For nearly a week, I have been typing and editing like a fiend! I am determined to finish a manuscript that I started writing before my son could walk. I think I mentioned it to readers in my last blog. Perhaps you remember? It’s called The Celebration House.
Anyway, 40,800 words later, I see a light at the end of the tunnel. My main character, Carrie, does too. After all, she’s dying. That humor might seem a little dark, but I know Carrie would appreciate it. After all, I wrote her.
I’ve already composed a short list of places I want to send it. Imagine! The darn thing isn’t even done yet, and I’m already shouting “Hot off the press. Get it here!”
One of the publishers I intend to query doesn’t ask for the first three chapters or the complete “polished” manuscript. Instead, they ask for the best chapter. I wanted to share it with my faithful readers, so here it is. A trailer of sorts of The Celebration House. Please to enjoy! (Author’s warning: it’s long, about 1,000 words).
A few days after Liz Mullins’ visit, Carrie’s cellphone rang. She looked at the caller ID and saw a Seattle area code. She was afraid it would be Melanie and considered not answering it. But to her surprise, Dr. Lionel’s voice greeted her.
“Carrie? Hi. It’s Dr. Lionel.”
“Hello. How are you?”
“I’m good. But more importantly, how are you? No trouble with your new pacemaker?”
“No. I feel good.”
“I’m glad to hear that, but I’m not really calling to check on you. Do you remember my nurse practitioner, Elizabeth Kozera?”
“Sure. Beth. How is she?”
“Not so good right now. She’s had a pretty bad go of it lately. Any chance she might visit you for a while?”
“Well, sure. She’s welcome to come and stay, but I can’t offer much in the way of amenities.”
“I think a change of scenery is the amenity she needs most. Plus, she can give me firsthand reports on you. Your sister tells me you’re clinging to life. I just hope you didn’t get off your deathbed to take this call.”
Carrie laughed. “To quote one of my favorite Missourians, ‘Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’”
“So I take that as a yes?”
“Sure. I’ll do whatever I can to help. I’d welcome her company.”
“Great! I’ll have my office manager work out all the travel details, and she’ll call you with Beth’s flight information. Thanks, Carrie. I appreciate it.”
She had it all. Or so she thought.
Walking down the aisle, past her friends and co-workers who smiled at her and waved little discreet waves, Beth Kozera thought she was the luckiest woman in the world. And there he stood, her version of Prince Charming: Charles William Mercer, the Fourth. One of his great-great ancestors had been a founding father of Seattle. She lost track of how many streets in the downtown area bore his name.
And now Beth stood next to him. Her father lifted her expensive Italian lace veil and kissed her on the cheek. He stepped away and joined Beth’s mother in the church pew. Beth turned to face Charles. Charlie, to his friends. She was sure he must be as joyful as she felt. But, he didn’t look happy. He looked worried, biting his lower lip and glancing behind them as if looking for someone.
“Charlie?” she whispered. “Is everything okay?”
“Just peachy. I’m fine. Let’s get this done.”
They turned to face the minister, the Rev. Montgomery Todd. He had performed the
wedding ceremony for Charlie’s parents and baptized this young man as a baby. He smiled
at the couple.
“Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today to join this woman and man in holy matrimony…”
“Oh, for the love of God, Charlie. How long are you going to let this little farce play out?”
Everyone turned to look. There, standing at the back of the church in the main aisle was a pregnant young woman with dreadlocks, tattoos and black gauge earrings. Her black tank top fell short of the monumental task of covering her burgeoning belly.
Charlie turned to face her. His jaw dropped. He turned back to Beth.
“I can explain,” he said.
On the groom’s side of the church, a petite brunette dressed in a pristine ivory suit stood up. Her caramel highlights captured the sun’s rays through the stained glass windows. She faced Charlie.
“I’d like to hear this too. You were sleeping with both of us?”
