I lay on the floor with a throbbing knee and two still-squealing dogs and blinked into the darkness.
How the heck had a simple trip to the bathroom gone so wrong?
I replayed the events in my mind, delaying the inevitability of moving for a few more necessary seconds. The awakening to the awareness of need. The throwing off of covers in the past-midnight darkness. The swinging of one leg and then the next over the side of the bed. The standing. The first squeal as one foot landed on fur. The instinctive jerking away. Ah, yes, that’s where things began to go awry. The stumbling. The second squeal after another brush with fur. The spinning. The collision with the small staircase that allows the littlest of the fur-babies to access the bed. The tangling of feet and legs in stairs.
The crash. Knee on carpet. Shoulder on floor. Head into the closet door.
Sigh. I didn’t even need to go to the bathroom anymore.
End of story.
I settled back into bed at two am on a Sunday night in August. My knee still throbbed beneath the Bandaid, but the damage was relatively minimal. The pups were scattered around the floor like little landmines waiting to explode while I eased into the cocoon of sleep.
Then, my cellphone rang. I may have answered it swearing. I can’t be sure.
“Mom?” My favorite voice shattered the darkness and all hopes for sleep. “I need help. I think I’m in trouble over here.”
My pulse didn’t trip or flare or surge. It froze as it translated my son’s words. Over here was China where he had flown days before to begin his job as a professor of English at a university. Trouble could be a million horrible things, but in this case it was pressure to accept a different job (without being able to review a contract first) since his job had “suddenly” become unavailable. My son was caught in a classic bait and switch scam and nearly seven thousand miles separated us.
Project Get The Kid Out of China began immediately and two nights later, I held him in my arms. It was a prayer and not a swear that sprang from my lips on the night when the sequel to Sunday night finally ended.
Sequels. They’re damn hard to write. They’re even harder to live. But such was the dilemma I faced when my first book, Caught in the Crossfire, concluded. I had brought Jonathan on such a difficult journey as he moved from repression to acceptance of his sexuality. Like me, he’d landed on the ground in a heap (more than once!) and taken a few moments to try to make sense of things before he needed to move on. Now here’s the truth. It would have been easy to leave Jonathan in the car, driving home with his mom whose silence stretched further than the horizon of Lake Superior. We could have believed that they would find their way to each other through the love they shared. We could have dreamed about Ian visiting Jonathan in Minneapolis, strolling hand-in-hand through bookstores and sharing a strawberry rhubarb pie at a little café. On days of extreme optimism, we could have even imagined the guys sitting around Jonathan’s house while Ian and Jonathan’s mother got to know each other.
But dreams (and sleep) often elude us when the story continues. Such was the case with Searching for Grace. To all who had hopes for good times and easy transitions for Jonathan Cooper, I apologize, but sequels—like real life—are infinitely capable of tripping us up when we least expect it.
Juliann Rich’s second novel, Searching for Grace, came out with Bold Strokes Books on September 1st, 2014. The prequel, Caught in the Crossfire, released in June 2014. The final installment in the Crossfire Trilogy, Taking the Stand, releases in April of 2015.
Juliann lives with her husband and two chronically disobedient dogs in rural Minnesota. Her son is now grown and recently returned from a turbulent but short trip to China! Juliann is a PFLAG Mom who writes affirming young adult fiction and is particularly drawn to stories that shed light on the conflicts that arise when sexual orientation, spirituality, family dynamics, and peer relationships collide. You can read more about Juliann on her website at http://www.juliannrich.com.