I have a story to tell you. It’s about my man and my marriage. Well, it’s about a lot of other stuff too…but it all ties in. When the whole thing started, with him, I mean, I had a dead mamma and a gay daddy. I loved daddy but I rarely saw him. He left the dry heat of Texas to go live in a different kind of heat in Los Angeles with his new man.
I was alone. I had been on my own for years. Even living with my folks I was alone. Then one fateful night I met Bruce and he began to sweep me off my feet. Girls, he was handsome and flaunted the money and promised a grand life. My coupon cutting days were over!
Well, it didn’t turn out like I’d hoped. He turned out to be a real rotten peach. And so was most of his family. On the outside we looked like the perfect. Behind closed doors it was a whole other story with emotional and physical abuse. I’ll leave it at that for now to keep this “G” rated.
When I begin my story I was approaching my tenth wedding anniversary…and I knew it was going to be my last. I had a plan. I had been working on it for some time. Solid plans do take time. I wasn’t about to just walk away with nothing!
So please take a look at my story. I want you to know I made it! I am happy!
And the funny part is, it didn’t happen quite the way I’d planned…
is an eclectic collection of short stories about all of us. The first stories in the collection are about failed romance and how many of us constantly and painfully search for connection in our lives. Other stories take us across the globe, and speak in a variety of voices, which give us brief glimpses of individuals who struggle to make sense of our world. The human beings described in these stories will make you laugh, weep and sometimes they’ll make you throw up your hands in utter disbelief.×
God discoers that Lucifer has betwitched his wife, that she is with child. There ensures the greatest story of love and betrayal which reverberates down through all of human history, and continues to affect the fate of human kind.
A war in heaven ensures, a tremendous conflict in which the human soul is at stake. This is the entire story of the bible told as a story of love and betrayal, God, Humans and Lucifer and Lilith.
Blake January is escorting a young slave dealer to a fort when a young, feisty kid, Casey Walsh attempts to free his prisoner and fails.
When Blake discovers the kid is a pretty girl, and the sister of his prisoner, he must now deal with two unwanted people.
But, as Blake journey’s to the fort, he cannot ignore the attraction he feels for Casey. At the fort, Casey manages to free her
brother from the brig and they head west only to be captured by Apache Indians. Casey and her brother are accepted by the tribe
because of a white woman, called Moon Glow.
After Blake discovers them gone, he’s adamant about finding Casey because she had captured his heart and than made a fool out of
him. On his travels, Blake is accused of killing a prostitute and jailed and has to wait until the circuit judge arrives for his trial.
Luckily, the murderer is caught and he continues on his quest. When, he arrives at the Indian village, Casey isn’t happy to see him,
fearing he has come to recapture her brother.
This leads to the sequel, Star Gazer
Book 1- Blue Thunder
This is book 2 in the series
Book 3 - Star Gazer×
The urgent command shocked the dead of the night. The sound of horse hooves beat upon the sleeping earth like a tom-tom, waking all creatures and a young Cassandra Walsh. But she only half listened, as she struggled with her semi-conscience.
“Casey!” This time there was no mistaking the truth. She was being summoned and she came awake with a jolt. At first, she thought perhaps she was dreaming; the mind can work strangely when suspended in sleep. Struggling with real and imagined images, she shook her head trying to calm the wild beating of her heart. Dream or not, something was wrong. Born with an uncanny sixth sense of knowing when anything bad was going to happen, spasms of alarm erupted within her and she swallowed the terror that rose in her throat.
She heard it again. “Casey!” The familiar voice was urgent; a warning bell rang in her brain. Now fully awake, her mind instantly recognized her father’s voice that ripped the night, sending a chill up her spine. He was not at home, but she had heard him as clear as if he were in the room. Quickly, she slipped on a cotton robe. With shaking hands, she clutched it together and ran from her room, through the small cabin to the front door.
For a moment, she hesitated before throwing open the weather-beaten barrier. The damp night air chilled her immediately as she peered into the darkness. The wind picked up the moment she stepped onto the rickety porch; an owl hooted, making her jump. Her long hair whipped around her face and she shivered more from her uneasy feeling than the night air. Frustrated because she couldn’t see past the large pine trees, she went inside and returned to her room feeling her heart tighten as if a web was being woven snugly around it. Trying to sleep was useless; her mind was filled with anxiety, half in anticipation and half in dread.
A coyote howled for its mate in the distance made her feel more isolated.
Many long minutes passed. Casey paced the floor until she heard a horse’s whinny outside the cabin. Her head snapped up and her heart raced as she listened to the footsteps before her bedroom door flew opened. She stood frozen in time.
Her father nearly fell into her room. His was panting and gasping, clutching his chest, as he took in deep breaths of air. Despite her fears, she felt a moment of relief and awful joy. “Father?” she gasped, going quickly to his side. “What happened? What’s wrong? Where’s Hunter?”
Her mind was in turmoil; part of her dreaded his answer. Part of her suspected she should be frightened to hear it but she needed to. Her father was covered with mud and acting like the devil himself was chasing him. Her hands trembled as she led her father to the bed. Her relief was short-lived and she wanted her questions answered, but he needed tending. His breathing was uneven and labored, telling her he’d been riding long and hard. She feared for her brother also. Where was he?
“Get dressed child,” her father ordered with a gasp of breath. “I’ve no time to explain.”
“Now!” The command was blunt and to the point, but his voice lacked strength.
Casey wanted to question him again, but she bit back tears of frustration; she had to obey him and believe that it must be important for them to leave in such a hurry. She would find out later and prayed that her brother was all right. Quickly, she dressed, remembering the last time she and Hunter fled into the night, they were running from Union soldiers. She was sure this was the case again.
Once more, she donned her brother’s clothes, something she took to doing a long time ago. With no mother to scold her into wearing dresses and since she did most of the chores, she found boys clothes more comfortable. Anyway, who saw her deep in the woods? She never recalled living anywhere except in the wilderness, even when her mother was alive.
“Oh, mama,” she sobbed, “I wish you were here. Maybe papa wouldn’t be on the run all the time.” She shrugged to herself. The truth was, even her mother couldn’t change him; he was always doing something that got him into trouble. She was sure it was this kind of life that killed her mother at an early age. Inhaling deeply, she wondered if her mother could have kept her brother from following in her father’s footsteps. She frowned and swore unladylike under her breathe. Probably not.
“Hurry up, girl!” she heard him bellow from outside. She shoved her long golden hair under her hat, grabbed her rifle, then ran. Her father was waiting for her and had her horse, Sadie, saddled.
Once again, she asked as she mounted Sadie. “Where’s Hunter?”
“No time to explain,” he grumbled. His eyes warning her that this was no moment for stubbornness.
Casey swung her mount around and they fled into the darkness, riding hard all night. Although she was an excellent rider and could keep up with any man, her backside was quite sore. Her spine ached and her legs were beginning to chafe. It had been a while since she spent time in the saddle and her aches were reminding her of that fact. By morning she was thirsty, sore and chilled to the bone from the drizzle that had started shortly before dawn. The country was remote and calm, a far cry from her own emotions; her insides were in a whirlwind. They had to stop soon, for the horses couldn’t continue at that pace. Finally, her father stopped at a stream where they, their mounts drank and rested.
Marcus believed they were safe now, but the pain in his left arm was getting worse. How could he tell his daughter that they had been ambushed? That her brother was probably captured or maybe dead? He had barely escaped himself. After he had hightailed away, he was sorry for dragging the boy into his dealings. He prayed he’d not find his son’s dead body. He had seen the boy fall from his horse; never would he forgive himself. Never! His self-chastising was a little late but he had to try and save Hunter.
It was time to explain to his daughter the facts. He felt the weight of her gaze on him, as he turned to see confusion and fear written all over her lovely face. There was such prettiness about her, innocence, but his daughter was by no means a novice of life. For her it had been a hard one and it was entirely his fault. He swallowed his sad thoughts. It was too late for regrets.
“All right,” Casey said. She sat on her haunches after taking her fill of water. “Let’s hear it, pop.”
