Second House From the Corner
by Sadeqa Johnson
Second House from the Corner: A Novel of Marriage, Secrets, and Lies
In the tradition of I Don't Know How She Does It, Second House from the Corner centers on the story of Felicia Lyons, a stay-at-home mother of three drowning in the drudgery of play dates, lost pacifiers and potty training who occasionally wonders what it would be like to escape the demands of motherhood. Felicia Lyons is a character who mothers can identify with and laugh along with. You can't help but cheer for her in Johnson's engaging and well-written novel. Now available in paperback!
How far would you go to protect your marriage?
In Sadeqa Johnson's Second House from the Corner, Felicia Lyons struggles to sprint ahead of the demands of motherhood while her husband spends long days at the office. When the children won’t stop screaming her name or arguing over toy trucks and pretzel sticks, she sometimes wonders what it would be like to get in her car and drive away.
Then one evening the telephone rings, and in a split second Felicia’s life is turned upside down. She hasn’t been completely honest about her upbringing, and her deception forces her return to her childhood home, where she must confront the family demons and long-buried secrets she thought she had left behind.
PRAISE FOR SADEQA JOHNSON
"A captivating tale to savor...Felicia is a wonderfully flawed, compelling main character, one who has stayed with me long after I finished the book. A winning novel from a writer to watch."
-Benilde Little, bestselling author of Welcome to My Breakdown and Good Hair
"Sadeqa Johnson is one of those authors you rarely find these days. Her gift of writing sings on every page. When reading her second novel, Second House From the Corner, you can't help feeling like you just received a letter from an old friend.... or an old lover. It is a must read!"
-Here's the Story Bookstore in Union, NJ
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Excerpt: Part 1
To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings- all in the same relationship. - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The Witching Hour
That four-hour window between after-school pickup and bedtime? It's like walking a tightrope with groceries in both hands. The slightest hiccup will land any mother in a quagmire with her legs in the air. For me the whole afternoon was a fail. I locked myself out when I went to pick the kids up from school, but didn't notice the missing house keys until I pulled into the driveway. The snacks had been demolished at the playground, so the hunger meltdown began on the drive to my husband's offic for the spare key (a drive that usually takes seven minutes, but ended up being twenty round-trip because of traffic). Things got even shoddier once I discovered we were out of Kellogg's Corn Flakes. My children will not eat baked chicken unless I dip the pieces in buttermilk, roll them in cornflakes, and bake until crispy. The oven was preheated, the potatoes were boiling for the mash, and I was thirty-three minutes off schedule without the magic cereal that makes my chicken finger-licking good. No time to change the dinner plan. So I swap in seasoned bread crumbs and cross my toes that they won't notice.
"Mama, this doesn't taste right." My son, Rory, frowns.
"Just eat it. There are children right down the street who are starving."
"But it's disgusting," whines Twyla.
How does a four-year-old know what disgusting is?
"I have to go pee pee and poo poo."
"Stop smiling at me. Mommy, she's smiling."
"Can we just have dessert?"
Like a song on repeat. Like it's the last word in the English dictionary. They call "Mommy" until my lips pucker, eyebrows knit. And it takes all my strength not to respond with that inside voice that nobody hears, that you wish would stay quiet, that tells the truth you don't want anyone to know. That damn voice is hollering.Shut the fu*ck up!
At what point do I get to shout What the fu*ck do you want from me? I wouldn't drop an F-bomb in front of the mommy crew at the park, and I hate to see parents on the street cursing out their kids. But here in my kitchen with everything working against me, I would like to liberate myself just once and let the profanity rip. It's the nipping at my nerves that gets me. The feasting on my flesh like starved sea urchins. Them, fighting like thieves for their individual piece of me. Me feeling like I have nothing left to give. Any mother who says that she has never felt like her whole life was being sucked out through her nostrils is a damn liar. I feel it every day. Especially when I don't get at least five hours of shut-eye, like
Twyla (whom I call Two) walked her four-year-old self into my room every hour complaining about being scared. Scared of what? The curtain, the bed, the wall-she had an excuse for each visit. Never mind that she had to walk past her father to get to me. They never bother him. It's always Mommy. So I upped and downed all night while he slept like a hibernating black bear.
I hate when I feel like this. My chest rising and falling. Momentum of failure piled. Anxiety has swept through my belly and is curled against my organs like a balled fist. Just one happy pill would make it all better. But I've been on the happiness-comes-from within kick for a few months, so no more pills. Instead I've started tapping.
Tapping out my emotions so I can get back to feeling right. It's that new technique where I say what my issue is and use my fingertips and hit my meridian points until I'm back to even. It usually takes about five minutes and several rounds before I feel centered and strong. My husband, Preston, calls it woo-woo, but he's not at home with three children all day. I am, and I have to use what I've got to carry me through. I turn my back to the kids at the kitchen table, take two fingers, and tap the side of my hand while whispering my setup statement.
