Hoping to be on the island next summer 🙂
Within The Maples is the first in The Red Raven Journals series by Harmony Lee. This book is a series of haunting dreams and suspicious people that plague a young woman named Raven Quinn. Heat Level: ♥♥♥♥ Overall Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers Genre: Mystery Thriller Raven hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in years. She’s […]
What’s in the pie?
By Harmony Lee
Clara walked into the kitchen behind her husband, Thomas, where he sat at the round table with his best friend Marshall. The kitchen still warmly smelled of coffee and Clara’s freshly baked pies, though her heart felt cold. She stared at his broad back with tears in her eyes and a crumpled, fist full of cash receipts in her hand.
“You’ve never loved me the way you love them. Any of them. All of them,” she was slowly shaking her head side to side, tendrils falling loose from the bun atop her head. “You never will love me like that.” She let the receipts fall to the floor with her tears.
Thomas sighed heavily and hung his head. He circled the rim of his mug with his forefinger slowly. Marshall stood and walked to the coffee maker and fresh pie in the corner of the kitchen trying to disappear into the cabinetry. “You want me to love you the way I love them? With empty and useless love? They’re hobbies, Clara. I love them no more than you love your pots and pans.” He didn’t turn to look at her. The conversation made him boil though he replied with a tone so dull he’d almost seemed bored with the conversation before it’d begun. She’d known of his faults upon their very first eye contact and to accept someone only to later scrutinize them, he felt, was dishonest. She’d never shamed him before and he’d initially thought she might just need an outlet for some inexplicable emotions.
“I may love my pots and pans but at least they serve you a purpose! They’re used to put food on the table. In front of you. For you. To fill you up so your fat an happy for your ‘hobbies.’ Feed you and send you off to them while I’m left alone, feeding scraps to the dogs. Thomas, they’re addictions. You love them and you can’t live without them. You don’t love me. Your eyes look right through me.” Clara was passionate in her feeling, which was clear. A bit dramatic in expression, but passionate.
“I don’t love you? I don’t love you?” Thomas stood angrily and turned to look at his wife brewing in her irrationalities. “Clara, I love you like the air that I breathe. I love you like the sun that rises each morning. I love you so indefinitely that without your very presence my heart would cease to beat. My lungs deny breath. My love may be different from yours, Clara, but its value is no less.”
“That’s no different than saying a penny and a dollar are both currency,” her lips barely moved but he felt the dagger with precision.
“It’s very different, my girl. Very different indeed.” With that she turned and walked up the stairs.
“I’ve never lied to you, Clara. I’ve never changed,” Clara stopped halfway up the stairs to listen him but did not turn and did not reply. “You can not reach for a flame then curse the fire for your burns.” Her steps resumed and the door at the top slammed shut.
Marshall had made his way back to the table with a slice of the rhubarb. “She may be loving those pots and pans a bit less these days. This pie is far from Clara’s best,” Marshall complained before shoveling another bite into his mouth.
“I don’t dare understand that woman,” Thomas began, staring up the dark staircase. “Most days she’s perfectly pleasant, milling about with her errands and her books and her new recipes. Then without warning she has these small fits of emotion. I don’t dare understand,” he shook his head in familiar bewilderment.
“She’ll be fine in the morning. Let her stew a bit. It’ll blow over,” Marshall took another bite of the pie. “She’s ruined the pie though, sure to blame it on you somehow.” Then his eyes closed and his head fell into his plate.
“Hittin’ the whisky a tad early today, aren’t ya? Pick your head up or she’ll return with the wooden spoon to the back of it.” Thomas walked to his friend sitting at the kitchen table. “Did ya hear what I said? Pick up your damn head!” He pulled Marshalls head up by his hair only for it to fall back into the plate.
“Useless drunk,” Thomas muttered grabbing the liquor filled cup from Marshall’s hand. He tossed it into the sink before filling his own mug of coffee and leaned back on the counter in the silence, wondering what he missed with Clara. Certainly he wasn’t the only party to blame; she’d known him nearly twenty years. She’d never approached him to change and that was one of her most endearing qualities. Now it’s blown up in his face. Thomas shook his head to clear the confusion before taking a loud sip from his mug.
