Excerpt from Condemn Me Not
Filed under: | Tags: | December 22nd, 2012
The words no mother wants to say, and every mother yearns to hear.
Bound by friendship, two women find themselves at common crossroads, struggling with choices both past and present, career and home.
Simone Sheridan and Claire Atkins have been friends since college. Upon graduation, they took off in different directions, forging separate paths through motherhood. Neither planned to look back on the road they traveled with regret—yet that’s exactly what happens when their daughters issue opposing proclamations with regard to college.
Mariah Sheridan blows her mother’s expectations to pieces while Rebecca Atkins crushes her mother’s dreams. Both mothers battle the news, but soon come to learn they must change course, or lose the sacred relationship between mother and daughter.
But change is not an easy task when Simone and Claire unexpectedly find themselves staring down their choices, confronted by the same question: Where did I go wrong?
This one is still about the women, their issues, but without the romance. The debate is an old one, but continues to burn hot. And why? Is our sisterhood broken? Have we taken sides, drawn lines in the sand?
Every woman has an opinion on this subject and most believe theirs is the right one. I dare you not to find a piece of yourself in this book. No kids? A piece of someone you know will leap from these pages…
Would love to hear your thoughts!
Genre: Women’s Fiction ~ a woman’s journey through personal choice and consequence
Ebook available exclusively on Amazon
MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS
Simone Sheridan glared at her daughter, raw aggression whipping through her eyes like a lioness about to pounce. “Excuse me?”
“I’m not going,” Mariah Sheridan repeated. Wheat-blonde hair hung stick straight as she stood erect, motionless, staring her mother down.
As Claire Atkins watched mother and daughter face off in her kitchen, she could almost feel Simone’s blood begin to boil. Anger cut cold lines across her friend’s delicate features, contrasting sharply with the pastel pink of her lipstick, the shimmery cream of her eye shadow. Claire’s gaze dropped briefly to the half-checked grocery list on the table. This was supposed to be a cheery day, filled with shopping and plans, but not anymore. Simone’s fury was palpable, mounting in its will to attack. It was the same fury that would stream hot through her veins if her own daughter, Rebecca, betrayed her this way.
But she hadn’t. Although standing shoulder to shoulder with her friend Mariah on the opposite side of the eat-in kitchen table, she was quiet, unprotesting.
“Yes, you are.” Simone locked arms over her chest, her long pink sleeves disappearing into one another. Natural blonde hair fell in waves down the center of her back, styled to silky perfection, as usual, her attire more in line with an afternoon lunch date than a trip to the grocery store.
“No, I’m not.” Mariah’s slender arms mirrored those of her mother as she swung her weight from booted heel to booted heel, adding an obvious silent and you can’t make me.
“And to what do I attribute the wisdom of this choice?” Simone asked.
“Logan and I are starting a business.”
“Over my dead body,” her mother said flatly.
Mariah stood her ground, cool green eyes reflecting her resolve. She raised a defiant brow, silently pushing her mother to take another swipe.
“Mariah and Logan are opening a recycling business,” Rebecca cut in, suddenly unbridled in her support of Mariah and her boyfriend. “They’ve already obtained permits and lined up businesses—”
Simone’s temper flared toward Rebecca. “Mariah can speak for herself, thank you.”
Claire’s mother-bear instincts kicked in. That was her daughter Simone was addressing. “Simone,” Claire said, reaching for her friend’s arm which was steely in its resistance. Claire allowed her hand to fall away. With a cursory glance between mother and daughter, Claire gave a quick shake of her head, directing Rebecca to stay out of it. There was nothing she could say. Nothing either of them could say. This was between Simone and Mariah.
Homing in on Mariah, Simone stated, “You are going to college, young lady. I didn’t spend the last two years touring campuses, filling out application after application to have you up and throw it all away. We’ve put away the money for your tuition. You’re going to use it—as planned.”
“Logan and I have been planning this since Christmas and—”
“Christmas?” Simone smacked a wooden chair with such force, Mariah flinched, revealing herself for the child she was, sensitive to her parent’s rebuke.
Claire thought her the spitting image of her mother in both build and temperament, but Mariah was only eighteen. Of course she was vulnerable to her mother’s condemnation.
“Oh, well, forgive my ignorance,” Simone sniped, curling her fingers around the arched chair back in a white-knuckled grip. “You gave it a whole four months of thought. My apologies, I should be thrilled.”
