The Red Dress #Book Excerpt #Tuesday Tidbit

Prologue

October 1987, Boulder, Colorado

 

“Oh, Eve, don’t tell me you’re going to work on that creative writing assignment now instead of going to the homecoming dance.”

In her dorm room at the University of Colorado, Eve Barry was staring at the blank piece of paper in her typewriter, waiting for her poised fingers to produce something. She sighed and ran her fingers through her long, black hair as she turned to her roommate, Charlene Tucker, who was fresh from the shower, clad only in a black terry-cloth robe, her dark, wet curls plastered to her head.

“I’m really not interested in going to the dance, and this assignment’s due Monday. I went to the game this afternoon.”

“Yeah, wasn’t that awesome? We creamed the Wyoming Cowboys.”

“Wait a minute! You’re from Wyoming.”

“Yeah, but I’m in Colorado, now, and we have something to celebrate. You really should come to the dance. I know you don’t have a date, but I’m sure Alex wouldn’t mind if you came with us.”

“I really should work on this tonight, so I’m not cramming to get it done tomorrow on top of my other assignments, especially since I have writer’s block. With just about everybody at the dance, I shouldn’t have any distractions, and maybe something will come to me.”

Charlene rolled her eyes and moved to her side of the room, where she switched on her bedside radio, tuned to a soft rock station.

“What was the assignment again?” she asked as she removed her bathrobe and began applying lotion.

“I’m supposed to write about a memorable piece of clothing.”

“That’s easy. Write about the dress you wore your first day of kindergarten, when you threw up all over the nun who hit you with a ruler for being late.”

Eve almost laughed. “That’s not my story. You’re the one who went to a parochial school.”

“So? It’s still a story. Your professor will never know the difference.”

Eve sighed again. She wasn’t surprised by her roommate’s attitude. Charlene didn’t understand or appreciate literature the way she did.

Eve watched Charlene finish applying lotion, dry her hair, and put on her undergarments, then rifle through her closet for something to wear. All the while, Charlene prattled on about Alex Smith, the boy who would accompany her to the dance, the captain of the football team-about how handsome he was in his uniform, how he could throw a ball and run. She realized why Charlene was suddenly loyal to the University of Colorado team and felt like throwing up.

Finally, Charlene said, “Ugh! There’s nothing good here. If you’re not gonna go to the dance, could I borrow something from your closet?”

“Sure.”

Eve was anxious for Charlene to leave. She turned back to her desk.

Hangers in her closet scraped against the metal bar as articles of clothing were shoved aside.

“Oh, look at this!” said Charlene.

Eve turned and could only stare at the bright red dress she’d almost forgotten.

Charlene held the garment at arm’s length, admiring the three-quarter-length sleeves, low neckline, and gathered waist. “Oh, my God! This is beautiful! Where did you get it, and why do you keep it way off to one side in your closet?”

Eve then heard on the radio the mellow strains of “Lady in Red,” the song she’d pushed to the back of her mind and hoped never to hear again.

Charlene laid the dress on Eve’s bed and hurried to her side. Kneeling and taking her hand, she said, “Hey, what is it?”

Eve could hold back no longer. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “I wore that dress, and we danced to that song.”

“Oh, God,” said Charlene, leaping to her feet. She hurried to her side of the room and turned off the radio, then returned.

The next thing Eve knew, she was crying on Charlene’s shoulder as her roommate knelt on the floor next to her chair and held her. The incident had occurred several months earlier, but the wound was still fresh. Finally, when no more tears would come, Eve sat up and blew her nose.

“There’s your story,” said Charlene. “But maybe you’d better tell me first.”

Eve found herself blurting it all out.

“Mom made that dress for my senior prom. I had a date with Trent Boyer, the cutest boy in school. He was the captain of the football team, and I loved watching him play.”

“Wow, just like Alex.”

