Sample of Memoir I Ghostwrote

Sample Chapters – Cornelia Amiri


Except for the din of chirping insects and the lowing of cattle from the nearby pasture, it’s quiet until Grandpa speaks. “So, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine.” The routine answer pops out of my mouth, but I feel like I’m jumping out of my skin. I don’t want to be alone with him.
“You remind me of myself. I used to act the same way when I met somebody for the first time.” He flicks the lighter on and pokes the lit cigar in his mouth. The end has an orange glow. “Let me tell you a story about your grandpa, so you’ll know a little about me.” He rises from the lawn chair. “Come on.”
I follow him into the red barn. I scan the walls, plastered with military photos, racks of dusty guns, and spider webs draping news clippings picturing policemen, though my mother had told me my grandfather had trouble with bad cops. I glance at a green tractor on the opposite side and more military souvenirs on that wall. I didn’t expect any of this in the barn.
“I was in World War II. Did you know that?” The cigar’s mellow, slightly sweet aroma dances in the air, like it’s wispy tendrils of white smoke.
“Yes, sir.”
“I see it all as if it’s happening right now.“ A glint of fear shines in his eyes. “German soldiers on the road. No trees for cover. I fire a round. Bullets tear into them. My knees shake. I almost retch.” He stares off into the distance.
I can’t tear my eyes off of him as he speaks.
“We head into the woods. Blood-curdling screams and the nonstop noise of artillery bombard my ears. I duck behind a tree for cover. They shoot. I shoot back.
“Wow Grandpa, you were tough!”
“He takes me by surprise from behind. He wraps his hands around my throat, squeezing tight. Can’t breathe. I grab my M1942 bayonet…insert it…flip him around…stab him…again and again. You hear the screams?”
I don’t answer. I’m frozen with dread. There’s no screaming, not here in the barn. But, I hear the chugging of Grandpa’s breath, he’s panting heavily, it sounds like a train engine.
“I did my job. My duty.” His gaze is fierce, his eyebrows slant downward.
This is wrong. The memories this place holds are dangerous to him. I grab his hand and try to pull him toward the barn door. “Grandpa, let's go back in the house.”
“Not yet, I want to tell you about him.” He takes his cigar out of his mouth and points it at a newspaper clipping with a Police Officer’s photo. “The shootout. In 75, when you were two or three, I drove to the gas station, and right off, two cops get out of a pickup. They were off duty, wearing regular pants and shirts. The attendant pumps their gas while they chat with each other and have a smoke. I spot the orange toolbox in the bed of their truck. It’s mine. I know it. But, still, I walk over to get a better look, to make 100% sure.
One of them steps up to me and says, “Well, well, well. If it isn’t Superman. So what’cha want?”
“Gritting my teeth, I stare at the initials on the toolbox. “Damn it. That’s mine,” I said. I shook my finger at it and told them, there’re my initials, right there. I make my living with those tools…fixing cars. You have no right.” Grandpa puffs on his cigar. “You lucky you the law and we at a gas station. But the next time you step foot on my property, you gonna be some dead Piggly Wiggly’s. Then, when I had my say, I get in my car, slam on the gas pedal, and burn rubber, leaving a cloud of smoke.”
“They took your tools, Grandpa?” I want to help him, but I don’t know how. “That was mean of them.”
“Sure was. That’s how I came to be in court in 76. They brought me in wearing one of them orange jumpsuits. I could barely walk with my legs and arms in shackles and chains. Tony and Dorothy sat it the courtroom
 with their heads bowed, eyes closed, praying for me.”
“That’s good Grandpa. God helps people.”
I’m on edge from his tale yet engrossed in it.
“The judge deemed the shootout was racially motivated by the Lexington Police harassing me. And because your grandmother, uncle, aunts, even the Governor of Mississippi requested my pardon, but mostly due to my colon cancer cause they didn’t expect me to live more than six months, the judge leniently sentenced me to life on house arrest.”
“That’s good. Not the cancer, but that they let you out of prison.”
“I was only defending myself from the cops. I warned them not to come onto my property.” His expression distorts into a menacing glare and scowl. “I had every right to do what I did.” He puffs on the cigar, it seems to calm him down. I take his hand. “Let’s go back to the house. It’s late. You need to get to bed.”
Grandpa comes with me back to the porch. I let out a sigh of relief. He takes a seat in a lawn chair.
I plop down in the one at his side. “You can’t die Grandpa.”
“That’s life grandson. You are born to die.”
“Can we go find the colon cancer person so you don’t have to go?” The tiny muscles in my face and throat tighten up, I know tears are coming. “I wish it was that easy, cause I would have got him a long time ago with no hesitation.” Grandpa sets his finished cigar down in a tin can by his chair, then he stands up. “Let’s get back inside Jeff, it's cold out here.”
I’m not cold at all. It’s a hot summer night, but I stand and walk back into the house with him. He reaches out and pulls me into his arms in a big bear hug. I’m taken back. Surprised. Then again, everything he said and did surprised or shocked me.
I climb into bed beside Michelle as Grandpa walks to his room and shuts the door.
Michelle turns on her side toward me. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Go to sleep.” A scene from an old movie pops into my head. Dark clouds fill the sky above huge waves crashing against an old-timey ship, rolling side to side. Then the wind howls and shakes the huge sails. One of the men on board says, “A storm’s brewing.” The Captain tells him, “It’s too late to navigate out of the storm. Batten down the hatches.” I remember what happened next in that film, and I draw the covers completely over my head and roll over into a ball.
* * *
An ear-rattling boom jerks me awake. The sight in front of my eyes paralyzes me. I can’t move my arms or my legs. I can’t speak. I can’t scream. I’m drowning in raw fear. Grandpa is pointing a twelve-gauge shotgun mere inches from Uncle Tony, who lies unmoving on the sofa bed. Crimson blood gushes from his chest. His eyes roll back in his head. Tony’s Dead. Murdered.
Michelle grabs my hand and squeezes it tight, so I know she’s awake. My heart’s hammering. I feel like my breath’s been sucked out of me. I’m numb. Shut down. I pull the covers over our heads. Hoping that by not seeing us, Grandpa will forget we’re there. But I also feel certain he’s going to shoot me. I’m sure I will die any minute. I’m overcome by the coppery stench of blood and the acrid, sour smell from the fired rifle my grandfather used to murder his only son. My sweat…soaks the sheets.
Because of the sunbeam shining through the window on the different colored, thin cotton squares of the patchwork quilt, I can see Grandpa. And, out of the corner of my eyes, I see Grandma in the hallway creeping in stealth to the living room. I need to warn her. I try to scream but my mouth won’t open.
Grandma must sense the danger. She glances up at the huge shadow in a hunting stance, fast approaching. Her eyes grow rounder, her pupils dilate, and she shuts her lips tight in an expression of stark fear. “Calvin? Calvin? Is that you?”
His breath is loud, like a heavy wind in a rainstorm as he paces back and forth
“No!” Grandma’s gaze falls on Tony’s body.
Her wail is immobilizing. It cuts through my soul, giving voice to my pain, though my own body and voice turn their back on me, overcome with shock.
“Why? Tony wrote all those letters made all those phone calls to get you out of prison We wanted you here with us.” Somehow Grandma musters the strength for words, trying to get through to him, to reach the man she loves. “Why kill the people who love you? You have so much anger and pain you can’t tell we’re not your enemies.” In a flash, she breaks toward her bedroom.
My pulse is racing. He runs toward her door.
“Nooo!” My grandmother screams for her life.
A raw brutal boom pierces my ears. No other sounds come from the bedroom. I know she must be dead.
The floorboards groan and creak as my grandfather walks over to us. Michelle and I watch him through the colored patches of the quilt we’re hiding under. The long, hard barrel is pointed at my face, no more than an inch away. I feel the heat of his breath. I sink into darkness, a dread so deep, no person should ever have to face it. That’s the only way to explain the feeling of knowing my grandfather wants to kill me and is going to do so, now.
Suddenly, Mom runs out of her bedroom, and into the living room. “Dad! Dad! Wait!”
He wheels around, aiming at her.
I’m going to explode from the tension and horror. No, not Mom. God, don’t let him kill her.
Mom races down the hall, heading toward the back door. He chases her. I hear the door open. I don’t hear the gun go off. Maybe she’s safe. Did she get away? Then I hear him fire a shell. He must have shot at her. I don’t know if he missed or if he hit her. Is she alive? Is she dead?


