Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Feature: Love Defined



In their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends expect an uncomplicated transition to adulthood…but learn they all still have some growing up to do. Alex Makapulo is facing a crisis of faith. Raised a Catholic, Alex is considering becoming a member of her best friend Jack Page’s church—against her family’s wishes—but she can’t quite take the final step of baptism. Jack loves Alex and doesn’t understand her hesitation, and Alex wonders if Jack’s love is a blessing or a distraction to test her religious conviction. Lori Hanson embarks on the trip of a lifetime. For her twenty-second birthday, Lori’s grandfather presents her with a summer vacation in England. While preparing for her adventure, she meets British musician Colin Watson online and quickly falls for him. They plan to hook up when she lands in London, but her grandfather forbids it. Due to complicated family dynamics, Lori must regretfully comply with his wishes, though she vows never to forgive him. Andy Taylor is looking for love in all the wrong places. When Andy runs into an old crush, she decides she wants a more meaningful relationship with sexy Miles Webber. But when she confides in Alex, her friend warns her Miles only wants her for sex. Andy becomes angry and devises a reckless plan to distract Alex’s attention from her relationship. Things don’t go quite as she expected, though, and Andy is left facing a crushing moral dilemma. As the summer unfolds, three young women learn love and faith go hand in hand, not everything is black and white, and sometimes in a fast-paced world you have to slow down, breathe a little, and find your own definition of love.

Andy: Excerpt # 1
Alex walked in carrying groceries. “Still haven’t gotten through?” She stopped in front of her and arched an eyebrow when she saw a glass on the coffee table. It was a martini glass with an olive swimming in clear liquid. “Is that what I think it is?”
Andy stifled a groan. Alex with her rules of no-alcohol in the house was backed by the equally uptight owner, Lori. She figured that with Lori gone and Alex spending more time with Jack that she could get away with breaking a few rules.
“What do you think it is?” She asked sweetly. She lifted the glass and sipped, batting her eyelash at her.
“Alcohol,” Came the curt reply.
She lifted a shoulder before downing the rest of the drink. The warm liquid hitting her empty stomach. “It’s a martini. Want one?”
“No thanks, dear,” Alex replied with the same false saccharine tone, “I typically try not to get wasted before breakfast.” She finally ventured into the kitchen to put up her groceries. Andy followed and watched her careful put everything away.
“Alex,” she wailed, looking at the packaged sugars and processed carbs in front of her. “I told you I’m on a diet.” Her stomach lurched at the peanut butter and the jelly Alex was now putting up.
Alex frowned. “So? I’m not on your no carb, no sugar, alcohol only diet, thank you very much!” She put some goldfish crackers, Milano cookies and popcorn in the pantry. “The alcohol isn’t really helping you. It has calories, you know.”
“Beer has calories, but liquor doesn’t. What did you think of Miles?” She asked, trying to take her mind off of the foods she couldn’t have and equally cursing Alex for her genetics.
“Have you ever seen a skinny alcoholic? I took a nutrition class and one gram of alcohol equals seven calories. The fact that you’re not sleeping also damages your metabolism, thus causing weight gain,” she paused and regarded Andy. “I already told you what I thought of Miles. He’s a pothead and there’s something about him I don’t like.”
Andy stood in tiptoes to open a cabinet on top of the refrigerator. She reached and pulled her vodka bottle down, immediately scrutinizing the bottle. She frowned at the nutrition label and smiled sheepishly, “I don’t know how many grams are in a drink.”
She caught a package of red and white out of the corner of her eye. “Hey, you said you’d stop drinking coke!”
Alex opened the fridge door, causing Andy to take a step back. She put the 12 pack into the fridge and closed it. She took the vodka bottle from Andy and tried to read the label.            
“And he’s not a pothead,” Andy paused, “anymore. He just drinks occasionally.”
Alex widened her eyes at her and gave her back her bottle. “You know when I say these comments to you, sometimes they’re a joke. I don’t expect them to be real at all.”
She turned and finished putting up the rest of her groceries. “Are you sure you’re alright hanging out with these alcoholics who used to be druggies?”
“They are not alcoholics!” She pointed out. Andy hated these conversations. Anything she told them about, the self-righteous Alex would bombard her with insults and lecture her about hanging out with the ‘wrong crowd.’ You would think she still lived with her parents with all these rules she was supposedly breaking. She tuned out Alex who had turned back around to face her, opening and closing her mouth like a fish.
“Are you listening to me?” Alex demanded, shaking her briefly out of her thoughts. She just nodded, but didn’t reply. She was tired of explaining herself. Isn’t it a normal rite of passage for young twenty-something college girls to lose their good girl persona and just have fun, be wild and free? She blinked when Alex suddenly swung around and marched down to her room.
“What?”
She turned when she reached her door. “I don’t like talking to someone who is clearly not paying attention to me!”
Andy rolled her eyes, “I’m sorry, but I’ve heard it all before, Alex. You give me the same speech practically every weekend.” And each one with more gusto than the last. “I just asked what you thought of Miles.”
“And I answered. You already know how I feel about him. You’ve been asking me for days now. No, I don’t think he’s right for you or that he’s changed. He’s still using you just like last time.”
“No, this time, it’s different.” The words sounded hollow, and she knew it. She needed to sit down and have another drink. She turned around and sat on the couch, opening the vodka bottle and pouring some into her martini glass.
“Have you two been on a date, yet?” Alex sat beside her, wrinkling her face as she watched Andy drink the contents. “And I don’t mean meeting at the bar, or his house or going to a party type of date. I mean having dinner and movie type of date.”
She shifted trying to look causal, but the hesitation already answered Alex’s question. “Well, that type of dating is out dated, anyway.” She flipped her blonde locks behind her back. “I’m already in a relationship with him and we don’t need to go on a date because we’re already dating.” I think.
Alex narrowed her eyes at her. “Do you know how delusional you sound right now?”
“We can’t all pray and have the perfect guy right there waiting for us the entire time. Most of us have to go find them on our own!” Andy managed to spat out.
“Well maybe that’s something you need, Andy.” Her voice softened. “Why don’t you pray about the perfect guy? You are worth it and this guy isn’t worthy of you.”


