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cynthia e. wines

Author of Halfway

What to do….

Holidays are over and I am back to the grind.  I thought once the book done, I would relish all of the free time I had.  Instead, I decided to start on a second book and make Halfway a series.  I miss my characters too much.  Book 2, coming soon…

Halfway is still available for free if you have Amazon Prime.

 

 

 

Free copy anyone?

Halfway2 (1)Do you have Amazon Prime?  Then you can download the entire book for free!  So if you like it, YAY, free book!  If you don’t, sorry, but you have only lost out on a few hours of your life – its not that long of a book.

http://amzn.com/B018DCA4D4

If you do enjoy the story, please leave feedback and maybe tell a friend.  If you don’t, please leave feedback and maybe tell a friend who you think may like to read it.  It is all good.

 

 

 

The Day Early Gift

By the time I get my day going tomorrow, I will no doubt forget to post the next chapter. It will wind up being halfway though the day when one of my friends asks why they dont have the next installment to read yet.

So, enjoy it a day early.

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Chapter 5

Michael felt better than he should. Maybe another day before the shakes kicked in, but he thought he should be feeling a little terrible by now. At the same time, he realized he also hadn’t eaten or drunk anything, not that he was hungry. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen anyone else eating or drinking anything either. Best to find out where the kitchen was for when he finally needed to grab a bite.

Michael went out to the staircase, standing for a moment before deciding which way to start looking. One direction was back towards the waiting room; the other direction was just a dark hallway. The kitchen couldn’t possibly be down that way – too dark. As he turned to find another place to look, a soft murmuring filtered in from the far end of the hallway. It had to be the kitchen, people always gathered around where there was food. He rubbed his hand along the wall looking for a light switch that wasn’t there, and slowly started his search in the dark. Each door he tried was locked. The kitchen had to be somewhere. The farther down the hallway he went, the louder the voices got. He didn’t recognize them. The sounds grew loudest as he reached the last door, but he still couldn’t make out what was being said. He tried the knob, which clicked opened easily.

As he pulled open the door, something slammed it shut and the voices ceased. Agnes stood before him, bucket in hand, pushing the door closed. Her eyes reflected her surly demeanor and bore into him as she slowly waved a finger in front of him. Michael, a bit startled, took a few steps back from her and her angry glare. Agnes pointed her scrub brush to a sign on the door -“Basement”. That was one of the rules he did remember being told, no going in the basement.

“Didn’t see the sign.” He said.

Agnes muttered something incomprehensible, but lowered her arm and positioned herself in front of the door. He was curious why it was off limits, but went back down the hallway, forgetting all about the kitchen. The fewer encounters with Agnes the better.

The sitting room was silent. Karen had left the television, while Conrad now slept in a chair in front of the fire. Elizabeth was curled up in a chair by the window, pretending to be reading a book. She held the book open, but every few minutes, she would peek through the curtains. Michael watched as he took a seat next to Conrad.

“It’s too dark to see anything out there.” He said from his chair. Elizabeth stuck her face back into the book.

“Don’t feel bad, I don’t blame you really. If I were waiting to get out, I would be watching for my ride out the windows too.”

Elizabeth just looked at him and in typical teenage fashion, answered with the slight air of contempt before sticking her nose back in the book on her lap. “I know.”

“If someone was coming for me, I would be out on the front steps with my bags packed.”

A slight smile crept across her face. Michael smiled too. There was something about her. It didn’t fit in places like this.

“Not that it’s any of my business, but you seem awfully young to be here.”

“Age has nothing to do with it.” She replied.

“Don’t they have places like this for kids your age?”

Elizabeth gave him a puzzled look. Michael wasn’t sure where the confusion lay, so he moved on.

“So what’s your poison? What landed you in here? Wait, let me guess, your parent’s pain pills?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” Her confused expression didn’t change as she dropped the book on the chair and walked out into the hallway to pet the dog.

“You’re right, none of my business. Shouldn’t have asked.” Michael turned back to the fire and sunk down in his chair. He muttered quietly to himself. “Don’t get involved.”

Conrad opened his eyes and turned to Elizabeth in the hall. She was sizing up the new arrivals sitting in the waiting room.

“That girl is one of the dearest young ladies I have ever met. You must be kinder to her, my boy. ”

“I’m not your boy.” Michael snapped at the old man. “All I did was try to ask her a question.”

“Ha!” The indignation exploded from Conrad. “You are not owed an answer. Just because you think you are important, doesn’t mean you are.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” Michael could not believe there was someone on the planet who didn’t know who he was. “Turn on a television and you will see how big I am.”

“Television? Folly! I would never bother with such nonsense. I know your type. I have seen many like you come and go in my time.”

“You don’t know anything about me.”

“Oh, but I do.” Conrad’s voice grew loud and sharp. “Let me guess, you don’t see the need to be bothered with anything or anyone aside from yourself. Someone talked, you have complete disregard for them, but when you speak, the world is to stop and everyone is to give full attention to the illustrious Michael.”

Conrad raised his hand, cutting Michael off before he had a chance to open his mouth.

“I was just as important as you think you are. It is amazing how wrong we can be.”

Michael thought better saying anything, hoping the old guy would end the lecture.

Conrad’s voice calmed and he stared at the fire. “If I had only known then what I know now, I could have taken more time away from those things in life that didn’t matter. Actually listen to people, maybe taken time for my family.”

Michael didn’t understand what the big deal was. “So, just call them when you’re done here. At least you can say you tried. More than I can say for my dad.”

The old man laughed, loudly. When he finally stopped, he patted Michael on the shoulder. Shaking his head he said, “If only it were that easy.” He pushed himself up with his cane and strolled out of the room, the cane going unused for its purpose. Michael scanned the room thinking he was alone and found Simone sitting in the corner gently folding the small blanket in her lap.

“What about you? You got anything to say?” Michael demanded.

Simone jumped and pointed at her chest with her finger.

“Yeah, you. You never say anything. I wouldn’t know you were here if you didn’t show up to meetings.”

Simone froze in her seat wide eyed.

“So, why are you here? One lady is yelling about her husband, the tubby guy just goes on about what a mistake it is for him to be here.” Michael pointed to Elizabeth out in the hallway, sitting on the floor petting the dog. “She’s just waiting around for someone. So, how about you?”

Simone just sat, her shaking hands went back to her folding, although it was more hurried now.

“It can’t be that bad, nothing is ever as bad as you think.” Tired of the silent treatment, Michael turned around, leaving Simone to her blanket.

Simone peeked up in his direction. A faint voice barely escaped her lips. “You just don’t know.”

“What?” Michael turned. He wasn’t sure if he had heard anything.

Simone did not repeat what she had whispered.

Michael gave up. “Your business I suppose. Clearing our chests is what we’re supposed to be doing. It just doesn’t seem like either of us are all that interested in it.”

Simone’s voice was a bit louder this time. “You will be.” She rose from the chair, cradling her bundle. “We all will.”

My procrastination is totally benefitting you

I need to get my butt in gear before I have the whole thing posted here….

Short chapter for this week.

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Chapter 4

The music was blasting as the headlights approached, their light reflecting on the wet pavement. Closer and closer they came, he raised his hand to shield his eyes from their blinding light. Darkness crept in, it was cold. The image of a hazy figure lying in the road. An old woman, no a young woman slumped over in a car, still buckled in the seat belt. There was blood on the driver’s window and the woman’s long hair partially hung through the broken glass. The sirens rang out through the rain before the sight of the spinning red lights approached.

Michael sat up abruptly in bed. There was a soft knocking on the bedroom door. He would like to have ignored it, but the rhythmic beating was incessant. He tried in vain to shake off the crazy dream and dragged himself out of bed to answer the door. Elizabeth stood in the open doorway staring down the hallway, her hand still motioning the knocking, almost thumping him in the face. He quickly grabbed her fist, holding it in place.

A nervous giggle escaped her lips. “Sorry. I wasn’t looking.”

Michael was not amused. “Can I help you?”

“Mrs. Peters sent me. You need to come down.” She said quietly.

As she pulled her arm away, she rubbed her finger on Michael’s wrist. “I like your bracelet.” She said before leaving him alone in the doorway.

Michael inspected his wrist, which had an old beaded bracelet tied around it. A forgotten trinket until someone mentioned it. The paint on the misshapen round beads had been worn down to the wood, but he wore the bracelet all the same, a small remnant of his youth. Had he been wearing it earlier? Even that was foggy. He wasn’t even sure how long he had been sleeping. No light seeped through the heavy drapes. The room was still dark so he either hadn’t been up here long, or had slept through the entire day.

Group had started by the time Michael entered the sitting room. Just in time to listen to Karen complaining once again about her husband. Michael could almost not bare to listen, but he took his seat all the same. “Vincent doesn’t know where the carpool list is. I tried to tell him it was on the side of the refrigerator.” She turned to Michael. “You see what I mean? He needs me down there.”

Michael did what he could to hold back his laughter. “He’s probably doing just fine lady. I mean, how badly can someone screw up carpooling.” Most of the group gasped. Simone raised her head up from the floor, her brown eyes opened wide.

Michael looked around clueless about everyone’s response to what he had said. “What?“

Mrs. Peters used a firm, but calm tone. “Michael, please try to be respectful of others. We are not here for criticism, just understanding. Everyone is just trying to work things out so they can move on.”

“Geez, he could be a total wreck over the carpool schedule for all I know.”

He immediately slunk down in the chair, arms crossed, like a child pouting and let his mind drift. One by one they went around the room. Simone froze up when asked to participate. Elizabeth of course was just waiting for her Dad. Michael just sat quietly, ignoring the request. Mrs. Peters didn’t stop at Conrad, he could have had his turn before Michael had come downstairs. Ruben, as it would seem to be the usual case, went last again. Michael didn’t pay attention to anything that was said. He spent that time reciting lines in his head from a movie script he was sure he would be cast in. When Ruben had finally finished talking, everyone rose and moved their chairs. Michael dragged his over to the closest wall, uncaring if it was the right place or not. If it was wrong, someone else could fix it. With the room empty, Michael decided to sit in the chair by the fire, rather than go upstairs like the rest. He liked the chair better than the springy bed. Just as he sat, Karen returned and sat at the old television.

She worked the antenna and large knob for a few moments until the sound of static no longer buzzed. Karen spoke loudly across the room. “You are Mike James aren’t you?” He turned towards her, but her eyes still very much focused on the blurry picture of the television. “I know Mrs. Peters likes to call everyone by their given names, but you are him. I just know it.”

Michael remained tight lipped.

“I have seen every one of your movies. I am such a fan.” Every time he wound up in one of these places, there was at least one person who would gush over him.

“Glad you liked ‘em.”

“I can’t believe you are here. I mean, how did you wind up in this place?”

Michael started to reply with a snide remark, but thought better of it. No sense opening the door for Karen to get friendly. He had hoped she was done talking so he could have some peace. She wasn’t.

