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We got back to Virginia today. It was a busy morning, with prepping for all the guests who were going to hang out at Daniel’s family’s house for an after-wedding reunion type thing. We had to leave in the middle of it to fly back. Though I was exhausted and didn’t really feel like it, I did manage to get my words in! So, below  you will find the rest of yesterday’s entry (which, for some reason, got saved as a draft so wasn’t published until this morning) as well as today’s.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

Josie closed and locked the door, tearing open the envelope almost immediately. Her jaw dropped. Enclosed were several one hundred dollar bills and a short note.

Miss Grant,

Thank you for your honesty this morning. This should cover any unexpected associated expenses. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance. Sincerely, Keith Richardson.

Josie let the note fall to the counter and stared at the bills. She breathed in deeply. This could be enough to at least catch up on her mother’s medical bills, enough to ensure she could keep getting treatments. It was like God had arranged it all on purpose.

*                                             *                                             *

 

Jocelyn entered the office two days later with a refreshed outlook on life. Her body may feel bruised and battered, but her mind was still soaring with the half dozen images that had joined her little collection of pictures on the wall.

The eyes that greeted her as she walked through the door regarded her with rampant curiosity. There was little doubt word had gotten out about the car accident, not to mention Mr. Richards interference in her getting fired.

Theresa rose as she walked past. “Josie – I – didn’t expect to see you so soon.”

Jocelyn paused, “I am a bit sore, but doing much better so I thought I might as well come in and make sure you were not drowning in tasks.”

A half relieved, half ashamed look passed over Theresa’s face. “Thank you.” She said, a bit stiffly. “Mr. Peters has –“

“Oh, good, you are back, Miss Grant!” Mr. Peters emerged from his office, apparently back to his normal, unflustered self, and not at all surprised to see her. “I need presentations for my 2:00 and 3:00. Theresa will send you the images.” He moved on to the conference room.

Theresa and Josie looked at each other and Theresa permitted an amused smile with a slight eye roll before returning to business. “I will get you the files.”

Josie moved on to her desk, and managed to log onto her computer before Theresa appeared again. “Josie, I just – I just wanted to apologize. For jumping to conclusions and – for being so hard on you. I thought – well, I just have a hard time with new people and – well, thank you for coming back to help. Mr. Peters was driving me crazy.” She disappeared again before Josie could respond.

Josie smiled to herself. Maybe, eventually, she would not be lying when she told her mother that the new job was good.

*                                                     *                                             *

Jocelyn was sitting in the park a block from her office building a couple weeks later, trying to capture the tilt of a squirrel’s head as he sat on the bare branch of a tree, attempting to recall where he had stashed his acorns.

“Miss Grant.” The voice that sounded like chocolate came from nowhere.

Josie jumped up and found herself staring up into the dark eyes almost half a foot above her. “Mr. Richards.” Her heart began thumping from more than the start he had given her and she bobbed a half awkward curtsy, before wondering why on earth she had done that.

He evidently thought it odd as well, because he smiled a bit as he said, “You know I am not royalty, right?”

“You are at Saunders.” The reply slipped out and she clapped a hand over her horrified mouth. But it was worth it. A deep throaty laugh rumbled out and Josie could not help smiling in response.

“You are feeling better, I hope? No complications?”

“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir. That is.” Josie cleared her throat. “No complications, and yes, I am feeling much better. Thank you. Sir.”

“I am glad to hear it. I am actually on my way to – .”

“Mr. Richardson!”

Josie did not have to look to recognize Caroline’s tinkling voice. Her small, gloved hand rose to nervously clutch a strand of hair as she slowly turned to admire Caroline’s perfect, chic white jacket and matching beret.

“Ah, Miss Hynes, you have found me.”

Caroline spotted Jocelyn as she reached them. “Miss Grant – how unexpected! Is it your day off?

“I am only on lunch.” Josie said.

“Speaking of which,” Caroline turned back to Mr. Richardson with a smile. “I thought the café just down the street would be convenient. It is a charming place, really, with excellent food.”

Mr. Richardson bowed slightly to Josie. “I am glad to hear you are feeling better.”

Josie watched Caroline slip her arm under his uninvited as they walked away.

“Don’t you just hate her sometimes?” Theresa plopped herself on the bench next to Josie.

“Theresa – am I late?”

“No, I just thought I might join you for a moment. Mr. Peters is on the phone with the Cranks and will likely be there for hours.” A rare smile lit her face and Josie responded in kind as she lowered herself to the bench again. Theresa had been increasingly kind to her since the incident of the hospital and there were times she even though they might be friends.

Theresa nodded towards the figures disappearing through the café door. “She always looks at you like you are worth so much less. And she is pretty certain she has Keith Richardson wrapped around her little finger.” Theresa sighed a little disappointedly. “There is no getting around the fact she is an excellent rep, though. She has pulled in more contracts for the company than the two years combined before she came.”

