Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Eight

Fiction Friday graphic

Missed the previous installments? Start with chapter one HERE.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Eight

Della and Tabby took Mira into Dayton for a shopping trip after lunch. Mother and daughter had cornered Mira and forced her to reveal the contents of her wardrobe. When she admitted to owning two pairs of overalls, a pair of sturdy cargo pants, a sweater, a long-sleeved shirt, and two T-shirts, they planned the afternoon of shopping. Mira wasn’t sure she needed more clothing. After all, she’d survived this long with what she had. But the Montaigne women wouldn’t take no for an answer.

During the short drive into the city, Della told Mira the events of the coming week—the week of Thanksgiving.

“On Monday evening, we’re hosting a dinner party for some of Bill’s business associates and a few close friends of the family.”

Mira had never seen a dinner party, never mind participated in one. “I’ll stay out of the way and out of sight.”

“Oh, no, you won’t. You’ll be in attendance just like the rest of the family.”

“But I’m not family.”

“You’re close enough. While you’re living with us, you’ll be treated as one of the family.”

She didn’t know how to respond. A lot of the people she’d met since moving to the United States hadn’t even treated her as a friend, let alone family. And attending a dinner party? There had to be a way out of what was sure to be an awkward evening. “I don’t have a dress.”

Della laughed, extinguishing Mira’s tiny spark of hope for escape. “We’ll pick up something suitable. On Tuesday evening, Bill and I are supposed to attend a dinner, so you kids will have the house to yourselves.”

Tabby shot an endearing smile toward her mother and returned her gaze to the road. “Can I invite some people over while you’re gone? That way we’ll have something to do and Mira can meet some people our age.”

“That’s a lovely idea, Tabby!” Della turned to Mira and lifted one expertly plucked eyebrow in inquiry. “What do you think, dear?”

Did it matter? “I guess it’d be okay.”

“Great! I’ll tell my friends when I see them tonight.” Tabby looked at Mira in the rearview mirror. “Do you want to come with me? We’re going dancing.”

Mira had been to a few square dances since immigrating and knew several folk dances from Israel and Palestine, but she figured the dancing Tabby referred to was something entirely different. Like the kind of stuff she’d seen in movies and on TV…the kind of stuff she didn’t know how to do. “I don’t know.”

“You think about it, dear, and let Tabby know later,” Della said and continued with the week’s schedule. “Throughout the day on Wednesday relatives will be arriving. On Thursday we’ll have a big Thanksgiving dinner. Friday and Saturday will be fairly relaxed, and the visiting family will leave on Sunday.”

Mira’s mind whirled. Was every week that busy, or was it just because of the holiday? She couldn’t imagine a life where she had some event most days. Her life had been much more laid back until now, and she didn’t want to give that up.

They arrived at an upscale department store, and Della led the way inside. A saleswoman in a neatly tailored suit greeted them with a welcoming smile.

“Mrs. Montaigne, how lovely to see you again,” she said in a well-modulated voice. “May I help you find something this afternoon?”

“Yes, Ashley.” Della guided Mira forward. “This is Mira Hassan. She’s in need of a new wardrobe.”

“Very good.” Ashley turned to Mira. “What are you looking for, Miss Hassan?”

Since when did store clerks call customers by name? Feeling completely out of her element, she glanced at Della. “Um…”

Della patted her arm and turned to the saleswoman. “Let’s start with a dress or two.”

“We have some lovely dresses,” Ashley said as she led them to the correct department. “We also have some nice two-piece outfits, if you would prefer.”

“Okay.” Mira took in the wide selection of stylish clothing. What would the Montaigne women do if they knew she’d never worn anything so nice?

“Give me your coat, dear,” Della said, holding out her hand.

She did so, and Ashley studied her before turning to a nearby rack to pull out a knee-length blue dress.

“This would look stunning with your coloring.” Ashley held the dress in front of Mira and looked at Della for approval.

“That color is very becoming on you.”

It was a beautiful dress, but the length was wrong. “It’s too short.”

The others stared at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“This is a popular length,” Ashley assured her.

“It’s beautiful, but I only wear long skirts.” And not for the first time, she wished she could wear something shorter.

“Well, all right…” Ashley replaced the dress and moved to a different rack. She held up a long-sleeved dress in a fall pattern with an ankle length skirt. “Would something like this suit you better?”

Mira brushed her fingers across the soft fabric. “It’s very nice.”

Ashley smiled, her relief at finding something acceptable obvious. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the dressing rooms so you can try it on.”

“Okay.”

Tabby leaned close to Mira as they walked. “Why do you only wear long skirts?”

“Because of the scars. I survived the explosion that killed my parents, but my legs got hurt pretty bad.”

“That’s terrible!” A sheen of moisture in her eyes caught the light. “I’ll help you find some awesome long skirts.”

“Thanks, Tabby.”

Mira followed Ashley into one of the small rooms and smiled as the saleswoman hung the dress on a hook and left. After she changed, she studied herself in the full-length mirror. The soft knit material flowed around her legs as she moved, and the dress flattered her slim figure. The fall colors in the fabric made her coppery hair glow. She’d never felt more beautiful.

She stepped out to see what the others thought.

“Mira, you look gorgeous!” Tabby clasped her hands in front of her chest. “That dress is amazing on you.”

Della nodded, a pleased expression lifting the corners of her mouth. “You do look lovely. What do you think, dear?”

