WRITERS UNITE! ANTHOLOGIES: DIMENSIONS OF LOVE

Dimensions of Love

Now Available on Amazon.com

Dimensions of Love Volume One

Dimensions of Love Volume Two

The greatest of these is love….

No other word evokes more emotion than love, be it romantic, familial, or platonic. The Writers Unite! authors explore the passion, joy, hate, desire, longing, pain, and affection that represent love in all its forms in this collection of short stories and poems.

PAUL W. REEVES ED.D: PARENTING 101 PLUS Episode Two

Images use are free use and not subject to attribution. Image by manseok Kim from Pixabay 

As writers, we are always doing research on many topics. Impact Radio USA offers a new program, “Parenting 101 Plus,” dealing with issues raising children, including case studies of drug use, truancy, anger, etc., for those of you who write family issues, particularly issues with children and how to deal with the behaviors. The show is based on host Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D‘s book, A Principal’s Family Principles.

Parenting 101 Plus

Join Paul W. Reeves, Ed.D – a longtime teacher and school principal, and the father of three children – and his guests, as they discuss the world of parenting your children, from birth through age 100! Also included are excerpts and discussions of Paul’s parenting book, “A PRINCIPAL’S FAMILY PRINCIPLES – Raising Your Kids to Be Happy and Healthy, While Enjoying Them to the Fullest”

Parenting 101 Plus” drops a new show EVERY Thursday morning at 9:00 am ET; then each episode airs for seven straight days at 9:00 am ET and 5:00 pm ET.

Impact Radio USA

Podcasts

Episode One

On today’s show, in addition to reading the chapter, “Be Aware of UNDERWEAR?” from his book, sharing wisdom from others, a bit of humor, and more, Paul played Part 1 of his interview with Claude Larson.

CLAUDE LARSON, a retired teacher from New York, one whom mostly worked with teenagers, will join us to discuss her book, “The Power of Choice: A Teen’s Guide to Finding Personal Success Kindle Edition“.

Episode Two

On today’s show, in addition to reading a chapter concerning sibling relationships from his book, sharing wisdom from others, a bit of humor, and more, Paul played Part 2 of his interview with Claude Larson.

CLAUDE LARSON, a retired teacher from New York who mostly worked with teenagers, will join us to discuss her book, “The Power of Choice: A Teen’s Guide to Finding Personal Success Kindle Edition“.

—————

Paul W. Reeves Ed.D

Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D. is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician.

Please visit his website for more information regarding Paul’s career or his books and CDs.

Paul W. Reeves

You can reach Paul by email at:
PaulParenting101Plus@gmail.com

SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK: EPISODE 36

In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best they can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation.

In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback continues his discussion of the tools leading to success with his book “Make Your Own Damn Cheese: Understanding, Navigating, and Mastering the 3 Mazes of Success.”

Please click on the link below to hear Episode #36 of SUCCESS PHILOSOPHIES WITH DR. CHUBACK, the first episode in the second series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, is the author of, “Make Your Own Damn Cheese: Understanding, Navigating, and Mastering the 3 Mazes of Success,” “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom” and other books.

DR. CHUBACK joins HOST PAUL W. REEVES weekly to discuss his books, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom” and “Make Your Own Damn Cheese“, each of which explores the human mind and becoming all that you can be.

Throughout this portion of the series, Dr. Chuback will discuss “Make Your Own Damn Cheese“, and the research behind his success philosophies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Audiobooks on Audible

The Straight a Handbook: The 50 Most Powerful Secrets for Ultimate Success in and Out of the Classroom Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Written by John Chuback, M. D.
Narrated by Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D.

Click for Audible version on Amazon

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Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”

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Dr. John Chuback

Picture

Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 

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Impact Radio USA

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Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day. While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA ListenNow

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

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Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D. is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician.

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s websitehttps://paulwreeves.comfor more information on his books and CDs.

https://www.impactradiousa.com

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WRITERS UNITE! ANTHOLOGIES: DIMENSIONS OF LOVE

Writers Unite! presents

Dimensions of Love

Dimensions of Love is available for eBook pre-order:

Dimensions of Love Volume One

Dimensions of Love Volume Two

Dimensions of Love will be released on August 15, 2022

The greatest of these is love….

No other word evokes more emotion than love, be it romantic, familial, or platonic. The Writers Unite! authors explore the passion, joy, hate, desire, longing, pain, and affection that represent love in all its forms in this collection of short stories and poems.

Paul W. Reeves Ed.D: Parenting 101 Plus

Parenting 101 Plus

Images use are free use and not subject to attribution. Image by manseok Kim from Pixabay 

As writers, we are always doing research on many topics. For those of you who write family issues, particularly issues with children, Impact Radio USA offers a new program, “Parenting 101 Plus,” dealing with issues raising children, including case studies of drug use, truancy, anger, etc. and how to deal with the behaviors. The show is based on host Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D‘s book, A Principal’s Family Principles.

Join Dr. Reeves and his guests—parents, and educators—as they discuss how we can raise healthy, happy children.

Parenting 101 Plus airs Thursday at 9:00 am ET on Impact Radio USA.

The show repeats daily repeats daily at 9:00 am and 5:00 pm ET and is available on podcast.

Podcast available at

Parenting 101 Plus

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Impact Radio USA

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is impact-radio-usa-modern-large.jpg

Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day. While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul W. Reeves 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 11700698_10204467697476836_1401739541151934347_o.jpg

Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D. is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician.

For more information regarding Paul’s career, or his books and CDs, please visit his website.

Paul W. Reeves

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover.jpg

A Principal’s Famly Principles available at

Outskirts Press

WRITE THE STORY! August 2022 PROMPT

Welcome to Write the Story!

July’s strand of pearls conjured stories from love to greed and murder. Where will this month’s prompt take us? Only your imagination can tell answer that question.

Thanks to all who participated and those who read the July stories! We appreciate your participation in Write The Story!

Now on to the August prompt!

A reminderWU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!

Write the Story! August 2022 Prompt

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Master Tux from Pixabay.

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or a poem (minimum 50 words) based on and referring to the image provided and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is fine.)
  • Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing, but WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
  • The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
  • Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email to writersunite16@gmail.com. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.
  • Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your writing.

Please visit Writers Unite! Facebook and join us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752/

Enzo Stephens: He Wore a Pearl Necklace 

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

He Wore a Pearl Necklace

Enzo Stephens

“Edgar? Edgar, is that you?”

