The Next Big Thing

Stick around because the next blog post is going to be “Things I hate about people who aren’t Vampires.” But now, drum roll please, I’m going to get personal. OK it is personal to me, but not really, because it isn’t about me.

About a dozen years ago I started writing a story to my friend Amelia as sort of a funny joke. It was my own take on a fairy tale. About 300,000 words later I had an epic adventure. Then I started to write some spin off stories because the characters were really fun and interesting. I now have a series.

Until I get picked up by a major publisher, publish this myself, or until you see this as the next HBO, Showtime or other  cable network series, this will be for you, my wonderful Vampire Maman readers.

After writing plays and then putting down my pen for what seemed like a century, this is what got me started back up writing again.

It is a story called “Girl in the Woods.” It is loosely based on the old princess and the pea story, but it goes beyond a simple fairy tale. It is a story about a quest for perfection, or more the rejection of perfection the reality sets in. Because we all know there is no perfections, especially when it comes to love.

Below are just a few points of this tale. Pretend you’re reading my private notes.

  • What happens when a twenty-two year old freedom fighter adopts twins – the children of his rival and former best friend?
  • What happens when a prince is expected to marry a perfect princess who turns out to be a junkie who is sleeping with half the men on his staff? What happens when he falls in love with someone else who is imperfect in ways he could never imagine.
  • What happens when a girl pretends to be a princess to escape a war torn country and ends up with a life based on lies? Then what happens when her own son falls in love with the daughter of her former lover?
  • It is the story of two generations of lovers and enemies.
  • It is an epic adventure.
  • There are no vampires (this is fiction folks), but you’ll find wizards, trolls, and mysterious beings that may or may not be from space. And of course there are cats. There are always cats.
  • It is a fairy tale with a prince and a princess. But the main character is the President of an international technology company who just happens to be a wizard, and just happens to be enchanted.
  • A newspaper reporter knows too many secrets about the woman he was afraid to love.
  • The story is post environmental disaster.
  • It is political.
  • It is funny.
  • It is disturbing and sick and twisted.
  • There are betrayals.
  • There is evil.
  • There is romance (of course.)
  • There is magic.
  • It is mostly about a circle of friends. As adults living their own lives, they are still connected.

Every Friday I will post an installment of the story. I’ll put it all on a page that you will be able to locate from either sidebar.

Below is Chapter 1, sort of a prologue to “Girl in the Woods.” A version of this first chapter was first published in the anthology “Passions Prisms” as a stand alone story.

Note: This is rough and unedited for the most part. I’ll polish it eventually.

 

Girl in the Woods
Chapter 1: Crystal Mountain Republic

“Do you still love her?” Crystal snarled. The vase flew across the room and shattered next to Jack’s shoulder.

Jack kept his hands on his hips, refusing to retreat from the angry woman in front of him. “Not for 40 years. What do I need to do to prove my love to you? We won a war, rebuilt a country and raised four successful children. We run a multinational corporation we’ve built from dust. We’ve built a good life.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Damn you woman. I’m not going to answer you either.”

“Why not?”

“You’re the wizard. Read my bloody mind.”

Crystal threw a bookend making perfect aim. It crashed into his forehead and knocked him onto the floor. Jack looked up through a heavy flow of blood coming from the cut on his forehead.

“You are my heart Crystal and I will love you forever even if you kill me first.” Jack said glaring at her.

A much younger, tall handsome man with sparkling amber eyes and waist long reddish brown hair cautiously came through the door. “What the hell happened to you?” He said to Jack.

The older couple both turned to him. “Nothing” they said in unison.

Two small children tumbled into the room. “Go play downstairs” he told his kids “You’re grandparents are being a bit bad right now.” He looked at his parents with his hands on his hips and a look of disgust on his face. “When are you going to stop this behavior? You’re a bad example for the children.”

“What behavior?” asked his father with a wicked grin wiping the blood off his face with his shirt sleeve.

Crystal turned on the younger man. “Now that you’re here Justin, I want to tell you that now is not a good time to tell me to be nice and polite. Nobody knows where Robert Nightlander is. He has vanished off the face of the earth. I told you and your father that we should have killed him years ago. I don’t care who he might be related to, the man is evil.”

