Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hello, Agnieszka! by E. Journey ♥ Spotlight & GIVEAWAY ♥

Hello, Agnieszka! (Between Two Worlds, #2)
A son’s attempted suicide shocks his family, uncovering a lifelong secret and the mother’s tale of early love, rivalry, and betrayal.

Although years have whittled away at the weight of the secret and nearly buried it, the tragic attempt gives it new meaning and compels the mother to tell her children of her past.

Determined to give her family as normal a life as possible, she devotes her life to them. Her children find her caring and solicitous as a parent, but bland as a person, who has limited her interests to her family. Now, she must bare her inner soul to them.

As a young woman, she suffers from her knotty relationships with her own mother and her aunt, but her passion for the piano saves her from the ravages of a repressed childhood and shattered dreams.

Her children learn about a consuming first love at the root of her secrets—a love that suffers a sad ending, but gives her strength to move on. She grows into someone comfortable enough with herself to look forward to the future.

Fortuitous encounters at a concert hall and at a music store present her a second chance at happiness with the man she eventually spends her life with. That man is their father. But does she ever forget that compelling first love?

The mother’s story uncloaks for her children, someone they never expected, one whose sensitive and courageous spirit touches them deeply. Her daughter, in particular, marvels at her mother’s courage and generosity of heart. To her surprise, she finds she and her mother have similar experiences, and though they responded differently to them, their differences are not fundamental; rather, they have more to do with the times in which they grew up.

Hello, Agnieszka! is a sequel/prequel hybrid to the novel, Hello, My Love! and takes place largely in the late 60s to mid-70s. It portrays the complex relationships between a mother (as well as a surrogate mother) and a daughter as the latter falls in love and matures. It also touches on the plight of an immigrant family and issues of cultural and religious differences and racial prejudice.

Taken together, the two novels comprise the Between Two Worlds Series. They tell the tales of four women, two different but adjacent eras, and lives that are parallel, inevitably intersecting, but personal. While Hello, My Love! is largely a love story, Hello, Agnieszka! focuses more on the main character’s (the mother) growth as an individual and may belong more to the genre of women’s fiction.

Hello, Agnieszka! has been written so it can be read on its own.

I. Secrets
Elise Halverson-Thorpe sat, perusing a client’s testimony at her desk in mid-afternoon, green highlighter in hand. She still had a half-inch thick of testimony transcripts to go through before she could stop for the day. She might have to bring some work home again.
She was about to mark a useful phrase in the transcript, but the cellphone in her shirt pocket vibrated and interrupted her. She groped for it as she dragged the highlighter across the phrase.
She glanced at the caller ID before she swiped the screen. She knew it couldn’t be Greg, who usually called sometime around noon. Her father? He rarely called her at work, aware that she might be arguing a case at court or taking testimony or deposition from a witness. What could he want from her at two in the afternoon?
“Dad. What’s up?”
“We’re at the hospital, but don’t be alarmed. Everything’s okay now. It’s Peter.”
Her father’s voice was low and calm, but she detected an edge to it. He was struggling to sound normal and in control.
“Peter?”
She put the green highlighter down, next to a red one, and closed the two-inch thick folder of transcripts. The testimony came from the woman she was currently defending on a murder charge. Her third such case in as many years of working with the Public Defender.
She leaned against the back of her chair and gripped the telephone tighter. Her father was taking a while to answer, and she grew apprehensive with every second he remained silent.
“Yes. He swallowed a bottle of pills. Mom found him unconscious in the tub. But he’s okay now.”
“What? What are you saying? He tried to … kill himself? Peter?”
“Yes.”
Her mind went blank; she couldn’t tell for how long. She began to breathe a little faster as a tangle of thoughts and emotions closed in on her: No, not possible. Not you, Peter. No. I don’t understand. Why? What’s going on with you? Why choose death over life? No! How could you? How could anyone?
“Elise, are you all right? Are you still there?”
She swallowed hard to clear her throat.
“He did it in your tub?”
“Yes, he came last weekend, said he missed us so much he wanted to stay a week. That was unusual, but we never wondered why. We were just so happy to have him with us for a while. He travels so much in his work, we hardly ever see him.”
“The pills, how …?”
“He must have had them. We don’t have any in the house.”
The disbelief, the confusion returned, and Elise was silent again. She could hear her father breathing over the phone.
“But … he’s okay now?”
“Yes. Yes. And he’s been seen by a psychologist. How were we to know that he was going to do it? Nothing was different about him.”
“That’s apparently not unusual.”
“How can anyone know then?”
“People serious about suicide don’t often say a thing, according to our psychiatric experts. We have defendants who attempt suicide and if they have no history of similar attempts, psychiatrists can’t always diagnose them early enough to put them on suicide watch.”
“He was in a good mood.”
“We’ve seen that, too.”
“I can’t help thinking we went wrong somewhere.”
“I don’t think it’s anything you did.”
“He made dinner for us twice this week.”
“I didn’t think he could cook.”
“I don’t know why we didn’t see it coming.”
“None of us might have.”
“I thought I knew my children very well.”
“I thought I knew Peter well.”
“I’ve never seen Peter so hopeless.”
“Neither have I. Nor so desperate that he’d try to end his life.”
“He’s kind of intense.”
“But people say that about me, too.”
Her father let out a long sigh.
“We have so many things we must work out. I still have to call Justin. Mom wants you both to come for dinner tomorrow. Greg, too, of course, and Goyo. Can you make it at three?”
“Yes, of course. How is she?”
“Worse than me, I’m afraid. As if she wants to take the whole burden of guilt on herself. Anyway, talk to her tomorrow.”