“I like it,” Mira said, running her fingers along the skirt.

Ashley brought over a belt made of gold rings. “This would complete the look.”

Mira held her arms away from her body while Ashley fastened the belt around her waist. Then she turned toward a nearby mirror and smiled when she saw the effect of the belt hanging loosely about her hips.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so stunning in something so simple,” Ashley said.

“We’ll take both the dress and the belt,” Della said. “Mira, why don’t you go change? Then we’ll find the other things you need.”

Soon, they were searching through skirts and dresses again. Della insisted on buying another dress and two skirts with coordinating tops. Tabby helped Mira find some casual clothing. Two pairs of jeans, a pair of khaki pants, and a half dozen shirts later, the women moved on to the shoe department. Ashley helped Mira select a pair of fashionable boots that went with the skirts and dresses, and a pair of running shoes to go with the casual clothing. After a quick stop to find undergarments and sleepwear, Ashley left the women in the capable hands of Tanya at the cosmetics counter and carried the clothing off to be held until they were ready to leave.

After exclaiming over Mira’s “amazing coloring,” “gorgeous eyes,” and “terrific cheekbones,” Tanya put together a makeup kit to highlight her natural beauty without overwhelming it. Once Mira had picked out a collection of bath and skin care products with much assistance from the saleswoman, Della led the way to the jewelry counter.

All the fuss being made was overwhelming. Never had Mira been treated with such importance or had her every move in a store guided by doting employees. She said as much to Tabby.

“Mom just wants you to feel special,” Tabby whispered. “She thinks every woman should have nice things. The reason the employees here are being so attentive is because Mom’s a good customer. They want to make a good impression so she’ll keep coming back.”

“But your mom is spending so much on me.” She tried not to remember the price she had seen on one of the skirts. She’d been so shocked that she’d refrained from looking at anymore tags. The entire wardrobe she’d brought with her had cost less than half of that one piece of clothing.

“It’s Mom’s way of showing she cares. Besides, you’ve seen where we live. Trust me, she can afford it.”

“If you’re sure,” Mira said as Della finished speaking with the man behind the jewelry counter.

“Mira, come over here and tell Philip what you like in the way of jewelry.”

Philip looked expectant as she tried to figure out what to say. She decided to say what she was thinking and hope for the best. “I don’t like to wear a lot of jewelry.”

“Well, you must like something.” He offered a charming smile.

“I guess a simple bracelet.” She avoided glancing at Della for fear she would hurt the kind woman’s feelings by being truthful.

Philip opened a drawer behind him. “Mrs. Montaigne described some of your new clothing, and I think I have just the thing.”

She peeked at Della, relieved to find her smiling as she waited to see what Philip had in mind. Mira returned her attention to the counter as Philip placed a velvet-lined tray on it. Several plain gold bangles rested on the black cloth. He lifted four and held them so they resembled a single piece.

“What do you think?”

“They’re pretty.” Memories of her mother wearing a similar style caused a smile as she gazed at the glittering bracelets.

“Those would look so cool with that first dress you tried on,” Tabby said. “You know, the one with the gold belt.”

Mira glanced at Della and found her nodding.

“Those will be perfect, Philip.” Her eyes scanned the glass counter. “May we see those pins and brooches?”

“Certainly.” He set the bracelets down and pulled out the tray she indicated. “There are several lovely pieces here.”

“Mira, do you see anything you like?”

She stepped closer and looked at the gold butterflies, flowers, and leaves. One pin designed to look like an oak leaf caught her eye. She pointed it out to Della.

“That one is lovely,” the older woman said with a smile.

Philip raised an eyebrow. “Shall I wrap it up for you?”

“Yes, please. Just place it and the bangles on my account.”

“Yes, Mrs. Montaigne.” He moved to take care of the sale.

They went in search of Ashley, who wasn’t hard to find. After Della settled the bill, they carried the purchases out to the car. Mira breathed a sigh of relief as she settled into the backseat. She’d had no idea that a couple of hours of shopping could be so exhausting. Tabby backed out of the parking space and glanced at her mother as she waited for a break in traffic.

“Where to next?”

Della turned in her seat and met Mira’s gaze. “Bill tells me you’re interested in horses and work well with them.”

“Yes, that’s true.” What did that have to do with Tabby’s question?

“Do you have riding boots?”

“No, I don’t.” She was a little afraid of what Della planned do with that information, but she couldn’t lie to the woman. Not after all Della had done for her.

Della faced the front again as Tabby took advantage of a window in the traffic. “We’re going to Stuart’s.”

“Okay, Mom.”

With any luck, Stuart’s wasn’t another fancy department store. Mira wasn’t sure she could handle visiting another store that was so far out of her comfort zone. She breathed a little easier when they turned into a shopping center filled with boutiques and other small shops. It resembled the kind of places Marnie and Harley had shopped when they went outside of Selma.

Tabby parked in front of the store in the center of the long, low building. She met Mira’s gaze with a grin as they climbed out of the car.

“You’re going to love this place.”

Mira looked at the store and smiled at the sight of saddles and bridles displayed in the large plate glass windows. She never minded visiting a tack store.

A cheerful man in his fifties greeted them when they stepped inside the leather-scented shop. “Welcome to Stuart’s. Can I help you ladies find something?”

“Yes,” Della said, “we’re interested in riding boots.”

“For all three of you, or just one or two?” he asked as he led them toward the back of the store.