Grandpa walks back to our sofa bed. He paces back and forth in front of us, clutching the rifle. His shoulders slump in a defeated posture and he cast his head down. He spins around and trudges to the hallway, moving as if his feet are lead. At the hallway, he leans against the wall, then slides down it until he’s sitting on the floor.
Outside a man’s speaking to him through something electronic and loud, with static. Maybe a microphone type mega phone or a radio. “Pull out! Pull out! Get out now!“
Grandpa releases a tremulous yell of pain and despair. He’s not looking my way, but I’m compelled to see what he does, so I turn over on my side and lift my head slightly. He sticks the long, hard barrel of the shotgun into his mouth and pulls the trigger. There’s an ear-piercing boom. Blood is everywhere. Michelle didn’t watch. She doesn’t know what’s happened.
I grab her hand and throw the covers off.
“Go,” I yell.
We leap out of the sofa bed and push our legs as hard and fast as we can. We run out of the front door.
The first person I notice is Mom. She rushes to us. There’s no blood on her. She’s okay. She wasn’t shot. She wraps her arms around us both in a big tearful hug. Mom cries. I cry. Michelle cries. None of us can stop crying.
Police in black riot gear with shields and helmets are everywhere. They surround the house.
Four officers approach us. The tallest asks, “Is your Grandpa alive?”
“No, he shot himself. He’s dead. I think he’s dead. “ My heart’s hammering, I’m speaking fast. I can’t slow down. I need to breathe.
Another cop asks Michelle, “Is your grandfather dead?”
“He’s still in the house. He has a rifle. He’s alive.”
She didn’t see him kill himself. She tells them what she believes.
The police don’t take any chances, they assume he’s still alive, armed, and dangerous. Officers rush to the open door and throw teargas bombs inside.
The paramedics can’t go in and get Uncle Tony or Grandma or Grandpa’s bodies out until the tear gas clears.
Silent medical personnel and policemen with solemn, serious expressions stand by us. Waiting until the tear gas is safe or for some other crazy thing to happen. We stand by them, weeping.
* * *
Michelle, Mom, I and are clad in nothing more than our bare feet and pajamas the whole time we stand in the grass with the police. I’m tired, hungry, and still in shock. I also need to use the bathroom, badly. But we can’t go in the house, it’s a crime scene, not to mention three dead bodies are still inside. My mom takes me behind a tree and stands guard until I finish. 
As we walk back, I spot a white Monte Carlo driving fast, recklessly, down the road. It’s brakes squeal as it stops at the gravel driveway. 
“Dad,” I yell.
“J.R.,“ Mom calls.
“Daddy!” Michelle runs to our car.
Mom and I are right on her heals. Dad pulls open the door and sprints toward us with his arms spread out.
Dad grabs Michelle and me first, a second later, Mom is with us. The four of us huddle together, in a clinging family hug. I don’t want to ever let go of any of them.
“Oh my God! What happened?” Dad’s tone is etched with alarm and bewilderment.
In a choked voice between sobs, I manage to say, “You left us. We should have gone with you.”
Dad’s still hugging me. I glance underneath his arms and watch two men wearing blue plastic gloves, and surgical type masks roll a stretcher carrying a thick-plastic looking black bag, the size of a person. It’s zipped up. Two more EMT’s pass by rolling a stretcher with another black bag. Then the last two other men from the ambulance come by with another stretcher and I can tell something big and long is stuffed in that tightly zipped bag just like the others—the corpse of Tony, or Grandma, or Grandpa.
Between sobs, my mother tells my father, “He’s right. None of this would have happened if you stayed.”
My father beats his chest. “Oh my God! Why? Why didn’t I stay?”
I watch the EMTs load my uncle, grandmother, and grandfather in body bags into the ambulances. The red light won’t spin on top and the high pitch siren alarm won’t echo through the air on the way to the morgue. It’s too late for that. The body bags will be stored in the county morgue until the funeral, so everything involving the living can go on as usual. I know it’s not going to work like that. Not for me. Not for my family. We’re no longer navigating a normal route.
All of us are navigating a path, eventually, we reach our destination, for some of us, through no fault of our own, we’ll end up in a tightly zipped body bag. Where will my path take me?
I watch the ambulance pull out of the long gravel driveway.

