Blog · Poems & Shorts · Sneak Peeks

Free

You held me.

Frozen in place

by nothing more

than your words.

Extremes of kindness

and anger.

Desperate

to please you.

Terrified

to enrage you.

Your silence more painful

than angry words could ever be.

But then new words told me

what you were doing to me.

Abuse.

Manipulation.

Feeding on my codependence.

My focus shifts

from longing for you

to working on loving me. 

Free.

dawn sunset beach woman
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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I think I’m friends with an everyday sadist.

I think I’m friends with an everyday sadist and yet I had no idea.

In the beginning, I definitely had no inkling that this could be true. But I should have recognized it long before today. Maybe I was just ignorant that this type of person existed or perhaps I didn’t want to see.

According to the Association for Psychological Science for an everyday sadist, “cruelty can be pleasurable, even exciting. New research suggests that this kind of everyday sadism is real and more common than we might think.”

I honestly bought into the belief that I was “irrational” or that I twisted things around as they would tell me when I questioned their behavior or the contrary things they would often say. I began to hate myself and readily accepted the blame when our friendship went awry.

I tortured myself. I missed the friendship and wondered what exactly it was I did wrong to bring about the end. Once I started feeling normal again, POP, the return of my friend into my life–always on their timeline.

And everything was wonderful and fun again.

and began to fade.

and fade.

and the crumbling began.

Torment and tears again.

Heartbreak and sadness.

A return to normalcy.

POP!

Rinse. Repeat.

And every time I blamed myself. Accepted the blame, completely.

The Association for Psychological Science also says,  “Some find it hard to reconcile sadism with the concept of ‘normal’ psychological functioning, but our findings show that sadistic tendencies among otherwise well-adjusted people must be acknowledged,” says Buckels.  “These people aren’t necessarily serial killers or sexual deviants but they gain some emotional benefit in causing or simply observing others’ suffering.”

Even as I find this information and try to reconcile that I was used in a despicable way, I still desperately wish to be wrong and for the friendship to continue.

Does this make me an everyday masochist?

I don’t think so. I believe I’m just someone who mourns the friendship that I thought I had to begin with.

I’m suffering, but I don’t enjoy it.

I know now that I’m going to have to find a way to break free and realize that my friendship is worth more. I’m worth more.

Have you ever experienced anything like this and how did you break free?

Blog

What is success anyway?

Hello friends,

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month – where writers try to write 50,000 words in one month) is upon us again. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to participate this year. I’ve done it a few times now–along with Camp Nano (which happens in April)–and I’ve lost sometimes, and I’ve won sometimes.

But what is winning? And what is losing?

I always thought I lost Nanowrimo if I didn’t make it to 50,000 words in one month but when I was debating whether or not I wanted to participate this time, I realized that even if I didn’t “win” I’d end up trying hard and I’d end up writing more than I would otherwise.

In the writing world, there’s a whole pile of people deciding what makes others successful.

So I’ve decided I really need to get every voice out of my head other than my own and those of writers who support one another no matter what. No matter the publishing path, level, genre, or background.

I’m participating in Nanowrimo. I’m already a winner.

I’m a winner because I want to write and share my stories and I’m taking the steps I need to do that.

What could ever be losing about that?

If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer and you start putting words on a page, congratulations to you! No matter who you are or what your end goals are, you’re brave and you’re a winner. With each attempt you’re getting closer to where you want to be. There are plenty of people who want to write a book and never even get started. It might take you a while but you’ll get there if you keep working.

Success!

rocky

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Maybe I didn’t save the world but I sold some books

Hello friends,

Welp, I did it. I put on a dress, a cloak, and I went and geeked it up. I didn’t cry in my car and turn around and head home after all. I put on a smile and marched my fabulous ass booty on into the expo and set up my table and books.

I sold some. I signed them. I chatted with strangers. I made friends with a little boy who was just hoping that someone would ask him for his autograph. I did. I made his day. He asked me for mine and took my recommendation on trying a cherry tootsie roll and it totally changed his life! Well, maybe not but he did agree that they’re mighty tasty and it gave him the energy to hunt down Godzilla, rescue me from him, and stuff the monster inside a poke-ball, thus saving–not only me–but the entire expo, maybe even the world.

Here’s my pal…

IMG_5518

I chatted with people who, even if they didn’t buy a book, did sign up for my newsletter and I think that’s a success in itself.

I won’t say I enjoyed myself completely. I was alone a lot of the time and I was freezing. Btw, I’ve never been so grateful in my whole life for wearing a cloak. I think I might wear them more often. It was warm and I think I looked pretty fantastic in it.

Lesson learned: I can get over my anxiety. And although I might feel awkward on the outside, people seem to find me pretty freakin’ charming (maybe one guy a little too much who kept coming over to tell me how photogenic I am).

I didn’t sell all my books but I did gain confidence. I got comfortable using my Square and smiling at and chatting with strangers. And there are more people in the world who are reading one of my books. That’s the best part! Because what’s a storyteller with no-one to tell stories to? Answer- Sad.

 

Blog

Avoiding Bad Reviews

Hello friends,

I’m excited that award-winning author & experienced editor (and also my editor) Christina Kaye has agreed to write another guest post for my blog.

Thanks, Christina!

Avoiding Bad Reviews by Christina Kaye

“Not a bad story, but the editing is virtually non-existent!”

“It was a struggle to get through this book.”

“Editing was poor…grammar, spelling, and punctuation was so bad I could not get past page 5!” 

“It felt like I was reading a first draft of a book written by a middle school student!” 

These are a few sentences pulled from actual reviews left for real, published books on Amazon. They are painful to read, to be sure, and I feel badly for the authors who got these reviews. However, they could have easily been avoided. None of these reviews mentioned bad plot, character development, etc. They all referenced the lack of editing specifically. 

No one…I don’t care how proficient a writer you think you are…can self-edit and catch every mistake. Hell, even editors miss some things when working on your books. The commonly accepted industry standard is that we’ll miss about 5% of your mistakes, no matter how thorough and meticulous we try to be in our work. 

That’s why my advice to all authors, especially new ones, is to find an editor BEFORE you even think about self-publishing. I know, I know. Editors can be expensive and not everyone has $500 – $1,000 lying around to invest in their book. But keep in mind,  you get what you pay for. By seeking out bargain basement prices for editing services, you risk hiring some random person who just up and decided to be an editor one day, rather than an experienced, educated editor with the right background and the credentials to warrant their rates. Not to mention, nowadays, many editors (including myself) offer and accept payment plans for their fees.  True, you’re still paying that “high” amount, but keep in mind the risk versus reward payoff. 

Risk – if you do not hire an editor, you might possibly wind up with reviews such as those listed at the top of this post. Sure, you may sell a few books here and there to friends and family who support you and your dreams, but once reviews like this are posted, especially when it’s more than one, you will see that your sales suffer.

Reward – if, however, you invest in a quality, professional editor, yes, you have put up some money in the beginning, but the odds that you will get much better reviews and thereby higher sales and more royalties increase exponentially.  You are investing in your book and though nothing is guaranteed in life, you certainly stand a much better chance of succeeding with a professionally edited, polished book.

Once you have found a brilliant editor, my advice is to go through the MS one last time before you turn it over. Why? Isn’t that like cleaning the house before the maid comes over? True. But I can’t tell you how many books I’ve edited that are in such poor shape, I wind up basically ghostwriting rather than editing. Going over the book one last time before turning it over will help you and your editor. Keep in mind, a lot of editors (including me) will charge less the better shape the book is in. So, you could potentially help yourself by simply taking a few hours to go through it one last time. 

So save yourself some embarrassment and do your book a favor…hire an editor before you publish your book and while I cannot guarantee your book will be a best-seller, I can guarantee you will be more likely to avoid these kinds of negative reviews and you may even see that your sales and royalties are much higher than they would have been had you not hired one.

For anyone interested in learning more about how to find the right editor, how to work with an editor, or what to expect during the editing process, please reach out to me via email. You’re never bothering me. I’m here to help.

And anyone interested in speaking to me about my editing services offered, rates, payment plans, or reading testimonials, please visit my website at www.xtinakayebooks.com and reach out to me ASAP as my schedule books out usually 2 months in advance.

Thanks and good luck!

Talk soon.

Christina Kaye

Blog

Social anxiety, anyone?

Hello, friends!

I wouldn’t say I have social anxiety disorder. I’m an introvert and going out to parties, and social situations exhaust me, but I would never say I have a disorder. Usually, when I feel like doing these things, I have a great time but am always ready to be home again.  However, I have an event coming up this weekend, and I feel absolutely sick about it. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I was so anxious about it that I was considering hiding in a park somewhere rather than actually showing up.

The social anxiety institute lists the following symptoms for social anxiety disorder:

People with social anxiety disorder usually experience significant emotional distress in the following situations:

  • Being introduced to other people

  • Being teased or criticized

  • Being the center of attention

  • Being watched while doing something

  • Meeting people in authority (“important people”)

  • Most social encounters, especially with strangers

  • Going around the room (or table) in a circle and having to say something

  • Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships or romantic

So all these fit for me except for the first and last. And, btw, who would be okay with the second? Are there really people who don’t mind being teased or criticized?

Anyway, I know I need to do events like this to promote myself as an author and my books. But the thought of being with no one I know and chatting with strangers all day makes me feel physically ill.

I’m afraid I’ll look ugly.

I’m afraid I’ll say stupid things. Enter too many umms and uhs. Stumble over what I want to say. Basically, I’ll look like a big fat idiot.

Also, while I always got good grades in school, never got less than As in all my math classes, dealing with money makes me feel sick. Will I give the wrong change and appear to be an idiot? Will I fumble with using my square reader?

Ugh, I’m going to be a complete douche bonnet. I just know it.

I’m scared.

One good thing about me is my imagination. It allows me to travel to other worlds and write them down.

One bad thing about me is my imagination. Every time I imagine myself dealing with anyone, I imagine out all the worst things that can happen and all the awkward and stupid things I’ll do.

*Sigh*

*Deep breath*

*Muttering* I can do this.

I can be brave. I’m going to be brave. I’m going to fake confidence and hold my chin up.

Does it matter if I’m the only one who knows how terrified I am inside?

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My First Award Nomination

It’s a beautiful surprise when someone takes time out of their day to recognize your blog. It’s easy to feel like we’re shouting into a void and wonder why we do this at all, then something like this happens.

Bushra, I’m deeply touched and I want to take a moment to say how grateful I am that you nominated me and how fortunate I feel to have connected with you. You’re truly a ray of sunshine and I enjoy your blog posts and the supportive comments you leave on mine.

So, let’s hope I’m doing this right since I’m a noob.

Rules

verstile
This beautiful graphic came courtesy of Bushra’s blog

1) Thank the person who nominated you

Thank you so much, Bushra! You are such a kind and supportive person. I appreciate you taking the time to think of me and nominate me for this award. You’re amazing.

2) Include a link to their blog in your post

Friends, you’re seriously going to want to check out Bushra’s blog. Click here to visit!  She has a gift for creating beauty in this world, whether it’s through her creations or her uplifting words. You’ll be better for having discovered her.

3) Share 7 facts about yourself

1- I still have my writing journal from third grade 😂

2- I took karate for 1 week in the first grade and have been convinced ever since that I’m a total badass because of it.

3- I find funny people irresistible. I want to be around them all the time. It really is my favorite quality in a friend.

4- I have an optic nerve drusen in my left eye and I’m terrified that I will go blind in that eye and be unable to drive and lose my independence.

5- Craft beer is a BIG part of my life (bigger than I ever expected)

6- I have 3 rescue dogs and I love them to pieces.

7- I love living in small towns. People are kind and there are more green spaces.

4) Nominate 15 bloggers of your choice to keep spreading the love

Here’s my list of nominees…

  1. K E Garland | Inspirational quotes, stories and images
  2. Give It A Spin
  3. Frugal Husband
  4. H.A. Callum
  5. Writing Block 
  6. Relatable Thoughts
  7. Seeking Divine Perspective
  8. Saving Joyfully 
  9. randieri.com
  10. Fractured Faith Blog
  11. Peatmore News
  12. brokenanvil29325 
  13. Writings By Ender
  14. Christina Anne Hawthorne
  15. Melanie at Home

None of the nominees should feel obligated to accept or do a post. I just wanted to recognize your blogs. I think you’re great!

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The sound of silence.

Hello friends,

Well, I gave Wattpad and Chapterbuzz a try and while I was getting some reads and buzz I totally wore myself out. I was so busy trying to write new chapters, edit old ones, read others’ work, comment, and uploading new stuff I burst my bubble.

I haven’t written anything new in over a week. I hate when I get in this space but I know that I have to let the dry spell happen.

But you should write every day!

Yeah, that’s what people say. But I know if I force it, I’ll just be writing crap. And does it matter what I write? Does this blog post count? Do my tweets count? Does it matter if I paint, read, doodle, or think instead? Those are all creative things. I’m going to adjust that old advice to suite my creative style. I’m going to create every day.

The muse is mad.

Don’t tell him/her I said this but my muse is moody and needy. *Looks around worried they heard* The muse wants my full attention and I wasn’t giving it. Now I’m going to have to play hard to get and work on other creative outlets until s/he decides to forgive me or that s/he can’t live without me either and starts telling me the story again.

There’s no need to despair.

This has happened to me before. I thought I’d never write again. And like an oncoming fever, the urge to write takes hold and I can’t stop writing. I’m wiser now. I know I can relax and wait for it to happen because it will.

What about those stories you were sharing?

If you were following along on Chapterbuzz or Wattpad, no worries. I’ll still be posting some work on my Sneak Peeks tab. This way, I’ll be keeping all the follower growth on my blog instead of spreading it out in all different websites/platforms. If there’s a story you want more of, let me know and I’ll add to that story (as the muse allows. As they’re not speaking to me at the moment, I have time).

Creators, what do you do when the muse isn’t talking to you?

Readers, are there any of my stories you’d like to see more of?

Allie

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One of those days.

Hello friends,

It’s one of those days.

One of those days where I can’t seem to do anything right.

One of those days where I absolutely hate myself.

I don’t feel like doing anything.

I don’t want to be a complaining Debbie Downer, I’m just hoping that if I get it out, I can dust myself off and move on.

Failure reigns.

Maybe it’s the weather.

Or maybe the shadow has returned.

Blech.

 

 

Blog · Distant Spring · Sneak Peeks

Distant Spring

Chapter One

 

Lottie Stephens was running late. She despised running late. Always chronically early, her armpits were drenched and her hands shook as she searched for her keys. Why didn’t she hang them on the hook when she came in last night? 

 But she knew why she hadn’t. She was drunk. And angry. And, hmm, had she tossed them against the wall? Suddenly ducking under the hallway table, she searched. Ugh, they’re not there. Her flickering memory was hinting that that’s where they’d be. Twisting her head under the table she turned to see them dangling, stuck between the back of the table and the wall. Also, wedged between the back of the drawer and table back a bent photograph hung out. She grabbed the corner and tugged it free. The breath pulled from her body as she glanced at it. 

David. 

As she shoved the picture into her pocket, Lottie hit her head on the table as she stood. She clutched it and pulled the table away from the wall enough to let the keys drop. She scooped them off the floor, scuttled through the kitchen and into the garage, swiping her purse off the arm of the couch, and flew into the garage. 