“I remember reading stories about you, but you know you can’t trust what you read in the tabloids.”

“We all got our problems lady.”

“Right, none of my business. I mean, who am I? Just a simple stay-at-home mom. I just can’t believe I am meeting you here of all places.”

Karen shifted uneasily in her chair. She bit her lip as she scanned the room, trying not to be so obviously star struck.

“Normally I would ask for your autograph, but what would I do with it now?”

“Well, catch me before one of us is out of here and I will get you one. Take it with you.”

Karen gave him a strange look, confused by the remark “Oh…kay, but you know…”

“Karen.” A calm voice interrupted her mid sentence. Mrs. Peters stood in the entrance of the room. “You must allow people to reflect. Please give Michael that courtesy.”

Karen went back to the television, ending her chatter after the reprimand. He was grateful to be left alone, but had the slightest curiosity about what Karen hadn’t finished saying. It seemed there was a lot more that Mrs. Peters had still not told him.

Forgive the delay – Chapter 3

I was out of town without a computer – on purpose.  Sorry for the extra day wait.

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Chapter 3

The room was still dark when Michael opened his eyes. How long had he been sleeping? Voices filtered in from the hallway. As he peered around the side of the chair, he saw one of the voices belonged to Elizabeth, the young girl he remembered from the group earlier.

“Is my dad here yet?” she asked Mrs. Peters.

“Soon, dear. Not to worry.”

The teen wandered off down the hallway, giving him a slight wave as she passed. Michael had seen this plenty in his many stints in rehab, although never with someone as young as Elizabeth. They burned their bridges too many times, and now there was no one left to come and get them. In all likelihood, she would be sent out on her ass once they needed to free up a bed or the bill went unpaid. Yet he still didn’t see how she ended up here, she just didn’t seem the type.

He stretched and pulled himself up out of the chair. Karen, still in the same pink tracksuit, was sitting in front of an old television in the corner, adjusting the rabbit ear antennas on top. He wandered into the hallway to see where the other voices were coming from.

The waiting room had gotten busy in the time he had been asleep in front of the fire. Why even one person would desire admittance into this dump was beyond his reasoning. Each person sat in a chair, staring blankly around the room, confused by their surroundings. When their eyes would meet with one another, they smiled politely before finding something else to stare at. A man dressed in only a hospital gown sat near the door reading a magazine. Mrs. Peters stepped out of her office, reading off the name “Marvin Stills” from her clipboard. The man in the gown stood as the name was called, showing off more of his anatomy than Michael was interested in seeing. Mrs. Peters entered the waiting room and reached for a bathrobe off the coat rack, helping the half naked man into it. That explained the robes. Michael leaned against the wall and watched the activity through the doorway. After a few minutes in her office, the man was escorted out the front door in the same hospital gown he showed up in. One by one, Mrs. Peters took everyone seated in the waiting room into her office. Usually, they seemed to still be in a state of quiet disbelief as they left the office. Other times he heard bits of odd conversations.

“Yes Mr. Levine, I can see how eating that much bacon over a lifetime could be cause for your heart condition.”

Unlike himself however, each one was escorted back to the front door, with an encouraging pat on the back or a firm handshake from Mrs. Peters before leaving. No one stayed.

“This dump must be booked up.” He laughed at the thought.

Mrs. Peters returned to the office once the waiting room had been emptied. Only when she got to her desk did she address him. “Can I be of assistance to you Michael?” she asked as she put a stack of folders in a filing cabinet.

“Nah, just watching the show.”

Mrs. Peters scowled. “There is no show. I have already had to put an end to Elizabeth’s amusement of placing bets on who would stay. I will not have anyone else do the same.”

“I’m just standing here minding my business.” Michael explained.

“Have you made any progress remembering how you arrived on our doorstep?”

“Nope.” Aside from the flash of headlights before he fell asleep, there was nothing new.

“It will come.” Mrs. Peters smiled and headed back into waiting room to tidy up the magazines. “I would think it would be more productive to work on that, rather than ‘watching the show’.”

Michael shrugged and went back to the chair in the sitting room. It was more comfortable than the excuse for the bed in his room. Everyone seemed to keep to themselves, so he would be able to maintain his privacy anywhere in the house. The old man was sleeping in the chair next to him when he sat down. He thought again about going back upstairs, but there was no way to relax with the noise from the springy bed. Michael slowly lowered himself into the chair, not wanting to wake the man and getting roped into listening to a sob story.

“Don’t worry about me. I feel no need for the two of us to speak unless you are so inclined.” The old man said, eyes closed. “But you must remember to put your chair back after we meet.”

Michael closed his eyes. “I am sure you will be there to remind me next time.”

The old man’s eyes popped open. “Young man, there are rules to be followed here. Everyone must abide by them or face the gravest of consequences.”

He didn’t need this crap. “What? I get a timeout for not putting my chair back? This isn’t preschool pops.”

“That one is more of a common courtesy. The rest of the rules are a bit more… unyielding.”

“So, I break one and what – they send me home? Let me know what rule I have to break to get that punishment. I don’t need you or anyone else riding my ass about rules between now and when I get to go back to my life.”

The old man’s mouth formed a slight, close-lipped smile. “Oh, I see.” His smile broadened. “You will learn.”

Michael crossed his arms tight across his chest and shut his eyes. If he was interested in engaging with anyone, he would have asked the old man what he meant. It was probably another silly rule these places tended to have. As soon as he could make his phone call, he would be out of here. He relaxed again in the chair, trying to let his mind wander back to the headlights he had remembered earlier.

