Widow, Virgin, Whore



Amazon and Barnes & Noble Bestselling Novel March 2014!


Cover by Tugboat Design
Widow, Virgin, Whore

4.4 Stars from 138 Reviews

The heartwarming, sometimes irreverent story of three very different women finding their destinies in the face of AIDS.
 

Description:


Three very different womenone houseone devastating diagnosis.

 
When recently widowed Katherine Samuals purchases a home to share with her son, Christopher, and best friend, Denise Richards, the last thing she expects is to include Denise's outrageous sister, Darla Richards, into the household. But Katherine agrees because she adores Darla's daughter, Chelsea, and feels this is a good opportunity to give the young teen a real home.

Living with Darla is not easy. She parties too much, sleeps around, and speaks her mind without apology. To conservative Katherine and shy Denise, Darla’s behavior is intolerable. Then, Darla is diagnosed with AIDS, and the household is turned upside-down.  Katherine finds herself thrown into Darla's life, first as her caregiver, then as her companion as she explores the devastating lives of AIDS sufferers. Katherine's fledgling writing career flourishes as she shares the experiences of Darla's AIDS group in newspaper articles across the country. And Denise finds true love for the first time, but struggles with the inappropriate timing of her personal happiness. Surprisingly, Darla also finds love−real love−in a time when she needs it the most. 

As the household struggles with the stress of living with a terminal illness, Katherine, Denise, and Darla learn just how strong their bond of friendship, and sisterhood, is.

 If you are a sister or best friend, you will love this story.

 

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Enjoy the first two chapters from Widow, Virgin, Whore:
 
 
Chapter One
 
 
"Well, what do you think?" Katherine Samuals spun in a complete circle, arms raised, her voice echoing in the empty room.

 
"I love it," Denise Richards replied, watching her friend complete her circle. "But this is going to take a lot of work. Are you sure you're up to it?"

 
Katherine slowly surveyed the room around her, pleased by what she saw. The work didn't bother her. It would be a fresh start and a new challenge. The house she lived in now held too many memories. This would be an ideal way to begin making new ones.

 
"I’ve always wanted a Victorian house like this to fix up," Katherine said, beaming. "I don’t care how much work it is. All it really needs is some paint and a new finish on these floors." Her heels clicked on the oak floorboards as she walked across the room to the bay window that viewed Puget Sound. "Any amount of work is worth this view. It’s beautiful, don’t you think?"

 
From the center of the room Denise smiled, obviously delighted by her friend's enthusiasm. Katherine hadn't been this excited about anything for a very long time.

 
"Yes, it is. And this house will be beautiful when it’s fixed up."

 
Katherine turned and faced Denise. "The only question left is whether you want to live here, too. You can have your choice of any of the four bedrooms upstairs. I don’t care which room I have, and Chris isn’t choosy either, he likes them all. The only room I want is the upstairs turret room. It’s going to make a great office." Katherine stopped speaking, eager to hear her friend’s reply. Her ability to afford this house rested upon whether Denise wanted to share the expenses with her. "Well, what do you think?" she asked, hopeful, holding her breath in anticipation.

 
Denise gave her friend a small smile. "I would love living here. This beats an apartment any day. But are you sure we can stand each other, living together twenty-four hours a day?" she asked, teasing.

 
Katherine let out a relieved sigh, walked over, and placed her arm around her friend's shoulders. They made a striking pair together. Katherine was tall and lean with rich brown hair that fell straight to her shoulders and classic features warmed by sparkling brown eyes. Denise was slightly shorter and shapelier, her auburn hair long and thick, her blue eyes bright within her olive complexion. So different, yet both beautiful in her own way.

 
"We’ve been putting up with each other since the sixth grade. I don't think living in the same house together will change anything," Katherine said with a smile.

 
They both laughed and Katherine pivoted on her heel once more, excited that Denise had agreed to move in.

 
"I can’t wait to get started," Katherine said. "I want to paint Chris' room before he starts school, refinish the floors, paint the kitchen cupboards, and..."

 
"There is one thing, Kathy," Denise interrupted, hesitantly. "I was wondering. What are your plans for the apartment over the garage?"

 
Katherine shrugged. "I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about that, yet. Why? Did you want that room for yourself?"

 
Denise shook her head. "No, no. I’ll be happy with one of the bedrooms upstairs." She hesitated again, biting her lip. "Actually, I was thinking of Darla."

 
"Your sister?" Katherine scrunched her nose in distaste.

 
Denise nodded. "She has to change apartments again. She can’t afford the one she’s in now, and, well, when she heard you might be buying this big house, she asked if I’d talk you into letting her rent from you."

 
The spark in Katherine’s brown eyes dulled at the mention of Darla. "There’s no way your sister and I can live under the same roof. She hates me, and I’m not that thrilled with her, either."

 
"She doesn’t really hate you. She’s mean to everyone, even me," Denise said matter-of-factly.

