Oh, North Carolina, how I love thee.
I can still remember the sights and sounds of the first time I visited this beautiful and magical place. I was eight years old and my big sister had moved away to go to college in Asheville. I had no idea how far away it was from the warm beaches of Florida, but I just knew it she was too far away.
The distance confirmed by the memory of the long, hot, family roadtrip to bring her a compact washing machine for her dorm room. It was the strangest little thing that connected to the tap on the sink, or maybe it was the tub.
Like I said, I was eight. I just knew it was me-sized, and I wanted one. I also recall my incessant begging to stay with her at least one night like a cool grown-up college kid.
It's all a little fuzzy now except for the few vivid memories I have of the rustic cabins at the Log Cabin Motor Court. I had the pleasure of recollecting and describing this wonderful place in my novel, In Every Cloud. There was the rickety swingset under the crabapple tree where I learned not to eat fruit from random bushes unless your parents tell you it's okay. Gah! To this day apples and I have a very apprehensive relationship. I love them, but I don't trust them. :-) Oh, and of course the visit to the Cherokee Reserve where I picked up a beaded tie, bought a mini-loom, and got my first pair of leather moccasin loafers (in an eye-complementing shade of gray-blue might I add). They looked GREAT with socks... right? I mean come on now, what else could possibly complete such a fashion forward ensemble?
I'll never forget my first experience with the crisp cool air, enormous trees like I had never seen, and mountains! Not Florida mountains- which to us is anything higher than 10 feet above sea level, and includes landfills. It burned a love for North Carolina deep inside me, fueled my wanderlust, and filled my dreams. I knew I'd be back one day even if it would be seventeen years later.
My in-laws had sold their dairy in Florida and decided to relocate to North Carolina to raise llamas. The farm, the family, and the surrounding beauty quickly became my refuge. For many years, it's where I ran for both solace and adventure more times than I can count. The eight hour drive was easy because I knew the joy of what awaited me when I would arrive. To this day I could do it with my eyes closed.
Waterfalls and mountains, hidden ruins and history, and the pure pleasure of being there with the one I loved and her family. So many of the experiences I write about in In Every Cloud are not simply moments for my characters but actual memories from my own life. They are based on real personal events that I had the fortunate opportunity to live. This book is not only a fictional story but a glimpse into some of my most precious days.
One of the many moments that rings with truth and humor is the one which leads to Bree Whitely's first unfortunate encounter with Carson Harper. It's a slightly exaggerated, but mostly true, tale of my sister's experience at the Biltmore Estate. It's a story I've heard a hundred times and it never gets old in real life or in fiction. I knew if I ever wrote a book about Biltmore and North Carolina this would have to play a part.
I have so many wonderful memories of this place that it was difficult to decide which to include or exclude from In Every Cloud. It's always a question of how much to give and what to hold back when you write from the heart. How much do I share with you, my beloved readers, and how much do I keep for myself? In the end I decided that these things were worth sharing.
Many things have changed since these happy and carefree days of horseback riding, hiking, and standing in the clouds. In Every Cloud is my way of remembering parts of my life that I hold dear, but it's also a way to let them go. To offer myself and my memories up to the clouds and release them, but not without the reverence they deserve.
In Every Cloud is a story of starting over and letting go of everything you once held on to. It's about realizing that there is something better ahead of you than where you've been if you can only take that one scary step forward. Hearts get broken, but we can't allow the memories of what was good, or even bad, keep us from healing. As Joseph Campbell says, "We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned to live the life that is waiting for us."
Change is downright terrifying, but at some point we have to decide what is best for us and how much the struggles are worth in order to get what we deserve. Take a chance, it may be the best thing you ever do.
I love Asheville. It will always be that place where I want to run away to. It's been too long since I've been back, but I don't plan on letting another seventeen years pass before I return. There are too many things I love there, and this book is dedicated to them.
Much love XOXO,
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen! The new trailer for my upcoming novel IN EVERY CLOUD! Enjoy the video and mark your calendars for the release of my second novel with Bold Strokes Books this August.
Two years after being left behind in Boston, Bree Whitely still cannot deal with the memories and the shattered pieces of the life she once had with her partner. With encouragement from her uncle she returns home to Asheville to rebuild her broken life. But it’s going to take more than a change of scenery to mend her heart.
Carson Harper has spent her time successfully pursuing her career and her women, always sure to leave her options open in both cases. After yet another narrow escape from the clutches of commitment she finds herself enthralled by a woman unlike any other she’s known. When life wraps her future within the wounded heart of another, is she willing to risk her freedom for this one woman?
In the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Biltmore Estate, Bree and Carson have the chance to find love if they can give up the lives they had planned for the one they are meant to live.
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" ~Satchel Paige
I think as we get older, or shall I say... more seasoned, I think we forget just what we were capable of when we were younger. When I was 24, I became the youngest person working in my profession in the entire state. I worked alongside men and women who were literally twice my age, because that's how long it took most of them to establish themselves in the hierarchy of the public arena. I was an active member to two international and two nationwide organizations, in addition to a handful of local and statewide groups which held various annual conferences and seminars- events where I was frequently addressed for my age rather than my abilities. This went on for several years until I was eventually run out of my position thanks to that lovely pastime we call, discrimination. (It was not only my age, but my sexual orientation and my inability to herd like the other sheeple, that led to a forced change in career path. That is a different soapbox topic.)
My age was an issue the very moment I sat down at that table in front of the community and powers-that-be (or had been). Questions flittered through the crowd and behind the closed doors. How can someone my age do the job of a seasoned and experienced person? How can a 24 year-old girl make the salary of a 45 year-old man? How can someone so young have so much control over such an important, influential, and powerful group of people? (My italics imply extreme sarcasm.) The truth was I had no real power, what I had was knowledge, intelligence, honesty, and a mouth! I saw what I wanted and nothing and no one would keep me from it. I never thought twice about my age as I made my way up that ladder three rungs at a time. It was only when I proved to myself I could and reached the top that I realized how young I was.
I was reminded every single day that I shouldn't be there. Not because I couldn't do the job and do it better than anyone else, but because I was "a baby", "a child", and "a little girl". I didn't have the years of schlepping through the muck of politics, tripping others, and face-kicking my competition. I hadn’t earned my stripes like those who were content to be passively promoted through the ranks over a course of years. I had the education, the drive, the dedication, the passion, and the brains to do it and that's how I got there. Once I was there (once THEY had put me there) they suddenly realized what had been done and the situation had to be rectified. They couldn't have a "kid" telling them the rights and wrongs and the ins and outs of their job. And so, like that, I was out.
Where was I going with this? Oh, right! Age!
So, before I connect these dots I'm laying down let me tell you that I've made the choice to try and avoid the reviews of my book, Venus in Love. Not because I don't care about what readers are saying about my work, but because it can be a little overwhelming, not to mention disheartening (again, another topic) to read a bare-knuckled critique of something so precious to me. Of course, I know they are out there and it's nearly impossible to resist their siren call... right into the rocky shores of death. (Okay, it's not always that bad.) So, with a smile and grain of salt, I occasionally allow myself read my reviews (except for one, because he was simply too harsh to get through).
Today, I got another wonderful review. It was an excellent 5/5-star review and it had my insides smiling with joy, there it was, that damned recurring issue with age. Although in these reviews it is not my age, but with my characters. Thankfully unlike some others, she had seen their age for what it was meant to be.
Yes, they are young(ish). While I never give them an actual age, my plot mathematics put them in their mid to late 20's. They are smart, driven, dedicated, and successful. They are struggling to prove themselves in a world where supposed knowledge and success can only come with advanced age- just as I once did. I purposely gave this battle to my characters, Ainsley and Morgan, because it is real. It is something that smart young people deal with every day and some (like me) determinedly overcome. Granted it may seem rare, but it is not a myth, it happens! Yet for some reason it is the most "unbelievable" part of my story and something that really seems to crawl under the reader’s skin.
It is possible. I've done it! And so have many others, so why is it so difficult to believe that these two characters have defied the stereotypical odds and conquered age discrimination? I would think it would be the opposite. To read a story of two women so focused and determined to succeed that age means nothing should be an inspiration, not a fictional suspension of reality. Could they have done it on their own? Sure. I most definitely believe they could have. My ladies are smart chicks! Is it convenient that they have each other to lift and support them on their climb? Sure. Twice the struggle, twice the reward. We all wish for that one person to give us a chance. Should we continue to see age as a determining factor of believability and success in both fiction and in fact? Hell no!
Discrimination is real! Sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and ageism! Age is not a reason to believe someone can or cannot do something. Had this story been about two 85 year-old women I'm sure the sex scenes would've been called into question, as well as, their ability to hold such youthful and creative positions in the ever-evolving art world. What happened to all of the hopeful, bright-eyed, and determined youngin's that we used to be? Had someone told you at 24 that you couldn’t be a ___fill-in-the-blank____ you would’ve told them to suck a log and done it just to prove them wrong. I think it's so important that we not forget how stubborn and driven we used to be in our 20's and how it IS possible to get want you want in real life, as well as in fiction.
