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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Big Little Lies--Liane Moriarty

Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it! Page turning book crack.

Never put the book down and finished in one day! Another great read from Moriarty! Now I can finally watch the HBO version.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Affective Needs--Chapter Nineteen

**New chapter posted here every Wednesday**
I tried again, just in case I had dialed wrong the first time.
We’re sorry, but the number you have dialed is no longer—I hung up. Porter’s phone had been disconnected.
Again.
It was the second number they had had since I met him two months ago; his father used prepaid phones, and when they ran out of minutes, he didn’t always have the money to charge it up again.
I put my phone on my bedside table and lay down. I really, really needed to talk to him. To tell him I was sorry. To tell him No way did my mother ever tell me any of the personal stuff you shared with her. Because why would she? She didn’t even know I was sneaking around with him.
Because I had lied to her too.
I picked up my phone and dialed Eli’s cell. It rang five times before his voicemail picked up. His phone never went to voicemail after school hours—he was ignoring me. I envisioned him, hanging out with Bella Blake, showing her his phone with my caller id and the goofy picture he had of me with my eyes crossed and my finger up my nose. Ugh, when will she take the hint already? they would say, then roll their eyes and dissolve into a fit of laughter.
I placed my phone facedown on my night table and rested both my hands on the empty-feeling space just above my stomach. The problem with having only one friend, I now realized, was that when you had jacked that friendship up, you didn’t have a whole lot of other places to run to. I stayed there, flat on my back and very still. As the light in my room changed from the harsh orange of late afternoon to the soft gray of early evening, I imagined myself always feeling this way.
Adrift.
Alone.
Tears streamed from the corners of my eyes and left hot wet streaks that eventually cooled and created cold wet pools in my ears and on the pillow next to my head.
What if Eli never forgave me?
What if Porter never spoke to me again?
By the time my room had gone completely dark, my head was pounding from all my crying. When the street light outside clicked on and backlit my blinds with an electric yellow, I rolled over and faced my closed door.
If this had been a normal day, my mother would have been at my door asking me a hundred questions about what I was doing, what did I want to eat, why was my door closed . . . her absence was making me feel the deepest alone I could imagine. I pushed myself up to sitting and endured the rush of blood that turned my mild headache into a bomb exploding in my brain. I pressed both my temples and sucked air while I waited for the worst wave of pain to pass before standing up and opening my door.
The hallway separating my room from hers was dark. When I stepped onto the landing, I could see that the whole house was dark. Maybe she had gone somewhere while I was shut up in my room?
The door to her bedroom was cracked and when I pushed it in, I saw her bed and the dark lump of her body spread out on top of her comforter. “Mom?” I whispered, but when she didn’t answer me I moved closer.
She was flat on her back, one hand resting on her stomach while the other lay limp at her side. Her chest rose and fell in a deep and steady rhythm. Even though her digital clock said it was only 8:11, she had been sleeping long enough for her jaw to relax and tension around her eyes to soften.
Her shoes were on the floor next to her bed but she was still wearing her navy-blue wool dress pants and the blue-and white striped blouse she’d worn to work today. I grabbed the small blanket she always kept folded neat and square on her footboard and pulled it up and over her until it covered her shoulders. This close, I could see the dark smear of mascara around both her eyes and the inky stains that had run down the sides of her face.
She’d been crying too.
I watched her for a minute, peaceful, asleep, her face relaxed into soft, unlined features. My mother was beautiful. In her sleep, she looked like she might actually feel some happiness in whatever dream world was happening in her head. “I’m sorry,” I whispered more for myself than for her unhearing ears. I turned and left her, closing her door quietly.
I didn’t want to ruin her peace with our current reality.
Downstairs, I fumbled along the wall for the kitchen light and then shielded my eyes against the fluorescents while I searched the cabinet where we usually kept the ibuprofen. My headache had swelled and now thumped in rhythm with my rushed and raggedy heartbeat. Squinting, I shifted past the cough syrups and allergy medicines—where was it?
My searched moved to the downstairs bathroom, where I opened one drawer after another and pushed around old nail polishes that neither my mother nor I ever used, stray tampons, nail clippers, samples of face lotion that had been collected out of magazines, loose bobby pins—ugh. I closed the last drawer, frustrated with my failed search and pounding brain.
Wait.
I turned around and crossed the narrow hall between the bathroom and my mother’s office, pushed her door open, and flipped on the light switch. The soft light from the lamp on her desk cast a dim glow over her stacks of files, stray papers, and her laptop.
But most importantly, the bottle of ibuprofen. “Thank God,” I whispered, grabbed the bottle, then pushed and twisted the cap until I was able to shake out two bright-orange pills. There was a half glass of water that didn’t look too old near the stack of files so I used that to wash the pills down.
When I put the glass back where I had found it, I froze. The file, the one on the very top of the stack—I recognized it. My eyes scanned the small tab at the top.
Creed, Porter
I put the glass down and stared at the closed file. When I picked up the folder, thick with years of notes and psychological reports about my boyfriend, I sat down in my mother’s desk chair and placed the file directly in front of me, adjusting its placement so its edges aligned perfectly with the edge of the desk.
I rested both of my hands on top of it.
Was I going to do this? Was I going to read my mother’s private file on Porter? My whole body became nervous and shaky just thinking about the betrayal of trust, the violation of both Porter and my mother.
I sat back in her chair and considered putting the file back where I had found it. I should put it back, stand up, walk up the stairs to my room, close the door, and lie down on my bed to wait for the ibuprofen to work its magic on my now screaming headache. I sighed, the pinpoint of pressure filled the small space between my eyes. I needed, desperately, to speak to Porter—but with their phone shut off again, there was no calling him, and because he never let me see where he lived, I couldn’t just show up at his door.
I didn’t have any way to reach him.
But this file. I leaned forward and pressed both my hands onto its surface. This file would have his address.
All around me, the house was a dark void. My mother, exhausted and asleep upstairs, would have no idea what I was doing. I would only read Porter’s address. She would never have to know.
And when Porter asked me how I had found out where he lived? What was I going to say to that? I didn’t know, but I would think of something.
Probably another lie.
I leaned forward and flipped open the file.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Affective Needs--Chapter Eighteen

