Thursday, December 3, 2020

The #RRBC #Holiday #BooksBudzPopUp Bookshop 2020 is OPEN! #Christmasgifts #bookstobuy #holidayshopping


 It's the most wonderful time of the year! The RRBC Holiday "Books & Buds" Holiday Pop-Up Bookshop 2020 is open! There are SO many books to keep you company as you curl up under a blanket during the holiday. Name your favorite genre, and there is probably a book (or many) in it. There is a fun game to play, and you can hear authors reading from their own stories in the Reading Room. If you are looking for the perfect gift for the most special people in your life, including yourself, then don't miss out on this event! Plus, for every book you purchase, you get entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card! So, jump on over to the bookshop now. :-)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Author Spotlight - Susanne Leist

 


Hello, beautiful readers! I'm excited to spotlight another great RRBC author, Susanne Leist. She is the author of the Dead Game series. Today she will share with you an excerpt from her newest book, The Dead at Heart.

As the howls echoed louder, Shana jumped. "Are the animals in the house?"

"How can that be?" Linda clutched Shana's arm. "Where are the guards?"

A black form lunged at them.

She grabbed Linda’s as they raced from the room. The enormous beast blocked their path to the stairs. In the darkness, yellow eyes glared at them. They dodged the multiplying animals and climbed the steps as high-pitched cries resonated through the house. "Hurry." Dragging Linda behind her, Shana rushed to Linda's suite and bolted the door behind them.

“I didn’t know the wolves are so huge." Linda gulped her words between frantic breaths as she leaned against the door. When the animals lunged at the door, Linda jumped back. “If they break through the door,” her voice trembled, “they’ll tear us apart. I thought the vamps could protect us." She slid against the wall to the floor.

Shana raced to the window. Shadows darted back and forth across the backyard. A few forms lay lifeless on the grass. "Men and wolves are fighting. There’s nowhere for us to run." Her gaze flew to the door as it cracked from the force of the wolves’ bodies. She spun to Linda. “The wolves have us surrounded. We can’t escape them.”

Linda ran to the window and pointed. "Wait. Is that William?"

A tall figure marched across the lawn. Shana recognized the confident stride as he approached a melee of men and wolves rolling on the grass. At his shout, the animals raised their heads and scampered away. "William chased the wolves away. How did he do that?"

"The wolves might have recognized him as an original."

Chills raced through Shana’s body as she asked, "Aren't Gregg and many of his vampires, originals?"

A loud noise made them turn. The door burst open, and the animals slunk into the room, backing them against the window. Growls and snarls melded into a cacophony of horror in Shana's head. They filled the room, saliva dripping from gaping jaws, moonlight glinting against pointy teeth. Head canted to the side, one appeared taller and broader. It stepped forward on hind legs and watched them through slanted yellow eyes. His peers, the ones standing upright, gathered around him.

Linda cowered beside her. “What do we do?”

"We fight." Shana's heart raced as her gaze darted around the room, searching for a weapon.

“They appear almost human.” Linda pointed at the tallest one. “It’s as if he wants to speak to us.”

“Not he. It,” Shana yelled. She needed a weapon—an umbrella. There was one beside her bed. "We've faced monsters. We kill or are killed.”

A whistle pierced the silence.

The wolves charged.

Growls faded to silence as Shana spun to Linda.

The wolves vanished, and so had Linda.

 

Book Blub: 

Linda moves into Gregg's mansion and suggests Shana bring William with her as he recuperates from his last battle. While Gregg, a vampire, has learned to live with humans, Shana doubts whether William can mend his evil ways. Shana watches the engaged couple with dismay as her arguments with William mount.

After werewolves kidnap Linda, Shana flees with Sam, who believes William has been plotting with vampires and werewolves to overthrow the upcoming vampire summit in Quebec.

While Gregg searches for Linda, Shana leaves with Sam for Florida's swamplands. At a mansion hidden deep in the swamp, The Watchers, the vampire leaders, live in luxury. They take Shana and Sam with them to a deserted military base, where they board planes for Quebec. At a stand-off at the base, The Watchers capture William and force him to join them. The planes arrive at Chateau Frontenac in time for the summit. But the competing vampire factions have other plans for the meeting.

As the boardwalk of Chateau Frontenac erupts in flames, the battle begins. Shana must choose the right side since any mistake can become a deadly one.


To get your copy, click here. If you want to start with book one, check out The Dead Game. Have you become a fan? Connect with Susanne at these sites:

Website  http://susbs1000.wixsite.com/susanneleist

Blog  https://susanneleist.wordpress.com

 

Amazon Author page  https://www.amazon.com/Susanne-Leist/e/B00F253FE6


Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7336492.Susanne_Leist

 

Twitter  https://twitter.com/SusanneLeist

 

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/susanne.leist.98

 

Instagram   https://www.instagram.com/susanne.leist/


Bookbub      https://www.bookbub.com/profile/susanne-leist


Linkedin     https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanne-leist-1000/


Pinterest   https://www.pinterest.com/susanneleist98/



Monday, November 23, 2020

Join in the celebration of #RRBCAuthor @sharrislaughter, #RRBC's November "SPOTLIGHT" Author! #Author of #OurLadyOfVictory

 Hello, beautiful readers! Today, I'd like you to join me in celebrating this incredible woman, author Shirley Harris-Slaughter. She is the #RRBC November Author Spotlight.

My focus today will be on her newly re-released book, Our Lady of Victory, and its new cover!

Book Blurb:

This is a second edition with updates on the state of this historic church. In the original publication files were lost then resurfaced with content altered along with missing photos during transition from one publisher to another. Such is the fate of an Independent Author.

This book evolved out of years of frustration at the total disregard and lack of respect for the contributions of Black Catholics in the city of Detroit. The author says, "We are not mentioned in the pages of history along with the other Catholic churches that sprung up during the World War II era, and that needed to be corrected.” The author did fulfill one dream since publication … that this church can now be found on the web even though it has merged with another church. It is now called Presentation-Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church.

I have read this book and definitely recommend it. Here was my book review:

I'm not big into historical reads, but it was interesting to learn about this small town and the people who came together to bring faith and camaraderie to the African-American community during a time when segregation was still taking place. The author provides factual accounts of its history while also bringing in the personal touch of stories from various people who lived through those times. She does a wonderful job of honoring those who fought to bring religion and education to an area that was being neglected. If you enjoy historical reads, you may enjoy this book. :-)

Check out the book trailer!

Shirley's birthday is this Saturday. Why not pick up a copy of her book as a gift for both her and you. ;-) 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Welcome to Day 11 of the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour! @nonniejules @RRBC_Org #RRBC #RWISA #RWISAWRW

 


Today is the last day of the phenomenal Watch "RWISA" Write Showcase Tour! Each day for the next ten days, you will be introduced to an incredible author and a new writing piece. Join me in welcoming Nonnie Jules today! :-)


…IN THE WORLD OF WE

 

We often hear that music is the universal language.  It is the avenue to bridge all divides –

racial divides

gender divides

political divides.    

But, in the midst of all the division,

each party holding court in their respective corners of the ring,

ears lightly tickled by the sound of the simple “IMAGINE” by John Lennon,

wafting through the musky air of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons -

a mist of standstill calms the noise

…and in mere moments, the eyes of "independent" onlookers are pleasantly greeted by the most beautiful and welcoming sight -

…bodies slowly rocking

…hands collectively raised

…waving side to side

…all in unison  

…chanting

 “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try…”

The 2020 US election has ended. The people have spoken.

What's left behind?  A world of anxiety and angst – wrapped in feelings of wondering when the bombs will drop, or when the other shoe will fall.  And although I’d like to point fingers here and maybe even call a few not-so-pretty names, my daughter sits beside me as I write this, an ear to measure the "nice" level in my words, the child guiding the parent.  Roles reversed, she gently reminds me that the original goal of this message is unification - therefore, I will stay the course of peace.

In this moment, acknowledging that my conscience of decency is bigger than any emotion that might be stirring the embers of fires that have burned deep inside me for the past few years - neutrality is my cohort, and we will not take sides. 

Instead, all that will be allowed to roll off my tongue is FACT…

one reign is ending  

and another about to begin.

Some exultant…

others despondent

Yet, now is not the time for either.

Yesterday is gone,

today almost a memory,

but what awaits us in tomorrow

is what WE decide it will be. 

This is not the land of us and them –

this is the world of WE. 

WE decide what, who and how WE want to be.  

Do you resemble love, or, are you wearing the likeness of hate?  

What adorns your heart, a choice only you can make … for you. 

So, I have made my choice - and it is firm and true!

I choose love. 

