Today is a great day. The flowers are blooming. I have a whole cupboard full of tea. And the UPS guy just handed me the proof of my newest book.
So, I’ve decided to spread the love around and share the first chapter of The Fourteen Day Soul Detox in this post, but before I do, I want to give a little bit of news.
First, I think I should admit that while I tried to make this book novella length (and I even… kind of… have it on the cover), the book is right smack dab in the short novel category. I tried. Oh, well. It is still part of a serial that will be complete in six novella volumes (ahem, hem, short novel volumes) .
Anyway, the audiobook is now in production with an amazing narrator (YAY!!), and it should come out about the same time as the print and ebook version, May 31st (if not, then a few days after).
The Print and Ebook covers differ, so I’m giving you the ebook cover and then the first chapter of the book. Lots of love. Enjoy.
The Fourteen Day Soul Detox
The Day Before
The Birthday Luncheon Intervention
Day Zero: Seven O’clock
I woke with a massive headache. And when I say massive, I mean my first thought when I opened my eyes was, ‘oh, fuck this day.’ Yet, I did open my eyes as my phone alarm insisted on beeping repeatedly. Grabbing my phone off my nightstand, I slid my finger across the screen and laid back into my pillows.
Sarah sat up next to me, her hair sticking out of her head at odd angles. She blinked around the lightening room like a little fish.
“Hi, angel,” I said to her, smoothing her hair down. “I didn’t realize you climbed in here with me. Remember, go potty, that’s the first thing we do.”
She turned around, her eyes closed halfway as she laid back on my shoulder, curling into a ball.
Kissing her forehead, I whispered, “Time to wake up baby, you need to get ready for the bus.”
“No bus. I’m going to keep sleeping,” she said, before yawning. Her little voice sent a new stab of pain into my head.
“No baby,” I whispered. Extricating my shoulder from under her head, I peeled myself out of bed. Massaging my temples, I stepped onto the late-seventies shag carpet. I staggered through my room, stepping over a doll that lay face down on the carpet. Poor Mary Ann the Gymnast doll must have come in with Sarah but been discarded halfway to my bed. I made it all the way to my door, and turned on the light, but nothing happened.
“Ugh,” I groaned. “The effing power better not be out, I know I paid it.”
Well, I paid the past due, but they’d never shut the power off on me for being a month behind yet.
“What’s the matter?” A man’s voice from the living room called out.
“Oh, sorry, Cameron,” I said, grimacing. “I didn’t mean to wake you.” I walked to the hallway light-switch and turned it on. Yellowish light illuminated the little hallway that connected all four rooms of my apartment—the conjoined living room and kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
I turned to see Cameron’s body fill the door-less entry to my living room. He stretched up his arms, grabbing onto the doorway above his head, also yawning. I couldn’t help but appreciate the view of his muscles straining as he stretched forward. A night on my couch had done a thorough job of mussing up his dark hair. He met my gaze, eyes hooded. “Everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m sorry for waking you. The stupid bulb in my room is out,” I said with an annoyed glare back at my room.
He grinned lazily at me. “Where do you keep spare light bulbs?”
“I’m probably just going to take one from the bathroom fixture and switch them,” I said.
He raised a brow at me and shook his head. He leaned in, his eyes glinting with amusement. “Hey beautiful, happy birthday.”
“Uh, huh,” I said back, “Sure it is.” My body brushed against his as I slipped under his raised arms and into the living room.
His fingertips brushed down my side as I passed, but didn’t linger.
From behind me, I heard his low chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” I asked as I moved to the coffee maker. Thankfully, the coffee made itself on a timer this morning.
“You’re still in your clothes from last night… again,” Cameron said in his low voice.
“You try working until two-thirty in the morning then driving home,” I said.
“No thank you,” he said, his voice muffled as he must have been a couple rooms away.
Grabbing a bottle of aspirin out of my spice cupboard, I looked between the bottle and my coffee machine. It was a hard choice.
If I took the aspirin, I could go back to sleep after Sarah went on the bus, but I’d have to be awake without coffee for the hour until then. If I drank the coffee, I’d both get rid of my headache and my lethargy, but I wouldn’t be able to nap. My gaze went back and forth between them.
“Good morning, Sarah,” I heard Cameron say in the other room.
After a long pause, I called, “Sarah, can you say, ‘good morning’ to Cameron?’”
“Who won the Gold Medal in the 2012 London Olympics?” Sarah said, her voice getting louder. I turned to see her in Cameron’s arms as he carried her out of the bedroom and set her on the couch.
Crossing to the cupboard, I grabbed two coffee mugs. I filled both with coffee, and went into the fridge to find the half and half.
“Hmm, in all around gymnastics?” Cameron asked Sarah.
“Gabrielle Douglas, USA,” Sarah said.
“Baby, if you ask someone a question, you need to give them a chance to answer,” I told her.
Cameron took his cup of coffee from my outstretched hand, gave me a wink and said, “I don’t mind.”
Sarah ran over into the kitchen. “Who won the silver in London in all around?” she asked.
Cameron turned to Sarah with a smile. “Wouldn’t that be Shawn Johnson, from the USA also?”
“She won in Beijing.” I whispered, “It’s Viktoria Komova from Russia.”
“Beijing!” Sarah yelled. Then she smacked Cameron on his arm.
“Sarah!” I said.
Sarah spun and ran into her room. “Go to time out!” she yelled before slamming the door to her room.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I groaned. “She keeps hitting you, I’m so sorry Cameron.”
He took the coffee cup out of my hand. His arm wrapped around my waist while his lips moved down to my ear. “It’s fine, Jamie.”
He pulled my body into his and I couldn’t help but melt a little against him.
“You are such a saint for babysitting her all the time,” I said back.
“It’s not like it hurts when she hits me,” he said.
“Not really the point,” I whispered. “And now she’s doing it at school, too.”
“She’s just eight,” he said.
“Which is way too old to be hitting other kids or adults,” I said.
“Too old for other kids, maybe, but not for her. And she’ll move past this, it’s a phase,” he said.
I moved out of his arms, whispering, “Yeah.” Opening the aspirin bottle, I shook out a couple pills and washed them down with coffee. “Sarah, you can come out of time out,” I called in a loud voice.
I heard the toilet flushing, then the water going for a long time.
I stared at the hallway. “She doesn’t want me to check on her while she brushes her teeth anymore. I’m not sure how good of a job she’s doing at it lately…” I tapped my foot, “but I just want her to have a good morning.”
“They’re all going to fall out anyway. Isn’t it a good thing she’s becoming more independent?” he said.
“I guess,” I said, still staring toward the hallway.
After a minute, Sarah came out. She wore her favorite purple ‘Junior Gymnast’ shirt and purple stretch pants. Staring down at her purple rhinestone covered shoes, she trudged forward. I waited for a minute for her to apologize on her own, but gave up and said, “What do you say to Cameron?”
“I’m sorry. No problem, Sport,” she said, still staring down at her shoes.
Cameron mussed up her hair, grinning. “Hey, that’s my line.”
“Do you want a bagel, angel?” I asked her as she took a seat at our tiny, light wood, two-chair breakfast table in the small nook at the side of our kitchen.
“Yogurt, bananas, juice,” she said.
“Okay, but you have to eat it this time,” I said, grabbing out a peach yogurt from the fridge. When she was eating small spoonfuls of her yogurt, I sprayed detangler in her hair and tried to comb through her tangled, thick, blonde hair. Sarah glared up at me a few times, making annoyed sounds, but I reminded her, “Do you want me to cut your hair short?” And she would turn her glare back to her food.
Grabbing an oversized hoodie, I pulled it over my head. That, and pulling my hair in a pony-tail, was all I was going to do to get dressed.
“You’re going to need to wear a jacket, baby,” I said, when Sarah was done eating and I was zipping up her purple-rhinestone covered backpack.
“No,” she said, glaring at the level of my hoodie.
I breathed in through my nose. “You have two choices. Do you want to wear a jacket, or a sweater?” I held up the jacket.
