Childhood sweethearts, Michael and Erica, thought they would have the prefect life together—the career, the house, the kids, the grandkids, the dying old holding each other’s hands. What they hadn’t planned for was for a car accident to take Michael’s life and leave Erica to face her future alone.
However, after discovering that Michael’s spirit has the ability to occasionally interact with the human world, they begin to wonder if they can’t make his presence on Earth permanent.
Although, with so many years gone by, can they reignite the flame that had fueled their teenage romance and more importantly can they live with the sacrifices they must make in order get back the future they lost?
“Do we really have to go to this stupid party?” Erica asked loud enough for her boyfriend, Michael, to hear on the other side of the door. She was unable to keep the whine out of her voice.
Standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom of Michael’s tiny apartment, Erica looked questioningly down at her Pirates of the Caribbean costume. She tugged on different sections of the outfit, trying to cover certain parts of her body without revealing others. Of course, Michael would have picked out the sexiest version of the costume he could find. Realizing that all of his frat brothers would be ogling her because of how much skin she was showing, she groaned.
Erica was supposed to be dressed as Elizabeth Swan, and surprisingly, she thought she pulled off the look. She didn’t think she would have worn anything like the outfit if Michael, her loving, doting, and sometimes piggish boyfriend, hadn’t picked it out for her. Michael was supposed to be in the other room putting on his Captain Jack costume.
“He had better be wearing the costume,” she muttered to herself. “If I leave this bathroom and he hasn’t changed, I’m going to strangle him.” The dressing up for the party had been Michael’s idea not hers. She had suggested they stay home and veg that Halloween, but her words had fallen on deaf ears. Despite her annoyance with the costume, she had to admit, she looked good even if she felt like a fool.
The costumes had cost a pretty penny to rent, and she had protested getting them; even more so when he told her he wanted the two of them to wear them to the frat party where they would definitely get stained or ripped or something worse. They would end up having to pay even more money for them, which was a whole other reason she didn’t want to wear the thing.
“My house is throwing the party, I have to go,” Michael said from the other room. His tone showed his annoyance at having to have the conversation again. He loved her, she knew he did, and she could tell she was hurting him by not wanting to go, but she didn’t think she could wear the outfit in public.
“But you don’t live with them,” she said, not at all helping her case. “I bet they won’t even notice we aren’t there.”
On that Halloween, Michael was a senior at the local university and majoring in business. His parents owned a small chain of pizza and sub shops spanning the northwest corner of the state. He had split his senior year, taking only half the classes he would have normally taken that semester, and taking the other classes the next semester, so that he could help with his parents’ newest restaurant. Because he spent so much time there, he had gotten his own apartment close to it, so that he could walk home from the restaurant after they closed to clean up and crash or study.
“All of them may not, but I promised Kevin and Travis I would be there, so I have to show. Come on, Erica, it won’t be that bad.” They both knew it would be…for her at least. She loathed such situations and gatherings, and he knew it and only asked her to attend a few a year. She loved him more than she hated them, so she went to make him happy.
Kevin and Travis were his childhood best friends. Erica had grown up with the boys as well, but they were his friends not hers. They were second in line under Erica on Michael’s “most important people in his life beside his parents and younger sister” list. Erica was first, of course. She had known him as long as Kevin and Travis, but when she and Michael had started dating in the tenth grade, she surpassed them in importance.
“Yes, it will, but fine, we’ll go, but can we please leave before midnight? I have to open the drive-thru window in the morning,” she begged while arranging and rearranging her outfit, and procrastinating about leaving the bathroom.
The bank she worked at was a decent place to work, and she wanted to stay in their good graces. She wasn’t one of those people who knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. She’d thought about a number of different occupations, even tried a few of them, but nothing seemed right for her. When her mom saw that she was excelling in all of her math classes at the university and had a healthy understanding of computers, she called her best friend, Stacy, the bank manager at First Union, and asked if she had a position open.
Stacy said she did, but it was only part time and the shifts were the ones that no one wanted. The bank was trying out some new things. One of which was staying open later on weekdays. This meant that Erica worked the four to eight shift four days a week and the eight to noon shift on Saturdays, giving her nineteen hours a week at minimum wage with a possible raise in six months and full time employment the next time a position became available. She’d been there for three months at that time, and Stacy seemed happy with her work, though no one appeared to be leaving anytime soon, to Erica’s dismay.