Alex: Excerpt # 2
“Do you think no matter what we do, we are still forgiven?” Somewhere between Francesca Battistelli's He Knows My Name and Casting Crown's I Will Praise You In The Storm, Andy finally spoke.  “I mean.” Andy stopped.
The last song had reached its thunderous ascent and rolled towards the finish. Alex had barely heard her and for a second, thought that perhaps she had imagined it. Almond shaped brown eyes locked briefly in the mirror with a pair of big blue eyes and Alex waited, expecting Andy to go on.   
She didn’t. Instead, Andy broke eye contact and turned her head to face the window.
“Yes.” She finally replied. Andy jerked up, and the two caught each other’s gaze again before Alex had to look back at the road again, frowning. “We can be forgiven as long as we ask for forgiveness, and repent and promise not to do it again.”
Another song began and once again replaced the gap of silence. Alex turned her head this time to see Andy’s eyes closed, headphones on, effectively dismissing her. She sighed out loud and set her sights on the horizon.
Lord, I pray this won’t be the last time she asks about forgiveness.
Skyscrapers of oil and energy giants glistened as they neared downtown Houston. After some guidance with the GPS, her car pulled up into the tightly spaced parking lot of the Women’s Clinic. The brick building was among other non-descript buildings that they could have easily passed by. A lot better than a little backroom, Alex surmised.
“How did you find this place?” Lori asked reluctantly. Alex got out of the Volkswagen and immediately wanted to retreat back inside. The thought of what took place inside started to make her stomach churn. Despite the blaring sun and Texas humidity, she shuddered.
“The internet.” Andy mumbled the answer as she was getting out of the car.
The three of them stood in the parking lot, in a small circle, looking at their surroundings, the traffic behind them, and nervously at each other.
Alex fixed her eyes on Andy. She wanted to say that ‘You have to forgive yourself and then ask for forgiveness.’ But her lips couldn’t form the words. She had three hours on the drive to craft the perfect words to get through to Andy and yet, here they all were, under the Texas heat, in the middle of a parking lot, shivering with nerves and barely registering each other.
After a brief period of silence, Alex cleared her throat. “Andy, you can still change your mind.”
“I know.” Came the softest reply.
Alex’s jaw tightened, and she looked at her feet to hide her feelings once more. Again, her brain tried to tell her lips to formulate the words it wanted and she looked up to open her mouth again and frowned when no words would come. Again.  
This time, Alex searched her friend’s beautiful face and prayed that somewhere in those blue eyes, she could find the one thing for her to go ‘Aha! You’re just as scared as I am. You’re just as doubtful about this thing. Let’s get out of here.’ Her heart sank when instead of those things she hoped to find in her friend’s eyes, she found a quiet and settled determination.
She swallowed the defeat, shoulders hunched down and felt there was only one more thing left to say. “You are loved, Andrea Grace Taylor, remember that. Find your courage.”                       
Andy just nodded with the faintest smile on her lips
“Okay, you guys.” Alex said trying to keep her voice light and tried to respond to Andy’s smile. It wasn’t working. “I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble we saw on the way here. Call me when you’re done.” She was heading for the car, when she turned around and added, “Call me if you change your mind.”
A few minutes later, she maneuvered in and out of traffic, half concentrating on finding the bookstore. The other remained back at the parking lot of the clinic. A bright green Scion cut in front of her with a slew of bumper stickers. Coexist and Got Jesus, but Alex fixed on the yellow sign with black letters that read “Headed in the wrong direction? God allows for U-Turns.” Andy. Dear God, am I doing the right thing?



Lori: Excerpt # 3
Half an hour later, Pete and Lori moved into a bigger room with a tiny balcony on the sixth floor. This time the décor wasn’t as grotesque as downstairs. Its deep crimson carpet accented the beige with crimson stripped bedspread and pillows.
“It matches,” she groaned happily hugging the pillows to her chest before walking over with her luggage to a small closet to unpack. She took out a chrome folding luggage rack and lifted her suitcase on top of it, to have better access to her clothes and keep her clothes off the carpet. She was a bit of a germaphobe and had a thing about setting suitcases on hotel floors. Images of roaches, bed bugs or whatever else might crawl into the dark crevice of her luggage that would become new roommates when she got home made her shiver. She pulled two different pairs of flip-flops; one to walk around the hotel room in and the other to shower with.
“Where’s the adapter?” Pete asked, rummaging through his luggage. She shrugged and took out her phone and camera from her backpack that was on the bed. From her suitcase, she took out bath supplies and a change of clothes.
“When are we meeting your friend?” She looked up and saw him regarding her, curiously.
“I told him to meet us in an hour and a half.” She tried to find the accessories for her wardrobe that were key pieces in her first impression outfit date. She and Alex tried all sorts of outfits, but that seemed so long ago and she couldn’t remember what went with what. She ended up choosing a pale blue floral print romper and paired it chunky cobalt necklace with matching studs that brought out the color in her eyes. She laid the accessories next to her phone and camera.
“I forgot, where did you say you two met again?” He stopped looking for his adapter and settled in a small chair by the window.
For a moment, Lori thought about telling him the truth and confessing that she met Colin online, but the chances of him agreeing to meet the guy was slim to none. “He was an exchange student I met in high school.” She figured that was a borderline truth as she met a lot of exchange students in high school. It stands to reason that someone there could have been named Colin or be British. I mean, who really keeps track of these things? She thought, rifling to the bottom of the suitcase to find flats.
“What does he do?”
“Grandpa, I told you all about him a few months ago.” She was starting to get annoyed and a little worried that her story might have gotten mixed up since then. “You’ll meet him later and you can ask him yourself.” And before he could start again, she grabbed her clothes and went to the bathroom.
Fully refreshed minutes later, Lori started to feel confident about her trip. She looked around the room for an outlet to plug her curling iron in. “Grandpa, do we have any extra outlets or what?”
He was by the vanity sink brushing his teeth and washing his face. “No, just unplug my video camera. It’s over there by the desk.” He started humming a song she didn’t recognize. She went to a small desk that was flushed against the wall.
There was a mirror that was hanging over the desk that she was thankful for. She sat down on the leather desk chair and looked at the outlets just below and to the right of the mirror. A tall lamp by the desk illuminated the two used outlets. One was being occupied by the lamp, and the other, by Pete’s video camera. The video camera had been charging for a few minutes and she noticed that the battery level was at its peak. She quickly unplugged the camera and replaced it with her curling iron. The second she turned it on, she was astonished by the spark that instantly came alive in her hands. Without warning, the room went dark and the hum of the air conditioner stopped altogether.
“Christ!” she heard Pete cry in the dark. “What happened?”
Lori still had her curling iron in her hand and it dawned on her that she might have blown a fuse. She stood up slowly and everything about the past two days washed over. Without any care or thought about what it might look like, a twenty two year old woman, curling iron in one hand; Lori Hanson, who rarely cried, wept for the second time in just a thirty six hour period.
“I think I blew a fuse,” she cried between sobs. She was becoming increasingly aware of the noises outside their door. That must be the other guests wondering what happened. “This is a sign!”
Pete groped his way in the darkness and patted her shoulder. “Now, now, Lori, honey. You don’t believe in signs, remember?”
If that was an attempt to make her feel better, then he didn’t know his own granddaughter very well. She wiped her tears and tried to coherently ask, “What are you going to tell them downstairs?”
Pete thought a minute. “Well, the truth, I guess. They have lousy outlets and a cheap wiring system. I don’t know, but just calm down.” He made his way to the door and opened it. She was treated to a chorus of several foreign languages mixed with English that belonged to at least twenty people down their hall. They didn’t sound very friendly at all and Lori could only hope that Pete would tell them lies so they wouldn’t be the most hated people in London.
Lori wiped her tears. If she thought this afternoon was a sign, then she didn’t think about what her grandfather would really think about seeing London with a stranger. She tried not to think about it. You don’t believe in signs, she told herself, this is just a weird coincidence. She breathed deeply and reached over to unplug her curling iron. More sparks came her way; causing her to groan and sit back on the chair with a thud.

Twitter: @LeilaTualla



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10 comments:

  1. I love the cover on this one. It sounds like a great book!

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  2. Congratulations on your book, Leila. It sounds like a good story about friendship and love and loyalty. Best of luck to you.
    The cover is great too.

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  3. I like these excerpts! Congratulations to Leila!

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  4. Looks like a fun book! To me, it has a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants vibe, but a little bit older.

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  5. I liked the excerpts and the cover is eye catching as well. Congratulations to Leila!

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