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Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!: INSURE, ENSURE, and ASSURE

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

INSURE, ENSURE, and ASSURE

People often mix up the words insure, ensure, and assure. Although these words sound somewhat similar, they have different meanings and uses. This should help to keep them straight.

Insure means to take out an insurance policy to protect against risk. If you mean to insure something with an insurance policy, then use insure.

Examples:

  • She was told she needed to insure her car before driving it.
  • He looked for a good policy to insure his family against illness.
  • She hoped the insurance company would insure her home against floods.
  • He decided to insure his car with a different insurance company.
  • She was glad their house was insured after the storm hit.
  • He made sure his kids were insured when he signed up for health insurance.

Ensure means to make certain something happens or to guarantee it. If you mean to make sure something happens, then use ensure.

Examples:

  • She read the recipe twice to ensure she would prepare it properly.
  • He studied hard to ensure he would do well on the test.
  • She practiced every day to ensure she would be picked for the team.
  • She checked all the doors to ensure everything was locked.
  • He set the timer to ensure they would leave on time.
  • She stayed home to ensure her kids would do their homework.

Assure means to remove someone’s doubts, give assurance, or say with confidence. If you mean to remove someone’s doubts and say it will be okay, use assure.

Examples:

  • He assured her they would get to the movie on time.
  • She assured her boss she would get the report done by Friday.
  • He assured them he had experience with computers.
  • She assured the dog walker that her dogs were friendly.
  • The restaurant assured them that they would remain open.
  • He assured me everything would be fine.

They assured me they would help insure my car, and they ensured that I understood.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!

Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/

Paula Shablo: Love Letters

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, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Margarita Kochneva from Pixabay.

Love Letters

Paula Shablo

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hey, Penny. What’s up?” Dad was draped across his bed like a throw blanket, with his new puppy, Stub, snuggled in the small of his back. He was reading something—like me, if he found any books while salvaging, he brought them back.

Stub opened one eye, looked me over, and closed it again. Clearly, I was no threat to his bed. I grinned. “You’re going to be sorry for that when he’s grown and still wants to sleep like that,” I said.

Dad chuckled. “I think there might be some Golden Retriever in this guy,” he remarked. “I’m just glad we came across the litter so soon after his mama…well…”

A few days before, Dad and a couple of his friends had returned to camp with a litter of pups, seven in all. They had found the mother—what was left of her—while picking apples in a small orchard they’d discovered. She’d clearly been attacked and killed by something, probably a big cat, and it was obvious that she’d recently given birth, so they’d gone on a search for the puppies.

“You ‘came across,’ yeah,” I said. Beyond that, neither of us really wanted to talk about it. The puppies were alive, they were here now and being cared for, and nothing else mattered. I crossed to the bed and gave the pup a pat, then leaned down to nuzzle his little face when he looked up expectantly. “Cutie pie.”

Dad started to move, and I told him to stay put. “You’re fine, you look so comfortable.”

“My legs are asleep,” he informed me. “If I tried to stand up, I would fall on my face.”

I giggled and lifted Stub off his back so he could roll over and sit up. 

“Ahhhh.” It was half groan, half sigh. “Penny, I think I’m getting old.”

“Getting?”

“Ouch!” He gave me a rueful smile. He pointed to the book. “You might want to read this one when I finish,” he said. “It’s pretty good.”

I looked at the cover. “Stephen King? I’m down.”

He didn’t tell me I was too young for it. Some of the parents here do that, but that’s not Dad’s style. His style is, “If there’s something you don’t understand, come and find me and I’ll try to explain it.” Emphasis on try—even Dads don’t know everything.

I like it when I like my Dad. Today I’m feeling really good about him, and I appreciate that.

Some days, I am irrationally angry with him, even after all the time that has passed since Mamma died. I don’t know why I’m so awful; I just am.

But not today.

“I still have the photo album,” I told him. “We really like looking at the pictures.”

“You’re welcome to keep it with your things,” he told me. He smiled rather shyly. “I’ve been looking for a picture frame out there,” he admitted. “There’s a photo of us I’d like to hang on the wall…”

“Oh, Dad, I bet I know the one!”

“I bet you do, too.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open when we go out,” I promised. Surely a picture frame could be found somewhere.

“Thanks.”

“Anyway, I wanted to ask if I could look through the other boxes sometime. The ones I didn’t look in once I found what I was looking for the other day.”

“Of course, you can. Do you know what you’re looking for this time?”

“Not even a clue,” I admitted. “I just…it just makes me feel good, looking. And we really needed these,” I added, gesturing to the combs I’d woven into my unruly curls. I’d found a lot of hair accessories the last time I’d gotten into the boxes, and Dad had turned those over to us, admitting that he’d barely looked at Mamma’s things.

“That looks very nice.”

“Thanks!”

Stub was starting to squirm, and Daddy stood up and took him from me. “Someone needs a trip outside, I think,” he said. “Have fun, Penny. And—”

“Please put things away when you’re done,” I finished. We both chuckled, and Dad hurried away with his new little buddy.

Alone, I surveyed the stack of boxes in the corner. The last time I’d been looking for a locket, I quit going through things when I found it in the third box.

This time, I was just…looking.

Well.

I did have some hopes of finding other photographs since Mae and Dawn had really enjoyed the wedding album.

I moved the first two boxes aside. The third we had pretty much emptied, adding to our hair-care stash. I had put Mamma’s jewelry box on Daddy’s nightstand. It looked nice there, and he hadn’t objected or moved it. I regarded the empty wall space above it and made a mental note to tell anyone going out to salvage to keep an eye open for picture frames.

The next box in line yielded nothing of use. Old tax forms, medical records, immunization records, and all our birth certificates and social security cards were in a metal file box. Just seeing that sort of thing made me realize how much hope my mother had had that the future would hold some normalcy.

It was sort of depressing. I took my old marker out of my pocket and wrote “Old World Paperwork” on the box. Nothing meant anything anymore, really, but I would leave any decision making up to Daddy.

A little curious, I did examine all the birth certificates. I suppose it can’t hurt anything to know how old we are. Mae likes knowing what time it is, and what the date is, so I knew this would be something she’d be interested in.

Time goes by—this I know; and beyond that, I’m not all that fussed about whether it’s Tuesday or Saturday. Maybe someday it will matter to me, but not now. Let Mae be the timekeeper.

The next box was more to my liking. It was actually a very large-sized Rubbermaid storage chest, and inside there were stacks of photo albums, loose photographs, and—oh, wow! Our baby books!

I was surprised to see those and more surprised to discover that there were also baby books for Mamma and Daddy. She must have been saving those for years, and it made me wonder about my paternal grandparents. They were both gone before I was even born.

I decided it wouldn’t be fair for me to look through all this alone. We should look as a family. But when I was putting the books back, I discovered a stack of letters at the bottom of the box. I lifted them out, replaced the books, and went to sit on the bed.

Without consideration, I opened the first letter.

