Sunday, November 30, 2014


He found her in the dark with a bottle resting beside her. She knew it was him—no normal human being was that tall, that muscled, and that graceful. She turned her eyes to the window and raised the vodka to her lips, letting it burn her throat and chest, warming her.
"Go away."
"Didn't come to work today."
"Fuck work."
"Don't come to work, don't get paid."
"Don't care."
She felt him kneel beside her, his body heat scorching her, the scent of sandalwood surrounding her as a band of muscle shot out in front of her and he yanked the bottle from her. She grabbed for it and he moved his hand away, Reese pitching forward as he did so. She landed half on him and shoved him the rest of the way down, satisfaction swimming through her inebriated brain as his head thunked against the floor.
"You reek," he told her, effectively maneuvering them both to sitting positions so that they were no longer touching.
"Fuck you."
"Drunk too."
"What is it with you and saying the most obvious things? I also smoke, fuck a lot of men, and enjoy saying fuck just as much."
His jaw tightened and he wordlessly got to his feet, walking out of the living room and into the kitchen. When she heard the sound of liquid meeting sink, Reese scrambled to her feet and tried to run for the booze, but she ended up stumbling instead and banging her knee against a corner of the wall. Cursing, she hobbled into the small kitchen.
"You're wasting it!" She reached around him, but he just moved to the side, only righting the bottle once it was empty. "You're an asshole," she told him.
He shrugged. "Take a shower and get to the shop. Got an appointment in forty minutes and can't be babysitting you all day."
Crossing her arms, she said, "No."
Two pale brown eyebrows lifted as he studied her. Shrugging again, he moved for her, grabbing her around the waist and tossing her over his broad shoulder before she could assemble a protestation. Amid screeching and pounding on his back, Leo took her to the shower, dropped her into the tub, and turned cold water on her. She inhaled sharply at the shocking sting of it, instantly shivering. The curses became louder and more vulgar as she sat under the spray of water.
“Ready to work now?”
“Fuck you!” He aimed the spout directly at her face and she sputtered as water tried to drown her, moving to her knees and crawling to the other end of the tub, though that didn't help much. “Turn it off!”
“Coming to work?”
“Yes, damn it! Yes.” The absence of water was immediate, the trembling of her limbs turning uncontrollable. She looked up at him, feeling beat down in a way she never had before, and she hated him for it, for him to be the one to take her bravado away, for him seeing her so vulnerable. That blank expression customary to his features lifted minutely, a softening of his eyes the only indication he had a heart.
Without speaking, he left, and she blinked at the heat of the tears mingling with the water dripping down her face. Crouching on her knees, she hung her head, shudders sweeping through her, pain tightening her throat. She couldn't do this anymore. Why did she even bother? She held her face, closing her eyes, and tried to breathe. When she heard the return of his heavy footsteps, her pulse picked up in part trepidation and part gratefulness. She’d thought he’d left, expected it.
She looked up to see a towel near her face, and beyond it, he stood stoic and silent, watching her with his secretive eyes. Averting her face to wipe the tears away, she stood on weak legs and grabbed the towel from him, covering her face with it.
“Go away,” she whispered.
He did, and again an ache went through her heart at the thought of him leaving, but all he did was go into her bedroom. When she realized that’s where he’d gone, she dropped the towel with a frown and sprinted after him.
“What the hell are you doing?” she demanded when she found him rifling through her underwear drawer.
“Need dry clothes.”
She snatched a sock from his hand and shoved him away from the dresser. “I can find my own clothes, thanks.”
He stayed near the bed, just standing there. His dark eyes were burning her up, never once shying from her. She could feel them on her like the imprint of redemption never to be hers, merely close enough to endlessly tease her.
