Scenes & Moments
Second Novel (in editing)

The Opening, Chapter 1

"Give me a cigarette and the right atmosphere, and I'll tell you the story of my life," she said as she lit a cigarette.
The young writer listened to the renowned figure as she began to weave a tale to match all tales. The woman paused and looked at the recorder on the desk between them. The young writer blushed with embarrassment and started the machine that would hold the words Ms. James was about to speak.
She couldn't believe she was sitting in Olivia James' home. She couldn't believe she was listening to Ms. Olivia James--woman of a lifetime. Occasionally the young writer would pinch herself to be sure she wasn't dreaming. Who would believe that a struggling young writer would be summoned to write the biography of a woman who once dominated the literary world for a time? Olivia James would believe it. She was once a struggling young writer-a writer trying desperately to make sense of the world, of life. A writer before Amazon and self publishing made sharing one's work a possibility.
They sat in Olivia's study in her fabled home known as Somerset. The spacious Victorian-style mansion that rested in the secluded hills of southwestern Virginia, not far from her childhood home in Baileysville or her grandmother's house in Fuller. Somerset appeared, to the visitor's eye, to have been a part of the rural landscape known as Clovermist for years: a variety of trees gave way to an open ground around the house while shielding it from the view of passersby. Ivy traveled up a chimney, an enchanting garden bloomed with perfect timing every spring, grey squirrels frolicked in the front and side yards as if they were permanent residents of the majestic house, and deer grazed in the distance, unconcerned. One would think that Somerset began as a seed and grew in that very spot, not maiming or striking controversy with its environs.
This stately home was Olivia's hideaway, a place in which she retreated for the last twenty years and raised her three children. The children were now gown and had found lives of their own, leaving the house unbearably silent--silent until Olivia began to speak. With the breath of her voice the walls seem to come alive with conversations of literature, the hum of an acoustic guitar in the hall, and the lure of radicals and writers strolling about the garden in ardent debate. It was a house open to thought and imagination; a canvas filled with wonderful compositions of furniture, memorabilia, and worthless treasures of some little journey, acquaintance, or moment. It could be said that the house was a piece of an unbelievable creative genius. The house itself was a book or movie waiting to unfold.
It was in Somerset that Olivia worked during the last half of her career. It was a sheet of paper were she could assemble her thoughts and give birth to a timeless story. In her study she displayed the fruits of her labor--a Pulitzer, five screenwriting awards, numerous literary awards, portraits of her children and grandchildren, and, in the center of her desk, a photograph of her husband. This was the heart of what had now become a comatose house.
"My childhood is the logical place to begin. People are so fascinated by the childhood. It's as if it has to do with some sort of comparison. If you read of someone who was ordinary, lower or middle class, and they make a success of their life, then you compare yourself and say 'if she can do it, so can I'," Olivia explained as she took a drag from her cigarette and stared at the young writer.
"What do you think?"
"It seems logical. Like the common man succeeds. Hometown girl makes good," the young writer said, straining for an appropriate phrase.
"It's logical, yes, but you see my life was not, nor is, logical.
Whenever I tried to do the logical thing, logic bred hell for me. I found that an illogical logic worked best. It's the only thing that could work for a woman in this world. In order to compete and survive, one cannot think like the forces in front of them. One must think far beyond. In order to succeed, I had to let them believe I was an absolute genius."
"Illogical logic," the young writer repeated. She studied Olivia as if to warrant a better, if not more accurate explanation.
"If you were standing on an open plain and a tornado appeared and was heading toward you, you would think of running away from it. Find a ditch or a cellar and hide till it passed over," Olivia said as she blew smoke into the air. "The illogical logical thing to do would be to stand still and wait for it to turn before reaching you. Or hope it passes you over. That's an example. And, my dear, you then live in that moment." Olivia crossed her legs and watched the smoke lift from the end of her cigarette and disappear toward the ceiling.
"I think I understand. It's about taking risks, not doing what is expected," the young writer reasoned.
"You're getting there."
"Did you resort to this illogical logic when you were a child, or was it something you developed along the way?" Olivia nodded. "It was there. There with the imagination and the yearning to create something, be it a daydream or a one act play for a college course. I was an unusual child caught up in the usual all-American dream. Isn't it always that way? You yearn for what you don't have. When you get it, you either want more or you're just plain disappointed. As if you expected this magical carpet ride that would carry you through life without a care. Rarely does it turn out to be the ultimate of dreams come true where you appreciate and adore every second of life before the bubble bursts," she said, snubbing out her cigarette. "Then you have to watch over your shoulder to be sure someone isn't waiting to prick the bubble prematurely."
The young writer studied her--the mysterious look in her dark eyes, the youthfulness mixed with age in her face, the sadness seasoned with a long lost happiness in her expressions, and every odd and different facet of her manner. Then there was the fact that she was a smoker in her 70s and this was nearly 2040. If only she would open up her skull and let everything spill out. What a feast of knowledge, introspective and honest, would pour out!
"Let's begin with childhood," Olivia stated, reaching for another cigarette as she reclined in her chair with the grace of a ballerina being tilted backward. Now it would happen, now her story would be told; now the reason for Olivia James' journey through life would be understood. The young writer nodded in agreement as the recorder played on...

