The Red Dress #Thursday Book Feature

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Today, instead of a review of another book, I’d like to share a review of my own new book, The Red Dress, written by someone else. Former radio host Bonnie Blose interviewed me this past Sunday night about my writing and the book at a meeting of Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities, of which I’m president. Since Bonnie write such wonderful reviews for a book discussion email list to which I subscribe, I asked her to write a review that I could post here, and she did. Please note this contains spoilers. Enjoy!

Bonnie’s Review

Is there a piece of clothing which brings painful experience flooding back? Does it symbolize the power of love and heartbreak for you?

In her new novel, The Red Dress, Abbie Johnson Taylor creates this moving scenario through just such a dress created for her main character, Eve Barry, for her high school prom.

Who hasn’t dreamed of all the senior prom will be? While it may not turn out as the beginning of a romance that will last for life, it is filled with romantic dreams and expectations long cherished and planned.

For Eve Barry, the prom ends in tears and heartbreak. She discovers her date and best friend in each other’s arms, acquainting her with hurt and heartbreak she will never forget.

Twenty-five years later, Eve has moved on. A successful writer of young adult fiction, she has a happy marriage and is the mother of three. As we all do, Eve receives a notice of the upcoming class reunion, but she has no wish to attend. Her daughters have heard about that red dress. Daughter Julie is looking forward to her own prom and wants to wear it.

In a moment of hurt and anger during her first semester of college, Eve’s roommate borrows it  to attend the homecoming dance Eve has no desire to attend. With one word, the dress is gone.

Life is filled with regrets over things we have done and choices we have made. Objects of significance play an important part in our memories as this red dress certainly does for Eve. Is it possible Charlene still has the dress? Should she try to get it back for her daughter? Will seeing it again bring painful memories  back?
One day, while going through email, Eve receives a friend request on Facebook from Charlene she accepts. Soon, she  discovers Charlene has a daughter  Brenda the same age as her younger daughter Ashley. Brenda and Ashley begin exchanging messages and become fast friends.

Ashley tells her mother something is not right with her new friend Brenda. She never leaves the house, preferring to stay with her mother. When they learn Charlene has a short time to live, Ashley wants desperately to go to California to meet and support her friend.

Eve wants to go but knows she has trouble at home. Her older daughter Julie has just begun a new  relationship with the son of her former best friend Adele who betrayed her on that long ago prom night. Now seventeen, Julie is going through the rebellion and angst so often a part of adolescence. Eager to make her own decisions, she clashes with her mother over everything. Maybe it would be best if they had a little time apart!

Eve is experiencing doubts about her marriage, too. Why is Greg so distant? Will he grow close to Chad’s mother as Julie is doing with Adele’s son Chad? Will she have a similar experience with pain and heartbreak her mother had at the same age? Is it possible some trips should not be taken, or must faith be found in the opportunity to mend fences.

Eve and Ashley go to California to spend time with Charlene and her family.

In the end, we learn  Charlene’s husband and children understand the place they have in her life. It is true. Some people love themselves first and foremost and only. Can you ever be complete or happy if dreams remain  unrealize?  Most of all, is it possible for those dreams to have more importance than love? It is a question many of us might ask ourselves late at night when time for deep and reflective thinking is with us as our only  companion.

Taylor’s novel is emblematic of life. Through growth, we may know ourselves better but learn hard truths and the importance of forgiveness. Wisdom and knowledge of ourselves or others does not guarantee happiness any more than forgiveness will, but it is the first step in living which comes with  nothing promised except the opportunity to do and be our best.

 

Bonnie’s Biography

I grew up in Slatedale, Pennsylvania with two fabulous storytellers. For 15 years, I cohosted Jordan Rich’s book show nights on WBZ. From 2006 to 2013, I was the host of the show Books and Beyond on Acbradio.org.
My memoir, “The Art of Dying,” was a winner in the nonfiction category of the NFB Writers’ Division competition, eventually appearing in Magnets and Ladders. In 2019, I received first place for my story “A Heartfelt Revenge” in the NFB’s Writers Division competition fiction category.
I enjoy reading, listening to music, podcasts, and have lived in Ohio since 1982. I am proud of being owned by my cat almost. My son Kevin lives in a nearby town.

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

My Other Books

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.
Like me on Facebook.

Abandoned (Fiction)

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

As she trudged down the alley, Vanessa glimpsed what looked like a small blanket. The night was dark, and no moon lit her way. She was tempted to walk past, but a whimpering from within the blanket stopped her.

