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”This is what sets the author apart from all other writers. Author’s unique way of stringing words together, formulating ideas, and relating scenes or images to the reader. In any piece of writing, the voice should be consistent and identifiable which the author has done a very good job.”
From an anonymous publishing company
On the outskirts of the slums around Lincoln Park, Michigan, chaos reigns. Most local businesses have long since left but, for one local business, life is good. An unknown local business owner offers a new you, at a cost. They focus on self-esteem, particularly in women, and offer a full spectrum of social and business skills necessary to succeed in today’s corporate America.
They believe that the end justifies the means, and when one signs up, the individual forfeits their rights, going down a rabbit hole of physical and psychological rebirth. One exits the program mentally and physically fit to do battle, fully qualified to perform to the constraints of the toughest business models.
Esteem can be a powerful weapon, a two edged sword wielding as much power verbally as it could physically. What would you do if you grew up being told that the sky was green and the grass was blue?
“You know you are never leaving this place, right? You don’t know the code, hon. What were you thinking?” Amanda said from somewhere in front of her but out of sight and muffled.
Summer did not speak; she kept looking around the room, standing completely still, completely quiet. Summer did not have any plans of leaving anytime soon; she had everything she needed right here, everything except Amanda.
“On the table there are three pain pills and a glass of whiskey, hon,” Amanda said.
Summer took small steps forward as Amanda spoke again, “Take the pills, crush them up, and place them into the glass, stir it with your finger and drink it down.”
Summer stepped forward again and off to the left side, going slightly toward the security door.
“Then you can sit at the table and wait to get sleepy,” she told Summer.
Summer looked for places that Amanda could hide, for places where she might be. She turned her head this way and that, looking for movement. Only Jake could be seen moving and an occasional twitch of pain from his girlfriends.
Summer still kept quiet, and waited for her to speak again; she wanted to get a better view of the couch.
“Come on, Summer, it’s either those pain pills, to stop your pain, to relax you, or it’s pain, hon. I’m sitting on the couch with a knife, a Taser, and a bottle of half-empty whiskey. You can join me after you finish your drink, if you like,” Amanda said half laughing.
Summer froze; she had not seen the Taser when she looked through the rooms. Summer already knew she was in trouble, but now she knew that she could not fight Amanda up close; she had to disable her from a distance. Just in case she took a knife from the table, she needed a weapon, just in case. She looked for heavy objects to use, and there were plenty of choices, just none that were available and not too close to the couch. For all she knew, she wasn’t even on the couch or even in the area of the TV. The Princess Bride continued to play; it was a good movie. She found it distracting.
“I’m not drinking that. I’m going to save it for you,” Summer said as she started walking up to the couch.
Amanda did not speak. Summer continued to work her way to the left side of the couch, keeping her back to the security door. It was too quiet, and as the seat of the couch came into view, it was empty. The movie continued to play, and except for that movie, there was not a noise to be heard; Amanda was somewhere close; she had to be.
It was a Tuesday evening unlike any other, and it was at exactly eight PM when the doorbell rang. Sharon walked across the floor on her way to the front of the apartment with slow, laborious steps. She leaned against the door and finding it hard to breath she opened it with her right hand, holding her chest with her left. The woman at the door looked at the woman standing in front of her holding her chest. Sharon took her right hand and using her index finger gave the woman the ‘just one second, please’ finger. She introduced herself as Miss Tallbright, from the agency of Takyur Skrtoff Formea, but Sharon had never heard those words. Sharon’s left hand was still helping her to breathe when she motioned the woman inside. The woman in the suit looked at Sharon and knew that their work would be cut out for them.
“I’m here to take you out to dinner and talk to you about your new career path; I’m your driver” the lady in the gray business suit said.
“A job interview, seriously?” Sharon asked.
“Of sorts” the driver replied. “We have an appointment that you cannot be late for, if you wish to discuss the job, that is.”
Sharon looked around the room, and having fully caught her breath from working out she wondered how long she had before they were to leave.
“Can I have a few minutes to freshen up?” Sharon asked.
“No problem. But we have to be on the road a quarter past” the driver said.
Sharon told the woman to make herself at home, and that she would be right back as she hurriedly disappeared down the hallway. The driver sat down on the couch and thought about the woman she had come here to collect. She was what they in the business called ‘eight-up’. It was not a reference to body size, not part of a scale; it was more of a ranking, the status of completeness, if you will. She needed help in becoming marketable, the lady thought.
Sharon walked down the hallway telling the woman that she was ready. She was sporting a black blouse and skirt, business professional, with shoes that were red enough to enable it’s wearer to teleport home safely upon clicking them together several times.
“Nice shoes” the lady said.
“Did I catch you at a bad time? It’s me, Detective Marcus” he said.
“Nah, I’m good” she sleepily said.
“Well, I have run into several questions on my investigation and I would like to meet with you this Friday, if you have time. ” He asked.
Summer felt instantly awake with excitement and anticipated all things good; “Any leads? Did you find her?” she asked.
“We have not found her yet, but we are closer now than before. Do you have time for those questions on Friday? I want to meet at a hotel near her apartment. We are still cleaning the room and reviewing evidence, but we should be finished by Friday. We have a lead, Summer, we have a lead”, he said.
“Sure, I’ll see you then” she said.
Finally, Summer thought. Finally there would be justice, she just hoped that Sharon was alive and in good health.
Marcus left his office in his normal, mundane way. It was a process flow that involved setting his out of office voicemail message, locking down his computer and placing it in his brief case, securing all manner of lockable drawers in his desk, taking his keys and turning off the lights. He did this day in and day out, and he tired of it all. At times he thought of his job as a way to meet women and nothing more. He cared; don’t get him wrong, it’s just that he had ulterior motives. He was drawn to the excitement of Sue, he heart longed for it. It wasn’t just sex, they talked about things, they went to museums, well one museum; they went out to dinner, well one dinner, anyway. He laughed as he closed his office door, and after locking it behind him, he felt immediate freedom; soon he would be with his girlfriend!
Travelling down the same roads that he used daily to get to and from his office he pulled into his driveway and waited for his garage door to open. He entered it and placed his Hummer in park, right next to Sue’s car. She was early, he thought, he didn’t mind though, tonight was a stay in night. It was one of his better Tuesday’s, he thought, and one that he looked forward to all week long. He did love spending time with her; she was taking him places that he had never been before, both physically and emotionally. He hurriedly entered the house, closing the garage door behind him.
Bounding up the stairs he made for the bedroom, where he was sure Sue would be resting, but the bed was still made and there was no girlfriend in sight. The water turned on in the bathroom and he opened the door to find her submerged in bubbles up to her ears. It was a funny scene, and one he took in for a minute or so while he smiled and laughed.
“Pick you up at home, right. Any room for me in there?” he said.
Sue told him she would be right out as she moved the bubbles away from her mouth.
“I’ll just wait in the bedroom then”, he told her.
“Nah, try the kitchen, hon. It’s already setup“, she told him.
Marcus undressed and walked down the stairs in only his birthday suit, turned the corner into his kitchen and stared in utter disbelief. There was a romantic dinner for two all setup, all cooked, and the smell of grouper and lemon hit him firmly in the face the closer he came to the table. He looked down, and then up to see Sue standing naked in the opposite doorway.
“A little under dressed, don’t you think?” she said smiling.
He looked down again and back at her, and laughed.
“Looks like we both are. I’ve never had dinner with a woman naked before” he softly said.
“Me neither. Shall we?” she said motioning to the table.
Dinner was great, and per usual, he was on pace to eat his entire plate as Sue took very small forkfuls. They talked about their day, and what they were going to do the next weekend. The small talk had hit a low when she started talking more about Summer. Marcus talked about what he had found, and then asked her about the meeting on Friday.
“Well, I know her from long ago; I just thought I could be present when you asked some questions about her specifically. I also have a score to settle, I won’t lie to you. ” Sue confided.
Marcus took another bite of grouper and waited for her to continue. A long time ago we were both in foster care; she was my sister, if you will, at least as far as my foster parents were concerned. We shared a lot of memories together, spending nearly four years of a young childhood in the same place. We both were mature for our ages and when we turned into women it did not go unnoticed by our foster dad. Marcus stopped eating and looked directly at her.
“Let’s just say that one time he came on to me for the first time, in our room. Summer was coming home from cheer leading practice and she found him on top of me. She walked over, undressed and sat on the bed, sliding next to me. He picked me up and she slid underneath; using her legs she spread mine out wide, and her hands cupped my breasts. She pulled my ear into her mouth and between sucking on it she told him to f**k me harder. She told him she wanted to feel the weight of both of us pressing down on her” she said as she stared at the wall behind him.
Marcus stopped chewing, sat up straighter in his chair, and did not say a word.
Sue looked away and said “I want to get her back for that, I just want her to feel helpless, like I did.”
He placed his fork on his plate at an angle, and looking up at his girlfriend with tears in his eyes asked her what her plan was.
Sabrina moved in close again, “So I ask you, can you leave this place, this job? Can you leave this behind? I mean, we’ll still have our f***ed up sexual appetites and off color romance, but we need to have a common respect for one another, from the beginning, with no hard feelings. ” Sabrina asked.
She removed Jake allowing Sue to speak.
Sue whispered “Yes. I say yes.” She replied to Sabrina’s requests.
“Get your rest, Sue, you are going to need it.” Sabrina said, in just a slightly louder voice.
She walked away to address Summer.
“Summer, I know you and Sue have had issues; that I understand.” Sabrina said.
She stared coldly at her, and continued to speak.
“Now I want you to understand that Sue and I are leaving, we are quitting all of this. We want nothing else with this place, the job, and all we want is each other”, Sabrina said coldly.
Summer listened and looked around, then came back to Sabrina, looking her in the eyes.
“If you follow us, or continue to track us, you will find the pair of us highly formidable; we won’t go down easy. We want to leave our past and start anew. I think I can take some of Amanda’s funds and use that to get us a nice start on our new lives. It’s the least she can do for what she’s put us through”, she told Summer.
Summer said “Go on.”
Sabrina continued, “So I want you to focus on the matters at hand. I offer Amanda to you as a present; you can practice on her and test your limits, your resolve, as if it has not been tested already. You can run this place, you have the smarts and you are level headed to boot. The two women in the other tubes can be your new assistants, and you can have most of Amanda’s funds, we won’t need much”, Sabrina said with a seductive voice.
Summer turned her head away from her, thinking Sabrina’s offer over.
Sabrina grabbed her chin and turned her around to face her – “I say again, I offer Amanda to you, for you to do with as you see fit. Exact revenge, play with her, return favors, if you will, I care not. What do you say then?” she asked.
“Remember, Summer, Amanda was in charge of all of this, yes Sue did some things to you, and yes she’s an adult, she could have chosen another path, but let her go. Let her go and get to working on Amanda. ” Sabrina said as she tried to convince Summer.
Summer thought about ways this could work out, what would happen, what could happen, too much to think about right now.
“Too much to think about right now” she said out loud.
“We don’t even know if we can trust one another, do we now?” she asked.
Sabrina said “Fine by me, I do understand what can happen, I’m just hoping that it doesn’t. Deal then, Summer?”
Summer looked up at the ceiling, thought about being free, and said “Deal.”
Sabrina glowed, she felt flush, all warm and toasty inside. She wanted to show Summer that she would honor her part of the arrangement.
“One minute, I’ll be back in one minute, have to get the keys.” She said excitedly.
Summer wondered how strong she would be, if she could defend herself, if it came to that, she did not know. She had not stood in a few days, from what she could remember. Sabrina returned with the keys, walking briskly towards her table. She fiddled with then until she found the right one, and then loosened the restraint on Summer’s left arm. Summer was slow and deliberate to move and stretch it, in a non-threatening way. Sabrina watched her closely, and thought for a few seconds about undoing the second arm.
She walked over to the other arm, smiled at her and then loosened it. It too was slowly stretched by Summer. Sabrina walked to her side, and told Summer that soon she would be free to walk around here as she pleased, and that Sue and her would be gone in the morning. Summer didn’t want that to happen.
“OK” she replied, “then I can’t allow that to happen, can I?” Summer said.
Sabrina side stepped and missed Summer’s first attempt to grab her but she predicted her move and was drawn in closely with Summer’s left arm. Sabrina and Summer exchanged very physical blows to their faces as they grabbed for hair, ears, noses, whatever could be latched on to. Sue listened intently but could not tell what exactly was happening, or who was in control.
Sabrina had leverage, standing higher and almost giant sized when compared to Summer being loosely secured to the table. Summer had the fighting style of an angry Dwarf; low to the ground and mean. Several blows glanced off of each other’s heads, not a lot of contact was being made and it would have upset most prime time viewers if they had paid to see this battle. Sabrina tried to distance herself, to pull away but found herself blocking and countering Summer’s strikes. Summer faked a punch to the left and followed it up with one above it, slightly higher. To do this, she had to let go of Sabrina’s hair, and took a chance. Sabrina saw the attack coming to the left and moved to the right to avoid it. That’s when Summer squeezed her arm around her head, catching both forearm and biceps against the sides of her head. She had seen this in wrestling, it was pretty good for rendering someone incapacitated; Summer knew this to be her only shot.
“This book will haunt me for a long time, but in a good way!”
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“’Bereft Reality’ is an interesting, if not surreal novel that pushes the boundaries of typical literature.”
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“This novel “Bereft Reality” reads like a steamy, X-rated soap opera! And I mean that in a good way :-). So much drama and what an emotional roller coaster!”
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“I enjoyed the easy flow and dark drama and original plot of “Bereft Reality”, and really liked the characters, especially Summer, Amanda, Sue. Happy that they were not cliché, cardboard cutouts but relatable and real…”