Marcus sat wearily on the damp ground knowing in his aching heart that his feisty daughter wasn’t going to like it one bit. He couldn’t fault her and once again he blamed himself that Hunter was in danger, maybe dead. If only his wife, Maisie was still alive, but wishing didn’t make things right. He sighed, wiping his beaded brow with a damp bandanna; he was getting too old for this. Once more he had promised himself and his dead wife that this was going to be the last time. Marcus realized too late that he should have left Hunter home, but the boy was a man and had insisted on coming along. He dreaded telling his daughter the truth. Damnation, he was tired and not feeling very well. Unconsciously, he rubbed his sore arm and let out a big belch.
He saw Casey’s beautiful face. It undulated before him and he blinked seeing his Maisie sitting by his side. How beautiful she was. How he missed touching the long blonde hair that had a texture like woven silk. Her soft topaz eyes held so much love for him; she could see no wrong with them. Oh, how he loved her.
“Maisie,” he gasped and tried to fill his lungs with the air they begged for.
“Papa?” A flicker of apprehension coursed through Casey, assuming that she wasn’t about to like what he was going to tell her. She watched her father curiously; he didn’t look good. His skin had a funny hue to it and he was sweating profusely. His clear blue eyes were red and watery and void of emotion, something she’d never seen before. She wondered how he had aged so much, for he looked much older than forty-five. His hair was the color of pewter and thin, like wisps of clouds. “Papa.” She was beside him now. He seemed to be staring into space. “Papa?” she bit her lower lip not understanding what was happening. Why was he calling her by her mother’s name? She put her arm quickly around him and his head fell onto her shoulder. “Oh, Papa. What’s happening with you? What happened to Hunter?”
“Hunter,” her brother’s name was but a whisper on his dry lips. He fell over taking her with him. Terrified, she cried and struggled to right them both. “Papa? Please tell me.”
The moon cast an eerie glow making her father’s irises gleam like glassy rock full of remorse and remoteness. She saw that he had trouble breathing and she began to grasp the fact that he might be suffering a heart attack!
“I deserve to die, but not my son,” he rasped above a whisper.
“Please, papa,” she tugged at his shirt, uncaring how rough she was. His gaze was icy and unresponsive and she shook him, screaming at him to answer her. His mouth took on an unpleasant twist and she began to sob frantically. She hardly heard the gurgle in his throat but she did hear him whisper Hunter’s name again. She stopped herself from crying and put her ear to his mouth.
“Hunter,” he rasped, “was caught by the abolitionist.” That was all he said.
Casey sat dazed for a long time before she let out a bloodcurdling scream in the unfamiliar surroundings, then she reached out and clutched his hand before collapsing onto her father’s dead body. She wept like she had when her mother died.
Much later, when her tears were gone and her throat was raw, she lifted her dazed body from her father’s and walked over to his horse to retrieve a tin cup from his saddlebag. It took hours for her to dig a shallow grave. Her hands bled from torn fingernails while her shoulders and back ached from fatigue and labor. She ignored the pain and numbness in her legs from kneeling on the hard ground, as she mustered her last strength and pulled the heavy body into the grave. She covered him with dirt and rocks to protect him from wild animals. Then and only then, she fell into an exhausted sleep. Somewhere between the dimension of sleep and wakefulness, she heard the chirping of a bird. In her sleepy mind she was back home and she stretched feeling rested but sore as hell. The pain in her body brought her fully awake only to recall her horror once again. Her eyelids slowly opened only to be greeted by a gray dawn. A fitting companion for her state of mind.
Tears formed anew in her eyes. She moaned and dragged herself to the lake to splash cold water on her sleep-crusted eyes. That refreshed her somewhat. She studied the sore blisters on her hands and recalled the pain of yesterday’s events all over again. But there would be no crying now. Some bitterness towards her father erupted when she recalled the past week before this nightmare. How long had her father been selling slaves? She was ashamed and loved him in one heartbeat. The memory of how she had begged her father and brother not to go was still vivid in her mind. Why did Hunter insist on joining this time? He was not yet seventeen and all ready in trouble, if not dead. And she, only eighteen, was now left alone to fend for herself, but she could manage. Hadn’t she had been doing it all every time her father went away for long periods? Even taking care of her younger brother wasn’t a hardship.