 
"It’s more than that. She’s crazy. And raunchy, rude, mouthy, and trashy. For Pete’s sake, Denise, she has orange hair and wears silver platform shoes." Katherine shook her head. "No. There’s no way I could live with her. One of us would end up killing the other." Katherine waived her hand in the air as if fanning away an undesirable smell, then turned toward the window again.

 
Denise took a deep breath. "That’s why I thought the apartment over the garage would work. It has its own bathroom and entrance from the outside so it won't feel like she's actually living with us. We’d have to share the kitchen, but since she doesn’t cook, we won’t see her in there much, either."

 
Katherine stood straighter and squared her shoulders, a sure sign she wasn't going to yield. So Denise dealt another reason from her deck of arguments. "And it would mean more rent money to help pay for the house," she added softly.

 
Katherine pondered this as she slowly studied the house she so desperately wanted to own. She loved the sunken living room, where they now stood, that stretched out into the dining room before ending at the swinging oak door leading into the kitchen. She stared at the louvered doors that closed off the pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room that she already planned to paint white and add round ceramic knobs to. The kitchen was small, but serviceable, with enough space to add a table and chairs where they could sit for breakfast every morning. She turned to view the foyer that held the oak staircase leading up to the bedrooms above. Katherine could picture an umbrella stand by the door, a parson's bench by the staircase, and a blue woven rug on the entryway floor. And the view. She completed her circle and stepped closer to the window showcasing the view of the beach, and bay beyond. The house sat high above Puget Sound. There was a planked front porch overlooking the water, the perfect place to set white wicker chairs with striped cushions and perhaps hang a wooden swing. Tread-worn wooden steps led down to the beach below. Yes, she wanted to own it all, despite its need of stain, paint, and good old-fashioned elbow grease. And extra rent money could help make it all happen.

 
Sitting down on the bare window seat, Katherine faced her friend, still not completely sold on the idea of including Darla in the plan. "But she brings home anything in pants. And sleeps with it!" Katherine shuddered at the thought of all the men Darla had slept with. It disgusted her.

 
Denise lowered her eyes to the floor, her burgundy, wire-framed glasses catching the sunlight and glinting in Katherine’s eyes for a split second. She played her trump card. "You’re right. It was a crazy idea. Actually, I was only thinking of Chelsea when I suggested it."

 
The mention of Chelsea touched a raw nerve in Katherine. Chelsea was a sweet, twelve-year-old girl, the same age as her son Chris, who didn’t deserve a mother like Darla. Chelsea had moved from apartment to apartment with her mom, never being able to settle in one for long. If anyone deserved a decent home, it was Chelsea.

 
Katherine's resolve dwindled, which was evident from the slump of her shoulders. Denise's timid nature was usually no match against Kathy’s strong will, but after twenty-four years of friendship, Denise knew how to appeal to Kathy’s heart.

 
Denise ventured forward. "Chelsea’s been a latch-key kid since Kindergarten. I thought, since you work at home most of the time, it might be a nice change for her to come home to a place where someone is waiting for her. And she and Chris get along so well. They’re practically like brother and sister. It would give her a real sense of family. I think she needs that."

 
Katherine stared down at her shoes on the bare, wooden floor and thought this over. Outside, a single gull bellowed as it made its way over the house to the beach below. The faint smell of salt air drifted in through the open front door. She inhaled deeply, wanting to fully experience the scents and sounds of beach life. The serenity of water lapping upon the shore was something Katherine craved after a year of hectic and heartbreaking decisions. And she knew, deep in her heart, that this was the place where she could find the peace of mind she craved. Sharing it with family and friends might also be exactly what she needed.

 
Feeling good about her decision, Katherine stood. "You’re right. Chelsea deserves some sort of family life and we’re the ones who can give her that." She gave Denise a faint smile as she crossed the distance between them. "We’ll give it a try."

 
Denise reached up and hugged her long-time friend. "Thanks, Kathy. It will work out, I’m sure of it."

 
Katherine nodded, but her face tightened. She wagged a finger at Denise. "But if Darla does one thing to annoy me, she’s out. Deal?"

 
"Deal. But we get to keep Chelsea, right?"

 
"Absolutely." They hugged again. Denise was relieved at the outcome, and Katherine was already forming a plan in her mind to include Chelsea, and of course, Darla, into the household. Chelsea and Chris would start middle school in September together, perhaps making the transition in schools easier. Yes, it just might work.

 
Feeling lighthearted again, Katherine and Denise headed toward the front door where the real estate woman was waiting for an answer. "Let’s go buy a house," Katherine said, and the two friends headed out the door with arms linked.

 

***

 

 
Two weeks later, Katherine was up to her armpits in paint, stain, varnish, and wallpaper. She was able to begin work on the house immediately after signing the papers, so she took a week off from her job at the King County Journal and flung herself into fixing up her dream home.

The first thing Katherine did was recruit Chris' and Chelsea’s services in painting their bedrooms. Chelsea was not only thrilled at the prospect of living with her favorite aunts and Chris, but also with being able to decorate a room of her own.

 
"I’ve never lived in a house before," the excited teen told Katherine, her blue eyes sparkling. Chelsea had her aunt’s thick, auburn hair and deep blue eyes laced with dark, full lashes and brows. She was often mistaken for Denise’s daughter. The only feature that resembled her mother was her high, prominent cheek bones. Chelsea was growing up to be a beauty, there was no doubt. But like her aunt, she chose not to flaunt it as her mother did.

 
The kids picked out the colors and fabrics for their rooms. Chelsea chose to paint hers in a rose and cream stripe with pink floral curtains for her window. Chris decided on a sea mist green for the walls and wanted to boarder the room with white shelving to place his seashell and rock collections on. His room would reflect him, a no-nonsense kid, neat, orderly, with a place for everything. His appearance reflected this too, his sandy blonde hair neat but not fussy, his clothing clean but not overly stylish. At age twelve, he was tall and already in the lanky stage of his teen years. But he wasn’t at all clumsy. Chris was very athletic and participated in several sports.

 
Katherine helped both kids get started with paint rollers and brushes, then began her own work downstairs. She hired a man to sand the living room, dining room, and entryway floors, then refinished them herself before painting the walls a soft cream color. She hung white lace curtains in the bay window and added a thick blue and white striped cushion on the seat. Katherine then turned her attention to wallpapering the tiny bathroom upstairs. Her goal was to make the place livable before moving in and then worry about any major fix-ups afterward.

 
Denise came in the evenings to lend a hand. Unlike Katherine, she couldn’t take time off from her job at the Community Hospital near downtown Seattle where she worked as the records clerk in the Pediatric/Maternity Ward. Policy required six weeks notice for vacation time, so she had to be content with helping out on nights and weekends.

 
Katherine insisted Denise take the master bedroom with the small bay window that overlooked Puget Sound. Katherine had a great view from the turret room that she was going to use as an office, so the bedroom on the side of the house was fine for her needs. After much protest, Denise gave in and set out to decorate her room in her own style much as the kids had done. Everyone’s tastes blended to combine rooms that complimented without clashing. The cream wallpaper with soft pink roses that Katherine placed in the upstairs hallway was the perfect link between the rooms, the oak molding being the common thread that joined them all together. Looking at the rooms, one would think from their common tastes that they had all come from the same family. That is until Darla finally made her appearance.

 
It was the second weekend since they had begun work on the house. The day was warm and dry, so Katherine recruited the kids to paint the front porch a dove gray color while Denise supervised and painted the front door white. Katherine was in the kitchen, scrubbing the tile countertops, when Darla entered through the back door in all her tight pant, silver shoe glory.

 
"Oh, my God, a Victorian house," she stated aloud, a cigarette dangling from the corner of her glossy red mouth. "I should have known you’d own a tight-ass house." She leveled her gaze on Katherine, waiting for a reaction.

 
Katherine squared her shoulders and turned to face that gaze. "If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay."

 
"What?" Darla gave mock surprise, raising a splayed hand to her abundant breasts. "And miss out on this experiment of sisterly love and friendship? Why, I wouldn’t dream of leaving." She took off her sunglasses and placed them on top of her too-stiff, orange hair. "Now, where am I supposed to park my ass?"

 
All the way to hell, Katherine wanted to say, but instead she pointed up the stairway on the opposite side of the kitchen. "Your room is up there. You can get to it from the outside, too. There's a stairway is on the other side of the garage."

 
"Much obliged, Miss Kate," Darla said mockingly, making Katherine bristle. She hated being called Kate or Katie, and Darla knew it.

 
Darla turned and stepped out the door, hollering, "Okay, boys. It’s the stairs by the garage. You be careful with my stuff, ya hear?"

 
"Okay, boys?" Katherine mouthed, and looked out the kitchen window in time to see Darla sashay on three-inch heels over to two men standing on the back of a U-Haul truck. "Oh, great, she brought her Johns along." Katherine watched long enough to see them unload a leopard chaise lounge before turning her back to the window and raising her eyes to Heaven. "What did I get myself into?"


 

 
Chapter Two

 

 

Summer ended and the newly formed household settled into the daily routine of family life. Chelsea and Chris started middle school and both kids were doing well and enjoying it. Chris was involved in basketball after school and Chelsea joined the Orchestra, choosing the violin, much to her mother’s chagrin. The days were quiet as the adults went off to work and the kids to school, but evenings bustled with activity as everyone returned. Voices filled the rooms, along with the sounds of a basketball pounding against the floorboards and the whining strings of a violin.

 
Although Katherine enjoyed the family atmosphere of the evenings, she cherished her quiet days working in the turret room. As a staff writer for the King Country Journal, she did most of her writing at home and only went into the office to drop off her work. Her 'beat' consisted mainly of local school board and city council meetings, with an occasional special interest article. It paid the bills, but she longed to write more interesting pieces. But since she had only been with the paper a year-and-a-half, she was given all the work no one else wanted.

