Ready to Find Out – More from A Thousand Years

winery, wine, Jim Harris Photography

Here’s a little diddy from A Thousand Years. . .

I didn’t ask the hot football player out. And he didn’t ask me out either. I was a little confused. But then again, I’m not exactly batting a thousand in the dating department, so I chalked it up to harmless flirtation. And then, a few weeks after our opening, on another Saturday we were open to the public, Nolan returned. I was about to give a tour of the winery when he showed up, looking hot as hot as he had the day of the opening. As sometimes happens, in the chaos that is a family run business and being a single parent, Jackson ended up with me in spite of the fact that I was working. Nolan jogged over to my tour, after my Granddad pointed him in my direction. I smiled, because I couldn’t help myself. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I blushed too. He is quite the sight. All 6’4 of him. He is so very different than Gray. Gray is lean and average in height. He is fair-skinned, with the prettiest blue eyes I have ever seen. Nolan has dark brown hair and the deeply brown, warm eyes. He’s also got a pretty magnificent beard. And though I couldn’t tell the night we met, today – his white collared, long sleeved shirt sleeves are rolled up, exposing an arm full of tattoos on both arms.

“You got room for one more?” he asked.

“If you’re willing to babysit,” I say, mostly joking.

“Sure thing,” he says, making his way toward me from the edge of the crowd. He puts his hands out to Jackson and without hesitation, Jackson goes to Nolan excitedly. I’m a little jealous actually.
Throughout the tour, Nolan and Jackson stay close. I’m not going to lie – watching my son with a man – someone other than family or the men on the ranch – who I’ve known my whole life – is an experience I didn’t know I’d need to prepare myself for. I’m oddly emotional. I stuff the feelings and we finish the tour in the tasting room where I ask one of our tasting room staff to take over.

“Do you want to join the tasting?” I ask Nolan.

“No. I came to see you. I wandered off the night we met and lost you in the crowd somewhere around the time the fireworks started. I had every intention of asking you out to dinner. I’ve had some work obligations the last couple of weeks so this is the first I could get back.”

“Well thanks for hanging out with the kid again. I was totally kidding when I said that, by the way.”

“No you weren’t.”

“I wasn’t?” I ask.

“No. I think you were testing me.”

“Is that right? Why would I be testing you?”

“To see if I’m an asshole athlete or if I’m as nice of a guy as you want to believe. And the answer is yes to both. I also know you want to have dinner with me. So, how about it? Will you have dinner with me? This Saturday?”

“I will. If I can find a babysitter.”

Nolan laughs. He’s a cocky one that’s for sure. “You have babysitters crawling this place. And a nanny. So shall I pick you up at 6?”

“That sounds like a plan,” I say, smiling. “I can’t be out too late, you know? I hope you don’t take it personally if I turn into a pumpkin, early.”

“I understand. I mean, not exactly. I don’t have any kids. But I get the gist. I’ll have you home at a reasonable hour, I promise. How does Deetjen’s sound?”

“Perfect,” I say. “Thank you for coming by and babysitting for a few minutes.” I put my hands out to Jackson – who never turns down an opportunity to be held by his mama. Except he turns away, by turning into Nolan, putting his arms around his neck. But then, as if it’s a joke, he giggles. “Jackson Ford, you brat. It’s time for a nap, Bubba. Come on.” Jackson giggles again and then Nolan tickles him. Pretty soon, Jackson is in fits of laughter as Nolan teases him and pretends over and over that he’s dropping him.

Becky, Jackson’s nanny, breaks the spell. She’s just arrived for the day and as I’ve asked her to do, she takes charge without asking for direction. “Hey kiddo. It’s time for your nap!” Becky, one of Jackson’s favorite people in all of the world, is enough to break up the laugh fest.

“Looks like the boss is here, Bud. You have a good nap, okay?” he says to Jackson.
Becky reaches for Jackson and whispers, “Say bye-bye.”
Jackson, my sweet boy, who babbles a lot, but rarely speaks clearly, says, “Bye-bye!” It’s as clear as day.

“Always full of surprises,” I say, kissing him on his cheek. “Bye, bye baby,” I say.

“Bye-Bye, ma-ma!” he says waving. The tears well up in my eyes and spill down my cheeks. This kid. I blow him a kiss as they walk off toward Becky’s car. Sometimes the littlest things take my breath away. I can’t believe he’s mine.

Before I can wipe my tears or figure out what to say, Nolan reaches into his pocket and pulls out a handkerchief. Such an old-fashioned gesture, from such a tough looking guy.

“Here,” he says. He doesn’t take his eyes off me. He reaches out and puts his huge hand on my arm. He squeezes my arm a little. “I’ll see you Saturday evening.”

“See you, Saturday,” I say, smiling. I clearly don’t know where this is going, but for the first time since Gray walked out on the life we were building, I’m ready to find out.

Everything Made Sense Again

This is an excerpt of my novel, A Thousand Years.

