It is my pleasure to host novelist and fellow Rave Reviews Book Club member, Jennifer Hinsman to our “Page Turners & Storytellers” collection here at Fiora Books. We wish her luck with her novel, Angel’s Death, and encourage you to check out her book link and leave a comment to say “Hello”!
Excerpt from Angel of Death (Part of Chapter 2)
A year after George left, Tancy started referring to him as ‘George,’ since he obviously was no longer interested in being her father. Months had passed and there was still no word from Grand Forks or from anywhere else for that matter. Her mom seemed less surprised by his desertion. “He was a loser anyway. I knew it would be a good thing if he just took his drugs and left,” Greta said through puffs of smoke.
“Did you know, mom? I mean that he was just leaving us and never going to send for us?” Tancy asked quietly from the kitchen, as she finished her lumpy oatmeal.
“Ahhh, what does it matter? I suppose I did. It is done … no point in talking about it anymore.” Her mom put her feet on the beat-up coffee table and stretched.
The problem was that it did matter to Tancy. She felt bad about his injury and pain, and he had done an OK job of being a father up to that point. Her mother didn’t seem to care that he was gone and, at times, Tancy admitted to herself, she didn’t either. He was still her dad, though and so she often wondered had he found work and gotten off the drugs? Or had he never made it to North Dakota after all? Had he died on the way? There were so many questions that Tancy wanted answered, but knew her mother would just blow her off if she dared to ask them.
“I’m going to school.” Tancy got up and grabbed her second-hand backpack and walked out the door.
“Ok, I probably won’t be here when you get back,” her mother said as she took a swig of her morning orange juice and vodka.
“I’ll bet,” Tancy said under her breath, more to herself than to Greta.
Greta had started drinking around the clock, it seemed, for the past six months. Tancy knew her mom drank some, or maybe quite a bit, in the evenings to “take the edge off,” she would say. Her mom was always complaining about working and not having enough money, but Tancy wondered how she could afford so much alcohol. Reflecting on what her mother had said earlier, “What does it matter?” Tancy knew she was capable of caring for herself and if she needed help, Mrs. Smith, the next-door neighbor, always said she could come over if she ever needed anything.
Mrs. Smith had been their neighbor for as long as Tancy could remember. She was the mother of two boys and was probably in her sixties. Tancy didn’t know this for sure, because her dad had always said it wasn’t polite to ask someone’s age, so Tancy never did. She guessed, though, because the woman had gray hair and seemed to know an awful lot. She was a huge black lady that sang like a bird. Tancy loved to hear the sound of her humming, or singing while she was on her porch rocking, or watering her few pots of flowers.
“I like that,” a shy Tancy, barely high enough to see over the fence they shared, said.
“Well, hello. You like what, my dear?” Mrs. Smith smiled brightly and her whole face lit up all the way to her big dark eyes.
“Th-the singing.” Tancy was nervous; she was talking to a stranger. Tancy had never talked to this lady before.
“Why, thank you dear. It always relaxes me and puts me in a better mood. God gave the gift, so I figure I should use it.” She winked at the little blond peeking over the fence. Mrs. Smith spent lots of time on her porch. Tancy would see her going and coming from school most days. Mrs. Smith could see the smile and curiosity in the young girl’s big, blue eyes.
“I turned 11 today.” Tancy tried to stand tall and look older.
“Happy Birthday! Would you like to sit on the porch with me and I could sing a little something for you?” Mrs. Smith knew this pretty little girl was usually all by herself and she thought maybe a song might make her feel special on her special day.
“Sure, I guess I could do that. My mom is not home to ask, so that would be OK.” She skipped over to the gate and followed her new friend up to the porch. Mrs. Smith sang a beautiful tune about praising the Lord. Then she sang a slow and delicate “Happy birthday to you.”
“How was that? Tancy, right?” She shifted in her chair and looked down at the pretty little girl.
“That was amazing! You should be famous! Is that your job?” Tancy was grinning and hesitantly looked up at the older woman.
“You are as sweet as you look, honey! I used to sing at church all the time, but I’m hardly famous. I worked as a maid for one of the big hotels in the city, used to get some late night hours at a bakery near there, too. Lots of baking so they would have fresh items for the morning rush.” She sighed and rubbed her hands. “These old hands can’t do much kneading and rolling anymore.”
“I made cookies once, and they were pretty good!” Tancy liked talking to Mrs. Smith, she really seemed to listen.
“I bet. Maybe you can help in my kitchen sometime. I got no one to cook for anymore.” She looked a little sad as she turned her eyes up to a flock of birds that were flying by.
“Do you have a family?” Tancy had overheard her parents talking about Mrs. Smith’s kids once. They didn’t say much and seemed uncomfortable talking about them.
“Well, dear, how long you got? It’s a long story.” She closed her eyes and when she opened them there seemed to be a sheen to her big dark eyes, as if she might cry. Tancy didn’t want to upset her new friend, so she didn’t say anything after that. They shared a comfortable silence as they sat together watching the sun go down.
“I better go home now, do homework, ya know?” Tancy got up to her feet and started down the stairs to go home. “Thanks, Mrs. Smith,” she said bashfully, as she turned at the bottom of the steps and looked up at the old woman with kind eyes and a big smile.
“You can call me Angel, honey, that’s my name. If we’re going to be friends, we should be on a first name basis.” She winked and then leaned back on her rocker and closed her eyes.
Tancy hated to leave. She really didn’t have much homework but she didn’t want to over-stay her welcome. She padded home, knowing she would probably be home alone for most of the night. She had a roof, bed, and some food; a lot more than what some had, so she tried to be positive. She was a smart girl and planned to get out of there someday.
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