Prequel to Summers of Fire

My second memoir is completed, and I will soon begin the publishing process. "All That Came Before" (the working title) is a coming-of age memoir about the intricacies of love, physical attraction, and deep friendship, while longing for independence and a life with meaning and purpose. 

I'd like to share the first few pages.




Chapter 1
Late summer of 1972
Like a whirling dervish in jeans and a print jersey top, my mom danced around our living room to the song “Arizona” playing over the radio, singing along, swinging her arms and grinning. I cringed, ran into my room and slammed the door, mentally screaming: Mom! Stop it! How can you DO this to me? My life is here! My friends are here!
But that didn’t matter. We were packing up our household and moving over two-thousand miles cross-country to Prescott, Arizona—in the middle of my senior year of high school.
I pouted. I sulked. I did not play the radio lest that dreaded song came on—but I knew nothing would change my parents’ plan to move from cold and dreary Syracuse to a warm and sunny climate. To be fair, my parents hadn’t planned to move until I’d graduated, but our house sold in thirty days, not in the six to eight months they had thought it would take.
Angry, I brooded over leaving my friends behind. I argued with my mom about taking my childhood stuffed animals with us.
“NO,” she said. “They are going in the trash.”
I hid them in moving boxes anyways.
Only once did I suggest staying behind to finish school. That was met with another firm “No.”
As days passed, however, I started to accept my fate. What choice did I have? But I sure didn’t let my parents know that. On the inside, I began to wonder…if I lived in a new place, could I turn myself into a new me? The one hiding inside? Exactly how the Arizona me would differ from the New York me, I wasn’t sure; but I did want to be more outgoing like my friend, Sheri. She had guys falling all over her, including the incredibly handsome Ray, whereas I always fell for guys not only out of my league (think track stars and French exchange students), but who also didn’t know I existed. Ray and Sheri had always hung out together between classes, and although they didn’t formally date, I still figured they were a couple of sorts.
It hurt that my friends had boyfriends and I simply longed for one.
On an Indian Summer afternoon, shortly before moving day, I sat on the grass waiting for Sheri, irritated. She was late, yet again. She knew this drove me nuts. Self-conscious, I kept my eyes lowered so I didn’t have to notice classmates ignoring unpopular me, picking through the blades of cool grass, looking for a 4-leaf clover. I often did this, hoping they would bring me good luck.
A figure threw a shadow across my search area. I raised my head. Instead of Sheri, I was looking into Ray’s eyes through a veil of his shoulder-length blond hair. “Can I join you?” he asked.
Stomach flutters made their way into my throat, rendering me speechless. Instead of saying, “Oh, please do!”—all I could manage was a smile and nod.
He sat down, cross-legged, resting his arms on his thighs and his eyes on the ground. I took this opportunity to make a quick study of his handsome face with its sharp features, soul-melting brown eyes, and a braided leather lace tied around his tanned neck.
“What are you looking for?” Ray asked, glancing up at me.
Yikes! I averted my eyes. “A four-leaf clover. I need all the good luck I can get…” Oh God, now he thinks I’m silly and superstitious…”
“Let me help you,” he said. His rare smile made my heart flip-flop. Sheri made flirting and talking with boys seem so easy, but I always choked up. I hated being shy me.
Ray lay on his stomach and began the search. “Found one!”
“You did?”
Grinning, he plucked the clover and placed it in my outstretched palm, touching me ever so slightly, sending tingles up my arm.
Just then, Sheri plopped her books between us and knelt close to Ray, who instantly sat upright, giving her his full attention and making me feel invisible. And, with that, my heart sank. It’s just as well, I thought, next week we’ll be packed up and on the road for Arizona.
***
In late September, I joined my parents, my younger sister, Elaine, our beagle-mix, Peanuts, and our calico, Tabitha, in our red Ford station wagon to head west. My older sister, Cindy, would remain in New York to finish nursing school.
This was our third trip cross-country in two years, with the first two being exploratory. Sad, depressed, and dreading the boring seven-day drive, I sat staring out the window, a sedated Tabitha on my lap, oblivious to the state lines we crossed. It was outside of some God-forsaken mid-western city that our car broke down.
Inside the repair shop, I held our kitty wrapped in a blanket, terrified she’d escape my arms and speaking soothing words to keep her calm, while my dad talked with the mechanic. My stomach hurt with the worry that we would be stranded for days. Then what? However, the repair was minor, and we were back on the road in a few hours.
On October 1st, moving-in day, a car pulled up next to the Semi-truck parked in front of our Prescott rental house. Out stepped an attractive guy with wavy shoulder-length hair, who looked to be my age. I tried not to stare as I carried a box into the house—after all, I did not want this stranger to think I was desperate. My dad greeted his new business partner’s son, Richard, who’d been coerced into helping us unload.
Richard passed me carrying a large box, and smiled. This caught me off guard. Was he smiling at me? I lugged a heavy box marked ‘Kitchen’ up to the door, where he set down his box to help me with mine.
“Here, let me give you a hand,” he said with a wide grin.
Say something, stupid. Here’s your chance to be the new you. I smiled back. “Gee, thanks!” ‘Gee, thanks.’ What a dumb response.
However, apparently Richard didn’t think it was dumb, and we continued to smile at each other when we passed, back and forth from the truck to the house for the entire day.
When we were done, we sat on the truck’s tailgate sipping from glasses of lemonade my mom had prepared.
“Would you like to go out with me tonight?” he asked.
Despite the fact every cell in my body screamed exhaustion, I lit up. Here was another chance to be more outgoing. “Sure,” I said, with tingles of excitement dancing in my chest. Maybe this new place wouldn’t be so bad after all…
Over the next few weeks, Rich picked me up almost nightly to go hang out with

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