"Even though I feel stressed out, anxious, and tired of being alone and responsible for my kids I love and accept myself."
"Mommy, what are you doing?"
"Calming down." I try whispering the statement again but Tywla is out of her seat.
"My stomach hurts."
Rory puts his fork down. "I'm full."
My fingers stop. I haven't made it through one minute, much less the five I need. I take a deep breath and usher everyone upstairs. Maybe Preston will surprise me and come home early. The damn voice laughs. When was the last time he did that? He never makes it home before their bedtime and I bet that's on purpose.
Rory moans. "That's my boat."
"Dad gave it to me."
"No, he didn't."
Breathe. "Cut it out and get undressed."
I run their bath and sneak in a quick tap. Repeating my setup statement, I move from my hand to my forehead, to the side of my eye, under my eye, under my lip, under my chin, full hand on chest, bra strap and top of the head. Fill my lungs with air and exhale. Twyla and Rory are back. I read my body. Better.
"Can I bring this in the tub, pretty please?" Twyla clutches the mesh bag with their toys.
They climb into the bathtub and play. This should give me a few minutes alone with the baby.
"Guys, I'm going to change Liv into her pajamas. No water on the floor."
"Can we have more bubbles?"
"Awwww, man," Rory replies, imitating Swiper the Fox. "You only gave us a little bit."
I cut my eyes in the direction of my six-year-old and hold his gaze for a beat longer so that he knows I mean business.
The upstairs of our house is small, and it only takes three long strides to the girls' bedroom. Liv, the baby, squirms in my arms and I find solace burying my head in her neck. I could sit and smell this child all day. At ten months old, she still has that fresh-to-the-earth smell that forces me to slow my pace. It's hard to look at her without feeling deep sighs of relief.
She is our miracle child.
When I was twenty weeks pregnant with Liv, a routine sonogram found something suspicious. I was sent to the Robert Woods Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick to see a pediatric cardiologist. There was a pinch in her heart that could hemorrhage. Her chances of being stillborn were high. When the doctor suggested that we terminate the pregnancy, I was bilious. By then I had already heard her heart beat, felt her flutter and kick, loved her. Preston didn't even look my way when he simply told the batch of white coats that we would take our chances.
On our way home, the traffic on the Garden State Parkway held us hostage. I slobbered and blubbered against the passenger seat window, trudging through my past, knowing which karmic act brought this down on our family. My husband kept patting my hand, but when that didn't work, he pulled our ice-cream-truck size SUV over to the side of the road and pressed the hazard lights.
"Foxy, look at me." He is the only person who calls me Foxy, and even with hearing my personal pet name, I couldn't bring my eyes to his. Tilting my damp chin, he forced eye contact. "This is not your fault."
But it is.
"You trust me?"
I shake my head, of course, because there really is no other response when your husband asks you that question.
"So the baby is healed. It's done, no more worries." Preston clapped his hands, as if he had just entered a contract with God.
"Now stop blaming yourself, you didn't do anything."
As our vehicle crawled up the Parkway, he informed me that we'd name her Liv.
"Not short for anything. Just Liv."
I knew what I had done to deserve this even though my husband did not. I wanted it to be all right. Needed something to cling too, so I agreed to everything that Preston offered because the only hope I had for a favorable outcome was him. I had burned my bridge with God a long time ago.
( Continued... )
© 2016 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Sadeqa Johnson. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Meet the Author
SADEQA JOHNSON is a former public relations manager who spent years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an author herself. Her debut novel, LOVE IN A CARRY-ON BAG was hailed by Ebony.com as "this summer's hottest read." It was the recipient of the 2013 Phillis Wheatley award for Best Fiction and the 2012 USA Best Book award for African-American fiction.
SECOND HOUSE FROM THE CORNER is her second novel.
Originally from Philadelphia, she now resides in Virginia with her husband and three children. An inner #peace advocate, Johnson is a #meditation teacher, #inspirational blogger and motivational speaker.
BPM: When did you get your first inkling to write, and how did you advance the call for writing?
I'm originally from Philadelphia. As a kid, I started off wanting to be an actress. When I graduated high school, I moved to New York and attended Marymount Manhattan College as a Theatre Arts major. It was as a student that I started fooling around with poetry, which turned to playwriting, screenwriting and ended up with novel writing. I landed a job working in publishing after college and it was there that I became very serious about my writing. My first novel, Love in a Carry-on Bag took me over ten years to finish. I started writing it when I was a publicity manager at G.P Putnam's Sons.
