Monthly Archives: June 2017

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #4

Rare is the time one of the cats isn’t sleeping in my arms while I work. Earl is the most patient. I move around and snuggle on him and he just goes with the flow.

It always seems as if the moment I have a million things to accomplish, my brain insists that I write one more new story. Crazy brain. Sometimes it’s easier to just acquiesce.

My mind is consumed with Bellingwood characters. Right now, while I’m editing and formatting Book 18 – Just Around the Bend, I have more short stories in process and evidently, multiple vignettes chasing me. As much as I love Polly, the other characters in town sometimes want to be sure you know them just as well.

Just a couple of bits of information you need to know:

Book 18, Just Around the Bend will be published on Sunday, June 25th. My publication dates are always the 25th of March, June, September, and December. Anything that is published in between those dates is just icing on the cake.

If you want to ensure you never miss out on any exciting news from Bellingwood, be sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter. It also comes out on the 25th – but every month. There is always a vignette and you never know what else I’m going to come up with for you. Sign up here.

Pre-publication Trivia Party – Friday, June 16 from 6-11 pm (CDT). Facebook Bellingwood page. There are prizes and fun conversations happening throughout the evening. I do these to have fun chatting with you, but the questions will help trigger memories about characters and events you might have forgotten.

Okay – this vignette is a sweet moment with Dr. Mark Ogden, Bellingwood’s gorgeous veterinarian. There was a post on the Facebook Bellingwood page about possible vignette ideas. I’ll dig back through and contact you if Mark was your suggestion. If you did and I miss that – let me know.

While You Sleep

Mark kissed Alexander’s cheek before putting him in the playpen, then bent over to kiss his wife.

Sal was not a morning person and it looked like Alexander was going to be more like his father – up at the crack of dawn, ready to greet the day.

Now that the boy was older, Mark enjoyed spending these early morning hours with him. Sal was thrilled when Mark started taking this shift. He made sure Alexander was fed and clean, played with him in the living room and now that the weather was warmer, took him outside while the dogs played and ran in the back yard.

The two dachshunds had already climbed back up on the bed with Sal and were doing their best impressions of slugs, burrowing into the blanket beside their mother.

He knew Sal was mostly awake, though she’d pulled the blanket up to her shoulders and buried her face in the pillow. Alexander would give her another twenty minutes or so before his playing became too noisy even for her.

Mark stood in the doorway of their bedroom, something he did nearly every morning. His wife was even more beautiful when she slept and their son was pure perfection. He was such a lucky man.

The first time he met Sal, he knew that he wanted to know her better – whatever it took. She’d been such a surprise. From Polly’s description, he expected to meet a wealthy, spoiled princess who had little time for the slow, laid-back lifestyle he loved here in Iowa. That had been far from her reality.

Now, Sal knew what she liked and was intent on getting it. She was focused and driven, but she was also generous and kind. The woman was an absolute live-wire. He assumed that at least forty percent of her blood consisted of one hundred percent caffeine. When she was awake, she moved ninety miles an hour in every direction, but once she wound down, she became easygoing and snuggly, even. She also deliberately slowed her actions whenever Alexander was in her arms and sometimes Mark caught her gazing at her son with a face that radiated love and adoration.

It was all of these moments that still surprised him. These were some of the many reasons he loved this woman. Sometimes he couldn’t believe she had chosen to give up her cosmopolitan life in Boston for him. They’d gone back and forth about how to make a relationship work across country. She hadn’t been prepared to leave her job and he couldn’t imagine giving up his practice. Mark didn’t want to ask her to give up the life she loved and had begun researching veterinary positions in Massachusetts, but he could barely stomach the thought of living in a big city again.

Then out of the blue, Sal told him she was done fighting it – she wanted to come to Bellingwood. He chuckled to himself. If Polly hadn’t been living here, he wasn’t sure Sal would have been so ready for the move. But then, if Polly wasn’t here, he’d never have met this amazing woman. His deepest darkest fear was that she would wake up someday and realize that her life with him wasn’t enough.

When she invested in the coffee shop downtown, his heart settled some. That seemed to be the thing she missed the most. He knew the hustle and bustle of activity stirred her to life, even if Sal insisted that she was becoming accustomed to the slower pace of Bellingwood.

Mark’s family had been hesitant about him marrying Sal. He gave his head a quick shake. That wasn’t it. They were worried that she wouldn’t make the transition to rural Iowa life well. A smile crossed his face. Bellingwood really wasn’t all that rural. It could be if that’s what you wanted, but there wasn’t a single community in this state that didn’t have access to theaters, museums and excellent restaurants and shopping. It might require a short drive, but even when he’d lived in the Twin Cities, things that were important required you to leave your neighborhood and drive. You just traveled on city streets rather than peaceful country roads for forty-five minutes.

