Someone’s Watching (Novel Intro) by Cortney Joseph

The following is the intro to “Someone’s Watching“, book 1 in my upcoming Gaitland University Series.

As I work towards publishing, all four books will be shared in their unedited stages via Wattpad. Feel free to follow along if you enjoy the intros and select chapters that I will be sharing here on MyPenWritesNice.

 

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I watched as the devil lay dying, tears spilling over the heavy ducts of my eyes. They burned, streaming down each of the deep cuts that marred my face. Each sting reminding me of the anguish I’d endured, the battle I was slowly losing with each pained breath I took.

The more I tried to lift myself, a body of bones that ached insufferably, the more I felt myself falling into a puddle of sweat, blood, and tattered clothing. I could feel it all draining, the very short life I’ve lived sprinting through my mind. The good times, the bad, the things I’d put my parents through and all the wrong I thought they’d done to me.

I could hear sirens sounding faintly in the distance, and when I tried to wail along with them I heard nothing more than their echos fading.
Blurry vision prevented me from seeing a way out, any way to safety. Instead, each forced blink was met by a blinding light waiting to lead me out of the darkness and into another life I was not ready for.
I felt every inch of me, every part of me giving out as my mind pushed me to fight.
FIGHT DAMNIT.

But I couldn’t. I’d played and laid with the devil while searching for freedom I thought I needed; and now, a chariot swung low above me. It’d come forth to carry me home.

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Simple Girl, Simple Dream by Cortney Joseph

The following is a stand-alone short story, a prelude to the official rewrite of my upcoming novel Fly Girl.

Feel free to follow along with the full novel on Wattpad.

 

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Torii Mercier slammed her locker shut, wondering how she’d even found herself in random conversation with someone she rarely sat in the same social circles with. She sighed, walking away as quickly as her feet would carry her. The girl followed behind closely, continuing before Torii could insist she stop. She made mention of Torii’s sister hoping to strike a good nerve. “Troy auditions for anything that comes, and she does it because it makes her happy. She wants to be the pop star, not me.”

“She does it, because she’s smart enough to use her gifts to get the hell up out of here.”

Torii paused, facing the person intruding on her personal time and space. “Look, Miranda-“

“Randy is fine.”

“Okay, Randy, listen… I appreciate the vote of confidence that comes from you and everyone else. But just because a person has one special gift, that doesn’t mean that gift flows with the plan they have for themselves.”

Miranda Parker, a bit of a nervous soul, shifted her weight from one leg to the other. She scoffed, amazed at how simple the truly gifted seemed to be. “If I had a voice like yours, I’d be singing from a damn mountain top. Don’t you understand what could happen if you audition?”

“I don’t care.”

“Then what do you care about?!” Torii wondered why it mattered to anyone else what she did. Lots of people in the world had a variety of talents; some who never discovered them, and others who squandered them by choice.

“Whatever I choose to do, I’m going to be successful because I’m going to work hard at it. No talent is needed for an extra edge.”

“Extra edge gets you further in life. Do you really want to be stuck here forever?”

She didn’t, and there was nothing worthwhile in their little hometown. But, Torii had never been anywhere else to know if there was truly better elsewhere. Had never even thought of where she would go if she did gain a way out.

“Okay, so maybe I want to be involved in music in some fashion. If I had to sing, fine. But I just want to kick it in the background, where the real money is made.”

“Nobody shows love to the background singers.”

“And unless you have an amazing contract, the lead singers don’t always make bank either.” Miranda stood straight, intrigued. “The songwriters do, and often for a lifetime. I love writing.” A smile danced across her face. “I dream of penning number one hits, top tens and twenties. Writing for Celine Dion and Gladys Knight. I imagine myself the next Diane Warren. Troy sings, and if she’d have me on her team I’d write the hits. That’s the dream. Since there’s nothing for writers here, nothing else intrigues me. But thanks, Randy, for making me think of what I’d like to do for myself. It was a nice thought.”

