Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 11

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Chapter 11

Judi had vowed not to ask Ben any more about his daughter. Her brutal curiosity about the personal lives of others was a flaw she’d told herself she would work on when she left the city.

After their conversation, she’d managed to get the letter typed, despite almost forgetting how to, since she hadn’t typed more than a text since her high school business class. He’d thanked her for her help and then told her she could go home early. He had a headache, he’d said.

While she previously would have simply skipped out of the office, excited to head off to a club or a party, she found herself fighting mixed emotions. One of those emotions was depression over the fact she really had nowhere to go except back to her apartment. The other emotion was guilt. If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t be dealing with these reoccurring headaches, and he’d probably be able to drive to his daughter’s birthday party.

She really hadn’t seen him coming that day on the road, but, well, she had sort of glided through the stop sign. She wouldn’t have glided if she had seen him buzzing down the road toward her, however. It wasn’t like he was completely innocent either. He had been driving much faster than he should have been.

Standing by her car, her thumb on the unlock button on the key fob, she sighed and hesitated. Ben had been nice enough to give her a job, which though part time, had helped her not have to be at Lonny’s as often. He seemed to be going through a rough patch, and like her was trying to keep himself clean and sober.

She didn’t want to go back to drinking and she had a feeling he didn’t either. Maybe she should make sure he was okay, lift some pressure from his shoulders a little.

He visibly jumped from where he was standing at the filing cabinets behind her desk when she walked back in. “I thought you were heading out.”

“I was, but I thought I should check on you.”

Ben eyed her with what she felt was suspicion, though she couldn’t be sure since he often looked suspicious, which she imagined was because he was a lawyer.

“Uh. Okay. Well, I’m fine.”

“You say you’re fine, but you’ve had a lot going on. I mean, you’ve got brain damage and —”

“Brain swelling, Judi. A concussion. Would you stop saying I have brain damage?”

“Right. Anyhow, you’ve got that and now you can’t go to your daughter’s birthday party. and I feel like that’s my fault even though I totally didn’t see you coming that day.”

“I’ve told you already that I’m not upset about the accident any — wait.” Ben’s brows dipped and he placed his hands on his hips. Judi wasn’t sure what that pose meant but she didn’t think it could be good. “Were you listening in to my conversation?”

Oh. Right. She wasn’t supposed to know about the party.

She grimaced, closing her eyes. “Well, not exactly.” She slowly opened one eye to spy on the angry expression his face was now featuring. “Okay, so here is the thing — when I transferred Mr. Phillipi, I accidentally hit the speaker button. Then I was afraid to push it back off in case it beeped, and you thought I was listening in, but then I realized I was actually listening in so I shut it off, but before I did I heard something about a party.”

His expression relaxed slightly, but the suspicion had returned. “And you assumed it was a party for Amelia?”

“Yeah, if Amelia is your daughter’s name.” She waited for him to respond, but he didn’t. He simply stood there looking at her as if he was waiting for her to continue. “Soooo…is it a party for her?”

Ben folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against her desk. “It is. But as you heard, I can’t attend it because of the concussion.”

“Right.” Judi took a deep breath and stepped toward him. “That’s why I was thinking that maybe I could drive you to the party.”

Ben held a hand up. “Judi, no. Thank you, but no.”

“Why not? I promise I’ll be careful and drive better than usual.”

“It’s a four-hour drive for one thing.”

“So? I drove all the way here from the city. I know how to drive long distances.”

Ben sighed and shook his head as he turned toward his office. “Listen, I appreciate the offer, but I already told Adam I couldn’t make it, so it’s fine.” He shut his briefcase, picked it up, and shut the light off on his way out. “I sent him a check for her gift, so she’ll have something from me.”

“But don’t you want to see her?”

She knew as soon as she asked it, she shouldn’t have. Ben’s expression darkened as he walked toward the front door. “It isn’t that I don’t want to see her. It’s that Angie doesn’t want me to see her. Angie doesn’t want anything to do with me.” He pushed the door open and waited for her to walk through, then turned and locked it after she stepped out onto the sidewalk. “In fact, Angie specifically asked me not to be there.”

“Oh.”

She didn’t know what else to say, other than, “I’m sorry. Again. I seem to have this compulsion to ask too many questions and stick my nose way too far into other people’s business.” She shrugged her shoulders in a quick motion.

Ben pushed a hand back through his hair and held it there for a few seconds. “I really do appreciate you wanting to help. I know you mean well.”

Judi nodded and told him she’d see him tomorrow. In her car, she sat for a few minutes before pulling out to start the 20-minute drive home. Ben had said he didn’t want her help and maybe he didn’t, but she felt like he needed it. He needed someone to light a fire under him and get his life back in order.

He was going to regret not getting to know his daughter. Judi wasn’t even sure she wanted a family someday, but Ben? He seemed like the kind of guy who would fit into that kind of life. What he needed was a push in the right direction and if there was anything she liked, it was pushing people around.

***

Ben woke with a start. What time was it? The sun told him it was way past when he normally woke up. He fumbled for his alarm clock, squinted at it and groaned. 8:45. He should have been up an hour and a half ago. It was Judi’s day off and he should have been in to answer phones and — Wait. No. He rubbed a hand through his hair.

It wasn’t Friday. He’d already worked through Judi’s day off.

He fell back on the bed and squeezed his eyes shut against the sunlight. It was Saturday. He didn’t have to answer any phones, meet any clients, or even go anywhere. He pulled his feet up onto the bed and slid them under the covers, ready to go back to bed and ignore the buzz in his head from the sleep still lingering there.

Ten minutes later, though, he was woken up again with a crisp knock on his front door. He peeked an eye open and closed it again. Whoever it was would get the message and go away when he didn’t respond.

Two minutes later, there was another knock.

No way. He was not climbing out of his bed. The headache he’d had the night before had faded to a dull ache, but he still felt like he could sleep for another eight hours.

Four solid, louder knocks later, he finally crawled out of the bed and stumbled through the doorway of his bedroom, through the living room and to the front door. He propped his head against the wall next to the door and took a deep breath to try wake himself up before he opened the door.

When he opened it he wanted to close it again, but Judi was too quick. She breezed past him with two cups of coffee in a holder and a brown paper bag.

“Good morning!” she chirped cheerfully while he stood watching her with half open eyes.

“Yes. It’s morning. Good? Well, it was good before you woke me up.”

She sat the coffees and bag on the table and turned toward him. “Ooh. I thought you were a morning person. I guess not.”

He closed the door and staggered toward the kitchen table, flopping down into a chair and resting his head on the top of the table. “What are you doing here?” He lifted his head quickly. “Not only what are you doing here, but how did you find me?”

Judi popped the lid off her coffee and poured in creamer she pulled from the bag. She stirred it with a small stir stick. “Seriously? Burkett isn’t much bigger than Spencer. I asked around.” She sipped the coffee. “So what day is that birthday party?”

Ben rubbed a hand across his face. “Today. Why?”

“What time?”

“3 p.m. Why?”

Judi pulled a donut from the bag and bit into it. “Because deep down you want to be there and you want me to drive you.” She spoke around a mouthful of donut.

“No. Deep down I want for you to get out of my apartment so I can go back to sleep.”

