Movin' Up With J.J. Excerpt

Alex approached J.J.’s door exactly on time, her heart pattering for some reason. She hoped he’d come up with a party her friends would enjoy. No pâté and caviar. Her friends were more the pizza and beer types.

She never rang his doorbell anymore, but she gave the door a little knock and called out as she opened it to give the guests warning that she had arrived.

They surged toward her in the foyer with a chorus of shouted happy birthdays. J.J. made his way to the front of the crowd and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Everyone she had thought to mention was there: her employees, as well as Walt’s wife and Jerry’s niece, her girlfriends—even the ones she’d been neglecting—J.J.’s parents, looking less than completely comfortable in casual clothes, and...there, next to the Chamberlains were...she couldn’t believe it.

A gasp escaped. She must be imagining things. She thought she saw her mother and father standing there. She blinked and shook her head, looked again. No, it really was them. Her father had gone completely gray, and her mother’s hair was shorter, but it was definitely them, looking at her with shy, careful smiles.

Smiles like the ones they’d shown all through her farce of a childhood. Smiles they’d stopped granting after she passed on college. Smiles that meant nothing. Smiles she would not allow to melt her frozen heart.

Her ears rang so loudly they drowned out the sounds of the partying crowd. If it was even still there. The universe had shrunk to a size that would contain only Alex and, facing her, her parents. Three animals trapped in a very small cage.

She swallowed, and her ears cleared. The world moved again.

“Hello, Alexandra,” her mother said in a tremulous voice.

Alex couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t speak. Didn’t trust what she would say, anyway. She turned, rushed through the front door, and slammed it behind her.

©2008 Kim Sheard