Moonlit Storm

The following is a sneak preview of a work in progress. Moonlit Storm is book one of a four book series following the fictional rock band, Serpent Storm.

Book Synopsis:

Megan Saunders re-invented herself after a traumatic life event. She became DJ Megan moon, Radio’s night shift pop princess.

Jacob Weathers has a sordid past and a lot of talent. He overcame his rough beginning to become rock god Jake Storm; lead guitar for the chart topping new band Serpent Storm.

A chance meeting puts Megan and Jake in each other’s sights. She finds him obnoxious yet attractive. He finds her fascinating yet naive.

As the public learns of their meeting, they both discover they’re being stalked; they think by each other.

As the truth starts to unfold, they are forced together for protection.

Tempers fly….and so do sparks.

Moonlit Storm Chapter 1:

“Good early morning, Orlando! You’re all just waking up, and it’s time for me to go home. I’ll leave you with the number one song this week, and my partner Alex is coming at ya next. This is Megan Moon, signing off.” 

I played the number one song I had cued up and stood up to hug my friend. Alex Turner was the first friend I met when I moved to Orlando. He lives in the apartment building across the street from mine. He got me a job at the radio station, and I quickly became Megan Moon, Orlando’s radio pop princess on the night shift.

I changed my name to go with my fresh start. The moon is the light in the darkness of the night. 

Alex returned my hug with force. “Alex, I can’t breathe,” I croaked. He laughed as he let go. 

“Great show, Megs. I was listening on the way in,” He praised me. 

“Thanks, bud. Good luck with the morning show.” I lightly punched his shoulder as I left the studio. 

I made my way down to the ladies’ room before my drive home. I looked in the mirror and fluffed up my shoulder-length red hair, and took a second to look into my own green eyes in the mirror. I used to see those eyes look empty. Now, there was life in them again. I reached for my purse to grab my favorite watermelon lip balm when I realized I left my handbag in the studio. 

“Ugh!” I said to myself in the mirror. The studio door is the opposite way of the exit. Frustrated by my forgetfulness, I stomped into the hallway. I turned toward the studio and ran right into someone coming out of the men’s room across the hall. 

“Watch it!” I scolded the man, taking out my bad mood on him. His black shoes and ripped jeans came into view. I scanned my eyes up to his long, lean frame and found tattoos peeking out from under his black t-shirt, spiky black hair, and the deepest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. His face appeared to be sculpted by God himself with high cheekbones and a strong jawline. There was a metal bar in one eyebrow. 

I was staring. 

“I’m sorry, it looks like neither of us was watching where we were going,” He said. There was the hint of an accent; I couldn’t place it, though. It was the tiniest bit of a southern drawl. He offered me a lopsided grin and had a dimple on his cheek. My stomach somersaulted. I was suddenly nervous. 

“Well, look down once in a while, and you won’t run over us short girls,” I said, speaking of my 5’3″ frame. 

“I wouldn’t want any harm coming to the fun-size section of Orlando’s beauties,” He said and winked at me. 

My mouth dropped open for a rebuttal just as Alex called my name and ran up behind me, holding my handbag.  

The cocky work of art sauntered off, whistling a familiar song, before heading into the company’s rock station studio. 

“Oh my gosh, Megan, you were talking to Jake Storm! Tell me everything!” Alex paced in place, giddy beside me. 

“Who?” I looked at him dumbfounded. 

Alex rolled his eyes. “Megan, I swear sometimes you must live under a rock,” 

“I do,” I teased him. “It’s across the street from your rock.” 

Alex rolled his eyes again. “Anyway,” He carried out the word dramatically. “You were just talking to Jake Storm, of Serpent Storm? The hottest new bad boy rockers?”

It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Ugh, rock stars. Why do they think they can just get away with walking all over everyone? Literally. He walked right into me.” 

“Honey, when you look like that, you can walk wherever you want to,” Alex was practically drooling at the door. 

I shook my head. “Thanks for bringing my purse Alex. I’ll see you later?”

“You bet,” he said, kissing my cheek and heading back to our station. 

“Jake Storm, of Serpent Storm,” I muttered to myself in my car. I flipped to the rock station just as a loud guitar riff exploded through my speakers. 

“That was Serpent Storm’s latest single ‘bad love,'” I heard Jackson Fletcher, the rock DJ, say. “And here we are with the whole band now. Jake, thanks for joining us.”

“Sorry, I got caught up in the hallway by a tasty little morsel,” I heard the familiar accent say. 

My mouth dropped open. “Tasty Morsel?” I repeated. 

“Oh, well, that’s certainly excusable. I think your male fans will agree,” Jackson said.

 I’ll remember to kick Jackson later, I thought.

“Yeah, Spicy little pint-sized redhead. Made my bleep hard.” 

“Uh, Jake, we can’t say that on the radio,” Jackson said. 

“Oh well, then can I say it’s a good thing she caught me coming out of the bathroom instead of going in, or I would have bleep everywhere,” came next.

“Nope, Jake, you can’t say that either,” Jackson cautioned. 

“Censorship blows,” The rockstar added his opinion.

“That it does, my friend. It sounds like you met our very own pop princess, Megan Moon, out there.” Jackson informed him. 

“Well, she can moon me any day,” Jake said. 

That did it. I turned off the car and marched right back into the studio. I sat outside the rock station door until the interview was over and the band came out. Three other guys, all styled similar to Jake in varying degrees of rock hotness, emerged before I narrowed my eyes onto Jake at the end of the line. 

“Whoa, boss, looks like you might get your wish. She looks pissed,” One of them said. 

“Hey sugar, you come to show me that sweet ass of yours after the show?” He flashed me that grin again. 

My stomach flopped temporarily until I remembered what came out of that gorgeous mouth. “No, Sir, I assure you I will not be showing you my ass or any other part of my clothed body. I just came to inform you that you’re an egotistical pig, and I don’t appreciate what you said.” 

The band all stared at me; Jackson came out of the studio and stared at me as well. My focus never left Jake, who was still smirking at me. You could cut the tension with a knife. 

“Oink,” Jake replied, cracking up his bandmates. 

They all strolled down the hall toward a man who was yelling at them to move along. They had a soundcheck and three more interviews today before tomorrow’s concert. 

I waited until they were out the door before screaming, “AUGH!” For a minute, I thought smoke would shoot out of my ears. I was only mildly concerned about the damage if it had. 

Jackson eyed me, concerned. I turned to him. “And you,” I shouted. “Control your rockstars!” I kicked him in the shin.

I heard him yell out and grunt as he hobbled back into his studio before the current playset ended. 

I marched back out to my car and started it up. I was only mildly satisfied by Jackson sounding strained as he did his intro into the next song. 

I flipped the radio off and drove home, stewing over my encounter with that incorrigible, chauvinistic, asshole, gorgeous rockstar. 

I marched into the house and threw my keys on the table. “Who does he think he is?” I asked my two siamese cats. They started weaving in and out of my feet, not caring what I was mad about, only that it was their breakfast time. 

I let out a big sigh. “Come on, girls,” I filled the ceramic bowls with little fish on them that I had monogrammed with their names: Cleo and Sophie. 

I had spent a day volunteering at the shelter last year. I was hosting a radio gig there, but I volunteered to do it. These two were the last of a litter from a rescued feral cat. They looked so sad, left all alone without their siblings. Even their mom had been adopted, thankfully. There was no way I was leaving without these kittens. They were almost identical, except Sophie had bright blue eyes and Cleo had one blue eye and one hazel eye. 

The two munched happily on their breakfasts, uncaring of my foul mood. I moved on to get myself ready to sleep. I closed my black-out curtains from the daylight and climbed into bed. I stared at the ceiling for a long time, repeating what Jake had said about me. “Am I a tasty morsel?” I asked myself. I had no idea what defined morsel criteria. 

It took forever to fall asleep, and I stayed knocked out much longer than usual. Eventually, Alex came in and climbed into the bed next to me, waking me up. 

He knows I sleep late when I’m upset, so he raised his arm, indicating I should snuggle into him, which I did. 

We stayed there for a long time. I soaked up Alex’s comfort before breaking the silence. “Alex, am I a tasty morsel?” I asked. 

“What?” He asked, laughter in his inflection. “Sweetie, I am the wrong guy to ask that question. You know I play for my own team.” 

“Well, you must certainly know if a member of the opposite sex is attractive. You don’t have to be attracted to them for that,” I replied. 

Alex sighed. “Megan, you know you’re beautiful; where is this coming from?”

“Jake Storm, on the radio. He called me a tasty morsel and then said some vulgar things about our encounter this morning.” 

“Well, of course, he did. He’s a badass rockstar. That’s like, his job,” Alex informed me. 

“Funny, I thought his job was to make music. Isn’t that what he gets paid for?” I asked. 

“Well, yes, but rockstars have a certain persona to uphold. People expect them to be heathens. He’s playing the role.” 

“Alex, are you defending him calling me a tasty morsel?” I asked, sitting up. 

“I’m just saying; I’d give him a taste of my morsel if he wanted,” 

I made a face at Alex before hitting him with my pillow. 

“Ow,” He said, laughing, mocking fake hurt. “Come on, lady, put pants on. I know what you need.”

“Oh? What do I need, Alex? Please enlighten me with more male wisdom today.”

“Chinese food,” He replied. 

I sat and considered his thought. “Okay, you’re right. I’ll get pants.” 

“That’s my girl,” Alex said, pulling me to him and kissing my temple. He got up and grabbed the jeans strung over the chair in the corner, and threw them at my face. 

“Hey!” I cried as I caught the pants and laughed. 

“Alright, come on, tasty morsel, put your cute ass in those jeans and let’s go!” 

“You drove by the Chinese restaurant and saw Paul’s car in the parking lot, didn’t you?” I eyed Alex as I pulled on the jeans. 

“Maybe,” he replied, blushing. 

I smiled and shook my head. Paul is a waiter at the Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. Alex had been eyeing him for a while but wasn’t sure of his orientation. Last weekend he saw Paul at an LGBT club dancing with another guy. The two smiled at each other however had both come with dates, so they couldn’t talk. Now that Alex knew, he was ready to flirt and had been staking out the restaurant for Paul. 

“You guys will be so cute together!” I said. 

“I know, right?” Alex replied. “Then we need to find you a man so we can double.”

“Absolutely not,” I replied. I hadn’t dated anyone regularly since Michael and didn’t plan on it. I went on dates here and there when I had an itch I needed scratched but no emotions. Michael spoke of marrying me one day. My one true love was gone, and the rest wouldn’t hold a flame to him. I wouldn’t see anyone Alex wanted to set me up with because I didn’t want to disappoint him when it didn’t work out. 

“Why?” Alex whined. 

As close as Alex and I had become, no one here knew my secret, and I preferred to keep it that way, even if I thought I could trust Alex. 

“Well, you could always hook up with the badass rock star,” He waggled his eyebrow at me. 

Never mind being my best friend. Alex is clearly crazy and needs to be committed. 

“Stop looking at me like that!” He said, laughing. He must have read my thoughts. 

We headed out and walked around the corner to the restaurant. Paul’s face lit up when Alex walked in, and then his eyebrows crinkled when he saw me. I needed to find a way to assert myself as best friend quickly before Paul thinks I’m Alex’s girlfriend. 

We could seat ourselves, so we sat in Paul’s section, making him smile. He came over to take our drink order. “Welcome to China Dragon, you two. Are we celebrating a special date night?” He asked. 

Alex and I looked at each other, and we both burst out laughing. 

“Oh no,” I piped up. “I’m the bestie. Alex comes in here to admire you.” 

Alex kicked me under the table. 

Paul’s face lit up in a huge smile. “Would you like your tea and egg drop soup?” He asked Alex. 

‘Yes, Please,” Alex replied, holding Paul’s gaze.

“I’d also like soup, and some ice water please,” I broke up the stare fest. I was hungry. 

“Great, I’ll be right out with it,” Paul said and walked back toward the kitchen. 

Alex watched him walk away and then turned at me. “What the fuck was that?” He asked. 

“What?” I replied, playing dumb.

“Why would you tell that man I stare at him?”

“Because you do,” I shrugged. 

“Well, I didn’t want him to know that!” Alex hissed at me. 

“You should be thanking me. You two just had a moment,” I said, looking over my placemat full of Chinese history.

“Yes, which you just interrupted,” Alex said. 

“Was I not allowed to eat or drink? I’m hungry,” I replied. 

Alex sat back and rolled his eyes. 

“Dude, he’s clearly into you. Ask him out!” I encouraged. 

“No way!” Alex said. 

“Why not?” He wasn’t making sense now. 

“Because, what if he says no?”

“What if he says yes?” I shot back. 

Paul returned with our soup and drinks. 

“Hey Paul, we’re going to see a movie after this; maybe you’d like to come with us?” I asked. 

Paul’s flashed me a huge smile. “Yeah, that’d be great. I get off at nine.”

“Oh, perfect. It’s already eight, so we can hang out here until you’re done and then go.”

“Sounds great! Do you guys know what you want to eat?” Paul asked. 

I had completely forgotten to look at the menu. 

“Alex, you go first, maybe Paul can recommend some things, and I’ll see if anything sounds interesting.” 

Paul rattled off a bunch of seafood dishes, one of which Alex ordered. I don’t like seafood, Alex does, which Paul knew. 

“I’ll just go with beef and broccoli, please,” I decided when they both stared at me. 

“Great, I’ll go put these orders in,” Paul said, walking back to the kitchen. 

Alex watched him walk away again and then turned back to me. “We’re seeing a movie tonight?” He asked. 

‘We are now,” I replied, going back to study my placemat. 

“Have I ever told you that I love you?” Alex asked. 

“Yes, but it’s still nice to hear,” I said, smiling at him. 

Alex and I enjoyed dinner and then hung around waiting for Paul. The movie theater was just down the block, making an easy walk, and I would hang back to watch the chemistry. 

“What time does the movie start?” Paul asked. 

Alex had taken the liberty of actually looking up what’s playing and had decided on the new romantic comedy released. 

“It starts at 10:30,” Alex said. “Megan has to be at the station at 2:00 am, so we have time.

“Great, can we run over to the hotel real quick? I have to pick up some paperwork from my uncle. I’ll drive,” Paul said, noticing that Alex and I had walked here. 

“Sure,” I replied, heading toward the parking lot. 

Paul unlocked his car, and I rushed in front of Alex to grab the back seat, allowing him to sit up front with Paul. 

It was a short drive to the swanky hotel. Paul stopped at the desk and asked for his uncle. The desk clerk told him to head up to the penthouse suite. Alex and I raised our eyebrows at each other, following Paul to the elevator. 

