You thought it was about the happily ever after … when all along it was about the story
To their friends in San Diego, Sophie and Neil Beaumont are a successful, happy couple. One rainy night in 1987, that illusion is shattered, changing Sophie’s life forever. As she struggles to pick up the pieces of her life, she doubts that the aching hole in her heart will ever heal.
But everything changes when her best friend’s child, Jonathan, is born. Feeling a sense of hope, she has an intuition that he will be a beloved soul she knew in a past life. Their strong connection inspires her to embark on a healing journey of personal transformation that changes the course of her life.
Prior to his birth, Jonathan and his team of spirit guides create his intricate soul plan. His life purpose is to share wisdom from the spirit world with others, to help them live their lives with less suffering. However, as the result of an unexpected event, he disconnects from the spirit world, and without access to that unique knowledge he was born with, he finds himself at the mercy of his own heartbreaking struggles. His spirit team is determined to help him meet his mission—after all, people like Sophie are depending on him. But can they find a way to help him awaken?
The Line Between is in the genre of visionary/metaphysical fiction— fiction that quietly and unobtrusively shifts the reader’s consciousness through the magical process of storytelling. It’s an inspirational story of hope, loss, friendship, forgiveness, transformation, and eternal love. It speaks the language of the soul and reminds us to embrace all of our life experiences—the everyday routine, the miraculously mesmerizing, and the rip-your-heart-out tragic moments—as equally meaningful.
I received an advance copy of this book from one of my contacts who's in the publishing industry, and I have to say: I feel like it came as a message at just the right time in my life. In fact, if I had to sum up this inspiring, thought-provoking novel, I'd say it's a message ... to all people everywhere, to young and old, to anyone on the planet who seeks reassurance that we're all here for a reason, that life has a true purpose, that we're supported in all we do even when we can't see our cheerleaders, that we're not alone. The Line Between made me feel like I'm part of a much larger fabric of meaningful connection and intention, and it's a pretty powerful story that can do that! I commend this first-time author for her impressive debut; in fact, at the end, I felt like I'd love to sit down with her over coffee and talk about where the book came from, how much was fact, how much was fiction. She drew me into her world for the hours I was reading the book ... and it was a magical, mystical world that gave me comfort and filled me with hope.
A gripping story that weaves together themes of spirituality, friendship, and interconnectedness. It made me think a lot about how my own life and experiences are intimately connected to those of my friends and family, in our current and potentially past lives. Highly recommended to anyone looking for an amazing read!
A story and characters that you can't stop thinking about weeks after you finished the book - that to me is what makes a novel great. The Line Between is just that. I stopped numerous times to retread passages. I highlighted and turned over the corner of many pages so I could remember the inspirational words. I cried. The author has a great attention to detail. I felt like I could feel, hear, smell and taste what the characters experienced (the description of the cakes made me want to raid the cupboards!).
i look forward to future novels from this author.
Other books in this genre:
What if I don’t have any experience in any clubs, organizations, or groups? What are three groups I can join to start building that experience?
Letters of Recommendation
There are some things you can do to help your letter stand out. Most young people (at the last minute, before a job or scholarship application is due) say “Hey, can you write me a letter of recommendation? I know it’s last minute, but my stuff is all due tomorrow.” Don’t be that person. Imagine the type of letter you are going to get.
My Favorite Christmas Tree
Originally appeared in Ellipsis: An Anthology of Humorous Short Stories, August 2016
The names in this story are true.
Only the facts have been changed.
None are innocent.
We called ourselves the Scurvy Bastards. To us, drinking was science; the weekend our laboratory; our bodies, test tubes; and our minds, the experiment.
Every Friday and Saturday, each of us would absorb three to four times the lethal dose of alcohol, and have others report back on our actions. Needless to say, this was fascinating research.
One night, whilst sitting on the Scurvy Benches, as was our wont, the Electrician (a man permanently wired) had just dismissed the whole of Kant’s epistemology with the words, “That faggot didn’t even drink.”
The air was crisp as lettuce and miniature fogs arose whenever someone used the Pissing Tree. The Electrician’s irrefutable logic set Feeney thinking. Feeney did a great deal of thinking. He had to. No one could be that disturbed or disturbing without having put a great deal of thought into it. He was something of an enigma wrapped in legend. None knew from whence he came; he would appear like some mythical being, gym bag filled with books, Jameson, and Stout, dressed like Sherlock Holmes. He had a great red beard, and spoke in parables. One night he passed out and we found the only identification he bore was a membership card to the Dudley Do-Right fan club in the name of Little Bobby Feeney.