“We’ve located him. He is in the Northern Wastes but has moved around some. You know we can’t go up there.”

“Treaties be damned. I’ll go up there and kill him myself if I have to, before he kills your sister. He’s wearing her out Justin. He’s going to kill her if she can’t find a man with the kind of love it takes to…damn it. It was your duty, and your father’s to protect her.”

“Simon is keeping her safe. He made a promise as well as many others. Robert can’t touch her as long as she stays in the Northern Kingdom.” Justin gave Crystal a hug. She turned away and retreated.

 

The Northwestern Kingdom. What good was it having her beloved daughter Liv among barbarians, who sat in the sun all day and smiled like neutered sheep. Not to mention the fact their queen was a traitor to the Crystal Mountain republic – the kind of woman who got by with cunning and looks rather than courage and conviction. She knew what it was to have courage and conviction. She knew what it was like to put her life on the line for everything she loved and believed in. Sacrifice is something that bitch in the Northwestern Kingdom would never know.

“He fears Simon because Simon fears no man or wizard. But he can’t protect her all the time. He has his own wife and family to take care of. What if Robert went after Simon’s babies? It would be the blood of children on your hands Jack.”

Crystal excused herself so they wouldn’t see her tears and went alone out on the balcony, as was her habit when she needed to be by herself. She took a deep breath of the cool mountain air.

 

Memories of a time long ago came rushing back. On another dark night 31 years ago she’d gone out to the town pretending to be another causality of war. Another amputee, disfigured and homeless. She crawled under the fence with the plans unseen. It was a rush, a job well done. She hadn’t been caught this time. Her luck would run out sooner or later but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that she took the maps from the enemy.

As she made her way through the dark woods she tried to get the memory out of her mind of the dead woman. Even in death she was beautiful, her dark hair framing the face, the glassy dead green eyes, the blue gown torn at the neckline. Her throat had been cut. A man’s name had been carved into her chest. She’d been dumped by the side of the road. Chrystal weighed the body down and rolled her into the river and left her, only taking her jewelry and a lock of hair for the family. She had been a spy and Chrystal’s best friend. Crystal was on her way to find the man who had killed her friend.

Silently she picked the lock on the back door. Her prey was home alone, in a chair in front of the fire. Her arm went around his neck and she slammed him into the floor. She was on him, his arms snapped behind his back as she clipped on restraints. She could feel the fear in him.

His struggles were useless as she cut his skin from his chin up around his face, deep and steady. He screamed in pain. “You can dish it out but you can’t take it you pansy assed puke”. She taunted him. “Tell me where Doran Nightlander is headed or I’ll peel your face off.”

“I don’t know” he cried.

“Liar”. She said.

He was breathing hard. “Tell me.”

“Don’t hurt me. I have a family” the man begged like a child.

“We all have families. The minute you took the side of the Nightlander you sentenced yours to death. So where is Doran heading?”

“South along the Greenville Highway.”

“Liar” she said pushing her knife under the skin of his forehead and separating it from his skull. He screamed.

“North on the old road” the man gasped.

“How long ago?” She wiggled the knife under his skin again.

“They left at dawn.”

“Did they have the boy, Robert with them?”

“No.”

“Liar liar liar.” She grabbed the skin on his forehead and pulled it down exposing his skull. He screamed again.

She smiled and said gently “Tell me where the plans are and I’ll leave you alone. Don’t tell me and I’ll kill your children. I know where they are tonight.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“I’m a wizard you fucking puke. I can feel the fear in you and tell that you’re telling me lies. I can sense where you hid your wife and babes. If you want I can grab the memories out of your brain and erase everything in there, so tell me where the plans are.”

“Under the bed, in the yellow box.”

“Telling the truth. Good boy.”

She looked under the bed and pulled out the box. There it was – a map of the prison. And it was real. She took the entire box in case it contained more useful information.

Walking over to him she looked around the room. It was the beautiful sitting room of a successful man. This successful man’s face was now bruised but could be fixed. It wasn’t a bad face. Nice friendly lines, sensuous lips. He had lovely golden brown eyes, now bloody red and bruised.