His peace was short lived as an argument escalated in the corner of the room. Ruben stood over Karen in front of the old television, Ruben’s hand on the dial.

“Karen, you know it’s my turn.” Ruben whined.

“Just one more minute. I need to watch one more thing.” Karen said without looking away from the screen.

“You say that every time I come in here. It’s my turn now.”

It was like listening to children fighting over what cartoons to watch. Ruben had a slight tremble in his voice as he spoke. “I’m sorry, but I already gave you my time earlier and I let you take extra time now. So, if you…”

Karen wasn’t even listening to him. “Ruben, this is just really important.”

Michael could feel his blood pressure rising. He opened his eyes and cranked his head in their direction. “Geez, what are you guys, five?”

Karen and Ruben paused their argument briefly, before getting right back to their verbal exchange. Michael wasn’t having it. He got out of the chair and walked over the television that they were fighting over. It was an old black and white model complete with a set of rabbit ears antenna perched on top, the picture was grainy at best.

“This is what you guys are fighting over? This hunk of crap?”

The two of them stared motionless at him, dumbfounded by his outrage.

“You!” He pointed at the woman in the chair in front of the television. “Get up.” She obeyed immediately and moved out of the way of the chair. “You!” He pointed to Ruben. “Sit down and watch whatever the hell it is you are getting so upset about.”

Both had expressions bordering between shock and confusion. Michael didn’t care what they thought. He just wanted them to shut up.

“You two are ridiculous. It’s just a television.”

“Just a television?“ Karen, who had quickly composed herself after being barked at, started shaking a finger at Michael. “Do you have any idea…” The old man cut her off before she could continue.

“Karen, Karen, Karen. Leave our new guest to his peace and quiet. He has no care for how important the television is to you.”

Ruben smiled and attempted to ease the situation. “Look, I won’t be long and then it’s all yours again Karen.”

Michael couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Get a backbone. If you want to watch the TV, watch it, or just keep acting like a pussy and let her walk all over you.”

Ruben’s expression fell flat. His smile was gone. “No, it’s really ok.”

Michael had had enough. “Whatever,” he snarled, and stormed out of the room.

The old man’s voice carried into the hallway as he headed to the staircase.

“Give the young man some time, he is new.”

“Still no way to treat people.” Karen replied. “If he knew how important it all was.“

Ruben gave in. “Karen, go ahead and take your turn. I can wait.”

Michael shook his head and went upstairs to his room. Spineless wuss. No surprise why he needs therapy. It was just a television.

At the top of the stairs, he noticed the young woman Simone going from room to room, taking a peek in each. She stopped when she saw him looking at her, dropping her arms, eyes back to the floor. The small blanket still gripped in one hand. Part of him was a little curious as to what she was doing, but after the fight over the television, he decided he didn’t want to know. As long as he was left alone, he didn’t care what she did. Michael fiddled with the key in the lock of his door. After a slight struggle, he entered his room and kicked the door closed behind him. Maybe he could just spend the next 30 days locked away in here and avoid all of those idiots.

The bed sprung up and down a little too easily under his weight as he flopped down. Definitely would need to set up a series of chiropractic appointments after spending any time on this crappy mattress. As uncomfortable as the bed was, Michael managed to close his eyes and fade off to wherever the headlights of his dream were going.

As Promised, Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The party had been a blast, at least what he could remember. Top notch everything – booze, blow, women. They should be. After all, he was the one throwing the party. Michael stayed away from the women. You could never be sure who was ‘hired’ and who simply came as a guest. Too complicated and he didn’t need to find himself in the headlines again.

At some point he had run out of cigarettes – that he did remember. He would send his assistant, but he had her take the night off to keep from having a dull evening. She liked to hover.

Michael’s eyes popped open.   He remembered where he was right away; a little pissed that being stuck in this place wasn’t also part of the dream. This last thought cemented him to the creaking bed for a long while.

His agent, lawyer and even a few directors had sent him to a string of places like this in the past. There had been mention of the need to get bonded and not wanting uninsured actors. Apparently his lifestyle made it difficult to get insured – or so they told him. Typically there was some sort of intervention beforehand. Maybe he had blacked that out as well. Once, the stay had been court ordered, but what did the judge know?

This one was by far the worst yet. The bargain basement of treatment centers. With all of the money he made, this was the best they could find? No security of any kind that he had seen, not even cameras. Paparazzi could just walk right in. On second thought, he could just walk out. Someone had thought sending him to a dump would be incentive for him to clean up. They thought wrong. The state of this place was motivation to leave. And the lady in charge; she was something else. Nobody called him by his given name anymore. Legally, it wasn’t his name. He thought about the rules Mrs. Peters had explained. But he was Michael James; the rules did not apply to him.

There was something strange about this establishment. More than the lack of amenities and it being a complete shithole. He wondered how he would last here for 30 days. The Peters lady asked odd questions, nothing about what was his drug of choice was or how much he drank. Maybe they would get to all of that later. She could already have it; his file had been pretty thick. The daily schedule had not been given to him. Even if it had been posted somewhere, he hadn’t seen a clock. “Can’t be late if you don’t know what time it is.”

