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About the author:
Elizabeth Allison lives in London, Canada with her husband and their four children. She loves cupcakes, floating in the pool, hand-battered fish and chips, diet Dr. Pepper, and her dogs Mortimer and Mickey. She is meh about the cat. Elizabeth's second novel, "Emily's New Everything," will be published by Black Rose Writing in 2021.
What inspired you to write your book?
When my son was young I wasn't a single mother, but I well remember the stress and angst of every day trying to do the right thing by him. When I was in highschool I worked at the exact diner that Emily works at, down to the screaming cooks and the coworkers who took smoke breaks that I envied. I loved writing Emily and I hope you will be excited to meet her.
Here is a short sample from the book:
The small white pee-soaked stick teetered on the side of my bathtub. Instead of waiting the recommended five minutes, the timer on my phone was counting down from half-an-hour. During those excruciating thirty minutes, I distracted myself by maniacally vacuuming my small bungalow. I had purchased the most expensive kind of pregnancy test they had at the drug store as an anxious offering to the fertility gods, because I was desperate to be pregnant. My husband Tyler and I weren’t in a good spot. We’d talked about counseling, and scheduled date nights that mostly got cancelled. The last time I had gotten pregnant, Tyler and I decided to get married. Being pregnant again had to be the boost our relationship needed. A new baby would put us back on track as a family.
My three-year-old son Dante was asleep on the couch in front of Thomas the Tank Engine. Dante’s birth changed me from Emily the daughter, friend, sister, and wife, to overwhelmingly and irrevocably just Mom. Since Dante had been born, nothing else really mattered. Maybe if I had put ‘wife’ higher on my list of roles in life, the rest of that day would have been different.
My phone started making a sound like an air raid siren to let me know the timer was up. I swiped to stop the noise and saw two texts from my BFF Michelle which I ignored. Nobody knew about the pregnancy test or even that I was trying to get pregnant. With the stick upside-down in my hand, I scrunched my eyes shut and took a deep breath before looking. Only one line appeared in the window. My eyes blinked back prickly tears. I thought about throwing the test against the wall, or shoving it down the toilet to clog up the pipes. Then I pictured calling an overpaid plumber to pull it out and the look on his condescending face when he held up what was wedged inside my toilet. How many tables would I would have to wait to earn enough money to pay said plumber? The hours and dollars would be better spent on Dante’s college fund. The pregnancy test made an unsatisfying, muted clunk when it landed in the bathroom trash, wrapped in layers of toilet paper and shoved into an empty shampoo bottle in a double disguise. I thought about calling Michelle, or my other best friend Grace-Ann just to chat about anything else, but they didn’t know about my covert operation, and I didn’t trust myself not to tell them now.
The rest of my efforts at housecleaning were half-hearted at best. Counters got wiped but the coffee maker was not moved. Dirty towels made it as far as the laundry basket but nothing actually saw the inside of the washing machine. No one could ever accuse me of caring more about a clean house than about Dante, whose nap would be over any time now. Tyler was late getting home from work, which gave me time to stop the intermittent sniffles I was indulging in, post-disappointment. His shift had ended more than an hour ago but it wasn’t terribly unusual for him to go out for a few drinks with his work buddies. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to having him home more than usual today.
Once the house was clean-ish and a healthy, multi-colored snack waited for Dante in a Bento box on the kitchen table, I woke him up. His eyes fluttered and his little bottom lip made a sucking reflex, then slowly his wispy eyelashes opened up and his eyes focused on me.
“Snack time, little man. You’re going Trick-or-Treating later.” Gently, I picked him up and settled him on my lap. “You’re going to be a T-Rex, remember?” I made a quiet roaring noise and rocked him in my arms as he woke up. Dante had already worn his costume once for a picture at the mall. Getting him to smile for the camera had required a ridiculous dog and pony show by me, but it was worth it for the one amazing picture I got. The photo shop attendant tried hard to sell me on the way-more-expensive digital version of the photo, but the online coupon only covered one printed picture, so that was what we got.
Reflexively, I touched the screen on my phone to check for a text from Tyler and was surprised to see that it was almost five p.m. It was just about time to take Dante out for Halloween, and Tyler was still not home.
The weary fog that would be waiting to overtake me at the end of this day was threatening to roll in, and the thought of going out Trick-or-Treating made my chest heavy. The lead up to taking the pregnancy test, the waiting and then the disappointing result would be less agonizing tomorrow. Things would look better after a good night’s sleep. Tyler had a day off work tomorrow and I hoped he would get up early with Dante. Then we’d have a family day out to the zoo or a movie. The three of us were overdue for some together time, even if we had to settle for what was surely the one millionth viewing of Thomas the Tank Engine on the sofa.
Mercifully, Dante decided tonight that he very much wanted to be a dinosaur, and started roaring ferociously the moment he saw the costume. By five-thirty I had him ready for action. Just as Dante and I were getting ready to leave without an appearance by or any communication from Tyler, the doorbell rang. I grabbed my green plastic bowl of Kit Kat bars, popped two in the pocket of my hoodie for later, and opened the door.
There stood Tyler. For a minute I was puzzled. Why would he ring the doorbell? Was he pretending to Trick-or-Treat? His eyes looked down and his hands were jammed into his pockets. Why on earth was he was standing beside Amy Ballantyne? Amy and I attended high school together and still shared the same group of friends. She worked with Tyler at the garage as an administrative assistant. I stared blankly at them.
“Can we come in?” Tyler leaned awkwardly against the railing on the front porch.