Casey sighed, thinking of Hunter, knowing she had to find out if he was still alive. Her father said he was captured, not killed, so there was hope. But could she find him before something dreadful happened to him? Abolitionists did not take pity on the slave dealers they captured. She tried to think of better times, when her mother was alive, when she and her brother played near the woods. Although, times had always been hard and though they were very poor, she never complained. Her mother had been very beautiful but as time went on, the hardship took its toll; she grayed prematurely and her thin body didn’t stand as straight as it had when she was younger.
Her mother was an educated woman who had lived in Boston. Her family was well-to-do. Her father met her when he went to visit a cousin and it was love at first sight. Maisie’s family hadn’t been happy, especially when her father brought her south to live in the wilderness. His ambition was to farm. At first, the land was prosperous until a drought destroyed all their dreams and it went from bad to worse. He did anything he could to keep his family from starving. Then the bickering started and her mother became ill, but up to her last days, she tutored her children from the books she had brought with her from home. Now it was all gone. Casey almost laughed at that notion. She really didn’t lose anything of value except her brother.
No, she scolded herself, he has to be alive.×
Welcome to Issue Two
LIPHAR magazine is proud to present stories and articles
The Billy Goat Caper
How Charlie Saved my Life
Plus 7 articles to amaze you
What an overwhelming response to our first issue! Such positive and uplifting comments to articles, interviews and stories we received. We at Liphar would like to thank you for your support and feedback. This makes it all worthwhile.
We will not rest on our laurels though, but continue to improve our high standard with more in- depth articles, more probing interviews, whilst keeping you abreast with books reviews and new trends.
As the reader, we value your comments on articles, interviews, articles, stories, art and photo gallery and book reviews. This is an opportunity for you to give us your opinion. You can do this autonomously with feedback on anything you read in Liphar.
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In this issue: An inspiring erotic memoir interview with Emma Styles of a married woman's sexual journey from housewife to fully liberated muse and plaything. Oxford mother, Jane Yates with the reading age of a 12-year-old and the spelling age of an eight-year-old, has swept her dyslexia aside to write her first novel; shares her struggles in an interview. Wilbur Hollinger examines editing software and its usefulness as a tool to a writer. Staff reporter, John Loval, focuses on Smashwords as a viable choice for self-publishing authors.
Why the Quality Reviewer can be a Writer's Great Asset
Power of the Word
Facebook- Social Media Gone Wrong
The Road to London --Review
Smashwords to the Rescue
Editing Software Lacks Perfection
The Billy Goat Caper
How Charlie Saved my Life
Books Worth Reading
An extensive collection of poetry about all aspects of life complete with illustrations
"This Book of Poetry is a collection of poems that have a personal meaning to me the author. All the illustrations are my original art work".
Thérèse A. Kraemer
Toni Graham is a young girl with an active imagination who fantasizes about a blond, blue eyed hero saving her from the perils of life.
After her father’s death, a half-breed Indian known as Maverick, Horse with Spirit, escorts her on a treacherous journey to her sister’s ranch out west.
Toni stubbornly refuses to see the truth of what a “real” hero consists of. Even after Maverick nearly dies from knife wounds, (saving her from renegades,) snake bites, wild beasts, and other perils, she’s not swayed.
Many characters in this book have accents and or different speech patterns. The author has attempted to illustrate this phonically. These are not spelling errors.
Look Out Don Quixote And Pauline.
Fear, stark and vivid made her heart pound double time!
The ground trembled beneath her quivering body.
Where is he?
Her perfect hero?
He had come to rescue her many times before but this time, she had her doubts. Sheer fright swept through her. No! Her fears were premature. He would come.
But then… could she be sure?
The answer was easy; all she had to do was will him and he’d be there. It was panic making her doubtful. Hurry!
Her hands and ankles tied securely made her painfully aware of the danger she was in. Turning her head, the cold rusted tracks bruised her neck. The shrill of a whistle caused her heart to turn to ice. The only other warning of the peril she was in was the puff of smoke appearing as the iron monster roared around the bend.
