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Sample Sunday – BLURRING LINES Excerpt January 8, 2012

Posted by shannonmuir in characters, ebooks, epub, indie, indie publishing, Kindle, NOOK, publishing, Sample, short story, Smashwords, Writing.
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I rarely use Sample Sunday for older material, normally I like to show off pieces of newer stuff that I’ve been working on. Today though, I am going to give a sample from an exisiting story. It’s one of the pieces past the sample point online for the anthology SEARCH FOR A WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES AND POEMS LOOKING AT WOMEN FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE. What follows is the opening of a story called “Blurring Lines,” following a couple who is falling apart after trying to make a conventional marriage work when one of them has less than conventional appeitites, for lack of a better phrase. This setup is important because it is the children raised in their marriage who play front and center in the upcoming WILLOWBROOK SAGA project I am working on after they pass away unexpectedly. This piece gives quickly a lot of backstory, particularly the mother’s, which I am having to carefully marble in to the other book in addition to the story it tells. To set up what is to come, please enjoy this excerpt of “Blurring Lines” – if you wish to read the complete story, the anthology is for sale in ebook only. It is English language only on Amazon in the US, UK, German, French, Italian and Spanish stores, as well as NOOK, iBookstore, Kobo, Diesel, and Smashwords (for some reason Sony has not posted this book though it was distributed to them in October, so you can get a Sony compatible copy here).

Nora Harrison adjusted her swimsuit bottom as best she could not unbuckle.  Riding all the way over the pass from Eastern to Western Washington in nothing but a stretchy paisley one piece proved both uncomfortable and liberating.  Especially with the giant firm belly it surrounded carrying her sons. 

The day was July 15, 1976.  The forecasters expected a high of 84 in Seattle, unusually high for the month.  Nora wished the trip could have been delayed but they were running out of time.

“Arthur,” she begged.  “Pull into that truck stop up coming up in a few miles.  I’m starving.”

“That’s not a code word for anything is it?  I’m sure he won’t be able to keep his hands off you once we get there.”

Nora noticed how Arthur never would use the name of his work associate who impregnated her while he traveled on business.  It angered her because he’d given them permission before he left to be together, so she didn’t understand why he punished her now. Arthur knew how insatiable she was before they married, and at least wanted a steady lover for her, not to mention he was Black which Arthur knew she preferred though he was not – or at least tried to deny the Black generations back in his heritage.

“No, Arthur. I just need to eat.  That’s it.  Besides we’re almost divorced.  And you gave him permission to spend time with me.”

“I’d mainly meant that so that someone made sure you and Belinda were ok since I don’t have any family nearby, and yours threw you out years ago.  I’d truly hoped you’d restrain yourself.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with your track record.”

“You haven’t told me much about your family,” she said.  “I know they live in the South on some estate.”

“Yeah, my parents and brother are there.  It’s all still so foreign.  A distant relative with no heirs died and left it to them because they’d had so much trouble keeping their own housing.  Historically a plantation or something like that.  We totally had no idea our family’s roots went back into that kind of thing.”

As Arthur continued to drive, Nora couldn’t forget her Black high school sweetheart taking her virginity the night before he shipped out to ‘Nam, promising his return and that they’d wed properly.  Instead what she’d gotten was word of his death and a very very pregnant belly as she learned of her family’s genetic predisposition to multiple babies. 

She remembered how her own grandparents wanted to discard her after the news.  Her mother, Angelica, died in childbirth leaving her to be raised by her Russian grandparents since her father, Roswell Cunningham, remarried and wanted no reminders of his old life.  Her grandparents worked hard to keep their farm going, but paid little attention to the child they blamed for their daughter’s death – even though it was in fact her three siblings trapped inside and that should have followed that killed Angelica.  Instead of embracing Nora as a living hope, they rejected her, even more so when she turned out heavily pregnant like her mother.

“You shame us,” were the last words Nora’s grandmother ever told her as she slammed the farmhouse door in her face.

Fortunately the young soldier’s family proved somewhat more compassionate. She still had the letter memorized that she kept with his photos in a locked box.

“Dear Nora, I am sorry to hear of your parents’ lack of support regarding our late son’s children.  They should feel more blessed their daughter will be giving them grandchildren then caught up in issues of race and heritage.  Our son died for his country hoping to provide for a family he looked forward to. Please honor him by coming to live with us.”

Nora could never thank them enough for taking them in and raising his children.  That said, she wasn’t prepared for things to turn darker when his younger brother hired her as a live-in help for their home.  They became involved and Nora became pregnant, much to his wife’s anger.

“You were seducing my husband,” the wife said. “Just like his brother!”

“No!” Sobbed Nora.  “I loved his brother.  And your husband lied to me.  He said you were getting a divorce.”