Age is only a number,
Tina Michele XOXO
"As soon as a woman gets to be an age where she has opinions and she's vital and she's strong, she's systematically shamed into hiding under a rock."
Hey there, my peeps! Long time no blog- I have an excuse. I've been feverishly writing- I swear!
I went to lunch today with a friend and reader of my first novel, Venus in Love. I've known her a while, as we are coworkers of a sort, and while we've had plenty of benign conversation and a handful of group lunch interactions, today it was just the two of us. I reckon it was like a date, but without the added stress of having to shave first. Gorgeous as she is, she is beautifully and happily married. This is utterly irrelevant to my story but you know me, I can't avoid a good (and awkward) tangent. So anyhoo...
She read my book. Sweet! And she wasn't even one of the people I hounded for six months with daily reminders of my publication date and availability. Extra sweet! So, she read it and while I assume she liked it (she wanted my autograph- still weird), she had one question. A question that, until that moment, I hadn't given much thought outside of my passing decision a few years back to avoid it. She asked why I hadn't gone into more detail about who they were as individuals, more specifically why there wasn't any emphasis put on their sexuality and the struggles LGBT's face as we search for who we are.
At first I didn't understand the question, but with clarification I realized she meant why had I left out the social awkwardness, stares of disgust, and fight for acceptance? Basically, where’s the hatred, the misunderstanding, and the inequality that we unfortunately see far too often in our real lives? I've read many beautiful and poignant works by fellow authors who present and overcome those very struggles with bravery, heart, and truth. Sadly, I don't know a single LGBT, including myself, who hasn't experienced one or more of them in their lifetime.
It is with conscious choice and purpose that I don't include those themes in my writings. Not because I don't feel they are important, but because I don't think they should be important. Wait! Now, don't you go and take that the wrong way.
What I mean is this. When we look at a person with love we don't see gender, do we? No. We see a smart, funny, and beautiful person who may or may not have the same reproductive organs as our own (unless, of course, they're standing in front of you buck-nekked performing a vigorous Irish folk dance). Otherwise, we see love and life, right into the very heart and soul of them and we do it without thinking twice. Like my life, Venus in Love and my forthcoming novels, have main characters who are lesbians. (Spoiler alert! Oh wait, I should've said that first... oh well, too late now.) They don't hide from it, or struggle with it, nor does any other character in the book, gay or straight. They are who they are, female art professionals looking for life, love, and happiness. And they do it as freely and as awkwardly as any other person would regardless of their gender or sexual preference. It is simply a non-issue. It doesn't keep them from success, cost them any friends, or lose them their family's love. They are openly and unapologetically human, and no one thinks twice about it.
For me, whether reading or writing, there is a freedom in fiction and even more so in romance that allows us to run away with dreams and experience a world wholly different than the one waiting for us outside our front door. With everything else that authors throw at our characters to keep them down and apart, I prefer that bigotry isn't one of them. I want the love between people, regardless of sex, to be the most important thing we see both in and out of books. I want us to experience a place where who we love doesn't matter to anyone but ourselves. I want to show everyone just how unremarkable and irrelevant our sexual orientations can and should be. Because we all know, real life is hard enough when some kooky, sleep-deprived, caffeine-addicted author isn't writing our story.
All my love,
I know I’m late for LGBT Pride Month (June), National Coming out Day (October 11), and even LGBT History Month (October) but you can never really be too late when telling your coming out story. We all have different and personal reasons not only for why we “come out”, but for why and when we choose tell our story. I guess my reason was spurred yesterday, the day I received a special FedEx delivery- ten author copies of my very first novel, Venus in Love.
From the day I signed the contract to publish Venus, I knew who those ten copies were for. Certainly one was for myself, but the rest were for my dearest family. I wrote the dedication many months ago, and while I found much of the backend, behind-the-scenes stuff particularly difficult (condensing a 65,000 word novel into a 50 word blurb was a monumental struggle for me) the dedication and acknowledgment weren’t.
So many things have changed in the last five years, and while it may seem like a long time in my head and heart, it’s really not in the grand scheme of my life. Five years ago, as I prepared for the rest of that life, I was faced with the decision to come out to my family. I’d been selectively out for several years before that, since the age of 21, with friends and their families. But I knew that if I wanted my own to be involved in my new and happy life, they needed to know. I needed them to know regardless of the consequences.
I'm not unlike many LGBT’s when I say that my parents were not the sort that would understand why I ‘chose’ to love women. My mother was a devout Christian (as was I- for a time- by default) and my father was a very (I mean VERY) conservative Republican. When I found myself, my partner, and my identity I just knew that I would never be able to come out to them and it nearly ate me alive from the inside. Therapy, medication, and shame followed me everywhere I went. Through denial, avoidance, and lies I kept two very different lives. One was carefree, gay, and in love, the other was serious, straight, and heartbroken- a plight that so many of us have once or still do live with.