She tried to scream but her throat was as parched as an old leather bag. Her stomach knotted as her mind flirted with hope and fear. Eyes squeezed tight, she didn’t want to face death but moments later, she bravely opened them in one last display of courage. Sweat burned inside her lids clouding her vision. She blinked. Something was in the distance.
Her hero was coming!
A wave of relief swept through her as she watched with loving anxiety her hero riding atop the white stallion, Sea Foam. Both man and beast was magnificent racing alongside the train. The color of the clear blue sky seemed dull in comparison to the blue of his eyes. Angels
must have spun gold moonbeams for his hair and God had to be in a generous mood when he molded the clay to form her perfect hero. He had to be the handsomest man in the universe!
Hurry, her heart begged.
The ground convulsed. The horrible shrill of the whistle filled the air. Man and train were neck and neck. She nearly swooned with joy as the ropes began to loosen and her body being swept up into strong arms. The choking train sped by with a roar as she clung to her savior.
Cinders and choking dust whirled about her. She dared not open her eyes until the danger passed. When she thought it was safe, she looked into his smiling eyes that gleamed above a roguish smile. His blond hair fell around his strong, bronzed face.
“What took you so long?” she bristled.
“Well, ma’am,” he drawled and quirked a brow. “There were Indians and stampedin’ long horns, and, oh yes, a stage coach under attack by bandits along the way. Ya know bein’ a hero keeps me busy.”
She giggled. “Well, thank you my handsome hero.”
“My pleasure little princess,” his smooth voice did things to her equilibrium.
She blinked at his endearing comment, then fingering the Silver Star on his chest, she said, “I see you are a sheriff. Nice badge.”
Her hero frowned and corrected her, “Marshal, ma’am.”
“Oh, excuse me, Marshal,” she blushed slightly and closed her eyes, savoring the thrill of being in his strong arms.
“Bethany Ann Graham!”
“Mmmm,” she snuggled closer. “Yes?”
She blinked. “Huh?”
“Child, are you woolgathering again?”
Miss Campbell cracked the ruler against the desk.
Toni jumped her mind not yet back in the school room.
“You will stay after class again and every day until you start paying attention, young lady!”
She didn’t have to look to know all eyes were on her. Toni cast her gaze down and bit a thumbnail. “Yes, ma’am,” she muttered. She was intensely humiliated and she prayed the shame that filled her did not show on her face. But, horse dung! She was bored.
Miss Campbell sighed frustrated, and Toni knew it was because of her. Well, she cared not. And she cared even less that the teacher said that she was a problem child. Bah, she was only thirteen, and was the eldest of her classmates and she was also the smartest, when she put her mind to her lesson. A tomboy, through she constantly fantasized about a blond-god, she called her perfect hero. The man she claimed she would marry some day.
“Humph!” Miss Campbell whacked the ruler against her palm, still intimidating Toni with a cold glare.
“Children, you can go, Toni you stay!” The class snickered but her teacher ignored it.
“Au jeeze,” Toni pouted and slouched into her chair.
“Watch your mouth, young lady. And sit up straight!”
“Yes, ma’am,” Again, she’ll have to submit herself to the same old lecture.
As the classmates scrambled out, her teacher reminded them to study their times tables. This caused a round of moans and grumbles but it quickly turned into laughter and screams of relief once outside the little school house.
“Now, young lady.”
Miss Campbell fell into a chair and leaned back crossing her arms over her flat chest. Toni rolled her eyes. Oh, oh, here it comes.
“I want you to tell me what you were daydreaming about this time.” She spoke with a desperate firmness conveying her annoyance. Toni opened her mouth but Miss Campbell raised her hand to silence her and she sighed. “No, never mind! Your silly fantasies no longer interest me. Where do you get such impractical notions?”
Again Toni’s answer was stopped when the hand was raised, along with a shaking of her head. Miss Campbell blew angrily at a wisp of her mousy brown hair that had loosened from the knot at the base of her neck. Stubbornly, it fell back on her face and she swiped at it again. Toni got the feeling it was her that Miss Campbell wanted to smack and she pouted, wishing the teacher would make up her mind.