 
Katherine loved her turret room office. She left the windows bare and positioned her desk so she could view Puget Sound as she typed on her computer. The view of the western sky touching pale blue water energized her, allowing her to dream of selling the fiction novel she’d already completed and long to continue writing others. If she was ever going to become a novelist, she knew this was the room, and view, that would inspire her.

 
Fall brought to Puget Sound the beauty of lush amber and golden colors in the surrounding landscapes. Crisp mornings were filled with the scent of damp pines touched by salt air, and cool evenings brought pink and orange sunsets, reminding the residents of the house that winter wasn’t far away. As dusk settled in one evening, Katherine lit the fireplace in the living room and sat on the plump sofa to watch the evening news as Denise came in from the kitchen to join her. Both women were usually home in the evening, as were the kids. Darla, on the other hand, was rarely around. She worked as a hair and makeup stylist at KSPS, the local public television station, alternating between day shifts until five o’clock and night shifts until eleven o’clock. On the nights she didn’t work late, Darla went out with friends or her current boyfriend until all hours of the night. Katherine and Denise never knew her schedule from one day to the next, nor did they miss her presence.

 
Denise settled on the sofa beside Katherine. "I love the way our furniture blends," she commented, her eyes scanning the room.

 
Katherine nodded as she looked around appreciatively. She was also pleased with the effect of her furniture mixed with Denise's. Her bold stripes complemented Denise's floral prints, giving the room a soft, comfortable country look. It was as if they'd picked out their furniture with this house, and living together, in mind.

 
"We always did have the same taste," Katherine commented. "Remember in high school when we would go shopping separately and end up with the exact same clothes?"

 
Denise laughed. "We decided we'd better shop together so we wouldn’t look like twins at school."

 
Katherine smiled at the memory, and they sat in comfortable silence for a while, watching the news.

 
After a few minutes, Denise asked, "Do you miss your old house, Kathy?"

 
Katherine took a moment to ponder Denise's question. Katherine knew Denise understood how attached she'd been to her other house. In fact, Denise knew her better than anyone else alive. Denise had been there the day Kathy and Andrew moved in, and had helped clean out the kitchen cupboards and put everything inside them. She'd been with Kathy for many of her firsts. Denise was there when Kathy and Andrew first met, when they were all juniors at Washington State University. Andrew had been tall and slender, with a handsomely carved face and wavy blonde hair. He was also athletic, like Chris, excelling in every sport he played. Denise had stood by Katherine's side as her maid-of-honor at their wedding. She was first to arrive at the hospital after Chris was born and the first to share in the new parents' excitement over their new baby boy. And Denise had stood beside her best friend as they laid Andrew to rest, the most heartbreaking moment of Katherine’s life. Denise had shared in their every special moment, always welcome as part of their family as if she were more a sister than a friend, enjoying family life vicariously through them. And Katherine knew she'd never begrudged her any of it.

 
After finally deciding to put the house on the market, it had sold on its first Open House and Katherine had cried after signing the papers. But she knew the change would be good for her, and she was feeling better about it every day.

 
"I don't miss it as much as I thought I would," Katherine finally answered. "We lived there a long time. Chris grew up in that house. Yet, making this change wasn't as difficult as I'd expected."

 
"How’s Chris handling the move?" Denise wanted to know. She was just as much an aunt to Chris as she was to Chelsea.

 
"He's doing okay. He said he didn’t mind moving, and he likes this house and his new room. You know, I think it was almost a relief for both of us to leave that house. There were too many memories there. Ever since Andrew died, everything from the garden outside to the new dishwasher he installed in the kitchen reminded us of him."

 
Denise placed her hand on Katherine’s arm. "It's been a long year, hasn’t it?"

 
Katherine nodded. "Yes, it has." She stared into the fire. "Everything changed so fast after his car accident last summer. Sometimes it feels as if our fourteen years together never really existed. They’re more like a dream."

 
"Sharing a house with Darla could end up like a nightmare," Denise teased, bringing a smile to Katherine's lips. "Has she been a pain in the ass yet?"

 
Katherine laughed. It was rare for Denise to swear, only Darla could bring it out in her. But then, Darla had the knack of bringing out the worst in everyone. "Actually, I haven’t seen that much of her. She’s never home."

 
"Lucky for us. I know Chelsea loves living here. This has been so good for her."

 
"She’s a great kid. I can’t imagine how she ever got stuck with a mom like Darla."

 
"How’d I ever get stuck with a sister like Darla?"

 
Katherine chuckled. "By the way, who’s Darla’s current boyfriend? Is she still seeing Joey?" For years, Katherine and Denise had a private joke about Darla's boyfriend-of-the-month club. That was about as often as she changed men.

