‘Tis the holiday season again, and what a year it has been! To say that this year has been different than just about any other in the history of anyone currently alive, and maybe even ever, would be an understatement. This year kind of feels like we have gotten stuck upside down in a roller coaster loop: we have sat pretty much suspended and helpless, and all we can do is wait for the world to set itself to rights again.
As we navigate these unprecedented times, one of the small silver linings, at least as an author, is the overwhelming consensus from many people that they finally have had a chance to start reading for pleasure once again. Indeed, this is not surprising, as “Life Before the Pandemic” tended to be overbooked and incredibly busy. We often overextended ourselves to the point that it felt like we were home only long enough to sleep, change clothes ,and throw some food down our gullets. This year, though, in the crazy turn of events, we are now faced with being home more now that ever before. The four walls we before saw as sanctuary and longed to retreat to may now feel more like the walls of a prison of sorts, trapping us inside as we yearn for an escape, even if only metaphorically.
I recently read about a practice in Iceland when among gifts given on Christmas Eve, people receive a book and chocolate. This sounds like the world’s greatest presents to me! So, that got me thinking that as an author, I had the ability- and maybe even the duty- to figure out a way to combine the sudden resurgence of people finding solace in reading with the Icelandic idea of giving books for Christmas.
Therefore, together with my publisher, Solstice Publishing, I decided it would be great to reduce the price of my books for the month of December. Unfortunately, we don’t have much control over the cost of the printed editions; however, we have a bit more flexibility when it comes to the price of the ebook versions of books for the holidays, which we have happily utilized!
So, to whet your pallete, without further ado, I present to you the first chapter of my debut novel, A Good Kind of Crazy, with the hopes that it will pique your interest, so that you may find respite from this crazy world, and maybe will even want to share a copy with some of your friends and family as an easy, inexpensive, and responsibly socially distant holiday gift!
A Good Kind of Crazy
Katherine, or Kat, as she was affectionately known to those who loved her, awoke with a start on her forty-third birthday. She glanced around and wondered how she got there: not her bed, nor her house, but her life. She turned her head and looked over at her husband’s side of the mattress, finding it empty as usual. He always left at some ungodly hour to beat the traffic in from their suburban neighborhood to his job downtown. She smiled to herself as she thought about him. James had always been a good man and he took his responsibilities of supporting her and their three children seriously. He was a good provider, but as an accountant, he had slowly begun to develop more of the “typical” accountant behaviors through the years. Never very bombastic, he had become even more subdued, almost distant, especially in the last year or so.
Funny how the things that had attracted her most to him when they had met at university—that he was mature and responsible, especially compared to the frat boys on campus—were the things that now made her long for something more. Sure, they had built a good life together. They had a neat and tidy typical suburban home, though it wasn’t particularly large. Maybe a little too small even, especially when their three kids were younger. He had been a good, albeit somewhat hands-off, father, relying heavily on her to handle the day-to-day minutia of their lives. Of course, he would listen and offer his opinion when she struggled with any big issue, such as if the kids needed braces, which colleges would be the most feasible, or when she was worried about one of their love interests, but he did not get bogged down in the details of their existence. That
was Mom’s job. All of the doctors’ appointments, school meetings, broken hearts, sports, and dance practices fell to her. She was happy that he didn’t fight her on much of anything, but sometimes wished he was a little more passionate and involved… with all of them.
Kat rolled over and looked at the clock; 7:30 a.m. it mockingly said. Though she wanted to sleep more, she sat up with a small groan, knowing that she needed to get moving or she would be tempted to stay in bed all day. Then, for a fleeting second, she wondered why; the most exciting thing about her day would be what she made for dinner. She then remembered that it was her birthday and wondered what James had planned. He was far from a romantic, but he always tried to do something he thought she would like on her special day. She had a bit more spring in her step as she walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower. While the water heated up, she stood looking in the mirror, taking stock of how her now forty-three years had treated her physically.
