A wife is being haunted in the hills of Hollywood...
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Writing in My Car
Rachel Howzell's second novel The View from Here focuses on the beauties and hardships of marriage; the betrayals and promises made between husbands and wives; and the grief of one woman haunted by secrets.
Nicole Baxter has always tried to control every element of her life, but that control is slipping away. She has issues. Abandonment issues. Marital issues. Conception issues. And she thinks her house in the hills is haunted. It doesn't help that her husband Truman spleunks and climbs, making her worry more with each adventure he takes. As the two grow apart, Nicole makes decisions that may ultimately shatter her fragile marriage.
Her life changes on the afternoon she receives a phone call from the harbor. During a scuba dive, Truman disappears. No one -- not his diving instructor, not the Coast Guard -- can find him. Is he still alive? Or is grief making her believe the impossible?
I sat in the waiting room of Orleigh Tremaine Newman – a Whole Person Corporation. The office stank of old coffee, onions and lavender perfume.
The receptionist—a Goth girl named Piper—sat at a messy desk and polished her nails shiny black as the ringing telephone rolled to voice-mail. Boxes of copy paper and toner towered near a dusty, plastic fichus. A crumpled Burger King bag sat atop an abandoned computer monitor.
This space was nothing like my former shrink’s clean, bright and clutter-free waiting room. There, Kimmy the receptionist answered the telephone after the first ring and never ate obnoxious foods at her desk. She had remembered each patient’s name and most important, each of our prescription needs.
Nervous, I kept my eyes on Angelina Jolie’s picture in People magazine because I didn’t want to chat with the other patients seated around me.
The blonde sitting across the room tore at a napkin until tiny bits of paper settled at her feet like snowflakes. A morbidly-obese pink-skinned man rocked back and forth in his chair. I didn’t know his problem, but I’m sure eating played a role. Another woman—a redhead—sat next to the fat man. She rubbed a blue satiny square cut from an old baby blanket.
I was the ordinary, always-anxious black girl wearing antiqued Levis and Gucci loafers. I had a house, a husband, a Volvo and a job writing about groundbreaking drug therapies developed by CelluTech, one of the leading biotechnology firms in the country. Unlike the blonde across from me, I tore my tiny bits of paper internally—mounds of confetti piled near my gallbladder. I never thought that at thirty-seven years old, I’d still need therapy.
During the spring of my fifth grade year, my great-aunt Beryl had noticed that I had “retreated inside” of myself. No matter how many tablets of Vitamin C and St. John’s wort she forced me to take, I still wasn’t ‘actin’ right.’
“Your momma and daddy been dead for eight years,” she had said. “Why you all strange now?”
I had shrugged, then dipped back into the pages of Anne of Green Gables. Strange? I had never talked much. Had always picked at my food. Preferred the company of fictional characters in books and on television over Aunt Beryl, her ten cats and her nosy church friends.
Out of ideas, she had taken me to see Simon Daniels, Ph.D. Once a week, I’d expressed my anguish through journal entries, word searches and collages made from cut-out pictures from Ebony magazine.
After Session 10, Aunt Beryl had marched into Dr. Daniels’ office to say, “You still ain’t fixed her.”
Dr. Daniels cast a worried glance at me, then said, “Miss Porter, she’s lost both of her parents. That’s a painful ordeal, even for adults. There’s no pill for grief, and it doesn’t have a time-table. It doesn't show up like the Number 3 bus, rumbling at each stop—anger, denial, acceptance—until it reaches the terminal at the end of the day.”
Aunt Beryl had clucked her tongue and had hoisted her purse onto her lap.
“Nicole’s bus has just taken an eight-year journey,” Dr. Daniels had explained. “It may be years before she reaches the end. She needs your patience and understanding. You are the only person she has left in the world.”
Aunt Beryl had glanced at me, then, her brown eyes—Dad’s eyes, my eyes—softer than before. “You sure she don’t need to take nothing? I hear ginger root—”
“She’ll be fine,” Dr. Daniels had assured her. “She’s young. She’ll bounce back.”