A week ago I was in Chicago at the GCLS Conference knowing that there were only two more days to go. Looking back, seeing various posts on social media, I’m sadly aware of all the people I didn’t meet. Where did the time go? Not nearly enough time to talk to everyone.
Once the conference starts on Wednesday afternoon the time just flies by. I took part in two readings and a panel, went to some other readings and panels – and spent any available time at the Affinity Rainbow Publications vendor table, selling books and talking to anyone who stopped by.
I did manage to venture out of the hotel on the Tuesday before the conference started. The main aim of the trip was to visit the American Writers Museum. And it was fascinating – very modern with innovative and interactive displays, but I couldn’t resist a nostalgic trip down memory lane, sitting at one of the old typewriters, listening to the sound of the keys hitting the paper.
Thanks to Michelle Pond for being my guide to downtown Chicago. It was lovely to just walk along the ‘magnificent mile’ taking in the architecture and landscaping of the city. So much to see and, as with the conference, not nearly enough time to absorb it all.
I’ve attended two other GCLS conferences and sharing time with my Affinity sisters is always a joy. We have a lot of fun together. Our publisher supplied us with a denim shirt each to showcase the new logo. The shirts drew a lot of positive comments and we could have sold some if they had been available.
We talked to everyone who stopped by our vendor table even if they didn’t want to buy books. And to those who did, a heartfelt ‘thank you’! I was especially pleased that my latest book, Running From Love, sold out.
I read an excerpt from Chapter One in the Author Spotlight session on Friday morning:
The cupboard was bare, as was the fridge. Sam took out the lone bottle of Corona and popped the cap. Not even a lemon or lime lurking anywhere. She took a sip and wondered what she was missing. When she spoke to Beth the night before, giving her the flight arrival time, her wife had sounded a bit distant, but nothing that couldn’t be put down to Beth being tired after a full day’s teaching.
This wasn’t quite the homecoming Sam had anticipated. Maybe Beth was bringing home a takeaway. Sam sank into the recliner in the living room and kicked off her shoes. She closed her eyes.
The sound of a car door closing jerked her awake. She had been on the verge of dropping into a deep sleep.
Sam stood and stretched. She hoped Beth had picked up something tasty. The snack she’d had on the plane had been hours ago and her stomach was rumbling. Beth came into the room, still wearing her coat. She looked drained. It must have been a particularly bad class today. Sam smiled and moved towards her. “Hey, it’s good to be home. But I hope you’ve brought some food. I’m starving.”
“Sorry. I haven’t…”
“Okay. We can go out. The Thai won’t be too busy on a Thursday.”
Beth held up her hands to stop Sam embracing her. “I need to talk to you.”
“Sure, okay. Where’s Hermy, anyway?”
“Where she always is when you’re away for more than two days.”
“Oh, pigging it out at Barb’s, I suppose.” “No. She’s in a cattery.” “What?” “It’s very nice. She likes it there.”
“No way! She’ll be screaming the place down. How could you?” Sam stared at Beth. It was like looking at a stranger, not the woman she’d shared the last fourteen years with.
“Sam, sit down, please. There’s something I have to tell you.” “Something worse than abandoning our baby in a cattery?” “Um, well, yes. I’m leaving.” “L…leaving?”
“Well, I’ve left, actually. I didn’t want to just leave you a note.”
Sam sat down again. Beth perched on the edge of the sofa.
“Why?” Feeling like she was trapped in a nightmare, Sam’s heart was pounding wildly.
‘I’ve met someone.”
“I see. And how long has this been going on?”
Tears threatened. Sam could feel the prickling behind her eyes. It made sense now. The extra hours at work, going in on Saturdays sometimes, preparation for inspections, workshops on lesson planning.
Beth started to speak again. “It just sort of happened. You’ve been away so much recently.”
“After all the time we’ve been together, this just started to bother you?” Sam sniffed, determined not to cry. “Fourteen years. And those vows you made less than two years ago? Those meant nothing to you? Because I meant every word.” Her anger was building now.
“I’m sorry. I can’t explain it.”
“And who is she? This wife stealer?”
Beth looked away and said softly, “Lydia.”
“Lydia,” Sam repeated. “Lydia. Carmichael.” “Yes.” “So, you’re fucking the head teacher. Good move. Guess you’ll get that head of department job after all.”
“Oh, don’t! I can’t bear to hear any more. Just get out!”
Beth pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. “This is where Hermy is. I’ve paid the bill. They’ll be open tomorrow at nine.”
Sam closed her eyes, not wanting to watch the love of her life walk out on her. “Leave your keys.”
She slumped back into the cushions on the sofa. Heard the keys drop onto the table, waited for the footsteps to recede, the front door to close, and the car to drive off…then the tears came.
When she opened her eyes again, the room was dark. She groped around for the lamp’s switch. The circle of light reached across to the table in front of her. Beth’s keys lay on top of the cattery invoice. And next to them a ring; the twin of the one on her finger. The ring they had chosen together. The ring engraved with “Forever yours, Beth and Sam, 1 April 2014”.
April Fools’ Day. They had joked about it at the time but figured it was a date they would always be able to remember.
So the GCLS Conference is over and it’s back to the real world. Plenty to occupy me here at home…but I think I can ignore that pile of ironing for another day or two.
The Starling Hill Trilogy: