Progress, Book Review – Savannah at Midnight, Short Story – Three Blondes


I completed my first two goals of 2022.  The first was to revise and reorganize my debut novel.  I had to tell myself to just STOP, otherwise I would’ve continued to obsess over this thing and that thing, or I’d feel compelled to read through the whole thing a 10th time.   Yes, I realize I have some obsessive tendencies.  But, hey, they’ve mostly served me well up until now.   

 My second goal was to get my novel in the hands of a professional editor.  I researched four, selected one of the four and sent my manuscript flying through the ether for red-marking.  I’m not going to broadcast the editor’s name until I see what kind of job they do.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m braced for lots of edits – I’m just holding back to see to what level they’re substantive. 

 Turning my words over to an editor makes me almost as nervous as querying agents/publishers.  I know it shouldn’t unnerve me.  But, what if they tell me it’s unsalvageable garbage?  I know, I should instead concentrate on, what if they DON’T say it’s unsalvageable garbage?    I realize it’s unlikely that anyone will hit upon the exact word “unsalvageable” — unless, of course, they read this blog entry and decide to poke me with it.

It should get turned around in about five weeks. 

Another 2022 goal is to finish the first draft of my second novel.  That’s several months out. 

Oh, in other news:  I accidentally bought seeded grapes.  Ugh.

Book Review:  Savannah at Midnight by Cathleen Maza 

I picked up Savannah at Midnight by Cathleen Maza after I read the following excerpt in a promo:  “Forgetting her was his payment.  Never forgetting him was hers.”  They’re simple words, yet immensely haunting and seductive.

Part of what makes them so haunting and seductive is they promise there’s a secret.

Maza masterfully exposes the secret one tantalizing morsel at a time, through twelve separate, but related, tales.  But, like any unforgettable seductress, she holds back, promising there’s more to uncover in the story of lovely, tragic Savannah.  I crave more of these tales!

 As the words that hooked me indicated, this book is beautifully written.  While reading, I readily saw the scenes in my head with barely a notice to the words that projected those scenes.  That’s what outstanding writing brings to a reader. 

I love this book, and I hope there are more Haunting Savannah tales.

A note about the books I review:  Amazon has a service under which you can pay a set fee and read a large selection of books for “free” on your electronic device.  The service is called KindleUnlimited.  You don’t have to have a Kindle reader – you can read the books in your browser.  And, no worries about coronavirus or other germs on them.  😊

Short Story:  Three Blondes

“Go figure, “ Emma murmured sarcastically to herself as she looked at the departure board.  Her flight out of O’Hare was delayed by more than two hours – a typical day connecting in the Windy City.

She wandered down the concourse and got in line at Chili’s, Too!  After a few moments she noticed that the blond woman ahead of her in line was looking around impatiently for someone.  Upon taking notice of her, Emma was unable to keep from studying her.  Clearly the young woman was dressed to invite such attention:  midriff black sweater and low –rider jeans with a jangling silver “belt” through the belt loops and hooked to the ornament in her belly-button.

Emma acknowledged to herself that the girl —  really she couldn’t be more than 20 — looked hot.  I wish I ever looked that good.  Just as that thought flitted across her mind, the girl turned more toward Emma and waved wildly at someone behind her.  Emma, still assessing the girl, couldn’t help but note the enormous breasts popping out of the sweater’s plunging neckline.  No bra and no bounce.  I wonder what other help she’s had.

Without doubt her blond hair was not natural, and, in fact, was badly in need of a root touch-up.  At least my bleach job looks better than hers.  It’s the small things. . .

A young man stepped in front of Emma, and the girl threw her arms extravagantly around his neck like she hadn’t seen him in forever.  As she made obnoxious kissy kissy all over his face, he looked around uncomfortably.  “I just went to the bathroom,” he muttered.  “I know, but I missed you,” came the baby-talk reply.

