Here is Chapter 1 of my new novel. If it whets your appetite, you can pre-order it at Amazon. Those who pre-order The Upside of Down by November 18, 2010 can be entered into a drawing for a $50.00 gift certificate from Amazon. Details for the contest are here.
He whipped around and finished placing the order for his family. He instructed his wife where to sit in the dining room.
Natalie’s cheeks throbbed. Rage-induced shaking overtook her body. His vicious words hung in the air, reminding her that she did not want to fight with him. Yet she desperately wanted to reach out to this innocent girl and her helpless mother.
“Next?” the cashier’s voice rang out, but Natalie, still paralyzed by the confrontation, didn’t move.
“Mommy?” Mariah tugged on Natalie’s shirt.
Natalie stepped up to the counter.
The cashier, a teenage girl with large brown eyes and a nose piercing, said, “Can I take your order?”
Natalie tried to concentrate on the menu. “I . . . I,” she stammered.
“He ain’t no kind of dad talkin’ like that,” the cashier said. Her gaze darted to the table where the family sat.
Natalie cleared her throat. “No. He’s not.”
“Poor kid. She can’t help it.”
“I want a cheeseburger. And a toy,” Mariah said.
“Toy,” Bradley said, his blond curls bobbing up and down with his vigorous nodding.
“I guess we’ll have two kids’ meals. Cheeseburgers. With Sprite to drink.”
“I’ve lost my appetite.” Natalie gave a weak smile.
“I don’t blame you. He should be ashamed of himself, actin’ like that.” The cashier rang up the order.
Natalie searched the dining room for an empty table and found one much too close to the young family. They sat down, and Mariah grabbed her cheeseburger. She took a bite and then slurped her soda while Bradley played with the action figure that came with his meal. Natalie was grateful they were both entertaining themselves.
“Eat your lunch,” the man said to the little girl in a rough voice.
Then he turned to his wife, “What’re you lookin’ at?” He paused for a moment.
“What? You think I’m proud to have a retard for a daughter? She can’t even do nothin’ but stare at me with those bug eyes. I’m tellin’ you, we shoulda given her to them people when she was born. She ain’t ever gonna do nothin’.”
Natalie closed her eyes to stop the tears. She couldn’t believe anyone could be so nasty about any child, let alone his own, especially one with a handicap. His words cut into her heart, and sadness settled heavily on her shoulders as she considered the little girl’s home life.
She wanted to get involved, to protect the little girl and her mother from this raving maniac, but when she accidentally made eye contact with him, a tremor of fear raced down her back. She didn’t want to put her own children at risk, so she remained quiet, uttering a silent prayer in the girl’s behalf.
“He’s mean,” Mariah said.
“Shh.” Natalie put her finger to her lips.
“But, Mommy, he has mean eyes.”
Natalie placed her fingers on Mariah’s lips to quiet her. “We’ll talk about this later. Okay?” Natalie glanced up to make sure the man hadn’t heard Mariah.
He yanked his daughter out of the chair and walked out of the restaurant while the mother followed them, staring at the ground. As the older model pickup truck left the parking lot, Natalie’s stomach twisted.
Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next installment . . .