Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"And just like that, the whole world was a place I no longer recognized."
Becoming Calder is the story of love, sacrifice, and the realization that life isn't always what you think it is.
Calder and Eden live in Acadia, a religious sect separated from the world. Eden is promised to Hector, the leader of Acadia. She is to wed him when she comes of age so the group will be able to get to Elysium, their version of heaven. However, as the story unfolds and Calder and Eden grow up, it becomes apparent that Acadia has many cult-like tendencies. Nothing is quite as it seems, and Hector is a volatile, angry leader. When Eden and Calder begin to explore a friendship that turns into something more, they must choose between the life they've known and the big world outside of Acadia. However, Hector isn't going to let Eden go without a price.
I was entranced by this book from page one. Sheridan paints a clear image of Acadia as a utopian environment--and then she tears that image right down. To see Eden and Calder's acceptance of their way of life turn into questioning stirs themes of identity and happiness. Both believe in the values of Acadia without question until certain events make them wonder if they are living a lie. This realization drives the plot of the book forward and hooks the reader.
Calder and Eden are both developed fully throughout the novel. I loved watching them grow and learn about life, about the world, and about who they really are. Most of all, I enjoyed watching their relationship grow and develop. Their love is pure and rich but also passionate. In a hopeless situation, their love drives them forward, really showing that love can save us. I was rooting for their love story the entire book, even up through the exciting ending.
Sheridan does an amazing job at weaving tension into the story. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, my stomach twisting with fear for the two protagonists. I loved that we got to see the story from both Eden and Calder's perspective because it only heightened my appreciation for their relationship and for what they both had to lose.
This book is beautiful in the simplicity of the world Eden and Calder fall in love, but also in the complexity of it. As the story unfolds, you realize that Eden and Calder's love is their saving grace and is even more of a treasure considering the circumstances in which it blossoms. This book is a refreshing reminder of what freedom and love truly look like. I will definitely be reading more books by Sheridan, including the sequel, Finding Eden.
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What Matters Most? A New Romantic Drama to Remind You
A single moment can change everything… but can love help us survive?
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…
Settled into married life, Jessica and Todd think they have so much time… until everything comes to a halt on a snowy back road. When they find themselves in a life or death situation, with rescue seeming impossible, they cling to the only hope they have left: their love for each other.
As Jessica and Todd fight for survival, their connection carries them through the biggest challenge of their lives. Memories and regrets swirl around the couple as they finally take a moment to reflect on what really matters.
There’s one big, icy question that haunts them, though: Is this where their story will end?
Remember When, releasing April 29, 2017 with Hot Tree Publishing
Add it to your TBR list!
Best Romance Reads: Across the Way by Amy K. McClung
Across the Way by Amy K. McClung
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Across the Way is a story of love, of identity, and of making difficult choices. This book pulled me in from the first page and didn't let me go until the emotional ending.
I loved Marie's character in the book. She was fun-seeking and adventurous. She decides to do something many of us don't get a chance to do--she pursued her bucket list and traveled across the country on an epic adventure. Along the way, she finds a deep friendship with a woman named Constance and also finds a strong romantic connection. As the trip unfolds, though, Marie finds herself pulled between the life she left behind and a relationship with her best friend, Jayce, and the new life she's found on the road.
First, I loved all of the adventure and trips in this book. Marie lives out a dream so many of us have. It was great to live this dream vicariously through her character.
Furthermore, I really connected with Marie. She is a real character because she isn't perfect. She struggles with choices and with finding what she wants in life. I like that she hesitates and changes her mind; it made her feel real to me. I also like her sense of wonder she is able to find in the book and the way she is able to go after what she wants.
This book is fun and light, but also has deep, emotional moments. This book truly has so many facets to it. The writing is well-done, with the pacing and characterization demonstrating amazing skill. I will definitely be reading more works by McClung as she typifies the beauty of romance, the struggle of one's twenties, and the challenge of choosing our life path with extreme grace in this novel.
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Must-Read Romantic Comedy: Who We Were
IT'S LIVE TODAY! GRAB MY SIXTH BOOK, WHO WE WERE, EVERYWHERE!
Once you purchase, enter my release day giveaway on Facebook :)
“I guess that’s the thing about high school reunions, though. They make you snap a little.”
In the ten years since high school graduation, Maylee’s career, living arrangements, family, and especially her love life are at a standstill. When her twin brother, Mitch, falls for her high school enemy at their ten-year reunion, Maylee’s life is catapulted into chaos.
