I'm working on a story to pitch to a larger publisher. I would love your input on the beginning.
Going home after ten years of avoiding Irwin, Ga. like the plague was something Mindy Talbot had not looked forward to with joyful anticipation. She especially didn’t want to run the risk of running into her old high school flame, Oliver Emory Story IV, or Ollie to her. It wasn’t that they left their high school relationship on bad terms; they—or rather she— just left it.
Ollie went off to a University the summer after graduation; she attended a local community college. The eventual encounter with the current mayor was unavoidable. In a town of fewer than four thousand people, news of the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who married the Atlanta millionaire, now divorced, penniless and alone returning home to her widowed mother was bound to make the front page of the Irwin Gazette.
She set her suitcases on the wooden porch of the farmhouse. Mindy rubbed her hand, naked of her five-carat diamond, over her white-blonde hair. Dark brown eyes took in the new paint, the expensive rocking chairs and tables, the giant ferns and deep, down inside she resented every bit of it. Barely recognizable from the house she remembered. Originally built in 1916, the house from her memories was ragged, falling apart—dilapidated even. Her father, a hard working man with a drinking problem, inherited the house from his father but drank any money he might have used in fixing it up.
It was William, her ex-husband, who wooed Mindy by writing a check with too many zeroes made out to her mother when her father dropped dead of a heart attack, enough to cover the fixing up of the house and set her widowed up for a long time. Just another calculated move on William’s part to manipulate yet another situation. And she fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Mindy filled her chest with deep breaths as she raised her closed fist to knock on the glass door. Before contact was made, a slightly shorter, thinner version of herself appeared around the corner, arms wide open. “Mindy! My darling girl, it’s so good to see you! Come in, come in! We’ve been waiting.”
Mindy’s mouth hung open, speechless. Never had Mindy ever received such a warm welcome from Priscilla Drake. It wasn’t that her mother didn’t love her; she loved Mindy in the way she was taught by her mother. Priscilla hovered, gave unsolicited advice, and fussed over her like a prized possession. But open affection was not part of her calling card. Her father, on the other hand, drunk or sober, showered her with terms of endearment, but her mother kept an arm’s distance.
A chill sent goosebumps up and down Mindy’s arm. It was then that the word, we, hit her consciousness.
“You remember Oliver, don’t you?” She gestured to the figure poised in the recliner, apparently caught surprised by her appearance. “Well, Mayor Story now.”
It was a ridiculous question, one that bounced off each rust-colored wall. The tall gentleman dressed in a suit and tie stood with hands holding a cup of steaming coffee or tea; she wasn’t sure which. His auburn hair was still thick, cut in a conservative style fitting his position. Graying at the temples and slight lines around the eyes had aged him, but otherwise, he looked the same. He regained his composure quicker than she did and set his cup on the coaster beside him.
Her heart thumped in her chest as he took two steps towards her. His voice was husky, just above a whisper. “Mindy.” His handshake was firm, and she shuddered at his touch, just as she had always done as a girl.
Quickly, she withdrew it and allowed it to hang by her side, although she found herself stretching her fingers in and out to overcome the once familiar tingles. She wasn’t a girl anymore and was determined to act with some dignity, even if her divorce left her feeling as if she’d been turned inside out. “Ollie.”
Her mother’s southern drawl interrupted, “Mindy, darlin’, you can’t call the Mayor by a childhood nickname.”
Mindy found herself amused, a small smile turning up the corner of her mouth as she watched Ollie’s face turn three shades of red. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Pardon me, Mrs. Drake, but Mindy can call me anything she wants to. We’re old friends, aren’t we, Mindy?”
His posture was ramrod straight showing off his 6 foot 2-inch height to its fullest, but his voice was unsure, questioning whether they might be friends after all this time.
Mindy again noticed the slight lines around his eyes and mouth. Ollie was the picture of old southern charm, but he did look tired. His vivid blue eyes dulled from the way the way they twinkled a decade ago. “It’s been a while, Ollie, but I’d always like to think of us as friends.”
“Well, of course, y’all are friends! You went to school together your whole lives, dated for how long?”
“Four years,” Ollie answered the question with firm clarity.
Her mother continued rambling. “Went to youth group together, camps, all sorts of stuff.” Her manicured hands were waving and motioning within the three-foot perimeter of space around her.
Ollie cleared his throat and turned to her mother. “I’ll leave you two to catch up, Ms. Priscilla. Thank you for asking me over for coffee.” He turned to Mindy, and his voice dropped to a whisper, “It was good to see you again, Mindy. It’s been way too long.”
It was then that Priscilla grabbed Ollie by the arm, and then withdrew as if surprised by her boldness. Both Mindy and Ollie stared at her distressed face. “Wait a minute, Mayor. I’ve got some things to take care of, and I’d like you to show Mindy the town. It’s changed so much. And Mindy would like to see the school. Wouldn’t you, darlin’? You know, since the divorce—” her voice dropped and she looked around as if someone might hear her, “Mindy has to find a job. With her teaching degree, I’m sure she’ll have no problem whatsoever.”
Mindy was horrified as her mother pushed them out the door together onto the front porch and slammed the door behind them. “What in the name of all—”
A low rumble of a laugh escaped Ollie’s throat as he looked at her with amusement. “Your mother hasn’t changed a bit, Mindy.”
Mindy slowly turned and looked into the face of the man whose name she once doodled all over notebooks. “No, she hasn’t.”
Ollie looked away and stared at the empty field between her mother’s house and the next home.
His gaze returned to her as he said, “Yes, well, outward appearances would judge you haven’t either. Although, I think I speak for both of us when I say looks can be deceiving, can’t they?”
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.