With the guy still clearly reluctant, the young woman launched an open-mouthed assault upon his face.  By the time her hand snaked around to cup his ass, his reluctance was gone, and, Emma, mesmerized, watched their tongues work in and out of each other’s mouths.  For the love of God, get a room.  Hands were everywhere.  Everywhere.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to look away.  I shouldn’t be the one uncomfortable. 

Yet, she couldn’t take it, and looked away.  She remembered that “can’t keep your hands off each other” stage of her relationship with her ex, Dale.  It didn’t last long, but it was fun while it lasted.  Unlike our marriage.   They’d been divorced six months, and Emma hadn’t quite gotten over her bitterness.

She glanced back at the kids, and now they were standing inches apart gazing into each other’s eyes.   Oh, to be young and in love,

The hostess escorted the three people in front of the couple to a table, and the young man said, “C’mon, baby, let’s just see if we can just find seats.”

“No, Kevin,” was her reply.  “She didn’t tell us.”

But, Kevin went on, undaunted, while the young woman remained in line. 

“Kevin!” she whisper-yelled.  “Kevin, come back here.”  She stamped her booted foot and whisper-yelled again, “Kevin!”

Emma watched Kevin disappear into the crowded restaurant, and then returned her attention to the young woman who was childishly angry and not trying to hide it.  She sighed dramatically, crossed and uncrossed her arms and patted her foot impatiently.  Just when it appeared she was going in after him, Kevin returned. 

“She told me to get back in line,” he said with a big unabashed grin.  “It’ll probably be another 10 minutes.”

Almost before he could get his words out, the young woman sputtered, “Why do you always do stuff like that and leave me standing all alone?”

Emma was surprised at her words, and judging from the look on his face, Kevin was, too.  “Lisa,” he began, “I told you to c’mon.  I didn’t leave you standing all alone.”

“Well, you had no business taking off like that – we could’ve lost our place in line,” she said pettily.

Kevin ran his fingers through his dark hair as if hoping to find the right words, or the patience, or both to deal with Lisa’s petulance.  But, Lisa wasn’t done.

“You took off and left me standing alone at the bar last night.  And, it’s not the first time.”  She looked at him defiantly, daring him to deny any of it.  Kevin looked back at her like a deer caught in headlights.  Uh-oh,  Trouble in paradise.

Kevin still silent, Lisa went on.  “If you really wanted to be with me, you wouldn’t treat me like that.  You never take me out when you’re home and you go out with your friends, and…”

But Kevin had finally found his tongue.  “I’m going to hang out with the guys I only get to see a couple times a year.  It’s the GUYS.”

Lisa drew herself up and pointed a finger at him, getting ready to launch what promised to be a loud and passionate retort, when the hostess returned to seat them.

Whew!  I’d rather have them make out than have to witness that.

A moment later, the hostess returned to seat Emma.  As luck would have it, she took Emma to a table right beside Kevin and Lisa’s table, where at the moment, silence reigned. 

Emma pulled out the USA Today she’d purchased earlier.  But, she couldn’t help looking over the top of it to steal a glance at Lisa.  As expected, Lisa was in full pout – and shooting accusing glances Kevin’s way. 

But Kevin wasn’t engaging, and Emma found her attention drawn away when a child at another nearby group of tables blurted out, “He’s too fat to be allowed to live.”  The child’s family all found that a cute and funny remark, while several nearby overweight people either glared or looked away uncomfortably. 

Emma, who found airports one of the best places for people watching, tried to figure out how the family fit together.  More importantly, she was trying to figure out which of the adults were the asshats raising such a rude child. 

She was so engrossed in trying to pair adults with other adults and with children that she didn’t realize Kevin and Lisa had started talking again.  By the time she did, they were holding hands across the table and Lisa was saying, “It’s alright – just try not to do it anymore, okay, baby?”  Kevin pulled her hand across the table to kiss it.  And love wins again.

The server came around – for the second time – to take Lisa and Kevin’s order.  Lisa asked what the house wine was.  The server impatiently replied there was no house wine and pointed out that the menu showed the available selections.

“You don’t have a house wine?” Lisa blurted incredulously.