“Yeah. Well, at the prom, we danced to that song, and I felt like I truly loved him, and I thought he loved me. Afterwards, he said he had to use the restroom. Other boys asked me to dance, and I got to talking with my friends, and when I looked around the gym later, I couldn’t find him. I asked my friends if they’d seen him, and they just shook their heads.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Like I said, I thought he loved me. I didn’t think he’d leave me. I decided to go out to the parking lot to see if his car was still there. He’d dropped me off at the entrance, so I didn’t know where he’d parked. It took me a while to find his car, but I did, in a dark corner up against the fence by the football field. I looked in the window and saw two figures in the back seat.”

“Oh, my God.”

“I thought I was imagining things. I was on the driver’s side, so I opened that door, and of course the light came on, and there they were, Trent and my best friend, Adele Matthews. Or at least I thought she was my best friend.”

Eve paused to fight back more tears, and Charlene asked, “Were they actually having sex, or were they just necking?”

“They were totally naked. Of course they stopped when I opened the door, and they both looked at me like I was from another planet or something. I said a few choice words I’d learned from my dad, then slammed the door and ran back into the building.”

“Good for you.”

“I went to the restroom and cried my eyes out. Fortunately, no one was there. Then I washed my face and put on more makeup so I wouldn’t look as if I’d been crying. I went to the pay phone in the hall near the main office and called home. Mom answered, and she could tell something was wrong, so she came and picked me up.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t want to go back to school after that.”

“I didn’t, but Mom and Dad said it wouldn’t do any good to hide from my problems. I had to face them head on.”

“What did you do when you saw Trent and Adele at school?”

“I didn’t speak to them, and they never spoke to me. Other kids knew, I think, but nobody said anything to me about it. Boy, was I glad a few weeks later, when graduation came.”

“I’ll bet. Have you heard from Adele or Trent since then?”

“No. Adele was planning to come here with me and major in drama, like you, but I heard that Trent got her pregnant, and they ran off to Las Vegas to get married.”

“So why did you bring that dress with you?”

“Mom insisted I take it in case there was something formal here.”

“Like the homecoming dance.”

“I’m not going to the dance. You can borrow the dress if you want.”

“You know, I can see why you put this dress off to one side. It’s only hurting you now. Let me take it off your hands. You don’t need it anymore.”

“But my mother made it. Of course I wanted a store-bought dress, but she wanted to save money and make me one. She worked long days at her job as director of the public library. There were only two weeks left until the prom when I told her I wanted a new dress, so she stayed up nights and scrambled to get it done.”

“Oh, you poor, homesick baby. Now you miss your mommy, who made this beautiful dress for you. Are you gonna cry now? Go ahead, crybaby. Cry.”

Eve was stunned but shouldn’t have been surprised. Her roommate cared little about others’ feelings. Her sympathy and curiosity were only a ploy, and she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

“Fine, take the damn dress. I don’t care,” Eve said before turning away in disgust.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Charlene slip the garment over her head. She had to admit it looked good on her.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Charlene opened it, and a tall young man with dark hair and blue eyes stood on the threshold.

“Hi, Alex,” said Charlene. “I just need to grab my cigarettes, and we can go. Come in and meet my roommate.”

“You’re not coming to the dance?” Alex asked after they were introduced.

“No,” Charlene answered. “Eve’s going to stay here and write the great American novel. Or something like that.”

“Wow,” said Alex with a smirk. “Good luck. I can’t wait to read it. Let’s go, babe.”

After they left, Eve sighed, turned to her typewriter, placed her fingers on the keys, and started writing

***

The above excerpt from The Red Dress appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online publication featuring work by disabled authors like me. If you like what you just read, check out more here. This excerpt can also be read on my website.

By the way, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are now available on Smashwords as part of its sale to support those isolated by the coronavirus. This sale will run until the end of May. Please click here to visit my Smashwords author page and download these books. As always, thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

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.

