THE BOOK: Dancing with Dandelions
PUBLISHED IN: 2018
THE AUTHOR: Zelle Andrews
THE PUBLISHER: SYP Publishing is located in Tallahassee, Florida. SYP Publishing promotes Southern authors of fiction and non-fiction throughout the Southeast.
SUMMARY: This is a continuation of Paisley Memories. Twelve years have passed in Tess Cooper’s life and Paisley is a pre-teen. Tess’s world is changing as she jumps at an opportunity to move out and become independent. Finally, she can raise Paisley on her own. Aaron, sweet Aaron is still around. Tess’s relationship not only evolves with Paisley, but with Aaron at a rapid speed that she isn’t sure she’s ready for. I’ve thrown a hint of romance in this book. It is full of humor and real life situations. You get a chance to get in Tess’s mind as she is finally own her own, but drawn to a man that she thinks will steal her independence…if he will still have her.
THE BACK STORY: Tess Cooper is still experiencing life and learning about relationships, with her daughter and others. And of course Paisley has grown and has a personality of her own. This story just beckoned to continue. It took me a little over two years. A much shorter time frame than with Paisley Memories.
WHY THIS TITLE?: The title was written to reflect how Paisley views life: Carefree and fun. Something Tess aspires to do.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? If you’ve read Paisley Memories, I hope you were intrigued, and Tess’s plight captured your heart. This is book two in the Paisley Series. It continues Tess’s quest for independence and the perfect life she wishes to provide for her daughter and experience for herself. But as you know there is no such thing as a perfect life. I feel my novel reaches a rather broad audience. I’ve written it so that it would attract young adult readers, as well as readers who enjoy humor and inspirational novels.
AUTHOR PROFILE: I have two books under my belt.
The Paisley series includes “Paisley Memories — The Beginning of Me” and “Dancing with Dandelions — The Beginning of Us”. I’m currently working on a historical fiction novel that involves the Salem witch trials. If you’d like to learn more about me and the books I’ve written, please visit my blog at zelleandrews.com. I talk about trips I’ve taken, things that interest me, family life, and upcoming book events.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: The Paisley series is inspired by my daughter Sarah. She has down syndrome. At twenty-nine she has goals of her own. She is a photographer, artist, and Special Olympics Athlete. I wrote the type of story that I would have liked to have read when she was born. Something to make me laugh and know that life is what you make of it. I didn’t write this book in an attempt to address any larger issues, but rather to entertain. If it touches someone’s heart beyond that, I’m trilled and would love to hear about it.
How is it that you can be absolutely petrified of something you’ve never seen in real life? Sharks; I know they’re out here, big ones too. I hear the fishermen talking about them all the time, but I never paid much attention to the thought of them until recently. Flashbacks of watching Jaws for the first time with Gabrielle last weekend came to mind. The size of Aaron’s boat didn’t reassure me considering Jaws took a mere few minutes to sink one much larger. Thank God megalodons are extinct. It’s not like I haven’t been in the ocean before. Quite a bit lately, but watching Jaws a few days ago…well, let’s just say washing my hands in the sink afterward made me nervous.
The thought of Aaron having all the fun and the baking sun on my back made me take a chance. I pulled on the flippers and grabbed the snorkel. At first, all I saw were bubbles when I jumped into the cool water. They quickly dissipated and were replaced with an odd but beautiful aura coming from the sea floor. An entirely new spectrum of colors tantalized my eyes, colors that I hadn’t known existed until that moment. I adjusted my mouthpiece and goggles and made my way over to Aaron. He glided as gracefully as a sting ray across the ocean floor, only occasionally using his fingertips like a crab to pull himself forward. He caught a barnacle encrusted scallop and placed it in the mesh bag hooked to his scuba belt.
I reached for a scallop nestled between shells as a school of red fish enveloped me. Oh, how I wished I were a mermaid so I didn’t have to come up for air. I shoved a couple more scallops in my mesh bag and surfaced. St. Marks Lighthouse stood erect in the distance. Aaron’s red and white ‘dive down’ flag looked like it had been infused with starch as the inflatable buoy bobbled on small choppy waves. How odd to have a flag look like it’s flapping in the breeze, but not. We were the only ones snorkeling for scallops…, not another soul out here for us to worry about. Aaron surfaced a few feet away, caught his breath, and floated, face down searching for scallops. Air trapped in his swimming trunks gave the image of two small beach-balls. Quick as a flash, he dipped below the surface in hot pursuit of a scallop; I guessed. I quickly joined him.
My eyes feasted on the sea life. Lightning whelks of various sizes were plentiful. One yellow and brown striped starfish missing one arm stretched out on the sand between tufts of long, slender turtle grass. Sea urchins dotted the sandy floor. As pretty as they were, I avoided them. Aaron had told me horror stories of stepping on them. The words that came to mind, “felt like I stepped on a porcupine the size of a pearl.” I’d often seen the soggy, broken sponges on the beach, but seeing them in the water still thriving was beautiful. Some bore a striking resemblance to the loofah I just purchased the other day. Others were long, bright, and yellow with intricate twigs that resembled wet, braided spaghetti.
