Author Archives: Marissa Ames

About Marissa Ames

I’m a working mom, a devoted wife, an author and a homesteader. I spend my free time eating lunch. My homesteading story began 180 years ago, with pioneering ancestors who made drastic changes to preserve faith and values. With each generation the plot repeats: A diligent father works long hours to provide for his family. An innovative mother fills in the gaps while striving to uphold her faith and values. Children follow in their parents’ footsteps, returning to proven methods when modern times fall short on promises of a better life. Now my husband and I live the lessons taught by our parents, working to support our family through conventional careers in addition to urban farming. We raise chickens and other poultry, rely on large-scale urban gardening, and get through the winter with canning and food preservation. In the spring and summer we grow food; in the fall we preserve it; in the winter we make cheese and soap and chronicle the year’s experiences. I began the Ames Family Farm blog on a whim, mostly to secure the name in case I took my talents further and started a greenhouse or an educational system. What came to fruition exceeded my own ambitions. Now I share my experiences through Ames Family Farm, Countryside and Backyard Poultry Magazines, other publications, and social media. I speak at conventions and work with school gardening projects, advocating sustainability and backyard chickens in urban settings. Mostly, I offer what I can as friends and acquaintances seek help with gardening or homesteading endeavors. My current books in progress include Huntsman, the third book in the Tir Athair medieval fantasy series, and a homesteading series to help budget-minded urbanites enhance their living spaces to save money and advocate a healthier, happier way of life. I continue to contribute to Countryside and Backyard Poultry through it all. I believe homesteading is meant to save money rather than cost more. That gardening enhances health and joy as well as cutting costs, that canning and food preservation are keys to self-reliance when bad times hit. That everyone has the ability to homestead. Even if you live in a high-rise apartment and cannot keep chickens, you can make cheese or sew clothing. Even in a food desert you can budget and preserve food to protect your health and way of life.

A Public Identity!

I’ve had two major steps in my author process.

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First of all, Minstrel is available on Amazon for pre-order, with a discount over $4. I also have a corresponding author page set up on Amazon. Feel free to click on the link to my author page and send me a “Like.”

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Minstrel Cover

Second, Minstrel is also available on Goodreads! If this is a work you are interested in reading, please indicate it by clicking the “Want to Read” button!

Thank you all for your support! The likes, links, and reposting are all noticed, and they mean so much to me.

6 Weeks til Minstrel

Minstrel Cover

In exactly 42 days, Minstrel will be available in eBook and print formats. Now that I type that out, it feels a lot longer than saying “six weeks.”

However, with projects going on like the Fall Flash Festival, AMMC, and the Jingle Bells anthology, those six weeks will probably fly by as we rush to make these deadlines. But these six weeks are going to be full of excitement and anticipation.

In two weeks, I’ll have a surprise to offer. This surprise will only be free on specific days. (No, it’s not Minstrel. We all have to wait until November 5th for that.) To keep updated, and know when you can snag this surprise, “like” and follow my Facebook page. I will only be posting the links on there!

Thank you! Now go out and enjoy those fall leaves.

Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters

This story is for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas (AMMC-DFQ). Details and submission guidelines can be found here:

  • Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters by Marissa Ames
  • Ebook: YES

 This story is dedicated to Ralinda, Kaylee, and Andee. Merry Christmas! I send you joy, love, laughter, and reasons to never wear those sweaters.

ugly sweater cookies

Grandma knitted sweaters every year, from January to November, and gifted them in December. She intertwined yarn into elaborate Christmas trees, stars, and snowy woodland scenes. Grandma’s sweaters reminded me of Care Bears spreading Christmas love with bedazzled belly magic.

Every year, I got a sweater from Grandma. Knowing what lay inside, I tore into the box with practiced enthusiasm. I pulled out the mass of festive yarn and held it up to the light of the Christmas tree, gushing about the love and attention she must have taken, just for me.

Then I tucked the sweater back in the box. Twelve boxes sat in my closet, neatly stacked in the far corner behind my old stuffed animals.

“Grandma’s visiting for a week,” mom told us. “It would be nice if you wore one of those sweaters while she was here.”

I groaned and slumped, but Sarah agreed. Nine-year-olds know nothing about making a stand for fashion.

When Grandma arrived, Sarah waited at the door in a red and green monstrosity. Grandma’s hot pink lips stretched taut over her dentures as she pinched Sarah’s cheeks.

