*2018 American Fiction Awards winner*
*Foreword Reviews 2017 Indies Book of the Year Award Finalist*
*2018 International Book Awards Finalist in Fiction: Multicultural*
*2018 Paris Book Festival: Runner-Up in category Spiritual/Religious*
Do we willingly sabotage love and happiness opportunities for approval? On the surface MARY POSER is a fun and frolicking love story. Underneath this is a message of hope and inspiration for anyone who feels stuck in a vortex of anxiety and self-harm. There's troubled love in Music City, USA. Despite deeply entrenched obstacles, Mary falls for a visiting Bollywood director, Simha Das. A life-changing event leads to questions about who or what intervenes. There's a proposal, but Mary must reveal a dangerous secret.
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|Publisher:||Angel's Leap Pty Ltd|
|Product dimensions:||5.06(w) x 7.81(h) x (d)|
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By Angel A
Angel's LeapCopyright © 2017 Angelique Boncoeur
All rights reserved.
This Is Love: To Fly Toward A Secret, To Cause A Hundred Veils To Fall Each Moment. First, Let Go Of Life. Finally, Take A Step Out, But Not With Your Feet. * Rumi *
I burst into my bedroom naked and dripping wet from the shower. I'm not in the habit of scooting around my apartment in my birthday suit, but I was running awfully late. Charlie looked up at me from his bed with mild curiosity. He's quite accustomed to seeing me rushing about frantically. The fact that I was naked didn't seem to have any impact on his interest. He was probably only looking for clues that he was going to be included in something.
My clothes were laid out on my bed in order of demand. I grabbed my underwear from the corner of the bed closest to the bathroom and slipped them on. Scooping up my bra, I shot my arms through the straps and joined the clips behind my back with lightning speed. I was usually running late and had devised a system to accommodate. Tonight was a big night, and although I was positive no one was going to see my underwear other than Charlie, I'd chosen my favorite Victoria's Secret black lace matching set to at least feel alluring and sexy.
I glanced back at Charlie, who had lost interest and turned his head away to sleep some more. Not a great confidence booster, but I was used to males brilliantly destroying my self-worth with a dismissive gesture. I think it's conditioned me into being a little paranoid about my nudity and the vulnerability of dressing in front of a male. What if he chose to reach for a TV remote to watch something more interesting? I'd be devastated. So I usually avoid the circumstance to save myself the humiliation.
Anyway, I couldn't be angry with Charlie for not commenting on or applauding my black-laced sensuality. He's a dog, and a perfectly adorable one at that. He's a pound mutt that I was told was likely a mix of labrador, terrier, and poodle. It was a rough guess as his curly coat is a random assortment of brown, grey, and tan. He has beautiful brown eyes that are only half visible under his thick bushy eyebrows.
I reached for my 'big night out' red dress with long sleeves that I'd carefully pressed earlier that was also laid out on the bed. I sometimes like to wear long-sleeved dresses because I've got some unsightly scars on my arms that I'd rather cover up. I quickly stepped in through the unzipped back. I wanted to keep the knee-length skirt of the dress off the ground so as not to crease it, so I lifted my other leg high to enter the dress. That didn't work. I hopped around the bedroom with one leg in the dress and one leg out before ungracefully tangling myself up in the material. I lost balance and landed on my butt right in front of Charlie's bed. So much for not creasing my dress. At least I hadn't torn it. Charlie was up and out of his bed in a flash. I had probably scared him awake. He started licking my face, his tail wagging wildly. He eagerly took my prostrate position as an opportunity to climb up and over me for a cuddle. I couldn't push him off. I didn't want to either. There's something wonderful about a dog's exuberant affection and unconditional love that beats any compliment a man could ever give about my red dress. I resigned myself to wriggling into the dress on the floor while Charlie pinned me down with his wet nose and paws.
Maybe Charlie's role in life was to remind me that I shouldn't be so eager for compliments. If I spent less time worrying about and preparing myself for public display, I could enjoy more time playing and rolling around the floor with my dog.
Who was I kidding? I looked across at my bedside clock radio. The LED display read 6:30 pm.
"Oh Lordy, I'm so late!"
Frankie Ballard was singing "Helluva Life" on the radio, an anthem to hard times, simple pleasures, and being a little lost. "I hear ya, Frankie," I remarked as I looked again at the time on the clock, quietly hoping I'd misread it. I hadn't. I rolled my torso out from under Charlie's weight and stood up. It's an escape technique I'd developed from the many occasions Charlie had enjoyed climbing all over me.
"I'm sorry, Charlie," I said apologetically, "I know this means we won't have our evenin' walk tonight. But I promised Chloe I'd come support her Yap promotion, and it's all the way across the river in Green Hills." I stopped for a moment. I'd forgotten what I was doing because I'd been too busy explaining myself to my dog.
