Ten-year-old Olivia Chandler has a school she loves, good friends, a nice home, a talented mom, and a successful father she adores. Tragedy rips all of this away from her, and plunges Olivia into the foster care system, where for eight years she is neglected, humiliated, abused, and nearly raped. Fate smiles on Olivia shortly before she ages out of the system, allowing her the means to attend college and law school. Years later, Olivia is a successful child advocate attorney, giving a voice to children who are so easily ignored by those claiming to act in their best interest. She has little time for personal relationships, and her lifelong fear of abandonment reminds her never to get too close to anyone. The successful attorney stumbles though when she’s assigned a case by the court that too closely mirrors her own haunted childhood. Olivia never gives her minor clients less than her all, and the only way she can help her eleven year old client is to face down and acknowledge her demons. This same case also brings a man into her life who sees her for who she truly is, and will not allow Olivia to push him away.
Olivia wasn’t sure how long she had been standing in the doorway to her office, lost in memories from so long ago. Willis Benson had been true to his word and kept her father’s estate intact. Because of Willis, she had this home…the home her daddy had built for his family. Willis’ dogged efforts had also made Olivia a wealthy woman. She still had issues with spending money on herself, and usually found a way to discreetly spend it on others in need. She turned and glanced at the closed door across the hall. She walked over and touched the cool cherry wood. Her father’s office. While Livvie had made a concerted effort to redecorate the entire house after she graduated from law school, Ben’s office remained untouched. Everything was nearly exactly the way he left it the morning before the accident. Livvie only entered the room once or twice a year to dust or…during a thunderstorm. Terrified of storms as a child, Ben first tried to console Livvie with the explanation that thunder was just the angels bowling, but his baby girl was entirely too sharp for that. Talk soon turned to cumulonimbus clouds, gusty winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail. Whether she was calmed by science, or simply just being with him, Livvie never figured out. But now, all these years later, she could feel his presence closest when she curled up in his favorite chair and watched the rain dance across the window. She lovingly ran her hand over the headrest of the chair. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply and was sure she could still smell hints of his aftershave, woodsy and pine with just a hint of citrus. Daddy. Livvie sat down in the chair and covered her face with her hands. Why couldn’t she just be normal? She had a life Ben would approve of. Well, she had a profession he would approve of since she followed in his footsteps. But she didn’t have a life. She didn’t have friends over for gourmet dinners and game night. She rarely visited anyone’s home when invited, always begging off because of a work overload. Once or twice a month…at Margo’s pleadings, Olivia would stop into Overruled, the local watering hole frequented by the courthouse crowd. She would have her usual one glass of Sweet Red, while fending off advances, propositions and quick feel ups by an assortment of tipsy attorneys, judges and clerks. She never took offense, nor did she take any of them seriously…which of course, Margo said was her problem. “Olivia, if you don’t even open up your mind to the possibilities, how will you ever make a connection or find The One?” “Oh Margo, please! We’re talking about Happy Hour with the same circle of people we work with. I fail to see how someone I want to run over with my car at 10:30 in the morning can become the one I want to spend the rest of my life with at 6:30 in the evening.” “That’s because at 6:30 in the evening, alcohol is involved. Um…wait. With some of these guys, alcohol is involved at 10:30 in the morning too!” Olivia allowed herself to smile remembering one of countless conversations with her dauntless assistant. She glanced around the room and her eyes fell on the cherry oak book case next to the desk. Moving before she realized it, Olivia was out of the chair and heading for the book case. She knelt before it and open the doors below the shelves. Olivia pulled the large black photo album out and ran her fingers over it, almost reverently. Sitting down on the floor, she slowly opened the front cover. The first photo was of her parents on their wedding day. ‘Benjamin Foster Chandler and Sarina Lenora Baker, united in marriage, November 3, 1966.’ They looked so happy. Her father seemed to radiate male pride, his arm curled around the waist of his new, beautiful wife. Olivia had seen this photo hundreds of times over the years, but for the first time, she really looked at her mother. Her joy was obvious, but there was a look in Sarina’s eyes that Olivia had never noticed before. Frowning, she tried to define it and could only come up with…relief. Resting her chin on her hand, Olivia’s mind raced as she wondered why her mother would be relieved on her wedding day. Maybe nervous jitters, all the pre-wedding preparations and endless to-do lists. That had to be it. Turning more pages in the album, Olivia saw photo after photo of her parents celebrating each wedding anniversary, always smiling…always hopeful. She knew what was coming after the ninth wedding anniversary photo. Olivia broke into a wide grin while she stared at the page. ‘Olivia Louise Chandler, born June 22, 1976, 3:14 AM, 6 pounds, 0 ounces, 22 inches long, Parents – Benjamin F. Chandler & Sarina B. Chandler.’ Even as a newborn, the features she received from each of her parents stood out. She had her mother’s light brown eyes with flecks of gold and dark brown with her dad’s thick, bushy eyebrows. Her high ‘chipmunk’ cheekbones screamed Sarina Chandler just as her thick full lips said Benjamin Chandler. Olivia wondered what they saw when they looked at her. Had they seen themselves? Had they seen the future? Were they looking forward to school dances, graduations and grandchildren? Slamming the album shut, Olivia returned it to the shelf and quickly stood. She had been cheated. Her parents had been cheated. Her daddy always told her that life was not fair…he told her a lot of things. It was as though he knew he wouldn’t be there for her. Giving herself a mental shake, Olivia walked to the office door, but turned to glance around the office. I wish I knew what I’m supposed to do. Raising her eyes heavenward, she smiled. “Sure could use a bit of your wisdom now, daddy.” Pulling the door closed, she padded across the hall to her office and settled in for a long evening of work.
An avid reader from a very early age, Felicia would re-write the stories she read, making the women a little bit tougher. Not to outdo the men, but raised by parents who taught their six daughters to always stand up for themselves, and to always “be a lady”, Felicia has very little patience with ‘crybabies’ – female or male. Introduced to creative writing in grade school, Felicia amused herself by creating stories, poems, and song lyrics…that she never showed to anyone. Now embracing the concept of sharing, Felicia’s first published novel, In The Best Interest of the Child” debuts in September 2016. Felicia left the harsh winters of Michigan and now resides in Arizona with her husband of more than thirty years, who’s always trying to read over her shoulder. Their three adult children are scattered around Arizona. She is looking forward to having grandchildren, but feels she may win the lottery first…or get struck by lightning. Though she enjoys a good rain storm, Felicia no longer goes outside when it rains. She’s not taking any chances.