“I’m the one who needs boots.” Surrounded by horse paraphernalia, Mira’s nerves from the department store vanished.

“Well, then, take a look at what we have and pick your boots.” He waved a hand at the display of boots. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

With Tabby by her side, Mira studied the selection of riding boots. She came to a stop in front of a pair that laced up rather than having to be pulled on.

“These look good.”

“They are,” Tabby said. “I used to have a pair almost identical to those. They were so comfortable.”

The cheerful man rejoined them. “Did you find a pair?”

Mira showed him the boots she and Tabby had just discussed.

“These will last you a long time.” He tapped the toe of one. “They have high-quality construction. What’s your shoe size?”

“Nine and a half.”

He pulled a box off the shelf. “Go have a seat, and we’ll see how these fit.”

As soon as Mira donned the boots, she walked a short way to make sure they were comfortable when she moved. She sat down to put on her own boots back on and smiled at the cheerful man. “They’re perfect.”

“Okay, I’ll go ring them up.”

As he walked to the front counter, she caught sight of Della studying a pair of form-fitting pants. She leaned over and whispered to Tabby. “What’s your mom doing?”

“It looks like she’s picking out a pair of breeches for you.”

Mira groaned. “Please, no more clothes.”

“I’ll go talk to her.” Tabby gave her a sympathetic look.

“Thank you.” She prayed Della would listen to her daughter.

She tied her boots and meandered toward the front of the store, admiring the tack. Della and Tabby met her close to the counter.

“You need a helmet if you want to ride,” Della said.

Why would she need a helmet? “I’ve never worn a helmet before to ride. Harley taught me to ride carefully and how to fall so I don’t hit my head.”

“Well, I require everyone who lives in my house to wear a helmet.”

“All right.” Mira shrugged. It wasn’t worth arguing.

Ten minutes later, they were in the car with the newest purchases and on their way back to the Montaigne estate.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West
Advertisements

Wednesday Words – Jody Day

Wednesday Words graphic

Please welcome author Jody Day back to The West Corner! She’s here today to share a little about her Washout Express series.

~~

I was driving home from a Writer’s Conference in East Texas and passed a sign that said, Washout Express, Exit 477. I wondered what it would be like to feel expressly washed out, and imagined the exit might be the isle for misfit women. Thus the story was born. Bailey Brown stands for every woman who has struggled with low self-esteem, and needs to find out who she really is.

Book 2, Wedding Express, follows Bailey and Scott’s journey to the altar. Book 3, Joy Express is coming soon, and contains a considerable amount of joy and tragedy.

Thanks for having me here today!

About the Author

photo of author Jody DayJody Day is the author of the Washout Express series from Harbourlight Books/The Pelican Group. She writes inspirational fiction, poetry, and devotionals from her home in West Texas. Her passion is to encourage folks to look at life through love colored glasses, the love of Christ. She is president of her local writers group, Critique Café, and is a member of ACFW and Faithwriters.com. She enjoys teaching piano, singing with the Chorus of the Big Bend, and spending time with fourteen grandchildren.

Blog | Washout Express Fan Page

Wedding Express cover artBook Description

Scott West is about to marry the woman of his dreams, but when delayed grief and a life-or-death event jeopardizes their relationship, Scott is forced to ask himself what kind of man he really is. Can he own up to the truth and risk losing the love of his life? And if he does come clean, will it be enough for Bailey? Discover the power of hope, forgiveness, and love in Wedding Express.

Wedding Express is available from Amazon.

Monday Mentions – Washout Express by Jody Day

Monday Mentions graphic

Please welcome author Jody Day to The West Corner! She’s here today with her inspirational romance Washout Express.

Washout Express cover artBook Description

Bailey Brown has just lost her job, her birthright, and her fiancé. Loaded with enough insecurities to fill a suitcase, she prays for God to show her the way and then hits the road feeling like the ultimate loser…Exit 477: Washout Express. The roadside sign taunts Bailey. Is God confirming she’s expressly washed-up? Or does He have something better for her waiting at the end of the exit ramp?

Excerpt

He sent the new girl in to fire me. Phoebe Waverly vamped in on those stilts she calls stilettos with a cardboard box in hand.

“Mr. Graham asked me to inform you that you are terminated, immediately.” Her attempt at a professional voice only made her sound more Southern, one work leaning on another like dominoes toppling toward a period. “This box is for your things, Miss Brown. I’ll take that office key, if you please.”

The heat rose on my face. I decided not to acknowledge her.

I picked up my purse and headed for Darryl’s office. Miss blonde, fancy, shmancy, high-heeled, manicured, former Miss Texas had tried to steal my job. Looks like she succeeded.

My hand shook as I reached for the knob. I stopped, squared my shoulders, straightened my navy business suit, took a deep breath, and pushed open Darryl’s Graham’s office door.

He wasn’t there. Coward.

~~

Washout Express is available from Amazon.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Jody DayJody Day is the author of the Washout Express series from Harbourlight Books/The Pelican Group. She writes inspirational fiction, poetry, and devotionals from her home in West Texas. Her passion is to encourage folks to look at life through love colored glasses, the love of Christ. She is president of her local writers group, Critique Café, and is a member of ACFW and Faithwriters.com. She enjoys teaching piano, singing with the Chorus of the Big Bend, and spending time with fourteen grandchildren.