Miss Campbell emitted a loud sigh. “Does your sister know you read trashy ten cent novels? Probably not,” she answered her own query. “If you sister permitted this then Cynthia Graham wasn’t being a good role model. Or substitute mother for you, young Lady!”
Toni made no move to answer, it was one thing to reprimand her but her sister! That was another matter! What was the use, Miss Campbell wouldn’t give her a chance to speak. And, besides, she’d only dig herself in deeper if she defended her sibling. Miss Campbell sighed dramatically. You’d think she’d be out of steam by now, thought Toni.
“Your mother is probably turning over in her grave,” she continued her one sided conversation, making Toni groan inwardly. She would’ve liked to tell her teacher to leave her sister and her mother out of this, but again she knew that she was in enough hot water as it was. It was also on the tip of her tongue to tell her that they were Cynthia’s novels, but she didn’t want Miss Campbell to know that. Toni wouldn’t put it past the old maid to come to the farm and tell her pa the truth. Sucks, her dime novels were her only salvation.
“Well, I’m sending you home with a note to give to your sister. And see that she gets it or I’ll be paying your pa a visit.”
I thought so.
The irate teacher pushed herself to a standing position and groused, “Romance novel indeed! Hero’s bah!” The tensing of her jaw betrayed her deep frustrations. “There’s no such species as heroes riding white horses, saving damsels in distress; maybe in books but never in real life.” She shook her head and impatiently shuffled through some papers. “And, remember, your time tables.”
She didn’t look up so Toni secretly stuck out her tongue. I know them backward, so there! Her mouth tightened, she kept her words to herself and fought the impulse to tell the old spinster that if she had a man in her life, she might think differently. Old prune! A wave of Miss Campbell’s hand was a gesture of dismissal.
Toni took the short cut through the woods, grumbling to herself. “I may only be fourteen but I bet I know more about romance than that spinster Campbell. Bah! Oh, mama, I bet you’re not turning over in your grave because I’ve seen you read ten cent novel a few times. Maybe I should slip one on my teacher’s desk, spice up her life,” she grinned mischievously. Upon hearing laughter, coming from the direction of the pond she snapped back into the present. It would be a waste of a good romance novel to give it to Miss Campbell, she told herself.
Assuming the boys were taking their daily dip in the swimming hole a wicked smile lit up her face. A naughty notion had crossed her mind many times before, but fearing repercussions, she ignored the devil in her. Not today. As long as she was in hot water already she might as well make it worth her while. Those boys were always ogling and teasing her because she had developed before the other girls her age. Ha! She’d fix them.
Toni peeked over the foliage and scanned the area. Sure enough, there they were skinny dipping. Scrawny, pink fleshed little monsters, splashing and hooting with merriment. Tippy-toeing, she gathered all their belongings and clenched her jaw tight preventing her from giggling.
“Hey!” one, yelled, “look! Toni’s taking our clothes! Someone get her!”
She turned around to see Charles shouting. He stood a head over the other boys, bigger in the size department and smaller in the brains department.
“I’m not going after her in my birthday suit, you moron!” he yelled.
“Me neither,” cried another.
Now she was laughing. “Serves you right, you snot nose boys. Next time you’ll think twice about funning me.” She struck out her tongue. “Pffft.”
Charles started coming out of the water. “I’ll beat the friggin’ crap out of you, with or without my clothes!”
Oh, now she’s done it. Would he dare? Oops, he dared.
She turned to run, because she knew if he caught her he’d definitely hurt her. He was strong and older than the others. Dropping the clothes, Toni ran, not daring to look back in fear he was on her tail. So frightened her head was buzzing, but the sound was not in her skull but coming from above. She took a chance and glanced up spotting a bee hive. Quickly, she searched for a long branch and luckily she found the perfect weapon. A couple of swats and angry bees swarmed around just as Charles came up the trial.
Hurriedly, Toni dropped the branch and ran for dear life and she didn’t have to turn to see. His yelps and screams were enough to tell her he had run right into the angry insects. She laughed all the way out of the woods and into the dirt road, and then she sat on a large rock and closed her eyes to catch her breath.
“Tsk, tsk, shame on you little one,” a deep voice scolded.