Sarah grabbed Grandma’s wrinkled, spotted hand. “Wanna bake cookies, Gramma?” With that pink smile in place, Grandma waddled into the kitchen after Sarah.

“Where’s your sweater?” mom asked from behind me.

“I’ll wear it closer to Christmas,” I promised.

The second day, Sarah wore a fuzzy white garment bedazzled with blue rhinestone snowflakes as she held Grandma’s yarn. Mom raised her eyebrows as I passed in my t-shirt. I shrugged and moved into the yarn-free zone.

“You’re going to disappoint her,” mom accused the next morning.

I shrugged and continued texting.

“Sarah’s learning how to knit, and you’re ignoring your Grandma. Just wear the sweater, just once.”

“I will,” I whined, annoyed that I had to look up from my phone.

On the fourth day, I lacerated my foot in Sarah’s room. “You left knitting needles on the floor,” I said, picking up the bloody awl. “Where did you get these needles?”

“From Gramma,” she said, coiling yarn around her wrist. “What should I make with this?”

I shook my head. “You’re getting weird,” I said, hobbling away to find a Band-Aid.

Mom wouldn’t leave me alone. “Wear a sweater,” she said, grabbing her hem and stretching it down for emphasis, warping the snowman on the front. “Honestly, what harm could come of wearing one?”

“I don’t know,” I argued between texts. “I can’t risk it.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “Come to dinner.”

“What are we having?” I asked without looking up from my phone.

“Something soft, with lots of fiber,” she said as she shuffled out of my room.

I woke at 4am to the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. I rubbed my eyes and followed the smell to the kitchen. Decked in boughs of sweater holly, Sarah removed a tray from the oven. On the table, hundreds of cookies cascaded onto the lace runner. She had to have been baking for hours to acquire that many.

I squeaked, “What are you doing? How long have you been baking?”

“Oh, don’t bother her,” Mom said from behind me. I turned to see her sway past me, wearing slippers and a housecoat, with a red Santa sweater overtop of the coat.

Sarah set the cookie tray on a trivet. “Eat some,” she said. “You need some meat on those bones.” I flinched back as she tried to pinch my cheek.

On day six, I opened Sarah’s underwear drawer to borrow a pair of socks. She wouldn’t miss one pair, and I’d have it washed and back in the drawer by tomorrow. The drawer rattled as I pulled it out. My mouth fell open.

Instead of socks, Sarah’s drawer was filled with knitting needles of assorted sizes. Hundreds of needles, jammed tightly. I pulled out other drawers to find the same thing: hoarded knitting needles.

“Mom!” I called, wandering about the room.

All of Sarah’s clothes sat in a pile in her closet. On her hangers, bags of yarn dangled. A housecoat draped over her headboard. Eight pair of slippers peeked from beneath the bed.

“Mom!” I yelled again, hustling out of the room.

Mom sat in the living room, entwining two long, slender sticks into a network of yarn. Sarah sat on one side of her, and Grandma sat on the other. Reindeer pranced across their chests, ending in a knitted sleigh on Sarah’s sweater. On the coffee table sat glasses of Metamucil.

Mom looked up from her knitting. “Do I have to tell you again?” She glared at my designer shirt. “Go put on a sweater!”

I sprinted to my room and yanked my phone out of my pocket.

“911. What is your emergency?”

“Um…” It sounded stupid even before I said it. “My Grandma’s Christmas sweaters are turning my family into old-person zombies,” I blurted out.

The operator paused. I heard snickering in the background. In a professional and appropriately prudish voice, she said, “Miss, abuse of the 911 system is a crime. If this is not a real emergency, you need to hang up right now or I will inform the police.”

Tears stung my eyes as I watched my thumb hover over the touch screen. The police would not believe me. I lowered my thumb to the “end” icon.

That night I fell asleep with the light on as mom, Grandma, and Sarah baked fruitcake until dawn.

“Wake up,” Sarah called, shaking my shoulder. “It’s Christmas!”

I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Exhausted, I had fallen asleep in a chilly room and had woken up cozy and comfortable. I folded my wool-covered arms and sighed.

Mom, Grandma, and Sarah all hovered above me.

“Merry Christmas!” Mom greeted me, pinching my cheek. “What do you want for breakfast?”

I ran my hands over my belly, feeling the texture of miniature plastic lights beneath my palms. Sitting up, I adjusted the green sweater over my chest and said, “Stewed prunes.”

