Archive | Mirrors at Bernard Hall RSS feed for this section

Price Drop Announced

31 May

1671587Greetings, readers!  I am pleased to announce that, to celebrate the anniversary of self-publishing my first novel, the KINDLE prices for the first two of my books have DROPPED!  

The Mirrors at Barnard Hall is now available for only $1.99

AND

Semester of Thursdays is now available for only $0.99!

 

AND REMEMBER: Tomorrow, June 1, from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm I will be signing and selling books at The Ruth Enlow Library in Oakland, MD.  Please stop by and say HELLO!

 

HAPPY READING!

-Jenny

LAST DAY for Royalty Donations

31 Jan

218829_1352206693.2684Since today is the final day of January, it just happens to be the last day for the royalties earned from both of my books (The Mirrors at Barnard Hall  and  Semester of Thursdays) to be donated to my sister’s three-month mission trip to a Women’s rehab clinic in South Africa!

For those of you who have already shared this opportunity with friends & family, donated, and/or purchased copies, allow me to extend sincere gratitude for your generosity!

Remember to stop by tomorrow for Chapter 19 from Semester of Thursdays!

 

-Jenny

Giving Back

26 Dec

218829_1355243782.9729_upd

 

I hope each of you had a blessed & safe Christmas filled with family, food & fun!

In an effort to give back this holiday season (and to start the New Year right), 100% of the royalties earned in January 2013 from BOTH of my books (Semester of Thursdays & The Mirrors at Barnard Hall) will be donated to this mission trip to the Hadassah Treatment Center in South Africa!

So if you’re planning to buy a copy (or even if you weren’t planning on buying a copy), how about you wait and make your purchase on January 1st? eBooks start at only $2.99!

If you’ve already read one/both of my books (THANK YOU!), remember, you can give a copy as a gift to a friend/family member you think might enjoy the story.  THEY get a book and the mission trip gets FUNDING!

EVERYONE WINS!!!

Happy reading, writing, & giving

-Jenny

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 11

7 Dec

If you didn’t get the update this week, I’m currently working with my artist on the cover for Semester of Thursdays!  If you’re reading, I’d love to hear thoughts on what you imagine the image should be!

-Jenny
* * *

 

CHAPTER 11

It had been a bad week.  The shop had been busy and one of my staff had come down with the stomach flu so I’d had to pull three double-shifts.  And to make things worse I had made a catastrophic mistake last Sunday before Holden had flown back to Jacksonville.

“Mer, what’s wrong with you?”

I groaned, too tired to sleep but wanting nothing more than the oblivion it offered.  The weight of my actions was breaking me in half.  The burden was nearly too much; I had to tell someone.  For all her faults, Lena was a loyal friend; she could keep my secret.

If I was honest with myself I could admit that her keeping the secret wasn’t the issue.  I really wanted to avoid strong Lena’s opinions.  Since the humiliating display last Thursday she hadn’t been Holden’s biggest fan.  It tore me apart to choose between turning her more against him or confessing my sin.

“Are you sick or something?” she pressed when I didn’t immediately answer.

“No, I’m not sick.”  At least not in the way she meant.

“Well, if you are you had better not be contagious.  I have too many things to do that can’t happen if I’m puking my guts out.”

“I’m not contagious.”

“Then why have you been moping around all week and avoiding me like a leper?”

Because if I hadn’t avoided her she would have asked too many questions.  So much for my plan working.

“Lena, I did a bad thing last weekend.”

“What?” She plopped beside me on my bed, immediately switching from a germ-a-phobe to caring-friend.

“I looked at his phone.”

“Whose?”

“Holden’s.”

“Oh, no,” she whispered, realizing the ramifications of my actions.

“Oh, yes.”

“What did you see?”

“A lot of what I shouldn’t have,” I confessed.

“Like?”

“Well, he got a call from someone named Eileen.”

“Okay…” she awaited the scandalous part.

“And it was at one in the morning on Sunday.  I asked who it was when his phone rang, and he told me it was Joel.  Then after I saw who it really was I asked about her.”

The two of us had been up late watching a Will Ferrell marathon.

“Who is she?”

“He said she works with him.  But none of my employees call me that late unless it’s an emergency.”

“Of course not.”
“We were watching Talladega Nights and he was texting until three that morning, barely paying attention to me even though I was right beside him.  He wouldn’t have noticed if I had left the room.  If it was a problem with work he would have called her back, right?”  I knew the answer; I just needed to know someone agreed with me.  Justification went a long way in these situations.

“Right.”

“When he went to the bathroom I looked at their texts.  This Eileen girl wanted to know when he would be home and when she would get to see him again.”  And if he worked with her she would see him Monday morning.

There were other parts to the conversation, inappropriate words exchanged, that I could never share with Lena.

“Mer, I’m so sorry.”

“What do I do?”  And how was I supposed to get rid of the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach?
“You need to tell him what you saw.”

“How can I?” I asked, more shrilly than I had intended.  “He’s going to think I’m psychotic.”