They’d talked about finding an acreage in the country so he could have horses and maybe even a few goats. Looking at Sal sleeping so peacefully he thought she’d make a great country mother. No, he couldn’t even think that with a straight face. When he first brought it up, the look of terror and shock on her face was priceless. He’d backed far away from that conversation as soon as he understood what she would lose. No one else knew, though, that she had returned to the conversation the next night, apologizing for letting her fears stop her from trying something new. If he really wanted to move out of town, she’d support him. He loved her too much to ask that of her again. Maybe someday she would seriously consider a move to the country, but that would surprise him.

The first time Sal’s mother came to Bellingwood, she was aghast at how simply they lived. Where was the nanny to take care of Alexander or the housekeeper to help Sal around the house? Mark joked about hiring a cook because of Sal’s less-than-stellar kitchen skills and received a swift kick under the table. If Mark hadn’t met Sal’s father, he would have had to assume she was adopted. That old biddy was a shrew. She’d criticized everything about their life, couching her nastiness in polite conversation, as if the entire world didn’t understand exactly what she was saying. The only person she was kidding was herself.

Now that he thought about it, Iowa was probably an escape for Sal from an interminable lifetime of torture with that woman in charge of the rack. Sal didn’t say much about her life in Boston any longer. When they’d first gotten to know each other, she told him more than he cared to know about the woman who raised his wife. How she’d grown into such a self-confident young woman, he didn’t know.

Sal had told him that a lot changed the day she met Polly. After years of living to please her mother, she discovered that she could be her own best self without any regrets. He wondered if she’d ever told Polly how much her life changed because they lived together throughout college and continued their friendship through the years. It had nearly killed Sal when Polly moved back to Iowa. The one person she trusted to show her what normal looked like was gone and Sal had done her best to stay out of her mother’s clutches, but it hadn’t been easy.

He smiled again, wanting to lie back down beside her and gather that strong confident woman into his arms. She had so many broken bits and pieces within her, but Sal was determined to find her way. She wanted to love freely and exuberantly, without fear of rejection. Polly showed her every day what that looked like and sometimes Sal would talk about her friend for hours in the evenings. The funny thing was, Mark watched the two of those girls when they were together and saw how envious Polly was of her tall, brilliant, gorgeous friend. If only Polly knew. Both girls would be surprised at how they perceived each other.

“What are you doing over there?” Sal mumbled, lifting herself up on the bed. She turned over and dropped her hand into the playpen beside her to stroke Alexander’s hair.

“Just watching you sleep.”

“That’s creepy. Aren’t you going to be late to remove an abscess or castrate some poor pig?” She blinked her eyes, trying to come awake. “My friends at home think you play with cute puppies and kitties all day long. I hate to tell them what you actually do.”

“I run into cute puppies and kitties out on the farms,” he said.

She worked to untangle herself from the sheets and the two dachshunds, who refused to move away from her. “I keep telling these dogs they’re going to be the death of me. So really, why are you still here?”

“I wasn’t joking. Just watching you sleep. Do you know how much I love you?”

Sal peered at him and pushed her long black hair back, tucking it behind her ears. “It’s a good thing. Otherwise what we’ve been doing around here would be quite scandalous.” She sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched her arms, yawning. “I’m feeling awfully sexy right now. Wanna get you some of this?”

Mark walked over, slid between the bed and playpen and sat beside her. He pulled her into his arms, crushing her against him. “I’d take you any time. You are every dream of mine come true. I love you, Sal.”

“I love you, too.” Sal pushed back from him and blinked again, then rubbed her eyes. “What brought all of this on?”

“Just watching you sleep. You make me happy.”

Reaching down to pick Alexander up, Sal leaned toward him. “I’m not a normal wife.”

“I wouldn’t want anything different. You’re perfect for me.”

“I think we’re pretty perfect together.” She bounced Alexander in her arms. “We make pretty babies, that’s for sure.”

“Didn’t mean to wake you up,” Mark said. “I’ll go to work.”

Sal lifted her face so he could kiss her. He held her for just a few more momeents and then got up and headed back for the door.

“How often do you do that?” Sal asked.

“What?”

“Watch me sleep?”

“Every once in a while.”

She shook her head. “You go to work and be good today. We’ll talk about this later.”

“I can’t wait.”

Bellingwood Vignette, Book 18, #3

I’m going through a terrific course on self-publishing and they asked for a picture of my work space. Of course, what’s a work space without a cat in it? This is Grey, who is a little offended that I backed away to take the photo. Poor spoiled kitty.

