A Fork in the Road

Creed’s fists came down on the steering wheel over and over with enough force he’d have bruises. And if his glare didn’t set the damn piece-of-shit rental car on fire Creed didn’t know what would do it.


He popped the hood and got out of the car. Wing-tip shoes he wore crunched through the deep, uneven graveled road and the one remaining thousand-dollar suit he hadn’t sold gathered dust. He slapped his legs and suit jacket, but it didn’t really help. The wind swirled around him regardless the desire to keep his suit spotless. He should probably sell the suit. It wouldn’t be needed anyway once he lost his job. He wasn’t even going to be able to afford the dry-cleaning bill after this fuck-up.

Creed’s life had been going south, creeping toward hell and brimstone, but this just topped off his cocktail of disaster. More money he couldn’t afford to lose. And he’d lost a lot of it. A business meeting he’d planned over two months ago to bring him back in with the big boys of investments fell through at the last minute leaving him stranded in bum-fuck-no-where’s-ville. He had no clue why they’d canceled.

Creed counted on the account to get him noticed by the investment firm he works for, making him a partner instead of a drone. It was also supposed to help get his fiancé back. He remembered the surprise and numbness that had come with the confrontation. The last time he’d seen her she had been winding up to throw her engagement ring at his face. At the last second, she’d clenched her fist around it, screamed, “Fuck you, Creed Dalton! I’m keeping the ring.” She’d said she needed something to compensate for the time she’d wasted on him.

But now, stuck on this dirt road because the GPS had sent him the wrong way, Creed could see that his relationship was as dried up as the road. Busy trying to make millions he’d neglected the one person that should have been the most important to him. He ran his hand through his hair. Why had it been so easy for her to walk away? She’d said all the right things. Their sex life had been hot as hell. When he was home. Hadn’t she loved him?

But now looking back at the past few months there were other signs that something was off. The looks she’d given his best friend. The times she wasn’t with him she’d get all decked out in tight-fitting dresses, fuck me heels, with just a touch of perfume that made a guy want to dip his face right into the crease of her neck and linger. He should have known she was looking for something he wasn’t giving her. All the comments his best friend kept blasting at him. “Go home Creed take care of your woman.”, “She’s worth taking care of man.”, “Don’t let her go, man.”

Was his friend taking his place? No, Creed thought. Creed shook his head. His buddy wouldn’t do that. Would he? No. He was just looking out for him. Every indication told Creed he was the one who was the asshole.

“Idiot,” he said, thinking that his reaction to both his fiancé and his friend were all screwed up.

Did he really love Christina? Would he have let her walk away and not gone after her if he had loved her enough? He would have stopped her before she had walked out the door. But what had he done? He’d let her go, went back to work to make the millions that he’d promised himself he’d have before the age of thirty. It had taken him a bit longer than that. At thirty-five, he was multi-millionaire. At thirty-six he was almost broke.

One mistake, one bad choice in investments with his money and clients’ money, and his sure thing had turned into millions lost. No one trusted him. And with the meeting being canceled his last chance to redeem himself was like a check mark in the screw you pile by fate herself.

Creed angled his hand above his brow blocking out the oppressive heat the midday sun beat down on him. He loosened his tie. He looked up and down the road to see if any other lifeform was around that could help him out. Dust swirls danced through the barren field’s as the only sounds were the wind gusts carrying the dirt. He really was out in the middle of nowhere.

Creed opened the car and reached in for his phone to call a tow. He pushed the unlock button. The screen stayed dark. He just stared at it like he couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing. Then he squeezed the dead phone so tight he thought he might break. He clenched his jaw to keep from screaming out his frustrations. It wouldn’t do him any good.

When he was done throwing an inner temper tantrum, he secured his tablet in the trunk, took off his suit coat and lay it over his suitcase. Then he looked to the west and started walking. There had to be something over the hill, what was it, about a mile maybe. He hoped.

What the hell was he going to do now? Creed would just have to hole up in a hotel until he could get himself sorted.


Celeste needed the open road. She was desperate for the time to herself. She needed it like she needed an alternate universe. One where friends didn’t die, and she had time and money to fix the mess she was in.

She secured her helmet, got on her Harley Fatboy motorcycle and listened to the engine roar, the rumble settling in her chest replacing some of her pain.

After years of struggling and getting the experience she needed to have her own medical practice she easily slipped into her mentor’s practice and took over.

She’d gone to school in Michigan, but she knew she’d always come home to the little town she grew up in just outside of Austin, Texas.

What she didn’t realize was the mess she’d walk into. Dr. Fellows had had cancer. Celeste hit the accelerator.  She took a breath, sucking it in hard. He hadn’t told her. The thought that he didn’t want to confide in anyone, to lay the burden on anyone else broke her heart. She wouldn’t cry anymore. She squeezed the handle bars harder. Her heart was feeling hollow, like nothing she’d felt before, she pressed harder into the bike and went faster. She had to forget. Just for a little while.

The funeral had nearly split Celeste in two. The pain had been too great. Watching the casket dip past the line of soil at her feet, hearing the cries of pain, the tears the town added to the earth where he would rest, remembering such a great man made her sob even harder. He had been more than just a mentor. He had been like a father to her. More than her own.

Her father had been mired in his grief and bottles and bottles of scotch, swallowed up by his failings. Or what he thought were his failings. Her father had become twisted, pulled apart and thrown away like garbage when his wife, Celeste’s Stepmother, left him.  Celeste’s father had done everything he could to make his second wife happy, but it had never been enough. He’d been left a husk of the man.

When Celeste’s stepmother’s demands had gotten to be too much, Celeste would run to Dr. Fellows house and hang out with him if he was off work, which wasn’t very often. So, when he was, she would spend time with Mrs. Fellows learning as much as she could from the man. The woman had doted on Celeste like she was her grandchild, which she guessed she was since they hadn’t had any children. She learned to cook and sew, and plant flowers. The woman was wonderful, but died too soon. The loss was another layer of pain compounded onto others.

She shook her head to rid herself of the memories and went faster.

Presently, Celeste had other things to worry her.

She had to figure out where all the money had gone. Dr. Fellows’ books weren’t balancing. There were also medical supplies not accounted for in the store room.

Anxiety entrenched Celeste. What would have to happen to correct the situation? The office assistant who’d worked for Dr. Fellows for over ten years had left on vacation right after the funeral, so there was no help there. She didn’t want to go to the police before she looked at the books again. Maybe there was another place he stored supplies that he hadn’t tell her about. The practice was attached to his house. But she hadn’t gone searching for anything. Not yet. She had been distracted with planning the funeral.


Cresting over another hill in her journey, to nowhere really, Celeste thought she saw a mirage. The day’s dry heat rippled across the road making the land seem to dance, the illusion getting larger and larger. Was it a lost dog? Closer now, she gasped inside her helmet. She blinked a few times thinking it could be the tears she’d let fall making her see something that was not there. She downshifted and approached with caution. Not a dog. A man sat at the edge of a culvert. Facing away from her. A very dirty man with blood dripping from the side of his head.

With precision only a seasoned biker had, she stopped the bike in quick, efficient movements, took her helmet off and called 911. “This is Dr. Celeste Breckinridge. I’m on Route 1 just West of Old Town. A man looks like he’s fallen into the culvert, possible concussion, lacerations to the arms, back and,” she paused and looked down, “and legs. I’m going to need an ambulance. I’ve got limited supplies with me on my motorcycle.” She heard a tsk from the operator’s voice, and had to hold back a laugh. Trinity Jones was on call it seemed. A friend of Dr. Fellows, she didn’t like Celeste riding the Fat Boy.

“Alright, Celeste. We’ll get a bus out there asap.”

“Thanks, Trinity.” Celeste hung up and put her phone in the back pocket of her leather pants. She grabbed the first aid kit that she always had in her saddle bag.

Approaching the very well dressed dust-covered man, she noticed a lot of things all at once. The suit he wore looked expensive. Now though, the arm of the white dress shirt was torn open and not from the large biceps that stretched the fabric. She could see a dirt covered scratch mixed with blood. Her eyes roamed again. She slowed her steps. The back of the shirt was torn exposing more bloodied skin caked with dirt. He’d fallen into the culvert. “Shit!” She cussed softly, but not soft enough that he wouldn’t have heard her approaching. But he didn’t respond, and the cut oozing blood on his head made her worry rise even more.

“Are you okay?” She said. No response. “Sir?” That got a reaction, but not a fast one. He slowly turned his head and winced, but didn’t do anything else. Just stared at her. Kneeling next to him ignoring the gravel digging into her leathers, she put down the first aid kit and looked into his eyes. They were dilated, but they followed her hands as they opened the first aid kit and then moved toward his head. The color was a brilliant blue that matched the crystalline blue sky. “You’re going to be okay. I’m Dr. Breckinridge, the local doctor.” As she said the words, she felt a pang in her heart. Dr. Fellows was gone. But she needed to focus. As she continued getting out the supplies she needed for clean up, he still followed her movements, but he still hadn’t spoken. “Can you tell me your name?” He licked his plump lips and Celeste couldn’t help but follow the motion. She cleared her throat as he tried to speak. Nothing came out. How long had he been out here? Jesus, he was probably dehydrated too. “I’ll be right back.” She ran to her saddle bag and grabbed a bottle of water. “Here,” she said and uncapped the bottle and put it to his lips. She watched him swallow and had to swallow herself as the motion made her react in an inappropriate way. “Now can you tell me your name?”

He licked his lips, and she almost groaned from the action.

The man cleared his throat and said, “Creed.”

“Good, good.”

Creed lifted his hand to his head, but she grabbed his arm stopping him mid-motion. “Let me clean it first.” He put his arm down, but once again said nothing. She noticed that his hands were all cut up too.

“Did you fall in the culvert?” He obviously had, but she wanted to get him talking. She looked over his legs, his very muscled legs, which she was totally ignoring, and saw the rocks at the bottom of the culvert, the dry environment and sharp objects giving more clues to the evidence that Creed had fallen into the culvert. She rinsed the blood away with a saline bottle catching the excess with a swab of cotton so it wouldn’t go in his eyes. When she wiped across the laceration on his head with alcohol, he hissed and then groaned.

She looked down at his large hands. Very large hands. They were also cut up. “Can you tell me if you’re hurt anywhere else?”

“I’m fine,” he spoke finally and tried to get up. “My meeting.” She ignored whatever nonsense he was spouting because he did not get up on two feet. He nearly buckled to the ground when he put weight on his left leg, but Celeste caught him just before he would have gone over again and sat him down. She noticed his knee, now that he was sitting again, had swelled up like a grapefruit.

She looked over her shoulder when she heard sirens in the distance. Thank God.

“Where were you headed?”

“A meeting,” he said again.

“Well, it doesn’t look like you’ll be making that meeting.”

He blinked a couple of times. She looked at his eyes and lost herself for a couple of seconds which she didn’t have time for but was drawn in anyway.

When his arm started to lift, she froze. His scratched-up fingers tangled with a loose piece of hair that had come out of her braid. He put it behind her ear, and she couldn’t help but suck in a breath when his finger lingered on her cheek.

“You have pretty hair, all brown and chestnut mixed.” he said, the words almost like they were floating across her skin. The words gave her goosebumps even as the heat pressed down on her skin. Holy cow this guy was potent. And he wasn’t even at 100%. His hair was darker than hers, almost black, and almost touching his shoulders. A frown stretched his lips down and accentuated the stern but strong line of the bridge of his nose which only highlighted the strong brow that formed his chiseled face. He was damn gorgeous. Gah! She needed to stop thinking about him and get back to getting him to the hospital.

His frown went even longer, and out of the blue, he said, “That’s alright.

“What’s alright?” she asked confused.

“The meeting was canceled,” he said and then looked away from her.

“What do you do?”

“Investment Banking with an occasional foray into Forensic Accounting.” That had her perking up. He could help her with the mess doc left her. But no, he was from out of town. He wouldn’t be able to stay. But she was curious to see what he might say about it. And what had brought this man to her small town in the middle of nowhere? She didn’t believe in fate because fate usually kicked her in the ass if she granted it too much attention. Just as she was about to ask another question about his job the ambulance had come to a stop alongside her bike.

“Doc, what do we got?”

“Hey Jeremy,” she said, and then gave him a rundown of what she thought was wrong while they worked to get him on the gurney. Which wasn’t easy being that Jeremy was only about two inches shorter than her five foot six and Melanie who was Jeremy’s partner, was as petite as you could get. It probably looked more like a circus than professional medical staff because when Creed stood at his full height, he was more like a giant compared to the three of them. And every time they moved Creed he groaned or hissed at them. And his vocabulary of swear words was inventive. She couldn’t help but laugh a couple of times which caused Creed to glare, which only caused her to laugh more.

“Sorry,” she said finally getting him to a sitting position on the gurney. “I’m not being very professional, am I?”

“Sure, you’re a doctor and not a biker chick?” He flicked his eyes toward her bike and smiled, which caused her heart rate to skyrocket, her hands to get clammy and the other parts she tried to ignore.

“Well, I am right now.” She smiled back, but then she remembered why she had been riding in the first place and her smile disappeared. Melanie and Jeremy glanced over at her knowingly. She looked away right onto Creed whose focus was startling. She didn’t like the attention. It unnerved her, but it turned her on, too. He would have been a nice distraction, but he was sure to go back where he came from.


They stared at each other until Jeremy cleared his throat.

“Alright,” she said with a sigh. Let’s get you to the hospital.

“I don’t need the hospital,” Creed grumbled.

“Not your call.” Celeste chimed in as Melanie got Creed to lay down. Not easily.

“But…” Celeste cut him off.

“Nope. You’re going. You could have a concussion and I don’t have the equipment at my office to get an MRI done. Plus, I’m worried about that knee of yours.”

“Can someone get my things out of my rental car?” He flicked his fingers down the road and practically snarled. “If the damned car hadn’t decided to quit I wouldn’t be in this situation, so leave it. The rental place can deal with it.”

“Fine, but we can’t wait any longer.” She nodded to Melanie and Jeremy and they put him in the back. “I’ll have the sheriff get someone on that. Meet you at the hospital, Mel.” She nodded and rounded to the front and got in the ambulance. Jeremy, stayed in the back and nodded and went to shut the doors, but before he could, Creed yelled, “What’s your name?”

“Celeste,” She said.

“Nice to meet you, Celeste.” His head went to the gurney, and Jeremy shut the doors while smiling and shaking his head. The smile that pulled at Celeste’s mouth was the first genuine smile she’d had in days, and it stayed with her for the rest of it as she walked into the hospital and found Creed.


“B-13!” Mercy Mia sounded off at the head of the room. Ellie looked up at her friend, Mercury Martin. His lips were a dark red tonight with an edge of gloss with liner to bring out the shape. He had shadowed eyes that added sultry to the girl next door, and his cheeks brushed with enough color for the added drama. He had on his favorite sequenced form fitting dress. Also red. And she knew underneath the table he had on a pair of five-inch heeled shoes by one of his favorite designers, Manolo Blahnik. His breasts were hiked up and sitting proud. She wished she had that much cleavage. Add the bigger than Everest hair, and you had the perfect drag queen. Ellie couldn’t help but smile.

Ellie snickered as Merc told another dick joke in between number calling and Merc’s boyfriend, sitting next to her, snorted every time Merc looked over. They’d recently moved in together. They were adorable.

“Unlucky,” Ellie shouted at her friend and frowned. She blotted the letter/number on her bingo sheet.

“Suck it up, sister!” Merc yelled back.

Ellie smiled at her friend again. She stuck her tongue out at him. Mercury was one of her best friends and forced her to come out to drag queen bingo. She’d been hiding too long for his taste he’d told her.

She sighed. Her apartment was like a living dirge swallowing her up like a grave, and she was starting to resemble a vampire.

“G-7,” Mercy Mia called out.

Ellie slammed the blotter on the empty space on her card. She’d sat an hour already, and she was no closer to getting bingo.

“Honey,” Merc’s significant other Jackson said, “I don’t think your game board can take any more.”

She looked over at him. “Serves it right for not giving me any winning squares.” She looked at her board. Empty. Like her life.

Jackson was the total opposite of Merc. He was short and fit, muscular in all the right places. Though five foot ten wasn’t considered short to her, it just was short compared to Merc’s six foot four. Jackson wore a tailored suit of dark blue and a pair of trousers that fit and held him just right as they tapered down to his ankles. He’d just taken off his jacket, and the light azure shirt hugged his chest like it was a breast plate. How did he get it to look like that she wondered? He looked scrumptious.

Too bad he was of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind and wasn’t single. She would totally try for some of him. Though lately, she wasn’t of the man-loving-honey-bunches-of-oats-kind either. With each relationship tried, she felt something missing. There were orgasms, but they lacked that wow factor that all her other friends talked about. At 25 she’d think she’d have had an earth-shattering sex partner. A little voice seemed to be knocking at her subconscious more and more, letting her know she had to stop denying the truth about her sexuality. It was getting harder and harder to ignore.

She set down her blotter when the next letter-number was called out. She didn’t want to play anymore. Ellie wanted to go straight back to bed and bury herself under the covers like she’d done all week and enjoy some mint chocolate chip ice cream and then enjoy even more her B.O.B. battery operated boyfriend. If she couldn’t find someone to interest her tonight, she would do just that.

Ellie got up. “I’m going to get a drink.” And it would be a hard one, not the soft ones served on the bingo side of the building.

The venue for drag queen bingo was a renovated church, from saints to sinners. Its space was adjacent to the main part of the church, or the nave, and could fit enough tables to hold a banquet. There was a bar in the back that served only juice concoctions. But what was great about the place, it was lit up like a dance club. There was a disco ball that flashed different lights, sections that had high tables along with a glammed up wait staff that rivaled Mercy Mia’s in the bling department. The bar did up the drinks like guests were on a tropical island, and held several contests throughout the night.

The best part, though, the nave next door was an actual nightclub that catered to all kinds. Gay, straight, lesbian, transgender; name it, it was here. No judging anyone’s preference. It just was. Ellie loved the place and had often come until her last break up. Hidden under all the sheen that was Justin, was a prick in a suit, who, once she peeled away his outer layer had been the biggest judging asshole she’d ever met. She’d brought her to an event that Merc and Jackson were hosting and all he’d contributed was disdain for her friends.

She crossed over the threshold into Club One and got blasted with base and the image of gyrating bodies. She easily picked up the beat with her hips as she walked into the space, the sound hitting her body, and rippling over her skin. Ellie loved to dance and decided she would stay awhile and see if she couldn’t find someone to rub up against. Merc was right, she needed to stop moping around her apartment and join the living again.

Sidling up to the bar leaning her elbows on the smooth mahogany surface she waited for the bartender’s attention to turn her way. She relaxed into the sultry techno number that had just transitioned from the heavy base and let the beat take her as she waited, knowing that the bartender would come over as soon as she could.

Not realizing she had closed her eyes and was swaying, Ellie was startled by the bright and cheerful voice that greeted her. “What can I get you?”

Ellie stared at the girl in front of her, the drink she wanted to order on the edge of her tongue.

The woman smiled, and Ellie stumbled over her drink order. “A cos-cosmopolitan,” she said. Stunning was not a word she would use when describing a woman, but this one had made something light up inside Ellie tingling across her sex like a sparkler anxiously waiting for its lighting. Flashing a smile, the woman walked away backward to make her drink, and Ellie’s eyes couldn’t help but follow the woman’s hips. Tight fitting, low-rise jeans hugged the bartender’s ass as the curves of her waist moved gracefully up to just under her breasts, her shirt short enough to allow a peek of pale freckled skin. And then she turned away. Ellie licked her lips and then sucked in a breath that sent an unsure quiver up her spine.

What was she doing ogling the woman? She liked men. But as soon as the thought entered her mind she knew it was time to stop denying what she’d known a long time. Her head fell back, and she focused on the cathedral ceiling, blew out a slow controlled breath trying to sort out her thoughts.

In college, she had sometimes looked at some of the girls in her classes wondering, what if, but nothing ever made her body react giving her a nice buzz like this bartender. But neither had the guys she’d met or dated for that matter. What was it about this woman?

Ellie watched her work. Her delicate fingers, polished in a black glaze, plucked the bottles she needed off the back bar as her hips swayed to the rhythm that was shaking the walls of the old church. She twirled, poured, and flipped the liter bottles with aplomb to the delight of the crowd, the stream of liquor entering the shot glasses. The ice was next in the shaker and then she put the lid on, did her thing, next pouring the alcohol mixture into a martini glass. Her head turned, and the woman’s eyes flashed over at Ellie and Ellie’s nipples got hard. Ellie leaned forward trying to get closer, waiting, her breasts aching as they pressed against the bar.

The bartender didn’t take her locked gaze off Ellie as she came closer and set the drink down in front of her. She waited. Ellie didn’t dare move. She didn’t want to break the connection, but the woman moved her hand toward the drink and traced a bead of moisture down the stem of the glass and slid it closer to Ellie, and said one word. “Drink.”

With an unsteady hand, Ellie reached for the drink, her fingers brushing the bartenders. Time seemed to slow and then stop as skin met skin.  Her breaths roared in her ears, and her chest hurt with each short puff like she’d just run a marathon. She was so turned on by this woman, never experiencing anything like the energy that their contact caused. And it went straight to all her delicate places. And then things started to move again, the woman smiling and walking away to make another drink.

Ellie sat and watched the bartender, nervous and confused, her knee tapping irregular rhythms as it bounced. She would catch the woman glance at her, making sure Ellie was still there. At least that’s what Ellie imagined. Or hoped. Would she come back over and talk to her? What would Ellie say?

She was looking down at her now empty glass when her eyes snapped up at being addressed. “What’s your name?” The bartender asked.

Suddenly her mouth went dry, and it was hard to speak. She picked up her glass and put it back down realizing again that she’d drank it all. She licked her dry lips.

“Ellie,” she said. But it was so soft the bartender had to lean in to hear, which brought her even closer, so close that their lips were almost touching.

“My names Sabrina.”

Ellie blinked and nodded, the woman’s minty breath dancing across her lips making Ellie’s insides quiver and her need grow even more. Did she have the courage to ask this woman to spend time with her after her shift?

As she was contemplating what she would say, Sabrina came back and set another drink in front of her. “This one is on the house.” Before she moved away, Sabrina reached out and touched her fingers that had the stem of the glass in a death grip. Ellie opened her mouth to say something, anything to keep her close but Sabrina moved away before she could.

The night grew later, and Ellie kept herself seated. She saw Merc and Jackson come in. They waved and went straight to the dance floor. Merc had changed and was now in a nice pair of denim and a t-shirt, always more casual than Jackson. She turned to watch them for a while. She was happy for Mercury, and desperately wanted to find what he had with Jackson.

Ellie turned back around and saw Sabrina talking to another woman at the end of the bar, leaning in, reaching out to touch the woman’s hand, and Ellie frowned. Did Sabrina do this to every woman that came to the bar? Was Sabrina even interested in Ellie? And then she saw Sabrina kiss the woman’s cheek. Ellie’s shoulders slumped, and she pushed her empty drink away.

Maybe it was just Ellie that nobody was interested in. Her mint chocolate chip ice cream was looking a whole lot better. She pulled out some money from her pocket and threw it on the bar. Before Sabrina looked this way, Ellie made her way over to her friends and said goodbye. She was tired of trying so hard trying to find what the universe was putting out there for her.

“I’m going to go home,” she yelled in Merc’s ear.

“Okay,” he said, his eyes narrowing and his lips pinching. She could tell he was worrying, but there was nothing Ellie could do to ease his concern. Ellie just needed more time to come to terms with her unlucky life.

“Don’t forget, Jackson and I will be at your house tomorrow at eleven.” He gave her a hug and kissed her on the lips.

Jackson turned to her and caressed her cheek in an unexpected gesture. He got close enough that she could feel his lips on her cheek and whispered right in her ear, “Everything will be okay.”

Will it? She wondered, waved, and walked away. She looked one more time over to the bar and unexpectedly caught Sabrina’s eyes. She turned away from the woman’s look of confusion toward the door and decided she would just ride out the storm that was brewing inside her. Things were going to have to change if she was going to find her happy. But she would think about that tomorrow.

When she woke up to the banging on her front door, she curled her head under her pillow and yelled, “Go away!” Of course, she knew it was Merc at the door, and he wouldn’t wait for her to get up. And sure, enough he didn’t.

“Rise and shine sleepy head,” he said from the front room after he used the key she’d given him.

She grumbled and started moving when the bed bounced up and down with Mercury’s weight.

“Give me a minute asshole.”

He laughed.

“I’ll make coffee, pumpkin.”

“Don’t call me pumpkin, jerk!”

He laughed some more, and she heard him talking to Jackson.

She moved sloth-like toward the bathroom and finally felt human again after a quick clean up in the bathroom. She put on a pair of her favorite skinny jeans that were so soft they felt like leggings, rolled them up a little at the bottom and then got out a bohemian flowy top to go with it. It was a bluish red color that highlighted her brown wavy hair. The keyhole at the collar showed off what cleavage she, which she knew could be more, but she wasn’t willing to go under the knife to get it. She grabbed her most comfortable wedges because she didn’t feel like looking like she’d woken up from a binge on mint chocolate chip ice cream, which she had, or the marathon of Game of Thrones she watched because she needed the violence to get her mind off romance. To finish off her look, she grabbed some bangle bracelets and lip gloss and called it done.

When she walked into the kitchen, she caught Merc and Jackson in the most romantic clutch and couldn’t help her envious thoughts. She shook her head to remind herself she’d decided the previous night, while downing more ice cream, she’d leave her lot up to destiny and asked, “So, what’s the plan? Where are we going?”

“We’re heading up the coast to check out a wine tour at a converted Monastery.”

“Well, that sounds fun. Wine, sun, monks.” She laughed.

“No monks, but definitely wine. We’re determined to get you out of your funk.”

“Okay, I’m ready.” She was unsure another outing would get her out of her funk, but she would let Merc and Jackson try.

When they got to the monastery, now called The Monk Monastery Winery, the beauty of the place floored her. The campus the monastery sat on was huge, the grounds were lush with flowers, and it was so peaceful she wanted to stay forever.

They walked into the main entrance, and the man at the front desk nodded and said for them to proceed to the right.

“Gorgeous.” She couldn’t stop looking around.

The architecture was right out of something you’d find in Spain. High ceilings like Club One, stone walls, gorgeous wood carvings and a stone floor that made her feel like she’d just stepped into another world. She took another step, and her foot landed wrong in her wedge. She heard Jackson call out and try to grab her hand, but it was too late. Ellie took a header right done a set of stairs grabbing the rail causing her ankle to twist in the wrong direction. Her last thought before her head hit the floor was at least in was only a set of three stairs.

Groaning filled her ears and then she figured out it was her pained voice she was hearing. She lifted her hand to feel her head and winced with the pain. Ellie noticed she wasn’t on the floor anymore and there was a floral scent that surrounded her. They must be near one of the pretty gardens. Christ her head hurt.

She shifted to sit up.

“Go slow, baby girl,” Merc said. Hands helped her sit up, but they weren’t Mercury’s or Jackson’s. And they weren’t the man’s she saw at the entrance.

“Ellie, are you okay?”

She turned slowly afraid she heard things that weren’t real because she hit her head so hard. The hands that had helped her sit up didn’t let go. They held her firm but gentle all at the same time.


The woman from the bar.

Ellie blinked. Was she in a dream?

She looked at her friends. They didn’t say much, but watched her as she couldn’t form words. Ellie looked back at Sabrina.

“Hi, Ellie. Are you okay? You hit your head pretty hard.” Sabrina moved her hand off Ellie’s arm and gently touched the side of Ellie’s head. Her delicate fingers Ellie watched make drinks the night before made her skin tingle again as they danced across her temple.

“I’m, I’m fine,” she said with a nervous but giddy feeling in her stomach as she smiled so big it made her wince again. Ellie didn’t know what the universe was trying to tell her, but she sure as hell liked what had landed in her lap. Or should she say who’s lap she landed in.

Mercury and Jackson kept glancing over while they whispered to each other and smiled like the devil’s she knew they could be.

“What are you doing here?” Ellie asked.

“Second job,” Sabrina said and shrugged. “Why’d you disappear last night,” she said but too quickly closed her mouth and looked away. Where was the confident seductress she’d seen at the bar last night?

Ellie didn’t know what to say since she’d never been interested in a woman before, so she kept quiet.

Sabrina turned back to her, and that heat that Ellie had experienced at the club came rushing back. She could see the same flare go up in Sabrina too, but neither of them responded to the other. They both jumped as if guilty of something when Merc and Jackson came back over.

“You okay to still do the tour?” Merc asked her.  Ellie nodded noting there wasn’t as much pain gripping her head anymore. “You hit your head, but you didn’t black out, so I don’t think we need to cart you off to the emergency room or anything.”

Jackson frowned at Merc, but Ellie reaffirmed she was okay.

“Okay then,” Sabrina said. “Come with me.” As she stood up, she took hold of Ellie’s arms and helped her up. They were so close front to front that if she leaned in just enough their lips would touch and she’d get the first taste of a woman she’d ever had. Her mind went to all kinds of places with the image and as their chests bumped they nearly fell onto the small settee that she’d evidently been laid out on after she fell. As they stumbled and then righted themselves, Ellie took a step back and smiled.

“Lead the way,” she said and motioned with her arm to Sabrina. Sabrina smiled at her and Ellie returned it with one of her own. Ellie was looking forward to the tour, and she had a feeling she was really, really going to like it.







Let Me EntertainYou

My husband asked what I was writing about this month. After I answered him, I could tell that he wasn’t impressed—probably not even slightly interested—with my subject. “Finding iPhones,” I said. He smirked, and I knew he was thinking: boring. So, I gently reminded him that “I’m a writer. If I do my job well, then the story won’t be boring.”

But after finishing the piece, I worried that Greg was right. Doubt had crept into my writing process like it does just about every month. I lose the ability to discern whether my personal essays and memoirs will spur smiles, indifference, or yawns.

I’m a practical person. I know that none of my writing will ever be perfect, that’s just not possible. So at the very least, I aim to entertain. Then I revise as much as possible before having to part with my little darlings—my painstakingly crafted articles. Pushing deadlines and my editor’s patience, I eventually let go and watch my little ones fly. This month, after three long days of trying to improve my article and after going off on tangents into unrelated topics, I realized that even I was disinterested with what I had written.

Friend and fellow Deadwood Writer, Diana Hirsch, says “blogging is supposed to be fun.” The first time she said it to me was when I was struggling to transform my jumbled thoughts into a structured idea that wouldn’t put readers to sleep. She may have presumed I wasn’t enjoying the creative process, but that wasn’t the case. I can . . . and do . . . sit for hours writing, because I like most everything about it.

Introspectively, I analyze relationships and reflect on life. I savor the peace and quiet of researching and indulge in sipping coffee throughout the day. I thrive on the challenge of organizing my material into something clever and orderly; of shaping stories, revising them over and over. And—just like I adore holding a book and flipping pages—I love printing my finished articles so I can pass them between my fingers too. I lay the pages out, scan them for errors, and dot them with red ink where needed. I’m sorry for the trees I murder. But there is something wonderful about the feel of crisp paper with knife-like edges; the sight of black ink being constrained by white, one-inch margins; and the sound of pages clicking in place as I line them perfectly on top of one another and then bring them together with a swift tap or two against the surface of my desk—prepping them for stapling in their upper-left corners.

My little darlings are unlike other writers’ self-indulgent brats—superfluous material, screaming to be cut out from the current body of work and saved for a more befitting purpose. My babies comprise the entire article in its imperfect yet finished form. They are born from each letter and every punctuation mark I type and handcraft with love for you.

Dear readers, you are the driving force behind my efforts to raise good children. I want you to find something encouraging or useful in what I write. If I can entertain you or make you smile at some point, I’m ecstatic, but I’m about as far from Gypsy Rose Lee as one can be. I’m not a natural showgirl or a well-known author. I’m a writer battling against mediocrity in my blogs.

Palumbo, Fred, photographer. [Gypsy Rose Lee, full-length portrait, seated at a typewriter, facing slightly right/ World Telegram & Sun photo by Fred Palumbo]. 1956. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/94511004/. (Accessed January 06, 2017.)

Many of Hollywood’s leading ladies have stepped onstage to sing the lyrics to the iconic “Let Me Entertain You.” The song was inspired by Gypsy Rose Lee’s popularity as a burlesque dancer. This is how I like to remember her: as an author.

Because you’re important to me, I’m not going to succumb to the pressure of a due date, the one thing about writing I don’t like. Deadlines stress college students, journalists, businessmen and writers of all kinds—in this case, me—who could use just a little more time to finish respective projects. Merriam-Webster hints at the origin of “deadline” with this dreadful definition: “a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot.”

Imagine: A prisoner, whose only chance for escape involves crossing a line that’s being guarded by expert shooters. He knows that crossing that line will most likely result in his death. He frets. He schemes. He hopes. He commits, knowing there is no turning back. No return; no surrender. There is no undoing what he’s about to do. At best, he’ll succeed and live a long life on the run. But doubt creeps in as he faces the fact that his attempt at freedom—at crossing the deadline—will probably result in death.

This month, I hope you’re relieved to find out that you don’t get to read a boring account of the iPhone I stumbled upon while Christmas shopping . . .  just because I have a deadline. I’m preserving any good impression you may have of me by killing my darlings.


Photo credit: Palumbo, Fred, photographer. [Gypsy Rose Lee, full-length portrait, seated at a typewriter, facing slightly right/ World Telegram & Sun photo by Fred Palumbo]. 1956. Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/94511004/. (Accessed January 06, 2017.)


The Best Seat in the House

“This is my command: Love each other.” ~ Jesus

(John 15:17, NIV)

For over 125 years, Mt. Hope has been inviting visitors to become part of its church family.

Oliver sits directly in front of me. The five-year-old was a student in my vacation Bible school class. He snuggles up to his mom. With a broad smile and a gleam in his eye, he leans in to kiss her cheek. She puts her arm around him and hugs him close. Oliver’s dad sits on the other side of the young boy. The two of them have the same color of hair, brown, and similar haircuts. The dad stretches his arm all the way out—behind and past his son—and caresses his wife’s shoulder. The way he stares and smiles at his wife in that moment tells me he adores her. She’s looking down at something in her lap and misses that glance of affection. All the while, Oliver is delightfully sandwiched between his parents. All three are visitors to church on this particular Sunday, but I’m sure they’ve been here in the past. Probably on a day that they came to hear Grandma Mary Ellen sing in the choir.

The trio fit right in with the rest of us regular worshipers. Love is abundant at Mt. Hope. Ours is a small church, but we’re big on family.

Across the aisle, in the front row, Kelsey sits where her mom used to. Everyone who knew Jan was saddened by her untimely death, due to a medical mistake. We miss her, but her husband Bud is the most distraught. We hug him when we can and cry with him when we do.

Nearby, Toddler Theo is full of youthful energy. He can’t be contained. His Nana carries the squirming child out of the sanctuary and to the nursery. I know she will stay there to play with him and keep him content, unless his Buppa happens to be volunteering in the back room to watch the young children during this morning’s service.

Farther back in another pew sits Sami. She rests her head upon her dad’s shoulder. Her neck is tilted—practically at a forty-five-degree angle—to her body. How could that position be the least bit comfortable, I wonder? I watch as her father protectively wraps his arm about her. Familiar tattoos peek out from beneath his short-sleeved shirt. His little girl is now a young lady. All grown up at eighteen and going to college in the fall. She will miss her daddy and mommy, though. Anyone can see that. Despite open seating to the right, Sami’s mom is pressed tightly up against Sami, an aspiring pharmacist. Beauty and brains, the perfect combination.

"Signs of affection are common during church service."

Signs of affection are common during church service.

A baby cries, and I don’t have to turn to see that it is Abela’s little sister. When just a few months old, the baby was baptized here. Pastor Steve poured holy water over the baby’s tiny forehead, and then our church family welcomed her by singing, “Jesus Loves Me,” like we do for all the babies. This precious little one didn’t even cry. She just cooed and smiled as she was carried up and down the main aisle so we could meet, eye-to-eye, the little person to whom we were promising to teach and guide and raise as one of our own. I hoped she would one day know how significant her baptism was. Even the water used to bless her was special. It came directly from Pastor Steve’s last trip to Israel. He had collected it himself from the Jordan River, where Christ had been baptized two thousand years earlier by John.

Today, the spot next to Al is vacant. His wife, Doris, is in the hospital recuperating from surgery, so their son Clark fills the void. Several pews forward from them, Mitchell is missing. He must be performing in a weekend matinee. What else can an actor be expected to do? Even on Sundays, the show must go on. On the rare occasion that Margaret isn’t in her usual spot, I immediately expect to find her at the piano, which she sometimes plays when our church accompanist, Sharon, cannot.

From my seat towards the back of church, I see all this and more. Dawn and Bill’s twin sons are training at West Point, so I know that the parents regularly sit beside lifelong friends and gab while they wait for service to begin. I notice when Grandpa John comes in to claim his place alongside his two grandkids. I hear when Lynn laughs and when Karen and Susie sing.

This morning, I can tell that we have visitors. Clumped together at the front, they must be with Bertha. She’s way out of place up there. Normally, she’s even farther back than me. But when I see her look closely at her great-granddaughter, clothed in a white gown and bonnet, I understand. There will be another baptism.

My mind races. Is the family bothered by the vacation Bible school decorations that will show up in the background of the baptism photos? Surely they didn’t expect a cave, complete with stalagmites and stalactites. I get up and quickly approach Pastor Steve who is seconds away from starting service.

“Should I move anything out of the way? Is it too late?” I whisper in his ear.

He smiles, shakes his head, and assures me. “We’re fine, Kelly. We don’t need to change a thing.”

This baby has a beautiful start in her journey to Jesus.

I return to my vantage point near the back of the sanctuary. Pastor Steve’s words float around in my mind and I think about this loving family that I’m a part of. Steve’s right, I know. We may try to capture life’s biggest moments from the perfect angle of a camera lens, but by focusing too intently, we might miss the delightful things that happen in the background.


I Love You, More Than Words Can Express

What are you willing to do to show your love?

What are you willing to do to show your love?

Gestures, in love, are incomparably more attractive, effective and valuable than words.” ~Francois Rabelais

“I love you.” Those words carry great significance. We hear them and feel a number of different emotions. How we react depends on who is speaking to us. Similarly, by saying the words aloud to someone else, we hope to impact their feelings. It seems like this simple, short expression should do nothing else but make moments in life more enjoyable.

As parents, we effortlessly cuddle our infant children and whisper that we love them. We read books like Guess How Much I Love You to them and rock them to sleep with the words from Love You Forever. Some of us—older parents—now have adult children. We remember doing silly things, like singing along with . . . maybe even dancing to . . . Barney the Dinosaur as he nasally projected the lyrics to his “I Love You” song.

Mature moms and dads, we look back at tender moments such as these and wonder how time passed by so quickly and stole our babies from us. We realize that saying “I love you” was easy when showering affection upon our little ones. But wasn’t it hard to get those words out for the first time when dating our would-be spouses?

Hopefully, by the time we know we’re in love, the other person feels the same about us. But there’s anxiety in that moment in which we’re wondering whether or not our words of endearment will be returned. If they aren’t, we feel squashed and rejected once we’ve uttered, “I love you.” Old scars and deep wounds from past relationships oftentimes affect our new ones.

For example, a divorced man, whom I’m going to refer to as The Captain, struggled with telling his second wife how deeply he felt about her. Throughout their marriage, he instead made sure that he showed love to her. Tennille, also an alias, understood the personal reasons that prevented The Captain from saying those three little significant words. That didn’t stop her, however, from wanting to hear, “I love you,” from her spouse. The couple found inspiration to their problem in the movie, Ghost.

In that movie—arguably one of the most romantic films ever, fictional characters, Sam and Molly, are portrayed by actors Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. Like The Captain, Sam consistently withholds from saying “I love you” to Molly. Whenever she says the phrase to him, he responds with a simple, “Ditto.” Toward the end, Sam has one last opportunity to speak to Molly before he ascends to heaven. He locks his gaze upon her, stares into her eyes, ignores the supernatural things happening around him, and speaks the words she has longed to hear: “I love you, Molly. I’ve always loved you.” Molly, is so enamored by Sam’s declaration that she stops breathing for an instant, then exhales in one soft gust, smiles, and responds with Sam’s customary line, “Ditto.”

After watching the movie, The Captain and Tennille adopted similar dialogue for many years. Gradually, they replaced ditto with their own more personal, private, mushy word: smooches. This one word became synonymous with love because the couple reserved their flirty exchange only for each other. I first learned of it when The Captain spoke about it during his and Tennille’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party.

As I celebrated with the couple that night, I agreed with The Captain’s point of view that showing love through our behavior and in our conversations is the best way to convey our love for someone else. On the other hand, I believe that husbands and wives should also be comfortable saying “I love you” to one another. As long as it doesn’t become a rote response, it’s a strong reminder of the bond between them.

I have proof that there’s power in the words.

Years ago, I was a less experienced driver than I am now. I turned my car, evidently too quickly, into an intersection with oncoming traffic. The oncoming car, which I had accidentally cut off, was full of people—rude people—who weren’t happy with me. They showed me just how they felt through both their crude actions—flipping me the bird—and through their words, which I’m glad I couldn’t quite make out. My anxiety level climbed sky high. Of course I knew I had made a mistake. At first, I was embarrassed, but then I was defiant. My actions had been accidental. These people were plain nasty. My blood began to boil and then for some strange reason I couldn’t bring myself to flip them off in return. Instead, I looked at the driver and mouthed, “I love you . . . I LOVE YOU!” Amazingly, my gesture diffused the situation. The other driver and her passengers responded with “I love you too.” We all ended up smiling at one another after that and I can tell you that I felt instantly relieved. Those words were and are powerful.

Now, lest you think that The Captain and Tennille have anything less than a blissful marriage, let me finish telling their story.

The Captain and Tennille had never had a song. You know what I mean: a special song that a couple claims as theirs. A song captured during a meaningful moment; secured safely in the hearts of two lovebirds; and often selected as the first song a bride and groom dance to as husband and wife during their wedding reception.

The Captain and Tennille had never selected such a song for themselves. So, twenty-five years after their wedding, The Captain chose one and presented it to Tennille at the anniversary party. This charming guy claimed that he didn’t have a romantic bone in his body, yet he made his bride weep with joy when he shared “More Than Words.”

In turn, Tennille surprised everyone, including The Captain, by reading the words of a different song, “Through the Years,” which reminded her of her relationship with The Captain.

If you take a moment to listen to those songs, you’ll know that saying “I love you” isn’t essential for a good relationship. For me, that doesn’t mean I’ll stop telling my husband that I love him. The exchange is comfortable and meaningful to us. But we also recognize our love for one another in our own unique ways. Whether we exchange short texts or lengthier love notes, whether we go out for a date or stay home, whether I do something nice for him or he does something nice for me, the way we approach our daily activities reflects our love for and commitment to one another. We’ve learned that what’s most important in a healthy, vibrant marriage is to always love and respect one another, and, through the years, to show it with more than words.