Judi pulled the coffee from the carrier and set it down in front of him. “I’m going to drive you down to your daughter’s party.”

“I already told you I’m not going.”

“It’s 9:30. If you hurry up and get dressed, we can totally make it.”

Ben took the lid off the coffee and stood. He walked to the refrigerator and reached in for a bottle of creamer. “No way. I am not going anywhere with you. You’re a horrible driver.”

“Excuse me?” Judi scoffed, brushing donut crumbs off her hands. “I am not a horrible driver. That was a total accident, you know that.”

“Judi.” Ben poured the creamer in the coffee and sat back down at the table. “Go home.”

“Aren’t you going to stir that?”

Ben propped his chin on his hand and sipped the coffee. “I’m too tired to stir.”

Judi placed her hands on her hips. “You could have died in that accident you know.”

He quirked an eyebrow as he looked up at her. “I don’t know about that, but the doctor did say I could be learning to walk and talk again right now.” He sat back in the chair and folded his arms across his chest. “Thanks to you.”

“Didn’t you also say something about that doctor saying this was your second chance at life?”

Ben reached for the donut and broke it in half. “It’s strange you can remember all the things the doctor told me when you can’t remember to bring me files that I ask for or to finish typing up letters I need to send out.”

Judi sat at the table across from him. “Ben, you’re going to regret not getting to know your daughter.”

Ben shoved the half of donut in his mouth and stood, walking back toward the counter. “Go home, Judi.” He reached for a cup in a cupboard by the fridge and poured himself a glass of milk. “Thanks for the coffee and donuts, but, seriously, go home.”

“You need to go see your little girl. Don’t throw this opportunity away.”

“Judi!” Ben turned with the glass of milk in his hand. “This isn’t any of your business. I am asking you to —

“I want to help you, Ben. When I stopped drinking, I said I wanted to be a better person and this is one way I can be a better person. I can help you get your life back on track. My life is a disaster. I don’t have any friends left. My sister treats me like a lost puppy or one of her preschool students. My parents call me several times a day to make sure I haven’t fallen off the wagon. I’m pretty sure my sponsor thinks I’m already back on the bottle.”

Ben held a hand up. “I’m sorry your life is so messed up, but my life is fine, and I want to leave it that way.”

Judi huffed out an exasperated sigh. “But your life isn’t fine! You don’t have anything to do with the little girl you helped bring into the world and one day you’re going to regret it. I don’t want to live with regrets anymore. Do you?” She stood and stepped toward him. “You have a second chance to make things right, even if it is just —”

“Angie doesn’t want me involved in her life or our daughter’s life.” Ben hated how sharp his voice came out. He knew Judi was only trying to help and she was right, he didn’t want to have anymore regrets, but still  — He softened his voice. “I can’t just force myself into a situation she’s told me she doesn’t want me involved in.” He stepped back to the table and sat down and drank the rest of the milk. “Thank you for trying to help. Really. But I need to respect Angie’s wishes.”

Judi sat down with a heavy sigh and picked up the cup of coffee. “I thought you had some fight in you Ben Oliver.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Apparently, that’s not the case.”

Ben wasn’t about to tell Judi that he’d already had another phone call from Adam, asking him if he would reconsider coming to the party. Luckily the call had gone to his voicemail, and he hadn’t had to tell the man, again, he wasn’t going to come.

There had been something in Adam’s voice though. Something that made Ben think maybe he should take Judi up on her offer. A sudden thought made Ben’s stomach tighten. What if that “something” was related to Amelia. What if she was sick? Maybe Adam and Leona wanted to talk to him about that. Or what if it was Angie? Could something be wrong with Angie?

He raked a hand through his hair and growled softly. “Fine. I’ll go.”

Judi looked up from her coffee, startled. “Really?”

Ben shook his head as he walked toward his bedroom. “Yes, really. I’ll take a shower, get dressed and we’ll go.”

He couldn’t believe he was doing this and Judi’s squeal from his kitchen sent an annoyed shiver crawling up his spine. He had no idea how Angie was going to react to this visit, but he had a feeling it wasn’t going to be positive.

Book recommendation: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. A story of loving food, working in restaurants, and traveling the world.

Reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain was bittersweet because no matter what the ending of the book was, I already knew the ultimate ending of Bourdain’s story was not happy. The ending of his life, unlike the ending of this book, was not a look into what the future might hold for him. Instead, Bourdain’s future, sadly, stopped being something for him to look forward to when he committed suicide in 2018.

Maybe this is why I felt such sadness when I hit the end of the book. Not only were the fun stories now over, but I had to remember that Bourdain’s life is too. While reading the book, I could easily forget that he was no longer here to create more adventures for us to read about or watch on one of his many travel shows. He was alive in those pages, in his early days of cooking, in those first restaurants he worked in and learned his craft and fell in love with food in.  

This was Bourdain’s first non-fiction book and broke his career wide open. I read it in sections with a lot of breaks in between, not because it was boring, but because it was full of technical restaurant and foodie jargon that was sometimes a bit overwhelming but also very interesting. I was also distracted by a couple of other books during that time because sometimes I have book ADD and because there were times while I was reading it that I was in the mood for fiction rather than non-fiction.

If you are looking for a clean, polished view of the restaurant industry then this is not the book for you. This is a book that details sordid behind-the-scenes looks at what happens in the kitchens of some of the best, and worst, restaurants in the United States. It is not clean by any means, with plenty of swear words (but not so many your head spins, with the exception of one chapter, which I skipped because it was simply a liturgy of all the horrible things chefs and their staff say to, and call, each other, complete with all the four-letter words they use), several stories of eye widening debauchery, and plenty of references to drug use by Bourdain and many others. Thankfully, Bourdain had his drug abuse under control, other than alcohol, before this book was published and maybe before it was even written.

In Kitchen Confidential Bourdain writes about the many characters he worked with in the industry over the years, including those who eventually would serve as his sous chef (assistants), as well as the ins and outs of running a fine-dining, high-end restaurant. The book isn’t all memoir, however. He also has a section for those who want to know how to cook better at home and what tools they need to do so. Equally interesting is an entire section on why he loves food and what eating it and cooking it means to him. To him food itself, not only the act of creating with it, was (is) art.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:  

“Only one in four has a chance at making it…. And right there, I knew that if one of us was getting off dope, and staying off dope, it was going to be me. I was going to live. I was the guy.”

“Eric Ripert won’t be calling me for ideas on tomorrow’s fish special. But I’m simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I’ve seen it.” (I like this quote because in the end Eric and he became very close friends. So close, it was Eric who found him in his hotel room after he hung himself.)

“We are, after all, citizens of the world – a world filled with bacteria, some friendly, some not so friendly. Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Senor Tamale Stand Owner, Sushi-chef-san, Monsieur Bucket-head. What’s that feathered game bird, hanging on the porch, getting riper by the day, the body nearly ready to drop off? I want some.”

From his list of restaurant tips for consumers: “I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn’t a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinals or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.”

And: “If the restaurant is clean, the cooks and the waiters well groomed, the dining room busy, everyone seems to actually care about what they’re doing — not just trying to pick up a few extra bucks between headshots and auditions for Days of Our Lives, chances are you are in for a decent meal. The owner, chef, and a bored-looking waiter sitting at the front table chatting about soccer scores? Plumber walking through the dining room with a toilet snake? Bad signs.”