To love,

to be loved,

to speak love,

to exude love,

to live love. 

Because I know that what I send out into the world, will be exactly what the world returns to my doorstep.

It is for that reason that I shall...

remain steadfast in my vigilance –

cognizant of any negativity that might try to seep in or out of my pores –

Skillfully suppressing the desire to gloat in the face of the so-called “losing” side. 

I’ve too much pride...to stoop so low.

The 2020 US election has ended.  The people have spoken.

There were no losers. 

WE are a world of winners.

Remember, WE decide

what

who

and how

WE will be

in this...

beautiful

colorful

everchanging

world of WE

"Imagine there's no country
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace...

It’s all easy if WE try.”


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member's writing, please visit their Author Profile on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they've turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA catalog.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow along each day of this amazing tour of talent by visiting the tour home page!  Don't forget to click the link below to learn more about today's profiled author:

 



Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Welcome to Day 10 of the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour! @jinlobify @RRBC_Org #RRBC #RWISA #RWISAWRW

 

Today is the tenth day of the phenomenal Watch "RWISA" Write Showcase Tour! Each day for the next ten days, you will be introduced to an incredible author and a new writing piece. Join me in welcoming Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko today! :-)


IROKO

In the past, nobody would have taken notice of Iroko, the biggest and tallest tree in the forest. But then, cities started to grow and to eat into the forests. Trees were cut to make way for the growing cities. But the Iroko tree resisted being cut down. Any time an axe cut the tree, the axe either broke or the cut bled, real blood and cries, ear piercing cries, like human cries were heard coming from the tree.

            In the forest, next to Iroko, lived an old woman in a tiny mud hut. Bent by age, she diligently cared for the tree. She was known as the eyes and the mouth of the tree. She listened to the tree, when the leaves rustled and interpreted the language of the tree to outsiders. She was called Nne Oji. Oji is the Igbo name for Iroko, and Nne Oji means Iroko’s mother. Iroko was as tall as a skyscraper, about one hundred and seventy feet high, and the width was as wide as fifty men surrounding the tree with outstretched hands, fingertips touching. Iroko was huge, towering and intimidating!

            The stories surrounding Iroko were such that settlers decided to let it stand and the town grew all around and away from it. Things went on peacefully for a while, but soon it became clear that Iroko did not like the exposure it was getting from the people surrounding it. After all, this tree was the king of the forest, where both trees and animals revered it. Now, standing in the midst of humans, with no one paying it any heed, all of this would change very rapidly.

            People, especially those living close to where Iroko stood, started reporting strange happenings around Iroko in the dead of night. Those who were bold enough to come out and watch these happenings, reported seeing dancing and merrymaking around Iroko by people they believed were spirit people. These spirit people went in and out of Iroko as if they were walking in and out of their homes. They sang and danced in merriment from twelve midnight until two in the morning, after which they packed up and walked back into the tree. Those who observed these goings-on, did so from afar and in hiding.

The story was told of a young boy who had the misfortune of being seen by these spirit people. He was taken and was never seen again. He had heard the stories of the happenings around Iroko, so that night he snuck out of his house and walked toward Iroko to take a closer look. Voices were heard warning him not to come closer, but he continued walking toward Iroko until he entered the sphere of the tree where everything turned grey. At that point, the boy lost control of himself and was pulled along until he disappeared in the mist and was seen no more.

The mother watched everything in hiding in paralyzed shock. The other people who watched in hiding were also mystified. They couldn’t believe their eyes, but they dared not allow themselves to be seen.

The next morning, the mother saw a huge striped cow tied to an orange tree in front of her house. The cow was chewing cud. The woman walked around the cow trying to understand how it came to be there. The town people also took notice and started gathering and questioning the presence of the cow. Out of nowhere, a young boy with only a loin cloth around his waist appeared and spoke to the onlookers.

“Mama, Iroko says you should take the cow in exchange for your son. Iroko says you should not kill the cow. You should sell it and use the money to take care of yourself.” With that, the boy turned and walked through the crowd and disappeared.

Everyone there was seized with shock and they quickly dispersed. The woman cut the cow loose and started shooing it off from the front of her house, but the cow would not budge.

The woman started to weep and pleaded with Iroko to return her son and take back the cow.

“Iroko give me back my son and take your cow!” she implored. “I don’t want your cow!”

The next day, the woman saw the cow at the back of her house, peacefully lying down near her hearth and chewing cud. She ran out toward Iroko.