She knelt, and bit by bit, she pulled back the cover to reveal first a head, then a torso, then arms and legs. The body was naked from head to toe. Exposed to the elements, the baby cried in earnest.

“Oh my God,” she said, re-wrapping, then scooping the infant into her arms. “Where’s your mommy? Who could have just dumped you out here like this?”

In the eerie silence, she wished now she hadn’t taken this shortcut home. She’d been in a hurry. Unable to afford a baby-sitter, she’d left her two children, ages eight and ten, home alone. She’d told them to do their homework, then go to bed at nine o’clock if she wasn’t back. She’d only planned to be gone until then, but now, it was nearly ten. Her writing group meeting had run later than usual.

Feeling a sense of impending doom, she decided to retrace her steps and take the long way home. Once in the safety of her apartment, she would call the police about the baby. She hoped someone from the department of family services could pick up the child right away. She couldn’t feed another hungry mouth.

The baby continued to wail. “Shhhh,” said Vanessa, as she turned in the direction from which she’d come. A dark figure appeared ahead of her. Vanessa froze. “It’s okay. Everything’s going to be all right,” she said, more to calm herself than the baby.

A woman’s voice said, “Hey, bitch, what are you doing with my baby?”

Another figure appeared, and a second woman’s voice said, “Bobbi, this is the pick-up I told you about. They’re going to pay us a lot of money, and they’ll find her a good home, a better home than we can give her. Remember? The woman on the phone said to leave the baby in the alley behind the building, and she would pick her up. That’s her.”

“But that’s my baby. You can’t take her away. She’s my flesh and blood. Please…” She burst into tears.

Vanessa ran, leaving Bobbi to grieve and the other woman to comfort her. What sort of adoption agency required a person to abandon a baby in an alley, she wondered, as she reached the street. She remembered there was a police station on the next corner. She would leave the baby there, tell her story, and be done with it. As she ran toward the next intersection though, reassured by the distant whoosh of traffic, she heard running footsteps behind her.

The baby kept crying. As Vanessa ran, the darkened buildings and deserted street dissolved into the darkness of her squalid bedroom. The baby crying in the basinet next to the bed was her own. She reached for her daughter and held her close, wondering why she’d dreamed she had two children.

“Oh Danielle, it’s okay.” The crying ceased, as hungry lips found a full breast.

The next afternoon, as Vanessa was walking through the park with the baby in a cheap stroller she’d recently purchased at a thrift store, a woman approached her and said, “Oh, what a beautiful baby.”

Vanessa almost gasped. The voice was similar to that of the woman in her dream of the night before, the one who’d pleaded with her not to take her baby. It couldn’t be, she realized.

“I’m sorry,” the other woman said. “I didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just that… Well… I gave a baby up for adoption several years ago, so whenever I see a baby, I always feel this twinge… I mean… You’re so lucky to have this baby.”

Vanesa smiled. Then after gazing into the woman’s face that registered only compassion, she found herself saying, “Yeah, I feel lucky, and I wouldn’t give her up for anything in the world, but it’s not easy. I’m trying to make it as a writer, and I’m learning the hard way that writing isn’t always that lucrative. I need a job, but in order for me to work, I need day care for my daughter, and I can’t afford that.”

The woman gave Vanesa a knowing smile. “I understand. My parents convinced me to give up my baby for those same reasons.”

Vanessa remembered the scene from her dream, Bobbi, begging her not to take her baby, and the other woman, maybe her mother or sister, reminding her about the promised cash they would receive in exchange for the baby. Surely this woman hadn’t been forced to give her baby up in this way.

As if reading her mind, the other woman said, “It was a private adoption. My parents arranged it. What about your folks?”

“Actually, mine have been supportive so far. They love having a granddaughter, even if she is out of wedlock. They send me an allowance every month, but I can’t depend on them forever. They think I should go back to school and major in journalism or something like that, but I don’t know.”

“What do you write?”

“Oh, a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” Vanessa answered. “I’ve sent some poems and short stories to some journals, but I’ve only gotten rejections.”

“Well, I might be able to help, at least with the writing.”

She fished a card out of her purse and handed it to Vanessa, who stared in amazement at its bold black lettering. “Bobbi Douglas, Author.” As she scanned the contact information below the name, she realized the woman didn’t live too far from her run-down apartment building. She put the card in her pocket and asked, “What kind of books do you write?”

“I just self-published a fantasy novel called The Shadow of Darkness, and I’m working on another. I also do some writing for Medford Media.”

“Oh yeah, I like that rock station you guys own.”

“Well, I actually write human interest and history pieces for the talk station, AM 950.”