I loved this part about vegans: Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.  Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”

“Lying in bed and smoking my sixth or seventh cigarette of the morning, I’m wondering what the hell I’m going to do today. Oh yeah, I gotta write this thing. But that’s not work, really, is it? It feels somehow shifty and . . . dishonest, making a buck writing.”

The book ends with final words that choked me up, because life came at Bourdain fast after this book thanks to his wit, great writing, and talent at inspiring people to want to know more about food and culture.

“I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Where Bourdain thought he’d be when all was said and done wasn’t where he ended up when it really was all said and done. When he wrote the end of that book, he thought he’d be still on the line at the restaurant, still happy being there and maybe he would have been happy if he’d never left. Maybe he wouldn’t have been consumed by loneliness, depression, and a sense of detachment from those he loved. If he’d been home more, grounded either in his work or his family, maybe  . . . But who knows really.

Maybe his end still would have come the way it did, not with a bang like the kicking off of a career where he wrote about the culinary arts like in Kitchen Confidential but with a sad, heartbroken whimper not worthy of the full life he’d lived.

Sunday Bookends: Crazy week in so many ways

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing, and listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

Last week was one of the busiest weeks I’ve had in a very long time. For that reason, I am writing this while barely awake. What do you mean all my posts sound like I’m barely awake when I write them? Well, anyhow. . . The busy week started Sunday when we headed 40 minutes away to see Top Gun: Maverick for me and The Boy and one of his friends, and the Minions movie for The Husband, Little Miss, and some of her friends (and those friends’ dad and brother.). I went despite the fact I’d only had about four hours of sleep the night before. Maybe the day was so fun because I was barely awake. I’m not sure.

Because Minions ended before Top Gun, The Husband and the father of Little Miss’s friends took the other children to a park and playground across town. The Husband came back to pick us up and when he did the boys and I were outside the theater and I was looking through the Little Library they had by the front doors. I had just discovered there was another row behind the first row (It was bigger on the inside!) and had three books in the crook of my arm when he pulled up in the middle of the street and called, “Get in quick!” and grinned like he was driving a get away car. I bet he always wanted to do that.

I had to hurry and slide the safety pin back into the door latch to hold the door closed and take off with the books like I was some kind of thief before a car came up behind him. It was both humorous and sad. I escaped with two hard-cover Robert Galbraith books and a Robert Parker book. I felt horrible because the sign on the little library door said “take a book, leave a book.” I didn’t have a book to leave, but The Husband said he would take three down to replace the next time he has to go to a meeting in the town for work.

And then, when we went back to the park to play a little longer and pick up Little Miss, he snatched another book out of another Little Library. So now we owe the town four books. Sigh.

On Monday we went to my parents to spend the Fourth with them. All four of my immediate family jumped in the pool together, which is unusual. Usually, Little Miss and I are the ones who go in the pool and sometimes The Boy. This time we were all in and it was a lot of fun, even though The Boy ripped a hole in one of his toes, and a couple of days later we thought it was infected.

The Boy was also dealing with a horrific sore throat from the Thursday before until Tuesday when it disappeared right before we took him to the doctor to see if he might have an infection of some kind. On the Fourth he couldn’t even eat because swallowing was too painful.

This is the third time I have taken one of my children to the local doctor only to have their symptoms disappear the day I take them and be told there is nothing wrong with them. I’m beginning to worry this local doctor thinks I’m crazy, but this time it was The Boy who insisted on going because the pain had been so bad.

I was hoping for a break on Wednesday, but then I was reminded the local firemen’s carnival was being held almost two months earlier than normal because of a change in ride vendors. This is the largest fundraiser of the year for the small, volunteer fire department in the town my husband works in, and I went to school in. My friends and I traditionally attended this carnival every, or almost every, year when I was growing up. I’ll probably share a blog post later this week with some stories about our trips there.

There is a huge parade held on the first day of the carnival and Little Miss’s gymnastics school was walking in it. Her little friends were going to be in the parade so I thought she would enjoy going as well since this is her first year in gymnastics. I had to go a couple hours before the parade for decorating (which it turns out they actually didn’t do because the girls ended up just walking and not riding a float) and then to drop them off for line up.

I then went to The Husband’s office because he was rushing to take photos of the floats to be sure the photos and stories went into the next day’s newspaper. His newspaper is a weekly newspaper, and they usually have an earlier deadline to have their newspaper sent to the printer, but once a year they are provided with a later deadline to make sure coverage of the parade is in the next day.

Little Miss went to the carnival for about 30 minutes with her friends after the parade and then we staggered home for a day off (Thursday) before I drove 45 minutes south (yes..we seem to be 45 minutes away from everywhere) on Friday to pick up Little Miss’s friends so they could have a day to play. That day became a little weird when Little Miss drank some orange juice too fast while we were at my parents, told me her chest hurt and she was scared, and then briefly fainted, similar to how she fainted when she was bit by a non-venomous snake last Labor Day and we had to take her to the ER. We called an ambulance that day because she slammed her head off a table during her fainting spell and was completely out of it.

This time she slumped into the fridge, I grabbed her and held her, calling her name and she opened her eyes within 30 seconds and asked what happened. We sat in the floor for a bit because she said her legs were weak and shaking but within 15 minutes she was up and running around with her friends again.

She acted completely normal for the rest of the day but since she’s now fainted twice after stressful situations, we are going to be calling a doctor to have her checked out. This will probably be the fourth time I take her to the local doctor and have them tell me there is nothing wrong with her, but I’ll be fine with that this time.

I have read before that fainting is somewhat common in some children (I fainted once from low blood sugar and gave almost fainted many times), whose body sometimes reacts quite quickly to stress by dropping their heart rate and blood pressure. The scary thing is that her fainting spells happen so quickly. One minute she’s talking and the next she collapses to the floor. My mom compared her to a fainting goat and she’s right- it’s sort of what it is like.

What was even odder about Friday is that my dad started to black out while we were on our way to see some fireworks later in the day. I don’t know of any connection between the two incidents. My dad believes his was dehydration, but we weren’t sure, so I drove him home before the fireworks even started. Little Miss was disappointed because she and her friends had planned to jump in the bouncy house before the fireworks, but after her odd day, she was actually very tired. In the end, I don’t think she minded going back home.

On the way home, Dad started feeling better (after drinking a bottle of Gatorade) and we also saw four deer either standing very close to the road or in fields on four different occasions. The first deer, a doe, was standing on our side of the road, right on the edge, turned toward us and watching us as we drove by slowly (because I was honestly afraid she was going to jump out in front of us).

The second deer was in a wooded area with another deer laying next to her. I didn’t see the deer laying next to her, but Little Miss did. The third deer was a young buck, standing in a field close to the road. Little Miss didn’t see the buck so we actually circled around so we could show him to her and he was still there, chewing while he watched us. He had very short antlers, with one of them deformed. He was obviously a very young buck because he still had velvet on his short antlers. I wish I had been able to take a photograph of him, but I was driving and we were in the middle of a highway and I wasn’t sure when a car might come up behind us.