“Maybe not.  But you need to give him a chance to explain.”

“But—”

“It’s only going to get worse if you allow it to rot in your brain.”

The pity in her eyes was unbearably frustrating.  I couldn’t use pity to make the situation any better.

“Okay.”  I knew all along that this would be the advice she would offer.  What I had needed was the push.  Otherwise the words written by that faceless girl would twist in my brain until I lost it completely.

“Call him now, before you loose your nerve.”

“Okay.”

Even as the phone rang I prayed it would go to his voicemail.  If he didn’t answer then it wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried.

Coward.

“Hello?”

My heart pounded, marking the silent seconds like a metronome.  “Hi.”

“What’s up, Mer?” Holden said lightly.  The buzz in the background meant he was in the shop at work.
“I have a question.”

“Shoot.”

“Don’t get mad though.”  The disclaimer really was pointless; he was going to get angry regardless.  It just set the tone for the conversation so Holden was prepared for what was coming.  He knew something was wrong immediately.

“Okay….”

“Promise?”

“Mer, what is it?”

“Well, this weekend I looked at your phone.”

A spot of silence punctuated my sentence.

“You did what?”

I straightened and prepared for the impending argument.  “I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway.”

“Why would you… How often do you do that?” Holden asked, his voice cold.

“This was the first and last time.”  I couldn’t handle the knowledge.

“I can’t believe you would invade my privacy like that.  I would never do that to you.”

No, he wouldn’t.  But I would never give him cause for concern that would drive him to go to such measures.  And if he ever did he wouldn’t find anything even remotely inappropriate from some random guy.  I did not make a habit of giving out my number to people who didn’t absolutely need it.

“I know. But that doesn’t change the fact that I did it.  Anyway, I read some pretty suggestive text messages from your ‘co-worker.’”  It was important for him to hear the quotation marks in my voice.

“Which one?  If Jerry said anything you can just disregard—”

“It wasn’t Jerry.”  And he knew it.

“Then who?”

“Eileen.”  It was hard to keep my even tone as I said her name. Angry tears blinded me.  Thankfully we were having this conversation over the phone.  I couldn’t face him in my current state.

“Oh come on, Mer.  We were just joking around.”

Joking around?  Seriously?  “It was inappropriate.”

“No, you looking at my private stuff was inappropriate.”

“I would never say those things to someone who wasn’t my boyfriend,” I pointed out.  And even then I wouldn’t have used that type of language. “You humiliated me.”  Again.  This time it had been a less public embarrassment, but the result had been the same.

He heaved a sigh.  “She was the one who was inappropriate, not me.  Tell me one thing I said that was wrong.”

Even though the electronic conversation had played in my mind over and over this week I couldn’t think of the specifics right now.  Besides, specifics didn’t matter.  “The whole conversation shouldn’t have happened.”

“Come on.  You took it out of context.  If you ever go through my things again this is over.  How can I trust you when you are constantly going behind my back?”

“Constantly?”

“Once is too many times.”

“I don’t know,” I whispered, more humiliated at being “that girl”—the one who examines her boyfriend’s phone and questions his every word.

“Well, let me know when you figure it out.”

When I put the phone down Lena came back into the room and sat at my cluttered desk; she had probably eavesdropped on the entire exchange from the safety of the dark hallway.

“How did it go?” she asked unnecessarily.  Her voice was just a bit too shrill to be unaware.
“Not so good,” I said miserably.

“What did he say?”

“He said I misread the meanings, took the messages out of context.”

Lena’ face turned the same shade of red as the Alabama T-shirt she wore.  “They shouldn’t have been there in the first place!”

“That’s what I said.”

She groaned loudly.  “Then what?”

“Then he asked how he was supposed to trust me when I did something like this.”

“When you did… Mer, he’s turning this around on you!”

“Yeah, I know.”  I was willing to take some of the blame.  After all, I did invade his privacy.

“I’ve never known you to allow someone to do that to you.”

Once again, Meredith Westbrook was a spineless pushover.  “I shouldn’t have looked.”

“But you needed to, don’t you see that?”

“No.  If I hadn’t looked then…” I could still be blissfully unaware.

“This could have been going on the whole time and you would never have known.”

“What could have been going on?” I asked angrily.  “If he read some of our messages he could take them the wrong way too.”

She got up and walked to the door.  Just before she left she turned to me.

“You know that if you have to justify his behavior then it’s not right.  If you feel the need to look there’s usually something more going on.”  The pity was back again.

“I know,” I whispered to the empty room.

***

“Ugh!  I have nothing to wear tonight!” The shout blaring from Lena’s room cut through my haze of despair.

My eyes rolled at the distress in her voice.  “Nothing” consisted of a closet that could fit no more hangers, drawers that wouldn’t close, and two plastic bins filled to capacity beneath her bed.  A person risked her life every time she entered the confines of the time bomb lovingly referred to as Lena’s lair.

“I thought you went shopping Tuesday and bought an outfit specifically for tonight.”

