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About the author:
Lauren Faulkenberry is author of TROUBLE IN BAYOU SABINE, BAYOU WHISPERS, BACK TO BAYOU SABINE, JUST THE TROUBLE I NEEDED, BENEATH OUR SKIN (all from Blue Crow Books). Lauren divides her time between writing, teaching, and printmaking. Originally from South Carolina, she has worked as an archaeologist, an English teacher, and a ranger for the National Park Service. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University, and her MFA in Book Arts from The University of Alabama. She was a finalist for the Novello Festival Press First Novel Award, won the Family Circle short fiction contest for her story Beneath Our Skin, and was nominated for an AWP Intro Award. She's a sucker for a good love story. She lives in North Carolina, where she is at work on her next novel.
Here is a short sample from the book:
I’d sworn I wouldn’t disturb Enza on her getaway, but this was an emergency. Bella had sprawled on her side by the fireplace, emitting monstrous sounds. I could only imagine the chemical reactions that were happening in that furry little body. Less than twenty-four hours in her house, and I’d broken the dog. I sent her a text message: Your dog hates me. After a few moments, she wrote: Jack’s dog. She barfed in my new tote bag. Why? Seriously? Dog people. Because she hates me, I wrote. She’s not a cat. She doesn’t vomit for vengeance. I groaned. Did she get outside and eat some dead thing? Enza wrote. She ate my eggplant lasagna. Do you think she needs a vet? Your lasagna’s not that bad. You’re hilarious. Gotta run. Don’t worry. She’s had worse. She’ll eat anything that sits still long enough. I think we’ve made a terrible mistake, I wrote. She’ll like you more tomorrow. xoxo. Call Lucille if you need backup. Lucille was Jack’s younger cousin, who might as well have been his little sister. Jack’s aunt and uncle had raised him right along with her after his parents had died. Enza had planned on inviting Lucille to house-sit before Friday’s phone call changed that. Lucille had left me her phone number and said to call if I wanted company. This getaway had become a disaster. I did need backup. I texted Lucille: Does anyone deliver pizza out here? She replied a few moments later. LOL. Not where you are. Up for a girls’ night out? Dog ruined my dinner and I’m starving. Sure! I’ll come pick you up. You’re on the way to town. What’s in town? Best seafood ever. Be there in twenty minutes. Bella stared at me from across the room. She lay on her side, her legs splayed out as if she’d just tipped over like one of those fainting goats that go stiff as a board and crash to the earth out of fright. Her golden eyes were fixed on me as she let out a heavy sigh. “Don’t look at me like that,” I said. “You brought this on yourself, you big piglet.” I went upstairs to change out of my pajamas. It was still warm out, so I chose a charcoal scoop-necked shift dress that came almost to my knees. I’d brought a pair of tall boots and two pairs of flats in red and navy, trying to keep to my two-bag limit. I slipped the red flats on and ran the flat iron through my hair to press the humidity out. My hair had become frizzy the moment I got off the airplane in New Orleans, and no amount of heat or product seemed to tame it for long. A half hour later, Lucille was at the door. She looked healthier since I’d seen her at Christmas, with fuller cheeks and red highlights in her hair. Tonight she wore slim-cut jeans, a beat up brown motorcycle jacket and tall brown boots. Being back here was good for her, it seemed. That, along with being rid of that jackass Toph whom she’d been dating when I last saw her. “Hey,” she said, giving me a quick hug. “What’s the dog emergency?” In the living room, I heard the jingle of Bella’s collar against the floor as she turned her head to look at us. “I’ll tell you on the way,” I said. “Is that what’s you’re wearing?” She tilted her head to the side. “Yeah, why?” She shrugged, stumbling over her words. “Awfully fancy,” she said. “We’re going to a place where you toss peanut shells on the floor.” “This is the most casual outfit I have.” “Seriously? Don’t you have pants?” “Yeah, that I wear out in the yard.” I’d gotten so accustomed to business casual that I was uncomfortable around people if I wore most anything else. Khakis were for gardening. Jeans were for college kids. “So put those on,” she said. “But I wear them in the yard.” She blinked at me. “I’m starving, Lucille. Can we talk fashion later?” She smiled and shrugged as we went outside and climbed into her tiny blue Volkswagen sedan. Lucille drove us along the main road towards town and pulled over at a white clapboard building with a big front porch made from weathered lumber. Colored lights criss-crossed through the beams and a chalkboard outside proclaimed Fresh Catch + Cold Beer. The windows glowed with orange-tinted light. “It doesn’t look like much from the outside,” Lucille said, “But it’s my favorite. And they have fried green tomatoes.” Inside, it was all wood paneling and diner-style tables that were almost certainly from the 1950s. The chairs, mismatched, were a dozen different colors, all vinyl with aluminum and rivets. The bar was off to one side, with a jukebox and a pool table in the opposite corner. The place was half full, so we chose a booth in the back, near the jukebox. I’d never seen so much denim and plaid in my entire life. A waitress came to take our orders, and Lucille greeted her by name. They chatted for a moment while I looked over the menu. Lucille finally caught my attention and said, “Want to split a seafood platter as big as our heads?” “Only if it has fried green tomatoes,” I said. The waitress, Gina, grinned and nodded. “Anything to drink, girls?” Lucille asked for a beer. I asked for a martini. Gina sauntered back to the bar. “Everyone’s looking at us,” I said. “They’re trying to figure out who you are,” Lucille said. “Should I make an announcement? Would that stop the staring?” She chuckled. “Word’ll spread soon enough. This is basically the only place to hang out around here.” Gina came back with our drinks. My martini was in a lowball glass with an olive rolling around on the bottom like a marble. The glass was half full. “I think she brought me a double,” I said. “See? Best place around.” “Cheers,” I said and clinked