDellaniOakes500

What is your book about?

Pia Donovan is a small town girl in the big city. Finding herself a bit overwhelmed, she’s delighted when she meets Flynn Chancellor, and his roommate, Yancy Fredrick. The young men make her feel at home in the bustling metropolis.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I wrote this book for my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) in November of 2016. I got the idea sometime in October, though I didn’t think too much about it. I don’t like to make too many decisions ahead of time, because the characters always run away with the plot. I had a location in mind, the names and occupations of the three main characters. That’s more than I usually have when I begin a story.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’m not entirely sure. One day, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about for NaNoWriMo, and I had this spark. The names came to me, and I wrote them down, along with a note about what their college major was. As to where the story came from, the characters told it.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I can see myself a good bit in Pia. We both grew up in Nebraska, we had a parent who was a college professor (for me, it was my dad) and we love music. Her likes and dislikes in music absolutely mirror my own.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

I love all three of them. Pia has such an unending joy of life. She’s had a tough breakup, but she doesn’t let it get the better of her. Flynn is excitable and enthusiastic, full of creative energy. Yancy is much more down to earth than the other two, with a quiet strength that they both hold onto. I think the character that surprised me the most was Yancy, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.

Who is your most unusual character?

There is a young man named Oz, short for Oswald, who lives on the same floor as Pia, Yancy and Flynn. When they meet, they have a fascinating conversation and he says, “I have Asperger’s. Like Rain Man. I’m like Rain Man.” He’s an brilliant young man, full of love and joy. He’s fiercely loyal to his friends and has a strong sense of right and wrong. He’s not a main character, but he is certainly a pivotal one.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I’ve been told by several beta readers, and my editor, that the characters jump off the page. They are three dimensional and multi-faceted. All of them have their own distinct personalities, and speak in their own, particular voices.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I started the book on November 1 and typed The End on November 5. The book is approximately 57,000 words, so that’s no small feat.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

It’s been my experience that they define themselves. I listen and record their actions and words.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I adhere to Ray Bradbury’s technique: Find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

I don’t really have one. I’m very fortunate that I’m able to work from home and don’t have a 9-5 job. It makes my writing time much more flexible. Sometimes, I don’t write at all, but I read through my finished books and edit. Other days, I’ll sit down and write 10,000 words. It just depends.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, except for a brief time when I thought of being a veterinarian. Then I discovered I’m allergic to virtually every animal in the world.

Does writing come easy for you?

Yes. Not to brag, but my first year of NaNoWriMo, I finished the day before Thanksgiving. The next afternoon, after we’d eaten, I sat down and started another novel. I finished it in four days. Lest you think that a fluke, I’ve got numbers for you: 3-4 days (3), 5-7 days (6), 9-11 days (3) and 15-16 days (5). Only two of these were less than 35,000 words. Most were well over 50,000. (Okay, exactly to brag. I’m pretty proud of that)

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

There needs to be a compelling plot. Readers must feel invested in the outcome and care about how events affect the characters. There needs to be excitement, conflict and resolution. If that includes a few hot love scenes – okay! If not, also okay.

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

They are both essential. If I have great characters, but they just sit there and talk – BORING. Conversely, if they are uninteresting characters, readers won’t care what happens to them.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

This is easy to answer. When I write, I tend to see the characters as actors. Pia is Mila Kunis. Yancy is Henry Cavill and Flynn is based on a singer, Jamie N. Commons.

What is your favorite place, real or fictional? Why?

I love my imaginary city where So Much It Hurts is set. I can do anything I want with it, populate it however I see fit, and even provide its own benevolent billionaire.

Who designed your cover?

The amazingly talented Elle J. Rossi. She’s done several covers for me and I love her work.

Where can people learn more about your books?

People can visit my blog dellanioakes.wordpress.com or head over to my Tirgearr page http://tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/index.htm

All my books are available on Amazon. So Much It Hurts is available at online retailers everywhere.

So Much It Hurts is currently on sale for only .99 cents until November 8.

Pre-order your copy now!

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When Tis Done – Part 3

When Tis Done coverJordan, Chase and Marissa are in Jordan’s basement when Brian arrives. It’s evident that there is tension between Chase and Marissa. In fact, Chase manages to hurt her feelings, making her cry. She runs out and Jordan goes to calm her, leaving the boys alone.

Brian punched him. It wasn’t a light, friendly punch that they sometimes exchanged. It was a hard fisted slam, knocking Chase’s breath from his lungs. Brian grabbed his shirt front, pulling him over. Less than an inch from his face, Brian growled at his friend. It was the most terrifying noise Chase had ever heard Brian make. It was base, primal, pure fury.

