Take this example from the beginning of The Fee ... my love/horror story in the Free Anthology, A World of Terror: Then scroll down to the next excerpt from my women's novel, All For Love. When she first read it, my author-daughter called it an anti-romance novel. I'll take that. It is very anti-romance in places, very real, quite horrific. Enjoy!
Irina scrubbed at the spot to no avail. “Why did I have to open my big mouth and volunteer for this?” She dropped her filthy rag in the bucket of soapy water just as her cell phone began to chime.
Glancing at the caller ID, she made certain her voice sounded cheery. “Hey there, handsome, you finished with those exams already?”
“Done with the lecture part,” her new husband, Jeb, replied. “But the labs are next. I’ve heard they’re killer.”
Irina didn’t let him off the hook. “Aw, come on. You know you’ll ace those. The labs are what you live for.”
He groaned. “You bet. I can hardly wait.”
They both laughed. He’d spent so much time at school studying for his labs; she felt as if she hadn’t seen him in weeks instead of just a couple of days.
“Tell me the truth,” he continued. “How’s it really going there? I still can’t believe you’re doing this . . . I mean they weren’t even your parents.”
“Shhh, don’t say that. You know how much I loved them, even if I didn’t get to know your mom before she got so sick, well, I’m . . .” she paused and looked around the bedroom, “I’m sort of getting to know her now.”
“Things are just like she left them, huh?”
Irina grimaced. “Yes. It’s almost as if they’re still alive. I mean, your dad’s been gone almost a year, but it’s only been a couple of weeks since your mom . . .” her voice trailed off. “Even her diary is still open on the nightstand. It’s like she was just here.”
“Oh, man” he groaned. “This is too much for you to do alone. Come on home, we’ll go back together after my exams.”
“No, no,” she replied. “Its fine. I shouldn’t have said anything. Besides, you know the realtor said it might be a tough sell.”
Jeb hesitated. “If you’re sure—"
“I’m positive,” she interrupted. “It’s just a little house cleaning. Now, go and be a good doctor-in-training and make me proud.”
Now, take a look at this excerpt from ALL FOR LOVE, my anti-romance women's novel. Tell me which one is more horrific:
©Ann Swann and 5 Prince Publishing
The sky was overcast and the air had that pre-winter dampness that seemed exciting with the promise of precipitation. Maybe it will snow tonight, all the kids had been whispering, their eyes glittering with barely contained glee. Maybe we’ll get a snow day tomorrow! As teachers we’d shush and smile, but behind our backs, our fingers were crossed. A snow day would mean sleeping in past six; hot chocolate by the fireplace; no runny noses to wipe; no petty arguments to curtail; no tears to soothe; freedom, for one day, stolen freedom to be a slug-a-bed as my mom used to say.
I walked out of my classroom and headed toward the exit. Quinn hadn’t left me any more notes, but he was still there every afternoon. It was going on two weeks. Get a job I thought at him as I walked out. Or go home to your wife and child. I stuck my nose in the air and pretended he wasn’t there.
But he was there, leaning against the Barney-purple motorcycle, one long leg crossed over the other, grinning like always. As if he had nothing more important going on in the whole world besides simply watching me walk the short distance across the parking lot to my car. Several teachers had commented on the good-looking guy waiting across the street everyday. One had hypothesized that he was a stalker, another said he might be a pedophile—but that was quickly shot down when Jenny Greg laughed and said, “Anyone can see he’s looking at Liz not at the children.” Then she’d glanced at me with flashing eyes. “What’d you do, Lizzie? Break his heart or something?”
I just ducked my head and said he was the friend of a friend who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Then I’d scurried away, afraid I’d revealed too much.
Yolanda Ramirez caught up to me just as I slipped my key into the car door.
“Liz … ”
I turned to look at her face. Yolanda was a good teacher; she and I had collaborated on bulletin boards and lesson plans. I felt I could trust her.
“Tell your friend to wait somewhere else.” Her dark eyes were troubled. “It’s not my business, but some of the other teachers are talking about calling the police. They think it’s weird for him to be here every day … and you don’t go over and talk to him.” She patted my back in sympathy. Then she hurried past me to her own car a few slots away. To anyone watching, she could have been saying, “See ya tomorrow,” or something just as inane.
“Thanks,” I whispered. I’d been expecting something like this. Teachers are notorious busybodies. They’d let it go on far longer than I expected. Actually, every day when I came out, I expected him to not be there. I had lost control of the situation. Yolanda was right; I would have to tell him.
I tossed my book bag and purse onto the seat and drew in a deep breath before starting across the street. I didn’t look at him directly. I sort of let my eyes take in the essence of him, his shape, still leaning on the bike.
As I neared the center of the now-quiet street, I sensed Quinn straighten up. My intentions were obvious. I was finally going to cross the invisible line.
That’s when Luke stepped out of his Impala. He didn’t say a word.
I stopped in the middle of the street, the irony of the situation too obvious to ignore.
Quinn must have seen the truth on my face but he didn’t flinch, he stepped forward, hand outstretched, and greeted me as if for the first time in years. “Lizzie! How’ve you been?”
Luke’s confusion was short-lived. He wasn’t stupid. He’d observed me walk past Quinn a couple minutes earlier without speaking.
“Liz?” His voice was questioning.
Quinn had reached me by then. He took my hand and was pumping it like a politician.
I looked down at our hands and marveled at the calloused warmth I remembered so well. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your husband?” he asked cheerfully.
If I’d had a weapon, I think I might have killed him. Instead, I chattered like a kid at her first cotillion. “Quinn this is Luke. Luke, Quinn.” Then the jig was up. Luke turned on his heel and strode the few short steps back to his car. His face was a livid, living mask. Why did I think he wouldn’t know who Quinn was? Everyone had known Quinn. We’d all gone to college together … somehow, I kept forgetting that little fact.
“What’re you doing?” I hissed.
Quinn’s fake grin faltered. “I’m here to get you back,” he said simply.
I shook my head. “That man is my husband. Go away, Quinn. You made your choice now stick to it!” continued
Afterthought: Next week, another Friday is for Lovers post from a very different type of love story.