INSIDE THE GIFT BOX
News Flash: Best of All Gifts was a finalist for the UK Wishing Shelf Book Awards. Details will appear on goodreads.com soon.
“The highlight for me was the confrontation between Jonquil and her father Jack, who mysteriously shows up unannounced after 26 years of silence.” Rick Goldman, author
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Excerpts from The Gift Counselor, Chapter One:
“You mean I’m out of a job just like that?” she blurted.
“I’m afraid that’s reality.” His words were cut short by another feeble cough. “Coming, Miss Hamilton,” he called and followed his colleague out of the door.
“Oh, yeah? Well, reality stinks!” Jonquil shouted after him. But they had both vanished down the hall.
The secretary eyed her with concern. “I am so sorry, Jonquil,” she said. Ordinarily, the empathy in her voice would have reduced Jonquil to tears, except that she was angry. She knew this anger. It was old and seductive. Once it resurfaced, fueled by every frustration in her present and past life, it would annihilate all other points of view but one: that she could not and would not ever succeed. It galled her—that’s how angry she was.
“What will you do? Are you going to fight their decision?”
“I can’t fight this. I don’t have time.” Without thinking, she lifted a brush out of a paint bucket near her. “I have a son to raise, bills to pay. I’ve got to put my energy into finding a job where I can feel secure and not have to worry about getting thrown out the next time the walls need painting.”
With that, she flung the brush back into the bucket, causing a few drops of paint to spatter one of the kneeling workmen. Beneath a dripping bill cap, a pair of bemused eyes the color of black gemstones stared up at her.
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” She covered her mouth with her hand, embarrassed.
The painter calmly brushed away the paint drops and beamed back at her in such a mesmerizing way, that it felt as though they were the only two people in the room.
“No problem,” he murmured.
Momentarily, she couldn’t move. Her cheeks flamed, her knees froze, while an exhilarating jolt circuited her body, launching her spirits skyward, higher and higher, until the faraway sound of the secretary clearing her throat brought Jonquil back to earth.
What had just happened?
An excerpt from Chapter Two:
Later that evening as she tucked Billy into bed after listening to his prayers, he asked, “Mom? How will the kids get along without you?” She tried to assure him that the staff at Children’s Home would take good care of the residents, but he persisted.
“Yeah, but they aren’t like you. You have the gift.”
“You know, your teacher told you the night of our Halloween party when we were all in the kitchen. He said you have the gift. What did he mean?” Jonquil sat down on the side of his bed, stroked his soft, sandy-colored buzz cut and saw her reflection in his grayish-blue eyes.
“Well, Billy, it’s an expression adults use when someone is naturally good at something, like playing piano or doing their job. It’s something God gives each of us to share with others. Sometimes if we’re lucky, it becomes our work.
“Maybe Dr. Paxton meant that I seem to know how to help kids with problems. Not everyone does.” She never felt quite as self-conscious talking about her skills as with this precious and precocious child.
Billy sat up in bed all excited. “He was right, Mom! Remember that skinny girl who wouldn’t eat?”
Jonquil thought back on her caseload of the past summer and recalled a shy, black adolescent in the early stages of anorexia. “You mean Luella?”
“That’s the one. Luella’s back in school ’cause of you. And Tommy didn’t even talk till you helped him to.” Tommy Cregier. With a pang, she remembered telling him good bye.
“Why, Billy Bloom, when I started this work, I thought you were jealous of these other kids in my life.”
“Aw, I got over that. Besides, we’re a team, right?”
“So, since every team needs a mascot, can we get a dog? Please, Mom?”
She was annoyed, partly because, even though he’d had dinner at his favorite restaurant and a trip to the movies on a school night, he wanted more, like all kids do. He also knew the subject of dogs was taboo with her. More >>
An excerpt from Chapter Three:
Like other novice therapists, Jonquil had the habit of labeling people. She had yet to learn how inadequate a label or diagnosis is when it comes to describing the unique qualities of a person’s smile. For when she stepped up to the center perfume counter and introduced herself, the woman behind it flung out both arms in greeting and said, “So! You’ve come to your scents(es),” then giggled at her pun.
She had to be fifty, yet she laughed with abandon, like a girl. “Don’t mind me, that’s just my little joke. I’m Ms. Oglesby, but you may call me Rita,” she added with a soft Southern drawl. She glanced at Jonquil’s name tag.
“Do you go by Jonquil? Pretty name, sounds like one of my fragrances. Personnel called down and said you were on your way. Got any sales experience? Ever work in a department store during the Christmas season?” she asked, taking Jonquil’s purse and jacket and stashing them in a drawer. Jonquil shook her head no, but Rita was already handing her a gaudy pink smock, as if it were made of pure silk. The one-size-fits-all cotton cover-up hung down nearly to her knees. She felt absurd in it, until Rita adjusted the matching belt, puffed out the sleeves, and affixed her nametag. Then, she stood back to appraise her handiwork.
“Got any allergies?” After Jonquil shook her head no again, Rita explained. “Last week they sent me a part-time college student, big sun-of-a-gun, six feet two. On his first day of work, he keeled right over the Chanel display and caused quite a stink. Case of a slight hangover and no breakfast. They transferred him to mattresses.” Is she pulling my leg? thought Jonquil.
“Since it’s your first day, I recommend Destiny—it might bring you luck,” said Rita, reaching for a perfume applicator. She prepared to perform a baptism on the spot. “Oh, but I never wear perfume,” Jonquil objected. Nothing could have stunned Rita more. She froze, perfume atomizer in mid-air, mouth ajar, eyes glassy, a textbook example of shock More >>