“How long have you worked here?” Josie asked, encouraged by Theresa’s current openness to conversation.

“Oh, about five years.”

“Do you enjoy it?”

“I suppose so. I worked my way up to Mr. Peters’ personal assistant, you know. I started even lower than you.” Theresa peered at the artwork still paused under Josie’s pencil. “You are good, you know. I still do not like you to bring it to the office – you get so distracted – but you are quite good. Maybe you can be transferred to our design department someday.”

“Do you really think so?” Josie turned instantly glowing eyes to her.

“I said maybe. Do not get focused on it – I need you where you are right now.”

“Of course.” Josie fell silent, debating whether to ask the next question. Well, no time like the present, especially since Theresa was in a congenial mood.

“Is – do you think Mr. Richardson really likes Caroline?”

“No – I think he appreciates her attention, but as a client, nothing else. Besides, he is one of the politest men I have ever met. But you know he is not THE Mr. Richardson, don’t you?”

“He isn’t?”

“No – that is his father. Or his uncle. They are equal partners in the company. Keith Richardson is being groomed for ownership so they started sending him to meet with marking and the like fairly recently. But it has certainly caused some heart wringing in the office. You should hear how the girls moon over him in the lunch room. Which you would, if you ever went to the lunch room.”

Josie smiled. “I prefer this.” A hand generalized the scenery before them.

“Even in weather like this? It is freezing!” Theresa glanced at her phone. “We have been away far too long! Come on, before Mr. Peters figures out we are both gone!”

*                                                             *                                             *

Josie was waiting when Mr. Richardson came out of Mr. Peters office and exited the building.

“Excuse me, please.” She interrupted his departure with a rapidly beating heart and cheeks made red not only by the chilled wind.

“Miss Grant? Is everything all right?”

“Yes, sir. I just – I wanted to thank you for – for the money you sent.”

“Oh – of – of course. I hope it was useful.”

“Yes, sir. I – well, I did not need all of it, but – I knew someone who could use it. I hope that was all right. I did not think until later, that perhaps I should have returned what I did not need.” She looked up at him with anxiety on her face.

“Please, do not worry about it. It was at your disposal. I am only glad to be helpful. Please feel free to let me know if you need anything further.” He departed with a polite smile and nod and Jocelyn looked after him with a little sigh before turning to hurry back in, hoping she had not been missed. Caroline stopped her right in front of the door, with her signature smile firmly in place.

“You know that just because he is polite to you does not mean he actually notices you, don’t you dear?”

“What are you talking about?” But Josie’s embarrassed face betrayed that she knew exactly what Caroline was saying.

“My dear, I just do not want you to get hurt, convincing yourself of something that is not there. Mr. Richardson  is a very rich man and nearly  hitting you with his car does not mean he is going to suddenly fall for someone like – well, like you.” Her eloquent glance down Josie’s choice of clothing and hair spoke volumes more than the words themselves.

“Thank you for your kind concern, but I am well aware of my own shortcomings.” Josie said, a little tartly, and pushed her way past the woman into the building.

“Josie, where were you?” She was immediately confronted by Theresa. “Mr. Peters needs the file for his 1:30 tomorrow!”

“I’m sorry, Theresa – I just had to – do something.”

“You look upset – is something wrong?” Theresa’s face went from anger to alarm. “You did not get hit by a car again, did you?”

Josie could not help a laugh. “No, no I did not. It is just .  . .”

The door next to them opened and Caroline sailed in, bestowing a sweet glance at the pair on her way past. Theresa caught the sudden flare in Josie’s face. “She said something to you, didn’t she?”

Josie glanced back at her sharply.

“Josie, it is no secret- the whole office talks about the way you look after him like a lovelorn schoolgirl every time he comes in. They think it is hysterical. Caroline, however, considers him her personal property and does not like anyone, let alone a lowly assistant like you, even thinking about him.”

Josie’s somewhat pointed ears were burning a brilliant shade by this time, her face rather stricken.

“Oh, do not take it so hard.” Theresa smirked a bit. “It is not like it is unexpected. After all, the man almost ran you over and then got you your job back. Even someone like me can see that as romantic. But this is real life, Josie.”

“It is not like I expect him to actually like me!” Josie burst out. “He is just – really nice! It is not fair of everyone to – and of her to. Oh, people are just the worst.” Josie stormed towards her cube, while Theresa followed her with determination and delight written over her features.

“So! You do know how to get angry! I was beginning to think you were just a rug to be walked over. What did Caroline say?”

“it does not matter.” Josie unlocked her computer and stared at her email as though it were the only thing in the world.

