As promised…a peek at Out of Breath

My novel, Out of Breath, is uploaded to my server, What does this mean? It means I get to practice patience, stillness, calming my breathing. I bring to mind every lovely person who read a page, critiqued, gave me a shake of the head, or fist pump, and especially, a word such as, ‘beautifully written…you moved me.’ Finally, I get to reflect on a three year adventure of trusting myself, to do something I’ve wanted to do since childhood: write a book. I followed my dream and it’s unfolding in front of you, in front of me. Thank you…

I would love to tell you that Out of Breath will be available tomorrow, but uploading to the e-readers takes time…roughly 10 days time. I’ve waited my whole life; surely I can wait 10 days.

Without further ado, here are the first few pages to wet your appetite! (Sorry for the goofy spacing…something gets lost in translation.) Please post your comments and let me know what you think!


Here’s what I see: a closet, like a time capsule, holding clothes I’ll never wear again. My
teacher’s wardrobe, blousy and in a bouquet of color, crammed up against the left side of the closet where they’ve remained untouched for over six years. Nothing, especially a job, would get in the way, I told myself, of being the perfect mother of my two children. What other lies have I told myself to see what I needed to see? Alongside my discarded kindergarten teaching wear is my wedding dress—not the traditional, puffy sleeves, sequins or pearls. Seth and I
would have none of that. No, I strove to match his blue Hawaiian shirt with a soft, cotton white sundress and strappy sandals. I rip the dress from its hanger and feel my face flush.

My breath quickens as I sift through my maternity clothes: an oversized flowered overall get-up, cotton leggings, and thick, stretched-out wool sweaters—all of them a reminder of what they covered—you. My legs give way and I land hard on the carpet. I punch the ground as if my tantrum will somehow stomp out the fiery pain in my gut. The whole room haunts me of the life I had only two weeks ago: a framed photo of the four of us together up for a picnic on the redwood trail; a picture of Seth and me, tan, windblown, passionately in love, standing
in front of our long boards on a surf trip to Costa Rica.

I call out, just as I did that night, “Where are you Nevaeh? Why, Seth? ” My screams go unheard, echoing through the house.

There is nothing here for me. I shake until my teeth chatter. I’ve got to get out of this house. I’ll have Oma pick up something black to drape over me and then I’ll tear it to shreds and bury it. Keep an eye on her. She’s a busy one. Why did I trust him again? If I’d only thrown him out after the first relapse, or kept you by my side all night. You’d be here, with me. Right now, with your face pressed up against my breast and I could smell the sweet scent of your sweat. “Nevaeh!” I call out. All I hear is the pounding of my heart as it threatens to blow apart.

I’m startled by the sound of keys jiggling in the front door, but not enough to
actually move.

“Alyssa, it’s just Oma. Daisy’s staying at Carolyn’s for the evening. Thought it’d do her some
good,” I hear my grandmother call out in a high-pitched, nervous voice. She’s my anchor, but even anchors get ripped up in storms.

“I’m in here,” I say in a raspy voice. My throat is sore and parched.

She appears in the doorway, slightly askew, favoring her hip that is starting to give her trouble. It’s as though Nevaeh’s death has caught up to her all at once and she finally looks all of her seventy-seven years.

“I thought maybe you might need this.” She pulls out a fitted, black skirt and long sleeved black blouse—my funeral dress.

“Thanks. I don’t have anything,” I reply, pointing to the closet. Her eyes look over toward the wedding dress that is crumpled beside me. She cocks her head and purses her lips together.

“Everything is much bleaker at night.” I know she’s referring to my marriage with Seth, or
rather, separation from him.

“Oma, it’s not the night that makes it bleak. I can’t see any hope. Nothing. I wish I’d died with her.” I grab my knees and pull them tight against my chest. My back muscles ache from night after night of wakefulness.

Oma squats beside me, grunting on the way down, then pulls me into her warm, soft body. As a child, about the only thing that comforted me was the feel of what I called “the lumps” of my grandmother—her oversized bosom and rolls of doughy flesh are like my security blanket. I let her comfort me, wanting to crawl inside her and disappear.  “Shh, now don’t say such things. God needs you here for our Daisy.”

Daisy. Poor Daisy. My five-year-old hasn’t spoken a word since the night her little sister drowned. The last sound she made was a shrill scream.


6 thoughts on “As promised…a peek at Out of Breath

  1. Very gripping….hmmmmm…..can’t wait to read more! Congratulations on how far you’ve come. What a huge accomplishment!!

  2. Susan,

    I just was able to take the time to read the first chapter…VERY GOOD! I like how you started right in on the action, drew me in with the emotions that were surrounding her in the closet, described the situation through a variety of items and senses, and led me through a wide range of feelings and questions. NICELY done, my friend!!!

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