 
"Joey was two months and two boyfriends ago." Denise wrinkled her nose in disgust. "I don’t know what her current boyfriend’s name is. It’s not worth remembering their names unless they’ve hung around for more than six weeks."

 
Outside, a car door slammed and footsteps rattled on the stairs leading up to Darla’s apartment. Katherine looked at her watch. "Wow, she’s home early. It’s only eleven."

 
"Yeah. She probably ran out of money for drinks."

 
Katherine shook her head. "How did you two end up so different?"

 
"I don’t know. I guess our parents just raised me right and totally screwed up with Darla."

 
They both laughed out loud.

 

***

 

 
Upstairs, Chelsea passed Chris' room on her way back from the bathroom. His light was on and the door was slightly ajar so she peeked her head in. "Hi. You still up?"

 
Chris was stretched out on his bed, an open notebook in front of him. He looked up as Chelsea stepped in. "Yeah. I had some homework to finish."

 
"What are you working on?"

 
"That family tree stuff. I had to get some information from my mom earlier so I could finish."

 
Chelsea stepped over to Chris' dresser and fingered a smooth stone displayed there. "I had to get all my family information from Aunt Denise. My mom isn’t really into that stuff."

 
Chris nodded his understanding.

 
"I really like your room. You have the coolest rocks and shells. What’s this one?"

 
Chris rose and sat on the end of his bed. "That’s an amethyst. Pretty, huh?"

 
"Yeah." Chelsea continued around his room, touching the many rocks and shells. "My mom doesn’t believe in collecting anything. Except boyfriends." She laughed a little.

 
Chris only nodded again. "What did your mom think of your room?"

 
"She said it was so sweet it made her want to puke. But I don’t care, I like it anyway." Chelsea picked up a heavy stone that was cut in half, revealing brilliant purple clusters inside. "What’s this one?"

 
Chris came to stand beside her. He was a full head taller than her. "That’s a surprise coconut. It’s a plain rock on the outside but when you open it, there's purple or white quartz inside."

 
"Cool. Where did you get this?"

 
"My dad got it for me when he was in Arizona on a business trip."

 
"Oh." She set the stone down carefully and continued gravitating around the room. "It must seem weird not having your dad around anymore."

 
Chris shrugged, averting his eyes. "Sometimes it seems like he’s been gone forever." He sat back down on the bed. "But you know what it’s like, not having a dad around."

 
 
Chelsea shook her head. "No, it’s different for me. I never knew my dad. You can’t miss someone you've never met." She stopped a moment, looking out Chris' window at the beach below. "I miss your dad. He was pretty cool. Remember when he took us to the beach to fly kites? That was fun."

 
Chris smiled, remembering.

 
Outside, they heard a car door slam, and both kids looked in its direction, knowing it was her mother coming home.

 
"Well, guess I’d better go to bed." Chelsea padded to the door. "Goodnight."

 
Chris nodded to her as she left the room.

 

***

 

 
Katherine was the first one downstairs the next morning. The coffeemaker released a soothing aroma throughout the house and she inhaled deeply with anticipation as she pushed through the kitchen's swinging door.

 
"Who the hell are you?" Katherine shrieked as she stared at a strange man pouring coffee into her favorite mug. He looked rumpled, one shirttail hanging out of his slacks and his black, greasy hair sticking up in places. His pockmarked cheeks flushed red from Katherine’s startling entrance.

 
"I…I…Darla said I could come down and have some coffee."

 
Katherine’s initial fear turned into full-blown anger. "Darla said you could come down here?" she yelled.

 
"Yeah, I did. So?" Darla stood at the bottom of the stairs, her short, low-cut, red nightie barely covering her voluptuous breasts. The glossy red, high-heeled slippers and painted smirk on her face were too much for Katherine.

 
"How dare you bring a strange man into my house," Katherine shouted over the man’s head. "This isn’t some brothel where you can bring in scum off the street."

 
Darla merely laughed.

 
Katherine fumed. "Get out of here!" she spat at the man, her eyes spitting fire. "And give me that mug." She snatched the coffee mug out of his hand and threw it in the sink. It shattered against the white porcelain.

 
"What’s all the yelling about in here?" Denise wandered onto the scene still wearing her pajamas, yawning. When she saw the strange man standing next to Katherine, her eyes widened. "Who’s he?"

 
"He's your sister’s latest f**k," Katherine spat out.

 
Denise looked from him to Darla, and back at him again. Her face puckered in disgust. "Ewww."

 
The greasy-haired stranger was so startled he couldn’t get out of the room fast enough. " I...I better leave," he stuttered as he tried to tuck in his loose shirttail with trembling hands. "B...B...Bye, Darla." In a split second, he was out the door.

 
Darla stood on the stairs and let out a loud, shrill laugh. "You sure scared the hell out of him."

 
Katherine wasn’t amused. "Don’t you ever bring a strange man into this house again. Do you understand? Ever!"

