As it turns out, not only do I write, but I also have a sister who writes. Yes, the talent in our family is astronomical indeed. This week she is doing a blog tour to pump up the release of her latest book, Baby Girl Book 2: Moonlighting in Paris, of which I also had the pleasure of being Elle’s editor (because a sister can really appreciate the anal perfectionism and honesty I have to offer). Please read, share, and enjoy as I host a bit of her tour on my blog today.
Before moving on to the meat of this post, I just want to take a moment to comment on Elle’s protagonist, Cleo turned Justine, not as a sister or an editor, but as one with a fascination for good characters. I like the mystery of Justine. She’s floating on the tide of a world she doesn’t know, seemingly pretending to be something or someone she is not, but in all honesty, she doesn’t know who she is. She has gone from a life where she was sheltered in anonymity into the intrusive eyes of the paparazzi… and she’s still just a teenager on her own! Sure, she’s naive in many respects, but she has a great inner strength that carries her on.
A spooky short from Elle’s life: A piece of inspiration for Baby Girl
On a bright sunny California day I made a pit stop at the local drug store on my way home from work. I desperately had to have the latest V.C. Andrews novel, which, if memory serves correctly was one of the Heaven series. I shifted my egg shaped, chocolate colored Honda into neutral, applied the emergency brake and happily flounced out of my car with only one thought, buying my new book. As I walked the short distance into the drug store I heard a set of quickening footsteps behind me. Upon stealing a glance, a thrityish man, average looking, wearing an everyday business suit was swiftly gaining ground on me. Something about him gave me the chills so I rushed into the store, grabbed the book off the shelf and wasted no time in run-walking to the checkout. Observing that he was nowhere to be seen I waited in line, checking for his whereabout every few seconds. I safely made it to the cashier, sighing a breath of relief, thinking I had escaped him. As the cashier handed me the bag he walked up behind me, and attempted conversation. I ran out the door, jumped into my car, locked all the doors, and started up the little 4 cylinder engine. As I readied my car into first gear I heard a knock on my window. I had been in such a rush to get away from him I stopped watching. He motioned for me to roll down my window, and asked if I wanted to go have Chinese food with him. I shouted, “No,” and chirped my car out of its resting place. I was sixteen at the time and was scared out of my wits. Thoughts of him being worse than a pedophile swirled around in my brain. The story doesn’t end here. He trailed me out of the parking lot and down many streets. Instead of going straight home, I zigzagged all over the small city until his car was gone. Eventually I made it home safely, but not without parking my car behind the fence so it couldn’t be easily seen and telling my parents all about the blood chilling incident. I was a teen long before cell phones or beepers for that matter, and I wholeheartedly believe that is an incident in which using a cell while driving should be legal. If I’d had one, then I would have dialed 911 without hesitation.
Charlotte Greenbrier A.K.A Student
I used the power of the internet to try and find information on my mom. I again wasn’t sure where to start so I went back to archived newspaper articles: disappearances, strange deaths, anything that would tell me what happened. I had found a lot of disappearances, but none that were my mom or even close. I looked through deaths, murders and unsolved mysteries. Finally, I found a story about a young woman who was found floating upstream in a river. It wasn’t far from where I had lived and the date was about the time she went missing. It was also within the months of my being alone in the cabin. The body hadn’t been identified and there weren’t a lot of details: she was in her early thirties, red hair and petite in size. The description matched my mom. She had been strangled before being thrown into the river, and her attacker was never found. If this was my mom, was she killed in a bad drug deal? Had she whored herself out to the wrong man? Again, I was left with answers but even more questions. I wrote down the name of the officer in charge of the case and the author of the newspaper article.
I wanted to make phone calls, but not from my room. Any calls made through the hotel were on record via the phone bill. I also didn’t want to be followed by Mr. Dancy Eyes, or anyone else for that matter. I had always been able to melt into a crowd, to be seen but not really seen. Now my face was plastered everywhere, and I longed to blend. Didier had some clothes in my room, so I rummaged through them until I found something that looked okay. A pair of baggy pants and a button down shirt. I pulled my hoodie on over it, rolled my hair into a cap, and took a quick glance in the mirror. Not too horrible, since oversized clothes were in style.