“You can leave now,” she told him when the tension became too thick. His nearness was weirding her out, making her nervous. She didn’t like him so close, and especially in her bedroom. She felt exposed—her soul was bared for him to analyze. She wanted him to go.
He didn’t go.
Through the mirror above the dresser, their eyes met. Damn if her body didn’t react to the shared look through the reflective glass—the darkness of his stare, the mere fact that he stood behind her, even if he was a couple feet away and out of touching distance. The attraction couldn’t just be on her side. How could he not feel it too? She knew men. She knew when one wanted her. He had to want her, even if in some small, hated way.
She slowly turned, aware that her thin shirt didn’t leave much for him to wonder about.
His lips pressed together as she moved toward him. “Don’t.”
“Don’t what?” She paused, searching for a clue, something to let her know he wanted her as much as she wanted him.
When he didn’t say anymore, Reese raised a hand and he immediately caught it within his, halting its progress. He gently squeezed, a warning in his eyes. Just that simple touch made her tremble. Her pulse picked up. He was strong, warm. Leo was good, better than she would ever be. He symbolized everything she was not, and she wanted to pretend she was good, just for a moment. Her eyes stung, and the longer he continued to hold her wrist, the more she needed him.
Reese stared into chips of flint as she pushed forward, feeling him tense as her breasts brushed against his arm. She pressed closer, every part of her front touching his in some way. She could feel him, feel the hardness of his muscles and everything else, through his clothing. His body responded even as he was moving back. Sex was something she did to feel good. She knew it was wrong, knew using her body and letting others use it as well only damaged her more, but it was the only power of any kind she had.
But that was different. What she wanted from Leo was unknown to her, just beyond reach, but close enough to realize if she let herself.
“Please, Leo,” she whispered, her eyes begging for something she didn’t understand.
He looked down at her, even his height and width, constructed to intimidate, instead creating a safe haven for her. The man with little words still said so much with his body language, most of it conflicting. His eyes told her no, his body told her yes. His hard mouth wanted to kiss her, his elegant fingers wanted to mold her into some form of art, his body wanted to claim her. At the same time, he was repelled by her. That, she at least, understood.
She wanted him to fix her, to heal her. She wanted him to take the pain away, even if all that did was produce more pain. When he moved for her, she tensed, her breaths quickening. His calloused hand reached up, fingered a strand of short blond hair, and caressed the side of her face. The simple tenderness of it made her eyes tear up again. Her mouth quivered and she looked down. That wasn’t what she’d expected, not from him. Not from anyone, but least of all, from him.
He wrapped his arms around her, careful to keep their lower halves from touching, and he hugged her tightly. At first, she remained stiff, shocked, unsure whether she should push him away or not. Her sister, so many years ago, was the last person she’d allowed to hug her or that she’d initiated hugging. This was foreign and awkward.
His heart beat close to her ear and she pressed the side of her face to his chest, listening. She focused on how his chest rose and lowered with each breath he took, how his warmth surrounded her like a blanket, his scent filtering through her senses, bringing peace with it. It was just a hug—a lame, insignificant hug. Why did she feel so safe inside this man’s arms?
As soon as she realized her thoughts and the repercussions of this moment and what it made her feel, she shoved him back. He staggered a few steps, the footboard of the bed halting him. There was nothing in his face, no hint of his thoughts or emotions as he looked at her.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Burnt Edges by Dana Leipold: Giveaway

Title: Burnt Edges

Author: Dana Leipold

Published: October 21st, 2014

Word Count: 56,000

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Content Warning: contains sexual abuse and domestic violence

Age Recommendation: 18+

Abuse or an uncertain future. This is Laurel Lee Page’s choice when she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy at 18. Born into a broken family, all she has ever known is guilt and shame. No matter what she does or who she meets, Laurel appears to be living a condemned life but she is determined to find independence and freedom in spite of her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt. Can Laurel see that she is in a powerful position, poised to break the cycle of abuse? Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s era, Burnt Edges is based on true events and proves that strength can be found even in the most horrific situations.

Laurel decided that Rusty was Mother’s favorite child. The afternoon in the garage had been proof. But because he often took the brunt of Father’s anger, she felt a bizarre kinship with him. She also loved the stories he would tell when they had nothing to do. He would make up tall tales like the one about spacemen who came to Earth to taste hamburgers because they had none on Mars. He described them as little green men with antennae.
“Whenever they come to visit, people find their hats miss-ing, because the Martians steal them to conceal their antennae,” Rusty said.
“That’s just silly,” Laurel said.
Gerry sat in the dirt, playing with rocks and half-listening. Laurel thought he’d rather be playing football or punching some kid, so he sometimes got bored of the stories.
“No, it’s true, really.”
“What did they do to hide their green skin?” Laurel asked.
“They also steal women’s pancake makeup and put it all over their faces. Helps them blend in.”
“Ew, they wear girl’s makeup?” Gerry said, sticking out his tongue.
Laurel giggled, imagining Martians wearing makeup and hats just to get a taste of a hamburger.
“Why don’t they just steal the recipe and learn how to make hamburgers on Mars?” Laurel thought she’d caught Rusty off guard with this question.
“They tried that once, and it was a disaster,” he said, pick-ing up rocks and throwing them against the fence in their backyard. “Yeah, it almost wiped out the whole Martian race.”
“What’d they do, get all sick and throw up?” Gerry laughed at his answer.
Rusty threw a rock at Gerry but missed him. “No, moron.”
He kept throwing rocks without saying anything. Laurel thought he was trying to come up with a good story. She wait-ed another moment.
“Well, what happened?” she asked.
“I’ll tell ya! Don’t rush me!”
He stopped throwing rocks and sat Indian style, his elbows resting on his legs, hands clasped together so he was leaning forward a bit.
“The explorer Martians who had just come back from Earth brought the hamburger recipe to the King of Mars. They told him about the most delicious food they’d ever tasted and that they had brought the secret to it. The king was excited and told his royal cook to make up a batch, but they don’t have meat on Mars.”
Rusty paused, and Gerry rolled his eyes, waved his hand, and climbed the rope up to the tree house. Rusty watched him, but Laurel was listening, waiting for Rusty to tell the rest of the story.
“Go on,” she said.
“Nah, no one cares about the dumb old story,” he said.
“I do! Tell me!”
“All right, but it’s horrible!”
“I don’t care. Tell me!”
“Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Rusty paused and then he began again. “So the cooks tried to figure out what to do. They didn’t want to tell the king that there was no meat. Once a cook had told the king he was all out of Martian mush-rooms and the king executed him. They thought and thought about what to do, and then they called in the royal jester.”
“The jester? What does he know about cooking?” Laurel asked.
Laurel looked confused.
“So the jester came in, and the cooks smashed him on the head and put him in a boiling pot. Once the Jester was done cooking, they ground him up into bits and fed him to the king.”
Gerry must have heard about the cannibalism. He peeked his head through the hole in the tree house. “That’s disgust-ing,” he said, loud enough for Rusty and Laurel to hear.
“The king loved it and ordered the cooks to make more. So they did. This time they called in the royal guard, bopped him on the head, boiled him up, and fed him to the king. The king couldn’t get enough of those hamburgers, so he made a royal decree stating that the official food of Mars was hamburgers.”
Gerry had the tree house door open and was sitting on the floor with his legs hanging out. Laurel shook her head.
“The cooks went through the whole Martian Royal Army, the royal court, and most of the Martian population before the king caught on. He ended up executing the cooks, but now the King of Mars comes to visit Earth himself, because he loves hamburgers.”
“That’s the dumbest story I ever heard,” Gerry said.
“If it’s so dumb why did you listen to it?” Rusty answered back.
“Hamburgers aren’t that good,” Laurel said. “Not as good as pizza.”

About the Author:

Dana Leipold is a freelance writer, author, and member of the Association of Independent Authors and Creativity Coaching Association. She has self-published two books: a collection of limericks in Dr. Seuss-style for adults entitled, Stupid Poetry: The Ultimate Collection of Sublime and Ridiculous Poems, and a non-fiction book entitled, The Power of Writing Well: Write Well. Change the World, to help writers get their message heard, create stories that connect, and leverage the power of writing well. In addition, she coaches other writers on story structure, messaging, and writing skills so they can achieve their dreams to become published authors. Leipold lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.


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Friday, November 21, 2014


Hello, you fabulous Zartians! For those of you anxiously awaiting the arrival of Roomies (try saying that three times fast), it is finally HERE. Prepare to bask in the wondrousness of laughter, sarcasm, and of course, love.

Genre: NA Rom-Com


Graham Malone is my roommate, my personal eye candy, the reason I get up in the morning smiling (that could be from the illicit dreams I have about him too, I suppose. Let's move on.). He's also beautiful to look at, but his heart is where his true beauty lies. Take away the exterior and the interior still shines.

I love him. I mean, I'm pretty sure I do, having never been in love before. Anyway, it seems legit.

And now his brother Blake is here, and, well, he's the complete opposite of Graham. Sarcastic, brooding, and totally available. But he's leaving soon, and Graham's the one I want. I shouldn't have to remind myself of this, right? I wouldn't have to if Blake would quit looking at me like I'm something yummy and he's starving.

Here's a toast to roomies; the ones you should never fall in love with. Or something.


The apartment is dark and quiet when I get home, which is odd because it's not even ten yet. I stumble around in the dark, not wanting to turn on any lights—why, I am not sure. Because Graham turned them all off, I suppose, and turning even one on, would be letting him win, in some stupid, childish way. But, hey, have I ever once said I was mature? If I did, I was totally lying. Just so you know.