my glass against hers. “So what’s new with you?” Lucille asked. I told her about my meeting with Jeffrey, my job that was about to disappear. “They offered to bring me on as a part-time consultant, but I think I might hate that job anyway. So I’m taking this week to figure out if I just want to quit completely and start something new.” “Oh,” she said. “Enza thought a week away from the vortex might help me decide.” “It worked for me. Just took longer than a week.” “Are you still doing your master’s program?” “This is my last semester, so I’m down to thesis work and one class. I stay with a friend in Baton Rouge two or three nights a week.” “How’s Buck?” I said. “Much better.” She smiled, like she’d almost put her past with Toph behind her. Enza had told me Lucille had stayed with her parents since the winter, helping her father recover from an accident. She was working on a master’s in theater arts. The jukebox whined an old Zeppelin song, the bass notes thrumming like a pulse. The crack of billiard balls split the air and a chorus of hoots erupted from the far corner. Lucille wiggled along with the music, sipping her beer and telling me about their spring play, a retelling of The Tempest. On our second round, she said, “It was good to come back to something familiar for a while. You need that sometimes.” “I did the opposite,” I said. “It’s easier to make objective decisions if I step back a bit, you know?” Lucille nodded. “Get away from the center of things.” “It felt like everything was falling apart. My job, my fiancé—but that’s a whole ‘nother long sad story about a cheating bastard.” Lucille frowned. “Well, you met my bastard. I don’t know why I stayed with him for so long.” “Why do we stay? I think something in me is broken. Sometimes I think I just picked a bad match, but then I think it was my fault, too. I’m a workaholic. I know that.” “It’s not your fault he cheated. I may be young, but I know that much is true.” I shrugged. “I drove him to it. I wasn’t there enough for him.” “Nope,” Lucille barked. “Not your fault. That’s not how cheating works.” “Maybe.” “Not maybe,” Lucille said, leaning closer. “I like my lab, where everything’s predictable. Ben was that in the beginning, but then one day he wasn’t. And it wrecked everything.” She shrugged. “Unpredictable’s not always bad. You’ll find a better one, one who surprises you in the good way.” The music changed to something fast and Lucille pounded her fist on the table, making the glasses rattle. Then she stood up and said, “Come dance with me. I love this one.” “Everyone’s already staring at me,” I said. “I’m not going to make more of a spectacle of myself.” “Come on. Nobody in this place will dance with me because they’re scared to death of Jack and my dad. And of Andre, of course. They all protect me so much I never have any fun.” She stuck her lip out in a pout, tugging on my wrist. “Please,” she whined. “Maybe next time.” She groaned, staring up at the ceiling. Then she started dancing in a tiny circle, right next to me, raising her arms overhead, shaking her hips. “Fine,” she said, exaggerating the movements. “I’ll just be right here.” “Suit yourself.” I sipped my martini as she twirled in her own bubble, letting the quizzical looks from the locals bounce off her like points of light from a disco ball. She wiggled against me, which seemed to just draw more attention to us, and I laughed in spite of myself. “I see that foot tapping,” she said. “Don’t fight it.” When she shimmied to the side, the room narrowed to a point. And at the end of that point was Andre Dufresne, walking right toward us with just enough swagger to hold my attention. His badge, clipped to his belt, caught the light like a coin in a fountain and a flicker of surprise flashed over his face before he smiled. Andre, with the tiny wrinkles that showed around his eyes when he laughed his raucous laugh. He nodded a greeting, tilted his head to the side as he snuck up behind Lucille. “Hey, Luce,” he said, dropping his hand onto her shoulder. “Burning up the dance floor, I see.” She moonwalked past him and said, “I might have a partner if you didn’t scare them all off with all that authority and whatnot. They all think you’ll lock ‘em up for touching me.” “And they’re correct.” He ruffled her hair like a big brother might. “I’ll let you know when one of this lot’s good enough for you.” “I can choose my own fellas, thank you,” she said. The song faded out and she took her seat at the table, winking at me. I took a long drink from the martini. Andre turned to me and said, “Hi, Kate. I heard you were back in town.” His hand rested on my shoulder for a moment, as if he wasn’t sure if he should hug me. “Dog-sitting,” I said. “Vacation,” Lucille said, smoothing her hair back down. “Escaping the perils of the big city.” “Is that right?” he said. He’d rested one hand on his hip, one on the back of my chair. He smiled so his dimples showed. “It’s good to see you again.” “You, too,” I said, and something fluttered in my chest like a bird. His eyes were greener than I remembered. His reddish hair was tousled, like he’d been driving all day with his windows down. It was just long enough to stand up in tufts, just a hint of curls. I bit my lip, thinking of how we’d sprawled out on the living room floor last Christmas, playing Scrabble and drinking bourbon way too far into the morning. I’d been staying with Enza, helping her survive the holiday collision of her old family with her new one, and out of nowhere Andre had appeared with his easy smile. I’d been completely smitten. I’d also just broken up with Benjamin, so the timing of meeting Andre wasn’t exactly great. We had chemistry, sure—but I don’t do rebounds. They’re selfish. I was a guest in my best friend’s house, and the last thing I wanted to do was have a fling with her boyfriend’s best friend and create more tension. Lord knows, Enza had enough drama in her life without adding me and my messed up love life to the mix. So despite wishing I could tangle my fingers in the sheriff’s hair and kiss him stupid that night last December, I’d gone back to my room upstairs and left him sleeping on the couch, Scrabble tiles littering the floor like confetti. And now here he was, standing in a bar with no name, even more adorable than I remembered, staring at me like he was replaying every detail of that evening in his head.