Erica was still taking classes, but only until Stacy hired her on full time and a bigger raise went into effect. College wasn’t for her, and her parents knew it. The only reason they were continuing to pay her tuition was because they wanted her to have as much of an education as possible, and they knew she would put forth as much effort as she could into the math, English, and art classes she was taking. If she actually graduated before a full-time position became available, then so be it.
Michael growled at her request to leave early, but didn’t argue—he didn’t agree either. Erica knew exactly what would happen. He would bring her home at midnight, stay with her for about a half an hour until she grew sleepy, then he would use his charms to convince her to let him go back to the party, which she would do because she thought he was that cute. Also, if she didn’t relent, he would sulk all night, and she wouldn’t get much sleep anyway.
“Fine,” he eventually said when she didn’t say another word or come out of the bathroom. “Now, will you please come on?” She could hear him pacing anxiously back and forth across the short room.
“I look ridiculous,” she said, looking at herself in the mirror one last time, wishing she had gone with him to the costume shop to pick out something else and wishing she had more confidence in herself to wear the costume. She looked good, or at least she thought she did, but she feared that others would make fun of her. She was too old to be that self-conscious, but years spent as a chubby child with braces and glasses had made her unsure of herself, despite all the love and attention Michael showered over her.
“I’m sure you don’t. That’s the hottest costume I saw at the rental place, and you’re the hottest woman I know, both of those things mean you’ll be the hottest woman at the party.” His voice was so clear that she knew he was outside the door.
“Kiss ass,” she said, exiting the bathroom with a happy grin on her face. He knew just what to say to make her smile.
He whistled loudly and came off the edge of the bed where he had plopped when he heard the doorknob turn. “Now, that’s what I’m talking about.” He took a step toward her, then looked down at his watch and swore.
“We aren’t going to be that late,” she said, annoyed at his impatience. It was only six-thirty and the party didn’t officially start until seven, but most people wouldn’t be there until at least eight or nine. Only Michael and his friends would be there on time, and that was just to get to the food before everyone else got there.
Michael’s parents always sent over a bunch of food for the boys before these big parties. They knew the guys would drink, so they hoped filling them with food would keep them from getting too drunk. There were always snacks at the party, as well, but they tried to be there for the real stuff.
“It isn’t that,” he said, stepping up to her and wrapping her in his arms. “Seeing you that way has made me all tingly in my nether region. I really want to have my way with you before we go.”
“Oh no, you are so not getting me out of this getup until the end of the night. Besides, you’re the one who insisted that we go to this party, so we’re going to this thing. Get off me,” she said, half-heartedly pushing him off her with a laugh to stop him from going any further was his kisses, which were already trailing down her neck and making her head fuzzy.
“Okay, okay, let’s go. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can leave,” he said, throwing his hands up and backing away a bit, though the leering expression on his face told her what he wanted to do.
“Are you really that eager to get back home?” she said teasingly, turning at the door to look at him. “You’ve been waiting for this party all week. It’s all you’ve been talking about.”
“Shut up. I know I have, but I want you more than I want to be with my friends,” he said, reaching out to grab her behind. She jerked out of his way and flung open the front door.
Erica made a mental note to herself to purchase the costume and wear it whenever he wanted to go somewhere she didn’t want to go. She wondered if it would be a good enough distraction to get her out of having to sit through hours and hours of watching football on television.
“You need help,” she said, laughing and walking out into the hall.
He flung the lock on the door and chased her down the hall, out of the building, and down the street. She laughed as they passed a young woman pushing a stroller. The woman turned to watch them as Michael caught up with Erica, grabbed her from behind, lifted her into the air, and started tickling her. The woman’s two-year-old daughter giggled and pointed at them. The momentum of Erica trying to get away from him while laughing spun them on the spot, and Erica saw the wistful look on the mother’s face.
Jennifer’s full name is Jennifer Lynn Powell Reynolds, and she is a thirty-four year old native of North Alabama. She is newly married. She and her husband, Russell Reynolds, tied the knot on Friday, September 13, 2013.
Jennifer has a Master of Fine Arts degree from National University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Alabama.
Writing has always been a large part of her life. In high school, her local newspaper published a large number of her poems, and she won numerous poetry and short stories awards. Since high school, she has worked on a number of different projects, but her focus has mainly been on acquiring her degrees.
She finished the first draft of her first novel, a post-apocalyptic piece titled Alone, around the time she graduated with her B.A. Since then, she has written numerous other novels, short stories, and poems.
Aside from spending her days immersed in the fictional worlds she creates, she works part time at Stained Glass Artistry and as a freelance developmental editor, copy editor, production coordinator, and eBook coordinator for a number of publishing companies.
Sneak Peek Of Outcast