I glanced behind me and saw Dante sprawled on the living room floor, watching TV in his dinosaur suit.
“You live here.” I raised one eyebrow.
The pretend-candle in the pumpkin on the porch flickered for a moment while I waited for something to happen.
“Emily, let’s go into the kitchen for a minute.”
I didn’t budge.
Amy stood with her chin jutting out slightly and her arms crossed.
“Em, the kitchen. Please.” He looked up to face me and his eyes were glossy. I almost felt sorry for him in my struggle to understand what was going on.
We moved into the kitchen and sat down at the table, still covered in bits of Dante’s abandoned snack. Our table. Where we ate meals together with little Dante. But this was a different type of meeting.
“Emily, things haven’t been going well between us. I…We…” Tyler started to falter and looked at Amy.
“The thing is, Tyler and I,” Amy started. My open hand shot up involuntarily like a crossing guard, almost colliding with Amy’s face.
“Wait a second.” I had to stop Amy’s verbal advance. My voice remained cold and I whisper-yelled, even though I wanted to scream. “You,” My eyes met her gaze above the hand I was extending, “Don’t speak. Do not speak.” Tyler, who seemed to have lost his own power of speech, lowered my hand and I addressed Amy again. “In fact, I’d like you to leave.” She didn’t move, so I looked her straight in her unflinching, perfectly made-up eyes and repeated myself more loudly. “Please leave.”
Inexplicably, Tyler also started to get to his feet. A thought flitted across my mind. Maybe none of this was actually happening. It might be part of a bad dream or some kind of alternate reality.
I put my face in my hands and rubbed my un-made-up and decidedly exhausted-looking eyes.
“Tyler stays.” My voice wobbled involuntarily through my fingers. It was all I could manage.
Tyler found his voice. “You better go, Amy. I’ll be out in a minute.” She stood and pushed her chair in slowly before walking back to the front door.
I perched on the edge of my chair at the table with Tyler, suddenly very aware of the time. It was now five forty-five, and we needed to get Dante out to Trick-or-Treat. Thirty minutes ago it had the only thing on my mind. Now it was the only thing that still seemed real.
“Trick-or-Treating. We have to take Dante out. We can talk after that.” A new thought pinged in my brain like a text message popping up on my phone. Maybe all of this would come to nothing, and Tyler and I would just pick up and keep on as normal now that Amy had left the kitchen. We’d sort it out like we always had. “Let’s get going. He’s already dressed…”
“Emily.” I looked up and my gaze met Tyler’s. When did he get so many wrinkles around his eyes?
Tyler put his hand over mine. I wanted to shake it off, tell him to go to Hell, or at least demand to know what was going on, but I couldn’t. Just like waiting for the pregnancy test, not knowing was better than whatever news was coming. My eyes began dropping tears that fell on Tyler’s hand, still heavy on mine.
“Emily,” he started again. I forced myself to look up. “This isn’t a marriage anymore. What we have… it’s not enough. It hasn’t been enough for a long time. It’s not…” His voice faltered.
“We could try harder. We could see a counsellor, you know – never mind about the cost. We could buy a new book about relationships. Or take a holiday. We could have another baby just like Dante. We were so happy when Dante was born, remember?”
“Babe. That wouldn’t fix our problems.” He paused for a lifetime that was really only five seconds. Five long seconds with the kitchen clock ticking and Dante’s TV show in the background. Then, resigned, regretful even – “It’s too late, Em.”
Time snapped back into focus and my hand pulled away from his. A spike of anger began creeping up my spine. “It’s too late because of Amy.” Her name caught in my throat. My voice was sad and I will myself to sound angry.
“Not only because of Amy. It’s just time to move on. We don’t love each other. We hardly even like each other.” If I had considered what he was saying, I might have admitted he was right. The drips on the table were joining together into pools. Time to pull myself together.
With my eyes averted from Tyler’s, I decided to focus, absurdly, on Trick-or-Treating. I stood up abruptly.
“I have to take Dante Trick-or-Treating. Are you coming or not?” I picked up the napkin that earlier had been used to wipe yogurt off of Dante’s chin, opened it up and blew my nose. Deciding against smearing yoghurt onto my eyelashes, I brushed the tears out from under them with the cuff of my sweatshirt.
“Emily, do you understand what I’m saying? I’m not sure you’re getting this…”
“Tyler, I’m not an idiot. You’re leaving me for Amy Ballantyne. You think this isn’t a marriage anymore. You don’t want to try to fix it.” My voice broke and I hoped it was inaudible. “Am I leaving anything out?” Momentarily back in control, I became hyper-focused on the task at hand. A Lysol wipe swept the crumbs and smears off the table, and my oversized mom-purse was soon on my shoulder.
“Anything else you need to tell me Tyler? Because Dante and I have to get going. You’ll be staying with Amy Ballantyne, right?” I didn’t look right at him but out of the corner of my eye, I saw him nod, confused. Maybe if he had known me better, he wouldn’t be so surprised at how I was handling the worst news of my life.
“You can get your things together after we’re gone.”
Wordlessly, Tyler went into the living room and said good-bye to Dante. Without looking back, Tyler walked into our bedroom. I scooped up my miniature dinosaur, shoved his fall jacket into my bag and carried him out to my car.
Outside, in Tyler’s car I was bizarrely surprised to see that bitch Amy Ballantyne in the front seat. Her eyes widened when they met mine. I stared straight at her until she turned away. She looked like she was crying. I hoped I looked like I was not.