Finding Joy: A Novel Excerpt

I hardly recognized the girl that stepped off the boat. Could that tanned kid twittering away with other girls, wide grin showing the gap between her teeth, be my daughter?

Not trusting my own eyes, I raised my hand in a tentative wave.

“Stop making a spectacle of yourself,” Ron hissed under his breath. He wrapped an arm around my waist and dug his fingers into the soft flesh under my blouse.

Immediately, I lowered my arm and clasped my hands in front me to look like the well-trained wife Ron demands. Wincing as his pinch tightened down like pliers and bowing my head, I peeked through my false eyelashes to see if anyone who’s important in Ron’s eyes had noticed my faux pas.

Nouveau riche mothers with flared jeans and glam tops flicked cigarette ash from their manicured nails, while the Beverly Hills elite in Perry Ellis skirt suits rolled their House Beautiful magazines into canvas bags.

But the only person that I noticed was Joy, whose high-stepping filly gait sunk to a slow shuffle. With every step, her wide smile folded deeper into a scowl.

I wanted to run to her, take her in my arms like when she was five and spin her around, but Ron’s hand was there. If I dared move, it would tighten on my waist like a spring-loaded clamp. I put on my half-smile placid mask.

“Hi, Mom. Hi Ronny,” Joy said, giving me a dutiful peck on the cheek before copying my clasped hand pose.

Ron greeted her with a grunt and had started to turn toward the exit when that actor from the Mary Tyler Moore show walked by, arm slung over his son’s shoulder.

Suddenly, the Ron that wooed me all those years ago appeared. Pivoting on his Ferragamo loafers, he lifted a rakish brow and trumpeted, “Who took my daughter and replaced her with a tan goddess?”

When the actor, Ted Kite, glanced our way, Ron squeezed Joy so tight I thought he might break her ribs. She stood there, arms stiff at her sides, lips pressed into a smile that never reached her eyes.

The next thing I knew, Ron was shaking hands with Ted Kite. After a boisterous joke or two about sending kids to camp, he swept an arm in our direction.

“My wife, Iris and this tanned goddess is my daughter, Joy.” He didn’t say stepdaughter.

While Joy stared at her shoes, I nodded politely and gushed how I was a huge fan. Ted’s chortling was cut short when Ron shoved a business card into his hand.

“If you are ever looking for real estate in Santa Juana, give me a call.”

Ted held it up like a mini-flag and said he had to go.

Ron shook his hand heartily and led us out of the terminal. Once we were all buckled into the Lincoln, he rolled up the windows and turned on the AC. But that cold air did nothing to dim the rage in his face.

“Did you have to fucking embarrass me?”

“What?”

“Your head bobbing like a plastic Jesus in a Spic’s low rider.”

“I was only trying to act how you want me to.”

“Looked like an idiot. You could have said something about my listings, but I should have known when I met you, you were just white trash. Take her out of the sewer, she’s still covered in shit.”

“I never was trailer trash,” I retorted.

I felt the heat before the sound. It spiced the cool air, a flashing palm burning skin with brutal piquancy.

My husband, father of the year.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Surreal Strings: A Poem

Bound by surrealist strings.

She is hoisted up fortress walls.

Of a Dali-esque painting

Struggling against restraints.

Both real and imagined.

Twisting and turning.

Cords dig deeper into flesh.

Mounting her over the battlements.

While melting clocks remind her of the passing of time.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

No Going Home: A Poem

I don’t want to go home.

And face the quiet echoes

Of rooms that once vibrated

With shuffling feet

And a coquette’s laughter

I don’t want to go home

To neatly stacked dishes

And pots as cold

As hoarfrost.

I don’t want to go home

And look at the bed we shared

Night after beautiful night.

Nor crawl between sheets

Become funereal shrouds.

I don’t want to go home

So

I sit by the sea.

Until the blinding mist forces me

Through shadow

In retreat.

Photos by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Gaslit: A Poem

Odorless gas wafting from room to room

A noxious message within a tonic

Of sweet embrace

Tangled limbs

And connected flesh

Eyes droop

Pupils dilate

And fear begins.

The poison takes hold

With malevolous mantras

She chants again and again

Until she is a quivering shade

Of her former self.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Etched Invocation: A Poem

In the lonely quiet

Of empty sheets

That no longer rustle

I whisper his name

And reach out

To caress

A back that

Isn’t there.

Enduring the cold silence

Of phantom forms

With an invocation

Of a name

Etched on my skin

Photo by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Cleaved Psyche: A Poem

In a crowded room we float

Disjoined and separate

Drifting from one misty conversation

To another

Attempting jibes

And one-liners

We venture through

These strati skimming the floor.

While feet remain

Clouded in grey haze.

Later

In an intertwined embrace

We become

Mechanical mammals

In glass cages.

Wreathing and writhing

Calling out names we have yet to learn

Skin touches

Lips part

But we are forsaken

Our psyches cleaved.

(Photo by David Stroup)

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Closing Walls: A Poem

The walls close in

Birthing a prison

Of  painted wood and stucco.

A hallucinatory jail

Of iron bars

And invisible jailers their

Nightsticks and cattle prods

Held aloft.

 Escape!

My mind screams

As I jiggle one locked door

Then another

In vain.

 

The walls close in

With rain-spattered windows

That press against

My hands and face

Forcing the remembrance

Of the busy street that was

Before Shelter in Place

And the maleficent novel virus

Hovering in air.

 

Walls close in

Like an Alice in Wonderland

Nightmare

With warped mirrors

Forcing me to look

At the scars

I’ve tried so hard to hide

With Cover Girl

And powder.

I draw back

Then cry

No!

I will not curl into a fetal ball!

But observe each wall

And stroke the glass

With nurturing words

And love.

single grain

(Photo by David Stroup)

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

A Break-up Mantra for Healing

Thank you God for this day.

Thank you God for this life.

I am blessed beyond compare.

I have everything I need in this moment.

I have love, health, and family.

There is joy everywhere I look.

God bless my daughter, Jessica.

God bless my son, Nicholas.

God bless my friends and family.

I vow to care for this precious gift of life.

And let those around me know how grateful I am.

To share another day loving, living, and laughing.

 

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

 

Etched Seconds: A Poem

111 days

2,664 hours

159,840 minutes

9,590,400 seconds

Ticking a journey of love-lust.

Shy hello.

Turning quickly into comfort.

Drunk on animal magnetism.

Reveling in skin.

Sharing ideas

In a river of philosophy.

Explore sea

And sand

And sound.

Be at peace.

Backpedal, apologize, reach out.

Until comforting arms

Enclose and envelop.

Or release.

Tic tock lie

Pretend to be someone else.

Don her mask

To smooth the sheets

And keep them cool.

Knowing that each moment lacking truth

Wears at the turning gears.

Until they stop

Leaving only the memory

Of a beautiful face

And 9,590,400 seconds

Etched in the glass.

 

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net