Everybody’s Got a Story
written by Heather Wardell
published by Heather Wardell
Why did I pick this book: I participated in the blog tour hosted by CLP Blog Tours. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: I did enjoy this book. I read it every free chance I had and I wish I had had more free chances so that I could have finished it sooner.
Everybody’s Got a Story is well-written and the characters all have their own story as well. (Not surprising given the title of this book. But it made for a really interesting book.) We learn some of the stories, but not everyone’s. I disliked Howard from the beginning. He was chauvinistic and arrogant. I couldn’t believe Alexa went for him at all. Carly was another one that I saw through from the very beginning. She is conniving and manipulating. One of those people you love to hate and just shake your head at because of her ridiculousness. Jake and Rosanna were true friends. I loved them both for many reasons.
Alexa is a strong woman trying to regain that strength and self-confidence. She is trying to trust again. A few things struck me as odd though. First, if she moved to another city in another country to get away from everything and to start over, why on earth would she give Lance—A REPORTER!!!!—her location? Why didn’t she change her email address and truly start over? She could have given out the new one to those she wanted to keep in contact with. That made no sense to me whatsoever. And second, she was very upset that someone (Mike in this case, who I also loved) could write such a horrific novel with such a horrific protagonist. I understand how hard it was for her to read that book and why she would be upset that someone could make that stuff up. However… Alexa is a crime fiction editor. She helps make those horrific stories better. Why isn’t she upset with herself? What does that say about her according to her own thoughts? Other than that, she was an excellent character. Her growth and healing were real. I felt for her. I rooted for her. I wanted her to trust herself and others, especially one person in particular.
The story moved and was a relatively quick read. There were a few spots that had me laughing out loud. I would read more from Ms. Wardell.
Would I recommend it: I would recommend it if you like women’s fiction.
Will I read it again: I will not.
About the book: Both personally and professionally, Alexa knows all too well the power of words. Two years after her boyfriend Christophe’s vicious attack, she’s still trying to see herself as more than simply ‘his victim’, still trying to figure out her own story.
This excerpt comes from Chapter Eight, one of my favorite parts of the book, in which Alexa decides to get a cat.
When I got into my apartment, I tried to relax but I couldn’t. The place didn’t feel like a home. The apartment wasn’t any more beige than it had been when I moved in but somehow the lack of color was bothering me more than before. There was no life to it.
I went through my closet and found my brightest scarves, which I layered over the tops of the curtain rods and along the back of the couch and chairs. Those flashes of color did relieve the beige, but they didn’t fix my mood. Even with my eyes closed so I could see no beige at all I wasn’t happy, and that made it clear to me that my problem wasn’t the color of the apartment so much as the feel of it. I was alone here, completely alone. Alone and lonely.
Rosanna’s wish for a cat to greet her when she got home came to mind, and I realized I felt the same way. I didn’t like not having anyone or anything happy to see me.
A quick Internet search found me a nearby pet supply store that had partnered with an animal shelter to display some cats awaiting adoption, so I could get one tonight if I wanted to.
Did I, though? I didn’t want to be alone any more, but a pet was a big step.
I spent a few minutes scribbling in my notebook to get my thoughts a little clearer, then left the apartment and was soon walking the several blocks toward the store. Step by step I analyzed the pros and cons, mostly the same ones I’d already written in my notebook. I’d have someone to cuddle with when I woke up miserable in the middle of the night, but then some cats weren’t the cuddling type so mine might not be either. I wouldn’t be alone, but I also wouldn’t be able to go away for a week without making arrangements for the cat. I’d no doubt fall in love with it, but then someday I would lose it and that would hurt.
I’d just passed a small park by the road when that particular con occurred to me, and I went back and sat on a bench where I could soak up the setting sun’s last rays and think.
It would hurt to lose my cat someday, no question. But was it better not to have the enjoyment of it now to save myself the hurt later?
If I’d known how badly things would end with Christophe, would I ever have started with him?