But enough of that… this is a happy story. So, I'm sitting here looking at this gorgeous box of books with my name imprinted all over them, and I read the acknowledgement- officially, this time. “Awwww,” I say. “I'm so darn sentimental and witty.” It’s a trait most definitely learned from my family of sarcastically humorous over-sharers (or is that just me? Either way…) So, I'm reading and thinking. Thinking about how five years ago, none of this would EVER have happened, until those two days where my life changed for the better, forever.
My Mom came over for dinner and as she does, she found her comfy place on the couch to watch some random TV show she’d probably seen a thousand times. I stood in the kitchen with my partner and we both knew what was about to happen. We knew that she knew that we knew, it was just saying it out loud. I smiled nervously and headed off into the known unknown. I laid down on the couch with Mom and snuggled close as she stroked my hair. “The calm before the storm,” I thought to myself. As I often did, and still do, I made some ridiculously humorous and irrelevant statement to break the tension before I said, “Mom, you know we are together, right?” And without missing a beat she responded with my full name and “Of course I know that. Now when are you getting married?” After the loud disembodied laughter from the kitchen finally died down, we announced the date.
That was easy, right? Sure, in hindsight. But the next day was “The Dad’s” turn (No really, that’s what he calls himself.) My Dad and I are crazy close, maybe it’s our mutual appreciation of a lovely lady features, or maybe it’s something less weird like, photography or art skills. However, there was no turning back. I was about to risk our relationship and that closeness for an unspeakable freedom. I had to, for me and for my future. I went alone to their house; after all, everyone already knew that she was gay. I sat nervously on the couch. I could see in her eyes that my stepmom knew what was about to go down. She smiled softly and I started to cry even before the first word. It took him a sec, but Dad finally caught on to the importance of what was coming and turned off the TV. (Yes, everything happens around the TV in my family.) They stared at me, waiting for me to speak. Dad said, “Just say it, kiddo.” My stomach turned. I took a deep breath and spoke. “I'm gay.” I told them that she and I were together and thick silence filled the room. No movement, no sound for what seemed like an eternity. And then… the dog farted- a loud rumbling no-holds-barred dog fart right in the middle of the living room. She looked up at us, sniffed around, and laid right back down. And just like that we all were instantly jolted from the solemn moment into hysterical laughter.
Did my life changing moment just get upstaged by a gaseous Newfoundland? Yes, yes it did. To this day, I am grateful to the Universe for giving us all that classic and perfect moment. As for my sisters? Eh, they already knew because, well… because one is older and just knows everything and the other is younger and won’t stop asking until she actually knows everything.
Where was I going with all this? Oh, right. Five years ago, I came out to my family and today I am reading a book dedicated to the most important, loving, and understanding people in my life- my family. Like I said before, SO much has changed since then- love, loss, and change. But the coolest and most awesome-est thing about it all is how proud and supportive and loving they are. They all may not read it (at least not the good parts, *wink wink*), but they will and do tell everyone in the world who will listen that I, TinaMichele, their daughter, sister, aunt, and friend is not only an out and proud Lesbian, but she also writes steamy romance books about sexy girls.
It not only gets better… it gets GREATER!
Much Love to you and my family!
My debut novel, Venus in Love is available for pre-order
from Bold Strokes Books!
Ainsley “Lee” Dencourt was born with her future drawn out as heir of the Dencourt Gallery in Washington, DC. She has mastered both fine art and the art of brushing off the responsibilities of her life. When the death of her father shatters her carefree world, Lee is caught between her decisions and her desires as she struggles to preserve his life’s legacy.
For Morgan, the only thing more important than her family is art. Morgan has put her heart and soul into her education and her future—it’s what got her to Yale and to Paris. She can’t allow anything or anyone to come between her and her dreams of success. So why is it that every time Morgan gets a handle on life a dangerously sexy and hopelessly frustrating woman from her past appears and turns her world upside down?
From the City of Lights to the Nation’s Capital, Lee and Morgan search for their place in the world of art. Is that place together—or will fear, pride, and deceit destroy what they’ve found with each other?
The moment you have all been waiting for (unless that moment was publication- in which case, this is not it)!! The official cover for Venus in Love is here! Feast your eyes on the beauty that it is.