“I hate the way you slurp,” he hadn’t heard her come down the stairs but there she was, standing on the landing with a suitcase in her hand. She admired his physique. He was handsome. Tall. A heavy sweater hung nicely on his broad shoulders and his brow furrowed curiously. He stood with confident ease and his professor-like gray streaks and wire-rimmed eyeglasses resembled accomplishment. Success. Pride. You’d never guess the skeletons he’d kept locked away.
“Excuse me?” Thomas asked over his mug. Clara shook her head slightly, as if to eliminate the visual distraction.
“What’s the matter with him?” she asked of Marshall with his face in the pie.
“Mm. You leaving?”
“I’m not staying.”
“I’m not changing.”
“I never asked you to change.” And in seconds Thomas and Clara were on opposite sides of the front door. Their front door. The front door to a home they’d built together.
“What do you think, Marsh? Should I go after her? Maybe I should change. Apologize, at least,” Thomas looked down at his friends gaping mouth hole, his right cheek and ear buried in mashed rhubarb, spattered onto his glasses as well. “Now the pie’s ruined.” Thomas plunked his mug onto the counter, grabbed his truck keys and hesitantly headed for the door.
Clara slowly followed the main road for three miles.
She’d packed a bag, Thomas thought. She’d never packed a bag before.
Clara drove slowly, cautiously on the main road. Three miles down she turned right onto the boulevard.
Thomas pulled out onto the main road and spotted Clara’s car quickly; diagonally he could see her on the perpendicular boulevard. The sun was setting and traffic was thick. “I’ll just follow her until she stops, no use making a scene in the street,” he sighed to himself.
“She must be going to Ellie’s house,” he muttered to himself. Thomas held his cell in his hand, ready call her before she went inside. He caught up quickly and was now only half of a dozen cars behind her, patiently waiting for her to park. Clara drove passed Ellie’s house. Clara drove passed Ellie’s house, the fire station, and the bogs. Clara kept on driving toward the town line. Clara stopped. Clara stopped at Marshall’s house. She didn’t pause but pulled into the drive as if she’d done it a thousand times. Smooth. With precision. Thomas stopped at the street and watched as Clara grabbed her bag and walked to the side door and open it with a key. From her pocket. Clara was home.
Thomas sat at the top of the drive numbly. He sat for nearly an hour, watching the lights flick on, the chimney begin to smoke, the smell of an oven ignite, the warmth of a home melt its cool surroundings. He saw life living and his blood cooled. He didn’t get angry or jealous. He didn’t feel rage or betrayal. He felt loss. Pure and tragic. As if he watched himself drown, lonely and naked. Stripped. No one dared to drop a lifeline. No one dared to know. They all knew. It hadn’t been a secret. Everyone inquired, talked amongst their Sunday tea, and arranged the ‘time after Thomas’ for Clara. Everyone knew. All but Thomas. He sat and watched his dignity decline. Inhaled each Marlboro as if it were his last dyeing breath. Maybe it was. Maybe he’d died a thousand times in that very moment. That moment he realized his version of love was lost. His life was lost.
Just as his eyes began to close and his heart swallow his throat, Clara emerged from the doorway. She wrapped herself with a knitted shawl he recognized from the sofa and stared innocently at the stars. She gazed and shuttered and he thought for a moment the moonlight might reflect a tear on her cheek; a memory, a spark to ignite her return. She tightened the shawl and stepped back toward the door. Thomas’ hopes fell back as well.
Just as she was pulling the door closed, as suddenly as if a silent slap struck her sweet cheeks, her eyes grew wide and she ran for the car. Clara slammed the door shut and frantically searched for the key. She screamed uncertain commands at the internal control and in a cloud she sped away. Leaving the fire burning, the oven roasting, the lights dimming, the door open. Clara’s tears were moving more quickly than Thomas could even flinch. She had fled and he crept. Shadows in the night they passed one another. She fled passed his painfully stalking eye. She fled and he crept. He crept slowly into the house. Timely. Foresakenly. Shamely.
Clara sped away. She sped through speed lights. Speed bumps. Stop signs.
