All time author record in Kindle eBooks –> Romance

With the presale release of As Life Goes: Elementary I had my first title in the Romance genre and category listing on Amazon.

On November 02, 2015 I hit the highest level as an author at a rank of 3,458.

Sales from yesterday and today squeaked me over, just a little, to 3,433, which allowed me to place just slightly higher and closer to #1. An inch or a mile – higher is higher and I’ll take it.

romance

As I outlined in my prior post, “”As Life Goes: Elementary” is at a three month high”, the title and the overall series itself is on a tear.

My own promotion on Twitter and some super assistance from the #RaveReviewsBookClub gang is the bulk of the spotlight focus, that is for sure. If you’re an author and want to get some of that support, JOIN HERE and tell them Jason Zandri / GUNDERSTONE sent you. Even if you’re “only a reader” – the club is a great resource to introduce you to some great (currently) unknown indie author titles.

I am looking forward to some great things with this series and I am planning to have book three “As Life Goes: The Reunion” released this summer (I am gunning for the one year anniversary date of book one – “As Life Goes: Elementary” which would be July 31, 2016).

The further plan would be to release “As Life Goes: The Wedding” before the end of the year (November 27, 2015 was the release of book two “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” and presently that is the date I am targeting).

I am planning book five, “As Life Goes: The Funeral”, the final book in the series, for Q1 of 2017.

Thank you so much for following my Facebook author page and my fan page over at Amazon, and of course, this blog – these are the best resources for information on what I have going on and the release dates of my stories.

Thank you for being a great fan and follower!

“As Life Goes: Elementary” is at a three month high

“As Life Goes: Elementary”, which I recently discounted to $0.99, is hitting some higher than normal seller ranking numbers:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#10,253 Paid in Kindle Store
#322 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary
#512 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction > Romance
#1949 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary

With the planned release of “As Life Goes: The Reunion” slated for this summer, this pop up in the ranking is very encouraging.

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” has been doing decently on and off as well so I am looking forward to great things from this series.
As Life Goes2

AmazonGiveaway for I Hero: The Beginning (Kindle Edition)

Hi Gang – I am running an #AmazonGiveaway for: I Hero: The Beginning (Kindle Edition).

There is no purchase necessary and you can be one of FIFTY prize winners in this give away.

Beginning

This give away campaign (and my prior one) was to specifically link to my past and recent releases. The bigger pushes will be for my upcoming work in the I, Hero series – I, Hero: Phases

I Hero Phases

I am going to be working on this over the spring and I am pushing to release book three of the series on the same date that “I, Hero: The Beginning” released – May 21, (2015).

PLEASE CONSIDER  JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

Keep in mind as well that I will be also working on book three of the As Life Goes series – “As Life Goes: The Reunion.” The target for that anniversary date of book one in that series “As Life Goes: Elementary” which was July 31, (2015).

elementary

Book two of that series, “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” released November 27, 2015.

Innocence

With a little bit of a stretch, I might have book four, “As Life Goes: The Wedding” completed by then (that’s the goal anyway).

Once again I encourage you to:

PLEASE CONSIDER  JOINING THE MAILING LIST AND ALSO FOLLOWING THIS BLOG TO KEEP UP TO DATE ON NEW RELEASES AND NEW GIVEAWAYS IN THE FUTURE!

YOU CAN ALSO FOLLOW MY AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR THE MOST UP TO DATE NEWS AND INFORMATION ON MY PROJECTS AND CONTESTS!

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence releases; As Life Goes: Elementary FREE until December 1, 2015

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence”, the second book of in the “As Life Goes” series released today, Friday November 27, 2015

End of the Innocence

As part of the release event, there is a Kindle FREE e-book promotion for the first book of the series “As Life Goes: Elementary” which is ongoing until December 1, 2015

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

SYNOPSIS and the top review for “As Life Goes: Elementary”

As Life Goes: Elementary (BOOK ONE of the “As Life Goes” series) – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1RmOdc6

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1NSaAAg

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1kKfxm6

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5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and very relevant
By TFLReader TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 3, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

Today’s society is filled with broken homes and transient kids. While divorce was just starting to become more acceptable as I was growing up, it is now the norm and author Jason Zandri has written a very poignant tale of one family’s experience in “As Life Goes: Elementary”. The story of Mark and his son Matthew, who return to Mark’s childhood hometown to start over after a divorce. The struggles of starting a new school and meeting new people are illustrated as are the pains of loss. This is a great story that I became quickly invested in and that I found very easy to relate to. Definitely recommend.

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“Every new beginning starts from nothing. Understanding that you can have everything in the love of one person, isn’t that worth the risk of personal capital? Isn’t that kind of love worth it?” – Diane Wakeford

“Have I ever told you, you’re the nicest boy I’ve ever met?” – Melissa Bancroft

“I will have the friends I want. I don’t care what boy likes me or what boy I like. You’re an awesome friend. I am not giving you up because we’re going to different schools or for any one person either.” – Elizabeth Wellsworth

Mark Sanford returns to his hometown with his son Matthew in tow to rebuild their lives. Recently divorced, and with the mother totally abandoning her parental responsibilities, both father and son are beginning their fresh start together.

Matthew begins to make new friends in the neighborhood and at school while he tries to find his place among people that have been friends with one another for years at elementary school.

Mark takes over the reins of the former family corner store with the help of a young woman looking for work. The ability to love and trust that woman entering his life is difficult for him because of all he has lost. For Matthew, that “first love” is difficult to understand without a motherly influence and with a father that has been deeply hurt.

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—- As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence —- ON SALE NOW —-
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017TBSD42 —-

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SYNOPSIS for “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence”

—- SEQUEL TO “As Life Goes: Elementary” http://www.amazon.com/Life-Goes-Elementary-Jason-Zandri-ebook/dp/B00ZXVB7SK/ —-

——————————————–

—- BOOK TWO OF THE “AS LIFE GOES” SERIES —-

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1M4duT0

As Life Goes: Elementary (BOOK ONE) – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1RmOdc6

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1NSaAAg

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1kKfxm6

“You have to let things happen and be there for the ones you care about. When they slip, you try to catch them to break their fall. You can’t always be there for everyone; when you’re not and if they should fall, you help them back up.” – Matthew Sanford.

“Now and for the rest of my life, I want to spend the time trying to make you as happy as you’ve made me.”

“There’s no way to know all things with absolute certainty. If you want to love that much, if you want the chance to be Matthew’s entire world, and have him be yours, you’re going to have to risk everything.” – Diane Wakeford.

The one constant in the universe is change.

Matthew, Tim, Melissa, Liz and the gang come to the end of their youth as they turn eighteen and prepare to leave high school.

Old friends and new come together as their lives shift from the moment they are in to the future that is coming at them.

One love is discovered and then lost. Another is never fully revealed. Others are put forward to stand against the tests of life, time, and circumstance.

At a time of letting go, they do their best to hang on, realizing that yesterday is gone and what they have to look forward to is everything that tomorrow offers.

 

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – now available for pre-order

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – now available for pre-order
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017TBSD42

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III
http://bit.ly/1M4duT0

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

End of the Innocence

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I
http://bit.ly/1knbsVe

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II
http://bit.ly/1MycCaG

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt III

Matthew pulled away from Tim’s place on Valley Street and turned left up the steep hill to West Side Field. He took the right turn onto East Street and looked up in the mirror at Melissa who never came up front once Tim got out as she always did.
Matthew looked at the time on the clock, which read a little past nine and turned into the parking lot.

Melissa barely looked out the window and grabbed at her things around her seat. “Are you planning to make me walk down to Carlton Street from here?”

“Of course not,” Matthew answered, shutting the van off and turning to the side in his captain chair seat in order to look directly at her. “What’s going on with you today? You’ve been bi-polar all day. Happy half the time and upset the other half.”

Melissa fidgeted and tugged at her pull over. She then fussed with her hair. She tried to look up in the rear view mirror quickly and then fished through her bag for her brush.

“I presume you’re coming tomorrow and not seeing Paul tonight,” Matthew said looking at her affectionately, watching her combing out her hair.

“No, I’m not seeing him tonight. I have to comb out this rat’s nest of sand and salt water or I’ll look like hell tomorrow too,” she said, sounding agitated.

Matthew looked at her hair, “I get it, I suppose. You look fine. At least I think you do.”

“Ugh!” Melissa huffed pulling more of her hair with the brush.

“What?” Matthew responded defensively. “I meant that.”

“Of course you did; Matthew can do no wrong.”

“What the hell is going on with you?” Matthew said.

Melissa looked up at him, half mad and half upset. She dialed it back because she knew she was out of line. “Forget it. I’m sorry. Long day… it was fun and I want to go tomorrow but I’m tired a little and cranky. Too much sun and then too much pizza…”

“Anything else?” Matthew asked quietly.

A small grin stretched over her lips. “Well, I’m feeling a little crampy ahead of my monthly visitor…”

Matthew playfully winced. “I have to be the only male that gets subjected to this. Alecia and Carrie are getting to be TMI with me too.”

“What can we say,” she said softly and slowly moving up to the front seat. “We trust you. You’re a nice guy. You defend us. You never judge any of us.” She sat in the passenger captain chair sideways to face him and dropped her bag forward.
Matthew looked at her and just stared casually.

“Nothing to say?” Melissa asked. “I figured you’d chime in with one of your pearls of wisdom. We are going to have to start writing them down. Sanfordisms or something like that.”

Matthew shook his head. “No, I was waiting to see what you were going to say next.”

“You’re pretty humble, generally,” she quipped. “Did I miss something pertinent?”

“No,” he answered naturally, leaning backwards part of the way.

“Oh, no” she said in a mischievous tone and raising her right eyebrow upwards. “I am invoking friendship rules. You have to come clean with what you’re thinking…”

“You have to know the rule number,” Matthew said playfully.

Melissa scrunched up her nose and then rested her hands on her knees. “Four,” she said simply. “Unless divulging would break a trust, friends must speak what’s on their mind.”

“That rule can only be invoked once a day,” Matthew said glancing over at the clock. “Time limit?”

“Next five minutes,” she said boldly. “Communication; just the facts and no hurt feelings – go!”

“Okay,” Matthew said with a slight sigh. “I was thinking about the way you and the girls…”

“The guys do too; you’re like their rock,” Melissa quickly added.

Matthew held up his hand, “Okay.” He moved in the seat a little. “I was thinking about just the girls and two things dawned on me.”

“Go on,” Melissa said anxious to hear the rest.

“I realized that as nice as it was to hear, that you and the girls appreciate me and how and where I stand, it dawned on me at that moment that your opinions of me were the ones that mattered the most.”

Melissa smiled warmly. She started to reach over and then hesitated when she thought of Paul.

“Paul,” Matthew said, noticing her movement and then her stopping short. He looked into her deep brown eyes. “It’s okay, I understand.” Matthew looked to his left and casually out the windshield and then back to her. “So what were you so miffed about today?”

Melissa breathed in to respond but Matthew jumped back quickly. “And you can’t simply say, ‘dumb bitch Liz’ like you always do. I want you to tell me specifically what about her tagging along pissed you off today because I know that’s what it was in general.”

Melissa deflated her lungful of air and mulled over what she wanted to say. “Okay… honestly? No holds barred? No guilt involved? I speak my free mind and… you keep me as your best friend?”

“Yes,” Matthew said without hesitation.

Melissa flinched a little. She had tossed in the last part of her comment on a lark and it didn’t faze Matthew at all; he answered it wholeheartedly.

“Okay,” she said sitting upright. “It really pisses me off the way Liz is. Donna and Marie go to school with her at Lyman Hall and they hate how she is. She is conceited and inconsiderate. You made plans with Donna for tomorrow…”

“I made plans with everyone,” Matthew defended casually.

“Yes,” she retorted, tipping her head, “but you asked her in the vein of having her come specifically. Yes, you’d go if she couldn’t and she could have tagged along with Liz, but you asked her specifically so it’s sort of like a public date.”

“I wouldn’t presume to debate your point,” he said playfully smug.

“You would lose,” Melissa responded in kind with a smile. “I mean, you literally just finished asking her to go and Liz had to follow you all the way out to the water. Good thing when you came back out to cozied up to Donna. You scored back lost points…” Melissa trailed off in her comments as a brief unsettled look crossed Matthew’s face. “What happened out there anyway?”

“Oh you know, just chit chat; you know Liz,” Matthew said quickly.

Melissa pointed to the clock. “It’s never just chit chat with her; not since seventh grade when she was kicked out of Dag Hammarskjold Middle School for making out in the stairwell. You’re inside the five minutes.”

“No holds barred? No guilt involved? I speak my free mind and… you keep me as your best friend?” Matthew repeated Melissa’s ask.

“Yes,” she responded nervously. “Or course… to the end of our days.”

“She made a pass at me,” Matthew said quickly. He looked at Melissa’s blank stare. She really didn’t want to hear the rest; he could tell by looking at her.

“How?” she asked Matthew.

“Are you sure…” he started.

“How?” she repeated to him.

“Under the water…” Matthew said looking down and then away. He was somewhat embarrassed to tell her but it was what they both agreed. “I wanted to stop her and say ‘no’ but the second she touched me…”

“You had sex with her in the ocean? In plain sight of everyone?” Melissa said with a roar.

“No, no, no!” Matthew quickly defended. “No,” he continued squirming in his seat. “Firstly, I’ve never done that… I’m still… well… you know.”

A look of relief washed over Melissa’s face.

“She reached for my swim trunks under the water and touched me. I was excited. As much as I wanted her to stop, I wanted her to keep going. And she did. She reached inside.”

“And?” Melissa asked.

“And eventually I couldn’t take what she was doing anymore and I… well… you know.” Matthew said with a slight smile.

“Eeeww. In the water?” Melissa said puckering up her face.

“What?” Matthew said. “It’s the Atlantic Ocean, not a pool. There’s a ton of salt in the water already, and all the marine life, large and small, do far more than what I did in there.”

Melissa burst out laughing and Matthew was happy to have the tension broken so he laughed along with her.

He glanced over at the clock as it went past the five-minute mark.

“So have you ever?” he asked her. “You know… with a boy?”

“No,” she answered looking at the time as well. “Second base is as far as I let them go. If I touch them when we kiss it’s always on the outside of their pants, if at all.” She looked over at him and then at the clock. “So never?”

“No,” Matthew said. “I never tried entirely so I don’t know if I could have or not. I never went in prepared, you know, carrying a condom or anything, so I don’t know.”

“Third base?” she asked.

Matthew turned up the corner of his mouth slightly and Melissa asked nothing further.

“So I know we’re past our time and all, but why does my interest with Liz bother you?” he asked starting the van and turning around to face forward. “At some level it’s always bothered you. You’re the one with the steady boyfriends since ninth grade; what’s the big deal who I am infatuated with?”

“I don’t know really,” she said softly, moving to sit forward herself. “Maybe because I know it’s an infatuation and risky that I don’t want your feelings hurt… Maybe I think you’re this awesome person that deserves someone that can really appreciate all of you and what you offer to them.”

“She doesn’t?” He asked, dropping the van into drive.

“Hell no,” she answered loudly. “I supposed there’s someone for everyone but she doesn’t deserve you.”

“And you do?” he blurted out quickly and looked at her.

Melissa turned red and quickly responded “I never said I did. And I am seeing someone.”

“You never said you didn’t either,” Matthew said. He waited for her to follow up more but she stayed quiet the remaining two blocks to her house.

Once there Matthew turned off the van and hopped out. He grabbed the left over pizza for her to take in and she grabbed her things. The two of them walked toward the door of her mother’s apartment. Matthew looked up quickly to see the curtains move and come to rest. He smiled a little and then turned to Melissa.

Melissa opened up the front door and dropped her things inside. Matthew stepped inside to set the pizza carry out box down.

“So tomorrow then?” he said.

“Yep,” she responded brightly.

Matthew stood at the door and looked down into her eyes. He caught himself in the pause and taking half a step forward. He immediately stepped back.

“Okay,” he said leaning toward outside. “I’ll see you then.”

“Matthew,” Melissa said calling out quickly.

He turned around, looked right into her dark brown eyes, and only stared.

“We were talking just before, when I said how we girls thought of you. You said ‘two things dawned on me.’ You only told me one. I’d really like to know what the other thing was.”

Matthew breathed in deeply and turned to face her. “Do you remember fifth grade when we first met?”

“Yes,” she said, fondly recalling some of the memories that quickly flooded her thoughts.

“I was thinking of the kind things you were saying about me, that you and the girls thought. And then I thought about how it really only mattered to me what you thought.”

“Yes, you told me that,” she said softly. “What was the other thing?”

“I though how nice and warm it made me feel that you thought those good things of me. Like in fifth grade when you used to tell me I was the nicest boy you ever met. I realized suddenly that somewhere along the way, in middle school I think, you stopped saying it. I realized I missed it and I hoped I still was that ‘boy’ to you.”

“You remember that?” A flood of emotion poured over Melissa and she struggled to keep herself in check. “I still feel exactly that way about you.”

“It’s nice to know that.” Matthew smiled softly, took two steps backwards, and called out. “See you tomorrow.” Matthew hustled around the van and got in. Melissa closed the front door, pressing her right hand on it, leaving it there, and just stared at it.

Once she couldn’t hear the sound of the engine anymore because the van pulled away and around the corner, she burst into uncontrollable tears.

as-life-goes FINAL cover large

End of the Innocence

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II

“As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence” is now off to the editor and I expect to have it available just before the Black Friday / Cyber Monday sales right after Thanksgiving. It is the second book in the “As Life Goes” series; As Life Goes: Elementary is already available.

Excerpts for the books in that series are available via:

As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

In the meantime I’d like to remind folks that As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I is available and I would like to introduce the next free excerpt below:

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt II

The August summer sun moved high into the sky and Michael, Tim, and Matthew moved from the water back over to the blankets where everyone was sitting and laying out.

Liz sat up next to Marie and Donna. “How was the water?” she asked pulling her red hair back tighter in the pony tail and glancing over at Matthew who was still making his way up.

“Not too bad really,” Tim answered taking a seat next to Patti. “It’s never super warm but it’s a good break from the ninety plus degrees… HEY SANDMAN!” Tim yelled over to Matthew who was still lagging behind.

Matthew looked up at him. “We should come again tomorrow with whoever is off,” Tim shouted. “It’s going to be hot again and the summer is nearly over.” Tim looked back over at everyone nearby. “Anyone in?”

Marie looked at Donna. Marie shrugged, “Wouldn’t kill me to come again. Liz, can you drive again?”

Liz paused for a moment. “I’m not sure, maybe.” She looked up at Matthew who finally came all the way over. “Matthew,” she began, leaning in a little further and allowing her suit top to hang, “I like the idea of all going in one car; is there enough room in the van?”

“Mike,” Matthew said looking over and stretching his arms up over his head. “You said you were out for tomorrow… you have to work?”

Michael looked on while Lesley chimed in. “Me too. Well, not work, but I have to help my mother with some stuff during the afternoon so I’m out as well. But I’m in the next time for sure.”

Matthew looked over at Donna whose attention he was hoping to get, “Can you come with us tomorrow? I could come by and pick you up?”

Donna was pleased that Matthew asked her directly, which drew Melissa’s attention.

“Um… I think so,” Donna responded, trying to sound reserved and holding back a grin. “I would have to double check with my mother but I can’t think of a reason why I can’t go.”

Matthew grabbed his wallet from inside his sneakers, which were next to his bag on the beach. He took a pen out of the bag, but then tossed it back, and pulled a business card from his wallet. “This is my number at home in my room. Give me a call when you get home tonight; I’ll take your number then and we can square up the details for tomorrow.”

“You have your own line in your bedroom?” Donna asked looking at the business card.

“Well, I pay for it with the money I earn mowing the lawns,” he said proudly. “Speaking of which,” he said turning to Tim, “we can bag the lawns tomorrow to come to the beach again but it’s supposed to rain over the weekend. I’m going to need your help on Friday to finish up all the work.”

Tim flashed a ‘thumbs up’ and leaned in and kissed Patti, playfully tipping her over. Melissa watched the two of them kiss.

Liz glanced over at Matthew’s business card in Donna’s hand. She slowly slid over to Matthew. “Can I have one? I didn’t know your father set you up with a business already.”

“Oh no,” Matthew defended, “It’s nothing that formal. I started cutting lawns and I bought a trailer to hook up to the van to haul the mowers around. I got cards made because people kept asking for my information and that was easier. I pay the insurance for liability and such, and then the insurance and fuel for the van; the rest is just for whatever.”

“He’s being modest,” Tim said pulling away from Patti.

Michael looked over and chimed in. “He is,” he said standing up and taking Lesley’s hand. “He’s made more since April with Tim helping him than some people make all year at a fast food place.” Lesley brushed the sand off the back of her thighs and wrapped her arm around Michael as he continued. “He could probably get a couple of leaf blowers for the fall and a plow and blower for the winter…”

Matthew waived his hand in the air a little, “no, no, no… for the extra money it’s great but I don’t think I want to do this the rest of my life.”

“What do you want to do?” Liz asked, holding out her hand casually for her card.

A quick look of contempt came over Donna’s face once Liz began to monopolize the conversation with Matthew.

Tim smiled at Liz’s question and walked away with Patti toward the water and away from the group.

Carrie nudged Melissa, who then sat up and switched over to a kneeling position closer to where Patti was standing prior, taking up her space.

“Honestly?” Matthew said while handing the card to her and then closing up his bag. “I really wanted to be an on-air DJ on the radio. I even looked into the broadcasting school up in Bloomfield. It’s not terribly expensive and after the courses are done they offer job placement services.” He stood up and Liz followed his frame as he took a step away. “But I also looked into the future track of that career in the overall job market with Michael, sharp as shit he is with stuff like that, and what we figured out is that the career is in a decline. So… I guess I’ll have to look into something else.” Matthew took a few steps backward toward the water and looked over at Donna. “Of course I have all of senior year to think about it. Right now?” he said smiling at her. “I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, the warm weather, the beach, and the company.”

Lesley tugged at Michael and the two of them walked away and towards the parking area in the direction of the ice cream trucks.

Donna watched Matthew as he turned and headed over to the water. She watched him casually jog away, hoping he’d turn around to look at her one more time. He slowed a little and turned his head partly but never fully turned around. That was good enough for Donna as she noticed it.

Melissa watched Matthew head away as well. She let her thoughts drift only for a minute before Donna spoke up.

“What the hell, Liz,” Donna said moving closer to her.

“What?” Liz asked looking as innocently as she could come off.

Carrie and Alecia stopped what they were doing to pay attention, since it was now just the five girls on the blankets.

“Robert and Stan aren’t enough? Matthew shows some interest in me and you have to twat block me?” Donna exclaimed.

“Wow,” Melissa whispered to Carrie and Alecia, leaning in quickly. “A second ago I was pissed at Donna for getting Matthew’s attention and now I’m on her side.” Melissa leaned back and watched Matthew enter the water at the shoreline as light waves from the Atlantic Ocean crashed in.

“You know what Donna,” Liz said standing up quickly, “if he had a solid interest in you, I wouldn’t be able to pull his attention. Clearly it’s equal or at least divided,” she said tugging down on her own top. “The question you need to ask yourself is ‘how far am I able to go to get and keep his attention’?”

Donna couldn’t respond more than just opening her mouth. Liz smirked, turned, and followed Matthew’s path to the water.

Marie touched Donna’s shoulder while Carrie moved over to close up a tighter circle.

“You know what Donna?” Marie said quickly. “If Matthew is that easily swayed by her, you don’t want to waste your time with him.”

“Oh!” Donna exclaimed. “Yes I do. He’s a nice guy… mostly. He’s like everyone else when it comes to Liz. She’s like this siren that none of them can resist.”

“That’s because she’s a huge slut whore,” Alecia responded adjusting her sunglasses.

“She’s going to go out there now and just pull him into her web, you watch,” Donna said somewhat upset. “By the time she’s done with him, he’ll take her to the beach tomorrow and he won’t even remember to call me back,” she said looking at his business card.

“Look,” Melissa said, mustering all the confidence she could considering the emotional conflict she was having. “Matthew tends to “walk the walk’ as they say. He showed an interest in you; he’s going to follow up. Liz is going to be a challenge for him; he’s been infatuated with her since the first day he ever laid eyes on her, but that infatuation is the only power she has on him. He’s otherwise level headed.”

“Ah…” Carrie said, flipping her short brown hair. “But which head is more level!”

The girls were quiet for a second and then they all screamed and giggled at the comment.

***

Matthew swam out deeper into the ocean to a point where he was upper chest deep in the water when standing. He turned to look back to the shore when he saw Liz coming out toward him.

He stared at her wet, slicked back, red hair and was mesmerized looking into her eyes. She stopped a little further back from where he was so she could stand in the shallower water.

“Are you going to come back in a little?” she asked playfully with her back to the shore.

“I guess I could,” Matthew said innocently and looking around. “Other than the jet skiers way out there,” he said pointing across the way, “and the ones on the boogie boards, we’re the farthest out.”

Liz was pleased when he came in somewhat. She took two steps out toward him.

Matthew looked back over to where the girls were sitting. They were huddled up and talking. Liz glanced back at them. “They are talking amongst themselves.” She reached under the water and touched Matthew on both hips. “I’m right here and you have my full attention.”

Matthew flinched at her touch. Despite the fact that they had been familiar and friendly with one another, innocently, over the years, each time Liz touched him, it was like a static shock and he never could prepare himself for it.

“I’ve always meant to tell you,” she said with a slight tone of mischief in her voice, “that I am always turned on by your response to my touch.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Matthew responded genuinely.

“All of you boys… well… I guess you’re all men now that you’re over eighteen… you all collapse when I touch you. You come at me and take me. You think I am all yours but you’re all really mine.” She smiled at him. “Not you though. Oh you want to give in,” she said lowering her hand across the outside front of his bathing suit under the water and tightly feeling exactly how excited he was. “But you resist… why.”

“I’m not like all the others,” Matthew said as best he could to maintain his composure. “I won’t be put into a box with everyone else.”

“No you’re not like everyone else,” Liz said in her playfully evil tone. “Still,” she said, loosening his drawstring and slipping her hand inside his suit, “you’re only so far removed.”

Liz tightly wrapped her right hand and played. She used her left hand to part her two-piece top and expose herself.

Matthew grunted. He partly took a step backward but Liz matched with a forward step.

“It’s pretty clear you’re excited,” she said. “You’re underwater. To the whole beach it looks like we are two people out here talking.”

Liz sped up her movements as Matthew’s resistance completely failed and he was captivated by what she was doing to him. Matthew tried to look back at Donna but Liz simply moved herself back into his view.

“You want her?” she said playfully. “She wants you; you can have her tomorrow. Right this moment, you’re all mine. I will have you.”

Matthew couldn’t look away anymore. His attraction to Liz was always very strong and with her right in front of him, doing what she was doing, he couldn’t break away. He also realized that even if he could, he really didn’t want to. What she was doing felt so wonderful and it was more than he ever imagined he’d have with her.

He swallowed hard and his breathing became short and shallow. Liz curled up her lips more at his response. She stepped forward and kissed him, still moving her right hand rapidly. With her pulling her top left and away with her free hand, and then touching her chest to his, it was more than Matthew could stand. He lost control and let go. Liz stopped kissing him and touched her forehead to his; she looked down into the water and squeezed her right hand in response and rhythm to him. She listened to him huff a couple of times and groan. He reached out with his hands and pulled her in from her hips.

“You can go now,” she whispered quietly. “All I wanted was your response… today. I have it. You can go back to Donna now.”

Matthew drew back as Liz let go of him.

“I love and hate the way you make me feel… you know that right?” Matthew said sounding irritated.

“I know,” she said. “And right back at you.”

Matthew slowly backed away and looked at her. “I don’t do what you do… the taunting and teasing. You do that intentionally.”

Liz said nothing and only smiled a little. She drew her right hand up, out of the ocean, and over her tight belly.

Matthew stopped walking away. “That’s it, isn’t it?”

Liz stopped and lowered her hand into the water and stared at him blankly.

“What you do to me intentionally… you do that ‘back’ to me. There’s something I do, or it’s just me in general, that invokes an emotional response from you.” Matthew stepped forward half a step. “Look, I didn’t mean to… I mean… we’ve known each other forever. Some feelings are tough to get away from. However, I never abuse it… I know what we mean to one another; friendship wise and then some.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about Matthew,” she said quickly becoming irritated. “I enjoy exciting you and getting a response from you… and other men. Beyond that, it’s mainly meaningless.”

Matthew quickly studied her. He decided on what his thoughts were on the matter and knew she’d never confess or own up to anything more. “Of course,” he said with a smile. “And my response was…”

“A handful,” she said, with some of her prior emotional response returning. “Luckily,” she said, tracing both of her hands across the ocean surface, “I didn’t have to go far to wash my handful off.”

Matthew smiled at her and she returned it.

“Shall we meet out here again tomorrow?” she said playfully.

Matthew dropped his playful look. “As much as I enjoyed your attention, if I am formally here with Donna tomorrow, no.”

“You can say no to me?” she said playfully.

“Honestly?” Matthew asked, watching Liz. “Probably not. Given that, I’ll have no choice but to keep my distance.”

Liz initially didn’t know how to take his comments or how to respond but a slow and sly smile crept across her face.

Matthew smiled, turned away, and headed back to shore.

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End of the Innocence

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I

During the 4Wills Publishing blog tour, I offered an alpha read of Chapter ONE of “As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence”.

Today, as I wrap up the first half of the book, I am releasing the full first chapter as an excerpt, which you can find at the end of this post.

As Life Goes: Elementary is already available to purchase at Amazon and I am expecting to have As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence completed and released inside of the next four weeks.

Sales are finally picking up on book one of the series and the reviews are coming in now finally; I had a huge spike on sales from a marketing effort and no reviews. Then a bunch came in at once and I now have eleven.

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As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-i/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-ii/

As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/as-life-goes-elementary-excerpt-iii-author-jason-zandri/

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – (expected November 2015)

End of the Innocence


As Life Goes: The Reunion – (expected April 2016)
As Life Goes: The Wedding (expected July 2016)
As Life Goes: The Funeral (expected October 2016)

As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – Excerpt I

Matthew Sanford pulled his red Chevrolet conversion van along the curb in front of the three-family house where Melissa lived with her mother. He looked at the time on the dash; it read 6:15 a.m. He glanced back over at her sister’s apartment next door when Diane stepped out.

Matthew got out of the van and walked around behind it.

“Good morning, Matthew,” Diane Wakeford said to him while she pulled the door closed and locked the deadbolt with her key. “Are you taking Melissa and the gang to the beach again?”

“Hi Di; yes, we decided to go since none of us had to work today,” Matthew said dragging his fingers through his slightly long brown hair. “Well, Tim had to work, but then he got someone to cover for him.”

“I hope Missy is chipping in for gas,” Diane said stepping out to the sidewalk. “Having a car is expensive with the service, fuel, and the insurance. She works too; she can pitch in.”

Matthew looked into Diane’s striking blue eyes. Every time he did, he could see Melissa and he always graced the feeling with a warm smile. This conversation was no different. “She offers. Almost every time. I always tell her no. I get a few bucks from the guys. I just feel better about it like that.”

Diane smiled at the consideration the young man paid to her little sister, who was no longer as little as when they all first met seven years ago. “You know Matthew,” she said smiling at him and turning a little to keep the sun out of her eyes, “you’ve turned into quite an impressive young man in so many different ways, but least of all how you treat people.” Diane’s tone turned somewhat somber for a moment. “Don’t ever let the travails of life take any of that wind out of your sails.”

Matthew just looked at her for a moment. He wasn’t sure how to take the comment. “Is everything okay, Diane?”

“Oh sorry,” she said recovering her normal, happy tone, “I didn’t mean to be a wet blanket on your beach day. Just some things on my mind. So who are you picking up today?”

Matthew didn’t dismiss Diane’s demeanor but he let it go for the time being. “After I get your sister here, I’m going to swing around to get Tim and his girlfriend Patti. Then I am going to get Mike and Lesley,” he said dragging his foot a bit on the sidewalk. “I think Missy said Alecia and Carrie wanted to go, so I’ll get them too. It’s why I start so early. By the time we fetch everyone and get out of town it’s after eight.”

“And you go all the way to Misquamicut?” Diane asked.

“Yep,” Matthew said. “It’s a nicer beach. It’s a fun ride in the van. We listen to the music and then we spend the day there.”

“Are you still stopping on the way home in Old Saybrook for Pizza?” Diane asked taking a slight step backwards and glancing down at her watch.

“It’s the ritual,” Matthew replied with a grin. “I figure we have a couple more weeks or so of opportunity then it’s back to Sheehan for senior year. We might not get the chance next summer depending on who’s going where and doing what for college, work, and other things.”

The popping sound of the neighboring door pulled Matthew’s attention and he turned to see Melissa coming out in her yellow two-piece, covered only by a flimsy pullover. She smiled to the two of them and came down the stairs. “I was waiting for you to come inside and get me,” she said smiling with the early morning summer breeze blowing her long black hair behind her. “But I see I am no competition for the engaging conversation of the illustrious Miss Wakeford,” Melissa said playfully as she bounded over to Matthew’s side.

“Well good morning, Miss Bancroft,” Diane responded spiritedly. “I see you’re wearing the minimum amount of bathing suit as required by law.”

“Oh geez,” Melissa said tugging on her pullover and adjusting her top, “you sound like Mom now.”

“The only reason you get away with that outfit with Mom is because she knows you’re going with Tim and Matthew,” Diane said in a motherly tone. “Otherwise she’d never let you out of the back yard with it on.”

“Really?” Melissa said turning her comments away from the original playful tone. She looked herself over. “Matthew,” she said, “is this suit ‘too much’”?

“I think it’s fine,” he said looking her up and down once. “You could almost pass for a girl,” he said lightly teasing and quickly backing up.

“You jerk,” she responded back, playfully taking a swing at him. “Paul likes it.”

“Ah, the new guy,” Matthew said coolly. “What happened with Chris?”

“Well,” Melissa said switching her beach bag between her hands and stepping towards the van, “come to find out we wanted different things,” she said.

“Such as?” Matthew said moving over to open the passenger slider for her to get into the van.

“I wanted him to be… I don’t know, decent, I guess,” she said climbing in the van.

“And what did he want?” Matthew said closing the door part of the way.

“Dumb whore, Jenny.”

Matthew whistled lightly and closed the door. “Guess I won’t ask what that’s all about,” Matthew said looking at Diane.

“Good idea,” Diane said. Matthew came around to the back of the van to cross over to the driver’s side. “Matthew?” Diane said before he stepped all the way around.

Matthew turned back and looked at her. Diane hesitated for a moment with her mouth open. “Have fun today,” she said with hesitation in her voice.

Matthew stared for a moment and looked at her. “Okay,” he said with a small smile. “Was there something else?” he asked taking a small step forward towards her.

Again, Diane hesitated. “No,” she quietly responded. “Just have fun. And be careful.”

“Yes, Mom,” Matthew said jokingly.

Diane curled her hand up into a fist, shook it, and puckered her face tight. Matthew laughed aloud. “Did you want a ride to the store?” he said wiping his eyes, which teared up from laughing.

“No thank you,” she said politely, “I like the short walk and it’s nice out.”

Matthew waved and turned to get into the van.

***

Diane was at the main counter at Colony Convenience when Elizabeth Wellsworth walked through the door. “Fifteen on pump four, please,” she said handing a twenty to Diane.

Diane turned the pump on and made the change for her. “You’re Elizabeth, right?” she asked.

“Yes,” Liz replied with a slight smile. “You’re Missy’s sister right? Diane?”

“I am,” Diane said glancing out the window and over to her car. She noticed the girls in the car and all the beach attire. “I guess everyone is going to the beach today except me.”

“Really?” Liz said looking around the store. “Is Matthew going?”

“Oh,” Diane said surprised. “I assumed you were tagging along with them. Once in a while there’s a second car full when his van is loaded.”

“He’s going to be at Rocky Neck today?” Liz asked inquisitively.

Diane paused for a moment. She realized that Liz wasn’t going with them and then remembered that Liz and Melissa didn’t get along very well with one another. “Um… I’m not sure where they are going.”

Liz looked out the window of the store as Matthew’s van pulled into the lot. “I guess I can ask him now,” she said with a smile and turned to walk out of the store. She quickly shook out her long red hair.

Mark exited the back room and looked out the window to see his son’s van come to park in the open space. “I see everyone is going to the beach except us,” he said to Diane.

She laughed. “I just said that to Elizabeth,” she said pointing to her outside.

Mark nodded and scratched an itch on the side of his head. Diane looked at his graying hair and then reached up touched her own shoulder length black hair. She was staring at him.

“Do I have something in my hair?” Mark asked playing with it some more.

“Oh, no,” Diane said surprised, realizing she was staring at him. “Sorry.”

Mark walked around the counter to see his reflection in the small two-way mirror on the wall. He sighed. “Just like my Dad,” he said sounding somewhat resigned.

“How so?” Diane asked.

“Well,” Mark said turning around to look at her. “My Dad started getting gray hair in his forties as well. I’ll be forty three soon; I was hoping it would take a little longer.”

Diane turned her right eyebrow up and grinned. “I think it makes you look even sexier than you already are.”

Mark smiled at her. “Easy for you to say; your hair is jet black as the day I met you.”

“And if it wasn’t?” she asked.

“It wouldn’t matter,” Mark said turning to walk away into the larger area of the store, “I’d still want you more than I did yesterday, but less than I will tomorrow.”

Diane smiled at the comment as a warm feeling rushed over her entire body.

***

Matthew hopped out of the driver’s door and Tim pulled the slider open to grab the cooler. Michael Anderson popped his head out of the back seat area. “You guys need any help?”

“Nah,” Tim said, “you can stay with the girls.” He grinned and looked back. Michael shook his fist playfully. “I’ll keep them all warm.” Lesley Patterson, his girlfriend, lightly shoved him at the remark.

Tim smiled and looked over at his girlfriend Patti and then he turned to Matthew who came around the van.

“Hi Liz,” Matthew said to her as she approached the van.

Tim looked into the van to see Melissa scowl while she looked past Carrie and Alecia.

“So I see you’re all headed to the beach as well,” she said with a smile, overtly adjusting her top. Matthew followed her hands with his eyes.

Carrie gave Melissa a slight shove and pointed. Melissa turned back, looked at her, and whispered in a harsh tone. “What?”

Tim stuck his head back into the van slightly to listen inconspicuously.

“She’s going to bait him,” Carrie said quietly. “She’ll find out where we’re going; do you really want her there?”

“Not really my business,” Melissa said quietly. Alecia leaned in. “I have a new boyfriend now and…”

“And nothing,” Alecia said. “Paul was conveniently around and asked you to the movies when Chris pulled that bullshit stunt. I’ve never understood why you and Matthew never got together.”

“I know why,” Carrie said confidently in a hushed tone. Patti listened in as well. “It’s like Alecia said, you never really give him the chance. You end one boyfriend and end up with another one asking you to a movie or skating or something.”

“So it’s my fault that I like to go out and do things with boys?” Melissa asked defensively.

“It’s not that. You just never give him the chance.” Patti interjected.

“We’ve been friends for years,” Melissa responded, looking over fondly at him. “I never considered it much and always figured if he liked me more than friends he’d say something.” Her tone changed just slightly. “He never has.”

“That’s what we’re saying,” Carrie replied. “You’re never really giving him the chance. You are good friends; he knows that too. He doesn’t want to ruin that so when a chance opens, he treads lightly, but before he takes a chance you’re out to pizza with the next boy.”

Melissa didn’t respond immediately. She continued for focus on Matthew and Liz. She watched him look at her and then looked up and down her figure herself. “If I stepped out of the van now he wouldn’t even see me.”

Alecia looked over at Matthew. “You have a boyfriend now; he knows that. He’s not going to challenge.”

“Liz has a boyfriend too. More than one for that matter,” Melissa glared. “Not stopping him from looking at her like that.” Self-consciously, she pulled at her bathing suit top. “Maybe if I looked that… healthy…”

“Pay better attention, girl,” Patti said with a snap in her voice, undoing her sandy blond hair and pulling it back into a ponytail. “He looks at Liz like that when he sees her; when she’s front and present. Take a better look at him at other times. That look in his eyes; it’s always there for you, whenever someone mentions your name, even when you’re nowhere around.”

Tim took a couple of steps back. Liz reached up and hugged Matthew quickly.

“I’m sure we’ll run into you,” she said, letting go and turning to look into the van through the windshield. She smiled directly at Melissa and turned to walk away.

Tim looked over, saw Mark exit the store from the main door, and walked over towards the boys. “Live it up,” he called out warmly, “summer is almost over and then it’s back to the grind.”

“Hi Dad,” Matthew said turning to walk up. He glanced over to watch Liz head back to her car. “Can we pay for some ice to keep the sodas cold?” he asked while Tim followed.

“No,” he said simply. Tim and Matthew stopped dead in their tracks and turned to look at one another. “When have I ever charged you for the ice?”

“Man,” Tim said, “I never get used to your dry humor, sir.”

Mark smiled at him. “I like that you boys always ask to pay. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Is my Dad here yet?” Tim asked while they all continued over to the ice machine.

“Not yet,” he said. “He’s been working a lot; we’ve had a full schedule for weeks now but his back was bothering him. I told him to rest up a little this morning and that I would tackle the first couple of cars in myself.”

Tim nodded, “Thank you for that, Mr. Sanford; I know he appreciates it.” Tim looked over at the cars in the side lot. “I see you’re selling some used cars now,” he said, setting the cooler down.

“Yes,” Mark replied diverging slowly away from the boys and heading to the garage bay. “We finally got that dealer license we needed and I picked those up at auction last weekend. Your father has a keen eye; saved me from some potential lemons.”

“Didn’t you sell some cars before, Dad?” Matthew asked, shoveling ice into the cooler.

“We have been for a couple of years now but it’s been under the maximum since we didn’t have the license to do more. Diane got everything together for me at the state, forms and such, which allows us to sell more of them legally.”

Another car pulled into the pump area at the north side of the store. Matthew looked over to Liz who finished pumping her fuel. He then looked back at the fuel pumps on the north side of the property and closed the lid to the cooler. “How are the new pumps on that side working out?” he asked flipping his thumb backwards over his shoulder.

“Good,” Mark said stopping at the door to the garage. “People heading up and down Ward Street favor them and it keeps some of the congestion down at the front of the store.” Mark looked over quickly at the girls stepping out of the van to stretch their legs. “Not for anything guys,” he said with a smile, “I’m amazed that the girls’ fathers let you three boys take off with their daughters in a van to the beach.”

“Dad!” Matthew said while Tim chuckled.

“Kidding!” Mark said. “But you do have five of them in there; safety in numbers I suppose,” he said lightly.

“We’re eighteen,” Matthew said pointing at himself and then Tim. “Heck, Tim will be nineteen soon.”

“And aren’t the girls seventeen?” Mark asked.

“Well… yeah. They all will be eighteen over the next few months,” Matthew defended.

Mark waved both of his hands lightly. “I’m joshing with you guys; you’re good boys…” Mark paused for a moment. “Well, I guess, “men” now really. You’re good men; you do the right things and you treat people well. You work hard. I shouldn’t make light of that.” Mark smiled some more. “Have a good day at the beach today.”

Matthew and Tim nodded and picked the full cooler up together. Mark headed inside as the two of them head over to the van slowly.

“So I guess Liz is headed to the beach as well?” Tim asked cautiously.

“Yeah,” Matthew said. “Donna and Marie were in her car. They were going to Rocky Neck.”

“Were?” Tim asked.

“Well, when I told them we were heading to Misquamicut, Liz said she’d head there as well,” Matthew responded innocently.

Tim slowed his pace, tugging backwards on the ice chest.

“What?” Matthew asked.

“That’s going to go over like rocks in a boat with Melissa.” Tim said, setting the chest down.

Matthew looked over at the van. Melissa was looking at him past Carrie and Alecia who had stepped outside. “Look, we’ve all known each other since we were little; you guys more than me. Melissa has a boyfriend anyway. And Liz… well… Liz is Liz. She’s not going out with a guy like me when she has the pick of the litter. Heck, she never sticks to one anyway; she has more than one. I’m not interested in being one of many.”

“Even if it means being with Liz?” Tim asked.

“Well…” Matthew said with a pause, tugging slightly forward with the cooler full of ice and soda cans. “I wouldn’t say “no”; you’re right about that. If I could get her out on a date, I might ask. I will tell you there’s no way I am competing over a girl. I feel like I am a nice person and fun to be around. They should be able to see that; I see those same good qualities in them.”

Tim just nodded at his friend.

“Donna is nice,” Matthew continued. “I thought it might be nice, with a bigger gang at the beach, that it might give me a chance to talk to Donna… you know, maybe sit with her a while and such.”

Tim nodded again as they reached the van and dropped the cooler inside the side slider door.

“We all set?” Michael asked.

“Yep,” Matthew said looking about the vehicle. “Anyone need to use the bathroom in the store before we get going?”

Michael groaned. Upon Matthew’s comment, all the girls hopped out of the van.

***

The girls made their way back out of the bathroom in the store and Melissa hung back near the counter. Carrie looked at her. “I’ll be right out,” she said waving at her lightly and heading over to her sister.

Mark instinctively walked into the office, assuming that she wanted a quick, private conversation with Diane.

Melissa tugged at her pull over a little and looked at Diane who stood with a slightly smug look on her face.

“What?” Melissa asked sounding slightly annoyed.

“I find it somewhat ironic how many times I stand at this counter to find you coming to me for advice.” Diane said in a soft tone.

“Why is it ironic?” Melissa asked.

“Because it’s always about boys and you’ve dated more than I ever did.”

“Well maybe… yes,” Melissa said, quickly looking out at Matthew and flashing the “one minute” signal to him. “The numeric value hasn’t granted me any additional wisdom. Besides, it’s not as if I can ask Mom. She certainly can’t help.”

Diane’s look toned down a little at her younger sister’s comment regarding their mother. She then glanced out the window at Matthew. She then turned back to Melissa. “I have to scratch that,” she said definitively. “While you tend to ask some advice about boys, it’s not so much about them in general. It always seems to be about Matthew.”

Melissa looked over at him and bit her lip a little. Her expression turned very soft and timid. “He’s so nice to me; he always has been. I don’t even function well around him. He’s so calm and cool around everyone. I don’t know what to say to him half the time anymore. I want to say everything and I never can. I am so worried I am going to ruin everything if I pursue anything that I never do. I never let him. I make sure I stay away from him when I’m not with another boy…”

“But why Missy?” Diane asked. “If he makes your heart so light that it floats away on its own… don’t you want to try to capture that?”

“I do,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes. “Almost since the day I met him in fifth grade, you know, once I really started to like boys and all.” She turned and looked out the window to see him again. When he turned to look back in she quickly looked away and back at Diane. “What if I did and things didn’t work out? What if the friendship was ruined going forward from the end of that?”

“Loving anyone that much is a huge risk,” Diane said plainly.

“I don’t know if I would live. I would die if I couldn’t have him in my life at all.” Melissa said wiping a stray tear away.

“You won’t die from heartbreak,” Diane said trying to sound reassuring. “But it will likely hurt.”

“The way I feel when he’s around… I’d rather have that at a distance than to have it end somehow.”

Diane sighed. “You’re a smart girl Missy. I guess technically after your birthday I’ll have to call you a woman. Regardless, you know there is no right thing to do. You’re not leading him on so there’s nothing to fix or correct. You simply need to ask yourself “what do you want” and then make a choice. I wish I could offer you more advice than that.”

Melissa walked a little closer to the door so that none of the boys would come in looking for her. A car pulled in so she rushed out her thoughts. “Is that what you did? With Mark?”

“Yes,” she said softly, looking back at the hallway leading down to the office. “The jury is still partly out on that I suppose. He’s only come along so far.”

“But you risked more than just the friendship that started with him; you risked your job as well.”

“Yes,” Diane said smiling slightly.

“And if it all blew up? Would you change what you did and how you did it?” Melissa asked, putting her hand on the door.

“No,” Diane answered confidently. “I might have risked and lost it all but now at thirty years old I don’t have to sit here and ask myself “what if?” I am here now and I know that answer.”

Melissa nodded and started to go out the door.

“Hey,” Diane called back to her. Melissa stopped short. “Matthew is special. It’s a safer risk.”

“How so?” Melissa asked.

“Regardless of how it might go, unless one of you was completely horrible to the other, like a full break in trust or something, you will always be in each other’s life.”

“How are you so sure?” Melissa asked.

“Because of all the things that have happened over the years, with all of us,” Diane said waving her finger around in a circle. “Because of the kind of boy he’s been and the man he’s become. Because of how you are and how you feel… even if the two of you somehow don’t stay in love with one another, assuming it goes there; you will always love each other.”

Melissa wiped another loose tear away, nodded, and headed out the door to rejoin her friends.