“Why is it that you say you don't have a thing for my brother, and yet every time I turn around, you're with him?” The voice is low, too even to be natural, and creepy since there is no body to accompany it.

“Why are you turning around all the time? Maybe you turned around a few times and got super dizzy so you just think you're still spinning around, only you really aren't,” I spew forth in a rushed manner only a truly gifted person is capable of.

A light turns on and I feel all 'naughty girl caught in the act'. Of what, I don't know. I blink in the sudden light and focus on Graham's form. He's standing against the wall opposite me with his arms crossed. I pay a little too much detail to his bare chest, but I am merely reacquainting myself with a sight I have missed, so it's totally acceptable. His golden hair is standing up in a few spots, he's sporting a scowl, and he looks so good my mouth goes dry.

“You know he needed someone to talk to.”

“They have shrinks for that. Since when is he your responsibility? Last time I checked, even with how orally gifted you are, you do not have a license to be dragged into the mess that is Blake's mind.”

Orally gifted. Why did my face just burst into flames? And I feel like giggling. I school my features into a mask of calmness. “What happened to being real? What’s really bothering you?”

He gives me a look, shaking his head. “You know what I find funny? Women say they want a nice guy, but who do they usually go for? Not the nice guys. Any woman ever given the choice between someone sweet and someone rude, takes the rude guy. And you know why? Because women like to think they want the nice guys, but they really don't. Nice guys look good on paper, but in real life, not so much. Women don't even know what they want, so how do they think men are ever going to figure it out?”

“That should be on a shirt. And are you trying to imply something?”



I’m the nice guy here.” He rubs his face, giving me a bleary-eyed look as his hands drop to his sides. “I feel like a complete ass, but I have this—this insecurity inside of me, telling me you want Blake. It’s this monster of doubt and I keep telling it to shut up, but it just isn’t going away.”

“Well, I want you to seduce me, but that isn’t happening either, so I have my cross to bear as well.”

“What?” His voice is faint.


Graham’s expression tells me he didn’t appreciate that jab. “What happened to being real?” he mocks.

I scowl. “Can you make brownies again? I have too many clothes on.”

His jaw tightens. “There are brownies in the kitchen.”

“It's just not the same as when they come fresh out of the oven.”

“Did you sleep with him?” His voice is blunt, razor-edged. He doesn't even sound like Graham anymore. I thought I would like that, but I don't. I want old Graham back. He was so much sweeter.

My good humor dissipates likes droplets of water under the sun as his words sink in. “You did not just ask me that.”

He shrugs, his shoulders stiff under the guise of nonchalance he is trying to portray. “You said if you didn't get it from me, you could get it from him. So? Did you?”

“You know, I change my view on you. You...are an asshat.”


Whatever. I'll give him whatever. My mouth puckers up in distaste and I storm past him to get to my room. He grabs my arm as I pass by, but I jerk it away. I slam the door behind me and slide down its length, my butt firmly planted in the carpet beneath me. I stare into the darkness, seeing nothing but blobs of black over more blobs of black. What has happened to us? Our relationship used to be so effortless. We've turned into these two insane people that snap at each other and make little sense. I mean, I'm pretty much the same, but Graham? What the hell happened to Graham?

You happened to Graham.

Shut it.

I figure he's gone to bed, but then his voice talks from the other side of the door, startling me so that I kick my leg out and my foot connects with my bed. I inwardly curse, rubbing at the throbbing toe as I listen.

“You want to know why I chose to be a golf instructor?”

So you can flirt with women all day? I bite my lip to keep the words unspoken. He's not really a flirt. He's just a super nice guy and women like to think he's flirting with them because he's attractive, and attention from an attractive guy is hard to come by sometimes. I have it all figured out. Don't ask how many hours I spent analyzing it all.

“I hate confinement. I acted like I didn't know what Blake was talking about when he said the same, but...I know exactly what he meant. I just—I didn't want you to know how truly messed up my childhood was. Blake has no problem playing the victim in his own twisted, sarcastic way, but I can't do it. I won't.”

There are other jobs that require being outside, my hateful side sneers.

“I mean, yeah, there are other jobs I could have picked and still been outside.”

I whip my head around to frown at the door.

“But I actually do like golf. And I like teaching people something they want to learn, not something they have to or need to learn.”

“Why are you telling me this?” I whisper, not sure if he can hear me or not.

Silence is my answer for a long time, and then, quietly, he says, “I just want you to know me. All of me. Even the asshat parts, but especially the non-asshat parts.”

