Missing Old Times

The basement ceiling is still streaked with marks from when we used to play football. Made-up goal lines, just in front of the bar. I really don’t know how we didn’t break the glass case, shelved with wine and beer glasses, in the corner behind the bar. It’s a good thing. Grandma would have lost her shit.

How many touchdown passes had been thrown in that basement from when you kids used to live here? So many the Bears would have been envious.

The bin of swords we used to fight with, sometimes against each other, other times against imagined zombies, has been packed away a long time ago. That time I took your swords from you and hid them in my closet because you scared the dog, chasing him with a raised sword in your hands.  Phil didn’t understand the game. You were young, but old enough to understand the innocence of a dog. You were just being mean, because you were the youngest and used to being a menace.

So, I had to take your swords away. Not forever. Just for a little while.  Your older sister, always the protective Mother Bear, tried to sneak and steal them back, but I wouldn’t let her. She was mad at me. Her little brother could do no wrong. Ever. I used to always say that you could burn the house down and she’d yell at me if I gave you the slightest sideways look.

She used to knock on my door late at night. Two o’clock in the morning was nothing to that nine-year-old girl. I’d stop writing and we’d talk on my bed, mostly about the divorce, sometimes about other things. But we talked. The divorce happened when you were so young, and you were forgetting the memories you had of your mother and father being together. That was sad for you.

So, we talked through some memories. Popcorn movie nights with your parents. Watching Elf with your dad. That Thanksgiving at your house, when I came covered in puke because I’d thrown up with my head out the window, while Grandma sped down I55. A mixture of motion sickness and being hungover.  Your oldest brother, just a young boy then, yelled out “Auntie!” and ran to greet me at the door. I shot my arm up and stopped him like a traffic patrol.  “Don’t! Auntie has throw-up all over her.” Your father hosed the car down in your driveway, as I hosed myself down in his shower.

Birthday parties at the house you grew up, with the backyard you missed so much. The giant trampoline. The swing set you loved to hang upside down from that always pulled at my nerves. But you were fearless.

The day you came home from school after learning I was writing a lesbian book, because you’d crept up behind me the night before and read over my shoulder as I wrote on my computer, and shouted, with your backpack on your shoulders, “How’s your lesbian story coming, Auntie?”

I laughed. Your mother laughed. You were a funny nine-year-old girl.

Your other brother, just a few years older than you, was a homebody. He loved nothing more than cuddling on the couch with me watching sports or shows, mostly Pitbulls and Parolees and the Friday Night Lights series. “Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.” You loved that.

In public, you were never the kid we had to worry about running off. You were a scared and anxious kid at times. You never strayed from my side. Ever. But your older brother, I’d lost him once at a Blockbuster on a busy Saturday night, and it was the most terrifying thirty-seven seconds of my life. I eventually found him kneeling at the end of an aisle, going through stacks of videos and DVD’s.

But you would never scare me like that. You were the boy who would take my hand in a parking lot before I even had to tell you, because you were scared of getting hit by a car. You told me your entire school schedule so that at any time during the day I could look at the clock and know what you were doing, what class you were in. You then wanted to know my daily schedule so that you could do the same with me.

That was the cutest thing. Well, maybe not as cute as the love notes you would write me when you happened to be over, and I wasn’t home. Sometimes you’d leave the notes right on top my desk, so I’d see it right away. Other times, you’d put it into a drawer and sometimes days or weeks would go by before I found the note telling me you love me. How happy you are to have me as an aunt. You’d tell me that I’m a great writer. I have all of them. All your notes. You’d ask me how many nephews love their Aunties as much as you love me. I’d say, “Probably not many.”

But you’ve all grown up and moved on with grown up lives, as children tend to do.  We can’t go back in time or relive the past, but if we could, 2014 was a good year to live again. You guys still lived here. We were so close and spent so much time together. I was healthier. Happier. I hadn’t yet known the stress of a Donald Trump presidency.  And covid was nothing but a word.

We can’t go back in time and relive the past. We can only hold our most cherished memories close to us and relive them in our hearts by never forgetting them.

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Moving On

When I was in college, back in 1998, I took a Creative Writing course where I wrote two horribly-written short stories and some really bad poems. The stories were called The Hideout and The Attic. Apparently, I wasn’t very creative with titles back then.

To this day, I don’t know why I didn’t toss those papers in the trash the moment the semester ended. But not only did those pages make the trip back home with me, they managed to survive a couple decades in a bin with so many of my other failed writing attempts. 

About eight years ago, (damn time flies) I pulled out that dusty bin and went through those old writings. It had been a while since I’d written at that time and I wanted to get back into it. After all, being a writer was always my dream. Life, with all of its distractions, had pulled me off course for a little while, but I found my way back to it, and I thought past writings was a good place to start. 

Turns out, I was right. 

Even though those old stories were really bad, as I read through them I found a storyline in each I could build on. I turned The Hideout into a novel called A Penny on the Tracks that was published in 2017. It’s an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about friendship, loyalty, and the struggles of coming out.  The story revolves around two best friends, Lyssa and Abbey, who discover a hideout near some train tracks and spend the summer before sixth grade hanging out and finding freedom from issues at home. But their innocence shatters when the hideout becomes the scene of a tragic death. 

As for the other story, The Attic. Well, that one went through many rewrites with two major plot changes, taking me two extra years to write. It was frustrating and many times I wanted to give up, move on to another story, but I kept writing until I got the story right. Not only have I finally finished the story, but I got it contracted. The name of the book is Annabel and the Boy in the Window. I’m unable to put into words the relief I feel in finally being able to put that story to rest.

I am now in the process of revising what was my first attempt at writing a full-length novel that I wrote shortly after I graduated from college. I ended up finishing it, but as with the short stories, the writing was horrible. 

So in the bin those pages went. Then a couple years back, I fished the pages out of the bin and just like with the short stories, I’d found a storyline I could work with. I’m hoping to be finished with the story by next summer. After that, I have two more previous attempts at novels I need to take a look at and see if there’s a storyline in them I can work with. 

Despite having a drawer full of new story ideas, I can’t leave my old stories behind. They’re taking up too much space in my head and I need them gone before I can fully concentrate on anything new. 

If you’re a writer, do you keep old stories? How do you decide which ones can be salvaged and which ones to let go? I’ve realized it’s not just old stories I have a hard time letting go.  Past relationships, old friendships, cherished memories from a time that can never be lived again, all have a hold on me.

It’s hard to move on, isn’t it? 

Can a Married Woman Overcome Her Desire for Another Woman?

My new lesbian novella, Loving Again, has released today. I’m so excited to be a part of Affinity eBook Press.

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Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.

The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women. Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?

Excerpt:

Dana Perkins leaned against the side of the trolley and watched as landmarks of the city’s skyline passed by. Her brown eyes traced the contours of the well-appointed, fancy high-rise condos over-looking Lake Michigan, and the sophisticated architecture lining the city’s downtown streets. Tall, crystalline, and convex—the view was stunning.

She closed her eyes as the cool breeze brushed against her face. She inched closer to her lover and kissed her bare shoulder, tasting the salty sweat on Casey’s skin. Dana drew in the raw scent of her partner’s body, the smell of an entire day spent taking in the sights of a big city.

“You’re not ready to call it a day, are you?” Casey asked.

Dana groaned

“I guess you are.”

“Baby, what else do you want to do?” Dana stifled a yawn. “We have all day tomorrow. Oh, and we also live an hour from the city. We’re not tourists, honey.”

“But we only see everything when we act like tourists. That’s why I got us a hotel for the weekend. No more saying ‘next time’. We’re seeing it all now. ”

“But baby, I’m soooo tired.”

“Okay,” Casey said. “You win.” She slung an arm loosely around Dana’s neck and kissed her gently on the lips. “We’ll go back to the hotel.”