Connect with Jody Day online

Washout Express Fan Page

Blog

Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Seven

Fiction Friday graphic

Who’s ready for chapter seven? If you’d prefer to start at the beginning, click HERE for chapter one.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Seven

“Lucas, please put the whip somewhere out of sight,” Mira said in English before switching back to Hebrew for the horse’s benefit.

He did as she asked, and she soon had the horse calmed again. Just like Harley’s horses, this one appeared to have had a bad experience with a whip.

“Can you show me to the arena?”

“Why don’t you let me take Maggie?” Lucas said, reaching for the lead rope.

She kept a firm grip on it. “I’ve got her. Just keep the whip out of sight, and we’ll be fine.”

“I put it behind a bale of hay.” He didn’t look happy, but he led her to a side aisle in the center of the building.

She continued to speak soothing words to the Thoroughbred prancing nervously alongside her. Lucas opened the gate to the arena and stood to the side as she led Maggie through. He started to follow, but Mira stopped him.

“The fewer people in here, the better. Just close the gate and don’t worry.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.” He stepped into the arena and closed the gate behind him. “I’ll stay out of your way, but I’m not leaving you alone with Maggie.”

“Okay.” She wasn’t surprised he didn’t trust her with the horse yet. He had no idea how much experience she had. “Give me the longe line.”

Lucas handed her the long flat rope, and she traded it for the lead rope. She walked the horse to the center of the arena, reassuring her with promises of safety and gentle interaction. Lucas went to the low wall surrounding the arena and leaned back against it as he watched.

Mira walked in a circle to get the horse moving. Then she stood in the center, turning slowly as Maggie walked around her. She let out more line, widening the circle. Maggie’s gait was uneven at first but quickly smoothed out.

She raised her free hand as she called out, “Trot!”

Maggie increased her pace, trotting in a stiff-legged, stumbling manner. After going around a few times, her trot evened out. Mira let her go around a few more times before increasing her speed to a canter. This time, Maggie only went around twice before her movements were smooth. Seeing her in motion, Mira spotted the high quality of her breeding. She was a gorgeous animal with a powerful build and graceful movements. Mira cantered her another minute or two, and then gave a light tug on the longe line.

“Trot!”

At the pressure on her halter, Maggie came to a dead stop and reared up. Lucas straightened up and took a step forward. Mira spoke calmly in Hebrew and crept toward the quivering horse, gathering the flat rope as she walked. Such a severe reaction to light pressure told her a lot about the horse’s past. This poor creature had suffered at the hands of humans under the guise of training her.

When she reached Maggie, the horse reared again. Lucas moved toward them, and Mira switched to English, her eyes never leaving the horse.

“Lucas, I’m fine. Just let me work with her a while longer.”

“If anything happens to you, it’s my hide.” The tension in his voice did nothing to soothe the horse.

“Nothing will happen as long as you don’t interfere.” She kept her tone calm, despite the adrenaline flowing through her veins. A frightened horse was an unpredictable horse. Still, she believed she would remain safe if she stayed vigilant. With a slow, gentle motion, she lifted her hand to the nervous horse’s neck. “Easy, now, Maggie. I won’t hurt you. Easy, girl.”

It took several minutes of reassurance to clam her. Once she’d settled to only an occasional flick of her tail, Mira walked her around the arena, first in one direction, and then the other. Maggie balked a bit at the corners, but Mira’s gentle encouragement soon had her turning them with ease.

Mira decided to end the training session on a positive note and headed for the gate. Her heart picked up speed at the sight of Ben standing outside the arena with his arms resting on the wall. How long had he been watching her?

He stepped over to the gate as Lucas joined Mira. Lucas handed her the lead rope and accepted the longe line.

“You’ve worked wonders with this horse,” he said as Ben held the gate open to let them out. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her walk so calmly.”

“Maggie’s taken baby steps. She still has a long way to go.” The praise lifted her spirit. Few in West Virginia would have appreciated her efforts, despite their effectiveness.

“She responds well to you,” Ben said as they walked back to the stalls.

“She’s responding to kindness.” But that didn’t stop the warmth his impressed tone caused. “I think she’s been abused.”

“It didn’t happen here,” Lucas said. “We would never hurt the horses.”

“I know.” The Montaignes were too kind to let anyone abuse their animals. “It was probably someone trying to train her fast and get her ready for sale. Unfortunately, now she has to be retrained and shown that training isn’t anything to be afraid of.”

“You’ve done a good job of that this morning.”

“Maybe, but this isn’t going to be fast or easy,” Mira said as they stopped near Maggie’s stall. “Do you mind if I give her a thorough grooming?”

“No, go ahead.” Lucas reached for the crossties and clipped them to the mare’s halter. “I think Maggie has earned a treat. I’ll be right back.”

Ben brought over a bucket of grooming tools as Lucas walked away. He set the bucket near Mira but far enough back that Maggie couldn’t kick it.

“Watch her carefully. She sometimes acts up in crossties.”

“I think she’ll be okay, but I’ll keep an eye on her.”

She was running a currycomb along the horse’s side with a circular motion when Lucas returned with two carrots. He handed them to Mira with a smile.

“Maggie’s worked hard,” he said, cautiously petting the horse’s forehead. “I figure she deserves a double treat.”

“She does.” She handed back one of the carrots and broke the other one into pieces about two inches long. “Why don’t you give her one so she knows you love her?”

