SUPPORT ME AS AN AUTHOR! If you've noticed that I haven't been updating regularly, now you know why. I am excited to announce that I will be moving to publishing on Radish Fiction. Radish Fiction is a free app that you can download via iPhone or Google Play to find your favorite authors and purchase their stories chapter by chapter. The first three chapters are ALWAYS free. After that, you decide. Purchase a new chapter within seven days of its publishing to show me some support, or wait out the seven days and see it for free. I would love it if you all could find me there and subscribe! Any readership I get there helps further my publishing dreams, whether you buy a chapter or read it for free! I will eventually be moving all of my stories, so all that will be left here will be the first three chapters of each one.
My username there: KristinaSuko
Alice drove into the town of Levi with a vague sense that she had seen it before. It was a small town. The welcoming sign had boasted of 1,748 people, and she was not surprised. It was an hour-and-a-half drive from Spokane, off the freeway, and on the precipice of being a run-down slum. Yet, it had charm. There were proud buildings lining Main Street. Brick, elaborate trim, etched-glass window panes, very Victorian.
Several people waved as she drove down the street. It made her smile. The small-town friendliness was something she missed, having grown up in a very close community. Cities were so cold, so detached. The more she saw of the little town, the more she wanted to stay. A few shoppers emitted from the doors of an antique store, and two old women sat at a table drinking iced coffees outside of a café.
Turning down a random street, Alice saw a park filled with laughing kids and playful dogs. Mothers pushed swings beneath tall maple trees and teenagers gossiped in the gazebo in the middle of the park. At the end of the grass was a pool. It looked to be under construction. No one was within. A huge slide twirled from a ladder, bright red and shiny-new.
The houses were all old. She loved the farmhouse style mixed with Victorian, the white fences and somewhat wilted flower gardens. Somewhere, a lawn-mower buzzed, and the smell of freshly cut grass wandered through her window and pleased her senses. She passed a trio of little kids on their bikes, and all of them waved at her.
It was just the kind of small, out of the way place she had been looking for. She could start a new life here. Turning her car around at the end of the street, she headed back to Main Street to see if there were any jobs. A cashier at the antique store would be fun. Or maybe a waitress at the café. She had seen a legal office as well; secretarial work was not foreign to her. Parking her car in front of the antique store, she got out and headed for the dark interior of the store.
There were no help wanted signs in the window, but it was worth a shot to ask. It smelled of old carpet and ancient books. Everything seemed muted in the dim room; china clinked as a shopper inspected a cup, and the woman at the counter gave her a once over with slightly disapproving eyes. It was a look that a grandmother would cast upon her gothic grandchild. A sudden bout of shakes enveloped Alice, so she decided to browse the clutter of antiques while she tried to calm down.
She suddenly felt underdressed even to ask about a job. Her jeans were ripped at one knee, and her blue tee was old and worn. It fit her snugly, and stopped just shy of meeting the top of her jeans. Not the outfit that subtly said "I'm responsible, hire me." It was more like "Hippie vagrant. Here today, gone tomorrow." With a sigh, she ran her fingers through her hair and went up to the counter. Better to have at it and get it over with. The worst the woman could do was say no.
"Hi." She gave the woman her best smile and tried not to clench her fists.
With one raised eyebrow, the woman lifted the corner of her lips. "Can I help you?" Her heavily eye-shadowed lids were lowered slightly, her look condescending as she perused Alice from the ripped knee on her jeans to the slightly bared skin at her midriff to the short layers of her dark hair.
Alice ignored the distaste and took a breath. "Yeah." Don't say "um". She reminded herself. "I know there isn't a help wanted sign in the window, but I was wondering if you we-"
"No." The woman cut her off. Her fuchsia lips were pursed, exaggerating the smoker's lines around her mouth. "Not hiring." With a smile that did not go to her eyes, the woman went back to reading her magazine.
Feeling a slight sting from the rude cutoff, Alice blinked and backed away. "Thanks." She barely remembered to say before she quickly left the store.
The pavement wavered slightly under her feet as she took deep breaths and made her way towards the café. She knew she should not be tearing up from that short encounter, but she was, and it annoyed her. I guess it was worse than just a "no". She thought sourly. Couldn't she have at least let me finish speaking? Inwardly, Alice rallied at the woman in the antique store. Outwardly, she started to make herself smile as she went into the café.