It took a while for the elevator to get to the top. I felt a little uneasy looking out of the glass, watching the floor get further and further away. Paul walked out and knocked on the door at the end of a short hallway. Alex patted me on the back, helping my stomach to settle. 

My eyes widened as the man from the hallway rounding up Serpent Storm this morning answered the door. My stomach was tied in a knot. Please don’t let me be at the band’s hotel, I thought. 

“Hey, uncle Marvin,” Paul greeted the man. 

“Hey Paul, it’s good to see you!” The Man said, stepping out to hug Paul. 

“Mom said I was supposed to come to get something from you?” Paul said. 

“Yes, it’s in the other room. Come on in,” Marvin cracked the door open. 

I heard chanting of “CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!” Coming from inside. The band was here. 

“You know what? I think I’ll wait for you guys in the lobby,” I said, turning to head back to the elevator. 

“Nonsense,” Marvin said, “come on in. Have a drink if you want.”

“Hey, who’s out there? Did you order us, strippers?” I knew that voice. The door yanked open, and there stood Jake Storm. Shirtless and muscular, with a tattoo on one side of his chest and another phrase down his opposite side. I bit my tongue to try and stop the reaction I was having to him. 

“Well, well, well if it isn’t my tasty little morsel,” he said, scanning me up and down. 

I rolled my eyes. 

“Are you stalking me, sweetness?” He asked. 

I glared at him. “First of all, my name is Megan, not sugar or sweetness. And Second, I’m here with my friends and had no knowledge of you being here, or I certainly wouldn’t have come.” 

“Man, I love them feisty,” Jake said. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the room. 

“Hey, guys, you remember this little firecracker from this morning?” He called to the rest of the band. 

“Aw, yeah, man, you got a stalker or what?” One of them asked. The man glanced at me with dark chocolate, brooding eyes. he had pulled his long wavy dark brown hair back in a low ponytail. A blank tank top over gray sweat pants showed off both arms fully sleeved in ink and left little to the imagination, not that I was looking. 

“Pretty sweet, right?” Jake replied. 

“I am hardly stalking him. I didn’t know he was here.” I said. He was still holding my arm, and I could feel my cheeks burning.

“Oh my God, she’s fucking adorable,” Another one chimed in. “Look at her blushing.” This one was a stark contrast to the other two, with spiky blond hair and eyes the color of the sky. He sat on the couch in dark jeans and a white shirt, staring at Jake and me. 

The first one picked up a guitar in the corner of the room and started playing. He sang a ridiculous made-up song about the little firecracker following the rockstar. 

Marvin returned with an envelope for Paul. “Here you go, just give this to your mom,” he said. 

“Great, can we go now?” I asked. 

Paul gave me a confused look. “Um, yeah, we’re done here.” He said. 

“Fabulous.” I yanked my arm away from Jake and stormed out the door. 

“She wants me,” I heard him say before the door closed. 

Paul and Alex followed me in the elevator. 

“What was all that about?” Paul asked. 

Alex was still completely starstruck from just being in the same room as the band. Since when did my best friend, the pop DJ, listen to hard rock and metal? 

“It’s nothing,” I answered Paul. “I just had a bad experience with Jake over at the station earlier.” 

“Jake does tend to be a bit out there at times,” Paul said. “Strange, he was never like that as a kid.”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait,” Alex suddenly sprang back to life. “You grew up with Serpent Storm?”

“Yeah, I went to grade school with Jake for a bit before I moved away. I was back visiting, and my uncle and I went to a battle of the bands they were in. He started working with them from there. 

“Oh, I need more info,” Alex said. 

“No can do, pal. I shouldn’t have even told you that much,” Paul said. 

We pulled up to the movie theatre. I suddenly didn’t feel up to it anymore. “Hey guys, you go on in. I think I’m just gonna head home.” 

“Oh, we can do this another day. We can head out. I’ll take you guys home,” Paul said. I watched Alex’s face fall; that wasn’t happening. 

“No, you guys go on ahead. It’s a nice night out, I’m not far, and I could use the exercise walking off the Chinese food,” I said, hoping they’d go for it. 

Alex and Paul looked at each other and shrugged. 

“You’ll text me when you’re home?” Alex asked. 

“Yeah, of course, but turn your ringer off,” Alex always forgets that in the movies. 

Alex walked over and wrapped me in a hug. “You sure you’re okay?” He whispered. 

“Yeah, Alex, I’m good. There’s just only so much Storm I can handle in a day before I need some solitude.”

“Okay, I love you,” Alex said, letting me go. 

“I’ll see you in the morning. Don’t be late.” I told him. 

You guys have a good night,” I wished them well and walked away as they went to get in line. 

I never actually planned on seeing the movie. I planned to bail from the get-go and let Alex and Paul have their first date, but Jake Storm added a much more realistic twist. Why does he have to be so obnoxious? And what is this reaction I have when I see him?

As soon as I got in the door, I was greeted loudly by Cleo and Sophie, discovering their food bowls were empty. I redeemed myself by emptying some tuna pouches in their bowls, and then I plopped in front of the TV. 

I pulled out my phone to text Alex: I’m home.

He replied with a sunglass emoji. 

I flipped on the TV to see a commercial for our station. They immediately announced they are proud to present Serpent Storm at our local arena. I rolled my eyes as I watched the screen. The camera panned out to show the whole band, complete with screaming girls at the front of the stage. There was Jake, right up front, shirtless in low-hung jeans with his guitar. I studied him for a second. I couldn’t help but notice the plethora of girls reaching for him on stage, yet his attention was on his instrument and bandmates. He didn’t look out into the crowd at all. I would have thought he would have eaten up that attention. Why do I think about this? I asked myself. With no good answer, I turned off the TV and decided to get ready for work. 

I work the overnight shift at a radio station where I’m in a booth by myself, yet the station manager still wants us to look public presentable. I’d much rather go in my pajamas, but Hunter is a great boss, so I do what he asks. I changed into a pair of skinny jeans with some on-purpose holes in the front and a cropped camisole under a pink lightweight hoodie. I kept make-up simple, fluffed out my hair, and added my favorite watermelon lip balm, replacing the tube in my purse before saying goodbye to the cats and heading out. 

I was going to be there super early, but Lana had the show before me, and she’s fun to hang out with, so I decided to have some girl time. 

“Hey girl,” She greeted me with a hug. “You’re here early,” 

“Yeah, I didn’t know what to do with myself and had some pent-up energy, so I decided to come in.” 

“Sexual frustration after meeting Jake Storm?” She asked. 

“What? How do you know about that?” I gawked at her. 

“Oh, if I met him and didn’t get my hands on him, I’d sure be frustrated,” She replied. 

I rolled my eyes. Eye rolling is my new favorite sport. “No, not that. I mean, how did you know I met him?”

“The whole building is buzzing about you telling him off and then kicking poor Jackson,” She said, laughing. 

My mouth dropped open. “That’s ridiculous. Don’t people have anything better to talk about?”

“A girl who didn’t go weak in the knees interacting with rock gods? Nah, that’s top story gossip!” Lana said. She was grinning at me. 

“Tell me, is he gorgeous up close? He looks muscular,” Lana asked. 

“Yes, and yes,” I answered. 

She smiled at me. I could almost see the hearts in her eyes like the emoji. 

“He’s also a pig and completely obnoxious,” I said. 

“Well, yeah! He’s a rockstar!” Lana argued. 

“That is not an excuse,” I fired back. 

Lana shook her head at me. “Look, I’ve been in this business a long time. You’re still kind of a rookie. One day you will learn, stars are spoiled. But, we are in the entertainment business. If we want the ratings, we spoil the stars that bring them in.”

I nodded. “Luckily, I’m on the graveyard shift, so my time with stars is limited.” 

Lana rolled her eyes and cut her mic back on to introduce the next playlist. Once the music was going, she turned back to me. 

“I’m tired of talking about Jake Storm. Lana, what’s new in your world?”

“Hmm, well, I bought new throw pillows yesterday,” She offered. 

“Oh nice, what color are they?” I asked, pretending to be interested. 

“They’re different shades of brown with this like geometric pattern on them. They add to my dark brown furniture and coffee house theme.” 

“So, is there anyone special coming around to see them these days?” I asked her. 

“Oh, I was seeing this super sweet guy for a little while. I liked him. But then he listened to my show and heard I was pro pineapple on pizza, and he dumped me,” She frowned. 

“What? Lana, that’s ridiculous!” I exclaimed. 

“Hey, pineapple is good!” She shot back. 

I looked at her, trying to figure out if she was serious. “No, Lana, I meant that’s a ridiculous reason to break up with someone.” 

“Oh, yeah, I agree. Though, I think his wife made him.” She said. 

Again, I looked at her trying to figure out if she was serious. “Well, Lana, I mean, if that’s true, I can’t say I blame her. You’re too pretty to have to date married guys. You could get anyone you want.” 

She got a mischievous smile on her face. “Do you think I could get Jake Storm?” She asked. 

I really need to learn when Lana is joking. 

“Probably. Their concert is tomorrow night. Maybe you should go. You get backstage with your station ID.”

“That’s right!” She exclaimed, her bright blue eyes sparkling. “We have to go!” 

“We?” I questioned. 

“Yes, we. Megan, you’re my only single friend. You have to come with me!” 

How do I get myself into these messes?

“Okay, Lana. I’ll go with you, but I’m not talking to him. That’s all you.” I told her. 

“Oh, that’s fine. That’s more than fine. You can split as soon as Jake wants to keep me around,” she offered. 

“The best deal I’ve heard in a while,” I said, letting out an exasperated sigh. 

“Oh! I’m going to tell our listeners. I bet ticket sales will increase knowing you’ll be there!” 

“Wait, Lana, no-” it was too late, she turned on her mic. 

“Well, listeners, that does it for me. Next up is your favorite pop princess Megan Moon! Megan has just informed me she and I will be heading to the Serpent Storm concert tomorrow night, so make sure you come out and join us!” She cued up another song and handed me the headphones when it played. 

As soon as I took them, she hugged me, trapping my arms against my body. “I’ll see you tomorrow, bestie,” She said, and she was gone. 

I took my seat and waited for the song to end. “Hello, Orlando insomniacs! Thanks for hanging out with me tonight. We’re going to do your top 40, and I want to hear from you. Send in your requests to the station’s social media and tell me what you’re up to tonight!” I programmed the top 40 count down to start playing and sat back watching the requests roll in. 

At the end of the countdown, I started playing some requests, doing some dedications. The phone started lighting up with callers trying to get on the air for their requests and dedications. I answered a few and let the callers speak their mind, hovering over the censorship button, just in case. 

“you’re on the air with Megan Moon; what can I play for you?” I answered the next call. 

“Hello, sweetness,” the familiar voice said. 

“Well, hello caller, who might you be making a dedication for on this lovely night?” 

“That would be you, love, now that I know you’re coming to the show. I knew you couldn’t stay away.”

Shit. I can’t tell Jake off on the radio, and he knows it. 

“Well then, what song can I play for you?” I asked in the sweetest voice I could muster. 

“I want you to play your favorite song for me so I can learn it,” he said. The gesture took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting him to say something nice. 

“I need to know what to play to get you in the mood when I take you to bed,” he said next. 

And there it is. 

“Well, that won’t be happening, but I’ll play you a song anyway. Thank you, Mr. Storm.” I cut off the call and cued up a mix of nursery rhymes from the kid’s station, knowing he would hate it. 

I sat and listened to my phone repeatedly vibrate with social media notifications. I didn’t even want to look. I made it through the rest of the shift without losing my cool, despite four callers asking if Orlando’s pop princess is experiencing the storm. I wanted to kill him. 

Morning arrived, and Alex stormed into the studio. He looked less than pleased. 

“Hey Alex, how was your date?” I asked him right away, hoping that would be a distraction. 

“It was fantastic, but we’re not going to talk about that right now,” he said, glaring at me. 

“Um, okay. What do you want to talk about?” I already knew what was coming. 

“You going to see Serpent Storm? WITHOUT ME?” He yelled at the end. 

“Alex, Lana wants to go to use her station ID to get backstage and hook up with Jake. She is just making me come, so she doesn’t have to go alone. She just decided last night.” 

His face relaxed some. “Well bish, sorry to tell you but Paul and I are coming too. His uncle got us VIP treatment.” 

“You yelled at me, and you were going anyway? What the fuck, Alex?” I punched him in the arm. 

“Language, my dear. The F-bomb is unbecoming of a princess.” 

“Yes, okay, I’m sorry, but seriously, why were you upset?”

“Because I wanted you to go with Paul and me, but I didn’t ask because I didn’t think you would go,” Alex whined. 

“Oh, I don’t want to go, but Lana needs this. Things haven’t been great for her lately?”

“Oh? Do tell,” Alex rested his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. He is a horrible gossip. 

“There’s nothing that is my business to tell,” I said, shrugging. 

“You’re no fun,” Alex said, pouting. 

“But you love me anyway,” I replied. 

“Yeah, I do,” he said, smiling. Alex couldn’t stay mad at me for long. 

“Now, tell me about your date.” I prodded. 

“Oh, it was amazeballs!” Alex said and told me how he and Paul held hands at the movies, then walked in the park, sat on the swings, and talked for hours until he pulled out his phone to listen to the show, and Lana dropped her announcement. 

“But then, Paul called his uncle and said we wanted to go to the show, and Uncle Marvin hooked us up!” He said. “Paul drove me home, walked me to the door, and kissed me goodnight. I have you to thank for giving me that push.” He kissed my cheek and wrapped me in a hug. 

“Well, then save some of that energy for the morning show because you’re up now,” I said as the current song died out. I cut my microphone back on. Thanks for spending the night with me Orlando, I had a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoyed the show. That’s it for me. Alex is up with your morning show, right after this song.” I played the next song and then gathered my stuff. 

“Have a good show, bud.” I patted him on the back on my way out.

I wasn’t heading to the bathroom today; even though I had to pee, I’d do it at home. I headed straight out to my car. There was a piece of paper stuck under the wiper blade. Kids always put flyers to their raves on windshields of the vehicles in the network’s lot. 

I grabbed it out of the wiper and was going to throw it away when it caught my eye. It wasn’t a flyer; it was a note written in calligraphy.

 “Watch out.”

What. The fuck. 

Bad Service

This story can be found with narration on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/G4VB_jMU2OQhttps://

The following is a short story based on the prompt “tell a crazy story of a waiter giving bad service.”

“Julia?”

