Many apologies for the long lapse in communications, but I've been diligently working on The Pretenders. I'd hoped to finish in time to enter it into the 2018 RITA contest, but since the contest opens next week and The Pretenders is about fifty or so pages short of being published, it looks like a no-go for the RITA contest this time around. That being said, my expectation to publish The Pretenders in late 2018 has now moved to January 2019. I hate to push it back a month, but I'd rather do that and put out my best writing instead of rush and risk releasing material that isn't up to par.
But wait! As a bit of a consolation prize to those readers out there patiently waiting on my newest release, I'm going to post the prologue as part of this blog entry. Hooray! So read on and I hope you enjoy! I'll also post the prologue over on the individual book page for The Pretenders.
Prologue: “Girl Meets Boy”
“Don’t be scared,” Ivy crooned. “I won’t hurt you.”
Her softly spoken assurance lured the ball of matted white fur another cautious inch closer. She could almost touch it now. Maintaining the patient crouch she’d held for the past six minutes, Ivy Porter cheerfully patted her knees again, this latest invitation finally inspiring the bashful puppy to scuttle within reach.
“That’s it. Oh, yes, that’s an awfully good pup.”
A victorious smile spread across the eight-year-old’s face the moment her fingers sank into the greasy fur. The scruffy animal hesitantly wagged its tail, inspiring Ivy’s soft touch to develop into hardier strokes and pats, with the occasional joyous nuzzle a foregone conclusion. The unpleasant odors of urine and rancid meat filled her nostrils every time she burrowed her face into its coat for a cuddle, but the little girl didn’t care. The spindly tail picked up speed, and it wasn’t long before the rump it was attached to was shaking back and forth with remarkable enthusiasm.
She now had something to love.
“Hey!” An outraged voice punctured the joyous moment. “That there’s my dog! Take your thieving hands off him!”
The startled puppy twisted and scampered away. Its clumsy gait ended at the far end of the alleyway where an equally grubby boy anxiously shifted from foot to foot. Had they recently rolled around together in the same pile of stinky trash? He scooped the animal possessively into his thin arms and sharply ordered, “Get your own dog and leave mine alone!” That said, he dashed away, a warning glare over one shoulder his parting shot.
Ivy watched the boy and his dog disappear through the broken window of a dilapidated factory. The tips of her fingers still tingled with the warm, coarse feel of the puppy’s fur. It did no good to pine for things that could never be, or so Grammy had always said; her hand quickly squeezed into a small fist to squash the glorious sensation.
“I’m sorry, but it’s just you and me again, Sarah,” she said somberly, reaching into the pocket of her grimy pinafore and withdrawing a stuffed cotton doll. Sarah’s crosswheel button eyes stared back vacantly, the stitched mouth remained fixed in its perpetual smile.
How Ivy envied Sarah and her perpetual smile.
“Tut-tut, don’t cry.” She stroked the yarn hair in comfort. A rat scurried past, causing her to gasp and shrink back. She’d awakened last night screaming, one of the city’s plentiful rodents gnawing on her leg just like she used to gnaw on Grammy’s fried chicken drumsticks. “Big girls don’t cry, and we’re both big girls now.” Glancing apprehensively up and down the deserted alleyway, she hugged Sarah to her thin chest. “We’re gonna be fine. You’ll see.”
Straightening, Ivy took a tentative step toward the street, but she couldn’t prevent a wistful glance over her shoulder. She’d liked that dog. It was a shame it had to belong to someone else.
Her shoulders slumped miserably as she neared the noisy, congested thoroughfare. She dreaded walking among all those people again. They bumped into her as if she didn’t exist, and some of them yelled at her whenever she stumbled and dared clutch at their clothes to keep from falling. They said she was dirty, that her nose ran, and they were always slapping and shoving to make her go away. Once, a man had offered to help her, but he’d lied and tried to put his hand up her dress. No one was nice to her, and she no longer recognized what neighborhood she was in. Wherever she was, most of the people who lived here smelled like the grog shops her daddy used to visit when she’d still had a daddy. They liked to shoot their guns a lot too, like they were having fun and thought they were firecrackers. Yesterday, she’d seen a man lying dead by a lamppost with a bullet hole in his chest, so maybe not everyone shooting was having fun.
Get your own dog and leave mine alone!
Ivy’s pace slowed, and somehow the bony shoulders beneath her tattered calico dress found the gumption to straighten themselves. She didn’t want to find her own dog. She wanted that dog.