The light of the bright fall afternoon shines through the windows at the back of our house and glances off Bethany’s glasses as she peels apples, slowly, each in one long coil. She mixes butter with flour, not gently. Clouds of the white dust waft around my kitchen. Eventually, each speck succumbs to gravity, settling upon any horizontal surface that will stop its fall and convert kinetic back to potential energy.
My daughter is the only functioning body in the place. The cat sleeps on the heating vent with his long, bushy tail shielding the day from his eyes. Joey must be under his bed again. Eddie hasn’t moved from the blue chair yet. The stubble on his chin is graying. I imagine his breath is deadly. He is pathetic. I should feel sympathy for him because he looks like he could use a hug. But I don’t. I can’t yet because I don’t understand his reaction to my death. I wish I could have hugged him and made him smile more while I was alive, but we squandered our time together. Regrets overwhelm me.
I watch my Eddie frown when he smells the apples and cinnamon from the kitchen. I know he’s thinking about me, about us. I try to stay away, but he pulls me into his thoughts with the same magnetic intensity as when he pulled me into his arms thousands of times, still never enough, when I lived.
Cinnamon reminds me of you. I can’t go into the kitchen. With both of his large hands, he rubs his face hard and blows out his breath.
| | | |
Enticed by the good smells from the kitchen, Joey creeps down the stairs and climbs up on the step stool. He leans to Bethany for a hug. She starts to cry when she hugs him back. She sits him in a pile of flour on the counter. Joey is alarmed by her tears; now that his sister has started to cry, she can’t seem to stop. She wipes her face on the belly of his shirt and gives him an apple slice slathered in sugar and cinnamon.
He takes in the mess of flour and butter she’s concocting and asks shyly, “Apple squares?” He pops the chunk of apple into his mouth.
Bethany nods as she wipes her nose on her sleeve and eats a slice, too. Joey thinks he can help her stop crying. He says with a full mouth, “Hey, Bethy, hold your tongue and say apple.” He shines his wicked grin on her.
Bethany sticks out her tongue and holds it and says, “Athole,” and Joey loses himself in giggles. Eddie hears the sound from the other room, and we both think at the same instant: My children are laughing?
Now, I have left them all. It was not my intention, and I am infinitely pissed. Given a second chance at that choice, now I would have stayed home on Friday, November eleventh. I would’ve tried harder to stay on the same team as Eddie to keep us from falling apart.
As I watch my children, I feel like they are holding my heart.
Death really hurts.
Excerpts from Chapter 4 of OR NOT TO BE
© 2014 Laura Lanni
used with permission from LMNO Press
A note from the author
My debut novel OR NOT TO BE will turn 5 years old on Monday 11/11/19 and some of you have neither read it yet nor gifted it (wrapped in glittery paper and a big bow) to your sister or best friend for Christmas or her birthday. Here’s your incentive to pull this story to the top of your TBR pile.
For one day only (11/11/19) the Kindle version of OR NOT TO BE will be available for FREE! Click here.
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! Suppose you read this tragic love story and LOVE IT (or like it quite a bit or even very much). Then you’ll surely want a copy of the paperback to gift to someone you love. So here’s a second and even better offer for OR NOT TO BE fans: Post your review of OR NOT TO BE to Amazon.com or Goodreads or both. Send a link to your review to me on Goodreads (lauralanni) or email email@example.com, and we’ll arrange payment and shipping details. If you do all of this, LMNO Press will send you two copies of the paperback for $11.11, free shipping (of course) to anywhere in the continental US. What a great BOGO.
This BOGO paperback offer will last until 50 pairs of copies are claimed or 11/25/19 at 11:11 am EST, whichever comes first, so get started with your #free #Kindle copy on 11/11/19! Limit two (2) paperback copies (for $11.11) per customer. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Permission to share reviews is granted by all who participate. Always read the fine print.