Samples of Writing of Mine

Chapter One

Beckoning her toward freedom, the soft roar and tranquil flow of the foamy waves pulled Vevay from a dark, melancholy mood. She dug her toes into the sand and rested her chin on her drawn up knees. With the sea as her only solace, she had long ago given up any real hope of escaping.
No one ever visited her roundhouse and she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere except the beach to tend the flock. Without a husband, she would never be free of her parents.
Nibbling on her lower lip, she scanned the shore. Sheep flounced across a field of wild, red strawberries, skirting a large wolfhound who romped and played. No one else was there to see her.
Shedding her baggy undyed tunic, she drew out a pair of old braies and a sleeveless tunic from a hole in the nearby tree where she kept them hidden to wear when she swam.
She slipped them on and ran into the sea. Brisk, salty waves splashed at her bruised skin, rejuvenating her. Waist deep in the sea, she dove into the teal sanctuary and swam with spirit, alive with a freedom she never had on land. Vevay broke through the surface for a big gulp of air and then let the waves carry her along with a rolling tug. Imagining herself a beautiful mermaid, she giggled when a huge wave tossed her up into the air. She landed back in the soft water. Here, her mind floated as gently as her body. Here, she could laugh.
Here, she could be free. Only here.
Sensing another’s presence, but seeing no one, she instinctively jerked in fear. A warm, glowing feeling rose within her. No longer afraid, she played pretend like she did as a little girl and whispered, “Is it you, my patron god, come to rescue me?”
With a huge splash, a white-foamed wave washed over her. Vevay laughed. Yet, when she rubbed the sea spray from her eyes, she gasped at what she saw—a man stood before her.
Only his chest, arms, and head were above water. The sun glistened off his pale, muscular chest, brightening his skin to a silver, otherworldly tinge. His hair was the lightest shade of blond she’d ever seen, the color of the sand. The moment his deep, dark eyes met hers, a wave of magical energy rushed through her core.
“I did not mean to startle you.” His smooth, sensual voice flowed through her like a ripple of heat.
Even as she felt the warmth of his being, fear coursed through her veins. She’d learned to not trust people. “I haven’t seen you before. Where are you from?"
He smiled and eased forward. “I am of the sea. You trust the sea, do you not?”
“You are a man.” I take comfort in the sea, albeit I know you not. She shook her head. “You are of the land, not the sea.”
He quirked one brow. “People are not always what they seem.”
“True.” Vevay turned her head toward the sound of loud barking coming from the shore. Not warning growls from the wolfhound, but animated, playful sounds, happy and excited at this man’s presence.
“May I swim with you?”
Her gaze jerked back to him. Friends were one of the many things she wasn’t allowed. At the thought of going against her parents, her skin crawled and all the muscles in her body tensed. A frightening image of her father’s livid features as his hand came down on her relentlessly flashed across her memory. An acute pain shot through her inner thighs where he always pummeled her. She dare not disobey him. He would kill her.
She couldn’t turn her gaze from the stranger or she would have swum back to shore. His eyes were brighter than the sunlight that glistened on the waves as he flashed her a whole-hearted smile. Without warning, he ducked headfirst into the water. His long, muscular legs shot up, splashing her.
She clasped her hand against her chest. Her breath caught in her throat and she gasped. She’d never expected this. She blinked her eyes, then looked again.
By the gods, the man had no feet, no ankles, no heels, no toes. His legs extended in normal fashion from his body, but two small fishtails took the place of his feet. When he came up for air, she noticed that his forearms were covered in what looked like silver bangles. Scales. He leapt from the water and into the air like a flying fish. The sea-creature was bare, except for an unusually large merman’s pouch, which hung between his legs like a loincloth.
She must be daydreaming again. That explained what she thought she saw. The tightness in her neck and shoulders eased as her muscles relaxed, stretched slightly. Her mind must have drifted off to her fondest wish, for her patron god, Dylan of the sea, to come to her rescue. It seemed so real, it always did. But this isn’t Dylan. It couldn’t be. Why would a god want anything to do with me?
Something pushed her from behind, and Vevay shrieked. She turned around, shaking, and she saw a seal. The sleek, dark animal was barking at the seaman as if speaking to him. Laughter spilled out of Vevay. Taking a deep breath, she mustered her courage and slid her head underwater. Pushing off with her feet, she swam as fast as she could to catch up to him.
Pulling her arms through the water and gently kicking her feet, she glided through the sea. Her lungs strained with the effort, she needed air. She opened her eyes, and the salty water stung. Where had he gone? Her lungs burned and she pushed off of the ocean floor.
Vevay broke through the surface and took a satisfying gulp of air. The seaman’s tail fins hit the surface with a large splash. She slipped below the water’s surface and swam in that direction until she reached his side. The seal swam up, gliding beside her.
Gently, the seaman grasped her shoulders. She jerked away from the contact, inwardly filled with an icy chill. She cringed and shivered in fear, reliving her most recent memory of her father’s treatment. Then, she instantly felt different. A warm, soothing sensation flowed through her as the merman cupped her shoulders. Swimming with him to the surface, she broke through and took a deep breath. He smiled at her, and she forgot about her father.
“Who are you?”
He gazed back at her with wide eyes, open-mouthed, hesitating as if lost in thought. “It is not yet the time for names.”
The words, ugly, foolish, No one will want you. You belong in a cage, resounded in Vevay’s mind in the voice of her mother. She turned her head away as the sting of tears pricked her eyes.
As if he could read her thoughts, he cupped the side of her face. But she flinched at his touch. The feel of a man’s touch made her cringe. Touch was pain, violence, and punishment—in her family.
“Maiden, you are beauty itself. Your skin is white as sea foam and your tri-colored eyes, of blue, green, and amber, glisten like a thousand precious gems.”
Her scalp tingled as he wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger.
“Your hair, in contrast to your skin, is black as a raven’s wing.” He paused as his eyes twinkled. “Though it is not time to tell you mine, might I know your name?” His voice was deep and melodic.
He smiled, and her heart skipped a beat.
“White wave, it is a good name.”
“It is thought to be a fitting name reflecting my behavior. My mother says I loved to wade into the sea and play in the water as a child. She still blames me for that, for she would have to get up all the time and pull me back to shore. Then I would run toward the waves again. So, it is what I’m called.”
His lips curled up into a sad, half smile. Concern showed in his eyes, but her first thought was that she had misread it. No one else cared about her. Was it concern or judgment in his gaze? Still, his smile bespoke kindness, it radiated warmth and hope.
“I suppose I was a bad child.”
“You have never been bad. You are nothing but good. You have done no wrongs, neither to me nor anyone else. You are pure of heart. I am honored that you swam with me.”
She felt less alone than she ever had.
His lips lifted into a smile, as the corners of his eyes crinkled, and his eyes twinkled. “Grab my shoulders and ride on my back to the depth of the sea so I can show you things you’ve never seen before.”
Held in fear’s grip, as always, she ached to go with him but faltered. “I cannot, I will drown.”
She trod water for a moment, reminded of her mother’s stern warnings that merfolk took girls like her to the bottom of the sea and drowned them. Still, her mother lied about most things. Everything, really.
Vevay had listened to the druid's stories and thought of those tales all the time. From them she’d developed a keen sense of good and bad. Though no one in the village would believe it, her parents wanted only bad things for her. She knew with every fiber of her being this merman was good, because he had no characteristics that reminded her of her parents.
He invited her with his open palm and curled fingers to continue swimming with him. “Whenever you need to take a breath, tap my shoulder and we will share my air.”
The seal whipped its head back repeatedly, as if beckoning her to accept the merman’s invitation. Instinctively, before fear took over, she grasped the seaman’s shoulders and hung on as he dove under the surface. Swiftly he swam far out to sea. Even on horseback, she had never gone that fast. Her lungs ached for air. With her arms wrapped around his neck, she released one of her hands and tapped his shoulder.
He turned his face to hers. His white blond hair rippled above his head in the low gravity of the sea. Pressing his lips to hers, he gently caressed them as air entered her mouth. Small bubbles rose in the water around her head as life-giving air filled her lungs.
Though her stomach had begun to cramp from anxious fear, the moment his lips and breath touched her mouth, the pain left her. A trickle of heat rose from the base of her stomach, curling toward her heart, where it swirled and danced. For his breath was more than air, it carried his essence. His breath on her tongue tasted like the scent of the ocean… fresh, brisk, free.
She clasped her arms about his neck again, and he dove. His feet, or rather his tails, swished from side to side as he coasted, yet when he swam fast, he flicked them up and down.
A large school of bright yellow fish parted as she and the merman plunged deeper. As the sea grew darker, the temperature dropped. Overcome by the chilly water, she shivered, but refused to ask to go to the surface. She wanted to be here, enthralled with the fish gliding by in all sizes and shapes and in a rainbow of colors. A sea turtle slid past her, flapping his flippers like a bird in flight, soaring through the blue-gray water. Its eyes were as round as an owl’s, with a blue-green shell as smooth as a polished river stone.
The merman dove deeper. As he covered her mouth with his, sharing his breath once more, she felt as if a mellow breeze engulfed her. Her shivers stopped, replaced with a warm tingle.
At this depth, the water was dark purple. Glowing, white, round, magical mushroom tops swam from the bottom up. Jellyfish. With skin more delicate than a flower petal, they moved in the dark water like a tribal banner waving in the wind.
They swam past a clump of colorful plants fluttering in the water. Vevay kept one arm clamped around his neck while she stuck the other one in front of his face with her palm out, gesturing him to stop and let her look a while. She was delighted when he did.
Amid the swaying sea-plants’ rhythmic dance, she spotted a sea-dragon, as small and green as the plants it hid among. Its head was shaped like a horse’s; its body long and raggedy like a dragon's, fluttering against the water.
When she patted the merman’s shoulder, he turned his face to her and breathed into her mouth, filling her lungs with the sweetest air. Like a powerful wave, his offering crashed into the wall of numbness she wielded the way a warrior used a shield. Vevay didn’t know how tears could well in her eyes underwater, still they did. She was so starved for kindness that from the mere taste of it she wept with joy. She wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging, hanging on to all he offered, vowing to never let go.
He swam upwards until they broke through the surface. She could barely see the shore, yet it commanded her to return. Pulling Vevay back to her lot in life. The thought of a chance to escape her dismal existence, that she might be rescued by this shiny merman, slipped away like the ebb of the tide.
“I have to get back.” The icy chill of fear gripped her and would not let go. Her head began to throb. “Da says he wants to kill me. Wants me to die. He will drag me from the sea and beat me until I am dead if he finds me now.”
“Do not fear. I will take you to shore. You are safe.” His voice was like thick honey, warm, soft, soothing.
The loss of the enchanting dream of rescue, which seemed so real but a moment ago, wrecked the last shred of her self-control. Hot tears streamed down her cheeks as she spoke to the doubts in her head that had warned her all along: None of this is real. It cannot be. She eased her arms from his neck, and he turned facing her as she trod water.
His eyes locked with hers in a long, hard gaze.
“It’s too perfect, too wonderful. It cannot be.”
“But it is.” His voice was throaty yet comforting, like the gurgle of a seal. “You deserve so much more happiness than what you’ve had in these few moments away from your parents.”
As she gazed into his eyes, she felt frozen in place except for her feet, which were treading water. “You are real?”
“As real as you are.” He leaned closer to her and touched her chin tenderly with his thumb. “I will get you back to shore.” He flashed another sad half smile. “Come.”
Placing her arms about his neck, she leaned against his back and took comfort in the strength of his muscles. She took a deep breath just before he plunged under the water.
He swam so swiftly, they were soon at the rock-covered shore. He broke through the surface, and she gasped for air. Taking in a deep, shuddering breath, she let go and climbed over a jagged black rock and onto the shore where her sheep waited.
Standing on shore in her wet clothes, she glanced back at the merman. The sun glistened on the water and shimmered on his blond hair, which hung below his ears. She stared at his broad, ribbed chest and oval, firm-chinned face, and his large blue eyes. Before she could thank him, he ducked under the water and slipped away.
Vevay shed her wet clothes and hid them back in the tree, then pulled on her tunic dress. She ran her hand through her wet hair as her gaze fastened on the very spot where he had been. After sitting on the rock, she brought her knees up to her chest, and hugged them.          
She glanced toward her flock and called out to them, “He was real. He swam with me.” She took a deep breath. “Fair, he called me fair.” A warm force penetrated her core and she felt as if his essence was still with her. Uplifted, Vevay leaned back and basked in the sun. “It is the happiest day of my life,” she said to herself.
As her hair dried and the chill of the deep water subsided, she counted her long-horned sheep in a sing-song chant. Before she could finish her count, Cory, her wolfhound, reared up on the boulder where Vevay sat and butted her tummy with his shaggy head. While she petted his shaggy fur, he pressed his wet nose and soggy lips upon her cheek. She hugged his soft neck. What a wonderful day. She’d never felt this alive.
Soon she would have to put this happiness aside. She couldn’t show pain, anger, or happiness in her home. Any emotion triggered her parents to attack her. The only way she could survive was to never feel.
Once she stepped into her roundhouse, she switched to her other-self, the one who didn’t feel, didn’t speak, the one who survived.
She only felt alive at the seashore, tending her sheep. Her sheep, her dog, this was all she had… until today. Why did the merman seem to care about her when no one else did? He was not only real; he seemed to know what real was. She could tell villagers she swam with a merman and they would not believe her, yet would not judge her. But, if she told them her parents got pleasure and lustful feelings from hurting her, she would be branded a bad girl, a horrid liar.
Yes, she had learned that lesson long ago. Help was for people better than her. People thought she was bad. If your parents try to kill you, beat you, use you in ways you can’t think about or say aloud, then you must be bad. Deep down she knew it wasn’t her that was bad, but she couldn’t do anything about it. It was her parents that were bad, but she couldn’t tell anyone. She needed help but there was none.
However, she felt different by the sea and even more so when she swam with her merman. She pushed back that thought while she and Cory rounded up the sheep.
She grew hungry as she got closer to the roundhouse. Hopefully her parents would let her eat tonight. She never knew what would happen from morning to night. She and Cory darted here and there after the sheep, herding them into their pen. When she turned, she sensed rather than saw a figure standing by the door flap to her home. A thin man with black hair and of average height, though she always felt like he towered over her, because for most of her life he had been twice her size. She shuddered and took a deep breath. Her Da waited for her.

