We're getting so close! The Life We Almost Had will be here very soon! And today, I thought I'd share with you the prologue. Hope you enjoy! And remember, you can pre-order your e-book copy TODAY at its special price on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes and Noble!
My mother always said that a memory can get you through the rest of your life. So, that’s why I don’t know where to begin. Do I start at the beginning of my life or at the memory—where I believe my life might have actually begun?
It’s been years, but I still think of him—just like I still think of that sleepy, little ghost town we both call home. But just like a memory, I guess, both that little town and that boy are now really more like a dream—one that disappears as soon as the morning sun comes slithering through the blinds. But true to a dream, I suppose, it always leaves something behind. And this dream always leaves behind a longing—for Sweet Home, but mostly, for him.
I grew up in Sweet Home, Missouri. I don’t know if I’d call it sweet, necessarily, but it is home, to me. Today, it looks different than it used to. Today, grass grows up out of the cracks in the brittle sidewalks that line Market Street. A short twelve years ago, I used to wheel a roller dog my grandpa gave me down those same concrete walks with ease. And it’s not just the sidewalks. Tall water hemp covers the bases on the baseball diamond in the park. And now, nearly all the storefront windows have plywood boards covering up dark and dusty, empty rooms. And if that’s not enough, where there once were people from birth to ninety-nine spilling out of the old United Church of Christ every Sunday morning, now there’s a no trespassing sign on God’s big, wooden door.
But back in its namesake years, Sweet Home was pretty sweet, I think. I’ve seen old pictures. And people lived in Sweet Home at one time. Happy people. Proud people. There were cars at the filling station and women buying yards of fabric in the general store. There were men along the street, laughing next to big cars and holding wide-eyed toddlers. Every little front yard had bright green grass that was meticulously cut. And all that green grass was fenced in with wrought iron, all the way down the street, each yard just like the last. And every little home along Market had an American flag that jutted out from some part of the house. And every other house had a rocking chair on a little front porch. And in every rocking chair on Sunday, just when the sun was sinking back into the earth, there would be an old man smoking a corncob pipe or a young woman rocking a baby.
But I’m not too familiar with the Sweet Home of then or the one of today, really. The Sweet Home I knew wasn’t booming, but it wasn’t abandoned quite yet, either. The Sweet Home I knew was about the size of a tire valve cap, and all the people who lived inside that cap could be counted on three sets of fingers and toes. But people were happy, and the buildings still held some life.
When I lived there, there was a bar and a post office and a fire station that we’d take cookies to every Christmas Eve. And there were still lights that lined the streets. Some perpetually flickered, but there were lights, all the same. Nearly every summer night we would dance on the asphalt under their light shows and pretend we were rich Hollywood stars.
There weren’t many babies or kids, though. And except for me and the girl who lived across the street, there was no one else my age. The girl’s parents owned the only watering hole in town. She was quiet, and she mostly kept to herself, but we got along just fine. Her name was Angel. And I always thought it was a funny name. Angels glowed and wore halos. Angel did neither. But then there came a day when I changed my mind about that. Angel really was an angel—sent straight down from heaven above to save me—not once, but twice.
The first time was around the year that we both turned eleven. Angel and I were playing hopscotch outside her parents’ bar, and a dirty old Nova pulled up to us and asked for directions to the nearest grocery store. Angel was her usual self and didn’t say a word, so I decided I’d have to tell him myself. He had long, scraggly hair and a crooked nose, but his eyes were kind. I told him how to get to the IGA, but he craned his neck and said he couldn’t hear a word I was saying. He said I’d have to come closer. So, I took a step toward his car, and that’s when Angel grabbed my arm and screamed louder than I’ve ever heard anybody scream before. I flinched, and my ears cracked. Angel had never spoken more than maybe ten soft words at a time in front of me, and here she was screaming loud enough to shatter that old bar’s glass windows. Within seconds, her momma came running out, and the car with the man in it sped away. And all that remained from that quick moment was the red imprint of Angel’s fingers on my forearm.
Two days later, we heard through the grapevine that a guy in a dirty old Nova had tried to pull a young girl into his car in the next town over. She had managed to slink out of his grip—just about the same time that the man had slipped into the grip of the girl’s daddy. And that’s where that story ended—although, there are quite a few rumors that circulated, none of which ended too well for the man ... or his Nova.
I never thanked Angel for saving me. I never really had the chance. The bar closed down the next day, and Angel and her family moved somewhere far away from Sweet Home.
And that was not too long before the rest of the town left, too. Some said it was just time—time for everybody to go. But most said it was because the old hat factory had closed in Holstein, just east of town. It employed most of the people who were left in Sweet Home—those who didn’t make a living plowing dirt, like my daddy did.
As for me and my momma and daddy, we stayed, though. We stayed in our little ghost town, where daddy drove back and forth all day in the fields, planting money, as he called it. And momma kept working part-time collecting antiques and selling them in a little booth down the road.
And life was quiet—just like Angel had been—until the day that he showed up. And that’s actually the second time that Angel saved me. She moved out of that little house across the street, and he moved in. So, the way I see it, Angel gave me him.
From that day and for a while after that, you couldn’t hear the sound of the water dripping in the kitchen sink or the branches scraping across the tin roof above my room anymore. Those sounds were all drowned out by the crack of Clearly Canadian caps hitting the concrete and his laugh and the high-pitched hum of an engine, as his dirt bike made little circles in the bottom land.
That was all I heard, anyway.
But eventually, he left, too. Everyone always left. And we—we just stayed. And in time, it got quiet again—just like Angel. But I still remember that little piece of moonlight he brought into my life. And that’s where I really feel as if my story begins. It begins with that boy I fell in love with, nearly seven years ago, back in Sweet Home, Missouri.
This is the last preview before A Bird on a Windowsill releases Monday! Just 3 more days! I can't believe its almost here! AND I can't wait for you to read Salem and Savannah's story! Until then, though, please enjoy this clip from the prologue!
A Bird on a Windowsill
A Clip from Prologue One
“Who do you choose, Vannah?”
My tone is even, an attempt to hide the uncertainty in my voice.
Her gaze immediately casts down to the floor. I watch as she squeezes her eyes shut, bites her bottom lip—a nervous habit of hers—and then slowly raises her head.
People say birds are a bad omen. But I’m not so sure because while the only bird I ever knew tore my world in two, I loved every single moment of it.
My name is Salem Ebenezer—or Eben, if you’re Savannah. Short e. Short e. And most of all, short for Ebenezer. And this is the story about me and Savannah Catesby. Savannah Elise Catesby, that is. Though, to me, she was always just Vannah.
I met Vannah when we were very young—just five years old. She had short, blond hair and soft green eyes. Though, as we grew older, her hair got longer and her eyes, darker and more mysterious.
I loved Vannah. I loved her for her unruly laugh and the way she made me feel. To her, I wasn’t the smallest and scrawniest boy in the first grade. To her, I was...me.
And I loved her because she would always pick me first for her kickball team. And I loved her for those times I forgot my lunch, and she shared hers with me. But most of all, I loved Vannah because she had this innate ability to make everyone around her feel loved.
But somewhere in the midst of junior high—in the midst of zits and a squeaky voice and an awkward way of getting around, both physically and in conversation, I changed—we changed. That was about the time I realized that I loved Vannah not only for the way she made me feel and the occasional ham and cheese sandwich, but also for our long talks under the stairs after school and the way her mouth moved when she laughed. And I fell in love with the way she ate peanut butter cups—from the inside out—and how she always knew when something was wrong...or new...or different.
And without me even realizing it, the hours turned into days, and the days, to years, and before either of us knew, I think, we were fifteen and in high school. And that was the first time, I think, that I noticed Vannah’s long, tan legs....and the precarious way my name rolled off her tongue...and how she made just pulling her hair back or signing her name in those long, drawn-out curves, somehow sexy.
And it was then that I realized I loved her for those things, too.
But still, for whatever reason—I can’t tell you—I never told her that. I never told Vannah that I loved our long talks or her long legs. Not right away anyway. In fact, it wasn’t until she had moved away and had come back for a summer, the year we both turned eighteen, that I finally got up the courage.
It was the summer of the Polaroid, and God must have taken pity on my oblivious self because he smiled down on me, and he gave me those three little words—and a second chance to tell her how I feel.
July 6, 2001. That was the day that I finally realized that I not only loved Vannah for everything she was, but I, plain and simple, loved Vannah.
And I told her that. I told her that—that same day I realized it. On a soft night in the middle of Hogan’s slab, I told Savannah Catesby that I loved her. And I only remember the date because she said it back.
I’m twenty-three now. It’s July 12, 2007. I’m still in love with that little girl with the unruly laugh and the long, wild hair and the dark stare and the tireless heart. And I know she still loves me.
But now, she’s standing at the door, her dark green eyes slicing open the distance between her gaze and mine. And I’m just staring back at her. And three thoughts are all that are on my mind:
I love this girl.
I love this girl.
I love this girl.
She takes a breath. I hold mine. And with that, a silent thought slips into my cadence.
I love this girl.
I love this girl.
I love this girl.