Lucas broke up the carrot as Mira fed chunks one at a time to the happy horse. As she went back to grooming, Lucas gave the mare more carrot pieces while praising her good behavior. He stroked the mare’s face and neck as Mira worked her way around the horse. She traded the currycomb for a stiff body brush and thoroughly brushed the horse, flicking away dirt and loose hair. Lucas went back to work, but he stayed close enough to offer Mira assistance if she needed it.

A little while later, as she used a soft brush on Maggie, Bill and Josh entered the stable. They stared at the gray mare with her head low and eyelids drooping as she stood contentedly being groomed.

“Is that Maggie?” Bill asked, his tone stunned.

“Yeah.” Mira smiled as she ran the brush lightly across the horse’s face.

“What did you do to get her to behave so well?”

“Loved her and didn’t punish her when she acted up earlier.” She returned the brush to the bucket and turned toward him. “Once she found out I wasn’t going to hurt her, she calmed down pretty quickly.”

“The transformation is amazing.” Bill reached out to smooth the relaxed animal’s neck. When Maggie didn’t even flinch, he grinned. “You’ve worked wonders on this horse.”

“Maggie’s a good horse. She’s just been abused sometime before you got her.”

Josh turned from studying the horse. “How do you know that?”

“The way she reacted to certain things. Harley took in a couple of abused horses and they reacted the same way, only they were a lot worse.”

“Did you manage to get them straightened out?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, between me and Harley, we finally got them over their fears and spookiness, but it took a long time and a lot of patience.” She stroked the mare’s cheek and smiled. “Okay, Maggie, I think it’s time for you to go back to your stall and have some hay and water.”

She removed the crossties and put her hand on the mare’s halter to lead her into the nearby stall. The light pressure on her halter made Maggie nervous, but she calmed when Mira spoke softly in Hebrew. After making sure the horse had plenty of clean water and hay, she stepped back into the aisle and closed the stall door. Then she went to the tack room and let a relieved Dan out.

“I wondered where he was,” Bill said as the dog wagged his way over to greet his human.

Mira shrugged. “Lucas said Dan makes Maggie nervous.”

“Yes, for some reason the dog upsets her.”

“I can work on getting her used to him. But not right away. There are some other things I need to work on first.”

“If I’m not careful, Miss Mira’s going to put me out of a job,” Lucas said as he joined them. “This girl has a way with horses.”

“So we saw,” Bill said with a smile. “How did she end up working with Maggie?”

As Lucas told him the events of the morning, Mira spotted Ben sitting on a stool near the tack room with a bridle in his hand. She walked over and sat on a nearby bale of hay to watch him clean the leather.

He looked up at her with a smile. “Do you find cleaning tack fascinating?”

“Only if someone else is doing it.”

“I know the feeling,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a tedious job, but someone’s got to do it.”

The sound of hooves caught her attention, and she looked up as both Bill and Josh led horses out of their stalls. She returned her gaze to Ben and he smiled.

“They like to go for a ride right after breakfast at least once when they’re both here.”

“That’s nice.” The well-lit stable seemed a little brighter when he smiled. “Harley and I used to go riding together when we got our chores done.”

“Is Harley your brother?” Ben rubbed saddle soap into the bridle.

“No, he was my mother’s cousin. I lived with him and his wife, Marnie, for a few years.”

“Why are you speaking of them in the past tense?”

“They died at the beginning of March in an accident.” Despite the sad topic, she felt so comfortable talking to him.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He worked quietly for a moment then glanced at her. “Why were you living with your mom’s cousins? Where are your parents?”

“There were killed by a suicide bomber when I was thirteen.” She forced herself not to think about that day. “My father’s family had disowned him for marrying an American, so I had to come to this country to live with my mom’s family.”

“You’ve had a hard life.”

“Maybe, but there have been a lot of good times, too.” She might be comfortable talking to him, but she didn’t want him to feel sorry for her.

“Where are you from? Before you came to the US?”

“Palestine. My father was Palestinian and my mother was from here in Ohio.”

“Talk about worlds apart,” Ben said as he finished the bridle.

“Yeah, but they loved each other.”

He sighed and stood. “I have more work to do now, but maybe we can talk another time.”

“I’d like that.” She couldn’t wait to get to know him better.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

Wednesday Words – A. R. Conti Fulwell

Wednesday Words graphic

Please welcome author A. R. Conti Fulwell to The West Corner!

The Writing the Write Way

I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

What is a writer?

Is it someone who resigns all that they are to the power of the pen?

Is it someone who’s head is constantly in the clouds?

Is it someone who fears carpal tunnel more than forgetfulness?

Yes.

A writer is anyone with a voice.

So how do you harness this voice? If you are a writer, you may find that your voice is more like a wild horse and less like a ball point pen. Many people think that writers sit down and produce a manuscript, sometimes in a surprising short amount of time and then send it off to someone who can publish it, and then – boom! – you are an author.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Writers write, and write, and write, and write some more, and once they’re done they edit, and edit, and edit, and edit some more. Then, after all of that, good writers go back, and they edit again, and again, until finally the piece they have created resembles their original idea in the best ways possible.

Now the title suggests that there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to write. Even though we are taught in our English courses that there is a certain way of doing things, that does not apply to the field of ‘being’ a writer. Write in pen. Write in pencil. Write with poor grammar. Write with no commas. Just write.

