Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Almost Wordless Wednesday-Happy Halloween!

I apologize to anyone who was/is offended by Mr. Smiley. I promise--he isn't really flipping you off--although taking another look at the picture I can see where you'd think that--he was just holding the balloon while I took the picture at my niece's birthday party last month. It looks like I'm going to have to teach Mr. Smiley how to hold a balloon properly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What a Wonderful Book!

I finished reading The Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck.

Hayley Cutler, yes, the Mrs. Cutler of producer husband (Jay Cutler) fame, suddenly finds herself without a husband, a place to live, and a "real" job.

To make things worse, since she signed a pre-nup, so she must meet with Jay's handsome lawyer, Hamilton Lowe, to collect her monthly settlement from her impending divorce.

Although Haley cannot stand Hamilton's attitude towards her and her divorce, she takes his suggestion to attend a group for divorced women (The Trophy Wives Club) at his church. Needing someone to help guide her through the ropes of a divorce settlement and exacting her revenge on Jay and his heartlessness, Hayley decides to attend one of the meetings to see what help she can garner from the other divorcees in the group. While her first meeting was a disaster, Haley soon finds herself accepted into this diverse group of women, and realizes that she doesn't need someone to take care of her, that she is perfectly capable of standing on her own two feet (unless she's running on the beach) with God's help.

Whoa! What an impact. As a person who has gone through a divorce, I can relate to Haley and the emotions running rampant through her mind after her husband decides to exchange her for a younger model (literally)! Helplessness, hatred, and wanting revenge, are all emotions that I think most people experience when going through a divorce, and Haley is no different.

This was a tough book to read at first, especially since it brought to life emotions that I thought I had put behind me, but as I read further, Haley's humor and antics had me giggling like a two year old.

Since I collect quotations that make me think, here are a couple from The Trophy Wives Club:

"You can't let one mistake change who you are."

(This is so true. I often wonder how many of us are just walking
shells of
who we once were because of a single incident in our lives that we
haven't forgiven ourselves for? God is so awesome! He's already
us--as soon as we ask him.. So start living people!)

" Wouldn't it be great if God just blew an air horn in your ear and told you exactly what to do? It's that whole free will business. Gets in my way every time."

(Amen to that! I laughed for a good ten minutes after reading this part in the book. It's the first time someone else has mentioned out loud what I think on a daily basis. I'm so glad I'm not the only one--even if it is a character in a book!)

You have to read The Trophy Wives Club by Kristin Billerbeck! It's a wonderful book!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Organization: Not for the Fainthearted

I've been working on getting things organized--especially after having the garage sale awhile back. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a procrastinator--after all, no one comes to my house, does it really matter if my crafts are out everywhere and my desk is messy?

I finally decided that it DID matter and worked for about 50 minutes cleaning the top of my desk. Almost an hour--to clean up papers from the top of the desk--50 minutes! Needless to say, the crafts will have to wait a until this weekend--they're probably going to take ALL day! While I should have taken a "before" picture for you to get the full effect, here's the "after" picture:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Look Out! She's Got a Gun!

And I'm not afraid to use it! (At least on the target range at the farm.)

Yesterday was our bi-annual family reunion up at the farm. It was overcast and cloudy for most of the day, but God held the rain off until after everyone left and we were headed home.

As we said the blessing for the food we had about 32 people there, but about 15 more people showed up later in the day.

You see, our family is all about the food. If there's food around, we're there! My mom made her famous Calico Beans and her yummy Pasta Salad! (Who says she can't cook?!) My uncle Charlie drove over from Texas and made his spicy chili--which a lot of people stayed away from because he made it "too spicy." (Is that even possible?) There were some people that even made a couple batches of deviled eggs--YUM! The best part for me however, were the desserts! Brownies, cake, cookies, doughnuts...the list goes on and on. Yep--I ate way too much (as usual), but it was nice to see everyone again.

Even the people that aren't related, but decided to stop by and enjoy the food. Does anyone know who these people are? (Just kidding--they're friends of my parents!--I think. )

There was a zip line for the kids (think James Bond, only close to the ground), water balloons (supposedly a toss, but it was really a time to chase the little ones with water balloons), rides in the golf cart and the mule (of which I almost fell out of), volleyball games, finding money in the haystack, and of course, when everyone left--the gun range.

(My 7 y.o. niece also learned how to drive the golf cart--pretty scary if you're trying to hang on the back and not drop your camera, or fall off.)