In the stroller, Danielle stirred and whimpered. Vanessa glanced at her daughter, then turned to Bobbi with an apologetic smile. “She doesn’t like to be still very long. She always wants to keep moving, so she can see how things change around her.”

Bobbi gave Vanessa a reassuring smile. “I understand.”

On impulse, Vanessa asked, “Would you like to hold her?”

Bobbi’s eyes lit up. “I’d like that.”

Vanessa bent, lifted the baby, and handed her to Bobbi. “I named her after Danielle Steel, one of my favorites.” Her face grew hot, as it occurred to her that Bobbi probably didn’t care for Danielle steel, an author who didn’t write fantasy novels.

The other woman surprised her by saying, “Oh, I like Daniele Steel. I often read her books for pleasure.”

Bobbi then smiled at the infant in her arms. “Oh, look at you. Aren’t you a pretty one? I’m so sorry I’ve kept your mommy talking so long. You’ll get going here in a minute, I promise.” Danielle cooed and smiled back.

“She likes you,” said Vanessa, as Bobbi placed the baby back in the stroller and turned to her.

Do you have any of your writing that you could show me?” Bobbi asked.

Flabbergasted, Vanessa said, “Um, not with me, but I could print something up at home and bring it to you. You don’t live too far away from me.”

“Actually, I was thinking I could meet you and Danielle tomorrow afternoon at Starbucks on Grant Avenue, and I could buy you a cup of coffee or something. Would four o’clock work for you?”

“Sure,” answered Vanessa. Self-conscious, she added, “I don’t really have anything that you’d call a fantasy novel, but I’ll check out your website tonight, and maybe I’ll get inspired.”

Bobbi laughed. “It doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy or not. I just want to read something you’ve written. Then maybe I can give you some direction.”

“That would be great. Thanks so much. Will see you tomorrow.”

The next afternoon, as Vanessa pushed Danielle’s stroller through the coffee shop’s entrance, she felt a sense of hope. She found Bobbi in a corner booth. After parking the stroller next to the table, Vanessa sat down across from her new friend and said, “You know, I had the craziest dream about you the other night, and so I wrote this short story about it.”

***

Note: the above story is my entry in blogger
Stevie Turner’s April short story contest. It was published last year in Magnets and Ladders and can also be read on my website.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Dream

https://abbiescorner.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/dream1.mp3iescorner.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/abbie-12.jpg”>I woke up in a hospital room. In the next bed, a friend of mine, with whom I attend water exercise classes at the YMCA, was talking, apparently, to someone visiting her. It wasn’t clear how I got here, but I had a vague recollection of being sick at home and another friend stopping by and taking me to the emergency room, where I was admitted after a battery of tests.

How had my friend gotten into my house? As sick as I was, it would probably never have occurred to me to unlock the doors so someone could get in, let alone call for help. I’d given my friend a key once so she could stay in my house while I was out of town, but she’d long since returned it to me.

Now, I felt a lot better. I didn’t seem to be attached to an intravenous drip or other equipment. Maybe I should get up, find my clothes, then call a nurse and say I was ready to go home, I thought, but as I lay there, mulling this over, I kept dozing off. I realized that I was still weak and needed rest.

It was only a dream, I realized with relief, as the brightly lit hospital room dissolved into the semi-darkness of my bedroom, and my clock radio came on, signaling that it was time to get up, but it was so real, I thought. As I pulled myself out of bed and started getting ready for my day, I remembered that my late husband Bill had a similar experience when he suffered from West Nile virus two years before we were married. He was sick at home for three days before neighbors looked in on him. He was in bad shape by then, so they called 911. To make a long story short, he was laid up for three months. Was my dream a prediction that this would happen to me?

How about you? Did you ever have a dream that felt so real that you were disappointed or relieved when you woke up? Was this dream based on something that happened to you or someone else? Do you think it’s a prediction of what could happen to you?

Now, please click below to hear me sing about a different kind of dreaming. I hope that for you, bad dreams don’t come true and good ones do.

dream.mp3

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

***

Dream Closet (Fiction)

Monique let herself into David’s apartment with the key she still had, although they broke up the week before. She patted her stomach, as a wave of doubt hit her. Yes, she was doing the right thing, she told herself. David was the father of her child, but he was too down to earth. An accountant who made a lot of money, he would probably expect her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

On the other hand, Mike was cool, a singer/songwriter with a band who hoped to reach the top of the bestseller list one day. If she married him, he wouldn’t care what she did as long as she made him happy in bed. If he recorded an album and went on tour, she could travel with him, and that would be fun for her and the baby. Now, all she needed to do was collect the picture David refused to return and leave the key, and she would be done with him.