“If you won’t give me back my son, Iroko, take me too!” she screamed at the top of her voice. Iroko’s leaves started to rustle. Suddenly, the old woman in the hut materialized and stood between the woman and Iroko.

“Go back, Mama!” the old woman said. “What you seek cannot be done. Your son is gone, dead and Iroko has paid you in exchange for him. Go back or you will meet the same fate!”

The woman refused to be stopped. She pushed the old woman down, walked over her and continued to approach Iroko. By this time, people had started to gather and were watching. The woman threw herself at Iroko and just like magic, the onlookers saw sparks of light, like fireworks, all around the woman. They heard her screaming and shouting like someone roasting on a stake. When everything died down and the sparks were no more, the people saw that the woman had metamorphosed. The woman had changed into an animal, something that looked like a dog, or a goat. No one could really tell. The people dispersed but this time they all had one thought in their minds - that Iroko must go.

            Iroko’s fame continued to grow even beyond the immediate town. The townspeople also became bolder. They consulted with diviner after diviner to find out how to get rid of Iroko. They tried everything, without any success … one attempt took the lives of twelve men. They tried to burn Iroko down, but the fire turned against them and burned them to death. One diviner suggested that the spirit of Iroko resided in the old woman who tended it, and that if the old woman was killed, Iroko would quietly and slowly die.

            The townspeople burned the old woman’s hut down with the old woman in it. The next day, Iroko started taking souls. People started disappearing from their homes, both in broad daylight and at night while they slept.

Finally, an Iroko priest from a distant land told the people how to destroy Iroko.

“Humans should not fight Iroko,he said. “They should appease Iroko. Iroko trees do not live amongst humans. Before you people started building your town, you should have appeased and pleaded with Iroko to leave your town. As you can see, Iroko was simply minding its own business, when you people decided to invade its privacy. Now you have to sacrifice to Iroko to appease it.”

            The townspeople had to pay this priest to come to their town to perform all that was needed to appease Iroko. There is no need to list here all that Iroko demanded, which included the blood of virgins, before it was appeased. The morning after the ceremony by this priest was concluded, the people came out and watched as the inhabitants of Iroko exited one after the other and disappeared; the birds of various families, the giant ants, red and black, dark dangerous black snakes - all came out of Iroko hissing, grumbling, and then poof, like smoke disappeared. But the king of all the animals, a giant Eke python, refused to be dislodged. The people had to pump inflammatory liquid into Iroko and set the python on fire, to dislodge it. It came out rumbling, twisting, and floundering, until it, too, disappeared.

            Finally, Iroko was cut down. Mystery upon mystery, not one single hole existed in the cut tree. It was intact with rings showing how many hundreds of years it had stood there.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member's writing, please visit their Author Profile on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they've turned you into a fan.


We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA catalog.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow along each day of this amazing tour of talent by visiting the tour home page!  Don't forget to click the link below to learn more about today's profiled author:

Joy Nwosu Lo Bamijoko's RWISA Author Profile 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Welcome to Day 9 of the WATCH RWISA WRITE Showcase Tour! @wendyjaynescott @RRBC_Org #RRBC #RWISA #RWISAWRW


Today is the ninth day of the phenomenal Watch "RWISA" Write Showcase Tour! Each day for the next ten days, you will be introduced to an incredible author and a new writing piece. Join me in welcoming Wendy Scott today! :-)


***


The Crystal Tavern by Wendy Scott

This piece is in remembrance of my Creative Writing student, Gill Pontin, who suddenly passed away in October 2020. Gill was an artistic dynamo whose enthusiasm, creativity and laughter will be dearly missed. She was a key participant when our group developed a new world, Creedland, and this story is set in Vape Town.

          "Whoa, boy." Blade Driscoll tugged on the reins and pulled his destrier to a halt. He surveyed the outskirts of Vape Town, unsurprised by the ramshackle buildings and pock-marked roads. The air reeked of burnt sugar and the back of Blade's throat tingled. Between his thighs, Stormbolt shifted, wrinkling his equine nose and shaking his head from side to side. The horse's plated armour clinked together destroying any attempt at stealth. Blade nudged his mount towards the main street, the sooner he finished his business in this cesspit the better for his sanity.