"Shoes! I need shoes!" I scrambled to my closet and hunted through sandals, boots, sneakers, and pumps before I found my black high-heeled Christian Louboutin knock-offs. I pulled them out of the closet and resumed giving excuses to Charlie, "Then Chloe and Alice will probably want to go for drinks afterward, maybe even to a club, which means we could end up downtown, and —"
I grabbed my black clutch purse from the dresser. Shoes dangling from my left hand, car keys in my right hand, I high-tailed it out the front door, shouting a final promise to Charlie that I would be back.
Five seconds later, I was back in my apartment, searching desperately for my emergency makeup bag. "Get it together, girl ..." I muttered. I finally found it in a corner of my kitchen counter, buried under an avalanche of mail, bills, and invitations to save my soul by attending the Joseph Trinity Revival Meetings on Sundays. All of which tumbled out of my mail tray as I grabbed the makeup bag. I shouted, "I'll be back!" to Charlie and ran out of the apartment again. After a quick dash back to make sure the door was locked, I finally made it into my car. It's a blue Mazda hatchback I bought used last year.
I looked through the darkening evening for stray children, pets, bicycles, and other cars, threw my car into reverse, and backed out of my parking space. I'm always impatient waiting for a gap in traffic, so I gunned my car into a small opening. That got me an angry honk from the driver behind. I scooted on down the road for a couple of blocks with Miranda Lambert blasting from my radio about rage and grief her mama couldn't understand. That's a song my mama should listen to.
I live in East Nashville, which I like because it's so green. There are trees everywhere. I'm also just a short drive from Shelby Park, where the dog park that Charlie loves is located. Shelby Avenue is my main drag. I use it to get everywhere, especially over the Cumberland River to go downtown or to visit my Aunt Sara.
I began to put on my foundation, using red lights to do my eyeshadow and mascara. I know it's not the brightest thing to do, but I was in a hurry. I've had to put my makeup on in my car so many times I've got it down to a fine art. I need to use only one hand for my lipstick and rouge, so I'm able to weave in and out of traffic while applying it. If I can gain a few seconds here and there, I can make up a little for being so late again. Chloe was sure to be mad as a hornet because tonight was all about supporting her and her promotional stand at the event for Yap — the social network of the future! She insisted it was going to leave Facebook and Twitter for dust. She'd arranged VIP tickets for Alice and me, and I knew she was depending on us and probably already rehearsing her chiding remarks for my tardiness. I estimated it was a fifteen to twenty-minute drive from my apartment, depending on traffic. Luke Bryan was rocking out "That's My Kind of Night," bless his hunky draws, as I started across the Cumberland River on the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge. We call it the Gateway Bridge — I guess because it's the gateway to all the downtown action. Downtown has the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Broadway, of course, where all the honky-tonk bars shake, rattle, and roll until the wee hours of the morning. I balanced my nail polish bottle in the nearest corner of the box lid sitting beside me on the shotgun seat. The box was stacked with get well cards, another job I was late to deliver on. At least the stacked box held up my nail polish for now. I started brushing red nail polish onto my fingernails as I passed under the sweeping silvery-white arches of the Gateway Bridge.
"Shoot!" I'd forgotten to call my friend and coworker Hannah. What is wrong with me? Well, I'll just have to call her tomorrow night while I'm baking the pecan pies I promised Mama for the church social on Saturday. Hannah had just broken up with Henry, her boyfriend of three years, because he wouldn't pop the question. She just had to cut her losses and leave, even if he did have killer abs and a taut butt, which is what had caught her attention in the first place.
I wondered if Mama knew that Hannah and Henry had split up? If she did, that's all she'd be talking to me about at the church social, until she started talking about my ex, and that just killed me. I didn't like thinking about him, let alone talking about him. And I really didn't want to listen to my mama go on and on about what a fool I was to leave such a talented and handsome and nice young man. How was I supposed to tell her that the nice young man made it real clear that I wasn't good enough for him?
The next step would be to stop her from throwing me at every eligible guy she met when I didn't want to love, let alone trust, another man for as long as I lived. How could I tell her I'd locked my heart in a steel chest? It was safe and cozy in there, and that's where I wanted to keep it.
Mama married right out of high school when she was eighteen, and then she had me right on schedule a year later. She thinks I should have done the same. Now, all she can see are the horrors of me being a wrinkly old spinster all alone in the world. She worries that I'll have no one to cook for and no one but some cats to talk to. When I finally go to bed, I'm sure she thinks I cry into my pillow all night long over the waste I made of my life because I let a nice young man slip through my fingers. That's why I hope my mama doesn't know about Hannah and Henry.
Mama loves me, and she means well. It's just that she considers getting my brother and sister and me to the altar to be one of her main duties in life, and Mama takes her duties very, very seriously. When you're a pastor's wife, you have to be a shining example to the congregation, the community, and God ... and the Bible is pretty clear about the importance of getting married.
I passed the "nekkid" statue at the end of Music Row, a statue of nine young men and women that celebrates music and life — and nakedness, I guess. It's pretty racy for a culture that's proud of its conservative values, according to Mama anyway. I began to breathe again because I now had a straight shot to Green Hills.
