Excerpt from Tattooed Teardrops

mockup-1I am getting excited about Tattooed Teardrops coming out this month. As well as being a great story, (I really like the characters,) it has such a beautiful cover, I can’t wait to hold it in my hands!

I posted a trailer earlier this week, and I thought it would be a good time to post an excerpt for #SampleSunday.

So, without further ado, read on!

Tamara French has been a model inmate throughout her incarceration.

Great reference. You could go far on that one. Tamara sat on an uncomfortable bench in the brightly-lit lobby waiting for her ride. It was strange being on the other side of the guard booth. She stared at the too-white sneakers that stuck out below her dark pant cuffs, wondering what kind of life she had to look forward to with that ringing endorsement. She jiggled her legs up and down, trying to resist picking her nails. Eventually, a tall, middle-aged woman with a bun came in and stood before her. Tamara stared at her boxy black shoes for a moment before reluctantly looking up at her.

“Tamara?” the woman said.


“Ready to get out of here?”

“I guess.”

“I expected a bit more enthusiasm,” the social worker said with a hint of a smile in the corners of her lipsticked mouth.

“I’m sorta nervous,” Tamara said.

“I guess that’s understandable. Come on, let’s go.”

Tamara sat there for another moment, then finally stood and followed the woman out of the juvenile facility. She got in the car and buckled up, holding her bag tightly on her lap.

The social worker introduced herself, but Tamara paid no attention, completely forgetting her name the next minute. The woman attempted small-talk a few times, but Tamara turned on the radio and stared out the window, freezing the social worker out. Eventually the woman got the message, and stopped trying to engage her.



They pulled up in front of a brick house that was at least a hundred years old and needed some work. There had been an attempt made at landscaping, with some flowers and bushes bunched around the concrete steps leading up to the porch and the front door. There was peeling paint on the fence and mailbox post.

“Here we are,” the social worker announced. “Let’s go in.”

Tamara unbuckled and got out slowly. The social worker took her in, knocking on the front door and entering without waiting for an answer.

“Hello, Marion, come on in,” a woman’s voice called from up above. “I’ll be right down.”

Tamara stood beside the social worker, waiting. She held her paper bag awkwardly at her side, wishing that she didn’t have anything to hold onto. She made a show of examining the front hall and living room of the house, but in all honesty, she didn’t care what it looked like. It wasn’t prison. Her concern was not with the house, but what the foster parents were going to be like. The front room was fairly neat and presentable. No children’s toys scattered about. A load of laundry neatly folded in the basket sitting on the couch. The TV shut behind the doors of an entertainment center so it would not be the central focus of the room. The furnishings were nice, not thrift store or destroyed. There were footsteps on the stairs, and Tamara looked up for her first glimpse of her foster mother.

Mrs. Henson had a pleasant, round face. Blond hair that had been lightly styled in an attempt to hide that it was starting to thin. She didn’t look more than forty. She was overweight, but not grossly. She just looked soft and comfortable. She was wearing a sweater and pants, and inconsequential gold jewelry. She didn’t look anything like Mrs. Baker, but that was no guarantee.

“Hello!” her voice rang out cheerfully.

“Gerry, this is Tamara,” Marion introduced as Mrs. Henson reached the bottom of the stairs. “Tamara, Mrs. Henson.”

“Hey,” Tamara muttered, without meeting her eyes. “Where do you want me?”

“Your bedroom is at the top of the stairs. First door on the right,” Mrs. Henson offered. Tamara made the trek up the stairs. There was a dark wooden bannister, ornately carved. Not too scarred for being in a foster home. Tamara turned at the top of the stairs and opened the door to her right.

There was a bed and a crib, and Tamara stood there, her heart speeding up, wondering if she’d been sent to the wrong room. Surely they wouldn’t have given her a room with a crib in it? She could almost see Julie’s still form lying on the high mattress… Mrs. Henson was there a moment later, having said a quick good-bye to Marion. She breathed a little heavily after her trip back up the stairs.

“Go on in,” Mrs. Henson encouraged. “We sometimes take teen moms, to help teach them how to take care of their babies. We don’t have any right now, so you get this room. That way you don’t have to share.”

Tamara walked into the room. The walls were a light green, freshly painted, with a white board wainscoting all the way around it. There was a pull-down blind with gauzy green curtains around the window. Tamara tossed her bag onto the bed, where it sat looking pitiful and inadequate.