Every day I would close my office door at four o'clock and write for the last hour of the workday. On my commute home, I edited the pages. Once I got married, I left my corporate job to write and raise my children, but still nursed a burning desire to tell stories. I wrote during nap times, between feedings, in the midst of sleep deprivation and my kid's ear infections. The daily pressures of caring for a young family motivated me to finish the book. I was very much like Felicia in Second House From the Corner. As much as I loved being a mother, I didn't want that role to be my only claim. I knew that it was important for me to carve out something that was only for me, and writing novels was it. My novels are my legacy.
BPM: What makes your writing different than others?
I'm a lover of words and keep a thick, old school thesaurus on my desk, which I use to deepen the meaning of the text. I don't like to rush when I'm writing, and I'll work on a paragraph for three days if it takes that long to make it sound good. Although I'm a commercial fiction writer, I work to bring poetry, beauty and music to my work. My goal is to make readers pause over a delicious sentence, giving them no choice but to read it again.
BPM: Can you share a little of your current work with us? Introduce us to your book and the characters.
I love everything about Second House From the Corner. In the novel, Felicia Lyons, a stressed out stay-at-home mom struggles to sprint ahead of the demands of motherhood, while her husband spends long days at the office. Felicia taps, utters mantra and breathes her way through most situations but on some days, like when the children won't stop screaming her name or arguing over toy trucks and pretzel sticks, she wonders what it would be like to get in her car and drive away.
Then one evening the telephone rings, and in a split second Felicia's innocent fantasy becomes a hellish reality. The call pulls her back into a life she'd rather forget. Felicia hasn't been completely honest about her upbringing, and her deception forces her return to the Philadelphia of her childhood, where she is forced to confront the family demons and long buried secrets she thought she had left behind.
BPM: Did you learn anything personal from writing this book?
I wrote Second House From the Corner in about a year and a half, which was much different from my ten-year haul with Love in A Carry-on Bag. I learned to outline and draft quickly, and then to just punch the story out and fix it later. There were a lot of loving hands that touched Second House From the Corner and for that I am so grateful and utterly proud of the finished product.
BPM: What would you like to accomplish after this book is released?
Don't laugh, but my deepest desire is to be on the New York Times best sellers list. I have been putting that out into the Universe since day one so I know it's going to happen. I also plan to sell the movie rights and be paid (well) to consult on set as the movie is being filmed. My children are going to love walking the red carpet. Selling the foreign rights and seeing my novel printed in several languages would also make me happy. Eventually I'd like to teach a writing group and get out on the motivational speaking circuit.
BPM: Are any scenes from the book borrowed from your world or your experiences?
Oh, yes. I am a mother of three children. My kids were about the age of Felicia's when I started writing the book and a lot of her experience of feeling overwhelmed and worn out with the duties involved with caring for small children was what I felt as a young mother. I still feel it at least four times a week. She taps her way through it, I go to hot yoga, run and meditate to find my center.
BPM: What should readers DO after reading this book?
Tell all of their friends to buy a copy. I really believe it takes a village to make a best seller. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising so please, please tell a friend. Your review on Goodreads.com and all of the retailer's website would also be wonderfully helpful.
BPM: What are your career goals as a writer? Have you accomplished most of them?
Right now I really admire Attica Locke. She wrote a book called The Cutting Season that I couldn't put down. Then one night I was watching the show Empire, and her name popped up in the credits as producer and writer. Immeditately, I had goosebumps. I'm so proud of my fellow writers when they cross over and do big things. As I sat watching, I thought, could I write for television? Mmmm, I'm just going to let that thought marinate. Hosting a show on television would also tickle my fancy.
BPM: What have you realized about yourself since becoming a published author?
I've realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Every moment in my life from going to college in New York City as Theatre arts major, to my first two jobs in publishing as a publicist, to starting my own publishing house and having to do everything possible to get the word out on Love in a Carry-on Bag has led me to this moment. I've worked hard, I deserve to be right here and my future is even brighter. I can't wait to see what God has in store for me.
BPM: What are you the most thankful for now?
I'm grateful for my health and the health of my family and close friends. I enjoy waking up every morning, getting my kids off to school (most times without arguments and tears but not always), putting on a pot of coffee and going to work in my robe. God is always amazingly good to me. Oh, and I have a sexy, supportive husband to boot.
BPM: Do you have any advice for people seeking to publish a book?
Don't quit. Writing takes time and dedication and it is very important to be true to the craft. Take writing classes, form a writing group and read as much as you can. Give yourself time and permission to grow, and be patient with yourself. Believe in your creativity above all. Allow the magic to flow.
BPM: What's next?
I'm working on my third novel, And Then There Was Me. It's about deception and betrayal. It's scheduled to be published by Thomas Dunne Books spring of 2017 so stay tuned. And click right over to my website, www.sadeqajohnson.net and subscribe to my blog. I'll keep the latest news listed there. I'm on all of the social media outlets so get in touch with me. I'd really love to hear from you.
Love, Light and Laughter.
Connect with Sadeqa Johnson