Fiction Friday: One Way or Another

Here’s another excerpt from my novel, A Thousand Years.

On Friday evening, after we’d stuffed ourselves with pizza and we’re comfy in our favorite spots in the family room, watching a movie, Gray came through the front door. Total chaos ensued, as he was a whole week early. I always love seeing him like this – such a contradiction. He is dirty and smells. He’s mostly cleaned up before his drive home, but even still he’s looking and smelling rough. It’s a total contradiction from this quiet, studious man I’ve known most of my adult life. Amelia is in his arms in an instant and Jake is talking a mile a minute. We’ve paused the movie for the mini-reunion. When they finally relax a little, Gray lifts up a backpack. “Can I shower and change?” he asks.
“Of course. I set out some fresh towels. They’re on the counter in the upstairs bathroom. There’s pizza when you’re finished.”
“You are literally the best. The best everything.”
“True. I am. Now go shower – you stink.”
“True story,” he says.
A few minutes later, when I hear the water turn off, I walk into the kitchen to heat him a plate of pizza. I choose his favorites from what’s left of our four different types and put them in the microwave. As the microwave finishes, he walks into the kitchen. He didn’t shave – which I love. And he smells amazing as always. “You are a saint. Thank you for being there for us – as always,” he says, hugging me.
“You’re welcome. I’d do anything for you and the kids,” I say. He’s not letting go. I don’t want him to. And I want him to at the same time. Isn’t that just like us? I pull away from him. “Eat,” I say pointing at his plate. He pulls out a bar stool at my kitchen island and sits down.
“Listen, I hate to bring this up now but, you need to talk to Jake. He’s having a hard time with the stuff Adria is doing and he’s frustrated that you don’t just cut her off. He asked if he could move in with me.”
Gray put the piece of pizza in his hand, back on his plate. “Yeah? What did you say?” He doesn’t look mad. But I can tell that he’s not thrilled with me.
“I told him that wasn’t possible, but that I would always be there for him. For all of you. I told him that he needed to talk to you about how he’s feeling and to ask you the questions he asked me.”
“Oh,” he says flatly. “What kinds of questions did he ask?”
“Rather than specific questions I would just sum it up by saying that he’s tired of Adria’s behavior and doesn’t understand why she never has to deal with consequences for her bad choices. He said that when he does bad things, you hold him accountable.”
“Ah. These are big thoughts for a little boy. I can’t blame him,” he says, the defeat of recent years etched in the new lines in his forehead. He runs his hands through his hair. He needs a haircut. I don’t know how it’s possible, but the older he gets, the more handsome he gets. “I don’t know why I let her stay in our lives, Bird. Why do I allow this?”
“I don’t know, Love. I ask myself this all of the time.”
“Thank you for being there when he had these big worries and questions. You’re a good mom to Jacky. And you’re a good mom to my kids, Bird. You love us well. And you deserve -” His statement trails off. I already know where he’s going with this.
“I deserve to be with the love of my life,” I say, as I put the pizza boxes back in the refrigerator and walk back out to the family room. I sit back down on the couch and Amelia crawls into my lap.
“Will you braid my hair now, Aunt Birdie?”
“Yep. Run to the bathroom and grab the comb and some hair bands, okay?”
“K,” she says, running down the hall to the downstairs bathroom. As a boy mom, Amelia is my only chance to enjoy girl stuff, so I keep a basket for her here with makeup and hair barrettes, and nail polish. She races around the corner with her basket and climbs back into my lap. “Got ‘em!” she says.
She leans back as I start brushing her hair. Like every other time, since I’ve moved back to Newton, we’ve done this very thing, I’m overwhelmed – with love, hope, fear, and a dread that surrounds every moment with Gray and his children – worrying its end could come any moment. I make myself a promise, as I braid Amelia’s hair – Gray will not ever devastate me again. So this foggy haze that hangs between us, is gonna clear, one way or another.

Use Your Words

mark anthony poet, mark anthony
For more from Mark Anthony, go here.

