I'm pleased to offer you a brief glimpse of my new book. This is an excerpt from Chapter Four, in which Nerissa, who has the power to change a person's mood dramatically, with a single loving touch, meets harried reporter, Chris Fitzgerald for the first time.
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She strode in her best purposeful fashion from Bill’s
office, but her knees were putty. Each
step reminded her that locking eyes with the strange, affectionate woman could
lead to her collapsing face first onto the restroom floor. Not a pretty vision.
She paused at the door and breathed deeply to steel
herself. Pulling herself to her full
height, she pushed the door open and strode in. Nerissa was at the sink, drying her hands. Chris wasn’t sure if it was the bathroom
lighting, the color of the tiles in the background, or the reflection off the
mirror, but the woman seemed twice as beautiful as she had in Bill’s
office. Then again, Bill’s office might
have had something to do with it. Why
didn’t he ever clean it up?
“Hi!” Chris said, a little excitedly.
Nerissa turned to her and smiled widely. My God, how many teeth did this woman
have? Chris felt her legs turn into
pudding again and rested a hand on the sink to steady herself.
“Hi,” she repeated, this time more calmly. “Uh, Bill and I were wondering where you
“Originally?” Nerissa inquired. She was an old hand at deflecting questions. “The womb.”
“Uh, yes…uh, no.
Not originally. Just now.”
“Oh. State Street.”
“No, that’s not what I meant…”
“But, it’s what you asked.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t mean it quite like that.”
“How did you mean it like?”
Had it not been this beguiling woman flustering Chris so,
she would have screamed in frustration or, perhaps, have thrown something. As it was, she could only giggle in a way
that made her sound ever so slightly insane.
“This is a secure building,” Chris reasoned.
“That must put your mind at ease.”
“Yeah, it does, kind of,” Chris agreed. Then she remembered herself. “My point is: You can’t just come walking in here off the street.”
“Sure I can. I just
“Well, I came in off State Street and I came through the
“I mean, who let you into this office?”
“Oh, because you asked how did I…”
“I know what I asked.
I’m sorry. Who let you into the
“He’s your security guard.
The one in the blue uniform? He
showed me your polar bear piece. Why,
is there a problem?”
“Yeah,” Chris assured her.
“He keeps people out.”
Nerissa opened her arms palms-out to Chris. “Apparently not.”
It might have been a full-blown argument had Nerissa not
answered Chris so gently and matter-of-factly.
There was no malice in her voice, no taunting. Just simple truth. For a
woman who made a living asking people questions on a major market news station,
Chris was stymied.
“Who are you?” she asked finally.
Nerissa extended her hand.
Chris took her hand and, with the first touch, felt her
skeletal frame dissolve. She was sure
that the smile that rolled over her face was moronic but, looking in Nerissa’s
eyes, she didn’t care. She just kept
holding her hand.
“That’s a lovely name.”
Chris was silent for a very long moment. She held Nerissa’s hand and lost herself in her eyes. Nerissa didn’t pull away or say
anything. She just let Chris hold her
hand. Finally, she conjured speech
again. “Is there a last name that goes
“No, it always seemed to be name enough.”
Chris was enchanted.
“Sure, like Cher or Madonna, or Catwoman.” She winced, and considered running into a stall and flushing
herself out of there.
“And what’s your name?” Nerissa mercifully asked.
“Chris, Chris Fitzgerald.”
Never really knowing when enough was enough, she added, “I’ve got
two. Three, actually. No wait, four. Confirmation name.
Christine Marie Catherine Fitzgerald.
Catholic. Irish Catholic. Lotsa names…” Way back in her head, she could hear a voice screaming to her to
shut up, but she couldn’t stop herself.
“They’re all lovely,” Nerissa assured her. Did she say it or purr it?
For a moment, the two women held a look of peace and
quiet. Nerissa knew she had touched the
person who had called for it. The
stillness that seemed to envelop Chris at the moment was, Nerissa knew, an
anomaly. She could feel the tension in
the reporter’s body, the frenetic vibration that hummed in her constantly. She knew that seeing her in this fleeting
moment of calm was a holy vision. She
rubbed the back of Chris’s hand softly.