I love writing these short vignettes. Even though they aren’t long drawn-out stories about the characters that surround Polly and her family, they are wonderful glimpses into the moments of people who are just living their lives in Bellingwood.

Vignettes are published in the newsletters which arrive in your email inbox on the 25th of every month, but I spend way too much time in Bellingwood to not write a few more while we wait for the next book to be published.

Speaking of the next book – Book 18, Just Around the Bend – will be published on June 25th. 

Our pre-publication Trivia party will be on Friday, June 16th from 6-11 pm (CDT) on the Facebook Bellingwood page. There are always great prizes and you’ll have fun while remembering silly bits and pieces about the early books. Don’t miss it.

This vignette is just a quick look at Eliseo’s sister, Elva, and her four children as the kids get ready for school. I had fun reading your ideas on the FB page about who should get a vignette. Some ideas, though awesome, will have to wait for a book. Just because you haven’t learned all about the characters that you want to know doesn’t mean that it won’t show up. Hah. And even though I’m publishing the 18th book in this series, it feels like we’ve only just begun getting to know these people. There is so much more to come, so be patient. It will all come out, I promise.

However, if you expressed an interest in Elva and her little family as a comment to the FB post, I’ll be in contact with you. And there is more to come! Thank you all for participating!

Back to Normal

“Polly’s going to take you up to the ball fields after school today,” Elva said. She put a bowl of cereal in front of her oldest son, Sammy. “Show me your numbers.”

He held the meter out so she could read it.

“Good job,” Elva said. She bent over and kissed his forehead. “I’m proud of you.”

Sammy worked hard to stay ahead of his diabetes. It wasn’t easy – he wanted to do what every other boy in his class did, but of all her children, he was the one who took responsibility for himself. On the other hand, Ana hated managing her asthma. It infuriated her when she had to slow down because she had trouble breathing. But they managed.

Her three oldest played soccer after school. She and Polly traded moving them around. Noah played soccer with Sammy, and Elijah played baseball. Luckily the practices and games were all held in the same location.

Little Matty wasn’t interested in either soccer or baseball. He couldn’t get enough of the horses at his Uncle Eliseo’s barn. When the kids discovered that there were going to be horse barns going up out here, Matty was the most excited. Gabby and Ana thought it would be fun – especially if they could bring their friends out. Sammy thought it was cool, but Matty wanted a horse all his own. He was a boy after Elva’s passion.

She did her best not to spend much time with the big Percherons at Sycamore House. She didn’t want to fall in love with them. They weren’t hers. Besides, Eliseo had them so well trained, they didn’t need anything she had to offer.

At this point, Elva wasn’t even sure that she remembered what it took to spend time with problem horses. Those days on her father’s farm were in the past. Far in the past. So much had happened in her life between the day she left home and today.

“Can I have some more cereal for my milk?” Gabby asked, interrupting Elva’s train of thought.

“We aren’t starting that this morning.”

“Then I’ll have to do this.” Gabby brought the bowl up to her lips, daring her mother to scold her.

“Do it,” Ana whispered. She patted the table. “Do it. Do it.”

The boys picked up the chant. “Do it. Do it.”

Elva crossed her arms and looked down at Gabby. Her daughter lifted her eyebrows to look up, lowered them and put the bowl back down on the table.

“Chicken,” Ana said.

Elva put a firm hand on Ana’s shoulder. “You shouldn’t encourage bad behavior in anyone, especially when I’m standing right here. You know what that means, don’t you?”

Ana slumped in her seat. “Fine.” She picked up the dirty dishes from the table and scuffed her feet across the floor as she carried them to the dishwasher. “Hey. You didn’t put these away. There are still clean dishes in here.”

“Hmm,” Elva said. “Guess that’s what happens when you are in trouble.”

Sammy giggled until Elva put her hand on his shoulder. “Since you and your brother were part of the problem, you can help your sister clean out the dishwasher. Now go.”

“Aw. Come on. We didn’t start it,” Sammy whined.

Elva just stood there, saying nothing. The kids were pretty good most of the time. She didn’t have any complaints. She’d raised them by herself – their father had rarely been at home, much less taken time to interact with them. At least now, with Eliseo in the house, there was another adult around who bothered to pay attention to them. They loved their uncle. She couldn’t believe how easily they’d accepted him, scars and all. None of them were afraid to touch him or give him a quick kiss on his cheek.

The boys picked up their bowls and walked across the room to help their sister. Then, Gabby giggled. She opened her mouth to say something, took one look at her mother and closed her mouth just as quickly.

