Stronger Ever After

I’m excited to share with you, my Stronger Ever After novella in anticipation of the soon-to-be-released, Loving Vintage!  Woman holding bunch of garments in shop, closeup

Stronger Ever After is the story of vintage clothes stylist, Mimi Shepherd and her teen daughter, Willow before they discover the Loving Vintage upscale consignment shop.

Mimi Shepherd wants out of the contemporary fashion shop where her style savvy job is bullied, but financial need requires a stiff upper lip in order to stay put.

When daughter Willow experiences similar bullying and turns down an unlikely path, Mimi must confront the bullying issues and become stronger ever after.

Please enjoy Part I of five parts as I introduce these characters!

Stronger Ever After

Mimi Shepherd lingered with her customer while a colleague sales associate punched the purchase into the terminal of the upscale, contemporary designer-wear shop. The customer’s broad smile made her day. Mimi had styled the stunning outfit for the shopper who’d given her a quick thumbs up and a satisfied exhale when she’d emerged from the fitting room.

“Have a great weekend,” the customer chortled, directing her thanks to Mimi. She grasped her bagged purchase with one hand, and flipped her scarf an extra loop with the other.

The sales associate hadn’t flattered the customer on her selection, or shown enthusiasm for the garment that would add, what the store manager had emphasized during their last team meeting, a “spark of delight to every purchase.” In fact, the associate hadn’t said a word and dedicated herself fully to entering the transaction, casually folding the items and stuffing them into a shopping bag. It wasn’t for Mimi to say anything. She ran a hand through her auburn curls to loosen them from the tangle they’d made with her heavy  green malachite statement necklace and made her way back to Fine Knitwear.

The columns of folded cashmere cropped cardigans, displayed in soft stacks of Sangria, Aurora Red, and Radiant Orchid, produced a smile. And of course, the Misted Yellow, her favorite, produced the pop in the display. As visual merchandiser, she’d received corporate push-back when she first presented her display selections. Corporate couldn’t estimate how the cut of the quality cardigans in luxe fall colors was breathtakingly on-trend. She was right. The cardigans moved so fast, she needed to bring out more to keep the display temptingly full.

On the way to the stock room, her cell vibrated. Was it Willow? She walked with more purpose to cross accessories and make it into the back office area to take the call.

“Mom, I don’t feel so good.” Her daughter’s teen-age voice faltered.

Again? The second time this week. Mimi kept her voice low. Personal calls were discouraged, but there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her daughter. If it ever became an issue, she’d make that clear.

“What’s wrong honey, your head? Stomach, like Tuesday?”

Thirteen-year-old Willow didn’t answer.

“Honey? Tell me.” Another silence.

“Can you come get me?”

Mimi dropped her head and closed her eyes at her daughter’s tentative plea, then looked at her watch. Too early to bundle the time in with lunch, especially since she’d already done that earlier in the week. After returning her daughter home from school, Willow had gone straight to her room. There was no temperature, no other symptoms. When Mimi went to her daughter’s room to check in, Willow had to remove ear buds and Mimi heard the muffled percussion of a tune blasting away.

“I couldn’t get Daddy.”

A sudden coldness hit at her core.

“You called Dad?” When did Willow call Jeff first? They’d been separated for eight months that seemed like years if you added in the actual time they’d been drifting apart.

“I don’t feel good, Mom,” Willow whined. “Are you coming?”

Mimi let out a breath. There was no alternative. “I’ll be there.” She heard footsteps as she ended the call. Barb passed on her way to the break room fridge.

“Barb,” Mimi said, turning toward her. “Sorry, but I’ve got to run and take my daughter home from school.”

Barb turned from the fridge with an energy shake in her hand and tilted her head for an explanation.

“She says she’s not feeling well, maybe she’s not finished yet with whatever it was before.”

Barb nodded, closed the fridge, and pinched open the paper carton before sitting down at the table.

“Look, I’ll call you when I get her home. I’m pretty sure I can leave her and be back this afternoon.”

“Sure,” Barb replied. She gave her an indulgent smile before kicking her head back and taking a long swallow directly from the carton. “I want to talk schedule when you get back.”

Schedule? Steely cold and able to cut emotionally ragged wounds, Barb was appropriately named. Mimi nodded. She moved to her locker and entered its code. What now?

“Good, we’ll talk then. Thanks, Barb.” She removed her bag and keys before hurrying out to the car.

♥  ♥  ♥

Hope you enjoyed meeting these characters. Part 2 follows soon!

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