“The others will be getting home soon,” Mrs. Henson offered. “I’ll introduce you then.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m happy to have you join us, Tamara. I was very impressed with your file.”

Sure. It was certain to be the last place she went that anyone was impressed with her prison record. She’d wowed them all at her parole hearing. There had been tears, and not all of them hers. So many of the inmates protested their innocence and refused to take responsibility or express remorse at their parole hearings. Tamara had been working on her performance for three years, and it was good. The board’s vote was unanimous. Now she was free. But to what kind of life?

Mrs. Henson stirred, making Tamara jump, startled. They both looked at each other, not knowing what to say. Mrs. Henson smiled and nodded.

“Make yourself at home,” she encouraged, motioning around the room.

Tamara nodded. Mrs. Henson backed off, and left her alone. Tamara stretched out on the freshly-made bed to wait. If there was one thing she was used to doing, it was waiting.



There were no bells that rang to mark the passage of time and the transition from one activity to another. Instead, disconcertingly, it flowed along with small shifts and gradual transitions. Tamara heard the front door open and close several times, with voices reaching her ears even through the closed bedroom door. Mrs. Henson did most of the talking and others answered her questions or made comments during the pauses. Tamara couldn’t tell what any of them were saying, just the tone of voice. They all seemed to be casual and relaxed.

There was a knock on Tamara’s bedroom door, and before she could get up to answer it, Mrs. Henson poked her head in.

“We’re going to get dinner going,” she said. “Why don’t you come down and help? Then you can meet everyone.”

Tamara studied her for a moment, assessing her options. Was it a choice? Was there a consequence for not complying? She was so unused to making her own decisions that she wasn’t sure what to do when faced with one.

“Come on,” Mrs. Henson encouraged, motioning for Tamara to come.

Tamara got up slowly and followed her foster mother down the stairs and to the kitchen. She was suddenly confronted with a whole pack of new people to meet. All bigger and older than her. Tamara made an effort to unclench her fists and not look confrontational. This wasn’t juvie. She didn’t have to prove herself physically here.

It hadn’t occurred to Tamara when she had met Mrs. Henson that the foster children would not all be white like her. But of course, she already knew the statistics. There were more non-white children in foster care, and very few non-white parents. So they couldn’t pair black children with black parents. Tamara was intimidated by all of the dark faces looking back at her. She wasn’t prejudiced, but juvie had taught her to be acutely aware of race relations, and how her white-faced, blond-haired presence could be aggravating to others. They would immediately judge her as stuck-up, privileged, and ignorant.

Tamara was fifteen, and not tall. There were only four other children, Tamara realized, not the mob that she had originally perceived them as. They were all bigger than her. Most of them taller than Mrs. Henson. Studying their faces, Tamara figured that they were seventeen or eighteen. One boy seemed even too old to be eighteen.

“Everyone,” Mrs. Henson said, “this is Tamara, our new foster child. I know you’ll all make her feel comfortable and help her get settled in.”

They all nodded, smiled, and waved. Tamara nodded back.


Her voice was hoarse, the greeting barely audible. Tamara wasn’t sure any of them had heard her. She nodded again and didn’t repeat the greeting.

“Okay, are you ready?” Mrs. Henson asked with a wide smile. “This is Nita,” a Hispanic girl with long hair and perfectly plucked eyebrows, “Deshawn,” the darkest face, a girl with cornrows and a brilliant white smile, “Jason,” black skin, close cropped black hair, probably eighteen, “and Harry.” Harry seemed a particularly non-ethnic name for a boy who appeared to be some mixture of black, Hispanic, and native. He smiled nicely for her, but his resting face was serious, contemplative. He was the one that Tamara was sure must be older than eighteen. He should have already aged out of the system.

Tamara nodded again and swallowed. Now what? Was she supposed to repeat them back? Greet each one separately? Shake hands? Tamara just stood there, lost, then looked at Mrs. Henson for direction.

“Okay, let’s get started on dinner,” Mrs. Henson suggested. “Nita, why don’t you show Tamara where the dishes are, and she can help you set the table…” She went on, but Tamara didn’t hear the rest of the instructions she gave to the remaining kids. She had her instructions. Go with Nita and set the table. She made her way across the room to Nita, and Nita smiled at her.

“Welcome,” she said in a low voice that was almost a whisper. “I hope you like it here.”

Tamara nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”

“Well, come on. The dishes are in this cupboard here, and the glasses, and the cutlery.” Nita indicated each location.

“How many…?” Tamara asked. She cleared her throat. “Is there a Mr. Henson? Or anyone else?”

“Yeah, Jesse will be home for dinner. That’s Mr. Henson. So seven altogether.”

Tamara counted out the plates and trucked them over to the table, where she put them down carefully. Her hands shook slightly as she set them down, and it was an effort not to let them clatter. There was a baby’s high chair, pushed against the wall. Tamara looked away from it and continued with her work, breathing shallowly. Setting the table only took a couple of minutes, and then Mrs. Henson gave them various other small tasks until everything started coming together for the dinner. She looked at her watch.

“Thanks guys. Take a break for about twenty minutes. Then everything should be done cooking, Jesse will be home, and we’ll eat.”

The kids dispersed. Tamara headed back up to her bedroom. Deshawn stopped ahead of Tamara, blocking her way into her bedroom.

“Do you need anything?” she asked Tamara.

Tamara shook her head.

“Sometimes… people don’t come here with very much,” Deshawn said. “Missus buys up extra toothbrushes and all, and we all share clothes…” She glanced over Tamara’s figure. “My pants won’t do you much good, but if you want a shirt, some accessories…”

Tamara stood there and contemplated the idea. For three years, she had worn nothing but an orange prison jumpsuit. Social Services had provided her with two very basic changes of clothing for her release. T-shirt, pants, socks, underthings. One pair of white tennis shoes. It was more fashion than Tamara had access to in all her time in juvie, but she was aware that it was sorely inadequate for a teenager on the outside.

Deshawn made an encouraging motion.

“Come on. Let’s see if there’s anything you want to borrow,” she said.

Tamara followed her to one of the other bedrooms.

“Nita and I share the room,” Deshawn commented. Nita was not there; maybe she had gone to watch TV or something. The room was painted sky blue. There was a utilitarian set of bunk beds, a couple of dressers cluttered with scarves, jewelry, and books, and a closet that was jammed full. The knobs on either side of the open closet door had been pressed into use to hold more hangers full of clothes. “It’s mostly thrift store,” Deshawn said, “but you can find some pretty good stuff if you look hard enough. Sorry, it’s sort of a mess. Come on. See what you like.”

Tamara went to the closet and looked over the hangers full of brightly colored clothing. It didn’t appear that either Deshawn or Nita went for anything understated.

“If you want t-shirts, they’re in the dresser,” Deshawn pointed, “and just grab whatever you see that you like. Just bring it back or throw it in the laundry when you’re done with it.”

Tamara saw herself in the mirror mounted on the back of the closet door. There hadn’t been any full-length mirrors at juvie. And the only mirrors that had been there were polished metal or plastic, and you could never really see your reflection very well. Tamara had grown up a lot in juvie. She wasn’t the soft, shy little farm girl she had been when she went to the Bakers. They had changed her. And juvie had changed her. The years had not been particularly kind ones. But she had developed a figure now, and was going to have to learn how to dress it up, instead of simply shrouding it in a jumpsuit. She had tattoos and piercings that she hadn’t had before her incarceration. Her hair was dull and lank, like everybody else’s in juvie. Tamara wound one lock around her finger, staring at the stranger reflected in the mirror.

“Why don’t we do something with your hair?” Deshawn suggested. “There’s not much time, but if we blow-dry, we could be done before supper.”

Tamara raked her fingers through her limp blonde hair, disgusted with it.

“Yeah. Could we?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Deshawn agreed with emphasis. “We’ll shampoo it in the bathroom, and use leave-in conditioner…” she led the way out into the hallway, still chattering away to herself what they would do. Tamara just followed.Tamara knelt by the tub while Deshawn used the hand-held shower attachment to quickly wet her hair down. The warm water felt so good on Tamara’s scalp, she wished she could get in for a full shower, and just luxuriate in it for hours. Three years of quick, cold showers. But Deshawn turned off the water way too soon, and applied a fruity shampoo with strong, capable fingers, working it in and then rinsing it back out. She handed Tamara a towel and while Tamara rubbed her hair, Deshawn rifled through the myriad toiletries lining the back of the counter, the medicine cabinet, and a couple of deep wicker baskets under the sink.

Tell me what you think!

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