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Archive for April, 2020

Tatia’s Tattoo – Chapter 14 – A New Identity. Read it here!

As Eric took everything from her, even her name, she learned that compliance was the only way to survive.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 14. Chapter 15 will be posted on Sunday.

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CHAPTER 14: A NEW IDENTITY

The next time Tatia saw Eric after the beating, he was attentive and as sweet to her as if nothing had happened. First, he took her to the mall where he bought her a pair of high-heeled, knee-high boots and a sassy mini dress. Then, they visited the cosmetics department at one of the anchor stores where he seemed to know several of the girls behind the counter.

“Hi, Eric,” cooed a gorgeous redhead named Kitty. “What can I do for you today?” she asked suggestively.

“Kitty, this is Tatia. It’s time to get rid of the little girl look and go with something more sophisticated,” he explained. “She also has a new outfit. I’d appreciate it if you’d show her to one of your dressing rooms where she can change. I’ll be back in thirty minutes to pick her up.” With that, he spun on his heels and walked out, leaving Tatia standing alone in the middle of the aisle looking confused.

“Don’t worry, honey,” said Kitty. “You’re in expert hands. Have a seat on that stool while I pull a few samples together.”

For the next few minutes, Kitty skillfully applied a light-weight foundation, translucent powder, blush, and a staggering array of eye make-up. Some of the brushes tickled, and Tatia thought again of the butterfly Jesse had painted on her cheek a few short months ago. She pushed the thought away, though, as Kitty looked at her curiously and dabbed a tear away from the corner of her eye.

At each step, Kitty explained what she was doing so Tatia would be able to duplicate the look on her own later. When she was satisfied with the results, she released Tatia’s blonde curls from the ponytail she wore and fluffed them with her hands until they fell softly around her face. She surveyed her work and smiled.

“Good! Now, let’s go get you dressed.”

When Eric returned a few minutes later, he whistled appreciatively and said, “Now that’s what I’m talking about. Thanks, Kitty. Put it on my bill.”

“Don’t worry,” she grinned. “I will.”

Tatia followed him through the mall and out to the parking lot, glancing in the windows at a reflection she hardly recognized.

“Thanks for the new look, Eric,” she said as she climbed into the car.

“You’ll earn it,” he said without looking at her.

Yeah, that’s what I figured, she thought to herself.

Instead of driving straight to the motel, he pulled into an old strip center and stopped in front of a narrow establishment with a neon sign that said “Coffee Shop” in the window. She followed him in and was surprised at the trendy-looking interior. There were three small tables and a comfortable seating area in the corner by the window. A well-equipped serving bar was tucked into the back corner, and the tantalizing aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans filled the air.

“Hi, Eric,” greeted the barista behind the counter. “What’ll it be?”

“A double espresso for me and a decaf mocha for the lady – as soon as she returns from the ladies’ room.”

“Coming right up, Eric. Miss, the restroom is just past the bar on the right. Ignore the sign on the left stall and use that one.”

Tatia followed instructions without question, assuming she was about to pay for her afternoon at the mall. She found the restroom and walked in, expecting to find a client waiting for her. Instead, the room was unoccupied. The left stall sported an out-of-order sign, so Tatia opened the door and peeked in. As she stepped inside, she heard a buzzer sound somewhere behind the side wall, and the wall swung away, revealing a hidden room.

“You must be Tatia,” said a voice from the darkness in the corner. “Come on in and have a seat.”

She wasn’t sure what she was stepping into, but she did as she was told and sat down on the small stool that was a few feet in front of what looked like a camera. The voice and the man who owned it stepped behind what really was a camera, made a few adjustments, and said “Smile.” She smiled and was momentarily blinded by a flash. “Okay. That’ll do. Go enjoy your coffee, and I’ll have this out in a few minutes.”

Totally confused, she retraced her steps into the coffee shop and made her way toward the seating area in the corner. Eric was sitting on a latte-colored leather sofa, talking with a distinguished looking older man who was in a matching chair that was set at a right angle to the sofa. The older man rose as she approached, and she smiled, wondering if this was her next client.

“Tatia,” said Eric, “this is Joseph. Joseph, Tatia.”

“Hello, Joseph.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tatia.”

Eric patted the sofa next to him. “Have a seat,” he said. “Have you ever had a decaf mocha?”

“No.”

He picked up a steaming cup from the table and handed it to her. “Let me know what you think.”

She sipped the chocolaty liquid and smiled. “It’s delicious. Thanks, Eric.”

He patted her on the leg in a proprietary manner. “Enjoy,” he said as he resumed his chat with the man who was sitting in the chair beside him.

Tatia could tell they were talking business, so she tried to shut them out. She occupied herself with her new favorite drink and with enjoying a few more minutes without having to sell her body.

