Sample This Fiction Tidbit

I’ve started writing another novel. But more on that later.

Today, I want to share a few words from one of the short stories in the collection I’ll be releasing next year. It’s called The Promised Plan, and I’ll be showcasing the cover here soon.

This story excerpt is from the perspective of the youngest character in these stories. She’s a college graduate who needs a graduate degree to become a Christian counselor. Her grandmother has been her biggest cheerleader as well as a voice of wisdom.

Here’s some words from Mercedes:

Grandma’s last birthday party. Because today would be her final birthday.
Aunt Krista nudged in beside Mom and started the song, her alto-range voice ringing clearly. One by one the boys joined in, but Merci had to swallow a huge lump before she could add her clear soprano to the mix. Thankfully, Aunt Krista had started the song a bit low. Even with a boulder of emotion in her throat, it wasn’t a stretch to hit the high notes.
“There’s cake and drinks in the kitchen,” her aunt said and hurried back to the kitchen, stepping naturally into the role of hostess.
Mom reached over the mattress and squeezed Grandma’s shoulder.
“Do you want a piece of birthday cake? Yellow with chocolate frosting.”
Grandma hadn’t eaten much chocolate in the past several years. When she’d been on chemotherapy, it didn’t agree with her stomach. Then her oncologist had put her on a strict anti-cancer diet which had restricted her sugar intake to nothing.
No need to worry about that anymore.
“A sliver.” Grandma held up thumb and index finger with barely a space between them.
Grandpa patted Merci’s elbow as he passed her and did the same to Grandma’s feet beneath the blanket. Predictable. An offer of cake cleared a room of hungry men.
“Closer.” Grandma fumbled with the bed controls.
Together, they raised the head a few inches, leaving Grandma nearly upright. Merci leaned in, lips trembling into a smile. Grandma would see through it. No one saw as much as she did.
“I need you to promise,” Grandma said and smacked her chapped lips.
Darn her dry mouth! Merci retrieved the plastic cup from the nearby rolling table and held the straw a few inches from Grandma’s mouth.
Grandma took a small sip. Swallowed. Everything slowed. Merci memorized the way light from the kitchen cast a halo above Grandma’s pixie of silver hair. Those gray eyes with a touch of icy blue stared deeply, seeing clearly into Merci’s breaking heart.
After returning the cup to the table, Merci wrapped her hands around Grandma’s cool one.
Grandma’s gaze pierced Merci’s. “You have to promise to take the trip.”
Merci blinked. Her muddled brain spun, processing her grandmother’s request. The trip. Her dying grandmother wanted a promise about the trip to Vancouver Island?
“Your mom and Krista.” Grandma swallowed hard. “They must take the trip. Together.”
In the past eight or nine months, her mother withdrew further from her aunt. More than she’d shrunk back from everyone except her kids and Grandma. Of course, Aunt Krista was finishing her master’s degree and had hours of student teaching to complete every week, which made family time hard to find.
Merci remembered them as best friends. It was one reason Merci considered her cousins like two additional brothers. Almost. They weren’t quite as annoying as Lucas.
Skeletal fingers dug into the back of Merci’s hand, and she nearly flinched.
“You have to carry out our plan—” She coughed lightly. “After I’m gone.”
The words sucker-punched Merci’s heart. She couldn’t draw a breath. Agony twisted through her chest and up her throat.
She tightened her grip on Grandma’s hand and leaned closer, catching a glimpse of her mother weaving through the crowd of bantering boys. She’d arrive with the cake in seconds.
“I promise,” Merci whispered into Grandma’s ear. “We will go to Victoria B.C. in August.” What else could she say? In the best of times, she couldn’t deny her.
She kissed her grandmother’s cheek again, drinking in the scent of tea tree shampoo and the hint of flowers from the sheets beneath her. She squeezed her eyes closed, imprinting the moment in her memory.
“I brought your cake,” her mother chirped in a falsely cheerful tone.
“Thank you.”
Grandma shared another meaningful look with Merci before she fumbled with the paper plate holding a sliver of cake.
As she took a piece of cake from her mom, doubts stole her appetite.
No one matched the unstoppable force of Grandma.
But the baton had been passed to her. Overwhelmed and honored, Merci silently committed to make the trip they’d discussed on her birthday happen. To see Grandma’s faith in reconciliation between her aunt and mother become a reality.
Merci hoped and prayed she could handle the challenge.
For Grandma? Merci straightened and tuned in to the familiar family waves of conversation. She cut a sliver of cake.
Lord help her, she would find a way to turn Grandma’s final request to a done deal.

I know death bed promises are a common plot device. I hope this one works to drive conflict and up the personal stakes for Merci.

Have you ever made a promise you weren’t sure you could keep?

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.