Torii said goodbye, rushing off to her English class.

Little Girl, Big Dream by Cortney Joseph

The following is a stand-alone short story, a prelude to the official rewrite of my upcoming novel Fly Girl.

Feel free to follow along with the full novel on Wattpad.

 

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Timothy Mercier could only smile as he peered through the crack his youngest left in her bedroom door, opening it as quietly as possible before he leaned against the door frame.

Her short and thin figure moved in awkward motions to the classic tune that played from a stereo she’d been gifted, her voice shining greatly over the artist. He felt the song a bit inappropriate for a twelve year old, but it had always been her favorite. The very song that aided in the discovery of her talent.

He smiled at her frustration, watching as she decided to stand still and sing, using only her hands to make gestures. “You want thiiiiis…”

Timothy cleared his throat, startling the girl just as she was about to give it her all. “Daddy!”

“I always hope that you’ll sing more age appropriate tunes.” Nodding towards the mess that adorned her bedroom, he spoke in a more stern tone. “Troy, what’s all of this? And why are you up here stomping around?”

Her smile faded instantly. “Thanks for making me feel worse about my dancing.” Her hands fell to her side, disappointment weighing heavily. “I’ll never make it with my singing alone.”

“Make what, Troy?”

Stepping over the mess of clothing and random items to reach her bed, Troy grabbed a single piece of paper, handing it to him. “I’ve been going to these auditions, trying to gather up my nerve to perform for someone other than you guys.”

“You said it like performing for your family is the worst thing.”

“It would just be nice to garner a few unbiased opinions.”

He understood, though no one in their family had ever been the type to mince words or spare feelings when it mattered. “So, what exactly are you attempting to do this for?”

Troy looked at her father, giving a tiny smile. “We had a project and we had to create lives for ourselves in the future. Everybody had their entire lives planned out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, until it dawned on me. The only thing I’ve ever loved.”

“Singing?”

“It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember. To be as great as Janet and Mariah. But, I’m scared of things ending for me the way they ended for Mom. Putting all of that time in, and no success.”

Timothy looked down at the paper he’d been given, glossing over the details. “Your mother’s idea of success was different. She was happy, even without making it. It may not happen when you want it to, or when you think it should, but it will happen. You’ve got IT, Sweetheart.  When’s this audition?”

“Next Friday.”

He nodded, folding the paper a few times before pushing it into the pocket of his shirt. “I think I better go and buy you that Janet Jackson VHS you wanted, get you some help with those steps.”

Troy smiled excitedly, grateful he didn’t shut her dream down. “Thanks Daddy.”

When Sundown Comes (Intro) by Cortney Joseph

The following is the intro to a novel I’ve just begun, writing only in hopes of healing and working through my own grief. If you enjoy, you’ll be able to read along as I share new chapters on Wattpad.

 

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Grief is such a strange emotion; brings about an array of thoughts, feelings, and actions. No matter how often it crosses your path, you’re never prepared for it’s arrival after a death. Never prepared for the destruction it drags along. Death is such a natural stage of life, yet it never fails to catch you off guard. It never fails to leave you broken and confused, wracking your brain for endless hours over the should haves, would haves, and could haves. Leave you feeling helpless over the didn’t dos and will nevers.

Left me like a deer caught in headlights, though I should have seen the moment coming from the day I walked away, had actually expected it years earlier. And as prepared as I felt I should have been, and in spite of the forever stoic look on my face, it still tore my heart to pieces.

As I look down on my mother, I realize nothing will ever be the same again. And I’ll never get the chance to make amends; I’d wasted all the years I had.

Around me, I could hear the generic sobs of family members and ‘friends’ that had never cared to do more than gossip about the type of wife and mother Michelle White had been in her darker years. Never what she had been when life was filled with sunshine and daisies. I could hear the whispers of false pity and concern, the ‘those poor girls’ and the ‘I am just surprised she last this long’ comments.