The sounds of horses were outside the door. He knew they were coming. He’d planned on trapping her by giving her the directions and stalling her for time. No such luck for him tonight.

She got close to his face. “You raped and marked a woman called Lauren then dumped her body in the woods. What was that about?”

“She was a traitor.”

“She was my friend.” Crystal snarled and drove her knife through the man’s eye and into his brain. Running to the back of the house she escaped into the night.

A few hours later Crystal entered the rebel compound with a shower of hugs and tears. After being almost a day late they thought they’d lost her – again. When she’d cleaned up and changed clothes she joined the crew in the main house.

Commander Crystal Fox returned to her outpost in the southern part of the Crystal Mountains. She was welcomed back as legend. Crystal Fox of the Crystal Mountains. As sparkling and sly as her namesake. A fearless, passionate and lovely young heroine, brave and true. Well, maybe not so lovely anymore. She’d been to hell and lived to tell.

Almost a year before news of her escape and that of Jack Snowhawk from the Baron’s notorious Blacktower prison camp had everyone in the country looking for her. At first there was big money for anyone taking her alive. Now they wanted her dead. It was an honor to be wanted so by her enemy. It meant she was doing her job.

Everyone at the compound talked about Jack. Was he really the wild and brilliant mind they’d all heard about? Had he really stood up to everyone? What were the children like?

She’d met the children he’d adopted or stolen considering whose side of the story you heard. Nobody could believe he had them. The boy was bright and with a personality like sunshine. The skittish girl was special in her own ways, a wizard thought to be more powerful than the Baron or any of his clan.

Crystal always had her standard answer. Yes, Jack Snowhawk was fearless and crazy but he was brilliant and a visionary. One day he’d bring their country back and into the future. Most of all, Jack was a man of honor.

After Jack always came talk of the legendary beauty Hi Shadowford. Everyone was always asking Crystal if Jack still loved her. He’d said vows to Hi and then she left him. It was a mystery why she vanished only to show up later in the newspapers of a foreign land.

Crystal heard their whispers. Was Jack over Hi Shadowford? Would he ever be over her? Poor Jack, how could any man get over having loved the most beautiful woman in the country?

 

“Do you believe in true love?” Asked one of the younger women as Crystal looked at the wall chart of their battle zones. “Commander Fox?”

Crystal turned weary of the small talk. “Right now I don’t have the luxury of thinking of true love and trivial stories about shallow romances.”

“Being a fighter doesn’t mean you have to be a cold unfeeling bitch.” Said Derek a spy who’d once been her lover.

Crystal fingered the dagger by her side. “Don’t you dare insinuate that I am cold and unfeeling. I have watched my friends and family die in the worst possible ways. My heart will never mend. My pain will never go away. I live for the memory of those I’ve watched die by the hands of those we’re fighting.”

Derek’s expression softened. “We’ve all watched our friends and family dies off in front of us but Crystal, we’re still alive. They wouldn’t want us to just give up and never feel love in our arms again.”

“I haven’t given up. I’ve given over my entire body and soul to the revolution” she answered.

Derek was popular with the woman but never touched Crystal after she’d returned from her imprisonment in the Blacktower. He, like so many other men was also afraid of her. He also knew it was best to leave her alone when she was like this.

She filled up her wine glass and stood by the fire, trying to forget her sickening rush she’d felt as she tortured and killed her enemy just a few hours earlier. At one time she had been a science teacher at a pretty little school with window boxes full of flowers and smart happy children. She’d imagined that one day she’d have children of her own. But then she’d seen her longtime lover buried alive because he’d had the misfortune of being born a powerful wizard. At that moment all hope failed until the next day when she’d been thrown into the tower with Jack Snowhawk. It seemed like a million years ago.

 

The other women continued to talk as if Crystal was fully engaged with them.

“I’m surprised you didn’t fall in love with Jack Snowhawk. God, he’s gorgeous.” Said one.

“A year with locked in a tower with him and I’d be sated for life.” Another giggled.

Jack was gorgeous but Crystal didn’t want them to forget that he was also a cunning fighter and a true friend. “I’m alive because of Jack Snowhawk and I’d give my life for his. But romance was the last thing on my mind, and his for that matter.”