“My Love,

“From the first day I met you, my heart no longer resided inside my own body. You carry it with you now, and I can only hope you keep it guarded closely next to your own.”

Oh. I should stop reading, I thought.

I didn’t.

There followed a bit more mushy stuff, and then this curious phrase: “I now believe I should go bald. It is getting hot.”

My Daddy? Bald? What did that mean?

Next, he wrote, “My C.O. has promised I will be home in plenty of time to greet our newest miracle.”

(So this was before Dawn was born!)

“I cannot wait to see you all and hold you in my arms again.

“Kiss my Copper and Belle.”

(That would be me and Mae. He called us Copper Penny and Mae Belle. Pet names; it’s a Dad thing.)

I shook my head as I searched through the stack of letters, slipping first one and then another in and out of the twine-tied bundle. I made up my mind not to read any more—they were private love letters, after all.

Then I saw the envelope marked “To My Copper Penny.”

Well. It’s addressed to me! I can certainly read this one.

Suddenly, a huge lump rose in my throat, and I was nearly overcome with tears. I blinked them back and chided myself for being silly.

I just didn’t remember ever getting a letter from my father.

“Hello, my good-luck Penny!

“Even though I’m pretty sure you are a genius, your Mamma tells me you haven’t learned to read yet. I guess we will have to let her help you read this, and trust that she won’t let it go to her head when I tell you, in secret, that I think your mother is beautiful.

“I am writing today to thank you for the beautiful picture you drew for me. I have hung it on my wall, and everyone here agrees it is the best piece of artwork in this whole place. I sent you a picture!”

I looked inside the envelope, and sure enough, there was a photograph of Daddy, showing off what was a childish—but recognizable—rendition of a barn owl. His smile was huge and proud. Hot tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t have stopped them if I’d tried.

“I am so proud of you, Penny, for being such a good helper for Mamma and such a great big sister to Mae. And the new baby will be blessed with you, too. I want you to know that I worry less about everyone, knowing you are there. You have a great heart. I hope no one ever breaks it.

“I love you very much.

“Daddy.”

I remembered the drawing. For a little while, when I was really little, I was enamored with the messenger owls in the old Harry Potter movies Mamma had collected. When we got our mail, I would ask where the owls were. So, when Mamma said she was sending a letter to Daddy, of course I had to send an owl.

Of course! Mail should come with owls.

Memories are hard; even the good ones are hard.

I put the letter and the photo back into the envelope and tucked it into the front of my shirt. I was sure no one would mind if I kept my own letter.

I brushed tears away and then I returned the rest of the letters to their original place, underneath the baby books. I pushed the container over to sit next to the doorway until Daddy came back.

The rest of the boxes could wait until the next time I felt up to looking. There weren’t many left.

I heard Daddy coming. He was whistling some unfamiliar tune. “Hey, Lucky Penny!” he said. “Find anything good?”

“Lots of pictures. And baby books!”

“Really?” Daddy sighed. “I suppose I should have opened those boxes before now, but…well, I just…”

“I know, Daddy. But I want to look at all the pictures. Can we do it all together? Just the family?”

“Absolutely.” He reached to pat my head. Hesitated, because he never could tell with me; I can be kind of mean.

I hugged him. He hugged me back, and I could feel the love he has. The love he always has, even when I am being mean.

“Do you want Grandma and Gramps, too?”

“Not yet. Just you and me, and Mae Belle and Light of Dawn.”

I was still clinging to him and felt him chuckle. “You have a weird Daddy, don’t you?”

“Just a little weird,” I agreed.

Stub wiggled over to us, lifted a little leg, and peed on Dad’s foot.

So much for a serious moment—we didn’t stop laughing for a while after that.

I do need to ask him about going bald, though. That was a weird phrase…

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Please visit Paula on her blog: https://paulashablo.com/

D. A. Ratliff: Tied With Twine

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, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Margarita Kochneva from Pixabay.

A Detective Elija Boone Mystery

Tied With Twine 

D. A. Ratliff


Louisa DeLong wrapped her arms around her, pulling her sweater tighter against her slender body. Mist floated in the air, obscuring the trees as she made her way along the Bayou Lafourche in the early morning hours. The note clutched in her hand instructed her to meet him south of Lockport on LA-1 and park behind his truck. He would wait for her along the banks of the bayou.

She spotted his black truck, parked, and hurried across the road to the water’s edge. Shivering, she carefully picked her way through the underbrush and the gnarly roots covering the bank. Not seeing him, Louisa whispered his name. A twig broke behind her, but before she could turn around, arms swept over her head, hands holding a belt, and the thick, hard strap dug into her throat.

Instinct kicked in, and Louisa screamed, but her effort only resulted in a garbled groan. She attempted to tug at the belt digging into her flesh but couldn’t slip her fingers underneath. Her knees buckled, but pressure from the strap that pinned her against her assailant kept her from collapsing. A coppery taste filled her mouth, and the pain became unbearable as the belt sank into her throat. Her lungs struggled for air but lost the battle. As the world around her faded to blackness, her last thought was why.

~~~

“What the….” 

It took me a second to realize the ringing in my ear was my phone. I grabbed the offending device and might have answered gruffer than I should have.

“Don’t take my head off.” The aggravated voice of my partner, Hank Guidry, was gruff too.

“Sorry, didn’t sleep well. What’s up?”

“Captain got a call from the sheriff in Lafourche Parrish. They’re dredging the bayou there and found remains. Looks to be Louisa DeLong.”

I bolted upright. “You sure?”

“I’m not, but the captain is—said to get our butts down to Lafourche Parrish now.”

“You at the station?”

“Yeah.”

“Be out front in fifteen.”

I took the quickest shower I could, dressed, and left to pick up Guidry. If the remains were Louisa’s, maybe I could bring closure to a family I had become close to in the last seven years. Time I, Detective Elijah Boone, got a break.

~~~

We swung around to a fast-food joint for coffee and cardboard sandwiches. In a city known for its cuisine, having it ‘your way’ should mean, did you want shrimp or chicken etouffee, not dried out buns and flavorless meat. But I was hungry, and cops gotta eat when and where we can.

Hank offered me some of his fries, and I grabbed a couple. “Tell me what the sheriff said.”

“The state’s dredging the bayou after some barges got stuck and some areas flooded on high tide. This morning, just after daybreak, a backhoe was digging out along a bank. Operator pulled the bucket up, finding a chain dangling from a tooth. When the operator lifted the bucket higher, he saw a partial skeleton attached to the chain. Got divers in the water to recover the rest of the remains if they can.”

“What makes them think it’s Louisa?”

“Hand recovered had a ring still on a finger. Sheriff ran the description through the database, and the ring came back identified to the DeLong open case.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Sapphire and diamond ring?”

“Yeah.”

“I guess it’s her.”

Hank shifted in his seat. We weren’t partners when Louisa had gone missing seven years ago. My partner then was Allen Marco who had a fatal heart attack two weeks after Louisa went missing. He’d vowed to keep working to find her, and I suspected Hank knew this case was special to me.