Although I wasn’t sure where she had stored her purchase.  Pretty soon she would be asking me if she could rent some space in my own bare closet.
“I did?”

“Yes, you did.  You asked me to go and then refused to speak to me after I told you ‘No’”.

“Oh, yeah.  What did I buy again?”

“That purple thing.”  She had called it a dress, but I was still skeptical.

“Oh, yeah.  Now I remember.”

“Why don’t you wear that?”

“Because there’s a department-store conspiracy.”

Nothing was ever simple with Lena.  “Sure there is.”

The stomping grew progressively louder until she appeared at my doorway.  “Seriously, Mer.  They do something with the lighting and mirrors and some hocus pocus with the aroma therapy to get you high.  Then, when you try on the overpriced garments, you think they make you look like Heidi Klum.”

In her matching Body by Victoria undergarments Lena did look like the supermodel so I couldn’t see what the problem was.  I had never felt like Heidi Klum in any of the stores I had ever been in; maybe I wasn’t shopping with her enough.

“Little do you know, when you get back and actually plan on wearing the dress, you’ve gained twenty pounds during the car ride home and have lost the tan you’ve paid for religiously.”

“So you think it looks bad today?  Is that what you’re saying?”  I had a hard time believing that; Lena looked good in everything, every day.

“Bad?” she sneered.  “That does not even come close to the disaster I charged on my MasterCard Tuesday.”

“The mall doesn’t close for another couple of hours.  Just return it and get something else.”  Sometimes she couldn’t see the obvious solutions.  That was what I was for: obvious solutions.

“I took off the tags.”

“Why would you do that without trying it on?”

“I did try it on!  Haven’t you been listening to me?”
“Again,” I countered.  “Why didn’t you try it on again?”

“Because it was flawless two days ago.”

I lifted my eyes to heaven, praying for patience.  More than likely the dress was still just as flawless.  “Go put it on and let me see.”

And just like a petulant two-year-old, Lena crossed her arms and jutted out her chin.  “No,” she pouted.

“I could always come in there and make you if you want to do this the hard way,” I threatened.

Just as I was about to make good on my promise my phone rang.  It was Holden.  We had only exchanged a handful of tense words in the days since I had confessed my gravest sin.

“Hello?”  I hated how weak and unsure my voice sounded.  After five years together I shouldn’t have been unsure.
“Hey.  How are you?”

“Fine.”  I said hesitantly, gauging his mood.

“I’m sorry about this past weekend.”
“You… you are?”  Where had this change of attitude come from?

“Yeah, and I want to make it up to you.”

What was going on?  Usually I was the one who caved and ended up offering the apology even when it wasn’t my fault.  As a matter of fact, I had been planning on calling him tomorrow.  This was a pleasant, astounding change.

“Okay…”

“I’m coming home Saturday!” he said, excited.

“You are?”  My tone matched his.

“Yep.  I’ll be in Frostburg by four.”

“Couldn’t you get a flight tomorrow?”  The sooner I could see Holden the better I would feel about the entire situation.  I needed to watch his face and gauge his sincerity.  Words were too easy to say and emotions were too easy to mimic over the phone.

“No, have to work late Friday so I can leave Saturday.”  The frustration broke his voice.

“That’s okay.  It’s great news.  I’m excited to see you.”

“Me too.  I’ve gotta get back to work now though.  Love ya, Mer.”

“I love you too.”

And just like that we crossed from the murky waters of relationship limbo into the calm, open sea of confidence.

“So, what’s the deal?”  Lena asked from the hallway.

“Holden will be home Saturday.”

“Just like that?”

Her flippant tone rankled.  “Just like what?”

“You forgive him.”

I shrugged.  “That’s what you do when you love someone.”

Lena stuck out her tongue but allowed a smile.  “Does this mean we’re going out tonight?”

“What does this situation have to do with me going out?”

“We can celebrate?” She offered.

I had been miserable all week but now felt oddly buoyant.  I had to work in the morning but all of the sudden the energy that had eluded me during the past four days found me with full force.  Sleeping was now the last thing on my mind.

“Okay,” I agreed with a grin.

“Oh, come on, Mer,” Lena whined.

“Lena, did you hear me?”
“Hear you what?”

“I’m coming.”

An hour later Lena and I were back at Bowery Street Pub.  All the hype from the week earlier had died down.  The majority of students had returned to their standard haunts.  When we got to the bar our normal table in the corner was empty.  The sight should have thrilled me.  Most of the time no one bothered me at that table.  But there was usually one other person enjoying invisibility with me.

Lena’s shoulders slumped slightly when she didn’t see Alec—or his best friend.

One of the men who had been holding up the bar approached us.

“Hey, Lena,” he said, smiling at her and ignoring me.

This was the first week since I had met Alec that he hadn’t been where we were before we knew we were going there.  Come to think of it, Lena’s phone had been suspiciously silent all week.

Had I been too preoccupied with my own unsteady relationship to see that she may have needed me?  Were she and Alec still together?  He seemed to make her happy; that was all that mattered to Lena.  Well, that and the fact that he hadn’t bored her yet.

Lena turned to the intruder and flashed her beautiful grin, effectively concealing her disappointment.  “Hey Garrett,” she welcomed.

I felt even less like making polite conversation than usual—not that I was going to be included in the exchange.  So I slinked to my corner spot to people-watch.

Ten uninteresting minutes later I was bored out of my mind.  The faces surrounding me were vaguely familiar; everyone tended to revolve around the same spots from week to week like assigned seating in a classroom.

Each time the door opened to admit another guest my heart quickened.  I tried not to think of why that was.  After all, my boyfriend was in Jacksonville working until Saturday.

Another young man waited by the bar, leaning casually toward me.  I looked up and our eyes connected unintentionally—at least on my part.  My face flushed.  The stranger looked pointedly at the empty table in front of me then turned back to the bar, his intentions clear.

I prayed Lena would come over and save me from a pointless conversation with the guy.  But my friend was still by the door, waiting patiently for Garrett to finish whatever titillating story he was telling her.
The door opened again, and my heart stopped.  Remington stomped in, drawing the gazes of everyone in the bar.  He ran his hands through his dark hair to dislodge the wet flakes.  Lena twisted to smile at the newcomer, and a pang of jealousy settled into my gut.

Wait. Jealousy?  No, that couldn’t have been it.

Remington nodded to her then saw me sitting at our table.

Our table?  Why did my subconscious categorized Remington and me as a unit?  He left Lena to her conversation and came to take his customary seat beside me just as he had the first time we had met.

When Alec didn’t follow through the entrance, I eyed Remington suspiciously.  “How did you know we were going to be here?”  The question slipped out as an accusation.

He leaned back in his seat, surprised that I had initiated a conversation this early in the evening.  “I didn’t,” he confessed.

“Liar.”

“Can’t we show up at the same bar without having one another be the reason for our presence?”

“You tell me.  You’re the one who sought me out,” I pointed out.

“Sought you out?” he repeated.  “Is that what you’ve been doing when you’ve joined me at my table the past few weeks?”

“That’s not what I meant.”  Definitely not.

“What did you mean, Meredith?”

What had I meant?  My head spun as I tried to remember what my purpose had been.  “We were just here first.”

He arched his eyebrows in confusion.  “And that means I’m expected to avoid the place?  I was here before you last week and I didn’t try to run you off.”

Last week was not a topic I wanted to discuss.

“Fine.  You can stay.”  Not that I had possessed the authority to make him leave in the first place.

“Thanks,” he drolled.

“But it’s a big bar…”  I looked meaningfully at each empty table around us then turned toward him, my eyebrow raised in silent command.

He scowled, knowing exactly what I had meant.  “I don’t know anyone else here.”

“Where’s Alec?”

Remington shrugged.  “He’s not coming out tonight.”

As if that explained anything.  “Well, you’re not going to meet anyone new when you’re shutting yourself off in a corner.”

He gave me an odd look, his expression unreadable.  I turned away before he did.

“Weren’t you telling me just a few weeks ago that a bar was not a good place to meet people?”

Had I said that?  My brain was a bit too muddled to remember.  “I didn’t expect you to listen.”

“Oh, well.  I don’t feel very sociable anyway.”

A bubble of laughter escaped before I could rein it in.  Remington never felt sociable.  “So, you came to a bar on the busiest night of the week, sought me out, and are not feeling sociable?  You’re talking to me.”

“Something I should probably not be doing,” he confessed to the table.

“No?”

He looked at me; a wrinkle formed between his eyebrows.  “No,” he said harshly.

Instead of explaining, Remington got up and escaped through the back door.

“What did you say to him this time?”  Lena suddenly asked from beside me.

“I have no idea.”  Maybe there was something about my face that offended him from week to week.

“But he just got here.”

“Yeah, I know.”  He hadn’t even bought a drink.

“What do you two even talk about?” she asked, ignoring the fact that I hadn’t turned to look at her.

The wide back door pulsed with tension.  What had just happened?  He had left, but this time there had been something different behind his exit.

“Nothing.  That’s just it,” I said, frustrated.  “Our conversations start out civil then, inevitably, just when I feel like he’s going to say something nice, he just walks away.”

“Without a word?” Lena scoffed.

“Yes!”  Without a word or a second thought.  “You can’t imagine how frustrating it is.  He’s so condescending most of the time.”

“I know you complained about him but you whine about everything.”

My arms crossed protectively over my chest.  “I do not.”

She chewed on her lip.  “Alec said he was difficult and stubborn most days.  Next time he comes to talk to you, do you want me to save you?” she asked seriously.

Did I want that?  No.  That was easy—too easy.  “No.”

“I’m so glad Alec isn’t like that.”

“So am I, for your sake.”

 * * *

Remember, you don’t have to brave the cold to visit us next week for Chapter 12!

Semester of Thursdays: Chapter 10

30 Nov

To celebrate the last day in November, here’s the next chapter from my new book, Semester of Thursdays, set to be released in December!