She had just finished her mocha and was wondering what was next when the barista walked out to the table. “Excuse me, Miss. I believe you dropped this in the restroom.” He held out a small laminated card, and Tatia took it from him.

“Thanks,” she said as she looked down and saw a picture of herself staring back at her. She realized she was holding a Texas driver’s license that said her name was Kaitlyn Golden and that she was nineteen years old. She looked at Eric with a question in her eyes.

He glanced at her and said, “Put that in your purse and try not to be so careless with it.”

“Sure, Eric.”

“Come on. Play time’s over,” he said, standing and shaking hands with Joseph. She followed Eric to the car, thinking about the difference between this afternoon and the last time she had been with him. She was learning that the more money she made for him and the more compliant she was, the better he would treat her. She knew there was no way out, at least in the foreseeable future, so she made up her mind to smile and pretend to welcome each new customer.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3| Chapter 4|Chapter 5 |Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 |Chapter 11| Chapter 12 | Chapter 13

Blessings,

Linda

Cabin Fever | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 28, 2020:

cabin feverDisturbing dreams have been a part of my sleep patterns off and on for most of my life. They’re not usually the scary kind with ghosts and monsters chasing me, but more of the kind that are supposed to indicate worry about being unprepared for something. I used to dream I went to school or to work without the proper amount of clothing, and sometimes I dreamed I was trying to run, but it felt as if I was moving through Jello. My sleeping activity has slowed down a bit since I retired, but I still have a strange night from time to time. Friday morning I woke up after spending what felt like a life time dreaming about being in a concentration camp.

“David,” I said at breakfast, “I think I’m really getting cabin fever.”

I went on to tell him a little bit about my dream, but by then it was fading, so I couldn’t give him much detail. As I finished eating, I wondered what other symptoms of cabin fever I might be exhibiting. The only thing I could think of is that I tend to check supplies often in anticipation of the next curbside pickup order. (more…)

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 13 Here!

Tatia’s nightmare worsens as Eric treats her like the slave she has become and marks her as his property.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 13. Chapter 14 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 13: LONG SLEEVES

Tatia survived the rest of the weekend and avoided Josie’s questions and most of her regular chores by saying she had a stomach virus. When Monday rolled around, she wished for school so she could avoid closer scrutiny, but she offered to take the kids to the park instead, knowing that Josie would stay home. She dragged herself behind the noisy herd, making half-hearted attempts to keep the little ones out of the road. She drifted through the next hour or so, pushing swings, spotting budding gymnasts, and examining scraped knees but feeling more isolated and out of place than ever. When the complaints about being tired, thirsty, or hungry began, she asked the next oldest foster sibling if she would take the kids home.

“While you do what?” snapped Macy who was always spoiling for a fight. “Go shopping or sneak off to the DQ by yourself?”

Tatia sighed, lacking the energy to think of a smart comeback. “No, Macy. I want to go to the library and check out a book. You can come with me and bring all of them along if you like.”

Macy wrinkled her nose as she always did at any mention of books. “No thanks! Come on kids. Our resident genius is going to the library, and we’re going home for a delicious lunch of mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

When Tatia began her solitary walk toward the library, she felt a small sense of relief until she saw Eric’s car parked in front of it. She tried to walk past as if she didn’t see him, but he opened his door, stood up, and leaned against the car as if nothing had happened.

“Hi, gorgeous!” he called.

“Hi, Eric,” she said softly, looking at him in spite of herself. Why did he have to be so good looking!

“I was passing through and saw you with the kids. I was hoping you’d stop by here. Have you got time to go for an ice cream?”

She hesitated for a moment, but the need to be with someone with whom she didn’t have to put on a front was too strong.

“Sure,” she sighed. “Let me run in and grab a book so I don’t have to answer questions when I get home.”

She came out a few minutes later with two books under her arm and climbed into the car. He began chatting as soon as she had fastened her seat belt and kept up a steady stream of chatter until their ice cream was almost gone and they were parked on an isolated side road on the way to her house. He popped the last bite of cone into his mouth and wiped his hands on a napkin. Then, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. He placed it on Tatia’s lap while she scraped the last bits of cookies and cream off the bottom of her cup.

“What’s that for?” she asked, licking her spoon.

“I forgot to give it to you the other night. My friend enjoyed himself so much he gave me a little extra for you. Buy yourself something special.”

Tatia looked at the bill as if it were something vile. “I don’t want it,” she said.

“Why not?” he asked. “Are you too good to take money for making somebody feel good?”

“It’s not that, Eric. You said I wouldn’t have to do it ever again. I just want to forget that it ever happened.”

“Did I say that? Well, that was before I knew how good you would be and how much my friend would like you. Do you know how much he liked you?” he asked, leaning close and whispering in her ear. “He liked you so much he wants to see you again tomorrow night.”

“No, Eric!” she cried out in horror, turning to look at him. She saw the anger flash in his eyes, and fear flared in her stomach.

“Don’t you tell me no,” he snarled. He put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her roughly toward him until they were almost nose to nose. He slid his hand slowly from her shoulder toward her neck and began to squeeze her trapezius muscle gently. “You’re my girl now, and my girls do what I tell them when I tell them. Understand?” She nodded, and her eyes began to water as he gradually increased the pressure. “I don’t want to have to treat you like I do Cindy, and I sure don’t want to tell Josie and your social worker what you were doing Saturday night when you were supposed to be at a birthday party.”

“Eric, you’re hurting me!”

He gave her muscle one last painful twist before releasing his hold. “Now,” he said, with a predatory smile, “take your gift and put it in your pocket and be grateful I didn’t keep it. I’ll need you to meet me here at eleven o’clock tomorrow night. Josie and the rug rats should be asleep by then, so you can sneak out. I’ll have you back before they wake up, and you can sleep in Wednesday morning.”

Before the week was over, Tatia had met two more of Eric’s friends, and by the end of July, he had stopped calling them friends and had begun referring to them as clients. She was soon working two or three nights a week which wasn’t a problem since everyone was asleep before she slipped out. However, she was also working several hours on Saturday, so she had become adept at inventing excuses.

At first she was afraid Josie would question her about the mysterious new friends she met at the mall every week, but Tatia began using part of her tip money to pay Macy to watch the kids. Macy loved to shop, and as long as the money kept coming, she asked no questions – and as long as Tatia’s chores were done before she left, Josie didn’t seem to care either.

Tatia hated her new life, but she learned quickly not to express her feelings. One Saturday shortly before school started back, Eric dropped in between clients to see how she was doing, and she announced that she was going home and that she was not coming back.

“Oh, really!” he sneered as she turned her back on him and headed for the bathroom, intending to change out of her “working clothes” and back into her jeans and T-shirt. His fist hit her just below the shoulder blades, knocking the breath out of her and throwing her to the floor. Before she could recover, he removed the crocodile belt from the waist of his custom-tailored slacks and beat her with it until he could see the red welts across her back through the sheer fabric of her blouse. While she lay on the floor in a pool of tears and sweat, he slipped the belt back into place and made a big show of composing himself.

“Let’s get one thing straight. You are mine, and you will do whatever I tell you to do with whoever I tell you and whenever I tell you. Do you understand?”

When she didn’t respond, he grabbed her by the shoulder, flipped her over on her back, and leaned down so close she could smell the liquor on his breath. “I said, ‘Do you understand?’”

She nodded.

“And don’t get any ideas about running away from me. I found you once, and I know how to find you again. In fact, it may be time to make sure you know who you belong to.”

He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and hit Cindy’s speed dial. “Hey Cindy, make yourself useful. Tatia needs a little ointment on her back, so get over to her room and see what you can do. Contact her next client and send him to Cheri…I don’t care what she was planning. Now she’s planning to take care of another client. And when you get that set up, get hold of the Ink Guy and see if he can do a rush job this afternoon. Tell him there’s a big tip in it for him if he can be finished by six o’clock.”

He disconnected, slid the phone back into his pocket, and turned his attention back to Tatia who was now lying on her side with her eyes closed and her knees pulled up to her chest. He kicked the bottom of her foot to get her attention, and she looked up at him through swollen, bloodshot eyes.

“Now that we understand each other, I’m giving you the rest of the afternoon off. But I don’t want you to leave this room until I tell you to.”

“Okay,” she whispered.

“Cindy is coming in shortly to check on your back, and then a guy is coming in to give you a tattoo.”

“A tattoo?” her eyes widened. “But I don’t…” She stopped when she saw the anger in his eyes.

“That’s better. You’re learning.”

A light tap on the door drew his attention. “Yeah?”

“It’s me,” called Cindy.

“Well, what are you standing out there for?”

The door opened and Cindy came in carrying a small first aid kit. Even in the dim light, Tatia could see that her right eye was swollen and discolored and her jaw was somewhat puffy. Eric grabbed her by the back of the neck in what might have seemed like an affectionate grip except for the grimace on Cindy’s face.

“Now Cindy here is a slow learner,” he said, giving her a less than gentle shake, “aren’t you, Cindy?”

“Yes, Eric,” she said without looking at him.

“Okay,” he said, loosening his hold on Cindy. “Looks like we’re good here. You two have your instructions, and I have work to do.”

He slammed his way out the door, and Cindy knelt on the floor next to Tatia. “Honey, are you okay?”

In answer, Tatia began to sob quietly.

“Can you stand up?”

Tatia rolled over onto her hands and knees and then sat back on her heels. “I’m a little light headed.”

“That’s just the adrenaline. It’ll go away. Come on, hold onto my arm, and we’ll get you over to the bed.”

With a gentleness she had learned from experience, Cindy removed Tatia’s blouse and inspected the welts on her back. “The good news is he didn’t break the skin, so you won’t have to worry about your clothes sticking to you. You’re going to be bruised and sore, though, and it’s gonna be hard to wear a bra for a few days.”

She dumped the ice bucket into the sink and filled it the rest of the way with water, using a hand towel to make a cold compress. Tatia gasped when she laid it on her back.

“I know it’s cold, but it will keep the swelling down and numb the pain some. Lie still. I’m gonna run back to my room and get you one of my T-shirts to wear home. It’ll be more comfortable than that little skin-tight number you wore over here. Do you want me to get you a downer while I’m at it?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“Are you sure? You might need it when you get the tat. This guy is pretty good, but it still stings a lot.”

“I’ll bet it does, but I don’t like the way they make me feel.”

“Okay. I’ll be right back.”

Tatia lay still, trying not to think or feel until she heard the door open again. Cindy came in with a soda in one hand, a T-shirt draped over her arm, and a plastic grocery sack in the other hand. She set her open soda on the night stand and flopped down on the other side of the bed.

“Here’s a shirt for you,” she said, laying it on the pillow next to Tatia’s head. It was long-sleeved turquoise shirt with a sparkly appliqué of a butterfly on the front. Tatia was relieved to see it wasn’t one of her heavy metal shirts. Cindy continued as she emptied the grocery bag. “I brought a soda for you. I put a little something extra in mine, but I didn’t think you’d want that. I also brought chips and cookies. Since we have some time off, we might as well make a party of it, right?”

Tatia managed a wan smile and said, “Cindy, you’re a good friend.”

“Aw shucks,” Cindy teased, but Tatia could see she was pleased. “I think that cold pack has been on long enough. Let me smooth on a little topical ointment. I don’t know if it will help, but it won’t hurt. Then you can put on the shirt and join the party.”

A few minutes later, the two were sitting cross-legged on the bed giggling like the teenagers they were, sharing jokes and stories and trying to forget the reality of their lives for a few minutes. At one point, Tatia pushed the sleeves of her shirt up – again. It was too big to begin with, and she was used to wearing short sleeves or tank tops.

“Cindy,” she asked, “why do you always wear long sleeves?”

Cindy looked at her for a minute and then sighed. She slowly pulled up her sleeve to reveal her own mark of shame. Tears slid down Tatia’s cheeks as she reached out and touched the imbedded ink, not wanting to believe it was real.

“Cindy, why do we have to get tattoos?”

“Well, you know how they brand cows?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s kinda like that.”

The party was pretty much over after that. Cindy continued to sip her spiked soda, while Tatia scrubbed her face, put on her jeans, and put the rest of her belongings in her backpack. She wanted to be ready when Eric released her. She had just finished and sat down on the bed when there was a tap on the door. Cindy stood up and threw her empty can in the trash can.

“I’ll get it on my way out. I gotta get back to work.”

“I thought you had the afternoon off.”

“Yeah, I’m not seeing any clients, but I have money to account for and stuff like that.”

“Okay.” Tatia didn’t want her to go. She had felt almost normal for a little while. “Thanks for everything.”

Cindy stopped with her hand on the doorknob and looked back at Tatia. “Any time, kiddo.” She opened the door and spoke to the visitor on her way out. “Hi, you know what to do. Here’s what he wants,” she said, handing him a small slip of paper.

Tatia heard her steps fading as she walked away and down the stairs, and a large, muscular man stepped through the door. He had an equipment bag over his shoulder, a folding stool under one arm, and what looked like a wooden TV table under the other. She could see why he was called the Ink Guy. Every inch of visible skin was covered with a tattoo of some kind. In spite of the circumstances, she was fascinated with the variety of pictures that decorated his arms, chest, face, and even his bald head. “Hi,” she said in a small voice.

“Hello, Miss,” he replied in a gentle tone that surprised her. “You know why I’m here, right?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever had a tattoo?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well, try to relax and enjoy the experience. I’ve been on both sides of a tattoo machine – a lot – so I know what I’m doing. The design we’ll be doing today is simple, so it won’t take too long, and since there’s only one color, it’s a one-step process. We won’t have to come back and do any fill-in.”

Tatia couldn’t help but smile at his obviously practiced patter designed to put her at ease and distract her from the reality that he was about to mark her like the many slaves who had been marked before her. He set his table down beside the bed and slid his bag off his shoulder onto it. He pulled out a bottle and a hand towel and handed them to her. “This is antiseptic hand wash. Use it to wash both hands and all the way up to your elbows. And use my towel to dry off, not the one from the motel.”

She did as she was told, and when she came back in he was sitting on his stool beside the table, wiping down the surface with an antiseptic wipe. He looked up at her and smiled in a reassuring way. “Lie down on this side of the bed and get comfortable. I’m going to lay your arm on this little table, and I want you to be as relaxed as possible.”