“It only takes an idea,” Mariah defended, jutting her chin out in true rebellious fashion. “Some of the most successful businesses were started with a simple idea.”
“Apple was started with an idea, backed up by computer know-how and hours upon hours of hard work and dedication. It wasn’t a matter of months from conception to inception. It took years of sacrifice—long, hard-fought years of perseverance and determination before they saw the first glimmer of results.”
“So.” Mariah lifted a shoulder and scoffed, “We’re in the beginning—the conception stage.”
“Next comes the money stage. May I ask where you plan on getting the money to fund this venture of yours?”
Mariah’s bravado visibly slipped. “I have some money saved up. And since I’m not using my college fund for college—”
“Stop right there.” Simone hardened her gaze. “That money isn’t yours. It’s mine.”
Mariah blanched. “What?” She whipped her head from woman to woman. “But you and Dad said that whatever money I didn’t use for my education I could have to start a business!”
“Due to your procurement of scholarships and part-time jobs,” Simone corrected, “we said you could use any money you had left over after you finished college.” She pointed a hard finger toward Mariah. “After being the key word.”
Mariah’s cheeks flushed, her tough exterior dissolving before Claire’s very eyes. “That wasn’t the deal and you know it. I’m going to ask Dad—he’ll tell you.”
“Go ahead.” Hostility underscored Simone’s reply as she added, “See how far it will get you.”
Mariah flung a look of naked desperation to Rebecca who met her with an ominous look of her own. Let it go for now.
At the desertion of Mariah’s number one advocate, Claire noted the child’s backbone melted. Her brave façade was caving, primitive instinct for survival propelling Mariah into flight mode.
“Well, I for one think we’ve had all the earth-shattering news we can handle for one day,” Claire said, her heart going out to the girl. Mariah was like one of her own, and she’d always admired her spunk and vivacity, her sheer will when it came to overcoming obstacles. To see her crumble beneath her mother’s withering opposition was dispiriting. Cool heads needed to prevail, despite the waves of emotion coursing through the room. She rose from the table and prompted, “How about we all take to our corners and talk about this later?”
Mariah lightly jabbed Rebecca with her elbow.
Simone picked up on the silent communiqué and demanded, “What’s going on?”
Rebecca’s eyes clouded with ambivalence. At the hesitation in her daughter’s reaction, Claire’s heart caught.
“Tell her,” Mariah urged. “Like we planned.”
“Um,” Rebecca mumbled evasively, sucking her bottom lip into her mouth as she blatantly avoided her mother. She rolled her gaze around the kitchen, appeared on the verge of running.
“Rebecca?” Claire prodded, fear creeping into her chest.
“I’m not going to Rhode Island School of Design,” she blurted, courage unraveling into a mess of hamstrung timidity. “I’m going toParis.”
It was a swift punch to the gut. Claire clutched the thick back of her dining chair, blankets of dizziness engulfing her skull. Appliances and cabinets fused into a blur of steel and brown as she stared at Rebecca, the breath trapped in her chest. Confusion ballooning in her mind, she was almost unable to mouth the question. “Paris?”
“Yes,” Rebecca replied, although Claire could see an odd concern in her eyes.
She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. She could only stare. Rebecca wasn’t going to college? She was going to Paris?
“Are you okay, Mom?” Rebecca stepped forward, her expression steeped in concern.
Was she okay? No, she wasn’t okay—not if this were true! How could she be? “I don’t understand,” she uttered weakly, as she realized her predicament was as bad as Simone’s.
“Mom, you need to sit down.” Rebecca came toward her. “You don’t look good.”
Claire gaped about her. Wasn’t she seated? She had to be—she certainly couldn’t take this news standing up! Rebecca was leaving. It was unthinkable, unfathomable.
Simone loosened Claire’s vise-grip on the chair and pulled it out for her. With a hand to her shoulder, she gently pushed her down. “Sit, Claire.”
Claire searched Simone’s face as though it would reveal this madness for the dream that it was. Paris. Rebecca was leaving for Paris? Lowering to the seat, her body dropped like lead. The very thought made her ill.
“Can I get you some water?” Simone asked, ignoring the girls for the moment.
“No.” Claire waved her off. “I’m fine.” She paused through another sweep of light-headedness and thought—or will be, once they straightened this nonsense out. And it was nonsense. What was Rebecca thinking moving toParis? And delivering the news on the eve of their high school graduation? During party preparations, no less?
Had Rebecca lost her mind?
Claire took in the women as they clustered around the circular table. Mariah was fixed by Rebecca’s side, comrades-in-arms, allies to the end. Simone stood stiff and resolute, her trim figure taut with nerves. Claire grappled for calm. This would not stand. Rebecca was going to college. Period.
Rebecca stood immobile, angst swimming in her doe-brown eyes as she peered down at her mother. Waves of long brown hair fell forward, her brow furrowed in trepidation. Claire inhaled a breath of patience—space, before deciding her course of action. Considering that Simone’s direct approach didn’t realize success, perhaps a stealth attack of reason would do the trick. She gathered her daughter in her sights, folded her hands on top of the table and began quietly, “Rebecca, I know the idea of studying art inParisis a heady one for you. It was for me, too.” She could feel the patter of her pulse in her throat. “But the reality of living abroad is something entirely different. You’ve already been accepted to Rhode Island School of Design. It’s close to home, it’s a top-notch university where you can study the elements of design and color. Which is what you want, isn’t it? Isn’t that what you’ve been working for all these years, your internships, your job at Macy’s? Besides,” she continued, without waiting for a response, “you don’t want to waste a precious year of your life trying to get accepted into the University of Paris after all the hard work you put in for the application to Rhode Island. It wouldn’t make sense. And they might not even—”
“I’ve already been accepted.”
Claire’s pulse catapulted through her chest wall. “What?”
“I’ve already been accepted,” she murmured, lowering her eyes.
Already been accepted? But how? When? The questions kept coming, but her voice escaped her. Black clouds crowded her vision, her stomach turned. This couldn’t be happening.
“Rebecca.” Simone took charge of the interrogation. She turned and squared off with Claire’s daughter. “How did you manage to do that without your parent’s knowledge?”
Rebecca cast a reluctant gaze toward her friend’s mother and revealed, “I requested an application last year and completed it on my own.” She shot a wary glance to her mother as she continued, “I submitted it last semester and was accepted.”
“You what?” Claire’s mouth went dry.
“Without a parent’s signature?” Simone asked.
“It isn’t required.” Her gaze darted between the two. I’m eighteen.”
Her child had gone behind her back? This was too much. It had to be a dream. Claire’s thoughts swerved to her husband. This would kill Jim. Rebecca was his baby, his little girl. To learn she had hidden her intentions, basically lied to him? Black twinkles started popping within her vision. Oh my God…
“I didn’t want you to worry,” Rebecca said quickly, as though staving off the assault. “I knew you’d be upset if I didn’t get in, so I waited to see if I could and then I wanted to surprise you.” She tried to smile, to rally support from Mariah and Simone, but the effort fell short of its mark. She expelled a sigh. “I thought you’d be happy.”
Upset? Surprise me? Happy? The irony cut Claire’s heart in two as tears scorched a glaze over her eyes. She was more upset over the fact that Rebecca had been accepted than if she had not! Paris? Familiar streets and cafés zipped through her mind. Striped awnings, black metal lampposts, sodden gray buildings, stone trim ornately carved. The banks along theSeine below, the slow boats at sunset, the tree-lined Champs-Élysées. Claire brought hand to her brow, sinking forehead into her palm. She needed that glass of water of now.
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Sorry. Her daughter planned on moving abroad, worlds away from Boston, their home in Newton, the idyllic suburb where lawns connected neighbors, sidewalks courted children. It was their life, her entire existence and Rebecca was sorry?
Because she was moving toParis.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Rebecca said nervously, the sentiment quickly swallowed by the hush in the room. It seemed no one wanted to make a move. No one wanted to voice a protest, or support. No one wanted to infer her next step. It was Claire’s turn, Claire’s choice.
Continuing to digest the shock of her daughter’s revelation, Claire took heart at her daughter’s pleading tone. It meant there was room for negotiation. It meant she might be able to convince her otherwise. It meant there might be a chance she would stay. Slowly, she lifted her to face to her daughter, where innocence mingled with distress in the soft almond-shaped eyes of her father, in lashes long and youthful, a complexion clear and pink. The face of a child, a girl. Granted a girl of eighteen, but Rebecca’s was still guileless and fresh to life. She didn’t know what she didn’t know and it was a mother’s job to teach her. “It’s okay,” Claire pretended, giving herself room to think. “The idea just came as a shock to me. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
So long asParisremained an idea and not actuality.