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Geeks Against Zombies

 
 
Geeks Against Zombies
by Alathia Paris Morgan
 
Amazon
US | UK | CA | AU
 
Genre: Apocalyptic / Dystopian
 
 
 
Sean just wanted to play video games and graduate. When his video game world came to life with zombies, he and his friends put all of their reflexes to good use by trying to stay alive.
 
Andi Jackson has always had a crush on Sean, but he’s never seen her as more than his little sister’s friend. Vowing that not even a gunshot wound can keep her from chasing down love, can she find a way past the zombies and into his arms?
 
Join the remaining survivors as they continue their fight Against Zombies in this exciting new installment.
 
 
 
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About the Author
 
Alathia Paris Morgan is a full-time writer. With the death of her brother in 2013, she decided life was too short to waste the ideas she was given. Since she’d always had stories floating around in her head, she took a shot at writing them down during a NANOWRIMO Camp. She realized quickly that her characters had more than one mystery to solve, which resulted in her Nova Ladies series with a crossover series Murders of the Zodiacs. Now, zombies have joined her world in the Against Zombies series.
 
With the support and love of her husband, Alathia continues to bring new worlds to life. Their three daughters and three dogs are more than enough to keep her busy when she is not putting words on the page or lost in her imagination. 
 
In her free time, she loves to read and enjoys quilting while watching TV shows.
 
 
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The Reverse of Everything

Title: The Reverse of Everything
Author: Tara Brown
Genre: YA Apocalyptic
Publication Date: March 11th, 2019
One day can change everything.
One day the world is a delicate balance.
The next day the balance is tipped.
And there is no bringing it back.
When everyone over a certain age dies, a group of young adults make a perilous journey across the US, in hopes of finding something beautiful or amazing.
Something to cherish as their last memory.
Because maybe they’re dying too.
And in the end, all we want is something to be grateful for.
And maybe for someone to remember us when we’re gone.
From the author of The Born Trilogy, The Last City of Men, and The Blood Trail Chronicles comes a story of friendship and love, even as the world is ending.
This is a standalone novel
 
Buy Links:
I believe growing up in a really small town gives a person a little advantage when it comes to the imagination. You need one or you go mad.
Needless to say, mine saved me. After it got me into trouble first, that is. That’s the problem with a vivid imagination, all the lies you tell.
I am happily married with two daughters.
I have two giant dogs, two savage cats, and a penchant for a glass of red.
Also, I drag my bread through the sauce. I can’t help myself, bread is life.
According to my age, I am meant to be a responsible adult, but it isn’t going well at all. I would still head off to Hogwarts tomorrow and I suspect there isn’t a single wardrobe I haven’t crept into, hoping to find the door to Narnia. And don’t even get me started on the King’s Road, I get lost.
Fortunately, I am an international bestseller so I have wormed my way into a quirky or eccentric category.
Thank God for that.
I am represented by Natalie Lakosil from the Bradford Literary Agency and am published traditionally with Montlake Romance.
Buy Links:

The Brightest Darkness

Title: The Brightest Darkness
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic/Zombie
Publisher: Twisted Press
Editor: Lori Whitwam
Publication Date: March 18th, 2019
Blurb:
There was something evil living in Andrew. I’d seen it in his eyes, reflecting back at me like a spotlight. It was the brightest darkness I’d ever seen, bright enough to snuff every one of us out…
Still reeling from loss, Kellan and Regan set out to rescue Harper from Andrew and his men. Only now they aren’t just fighting to free a teenage girl, they’re fighting to keep a promise to the man who saved them, knowing if they fail, Harper won’t be the only one at risk.
Joining forces with a new group means having help and making friends, but it also brings new conflict and the risk of losing everything they’ve worked to build over the last night years. With zombies banging at their door and the threat of danger around every corner, Regan and Kellan will have to fight to keep their world secure and their secret from getting out.
Buy Links:
The Loudest Silence: https://amzn.to/2MZmSxa
The Brightest Darkness: https://amzn.to/2TZtIpT

 Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of New Adult and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead, to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance. Her YA book, When We Were Human, was the 2015 Children’s Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal Winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner for Young Adult Science Fiction, and her dystopian novel, Outliers, was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2018 Author Academy Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and the Winner in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy.