“Get over yourself, Chase,” Brian rumbled, his anger barely contained. The windows rattled, the floor shook. Curios on the shelves tipped over. “This is nothing, this stupid shit you’re dealing with. I don’t talk about everything that’s going on with me, but it puts this petty, teenage crap to shame. I don’t whine about how I’m not sleeping with Jordan. I don’t complain about the fact I cause an earthquake every time I get pissed off. I have a voice activated tape deck in my bedroom that I turn on every night, so I can record myself in case I Dream. I have to listen to it every morning when I wake up, to make sure that nothing catastrophic is coming. And you whine about not getting your dick wet! Do what the rest of us do, dumb ass! Jack off a hundred times a day!”

“I know you didn’t mean to share that bit of information with me,” Heath Barrett said as he came down the stairs. He put a calming hand on Brian’s shoulder.

Brian released his friend’s shirt and leaned away from him. Chase sprang up, backing across the room to get away from his friend.

“We’ve talked about control,” Heath said quietly, his hand still on Brian’s shoulder. “You’re scaring the ladies, son.”

Shaking himself, Brian closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath. “Sorry,” he whispered.

Jordan rushed over, hopping on his lap as she hugged him. “It’s okay, Brian. I’m here.”

Her breasts were in his face as she clutched him to her. The rumbling and shaking started again. Heath pulled his daughter off Brian’s lap.

“Honey, that’s not what he needs right now. Why don’t you run up and help Mom with lunch. You too, Marissa.”

“Yes, Mr. Barrett.”

“Sure, Dad.” Jordan gave her father a kiss on the cheek. With a last glance at Brian, she followed Marissa up the stairs. Heath hopped over the back of the couch, dropping on the cushion beside Brian. Chase sat in the chair opposite them, worried frown on his face.

“Talk to me,” Heath said. “I thought we’d gotten past those temper tremors.”

“My fault, sir,” Chase said. “I was bemoaning my relationship with Marissa—again.”

Heath’s placid face turned to the other boy. “Son, we’re men. Hormones rage and we get excited just smelling a girl’s scent. Knowing we’re supposed to be together isn’t easy. I fought it for a good five years. Jackie always knew. She accepted that we’d be together and she was willing to wait for me. For men, it’s a lot harder to make that commitment and keep it. We aren’t wired the same way at all. Your sexual prime is now. You want it—a lot. Having the woman you’re destined to be with for life, telling you No, it’s not easy. Hell, it’s impossible.”

“What did you do?” Chase asked, completely serious.

“A lot of what Brian suggested.” He leaned forward, hands clasped between his knees. “Jackie and I broke up for awhile. My fault entirely. I sewed my wild oats, as it were. Now, I’m not suggesting that, because it took me a long time to get her to trust me afterward. Then again, I went about it like a horny teenager, not a grown man. Which is why I’m telling you this. If it means that much to you, Chase. If you really can’t wait for Marissa, then break it off with her—nicely—for a short time. Date someone else, get laid and see if she’ll take you back. Which, knowing Marissa, will not be easy.”

“If we don’t get married, what happens to our Circle?” Chase asked.

Heath’s head dropped. “Well, there have been provisions made for holes in the Circle.” He met Chase’s eyes. “Like when your dad passed, his sister stepped up. Now, our Circle has lost its balance. We have two women where it should be a woman and a man. So, the Circle compensates and another man has to be found to fit.”

“What if he’s already married to someone else? He can’t get divorced just to marry Aunt Cynthia!”

“Doesn’t work like that. He won’t be married. In fact, he’ll be just right for your aunt, in every way. A man she can’t resist, who can’t resist her.”

“And if I broke up with Marissa? If she put me aside because I’m a lame ass who can’t control my hormones, what happens then?”

“Then, one or the other of you leaves the Circle, finds someone else and, I hope, lives happily ever after.”

“And the other?”

“The Circle finds a new mate.”

“No choice then either?”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Red River Radio Presents What’s Write for Me with Diana and Maggie

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25 AT 4 PM EDT (3 CDT, 2 MDT, 1 PDT) on Blog Talk Radio!

Can you believe it’s almost Halloween? The stores are setting fall aside for Christmas, but here at What’s Write for Me, it’s time to talk about books. Okay, to be fair, it’s always time to talk about books, because that’s what we love. Today, Wednesday, October 25, we’re joined by two outstanding authors, Diana Y. Paul and Maggie Tideswell.

Diana Y. Paul, author of Things Unsaid is new to the show, and we’re delighted she could join us to talk about her debut novel. Welcome, Diana!