The fourth deer was running in a field, but also close to the road. The Boy also said he saw three wild turkeys while we were driving, but the rest of us missed those.

After my dad was back home, I called my brother to tell him about Dad. As if the incidents with Dad and Little Miss weren’t enough, while we were talking my brother’s nose started bleeding. I said a prayer over our family because it was starting to feel like a demonic attack!

What was odd about all the medical stuff happening to my family members is that I’m the one who usually has some weird medical episode when we go to an event or try to do something special. This time I was feeling fairly good and was actually very calm when Little Miss fainted and when my dad started to feel a little off. I’m going to say that the peace came both from praying and from the very small amount of CBD I started taking daily a couple of weeks ago.

Since we missed going to the carnival Friday night, I had to take another trip to it yesterday so Little Miss could jump in the bouncy house. It’s the only thing she’s asked to do recently and after watching her faint and fall into the fridge Friday, I wanted to let her have as much fun as possible.

Luckily her little friends were there then too so they were able to have fun together. The Boy’s two friends came as well so it was a nice day for the kids.

I’m hoping for a little bit of a more relaxed week this week, but there is a local VBS going on so…who knows what will happen. At least most of the stuff we did last week was fun (other than the fainting and almost fainting episodes). I think this is one of the longer “What’s Been Occurring” sections I’ve ever shared and, actually, I’m hoping future sections are much shorter. I’m tired, ya’ll.

What I’m Reading

Last night I finally finished Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I think I’ve been reading it two months or so, and to explain, it was not boring, it was simply a book full of a lot of a lot of technical kitchen and restauranter lingo and stories, which was sometimes overwhelming. I was also reading a couple of books for book tours while reading it, which delayed me finishing it. I am going to write a longe post about my impressions of it later this week.

I am still enjoying a leisurely read of Anne of the Island. I pick it up during more depressing or tough moments and read a chapter or two. I’m not in any hurry to finish it.

Last week I also started The Do Over by Bethany Turner. It is a romantic comedy and so far, I am enjoying it. I will most likely concentrate on it this week and maybe even finish it.

I hope to start one of the Dortmunder novels by Donald Westlake next week.

What I’m/We’re Watching/Watched

I mentioned already above, and in a separate blog post earlier in the week, that I watched Top Gun: Maverick. I presented my spoiler free impression of it HERE.

Later in the week, The Boy and I watched Jaws for fun. I had only seen parts of it in the past. We actually enjoyed it.

I started Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but I wasn’t able to finish it before my rental ran out on Amazon so hope to watch it Monday or Tuesday.

The Husband and I watched a Brokenwood Mysteries one night, but he was busy all week with either work, play practice, or volunteering at the carnival.

We hope to watch Family Camp for our family movie next week since we ran out of time this week.

What I’m Writing

Last week I worked quite a bit on The Shores of Mercy.

On the blog I shared:

Now It’s Your Turn

Your turn! What have you been doing, reading, watching, or listening to recently? Let me know in the comments.

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 10

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Chapter 10

The day after the call from Adam, Ben thought about his conversation as he sat in the exam of the concussion specialist, waiting for the doctor to arrive. He’d offered Adam the chance to discuss anything with him over the phone, but Adam had abruptly changed directions, saying he would need to call Ben back at another time. Ben imagined Angie must have walked into the room at that moment. Whatever Adam had wanted to talk about, he apparently didn’t want Angie to hear it.

Ben hadn’t been lying when he said the doctor had cleared him to drive yet, but he still felt guilty for saying it, since he was hoping that clearance would come today. If it did, then he’d be cleared to attend the birthday party next week.

He needed that clearance for other reasons, though. He’d finally managed to convince his parents to let him stay at his apartment and walk to work but he’d need to be able to drive himself for upcoming appointments and court appearances.

His mom had driven him to this doctor appointment, and she could have driven him to the birthday party too, but he didn’t offer that suggestion when was talking to Adam. Angie had already made it clear that she didn’t want him there. He wasn’t going to go simply because Adam and Leona wanted him to. That could create all sorts of problems and ruin Amelia’s big day.

To ensure he wasn’t a total liar, Ben decided he’d ask the doctor if he could drive that far, if at all.

“Mr. Oliver hello.” The doctor walked in quickly, flicked a light next to the X-ray display on the wall in front of him and snapped two X-rays in place. He turned and held his hand out. “How are we doing today?”

Ben shook his hand. “Okay, I guess. I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m doing better than I think.”

The doctor grinned and sat on the stool next to the X-ray machine, facing Ben. “I wish I could tell you that you’re back to a hundred percent, but I’m guessing that based on the symptoms you’re having you already know that’s not the case.”

Ben’s shoulders slumped slightly. “Yeah. I’m better but definitely not all the way there yet. The headaches are still frequent.”

“How about the vision and your cognitive skills?”

“Better than it was, that’s for sure.” Ben rubbed a hand across his face then across the back of his neck, letting his hand rest there. “But not back to normal by any means. I guess this means I’m not going to be cleared to drive yet.”

The doctor cocked an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest. “Still having blurry vision? Dizzy spells?”

“Here or there.”

The doctor shook his head. “I wouldn’t recommend driving then.”

“Even shorter distances?”

“Can you have a dizzy spell, drive off the road, and hit a tree again even driving a short distance?”

Ben laughed softly. “Well, yes, but —”

The doctor tipped his head, looking over his glasses. He smiled. “Then, again, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

If the doctor wasn’t recommending even driving small distances, then a four-hour drive was definitely out of the question.

The doctor unfolded his arms and propped his hands on his knees. “Look, Mr. Oliver, I know this recovery is taking a lot more time than you’d like it to. I know that you’d like to speed things along, but you just can’t with an injury like this. Your brain needs time to heal and the more you push it, the longer it’s going to take.”

“But you don’t really know how long it will take?”

“I wish I did. I mean, we are seeing improvement so hopefully, soon, maybe six weeks or so, you’ll be almost back to normal. Realistically, though, this process could take as long as a year.”

Ben winced.

The doctor gestured toward the X-rays. “Listen, you’re really lucky. I don’t know if you even realize how lucky. If you’d hit your head any harder and a few inches to the left, we’d be looking at you learning to walk and talk again. Mr. Oliver, my recommendation is to take it easy but also to go live your life. You’ve been given a second chance whether it seems like it or not. Take advantages of that.” He stood. “Just do it with a little bit of a caution for the next few weeks.”

Ben fielded the questions from his mom on the way back to the office, and got the same from Judi soon after he walked in the door.

“So, what’s the verdict? Still have brain damage?”

Ben glared at Judi over a cup of coffee. “Very funny. It’s not brain damage. It’s brain swelling. And yes, there are still some issues but hopefully it will be better soon.” He added more creamer to the coffee then held the container up. “Where did this creamer come from? I just usually use —”

“Plain, boring stuff. I know. I thought you could use a little flavor.”

Ben shook his head and chuckled as he stirred the creamer in. “Okay. If you say so. Did I get any calls while I was gone?”

“Yes, and I transferred two to your voicemail, but the other guy said he wanted me to take the message because you never respond to voicemails.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, his name was Patrick Wenbrook.”

Judi looked at the notes she’d taken. “Yes. I guess you’ve dealt with him before.”

“Many times. I’m guessing this is about the property issue.”

Judi nodded as she read from the notes. “Neighbor isn’t abiding by the agreement drawn. He’s ready to get the police involved. He wants you to serve more orders for his neighbor to cease and desist building the barn near his property line.”

Ben pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger and squeezed his eyes shut. “I’ve told him before that I don’t serve anything. He’s going to have to get the police involved at this point. I’m not trained to deal with six foot three 280-pound farmers who could break my neck with one hand. I just write letters and cite law and take people to court.”

He took the piece of paper Judi handed him with the man’s phone number on it. “Thanks. I’ll give him a call.”

When he walked into his office he flopped back into the chair and then sat up straight when he noticed Amelia’s photo laying in the center of his desk on a stack of papers.

 “Hey, Judi? Can you come in here?”

Judi walked to the doorway and leaned against it and for the first he noticed the hot pink boots she was wearing that matched a black skirt trimmed in pink that fell a couple inches above her knees.

“Yes, boss?”

Ben made a face. “First, never call me that. Second, do you know how this photo got here? You weren’t looking through my stuff, were you?”

Judi frowned. “Really? If you think I would go through your private stuff while you were gone then why would you even ask me to work here?”

Ben let out a breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it come out like that. It’s just — well, usually this photo is in my brief case so I —”

Judi folded her arms across her chest. “I found it inside a case folder for a Michael Henderson versus Veronica Henderson. The one you wanted me to get the address from for that letter you wanted to draft.”

“Oh. Right.” Ben rubbed the back of his thumb across his forehead. “I’m sorry. It must have slid in there when the file was in my briefcase. I took that home last night to read over.” He winced. “I shouldn’t have accused you like that. I really didn’t think you were doing anything wrong, I just wondered how it got here.”

Judi shrugged a shoulder. “It’s okay. You have brain damage, so I’ll cut you some slack.”

Ben narrowed his eyes at her while she flipped a strand of blond hair over her shoulder.

“I don’t know, she sort of looked like you, so I thought maybe she was a niece and wasn’t supposed to be in the folder,” she said. “So, I tossed it back on your desk.”

Ben propped his elbows on the desk and folded his hands, glancing at the photo. “Right. Okay. Well, thank you for leaving it with me. I appreciate it.”

Judi didn’t leave though. She propped a hand on her hip and leaned her side against the door frame. “So, is she a niece? I don’t know your siblings very well, but I didn’t know they had kids yet.”

Ben wanted the conversation to end. Why had he even asked her to come in? He could lie and tell her his brothers did have a child, but he didn’t want to start that rumor. His brother might be younger than him, but he was also bigger, and Ben really didn’t want to risk anymore bruises or concussions.

“No, she’s not a niece.” He should leave it at that and just tell Judi to get back to work. Still, something in him wanted to claim this little girl as his, even though he had no right to. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee and cleared his throat. “She’s my daughter.”

Judi’s response was more subdued than he expected but still conveyed surprise. “Oh. Well, that’s something I didn’t know.”

Ben opened his brief case and placed the photo in the inside pocket again. “Most people around here don’t.”

“Who’s her mom?”

Even though Ben was starting to get used to Judi’s blunt manner, he still didn’t enjoy it.

He glanced at her over the edge of his coffee cup. “Angie.”

“Oh. So, like —”

“Don’t you have a letter to type into the computer for me?”

Judi smiled. “Oh. Right. Sorry.” She stepped back a couple of steps, but then stopped, her brow dipped. “But are you two together?”

“Go type up the letter, Jude.”

She scowled at him with pursed lips. “I don’t like the name Jude.”

A small smile tugged at Ben’s mouth. “I don’t like being asked personal questions.”

Judi sighed and turned back toward her desk. “Okay. Okay. Be that way.” She looked over her shoulder. “For what it’s worth, she’s a beautiful little girl.”

Warmth spread up Ben’s throat into his face and he was sure pink had spread across his skin. Amelia was beautiful, but he’d had very little to do with that. Accepting a compliment for something he’d had no control over felt wrong somehow. Still, he appreciated that Judi was trying to be nice. “Thanks. She takes after her mom, thankfully.”

He noticed tension pulling at his shoulders and neck as Judi left. He sat back in his chair. He wished he hadn’t told her who Amelia was. At the same time, it felt good to say the words out loud.

“She’s my daughter,” he whispered the words again and tipped his head back against the top of the chair.

In some ways saying those words was like having a burden lifted off his shoulders, while in other ways it was like one had been put on.

Top Gun: Maverick Impressions (No Spoilers)

My son and I went to see Top Gun: Maverick at a theater about a 40-minute drive from us on Sunday. The theater was not packed at all, which surprised me for a holiday weekend. It’s a nice community theater with four different theaters. The Husband and Little Miss went to see the minions movie with her little friends in another theater.

Confession time here: I am going to be 45 this year and I had never seen the original Top Gun movie before this past weekend. I know. I’m so sad. So, Saturday night, The Boy and I watched the original movie and, honestly, we were not terribly impressed, which left us hesitant to see the latest movie.

Luckily, Top Gun: Maverick was much, much better than the first movie with a lot more of a plot and a lot more action.

As the title says, I will not offer spoilers of the movie.

What I will share is that this movie is what our country, and maybe the world, needed right now during a time of political tension, rising violence, and a tough economic future looming ahead. After a two-year lockdown and fears from the pandemic, people needed a movie that was free of any mention of that time frame and any mention of politics are heavy social issues.

This movie gives everyone the 2-hour and 15-minute breather they need right now, which is probably why it has pulled in so much money globally.

For those who remember and loved the first film, there is plenty of nostalgia and sentimental moments. For those who don’t remember the first film, there is plenty of action and a whole lot of testosterone for the men. For the women, there is some nice eye candy as the shirtless beach volleyball scene is replaced with a shirtless beach football scene (I don’t think that is too much of a spoiler).

There are only two returning characters for this movie (who I recognized anyhow) but the new characters don’t take away from the connective feel of the film. Instead, they add to the excitement and make this movie more interesting to me than the first.

The action in the middle and end of the movie keeps it afloat through a small amount of sap and one flashback scene that bordered on corny for me (but did not ruin the movie in any way).

If you are looking for a fun escape, I would definitely recommend Top Gun: Maverick and I would recommend you see it while it is still in the theater, at least for the action/flying scenes.

Anne Shirley quotes and loving it when my daughter “gets” a character I “get”

I love it when someone besides me understands a literary character who I love and it’s even better when that someone is my seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

I’ve mentioned before on my blog that Little Miss has been making me read the Little House on the Prairie books again and I’m not really enjoying reading them again because, well, they are a bit tedious at times and Ma drives me bonkers (she’s so rude and well, racist, at times. I still don’t think the whole series is racist, however, and I definitely think children should read them or have them read to them to learn more about life in the 1800s). I’ll write about Ma and her idiosyncrasies in a future post.

Recently I had convinced Little Miss to let me read Anne of Green Gables before bed instead, but sadly she seemed unable to fall asleep while I was reading that book, mainly because, as she said, “It wakes my brain up too much.”