“I know you worked on the case. LaSalle said it was a tough one.”

“Yeah. Louisa was a pretty girl. Sophomore at Tulane. Roommate Jenna Srathworth woke up about four a.m. on the morning she disappeared. Jenna asked her where she was going, but Louisa told her not to worry. She would be back soon.” I shut up for a second to get my voice under control. “No one saw her again.”

“No suspects?”

“None. Jenna said she knew Louisa was seeing someone but had no idea who. Louisa wouldn’t tell her.”

“Your partner, Marco, he died a couple of weeks later?”

I gripped the steering wheel. Losing Al still hurt. “Yeah, heart attack. Told him to stop smoking, but he just puffed away.” I remember his funeral. Al’s widow and two kids stood beside me in a Metairie cemetery as we watched his casket lowered into the ground. I shook it off.

“I was shocked at Al’s funeral to see Louisa’s parents, brother, and sister show up.”

“They came to Marco’s funeral?”

I nodded. “Good people. Felt we were trying to find their daughter and seemed genuinely sorry Al died. Stayed pretty close to them since then.”

Hank’s phone rang. It was forensics about another case we were currently investigating. After he ended the call, we talked about that case until we got to Lockport. The only directions I had was to keep on LA-1 past the shipyards until I spotted cruisers.

We fell silent as we got closer. Hank knew me pretty well, and I guess he could tell how the discovery of Louisa’s remains had affected me. A line of traffic cones slowed us down as only one lane was open. We stopped briefly as a flagger held us up. A lone commercial truck passed, and the flagger motioned us through.

We drove a short distance until we spotted several cruisers, blue lights flashing, parked on the right side of the road. Several officers were standing across the road on the narrow strip of land along the water.

It was July, and the second I opened the car door, the heavy humidity washed over me. I felt like I’d had a shower. I took off my suit jacket and noticed Hank did the same. The one thing we couldn’t get away from was the briny, fishy stench in the air. And I thought decomposed bodies smelled bad.

Sheriff Carlton Thibodeaux noticed us and waved us across the road. I’d met Thibodeaux before when his deputies caught a fugitive wanted by the NOLA police.

“Detective Boone, good to see you.”

“Good to see you, Sheriff. My partner, Hank Guidry.”

Thibodeaux nodded. “So it seems this gal’s the one who went missing a few years ago.”

“It appears that way. You got the ring here?”

“No, sent it back to the station with a deputy so we could run the photo through the database. I was surprised when we got a match.”

“So was I. Can I see the remains?”

“Yeah, sure, what there is.”

We climbed onto the berm that served as a flood barrier. A large barge dredging the main channel sat in front of the shipyard. A large backhoe, its bucket raised, brought in to dredge the bank, sat perched on the narrow strip of land on the roadside. Hence the need to close one lane of LA-1. A salvage diving team that assisted the county in water rescue continued to search for additional remains.

Thibodeaux motioned us a few feet south of the backhoe, where a plastic sheet lay on the ground, a chain, and part of a skeleton lying on the sheet. I hoped no one noticed the impact seeing the remains of a young girl with her life ahead of her, now nothing but bones had on me. I crouched down as if getting closer to the remains was going to make me feel better. It didn’t.

A splash of water interrupted my self-pity party, and I looked around to see a diver coming out of the water. I couldn’t say much. He was holding a skull. The ME onsite took the skull and gently laid it on the sheet. I stood up—that was too close.

The diver, partially out of the water, held up an object. “Found the skull wedged beneath a rock, and this,” he held a belt, “was caught in the broken part of the skull.” The diver took a breath. “Looks like someone chained the body to five big concrete blocks.”

The deputy placed the waterlogged leather belt onto the plastic sheet. Attached to one end was an ornate buckle that appeared made of solid gold. I slipped on gloves and knelt again, this time carefully picking up the buckle decorated with an embossed wolf face.

 “Carl, need to keep this belt in water until the techs can look at it. Got anything we can put It in?”

One of his deputies spoke up. “Got a cooler in the back of my cruiser. I’ll get it.”

While the deputy went for the cooler, I asked the divemaster the odds of finding more remains.

“Not good, Detective. The current’s strong on the tide, even this far inland. The backhoe snagged the arm and collarbone. We found the ribcage and part of the spine on the first dive. It looks like the body got wedged in the submerged roots, then covered with silt. Backhoe stirred everything up. It’s murky under the surface, and my guess is we won’t find any more remains. We’ll continue to look for a while anyway.”

“Thanks. Appreciate it.” I stared at the shipyards across the bayou. Louisa was thrown in the water here, and no one saw. The thought made me sick to my stomach.

After the belt was secured in the cooler with bayou water in it and logged in as evidence, we took it and headed to the station to pick up the ring. We established chain of custody and jurisdictional rights with the sheriff, transferring all evidence to our case. Hank and I returned to New Orleans. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, and I needed to speak to the DeLongs after talking to Captain Ferguson.

After logging the ring and the belt into evidence at the crime lab, Hank and I went to see the captain. I think Fergusons might feel like I did. Even though we suspected Louisa was dead, no one wanted to believe it.

I had the ring with me. Ferguson held the plastic evidence bag in his hand, staring at it. “You sure this is her ring?”

I pulled a photo from my wallet. “Lisa DeLong gave me this picture of Louisa from her high school graduation.” I handed it to him. The photo showed Louisa in her cap and gown, proudly displaying her late grandmother’s ring that her parents gave her for graduation. The captain handed the photo and the ring back to me.

“Time to tell them, Boone.”

~~~

I called ahead. When I arrived, I realized Lisa must have heard the emotion in my voice when I told her I had something to discuss with them. Several cars were in the drive and parked along the street in the quiet, upscale neighborhood they lived in along Lake Pontchartrain.

I pushed the doorbell, and Geoffrey DeLong opened the door. His eyes reflected what was in mine. He knew why I had come.

“Eli, come in.” Before we reached the den, he stopped. “Just tell us.”

Lisa and their other two children were in the den. Lisa ran to me, hugging me tightly. “We’ll be okay.”

I had talked to them, texted with them but hadn’t seen the family in nearly a year. Son Duncan had graduated from law school, and daughter Marissa was a senior at Tulane. The entire family stared at me. I had to say the words.

“This morning, I got a call about remains found during a dredging operation on Bayou Lafourche. We had reason to believe the remains were Louisa’s. My partner Hank Guidry and I drove down there.”

“It was her.” Lisa’s voice was solid, steady.

“We don’t have an identification yet, but we recovered a ring.” I reached in my pocket. My hands were shaking, and I took a minute to get a grip on my emotions. I pulled out the evidence pouch. Geoffrey took it from me.

This time Lisa’s voice betrayed her. “Geoff, tell me. Is that Mom’s ring?”

He nodded, and Lisa reached for him. I gave them a moment as Duncan and Marissa joined their parents. True to the strength of this family, they regained composure quickly.

Duncan spoke first, ever the new lawyer. “Eli, what do you know?”

“Not much. We recovered partial remains, but we can check dental records, which the ME will do soon. I’ve had the remains brought from Lafourche Parrish here for our forensics unit to examine. Other than the remains, we only discovered the ring and a man’s belt with a gold buckle and the image of a wolf embossed on it.”

“Do you think it belongs to whoever murdered her?”

“I don’t know, but we are certain someone murdered her.”

“How are you certain?”

“Her remains were attached to a chain and weighted down by several cement blocks.”

Lisa grabbed her son’s hand and looked toward me. “Eli, you’ve brought us closure. We know where she is. If you find her killer, we’d be glad. But know that we are grateful that you brought her home to us.”