I twist around so that my head is resting against the door, and somehow, I feel that Graham's is as well. I do know him. And I love him—every part of him, even the ones that would be considered flawed by many. I have to, 'cause I have been given no less of the same from him. Friends or roommates, lovers or nothing, he's always cared about me, even when I was probably unlikable.

I hear him sigh. “Good night, Kennedy.”

“Good night, Graham.”



Monday, November 10, 2014

Aftermath by Sandy Goldsworthy

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Title: Aftermath
Series: The AfterWorld Saga
Author: Sandy Goldsworthy
To Be Published: December 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Page Count: 361
Genre: Paranormal Romance Action Adventure
Content Warning: Adult language, violence, and sexual content
Age Recommendation: 14+
After losing her father, Emma Bennett moves to her aunt’s small town of Westport to finish out her senior year of high school. Emma wants to forget the pain and loss of the past few weeks, finding relief in the company of Ben Parker—a local boy who she has an instant attraction and uncanny connection with. When Ben seems a little too preoccupied with other responsibilities and has no time for her, Emma turns to the town’s hottest flirt—Lucas Crandon—for affection. Unfortunately, she realizes a little too late that, sometimes, bad boys really can be bad for you.

Life as an undercover agent for the Afterworld’s Bureau of Investigation isn’t an easy job. When Ben Parker finds his soul mate, Emma, in a small town, he finds himself forced to choose between doing his job or rekindling a relationship with the love of his existence. After Ben is notified that a notorious immortal is loose somewhere near Westport, he realizes that his love life will just have to wait. There is a criminal to apprehend before he can have his girl.

When lives are at stake and immortals are on the loose, can two soul mates find their happy ever after?

About the Author
Sandy Goldsworthy was born and raised in a small Wisconsin town. Her passion for writing began when her high school English teacher inspired her to be more descriptive in her work. Today, Sandy is writing the second book of Emma and Ben’s story. When she’s not writing, Sandy enjoys spending time with her husband, Mike, and two children, Brittany and Kyle, or playing with her English Mastiff, Miles.


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

White Chalk: Giveaway

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White Chalk
TitleWhite Chalk
Author: Pavarti K Tyler
Published: July 2013
Word Count: 65,000
Genre: Literary Fiction, Coming of Age
Content Warning: Adult themes and sexual content
Age Recommendation: 15+
Chelle isn’t a typical 13-year-old girl—she doesn’t laugh with friends, play sports, or hang out at the mall after school. Instead, she navigates a world well beyond her years.
Life in Dawson, ND spins on as she grasps at people, pleading for someone to save her—to return her to the simple childhood of unicorns on her bedroom wall and stories on her father’s knee.
When Troy Christiansen walks into her life, Chelle is desperate to believe his arrival will be her salvation. So much so, she forgets to save herself. After experiencing a tragedy at school, her world begins to crack, causing a deeper scar in her already fragile psyche.
Follow Chelle’s twisted tale of modern adolescence, as she travels down the rabbit hole into a reality none of us wants to admit actually exists.

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About the Author

Pavarti K Tyler

Award-winning author of multi-cultural and transgressive literature, Pavarti K. Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway. Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry for several international law firms.
She now lives with her husband, two daughters, and two terrible dogs. She keeps busy working with fabulous authors as the Director of Marketing at Novel Publicity, and by penning her next novel.

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'Twas the Night by Robin Reed: Giveaway

Title: ‘Twas the Night

Author: Robin Reed

Published: November 8th, 2012

Word Count: 35,000

Genre: Horror Comedy

Content Warning: Comedy Horror Violence

Age Recommendation: 13+

Rollo is the overworked, stressed-out Head Elf at the North Pole. As he prepares for Christmas Eve, he has to deal with toys that look like they’re having sex, terrorist reindeer, and worst of all, the sudden death of Santa Claus. Rollo has to save Christmas after he finds out that Santa is not just dead — he is undead.

‘Twas the Night is a novella of approximately 35,000 words. It is a satire and contains adult language and themes.

It wasn’t a fit night out for man nor elf. But then it never was at the North Pole, where it gets so cold that Frosty would freeze his snowballs off. The view from Rollo’s office window was darkness. Driving snow rattled against the pane, and the wind howled like a six year old who got nothing but socks for Christmas.
When he first got to the North Pole he thought the view was spectacular. In the sunny season the fantastic ice formations and the reflections of sunlight through them were something to see. But it never changed, and after a few hundred years anything can become boring. He shook his head and sighed. He was a long way from the woodlands of his youth, where he had nothing on his mind but frolicking and scaring the occasional woodcutter.
Rollo shouldn’t have been staring out the window and thinking about times long gone. It was the busy season, and there was a lot of work to do. He took a sip of coffee and turned to the large computer monitor on his desk.
There was a Facebook message from Jay, asking if they were still on for poker on Thursday. Rollo couldn’t think about that, or anything, until after the delivery. He decided to answer later. He opened reports from his staff. There was a problem in inventory. A whole container of talking Barbies were missing. They had to be in the complex somewhere, but nobody could find them.