At present, Feeney was engaged in what he termed, “The Great Experiment.” The premise was as simple as it was ingenious: How long can a human being subsist on Guinness Stout and Cheese Doodles?
Charles Carpenter, the author of the revered memoir Handcuffed does it again with Colors of Oppression.
The well written narrative explores the anatomy of the often hostile, racially divided prison environment. Charles Carpenter details the social and psychological ramifications of oppression, and describes the wisdom needed to navigate through a microcosm of hatred, racism, deception, and prison politics.
This book highlights various deceitful tactics employed by the correctional officers and inmates, thus giving the general public an unadulterated glimpse into the world within a world - prison.
Colors of Oppression is an educational tool for anyone interested in a career in the field of corrections. This book also raises the awareness level for those interested in analyzing the dynamics of prison life.
A recent graduate of UCLA, Molly McAlister has just landed her first job and loves it.
The problem is her demanding boss, who seems to think he’s in charge of her free time too. Under threat of layoff, her boss manipulates her into giving up Christmas with her family in Florida to pet-sit his two beloved purebred poodles.
When Molly arrives at his house in Santa Monica a few days before Christmas, she learns she must also watch two ill-tempered Rottweilers, Darth and Vader, who scare her to death. His hypercritical wife seems to think Molly is a maid too, and leaves her a long list of chores and rules. Molly’s expecting to have a miserable Christmas, but things start to look up when she meets the boy next door and his family. Unfortunately, they’re embroiled in a neighborhood feud with her boss.
It is pure torture to watch a loved one slowly lose everything and know there is nothing that can be done for them
It is so important to reassure your loved ones during the early stages of this disease. The more worked up they get, the more inept and useless they feel. Nobody should feel this way, especially those in the early stages of dementia. It’s not easy to be patient under normal circumstances. It’s even harder the fifteenth time you’re looking for a cell phone or car keys. You must force yourself to always exercise patience. If finding their phone is important to them, then it should be important to you. Telling them not to worry about it, or it’ll show up, doesn’t help at all. You might as well be talking to a wall. Finding a lost item will become a fixation for them. Drop whatever you’re doing and find the item. Be sure to include them in your search. Chances are they’re going to follow you around anyway.
This is a memoir of my journey caring for two loved ones, and experiencing the loss of a third loved one to this terrible disease. Witness with me, up-close and personal, the different stages of dementia- from early signs, diagnoses, progression, and finally the heart wrenching end. Learn from my experiences to identify the early symptoms sooner. And, more importantly, learn how to care for your loved one so that they never walk alone…
A grocery store can’t expect repeat business if its checkers unleash Armageddon. This truism governs Debbie Devil, dedicated supermarket checker and horny, estranged wife of Satan. Debbie sets her sights on Joe Thorvald, a God-fearing, Lutheran. If she can get him to eat a mushroom his soul and his hunky body will be hers.
Debbie tells her sidekick, Bertram, a British cook, to change Joe’s memory, body, circumstances, era, and life, until the Lutheran becomes a man who will eat mushrooms. But there will be only so many attempts on Joe’s soul before she unleashes Armageddon out of spite.
God sends the angels General Lee and Pedro Erickson, a Mexican-Swedish chef, to protect Joe. They fight back with Heaven’s culinary weapons, tacos and Swedish meatballs.
Along the way, Joe changes into a fun-loving dinosaur and a Greek warrior with an ass harder than bronze before being sent to Hell for nonpayment of his hospital bill. Can Lee and Pedro Erickson save the soul of a Lutheran hunk and prevent Armageddon? Ja caramba.
“Let him go! No! stop! Pull him back in! Pull him back in!” yelled Jemma. She struggled but was firmly pinned against the rock face by Bollo. Jemma was up against the back wall of the walkway behind the waterfall. She watched helplessly as Todda and Jud held her best friend under the white torrent of water. Each of them was holding an arm and Gonga was spluttering and struggling to breathe, desperately trying to get out from under the force of the water. Todda and Jud were older and much stronger, so Gonga’s struggles were in vain. Bollo laughed even louder as Todda yelled, “Let’s see if we can wash this stain off once and for all!” referring to the white splash of hair in the centre of Gonga’s chest. He was the only gorilla in the entire band that had one, and was tormented mercilessly for it by Todda and his gang.