Michael rose from the bed and kicked the door closed. He searched under the bed for a suitcase, finding nothing. The dresser was empty as well and he left the drawers hanging open. Maybe his bags hadn’t arrived yet. Frantically, he hunted through his jacket and jeans pockets. Where the hell were his damned cigarettes? He threw himself back on the bed and covered his eyes with his arm. This already felt like it would take forever to get through. If only he could remember what had happened in the last few days to land him here. He squeezed his eyes shut, but nothing came. His blackouts were never this bad. The bed creaked as it moved up and down with his weight, breaking his concentration. It seemed to grow louder with each dip. The sound put shivers down his spine like nails on a chalkboard. He left the bed and hopped up onto the dresser.

There was a phone on the desk downstairs. His agent would be able to fix this, plus he could find out what the hell was going on. If it was a studio thing, he would have to bite the bullet and sit tight for a few weeks before production began on his next movie. If not, he was out of here.

Michael opened the door and scanned the hallway. All was quiet. He locked the door behind him and pocketed the old fashioned key, before making his way down the stairs to the first floor.

The creepy old woman and her bucket were gone. Just a straight shot past the old dog to the where the phone waited for him. As he passed the sitting room, he heard his name called. Mrs. Peters sat smiling among a group of others in a neatly arranged circle. Michael assumed these were the other ‘guests’ of the house. He could see the phone on the waiting room desk and took another step, ignoring Mrs. Peters. Again, his name was called. The phone would have to wait. He turned to face the group, but remained in the hallway.

“Michael, please, will you join us?” Her tone was polite, but it was clear the invitation was not optional. Reluctantly, he walked into the sitting room, finding a seat next to a young woman whose eyes were fixed on the floor. There were five others besides himself and Mrs. Peters.

“As you are probably all aware, we have a new guest. This is Michael.”

Michael gave them a half salute and took a seat in the empty chair. A woman wearing a pink tracksuit let out a small gasp and covered her mouth with her hand. Michael was used to fans. Before the woman had a chance to speak, Mrs. Peters got the group on track. “Now, where were we?”

Michael leaned back in the chair, stretching his legs out in front of him, and stared up at the ceiling. Apparently, there would be no introductions. The woman in the tracksuit removed her hand from her mouth and immediately started talking. Some sort of marital dispute with her husband. Mrs. Peters had called her Karen. Michael took this as a cue to begin his little game.

On one of the many occasions he had been sent to “rest”, Michael tuned out any type of group therapy he happened to find himself in. Instead of listening to his fellow “guests” talk about the intimate details of their lives, he spent time conceiving the story about what they did to wind up in rehab.

Karen, the woman talking, he guessed to be in her mid-thirties. Not bad looking, nice figure, way too much time spent on her perfectly coiffed blond hair. A huge diamond ring adorned her manicured nails. She would fit in well among the ladies in the upscale neighborhood he lived in outside of Los Angeles, but he could tell that was not where she was from. Her accent gave her away – Brooklyn. Michael’s parents had the exact accent and it had rubbed off on him, even though he grew up much farther north of the city. When he first moved to Los Angeles, he had spent what felt like a small fortune in elocution lessons to rid himself of it. She must be one of those bored housewives who was unsatisfied with her easy life. Antidepressants, with a large side of chardonnay.

Next to her sat an elderly silver-haired gentleman, sitting straight as an arrow in his chair. He was dressed impeccably in a dark three-piece wool suit, complete with bow tie. He lightly tapped his freshly polished shoes as Karen spoke. His hands were outstretched in front of him, resting on a wooden cane embellished with an engraved silver handle. Probably had a hip replacement and got hooked on the painkillers.

A pudgy young man wearing nothing more than a pair of boxers, a flannel bathrobe and a small lotus tattoo on his wrist was next in the circle. He was leaning in close, listening intently as Karen droned on, nodding his head at times. He tentatively made a few attempts to add insight into the discussion, which was difficult. The woman never stopped talking long enough to take a breath. Aside from that, he actually seemed happy to be part of this. The chump was eating up what this place was dishing out. Maybe he was on his way out soon. He didn’t have the ravaged body that came from long-term drug use. The “Just Say No” campaign of the 80s must have ingrained a warped idea of what an addict was. Michael decided he was just a paranoid dabbler of controlled substances.

The other two were a bit more difficult to peg, but he took his time trying to figure them out. The young woman next him was still looking at the floor. Her brown eyes occasionally took a quick glance up at each person in the circle. She did her best to not make eye contact with anyone. Her hairdo and worn out blue dress were dated; he recognized the style from a WWII film he had starred in. There were plenty of women with this vintage look in the clubs of Los Angeles. Seemed like a lot of work to put your hair in pin curls just for group therapy. She was nervous, wringing a small knitted blanket in her hands and shifting her weight in the chair. Michael considered it could be from withdrawal. This one had serious issues. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, her body stiffening each time he caught her. It almost amused him to watch; she grew more and more uncomfortable with each glance.

“Simone.” A gasp came out of the woman next to him. Her eyes moved away from Michael and back to the floor. The blanket fell from her hand as she tightly gripped the seat of her chair. His fun was over.

“Simone, have you come to any type of resolution today?”

Simone’s eyes focused on the floor and she shook her head violently, saying nothing. Mrs. Peters seemed accustomed to this response. “Maybe next time. It will come.” Simone relaxed, retrieving the small blanket and tucking it into her sweater.

“Who is next?” Mrs. Peters was calling on each person in the circle. “Elizabeth?”

A teenaged girl looked around at everyone. “Me?” She seemed uninterested in what they were all talking about and replied with what seemed like a rehearsed answer. ”Well, like I keep saying, I don’t belong here. My dad is coming soon, then I’ll leave.” Her attention went back to the hall.