Hayley decided that she wanted to shoot a gun at the targets, so after a brief safety training with Grandpa, she was able to shoot a couple of rounds. While she doesn't quite understand the concept of looking through the scope to line up your shot, she was still happy to have pinged the metal targets a couple times--with Grandpa's help.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Power of Prayer

What a difference a week makes--especially when God's moving!

Wednesday afternoon, I arrived home to find a note on my door from my apartment managers letting me know that my apartment was going to be "inspected" the next day. Inspected?! So, I went to look around at the other apartment doors and NO ONE else had an inspection notice on their doors. So, trying to rationalize it, I decided that it was probably a yearly maintenance thing and that I would call the apartment people in the morning, since I was going to meet my Aunt for dinner the following evening and couldn't stop by the apartment office.

Thursday, I called the apartment office during my lunch break to find out what they were inspecting--after all, I have a list of things that need to be repaired if they need it. Deb said that it was really a financier (the bank) that was inspecting my apartment because they were considering buying it. (Excuse me!?) She said that I shouldn't worry because they generally buy a couple blocks of apartments at a time, and that unless they had someone specifically in mind to rent it to, or that wants to buy my specific apartment to live in, that I wouldn't have to move. (Tell that to my neighbors that used to live downstairs--they had to move out, and the girl that just moved in is the one that bought it out from under them.) Needless to say, I was a little upset at first, but this could actually be an answer to prayer. You see, I had been considering moving for awhile (I'll fill you in on this at a later time), and if someone buys my apartment, then I will not be breaking my lease. :) It works out for everyone!

During eighth period, I received a phone call from another Media Specialist in the area and she tells me that our Supervisor asked her to call me and let me know that her position may be opening up in December, and was I interested? (I had told me Supervisor awhile back that I was trying to move further North to be closer to my family and help them out. While this location is West, it's still closer than what I am now.) WAS I INTERESTED?! UM, YEA!

So, while I had dinner with my Aunt, I used her as a sounding board for all of these changes. My cousin actually went to this school, and it wasn't the best. It's been cleaned up some since it's a magnet school, but the location is still in the inner-city. My co-worker is a year and a half away from retirement and is a former shop teacher (Read: has no experience in the library). I would be a non-paid department head, which is gobbledy-gook for a lot of responsibility with no compensation, but I would be closer to my family, and I would be out of my current situation. (BIG SMILES!)

Although I must admit--I'm scared too death! After all, I'd be in charge (me, who can't make a decision to save her life!) and it would be MY library. (Yikes!) I keep telling myself that my Supervisor wouldn't even consider me if she didn't think I could do it. After all, I'd have to deal with someone with no experience in the field, as well as relearn how things are run in the school. It's a lot for someone to handle without experience, and she's chosen me! (That, or she's setting me up to fail--which is also niggling in the back of my head. But, I can't believe that. Why would she set someone up to fail? It's her job to see that things are running well, so she wouldn't be evil to me--would she?)

As you can see, I have a lot of indecision running through my brain, but I did tell my supervisor to go ahead and put my name in for a possible transfer if this happens. Of course now I'll be worrying until Christmas, but I've been praying that God slams this door shut if this is not His will, and if it is His will that He carries me through.

Thank you for your continued prayers. I'll keep you updated with any news I learn!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What have I been up to lately?


I just found out that my pedicurist, Nadine, was involved in a car accident last week and she was pretty banged up. I know she has a ton of appointments that she needs to keep so that the at-fault driver's insurance pays the bills--especially since Nadine does not have health insurance of her own. Please pray for a speedy recovery and no lasting side-effects from the accident. I know money is tight and this couldn't have happened at a worse time for her.

Thank you!

"What have I been doing the past couple of weeks"? you ask. Well, let me show you...

I'm crocheting a blanket for my real dad in Texas. His favorite color is red and it gets REALLY cold there during winter, so hopefully I'll finish it in time for his Christmas present. (If not, his birthday is in January.) The yarn is a feathery chenille and it's so fluffy. Madison enjoys it as well--although she likes to play with the yarn and the crochet hook even more.

My best friend, Judy, retired from the Social Studies classroom and moved to Sylvania, Georgia. She came back last week for a retirement reception in her honor at the school where we first met and worked together. Here's a picture of Judy and her mom. (Of course she'll kill me for putting this picture of her with her mouth open online, so if you don't hear from me for a couple more weeks, you might want to check on me--Judy's REALLY good with a hunting rifle!)