I still have beautiful hair, she thought as she admired her best asset. A little longer than her shoulders, it fell in soft waves around her face. It was a nice chestnut color, shiny and thick. On her last visit, her stylist had recommended that they add some blonde highlights. “Chocolate chip cookie” she had called it, assuring Kat it was the latest thing.
Her eyes caught themselves in their reflection. They were okay. Still a mix between green and hazel, they just looked brown from far away. “Not too many crow’s feet,” she said aloud.
Her skin was still lightly freckled even as an adult; she couldn’t deny her Irish heritage even if she wanted to. However, they weren’t terribly noticeable anymore, especially when she put on some foundation. Her lips were still red and full, another of her better attributes. She knew
she was lucky in that department. She looked at her chin and neck. Though still fairly taut, she was beginning to see the faintest beginnings of “turkey neck.” Her hand flew instinctually to her throat and she silently wondered what could be done for that. Surely by now, there has to be some sort of magic cream or procedure, right?
Her eyes moved down to her breasts. Still okay too, in her opinion, though a bit saggy from nursing three babies. They definitely looked better in a bra under a shirt, though, that was for sure.
Her hands slipped down to her stomach. Slightly pudgy and lined with a few stretch marks which she absently fingered, she thought back to her three pregnancies and recalled how large she had gotten and how she had wondered if her body would ever go back to the way it was before. It hadn’t, of course; bodies never do. No matter how much exercise one does after having a baby, there will forever be physical reminders for every woman who went from maiden to mother.
Her eyes scanned her rear and legs. Definitely more defined than her upper body, they still looked okay, except for some spider and varicose veins: more physical reminders of the three times she had carried another life inside her own body. Still slim, strong, and flexible, her body required very little “leg work” at the gym, when she actually bothered to go.
The shower was steaming now so she climbed inside. As she was soaping her body, she wondered when her older two kids would call from school. Derrick was studying engineering. Always an overachiever, he was in his last year, having somehow magically done his degree in three years instead of four, and thriving. Olivia was at school, too, though she seemed more interested in gaining her “MRS” than in earning any kind of degree. Kat wasn’t even sure what her major du jour was this week. As a sophomore this year, Kat hoped Olivia would finally start
to pay attention to her studies and not to all the boys around her. But Kat had known since Olivia was small that her focus would be on being a wife and mother. Why that was, Kat wasn’t sure. She certainly wasn’t like that. She loved her children, but she never recalled having the strong desire to have a family that she observed in Olivia.
Kat shut off the water and her thoughts turned to her youngest son, Andrew. Now a senior in high school, he was such a player: cute, funny, smart, and part of a champion lacrosse team, he had the girls and world falling at his feet. Every day brought a new phone call from some recruiter or another.
His grades were excellent and his participation in everything from drama to chess club had pretty much sealed his future. He definitely combined the best of both herself and James, Kat thought while drying off.
As she wrapped her towel around her head, the telephone rang. Kat looked at the caller I.D. and saw the L.A. area code. Jen, she thought as she grabbed the phone and said hello. It was only five a.m. on the West Coast, she knew, but Jen’s job as a caterer for various Hollywood movies and T.V. shows often meant an early start for her friend. She absently turned on the T.V., having habitually turned it on in the morning for years as background noise to fill the silence of her empty house while listening to Jen talk.
“So, happy birthday, old fart!” Jen blurted. Kat let out a sound somewhere between a grunt and a groan.
“Thanks!” Kat responded wryly. “Just you wait… You’re just three months behind me!”
Jen laughed and replied, “Heck, no! I live in LA. It’s against the law to get old here.”
Kat glanced over at the screen. Some western-style drama was on from what she could gather. Hmmm… Who is that guy? she thought as an incredibly attractive, tall
actor came on scene with black-brown hair, sparkling eyes, and an infectious grin. He is yummy! I might just have to start watching this show with eye candy like that!
“Kat… Kat? Earth calling Kat!” Jen broke into her thoughts.