Olivia's life began long before the moment of conception. It began years and years before she was a mere celestial twinkle in the sky. Her life, as it exists on this place known as Earth, began when two Taylor brothers, having sold all the possessions left to them after the death of their mother, traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, many miles from England. They came to Virginia: one brother settled near the Chesapeake Bay area, and the other went farther inland, eventually settling in the western half of southern Virginia on a plot of land his oldest daughter would later name Clovermist.
Three generations lived and worked the land in those hills and valleys, selling bits and pieces to other farmers when the need arose till, when the fourth generation grew and began to marry, there was little left to suffice one family. Times changed, farming lost its appeal when towns sprang up, factories opened, and it was discovered that a regular guy could make a living with a business on Main Street just as he could on a farm--minus the temperament of the weather and the inconvenience of living in nowhere.
Soon churches and barn dances lost their status as "the" social meeting grounds for folks as rural schools grew and consolidated, bringing more of a sense of community
that prompted Elliott Taylor, a fourth generation Taylor from Clovermist, to seek his livelihood somewhere other than farming: he became a policeman for the town of Baileysville. It was in town that he met Lillian Frances Beauchant, a school teacher transferring into the area from Roanoke to teach at Fuller Elementary. They soon wed and moved to Fuller, a rural community just outside of Baileysville, and built a home to start a family, which would include Olivia's father.

Excerpts from Scenes - Chapter 22

The afternoon before meeting Nigel Finlay at the benefit she attends with her literary agent and his wife. Completely unaware of how her life path is about to change—

When they say New York never sleeps, they're right.  On just about any given night there are more than a few stragglers on the streets.  But that's part of the charm, that underlying hyper-pace which seems to say life is too good (and too short) to be slept away.  One can always see the city's veins pumping with human plasma--sometimes literally too.  Olivia loved this about New York just as she loved the fact that places like Baileysville rolled up their sidewalks at nine o'clock.  In a town the size of Baileysville there was a simple mischievousness to being a night owl, as if one was getting ahead of the locals by seeing the wee hours of the day.  In a city the size of New York one hadn't that same sort of isolation, accompanied with the knowledge that they weren't alone, that thousands of others were seeing those wee hours-whether they embraced them or not.

Two days after having met Nigel and spent time in deep conversations at a late night jazz bar, dinner, on a walk around the city—-

“Do I really make you uncomfortable?" she asked.

"To attempt your chain of thought--uncomfortably comfortable," he explained, still holding her glance.  "I never worried about control until now."  They were moving slower.  She looked into his eyes.

“Funny, I always worried about control till now," she whispered.  They stopped moving and gazed into each other's eyes.

“Do you trust me?" he whispered, kissing her temple. She leaned into his kisses to her cheek, her forehead.

“Implicitly," she whispered. He took her hand and led her to the bedroom.

“I don't think there is any going back," he said, his accent heavy but breathy. The touch of his hand to her inner thigh sent quivers throughout her body as he kissed her so gently on the lips, his other hand around her back holding her like something precious, some priceless work of art as her eased her onto the bed. His hand began to travel up her thigh to that warm, sweet divide, and his slow approach made her nearly go completely limp in anticipation of his actual touch. When, after seconds that seemed like eternities entwined in infinity, he finally moved his fingers to grace her there, she went limp and opened to him, acquiesced to every sensation he drew from her with his kisses, his whispers, his breath on her skin. Every. Single. Move. was as if a first time and a lifetime of getting each stroke, every small touch, and deliberate sway to a perfect rhythmic musical movement. Slow piano notes of a long ago story. The fluidity of a jazz lounge echo long left to history and the darkness of a sleepless - be it so very worthy and nowhere long enough - night. This would be unbelievably divine yet simply so sweet, so honest so unexpected. There. Was. No. Going. Back.

If life could exist in such a state of peaceful bliss as that which engulfed the two lovers that black and silent night, then there would never be pain or suffering, frustration or regret. There could be no harmony as perfect, no music as beautiful as the last tone that drifted through their bodies, bringing tears to Olivia's eyes.  He looked at her and they wept together, grasping each other, sharing the pain as once the peace was blown away by the breeze.  Even minutes were too long to wait for the wonder of the feelings they had made to be roused again.  For the wonder of the connection that took them to another world was stronger than both of them.

She woke in his arms.  They had fallen asleep on the floor, enshrouded in the sheets from the bed.  The scent of his cologne brought back vivid images of hours before.  Slowly she slipped out of his arms, grabbed his shirt, and put it on.  It was chilly in the suite as the doors to the balcony had been left open. She grabbed a bottle of Evian from the bar, and went out onto the balcony.

A dim grey-blueness painted the horizon.  Life was both winding down and winding up in the city for that Saturday morning.  She watched it as she leaned over the edge of the balcony, the whirl of a police siren echoing in the distance.  It would be fully awake, this city, in a couple of hours, calling, clamoring, bustling, and for a moment that early morning it all had ceased to exist for Olivia.  She held back tears, tears for the moments she had just shared, tears for the place she had just entered and realized that no matter what, she could never leave.  Her life was destined to be a wreck without him, and she knew not what it would be with him.  For a girl who never thought that such things were possible, she now believed nothing else would do in her life. She laid her forehead on her arms and closed her eyes.  Perhaps she didn't know.