“Caroline is just a stuck-up prig. I mean, I know I am not the nicest person, at least until I warm up to someone, but Caroline pretends to be nice and just says stinging things disguised in syrup. She once told me that it was a shame my honey brown hair didn’t have enough honey in it to make it actually worth doing.”

Josie allowed a little smile and glanced up. “She – she just – said something about how a man like him would never really notice someone like me. And then she . . . .”

“Looked you up and down and made you feel generally shabby and worthless?”

“Yes! Exactly!”

“Do not pay any attention to her – she does that to all the girls in the office. Although . . .”

“Although, what?”

“Well, you know, it would not hurt if did something with your hair other than pulling it back into a low ponytail every day.”

“it does not matter. I know quite well that I am not pretty and whatever I do does not make a difference. Besides, I do not have time or money for all that.”

“Well, if you – okay, okay.” Theresa held up her hands in surrender at the look Josie shot her. “Get the reports for Mr. Peters. And then I am still waiting for that presentation for next week’s board meeting.”

*                             *                                             *

Josie wearily finished transferring a majority of her paycheck to her mother’s bank account and then turned to her somewhat meager dinner of ramen noodle soup. As if on cue, her phone rang.

“Hii, Mom!” She made an effort to sound less tired than she actually was. “No, I just got back from work. Mr. Peters had some things he needed to finish. No, it is fine, Mom – I am glad – yes. I just got it – you should see the money in a couple days. No, I really do not mind – it is why I am here! Please, mom, just go to your appointment. I want you to get better. Okay, okay, yes – I have plenty – Yes. Okay, Mom, I can hear Aunt Patty calling you. Go on, I will talk – yes. Okay, I love you, bye.”

She shook her head with amusement as she hung up. Sick or not, her mother could talk faster than rushing river. She took a couple bites of soup, her eyes on her numerous sketched pasted on the wall. It had been a very busy week, and she had not had time to even touch her sketchbook. She felt as though energy just seeped out of her like a sieve when she was not able to draw. She should really make some time tonight. She pushed aside the rest of her bowl and grabbed her sketch pad. She knew there was a skating rink open at night in the park a few blocks away. It would be a perfect place to sketch.

She found the place without an issue and, to her delight, there were numerous couples on the ice, with romantic music wafting over the cool breeze. She took off her gloves – they made it so much more difficult to draw efficiently – and went to work trying to capture the romance and magic of a winter’s skating party, embellishing it with Victorian hints of décor. She was very engrossed in the depiction of a young woman swirling under her companion’s arm, when a now familiar voice interrupted her.

“Miss Grant – it seems every time we run into each other, you are working on something. Unless, of course, I am busy running over you instead of into you.” The gentle humor in Keith Richardson’s voice brought a glow to Josie’s eyes and she looked up with a smile.

“Mr. Richardson. I – I thought you lived in New York.”

“My father lives in New York. I got a place here in Boston when I realized how often I would have to fly between the two to work on this campaign with Saunders Marketing Agency. What are you working on?”

“Oh, nothing much.” Josie quickly covered the artwork with her hand.

“It has to be something, to make you take off your gloves in a weather as cold as this. Let me see. Oh – Miss Hynes – look who is here.”

The look Caroline cast upon young Josie was less than pleasurable as she came skating up to join Keith Richardson at the edge of the rink.

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Today  was my brother-in-law’s wedding. I helped set up tables and decorations and stuff and finally got a break around noon or later to write. I wrote, and visited with a  Christian woman who just happened to be in the shop selling her first of two indie published novels. I mostly just wanted to support her, as I will want to be at some point, and bought her book. The way the rest of the day went, as you can imagine, there was no time to write anything more. So I did what I could. The results are not quite what was wanted, but they are done and that is something. Anyway, following the wedding, I am far too tired to type up everything I wrote, but here is part of it anyway!

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

When Josie awoke later that evening,, she had three messages on her phone. She groaned as she rolled over to check them, stiffness already settling in from the beating her bones had taken. The first was from Theresa, a rather stiff note in her tone as she apologized for the misunderstanding and informed her that Mr. Peters had given instructions she was to have a week off and then only come in if she felt up to it.

The second was from Mr. Peters himself, evidently desirous of ensuring his instruction was clear. Josie smiled to herself listening to it; based on the fairly servile note in his tone, she could well imagine the imposing figure of Keith Richardson listening to him leave the message.

The third was from a frail voice and Josie’s smile faded as she listened to her mother’s tremulous but warm voice ask for an update on her new job in the big city. She hung up the phone with a fervent prayer of thanks for God’s intervention in her losing her job. She called her mother back almost immediately.