 ~~~

Two days passed, and we had confirmation from her dental records that the remains were Louisa. I didn’t know if I should be relieved we found her or furious that her killer was out there somewhere going about his life. I decided to be both.

I sat at my desk, looking through Louisa’s case file as I had countless times. I slipped out the packet of notes tied with twine found among her things. Her roommate was sure she was seeing someone, but we hadn’t found any clues as to who. The notes were signed with the initials WL, but a search for anyone with that name never panned out. I know because I was still trying to find him.

I’d read and reread the notes so often they were worn. Just typical ‘I love you and as soon as I am free’ rhetoric. Ten to one, the guy was married and having his way with a young college student. Bastard needed to be taken down for that alone, but if he killed her—well—I didn’t want to admit what I wanted to do to him.

I was putting the file away when the desk sergeant called to say I had a visitor. I was surprised when I saw Jenna Srathworth entering the squad room.

“Jenna, good to see you. I take it you’ve heard.”

“Yes. I’ve remained close with the family, especially Marissa, but Lisa called me, which is why I’m here. Lisa said there was a gold belt buckle found with her… uh… body that had a wolf head on it.”

“Yes. Do you know something about it?”

“I’m not sure. You know we lived on Magazine, and I’d gone to the nearby drug store. When I came out, I saw her across the street. She met an older man who hugged her, and they walked around the corner. I’d forgotten all about this until Lisa mentioned the gold buckle. I remember he was wearing a belt that glinted in the sun. I asked her later, and she said it was a family friend. I’m sorry, just never thought about this.”

My heartbeat increased. At last, a small clue we hadn’t had before, but a long shot after so long.

“Do you think you could give us a description of this man, maybe help with a sketch?”

“I didn’t see him well, and it’s been a while, but I can try.”

~~~

A week had passed. The dive team found no additional remains, and we had nothing but a possible sketch of a mysterious man and a gold belt buckle. Doubt that we would discover Louisa’s killer fleetingly entered my mind, but I beat it back with a stick. I would find the bastard.

My stomach rumbled, and I decided my partner and I needed food. I grabbed my coat and told Hank to come with me. Time for some home cooking at Mama Leone’s.

It had been eight months since the shooting at the restaurant, and I had no qualms about admitting I felt a bit of deja vu when I enter the place. I dealt with it by never sitting with my back to the door.

Mama Leone spotted us and showed us to a table, brought us a bottle of wine, took our orders, then disappeared into the kitchen. Tom waved to us from the kitchen pass-through, and Uncle Matteo was engrossed in conversation with a guest. The world felt right to me here. This was my neighborhood and my friends.

Hank poured the wine. “This is a great place, and they like you.” He snickered. “No accounting for taste.”

I glowered at Hank, but he was right. For whatever reason, they did like me. We tap-danced around the real issue in front of us until Hank brought it up.

“You figured out what happened when those guys shot up this place. You’ll figure this out.”

“We need a break. We searched the databases for any mention of the gold buckle and checked with jewelry stores, leather shops. Nothing.”

Hank nodded. “Nothing on the sketch either.”

I stared at the photo of the buckle on my phone. Someone must have seen it before. I laid the phone down as Winona, one of the servers, brought our meals. I was about to say the Pomodoro smelled delicious when she pointed to my phone.

“Eli, I’ve seen that before.”

“Where?”

“On a buckle. Guy comes in here now and then.”

“Any idea who he is?”

“No, but Matteo might. I’ll get him.”

Matteo knew from the look on my face that it wasn’t time for niceties. “You looking for the man with the gaudy belt buckle?”

“Yes.” I showed him the buckle and the sketch. Matteo bit his lip.

“I know this man. He must be fifty, but always bringing in a young girl. Gives me the creeps.”

“Know his name?”

“Connor Chauvin. Runs a video production company three blocks from here.”

 ~~~

We picked the bastard up two hours later at his studio. He wore a wolf head solid gold belt buckle. No surprise that his video production company was making pornographic videos.

It took three hours to get a confession, but he knew the belt buckle convicted him. He admitted to luring Louisa to the bayou, strangling her with his belt and dropping her in the water tied to concrete blocks. He seemed upset he lost his belt in the process. Chauvin drove Louisa’s car to Dufrene Pond, where he owned a fish camp that he used for videos, hid the car in the garage, and rode his scooter back to his truck.

Why did he kill her? He said he loved luring young college girls into posing nude and making porn. I’ll never forget his words. “Louisa refused to play, and I knew she’d turn me in. Foolish bitch thought she loved me. Promised her I’d quit making porn. She knew about the cabin, so I told her to meet me, and we’d talk. Couldn’t let her ruin my good thing, so she had to die.”

I asked one last question. Why the wolf head on the buckle? Chauvin scoffed. “My name, Connor, means wolf lover.”

Wolf Lover. WL—the initials on the notes tied with twine. The notes he used to make her believe he loved her.

As the sun rose, I left the station. Time to tell the DeLong family we had justice for Louisa. 

————–

If you enjoyed this Detective Elijah Boone story, please check out this story in the series.

The Neighborhood

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

Cheryl Ann Guido: When Is a Murder Mystery Not a Mystery or, “Just One More Thing.”

Image: ©NBC Universal (Image not used for commercial purposes.)

Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? You know the kind, where we see the clues lead us to the culprit through the eyes of the detective or the hero of the story. In just about every tale of murder, the sequence of events is, the body is discovered, the detective is called, and we watch through the detective’s (protagonist’s) eyes as he or she follows the clues to catch the murderer.

If we are crime writers, we all attempt to put our own personal spin on this sequence of events. Some of us are more successful than others but that doesn’t mean that our readers don’t have fun along the way.

But I want to talk about a different approach. Being a crime buff all my life I have read about and watched many murder mysteries on tv and in the movies and enjoyed the investigative prowess of many detectives. The authors of those tales pull me in and keep my eyes riveted to the page or screen right up till the end. But one of my favorite characters of all time is the guy in the picture, Lieutenant Detective Columbo of the LA Police.