The two old ladies outside stared at her as the glass door shut behind her. There was no help wanted sign in these windows, either. A bouncy teenager with pink ponytails smiled brightly at her, and Alice felt instantly better. The girl had a rose vine tattooed up her neck, and her eyeliner was black. Her fingernails were rainbow colored. Everything in the café was brighter than it had been in the antique store.
Briefly glancing around, Alice smiled. The floor was black-and-white tiled, the walls were red, and the round tabletops were green. It was a mishmash of 1950's diner and something modern and altogether crazy. There was a wall of books surrounding a fireplace, and two tall red and black giraffes flanking the front window. The lights were modeled like huge cherries.
"Hiya!" The girl behind the counter greeted her. Alice noticed an espresso machine behind the counter. "What can I do for you?"
Smiling back, Alice repeated her question. "There's not a help wanted sign in the window, but I was wondering… are you possibly hiring right now?" She was relieved to speak to someone who allowed her to finish her sentences.
The girl twisted her bright red lips. "Well… I'm not sure. I know Emile has been having problems with Marsha." She leaned closer with a conspiratorial look. "Between you and me, she's a nag. She wanted me fired because I have pink hair. I mean, how racist is that?" Leaning back, she resumed her normal tone. "But so far all the positions are filled. You want an application?"
Alice nodded. "Sure, thank you." She took the application.
The girl pointed. "You can go sit over by the window to fill it out, if you want. Bring it up when you're done."
"Okay." Alice went over to the mentioned table and sat. She had to swallow a giggle at the girl, who was now occupied with a customer. Obviously, she wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but she was engaging and definitely good for business. She fell into conversation with the customers and seemed to have them laughing by the second sentence.
Filling in the application, she had a problem when she had to put in her current address. She didn't have one. Maybe she could explain if she got called in for an interview. Then again, her situation did not speak well for her reliability. With a sigh, she left the current address blank and filled out the rest.
The pink-haired girl bared all of her teeth in a grin when Alice went back up to the counter. "Here's… this…" Alice handed her the application.
"Awesome." The girl took it. "Ooh, is that a butterfly?" She grabbed Alice's left wrist and turned it up to expose the tattoo. "Cool. I'm thinking about getting another one, maybe on my ankle. I love the colors! Where did you get it done?" Her chatter was fast and enthralled.
Alice smiled a little. "I got it when I was eighteen, in Seattle."
She had been rebelling at the time. Her mother hated tattoos. They had gotten in a huge fight the night before her eighteenth birthday, so as soon as she was able without parental consent, Alice had gone out and gotten the tattoo she had always wanted. Now, she was not so sure she still wanted it. Sometimes she wished she could take it off. Still, it was pretty.
"You're from Seattle? Wow. Why did you move here?" The girl, whose name Alice finally saw on her nametag- Janie-, looked incredulous.
Alice shrugged. "I just needed a change of scene, I guess." She licked her lips. Change of people. Change of past, present, future, life.
"Huh." Janie sighed. "I'm gonna move out of here as soon as I save up the money for a car." She wrinkled her nose. "It's so stifling here." Then her slightly bitter mood was gone and she bounced back. "But the country boys are cute." She giggled.
Alice tried not to raise and eyebrow as she smirked.
"Well." Janie wiggled her shoulders and bit her tongue. "Welcome to Levi!" She grasped Alice's hand briefly. "I'm going to tell Emile to hire you. I like you." She quirked her head. "You're pretty."
Alice blinked at the compliment and smiled. "Thanks. I better go." She started away from the counter.
"I'll see you later!" Janie yelled after her as she left the café. "Hey wait!"
Alice paused in the door and looked back.
"There are a few fast-food restaurants at the edge of town if you can't find anything else." She cocked her head. "Not the greatest jobs, but if you're desperate…"
Alice nodded. "Thank you."
The two old women were still there. They smiled at her with grandmotherly nods and watched her walk down the street to the legal offices. It was hot; Alice would have guessed ninety or above. Heat shimmered from the pavement, and a dog panted from its spot tied to the bike rack in front of the legal offices. Again, no help wanted signs. Pushing open the cold glass-and-metal door, Alice stepped in. The air-conditioning blasted her with cold air as she walked to the first desk she saw.
"Yes?" The secretary was young, mid-twenties, and wore a crisp maroon business suit. Her hair was black and tied back tightly. "Can I help you?" Her words were polite.
