Autumn Colors was my first published novel. I don’t talk about my own books often enough, or so I’m told. Generally speaking, I don’t like to repeat myself a lot. But I’m working on a submission for the Snowflakes In A Blizzard blog site, and I became a bit nostalgic about the writing of this book. It received a number of very positive reviews:
“This talented author knows how to evoke emotion, so much so that delving into her work hurts…Autumn Colors is an enlightening, though often aching reflection on young love brought to a catastrophic end and a poignant description of spiritual healing. Expect more from this gifted writer.” Rated: Four Stars (out of five) by Julia Ann Carpenter, Foreword Clarion Review
“…The author does an excellent job of steering us through the emotional highs and lows of Kerry’s life and leaves us grateful when she finally realizes happiness was in front of her nose all the time…” Rated: Four Hearts (out of five), Bob Spear, Publisher and Chief Reviewer, Heartland Reviews
“…Lajeunesse tells the story via individual vignettes, and these snapshots make the book a compelling read. While Kerry might not be the most accessible individual, her friends are worth getting to know. This is a solid portrait of a middle-class baby boomer in turmoil. The men in Kerry’s life try to break down her barriers, a journey which can be trying for readers but is ultimately worth experiencing.” Kirkus Reviews
“Autumn Colors is a marvelous time machine of a novel that moves elegantly back and forth from one decade to another, vividly evoking past and present—people and places—reminding us ultimately that although the past is always with us, it doesn’t have to rule us.” Mark Spencer, author of LOVE AND RERUNS IN ADAMS COUNTY and THE WEARY MOTEL
Here’s one of my favorite chapters:
“What’s it really like to be in love, Hilary?”
They were at the campus coffee house, taking a much needed break from studying for finals. Tables had been brought outside under an awning, like a sidewalk café in Paris. They were surrounded by the sights and smells of spring, including her favorite, the hot-fudge tease of the cocoa mulch. She would miss this.
She should have been happy. She was on schedule to graduate in less than two weeks. The paper had offered her a job as a reporter for the Lifestyles section. Her parents told her they’d help with a deposit on a car. Her life beckoned.
But she was miserable. She was stressed by the coming exams. She was saddened to leave there – which seemed ironic, considering she had rushed to escape after her freshman year. Hilary had helped her turn that corner. She would miss her friend tremendously. She hoped Hilary followed through on her plan to move to New York City. It was a much easier place to visit than the hills of Kentucky.
And she couldn’t let go of what had happened with Tom. She wondered if she’d run into him at home. She hoped she wouldn’t and prayed she would. But what would be the point?
“Being in love,” Hilary responded, “is feeling like you and Tom feel about each other when you’re not being complete asses.”
“Don’t sugar-coat it, Hilary. Tell me what you really feel.” God, she would miss this woman. She had never known anyone who could be so completely honest and so completely likeable. There wasn’t an artificial bone in her body.
Hilary and George had seen each other a few times since January. It was different somehow, Hilary insisted. They still had some laughs. Occasionally they slept together. But there was an invisible barrier between their psyches that hadn’t been there originally. She had never learned what it was last summer that changed him.
“Did your relationship with George change when you began sleeping together?”
“I thought it brought us closer together. Now I’m not so sure. Or maybe the glow wore off.”
“What do you mean?”
She searched the horizon for her response.
“The first time we did it, it all happened so fast. I mean—I suppose I shouldn’t be telling tales out of school—but what’s the difference at this point? I mean he was fast. So fast that we had to go a second round before we did it.” Hillary looked at her sideways. “Do you know what I mean?”
“No, I want you to spell it out for me, Hil,” she teased.
Her roommate shook her head and smiled.
“I thought, wow, he’s really hot for me. When we finally did it, though, it took forever. I mean, women all over the world complain about the wham-bam-thank-you-maam syndrome. It was the opposite with George. I was so horny that first time, I was popping off one orgasm after another for a while. I was drained and satisfied. But he kept going. Hadn’t made it to the top yet. And kept going. I was getting dry and sore. And he kept going. When he finally came, I was so grateful, I let out a little shriek. He of course, being a man, thought I’d had yet another orgasm, and he was just as proud as a man can be. I don’t mean to make fun of him. I really do love him. I just mean that in the sex department things weren’t all that great right from the beginning. But we had fun together. And until last summer, we could be relaxed and comfortable with each other. I feel sometimes now like I’m getting to know an entirely different man.” Hilary lifted her cup to her. “I’m getting another – want one?”
“Keep that caffeine coming.” She handed over her cup.
She wondered how things would have changed for Tom and her if he hadn’t had so damn much self-control that last weekend. She sighed. The relationship could go only one way – away. And not because of sex. Because he wanted something she couldn’t give. Over the last two months she had given it a lot of thought. Did he just need to fulfill that expectation to marry and have children, and anyone would do, or did he really want to spend his life with her? She’d find out soon enough. All he needed was a job. If the “who” was less important than the “what”, she’d be reading about his wedding plans before too much time passed. Maybe she’d be writing the announcement – weddings were in the Lifestyles section. Wouldn’t that be something?
Hilary returned with two coffees and a napkin full of cookies.
“They’re really taking pity on us during exam week. All the sugar you can eat with your coffee.”
“So, do you and George have any plans for the summer?”
“Oh, same as last summer. He’s supposed to come for a visit. But he cancelled once, he could do it again. My parents are beginning to think he exists only in my imagination. He can’t take much time from his summer job anyway. He has to make as much as he can before he goes back to school.”
Kerry nodded. George was taking the full four years to finish college.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?”
Kerry laughed. She had just finished probing Hilary about the intimacies of her sex life, and Hilary’s seeking permission to ask her something?
“What are you really afraid of with Tom?”
The therapist was in.
“It’s not Tom I’m afraid of. It’s what he seems to want out of life.”
“He’s programmed to live a traditional life—husband, father, bring-home-the-bacon kind of thing. The very thought of that gives me an anxiety attack. I picture my haggard mother and how miserable she is. You know she told me if she lived in our generation she wouldn’t have had kids, maybe not even married. It’s not that my father isn’t a good man. It’s just that pigeon-holed existence women get forced into when they marry. You see I’m having trouble breathing just talking about this.
“I’ve watched her get more miserable and more phobic with each passing year. Because she’s trapped in a powerless, unfulfilling life. She’s a bright woman. And what has she got to show for it? She’s a wife and mother. Period. I want to make something of my life.”
She took a deep breath.
“You know how I feel about being a wife and mother,” Hilary responded. “We’ve had that talk before. But we also said you have choices. Have you ever talked to Tom about this without automatically shutting him out, like it’s black and white, no gray?”
“Ever the therapist, encouraging open communication.” She smiled fondly at Hilary. “But it’s more than that. Even if Tom were open to an alternative relationship, I don’t want to live my life with him.”
Hilary looked genuinely confused.
“You’re crazy about him,” she exclaimed. “Why would you not want him?”
“I’ve known him since I was in eighth grade. We went through puberty together. We know each other better than most brothers and sisters. God, how boring is that? We’ve already had every conversation. Life with a man with no new layers to peel off? Wake me when I’m dead.”