Blog Hop & Giveaway: Killing Me Softly by Devyn Dawson
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July 15 - August 3, 2014
Killing Me Softly Blog Hop Schedule
July 15 – August 3, 2014
Michelle Muto www.michellemuto.wordpress.com
Candy Smith www.purpleshadowhunter.blogspot.com
Amber Clark www.bookloveramber.blogspot.com
Brea Essex www.breaessex.com
Kendall McCubban www.bookcrazy123.blogspot.com
Erin Danzer www.authorerindanzer.blogspot.com
Melissa Stickney www.crazybeautifulreviews.blogspot.com
Kristi Strong www.strongnovels.blogspot.com
Amy Jones www.amyjonesyaff.blogspot.com
Kris Kendall www.ireadselfies.com
Mandy Anderson www.twimom101bookblog.blogspot.com
Tiffany Perry http://strreviews.blogspot.com/
Amy Stogner Avid Reader Amy www.avidreaderamy.blogspot.com
Lisa Hines www.heffroberts.blogspot.com
So Many Books So Little Time http://manybooksnotime.blogspot.com/
Tia Bach http://www.depressioncookies.com/
Raine Thomas http://rainethomas.com/blog/
Raine Thomas http://rainethomas.com/blog/
Clean New Adult Military Romance
Killing Me Softly
By Devyn Dawson
I glance down at my black pointy-toed high heels and realize they’re the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. Andy’s mom let me borrow a pair of Andy’s shoes since we wear the same size. It will take me a while to think of her in the past tense. Looking around the room all I see are strangers. None of these people knew her like I did. No one knew the way she loved soft furry blankets and in the summer she loved softy silky pajamas. They didn’t know that she spent more time praying for her friends and animals than she did for herself. No, they didn’t know those things, and they never will.
My best friend, Andy, died four days ago in a car accident with her boyfriend Doug. A car crossed over the center lane and hit them head on. The police say they died instantly. I talked to her exactly ten minutes before the crash, she told me she was going to stop by on her way home. We’ve always done that; stop by on our way home from shopping to show what we bought. Doug took her to Dallas to pick up a guitar and to go shopping. Andy’s parents have money. They spoiled her, but she never acted spoiled. She was kind and giving. For her birthday, her dad gave her a prepaid credit card. She had to keep her grades up, if she did, he’d load a thousand dollars on the card every month for a year. That’s more money than I make at my job. When I go shopping, I hit the thrift stores and yard sales. Just because I don’t spend tons of money on clothes, doesn’t mean I don’t look like I do. There’s a thrift shop not too far from here that I find the best deals. If the outfit doesn’t fit me, I do the alterations myself. My money is from my job at the vitamin store in the mall. Eight dollars an hour doesn’t go far when you’re the bread winner in your family.
Andy didn’t spend the money on things just for her, no, she would buy things for an after school program she worked for as a volunteer. She would give you every dime she had if you needed help. When she went shopping for herself, she would buy a matching outfit for me. She would always say that I was the sister she always wanted.
Linda, Andy’s mom, is making her way over to me, her grief is written all over her face. I stand up and wrap my arms around her thin body and in that moment the magnitude of what happened hits me like a brick wall. I start to tremble, but I force myself to keep it together until I get home. That’s when I’ll have the luxury of breaking down.
“Sugar, how are you holding up?” Linda asks. One of her friends leans over and hands her a fresh martini.
“I don’t know,” I shrug my shoulders. “It doesn’t seem real, does it?”
“She loved you so much,” I smell the alcohol on her breath as she kisses me on the cheek. “You’re welcome here any time, you’re part of our family. If that daddy of yours gives you any trouble, you come over and you can sleep in Andy’s room. She’d want you to be here with us, you know that.”
“I know. If you don’t mind, I need to go home and check on my dad. They changed his meds this week. As usual, he’s been in one of his moods. Never mind all that, if you need anything, I’m number five on your speed dial. I’ll drop off the shoes later this week.”
“Holland, keep the shoes, I don’t need them back. Go check on your dad, I’m going to try to get everyone out of here at a decent hour. My head hurts too much to deal with so many people. I love you, Holly, don’t you forget it either.” Andy’s the only person who ever called me by my childhood nickname. When I started high school, I went back to my given name, Holland. Linda pulls me in for another hug, this one is tighter and longer than the last one. In my head I can hear Andy complaining that her mom is getting mushy. I smile at the thought.
“I love you too. I’ll be by soon.” She’s hugging me as if she’s holding onto a piece of her daughter for dear life.
Most everyone here are family or friends of the family. A few people from high school came to the funeral, but everyone bailed before the graveside service. If it were anyone other than Andy, I would have done the same. My heart is heavy in my chest and tears threaten to come, but I suppress them so I can get home before I start the water works.
My street is ten streets away from Andy’s house, but the neighborhoods are polar opposites. Her street is lined with manicured lawns and matching brick mailboxes at the end of each driveway. Several people on our street have taken their mailbox down because some kids drove by with a baseball bat and dented in the metal mailboxes. A couple of the neighbors have cars parked in their yard and many of the houses have some type of car up on car ramps or a jack. Andy’s neighborhood is filled with houses with three bedrooms and two or more bathrooms. Ours isn’t.
I pull into the driveway that is cracked from neglect and hot Oklahoma summers. Our small two bedroom house is dark red brick with white trim that could use a new paint job.
The screen door bangs closed as I step into the living room. Dad is right where he was when I left this morning, asleep on the couch.
“Dad, it’s after two.” I say it loud enough for him to hear me.
He pushes himself up to a sitting position. “How was it? Is her mom holding up okay?”
“It was as nice as a funeral can be for an eighteen year old girl. Her mom’s okay, she’s a strong woman,” I say harsher than intended.
“When will you go to the store to buy groceries?”
The only question he cares about……food. He doesn’t give a crap about the funeral, he’s been sitting on the couch all day. He sits around and feels sorry for himself. “Dad, I told you I don’t get paid until Tuesday. Your Social Security check paid the bills. I have thirty dollars for gas. That’s all the money we have in the bank. There’s stuff to eat, just not what you want. Give me a few minutes to change for work and I’ll make you some supper.”
“You’re working on the day of your best friend’s funeral?” He asks, posing as the concerned father.
“Yes, I’m working on the day Andy was buried. I have to pay the bills, so working isn’t an option. Your prescriptions will be running out this week, I need money for your co-pays. Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now.” I set my stuff down as I head down the short hall to my bedroom.
“Holland, I’m getting better! Don’t you worry, before long, I’ll be able to go back to work!” He shouts out to me.
He’s told me a thousand times how he’s getting better. Per Dr. Paul, his regular doctor, he’s never going to be fit to work again if he doesn’t go to therapy on a regular basis. He’s two steps away from being placed in an institution. He was involuntarily committed last October, it lasted for five days. Being the selfish person I am, it was the most sleep I’ve had in years. He was safely behind locked doors, and I didn’t have to worry about which side of him I was going to come home to.
My little room is large enough for my full-size bed and a small desk I found at a garage sale. Most of my clothes are folded up inside big plastic bins. Andy teased me about my organization skills. She said I’m the only teenager who puts away their clothes on their own. I found it easier to strap a bin of dirty laundry to my skateboard and pull it the two blocks to the Laundromat than to carry it that far. I’ve been doing our laundry since my mom left when I was thirteen. That was the year my dad lost his job with the advertising firm and everything spiraled out of control.
I bend over to tie my shoes and pick up my keys that fell to the floor. I double check my reflection in the mirror before rushing out of my room to make a quick dinner for my dad. Crap! I think to myself as I realize I got more bleach splatters on the hems of my khakis. Thankfully, Gerrie won’t be working tonight to gripe at me about buying a new pair of pants. She find a way to complain about me at every opportunity she finds. She hates it when I wear my long hair down, she says I shed it all over the store. Last year she got upset with me for not being tan like all the other girls in the mall. She told me guys would come in to buy vitamins if I had a tan and wore make-up.
Andy and I would dream up crazy come-backs to Gerrie’s insults, but I never used them.
How can I face another day without her humor? How am I going to deal with my dad without her encouragement? How will I carry on?
Chapter One. Cheeky
Six months later.
“Yes Aunt Laney, I know his birthday is Saturday. Dad won’t show up for dinner, he never does. He hates surprises and apparently he hates showers too. I know you don’t like to come to our neighborhood, so you can drop it off at the mall. I’m working tonight and tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, I’ll bring it to you at the mall. I’ve reloaded that Visa for you to get some groceries. Holland, you can come live with me, no one would blame you,” Aunt Laney says for the hundredth time. She’s my dad’s older sister and the only family member who still checks in on us. Her husband is a big corporate lawyer who represents every big company in Oklahoma. She was his paralegal, until they fell in love and got married. To ease her conscience she loads a prepaid Visa so I can buy groceries and gas. She paid off the mortgage last Christmas. She has no idea how much easier she made my life when I didn’t have to worry about that bill anymore.
Things have been looking better this year. June moved away and I was promoted to assistant-manager, which included a two dollar an hour raise. “Okay, I’ll see you then….and thank you for helping us by loading the Visa.”
“Oh honey, you’re a doll. I’m proud of you for being such a good daughter to my baby brother. I hope you’ve been able to keep your flawless GPA. You’ve been working so many days a week, it must be hard to keep up your grades.”
I can picture her admiring her fingernails as she talks. She’s always struck me as a superficial person by the clothes she wears and the people in her life. “Thanks, I don’t have any choice, he’s my dad.” I state the obvious. “I’m taking online classes, so it works around my schedule. Not to be rude, but I need to go; I have to be at work in fifteen minutes.”
“I’ll see you later.”
“Okay, I’ll see you this evening,” I click my cell phone off and close my bedroom door behind me.
“Dad, your dinner is in the fridge in the purple container, heat it up for one minute.” I turn the corner and see my dad sitting up for a change.
“You’re going to work early, you should eat breakfast,” he suggests.
“Dad, it’s four in the afternoon. I have to do laundry tomorrow, so it would be nice if you took a shower and put your dirty clothes in the hamper.” He won’t. He’ll give me excuses why he couldn’t shower before I got home. Recently, he developed a fear of showering in an empty house. His therapist called in a new medication, but it only seems to make him more of a zombie and has done nothing for his fear of cleanliness.
“Four? The days sure go by so fast.” He rubs his hand across his unshaven face. He’s not even forty, but you’d never know by the amount of grey in his beard.
“Gotta go, Dad,” I hold my breath and give him a peck on his head.
Friday evening at Darby Springs Mall is crowded as usual, leaving the only parking spaces ridiculously far from the doors. During my lunch period I’ll move my car closer so I don’t have to get security to walk me to my car after work. I ease the Charger between two SUVs, barely clearing the one on my right. Aunt Laney gave me her old one as a graduation gift during my senior year. Old to her is anything older than two years old. She had only owned this one for a year before giving it to me. She even covers the car insurance so it wouldn’t be a burden on me and my dad.
“Hey Sam, can you stay until close? It’s the fifteenth which means payday for the military, and they love to come stock up on the protein powder. This is usually the busiest day of the month.” I glance around the store to make sure everything is in order.
“Is that what’s going on? I had to restock the powder a couple of times already today. One guy wanted to return something, but I told him to come when you’re working. He said he’d come back tonight,” Sam says.
“Will you straighten up the display of Vitamin C? Someone turned all the bottles backwards, it was probably a kid.” Sam’s a quirky guy who spends all of his paycheck on body building powder and his spare time in the gym. He dates a girl I went to high school with, she’s rumored to have appeared in a couple of adult films. She’s a pretty girl but she can’t carry on a conversation without talking about kinky sex. “I’m going to the back to place some orders, if you need me just call,” I say as I turn to the back of the store.
“Holland?” Sam’s voice booms over the phone intercom causing me to jump.
“That guy is here with the return.”
“I’ll be right there.”
There’s a guy at the register dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt talking to Sam. His short light brown hair is definitely Air Force the way it is perfectly squared off on the back of his neck.
I remind myself that I’m the assistant manager and not to be intimidated.
“Hi, I’m Holland, what can I help you with,” I ask as I step behind the cashier counter. Another pretty-boy airman with his deep dimple and flawless skin. There’s no way he’s much older than I am, that’s good because I don’t typically back down to people my age. Older guys in the military scare me, they seem so hard and angry.
“Hey Holland, Sam here told me to come back when you’re here to refund this powder.”
The first thing I notice are his eyes, pale blue eyes…incredibly pretty blue eyes and smile. The manager-in-training classes I took told me to always hold the customer’s gaze. They obviously never looked into eyes like his. It takes everything in me not to shift my eyes away from him. It makes me feel exposed as if he is literally looking into my soul.
“Yes sir, is there a problem with the powder?”
He’s first to avert his eyes and look down at the jug of Mega Muscle Protein Powder. “It gave me a rash,” he replies without looking up at me.
Most of the guys who come in are embarrassed to admit they ended up with a rash. “A rash? Do you have a photo of the rash?” Our return policy on store-brand products are if it gives you a rash, you have to provide a photo. There’s nothing more disgusting than looking at a rash on a stranger.
“That rule on your policy is pretty intrusive. When I read it, I was floored that it was a real rule.”
Here we go, he’ll turn off the charm and turn into a douche. I’m sure Sam is doing the countdown in his head. “Yes sir, we must turn in the photo along with the explanation in to our corporate office. Our policy is for quality control and has nothing to do with being intrusive. May I see the picture?”
He pulls out his cell phone and scrolls through his pictures before holding it up for me to see. Sure enough, it’s a rash… on his ass! He took a selfie of his ass rash in the mirror. He is standing in his boxers and holding one side of them down and taking a picture with his other hand. I need to call Andy and tell her about this, she’s going to die laughing. Dammit! I can’t call her, because she’s dead.
“I need a print of the picture,” I snap. My mood has gone from good to pissed in two seconds.
“You really need a picture of my ass to give me a thirty-five dollar refund?”
I cock my head to the side, my go-to defense pose when I’m hiding my feelings from the world. “I didn’t write the rules, but I follow them.” This is the look Andy called my bitch-face.
“Look, I’m not going to go print off a picture of my ass to get a thirty-five dollar refund. You can keep the powder and the money.” He shakes his head back and forth before taking his receipt and folding it up neatly before returning it to his wallet.
I stand at the register and watch him walk out of the store.
“What happened?” Sam asks.
“Nothing, I’m following policy,” I reply nonchalantly.
Sam looks at me like he wasn’t buying it for an instant. “Holland, one minute you were okay and the next you flipped and were pissed off.”
“I didn’t flip.” I gather up my paperwork to tally out our sales for the day. My dad flips, I just get pissed.
“I think there’s Pamprin in the office, if you need it,” Sam says sarcastically. Good thing I like him or I’d write him up just because I can.
“I’m not PMSing and just for that, you get to mop the floor tonight.” Without turning around, I head back to the office. When memories of Andy pop into my head, I’m reminded how lonely life is without her. I’ve been going to her grave and sitting there for hours. She was always my sounding board when it came to my dad, now I feel guilty for all the times I made her listen to me complain. We should have spent more time doing pranks and laughing at stupid movies. Now, I’ll never be able to do those things with someone. Lately, everything reminds me of her and I’ll either cry or get angry. It isn’t that I’m mad at her, it’s I don’t know when the pain will stop. My therapist says dumb things like, time heals all wounds, or everyone grieves differently. The therapist was Aunt Laney’s idea since the health insurance policy she bought for me covers the visits.
“Knock, knock,” Sam’s voice brings me back to reality. “Hey, do I really have to mop the floor? I have plans after work and I don’t want to smell like bleach and dirty mop water.”
“I told you to mop not take a bath. I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t ever hint for me to take Pamprin again, okay?”
“Deal. Your Aunt Laney is in the store, do you want me to send her back here?”
“No, I’ll go out there.”
I've thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember. I played grown-up with my family, until everyone grew up and left me to figure out what I really wanted to be. Jumping over the cliff, I took a leap of faith and wrote my first full length novel, The Legacy of Kilkenny. My love of young adult books, helped mold me into the writer I am today. The books I write, reflect the types of books I enjoy reading. Every story I write will have a huge twist at the end, one that often leaves the reader in shock (no pun intended, if you know me, you know why I say that, LOL). Thank you for considering to read my books. Happy reading!
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