Excerpt – THE GOODBYE YEAR
Wednesday, September 10th
Melanie Bronson needed to sit down.
Beads of sweat soaked her forehead, no doubt ruining the blowout she’d just sat through at the salon. She smelled the toxic scent of wet hairspray, reconstituting into a noxious chemical that would run down her face. Her unruly dark hair was best left to the experts, especially on humid nights like these, but once her tamed mane was exposed to moisture, all bets were off. She wore sensible black pumps, a black sheath dress which she loved for its lack of a waistline, and her favorite pearl choker. She looked very much the part of a proud mom of a high school senior, she thought. It didn’t matter what she wore though, she’d always be an outsider here. It was as if her hair knew she didn’t fit in and behaved accordingly.
She reached her son Dane’s locker and noticed the lock flipped upside down. She touched the shiny cold surface of the back of the lock, wondering how he even opened the thing to get inside his locker. She shook her head, rubbing under her eyes, trying to keep the tears that were beginning to flow from ruining her mascara. Poor Dane, she thought. Someone must be bullying him again. This was not a good sign. She had Googled Empty Nest Syndrome and knew it was her job this, their final year together, to be certain he could handle the real world. This lock was just another example of why he wasn’t ready, why she wasn’t ready.
Suddenly, a boy—or really, she had to admit, looking at his facial hair and sculpted jaw, a man—ran past her wearing a maroon Crystal Beach High School sweatshirt and sweat pants. His dark eyes darted her direction, taking her in, before run- ning past her and disappearing around the corner. She saw his last name printed in block letters on the back of his sweatshirt: WINSTON. She shook her head. It was wrong. All of this. Him, the running, the stupid locker, the fact that she’d soon be a parent without a purpose. Would she even have a reason to get out of bed once Dane left for college, she wondered? Every- thing was moving too fast.
“Hey slow down,” she yelled into the now empty quad.
She should know every kid here, she thought, but Melanie had never seen the boy WINSTON before. She wondered if he was new, wondered if Dane knew him. Of course, that would just be another conversation they hadn’t had recently. If Melanie and Dane talked at all these days, it invariably wound up with a fight. Dane saying he was a loser and a disappoint- ment, Melanie trying to make him believe she didn’t think so.
As she brushed another tear away she reached into her purse for her pink frost lipstick, a 1980s holdover that she couldn’t shake. Lips freshly aglow, she touched Dane’s lock one last time, squared her shoulders and walked in the direction the man child had just jogged, toward the heart of the school.
The ground shifted beneath her feet again as she reached the showcase of the school, the beautiful palm tree-dotted, green grass dappled quad. As she searched for somewhere to sit down, Melanie looked around to see if what she was experiencing could be explained by an earthquake. But no one was ducking and covering. And there was nowhere to sit down. All she could see were white concrete planters filled with palm trees punctuating the broad swath of grass that constituted the daytime gathering spot for the teenagers who typically filled this place. The picnic tables had been removed because it was Parent’s Night. As a trickle of sweat rolled between her shoulder blades, Melanie took a deep, cleansing breath. The quad was almost empty, a few other parental stragglers attempted to find their way through the maze of buildings that formed the high school campus.
Most of the other parents in the quad, heads bent together studying the school map in the dimming light, were couples. They were in this together. I’ll kill Keith if I survive this, she muttered. This morning, she’d begged her husband to come with her, knowing her last Parent’s Night would, in all like- lihood, cause a panic attack. “Honey, you know that school and everybody in it like the back of your hand. You’ll be fine,” Keith had said, patting her on the shoulder before leaving for work. But she knew he was wrong.
Another wave of dizziness swooped over Melanie, and she lurched over to the closest planter, perching as daintily as possible on the edge, knowing her black linen sheath dress would still pick up some nasty high school gunk. She shouldn’t have chugged the glass of chardonnay at home, she knew, but she had told herself it would calm her nerves. Keith couldn’t miss his dinner event, business of course, so she had been forced to tackle Parent Night solo. That was not something she was fond of, especially not with this child, her last and final parental product. To say Dane was a slacker was being kind. Poor Dane.
Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER’S DAY. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.
Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.
Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.
She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books and on her website, KairaRouda.com.