Maylee’s hatred for the blonde-haired Josephine isn’t the only thing she discovers at her reunion. Benson Drake, the introvert from high school, has matured into a sexy intellect. Now a writer and bartender, Benson’s grown into a man with a perfect balance of quirky wit and sex appeal. After a wardrobe malfunction, a spy mission gone wrong, and a dangerous cup of coffee, Maylee and Benson explore something they never even thought about during senior year. Along the way, they find out that reconnecting with the past can change you… or maybe just help you find your true self.
All links: books2read.com/who-we-were
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2hWxCjg
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MZ0BJPL
Amazon AU: www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01MZ0BJPL
Amazon CA: www.amazon.ca/dp/B01MZ0BJPL
This Year is available for download...for #free! Grab your collection of romance stories by Hot Tree Publishing authors. These flash fiction pieces are perfect for reading on the go, after your kids' bedtime, or just when you need to take fifteen minutes to relax. Claim some "me" time, some romance time, and some reading time...for free!
Download your PDF or EPUB version HERE.
The first time you made me feel inferior was in 6th grade. You were the bouncy blonde who knew how to smile the smile well beyond your years. I was the girl with ill-fitting clothes, mousy brown hair, and a smile that said “child.” You walked the walk of the popular crowd while I sat in the corner with my book, sporting my butterfly clips.
We could’ve been friends, despite our differences. At the very least, we could’ve just co-existed peacefully. You, however, had other plans.
From my hair to my clothes to the freckles on my face, you made fun of every inch of me. You mocked me until I felt like maybe I was flawed. You got others on your bandwagon and worked hard to belittle me every chance you could. You pushed and shoved with your words, and insecurity crept in.
Through the years, there were many versions of you. Your name, background, hair color, and voice were different. Sometimes we had one harsh encounter, and sometimes you stuck around for a while to make me feel small. Over the years, there were so many of you. I still know each of your names and remember the hurt you caused.
To me, you were always a version of the girl from 6th grade. You made me feel weak. I learned that the message of being kind wasn’t always the way of the world. I learned that mean girls really did exist, and that sometimes the words of the mean girls really did sting.
As I got older, I told myself I was tougher. I didn’t need to worry about what others thought. I didn’t need to be meek and walked all over. I started to grow confidence, and I started to talk back. I was never innocent, I realize now. I said and did some things I shouldn’t have. Even the bookworms put on Regina George’s heels from time to time, and that’s something I’m not proud of.
Behind the brave face, though, was a hidden truth: Insecurity. Those pesky worries were always sitting really close to the confident smirk on my face at your harsh words. What if they were right? What if I wasn’t that special? What if I really was ugly, dumb, weird, and boring? What if I, like they made me believe, was a nobody?
Mean Girls in AdulthoodIn high school, you think the scenes from Mean Girls are left behind when you graduate. The comments and antics of teenagers surely can’t cross the imaginary line into the adult world.
However, I’ve come to realize that mean girls always exist at every stage of life. No matter how much you grow up, judgement and harsh comments still surround you. There will always be those willing to stomp on you with their stilettos to make themselves feel superior. That’s just the way life is.
Working as a high school English teacher, I’m even more privy to the fact that cruelty and competition are cyclical in nature; they truly don’t just go away, and there really is no way to just let it all go.
Harsh words really do haunt you, no matter how brave you try to be.
Nonetheless, I’ve come to realize two very important lessons the 6th grade version of myself didn’t quite know.
1. No one is perfect or perfectly innocent.
We all have our Regina George moments. We might go about it differently, but we’ve all judged another woman or been unnecessarily unkind. Thus, we must use our experiences, especially if we’ve been on the receiving end of cruel judgement, to inspire us to be kinder. We must strive to be more empathetic than our adversaries so we can stop the cycle. We must seek to build up others, even if they are seeking to tear us down. We must strive to combat the inner mean girl that tempts us to judge others, to be cruel, and to make others feel inferior.
2. Inferiority is a personal choice.
In high school, it’s almost impossible to understand this. Even now, at 29, it’s not an easy concept to ascribe to. However, the older I get, the more I realize the truth in this statement.
Mean girls are only effective if we let them be. Sure, the words will always haunt us. Cruel comments are indelible and don’t really dull with time. Still, it is our decision to believe them or to let them rest as untrue. We may not have the power to stop all of the real life mean girls in the world—but we have the power to choose how we handle their words.
Real life mean girls will always exist. From time to time in life, we might even find ourselves as one of the clique. However, the true challenge we as women face is to rise above the tendency to compare and to seek power. We must start to realize that tearing down another woman doesn’t build anyone up. Most of all, we must realize that we alone have the strength to build our own selves up. Words truly do hurt, but inner confidence allows us to find a place where cruel words don’t dictate who we are.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and contemporary romance author. Her latest novel, Who We Were, is a romantic comedy about dealing with high school enemies.
Some say you fall in love, while others say you choose it.