“Hi, Mom! No, I am fine. Just a bit tired. Yes, the job is great – everyone is so kind. I am sorry – I have just been a bit busy. Trying to settle in. How are you? Is Aunt Patty feeding you well? I do not know, Mom. I will try to make it next weekend, but . .  . of course. Yes, okay. Okay, I have to go now. I love you. Get some rest.”

She hung up quickly, aware that her mother would never stop talking, exhausted or not. She dismissed the brief shadow from her face and stretched out on her bed with a sight of delight. A whole week to do whatever she wanted! Of course, she realized quickly, she would not actually take the whole week. Mr. Peters was currently scared of losing his biggest client. Come tomorrow, he would again be impatient he did not have two people at his beck and call.

But she would chance it and take at least one day off. Let herself heal a little. She could actually go to the park and sketch to her heart’s desire. Still dreaming, she began to nod off again when a loud knock sounded at the door. She jerked back awake and stared toward the door as though distrusting her own ears. But it came again, albeit a bit more gently. She jumped out of bed and winced slightly, but pulled on a bathrobe over the jammies she had slipped into.

Peering through the tiny peep hole, she saw a well-dressed, stocky man she did not recognize.

“Yes?” she called through the door.

“Excuse me, I am looking for a Miss Grant. I have a note for her from Mr. Richardson.”

Funny how a polite, British accent can inspire confidence. Josie opened the door a small always. “I am Miss Grant.”

“Here you are, miss.” The man handed her an envelope and then departed, following a sharp bow.

Josie closed and locked the door, tearing open the envelope almost immediately.

 

 

It was easier today. I had to work, but there wasn’t much to do so I jotted sentences down here and there in a notebook I kept with me until I finally began to write in earnest.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

 

“But –“

“No buts. Besides, the gentleman who ran you over has been waiting for you to wake up. Do you feel up to seeing him?”

“He is going to yell at me, isn’t he?” Jocelyn sank back onto the pillow.

“Mm – more likely, he’s here to keep you from suing him, based on the lawyer who arrived about 15 minutes ago.”

“Suing?”

“Of course – for running you down.”

“But it wasn’t his fault.” Josie protested. “It was mine. I stepped into the street without looking.”

The nurse raised somewhat heavy eyelids, showing her mild, blue eyes. “Well, I’m not sure I’d go admitting that. Usually the court sides with the pedestrian.” She smiled and gave a little wink. “Now, not to worry, my dear. If either one of them gets rough with you, I’ll drag them out by the earlobes, rich or not. And I can do it, too.” She contentedly patted her bulk.

When the nurse returned with the gentlemen, Josie found herself shrinking back on the pillow, her cow-like eyes widening perceptibly. She suddenly became very aware of her stringy, mouse brown hair falling carelessly about her, her abnormally pale face with its asymmetrical nose and sallow cheeks, and how unattractive hospital gowns always were. His tall figure and perfect visage looked like it has stepped straight out of a novel. Probably a Jane Austen novel. The smaller man who followed him in was less imposingly attractive, but just as stern. They both stopped just inside the room and the tall stranger laid appraising, black eyes on her. Was he angry? Sorry? It was impossible to tell. She felt like they were waiting for her to speak, but all she could garner was a squeak with his eyes on her like that.

Apparently it was enough. He moved forward one step and the smaller man with an iPad in his hands followed his motion. A deep, rich voice that melted over her like chocolate emerged. “How are you feeling, miss?”

“I – ahem – I . . . fine, I think.” She forced a bit of a wan smile. “The nurse says I am not allowed to get up, so it is hard to say for certain.”

“I am glad to hear it.” He moved slightly closer, again mirrored by the smaller man. “Do you feel able to speak for a few minutes? We would like to resolve this issue.”

“Of – of course.” Josie had to stop herself from nervously stroking her thin hair.

This was evidently a cue, for the smaller man took over. He stepped in front and, pulling up his ipad, looked over something. “While we by no means accept responsibility on Mr. Richardson’s part for this incident, we would like to keep it out of courts.”

Mr. Richardson! This had to be Mr. Peters client. Josie’s eyes widened more, if at all possible but she quickly refocused on the words being spoken.

“We will offer to pay all medical bills, as well as agree to work through a settlement for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Josie looked quickly toward the nurse as if for confirmation that this was what she had expected and the good woman, busily rearranging medicine bottles, gave her a knowing nod and smile. Josie turned back to the lawyer.

“I very much appreciate that, but I was not planning to sue you!”

It seemed the lawyer had not expected this, or had not encountered such an answer before. His poise immediately dropped and he lowered the iPad, looking at her with confusion etched on his face. The tall man, who Josie supposed must be the man himself, stepped forward quickly, his thick eyebrows, raising, thereby cracking the impassible expression he had hitherto kept on his face.

“Pardon me?”

“I have no intention of suing you.” Josie looked up at him earnestly. “It was entirely my fault!”

