I know Dannie and was excited to hear she had written a book. When I first started to read Desert Heat, I did so with a critical eye because it was...
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Our book club had the opportunity and privilege to meet and have a lively discussion of "Desert Heat" with Dannie Marsden...a great story with strong...
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I am waiting for the next book to come out! The story was a page turner and I also enjoyed the portrayal of a variety of lesbians and how we interact...
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Wow! Such a good story.I enjoyed it so much.I think what got me the most was that I don`t think most people would give a second thought to what kind...
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Dana Perkins leaned against the side of the trolley and watched as landmarks of the city’s skyline passed by. Her brown eyes traced the contours of the well-appointed, fancy high-rise condos over-looking Lake Michigan, and the sophisticated architecture lining the city’s downtown streets. Tall, crystalline, and convex—the view was stunning.
She closed her eyes as the cool breeze brushed against her face. She inched closer to her lover and kissed her bare shoulder, tasting the salty sweat on Casey’s skin. Dana drew in the raw scent of her partner’s body, the smell of an entire day spent taking in the sights of a big city.
“You’re not ready to call it a day, are you?” Casey asked.
“I guess you are.”
“Baby, what else do you want to do?” Dana stifled a yawn. “We have all day tomorrow. Oh, and we also live an hour from the city. We’re not tourists, honey.”
“But we only see everything when we act like tourists. That’s why I got us a hotel for the weekend. No more saying ‘next time’. We’re seeing it all now. ”
“But baby, I’m soooo tired.”
“Okay,” Casey said. “You win.” She slung an arm loosely around Dana’s neck and kissed her gently on the lips. “We’ll go back to the hotel.”
As the trolley slowed to a stop, the women walked through the open aisle. The thin fabric of Dana’s khakis stuck to the back of her sweaty leg. Dana realized—too late, as she normally did—that she should have listened to her girlfriend and worn shorts.
Casey skipped down the small steps, onto the sidewalk. Her light blue sundress swayed as she moved. She took Dana’s hand and pulled her lightly down the stairs.
“Come on you tired, old lady. Are your legs gonna make it back to the hotel? Or do you need a motorized scooter?”
Dana smoothed a hand over Casey’s long, blond ponytail. “I can make going to the room early very agreeable…”
Casey eyed her. “And how would you do that?”
“Trust me. You’ll like where this is going….so stop complaining.” Dana reached for Casey, and heard a child’s voice yelling behind her.
“Hot dog! Hot dog!” a little boy’s voice cried out.
But Dana kept her thoughts on Casey. She fantasized being back at the hotel, sliding the thin straps of Casey’s dress down her shoulders, and running her hands over the inside of her bare thighs, when suddenly, Casey whirled from under Dana’s fingers.
Dana turned around. Her eyes fought with the sun as she struggled to follow her partner’s sudden actions. Dana heard the boy yell again, and watched as the child chased after a hotdog vendor that was crossing a busy intersection.
Casey was running full-speed after the boy, heading straight into oncoming traffic.
Dana didn’t know which came first—the smell of burning rubber, the sound of screeching tires ,or the man in the cab yelling for Casey to get out of the way. Everything seemed to happen in the same moment, but somehow Dana’s unsteady legs made it to the edge of the street where Casey’s body lay near a curb.
Dana yelled for help and dropped to her knees. She pulled Casey into her lap, while faintly registering voices—some offering help, and some shouting “Call 911!” She cradled the woman she loved in her shaking arms.
Trapped by the crowd of people huddled over her, stealing the air, Dana struggled to breathe. Then the sudden blare of sirens shattered through the chaos, yet her eyes never left Casey’s face, her beautiful face.
“Wake up, baby. Please wake up,” she cried softly.
The young bride held her dress in one hand, while the other pressed tightly through the arm of the man she’d just married. A few short hours ago she was Emily Bradford, but now, the woman made her way down the steep church steps as Emily Daniels. Emily smiled readily as a cascade of lights flashed before her eyes. Guests lingered at the edge of the steps with cameras in hand and she took it all in. The gorgeous sky hung like a perfect portrait in the background of a nearly cloudless day.
Michael Daniels took Emily by the hand and kissed her while cameras snapped eagerly to capture the tender moment. From a distance, the faint sound of sirens rang out. Emily squinted against the glare of the sun as she searched the street. The blaring noise was headed in their direction. The bride watched as two ambulances, a fire truck, and multiple police cars sped by.
The beauty of their day was temporarily interrupted by someone else’s tragedy.
Emily closed her eyes and made the sign of the cross, something her mother had taught her to do as a small child whenever an emergency vehicle drove by. When it all passed and the streets were once again serene, her new husband gave her hand a squeeze.
“Are you ready?” He smiled.
Leaning her body against his strong shoulder, she kissed her groom the way brides did in movies, creating their very own “happily-ever-after” moment.
“I’m going to love you for the rest of my life,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.
FOUR YEARS LATER
Dana sat alone at her kitchen table, staring at a single candle stuck in the middle of a cupcake.