Well, DUH. Who else would it be? Had Ma been there in front of him as he struggled to a) remove the door key from the stubborn, rusted deadbolt that refused to give up the intrusive sliver of toothed metal and b) not drop any of the stuff that thoroughly occupied his dinner-plate sized hands—one such item was a lovely little old box that was fragile, mostly because it was, you know, pretty old—she would have seen him glare at her, and she surely would have given him a piece of her mind about his attitude!

“Yeah, Ma.”  Success on the key extraction. However, it was the key and not the stuff in his hands that hit the floor. Eggsy looked down, trying to spot the red-white-and-blue HOUSE key against the scuffed hardwood floor of their cramped living room off the front entry. Eggsy blew a raspberry after a cursory search yielded nada nada empanada. Effing key probably skittered under the damned couch.

Eff it. I’ll come back for it later.

Clatters and bangs emanated from the kitchen—Ma’s Domain. She was Queen and Goddess of that space. Russia and Red China could be launching their ICBMs at the good ole US of A, but Eggsy suspected that Ma’s Kitchen would be one of the safest places in the world should that cataclysm come to pass.

Eggsy raced down a short hallway to the small bedroom he shared with his younger brother, hoping he was not in residence. He was an absolute pain-in-the-ass and was also the dipshit that came up with the name ‘Eggsy.’

And lo, another crappy nickname was born.

He tossed his backpack onto his twin bed which was made up with military precision and placed his Walkman on his pillow along with a small sleeve of cassettes (Judas Priest, anyone?). He then dropped into a cross-legged seat on the floor, leaning back against his bed as he took up the small, intricately carved wooden box and held it up before his crystal, cerulean eyes.

Eggsy bought it at a pawn shop for five bucks, knowing instantly that his Ma would love it. Five bones was a DEAL for this kind of workmanship. 

The pawn shop owner—a wizened older woman with a pronounced stoop and a distinctive palsied quiver—admitted to Eggsy that it was a fine piece of workmanship from another era and that five bucks was an amazing deal for such a piece.

“But I’ll tell ya, young fella, pawn shop prices sometimes ain’t for the piece itself. Sometimes I price it because of what I think is a lack of demand for something like that. T’ain’t much call for what’s obviously a hand-crafted wooden box nowadays.

“Whatcha gonna use it for, if’n ya don’t mind an old lady being nosy?”

Edgar smiled—practically beamed, as he placed the wooden box on the smudged and smeared glass countertop. “It’s gonna be a gift for my Ma. It’s her birthday!”

“Izzat so? Now you ain’t gonna be like most menfolk with a special lady in their lives and get it for her at the last minute, now are ya?”

“Gosh, no! Her birthday is next month!”

She patted his massive hand, her touch warm, dry, and maybe a little papery. (Although he’d never felt papyrus, Eggsy imagined it would feel like this old woman’s skin.)  “Well, look at you! Your Ma certainly raised you right.”

The intricate beauty of the box entranced Eggsy. Gently he nudged the lip of the lid open with a sausage-sized finger. A breath of musty cedar escaped, and Eggsy thought that was just about the finest smell in the world.

“It’s empty, of course.”

“Yes, ma’am. I expected as such.”

“Well, I can fix that if you have a mind.”

“I dunno, ma’am. I only have five more dollars.”

He might as well have been talking to the box because the little old lady was suddenly gone. Eggsy looked left then right for her, but she was nowhere in sight. It was as if she had stepped into a wormhole. “Hello?”

The old woman came out of a room behind the counter with a big smile that exposed severely yellowed dentures. “Right here, sonny. Typical kid, always in a hurry. Lemme tell you a piece of advice, learn how to wait, and do it with grace.”

He didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded good. “Yes, ma’am, and thank you for that.”

“Advice—like farts, are free.”  Both seller and buyer snickered over that one. The old woman stepped up to the counter, placed her closed fist on the glass top, turned her hand over so the palm would face the ceiling, and unfurled her gnarled fingers.

Eggsy’s eyes grew wide. “Wow,” was pretty much all he could muster as the woman laid out a string of pearls that shimmered in the afternoon light.

“These are … beautiful.”

The woman moved them around on the glass counter; the pearls glimmered and glistened, captivating Eggy’s eyes and imagination. 

She opened the lid on the small box and placed the pearls inside, draping some over the front. “Now tell me that your Ma ain’t gonna love this?”

“Ayuh, I think she will. But I only have five—”

“Sold!”

“Edgar? Come into the kitchen if you would please.”

Oh, shoot! He cursed himself for dawdling when he should have worked on getting the box and its contents wrapped for her. 

Well… I’m just going to have to give it to her like this, and he pushed the pearls back into the box and closed the lid, ensuring to clasp the tiny brass hasp to the matching brass pin on the front of the box, and then into his pocket it went. “Coming, Ma.”

And that was a Truth in their household; when Ma called, you came a-runnin’. Edgar hustled his gangly frame and misshapen head out of his bedroom and into the kitchen, where a riot of delicious aromas bombed his nose and triggered his salivary glands. Ma was standing over the sink with the water running. She glanced over her shoulder, making eye contact with Edgar. She twisted the faucet until the water stopped, snared a hand towel, and turned toward Eggsy.

A rush of concern flitted over her brow as she stared at him intently, as only a mother could do with a pre-teen man-child. She dropped the towel on the counter in a ball, raised a glass with clinking ice to her lips, and nipped the beverage soundly, polishing off the contents. “Two things I need you to get me, Edgar. Grab me a bottle of Jack Black from the basement, then a pack of Marlboros from the hall closet. Then gitcher butt back here, boy, because you look like you’ve been up to no good.”

Eggsy gulped and felt an anxiety that no twelve-year-old kid should feel. “Yes, Ma,” and he bolted off to do her bidding. Ma really liked her Jack Black, and Eggsy was a-ok with that because it made her happy for a while, and then it made her fall asleep nice and early, which pretty much gave him a wee bit of freedom to have another go of weed without interference.

Getting buzzed was cool.

Eggsy collected what she asked for and skidded to a stop at the entrance to the kitchen, setting everything down on the counter in front of a battered, stainless-steel toaster. Ma was there right away, grabbing the fifth of whiskey, popping the lid, and dispensing a considerable amount of the amber fluid into her glass in which a few chunks of ice clinked. “Thank you. Now, why do you look like you’re up to the devil?”

Eggsy shuffled his feet and looked at his shoes. “I ain’t up to no good, Ma.”

She peered at him. “Bullshit.”  And with that proclamation, she meandered her way over to a small Formica and chrome dinette and had herself a seat, reaching over for her favorite ashtray. “Sit.”

