Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Thursday Excerpt - Book V...Heather

The Circle of Friends, Book V…Heather

When confidence turns to frustration…

A new beginning waits at Clemson for Heather Jennings. Honored with the position of assistant, she will finally realize her dream of coaching basketball. Heather is ready to focus on her duties, using sheer force if necessary, and prove her independence.

Unfortunately, her triumph feels subdued as Heather’s father and greatest advocate lies dying of cancer. Battling her grief, she must also deal with a sister who appears incapable of responsibility or achievement. And once basketball season begins, a talented but cocky player who resembles her in every manner challenges all that remains of Heather’s patience.

During her quest for a new car, she encounters a man capable of handling her bold and feisty attitude. Straightforward and smug, he entices her to date him, and despite his gruff nature, shows compassion toward her situation. However, the last thing Heather needs is a serious relationship with a man equally fixated on work and opposed to marriage…

From Chapter Five…

Entering the sanctuary at her mother’s side, Heather hardly noticed that not a single pew sat empty. Elbow locked with Lauren’s, she kept her eyes focused straight ahead and chin held high. All morning she had prepared for this moment. Heather felt determined to maintain her composure, even if it required emotionally detaching herself from the scene. She refused to exhibit another loss of control as she had last night at the wake.

Her father’s casket, now closed, loomed closer and closer. Upon reaching the front of the church, Heather and her mother took their places in the empty pew. She did not even glance at the row behind them, fearful of making eye contact with either her aunt or uncle. She waited until Dawn settled in her seat before raising her eyes to the casket. Adorned with flowers, its visible surface shiny even in the low light, the coffin appeared almost beautiful in its serenity.

They were the last to enter the sanctuary, and the minister stepped up to the podium. He quietly adjusted his papers and paused as if to gather his thoughts. Grasping the sides of the podium, the minister raised his head and surveyed the crowd. Fearfully Heather awaited his opening words, her hands clutched tightly together. She suddenly realized she was holding her breath and exhaled at the same time he began to speak.

“Beloved, we are gathered here today to pay final respects to Thomas Richard Jennings.”

His voice seemed to echo in the large church, the sound further escalated by the unnatural silence of those gathered. The finality of his statement caused Heather to momentarily drop her eyes. She focused on her hands, as they lay tightly clasped across one thigh. In the dim light of the church, they appeared as thin and frail as her father’s had in his final days. Disturbed by that thought, she quickly returned her attention to the minister and the beautiful eulogy prepared for the memorial service.

Lauren appeared focused on his words as well. Almost stoic in her stance, Heather’s mother gave no indication of her pain and sorrow. Heather occasionally glanced in her direction, fully prepared to comfort her mother should she begin to cry. However, Lauren’s strength in the face of death remained unwavering. Heather decided to follow her mother’s example, determined to get through the funeral service without shedding a tear.

The musical piece her mother had selected was beautiful, although Heather blocked out the words. When the minister resumed speaking, Heather’s mind began to wander. She tried to hold fast and force herself to follow his speech, but her thoughts refused to be silenced. Her attention abruptly shifted to her childhood and a much happier moment with her father.

She remembered the evening her father brought home a basketball for his seven-year-old daughter. A basketball hoop and stand had been erected the previous evening and Heather recalled eyeing it with growing curiosity. When Thomas produced the ball from his vehicle, she had eagerly taken it from his hands. Instinctively shooting at the basket, her first attempt fell short by several feet. Retrieving the ball, her father had smiled and told Heather to try again. They remained in the driveway until Heather had sunk three baskets in a row. She could still hear her father’s jubilant cry as the basketball fell through the net for a third consecutive time.

That night had proved pivotal for Heather. It had signified the beginning of her love for basketball, a passion that would sustain her for almost twenty years. Watching the ball drop into the net had felt incredibly satisfying. However, it was her father’s encouragement and patience that Heather remembered most dearly. At the time, she had selfishly assumed her father simply wanted to lavish his oldest daughter with attention. As she matured, Heather realized how much Thomas loved the game as well. Eager to please her father and share in his joy, she had poured everything into excelling at the sport. Her life’s goals had been set as a result of that one evening shooting baskets in the driveway.