The two men looked at each other as if uncertain how to proceed.

“You – do not want money?” The lawyer apparently had to make sure she knew what she was saying.

“Of course not!” Then Jocelyn hesitated. “Although . . .”

The masks instantly dropped back into place. “Of course. I am sure we will be able to come to an agreement.”

“Oh, no, no! It is only that – that I cannot –“ Josie flushed painfully, not sure she could actually admit it out loud. But she didn’t have to.

“You cannot afford the medical bills.” Mr. Richardson’s full lips almost had the hint of a sympathetic smile. Almost.

Josie dipped her head, the flush on her cheeks becoming  a shamed cherry red.

“Not to worry. It will be taken care of.”

“But . . .” The lawyer evidently thought since she had admitted guilt, they shouldn’t have to do anything.

“But nothing. Let’s go.” The two men went back to the door, but Mr. Richardson paused before he went out and turned back briefly.

“It is rare – that someone would turn down the opportunity to sue a Richardson. I thank you for your integrity.” Then his whole face broke into a quick flash of a dazzling smile. “And next time, try to admire the snow from the sidewalk.”

Jocelyn sighed involuntarily, already replaying the twinkle in his eye when he smiled.

“Should have taken the settlement.” The nurse interrupted her reverie with a good-natured grunt. “You coulda been set for life.”

“But it would have been a lie – it wouldn’t have been right.” Josie said softly.

“P’raps so. I guess there is still some young folks who have a sense of right and wrong.” The nurse glanced at the girl, whose gaze was still on the door. “Not too bad to look at, is that Mr. Richardson?”

“What? Oh – I – I didn’t really notice.”

The responding laugh shook the bed as well as the nurse’s bountiful stomach. “And here I thought you didn’t believe in lying!”

 

*                                *                             *

It was with great trepidation Josie entered her workplace a few hours later. Se had been somewhat hesitantly released, only upon her insistence she felt fine, if slightly bruised. Se had attempted – several times – to call Theresa to explain her absence, but each time had been immediately sent to voicemail. That could not be good.

Theresa was in Mr. Peters office, but both saw her walk by on her way to her cube and Jocelyn swallowed hard in response to the look she caught. She did not have to wait long.

“May I ask what you are doing here?” If an ice sculpture were able to capture a voice, Theresa’s would have been the perfect model.

“Theresa – I am so sorry. This morning –“

“It does not matter. You should know better than to assume you still have a job. Pack your things immediately and . . . “

“I am extremely disappointed in you, Miss Grant.” Mr. Peters voice sounded behind Theresa and she immediately stepped back to allow him to gaze unmercifully upon the trembling girl.

“I took a chance on you, and you have disrespected and disgraced my office with your constant tardiness.”

Twice. Thought Josie. Said Josie, “But, Mr. Peters, I was –“

“You are dismissed. There is no excuse you can offer that will change my mind.”

“Yes, sir.” Josie was slightly frustrated, but mostly defeated. It was not as if this took her by surprise.

She took only a few minutes to gather her things, and had gone as far as Mr. Peters’ door on her way out with her box of personal items when Caroline entered through the door, in a brilliant blue sheath dress that perfectly accentuated her fair coloring, talking animatedly to a handsome, tall gentleman.

Josie stopped in horror. It was bad enough that – if he should see – oh, if she could only – but it was too late. Carline quickly realized she had lost the man’s attention  as his eyes fell on Jocelyn, registering first confusion, then recognition, then downright shock.

“Miss – Miss Grant?”

Carline glanced from him to the homely little assistant, both displeased and confused. But Mr. Richardson did not notice. His stately brow furrowed.

“What –.”

“Ah, Mr. Richardson. So good to see you! Thank you so much for coming all this way!” Mr. Peters appeared in the door of his office, the smile for special clients pasted across his face.

“If you will just follow me -.”

But Mr. Richardson did not take any notice of him. “Miss Grant – what are you doing here?”

Mr. Peters seemed to register her presence for the first time. “Miss Grant! What are you still doing here? When I tell someone to leave, I assure you, I mean for –“

“Leave?” Mr. Richardson interrupted. “What do you mean, Mr. Peters? What is going on here?”

“Please accept my sincerest apologies, sir.” Mr. Peters gave a slight bow. “I am so sorry you have to see this. But Miss Grant has shown herself to be completely negligent. She is unable to keep up with the timekeeping principles of this office, and  therefore has been dismissed. She is evidently taking her time obeying me in that instance as well.”

Josie wished she could bury her face in the box she held. No, more than that, she wished she didn’t exit, had ever existed – that she could curl up in the little box completely and not be visible until everyone was gone. She couldn’t handle this.

“Excuse me.” She muttered, trying to squeeze through the small group without looking up.