************

Greg reached out to put his arm around Elise, but she was not there. He jerked his groggy head up toward the clock on his side table—an hour after midnight. He looked around the dark bedroom. After three years of marriage, groping at that space in the middle of the night could still give him a start and a now-familiar sinking sensation in his gut. To his relief, it was only for an instant.
Five years ago, he had awakened to find Elise gone, leaving him alone on their first wonderful night together. He was left with feelings of misery and desolation he hadn’t been able to forget. Two painful years followed when he had to face some hard lessons about himself. Those were behind them now.
He saw her standing against the large window, bathed in the greyish yellow light of a partial moon streaming into the room. His gaze traced her silhouetted figure—from her profile crowned in a luxurious halo of golden hair, along the sinuous line of the throat that sloped gently toward her nipples and curved around her breast, then slid down to her belly, slowly swelling from the life she was nurturing in her womb.
His wife had grown more beautiful in his eyes, as the years went by. Maybe, that was what love did to people.
Elise was sipping water from a bottle, and even in the dark, she looked pensive. She crossed her arms in front of her stomach and bowed her head, strands of hair falling on her cheeks.
He didn’t see much of her face anymore, but he could imagine her anxiety. She was worried; he knew that. Because of that phone call from her father, shortly before she left the Public Defender’s office that afternoon.
She had phoned to tell him about Peter. She was quite distressed and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. He hadn’t seen her that upset in the three years they’d been married. He decided to come home early. She needed him.
He’d been shocked at the news. The Halversons seemed to be a well-adjusted, but earnest lot with a few quirks to occasionally surprise those who didn’t know them very well.
Elise tossed the empty bottle in a trashcan, walked toward the bed, and crawled in. As she lay down, Greg lifted the bed sheet and wrapped it around her. She snuggled into his warm embrace, shivering a little.
“Did I wake you up?”
“No, not really. You were quiet. But I can always sense when you’re not in bed with me. That’s what wakes me up.”
“I do have to get up sometimes, you know. And it gets worse as my stomach gets bigger.”
“I can’t help it.”
Her skin felt cold against his and he rubbed her arms and back gently with his palms.
“You’re cold all over. Your arms are almost icy.”
“Yes, it was probably stupid to get up without my robe on, but I was hot.”
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Not too long. I was burning and my mouth was so dry. I had to get me some water.”
He lifted her right hand to his lips and blew on it; he gave the left the same treatment. He tucked both hands inside the sheets, next to his warm chest.
“Aren’t you glad we have a little refrigerator in the study?”
“You think of everything.”
She planted a quick kiss on his chin.
“I can’t remember being that thirsty when I was pregnant with Goyo.”
“It’s not because you’re pregnant. You moan, you know, the whole time, with your mouth slightly open.”
He grinned, his eyes twinkling in the near darkness.
“Speak for yourself. I watch you, too. You’re worse.”
She slapped his bare buttocks playfully. Greg laughed softly and gathered her closer.
“Okay, okay, back to sleep. You’ll have a long day tomorrow. When are you going to Mom and Dad’s?”
It took him more than a year to feel comfortable calling Elise’s father “Dad,” who had always been “Charles” to him although he was at least 20 years older. They’d been good friends before they became family.
“Shortly after lunch. She wants us there by three, but I’d like to talk to her before Justin and Dad get there. What time do you think you’ll come with Goyo? You don’t have to, you know.”
“Don’t I? But I have to. Peter and I aren’t that close, unlike Justin and me, but he’s family. Besides, this sounds serious and you may need me. Are you very worried?”
“Not about any danger to Peter right now. He’s getting help. But I can’t shake this feeling some scary thing is going to happen. Like an emotional tsunami we can’t escape.”
“That is scary, but you may still be in shock. Give yourself time. Tomorrow night, you’ll wonder why you were so worried.”
“I hope so.” Elise didn’t sound convinced.
“You sure you don’t want Bob to pick you up at your office and take you? It’ll be quicker and he likes driving you around. It’s been a while since you’ve been on that train.”
“I rode that train from the East Bay all the time. I don’t think anything much has changed.”
“You’re carrying another precious life in here,” he said, caressing her belly.
“Goyo went through the same experience. He survived. Don’t be such a worrywart.”
She pulled his face down and kissed him.
   
♥ Click on the cover for more info ♥
Bright, blonde, beautiful Elise Halverson, focused on a law career and inexperienced in love, distrusts playboys like Greg Thorpe. Dark, good-looking, internet-business owner in the San Francisco Bay Area, he finds Elise intriguing, so unlike his fiancée Lori, the type of dark-haired, seductive beauty he escorted around.

Elise and Greg butt heads at her parents’ dinner parties. She discovers someone more than a flashy playboy and, he finds that she touches him at his core like nobody else has. A strong attraction grows between them and leads to an unexpected night together two days before his wedding.

Lori threatens revenge. Her machinations tear Greg and Elise apart, revealing doubts and insecurities they have within themselves and forcing them to make choices.

They reunite but Greg is in for a surprise and their lives are thrown again into disarray when Elise becomes the victim of a hit-and-run. The specter of Lori’s revenge looms.

This modern-day pastiche of Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell novels is an engaging romp into deep powerful love, with a good dose of realism and a twist of mystery.
Elise stared, with lids drooping over glazed eyes, at the newscaster on television, while she nibbled on some take-out falafel from a neighborhood restaurant. But as bright as that pita tasted, with her favorite spicy filling of bean balls, she could not relish it, although she was famished.
What she wanted was rest. She needed more of that than what she could stuff into her mouth and her stomach. She plopped the remaining falafel on the coffee table in front of her. Then, she slid her body, weary and heavy, down on the supple seat cushions.
The last two weeks had been hectic. She was exhausted from running around during the day—interviewing witnesses for her first big case—then working late in her apartment. She had devoted her nights to reading and analyzing transcriptions of interviews and depositions. This evening was not going to be any better.
Sweet, glorious slumber soon took over. But not for long.
Insistent ringing jarred Elise for an instant out of the thick fog in her head. She stirred, but she could not move her limbs and she slid back into another fitful dream.
The ringing began again. How long after the first, she could not tell. She groped for the phone on the side table behind her head.
“Hello.” Elise slurred, still dazed from sleep, her eyes closed.
Her greeting was met with silence.
“Hello?” she said once more.
“Hello. Do you remember me?” The voice that answered was deep and resonant; one resurrected from her past.
Elise sprang upright and swung her legs off the couch. She switched on the lamp on the side table. Now wide-awake, she reached for the remote control and turned off the television, still blaring the same headlines about the uncertain economy and businesses continuing to fail.
Did she remember? How could she forget? There was not a week that passed when that voice did not speak, answering one question or another, on the radio, on television, or merely in her head.
No, she had not forgotten. How could she? But she never expected that voice to address her again. It had been two years, after all, since they were last together, and one year since she had given up on him.
“Yes, yes. Of course, I do.”
Elise could not say anymore. Her heart was thumping. She tucked the strands of hair that had fallen on her face into the barrette on the back of her head and waited for the voice to say more.
For a long moment, there was silence at the other end, although she could hear him breathing. She imagined his chest rising and falling, deep, rhythmic, and regular. She remembered how it felt as it did that, its muscles lean and strong against her breasts.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately,” Greg said.
She gripped the telephone tighter and licked her dry lips.
“Oh?” She managed to squeak the word out of her parched throat.
“Off and on the last two years. Mostly on.”
“Mmmm. Me, too.” She bit her lip. Damn! Sleep had stolen her self-control. She didn’t want him to know she still thought about him.
“Really? Listen, can we meet?” He was never one to beat around the bush. That, she remembered very well, too. She liked that about him. She also liked how his greyish blue eyes peered into hers and how his direct gaze burrowed into her soul, even as those eyes bared his own. She liked the sharp, introspective mind behind them, too. She liked…..
”Stop!” Elise said to herself
“Are you still there?” Greg’s voice jolted her out of her imagined residues of their past together.
“Yes. I’m sorry. I’ve had a long day. I’m still trying to wake up from a nap.” She feigned a yawn. “It kinda came over me this afternoon. This is so unlike me.”
“I see, hectic days as usual.” Another moment of silence at his end. “Would you fit me into your busy schedule? Please? I need to see you. I want to see you.”
Her heart went thumping again. She bit her lips harder to suppress the breath that heaved at her chest. A few moments went by before she could trust her voice.
“Why not. When?”
“Tomorrow night?”