I just want a little bit of attention in the form of words is all – to know I’m being thought of, to not compete with a phone, or someone else. I want to hear or read the words {I’d probably read them over & over} – that I’m cared for and thought of {without prompting}. But even if there aren’t any ill intentions behind picking up your phone when you’re with the one you care about, we all take in or receive love in different ways. The Five Love Languages has been as popular for a long time, for that very reason. The concepts are powerful. But not terribly complicated. We all accept or feel loved in different ways. I mean, duh. Showing our loved ones love, in the way that they best understand it, is a gift to them and to us. So even if there’s no ill intention in there by picking up that phone, being cognizant of what your love needs to feel cared for, is so important. Maybe they’re a quality time person. If you spend most of your time with them, distracted and doing other things, they’re going to struggle to feel loved and cared for in the relationship.

My love language? It’s words of affirmation. It’s not surprising – considering the writer thing and all. I struggle to feel loved when I don’t have that. I try – but I inevitably feel hurt, not appreciated, or even unloved {or a combo of all three}. If your spouse or significant other’s, love language is physical touch, can you imagine how hard it would be to feel connected and loved, if you were distant or unaffectionate? I think physical touch is a close second for me, so that’s not a hard one for me to show. But what if my SO’s love language is receiving gifts. Honestly, I’m a sucky gift-giver because I can never make up my mind what to buy for someone. The receiving gifts thing could be anything from a small token to a larger gift – something that shows you’ve thought of them and just had to get it for them. But because it doesn’t come natural to me, I would need to find a way to learn, for my significant other’s sake.

So while your significant other’s love language may not come natural to you, it is, in my opinion, a beautiful thing to choose to learn that language. Making those deposits into your mate or significant other yields long term benefits for both of you.

Do you know your love language? Do you know your significant other’s?

Getting Through

And in the category of getting through, here’s a little music getting me through. Just gotta get through it. There’s no way around it. I’ve tried. Have you ever had something standing in the way of what you want? And as much as you try to finagle your way around, it’s just not possible. You just gotta get through it, until you end up on the other side – with what you want, more than anything.

So while I work on getting through it, music keeps me writing and pushing forward.

Mom is not gonna like this one. Haha.

Like Coming Home – An Excerpt from A Thousand Years

Here is an excerpt from A Thousand Years.


Dearest Graham,

It is untamed. Wild and unplanned. I wake deep in thought, recalling the mornings in the Redwoods – the air cold and damp. There was nothing around but the untouched forest. Standing there, facing the west, I saw the Pacific resting between the hills – the brush wild and untamed. So perfectly beautiful and lonely. This is what it’s like to love you. On a day I least expected you, there you were. We are perfect partners. We think alike. But not. In that place in between, where we differ, you shine most.

There are more questions than answers. In the beauty of this wild thing, I long for you. What is and will not be follows me around like a coastal fog. Through the haze I see you. I don’t hold it against you – you can’t tame wild things. I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.

Yours Always,



Present day

The long winding road to the house and the visit to Ragged Point, after my time in the city, were enough to clear my head. For now. When I get to the house, my sister Alejandra’s mini-van is in the driveway. I’m grateful she’s already brought Jackson home. I’m ready to see him now. But for the past 24 hours, I’ve been in a near state of panic over seeing him, as if he’d know. I pull into the garage and turn off the car, just as Jackson opens the door wide, excited to see me – if the smile on his face is any indication. He’s as sweet as pie that one. He waves and heads my way. I open the car door and hug my baby – my giant baby. I’m so grateful for this sweet boy. “Hey Bub,” I say. “I missed you so much. Did you have fun with Ali and the kids?”

“Yeah. It was kind of fun to hang out with them even though they’re too little to do really fun things. But I’m ready for the quiet again.”

“I’m glad you had fun. Are you hungry? I thought I could get cleaned up and we could go grab dinner at Deetjen’s. What do you think?”

“Oh. I’m going out. I can change plans though,” he says.

“Of course not. Just make sure you’re home early. What are you up to?”

“Surfing at Sand Dollar.”