Eggsy pulled a chair out and sat across from her as she snapped her thumbnail over the head of a match. She applied the sputtering flame to the cigarette’s tip and inhaled deeply, flicking her wrist to extinguish the match. All the while, she stared at him, and it was… uncomfortable, to say the least.

“What are you up to, Edgar?”

“Nothin’ Ma.”

“Hmmm.”

“Ma? Happy birthday!”  And with that, he yanked the box from his pocket and placed it on the puke-green surface of the table, then slid it across to her.

She sat back in surprise, her mouth forming a little ‘O’. “What’s this?”

“Just a little something that I hope you’ll like, Ma.”

“Oh my,” slipped from her as she took the box and held it up to her eyes. She turned it around, sliding her fingers over the surface of it; sides, front, bottom, and finally, the lid.

Eggsy could barely contain himself, but he clamped down on his tongue as he didn’t want to ruin anything for her.

The tip of her fingernail found the edge of the brass hasp, and she flicked it open, then lifted the lid to reveal the string of pearls. “Oh, Edgar …”

“Do you like it?”

She took the pearls from the box, letting them dangle in her grasp, and placed the box on the table. “Edgar, these are… oh Edgar. And that box! Edgar, this must have cost you a fortune. Where did you get the money for this?”

“Just picked up some odd jobs, Ma,” which was more true than not, although Eggsy did not share exactly what those jobs were.

Eggsy was quite certain that she would not approve of his ‘odd jobs,’ specifically, selling weed.

Her gaze softened. The hard lines around her mouth and at the corners of her eyes seemed to smooth out as she studied the pearls and the box. Eggsy sat there quietly, watching her appreciate the sheer beauty of her birthday gift. He grew momentarily alarmed when he saw a tear course its way down her cheek.

She brushed it roughly away and looked at him, though Eggsy could not ascertain what emotions she was feeling. Maybe a little embarrassed?

“Help me put these on, Edgar.”

He sprang up from the chair (almost knocking it over) and rushed to stand behind her, and she handed him the pearls. He found the clasp and opened it—no small feat considering the thickness of his digits and was struck by the seeming frailty of his mother’s long, pale neck.

How easy it would be to snap it.

NO!

He fumbled the clasp open, then clipped it over the link in the chain and let it gently fall where it settled against her skin and flat out looked like it was meant to be there for her entire life as if she should have been born with it. 

He patted her shoulder, and she stood up and made her way into the living room, where there was a mirror on the mantle over the fireplace. Eggsy followed her, and as she gazed at the gleaming pearls, he caught sight of himself and quickly averted his eyes.

He hated seeing himself, his deformed and misshapen head, brown-spotted and completely hairless, and not for the first time, he cursed the air for his misfortune.

Someone once told him—maybe a sympathetic guidance counselor at school—that there would come a day when he would not think about it. Not once. Eggsy found that hard to fathom and pretty much told the well-meaning counselor that she was full of crap.

How the hell could he NOT think about it?

“Edgar, these are so beautiful, don’t you think?”

“Oh yeah, sure do, Ma.”

“Okay, I wanna enjoy them a bit more before your Pa comes home. But I’d better get dinner finished.”

Mother and son looked at each other knowingly. Neither wanted Pa to come home. “Sure, Ma. I’m going to knock out my homework.”

She patted his shoulder. “You’re a good boy, Edgar. You certainly deserve better than the hand you’ve been dealt in this life.”

The two hugged, then broke and went their separate ways, her humming something vaguely familiar and him just wanting to be alone so he could enjoy his weed.

Time skittered past on happy feet as it tends to do when not paying attention to it,  kind of like, you snooze, you lose, and Edgar was thinking about twisting up a joint when a loud, masculine voice invaded the peace of the home.

“I’m home!”  The front door slammed, and just by that door slam alone did Edgar know the mood of his Pa, and it wasn’t a good one. He sprang to his feet in alarm—thoughts of protecting Ma forefront.

He whipped his bedroom door open and was met by the sound of the TV/ Local news from the sound of it. “C’mon, c’mon, I just wanna hear the damned weather!”

Eggsy eased his way down the hall, around a corner, and into the living room to see his Pa sprawled out on his recliner, staring bullets at the TV. “Hi, Pa.”

He fluttered his hand in the air but said nothing. Eggsy rounded his way into the kitchen, where Ma was doling spaghetti with hotdog medallions into a clear glass bowl. “Edgar. Can you please take this into the dining room?”

“Sure.”  He took the bowl from the counter and felt like he was drowning in a flood of apprehension. Both he and his Ma were just waiting for the old man to blow a gasket. It was inevitable; as certain as the sun rising and setting, if the dude was home, he was going to erupt.

“Dinner’s ready,” Ma announced as she headed into the dining room with Eggsy right behind her. Pa clumped his clodhoppers into the dining room and yanked a chair out from the table. Eggsy and Ma were already seated, and both looked up at him as he sat himself down.

“Shall we give thanks for the food?”

“Fix me a drink first.”

Ma paused, knowing full well that if she did, he just might take to a little manhandling later, and that wouldn’t do at all. And even though the Jack Daniels caused her to slur a bit earlier, she was razor sharp and sober now.

“Mitch, c’mon. Can it wait until after dinner?”

He hammered the table, furious. Plates and silverware clinked and clanked noisily, causing Eggsy and his Ma to jump back in their seats. His voice was low. “Now.”

“Okay,” and she pushed herself back meekly from the table to comply, leaving Eggsy and his Pa to stare at each other.

“You’re turning into a big boy now, ain’tcha?”

“I guess—”

“Are you screwing your ma?”  Pa was leaning over his empty dinner plate, face red and glaring at Eggsy.

He was serious!

“Pa!  No!”

A pause. Silence as the two stared at each other. Then, “You’re a damned liar. I know you’re banging her.”

Ma came back into the room carrying a tinkling glass. Eggsy looked at her, and she met his gaze with a quick wink, which meant that she’d spiked his drink with some kind of barbiturate, like Phenobarbital.

She set the glass down before him and took her seat, handing the bowl of pasta to Edgar’s father.

He grabbed it and slapped a couple spoonfuls onto his plate. As he set the bowl down on the table, he spied the string of pearls around his wife’s neck.

“Where did those come from?”

“I’m sorry. Where did what come from?”

“Don’t play stupid with me, bitch! The pearls!”

She touched the pearls and smiled at Edgar. “Remember, today’s my birthday.”

“Did your lover give them to you? Did you blow him after he gave those to you?”

“Oh my god, Mitch, these are a gift—”

“From WHO?”