I wriggled my shoulders to release tension at the thought. No, of course I wouldn’t have. I would have if we’d just had a normal breakup, but once the cops break down the door it can’t be called a normal breakup. If I’d known what he would do to me I would never have given him the chance.
But I hadn’t known. I hadn’t had a clue. Maybe you could never really know what people would do, what they were planning and thinking. With how badly I’d misread Christophe, clearly I wasn’t good at recognizing that stuff.
Cats, though. They were much simpler. They did sometimes act weird, as I’d seen with friends’ cats in the past, but nothing like the way a person could hurt you. A cat was safer, but still company.
I left my bench and began walking again, and was soon in the store looking through a large glass viewing wall at cats in cages that lined the back wall of a small room. Some were near their cage door meowing at me, some were asleep or staring off into space, and one little black one–
“Can I help you?”
I turned and took a breath to say yes, then recoiled as if the man had slapped me.
He was wearing Christophe’s cologne. I hadn’t smelled it since the attack, and the scent flooded me with instant and unbearable fear.
He blinked, confusion flooding his round face. “You okay?”
I took as subtle a step backward as I could. “Yeah, fine.” I took a breath through my mouth so I wouldn’t be able to smell him and said, “I’d like to adopt a cat.”
“Great. Any one in particular?”
I moved several feet away from him, hoping he wouldn’t follow. He had been standing a little too close, but without the cologne I would have been only mildly uncomfortable. With it, though, I could hardly keep myself together.
I wanted to run away, but I also wanted the cat I’d been studying when he arrived. “I was thinking about the black one. The tiny one. Or is it too young?”
He shook his head. “She’s three months old. She was found in a sack down by the river. Some jerk tried to drown her and two others. The others didn’t make it but she managed to survive somehow. Poor little thing.”
She and I had been looking into each other’s eyes when he arrived, and I had felt like we understood each other somehow. Now maybe I knew why. “Can I pat her?”
In answer, he unlocked the door to the small room. “Come on in. We’ll close the door so she doesn’t end up running all over the place. Although she’s more likely to hide in the corner. She’s not the world’s friendliest cat.”
With what she’d been through, no wonder.
I went into the room and he closed the door behind us and I struggled not to panic. Though he was easily twice Christophe’s age and looked nothing like him the smell of him was overwhelming.
He removed the little cat from her cage, set her on the floor, and said, “Why don’t you sit down there with her? I’ll fill out the paperwork for you. If it turns out she’s not the right one, we can try another.”
Fortunately his desk and the paperwork was at the other end of the room, and as the cologne’s smell faded so did my terror.
My intense focus on the cat probably helped with that, though. When I sat near her she sat too and stared at me, her yellow eyes wary. I reached out toward her, slowly, but she leaped back and again sat staring at me.
She didn’t trust me.
I couldn’t blame her after the drowning thing.
I sat still, waiting, with the hand I’d reached out resting on the floor between us. I wouldn’t rush her.
She took a step forward, after a full minute, then sat down again.
The guy scraped his chair back, scaring the stuffing out of me and the cat, and walked to us. He scooped up the cat from the corner she’d scuttled into at his approach, ignoring her struggling, and leaned down over me to plop her into my lap. “She’ll be fine once you cuddle her a bit,” he said, while I closed my arms around the cat and fought with the dread his smell sent skulking through me. I could almost see it, rolling off him like waves of dark evil and bringing all my memories of the attack with it.
Returning to his table, he said, “You have had a cat before, right?”
I didn’t know whether that was a requirement to adopt, but as I held the shivering cat in my arms I knew I would say whatever I had to so I could take her home. She’d be better off with me, despite my cluelessness, than with him. “Of course,” I said, gently sliding my fingers over her thick plushy fur and letting the softness of it soothe me. “I just didn’t want to scare her.”
He dropped into his chair. “She’s fine now. See?”