“Go have fun. Do you want me to pick you up?”

“Nah. Casey’s sister is driving me home. Can you pop the trunk? I’ll get your bag.” he asks.

“You are the sweetest, Jackson Langston. Thank you,” I say, as a I pop the trunk of the car and head into the house. Jackson grabs my bag and climbs the stairs to my room. I walk through the mudroom, drop my purse and jacket, emotionally spent – slipping out of my shoes – while hoping that Ali doesn’t start peppering me with questions the second I walk inside. I open the Dutch door that leads into my kitchen.

“Welcome home!” Ali says, handing me a glass of wine, before I’ve even shut the door.

“Thanks. You’re the best,” I say, taking the glass. “How did everything go here?”

“Good. Great. He’s a good boy. You know that. The kids loved him staying over. It was a joy having an older kid around. Question is – how are you? How are things? Tell me all the news,” she says.

“Let’s wait until Jack leaves. Do you have time to have a drink on the deck?”

“Duh,” she says. “I told Charles he was on duty and to not expect me back very early.”

“You’re a saint. I have a lot to talk about.”

“I’m sure you do.”


A half-hour later, Ali and I are settled into two of my deck chairs, a second glass of wine poured, and a fire lit in my Chiminea nearby, as the fog slowly rolls in like a white blanket, toward the ranch and vineyard. “Tell me all the things,” she says.

“There’s much to say. I guess I’ll just start with the main thing. I’m definitely interested in buying -”

“Carolina Langston. That is not the main thing and you know it.”

“I tried to start at the easier point,” I say, smiling at my baby sister – knowing from the moment I arrived, I’d have to talk about Gray.

“Easiser smeasier. Talk, sista.”

“Yes. I saw him. We talked. He’s an older, slightly gray around the temples, version of the Graham I once knew.”

“So? I mean, how was it?”

“Like coming home,” I say.


The Bluefin is a seafood restaurant and wine bar with a stunning view of the city skyline and the Bay Bridge. It’s also a weird spot for us to meet, but on trend, Gray didn’t ask me where I’d like to go – nor did he read much about the restaurant, apparently. He texted me, about fifteen minutes ago, to tell me that he’d gotten us a table outside. I haven’t been this tied in knots for years. Before rounding the corner to face him, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I lean against the side of the restaurant, offering a quick prayer to a God I doubt exists half the time. “Here goes nothing,” I whisper. I round the corner and as I imagined, he is steps away from me, his head in a menu, unaware I am there. Before saying a word, I watch him for a moment. He is as handsome as he was the day I watched him drive away from me – except now the years have weathered him. I take a deep breath and sigh, without meaning to, as I shift my purse on my shoulder. His eyes must catch a glimpse of me moving, because he looks up and our eyes meet. He puts the menu down on the table and his smile, the one I’ve loved for more than fifteen years, spreads across his face.

“Hi,” he says, standing.

I take a few steps and before I can pull the chair away from the table, he has bridged the distance between his chair and mine and opened his arms to me for a hug. “Hi,” I say, wanting to resist, but knowing I can’t. Our hug is brief and awkward. I sit down and have never been more grateful for an attentive server – who gives me a moment to recover. I can feel Graham’s eyes on me though. I question my sanity for agreeing to this.

“Can I start you with a glass of wine or cocktail,” the young server asks.

“I’ll have a glass of the Red Car Rose, please,” I say to her without needing the menu.

“Sure. Do you want to look at the menu for an appetizer or small plate? I am guessing you’ve been here before?”

“I have. Many times. Maybe the fish tacos? But if you can give us a few minutes, that would be awesome.”

“Sure. I’ll be back with your glass of Red Car,” she says. I can feel Graham’s eyes on me again. I take a deep breath.

“Hi,” he says again. “It’s so good to see you. Its been . . . what? How many years has it been?”

“Almost 14.”

“Doesn’t seem possible.” he says. “You haven’t aged at all. You look great.”

“Oh, please. I have aged. I feel ancient,” I say. “You look great, too by the way.”