Sarah shrugged it on, letting me zip her into it. Opening the door, we walked out into the morning. Dew settled on my face and hands. All around us little lines of dew fell, drops too dainty to be rain.
“It’s raining baby, put on your boots,” Sarah said to me.
“No Sarah, you don’t need your boots. It’s just dew, it’ll burn off soon. Look, no puddles.” Grabbing her hand, we walked down the street to stand in front of my neighbor’s banged up sedan, where we waited for the bus every day.
“I love you so much,” Sarah said.
I swallowed. “I love you so much, baby. Are you going to do a good job at school today?”
“Yes,” she said.
“No more hitting, right?” I asked.
“No hitting,” Sarah said.
“Are you going to listen to your teacher?”
“Yes,” she said.
The long yellow bus pulled around the corner. After the bus stopped in front of us, an overwhelming volume of shouting voices released out of the opened door.
“Morning, Jamie,” the thin, fifty-something-year-old bus driver called out over the cacophony inside. He adjusted his tie-dye T-shirt while giving me a half-smile, half-grimace.
“Hey, Henry,” I said.
“It’s pretty loud on here today, you think Sarah can handle it?” he asked, kindly.
“No bus!” Sarah shouted before taking off and running down the street.
I lunged after her, but saw she was running up to our duplex door. Sighing, I said, “I guess not. Thanks anyway, Henry.”
Back in the house, I found Sarah sitting at our breakfast table, eating another banana.
“No bus?” Cameron said, coming to stand close to me, smelling like toothpaste and soap.
I shook my head.
“Want me to take her in?” he asked, his hands rubbing my shoulders.
“No, it’s fine. I took the morning off for that stupid lunch thing anyway. You’re going, right?” I asked.
“No, I guess it’s a females-only birthday thing, or that’s what Amy said,” he pulled me even closer to him as he talked.
“Weird,” I said. “There’s only going to be like three people there then, since both Jessica and Beza need to work.”
“I’ll be here when you get back from dropping off Sarah, though,” he whispered in a low voice into my ear. “I have a present I want to give you.”
I pulled back to look up into his heated gaze.
Stepping back from Cameron, I turned away to grab my now lukewarm coffee and guzzle it down. Pinching my thighs together, I forced my mind to unsexy things, like the Coffee Stop’s taxes and whether or not I could afford to hire someone after all the taxes were finished.
“Okay, sounds good,” I whispered, refilling my coffee mug. I was on my fifth cup by the time I pulled into Coral Beach Elementary. Pressing the dial to turn Sarah’s CD off, I turned around in my seat. My phone lit up with a text message from my coworker-friend Nancy.
Nancy: For some reason your sister just uninvited me to your lunch thing. Just didn’t want you to think I ditched. See you at the bar tomorrow night.
Nancy: No idea why, sorry.
Sighing, I turned to the back seat. “Baby, why don’t you have your seatbelt on?” I said, suppressing the need to yell and trying to keep my voice calm.
“I undid it,” she said, smiling.
I took a deep breath and exhaled. “Not safe, baby. You need to keep it on until I stop the car.”
“No,” she said.
“Yes, or no more kids’ CD in the car,” I said.
“Yes, kids’ CD!” she cried, her body bowed stiffly in her seat.
“Wait,” I said, climbing to sit backwards in my seat and reaching back to her. “Ready, we need to take gymnast breaths, okay?”
She started screaming and kicking the chair.
Exiting the car, I climbed into the backseat beside her. Reaching out, I put an arm over her so she wouldn’t fall out of the car seat while she kicked.
When her kicking slowed down, I leaned in close and said in a calm voice, “Do you want a squeeze?”
Big tears coursed down her face as she said, “Yes, squeeze.”
Grabbing her under her legs and behind her back, I lifted her into my lap. She curled up and I squeezed her tightly against me. “It’s so important for gymnasts to take deep breaths,” I told her. “Can you take some deep breaths with me?”
She didn’t respond.
“Sarah,” I said in a quiet voice into her ear. “Are you a gymnast or not a gymnast?”
“Gymnast,” she whispered.
