Please welcome Sarah Daltry and her
Flowering Series to the blog today!
These aren't sweet and innocent coming of age stories. If dirty talk, bedroom toys and threesomes offend you...these are not your books. There are also no billionaires, strippers or virgins. These are just the stories of typical college kids trying to connect to each other.
Forget Me Not
“No one tells you when you start school just how homesick you will be, or how hard it will be to start life over with no direction and no friends or family. No one says that becoming your own person is terrifying.”
Lily had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Derek, for years – which led to their steamy night ten months ago in her bedroom. Now, she’s off to college and she and Derek are still going strong. However, when school starts, Lily realizes it’s hard to maintain a relationship, while also trying to live her own life. She and Derek find themselves falling apart and she has no idea where to turn.
Enter Jack. Everything about him is wrong for Lily and she knows it, but she can’t stop herself from being attracted to him. When things implode with Derek, it’s Jack who’s there to pick up the pieces – and to show Lily an entirely new set of experiences she didn’t know she was missing. Of course, Jack has his own problems and once Lily gets to know him better, she starts to wonder if she can handle all of Jack.
When Derek reappears on the scene, Lily is forced to decide between two guys and herself. Can she find herself without losing the people who matter in the process?
“Is it bad? Is something wrong with Derek?” Abby knows better than anyone how much I obsessed over him for years. She’s the one who bought me the vibrator last year for my birthday that ended up being the catalyst for my entire relationship with him. Four years of high school and three of them consisted of me whining about how badly I wanted to be with him.
“No, he’s okay. But, well, I have only seen him once since school started. We don’t even talk every night lately because our schedules are so different.”
“Are you having a lot of fun at school?”
“Not really,” I admit. “I’m just so sad about Derek. I feel like he doesn’t even care about me anymore.”
“That’s weird. You guys were headed for marriage when we graduated. What happened?”
“I don’t know. When he came to visit, it was amazing, of course, but now we are both so busy, and I don’t know.” I break down, crying for real for the first time since school started, because I know she’s right. It is weird and something must be wrong. I just don’t know what it is. It isn’t just Derek, either. School isn’t what I thought it would be. I feel like I am alone most of the time, even with my small group of friends. Everyone has his or her own schedule and it’s tough finding time outside of meals to talk. On the weekends, we usually try to hang out, but someone is always missing for work, a home visit, or just because something else came up.
“Maybe you need a break,” Abby suggests. “Not like a break up, but just time for you to get settled. I mean, he’s been with you since last year and he also had time to settle in first. You
haven’t even found your own way around school. I know how you are. You probably just pine over him and act antisocial, aren’t you?”
“I have friends,” I argue.
“You’re in college. What do you do every night?”
I’m about to argue again when I realize that what I do mostly is stay in and work on homework, or go to the library to work on homework, or talk to Derek. Yes, I go to meals and hang out with Kristen and the others, but I don’t take part in most of the events or activities on campus. I can’t claim that the environmental club is a happening social life. I honestly can’t say I know anyone outside of the group of people that Kristen hangs out with – and Jack.
“You’re right,” I say. “I love him, Abby. But I don’t even know who I am.”
Lily of the Valley (Jack's Story)
“No one tells you about pain. They tell you that it hurts, that sometimes it’s consuming. What they don’t tell you is that it’s not the pain that can kill you. It’s the uncomfortable numbness that follows, the weakness in your body when you realize your lungs may stop taking in air and you just can’t exert enough energy to care. It’s the way taste and color and smell fade from the world and all you’re left with is a sepia print of misery. That’s when the shift starts – the movement from passive to active. I fall asleep, hoping that the morning will bring back the pain. At least the pain is a thing.”
Plagued by a dark past, Jack sees college as a way out. Desperate to escape the area where he grew up, the people who know his secrets, and his own family, he deals with his problems through alcohol and meaningless sex.
When he first sees Lily, she’s the epitome of everything he hates. Yet something about her makes Jack rethink everything he knows and assumes about other people. Now, with the help of his best friend and lover, Jack has to decide if he wants to pursue something that he knows will only end badly.
Can Lily be one of the few people who can see Jack for who he really is – or will his darkness be too much for her to handle?
“Did you go see your Mom today?”
I nod. Before moving in, I made my regular visit to the cemetery. Nothing there ever changes. It’s both a relief and a constant reminder. Even my grandmother stopped going, but I can’t. I can’t just not go. Someday, I’ll be ready. Someday.
“You don’t have to say it,” I tell Sandee. “I know she’s not there.”
At one point, during my father’s trial, when I refused to take his side on the stand, he nearly kicked me across the lawyer’s office. “Your mother was a fucking junkie, and you meant shit to her. Driving up there every weekend, eaving flowers on her grave? You’re wasting your time. She’s dead and good riddance to her. There’s nothing in that grave because even if there is a soul, that bitch didn’t have one.” The lawyers later came to work out guardianship one afternoon when I was home and shook their heads when they saw me. Was it guilt? Irritation? Something else? I don’t know, but fuck them. That’s what I know now.
“You do what to need to do, Jack. She’s there if you want her to be there.”
“You know, they spelled her fucking name wrong. Right there on the tombstone. E-V-E-L-Y-N. It was Eveline, with an I-N-E. And no one even bothered to fix it. I remember being led to a plastic folding chair out on the cemetery lawn, the gaping hole my last physical memory of my mother, and looking up. That fucking Y. By the time we noticed, it was done and they said it would cost us several hundred dollars to change it. Like it was our fault.”