After school, Gonga met Jemma and they were enjoying a leisurely stroll past the three big boulders, under the old tree they affectionately knew as ‘Old Bow-Legs’ and up to the walkway behind the waterfall. It was easy to see why they nicknamed the tree because if you looked at it quickly out of the corner of your eye, it looked like a bow-legged old man. The walkway behind the waterfall was about halfway up the cliff, and enjoyed a good view over the pool and river at the bottom of the waterfall far below. As they were halfway through the walkway, the gang closed in – again! Todda had blocked the exit in front of them, while Jud and Bollo blocked the entrance behind them. As the three advanced on them, Todda yelled, “Time to wash you off, freak!” and grabbed him by the arms.
Now Gonga spluttered and gasped as the monumental force of the water knocked almost all the breath from his battered body. Gonga clung desperately to the ledge with his toes while Todda and Bollo stood laughing. Gonga was leaning back precariously, his chest, shoulders and face taking the full weight of the waterfall. Every time Gonga tried to pull himself back in, he was pushed backwards under the curtain of water again. Looking up, he could see the water falling down onto his chest like a relentless, white-water guillotine. He could vaguely hear yelling and laughter coming from the other side of the water curtain but was too scared to take much notice. Just as he thought he was about to die, he was yanked back through the heavy, stinging water and shoved up against the rock wall next to Jemma.
“Leave him alone, you cowards,” she screamed. Gonga’s legs felt like jelly, but Todda held him up, a vice-like grip around his throat.
“No boys. It looks like it’s permanent after all!” shouted Todda above the roar of the waterfall and punched Gonga on the white spot in his chest. Gonga slumped to the ground as Todda let him go.
Gonga ambled through the thick undergrowth down to a pool at the river’s edge. As soon as he arrived, he sat down and studied the water. He was the first to the water this morning, so he had to be extra careful. A few months ago a small gorilla had been caught by a crocodile, never to be seen again. Gonga sure didn’t want that to happen to him, so he scanned the water very carefully for any signs of movement. The adults had built a fence and placed it underwater at the back of the pool, but that was no guarantee of safety. He stood up and moved toward the water, but a movement in the trees above caught his attention and he stopped. He thought he had seen something grey coloured, and was just peering up when he glimpsed it again and a branch came crashing down into the pool. Just then, a huge crocodile jumped up out of the water, snapping its jaws loudly at the intrusion. The croc settled slowly back into the water, until only its eyes and snout were visible. It watched Gonga for a short while before turning around and heading to the back of the pool, where it swam straight out into the river and disappeared downstream.
Gonga waited until the pool was calm again, and thought about how lucky he was that the branch had startled the croc, checking his hands to see if they were still shaking. He threw a few pebbles into the brown, murky water, and said “the fence must be broken”, to no-one in particular. Once he was satisfied it was safe, he walked in up to his waist and, shivering slightly, started washing his face in the chilly water. “I wonder where my friends are?” Gonga thought to himself. “They’re normally here by now.”
Just then the water next to him exploded and he was absolutely drenched! Gonga jumped sideways and screamed loudly, thinking that the big croc had returned. He scrambled toward the side of the pool and looked back to see Todda in fits of laughter. Todda had swung out over the pool on a jungle vine, and bombed Gonga, landing in the water right next to him. Jud and Bollo were hiding behind a tree and howled with laughter at Gonga, who was still trying to wipe the water out of his eyes.
Todda and his two friends started pelting him with mud, saying to each other, “Aim for the white target, boys!” Just as Gonga was getting pelted, his friends came to his rescue. Splat! Splat! They peppered Todda and his gang with some of their own medicine. Thonk! Bollo howled as he was hit in the ear by a hard piece of mud.
“I didn’t know there was a stone in it! Honest!” said Jemma, but a sly little smile afterwards told Gonga and his friends otherwise. Jemma was always up to some sort of mischief!
“That’s enough!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, freezing everyone with her stern voice as she walked into a chaotic classroom. Everyone went silent, waiting to see what would happen next.
“Okay,” said Todda, casually throwing the hairpin over Jemma’s head, and out of the classroom.