Pink-eyed townsfolk slunk away from the war horse's hoof spikes. Pastel smoke billowed from a series of chimney stacks and led him to the front steps of the Crystal Tavern. Scantily clad fairies with tattered wings slouched against the verandah railings. Out of habit, Blade scanned their faces but didn't recognise any familiar features. He didn't waste his breath asking after his friend as their vacant stares and pink-tinted irises indicated their minds were lost in a kaleidoscopic haze.

Crystal Pink was manufactured from bog flowers and utterly irresistible to fairies. Its euphoric buzz leached away their magic, attacked the delicate blood vessels in their wings, rendering them flightless, before their bodies swelled to human size. The only way to gain their fix was to enslave themselves to Gurezil Flintsunder, owner of the Crystal Tavern, the unofficial mayor of Vape Town, and the largest whore-master this side of the Despicables. Lowlifes flocked from every dark corner of Creedland to sample the unique fairy delights.

Blade dismounted and left Stormbolt's reins dangling, ready for a speedy exit. Anyone foolhardy enough to try to steal the stallion would learn how hard the war horse could bite.

Blade checked his weapon inventory. If blood flowed today, he didn't intend any of it to be his.

Before the saloon doors swung shut behind him Blade tugged a bandanna over his mouth and nose. Steam laced with cotton candy sweetness curled through the dimness. Chunks of crystals simmered in heated ceramic bowls, producing bubbles and sickly fumes. Each table featured glass paraphernalia plugged with multiple hoses. Tendrils of pink smoke escaped from the pipe tips.

Pain pulsed in Blade's forehead and his eyes watered. He sipped shallow breaths as he scanned the front parlour, counting four patrons slumped in the booths. Their hands grasped the tubes as if they were lifelines. Fools; it was death they courted.

A month ago, he'd rescued Maie Quickthistle from Gurezil's clutches, sneaking her away while the tavern slumbered. When she'd surfaced from the drug's grip she'd attacked him like a demented harpy, begging for her next fix. He responded by locking her inside a rented room, but she'd broken out the window and hightailed it back to the Crystal Tavern. After that failure, he decided to change his tactics.

A bartender slumped across the bar and ignored Blade as he slid into an empty booth and shuffled into the shadows. From here he had an unobstructed view of Gurezil's office door and a ringside seat to the drama he knew was about to unfold. The next bog flower shipment was due within the hour, and he wanted to witness Gurezil Flintsunder's reaction when he learned his entire crop had been destroyed. The poison had cost Blade his life's savings but the wizard assured him that this would taint the bog for generations. With one application he'd wiped out the only source of Crystal Pink.

Half an hour later, boots thundered along the passageway and a man hammered his fists on the office door. "Boss, there's a problem with the latest shipment."

Gurezil flung the door open and stomped into the hallway. "If those imbeciles have stolen as much as one flower I'll strip the flesh from their hides and feed it to the fairies."

"There are no flowers." The man held out a limp vine. "Something’s wrong with the whole patch."

Gurezil snatched the vegetation out of the man's hand, lifted it above his nose, and sniffed it. The blood vessels on his cheeks blazed beetroot. "Stinks of spoiled magic. There's no time to waste, saddle up the horses and the wagons, we need to salvage what's left."

Blade stayed in the shadows until they disappeared outside. Whistling, he ascended the stairs two at a time before gently opening every door along the top corridor. A rush of stale air tainted with the drug's signature sweetness filtered into the passage. Fairies dozed on bunks, oblivious to his presence as their minds languished in a hypnotic blur. He didn't desire to be anywhere near Vape Town when their mass withdrawal kicked in. Dealing with one psychotic fairy was enough to test a man’s mettle.

He counted his blessing when he found Maie Quickthistle out cold, making it easier to transfer her onto Stormbolt's saddle. As a precaution, he bound her hands together and checked her pockets for hidden daggers. Earlier, he'd prepared a campsite in the surrounding woods as he understood the next two days were going to be tough on the both of them.

If he'd known how sharp fairy teeth were he might have reconsidered this rescue plan. Bloody bite marks and grazes marred his forearm and face, and he was sure he was missing a piece of his ear. His ears throbbed from Maie's constant shrieking, and he hoped she'd have no memory of all the things she'd offered him in exchange for a fix.

After a sleepless 48 hours, his eyes were redder than an addict's and his thoughts foggy. Maie's limbs contorted into a fetal knot and whimpers escaped her throat. She was quieter than earlier, but he kept his distance as she'd lured him into striking range before. He yawned and struggled to keep awake. Perhaps he'd snatch a moment's rest.

