Monday, May 2, 2022

Blog Tour: The Order of the Fallen



Date Published: Jan. 24, 2022

Publisher: Jan-Carol Publishing, Inc.

Achaiah knew the dangers of falling to earth for the love of his human, Nev. When Nev falls for her guardian angel, Achaiah, she is unaware of the danger that their love puts her in. That's why fallen angels have one rule: Never fall in love with a human.




“This is why I have no friends!” I screeched and slammed my door shut simultaneously. My back kissed the door gently as my body slowly dripped like fudge down to the floor. The soft thud of my body reverberated through my bones as I connected with the floor. I need time to process. Why was this happening again? She promised me it wouldn’t happen again, promised we wouldn’t be moving again. I was silly to believe her and yet, I wasn’t lying when I said I had no friends. I couldn’t pull a dollar out of my empty bank of friends. Perhaps a small part of me believed she’d do this again and making friends was just going to make matters worse for me.

I breathed slowly. I forced air in and out of my lungs. I focused on the beating of my heart—the sound pounding in my ears as if I were listening to someone’s heart beating through ear buds set deep in my ear.

I heard a small rapping at the door. It was faint enough to be the ruffling of feathers but it cut through the sound of my heartbeat. I pictured her there with her hand still gently pressing against the door, waiting to be hurled back into action. I knew she wanted to sit with me and explain. I pictured her small frame staring at me, strands of her hair softly framing her dewy faint face. I knew she wanted her chance to tell me why this was happening again and give me some asinine reason that only made sense to her. I waited. The feathers ruffled outside my door again.

“Nev, please open the door. I would like to talk with you.” She spoke softly, an earnest whisper of despair. Most people raised their voice when they were frustrated or angry, but not my mother. She did the reverse and spoke softly.

It had always been this way. When I broke her beloved grandmother’s favorite vase as a child, I remember she didn’t yell or scream. She was calm and barely audible. “How did this happen?” she had asked staring at the broken pieces of the vase that meant so much to her. The shattered pieces that littered the floor were beyond repair. The faint sound of her question whipped my soul. Her calmness was worse than any punishment imaginable. I could barely understand her but it wasn’t her words that paralyzed me. The disappointment punched me worse than a fist. I crumbled like the vase as she spoke. I mumbled that I wasn’t watching where I was going. I turned the corner and hit the shelf. Before I knew it, I heard the sound of glass shattering. It was the same sound my heart made when she spoke. Even as I explained it to her it felt like such a weak answer.

I knew she was upset but she refused to show any signs of it; refused to get visibly angry. Sometimes I just wanted her to—I wanted to know she was human. I knew I had disappointed her and that was worse than if she had yelled or screamed. Yelling would have soothed the wound her disappointment pierced me with. If she had just yelled, it would dissipate. If she yelled, I would know she was upset and then we could move on. Instead, her lack of violent outburst was a mask of disapproval. Her voice never rose to even a normal tone. Her voice was soft velvet but her silent emotion was a rapier sword. I beseeched her to get visibly mad, but she didn’t. At least, not in a way I would have.

I didn’t say anything now as she continued to softly knock on my door. I moved to my bed and distracted myself with my bedspread. I liked the comfort my bed provides. It’s soft and warm. I made a perfect nook that fit my body, cradling me every night to sleep. Comfy in my nook, I took in the whole of my room and inhaled deeply, feeling the air wash away the irritability and rush in sensibility from a small river in my brain. I absent-mindedly played with a frayed string on my comforter. It was curious how much stuff one person could accumulate over the years. I had plenty of books littering every inch of my room from my overstuffed bookcases to the paucity of walking space on my floor. Stuffed animals—mostly bears—lounged comfortably on my bed in positions a contortionist would be uncomfortable with and I had a few snow globes scuffling with books for solace on a flat surface. My room was more a library than a bedroom.

One thing was missing from the room I shared my books with, though. Pictures. I had no pictures of smiling friends cascading around my mirror to look at every morning when I got ready. There were no hidden pictures behind the large stack of books, perched precariously on the edge of sanity about to topple over into chaos below. There was no memorabilia of the ninth grade dance to adorn my old wooden dresser, competing for face time against the yellowed pages of books weathered from many years of reading. There were no pictures of my first boyfriend with me smiling into the camera; oblivious I had one eye half shut and two fingers dancing behind my head but laughing nonetheless. I had no pictures of my best friend and me at a sleepover where we had our pictures taken after a Halloween makeover. This was because I never went to my ninth grade dance. I never had a boyfriend to wrap his arms around me while smiling into the camera and I don’t have a best friend. The reason for this tragedy was standing outside of my door trying to get in.

“Nevaeh, please let me talk to you.” Her voice pierced me.

I decided to open the door. My mom had called me Nevaeh, which she only did when she was really upset, or really proud of me. Obviously, she wasn’t trying to raid my room because of her motherly pride at me being the focal point of some absurd bumper sticker about making honor roll. This fact coupled with the fact that my mother was tenacious and would stand there all night like a desert cactus prompted me to act.

“What”? I asked in a cold monotone. My voice harder than the feelings coursing through me.

“I want to talk with you about this. I need you to understand why this is happening.” She strode over to my bed, gracefully sidestepping the hodgepodge of books on the floor like a ballerina and plopped herself down on the edge with a slight sigh.

“Unless you’re about to tell me you changed your mind, I don’t want to hear it. It doesn’t matter why you’re doing this, the point is you’re doing this again.” I emphasized looking at her sharply. “I should be used to it by now but every time this happens, I think it’s the last time. Now, I obviously need to pack, do you mind?” I added petulantly and wobbled over to the door, tripping faintly on one of my own books, signaling I wanted her to leave so I could be alone and pack for our move to Connecticut next week.

I already had a few moving boxes. I kept a stack in my closet behind my clothes always waiting there for me in case I needed them to cart my books around. I knew those boxes wouldn’t sit there too long. I should have kept them out and already put together, tape holding them fully formed and ready for moving. It had been less than a year and they would come out of hiding once more to be taped up, tossed about, and ripped open like a gift.

 “We’ll talk about this later, Nev,” she said defeated as she gracefully walked out the door, respecting my wish that now was not the best time to attempt reasoning with me. I restrained myself from slamming the door and simply shut it with a soft thud. She knew I was mad, I didn’t need to make it worse. If I had anything to say about it, we wouldn’t be talking about this later.

We had moved about twenty times in my seventeen years of life. I would like to say I was an Army brat but the sad truth was my mom was indecisive. I was a senior in high school about to graduate in four months, and we were moving again. Unbelievable. My life was like the seat on a Ferris wheel, just when all was calm and the view was familiar, the wheel would turn once more, spinning me to a new view of the world. She couldn’t even wait for me to graduate—she had to move mid-year? The thought sent waves of anger through me. I hugged myself as a chill swept through the still and quiet room.

If I thought about it rationally, what was I so upset about? I was, after all, used to moving. Wasn’t that the reason I kept all my moving boxes? This would just be one more landscape to view before the wheel turned once more. It was like having a birthday every year. We all know it’s coming so there’s no surprise to wake up and be a year older. Sure, some people look in the mirror on that day just to see if there’s an old face staring back or one that looks exactly the same as the night before. Most people don’t even tell anyone about their birthday mirror ritual. It’s nonchalantly attached to a daily routine like showering or brushing teeth. But every year on their birthday, a familiar face glares back a fraction longer than the other three hundred sixty-four days. For children, it’s exciting to scrutinize their face to see if they look older and more mature. For adults, it’s a way to memorize every new wrinkle, deep laugh lines, or anything else that would encumber the sixteen year old at the grocery store from checking ID when buying alcohol.

Moving was a part of my life and trying to ignore it did nothing because it was going to happen despite my protests. I was so used to moving that I stopped trying to make friends. Elementary school was probably the loneliest. Those are the years that not having friends meant I watched all the school kids outside riding their bikes together, or running around their yards, or playing soccer in the street. I sat alone in my room, watching from my window and occupying my time with as many books as I could find. The sounds of childhood roared just outside my window while I watched it speed by me, a spectator, without participating. Sure, there was the occasional girl I would talk with in class, but that was basically the extent of it. I stuck to myself and allowed myself to get lost in the pages of my books.

Junior high school was a little easier for me. At that age, most of the kids started going to the mall or to the movies with friends. I no longer had to see it outside my window passing me by. I poured myself into my books. I enjoyed living vicariously through the rich characters of my books—eventually becoming my best friends.

In high school, dating was the thing to do. Just like junior high, I didn’t have to see this behavior from my bedroom window. I was exposed to the school hallway kiss now and again but my room was my solace and cocooned me away from most of it. I could ignore the fact that I was friendless, save a few books, but as a kid, the sounds outside would not allow me to forget. Those sounds were a constant reminder I was missing out on something. What I was missing I didn’t know. I can’t really miss what I never had.

During dinner that night, my mom and I ate in silence. I hurried through my dinner so I could go back to my room. I wasn’t in the mood to hang out in the dining room all night. I went into the kitchen and began doing my dishes. The soap rapidly began foaming all over my hands like one of those fast forward scenes in a movie. I was mesmerized by the rainbow colors. The foaming bubbles grew exponentially and held my attention longer than necessary. When the bubbles started to dissipate and I could see my hands clearly again, I realized I was gaping at my mother’s hands. My hands were her hands. There was no difference.

I peered over the counter and had a clear view of my mother eating dinner at the table. Suddenly, I had an overwhelming feeling of pity for her and it made my stomach turn. It was like watching a very private moment. The feeling was overwhelmingly strong. She did nothing more than open her mouth, slide a fork full of colorful pasta in, close her mouth over it, pull the fork out and chew. It was banal but I couldn’t look away. There sat my mother—alone. She wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. She was just eating but I guess because I knew how it felt to be lonely, I pitied her. If pity were even the correct sentiment. I wondered if she had some of the same loneliness I had. I stared at the white bowl she was eating from, the silver of the fork against her pale skin, the utter loneliness of it kept me rooted to my spot.

My mother was a beautiful woman. Even at the age of forty-five, she was a natural pearl among cultured ones. Her shoulder length, dark brown hair was a tidy sleek waterfall, splashing daintily around her light moonlit skin. Spending very little time in the sun, her skin was a painter’s canvas. The little makeup she did wear only highlighted her natural beauty. Her eyes were a piercing, golden brown and stood out in stark contrast to her milky skin. She had an athletic body without effort. The most exercise she achieved was climbing into bed but she looked as if her life were spent on a Stair Master. A symmetrical smile and humble attitude only increased her beauty. She was enviously beautiful.

My mom was not the kind of woman to flaunt her looks. Wearing dirty sweat pants and baggy t-shirts, she could easily turn the head of a blind man without intention. She was the kind of woman who made other women incredibly uncomfortable and self-conscious. There was nothing pompous about her and if given the chance, her character alleviated any panic reflex women had to hide all the men in the room so there would be some left to share. She was oblivious to the myriad of men staring at her daily or flirting with her to the brink of imprudence. She was only ever cordial and politely tiptoed around the pool of seduction poured before her. I admired this about her. She needn’t have to ask in order for the sun to shine attention on her. She could snatch almost any guy she desired but she didn’t. This morsel of her personality was endearing to most people, including me. Her personality was envious.

I looked away when she saw me looking at her, admiring her. I felt my cheeks redden as though looking at my mother were a crime punishable by imprisonment. She didn’t say anything to me. I finished the dishes and dried my hands; her hands. Tears stung my eyes, the way cutting an onion did and just like cutting an onion, I refused the tears their freedom to swim down my face. I blew my nose and cleared my throat. I was sure my face was still red just as I was sure she was looking at me. Thinking about my mom made me realize I was a lot like her. She was lonely too. Maybe moving was her way of finding what she was looking for. I felt stupid for getting so upset with her about moving. What was wrong with me? My mom had never asked me for anything. I was ungrateful. I was childish. I was selfish. I was a teenager.

“I love you, Mom,” I said as I stepped toward her and gave her a sincere hug. I couldn’t help it. I needed to comfort her. Actually, I needed to comfort myself. I just used the excuse I was trying to comfort her. My arms swam around her tiny frame as I leaned my head gently on top of hers. Sitting, she was just inches shorter than me.

Surprised by this gesture, my mom returned the hug with emotion. Her head snuggled up to my chest and her arms connected around my waist. A waft of her expensive shampoo met my nose and I instantly associated that smell with comfort. It was the smell of my mother being a mother; caring for me when I needed it. Loving me when I needed it. I sighed and felt shame again for ever blaming her.

“I love you too, Nev,” she said earnestly as we unhooked each other and I took my seat again. Her golden eyes seemed besotted with dark blotches encircling them. I felt a pang in my chest, I hoped I hadn’t done that to her. I hoped I wasn’t the reason her face expressed that sleep was more of a suggestion rather than a necessity.

“I know you’re not moving to hurt me. I just don’t understand why we’re always moving. I get cranky sometimes,” I offered remorseful for my outbursts earlier. Granted, I didn’t like to move but I was not handling it like an adult. I needed to start somewhere. I really desired not to act like a four year old deprived of a shiny toy in the toy store anymore. At almost eighteen, I needed to embody maturity.

She had carefully placed her shiny fork in the middle of her pasta dish. The dish was still about half full, where my dish was already washed. She was a slow eater. Her pasta was now dry with little bits of cheese encrusted into the lines of the penne. “Sometimes, I don’t even know why we move so often, honey.” Her voice was soft and drew my attention back to her.

This was an honest sentiment.

“Do you have a new job?” I wondered if this were the root of our move this time.

“Yes, the housing market is better there.” Her eyes never left mine. She wanted me to know that she cared but that this was still going to happen. “It will be better for us there. With a rising market I think we’ll benefit.”

Mom was a realtor. She was a good one too. She had a knack for exploiting the plot of the house instead of allowing clients to pass based on judging the cover. She was rewarded for this and particularly enjoyed newlyweds. The gratuitous hand holding and unbridled giddiness pleased her. She enjoyed meeting new people during this hypnotic time in their lives. She always said that finding a new couple their first home was better than the commission made from the sale. I knew she meant this, too. She truly enjoyed finding the perfect house for people. It gave her a sense of accomplishment as though she were privy to the magical world where each newlywed couple lived. She helped them find the place they would call home. She strived to make sure they were both happy with their new investment. Often, she heartily laughed and regaled me with stories of how the majority of the newlyweds she saw disagreed on everything but the overall consensus was, if the wife was happy the husband would be happy.

“Okay,” I finally said to her. What more could I say? We were moving. In silence, we just stared at each other—two statues meticulously manipulated by a photographer for the perfect picture. When I went back into my room, I packed a little more and was somewhat eager to meet Connecticut head on. Maybe this move would hold some unknown surprises for me I could not foresee and maybe mom was right that it would be better for us. Maybe Connecticut would be the place I called home.


About the Author

Jacqueline Marinaro began her career as a therapist and college educator. Graduate school couldn’t stamp out her love of creative writing, however. Much to the chagrin of her husband, graduate school also only furthered her ability to constantly ask, “how does that make you feel?” Jacqueline lives in Florida with her wonderful husband and sweet little boy, where she enjoys the beach, reading, writing, and of course delving into the feelings of everyone she meets.

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