Jemma’s eyes widened and, stepping on a log, launched herself high into the air to catch it, before it was lost forever. She caught the hairclip, but landed awkwardly on the side of a log. This sent her flying into the railing at the edge of the classroom. There seemed to be a split second where it held, but then the wooden posts shattered spectacularly, and Jemma dropped out of sight down the side of the cliff!
“No!” yelled Gonga, scrambling to the spot where Jemma had just disappeared. “Don’t go near the edge!” shouted Mrs Brackengood, but it was too late. Gonga was already flat on his belly, peering down the cliff face. He saw Jemma a little way down the cliff, her eyes wide with fear, clinging desperately to a narrow ledge with both hands. The broken railing made a nasty scraping noise, as it swung back and forth across the cliff face next to Jemma.
“Jemma, Are you okay?” yelled Gonga. Jemma nodded shakily as she clung to the ledge.
“Can you reach the railing?” called Gonga.
“No!” she grunted, breathing hard from her efforts. Gonga grabbed the broken railing and tried to swing it back and forth to reach Jemma. It was heavy and difficult to swing with just one hand. No matter how hard he tried, he was just not able to get it to swing close enough for Jemma to grab. The rest of the class was shouting encouragement, but it was just a vague background noise to Gonga and he was tiring out quickly. Just as he put all his effort into one last swing, he saw a grey arm appear from a crack in the rock face and give the railing an extra push in Jemma’s direction. Gonga was surprised, but only had time to think about it very briefly before the railing reached Jemma. She grabbed at it with one hand, the other still clinging desperately to the ledge. The wooden post snapped almost as soon as she grabbed it, sending the railing swinging wildly in the opposite direction. She scrambled and clung to the ledge again with both hands.
“Grab the leathervine part, Jem!” shouted Gonga. As the railing swung back toward Jemma, she grabbed one of the leathervines and wrapped it around her wrist. The railing jerked as its swing came to a sudden stop, almost pulling Jemma from her grip on the little ledge. She tested it to see if it would take her weight. There were loud cracking noises as the rest of the railing threatened to pull free from the cliff face.
Everyone in the classroom yelled, and Gonga shouted, “Help me! Grab the railing!”
Jemma looked at the mist-covered river below them and found that she couldn’t see the other bank. The mist enclosed their rope about halfway across the river.
She eyed this warily and said, “I’m chickening out. You go first!”
“Okay,” said Gonga with an adventurous twinkle in his eye. He climbed onto the vine, hanging upside down by his hands and feet. “Be careful!” said a nervous Jemma, but Gonga had already started across, their rope bouncing as he moved along. He was soon over the middle of the river and disappeared from Jemma’s view into the morning mist. All she could see was the bouncing of the rope. It gave a few big bounces and then went still for a while. Jemma’s heart almost stopped, but she heard no splash. The leathervine soon resumed its normal, gentle and rhythmic pattern of bounces. She waited anxiously for some signal to know that it was her turn. It was only once Gonga had disappeared into the mist that she thought about the fact that he didn’t have a safety rope in case he fell into the river.
Gonga’s heart was pounding as he moved hand over hand across the leathervine, despite his show of bravado in front of Jemma. Once he reached the middle of the river and was swallowed up by the mist, he found the vine even more wet and slippery. It was harder going now and he was straining to see through the mist. Suddenly a bird flew right past his face. It was such a shock that he instinctively put a hand up to protect his face and caused his other hand to slip off the wet vine. The vine bounced wildly up and down as he held on with his feet. He was hanging upside down over what he could only assume was the middle of the river, unable to see anything except for white mist. It had been great to see the mist over the river in the mornings, but now the mist was not so pretty anymore. Once the vine was still again, he slowly reached up and grabbed the vine with his hands again and started moving. He inched across through the mist, gripping the leathervine much harder than he probably needed to. He was relieved when he finally exited the mist, seeing that he was almost over land already. He sped up slightly and was soon in the branches of a large tree where he found the hook neatly lodged in the crook of two branches. Relieved, he sat there a short while, his chest heaving until he caught his breath.
Jemma waited anxiously on the other side of the river. There had been no splash and the leathervine had stopped moving now. She wondered if Gonga had reached the other side safely. Just then she heard a small splash. She couldn’t see anything except the ever-widening ripples where something had landed in the water below her.