"I'm just wondering if you're hiring at the moment?" Alice was more aware of her underdressed state than she had been in the antique store. Maybe she should have changed before she went looking for jobs.
"No, sorry, but if you give me your name and phone number I'm sure we can call you if something opens…?" The woman smiled politely, but her eyes were distant behind her thickly rimmed glasses.
"Uhm… thank you… never mind." Alice decided in a split second that she did not want to work the cold, detached place. She was out the door before the woman could say goodbye.
As she walked back towards her car, a statue caught her eye. It was down the street a little ways in front of the old train station, and something about it struck a chord in Alice's memory. She stared at it, searching her mind. Why was it familiar? It was nothing special- just the likeness of someone she did not know marking the importance of a story she had never heard. But she had seen it before. Where?
Getting back into her car, she started the ignition but just sat there. Her brain searched for any clue as to why Levi felt so familiar. Why that statue sparked her memory. She had lived in a small town before, but it was nearly three hours from here. She knew for a fact that she had never been to Levi, Washington. Had she read of it somewhere?
Suddenly, the memory came to her. She had seen an article in the paper only a few weeks ago. Jack Rainey, resident of Levi, WA, published his fifth book. He was writing a crime series, and they had taken off like fire in a dry forest. He had been photographed beside that statue. She had known of Jack Rainey for some time now, and she had wanted to meet him someday. But his fame had not been what drew her.
He was her brother.
"So." Olivia Gentry smiled coyly at her son as she cleaned up the pie dishes. "Any girls in Seattle catch your heart yet?"
Logan laughed at his mother's not-so-subtle prying. "No, mama, no one special yet." His mother desperately wanted her second son to get married. The first was, and very happy with his wife. But, at 26 years of age, Logan Gentry was still single and available.
Olivia pouted. "Why not? You need to get married. I want grandchildren." Jesse Gentry and his wife had been married for three years now, but they were too wrapped up in their successful business lives to think about kids. Ellie Gentry was unmarried. Thus, Logan was Olivia's only hope for grandchildren, and he loved kids.
"Well…" Logan looked down at his coffee cup.
He had dated off and on over the years, but the closer he studied the Bible, the less he liked casual dating. One of his good friends, the man who had led him to Christ, had once said "Every woman you date could one day be another man's wife." That had stuck with him. Every time he went out with a girl, he had been plagued by those words, and eventually he realized that he would rather respect the woman and tell her no than try to please her for a little while but ultimately be leading her on.
With a sigh, he looked back up at his waiting mother. "I just haven't found the right one." He smiled slightly.
Olivia sat across from her son at the old table and touched his cheek. "Baby, how are you going to find her if you're not out looking?" Her voice was gentle.
Logan took his mother's hand and squeezed it. "When the time is right, God will bring her along."
His mother did not look too pleased with the answer, but she smiled. "I just don't want you to be alone forever, Logan." Her eyes were gentle. "You weren't made to live single. You were made to love and raise children and be a father. Your heart is too big to give that up."
"I know, mama. Thank you." He knew she would disagree no matter how sound his reasons, so he left it alone.
Though she would never say it bluntly, she thought he was being a little foolish, and he did understand why. In the eyes of the secular world and a large number of the Christians he knew, there was no way to find the right one unless you tried a little of each dish. Logan believed otherwise. God was in control. God would bring along the woman for him when He was ready, not when Logan demanded it. Until then, he would do what had been set before him: take care of the farm.
Standing, he quickly gulped the rest of his coffee and put his cup in the sink. "I should go take a look around before it gets too late." He kissed his mother's cheek.
His father was sitting in the front room, staring out the window with a dour look on his face. He did not glance up when Logan paused at the door, but he muttered something about religious gibberish. Logan inwardly sighed and kept going. It would be a long time before he could discuss his opinions with Thurman. He hoped to one day be able to talk to his father about his beliefs, but until that day came he would have to hold his tongue and show God's love through his actions. His father did not need a sermon.
Thurman's parents had been devout Catholics. Logan did not know much about the religion, but he did know that Thurman had hated the priests, the sermons, the rituals, and the strict Catholic school he had gone to. It was the base of his hate for all things linked to God. He blamed his father's strict and abusive manner on the religion, when in reality it had been a deeper spiteful nature that had driven Thurman's father to abuse his children.