Chapter Two

The next morning, rays of sunshine filtered in through the cracks in the wattle and daub panels and the smoke hole in the center of the round thatched roof. Vevay awoke early. She was never able to sleep for more than a few hours at a time. She forced herself to rise and put on a tunic. She had to wait for her father to give her permission to tend the sheep.
Her mother woke next, as always. “You're filthy.”
Vevay knew what came next.
Her mother picked up a rag and dipped it in water. “Spread your legs.”
Helpless to refuse her mother’s command, as her father would kill her, she automatically did as her mother demanded. Her legs still bore the red handprints from her father’s palms lashing at her last night.
Though the apex between Vevay’s thighs already burned with pain, her mother rammed the cloth inside Vevay’s body, intensifying the sting and the soreness.
Her mother gawked with a mix of hatred and hunger in her hard eyes as she roughly scrubbed the sensitive, abused flesh. “You’re dirty, filthy. Everyone in the village knows you are no good. They all say I shouldn’t do anything for you. You are disgusting. Still I tell them she is my daughter and I love her. No one loves you like me. Never forget that. No one will ever love you the way I do.” Her mother threw the rag down. "You made it filthy, it stinks. It stinks like you.”
Her father woke up and took his place by the stone-ringed fire in the center of the roundhouse. Vevay kept her head cast down and fought the burning sensation between her legs and the nausea that turned her stomach. She closed her eyes and focused on her memory of the merman’s sunny face, sea blue eyes and golden curls. Her shoulders relaxed and her heart lifted. She was filled with immediate relief as she envisioned her sanctuary, her friend.
She steeled her emotions as she asked her Da, “May I have permission to tend the flock?”
Her father kept quiet for a good while, then said, “If it is what you are supposed to do, then you better do it.”
Vevay walked past the shield on the wall, which marked her father as a rich and important man. Pulling aside the leather door-flap, she left the hut and whistled for Cory, the wolfhound, to follow. Her legs were stiff, still in pain as she led the flock down to the shore. When she sat down she could still see the red imprint of her father’s fingers all over her inner thighs.  
Vevay watched the sheep as silent tears streamed down her cheeks. Cory barked at the bleating lambs as they wandered about, nibbling the fresh green clumps of grass growing beside the rocky shore. Vevay leaned her wooden staff against the large black rock, and stripped off her undyed tunic dress in one fluid movement and then pulled out the braies and tunic from their hiding place. She stood transfixed, looking at the waves as the sea breeze tousled her dark tresses.
She turned to the huge, bear-like wolfhound. “Cory, guard the sheep and ram well. I am taking a swim, but I shall be back soon.”
The huge, shaggy dog barked as if in answer. She rolled her braies up above her knees and waded—escaped—into the shallows of the sea. The ebb and flow of the cool waves tickled her feet.
If only the seaman came back. To have a friend was such a solace. She envisioned his full-faced smile and her spirit basked in an exhilarating energy. In truth, though, she did not even know his name.
She waded up to her waist and then dove into the briny water. When she came up for air, she turned on her back and floated in the gentle waves. Her mind drifted away, the pain forgotten. The cool water exhilarated her body down to her toes. For fun, she turned over in a back flip and came up spurting salt water from her nose. Suddenly, the water erupted into a huge splash. Vevay’s mouth dropped open and she screamed. Her heart hammered against the inner wall of her chest as she looked around to see what kind of sea monster loomed before her.
He shot up like a porpoise, but a breath span from her. She clutched her chest and caught her breath. “It’s you.” Vevay let out a soft chuckle of relief. “You scared me.”
The warmth in his smiling eyes called to her soul. “Come swim with me.” He ducked under a wave.
She gulped a deep breath of air and dived under. Soon she caught up to him and glided at his side. His golden hair streamed about his sculptured face and little bubbles rose from his mouth as he smiled. When he broke through the sea’s surface with a splash, she also came up for air. His firm, muscled body faced her.
She couldn’t tear her gaze away from his penetrating eyes. As a maiden, despite her mother’s accusations, she often watched other folk mate at the sacred festival of Beltane. She had that horrid thought again. Felt hollow…unnecessary. Wanted to end this awful, useless existence. She had the thought that when her father beat her, he was coupling with her. But it couldn’t be true. It was something else. She couldn’t live if it was true. She'd kill herself if it was true. No, it can’t be, she told herself again. She shook her head, trying to clear the confusion.
This warrior of the sea had called her beautiful. He was the man she wanted to hold and kiss on Beltane.
Taking her face in his hands, he asked in a tone that was almost a whisper, “May I kiss you?”
She felt safe with him as she recognized the sincerity in his gleaming eyes. She said, “Yes.”
He lowered his mouth to hers. His hot breath fanned her face, her cheeks tingled. He pressed his lips to hers. His mouth was wet and salty like the sea. The fire from his kiss swam through her veins. He released her lips, took a breath, and smiled.
Vevay moaned. “By the mother, Arianrhod.”
He jerked back. His eyes bulged in an expression of alarm. “Why did you call out to Arianrhod?"
“I am sorry.” Her mind spun with confusion. Why was he angry? What had she done? “I but called out to the goddess in a moment of surprise.”
“I have no love for Arianrhod, she is no mother to me.”
“She is one of the mother goddesses.”
“Not to me.” He released a long huff of breath.
An unbelievable suspicion hit her. She recalled the druid’s tale of Arianrhod’s sons, and one was cast into the sea. “What is your name?”
“It is the second time you have asked me my name.”
“Why will you not tell me?” She rubbed her front teeth against her bottom lip. “I ask once more, what is your name?” It was unlike her to be so bold. But she had to know if her suspicion was right.
“Thrice you have asked and so I must give it you. My name is Dylan.”
“Dylan.” She couldn’t breathe. Dylan, which meant son of the wave. Dylan, the son of Goddess Arianrhod, the brother of the sun god, Lleu. Vevay’s heart raced so fast it felt like it would leap out of her chest. “The god ... you are the god of the sea. My patron god.” Once he said his name out loud, it all seemed real. But it couldn’t be. What would a god want with me?
She heard his voice inside her head. You called me your patron god. Vevay heard his thoughts, though she had never been able to do that before. She shook her head, still hardly able to believe this was real.
“Would that I was so much more.” He pulled her into his muscular embrace.
Vevay let out a long sigh. She felt so safe in his bracing arms. “Why did you come?”
“I came to you long ago and breathed life into you when you washed up on shore, nearly drowned. Your life would have ended that day by your own hand. I knew in truth you wanted to live.”
“Yes. I wanted to live. It was just a moment that overcame me and without thought I tried to drown myself. I just didn’t think I could go on. I was wrong. But, are you saying you were there? It was you that saved me? Why didn’t you say something?”
“You had to get to know me, to trust me. It is not like me to brag of rescuing a maiden in distress, much less to boast of being a god. I rarely give out my name. I am not one to draw attention to myself. I live a simple life, alone in the ocean. God or not, it is what I’m comfortable with.”
“I still do not fully understand why you came to me.”
“In a way, it goes back to Arianrhod. I call no one mother, least of all her. You too have no one to call mother. All those who live without a father or a mother’s love can spot other orphans of the heart, and so I spotted you.” He curled his fingers under her chin as he gazed into her eyes. “Though hurt by the pain your parents cause you, your spirit is not damaged by it. It remains kind and hopeful, as does mine.”
“I am not abandoned.” Emotion was building in her, and she couldn’t stop her lips from trembling. “I live with my mother and father.”
“No, you live with your abusers. You have abusers, not parents. You have never known a mother’s or a father’s love, save for the love you give to your sheep and your dog.”
Vevay couldn't say anything, she just swallowed hard.
“Do not cry.” Dylan brushed his wet yet warm fingers across her cheek. “You are safe with me."
His tender touch filled her with a warm glow.
“I know.” Could it be? He understands what I suffer? “Is your mother ... is she like mine?”
Dylan took her in his arms, so she wouldn’t have to tread water. He brushed the hair away from her face and peered into her eyes. “I will tell you.” His face took on a pondering expression. “The high druid, Math, needed to appoint a virgin to sit by his brother Don’s throne.” His tone grew more animated. “The god Gwydion suggested Arianrhod, keeper of the Silver Wheel of Stars. Math performed a magical test to discover if Arianrhod was indeed chaste. When he touched her belly with his finger, the goddess cried out with labor pains. Then and there, she gave birth to two sons. I was a healthy baby but a creature of the sea. Math named me Dylan for son of the wave.”
He tilted his head to the side. “Arianrhod despised my brother and me. She had nothing to do with us. Soon after my birth, I crawled to the sea and dove under the waves. From that moment on, I swam like a fish.” He took a deep breath. “The god Gwydion is my father and my twin brother is Lleu. Gwydion took him, though he was born a great blob, and raised him. He grew into the comeliest youth ever seen. As the sun god Lleu is known as the god of light, I am called the god of darkness, for I live underwater where the light doesn’t shine. That is the story of my birth.”
“Arianrhod is wrong to blame her babies for her lack of chastity.” Her chest ached with sympathy for him. His mother had no right to blame him for her faults.
“Yes, she is wrong. And your parents?”
“I cannot say.”
“No, but one day you will be able to say that nothing they blame you for is your fault. It is all theirs.”
“People do not want me to say anything. No one in the village allows me to talk about my family. When I was little, I tried to get help. People said I was bad to tell lies about my parents.”
“How I want to call forth a great wave out of the ocean to drown your evil parents and your selfish tribe, which will not lift a hand to help you. Though I can’t, Don would not allow it, but I will help you.”
“No one can help me.”
“I am a god, there is much I can do. Whenever you come to the shore, call my name to the waves, and I will appear.”
“In truth? My thanks. I’ve longed for a friend.”
He smiled and gestured that she should follow.
She took a deep gulp of air, ducked underwater, and swam after him.
Dylan glided silently through the sea. He flipped onto his back and swam gazing at the sky through the blue water. He spun over and skimmed the sea bottom covered in kelp and dotted with rock and shell-armored creatures.
 Vevay slowly touched the various odd-looking shell fish. It surprised her how different similar-looking creatures felt, from rough textures to a soft leathery feel.
Shoals of bright-hued fish glided through the sea grass with their mouths open to catch the food floating by. The fish looked like caches of sparkling rubies, emeralds, amber, and sapphires falling through the turquoise water.
Breaking through to the surface, she took a deep breath as a gentle ripple moved across the water. Dylan broke through the ocean surface and took her hand. Diving back under the sea, they headed for shore.
 Vevay climbed onto the jagged, black rock at shore side. Dylan lifted himself out of the water with his powerful arms and sat beside her on the rock, basking in the warm sun. He slipped his arm around her as she wrapped her fingers around the scaly portion of his forearm and leaned against him. They sat silently.
Dylan tilted his face to hers. For the longest time, she peered into his large, gentle eyes, which filled her with a loving sensation. She quivered as his mouth descended. She shut her eyes and concentrated on the heady sensation of his soft, warm lips. Heated honey flowed through her. Vevay’s tired soul melted into the kiss. Her whole body tingled. Slowly, he moved his mouth away, leaving her lips burning.
Sliding his fingers over hers, he lifted her hand to his lips and as gentle as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, he kissed her knuckles. “On the morrow, I have something special to show you,” he rasped. “Farewell.” He dove into the sea and glided away.
She felt beautiful, alive and important around Dylan. Things she’d never felt before. Was this what it was like to be loved? She gazed after him, unable to catch her breath.



Our Love Story

Jason Brown

Copyright ©2022 Jason Brown

All rights reserved.

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Codi and I: Our Love Story

Just Want To Be Next To You.

From a romantic encounter over a Singles Telephone Chat Line to the Grand Lake Country of Oklahoma, springs the true tale of a young farming couple and the challenges they overcome to love each other, live off the land, and raise a family.

Romantics of all ages will delight in this true story of love in small-town America.

For my dad, Leo Brown,
in heaven and my mother-in-law, Glenda Rae Husong Morrow, in heaven.


I would like to thank my children, Jason R. Emma, Ava, and Ivy for making this book possible. And their mom Codi, for inspiring me.


CHAPteR one

IDenton, Texas, 2004
pull in between an old Chevy truck and some lawn equipment in Justin’s yard. The boot-kicking beat and deep gravelly

sound of Bocephus’ ‘Family Tradition’ blares from the radio. I cut off the engine and get out. Amber and russet leaves wave in the blustery wind. Stepping over the fallen ones, i rub my arms, folding them against my chest.

it’s cold in this t-shirt. it always gets this way after Halloween, heading into Thanksgiving.

As soon as i knock, Justin yanks the door open. “Hey, Jason, come on in, buddy.”


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

He pulls up two dining room chairs there in the front entranceway, then steps into the kitchen and returns with two beers.

“Thanks.” I flip the tab open with a loud snap. “How about some Merle Haggard?”

The chair squeaks as Justin eases back in it and grabs a CD off the table. “You got it.” He slips it in the CD player and sings the words of the tittle to Merle Haggard’s 1980s’ song, “i think i’ll just stay here and drank.”

i sit beside him and bring the can to my lips. The brew flows soft and full down my throat. Nothing tastes as good—having a cold beer with a good friend.

We chill, singing along to ‘Misery and Gin’, ‘She Acting Single,’ then ‘Empty Glass.’ By the time we go from George Jones’ ‘The One I loved Back then’ to ‘I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair,’ we are ready for a second round.

i follow Justin into the living room. He grabs two cold ones from the fridge.



The Tv is on, so we settle on the couch, watching ‘Two And A Half Men,’ when this commercial for a dating chatline comes on.

Justin points to the television. “That’s how i met my wife.” He cocks his head toward me. “You should try it.”

i let out a low chuckle. “No man, that’s not my thing.”

His brow furrows and he rubs his chin as if in deep thought. “You need a female in your life.” With a sideway smile, he adds, “You should let me call for you.”

i sigh. Then give him a ‘whatever’ shrug. “if you feel like it.”

“I do.” Justin flashes a mischievous grin.

I fling my hands up in surrender. “Go ahead and call.”

He punches the number into his cell and starts browsing North Texas singles. “Aren’t any in the local area.”

“That’s it, then.”

CODI AND I — Our Love Story

“No, no, there’s a number for singles outside our calling area. Just give me a minute.”

Pretty soon he’s chatting with someone. “Me too.”

“What?” i rub the tingle in my neck.

He holds the phone off to the side so whoever is on the line can’t hear. “This girl from Oklahoma is calling for her friend, just like me.” He pulls the cell closer to him. “My friend is with me too.” He nods as she speaks. “Okay.” Justin hands me the phone. “The friend she’s calling for is on the line. Talk to her.”

i bring the cell to my ear, and the warmth in her voice melts all my doubts. My chest feels light. “Codi?” My shoulders slide down and back. “That’s a nice name. Mine’s Jason.” Okay, she sounds interesting, like a nice person. “Yeah, let me get your number.” i mouth the word pen at Justin and soon i’m jotting her digits down. “Mine’s 285-555- 4122.”

A couple of days later i text her. 4


Within a few minutes, she replies. Yeah, this is Codi.

** *

Every day, i perk up and hold the phone closer to my face when i get a text from Codi. Mostly, we talk and laugh about her dogs’ personalities and the funny things they do. Codi’s an animal lover too. She’s had dogs since she was a kid. There is Sassy, a wiener dog with shiny black fur and a skinny little tail. Then Amy, a Snoopy dog. Also, Elijah, with her gorgeous brindle coat. Two small Pomeranians with fluffy black and white fur. And then there’re the two female black Labs—Emily and Jo. i hear so much about Jo with her velvety black coat and large, floppy ears. Her pink tongue hangs out of her mouth as she tags along with Codi wherever she goes. i feel like i know Codi’s dogs. i feel like i’ve known Codi... forever. We need more time. More of each other.

Whenever Codi texts me, my breath hitches. i forget whatever i was about to do.


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

in between texting her, i wonder what she’s doing.

She tells me all about her mother. Soon, we’re texting about our lives growing up. i want to know all there is to know. Everything about her.

Now, she’s asking me more about my life. My cheeks are hot as I blush—flattered by her interest. i’ve known my best friend, Justin, for about eleven years, but Codi knows more about me than he does.

We connect so easily. Our minds fit together. i don’t really understand it. i don’t want to understand it. i just want to enjoy it. Keep it. i want more of it. So does she. We start calling each other.

i melt at the clear, bright tone of Codi’s silvery voice. i call her every day after 9:00 PM. Also, whenever she gets free minutes from Cingular Wireless. Plus, we text throughout the day.