“Shit. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It doesn’t matter. They couldn’t really change it, even if they had put up a new one. They did it and you can’t fix something that deeply ingrained, can you? It’s been dug in too far. That Y is not going anywhere, no matter if I cry, punch something, or just give up.”
“Things can always be fixed.” Sandee’s a regular source of inspiration, but her optimism wears me down right now. I don’t get how some things can be fixed. Whenever I think of my family, either then or now, all I feel is rage. Rage at my mother for turning out like she did, rage at my father for what he did, rage at the way the world shits on your dreams, and rage sometimes at myself. For existing.
Star of Bethlehem
“With you, Jack, it was the first time I ever felt real. It was the first time anyone looked at me and saw substance. It was the first time I wanted to make someone see me.”
Jack and Lily have navigated his past, her desire to move on from her family’s demands of her, his depression, and her loneliness. Now, on New Year’s Eve, they have an entire year laid out ahead of them. First, though, Jack needs to meet Lily’s family, to be welcomed into her life. It’s intimidating, but with a sweater that is way too hot and his grandmother’s ugly car, he arrives at Lily’s gleaming house on a hill, ready to open himself up completely to her.
Inside the perfect, sparkling house, Lily waits for the boy she has come to love. But Lily’s house and family are a lot like her – shiny and pretty on the outside, with a sad emptiness on the interior. Lily wants to give Jack the one thing he has always dreamed of – family and love – but can she keep him from seeing
how hollow a lot of the picture perfect life he fantasizes about really is?
This is a novella length work that follows Forget Me Not and Lily of the Valley.
I take his hand and pull him down beside me on my bed. I feel so complete in his arms, as if nothing can go wrong when he holds me. It’s all the other stuff. The world, people, pressure. Maybe it’s a little fear that things just ended with Derek. That one day, as quickly as I fell for Jack, I also fell out of love with Derek. I don’t have enough experience to know if that’s normal. What if it happens again?
“What? Tell me,” Jack whispers.
“Have you ever felt like your entire life is some surrealist’s joke? That you think you’re in control of it, while really, you’re probably just…”
“A melting clock?” he finishes and laughs. I look at him, disappointed that I can’t explain it, but also relieved that he doesn’t care.
“All the fucking time,” he says. “I know you’re scared. I know I’m scared. But I seem to remember you telling me that I should remember what matters. I made you a promise, princess. Yes, your house intimidates me. Your life intimidates me. Hell, loving you intimidates me. But I’m in this. I’m here. Present. Entirely. I’m looking only forward. And all I see is you.”
“Take the damn book,” I tell him. “I just wanted to show you that I have faith in us. It was a conscious decision to give you something that was a very special gift to me, to tell you that I trust you with it, because I trust you to be there. Long term.”
He takes me in his arms and kisses me. I decide I won’t stop him if he goes further, but he doesn’t. Our bodies crackle with the energy between us, but as much as the sex thrills me, Jack does so much more for my mind than his body could even do. I can’t believe how alive I feel when he’s near me. Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s desperate. But I want him here in my life; I want him with me, because I love being this aware.
I speak against his cheek, while his hands slowly explore my body. It’s sensual but not sexual. He’s studying me like a work of art. “I don’t want to fall out of love with you. I thought Derek was all I ever wanted. I don’t want to be in the same place with you a year from now.”
“You won’t be,” he tells me.
“How do you know?”
He kisses along my face, brushing his lips against my cheek, my forehead, my nose, but never reaching my mouth. “I don’t know how. But I do.”
I love that he can put aside his doubts to ease my own. I know Jack’s had so much trouble in his life, and the fact that he can comfort me, when my problems are so petty and stupid in the scheme of things, is one more thing I love so much. “I know I’m shallow. But I don’t want to be, Jack.”
“You’re not shallow. You’re not empty. Anything you think of yourself – it’s crazy. If you want to talk about surreal, it’s the fact that you think you’re less than something. Maybe you didn’t get shit on the same way I did in high school, but clearly, people have underestimated you. They missed out on you. And you have every right to be hurt. But, Lily? No one will ever hurt you again.”
I smile. “Thanks. I’m sorry I’m being so moody. It’s probably hormones or something. I think I’m just frustrated.”
“Yeah?” He laughs. “Well… I mean… I can help you relieve some of that.”
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Meet the Author:
Sarah Daltry writes about the regular people who populate our lives. She's written works in various genres - romance, erotica, fantasy, horror. Genre isn't as important as telling a story about people and how their lives unfold. Sarah tends to focus on YA/NA characters but she's been known to shake it up. Most of her stories are about relationships - romantic, familial, friendly - because love and empathy are the foundation of life. It doesn't matter if the story is set in contemporary NY, historical Britain, or a fantasy world in the future - human beings are most interesting in the ways they interact with others. This is the principle behind all of Sarah's stories.
Sarah has spent most of her life in school, from her BA and MA in English and writing to teaching both at the high school and college level. She also loves studying art history and really anything because learning is fun.
When Sarah isn't writing, she tends to waste a lot of time checking Facebook for pictures of cats, shooting virtual zombies, and simply staring out the window.
Ten Favorite Books:
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare
Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins
Days of Blood and Starlight – Laini Taylor
Red Moon – MA Grant