My visual solitude vanished when Aaron tugged at my hand. His expression of excitement, as he pointed to something to his left, drew me near. A seahorse appeared a few feet away. I’d never seen one before. It couldn’t have been any longer than a dollar bill. Its small fins set on its lower back gave the illusion of a miniature, legless Pegasus with wings as it propelled itself forward with tail outstretched. A second smaller one came into view. The seahorses floated a few feet apart, sizing each other up from a distance. The larger one tilted its head down and glided forward. Fins fluttered at rapid speed, then stopped just as quickly, mere inches from the smaller one. They bowed to each other as one would do before a queen or king. The smaller one stayed perfectly still as the other circled twice around it. They touched abdomens, stretched their miniature snouts to the surface of the water, and pulled apart. The larger one moved parallel to the other, and with their sides touching, they spun in unison much like two dancers in an embrace. Their tails touched at the tip and entwined as their bodies spun until their tails tightened from the tip to the base of their bodies. One turned to face the other and their bodies formed a heart shape as their noses touched. As enchanted as this underwater salsa dance was, I needed to surface for air. Aaron surfaced beside me.
“That was beyond words,” I stammered after we climbed into the boat. “What were they doing?”Aaron pulled the ‘dive down’ flag from the water and climbed in the boat smiling at me.
“They were courting, Tess.” He winked with a smirk. “You and Paisley have lived here over ten years. You’ve never seen that before?”
I shook my head, “First time snorkeling for scallops and first time watching sea horses mate. First time for everything I guess.” I pulled the flippers off, tossed them on the bottom of the boat, and squeezed water from my hair. “We need to get back. I have that test coming up.” I closed my eyes and tilted my salt-soaked flesh to the sun. Ah, let me soak up a few more rays before I hibernate in the house to study.
“You needed this,” Aaron said and tossed me a towel.
“I enjoyed today,” I agreed.
Over the last ten years, Aaron and I had become close friends, best friends actually. Best friend a single girl could have—always there for me, thoughtful, supportive, generous, patient, and just an all-around great guy. I couldn’t ask for a better friend, considering he is a guy and all. His subtle hints that he would like to be more than just friends haven’t gone unnoticed. Actually, if I’m going to be truthful, I’ve ignored them. I’ve never let it go there, wherever there is.
I mean, it’s taken me a long time to get to this point in my life. I’m about to graduate from college, and that doesn’t happen with distractions or a boyfriend. I’ve sacrificed things. It’s been Paisley and me all the way. Aaron and I have shared tender moments and all, but I’ve always pulled back, resisting the temptation. I don’t need something, or someone, to derail me from my goal. And men just have a way of doing that to me.
“Hold on, Tess. The water is choppy out here,” Aaron instructed as he stood and braced his tan legs a little further apart to steady his stance at the bow.
I noticed it before he mentioned it. Butterball warned me of the storm coming and that we shouldn’t go out, but like always, I didn’t listen. “Tess is gonna do what Tess wants to do,” Butterball always chanted.
Next thing I knew, my butt was spanked like a flat pebble cast on a lake as we skimmed over the choppy waves. Aaron turned his head in my direction, scrutinized the sky with a frown, and sped up. I didn’t need to look back. The clouds had already eclipsed the sun. His actions told me all I needed to know. Lightning etched across the sky, and I tightened my grip on the seat, embedding my fingernails in the vinyl as Aaron pushed the motor faster. He cut across a choppy wave causing water to spray in my face. Unprepared for the sudden change in his direction, I wasn’t ready for the salty water that stung my eyes. Too terrified to let go and wipe the sting away, I closed them and held on for the ride.
We pulled into the sleeve at the dock by San Darling’s Marina Bar and Grille. In record speed, he roped the boat off. I grabbed my wrinkled sundress and his T-shirt from the floor boards.We ran down the marina dock to the restaurant as rain pelted down. The thatched roof shielded us like a giant umbrella from the hard-as-nails rain, just outside the entrance. Aaron’s laughter filled my ears.
“What’s so funny?” I demanded.
Aaron moved closer and pulled a long, forest green, slimy strip of turtle grass from my hair. “Must have gotten tangled in when we were getting scallops. Oh, the scallops…” Aaron glimpsed out to the boat. A gust of wind blew stinging rain on our legs under the canopy.
For a moment, I thought he planned on rescuing the scallops.
“We only found a dozen, not worth getting struck by lightning,” I cautioned.
“Hmm. Yeah, I guess so. Let’s eat.” He pulled his T-shirt over his head and ran his fingers through wet hair smoothing it back.