A noise returned her to the present and Heather quickly focused her attention on the service. Dawn sniffed beside her and Heather glanced apprehensively in her sister’s direction. Head down, Dawn’s face lay hidden behind her brown hair, but her irregular breathing was readily apparent.

Not now, Dawn, Heather thought to herself. She chanced a look at her mother’s face, but Lauren’s eyes were dry. Heather’s memory had produced a surge of emotions and she squeezed her hands even tighter. She had to be strong.

A gasp escaped Dawn’s lips, audible only to her sister. Heather leaned closer, determined to forestall the flood of tears.

“Dawn!” she hissed softly.

Her sister did not look up and Heather wondered if her warning had even registered. Another noise escaped from Dawn and suddenly she leaned against Heather’s arm, her damp cheek pressed against her older sister’s bare shoulder. A shudder ran through her body as she gasped once more.

“Dawn…” warned Heather, her head almost touching her sister’s.

“Make it all go away,” whispered Dawn, one hand grasping her arm.

Her desperate entreaty reminded Heather of when they were children. Dawn had often made that request of her when frightened and no one else was around to offer comfort. Coupled with the vivid memory of her father, Heather felt her sister’s plea tug at her heart. Their father’s passing had devastated Dawn. Angrily, she realized her own eyes had filled with tears as her resolve to remain in control dissolved.

Feeling defeated and vulnerable, Heather grasped her sister’s hands. Dawn pressed even closer and clung tightly to her only source of comfort. Unable to move, Heather felt tears run unchecked down her cheek as she cried in silence with her baby sister.

Release date: March 16, 2010, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
$19.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 282 pages, Fiction/YA
ISBN 978-0-9816210-5-0 / 0-9816210-5-8


Creative Chronicler said...

Love the excerpt. Can't wait to get the whole set. Hopefully soon.

Helen Ginger said...

Quite a moving scene, Diane. You can feel her need to remain composed and her struggle with her emotions.

Straight From Hel

Unknown said...

I simply can't WAIT for this release!

It's kind of sad, though, in a way. I mean, this is IT. The end of the Circle of Friends, all of whom I've become very attached to. And throughout the ones I've read so far, Heather must have been a challenge, to say the least! - to write about. No profanity here and I don't use it anyway, but she is - a piece of work. How's that? :)

Maybe you'll have enough people banging on your proverbial door to entice you to write a "reunion" book.... ?


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you, everyone! I had to really think hard which scene to post first for this book.

Today's post was supposed to be from author Denise Sutton, but she had two deaths in her family last week, so I've rescheduled her for later. So this was rather last minute!

Anonymous said...

Internal struggles are necessary so the reader can relate to the characters. Who wants to read about a person who does everything right. Boring. Best wishes for your success.

Stephen Tremp

Nancy J. Parra said...

Great scene- thanks for sharing.

April said...

What a wonderful scene, Diane! Please don't think that I have forgotten Book IV! I am just so behind. Please forgive me.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

April, that's okay! I look forward to your review whenever you have time to post it. I'm on the road all the time, so I understand.

Thank you Stephen and Nancy.

And Crystal, you hit it on the head - it IS sad that it will end! Believe me, reaching the last scene in Book V was both triumphant and sad.
Unless I decide to do a Book VI...

Debbie's World of Books said...

This looks great and can't wait to read it. Especially since we don't see a lot of Heather in the last couple books so this will be mostly a new story!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Debbie, Heather was such a predominiate character in Books I & II and it was almost sad to see her vanish completely by Book IV. (Then again, James and Mike pretty much vanish in this book.)
So hope you enjoy it!

Debbie's World of Books said...

Yes, I recall her from Sarah's story but not much beyond that. Can't wait!

Mike Douglas said...

I'm very much looking forward to reading this book, although it'll be bittersweet because I hate to see the series end. Heather has always been a favorite character of mine, partly because I find her edgy nature appealing, and partly because I'm a fan of women's basketball. Journal promo, review ... whatever you need, I'm there.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks so much, Mike - promise you won't be disappointed with this one, either.