“Good girl,” Elva said. “But since you tried to get away with something you know I don’t like right in front of me, I think you should help, too. Go on.”

The kids all had plenty of chores to do around the house, both inside and out. Elva was glad to take on responsibility for the kitchen. She was teaching all four how to cook. None of her kids would go out into the world without knowing their way around spices and flavors. With Sammy’s diabetes, they’d all learned more about healthy eating. The younger three paid more attention to what was safe for him than he did some days.

While they ran around the kitchen putting things away, Elva rinsed out a dishrag and cleaned the counter and then the kitchen table. She couldn’t wait to get them off to school today. As nervous as she was about training horses again, she couldn’t wait. Every day she didn’t have to wait tables at the Alehouse downtown, she cleared more brush off the land where they were planning to build the barns.

Eliseo and his friend, Ralph Bedford, had brought two of the Percherons out to pull trees down. Then she and Eliseo had spent several days with chainsaws cutting them into pieces. He’d brought the bobcat out from Sycamore House and taught her how to use it. The logs that could be cut into firewood went in one section of the property and the rest she dumped out back. Things had been so wet lately they hadn’t burned the pile, but Eliseo promised the kids it would happen soon.

Every day that Elva traversed the land with that bobcat or walked through it picking up stray branches and sticks, she felt herself relax. Sometimes it felt like a calm before the storm because of the excitement building inside her. At night she slept better than she had in years. Her kids were happy and she was preparing to do something that she never dreamed she’d be able to do.

“Get your backpacks,” she said. “Gabby, put your shoes on, please. I’ll meet you at the back door in …” Elva pointed at the clock above the kitchen cabinets. “…eight minutes. The last one there sits on the hump in the back seat.”

They had worked out a plan for who got to ride shotgun to school. Each kid had their own day of the week and on Fridays, the one with the most checkmarks beside their chores list got the honor. There was a lot of catch-up cleaning and work on Thursday nights before bedtime which was just fine with Elva. She worked the evening shift on Fridays and Saturdays and appreciated having all of the work done so Eliseo didn’t have to manage the kids.

“Can I go see the horses after school?” Matty was at the kitchen door, backpack hanging down beside him. It was his standard question every morning.

“That’s up to Polly,” Elva said. If his sisters and brother didn’t have ball practice, they all walked down to the barn. Those were his favorite afternoons. “You really are my boy, aren’t you.”

Matty gave her a confused look. “Of course I am. Who else would be my mommy?”

“No one. No one at all. It’s just that you love those horses so much, just like your mother.”

“I like Tom and Huck, too. They’re short like me.”

She chuckled. “We might have to get a donkey or two out here when the barns are built.”

“But I want a horse.”

“Oh you’ll have a horse, sweet boy. I promise. You might have to share it with your sisters until we can afford more than one, but you will have your own.”

“Will you have one, too?”

She nodded as she thought back to the horses she’d loved. She never fell in love with the easily tamed, passive horses. Her favorites were always the ones who fought and fought for control. It was almost as if they wanted to make sure that she earned their trust – they weren’t giving it up easily. But once they’d broken through together, those horses were hers.

A tear fell from one eye as she wondered what had happened to those animals after her parents died. Elva had taken off as soon as she could, tired of being under her parents control. She wanted to make her own life, to live the way she wanted to live.

She was as bad as some of those rebellious horses, but no one had ever spent time trying to gain her trust. She married her husband, Larry, because she’d gotten pregnant. He was a nice enough man, but he was too much like those easily tamed horses that she never respected. When he had an affair and let her and the kids go, it hurt, but not as much as some might think. The only thing she had to come to grips with was that she’d given up her whole self to that fake life she’d lived with him.

It was Eliseo … her brother … who had finally given her the time she needed to trust again. They fought a lot in those first few weeks she’d been in Bellingwood, but he never pushed her harder than she could handle. People in town thought he was a quiet, nice person. They didn’t know the steel that was inside that man. She was so proud of him and now she wanted to make him proud of her. She’d work hard for that.

Today was Matty’s day to be in the front seat, so she sent him on out to the car. Elva put her hand on the back door handle when she heard the other three come running through the house. First Ana, then Sammy and then Gabriela.

“Matty’s already in the car,” Elva said, pushing the door open. “Go on.”

“Do I have to?” Gabby asked, whining.

“You had eight minutes to get here. After an entire year of this, I don’t know why you’re whining now.”

“Because I hate that bump.”

“You’ll live.” Elva pulled the main door shut behind her and let the screen door close on its own. “You all have everything you need?”