“Okay, you ready to take ten gymnast breaths with me?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
We both breathed in deeply and then exhaled. “One,” I said. We did it again and I counted, “Two.” At ten, I opened the car door and we both climbed out into the parking lot. Giving Sarah my hand, we walked into the school campus. By the time we got there, the bus had already arrived and Henry gave me a wave as we walked by.
“Good morning, Sarah,” a school attendant whose name I couldn’t remember said as we passed by.
When Sarah didn’t respond, I stopped. “Sarah, she said good morning,” I said, smiling at Sarah and gesturing to the attendant.
“It’s okay,” the older lady said with a smile, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Hi!” Sarah said. We walked up the hallway to Sarah’s classroom, passing several kids carrying trays of breakfast food. Murals stretched along every wall at Coral Beach School, most were done by kids but some were elaborate and professional, like the one we were walking next to of international students holding hands.
“Hi Sarah!” A boy called, but he rushed off when Sarah didn’t respond.
“Remember to say hi to people, angel,” I said when we got to her classroom. As we stepped inside, three teachers and my friend Beza glanced up and smiled as we entered.
“Hi, Sarah, hi Jamie,” Ms. Ivy said as we entered the classroom.
“Hi,” I said, sliding my sunglasses to the top of my head.
Sarah took off into the classroom, bee-lining to the small trampoline they had in the corner.
Ms. Ivy stood up, following Sarah, “Remember Sarah, just jumping. It’s not safe to do gymnastics in the classroom.”
Sarah pulled the trampoline down from where it was propped against the wall and started jumping.
“Hey lady, happy birthday,” Beza said, stepping up next to me. Beza was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen up close. She was half-Sudanese, half-Native American and born in America. She had been an international supermodel before she had Aiden.
“Thanks,” I said, giving her a hug.
“You look hung-over,” she whispered, chuckling.
“I wish,” I said, “Then at least I would have had fun last night.”
“I bet you had fun this morning though,” she nudged me.
“Not yet, but I plan to,” I whispered.
“You’re bad,” she said, winking at me. “How old are you turning today anyway, twenty-five?”
“Yep, twenty-five, you got it in one,” I said.
“Yeah, sure. Me too.” She rolled her eyes with a smile and placed her hand on my arm. “So, I think I should tell you, Susan was hurt when Amy uninvited her to your birthday lunch.”
“What? Susan was uninvited?” My jaw slackened. What the hell was going on with my sister?
“Yes, this morning,” Beza sighed. “She just felt she was making some headway with your sister, but felt pretty persecuted that she’d be uninvited.”
“Oh, no, it wasn’t just Susan, I guess Amy uninvited everyone without telling me. I mean I know Amy has her weirdness, but I don’t think she was singling Susan out.” I looked over to where Sarah was still jumping on the trampoline, but now with Aiden. “It’s just so weird, I mean, I’m cool with just having lunch us two, Amy never has time for that. But why have me invite all my friends, just to rescind the invitation?”
“That is strange,” Beza said. “Well, are we still on for our birthday sleepover tonight?”
“Yes, as long as you and Susan are still cool with us sleeping over.”
“Are you kidding me? We’d never miss a birthday sleepover. You know what’s crazy, Susan pointed out this morning that you two have done this every year since you were Aiden and Sarah’s age.”
“Yeah, that is trippy… and those two have been doing it since birth,” I gestured to the pair, who were now taking turns on the trampoline.
The first bell rang and Beza whispered, “We should go.” Raising her voice, she called, “Aiden.”
“Aiden, honey, it’s time to go to your classroom,” Sarah called back, making all of us smile and Aiden laugh. Aiden ran over to us, and into me giving me a big hug.
I patted his braided hair. “Hey cutie. You are so sweet to visit Sarah every morning before class,” I told him.
“I like it,” Aiden said with a whistling voice, smiling up at me with his front teeth missing. “Happy birthday!”
When we exited the classroom, Beza said, “I wish you still dropped Sarah off every morning, I miss this.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said, “Though I’m so touched that you guys kept up this tradition even though she takes the bus now.” I shifted down my sunglasses so I could hide just how touched I was.
“Aiden gets as much out of it as Sarah does,” Beza said, giving me one final hug. She whispered, “Don’t look now, but Hunky Dad was right behind us and he was looking over here.”
“Looking at you, I’m sure,” I said, glancing down at my dirty jeans and sweatshirt ensemble. Beza on the other hand, was dressed in a tailored suit and she was, you know, a former supermodel.
Glancing over my shoulder she whispered, “Nope, definitely at you. Wait here for a minute, maybe he’ll finally talk to you.”
“Um, that’s okay. First, I’m kind of excited to get home, and second, I’m not even sure whether or not I brushed my teeth this morning. I don’t want this to be the picture he has of me.”
“As opposed to what? Sweatpants and a festival T-shirt?”
“You…” I said pointing at her, “… you B-word I can’t say in front of children.”
“Mom, I’m going to be late to class,” Aiden said.
Beza smiled at me. “I have to go. See you at five-thirty. Bring your sleeping bag.”
A second later, Hunky Dad passed me. He wore a suit, but then again, he always wore a suit. This one was charcoal grey. His blond hair was neat, combed back with a side part. As he passed, he sent a grin over my direction. “Hi,” he said, with a friendly smile.
My stomach did a little flip. Even though Beza had told me that Hunky Dad had been looking over at me, I had to resist the urge to check behind me to see if he was greeting some other parent.
“Hi,” I said.
“You’re Sarah’s mother, right?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said, seemingly only able to come up with one syllable words. I honestly didn’t blame myself. He was so gorgeous—like movie star gorgeous.
“My daughter Kay is in her class. She talks about her all the time. I think they’re friends.”
I bit my lip, looking back to room three where I’d just dropped Sarah off. I knew most of the parents from Sarah’s special day class and I definitely would have noticed Hunky Dad if he had been in there before. I was almost certain that his daughter Kay would have to be in Sarah’s typically-developing class she went to after lunch. To be sure, I asked, “In room seven?”
“Yeah, with Ms. Keller,” he said. “Would you ever be interested in setting up a play date with the girls?”
“Oh, um, maybe,” I said, glancing over at him to find him still smiling. I wasn’t confident on how to proceed without being rude. “I… I’ve only ever really set up play dates with parents of room three kids or with my friends. I think we do things a little differently than the other parents do.”
“No worries,” he said, “We can do it your way. I’m Patrick by the way.” He reached a hand out for me to shake.
“Jamie,” I said, shaking his hand.
“I used to see you around here every morning,” he said.
“Yeah, I work in the mornings usually, so Sarah takes the bus now.”
“At the bar?” he asked, holding the main door open for me.
“Not in the mornings.” I cocked my head. “Wait, you know where I work?”
He shrugged, looking adorably sheepish. “I take clients there once in a while.”
I stepped back out into the day, which had cleared up in the short time I’d spent dropping Sarah off. I turned back to Patrick. “Weird, I feel like I would have noticed you there. Am I that oblivious?” I mumbled the last part to myself.
“We don’t usually sit at the bar,” he said.
“Well, next time say ‘hi’ and I’ll buy you a drink,” I said.
He stepped closer to me and grinned. “I’d rather buy you one.”
Did Hell just freeze over, or was Hunky Dad, himself, flirting with me?
“Yeah,” I said in a teasing tone turning back to him, “But if you bought me a drink and I drank it, I’d get fired.” I winked. It was a barefaced lie; I could burn the bar to the ground and not get fired. I stopped when I reached my used Toyota at the curb.
He grinned. “Well, maybe—”
“Patrick!” A woman’s voice yelled.
He turned away and I looked over my shoulder to the source of the noise, feeling a little annoyed. I really wanted him to finish his sentence.
I didn’t feel any less annoyed when I saw who it was. Whitney Cooper rushed toward us in her high heels; she wore a dress and full makeup. The woman must wake before the sunrise to look that picture perfect. I was pretty sure she didn’t have a job either. And, I mean no disrespect to stay-at-home moms, more power to her, but if I didn’t work I would never get dressed up in the morning again.
“Patrick, I was hoping to run into you,” she said, marching toward us. Her gaze passed on to me, and the smile on her face faltered. She replaced it with a little too wide grin. “Oh, hello Jamie, how are you doing today?”
“Good, Whitney, you?” I said, though I really didn’t care.
“I am great, and happy I ran into you two. I presume you’re both going to the Principals and Principles fundraiser next weekend?”
“Next Saturday?” Patrick said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Yes, that’s the day,” Whitney said, smiling.
“Oh, yeah, sure, Kay and I will be there,” he said.
“Sorry, no,” I said.
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Whitney said with a small grimace at me. “This would be a great opportunity for you to help raise some money for all those services you are demanding for your child.”
I gritted my teeth at her. I was pretty sure if I drop kicked her here in the parking lot in front of the school, no one would believe it was an accident. “What services are you exactly referring to here, Whitney?” My calm delivery of the question was Oscar-worthy.
“Oh, the ones you and your husband are so vocal about in the school board meetings,” she said, flashing another plastic smile my way.
“Do you mean when I said that the school board shouldn’t lay off one of the two SDC teachers and combine the classes? Are you referring to when I said that having thirty-three SDC children aging between four and eleven in one classroom was not acceptable to their parents? That their vast age differences, overwhelming numbers and varying levels of disabilities will not be conducive to providing these children with a safe and intellectually supportive atmosphere? Are those the services you’re talking about?”
She shook her head. “Obviously, this is a very sensitive subject and you look like you had a long night.” She looked up to my messy ponytail as if it was pitiable. “It’s unfortunate that there’s just not enough money in the budget for—”
“But there’s enough for a dance instructor to come in to teach the children daily?”
“Dance is very important” she said, looking affronted. “It is arguably essential for children’s development. And not every family has the money to send their children to private dance classes.”
“Says one of the richest parents in the school to one of the poorest,” I grumbled.
She sighed, shaking her head. She was cool as the morning frost and I was ready to spill over with hot tears. Patrick the Hunky Dad had been following the conversation back and forth with his gaze, but shifted a little to stand beside me so that we both looked over at Whitney.
Whitney rolled her eyes as if the whole conversation was ridiculous. “Please don’t make this personal, Jamie. And, as I said, the fundraiser next week is essential so the school can have both dance class and services for those with special needs. I would think that you would be jumping up to help.”
“Unfortunately, I work Saturday nights,” I said.
“Oh, yes, at that bar. I forgot.” She gave me another icy smile. “Well perhaps your husband could come in instead. He’s always so passionate at the meetings, I’m sure he’d be happy to help. He’s a mechanic, isn’t he? They don’t work long hours.”
Rolling back my shoulder, I told her, “Cameron isn’t my husband, he’s just a friend.”
She blinked at me, and then looked down at my wedding ring. “Oh,” she said.
I touched the wedding band, twisting the ring around my finger. Patrick also looked down at my hand.
It was so awkward that this guy, of all guys, had to witness this school-side drama.
From Whitney’s small smile, I could tell she didn’t believe for a minute that Cameron was simply a friend. Honestly, if any other woman told me that Cameron was their ‘friend’, I’d doubt it too. He was just too sexy, plain and simple. And even though I didn’t care what Whitney thought of me, my daughter was going to go to this school for a while, and Whitney was the head of its PTA.
My mother always said that the best time to kill gossip was before it ever began, and being a teacher, my mother would know. I hated talking about what happened with Logan, but I could practically feel Whitney heating her iron to brand me with a big ‘A’ for adultery.
I looked between both their faces, and then exhaled. “My husband died about a year ago. I still wear the ring at work; I must have forgotten to take it off. Cameron was my husband’s best friend and he helps us out a lot.”
“Oh wow, I’m sorry,” Whitney said, giving me a ‘your life sucks’ look.
Patrick, however, didn’t look at all surprised. He gave me a sympathetic straight lipped smile.
I nodded. “Thanks. Anyway, I can’t make it to your fundraiser and I have to go now. So, good luck with it all.” Waving, I crossed up to my car door and crawled inside.