Friday, November 7, 2014

To Whet Your Appetite: An Excerpt from The Fragrance of Geraniums

The Fragrance of Geraniums releases on Kindle and in paperback in precisely one week, folks! Thanks for all the encouragement many of you send my way via e-mail and messages - Your words are truly refreshing as I persevere through the work necessary to turn this story into a book. :-)

I thought you might enjoy a taste-test today... I'm posting an excerpt to whet your appetite. Enjoy, and I'll be back in a few days with news of a giveaway! :-)

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...Midnight had come and gone before Grace heard the kitchen door open and shut. The elderly doorknob squeaked in weak protest as it locked.


Grace propped herself up on her elbows, listening for his footfalls on the stair. Her bedroom – well, hers and Lou’s and Nancy’s and Evelyn’s – lay just to the top of the curving staircase, and Grace had made sure to leave the door open just a crack before she’d turned out the light.

The heavy scuff of his boots sounded on the wood. Grace slid her legs from under the covers and felt the chill of the September night settle over her. But no matter. She needed to talk to Ben, needed to know the truth… if he’d discovered it.

A glance at Lou and Nancy’s bed told her that the twins slept soundly, tired out, no doubt, from their soda-fountain dates. Lou had taken the time before bed to put her hair up in rags; tonight, she might look like a sheepdog, but in the morning, Grace knew her older sister would have an enviable head of glossy curls – her consolation for not being born a true blonde.

And Evelyn. She curled up like a flower on the other half of Grace’s narrow bed, the petals of her white nightgown billowed around her. The twelve-year-old’s pink mouth hung open in the sweet rest of childhood, her face a mask of peace. Fleetingly, jealousy stabbed at Grace. She couldn’t remember when she’d felt so tranquil. Biting her lip, Grace turned to the door and eased it open.

No light shone in the hallway except for Ben’s flashlight. He must have heard something, carefully quiet though Grace had been. The flashlight’s beam turned toward her, blinding her momentarily with its brilliance. As her eyes adjusted, she saw Ben’s face relax.

“Grace,” he whispered. “What are you doing up? It’s past midnight, don’t you know.” He stood, broad shoulders bowed a little, arms hanging by his sides. His voice held the weariness of an old dog, too arthritic to chase another squirrel, wanting only a soft square of bedding upon which to lay his gray muzzle.

Grace stepped out gingerly into the hallway, chillier than her bedroom. “You went to Uncle Jack’s,” she stated softly, shivering. Her eyes went to his, open and pleading with him to tell her, to do no more lying than had already been done, was done each day, in their home.

He met her gaze honestly, albeit reluctantly. “Yep. I did,” he said and turned his face away. The harsh scent of brandy bit at Grace’s senses, bringing with it a breath of fear.

There was silence for a moment. Then Grace compelled herself to speak again. “You been there all this time, Ben?”

He drew in a breath through his nostrils, tightening the corners of his mouth. “No, Grace. I went for a drink afterward. Had to cool off, ya know.”

He’d gotten into a fight with Papa, then. She’d known that he would, and Mama had, too. Ben must have found what was going on with their father, what Mama and Aunt Mary Evelyn whispered about on the telephone every morning, Mama’s voice a fluttering, torn-winged moth.

She laid a hand, small and quivering, on Ben’s brawny forearm. “Ben,” she whispered, “what is it? What’s going on?”

He turned his face back toward her, and she could see the hurt ringed by bitterness in the crinkles of his eyes. “Oh, little canary-bird,” he murmured, “what is going on?” He let out his breath in a booze-tinged puff. “God help us, I wish I knew.”

Grace started back. “But… Uncle Jack’s… Papa…” She couldn’t finish the sentences.

Ben’s lips curled up. “Oh, yeah, I know the facts. You want those?”

She nodded, desperate.

He studied her a moment, then said, “You always were ahead of the game, kid. Why not here, too?” He motioned with his grizzled jaw toward the stairway. “Grab your sweater. I’ll meet you out at the barn. Can’t risk Mama hearing us.”

Relief flooded through Grace’s limbs. “I’ll be right there,” she promised, almost happy to finally have some answers, terrible though they might be.

“Alright.” Ben handed her the flashlight. “Here, take this. You’ll need it. It’s dark out tonight.” He turned and disappeared down the stair without another word.

Grace clicked the flashlight off to save the battery and set it down outside the doorway while she entered the bedroom to retrieve her thickest sweater. Having done that, she picked up the flashlight again but didn’t turn it on. Her bare feet picked their way down the pitch-black stair, guided by many nights’ experience.

Turning on the flashlight, Grace threaded her way around the dining room table and past the looming grandfather clock, ticking the minutes of her life away on its impassive ivory face. When she was just a child, Grace had shuddered to pass the towering clock in the evening, sure that he – it, rather – would reach forward with concealed arms and grab her. He – it – would open its long front and pull her inside, consuming her in the darkness. Now, however, Grace was fifteen, nearly sixteen. Certainly no child, regardless of what Lou and Nancy said. So, she raised her chin and passed the clock without a shudder.


The dirt path gleamed clearly beneath the full moon’s gaze as Grace dashed from the back door to the barn. She caught sight of an owl swooping down in the meadow beyond the out-buildings; it caught hold of its helpless prey. A shiver ran through her body, adding more speed to her already-flying bare feet.

When she eased open the barn door, its hinge squeaked so slightly but sounded awfully loud in the silent night.

Ben sat on a hay bale, smoking a cigarette.
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Thanks for reading today!
Grace and peace,

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