I say love found me because I wasn’t searching for it when you came into my life at the innocent age of 12. In fact, I don’t even think I knew what love was. My frizzy hair, T-shirt, and ill-fitting jeans certainly suggested I wasn’t trying to lure love in.
Still, love found me just the same at that art table so many years ago. Your blue eyes and blond hair whispered to me. Something about the way you looked at me roped me in. I can’t say why or how or what even happened that day in August. All I knew was once love found me, it didn’t let me go.
Over the years, we’ve built a life together. We’ve graduated from high school and the typical prom photos to a settled-in life. We shared first kisses and first dates. We endured first fights and doubts. We stepped through many stages of life, always together. We’ve walked through many storms hand in hand, heart glued to heart, and eyes locked on each other.
We said “I do,” and we signed for our not-quite dream home but dream enough for us. We bought a dog and way too many cats. We’ve grown up and grown together.
There’s nothing special about us, not really. Our love story started when we were young, and we’ve managed to prove monogamy is possible. But other than that, we’re just an average couple living an average love story.
Still, you remind me every single day that love stories don’t have to be extraordinary or full of twists and turns to be exciting. You’ve shown me over the years that love stories aren’t about flashy events and grand gestures.
The love I have with you is a soul building love. It’s a solid love. It’s a simple love.
It’s funny because even though I’m a romance writer, our “romance” typically consists of lounging in our house in our comfy clothes watching Netflix. We spent last Valentine’s Day at home on the sofa, surrounded by our mastiff and our cats. We ate pizza and watched a mediocre movie.
There’s no place, no Valentine’s Day, I’d have rather been.
Our romance isn’t about building a novel-worthy tale for others to gawk at. Our romance, our love story isn’t about impressing upon others the obviousness of our love.
Being with you has shown me that love comes in many, simple forms.
Our love story is awkwardly dancing around the kitchen—nothing like in the movies—to an odd song we have in our head. It’s when we both come home from the grocery store with a carton of eggs and a surprise candy for each other because we’re on the same page but can’t manage to text each other. It’s a funny meme you send to my phone on a Monday that just totally fits with what’s happening in my day. It’s the look we give across the room because we know exactly what we’re thinking. It’s the joy we get of doing nothing but sitting around the house together, laughing at our laziness but being totally content.
We have a simple love, an average love, a love few would be excited to read about. But that’s what our love has shown me. The most simplistic, average love story is often the one that resonates with us the most. It’s the one that’s most important.
Each love story is a beautiful, romantic saga in its own right. Thank you for reminding me to celebrate that.
To my husband—thank you for an average, simple love. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lindsay Detwiler is the published author of six contemporary romance novels. To learn more about her works, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.
Sometimes life and love are better when they're simple.
Welcome to Maplewood, where Cadence Mills is trading in her New York City life for a simpler experience. As she moves to Maplewood to care for her grandma, she comes to realize that sometimes simple is more exciting...and that sometimes love finds us in unexpected places.
Follow Cadence Mills' life and love in Maplewood with this serially published chick lit saga. To read parts one and two, click on the Simply Love page above.
It’s strange to say, but I think I saw a glimmer of glee in Grandma’s eye when I told her about the station wagon.
Not that I had to tell her much. Even with Grandma’s less-than-stellar hearing, I’m pretty sure she heard the crunching of the mailbox with her bumper.
I’d slinked back into the house, head down, dejected, awaiting the lecture from Grandma. Instead, when I fessed up about her bumper, she gave a little shrug.
“No worries, Cadence. Just take it to Creeson’s.”
“Creeson’s garage. It’s on the corner of Hemlock and Grove street. They’ll have it fixed in a jiffy.”
And then Grandma had scurried off to watch her soap operas, leaving me stumped at her calmness about the situation.
So here I am now, after three wrong turns, sitting in front of the dilapidated sign for Creeson’s garage. It looks like it’s straight out of the 1950s or something, a tiny garage without a lot of charm, however.
I sigh, pushing my sunglasses back on top of my messy bun as I slowly get out of the station wagon. I hate this sort of thing. I’m always out of my comfort zone, questions about cars or anything mechanical making me feel stupid.
Plodding up to the door, which is hanging wide open, I gingerly step onto the cement in the tiny “office” area.
“Be right there,” a deep voice bellows from under a car in the garage. It doesn’t seem like there’s much happening here today, which is good. Maybe this won’t take that long.
A few moments later as I’m studying posters on the wall of the office that seem to solidify the 1950’s vibe, I turn to see a man standing in the doorway, wiping grease off his hands.
Correction. I see a gorgeously handsome man, late twenties to early thirties, commanding my attention with his mere presence. I remind myself to keep my jaw closed as I eye those rippling biceps underneath his work uniform, his green eyes beckoning me forward. He’s got dark hair which, despite the sweat dripping down his forehead, is working for him in a messy kind of way.