As the trolley slowed to a stop, the women walked through the open aisle. The thin fabric of Dana’s khakis stuck to the back of her sweaty leg. Dana realized—too late, as she normally did—that she should have listened to her girlfriend and worn shorts.

Casey skipped down the small steps, onto the sidewalk. Her light blue sundress swayed as she moved. She took Dana’s hand and pulled her lightly down the stairs.

“Come on you tired, old lady. Are your legs gonna make it back to the hotel? Or do you need a motorized scooter?”

Dana smoothed a hand over Casey’s long, blond ponytail. “I can make going to the room early very agreeable…”

Casey eyed her. “And how would you do that?”

“Trust me. You’ll like where this is going….so stop complaining.” Dana reached for Casey, and heard a child’s voice yelling behind her.

“Hot dog! Hot dog!” a little boy’s voice cried out.

But Dana kept her thoughts on Casey. She fantasized being back at the hotel, sliding the thin straps of Casey’s dress down her shoulders, and running her hands over the inside of her bare thighs, when suddenly, Casey whirled from under Dana’s fingers.

Dana turned around. Her eyes fought with the sun as she struggled to follow her partner’s sudden actions. Dana heard the boy yell again, and watched as the child chased after a hot dog vendor that was crossing a busy intersection.

Casey was running full-speed after the boy, heading straight into oncoming traffic.

Dana didn’t know which came first—the smell of burning rubber, the sound of screeching tires ,or the man in the cab yelling for Casey to get out of the way. Everything seemed to happen in the same moment, but somehow Dana’s unsteady legs made it to the edge of the street where Casey’s body lay near a curb.

Dana yelled for help and dropped to her knees. She pulled Casey into her lap, while faintly registering voices—some offering help, and some shouting “Call 911!” She cradled the woman she loved in her shaking arms.

Trapped by the crowd of people huddled over her, stealing the air, Dana struggled to breathe. Then the sudden blare of sirens shattered through the chaos, yet her eyes never left Casey’s face, her beautiful face.

“Wake up, baby. Please wake up,” she cried softly.

The young bride held her dress in one hand, while the other pressed tightly through the arm of the man she’d just married. A few short hours ago she was Emily Bradford, but now, the woman made her way down the steep church steps as Emily Daniels. Emily smiled readily as a cascade of lights flashed before her eyes. Guests lingered at the edge of the steps with cameras in hand and she took it all in. The gorgeous sky hung like a perfect portrait in the background of a nearly cloudless day.

Michael Daniels took Emily by the hand and kissed her while cameras snapped eagerly to capture the tender moment. From a distance, the faint sound of sirens rang out. Emily squinted against the glare of the sun as she searched the street. The blaring noise was headed in their direction. The bride watched as two ambulances, a fire truck, and multiple police cars sped by.

The beauty of their day was temporarily interrupted by someone else’s tragedy.

Emily closed her eyes and made the sign of the cross, something her mother had taught her to do as a small child whenever an emergency vehicle drove by. When it all passed and the streets were once again serene, her new husband gave her hand a squeeze.

“Are you ready?” He smiled.

Leaning her body against his strong shoulder, she kissed her groom the way brides did in movies, creating their very own “happily-ever-after” moment.

“I’m going to love you for the rest of my life,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.

About the Author:

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Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. Her first novella, Her Name, was published by Musa Publishing in 2014. Her Name is a sweet romantic story about a woman who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life.

Loving Again is her second published novella. It is a story about two women who fall in love and then soon discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined.

Alicia is currently working on a new novel called A Penny on the Tracks, a coming of age story about love and  friendship. Alicia has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon.

When she is not writing, the author enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, reading, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Please visit her blog at www.aliciajoseph.com

She can also be found on her Alicia Joseph Author Facebook Page  and on Twitter @JosephJody76

Buy Links: 

http://affinityebooks.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=12_69

http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Again-Alicia-Joseph-ebook/dp/B01807ZOX2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1447599721&sr=8-2&keywords=Alicia+Joseph

Thank you!