New to the story?  Click HERE to start at the beginning!

* * *

CHAPTER 10

“I can’t explain in words how happy I am that you changed your mind about tonight,” Lena said, bubbling over with anticipation.

“Uh huh.”  Changed your mind really meant gave in to my incessant coercion.  If I were to keel over now all I would be remembered for is my proximity to Lena Whyte and general spinelessness.

Tonight Lena had decided to try a new bar making its debut on Main Street.  The Bobcat Lounge’s grand opening promised a huge crowd—which was apparently a good thing.  She had yet to convince me that more people meant more fun.  To me, the larger the audience meant the more eyes taking in my unconvincing performance of: Meredith Westbrook is Enjoying Herself.

Sure enough, when we pulled up to the bar there was a line of eager students wrapped around the corner two blocks down.  Sections of the line were bloated by the mass of bodies huddled together against the frigid night.

“Ugh,” Lena groaned from the seat beside me.

“Do you want to go somewhere else?” I suggested hopefully, eyeing the snow as it coated the miserable queue.

“No way!  I’m just anticipating how long it’s going to take to get drinks.”

“We could always come back next week—”

Three more people joined the row.

“But everyone will be here this week!” she whined.  “What if something major happens and we miss it?”

Heaven forbid something happen in Frostburg and us not be present; a grave injustice indeed.  We would never live through the regret.

“Fine.”

I parallel parked, reluctantly got out of the warm car, and prepared to wait in line as snow piled into drifts around us.  This had definitely been the wrong night to wear a dress.  The boots I wore did little to stem the cold seeping into my bones; my exposed knees began turning purple.  After twenty minutes of waiting—and one mild case of hypothermia—the doorman recognized Lena and waved for us to skip past the fifteen people ahead of us.

“Thanks, Hemmy,” Lena said in a sweet voice as we swept past the unfortunate grumblers.

When we entered the stuffy room my stomach dropped.  The entire crowd could have been categorized into three groups.

Group One: The little girls wearing microscopic outfits trying to score free drinks and a bed for the night.

Group Two: The men who were dumb enough to buy a round for the members of Group One.

Group Three: Us.

“Lena, you do realize we’re too old for this place, don’t you?”

She snorted. “No one is ever too old for opening night and ridiculously cheap beer.”

“How much do you want to bet that the majority of the girls here had to use fake ids to get in?”  I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of them hadn’t graduated from high school yet.

She took stock of the throng and grimaced. “True,” she confirmed in a shaky voice.

“Lena, what’s wrong?”  Her tanned skin had turned a shade of jaundiced yellow.

“This place looks like a scrap yard.”

It took me a moment to realize what she had meant by the cryptic comment.  Most of Frostburg was at The Bobcat Lounge so it made sense that there would be former “accidents” all around.  Every man close enough to notice Lena in the crowd leered toward her; some with looks of interest, others with lewd knowledge or past indiscretions.

“Do you want to leave?” I asked a little too brightly.  Home was sounding better as the seconds ticked on.

“Not yet,” she said, debating.  “Maybe soon though.  Stay close, will you?”

Where did she expect me to go?  If I left her now I wouldn’t be able to find her for the rest of the night amidst the too-crowded rooms.  Besides, I never left her; she was the one who had ditched me every Thursday thus far.

“I will.”  To demonstrate my loyalty I took a step closer to her.  “Anytime you want to go just tell me.”

Lena had never acted like this before.  Usually her previous exploits didn’t bother her enough to show outwardly.  What had changed?

She made a face; on anyone else it would have been unflattering but Lena still managed to remain stunning despite looking like she was going to vomit.

“Maybe we should go.”

I turned to agree, and she was already ten feet away, pulling her jacket from the pile of discarded garments that wouldn’t fit on the too-few hangers.  I had to run in order to catch up to her before she reached the door.

We didn’t speak after we got into the car.  If Lena wanted to talk about her wild over-reactions then I would listen.  Her continued silence proved that wasn’t the case.  She stared longingly out the window, oblivious to anything but the cotton fluff drifting to the ground.

It was a blessing that the weather was lightening up; if it continued to blizzard all night then I’d have a headache of cancellations in the morning.

“Where are we going?” she inquired, piercing the silence.

“Home?” Blessed home.

Why are we going home?”

“You said you wanted to leave…”  The rest of my sentence fell with the snowflakes.

“But I don’t want to go home!  When your boyfriend asks you what you did tonight you aren’t going to tell him that you got all gussied up just to go to bed.  We are going to go out and have fun!”

There was no point in explaining that my having fun at this point was impossible “I really don’t mind.”

If she would remember correctly she would recall that I had gotten “gussied up” to go out with my boyfriend.  The longer this night wore on the nicer the oblivion of sleep sounded.

“No way!”

“Fine.”  She wouldn’t let me rest anyway if we were to go back to the apartment.  “Where are we going, your highness?”

“Bowery Street?”