“No, ma’am,” replied the server in clipped tones.  Then he took the menu from her and turned it to the beverage list.  Lisa hemmed and hawed, and the server asked if he should come back.

“No, I’m just having trouble deciding – Kevin, you pick,” she said – in baby talk.  The look the server dropped on Kevin was enough to make Emma cringe under the weight of it from where she sat.

“Lisa, for crying out loud, order your lunch.  This man has a lot of other people to wait on,” Kevin said in a stage whisper.  Like me, for instance.

It ended up Kevin put in his order and then Lisa, after asking questions about just about every item on the limited menu, finally put in her order.  Then Kevin set off on a story about one of his buddies.

“When did you see him?” Lisa asked.

“I don’t know – I think it was back in November.”

“Really,” came the cold reply.

Silence followed, and then finally Kevin said, “What?  What now?”

“Well, if you saw him in November, then that means you were home and didn’t even call me.  OR, you found time to go visit him when you don’t have time to even call me.”  

Her complaints continued as both they and Emma ate their lunches.  Kevin told her to just eat her meal.  She pushed her plate away and launched a tirade about how Kevin didn’t introduce her to his college friends and kept her away from his family.  Uh-oh.  That ain’t good.

Kevin tried a few weak responses, but soon he was reduced to sighs and silence.  That’s when Lisa, for some reason, thought it the appropriate time to plead for them to take their relationship “to the next level.”  Oh, my God, she just doesn’t get it – he’s not in a relationship – she’s the wild piece on the side.

Fascinated, but simultaneously revolted, at what was unfolding at the table next to her, Emma flagged down the server to pay her check.  Waiting to get her change back, she heard Lisa say, “It’s not normal to not have more than two-word conversations for six months.”  Silence.  “It’s not.  It is not normal for your boyfriend to never call you, to always say he’s too busy to talk when you call him, to not even let you know when he’s come home from school.  IT IS NOT NORMAL.”

Evenly, Kevin replied, “No, it’s not.  It’s not normal for people who are actually boyfriend and girlfriend.”

He is not going to do this to her in an airport restaurant,  Please, not in front of me. 

“What are you saying?” Lisa demanded loudly.  “What are you saying to me?”

“Lisa, I thought you got it,” Kevin answered more quietly.  “After more than a year, I really thought you got it. 

Oh my God, he’s as clueless as she is,  What a freaking mess.  PLEASE bring my change back!  If it hadn’t been that she’d given the waiter $40 for a $22 check, Emma would’ve abandoned her money to not witness what was coming.

“Get what?  Are you dumping me?  Why?  What have I done,” Lisa, near tears, cried.

Kevin, in a wheedling voice said, “No, baby, I’m not dumping you.  What we have is fine, but. . .”

At just that moment, the waiter appeared with Emma’s change, and God bless him, he brought back enough small bills that she could just hand a few back to him and bolt from the restaurant.  Walking toward her gate, she was simultaneously wishing that neither Kevin nor Lisa was on her flight and that she could somehow know what their outcome was.

Miracle of miracles, Emma’s flight took off at the revised departure time, and there was no sign of either Kevin or Lisa.  Emma settled into her window seat, and as was customary for her, fell asleep before the plane even took off.  It wasn’t long before her slumber was abruptly ended by the person in the middle seat bumping against her. 

Expecting her row-mate to apologize, Emma turned toward her to say it was alright.  The woman next to her was unable to utter the expected apology as the good-looking man in the aisle seat had swallowed her tongue.  I am in hell.

The passionate kissing went on for several minutes, when Emma heard the man growl, “Oh, God, I want you.”  In response the woman laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that only served to make him moan and all but jump on top of her.  That assault resulted in the woman leaning back on top of Emma who quickly came to fear that she was about to serve as a human mattress for some mile-high club inductees.

After a few seconds, the woman became aware that she was all but in Emma’s lap.  She pushed the man away and whispered, “We’re not alone.”  Huh, now there’s an understatement.  YOU’RE ON A PLANE!. 