“Happy Birthday, Casey,” she whispered. A tear rolled down her face. Is that it, she thought. Is one tear all I have left?
Usually, Dana spent the night of Casey’s birthday with friends, laughing and crying, while reminiscing about a life she missed so much. But looking back was doing nothing to help her move on. She had declined her friends’ invitation to go out. It’d been a long time and Dana didn’t have another four years in her to lament about how her life could have been - if only.
All of the if-only scenarios invaded Dana’s mind and drained her like emotional vampires, sucking the life out of her until she had nothing left to feel. She dropped her hands against the table and pushed herself up. She walked across the kitchen and tossed the cupcake into the garbage. Not wanting to go to bed depressed, she went into the living room, turned on the TV, fell into her recliner, and watched old episodes of Will and Grace.
She woke up to the chatter of an infomercial and strained her eyes at the clock. It was after one. Her body felt heavy and she didn’t want to move, but she slowly climbed out of the recliner, the place where she had slept many nights after Casey died.
Dana sat on the edge of her bed and lathered herself in her favorite lotion, while remembering how much Casey had loved watching her do this…
“What’re you doing?” Dana would ask with a seductive smile, putting on a show, while welcoming her lover’s roaming eyes. She’d wait in anticipation until Casey could no longer contain herself, and they would make love with a fierce passion that would leave Dana’s body aching for days…
Dana shook herself back to reality. No one would ravish her body that night…nor had anyone any other night over the past four years. With a deep sigh, she tossed the lotion into a drawer, and slammed it shut.
Dana crawled into bed. She yanked the covers violently over her shoulders, reminding herself that she was supposed to be moving on. She wrapped her arms tightly around a pillow, and stared into the dark room until her eyes adjusted to its outlines. Every inch of that space held a memory of Casey.
Dana had considered moving, but sometimes the feeling of her partner still being with her was comforting, while other times, like on Casey’s birthday, the reminders were just plain heartbreaking. She woke up the next morning having not moved at all—not a toss, not a turn. Her arms were still wrapped around surrogate Casey.
Frustrated, she shoved the blanket off herself, knowing she should have been used to the other side of her bed being empty. But she wasn’t, and this only reassured her that it was time to move on.
She pushed herself out of bed and walked toward the closet, where Casey’s clothes still hung neatly.
Dana dropped her hand to the first dress hanging on the rack. Rubbing the soft fabric slowly between her fingers, she remembered the vacation when Casey had worn that dress.
Dana relived their week in Maui where days were spent lying lazily on a beach, sipping Mai Tai’s under the sun, and nights consisted of reggae dancing in the sands of a Tiki bar.
One night, Casey had tucked a tropical flower behind her ear. She raised her arms over her head and moved her hips perfectly to the freestyle beat of the live band playing on a small stage near the bar. Casey’s tanned legs shimmered beneath the slit of her red dress. Dana had never seen her partner so free, so uninhibited. With her eyes closed, Casey seemed to dance only for herself, unaware that every man’s stare was steadily fixated on her every curve.
Dana was used to men’s obvious appreciation for Casey’s body. Dana watched as the love of her life danced, knowing later, she’d be the one fulfilling the needs of her beautiful and sensuous partner.
A rush of appreciation and love swelled within her as, like so many others that night, she fantasized about Casey. No matter who else appreciated Casey, no matter how attractive she was, no matter how many people were drawn to Casey’s light, that night, and every night they had been together, Casey belonged completely and totally to Dana.
The sound of Emily’s fingers banging against the keyboard filled the otherwise quiet room. She was so engrossed in her writing that she didn’t hear Michael enter the study.
“It’s almost one o’clock.”
She jumped at the sight of him standing over her shoulder. “Michael, you scared me.”
“I’m sorry babe, but it’s late.”
He rubbed his eyes and she touched his arm.
“I know, but I need to get this done.”
“I didn’t realize you stayed up this late writing.”
“I sneak away after you fall asleep. Nights, weekends, mornings, whenever I can get in a couple hours.”
He pushed her long, straight brown hair out of the way, and massaged her thin shoulders. “With this type of dedication, you’re gonna finish that novel, and it’s gonna be great.”
Emily squeezed his hand. “I hope so. I just need more time.”
He pulled his hands away from her. “I won’t bother you. Just don’t make it too much later, okay?”
“I’ll be there soon.”
When he closed the door behind him, Emily, once again, pounded away at the keys.
Emily had just taken the roast out of the oven when Michael walked through the door. She watched him ease the straps of his leather bag off his shoulder and lay it on the floor. He greeted his wife.
“Great timing,” she said, accepting his kiss.
He leaned over the stove. “Whatever that is, smells great,” he said, and then took a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water. “What time’d you finally get to bed last night?”
Emily rubbed her forehead. “Umm…a little after two, I think.”
After finishing his drink in one gulp, he laid the glass on the counter. “How often do you do that?”
Emily shrugged as she sliced vegetables. “As often as I can. Do you want me to make the salad dressing or use the bottled?”
“So let me get this straight. You write until two in the morning. Then you wake up at six, work eight hours, come home, make dinner, clean, and then do it all over again?”