He was beginning to slur his words, and Eggsy knew it was only a matter of time before he passed out. They just had to make it that far, and there was no guarantee that would happen.

“I gave them to her!”  He stood up quickly, causing the chair to fall backward with a jarring clatter.

Pa practically jumped up himself, and he was fuming. “I knew it! Can’t keep it in your pants.”

“No, Pa, it ain’t like that.”

“Dumb son-of-a-bitch, I shoulda killed ya when you were little like I wanted to. But who woulda guessed that you’d be banging your own ma?”  He reached over and ripped that string of pearls from his wife’s neck and threw them at Eggsy, and then he sagged back down into his chair, his head lolling and his eyes closing laboriously.

Ma was sobbing softly, clutching at her neck and Eggsy’s heart broke, but while Ma wallowed in her pain and self-pity, Eggsy would do no such thing. Righteous fury blazed in his eyes, and he began clenching and unclenching his fists.

“Whatcha gonna do, ya little piece of shit?”

Ma looked up at Eggsy, shaking her head. “No, son, let it go, please.”

Pa’s head drooped against his shoulder, and his eyes were no longer fluttering to stay open. They were closed, and the man began snoring, and Eggsy wondered just how in the hell such a man could be permitted to continue to get away with this kind of abuse. 

Had Ma not slipped him P-Barb, he’d be up terrorizing both Edgar and Ma. 

Ma had her face in her hands, and her slim shoulder jerked with her sobs while Pa snored and slobbered all over himself in the other chair, and the bowl of pasta was pretty much forgotten by the entire family as Eggsy found and retrieved two knuckle-sized pearls on the floor by his foot.

Eggsy opened his hand to look at the pearls. Slowly he began walking around the table to where his father snoozed in his chair. “Enough is enough, Ma. Enough is enough.”

“Edgar—”

Eggsy grabbed the back of his father’s chair and threw it—and his father, to the floor.

The damned sod never awoke, and rage flooded Eggsy, a terrible, all-consuming rage that was both white-hot irrational and coldly rational and meticulous, and Eggsy fell to the floor beside his Pa, took a pearl in each hand, and rested one each against his father’s closed eyes.

He looked again at his Ma, who was crying and nodding as if she wanted him to do it, do it, do it, and kill the damned bastard.

Eggsy rammed a pearl into both of his father’s eye sockets, pushing further and further with all his strength until he was sure they were now a permanent part of the brute’s brain, and only then did he relent.

He stood up, gore dripping from his fingers, looked at his Ma, and spat on his Pa.

He then went into the kitchen, located the beautiful little box and jammed it into his pocket, then rushed into his room and began packing himself a bag, his mother’s cries and sobs drowned out by the thrashing metal music of Judas Priest, who was announcing to whomever would listen that they do indeed Got Another Thing Comin’.

Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

D. A. Ratliff: The Dowager’s Pearls

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by kropekk-pl from Pixabay.

The Dowager’s Pearls

 D. A. Ratliff

A Detective Elijah Boone Mystery

She preferred everyone to call her Dowager Estelle Montmorency, a title befitting her status, at least in her mind, as New Orleans nobility. As of this morning, however, she would be known as the late Dowager Montmorency. A blow to the back of her skull changed her status rather quickly.

Her body lay before me, sprawled across the marble steps leading to the enormous marble tub. She was clad in a pale-yellow silk robe now stained with ever-darkening blood. ME Julia Marrow was in her usual stance, hunkered down next to the body, as she unceremoniously made a small incision in the body’s abdomen, then stuck the probe of a digital thermometer into the liver.

Removing the probe, she stared into space for a few seconds and then stood. “Eli, best estimate on time of death, based on liver temp and rigor, around nine to ten last night. The tub is full, so I suspect she was about to take a bath when she was struck from behind.”

I sucked in a quick breath. “Not accidental?”

Julia wrinkled her nose. “Nope, no traces of blood on any surfaces in the room, and the wound is concave. I would say a heavy round object.”

“So, murder?”

She laughed. “Not getting out of this one, definitely murder.”

My partner, Hank Guidry, walked in. “Man, Eli, I’ve passed this place forever and never realized how big it was. I’d heard it was a mansion, but there’s room for parking fifteen cars within the walls, in the middle of the French Quarter.” He leaned around me to view the body. “Natural causes?”

I shook my head and grunted a no. Hank uttered an expletive under his breath. “We aren’t getting out of Major Crimes for a while, are we?”

“I don’t think so. Who found her?”

“Montmorency’s assistant, Della Chapman. She called 9-1-1, then called Montmorency’s youngest son, Guy. You better come with me. It looks like this was a robbery gone bad.”

We walked through a large dressing room with glass-doored closets and mahogany dressers into an expansive bedroom. Hank directed me to an alcove, which appeared to be a private office. Behind an antique French desk, a painting on hinges was swung out of the way, revealing an open wall safe.

“Any idea what was in here?”

“No. I got here just before Julia did. Uniforms had Chapman and the son waiting in a lounge downstairs. Talked to them, then came here.”

“Lounge?”

Hank chuckled. “Yeah, Guy… and he corrected me on that too… pronounced Gee, not like guy as in dude. He also informed me when I told them to remain in the living room that we were in the lounge, not the living room. That room was much grander.”

“I bet. Other offspring?”

Hank looked at his phone. “Daughter named Monica Germaine, and a son, Louis, and that is Lou-us, not Lou-ee.”

 I chuckled. “Fun times. Let’s talk to them.”

I followed Hank as he navigated the hallways of the enormous house and thought about what I knew about the place. It wasn’t much. I had read that the house was built in the 1800s and was nearly fifteen thousand square feet with a courtyard, pool, and multi-car garage. Space like that was a premium anywhere in New Orleans, but in the Quarter, a miracle. From the outside, the place looked nondescript, but from the inside, opulent.

Guy Montmorency and his mother’s assistant were waiting for us in the lounge. To say there was tension in the air was an understatement. Hank did the introductions, and I sat in a chair across from the son.

“My partner told me you described finding the body to him, Ms. Chapman, but could you tell me again?”

She huffed. “I arrived at eight a.m. as normal. The Dowager was always downstairs by then, having made tea and waiting for me to fix her breakfast. She won’t let the cook come in until eleven, doesn’t—didn’t—like to be bothered. It was odd that the security system was off, as she usually has to let me in when I get here. The electronic gates won’t open when the system is armed, so she never turns them on until bedtime and only off when I arrive. Doesn’t want to be bothered with having to go to the laptop and let anyone in after I arrive.”