I slipped my slightly wet sundress on and pulled my hair back behind my ears. I nudged Aaron and pointed at his bare feet and mine.
“Considering the circumstances, I don’t think the manager will kick us out. Besides, I eat here so much, they’d probably let me come here in my underwear.”
Music mixed with the thunderous rain outside greeted us as we entered the restaurant. We slid into seats at a high-top table, perfectly tucked in just far enough under the thatched roof so spraying water wouldn’t touch us. I looked out at the storm coming in. An old, battered shrimping boat that betrayed survival of a hurricane gently rocked in a sleeve by the dock. Tattered fishing nets swayed with floats hanging.
Just below us, beyond the wrap-around porch, rocks stretched into the water to stop erosion under the restaurant. Small crabs scurried upon them and found refuge between crevices from hungry seagulls. A crab the size of my thumb crawled up the screen and disappeared under the thatched roof.
“The regular?” asked our waitress.
“Nothing else is as good,” Aaron assured her with a wink.
“How about you, ma’am?” she asked and kept her eyes on Aaron.
“I’ll have what he’s having.”
“Thanks, Emilee,” Aaron said.
I didn’t notice a name tag on our waitress. I tilted my head at Aaron.
“I told you I’m a regular. You get to know everyone eventually. Panacea is like that.”
By my estimate, Emilee is probably Butterball’s age. Just a tad of padding on the hips, with a radiant smile that lit up her face and made her blue eyes sparkle. The light, one-sided flirting from her was innocent and entertaining.
“I’ll bet if I asked Emilee what color your eyes are, she would know,” I teased. “Matter of fact, Emilee probably knows how many freckles are under your left eye.” Eight, as I recall. “She stared at you long enough to count them.” I snorted a little too loud and drew unwanted attention to myself. I raised a napkin to my mouth and fake coughed. Hopefully customers will think I had an allergy attack. Whether my tactic worked, I don’t know, but customers went back to their food and I to Aaron.
Aaron’s head fell askew as he lightly kicked my bare toes under the table. Oh, it’s so much fun teasing him. He smiled that crooked smile that I love…uh like.
Aaron changed the subject. “So, when are you taking pictures of the hot-air balloon event?”
“Next Saturday. Butterball set me up with a friend of a friend of a friend, or so the story goes, who wanted some pictures of the event taken in Crawfordville.”
“I don’t think Crawfordville has ever had a hot-air balloon event.”
“That’s why it’s called the First Annual Wakulla Hot-Air Balloonfest,” I smirked.
“Are you planning on going up?”
“Maybe. I’m playing around with the idea, but I’m not sure yet,” I answered.
“I’ll go with you,” he offered.
“Are you serious?” I’d never known Aaron to be spontaneous. He plans everything months in advance. His idea of being spontaneous is changing his mind on what he wants to eat as he pulls into a drive-thru.
“You’re just messing with me.”
“No really. I’ll do it if you will,” he insisted.
“I just might hold you to it.”
Emilee brought grouper sandwiches with seasoned fries, and two Bud Lights. We dug in.
Try as I might, I couldn’t eat the grouper sandwich without the tartar sauce getting all over my face. Aaron dipped his French fries, one after the other, in his tartar sauce, as if it were ketchup.
“Have you ever tried it?” he said.
“Nope. I’m good though,” I insisted.
He dipped a fry in the tartar sauce and brought it up to my mouth. There it hovered, covered with the white chunky mixture as a dollop of it dropped on my plate.
“That looks gross hanging off the end of the fry like that,” I said pointing at it.
“Before the blood coagulates in my elbow, Tess, come on,” he encouraged.
Emilee giggled from across the restaurant as she spied on us. I’m sure she would have taken the fry…and probably half his finger. I smiled to myself.
“Fine,” I said in defeat. My mouth fell open like a baby bird waiting for the worm as he dropped the fry in. It wasn’t half bad.
“Okay. I have to admit; it’s pretty good.” I chewed, swallowed, and tentatively dipped one of my fries in my tartar sauce and glimpsed toward our boat. The storm had passed.
“See? New things, Tess. This is the year for new things,” he said and shoved three tartar-coated fries in his mouth.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Wakulla Historical Society, Myra Jean’s Restaurant, and Bay Leaf Market in Crawfordville, Florida. My Favorite Books in Tallahassee, Florida, and Crum’s Mini Mall in Panacea, Florida.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: SYPpublishing.com, Amazon.com, Walmart.com
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: As an author, I love to get feedback on my novels. Please visit me at https://www.facebook.com/ZelleAndrews/, https://twitter.com/zelleandrews, https://www.instagram.com/zelle_andrews/, https://www.pinterest.com/ZelleAndrews/, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27150842-paisley-memories?ac=1&from_search=true, and my blog zelleandrews.com.