Behind me, near the entrance of the church we occupied, I could even hear the snide commentary of the one woman that held a life-long grudge against my mother. Somehow, anything that happened to my mother, even the end of her battle with addiction, was a roundabout result of my father choosing her for his wife. An end result she deserved for stealing a man that had made his own choice. Her words were the nastiest; in the place that taught you not to speak ill of the dead, no less. Women are funny that way, and sad at the same time.

Beside me, holding tight to herself and rocking from side to side was my baby sister. A tiny thing, tears streaming down her pretty brown face with no end in sight. I could tell from the way she jerked away that she did not want me here, or near her for that matter. Though grief stricken too, she is taking it far harder than I and she has not taken well to my sudden reappearance. Feels I don’t truly care, feels I should have stayed away since I walked away when things were the hardest.

And maybe she’s right. I’m at a loss, unsure of what to do.

“Oh, mama. Mama, pleaaaaseee get up, please.”

“Hold on to that baby, it’s the least you can do, Naomi.”

I looked to my right, choosing to ignore my great-aunt as she brushed past me. Just as she would have done to me, my baby sister jerked away and ran out of the church. There were loud gasps, the overzealous cries of the church mothers, the calling of prayers; yet no one went after her. No one truly cared, not more than they had to, just showing face.

I placed my hand atop the bottom half of my mother’s casket, afraid to touch her, afraid that in some way I’d hurt her even more than I had in life. “I’m sorry Mama, for everything.”

“Just the sorriest child she had. Owe Michelle much more than a tired apology, if you ask me.”

I turned to my great aunt, deciding for once that biting my tongue out of respect wouldn’t suffice. “You’re right, Aunt Edna, I did owe her more. Unfortunately, she’s not here anymore and all I have now is a tired apology.  I hope you apologized as well. For the lies you told my father that made him leave, for the rumors you spread around this town about our family, for the abuse you inflicted on Mama in her youth, but especially for introducing her to the crap that killed her. How about you apologize and atone for that.”

With nothing left to say, I turned and walked away. I left to search for my baby sister. If I was nothing else to her, I would be the one true pillar of support. Though I’m unsure of how we’ll make it, we are all we have now.

Lord, help.

Guess Who I Saw Today by YoLana Crocket

The table was set, dinner placed before her husband promptly at seven p.m. Routine undisturbed, though for once the atmosphere was one both would deem uncomfortable.

He thought a bit of music would set the mood, ease the tension building. So, she placed Marlena Shaw on the Victrola he’d given as one of many ‘sorry again’ presents. Go Away Little Boy filtered from the living room into the dining room.

“Heh, not quite the voice or style I had in mind, but it’ll do.”

She returned, silent with the years of pain dancing across her face. Rather than sitting beside her husband, she sat across from him at the opposite end of the table. It was unusual, but he didn’t seem bothered or worried by the sight.

In fact, he carried on with his meal as if all were fine.

“You normally have a full novel to spill. The instant I hit the door to the time we lie down, you’re chatting away. What’s wrong, Sadie?”

“Oh, nothing John. Just have a lot on my mind, I suppose.”

“You suppose?” He watched her for a few brief moments before raising his fork to his mouth. Silence filled the space between them once more before he spoke again. “Alright, I’ll take the bait. Tell me what’s going on. What’s happened in your little world that’s gotten you so quiet.”

She contemplated to herself for a long while, wondering if it would truly be worth speaking up. If it would make any difference at all. Would she walk away once it was all said and done.

A gentle smile played along the corners of her mouth, her voice soft and timid as she recounted the afternoon that rendered her silent.

“I guess since you’ve picked up more hours at the office, it’s become a bit more lonely lately.”

“You’ve got Helen and the girls, you could have called them over if you’d wanted to. No sense in being alone in this big old house.”

“These days John, alone has many meanings. Sometimes I’m in a room full of others, and yet the surroundings seem and feel as empty as our bedroom.” He nodded, failing to understand. However, he encouraged his wife to continue. “Well, A few weeks back I decided to start venturing out on my own. See what I could get into, maybe even find a job of my own.”