“So now that we’ve settled that we both look great,” he says smiling, “Thank you for meeting me. I wasn’t sure if you were still in California until I ran into Lane a few weeks ago. I’m not sure if she explained, but I got orders back to North Carolina. We ran into each other and she filled me in on the missing years. I hope you don’t mind that I reached out. She said you wouldn’t.”

“Of course I don’t mind. I’m happy she did. You’re here for a wedding, right?”

“Yeah, an old friend is getting married – I’m the best man. The wedding is at Golden Gate Park. And I knew you lived on the coast, so I figured it was worth a shot. I would have been willing to come to you. You didn’t have to drive all this way.”

“It’s no big deal. I had business in the city anyway. Our wine is in restaurants all over – including this one and in bars all over the city. I’m here a couple of times a month, at least. I needed to stop by one of the wine stores. I’m actually thinking of buying it.”

“I hear that your Grandad’s winery is quite successful these days. I remember you talking about the dream of it, when we were – when we -”

“When we were dating? Is it that hard to say it?” I try to sound light, like I’m teasing. But I’m not. I try hard to push the hurt down. I didn’t think it would be so close to the surface of my heart, all these years later.

“Of course not,” he says. “I guess I was just stumbling over my words because I wanted to see you to -,” he pauses and looks down at his drink – probably whisky if he’s anything like he was all those years ago. “I wanted to apologize.”

“Oh,” I say. Not expecting us to go there so quickly. I take an unladylike swig of my rose, that the server had set down and by the looks on our faces, must have known she needed to scram – because she was out of there in a hot second. “Oh. I don’t, I mean – I guess I didn’t expect our conversation to take such a swift turn.”

“I never have had good timing,” he says, sounding sincere and a little embarrassed. “I’m sorry for dropping that on you.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t really know what you wanted to talk about. But I figured we’d at least have a little small talk first. I wasn’t really properly prepared for this particular conversation.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything. I’ve spent years regretting how I treated you at the end. You were such an important part of my life and I let you go in an instant – for what was truly no good reason. I hurt you.”

“You did. The worst pain I’ve ever experienced, actually. I appreciate the apology though, Gray.”

“I don’t even have a good explanation. Not now. From my vantage point, so close to retirement, I look back at my decisions and see how immature I was.”

“You were young. We both were. You did the best you could,” I say, feeling the weight of his apology knowing that this is a deeply layered conversation that I’m not really interested in having with him. Because if we go further, there’s more to say – that I’m not ready to say.”

Our server returns, filling my glass again without asking. She’s good. “Can I interest you in those tacos?”

“Eh. You choose. I’ll eat whatever you bring. Sound good?”

“Yes, ma’am. I know just the thing,” she says. And then continues, “Would you like me to bring the bottle?”

“Please. Thank you. And if you could, can you let Chef know that I’d like to see him before I leave – Carolina. Langston,” I say.

“I knew I recognized you, Ms. Langston. I’m sure he will be happy to know you’re here. I will let him know.”

“Thank you!” I say, cheerfully, hoping the shift in conversation is enough to break the spell of the sadness settling into my heart.

“You’ve always known literally everyone,” he says, shaking his head with a smile. “When we met I had no idea you were the Birdie Langston. Like everyone knew you – wherever we went. I don’t know how you do it. You still do it, apparently.”

“Well, this is a little different,” I say, as my ex-husband walks out of the restaurant we own together – and onto the patio.

“Hey love,” he says, as I stand. He embraces me in the bear hug Michael’s famous for.

“Hey,” I say as he releases me from a weirdly long hug. I don’t know how he knows – but he must. Probably Ali. “Michael – this is Graham Ford. Graham, this is Michael Turner – my ex-husband.”

“Nice to meet you,” Michael says, reaching for Gray’s outstretched hand. Michael is different from Gray in every way you can imagine. He’s a bear of a man, stocky, short compared to Gray, and muscular to Gray’s tall, lean and sinewy. Gray is a tri-athlete. Michael was a football player – playing in the pros for a few years before hanging up his helmet to settle into life as a family man. He is easily the best looking man I’ve ever laid eyes on. Tats cover his arms and his beard – that he’s famous for – and which he loved far more than he ever loved me, is a legend. But we are and always will be, in spite of the divorce, the best of friends.