★ *´¨) ¸.•´¸.•*´¨)
A clip from the prologue of When Cicadas Cry!
Just 18 days until the release!
(¸.•´ (¸.•` ★
Here's a quick sneak peek into By Way of Accident! This is River and Brooke's poem, which appears on the page before the Prologue! Get their story in just 9 days!!!
They say in every guy’s life, there’s a girl he’ll never forget and a summer where it all began. Well, 1999 is that summer, and Brooke Sommerfield is that girl. I’m convinced she was an angel. My grandma always used to say that angels come in blinks. Brooke was just like that. She flew into my life and then flew right back out again—almost as if she were never there at all. But she was definitely there. And I’ve got her invisible memory to remind me of it. But anyway, that was years ago and yesterday when she flew in by way of accident. At thirteen years old on that hot June day, I only had three things on my mind: Cooling off, girls...and girls. So, I’d have to say that June 22, 1999, was also the best day of my life.
See, there was a creek that ran through the back of our property when I was growing up. It stretched the entire length and then jutted north and disappeared behind old man Brandt’s land. I had followed it one day when I was bored. There’s not too much more to do in Detmold, Missouri. They say the town, or what’s left of it, is named after some big city in Germany somewhere. I’ve never been, but I hear they’ve got old castles and big museums over there. And while we don’t have old castles or big museums, we do have an old building with weeds growin’ in it that used to be a post office...and big fields. We’ve got lots of big fields.
But anyway, after old man Brandt’s property, that winding, narrow stream crawled past a turn-of-the-century white farm house owned by a little old lady named Samantha Catcher. She doesn’t live there anymore. I guess that house eventually just got too big for her because not too long after Mr. Catcher passed, she moved to a tiny one-bedroom in the next township over. And now, she rents the old farm house out to people who are just passing through our little town. They stay a little while, and then soon enough, they’re on their way again. When I was young, kids would tell stories about why Mrs. Catcher kept the old place. Some said it was because it was haunted by her late husband. Some said she needed the money because Mr. Catcher gambled their life savings away before he died. But I know that Mr. Catcher wasn’t a gambler—well, beyond being a farmer—and I was pretty sure he wasn’t a ghost either. See, I was convinced that Mrs. Catcher kept that old place because it made her happy. I’d catch her in between renters plantin’ flowers in front of its porch or hangin’ a new welcome sign on the front door. She’d always be smilin’ then. See, Grandma also told me once that memories are invisible to everyone but the beholder. So I just assumed that Mrs. Catcher was looking at all her memories that nobody else could see when I would catch her smilin’ at that old house.
But all the same, that creek kept crawlin’. It kept on goin’ for miles after Mrs. Catcher’s place, but I didn’t. It was gettin’ close to supper time by then, and I was gettin’ awful hungry, so I turned around that day, and I walked back home. But the point here is that I knew that creek like the back of my hand, and I knew everyone who lived anywhere near it too. So that’s why June 22, 1999, was different. It started off normal. I baled hay. I got hot. I went to the creek. Believe it or not, I was on my summer vacation—right here at home, helpin’ my grandpa out around the farm. To me, it wasn’t much of a vacation, but my parents thought spendin’ some more time with Grandpa would do him and me some good. So, there I was on a Tuesday evening gettin’ ready to jump into that creek when I spotted somethin’—somethin’ that would stick with me for a really long time. And that day in the summer of ’99, I walked home with the best souvenir I ever got from a summer vacation—an invisible memory—of a shiny, little thing that would change my life forever.
But again, that was years ago. And now, I’m just left here smilin’ at this old creek just like Mrs. Catcher used to do at that old farm house. My mind just keeps replaying the little time I held Brooke Sommerfield. That beautiful girl is gone now, but I can still hear her in the wind. If I listen real hard, I can hear her laughter over the whip-poor-will, and I can hear her whisperin’ softly about the sky and its secrets and dreams and being happy. I close my eyes and breathe her in. She smells like daisies and fresh creek water—and summer. And all of a sudden, I hear a soft sigh rustlin’ through the trees, and I force my eyes open just in time to see a flock of geese—wings wide, toes spread—landing on the water.
“Life passes you by when your eyes are closed,” I whisper back to the wind. And then I smile wide, and I sit back against the grassy creek bank, and I watch my invisible memories play out just as if she had never left me.
That summer came slow, but it went so fast. Turns out, those endless days were never meant for the two of us. I never seemed to get enough time with her. Maybe it was because she taught me how to live. Maybe it was because she taught me how to love. Or maybe it was just simply because I loved her.