**New chapters posted every Wednesday**

Staring down at the text from my mother, I considered lying to her for half a second before I realized it was already way too late for that. If it was the middle of the school day, and my mother, who worked at the school, was wondering WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?, it was a pretty good bet that she had already checked all the likely on-campus excuses I would have been able to come up with.
Sorry . . . at the coffee shop. I texted her back. I would cling to the edge of truth and hope that it at least earned me some bonus points. I was ditching school. I shouldn’t be, but I was. My mother found out, and there would be a reasonable punishment and that would be the end of it.
Except.
Who’s with you? Was her next text.
And my heart, it stopped, and I could have sworn I was going to have a seizure right there in front of Porter and the two baristas working the counter of Coffee Cabana.
“What’s wrong?” Porter asked.
I looked up at him then, my brain frantically trying to spin a way out of what was about to happen. My phone buzzed in my hands. I looked down and saw my mother’s next question.
Is Porter Creed with you?
“Shit,” I whispered.
“What is it?” Porter asked again and tried to see my phone over my shoulder.
My right thumb pressed the Y.
“It’s your mom?” Porter asked, I noted that his voice was an octave or two higher than normal.
My left thumb pressed the E.
“How does she know my name?” He leaned away from me. “Did you tell her about me?”
My left thumb moved to the S.
“Not exactly,” I said. My right thumb hovered over the Send button for half a second before I completely gave up hope of figuring out a fantastic lie. I pressed send—Yes.
Yes, Porter Creed was with me, and yes we were ditching school together.
Both of you, get back to school and meet me in Principal Connor’s office. NOW.
Porter’s head was pressed next to mine and we read her message together.
“She went to the principal?” Porter exclaimed. “Crap! That seems kind of extreme.”
I swallowed and took a breath. “I don’t think so,” I said. My mother wouldn’t have gone to the principal. If my mother had figured out on her own that I had ditched school and that Porter was with me, she would have just handled it on her own.
I had a horrible feeling that something much worse had happened.
Porter stood up and grabbed his bag from the floor. “Well, it sure looks like it.”
And, of course, there was the other side of how this was going to blow up in my face. Porter didn’t know that my mother was Ms. Carrie Ann, school psychologist, coupon giver, Porter’s very own case manager, giant psych file keeper. “There’s something I haven’t told you,” I whispered.
When I told him who my mother was, how she knew who he was, all the blood drained from his face and his forehead bunched up into an angry scowl. “So . . .” He ran his hand through his hair and his eyes looked around Coffee Cabana like he was trying to find a solid thing to hang on to. “So, what . . . you know about my whole life?”
He didn’t even give me a chance to answer. He pushed past me and out the glass door that chimed loudly with his exit.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” The car ride from Coffee Cabana to the school parking lot took about eight minutes—Porter didn’t speak to me even once despite my repeated attempts to explain and apologize to him. When we got to the school, Porter had the car door opened and slammed behind him before I finished setting Vader’s parking brake.
“Porter!” I called across the parking lot and tried to catch up with him, but I was no match for his long, fast strides. I didn’t even come close until we were both standing at the receptionist’s desk outside Principal Connor’s office. “We have an appointment,” Porter told her.
Cheryl, the white-haired receptionist who had probably been working here since before the school even opened, raised her eyebrows and twisted her red-lipsticked mouth in an Mm hmm I know all about your “appointment” look. “Go on in,” she sighed.
Porter moved around Cheryl’s desk and headed for Principal Connor’s door, but I didn’t move. I could see my mother and Principal Connor through the large plate-glass window. He was sitting behind his desk; she was standing and staring back at me, waiting for me to follow Porter inside.
The look on her face—it was like watching her juggle emotions. She was mad, yes. But more than mad, my mother was confused, anxious, and really, really scared. A fresh wave of dread rolled through me but I forced my body to follow Porter into the office.
Three chairs were carefully positioned in a semicircle in front of the desk. Obviously Principal Connor and my mother had had time to prepare exactly how this meeting would go down while Porter and I were busy getting here. My mother sat in the chair closest to the desk while Porter took the one farthest from her. I got stuck in the middle, directly facing Principal Connor.
On the desk in front of me, each and every pass I had forged for Porter and myself were stacked into piles next to a piece of white paper filled with columns of dates that someone had taken the time to examine and highlight in bright yellow. My eyes quickly scanned this and read Attendance Record—Porter Creed. I could only assume the Attendance Record—Ruth Robinson was underneath.
On the other side of the desk, Principal Connor took a deep breath, leaned forward in the chair, and steepled his hands in front of him. “Ruth.” His eyes met mine then focused on Porter. “Porter. We seem to have a problem here.”

My mother’s silence was an awful, ugly, horrible punishment. It was so much worse than yelling. At least yelling I could wrap my brain around, yelling I could respond to, maybe even yell back—even though I had absolutely no right to. At least if she yelled at me I could get mad at her for coming unglued, for losing her temper. If she lost her temper, then maybe I could get mad back because she would jump to unreasonable conclusions just like every other normal parent on the planet.
But no.
My mother, the child psychologist, wasn’t yelling.
Even though I could totally tell she was more pissed off at me than she had ever been in her entire life.
Still, she wasn’t yelling.
Yet.
“Mom?”
She didn’t even look at me, only held up her hand—silence.
I shouldn’t say anything right now. Really. I should just shut up, stare out the dirty passenger window of my mother’s Camry, and wait for her to begin lecturing me on how completely crappy my life was going to be from now until I left for college in the fall.
But I couldn’t help myself. “I’m really sorry,” I said, staring at the side of her face, trying to gauge if there was even a hint of movement, the slightest softening of her steely gaze out the front windshield.
She bit her lips and closed her eyes. Her chest filled with air, held it, then let it all out in one loud push from her mouth. When she opened her eyes again, they focused only on the road.
She was thinking, deciding how she was going to handle the giant mess I had gotten us both in.
Yes. My mother was in trouble too—and it was all my fault. Principal Connor had asked where I had gotten all the passes from in the first place. Once he realized that I had practically unrestricted access to my mother’s office, and had taken full advantage of that access, he had cleared his throat, “Yes, well. Carrie Ann, we’ll discuss that privately at a later time.”
My mother had trusted me—and I had betrayed that trust. I had no idea what would happen to her. Could she lose her job over it? The thought made me sick with worry and guilt. I wanted to tell her, again, how sorry I was—but she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say right now.
I gave up trying to engage her before she was ready and stared at the bright and beautiful day outside the car. Earlier, in Coffee Cabana with Porter, before I realized that my life was about to come crumbling down all around me, I had been loving the feel of the warm sun on my face, the sound of happy people out enjoying the day. Now, it felt like a cruel contrast, a bright light shining on the huge mess I was in.
Porter and I had both received three-day suspensions.
It meant nothing at all to Porter; he had probably been suspended a hundred times before. As soon as Principal Connor had made the announcement about our fate, Porter smirked, shook his head, and asked, “Are we done now?”
Principal Connor considered Porter for a second before he sighed and sat back in his chair, “Yes, we’re done. I’ll try calling your father again to let him know what’s happened and that you are to return to school on the fifteenth.”
Porter got up, swung his ratty bag over his shoulder and said, “Don’t bother.” For half a second, before he walked out of the office, his eyes met mine and I held my breath. Porter put on a big act, and he had maybe even fooled my mother and Principal Connor, but because I knew him, really knew him—I saw the truth.
The same truth I’d seen that first day when the cops had restrained him in the hall.
I saw Porter’s desperation.
And then he was gone.
My mother pulled her car into our garage, shut off the engine, and sat still, staring out the windshield. I didn’t dare move a muscle to get out until she did.
“We’ll get your car later,” was all she said before opening her door and getting out. I watched from the passenger seat as she opened the door to the house and went inside without any of her things or even a single glance back to see if I was coming.
My bottom lip quivered and, even though there was no one around to see it, I bit into the soft flesh to try and keep it still as tears welled up behind my lids.
My best friend hated me, my boyfriend wasn’t speaking to me, and my mother was so disappointed in me she wouldn’t even look at me. I had gone from on top of the world to complete crap in less than twenty-four hours and, quite frankly, it was more than I could deal with.
In the privacy of my mother’s Camry, hot, salty tears rolled down my face. I let them fall.

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Thank you for reading chapter eighteen of Affective Needs. A new chapter is posted every Wednesday. If you don't feel like waiting for updates, here is the link to my book page and all the vendors that carry my books. Happy reading!