I heard my name from behind me at the bar. I don’t know what I’m doing here. My friends made me sign up for this stupid “Blind date” dating app. You fill out an extensive questionnaire about yourself, your likes, your dislikes, and what you would like in a partner. The app then matches you up with someone in your area and suggests a place to go. I guess anything beats spending another Saturday night staring at the walls of my dorm.


“Kevin” appeared to play football for our rival college. His profile picture was in his uniform, kneeling with the football. He had his “Game face” on. I could find no emotion whatsoever in that pic. His description said he was athletic, loved animals, family-oriented, and was looking for a girl who could be both serious and fun.
My friends all but hit the “accept” button for me to select this date at a local bar/restaurant between our two schools.


“Come on! It’s been like a decade since you and Jeff broke up,” Stephanie encouraged.
“Steph, it was last month,” I argued.
Jeff was my high school sweetheart. We had talked about getting married after college graduation. The marriage conversation ended as I returned to my dorm early due to a canceled class and found Jeff getting it on with my roommate. I threw his clothes out of the third-floor window and kicked him out. I haven’t seen either of them since.


I spent the next week wallowing in tears and chocolate ice cream. I had since stopped crying, but my social interactions were limited. It seemed everyone on campus knew either of them. Luckily I had my life-long friends Stephanie and Jenna to keep my head on straight, until today.


I was standing in front of both girls in the middle of my dorm wearing a red wrap dress and black heels. Jenna was busy floofing my hair while Stephanie squirted me with body spray.

“Enough,” I said, waving my hand through the glittery cloud and coughing.” I’d rather he saw me before he smelled me.”


“Sorry,” Stephanie mumbled, replacing the cap and putting the sparkly substance back in her handbag.


I did a final spin in my mirror before tapping the notification button on the app that I had started toward our date destination.


I was halfway through my first glass of pinot grigio at the bar when I heard my name. I turned around, looking for the source of the voice.
“Hey, It’s me, Kevin,” the man standing behind me said.


“Oh, I’m sorry, I was expecting a college football player,” I replied. The man standing before me hadn’t played football in quite a few years.


“Yeah, I’m sorry. That was an old pic, but I am still in college! Just taking the 10-year plan,” Kevin explained.


A young waiter behind him appeared to choke on his gum, listening to our conversation. The waiter looked familiar. I was pretty sure he was in college, making Kevin look that much older. Kevin glared at the man, who quickly busied himself with the table behind him.


“Shall we dine?” Kevin asked me, gesturing to the seating area behind him.


I was already here and hungry. What could one meal hurt? I thought to myself. “Sure,”


Kevin let out a low wolf whistle as I climbed off the bar stool. “Wow, are you from Tennessee?” He asked.


“No,” I replied, “Florida.”


“Well, you’re the only ten I see,” Kevin said, winking and giving me the fake finger gun.
The waiter coughed, I downed the other half of my wine, Kevin glared at the waiter.


The choking waiter soon approached. “Good evening, I’m Nate. Can I refill your Pinot?” he asked me.


“What the hell did you just ask my date?” Kevin glared at him.


“Yes, please,” I replied, handing Nate my wine glass.


“Oh,” Kevin said, finally understanding that ‘pinot’ wasn’t a dirty thought.


“And what can I get for you, sir?” Nate asked.
“Beer will be fine,” Kevin replied.
Nate hurried away.


“So, what brings you to ‘Blind Date?’” Kevin asked.


“Oh, my friends created the profile for me,” I confessed.


“Oh, your’ friends,’ got it,” Kevin said, using air quotes at the word friends and winking at me.


“Yeah,” I continued, ignoring the fact he thinks I’m lying. “My two best friends, Stephanie and Jenna, said I needed to get out more.”


“Oh, your actual friends put you up to this,” Kevin replied.


“Yes, that’s what I said. What brings you here?”


“I like that app doesn’t stare a lot of personal Info,” he said. “After the date, you can just disappear.”
Nate returned with our drinks. I took the wine right out of his hand. “Thank God for that!” I replied to Kevin.


Nate sensed the tension and gave me a sympathetic look. I realized he went to my school, and we sat near each other in psych. He was always super quiet. Looking at him now, he’s kind of cute with his dark curls and blue eyes.
“Can I get you an appetizer this evening?” Nate asked.


I looked at Kevin, wondering what he thought. “Nah, we’ll just take a minute to order dinner,” he said, without asking if I wanted an appetizer.


Nate backed away, glancing at me. I rolled my eyes, he smiled, showing me just a hint of a dimple in his left cheek.


Kevin ordered spaghetti and promptly stuck his linen napkin in his shirt collar. Nate stood just out of his field of vision and gave me a look like, ‘Is he serious right now?’


My return look must have signaled pain. Nate stuck his lip out in an adorable pout before transforming his face into a mischievous grin. I watched him walk away.


Kevin saw where I focused my gaze. “Can you believe that guy?” he said. “He’s been kinda rude and not the greatest service.”


“Yeah,” I replied. “We definitely shouldn’t come back.”


“So after this,” Kevin began, “Maybe we can head back to your place?”


“Um, no. I live in the dorm.” I informed him.


“Oh, alright then, my place. My neighbors are out of town, and their hot tub is open.”


“You know what? It’s been a long day, and I’m pretty tired. I think after this, I’ll just go home,” I informed him.


“Aww, come on, babe, the night is young, you’re young, come to have some fun!” Kevin encouraged.


Nate came back holding two large dishes. He set my chicken down gently and then dumped the plate of spaghetti in Kevin’s lap, missing the linen napkin entirely.


“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Nate exclaimed. He winked at me as Kevin jumped out of his seat and tried to get the hot food off his lap.


“I’m out of here!” Kevin yelled. “And I’m not paying for this!” He stormed out the door.


I crumpled into a fit of laughter after he left.


“I’m sorry, it looks like I ruined your date,” Nate offered.


“Are you kidding? you’re my hero!” I replied.


“Wow, it’s not every day a pretty girl calls me a hero,” Nate said. Our eyes met and held for several seconds.


“Can I buy you a drink? I can hang around until you’re off, maybe,” I asked him.


“I’d love that, but I’d rather buy you dinner, and I’m not off until 2 am. I’d kill to get out of here tonight.”


Soon the restaurant started to fill up. “Ah, I gotta seat these people while my manager naps in the back. He’s too lazy to work. Your dinner is on the house tonight; enjoy the chicken.” Nate said, walking off to handle the rush.


I did enjoy my chicken, left Nate a tip, and walked outside. “I don’t feel like going home,” I said out loud. I had a thought.


I sat on a bench around the corner and dialed the phone number of the restaurant.


“Hello, Marco’s,” a man answered. He sounded like he had been asleep.


I plugged my nose before saying, “Hello, this is Julia Murphy from the health department. I’m afraid I’m at the college, and I will need Nathanial Hargrove to return to campus right away.”


“Health department? He’s working right now, and he’s my best waiter.”


“Sir, you can send Nathanial to me, or I will come to the restaurant and get him. Do you want someone from the health department to come to your restaurant right now?”


“No, ma’am!” the man said. “I will send him home right away!”


Shortly after I hung up the phone, I saw Nate leave the restaurant and head back to campus.

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat.

He turned around and gave me a huge heartwarming smile.
“Julia Murphy of the health department, I presume?” he teased.


“Guilty,” I confessed.


Nate and I caught the bus to a coffee shop across town. We had coffee and pie and talked for hours. He escorted me back to my dorm and asked me to a movie the following night. I gladly accepted.


The next evening I stood in my room in jeans, boots, and a sweater. Jenna and Stephanie eyed me as I put on makeup with a smile on my face.


“Where are you going tonight?” Jenna asked.


“Nate is taking me to a movie and then probably a late dinner or drinks.”


“I thought you went out with a guy named Kevin?” Stephanie asked, confused.


“I did,” I replied as I grabbed my handbag.
I winked at my friends, sitting side by side on my bed, studying me.

“Don’t wait up,” I said and walked out the door.

The End

Princess on a Whim

Norah stared at the wine glass she had just cleaned. It sat in the dish rack, upside down and empty, just how she felt. 

She headed to her bedroom. Forgoing the routine of getting ready, she flopped into her bed, leggings and all. She glanced around her room, illuminated by the light of the full moon shining through her window.

“That explains a lot,” She said to herself. Norah was never one to believe in superstition, but blaming the day’s events on the bright orb in the night sky was easier than accepting the truth. 

The curtains blew in the breeze, and a chill filled the room. “That’s odd,” Norah said aloud to no one. Her window was not supposed to be open. 

Crawling out of bed, Norah sauntered to the offending window. She frowned as she found it to be shut and locked, just as it should be. 

Norah was about to turn back to her bed when she spotted a prominent shadowy figure off in the distance, making her gasp. She looked again but saw nothing. She headed back to bed and stared at the ceiling.

Today had been a day to end all days. Norah had worked hard for the promotion. She had put in extra hours, generated report after report showing how her ideas would make the company more money and ease the workload. Her plan was sound, but her boss gave the promotion to the newest employee, a man, before even hearing what Norah had to say.

Rumor had it, Colin had taken Mr. Stencoach to the country club where his wife’s family were members, and that golf outing had sealed the deal. 

Norah was not expecting to walk in this morning and be assigned her own workload, But there it was. Her well-thought-out plans and research looked up at her in black in white from the new program her boss just doled out, except the name on it was Colin’s, not hers. 

Having her work stolen was one thing, but the way it happened set Norah’s soul on fire. 

A month ago, on a late Friday afternoon, Norah stopped for a drink at the hole-in-the-wall bar on the corner by her office. She’d had a rough day, and the muscle-bound bartender that liked to wear form-fitting shirts was easy on the eyes.

“Whoa, that one is on me; looks like you could use a break,” The handsome man had said about her filling wine glass as he slid onto the stool next to her. 

“Thanks, I sure could,” She’d replied as she glanced up to catch a wink from the bartender. 

At the time, Colin was a friendly stranger who’d bought Norah a drink and asked what made her day so bad. She hadn’t thought anything of it when he flirted and asked her all about her work. She’d thought less about his questions when she took him home. 

Imagine her surprise the following Monday morning when Colin showed up at her office, taking a desk across the hall from hers and wearing a wedding band. Norah couldn’t cause a scene in the middle of her office. All she could do was shoot daggers from her eyes until she could corner him by the water cooler. 

“What is going on?” She demanded. 

“Hey, I’m Colin. I’m new here,” He’d said, offering his hand to shake as if that same hand hadn’t learned every curve of her just three nights ago.

“Don’t give me that; you know what we just did!” Norah snapped at him. 

“Whoa, lady, I don’t know what your intentions are, but I’m a happily married man, and this is a place of business,” Colin had said, loud enough to attract the attention of their boss who came out to investigate. 

“What’s going on here, guys?” Mr. Stencoach had asked, his eyebrow raised. 

“Nothing, sir. I was just welcoming Colin to the team,” Norah assured her boss. 

“It was just a friendly hello, new guy. I’m not sure what you were thinking,” She’d said back to Colin before returning to her desk, more confused than ever. 

Norah could have turned Colin in. She’d saved the work on her computer with dates of backups. But then Norah would have to confess how Colin got the information. She’d rather suck it up than tell her boss how she’d brought home a married man she’d just met from a bar. 

Tears welled up in Norah’s eyes as she tossed and turned in her bed. She was one of three women who worked in the corporate office of the national brand and the only woman on the sales team. She’d impressed Stencoach with her college internship in his office; He’d promised to take care of her. Little did Norah know, taking care of the little lady meant just giving her a job. He had no intention of her advancing in the company. She was just a placeholder. 

Norah wanted more. She wanted a title. She wanted her work to be recognized. She wanted to move up the ladder rungs of her career, and she wanted to earn it through hard work and dedication. 

The tears started to spill over, and Norah cursed herself for crying over her situation. She must just be overtired, she thought. Norah stared up at the ceiling while the tears stained her cheeks. Her vision was blurry, but she saw a shadow at the window again. “I must be losing my mind,” She said and flipped onto her side, putting her back to the window. 

Tap tap tap came from the window.

“Okay, I’m not seeing and hearing things,” Norah said as she got up.

Norah gasped when she pulled back the sheer curtains and came face to face with a large white horse on the other side of the window. She could see the mare’s eyes, of a rich coffee color, and her white snout. From behind her head, she could see the horse was large, larger than any horse she’d ever seen. 

“How did you knock on my window?” Norah asked, studying the beast. 

It was then the horse backed up. Norah looked down to her fur-covered hooves, in white tresses like a Clydesdale, up her strong legs, noting her snow-white mane and tail, her large frame, and then, when she got to the top of the horse’s head, she saw it- a horn. 

“Where did you come from?” Norah asked the horse. “How did you get here? How am I supposed to get you home? I wonder where your home is. I don’t suppose they microchip unicorns?”

“This is ridiculous. Why am I talking to a horse?” Norah said to herself. “This is a dream. I’m going to go outside, and there won’t be anything in my yard.” Norah threw on her fuzzy slippers and threw a hoodie over her tank top. She ventured out the back door to the wall her bedroom was on. The magnificent beast was still there. 

“Where did you come from?” Norah asked again, dumbfounded by how her night was turning out. 

The horse neighed and pawed the ground. Norah didn’t get the impression this movement was threatening; it was more impatient. The animal seemed to be asking, ‘why aren’t you over here yet?’

Norah approached the animal cautiously as not to startle either of them. She paced around the animal, studying her features for what seemed like the hundredth time. 

Norah suddenly found a giant white horse head on her shoulder. She giggled and patted the unicorn’s nose; then she couldn’t resist; she reached up and touched the horn. The animal bent her head forward, allowing Norah to inspect the horn closer. She ran her finger along the grooves etched into it, then put her finger on the tip discovering a unicorn’s horn is very sharp!

“Ouch!” She cried, sucking her bleeding finger into her mouth. 

“This better not need stitches. No one is going to believe me how I got it,” Norah scolded the unicorn. Luckily, her finger stopped bleeding quickly. 

“Now, how do I get you home?” Norah asked again. 

The animal laid down, tucking her feet underneath her. Norah reached out and wove her fingers through the unicorn’s silky mane. The animal nudged her head, trying to get Norah to climb on her back. 

“You want me to sit on your back?” Norah asked. The horse let out a soft neigh and a snort. 

“Well, it looks like seven-year-old me is finally getting her wish!” Norah said as she climbed on the animal’s back. 

The second Norah’s legs landed in riding position; the unicorn took off. 

Norah gripped onto the animal’s horn with everything she had and screamed. 

The majestic beast raced around houses and landscaping. Norah was impressed until she realized they were headed to the forest at the back of her subdivision. 

Not only were they headed to the forest, but there was no way they were going to fit under the branches of the trees that were coming closer and closer.

“Uh, unicorn? You’re going to get us killed,” Norah said. The animal kept running. 

“Heal,” Norah commanded. The animal kept running. 

‘Whoa,” Norah said, the animal kept running. 

“STOP!” Norah yelled. The animal kept running. The trees were just in front of them. 

“No, no, no, no!” Norah yelled and squeezed her eyes shut. She saw the bright flash of light through her eyelids. 

Norah opened her eyes, and suddenly it was daytime. She looked around and realized she had no idea where they were. 

“Are we dead?” Norah asked the unicorn, who was still running. The animal snorted. 

Norah could see a town in the distance, the unicorn running toward it. As they reached the outskirts, there was a farmer’s market going on. The unicorn was about to run through it. 

“Whoa, Nelly!” Shouted a male voice. The unicorn came to a sudden stop; Norah didn’t.

Norah let out a yell as she flew off the unicorn’s back. “Oof,” She said, landing in someone’s arms. 

“Oh my gosh, are you okay?” The man asked, gently setting Norah down. 

“I think I am very far from okay,” Norah admitted, her legs shaking. The man grabbed ahold of her again to keep her steady. 

“Thanks, Nice catch,” Norah praised him. 

The man studied her. His gaze went from the messy bun piling her dark hair on top of her head to her puffy eyes, over her hoodie, tank top, and leggings, and landing on her pink fuzzy slippers. “You’re not from around here, are you?” He observed. 

“No, I’m not even sure where here is,” Norah confessed. 

“Pandock Island,” The man said, gesturing his arms wide at the land. “Where are you from? He asked with furrowed brows. 

“Um, Connecticut?” Norah said, unsure of herself. “I’ve never heard of Pandock Island.”

“Well, we’re not quite the boondocks, but we’re not really around anything else. And there’s always pancakes somewhere. We’re a happy people,” he explained. 

“Pancakes?” I questioned. “Pancakes make happiness?”

“Have you ever seen anyone, not happy eating pancakes?” He asked. 

Norah considered this question for a moment. “Nope, can’t say I have.” 

Norah took a second to study her companion. The man was tall and had broad shoulders. She could tell when he caught her he was in great physical shape. His dark hair was longer, the front wisps reaching his chin, and it appeared he had a habit of running his hands through it. His dark eyes were warm and welcoming, yet there was trouble behind them. Maybe he needed pancakes. He smiled at her, and his smile was perfect and sincere. He might just be the most attractive man Norah has ever seen.

They started to walk toward the town. “Could you perhaps tell me how I got here?” Norah asked. “One minute I was in my bed, trying to go to sleep, the next thing I know, there is a unicorn outside my window who urged me to climb on her and brought me… here.” 

“Nelly has a habit of wandering off,” The man said. “She thought you made a great souvenir.”  

“Nelly?” Norah asked. 

“Yes, that’s her name,” He said, grabbing a carrot from a vegetable stand and offering it to the unicorn. Nelly gladly accepted the treat and trotted away. 

“That’s why I yelled ‘whoa Nelly!” To get her to stop,” The man explained.

“Ah,” Norah gave her understanding. “Where I come from ‘whoa Nelly!’ Is a phrase used in surprise. 

The man chuckled. “I assure you I didn’t name my Unicorn in surprise.” 

“Wait, how do you know what the boondocks are, but you don’t know ‘whoa Nelly?'”

“You are not our first visitor from the world,” He said.  

“The world? What is the world?” Norah asked. “And who exactly are you?”

“My name is Ivan,” he said. And you have reached what seems to be another realm. 

Norah stopped in her tracks. “What?” She said, amusement in her voice. 

“At the edge of the island, there’s a force field. Nelly can travel through it. On the other side is where you came from.”

“Wait, Nelly can travel through it. Did she not know whether or not I could?” Norah asked. 

“Eh, she’s usually right about these things,” Ivan said, continuing to walk. 

Norah jogged in her fuzzy slippers to catch up. “Usually? Did that mean she didn’t know for sure?”

“Well, it appeared to work, here you are, whoever you are.” 

“Oh, I’m Norah; my name is Norah,” she explained. 

“It’s delightful to meet you, Norah,” Ivan said with a big sweeping bow that made Norah giggle. 

“Are unicorns… natural around here?” Norah asked, looking around. 

“Yes,” Ivan confirmed. 

“So what are you? Like a wizard or something?”

“Ha! I wish!” Ivan said. “No, the wizards live on the other side of the island. 

Norah looked at Ivan to see if he was kidding, but she just nodded when he didn’t laugh. 

“So, is Nelly going to take me home?” Norah asked. 

“You want to leave already? Normally worlders want to stay forever.” Ivan questioned. 

Norah looked down at her outfit, pulling on her hoodie and glancing down at her fuzzy slippers. “I don’t think I’m quite dressed to stay, and I have work in the morning.” She said. 

Then it struck her what Ivan said, “Wait, did you say there are more people here from where I’m from?”

“Of course,” Ivan explained. 

“So, what, they chose to stay, or they couldn’t return?” Norah’s anxiety was coming in full force. 

“Oh, they chose!” Ivan said. “Worlders usually find something, or sometimes someone, that makes them want to stay. They offer us their knowledge that has brought our community lightyears ahead of where we were, so we allow it.” 

“I see,” Norah said, looking around. She had to admit; the land was beautiful. Stone buildings and shelters were surrounded by rolling hills of green and meadows of wildflowers. The market offered fruits, vegetables, baked delicacies, and several stands of trinkets. Off in the distance, Norah spotted a whole herd of unicorns led by Nelly herself. 

Nowhere in her field of vision did she note a series of skyscrapers like where she worked. 

“Okay, I’ll stay for a tour,” Norah agreed. 

“Excellent. It would be my pleasure,” Ivan replied with a smile that warmed Norah’s heart. It’s been a while since Norah had seen a sincere smile from a man. 

The two walked as Ivan outlined the history of everything they saw. Norah was fascinated, but eventually, she had to sit down. 

“Pink fuzzy slippers were not meant to be hiking boots,” Norah explained, rubbing one of her feet. 

“Of course, we should have ridden. My apologies,” Ivan offered before whistling loudly. 

Nelly and another white unicorn answered his whistle. 

“Nelly is the most accommodating of the bunch. Climb back up on her,” Ivan instructed. 

“Okay, but only if she promises not to throw me off again,” Norah replied as the animal laid down. 

Norah climbed up Nelly’s back, and once again, they were off but at the pace of a leisurely stroll. 

Norah and Ivan talked freely, sharing jokes, Ivan answering all of Norah’s hundreds of questions. He never belittled her, as the men at work do. Ivan was interested in everything she had to say, asked his own questions, and wanted her opinion on every topic they discussed. He treated her like an equal. Norah had to admit she could get used to this place. She’s never done things on a whim, always worried about her security and responsibilities. She never fought for herself. She just always accepted what was given to her, even when it was less than she deserved. Even now, she was having a great time with a handsome man, but she couldn’t fully enjoy it because she had an internal struggle, knowing she should be home, in bed, and get a healthy amount of rest before the next day at her dead-end job. 

Norah looked up and saw a rainbow. “Oh, is there a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of that?” She asked jokingly. 

“I don’t think so,” Ivan replied. “Last I heard, Sheamus was off visiting family.” 

Norah glanced at Ivan, again waiting for the punchline, but none came. “Unicorns, wizards, and leprechauns,” She mumbled to herself. “This must be a dream.” 

They reached one of the shores of the island. Norah looked out over the vast blue sea, and for the first time in a long time, she relaxed. 

Right up until there was a loud thud, and the air seemed to ripple in front of her. 

Norah glanced over at Ivan, who was shaking his head. “What was that?” She asked. Then, “Let me guess, mermaids?”

“Don’t be silly,” Ivan said. 

“Oh right, because after learning of unicorns, wizards, leprechauns, and hidden islands, a mermaid existing would be ridiculous,” Norah spat. 

“Oh, they exist,” Ivan replied. “But they can get through the barrier. Whatever that was, did not.” 

Norah’s eyes widened as she looked from Ivan to the water. “Ivan, what would happen if I ran through the barrier on foot?” She asked. 

“Unaccompanied by one of us, you would make a loud thud,” he replied. 

“So then I’m stuck here?” Norah asked. 

“Norah, I’ve very much enjoyed your company so far, but if you would like to leave at any time, Nelly will take you,” Ivan replied. 

Norah studied the handsome man on the unicorn. His eyes were sincere. She looked around the island, and a feeling of serenity washed over her. When was the last time she felt at peace and had a man who enjoyed her company, just for being her?

“I’d like to stay a while longer,” Norah replied. 

Ivan flashed her a genuine smile. “Good, I’m glad.” He looked down at the ground for a minute before speaking again. “There is this event thing this evening that I have to attend. I would like it if you came.” 

“Event thing? What is an event thing?” Norah chuckled. 

“It’s a party my father is hosting. The whole island will be there; It would give you the whole picture of what’s here,” Ivan replied. 

“I can’t go to a party in a messy bun and fuzzy slippers,” Norah countered. 

“I will take you to a boutique, and they will get you all set,” Ivan replied. 

“That would be lovely, but I didn’t exactly bring my wallet or any money,” Norah spoke up. 

“No need. The shop owner will know the price is on me,” Ivan replied. 

“That’s really not necessary for you to do unless money here works the opposite and ball gowns are cheap?” At this point, Norah thought anything was possible. 

Ivan chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. Any price is worth the continued pleasure of your company.”

“Oh, you mean like a date?” Norah asked; she couldn’t help but notice the butterflies that seemed to awaken in her belly suddenly. 

“Unfortunately, my obligations this evening don’t allow me to have a date, but I would send a car for you, and I would love for you to save me a dance,” Ivan replied. 

Norah immediately felt let down. “Of course, you can’t have a date with a mere mortal when you’re from magical fairyland!” 

Ivan hung his head. This invitation was not going the way he wanted. “Norah, I promise everything will make sense later. Please, come this evening and dance with me.” 

Everything about this situation screamed to have Nelly take her home, but Norah had already come this far, and she had to admit, her curiosity got the best of her. 

“Alright, mysterious magical man, it’s a non-date,” Norah said, offering a handshake. 

Ivan took her hand and brought it to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on the back. Norah’s butterflies returned. 

“Nelly, take her to Midge,” Ivan instructed. “Tell her, Ivan said, Sapphire.”

“How is Nelly going to tell her anything?” Norah asked.

Ivan snickered. “You, my love. You tell Midge Ivan said Sapphire. She will know what it means.” 

Norah poised to voice a rebuttal when Nelly took off, whisking her away. 

Nelly stopped in front of a small shop. The door immediately opened, and out came a petite older lady with curly gray hair, round cheeks, and a friendly smile. Norah liked her immediately. 

“Hello, my dear, I’m Midge,” The woman said before turning to the unicorn. “Nelly, who have you brought me?”

Nelly laid down, allowing Norah to climb off. “I’m Norah. Ivan sent me here for help for a party and said to tell you ‘sapphire'”

The woman’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Oh my, well yes, come on, we have work to do,” She said, grabbing Norah by the wrist and pulling her into the shop. 

“Ladies, it came true; the prediction came true!” Midge yelled, “She’s here!” 

A swarm of women gathered around Norah, each with a different function. One was taking her body measurements, one measured her foot, another took down her hair, and yet another was holding swatches up to her cheek. 

Norah was confused, but she had to admit, it was nice to be fussed over. “What is this prediction?” she asked.

“Oh, she doesn’t know!” Midge said. “Norah, love, where are you from?”

“Connecticut,” Norah replied. 

The ladies all gasped. Norah looked even more confused. 

Midge stepped forward and spoke up. “When the prince was born, his parents were visited by an enchantress. She predicted that when the prince was fully ready to lead the land, to step in after his father’s retirement, a woman from afar would be brought to him on his birthday. The woman is the only one the prince would find capable of ruling beside him, as a partner and a spouse. She is said to arrive to him in blue.” 

“Blue as in sapphires?” Norah looked around to all the women, who nodded. 

“Blue as in blue,” midge declared, pulling on Norah’s royal blue hoodie. 

“So Ivan sent me here to fluff me up and be handed over to a prince? Like an arranged marriage? Is that what the party is for?” Norah couldn’t remember ever feeling this much anxiety. 

“Oh dear, the poor love is even more lost than we thought,” Midge said to the other ladies, who looked at Norah with solemn expressions. 

“Tonight is the prince’s birthday party. If you are brought here as the Sapphire, we shall doll you up and send you on your way for you and the prince to find your souls in each other’s eyes and dance the night away,” Midge said. All the women sighed with longing in their eyes. 

“Wait, I’m not here to rule a country. I’m merely here because a unicorn appeared at my bedroom window and brought me here. Ivan said I could go home any time I want!” Norah was gearing up to full-blown panic. 

“Love, of course, you can. The marriage is consensual. No one is going to force you to do anything,” Midge assured.

“I don’t know about this,” Norah said; something seemed not right. 

“Okay, forget about the prince,” Midge said, making the rest of the ladies gasp. “Let’s get you ready to party and just go enjoy a night in Pandock. Get to know the place. That’s all we ask.” 

“Why are you so on board with this? What’s in it for you?” Norah asked Midge.

“Besides the dress commission, I’ll make? We like when worlders come to see our humble little island. There’s so much we can offer to each other,” Midge reported. 

Norah wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but thinking of the dress commission Midge could have; she planned to stick the price tag to Ivan with as much as she could. 

She took a deep breath and smiled. “Do your best, ladies,” She said, holding her arms out. 

The women squealed in excitement as they surrounded Norah, measuring, adjusting, measuring again. Then they all ran into a back room, leaving Norah alone in the middle of the shop, more confused than ever. 

Norah started to wander around the shop, she sorted through racks of open-backed dresses and stands of lightweight ballet-style shoes, but the surprise came when she got to the shelves of bottles lined along the wall. The labels read things like ‘wing glitter, horn paint, magic dust, and wand polish.’ “Who are these ladies?” Norah muttered to herself. 

As if answering her question, a woman rushed into the shop and shouted for Midge. 

Norah eyed the woman, who looked frazzled. “Midge and the other ladies are in the back.” She explained. 

“Of course. There’s never a fairy available when you need her,” The woman whined. 

Of course, the dress shop would be run by fairies. What else would she expect?

Midge emerged from the back upon hearing the woman’s frantic cries of her name. “Joanie, what’s happened?” She asked her. 

Joanie pulled a shoe out of a bag and showed Midge its broken heel. “How will I ever attract the prince if I’m limping because one shoe has no heel?”

“Of course, dear. Go and sit down. I’ll get this fixed right up,” Midge said, taking the shoe and giving Norah a wink. 

Great, Not only am I being served to the prince on a platter, but now I compete for his attention? How did I get here? Norah thought. Oh yeah, a unicorn, she remembered. 

Midge came back out with a fixed shoe. There was no indication anything had ever been wrong. Joanie planted a kiss on Midge’s cheek before hurrying out the door. 

Once Norah was alone with the ladies in the shop again, she observed them. “So, you’re fairies?” She asked. 

“Yes, dear. That’s right,” Midge replied. 

Norah nodded, then got distracted by two other ladies carrying a pouf of blue fabric out from the back room. They turned it upright and hung it on a rack to show Norah the most beautiful gown she’s ever seen. A square-lined neck topped the fitted bodice that was covered in jewels and led into a full skirt. Norah’s jaw dropped. 

“Okay, well, let’s strap you in there and see what we need to adjust. Time is of the essence!” Midge shouted. 

Norah soon found herself undressed from her yoga pants and then fastened into the gorgeous blue dress. She spun around, looking at herself in the mirror. “Oh, if this is mine, then Ivan is forgiven for handing me over to a stranger,” Norah declared. 

The ladies ran around, tucking and pinning before getting Norah back out of the dress and into a robe. The dress was retaken to the back as Norah plopped in a chair. She was groomed and plucked, curled and glossed, and eventually, the dress came back out. This time, when Norah looked in the mirror, she hardly recognized herself. 

“You’re stunning!” Midge announced. The other ladies held each other’s hands and nodded agreement with Midge. 

Just then, one of the ladies ran to the front of the shop. “Norah, your ride is here!” She announced. 

Norah, Midge, and the rest followed to see a sleek black sedan parked out front. 

“What? No unicorn-drawn carriage to bring me to the castle for the ball?” Norah said sarcastically. 

“Don’t be silly, child. This isn’t a fairy tale. We have cars.” Midge scolded, but she was smiling. 

The ladies helped Norah get in the car in her dress, and soon she was off. The car wove through the island, passing building after intricate building. It twisted around the shoreline where merpeople did, in fact, sit on rocks. The vehicle wound around pastures of unicorns, pegasus, and other mythical creatures, grazing openly on the plush green grass. Norah’s excitement grew with each turn the car took. Eventually, the sedan entered a line of vehicles. Norah looked out the window, and her eyes widened at the sight of the magnificent castle. 

The sedan pulled up to the front of the line, and a uniformed guard opened Norah’s door and offered his hand to help her out. She thanked the guard as she stared at the striking scene before her. Mythical figures of all types greeted each other with affection and respect. Norah could pick out some of the so-called Worlders like herself and saw expressions of pure delight on their faces. They were genuinely happy to be here on the island. 

Norah gathered her skirt and proceeded up the steps into the grand entrance of the castle. She scanned the crowd looking for Ivan but was quickly ushered into a gigantic ballroom. An orchestra lined one wall, playing classical music. Waiters of all types wandered through the growing population offering drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Children ran in between all the adults, and some occupied the middle of the ballroom, swinging each other around. 

Norah again looked for Ivan, but he was nowhere to be seen. She recognized Joanie, the woman with the broken shoe, and went over to say hello. 

“You look amazing,” Jonie told her. 

“Thank you, and you do as well,” Norah replied. “Especially without the limp,” she said, making both women laugh.

“I heard a rumor that Prince Ivan’s Sapphire is supposed to be here. I guess that casts out the rest of us.” Joanie confided. 

Norah felt the blood drain from her face. “Prince Ivan’s Sapphire?” She questioned. 

“Yes, legend has it; a prediction was made when the prince was a baby that when he was ready to rule the land, a woman would appear to rule at his side. He would find someone strong and beautiful yet humble. She would be intelligent, logical, and innovative while caring and able to do what is right for the island overall, not just in her best interest. 

Norah found a chair and sunk into it. 

“Honey, are you okay?” Joanie asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” 

Norah didn’t have time to answer before the trumpets blared, announcing the royal family’s arrival. The king and queen were introduced, followed by none other than Ivan, the prince of Pandock Island. 

The king welcomed everyone to the castle and led everyone to sing happy birthday to the prince. He then announced the first dance should commence, and the single women of the land should present themselves. 

Ivan then took the microphone from his father and announced that it would not be necessary. A murmur went through the crowd as Ivan scanned over the faces. “Norah, are you here, my sapphire?” He asked over the crowd. 

Joanie gripped onto Norah’s arm in glee. “It’s you! You’re the chosen one!” She squealed. A smile spread across Norah’s face as she made her way to the front of the crowd of single women. 

Ivan’s eyes widened as he saw her. “You’re breathtaking,” He said, earning him a series of Awww from the female population of the room. 

He made his way down the riser, stopping in front of Norah and offering his hand. “May I have this dance?” He asked. 

“You may,” Norah replied, placing her hand in his. The orchestra began as Ivan effortlessly swung Norah around the ballroom. 

“You, sir, have been keeping secrets from me today,” Norah scolded. 

Ivan gave her a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you, but we seemed to be having a decent time when you didn’t know who I was. I wanted that to last for a while.

“I understand,” Norah said. “But tell me, today I’ve met unicorns, and fairies, heard of wizards and leprechauns, what exactly are you?”

Ivan laughed. “My family and I are Worlders. I was born here, but before my arrival, my parents discovered this population and inhabited this deserted island to create a haven for the mythical. The magic makers created the barrier to keep out the danger of whoever may stumble upon it. In exchange for creating their haven, The population here appointed my parents as their leaders. When I was born, my mother asked the enchantress to protect my heart so I may rule as they have and keep the island safe. I would only give my heart to someone worthy, who would see my parent’s vision, and here you are.”

Norah nodded, processing the information. 

“I know this is sudden and a lot to take in, but I would like it if we could spend more time together; you may go home, of course, you can come and go as you please if you’d like until one day perhaps you will be ready to lead at my side.” Ivan offered.

Norah had decided about staying in Pandock on the way there before she knew about Ivan, the prince. “I have some things to take care of in my little world, and I’m not ready to lead a country or marry you yet, but I think I could be one day. I want to stay and see what happens.” 

“Well then tomorrow we shall return to your land, and I will assist in whatever you need. Then we can bring your belongings back here and start a new life. For tonight, we can dance.” 

Norah nodded and smiled. “Happy Birthday, prince,” She said as she rose on her toes to place a kiss on Ivan’s lips. 

“Best birthday ever,” Ivan declared. 

Norah stayed the night in a guest room of the castle. In the morning, she was surprised to find Joanie with a change of clothes. “I heard you might need to borrow an outfit for the day,” she smiled. 

Once Norah was presentable, she met Ivan, who was waiting with a large SUV and driver. They got in the vehicle and flew back through the barrier onto the property of Norah’s subdivision. Norah gathered together the information she needed and got in her car, headed to her office. 

“Where have you been, young lady?” Mr. Stencoach met her outside his office. 

“I was gathering some information to present to you,” Norah said, with her head held high. 

“Alright, well, make it quick and get back to work. We can discuss your absence later,” The man said, shuffling paper around his messy desk. 

“No, sir, I’m afraid we cannot,” Norah’s statement piqued the interest of the older man. 

“What did you just say to me?” He asked. 

“This will be our last discussion, as I quit. Here is my resignation, effective immediately.” Norah handed him an envelope. 

“Also,” She continued, “Here is all of my work on the project Colin presented to you and you implemented yesterday morning. You will discover the notes are dated and go back to before Colin was a thought in this office. The work he presented was mine. He stole it from me when he spent the night at my house before I learned he was married.” 

Mr. Stencoach was staring at Norah wide-eyed and open-mouthed. “You can’t just quit!” He said. “You were lucky to get this job. I did you a favor. What do you plan to do for money now?”

“Well, sir, it turns out that outside of this office, my attributes are recognized, and I have a much more fruitful offer on the table, so I’ll be taking it. I’m here to get my personal belongings.” Norah turned and left the office. 

She was packing up her belongings when she heard Mr. Stencoach bellow from his doorway. “Colin, My office, NOW!” 

Norah smiled all the way to the elevator. 

Back at home, Norah found the fairies packing up her house and some of the guards loading the SUV. 

“Have you gotten everything situated?” Ivan asked her. 

“Yes, and it feels fantastic,” Norah admitted. 

“Good,” Ivan said. He took Norah’s hand and led her to the SUV as the last of her belongings were loaded up. 

The caravan returning to the castle was a sight to see, and the entire island gathered around the streets, cheering in parade fashion. Norah smiled as she looked out into the friendly faces. She had made her decision on a whim, but her heart knew she was where she’s meant to be.

The car door was held open as they stepped out and gathered in the castle’s throne room. Norah greeted the king and queen, who welcomed her with open arms. 

A sapphire tiara was placed on Norah’s head as she took her spot next to Ivan as Pandock Island’s new princess. 

The end.

This story is available, narrated, on my YouTube channel!

https://youtube.com/channel/UCLvo9P3cgCk8sTXqrrW5F7Q

Check out my Amazon author page for novels www.amazon.com/author/catbanks

Apple Weekend

A SHORT STORY

He opened the car door for me, just as he had on this day for the last 30 years. This time though, it was different. It was out of obligation, not chivalry. We made our way through the windy, hilly roads of the countryside. The trees exploded into fiery hues of yellow, orange and red. They burned hot, like our passion once did. Soon all of those beautiful leaves will be brown and on the ground, kinda like our marriage is now. I secretly wished they were already on the ground. The world is ugly, it should look ugly too.

Today, we take our annual trip to the apple orchard. Tomorrow, I bake. Pies, apple sauce, apple butter, apple fritters will come out of my kitchen. Sunday our children and daughter-in-law will join us for dinner and apple everything.

 Apple weekend has been the Sumter family tradition since we found the adorable family run orchard . We were on a leisurely quality time drive through the country side as young family. Really, Emma was teething and a drive in the car was all that would quiet her down.  Daniel seemed to enjoy the views. He would tell his father and I stories of things that lived in the woods. Dinosaurs and panda bears played together out there, he told us. 

The kids have grown up and moved out, Daniel was married now. Charlie and I were empty nesters. We had grown apart. We stopped talking like we used to, we stopped sharing everything. We rarely asked how each other’s day was anymore. Sunday our kids were coming over for dinner and dessert as always. They would take home pie, apple sauce, apple butter and apple fritters as well as bushels of apples as always. We will eat until we are stuffed as always. Then their father will tell them he’s leaving me for his new younger girlfriend. They would get mad at him of course. He would tell them he wants to divorce me, then I would tell them all that wasn’t necessary. 

The doctors had been running every test they had and they all came back abnormal but no one put a finger on why. I’d asked Charlie to come with to the appointments. 

“What’s the matter, Meg? Are your big girl panties dirty? You need me to hold your hand to go to the doctor?” He’d ask me. “I Don’t need to hear how you’re going through the change.” He’d said.

I stopped asking him to come. I grew more tired by the day. Less and less got done around the house. Intimacy was a foreign concept these days. 

“How are you losing weight when you don’t do anything?” Charle had asked me. “You really need to return whatever make up that is you bought. Your skin looks so yellow, you look so much older all of a sudden.” He told me. “I married a thick girl. Have a cheeseburger.” He said. 

I kept to myself and cried in the shower. I saw the changes. I felt the changes. This week I finally learned what the changes were. 

“Mrs. Sumter we have figured out what’s wrong. Unfortunately your biopsies came back as cancer of your liver. The scans appear that you have it in your lung and spine as well. It’s stage four. I’m sorry but there isn’t any feasible treatment. You should prepare your family and your arrangements.”

I had just stared at the doctor. “Are you sure?” I’d asked. 

“I’m afraid so.” He’d told me. I’m going to refer you to the oncologist I consulted with on your case. He will be helpful with some options to keep you comfortable.” I had nodded and walked out of the office completely numb. 

Today, I am riding through the countryside as I had with my husband every third weekend in October for the last 30 years. Tomorrow I will bake. Sunday my whole family will gather when their father tells them he’s leaving and their mother tells them she’s dying. 

Yep. The leaves can fall. Make it all ugly. 

We arrived at the orchard to see it practically empty. Normally there are lots of families around but our town was growing up as well. Those family children are grown as are ours. They’ve moved out and are just starting families of their own. I’d like to think our children would keep the tradition but they, like many others, are more interested in eating than the work that goes into making the yummy goodness. 

I stumbled a bit getting out of the car. My legs were so weak from the long ride here. 

“Geez Meg do I have to carry you to the trees too? Since when do you have 2 left feet?” Charlie scolded me. 

“Since now.” I snapped at him. 

Charlie looked at me surprised. I haven’t shown emotion or given him any inkling of anything actually wrong. He had just assumed I let myself go and  he moved on without even attempting to figure out what I was going through.  I wasn’t giving him the option to do the decent thing now. 

I was angry. I was angry at the world for being unfair, I was angry at my body for betraying me and growing cancer, I was angry at the doctors for not fixing me and I was angry at Charlie for not caring even though he didn’t know he should. 

Right now I was even angry at the apple tree I was standing next to. I was angry at the stupid ladder that was holding Charlie up as he picked apples and handed them down to me. 

“AUUUGGGHHHHHH” I screamed as I chucked an apple as far as I could. The others in the orchard looked at me. I sat on the ground with the apple basket between my legs.

“For God’s sake Meg, what has gotten into you?” Charlie asked. 

I glared at him. My words came out as a sneer. “You stood in front of everyone we loved and you promised me in sickness and in health until death do us part. I’m sick, I’m not dead yet and you’re parting.” 

“What are you talking about?” Charlie stared at me with a shocked look on his face. 

“I know about Lisa” I snarled. 

I remembered back to cartoons where the characters slid down ladders with their feet on the sides of the rungs because they’d lost their grip and they landed on the ground. Charlie did just that as my news sunk in. 

“How did you find out?” He asked me. 

“You were distant. I asked for your support so many times and you just blew me off. I knew something was up. Your social media has new followers. I looked at Lisa’s profile and what do I see but pics of you two together all over it.” I snarled at him. “Then last night on the phone you thought I was asleep in the other room but I heard you. I heard all of it. I heard you tell her you’re leaving your family. You’re walking out on your wife because you can’t just wait until I’m dead.”

“Meg what are you talking about dead? You’re not making any sense.” Charlie said. He was so confused. 

I picked apples out of the basket and started chucking them at Charlie with every word I yelled. “I. Have. Cancer. You. Entitled. Prick!” 