Many of my fellow writers are afflicted with this disease, this malady called “Writer’s Block.” I don’t believe in Writer’s Block; in fact, the only form of Writer’s Block that whole-heartedly believe in is the piece of wood that sits on my book shelf with the words “writer’s block” embedded in it. Writer’s Block is a myth created by writers when they run out of ideas. I’ll admit, there is no one who wants to admit they have hit a brick wall; however, at the same time there is no one who can produce an award-winning book in the first draft. It is humanly impossible.

While I don’t believe in Writer’s Block, I believe in letting my books “cook.” Right now, I have about six books started, and I think of each of them as a crock pot that is set on low – all simmering, waiting for me to pick up the lid again.

Writing is just like life – you don’t have to have all the answers right now.

After all, writers hold the key to the castle, but the process of unlocking the door makes the writer an author.

About the Author

photo of author A. R. Conti FulwellA. R. Conti Fulwell holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and a Minor in Music, from Malone University, but her story-telling journey began long before her college years. Long ago, immersed in the Medici chapel, surrounded by the paintings of Gentileschi, the writings of Castiglione and Machiavelli, and the architecture of Brunelleschi, she found herself fascinated by the art of historical fiction, she began fashioning her own tales after the greats – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amanda resides in Hartville, Ohio, and often shoots short-films within her hometown.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Blog

When the Italian Came to Stay cover artBook Description

Like a fish out of water….

Serafina Rinaldi wants nothing more than be free. Free from boarding school, free from English society, and free from her haunting past. When her father calls in a favor from an English friend, Sir Matthew Renault, asking him to take his daughter back to Sir Matthew’s esteemed family estate, Cainesworth Abbey, Serafina is ready to give in, and forget she ever wanted anything more.

As Serafina settles in, she finds that not everyone at Cainesworth is against her. Making friends with Lady Eliza Carthidge, Matthew’s cousin, gives Serafina just the ally that she will need, as her past begins to collide with the family at Cainesworth. Joshua Stone, a man from Serafina’s past, comes to Cainesworth after the unfortunate death of his brother on the Titanic, looking for solace. Together, the four uncover a mystery, and a common scoundrel, connecting their worlds, testing their faith, and delivering them to the threshold of a destiny that they have all been seeking.

When the Italian Came to Stay is available from Amazon.

Monday Mentions – Sofi’s Bridge by Christine Lindsay

Monday Mentions graphic

Please welcome Christine Lindsay to The West Corner! She’s here today with her historical romance novel Sofi’s Bridge.

Sofi's Bridge cover artBook Description

Seattle Debutant Sofi Andersson will do everything in her power to protect her sister who is suffering from shock over their father’s death. Charles, the family busy-body, threatens to lock Trina in a sanatorium—a whitewashed term for an insane asylum—so Sofi will rescue her little sister, even if it means running away to the Cascade Mountains with only the new gardener Neil Macpherson to protect them. But in a cabin high in the Cascades, Sofi begins to recognize that the handsome immigrant from Ireland harbors secrets of his own. Can she trust this man whose gentle manner brings such peace to her traumatized sister and such tumult to her own emotions? And can Neil, the gardener, continue to hide from Sofi that he is really Dr. Neil Galloway, a man wanted for murder by the British police? Only an act of faith and love will bridge the distance that separates lies from truth and safety.

Excerpt

“Sometimes I think it would be easier,” Sofi said, “if I didn’t feel the urge to use these natural abilities—I think God-given abilities—but to do the more expected tasks of a woman in my social position. Strangely, my father considered it more socially acceptable for my sister to enter yacht races than for me to consider a career.”
Sofi raised her gaze. “But what about you, Neil? With all this talk about life’s purposes and the toil of one’s brow, what are you doing with your life?” The sun nestled between two peaks as she tensed her weight against the sun-warmed granite.
Her natural perfume intoxicated him—not the overpowering colognes of society, but the scent of soap, apples she been paring earlier—stirring the desire to touch her cheek, her hands, her arms. What if he closed the gap between them? How would the softness of her cheek feel against the roughness of his? What would her lips taste like?
His breath quickened.
Sofi’s eyes widened.
He couldn’t tear his gaze from her softly parting mouth. A muscle tapped at the base of her throat.
Had one of them moved closer?
He pulled in a breath. When a man and a woman cared for each other, they should speak the truth. He wanted to tell her about the thrift clinic he’d partnered in for the poor back home. Tell her of the work he’d done in the hospital. If he shared his pride in those accomplishments, he knew her eyes would shine in understanding.
Aye, right, ye fool. Then tell her you left the clinic and your position in Belfast City Hospital, as well as all your patients, to run to Washington State to be a gardener. How could he possibly tell her about the night that stole his life from him, and all with one slash of a knife? He rubbed the pressure between his brows. “Time we were getting back to the cabin.”
“Right. Of course.” In a fluster, she smoothed her shirtwaist. Her eyes that moments ago were shining turned a dull slate. She set her profile to him. “Foolish for the two of us to stand here any longer.”

~~

Sofi’s Bridge is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iTunes, and Kobo. Click HERE for more information.

~~

About the Author

photo of author Christine LindsayIrish-born Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction and non-fiction. Readers describe her writing as gritty yet tender, realistic yet larger than life, with historical detail that collides into the heart of psychological and relationship drama. Christine’s books have garnered the ACFW Genesis Award, The Grace Award, Canada’s The Word Guild Award (Twice), the READERS’ CHOICE AWARD, and was a finalist twice for Readers’ Favorite and the Selah Award.