Bowery Street pub was empty except for a handful of regulars, one old man falling off his bar stool, and two gorgeous men in the far corner.  The square space was far too empty for me to hope Lena hadn’t seen them or that Alec’s sharp eye hadn’t spotted her.

“Well, would you look over there,” Lena said, her good humor returned.

“Where?”  Feigning ignorance was childish but she didn’t need to know how aware I was of the pair.

“In the corner.  It’s your best friend.”

“Lena, he’s not my friend,” I hissed through my teeth.  Remington was simply a mystery to the world—one I didn’t care to solve.

“All I’m saying is that you two sure do like being antisocial together.”

“Maybe if you didn’t constantly ditch me for Alec then we wouldn’t get stuck together.”

I was getting ditched a lot lately.  By my boyfriend, by my best friend, and by even the most remote of acquaintances.  What was going on?  Who had I wronged to deserve this treatment?

“No one makes you two converse,” she pointed out.  I laughed humorlessly; Remington and I didn’t really converse per se.  He sat in silence or made rude comments, I got annoyed, and eventually he walked away.  “I wonder…”

The inner workings of Lena’s mind were almost as much of a mystery as Remington.  “Wonder what, Lena?”

“If you didn’t have a boyfriend, do you think—”

I interrupted before she went further with her speculation.  “Moot point.”

She pouted for a second before smiling broadly at the topic of our discussion.

“He never smiles,” I mused aloud.  My face flushed as I remembered the last time I had made a similar statement.

“He’s broody,” she corrected.

I frowned at him from across the room; Remington wasn’t paying us the least bit of attention.  “It doesn’t matter.  He’s not much fun.”

“He doesn’t need to be when he looks like that.”

Alec ran to meet us, and Remington stayed right were he was, not even bothering to acknowledge our existence.

“Hey, ladies.  We figured you both would be out at the new place.”

“We were, but Lena wanted to come here so she could see you.”  She glared at me, and I grinned mischievously.

Alec’s smile broadened impossibly.  “I’m glad you did,” he said, directing his full attention to my best friend.

As the night wore on a few other groups trickled into the pub.  Some had gotten tired of the packed opening-night crowd but most had been refused admission to tonight’s hotspot.  Remington had stared at me as I had taken my seat next to him.  He had been crouched over his bottle of Bud Light like I was going to snatch it from him if he didn’t protect it.  Now he would take a drink, look at the wall, and then take another gulp.  I stared at the spot he was looking at but saw nothing interesting in the plaster—at first.  After an hour a flower appeared out of the abstraction like a magic eye puzzle; ten minutes later, a luna moth.

Two women came through the door, their hair crusted with snow.  It looked like someone had dumped flour on them.  The taller of the two girls leaned against the bar, her legs bare despite the frigid temperatures.  Of course I couldn’t judge her; I too was in extremely impractical attire.  The girl was doing her best to chat up a young man whom I recognized from the University’s baseball team.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the games people played; there was no mirth to the sound.

Remington looked sidelong at me.

“People who try to find the love of their lives in a bar make me laugh,” I explained, not caring if he responded or not.

“Why?”

“Because they honestly think they can meet someone in a bar.”  The last word came out more condescendingly than I had meant.  After all, Lena had met Alec in a bar.

“You can meet someone in a bar.”

“But there is very little hope the relationship will last.”

“I worked as a bartender to put myself through undergrad.  One of my coworkers met his wife through work.”

It took me a minute to recover from the shock of his forthright response; it had been the most personal information he had volunteered in the entirety of our acquaintance.

“That doesn’t count,” I contradicted.

His eyebrows came together in confusion.  “Why not?”

“Bartenders are traceable.  The same goes for people in the band and bouncers.  Now the creepers on the other side of the bar, they’re the ones you need to worry about.”

“You know, you’re not making a very good case for yourself.”

In my peripheral vision I could see the corner of his mouth lift into a half smile.

Wait.  Remington was smiling?  Again?

I turned to face him full-on.  He kept the crooked smile in place.  For the second time I admitted that it was a good thing he didn’t do it very often; it was distracting.  “Oh, I’m not on the market,” I explained.

He sobered quickly and turned back to his spot of plaster.  “That makes two of us.”

I couldn’t drag my eyes from his face.

“You are unbelievably sexy.”  The compliment sounded like an accusation.  Remington thought I was sexy?  Impossible.  The guy didn’t even like me, why would he say something like that?  His face registered no emotion as we judged one another.

There was only one explanation: he hadn’t said anything at all.  I must have imagined the bizarre sentence.

A boisterous yelp from the entrance caught my attention, pulling me unwillingly away from his eyes.  When three boys stumble into the bar my stomach sank.  My body’s involuntary reaction both frightened and confused me.  Why was I getting ill at the thought of seeing my boyfriend tonight when only hours ago I had been thrilled by the prospect?

Then it dawned on me: for some unknown reason I did not want Holden meeting Remington.

It was probably because Remington was rude, and I didn’t want to deal with Holden’s reaction to a snubbing.

