The death of a close high school friend haunts a young couple in this debut novel.
Autumn Miller is working as a waitress at a restaurant in a small town, and it is her last day. She has spent the last few years saving money and has decided to go back to school. After a run-in with some terrible customers, she leaves work early but soon learns that the college has delayed her academic program until the following spring. Now that she is unemployed and won’t start school for eight more months Autumn decides to take some money she inherited from her grandmother and buy an old fixer-upper farmhouse.
Jensen Owens, a guy that Autumn was close to in high school, arrives in town, but she doesn’t immediately recognize him. Several years have passed, and Jensen has been drinking a lot and going from woman to woman, but something has called him back to his hometown. After reintroducing himself to Autumn, he ends up back at her place after she gets drunk one night. Autumn is in a relationship with a guy named Logan, but he is often absent, and Jensen soon takes his place. Autumn and Jensen share a traumatic memory that has linked them forever. Their good friend Jake died when they were in high school, and both Autumn and Jensen are haunted by feelings of guilt and horror concerning this tragedy. As Jensen’s battle with alcoholism comes to a head, visions of Jake start to haunt both him and Autumn.
She has to decide whether she can save Jensen, should set him free, or perhaps both.
This is a sensitive story about fairly young people who are trying to rebuild their lives. The novel excels at showing how they wrestle with their personal demons, which in Jensen’s case have become all-consuming. The eerie, ghostly appearances of Jake add a different level to the tale, as it shows how dissecting the forces that lead people to do destructive things, (“Jensen shook his head but Jake did not disappear. He would forever be eighteen years old with the same flyaway mussed brown hair”) This is a convincing setting in the story with enough room for romance and a touch of the supernatural.
A perceptive, ghostly take about two loves struggling to find their way.
Targeted Age Group:: Adults
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I often wake up in the middle of the night with random ideas of a book idea. I had a dream/thought of the scene that happens at the lake and just built my ideas from there. This was the first time I entertained bringing in a ghostly presence. This was the first story I saw in my head playing out like a movie.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Wow, hmmm, I'm inspired by the world around me and the smallest event can trigger an idea, I found by people watching, you can see certain characteristics I like to integrate into my characters. The dog in the story was definitely a carbon copy of my dog.
Often times, it’s the little scattered pieces in life that add up to lead to monumental changes. One small step can take you down a road you never would’ve seen coming. Autumn Miller was about to discover what may have seemed like such an insignificant decision was about to have a huge impact on her world. The balance would be forever shifted. They say people come into your life for a reason. Whether they choose to stay, or leave, they always leave a mark. Some more than others.
I held my breath as I punched in my pin number; I didn’t want to see my balance, or lack thereof. I tapped my dark polished nails impatiently and waited for the overused machine to spit back my card with the statement. And
there it was. I ripped it from the machine and gingerly looked down at the small print, $310. Not too bad, but it wasn’t great either. Only three more days until my next paycheck. I took my time ambling around the parking lot until my eyes landed upon my beat up ’79 Bronco. It used to be a dark, steel blue, shiny and sleek as a polished sports car. The weather had taken its toll on the exterior, the paint had begun to fade and chip off into barely existent paper thin scraps. Rust spots were beginning to spread, but the engine was still good…if the weather agreed with it. My Bronco didn’t like damp days, or the rain. It took a few
good pumps of the gas pedal and lots of patience to get it started. Once up and running, I couldn’t let it idle, not until it had at least one good run on the highway to really warm up, or else it would stall. I often found myself driving with two feet, one on the brake, the other lightly on the gas to give ’er some juice. My Bronco’s moods suited me just fine; it was moody, temperamental, often unpredictable…just like me. I reached for the door handle, wincing as the heat from the metal burned into my delicate skin. I pressed the knob and yanked as hard, and as fast, as I could. The door didn’t budge. I braced my hand again against the burning
sensation as I gripped harder onto the handle and yanked. Nothing. I jabbed my hip into the door with a solid force and pulled the handle in one swift, well practiced motion. I smiled in triumph as the door clicked open. I jumped onto the worn leather seat, and rolled down the window. I turned the key and smiled as the Bronco roared to life, knowing it wouldn’t give me any trouble today. Summer was in full swing, the weather warm and dry, a perfect combination for the finicky beast. I switched on the radio and focused on the soaring guitar and loud drums to keep my mind distracted as I drove to work. Today was finally my last day
as a waitress. I would no longer have to wait on customers and smile through cheesy lines in hopes of a decent tip. All of that would end officially at 5:00p.m. It hadn’t been an easy choice, but I decided it was time to bite the bullet
and go back to school. I had always been a bright student, learning things came easily; but I was also a free spirit. I didn’t like to sit still very long and often had trouble settling on one particular idea. I wasn’t entirely sure school was the right choice, but what else was there? I had been saving up the past few years, and school seemed like the natural next move. I pulled into a vacant spot and entered the small restaurant, tossing my wind tangled chocolate hair into a loose ponytail.
“Autumn! You’re late!” Kendra tsked as she hustled past, balancing plates.
I stole a quick glance at the clock. “Only by five minutes.”
Kendra tucked a lock red hair behind her ear. “We’re swamped, can you please grab table six? I’m dying here.”
“Sure thing.” I gave one last secure tug of my apron and strode to the table to take their order. The day was chaos and we were short staffed. A few of the unreliable waitresses had called in sick, which was no surprise. When the weather turned warm and bright the staff seemed to drop like flies. I waited impatiently for my orders to be filled from the kitchen. I glanced at a section of my tables, sensing the impatience dripping off one table in particular.
“Orders up!” I jumped in eagerness and filled my arms with the plates and hurried towards the restless table. “Here you are.” I set the food in front of a couple and their two younger children. “Sorry about the wait, we’re a little short
staffed today.” A heavyset man grumbled. “That’s not my problem.”
A twinge of anger sparked at his demeaning tone. “No, sir, I guess it’s not.
Can I get you anything else?” My tone dripped in forced politeness. “We will holler if we need you. I think you’ve done enough for now.” I clenched my fists together and smiled through gritted teeth. I twirled away and forced myself to take deep, calming breaths. It’s my last day. It’s my last day. It’s my last day. I clung on to the thought for dear life. I leaned against the counter and let out a frustrated sigh. Kendra came up beside me with a smirk. “Betcha you’re glad it’s your last day, huh?”
“You have no idea.”
“Waitress! Waitress!” The heavyset man snapped his fingers impatiently. I shot Kendra a look of despair as the heavyset man began to holler. “I’m being summoned,” I muttered.
“Hang in there, you’re almost there!” Kendra cheered.
I approached the lively table as the two children began fighting. Their mother tried with little success to quiet them. “Is there anything else I can get for you?” The woman spoke this time. “My goodness the service here likes to take
its time.” I forced a smile. “I’m sorry, ma’am, like I mentioned before we are short staffed today. We are all trying our best.” The two children shoved each other, and one of them squealed. The father tried his best to hush them before shooting an exasperated look at his wife.
She threw her hands in the air. “Two chocolate milkshakes. Please, hurry.” I nodded wordlessly and wanted nothing more than to clack the children’s heads together. If they wanted something to scream about, I would give it to
them. I entered the kitchen and made the shakes.
“Here you go. Two chocolate milkshakes.” I set them in front of the children. “Anything else?” Please, for the love of God, say no. “No, that’s all for now.”
I nodded quickly and made my rounds to the other tables. The scream of a child tore through the restaurant.“Strawberry! I want strawberry!”
“Hush, keep your voice down.”
“Okay, okay. Fine. Waitress!”
You can do this. This is your last day. You have one more hour to go. Smile and it will all be over soon. I made my way to the table of dread once more. “Is there a problem?”
“We need a strawberry milkshake now!”
The young child picked up his glass, and heaved it at me. A shriek escaped my lips as I was met by a cold impact. The thick, chocolate liquid washed over me. Gasps echoed from around the room as I angrily wiped milkshake out of my eyes, and clenched my fists together. The rage had taken over now, there would be no containing the beast any longer. “Oh god. Get her out of there.” Kendra’s voice floated across the room. “That’s it! I can’t do this anymore!” I tore off my apron and glowered at the table. “Learn to control your children before you bring them in public, or
put a muzzle on them!” The parents gasped in horror. “How dare you!” I glared darkly and stormed away. My boss, Ray, rushed out of his office and he looked concerned. “Autumn? Are you okay?”
“Ray, I know it’s my last day and all but I- ”Ray held up his hands. “Go.”
I gave Ray a nod in relief. “Thank you.” I grabbed my purse from behind the counter and marched to the door that led to freedom. The last thing I saw before walking out was pure amusement written on customer’s faces.
I found my faded Bronco in the parking lot. I gripped onto the metal handle and tugged swiftly at the door but it wouldn’t budge. I tugged once more but the door remained shut. My emotions ran on overdrive and I lost it. My self-control spiraled down the drain. I hit the hood with my purse a few times before kicking at the driver side door.
“Open, you hunk of metal! Open!” I gave a frustrated yell, pressed my back against the stubborn door, and gently slid down onto the hot pavement, legs sprawled out in a straight line. My purse began to ring, snapping me
momentarily out of my frustration. I leaned on to my side and dug through the contents of my bag until I found my phone. “Hello?”
“Hello. Is this Autumn Miller?”
“Yes, it is.”
“This is Westbridge College calling. I’m sorry to tell you this, but I have some news that’s not going to make you very happy.”
I hesitated before answering. I was already in a foul mood. “What’s that?”
“I’m so sorry. We have had some students drop the course at the last moment and we have decided we won’t be running the program until March.”
“Are you freaking kidding me? That’s eight months away!”
The voice on the other end paused before beginning hesitantly. “I’m so sorry but sometimes these things happen. We do hope you consider attending next spring.”
I said nothing. I hung up the phone and tossed it into my purse. I lightly banged the back of my head against the stubborn door. This speed bump was not part of my life plan. What was I supposed to do for eight months? That
was almost a whole year away. I quit my job for this. I glanced at the restaurant knowing I could probably talk my way back in. I considered it for a moment until I glanced down at the milkshake stained uniform. Just as quickly as the thought entered my mind, it was shot down with a violent defiance. And so, I sat on the hot pavement and stared up the sky wondering what my next move would be.
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