It’s Christmas Eve, and Renee is a mess. She has barely slept or eaten for two weeks. Her hair is ratted, her eyes are puffy and bloodshot, and her clothes are filthy. In the throngs of an anxiety attack, she decides to commit suicide by jumping off a nearby bridge, though the thought of it terrifies her. As she drives toward the bridge through the Virginia countryside, she considers driving into an oncoming cement truck. But at the last moment, she can’t do it. Then, she sees a dark, foreboding man hitchhiking. On a whim, she stops and picks him up. What does it matter anyway? But she immediately regrets her decision.
Who is the intimidating, tattooed hitchhiker – and what are his plans for her?
Bradford James Livingston couldn’t believe it. He had finally married the woman of his dreams, Paula Dianne Copeland. He was the most blessed man on the face of God’s green earth. As they took their first dance together as Mr. And Mrs. Bradford James Livingston to the sweet, slow, romantic melody of his favorite song, he reflected back to the first time he’d ever held her in his arms. It had been at her best friend Taylor’s wedding almost a year and a half ago when they had danced together to this very song.
The sultry voice of the female singer filled the air of the hotel’s banquet room as Bradford held his wife next to him and breathed in the mere sight of her. Man, oh, man, was she enchanting! And she was his, all his. Even though the room was filled to capacity with their family and friends, they only saw each other. The sparkle in her beautiful dark brown eyes told him that her love for him was as strong as his for her.
To his displeasure, their song ended. Bradford wasted no time in partaking of another kiss from his lovely bride. Mmmmm-mmm. Her lips were so soft, as sweet as honey, and as moist as fresh dew on a cool spring morning. This was nice. He could kiss her forever. Oh, wait a minute. Something was wrong. Her kiss. Suddenly, it had turned into a drenching rain, not just on his mouth but all over his face. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings by wiping his face. He’d surely live to regret it if he did, but she was slobbering all over his face. He couldn’t take it any longer.
“Ah, baby, I know you love me,” Bradford grinned, “but can you cut the waterworks?”
She didn’t answer. Instead, she continued to lick him all over his face.
Bradford partially opened his eyes and saw honey blonde hair and a pair of big, gray eyes staring back at him. The face looked familiar, but it certainly wasn’t his Paula. Who had he married? Whoever it was gave him another soggy kiss, which felt more like a lick. He opened his eyes fully.
When he saw who—or what—it was, he yelled, “Gee Gee, stop!”
The five-year-old part cocker spaniel and part schnauzer continued licking her owner’s face.
Bradford turned his head from side to side. “Gee Gee, I said stop!”
The dog didn’t understand. This was their usual morning routine minus some of the face licking. She’d been having a hard time waking her master this morning. What was wrong with him?
Bradford sat up straight in bed. “Ginger, stop!”
Uh-oh. He’d called her by her given name Ginger. He only did that when he was upset with her and meant business.
Ginger’s droopy ears stood up straight. She wasted no time jumping off her master’s king-size storage bed and taking off on short legs.
Bradford could hear his pooch hauling it down the stairs and across the hardwood kitchen floor, apparently heading to her hiding place in the laundry room where she usually sought refuge when she knew she was in trouble. All of a sudden, he felt something warm and wet on his sheet underneath his left hand. He lifted his hand to see a dark circular-like wet spot.
Frowning, he called out, “Ginger, I’m gon’ whip your—-”
Grunting, Bradford quickly climbed out of bed, made his way to the master bath, and washed his hands and face.
As he prepared breakfast later, he made up his mind to tell Paula tonight at the cookout at her house of his true feelings for her.
Bradford smiled inwardly as he thought about their initial meeting and encounter at her Aunt Evelyn’s house over a year and a half ago. They had mixed like oil and water but had soon become the best of friends. They’d been friends for almost a year and a half, and he hadn’t seen her as anything more than that until about a year ago. He’d been trying desperately to fight his feelings though because after all, it had been he who had stressed that he only wanted to be her friend, which was true at the time. It had never been his intention to fall in love with her. He’d had nothing but the purest and sincerest intentions of friendship with her.
But tonight was the night. He was finally going to tell her that he loved her and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her as more than just friends.