“Huh? What? Sorry! I got distracted by the T.V. for a second.” Kat reached over and hit the mute button on the remote.
“Really? Anything good?”
“Nah… Just some western show. One of the actors is kind of hot, though,” Kat replied. “Sorry…. What were you saying?”
“Well,” Jen said. “I have a new job but I’m not quite sure what to do about it. It’s actually on location in Canada, which would be fine if it weren’t for Lucy. I’m trying to see if David would be able to take her full time during filming the season.”
Jen and her ex, David, had a good relationship. They shared custody of their seven-year-old daughter, Lucy. However, he also worked in the entertainment industry, so his schedule, like Jen’s, could be very unpredictable.
“I hate that I would have to spend such a long time up there during filming, but the off-time between seasons is so long, I’d get a nice long break in between if they liked us and wanted us to come back. Plus, the money is good enough, too, that I wouldn’t have to work as much during their offseason. This is a great opportunity and I was specifically asked to come. I don’t know why they couldn’t find someone up there, but apparently, word about me is getting around. If I say no to this, it could really throw me back a step.”
Kat knew how hard Jen had worked to build up her business. She and Jen had worked hard in their teens and in college in the food industry. They decided the summer
before college to experiment with a new take on making Southern food healthier as a way to make some extra cash.
Their endeavor had grown steadily before Kat decided to stay in college, close to James, while Jen ventured to try her luck in Hollywood. It had been such a boon to L.A. to have comfort food that the actors could actually eat while maintaining their diets that it had gone from an interesting hobby to a booming business within just a few years and was still continually expanding. Other companies had tried to duplicate it, but no one was quite able to get the flavors right. It took true Southern girls to make the recipes taste like home.
“I really need to think about hiring a partner,” Jen said. “Hey, you interested?” she asked, only half-joking.
Kat sighed. This conversation was coming up more and more. “You know I would love to help out if I didn’t live across the country,” she replied.
“I know,” said Jen. “But you can’t blame a girl for trying!”
Jen started in on telling her all of the latest gossip she was able to glean through her inside track on the L.A. scene. She was a better resource than People magazine and TMZ put together. Apparently, food was not only the way to a man’s heart, but also a key to open the mouths of celebrities. Jen not only overheard the deepest, darkest conversations between people on meal breaks, she was also the type of person with whom others instantly felt comfortable, so she often became a confidant as well when people would wander over to her for coffee, snacks, and a visit in between scenes and takes. If Kat ever heard anything juicy about a star or a new project, all she had to do was call Jen and she would get the real lowdown long before the details were public knowledge.
“So… what’s Mr. Boring doing for your birthday today?” Jen asked, moving the focus back to Kat.
Kat smiled to herself. Jen had never really gotten over Kat’s decision to stay home rather than going with her to Los Angeles. Even though the reason she stayed wasn’t all about James and their relationship, Jen had forever held a grudge against him for ruining her dreams of running a successful business with her best friend since seventh grade.
Kat burst out laughing. “Nice… Mr. Boring? Come on! Are you ever going to let go of the fact that I married him instead of chasing our teenage dreams?”
“Nope! He’s the reason that you didn’t come with me so that we could meet Johnny Depp. I’ll never forgive him for that.”
“Jen, didn’t you meet him years ago now?” Kat
“Sure. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you
weren’t here with me when I did,” Jen replied. “Too bad, too. He’s actually pretty cool.”
Kat rolled her eyes. “I’m sure he is. Is there anyone you haven’t met there?”
Returning to the original subject, Kat continued, “I honestly haven’t got a clue what James has planned this year. He was gone before I woke up this morning and he didn’t say anything last night when he finally came through the door after eleven.”
“Wow! Eleven?” Jen asked incredulously. “Why was he out until eleven?”
“Some work thing. It has been happening more and more since the merger last year. Traveling a lot more, too; more clients to woo, new bosses to impress. In general, just a lot more work to do, I guess. You know the drill,” Kat replied.