The day everything made sense again, the sweat dripped down my shirt, pooling between my breasts and running down my back. I longed for a swift and harsh southern thunderstorm to rip through town, cooling everything in its wake – including me. But I’m not that lucky. Standing in the center of town, I turn around in a circle taking in the bustle of a town getting ready for its tricentennial. My tiny staff is directing and guiding city employees in the finishing touches. Our official celebration kicks off in two hours and marks a week of events – most planned by yours truly. I told my staff earlier today that I couldn’t function unless I’d showered before the kickoff. But it’s August in North Carolina. I am sopping wet again. August in the south is about as close to hell as one can get. Even here in the mountains – especially this year – a scorcher for the record books. I guess there’s really no point to worry over this, everyone’s in the same boat.

As if on cue, a bolt of lightning lights up the ever-darkening sky and thunder quickly follows on its heels. The deluge begins then. I race across the street & duck into The Filling Station, but not before the rain has soaked me to the bone. Macy, the new owner, is behind the counter. I head toward her hoping I don’t look as bad as I feel. “What can I get you, Birdie? An iced-coffee maybe? I know you’ve got a long week ahead, maybe have a seat and dry off a minute, before getting sucked into the craziness?”

“I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” I say, as water drips onto the black and white checkered tile of the town’s oldest café. “It’s probably best if I stand here though. I’m sopping wet.”

“Eh. Don’t worry about it,” she says, pointing to an open barstool at the end of the counter. I sit down and moments later, Jess, one of the servers, walks out with a towel and hands it to me.

“Thank you, sweetie,” I say, taking the towel and wiping down my bare legs and arms and then slowly patting my head with the towel – feeling a little weird doing so at the busiest restaurant in town.

Johnny, the former owner and now sometimes cook and barista, when he’s not fishing or hunting – that is, walks out of the kitchen. Without missing a beat he says, “You look like a drowned rat, Birdie.”

“Thanks, Mr. Johnny. That’s exactly the look I was going for.” He hands me my coffee and as usual, he’s added a little extra flair of chocolate and caramel sauce on the whipped cream – just for me. I love my town.

Only me. Only I would be drenched from head to toe – today of all days. After checking on my hair and makeup in the bathroom, I grab my coffee and head back outside. Now that the storm has passed, the steam roils and rolls in smoky wisps from the asphalt. The air is cooler, but only slightly. I cross the street and set my drink down on the gazebo bench and stand in the sun, hoping my clothes will dry quickly all the while contemplating if I have enough time to get the two blocks to my house for a quick change. I look at my phone and then all around. Everything is done. My staff, the city employees, and volunteers have done an incredible job. We are ahead of schedule. I slip off my flats, grab my coffee in the other hand, and run toward home.

Good thing I had a back-up outfit ready. Once in the house, I race to the bedroom, thankful that my old house has a new AC unit. It is gloriously cool inside. I slip on my white eyelet Michael Kors dress. Since it’s already rained, I’m willing to tempt fate with the white. I grab my espadrilles on the bedroom floor and as I step into the hallway, the doorbell chimes through the house. What a racket that thing makes. Note to self – it’s time to get a new doorbell before I leave on vacation. I come around the corner and through the glass on my door I make out the form of a man. That looks like Graham, I think, as a I reach for the door and open it.

“Gray?” I ask – as if the past few years have somehow made me forget what the love of my life looks like.

“Hi. I know this is crazy. But I needed to see you. Can we talk?”

“Now? I’m kind of busy. I mean, I can’t talk now. You always did have shitty timing. I have this event. I have to go – “I say, shaking my head as if this mirage of a man standing in front of me will disappear.

“I know. I’m here because I saw you on the news. I was in the café when you came in. I’m not going to lie. I obviously can’t. I followed you here. I knew I had to take my shot. I can stay and talk to you afterward. Or when you have a free moment. I can just hang out. I need to talk to you – please?”

“I guess. I – I have to get moving,” I say as I pull the door shut, locking it and slipping my keys into my dress pocket. Graham follows me down the steps. I don’t wait for him. I take off in a jog, leaving him behind. I mean, I barely jog. He’s a runner, runner. Like ultra-marathon runner. It’s not like he can’t catch me. But I do it anyway. I don’t look back. Kind of like I did after the last time I saw him.

Within seconds of leaving my porch, the town square comes into view. It’s then that I realize my phone has been buzzing and pinging with texts and alerts. In the brief time it took me to get home, change, and head back – the park has filled with residents, the tourists that pay the bills, and former residents. And who can forget the media? I practically had to pay them to come. But whatever. They’re here. I stop jogging and drop my shoes on the concrete. I slip into them and bend down to buckle them. When I stand up, I try to sneak a glance behind me. Gray is nowhere in sight. I’m relieved. He has the worst timing – always has – since literally the day we met.

