I’ve spent the past two days trying to decompress from my amazing weekend at Scripted Social Author Event in Des Moines, Iowa. I met a whole bunch of authors that I admire, and some of the sweetest readers to date. Even though I stumbled over my words and was more anxious than I probably let on, I think I did okay. It was amusing how many people said I look nothing like my Facebook Profile Picture, so if you think you know what I look like, you’ll just have to meet me to know for sure!
So here’s a little taste of my new secret untitled project. Hope you like it!
This is unedited and subject to change.
Not him. Anybody but him.
“Mrs. Hoskins. Wait!”
Please, spare me today. Just this once.
Nobody answers my silent prayer. That’s because I gave up on God about three-point-five months ago.
It’d be a miracle to go out in public and not be accosted by the glares or the harsh words that have followed me since that day. Sometimes people are nice enough to whisper them, but usually they have no problem shouting at me as I pass. That’s my penance for raising a monster. I’m the town pariah.
The sun beats down on my bare shoulders with its warm rays as I walk through the town strip, but the heat does nothing to the perpetual chill inside me. The layer of ice frozen around my soul will never thaw. There’s no going back from what happened. I’ll be cold for the rest of my life.
“Mrs. Hoskins.” He caught up with me.
“It’s Ms.,” I reply quietly as I keep up my pace. The post office is in sight, only one more block and across the street. Not close enough to keep this conversation short. Or more to my preference, nonexistent.
“Right. I knew that. My apologies, ma’am. For the mistake. And the divorce. Shit, I’m messing this all up.”
I keep my lips sealed. From my peripheral I can see him rub the back of his neck and look away. Yeah buddy, I know how awkward this is so turn around and walk away.
“I wanted to see if you’re all right.”
My back straightens painfully at the turn of conversation. No, I’m not all right you twit. I’ll never be all right again. “Is this a welfare check Officer Ridler?”
“What? No, of course not.”
“Then it’s none of your business.”
The tender note of his voice stops me in my tracks. Literally. My feet feel cemented to the concrete sidewalk with the sound of his deep velvety voice using my first name. In all of our interactions over the past couple months, he’s only addressed me formally. Hearing Emily pass his lips leaves my chest achingly dry in this humid Louisiana heat.
I close my eyes and inhale deeply through my nose. “I’m fine,” I reply in a quiet voice. The voice I’ve grown accustomed to using over the past couple months. I’ve perfected the tone of a nonthreatening compliant woman in an attempt to deal with the constant questions and harassment. Not that it worked. I’ve learned that getting angry or frightened doesn’t help, though. Yelling back or bursting into tears only gets me lumped back into the “crazy” label people are so fond of using.
I’m not crazy.
No, you’re not. You just failed at being a mother.
“Folks’ve been saying you haven’t been around as much. You know there’s resources available to you.”
“Yes. I know.”
“I’m available to you.”
My eyes pop wide open. Shocked, I turn to face him. Even in the bright sun, I know the redness of his cheeks isn’t from the heat.
“That sounded terrible. I am so sorry.”
Something weird is happening. The sensation starts in my stomach, just above my belly button. It’s like the muscles contract and then that feeling is rising higher and higher into my throat like a scoop of bubbles until a short, staccato giggle pops out.
Yes, a freaking giggle.
Both hands audibly clap over my mouth. My stomach sours in embarrassment.
Officer Ridler steps around me so he’s now facing me instead of at my side. I can feel his eyes scanning my face like a physical touch, but I avoid looking him in the eye. “Did…did you just laugh at me?” He’s astounded and teasing while his dusky eyes flirt with humor.
I shake my head no.
Oh, God. Now something else is happening to me. Something I’m far more acquainted with lately than I’d prefer to be. That sensation roars up my esophagus again, but this time instead of a giggle, my eyes begin to burn and a few hot tears spill onto my cheeks.
“Emily,” he murmurs dejectedly.
I shake my head again as the burn moves from my eyes to my chest.
“Breathe, Emily. Take a breath.”
My breath hitches three times at the reminder to breathe, and I try to choke back the sob threatening to escape. I hold a hand out, palm up, to Officer Ridler, warning him to stay back while I compose myself. The few tears stop as quickly as they started, and I swipe them away angrily.
Not fast enough, though. Passing on my right I hear a scathing remark.
“Mothers of murderers aren’t allowed to cry.”
The words score themselves onto my soul where the others reside. Each strike of the letters burns deep, and I welcome the scorn as my penance.
A. M. Wilson XO