Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tantalizing Thursday: Reckless Endangerment

For Tantalizing Thursday, I like sharing a piece of a work in progress.  The following is a piece from Reckless Endangerment--about a marine coming home from Afghanistan wounded and uncertain how to "be" in this new reality and his wife, a reporter he met in a war zone who's now immersed in a human trafficking story that will test them in ways neither are sure they can handle.  

An excerpt from my work in progress, Reckless Endangerment--hopefully I'll finish it this month (I keep deleting the final chapters so...who knows! Ha)

“Explain me? Explain me?”  In the blink of an eye, she blocked the doorway to the bedroom.  With a yank, she held up the chain where his wedding band hung and tossed it at him.  “Explain this.”
The wedding ring landed in his lap.  He couldn’t bear to touch it.
“Give up,” he said like a prayer.
“No, that’s not an option.”  With a long sigh, she buttoned her shirt and walked around him. 
He turned when he heard her fumbling in her bag.  Two picture frames in her hands, she stood with her profile to him and red hair falling around her shoulders.  “You don’t deserve these, but I’m leaving them here anyway.”  She tossed them onto his lap where they covered the wedding ring.
“Is this what the big scene was about?  You giving me back my ring, dropping off some photos, letting me feel you up, kissing me?  Let me guess, now I’m supposed to snap back in line and crawl back to you, right?” God help him, he didn’t want to look at the pictures.  “Well, I can’t crawl.”
“You’ve been through a lot, I get it, but none of that is an excuse to be cruel.”  She pulled the leather jacket on while keeping her back to him.  “Feel sorry for yourself, if that’s what you want, but I don’t believe we’re over.  I think you’re just lashing out because you’re mad and frustrated and maybe--although I’m sure you’ll never admit it--scared.” She looked over her shoulder while pulling hair from beneath the jacket.  “This game of yours ends today.  I’m not pretending anymore.  I’ve given you enough time to figure things out, but now that’s over.  You’re my husband and I’m going to make sure people know it.”
“What are you going to do?”  He stiffened, knowing she always followed through with threats.  
“Raise some hell, rock your world,” she said with that wicked smile he had fallen for nearly two years ago in a darkened and dusty hotel lobby.  
“No, you won’t.”  He squinted at her, certain she was bluffing.  After all of this time, why would she show her hand?
“I’ve waited long enough, don’t you think?  I’m sick of it.”
Against his better judgment he looked at the framed pictures.  The top one was of the two of them wrapped in a sheet on her hotel bed, her hair cascading around bare shoulders, face illuminated by pale light, green eyes full of love and laughing as he took their self- portrait.  The picture came to life in his hands…he tasted her, smelled the room, felt her naked body next to his, heard them laughing, felt the love.  
When he glanced up at her, saw that she was busy fumbling through her bag and hoped she didn’t pull out any more surprises.  
With a sigh, he looked at the second photograph.  It was their wedding photo, although an outsider would never realize that.  He stood tall with his white shirt unbuttoned to the waist and laughter lighting his face. He had been so happy and in love that day as he’d watched her skip up the aisle with her red hair flying around her shoulders and the setting sun reflecting on her skin.  In the photo, her arms were wrapped around his waist, head against his chest, white strapless dress billowing around her legs and her smile wide with laughter.  Their friends, McGee, Lisa, Peter, Sally and Samson flanked them.  Three of those friends, Peter, Sally and Samson, were now dead.  
“Well, I’m leaving for now, but I’ll be back.”  She looped her bag over her chest and lingered near the door.  “And, you’re right, I did pull some strings to move you to the top of the waiting list. I knew you wanted to be close to your family even if would rather poke both of your eyes out than admit it, stubborn bastard.”
              “I’m sick of not having a say in what I do or don’t do.  You can’t do this.  Just because I’m trapped in this chair doesn’t mean I don’t have a say about my life and I want you out of it.  Damn it, Hope.  Just get the hell out and leave me alone.” 
Rage consumed him.  Rage for what could have been, what should have been, for a life lost.  Rage for everyone acting like he had no rights anymore, like he couldn’t make his own decisions.  He tossed the wedding ring and pictures across the room.
            Looking horrified, she covered her mouth with her hands and walked to the where the frames smashed against the floor.  As she bent, her bag spilled, contents ranging from liquid soap to a flashlight mixed with the broken glass.  She fell to her knees, hands shaking as she scooped up the items.  Fingers shook.  Knees crunched against broken glass.  Hair shielded her face from view, but he knew she cried. 
He remembered another time with her on her knees when the bag had saved his sanity.  Bombs had rocked the walls. Blood had dripped into his eyes. Dizziness barely kept him upright. From that bag, she had retrieved bandages, protein bars, bottles of water…He had thanked God for her and that oversized bag.  
“I’ll make sure I call next time,” she was saying in a rushed, soft voice.  “Wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.  God forbid—”
“I’m sorry.”  He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and stared at her bent head. “I don’t know how to handle any of this, Hope, especially you.”
          She froze in motion at his words.  “Especially me, huh?  I am the one constant in your life, if you haven’t figured that out.  Despite all of the bullshit, here I am.  Me, stupid me, still needing you as much today as I did a year ago.”
His chest caved in at the sight of her eyes glistening with tears. He wanted to take it all back, every word. 
“I don’t know how to do this, how to be married, how to be back in the States, how to be a civilian again, how to not walk,” he admitted.
“You break my heart, Michael,” she whispered.