* * *
The gentle breeze of May stirred the sweet-smelling, succulent aroma of honeysuckles up the green, grassy hillside surrounding the airy, outdoor room where most of the guests had congregated. The flowers’ nectar filled Bradford’s nostrils as he secretly searched for Paula. Finally spotting her, he forced himself to take gentle strides in her direction because he actually felt like sprinting toward her as though he was running a marathon. She looked pretty in her white knee knockers and red and white striped v-neck tee.
Paula’s eyes twinkled as she caught and held his gaze. It was obvious that her feelings for him were mutual. He could hardly wait for them to talk later.
“Hey,” she said. “I’ve been looking for you. Where’ve you been?”
“Conversing,” Bradford responded with a mischievous grin.
“I should’ve known. You’re either talking or eating. Or both,” she added jovially.
Taking the platter of marinated meats from her, he walked with her toward the grill.
“This meat looks good enough to eat raw.”
He teased, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
She elbowed him. “I wouldn’t really do it, silly. What’d you marinate it in?”
She stood beside him while he used the large wooden-handled tongs to place the meat onto the hot grill.
His mouth turned up into a huge grin. “It’s a family secret. But maybe I’ll share it with you one day though.”
“Oh, so it’s like that, huh?”
He grinned. “Can we get together later? There’s something I wanna talk to you about?”
Her face dropped. “Sure. Is everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine. No, I take that back. It’s better than fine. It’s great.”
Her eyes flashed with intense curiosity. “Why are you grinning like a Cheshire cat? Did you meet a girl?”
He gave her a sharp, playful look. “Didn’t I just ask if we can talk later? Don’t you have something else you need to be doing besides standing out here harassing me?”
Paula giggled. “Well, excuuuse me. I’ll talk to you later.”
Bradford chuckled as she walked away mumbling to herself.
“Hey,” came a baritone voice beside him. It was his good friend Richard Mayfield, Taylor’s husband.
The two friends shook hands.
Richard leaned in and whispered, “Did you finally ask her out?”
“Ask who out?”
“Paula. Who do you think I’m talking about?”
Bradford cast a cautious eye over his shoulder, then back at his friend. Eyeing Richard, he asked, “You talkin’ to me?”
“No, I was talkin’ to that tree over there,” Richard said, chuckling lightheartedly as he nodded toward the thicket of skyscraper evergreens on Paula’s property.
Bradford released a nervous laugh. “What are you talking about? Paula and I go out all the time. We’re friends.”
Richard peered at the attractive one-story cottage which Bradford had built for Paula when she’d downsized from her huge, extravagant home in Azalea Heights. “I mean on a date. Don’t play dumb with me. Maybe you can fool everybody else but not me.”
Bradford’s eyes made another involuntary sweep of the area. He had never admitted his feelings for Paula to anyone, not even his friends. He chuckled lightly. “Man, we’re just friends,” he whispered.
“Yeah, I know you are now, but it’s obvious that you dig her.”
Bradford hung his head and grinned, then looked back up. Why try to hide it any longer? After all, he was going to announce it to Paula later on. Why not go ahead and share it with one of his best friends?
“How long have you known?”
“Well, for the past several months, but I didn’t really think much of it at first.”
Bradford opened his eyes wide. “Do you think anybody else knows?”
“I don’t know. If they do, I haven’t heard ‘em say anything. Why don’t you just tell her how you feel?” Richard cautioned, “You keep dillydallying around, and somebody’s gon’ beat you to her. I don’t know why the two of you haven’t hooked up by now anyway. You’ve been friends for what–almost two years?”
“Almost. A year and a half.”
Bradford was relieved when their friend Phillip Callahan approached them. Phillip had moved to Charlotte six months ago and had easily settled into the area and their congregation. Since he had experience in construction work and was in need of a job, Bradford had readily hired him on as one of his crew people. The three men had a lot in common and had become the best of friends.
Holding out his hand, Phillip said, “Brad, Richard, how you doing?”
“Phil,” the two men said in unison and shook his hand.
Richard took a sip of his drink.
Bradford said, “Just the man I want to see.” Handing Phillip the tongs, he said, “Take over for me for a few minutes, will you, buddy? And don’t let Richard get too close to it. He always lets it burn.”
Richard looked wide-eyed, almost choking on his drink. “Hey, I resent that.”
“You can resent it all you want to,” Bradford said. “It’s the truth,” he added, chuckling, as he walked away.