“How did you realize the gates were unlocked?”

“I always text her in the morning. When she didn’t answer, I tried, and the gate opened. I assumed she turned the alarm off early.”

 “What happened when you entered the house?”

“When I didn’t find her downstairs, I checked upstairs and found her on….” Chapman’s voice quivered, and she dropped her head for a second. “I found her in the bathroom. I knew she was dead from how ashen she was and all the blood. I called 9-1-1 and then Guy. Then the police arrived, and then you arrived.”

I turned my attention to Guy, who sat ramrod straight on the settee. “What did you do when you arrived?”

“I went upstairs to make certain my mother was dead.”

“Alone?”

He glared at me. “No, Della went with me. I truly didn’t want to be alone with my dead mother. I could barely stand to be alone with her when she was alive. At least, this way, she couldn’t talk back.”

“You didn’t get along?”

He cackled. “My mother liked no one, and I can assure you no one liked her.”

“Did you call your brother or sister to let them know?”

“I don’t talk to them often. I don’t care how they find out.”

“Do either of you know what she kept in the safe in the office off her bedroom?”

Guy turned pale. “Why are you asking? Was the safe broken into?” He looked toward Chapman. “Della, was it in the safe?”

Della nodded. “As far as I know, yes.”  Guy sank back against the cushions, turning even paler.

“What was in the safe?”

“The most expensive pearl necklace in the world, the Duchesse Montmorency pearls. Several strands of hand-tied perfect pearls in graduated sizes and held together by a diamond and platinum clasp. My father found the owner and purchased it for my mother years ago.”

“A valuable piece?”

Guy sneered. “If you call eleven million dollars a lot of money, yes. I am assuming the safe was empty?”

Hank uttered a low whistle, and I swallowed hard. This was a clear motive. “Yes, it was. Who knew that she kept the necklace in the safe?”

“Me, my charming brother and sister, Della, and I would say Mother’s attorney.”

“Why did she keep such a valuable piece here and not in a bank vault?”

“Because she was paranoid that we would steal it from her if she didn’t keep It with her.” Guy scoffed. “Well, that certainly worked out.”

~~~

I dropped my car off at the police station and rode with Hank to do the notifications to the other Montmorency children. Monica Germaine lived in a home in the Garden District. Recently divorced, Louis had purchased a penthouse near Lafayette Square but wasn’t home and wasn’t answering his phone. We drove on to Germaine’s house located on Coliseum.

Hank parked and whistled. “This is a double lot. Don’t see this much yard in the District.”

“No. Let’s get this over with.”

A housekeeper opened the door, surprised when she saw our badges, and hurried to the back of the house. In a few moments, a woman I assumed was Monica Germaine appeared, followed by a man. She introduced her brother, Louis, who explained he was staying with Monica while workers renovated his condo. We followed them to the front parlor.

“What can we do for you, Detective?”

“I am afraid we have some bad news.” I proceeded to tell them of their mother’s death. Their response was somewhat surprising, but I had suspected no less after speaking with Guy.

Louis Montmorency shook his head. “I suppose it’s too early for a celebratory drink.”

“You didn’t get along with your mother?”

He smirked. “An understatement, Detective Boone. I dare say even Lucifer was afraid of her.”

Monica Germaine had gasped when I told them. “I am surprised. I didn’t think she’d ever die.”

“Do you know of anyone who would want to hurt your mother?”

They laughed simultaneously. Monica smirked. “That list is far too long, and honestly, Louis, Guy, and I probably are at the top of any list you compile. Our mother was a caustic, mean bitch who controlled us using money. Only Guy really needed her money, and he kowtowed enough to her to keep her purse strings tied to his belt, but he hated her too. She could easily drive someone to want to kill her, but I didn’t.”

Louis chimed in. “Nor did I, and Guy? He’s too soft. He couldn’t do it.”

“We found the safe in her bedroom open and empty. We suspect whoever killed her stole the valuable pearls kept there. Any thoughts on who might have done that?”

I threw the question out without a lead-up to gauge their reactions. The shocked looks on both were visceral.

Monica blurted out. “The pearls—the pearls are gone?”

“Yes. Do you know who had access to the safe?”

Louis replied. “Monica, Guy, me, Della, and Mother’s attorney.”

“Detective, let’s be upfront about this.” Monica scowled. “The house and everything she had will likely go to Guy. He was the only one of us who tolerated her corrosive behavior. My father’s will directed the pearls sold upon Mother’s death, and all proceeds divided among his children. Those pearls are our only inheritance. Find them.”

“You damn well better find them.” Louis rose, our cue to leave, I presumed. He continued. “My foolish mother stopped paying the premiums on the insurance policy years ago. Said the pearls were perfectly safe, and it was foolish to spend that money. Not so foolish now.”

~~~

My head hurt, and an entire pot of coffee hadn’t helped. I skipped breakfast, so despite it being ten-thirty a.m., I was scarfing down leftover cold Spaghetti Pomodoro from Mamma Leone’s that I stashed in the refrigerator two nights ago. The best perk about working for Major Crimes is that their refrigerator worked.

If I had any doubt the Duchesse Montmorency pearls were infamous, I knew now from information Della Chapman provided. I left the crime scene with a provenance statement, a hefty insurance policy that lapsed eleven years ago, and several photos of the pearls. I was intrigued by one image of the pearls tucked into a small wooden casket with a painted domed lid. The image spoke to the age and historical sense of the pearls.

About an hour later, Hank returned from the scene. “Think we know what the murder weapon was. After forensics finished in the bathroom, I took the maid in to see if anything was missing. She ID’ed an alabaster candle holder that sat on the countertop. It was there the day before. Started a search for it.”

“Good. I sent Clemente to get the CCV from around the area. He called and is on his way back with views from about six cameras surrounding the property. Meanwhile, complied info on the siblings.”

Hank sneered. “They sure didn’t like their mother.”

“No, they did not.” I tossed him a folder. “Had Jamison run financials on them. Guy runs an art gallery and interior design studio in the Quarter. Finances are shaky, and his house on Esplanade is on the market. Listing agent is Sherilynn Montmorency the ex-wife of Louis. Bank records show consistent deposits from his mother, so it looks like she kept the business afloat.”

Hank whistled. “Monica Germaine isn’t doing too badly for herself. Married to Steven Germain. Isn’t he the city councilman who is running for mayor?”

“Yep. He’s the grandson of Herbert Germain. His family made their money in cotton and sugar cane.”

“Doesn’t look like a motive here. She doesn’t need the money, but hate is a good motive too.”

“That it is. As for Louis, besides a huge divorce settlement, he’s pretty solid. Architect in partnership at Orleans Design. No criminal records, no tax issues, for all purposes look like an average family.”

“Average family?” Hank scoffed. “I’d like to be that average.”

“I’d just rather not be dead.”

Hank nodded. “Did you check out their alibis?”

“Yeah, and unfortunately, they all seem to be where they claimed to be.”

Hank flopped onto a chair. “Rats.”

~~~

Jeff Monroe, media forensics tech, texted me around four that he had the CCV vids racked and ready for us to view. I grabbed Hank and we headed to the media lab.

The first footage was from a camera inside the property. Jeff fast-forwarded to the first activity, a woman exiting the house and walking toward a car. “This is timestamped four minutes past six.”

Hank pointed to the screen. “That’s Della Chapman, leaving when she said during our first interview.”

At six-forty-two, the gates opened, and a black BMW drove in. “That’s Guy, Eli. He said he came by for dinner around six-thirty and left about eight.” 

I told Jeff to fast-forward to when Guy said he left, just after eight. “Any other activity, Jeff?”

“No, we ran through all the cameras on the house exterior, and that was the only movement on the property until the next morning when the first woman arrived, followed by the BMW again and then the police units.”

Jeff ran through all the surveillance footage from the four cameras they had accessed. We saw pastry shop patrons, a couple walking past the boutique hotel on the corner of the Montmorency property, and a few people walking along the streets. No one had entered the house that night. We had nothing.

~~~

Dowager Montmorency’s death was front-page news, but the media was far more interested in the theft of the pearls. When I arrived at NOPD HQ at seven a. m., reporters were waiting, clamoring for information. As I pushed through them to reach the elevator, I reminded myself I was a homicide detective. I was supposed to solve murders, not commit them.

Captain Lourdes, the head of Major Crimes, was waiting for me when I arrived to make my day even better. He pointed to the coffee pot. “Grab a cup, and let’s talk.”

I did as told, and we sat in his office a few minutes later.

“Captain, I have three words—Acting Mayor Ingles.”

“Can’t get anything past you, Detective.”

“I just know my politicians, sir.”

“Look, Ingles is running for former Mayor Cormier’s seat..  vacant thanks to you.”

I chuckled. “Cormier was a bad man, sir.”

Lourdes rested his head against the chairback. “Ingles wants this solved. He doesn’t want incompetence to give Germaine any fuel to use against him. Incompetence was his word, by the way.”

“If I had anything to tell you, I would. Surveillance cameras show nothing. We corroborated the alibis of our best suspects, family, and staff. We have officers going to all the pawnshops and jewelry stores searching for the pearls, and forensics IT has placed an algorithm on the internet looking for activity.”

Captain Lourdes pinched his lips together. “Go back. Look at everything. I don’t like Ingles, but I have to follow his orders. “

~~~

I have seen dead ends before, but this was ridiculous. I read the crime reports, autopsy, witness reports, everything, and we had nothing. I decided to spend the rest of my day watching the video surveillance. Maybe we missed something.

Two hours later, my head hurt, and my stomach growled. I was about to get lunch when Hank called. They found the murder weapon about a block from the house. He said he grabbed lunch.

Hank walked in with buffalo wings and fries, and I dived in. Wasn’t going to live long eating like this. Hank sat across from me, gnawing on a greasy wing.

“Uniform found the candle holder behind some bins on Chartres, wrapped in a towel and with blood on the stone. Forensics is checking it in.”

“Hopefully, there’ll be fingerprints, and we’ll have our killer.”

“Aren’t we optimistic?”

I threw a chicken bone at him. I wasn’t optimistic at all.

I continued watching the security videos while Hank wrote the murder weapon report. My eyes crossed, but it was near the estimated time of death. Nothing. The area was residential, with the only business, a patisserie shop that closed in early afternoon across from Montmorency’s compound. There was little foot traffic, and I was bored.

An uneasy feeling crept over me at the ten-thirty mark as I watched a couple hurry down Ursulines toward Chartres. Something about the couple seemed familiar. I quickly scrubbed back to the couple walking past the hotel. The same people, I was sure of it.

“Hank, you done?”

“Yep, just getting ready to file my report. What’s up?”

“Let’s take a ride.”

My curiosity was piqued. The couple in the video on the block alongside the Montmorency house at nine-thirty had to be the same couple rushing toward the street where we found the murder weapon. I don’t believe in coincidences.

I parked behind a work truck across from the small hotel and was surprised to see it was closed for renovation. “I have a hunch, Frank. Let’s talk to these guys.”

Hank spotted the realtor sign. “Look, the building is for sale, and look who the agent is.”

“Sherilynn Montmorency. This is getting interesting.”

We found the foreman, identified ourselves, and asked for a look around. He babbled on about the murder, asking questions, and then said something surprising.

“Detectives, let me show you something wild.” He led us to the back of the building. “This building was built at the same time as the building the Montmorency’s use as a garage. We were tearing out this wall and found this staircase that leads to the garage attic.”

“Did you inform Mrs. Montmorency?”

“Didn’t have to. Her ex-daughter-in-law, the real estate lady, was here. Said she would tell her ex.”

As we got in the car, I called Clemente. “Get me everything you can on Sherilynn Montmorency.” I glanced at Hank. “Now we are getting somewhere.”

~~~

At seven p.m., with a search warrant in hand, Hank and I, along with backup, arrived at Sherilynn Montmorency’s home. As soon as she opened the door, I knew she was guilty. I’ve seen that look in a guilty person’s eyes too often. We had her, and she knew it. Standing behind her was a man, who I was sure was the man with her in the video. We identified ourselves, and the man jerked the warrant from my hand.

“I am David Kramer. I’m Ms. Montmorency’s attorney. How dare you come into her home. On what grounds did you obtain this warrant?”

I turned my phone to show him a still image from the CCV footage. Not the clearest photo, but enough that Kramer’s pupils widened. Good, I had him too.

Twenty minutes later, Hank found the pearls in an old suitcase in a closet.