I'm very happy that Judy finally gets a chance to "get out of Dodge" and spend time with her Mom and husband after all of this time, but I'm also a tad bit jealous. If I stick with this particular school system, I have 22 more years before I can retire. :( (Especially since they refuse to accept my year in Texas...Grrrrrr......) I know she's put in her time, but I really miss her. Not only has she been a true friend, she's also been my spiritual mentor since we met. In fact, right before she left, Judy gave me a copy of Beth Moore's study on David with the 90 day devotional journal and the accompanying CD! She also gave me a bracelet that says "With God, all things are possible." Something that I need reminded of on a daily basis.

I've also been helping my grandmother with a project she's working on for my grandfather. Papaw (Hey! I couldn't say Grandpa or Grammy, so we have Papaw and Nanny!) was in the Navy when he was younger and sailed on the U.S.S. Amman. Nanny is working on an album for him and I've been trying to get some negatives and slides of the pictures he took printed so she can use the pictures in the scrapbook she's making for him. These are not the best quality, but here are some of the pictures:

This is Papaw on one of the ships. He was a radioman and typed up all of the messages that came through in Morse Code. Unfortunately, the news came in so fast that he didn't really have time to process the letters he was typing into words. (Too bad--he probably knows all kinds of secrets.) The other picture is of him at one of the piers. I think it's in San Francisco.

I also celebrated my aunt's birthday and gave her an annual pass to DISNEY! She hasn't been to the Magic Kingdom in over 20 years, and I don't think she's ever been to Epcot or MGM or the Animal Kingdom. We're both so excited that I'm not sure we can wait two more months! Nanny has had to peel my aunt off of the ceiling on several occasions so I know it's going to be fun!

Last year we started a tradition for New Year's since we're both single with no prospects. We decided that we would do something fun rather than mope around the house at not having anyone to kiss at the stroke of midnight. (I know, kind of lame, but there it is...) Last year we went on the Murder Mystery Train Ride in Ft. Myers. (Way cool if you've never been!) This year I decided--What better way to have fun than to hang out with Mickey and of course, Pooh Bear!? We're going to see fireworks! (We're even going to Italy and France, since neither one of us is going to make to Europe anytime soon. This also saves on the language lessons we would have to take so she could speak Italian, and I could speak French.)

Otherwise, I've been trying to make it through the drudgery I call my job. I LOVE being a librarian, I just HATE where I'm located and the way our system is run. (That's a sure sign it's time to move on because I feel like I'm not being effective and I don't have a purpose.) I'm really hoping something comes along soon in the public sector, or I may quit and wait tables again to try and pay my bills. Truly--we've had 10 people quit teaching this year and it's only been 2 months! Of course, it's not just at our school, it's everywhere in this county. People are fed up with the increasing workload and no time to get it done.

You see, people seem to think that teachers have weekends off and summers off. I NEVER had a weekend off when I was in the classroom! (You can ask my parents--I was still living with them!) I spent 10 hours a day grading all of the papers I collected over the week because I didn't have time to grade them in the evenings after sitting in traffic for two hours to get home. During the summers, teachers have to go to all of the inservices and workshops and classes to gain credits to keep our teaching certificates. (Those people that think teaching is easy, need to come work in an inner-city school for a couple of months. Okay--I'm stepping off of my soapbox now.)

In any case, I've been in a job identity crisis because I don't know what to do now. Nothing seems to be available in the school system and in the public library system that would pay close to what I'm making now with my time in the system. I know this is God telling me to wait, but I'm truly going to need some major drugs if I have to keep working where I am now. So, I guess this is another prayer request--that I find God's will and purpose for my life--especially one that will pay the bills! :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

I've been tagged...

by Camy Tang! (I guess I should check my email a little more often.)

I am supposed to tell where I was 10-20-30 years ago. (I barely remember what I did this morning, so I had to call my mom on this one for some help!)

10 years ago--I was living in Tampa, Florida with my Mom and her husband and my sister. They had been married for about 6 months or so, and I was adjusting to having a "guy" around the house again. (No more running from the bathroom to the bedroom without a robe.) Having decided to switch my career from Interior Design to teaching English, I was almost finished with my degree at USF (GO BULLS!), while working for Busch Gardens! (Hey! I was 22, and they're across the street from each other! Plus, I could go to the park whenever I wanted to and bring friends since I was given six tickets a year! B-e-n-e-f-i-t-s!)