When Holden saw Lena, he gave her a bear hug.  She smiled warmly, her animosity from earlier had either vanished or been expertly concealed.  Alec frowned at him, standing up straighter to make himself appear taller.  From over Holden’s shoulder, Lena’s eyes met mine; hers widened as she waited for my reaction.

I stood and took a few steps toward them, hoping to avoid a confrontation.

“Mary!”  Holden twisted, catching me by the corner table.

There was no one else around me so I couldn’t feign conversation with someone besides the model in the corner.  Then it struck me that I shouldn’t have had to explain myself.  I had been speaking to a mutual acquaintance, doing nothing wrong.  Just staring at plaster and talking—and there had not been much of the latter tonight.

“Hey, Mary, come here!”

I kept a tight smile in place but it faltered slightly.  Holden was drunk; he couldn’t imagine how much the nickname hurt.  It wasn’t a big deal when Lena said it; she wasn’t being malicious.  But when my boyfriend called  me “Mary” it felt like he was disappointed in my choices that had ultimately affected him.

“You don’t like when they call you that,” a husky voice said from behind me.

“It doesn’t matter,” I responded flippantly, embarrassed at being so easily read.

“Yes, it does.”

Holden moved closer to me but continued ignoring my neighbor.

“Mary, come play pool with me.  Joel and Grant want to play doubles, and I can’t think of anyone I’d like to be my partner more than you.”

“I really don’t feel like it.”  It felt like I was going to pass out or throw up.  Who had jacked up the thermostat?

“Why do you call her that?” Remington asked with quiet authority.

My boyfriend looked at Remington, judging him with unfriendly eyes.  “Because it’s her nickname.”

I held my breath, praying Remington would choose this moment to completely ignore Holden and allow the conversation to drop.  If he took this opportunity to make his customary hasty exit, I would be forever in his debt.

“She doesn’t like it.”

Of course he would finish this conversation.

Holden looked between me and the man behind me.  I knew exactly how Remington looked without having to peek back; he was staring a hole through my boyfriend’s forehead, unsmiling and intimidating.

“Really?  It fits her so well though,” Holden sneered meanly.

“Come on Holden, I’ll play pool with you,” I choked, grabbing his arm.  The pool table, my escape, suddenly seemed a light year away.

“Why?” Remington asked, his voice low enough that only Holden and I could hear.

I dragged my boyfriend away before he could answer.  His arm was tense as I tugged him toward the adjoining room.

“Because she’s a virgin,” Joel snickered loudly.  The entire bar went silent, waiting for my reaction.

But I couldn’t react.  I deflated as I made my way to the pool table and picked up the closest cue.  They weren’t lying so I couldn’t argue the point.  I just didn’t feel like that was a fact I wanted the entirety of Bowery Street Pub knowing.

Holden snickered with his friends, only stopping when he saw my pale face.  The man standing beside me was not the one I had fallen in love with five years earlier’ that person never would have reacted like this.

“I’m sorry, Mer.” He pulled me in for a hug.  I kept myself rigid in his arms, not ready to forgive him.  He tipped my chin toward his.  Before my numbed mind realized his intentions he pressed his lips to mine.

“Woah!  What are you doing?”  I felt like wiping off my mouth as I jerked away.

“Kissing you,” he said with a playful smile; there was an edge to the obstinate look.  Holden’s eyes were focused on a point above my head—or behind me.

“Okay, let’s try this again.  Why are you kissing me?”

“Mer…” he began.  I jumped back as he reached for me, keeping my hands as a barrier between us.  “I was kissing you because you’re my girlfriend.”

“You know how I feel about PDA.”  Right now I was relieved I had never been big on public make-out sessions.

“Yeah, the same way you feel about sex.  You don’t want any.”

My face went paler—if that was possible.
“Look, I just wanted to kiss you, okay?” Holden ground out, angry at the public rejection.  Personally, I would take rejection over humiliation any day.

“You weren’t compelled to earlier today.”  He had been too preoccupied with his controller and big screen TV.  “Why now?”

“I’m through with the interrogation tonight, Meredith.”

With that said, I escaped, making my way back to Lena.  Before I said a word she had her coat and purse in hand.  Alec nodded tightly, and I ignored the motion.  He was best friends with the rudest man I had ever met so he probably wouldn’t even notice the slight.

When I thought of Remington my eyes lifted involuntarily to capture one last glimpse of him.  At first he wasn’t looking at us, but his jaw was ticking angrily.  He didn’t register any emotion when our eyes connected but he rarely did so that was no surprise.  Lena touched my shoulder, bringing me back to the situation at hand.

My best friend and I had made our way to the door when my boyfriend shouted toward our backs.

“Hey!  Wait!”

We didn’t stop or slow down as Holden had commanded.  He mumbled something unintelligible to his friends as the door slowly closed behind us and we became enveloped in the numbing wind.

Numb was good.

After dropping Lena off at the apartment, I drove straight to Holden’s place with him still in the back seat.  What I should have done was leave him stranded along Highway 68… without his shoes.