I motioned for a uniform officer to cuff the pair. “Sherilyn Montmorency, David Kramer, I am arresting you for the murder of Estelle Montmorency. You have the right to remain….”

~~~

It was nine-fifteen p.m., and I had just filed my report when Captain Lourdes set a cup of coffee in front of me.

“I’ll buy you a drink later.” He sat down. “Good work, the acting mayor is pleased.”

“Good for him.”

“Quite the quick case close too.”

“We had nothing until I noticed the couples on the CCV about an hour apart were the same. When we found out they had access to the property through the hotel, we knew. Checked with Louis, and Sherilyn never told him about the access from the old building.”

“Motive? Other than the obvious?”

“Sherilynn claimed her divorce settlement was a joke. When she discovered a way onto the property, she remembered where Louis had hidden the safe’s combination. She hated the Dowager and wanted revenge to keep Louis from getting his inheritance. She was having an affair with Kramer—what led to the divorce, so he was more than a willing partner—but we think she killed Montmorency.”

He rose. “By the way, word came down. You and Guidry are now assigned permanently to Major Crimes.”

As the captain left, I called Mamma Leone and told her to keep the kitchen open. Her food would soften the blow when I told Hank we were on Major Crimes for good.

I closed the Montmorency file. We recovered the Dowager’s pearls and caught her murderer. Not a bad start in Major Crimes.

Please visit Deborah on her blog: https://daratliffauthor.wordpress.com/

Lynn Miclea: The Best Gift

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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The Best Gift

Lynn Miclea

Sheri paced back and forth in her living room. She regretted accusing Derek of cheating, and she knew she was wrong. She couldn’t blame him for being angry after what she had said to him. She knew her previous boyfriend, Ryan, had cheated on her, and she was probably too sensitive and suspicious now, which caused her to not trust anyone. But she knew Derek did not cheat on her, and she should never have said what she did. Was it too late to make things right again?

It had been a full week since she had accused him of cheating. He had explained that his boss needed him to work overtime, and that’s why he needed to cancel their date. At the time, she didn’t believe him and said things she wished she hadn’t said. She had jumped to conclusions and doubted him because of her past with Ryan, but she knew she was wrong. She wished she could take it all back and re-do that night.

Now, a week later, he was coming over, and she wasn’t sure what to expect. They had not spoken since that night. Was he still angry? She deeply regretted everything she had said. Her belly churned. Was he coming over to break up with her?

She let out a long sigh. Until last week, she had thought they were so right together and she hoped he would propose to her. She wanted to marry him. After seeing each other for three years, she had been convinced Derek was the one for her. She was so comfortable with him and could talk to him about anything. He was her best friend as well as her boyfriend. They matched in so many ways and rarely fought.

Until last week. Until she accused him of cheating. And that might have messed up everything. Now she wondered if they would even stay together. If he felt she no longer trusted him, what would he want with her now? Did her accusation ruin everything?

She missed what they had before. The comfort she felt in his arms. His warm and passionate kisses. Could they get back to that? She wasn’t sure. She pushed aside her feelings and told herself to just go with whatever happened. If he was willing to try again, that would be good. And if he wanted to break up, well, then he was not for her. But that thought made her belly ache with loss and grief. She knew she loved him. She couldn’t bear losing him.

Shaking her head, but hoping for the best, she placed two wine glasses on the counter. A bottle of wine was chilling in the refrigerator. And if they broke up, she would put them away.

Don’t get your hopes up, she told herself.

The doorbell rang. She swallowed hard and she ran to answer it. Derek stood there, as handsome as ever, in the blue shirt she loved, and her heart beat faster. She hated the thought that this could be the end.

“Hey, Sheri,” he said softly. “Can I come in?”

“Yes, of course.” She stepped back and watched him enter. She knew she still loved him and yearned to be in his arms again, but she kept her distance. “Do you want to talk?”

He nodded. “Sheri, I’m sorry I got angry and we fought. I would never cheat on you, and I hope you know that.”

She bit her lower lip. “Yes, I know that. And I’m sorry too. I should never have thought that or accused you of that. I know you wouldn’t do that. I’m sorry. I was just … since it had happened before …”

“Sheri, I’m not Ryan. I would never do that. Like I told you, I had to work overtime that night. My boss said there was a new client coming the next morning, and I needed to get something ready. That was all. I was at work. I’m sorry.” He shook his head and stared at the floor, and then his gaze rose to meet her eyes. “Sheri, you’re the only one for me. There is no one else. You have to believe me. If you don’t believe me or don’t trust me, then we have nothing.”

Tears burned her eyes. “I do believe you. I’m so sorry I said that. I was wrong. I wish I could take it back.” She looked away, not sure what else to say.

Derek’s warm voice cut through her fears. “Hey, come here. Can I hold you?”

Her eyes filled with tears, she moved into his arms and breathed in his familiar scent. He held her tight and murmured into her ear. “I missed you so much.” He kissed the top of her head. “I love you, baby.”

“I love you too,” Sheri whispered back.

“Can I take you out to dinner?”

She looked up at him and saw caring, hope, and love in his eyes. “Yes, that sounds good.” She hugged him again. Maybe they would be okay.

“Is Italian okay? I know you like that.”

“Yes, I love that.”

“Good.” He gazed at her and then held her close. “I don’t like fighting with you. I want to get back to what we had.”

“Me too.” She wiped a tear away and looked up into his eyes and saw the sincerity there. “I was afraid I messed everything up between us.”

“No, no, it was just a misunderstanding. We need to talk to each other and trust each other. Share our fears with each other, but stay open and honest. I will always be honest with you. And if we talk about it, we can make it right again.”

“Yes, I trust you. It was my fault. I was wrong, and I’m so sorry.” She buried her face in his chest.

He held her and then leaned in and pressed his lips to hers. “I love you, baby. Please don’t forget that.”

She nodded and he reached for her hand. “So for dinner, I thought we could go to your favorite Italian restaurant.”

“Emilio’s?”

“That’s the one. Is that okay?”

Sheri smiled. “That sounds great.”

***

The aroma of garlic, tomato sauce, and cheese filled the air as they ate and talked. By the end of the meal, Sheri felt more relaxed and it felt like old times.

She squeezed Derek’s hand. “Thank you.”

“For dinner? You’re very welcome.”

“I mean for talking to me and clearing the air between us. I was scared of losing you.”

“Sheri, you mean more to me than you know. And I want us to always be able to talk to each other — about anything.” He looked away and fiddled with his napkin. “But we need to trust each other. That’s really important. So thank you for trusting me and believing me. I need that. We both need that.”

“Yes, I agree. And I do trust you and believe you.”

“Good. And I have a surprise for you when we get back home.”

“You do?”

“Yep. I hope you like it.” He smiled, leaned over, and kissed her.

***

After they were back in Sheri’s apartment, she poured the chilled wine into the two glasses. “To us,” she said, lifting her glass.