Love to you all,
Today was a good day! Two reasons in particular make it so, 1- It’s my Dad’s birthday and 2-I finally finished the first round draft of my #2 novel (that’s the official working title as I don’t ever choose one until the very end(But that’s another blog topic in itself)). So, YES! It was (or still is) a good day. The only thing that could make it better would be if I shared one of my most recent ‘hot-mess moments’ with you.
Anyone that reads my writings will notice that my characters tend to have a significant number of these such moments. And while perfect for the quirky romance novel, I have to admit that I draw upon a substantial (I’m talking a LIFETIME) amount of personal experience. To simply call me ‘accident-prone’ or ‘klutzy’ barely scratches the surface of my… let’s call it a… disorder.
I have no point of reference for when I began having these ‘episodes’. It’s very possible that my birth alone was in itself an ‘episode’ but let’s just say it was the magical moment the world was blessed with THIS (Oh, I'm pointing to myself). I have so many occurrences that I could share with you it’s difficult to choose just one to whet your appetite with. So it’s easier if I default to the latest and greatest which is also the one I told my family this evening at my Dad’s birthday dinner.
Once upon a time… Ok, fine… Last week, I was making dinner. I got a lovely shipment of organic fruits and vegetables which included a pound of tomatillos and j alapeños (there was more in the delivery but I just didn’t see the relevance to the story). I’d never eaten a tomatillo or made any sort of dish with it but I actually found a recipe, the wasn’t salsa, and gathered my ingredients like a good little chef- peppers, tomatillos, onions, jalapeños, chicken, etc… and a-choppin-I-a-went! Look at me go, I'm Rachel freakin’ Ray!
I chopped and diced and minced away like a pro with my fancy new kitchen knives. “What was that? I said as I felt a little drop of moisture on the tip of my nose. “Ohhh, that’s not good.” I am elbows deep in fresh, organic jalapeños.
This is the conversation I had with myself:
“Self, you should wash that pepper juice from your skin before it starts to burn.”
“Oh Self, you are right. Let’s rinse that off straight away!”
“Right-O, Self.” (My inner dialog sound EXACTLY like that. Don’t judge me. J)
I laid down my knives and stepped to the sink. I filled my hands with cool clean water and splashed it onto my nose and mouth. I had to make sure that I removed all of the potentially harmful oils, so I rubbed the water vigorously over the lower half of my face. When suddenly… something didn’t feel quite right. Strangely, my lips began to burn and the feeling spread rapidly upwards into my nostrils. Before I could say, “HOLY SHIT, What have I done?” my nose began to run and the tears streamed down my cheeks! “Oh my god, I just maced myself with fucking jalapeños!” The insides of my nostrils burned all the way into my brain.
I squeezed my nose holes closed with my fingers and the pain shot right through to the back of my skull. “Stop touching your face, you moron!”
I fumbled blindly with my cellphone. I needed Google to save me, ASAP! I struggled with squinted eyes and a snot covered face to type in something along the lines of how to save an idiot from 3rd degree jalapeño burns (kidding... it was more like ‘HELP! hot pepper in nose’). I clicked on the first site in the list as I now knew the true meaning of ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that!” It was a thread of wise internet users touting their tried and true methods of relief.
Option#1- Rub sliced tomato on the affected area. SWEET! I have tomatoes. I went to the fridge and pulled out my tub of little cherry tomatoes. “Perfect,” I thought. I pinched that little life-saver in half and boom! Shoved one juicy half into each flaming nostril! “Ahhhhh….. relief… NO! No relief! It still burns. Oh My God!” I ripped the tomatoes from my nose and grab my phone.
Option#2- Lime juice. Ok. Lime juice. To the fridge for the lime juice. “Yes! I have a bottle of lime juice”. I quickly removed the top and squirted lime juice onto my fingers and shoved them right into my nose. I waited a patient 3-seconds for relief until I realized what I had just done. I squealed in pain as the fire raged worse than before. I stood at the open refrigerator and saw a whole lemon. “It’s not on the list but who the hell cares!” I grabbed the lemon and pressed its cold citrus skin against my nose. The cool lemon actually offered a slight bit of relief. At least until the lemon got warm and the fierce burning scalded my brain cells. The lemon, covered in snot and tears went into the trash. “Worthless fruit!”
Option#3- Milk and/or Sour Cream. “I can do that and I have both.” I got out the carton of milk and the Breakstone’s. I poured a small cup of milk into a shallow bowl and tried to dip my ‘non-banana’ sized nose into the bowl. Without sucking it up into my sinuses and risk drowning in 2%, I poured out the useless milk into the sink and grabbed the sour cream. Since I am not a barbarian, I pulled a knife from the drawer to use as a spatula. I scooped up a healthy amount on the blade and spackled it into my nostrils! “Yes? Will this be the miracle cure for my stupidity? HELL NO!” I ran to the bathroom for toilet tissue to blow out the sour cream, tomato seed and snot concoction that now ran down onto my upper lip.