About the Author

Robin Reed is the author of a strange collection of books. She writes science fiction, horror, humor, and humorous science fiction and horror. She was born in Chicago but found her way to Los Angeles, swearing to never again experience a midwestern winter.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Wanted: Giveaway

Title: The Wanted

Series: The Woodlands Series, Book 4

Author: Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Published: October 31st, 2014

Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing

Page Count: 363

Genre: YA Mature Dystopian Romance

Content Warning: Graphic Violence

Recommended Age: 16+
What would you be willing to sacrifice to get what you Wanted?

It’s the question facing both Rosa and Joseph as they are pushed and pulled in unimaginable directions.

It’s the question Superior Grant answered with a resounding, “Anything and everything.”

The only thing they want is to be back in each other’s arms. But what will it cost them to get there?

Separated after a failed mission, they are caught in dual hells. Joseph, sinking as he struggles to face what he did to escape and who he had to leave behind. Rosa, straddling the divide between fighting the evil, calculating Superior Grant and trying her best to stay alive.

When what they Wanted seems unreachable, can they find the strength–the will–to keep trying? To keep fighting? And find their way back to each other and to Orry?

About the Author

Lauren Nicolle Taylor is a 33-year-old mother living in the tiny, lush town of Bridgewater on the other side of the world in Australia. She married her high school sweetheart and has three very boisterous and individual children. She earned a Bachelors degree in Health Sciences with Honours in Obstetrics and Gynecology and majored in Psychology while minoring in Contemporary Australian Writing.

After a disastrous attempt to build her dream house that left her family homeless, She found herself inexplicably drawn to the computer. She started writing, not really knowing where it may lead but ended up, eight weeks later, with the rough draft of The Woodlands.

In 2013, Lauren Nicolle Taylor accepted a publishing contract with Clean Teen Publishing. Her first published novel, The Woodlands, was released in August 2013 and quickly became a best seller. The second book in The Woodlands Series titled: The Wall, was published in October 2013 and followed suit, maintaining it’s position on the best seller charts for three months in a row.

I searched for movement, but I could see none. My eyes squinted and strained, staring at the side of the concrete wall. Smooth, dull, and perfectly curved.
A puff of dust pushed out from the wall like a hard cough. A few moments later, a small, popping sound followed.
Then sirens wailed thinly as if mildly displeased. The only indication of how serious the situation was seemed to be the way all the lights swung around to focus on the explosion site.
The screen opened in the sky minutes later like daylight had cut through the night accidentally. The clouds were the perfect backdrop for the show. I waited, barely breathing, as the video began.
I didn’t notice Elise until she sat down with a thump next to me. “Great view,” she said breathlessly, pulling her sleeves over her hands.
I wondered why she’d followed me up here, but I tried to hide my annoyance.
“Yes, it is,” I replied absently. We were silent as the video played through.
She started talking just as Rosa appeared in the lines of pregnant girls. “How are you feeling? Should I check…?”
“Sh…” I said, putting my hand up to her face.
She crossed her arms over her chest and pouted like a child. “That was really rude,” she muttered.
I groaned, pulling my hair back with my hands and froze, my hands fixed over my head. There she was. I stared into the clouds, trying to will them closer.
“Rosa,” I whispered before I could stop myself. She blinked back at me, sad, disappointed. How could you leave me? she seemed to say.
“I’m sorry,” I told the clouds and the image of her from two years ago. That Rosa loved a different Joseph. I tried not to think about the Rosa of now and what was happening to her at this exact moment, because my mind conjured horrible things.
Elise played with her fingers. “It’s ok… you’re obviously stressed about something.”
“What? No.” I wasn’t talking to her.
God, she sounded like a doctor when she talked.
“Wow, look at that girl with heterochromia. Amazing eyes. She’s beautiful.” Elise said, pointing in the sky.
You don’t even know.
I should have told her, that’s Rosa, but I didn’t. I was hoarding her memory. I didn’t want to share it with anyone.
The image faded.
She was gone.
This was torture.



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