* * *
“Hey, Sister Randall,” Bradford greeted Paula’s aunt, Evelyn Randall.
Evelyn broke into a huge grin. “Hey, Brad.”
Leaning down to give the elderly woman a hug, he inquired, “How you doing?”
Evelyn hugged him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “I’m fine. How ‘bout choo?”
“Terrific.” Taking a seat on one of the black, wrought-iron chairs beside her, he asked, grinning, “So what’s for dinner tomorrow?”
Evelyn had come to love Bradford like a son. Along with Paula, he brought so much sunshine into her life. And just like she’d done with her niece, she had spoiled him rotten by cooking for them all the time, especially on Sundays.
She responded with a straight face, “Leftovers.”
Bradford frowned and leaned forward. “Leftovers!”
“Yeah. You thank wit all this food we gon’ have ‘ere today I’ma go home and cook? Have you lost yer mind?"
Bradford doubled over in laughter. “Now, Sister Randall, we can’t have leftovers on Sunday. A big ol’ pot o’ collard greens, some neck bones, potato salad, and cornbread sure sounds good.”
“Sho’ do,” Evelyn responded with her arms folded across her chest. “You gon’ fix it?”
Bradford was shaking with laughter. “Sister Randall, you’re a mess. A straight-up mess. You know that?”
“Yeah, I know. Thank yuh,” Evelyn said as she broke into laughter.
“Well, I didn’t mean it as a compliment,” he joked.
“Well, that’s how I’m takin’ it,” she replied, grinning.
Everyone was having a great time, enjoying good conversation and wholesome association while waiting for the meat to finish grilling. Bradford didn’t think he could wait a moment longer to talk to Paula. He had hoped that they could talk after most of her guests had gone, but he was eager to share his feelings. He felt jubilant inside as he took giant steps toward the house.
It was quiet inside. He admired her decorative touch. The bright colors and sheer fabrics brought a wealth of light and energy to her new home. Though it was much smaller than the one she’d had in Azalea Heights, it was beautiful nonetheless, and she seemed extremely happy and satisfied with her downsized lifestyle.
Her name was on the tip of his tongue as he made his way to the kitchen. However, what he saw caused his brain to malfunction. Paula and Phillip were standing beside the shimmering, gray, marble-topped island embraced in a kiss! Bradford slowly backed away, almost stumbling over the bench in the hallway that he and Paula had built together. He nearly knocked Evelyn down as she was coming through the front door. He grabbed her arms to steady her.
“Sister Randall, I’m sorry. Are you all right?”
Evelyn reached for and held her chest. “Whew! You liked to scared the livin’ daylights outta me. I’m fine. You see Paula in there? I thank everbody’s ready to eat. They just took the rest of the meat off’n the grill. Did yuh see her when yuh was inside?”
“Ah, no,” Bradford hurriedly responded before rushing away.
He almost walked into Taylor and Richard as they stood talking. Taylor looked at Bradford with curious eyes.
“Are you okay? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”
Taylor looked at him again before saying, “I’m gonna see if Paula needs help with anything.”
Bradford thought, the only thing Paula needs help with is getting Phillip’s mouth off hers. See if you can help her with that while you’re in there.
Richard asked, “Man, are you sure you’re okay? You look sick.”
“I’m fine. I think I just need to eat something.”
Bradford spoke in a low tone. “What we talked about earlier–about Paula–do me a favor. Don’t mention it to anybody, especially Taylor.”
“Okay. But why not? What’s wrong?”
“I changed my mind. We’re friends. Anything more would just complicate things.”
“So you’re just going to let her slip through your fingers?” Richard whispered.
“I told you, Rich, we’re friends, and I wanna keep it that way,” Bradford firmly responded.
Richard held up his hand. “Okay. Whatever you say.”
When they saw Paula approaching them with a huge grin on her face, the air grew quiet.
Look at her, Bradford thought. That kiss from Phillip has her grinning from ear to ear.
The touch of her hand as she took his caused a warmth to radiant up and down his spine.
“Here you are,” she said. “I’ve been looking for you. We’re ready to eat. Will you say the blessing?”
Bradford’s first thought was, why don’t you ask your boyfriend Phillip to say the blessing? Instead, he pasted a fake smile on his face and responded, “Sure.”
Richard watched the two of them walk away.
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