Connect with Christine Lindsay online

Website

Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Six

Fiction Friday graphic

Click HERE to start with chapter one.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Six

Something soft and furry pressed against Mira’s face. She swatted it away, but it came back and pushed harder. Opening her eyes, she found bright green eyes staring back from a fluffy gray face. A loud purr and a soft meow accompanied another round of head butting.

“Good morning to you, too.” She scratched under his chin as she glanced around the dark room. “Frank, I’m not sure it’s morning yet. Move over so I can see the clock.”

She gently shoved him out of the way. The glowing red numbers from the digital clock on the nightstand stared back. Frank rubbed his head on her nose, blocking her view again.

“Okay, you win.” She sighed and sat up. “Six o’clock is morning, but this time of year it sure doesn’t look like it.”

The cat meowed again and looked pointedly at the door.

“All right!” She shook her head and smiled. Purebred cats were just as demanding as the strays she’d always owned. “Let me get dressed, and then I’ll see if I can find your food.”

Frank sat on the foot of the bed while she dressed in the clothes she’d worn the previous night. A few quick strokes of her brush, and she called her hair done. She crept out of her room, not wanting to disturb Tabby if she was still asleep. As she went down the stairs, she glanced over her shoulder. Sure enough, Frank trailed her. A cat that big obviously never missed the opportunity for a meal. Light shone through the open kitchen door, and quiet voices drifted into the hall. Were the Montaignes early risers?

Lucas sat at the table with two women in neat black uniforms. All three of them had partially eaten breakfasts in front of them.

“Miss Mira, you’re up early.” Lucas offered a friendly smile.

Somebody decided he was hungry.” She glanced at the cat winding around her legs.

“Frank! You naughty cat.” The younger woman stood. “You know better than to wake the guests.” She scooped him up and sent Mira an apologetic look. “I’m sorry he disturbed you, miss.”

“Don’t worry about it.” She smiled, hoping to put the woman at ease. “I’m used to cats waking me up and early mornings. I lived on a farm for years, and the animals all liked to be fed before seven.”

“I’m so relieved he didn’t upset you, miss.” She stroked the cat’s head. “Let’s go feed you, Frank.”

The other woman stood as the first left the room. “I’m Charlotte, the cook. Can I fix you something to eat?”

“I guess so.” The Montaignes had a cook?

“What would you like?”

“Anything is fine.” How were you supposed to deal with a cook? She’d never had one.

“Honey, I’m all out of anything, so you’re going to have to be a little more specific.”

Mira drew a blank on American breakfast foods. She doubted the hummus she’d grown up eating was common in Ohio, but she couldn’t think of another dish.

“Hey, Charlotte, isn’t there still some sausage gravy left?” Lucas asked and glanced at Mira. “Do you like biscuits and gravy?”

Her brain kicked in again at the mention of one of her favorite American breakfast foods. “I haven’t had biscuits and gravy in months.”

“Well, have a seat, and I’ll dish up a plate for you.” Charlotte moved to the large gas stove.

Mira sat across from Lucas as the younger woman returned to her seat, minus the cat.

“Anita, here, is the live-in maid,” Lucas said. “There were two, but Nancy left and Miss Della hasn’t found a replacement yet.”

“But she did arrange to have someone come in days to help,” Anita added.

Charlotte set a plate of mouth-watering biscuits and sausage gravy in front of Mira. “Here you go, honey.”

“Thanks.” She inhaled the warm, slightly spicy aroma. “This looks delicious.”

Charlotte sat down and watched her take the first bite.

Pure bliss filled Mira as she tasted the creamy gravy and flaky biscuit. “I think this might be better than Marnie’s.”

“Thank you.” A pleased smile spread across the cook’s face. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I do.” Mira took another bite.

“Who’s Marnie?” Lucas asked.

“She was some kind of cousin to my mother.” She understood his curiosity about the stranger the Montaignes had taken in. She’d be curious too. “I lived with her and her husband Harley after I came to this country.”

Anita leaned forward. “Where are you from?”

“I was born in Palestine and lived there until I was thirteen.” She hoped she wouldn’t have to explain why she’d immigrated to live with her mother’s cousins.

Silence fell, but Charlotte broke it after only a moment. “Why don’t we get to work and let Miss Mira eat in peace?”

Guilt pinged Mira, and she lifted her head. “You don’t have to leave on my account.”

The cook reached across the table and gave her arm a pat. “I know, honey, but Anita and I have work to do. I’m sure Lucas has things that need his attention as well.”

She and Anita rose and cleared their places, but Lucas stayed in his seat and drank his coffee. While Mira ate, he told her about the horses the Montaignes owned. She finished the last bite, and Charlotte appeared beside her.

“Would you like some more?”

“No, thanks. That was plenty,” Mira said with a smile.

Charlotte gathered the dishes and carried them to the sink. Lucas stood and picked up his own dishes then looked at Mira.

“Would you like to come down to the stable with me and see the horses? I bet old Dan would like to see you, too.”

“Sure.” She gave him a curious look as she rose. “Where is Dan? I haven’t seen him since we got here.”

“He lives with me above the stable. Miss Della doesn’t like to have him in the house, so he’s taken up residence in my apartment.”