I was at my wits end. I truly felt that my brain was moments away from an actual nuclear reactor meltdown. I took one more look at the phone screen.
Option#4- Rubbing alcohol. “Fine. What can it hurt? Right?” Off to the bathroom for the bottle. I generously soaked a cotton ball with the fluid and rubbed it into my raw and sizzling mucous membranes. My toes curled and my head spun. “Mother of God! Just kill me and save the world.” I begged for the pain and stupidity to stop. It does not.
I refused to return to the devil’s internet for any further torture techniques. I decided that I must fight through the agony and learn from it. I wandered back to the kitchen and got and ice pack out of the freezer. I left the half-prepped dinner ingredients on the counter and threw myself weakly onto the couch with the pack pressed to my face. After 5-seconds, the burning gradually slowed until my nose was completely numb.
“Self, you’ve got to be shitting me.”
“Nope, self… I’m not shitting you.”
So, this evening I told that story at my Dad’s birthday dinner. As you can probably imagine, my family is more than used to my “episodes” and they LOVE to hear me relive every detail until they are rolling in the booth with tears streaming down their cheeks. It makes me happy to see the joy that I bring to their lives.
As I entertain them with the end my story the waitress comes by with the check. My Dad, still trying to catch his breath, casually mentions to the waitress (as if giving her a very valuable life lesson) that nothing including tomatoes, lemons, limes, milk, sour cream or alcohol will work to relieve Capsaicin (the devil oil in jalapeños) burn on your face. She agreed and said that it sounded more like a salsa recipe. And then it hit me…
After I finish this post I'm going back to that website to scroll all the way to the bottom to see if the last thread entry is “Now take a picture of the jackass who just made a taco salad on their face.”
P.S. Use GLOVES!
I arrived at the park and, out of sheer luck, came across the most conveniently located parking garage. I parked my car, paid my $6.00 and followed the others down to the mass of tents and scents of delicious snack foods. I was too nervous to be hungry but I was glad there were so many options. I walked quickly through the crowds looking for a perfect place to stand or lean as I waited for her. I made my way around and down to the lake. The day was bright, with a light breeze and a crystal blue sky. I watched the ducks dip and dive in the water. I took a picture of the lake and birds with the teal-stained fountain in the distance. I stood and snapped a few more pictures of the blue heron and the black swan couple guarding their nest. When I received the text that told me she was there my heart raced. I stood awkwardly and paced until I found a railing to lean on nonchalantly with a decent view of any one approaching me. I continued to scan the crowd for fifteen more minutes growing concerned that she changed her mind and I would be standing there all day, alone. Then my phone rang. It was her. She had parked but had no idea where she was. And I, not being from there either, probably had even less of an idea. Thinking of no other option, I told her to stop and stay where she was and I would come find her.
I pulled up a map on my phone and realized that she was at least 4 blocks away but without a second thought I started up the road in her direction. Being from a very rural town and sadly naive, I was taken aback by the many homeless citizens sitting or laying across the sidewalks They seemed to congregate most noticeably in front of the public library. It didn’t deter me, I simply walked passed them focused on my need to rescue her. When I reached a familiar area, I allowed my defenses to ease a little and during the walk I had almost forgotten my nervousness. I slowed my pace and began to dial her number as I looked for her familiar features, as the anxiety slowly returned. When someone called my name, I saw her across the street, sitting casually in a wrought iron chair of the bar on the corner. I waited for a gray minivan to pass before I trotted across the street. Probably from excitement but without any hesitation or forethought at all, I hugged her, a perfectly sweet and comfortable hello. Any nervousness I’d still had disappeared.
We walked back up the street the several blocks to the park. As usual our conversation began with ease and randomness. We browsed the booths and tents, admiring a few pieces and making hula-hooping jokes. We decided naturally to walk around the lake and continue talking. Conversation was smooth and easy and smiles were bright and abundant. I felt the pain in my cheeks and anticipated a very sore face by the end of the day. We walked along the sidewalk bumping into each other along the way; apparently neither of us had the ability to keep to a straight line. But I didn’t mind since I took every opportunity there was to reach out and touch her. We talked about tattoos and family, childhood illnesses, marriage and divorce. We made our way around the lake until it was definitely time to eat. We decided to find a restaurant instead of snacking on the vendor food. A short walk and we decided on an open-air BBQ bar and grill. The hostess attempted to sit us in the noisy bar area during a Sunday football game. My request for ‘someplace more quiet’ was met with a sneer and she reluctantly gave me what I asked for. As had now become our way, we fell easily into conversation. We ordered and ate easily with no girlie shyness. And then, the plane crashed into a train wreck and sank like the Titanic.