Something fluttered against his cheek and Blade wrenched his eyes open. Tiny fairy wings whirred close to his face. He held still as Maie planted a kiss on the tip of his nose. "You saved me."

Lightness flooded Blade's soul. "Of course, that's what friends do."


Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member's writing, please visit their Author Profile on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they've turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA catalog.  Thanks, again, for your support and we hope that you will follow along each day of this amazing tour of talent by visiting the tour home page!  Don't forget to click the link below to learn more about today's profiled author:


Monday, November 16, 2020

Welcome to Day 8 of the WATCH "RWISA" WRITE Showcase Tour! @ptlperrin @RRBC_Org #RRBC #RWISA #RWISAWRW


Today is the eighth day of the phenomenal Watch "RWISA" Write Showcase Tour! Each day for the next ten days, you will be introduced to an incredible author and a new writing piece. Join me in welcoming PTL Perrin today! :-)


SUNSET

By P.T.L. Perrin

Eden backed her Boston Whaler, Eden’s End, away from the dock, swung her nose into the current and gave the outboard a little gas. Still in the no-wake zone, her granddaughter hung over the side near the stern and trailed her hand in the water.

“Leigh, a shark’s gonna bite that thing right off.”

“No, it won’t. See the dolphins alongside?” She pointed her dripping finger at a pair of breeching dolphins. “Everyone knows they protect folks from sharks.”

Eden shook her head, grinned, and watched the sleek bodies leap through gray water until the pod outdistanced them. She’d never heard of a shark this far up the intracoastal, but she enjoyed teasing Leigh, even if the girl didn’t like it much. Besides, she wouldn’t have to put up with it after tonight. Her heart dropped at the thought.

Right now, they needed to get into the channel where she could open the throttle and let her fly. They’d need a bit of speed to get through the chop at the inlet’s mouth.

“Where’d you stash the drinks, baby girl? I’m thirsty.”

“Coke or ginger ale?” Leigh reached into the cooler behind the captain’s bench and waited for Eden’s answer.

“We have any bottled water?”

“Yuck.” Leigh wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out. At thirteen, she didn’t care for plain water. She grabbed a coke for herself and tossed the water toward the captain’s bench, where her grandma easily caught it.

“Come up here with me.” Eden scooted over, but Leigh grabbed the canopy support bar and stood next to her to wave to passing vessels.

They entered the main channel and accelerated. “Look at them all!” Leigh held tight to the support with one hand and with the other, pointed out small boats like theirs, yachts and excursion ships heading out to sea. “I’ve never seen so many in the channel all at once. Is all this for the sunset?”

Eden didn’t answer. She glanced at her granddaughter and wished she could keep this moment forever. Evening light bathed Leigh’s face in a gentle glow, the pink in her cheeks showing through the Florida tan she wore summer and winter. Her luminous eyes, the same amber as the natural streaks in her sun-bleached hair, crinkled at the corners as she squinted at the water. She’d be a beauty in a couple years and Eden had looked forward to scaring the sin out of any boys with the wrong idea. Just another thing she’d never get to do.

The chop demanded her attention, so she drove while Leigh held on and whooped every time their bow hit another wave. The sea calmed when they reached the Gulf of Mexico, and they found a spot to drift about a hundred yards out, away from other vessels. The current turned the stern toward the northwest, where they had a perfect view of the horizon to the west and the inlet to the east.

Eden moved to the cushioned top of the cooler in the aft cockpit. Leigh joined her, pretended to push her off with her hip, and settled close. She sipped her coke while her grandma threw an arm around her in a hug.

The ocean breeze played with Eden’s short hair and blew tendrils of Leigh’s long hair across her chest. Eden reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a hair tie.

“Turn around, baby girl. You don’t want hair in your eyes just as the sun sinks, do you?” Leigh leaned forward while her grandma caught her hair back in a tail. She reached for a blanket bunched on a corner seat.

“Here, Grandma. The breeze is a little cool.” Leigh pulled it over their laps.

A bank of cumulous clouds towered to the east, each layer a living painting, shifting through pink, purple, orange, and salmon in majestic slow motion. A low swell slapped against the hull, a rhythmic percussion to the visual symphony.