The photo still sat on the mantle. It was taken several months earlier while David and Monique were on the beach. Monique gave her cell phone to a passing tourist who agreed to snap the shot. As a surprise for David’s birthday, she had it printed and framed.

She picked it up and studied it one last time, her in her purple bikini with long dark hair cascading in waves down her back, and him in his black swimming trunks, as they embraced on the sand. She was about to put it in her purse and replace it with the key when she was startled to hear David’s voice in the hall outside the apartment followed by a woman’s voice she thought she recognized. She set the photo back on the mantle, made a mad dash for the living room closet, and stepped inside, closing the door behind her just as the key turned in the lock on the apartment door.

Enveloped by coats in the closet’s dark interior, she heard the unmistakable voice of her best friend Lynne. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. All I wanted was to tell you the truth about Monique and the baby.”

Monique couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lynne was supportive the week before when Monique told her what she planned to do. “Oh, that’s so hard for you,” Lynne said. That was what she always said when Monique was going through tough times.

“Don’t think about that now,” said David. “Sit down. Take a load off. I’ll fix you a drink. What would you like?”

“Oh, just a Scotch and soda is fine, and don’t mind if I do take off these shoes. My feet are killing me.”

Monique heard ice clinking in glasses and other sounds that told her David was making drinks in the kitchen. “You really ought to get rid of that picture,” said Lynne.

“You mean the one on the mantle of me and Monique? I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.”

“David, she lied to you about your child. I don’t know why I’ve been friends with her for so long. All she wants to do is have a good time. She has no sense of responsibility whatsoever.”

Monique strained in an attempt to see more through the keyhole and barely made out David coming into the living room with two glasses. “You’re right,” he said, as he set them on the coffee table. “Now, come here, you silly goofball.”

“Not with her smiling down on us from your mantle,” said Lynne. Monique heard a resounding crash.

“Oh well, I didn’t like that picture, anyway,” said David.

Tears filled Monique’s eyes, as she heard the sound of the frame’s pieces being swept into a dust pan. “How about some music?” he said a minute later.

“Great idea,” said Lynne.

The strains of “Only Time” by Enya soon filled the room. It was playing on the stereo the night David proposed to Monique a month earlier. David knew that and so did Lynne. She couldn’t see them through the keyhole and assumed they were snuggled on the couch with their drinks.

“So how did such a sensible woman like you end up being friends with a worldly girl like Monique?” asked David.

“I’m not that unworldly,” said Lynne with a laugh. “I like to go to clubs once in a while. Remember? Monique introduced us at The Jaybird where Mike Evans and his band were playing.”

“That’s right,” said David with a chuckle. “What was I thinking?”

“Monique and I have been friends since childhood. She’s changed over the years, and I didn’t see that until last week when she told me she wanted to marry Mike even though you’re her baby’s father. She says you’re too conservative, and Mike’s in the moment. I guess I can’t blame her. She had a rough childhood. Her dad left without a word when she was about five or six, and her mother’s an alcoholic.”

“Monique told me all that. You’d think she would want her kid to have a more stable family. What kind of life is this kid going to have with neither parent holding a steady job, waiting for that big recording contract that might never come?”

“I don’t know,” said Lynne with a sigh.

“Well, I’m not about to stand by and let that happen, especially if the kid is mine. I have an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I can do legally, but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”

Monique gasped, then clamped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t been heard. ”There should be a way you can force her to have a blood test to determine if the baby is yours,” said Lynne. “Who knows? It could be Mike’s. Perish the thought.”

“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said David. “Dance with me.”

The couple came into view through the keyhole. Monique gazed in fascination, as their bodies swayed to the music. Lynne said, “Oh David, I’ve always loved you since the night Monique introduced us. I didn’t want to steal you away from her until now.”

“I love you, too, but I’m probably on the rebound from Monique.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Ummmm!” Monique felt sick, as she heard David and Lynne kissing just inches from the closet door.

“Good morning,” said the radio announcer. “It’s thirty-one minutes after six on a sunny Monday, fifty-five degrees, looking for a high near eighty.”

Monique leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where she hung over the toilet and let it all out. “Damn this morning sickness.”

David was there, placing a cool hand on her forehead. “Hey babe, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she said, leaning into him, feeling the reassuring warmth of his body and pressing her face against his. “I wish we didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You have a good reason to stay home,” he said, kissing her. “and I don’t have anything at the office that can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“You mean that?”

“Sure,” said David. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”

***

The above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems