Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat


Previously: SarahJane arrived back at the Date My Son! for her meeting with Austin and Linda to ask why they let her go and get some closure. She was greeted by Austin, Linda and a cameraman.

Chapter Fifty-Three


Linda’s face lit up. “SarahJane! I’m so pleased to see you.”

Confusion made me stutter. “Y-you, too.” At least I hoped it was confusion and not Austin’s eyes, grin, and dimpled chin. “I – I –what’s going on?”

“You said you wanted to come back.” Liam had his ever-present tablet computer and he barely glanced up from looking at his Facebook page or Google+ or whatever else he was doing.

“I said I wanted to talk to Linda and Austin. I didn’t say I wanted to be back on the show.”

“Oh. My bad.” Liam finally met my gaze. He sighed and propped the iPad on his waist. “Look—”

“Can we all go inside?” Linda motioned and waved us from the foyer into the living room.

The cameraman walked backwards, the red light on his camera steady and unblinking.

I straightened my shoulders. One thing I learned on this show was that posture was exaggerated on screen. I had to stand straight to have a chance at appearing calm.

Once we’d filed inside, Linda perched on the edge of the plush couch “So, SarahJane, what did you want to talk to us about?”

I cleared my throat and threw a glance at Liam who ignored me. Or at least didn’t meet my gaze. “I wanted—no, I want to know what happened. I thought you liked me and the next thing I know I’m ushered out the door. I feel like I need—no, I do need to know why, I need closure.” I’m not sure I had articulated all that to myself before that moment, but the need to know infused me.

Linda sighed and flashed me a smile. “That’s why, SarahJane. We do like you.”

I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and tried to understand. “I don’t get it.”

“Look, sweetie.” She leaned forward and folded her hands on her knees. “This show isn’t about Austin falling in love. It’s about a whole bunch of other things, the opportunities this kind of exposure buys. We liked you too much, and it’s apparent you’re a sweet young woman who would get eaten alive in this business. We cut you to save you from this.”

Tears welled but I fought for a clear voice. I would not let them see me cry about being kicked off a reality television show. I’d rather chew off my arm and toss it to a gator. “So you’re saying I don’t have what it takes.”

Linda shook her head but before she could speak, Austin laid a hand on her shoulder. “What Mom’s saying is that we could tell you’re a good Christian girl from the middle of the state. You’re the epitome of ‘you can the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.’”

Now my outrage colored my voice and dried up the tears. “So I’m a hick?!?” I stood. “Are you freaking kidding me? Liam recruited me—” His head finally surfaced above his iPad but I held up a hand—“You did, you know you did.” The fierceness in my voice must have convinced him not to protest and I turned back to Linda and Austin. “Liam recruited me because I’m ‘country’ and ‘sweet’ and all those other things you got rid of me for.”

Linda stood too. “We’re not saying it’s fair or even right, but you wanted to know why. That’s why.”

I whirled and marched to the door.

“SarahJane! Wait a minute,” Austin called after me. “I have something to say.”

I made it to the door before he grabbed my elbow.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Avoi-dance!

I needed to work yesterday after a busy (and wonderful) long weekend away. I dutifully sat down at the computer.

I opened my document. But then remembered I hadn’t yet sorted the accumulated email.

I responded to the urgent.

Decided to do a little research for my USMarshal WitSec story and follow up on a name and some info I just learned.

In the course of surfing the web, it became apparent I needed to get on Facebook.

“Don’t do it,” I told myself. “You’ll get sucked in and the day will be half over.”

“That’s silly,” Myself told I. “I can get on, look for what I need and get off. It’s easy. Here, watch.”

Click. Click … “ooh, I haven’t heard from her in weeks, I better see what the message says…”

Yep, thirty minutes later I forced myself to log off. Now myself is angry at me for not listening to I.

I got off Facebook and faced my document again.

A stack of pictures on my desk caught my eye. I’ve been meaning to scan them and share them with friends and family. Some of them date back to the 1980s and I know everyone is dying to see their younger selves.

What’s not to love?

Anyway … eventually I had to admit it. I c.1986001was doing the avoidance dance.

Why is it so hard to get to work?

Part of it is the fact that I’m a freelancer. I don’t have an employer who expects forty hours a week at the keyboard from me.

On the other hand, I’ve broken myself of all computer games. Though to be honest, Facebook has filled in that gap.

Okay, one more picture to scan and then I’m getting to work. Really.

Book Talk Tuesday: Broken Harbor

Wow. This is how a mystery is supposed to be written.

Tana French’s novel, Broken Harbor, is suspenseful, gripping, and beautifully written. Her words flow, creating word pictures that resonate. The story’s not bad either.

Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is the ace detective on Dublin’s murder squad. He’s back to work after bungling a case and is ready to prove himself up to the task again.

Broken Harbor US

He partners with novice Richie Curran and the pair head outside of Dublin to Brianstown. Mick spent his childhood and teen vacations there when it was called Broken Harbor. The town has changed but Mick’s memories of his last summer there pierce him and his sister.

A new subdivision of “luxury” homes has been half built then abandoned. A family of four is found in their home. The two children have been smothered and their parents stabbed. The father is dead and the mother clings to life.

As Mick and Richie dig into the family’s life, they discover more about the case, themselves, and each other, than they could ever foresee.

French does a great job doling out the story. Just when I thought I had all the puzzle pieces, a new fact would emerge that fit into the bigger picture.

The characters are believable and real. Even the less-than-likeable ones. The ending is emotionally satisfying.

They say a good ending doesn’t sell your book, it sells your next book. I agree. The next Tana French book that I come across I will definitely pick up.

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

The Bandbox Hat

Previously: SarahJane decided she needed closure from Linda and Austin at Date My Son! so she called Liam and he told her to come back to the house at 4:00 that afternoon.

Chapter Fifty-Two

I managed to exhaust April. We went to the zoo, the Gene Autry Western Museum, and railroad park, and did some shopping at the mall.

She loved it all and nodded off in the back seat as I drove us back to my apartment. I had an hour to get ready and drive across town to the Date My Son house.

I’d called Rachael and she readily agreed to come watch a movie with April while I was gone.

April was rubbing her eyes and I slipped on my strappy heels when I heard the knock.

“April, let in Aunt Rachael please,” I called.

She sighed but staggered to her feet to do it.

“Wow, you said you had something to do, you didn’t say it was a hot date!” Rachael surveyed me from the door.

“It’s not.” I must have grimaced because her brow furrowed.

“What’s going on? Anything I can do?”

“You’re doing it by staying with April. I just have to go settle a few things. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours.”

I dropped a kiss on April’s forehead and squeezed my sister’s elbow as I passed them.

“Are you really my aunt?” April asked as I clicked the door shut behind me. Little did April know that not only was Rachael was her aunt, but she had a cousin back home that she knew as an older kid at school. As glad as I was to have my sister back in my life, there were some issues we still had to discuss. Like did she ever plan to come back to Rosedale? Be a part of her son’s life?

Those questions would have to wait. Now, I had an appointment to see a man about some answers of a different kind.

Traffic flowed nicely for mid-afternoon and it was ten minutes to four when I pulled up to the security gate.

“Hey, George.”

His face creased into a grin. “Hey there yourself, SarahJane. What are you doing here?”

I sighed. “It’s a long story. Did Liam put me on the list or do I need to call him?”

George perused the iPad in his beefy grip then his grin faded. “You’re on here all right. You sure about this?”

My head cocked. “Very sure. Why?”

He shrugged. “I just didn’t figure you for the type–never mind, it’s none of my beeswax. Go on up to the house.”

“Thanks, George. How’s your puppy’s training going? Is he still stealing kitchen towels.”

Instead of chatting like we used to do, George shrugged again and pushed a button. The wrought iron gate swung open.

That was weird. And unlike George not to want to talk about his little Rottweiler pup. He could jabber about that dog all day long. Oh well. Maybe he was having a hard day. The show was winding up. He could be preoccupied about his next job or … or anything, really.

At the top of the hill, an intern motioned me where to park then fell into step next to me.

“It’s good to see you again, SarahJane,” she said.

“Thanks–” I wracked my brain for a name and came up with it just a hair too late to make it seem like I hadn’t forgotten her “–Jaime.”

She tossed her blonde hair over one shoulder. “I couldn’t believe it when Liam said you were coming back.”

“Really? Why?”

“Well, I mean–it’s done all the time sure, but I didn’t think you would be–”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?” I asked. We turned from the driveway and made our way down the front walkway. Scents of lavender and cool earth tickled the air and I inhaled deeply.

“I guess, you just seemed more like the kind to get on with your life, not to wallow in–”

“I’m not wallowing in anything. I just want some closure.”

“Wait–what?” She tripped and did a quick step to regain her pace.

“I’m here to talk to Linda and Austin and ask why they strung me along only to dump me without a warning.”

“Oh SarahJane. I had no idea. Liam thought–”

We climbed the last step onto the porch and the door swung open. Liam stood in the opening.

With Austin behind him.

Then Linda behind her son.

And a cameraman behind her.

What did I get myself into?

Woe! It’s Wednesday: It’s All Good

I had the kind of day yesterday where everything had to happen on time and go smoothly. I had no time for traffic detours, spilled coffee, or a broken fingernail. list1

I prayed about it and everything went well. I thanked God.

Everything was good.

Then my pesky conscience started in on me.

What if things hadn’t gone smoothly? Would I take that as God not listening to me?

After some reflection, I decided it would have been fine if I’d gotten stuck in a traffic jam. Because whether my life flows the way I think it should or not, I still trust that God’s in control and He’s got my best interests at heart. It may be that I needed to rely on Him and not myself so He’d be sure and get my attention.

No sooner did I come to that realization then guess what? Yep. I had to wait 20 minutes at one appointment. I was still early for my next appointment at the doctor’s office. But I had to wait almost two hours to be seen.

Normally I would have been irritated beyond reason, or would have left after an hour. But I needed to get this appointment done. And I had a book. And everything else had gone so smoothly, I could afford to take a couple hours to read.

A side benefit of waiting so long was that my blood pressure was below normal. I have white coat syndrome my bp is always high in the office. Not after two hours of reading yesterday!

I’m grateful I serve a God who always has my best interests at heart, whether that means things go according to my plan or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: Mockingjay

I finally finished the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

It’s gripping and intense and fast paced. I had to put it down every few pages for a bit because I couldn’t take the intensity. I won’t give any spoilers in case you’re one of the few people who haven’t read it yet.

I know many were concerned about who Katniss would end up with, Gale or Peeta. I couldn’t see how Collins was going to settle that without someone important dying.

I was right. Someone important died, but it wasn’t any of the ones I thought it would be. And that death forced Katniss to acknowledge what her heart knew but couldn’t accept.

I think this series should be read by teens 15 and above. It gives a really clear picture of what could be our country’s future, if we continue on the path we’re on. We look to government to take care of us. The day will come when the government will assert that it knows what’s best for us and we will agree until we too are oppressed by a totalitarian and evil and corrupt government.

Highly recommended!

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: April, Rachael, and SarahJane talked. SarahJane realized she needed some answers and closure about her experience with Date My Son! and decided to contact the show and request to meet with Austin and Linda.

Chapter Fifty-One

April’s eyelashes had barely lifted the next morning before she asked for the rollkuchen. Until we sat at the table to eat, my mind kept wandering back to my decision last night to call Liam and get some closure with Austin and Linda.

“Can we go to the zoo today, Auntie SJ?” April smacked her lips and powdered sugar went flying across her plate.

“I suppose. I just have to make a phone call.” I refilled my coffee mug and sipped the hot brew.

“What time does the zoo open? Can you call now? Can I watch The Barefoot Contessa?”

“Not for another couple of hours. Yes, in a minute. The television cooking show or the movie?”

“The show. I’m an Ina Garten fan.”

April’s earnest expression provoked a chuckle from me. “Are you now?”

She nodded. “My lets me cook dinner one night a week and I always make a Barefoot Contessa recipe.”

“Okay, if you can find Ina, you can watch her.”

April skipped to the couch and flipped on the television. After just a minute of searching, sure enough, she found Ina plucking basil from her herb garden.

So … time to make my phone call. I’d been so sure last night, but now …

“Oh, buck up buttercup,” I muttered. “Make the call.” I scrolled to Liam’s number and pressed Call.

He probably was busy and couldn’t answer. Or—even more likely—he’d see my name on his incoming call screen and would decline. I might get his voice mai—

“Hello? SarahJane?”

Oh. He didn’t send me to voice mail at all. I was talking to the real live Liam.

“Hey, Liam. It’s SarahJane.” What an idiot, he knows who’s calling. “I mean—”

“Drop that right now!”

“Uhhh … pardon me?”

“Sorry, SarahJane, I was talking to the stage manager’s assistant. She insists on changing the throw pillows around in the living room and I want them left there!” His voice raised to a shout.

“Is this a bad time?”

“No, it’s perfect. What can I do for you?”

Deep breath in. Count to three. Exhale. Spit it out. “I want to talk to Austin and Linda and get an answer about why they sent me home.”

He was silent.


“Oh, sorry. I was watching the pillows. Yeah, sure, come back to the house at … about four o’clock?”

Disbelief wriggled up my spine. “Really? I expected a fuss.”

“Nah, it’s fine. Happens all the time. We decide ahead of time who we’ll let—I said leave the tweeds and plushes where I had them! Listen SarahJane, I’ve got to go. See you at four.”

He hung up to attend to his pillow crisis before I could thank him or ask what he meant about what happens all the time and deciding who they’ll let do something. Apparently the same something that I wanted to do: go and get some closure, hopefully with a few answers.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: The Sweet Bye and Bye

Over the last few years I’ve made it a habit to memorialize the friends and family I’ve lost.

Donna was an extended family member, married to a second cousin or first cousin once removed, something like that. I attended her wedding. We attended a few funerals together. I doubt if we exchanged a dozen words. The occasions we were together were big gatherings where it was impossible to talk to everyone.  sunset

But she was dearly loved by people I dearly love. I can only imagine the depth of their pain and grief at her loss. She leaves behind a husband and three young children.

Corinne wasn’t a family member, but she was something maybe even better- she loved us just because. She was a friend and neighbor from our years in Southern California. We lived two doors down from Corinne and her husband Larry. They were dear people who loved on our girls like grandparents. Their actual grandparents lived several hundred miles away but Corinne and Larry could be counted on to cheer for the girls’ accomplishments as enthusiastically as the most loving grandparents.

We kept in touch after we moved away, although it has been a couple of years since our last visit.

Both Donna and Corinne are Christians and I know they are safe and happy and out of pain. Their lives touched many people and we are the better for it.

Book Talk Tuesday: Treachery in Death

I should probably quit reviewing these J.D. Robb books because I sound like a broken record.

Near future setting (NYC in 2060).

Cop procedural.

Some swearing and some non-graphic sex.

Top-notch mystery.

Great writing.

Believable characters.

Check, check, and check.

I love them and I can’t help it.

Treachery in Death begins with a slam dunk robbery/murder case. Lt. Eve Dallas makes her partner, Detective Delia Peabody, primary. It was such an easy case to solve, I knew something else was coming. Sure enough, later that day Peabody overhears two people discussing a problem they solved by murdering the threat. That’s bad enough, but the two people she hears are cops. They conspired on the murder and the conversation includes references to deals and money.

A shaken Peabody reports the incident to Dallas who takes the dirty cops as a personal insult.

Rather than a mystery where no one knows whodunit, we know who the bad guys/gals are. This story is about how Eve and her team brings them down.

Really, really good.

There I go again.

Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


The Bandbox Hat

Previously: Jesse was about to tell SarahJane why he left town after graduation and what’s going on with SarahJane’s sister Rachael. He was interrupted by a knock at the door. Rachael arrived. Jesse left. Rachael told SarahJane she’d suffered from post-partum psychosis after her baby was born and she left to protect the baby and her husband from herself. She ran into Jesse when she was in LA and he made a deal with her: she’d get psychological help and he wouldn’t tell her family where she was. April woke up and came into the living room.

Chapter Fifty

“Who am I?” Rachael stared at April before glancing at me. “Who are you?”

I stood and pulled April close. “This is Jake and Anna’s daughter Rachael. She’s visiting me for a few days.”

Rachael’s expression softened. “Hi, April. I’m your aunt, too. Auntie Rachael.”

April recoiled as if slapped. “You’re Rachael?”

Rachael’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong?”

“My mom said you were the worst mother in the world.” April moved closer to me and I wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “She said you were … um … ego … egocentric? And … a saucer path.”

Instead of anger, amusement flickered across Rachael’s face. “A sociopath? Is that what your mom said?”

April nodded. “That’s right. A saucer—sociopath. What’s a sociopath?”

“I think that’s a question for your mom or dad.” I returned to the couch and patted my lap. “You can come talk to your Aunt Rachael and I’ll keep you safe from her egocentrism. I make no promises about her sociopathological tendencies, though.”

April settled herself between my crossed legs and leaned against me. “Are you laughing at me?”

“No, sweetie.” I rubbed her arms. “I would never laugh at you.”

“I was pretty selfish when I knew your mom so I can’t argue about how egocentric I was.” Rachael dipped her head and gazed into April’s eyes. “I did some stupid things and I made mistakes. Some people, like your mom, will remember my problems but others, like your Auntie SJ, will forgive me. I hope you’ll be able to forgive me, too.”

“Hey, I didn’t say I forgive you.” I kept my voice light though, because we both knew I would. That’s just who I am. Dishrag SarahJane. Damp. Pliable. Washing away uncomfortable feelings. Just like I’d done with Austin and Linda, letting them send me away with no explanation. Just like Rachael’s husband and baby deserved more than she left them, I deserved more from that show and that man and his mother.

“You need to go back to bed, April.” I unfolded my legs and helped her stand. “Rachael, you can sleep on the couch if you need a place to stay.”

She seemed taken aback as she cocked her head at me. “Why would I need a place to stay?”

I shrugged. “Don’t you need something from me? That’s why you wanted to see me, isn’t it?”

Her lips tightened and a small breath escaped her pinched nostrils. “I wanted to see you because you’re my sister. We lost our father recently. I miss you. I don’t need anything from you. I have a job. A house. A life, for crying out loud. Is it so hard to believe I can take care of myself?” Her voice grew louder with each sentence until I held up a hand to ward off any more volume.

“April, go climb into bed. I’ll be there in a minute.”

After April was out of sight, I turned to Rachael. “I’m sorry. You’re right, I just assumed.”

She nodded. “I guess I can see why you would.” She gave me a quick hug and stuffed a piece of paper into my hand. “Here’s my number. Call me whenever you want.”

I nodded and waved as she let herself out, then I lowered myself back onto the couch. That little revelation I’d had a moment ago had taken root in my heart and bloomed into a big showy bouquet and I knew what I had to do.

In the morning, I’d call Liam and insist on contacting Austin and Linda for an explanation. I deserved nothing less.