Thomas caressed the countertops. The mantle. Pet the dog. He hated that dog. Marshall’s pup. He crept into the bedroom. His shoulder found comfort in the frame of the door. He gazed drunkenly until his eyes found her suitcase. It’s vacancy left nothing more than shear delight and mystery. A lie or misguided notion; neither one he could decipher. Her suitcase was vacant and her heart rampant for the front door. The front door he evaded. Two front doors, both robbed of their innocence. Their protection. A symbol of security and warmth now stood a cavern of loss.
Clara sped into their driveway. She left the car running and tore for the front door. Their front door.
“MARSHALL!!! Marshall!!!” she screamed, tripping into the kitchen. “Marshall…” sobs of unrecognizable mourning poured from the woman like lava from a mountain. On her bloodied knees she crawled to the man on the floor. Her man. Thomas. Her husband of nearly two decades.
“Clara,” Marshall spoke calmly from the counter where he was using a dish towel to clean the rest of the pie off of his glasses. “He’s gone.”
Clara clutched the hefty knit that draped over his broad shoulders. She grasped at his scruff as if he were a cat she could awaken. She pulled at his cheeks begging one last smile. Thomas’ face was peaceful. He’d fallen at misunderstood betrayal. Silent and unknowing.
“Clara,” empathetically Marshall pleaded. Her wearied eyes denied his presence. “You left him.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t love him.”
“That’s what it meant to him.”
“I was coming back.”
“How was he to know?”
“What happened to us, Thomas?” She asked laying her head on his chest.
And so in his desperation for her love he died broken-heartedly at her departure. There was no way she could have known his last profession of love for her was his death sentence. As Thomas watched the scene invisibly from the doorway, he understood. Both of them so torn by distractions of modern day lusts and luxuries that they’d lost themselves, therefor severing a connection so powerful, so necessary, that it was capable of death.
Thomas watched Clara tearfully comprehend and as his heart ceased to beat and his lungs deny breath, he said goodbye to his ‘hobbies,’ goodbye to his love, goodbye to his life.
When it comes to relationships where sexual tension is possible, the platonic lines can always get a little blurry. We can easily confuse lust for love, love for friendship and the ‘friend zone’ as ‘off limits.’
The Love Square by Jessica Calla explores two relationships on opposite coasts where men and women fight their instincts to become romantically involved with each other in order to save their budding and valued friendships. Initially, I thought this story line would be difficult to follow, with four strong main characters depicting their points of view and emotions. However, once the story got moving along, Jessica Calla kept the flow easy to follow with smooth character transitions. The coast-to-coast connection also made sense; two childhood friends on the east coast pursued different careers, one being acting which sent one friend to the west coast.
It was an easy read in the way that she kept giving you a little bit of each character then moving to another. Continuously I wanted to find out more about each one, what they were thinking and what their final decisions were going to be. Before I knew it one thirty in the morning came and I was on to the epilogue.
I appreciated the epilogue and its insights to the future for these characters. Too often I finish a book and wonder ‘What happened next for them?’
This was the first book I’ve read by Jessica Calla and I look forward to reading more by her. The characters she created were very relatable and each one was completely unique. She gave depths to the traits, strengths and faults that mold lasting relationships. The plot line was complex but well written and detailed. Five stars!
Sweet Caress is the first book that I have read by William Boyd and I was not disappointed. It follows a captivating voyage through the life of Amory Clay, a female photographer early in the 1900’s, spanning five love affairs and her lifetime of photo’s and family. She is dedicated to overcoming obstacles in her career, which there are plenty of since photography is not a popular career choice of women in this era. There is also an intriguing sense of distance in her character throughout the story, perhaps a side-effect from her complicated relationship with her father.
The war is a continuous part of Amory’s life. Her father had returned from the war distant, distracted and emotionally disconnected. Beginning as a society photographer she later turns to photos of the war, often times very close to the front lines of battle.
The timeline is well paced and easy to follow, major life events separated chronologically and adding notes from Amory’s Barrandale Journal of 1977 for relative hindsight perspective.
Beginning in England, she travels to Berlin, Paris, New York, Vietnam and finally Scottland and each landscape is brought to life with action, adventure, mystery and love affairs.
William Boyd does a fine job portraying a strong female point of view through emotional family and career issues. His writing style was well paced, descriptive, interesting and as the ending came, I really felt that he rounded it out perfectly.
I look forward to reading more by William Boyd.