“I’ll need to lie on my side. My back is…” she hesitated, looking for words to explain.

He looked at her with sadness and understanding. “You do whatever you need to do to get through this. I’m flexible.”

After she settled into a relatively comfortable position, she extended her arm onto the table, and he sprayed something on it that tingled a little bit. “I’ve sprayed your arm with a topical anesthetic that will ease some of the discomfort,” he said. “I’ll give it a few minutes to take effect, and then I’ll wipe it with some alcohol to further clean the area where I’ll be working. Now, close your eyes and think pleasant thoughts while I get my equipment ready, and then we’ll get started.”

She watched his face while he worked, trying to identify various tattoos and trying to understand the look of hurt she saw in his eyes. “I used to have a friend who liked tattoos.”

“Yeah?” he said, glancing up with a half smile. “What happened?”

“Oh, that was before, you know. I’ll probably never see him again.”

He stopped and looked into her eyes. “Miss, sometimes we do what we have to do to survive. We do what we’re told, when we’re told, and where we’re told. But they can’t take what’s inside us unless we let them. I sense a strong spirit in you. Don’t let them break that spirit.”

She continued to watch his face and examine his tattoos, carefully avoiding looking down at her arm. She never did know his name, but he did his job quickly and efficiently and with relatively little pain. When he was finished, he wiped it once more with alcohol, apologizing for the sting. He applied some over-the-counter triple antibiotic ointment and taped a sterile gauze pad over the new tattoo.

“This ointment will keep it from getting infected, and the gauze is just in case it seeps a little. You can remove it in twelve to eighteen hours and then apply this ointment a couple of times a day for the next week, just to be sure. If you do decide to put a new bandage on it, be sure the adhesive doesn’t touch the ink. As it heals, it may itch and peel a bit. Some moisturizing lotion might help. Any questions?”

She shook her head and took the tube of ointment he gave her. She pulled her sleeve down over the bandage, and she knew it would be a long time before she wore a tank top again.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1| Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4| Chapter 5 | Chapter 6| Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 |Chapter 11 |Chapter 12

Blessings,

Linda

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 12 Here!

Eric promised her love, but instead he emptied her of any shred of hope she had left and filled her with fear.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 12. Chapter 13 will be posted on Sunday.

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CHAPTER 12: AFTER THE PARTY

With the help of the pill Cindy had given her, and the ability she had developed through the years of disassociating her mind from reality, Tatia made it through the next half hour, but in spite of Eric’s reassurance, her life never went back to the way it was.

After her first client left, she took another hot shower and put on her jeans and pink T-shirt while crying for her lost childhood. She wiped the steam off the mirror and stared at the face that no longer looked familiar. The hair was still blonde, but the blue eyes looked flat, lifeless, and so very tired. She wanted nothing more than to go to sleep and wake up yesterday when she was eleven and innocent. Instead, she walked over to the corner, staying as far away from the bed as she could, and sat down in the single plastic chair next to a tiny table. Whatever Cindy had given her was making it hard for her to focus, so she crossed her arms on the table and laid her head down.

She didn’t know how long she stayed like that, but the next thing she knew, Eric was shaking her gently by the shoulder. “Tatia, wake up, honey. I have to get you home before Josie calls the cops.”

She was groggy and disoriented, but when she caught a glimpse of the rumpled bed, she recoiled, both from Eric’s touch and from the memory of what had happened. She jumped up and spun away from him, putting the chair between them. However, the sudden movement made her light-headed, and she clutched the back of the chair to keep from falling.

“Are you okay?” said Eric, reaching out a hand to steady her. Then, he put a finger under her chin and tilted her head up until he could look into her slightly dilated pupils. “Are you on something?”

“Just half a pill Cindy gave me,” she said, slurring slightly.

His eyes darkened in anger, and he struggled to keep his tone level. “Don’t ever take anything Cindy gives you. Do you hear me?” She nodded, her eyes wide with fear. “Good. I don’t need another druggy on my hands. Now, get your stuff, and let’s go.”

They rode in silence until they were three blocks from her house. He pulled over to the side of the road and turned to face her. “You did real good tonight, Tatia. My friend really liked you.”

She stared at her hands and remained silent. He slid his arm gently around her shoulders, pulled her to him, and kissed her hair. “I really am sorry that I hurt you before. I shouldn’t drink that much, especially when you look so good.” He kissed her temple. “Hey, beautiful, are you still my girl?”

She tried to resist, but she wanted to believe him. She nodded her head slowly and looked up at him, searching his eyes for the reassurance she so badly needed. He laid his free hand against her face and kissed her gently. “I love you, Tatia. You believe that, don’t you?”