20 years ago--I was living in Parkersburg, West Virginia with my Mom and sister, while attending Hamilton Jr. High. I wasn't very popular in the seventh grade, but I did LOVE art and I sang in the choir (much to my music teacher's chagrin). I was going to run track, but the track teacher wanted me to jump the hurdles and they were taller than I was, so I told him "no thanks." (Yep--making BIG mistakes even then.)

I also remember Mr. Belasco, our famous science teacher because he used to through chalked up erasers at people who were talking and spray sleeping students with his water bottle. He was feared at the beginning of the year, but I had the best time in his Life Science class. We kept spiral-bound notebooks for his class, and I remember drawing the diagrams from our Science books into my notebook and coloring them with my colored pencils. It was also my first time taking a foreign language (French) and having a "real" locker.

My seventh grade year was my last year in West Virginia. My Mother's plant had lay-offs, so we ended up moving to Florida and staying with my grandparents the next year of school before moving again. I miss the smallness of Parkersburg, but I'm sure it's grown immensely and I would never recognize it.

30 years ago--I was two years old. My Mom said that we had just moved back to Alamogordo, New Mexico from Coolville, Ohio (yes, that's its real name!). I've always been very curious, so one day I decided to run out the back gate of our backyard (each house was fenced in and there was an alley between each group of homes on a street) and took off down the alley on my own for a brief time-period. (I told her that I've always been an adventurer at heart, but my Mom didn't find it very funny.)

My Mom also said that we went to some marketplace in Mexico. The only things I remember about the trip are: my grandfather holding me most of the time, because I remember waking up against his shoulder and looking down at all of the things on display. I also remember trying to understand what one of the men was saying to me. I also remember picking out a little coin change-purse (which, I think, went to charity a few years ago) to carry with me. My Mom informed me that the people at that booth gave me the change purse because they thought that I was cute, and they had never seen anyone with such blond little curls. (If you've seen my niece, you'd understand. I now have dark, VERY straight hair and look nothing like her.)

I typed a bit more than I intended, but it was kind of neat to think about my life a bit. I told my Mom that I should probably write it all down some day since I move quite often, but I know it will take me forever to figure out where all I've lived.

Tag! You're it...mad4books, OJB, Literary Feline, and M.C. Pearson. (Don't blame started with Mary DeMuth.)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Happy October First!

It is October 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and his/her latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:

and her book:

Demon: A Memoir

(NavPress, 2007)


Tosca Lee received her BA in English and International Relations from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has also studied at Oxford University.

As a Leadership Consultant, Tosca works with managers and leaders of organizations throughout the Pan-Pacific region, Europe, and the U.S.

Tosca is a former Mrs. Nebraska-America 1996, Mrs. Nebraska-United States 1998 and first runner-up to Mrs. United States and has been lauded nationally for her efforts to fight breast cancer.

In her spare time, Tosca enjoys cooking, studying history and theology, and traveling. She currently resides in Nebraska with her Shar Pei, Attila.

Visit her at her website and her blog.


Chapter One

It was raining the night he found me. Traffic had slowed on Massachusetts Avenue, and the wan light of streetlamps reflected off the pavement. I was hurrying on without an umbrella, distracted by the chirp of a text message on my phone, trying to shield its illuminated face from rain and the drizzle off storefront awnings. There had been a mistake in my schedule, an appointment that I didn’t recognize and that I had stayed late at the office for — until six forty-five — just in case. Our office manager was texting me from home now to say she had no idea who it was with, that the appointment must have belonged on Phil’s calendar, that she was sorry for the mistake and to have a good night.

I flipped the phone shut, shoved it in my bag. I was worn out by this week already, and it was only Tuesday. The days were getting shorter, the sun setting by six o’clock. It put me on edge, gnawed at me, as though I had better get somewhere warm and cheerful or, barring all else, home before it got any darker. But I was unwilling to face the empty apartment, the dirty dishes and unopened mail on the counter. So I lowered my head against the rain and walked another two blocks past my turnoff until I came to the Bosnian Café. A strap of bells on the door announced my entrance with a ringing slap.