“Who was that guy?”  His question marked the first time he had spoken to me since we had left the bar.

“Which one?” I asked unnecessarily.

“The one who made the comment about me calling you Mary.”

The nickname painted my vision red, rekindling my fury.  It was a struggle to see through the haze long enough to answer his question.

How did I explain Remington?

“That guy’s name is Remington.  He’s… one of Lena’s friends.”  That worked.  After all, it was her fault I had even met the frustrating man.

“Ohhh…”  Holden’s comment was full of vulgar speculation.

“No, not that way,” I clarified.  I wasn’t sure why my boyfriend’s assumption had bothered me—or why I felt compelled to explain further.  “He’s a friend of one of Lena’s ‘Oh’s.’”  The distinction mattered.

“Whatever you say,” he snickered.

“What does that mean?”  He wasn’t forgiven for the display at the bar and was teetering on thin ice.

“It means that it’s only a matter of time before he succumbs to her … charms.”

“Not everyone succumbs.”

Holden laughed loudly, vibrating the windows.

My face remained impassive as I focused on not intentionally wrapping his side of the vehicle around a light post.  Although, it was awfully slick out…

“I don’t like that guy,” he said suddenly, just as I pulled into the driveway of his former frat house.  The paint on the gingerbreading was beginning to peel, aging the wooden structure.  “Remington?  What a stupid name.  Is his dad the president of the NRA or something?”

“Why don’t you like him?”  Hundreds of obvious reasons popped into my head.

“I don’t like his condescending tone.”

“You barely spoke to him.”

“We don’t need a full conversation for me to see that he thinks he’s better than everyone else.”

“He just comes off that way.”

I agreed with Holden wholeheartedly so why was I defending the rude man?  It was probably because my boyfriend didn’t know Remington.  Not that I knew him either, but I had spoken to him more often.  Well, more than once, anyway.

That had to account for something, right?

 * * *

Remember to swing by next Friday for Chapter 11!

Traitor

27 Nov

In high school I was a yearbook photographer for 2.5 years.  Back in those days, we used 35MM cameras, black & white film, and dark rooms to capture, develop, and print our yearbook photos.  My senior year, Southern Garrett prepared to make the switch to digital photography.

At the time I was against the change.  My biggest grudge against digital cameras was that they eliminated the need for printed photographs.  The majority of my friends who owned digital cameras no longer printed their pictures for albums, they simply logged them away in forgotten files on hard drives and cd’s, which made for lousy sharing practices.

Reluctantly, I caved and purchased a digital camera (which has become my lifeblood), but promised myself that I would continue to have the quality photographs printed so that friends and family could enjoy them without a computer.

Today I must admit that I have become a traitor to traditional print mediums that have previously defined the written word and purchased a…. Kindle (DUM DA DUM!).

I have no clue if I will like this flat-screened doodad that poses as a book on steroids, but the convenience and cost-effectiveness has become worth the risk.

For those of you nay-sayers–whose ranks I have only just abandoned–here is my promise: when I purchase a book on my Kindle, and deem the story a worthy investment, I plan on continuing to support bookstores by purchasing the novel in print.

After all, my new home in Ireland has many bookshelves longing to be filled with something besides surplus copies of The Mirrors at Barnard Hall.

 

-Jenny

Do YOU own an e-reader?  If so, do you love/loathe it?  Do you refuse to buy an e-reader?  Why?

Meet the Characters: Men of the Semester

21 Nov

Continuing the exercise from Monday, here’s a quick peek at the rest of the characters from my second novel, Semester of Thursdays, scheduled to be released next month!

Click HERE to start reading their story.

* * *

REMINGTON KOVER

Remington Kover is every woman’s dream: he’s darkly attractive, wealthy, and a soon-to-be doctor with only one downfall: he’s perpetually angry. He’s been burned before by an unfaithful woman who has left him distrustful of the fairer sex.

When Remington meets Lena, he warns Alec to avoid her; a warning his best friend naively chooses to ignore.  To keep an eye on Alec, Remington agrees to accompany him on his Thursday-night excursions, which puts him directly in the path of equally broody–and unfortunately unavailable–Meredith Westbrook.

* * *

ALEC MILLER

Alec is nearly as handsome as Remington, albeit a lighter, happier version of his broody counterpart.  His carefree outlook on life meshes well with the most infamous–and most beautiful–woman on Frostburg’s campus: Lena Whyte.  Despite his friend’s suggestion to forgo an affair with Lena, Alec jumps at the opportunity to be by her side, aware their “relationship” could be very short lived.

* * *
HOLDEN BROWN

Holden Brown is a golden god among mere mortals… at least he was back at Mountain Ridge High School.  A former football star turned engineer, Holden is gainfully employed by CSX in sunny Jacksonville, Florida but still holding tight to the fraternity-lifestyle from his college years.  The long-distance between he and his girlfriend, Meredith Westbrook, has taken its toll on their five-year relationship, leaving both of them in relationship limbo.