Joining us for, I believe, the third time, is Maggie Tideswell author of Dark Moon, Silent Night, Runaway Couple and more. We’re thrilled to have her back again.

Be sure to join us. You never know what’s going to happen, but you can be sure it will be fun!

CATCH US LIVE OR LISTEN TO THE RECORDING AT YOUR CONVENIENCE

When Tis Done – Part 2

When Tis Done coverThe teens are gathering in Jordan’s basement, waiting for Brian to arrive. Marrissa is already there, being her usual perky self. Jordan, on the other hand, isn’t.

“I’m a riot. It’s part of my charm.”

“Yeah, that’s how I always describe you,” Chase said as he came down the stairs behind her. “You’ll love Jordan, she’s a riot.”

Chase gave Marissa a chaste kiss on the cheek. She drew slightly away from him, not comfortable with the intimate display in front of Jordan. Face registering disappointment and disgust, he dropped on the faded couch next to Jordan.

“Chase Finley is a funny man,” Jordan replied. “I’ve always said that.”

He chuckled, tapping her lightly on the arm. “Where’s big Bri?”

“No clue. He said he’d be here half an hour ago, but hasn’t arrived yet. Not answering his phone, either.”

“You’re not worried?” Chase’s brow furrowed.

“He was watching Elise. I figure Miles and Maribelle aren’t home yet. He turns off his phone if she’s sleeping. He’ll get here.”

“Should we go looking?” Marissa hopped up, ready for action. “After everything that’s happened….”

“No worries, Mar. Brian and I have developed this…something. I know when he’s in danger or when he’s just late. It’s fine. If you see me hop up and start running, follow me.”

“Okay. If you’re sure. Chase and I don’t have that.”

Jordan nodded. She wasn’t surprised. The sense of one another hadn’t developed until they spent limitless time together, their relationship changing from friends to boyfriend and girlfriend. It hadn’t progressed to sex yet, but Jordan was determined to be eighteen before that happened. Brian didn’t like the idea, but he didn’t have much choice in the matter. They were destined to be together, he’d have to live with it.

The stairs creaked and Brian trotted down the steps, ducking at the bottom. He’d shot up again, towering over them all at six foot four. Jordan had squeaked out another half inch during the spring and summer, topping out now as a remarkable five foot three and a half. Even Chase’s younger sister, Kate, was taller than she was, and she wasn’t even twelve.

“Hey, babe,” he said, flopping on the other side of the couch. He kissed her deeply, his fingers trying to creep under the edge of her crop top.

“Hey, yourself,” she replied, grabbing his fingers and squeezing hard.

“I need those,” Brian said. “Sorry! I’m sorry! Ow! What the hell, Jordan!”

“It’s bad enough you grope me, but in front of Chase and Marissa, that’s poor taste.”

“Sorry. The crop top is tempting.” His mouth lowered to hers again.

“Other people in the room!”Marissa’s voice rose in pitch. She blushed a furious shade of red. “Goodness, Brian! Really!”

“He does it just to eat at you,” Chase said. “And me. Thanks for that, Brian. I can barely get a kiss, let alone a near fondle.”

Marissa’s blush deepened, tears springing to her eyes. “Well, Chase Dearborn Finley, I’m sorry I’m such a disappointing girlfriend! If I had any choice in the matter, I’d leave you for someone else!”

“If either of us had a choice, we’d never have started dating at all!” Chase countered. “My God, Riss. We’re supposed to get married and have kids. But I can’t even get a kiss, I can’t imagine how you’ll freeze me out when I want sex!” He held up his hand. “Oh wait, I already do. And my dick got covered with ice crystals.” He turned to Brian and Jordan. “Literally ice! She nearly gave me frostbite!”

Marissa burst into tears and ran to the laundry room nearby. Jordan got up, glaring at Chase.

“Thanks for that. Now, I have to go be sympathetic and girlie. You’re an ass, Chase. No—you’re a dick.” She stalked angrily after Marissa.

“Dude, get a fucking grip,” Brian said. “I know it’s not easy….”

“At least Jordan lets you kiss her! I get a peck on the cheek from no less than six inches away. I love her like my life—because I have to. Why did I get stuck with the religious freak?”

“She’s probably wondering why she got stuck with the horny jock. Honestly, Chase, you can be such an insensitive goob. She has no control over how she was raised. Her dad lived in denial of his powers a long time, trying to pretend that all this didn’t exist.” He waved his arms, encompassing the house and them, but meant vastly more. “None of us chose this path. It was chosen for us the second we were conceived. It’s like some kind of cosmic crap shoot.”

“You’ve been spending time with Jackie.”

“Yeah, and it’s helped my perspective a lot. You should try it. Then maybe you wouldn’t make your girlfriend burst into tears and try to freeze your dick.”

“No one else understands this relationship, Brian. I’m a football player, I’m supposed to date cheerleaders, fucking their brains out. Instead, I’m dating the class prude.”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes 

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Character Interview with Flynn Chancellor from So Much It Hurts by Dellani

SoMuchItHurtsbyDellaniOakes500

What is your story?

My Story is told in So Much It Hurts

Who are you?

My name is Flynn Amos Chancellor. Remember it, you’ll be asking for an autograph one day.

Where do you live?

I live in an amazing, old hotel downtown. I grew up in the City, but this is a hell of a lot better part of town.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I don’t think of myself as particularly heroic.

What is your problem in the story?

I’m trying not to lose myself.

How do you see yourself?

I can paint you a picture. Seriously, I’m a man who’s very secure in his artistic abilities, but who lacks confidence in his relationships.

How do your friends see you?

Slightly arrogant, talented, a little flaky – hey, I’m an artist, comes with the territory. Cocky, self-assured, and able to take a licking and keep on ticking.

How does the author see you?

She sees a talented man who has some emotional baggage. A man who’s trying hard to do the best he can.

Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

She did, it’s like she painted a picture of me with her words.

What are your achievements?

I’ve won a number of contests with my art and have now managed to land some really top drawer jobs. If I can nail them, I’ll make an indelible mark and a name for myself.

Do you talk about your achievements?

Not really. The folks who need to, know.

Do you have any special strengths?

I can paint a cityscape on a model’s back in less than five hours. I happen to be pretty damn good at body painting.

Do you have any special weaknesses?

I lack confidence in relationships. There’s a good reason for it, but doesn’t make it any easier to cope.

Do you have any skills?

I’m a kick ass painter.

Do you have money troubles?

I came up poor and I’ve worked hard all my life to make frayed ends meet. Things are better now. I’ve gotten some recognition, so the money will sort itself out.

What do you want?

I want happiness and success.

What do you need?

I need happiness and success.

Are you lucky?

Not everyone would think so. I had an abusive dad, but I survived his beatings. I grew up poor in the worst part of town, and I got out. I think that makes me awfully damn lucky.

Have you ever failed at anything?

How much time do you have?

Has anyone ever failed you?

My old man failed me and my mom. I’m not sorry he’s gone.

Do you keep your promises?

I try, but I’m shit with commitment. I try not to make them, because I know I’m going to break them.

Are you healthy?

I was pretty sick as a kid, between beatings and poor living conditions. But now, I’m insanely healthy.

What was your childhood like?

I’d rather not talk about it.

Do you like remembering your childhood?

Not at all. Well, except for the first day I saw Pappy Dominguez’ paintings in the City gallery. That was the best moment of my life.

Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?

According to my old man, the gates of hell opened and spewed out hellspawn. But he was an alcoholic drug user, what does he know?

Did you get along with your parents?

Subject change.

Have you ever had an adventure?

I’m having one now, getting to know Pia and starting my new job.

Was there ever a defining moment of your life?

The day I saw Pappy Dominguez’ painting Santa Rosada Sitting. It touched my life in a visceral way that I can’t explain. I knew right then that I wanted to be an artist.

What is your most prized possession? Why?

My most prized possessions – my art supplies, particularly my brushes. Each one represents a meal I missed, a date I didn’t go on, and hundreds of small sacrifices I made in order to pay for them.

What is your favorite scent? Why?

I love the smell of oil paints and turpentine.

What is your favorite color? Why?

It color of an unpainted canvas, because it’s alive with possibilities.

What is your favorite food? Why?

Don’t really have one. I hate rutabagas, squash and beets. And walnuts make my mouth numb.

What is your favorite beverage? Why?

Coffee – because of the endless ways to prepare it.

What is your favorite music? Why?

Rock and Roll and Blues.

What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?

I’m a hat fanatic. I have all kinds. My favorite is this battered fedora that looks like Indiana Jones wore it when he was looking for the Holy Grail. It’s beat to shit and faded, but it’s great for keeping the sun out of my eyes when I paint outside.

Name five items in your pockets.

Keys, wallet, phone…. I travel light.

If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?

I’m pathetic with food shopping. I’d probably just grab whatever caught my eye – and coffee.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?

I’m not interested in spending that much time with another dude. A willing, flexible woman with low standards and high stamina.

So Much It Hurts is currently on sale for only .99 cents until November 8.

Pre-order your copy now!