“Nice-to-to meet you, too,” Gray says, obviously thrown off kilter. Thankfully.

“What did you order?” Michael asks.

“I told the server to surprise me. She’s good. And obviously new since she didn’t know who I was at first. You need to keep her around.”

“I plan on it,” he says, “I’m hoping she’ll stick around to take over the wine program. Should I send her over to you sometime soon?”

“Please do. How are you?”

“Good. Busy as usual. Grateful for that. I’ve been meaning to get down to see Jack, but you know how it is. Maybe I could come by next weekend? I’m taking a couple weeks off. But I could drive down before flying out.”

“You know he would love that,” I say to the man who did the best he could for us, until he couldn’t live any longer with the presence of Graham Ford around every corner of our marriage and life together.

“I’ll text you,” he says, as I nod my head. He turns to Graham, “Gray, I’ve heard a lot about you. It’s nice to finally meet you. Do me a favor?” he asks.

“Sure. What’s that?” Gray asks, likely not expecting the zinger I’m sure is coming.

“Whatever you’re here for, don’t hurt her,” he says, walking away. As he reaches the door of the restaurant, he gives me a slight wave and winks. That is the most confident man I’ve ever known. And I reduced him to a shell of himself because I could never love him fully – the way he deserves.

“I guess I deserved that,” Gray says, looking at his drink again.

“Yeah, you do. There are consequences for everything in life, I guess. And Michael paid the price every day of our marriage, for my inability to trust and love him the way he loved me. He’s a good man. He’s hot as hell. I don’t know why he’s still single. I keep trying to fix him up, but I’m sure he’ll find someone when it’s right for him.”

“When did you get married?” he asks.

“2005,” I say.

Gray nods his head. And then quietly says, what I already know, “I got married in 2002.”

“I know,” I say.

Falling in and Writing About Love

I had a couple questions about some of the free-verse poetry I’ve written here. Anything I’ve written here that is in poetry form {at least so far} is part of the novel I’m writing, A Thousand Years. In the novel, my protagonist has a star-crossed romance, as a young college student, with the love of her life. Outside forces cause their break-up. Though she eventually marries {and later divorces}, she never truly lets go. In the intervening years, though she tries to reach out to him on various occasions, it’s futile. She eventually gives up trying to talk to him and pens notes and letters on slips of paper, notebooks, and in journals. Those bits & pieces you see here, are a bit of Birdie’s angst coming out – in the only way she has to express her love {and grief} – in written form.

Loving, falling in love, and wanting what’s best for another, or settling into the reality of your situation – when it differs from your own feelings and desires – is complex. “Love is love” became a popular saying in recent years. Love is love. You can’t help when you fall in love with a person. Nor can you make your feelings disappear. For more than 15 years of Birdie’s life, while not always front and center, her love for Gray – remained a constant. She was successful, accomplished, and had a meaningful life. But, under the foundation of her success, happiness, and accomplishments, she lives with the what if and a constant, daily living reminder of their love.

Falling in love doesn’t always follow a linear line. It doesn’t always makes sense and follow some perfect pattern. That’s Birdie & Gray’s story. Falling in and writing about love {which is what I do}, isn’t always going to be tied up in a perfect bow and make perfect sense. And sometimes that means letting go of someone you love – choosing to let go – though it’s tearing you up inside. Where do you go and what do you do with all of that when you make a conscious decision to let go?

Birdie writes it out on slips of paper and presses forward.

My A Thousand Year fiction posts, are:
A Thousand Years
Your Eyes
Fix This
Just One More Moment
My Heart is a Liar
The Autumn Light
Do I Wait
As Soon As You Can
Argue With Me, Baby
This Canyon Between Us
I Miss You Today
It’s The Way You Say My Name
Wild Things – What started it all…