The Green Hills Regal Cinema is catty-corner to the upscale mall across from the parking garage. Thank God! was all I could think as I finally pulled into the cinema's parking structure. I was just about to gun it onto the ramp that would take me to the second level when I saw a big shiny black pickup pulling out of a space on the ground level. A miracle! Thank God again. I darted into it, set the brake, opened the car door, and slid on my high heels. How did I look? Imagine Mae West, a curvaceous dame with long waves of lush blonde hair and a bust you could set a dinner plate on. That's what I like to imagine anyway. Sure, I'm blonde, and my hair is long and can hold a curl or two for a couple of hours, but God had clearly run out of the ample-bosomed molds when he was designing me. I'm told my butt is worth a second glance, though. It should be. I work on it enough at the gym! But I think my legs are my feature. So killer heels are always a high priority in my wardrobe.
I hit the ground running. I dashed past the pedestrians in the parking lot and shuffled through the folks mingling outside the cinema on my way to the red carpet — a real red carpet! — and ended up outside a big white tent with security guards limiting entry to only those with official passes.
I stopped. I had no choice by the look the security guy gave me. I opened my purse and pulled out the plastic encased name card Chloe had got for me — "Nashville Film Festival - SPONSOR Mary Poser" — and slid its cord over my neck so that the card hung down over my chest. The security guy relaxed his staunch posture and kindly stepped away for me to enter. I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and walked further into the tent annex. I had made it, I was alive, and now I didn't have to do anything except give Chloe my moral support. No responsibilities for the next hour or two. Another miracle! I didn't have to think about Mama or Daddy or the church or my ex or no marriage prospects or work or Charlie or anything. I just had to focus on having fun.
Smiling happily, I walked deep into the noisy crowd of people. A musician was strumming out familiar country and western music on his guitar near the tent entrance. With his style and his voice with a distinctly Latino accent, he could have passed for John Wayne and Elvis Presley's Latino love child. He wore cowboy boots and a hat, and his shirt was covered in swirls of brightly colored sequins. I had to scoot around him as I looked for my friends Chloe and Alice. The tent annex has the bar, so the place was packed with the typical Nashville crowd with a mix of casual artsy-looking types to those, like me, who were dolled up for a big event.
You'd think in the capital of country and western music that there'd be a lot of bling. But there isn't. This isn't Manhattan or LA, thank God again. This is Nashville, where folks are more relaxed in their attire and those with money prefer to flaunt their wealth with their land and homes.
I blended easily into the crowd as I continued looking for Chloe and Alice. I saw the mayor and his wife, a couple of Metropolitan Council members and their wives, some local TV personalities, and a couple of up-and- coming Hollywood stars who always seem shorter in real life than on the movie screen. But I couldn't see my friends.
So I worked my way into the much bigger main tent, which has the food and a special corner at the far end for Very Important eople. Oh lordy! I gasped to myself. I was being tasered by a pair of gorgeous dark brown eyes. Goosebumps sprung up all over my skin as if it were Christmas morning.CHAPTER 2
Until You've Found The Fire Inside Yourself, You Won't Reach The Spring Of Life. * Rumi *
My heart was battering my ribs. The most gorgeous man I'd ever seen in my life was staring at me. His dark brown eyes widened as they met my gaze. Why was he looking at me?
I had to look away. I know what happens when I don't pay attention to where I'm going. I was likely to trip over something or bump into someone's drink. What a great first impression that would make. I had only looked at him briefly, but his image was burned into my retinas. He was likely in his late twenties or early thirties. He was tall, about six feet, with slightly curly black hair that fell past the collar of his white shirt. There was something wildly exotic about him. He definitely wasn't from these parts. He stood out like a Ferrari at a rodeo. He had a beautiful oblong face, a broad forehead, and an archer's-bow mouth with a full lower lip that seemed to burn my mouth from twenty feet away. He had a long, muscular throat and a lean, powerful body draped in a black suit that flowed like liquid silk over his body. His white shirt was partly unbuttoned, so I could see a bit of his well-defined brown chest. How on earth I remembered all that in just a glance is beyond me. It was like every cell in my body recognized and responded to him, but he was completely new to me at the same time.
I stopped breathing. An unfamiliar fear iced my lungs because of this electric connection I'd never felt before and the sudden urge I had to spend the rest of my life just standing there, basking in his hot gaze.
"There you are!" Chloe announced, pulling me into a hug that dragged me out of my intoxicating daydream. "Late again, but at least you're here."
I stared at Chloe, trying to bring myself back into my head, into the tent, and into this crowd of people who had all momentarily disappeared for me. Chloe's my best friend. She's about my height, pretty, with gorgeous black skin and a booty she knows the boys appreciate. When in public, with the way she talks and the way she walks, Chloe is the most perfect Southern belle I've ever known. But behind the scenes, she's got a sassy attitude that can be quite confrontational sometimes. Tonight, she was on show with perfect black hair and perfect makeup, all presented perfectly in an emerald green sheath cocktail dress.
Excerpted from Mary Poser by Angel A. Copyright © 2017 Angelique Boncoeur. Excerpted by permission of Angel's Leap.
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