I liked the worn appeal of the Bosnian Café with its olfactory embrace of grilled chicken and gyro meat that enveloped me upon every arrival and clung to me long after leaving. That night, in the premature darkness and rain, the café seemed especially homey with its yellowing countertops, chipped mirrors, and grimy ketchup bottles. Cardboard shamrocks, remnants of a forgotten Saint Patrick’s Day, draped the passthrough into the kitchen, faded around their die-cut edges. A string of Christmas lights lined the front window, every third bulb out. On the wall above the register, a framed photo of the café’s owner with a local pageant queen, and another with a retired Red Sox player, had never been dusted. But no one, including me, seemed to mind.

I stood in the entry waiting for Esad, the owner, to notice me. But it was not the bald man who welcomed me.

It was the dark-haired stranger.

I was surveying the other tables, looking for inspiration — chicken or steak, gyro or salad — when he beckoned. I hesitated, wondering if I should recognize him, this man sitting by himself — but no, I did not know him. He impatiently waved again, and I glanced over my shoulder, but there was no one standing in the entryway but me. And then the man at the table stood up and strode directly to me.

“You’re late,” he said, clasping my shoulder and smiling. He was tall, tanned, with curling hair and a slightly hooked nose that did nothing to detract from his enviable Mediterranean looks. His eyes glittered beneath well-formed brows. His teeth were very white.

“I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong person,” I said. He chuckled.

“Not at all! I’ve been waiting for you for quite some time. An eternity, you might say. Please, come sit down. I took the liberty of ordering for you.” His voice reminded me of fine cognac, the Hors d’Age men drink aboard their yachts as they cut their Cohíbas.

“You have the wrong person. I don’t know you,” I insisted, even as he steered me toward the table. I didn’t want to embarrass him; he already seemed elegantly out of place here in what, for all practical purposes, was a joint. But he would feel like an elegant fool in another minute, especially if his real appointment — interview, date, whatever — walked in and saw him sitting here with me.

“But I know you, Clay.”

I started at the sound of my name, spoken by him with a mixture of familiarity and strange interest, and then I studied him more closely — the squareness of his jaw, the smoothness of his cheek, his utter self-possession — wondering if I had indeed met him before. But I hadn’t, I was certain of it now.

One of Esad’s nephews arrived with a chicken sandwich and two cups of coffee. “Please,” the stranger said, motioning to a vinyl-covered chair. Numbly, stupidly, I sat.

“You work down the street at Brooks and Hanover,” he said when the younger man had gone. He seated himself adjacent to me, his chair angled toward mine. He crossed his legs, plucked invisible lint off the fine wool of his trousers. “You’re an editor.”

Several thoughts went through my head in that moment, none of them savory: first, that this was some finance or insurance rep who — just like the pile of loan offers on my counter at home — was trying to capitalize on my recent divorce. Or, that this was some aggressive literary agent trying to play suave.

Most likely, though, he was a writer.

Every editor has stories to tell: zealous writers pushing manuscripts on them during their kid’s softball game, passing sheaves of italicized print across pews at church, or trying to pick them up in bars, casually mentioning between lubricated flirtations that they write stories on the side and just happen to have a manuscript in the car. I had lost count of the dry cleaners, dental hygienists, and plumbers who, upon hearing what I did for a living, had felt compelled to gift me with their short stories and children’s books, their novels-in-progress and rhyming poetry.

“Look, whoever you are — ”


I meant to tell him that I was sure we didn’t publish whatever it was he wanted me to read, that there were industryaccepted ways to get his work to us if we did, that he could visit the website and check out the guidelines. I also meant to get up and walk away, to look for Esad or his nephew and put an order in — to go. But I didn’t say or do any of these things, because what he said next stopped me cold.

“I know you’re searching, Clay. I know you’re wondering what these late, dark nights are for. You have that seasonal disease, that modern ailment, don’t you? SAD, they call it. But it isn’t the disorder — you should know that. It isn’t even your divorce. That’s not what’s bothering you. Not really.”

I was no longer hungry. I pushed away the chicken sandwich
he had ordered and said with quiet warning, “I don’t know who you are, but this isn’t funny.”

He went on as though he hadn’t heard me, saying with what seemed great feeling, “It’s that you don’t know what it’s all for: the hours and days, working on the weekends, the belief that you’ll eventually get caught up and on that ultimate day something will happen. That everything will make sense or you’ll at least have time to figure it out. You’re a good man, Clay, but what has that won you? You’re alone, growing no younger, drifting toward some unknown but inevitable end in this life. And where is the meaning in that?”