I sit back further into that grass, and I watch those geese float down the creek. All around me, the tree frogs are startin’ to call, singin’ back and forth about whatever it is frogs sing back and forth about. And I just sit there, and I think about that beautiful girl.
“I’ll find my way back to you, Brooke Sommerfield. As sure as the sun is gonna rise in the mornin’, I’ll find you,” I whisper to the wind. I tell it what I wish I could say to her. I tell it what I told her once before in a letter—a letter she would never receive until years later. See, that’s the funny thing about fate; it works around us, despite us, in spite of us, even. And it’s near impossible to figure out, until all the pages are in place. But all the same, that doesn’t stop me from prayin’. Every day, I pray that this wild ride fate’s got me on ends with her. I pray that you, Brooke Sommerfield, are on my last page. And I pray that page is a happy one. But whether it is or it isn’t, either way, I have to know what became of you. I have to know what became of the girl who stole my last perfect summer. And I have to know if she believes in second chances—because I do, even if they do come with good-byes.
But until then, Brooke Sommerfield, my summer angel, you and I will be what my grandpa always liked to call...unfinished business.
By Way of Accident Trailer
My latest novel, For All You Have Left, is due out Feb. 11, 2014—just in time for Valentine's Day! But in the meantime, I thought I'd let you take a sneak peek at the prologue!
To summarize, For All You Have Left takes place in small-town Missouri and centers around Logan Cross. When Logan was nine years old, her father landed a promotion and moved the family back to his old stomping grounds in Columbia, Mo. Logan traded in her old friends and a familiar setting for a new school filled with new faces, but she did get at least one good thing out of the trade--Andrew Amsel.
Andrew and Logan spend a childhood playing hide and seek and then four years at Truman High falling in love and dreaming about their future together. Then on graduation night, Andrew asks Logan to marry him. Logan doesn't even think twice before saying yes. Five days later, they elope.
But life has different plans for Logan. And now at twenty-two, she is in the midst of starting over when Jorgen Ryker moves in next door. A paramedic who grew up along the Missouri River bottoms, Jorgen seems normal, and he's definitely easy on the eyes, but Logan still has her reservations—and her secrets. Can she put her old life aside to start anew? And what big secret is she hiding that Jorgen might already know?
For All You Have Left is a story about first loves and true loves and hope and learning to love again. And it's a story near and dear to my heart, so without further ado, here is the first look at the prologue to For All You Have Left:
Only two things about that afternoon stick out to me—two things that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. One of those things is the smell the tires made after they had laid a jagged line of black rubber across the faded highway and into the ditch. There were tall wild flowers growing up every which way around me, but all I could think about was that bitter smell of burnt rubber. I remember a breath and then a moment where I think my mind was trying to catch up with my body. Then, there were muffled sounds and blurry images and panicked movements. But that smell was so distinct. Even now, just the thought of rubber pressed deep into a surface makes my stomach turn.
That’s one thing I remember about my last ride—about the day that changed my story forever. It’s the dark thing—the memory I wish I had lost, along with most of the others.
The other thing I remember, though, is my light—my little piece of hope when all hope seemed lost. I remember the way it felt in my hand. It was hard, and its edges were just sharp enough that I could almost feel pain again when I squeezed my fingers around it. I wanted that so badly—pain. I wanted to feel pain on my skin and in my bones, anywhere that wasn’t my heart. I was starting to feel numb, and it was almost more terrifying than the thought of a tomorrow—a new day where I would be living someone else’s life.
No one had told me at the time, but I already knew. I already knew my life was going to be different. I knew my life had changed. I remember squeezing my bloody fingers around the metal edges of that shiny figure, pressing the sharpest edge into my thumb—until I felt something. I knew I was leaving my life out there along that quiet highway, among the swaying wild flowers and that bitter smell of burnt rubber. And as the doors shut and the ambulance pulled away, my eyes fell heavy on the hope in my hand. And I remember thinking: If I could still feel, maybe I wouldn’t just wither away—maybe there was still hope for me.
Watch the Trailer!
I write about rain on tin roofs, gravel roads, old trucks with holes in the floorboards and small-town summer nights. I grew up on a farm in a little Midwestern town. Now, I live in Kansas City, Mo., with my weatherman husband.
Laura Miller's first contemporary romance novel, Butterfly Weeds, hit the Amazon Best-Seller's List and Top 100 in October 2012. The sequel to Butterfly Weeds, My Butterfly, released in June 2013. For All You Have Left, By Way of Accident, When Cicadas Cry and A Bird on a Windowsill followed. Look for The Life We Almost Had, Laura's latest small-town romance, at book retailers now. And check out her children's book, Pay It Forward!