One of the prior topics on the blog tour was the discussion regarding offering up segments of your books online as free excerpts as a way to get readers engaged with your writing, your style of writing, and the theme of the given story you’re sharing with them.
I then offered three existing links that are also offered below in the “About As Life Goes: Elementary” section, with the promise of a fourth, never released excerpt for your enjoyment.
With that, here is the never before released, As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt IV
The school bus pulled up to Ward Street, and only Melissa and Matthew got out at the corner. They crossed the street in front of the bus, and then it continued northbound past Boylan’s corner store on South Cherry Street.
“So, I saw Liz finally got around to saying hello to you,” Melissa said, with her head turned to watch Matthew’s expression while they headed down the street to her house.
“Yeah. I didn’t know her so well. You know, except from class. I thought she lived in this neighborhood somewhere, but she lives over on Blakeslee.” Matthew kicked some of the snow boulders forward on the sidewalk.
“That’s closer to the southeast side schools: Dag, and Lyman Hall.” Melissa slowed at her driveway cut. “This is my house. I’ll call my mom. You’ll have to wait on the porch. I can’t have anyone in when no one’s home. Especially a boy.”
“Have you had many boys here?” Matthew said, and immediately regretted blurting it out.
Melissa thought about the comment for a second and smiled. “No. You’re the first one I brought home.” She kissed him on the cheek then darted into the house.
Melissa closed the front door behind her and blew a lung full of air out of her mouth all at once. I can’t believe I did that. TWICE now! What was I thinking? When did I become this mushy girl? She headed into the kitchen and grabbed the phone that hung on the wall. She dialed the number to her mother’s workplace and stretched the long coiled cord to the phone so that she could look towards the front windows. She watched Matthew pace around on the porch.
“Corametrics—how can I direct your call?” the female voice on the other end of the phone asked.
“Um … Accounting, Mrs. Canton, please,” Melissa asked, unsure of herself.
“One moment, please.” The line went on hold.
Too many last names, Melissa thought with a slight frown as the hold music filled her ear. Diane Wakeford, Melissa Bancroft, Karen Canton, wife of Joseph Canton … ugh! I miss Dad. I guess Diane feels the same way. I know Mom just wants to be happy and have someone in her life …”
“Hello,” the woman on the phone said on her return. “Mrs. Canton is unavailable to take a call at the moment. May I take a message for her?”
“Um … no, thank you. I’ll try her later.” Melissa hung up. She hated to leave messages despite her mother asking her to call once she got home from school, especially now with Diane not around because of work.
What could I say? She thought as she rummaged through the drawer in the kitchen for a pen and a piece of scratch paper. “Can you tell her, her daughter called, and leave her the message that she’s going up the street to do homework with a nice boy?” I hate that. It’s stupid to call, and I’m going to get her yelled at and into trouble at work. Melissa looked back to the front windows while she started the note to her mother. Still, he is a nice boy. I wouldn’t mind getting yelled at if it meant spending time with him. I wonder what music he likes. Melissa looked down at the little heart shape she’d drawn on the piece of paper. “This boy is making me brain damaged!” she said aloud and with a huff. She crumpled the paper, tossed it into the trash, and started a new note:
“Mom—I went up the street to Colony Convenience, where Diane works, to study with Matthew Sanford.” Melissa paused her writing for a moment. “I need help with Geography, and Matthew is a wiz at it. I will come home with Diane when the store closes around six. Love you—Missy.”
Oh, that sounded ridiculous, Melissa thought, dropping the pen on the table and walking away from the note. It serves the purpose. It communicated where I am, whom I’m with, and how and when I will be home, even if it sounds dorky.
Matthew peered briefly in through the window to check how far into the house he could see. It was too dark to make out much more than a hallway into the house going past a flight of stairs. The room at the far end might be the kitchen. He could see Melissa’s outline in the poor lighting. From where he stood, it looked like she’d taken off her hat and pulled the phone from the wall to place a call. With the tiny amount of light coming from the kitchen, it was hard to make out much, but she did shake out her long black hair.
I never really noticed how long it was, Matthew thought. She always has it pinned up or under a hat. The bangs look cute. Matthew pulled his face away from the window and walked back and forth on the porch, shaking his head like a puppy might. When the heck did I become a girl’s hair expert?
A few moments later, after thinking about Baseball cards, Styx, and whether it would be cool to have cable TV and thirty-six channels for the first time, Matthew stopped walking when Melissa came out of the house.
“All set?” Matthew turned to step off the porch but stopped short.
“Yep, all set. I called my mother.” Melissa turned to him since he’d stopped. “Everything okay?”
“Yes,” Matthew said, waving his hand forward in a partial motion to the stairs. Melissa stepped forward and realized he was letting her go first. Once she appreciated that, she simply stepped off and walked at a normal pace. “So, your Mom was okay with things?”