Lacey Mays

written by elaina m. avalos

When Lacey Mays was five-years old, just days before she started Kindergarten, her father killed himself. If anyone in the county had been asked, they would have said it was only a matter of time that either Bob or Donna Mays would have ended up dead. They fed more than one of each other’s addictions and spent years on a downward spiral of hopelessness. On that summer evening in 1988, Bob Mays had finally had enough. Lacey’s daddy lay crumbled in a heap of blood and brain matter, just inside the kitchen. Lacey saw the whole thing from start to finish. And when her mama flew past her, out the front door, instead of staying there with her only daughter, somehow, in all of her too grown up-ness, Lacey knew she had lost both parents.

#

Moments before running home, she’d heard her mama’s voice, high and floating on the late afternoon wind. She thought it was nap time. And yesterday, her daddy had taken the paddle out and beat her bottom until she couldn’t sit, because she’d ignored her mama. She wouldn’t make that mistake again. Her white sandals carried her as fast as her little feet could run – toward the peeling paint of their two bedroom clapboard house. A house as deep into Pamlico County, North Carolina as a house could be. It wasn’t until she was in the doorway, one foot on the hardwood floor of the living room, the other still on the porch that she’d realized that Donna Mays wasn’t calling for her. She was screaming. She was screaming in a way Lacey had never heard before. Her daddy pointed a gun at her mama. She yelled out, “Don’t. Don’t do this!” And then, before Lacey’s mother could finish her sentence, a crack-pop filled Lacey’s ears and the room.

Her father fell to the floor. In one split instant, Lacey tried to believe, as her innocent-self commanded her to believe, he would be okay. And then, when her mama turned to see her in the doorway, her wild eyes filled with that thing that overtook her when she was high, she knew. She knew what her innocent-self could not. Her daddy was gone. Donna Mays stood paralyzed for a moment in the doorway between the living room and the dining room, tears running down her face. She started to move towards the front door and her daughter. But she ran past Lacey – out the door and toward the woods at the edge of the property.

Lacey, too grown for five and yet not, steeled herself in the way Donna Mays was not capable. She ran to her daddy and dropped to her knees. It wasn’t really him anymore, his face unrecognizable and distorted. The screaming came from deep inside her five-year old self. She turned to the door to see the bright pink of her mama’s shirt slip into the woods. Every last ounce of child left in Lacey’s heart and mind, slipped right out of her then. In her newfound adulthood, she stood and picked up the phone from a side table.

She dialed 9-1-1 like her Grandma and Grandpa had taught her, like she was supposed to do when her parents were hurting each other or when she couldn’t wake her mama as had happened on more than one occasion in the past. She dialed and waited for the person on the other end to answer. And just like that, when the helper answered, Lacey packed up her heart in a box and buried it deep into the dark soil of her mind where it would remain hidden from sight. Her reply to the calm woman on the other end of the phone line, “My daddy is dead.” By the time the paramedics, sheriff, and her grandparents arrived, Lacey Mays had become someone else entirely, someone she had never been created to become. It took the local sheriff’s four hours to find Donna Mays. She lay in a heap of her own vomit, deep into the woods. But it didn’t matter that she’d been found, as far as Lacey was concerned.

Sea Glass Hearts

Elaina Avalos, fiction, author, #amwriting

I am made of salt and sand and the deep jade green of the Atlantic. The salt air courses through my veins. This place, these waves, the sea glass and shells with rounded edges, beaten constantly in the surf, are the pieces and places of my very soul. The heady scent of the ocean air tells me I’m finally home, though I’m not at all conscious of having lived near this shore. In the setting sun of a July evening, the billowing thunderheads in the distance play with the sun. Shadows and light dance on the surface of the ocean at once bringing out the sparkle, and then moments later shrouding the light in darkness. “So this is it?” I ask no one. Home. The word and all of its implications fill me with competing emotions. I look back towards the car, parked a hundred yards away in the parking lot of the town’s traffic circle. It’s the center of this beach town, on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina.


I turn back to the ocean and breathe deeply, taking it all in. Just up the road is the house I bought, sight unseen, sitting first row, pointed towards the sea. I have spent a lifetime, nearly thirty-eight years, dreaming of what it would be like to find the place where I began, to return to my beginnings. To the place where I had been knit together in my mother’s womb. When I was a child, before I had been adopted and floated between countless foster and group homes, I made day trips to the beaches of Southern California. In the course sand of those crowded beaches, I convinced myself that I might as well have been a mermaid for all I really knew. One thing I knew for sure, in the deepest part of my being? I belonged to the sea.

Somehow, as I would stand there, as a kid, wearing my church charity last year’s style bathing suit, I knew that the sea called me, and would continue to call me . . . home.

Written By Elaina M. Avalos

Hope When We Least Expect It

Beaufort NC, Beaufort, Crystal Coast, Hope, Fear, Grief, Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction

My novel, Chasing Hope, is about . . . hope, light, and healing after fighting your way through grief. It’s about loss and renewal. It’s about finding a family where and when you least expect it.

I’m hoping to return back to my Sample Sunday tradition to end 2018 & head into a new & BIG year for my little family. So in keeping with that, here are some of the first words I wrote for this novel that holds a special place in my heart.