Castaway business man.jpgMy husband is about to go on sabbatical.  This is one of the perks of his profession, a chance to study and think for months every so many years.  He’s done some wonderful things; we’ve done some wonderful things together, but I’ve always written while we’ve been away.  There are no sabbaticals for writers.  We call that being unemployed.

Years ago we had the opportunity to go to Australia and New Zealand for six months on our very first sabbatical as a family.  We packed up all four children, ranging from four to fourteen, and off we went.  There were no “laptops.”  We shipped a Radio Shack Model II computer in the luggage compartment of the airliner.  I remember watching from a foreign port as it was loaded on a conveyer belt and dropped from on high into the hold.  Chalk up one for Radio Shack. Not only did it survive, I wrote a book on that computer while we were away.  A little book, true, but a book nonetheless.

Ten years later we went to Australia again, and that time we took a real laptop.  Two days into the trip the computer died.  Try getting a US computer fixed in Australia.  Try buying a new computer in Australia that will work once you get it home.

I had a book to write.  I pulled out my yellow legal pad and dug in.

And that’s when the kindness of strangers came into play.  Adelaide, Australia, where we were living, had a romance writers group.  They asked me to speak, and I was happy to do it.  These were truly lovely women.  I’ve never met nicer.  The next morning, though, I woke up to a phone call. As an icebreaker I’d told the group my computer story, and a member who heard it or heard about it had cleaned up her laptop for me to use.  She didn’t know me.  Now I’m not even sure she was at the meeting.  But she dropped off her laptop that afternoon.  She told me just to give it back before we left.  I wrote a book on it.  A little book, true, but a book nonetheless.

Ask yourself how many times strangers, people you’ve never met and will never meet again, have come to your rescue.  It’s astonishing, isn’t it?  You may need more than your fingers and toes to count them all.  That one stands out for me.  What a sweet memory it is.

This time, we aren’t going to Australia, and we aren’t hauling children.  We’re starting in Chautauqua, New York, and today I typed “the end” on the book that will be due at the end of September.  Instead of writing steadily I’ll spend this first month of my husband’s sabbatical making changes at my leisure, blogging, answering email and thinking about my next novel.  But if something goes wrong, do I want to depend on the kindness of strangers?  Nope, I’ve taken precautions.  The book is on my laptop.  It’s also on a flash drive.  In addition I’ve emailed it to myself in its entirety and put it on my eReader.  As my final piece of insurance, I’ve bought a netbook, just in case my laptop succumbs, as laptops seem prone to do.

Do I still trust in the kindness of strangers?   Absolutely. My faith is strong.  Need proof? 

I still haven’t learned to change a flat tire.


Spam.jpgWaste not, want not.  In this time of scarcity, anxiety and making do, I recently felt compelled to use something I have in abundance.  I bet you have it, too.  That’s right.  Spam.  And not the kind that comes from Hormel.

Maybe I have too much time to think, or maybe some of the hilarious subject lines I’ve received just finally got to me, but for the past few weeks I’ve been collecting the best.  When someone asked “Is your skills about to expired?”  I decided to see.  I never had much skill as a poet, but I decided to find out if what little I once possessed has indeed expired.  You be the judge.

So here goes. I’ve made the best of my collection into a poem.  These are all genuine subject lines, but I’ll confess to adding a conjunction and punctuation.  I shudder to think what some of them were promoting, but the actual emails remain a mystery. 

If you’re feeling creative, you, too, could give this a try.  After all, this is a “use what you have” time in our history.  Although one of these lines is a bit “iffy”, I’ve tried to avoid what seem to be obvious attempts to sell Viagra or worse.  You try that, too.

And without further ado? 

IS YOUR SKILLS ABOUT TO EXPIRED?

 

With regards

Accidentally sent you money

You could make $24,000 in 24 hours

So that. . ?

 

Money means nothing when you can’t feel the taste of life.

Natural powers will rejuvenate your health and looks

Stay free and win

Create the life you’ve always wanted.

Look into the future with enthusiasm but

Come one hour later.

 

In Russia, sometimes it rains cement.

Strippers help Las Vegas area schools

Show me your watch and I will tell you who you are

Say a few words here. No?

 

Should I call your wife?


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for flying books.jpg
So picture this.  Two thousand conference goers, editor and agent get togethers, two house guests, parties, booksignings, workshops, business meetings, a particularly noisy hotel and writers I hadn’t seen in years.  Add this up and you get . . . exhaustion!

I just returned from the Romance Writers of America conference in Washington DC, and now that it’s over and my last guest is on her flight home, I’m assessing what I brought home with me, besides a handful of novels I received in my bag at registration. 

First of all, a strong desire for a good night’s sleep.  Second, pleasure at seeing friends I love.  Third, some interesting state of the market “gossip.”  Fourth, relief that editors are still buying books and readers are still reading them.  I learned there’s an ever widening spectrum of “romantic” novels being published, from erotica to inspirational, with a strong dose of paranormal.  Vampires are IN, but you knew that, right?  Mr. Darcy is still, all these centuries later, everybody’s hero. 

Just a side note?  As usual I discovered that I am not setting trends.  You will not find vampires or Mr. Darcy, in my non-erotic, non-inspirational (at least in the strictest sense) novels. Let me know if this bothers you, okay?  But don’t expect it to change.

One trend that seems clear?  Books are going to be shorter.  Not only are attention spans narrower, paper shortages and shelf space dictate this.  For instance an imprint where I cut my writing teeth, has dropped 25,000 words from its novels. 

A good friend and I sat over tabouleh and hummus at lunch and tried to figure out how anyone could write the “same” kind of story we told in 25,000 additional words.  My suggestion?  A website with lists of basic information to go along with each book.  For instance, when you, the reader, gets to the point where you need a description of the character, we, the authors, simply insert “Character D” in our text, then you go online and look up Character D at your leisure, so you can picture him or her and learn what you need most to know.  We could even provide photographs, horoscopes, tributes from his/her mother and former romantic partners.  The same idea would work beautifully for plot problems.  Character D discovers she must overcome Problem K in order to work her way toward an important goal (Goal Q.)

Of course I’m only teasing.  But only just.  Because reading online and paperless (ebooks) are no longer ideas for the future.  I have a Sony eReader and use it frequently.  And, of course, without paper and shelf space to worry about, books can be as long as they need to be, if you, the reader, is willing to plow through them.

When did I realize that these changes were well and truly here, and the conference I’d attended for more than a decade would never be the same again?  I knew for certain when this year, instead of a two inch thick packet of workshop handouts–the norm at previous conferences–we received a flash drive.  The flash drive is the size of my thumb.  And it holds the secrets of the conference universe.

Are you ready for the changes that are already here? While you’re trying to answer that, just don’t forget the good news.  There are thousands of publishing professionals devoted to bringing you the books you most want to read, no matter the format in which you read them.  Some things may change.  Trends come and go.  But stories that entertain and enlighten?  They are a given.  You can count on that.


Thumbnail image for Alice.jpgToday marks the end of both Alice’s story and all the character blogs for the women of Happiness Key.  Thanks so much to all of you who let me know you’ve looked forward to them.  Remember, if you’re tantalized by these sneak peeks, my publisher is offering a coupon good until the end of July.  Not all booksellers take them, so make sure to ask.  And if you’ve fallen behind here, you can easily access all the character blogs from my archives

Don’t forget, too, that if you comment on any blog with “Happiness” in the title, and tell us what makes you happy, you’ll be entered in my beach bag giveaway, stuffed with goodies by the women you’ve met here over the past month.  For details, prizes and requirements, go to my contest page

Because I bet you’d like to know, my fabulous assistant Marna is compiling your answers, and at the contest’s end, we’ll tell you what makes the readers of Emilie Richards happy. 

And now, the final portion of Alice’s story.

Afterwards it was even harder for me to manage alone. Grief, I suppose, and old age, loneliness and possibly another stroke. I’m not sure what I would have done if Lee hadn’t stepped in. He knew how much Karen had done for me, and he knew I couldn’t go on without help. He also knew how much I loved Olivia. So Lee proposed that he and Olivia move in and take care of me until I was ready to move elsewhere. He didn’t want to live in the house he and Karen had shared because there were too many memories there. This way we could all help each other.

I don’t know why I even hesitated. Maybe it’s natural not to want someone to assume responsibility for you, no matter what your condition. Maybe I was afraid that if we all lived together, there would be arguments or trouble. But my choices were few, and I wasn’t ready to give up my cottage.

Now I wonder if I made the right choices. I am so confused some times, I’m just not sure of anything. But I suppose I did the right thing. Lee says because of the economy, without his contribution to our expenses, I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. Karen didn’t tell me because she never wanted me to worry.

I am glad to have Olivia so close, glad to be able to spend time every day with her. I try hard to please Lee and thank him for his sacrifice in moving here with me. I don’t want to move into assisted living, not when I can have Olivia living with me. I know they are here to help, but sometimes I think that I’m the one helping my granddaughter. She seems happiest when I’m in the room, and afraid to lose me. So for now, we are together.

I’m not as happy as I should be. I have my music.  I have the pineapple tablecloth I am crocheting for Olivia’s hope chest, but I miss Fred and Karen more than I can say, and I miss the friends I left behind. Even worse, I feel anxious and sad, except when I’m alone with my granddaughter. Lee says this is part of getting older and that I should take the medications my doctor has prescribed. I guess I have to put my faith in him.

I just wish I weren’t so easily confused.  And I wish I had a good woman friend to talk to.  I think friends would make all the difference. 

New to my blog?  We’re exploring the backgrounds of the characters in my latest novel, Happiness Key.  If you go here, you’ll find a list of all the blogs in this series, beginning with Tracy, then moving on to Janya and Wanda.  This is part two of Alice’s story, which began on Monday.  Alice is the final character to have her say. 


Storm at Sea.jpgWith what Fred had so carefully saved and invested, I was fixed for the rest of my life. By then Karen was married to her second husband. She was a wonderful daughter, our Karen. We always thought she would go on to become a teacher, but in her second year of college she married a boy who was-and I hate to say this-just no good. He was indecisive and lazy, and even though I was raised to dislike divorce, we were so glad when she left and later divorced him. She managed to finish her degree and start her career before she met her second husband, Lee Symington.

Lee and Karen were married just a year before Fred died. Lee was the opposite of her first husband, attentive and charming, and like Karen, he wanted children. I’m so sorry Fred died without knowing that Karen was finally pregnant with our grandchild. He would have adored Olivia, who was born the year after his death. She is a quiet, well-behaved child, filled, I think, with thoughts she doesn’t share. She loves to be read to, even now at 10, and she loves to collect shells and driftwood and feed the fish in my aquarium. I have adored her since the moment she was born.

I am glad Fred wasn’t alive to experience what happened next. When Olivia was still nine, Karen drowned in a boating accident off the coast of Palmetto Grove. A gale force wind flipped the small cruiser that she and Lee had saved so hard to buy. He tried his hardest to save her and nearly drowned in the process. She was always a strong swimmer, but the waves were just too high. Neither of them were wearing life jackets. Karen had always insisted on every safety measure, but I suppose that because Olivia was not in the boat, the jackets were somehow left behind. There were gale warnings that day, but Lee told me their radio stopped working after they left the marina, and they were so far away they had decided not to turn back.

By then I had moved to Palmetto Grove to be near them. Fred and I always dreamed of having a condo on the water, and after he died Karen found me this cottage and persuaded me to move. I had suffered a stroke, and things weren’t as easy as they once had been. Sometimes I had trouble putting words together, or remembering where I left things, and Karen wanted me near. The cottage isn’t much to look at, but it has the most beautiful views and access to the water. We knew the land had been sold to a developer who planned to build a condo and hotel complex when the time was right, but the house was affordable for whatever time I could live there. For the time being, with Karen’s watchful assistance, I could have my fondest wish and see the Gulf any time I chose.

Her death, of course, changed all that.

(Alice’s Story Concludes on Friday)

 

Ballroom Dancing.jpgWhen Happiness Key was still just an idea, I had a fantasy about writing the novel completely in first person, using the viewpoints of all four major characters. I love first person, use it exclusively in my mystery series, and would love to use it in my other novels.  But once I started the character sketches in first person, I realized that I could tell the “story” better in third.  I made a judgment call that being in the head of one woman, followed closely by another, might be confusing for my readers and me, as well.  So I settled for third person, but with a “deeper” look into my character’s thoughts, a writing style that can effectively give a first person feel to a third person point of view.

More than you wanted to know about a writer’s choices?  Consider another.  Alice has suffered from a stroke and both she and the people around her are afraid she may be descending into dementia.  Did I want to convey that in her thoughts?  Did I want my readers to be aware of everything that worried her, including her own confusion?

In the end, Alice has no point of view in the novel.  She’s a strong presence, but you’ll notice we are never inside Alice’s head except here, on my blog and in the character sketches I did before I began my novel.  So without further introduction, let’s allow Alice to have her say once and for all.  And if you’re new to this series of blogs by my characters, you can find the other women, Tracy, Janya and Wanda in previous blogs, three to a character.  If you go to my archives, you can access each one easily from the table of contents.

Enjoy!


Fred and I were married young. I was only ten when World War II broke out, and my father was too old to serve. But even at that young age, the war taught me a valuable lesson. A person shouldn’t put off the things they want because one never knows what’s waiting around the corner. So at sixteen, head over heels about the young man who pumped my father’s gas at the local service station, I said yes when he asked me to marry him.

Now I look back on that and shake my head. How many good decisions are made when we’re that age? Fortunately this one was an exception. Fred and I were meant to be together for the forty-five years we were husband and wife. Nowadays some would scoff at the way we chose to live. I stayed at home and kept a clean house, cooked nutritious dinners, volunteered at the library and the hospital and hoped to have children, and Fred went to work every day. He was a hard worker, too, and before too many years had passed, he owned the service station where he’d gotten his start, and not too much later, he owned another on the opposite side of town.

We were never rich, in fact at the beginning we had just enough to pay the bills and save a little for retirement and Karen’s education. Karen was the daughter who God finally saw fit to bless us with. She was born after we’d been married almost fifteen years, and no child was ever welcomed with more enthusiasm. We added rooms to our little concrete block house in St. Petersburg, built like so many with the returning GI’s in mind. Fred was talented and liked to work with his hands, so the house grew and changed and became one of the finest in our neighborhood.

I sold it after Fred retired then died unexpectedly before we could put into action many of the plans we had made. Our years together had been so blessed, I know I was lucky anyway. We always enjoyed whatever time we could spend together. We loved to dance, and when Karen was a teenager, Fred signed us up for ballroom dancing lessons. We got so good we won some competitions. Nothing in the world is like standing in a beautiful dress on a ballroom floor with the man you love, letting him sweep and twirl you under colored lights that make you feel glamorous and alive. I miss being held in Fred’s arms and whirling and whirling more than I can say.

This week we’ve been peeking into Wanda’s background.  Wanda is one of the four women of Happiness Key, and she’s a character in more ways than one.  In the end, any day I had to write a scene from Wanda’s point of view was a good day.  It still is, since she appears in Fortunate Harbor, the sequel to Happiness Key, which will be out next summer.

Next week, we’ll take a look at Alice, the fourth and final major character in the novel and woman in residence at Happiness Key, a rundown beachfront community on Florida’s gulf coast.  If you’ve missed the others, page down.  Tracy and Janya have had their say. 

Wanda and son making pie.jpg

Through the years, through one colicky baby and another who was allergic to everything God put on the planet, we hung together. I cleaned my own house and cooked nearly every meal we ate. The kids and I baked homemade pies twice a week and people always seemed to come around that day to help us eat them. We never were rich, and I waited on tables for all the extras we needed, but we saw our children through college and on to careers, our son Junior a teacher, our daughter Maggie, a cop like her dad up in Pennsylvania. I was sorry about that, considering I already had one cop to worry about every time he walked out the door. But I’ve never told her so, which is one of the few times I haven’t shot off my mouth when I shouldn’t.

Kenny was good at his job. He made corporal pretty quick, then after we’d been married awhile, he made detective. I liked that better. Miami-Dade’s not the safest place for a cop in uniform, and Kenny wasn’t shy about going places most cops tried to avoid. The day he shot and killed a twenty-seven year old drug dealer at a highrise in Cutler Bay, he shouted a warning. But the man turned his gun on Kenny, and there was nothing Kenny could do except take him down.

It wasn’t the first time he’d had to discharge his weapon. But it was the first time he’d killed somebody. He’s not over it, and I don’t think he ever will be. He sank down into some pit in his imagination, and I think he keeps imagining what he could have done differently, like that kid was worth saving even though he had a record as long as the dirt road outside this crummy beach cottage I’ll never call home.

His job was safe, he could have gone back out on the streets. Instead we moved here to Sun County, where he mostly works behind a desk or knocks on doors in safer neighborhoods. We rented this cottage on the beach, where I think Kenny hopes the quiet and the beach will help him get back to being the man he was. But it’s not helping because he’s never here. How can he put work behind him if he works all the time? Or maybe he just doesn’t want to come home to me anymore.

I’ve about given up hope he ever will, and now I’m not so sure I care. I didn’t sign on for this. We got through all our other troubles together. How come this time it’s different? I figure I’ve got maybe ten more good years left in me, and do I want to spend them with a man who never talks or laughs, a man who disappears in the morning and comes home when I’m already asleep? A man who doesn’t even want to talk to his kids when they call?

Maybe I’m sagging, bagging and turning gray, but I’ve still got something to offer a man. And I need to offer it while it’s still there. But I’m good to go and I might be gone next time he looks for me. It’s not that I don’t have some sympathy for what he went through. It’s just that maybe this is the man he was all along, and I just never noticed before. A man who can’t let me into his life. And who needs that?

Welcome to the second peek at Wanda, one of the four women of Happiness Key, my latest novel from Mira Books.  Wanda was the character I thought I’d have the most trouble writing about.  Each woman in the story is very different, and I suspected Wanda might be hardest to get to know.  But that was before she just opened up and started to tell me about her life.  In the end, silencing Wanda was the biggest challenge I had. 

Meantime, don’t forget my publisher, Mira Books is offering a discount coupon.  $1.50 off the price of Happiness Key this month.  Of course use of coupon is at the discretion of your favorite bookseller.   

Now back to Wanda.


Kenny in Police Car.jpgKenny looked awful good to me after I’d been out on my own for most of a year, fending off guys who figured that the mini-skirt was an invitation. I was making good money on tips and living with one of the other girls who worked at Hot Beaches, but I wasn’t having as much fun as I’d expected. My feet hurt-they still do-and I was tired of being grabbed in places a man’s supposed to ask about first. Hot Beaches was thick with smoke and the kitchen was one big roach love fest, plus the bartender Manny, was watering the drinks something awful and I was catching all the flack.

Kenny wasn’t one of those guys who grabbed at me. He watched me, though, from the very first time he came. Not in that creepy way, you know, when a man follows you with his eyes everywhere you go. More like he was watching to make sure I was doing all right. A girl picks up the difference quick. He was a couple of years older than me, muscular with broad shoulders and tall enough to see everything he needed even from a table in the corner. He never came in alone, but the guys he was with changed from day to day. I figured he worked construction until I asked and he told me he was a cop.

Kenny had shiny dark hair, cropped short even though almost every other man in the place had sideburns at the least, or ponytails. He never showed up in uniform, but he wore crisp new blue jeans and pullover shirts without wrinkles or advertisements. Most of our customers were beach bums, so he stood out that way, as well.

I like to thought he’d never ask me out. The strong, silent type didn’t usually spend much time looking my way. But one night after work he was waiting when I went out to the old VW I’d bought from another waitress, and he asked if I’d like something to eat. We drove in his car, an old but clean Mustang, to another place on the beach that stayed open late, and had burgers and beer and undressed each other with our eyes. He told me about his family, which was like something straight out of Father Knows Best, and I told him about mine.

He kissed me goodnight, but not one of those tongue in your tonsils kisses. A gentle kiss, like a promise we’d have time for more in the future. A year later we got married, our folks staring narrow-eyed across the aisle from each other trying to figure out exactly how this had happened. But I could have told them. Kenny was the quiet place in my life I’d never realized I needed. And I was the flash and fireworks in his.

Next: Wanda’s Story, Part Three 

Welcome to the on-going peek at the characters in my new novel Happiness Key.  If this is your first visit?  Before I began work on the book, I did a first person character study for each of my four main characters.  I’m sharing excerpts from those here, to help you become better acquainted with Tracy, Janya, Wanda and Alice.  This is Wanda’s week.  Remember, these excerpts won’t appear in the novel, but some of the background will.  Not only does this give you, the reader, a chance to know the characters better, but it gives you a little insight into the way the writing process works for me.  And isn’t that scary? 


Thumbnail image for Wanda outdoor cafe.jpgWhen I look in the mirror these days, I don’t recognize myself. That happened when I got to be a teenager, too. It seemed like overnight I went from being a tow-headed, plump cheeked tomboy who was a pal to every boy she ever met, to a mousy-haired, big-breasted, wide-hipped teenager with teeth too big for the lips God gave me. Growing into a young woman was a lot easier after that. The face slimmed down, found the lines it wanted to inhabit. I learned how to dress the body, and those big protruding teeth became as much an asset as the breasts. Both welcoming to men, one for smiling, one for thrusting in their general direction.

Now, at 56, the teeth aren’t as straight as they were, and the breasts, no matter how good my bras, are determined to sag. It’s age, pure and simple, and no mistaking it. There’s my skin, dried out and wrinkled from this Florida sun, and sprouting patches of this and that, although so far, nothing that’s going to kill me right off the bat. Then hair that’s turning gray faster than I can get a new box of copper shimmer to cover my roots. And finally, eyes that just don’t see the way they once did and them being so dry I can’t wear contacts the way I expected to whenever it came to this. The black-rimmed glasses I had to buy make me look like something from a rock concert for the Geritol set.

Not that anybody’s looking that hard anymore, so what’s it matter anyhow? There was a time when my husband Kenny was interested in every little thing about my body. Sex drew us together and sex kept us there. Don’t ever let anybody tell you it’s second to anything in a marriage. You got sex, you can work out the rest of the stuff in bed. You just think about it. A man wants a woman bad, than he’s gonna do what he can to make her want him. Once he gets it through his head what that means, he’ll make a stab at it, unless he’s some kind of nut case wants to feel bad all the time. Little by little, the stuff smoothes out because the fun just goes on. And people need fun.

Kenny and I had fun. He’s never been much of a talker, though. We met at a bar where I was serving drinks in a short red mini-skirt with a low cut blouse and black boots nearly to my knees. I left home at eighteen, pretty much clutching my high school diploma in my hand, fresh off the presses. My parents didn’t tell me to go, but I was ready. Mama had three more kids and she needed the room. Mama and Daddy were Crackers through and through, good people who took care of their own the best they knew how, and not a bit embarrassed by it.

Next: Wanda’s Story, Part Two 

Not tired of contests yet?  I promised a link to the newest one at Fresh Fiction, of which Happiness Key is a part.  You can find it and me right here.

And to end the week, the last part of Janya’s story. 


henna hands from peakdefinition.jpgTo the delight of my parents and to my own great joy, Darshan asked me to marry him. I accepted, of course, and our families met and made the engagement official under our Hindu traditions. Plans were begun for an elaborate wedding, although Darshan’s family asked that no official dowry be given, but the wedding itself must be an occasion to be remembered by the many, many people who would be invited.

If my father was frightened by the debt he must undergo-despite saving and investing for years-to make such a wedding happen, he never told me so. He knew that once Darshan and I were wed, Mr. Tambe would make certain my father’s accounting firm was never overlooked when state contracts were awarded. My wedding was not only a duty but an investment.

So many arrangements had been made, so much money had been paid, so many people had been informed. I was thrilled beyond measure. Darshan wanted to stay in Mumbai and practice in the firm where he had been apprenticed during his education. With his family’s connections and his father’s position it would only be a short time before he began to make a name for himself.

Now I hesitate to think of that time in my life, a time when every wish had come true and every hope for my future seemed in my grasp. All ended abruptly on a day just three months before our wedding, a day I can not bear to speak of.

In the end, I did not marry Darshan Tambe. Instead I married a stranger, Rishi Kapur, an orphan raised in America by relatives, with few cultural ties to my beloved India. From the moment I met him, I could only compare him to my lost love. Rishi had a boisterous laugh and an awkward, graceless body that managed to knock over my mother’s most beloved possessions when he visited. While we were told he was a computer genius,his prospects were not stellar. Instead of taking a job in one of the country’s great software or internet firms, Rishi had chosen to strike out on his own after university.

Rishi is a good man, but I can not love him, because I have already given my heart away. I know that Rishi’s life has not been easy, and I feel sympathy, knowing that from the day his parents died he was an outcast among those who should have loved and honored him. But knowing this does not make love appear. One can not sow seeds on barren ground and expect a garden to flourish.

I have lost everything. My home, my family, the man I loved, the cousin who was as close as a sister, a culture I understood and of which I was part, and the daily companionship of friends and loved ones. Rishi often works late. There are days when the only human face I see is in my mirror.

I ask myself what I did to deserve this fate? As yet, I have found no answer.

Next week: Wanda’s story