On the streets I needed a phone, an untraceable one… a throwaway cell phone. A few blocks down was a store, something like a jiffy store, the kind of place that sells cigarettes, candy and other miscellaneous items. Inside they had disposable phones, so I purchased one and headed back to the hotel. No good. I didn’t want to go back to the hotel. My sense of anonymity forced the need to find someplace that had no connection to my present life. Spotting a small café with a seat outside, and nobody else around I made my phone calls. I wasn’t sure who to talk to first, but thought the media might be my best choice since they were always so nosy.
The reporter who worked my mother’s case was as good a place as any to start, I thought. Her office gave me a run around and finally patched me through to her. “Gina Brandt” she said pointedly.
“Thanks for speaking with me. My name is Charlotte Greenbrier. I’m a journalism student and I would like to ask you some questions about a case you worked. I have to write a paper on an unsolved mystery.
“It was a couple years ago, a woman in her early thirties with red hair found floating upstream in a river.”
“Yeah, she was badly bruised, but it was post-mortem, most likely caused by the stream’s current dragging and bouncing her off the rocks. Her body had been decomposing already for months. She didn’t have any ID, couldn’t find a dental record or a finger print match in the system.”
It was difficult for me to continue talking and listening. The article had run in several different papers within the area, but nothing turned up. She was a mystery woman, whom nobody claimed. I could feel the tears well up in my eyes, and my throat start to burn, but I couldn’t cry, not now. I knew my mom was a junkie and not much of a mother, but she was all I had until she was gone. I wanted more details about her physical characteristics. “Could you give me a description of her?” I asked.
“Sure. She was Caucasian, approximately five feet tall, thin, and had freckles. She had track marks up and down her arms, but that was all printed in the paper. I was in your shoes once so I’m going to give you something that wasn’t printed and didn’t lead anywhere, maybe you can do something with it. She had had a picture tucked into her shoe. It was very badly damaged and the police weren’t able to make out much, but it was a picture of a child. They couldn’t even tell for sure the sex, but the consensus was female.”
I thanked her and she relayed which police station had the picture in evidence, in case I wanted to take a look. After I hung up I had to compose myself. My mother was a loser but she hadn’t left me on purpose. She had been taken from me and she had loved me enough to keep my picture with her.
I paid my bill and went for a walk. I had to think about what I had just learned. What had she been involved in that had gotten her killed? Drugs? I knew it was drugs, well, maybe not. We had lived a quiet and secluded life. Was she running from something, like I had eventually run? Was my life a mirror of hers? Maybe she was a runaway like me but had gotten pregnant, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, so she turned inside herself. When she was gone, she must have been working because she always came back with money. Maybe she was a whore who wanted to keep her child from that kind of a life. Not that our life was much, but she was there when I was young and unable to fend for myself. If I called the police now, what would I ask them? I had to think about this so I went back to the hotel and snuck up to my room without being noticed, or so I thought.
I sank into the tub with a bottle of wine, and blasted the jets. I awoke to a gentle kiss and nudge from Didier. “Justine, this is a bad habit, you… the tub and wine,” his voice gentle but equally scolding. He helped me out of the tub and wrapped me in a towel, gently drying off my body. Small streams of water from the edges of my hair traced a path down my back. Taking one hand under my legs and the other across my back, he lifted me up and gingerly lay me on the bed. Smothering my body in kisses he sent a quake of hot shivers, and we made love. After, I was about half conscious, and soon slipped back into sleep again.
My sleep haunted me. First, I was running from some man whom I have never seen nor met. It was dark and I was in the woods by our shack, in nothing but shorts and a tank while deformed tree branches scraped against my skin. The man had straight black hair and coal eyes. In his hand he carried a noose. My foot got stuck between two rocks, and from the momentum of my body running, I fell. The leaves caught me. I twisted my head to look over my shoulder, and he was gone. Suddenly, I was twelve years old and alone in the shack. In my next dream my mom was in a restaurant, holding a picture in her hand, and they were arguing. He handed her an envelope and left, angry. It was an unrestful sleep. I woke up feeling my life was in danger and even more confused about who I was and where I had come from. Was my mom even really my mom? Deep down I knew she wasn’t. I didn’t look anything like her.
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