Lottie hopped in her car, momentarily fantasizing about the cup of coffee she never got the chance to make, and hit the door button, cursing it for raising so slowly. While she waited she slid her hand into her pocket and pulled out the picture of David, sighing before curling it into the cupholder. She backed down the driveway and headed off to her dental appointment, seemingly hitting every single red light along the way. 

A blue pickup joined her about a quarter of her way along and followed her, riding her ass. Fire grew inside her. “It’s not like I can go any faster!” She screamed to the silhouette in the rearview mirror. “What do you expect me to do? There’s cars in front of me.” Lottie wished she had the guts to jump out of her car at the next light, open the truck’s door, pull the man-shaped silhouette out, and beat the living shit out of him. But, as it was a him, it was not very likely that she would be the one giving the beating and what if it was some sort of psycho who would have no trouble fighting a woman. And the way he drove, it seemed more likely than not that he’d be just that kind of man. Instead, she opted to throw her middle finger up as she took off from the last light before turning into the dental office parking lot. 

Panic swept through her as the blue pickup followed her into the parking lot. Uh-oh, what if this was the kind of psycho who would follow a woman to her destination and pummel her for throwing the bird. She whipped into the closest space she could find and threw the car in park. She grabbed her purse and scurried to the office door. She kept a spying eye on the truck. It pulled into a space. She saw the drivers-side door open as she ducked into the safety of the dental office. 

Side-eying the entrance, she removed her coat, and flung it on the hanger. It slid off immediately and fell in a crinkled heap on the closet floor. She wasn’t going to take the time to try to rehang it. The psycho could come in at any moment. She scuttled over to the front window to check in. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she heard the jingle of the doorbell, the hanging of a coat, and the patter of footsteps walking across the carpet behind her. He was standing behind her. Oh why wouldn’t the lady at the front desk look at her already. 

Quit looking at that computer screen and check me in, god dammit.

As though reading her thoughts, the women with blue rimmed glasses looked up. “Hello there.”

She leaned in and whispered, “Charlotte Stephens. I have a nine-thirty appointment.”

“You’re all set.” The woman smiled. 

“Thank you.” Lottie twisted and rolled around the man standing behind her. 

She tucked herself back in the security of a corner seat near the front of the office by a large ficus plant. 

Wait, is this a real ficus?

 She rubbed a leaf between her thumb and forefinger. 

Wow. Real. 

Lottie allowed her eyes to drift up to the man standing at the window. That was definitely the one she’d given the finger to. She could tell from the shape of his silhouette—the way his hair was lightly spiking upwards in the front and his shoulders were very broad. 

Grant Ryan. She heard him say. She quickly scooped a magazine off the counter and shoved her nose inside. There was no way she was going to make eye contact. Her stomach swirled. 

Why did I have to throw him the bird? This is just my kind of luck. I’m going to have to get a new dentist now. Ugh, but I really like coming here. No! He’s the one that was wrong. He can get a new dentist. 

Once again perturbed at the thought that he was the asshole driver and now he was going to push her out of the best dentist office she’d ever been to. He took a seat catty-corner to her. She chanced an angry glance at his direction but her eyes quickly shot away from his as they met. He’d been looking directly at her. His eyes darting away as quickly as hers had. Her heart pounded in her chest. 

He knows I know he was staring at me. He didn’t look angry, though. God, and he’s cute, too. Just my luck, he’d also be really cute.

“Hey, Lottie. I’m ready for you now.” Kay, her regular hygienist for the last three years, smiled and motioned her back. 

Lottie hopped up and scampered toward her. 

“Oh, don’t forget your purse.” Kay pointed toward Lottie’s bag sitting by the side of the chair.

“Oops.” Lottie’s face flushed red as she spun to grab it, careful not to look in his direction. 

The morning is complete, now you look like an idiot in all regards.”

“We’re going in room four.” Kay motioned Lottie to the room and followed quickly behind her. “You can set your things on that chair.” 

Lottie plopped her purse where she was directed and climbed into the dental chair as Kay donned her mask. “How’ve you been?” 

“I’m not having the best morning but up until now, I’ve been okay.”

“Yes,” Kay pulled down her mask and put a hand on Lottie’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, honey. We got the request for David’s records to be sent on to Hickam Air Force Base.”

Lottie’s stomach dropped. Yes, the last time she came, David and her were still trying to work things out. “Thanks, Kay. It’s for the best this way. I’m really alright with things now. I’m happy teaching at the school still. You know I love my students and this town.”

“And we love having you here. You know, my granddaughter still goes on about how you are her favorite teacher. And she had you, what? Two years ago?”

“That’s right. Sarah was in my first class. She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Thanks. She really is sweet. I’m worried you might not think the same when you get my grandson, Todd, next year.” Kay laughed and picked up a scaler. 

Lottie opened her mouth as Kay began her work. 

“Todd’s a sweet boy but he can’t sit still for a second. I swear, my daughter had no idea what she was in for with Todd. Sarah was such an easy child and Todd is still giving her a run for her money. It’s like she was a first time mom with her second. Ah, I’m sure you’ll be able to handle him in class. He’s got a good heart. Just can’t sit still, is all.” 

Lottie smiled around the dental tool scraping her teeth. Kay worked away. Scraping and polishing. Silently and quickly. That’s what Lottie loved about Kay. Cleanings with her were always quick, painless, and never filled with questions expected to be answered around a mouth full of metal scalers, mirrors, and curettes. 

After finishing, Kay raised the chair. “Would you like to schedule your next appointment?”

“Sure. I’ll be here.” 

“How’s October 14? Same time?”

“That’ll work for me.”

“Okay, see you in six months. I put your appointment card in with your new toothbrush and sample paste.”

“Thanks, Kay.”

Kay handed Lottie her dental prize bag as the dentist swooped in. 

“And how does everything look today?” The dentists washed her hands, tipped the chair back, and looked into Lottie’s waiting mouth.

“She was squeaky clean as always.” Kay winked at Lottie.

Just as fast as she swept into the room, the dentist sat back, pulled her gloves off, and smiled at Lottie. “Everything looks great. No cavities today.  Keep up the good work.”

“Thank you.” Lottie wiped some spit that had swept across her chin.

Kay removed the bib from Lottie as the doctor waved and scuttled out of the room, ducking into the room next door. “Hey Grant, and how are you doing today?” Her words cutting off as she disappeared inside.

Lottie waved to Kay as she scooped her purse of the chair and left the room. With the dentists hands in his mouth, there he was, the cute guy she’d given the finger to in the next room. She froze for a moment while pulling her purse over her shoulder. His eyes connected with hers before she quickly averted them and hurried to the front desk. 

“Am I all set?”

“You’re good to go, Charlotte. See you next time.” The receptionist waved and quickly went back to her computer. 

Lottie grabbed her coat from the hanger—someone had hung it for her—before bursting through the door and half-running to her car. His mouth was full of dentist fingers but for some reason she was worried he’d soon be behind her if she didn’t hurry. As she bustled out to her car, she glanced over at his blue pickup. A bone-shaped magnet was stuck on the tail-gate that read “I ❤︎ my rescue.” Her mind drifted momentarily—as she pressed the unlock button on her bobble—wondering what type of dog he might have. A lab? Or maybe he looked like a German Shepherd man. Although, she knew pit bulls were the dogs that filled most shelters. Yeah, she could picture him with a gray pitty riding next to him in that old blue pickup. She shook her head and climbed into her car. No, he’s a tailgating jerk, not some sweet guy who rescues pitties. 

Why are you always trying to give jerks good qualities and imagine them to be anything other than they are? 

Lottie buckled, took a quick glance in the rearview to make sure he wasn’t coming out yet, backed out of the space, and headed off towards the school, wishing she’d taken the whole day off. 