Read other stories from this project here:

A Merry Minion Christmas: The Evolution of a Fantastical Anthology

On behalf of LauraNick & Ruth & myself (Missy) I’d like to introduce (drum roll please……)

red dragon

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

AMMC-DFQ – Rules and Guidelines

A Merry Minion Christmas: Assorted Tales from the Realm of the Dark Fairy Queen

In the style of the #DFQWBS that brought many of us together, we’re now collaborating on a Christmas anthology. This project is open to members of the Facebook group Dark Fairy Queen and her Brilliant Minions. If you are not a part of this group and would like to contribute, please contact the owner of this blog for details. This is a free publication, with no royalties. However, an eBook will be available for download upon completion. If we receive over 50 contributions, the book will be available for print, for only the cost of printing and shipping. By submitting to the project, you agree to these conditions.

1. The submissions may begin on September 23rd with a final deadline of October 28th. This deadline is critical to produce a book by December.

2. The theme is a “Fantastical Christmas.” Use fantastical elements, even if they’re elements you believe in but someone else doesn’t. Examples include dragons, monsters, angels, fairies, magic, etc.

3. Tales must be between 500-1000 words in length. If necessary, we can allow some leeway, but no more than 50 words to either side.

4. Stories with dark, gory, romantic, or religions tones are all allowed and encouraged. Soapboxes are not. You are welcome and encouraged to write within your genre or religious element. However, if the editors feel you have slandered another culture, religion, or lack of religion, we will politely ask you to change the focus of your story.

5. Because this book may be read by younger children, keep your story within PG-13 guidelines. No f-bombs, sex scenes, or explicitly gory details, please.

6. You may make up to three submissions. Each submission must be a separate, complete story within 1000 words.

7. Each submission must be “satisfying,” i.e. a complete scene, leaving no unanswered questions or cliffhangers.

8. You may dedicate each story to someone as a Christmas gift, using up to two lines for your dedication.

9. Stories should be posted on your own website, or hosted on another writer’s website. If you would like to keep your dedication a secret, approach someone else within the #DFQ group about hosting your story. If you do not have a blog or do not know someone willing to host your story, message us – Laura James, Missy Ames, Nick Johns, Ruth Long via the FB group AMMC.

10. Each story must have a Title and Author Name, and “eBook Yes (or No)” to indicate your willingness to have it included within an eBook.

11. By tagging your story with #AMMC-DFQ and indicating “eBook Yes,” you agree to the publishing conditions mentioned above.

12. We will create a Facebook group (AMMC) to contain discussion of this anthology until its completion. Follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #AMMC-DFQ. Soon, a link code will be added to this post, which will connect all of our contributions.

13. Please use the following formatting, to make editors’ lives easier:

• Use double quotes for speech
• Use a blank line after each paragraph

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bhc

We are pleased to announce that Blue Harvest Creative is on board to for our cover design and formatting! This will be a beautiful finished product. So start thinking up your Christmas tales! We look forward to reading about your romance, mystery, crimes, dark tales, and passion. About fairies, angels, dragons, zombies, elves… or zombie elves! About the beginnings of your traditions, or the nuances of them now, through a fantasy element. We’re excited to see what everyone brings to the book!

To #Free or not to #free – the question with varying answers

Today, author Ashley Fontainne illustrated her experience with a self-publishing option that may sound too good to be true.

free sign

She writes,

I have been asked this question so many times during the last two years that I’ve lost count (math is not my forte). The variable that dictated my response was when the question was posed to me. Confused? I know, so please let me explain…

When Amazon first started the KDP (Kindle Direct Select) program in December of 2011, I was still a fresh faced recruit in the publishing world. My first novel, Accountable to None, hit the virtual shelves April 22, 2011. Since I was a newcomer with no audience yet, sales were slow.

Imagine a turtle crossing the frozen tundra in Alaska during a blizzard–that slow.

(Okay, so I know that’s a turtle in the sand, but I couldn’t find an actual turtle in the snow–use your imagination).

By the time the announcement of this new option from Amazon arrived in my inbox in early December, I believe the tally of total book sales was less than four hundred. I had joined a few author/reader groups on Facebook, started accounts on Twitter, Goodreads and LinkedIn, etc., and generally just stumbled my way around while I watched and tried to learn from more seasoned authors.

So, the day the offer to sign up for the KDP program arrived, I read through the email to learn more about the program. You sign up for 90 days with your book, agree to allow Amazon to be the exclusive online retailer and in exchange, allow your books to be “borrowed” by Amazon subscribers of the Prime program. For each “borrow” you are in the pot for (at the time) a share of $750,000. Plus, you get the chance to list your book for FREE for up to 5 days during each 90-day period of enrollment. Sounded like a great program to me! Unknown authors such as myself would be afforded the opportunity to get their books in front of potentially millions of Kindle users when their book went from “paid” to “free.”

How did Ashely’s work do on the KDP program? Read her post here…

Why Fantasy?

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We’ve heard it all. You can’t be a hardcore fantasy fan this long without hearing it.

“You’re just trying to escape.”
“You live in a fantasy world.”
“Oh, you’re one of them.”

(I’ll take that last one as a compliment.)

It’s not about trying to go off and live with dragons and princesses. I got over that when I was ten. It’s not about wishing I had a different life. My life is very blissful, though perhaps just a tiny bit boring. As most long-term fans of fantasy will tell you, it’s not about any of that.

We all have our ways to divert ourselves. Television and movies, sports, and family outings all give us moments above our daily tedium. On television, the escapism can range from train-wreck reality shows to watching chefs create amazing masterpieces, to the HBO re-creation of the latest popular author.

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Have you noticed how many of the new movies and series are fantasy? A Game of Thrones. Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. The Avengers. We want to imagine these possibilities, even if we know they could never come true. Just as people in perfectly happy relationships can enjoy romance stories, fans of fantasy can appreciate the blissful escapism of magic or imaginary worlds without any big, cathartic reason.

We simply love fantasy.

Someone weaves a story. Someone takes the elements of plot, characterization, and setting, and creates worlds where imagination is crucial. It fires up neurons that might have gotten a little flabby from misuse. It invites in the research to temporarily place someone in a setting he may never see in person.

And we eat it up!

Medieval_Town_By_Water

I write fantasy because the amount of imagination necessary thrills me. This is coupled with the necessary knowledge and research. I once heard someone say, “Fantasy is the easiest to write, because it doesn’t have to be accurate.” I disagree. True fans of fantasy can pick out every little inconsistency and inaccuracy. Our details haven’t been predetermined by history, science, or modern architecture. We can’t just look them up in an encyclopedia. Writers have to create them, and convince readers that it could have happened. If I chose to write about dragons, and appealed to a true dragon lover, any laziness in my details would be ripped apart in a review.

I write fantasy because it’s what I know best. Growing up in rural Idaho, we had one movie theater and no local TV stations. The internet was just a lofty concept back then. Mainstream literature bored me, so I read fantasy. I read about the young girl who became a knight. About the king who tried to rescue the princess from the dragon, only to find out the princess and dragon were friends. As I matured and the fascination with medieval times faded, the knowledge didn’t. I still knew the difference between a gauntlet and a greave, between a houppelande and a cotehardie.

I write fantasy because I love it. I like writing nonfiction, if it’s a topic that interests me. Horror interests me, and I like romance if the story has an original concept. But as I have the choice of what to write what I want, I choose to write what has fascinated me since childhood. I write what I know.

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And so I do.

Come celebrate #INDIEpendence with us! Enter Blue Harvest Creative’s giveaway to win many prizes, including an eBook copy of Minstrel upon its release.

Visit our #INDIEpendence event on Facebook today, for a live author chat with me. I’ll be announcing Minstrel’s release date and having a cover reveal.

Marissa_Author_Talk

Zombified Release Party!!

My good friend Jean Booth is proudly releasing her eighth book!

Join us on Friday, June 21, for the release of Zombie War: Zombified, the final in the Zombie War Trilogy by Jean Booth!

zombified cover art

Zombie War: Zombified

Supporting her brother during his experimental treatments, Jessica finds herself betrayed by the one person she loves more than anything. Now she’s forced to either give up, or find a way to survive with what he’s done to her. Craving things she never imagined, her body has transformed into a killing machine, bent on consuming the one thing she can’t live without – brains.

After months of killing, Jessica searches for a way to either end her existence or continue on without having to constantly kill others. She hears of a group of survivors and knows this is her chance. Now she’ll either live or die. The choice would be Sarah’s, the leader of this band of survivors.

Wounded from the fighting, infected blood mixing with hers from the slaughter, Sarah finds herself fighting for her life. Will her boyfriend, Matt, help her end it all, or will she become the monster they’ve been fighting against and devour all those she’d come to protect?

While watching Sarah struggle with the infection, Matt wonders, “Could I kill the one I love, to survive?”

On Friday, June 21, there’ll be a crazy fun blog party going on – The Zombified Release Party!  Jean will be hosting on her blog that day and is inviting anyone who’d like to participate, to join.