I read the dialogue in the voices of the characters when I read to her, and I’ve watched the Anne of Green Gables movie (Canadian version only) so many times that I was really getting into it. I made Anne a little bit too hyper, but that’s how she is. Little Miss told me that she was too into the story to fall asleep and asked me to go back to Little House because it was “boring enough for me to fall asleep to.”

Earlier this week I had simply had had enough of Ma and told Little Miss I could read Anne but dull it down a little.

“I can make it boring,” I told her. “Make Anne sound boring. Less bouncy.”

She gasped. “No! You can’t do that!  You have to read it with Anne’s bouncy voice because Anne’s bouncy voice is what makes Anne, Anne!”

Oh gosh! She gets it! Anne’s personality is what makes Anne Anne and that’s really the point of the books, but especially the first one. The theme is that Anne is dramatic and silly and swoony and, well, wonderful, and Little Miss gets it!

I’ve really enjoyed reading the Anne series these last couple of months. It’s been comfort reading for me. While reading, I have written down or snapped photos on my phone of several quotes I have enjoyed the most. I thought I’d share some of my favorites here for you today.

Marilla felt more embarrassed than ever. She had intended to teach Anne the childish classic, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But she had, as I have told you, the glimmerings of a sense of humor–which is simply another name for a sense of the fitness of things; and it suddenly occurred to her that simple little prayer, sacred to the white-robed childhood lisping at motherly knees, was entirely unsuited to this freckled witch of a girl who knew and cared nothing about God’s love, since she had never had it translated to her through the medium of human love.”―  Anne of Green Gables

“Having adventures comes natural to some people”, said Anne serenely. “You just have a gift for them or you haven’t.” Anne of Avonlea

“Oh, here we are at the bridge. I’m going to shut my eyes tight. I’m always afraid going over bridges. I can’t help imagining that perhaps, just as we get to the middle, they’ll crumple up like a jackknife and nip us. So I shut my eyes. But I always have to open them for all when I think we’re getting near the middle. Because, you see, if the bridge did crumple up I’d want to see it crumple. What a jolly rumble it makes! I always like the rumble part of it. Isn’t it splendid there are so many things to like in this world? There, we’re over. Now I’ll look back. Good night, dear Lake of Shining Waters. I always say good night to the things I love, just as I would to people. I think they like it. That water looks as if it was smiling at me.”
―  Anne of Green Gables

“Well, I don’t want to be anyone but myself, even if I go uncomforted by diamonds all my life,” declared Anne. “I’m quite content to be Anne of Green Gables, with my string of pearl beads.” — Anne of Green Gables

“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.” – Anne of Green Gables

“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.” – Anne of Avonlea

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” – Anne of Avonlea

“Yes, it’s beautiful,’ said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, ‘but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding . . . if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?” – Anne of Avonlea

“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.” – Anne of Avonlea

“Whenever you looked forward to anything pleasant you were sure to be more or less disappointed…that nothing ever came up to your expectations. Well, perhaps that is true. But there is a good side to it too. The bad things don’t always come up to your expectations either…they nearly always turn out ever so much better than you think.” -Anne of Avonlea

“It takes all sorts of people to make a world, as I’ve often heard, but I think there are some who could be spared,” — Anne of Avonlea

“There is so much in the world for us all if we only have the eyes to see it, and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it to ourselves–so much in men and women, so much in art and literature, so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful.” — Anne of the Island

“I am afraid to speak or move for the fear all this wonderful beauty will vanish just like a broken silence.” — Anne of the Island

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.” — Anne of the Island

People told her she hadn’t changed much, in a tone which hinted they were surprised and a little disappointed she hadn’t.” — Anne of the Island

“There is a book of Revelation in everyone’s life, as there is in the Bible.” — Anne of the Island

“Never write a line you’d be ashamed to read at your own funeral.” — Anne of the Island

“I’m going home to an old country farmhouse, once green, rather faded now, set among leafless apple orchards. There is a brook below and a December fir wood beyond, where I’ve heard harps swept by the fingers of rain and wind. There is a pond nearby that will be gray and brooding now. There will be two oldish ladies in the house, one tall and thin, one short and fat; and there will be two twins, one a perfect model, the other what Mrs. Lynde calls a ‘holy terror.’ There will be a little room upstairs over the porch, where old dreams hang thick, and a big, fat, glorious feather bed which will almost seem the height of luxury after a boardinghouse mattress. How do you like my picture, Phil?”

“It seems a very dull one,” said Phil, with a grimace.

“Oh, but I’ve left out the transforming thing,” said Anne softly. “There’ll be love there, Phil—faithful, tender love, such as I’ll never find anywhere else in the world—love that’s waiting for me. That makes my picture a masterpiece, doesn’t it, even if the colors are not very brilliant?”

Phil silently got up, tossed her box of chocolates away, went up to Anne, and put her arms about her. “Anne, I wish I was like you,” she said soberly.”
— Anne of the Island

Sunday Bookends: Historical fiction, books to read this summer, foul-mouthed chefs, and a trip to the lake

Welcome to Sunday Bookends where I ramble about what I’ve been reading, doing, watching, writing, and listening to.


What I/we’ve been Reading

I finished The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham this week and am almost finished with Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.

The Heart of the Mountains was a pleasant Christian historical read, not my usual fare, but enjoyable. There were some predictable plot lines but I didn’t mind that too much because sometimes predictable can be comforting.

I skipped a chapter toward the end of Kitchen Confidential that detailed all the horrible things chefs say to each other in the kitchen. There were so many F-bombs and sexually explicit commentary in that one chapter I’m not sure there were any actual clean words to string it all together into a coherent narrative. The book details a lot of deplorable behavior by chefs who worked with Bourdain, as well as some by Bourdain himself, including his one-time debilitating drug habit. Mixed in there, however, are also some interesting interludes about fine cuisine, the work that goes into it, and the challenges of working in high end kitchens. The interesting stories of the behind-the-scenes of the restaurant business is the main reason I keep reading.

This isn’t a book I would normally read, but I’ve started it and somehow I feel like I need to finish it so I can say I branched out in my reading and that I read a book by Bourdain. I don’t know that I will be reading another book by him, however. My poor little brain is a bit battered by the debouched behavior detailed by him to want to delve into another one by him right away. There is one he wrote about his travels that has me intrigued, though, so we shall see.


I am still reading Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. I enjoy reading a chapter as a little mental break when the world gets too crazy.

This week I will be starting The Do Over by Bethany Turner for something a bit light (she rights romantic comedies).

I’ve shifted my planned reads for the rest of the summer a little bit (mainly based on my mood reading tendencies and how they tend to want to be happier, relaxed reads in summer) and hope to get to the following books by the time autumn slides in:

Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson (I’ve never read her before)

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

A Dortmunder novel by Donald Westlake (Not sure which one yet, but maybe The Hot Rock)

The second book in the Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box

The next book in The Walt Longmire series (book six, Death Without Company) by Craig Johnson

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Little Miss and I finished Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary last night. Tonight we will start Romona The Brave. I hope we can read Anne of Green Gables during the days this week. Anne is too excitable for Little Miss at night. She says it wakes her brain up too much. I also hope to start Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright, at the suggestion of Erin at Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, sometime this month.