Her being here seemed peculiar. “Young,” he thought, “maybe 16”. Why would someone so young be here? Didn’t they make places like this specifically for the under 18 crowd? In all appearances she was a typical teenager – denim shorts, graphic band t-shirt, Converse high tops complete with different colored laces. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail, revealing a constant teenaged expression of indifference. Not indifference in the world, more like the kind he felt listening to adults when he was that age. She didn’t seem withdrawn either. In fact, she seemed pretty damn content. Maybe she was out of place, but who knows, could be her overzealous parents found a joint in her dresser and sent her to rehab. When it came right down to it, he didn’t care why she or any of them were here – it was just a game to kill some time. He didn’t even really care why he was there. Nothing would be any different for him or these other fools as far as he was concerned. When his time was up, he’d go home and jump right back in where he left off. He did not belong here.

The chubby guy sheepishly raised his hand. Mrs. Peters gave him a nod. “Ruben, you don’t always have to wait for everyone else to have their turn.”

Ruben’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “I just want to give everyone else a chance first. I can wait.”

Mrs. Peters reassured him. “Next time, don’t be afraid to start us off. We all want to get things off our chests.”

Michael raised an unconvinced eyebrow but remained silent. Ruben rubbed his tattoo and started talking about what Michael assumed would be his tale of woe. “Well, I really just want to know why I wound up here. I mean, I know why I’m here, but it seems like there must be something more that caused me to end up in this place. It can’t just be by chance.”

Michael snickered, a little too loudly. The entire group was staring at him, Simone’s eyes wider than the rest, but each moved their gazes away when he met their eyes. He straightened up in his chair; uncomfortable with the attention he was now being given. Attention from screaming fans he was used to and enjoyed. This room full of eyes here was unsettling.

Mrs. Peters raised an eyebrow. “Do you have something to add Michael?”

He tried to play it off. “Nah, nothing.”

“Well, something struck you as funny. Please share with us so that we all may enjoy the humor.”

Michael sat up. “Ruben is wondering why he is here? Totally blaming someone else. It’s typical. I’ve heard this a million times. That is what is funny. People sittin’ around, justifying why they aren’t the cause of their own plight, and everyone’s listening to them, eating it right up.”

Mrs. Peters didn’t seem to be buying it. “So, by saying that, you admit that you are the cause of your own issues as well?”

Michael laughed louder this time. “No, I wouldn’t say that.”

“And why not? Why such hypocrisy?”

“Because unlike the rest of you, I don’t have any problems.”

“Give it some time.” Mrs. Peters held her penetrating gaze for longer than Michael felt comfortable, but he would not look away. With a flutter of her lashes, she broke her stare and addressed the rest of the group. “That is all for now, everyone. I hope we will all have made some additional progress when we meet again.”

Everyone rose and replaced the chairs around the room, everyone but Michael. He left his chair and quickly headed to the waiting room. The old man called after him. “Young man, put your chair away.” Distracted, Michael stumbled over Agnes as she scrubbed the floor outside of the sitting room, sending her scrub brush skidding across the wide hallway.   It barely missed the dog, who continued to sleep. Agnes’s expression exploded in anger as she sat up, her eyes shooting daggers at him. Michael stepped over the scrub brush and the dog, ignoring the old man and continued on to the waiting room. He didn’t put the chair there in the first place. Let someone else take care of it. The lady scrubbing the floor could use something else to do.

The waiting room was empty. Michael grabbed the phone and put the receiver to his ear – no dial tone. Thinking he needed to dial first to get an outside line, he stuck his finger in the hole for the ‘9’ and turned the rotary dial around to the stopping point. When there was still no tone, he pressed up and down on the plastic buttons in the handset cradle, but still there was nothing but silence.

“Is there something I can help you with, Michael?”

Michael jumped, almost dropping the handset. Mrs. Peters was standing in the doorway.

“Geez, you scared the crap out of me.” He replaced the phone to its original state and leaned on the desk. “I need to call my agent. Something is wrong with your phone.”

“I am sure I can assist you in anything you need.”

He scratched his head. “I don’t think so. I just need to get filled in on some things, get my luggage sent over.”

“As I said, I am sure I can accommodate anything you may need.”

Michael scratched his forehead to find something to do with his hands. “You see, I’m just a little fuzzy on what I’m doing here. The last couple of days are a bit of a blur.”

Mrs. Peters clasps her hands together. “Ah, well, I am sure that will come back to you in time. Maybe go and sit in front of the fireplace to think for a while.”

“I don’t see how that will help with anything.”

“You will be quite surprised how it clears the mind.”

Michael was becoming frustrated. “If I could just make a phone call, I could get this cleared up now.”

“I am sorry, but that is simply not possible.”

“Not possible? Do you know who I am? People are going to need to talk to me at some point. So, when will it be possible?”

Mrs. Peters sighed and put her arm around his back and slowly started directing him out of the waiting room.

“You will find that calls will not be necessary.”

When they arrived at the sitting room she aimed her outstretched arm in the direction of one of the high back chairs in front of the fire. “It will help, I guarantee it.”

Michael stood looking at her and then back to the chair. Deciding he wasn’t going to try to win this one, he straightened his expression to hide his sullen mood and took a seat. As he fell into it, a cloud of dust puffed up into the air. He watched as the lint and dirt slowly floated down to the floor, adding another layer of dust to the already filthy carpet. ‘Did the cleaning woman ever come in this room?’ he wondered. Sinking back into the chair, he thought about the rules Mrs. Peters had told him when he arrived. There had been nothing about not using the phone; it might be an earned privilege. Could be it was out of order. The fire crackled loudly and he closed his eyes to think. A flash of headlights crossed his mind, but nothing more before he quickly drifted off.