“That soon? Aren’t you busier than me? How could you fit me into your schedule, just like that?” Early in their acquaintance, she risked falling into sarcasm whenever she spoke to him. Tonight, he provoked it in her again.
“Please, Elise.”
“Where?”
“There’s an Indian restaurant on the corner of Huston and Kramer. Maybe 8 pm?”
“Three blocks from my apartment? Yes, I’ve passed by the place.” She knitted her brow and wondered, for a moment, why he would know about a restaurant in the area. But all she could manage to add was, “At 8 then.”
She hung up and did not wait for him to respond. Her hands started to shake and she clenched them tight, close to her stomach, to keep them still.
She blinked away the moisture gathering in her eyes and turned off the lamp. How exasperating! Why could she not turn off the sensations that flooded her then? The way she could turn off that lamp with a quick flick of her fingers.
Her head began to reel and she leaned back on the couch. She was breathing deep and hard, straining for air. Her limbs tingled from a million tiny delicious pricks on the surface of her skin. Stirrings of sensations, too exquisite to be buried, churned her insides. But she wanted them buried. She needed them lost in some unreachable recess in her brain. She did not dare hope again. She clasped her arms around her chest.
What was she thinking? Why see him again? What did he want now?
Elise sat in the dark a long time—at least an hour, according to the clock on her side table.
Work. Work was always a good antidote to the messiness of feelings. She turned on the lamp again and stared at the thick putrid green folder of depositions on the coffee table. Next to it, lay the falafel, its sauce liquefied by wilted lettuce and oozing too close to those precious depositions. She rewrapped the uneaten mess in its brown bag and threw it into the trash basket by her foot—already half-full of rejected drafts and notes for her new case.
She picked up the folder and placed it on her lap. But she could not open it. It weighed her legs down and reminded her how exhausted she was. Drained. Not so much from her work at the Public Defender’s office as from all that happened within the last hour or so.
She unloaded the folder back on to the coffee table, turned off the lamp and went to bed.
That night, she lay, tossing, two hours past her usual bedtime. A couple of times, she skimmed through the book on eastern thought that she kept on her bedside table. Her trusty first defense against insomnia. She read it when fatigue could not put her to sleep. But that night, it failed at its task.
She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, over and over. She tried to lie still, but her muscles twitched and trembled. The sensations, Greg stirred in her again, had stopped. And, yet, sleep continued to elude her.
She reached for the bottle of Benadryl under her pillow and popped a pill into her mouth.
Thoughts and dreams floated through her head that night. She fell asleep at some point, she was sure of that, because the following morning, she bounded without much effort from bed, alert and ready for the frenzy of the day.
***************
Elise went straight home from work. She paced her apartment for about half an hour, faltering: Should she go or shouldn’t she? She dreaded seeing Greg again and, yet, she wanted to.
In the end, she told herself she should, if only out of obligation. She did say she would come. And seeing him again could help. Maybe, the meeting could put a definite closure to a phase in her life—long passed—that still bothered her at night, alone on her bed. That was the best she could hope for but it might be enough to give her the ease and peace she craved.
Elise arrived at the restaurant a quarter after eight. Inside the restaurant, the light was low, flickering from candles on dinner tables covered with stiffly-starched table cloths. Background music floated through the dense air, reeking of roasting meat and a mixture of Indian spices. She could recognize a few of them from her mother’s cooking—cumin, cinnamon, and garlic.
She knew the song well, a popular Argentinean ballad sometimes chanted to the beat of tango. Now, it gushed from a tremulous, pleading voice ” bésame bésame mucho…..” She frowned and smiled a little. Latin America, in bed with India. Getting global could produce unexpected alliances.
A waiter led her to the table where Greg sat, his right hand on the table, cradling a half-empty glass of beer that he was tapping with a finger.
He rose as soon as he saw her, the shadow of a smile on his lips.
She came dressed in a midnight blue short-sleeved turtleneck and jeans. She wondered what he would think of her now. She was older and she had lost a few pounds since the last time they were together. He used to tease her about the baby fat on her face but she had lost that, too, setting off her cheekbones and the slight upward lift in her eyes. She had swept her blonde hair, including the wisps that usually fell on her face, into a tight ponytail that she gathered towards one side of her head.
She was trembling a little by the time they stood in front of each other, the square dining table between them. She forced a smile; clenched, then opened, her hand to control its trembling. With some hesitation, she extended it out to him.