Get it together, Cadence, I inwardly chide myself. What’s wrong with me? I act like I haven’t seen a man my entire life. He’s probably married or has a ton of baggage or isn’t interested in women or…
My incessant trail of thoughts is interrupted by a simple, “Can I help you?”
I feel my heart flutter ridiculously, and I’m pretty sure my pits are getting a little sweaty. Great.
“Um, hi, I’m Cadence Mills and I’m new to town. Well, my grandma lives here, do you know her? Anyway, I was backing down the driveway and I lost track of what was happening somehow and the next thing I knew, crash, I hit the mailbox and…” I can hear myself talking a mile a minute like one of those annoying teen movies… but I can’t stop myself. I just feel my lips flapping away, my words tumbling out. This guy has rocked me to the core.
I don’t understand it. I mean, yes, as I’ve clarified, this guy is super attractive, but it isn’t like I haven’t seen that before. There are plenty of good looking men in the Big Apple, although their personalities don’t always match. I’ve had a few not-so-great run-ins with love in the city, but I’d like to think they’ve taught me to be a little more cautious with my heart.
Yeah, but this run-in is telling me otherwise.
“Do you need your bumper fixed?” he interrupts gently, smiling. He’s got perfect white teeth. Great. The list of attributes and reasons for my nerves to amp up just keeps getting longer.
“Um, yeah. If you have time.”
He grins. “Look at this place. It’s not like I have lines of cars here. Plus, your grandma is amazing. Even if I was busy, I’d stop everything for her.”
“You know her?”
“Everyone knows her. Greatest lady in town. She always sends over a strawberry pie on my birthday and on my dad and brother’s birthdays. They’re the best.”
“Does your whole family work here?”
“Yeah. Dad inherited the business from my grandpa. Now, my brother Zeke and I work here.”
“Oh, that’s neat.”
“Yeah, I’ve always liked cars, so it worked out.”
“So you’ve lived here your whole life?” I know I should probably stop talking, should let the man get to work. I’m sure standing in the stifling heat talking to some rambling girl isn’t on the top of his list, especially a girl who can’t even handle driving a station wagon.
However, as I’m talking and he’s continuing to wipe off his hands, I notice something. There’s no ring. I’d like to say this doesn’t make me happy—but it does.
“Yeah. Left for trade school for a little while, but then I came back. It’s a small town, but I like it that way. It’s simple. How about you?”
“My grandma always lived here. I’ve been living in New York for a few years now. But when grandpa died, I moved back. I’m all grandma has left.”
“I’m sorry. That’s tough. But that’s really awesome of you to move back.”
“Yeah. Grandma did so much for me over the years. I knew it was the right thing to do. But it’s been quite a shift.”
“I bet. Well, if you ever need anything or want me to show you the finer points of Maplewood, just let me know.”
Was that a date offer? Stop it, I chide myself again. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Although, it did sort of feel like a date. My stomach flutters at the thought.
“I’d like that. It seems nice here but…”
“Dead? Boring? Yeah, it can be,” he chuckles. “I’m Zander, by the way.”
“Cadence,” I spew, before remembering I already told him that.
He doesn’t call attention to it, though, just smiling. “Well, why don’t I take a look at the car. Head across the street to Dina’s Donuts. Tell them I sent you, and they’ll give you a free coffee. I’ll come over and get you when I’m finished.”
“That’s so nice. Thank you,” I say, meaning it. Zander nods before heading to the car. I turn and walk across the street, hoping I picked the jean shorts that make my butt look round and not saggy. I mentally tell myself not to sway my hips, to not look like I’m trying to hard.
Not that it would work, anyway. I’ve never been one of those women who have the natural flaunt-it characteristics. My form of flirting usually looks like I’m having a seizure. Still, something about those green eyes, something about Zander’s voice makes me want to try.
“Cadence?” he says, and my heart freezes. Maybe he’s going to ask to join me for coffee.
“Yeah,” I say casually, turning before I cross the street.
“What?” I ask. “Oh, right.” I walk back, handing him the keys to the car.
Great. Now he definitely thinks I’m a bimbo.
“Thanks,” he says, as I hand them to him. Our hands graze each other’s as we pass off the keys, and I shudder at the roughness of them.
“See you soon,” he says, giving me a grin.
“Likewise,” I say, and then shudder inside. Who the hell says “likewise?” I better work on this flirting thing.
Still, as I head through the door to Dina’s and take in the cute charm, also reminiscent of the 1950’s, I’m smiling way too wide for a donut shop.
“Can I help you?” a perky, pink-haired girl with a nametag that read “Ivy” says.