No thanks to him, she did seem to be. I’d have expected her to scramble to get away, but once he’d given her to me she’d burrowed in like she felt safe with me. Or maybe she was just frozen in fear, but I didn’t think so because her shivering was settling down. I did make her feel safe.
Well, we were even, because I felt safe with her too.
I rubbed behind her ears and she closed her eyes in pleasure. “Good girl,” I murmured. “It’ll be okay.”
She looked up at me and opened her mouth but nothing came out for a second. Then she gave the tiniest little meow, more of a squeak.
“I think she likes you. You like her?”
“Definitely. Does she have a name?”
“Girl who found her was Christine so they named her that.”
No way I’d keep it. Too close to Christophe.
“But I don’t think it suits her,” he added, surprising me. I wouldn’t have thought he’d care what name suited the cat.
“What should she be instead?” I rubbed behind her ears again. “Do you have a name, honey?”
“I like Midnight, because she was found at night.”
This was the kind of guy who’d name a brown dog Brownie and think he was being original. “Not bad,” I hedged. “Do I need to decide now?”
He laughed. “You sign the form and pay the adoption fee, you can call her whatever you want. Ready to sign?”
I was indeed. I signed, and paid, and bought all the supplies she’d need, then called a taxi for myself and my new friend.
Back in the apartment, I let her out of the cardboard carrier he’d provided for her and sat on the couch to see what she’d do.
She stood still for a moment, then moved to the nearest wall and began walking.
Like a soldier on patrol, she followed every wall around the apartment, even touring my bedroom and bathroom. She walked the entire perimeter without changing her pace or stopping to investigate anything in more detail, and I watched her when I could see her and listened to her claws ticking rhythmically against the hardwood when I couldn’t, feeling fascinated.
Then I felt sick.
The first night after I’d been released from the hospital, I’d stayed in the small Chelsea apartment my parents had rented for me at my request since I knew I’d never again be able to face the one I’d lived in with Christophe. They’d wanted to spend the night on my sofa bed so I wouldn’t be alone, but I’d wanted to be alone.
At least, I had until they’d left. Then I’d been terrified that Christophe would break in, even though I’d known he was securely locked up and even if he’d somehow escaped he didn’t know where I was. I hadn’t been able to relax until I’d walked around the apartment and checked every lock on the door and every window and even the long-boarded-up fireplace in case he could somehow get at me.
My new little friend was doing the same thing, perhaps. Checking to make sure nothing bad could happen to her.
She sat on the floor near me and gave that tiny adorable squeak of a meow.
“Pretty girl,” I murmured. “I’ll take care of you.”
She looked past me, out the window. I did too, and above the city’s lights I saw the stars in the dark sky, as bright as her eyes against her black fur.
I didn’t want to name her after the darkness.
Star? Starlight? Celestial?
My editor self kicked in, telling me to be less literal.
She meowed again.
About the author: Growing up, I was an avid (rabid?) reader. I am a natural speed reader, regularly clocked at about 1200 wpm (I read Harry Potter 5 in just under three hours), and always have several books on the go, nearly all in e-book form on my Kindle.
I have always made up stories in my head, but never considered becoming a writer. Instead, I intended to be a high school music teacher. I was sidetracked by my enjoyment of my psychology courses in university, and ended up with a psychology degree with a concentration in computer science.
This took me to a major Canadian bank as a software developer. I stayed there for just over four years, and then went back to school to become an elementary school teacher. After four years teaching elementary school computer science, I took up the National Novel Writing Month challenge and attempted to write a novel in a month.
I succeeded, and the first draft of “Life, Love, and a Polar Bear Tattoo” was the result. I realized I love writing. I left teaching, and I haven’t looked back since!
In my non-writing time, I read, run, swim, crochet, take care of my 55 gallon aquarium and my cat Trinity, and play drums and clarinet. Generally not all at once.
**Everyone who leaves a comment on the tour page will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Anyone who purchases their copy of Everybody’s Got a Story before November 4 and sends their receipt to Samantha (at) ChickLitPlus (dot) com, will get five bonus entries.**