 
"I didn’t realize this was an all-girls dorm," Darla said.

 
"This isn't a joke," Katherine shot back. "We have kids in this house. What if one of them had found him down here?"

 
"So, what if they had?"

 
"What the hell is wrong with you? God, Darla, he's a scum bag. I can’t believe you let that thing in your bed, let alone in my house," Katherine responded.

 
"What difference does it make? One man is just the same as the next."

 
"You're such a whore." Katherine stood her ground by the sink as silence embraced the room.

 
Denise sat quietly at the kitchen table, her eyes darting between the two women, waiting for someone to say the next word.

 
Darla's painted hazel eyes sparked with Katherine's plain brown ones. Slowly, Darla's arched brow rose higher as indifference spread over her face. "So, what if I am? At least I know how to have fun. Maybe you two wouldn’t be so uptight if you got some once in a while."

 
"Shut up, Darla," Katherine warned between clenched teeth.

 
"No, I mean it," Darla continued, haughtily. "You’ve been the faithful widow long enough. A little roll in the sack would be good for you. It might just calm those nerves."


"I said, shut up, Darla."

 
"And as for my little virgin sister here, any sex would be better than no sex. Thirty-six is getting a little old to be saving herself."

 
"I’m not a virgin," Denise said softly, staring at the table.

 
"Leave her alone, Darla," Katherine warned.

 
"Oh, please. She never dates, let alone has sex. She’s afraid she might actually enjoy it."

 
"I’m not a virgin," Denise said a little louder.

 
Darla laughed her wicked cackle again.

 
"I said, leave her alone!" Katherine exploded. "Just shut up! I’ve had enough." She stepped up to the table and stood protectively beside Denise. "Don’t you ever bring another man here again. I mean it."

 
Darla gave her a smirk, then headed back upstairs.

 
Katherine sank into the chair next to Denise, still shaking from anger. "I could kill her," she said.

 
"I’m not a virgin," Denise said quietly, one more time.

 
Katherine looked over at her friend who had been taunted by her sister for thirty-six years. Her heart went out to her. "I know," she told her, patting her arm.

 

***

 

 
Katherine managed to hold back her anger as she fed the kids' breakfast and herded them out the door for school. But she fumed all over again when she saw her broken coffee mug in the sink, and again when she saw the disheartened look on Denise’s face as she left for work. Poor Denise, who lived inconspicuously in her outrageous sister’s shadow. Katherine knew that part of the reason Denise didn’t go out or date much was because she didn’t want to be considered a slut like her sister. Yet, Denise was bullied by her sister because of it.

 
Katherine tried to put the morning’s events out of her mind as she drove to the Journal’s office. The streets of Ballard were quiet, as usual, with no one rushing about as in their parent city of Seattle. Parents drove their children to school and local shopkeepers headed to work in the same leisurely fashion they had for over one hundred years. The suburb was rich in local history. Settled by sturdy Norse and Swedish ancestors, it retained its thick Nordic heritage just as some of the old-timers retained their accents. There were a million stories to be told in this one quiet town, and Katherine wanted to be the one to tell them. She planned to speak with the editor about assigning her more important pieces, and to even suggest a few of her own. She was tired of the board meetings and mindless pieces. She wanted to expand her writing. And Katherine needed all her wits about her if she was going to talk to her editor, Earl.

 
Earl Reeves sat behind his cluttered desk, the phone grasped tightly in one hand and the other hand clumsily typing on the computer keyboard as Katherine approached him. He was the epitome of the overworked, underpaid, newspaper editor with the paunch to prove he’d spent too many years behind a desk. Katherine noticed the stained coffee mug, half-full, surrounded by dried up coffee spots from being slammed down on the desk once too often. If the coffee and cigarettes didn’t eventually kill this man, the stress would.

 
As Earl slammed down the phone, Katherine took a deep breath to strengthen her resolve. "Do you have a minute, Earl?"

 
"A minute is all I've got," he replied brusquely. "I have to find a reporter to send up to the Mayor's office and get his version of why the sewer system went haywire in town. What do you want?"

 
Katherine jumped at the chance before her. "Send me, Earl. I can go."

 
Earl shook his head. "I’ll send Rob. He's covered stories at the Mayor’s office before."

 
Katherine looked up at the story board behind Earl. "Rob’s at the Chittenden Locks on a story," she told him. "I’m not doing anything. I can go right now."

 
"No, Katherine. Not this time," Earl said firmly.

 
"Then when, Earl? When will it be a good time to send me on stories besides board meetings? I’m ready to move on to other things."

 
"You’re not ready yet. Maybe in a couple of months."

 
"A couple of months?" Katherine asked, exasperated. "I’ve been here a year-and-a-half. I’ve only done a couple of profiles and interviews in that time period. I want to do more, Earl. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t."

 
Earl stared hard at Katherine. "Okay, Kathy. The truth is, your writing is flat. It’s okay for board meetings and the like, but for actual articles or stories, it lacks style."