She asked me to lead the conversation. What? Me? But... I.. don’t… I… And thus began 30 excruciating minutes of stammering and stuttering broken up with awkwardly painful moments of silence and paralyzing eye contact. I tried. I tried to think of anything to ask. I had no clear or comprehensible thought in my entire brain. Nothing. The more we talked about the suddenly flaming debris of the date the worse I felt and the less I could say, if that was even possible. I was utterly paralyzed by my innate fear of rejection. We both begged silently for the waitress to return with our check, but she had completely disappeared. Apparently she refused to get herself caught in the mangled wreckage. Suddenly, I blurted out the most ridiculous and random question that came to mind. “Are you going to sell your car?” What the hell? Yea, I know. But for reasons beyond anything I could explain, that question worked (after she laughed a little, of course). As if the tension shield had been lowered the waitress reappeared and we got the check. She paid, but we didn’t leave. We sat at the table for another hour and talked about cars, September 11th and the beautiful Tori Amos.
When we left we walked back towards the park. This time my silence wasn’t stressful but the awkwardness of my near breakdown still hung in the air. She asked if I was ok. I really was. I had so many emotions and feelings rushing through my head and my heart that I was silently trying to organize the sudden rush that filled the previously void space. Throughout the day our hands brushed each others and I let myself imagine what it would be like to hold her hand. But in keeping with a promise I had made her, I refrained. More than that, for the last 4 hours I’d been mesmerized by her eyes. When she looked at me it was as if she could see through me and into parts of my soul that I keep skillfully hidden from the world. I had never felt so vulnerable and trusting at the same time. She looked at me like there was no one else in the world and I did not want her to stop. We walked past the lake and up the street towards where I’d met her near the parking garage. She asked where I was parked and I pointed in the opposite direction. I told her that I wanted to walk her to her car since it was further away and if we had walked to mine I’d already be leaving. She didn’t get it, most likely because I didn’t say it in any sort of comprehensible way. So I said it again, but more direct, “Because if we walk to your car, I have more time with you.”
The sound of understanding that she made, made me smile. She suddenly looked over my shoulder at the building we were passing. “The library.” She said. “Do you want to go in?” Of course I said yes. I’d have followed her into a public restroom at that point. We wandered around the stacks aimlessly talking about my pending publication and the size of my paperback. We both love books and I couldn’t imagine a better place to be in her presence. I smiled every time she looked at me. I begged silently to come across some secluded aisle or nook. I needed to kiss her. I wanted to feel her lips on mine. There was not a single nook... anywhere.
All day I had carried a gift for her in my purse. It was my worn and beloved copy of my favorite book. Id picked it off my bookshelf the night before. I never second guessed my plan to give her the book I’d read at least a dozen times. While the book was a symbol in itself, I needed something more, something that spoke of hope and promise- a wish of sorts. I scoured my house looking for just the right thing. And then I found it, a book of scrap-booking paper in a fairytale theme. I’d had the pack for years and had never used a single sheet. I flipped through the different pages wondering how to cut or size them just right, none of them meeting my artistic expectations. That was until I saw the words, “Once upon a time.” Perfect. I cut the paper and glued it to a double thickness, perfect for a bookmark. On the back I wrote the following days date, the day we were to meet for the first time. I began to slide the finished bookmark into the book in the front but instantly knew of the best place for it. I flipped to the page that I was looking for and closed it in the book tying it all together with a piece of thin teal ribbon. I'd not given her the book yet, but given the symbolism and thought I put into it I told her, “You may not always see it. But many of the things I do are done for a specific reason or meaning.” I didn’t elaborate, one day I would tell her. If I could remember only one thing from that day it would be the look she gave me after I said that. It was as if I’d unlocked something inside her.
We crossed over into the children’s library, with the storybook paintings and schoolroom table settings. As was her way, she shot out a question, “What did you think about school?” School. Now there was a topic. We sat and talked about our most significant experiences from our memories. As she spoke I couldn’t help but think she was reading my own thoughts, her experiences, while uniquely hers, intimately mirrored some of my own. The passion and emotion that played across her face drew me in and I was hypnotized by her voice. It was as we shared this personal and perfect connection that we were asked to leave being two adults in the children’s section with obvious lack of children. So we left. The library that earlier that day I’d have only remembered for the many homeless people that gathered outside now took on a more significant meaning in my life.