Author Links:
Buy Links:
The Loudest Silence: https://amzn.to/2MZmSxa
The Brightest Darkness: https://amzn.to/2TZtIpT

The Prophet

Title: The Prophet
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Urban Fiction/Apocalyptic Fiction
Editor: Tia Silverthorne Bach with INDIE Books Gone Wild
Publication Date: December 3rd, 2018
Blurb:
It’s one year until the apocalypse of 12.21.12 is supposed to take place.
Burning buildings, screaming babies, and death will surround us.
It will be the end of the world.
That can’t be allowed.
When six powerful women come together with one goal—to save humanity—they’ll get much more than they bargained for. They join forces and learn to use the gifts hidden within themselves to battle a monster feeding off something too many of us feel in our souls: Hate. But they must first learn how to forgive—themselves as well as others.
Hate is birthing a creature dwelling under Central Park in New York, and the fiend is eager to burst forth and sink his fangs into the Earth.
The Fury, The Visionary, The Beguiler, The Siren, The Prophet, and The Mystic are our last hope, and even they aren’t sure if they can win.
The end is coming, but with it, there may be a new beginning.
Buy Links:
The Visionary: https://amzn.to/2RXtH4W
Jo Michaels is…
Hi, I’m Jo. Let’s forget all the “Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah” stuff and just go with it. I’m a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.
I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I’m married to. Along with my children, he’s my whole world.
I’ve lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I’ve had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I’ve written about in Yassa.
One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of the week. Connect! I’d love to hear from you.
Author Links:
Buy Links:
Chapter One ~ Death
Bronya lifted a hand. “Shhhh, I hear something.” Turning her head to the side so she could pay attention to the noises reaching her ears, she noticed Shelia crouching and staring straight ahead. Soft sobbing sounds were coming from inside the car parked across the street. Bronya’s eyes followed the line of Shelia’s gaze and fell on two figures, both male.
“I see you,” whispered Shelia. Before she could be stopped, she took off like a flash and ran straight for the men.
Cursing, Bronya followed; already igniting the power in her hand. Red sparks flew as she knocked the figures aside so Shelia could get to the car. Another red flash and the door flew off the hinges, revealing a third form huddling inside.
At once, the woman scrambled out of the car and fell to the asphalt.
Shelia stopped running and took a defensive posture, creeping slowly toward the mass of hair and limbs tangled on the ground.
Bronya could hear soft words being spoken. “It’s okay. We’re here to help.”
A shrill scream pierced the night air, and both girls put their hands over their ears to shut it out. Then, everything went quiet. It seemed the city hushed to listen to the momentary scream of the woman now lying silent and prone on the road.
“Shit!” Shelia ran forward and put her fingers to the young woman’s neck. “Call an ambulance! No pulse! We’re too damned late!”
“Hello? Operator? I need an ambulance!” Bronya rattled off the names of the cross-streets and approached the girl at the operator’s request. “Yeah, she has no pulse. There’s blood everywhere.”
Footfalls echoing in the distance signaled the retreat of the two men. Everything was quiet except Shelia’s heavy breathing.
She was frantically doing CPR, via instructions yelled out by Bronya, as the whining siren of an ambulance shattered the new quiet. Tires squealing, the vehicle pulled up and two EMTs leapt out, equipment in hand. Bronya clicked her phone off, pulled Shelia back, and stood nearby, watching.
After working furiously over the girl for a number of minutes, the medics lifted her onto a stretcher and everyone climbed into the ambulance. The two girls shrank back against the walls, trying to stay out of the way.
Dark hair, matted with blood, fell around the pillow and framed the girl’s face. She had a nasty bruise below her left eye and red welts here and there on her arms. But there was still no clue as to where the blood was coming from. Bronya scratched her head and chewed the inside of her cheek while her eyes roamed over the mess in front of her. One of the medics was suddenly in her face. “Do you know who did this?” he asked.
Bronya and Shelia both shook their heads.
His voice dropped to a low growl. “Are you the girls that called nine-one-one?”
Taking point, Bronya lifted her hand into the air. “I did that. We found her this way. There were two men, but they ran off when we got here.”
“Two men? Can you describe them?”
“No. It was too dark. I only saw silhouettes and figured they were men because of the way they were standing. You know, leaned to one side, hands in pockets, kinda puffed up like they were big, bad dudes.”
“Do you know this young woman?” He gestured to the girl.
“No.” Bronya shook her head. “We were just walking by and heard crying coming from the car. When we checked it out, we found her and called you guys.” She knew damned good and well who the girl was, but explaining how they knew where she was going to be would take too long and raise too many eyebrows. Playing dumb seemed the best option.
~~~~~
Coralie smiled. She’d been friends with Regina for years. Another search and the name of the understudy for the part of Elphaba made Coralie groan. Fawne Holt! Why did it have to be her? Their long-standing rivalry was just going to get in the way and cause tension on stage.
Damn.
A split-second decision was made to speak with the director about choosing a new understudy. Coralie headed off to see if he was in his office.
She walked up the stairs, knocked on his door, and waited. Just as she was turning to leave, the door flew open and a young-looking man with hair standing on end, a loose tie, rumpled clothing, and no shoes was suddenly staring at her. All ability to speak was stolen as she looked at him. This guy is the director?
“Well?” He held his hands out to the sides.
“Um, I seem to have caught you at a bad time. I’ll come back later.” Again, she turned to go.
“Bad time?”
She spun back around to find him scratching his head.
“Oh!” His face lit up. “You mean the way I look!”
Coralie nodded and gave a nervous giggle.
“No, no, this is the way I always look. I sleep here most nights when a production is in the works.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Well, come on in! I’m sure you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to talk to me.”
Stepping through the door, she was overwhelmed by the mess in front of her. Clothes were strewn all over the furniture, empty pizza boxes covered the tops of tables, and paper was scattered everywhere.
“Sorry about the mess.”
“No problem,” she lied.
He stuck out a hand. “Trenton Harris, nice to meet you.”
“Coralie Meyers. You, too.” She wiped her hand on her jeans when he released it.
“Ah, one of my leading ladies! Here, have a seat!” He tossed a jacket and pair of shorts off the couch into a pile on the floor.
Carefully, she lowered herself to the edge of the cushion and perched there. He plopped down on the chair across from her and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped. “Now, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“It’s my understudy…” She trailed off, not sure if she should even mention it.
“What about her?”
“Well, it’s just that… See, she and I have had…”
“You don’t like each other; right?”
“Yeah.” It was a lame excuse and she knew it. Trying to recover, she added, “I’m just afraid it’s gonna cause unneeded tension on stage.”
Nodding like he agreed, he asked, “And you’re playing the part of Elphaba, right?”
She nodded.
“I have to tell you, I don’t usually make changes once the cast has been chosen.”
“Mr. Harris, I completely understand where you’re coming from, but—”
He lifted a hand. “Changing a casting after it’s been posted is like cutting off and re-attaching a limb. It’s painful.”
“I understand. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask.”
Shifting in his seat, he narrowed his eyes at her. “If I accommodated your request, I’d have to do things for other people, too. It’s better to not set any kind of expectation. But I thank you for the warning that things may get difficult.”
“Yes, sir. I’m sorry I bothered you.” She stood up to leave.
Trenton rose with her and opened the door. “You didn’t bother me. I want you to feel comfortable coming to me with anything, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks.” Halfway down the stairs, she heard the door close. “Fat lot of good it did me. Now I just look like a damned diva,” she muttered.

The Siren

Title: The Siren
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Urban Fiction/Apocalyptic Fiction
Editor: Tia Silverthorne Bach with INDIE Books Gone Wild
Publication Date: November 19th, 2018
Blurb:
It’s one year until the apocalypse of 12.21.12 is supposed to take place.
Burning buildings, screaming babies, and death will surround us.
It will be the end of the world.
That can’t be allowed.
When six powerful women come together with one goal—to save humanity—they’ll get much more than they bargained for. They join forces and learn to use the gifts hidden within themselves to battle a monster feeding off something too many of us feel in our souls: Hate. But they must first learn how to forgive—themselves as well as others.
Hate is birthing a creature dwelling under Central Park in New York, and the fiend is eager to burst forth and sink his fangs into the Earth.
The Fury, The Visionary, The Beguiler, The Siren, The Prophet, and The Mystic are our last hope, and even they aren’t sure if they can win.
The end is coming, but with it, there may be a new beginning.
 
Buy Links:
The Visionary: https://amzn.to/2RXtH4W

 Jo Michaels is…

Hi, I’m Jo. Let’s forget all the “Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah” stuff and just go with it. I’m a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.
I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I’m married to. Along with my children, he’s my whole world.
I’ve lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I’ve had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I’ve written about in Yassa.
One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of the week. Connect! I’d love to hear from you.
Author Links:
Buy Links:
Chapter One ~ Running from Me
Melody walked through her parents’ house feeling tiny and insignificant. Grand halls, famous paintings, and statues towering over her always made her feel less important. Stopping to examine a withered tulip, she thought how like the flower she was. It seemed it was passed over when the maid did the watering, and Melody was sure no one had noticed. Just like no one noticed her disappearing body. They were both hungry, but the flower seemed to show it much more gracefully.