“Well,” Melissa admitted, sheepish, “I didn’t reach her. She couldn’t take the call, and I hate leaving a personal message like that with the woman who takes the calls, so I hung up and wrote her a note.” Melissa turned half a step in front of him. “It’s not a huge deal.”
“Of course not.” Matthew nodded. “I leave my Dad a note all the time when I take off to do something. It’s so he knows where I am and that way he doesn’t worry.”
Matthew slipped on an icy patch but caught his balance. Melissa stepped forward with her head turned back and snorted with a quick laugh then slipped herself. Matthew reached forward and grabbed her, one hand low on her waist and another on her shoulder to stop her fall. He held her effortlessly while keeping his stance on the remainder of the ice. The cold winter air escaped both of their open mouths as the two of them stood looking at one another. A look of uncertainty overtook Matthew’s expression as he held her, and he stood her up to let her go.
Keep breathing, Melissa said to herself. Saying something now would be cool. “Thanks for catching me. No point in cracking my head open; I could ruin the rest of winter that way.” Oh my God! Stop talking. The remainder of the walk. Say nothing!
“Uh, yeah. No problem. Sorry. I didn’t mean to grab at you.” Matthew sounded nervous.
“Oh yeah, well, anytime,” Melissa said, stepping forward. Oh God, maybe I can get out into the road at the corner, and a car can hit me. “Anytime?” What is wrong with me? He caught me and couldn’t wait to let me go. He had such an awful look on his face.
Matthew became quiet and said nothing further, and the two of them continued over the next few blocks to the store in silence.
When they came up alongside the building of his father’s store they each looked up at Diane, who stared back at them through the glass. Matthew confidently stepped ahead of Melissa to open the door for her. She jittered just a little but then immediately calmed down once she sensed that strength of character coming from him again.
Melissa stepped in and took her hat off, and Matthew pulled the door closed. Diane waved over to them. “Hi.” She looked surprised to see her little sister. “What are you doing here?” she mouthed silently to her as Matthew turned his head away and toward the glass windows of the garage area.
“Just a second,” Matthew said, touching her softly on her lower back and over her heavy winter jacket. “I want to see what my Dad is doing and then I can introduce you.” Matthew stepped away, and Melissa felt a tingle from his light touch.
“What are you doing here?” Diane whispered sharply. “No way Mom said this was okay.”
“I called her. She couldn’t come to the phone, so I left her a note on the kitchen table,” Melissa said in a hushed tone, looking back over at Matthew, who’d stepped into the garage area.
“What if Joe sees the note? He’ll go ballistic!” Diane said as her voice began to come back to a normal volume with Matthew out of hearing range. The sounds of the power tools going on and off would certainly drown out their voices.
“You worry too much about stepfather Canton, Diane,” Melissa said, cracking wise. “You’re twenty-four; if I were twenty-four, I wouldn’t let him push me around the way he does you and Mom.”
“Well, you’re not me. And you’re not depending on him for a place to live like I am. You’re still a minor and Mom’s daughter. If she’s there, he sort of has to keep you. He can remove me at any time.”
“You know he works until eleven and doesn’t get home for half an hour after that. Longer if he stops at the club to play cards.” Melissa’s irritation showed in her voice.
“He’s a cute boy,” Diane said, trying to change the subject to something more light hearted.
“I suppose,” Melissa said, attempting to sound indifferent.
“That was a miserable effort to sound uninterested in him,” Diane said, giggling. “Fifth grade …” She gave a sigh. “What a wonderful time of change.”
“Is that when you started liking boys?” Melissa asked.
“It might have been over the summer,” Diane said. “It might have even been the start of sixth grade, but it was Danny Quintin. I’d had a crush on him since second grade. It blossomed into something around then. Well, for me at least.”
Melissa looked over at Matthew talking to his father. He motioned over towards the two of them. Noticing they were looking at him, Matthew waved to the two of them, looking directly at Melissa. The blood rushed to her face, turning it red, while Diane waved back.
“My God, you’re blushing. You must really like him,” Diane said with a smile.
“I do.” She bit her lip, nervous. “I don’t think he does, you know, like that.”
“Why would you say that?” Diane asked.
“Well, I slipped on the ice earlier and he caught me before I fell. He barely said anything to me and then couldn’t wait to let me go,” Melissa said with a sad tone in her voice, looking through the shop window at him.
Diane countered, “Well, he asked you to study with him, and he could study and do homework by himself or with one of his other friends, but he asked you instead.”
“He also said we might listen to some music. I assume if we finished early,” Melissa responded, and glanced at the floor shyly.
“An invitation to study and then listen to music too?” Diane said. “When’s the wedding?”