Back on the street the sun had set. We continued to her car, walking ever so slowly trying to hold on to the fading minutes of our time together, talking and touching. Earlier that night she noticed that she’d lost her parking ticket. Neither of us had an idea of the consequences until we spoke to the attendant, “$30.00 minimum for losing the ticket and then the hourly rate for the 6.5 hours parked.” Wow. Looking back, the parking attendant had quite a racket going on people like us. But paying $20.00 instead of $75.00 seemed more than reasonable, even though we both initially thought she was just being a kind person. She rode up the elevator with us to the car, apparently she was going to swipe her employee badge at the gate in exchange for her fee. When we dropped her back off at her post- a worn out stool in the middle of the driveway, I got out of the backseat and into the front. At the stoplight she reached over and handed me a gift. I stared at it in disbelief. Did she really just give me this? It was a new, crisp book- a collection of stories from her most favorite author. As I held the gift I reached into my bag and pulled out my worn book. “It’s not new and sort of wrinkled and stained.” But in spite of that she told me she loved it anyway.
When we got to my parking garage, there wasn’t any place for her to park and with the traffic, standing still for a long goodbye wasn’t really an option. Suddenly our night had just come to an abrupt and awkward halt. All I could do was lean over, kiss her on the cheek and get out onto the sidewalk. I walked to my car in a daze of disappointment. I’d wanted to kiss her all day. I didn’t want the night to end and then for it to just end without any warning or fanfare I was in shock. I sat in my car for ten minutes thinking that the best day I’d ever had just ended the way the fun does when you pop a balloon. Once I resigned myself to the fact that I’d missed the best opportunity I’d ever had for happiness and pulled out onto the street for home.
Then my phone rang. It was her. “Hey, I know you want to run away, but I opened the book and one of your cards fell out of it. I think you may need it.”
What? One of my credit cards had wedged itself into the book as it bounced around in my purse during the day. “Ok. Where are you?” She told me her location but it didn’t matter, I had no idea where I was but I just said, “Don’t worry, I’ll find you, again.”
I drove up and down several streets as I looked at the map on my phone for the police department that she'd said she had pulled over in front of. After a few more minutes I finally found it and pulled up behind her idling car. I walked to her window and reached in for my card. I thanked her and lightly squeezed her hand before I walked away. What the hell are you doing, Julia? Go back now! So I turned around. I leaned into the window and said “I truly did have a wonderful day.”
She smiled. “Did you really?"
“Yes, very much,” is all I managed to get out before she kissed me. My heart raced and my stomach fluttered. Her foot slipped of the brake and her car rolled forward. I laughed and began to turn back to my car but I couldn’t. I needed more. Her hands touched my face and I knew I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else in the world than right there at that moment. She asked me not to go and it took every ounce of strength I had to leave. But I left and I prayed that the imperfections of the day were overshadowed by the beauty of that single moment, that one beautiful kiss. I drove home with a racing heart, a smile and an undeniable hope for happiness.
Bold Strokes Books is pleased to announce the acquisition of Tina Michele’s new romance, Venus in Love, scheduled for release in 2014.
Venus in Love – Coming in 2014
Ainsley “Lee” Dencourt was born with her future drawn out as heir of the Dencourt Gallery in Washington, DC. She has mastered both fine art and the art of controlling the details of her life, including the people in it—and the people she wants in it, like Morgan Blake.
For Morgan, the only thing more important than her family is art. All her life, Morgan has put her heart and soul into her education and her future—it’s what got her to Yale and to Paris. She cannot allow anything or anyone to come between her and her dreams of success. So why is it that every time Morgan gets a handle on life a dangerously sexy and hopelessly frustrating woman from her past appears and turns her world upside down?
Lee and Morgan will soon discover that while some things in life can be controlled, neither death nor love can be managed or avoided.
About the Author
Tina Michele is a Florida girl living on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon in the biggest small town on the Space Coast. She enjoys all the benefits of living in the Sunshine State. During the day, she pretends to do what they pay her for but really spends most of that time daydreaming and plotting some wild adventure. She graduated from the University of Central Florida with her BA in interdisciplinary studies—the most liberal of the liberal arts degrees—majoring in fine art and writing with a minor in women’s studies. To say she is motivated by her Right brain is a major understatement. Afflicted with self-diagnosed Sagittarian Attention Deficit Disorder, she spends a lot of time starting projects that she may, possibly, one day, probably finish. When she isn’t writing, playing, drawing, painting, or creating something of some sort, she feeds and waters the three dogs that are permanently tethered to her
Visit Tina Michele’s Bio Page at Bold Strokes Books
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