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TITLE: Women of Promise
By Kristin Slavik

This a draft of a first chapter to a contemporary womens fiction novel. The story is about the lives of six friends and this book centers around the upcoming marriage of one of the friends. Please let me know about flow, pace and characters as well as any general advice about the piece. Thanks!
Chapter One

The group took over more than half of the small wedding boutique. The saleswoman appeared frazzled as she tried to accommodate the diverse tastes of the six women. Just as one would declare their love of a certain dress, two or three others would say that they could never wear that style.

Lane smiled. This was exactly the way it should be. All of her friends together, helping her plan for her wedding. Even one year ago this never would have happened. Circumstances had separated them; some by miles and others by the changes in life that can cause any of us to lose touch. But recently they came back, one by one, each remembering the bonds between them that went beyond circumstances.

The girls continued to inspect every dress, searching for that perfect one. Lane couldn’t wait for the big day. She was finally going to have her fairy tale ending. After a series of broken relationships this seemed almost too good to be true.

Suddenly, Lane became dizzy and her hands began to shake. She closed her eyes and balled her hands into fists, pushing the symptoms aside. This is normal, right? All brides go through this. I just need to breathe. A few deep breaths later she felt a little better. Convincing herself that it was just wedding jitters, she refocused on the group.

“Lane, what about this one?” her sister Lauren shouted from across the room.

For a few moments silence overtook the room as Lane took in the simple chiffon dress. The cut was perfect, a sleeveless dress with a straight skirt and a knee length hem. Amy stepped out from behind Lauren with the same dress in other colors. Lane hadn’t picked a color for the bridesmaids yet, but having each of them in a different color would be perfect. The color choices would allow each of the women’s’ unique looks to be the focus.

“I need to record the date and time – I have never seen this group speechless. This must be it.” Lane said with a twinkle in her eye.

A chorus of cheers and murmurs of agreement went around the room. The saleswoman was beaming, happy to find consensus among the boisterous group.

After Lane made sure the shop had the correct sizes, Theresa suggested they go to the corner coffee shop for pie to celebrate. The chatter continued down the street and into Millie’s Coffee House.

Lane pulled open the café door and was assaulted by a wave of aromas. The smell of fresh coffee and dark chocolate rushed past her. She inhaled deeply; she loved this place. Scanning the room for a spot big enough for her large group, she found two empty tables in the back. She guided everyone to her find and moved the mismatched tables and chairs together to form one large table. The rest of the diner was similarly contrasted, somewhat cute and eclectic, somewhat shabby and yard sale. The clatter of dishes, the bell on the door and the starts and stops of many conversations made it sound even more crowded than it actually was. Lane brushed her had across the bumps on the table, evidence of many years of patrons scratched into its surface. Her friends conversations had lulled for a moment and the waitresses took the opportunity to take their order. Lane already knew what she wanted; she always had the same thing. Her mouth watered at just the thought of the incredibly sweet banana cream pie. She placed her order and turned her attention back to her friends.

“I can’t believe Lane’s wedding is only two months away.” Cassie’s statement came with a wistful tone. Lane knew Cassie wanted nothing more than to be married, but with major responsibilities and no prospects on the horizon that did not seem likely.

“Only two months? It’s about time that boy finally marries her. Lane and William were always meant to be together, even if it took him years to realize it.” Lauren put on the theatrics and drug out ‘years’ into at least four syllables. Even among her friends she was all about her next part. She was trying out for a touring performance of ‘Hello Dolly’ and had been pouring the southern accent on everything.

Lane rolled her eyes. “Oh, please Lauren, you know that Will and I have not been dating that long. Just because we knew each other as kids…” Lane’s voice trailed off as she noticed the uncomfortable stares of the others and she decided to back off Lauren for now. Even when they were little, Lauren had always demanded to be the center of attention. Maybe someday she would decide to grow up.

Cassie took the opportunity to change the subject. “Well, has anyone been over to the Hansen’s’ lately? I heard they still haven’t been doing to well since Meg died.”

At the mention of Meg, Lauren closed her eyes for a moment and remembered her friend. In high school, Meg had been friends with the most of the group. A year ago she had been involved in a car crash that killed her instantly and injured her young son, Charlie. Lauren could tell anyone exactly where she was when she heard the news of Meg’s death. She had been moving into a new apartment, making a new start after a relationship that ended badly. She was excited and called Meg to ask her to come and see her new place. The person that answered her phone was not Meg, but a hospital attendant. He told her that Meg had been in an accident. They had been trying to contact her family without success and Lane was left to gather everyone together. Truth be told, it was Meg’s death that had brought the rest of them back together. Knowing everything could be changed in an instant had been a tough reminder of how fragile life is. Lane knew that for Kelly, Meg’s death had been especially hard. She and Meg had been like sisters.

“I haven’t been able to go see them, but I really should. Business is booming these days and I have not had time to even think about it.” Theresa was always doing three things at once and as she talked she was scrolling through her phone text messages.

Amy rolled her eyes in Theresa’s direction. “I brought the Hansen’s some muffins a couple of weeks ago. They are doing the best they know how. They are trying to get past the anger so that they can focus on their grandson. I know they want to see you, Kelly.”

“I’m just not ready to visit them yet, maybe soon. Tell them I said hello,” Kelly said in a whisper.

“It’s OK to miss her Kelly. We can’t act like she was never here. I guess we never know how much time God is going to give us.” Cassie spoke softly holding Kelly’s hand.

“There we go with the God thing again. God can’t make things better, Cassie. If he exists then he is the one who took her away. I am not sure I want any part of that kind of God.” Kelly’s words were bitter.

Lane knew Kelly needed to work through her anger, but now was not the time. She tried to change the subject. “Well I am just glad we are all back together for my wedding. Now what were the plans for next week? I need to clear William’s schedule if we need him there.”

“Listen to her, ‘I have to clear William’s schedule’,” Lauren mimicked. “She has that boy wrapped around her little finger I tell you.”

The group started laughing at Lauren’s comment and the conversations moved around the table about various love interests and couples in town that the group knew. Before long they made their excuses to leave one by one, promising to be in touch before the next wedding planning session. Lane and Amy remained at the table in comfortable silence. After a while Amy looked at Lane. “I hope you know how lucky you are,” she said softly.

“I feel pretty lucky these days. What’s going on Amy? Is something wrong at home?” Lane noticed her friend’s eyes had clouded over.

“I just don’t know if I can take it much longer. I feel like I am married to a stranger. We live in the same house and sleep in the same bed, but we don’t talk. As soon as I say anything Jason gets mad and defensive and then he usually leaves. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t even want to go home right now. I rather put it off as long as possible.” The tears began to stream down Amy’s face.

“Oh, Amy, I had no idea. I am so sorry.” Lane grasped her friend’s hand, not knowing anything more she could say. When Amy didn’t respond, Lane chose to let the silence be for a few minutes.

She tried to think of the best advice she could give Amy. What would she do if William shut her out? Of course, William would never do that, would he? How sure could you be that the one you loved would always confide in you, always love you?

She pushed the mounting doubt from her mind and concentrated on stirring her tea. Amy sat seemingly frozen, staring straight ahead of her. The tears had stopped, but the empty look remained.

Lane wondered when life had gotten so complicated. She remembered the six of them in school. They had been more worried about fashions and cute boys than the realities of life. The truth was the simplicity of those days had been forgotten long ago. How could she best help her friend?

“Amy, what do you want to happen?” Lane asked, breaking the silence.

“I don’t know. I can’t take the kids away from their dad, but how can I live like this?” Amy sighed.

Suddenly, Lane had an idea. “Amy, why don’t you let William and I take care of the kids for a night for you? I have plenty of room and it might do us good to see how we would handle kids together.” She started to talk faster as her mind raced through the possibilities. “We could get the kids dinner and a movie, it would be great! Come on Amy. What do you think?”

Amy breathed a sarcastic laugh. “I don’t think it would matter at this point, but if you are serious I will think about it. I guess my kids deserve to have me at least say I tried to make it work.”

Lane’s eyes danced with excitement. This would work, she knew it would. Suddenly, Lauren felt another wave of dizziness and her hands started the tremble that was becoming a little to familiar. She closed her eyes and tried to take a deep breath. This time it did not stop.

“Lane, are you Okay?” Amy sounded concerned.

“I’m fine, just tired,” she lied. This had actually been happening often lately. Wedding jitters, she told herself again. Every bride went through this. The voices in her head were less and less convincing.
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