Women's Fiction - Contemporary | Humor | Family | Domestic Life | Romance Hen Lit | Chick Lit

Who the heck is Margaret?
Well, she's one of the main characters in my book (which is still being polished), And Then There Was Margaret. Protagonist or antagonist? Hmmm...I'll let you figure that out.

What's the premise?
And Then There Was Margaret is a story about a tired, worn-out mid-lifer, Allison Montgomery, who feels lost inside the walls of her own identity, both at home and at work. When her father-in-law, someone she adores and cherishes, passes away, Allie feels even more adrift. To make matters worse, because of George's passing, Allie's bossy, self-absorbed and exceptionally stubborn mother-in-law, Margaret, “temporarily” moves in. Through the trials and tribulations of daily life—including trying to drop twenty years off her forty-five year old body, Allie struggles with keeping it all together. She bounces between a sincere desire to be supportive of Margaret and the occasional, intense urge, to push her out of the nearest window. Along the way, Allie discovers that her mother-in-law might actually be human after all - but then again, so was Viola Fields. 

What happens?
Simply put...a lot! Take a look at the chapter titles below for a few hints.

1    Good-bye George, Hello Margaret
2    In the Beginning…
3    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
4    Pizza Would’ve Been Easier
5    Um…That is NOT an Overnight Bag
6    Love and Other Four-Letter Words
7    Caramel Macchiato? There IS a God
8    A Cold Day in July
9    Pistols at Dawn
10  Runaway Dress
11  Driving Miss Margaret
12  The Funeral Crasher
13  Virtue Can Be Exhausting
14  Chicken Parm. With a Side of…Wait, What?
15  Money Matters
16  Move Over, J.K. Rowling
17  Momma Mia!
18  Movin’ In and Texting Out
19  “C” Ain’t Just For “Cookie”
20  He Didn’t Say I Love You
21  Detox or Toxic
22  Absence Doesn’t Always Make the Heart Grow Fonder
23  Lost and Found
24  Change of Heart
25  How Long Can You Stay?
26  A Little Spark Can Start a Great Fire
27  As One Door Closes, Another Opens
28  I Had a Dream
29  Estranged
30  Out of Sight, Out of Mind
31  The Fall of Cruella De Vil
32  New Tricks for An Old Dog?
33  Dear Rachel

Can I have a taste?
Absolutely! Here's a preview of the first chapter as the rest of the chapters are being polished. Keep you posted!