I sat very still. I felt exposed, laid open, as though I had emptied my mind onto the table like the contents of a pocket. I could not meet his gaze. Nearby, a couple — both of their heads dripping dirty blond dreadlocks — mulled over menus as the woman dandled an infant on her lap. Beyond them, a thickset woman paged through People, and a young man in scrubs plodded in a sleep-deprived daze through an anemic salad. I wondered if any of them had noticed my uncanny situation, the strange hijacking taking place here. But they were mired in their menus, distractions, and stupor. At the back counter, a student tapped at the keypad of his phone, sending messages into the ether.

“I realize how this feels, and I apologize,” Lucian said, folding long fingers together on his knee. His nails were smooth and neatly manicured. He wore an expensivelooking watch, the second hand of which seemed to hesitate before hiccupping on, as though time had somehow slowed in the sallow light of the diner. “I could have done this differently, but I don’t think I would have had your attention.”

“What are you, some kind of Jehovah’s Witness?” I said. It was the only thing that made sense. His spiel could have hit close to anyone. I felt conned, angry, but most of all embarrassed by my emotional response.

His laughter was abrupt and, I thought, slightly manic. “Oh my,” he said, wiping the corners of his eyes. I pushed back my chair.

His merriment died so suddenly that were it not for the sound of it still echoing in my ears, I might have thought I had imagined it. “I’m going to tell you everything,” he said, leaning toward me so that I could see the tiny furrows around the corners of his mouth, the creases beneath his narrowed eyes. A strange glow emanated from the edge of his irises like the halo of a solar eclipse. “I’m going to tell you my story. I’ve great hope for you, in whom I will create the repository of my tale — my memoir, if you will. I believe it will be of great interest to you. And you’re going to write it down and publish it.”

Now I barked a stunted laugh. “No, I’m not. I don’t care if you’re J. D. Salinger.”

Again he went on as though I’d said nothing. “I understand they’re all the rage these days, memoirs. Publishing houses pay huge sums for the ghostwritten, self-revelatory accounts of celebrities all the time. But trust me; they’ve never acquired a story like mine.”

“Look,” I said, a new edge in my voice, “You’re no celebrity I recognize, and I’m no ghostwriter. So I’m going to get myself some dinner and be nice enough to forget this ever happened.” But as I started to rise, he grabbed me by the arm. His fingers, biting through the sleeve of my coat, were exceedingly strong, unnaturally warm, and far too intimate.

“But you won’t forget,” he said, the strange light of fanaticism in his eyes. His mouth seemed to work independently of their stare, as though it came from another face altogether. “You will recall everything — every word I say. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the name of this café, the way I summoned you to this table, the first prick of your mortal curiosity about me. Long after you have forgotten, in fact, the most basic details of your life. You will remember, and you will curse or bless this day.”

I felt ill. Something about the way he said mortal . . . In that instant, reality, strung out like an elastic band, snapped. This was no writer.

“Yes. You see,” he said quietly. “You know. We can share now, between us, the secret of what I am.”

And the words came, unbidden, to my mind: Fallen. Dark Spirit.


The trembling that began in my stomach threatened to seize up my diaphragm. But then he released me and sat back. “Now. Here is Mr. Esad, wondering why you haven’t touched your sandwich.” And indeed, here came the bald man, coffeepot in hand, smiling at the stranger as though he were more of a regular than I. I stared between them as they made their pleasantries, the sound of their banter at sick odds with what my visceral sense told me was true, what no one else seemed to notice: that I was sitting here with something incomprehensively evil.

When Esad left, Lucian took a thin napkin from the dispenser and set it beside my coffee cup. The gesture struck me as aberrantly mundane. He sighed.

“I feel your trepidation, that sense that you ought to get up and leave immediately. And under normal circumstances, I would say that you are right. But listen to me now when I tell you you’re safe. Be at ease. Here. I’ll lean forward like this, in your human way. When that couple over there sees my little smile, this conspiratorial look, they’ll think we’re sharing a succulent bit of gossip.”

I wasn’t at ease. Not at all. My heart had become a pounding liability in my chest.

“Why?” I managed, wishing I were even now in the emptiness of my apartment, staring at the world through the bleak window of my TV.

Lucian leaned even closer, his hand splayed across the top of the table so that I could see the blue veins along the back of it. His voice dropped below a whisper, but I had no difficulty hearing him. “Because my story is very closely connected to yours. We’re not so different after all, you and I. We both want purpose, meaning, to see the bigger picture. I can give you that.”

“You don’t even know me!”