Chapter 1

In the countdown to releasing on amazon, I thought I would leak a chapter once a week.  This should help me get my butt in gear to get the final typos fixed and post it up on amazon before the entire thing is up on my blog.  Anyway, here it goes.  Enjoy, leave feedback, point out a typo or two I may have missed.

*There is bad language in this book, in case you need a heads up on that sort of thing.

———————————————-

Chapter 1

It must have been one hell of a party. Michael James had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there. He stood on the front porch of a dark house. The wooden planks creaked under his black leather boots. Finding himself in an unfamiliar place was not completely unusual; everything would come back to him in time. His bright blue eyes slowly acclimated to the pitch around him, but there was only black past the porch. He quickly blinked trying to focus in the darkness. A dim porch light offered no help. Michael could just make out the sign over the door – “Theo’s House”. A deep sigh escaped his lips as he rested his head on the door jam. “Not this again.”

The old door creaked open from inside. Had he already knocked? He couldn’t remember.

A slight, elderly woman wearing a blue knit cardigan appeared before him, her steel grey hair tied up in a neat bun. “Mr. Levitsky, we have been expecting you.”

Michael sighed. How many times was he going to be shipped off to a place like this before someone realized it wasn’t going to change him? He made a mental note to fire his agent or publicist or whoever it was that sent him here when he got home. They were all too meddling. “It’s James, Mike James.”

“Please come in Mr. Levitsky. We have a room reserved just for you.” The woman moved out of the way and extended her arm, inviting him through the doorway.

Michael begrudgingly obeyed. He stepped into what resembled a doctor’s waiting room, shielding his eyes from the bright fluorescent lighting. There were a dozen or so vinyl chairs, upholstered in a dated shade of avocado green. In between were a few tables with old magazines neatly arranged across them. A simple wooden desk sat on the far side of the room.   The only thing on it was an old rotary phone. Michael remembered his parents having one when he was a kid, but it had been some time since he had seen one in working order. The dated technology seemed fitting. Everything looked old, very old. He couldn’t believe the condition of this cut-rate facility he had been sent to.

“Would you care to hang up your coat?” The woman pointed to a wooden coat rack, mostly empty aside from a few terrycloth bathrobes.

Michael looked down at his custom leather jacket. It hugged his frame perfectly, showing off his well-toned physique and cost more than what most people earn in a month. Easy enough for him to buy a new one if it was stolen, but the leather was already broken in and it fit him well. “I think I’ll hang on to it.”

“In that case, if you would please follow me.” The smiling woman started walking. “This way. Please don’t dawdle.”

Michael followed her past the desk into a wide hallway. An old dog, a German Shepherd mix based on his colorings, lay at the threshold of the first room. The woman ignored the mutt, stepping over him to enter, and beckoning Michael to follow. The dog didn’t move, even as Michael almost tripped over him, catching himself and falling into a chair in front of the desk. He pushed his dark hair out of his eyes and stared at her, still wondering how he had gotten here. Had there been an intervention? He had no memory of it. The woman had picked up a clipboard and was flipping through the attached papers.

“Well this place is state of the art. Don’t you have a computer for this stuff?”

“We make do just fine.” She didn’t look up as she continued searching through the pages. “Ah, here we are.” The woman got up and pulled open a drawer from the file cabinet. As she rifled through the drawer, Michael tried to put the pieces together on how he ended up in this spot.

“So, did my agent send me here? I’m a little fuzzy on the details.”

The woman smiled but offered no answers to his questions. Finally she sat back down with a folder stuffed with a large stack of papers.

“Now, lets see what we have here, Mr. Levitsky.”

“How many times do I have to tell you? It’s James.”

“Mr. Levitsky, there are no secrets here. All who walk through that doorway enter as who they are, with no pretenses. You were born Michael James Levitsky, correct?”

He heaved a loud sigh and nodded. Not many people spoke to him like this.

“Then that is what I shall call you.”

“What do I call you?”

“Oh my, please forgive my rudeness.” The woman seemed only a bit embarrassed. “I am Mrs. Peters. I am in charge.” She reached out to shake his hand, which Michael just stared at as he buffed his fingernails on his jacket.

“So, how long am I here for?”

Mrs. Peters retracted her hand went back to her papers. “You will leave when you are ready.”

“Well, actually, I’m ready now.”

Mrs. Peters ignored the remark and flipped open the folder on the top of the stack and slipped on a pair of bifocals that had been hanging around her neck. “Michael James Levitsky, also known as Michael James. Age 37. Son of Anne Marie and Joseph Levitsky of Beacon, NY, USA.” She looked up from the folder. “Is that correct?”

He mumbled a yes.

“Youngest of five brothers, Aaron, Matthew, Paul, Peter all living. One younger sister, Christina, deceased.”

His posture stiffened and he turned away at the mention of his sister.

Mrs. Peters’s eyes peered at him over her glasses for a moment but continued.

“Occupation, Actor?”

“You haven’t heard of me?”

She just looked at him blankly.

“Seriously? I don’t know how that is possible. You must not get out much.”

The woman went back to her paper, without comment. “Living in Los Angeles, California, USA.”

“Is this for insurance or something? Because I’m sure someone usually just writes a check. Or is this for the film studio?”