She passed her fingers over the petals and reveled in how soft they were. What a beautiful thing left here in a corner to die because somebody decided it needed to be put on display, and it can’t speak up to make demands for what it needs. It made her breath catch in her throat as the burn of tears rose behind her eyelids.
Crushing the flower in her hand, she jerked it off the stem, threw it on the floor, turned, and walked back toward the practice room.
Once she closed and locked the door behind her, she fell back and slid to the floor, allowing her tears freedom as she pulled the letter out of her pocket once again and opened it.
On the day she’d gotten the note, she’d just given a concert in downtown Atlanta and was on top of the world. Since that day, she’d read the cruel words scribbled haphazardly on the page no less than two hundred times. It was worn, and the creases were deep, but she couldn’t bring herself to throw it away. She read:
Melody,
From the 1st time I saw u on TV I new u were nothing special. U have a gr8 voice but a lot of ppl do. Ur fat an ugly an no1 wants to see u. Y dont u go sing on the radio n not make us have 2 look at u? If not y not do something w/urself? Work out or give up a meal 4 needy kids. Ur a spoiled BRAT. Every1 nos. Ur mom n dad look like snobs. Grow up lose w8 or get lost. Either way get off my TV. I hate u. Fatty!
It wasn’t signed, and she’d never shown it to anyone. But she watched what she put in her mouth from that day forward and had taken to running three miles every day. When her mom commented that Melody was looking good with all the weight she was losing, it solidified her resolve, and she swore never to be large again. Over one hundred pounds down, she still felt fat when she looked in the mirror and compared herself to the poster of supermodel Lily Conyers, hanging on the wall by the bed. Those last few inches needed to go, and Melody was bound and determined to make it happen.
As she sat there, reading the hateful words repeatedly, she dried her tears with her hand and stiffened her spine. She knew her eyes were glinting with the malice in her heart as she rose from the floor and stuffed the letter back into the pocket of her baggy jeans.
A shiver ran down her spine, and she hugged herself to ward off the chill. Unable to get warm recently, she’d taken to wearing a sweatshirt everywhere she went. She rubbed the thick hair that had begun to grow on her arms. Ugh! Why can’t Mom and Dad save some money and turn down the air?
Flipping on the CD player, she hit play before taking her position on the stage her mother had demanded be built in the room. Allowing the music to swell, Melody opened her mouth and sang. A trickle of pinpricks began at her toes and inched their way over her skin as she orated the lyrics. Her head fell back, and her eyes slid closed.
~~~~~
After Markaza chugged two more cups of coffee, she got up and headed for the bathroom to shower and get ready to hunt down her quarry.
An hour later, she stepped out of her room with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. She got in the elevator, pressed the button for the main floor, and passed out.
It was dark; Bronya, Lily, and Shelia were walking down the streets of New York, laughing and carrying large cups of coffee in their hands. From an alley, a man leapt into their path and pointed a gun at Lily’s head.
“Give me your purses!” he shouted.
Bronya laughed, and Shelia flicked her hand in the air.
At once, the man started to weep.
Lily’s body emitted yellow light, and the gunman dropped his weapon, running like the hounds of Hell were on his heels.
From Markaza’s vantage point, above the scene and to the right, she could see flashes from a number of cameras. Her friends seemed to be unaware their photos were being taken.
Markaza gagged as she took in a gulp of air and was overwhelmed with noxious smells. Waking up to sour breath is bad enough without the added stench of body odor. Above her, the over-eager manager hovered, looking worried and barking orders into his cellphone.
“Wait a moment, she’s awake.” Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, he asked, “Are you okay?”
She nodded while holding her breath and gave him a small push backward as she got up off the elevator floor.
“Yeah, she’s fine. Thanks anyway.” He flipped his phone shut and stared at her.
Giving him a smile and thanks for his concern while trying not to breathe in any more of his stench, she bolted for the front door of the Ritz. Once she was outside in the open air, she checked the time and was pleased to find she’d only been out for a couple of minutes. She unlocked her phone and dialed Bronya’s number.
No answer.
Trying again, Markaza dialed Shelia. One ring. Two rings.
Shelia sounded chipper when she picked up.
Markaza smiled. “Hey, you. How’s it going up there in the Big Apple?”
“It’s okay here. How’s it going down there in Hotlanta? Did you find our girl yet?”
“Yes. But I haven’t made contact. I’ll call you with an update as soon as I make some kind of progress. I need to ask you for a favor.” Markaza chewed her lip.
“Sure! Anything for you. What is it you need?” Shelia’s voice dropped low.
“Make sure you guys don’t go anywhere until I get back there, okay? At least, not after dark. Please, don’t ask me why; just trust me.”