She nodded and laid her head on his shoulder, surrendering what little was left of her will to his manipulation. He hugged her tightly to him as he checked his watch over her shoulder. He brushed another kiss against her hair and whispered, “I could sit here like this all night, but you’d better get on home.”

“Okay,” she said, pulling away and avoiding his eyes. She opened the door and stood on the side of the road, watching while he made a quick u-turn, flashed a smile, and sped away, leaving her more empty and alone than she had been since her mama died.

# # #

Want to read more? Buy the complete book on Amazon in either digital or paperback.

Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8| Chapter 9 | Chapter 10| Chapter 11

Blessings,

Linda

Hidden Assets | by Linda Brendle

Published in the Rains County Leader on April 21, 2020:

Grocery rouletteTwo weeks ago I wrote about Grocery Roulette, also known as curbside pickup. First, there is a disclaimer that items that were available when the order was placed may not be available when the order is filled. And second, shoppers are encouraged to allow substitutions meaning, if what you ordered isn’t available, your personal shopper can choose something close. It sounded pretty much like a game of chance to me.

My first order went pretty well. Eight items were missing altogether, but the few substitutions were acceptable. And I got a bonus! When I was putting my groceries away, I found a box of frosted flakes. I thought it was a substitute for the cereal I had ordered, but when I pulled out a bag of bagels, I was totally confused because I hadn’t ordered any kind of bread. That was when I realized I had a bag from someone else’s order. (more…)

Tatia’s Tattoo – Read Chapter 11 Here!

Tatia’s childhood ends on her 12th birthday as she becomes another sad statistic.

For the past few weeks I have been sharing sample chapters of Tatia’s Tattoo. Links to previous chapters are at the end of this post. Following is Chapter 11. Chapter 12 will be posted on Thursday.

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CHAPTER 11: STATISTICS

Eric stomped over to the connecting door and flung it open. “Cindy,” he yelled, “Get in here!”

“I’m with a client!”

“Well, hurry it up,” he replied as he slammed the door.

Three minutes later, Cindy came through the door. She didn’t look happy. “What was that all about? Thanks to the interruption, he didn’t even leave a tip.”

Eric grabbed the front of her robe and pulled her up close enough for her to smell what he had for dinner. “Watch your mouth! You can be replaced, you know.”

“Okay, okay. I’m just trying to keep the customers happy. What did you need anyway?”

“I need you to get Tatia ready for her nine o’clock. She’s in the bathroom bawling – and she’ll need something to wear.”

Cindy scanned the room quickly, not missing the rumpled, stained sheets and the torn dress lying on the floor. “Been sampling the merchandise, huh?” she smirked, scurrying back to her room before he could swing the fist he raised threateningly.

“One day you’ll push me too far!” he yelled as he kicked a small silver sandal across the floor and stormed out the door into the parking lot.

Cindy peeked back into the room a minute later and, seeing that the coast was clear, she came in carrying her make-up bag and a robin’s-egg-blue baby-doll nightie. She knocked gently on the bathroom door and called out quietly.

“Hey, honey. It’s me – Cindy. Can I come in?”

The door opened slowly, and Tatia, sobbing and wrapped in a towel, threw herself into Cindy’s arms. “Oh, Cindy. Why did he do that to me? I thought he cared about me. And when he says I have to be nice to his friend, he doesn’t mean…that, does he? I wish I was dead!”

Cindy, definitely not the motherly type, patted Tatia’s back awkwardly, making what she hoped were soothing, calming sounds. “Don’t cry, baby. He’s just like that sometimes, especially when he drinks. His friend won’t be so bad. He’s gettin’ old, and he’ll be done and gone before you know it.”

Her reassurances didn’t help. Tatia drew back in horror. “NO! I won’t do it. He can’t make me.”

“Honey, you don’t want to cross him. He can get real nasty when he doesn’t get what he wants.” She had moved closer to Tatia and encouraged her sit down on the toilet seat. While she dabbed at Tatia’s smeared make-up, her robe fell open revealing a huge bruise on her thigh. Tatia reached out a tentative finger and touched the purplish mark that looked strangely like a hand.

“Did he do that to you?”

“Yeah, but I probably deserved it. I can get pretty mouthy in case you hadn’t already noticed.”

The color drained out of Tatia’s face as her eyes fell on the sheer nightie and she realized the hopelessness of her situation. “Do I have to wear that?”

“Honey, I know it’s not as fancy as that little black number, but it will look sensational on you – much better than it does on me. The blue will really bring out your eyes. Now slip it on and then I’ll see if I can straighten your hair a bit.”

Tatia did as she was told, moving mechanically and keeping her back to the mirror. At the same time, Cindy unwrapped one of the plastic glasses on the bathroom counter and filled it with water. She pulled a small bottle out of her pocket and shook a tiny pill into her hand. She broke it in half, popped half of it in her mouth and held the other half out to Tatia along with the water.

