Oh well. Let's find a bit of happiness and entertainment in spite of what it's like outside. For today's segment, I'm sharing a bit from my NA Contemporary novel, Passing Loop. I'm in the beginning stages of finding this one a good home, but I can still share pieces of it until that happens without revealing too much.
For those of you who've read previous snippets from this story, the plot revolves around three very strong women (18-year old Chrissella, her mother Enya and the grandmother Lily Gran) representing three very different generations who are brought together in a blip of life tragedy. Although these women are the central part of the book, there are a few strong supporting characters whose presence are essential to the journey the ladies must take. One of them is George Cooper.
George not only watched Chrissella's mother, Enya, grow up, he also has a very special relationship with Lily Gran. I very much enjoyed creating the spirit he brought in the plot. He adds a fun, gentle and comforting contribution in these women's lives and I love the humor he adds to their banter. This snippet is my introduction of George Cooper, who you can tell from this short scene how much his character is enjoyed and needed.
I hope you enjoy this sample and, as always, feel free to share your comments.
“Who had the room down the hall where the door is shut?”
Her mother’s face flushed, then she tilted her head. “I said we’ll talk about this stuff later, okay? I told you there is a lot of heavy stuff to share and, for tonight, we’re just going to keep things light.”
Chrisella sighed. “Fine. Can I have a glass of wine?”
“A small one?”
“Half a glass?”
“A sip out of your glass?”
“Maybe, but don’t push it. Lily Gran is very against young people drinking. For a multitude of reasons.”
“Something else you’re going to talk to me about?”
“What? I am inquisitive. It’s in my nature.”
“I know. And it drives me insane.”
“You don’t have far to go on that one, you know.”
Enya stuck her tongue out. “Get the glasses on the table before your gran comes back downstairs or I won’t stop her from beating you with her cane.”
“I’d expect nothing less in this house.”
Chrissella walked over to get the cups and wine glasses. As she turned around, with her arms full of tumblers and very expensive stemware, a figure in the doorway almost caused her to drop everything she held.
A tall, lanky man stood beside the open door. He had very worn-in khaki pants and a beige work shirt on. The creases burrowed deep in his brow hinted to signs of long days outside, but the ones around his lips showed that he enjoyed laughing and smiling a lot. He held out a fistful of wildflowers to Chrissella, who was still aghast of what to say.
“Hi there little lady. My name is George Cooper. I’m guessing you’re Miss Lily’s grandgirl from the city. These here are for all of you ladies. They grow like crazy over at our place and thought you’d all enjoy ‘em. God knows we only have so much room inside for these blasted things.”
Chrissella’s voice was caught in her throat. She cleared it sharply then said, “Yes. I…I’m Chrissella. Gran said you were coming. Let me just put these on the table then I can try finding something for the flowers. I’m still learning where everything is.”
“Good grief, girl, no worries,” George said as he closed the door and took his shoes off. “Been visiting Miss Lily for years now and still learning how she likes things.” He winked.
“Well, goodness,” her mother said from behind her. “It’s so nice to see you again, Mr. Cooper.”
“Well for all that’s good in the world. Stop callin’ me ‘Mr. Cooper’. I think you’re old enough to just call me George, now. Don’t you?”
Enya laughed. “Okay…George. Mom should be down soon. She just went to change.”
“Mom?” Chrissella interrupted. “Does Gran have any vases? Mr. Cooper brought flowers.”
“Yeah. She keeps them in the same buffet where you got the wine glasses. There should be a few up on the top shelf.”
“I can’t believe it,” George said to Enya as Chrissella walked back to the buffet. “You don’t seem to have aged one bit. How is it that I’m looking decades older and you don’t seem to look any older than your daughter?”
Chrissella, who could see both of them in the reflection in the glass on the buffet door, did a dramatic eye roll.
“Oh, George. You always were a real lady’s man, ya big flirt.”
Laughter filled the hallway.
“Why don’t we go sit in the living room and wait for mom,” Enya said, gesturing with her hand in that direction. “She should be back down any minute.”
Chrissella chose a tall, crystal vase, filled it with water, gingerly put the flowers in then placed it in the middle of the dining room table. She took in the properly set table and all the amazing food, realizing it was probably the fanciest dinner she and her mom have had. Ever. They could never afford to go out anywhere that required more than one plastic fork or spoon and never had any need to set the table since they didn’t get to eat together very often with their crazy schedules. It was kind of nice to have that warm, family atmosphere even if it was a bit on the poshy side for her.
Not that I’m saying anything about it out loud.
Gran’s stern voice brought her out of her daydream. “Well, what the heck are you doing? You look right out of it just standing there staring at the table. What’s wrong with you? We have a guest to entertain.” She limped toward the doorway leading into the living room and waved for Chrissella to follow. “Good evening to ya, George. Glad you were able to make it.”
Chrissella noticed her grandmother’s voice softened when she spoke to Mr. Cooper.
“Well, now. Have ya ever known me to pass up an opportunity to sample your cookin’? Of course I made it.”
Gran’s cheeks tinged red. “Oh, go on. Your mother is the finest of cooks. Can we get you something to drink to start off with? Got all the regulars to wet your whistle. Unless you’d like a spot of tea instead.”