Holding a knife in one hand, and a cucumber in the other, Emily looked at him with a confused expression. “I guess so. Why?”
“Because I want you to quit your job,” he said flatly.
“I never knew until now how much writing really means to you. You write all night and work all day. You don’t write much on the weekends because you’re always with me.”
Emily put the knife down and leaned against the counter. “I get it done when I can. It’s fine.”
A smug grin slowly crossed his face. “I made partner.”
“Michael that’s great! Congratulations!” She wrapped her arms around him. “How come you didn’t tell me you were finally being considered? They’ve been hinting at making you a partner for a while. What made them finally do it?”
“When they found out that our two biggest rival marketing firms were calling me. They finally offered me the partnership I deserved three years ago. My accounts alone make up over thirty-percent of the company’s revenue.”
Emily shook her head. “Why the hell were they dragging their feet?”
Michael popped a sliced vegetable into his mouth and shrugged. “I don’t know, but it’s mine now.”
“I’m so proud of you.” She kissed him.
“Thanks. But I’m serious. I want you to quit your job.”
She smoothed her hands across his shirt. “I know you are, but I can’t do that.”
“Come on, Emily. If it weren’t for your mother you would have gotten your degree in literature instead of accounting. That’s not your passion.”
Emily folded her arms over her chest. “She didn’t see a future in literature. It wasn’t practical enough.”
“I know and imagine how much happier you’d be if you were doing something that you love. Here’s your opportunity. You said you needed more time. Let me give that to you.”
She stared at her husband in stunned amazement. “Wow, Michael, I don’t know. What would I do? If I’m not working, I’ll feel like a lazy bum.”
“But you would be working. You’d be writing.”
“I’m sure I can’t write all the time. What would I do in my down time?”
“Are you serious? Most wives would jump at the chance of spending their days shopping, getting manicures and pedicures, but you’re hesitant. Why?”
Her gaze fell to the floor as she claimed not to know why, only, she knew. The thought of finishing her book only to realize she was a horrible writer terrified her. Working allowed her the excuse of not having the time to complete her book, while forever writing a novel that could be as wonderful as her imagination dreamed it to be.
Michael took her hand. “Come on, sweetie. Finish your novel and then when you’re done with that, start another one. Just do it cuz you love it.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“It won’t be easy, but it’s your dream. Let me help make it come true.”
Emily leaned into his strong embrace, wishing she shared her husband’s confidence.
“Casey would be so proud of you,” Kit said.
“I really hope so.”
Dana had known Kit Logan for as long as she’d known Casey. Some of her best memories of Casey included Kit. They had all met in college and were instantly inseparable. So much so that they were often referred to as The Three Musketeers or The Three Stooges, depending on their behavior.
Kit was an artist and her delicate thin arms were covered with tattoos of images she had designed. Wearing tight-fitting designer jeans, she crossed her legs.
“Of course she’d be. Look at you! In your second semester of teaching again. I remember how much you loved being in a classroom.”
After Dana had graduated from college, she taught eighth grade English for ten years, while also writing novels on the side. She eventually had her books published, and with Casey’s encouragement, made the tough decision to quit teaching to concentrate on writing full-time. Dana had been only one semester away from completing her master’s degree when Casey died. Dana wouldn’t have finished the degree without Kit’s support.
Kit glanced around Dana’s living room. “You took some pictures down.”
Dana pushed a strand of hair from her face and looked away. “I had to.”
Her friend laid a hand on her knee. “I think it’s a good idea. I wondered how you’d ever move on with all those pictures surrounding you every day.”
“It’s something I just started. I call it my ‘process of letting go’. Each week I do something to help me let her go. This week it was taking pictures down, not all, just some.”
“That’s a big step.”
Dana shrugged. “After four years, I feel like it’s a step I should have taken a long time ago.”
“Hey,” Kit said gently. “There’s no set timetable for something like this. You do what you have to do at your own pace. As long as you’re moving forward, that’s all that matters. Just keep moving.”
“Is it bad that sometimes I’ll look at the door and expect to see her walk through it, as if it were just another day? I miss those ‘just another day’ kind of days. There’s something so unemotional to it, just a careless, ordinary, boring day.” Dana reflected. “Now, I can’t remember a day where I haven’t cried or felt something. I’m always feeling something. Even when I’m numb, I’m still feeling. Is that what they call weakness?”
“No, it’s what they call living, and you need to keep doing it sans any guilt.”
“I don’t feel guilty,” Dana replied without much certainty.
“Yes, you do. Remember when we went to that bar a couple months back? We were on the dance floor when that woman came up and started spinning you around. You were having a blast dancing with her. I hadn’t seen you laugh that hard in a long time. It pulled me back to our old college days. Do you remember what you said when we got back to our table?”
Dana shook her head.
“You said nothing, but your eyes said everything. They turned dark and your smile faded. You were quiet the rest of the night because you felt guilty for having fun.” She squeezed Dana’s knee. “You’re ready to live again, sweetie, and that’s no reason to feel guilty.”