In Beneath the Stars, we get a brief glimpse into the events that led to Eddie's decision to become a firefighter: a fire at his own childhood home that led to the fire department taking young Eddie under their wing. Today, I'd like to dive a bit deeper into that day and explore the immediate impact something like that might have on a ten-year-old boy.
He still smelled like smoke. His clothes, his hair, his skin reeked so strongly of the sweet stench of house fire, Eddie wondered if the haze of it was visible.
While the only house he had ever known burned, his temporary home had been decided. He and his mom would stay with Maggie and her mom, Sharon. Mom promised to “be out of their hair” as soon as possible, but secretly Eddie hoped this is where they would live forever.
He was given the choice: stay in the art studio cum guest bedroom with his mom or stay in Maggie’s room. The adults didn’t hide that they preferred he stay with his mother, but he and Maggie decided differently. If given a choice, Eddie would always choose Maggie.
Her room wasn’t bad, really, for a girl’s room. It was a buttery yellow and her bed was covered with a soft green comforter and multi-colored pillows. Her lamps looked like they came from a grandmother’s living room, and the curtains were a dismal brown—they didn’t match anything about Maggie.
Her music choices weren’t quite up to Eddie’s standards, either—Lisa Loeb? Really?—but he could deal with that if it meant Ms. James’ cooking and starting and ending every day with his best friend.
Ms. James had left him a small set of plastic drawers for his clothes. They weren’t ‘his’ yet, not in his mind, but they were free and he was to be grateful. “Say ‘thank you’, Eddie,” his mom had prompted all the while she nit picked through a stack of jeans at the free store for a pair that didn’t make her butt look too big. They all made her butt look too big. She had a big butt.
He took out the two t-shirts, two pair of pants and one sweater from the bag and shoved them into two of the drawers. The nice lady in that huge truck gave him a bag of toiletries that he put on the sink in the bathroom.
He hated that truck. They had to have sat in that thing for hours while Mom told the very bald man about her lousy boyfriend, and how this was all his fault. All Eddie had wanted to do was watch the fire and be near Maggie.
The smell of butterscotch pudding wafted from the kitchen. Ms. James told him Maggie waited for him outside and he headed out, stopped cold when the November cold smacked his face. “I—I don’t have a coat,” he remembered.
“Oh, honey. Hang on. Let me find…” Ms. James dug through a closet, and pulled out a big, gray hooded sweatshirt. She pulled it over his head, kissed his forehead and looked at him more intently than he liked. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”
“Thanks for letting us stay here.” He looked longingly at the back door. “Can I, um… Maggie’s waiting for me.”
And she was, just like she had promised. The sleeves of his sweatshirt hung past his fingers, but it didn’t smell like smoke. He flipped up the hood just to have a new scent in his nose and sat down next to her on the bench swing.
She handed him her partially eaten butterscotch pudding. “It’s still warm.” He ate. She moved the swing with the gentle sway of her legs. Before he had finished the bowl, she rested her head on his shoulder. That was the magic of Maggie—he never had to say a thing to her and she always understood. She didn’t talk about the fire. She didn’t ask what had happened. She didn’t dream up stories of all they’d do as roommates. She just let the swing move and his thoughts wonder.
“I only have three days of clothes,” he finally said.
“Mom said maybe we could go to a thrift store. They have all kinds of cool things.”
Eddie nodded. He balanced the bowl on his thighs and took Maggie’s warm hand in his. The chain on the swing creaked against the hooks with each sway.
“Are you scared, Eddie?”
“No. I’m mad. I lost my Gameboy. I did dishes for two months to earn that thing.”
“Yeah, that sucks,” Maggie said. “But you’re still here. And we can get you a new Gameboy.”
“No, we can’t. Mom can’t—I’m not stupid. We won’t be able to get another one.”
“We can have a bake sale?”
He and Maggie practiced baking chocolate chip cookies and homemade brownies every day after school.
A week later, a fireman came to Maggie’s door. He gave Eddie a package. “The guys pooled our money together. I hear you’re a pretty good Super Mario player.”
Fireman Peters invited him to visit the station any time.
He did, and a new fire ignited.
Beneath the Stars
Publisher ~ Interlude Press
Release Date ~ 16th February 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Sid Marneaux puts his fashion career on the line when he returns home to care for his ailing father. When he meets the new fire chief Eddie Garner, their romance sparks hot, but Eddie harbors burdens of his own. Through the wisdom of a child and the connection of mothers-now-gone, the men redefine family, career, and most importantly, love.
Meet Lynn Charles
Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates to her childhood where thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and joys poured onto the pages of journals and diaries.
She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. When she’s not writing, Lynn can be found planning a trip to New York or strolling its streets daydreaming about retirement. Her previous novels include Chef’s Table (2014) and Black Dust (2016).
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Hold // Five winners receive Beneath the Stars eBook