After a morning like this, school was the last place she wanted to go. Her energy levels already felt completely zapped. She turned onto Falcon and headed straight for the White Buffalo Coffee Bar, fumbling in her purse for her wallet as she neared. Grabbing it, she sighed as she looked inside, only spying repeats of Alexander Hamilton’s handsome face. She hated to part with her tens. Why couldn’t there be an Abe or Andrew instead? 

Great timing, there was only one car in front of her. Unlike whenever she’d try to swing by before school and hit the morning rush. Once it was her turn, she pulled up and ordered a large white buffalo mocha and a small espresso. She took the hot drinks, carefully placing them in her cupholder, and handed the barista the ten. 

“Keep the change.” Lottie smiled, pulled off, and headed for the school. Before pulling out of the parking lot of the White Buffalo, she peeled off the lid of the espresso and sipped out the hottest little bit before turning the AC on full blast and pointing it at the open cup. She carefully pulled out onto the road, praying she’d sipped enough coffee out to avoid a spill, and headed towards the base. 

She slowed and rolled down her window at the gate, handing the guard her ID, “Good morning.”

“Morning, ma’am.” The guard handed her ID back. She shoved it in her purse, rolled up her window, and drove by the “Welcome to Altus AFB” sign like she did every weekday morning, headed to Rivers Elementary School. Pulling into the parking lot, she was relieved to see an empty spot waiting for her. Until she realized there was a motorcycle hiding in the spot. 

“Dammit! You really gotta take up a whole space with that thing, buddy?” Lottie picked up her espresso as she rolled through the lot looking for another space and took a big gulp. Ah-ha, another spot. A small spot, but her little, silver honda fit could squeeze into a space half that size. She pulled in and unbuckled before downing the rest of her only slightly too-hot espresso. Purse in one hand, her white buffalo mocha in the other, she headed in to the office. 

“Lottie, you’re back. I wasn’t expecting you for another half hour.” Maura pressed her glasses to her face and smiled before picking up the phone the moment it rang. “Good morning, Rivers Elementary. How can I help you?”

“I’ll be in the teachers’ lounge.” Lottie mouthed as she waltzed by taking a small sip of her mocha. She walked down the hall and stopped short when she saw streamers, balloons, and a sign hanging up in the teachers’ lounge which read, “Sayonara, Melissa! We’ll miss you.”  

“Fuck.” Lottie closed her eyes. She’d forgotten Melissa’s goodbye party was today. She sunk down into a chair and sipped her coffee staring at the line-up of good-bye presents covering one of the lounge tables. So much for not writing things down. She kicked herself. She knew she forgot any and everything if she didn’t write it down and set a reminder in her phone. 

The bell rang just a few moments after she finished the last sip of her coffee and missed the trashcan when she tossed her cup at it. “Of course.” Bending over as soon as she rose from the chair, she waddled over to pick it up. Lottie squealed and jumped when she got a firm smack to her butt. 

“Hey hot stuff, make me work for it.” Beth waggled her eyebrows at Lottie.

“Shut up and keep your hands to yourself, ya old pervert.” 

“Never, you know I can’t resist that sweet ass. Especially when you’re presenting for me.” Beth peered into the trash. “What Mr. Cooley’s trash lounge coffee not good enough for you this morning?”

“I needed something stronger. I’ve had the shittiest morning and to top it all off, I forgot about Melissa’s going away.”

“I knew you would. I put your name on the card of my gift.” Beth winked. 

“Oh, you’re the best, Ms. Grimes.” Lottie threw her ams around her. 

“Ah, you’re welcome, sweetie. I knew you’d forget when I told you to write it down and you didn’t. You really need to start listening to me.” Beth rubbed Lotties back before pulling away. “So did you hear? They finally hired a long-term-sub to finish out Melissa’s class for the school year. He’s supposed to stop by the going away party. Melissa invited him.”

“Nothing like waiting until the last minute to hire someone.” 

“I know right, but that’s the way they roll around here. Better get to class or we’ll get sent to the principal’s office.” Beth stuck out her tongue and headed off down the hallway. 

Lottie stuck hers out and headed to her class, curious about who the new teacher would be.