“Weird,” said Jen. “I would have never guessed being an accountant would be so… adventuresome.”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s really only an issue about once a month when they have their corporate meetings with the
executives from New York. Honestly, I don’t mind. Gives me some time to binge-watch all of my ‘girl shows’ without any guilt” Kat said. “Like this one. Wow, that guy is really good looking! I may have to add this show to my queue…”
“What is it called?” Jen asked.
“I don’t know. Don’t have time right now to figure it out, either—I’ve got to run. But, let me know what you decide about Canada. Sounds like a great opportunity.”
“Okay,” Jen said. “Enjoy your birthday. Hope Mr. Boring doesn’t disappoint! I’d love to have you come out for a visit soon. It’s been too long”
“I know, I know. I’ll try to come again soon. You know, just with it being Drew’s final year of high school, things are crazy.”
“Man, the last year of high school for your baby! Where has the time gone?” Jen asked sadly. “There’s no way we are old enough to have kids in college already.”
Kat laughed, “Well, no… Not if you are thirty-six when you have your first baby.”
“Only baby,” Jen corrected. “Better than twenty- one, my friend! At twenty-one, I couldn’t even imagine taking decent care of myself, let alone another human being. When you had a husband and a baby, I was still having nights at the club that resulted in one-night stands. I couldn’t even keep a plant alive back then!” Jen retorted.
Suddenly, it sounded like Jen was out of breath. “I need to run now. I didn’t realize it was already five-thirty. I have to be on set in forty-five minutes and I haven’t even showered yet. Wait… Why did you have to get off the phone before?”
“Oh! Nothing, really. I’d just gotten out of the shower and was in my towel when you called. I was getting cold,” Kat responded lamely, not wanting to admit she had sought to get off the phone so she could ogle the handsome
actor without distraction. “I’ll let you go. Watch that crazy traffic. Love ya!”
She clicked the off button on her phone and stood up to get dressed, her cell immediately starting to ring again.
“Hi, Mom!” Derrick said from the other end of the line. “Just running to class and wanted to tell you ‘happy birthday’ and that I love you. Hope Dad has planned something nice for you. Gotta go. I’m going to be late!”
“Wait! Derrick…,” Kat heard the phone click off. “Well, at least he remembered,” she thought,
She got up off of her bed and started to straighten the covers. She accidentally hit the mute button on the remote and sound blared like a foghorn through the silent house. Her eyes were once again drawn to the T.V. just as the actor had a close-up.
Wow! Kat thought as she settled back on the bed’s decorative pillows. It’s my birthday and I can indulge myself with a little eye candy for a few minutes.
Thirty-five minutes later, she realized she was hooked. The story based in a western gold mining town in Colorado at the turn of the century had captured her attention. The scenery was breathtaking, and the acting was decent. The writing was also pretty good, though a bit sappy and corny. The lead male character who had initially caught her eye was adorable as the town’s sheriff, with his western twang, and his female counterpart, the unmarried town seamstress, was gorgeous. Their chemistry was undeniable. She checked the menu to find out what she was watching. Western Skies it read.
I haven’t enjoyed a western show like this since I was a kid watching Little House on the Prairie, she laughed to herself. Kind of an old-school, feel-good show. Of course, whoever that guy is certainly helped!
Kat hurried up to finish getting ready for her day before heading downstairs. The usual boring chores were soon done. There was a time when she didn’t have enough hours in the day to keep up with all the tasks revolving around being a stay-at-home-mom. Now, she seemed to have too many to fill.
She looked around the room and decided that since she had nothing better to do, she might as well hit the gym. She grabbed her bag and headed out to her car. As she fought her way through the morning traffic, she blasted her music loudly. A young man pulled up beside her and started laughing at her obvious singing-along. At first, she was mortified, but then remembered that one of the great things about being over forty was that she really didn’t care what people thought anymore. She threw her hand up next to her head in an awkward sort of salute and speed off as soon as the light changed. I may be old, she thought, but I’m not dead yet!
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