“Good evening, Greg. I’m sorry I’m late. I was taking a deposition. It lasted a little longer than usual.” She dropped her lids as she apologized. She could not stand how he was looking at her.
“How are you, Elise? You made it. Better late than never. I was worried you wouldn’t come.”
He enclosed her hand in both of his.
“Is it cold outside?” he asked. He rubbed her hand gently with his thumbs and held on to it a little longer than she thought necessary.
“No, it’s warm enough. I get cold hands sometimes.”
She looked up again at those eyes, gleaming under his dark, lush eyebrows, even in the low light. She pulled her hand out of his. He seemed reluctant to let go of it.
She sat down and slung the strap of her shoulder bag on the back of her chair. She was doing all she could to avoid that gaze. She fidgeted on the hard wooden chair.
Greg said, “They’re not too comfortable, I’m afraid.”
Elise nodded at his sympathetic smile, her lips twitching into a semblance of one. She picked up the menu. “I am starved. I munched on an apple and gulped down a glass of milk for lunch. Maybe, that’s why my hands are cold.”
“Did you come straight from work?”
“No. I gotta read through some stuff tonight so I popped into my apartment to leave them there. Then, I thought I might as well change.”
“…..que tengo miedo perderte perderte otra vez.” The plaintive voice and the orchestra trailed to a close. On its heels, a sitar trilled the exotic twangy strains of Indian instrumental music. Elise took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She read through the menu with greater concentration than she knew it needed, but it distracted her from his oppressive gaze.
“The tandoori lamb is their specialty.”
“Oh! You have been here.” She peeked at Greg from behind her menu.
“Yes. A few times.”
A rosy flush tinged her cheeks. He lived in the poshest neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area and had no occasion to wander into hers, twenty miles away, a gentrifying city with dog parks, Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shops, and new condominiums equipped with workout facilities that attracted many young professionals like her.
The waiter returned to take their order.
“The tandoori lamb, please, with salad. And a glass of mango lassi,” she said.
“Make that two, with naan, no lassi. But I’ll have a cup of tsai.”
The waiter took their menus away.
They turned towards each other at about the same time. Face-to-face, across the small table, they gazed into each other’s eyes for a wordless minute or so. His eyes glowed with an expression she knew only too well. That gaze used to make her tingle. She endured it for as long as she could.
Elise pursed her lips and picked up the glass of water on her side of the table. Drops spilled out of the glass as she raised it to her mouth.
She held her glass tighter as she took small sips of water from it. She kept her eyes directed on the table, aware that Greg was still staring at her. She resisted a sudden urge to throw the water on his face—that should make him blink or turn his face away. Instead, she willed herself to look up again.
She raised her head. A wave of warmth infused her skin and she hoped the light was low enough to hide the blush that she was sure came with it.
Greg smiled at her—the kind of smile that brightened his eyes but barely broke his lips. A knot roiled at the pit of her stomach and spread to her chest. She frowned in irritation. After two years, how could that smile still bring on that sensation? A sensation, among many, that she had tried to bury.
Elise kept her gaze on him. But it was a struggle not to look down or turn away. She bit her lower lip and swallowed.
I'm a realist in my writing, as well as my art. I don't have as much imagination as many other writers--a handicap (or strength) that comes partly from my training (Ph.D., University of Illinois) and experience as a mental health program researcher/evaluator. I'm also a flâneuse, a female observer-wanderer. So, I watch, and observe. And listen. That's where the meat of my writing comes from.

As an author of love stories, I tend not to rely on broad shoulders and heaving bosoms. Instead, I go into the protagonists' thoughts and emotions, and how those show their growth. My novels deal with protagonists' insecurities and disappointments, love/hate relationships with parents, characters who seem to behave out-of-character, and even life events not typically included in romantic fiction. My stories do have happy epilogues, and I've tried to work in intriguing plotlines into them.

As Evy Journey, I have a book blog (http://www.margaretofthenorth.wordpress.com) and a blog on art, food, travel (mostly Paris), and state of being (http://eveonalimb.com). My author website is http://www.evyjourney.com
     
Evy is giving away 10 copies of Hello, Agnieszka!, eBook or print (winner's choice)!
Another chance to win an eBook or print copy of Hello, Agnieszka!

@eholychair http://goo.gl/PS8VrB pic.twitter.com/0W5A71BXQ6

No comments :

Post a Comment

♥ Thank You for Your Comment! (It's how I know you stopped by!) Good Luck in the Giveaway!!! ♥