Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! This year, for my Halloween-themed excerpt, I’m sharing the first half of Chapter 6, “Samhain Proposal,” of Green Sunrise, the hiatused sequel to Little Ragdoll. Here, it’s 1974 in Hudson Falls, NY, where six of the Troy siblings and the three Ryan sisters now live.

This is a shortened, edited version of the rough draft.

“I just love Halloween,” Fiona says as she, Deirdre, and Adicia decorate the yard and Ernestine, Aoife, and Justine decorate the house on a Saturday two weeks before the holiday. “Christmas and Easter decorations are really pretty, but Halloween decorations are really groovy.  I prefer spooky stuff.”

“Halloween, or should I say Samhain, is gonna be extra-special this year,” Deirdre says. “It’ll be a holiday no one’s ever gonna forget, particularly not Ernestine.”

“What are you planning?” Adicia asks as she stands on a ladder to drape Halloween lights over a tree. “Can we be let in on this secret?”

“So long as you don’t squeal to Ernestine.” Deirdre looks behind her to make sure the windows and door are shut, then pulls a wooden box out of her baggy front skirt pocket. “Have a look at what I bought her when I pretended I was studying late at the campus library.”

Fiona pops open the box and squeals at the sight of a ring with a heart-shaped garnet clasped by two hands, with a crown on top. “You’re proposing?”

“It’s time to take the bull by the horns.  This is called a claddagh.  I got a garnet ‘cause red’s her favorite color, and rubies are too damn expensive.  The three symbols represent love, loyalty, and friendship.  They’re traditional Irish wedding and engagement rings.”

“When are you gonna pop the question?” Adicia asks. “Is it gonna be in private or a public event?”

“I think I’ll do it on Samhain night, when we get back from trick-or-treating.  I’m gonna slip it into her candy bag and wait for the results.”

“You’re going trick-or-treating?” Adicia asks. “At twenty-two?”

“We all did it in Poughkeepsie.  Why not take the opportunity better late than never?  You’re going trick-or-treating too.”

“Folks here are nice, even if somea ‘em don’t share our revolutionary principles,” Fiona says. “They won’t care we’re not kids.  I’m going to be a dragon, and Aoife’s gonna be a ladybug.”

“Are you staying home with the baby this year, Adicia?” Deirdre asks.

“Robbie would love to get candy!  My baby’s never gonna lack for anything.  Lenore made him the cutest little monkey costume, and she made Oliver an elephant costume.”

“I’d love to celebrate the traditional Celtic way.  Some folks practice divination on Samhain, predicting stuff like your future spouse and how many kids you’ll have.  We can have fun trying our hand at that.  Some Wiccans and Celts also use the holiday to pay tribute to their ancestors and other loved ones who are no longer here.”

Deirdre quickly shoves the ring box back into her pocket when the door opens and Ernestine comes out with Robbie on her hip.  Ernestine doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about Deirdre’s expression and proceeds over to Adicia, handing her the baby.

“He started fussing like he wants to nurse, and I think he wants you instead of grape juice in a cup.”

Adicia’s eyes have lit up at the sight of her child, and she doesn’t wait to go inside to ease him under her blouse.

“It still gets me how happy she looks every time she sees him,” Ernestine says. “She looks like a kid in a candy store.  It’s the kinda look our mother never gave any of us but Tommy.”

“We’ll both be giving that kinda look to our babies soon enough,” Deirdre says. “We’ll be one big happy family, even if it’s a little different from most.”

***

Before everyone sets out for trick-or-treating on Halloween, they meet at Lucine and Zachary’s for Simone’s second birthday party.  Simone is dressed as a tiger and sitting in a chair decorated with pink and purple streamers and balloons.  Some of her friends from daycare are there with their parents.

“I helped frost the cake!” Fiona says. “It looks like a wrapped present, and has cherry filling.”

