I am a 27-year-old aspiring Christian writer who has felt the call to write since the age of 16. But when I was 18, I had a TBI (Trauma Brain Injury). It’s sort of like an aneurysm or a stroke. I was “out of it” for over 2.5 years, but when I came to – and after a while in a state of “don’t bother me; leave me alone”, I “woke up” completely, still wanting to write. In fact, nowadays, I have more time to give my writing because I cannot do many, many things that I could before. I never have driven a car – not for real.
How do you and your family, celebrate Easter…what does Easter mean to you?
To me, Easter is a time to celebrate our Lord, and the Salvation He gives us. If it weren’t for what happened so long ago – we say at Easter – than we wouldn’t have the opportunity to be saved.
I wholeheartedly agree. Did you go on an Easter egg hunt as a child…what was your favorite Easter memory?
Uhh. Yes, I have been on an Easter-egg hunt. I thought it was interesting, but I don’t really remember much about it. My favorite Easter memory would have to be the year after I was saved. I finally understood what it meant.
We're in the middle of Spring...is this one of your favorite seasons?
Well, that would be hard to say, because it’s not. But I like Spring second only to Autumn because it means that things come back from being “dead” during the Winter months; new life is “born”.
What’s your favorite spring flower and why?
Oh my. That’s a hard question to answer! I love most flowers, but I’d have to say that my “favorites” would be the tulip and the daffodil. I’m not sure why….because they smell nice?
My favorite flower is the lilac and tulips are second on my list. Do you think Easter (like Christmas) is too commercialized?
Definitely!! People think too much about money! It’s so sad to see the seasons of Christmas and Easter destroyed by such hopes for more cash.
Can you share the top five random facts about yourself?
1. I am often mistaken for a teenager, though I am 27 years old
2. I have loved to read since I was 5 or 6 years old; to write since the age of 16
3. I love breakfast food – of almost any kind – at any time in a day
4. I used to hate coffee, but after my TBI, I started drinking it (far too much) and haven’t stopped
5. I have 2 younger brothers, and both of my parents are still living. The oldest of my 2 brothers lives in New Hampshire
Why do you like being an author?
I enjoy stretching my imagination, and writing is a way for me to keep that imagination “strong”. The over-activeness of my imagination started when I was still quite young
Who’s your favorite author of classic literature?
I prefer more contemporary/up-to-date fiction
What’s your favorite novel?
Can I only pick one? I have far too many!!
What was the happiest moment in your childhood?
When I……sorry, I don’t remember my childhood very much.
The birthday party had been a total surprise to Darla Marie Cooke. She’d only been gone from the house for about 30 minutes, but people had still been able to come together. Chattering and laughing until she at last pulled the car into the driveway after her errands, they managed to fill the free time before them.
That’s when the talking and visiting people silenced abruptly. Darla's brother, Samuel, had quickly shushed them all from his position of vigil at the large curtained front window in the packed living room.
Upon hearing Sam’s insistent tone urging them all to conceal themselves, they all began scrambling about. Darla had a few grocery bags to retrieve from the trunk, therefore giving them all the necessary time to hide.
When Darla walked into the kitchen – noticing no one was around, and it was eerily silent – she plunked the bags on the counter. Turning, she plodded into the living room. Dropping heavily onto the sofa – and noticing how neat and clean the room appeared – she let out a long and loud sigh.
Darla's exhaustion – causing her to yawn – caught her in the middle of that action when several dozen people popped up from behind the furniture. The yelling and cheering suddenly taking place around the young woman caused her to freeze, eyes wide. Her hand halted a mere inch away from her gaping mouth, making her look as if she was about to put some food into the dark and gaping hole.
But having caught her looking like this did nothing to dissuade them from their actions. The shouts and cheers of congratulations continued, almost deafening Darla.
Her mouth now firmly closed, she looked around at all of the grinning faces surrounding her. The resulting smile quirking at her lips grew larger still as she realized who was there.