What is unique about this series is that in the beginning of each episode we actually view the murder being committed. We know right from the start who the murderer is and how he or she committed the crime. In this series, we do not follow the clues through the detective’s eyes. We follow them through the eyes of the murderer as he or she observes Columbo following clues in order to solve the crime. We are never told Columbo’s first name although in current times an astute viewer screenshotted a scene where he flashed his badge revealing that his first name is Frank. But remember, those techniques were not available when his character was created, so we go through every story knowing only his last name and he is so endearing that we don’t even mind.

Columbo is an everyday Joe, someone often not recognized as a Lieutenant because of his rumpled raincoat and old, falling apart Peugeot. He constantly smokes cheap cigars and clumsily knocks over items often causing the suspects minor annoyances all the while praising and buttering up the killer. Yes, it’s a set-up. As he hones in on the perpetrator, his pestiness increases, always employing his signature “just one more thing” as he turns around from heading out the door, invoking the suspect’s impatience and anger until the climax where he confronts the murderer, usually with some small detail they overlooked and reveals how he or she committed the crime. He never carries a gun and takes a lot of chances but somehow he is never hurt.

Yes, a lot in this series is outdated since it was written many years ago and many of Columbo’s techniques would never hold up in a court of law today however, his charisma, likeability, pestiness, and relentless determination to bring the murderer to justice is something we just cannot look away from even today and even though the sequence of events follows the same basic pattern in every screenplay.

All in all, knowing who the murder is from the beginning and seeing the crime solved through the criminal’s eyes is quite a unique approach to writing and it’s absolutely brilliant. The point of all this as it pertains to writing? Don’t be afraid to be different. You don’t need to follow accepted patterns in your genre. Think outside the box. Build your character’s personality and showcase his or her skills. This should be applied to stories in all genres, not simply murder mysteries. That way your story will stand out in a sea of many others swimming around in the same pond.

Happy writing!

About the Author

Cheryl Ann Guido is a retired mother, grandmother, and animal lover. To date, she has published two books, The End in the Rainbow and The Golden Huntress Murder Unscripted. An article she wrote about a cat she rescued was also published in CATS Magazine. Several of her poems appeared in anthologies published by the National Library of Poetry. She has written several children’s short stories along with numerous serialized fanfiction stories as well as standalone and rhyming narrative poems that are posted on various websites. She also served as the writer/producer/director of an in-house movie for one of her previous employers. Cheryl’s love for the written word began at a very young age and she continues to be an individual who is not afraid to let her imagination fly free.

Enjoy and visit Cheryl on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/cherylannguidoauthor

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!: Compliment versus Complement

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

COMPLIMENT versus COMPLEMENT

People often mix up the words compliment and complement. Although these words sound the same and there is only one letter different, they have different meanings and uses. This should help to use them properly.

Compliment can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to express praise, approval, or admiration. As a noun, it is an expression of praise, approval, or admiration. The form complimentary means free. If you mean praise or approval, use compliment.

Examples:

  • He gave a sincere compliment to his date.
  • She blushed at his sweet compliment.
  • He felt embarrassed by the compliment about his muscles.
  • She wore her new dress and was hoping for compliments.
  • He sent his best compliments to her mother.
  • Trying to win her over, he complimented her on her appearance.
  • The motel stay came with a complimentary breakfast.
  • He loved the meal and sent his compliments to the chef.
  • The lecture included a small complimentary gift.
  • She complimented her student on a job well done.

Complement can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to complete, supplement, balance, or enhance something. As a noun, it is something that completes or supplements something. It shows things go well together. If you mean to complete or supplement something, use complement.

Examples:

  • That scarf is a wonderful complement to her outfit.
  • The company has a full complement of employees.
  • The color of her dress was a nice complement to her eyes.
  • The two of them complement each other perfectly.
  • Her skills complement his very well.
  • He chose a good wine to complement the meal.
  • She wore complementary colors.
  • A great dessert is the perfect complement to the meal.
  • Her skills were a great complement to the project.
  • The new carpeting complements the room very well.

Hint: I like getting compliments; a complement completes something.

If you mean to express praise or admiration, use compliment.

If you mean to complete or supplement something, use complement.

She complimented him on being a great complement to the team.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

—————

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!
Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/

Lynn Miclea: Becoming Whole

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, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Margarita Kochneva from Pixabay.

Becoming Whole

Lynn Miclea

A restless unease moved through Emma as she joined her family for dinner. Tomorrow she would turn eighteen, and her birthday always brought a sense of agitation. She knew it should be a happy day, but it was usually filled with increased apprehension.

She always knew she was adopted, and an underlying feeling of loss and rejection filtered through her life, even though her parents were loving and kind. Her family was nice to her, but she had lingering anxiety and a nagging feeling that she simply did not fit in. Her light brown hair and blue eyes did not look like either of her parents or her sister. But more than that, she always wondered why she had been given away, and she longed for a place where she really felt she belonged, and that longing filled her with guilt.

Nervous and dreading her birthday the next day, her stomach ached as she sat at the kitchen table for dinner and stared at her food.

“Are you okay, Emma?” Her mom looked at her. “Are you feeling sick?”

Emma shook her head. “I’m just uncomfortable about tomorrow. I guess I just don’t like birthdays or all the fuss.”

Her mother nodded. “I know, sweetheart. We won’t do anything big, but I have your favorite cake for you — red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.”

“Thank you. I love that cake.” She gave a weak smile and pushed her food around on the plate, and then picked at her food and slowly ate.

Dinner finally finished, she pushed away from the table and ran to her room. She hated her birthday. It was another reminder that her birth mom had given her away, that she was not wanted, and her anxiety grew. Trying to calm down and slow her breathing, she looked around the bedroom. There was not much. A few books, her guitar, and a notebook where she wrote poetry. A few treasured stuffed animals from her childhood sat on her dresser. An emptiness gnawed at her, and she blinked back the tears.

After a restless night of dozing on and off, she crept into the kitchen the next morning for breakfast.

Her mother was making pancakes and she turned and smiled at Emma. “Happy birthday, honey. Want some pancakes? I know that’s your favorite for breakfast, so I wanted to make that for you.”

Emma sniffed the air, loving the smell that filled the kitchen. “Thank you. I do like your pancakes.”

“I know, sweetie. Here, the pancakes are ready.” She placed the plate on the table and Emma inhaled the homey aroma before digging in. Maybe the day wouldn’t be so bad.

As Emma began to push away from the table after finishing her breakfast, her mom sat down across from her. “I have something special to give you. When we adopted you, your birth mother gave the adoption agency a small box of items for you for when you turned eighteen. We promised that we would hold it for you until then. And now that you are eighteen, you can have it. I don’t know what’s in it, but it’s for you from your birth mother.”

Emma’s mouth fell open and she stared at her mom.

“Wait here and I’ll go get it.” Her mom left the room, and Emma stared after her. Her stomach churned. What could be in the box? Would she find the answers to her questions? She tapped her foot as fear flooded her system.

A couple of minutes later, her mom returned carrying a small box, and she placed it on the table. “Here, honey. This is the box. Take your time.” She pushed the light blue cardboard box toward Emma. “And please know that no matter what is in it and what you want to do, we support you and always love you, and you are always part of our family. And if you want to talk about it, I’m here for you. Okay?”