For the next few moments, the man (Steven) tried to talk the woman, whose name Emma now understood to be Caroline – pronounced in the Kennedy fashion — into going back to the lavatory with him.  Privy to every suggestive word and more, Emma felt like a forgotten cast member in a cheap porn flick.  Will this day never end? What the hell is wrong with people?

It was at this time that the flight attendants stopped with the beverage cart, and, mercifully, Steven ceased his begging.  Since  Emma was no longer pinned against the window,  she took the opportunity to look more closely at the amorous couple sharing the left side of Row 8 with her. 

Emma surmised that Caroline was approaching 40, but may well have been older and well-preserved.  Everything about her screamed high maintenance and high cost, from her cut and color job to her obviously big-name designer slingbacks.  She was slim and immaculately groomed, and amazingly after the passionate clinch she’d just extricated herself from, was calm and composed without a blond hair out of place.  Emma compared her to Lisa.  Of course, Caroline was much older and from the dim silhouette of her dark cashmere sweater either had her own breasts or had restrained herself more than Lisa had.  They were both bottle blondes, but Caroline’s color job was subtle and perfect.  Emma couldn’t call Caroline hot, but she was truly stunning in a way Lisa would probably never achieve.  Not even my hair color can compare to hers.

Steven was also stunning with thick dark hair, elegant hands, rugged features, and a hint of late-day shadow on his perfect jaw.  It was hard to tell how tall he was, but his knees almost touched the seat in front of him, so Emma assumed he was more than six feet. Emma found herself staring at his lips.  They were full, especially the lower lip, which had that bifurcated, cupid-bow shape that Emma found so very attractive on a man. 

A quick check of their hands told Emma immediately that they weren’t married (something she’d guessed already from their earlier behavior).  But, on Caroline’s right hand was a ring with the hugest cluster of high quality diamonds that Emma had ever seen outside a jeweler’s case. I wonder if he gave her that.  Her instincts told her that, no, Steven hadn’t purchased that ring.  It fit so well with the rest of the whole “Caroline package” that Emma was sure Caroline had selected it herself. 

“Oh!”“ Caroline exclaimed, “I forgot to call the kids before we took off.”

“Use the airphone,” Steven replied.

From the ensuing phone conversation, Emma learned that Caroline had two children, one of whom had had a piano recital earlier in the evening.  The child’s father had apparently attended, and the child was making a very strong point about her mother’s absence. 

“Cynthia, sweetie, you know I’d have been there if I could. . .now you know that this was the only time that Steven and I could take this trip, honey. . .you’ll have another recital in the spring and we’ll both be there. . .So, what pieces did you play? Cynthia?  Are you there honey?  Oh, hi, Robbie – where did Cynthia go?., , ,Oh, okay, yeah, tell Aunt Amelia I said hello.  ‘Bye.”

After hanging up the phone, Caroline said, “The kids send their love, Steven.”

Steven answered mockingly,  “Yeah, I bet they do.  Cynthia dropped the phone on you didn’t she?  You’ve gotta stop letting them walk all over you.  When we get married, we’re going to have a little talk about respect and attitude.”

Caroline tried to change the subject to the “fabulous” show they’d seen the night before, but Steven was not letting go. 

Emma decided that she needed a distraction from the bickering about Caroline’s kids that followed, and pulled out a book she’d brought along.  A few pages into it,  she started to fall asleep again, but came abruptly awake when she heard Steve ask, “So, when are we getting married?”

Caroline answered, “Oh, honey we don’t need to talk about that now.”

“Just when would be the right time to talk about it?” Steven asked.

“Later, honey.  There are things to consider, and I just don’t want to get into them right now,” Caroline said quietly.  Uh-oh. 

Silence followed, and Emma drifted back to sleep.  The couple began to talk again, but it didn’t fully rouse Emma until Steven said, “We’d already be married if I was making 500,000 a year.”

 Caroline acted as if she’d  misunderstood his point, patted Steven’s thigh, and said soothingly, “You’ll get there honey.  You’ve come so far, and you’re doing so well.” 