Eden took several deep breaths, enjoying the tang of salt air with a hint of seaweed. The scent of grilling fish tickled her nose. Her mouth watered and her stomach rumbled. They’d eat with Leigh’s parents later, at one of the seafood places on the main dock. A special treat.

Leigh snuggled close to Eden, who pulled the lightweight blanket up to cover her girl’s shoulders.

“Are all endings sad?”

Eden swallowed hard before she could answer. “Not all.”

“Like what? Name some happy endings.”

Eden dug past the lump in her heart to find one or two. “When the prince kisses the princess and they live happily ever after. When the hero escapes from the dungeon.”

Leigh slapped her arm. “I mean for real.” She turned her gaze toward the setting sun, now barely touching the horizon’s edge. “I can think of lots of sad endings. Like when we had to leave our friends in Minnesota. And when Scruffy ran away. And when…”

Eden interrupted. “Farmers are happy when a drought ends. And what about the end of an icy cold winter? You had those in Minnesota, remember.”

“Oh, yeah. But the end of snow wasn’t so happy.”

Eden grabbed her granddaughter’s hand and pointed toward the sun, now a half-circle sitting on a dark line.

“Every ending starts a new beginning.” Just saying it lifted her own spirits a tiny bit.

Leigh picked up on it. “School starts at the end of summer. I like school.”

“And cooler weather,” Eden reminded her.

“Morning comes when night ends. I’ll be fourteen when thirteen ends.”

“And we’ll meet in heaven when life ends.” Eden wanted to take back the words as soon as they left her mouth. She sucked air in thick gulps to keep from bursting into tears. She felt her granddaughter tremble.

Eden turned Leigh’s face toward her and kissed her forehead. She kissed each precious cheek and wiped her tears away with her thumbs. “You know I’ll always love you, don’t you? Everything I have is yours, and no matter what, we’ll see each other again.”

“Death is a sad ending, Grandma. I don’t care what the next beginning is. I don’t want you to go.” Leigh covered her face with her hands, bent over her grandma’s lap and sobbed, shudders racking her body and tearing the heart out of Eden.

“Watch, Leigh. Sunset isn’t over yet.”

Leigh sat up, wiped her eyes, and took a shuddering breath. Eden’s heart swelled with love and pride at her granddaughter’s courage as the ocean swallowed the last sliver of sun, leaving the eastern clouds a gray canvas. There should have been more drama.

Eden returned to the console and started the engine.

“Wait, Grandma. Can’t we wait for the stars to come out? I need more time.”

Eden turned the key off and wrapped her arms around Leigh’s slender body. They sank to the deck, neither trying to control the eruption of grief tearing at their cores.

When their sobs turned to hiccups and they let each other go, Eden lifted Leigh’s chin and pointed to the sky. “Look at that magnificence, baby girl. God’s story written in the stars. You’re there, and so am I.”

“What do you mean, Grandma?”

“Our last sunset is an ending, but tomorrow’s a new day for both of us. I’m going home very soon, and you have a long life ahead with happy endings and beautiful beginnings.

Leigh sighed and snuggled close. “And we’ll meet again. In heaven, right?”

“That’s right.” Eden returned to her bench and turned on the engine. “I’m hungry and your parents must be starving. How about you?”

Leigh nodded, stood, and held on to the support. “I love you, Grandma.”

 

*****

 

Leigh backed her whaler, Eden’s Dawn, from the dock and headed to the channel where she joined a smattering of fishing boats, her lights joining theirs on the way to the Gulf. Her daughter snored softly, asleep beside her on the bench. Leigh tapped her shoulder to wake her.

“Faith, we’re getting to the chop.”

The child stretched and yawned, jumped to the deck, held on to the support, and whooped at every wave they hit until they reached calm water.

“Now, Mommy?” Faith pointed at the pretty box on the console that held Grandma’s ashes.

“Soon.” Leigh headed out until land was a smudge to the east and cut the engine. “Now, Sweetie.”

Leigh and Faith held the box over the stern together. Leigh kissed it, and they dropped it into the ocean while the sun rose behind a cloud bank, its golden rays streaming out to paint the morning sky pink and orange.

Leigh hugged her daughter as the box sank beneath the waves. “Goodbye, Grandma. We love you.”

Faith reached up and held her mother’s face between her small hands. “Are you sad, Mommy?”

“A little. But every ending starts a new beginning.”

Leigh lifted Faith to the bench, kissed her, and turned Eden’s Dawn toward home.


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