Chris floated, as if out of her body, for a timeless
moment. Nerissa’s hands felt like
velvet against her skin and the rhythmic rubbing was trance-inducing. She felt something that she hadn’t felt
since childhood and yet it was like nothing she had ever felt: Moving and vulnerable and womanly
somehow. But then, reality, as it
always and so cruelly does, crept back upon her. In the corner of her eye, she caught the reflection of her,
standing in the washroom, holding hands with this stranger. Her body started to solidify again.
Nerissa felt the calm start to ebb from Chris. She stopped rubbing her hand, giving it a final
pat. “Well,” she said, letting go, “it
was lovely meeting you.”
Nerissa picked up her backpack and started to move to the
Chris felt something akin to panic rise up in her. She knew it was ridiculous, holding hands
with a stranger in the bathroom, but she couldn’t bear to see her go.
“Well, uh, wait…” she stammered quickly.
Chris had never heard her name sung before. Having called the angel back, she suddenly
realized that she would have to have something to say. What do people say to one another in the
“Are you from around here?”
“The ladies room?”
Chris hated ad-libbing; there was a reason.
“No, no, no.
“Well, I am for right now.”
Chris heard the conversation come to a screeching halt as
Nerissa failed to recognize the classic, albeit weak, conversation
starter. She decided to throw herself
on Nerissa’s mercy.
“What does that mean?” Chris implored.
Just as Nerissa started to answer, a loud rapping split the
air. The door opened just slightly and
Bill’s voice, never more intrusive, rang out.
“You guys okay in here?”
For a second, Chris wished that she were armed. She grabbed Nerissa’s hand and led her to
the door. She flung it open and Bill
recoiled in surprise. His face flushed
“I…uh, I started to get a little worried…” he mumbled.
Chris threw up a halting hand as she rushed past him,
pulling Nerissa behind.
“We’re okay, we’re okay, coffee break, coffee break,” she
repeated as she fled toward the exit.
Bill voiced some objection, but Chris either didn’t hear him or, more
likely, ignored him.
In the outer office, behind a counter, sat a wrinkled-faced
man in a blue guard uniform. He didn’t
look as if he ever smiled much, but he did when he saw Nerissa being dragged
along by Chris.
“Hi, Nerissa!” the guard cried.
“Hi, Stanley!” Nerissa answered cheerfully. She took a step toward him and was
immediately pulled back on course by Chris.
“That’s Stanley,” Nerissa explained.
“Hi, Stanley,” Chris said, never breaking stride.
“I love you, Stanley,” Nerissa called out as she was pulled
around a corner.
“I love you too, Nerissa,” Stanley called to the
Chris didn’t stop until she was outside. It had begun snowing in huge, fluffy flakes
that made Nerissa’s smile so wide, she resembled a set of teeth with hair.
“Snow!” she cried with childlike enthusiasm.
Chris was seized with a combination of enchantment,
frustration, and insane jealousy. The
reporter in her knew that there was some kind of story in this tall blonde, who
revealed nothing of herself, but that she loved everybody. She had witnessed the effect Nerissa had on
others. Hell, she had experienced
it. She just knew there was a story
here. But, at that moment, watching her
marvel at snow, Chris wasn’t sure of anything.
She only knew that she wanted so much to feel as free and as happy as
Nerissa and that, in order to know that feeling, she was ready at that moment
to follow her anywhere.
“Okay,” Chris said suddenly, “what’s the deal?”
Nerissa was genuinely surprised. “What deal?”
“I’ve been here eight years and that’s the first time I’ve
ever heard Stanley speak, except to say ‘good morning.’ How did you do that?”
“Get him saying ‘I love you.’”
“I said it to him first.
I’ve found that if you want someone to talk to you, it’s always easier
if you talk to them first.”
Chris fell silent.
She wondered if Nerissa could see her shame. She had never said anything to Stanley first. Ever.
She only spoke to him if he said “good morning” first and then it was just
a mumbled reply as she raced into the station.
She hadn’t really known his name until Nerissa had told her. Chris looked around.
“You want some hot chocolate?” she finally asked. “My treat.”
Nerissa lived by two rules: Don’t get involved too deeply with other people, and never turn
down free chocolate. She knew that
Chris would be probing relentlessly for more information. But, she also knew that Chris was the reason
she went into the building in the first place.
There was purpose in their meeting, although exactly what it was,
Nerissa couldn’t say. She would have to
spend a little more time with her before she could move on. And, if there was chocolate involved, so
much the better.
“Sure,” she replied.
That's when things REALLY begin!