Amazingly, the deflection worked.  Caroline evidently knew how to work her man.  He started talking about his aggressive plan to get himself promoted again in the next few months.  Caroline said what apparently were all the right little encouraging phrases, because soon Steven had forgotten all about the wedding issue.  As Steven warmed to his subject, his disrespect for his boss, Charles, became more and more apparent.  Also, his arrogance and inflated self-worth came dancing into the light.  Soon Emma realized that he was putting on a show for herself and everyone else on the plane.  Caroline clearly was uncomfortably aware of it, too, and kept trying to get Steven to lower his voice.  Boy, I bet she’s thinking she’s created a monsterWhat a loudnouth.

Steven launched into another scenario where he was going to tell Charles what was what, and Caroline gently interrupted him, “Honey, you need to go easy there.”

“No, no, I don’t,” Steven said in an exasperated tone.  “I can take this company places, but your old man is gonna have to step into the 21st century.  Right now, he’s holding me back, and he’s holding the company back.” 

Caroline hesitated only a microsecond before whispering, “I know, I know honey, but you’ve got to go slow.  You’re already on shaky ground with Daddy, and. . .”

 “Good God!” he exclaimed.  “It’s your father isn’t it?  He doesn’t think I’m good enough for his little baby girl – not nearly as good as that asshole of a doctor you were married to.”  Wow.  He certainly circled back in a hurry. 

Caroline said something Emma didn’t catch, but Steven’s reply was quite audible.  “Goddamn it, Caroline, you’re a grown woman.  You can do what you want.  You have got to stop letting people run all over you.”  Steven launched a litany of the different ways Caroline’s father, mother and kids trampled her. 

As he ticked the list off on his fingers, Caroline’s demeanor changed.  She took on a bored look, sat back straight in her seat and examined her perfectly manicured fingers.  Finally, without even looking at him, Caroline said in a calm and authoritative tone, “That’s enough, Steven.”  Steven attempted to continue, but stopped cold when Caroline repeated chillingly, “I said that’s enough.” 

Ooh.  Nobody’s running this one.  She’s got everyone pretty much where she wants them.  Except for Steven.  Poor guy, he doesn’t know he’s on his way out.

No sooner had that thought evaporated then Caroline said in an offhand fashion, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you, I can’t make that ski trip next weekend.  An old friend has asked me to come stay for a few days, and we haven’t seen each other in ages.” 

They went back and forth for a while on who the friend was, why Steven couldn’t go too, etc., but Caroline held firm to her newly formed plans.  Steven, being supremely arrogant, of course didn’t recognize the beginning of the end, and lashed out angrily at Caroline for her making plans without consulting him.  Caroline replied nonchalantly, “We’re almost there, aren’t we,” and without waiting for an answer, pulled a compact out of her handbag and began retouching her makeup.

I wonder if he’ll get to keep his job.  Probably not.

After the plane landed and Emma was waiting for her luggage, she found herself strangely depressed thinking about the two couples with whom she’d just spent her travel day.  What makes the Kevins and the Carolines hook up with the Lisas and Stevens?  What makes the Lisas and Stevens unable to recognize that the Kevins and Carolines only view them as little more than a temporarily amusing distraction?

Then she got to what was really bothering her:   What made Dale treat me that way, and why did it take me so long to accept that it was over?

Emma drove home from the airport as the deepening blue of evening vied with the fading orange glow of sunset, and pulled into her driveway just as the very last resistant ray of twilight was snuffed out by the descending night.  Somewhere Lisa is crying.  And, one morning soon, Steven will awaken to find his world has shifted abruptly.  She felt a  gentle aching in her heart for the unexpectedly painful turn their lives had taken this day – a heartbreak she well knew.

Opening the door to her house, Emma was greeted with silence and darkness.  “Henry?” she called out.  She stepped into the living room, and called again, “Henry?”  In response, she felt a gentle rubbing on her leg as she flipped the light switch.  Dropping her bags, she scooped up the fat, black cat, and hugging him to her said, “Oh, Henry, I’m so glad it’s you I come home to.”

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