Logan would have loved to convince his father that it was not the Catholic religion that had made his grandfather abusive. From what little he knew, he thought that Catholics were wrong in some aspects, but that they spoke the truth in others. He knew it was nothing in their religion that would point to an abusive nature. But the mention of Reginald Gentry was like setting fire to dynamite. Thurman blew up, and his entire household suffered for days on end. He had never struck his children or his wife, but his temperament was sometimes volatile. Logan remembered walking on eggshells around his father to avoid sparking the anger.
The day was at its peak heat as he headed towards the barn. Jig followed him at a sedate pace, panting and lazy. When Logan stepped into the barn, Jig laid down in the first pile of straw he came to and waited, watching Logan with dark, happy eyes. The goat rested his chin on the bars of his pen, waiting for Logan to come closer. Smiling at the pathetic look in the animal's eyes, Logan broke off a portion of alfalfa and let the goat eat it from his hand as he surveyed the old barn.
It would take a few days of hard work to fix all of the problems he saw. The roof was in need of replacement shingles, and he could see rot in a few of the walls. Thankfully, the supporting beams still looked sturdy and sound, but he would have to check them from the loft. The floor, half cement and half wooden, was missing a few boards where someone or some animal had broken through the wood.
Leaving the goat and the barn, he went to walk around the rest of the buildings and see what kind of work was ahead of him. The chicken coop was fine. Its inhabitants looked fat and healthy, and he could hear a few of them inside the coop squawking. He smiled. He had missed the sights and sounds and smells of the farm. Logan had been slightly discontented with his successful job as an accountant. He had the head for numbers, but the daily trudge to sit in an office and work solely with his head had gotten to him. He was more suited to farm life. The hard work, feeling like he had accomplished something every day, and taking care of others. That was the kind of work he enjoyed.
He would have to drive around the perimeter of the farm to check the fences, but what he could see looked sound. The garage, like the barn, needed a new roof, as well as replacement windows. A few of the glass panes were broken. The lawn needed to be mowed, the garden needed to be weeded, the hose needed to be replaced. The screen door needed repainting. Logan had the feeling that no matter how much he fixed, he would always find more.
With a sigh, he sat on the front bumper of his truck and leaned his head back. The sun felt good on his face and arms, so for a moment he let himself relax and be still. He had spent a lot of time praying while on the road. Though he loved his father, he knew that it would take a lot of patience that he did not have. He was not perfect. He had inherited the sparking temper of his father and his grandfather, but through the help of God he had learned to control it. Most of the time.
He had grown up in a home where fighting was a normal, every day occurrence. His older brother Jesse had left home as soon as he was sixteen, leaving Logan to feel like he had to protect their younger sister. She had inherited their mother's softer nature, and many times had come to Logan crying because of Thurman's rebukes. For that reason, as soon as Ellie was out of the house, Logan left too.
It had taken a hard slap in the face for Logan to realize he was as volatile as his father. He had been a baby Christian, learning, but not willing to relinquish his entire life to God. On the verge of proposing to his girlfriend of one year, she had sparked his temper and he had blown up at her. It was not the yelling that had caught his attention, but the fact that he was about to strike her. She had left him, in tears, and he had fallen to his knees and cried out to God.
From then on, it had been a struggle, but an upward struggle. He still had a temper. He still blew up at inconsequential things. And he still felt like going to his father and making him understand. But the hate he had felt for his dad was no longer there. The poisonous bitterness was gone, and in its place was a love that was growing daily. He could now see that Thurman had done the best he knew how to raise his children. Through his father's lack of physical abuse, he could see the love and restraint. It had not been perfect, but then, his father was human, and flawed.
Rousing himself from the lazy position on his truck, he headed back towards the house. He wanted to jump into the work right away, but the afternoon was slowly closing in and by the time he got started on a project, it would be too late to finish properly.
The smell of baked chicken and boiling potatoes wafted through the screen door as he went up the steps. For a moment, he paused and turned to look at the land around him. Rolling hills stretched out endlessly, broken only by the town of Levi far in the distance. The huge barn, unpainted and brown, was somehow majestic even in its state of half-ruin. His old green truck fit here. It had stood out like a sore thumb in the city, but here it looked comfortable. At home.
As he stood and took in the land, Logan felt a peace settle over him. The restlessness he had felt in the city was gone. He no longer felt the need to wander, no longer felt the need to go out and find something to distract himself from his discontent. He was where he should be. He was home.