Emma nodded and whispered, “Thank you.” She grabbed the cardboard box and ran up to her room.

Nervous and jittery, Emma sat on the bed and stared at the box. She wiped her damp hands on her jeans and, hands shaking, she slowly untied the old, wrinkled ribbon and lifted the lid. After a moment’s hesitation, her fingers trembling, she peeked in the box and carefully removed the contents. There were a few letters, some pictures, and a small, pink ribbon.

Her heart pounding, she picked up the pictures and gasped, peering intently at the photos. A teenaged girl, holding a baby wrapped in a pink blanket, smiled at the camera. There were a few pictures of the baby, some with a pink ribbon in her hair — the same pink ribbon that was in the box. Emma’s heart thudded in her chest as she studied the pictures again.

On the back of the baby pictures were written her name and a date. She felt her throat close up. These were pictures of her as a baby — she was a few weeks old in two pictures, and one month old in one of the pictures. The young woman, who must be her birth mom, looked just like her. Emma felt a deep soul yearning building inside. She was actually looking at a photo of her biological mother and herself as a baby. Why did her birth mom give her away? Did she still remember her? Did she ever think about her?

Her hands shook as she put the photos down and opened the letter. She began to read, struggling to breathe, as tears fell.

My sweet baby Emma,

I love you so much and I wish I could give you the life you deserve. But I cannot, and you deserve the best life possible.

I am only seventeen and am not able to care for you. I wish things were different, but they are not in my control. I love you so deeply but I am not able to keep you or take care of you. After a month of agonizing over it, I have reached the difficult decision that I need to give you up for adoption. I desperately hope you will have a loving home and will have a better life than anything I can offer. I hope and trust this is the right thing to do.

Emma looked away and then fell forward, sobs wracking her body. She had to keep reading, but it was hard to focus. Her mouth dry, she wiped her tears away and continued reading.

My parents drink too much and we have no money. Your dad was my boyfriend in high school, but we are no longer together. This is such a difficult decision, and I wish I could keep you. It hurts me so bad to give you away, but I really have no choice. Please know that I love you with every fiber of my being and I will always love you.

I hope you will be happy, and I hope one day you can forgive me.

With Love, your mother, Claire

By the time Emma finished reading the letter, she was sobbing and gasping for air.

For a few minutes, Emma could barely breathe. Then she looked through the other letters. In one of the letters, Claire said she played the guitar and wrote poetry — just like her! There was more information about her birth family and contact information if Emma wished to reach out to her. If the information was still valid, Emma would be able to reach her.

Fear gripped her. Would Claire still want to be contacted eighteen years after she wrote the letter? Would she still remember her? Or was she long forgotten? Would her birth mom want to meet her now? Or was she a bad memory of a difficult time? Was she even still alive?

Emma held the letter to her chest. The yearning inside grew too strong, and she knew she desperately needed to call and try to meet her birth mom. Claire would probably be about 35 now. Her heart ached as a rush of fear, anxiety, desperation, and conflicting feelings rushed through her. Should she call?

Clutching the letters and photos, Emma rocked back and forth, sobbing, trying to muster the courage to make the phone call.

After an hour, she could no longer hold back. Hands shaking, she called the number scrawled on one of the letters, hoping Claire was still at the same number.

The call was answered on the second ring. “Hello?”

Emma could barely speak, and her voice was hoarse. “Um, Claire?”

“Yes?”

“Um … I’m not sure how to … This is Emma. I’m your daughter.”

***

One week later, checking her image in the mirror, Emma ran her fingers through her light brown hair and smoothed down the yellow blouse she wore. Wearing her favorite color, she hoped it looked bright and cheery, but her nerves were getting the better of her. Her hands were sweating, and she felt jittery. Why was she so nervous? But she had to see her. She had to meet the woman who gave birth to her.

Claire’s voice had been soft and hesitant on the phone when they had briefly talked, but she had agreed to meet. However, Emma sensed some reluctance. Was she reluctant because she did not really want to meet? Was this a mistake? Or was Claire simply as scared as she was? Whichever it was, Emma could not back out. This was too important, and she felt driven.

Whatever happened, she would deal with it. Even if it ended in disappointment, it was better to know than always wonder. She checked her watch again. It was time to leave.

Twenty minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot at the coffee shop and parked. She sat there unmoving for a few minutes, trying to slow down the racing of her heart. Finally, hands cold and shaking, she got out of the car and walked to the entrance of the coffee shop.

Her legs feeling rubbery, she hesitated. What if Claire didn’t even show up? What if she really didn’t want to see her? Maybe this was all a mistake.

Tires pulling into a parking spot got her attention, and she turned and watched a small white car pull in a few spots away from hers. A woman got out, shut and locked the car door, checked her watch, and looked around. She seemed nervous.

For some reason, this woman held Emma’s attention. The woman was short, slightly built, and had light brown hair about her color. As the woman came closer, something seemed vaguely familiar. The woman approached the front entrance, stopped, and looked at Emma.

Emma saw her own blue eyes, worried, scared, and anxious, reflected in this woman’s face. The woman wore a beautiful yellow blouse, a color that matched her own, and …

Emma gasped and then held her breath.

The woman turned to her and her eyes opened wide. “Emma?”

Emma nodded, at first unable to speak. Then she finally whispered. “Claire?”

The woman nodded and opened her arms. Emma moved forward, and the two embraced, holding on to each other.

When they finally pulled apart, they both had tears running down their faces. Emma looked at Claire, who was so much like herself. “Thank you for meeting me. It is so good to see you. Let’s go in and have lunch and talk.”

Claire dabbed at her eyes with a small tissue. “Yes, yes, let’s go in.”

Emma opened the door and held it for Claire, then followed her in. After being seated in a booth, looking over the menu, and ordering their meals, they relaxed and gazed at each other.

“Thank you for the box you sent when I was adopted.” Emma’s voice was soft. “It was nice to read the letter and see the pictures. But I was afraid to call you.”

Claire’s face softened. “I’m glad you got the box and I’m glad you called. I didn’t know if you would be angry or resent me.” She toyed with her napkin. “Emma, I loved you more than you could know. It was so hard to give you away, but I could not offer you a decent life. I could not take care of you.”

“I know. I understand. Thank you for doing what you felt was best for me. And thank you for that letter. That helped a lot.”

Claire reached out and squeezed Emma’s hand. “I hope you had a good life and are with a good family.”

“Yes, I am. My parents have been very good to me. They are loving and kind. But something has been missing in my life, and I always somehow felt lost. I always longed to find a blood relative. A place where I felt complete and where I truly belonged.”

Claire nodded. “Yes, I can understand that. You’re not mad at me?”

“Oh, no, no, of course not. I just always wondered why you gave me away. And reading that letter and meeting you helps a lot.”

The waitress placed steaming plates of food on the table, refilled their iced tea, and then went to another table.