***

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game #Excerpt #Book Promotion

Baseball season would have opened last week, but because of the coronavirus, who knows when that will happen? If my husband Bill were still alive, he would not be happy at the prospect of not listening to a game with his beloved Colorado Rockies on the radio.

In my latest book, The Red Dress, my main character Eve’s thirteen-year-old son Thomas, like Bill, is a Colorado Rockies fan. During this period of social isolation, he may have been ecstatic about not having to go to school, but he would no doubt be down in the dumps with no Colorado Rockies games for him to watch on television or attend with his father. The following excerpt demonstrates his devotion to this baseball team.

***

“Wow, two tickets to the Rockies game tonight!” Thomas said almost a week later.

On Monday morning, they were all gathered at the breakfast table, where he had been opening his birthday gifts.

Wearing a broad grin, he waved the tickets high. “Wait till Andy sees these. I’m the luckiest kid on the block!” Andy, who lived across the street, was Thomas’s best friend.

Greg, sitting next to Thomas, looked dazed. “Amazing, honey. How did you manage that? I heard that game was sold out weeks ago.”

“It was almost sold out,” answered Eve. “I got the last two tickets. They’re not the best in the house.”

“Let’s see them,” said Greg. Thomas handed them over, and Greg glanced at them and said, “These aren’t bad.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Thomas. “I’m going to another Rockies game! Mom, you’re the greatest!”

He leaped out of his chair and ran around to his mother’s side of the table to hug her. He then turned back to his father. “When should we leave, Dad?”

Greg consulted the tickets. “The game starts at 6:30, so we should leave here by 4:00. We’ll hit the freeway just at rush hour, so it’ll take us a while to get there.”

“I don’t want to miss the first pitch,” said Thomas, casting an anxious glance in his father’s direction.

“Don’t worry,” said Greg. “We won’t.”

***

Will Thomas and his father make it to the game on time? Will the Rockies win? Read the book, and find out.

By the way, for the next month, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are available on Smashwords as part of its sale to support those isolated as a result of the coronavirus situation. Please click here to visit my Smashwords author page and download these books. Thank you for stopping by.

 

New! The Red Dress

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.

***

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Website Updates

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.I’ve updated the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry sample pages on my website. I’ve already posted these pieces here, but if you missed them or want to read them again, you can check them out at the above links. Enjoy!

 

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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

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Review: Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone

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Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers

Edited by Lori Howe

Copyright 2016

 

This is a collection of stories, poems, and essays that touch mostly on aspects of western life. Some pieces talk about nature and dealing with the elements, such as Patricia Frolander’s poem, “Wyoming 1949,” in which she describes cutting open a dead horse and crawling inside to stay warm while in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm. Then there’s Aaron Holst’s poem, “Fire and Water,” inspired by one of the author’s firefighting experiences, that depicts an incident that can happen anywhere, not just in the west.

Other works discuss wildlife, such as Susan Marsh’s essay, “A Heart in the Shape of a Bear,” about the plight of this creature in the wild and in civilization. Still others deal with history and culture, like Cindy Jackelen’s poem, “Whose Land,” which depicts the brutality of the Indian War through several voices.

Not all pieces are set in Wyoming. There’s Patti Sherlock’s short story, “Mother George, Midwife,” a fictionalized account of a Negro midwife in Idaho during the 19th century who turned out to be a man disguised as a woman. Julianne Couch’s short story, “Reintroduction,” is set in the Nebraska wilderness. Then there’s Alyson Hagy’s short story, “The Saddlemaker,” in which a young girl from South Dakota is sent to live with her grandparents near Riverton, Wyoming, before her mother’s shady past catches up with her.

I’d love to tell you about each poem, story, and essay in this book, but there are so many of them. Like most anthologies, Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone can be read either cover to cover or in bits and pieces, depending on what strikes your fancy. Poems, essays, and short stories are bunched together, each in their own section.

That’s one thing I don’t like. In many anthologies and literary journals, stories, poems, and essays are together, not each in their own section. You might see a poem sandwiched between two short stories or two essays or one short story and an essay. For example, in Magnets and Ladders, an online journal I help edit, poems, stories, and essays are grouped into sections by topic. It creates less monotony that way.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading many of the works in Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone. I know some of the writers whose works appear in this anthology, and it’s always fun to read what they have to say. Even if you don’t live in Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, or Idaho, this book will give you great insights on western life.

 

***

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

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Waves (Fiction)

“Why are we doing this?” I asked, as the van pulled into a parking space next to the beach.

“Honey, it’s your birthday,” said Mom, turning in the front passenger seat to face me. “You always loved going to the beach.”

“Yeah, when I could walk,” I said, tapping the side of my wheelchair for emphasis.

“Anna, all you’ve done since you got home from rehab is feel sorry for yourself. It’s time you got some fresh air. I made all your favorite foods: fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob. I even baked your favorite kind of cake, chocolate.”

“Mom, you just don’t get it. My legs don’t work anymore. I can’t surf, walk in the water. I can’t even sit on the sand and build castles like I did when I was a kid, let alone go back to college. I can’t do any of it.”

“Listen Anna,” said Dad in his no nonsense voice, as he turned off the ignition. “Your mother went to a lot of trouble here so the least you can do is show some gratitude.”

He was right of course, but I still couldn’t get out of the funk I was in for the past six months since I woke up in the hospital and realized I would probably never walk again after the car crash. I fought to keep from crying, as Dad opened his door and climbed out of the van. “You all stay here a minute,” he said. “I’ll run and find us a spot.”

“I’ll start getting stuff out of the trunk,” said Mom, climbing out on her side.

“Let’s get you out of here, Sis,” said my brother Will, flipping the switches to open the doors and unfold the ramp.

With a sigh of resignation, I unfastened the seat belt as both my younger twin brothers Will and Tim worked together to undo the tie-down that held my chair in place and maneuver me onto the ramp. “Okay, here we go,” said Tim, standing behind me.

I grasped the chair’s armrests, as we descended to the parking lot in the California June sun. “I hate this stupid thing,” I said. “I know. I know I should have thought of that before texting Monica last Christmas Eve while driving to the market for those eggs so Mom could make her world famous eggnog. If I hadn’t been asking Monica what she wanted me to bring to her New Year’s Eve party, I wouldn’t have hit that stupid truck, and Bonnie wouldn’t have gone flying through the windshield.”

“Hey, quit beating yourself up,” said Tim, patting me on the shoulder.

“Yeah, look at it this way,” said Will who’d jumped off the lift ahead of us and was standing on the ground. “The truck only sustained minor damage while Dad’s car was totaled, and the driver, unlike Miss Bonnie, was wearing a seat belt, and since the air bag worked, he was hardly hurt at all.”

“Yeah, but Bonnie’s gone, and I can’t walk, and how could I have been so stupid?”

“Anna, knock it off,” said Tim. “You’re not doing yourself any good.”

Of course he was right. Why did men always have to be right? I stared ahead of me at all the people sunning themselves on the uneven sand. “Oh God,” I said. “even if Dad finds a place, how will I get there? This is a wheelchair, not a dune buggy.”

“No problem,” said Tim. “I’ll carry you.”

“What?” I asked, as I turned to stare at my brother. He was a few years younger but a head taller. Since he played football in high school and lifted weights, his arms were strong, but I still wasn’t sure.

“Don’t worry, Sis,” he said. “I’ve picked up a lot of girls and haven’t lost one yet.”

Will guffawed. “Knock it off, Will,” said Tim.

“Both you boys stop,” said Mom, coming around from behind the van with the cooler. “Here comes your father.”

“I’ll take that,” said Dad, as he approached her. “I found us a spot a ways down. Tim, you get your sister. Will, you grab her chair, and I’ll help your mom with the food. Once you boys get Anna settled, you can come back for your boards.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was bad enough I couldn’t walk on the beach, let alone surf, but now, I had to sit there and watch them surf. They may as well have rubbed salt on an open wound. It was all I could do to keep from crying, as Tim flung me over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried me through the crowd.

We reached our spot, and miracle of miracles, Will found a flat place to set the wheelchair. “We’ll be back in a few minutes,” said Tim after positioning me. Mom was spreading a blanket on the sand, and Dad was unloading the cooler.

A woman with a dog approached, and I took in a breath when I realized the pooch, a Golden Retriever, looked just like Bonnie. Was I imagining things? “Oh how cute,” said Mom. “She looks just like our dog.”

Apparently, I wasn’t. The dog came up to me, and without thinking, I reached down and stroked the soft head and scratched behind the silky ears. The woman smiled. “You must be Anna Martin.”

I stared at her. How could she possibly know who I was? “Yeah,” I said, not knowing what to think.

“I’m Judy Fridono, and this is Ricochet,” she said, patting the dog. “You might have heard of us.”

I shook my head. “Ricochet is a surfing dog. She likes to surf with people like you.”

“People like me?” Then I remembered. “Oh, I saw something on Facebook a while back about a dog who surfs with disabled people, but I thought she just surfed with kids.”

“No, Ricochet surfs with people of all ages. She’ll surf with you today if you’re up to it.”

It was then I noticed the two guys behind her, lugging a surf board. I couldn’t believe it. How could I possibly surf? My legs didn’t work at all so how could I even climb on the board? With only my arms, what would I do if I wiped out?

In answer to my unspoken questions, she said, “These guys will help you. They’ll get you on the board with Ricochet, take you out into deep water where you can catch the waves, and let you go. They’ll be there if you wipe out.”

“Happy birthday,” said Dad, opening a bottle of beer. He and Mom were both grinning. I looked at them and then at the woman and dog.

“Oh honey, this will be so much fun,” said Mom, rushing to my side. “Here, let’s get your shirt off.”

I now knew why she insisted I wear what I would have normally worn to the beach: my swimming suit with a long t-shirt over it and flip flops. Stunned, I lifted my arms while Mom helped me out of the shirt. Dad knelt and removed my thongs while Mom slathered me with sunscreen. Then, one of the guys put a life jacket on me, much to my relief. At least I’d be able to stay afloat if I wiped out. “You ready?” asked the woman.

“Sure, why not,” I said.

The next thing I knew, I was being lifted onto the board face down with Ricochet in front of me. I reached out and stroked her neck, and she licked my face and wagged her tail. “You set?” one of the guys asked.

“Yeah, let’s do this,” I said, feeling more confident, as we moved into the water. Before I knew it, we were past the shallows, and one of the guys said, “Okay, you’re flying solo, but your brothers are coming, and we’ll be right here.”

Hugging Ricochet, I found myself soaring to heights where I thought I’d never go again. It was as if the accident never happened. For the first time in six months, I felt the exhilaration of the waves, as they rolled over us, and we rode them with ease.

“Hey Anna, isn’t this fun?” I turned to see Tim at my left side on his board, smiling. I grinned back at him.

“Anna, look over here and smile.” It was Will on his board, balancing his camera.

“You’re gonna get that thing wet,” I said.

“So what? This is the underwater camera I got for Christmas, remember?”

Christmas, there it was, but for once, I didn’t feel angry or depressed. Another wave came, and we were airborne once more.

When the water became calm, I stroked the dog’s back. We were both soaked, but that didn’t matter. ”Oh Ricochet!” I said, kissing her forehead. “Maybe life doesn’t suck after all.”

***

Note: Ricochet actually exists. To watch a video of this dog surfing with two terminally ill teen-agers, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yksy4M6HRxQ . You can learn more about Ricochet by reading my review of Judy Fridono’s memoir at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/riding-waves-with-a-dog/ .

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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