If you’re wondering about my next book, today is your lucky day. Keep reading for an excerpt from one of the stories in the collection.
Lacey Bloom has had a rough year. It shows in her reactions. And she’s holding a bit of a grudge against her sister, and some of that is well-deserved. But you know how grudges go. They start as a grain and grow into a grape that becomes a giant.
Here’s a glimpse of her at her mother’s funeral:
Emotion choked her. Grief stung her eyes. She banished mourning’s side effects with the force of her will. Mom taught her how to persevere over debilitating emotions. Daily for the past year, she’d employed those lessons. She would continue living by them because what other choice did she have?
Friends of her mother’s passed by and shook her hand. Mutters of, “What a lovely service,” and “Your mom was amazing, she’ll be missed” blended together. Empty words. Meaningless prattle. She painted on a smile and nodded to each person.
When someone hugged her, she stiffened. She didn’t want to be comforted. She deserved to nurse her anger at God for his unfairness. Accusations swelling toward her sister wanted acknowledgment. A pit of rage overflowed within her.
Still, she smiled, nodded, and murmured appropriate responses to the trite platitudes. Until she saw the next people in line were her former pastor and his wife.
She bristled, and the fury bubbled over. For four years, she had worked side by side with this couple, as a teacher and eventually the church treasurer. But when she needed their support, they’d failed her. Worse, they’d taken Grant’s side and believed his false accusations. Their betrayal made Judas’ kiss seem friendly.
Sister Anna reached to hug her. Lacey shuffled back a step. The powdery sweetness of the woman’s perfume suffocated her as arms wrapped around her shoulders.
“Your mama was a blessing to all of us.” Her slight southern drawl reminded Lacey of her favorite aunt, and she almost relaxed into the warmth of the woman’s bosom. “I know she wanted to see you back in church.”
A metal rod returned to Lacey’s spine. How dare this woman presume to speak for Mom! Lacey and her mother had talked about the church situation numerous times. In fact, Mom had expressed disappointment that this woman made assumptions without talking directly to Lacey. What sort of pastor’s wife encouraged people to judge and shun someone?
Lacey’s mom knew the truth. Although Lacey had tried to sugar-coat it, she’d relayed some examples of the mental abuse Grant rained on her for years. Mom hadn’t believed Lacey should be punished for breaking free from such a damaging relationship.
As she jerked free of the embrace, Lacey glared into the woman’s hazel eyes. Anna shook her head, and her gentle smile turned upside down.
The line of people blurred. She shook hands or returned hugs but couldn’t recall faces. A familiar high pitched voice jerked her from the protective stupor. Her long-time friend didn’t know the meaning of using an indoor voice.
Lacey gripped the skirt of her black dress. When this friend had gotten a divorce, Lacey had offered free childcare so she could attend college. Over the years, Lacey had given and given, including this friend in her children’s life. The friendship thrived to the extent Mercedes and Lucas called her Aunt Gwen.
But when Lacey needed a supporter, Gwen had caved to popular opinion. She’d seen Grant’s destructive moods firsthand. But within a month of the divorce, Gwen’s calls and visits stopped. Everyone from church shunned her, including this woman who had been a second sister.
But if her real sister wouldn’t fight for her, why should this woman?
Gwen crushed Lacey with a hug. Moisture pressed against her chin from Gwen’s teary face. Lacey couldn’t relax into what should have been a comforting embrace. It was as false as the friendship she’d known for two decades.
“I’m picturing her in God’s garden.” Gwen sniffled and dabbed her face with a crumpled tissue. “She’ll be happy there.”
Grief swelled from the hollow pit in Lacey’s chest, strangling her. She coughed and swallowed it back, nodding to Gwen whose tremulous smile meant as much as her empty words.
Gwen still had her mother. She couldn’t possibly fathom the depths of darkness drowning Lacey’s soul. And her lack of contact the past nine months proved she didn’t truly care. This so-called friend resurfaced the final month of Mom’s life and took up residence in her parents’ living room. She sat there hand-stitching quilt blocks and rocking in Mom’s chair like she belonged. Like she’d been there all along.
“Okay,” Lacey choked out since Gwen held her arms hostage.
After another quick hug, Gwen moved on to hug Krista. Her sister’s face was streaked with moisture although she made no sound.
Regret pinched in Lacey’s chest. She hated watching her sister cry. But no one could take the source of pain away. Mom was gone. At least Krista had been at her side when it happened.
Bitterness rankled, raising Lacey’s pulse. She had asked her sister to call with updates. Could she do that? Nope. She’d sent a text instead. She’s gone.
Who did something like that? Didn’t such an announcement merit a phone call? Even if Krista sobbed her way through the telling, Lacey deserved to learn the news from the lips of someone who loved Mom. Not read impersonal words on a screen.
Ire battered Lacey’s compassion for her sister. Besides, Krista had plenty of support from the church people streaming past. She hadn’t been cast out. She hadn’t lost everything.
Lacey had no one. No friends. No church. A broken family. And no mother to lean on for advice and reassurance.
What do you think? Would you read on?
Don’t be too harsh on Lacey, she has been pummeled on every side and now God has taken her one champion away. Perhaps she has a reason to be angry.