 
Katherine’s face dropped at his complete honesty. She’d graduated from the University of Washington with a 3.9 grade point average in journalism. All of her teachers had told her she had the potential to be a great writer. And here sat her editor, telling her she couldn’t write worth a damn.

 
"How am I supposed to acquire any style by writing up board meetings?" she finally asked.

 
Earl heaved a heavy sigh. "Listen, Kathy. You’re a good writer. I wouldn’t have hired you or kept you on if you weren’t. You’re just lacking the right touch, okay? Maybe it will come to you in time. Or, maybe you should take a refresher course at the college to get yourself revved up. But until I see some change, I can’t send you on other stories."

 
Katherine didn’t know whether to be angry and quit or break down in tears. She didn’t do either. "Okay, Earl. I’ll see what I can do," she said in a defeated tone and walked out of the office.

 

***

 

 
Katherine thought about Earl's words all the way home. Once there, she went straight up to her office, turned on her computer, and stared at the screen for a long time. Flat. How could he say her writing was flat? It wasn't like she was an amateur at journalism, but Earl treated her like one. True, she'd never held a job at a real newspaper before, but special interest articles had always been her specialty. She had interned at a local regional parenting magazine out of college, staying on as a feature editor for over a year. After Chris was born, she freelanced for regional parenting publications across the country. Although she'd never broken into the high-scale glossy magazines, she'd written many informative articles on family life and parenting that editors had complimented her on. But she'd become frustrated with freelancing because the pay was low and the editors usually wanted her to change articles until they lost their entire meaning or purpose. That's when she'd decided to start her novel. After she'd finished it, she'd sent it out to numerous literary agents and publishers, but to no avail. Soon, the years passed quickly and then Andrew's accident changed everything. She'd been thrilled when the job at the Journal had come along, but now, once again, she was at a stalemate.

 
The screen saver popped on breaking into Katherine's thoughts and she stood and stared out the window at the beach where the ocean waves gently hit the shore. She did this all afternoon, staring from screen to beach, beach to screen, not writing a single word. When she heard the kids come home from school, she snapped off the computer and headed downstairs, thanking God for the diversion.

 
Later that evening, Katherine sat in the living room bay window watching the sun stretch long rays over the water as it settled in for the night. She had greeted the kids, given them snacks, supervised their homework, and prepared dinner. Those were things she did well. Not like writing, which she obviously knew nothing about. As she sat there, wallowing in self-pity, Denise came in from the kitchen.

 
"Here, I picked up the mail earlier." Denise walked across the room and handed several envelopes to Katherine. She sifted through them finding nothing interesting, only the electric bill, her Visa bill, and a contest entry to win one-million dollars. The only one that stood out was a large manila envelope addressed by her own typewriter. Oh, great, another rejection letter.

 
Denise looked at Katherine with a worried frown. "What’s the matter?"

 
"Oh, nothing. Just the usual." Katherine felt the thickness of the envelope, noting that the sample pages had been returned. Not always a sign of rejection, but most likely one. "Just another letter telling me my manuscript isn’t right for them."

 
"You don’t know that for sure. Why don’t you open it?"

 
Katherine slid out of the window seat, walked over to the sofa, and plopped down, the mail falling into her lap. "I don’t think I have the strength," she said wearily. "I don’t need any more bad news today."

 
"Come on, it might be good news. Open it up," Denise urged.

 
Katherine dumped the other letters beside her, opened the envelope, and peeked inside at the cover letter. She read the letter aloud, "While your idea is intriguing, I’m afraid it is not for us. Best wishes placing your manuscript elsewhere." Katherine tossed the envelope on the coffee table in front of her. "Just like I said, another rejection."

 
Denise sat down beside Katherine, grimacing. "Sorry. I shouldn't have told you to open it."

 
"I think I’ll get a job at Walmart," Katherine announced, still staring at the envelope on the table. "How do you think I’d do selling women’s underwear?"

 
"Lousy. You're not a sales clerk, you're a writer, Kathy. And a good one at that. I know you’ll sell your book. It just takes time."

 
"I’ve been trying to sell it for two years. How much more time do you think it will take?" Katherine looked up dismally at her friend. "I just have to face it, the book stinks. The trouble is, I’ve been over it a hundred times and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it."

 
"Your characters are probably dull and your writing is flat." Darla’s voice popped up from behind them.

 
Denise spun her head around. "How long have you been standing there?"

 
"Long enough to hear Katie complain about her life. And personally, I think her idea about Walmart sounds great."

 
"Why don’t you let people know when you’re in the room?" Denise asked, annoyed. She hated the way Darla always snuck around, poking her nose in where it didn’t belong.

 
"Because you two stop talking when I’m around and I miss all the good stuff." Darla clomped over to the sofa in her platform sandals and leaned on the back. Her skirt was up to her crotch and she had on black fishnet stockings. She was chomping on a wad of gum.

