It’s Fiction Friday

Hello Friday! If you’re here to read fiction from my pen, you’re in the right place.

Today, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from the book that released earlier this month. If you haven’t grabbed your copy of The Promised Plan, it’s available in Kindle or paperback.

This story is the start of the “big conversation” that readers realize must happen if Lacey and Krista, the sisters in my book, are going to reconcile. Their reconciliation is the goal of their mother in the first story, and this collection wouldn’t be “resolved” if their issues didn’t come front and center.

This excerpt comes from “Conversation or Confrontation?” in The Promised Plan:

To Lacey Bloom an emotional conversation and a hand grenade were the same. Which is why she avoided those types of talks. Her stomach knotted as she pulled open the bedroom door. She wanted to hide in the room as she’d done every other night of the trip, but an invisible presence prodded her forward.

To face the firing squad? That’s what it felt like.

Everything had seemed possible in the tearoom. With every glance toward the empty seat, confirmation of her mother’s approval chimed in her heart. A halo of light wrapped the fancy chair for most of the afternoon. She wished the shared camaraderie could be worn like the lovely hat Mom had supplied for the event.

But she couldn’t stay in the fancy tearoom in the same way she hadn’t been able to remain in the garden. At least its peace had burrowed deeply into her heart.

Those hours sharing tea had reminded her of the companionship and acceptance she’d been missing since the problems with her sister had escalated. Why was she holding the door to reconciliation closed? Several times during the week, Krista had asked with uneasy tentativeness about the wall between them. Last night, she’d tried to join Lacey for her after dinner walk, but Lacey pretended not hear and rushed away. She hadn’t wanted to revisit those painful moments.
She still wasn’t prepared to confront them. Might never be ready. But today, she’d break her silence.

A gnawing anxiety sucked her stomach toward her feet. What if nothing changed?

The whispers of doubt made her pause on the threshold. Avoiding hard things had become her safe space.

She sensed that Mom wanted her to face this conversation head on. Lacey had spent enough time dodging her sister’s weak attempts to communicate.

She willed her spine into steel and stepped into the vacant main room. Movement in her peripheral vision jerked her attention toward the balcony where Krista stood.

Whispering a plea for help directed at she didn’t know who, Lacey pushed open the outer door. A gust of sea air filled with squawking gulls battered her reluctance.

Krista faced the harbor and said, “It was more than amazing.”

Lacey twisted to stare and spied the phone at her sister’s ear. She’d be talking to her husband. Again.

A vile reptile curled in the hollow of Lacey’s chest. Jealousy. Another emotion that built bricks in the wall of isolation. She sighed and imagined nudging the snake off the ledge near her sister’s bare feet.

Goodbye, envy. I’m happy my sister has a wonderful marriage.

With a start, she realized the statement wasn’t exactly true. Seeds of resentment had been planted in her heart when Todd offered his wife and sons so many things Lacey never had with Grant. Over the years, she had ignored the feelings, but everyone knew weeds didn’t need special care to flourish.

Krista turned and stiffened slightly before holding up one finger. “I’m sure you managed fine,” she said into the phone.

Lacey ducked inside and paced toward the padded armchair closest to the dining table. She’d claimed it the day they arrive. Sitting there when they were all in the room, she forced Merci and Krista to share the narrow sofa.

Lacey rubbed her thumb across the logo on her water bottle—the symbol of crossed weights Evan chose for Holmes Gym. She hadn’t thought of work in a few days. An amazing feat since it had ranked supreme in her thoughts since January. How had her classes at the gym gone? Had Evan been able to reschedule her private sessions?

Krista pushed through the door, a tentative smile turning up her glossy pink lips.

“The boys think they’re starving on barbecue and takeout.” Her laugh rang false, a gong instead of a cymbal. She shook her head. “As if.”

“When do they head back to college?” Kids, a safe topic.

“Two weeks for Jon and still a month for Hunter. It sure will be quiet once they’re gone.”

Lacey knew all about quiet. Maybe that was the main reason she spent so much time at the gym. Even when she wasn’t working.

Krista settled on the far end of the couch and placed her phone face down on the black-topped coffee table. “Where’s Merci?”

“Making a call.”

“Stephan, no doubt.” Krista’s eyes sparkled. “Ah, young love.”

Lacey stiffened. What did she know about love? The longer she lived, the more she understood how little she knew about most things. Was her daughter falling in love?

Ugly envy squeezed inside her. After briefly considering when she’d become so jealous about everything, she banished the unwelcome emotion.

“You think they’re in love?” Lacey worried the idea in her mind.

Stephan lived in California. He’d seemed nice enough when she’d met him at graduation the previous year, but surely a long-distance relationship couldn’t survive.

“It seems likely. She’s talked to him more than I’ve spoken to my husband.” Krista smirked. “More than friends would talk when one of them is on the vacation of a lifetime.”

It had been the vacation of a lifetime. Lacey stared toward the windows and let a replay of the highlights flit through her mind. The castle. The schoolhouse. The beautiful roses. Fragrant tea and scrumptious goodies.

Thank you, Mom. This trip was everything you promised.

Thoughts of Mom redirected her from the urge to ponder Merci’s love life. That’s not the conversation she needed to have today. Lacey pushed her spine into the cushion and inhaled long and deep, as if preparing to dive in and swim the length of the pool. Which—in a metaphorical sense—she was doing.

“I’m glad she’s not here. We need to talk.”

Krista flinched. Her hands curled together in her lap while she kept her blue-gray stare fixed on Lacey.

Lacey searched for the perfect way to start something she’d avoided for months and dreaded all week. Best just to say it.

“You hurt me,” she blurted.

Have you ever dreaded a conversation? What tips do you have for keeping tough conversations from becoming confrontational?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.