Claire smiled. “Do you know that I celebrate your birthday every year?”

Emma gasped. “You do?”

“Oh, yes. Each year on your birthday I get a small cake and put a candle in it and sing happy birthday to you. And every day I think of you and wonder how you’re doing. I always wish I could hold you. I never stopped loving you.”

Emma took a bite of her chicken sandwich and looked at her mom. “I look like you.”

Claire smiled. “Yes, you do. And you are so beautiful.”

Emma laughed. “Thank you. You are too.” She grabbed a French fry. “And we’re a lot alike, too. We both play the guitar and write poetry.”

“You do that too?” She sipped her iced tea. “And look — we wore the same color.”

“I know — I love yellow. It’s my favorite color.”

“Mine too!”

Conversation flowed easily as they shared more about themselves, opened up to each other, and gradually felt more comfortable.

As they finished their meal and pushed their plates forward, Emma saw worry in her mother’s face. “What’s wrong? I can see you’re worried about something.”

“It’s nothing. I —”

“Tell me. Please.”

Claire blinked and looked away for a few moments, then looked back at Emma. “You’re the only remaining family I have. My parents are gone, and there’s no one else. I don’t want to lose you again.”

Emma grabbed Claire’s hands. “I’m not going anywhere. You’re also the only blood relative I have. I want you in my life. We need each other.”

***

A week later, Emma went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast. Her adoptive mom was making omelets and turned to her. “Hi, honey. How is it going with your birth mom? Is that going well? Did you want to talk about it? Would you like an omelet?”

“It’s good. We have a lot in common and it feels good deep down to connect with her. It means a lot.” She sat at the kitchen table. “But you’re still important too. You’re my family,” she quickly added. “And yes, I’d love an omelet, thank you.”

“I want you to know that I’m proud of you for having the courage to reach out to your birth mother, and I’m glad that’s going well. And please know that I love and support you. Please don’t forget that you’re an important part of this family too.” She blinked. “You’re my baby, too.”

Emma felt heat rising in her face. “Thank you. I know. And I do feel a little guilty, like I’m betraying you.” She shook her head. “You’re not upset that I contacted her?”

Her mom set a plate with the omelet on the table and then sat down across from Emma. “Not at all. This is a big thing, and I know it’s important to you. And if it’s important to you, then it’s important to me. I don’t want to lose you, but I also don’t want to hold you back from what you need to do. You do what you feel is right. Just know that we love you, you are part of our family, and you are always welcome here. I want what’s best for you.”

“Thank you.” Emma sighed. “Claire has no other family — just me. And I’d like to develop more of a relationship with her.”

“Hey, why don’t I invite her here? I would love to meet her, if that’s okay with you. And she’s welcome here as well.”

Emma looked up at her. “Really? Thank you, Mom. That is really nice. I really appreciate you being okay with all this.”

“I love you, sweetheart. I want you to be happy. I know this is important to you.

Emma blinked tears away as her eyes burned, and she could not speak for a few moments. Finally, she looked up. “Thank you. You will always be my mom, and I love you. Thank you for supporting all this.”

“You’re welcome. She can be part of our family, too.”

Emma wiped away a tear. “It feels like instead of not quite belonging, I now belong to two families. Or maybe our family just got bigger.” She smiled. “And I feel complete now. I finally feel like I am whole and I really belong. Thank you, Mom.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. How’s the omelet?”

Emma laughed, an overwhelming sense of relief, gratitude, and wholeness flooding her. “The omelet is great. Thank you.” She laughed again. “I think I’m going to be okay now.”

—————————————–

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

Tanja Cilla: DRINK TO ME WITH THINE EYES

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, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Margarita Kochneva from Pixabay.

Drink to Me With Thine Eyes

Tanja Cilla

It was our poem… To Celia, by Ben Jonson.

Drink to me only with thine eyes,

And I will pledge with mine;

Or leave a kiss but in the cup,

And I’ll not look for wine.

He’d recite it as we drank scalding coffee on the steps in front of the Youth Centre. My dream was to open a coffee shop where people would not hesitate to come in, even if they were alone.

He painted the sign for me as a surprise—“To Celia.” I had the name of the shop, even before I had started saving up for it. We were just eighteen years old, and there was no Crowdfunding back then.

Eventually, I did open my shop. I practiced the Pay it Forward idea, on the off-chance that someone would want coffee, but not enough have money for it…

As I was saying…

The thirst that from the soul doth rise

Doth ask a drink divine;

But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,

I would not change for thine.

Oh, how we used to argue about this. He said the word should be sip, because you don’t eat nectar, and said it thusly. I said you can scoop nectar up with a spoon. Each time he said sip, not sup, I put my hands over my ears so that I wouldn’t hear the rest of the poem. Eventually, he relented and began saying sup. 

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,

Not so much honouring thee

As giving it a hope that there

It could not withered be.

He sent me a single rose, actually. And then he said he was going to Australia to make his fortune, and then he’d come back a rich man and marry me. It was a fait accompli — he didn’t even ask for my opinion on the matter. He didn’t even ask if I would go with him. I would have settled for much, much less than the wealthy lifestyle he envisaged. And I was under shock—so I did not ask if he’d like it if I went with him. And I was too embarrassed to ask him later because he might think I was foisting myself upon him.

But thou thereon didst only breathe,

And sent’st it back to me;

Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,

Not of itself, but thee!

Ah. How we had laughed when we ‘did’ the poem in English Literature for Advanced Level extra credits. The teacher’s face was a picture, when we stood up and recited it; in all his years of teaching, he had never had a student who could. And here we were — two of us.

That, too, is just a memory now. One of the many, many memories that I have. I wonder whether he recalls them too…

I grew up — in more ways than one — when I opened my coffee shop. The old school crowd congregated there… and brought their friends. My business grew and grew, and soon I could offer franchises.

He was missing, of course, and there always remained a him-shaped hole in my heart. That is partly why I never wanted to get married… apart from the fact that some men were too obviously wooing me because of my wealth, and not because they hoped we could grow old together.

To the others, he was merely one of those who did not turn up, on and off, because he had emigrated, moved house, or… died? Inexplicably, indeed, I only ever received a few letters from him, so I considered myself a dead part of his past. And it hurt. So, I never asked after him. And it hurt even more. Damned pride.

I made work fill my life. I was constantly coming up with new ideas, new promotions and advertising campaigns, and new offers. I created the concept, now copied by many, of combined coffee shop and diner by day, and cocktail bar and restaurant by night.

Our old classmates often commented about how I had lost my joie de vivre, and a good couple of them told me they were scared that I was turning into a hard, driven businesswoman. I knew what they were getting at. I pretended I didn’t.

I decided to rope in the old clique; minus him (of course) and Andrew, who, alas, drowned when he was doing missionary work in Somalia, and Janet, who was having a very difficult pregnancy, into my nationwide campaign.