The Husband is reading One for the Road by Frederick March. The Boy’s brain is still frozen from all he had to read in school this year so he is taking a break from reading for now.

I’m also looking for some good cozy mysteries so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.


What’s Been Occurring

The Husband was on vacation this week and we didn’t do a ton, but we did relax, go swimming at my parents, go out to dinner, visit a state park with a beach and lake, and today we will go see a movie (Minions for the youngest and Dad and Maverick for the oldest and me). We had to forgo the train ride er had planned because The Boy developed a sore throat and fever after we visited the lake and we were waiting for him to feel better and to see if anyone else came down with it since my husband was exposed to the dreaded virus last week. Tests taken have been negative, however, so we really aren’t sure what The Boy caught or how.

The beach we went to is, of course, sand that is added to the shoreline of the lake, since sandy beaches are not natural to Pennsylvania. The lake, Lake Jean is 245-acres and has warm water panfish and game fish. Ice fishing is also allowed there in the winter. In addition to the small swimming area, boating (not speed boats), canoeing, and paddle boarding are also allowed.

We used to visit the lake a lot when I was a child and I remember thinking that the lake was named after a friend of ours who everyone called Grandma Jean. She and her husband ran a halfway house near us that my parents used to help out at. Ironically, the park where the lake is located is called Rickets Glen and her husband’s name was Glen. Their last name, also ironically, was “hart” and they both had big hearts.

The park is 13,193 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties of Pennsylvania and features trails, camping areas, picnic spaces, and hunting land.

Tomorrow we will spend the Fourth at my parents and probably cook out and go swimming.

What We Watched/Are Watching

The Husband and I were able to catch up on some shows this past week including Brokenwood Mysteries, The Larkins, and Night Court.

I started Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, which I am watching as part of a classic movie exchange with Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, and will share what I thought of that in a future post. I was interrupted, so I haven’t finished it yet.

My son watched a Minecraft Youtuber called Technoblade for years and he passed away this past week from cancer at the age of 23. I thought he was a lot older, based on his voice, intelligence, and quick wit, and this final video from his dad broke me down this past week. I mean literally broke me down. I sobbed through all six minutes and another fifteen minutes afterward. No father should have to say goodbye to his son at such a young age and I hated that my son had to lose another part of his childhood in such a brutal way.

I watched a wonderful devotional from Roots and Refuge Farm yesterday that I think is important for people to watch, especially those who are Christians. She’s like me and she feels like “a storm is coming” into our future, a storm that is needed, but will mean a lot of changes for many of us. She doesn’t know what that storm is but she knows something is coming and I believe she’s right because I feel it too but I also don’t know what it is.


What I’m Writing

I am working on the Shores of Mercy and shared a post on Friday for Fiction Friday.

On the blog, I wrote about my impressions of the movie, The Streetcar Named Desire, as well as looked back at June and a look forward to July.



Now it’s your turn

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

Looking back at June, ahead to July

It’s crazy to think June is gone already. It seemed to fly by in some ways and linger in others.

Our July was busy, to begin with, and then slowed down a bit as it went on.

In the beginning of the month, we were finishing up school, then I had to meet with our evaluator, gather together paperwork for the school district for next year, and deliver all of that paperwork (including the evaluations from the evaluator) to the district. In the midst of all of that, Little Miss’s friends from Texas visited for a couple of weeks and were at our house during the days a few days out of that two weeks, which was very nice.

I enjoyed watching my flowers bloom at the beginning of June and loved admiring them all month long.

They are now gone, which is sad for me, but at least I have my photos of them.

We closed out June with a week’s vacation for The Husband, during which we didn’t do a ton, but did relax, read books, and did visit a local state park, which included a beach and lake. The beach, is, of course, sand that is added to the shoreline of the lake, not naturally there. Lake Jean is 245-acres has warmwater panfish and game fish. Ice fishing is also allowed there in the winter. In addition to the small swimming area, boating (not speed boats), canoeing, and paddle boarding is also allowed.

The park is 13,193 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties of Pennsylvania and features trails, camping areas, picnic spaces, and hunting land.

We hope to visit there again and another state park near us (this entire county is 90 percent state game lands) before the end of the summer.

I don’t have too many plans so far for July, other than celebrating 20-years of marriage (hey, guess that is a big deal), hunting down and finalizing our homeschool curriculum, and perhaps planting some late season veggies to help stretch our grocery budget.

I’m sure there will be some fun swimming in the pool at my parents, maybe a train ride we couldn’t squeeze in for The Husband’s vacation, hopefully, some trips to the ice cream stand and some playgrounds, and I’m sure more than a few cookouts at the parents’ or elsewhere.

What do you have planned for July? Anything exciting?

Here are a few (yeah, I know…few in my terms is not the same as it is for others) photos from our month of June:

Fiction Friday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 9

This is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, and after I edit and rewrite, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Chapter 9


Judi smoothed a finger across her lower lip, smoothing in the dark red lipstick she’d applied a few minutes earlier. She studied herself in the mirror on the visor and took a deep breath. Glancing down at her white button-up shirt and gray pencil skirt and a pair of sensible black flats, she grimaced. What had she become? She pushed a strand of hair that had fallen from the messy bun she’d pulled her hair into behind her ear and slid a pair of sunglasses on then made a face at her reflection.

“I’ve become Ellie. That’s who I’ve become.” She sighed and rolled her eyes before she opened and reached for the door handle. “Good grief. I’m my sister.”

 Fine, she was dressed like her sister and acting way more strait-laced than she had in the past, but she’d wanted a change, so this was a change. She’d wanted to leave her old life behind and working for a well-known local lawyer was one way to do that. It was time for her to grow up and if she had to look like a spinster librarian to do it, so be it.

She smoothed her hands down her skirt and squinted at her reflection in the large front window between the stenciled words, Benjamin A. Oliver, Attorney at Law.

She’d called Ben a couple of days after he’d offered the job to her and accepted it, even though she couldn’t imagine what he had been thinking when he’d offered it to her. She also wasn’t sure what she’d been thinking accepting it, considering she’d now have to wake up super early on the days she worked here.

She squinted at her reflection in the front window, wishing she had grabbed that suit coat Ellie had offered her. It would have made her at least look professional. She smoothed her hands down the front of the skirt again. At least it was cute.

Walking inside, she was surprised at how well-decorated Ben’s office was. She’d been expecting something much drabber and a lot less eye-catching.

Instead of boring, dull-colored paintings of landscapes on the wall, though, he’d hung colorful paintings of life in the city in the 1950s, including what looked like a scene at a jazz club. Three dark brown, leather-bound, chairs with top-grain, soft cushions lined the walls in the lobby. She could easily curl up one of those and take a nap. Also in the lobby area was a tall gray desk with a high wall at the front of it and a counter on top of the wall. She wondered if that was where the secretary — er she — would be sitting.

A few feet behind the desk a door opened to a white-walled office with a large window and mahogany-colored desk. A black, leather-plush chair sat behind the desk, and behind the chair a wall full of what were probably law books lined built-in bookshelves. Ben peered from around the open door and the clink of a filing cabinet door shutting made Judi flinch.