 
"What would you know about Kathy’s writing, anyway? You’ve never read her book," Denise said defensively.

 
"I read the newspaper. I see her articles. The few she’s done were boring and flat. There’s no life to them. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out."

 
"Shut up, Darla. Can’t you see Kathy’s upset? She doesn’t need advice about writing from a hair stylist." Denise was unusually defensive. She rarely took a stand against her sister unless she was defending Kathy. It went both ways. It was a pattern that had followed them since junior high school. Kathy defended Denise against Darla, Denise defended Kathy. Neither one ever took Darla’s side.

 
"Well, I was just giving my opinion," Darla told her, clomping back toward the stairs.

 
Katherine turned and spoke for the first time since Darla entered. "If you’re so smart and know the problem, then what’s the solution?" she asked, her voice filled with contempt.

 
Darla didn’t even blink at Katherine’s tone. "You need to get out and live life a little before you can write about it. Feel something. Experience new people and new places. You’ve been the little housewife too long to remember what living is really like. That’s what’s missing in your writing, real life."

 
Katherine rolled her eyes. "So, in other words, if I hang out in bars with jerks and act like a slut, like you, then my writing will come alive. No, thank you."

 
Darla shrugged, an amused look on her painted face. "You asked, I answered. I’m going up to see Chelsea. I want to borrow one of her skirts for tomorrow. Nightie-night girls." Her heels on the wooden stairs echoed throughout the house.

 
Denise turned to Katherine. "Maybe a house will fall on her someday," she said hopefully.

 
Katherine shook her head and smiled. "No, we’re not that lucky."

 
"Don’t pay any attention to her. She doesn’t know the first thing about writing."

 
Katherine sighed. "No, I hate to admit it, but she’s right. My writing is flat. It’s dull, boring, and lifeless. My editor said the exact same thing this morning. I lack style."

 
Denise stared at her, dumbfounded.

 
"And you know what the worst part is?" Katherine continued. "That someone like Darla can see it. If she sees it, then I must really stink. I really should consider that Walmart idea."

 
Denise experienced one of her rare moments of strength. "No. I won’t believe it. You’re a good writer and you will succeed someday. You’re not a quitter, you never have been. You’ll find a way to prove everyone wrong." She sat tall and straight, completely believing in what she said.

 
Katherine smiled appreciatively at her friend, wishing Denise could be this self-assured when she was dealing with her sister. "If you say so," she told her.

 
Denise looked satisfied.

###


What People Are Saying About Widow, Virgin Whore:

"Deanna Lynn Sletten's Widow, Virgin, Whore is a compelling novel of three very different sisters who must all learn to cope with AIDS, the sickness caused by HIV virus infection, in their lives. Focused upon family life and the strains that conflicting personalities can put on human relationships, Widow, Virgin, Whore Is An Engaging, Introspective, Skillfully Written Novel From First Page To Last". - Midwest Book Review

"It all began with buying a beautiful victorian home in Seattle for a group of women to share. But the deal came with baggage in the form of the black sheep of the family, Darla. While the kids flurish, Darla tests everyone's patience with her short temper and string of boyfriends and parties. Ultimately, this fragile alliance is tested when the AIDS virus rears its ugly head.

This book provides a beautifully written account of a group of freinds and family who must deal with terminal illness. As the individuals are challenged they grow closer together in ways never expected and display a strength which none of us believe we possess but all must discover someday.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it." - Brian Jackson, Author of First Son, Metropolis and other novels.



"This book has literally left me breathless. Simply put, it is one of the BEST books I have EVER read (not something I say lightly.). Although fiction the subject matter is very real, very present in our society today and this story will have you taking a closer look at the world around you.

I cannot recommend this book enough and plan on ordering several copies for friends and family." - Val on Goodreads



I am so happy that I won this book from the author. This book is VERY, VERY GOOD.

It is about the relationship between two best friends and the sister of one of them. Thus, the title, Widow, Virgin, Whore. The Widow has a son. Her house is too big so she decides to renovate and rent out some rooms. Her friend, the Virgin moves in and asks if her sister the Whore can also rent because it would be good for her daughter. Her mother, being who and what she is, is not the ideal parent and her daughter needs someone to take care of her and give her a better life.

Even though none of the women get along, she is allowed to move in.

Thus starts the real story and events that would change them all. This is the story of what HIV/Aids Is really like. I volunteered with the New Orleans (NO) Aids Task Force for 9 years before Hurricane Katrina. I now volunteer at a nursing home where some of our residents have this disease. This book reflects a very real, true image. Deanna Sletten needs to be applauded for writing this.

I recommend this if you want to learn more about this disease or if you just want to read a good book. I think teenagers should really read this since they are so casual about drugs and sex these days. Perhaps it would make them stop and think about consequences for their actions. It would be great if teachers could put it on their reading lists." - Dianna Kennedy on Goodreads



The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews