A Work of Art: A Novel

A Work of Art: A Novel

by Micayla Lally


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Letting go after her abrupt break-up with Samson is harder than Julene thought it would be, especially since her ex has wasted no time in burying himself in the local dating scene. But during an extended visit to her parents overseas, Julene rediscovers her love of art, and a burgeoning career develops. Samson, on the other hand, after trying valiantly—and unsuccessfully—to forget Julene, has settled instead on his own new career.

When Julene returns home to Australia, a coincidental meeting leads to an emotional reunion—but her love and patience will be tested when she finds out just how busy Samson has been in her absence. Yes, they have both made mistakes they can work through and move past—but when a specter from Samson’s past looms, Julene wonders: Can she trust him again?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631521683
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 05/02/2017
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Micayla lives in Oregon with her husband and three adventurous boys. Prior to full-time parenting, she worked in Sydney, Australia. More recently, she’s let the boys fend for themselves while furiously writing a handful of novels, and enjoys sewing clothes and hats, and reading until the wee hours.

Read an Excerpt

Arboria Park

A Novel

By Kate Tyler Wall

She Writes Press

Copyright © 2017 Kate Tyler Wall
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63152-168-3


STACY, 1960

The moment I learned about the power of place and the world beyond home, I was crouching on the cement curb in front of our house on Arbor Circle. My older brother Matt and his friend Bobby and I were playing a favorite game — Diamonds in the Dirt — which consisted of sifting around in the gritty, sandy residue on the edge of the street looking for tiny bits of broken glass. It drove our mother nuts. I'd brought my favorite "diamond" to my first kindergarten show-and-tell just a couple of weeks before, and when Mom found out, we'd been told our pastime was unacceptable.

Matt had found a loophole, however. Instead of broken glass ("It's a miracle you kids haven't bled to death!" was Mom's objection), we were finding pebbles and throwing them down a small round opening in the manhole cover near the foot of our driveway. I wasn't allowed in the street (part of the reason the gutter games held such fascination), so I was scrounging rocks for the boys to drop. They were trying to hear a "splash," believing that a river of raw sewage coursed under our feet.

We heard a car engine rounding the Circle, and the boys jumped out of the way. Normally Circle kids played in the street with a freedom envied by our neighbors on Elm, a main thoroughfare. Hardly anyone drove on our street except our parents and the garbage truck. And nobody ever drove very fast. Yet this car (a black Volkswagen Beetle) whooshed by so quickly the boys barely got out of the road in time. Its windows were open to the warm September afternoon, and the radio was playing Bobby Rydell's "Wild One." It left a cloud of exhaust in our faces — and yet it all seemed to happen in slow motion. I remember the face of the boy driving: his sunglasses, his grin. I remember, too, how the girl in the passenger seat was sort of shrieking, trying to pull a silk scarf over her sprayed-up blond hair.

The car's brakes squealed as it rounded the corner to Elm, blowing past the stop sign. I was too stunned even to punch Matt in the arm the way we always did when we saw a "punch buggy."

"Matthew John and Anastasia Louise, get out of that street!" our mother yelled from the front porch. She was always hovering, always on patrol to catch us up to no good. "Either come inside or go in the backyard right now. You're lucky those racers didn't run you over."

"Can I go to Bobby's?" Matt asked, deftly deflecting her tirade.

"Be back for dinner and stay out of the street," Mom replied before going back in the house.

The boys headed around the Circle. Not ready to go inside, I went to the backyard swing set, my favorite place to ponder things.

Our house was on the exterior side of the Circle, the address with the second-most cachet in our subdivision, Arboria Park. Even at age five I was aware of this because of its importance to my mother. The front of the house overlooked the few homes on the Circle, as well as Elm. In the back, meanwhile, parts of three streets were visible, with long rows of nearly identical ranches marching up the block. Despite the development's name, there weren't many mature trees, so nothing broke up the monotony. "Like army barracks," my dad said, winking at us one evening as we sat outside on the back stoop.

"What's army barracks?" Matt asked, but before Dad could answer Mom yelled out the window, "Tom! Don't tell them things like that!"

She was always spying on everybody, even Dad.

I did my own spying on the houses, too, though — seeing who was doing what. My world had only recently expanded from our yard, after all. I now rode the school bus to kindergarten every morning and back home at noon. Before that my paths had been predictable and well-trodden. I went to the Arbor Shopping Center with Mom to buy groceries at A&P, or rode in the back of the station wagon to church on Sundays. Sometimes we visited relatives out of town or went to the beach or for a "Sunday drive" out to Amish country to look at horses and cows. But that was it. At five, I was just beginning to see beyond these rows of houses.

I settled on the swing and pumped my legs lazily, thinking about what I'd just witnessed. Somehow, seeing that car speeding around the Circle felt just like riding the bus for the first time, or going to the state fair with the Franchesinis from down the block. It was a glimpse of a world beyond my limits and even my imagination. Nobody — not Dad, not Mr. Franchesini, and not Mr. Brooks — ever drove a car that fast. And now there were "racers" on our street. Were they like the racecars Dad and my brothers watched on TV sometimes? The VW bug didn't look like those, and on TV there were no girls riding shotgun. And another thought: If the VW had been racing, where were the other cars it was racing against?

Just the day before, Mom had been out front talking to Mrs. Brooks from next door. I stood nearby, hoping to get Mom's attention, because I could hear the bell of the "Popsicle man" in the distance. As I strained my ears to determine if the Popsicle truck was heading up Elm toward us or away toward Mimosa, I heard Mrs. Brooks say something about "those racers." That got my attention.

"Every weekend," she said, drawing on her cigarette. "At the shopping center. Around the parking lot, and some of them take off down Beech to get to Cobbs Road. It's disgraceful."

"They'll kill themselves or someone else," Mom agreed. She could bring death or dismemberment into any conversation. "Someone should do something about it."

"They're setting a terrible example for the teenagers. Danny asked me yesterday if he could race when he gets his license. You bet I gave him the devil!"

I must have made a noise, because Mom finally noticed me. "Stacy, please go inside. Mrs. Brooks and I are talking. Go on." She gently pushed me away.

So now I'd actually seen one of those racers. I wondered if they won prizes, or if it was like my older sister Mary Catherine's favorite movie, Rebel Without a Cause. I was too young to see it, but she'd described it in endless detail in our room after we'd gone to bed.

Mary was nine years older than me, and in her freshman year of high school. A teenager. Teenagers had it all. They bought 45 records and went to dances and to the Soda Spot up on the Avenue, like in an Archie comic book. The girls, like Edna Sparks and Cindy Vanderwende who walked around our neighborhood tossing their ponytails and leaning on cars to talk to boys, got to wear lipstick and penny loafers, too. Being a teenager seemed like the coolest thing in the world, even better than being a grownup and having your own house and dishes to play with. Mom and her friends never seemed to enjoy that as much as I thought they should, but teenagers always looked like they were having fun. And Mary was on the cusp of it all. She could go to the Soda Spot with her girlfriends until somebody's dad picked them up, and to the movies on weekend nights. And I knew how much she was looking forward to the fall dance at school.

I worked a little harder now, trying to gain altitude, enjoying the sound of the air rushing past me as I picked up speed.

Mary had given me her pencil case after the zipper broke and she got a new one. It had a cartoonish picture on it of a girl with a blond ponytail lying on her stomach, her feet crossed behind her head, writing in a notebook and talking on the telephone at the same time. That was what I wanted my life to be like.

Yet these racers weren't teens, according to Mrs. Brooks — and yet they weren't grownups, either, at least not the kind I knew. So there must be a different kind.

Either way, one puzzle piece had fallen into place that afternoon: a connection between Arboria Park and real life. And I found that exciting. It meant that not everybody in these houses was the same.