“Here ya’ go. This is just a little something to take the edge off.” Tatia started to object, but Cindy shushed her and continued. “It’s just a mild sedative, nothing that’s gonna hurt you. It’ll just help you deal with everything. It’s a lot for a kid your age. How old are you anyway?”

Tatia took the pill and washed it down with a swallow of water. “Twelve. Today’s my birthday,” Tatia said almost too quietly for Cindy to hear.

Cindy’s face flushed, first with anger and then with tears that threatened to spill over her carefully-lined lids. Then, she visibly pulled her emotional armor back in place and produced a small tube from the other pocket.

“Here, take this. Rub it around, you know, down there. It’ll kind of numb that area so it doesn’t hurt so much. All the new girls use it.”

“All the girls?” Tatia asked, eyes wide with disbelief. “You mean there are more?”

“Oh, yeah! Eric has a stable of a couple dozen fillies. You’re the finest one he’s brought in so far, though.” She knew she’d said too much when Tatia’s eyes became glistening pools, putting her freshly applied make-up at risk. “Now, now, don’t you worry yourself about any of that. Like I said, I let my mouth run away with me sometimes. Just take a deep breath and think how happy Eric will be with you after his friend leaves.”

Cindy went over to the bed and began straightening the disheveled sheets.

“Cindy?”

“Yeah, honey.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

Cindy made a strange noise – something between a sob and a laugh. “Don’t worry about that. He’ll know, and he’ll tell you what he wants you to do. And don’t be afraid of this one. He’s pretty easy to please.”

A soft knock at the door made both girls freeze in place, looking into each other’s faces. Cindy saw the terror in Tatia’s eyes, so she winked and said, “Relax and enjoy the ride. You look stunning, and you’ll be amazed at the power you have. See ya’ later.” Before Tatia could reply, Cindy scooted through the connecting door and closed it quietly behind her.

As that door closed, the front door opened a few inches, and a soft voice said, “May I come in?”

Tatia relaxed a little bit when she heard Eric’s voice, but she tensed and stared at the floor as he approached her. She flinched slightly as he reached out and put his index finger under her chin.

“Tatia?” he said tentatively.

He sounded like the Eric she thought she knew, so she allowed him to lift her face until she was looking into his eyes. “I am so sorry I hurt you before. The last thing I want to do is see you unhappy or in pain. You believe that, don’t you?”

She wanted to lash out at him, demanding that he take her home immediately, but she remembered the fear in Cindy’s eyes and the bruise on her leg. There was also a part of her that wanted to believe him, to go back to the way they were yesterday, so she nodded her head and let him draw her into a tender embrace. She laid her head on his chest and felt the vibrations of his voice as he continued to talk.

“This is hard for me, too, you know. I can hardly stand the thought of you with another man, and if there was any other way, I’d take it. But after he’s gone, things will go back to the way they were. Okay?”

She nodded, and he lifted her face again, stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity, and brushed her lips lightly with his. The moment was exactly the birthday kiss she had imagined, except that she was in a borrowed nightie instead of her beautiful new dress, and she was about to become one more statistic in the sex-trafficking industry in a small Texas town.

# # #

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Preface and Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10

Blessings,

Linda

Mom’s Long Goodbye – Prologue & Chapter 1

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PROLOGUE

You Say Goodbye, but You Don’t Go Away

Genesis 24:56 (KJV) And he said unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

Some people have a hard time saying goodbye. There are the false-start types. When it’s time to leave, they say, “I’d better get on home now,” but they stand in the doorway, keys in hand, and talk for another fifteen minutes. Sometimes, it takes them several more attempts before they actually make it out the door.

There are also the revolving-door types. They make it out the door quickly enough, but they pop back in several times to retrieve something they forgot or to tell you one more thing. I tend toward the second type, and I have a friend who finds it amusing. On my second or third round trip back, she smiles knowingly and says, “You say goodbye, but you don’t go away.”

There’s another type of person who takes a long time to say goodbye. It’s not a loveable personality trait that makes them linger in the doorway to tell you just one more thing or a quirky forgetfulness that makes it difficult to leave. Instead, it’s tangled knots of nerves in their brain that become encrusted with plaque and steal them away from their loved ones a piece at a time. Mom was one of those people. She had Alzheimer’s, and it took her fifteen years to say goodbye.

CHAPTER 1

Fear and the Red Photo Album

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

 Mom was afraid for a long time. I found evidence of her fear in an old, red photo album, the kind with a thick cardboard cover bound with braided cord. It had a rose embossed on the front, and I sat on the floor, wondering what forgotten pictures were inside. Instead of pictures, there were articles. Page after page of neatly clipped and mounted stories about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Stories of symptoms, stories of promising theories, stories with more questions than answers, stories of Mom’s first steps into the darkness.