“I think I’d be happy to have my whistle dampened. How about a spiked iced tea? And make sure to pour one for yourself and this beautiful girl of yours.”
Enya put her hands up. “Oh none for me, thanks. Not a big fan of spiked anything.”
“That’s news to me,” Gran said. “Since when?”
“For a while now. Just doesn’t seem to agree with me anymore.”
“Well, it sure as Marvin it agreed with you back in your young days. Boy, I remember some nights--”
“Alright, alright,” Enya interrupted. “I’m pretty sure George doesn’t want to hear stories about my teenage stupidity.”
“Maybe not, but I’d be interested in hearing about some of that dumbness,” Chrissella grinned at her mom.
Enya made a slicing motion across her throat with her index finger. Chrissella stuck her tongue out.
“Spiked tea it is, then,” Gran said, lowering herself into a recliner chair and setting her cane beside her. “And please accept my apologies for these two. There’s a reason we won’t be going out very often.” She cricked her neck at Enya. “If you wouldn’t mind? I just got settled.”
Enya nodded, then disappeared into the kitchen.
Chrissella rubbed at a hangnail on her thumb, suddenly feeling exposed and uncomfortable. Just when she was about to offer to go help her mother, Lily Gran said, “Well, don’t just stand there. That’s twice in the last five minutes that you’ve taken on a statue stance. Sit yourself down on the couch with George there and see if you can keep a conversation going.”
“Oh let her alone now, Lil,” George said, leaning into the couch. “Not easy getting pulled away from your home and having to start all over at her age. You should know all about that.”
“Surely you aren’t comparing having to move away from your country because of war and the fear of being killed simply because your religion is different to moving two provinces over to help an old lady keep her house up?”
George grinned. “First off? You are no helpless old lady. Your doctor only asked you to get Enya up here so you could heal and such properly. Otherwise you’d be out there planting, raking, plowing and everything under the sun, never giving your hip a proper rest.”
Gran waved her hand. “Bah. You’re the one who suggested I get her up here to the doctor. Which, by the way, I still have to ‘thank’ you for.”
“Secondly,” George ignored Gran’s teasing. “Moving from a big city to a small town can be a big deal to anyone, especially a young person.”
Chrissella coughed. “Uh…hello? Sitting right here? Love it when conversations about me are happening right in front of me. In fact, I think I’ve mentioned that before.”
“Well, you’re free to join in anytime,” Gran said, shifting her weight in her chair. “Then the conversation about you will include you.”
“Nice. Oh! And by the way? If you’ve ever walked through downtown Toronto at night, there’s often that killing fear you mentioned. And for a lot less of a reason than you having the wrong religion.”
Gran leaned forward slightly. “Oh, then. Are we comparing war stories?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Good. Because war and dying are two things going on at once, but some people fight battles not requiring weapons, and still die. Don’t make light of it.”
The room fell so quiet Chrissella heard her mother messing with ice cubes.
“I didn’t mean any disrespect,” Chrissella said. “I was just trying to make a joke.”
“Well there are certain things that shouldn’t be joked about. Remember that.”
Heat rose up from Chrissella’s neck. “Yes, ma’am.”
“And for the love of Crikey,” Gran said, slapping her armrest. “Don’t be calling me ‘ma’am’. ‘Gran’, ‘Lily Gran’, ‘Grandma’ are all acceptable. ‘Ma’am’ just makes me sound either like a country bumpkin’s wife, a drill Sargent or just plain old.”
Two outta three there, lady.
Enya reappeared balancing four tall, frosted glasses on a serving tray. She bent down so Gran could take her drink.
“Well, thank goodness she got here with the whistle-wetters when she did,” George said, winking at Chrissella. “One more second and I’da reached for something to do a few shots with to loosen her up a bit, hey?”
Chrissella repressed a giggle, and sipped her iced tea. She wasn’t a huge fan of it when it was made right from actual tea. She was more of a full-of-sugary-goodness type of girl, but it had a slight minty aftertaste that made it not too bad.
“Good Heavens above,” Gran said, sucking in her breath. “I said ‘whistle wetter’ not marinade us in whiskey!”
George laughed, almost spitting his drink in the process. “Oh, you stop that now. All of us here know you’re a three fingers deep kinda gal.”
“Well, I never--”
“Sure as I’m sitting here ya have. Frequently. Just not usually bothering with the mix part.”
Chrissella didn’t know whether to laugh, suck back her tea or leave the room. So she held her glass as steady as she could while waiting for Gran’s reaction.
Gran released a side-smile, then said, “You old coot. Reveal any more secrets like that and out the door you’ll go. And don’t think I won’t kick ya on your big old arse on your way, even with this leg of mine.”
“And why would I think anything different? I’d even bend over for ya!”
Well, that was it. Everyone lost it. Even Gran’s smile widened, as her cheeks crimsoned in unison
The stove timer buzzed, alerting that the meat was finally done.
“Alright, then,” Gran said grabbing her cane. “Let’s move into the kitchen for some supper.”
Chrissella waited until everyone else walked to the kitchen table. She stopped her eyes on her grandmother, who was telling each person where to sit.
I think I just saw a sign of happiness in the old woman. And her face didn’t even crack.
She smiled, then followed the crowd towards the kitchen.