Jim and Cindy Willings, her pastor and his wife; Mrs. Marissa Scout, their elderly neighbor; Patrick and Jessica Daley, along with their 3 children – whom Darla often babysat.
And the most remarkable presence of all: Thomas Jackson Hall. Darla's wide eyes became even larger upon catching sight of him. His being there – smiling at her hugely, and calling out a loud and boisterous “Happy Birthday” along with the others present – made her both nervous and excited.
Searching the crowded family room, her eyes fell on her dearest and closest friend. Cindy Patricia Parker stood near the back of the room, nearest the stairwell leading up to their bedrooms and Mr. Cooke’s office. Darla assumed she was situated there for a quicker “escape”, should she need to lie down.
Their eyes meeting, Cindy Patricia, “Cindy” for short, grinned, calling out along with everyone else. Darla observed her best friend’s shining eyes, eventually lowering her gaze to her friend’s swollen stomach.
Not having seen Cindy in several months, the sight of her – here, and large with child – came as something of a surprise to Darla. A sadness at having missed out on so much of her close chum’s pregnancy – drawing to an end, if Darla was any judge of size – caused Darla's lips to droop for a moment.
The merriment and good wishes coming her way quickly drowned out her sadness and feelings of loathing. Since there was no going back and regaining the time she’d lost, she decided to ignore her wandering heart.
Focusing instead on the gathering of folks, Darla pushed the raging thoughts of self-pity from her mind. Her mouth revealing her delight over the swarming people – and camouflaging her displeasure – Darla managed another smile at those assembled.
The calling and exuberance soon died down, so that Darla could finally be heard. Her words – coming out in a squeaky voice – were barely audible.
Clearing her throat, she tried a second time to be heard. It wasn’t much easier to catch what she said. The quiet in the room – almost deafening Darla with the tension – was broken only by a few people clearing their throats uncertainly.
“Um … thank you … everyone.” Her words, she noticed, were barely audible. Unsure what to do next, Darla's eyes darted about, as if searching for a particular face. Her hazel eyes at last landed on both of her grinning parents, her sister, Marissa Jane standing beside them – practically screaming in her excitement. Obviously, all of the surprise company had been as much of a surprise for her as for Darla.
Seeing her special needs sister there with of all the others – being louder and even livelier than anyone else – Darla's expression brightened still more; if that was even possible.
Marissa’s curly locks – usually hanging down her back in a short pony tail of shining waves – was now coiled in a knot on the top of her round head. Absently wondering why her sister was all dressed up – wearing a pretty blue dress that brought out her fair complexion quite well – Darla sent her sister a confused little smile, silently thanking the youngest Cooke.
Marissa – even despising getting all dressed up – for any occasion – had donned a beautiful gown. The azure of the blouse brought out the deep indigo of her eyes. Also, the lovely color – too dark to be a shade of royal blue – gave her a pretty pink color in her cheeks.
Seeing Marissa’s joy-filled expression, Darla's trepidation over the crowd of people being gathered into such a small space vanished. The dread making her tremble at all of the boisterous attention soon evaporated completely away; the immense pleasure replacing it nearly overflowed Darla's heart.
A sense of giddiness replaced the unease that once filled once filling her chest. Darla shrugged out of her light-jacket – meant for warding off the chill of September. Hoping the quiet now settling over the room would vanish – too much stillness made her nervous – Darla strode forward, going deeper into the room.
Ignoring the fear trying to take root in her heart once again, Darla marched right up to her sister. Seeing Darla approaching, Marissa’s bouncing motion increased. The grin stretching across her face was so large that Darla feared her sister’s cute face would break.
“Hap-py Birth-day, Dar-la!” Her sister’s exuberant yell set off a second chorus of yelling voices. This time, however, they wished the young woman a joy-filled birthday. Added to that were the cat-calls and more enthusiastic cheering. Unable to stop her face from reddening – and feeling it happen – Darla kept her coffee-colored eyes trained on her celebrating – and laughing – sister.
