What?! Friday’s deserve a second helping of Fiction Focus!
Mary-Helen and Daniel L. Foxx’s “Charlie’s Girl” was released in May 2012 and is currently on the blog tour circuit from now until Feb. 3.
Keep reading for an excerpt from “Charlie’s Girl.”
During the summer thatÂ followed, Charlie and Nellie and little Rosalind drove westward across the country. TheyÂ arrived in Salt Lake City, and after attending the temple, spent a week sightseeing in Utah. They even sent a postcard with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple to Charlieâ€™s parents. It read:
Having a wonderful time. Leaving tomorrow for home by way of the Grand Canyon and Phoenix. Â Will pass through toÂ seesÂ you en route to Fla.Â
Charlie, Nellie & Rosalind
Grace left the card on the hall table as usual without explanation, but next morning she found it lying in pieces all over the hall rug. She sadly gathered up the bits of colored paper and slipped them into her apron pocket, just as the telephone rang.
It was a bad connection, but through the static, Grace could make out the voice on the other end of the line. It was an officerÂ with the highway patrol calling from somewhere in Arizona. There had been an accident, she thought she heard the voice say. He was calling because her name and phone number had been taped to the dashboard of the car in case of emergency. Her son, her Charlie, was dead . . . and Nellie too. Only the baby had survived, and she was lying in a hospital somewhere out there in a coma.
Grace let the receiver slip from her hand, oblivious to theÂ repeated questions from the other end of the line. She stood there in the big empty house, listening to the ghosts of the past whisperingÂ of days gone by. A breeze gently passing through the open kitchen window seemed to sweep the present away. Dazed, her soul reaching, stretching for a better time, Grace escaped the unbearable revelation she had received from Arizona. Without notice she left the present behind. She would not completely return for a long time.
In her mind, she seemed to hear the screen door slam, and through her glazed eyes Grace saw young Charlie tossing his school- books onto the sofa with careless abandon. How many times had he been told to take care of his things?
â€œIâ€™m home, Mom. Whatâ€™s for dinner?â€ he said with a wide grin.
Her eyes closed, and he disappeared. A tear etched a glistening path down her cheek. Through a mist she saw Charlie coming down the stairs in his best Sunday clothes with an oddly wrapped package and a handful of half-wilted daisies. Giving her a big squeeze and a kiss, he said, â€œHappy Motherâ€™s Day, Mom! Iâ€™ll love you forever!â€
Those words echoed in her head over and overâ€”â€œforever, foreverâ€â€”until a strange sight caught her eye. Charlie was gone. TheÂ telephone receiver was dangling near the floor. Who had left it offÂ the hook? She glanced about the room. Where was that boy? She retrieved it and hung it up, trying to remember what she was just about to do, when the phone began to ring again. It was Sam. He would be home in a few minutes for lunch.
What time is it? I must get everything ready, she thought. He didnâ€™t like late lunches, especially if he had taken the time to call first to give her ample warning. He likes pimiento cheese sandwiches, she thought, or is it Charlie who likes them? She didnâ€™t seem to be able to think straight. She had an awful headache. She felt as if she had forgotten something terribly important, but trying to remember it just caused the pain in her head to get worse. Well, no matter. Sheâ€™d better get those sandwiches ready. She reached inside her apron pocket for a Kleenex and found instead some colored bits of paper. She dropped them absentmindedly into an open vase on the piano as she passed by.