“A job. Whatever for? You’re very well taken care of, aren’t you?”

“Of course. Still, I’d like to feel useful. Anyhow, no luck with finding a job or small hobby. But getting out has exposed me to quite a few things.”

John nodded, taking long sips of his water. “Such as?”

“You can’t imagine all of the old friends I’ve bumped into. People I haven’t seen in years because I’m so cooped up and busy being a wife.” She paused for a long while, continuing with a short chuckle. “Well, there’s one familiar face I’ve been seeing more and more frequently. Kind of crazy considering how that person and I went our separate ways.”

“Bad parting?”

She nodded. “Oh, the worse. I’m certain you remember graduation night. My very best friend then, Karen.” Her husband sat up straight, only nodding briefly. “Well, after discovering how terrible of a friend she was then, you’d think fate would remember to keep us from crossing paths.”

“Well, Sadie, I told you from day one how bad of an influence she was. Loose, no morals about herself. And the thought of going around poising the minds of young guys and gals that only wished to live in domestic bliss. It was good riddance when you kicked Karen to the curb.”

So she’d thought. “You keep interrupting me, John. Don’t you want to hear what happened?”

“Sure, sorry.”

Her smile was polite, yet as sharp as a knife cutting deep into tension that was beginning to stifle him. “I’ve been seeing Karen about town quite a lot these past few weeks. I found it odd at first that she’d be back around little old Palmer, but then I remembered her parents still live in town. I figured maybe she’s back since her mother has taken ill.”

“Perhaps.”

“Well, to avoid any odd interactions, I stopped her on one instance and we spoke briefly. I told her about our quaint little life, and to my surprise she didn’t laugh it off the way she would have years ago. She spoke about how she wished she’d followed the rest of us Church-mouses to the altar with one of the boys that loved her then. I admitted that I both admired and envied the jet-setting life she spoke of so excitedly. We shared a nice little hug and went our separate ways. She stated she was going to be leaving soon and was glad to have put the past behind us, in case she never returned or we never spoke again.”

“That’s nice, Sadie. I guess what you say is true; people can change, even for the better.”

“Yes, and others for the worse. But John, that’s not the most interesting part of the story.”

“Oh? Well please, continue.” On the inside, he wished he hadn’t told her to do so. Something nagged, something told him he would regret it. But the chatterbox was running, and there was no point in stopping her now.

“Imagine me being out on the town today, still looking for something to occupy my free time. I went all the way to the West Side!”

“Sadie, you know that side is filled with nothing but uppity, rich folk that look down on us. Your feelings get hurt so easily at the slightest word shot your way.”

“I was fine, John. Though, I did get the shock of my life. Anyway, I was just walking around. No one was bothering me, I wasn’t bothering anyone. And something, my intiution perhaps, tells me to look up and look across Tenth Avenue.”

He sighed, pushing his plate away as she continued. “Yeah, what’d you see?”

“Not just a what, but a who as well. Here’s me thinking that little blast from the past was only a brief one, and I see Karen again. Oh, John, she had on the most stunning dress I’ve ever seen in my life. It was one of those peek-a-boo numbers I always fancy myself wearing, but the Church girl in me won’t allow it. Her hair was flowing, these long and bouncy, jet black curls falling at her waist. And there was a man with her. Dressed to the nines, all designer! Looked like he could have been a big movie star. Certainly threads you and I would never wear.”

“Right.”

“I guess I found myself a bit caught up, staring. Being a total creep, if I’m being honest. You see, it was more than what they were wearing. It was how they interacted. As if they adored one another, as if they’d been in love for years. But, but…”

“What?”

She lowered her voice, leaning across the table for a short moment. “A hidden love. When their eyes weren’t glued on one another, they were peeping and peering over their shoulders. Perhaps her career path is far greater than she let on and they just had to be careful, but that wasn’t the look of fear their eyes held when they were checking and double and triple checking to make sure they were in the clear.”

“So what type of fear do you think you saw?”

“The kind most folk have when they’re being deceitful, hurting others in the process of making themselves happy.” He began to loosen the boring brown tie around his neck, clearing his throat. “They’re just carrying on once they see they’re safe and no one they’re worried about has seen them. They go into this nice little cafe, a place I know I could never afford on my own. A place I know I’d never be treated to.”

“Never know Dear, all you have to do is ask.”

She smiled. “Well, I wouldn’t think for a moment that it’s your type of scene. Anyway, I’m entranced by the site. I don’t know why, because it brings up a bit of pain for me, but I stand there and watch them the whole while. They have a great lunch, dance to the smooth jazz and bosa nova being played by a live band. And then they take their exit.”

“And you lost sight of them.”

“Oh, the opposite Honey. See, they didn’t go very far. Fancy threads, still dancing on the clouds of forbidden love… just a few short steps down to the priciest hotel in Palmer. I could only imagine the luxury, so I decided to follow my imagination. Oh, the hotel is just GRAND. Fit for any royal, all of Hollywood, and secret trysts. I spot them at the concierge’s desk. Checking in, under false names. Though curiosity tried to get the best of me, I stayed with my foot planted at the entrance. Fresh and cold tears streaming down my face.”

“Wh-why were you crying? Darling, you don’t have to live vicariously through others. We can do these things.”

She exhaled; the smile she wasn’t aware her face held fading. “I was crying because I found myself wishing we could, and wondering why we haven’t… ever. And I cried even harder on my way back to the car.”

“Why?”

“Because the realization of why we never will hit me. The realization of who I saw with Karen. Can you take a guess at who I saw?” He remained silent longer than she felt he should have. “GUESS!”

Startled, he jumped at the bass that found its way into his wife’s meek and tender voice. “I-I don’t know.”

“It was you, John. I saw you, giving the love and life you promised me to another woman.”

Without another word, Sadie stood and walked away.

Not Gon’ Cry by Cortney joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, listening as the love of my life packed up everything possible. I should have expected this, should have seen this coming after recognizing the signs and the changes. Still, the fact that I’m being left for someone else; someone younger, someone better looking… it hurts so much.

 

I can’t help but think that I should have beat them to the punch. Should have done my own experimenting and exploring, should have taken my own two weeks out of the country to ‘find myself’, should have done any and everything to be the one causing pain instead of feeling it.

For better or for worse, for richer, for poor. In sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.

Ha, more like ‘til I find someone willing to accept bullshit without speaking up or questioning things.

I was everything anyone could have wanted.

Quiet, supportive, gentle, respectful, honest, appreciative… Would have done anything in this world for my love, … would have given my last, taken my last breath just for her.

“James, please, just whatever you do… don’t cry. That’s so unbecoming of a man.”

I sat up, resting on my elbows. “Unbecoming? Just as unbecoming of a woman leaving her husband and kids for a stranger she just met two weeks ago, right? You know, I did everything for you, Sloan.” She took a deep breath, resting her hand on her hips as she looked at me. “If it weren’t for me, you’d still be living under your mother’s control. If it weren’t for me, that tiny ass business of yours wouldn’t have gotten off the ground, wouldn’t have expanded, and wouldn’t be one of the top businesses in the nation today. Thirteen years I’ve spent, sitting and working behind the scenes, building you up while taking little to no credit. Day in and day out, taking the brunt of your frustration, working my ass off to make sure you were comfortable and happy. I loved you wholeheartedly, with everything in me, but it never mattered to you. You loved yourself enough to be content without my love. Selfish.”

“Stop it.”

“Always selfish.”

“Oh grow up! Be a man! I’m leaving you, and you’re going to deal with it.”

 

I nodded, lying back as I cleared my throat. “You’re right, I am going to deal with it. And no, I’m not going to cry. You’re not worth a single tear, and if I could stop my children from feeling bad and crying for the fact that they’re losing their mother, I would. You don’t deserve their tears, you don’t deserve them, their affections, or to be missed by them.”

“Excuse me?”

“I didn’t stutter Sloan. Go ahead and finish packing your bags. Have all the fun in the world in your new life with your little friend. But please understand that when you return; there will be divorce papers, alimony and child support petitions, and I am seeking full custody.”

I could hear an audible gasp, and I just know her jaw dropped. And before she could start bitching and complaining, I grabbed my phone and headphones, turning on one of my favorite Latimore blues albums as I zoned out.

 

Sure as I said I wasn’t going to cry, but I couldn’t help it. They weren’t for my soon-to-be ex-wife though. Just for all we’d lost, for my kids and the pain they’d have to go through. I was strong enough to handle everything else. I’ve been lonely for the majority of this marriage anyway, more than half of it, been doing things on my own for quite some time too. I can handle the stares, the gossip and anything else that has to come from our family.

Thoughts of me being the one to leave first, at the very first sign of her stepping out replayed over and over. Sad how she could leave like it’s nothing after two weeks, and I’m still struggling even though I know it’s over.

It’s unfair, but that’s life.

Someone’s Watching [Intro] by Cortney Joseph | #ThrowAwayWeek2019

Teary eyed, vision blurred; I looked back and forth between Peace and Omar as they stared at me in complete shock.

What am I doing?

 

Before that one night that changed my life, I was living a life many wished they could. A young adult, free to make my own choices without facing judgment of family and friends. A highly respected and top student in her senior year of college. Loving and supportive parents, money at my disposal and I wanted for nothing.

Popular, pretty, talented, caring, ambitious, proud…

 

All I am now is a shell of a woman; the end result of living in a hell I helped create, hiding from a problem I let spin out of control when I could have simply walked away the very first time I was warned. Afraid of my own damn shadow.

I turned slowly, looking at myself in the broken mirror. And as I caught a glimpse of myself; bruised, bloody, barely recognizable … my life flashed before my eyes.

 

The youngest daughter of hardworking parents, never afraid to go for what I wanted. I was a studious child, an obedient child. Taught to share and follow any and every dream I had, and I did.

Elementary and high school sports star. Part-time model. Spokesperson for youth who struggle with their racial identity. Singer. Dancer. Actress. Musician. Writer. Student of life.

Love surrounded me in all forms; never was a girl who lacked paternal or maternal love. Very self aware, I grew to be confident. Loved myself.

Somehow, I lost myself.

 

“Tai.”

I looked over my shoulder, hearing the concern in Peace’s voice as she called my name. “What?”

She moved towards me, slowly. “Give me the knife, please.”

By now Omar was crying, as was she. Me; I’m all cried out. “I just want it to end.”

“It’s over Tai, okay, it’s over.”

“No… not yet.”

“Girl, I promise you that it is not worth ending your life. Okay, nothing bad is going to happen to you anymore. Please…”

I noticed that I’d backed up to the wall, and she’d followed me. “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” Omar grabbed my wrist and I loosed my grip on the knife, watching it fall as I slid down the wall, shaking uncontrollably as my best friend wrapped her arms around me.

“You don’t have to be. It’s all over.”

 

“Is she Tai Lee Harris?”

“Sir, can we just have a few moments to console her.” Omar spoke so softly, a huge difference from his naturally cheerful and sarcastically funny tone. “Just a few.”

“I’m sorry Young Man, but we have to take her in.”

The officer pulled me up, apologizing as I winced when he touched the open wounds on my arms and wrists while he handcuffed me.

What now?

 

“Tai Lee Harris, you are under arrest. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult with an attorney and/or have an attorney present. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at no cost by the courts. You have been given the appropriate Miranda Warning, do you understand your rights as they have been told to you?”

My voice cracked as I spoke. “Yes.”

 

I should have stayed quiet. I should have kept to myself. I should have walked right past him as he called out to me that night. I should have kept control over my life.