Darla – peering out at her front lawn – felt another smile creasing her face. It had been 2 days since the surprise party, and she was still remembering those who had gathered to celebrate.
Not only the pastor and his wife, their dear old neighbor, the Dailee family, and – a flush covered Darla's cheeks at the next thought – Thomas Jackson Hall – but countless others, as well. Darla had never expected to see him there, celebrating and congratulating her along with all the others. The sheer number of people attending was astounding.
Now, staring out the window, Darla could imagine his strong jaw line, and the way his hair fell down and curled into his eyes. She’d wanted very badly to reach out, touching those glossy locks of dark hair.
Only the cheering crowd around them kept Darla from doing just that. Sensing that the time and place were indeed inappropriate, Darla drew in a deep breath, hoping to calm her jangled nerves. She would need to ignore the butterflies flying around in her stomach for the moment. The mere prospect caused her to begin perspiring.
At that moment, Marissa had come dancing over, squealing excitedly. Despite the fact that it looked as if all present knew about Marissa’s mental disability, Darla still felt her gut tighten with … .was it embarrassment? The humiliation caused her cheeks to redden, the color staying prominently on her face.
That had been two days ago, and Darla still felt the pitying stares being directed at her. Unable to stand being looked at in that manner, she’d opted for concentrating on the pile of birthday gifts stacked near her.
Boxes of all shapes and sizes had been collected, along with a few gift bags. All of them were rather colorful, creating a decorative center in the otherwise drab, yet serviceable room. The brown and dark green were lit up by the oranges, reds, pinks, purples, and blues in the packages.
Excitedly, Darla began tearing at the wrapping paper, not even bothering to read the tags. It was her mother – Deborah Cooke – who put a stop to her eager actions. Urging Darla to slow down and read the cards that accompanied the gifts, Deborah Cooke mostly stayed out of the way.
Darla opened gift after gift, her surprise at receiving so many growing with each passing minute. And when she reached one clumsily-wrapped parcel – it was rather a small one – she paused. The name on the little white sticker was barely legible, but she could just make out the confusing scrawl.
Darla stopped squinting after she realized what the name read. Thomas Jackson ‘TJ’ Hill was lettered across the colorless sticker. Her movements after that were slower, almost as if she was uncertain about seeing with what he had presented to her.
As the paper fell away – revealing a small box that looked an awful lot like it contained golf balls – Darla became perplexed. She’d tried playing golf many years ago, but it held little interest for her. Her father, Richard Cooke, loved the sport – both playing and watching it on TV – but it held no real appeal for Darla.
So now, in front of all of these people – her family and many friends – she had to hide her displeasure. And she came very close to revealing her discontentment instead of keeping it hidden and at bay.
She was immensely relieved that she had done so, for upon opening the rectangular cardboard container, she stopped cold. Normally, golf balls come in pack of three, making some noise as they move back and forth within the confines of the box. But seeing the newspaper – yesterday’s- all bunched up on the end, she froze. That was not normal.
With slower movements, she pulled the weekly from the box. Something rattled inside, causing her fingers to still momentarily. And then she moved with lightning speed.
She couldn’t believe her eyes when the crystal – or was it only glass – figurine fell into my open palm. It was very delicate-looking, with an umbrella-type piece sticking out from it near the top. Curiously, I dropped the stuffing on the floor, barely noticing when my mom stopped to pick it up. The little statuette interested me far more than the paper.
Fingering the long, snake-like strings of fake jewels trail through my fingers, all else seemed to fade from view. I could finally clearly make out what had been given to me, and it was too adorable for words.
Kendra, thank you so much for guesting today. I enjoyed chatting with you and getting a chance to read this excerpt from your current WIP. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your book.
Hope you all can stay and chat with Kendra. If you'd like to connect with her online, please visit: Kendra's Blog