“Um, Zander sent me?”
“Did he now?” Ivy gives me a grin, and there’s a sparkle in her eye.
“Uh, yeah?” I say as a question, not sure what’s going on.
“Gee, I wonder why.”
I’m confused as hell. What is she talking about? What is she getting at?
“Um, because he’s working on my car?”
“Honey, if you think Zander only sent you over for free coffee because of that ratty station wagon, you’re out of your mind. Have you looked in the mirror? Your gorgeous. No wonder Zander wanted to keep you around as long as possible.” She winks at me, showing me there’s no malice in her voice. She smiles, giggling a little as she heads over to the coffee pot. I’m still not sure what’s going on or how to take her.
I get out my wallet to pay, but she shoves it away, handing me a coffee. “It’s covered honey. We’ve got it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh, I’m sure. So what’s your name?” She comes from behind the counter, leading me to a booth. There’s a ninety-something year-old man in a corner booth, but other than that, the shop’s desolate. Still, I’m surprised she’s just abandoning the register so freely.
“Cadence. Just moved here from New York.”
“Oh, are you Gladys’s granddaughter?” she asks, taking a seat across from me, smiling at the name.
“Yeah, do you know her?”
“Of course! She’s the sweetest lady. She always sends me my favorite, a chocolate pie, for my birthday.”
Apparently my grandma is into pies. I had no idea.
“Zander said she does the same thing for him and Zeke?”
“Yeah, she does. But strawberry? The morons would like strawberry. Ew.” Ivy shrivels up her nose. I’m not sure if it’s at strawberry or the names Zander and Zeke.
“Do you know them well?” I ask.
She laughs hysterically. “You’re not used to small town life, yet, huh? Everyone knows everyone here. Seriously. There’s no privacy.”
I smile. I like this girl already. “Yeah, I’m gathering that. So what’s Zander like?”
Ivy shakes her head. “He’s an idiot. And an ass most of the time. Good with cars, but a smartass. Drives me crazy.”
I feel my heart sink a little. I don’t know this pink-haired girl well, but she doesn’t seem like one to sugarcoat things. Maybe my instincts about Zander were wrong.
Not like it matters, I remind myself. He’s fixing the bumper on my grandma’s station wagon, not asking me out.
“But, I’ve heard he’s not so bad to date.”
“Yeah, if you’re into that sort of thing. I mean, I’ve heard that he’s not so bad to look at. But that’s not something for a sister to analyze.”
“Wait…” I pause, tilting my head in question.
“Yes, that idiot’s my brother. Zeke, too. They work with dad at the family business. I work with mom, here. She’s the Dina in Dina’s Donuts. We’re just one big happy family.” She shakes her head.
“That’s really neat. I had no idea.” Now I get a little worried. I had no idea this was Zander’s sister. Was I obvious in my interest? What if she tells him? I don’t want to see like a psychotic, desperate stalker.
“It’s something. In all honesty, it is pretty great. I love my family. It’s just a lot sometimes. Zeke moved out last year when he got married, but Zander and I still live at home. Not quite how we pictured our twenties, but you know, life and all that.”
“So Zander’s not married?”
“More like forever alone. He had a rough relationship in his senior year of high school. Broke his heart. He’s dated here and there, but let’s be honest, Maplewood population practically nothing, well, it doesn’t offer a lot of options, you know? Zander needs someone a little more…exciting than what we have here. He needs a woman who doesn’t have marriage and babies as her only goals. Not that he’s against that. I just think he’s a little wilder than that, wants a life a little bigger, you know?”
“I do get it. But why hasn’t he left?”
“Family. I think he doesn’t want to leave us. We’re a close bunch and all. But if the right opportunity came along, the right woman…” she winks at me.
I feel myself blush. “Well, you never know when things can change,” I say, not really sure how to respond.
“Indeed. So, when are you going out with my brother?” she asks, jumping straight to the punchline.
“I’m not—we’re not—he’s just fixing my car.”
“Okay. Whatever you say. All I know is he wouldn’t have sent you over here if he didn’t want me to get some information out of you.”
I should feel set-up and a little bit violated, being scoped out by the family. But I don’t. There’s something about Zander, and even something about Ivy, that makes me feel like maybe Maplewood won’t be so bad after all, 1950’s décor and all.
***Part I of Simply Love: Welcome to Maplewood is available HERE***
“Oh dear, Tyrion doesn’t like to have his belly scratched,” Gram says, pulling her floral robe a little tighter in the cool morning air that is filling the house.
My hand is already bleeding from the crazy cat’s wild scratching and biting, his growls only punctuating his frustration. “I’m getting the idea he might not like to be pet at all,” I say, finally wrangling my hand back and standing up, my black leggings covered in white cat hair just from rubbing against him. So much for my favorite color to wear being black.