“On the contrary,” he said, sliding the napkin dispenser away, as though it were a barrier between us. “I know everything about you. Your childhood house on Ridgeview Drive. The tackle box you kept your football cards in. The night you tried to sneak out after homecoming to meet Lindsey Bennett. You broke your wrist climbing out of the window.”

I stared.

“I know of your father’s passing — you were fifteen. About the merlot you miss since giving up drinking, the way you dip your hamburgers in blue cheese dressing — your friend Piotr taught you that in college. That you’ve been telling yourself you ought to get away somewhere — Mexico, perhaps. That you think it’s the seasonal disorder bothering you, though it’s not — ”

“Stop!” I threw up my hands, wanting him to leave at once, equally afraid that he might and that I would be stuck knowing that there was this person — this thing — watching me. Knowing everything.

His voice gentled. “Let me assure you you’re not the only one; I could list myriad facts about anyone. Name someone. How about Sheila?” He smirked. “Let’s just say she didn’t return your essage from home, and her husband thinks she’s working late. Esad? Living in war-torn Bosnia was no small feat. He — ” He cocked his head, and there came now a faint buzzing like an invisible swarm of mosquitoes. I instinctively jerked away.

“What was that?” I demanded, unable to pinpoint where the sound had come from.

“Ah. A concentration camp!” He looked surprised. “I didn’t know that. Did you know that? And as for your ex — ” He tilted his head again.

“No! Please, don’t.” I lowered my head into my hand, dug my fingers into my scalp. Five months after the divorce, the wound still split open at the mere mention of her.

“You see?” he whispered, his head ducked down so that he stared intently up into my face. “I can tell you everything.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’ve made a pastime of studying case histories, of following them through from beginning to end. You fascinate me in the same way that beetles with their uncanny instinct for dung rolling used to fascinate you. I know more about you than your family. Than your ex. Than you know about yourself, I daresay.”

Something — some by-product of fear — rose up within me as anger at last. “If you are what you say, aren’t you here to make some kind of deal for my soul? To tempt me? Why did you order me coffee, then? Why not a glass of merlot or a Crown and Coke?” My voice had risen, but I didn’t care; I felt my anger with relief.

Lucian regarded me calmly. “Please. How trite. Besides, they don’t serve liquor here.” But then his calm fell away, and he was staring — not at me but past me, toward the clock on the wall. “But there,” he pointed. His finger seemed exceedingly long. “See how the hour advances without us!” He leapt to his feet, and I realized with alarm that he meant to leave.

“What — you can’t just go now that you’ve — ”

“I’ve come to you at great risk,” he hissed, the sound sibilant, as though he had whispered in my ear though he stood three feet away. And then he strode to the glass door and pushed out into the darkness, disappearing beyond the reflected interior of the café like a shadow into a mirror. The strap of bells fell against the door with a flat metal clink, and my own stunned reflection stared back.

Rain pelted my eyes, slipped in wet tracks through my hair against my scalp, ran in rivulets down my nape to mingle with the sweat against my back. It had gotten colder, almost freezing, but I was sweating inside the sodden collar of my shirt as I hurried down Norfolk, my bag slapping against my hip, my legs cramped and wooden, nightmare slow.

The abrupt warmth inside my apartment building threatened to suffocate me as I stumbled up the stairs. My ears pintingled to painful life as I fumbled with my keys. Inside my apartment at last, I fell back against the door, head throbbing and lungs heaving in the still air. I stayed like that, my coat dripping onto the carpet, for several long moments. Then a mad whim struck me.

With numb fingers, I retrieved the laptop from my bag and set it up on the kitchen table. With my coat still on, I dropped down onto a wooden chair, staring at the screen as it yawned to life. I logged into the company server, opened my calendar.

There — my six-thirty appointment. It was simply noted: L.

Sample from Demon / ISBN 1-60006-123-0
Copyright © 2006 NavPress Publishing.
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Dynamic Uno here--I must admit, I haven't read the book YET. Things have been really hectic due to some life changes, and I haven't really sat down long enough to do much of anything but sleep. Never fear, it is on my list, so I hope to get some time later this month to read this book-especially since Halloween is right around the corner and I like to read a "spooky" book during this time.

If you've read it, let me know what you think! I've heard wonderful things about the book and I'm interested in learning what other people have thought about the book too. If you haven't read it yet, then maybe we can read it together and discuss it as we go through. In either case, let me hear your comments!