#

Mom was always a fearful person, especially when she was alone. Dad worked nights several times during their seventy-year marriage. She sometimes told the story of being a young bride, left alone in an isolated country house while her groom worked at the ice house every night. One evening, she was awakened from a restless sleep by a terrible noise. She later described it as sounding like someone was trying to get into the house straight through the wall of her bedroom. She had no phone and no close neighbors, so she huddled in the center of the bed, trembling with fear and wondering how long she had left to live.

The noise continued for a while, but when the walls didn’t splinter and the threat didn’t seem to increase, she screwed up her courage and crept outside to investigate. She slipped down the front steps and peeked around the corner, and there, she saw it. An old milk cow was chewing on the grass that grew up beside the pier and beam foundation that supported the house. She laughed about it after the fact, but she and I had a replay of sorts years later when I was in my early teens.

We lived in the city by then, and Dad still worked nights, this time at the post office. My older brother, Jim, was away at college, so Mom and I were on our own. I was sound asleep when I was awakened by an urgent whisper.

“Linda! Come in here. Somebody’s trying to get in the window.”

I jumped up and ran into her room. She was sitting up in bed, her back pressed against the headboard with the covers drawn up to her chin.

“There,” she said, pointing to the window beside her pillow. “Somebody was scratching on the screen.”

I sat on the side of the bed for a minute, staring at the window. The closed window shade was backlit by a full moon and gave off an eerie glow. Suddenly, a shadow passed across the window, and I scooted under the covers and into Mom’s arms. We sat that way for a few minutes, but when there was no further movement or sound, curiosity overcame fear, and I slid out of bed and tiptoed to the window. I pulled the shade away just far enough to peek out.

“I don’t see anything. I’m going to call Dad.”

Without turning on a light, I went to the phone that sat in its recessed nook in the hallway wall. All the modern houses had them. Like a blind person reading Braille, I slid my fingers over the dial, counted the holes, and dialed the number.

“Dad, I think somebody’s trying to get in. Something was scratching on the screen in your bedroom, and I saw a shadow on the shade.”

“Did you look out?”

“Yes, I peeped out and couldn’t see anyone.”

“Okay. Stay away from the window. I’m going to call the police.” “Okay.”

Within minutes, we heard a car pull up in front of the house and saw the beams of flashlights as Mesquite’s finest investigated. Then, we heard a knock on the door.

“We didn’t find anything, Ma’am, but we’ll have a patrol car drive by here frequently for the rest of the night.”

When Dad got home the next morning, he found us still huddled together under the covers. He immediately went out to investigate; he was laughing when he came back inside.

“I didn’t find any footprints or anything, but I did find some evidence. There were rat droppings on the window sill.”

We took a bit of kidding about being afraid of the dark, but Mom wasn’t just afraid of things that go bump in the night. She was afraid in the daylight, too. She was afraid of making a mistake, afraid of looking foolish in front of others, of being embarrassed, of being looked down on.

She had a beautiful voice and helped lead the singing in her tiny, country church when she was a teenager. That was before air conditioning, when church windows actually opened and congregations cooled themselves with cardboard fans provided by the local funeral home. One Sunday morning, a fly flew in an open window  and straight into Mom’s mouth as she sang. She was so embarrassed she became reluctant  to lead the singing. Not long after that, she learned that the former song leader had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Fearful that his singing might have contributed to his illness, she retired from her leadership position and rejoined the congregation.

She had other musical talents, too. She learned to play the guitar by watching her uncles when the kinfolks gathered for a songfest, and she also played the piano by ear. We had an old player piano we inherited from one relative or another. The player mechanics had been removed, Dad had refinished it, and Mom spent many happy hours playing honky-tonk tunes and old gospel favorites. When we moved from a small West Texas town into the suburbs of Dallas, though, she feared that city folks would look down on her country origins, so she did her best to cover them up. Her guitar was relegated to the back of her closet, and the piano was made available for me to practice the Old Masters favored by my piano teacher.

Mom also feared illness and physical infirmities of all kinds. She was born with yellow jaundice, as it was known in the country, and she was sickly as a child. As an adult, she endured a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, a hysterectomy, three spinal fusions, and the removal of a deformed kidney, so she saved her best nightgowns for her next trip to the hospital. She feared falling victim to any epidemic or new disease that made the rounds of the morning talk shows. In spite of her fear, or maybe because of it, she often developed the symptoms of those diseases. What she feared most, though, was Alzheimer’s. I didn’t realize how much until I found that old photo album. Mom and Dad lived with us for six years before they went into assisted living. By that time, neither of them was capable of making the decisions necessary in downsizing. I went through their personal belongings and made piles: things to pack, things to store, things to donate, things to throw away. I found trash, and I found treasures—and I found the photo album in the bottom of one of Mom’s dresser drawers. I wonder how long she lived alone with her fear before the rest of us suspected.

Blessings,

Linda

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