“How could I possibly break your heart?”
“By not seeing how strong you  are, how much you mean to everyone in your life, how worthy you are to be alive, how heroic you’ve been, how much I love you—”
“Stop it, Hope.”  
“Maybe I need to stop trying to hold on.  Maybe you’re right.”  Sighing, her shoulders slumped.      “We were this close,” she held her fingers an inch apart, “to having a life together when everything blew up in our faces.  Literally.  What else do I have to lose, right?  I already lost my dignity when I begged those damn beurocrats to let me see you in Germany.  And when I say begged, I mean I begged, pleaded, bartered, whatever I could possibly say or do to get in and then they told me that you,” she pointed at him, “said no, you told them I lied about being married to you.  And McGee backed you up.  I looked like a fool and a liar.”
“I’m sorry, Hope,” he whispered. 
“And now you’re doing it again.  Denying me.  You would rather sit in this place alone rather than admit to the world that I’m your wife. It’s true.”  She nodded at that, eyes gluing him in place. “I gave up my everything for you, soldier boy.  My life.  My pride.  My dignity.  I gave it all up for you.  Pitiful.”
“Why?” he choked out the question. “I did everything to get you to let me go. I didn’t want you to give up your life for me, can’t you see that?  You were born to be in the spotlight, dodging bullets, charming your way into and out of trouble.  I’m an anchor to you now, can’t you see that?  I want you to forget me.  Why won’t you let me go?” 
She closed her eyes, head tilted toward the ceiling. “Because maybe I went crazy over there. Maybe we weren’t this close,” again with the fingers, “to having a life together.  Maybe we were already there.  Maybe it wasn’t conventional but it was real, it was us.  Maybe I misunderstood sex for more.  Maybe I thought that our wedding meant as much to you as it did me.  Maybe I’m the biggest fool to walk the planet earth.”
“But now I’m broken so…” He hated himself for the words coming from his own mouth.  
“Yeah, that’s right.”  Nodding, she looked away from him and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes.  “And I’m too shallow to be the person you need, right? Too superficial?  I know the truth.  I know you should be capable of limited mobility, that you are not trapped in that chair, that you have have even managed to stand for a brief period of time here and there.  Didn’t you think I’d do some research on your injuries?  Yes, you’re in a wheelchair, but your situation isn’t hopeless. You’re the one who gave up, but for the life of me I don’t know why.  It’s not like you.  You’re a goddamn Colonel in the Marine Corps.  You don’t surrender, so what’s going on with you?”  
Her words stung.  He had heard them for months now.  And he didn’t know the answer.  “You need to be in New York or in the middle of war zone working for your next Emmy. You’re the It Girl, right?”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as I thought,” she said with a bitter twist of her mouth.  “I’ve been waiting…don’t you see?  I could care less about a network job and you know it.  I had it...I left it.” She looped her bag over her torso.  “I love you.  I thought you loved me, too.  Until you can look me in the eye and tell me you don’t, that you never did, I’ll keep coming back.”
He grabbed the frames from the cushion of the sofa where she’d tossed them and looked at the broken glass.  Guilt and confusion ate away at his brain.  He shoved his hands through his hair. 
“Do you have any idea what it’s like for me not to know what to do?  I was a decorated officer.  I made decisions minute by minute that affected the lives of my unit, yet I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to do about this,” he smacked the chair, “I don’t know what to do about you and I definitely don’t know what to do about Dalton.  I’m fucked up.  I hate not knowing what to do.  You’re’s not like me.  Don’t you think I know that?”
With a muttered curse, she sat on the edge of the sofa and blinked at the ceiling.  “I’m sure it’s hell.  You were always in command. For months now, you’ve had one surgery after another, been under constant care with zero privacy, me pestering you with my endless notes and your family hauling you across the country without anyone asking what you want.  No one is respecting the officer in the room.”
He squinted at her.  “Exactly.  People talk about me rather than to me.”
“And yet expect you to snap out of your funk and get on with your life.”
“But I don’t know what that means.”  It bothered him that she understood him so well.  Her understanding shook his resolve, weakened his resistance.  
“And you haven’t tried because you’ve been mourning your old life and don’t know what the new life is yet.”
“Everyone thinks I’m a rotten, self-pitying bastard.”
“Because that’s what you want us to think so we leave you alone.”  She shoved both hands through her hair and sighed.  “You’re exhausting.”
“I know.”  He smiled for the first time in months.  “I exhaust myself, too.  I’m really sick of my crap.”
“Well, that’s something.”  She grinned, eyes dark with defeat.  “I haven’t respected the officer in the room, have I?”  She combed her fingers through his hair.  “I love you, if that means anything to you at all.”
“It means something to me.” He snagged her hand but she yanked it away as she stood.  
She hesitated at the door before looking at him over her shoulder.  “I want my husband back.”
Well, that was just a snippet of the let's see if I can wrap this baby up and get it sent to my publisher! Ha.  I always hate writing endings. 


Tammy Dennings Maggy said...

This is FANTASTIC! I could really feel Hope's pain as well as Michael's. You've put a lot of raw emotion in that scene and it is so...REAL. I am really looking forward to reading the whole book.

Keep going woman!


Amber Lea Easton said...

Thanks, Tammy. It's been an emotional roller coaster writing it. I keep writing and deleting the end chapters, but I know I need to stop that. LOL These characters are very complicated and demanding! Ha. But thank you...I really like this story, but it's been emotionally exhausting. Whenever I finish writing, I need to go sit quietly for awhile. :-) Thanks for your encouragement!