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When Tis Done – Part 1

When Tis Done coverWhen Tis Done is book 4 in the Miracle, Mississippi series. The teens are starting their senior years, each wondering what’s going to happen next. Will Deidrich return now that Opal’s been vanquished? Or will some other threat present itself?

“If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly” ~ Macbeth, Act I, scene vii

PROLOGUE

August 28, 2015

He woke in a cold sweat, panting. The shadows of the room whispered and moved around him, reaching but not touching. Shaking violently, he shivered. The walls shook in unison, the ceiling cracked, dust of plaster dropping on his twisted counterpane. He didn’t dare move until it passed, or the tremors got worse. When they stilled slightly, his hand crept to his cellphone that lay on the bedside table. Hardly shifting in the bed, he scrabbled at it, searching quickly for the number he needed. It rang a few times before a bleary voice answered.

“It’s me,” he muttered. “It won’t stop! What do I do?”

The voice on the other end spoke calmly, almost hypnotically.

“Yes. I should be there by tomorrow night.” He paused, near panic rising inside him. “I can’t get there sooner. Believe me, if I could I would be already. I can’t take a train and I don’t dare fly—not like this! Driving is hard enough!” Clutching the phone, a whimper escaped him. “Yes. I’d like that. Thank you.”

He relaxed somewhat as the voice continued. Soon, his breathing regulated and he was able to stop shaking. “I’m better now, thank you. I’ll see you all soon.”

Rising, he went to the tiny bathroom off the somewhat shabby motel room. The fluorescent light flickered crazily, making his eyes hurt. Correction, making them hurt more. He already had a migraine to end all, that hadn’t quit for over a week. Sometimes, it was worse than others. He was sucking down migraine strength Tylenol and coffee by the pot, just to keep it at bay. Sleeping didn’t help, he just woke with the same headache. Dark circles ringed his eyes and he felt his stomach lurch.

Dry heaving over the toilet was non-productive and disgusting. He hated the taste of bile in his mouth, but he’d already vomited twice, losing his lunch and his dinner. Starting the shower, he stood in the stinging hot spray until his skin turned lobster red. The water turned to ice crystals, pounding in his unprotected flesh. Roaring with frustration, he shut it off, gasping against the sudden chill in his room.

He dried off and dressed, leaving a tip and the key card on the dresser. It was dark when he left the parking lot, but the faintest light graced the far eastern horizon. He hesitated to use the GPS, because it was even more erratic than usual—not that the GPS has ever really worked for him before, but now it couldn’t even seem to remember which way was north. That wasn’t too hard for him. North was behind him, far away from everything he’d considered important. Until three days ago, when the urge to drive to Mississippi became too compelling to bear, he’d considered North home. Now, still eleven hours away, he took to the road once more, traveling by the back ways so that whatever illness plagued him, wouldn’t harm anyone else. He’d found out the hard way, going through Seattle, that his peculiar problem could be devastating in heavy traffic. He’d nearly caused a major pile up when a semi cut him off and an SUV nearly rear ended him. It was then that he got of the interstate and took the back roads. It made his trip nearly twice as long, but it was safer—for him—for everyone.

He started music playing, some hard driving blues-rock to keep his mind off the trip and what lay ahead. He turned it up, listening to Jimmy Barnes screech as Joe Bonamassa wailed on the guitar. It set his toes tapping. He set his cruise, cranked it up more, and drove with a singularity of purpose he’d never experienced before. The compulsion grew stronger with every mile he covered. He wanted to go faster, but he was already doing seventy in a fifty-five zone. It was a narrow, dark road in the middle of nowhere.

All the more reason to go faster, a voice inside him said. Feel the road. Be free.

His hands moved automatically, taking off the cruise control. His right foot pressed harder and the powerful engine roared with renewed life. He became one with the night, with the dark. The sunrise to his left went largely ignored as he flew down the road, heading toward his destiny.

* * *

“Last Friday of summer,” Jordan groaned.

“Senior year starting,” Marissa giggled, clapping her hands. “Home Coming, Prom, Senior President elections!”

“I thought we did those last year,” Jordan complained. “Please tell me we don’t have to do that again!”

“Polly Chambers moved, sugar. Her mama got scared off by the recent unpleasantness.”

Jordan rolled her eyes when Marissa made air quotes by her head.

“I take that you mean the magical tornado at the school, not the Civil War,” Jordan teased. Many of the old ladies in town still referred to the War Between the States as the recent unpleasantness, which she found amusing. A hundred and thirty years wasn’t exactly recent.

“Of course, silly!” Giggling, Marissa swatted at Jordan’s feet, which perched on the edge of the battered coffee table in the Barrett’s basement. “Sometimes, Jordan, you are just too funny!”

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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