“Wait.” Mr. Richardson stopped her with a hand placed on her shoulder boldly, though without force.  “Am to understand, Miss Grant, that you are employed here, at the Saunters Marketing Agency?”

“Yes, sir.” Josie didn’t dare continue to try to move with Mr. Richardson’s hand on her.

“WAS. Was employed.” Mr. Peters was eager to ensure his biggest client did not think they allowed their workers to get away with negligence such as tardiness. But Mr. Richardson turned to him with a  look that made even him entirely uncomfortable.

“And you have dismissed her on what grounds?”

“Why, tardiness, sir, of course. She was abominably late today, as well as an incident last week, when . . .”

Mr. Richardson turned his unnerving gaze back to Josie. “Did you not tell them you were in the hospital?”

Josie found herself once again speechless. She turned a mute inquiry towards Mr. Peters.

“Hospital?” The manager repeated blankly.

“Yes, hospital.” Mr. Richardson had apparently seen enough to get a hint as to why Josie could not answer. He continued with emphasis. “I. hit. this. Young. Woman. With. My. Car. This morning.” He waited for the full effect to take place before continuing. “And why she felt the need to come into the office immediately this afternoon, one can only guess.”

Mr. Peters grew remarkably pale. “Miss Grant . . .” He said a  bit hoarsely. “Please go home and rest. Let Theresa know when you are feeling well enough to return.”

“Yes, sir.” Josie scurried out, a confusing onslaught of relief, embarrassment and a bit of delight at what had just happened encompassing her. And a tad bit annoyed at the sound of Caroline’s musical voice floating back to her, “Poor child .  . .”

First day was a little rough. We are in Oklahoma for a wedding and between teleworking, relatives and a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, time was a little scarce. Not to mention I started with no plot whatsoever and am still trying to decide where this is going to go. But, 2:00 AM or not, I am totally counting this as having gotten my word count in the first day.

Disclaimer: This is being posted as written, without review or edit, purely for enjoyment and accountability and may contain inconsistencies and ridiculousness. This year’s novel is for fun and is being purposefully written full of cliches and sappy romance, so no high expectations!

Garden of Dreams

The castle loomed up before her like a sentry on a lonely hilltop, is dark exterior accompanied only by the muddled waters of the moat surrounding it. Moats were fascinating things. Considered romantic and beautiful these days, yet, in truth, designed to keep people out so that the inhabitants could be left in peace.

“Josie! Josie! Mr. Peters is waiting for that report!”

Jocelyn Grant shoved the sketch paper into her bag and grabbed the waiting report from the printer during her dash towards Mr. Peters’ office. She slowed only momentarily as she passed Caroline Hynes. She couldn’t help it. Something about the way Caroline’s four-inch heels clicked. The perfect, unwrinkled skirt that was just a tad too short, and the reflection of light on her impeccably smooth blonde hair always made Jocelyn stop and sigh a little. The smile Caroline always bestowed upon her in passing was filled with the knowledge of her superiority in position and dress.

But a glance and a sigh was all she had time for. Jocelyn had lost track of time when she allowed herself a few brief moments in her sketch book and today it could cost her job. It was because of days like today she felt her sturdy black flats had to be better than those four-inch heels. Who could run in those?

“Miss Grant, where have you been?” The tall, thin man at his standing desk came toward her as she entered and snatched the report from her hands. “The clients have been waiting almost a full minute!”

“I am so sorry, sir. I – that is – it will not happen again.”

“If it does, you may be assured I will ensure it does not happen a third time.” His grim mustache quivered. “Now go.”

Josie hurried out, carefully closing the door behind her.

“What were you doing?”

She jumped at the voice right next to her and looked into Theresa’s tense, broad face.

“I – nothing. I just lost track of time.”

“Lost track of time? Right before his weekly meeting with the Richardson Company? Were you trying to get fired?” Theresa followed Josie as the girl tried to escape to her desk. “You could have lost both our jobs!” Then, catching sight of something brown sticking partially out of Josie’s oversized purse, “You weren’t drawing again, were you?”

“It was only for a second! Everything was ready and – “

“Jocelyn Grant, if I ever see that sketch book of yours in the office again, I will personally see to it that you are fired. I will not risk my position just because you obviously have better things to do.”

“You won’t – I won’t.”

With a quick glare to ensure Josie realized she meant it, Theresa whirled and stalked towards her own desk, situated right outside Mr. Peters’ office.

Josie sat primly on the edge of her seat and shoved the sketch pad down out of sight. She turned her gaze back to the computer and tried to concentrate intently on the presentation for Mr. Peters’ next meeting, determined not to get distracted again. She needed this job and had been lucky to get it with her lack of experience. She would not lose it.