I looked out at our neighbors' houses as I swung higher and higher. Until now, I had assumed that the people I didn't know in the houses around ours were just like the ones I did know. Lots of families like us, many of them Catholic. Fathers who worked at the Air Force base or the Fine Foods plant. Moms like mine, who gossiped over fences and yelled at kids. But now I wasn't so sure. There could be racers, or who knows what else, in some of these houses.

I heard Dad's car drive up and the door slam. Through the open kitchen window, his voice mingled with Mom's, accompanied by the clattering of pots and pans. I heard "gutter again" and "talk to them." Then the back door opened, and Dad sat down on the stoop, holding a can of Budweiser.

I ran over and threw myself into him. He hugged me close and said, "Hey, sweetheart. How was school?"

Dad was slender and had a sandy crew cut. He worked at the phone company and usually wore a short-sleeved dress shirt and a tie, and his shirt pocket always contained a pencil and a folding ruler and sometimes bits of wire. Today he had on his company jacket, with his name on the pocket.

I nuzzled up against him. He always smelled of tobacco smoke and aftershave, which I found comforting. "It's not school, it's kindergarten," I said. "We made paintings, but I forgot mine."

"You can bring it home tomorrow." He examined the small garden patch next to the cement steps. "Last of the tomatoes here. Fall's a-coming, even if it doesn't feel like it yet."

The front door slammed so loud it made the back one rattle.

"Tommy! Wash your hands and go find your brother and sister," Mom called out. "We're eating in fifteen minutes."

"They're coming," Tommy hollered back. He was eleven and could roam the entire neighborhood as much as he wanted. Matt was eight and could cross the street. Suddenly I was aware of everybody else's freedom and my lack of it.

The door opened again and I heard my sister's voice. "Mom! Linda Jean just got one of those sweaters from Sears, a red one, and she says they're on sale ..."

"Set the table, Mary Catherine. We'll see when you get your allowance this weekend."

There were more sounds of plates and silverware and Tommy talking about a football game and Matt coming in and being told to wash his hands. My dad sipped his beer and leaned over to pick a tomato.

"Daddy, are the racers going to be on our street now?"

My dad knew everything. He'd be able to explain it all.

"Tom!" Mom yelled out the window. "You're supposed to tell her and Matthew to stay out of the street."

Dad looked up at the window and then back down at me and smiled. "Stay out of the street, sweetheart. There are a lot of new people in this neighborhood who don't know how to behave. Stay in the yard, where it's safe."

"Okay," I agreed, because he said so, but I was waiting impatiently for the day I didn't have to be safe. The day I could cross the street and walk down Elm, even go all the way to the shopping center to watch people race cars if I wanted. It seemed so far away. And until that afternoon, it had never seemed so important.



By the time I was eight, my wanderlust was growing in tandem with my knowledge of local geography. I had a bicycle to ride around the neighborhood, and after a few attempts to limit me to the Circle and one block of Elm my parents gave up and expanded my territory. Being the youngest had some perks. The others had been allowed to wander around and nobody had died (not even Matt, the family "daredevil"), so I got the benefit of the doubt. Still, I was limited to our side of Elm, the west side. No farther than Mimosa going south, and never busy Cobbs Road to the north.

There were ways around all this, of course. After all, why was Oak any more dangerous than Elm? How was one end of Mimosa different than the other? I made occasional forays around to find out. And once I became friends with Julie Gardner, my parents had to bend the rules a little more.

Julie lived on Elm between Mimosa and Birch. My parents liked her and her parents, and our mothers quickly tired of shuttling us back and forth, so we got permission to walk or ride straight to each other's houses, no meandering. And of course Julie's parents had their own rules for where she could go at her end of the neighborhood, so I got to see a fair swath of the development regularly.

My parents had moved to Arboria Park when Mom was expecting Matt. Before that they lived in a little rental house out in the country — because of a "housing shortage" after the war, Dad told us. I couldn't really understand that, since some of the soldiers got killed during the war; there should have been more houses, not less. But anyway, Arboria Park got built in 1951, and like a lot of other people, my parents jumped at the chance to get a brand-new house.

The Park was in an "unincorporated" area outside of town, with Cobbs Road as the dividing line. Cobbs Road started (or ended, depending on how you looked at it) at "the Avenue," which went north straight through town and south into the Arbor Shopping Center, which fronted on the dual highway. Most of the houses in Arboria Park were like ours: three-bedroom, boxy ranches. Details, like the size and shape of the windows, differed from street to street. Some houses (like ours) had porches; some had carports instead. Some had basements, some didn't.

Julie's house was like ours, except backwards. (You walked to the left to go to the bedrooms in her house, and in ours you walked to the right.) She had one brother and her own room to play in.

One fall Saturday, Julie and I were jumping rope on Donna Santorelli's driveway — she lived on Birch — when her brother, Joey, and his friend Kenny rode up to the house on their bikes. Joey was in sixth grade, like Matt.

"We drank all the Kool-Aid already," Donna taunted him. "Ha-ha."

"Shut up," he said.

It sounded just like our house.

The boys parked their bikes and headed for the backyard. Donna followed, obviously intent on annoying Joey some more. Julie and I trailed her.

"We're going to the creek," Joey announced. "You're not supposed to go."

"But I want to," Donna whined.

Joey shrugged. "Suit yourself."

We followed him through the yard, which wasn't fenced, into another one on Willow. Willow started and ended on Birch, sort of a flattened half circle. Everybody called it the Crescent. The houses there were three-bedroom "split levels," with dens. The ones on the south side backed up against some trees and a small creek.

Mom sometimes wished aloud that we lived in the Crescent. I could see why it would be nice (you could go upstairs to bed, like people on TV). Mom was friends with a lady who lived there, Mrs. Newsome. Mom would say, "She has a beau-ti-ful home," lingering on each syllable. She talked like that about some of her friends who lived in town, too. As we crossed the street, I glanced down at Mrs. Newsome's. I hoped she wouldn't look out her window, recognize me, and call Mom.

The boys went through someone's backyard and down to the edge of the creek. It wasn't very deep. They crossed over it on some rocks.

"Stay over there," Joey called to Donna. "We're going in the woods near Old Lady Ramsey's farm."

The trees on the other side of the creek weren't that thick. You could sort of see into a field. But to the right, they began to form a thicker grove. We watched the boys disappear into those trees.

"I want to see what's there." Julie stepped over on one of the rocks, then hopped to another one. "It's easy. See?"

Donna and I followed. I missed one of the rocks and stepped in the water. It was cold. Donna fell and got her butt wet.

We could hear the boys up ahead. There was no real trail, but kids had made a rough path. The leaves were just turning colors, and the woods had an earthy scent.

"I heard people come down here to kiss," Julie said.

"Who wants to kiss a boy anyway?" Donna said, making a face.

I knew I didn't.

We caught up to the boys, who had rolled up their jeans and were splashing around, daring each other to stay in the cold water. Julie and Donna threw rocks in the water and pestered the boys some more, but I was intent on seeing where the creek went.

"Hey, shrimp, better not go down there," Kenny yelled to me as I walked away. "That's some serious woods."

The girls had my back. They scampered after me, and Donna told the boys, "We're exploring."

"Go ahead, get lost," Joey said. "Don't come crying to me."

With that challenge, we forged ahead. After a while, the path petered out, and we were facing away from the creek. All I could see were trees, and we couldn't hear the boys.

"We're not lost," Donna said. "We just go back the way we came."

So we turned around, but soon I had the feeling we weren't where we were supposed to be. Shouldn't we be back down near the creek again? We weren't.

"Over here." Julie had gone up ahead. "Here's the path. See?"

It did seem to be a path — but it wasn't the same one. We seemed to be heading even further away from the creek.


Excerpted from Arboria Park by Kate Tyler Wall. Copyright © 2017 Kate Tyler Wall. Excerpted by permission of She Writes Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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