Everyone turned toward this new voice. Beth looked at the woman and realized she knew her, though she couldn’t remember her name. She was the wife of one of Charlie’s law partners.
The church broke out in a bedlam of voices.
“Charlie?” Beth asked, looking up at him. And then she saw. She saw everything right there on Charlie’s face. The answer to “this little farce.”
“Beth, I wanted to tell you for the longest time, but I just…I just couldn’t. Beth, I love Sunshine.”
“What? You love sunshine?”
“Her,” he said, pointing to the woman in the back of the church. “Sunshine. She’s pregnant with my baby. You and me, well, that was about trying to please my parents, to be the Mercer they wanted me to be. I’m real sorry, Beth.”
Beth bowed her head and looked down at the bridal bouquet – the white roses and exotic lilies she and her parents couldn’t really afford. Trying to keep up with the Mercers. How pathetic. She walked down the aisle and straight toward the pregnant woman, ignoring the law partner’s wife. When she reached the expectant mother, with her hand propped on her hip, Beth handed her the bouquet.
“Here! These belong to you.”
Sunshine took them, too surprised to do otherwise.
The crowd was on their feet now, looking first at the groom, then at the pregnant woman and the indignant mistress. Murmurs of “What just happened?” and “Did he just dump her for two other women?” were the last words Beth heard before the church door shut behind her. She exhaled, so grateful for the sound of traffic on the busy downtown Seattle street.
Beth saw the carriage that was to take the couple to their wedding reception. The driver stroked the nose of the black Percheron. Beth stumbled over to the carriage and climbed in. Her beaded Vera Wang dress weighed her down.
“Ma’am?” the driver asked.
“You got any booze?”
Looking down, she saw an expensive bottle of champagne chilling in a silver ice bucket, which was engraved with the couple’s initials. Next to it were two crystal flutes nestled in a blue velvet lined case.
“Perfect. Here, open this,” she said. She handed the bottle to the driver.
“Ma’am, where’s the groom?” he asked, popping the cork.
“He’s gonna be awhile. He’s got some explaining to do,” she said, pouring the champagne into one of the crystal flutes. It bubbled over onto her dress.
“Ah, hell. Who needs a glass?”
She threw it down onto the street. The crystal flute shattered, spooking the huge draft horse. He reared.
“Hey! Be careful,” the driver said. He stroked the horse’s neck, whispering reassuring words in a low voice.
“C’mon. You’re my getaway. Saddle up or whatever it is you do. Let’s get the hell out of here.”
She didn’t expect Charlie to leave her at the altar, and she sure didn’t expect the local media to care. But they did. That night, when she returned to her modest condo on Lake Washington, two local news crews were standing outside her building, giving live updates on the “Wedding of the Year,” as the media had taken to calling it.
She was scheduled to be on vacation for two weeks, but the quiet of her apartment closed in on her. She called and told her supervisor she wanted to work. Two days later, when she arrived at the office, a reporter from the Seattle Gazette waited in the lobby, demanding to see her. When she left work, another news crew descended on her, asking if she’d been a willing participant in the hoax or had she too been duped?
She muttered “No comment” and climbed into her car.
The next day at work, Dr. Lionel asked to see her first thing when she came in. She walked into his office and sat down across the desk from him. He hummed to himself while he drew a mustache on the picture of Charlie that graced last month’s copy of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine. The headline read “Seattle’s golden boy takes a bride.”
“Hi, Beth. Having a rough week?”
“I’ve had better,” she said, watching him draw bushy eyebrows and glasses on the glossy
image of her ex-fiancée.
“Our little office staff isn’t used to all this media attention. My guess is you’re not used to it either.”
“Am I in trouble, Howard?”
“No. Not with me. But one of our former patients, Carrie Hansen, is in trouble. Have you ever been to Missouri?”
Hands and arms inside the cart, please. Next, free IT help just around the corner.
That’s amazing, Annette! You’ve got me hooked.