Charlie fell back against the tree. Apples fell all around him. His mouth gaped open and his eyes widened as he stared at me. “I had no idea.” He said. 

“That’s because you were too self absorbed to find out.” I said. 

Charlie looked at the ground. He was ashamed. “So all this time you’ve been reaching out to me because you needed me and I’ve been pushing you away because I just thought you’d become complacent and lazy.” Charlie summarized. 

“Yep” I said, making a popping sound on the ‘P’

“How long do you have?” He asked me. 

I couldn’t tell if the expression he was giving me was concern, pity or both. I no longer needed either. 

“How long until you’re permanently rid of me? Don’t worry. We give our kids one last family tradition together, we get divorced, you go off with your friend and you’ll never hear from me again.” 

He stared at me silently. 

“Go! Pick more apples!” I yelled. 

Charlie picked enough to fill up all our bushels of apples. He lugged them back to the car one by one. With the first, he opened my door for me and then started the car with the air blowing since it was stuffy in there. 

“We don’t have to get a divorce” Charlie said. We had been driving for several minutes. Clearly he had been thinking things over. 

“Hmpf, what are you going to tell Lisa? Sorry honey you have to wait a little while longer, I’m gonna play house till the old broad kicks the bucket?” I couldn’t believe him. 

“Meg it’s not like that” He said.

 His tone was soft but my anger was still there. How could he? 

“Oh now that I’m sick you suddenly want me? You have an illness fetish?” I snapped at him. 

“Meg I can be there for you.” He said.

“Charlie I don’t want your pity. You were ready to leave until you found out I was sick and you didn’t care enough to ask me about what was going on in the first place despite me giving you every opportunity. I had to literally hit you with it to get you to listen. We are going to have one more weekend apple tradition, Sunday you’ll tell the kids you’re leaving we get a quick divorce seeing as I don’t need any assets. Just let me die in the house then you can sell it. We won’t even tell the kids I’m sick. They’ll need you after I’m gone. I don’t want them to hate you.” I looked out the window and cried. 

This was my last time doing this drive with my family and the memory I will take with me will be horrible. 

Charlie parked the car in the driveway next to the back door. 

I couldn’t wait to be out of the car. I ran inside and locked myself in the spare bedroom. He hadn’t even noticed I’d been slowly moving all of my things into here. I sat on the bed and cried. 

I fell asleep in my tears and woke up a few hours later to a knock at the door. 

“Meg?” Charlie called from the other side. “Would you like to come out for dinner? I’ve made chicken soup.” 

Thirty years of marriage that man has never cooked a day in his life. I got up and went to the kitchen. There was a large stock pot on the stove and it did in fact smell like chicken soup. 

“Charlie who did this?” I asked him. 

He held up my recipe card on the counter. “I did.” He showed me. 

I sat down and let him serve me. I was hungry but I couldn’t really taste much of food these days. I took a mouth full and almost spit it back out. 

The soup was terrible. 

His face was so hopeful as he looked to me for my approval. My time on earth was coming to an end. I had decided during my cry that the last memories my family has of me are going to be good ones. All of my family, including Charlie. 

He sat down and watched me eat the dreadful soup. I’d almost thought it was poisoned the way he was studying me. 

“I’ve broken things off with Lisa.” He announced finally. 

“What?” I looked at him through widened eyes “Why?”

“I want to be here Meg. I want to be here and make apple stuff with you this year. I want you to teach me how. I need you to teach me how to be you to our kids. I want to go to the doctors with you. I want to hear what they say and I’m not allowing you to go through this alone.” 

I stared at Charlie. He continued on. “We will tell the kids together about your cancer Sunday night. They deserve to know. We will do this as a family.” 

It was then that Charlie took a big spoonful of soup. He coughed. 

“This shit is awful!” He exclaimed. 

I burst out laughing. 

“How are you eating this?” He asked me. 

“Despite everything that happened today, I didn’t have the heart to tell you that it really does suck” I burst out laughing again. 

He laughed with me. 

“Would you like to go out for dinner with me?” He asked. 

“You’re buying” I told him. 

We cleaned up and piled back in the car. We stopped for gas on the way to the restaurant and I went in to get some water and gum. I decided to buy a lottery ticket. After all, it would be just my luck to win the lottery right before I died. 

Charlie and I had a lovely dinner. We talked about our favorite years apple picking. 

“Remember when Daniel set the oven on fire just throwing the sugary apple filling in without the pie crust?” I asked. 

“No, that was when I bought pre-made crust trying to impress you and didn’t know it had paper packaging that had to be removed.” Charlie confessed. 

“You let Daniel take the blame?!?”” I was astounded. 

“He got a new video game for his sacrifice and silence!” Charlie announced. 

I couldn’t be upset. It was too funny. We both laughed until we cried. 

Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. I was trying to suck air into my lungs and it wouldn’t work. The room was spinning. Charlie became a blur. The more I panicked the worse it got. 

“Are there any doctors here? Someone please call 911!” I heard Charlie say.

 Darkness set in. 

  •      

“I can’t believe it happened that quick.” Daniel said through his tears. 

His wife Victoria held her hand on her stomach. “We were so looking forward to telling her about the baby.” She said with tears in her eyes. 

Emma stood on the other side of her big brother, in between Daniel and their father. Her tears fell steady. “We didn’t even know she was sick.” She said, her voice so soft and innocent. 

“I had just found out myself that day.” Charlie told them. 

They all took flowers from the arrangement on the casket. “Good bye Mom, I love you” Emma cried. 

A month had passed and the family gathered in the lawyers office. It was a big fancy glass building that had views of practically the whole state. A tall man in an expensive three piece suit came out of an office door that read George Covington III. He led them into a huge conference room where everyone took a cushioned rolling seat around a large mahogany table. 

“Do you have any idea what you want to do with the winnings?” The lawyer asked. 

“Yes” Charlie said. “The lottery I understand will pay out over time. I want my children to own their homes and cars, the little bean in Victoria’s belly will have education paid for, all the best schools.” Charlie looked at his children. “And I want to buy the apple orchard. The one just outside town.” 

The lawyer looked at Charlie like he’d lost his mind. “The apple? Orchard?” He repeated.

“Yes. The owners are retiring, their kids don’t want it. It’s going up for sale in a few weeks and they said if I make an offer they will consider it before listing the land.”

“Mr. Sumter what will you do with an apple orchard?” Mr. Covington asked. 

“I will honor my family and remember my wife. For generations to come Sumters will have apple weekend and spread that love to other families to do the same.”

So the tradition continued. 

.

Have Faith

The following is a sneak peek at my book “Have Faith” which is available on Amazon.

Book Synopsis

After a bad breakup, Zoe Miller is DONE! She is happy to have her house and her life to herself and the ability to concentrate on herself, her family and friends and her career as the office manager of Grace Church.

Zoe’s family and friends have other plans for her, and much to her dismay, the universe sides with them.

A natural disaster causes Zoe’s best friend Alexis to move in and rewires Zoe’s way of thinking about living alone.

Then, Zoe discovers significant dangers within her family and her job and spends time with three eligible bachelors to sort the messes.

Chris is the foreman of Miller construction and Harold Miller’s right-hand man. He and Zoe have a fun, friendly relationship. Chris is a playboy and practically her brother as he is the son her dad never had. When Zoe discovers her dad’s company is in trouble and her dad is in danger, Chris jumps in to help. Zoe and Chris become closer than ever, but when they team up to set up Alexis and the company’s new employee James, Zoe and Chris see each other in a new light.

Jack is a wounded army veteran with a chip on his shoulder. He’s also a good friend of Zoe’s boss, Pastor Mark. When Zoe arranges a veteran’s networking event at the church, Pastor Mark invites Jack, who is obviously annoyed at Mark’s attempt to get him to join the veteran’s support group. As Jack takes out his annoyance on Zoe, she can’t wait to be rid of him. She soon finds out that’s not going to happen as Mark has hired him as the church’s new maintenance man. Jack begins to soften around Zoe as the two spend time together investigating a possible scandal within all five Grace churches in the city. Sparks fly but so do emotions as they both struggle with past hurt.

Zoe and her sister Melissa have never been close. While Zoe is their Dad’s daughter, Melissa is their mother’s daughter. The two warm up to each other as Zoe seeks Melissa’s help deciphering how much trouble their father’s company is in. To appease her new friendship with her sister, Zoe agrees to go on a date with the best friend of Melissa’s fiancé. Erik is handsome, successful, and seems nice enough but one night with him puts Zoe in danger.

As all of the dangers begin to intertwine, Zoe’s faith is shaken. She’s convinced she is being punished. Can Zoe keep everyone she loves safe? Can she figure out who her heart belongs to? And will he return her feelings? Can she believe in herself and her faith again? The answers lie in the story.

Have Faith Preview:

“Zooooooeeeeeeee” I heard a sing-song version of my name all drawn out. This must be a nightmare. Only in a nightmare would someone be singing my name in the middle of the night. Then it happened. It jumped on me. The attacking creature jumped on my back and was screaming, “WakeUpWakeUpWakeUp.” 

I jumped out of bed, throwing the attacker off of me. I landed in a karate stance. I then realized that the attacker was my best friend, and I don’t know karate. 

“Lexi, what are you doing?” I inquired. Alexis Briel has been my best friend for my entire life. She’s adorable with curly blond hair and bright blue eyes. She had dimples when she smiled, and her infectious personality could light up any room. That’s how she gets away with so much. She was outgoing and playful, often bringing me out of my shell on her coattails. In exchange, I grounded her by being quiet and reserved when the situation required a serious approach. I could see at the moment that she was playful while I was quite serious. 

“Zo, you promised we were going to start pre-work walks this morning,” she whined.

“Was that today? I thought that was next year.”

Alexis looked down her nose at me, indicating she was now the serious one. 

“Okay, okay, yes, I know,” I said, holding up my hands in defeat. “I just figured you’d have forgotten by now. 

“Zoe, we agreed three days ago,” She reminded me.

“Precisely,” I argued. 

“Come on, lady, out of your jammies and into some workout gear,” Alexis said before she smacked my backside, making me yelp.

I grabbed some leggings and a sports top, matching Alexis in style, and headed for the bathroom. Soon we had ventured out into the unknown. 

Alexis and I walked at a decent pace, me following her lead. We quickly wound up in the neighborhood next to mine, the one my dad’s company was working on. 

“Construction workers,” Alexis commented. Alexis was the only other single friend I had. She dated a lot, but she has never married. She likes to flirt. I followed Alexis to the construction workers and was too asleep to notice who the objects of her affections were. 

“Hey guys,” she called out, walking by.

Chris turned around. “Well, well, well, Zoe, could you not wait for our date next week?” 

Alexis’s jaw dropped. She smacked my arm. “You didn’t tell me about a date,” she scolded.

“Lex- it’s not a date,” I reassured. “It’s a joke,” I said, glaring at Chris.

Chris put a hand to his chest. “You wound me.” He said dramatically. 

Alexis scrunched up her nose as she giggled. She knows she’s adorable when she does that. 

“Chris, don’t make me actually hurt you,” I replied to his dramatics. 

“Feisty, I like it,” he teased. 

“It’s too early to roll my eyes this much,” I said as I turned to walk away. 

“Chris is the one I need coffee for,” I explained to Alexis when we left.

“Well, that’s fine. I was more curious about who that was behind him,” She reported. 

There was another man I didn’t recognize with Chris. Alexis certainly noticed him.

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you,” I promised.

“You’re the best,” She hugged me. 

I got home to be greeted by a very vocal Chloe, who was not at all pleased her breakfast was late. 

“I’m sorry, Chloe. That mean lady made mommy exercise this morning,” I told her. 

She turned her back and lifted her tail as she ate. She was clearly not impressed with my excuses. I ran my hand over her soft fur before heading for the shower. 

I walked into my office to see that all of the material for tomorrow’s veterans’ event was piled on my floor. I skipped around it, trying desperately not to drop my coffee as I climbed to my desk. I knew what my project was today.

After some of my daily duties, I knew it was time to start on the floor pile. 

After all that, it was lunchtime. I ran out to the store and picked up the cookies for tomorrow, grabbing myself a sub as well. I turned from the counter and ran right into Chris.

“Are you stalking me, Zoe?” He teased.

“Yes, absolutely. Take me now,” I poked back. We both laughed. 

He noticed my full cart. “Is there several bottles of wine and some chick flicks to go with all those sweets?” He asked me sarcastically.

“Ha Ha,” I responded, rolling my eyes. “They’re for an event tomorrow,” I explained. 

“Well, let me help get all that in your car,” he offered. Chris really is a good guy.

“Thanks. I’d appreciate that.” Then I remembered Alexis. “Hey, who was that with you this morning? I don’t know him.”

“Asking me about my friends Zoe? I’m hurt. You’re for me. I can’t set you up.” He said, faking dramatic pains.

I playfully smacked his arm. “Not me, you neanderthal, Lexi was asking,” I explained.

“Oh, the cute blonde out walking with you this morning?” He asked, raising his eyebrows at me.

It was my turn to cover my heart in fake pains. “Chris, I’m hurt you are admiring my friend. I thought I was the one you looked at.” 

He laughed and shook his head. “His name is James. He’s new. Seems like a good guy. I don’t know him very well yet.”

“Well, get to know him. We have a match to make.” I smiled at him. 

“Really? You want to play matchmaker?” He asked.

“Yeah, why not?” I shrugged.

“You hate anything to do with dating,” Chris reminded me.

“I do not. I just hate anything to do with me dating. Other people, I’m totally on board,” I explained. 

“Why?” He asked. “You’re a catch.”

“Well, the only one’s fishing is the ones that should be thrown back themselves,” I said. 

Chris laughed. “Okay, so you want to fix up Alexis and James?”

“Yep.” 

“How about we double?” He asked. 

“You and who?” I asked him. “It has to be someone Alexis can stand.”

Chris rolled his eyes. “How about her best friend?” 

“Are you asking me out?” I raised my eyebrow at him.

“Well, no, just as friends to set them up. Make them more comfortable. We hang out until it’s going well, and then we can take off.”

“That’s kinda genius,” I agreed.

“I know. That’s what I am,” Chris replied, clearly full of himself.

“And the moment is over,” I teased. He laughed.

The day of the event:


I woke up early, antsy to get to work. I texted Alexis and told her we would resume walking on Monday. 

I was first to arrive at the office just as I planned. I took the signs outside and set them up, then I finished the refreshment table and was available to direct traffic for the people staffing other tables. By the time Mark and Amy arrived, we were set up and ready to go. 

I took my place at the registration table. “Wow, do I even need to be here?” Mark asked. “This looks fantastic.”

“That’s what you pay me for” I smiled at him. “And yes, you need to be here; I suck at speeches.” 

Mark chuckled at me as Amy approached. “Amy, I love the pins,” I told her. She does a great job with trinkets and favors.

“Aww, thanks, Zoe,” she replied. “They fit here. The place looks great!” She praised. 

Our first group arrived. “Good morning!” I greeted. If you would please sign in to track attendance, grab a favor and check out the fair. The pastor will start the group in an hour.” I told them. They did as asked and then meandered around the event. 

Mark does a lot with the local veterans. He holds a monthly group, which he was doing today, but he wanted more participation, so we organized this fair. Today we had booths set up for all the local groups that assist them. Benefits, housing, support dogs, counseling, work opportunities, everything. This first group was all new faces, so already we have success!

I operated the table for 45 minutes until I was approached by Amy, who looked very tired of standing. “Zoe, do you want a break? I’d really like to sit,” she said. 

“Oh, Amy, absolutely! I replied. “I haven’t even checked my email yet today. I could do some work for a while.” She looked very thankful to take my chair. 

I headed to my office and fired up the computer. I have no idea how my inbox fills up overnight. Don’t people ever go home? 

I was in the middle of a response when a man entered. “I’m here to see Mark?” He said.

I looked up. Well, he was certainly new. “the pastor is getting ready to start his address. The fair is happening right across the hall there, and the meeting will be in the church in 10 minutes.” I explained.

“I don’t know anything about a meeting. I was just supposed to come here to talk to Mark,” he responded, a definite edge to his voice. What’s his problem? I wondered.

“Are you a veteran?” I asked.

“How can you tell?” He asked.

“Well, because despite all the signs and red, white and blue everywhere for the veterans’ event, I figured maybe you were called here.” I was sarcastic, but he hadn’t given off the friendliest vibe. 

The man then looked around. “Mark set me up, didn’t he?” He asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I explained. “Today, we have our monthly veteran support group and event to connect to some new faces.” 

He looked confused.

“Who told you to come by?” I asked him. 

“He did.” The man answered. 

It was like pulling teeth to see what was going on with this guy. I better catch Mark before he starts. “Sir, what is your name? I will go and find the pastor and tell him you’re here.”

“Jack,” he replied. 

“Just, Jack?” I asked. I figured he would have given his last name.

“Just Jack,” he confirmed. 

Alright then. I went into the back of the church and found Mark. “Mark, there’s a man in my office.” I started.

“It’s about time you met someone,” Mark answered. He thinks he’s funny.

“Oh my goodness no!” I reprimanded him. “A man named Jack says he is here to see you.”

“Jack is here?” Pastor Mark answered, clearly delighted with this news.

“Yessir,” I replied. 

He all but ran by me headed for my office.

“Jack!” He exclaimed. “I’m so glad to see you.” He wrapped the man in a hug.

“Good to see you too, Mark. But why am I here?” Jack replied.

“Listen, I’m hosting a meeting. How about you join us, and then we will chat after. We can do lunch! Zoe will get something ordered in.” Mark said as though I wasn’t here.

“Sure, Zoe will take care of that.” I chimed in. 

“Okay, sounds great,” Jack said. 

“Come on,” Mark said, putting his arm around Jack’s shoulders and leading him toward the fair. 

They stopped by the registration table, and Amy jumped up to wrap her arms around Jack. It was clear now he was a friend. He just hadn’t been very friendly to me. 

I announced to the banquet hall for everyone to head to the church for the meeting before returning to my office. I called the Deli and put in a lunch order before starting on a big stack of paperwork. 

I was interrupted long enough to accept lunch just as the fair was ending. I delivered it to the conference room before heading for clean up in the banquet hall. Amy asked if I would join them. It appeared Jack was shooting daggers, so I politely declined. I wonder what I did to him?

I thanked everyone who operated the other booths and made sure we had correct contact information for them before hauling in big barrels to sweep up the mess in the empty room. After putting the cleaned tables away and hauling the garbage out, I brought the registration information to my desk. I found a sandwich, macaroni salad, and a cup of fruit sitting there. I had ordered extra, unsure if anyone else would stay. I was thankful for it. 

I was munching away and entering registration information into our database when Mark appeared. “I’m sorry you didn’t have lunch with us. There was plenty of food.” He said.

“Oh, I know there was; I ordered it.” I smiled at him. I knew I was being a smart Alec, but it was okay; he’s used to it. “I wasn’t sure who was going to be staying,” I explained.

“Jack Hudson is an old friend. We served together.” Mark explained. Before taking over the church, Mark was an army Chaplin.

“I see,” I explained. “Hopefully, it was nice to have the time to catch up.” I was now glad I hadn’t interrupted his catch up time with an old friend. 

“Jack has been through a lot,” he continued. I was hoping he wouldn’t give me details. It wasn’t any of my business.

“He’s lucky to have such a good friend to guide him through to the light,” I offered.

“Well, hopefully, that can happen as he spends more time here. I hired him to do maintenance. He starts orientation with you on Monday.” Mark reported and walked away.

Fantastic.

Have Faith, along with my other books can be found on my Amazon Author page at http://www.amazon.com/author/catbanks

10 things I figured out when I learned to like myself

1. Trying to please everyone doesn’t please anyone, most of all you.

I was a healthcare social worker for 18 years. The job of the social worker is to basically tie together all of the other departments working with a patient to ensure all of their goals and needs are met. When multiple departments are involved, multiple people need things. Most often, multiple people need things right now. I did my best to try and do everything for everyone. At the end of the day nothing was completely done, everyone was mad and I was burned out. Don’t do that. Focus on the order of importance and some other people will have to wait.

The same goes for family. Every holiday was Mom’s family and Dad’s family who wanted time. Then it became the parents families of my significant others. It’s impossible to be in four places at once, no matter how many desserts are offered. Plan your schedule with what works for you and work on compromise. If someone refuses to cooperate then that is their choice. Some may be mad but they will get over it. Do not ruin your holiday trying to appease everyone else’s. Make your effort definitely, you can’t blow off your family but if someone is unreasonable and behaving badly then it is okay to choose not to interact with them.

2. It’s okay if people don’t like you

A supervisor once told me 10% of people will love you no matter what. Another 10% will hate you no matter how hard you try. Do what you can for the 80% in the middle that can go either way. Not everyone is going to have warm and fuzzy feelings toward you and that’s okay. A friend of mine was self conscious about her legs. She’s a beautiful woman but she doesn’t see herself that way all of the time. She told me it was 90 degrees out, her air conditioning was broken and she was wearing sweatpants. Our conversation went like this: “Why?” I asked her. “I don’t like the way people look at me when I go out.” she said. “What people?” I asked her. “Oh I don’t know, whoever is around” she replied. “So, strangers?” I asked. “Yes I suppose so.” Girl are you listening to yourself? “What effect does the opinion of a stranger, who you will never see again have on your life?” “None” was her answer. “Exactly. put some shorts on.” Now of course you have to follow rules of society but wear what you want, do what is right. If someone has a problem with you, that’s exactly what it is: their problem.

3. Love what you do or find a way to do what you love

Day one of social work school I will never forget the professor saying if you’re here to make money or change the world I can tell you to start off that you won’t. Pssshhhh…. that’s because no one has done it yet I thought. The professor was right. There were weeks I would sit in my house that needed repairs, stirring my hot dogs and ramen noodles and looking at my empty bank account thinking how did I get here? I would go into work and, well, see number 1. Years upon years of the same, in a job that couldn’t go anywhere wears down on a person. Now I love the field of social work, I do absolutely love solving problems, making goals, meeting varieties of people and helping people out of bad situations. Some people didn’t want to be helped. Some people blamed me for their problems, some people thought I could create a solution that doesn’t exist. It was my job, I was told. Eventually you wear out, you need a break, you burn out. I needed a break long before I was told I needed a break. Rock bottom came when I wound up in intensive care and the diagnosis list was so long the doctors couldn’t figure out how I was functioning as well as I had been. I can’t anymore. I can’t hold an office job, I can’t be available at a moment’s notice and I have my health to worry about. Writing was always my outlet. Most of my writing I never let people read. Now that I’ve been out of the workforce, I’ve been writing. I published a book. Another one comes out in a few days. People read my work and they liked it! Guess what? I love writing! Now, writing doesn’t currently pay the bills. It may never pay the bills. I am still having to file a disability application and sacrifices are being made but my stress level is mostly manageable. I still have panic attacks, I don’t like to leave my house much but now I don’t have to. Lesson learned: There is always a different path you can choose. If you’re not happy with the one you’re on, take the fork in the road.

4. Your parents were right.

Rules? I don’t need their stupid rules. When I grow up I don’t have to clean if I don’t want to, I can stay up as late as I want, I don’t have to go to school. I’m never going to treat my kids the way they treat me. I was about 25 and had lost both of them before I realized I was in way over my head and should have listened. There’s so many things I do today that I wished I had learned more from them. Managing money, cooking, deep cleaning, self care, the list goes on and on. Bottom line: no matter how old you are, you still need Mom and Dad in whatever shape they may come in: single parents, two moms, two dads whatever. Remember them, talk to them if they’re still here and most importantly learn from them.

5. Living for anyone but you is not living

Your. life. cannot. revolve. around. other. people. the end.

6. just because you were trained to do it, doesn’t mean you have to.

I graduated college in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. I did that job for 18 years, I physically can’t anymore. Sometimes I feel my degree was a waste but in reality it has helped me in so many other areas. Just because I have a social work degree, doesn’t mean I have to be a social worker. I learned how to actively and passively listen, I learned how to pick out what someone is telling me and make sure I understand it correctly, I learned empathy and how to think outside the box. These skills are things many people lack yet come in handy every day. They also help to create characters, enabling me to get inside of a character, to feel what they would feel and to solve problems. The fact that I wrote the problem into existence in the first place is beside the point.

7. Don’t work too hard, your dog misses you

Once upon a time I lived alone. Not completely alone, My dog Daffy was there. Daffy is my best friend. We walked every morning. I went to work. She got crazy hyper when I came home, we played in the yard, we played with toys and then we cuddled in bed when it was time to go to sleep. My hours became later and later. I couldn’t say my work load was unrealistic, it all had to be done. My hours got longer and longer. I was too tired when I got home. I did a deep clean one weekend and found all of Daffy’s toys under my bed. She’d been trying to play with me for goodness knows how long and I had been too tired. Go home on time. See your family. Play with your dog. Remember what they say, dogs are part of our life but to them we are their whole life. Dogs deserve good lives full of fun with their owners.

8. Want what you need. Needing what you want is bonus.

We as a culture like stuff. We like buying a lot of stuff. There are certain things that we need. We need nutritious food and water, decent shelter, clothing, ways to get places etc. Everything else is bonus. Learn to live within your budget. Save for a rainy day. be happy when you are able to acquire everything you need. When there is extra money for things you want then splurge but learn to distinguish between need and want in your budget. You don’t have to impress anyone with the latest anything. You need to make yourself comfortable.

9. Ask for help

Asking for help is sooooo hard. We feel weak, we feel we should have handled things ourselves. We hate these feelings. Sometimes everything is too much, or we don’t understand. Maybe we’re not strong enough. Maybe it’s addiction, mental illness, Whatever the case may be, a job needing more people is better than a job not getting done. When the task at hand is too much, seek help, if you don’t get it, seek from another source.

10. Be led by leaders, if you can’t find one, be one.

Jobs have a hierarchy system. There’s a boss, there’s managers, there’s employees. That boss is appointed in their position to lead. Managers help the boss do that. Sometimes, we got stuck. Your boss needs to be the person you can go to and say ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘I need help.’ A leader will help you through whatever situation you are in. Help you to figure it out and point you in the right direction. Have you ever had a boss that told you to figure it out yourself when you sought help? Or how about “I’m not doing your work for you.” What about a co-worker that vents to you because they have been to the boss and gotten that reaction. How about community projects? Ever show up to the church rummage sale and find everyone running around like chickens? Leaders create order. They get things done and give assignments to others in order to make that happen. If you leader is not leading you, be the leader that’s needed.

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have had poor self esteem for as long as I can remember. A lot of people in my life have taken advantage of that, some still do. I still have a long way to go to figure myself out and I may never do that, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. Never be afraid to change something you’re unhappy with. You deserve more.

To check out my books see my amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/author/catbanks

Milestones

Random Facebook meme

Today is significant to me. It’s the last day of my 30’s. Sunday celebrates the big 4-0. I don’t write this with expectations of happy birthday hoopla, quite the opposite actually.

I never wanted to turn 30. In fact up until recently (about 10 minutes ago) if you asked me how old I am, I would tell you I’ve been 29 for quite some time now. I spent a decade of telling people it was not my birthday, it was my anniversary. I’d answer their puzzled looks by explaining it was another anniversary of my 29th birthday. After all, if my grandfather could be 29 for 40 some years, why can’t I?

There won’t be a celebration. My family is far away, we couldn’t get together anyway. Stupid Covid. I will spend the day in quiet self reflection. There’s a lot on my mind.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer in December of 1993. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I came home from school all excited for the magic of Christmas and found everyone crying. “Don’t worry” she told me. She assured me she’d beat it. I don’t think she said that for my benefit. I believe she thought she could. She passed away the following June. She had just turned 40 in May.

To say I feel there is a significance of turning the same age my mom was when she died would be an understatement, particularly now. I have been struggling for the last eight months for saying the words “I’m disabled.” The last several years I did my best to pretend everything was okay. I had to, people needed me. In January I wound up in the hospital and a long diagnosis list was discovered. There was no pretending anymore.

I often compare myself to my mom. She’s always been my hero. Mom always had a full plate balancing a demanding career and running a house with a chronically ill husband and daughter. She also did a lot of community involvement with agencies such as Wisconsin women entrepreneurs, Catholic junior league, being active in our church, regularly seeing her girlfriends and keeping everything organized with our extended families. I also think about how mom always strived to be better, to do good, to be an amazing wife, mother, daughter, friend and career woman. She had a teaching degree but went to a much different career in the insurance field.

Mom kept everything together. Everyone got where they needed to go. She always knew what was happening with everyone. Meals were on time, snacks were on time, she attended games, dance recitals, piano lessons and recitals, work parties all with a smile on her face. I never got the impression she was stressed. I only remember seeing her cry once and I don’t remember my parents ever fighting.

I always thought of my mom as an adult. I still consider myself a child. When I compare myself to my mom I never seem to measure up. I always thought one day I’d be an adult and I’d do everything she did. Now I’m her age. I’m turning the age she made it to. I’m as old as she was when I considered her to be an adult and I wonder if she ever felt like I do now. Did she know she had everything figured out as I saw it? Or perhaps she was as lost as I am now and trying to make it.

Failed relationships and a joke of a marriage under my belt I don’t have a partner. I was advised at a young age to not attempt to bring children into the world due to the severity of my illness. No family of my own was ever to be had. I had a career that I had to leave due to the progression of my illness. I’ve had limited community and church involvement but none of it recently due to Covid and my poor compromised immune system not to mention my constant movement limiting pain.

8 months I’ve been preparing for this time. 8 months I’ve thought constantly about turning 40 in my debilitated condition. 8 months I’ve gone to and come back from some pretty dark places but that’s just it, I’ve come back.

There’s one thing I have on my side: I am my mother’s daughter. I think of her everyday and ask what she would do or what she would advise me to do. The answer is always the same. I hear her in my head saying “keep going.”

I’ve spent my life trying to live up to my mom but I’m not her, I’m me. I need to learn to take my own path, make my own mistakes and gain my own accomplishments. That’s what Mom would want for me. Life is a constant battle of figuring stuff out. Figuring out what makes you happy and what doesn’t should be a daily question as is how do I change the Doesn’t into does?

Most recently I’ve asked myself what do I do with the rest of my life? I won’t be at a 9-5, I can’t manage that anymore. The answer so far has been writing. In the last 3 months I’ve started this blog, published several articles/stories on platforms such as Wattpad, medium and vocal, written two books and self published one. (Spoiler alert: a new book will be out in September). I often questioned whether mom would approve of my books as some material is for those of the adult age but she spent enough time with her nose in a book with a cover featuring Fabio so I think it’s okay. I’m also continuing my Etsy shop with not only creating but using my writing to promote. I’d like to one day be able to promote myself as writer for hire assisting others with the same services.

Turning 40, I have no idea how much time is left. It may be a month as mom had or it may be 100 years. meanwhile I’ll spend every day keeping on and collecting feathers.

I can be found here:

Wattpad: mandacat80

Counting Feathers

Taken from Pinterest

We are now up to 2 feathers. Initially, I had a dream in which a feather appeared. It came alongside a meal with my deceased parents where we had a conversation about life changes. That’s when I decided to write a book.

Since taking on the writing task, I assumed what I suppose many do and that’s I write things, people read them, they like them they want to read more and so on. I wrote, I published, I wrote more and believe it or not I’m not famous.

I started job searching. Obviously this writing business isn’t a get rich quick deal and my savings will only last so long. I couldn’t do any of the jobs listed. They all want committed schedules and time in front of a desk, even if it is at home. My body doesn’t function like that anymore. I can stand up long enough to brew a cup of coffee and perhaps make myself a sandwich. After that my entire lower body is trembling in pain and spasms. I have to sit down. On the way to the chair my left knee gives a shooting pain and won’t hold weight. I grab the furniture and eventually sit down. The feeling of relief I get sitting down is better than org—- never mind.

I can sit down for a couple hours. First my back locks up. Then my hips throb eventually the pain shoots down and my feet are on fire. When I look down they’re swollen and my slippers don’t fit anymore. Time to lay down. I hobble to my bedroom and stretch out on my bed. I feel like I’m laying on a cloud. I run through my physical therapy home exercise program to stretch out my joints and then prop my swollen piggies on the wedge cushion at the end of my bed. I can lay here about an hour or so before restless leg kicks in and I have to get up. This is my cycle. This is my all day every day 24/7. I don’t sleep, I can’t get things done and most importantly I can’t make a living.

What I can do is write. I write on my phone, I write on my laptop and since they’re both Apple products they talk to each other and save all my stuff.

Here’s where the feather appears: a couple of weeks ago is when my freak out started, I needed to know where more money was coming from. My anxiety hit an all time high and I couldn’t even see through my own fear to problem solve a solution. I woke up one morning, sat up in bed, stretched and ran my hands threw my long hair. I felt something funny and went instant ninja flailing to get the offender off of my head. A fluffy white feather floated to the floor. I left it there and later that day forgot and swept my floor. I have mastered the art of chair sweeping. It’s not at all as effective as standing and sweeping but it’s what I can do.

After the garbage went out I thought about that feather. Where did it come from? I had swam the afternoon before. I then took a shower and spent a good 15 minutes conditioning and detangling my hair with a wide tooth comb. Then I went to bed. None of my bedding is down, so how’d I get a feather in my hair?

According to the diagram above, an angel came to see me and let me know they were here. They let me know to remember my Savior and trust in the powers above and I will see my path, just as the first feather did.

Since that time, I’ve been in touch with a law firm about filing for social security disability. I don’t want to do this. I hate the thought of saying I’m disabled at 39 years old when for the last 18 years I said I’m a social worker. I don’t have a choice.

After the shenanigans my long term disability insurance pulled, this is my only shot at income, at least until I become the next Danielle Steele.

Pet ownership: how adopting a furry family member improves life

Daffy was a stray. The dog catcher picked her up from the Target parking lot and took her to dog jail. My ex husband and I had recently taken in his daughter, age 5, full time as her mother was having some issues. I said no dogs. I had just lost Haley, my best furry friend of 9 years to a seizure disorder. No more dogs can’t do it.

Well, men don’t listen. Father and daughter went to the humane society and sprung young adult Daffy from jail. Once I got home from work Daffy crawled in my lap and there she stayed “but I said no dogs” I kept repeating over and over. I was shown her paperwork and noticed she had been picked up on 3/11, Haley’s birthday. “Ok this dog” I said. 

Daffy and I bonded. She ran zoomies like crazy everytime I came home. The ex was jealous because she didn’t do it for him. She was my dog. 

Fast forward a year the marriage broke up. An unfortunate event happened in which I required police assistance to safely leave my house. Daffy was my dog but she technically was not my dog she was adopted for the little girl. The girl was taken to live with her grandparents and I started receiving voice mails saying Daffy would be harmed if I did not come home. I played the messages for my lawyer who played them for a judge and I was given my house back and had “legal custody” of Daffy. She was officially my dog.

Daffy moved with me from Maryland to Massachusetts and then on to Florida. She saw a few boyfriends come and go and stayed by my side through it all. 

I was diagnosed a type one diabetic when I was four years old. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. One night Daffy crawled in bed with me, which isn’t abnormal but kicking me until I woke up was. I quickly realized the problem; my bloodsugar was 35. My goal bloodsugar is 120. I was able to find myself something to eat and Daffy stayed right with me until I was safe to go back to sleep. Not only has she done this numerous times since then but she has also thought my big dog and my cat how to sense changes in me because they have both alerted me as well. I wouldn’t be here today without Daffy, she is my hero. 

Daffy did an important job besides taking care of me. I worked in nursing homes as a social service worker for 18 years. At my last home, Daffy proudly went to work with me on Fridays. While there we would make our rounds and find anyone that needed a cuddle. Daffy would crawl in bed and snuggle residents who were ill, or sometimes she would just stand still and be pet. Suddenly everyone developed memory of her name, knew what day of the week Friday was and I went from the evil lady who says it’s not safe to discharge to the lovable dog lady. Soon enough residents were asking their families to bring pets in for visits or pictures of their favorite furry friends to share with me. They told me hunting stories and road trip stories and sitting on the porch with your dog at your feet stories. 

As fun as that was my favorite part of Friday was watching our residents with dementia interact with her. Some residents in the very late stages of the disease who needed physical help for everything would track her in the hallway with their eyes. I would pull up a chair next to them with Daffy in my lap and they would allow me to take their hands and put them on her. I would notice a slight smile creep across their face. 

One particular resident had a form of dementia where she would wheel herself around and make random noises. None of the words were sensical, until she saw Daffy. She wheeled right up to her and said “hi baby I love you, you need a treat” I offered the woman a treat to give her but when I attempted interaction she went on her merry way down the walkway making noises. 

My favorite was a woman who stopped by the office on her way back from lunch. Daffy has just gone outside and did her business and was settled on her blanket for a nap. The woman kept calling her until I explained she’d had a busy morning she was an old dog she needed a nap. “How old is she?” The woman inquired. I responded that she was, at the time, 12. “12?” She repeated, “that’s not old. I’m 85 and I don’t need a nap!” That gave me a chuckle but alas Daffy was not to be disturbed. 

Daffy and I celebrated her thirteenth gotcha day in March making her at least 14 years old. She retired from her Friday job a year ago as she couldn’t handle it anymore and I could tell it no longer brought her joy. She slowed down quite a bit. I got her a pink fishy life jacket and she enjoys floating in the pool to soak her old bones. 

Daffy’s vision may be poor, she may be slow to move, she does occasionally have accidents and the signs of doggy dementia come and go. I don’t know how much time I have left with my best friend but her heart is strong, she still loves to cuddle, the tail still wags and kisses are plentiful. As long as her sparkle is still there, we give extra effort for the rest. 

I may have said ‘no more dogs’ once upon a time but my Haley dog knew better. Who better to recommend your best friend than your guardian angel?

Living in an anxious mind

Courtesy of Pinterest


Mental health is a topic that has come to light more than ever in the last few years. While the resources potentially needed may not yet be in place, acknowledgement that mental illness exists is a big leap.

One of the most common mental illnesses is anxiety and is something that plagues me daily.

Anxiety is defined by the Mayo Clinic as intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. This definition may sound like stress which is a normal reaction to many situations. The difference is anxiety interferes with everyday life.

Anxiety is something that has plagued me my entire life. I’ve always had poor self esteem and often interacting with other people was a terrifying situation due to fear of rejection. Most often I’d rather keep solitary than be with friends because I’m not good enough and if I try to make friends I’ll be rejected and that’s embarrassing.

I do know that isn’t true and I do have a few friends but that’s what it’s like to be in my head: you’re not good enough and they won’t like you.

Fast forward into career mode. I can’t write my own resume. I sat down with a professional resume writer who asked me what I was skilled in. I stared at him blankly. I’m not “skilled” in anything I thought. He had to pick apart questions from what are my skills? Which was overwhelming to what am I good at? To which I answered nothing. Finally we moved on to what do I know how to do. Hooray! A question I could answer. Listing my “skills” to me felt like bragging and what if someone says I’m not good at something? Then I’m a liar. Again, not at all the case, I do have talents but my brain tells me I don’t.

Over my 18 years in social work I’ve had several bosses. I have switched jobs a few times as have bosses I have worked for. In my experience there have been two types of bosses: ones that thank you and praise the work you do making you want to do more and those that no matter how hard you work it’s not enough making you work to try to please them. There were times that I was highly complimented and I could do no wrong and there were times where I could do no right. I underwent public humiliation, had my peers come to me informing me my superior complained to them about my job performance, I’ve had write ups for not doing things I’m not legally able to do and I’ve had witnesses to these acts tell me I should sue. I’m not singling out any employer as it’s happened on more than one occasion. I’m also not saying I had bad bosses as each boss was an excellent leader, their style just was not effective for me. I would skip meal breaks to work, let my insulin pump run empty because now wasn’t a convenient time to change it, stayed overnight at work to accomplish huge tasks I’d been given with minimal deadlines. I worked myself until I was physically unable to work anymore and on more than one occasion wound up in the hospital because everyone else was more important than my own health. Even then I answered messages from my hospital bed because the show must go on. My brain tells me everyone else is more important than me, they matter more than I do. Truth is, I matter too. I know that I matter yet my brain tells me I don’t.

Dating with anxiety is an adventure. Many I have chased away when they have confessed feelings yet I thought they were joking. Some actually became angry at me. My track record of relationships has been those who have struggled in life. A list of men with substance abuse problems, inability to hold a job, co-dependent on me for survival and unfortunately a couple of times abusive. Money went missing, other girls appeared, there was trouble with law enforcement all because my anxious brain says latch on to who shows me interest even though that interest is in what I can offer rather than who I am. This concept I am still working on. Stable people are friend zoned because I feel they will reject me otherwise while if I dare to proceed elsewhere I quickly sabotage it. I’m told confidence is sexy however I live in awkward.

At one time joining a convent was a serious consideration so I could avoid the whole topic all together.

Now comes the biggest cause of my anxiety. I was diagnosed a type 1 diabetic right before I turned 4. Over 30 years of self neglect from anyone with a debilitating chronic illness and bad things will happen. My lab levels are a mess, my kidneys are working at just 38% capacity making it difficult to flush my system, my arteries are narrowed so I cannot effectively pump blood through my system. These two things mean I’m carrying an extraordinary amount of fluid. My legs swell and sometimes leak. My left lower leg is quite painful always from a bad bout of cellulitis while neuropathy has taken over my right thigh. I have severe obstructive sleep apnea but good luck finding a mask for my C-Pap that doesnt cause a panic attack. I’m told I have asthmatic bronchitis along with the fluid overload so I become winded very easy. I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease in my spine hips and knees. Something in my lower back is out of place and suspicion of some significant nerve compression means I hurt. I hurt a lot and it’s constant. I can’t walk any form of distance and I require frequent position changes through the day. I go from standing a very short while to needing to sit to relieve pressure on my joints to having to lay down and stretch because my joints lock up and my muscles seize. That’s what it’s like to live in my physical body, now my brain has to compute all that. I must fight for improvement while accepting reality this may be it and that’s terrifying.

Each of these aspects have been enough to greatly contribute to my anxiety but fact of the matter is it was there to begin with. I have irrational fears of odd things. I don’t leave my dogs outside in the fenced yard for long because bad things could happen if I’m not watching and I prepare for the apocalypse every time I leave my house. I don’t leave if it looks like rain and most often I just make excuses to not leave anyway.

I have horrible insomnia for the strangest reasons. Example: my cat catching a mouse and being afraid he would bring one to me in my sleep. Sleep offers the unknown and I don’t like the unknown.

Now, a lot of what I’m describing is a fair amount of depression for which I’m also medicated. the combination tends to go hand in hand but the anxiety is what keeps me hindered. I just always anticipate the worst and have to talk myself into better scenarios.

I’m on medication, I’ve used meditation, I put trust in the power of prayer. I have lavender essential oil rollers, several mineral stones handpicked by someone who knows what they mean, my pillow is sprayed with a calming scent. It’s not for lack of effort. Just, in my brain I have to talk myself out of worst case scenario and try to take a chance to live. It’s all exhausting.

I hope I’ve provided some clarity on your friend/ family/ coworker who suffers from anxiety. Although you’d like us to “chill out” and don’t get why we won’t now just know it’s not that we won’t, it’s that we can’t.