“How did you sleep, dear?” Gram is shuffling her feet in her hot pink slippers, her walker grinding into the carpet as she moves toward the kitchen.
“Great,” I lie as I head over to the coffee machine. I struggle to remember how to even make coffee in this ancient coffeemaker, making a mental note to put a Keurig on my list of things to buy as I attempt to open the foreign contraption.
In truth, I barely slept a minute, or at least that’s what the bags under my eyes seem to suggest. The mattress in the guestroom is probably circa 1950, and the yellow floral wallpaper just sort of gives me the creeps, even in the darkness. Perhaps its Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” or an overactive imagination, but I just feel like it’s watching me.
Still, I know things are hard enough on Gram. Going to bed alone, missing Grandpa—I can’t even dream of complaining. She’s done all she can in her condition to make my move comfortable, opening her home to me as best as she can.
I struggle with the measuring and pouring of the coffee for a while, hoping the liquid that comes out of the appliance won't be too tar-like. Here's to hoping.
Despite the peeling wallpaper, the bed, and the lack of modern appliances, I sit at the wooden table in the kitchen thinking about how warm I feel inside. To be in this cozy kitchen, gram trudging to the table with her cane in her right hand—it feels right.
This is where I need to be.
“So, what do you have planned today?”
“Well, I don’t have a Skype call until Thursday with Whitney,” I say.
I smile, shaking my head as I sloppily put my hair into a ponytail. “A call with work. I don’t have to call them until Thursday.”
“I do worry about your career with this move. I’m so glad to have you here. But I hate to see your dreams on hold.”
“Gram, I can design anywhere. Nothing is on hold.”
She smiles, taking a seat beside me as she pats my hand. “I don’t ever want to come between you and your dreams.”
The look in her eyes says she means it. It makes my heart swell even more to know she cares about me. I didn’t realize in New York how much I missed that, the connection of family.
“Thanks, Gram. Love you.”
“So you still didn’t answer me. What are you doing today?”
“Well, I need to run a few errands maybe. Pick up a few things to settle in. Do you want to get lunch?”
“No, honey. You take some time to explore on your own. Look around, see what Maplewood has to offer. You need to check out the young crowd.”
I laugh at the way the last words fly off her tongue like a foreign phrase. “Well, then maybe I’ll get us some takeout for lunch? I wouldn’t mind catching up on some soap operas you know.”
Grandma is a sucker for soap operas, or the “stories” as she calls them. She’s got a thing for quite a few of the actors.
“Oh, yes. Lovely! Your grandpa always made fun of me for watching them. It’ll be so great to have someone to share them with. You know, there’s a new Ricky on the stories and let me tell you, he’s something to look at.” She winks, and I shake my head.
“Always scoping out the men, huh Gram?”
“Hey, I might be old, but I’m not blind. A girl’s gotta get her looks in while she still can. Speaking of which, don’t you worry, Cadence. There are plenty of lookers in town here.”
I sigh. “Gram, don’t get any ideas. I don’t need you trying to set me up with anyone.”
She puts her hands in the air. “I’m just saying. My beautician Belinda has a grandson, and he’s not bad on the eyes.”
“Well, I’ll keep that in mind as I explore the town today,” I say, mostly just to appease her. She smiles as if pleased with herself.
“It’s about time you find yourself a nice young man, Cadence. Someone to share life with.”
“We’ll see, Gram.” I don’t have the heart to tell her that at my age, a nice young man isn’t exactly on my list. Give me some hot one night stands, give me a few fun nights out, and I’m happy. I don’t need a ring to make me happy. In fact, on the contrary. I’m doing just fine on my own, my career keeping me busy.
I know Gram’s from a different generation, though. A generation of commitment and settling down, of love being the answer. I don’t have the heart to tell her that’s not what I have in mind. Plus, I don't exactly want to explain the concept of a one-night stand to dear old Gram. She watches enough soap operas to know, but still--there are some things grandmas just don't need to hear from their granddaugthers.
Not that I’m against love or marriage. Someday maybe I’ll take that step. It’s just right now, I’m not ready to settle down, to let love take over.
I break out of my introspection, heading over to grab a cup of coffee for each of us. We spend the next hour talking about everything from the storyline of the soap operas to the weather to my job. Gram, although still in mourning, seems happy. It makes me feel good.
After I change out of my leggings and touch-up my makeup, I decide to head out. Gram lets me borrow her car, an ancient station wagon. I make a mental note that procuring a car is also going to be on my ever growing list of to-dos.