The others looked at Crystal with disbelief. One spoke up. “That is hard to believe Crystal. Romance had to have crossed your mind. I know what you were like before all of this.”

All of this is what they would say to avoid the words “war” and “revolution” and “dismembered”.

“It’s been a long day. I’m heading upstairs. But get me if anything comes up.” She started out the room tired of the company.

Behind her back Crystal could hear the conversation pick up again. A pretty girl, who was also a talented code breaker, gave a snarky laugh “Commander Fox is in love with the war. We’ve all seen her practically have an orgasm over a good strategy in the map room. It’s almost obscene.”

Crystal spun around threw her dagger so fast it pinned the woman’s coat sleeve to the wall. “I’m not completely deaf or blind. If you forget that I’ll take you out so fast you won’t know what hit you.”

She yanked the dagger out of the wall and left the room. Since she’d come back she forced herself to think of nothing but the war effort. Every other dream was gone. If the war ever ended she’d deal with it then.

“After Hi Shadowford, does she really think Jack Snowhawk would settle for a disassembled freak like her?” Crystal heard one of the women whisper behind her back.

“Say it out loud” she called behind her. “Fucking cowards. Keep it up and you’ll no longer have my protection.”

Crystal climbed out to the roof and putting her coat collar tight around her neck. Jack. How could she think he’d love her the way he had loved his first partner. Hi Shadowford was so absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way possible. Crystal had involuntarily adjusted her eye patch and folded the stump of her arm in her lap, drawing her knees up close to her chest. She’d once been pretty, not beautiful like Hi but she’d been pretty enough to turn heads and make men long for her touch.

When she and Jack were prisoners in the tower together a yellowed newspaper had been brought up. It was in the common language used by the rest of the world. She could hardly read it but she could see the pictures in full color.

On the front was a picture of Hi Shadowford, her breath taking beauty almost jumping off the page. She abandoned the vows she’d made to Jack, escaped the country, gone to a new land and married a prince. She was now a Real Princess, whatever the hell that meant. Hi’s own father had started the revolution and now she had escaped and betrayed them all by turning her back on the cause. The prince she’d married was as handsome as one of the Nightlander Barons and smiling on his beautiful family. A later issue in the same bundle of pages showed Hi with a baby in her arms, a small beautiful blonde girl and a darling dark haired boy who had the green eyes of the Crystal Mountain folks sat at her feet. From what she’d read in the yellowed paper was that the mysterious new princess had adjusted to her new country and was adored by her people.

Their prison guards said, “She was your partner Jack. Now the only woman you’ve got, if you can call her a woman, is this creature here.” He said with an ugly sneer, kicking the mutilated Crystal out of her place in the shadows.

Jack was clearly disturbed by what he saw in the yellowed newspaper, but after that day he never mentioned Hi. Crystal never asked him about it.

Leaning against the side of the building the 25 year old Crystal stared into the fog and thought of her time with Jack. She missed the way he’d brush her hair with his fingers while he sang to her. She missed their long talks and star watching, huddled in the prison tower under a blanket together. She missed being curled up with him at night as they slept. She knew he kissed her hair and shoulders as she slept, or pretended to sleep in his arms. She heard him whisper the words “I love you Crystal” thinking she didn’t hear him. She missed the fire in his eyes. She missed the way he talked about the cause and the children. She missed him so much it ached. She missed the way he listened to her hopes and dreams never once telling her that it was hopeless to still dream.

After they were rescued, he’d made love to her for the first time. He told he that he loved her, his eyes glistening with tears. But Crystal told him they had to go their separate ways for the war. She was needed in the South; he had to with his children and run the intelligence operations in the North. Like a good soldier she accepted the reality of the situation knowing she’d probably never see him again.

Crystal never cried. Not when she watched as her wizard lover was buried alive. Not when they took her eye, not when they cut off her ear, not when the ax fell and severed her fingers, then chopped off her arm. Not when they cut deeply into her face and locked her in a tower for months without hope. She didn’t even cry when she watched Jack ride away to the North.

Now she sat on the roof and sobbed her heart breaking for the man who’d loved a beautiful princess. She loved Jack Snowhawk – the man every woman desired – the man she’d let go.

Years later they reunited and vowed their love forever, but sometimes the thought of everything she’d lost and might still loose hurt more than she could bear.

 

 

Her side became suddenly warm and she looked to a child snuggled up to her. She was back in the here and now, over 20 years later.

“Don’t cry Grams. Don’t think about those old dark times.” Her 12 old grandson held her hand.

“I’m sorry. Everyone thinks I’m a brave old warhorse but I’m not. Only you know my secret.”

“I love you.”

“You are my heart and soul dear child.”

“Heart and soul Grams.”

She looked up to see her own Jack standing by the door with a smile, pressing a bandage to his face. His long black curls were now flecked with gray but his green eyes still held the fire that could ignite the passion in her body and soul. He was still as handsome as he’d been 31 years ago. She still loved him more than ever.

In their own way they’d come together as a family that despite war and heartbreak would last forever.

 

~ end chapter one

 

 

 

 

 

 

More to come…

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

A Novel Idea (To Elizabeth With Love)

Short Story Sunday is on vacation today. Today, rather than a new short story, I’m giving you the first few pages of a novel. There are no Vampires, no Ghosts, no Werewolves. Nothing paranormal or Gothic. I think you’ll like it. One more thing, this is a work in progress.

_________________________

Also by Dr. Gregory Atkinson

Letting Go – A Marriage Guide for Beginners

Love and Loss

Love and Respect

Love and Trust

 

Excerpt from “To Elizabeth with Love”

By Dr. Gregory Atkinson

This book was written as a love letter to my wife Elizabeth Hobbs Atkinson. She was brutally tortured and killed by a man who had once been my friend. Her body was never found, but her legacy of love will here.

Liz and I met in the summer while working together at the Olive Branch Youth Christian Summer Camp in Pennsylvania. I was the director that summer and Liz was a counselor. We hit it off immediately with our passion for Christ and quick comfortable friendship.

I first noticed Liz’s bright smile and easy laugh. I couldn’t help notice her beautiful figure and grace as she moved with the children. She was sunshine and I was drawn to her warmth.

Within a week we were inseparable. At the end of the summer I asked Liz to marry me. She was 19 and I was 26, both sure in our love for each other and commitment in Christ.

Marriage is an equal partnership in love and friendship, blessed by God as the perfect union between a man and a woman. When I met Liz I finally met a woman who was my best friend and true equal. She was the one I could finally have that perfect union with.

We were married in November. The next 6 years were filled with such joy and passion I could have never imagined. We also had our share of tragedy with 3 late term miscarriages. Then, just as we had hoped that maybe God would grant us the blessed titles of Mommy and Daddy, the unthinkable happened. Liz was brutally murdered, in a cruel twist of fate by a man who called himself the Killer of Virtue.

According to the police report my darling wife lost enough blood to kill her before she was stuffed into the back of a car. The evidence showed the massive loss of blood didn’t kill her, at least not before she’d put up a valiant struggle for her life. Nobody knows if she died in the killer’s car or was dumped unceremoniously in an unknown location. Nobody knows if she too, like the other five innocent victims, was dressed like a whore and posed as if ready for her next customer, waiting for the police or an innocent jogger or hiker to find her. Traces of clothing soaked with her blood, torn pages from her note book and other artifacts were found in the woods, scattered by animals and weather, but her body was hidden much too well to ever be found.

From the day Liz vanished I prayed for her return and for hope. The day she was pronounced legally dead I lost all hope and thought I too would die. Only my faith in God and the love Liz and I shared kept me from going off into a black abyss of hopelessness and grief.

Not a day went by when we didn’t say, “I love you”. Not a day when by when we didn’t hold hands. Not a night went by when we didn’t completely celebrate our physical passions as man and wife.

Liz was sunshine, a joy to all who met her. She was my anchor. She was my best friend. No man had every loved a woman as I had and still love Liz. No woman ever loved a man as Liz had loved me.

To me marriage was never something I had to do. In fact, it wasn’t something I’d seriously thought about until I met Liz.