Obviously, it involves haiku, which I can churn out by the dozen:

autumn is my life

not quite spring, not quite summer

but never winter //

autumn leaves wafting

without a care in the world

gilded orange rain //

autumn’s bare branches

will be green again come spring

if spared by winter //

These, and dozens more, are appearing in random magazines and newspapers. Presenting four different ones to the Head Waiter will get the client a coffee, a long drink, a slushie, an ice cream, or a cocktail of choice — depending upon the time of day. The ensuing publicity more than makes up for the freebies… and anyway, money doesn’t matter to me anymore.

When I overhauled the menus, I concocted recipes for “Limited Edition” beverages and drinks, all with an autumnal theme. The colours of most of the ingredients are pale yellow to dark brown… but I threw in some red, for effect, occasionally… chili flakes in the persimmon slushie; pink peppercorns in the Ginger Caramel ice-cream; frozen cranberries floating at the top of the Campari spritzer; a speckled swirl of blood orange peel curled inside the hot whiskey toddy glass; strawberries skewered on the straw (actually a celery stalk) of the Frangelico-chinotto bevvy… you get the picture. 

I never entered cocktail competitions; I didn’t need, or want, bragging rights, exposure, recognition, or fame. I wanted him. That is why I am sending “them” to do the interviews; in other words, actually, I bribe my partners to be my spokespersons.

Once I could afford it, I diversified. I marketed my own brand, To Celia, of Bar Syrup, Lemon Bitters, Nasturtium Anisette, and others. These are ingredients in the season’s offerings. They are available for purchase, too, on the premises.

For the same label, in the run-up to the launch, I designed matching bar paraphernalia; carafes, corkscrews, glasses, jugs, mats, openers, shakers, spoons, strainers, and more, again, in Autumnal colours. These were an instant success, though I say so myself, and personalised items are available on order.

Last year I issued shares in the stock market, but only because it’s a fun thing; actually, I had been offered a six-figure sum for the whole kit and caboodle, but I declined. I do not need the money.

Today, I am closing another chapter of my life. I’m glad that last week’s launch went well, and yet… I still yearn for what could have been.

I have only one regret in life. Now, I know that a resisted temptation is a missed opportunity. I was too proud to risk a ‘no’ for an answer. I will read his letters one last time, and then I will chuck them and the photos into the fireplace.

As I sit here, numb, I watch him through the window of the café. I grip my coffee mug so hard my knuckles go white. He is looking at the To Celia sign. The waitress, the daughter of a neighbour, later told me that I hadn’t even heard her ask me what the matter was.

She comes closer, and follows my gaze. She sees him. She understands, immediately, and, not caring that I am The Boss, she bends down and hugs me.

I’m getting married tomorrow.

It’s too late. Or isn’t it?

Please visit Tanja on her blog: https://paperjacketblog.wordpress.com/

WRITING TIPS, TOOLS, AND TIDBITS!: BARE versus BEAR

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

BARE versus BEAR

People often mix up the words bare and bear. Although these words sound the same, they have different meanings and uses. This should help to use them properly.

Bare can be an adjective, meaning naked, nude, uncovered, or minimal. It can also be a verb meaning to expose or reveal something. If you mean to be naked or expose something, use bare.

Examples:

  • She was uncomfortable showing bare skin, even in front of the doctor.
  • He opened the closet and found it completely empty and bare.
  • It was too cold to go out with bare feet, so she put on shoes.
  • The cupboard was bare in the new house.
  • She felt comfortable enough to bare her soul to him.
  • He hated the job and did the bare minimum.
  • She wanted to get down to the bare bones.
  • He bared his chest to show off his muscles.
  • Her clothes revealed a bare midriff.
  • He stepped back when the dog bared its teeth.

Bear can be a noun, meaning a large, furry animal. It can also be a verb, meaning to tolerate or endure something. If you mean an animal or to tolerate or endure something, use bear.

Examples:

  • She was excited to see a bear on her trip to Yellowstone.
  • He could not bear the thought of not seeing her again.
  • The suitcase weighed too much for her to bear.
  • Please bear with me while I get ready.
  • He knew he’d have to bear the cost for the trip.
  • She couldn’t bear the pain any longer.
  • He could not bear to watch her suffer.
  • The teacher asked the class to bear with her as she set up the slides.
  • That beam can easily bear the weight of the second floor.
  • She felt like she had to bear the brunt of what happened.

Basically, if you mean to be naked or reveal something, use bare. For everything else, use bear.

If you want an adjective meaning nude, empty, or minimal, or a verb meaning to uncover or reveal something, use bare.

If you want a verb meaning carrying, supporting, or enduring, use bear.

She couldn’t bear to bare her soul.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

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I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!
Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/

WRITE THE STORY January 2022 PROMPT!

Welcome to Write the Story!

January marks the beginning of our fourth year of Write The Story! We have had three years of amazing stories and are thrilled how the membership rose to the challenge each month and the talent they have shown. Thanks to all who took the time to read and comment on the stories. Feedback is important to the authors and much appreciated.

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! January 2022 Prompt

Please note: the images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Margarita Kochneva from Pixabay

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 3000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or poem (minimum 50 words) 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 work.

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WRITING TIPS, TOOLS, AND TIDBITS!: LOSE versus LOOSE

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.

LOSE versus LOOSE

People often mix up the words lose and loose. Although they may look similar, they are completely different words and also different parts of speech. Lose is a verb that means to misplace, to not win, or to not hold onto something. Loose is an adjective that means not tight. The information shown here should help people use the words properly.

Lose rhymes with snooze and is a verb that means to misplace, to not win, to suffer a loss, or to part with something. If you are using a verb, use lose.

Examples:

  • She did not want to lose the game.
  • He realized he had nothing left to lose.
  • She knew she needed to lose weight.
  • He looked everywhere — he couldn’t bear to lose that.
  • She told her sister to never lose faith.
  • He told her to keep it safe and never lose it.
  • She did not want to lose sight of the goal.
  • She knew she was about to lose her temper.
  • He was careful not to lose his money.
  • She hated when she would lose a sock in the laundry.
  • He did not want to lose the key again.

Loose rhymes with moose and is an adjective that means not tight. If you are using an adjective, use loose.

Examples:

  • Her clothes were too big and loose on her.
  • She gave a somewhat loose definition of the word.
  • He always carried loose change in his pocket.
  • She wanted to wear something that was loose and comfortable.
  • He sometimes played fast and loose with the rules.
  • Her hair hung loose down her back.
  • He knew he had to fix the loose doorknob.
  • He lets his dog run loose in the back yard.
  • He used a screwdriver to tighten the loose screw.
  • She smiled and showed off her loose tooth.
  • He was worried that the tire would come loose and fall off.

Basically, if you want a verb that means something is misplaced or you didn’t win, use lose.

If you want an adjective that means relaxed or not tight, use loose.

If your ring is too loose, you could lose it.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

—————

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog, and also in my Grammar Tips book. Thank you!
Website – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/
Blog – https://lynnpuff.wordpress.com/
Grammar Tips Book – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09N2BQMCG/