 He stepped fully into the doorway wearing a light blue button-up dress shirt and a red tie, dark dress pants, and dress shoes. “You made it. Great.”

Apparently, he’d thought she wasn’t going to show up. His instincts had been right. She almost hadn’t.

Even now she felt sick to her stomach. What had she been thinking? She didn’t have a clue how to be a secretary at a law office.

He didn’t pause in the doorway but kept moving toward the desk at the front with a smile she was sure charmed the pants off more than a few women he’d met over the years — maybe even literally.

 He gestured toward the chair behind the desk. “This is where you’ll be sitting most of the time unless I need you to come into the office to take some notes for me.” He propped his hands on the back of the chair and leaned on it. “You do know how to take notes, right?”

With a quick smile, she did her best to be truthful. “Not exactly, but it can’t be that hard, right?”

Ben’s smile flickered for a brief moment before it returned. “Right. It’s not that hard to learn.”

Her gaze moved across the neat desk with a computer and photos of an older woman with what Judi guessed was the woman’s husband and adult children. To the left of the desk, behind the tall partition, stood a row of filing cabinets. Ben explained how to use the phone, what the filing cabinets were for, and how to use the electronic appointment book before telling her that he’d show her how to file cases in the cabinets later.

“Did you want to take any notes?” he asked after he’d reached what she hoped was his last lesson for the day.

“Notes?” Her brow dipped in confusion. “Do you need me to take notes for you now?”

“No.” He shook his head briefly. “I mean for yourself. So you’ll remember what I just told you.”

“Why?” She was genuinely confused. “Aren’t you going to be here? I can just ask you if I have a question, can’t I?”

Ben sighed. “Yes, you can, but if I am on the phone or can’t help you for some other reason then . . .” His voice trailed off as he looked at her. “Never mind. That’s fine. You’re right. I’ll be back in the office if you need me.”

He walked to a coffee pot set up on a small counter next to the soft chairs. “I’ve been making the coffee when I come in, but if you’d make that each morning it would help me out. I haven’t booked a ton of clients today because I’ve got court in the morning, and I need to prepare for that. From ten to eleven I have a video conference with a client downstate who is in the middle of a divorce, so I don’t want to be interrupted. Lunch is from noon to one, but I’ll need you back five minutes early today because I have an appointment at one with a new client who has filed a defamation complaint against the newspaper in the next county.” He shrugged a shoulder. “He’s going to lose the case, but he’s persistent so I said I’d take it on. He’s got a lot of money.”

He took a long drink of the coffee then stood with the mug in one hand and the other hand propped on his hip. “Any questions for me?”

“Just if you always talk this fast.”

Ben laughed. “Most of the time, yes. I’m one guy and I have a lot of clients, so I can’t afford to take my time.”

He walked into his office and closed the door, leaving Judi alone with a quiet lobby area and a phone that should have been simple but was severely intimidating her at the moment. What button had he said to push again when she needed to transfer a call? She hoped it would come to her when she needed to actually do it. He’d probably been right to suggest she take notes.

Her phone rang while she was making herself a cup of coffee. Walking back to the desk to retrieve it from her purse, she decided she’d better leave a reminder in her notes app to pick up some flavored creamer. Ben’s coffee was as boring and plain as he was.

She looked at the lock screen. The number was the one from New York again. She needed to tell this guy she was not interested in anything to do with Jeff.

“Miss Lambert?” a man’s voice asked as she answered.

“Listen, if this is that lawyer, I’m not interested in talking about anything that has to do with Jeff Burke, so please stop calling me. Thank you.”

“Miss Lambert, wait. Please. Just hear me out.”

“I’m not inter—”

The lawyer spoke quickly. “I think Jeff Burke tried to do to you what he actually succeeded in doing to my client and I am asking if you would be willing to testify at her trial to prove that this is a pattern with him.”

Judi’s mouth went dry, and she sat hard in the chair as if the wind had been knocked out of her. Her throat tightened and her heart fluttered inside her chest.

“Miss Lambert? Are you still there?”

A chill shivered across her skin as she swallowed hard. “Yeah.”

“I know it would be hard to talk about what happened or almost happened, but we know, or at least we feel, that there are other victims. The more women we have who can say Jeff did this to them, the more chance we have at convincing a jury he needs to be put away for a long time so he can’t do it to anyone else.”

Judi rubbed her hand along her arm. “How did you even find me?”

“Your former roommate. Seline.”

Judi’s throat tightened more. “Did he —”

“No,” the attorney said. “But she knows the other woman. She’s a co-worker of Seline’s. Seline said you didn’t want to press charges because nothing happened that night and I understand, but Miss Lambert this is a chance to stop Jeff from doing this to other women. Will you at least think about it?”

Judi cleared her throat and took a sip of her coffee. “Yeah, I’ll think about it.”

She slid her finger over the end button and dropped the phone back into her purse. When the office phone rang a few minutes later she literally jumped in her chair, the ringing pulling her from her thoughts.

“Hello?”

“Um, hello.” The male voice on the other end of the phone was hesitant. “Is this Ben Oliver’s office?”

Oh great. She forgot the greeting already.

“Oh yes. Sorry. Hello. Attorney Ben Oliver’s Office.”

“Oh. Okay, well, may I speak to him?”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“Yes. This is Adam Phillipi.”

Judi pursed her lips. Ooh boy. Phillipi. This was someone connected with Angie. This should be interesting. She wished she could listen in.

“Just a minute, please.”

She bit her lower lip and searched for the hold button. After pushing it she tried to remember what buttons she needed to push to transfer the call. Was it 22 star or star 22? Or was it — She pushed the buttons she thought were the right ones and set the phone back in the cradle, bumping the speaker button as she moved her hand away.

“Adam, hey, did you get the check I sent?” Ben asked through the speaker.

Her finger hovered over the speaker button. If she pushed it, would there be a click and if there was a click, would Ben think she’d been listening in on purpose, instead of by accident?

“Yeah, Ben, I did,” Adam responded. “That was very nice. Thank you. The thing is though, Leona and I were hoping you’d also be able to make the birthday party.”

Ben winced. “Oh, I’d love to, Adam, but, unfortunately, I was in a car accident a month ago and I’m still recovering from a concussion. The doctor hasn’t cleared me to drive yet.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Adam said. “Then, I understand why you can’t make it. That’s a shame, though. Leona and I had hoped to see you in person and discuss a couple of things with you.”

“Well, I’m here now, if you’d like to discuss anything.” Judi heard the strain in Ben’s voice as a twinge of guilt pulled at her.

She shouldn’t be listening to this conversation. But if she pushed the speaker button — Forget it. She had to take a chance that it would beep because explaining that she had listened into his entire personal conversation would be even harder than explaining she wasn’t sure if pushing the button again would be disruptive to the conversation.

She tapped the button and let out a long breath, bracing herself for him storming out of his office to ask if she had been listening in. After a few seconds, with no shouting coming from his office, she decided she must be in the clear. Her eyes slid over the desk in front of her again. Now what? Ben hadn’t told her what else to do yet. She shrugged her shoulder and pulled out her nail file. It was as good of a time as any to shape her nails before her pedicure in a couple of days. It would at least give her something to think about other than the call from that lawyer.