After Liz was pronounced dead I was bombarded by the attentions of women, each wanting to be the next Mrs. Gregory Atkinson. These women proclaimed they wanted to rescue me from my heartbreak. Most of them wanted to take advantage of my situation and cash in on my grief. Most had the false hope that they could comfort me. Each thought she could be a replacement for my lost wife, like a new puppy or a shiny new car.

These women, who lined up to tempt me with home cooking, sex and sympathy, only coveted what Elizabeth had. My disgust in them grew but I also pitied them in their ignorance of real love and the real meaning of marriage. To them I was a possession to be had, the big catch, a great opportunity. I would be the man who would make their lives complete.

I didn’t need a wife. I needed Liz. I needed her laugh, her understanding, her touch and her love.

The misguided woman who pursued me saw Liz as dead. I would never see her as dead, only in another place until one day I would see her again.

Perhaps one day I will marry again. I know Liz wouldn’t want me to be alone, but another wife could never replace Liz. It will be different next time, God willing, if it is God’s will for me to marry again.

My comfort came from my faith and my knowledge that Liz is in a better place.

“Son of a bitch.” I put down my glass of wine and threw the book across the room.

I’m surprised the bastard hasn’t been struck by lightning. What a crock of crap and lies. Any poetic justice of my situation had gone down the drain at that moment. Greg is walking and talking and writing bestselling books about me and about our marriage…and I’m still dead…saved by a serial killer, no less. God save me and have mercy on my soul and on that abusive lying son of a bitch Gregory Atkinson. May he rot in Hell. But he did get his wish. I am in a better place. A much much better place.

Chapter One

All of us Hobbs kids were exceptional liars, well except my brother Jordan who was a liar by default by his refusal to tell either lies or the truth. There were seven of us. Jordan was the youngest and had no discernable personality or identifying character traits except for his unusual refusal to talk, unless it was to speak about his love of the Lord and his belief that our brother Steve, now diseased, would soon come back as an avenging angel.

The rest of us were quite talkative and also could quote scripture as fluently as we could lie.

Once upon a time, the fashionable and pious Belinda George met the successful, and widowed young father Douglas Hobbs. Like Hitler and Mussolini they created their own empire complete with an army of children to worship the ground they walked on and do their bidding unflinching and loyal. Actually my mother always envisioned herself as Maria Von Trapp and us as the singing wunderkind, but more on that later.

The eldest Hobbs child, David was a serious and brilliant boy. His mother was our father’s first wife Barbara Vanderhook, a quiet mouse like woman who hung herself from the upstairs banister when David was five. She left a note saying that she could never love her strange cold son. Part two of the note stated that she loved her husband (my father) too much even knowing that he saw her as a failure.

We didn’t see much of David growing up as his mother’s will left us enough money to be shipped off to an exclusive prep school 2 hours from our home.

In the meantime mother started to pop out her own large brood of children. First came Mark Douglas Hobbs, the favorite and most aggressive. A year later the twins Bradley George and Katherine Belinda arrived. Bradley was almost as aggressive as Mark but had a soft manipulative side including charm, which he used at every opportunity to his advantage. The sensitive, pretty and evil Kathy spent her childhood trying to be our mother’s favorite. Unfortunately for Kathy, Belinda’s only favorite was Belinda.

Eighteen months after the birth of the twins, one cold January morning Stephen Allen Hobbs came into the world singing out songs of justice until the day he died. Elizabeth Ann Hobbs came along ten months later in October. After my arrival the lines were drawn and it was the real twins vs. the almost twins (or as my politically incorrect mother called us the Irish Twins). Brad and Kathy were classic bullies in every sense of the word, worshiping their leader Mark. Where Steve and I lacked in mean brute force we made up in cunning and deception.

Another two years passed in the Hobbs household when Jordan Emmanuel Hobbs arrived. Unlike the rest of us he was quiet and uncharacteristically passive in nature. In contrast to the physical prowess of his elder siblings Jordan was flabby and sedate. He could sit for hours while the rest of us ran, jumped and tumbled like we were training for the Olympic Ultimate Fighting Club.

Jordan and David were both odd in the opinion of the five middle children. They were quiet and passive; behaviors we couldn’t understand. To his credit David had a mean cynical streak that we greatly admired. As for the middle five children, we were sly and aggressive, qualities needed to survive in our good Christian home.