“Stop. Please. Tease me any other day like a sister might but please not today. Yes. I do like him. He’s nice. He’s polite. He talks to me like I’m anyone. He knows I’m a girl, but he treats me the same as any of his friends. I like that. All the way home on the bus I talked, and he listened and he talked and I listened. It was better than talking to Carrie or Alecia.” Melissa turned to look at him again, and then turned around and looked at Diane. “I know I give you a lot of flak about Steve. I’m sorry. He treated you like crap as if he owned you. I’m not sorry to say I was happy when he kicked you out because that meant you got to come home and be with us. I like having you there.” She closed her eyes as tears welled up in them. “I’m sorry I was hard, saying what I felt, while that was all happening and when you first came home. I could have found a better way to tell you.”
“I know, Missy, and I understand,” Diane said. “That’s your style. Straightforward and from the hip. Someday, when I grow up, I want to be like you.”
Melissa wiped a stray tear away as the garage door opened, and Matthew and his father walked into the store area.
“Missy,” Matthew called out to her, “this is my Dad. Dad, this is Melissa, Diane’s sister.”
“Hi,” Mark said as he brushed his hands on his work pants. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m a little dirty, sorry.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Sanford,” Melissa said with a smile.
“Did you want a soda or anything before you go study? Matthew said that he asked you here and that no one was at your house.” Mark motioned toward the coolers.
A car pulled up to the fuel pumps, and Mark turned his head to look out.
“You seem to get a lot of cars through the fuel pumps,” Melissa said, looking out the windows as well. “I saw a few coming and going last week when I stopped in here with my Step Dad. He says you have the cheapest fuel in town.”
“Well, we have the location here on Route 5 and it’s on the corner; that’s certainly a traffic pull, but the main attraction is that we do have the lowest cost for fuel in town. It’s because we did away with the full-service pumps and have people pump fuel themselves, unlike most of the other stations, so we’re able to shed that cost and pass the savings along to the customer.” Mark gave a gentle laugh. “Honestly, I’d like to sell more coffee. I earn more per unit.” Mark looked over at Diane then back to Melissa. “The work I’m doing out there …” He pointed over his shoulder. “… converting two of the bays into more store space; I’m going to sublet that out. Your sister gave me that idea.”
“She’s smart like that,” Melissa said with a wide smile and turned toward Diane. “She’s pretty and kind, too. When I grow up, I want to be like her.”
The words from Mark and Melissa overwhelmed Diane, and she began to cry a little, so she turned her head away and tried to look busy. Matthew went over to the display of paper products and grabbed a small box of facial tissues for her. “Thank you,” she said, then sniffed and dried her eyes.
Matthew nodded and took Melissa by the hand to head into his Dad’s office area to do homework.
Mark watched them round the corner and turned back to Diane. “Are you okay?”
“Oh yes,” Diane said with a sniff. “Complements are scarce at home.”
“I’m sorry about that.” Mark sounded sympathetic. “They shouldn’t be in general, but especially not at home.”
“I can see where Matthew gets his kindness.” Diane leaned over the counter. “I think my sister likes him. You know. Like a girl likes a boy,” she said in a soft whisper.
“Oh,” Mark said, caught somewhat off guard. “Well, I guess I’ll need to have ‘that’ conversation with him soon. At least it’s a nice girl like your sister.”
Diane laughed a little. “She’s nice, but she’s tough too.”
“Matthew can use the challenge. Besides, if she’s anything like you, it’s worth any potential negative,” Mark said as he backed away and turned to head to the garage. “I mean that. Your idea for these two bays is very progressive. I’m encouraged that it will be successful. All I need now, really, is someone to operate that final garage bay for all the things I can’t do.”
Diane took on that intense look that she had when she focused on something. Mark could almost feel the look on him. The bell on the door rang as the customer came in to pay for his fuel. With Diane turned away to collect the payment, Mark headed back out to the garage.
About As Life Goes: Elementary
“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.
As Life Goes: Elementary – Links to Excerpts
As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt I
As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt II
As Life Goes: Elementary – Excerpt III
Books and links
Before Another Sunset (The Sunset Series Book 1)
Another Sunset (The Sunset Series Book 2)
I Hero: The Beginning
I Hero: Nathan Returns
As Life Goes: Elementary
As Life Goes: The End of the Innocence – (expected November 2015)
As Life Goes: The Reunion – (expected April 2016)
As Life Goes: The Wedding (expected July 2016)
As Life Goes: The Funeral (expected October 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 3 (Expected first half 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 4 (Expected second half 2016)
I Hero: Untitled Book 5 (Expected first half 2017)
Social Media links
Twitter – @GUNDERSTONE https://twitter.com/gunderstone/
Facebook Author page – https://www.facebook.com/jzandri
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonzandri
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+JasonZandri/
Author blog – The GUNDERSTONE Review https://gunderstone.wordpress.com/
ABOUT JASON ZANDRI
Jason has been working in the information technology field in one form or the other since 1996. He is currently employed full time at Bloomberg LP as a Systems Engineer in the R&D group. Jason lives in Wallingford Connecticut, with his wife Renata. He is the father to four children, three boys and 1 girl – 11 years (Andrew), 9 years (Angela), 7 years (Adam) and 6 years old (Alex).