*                                             *                                             *

It was 10:00 PM and Mr. Peters still sat at his desk. Jocelyn looked through the office windows, hoping desperately for some hint of him getting ready to pack up. The only reason she envied Theresa’s position as his primary personal assistant was the fact that she could keep normal hours and leave Josie to stay late in case he had any last minute needs. She glanced back at the clock and then at her closed purse. She dared not take out the sketch pad, no matter how caught up she was on work. Not with today’s near disaster. Yet it seemed perfectly useless to just sit there, staring at a screen, in case. . .

“Miss Grant!”

In case of that. Jocelyn rose and hurried to the office door. “Yes, Mr. Peters?”

“Get me the files for that one company.”

“Ah – which  . . .”

“How should I know? The one I met with at 3:00.”

He may not be good at names, but he was excellent with timekeeping. Mr. Peters was proud of his reputation as someone who was never early and never late. He always arrived precisely on time and expected the same of everyone around him. Jocelyn went back to her computer and looked up his 3:00 meeting, pulling the files requested and bringing them to him. He took them without comment and without glancing up from his computer. “You may go.”

Josie dared not linger to find out if he meant she could go home or simply go back to her desk. She supposed it wasn’t worth the risk of finding out. She obediently went back to her desk, and sat down again, glancing with longing at her worn-out purse once more. Another glance up. Mr. Peters still looked quite settled in. This could be another midnight shift. She twisted a nervous finger around a strand of her limp brown hair and then reached for the bag and pulled out the sketchpad.

She immediately lost herself in the magic of castle that captured her current daydream. Filling in each stone that made the tower that held a captured damsel in distress, the soft lines that made a pencil sketch of flowing water come to life. It was while drawing she felt tales such as those in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader could be real – it was completely possible that painting had come to life if it looked as real is it felt taking life under her hand.

“Miss Grant!”

Josie lifted large, cow-like brown eyes to her employer standing over her, his eyes as stern as his mustache.

“Did I not tell you that you could go?”

“Y – yes, sir.”

“Then why are you still here?”

“I am sorry, sir. I was not sure . . .”

“You are never sure! I like my employees to have snap to them. Decision. Now go. And be on time tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Peters turned and marched to the door, waiting there as Josie hurriedly gathered her things and ran out before him so he could lock up, not daring to pause even to put on her coat.

She hated the late nights when Mr. Peters was in his busy season, but the night walk through the city to her tiny studio apartment was almost worth it sometimes. She felt like she could imagine herself almost dainty and pretty, watching the moonlight reflect over her and around her. The nippy wind caused a delightful chill on her nose and smelled just as delicious; fresh and clean after being in an office all day. She could look up and almost make out one or two stars above the bright street lights of Boston, especially as she reached her street, where only every third light actually worked.

Jocelyn paused briefly to take one last sniff of Jack Frost’s work before she pulled the sticking door to her apartment open and proceeded down the dimly lit hall, habitually checking behind her and around corners and fingering the mace in the pocket of her coat just in case. It was always with a breath of relief that she opened her apartment door, and entered safely in, hanging her coat and scarf on the single hook and dropping onto the bed that served as her couch.

She pulled out her sketch pad and examined the work that had almost cost her her job. A few loving additional touches and it was done. She taped it onto the wall next to her others. Someday, this is all she would do. She would draw and paint and sketch and breath.

***

There was something in the wind that morning, Josie thought a few weeks later. Something different. She could sense it as she pulled on her brown, somewhat misshapen dress, fastening a belt around it to create some symmetry. Perhaps it was the crisp air accompanying the occasional snowflake that wiggled its way in through the cracks around the window. She ran a brush through her hair and, as per usual, pulled it into a quick, low ponytail before slipping on her customary, comfortable flats and grabbing her coat as she went out the door. She didn’t care who saw her dance a little jig in the gently falling snow as she waltzed down the street. It was a lovely, magical day, and she was going to take delight in it as long as she could. She slipped into her threadbare red coat, and covered her hair with her scarf as she went. She could swear there were sugar plum fairies dancing in the snowflakes around her and she fully intended to draw them if she were lucky enough to get a lunch break today.

Whether it was God, fate, or pure happenstance, she did not know at that time, but she was too busy looking up at the sky to check for traffic as she began to cross a usually quiet back street. The car that hit her, however, was very real, and she had only time to briefly reflect that she wouldn’t get to work on time as she fell out of consciousness.

*                                             *                                             *

“You are a very lucky young lady.” The jolly face of a slightly oversized nurse was the first thing Jocelyn saw as she opened her eyes.

“What happened?”

“What happened is your parents didn’t teach you to look both ways before you cross the road, that’s what happened.” There was little actual censure in her cheerful voice as she adjusted the needle in Josie’s arm.

Jocelyn’s eyes flew wide open as she suddenly recalled the white sedan that had come from nowhere. “Am I hurt?”

“Of course you are hurt. You were hit by a car!” The laugh the nurse let out did not seem to match the gravity of the situation. “However, it is nothing that won’t heal with a little care. I don’t know how – you must have a guardian angel watching over you. Or that gentleman wasn’t driving very fast. But no broken bones, no permanent issues – only a couple sprains and mild concussion.”

“What day is it?”

“November 3rd, my dear. You have only been unconscious a few hours.”

“Hours? But my job! Oh, I’m horribly late! I shall be fired!”

“Nonsense. No one would fire you for being late because you were hit by a car.”

“Mr. Peters would! He doesn’t believe in anything that prevents us from being on time.” Josie attempted to rise from the bed.

“Not a chance, young miss.” The jolly nurse became firm at once. “You have not been released and you will not be released until we’ve had a chance to make sure there aren’t any additional injuries!”

And so it begins

Yet again, NanoToons manages to capture precisely how I feel. 

It’s November 1st, and yes! I’m doing NaNoToons again for NaNoWriMo. For those who have been following NaNoToons for years, you may have noticed I didn’t do them for October. I didn’t even have one for October 31st, which I normally do. I was even debating whether or not to do them this year! Good […]

via 2017 – November 1st — Nanotoons

Yup, folks – this is it – another National Novel Writing Month approaching fast! I have convinced at least one of my friends to join me in this venture (finally!) and we have mutually agreed to write completely sappy romance novels. You know the type – like Love Inspired books, where the story line is so corny and full of cliches that it makes you feel like maybe you can write?

We have decided we are going to relax, have fun, and write a book purposefully full of such cliches. And, just to make sure we don’t take it too seriously, we have even agreed to read each other’s books at the end of the month, no matter how awful they are – since they would be awful anyway, at least by today’s standards.

I would like you to know that, between my brother-in-law’s wedding, guests staying for a few days, and thanksgiving, I have no idea how I am going to accomplish this, but hopefully the lack of pressure in writing a serious book will help. I’ve also been told I should go out of my comfort zone just a little and set in modern days to help lessen pressure even more. So, we’ll see how this turns out!

My husband thinks I ought to post what I’ve written every day, since I am making an effort to not really care if the writing is good or not. I don’t know if I don’t care THAT much. But we’ll see.

Have fun in your own endeavors!

Some people are upset when fall days are not crisp and cool, befitting the colors on the trees. But days like this, with the sun shining down as though it were spring filled with hope rather than an upcoming, cold and dark winter, fill me with such joy. You cannot beat the feel of the sun coming down and gracing your skin with its presence, as though a constant reminder that God loves you, nor the slightly cool breeze that occasionally floats by to give you just enough relief to let you enjoy the sun all that much more. I could sit outside for hours on a day like this.

I am sitting here on the balcony now, re-reading Pat of Silver Bush and reveling in the descriptions of scenery and joy that the little girl has in her house, her fields, and days, whether summer or winter. There is a magic in the words that L.M. Montgomery weaves – a magic that I desperately would love to capture in my own writing. I suppose experienced writers would tell me it takes experience, while savvy writers would tell me such things don’t sell anymore. But if it still thrills my soul at 30, surely there are still some girls out there looking for books that weave magic.

Days like this I can almost believe I can do it myself. Days like this remind me of flower fairies, wood elves, and God’s love surrounding every one of us.

I went to a literary festival yesterday with workshops to improve your writing and the one on revision had me actually hand a stranger the first five pages of my book and ask him to critique it. What a stretch that was! Far more stretching than I think I would have been brave enough for, had I known ahead of time. But it ended up good! He, being completely unbiased and not a huge fan of Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery type books, was able to offer straightforward and much needed advice. I finally understand what the books mean when you say you need to trust your reader. He pointed out the areas where I felt like I had to describe in detail what was happening because I was afraid the reader wouldn’t understand it. More than that, he explained I also had to trust myself – trust that I was conveying the information I needed to without explaining it in three different ways. It seriously was the most helpful advice I think I’ve ever received – which is reasonable since I almost never show anyone my writing. I also critiqued the first pages of his book, which didn’t need a lot of changes – we have probably as opposite styles as you could possibly think of, but it was good, because I could see his short and to the point sentences, where mine ramble on.

It was my first time going to such a thing, and it was really inspiring – and I got to hear from other people who actually are writers or trying to be writers, who know the difficulties and don’t just vaguely say, “Oh, I want to write a book too!” There is something inspiring about knowing you are not the only one having struggles. Speaking of which, all I need to struggle with right now is whether to sit in the sun and read or keep editing my book. I think I might read and just soak in the success of one of my all-time favorite authors in hopes it will inspire me for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month.