Maybe…

Remember when I promised a short story for Maybe Someday? Well, here it is. I had so much fun…this short story may very well be retitled as “excerpt” in the future.😉
*Spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Maybe Someday. 

Sydney

I drag my thumb from my ear to my chin. “Like that?”

Ridge smiles, but he’s shaking his head to let me know I got it wrong. He presses his elbow into the pillow as he lifts up. He takes my hand and tucks my thumb in as he straightens out my index finger. Then he presses it to my ear and slides it over my jaw toward my mouth. “Like that,” he says.

I make the sign for deaf again on my own and he nods.

“Perfect,” he says.

I fall back onto my pillow and smile up at him. It’s the second time I’ve stayed the night with him. The third night we’ve spent together since we reunited at the concert last week. It’s still surreal. With the way things ended with our friendship a few months ago,  I honestly thought we’d never get to this point. There was too much guilt between the two of us and we both needed space…and time.

Now we’re here. Together. And it’s…everything.

The more I’m around Ridge, the more I find myself wanting to understand every part of him. Every part of his life. I’ve already learned over 100 new signs this week alone. I think we’re both so desperate to be able to communicate without any barriers, learning to speak each other’s language is the only thing either of us wants to do when we’re together. Well, mostly. We tend to want to do other things occasionally. We get sidetracked a lot.

“My turn,” he says. He still struggles with speaking out loud, so I let him do it at his own pace. But I love how eager he is to perfect what’s already more than perfect to me. He signs as he speaks out loud for me. “The sound a cat makes?”

“Meow?”

He nods and presses his fingers against his throat so he can feel his voice. “Me…oh?”

I shake my head. “First part sounds like…” I sign the word Me.

“Me?” he says aloud.

I nod. “Second part…” I lift my hand to figure out how to sign the second part. I can’t even think of how to explain it, so I sign the letters Y, O and W.

I can tell by his expression that he wasn’t expecting one or more of those letters. “Sounds like Y?”

I nod again and sign Y-O-W as I speak the letters.

He lifts his hand and presses his warm palm against my throat. “Again.”

I speak slowly as I enunciate. “Mee…yow.”

“Mee…yow,” he repeats.

I grin. “Better.”

“Meow,” he says with ease this time.

“Perfect.”

He starts to sign several things without speaking, but I lose track of his hands after the first few words. It takes a lot of effort for my brain to keep up with the quick pace at which he’s used to signing, but at the same time, he struggles to speak his words out loud and doesn’t use his voice if it’s a longer sentence. He picks up his phone and types something out for me and then faces the phone screen toward me.

Ridge: Why is the word Meow sometimes also used to depict when something is sexy? Does the word make a sexy sound when spoken aloud?

I laugh a little, and then nod once as I lift my gaze back to his. “Very sexy.”

His eyebrow lifts in amusement. He sets his phone on the mattress above his head and moves closer to me. Right as he leans in to kiss me, he whispers, “Meow.”

I sigh. I’m pretty sure that’s the sexiest meow to ever pass a person’s lips.

His fingers slide through my hair and his warm lips are parting mine. I welcome his kiss with eagerness as I grab his arm and pull him toward me. I always want him physically closer, even when he’s inside me and it’s as close as we can physically get.

He begins to slide on top of me and I hear his phone fall to the floor. I don’t bother telling him he knocked it off the bed. I don’t think we’ll be needing it at all during the next hour.

***

Order Maybe Someday here. 

Read Maggie’s epilogue to Maybe Someday here. Password is “everything.”

Order Maybe Not, a companion novella to Maybe Someday here. 

But HOW DO YOU PAY YOUR BILLS?

We get a lot of questions from visitors who walk into our bookstore. I’ve combined the most common ones and then I answered them. Because I’m being somewhat efficient today!

1) What the heck is this place?

CH: It’s a bookstore. A specialty bookstore. We only sell autographed books. You see those purple boxes? We also run an online subscription service where we send out over 5,000 signed books each month in those boxes. All the profit goes to charity from both the bookstore and the subscription service.

2) What do you mean you donate all the profit to charity? How do you pay your personal bills?

CH: Good question. I’m a writer, so I keep the income from my writing career. But any income The Bookworm Box generates after expenses are paid, we donate to charity.

3) You’re a writer? Um…again. How do you pay your personal bills?

CH: With a debit card. Sometimes a checkbook.

4) Where are the Bibles? Why don’t you have the new Stephen King book that was released today?

CH: All of our books are autographed by the authors, so we aren’t a typical bookstore. We don’t carry new releases unless they are donated to us and signed. We also don’t carry things written by people from whom we aren’t able to obtain autographs…like Jesus Christ.

5) What the heck? Is that a half dinosaur, half Christopher Walken clock on the wall?

CH: Yes. Yes it is.

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6) Why are most of the books in your store romance novels?

CH: I am immersed in the romance genre, so most of the authors I know or have access to also write romance. We would love to branch out and obtain lots of other genres for our shelves, so if you know an author who would be willing to donate a copy or two to the store, please give them our mailing address.

7) Is your wifi really free?

CH: Yes. And it’s fast. But no one really uses it.

8) Do you have any Pokémon hiding here?

CH: Huh?

9) Why can’t I purchase a subscription box? It says they’re always sold out.

CH: We open up for new purchases once a month for about an hour. Right now, we can’t expand because we don’t have the manpower to organize more than 5,000 autographed books each month to be shipped. I hate to admit it, but I consider my writing career to be my main priority. The Bookworm Box is sort of on the back burner a lot of the time. I do what I can when I can, so the idea of making it bigger concerns me. I have no spare time.

10) Then why don’t you just hire someone? Like an executive director of the charity?

CH: We did! She’s amazing. Her name is Stephanie and she starts tomorrow, actually. We have a lot of great ideas we want to implement and we believe hiring Stephanie to take control of The Bookworm Box will make it bigger, better and more efficient than it already is.

11) Is she nice?

CH: Most of the time. I’m a little scared of her.

12) What if we just want to come inside the store and hang out, but not buy anything?

CH: Here’s the wifi password. And there’s free coffee over there.

13) But seriously. How do you pay your bills if you don’t take any money from the charity and all you do is write books?

CH: I have help from a few guys. Their names are Will, Holder, Ridge, Owen, Benton, Miles, and Warren. Daniel and Luke don’t really help with the bills all that much…

14) Well…how can I help?

CH: Lots of ways. You can come to our volunteer days that are held once each month. Just follow us on social media to find out when they are. You could donate singed copies of any books you might have, or solicit a signed copy from your favorite authors. You could become a Bookworm subscriber to help raise money for charities. You can donate swag, bookmarks, anything that could fit inside our boxes. And if you aren’t able to do any of that, then you can also help by simply spreading the word about our charity.

15) Well how much money has The Bookworm Box donated since all this started? Like a few thousand bucks?

CH: Since we began operation in February of last year, with the help of our volunteers, subscribers and other authors, we’ve donated over half a million dollars to various charities.

16) That’s cool, but what’s that music playing in the background? I like that!

CH: Oh, that’s just the greatest band ever. The Avett Brothers. You should check them out.

Something is terribly wrong.

It’s Saturday.

5:30 in the morning.

Darryn’s eyes flick open. He reaches over and shuts off his alarm in a hurry. He doesn’t want to wake his wife because she needs every minute of sleep she can get. It’s been three months since she gave birth to their twin boys. They still haven’t slept through the night yet, so he quietly slinks out of the room to dress in his bathroom so he doesn’t wake her.

He puts on his uniform. Makes sure the safety on his gun is switched to the “on” position. Before he heads out for his shift, he stops by the nursery to take a peek at his boys.

One of his sons was born with complications three months ago. The youngest of the two twins, born three minutes after his oldest boy. His lungs weren’t fully developed. Thankfully, he was able to come home two weeks after birth and things have looked fine, but it was a terrifying two weeks. Darryn named him after his own father, Harris. The oldest twin is named after Darryn. They both have their mother’s red hair.

Darryn’s father, Harris, died when Darryn was only thirteen. Harris was also a police officer. He was shot in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop. Until the day his father was killed, Darryn wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. But after that fateful day, he knew he needed to follow in his father’s footsteps. He wanted to be a hero, just like all the heroes in blue before him.

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:47 in the morning.

D.J.’s eyes keep falling shut, no matter how hard he tries to keep them open. He’s been out with his friends celebrating their regional win the night before.

D.J. is a senior in high school and last night’s football game would have been his last if they’d have lost. He wishes his father could have been there to see the win. His father never missed a game up until two years ago when he died of a heart attack.

D.J. and his mother were devastated. He’s an only child. Naturally, after his father passed, his mother grew even more worried for D.J.’s safety, being that he was all she had left. She always wants to know where he is, who he’s with and what time he’ll be home.

Several hours ago, after his team won, he could see in her eyes that she knew exactly what he was going to ask her when he approached her in the stands. He decided to intercept her questions and cut straight to the answers.

“I’m going to eat with the guys, then we’re going to Clay’s for a small get-together. I won’t drink. I promise.”

His mother smiled at him. She was proud of the person he was turning out to be. His father would be proud.

But D.J. isn’t proud of himself right now. Because he lied to her.

He drank a little.

Okay, a lot. But it was an unprecedented win! He felt like celebrating.

He’s smart enough to know not to drive. The party is only a few blocks from his house. He texted his mother at midnight and told her not to stay up, that he might stay the night at Clay’s. She texted him back and said she loved him.

The party died down about two hours ago. He tried to sleep off the alcohol, but he had more to drink than he thought. He can’t sleep on Clay’s couch. It’s old and the springs dig into his back, which is why he’s decided to walk home.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:50 in the morning.

It’s still dark out. Darryn steers his cruiser onto McMurray Avenue. It’s not necessarily his turn to patrol this area of town, but it’s become sort of a ritual to start his shift on this street.

This was the street his father was killed on when Darryn was only thirteen.

It was early in the morning when it happened all those years ago. Still dark out, much like it is right now. Darryn’s father had pulled a car over for driving 39 in a 35. A mere four miles over the limit. It’s rumored that Darryn’s father rarely pulled people over for such small infractions. Darryn wonders why he chose to do it that one particular morning.

There were no dash cams in most patrol cars back then like there are now, so the incident wasn’t caught on video. But the passenger who was later apprehended said that Harris had approached the car and asked the driver, a young black man, to provide his identification. Harris didn’t know the driver had three warrants for his arrest and a loaded gun in his jacket pocket. The passenger of the car said the driver pulled out his gun and shot Harris twice in the chest before speeding away.

His father was murdered during a traffic stop that was a measly four miles over the speed limit.

Every time Darryn patrols McMurray Avenue, he drives 31 miles per hour. Four hours below the speed limit. And every time he does it, he says a prayer for his father. And for himself. And for all his brothers in blue. He prays that they’ll be safe. That they’ll be smart. That they’ll return home to their families each and every night.

A call comes over dispatch. Darryn listens intently. A house alarm was triggered. The owners aren’t answering the phone call, so dispatch is requesting an officer in the area to check out the address.

McMurray Avenue.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:51 in the morning.

D.J. can barely see the sun teasing the horizon. It provides him almost enough light to see what’s in front of him as he makes his way home. But it’s still a little too dark. He almost trips when he steps into a hole in the ditch. He isn’t sure if it’s because he’s drunk or because there isn’t quite enough sunlight yet for him to be able to maneuver the dark street. He decides to use the light from his cell phone to help him make the last block home, but before he reaches for it, the entire ground lights up around him. Red lights. Blue lights. It makes him dizzy.

He’s confused. Or still a little drunk. For a moment, he wonders if it’s aliens. His friend Clay believes in Aliens. D.J. knows it’s bullshit, but he still looks up at the sky when he sees the colors surrounding him from what seems like every direction.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:52 in the morning.

Before he even made it to the end of the street where the house alarm had been triggered, Darryn noticed a possible suspect walking on the roadside.

He pulled up behind him.

He turned on his patrol lights.

The man should have stopped walking.

Why hasn’t he stopped walking?

Darryn’s heart rate kicks up a notch when he slams on the brakes and swings his door open. “Hands up!” Darryn yells.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:52 in the morning.

As D.J. is looking up at the sky, stumbling forward, he hears a voice. A loud one. A deep one.

Clay is an idiot. Aliens aren’t real.

Are they?

D.J. swears to himself he’s never drinking again. He’s seeing things. He picks up his pace, wanting to get home now more than ever. Before he’s even gone three steps, he hears the voice again.

“Hands up!”

D.J. pauses. He turns toward the voice, slowly. His vision is blurry. He can’t see very well. The lights are blinding. His heart is pounding. He wants to go home. He’ll call his mom. Tell her he’s seeing things. Tell her he might be in trouble. Tell her he drank and he’s sorry. Tell her someone is yelling at him, but he can’t see them very well. Is it Clay? Is Clay playing a joke on him? Yes, he needs to call his mother.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:53 in the morning.

Darryn yells out his third warning. The man refuses to comply.

As he watches him reach inside his jacket pocket, all Darryn can feel is fear. Fear that he’s about to meet the same fate as his own father.

Fear that he’ll never see his boys grow up.

Fear that his wife will be left to raise them on her own.

“Hands up!” he yells one last time. His voice shakes. His fear is audible. This can’t be happening. His father didn’t react quickly enough all those years ago and now his father is dead.

Darryn doesn’t want to die.

Darryn wants to see his boys grow up.

 

It’s Saturday.

5:53 in the morning.

D.J. is thirsty. His mouth is dry. His mouth always grows dry when he’s nervous. And these lights are making him nervous. The person screaming at him is making him nervous. When his mother answers his phone call, he’ll tell her to bring him water when she comes to pick him up. His head pounds. He doesn’t like being drunk.

His hand finally has a grip on his phone. He pulls it out and begins to unlock the screen when he hears a firework go off. He feels a sting.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:53 in the morning.

Darryn’s hands are shaking. As long as he’s been an officer, this is the first time he’s ever had to shoot at someone. He aimed for his arm, but it’s dark. He’s not sure what happened. He doesn’t like the smell of the gun powder. That’s the first thing he realizes.