“Oh! You startled me.” She shaded her eyes and looked up. “You saw me?”
Her hero sat atop his white stallion as it pranced and snorted. “You know I’m always watching you, you do have a way of getting into trouble. It wasn’t bad enough I had to rescue you again this afternoon, but you go and look for more mischief.”
He clucked his tongue at her again making Toni feel warm.
“I know I was wrong, but horse dung...err, feathers, they’re a pain in my, um, backside.”
Her hero chuckled. “Boys will be boys.”
She snorted. “Yeah, but ...” She shrugged. “I bet you were a perfect little boy.”
Sea Foam side stepped and snorted, nodding his head in compliance.
“See, your beautiful horse agrees with me.”
“Now you stay out of trouble, Toni.”
She opened her eyes. “Huh?”
“Are you woolgathering again?” asked her good friend Susan Cole pushing her glasses up nose. Susan folded her arms across her undeveloped chest with a stance any mother would give her naughty child, with a lecture forthcoming. “I waited for you but you disappeared, so I suspected you went through the woods. You know you’re not supposed to go in there. The boys are always skinny dipping after school.”
Her big eyes seemed to cross when she looked down her nose at Toni.
“Bah! They don’t own the pond,” she hissed. “Anyway, who cares about naked boys, they’re not much to look at.”
The glasses slide down the girl’s freckled nose again when she blinked, making Toni giggle.
“Yeah, I was there and Charles came after me. For a big kid his, um, his pee wee, is itsy bitsy.” She put her thumb and finger about an inch apart to demonstrate then held her side in a fit of cackling. Susan’s chin rested on her small chest. It took her friend some time to remember to close her mouth before she swallowed a fly. “You should have seen their faces when I swiped their clothes and....” Her voice ragged with humor, she didn’t think her friend could look more shocked.
“You didn’t?” Susan was astounded but then her lips began to tremble as if she was trying her darnest not to laugh, but she failed and burst out in giggles also.
Toni stood and wiped her teary eyes. “That’s not all,” she confessed in hysterics.
Susan raised her hand. “Please, I’d rather not know.”
“Okay, but it will put you in stitches.”
She pushed her glasses up, “Okay, spill it.”
After Toni told all, they laughed all the way to the fork in the road where they parted.
“Can’t wait until Monday!” Susan yelled over her shoulder.
“Yeah, me neither,” Toni fibbed. She was in deep horse dung!
Toni was in no hurry to get home, though she knew her big sister was waiting for her to help prepare supper. It would be a poor meal, mostly vegetable soup from the garden. Oh, well, some day she’d leave this place and....
A thunder clap broke into her thoughts making her hurry along. She prayed for rain to help her father’s lettuce crop grow. She just made it to the porch as the first large drop of rain fell on her head. The back screen door slammed. “How many times have I told you not to do that?” barked her sister.
Toni peeked into the pot her Cynthia was stirring and frowned, ignoring the question she had heard so often.
“How was your day?” asked Cynthia, poking Toni away from their supper. “It’s the same thing every afternoon. Door slamming, nose poking in the pot, but soon I’ll be married and things will be different.”
Toni received a scowl from her sister but she merely shrugged, and murmured, “The usual.” She turned to avoid her sister’s look of doubt.
Cynthia remained quiet, not wanting to discuss anything before supper, fearing they’d have another argument in front of their father. She was not willing to make him angrier; he never came in from the fields in a very good mood. She peeled potatoes and told Toni to scrape the carrots. They worked in silence which was uncharacteristic for her younger sibling. Toni, who normally chattered away like a magpie was silent and she suspected her sister was hiding something.
She loved her little sister, but the girl was a handful ever since their mother died. Cynthia looked at her chipped nails and hands red from doing manual labor in the house and out in the fields. The lettuce crop wasn’t good this year because of the drought and her father drank more and more. She sighed, anxious for her wedding day to arrive but she hated leaving Toni behind. Maybe things will be better since her in-laws were very wealthy. Surely, her future husband would help her pa and sister. It wasn’t easy being poor, but she believed things would get better and she thought, if only she could take her sister with her, but Toni had to stay with their pa. The young girl would survive; she was a strong minded female, maybe too stubborn.
