I was blown away by the response to the last email. We’ve already sold 100s of copies!
Thank you so much for getting behind my new book The Wish Room!
If you missed the announcement, make sure to click here to see all kinds of cool giveaways you can access.
Now, as promised, here’s an exclusive sneak peek at the first chapter from The Wish Room. You’re just going to LOVE Harold…
“Is the box cutter in there?” Harold Withers yelled down the hall. He slumped over at the hips with his hands on his knees, his face bright scarlet.
Harold couldn’t seem to catch his breath after carrying the box labeled Study Things from the U-Haul to the room he was claiming as the study. Pinpricks of sweat on his balding cul-de-sac caught the light that streamed in through the window behind him.
Harold straightened up, his massive belly heaving as he sucked in air. The hot sweat from the top of his head trickled down his face. Taking off his glasses with their coke bottle lenses, Harold wiped his face in the crook of his elbow.
Only God knew how much Harold hated sweat. He hated everything about it. How dirty it was, how filthy it made him feel, the ugly smell of it. And at thirty-seven, overweight, and aching in all of his joints—mainly his knees and lower back—the sweat mocked him.
“Nora!” Harold shouted through the door. “Do you have the box cutters or not?”
When Harold and Nora visited the house in the weeks previous to purchasing it, Harold knew this was the room. This was the room that he wanted as his study. The way the light streamed in through the solitary window and lit the whole room ablaze was one reason, but the other Harold couldn’t explain.
The room felt right. Harold wasn’t sure what it was about the room that so attracted him, he just knew that it did.
The trip from Boston, Massachusetts to Solo, Texas to check out the house had been a disaster. Harold and his wife’s fights so punctuated the affair that by the end they were just happy to go back to Boston, even if it was forever poisoned to them.
“G.D., Nora. What took so long?” Harold mumbled as he heard her footsteps on the wooden floor outside the door to his study.
He liked the way that sounded.
Nora stepped into the doorway, barely taking up half.
Just twenty-three, she still had the same figure she had in high school. Small hips, slight frame, small breasts. Waify was what her mom used to call her, but with her ebony hair and pale skin, Nora always thought she looked more like an elf than anything else.
A tiny, strained smile played on Nora’s face as she looked across the room at her smiling husband.
She married Harold five years ago, just out of high school and naive about the world. The first three years of their marriage went by in a hurry. Happiness tends to speed things along. The last two dragged on, full of misery and pain.
Since Joshua, Harold replaced hugs and I-love-you’s with nods and grunts.
“What are you smiling about, Harry?” Nora asked her sweating, red-faced husband from the doorway.
“Nothing. Box cutters?” Harold asked, thrusting out his meaty right hand, palm up.
“What?” Nora asked.
Harold’s smile disappeared as well.
“They’re in the kitchen. Did you need them?” Nora asked.
Harold made a big show of looking down at the large, taped box that sat at his feet and then back up at Nora.
The box. Nora.
The box. Nora.
“Geez, a simple yes would’ve sufficed,” Nora said as the frown that had become so common over the last two years returned to her face again.
Harold frowned and shook his head at her exiting figure. Was it really so much to expect her to think before she spoke?
Harold didn’t think so.
After a while—forever according to Harold—Nora walked back into the room with the box cutter.
“What box is that?” Nora asked as she handed him the box cutter. “I thought we were going to make this room into a nursery for the baby.”
Harold didn’t say anything as he sliced through the shiny, brown packing tape.
The baby. Nora said it like it was a fact. Like she was already pregnant. Like she wouldn’t birth a stillborn again.
Harold couldn’t even understand why she wanted to try again so soon. He’d argued with her over and over about it. Why couldn’t she just let her body reset or whatever it had to do? Harold didn’t want to deal with another dead child and another devastated Nora.
Only two years had passed since the stillbirth of Joshua.
Joshua, the firstborn.
Joshua, his son.
Harold blamed Nora. Months before the delivery, they both agreed that she wouldn’t get an epidural. When the time came though, Nora broke down like a tower of dominoes with her begging and whining and crying about the pain.
Harold cornered the doctor in the hallway afterwards, interrogating the man about stillbirth and epidurals. The doctor said that the epidural had nothing to do with his stillborn child, but Harold thought he saw something in the doctor’s eyes.
Pity that Nora chose to take the poison that eventually killed their son. Harold’s son.
Nora’s weakness killed their baby boy and Harold knew it. He never told her though. He could never do that. It would be like folding a royal flush and Harold never folded.
“Harry, did you hear me?” Nora asked.
Harold grunted his assent.
“Well?” Nora asked.
“Well what?” Harold asked back.
“The nursery. I thought we decided this was going to be the nursery,” Nora said. She felt the tension fill her shoulders like achy joints before a storm.
“Decided,” Harold scoffed, hearing her cries for the epidural fresh in his ears.
“We decided, Harry,” Nora said, her shoulders lifting up.
Harold looked up at her, his face bland. “We’ve decided on a lot of things that have fallen through, haven’t we?”
“What are you talking about?” Nora asked.
“Nothing. I like this room. I want it as my study. If we ever conceive, we can talk about converting this room into a nursery, okay?”
“If? What do you mean if?” Bright spots of red rose up on Nora’s cheekbones.
“You heard me. If we have a baby. I’m still part of the equation here, and I haven’t decided whether or not I’m ready for another—” the word stillborn almost spilled out “—baby.”
“Haven’t decided? Did I hear you correctly? You haven’t decided?” Nora whispered.
“I haven’t,” Harold said as he pulled out his antique leather desk blotter.
“We decided this already. You were there, right? I know you were because you even said,” Nora dropped her voice and tried to mimic the bumbling manner in which Harold always spoke, “Well, Nora. If you want to make another child, I will give you that child.”
Harold pulled out a box of blue Montblanc fineliner refills, setting it on top of the blotter which now lay on the desk in the center of the room.
Harold looked up from the box and blotter, “I didn’t commit to it though. I wasn’t ready to commit to that yet.”
“Then why did you tell me you would give me another child? Why build up my hopes like that?”
“It was a mistake,” Harold said, pulling five pads of Rhodia from the box and slipping them into the drawer on the right.
“No,” Nora said, pointing a pale finger at him. “Don’t you do that. Don’t you dare do that, Harold.”
“Do what?” Harold asked. He carried a rubber banded bundle of unsharpened Ticonderogas from the moving box to his desk, snapping off the pink rubber band from around the pencils as he walked.
Nora stared as he spilled the pencils onto the blotter and started placing them into the center drawer one at a time, erasers to the left.
“This, Harry. This!” Nora screamed the last word at him and threw out her arms. “You always do this. Anytime anything goes wrong, you turtle, you ostrich, you hedgehog. You always just give up. Like nothing matters to you. Like I don’t matter to you.”
Harold kept placing pencils into the drawer one at a time, the green aluminum around the erasers catching the light from the window and kicking it back into Nora’s eyes. She looked away.
“Do you even love me anymore?” Nora whispered.
Harold froze, the pencil in his fingers an inch above the drawer, glimmering in the sleepy midday light. Instead of putting it into the drawer, he placed it onto the blotter next to the few pencils still there.
Walking over to Nora, Harold took her into his arms. Her tiny shoulders began to tremble and he felt her tears seep through the front of his shirt.
“Of course I love you. I’m just stressed about the move. We go from a one bedroom apartment to a two story, three bedroom house and a mortgage. I’m sorry if I’ve been acting off, honey. I’m just stressed.”
Harold held her close until her shoulders quit shaking, then he held her out at arm’s length. “I love you. It’s just stress, okay?”
It felt like a truce to Nora.
“Okay,” she said, sniffling between calming breaths, but then her face crumpled as she looked at the front of his shirt. “Oh no, look what I did.”
Harold looked down at the chest of his white polo. An ugly black smudge of mascara frowned back at him.
“Oh,” Harold said, putting on a smile. “It’s okay. It’s just a polo.”
“No,” Nora said, untucking it from his shorts. “It’s not just a polo; it’s your lucky polo.”
Nora pulled the polo up around Harold’s ever inflating midsection, and over his head. Harold grunted and had just enough time to grab his glasses before Nora’s tugs combined with the collar sliding over his head pulled them off.
Be it tugging off a polo shirt or screaming for an epidural, his wife never seemed to think about the consequences of her actions. Never.
Harold folded his arms across his chest, embarrassed of his overlarge areolas and his ever inflating yet sagging man breasts.
“I’ll go put this in the sink to soak. Be right back with a fresh shirt, okay?” Nora said as she bustled from the room.
Shaking his head at her departing figure, he leaned against the desk and felt the brass handle of the drawer containing the Rhodia pads dig into his not inconsiderable rear. He leaned back and slid onto the desk so that he was sitting. Feeling the warmth from his belly pressing through his shorts, Harold stared at the door in front of him.
He didn’t remember this room having a closet when he and Nora first visited, or the other times when they came back to plan their move.
Harold slipped off the desk and walked the three steps over to the closet door. He stood there for a moment before reaching out a hand to grasp the knob.
Footsteps came from the hallway and Nora walked back in, shaking out the wrinkles from a clean red polo.
“Here we go. One fresh polo, baked to order.” Nora walked over to him and handed over the polo with a smile at her own wit.
Harold let go of the doorknob and took the shirt from her, struggling into it as fast as he could. He made sure to put his glasses down on the desk before pulling the polo over his head, though.
Consequences could be mitigated with planning.
“Thanks,” Harold said as he walked back over to the closet door. He grasped the knob and twisted.
The knob didn’t turn. It didn’t even budge. It could’ve been cement.
“I completely forgot about this closet being in here. Do we have a key for it?” Harold asked.
“It’s been in here every time we have, Harry, and I’m sure we have a key for it somewhere,” Nora said as she reached out to try the knob for herself.
“Back to work,” she said in a cheery voice as she walked out of the room.
Harold put the rest of the pencils into the drawer before turning back to the door again, frowning.
Who would put a lock on a closet?
Harold walked back to the door, and without thinking about it, pressed his ear against it, straining to listen.
He stood there for a whole minute, his ear and stomach pressed against the door. At one point, he thought he heard a scratching noise, but then realized it was only Nora in the kitchen dragging boxes around.
“The hell was I expecting to hear anyway?” Harold muttered and went back to unpacking.
Thanks again for being a part of The Wish Room launch!
Don’t forget, you have to buy the book by March 22nd in order get access to:
Greed – The Machine: A Card Game for Backstabbers
You’ll get two different pdfs of this card game (color and greyscale) and an instruction sheet.
A behind-the-scenes pdf that contains all 16 covers I made for The Wish Room before deciding on the current cover along with my thinking for cutting all the covers I didn’t use.
Until next time,