Mother (as Belinda insisted we call her) was delighted in the status that seven children brought her, but what she gained in status she lacked in maternal instinct. The seven Hobbs children were alternately ignored, neglected and both physically and psychologically tortured by our mother.

Our father demanded perfection; perfect behavior, superior grades, perfect musical pitch and a house that would put any military ideals to shame, and a complete devotion to God and the study of the bible. Of course there were consequences if we did not live up to his standards. Like mother, our father also believed in quick, harsh physical punishment to all infractions of his code of conduct. Luckily for us we rarely saw the workaholic bastard. Our dear father was having a long-term affair with his assistant, a lovely passive/aggressive girl named Pam who would do just about anything to please her boss.

Food was always a big thing in the Hobbs house hold. Not that anyone cooked, because they didn’t. It was the lack of food that kept the growing brood of Hobbs children hungry and always on the prowl. Mother didn’t cook, so while we were young she used her charms to get good spirited women from our church to come help her out with the babies. There were so many of us toddlers, five children under the age of 6 plus a baby, that nobody could resist the lovely young mother in need.

But as we grew older and started school things changed dramatically. We were no longer cute and more of a hassle. Nobody cared if you had a lot of older kids. We ceased to be cute or interesting to Belinda. This was not the way she wanted to spend her time.

Not being one to spend money on anyone other than herself, our mother had a schedule of pot luck dinners at our church she’d take us to at least 4 nights a week. We’d bring a couple of loves of French bread and a grocery bag of empty containers. In turn we’d come home with cakes, cookies, pasta, salads, casseroles, fried chicken and whatever other leftovers from the groaning church tables that would feed us the remaining 3 days. The rest of the time we foraged from our almost bare cabinets and from the homes of friends. Our lunches came from the school cafeteria so we always knew we’d be fed at least once a day during the week. Unlike the other kids, we never complained about the quality of school meals.

By the time Mark was 10 we were also cooking for ourselves. Let me take a step back. My parents never ate with us. Once Mark turned 9 they went out almost every night for dinner or brought dinner for two in and ate it in the formal dining room without the distractions of the children.

The kitchen would be stocked with mac-n-cheese mix, cans of soup, eggs, bacon, frozen pizza and other easy to fix and cheap items. That didn’t last long. One morning after Kathy got mad at me for calling her a “stupid butt picking rat” she threw a skillet containing about a half pound of bacon and several cups of flaming hot grease at me. With that little prank all hot meals ended.

I wound up with a stay in the hospital and a skin graph to my left thigh. Kathy, who neglected to use a hot pad on the cast iron skillet, burned off most of her fingerprints. My dear sister claimed I’d threatened her, causing the accident, and of course no adult believed me. Steve and Jordan stayed quite after threats of death from Mark, Brad and Kathy. After that all cooking, including use of the microwave was banned from our home.

While in the hospital recovering from my burns I was told to pray to God for forgiveness for being such a willful and sinful child. A child psychologist was sent in to talk to me. I lay in my bed quietly not daring to tell anyone about my fear of what God, Belinda or my siblings might do to me. No eight year old had ever given a better performance, spinning lies about a happy home and idyllic childhood. Later the minister from our church asked me if I’d ever been abused or mistreated at home. Of course I lied to him too. I’d always liked Reverend Johnson and didn’t want him to think badly of me.

During the stay in the hospital I lost the ability to cry. I don’t know if it was the ability or just the desire. Why cry at all? It never did me any good. Nobody ever comforted me, except Steve and it only scared Jordan. Or it could have been result of being told that I should be feeling both the fear of the fires of Hell and the love of God for saving my skinny little 8-year-old ass from burning to death from a flaming shower of bacon grease. I could feel pain both emotionally and physically – pain that had me wishing I would die on the spot, but I could no longer cry. I’d already learned to hide pain and emotional distress as a means of survival so it wasn’t that big of a deal, at least to me. Over the years it became creepy and disconcerting to others.

On those few occasions I did feel the need for tears or any other show of emotion or distress it manifested itself into violent stomach cramps and vomiting. I never figured it out and like everything else in my short life; I just accepted things as they were.

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More to come…

Let me know what you think.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

MT