And Then There Was Margaret

    I looked up from my cell phone at a young Gwyneth Paltrow look-alike standing behind the glossy white counter. There was no doubt she’d caught a glimpse of Hank’s all capped message since I’ve had to zoom in on everything lately, and most people can read upside down.
      “Everything okay, ma’am?” she mumbled, glancing down at my phone.
I nodded mutely, shaking my stupid pen for more ink. I’d like to think it was Hank’s ominous looking “CALL ME” text without a smiling emoji that caused my sudden wave of anxiety, but really, if there’s one word I absolutely detest, it’s “ma’am. Personally, I can’t help but find an insult in it—it’s ego bruising, particularly from the perky toned-bodied twenty-something who was waiting for me to finish filling out the fitness membership form. 
She tucked a loose strand of her bleached-blonde hair behind her ear. “Need another one?”
“Yes, please.” I dropped my phone and useless ballpoint into my oversized purse, tucking a loose strand of my hair behind my ear, too. I knew I was being petty. But in the real world, beyond my paranoia, she was just trying to be polite in her own way.
She gave me a quick smile. “Um, yeah….so you just need to fill out this part here and we’ll be done,” she said, clapping her hands as if toasting the moment. She reached across the end of the counter for a New Body Fitness pen and handed it to me. 
I took a deep breath, squinting back down at the membership application. You’d think I was here for a job interview with the kind of questions asked. Needless to say, they wanted information I really didn’t care to share.
What is your current weight?  
My numbers are no one’s business.
Do you consider yourself obese? 
Oh, come on! No, I’m not obese. 
How often do you exercise?  
What is your goal? 
My goal? My goal is to murder whoever created this form. I guess I still had enough self-restraint to stop my hands from writing down my exact thoughts though. Instead, I contemplated writing a more typical response. To lose fifty pound—oh, wait…and to enjoy life again—like how I felt as a kid from the moment I’d wake up to the moment I’d go to bed, because my day, in its entirety, revolved around twiddling my thumbs as I made life-changing decisions to watch either Scooby Doo or Legend Zelda, with a bowl of Fruitloops or Frosted Flakes on my lap. 
When I lifted my eyes, “Gwyneth” was busy on her cell, undoubtedly making up for lost time on social media. Stop, I ordered myself. No one probably ever told this poor child it was impolite to be texting, or sexting, while you were supposed to be taking care of a potential new gym member. And it wasn’t her fault I had to write “yes” to the overweight question. Somewhere between my second childbirth and forty-fifth birthday, my weight had edged closer to the higher end of the “overweight” category on the BMI calculator. I’d let myself go, living on autopilot for the past twenty years, and there was no one to blame except myself, the founders of Netflix and Toni’s Pepperonis. 
As I jotted down my final confession on the paper in front of her, Carrie Underwood’s Blown Away bellowed from my purse. It was Hank. 
I dug out my phone with the aim of dishing an appropriate response to what had now become a daily certainty. Perhaps our twenty-one-year-old daughter, Samantha, had flunked her college exams or her younger brother, Cameron, once again, was the cause of a fender bender as he practiced with his father. 
“He’s gone…” he said without waiting for me to say hello. 
At first, I thought he was referring to Baily, our labradoodle pup who’d discovered a big, exciting world beyond the backyard gate. But Hank’s shaky voice made it clear this was far more tragic. “Mom was feeding him her tapioca pudding…he shook his head for her to stop and then closed his—”
“He fell asleep?” I jumped in abruptly as I stepped away from the counter. Pausing for a moment, I recited my “be here” mantra three times as if it would give me extra ordinary powers or something to stay present and not get lost in creeping dreaded thoughts. “But he loves that puddin—” Wait. You idiot. I swallowed hard. “Oh, Hank….” 
He let out a little cry and then a tremendous wave of awkwardness of not knowing what to say next overwhelmed me. I stood in disbelief, staring at the thin layer of dust collected on the leaves of a dying poinsettia plant as he struggled to get words out. “He looked fine…he was…and then—wait, hold on.”
I took another deep breath, waiting for Hank to come back on the line. George is gone. My beloved father-in-law. I lowered my head. He’s gone. After all this time mentally preparing for this day, I felt I’d been hit hard in the chest. We didn’t expect him to survive into the new year, but to our surprise, he did—making us mistakenly believe he was getting stronger and ready to go home in a few days. I could feel a stinging sensation in my eyes so bad that I closed them.
Seconds later, Hank returned. “You there?” 
I stood up taller, reaching into my purse for car keys. “Yep. I’m here, sweetie,” I said, my voice reverberating with sadness. 
A picture flashed before my eyes. It was a disturbing image of Margaret running hysterically through the hospital and blaming the nurses for her husband’s death. I blinked away the scene. “I’m on my way right now. I love yo—"
“Okay, hurry,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do or say to her.” Her meaning Margaret because I could hear her in the background, wailing and telling Hank what to say to me.
“She’s your mother, Hank. She just needs to be comforted." Held and restrained was probably more like it. But hell, if Hank died, I’d be the one in hysterics. 
“I’ll be there as soon as I get Cam—he’ll want to come too.” 
With a quick goodbye, I looked over at “Gwyneth,” who was now leaning against a high black stool, and like a pro, putting on more eyeliner in the tinted mirrored wall beside her. I flapped the form at her with a pounding heart. “Excuse me,” I said after I got her attention. “I’m gonna have to come back.” My lips quivered. “My father-in-law passed away.” 
Apparently, she didn’t understand my word choice for “died” because she hid her eyeliner under some papers and then sauntered over with a big cheery smile on her face.
She looked the form up and down before glancing at me with her wrinkle-free skin. Her smile faded. I could see she wasn’t pleased, given we’d spent the past twenty minutes going through the gym’s elaborate registration process. “When should we expect you back—uhhh…Mrs—” 
“Allison—Allison Montgomery,” I said, tapping my name out impatiently on the top of the form with the pen. 
 “Would 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday work for you, Allison?” 
 “Sure,” I said stiffly. “I’ll call if it doesn’t.”
 I shouldered opened the heavy gym door.  And after hurrying out into the bitter cold air, my cell rang with a vulgar rap song Cameron had recently uploaded on my phone as his ringtone.
He didn’t any waste time when I answered. “Did you hear?” he said, choking back tears. 
“I did, honey, and I’m on my way to get you.” 
“I’m at Kyle’s…,” I heard him say faintly. 
Kyle, my son’s best friend in high school, lives ten minutes in the opposite direction. I knew I wouldn’t have time to go home and change out of my workout clothes. Yet I knew showing up in yoga pants and a sweatshirt would not go over well with Margaret. There was no choice, I reasoned. I had to get to the hospital before an undertaker took George away.
“Okay,” I said, sounding surprisingly calm, even to myself. “I’ll be there soon.”

     Soon I was fiddling with the radio, hoping to find some distracting music to keep me from slipping into a downward spiral of emotions. With rush hour in full swing, there was nothing on but terrible depressing news and dismal weather reports I didn’t want to hear. I turned off the radio and drove in silence along the snow-lined streets in the fading light, feeling completely numb and dazed. I wondered how I was going to cope without George in my life. I swallowed, trying to catch my breath as warm tears rolled down my cheeks again. And then unexpectedly, feelings hidden deep inside me started to surface. I gripped the steering wheel as my heart raced. I realized what all of this might mean. I felt sick. It wasn’t the darkness of George’s death I was afraid of. I was afraid of what lurked behind it. Margaret.

                                                     - End of Chapter 1 -

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