“I may now that he’s gotten the help knocked up,” grumbled back the wife.  “You’re only nineteen, little girl.  What do you know about really being a mother?”

“Nothing! Nothing! Oh I miss my love so much! Being pregnant takes away the emptiness and gives me purpose! I’m creating life!”

In present day, Nora patted her current load, Xavier’s wonderful gift.  Xavier transferred to Arthur’s office and he and Nora immediately hit it off.  The well sculpted Black man embodied everything Nora wanted in a man – wealthy and successful, plus her race of choice.  He spoke smooth and suave, and well-mannered.

“Arthur’s lucky to have you,” he told her at a company social function where Arthur brought her along around the holiday season, while Arthur went to grab some drinks for them.

“I’d be lucky to have you, if you’ll have me,” she whispered back, much to Xavier’s surprise.

Ladies’ man Xavier more than volunteered to bed Nora not much later.  When she told him about her background, Xavier started asking questions.

“I heard your daughter is not your first child,” he asked her that night.

“You hear right,” Nora confirmed. “Years before I met Arthur.  You have good sources.”

“That I do.  I also hear,” Xavier said, nibbling on her ear, “that the little one is not Arthur’s, though you have made no effort to make people think otherwise.  Everyone believes she is his daughter.”

“Again true,” Nora admitted.  “I’d been sleeping with my landlord when Arthur and I met, to keep him from evicting me.  Arthur wasn’t too happy about the arrangement, especially when he found out how the fellow made a little side business off me at a real estate convention.  I was a desperate girl.”

“Now for the real kicker,” he said, pausing.  “Excepting the landlord, which was a situation of desperation, all your suitors have been of my race and all your children save of that union conceived with Black men.  If you truly do carry such a preference, why marry one who isn’t?  Are you ashamed?”

“No!” Nora insisted.  “Arthur has his secrets too.  Beneath that lighter skin of his is the descendant of slaves and masters.  When he offered to marry me, he told me that about his background in case I might hold it against him.  He doesn’t know it’s the only reason I married him.  When we’re together, I just think of the blood in his veins.   Yet somehow we’ve never had children together.  I think Belinda keeps him occupied and he loves her as his own, but he so desperately wants children he fathered himself.”

Xavier played with Nora’s breast.

“You are a very curious woman, Nora Harrison.  What you’re asking me to do could take that away from him.”

Nora stroked his chest in return.

“I’m beginning to realize I may have settled for less than what I deserve,” she’d whispered back.  “Now show me what my sources tell me will be quite the thrill!”

Back in present day, Arthur pulled into the truck stop as Nora requested.

“I don’t think we’re in danger of men hitting on me in there.  They may not get a lot of action, but some big bloated pregnant lady I sincerely doubt,” Nora told Arthur, but deep down she at least hoped she’d get some glances.   Nora loved getting attention, even if what thrilled her most about her situation still remained a secret until she gave birth. 

“We’ll see,” Arthur answered doubtfully, but came around and opened the door for Nora, who stepped out in her swimsuit and sandals and tried to get her balance.

“You don’t have to be so kind to your nearly ex-wife,” she pointed out.

“You’re still pregnant, and still a woman, and I still feel I owe you courtesy that I would show anyone else like you regardless what I knew about her history.”

Nora to her surprise actually felt slightly touched.  Dear, sweet, Arthur who despite all his frustrations didn’t compromise his integrity.  Nora asked for divorce to be liberated from him.  While Arthur admitted his disappointment, because of her own past history he tried to be more accepting and tried to get Nora not to file for divorce.  However, if everything stayed in Arthur’s court, they’d still be married.  Nora wished Arthur wasn’t contesting so hard.  She’d hoped he’d be so embarrassed he’d just throw in the towel; however, she’d grossly misjudged Arthur’s character. 

Nora wanted all men to be as her father had,  uncaring and unforgiving, and only doing things when it was convenient.  She’d only seen an exception to that once in her life and now he was gone.  At first Nora wanted to believe there would be others like her fallen Viet Nam soldier, and that’s why she’d gotten so close to his brother, only to end up shamed and ridiculed.  That look on life allowed her to let her landlord do as he pleased while not caring, though frustrated when the birth control failed her.  If Nora had only her way, Belinda would never have been born (her other siblings in utero didn’t survive so that turned out to be of little consequence), but the landlord refused to let her take care of things planning to profit from a private adoption – definitely a man who cared little, forgave little, and saw only his own convenience in events.  However, as much as Nora wanted all men to be this way, she still wanted to be in control.  Being forced to have children she did not want took away that control.

Excerpt from “Blurring Lines,” a story that appears in SEARCH FOR A WOMAN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF STORIES AND POEMS LOOKING AT WOMEN FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, Copyright 2011 Shannon Muir, All Rights Reserved. Please do not repost any of this without permission but feel free to link to this blog post.

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