Uprooting your life isn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be. Once I finally get the thing to clink to a start, I back down the driveway, carefully watching the rearview mirror. It’s been so long since I’ve driven, the taxis in New York City and the subway substituting for driving most days. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve actually been behind the wheel.
It’s not as if I’m driving in New York City traffic, though. There’s not a single car in sight for miles. I guess if I need to get reacquainted with driving, this is the place to do it.
I ease my way back down the driveway, momentarily getting hung-up in the mirror on my wonky eyebrow. When was the last time I had those things waxed? I think to myself.
And then crash, crunch, boom. I’m no longer looking at my eyebrow but slamming on the break, hoping to stop the crunching metal feeling before it’s too late.
But it’s way too late. The damage has been done. I exhale loudly, wondering if this whole moving thing was such a good idea after all. Because right now, looking at the crunched mailbox underneath the tire of the equally crunched up station wagon, I wonder what the hell kind of message the universe could possibly be sending me.
***To be continued***
**Simply Love will be a work published serially. Contemporary romance slash chick lit, this piece will be updated every week. Follow Cadence Mills as her twentysomething life of cocktails and fashion is turned upside down with a family tragedy. Moving to Maplewood isn’t her choice, but could living the simple life put things in perspective…and even lead to love?***
Sometimes putting your dreams aside can lead you to new passions.
Our lives don’t typically change in a formulaic, mapped out fashion. Our lives usually morph because of a fleeting idea, a dancing fantastical whim coaxing us forward onto a new path.
My life changed forever when a whim beckoned me home, or at least to the closest thing I had to home.
I don’t know if I’d call it a whim exactly. Perhaps it was more of a gut reaction, an instinct that it was the right thing to do. In the moment, it seemed like a simple act, simple words. In fact, I upended my entire life with three little words: “I’m coming home.”
It was a mucky Thursday, mud sloshing under my knee-high boots, when the words escaped my lips and transformed my life. Standing under the umbrella the funeral director held above my head, I put an arm around Gram. Squeezing her into me, the soft floral scent of her familiar perfume dancing around me in the midst of the ashy rain smell, I practically whispered the words.
“I’m coming home.”
“What, dear? What do you mean?” Tears danced down her cheek, and her voice cracked from the strain of the day.
It was a bold statement to make backing away from Grandpa Joseph’s grave. Gram’s tears were still flowing, and our hearts were still panging with the heaviness of good-bye. Still, walking away from the graveyard, my frail Gram in my arms, I knew the words were necessary. More than that, I knew the action behind them was necessary.
The words, although genuine, were arguably inaccurate. No wonder poor Gram was confused. Maplewood had never been home for me, not really. It was Gram and Grandpa’s home their entire lives. I’d visited here a few times a year when Mom and Dad were still alive. Growing up, I’d spent holidays in Maplewood, had been here to walk the creek in the summer months every now and then.
But it was never home.
Home for me was with my parents in South Carolina. Home now was in my overly expensive two-bedroom in New York City, the bustle of the nightlife energizing me.
Maplewood would never be home, not physically. The word slipped off my tongue though, perhaps saying more about my situation than I even knew.
Gram was there, my only living family member. Perhaps Maplewood was home after all, even if I didn’t know it yet. How couldn’t it be? That beautiful woman who had saved me during my darkest hour, who had upended her own life to take care of the lost seventeen-year-old I once was, needed me. I owed her.
“I’m moving. I’m coming to live with you.”
e walked toward the hearse, ready to go to the funeral luncheon. I knew it was a formality, but I didn’t know if I wanted to face everyone’s cheerful conversations over ham sandwiches, cookies, and strange punch. I wanted to mourn in peace. I wanted to surround myself with Grandpa Joseph’s favorite things, to talk about him with the only woman who truly knew him—Gram.
“No, honey. You can’t do that. Your life is in New York. You’ve got an amazing job and friends. You can’t,” she said, vehemently shaking her head.
“Gram, it’s not up for debate. It’s done. I’m coming to live with you. I want to do this. Let me do this.”
“I won’t let you do this. I’m fine, dear.”
I opened the door for her and helped her creakily lean down, her bones cracking as she moved her frail bottom across the seat.
Gram let out a loud “umph” as she settled in, and I crawled in beside her. The funeral director shut the door. I wondered if he ever felt awkward, like he was privy to conversations too intimate for funeral director’s ears. Then again, when you handled the dead, perhaps nothing was off-limits or too taboo.
“Gram, listen. It’ll be great. I can talk to Whitney. I’m sure with Skype and things, I could just work from home, work remotely. And it’ll be good. A change of scenery will help with the creative juices.”
“Come on, Cadence. I might be ancient, but I’m not daft. You’re not moving here for a change of scenery. You want to babysit me.”
“It’s not like that, Gram. I know you’d be fine. I just…I miss you. I miss Grandpa. I want to be close to you.”