“What a great unisex costume!” Emeline says. “A tiger can be a boy or a girl.  We had a storytime and Halloween activity for young kids today at the library, and a bunch of ‘em were dressed in such disappointingly sex-typed costumes, like princesses, kings, ballerinas, cowboys, and witches.  If I ever have kids, I’ll give ‘em costumes just like Simone’s.”

“I hope you don’t think Amelia’s and my costumes are too girly,” Irene says. “I know girls can do anything, but I like dressing like a girl.”

“I suggested to your mommy you could be a Colonial girl and a pioneer girl, and I helped her shop for fabric.  I always wanted costumes like that growing up.  They’re feminine without being too girly.”

“How long are we going out for?” Ernestine asks as Allen takes pictures of the cake.

“Simone can probably only handle an hour at most,” Lucine says. “Oliver and Robbie will probably be the same.  Don’t tell me you’re going.”

“Deirdre and I are both going.  We never did it growing up, so we might as well milk it while we can still get away with it.”

“Don’t they have a Halloween party at the university yous guys can attend?”

“I’m a sexy saloon girl, and Deirdre’s a pirate.  Afterwards, we’re gonna try our hand at divination.  Emeline’s coming with us.  It must stink to be all alone on the funnest day of the year.”

“I’m not trick-or-treating,” Emeline defends herself. “I’m just meeting up with them at their house after I’m done handing out candy.”

Lucine pats Emeline on the shoulder. “Hopefully someday you’ll have a husband and a couple of kids, and you won’t always have to tag along with us.  Not that we mind having you, but it’s nice to have your own separate family.”

“I’m not entirely alone.  I’ve got Georgiekins.”

“A cat can’t take the place of people, no matter how nice he is.  I hope you don’t mind you’re in my prayers.  I want you to find love like the rest of us.  Even Ernestine’s gonna lesbian-marry Deirdre at some point.”

“It’s called a handfasting,” Deirdre corrects her. “What the hell kinda term is ‘lesbian-marry’?”

“Well, whatever you call it, it is happening eventually, isn’t it?”

“You better believe it.” Deirdre smiles enigmatically as Zachary lights the candles.

***

Adicia, Ernestine, Deirdre, Fiona, Aoife, Justine, Lenore, Lucine, and Sarah canvassed a twenty-block radius with Irene, Amelia, Oliver, Simone, Robbie, Fritz, and Nessa before heading back to their respective houses.  A few people looked askance at Ernestine’s costume, which consists of a purple corset attached to a very short skirt with black fringes, fishnets, her one pair of heels, black lace glovelets, a dark pink leg garter, and a big purple feather on her head, but no one held back candy.

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“Next year, I’m gonna be a sexy French maid,” Ernestine announces as she kicks off her heels the minute they get inside. “It’s a blessing in disguise we were cheated outta proper Halloweens growing up, ‘cause when you’re a kid, you can’t wear fun costumes like this.  Plus I probably woulda gotten stoned for wearing something like this in public.”

“I hope you mean at a costume party for adults,” Adicia says. “You and Deirdre both said this was probably your last year to go trick-or-treating.”

“You didn’t have a true Halloween till you were eighteen either.  I’m surprised you’re not milking all that lost time for all it’s worth too.”

Ricky looks away from Ernestine in embarrassment and takes Robbie from Adicia. “I’ll be upstairs with the little monkey while you girls are down here doing your thing.  I’ll read him Corduroy and The Poky Little Puppy.  Those are his favorites.”

“Don’t be afraid to look at me,” Ernestine teases him as he limps up the stairs.  “Nothing you haven’t seen before.  This is downright modest given somea the stuff in Adicia’s lingerie closet.”

Adicia turns as red as a beet.

“Don’t you go being shy either.  We all do each other’s laundry, and I bought you that dark blue corset with the matching garter belt.  I see it in the wash so often, I guess you’re getting good mileage outta it.”

“Shall we get on to divination?” Adicia asks. “That’s Emeline’s car pulling up.”

Fiona gets the door for Emeline, who’s in a dark green velvet flapper dress. George jumps into Justine’s lap while Emeline finds a place on the davenport.

When Ernestine gets up to pet him, Deirdre stealthily retrieves the ring box from under the davenport and tosses it into Ernestine’s pillowcase full of candy.  Each embroidered her pillowcase differently, so they won’t get them mixed up.  Deirdre’s has shamrocks, Ernestine’s has flowers, Fiona’s has baby animals, Aoife’s has moons and stars, and Justine’s has butterflies.

“It’s not time for candy yet,” Emeline calls when she sees what Deirdre’s doing. “I thought divination was your idea.”

“What method would you like to try first?” Deirdre asks, trying to look and sound as normal as possible. “Tea leaves, Tarot cards, apple peels, I Ching, palmistry, Runes, bibliomancy, lithomancy, podomancy, what?”

“What’s podomancy?” Justine asks.

“Palmistry for the feet.”

Justine and Aoife wrinkle their noses in unison.

“That’s gross,” Aoife says. “I don’t think our feet smell like roses right now.”

“How do you tell fortunes with apple peels?” Justine asks.

“You throw it behind you or drop it into a bowl of water, and the letter it forms is the first letter in the name of the person you’re gonna marry.”

“What if it falls into a lump or a straight line?” Fiona asks.

“If it breaks, it means you’ll never wed.  Other methods for tryna predict if you’ll have a faithful lover or if you’ll ever wed are roasting chestnuts and seeing if they stay close together or drift apart, and separating an egg white and putting it in a bowl of water.  If the egg white sinks, you’ll be alone for the next year.”

“Didn’t all these parlor tricks originate when most girls were married by all of eighteen?” Emeline asks. “They also started before the modern concept of dating.”

“Can I start with the apple peel?” Justine begs.

“Sure, if you know how to peel an apple in one piece,” Deirdre says. “In the meantime, who wants to give me her palm first?”

Fiona scoots over to the coffeetable and gives her sister her hand while Justine is in the kitchen peeling an apple in one unbroken piece.  Deirdre tells her the names of the major lines and mounts, followed by an analysis of the shape, size, and appearance of her hands, fingers, and fingernails.  They’re all laughing at Deirdre’s prediction that Fiona will have at least seven children when Justine returns with her apple peel.

“Does anyone else wanna try counting?” Deirdre asks. “I’m not sure if I’m seeing more than seven, or if somea the extra lines are broken segments of pre-existing lines.”

“Where are these lines?” Justine asks.

“Under the pinky.  They say that you’ll have as many kids as there are lines.” Deirdre gets up. “Close your eyes and I’ll spin you three times.  You toss the apple peel over your left shoulder after the last spin.”

“Are there any boys you like, Justine?” Emeline teases as Deirdre spins her. “Any names you’d like to tell us?”

“There are a couple of guys I fancy, but no one I’d be interested in getting serious with.  I’m having a hard time in somea my classes; the last thing I need is a relationship.”

“Are you failing?” Ernestine asks. “If you’re having difficulties, we might be able to help you.”

“I’m having problems too,” Aoife confesses. “They’re nothing that can’t be fixed.”

Justine throws the apple peel over her left shoulder and holds onto Deirdre for support, her eyes still closed.

“Is that an O?” Emeline asks. “Or maybe a G?”

“I think it’s a U or a V,” Fiona says.

“Oh, brother,” Deirdre says. “That looks like a D to me.”

Justine blushes. “Even if this stuff is for real and not just a parlor game, I’m still five years younger than David.”

“You’ll be old enough for him someday,” Adicia says. “Age differences aren’t so big when you get older.”

“Can we try tasseography now?” Ernestine asks. “I’m mad with curiosity to see if you can see anything concrete in a bunch of loose tea leaves.”

“Maybe you can have some candy with the tea,” Deirdre encourages her. “Do you have a preference for tea?”

“Raspberry green tea with honey, please.”

Deirdre picks up where she left off with reading Fiona’s palm while the water heats up and Emeline pulls out teacups, saucers, the wooden box of teas, and the blue cast iron teapot with a butterfly motif.  Ernestine thumbs through one of her fortune-telling books as she waits.

“This line right above the Heart Line and under the index and ring fingers is the Girdle of Venus,” Deirdre says as Ernestine sips the tea. “It’s usually found in people who are extremely sensitive.  This marking between the Head and Heart Lines is La Croix Mystique.  It means you’ve got a natural gift for mysticism and the occult.”

“That’s groovy,” Fiona says.

Ernestine sets down her teacup midway through her drink and reaches for her pillowcase, hoping to pull out a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a bag of M&Ms, or a Snickers.  Instead she finds the wooden box on top of her sack of loot.  Curious, she pulls it out and examines it.

“Did anyone else get something like this?  Don’t tell me it’s from some dentist who gave out boxes of coins ‘steada real candy.  We had some awful killjoy back in Poughkeepsie who gave out toothbrushes every Halloween.”

“At least you can do something with money,” Aoife says. “The worst are the dentists and health nuts who give out apples.  Who wants an apple on Halloween?”

Ernestine pulls the box open and finds a folded note propped up on a slight angle.  Even more curious, she sets the box down, neglecting to notice the ring, and reads the note.

My belovèd Ernestine Zénobie Troy, you are my best friend, my life, my soul, my heart, the only best friend and life partner I want for the entire rest of my earthly existence.  We promised this to each other six years ago, but now I’m formally, officially asking you again if you’ll be my best friend, my dear one, my partner through life, even until we’re seventy, and beyond if we live so long.  We’ve been inseparable and interconnected since we were kids, and now I want to make things permanent by having a handfasting ceremony binding us together as wives.  Will you please make my world complete by telling me you’ll marry me?  Love forever and always, Deirdre Apollonia Ryan, Halloween 1974.’”

Deirdre looks at her expectantly. She knows full well what the answer will be, but is unable to breathe until she knows for sure.  Ernestine sets the note on the table and turns her attention back to the little box, letting out a loud, excited scream when she sees the brilliant red garnet in the claddagh setting.

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“Yes, of course I’ll marry you, Deirdre!  I’ll belong to you forever!” She jumps up and throws her shaking arms around Deirdre. “Would you like to put the ring on for me?”

Deirdre slips it onto Ernestine’s left hand. “I knew it’d fit you perfectly!”

“This is awesome!” Justine says. “Now you’re gonna be our real sister-in-law, and Fiona and Aoife are gonna be our sisters too!”

“It’ll be so nice to officially be family,” Deirdre says. “Ernestine, how about a June wedding, after finals and papers?”

“June is fine by me!”

“Can we start planning the wedding tomorrow?” Aoife asks. “Is it in good taste for us to reuse our bridesmaid dresses from Adicia and Ricky’s renewal?”

“You can if you want, but it’s always nice to have new clothes for a special occasion if you can afford them.  At the very least, Deirdre and I will have to look for wedding dresses.  I’d love to go back to Mrs. Marsenko’s salon.”

“Better book the appointment for an entire day,” Fiona says. “You know how much Deirdre hates formal clothes.  I bet she’ll try to get away with wearing hot pink, turquoise, or electric green.”

“I’ll have to take you to look for your own engagement ring tomorrow, darling,” Ernestine says. “Does anyone wanna look at how gorgeous my ring is?”

“We all saw it already, but not on your hand,” Adicia confesses.

“Well, I didn’t see it,” Emeline says.

Ernestine giddily dances over to her and thrusts her hand in Emeline’s face.

“Rubies were too expensive, but I know red is your favorite,” Deirdre says. “That’s called a claddagh.  It’s very traditionally Irish.  It represents love, loyalty, and friendship.”

“Very pretty,” Emeline says. “I’m kinda jealous.”

“You’ll get a fellow someday, if you want it enough,” Adicia tries to cheer her up. “Why don’t you try onea those divination games to see if you’re gonna get a fellow within the year, or what the first letter of his name might be?”

“If you walk out the door backwards at night, pick some grass, and put it under your pillow, you’ll dream of your future husband,” Fiona says. “If you eat a dry crust of bread at night, any wish will come true.”

“You can also wear your night clothes inside-out to dream of your future spouse,” Ernestine says, still admiring her ring.

“I don’t wear anything to bed mosta the time,” Emeline confesses.

The others look at her in surprise, barely able to imagine Emeline of all people, the stereotypical quiet, shy librarian, routinely sleeping in the nude.  Justine and Aoife are unable to contain their giggles.

“Well, you know what they say about those quiet ones!” Emeline giggles a little herself. “When it’s really hot, who needs pajamas or sheets if you’re the only one around?  I pulled it off a couple of times at Vassar when my roommate was there, by maneuvering just so.  She never suspected anything.”

“Does anyone else know this?” Deirdre asks.

“I told Lenore awhile ago, and she was kinda blown away too, but she thinks it’s my own personal business.  Speaking of, don’t you think it’s a good idea to go over and tell her and Allen your exciting news?”

“Oh, we will, but first we can do another divination game,” Ernestine says. “You crack an egg, separate the white, and put the white in a bowl of water.  If it floats, you’ll soon be married, or you’ll continue to be happy in an existing relationship.  If it sinks, you’ll be alone for the next year.”

While Deirdre fills a bowl with water and separates a yolk and white into little bowls, Justine gets a piece of paper and starts doing some calculations while Aoife and Fiona dig into their candy.

“What are you doing math for?” Aoife asks.

“I’m figuring out when David and I won’t break the half plus seven rule.  I’ll be nineteen and he’ll be twenty-four.”

“Oh, boy, if only my brother knew what a big crush you have on him,” Aoife says. “Even if he were interested, it’s kinda lowlife for a guy in his twenties to date a teen girl.”

“Lenore was eighteen and Allen was twenty-one when they got together.”

“There’s a smaller difference between eighteen and twenty-one than there is between nineteen and twenty-four,” Emeline says.

Deirdre presents her with the bowl of water and the bowl with the egg white. “Have at it.”

Emeline pours the white into the water, and her heart sinks when the white immediately sinks to the bottom.  She’s not entirely surprised, and knows it’s only a game, but is still a little offended the negative outcome attributed to this superstition had to present itself immediately.  At least the white could’ve floated around for a little bit on a gradual descent to the bottom.

“Remember, you always told us the right guy’s worth waiting for, and that your future spouse will be even more special and appreciated if you had to wait a really long time for him,” Adicia tries to cheer her up, seeing the look on her face.

“Never mind this silly egg white,” Ernestine says. “We’ve got some calls to make.  After Lenore and Lucine,  we’ll call Sarah, David, Julie, Betsy, Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik, and Gemma.”

“I hope they don’t care how late it is,” Deirdre says.

“That’s a valid point.  Why don’t we hold off breaking the news till tomorrow?  For now it’s just between us.  Why don’t we get back to divination now?”

“Oh, come on, don’t you wanna enjoy some post-engagement sex?” Fiona asks. “We won’t mind if yous guys retire early and leave us without our resident divination experts.”

“Not with all of yous knowing that’s what we’ll be doing!” Ernestine hopes she isn’t turning too red. “It was bad enough when my own parents did that without caring we walked in on them or overheard them!”

“Unless one or both of yous is having her monthly visitor, I’m pretty sure we all know you’ll be doing that anyway after you hit the hay.”

“Yeah, we’re all ladies here,” Justine says.

“We’re not going upstairs to have celebratory engagement sex,” Ernestine reiterates firmly.

“We don’t mind if we overhear anything,” Fiona says. “It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve overheard you.  Though I don’t know if sound carries as far downstairs as it does down the hall.  Me, Justine, and Aoife have overheard Adicia and Ricky doing it too, and we’re not embarrassed to look them in the face afterwards either.”

“This conversation is over,” Ernestine declares. “Now where were we with divination?”

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WeWriWa—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!

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Yes, I really sleep under this framed poster, yes, it is kind of heavy, and no, it hasn’t fallen down and conked me on the head in the middle of the night yet.

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. In honor of today’s special holiday, I’m sharing a piece from my hiatused 1980s historical Justine Grown Up, from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.”

It’s sometime in early 1983, and Justine is getting a tour of her teenage nieces’ room. Gone are the stuffed animals and posters of cute animals which used to dominate their room. Thirteen-year-old Amelia and I have a common interest.

***

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer. Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care. I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am. My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality. What you see is what you get.”

***

Synopsis for Justine Grown Up:

Justine’s jealous feelings at the birth of Julie’s first child are quickly turned around when she reconnects with David, now twenty-five and a Ph.D. student at SUNY Albany, with the five-year difference between them suddenly no longer so inappropriate. Unfortunately, her older siblings and their friends have a hard time seeing her, after years of being the precious family baby, as a grownup woman who’s old enough for marriage, motherhood, and moving out with her new family. But then, when her young nieces become Duranies, an unexpected opportunity opens up for Justine to finally prove once and for all to her family that she’s a responsible, capable, mature adult.

This near-death experience of 10 August 1985 is the reason for this holiday. I love when he says, “God, this one life we’ve got, it’s so fragile.” I had a terrifying near-death experience myself on 19 August 2003, and I too believed I was about to exit this fragile life. Luckily, the Angel of Death passed both of us over.

WeWriWa—Meet Adicia

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. This week, I’m going to start sharing the opening pages of Little Ragdoll, the contemporary historical Bildungsroman I’m releasing on June 20th. It opens in early September 1959 in the Lower East Side, and ends in July 1974 by the Bridge of Sighs.

I recently rewrote the opening pages, along with reworking and rewriting a number of other parts of the first chapter. The first chapter’s title also changed from “Back to School Shopping” to “A Trip to Woolworth’s.” The opening lines might seem a little old-fashioned, but I think it sets up the fact that the story is a modern-day Grimms’ fairytale of sorts, with elements like a cute young millionaire falling for a poor girl, a black-hearted mother who hates all her children but one, and children who get away with squatting for years.

***

In the world Adicia Éloïse Troy is from, life is more like a Grimms’ fairytale than a Disney fairytale.  But sometimes even the darkest, most twisted fairytale has a happy ending, even for a poor girl from the Lower East Side.

Adicia peers through the wrought-iron bars of the eighth floor fire escape balcony as she holds her six-month-old baby sister Justine on her lap, a gentle September breeze giving them some relief from the heat of the concrete jungle.  She wiggles her filthy toes, savoring the feel of the breeze against her skin.

“One day we’re gonna leave this place and have a happy life far away, no matter how long it takes,” Adicia says in her strong Manhattan accent. “We’ll have a real house, lots of toys, new clothes, and even a car.  But you’ll always be better to me than a thousand dolls.” Adicia turns her head at the approaching saddle shoe footsteps.

Resurrection Blogfest II—Appreciating Life

Mina Lobo is hosting the Resurrection Blogfest for the second year in a row. Participants are reposting something they wrote between now and the last Resurrection Blogfest. For full rules and prize information, just click on the badge above.

Since most of my posts remain very serious and intellectual, even if I’ve managed to get my average post down to under 1,000 words these days, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of my more lightweight posts. It originally went live on 10 August 2013, entitled Sweet Saturday Samples—Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! I briefly went back to a hiatused WIP just to write the chapter this scene comes from. (Note to regular readers: The woman who runs SSS has been taking a break to recharge her batteries. If and when she resumes the weekly hop, my pre-scheduled Saturday posts will return.)

***

This week, for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m returning to my hiatused WIP Justine Grown Up, set from 1979-84, in honor of today’s special holiday. If you had told me three years ago I’d soon know that 10 August is a real holiday, Duran Duran Appreciation Day, I probably would’ve laughed in your face. It just goes to show you never know what interests you’ll develop as you go through more of life.

Before my excerpt, I’d like to share a video that touches on the reason for this day. This particular date was chosen because on that day in 1985, Simon (the lead singer) almost died from drowning. You never know when you’re living your last moments. Always appreciate the gift of life, since you never know when it might be about to be taken away.

If you don’t want to watch the whole interview, the part about his near-death experience ends at 1:40. For some reason, the first half later repeats, but then continues to the rest of the video. I completely understand when he’s talking about how he thought those were his last moments, since I had a near-death experience too. Mine was on land, though, not at sea, and I was run over by a car and pinned underneath, 10 years ago this 19 August.

This is taken from Chapter 54, “Irene and Amelia Redecorate Their Room.” It’s early 1983 (probably about February-March), and Irene is 15 and Amelia is 13. They’re giving their 23-year-old aunt a tour of their room, along with a little lesson on their new favorite band.

***

Irene indicates a somewhat androgynous-looking member of the quintet. “I chose Nick as my favorite.  God forgive me, but I wasn’t entirely sure what he was the first time I saw him.  Then I realized that’s a normal look for a New Romantic, and that I was being pretty ignorant by assuming a man in makeup with a pretty look has to be a cross-dresser.  I like how he’s not afraid to be himself, no matter what certain people might assume.  My parents always taught me how important it is to beat to your own drummer.  Different is good.”

Justine takes in Irene’s favorite. “I kind of agree with you, but I’m not sure I’d know what to think if David came home one day wearing eyemakeup, styled hair, and feminine shirts.”

“Oh, I like that look on the right man.  A man who’s not afraid to look pretty in public is really sure of his masculinity.  He doesn’t need silly things like leather jackets or a motorcycle to prove his manhood.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of ground between wearing mascara and being a Hell’s Angel!”

“I was never interested in the jocks anyway.  I always liked the artistic types, like the guys in art, film, dance, or music clubs.  I don’t know how girls in the old days could ever be attracted to things like crew cuts, letter jackets, and square jaws.”

Amelia points to one of the brunets. “My favorite is Roger, the drummer.  Most of the girls at school have other favorites, but I don’t care.  I guess I just like that he’s quiet, like I am.  My favorite guys at school are the quiet, shy ones.”

“You can never go wrong with a quiet one,” Justine agrees. “I think it’s safe to say that the average introvert isn’t using that as a façade for a jerkish personality.  What you see is what you get.”

“And it adds mystery.  Plus when a quiet person does speak, it’s usually pretty deep and profound.  Everyone always underestimates us, but you know what they say about the quiet ones.”

Justine smiles at her. “Yes, I sure do, even though I’ve never been guilty of being too quiet and shy.  Is he one of the brothers?”

Irene vigorously shakes her head. “None of them are related, though a lot of people assume that at first.  It’s just one of life’s funny coincidences that three out of five share the same last name.  I’m glad we’re Troys and don’t have that problem of an overly common name.  Well, you’re a Ryan now, but even Ryan isn’t overly popular.”

Amelia continues pointing. “Nessa chose Simon as her favorite.  She likes his poetic lyrics, and you know how much she loves books and poetry.  It’s kind of unusual that she likes him best, since normally she doesn’t like blondes all that much.  Did we tell you he’s part Huguenot just like us?”

“No, you didn’t,” Justine says, starting to feel like a fish out of water with her teenage nieces.  She’s not even a generation away from them, but suddenly they seem like they have less in common.  They have mainstream teen girls interests now, as opposed to how they often used to talk about deep things like indie films, current events, and classic literature.

“Little Simone likes John best,” Irene concludes. “She thinks he’s the best-looking.  No deeper reasons.  What else can you expect from a ten-year-old?  She’ll learn when she’s a little older.”