The Beguiler

Title: The Beguiler
Author: Jo Michaels
Genre: Urban Fiction/Apocalyptic Fiction
Editor: Tia Silverthorne Bach with INDIE Books Gone Wild
Publication Date: November 5th, 2018
Blurb:
It’s one year until the apocalypse of 12.21.12 is supposed to take place.
Burning buildings, screaming babies, and death will surround us.
It will be the end of the world.
That can’t be allowed.
When six powerful women come together with one goal—to save humanity—they’ll get much more than they bargained for. They join forces and learn to use the gifts hidden within themselves to battle a monster feeding off something too many of us feel in our souls: Hate. But they must first learn how to forgive—themselves as well as others.
Hate is birthing a creature dwelling under Central Park in New York, and the fiend is eager to burst forth and sink his fangs into the Earth.
The Fury, The Visionary, The Beguiler, The Siren, The Prophet, and The Mystic are our last hope, and even they aren’t sure if they can win.
The end is coming, but with it, there may be a new beginning.
 
 
Buy Links:
The Visionary: https://amzn.to/2RXtH4W
Jo Michaels is…
Hi, I’m Jo. Let’s forget all the “Jo Michaels is blah, blah, blah” stuff and just go with it. I’m a voracious reader (often reading more than one book at a time), a writer, a book reviewer, a mom, a wife, and one of the EICs at INDIE Books Gone Wild. I have an almost photographic memory and tend to make people cringe at the number of details I can recall about them and/or their book(s). My imagination follows me around like a conjoined twin and causes me to space out pretty often or laugh out loud randomly in completely inappropriate situations.
I have a degree in graphic design, and my journey to the end was one few students who begin that program ever complete. However, this was one case where my memory and OCD tendencies helped me. Graduation was one of the most amazing days of my life. But, my most amazing day was when my now husband proposed. Every little girl dreams of being Cinderella someday, and he pulled off the proposal of fantasies.
At the risk of sounding cliché, I’m going to let it out there and say how much I absolutely adore the man I’m married to. Along with my children, he’s my whole world.
I’ve lived in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia, but I’ve had my feet in almost every state. Traveling is something I adore, and have plans to someday see the Mongolia I’ve written about in Yassa.
One of my favorite things is hearing from fans! You can find me on social media most any day of the week. Connect! I’d love to hear from you.
Author Links:
Buy Links:
Chapter One ~ Mom and Dad
Little Shelia Morgan stood in her living room, using her chubby, six-year-old arms to hold her teddy bear while she cried. Recordings of her dad’s violin music played in the background and people kept walking through the room and hugging her. It was making her more scared than she was when Aunt Ivy told Shelia she’d have to go live somewhere else because her parents wouldn’t be coming back again.
Aunt Ivy and Uncle Melvin didn’t come around very often. Shelia didn’t know why, but she’d been to visit them once and didn’t like it there. Their house smelled like old people, and Aunt Ivy hated kids. As Ivy sat in Shelia’s mother’s favorite recliner and chatted, the child watched with intensity. Aunt Ivy never smiled at anyone coming in and hadn’t shed a tear since the news of the deaths had come. Shelia couldn’t figure it out; even the police officer had cried when he’d given them the terrible news. She knew her mother and Ivy were sisters but had no idea why she wouldn’t be crying. It all seemed wrong somehow. All Shelia knew was, she did not want to go live with her Aunt and Uncle—not ever.
A nice lady from Child Services showed up after everyone left and offered to help Shelia pack her things. They chose seven outfits, two pairs of shoes, and a few photographs to put into the tiny suitcase. When the locks clicked, Shelia began to cry in earnest. It all felt so final, and the “click” seemed to lock it into place in a way nothing else had. She launched her little body at the social worker and cried into her shirt.
The woman pet Shelia’s hair and whispered, “It’s okay, baby. I know you’re scared. You’re gonna be okay. Shh…”
Shelia jerked back and looked the lady in the face. “I don’t have to move with Aunt Ivy and Uncle Melvin, right?”
“No. I found you a really nice place to go where you’ll be very loved.”
“But Mommy and Daddy won’t know where to find me as angels,” Shelia said, stepping away and wiping her nose on her sleeve.
“They always know. But if it makes you feel better, we can leave them a note, okay?”
Shelia’s head bobbed up and down.
“Do you have paper and pencil?” the woman asked.
Racing around the room, Shelia gathered her drawing paper and crayons. She sat down, and the lady helped draw a picture telling the angels where to find their little girl.
The lady held Shelia’s hand, and they walked out to the car where she was put in the back seat and buckled in. Aunt Ivy watched from the porch as they drove away but never lifted her hand to wave.
After a time in the car, Shelia saw they were turning up the driveway of a little blue house with a swing set in the yard. She was hustled out of the car and brought to the door.
The lady that answered was thin, tall, and pretty, wearing a flower-pattered apron over her t-shirt and jeans and no shoes. There was flour on her nose, and the scream of a baby could be heard from the depths of the house.
She smiled and squatted down so she was Shelia’s height. “Hello there, Shelia. I’m Mary Alice. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hi,” said Shelia. She turned and grabbed the other lady’s pants, feeling shy.
Mary Alice stood up to talk to the social worker. “I’m sorry to hear about her parents. We’re happy to take her in. I’m so glad you called me.”
“Yes, it’s a tragic story. Poor kid. She’s too little to even understand what’s going on. You have my number; call me if you need anything.”
“I will.”
Turning and looking down at Shelia, the social worker said, “You’re going to stay with Mary Alice. She’s really nice, and there are other kids here you can play with, too. Don’t be scared, honey. We told your mom and dad where they could find you.” She peeled the child off her legs, turned Shelia and the suitcase over to Mary Alice, and left.
Shelia stood on the porch and cried, her teddy bear dangling from her hand.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you come on in, and I’ll introduce you to the other kids.”
Tilting her head back, Shelia looked up into the twinkling eyes of Mary Alice before taking her hand, sniffing, and nodding.
“There’s a good girl.”
In the kitchen, there was chaos. The baby was still crying, and two kids around Shelia’s age were running around, whooping and hollering.
“Janet, Michael! You two stop that! You’re makin’ Cleo cry!” Mary Alice said. She snatched the two mid-stride and deposited them in front of Shelia. “This is Janet; she’s eight. This is Michael; he’s five. That,” she said, gesturing to the baby in the highchair, “is little Cleo; she’s just seven months. My husband’s name is Herb, and he’ll be home later. You can meet him then. Do you want somethin’ to drink?”
Shelia shook her head and clutched her teddy bear to her chest.
Janet narrowed her eyes at Shelia and the bear.
Michael smiled.
Cleo wailed.
Mary Alice threw up her hands and said, “Okay. Ya’ll go outside and play. I gotta get this baby to stop screamin’ or I’m gonna tear out my doggone hair.”
Janet and Michael bolted for the door, but Shelia hung back. Instead, she curled into a corner of the couch where she cried into her teddy bear’s fur until she fell asleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night, someone moved her, and she woke up in a bed with bright, colorful sheets on it. When she opened her eyes, she began to cry again until she remembered where she was and why. Those thoughts made her want to snuggle back under her covers and go back to sleep. Maybe forever.
Instead, she got out of bed and went in search of a bathroom. She did her business and was on her way back when she found her path in the hall blocked by Janet.
“What?” Shelia asked.
“How come you sleep all the time? You sick or somethin’?”
“No, I’m sad.”
“How come?” asked Janet.
“Because my mommy and daddy went to stay with God, and they didn’t take me with them,” Shelia answered, her voice faltering.
~~~~
Shelia relaxed into the buttery leather of the couch and closed her eyes. A voice that seemed too far away was like a mosquito buzzing in her ears, and she just wanted to shut out the woman’s words. Shelia took a deep breath and let it out in a rush.
“Now, Shelia, you need to remember what happened when you were little. Hypnosis has never hurt one of my patients, and it might help us unlock what’s in your head, making you sad.”
“Look, lady, I’ve been to countless shrinks like you. They all say they want to help me fix this and help me fix that. Nothing’s wrong with me.” Shelia lifted herself into a sitting position. She adjusted her too-tight shirt and squirmed.
“That can’t be true. You’re battling some kind of personal demon. The problem is: you won’t tell anyone what’s really making you sad. Is it moving out of your aunt and uncle’s house?”
She snorted. What a ridiculous thought!
Dr. Candy sat forward in her chair and leaned forward. “Why did you snort like that? Did I ask a stupid question?”
“Um, because those two treated me like a slave? I cooked and cleaned and mowed and washed my whole life while I lived under their roof. I was happy to be out of there! I thank God every day Ivy didn’t spend the money from my parents’ house being sold.”
“But there must be something you’re repressing or you’d be happy now,” said the doctor.
Repressing, my ass, thought Shelia. She knew damned good and well what demons she was battling. Sinner! For the previous few months, she’d been trying to work off the weight she’d put on since her twelfth birthday. Seven years of overeating in an attempt to disgust Melvin had taken its toll.  A lot of good that did. That bastard still came after me. She hid her thoughts with a smile. “I am happy. Why would you think I’m not?”
“Your posture, the way you never have a kind word to say about your relatives, and the look on your face right now,” answered the doctor.
“So I’m uncomfortable in my skin. Big deal. I’ve been working out.”
“I’m not talking about your weight, Shelia. I’ve read in your file that you were in a foster home after your parents had their accident. Can you tell me what happened there?”
“Nothing. I cried in bed for a day, and then I was taken away and given to that pair of vipers that call themselves my family.” Shelia bit her bottom lip at the memory of Janet and her fear of being taken away from Mary Alice; that little girl had obviously seen horrors Shelia couldn’t even have begun to imagine at that age. She thought she’d learned just how the girl had felt and why. Thinking about anyone doing something to Janet like Melvin had done to Shelia made her shudder.
Dr. Candy pressed for more. “Tell me about the years you spent with your aunt and uncle.”
“What are you pushing me for? You have everything in your stupid file, right?”
“I want to hear what you felt, not read what your papers say.”
“Fine! I got taken away from a real nice lady and put into the hands of slave drivers. I cleaned, cooked, and took care of the house from age six to age eighteen. Never did they give me anything I wanted. I wore second-hand clothes and got a haircut once a year. Because of them, I couldn’t even make a friend and keep one. Is that what you want to know?” Shelia was breathing hard as she finished her speech and hoped like