Sighing, Gram leaned in to give me a squeeze, her cold, bony fingers digging into the soft flesh of my arm. I rested my head on her shoulder like I'd done so many times, the comfort of her familiar yet scratchy sweater soothing me.
“I miss you, too. I just don’t want you changing your whole life for me.”
“Gram, let me do this. Please,” I begged, knowing I’m winning her over.
“Okay,” she said simply, patting my hand. We sat in silence the whole way to the luncheon, thinking about Grandpa, thinking about how frail life is, and thinking about how so much was changing.
For me, though, the big changes hadn’t even begun. I just didn’t know it yet.
I shove the three suitcases into the trunk of my Uber driver’s car. He looks a little annoyed that I’m jiggling and wiggling them into the trunk of his flashy red sports car, but I don’t care. It’s been a long day, and I just want to get to Gram’s house.
My house, I correct myself.
I blow a piece of my hair out of my eye, sliding my sunglasses back down as I plod to the passenger seat. He shuts the trunk as I prepare for the awkward twenty-five minutes of small-talk I’m about to endure.
Mercifully, though, my phone rings. It’s probably rude to answer it, but I don’t care right now. Roger will just have to deal with it.
“Hey, miss me already?” I say into the phone once I pick up.
“Don’t you know it. I still can’t believe you’re gone. This is crazy, Cade, you know that right?”
I exhale. I’ve been through this so many times with Lilly, with Whitney, and with everyone else in my friends’ group in the city.
“It’s the right thing, Lilly. She’s all I have left, and vice versa. I can’t just let Gram live alone.”
“They have places for this sort of thing.”
“I can’t put Gram in a place like that. She’s too feisty for those witchy women there. She’d be evicted in five minutes. Besides, she upended her life for me not that long ago. It’s the least I can do to pay her back.”
“But she was in her seventies when she did that for you, not twenty-six. There’s a big difference.” Lilly’s voice is a tad whiny, as if she can change my mind.
“Lil, I know. But I need to do this. Look, I’ll come back to the city as often as I can. And who knows, once Gram recovers a little from the shock and gets back on her feet, maybe I’ll come back.”
“Well, maybe I’ll find a new roommate by then,” Lilly says into the phone. Her voice tells me she’s smiling.
“Please, I know better. Who the hell else would deal with your obsession with Teen Mom and your messy habits?”
“You’re right. Well, listen. If you’re going to be in another state, at least do some prospecting for me, okay? Let me know how the man market is there. Maybe I’ll have to make a visit out there.”
“If you can’t find a man in New York City, what makes you think you’d find one here, in the middle of nowhere? Pretty sure the pickings will be slim,” I say, accidentally making eye contact with Roger who is at a red light. I wince a little at my implied insult, and turn back to look out my window.
“Well, call me once you get settled in. I miss you already.”
“Miss you too. Don’t worry, I’ll be calling plenty. The biggest thrill here is Dunkin Donuts and Wal-Mart. Seriously. There’s like nothing.”
“Despite the fact I think you’re insane for giving up your awesome, youthful life here in the city, I think you’re doing a nice thing. Your Gram is lucky to have you.”
“Thanks, Lilly. Be sure to harass Stuart for me at work on Monday.”
“Of course. Much love,” she says, and she hangs up. I rest my phone in my lap, feeling sad.
Glancing out my window, I peer at the trees as they pass by, missing the bright lights and crazy traffic already. When I headed for the city at twenty-two, I thought I’d be there forever. I thought the city life would be mine to own for as long as I wanted.
But life changed. I learned early on that life doesn’t always go as plan. Tragedy can strike at any time, and sometimes your life takes an unexpected turn.
Still, as Roger pulls into the familiar driveway, the one-story brick house in view, my Gram waving from the rocker on her front porch, I smile. I miss my friends and our cocktail hours already. I miss the sushi bar down the street from our apartment. I miss the hustle and bustle of the office, of going across the hallway at the office to show Lilly my latest sketch for the new collection. I miss all of the possibility, the exuberant feeling of walking down the sidewalk feeling like I’d achieved my goal.
As I hand Roger cash, though, and tug my luggage out of the trunk, I can’t help but feel hopeful in a new way. Maybe moving to Maplewood will be a new kind of dream, a new kind of possibility. Maybe a new life is waiting right around the corner.
Regardless, I walk onto the porch, rushing into Gram’s arms. “Welcome to Maplewood,” she says as if she’s greeting me for the first time.
In some ways, I guess she is. Because the old Cadence Mills is gone again, her designer heels and sunglasses looking quite out of place in this simple setting.
Welcome to Maplewood, indeed.
TO BE CONTINUED….
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