Here’s all you need to do –

Stop by Jean’s blog on Friday, June 21 and leave a comment – this’ll enter you in the drawing for signed copies of any two of Jean’s books – your choice!

Post a picture on your blog of you dressed up for Halloween and tell us a little about that fun time in your life, link it to Jean’s blog and you’ll be entered into the drawing for signed copies of any three of Jean’s books – your choice!

jean booth book banner

On Friday, June 21 post a review of any of the Zombie War books (Zombie War: The Beginning, Zombie War: Little Apocalypse on the Prairie, or Zombie War: Zombified) or an interview of Jean on your blog and get entered into the grand prize drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card!

the beginning cover art

As a nurse in the genetics department, Sarah witnessed firsthand the mutation of the AIDS vaccine. The affected patients attacked other people, craving the power of the human brain. The vaccine turned viral, spreading quickly. Sarah was among the few survivors of the initial attack, quickly learning how to defend against the undead horde. Would she make it in time to save those she loved? Even if she did, how would they survive in this horrific new world?

laotp cover art

It’s been six months since the vaccine went bad and introduced zombies into the world. Matt and Sarah have gathered all the survivors they could find, protecting and teaching them how to survive in this post-infected world. They’ve arranged for one last raid into town to try and survive through the oncoming winter. Trouble is, no one could truly prepare them for what they encounter once they arrive.

Those remaining on the farm have been trained and organized into a cohesive unit. Would they be strong enough together when it really matters? Would any of them survive the Little Apocalypse on the Prairie?

jean booth bio photo

Jean Booth was born in the sweltering Vegas desert. She moved about during her childhood until returning to her roots in Northern Nevada. She’s happily married with 9 cats as her children. For the entirety of her adult life, she’s worked in healthcare, battling insurances and poor staffing to provide great care to those who need it. Her greatest escapes are the stories found in books and in her head that she’s finally decided to share. She can be found at http://www.JeanBooth.com

Connect with Jean on:

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Goodreads

Thali

This is an entry for Becky Fyfe’s flash fiction contest  Creating a Female Superhero Challenge. Anyone can enter this contest, which ends on June 30th. If the contest is successful, the stories will be published in an anthology for a charity benefiting girls and girl empowerment. Details are here:

Author: Marissa Ames
Word Count: 1000 words
Anthology: YES
Charity: Because I Am a Girl

Name of female superhero: Thali

Name of human alter ego, if different: Priya Singh

Superhero Appearance (hair, eyes, body type, etc.): Full-figured, with long black hair and brown eyes. Dark complexion.

Human alter ego appearance (if she has an alter ego): No physical change, but Thali dresses in a plain white chef’s uniform while at work.

Costume: Top, pants, and scarf are a cross between a traditional Pakistani outfit and a chef’s coat, white with green trim. Thali wears green gloves and boots.

Personality: Normally non-confrontational, Thali tends to become passive aggressive when provoked. When she discovers she puts her thoughts and intentions into her food, she has to learn to become more proactive when upset so she doesn’t accidentally poison someone.

Brief description of how the superheroine gets her powers (i.e. born with them, radioactive accident, mad scientist experiments on her, etc.): Born with them, passed down on her mother’s side. Thali’s powers are much stronger than her mother’s, and she’s capable of both greater good and greater harm.

Powers: Puts her thoughts or intentions into the food she prepares. This can create a poison, certain accidents, or have a healing effect.

Anything else important: American born, daughter of an Indian father and an Pakistani-American mother.

Thali

Thali

 “Priya Singh.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Tross.” She placed her slender brown hand in his clammy white palm.

“You don’t have an accent.”

“I was born here, Sir.”

He pulled his wrinkled lips into a crepe-thin smile. “Well, good for me. Less paperwork.”

Alan Tross nodded to the left, and Priya followed him through swinging double doors. The receptionist had told her to bring nothing to the job interview. It would all be provided: the knives, pans, and ingredients. Priya had brought only her stained and bleached coat with the emblem of La Croissant Culinary Academy.

Mr. Tross’ commercial kitchen gleamed with stainless steel. The floor tiles shone a Lysol sparkle, marred only by a set of dainty footprints. A skinny little girl swayed back and forth in anticipation, her bright pink skirts reflecting in the wax.

Priya’s steps faltered as she met the girl’s hollow gaze.

“This,” said Mr. Tross, “is your judge.”

Dropping to one knee, Priya offered her hand.

The girl mustered a smile through half-decayed teeth and said, “I like your scarf.” She extended a pale, bony hand and touched Priya’s thick black braid.

“I like yours more,” Priya said.

The girl’s sunken eyes widened. “Wanna trade?” She slipped off her baby pink head covering.

Priya removed hers, and tied her sequined scarf over the girl’s bald little head. A fine layer of fuzz held the silk in place. “You’re beautiful,” Priya said.

Mr. Tross cleared his throat. “You’ll find a full pantry,” he said. “I’ll return in an hour.” He left through the swinging doors.

Rising, Priya gave the girl a nervous smile. “Well,” she said, “would you like to try a dessert from my father’s homeland?”

 ***** 

The girl slurped her rasmalai as Mr. Tross returned. He had left both of them in the kitchen. As the girl watched, Priya had tried to concentrate on the food. The job seemed so trivial now. She wished she could heal the child instead of merely cooking for her.

Mr. Tross passed the girl by, glancing down to see only that she ate.

“Make something else,” he said. “More of this is fine.”

Priya had paneer patties left. She reopened the glass jar of pistachios.

“Tell me about James LaRoche.”

Priya’s brow furrowed. “Who- Oh…” She shrugged. “He was my culinary instructor,” she said, “but only for the first part of my schooling.”

“Why?”

She glanced up at Mr. Tross’ cold stare then looked back down at her chopping block. “He had an accident,” she said as she chopped pistachios. With hushed reverence, she added, “He passed on.”

Her most despised teacher, James LaRoche had insulted each of her creations. Failure, he had called her. Hopeless, stupid. She was not his only target. During a four-course exam, he had Priya’s partner in tears by course two. As Priya prepared the dessert, she had muttered, “I hope he chokes on it.”

Priya set the paneer in bowls and spooned cream over the cheese patties. Why did Mr. Tross need to know about James LaRoche? How did he even know about James LaRoche at all? As she sprinkled the rasmalai with chopped pistachios, she said, “He was only there for the first half of my schooling. Then we had another instructor.” Giving Mr. Tross a weak smile, she pushed the bowl of rasmalai toward his clasped hands.

He did not take the dessert. He peered at her with icy blue eyes. Sweat trickled down her back, beneath her white coat.

“And your mother,” said Mr. Tross as she squirmed beneath his unwavering stare.

“Sir?”

“Tell me about her.”

Priya heard a faint metallic clicking. She looked down to see the handle of her knife shudder against the stainless steel countertop. Letting go of the knife and pushing it away, she said, “My mother is still alive.” She clasped her hands tightly to keep them from shaking.

Mr. Tross kept staring at her. His overtanned skin crinkled around his eyes as he waited for her to respond.

The little girl tapped her heels against her stool and hummed a song. Priya glanced over at the child, then back at Mr. Tross.

He said, “She cooked as well.”

“Yes,” Priya said with hesitation.

“For a very successful café, from what I understand.”

“She wasn’t the owner,” Priya asserted.

Her mother was just a cook. She loved to cook. Everyone loved her food. When asked what they loved about it, nobody could name specific flavors or styles. Angela Singh wanted to make people happy with her food, and she did. They loved her cooking, simply because it was her cooking.

Adjusting her high collar around her sweaty neck, Priya asked, “Is there anything else I can make for you, sir?”

Mr. Tross frowned down at his rasmalai. “No.” He pushed the dessert away. “Nervous, are you? Do you wish I would go away?” He looked up at her. “Do you wish I would choke?”

Watching the cream ripple in the bowl, slowing as the cheese settled, Priya decided she had made a mistake. She did not need a job with a man like this. She reached for the glass jar of pistachios, preparing to clean up and leave.

“Did they tell you how James LaRoche died? He choked on your dessert.”

Priya’s eyes tracked slowly up, from the rasmalai to Mr. Tross’ starched white shirt and tie, then up to his deadpan face. Her bottom lip quivered as she searched for something to say.

Mr. Tross said, “Come here, Maria.”

The little girl hopped down from the stool and skipped over, her little shoes clapping on the tiles.  Standing beside Mr. Tross, she swayed back and forth, her pink skirts swishing around her legs.

Watching Priya with sparking eyes set in a round face, Maria said, “May I have some more?” Her pink cheeks plumped up like little apples as she gave Priya a shining white smile.

The glass jar of pistachios slipped from Priya’s hands and shattered on the Lysol-clean floor.

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