The second thing he realizes is that he needs to call for backup.

The third thing he realizes is that the suspect is moving. Reaching around in the grass. Still searching for his weapon. Darryn aims his gun at the man who is now lying on the ground. “Drop your weapon!” he warns. The last thing Darryn wants to do is fire again. But he’s reaching for his weapon. Why is he reaching for his weapon?

Darryn doesn’t want to fire again.

But Darryn doesn’t want to be fired at.

Darryn wants to see his boys grow up.

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:53 in the morning.

Something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

D.J.’s chest feels heavy. So heavy. His heart is pounding, thrashing inside his chest. He winces. Tries to reach for his phone again. His fingers crawl an inch across the grass until his phone is finally in his hand. He hears the yelling, but it’s even more distant and inaudible now than it was before.

He wants his mom.

Something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

His mother was the last person he spoke to on his phone, so it takes less than a second to press her contact. The phone begins to connect, but another sting slaps D.J. in the chest. He can’t hold on to his phone. It falls out of his hand.

Something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

His mother answers. He can hear her voice, faint, like a whisper in the grass. He tries to say her name, say his name, ask her to help him, tell her where he is, but every time he tries to speak, his voice doesn’t come out. He can only sputter. He sputters liquid.

Something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

 

 

It’s Saturday.

5:54 in the morning.

Darryn is standing behind his door, hands shaking, stomach turning, forehead sweating. He hears dispatch come over the radio.

“False alarm. Cancel the patrol unit to the residence on McMurray Avenue, all is clear.”

False alarm.

But…

All is clear.

But…

A backup unit arrives. Guns are drawn. One of the officers stands next to Darryn. “Did he fire his weapon?”

Darryn can’t shake his head. Darryn can’t say no. Darryn can’t take his eyes off the guy who is now lying motionless in the grass. Darryn was just trying to get him to drop his weapon. Darryn can’t say no.

The other officer walks toward the suspect. Slowly. Darryn watches. Waits. Worries.

The officer approaches the subject, just as an ambulance pulls onto the street. Darryn watches as the officer bends down and checks for a pulse. The officer then plucks something from the grass.

Something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

Darryn watches as the officer checks for a pulse again.

The paramedics rush to render aid.

Minutes later, the officer approaches Darryn with a wallet in his hand. He radios to dispatch while reading from the driver’s license. “Victim is an eighteen-year-old black male. Gunshot wounds to the chest, arm and neck. Full name Devin Jacob Jimmerson, Jr. Victim is being transported to Birchwood Hospital.”

The officer ends the call to dispatch. He folds the wallet shut and Darryn can see blood on the officer’s hand.

His name is Devin. He’s only eighteen.

Was eighteen.

Darryn steps around the officer. He feels sick. He bends over and vomits onto the street. Darryn wipes his mouth and looks up at the officer. He can see in the officer’s eyes that something is wrong.

He did something wrong.

It was a mistake.

He made a terrible mistake.

Something is terribly wrong.

 

 

 

It’s Saturday.

6:15 in the morning.

D.J.’s mother has dialed his number thirty-two times in the last twenty minutes. She doesn’t understand what’s happening. He called her. She heard sirens. And then the phone went dead. Her hands are shaking.

Her heart is aching.

Something is wrong.

She hears a knock at her door.

She sees lights in her driveway. Red and blue lights, bleeding across the walls in her living room.

Something is wrong.

Something.

Is terribly.

Wrong.

***

 

 

 

 

 

*Edited to add:

I am a 36-year-old white woman from Texas. I am the mother of three boys, all teens and pre-teens. My oldest son just got his first vehicle. Never, not once, has it ever occurred to me to worry about him if he is pulled over by a white police officer. Never, not once, has it ever occurred to me that I should worry for their safety at the hands of a public servant if they are walking around their neighborhood.

Mothers of young black men worry about this continuously.

The truth of the matter is, not all cops are bad. But society has bred white men to fear a black man more than they would fear a white man. And until changes are made, “accidents” such as what you read above will continue to happen. Innocent men will continue to die. And innocent officers will continue to receive blame for the actions of a few.

#BlackLivesMatter does not mean all lives do not matter. It means that black lives mean less to some than to others. It means that simply because of the darker shade of someones skin, they are at a higher risk of suffering a more brutal fate.

Something is terribly wrong with that.

This hashtag was not created to spread racism and hate. It was created to spread awareness. If the hashtag were #Alllivesmatter, no one would be talking about it. And if all lives really do matter equally to you, then thankfully, you aren’t the one who needs the awareness.

 

How many more innocent black men need to die before the United States does something to stop the unjust murders?

How many more innocent police officers need to die before The United States does something to stop the unjust retaliation?

We aren’t on different sides, people. We’re all on the same side. The human side. It’s just going to take major changes before everyone can realize that.