What’s Up Wednesday

Ready Set Write

As part of their What’s Up Wednesday feature, Elodie NowodazkijAlison MillerKaty UppermanErin Funk, and Jaime Morrow will be hosting a summer-long initiative called Ready. Set. Write! Participants will share weekly, monthly, or overall goals in the “What I’m Writing” section of the weekly posts.

What I’m Writing

I’m pretty proud and pleased that I only took a few days to write Chapter 54 of Justine Grown Up. I did want to get back to work on my current WIP quickly, but I also knew I needed it done by the weekend so I could have excerpts for my Saturday and Sunday bloghops. The total length was only 2,427 words, which is on par with my shorter chapters in JGU.

It was also a test of showing restraint, not only in length, but also in showing off my knowledge. I absolutely didn’t want any of it to come across as some huge, shameless pile of fanwank. 15-20 years ago, I had that problem when anachronistically forcing in references to some of my favourite bands. Now I just wrote what needed to be written, conveying basic information and Irene and Amelia’s personal reactions. There’s a line it’s just not professional or mature to cross when you’re writing about a real-life interest, even when it’s an actual, natural part of a storyline.

If you want, you can read a little excerpt here.

In my current WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest, I’m up to Chapter 56 and about 456,000 words. I really hate to have to make six innocent children suffer with whooping cough, but it’s the first and most effective way I could think of to bond them all together as a family. This disease can last for at least three months, which allows plenty of time for Damir to finally warm to his natural father. (I’m not even going to get into the anti-science, historical revisionist propaganda that’s been helping to bring back diseases that were almost eradicated in the West! Parents of 1940 would’ve given anything for their kids to be spared things like measles, mumps, and diphtheria, instead of patting themselves on the back and gushing about the wonders of natural immunity and evils of “Big Pharma.”)

What I’m Reading

I breezed through Elaine Tyler May’s America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation in a few days. It was a really fascinating social study of attitudes towards the Pill over time, how women today view it, how it was developed and tested, the changes in the Pill over the past 50 years, attitudes towards birth control in general, other contraceptives, male birth control pills, the disconnect between the Vatican’s view and most American Catholics, and how the sexual double standard about birth control, pregnancy, and sex gradually lessened.

What Inspires Me

Camp just ended, which is always a bittersweet time. As a friend and fellow counselor was saying to me, watching all these kids helps you to realise how you want to raise your own future kids. For example, a lot of the kids bring really healthy lunches, and even want healthy food for snacks, like raisins and peppers. There are also the areas I know I want to steer any future children away from, like delayed toilet-training, too-old thumb-sucking, and lack of discipline and boundaries at home. I’m not going to give any specific examples, though I love all these kids!

Hashem (God) must have a twisted sense of humour, since I had issues including oppositional defiance as a young child, and in the past three summers, I’ve dealt with that very issue in a few campers. Now I know how the shoe feels on the other foot, how frustrated and aggravated I made my parents and teachers all those years ago!

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Sunday morning was my favourite spin instructor’s farewell class. He’s moving to Florida full-time, but he’s definitely not retiring just yet. His wife invited us to come to a class at his new gym if we’re ever in their new neck of the woods, and said he might be coming back in September to guest teach. His farewell class was one of his all-time BEST! Every single second was made of pure awesomeness.

Still no kitchen to work with. Again, please keep in mind that I’m the one with a more liberal view on kosher standards and realised this needed taken care of from the jump. It really doesn’t seem in the spirit of a kosher lifestyle to starve yourself and really still be eating most of your meals in non-kosher kitchens and restaurants just to do everything perfectly to the letter of the law, no matter how long of a delay. You have to live your life realistically, without undue hardship.

I lost one of my marbles while babysitting two of the older girls after camp when it rolled under a locked door. The very next day, my notice I’d left on the door was waiting for me in the office with the little marble taped to it. There really still are some amazingly nice people in this world!

Marble Notice