After supper, Toni helped clean the dishes. Cynthia had a feeling her little sister was stalling and fretting about something, she seemed to be plying with her peas. Whatever it was Toni would wait until bedtime. Their father usually got sloshed after dinner, retire early and she would read the Bible, and then joined her sister in their room.
Toni handed Cynthia the letter after her sister undressed and combed out her hair. She was grateful that Cynthia brushed it a hundred times nightly; it gave her a slight reprieve.
Cynthia’s auburn brows pinched as she read Miss Campbell’s note. Toni sat on the edge of the bed watching her beautiful, older sibling pace the small room, digesting her teacher’s words. She envied Cynthia’s beauty. She was of medium height, and her figure was curving and regal. Her skin was milky in color and her hair was glowing, reddish brown that hung in long graceful curls over her slim shoulders. Her eyes were like turquoise stones and her facial bones were delicately carved; her mouth faintly rosy.
Cynthia’s exquisite looks only made Toni feel like an ugly duckling in comparison. Again, she hated the fact that, although thin, her breasts were budding faster than her sister’s and Cynthia was already eighteen. Toni wanted to bind them, hating the looks boys gave her and the sneering remarks of the girls.
It wasn’t her fault. Her pa said she’d probably take after her ma and someday have a figure that would drive men crazy. Well, she wanted to be like her sibling and didn’t care a wit what men liked. Pshew! She only wanted to please one man, her hero!
Cynthia stopped pacing and sat on the bed, her expression growing more serious by the minute. Toni smiled blandly at her glum-faced sister.
“Sweetheart, this daydreaming has to stop.” Cynthia’s finger touched her arm with gentle authority. “You’re not a child anymore and pretending all the time is unhealthy. You’ll be fifteen soon, a young lady and it’s time to act your age.”
“No buts, I had to beg pa to let you go to school. You’re very smart and learn your lessons easily, not like me. Do you want to work the fields like I do?”
“But isn’t a sentence! Look, sweetheart, I want better for you.”
“But….” Toni smothered a groan and overlooked Cynthia’s condescending remark even though her sister treated her like a child. She sighed dramatically, “Cindy, school bores me and I know all I need to know. Anyway, you not finishing school didn’t hinder your future. In six months you’re marrying a very wealthy rancher and moving away from this God forsaken land.”
Cynthia hugged her. “Aw, baby, it was just luck I met David Wojciechouski when he delivered some of his father’s horses to our neighbor, Jim Braid. It was only by chance I was at the ranch visiting my friend, Kathy that day.” She sighed, dreamily. “It was love at first sight. But dear, that’s a rare occurrence,” she commented firmly.
Toni bit her lip and looked away feeling uneasy. She wouldn’t… no couldn’t tell her sister she had a crush on her future brother-in-law; that he was her model for the hero. Yes, she envied Cynthia, the young lady had everything she wished and dreamed about. So Cynthia couldn’t see the guilty look on her face, she walked over to the window and peered out.
“I hate it here,” she said in a grudging tone, then swallowed hard and turned. “It’s boring. Everything in my life is boring.” She folded her arms across her chest and snorted, “Ma died trying to help pa with the farm. We’re nothing but sod busters, trying to grow a healthy crop of lettuce and for what! Rabbit food? We’re dirt poor, damn it all!”
She spat out the words bitterly and didn’t miss seeing her sister stiffen or see the annoyance cross Cynthia’s lovely features upon hearing her angry words. Now regretting her outcry, she turned back and pouted. “My fantasies keep me from going crazy. I have only them to live for.” Her words fogged up the window pane and she lazily drew a heart in the moisture. “Your romance novels take me away from reality and... Oh, horse poop! I’m going to be fifteen in two weeks,” she cried.
“Aw, honey, that’s just it, you’re not a baby no more and it is only make believe. You must live in the real world not fantasies. Look, if you promise not to sit in school woolgathering, I’ll not stop you from reading my books. What do you say?”
Toni sighed heavily. What choice was she given? Those books were her only salvation.
And she kept her promise.×