“To us,” he answered, as they clinked their glasses together and sipped the wine. “Hopefully for a long time.”

She smiled. “Hey, you said you had a surprise for me.”

“Yes.” He handed her a white cardboard box and gestured toward it. “Open it.”

She placed it on the counter, lifted the cover, and took out a small wooden box. Glancing at Derek, she slowly opened the wooden box and saw a beautiful strand of opalescent pearls.

She gently fingered the pearls. “They’re beautiful,” she said softly.

“I wanted to get you something special,” Derek said. “I know you always loved pearls.”

“Yes, I do.” She was mesmerized and touched by them, but she knew all she really wanted was him.

She took the strand of pearls out of the box and ran her fingers over them. Holding them up, she smiled as they glistened in the warm light, elegant and dazzling. As she held them, she noticed a small note sitting at the bottom of the wooden box. What was that? She reached in, took out the note, and read the four words written on it.

Will you marry me?

Her mouth fell open and she stared at Derek. Did he mean that?

His eyebrows rose in a question. “Well? You mean everything to me, Sheri. I don’t want to lose you.”

“Are you serious?”

He caressed her face and gazed into her eyes. “Absolutely. I don’t want to ever be without you. You are the only one for me. Will you marry me?”

Tears filled her eyes as Sheri nodded. “Yes, yes!” She fell into his arms “Yes!” She pulled back and looked at him. “This is the best gift I could get.” She swallowed past the lump in her throat and gazed into his eyes. “This is all I ever really wanted — you.”

“You got me, baby.” He picked her up and spun her around, then put her down and kissed her. “We got each other.”

“Yes, we do.” She kissed him hard and then giggled, as relief and joy flooded her system. She finally received the only gift she really wanted — him. And love. And forever.

—————————————–

Copyright © 2022 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
And please visit her Amazon author page at – https://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Miclea/e/B00SIA8AW4

Anita Wu: Stages of Truth

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Stages of Truth

Anita Wu

They told me that some things are better left unsaid, that some secrets should be taken with me to the grave. But what if they eat at my conscience and drive me to my demise? Should I tell you then, before the lies consume someone else?


Act I: The First

Dear …

I never meant to hurt him. You have to believe me.

It was something minor — innocent — like the pranks he always pulled on me when we were kids. Yeah… like his pranks.

Like when he told me to wait for him after class, told me with his ear-to-ear smile that he would drive me that day, yet I found myself walking the hour and a half home when the sun was setting because he never showed. I found him there, watching a movie before he apologized for “forgetting” that he was busy and had promised someone else a date.

Or when he stayed over at his friend’s place and refused to answer anyone’s calls for days. He convinced his friend to tell us that he was not there when we frantically called everyone, including the police, for fear that he was kidnapped.

It was a prank. Just a look-a-like.

The body was not his. The blood was not his. It was just a photo.

He would waltz into the house again, his legs wobbly beneath him and his breath reeking of alcohol, and he would collapse on the couch with his stained shirt and sticky hands, slurring the words only he understood. I would find him in a pile of vomit in the morning and smack him in the face.

He will answer my text in three days’ time like he always does. I will force him to brunch with me, he will sleep in, and we will argue about time: my insistence that people were busy and his retort that people didn’t deserve his holy presence.

He will be back, just like I remember him, just like how he always came back.

Right?


Act II: Public Knowledge

Everyone kept their distance, but their murmurs sounded louder to my ears than usual. Perhaps it was their gaze on me from the corner of their eyes, or their weak attempt at pretending to be talking about something else, or their fingers pointing my way while poorly concealed by the books they held to their chest.

“That’s her brother,” they whispered.

“She’s still coming to school? I would have stayed home. Perfect excuse to skip Tojin’s chem exam.”

“Were the pearls real though?”

“I slammed my computer shut when I saw the blood.”

I reached my locker, and the crowd around the area quickly scattered. A brief grin flashed on my face as I was not against being alone this day. I wasn’t sure what I would do if they asked me about the article. I wasn’t even sure why I kept sending texts to Jim after the same photo someone texted me appeared on the news.

But I heard the familiar click of heels and winced. Lilia walked up next to my locker and leaned against the metal frame, her head tilted like she had a question, her eyes on mine. Her arms crossed, her perfectly painted nails tapped against her skin like she was waiting for the acknowledgment she deserved. I continued to rearrange the contents of my locker, ignoring her.

“Hey,” Lilia popped her gum, “is it true?”

I closed my locker and turned to leave. I had never entertained her before, and I refused to start today. I would have preferred if she stayed away like the rest of the school, like everyone who treated me and my family as though we were poison.

“I mean, he had it coming, right?” one of Lilia’s tag-alongs showed up and chimed in.

“Totally — gambling like that? He was bound to get it someday.” Another one.

“But who knew he would try to pull one over his debt collectors?” Lilia laughed with that sweet voice of hers.

I spun and punched my locker, just missing her nose, the crash slightly rocking the entire row. I glared at her. “Shut up.”

Lilia smiled, her eyes narrowing as she realized she hit her jackpot. “Well, if your family would stop cheating the innocent community, then maybe I would. Sure, you guys can gamble if you want, but only do it if you have the money. Don’t do things you can’t afford. Especially don’t try to repay debt with fake pearls.”

I clenched my teeth and curled my fists tighter, my nails digging into my palms. I didn’t have the luxury of starting a fight with the rich girl. Mom was already devastated by Jim’s death. I could not make it worse for her; her old heart would not be able to handle it.

I imagined hitting Lilia’s face, pulling her braided hair, and smearing her makeup against the metal lockers; I imagined returning the bleeding favor her family gave my brother without the covert of the night or the police’s purchased blindness.

But I probably deserved worse punishment than she.

“My brother is no liar,” I spat instead and walked away.

“Perhaps you should check to see where he hid the real ones then,” Lilia called out, laughing. “You might need it someday.”


Act III: Secrets

Dear …

Could I swap my life for Jim’s? He had done nothing wrong. He just wanted to pay off his debt honestly. He wanted to give them the real pearls — he did.

I just didn’t know at the time. If I knew it would lead to this, I wouldn’t have done it. If I hadn’t done it, he would still be here. So, he should be here, and I should be wherever he is. It’s only right.

God — is that it? Do you want me to recognize you? Call your name? Would you listen to me now, then? What do you want from me? What do I have to do for you to give me Jim back?

Do you need a confession?

Do you need the real pearls?

I’ll gladly tell you, gladly hand you the pearls myself. So long as you give me back my brother.

I did it. I —


There are some secrets that must be taken to the grave, and I should not have the luxury of relieving my heart of its pain.

Please visit Anita on her blog: https://soreispeaks.wordpress.com/

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