“Oh.” After her years in West Virginia, she couldn’t imagine not letting a pet dog in the house. Back in Palestine, however, any dogs had been forbidden to enter the house. Was Della’s dislike of a dog in the house religious? It couldn’t be cultural, since so many Americans didn’t have a problem with it. “I need to go get my coat, and then I’ll be ready to go.”

“I’ll wait here for you.”

Mira ran up to her room and retrieved her coat. When she returned downstairs, she found Lucas waiting outside the kitchen, already wearing his coat. He led the way down the hall, past some closed doors, and opened the door at the end to reveal a mudroom. They passed through it and out into the cold predawn air. A well-kept gravel walk led to a large stable. Lights shone through the windows. Lucas opened the door, and warmth wrapped around them the moment they stepped inside. The familiar scents of horses, hay, and leather eased her tension.

A handsome man about Mira’s age with curly black hair, brown eyes, and an olive complexion similar to hers stepped out of one of the stalls.

“I got everybody fed. I’ll start on the stalls in a few minutes.” His gaze landed on Mira, and his expression changed to a mix of surprise and curiosity. “Hello.”

“Ben Petros, Mira Hassan,” Lucas said. “Mira’s staying with the Montaignes for a while.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Ben’s straight, white smile set her heart racing.

“Hey.”

“Ben’s a local college student who works here in the mornings,” Lucas said. “He managed to arrange his schedule so that his earliest class is at noon.”

Ben grinned. “I’d rather work with horses early in the morning than study the history of the modern world.”

Lucas laughed and Mira smiled as she looked around, her thoughts on the mutt she’d befriended in West Virginia.

“Where’s Dan?”

“He’s in the tack room being lazy,” Ben said. “Come on, I’ll show you.”

She followed him down the wide cement aisle between the stalls and peeked in at the horses they passed. “These are beautiful animals.”

“Most of them are well-trained, too. The most recent arrival is another story. She’s a Thoroughbred mare that’s barely trained and can be spooked by her own shadow.” He stopped beside an open door. “Here’s the tack room.”

Mira looked inside and the large, mixed-breed hound lying there thumped his tail on the floor. It warmed her heart to see evidence he still considered her a friend. She walked over and knelt beside him. As she rubbed his head, the tail picked up tempo.

“I see you and Dan know each other,” Ben said from the doorway.

“Yeah, we met a few days ago when Bill was in West Virginia.” She stood and dusted the loose dog hair from her hands.

“That’s cool.” He glanced toward the barn aisle. “I need to start mucking out stalls. If you want to hang around here for a while, you can put your coat on one of the hooks over there.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

He left to do his work, and she hung her coat where he had indicated. As she took in the expensive tack around her, it sank in that all the saddles were English style. The only kind she had ever used were the larger Western saddles. Dan stretched into a standing position and followed Mira as she left the tack room. She found Lucas brushing a large bay.

“Ben said there’s a horse what’s been giving y’all trouble,” she said, petting the bay’s nose.

“She just needs a bit more training.” He came around the horse to stand beside her.

“I might be able to help. I used to help Harley with the horses.”

Lucas studied her as the bay sniffed her pockets as if it expected to find a carrot hidden in one.

“Well, I guess I can show her to you, but Dan has to stay in the tack room.” He reached for the bay’s halter and the crossties attached to it. “Maggie’s more nervous than usual when he’s around.”

“Is that the mare’s name?” she asked as he led the bay to a nearby stall.

“It’s actually Magnolia Dream, but we call her Maggie,” he said, coming out of the stall and securing the door.

They left Dan in the tack room with the door closed. Mira followed Lucas down to the end of the row of stalls. He grabbed a lead rope hanging on a hook screwed into the wall and cautiously opened the last stall. He entered with slow, deliberate steps, speaking in a low tone to the horse stamping her feet inside. Mira stayed back as Lucas led the nervous animal out of her stall. He stopped a big gray in the center of the aisle.

“This is Magnolia Dream, a four-year-old Thoroughbred. Maggie is seventeen hands, barely trained, and as you can see, she has a nervous disposition.”

The beautiful mare pranced a bit at the end of the lead rope. Everything about the horse reminded Mira so much of a pair of horses Harley had rescued. Maybe the same things would work on her that had worked on them. She spoke soothing words in Hebrew as she stepped toward Maggie. The horse pricked her ears and calmed a little. With a careful, steady movement, Mira raised her open hand, palm up, and let the horse investigate. Maggie calmed further, and Mira raised her other hand to rub the mare’s forehead. She could feel Lucas’s eyes on her as the horse lowered her head and allowed Mira to scratch behind her ears.

“I’ve never seen Maggie this calm,” he said in a low tone.

She smiled and continued to pet the horse, showing she meant no harm. “You just have to know how to talk to her. Do you have a place to exercise her?”

“There’s an indoor arena on the other side of these stalls.” A crease furrowed his brow. “You’re not thinking of riding her, are you?”

“No, I was going to ask for a longe line.”

“There’s one in the tack room.”

“I’ll hold Maggie, if you’ll go get it.”

Lucas looked at the animal continuing to relax under her gentle touch. “Okay, but if you need any help, just call out.”

“All right, but I won’t need help,” Mira said with a smile as she took the lead rope from him.

He walked to the tack room as quickly as he dared without spooking Maggie. Mira went back to softly speaking Hebrew as she ran her fingers down the mare’s soft neck. Lucas returned a moment later carrying a longe line and a long whip. Maggie began to dance at the end of the lead rope, her nostrils flaring and her eyes showing white.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West