She takes a day off from calling or texting me. That day drags like a slow-motion animation. My mind slips into daydreams



of Codi. At 9:00 PM, the time when one of us usually calls the other, i release a heavy sigh from my leaden chest. i hear her voice in my head even though she’s not there. Thoughts of Codi linger in my head until i finally manage to drift off to sleep.

We don’t share a single picture during any of our texts. So, since i don’t know what she looks like, i base my image of her on her voice and personality. She’s beautiful inside. That’s all that matters.

Now, in early spring as the lush earth awakens, birds hatch, butterflies flutter their colorful wings, flowers rise from the earth—opening their bright blossoms, and silver dewdrops shimmer on Eden-green grass... i know.

i love her. Her voice, her words, her laughter make me feel as fresh and alive as spring. i love her and i haven’t even met her.

Early March 2005, my boss calls me into the office.

“You have a lot of vacation time built up. You need to use some of it soon.”


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

“Umm.” i pause as an idea begins to form in my mind. i feel a lightness in my chest and a tingle at the back of my neck.

“Take next week off, then. I’ll enter it in.”

“Thanks, boss.”

The first three days, I stay around town. But this thought that i have something better to do with my time off grows into a feeling that intensifies into a driving need. Come Thursday, i can’t shut down the voice in my head. Go. Meet this girl. She’s only four and a half hours away, in Oklahoma.



To meet someone i know i love, i need money for the drive. The 96 Olds is cheap on gas, so i borrow it from

Dad, along with $20 to go with my $10. Mom finds out I have a love interest in Oklahoma and pitches in $10. That’s enough to get me to Disney. I drive off from Texas about 1:00 PM in the afternoon. Close to 5:00 PM, i reach Langley—just across the dam from Disney.

I call Codi. “Hey, it’s me. You won’t believe it, but i’m here.”

i hear a gasp, followed by, “What?” There’s a hitch in her breath and she adds, “Are you kidding me?”


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

“No, i’m really here.” My heart’s hammering. “i’m calling from a convenience store in Langley.”

“i’m shocked you didn’t tell me ahead of time. To give me a heads up.” She lets out a sigh. “My house is not clean. And i have dogs.” After a brief pause, she asks, “is that okay?”

“i don’t care about all that. i want to see you.”

“Just wait at the store. i’ll be there soon.”

A fire-engine-red pickup pulls up in front of me. My stomach is fluttery. It’s her. i draw in a quick breath as she steps out.

Wow, she’s all right. i can’t tear my eyes away from the gentle beauty of her face—a perfect oval of smooth, glowing skin, and musk-rose cheeks. My fingers itch with a longing to sweep them through the silken yellow strands, flowing from a central part down to her shapely shoulders.

i jump into my white Olds and follow her. We pass the Welcome to Disney island



sign. Further down a backroad, we pull up to her house. She invites me in, and both of us sink onto the comfortable couch.

On the phone, i only had her voice. Now my senses reel as her pink lips curl into an arresting smile and i inhale her sweet, fruity and floral scent. Her body heat radiates a magnetic pull on me, so much so that my heart races. Sitting next to Codi, every fiber in my body pulses with happiness as we talk about everything.

We drive to a store called Marvin’s for cheese and ham sandwiches with all the fixings. The creamy, tangy taste of the cheese with the savory saltiness of the ham is the best as Codi and I eat our first meal together... there in her truck.

From Marvin’s, we drive to Cherokee State Park. The sun shines generously upon us, but with a soft, spirit-lifting warmth. Hand in hand, we breathe in the invigorating scent of the pines as we stroll beneath them, down to the lake. We walk over wafer-brown, oatmeal-white, and oyster-gray rocks that


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

cluster the shore at the water’s edge. But my feet feel like they’re floating on a cloud. Her closeness affects me that way. Together, we gaze at the light brown water of the lake as it reflects the blue of the sky like a tranquil watercolor painting. A rolling, cackling birdsong rises in the air—it’s the amazing scissor-tailed flycatcher announcing its aerial ballet performance for us. i watch in awe as it opens its white, black-tipped tail like a pair of scissors.

i plan on bedding down in the car, but Codi offers me her spare bedroom. The house is cozy and quaint, with dog hair all over the furniture, which makes me feel at home.

Her sweet, clever, Brindle dog Elijah is the first to greet me. I stroke her soft, subtle tiger-stripe fur in shades of red and black but blended with no distinct lines. Then there’s Sassy, the lively dachshund that likes to cuddle. i also meet the furry, pointed- face Pomeranians, and the broad-headed Labradors, Emily, and the favorite—Jo, with



big, beautiful brown eyes that say to me, I’m smart, friendly, and eager to please. As Codi’s favorite dog, Jo’s opinion of me is the most important. Jo has to like me. And she does. in fact, all the dogs lick my hand and wag their tails as i pet them. They’re a mix of indoor dogs and outdoor dogs, so four of them stay in the house for the night.

i settle down in the guestroom—an attachment to the house, next to the laundry area. My gaze scans an antique dresser and nightstand, as well as the Norman Rockwell painting, and a shelf of collectible figurines. i plop down on the twin bed and fall to sleep.

** *

For breakfast, Codi serves me a bowl of cereal with bananas on the side. “Are you ready?” Her face breaks into a wide, open smile. “i’m going to show you the Grand Lake area today.”

“More than ready.” i bob my head. “i’ll go anywhere you go.”


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

I take the last sip of my coffee. Codi puts all the dishes in the sink, and we head outside to climb into the pickup. As she drives down narrow blacktopped roads and rougher backwoods dirt ones, shaded by leafy trees, i gaze at lush green pastures and whitewashed farmhouses from the passenger window. Codi and i sing along to lyrical country stories of love, loss, and good times on the radio. She parks the truck and says, “This is our first stop, the Grand Lake boat ramp area.”

i follow her down to the grayish-blue water. Sunlight glistens on the surface like shards of glass. i breathe in the fresh spring air and gaze up at wispy clouds drifting across the sky, like white feathers from a mythical giant bird. The purr of a motorboat breaks the silence of the moment as it speeds across the lake, creating ripples.

We hop back in the truck. “i want you to meet my mom. She’s in Grove, it’s on Grand Lake also, close by.”



Sitting in the passenger seat, i smooth down my shirt and shuffle my feet against the plastic mat on the truck floor as I say, “Let’s go. i’d love to meet your mom.” But what i’m thinking is, I sure hope she likes me.

Tall trees line the narrow, slightly hilly backroads, and a little farmhouse here and there with enormous yards and fences, an occasional mobile home, and even a green painted house.

“You might like to see the Harbor Village Antique Museum sometime, it’s a recreation of a frontier town,” Codi says.

“Maybe we can go sometime,” i reply.

Soon she’s driving up to the long brick building of the rehab and rehabilitation nursing center. “This is where my mom’s at now. She’s in and out of the nursing home and the hospital.”

We go in through the sliding glass door that makes a slight scraping sound as it opens. The antiseptic bleach smell hits my nostrils as she leads me down a hall. A nurse’s


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

assistant in blue scrubs walks briskly past us as Codi turns into a room with a painting on the wall behind a green recliner, filled with a brunette woman wearing glasses. She has her feet up and is watching Tv. Codi walks over and gives her a big hug.

Then Codi straightens up, but before she can introduce me, her mom, Glenda, says, “You must be Jason. Codi has told me so much about you.” Her smile is as warm and broad as Codi’s.

Flashing a smile, i say, “i’m so happy to meet the mother of the woman who stole my heart.” i wrap Glenda in a warm hug.

Codi and i plop down on the yellow sofa beside her recliner. i smile and i keep smiling. Glenda smiles back. i’m excited to be there and genuinely feel welcomed by Glenda. We relax and enjoy a friendly chat about my life in Texas, what i do, and general stuff that comes up in conversation during the hour or so of my visit. Then, Codi and i both hug Glenda good-bye. About ten minutes after we leave, we drop by Walmart



to pick up a few things Glenda needs, and we drive back to the nursing home to drop them off. Codi steers onto the road again and heads to the other side of Grove across the Missouri line.

“This little town is Southwest City, Missouri,” Codi says.

We pass old one-story porched stores and businesses downtown, a little church, a gas station, a water tower, and then we’re passing houses and mailboxes. Soon, we turn, crossing back.

“We’re in Oklahoma again.” We come to another quaint town. “This is Jay,” Codi says. “They have a lot more here than Disney does, they’ve got a Walmart, a Subway, an Arvest bank, and a Homeland grocery store. But the thing you need to know about Jay is it’s the huckleberry capital of the world. Bet you didn’t know that.”