“Just wanting to make sure my file is correct.” She leaned her elbows on the desk, lacing her fingers together, and looked him directly in the eye. “Everything seems to be in order. I just have one final question.”

Michael tapped his fingers on the arm of the chair. ‘Here it comes.’ He was used to a full interrogation on his habits. One question seemed a bit light.

“Under what circumstances did you arrive on our doorstep?” Mrs. Peters asked.

Whatever game this was, masked as therapy, Michael wasn’t playing. “That’s it? That is all you’re gonna ask me?” This intake was a breeze. The answer to her question was easy.   “I don’t have a fucking clue. I’m sure my agent has all of the details, I can write down his phone number if you…”

His sentence was cut off by the folder in front of him being slapped shut.

“No, that will not be necessary. As I said before, you are here until you are ready to leave. Until that time, we do have a few rules that will be followed.”

Michael leaned back in the chair, balancing on its two back legs, and stared up at the ceiling.

“There is no going outside. When another guest leaves, do not try to follow them. No opening the curtains. No going in the basement. Most importantly, do not try to leave before it is time. Do you understand so far?”

Michael stared unblinking at her, a slight smirk on his face.

“I will take that as a yes. You will also attend our group meetings when we gather – every time we gather. Finally, and this one isn’t part of the rules, but more of a preference on my behalf; no foul language, it puts some of our guests on edge.”

Michael patted his jacket, searching for a pack of cigarettes. It was a terrible habit, one he had started in his youth. Finding nothing, he searched around at the floor. He could have sworn he had some in his pocket earlier in the day, but it was such a blur.

“Do you understand all that I have said?”

Michael leaned forward slamming the chair legs back on the floor. “I got it. Stay inside, don’t go in the basement, don’t follow people out the door, go to group.”

“And?”

“No fucking swearing,” he let his smile grow a bit wider.

She was not amused. “Am I clear?”

“Crystal.”

Mrs. Peters rose from the desk. “Now, if you will follow me please, I will show you to your room.”

“Can’t wait.” Michael pulled himself up from the chair and checked for a suitcase. It did not seem that his belongings had been sent with him.

“This way please.”

The old dog hadn’t moved at all since he arrived and Michael made sure to watch his step as he followed Mrs. Peters out of the office.

Down the hallway, they passed a large, wood-paneled sitting room. A few people were scattered around sitting silently, each one watching them as they walked by. The room was dark, which was not helped by the heavy curtains covering the windows, their vibrant color long faded. The furniture was antique or a convincing reproduction, with overstuffed high backed chairs and Chippendale tables. They must have been quite nice when originally purchased. Now however, they were threadbare and worn. To top it off, everything was coated in a thick layer of dust that was noticeable even in the shadowy room. The large Persian floor rugs were in desperate need of a good vacuuming. It must be the cleaning lady’s year off. When they walked towards the staircase, a haggard old woman wearing a pair of tattered overalls was bent over scrubbing the floors. Her salt and pepper hair stuck out from underneath a kerchief. If this was the cleaning lady, he hoped the room they just passed was next on her list. Michael found it hard not to stare. Her face was old and unsightly, lined with wrinkles and dotted with liver spots. He looked away but felt like he was still being watched. When he glanced back, her eyes were on him. She and her bucket blocked their way up. As they approached, she slid her wooden bucket quickly out of the way. The rest of her moved slower. All the while her gnarled hands continued their scrubbing.

Mrs. Peters stood impatiently with arms crossed. “Agnes, anytime now.” When the scrubber woman had finally moved enough of out of the way for them to pass, the two continued on up the staircase.

Michael grabbed the worn banister, which wobbled under his grip.

“You ought to get this fixed. Someone is going to get themself killed.”

Mrs. Peters chortled at the remark. “No one has died in here yet.”

He let go of the rickety banister and followed her up the steps to the second floor. The stairs continued up, how many floors he couldn’t say. At least he would only have the one to climb. He doubted there was an elevator.

The second floor was made up of a long hallway with a half dozen doors on both sides. The wall sconces barely lit the way, but it was bright enough for Michael to see an old runner that ran down the center. At the third door on the right, Mrs. Peters stopped and pulled out a large metal ring, filled with keys of all shapes and sizes. She sorted through them and, after finding the right one, jiggled it into the lock. “Here we are.”

Mrs. Peters flicked a switch and single bulb hung from the ceiling slowly illuminated the room. Michael strained his eyes to see inside before stepping through the threshold. The room was simple and sparsely furnished, just a bed and small dresser. The windows were covered in same worn drapes as in the sitting room. He walked over to the bed and flopped down. The springs squeaked and bounced under his weight. “Cozy.” he remarked, placing his hands under his head.

Mrs. Peters held up a tarnished brass key. It was something from one of those old Victorian houses where one key fit every lock. “This is for you. Do not lose it.” Michael made no attempt to move from the bed. Mrs. Peters held it out a moment longer before placing it atop the dresser.

“Well, I will leave you for now. We will be meeting in the main sitting room shortly for a chat. Please plan on joining us.”

More Coverage

One of the not so small people in the house had another idea.  Anyone going to change their vote?

halfway5

Get it covered

I have gone through a million different ideas for cover art. So far I have had 2 that I thought were “the one”.  The more I stare at them, more they seem less perfect.  Now I have 4 that I am thinking are closer to what will be the actual cover, but cannot decide.  Which is your favorite?

  1.   Halfway2 (1)
  2.  halfway3
  3. halfway2_blue
  4. Halfway1

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