“You got me there. But it sounds like fun.”

“it sure is,” Codi says. “Every 4th of July they have a Huckleberry Festival with a parade, a car show, and fireworks.”


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

“i’ll have to see that sometime.”

She slowly turns her head and meets my gaze. “Yeah, you’ll have to come back for that.”

“And for other things, i imagine.”

Codi grins as she drives by the town square. Some shops, a couple of cafes, and a white brick courthouse with different white, blue and red flags waving in the breeze.

“i know the one with the Native American buffalo shield on it is the Oklahoma flag,” I say, then i notice a gazebo with a charming white wooden rail and walkway. “We have one like that in Sanger, by the veterans Memorial in our downtown park, except it’s brown, with brick columns, and it doesn’t have rails or a ramp.”

“Yeah, I like gazebos. They deck this one all out for Christmas with multi-colored lights and big red velvet bows. it’s a sight to see, puts you in the holiday mood and all.”

“Well, i can’t miss that. Christmas in Disney would be nice.”



She keeps driving, and as we enter another town, she says, “This is Eucha. it’s just southeast of Grand Lake of the Cherokees. My best friend, Lindsey, lives here. Also, there’s good fishing at Lake Eucha and they have some good restaurants if you like seafood or Mexican food. “

She pulls up in front of the house and cuts the truck engine off. “This is it.” I follow her up to the front door.

As soon as she opens the door to us, Lindsey says, “Damn girl, he looks pretty good.”

Codi and i throw back our heads at the same time and let out a roar of full-hearted laughter.

i’m still chuckling as a guy steps into the living room to stand at Lindsey’s side. She pats his shoulder and says, “This is my husband, Cecil.”

i shake his hand. “Glad to meet you.”

i step over a toy or two to sit down on the sofa with Codi.


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

Cecil and Lindsey each settle into a roomy armchair in front of us and the four of us chat, laugh, and have an awesome time together.

** *

We start off Sunday with a simple breakfast like yesterday, then Codi and i go roading. Country music blares on the radio as i slip my arm around her shoulders, snuggling close. Codi’s breath is hot against my left cheek as we joke and chat. She drives us below the dam and around the golf course. The time passes so fast. We eat two more meals together.

Then, before i know it, i’m standing beside her—outside her house—by my car.

I stuff my hand in my pocket, absently clutching and unclenching the car keys.

Codi leans her head into the hollow between my shoulders and neck. My skin tingles from the contact as we gaze at the colors brushed upon the evening sky. A blend of fuchsia-pink, royal-purple, and fiery-orange with rays of saffron.



“The sun’s setting. i can’t wait any longer. i need to get on the road.”

“I know.” Codi lifts her head off my shoulder. “Back to Texas.”

“Yes.” I’m weighed down as if I’d slipped on a sixty-pound chainmail shirt like a knight of old before bidding his lady farewell and riding off to the king’s war. “I have to work tomorrow.”

Codi is so still. “i don’t want you to leave.” Her shoulders slump. “But i know you have to.”

“i don’t want to go.” i step closer and pull her into my embrace. The soft, pulsating warmth of her body sends a shiver of heat up my spine. Codi returns my hug with an affectionate squeeze.

As she eases out of my embrace, i lift my hand and cup her chin. Tenderly, i pull her face closer to mine and kiss her cheek, as gentle as a whisper. “i’m going to miss you.” Suddenly, overcome with a sensation of loss, i gulp hard, rigidly holding back the tears.


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

“it was a fun weekend.” She gazes at me with heart-rending tenderness. “i never met a man from Texas before. i think you’ll be back. You seem like you like it here.”

“Damn right, i will be back. i can’t get enough of you and your dogs. i’ll call when i get to Texas.”

** *

Driving back home, i’m thinking the only place i want to be is with Codi. Sitting next to her, in her truck, in her house, in a café... it doesn’t matter where. And it doesn’t matter when. Even if we’re roading and run out of gas or get lost... it doesn’t long as i’m next to Codi.

At that moment, a sincere, upbeat, foot-tapping song plays on the radio. As i’m singing along to ‘Next to you next to me,’ by Shenandoah, i realize they get it. That’s what i’m feeling. All i need is to be with Codi, just as we are. it’s like they wrote the song for Codi and me. Our love song.



Hearing Codi’s voice on the phone during the week isn’t enough. And, today’s Friday, the end of five hard days without her. Longing to gaze into her blissful-blue eyes, I fire up the Olds and steer north onto i-69. Thoughts of Codi swirl in my head as i gaze at the scenery of grass, trees, billboards, and barbecue places from the car window. After rolling down the highway for about an hour, i stop at a filling station for gas and hot coffee. My heart races as i pull onto the freeway again, toward Oklahoma.

i inhale the strong, perky, aroma of my cup of joe while gazing into the purplish-


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

blue evening sky. Sipping my coffee, I recall how the past week dragged by. Each day after work, i lay on the couch watching Tv for hours—never knowing what was happening on the shows because Codi was the only thing on my mind.

I put my coffee in the cup holder and think about one calli had with her where i heard music in the background. One of Codi’s favorites. i played it all week, knowing she might be listening to it at the same time. it was as close to being with her as i could get.

Suddenly, Garth Brooks’ ‘Ain’t Going Down Till The Sun Comes Up’ plays on the radio. Tears build up in my eyes. That’s it. That’s the song. i take another gulp from the paper cup and cross the Oklahoma/Texas line.

Continuing down this stretch of road, i pass fruit stands (local farmers hand-selling carrots, tomatoes, apples, and blackberries), and old wooden houses with chairs, wagon wheels, and other old treasures out front



and painted signs—’Antiques for sale’. i pull over at a store in McAlester, Oklahoma, to pick up a dog toy for Sassy and a baseball cap for Codi.

Steering onto the highway again, i lean back in my seat. Codi is waiting for me at the end of this long drive. That’s all that matters. I turn off onto OK-28. It’s not much farther.

Now, i’m in Langley, passing the auto parts store. All choked up, i swallow hard, driving across the dam into Disney.

Soon i’m pulling into her driveway, then stepping up to the door. Knowing i’ll be with her again, i’m light, pumped, like a huge Thanksgiving Day balloon floating through the azure sky as everyone’s cheering.

i knock. There’s no answer. “Codi!” i rap my knuckles so hard on the door, it hurts. “it’s me.”

Where is Codi? i keep texting and calling her cell. She doesn’t answer. i wait. i leave the presents on the doorstep, then drive around looking for her.


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

it’s a few hours later and still no sign of Codi. I feel deflated... small. And I head back to Texas.

On the road, two hours into the drive home, the phone rings. it’s Codi. “Hey, i missed you. I drove around but couldn’t find you, so i left. But i’ll see you next weekend. is that okay?”

She explains, apologizes, and swears she’ll see me then.

** *

Throughout the week, we talk and text. Finally, it’s Friday, and the phone rings.

“i’m coming to you this time,” Codi says. “i’m on my way. And i have another surprise... i’m bringing my friends.”

“Wait. You’re coming here?” Did I hear her right? “To Sanger?”

“Yes! I just crossed the Texas/Oklahoma line. i’m almost there.”

A fierce joy streaks through me like a fiery rocket. Codi’s on her way.

** *



i empty the trash, glance at my phone to see the time, wipe the kitchen counter, and mop the floors. The cleanser fills the house with the scent of lemons. i look at the wall clock. She’ll be here soon. I fluff and briskly rearrange a few things. There’s a firm knock on the door. A warm, tingly sensation rises in my chest.

Codi walks in. i breathe in her sweet spring scent as her broad smile captivates me. it sets her entire face aglow, and i lean in to plant a gentle kiss on her velvet soft cheek.

After the introductions, Codi and i and her friends hang out, drinking, talking, eating, watching Tv, listening to music— having a good time. We also take a drive out to SONiC.

The carhop in a red shirt and black ball cap skates to my driver-side window carrying a tray of grilled hamburgers, hot coney dogs, salty tater-tots, sweet slushes, and creamy shakes. After we dine in the car, i take them for a drive, giving them a


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

brief tour of Sanger. Then it’s back to my apartment for more fun.

But Sunday always comes, so once again i have to say goodbye to Codi. Then, she and her friends head to Oklahoma.

** *

it’s a whirlwind of round trips from the Lone Star state to the Sooner state and the Sooner state to the Lone Star state.

The next Friday, i drive to Disney for my first date with Codi. We dine at the PiZZA HUT in Jay Oklahoma. The following weekend, Codi visits me for fun in my hot tub and the swimming pool.

** *

Another week comes and goes, bringing the date to Friday, April’s Fools Day, 2005. i’m thinking about the concert in Dallas next Saturday. Brad Paisley, and Neal McCoy are playing at the KSCS Country fair. i told Codi ahead of time, in late March, that i might go, and if so, wouldn’t be down that weekend. i



have these free tickets and i don’t want to just throw them away.

She knows my love for concerts, Codi texts me today at 10am. Good Morning Jason! Still going to that concert tomorrow?

i text back. Next Saturday. Would like to, but I want to be with you too. Can’t get enough of you.

Codi’s not a big fan of crowded places, and concerts but she texts, If you want me to come down, I can bring my mom. She can stay with us for the week, then we can all go together.

Feeling bouncy and fluttery on the other end of the phone, i text back. Yes, great idea and it’s next Saturday the 9th. Not tomorrow.

** *

That afternoon, while i’m working at Presbyterian Hospital of Denton, my cell chimes with a text from Codi.


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

Nursing home gave permission to check my mom out. She can spend a week with me in Texas with you.

i reply, Great. Glenda will love it in Texas.

Codi responds, We can come tonight, if that’s okay?

There’s no storms coming, i text back. Sounds good to me. Keep me updated on your way here. Let me know when you’re in Texas. You know I worry about you.”

Three and a half hours later Codi texts,

Just got into Texas. Crossed the Red River. Pulling off at the rest stop for restroom break and so my mom can see the Texas star.

i reply back, Great. Can’t wait to see your beautiful face.

Codi texts back, I am not beautiful. i text, To me you are.

An hour later, Codi texts, “We’re in Sanger”

i text back, Okay. 30


Codi and her mom will be here any minute. i’ve got to clean up fast. i take out the trash and shove my piled-up laundry into the closet. i run downstairs to wait but in 5 minutes, Codi drives up in her race-red Ford Ranger with her mom in the passenger seat.

i call out, “That’s my Codi.”

They park, and i dash to the truck.. My smile almost hurts, it must be that wide.

i open the passenger door. Glenda greets me, “Nice to see you again, Jason,”

Codi and i get Glenda’s wheelchair out and help her down and into it. We also get her up the flight of stairs to my second-floor apartment.

** *

Throughout the week while i work, Codi and Glenda drive around Sanger checking out the highlights—gazing at beautiful, tranquil Lake Ray Roberts and its beach like sand for fun-in-the-sun, the rushing, gushing,


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

roaring water of the huge concrete dam, and the enjoying our charming town square and intriguing downtown shops.

On Friday, a spicy, herbal, cheesy, tomato aroma wafts through the living room as we eat pizza while watching Tv.

“You sure have a nice little town here,” Glenda says.

“My hometown is actually Pilot Point. it’s not far. it’s close to Sanger.” i tell her about the fun music scene and artistic murals on the buildings—both at the town square and Lizzie Gators, an art compound. So. after we chat for half an hour about what a nice little town Pilot Point is, i turn to Codi. “We have an extra ticket and i’d like to bring my mom tomorrow.”

“Sure, it’s your ticket.”

i call mom. “it’s me, Jason. i have Glenda and Codi here with me. Glenda is Codi’s mom. You’ll like her. I want you to meet them. i have an extra ticket to see Brad Paisley tomorrow night. Would you like to come? “



“i’d love to. That would be nice,” Mom says.

** *

The next day my aunt calls and says, “i’m dropping your mom off at your apartment around 5pm for the concert.”

She has to, because my mom can’t drive. My thoughts backpedal as part of me wavers on a tinge of doubt. i accidentally bite my cheek. i know there’s no reason Mom won’t approve of or get along with Codi. And no reason Codi won’t love my mom. i rub my rib area. it suddenly feels tight.

“Remember, we have to go to the store to pickup some stuff to make sandwiches,” Codi says.

“Yes, sure, let’s go.” I stand up as Codi does.

i help Glenda down the stairs again.

We take Codi’s truck, she drives, and we’re soon at the store. i push the grocery cart, as it makes a clanking metal sound, over to the refrigerated area of hanging packages


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

of sandwich meat, then on to the similar area of pre-packaged sliced cheeses, and lastly to the bread aisle. Soon we are checking out at the register. As i head back to Codi’s truck , clutching two plastic bags of food. i know there’s something i’ve forgotten, but i don’t realize what it is.

Codi pulls up to the apartment and sees a middle age woman standing there in front, wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt with ‘i Am Awesome’ printed on it, and gray tennis shoes.

“That’s my mother. My aunt dropped her off. She was on her way here when we were at the store. i forgot.”

We all get out and walk up to Mom.

“i should have been here. We went to get groceries before the concert,” i told her.

“i knew you’d be here soon. i have not been waiting long at all. My sister just dropped me off.”

i lift the groceries for her to see. “We didn’t have a chance to eat anything before the concert, so we had to go to the store to



get stuff to make sandwiches with so we can eat them in the car on the way.”

i gaze deep into Codi’s lucid eyes. “This is my mom.” i’m still holding the plastic sacks of bread and stuff. “This is Codi, the most amazing woman i’ve ever met.”

They’re both smiling.

“Glad to meet you.” Codi’s blonde strands fall across my mom’s chestnut hair as she envelops her in a warm hug. As they drop their arms, Mom says, “Just call me Josie.”

Glenda, sitting in the wheelchair, dressed in stretchy gray pants and a nice powder blue blouse, reaches out her hand to my mom. “Hello, i’m Codi’s mom, Glenda.”

My mom gives her hand a friendly shake. “Nice to meet you.”

Glenda flashes my mom a sweet smile. “i stay in Grove right now at a nursing home, but I hope to get out soon. You should come to Grove one day.’”

“Grove has a casino and a big fishing tournament each year, the Bassmaster


CODI AND I — Our Love Story

Classic.” Codi nods at Josie. “We will make sure you come to visit Grove.”

“i’m looking forward to it,” Josie says.

We all walk over to my dad’s Olds, which i’m still borrowing. i put the sandwich fixings in the car and glance at the time on my phone. “The concert is at 7PM. it’s getting late and we have to drive all the way to irving to the Cowboy’s stadium.”

“Let’s go,” Codi replies.

i load Glenda’s wheelchair in the trunk while she and Josie settle in the back seat. Codi takes the passenger seat, and i get behind the wheel and steer us to irving.

At the Concert we sit in the wheelchair section of the outdoor stadium. The huge speakers stand on the stage—lit with brilliant spotlights shining into the night sky. The concert starts off with a couple of up-and-coming Texas bands playing to the packed audience that is drinking, smoking, and cheering loudly after each song.

Then Neal McCoy takes the stage. 36


i sing along to ‘They’re playing our song’, one of Neal’s famous hits.

“My favorite song is ‘The Shake’,” Glenda says.

“He’ll sing that. You wait,” I say.

He does and Glenda and i sing along to it.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, Brad takes the stage. The screaming, whistling, and cheering starts. The packed crowd is on their feet, waving their arms, going crazy. Brad sings ‘Wrapped Around’ as the spotlight is on him.

** *

After the show, Codi says, “i’m so tired,” “Me too,” i reply. i feel weighed down,

staggering. i know we all do.
Glenda rolls along in her wheelchair as

the rest of us trudge back to the Oldsmobile. We pile in. i load the wheelchair in the trunk and we head to Sanger.

On the way, we stop at McDonald’s. 37

CODI AND I — Our Love Story

My mom says. “When Jason and his sister were little, i took them here all the time. They had birthday parties at the one in Denton.”

Once we’re back at my apartment, Codi and i help Glenda up the stairs. When we get settled in for the night, my mom calls a friend to come take her home.

** *

The next morning, we have donuts, milk, and coffee for breakfast. The sweet sugary donut glaze dissolves on my tongue, while i listen to Codi and her mom make plans to drive back to Disney today. As 11 AM rolls around, Codi and her mom are ready to get into the Ford Ranger and take that long drive to Disney.

i stand, walk to the door with Codi, and say, “i don’t want you to go.” i pull her into my arms in a tight embrace and kiss her gently on the cheek.

“Somehow, i have to stop this swirling. The weekend is all we get, tempest.”



“i know.” She returns my hug.

“i had so much fun with you and your mom. Next time y’all come, i’ll be living somewhere else. i guess.”

“Why?” She cocks her head.

“My apartment lease is about up. i figure I better find another place to move.”

“Really?” She doesn’t take her gaze from me and her forehead crinkles. After a long pause, Codi says, “i’ve got an idea. Move to Oklahoma. You can save money since it’s cheaper to live there than in Texas.”

She drives away, but i can’t stop thinking about what she said. So, later that week, i call her, and as we’re talking, i update her on the search.

“i’ve been looking for a place in or around Disney, but I can’t find anything close to you.”

“i don’t trust many guys.” There’s a long pause, then Codi continues, “But i trust you. And I’ll make room for you. You can move in with me.”



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