Monday, November 28, 2011

Meet Barbara Ehrentreu a/k/a Our Own Barbara E!

Today I’m collecting a flower I’ve been after for a long time.  In the press of our busy lives, it just hasn’t happened yet.  But it’s about to.  Please join me in welcoming my guest today, Barbara Ehrentreu. 

Barbara’s very special for lots of reasons, of course – she’s a Muser and Muse only calls special people. And when those special people are called and arrive home through the Muse doors, who’s one of the first “faces” they see?  Barbara’s.  Via her virtual chocolate chip cookies and fruit basket. Her YA novel If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor debuted in September and has been collecting five star reviews right and left.  So exactly who is this woman called Barbara Ehrentreu?  Let’s find out.
Barbara, I have to ask you this.  Don’t you get tired of folks tellin’ you you look like Barbara Streisand?  ‘Cause I swear, every time I look at a picture of you that’s my first thought.
Actually, people say I look more like Bette Middler or Carole King. There’s a funny story about looking like Carole King. When I was thinner we looked almost identical, so one day I was eating lunch with my daughter and this woman sort of peered over at us and almost jumped when she saw me. Then she said: “You’re Carole aren’t you?” I said no of course, but she continued, “My aunt knows her and you are her, just admit it.” Well she went on like this for a few minutes and then finally she accepted that I wasn’t her, but as she was walking away she said, “I still don’t believe you.” There is an addendum to this story. A few weeks later I was interviewing for a teaching job in Bedford, NY where she lives. Her grandkids went to this school. When the principal saw me she said: “I didn’t know Carole was going to be here.” To be fair, she saw me from a few feet away, but there you have it.:) A lot of people joke with me and call me Bette too. I have a story about her too, but that is for another time.
Can’t say as I’d sneeze at being compared to any of the three.  I know you taught for many years, and still tutor, I believe?  Which of course explains why you write such wonderful YA.  You have met the audience and made them yours.  But give us some memories.  What was the most satisfying moment of your teaching career?
There are so many wonderful moments and not so wonderful moments. I guess the one that stands out is what happened with a student I had my first year of teaching. I taught sixth grade and I was only 21. The kids were around 8 or 9 years younger than I was. They didn’t really listen to me, because I looked like a 16 year old. This one boy was especially difficult and acted out a lot in class. So I contacted his mother, who told me she took in invalids and nursed them. So this boy could never act like any 12 year old likes to act in the house. He had to do a lot of chores too, so he had very little time for play. When I realized this I had a talk with him and his mother and he started to improve. She invited my husband and me for Christmas dinner and it was an amazing experience for us. However, his work did not improve, since he had been goofing off too much and was very behind. I had to leave him back for the next year and he understood. The following year arrived and this was a different boy. He became the class leader and helper and when he went on to the middle school I found out he became class president. I will never forget him and his mother. I wish all parents could be like her.
That’s wonderful!  Knowing that you made such a difference in a child’s life.  Now we all know there’s no honesty like the honesty of a kid, nor is there any subterfuge like the plot of a child trying to get away with something – and the combination of the two makes for some hysterical moments.  What was the funniest moment of your teaching career? 
Again, there are too many moments to remember, but one time all the kids hid in the coatroom and then jumped out and yelled “Surprise”. If I had a few memory joggers I could remember more.
And I just bet you were, too.  Surprised.  Muse is one big extended family, and one of the best things about it is sharing each other’s heritage and history.  The Holidays are coming up and all of us have our own treasured traditions.  What’s the most treasured of your family traditions during the Holidays?
We don’t do much of the traditions anymore, but when the kids were younger I wanted them to have a taste of Christmas. We used to go to my English sister-in-law, (now ex) and she would do up Christmas big. So they had stockings filled and one gift when they woke up Christmas morning. I used to read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, to my younger daughter every Christmas eve. As for my own religious traditions, we still light the Menorah, which is the candelabra with 8 candles representing the 8 days the oil burned in the Temple. Sometimes I make latkes, the traditional potato pancakes or we buy them. Homemade is definitely best, but it takes awhile.
Speaking of homemade and food – you told me an hysterical story once about a family gathering.  Something involving an uncle, a fainting spell, and a moving food line?  How ‘bout you tell everybody?  Because I swear, that needs to a scene in one of your books!
Yes, you wouldn’t believe it if you weren’t there. It was a holiday occasion at my brother’s house and my ex sister-in-law invited my cousins who had to drive hours to get there. So anyway, my cousin’s husband, who is usually very quiet, was in the buffet line and suddenly he went down. We had no idea why and someone immediately called 911 for him. My aunts, one of which is no longer here, looked at him and just stepped right over him like he was an obstacle in the road. They would have their food no matter what. I was behind them and I couldn’t believe it. One of them was his mother-in-law!!! The rest of the line stopped in horror as they watched the two of them blithely go on filling their plates. It turned out my cousin’s husband had a few too many drinks, but we couldn’t believe that. He was someone who never made waves at all. So the firemen came and he was okay, but they stayed and had some drinks and food. The poor guy never lived it down to this day! It is probably the most told family story ever!! I will have to figure out how to put this into my next book.
Gives new meaning to mother-in-law jokes, huh?  The other day, The Book Breeze published a few of your shorts, and you knocked me and several other Musers for a real loop!  This is our BarbaraE?  Who writes YA?  And I know I for sure and a few others too, let you know right quick we thought you ought to expand your genres.  We know YA will always be a genre you love, but I really want to see some more of the Barbara who wrote the stories we read in The Book Breeze.  And on that note, when you and I were talking about that, you shared with me a story that’s much shorter than Flash, and you called it a “Drabble”, I think.  It knocked me out!  Would you share it here on Flowers on the Fence?
Definitely. I will be happy to share it. I have a few others that are a little longer and may start posting them on my blog. So look for them. Here it is:
Happy Anniversary 
Twilight on the water was always an array of rainbow colors. Tonight the colors only emphasized pain. Karen had thought coming to the city where they spent their honeymoon would rekindle the flame of their love. Now as they neared the shore she knew his affair with her best friend had killed it. 

The roses Ken, her husband of 20 years, had bought on impulse from the vendor were wilting without any water. She heard the bells ringing from the church tower flanking the piazza where they first met. Karen moved closer to Ken. Placing her lips on his, she reached out with both of her arms and pushed.

Grabbing the flowers, she heard the splash and smiled.

“Happy Anniversary, Ken,” Karen said throwing his roses overboard.

The Fiction Flyer published in April, 2007

* * * *

And so I ask you, gentle female readers – is that Everywoman’s Fantasy or what?!  So com’on, help me out here!  Post your comments and let Barbara know – we want more!  We want more! But before we go this time, here are the links to If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, along with Barbara’s bio and an excerpt from the novel.
And y’all come back now, hear?
Muse Bookstore
Amazon - Paperback
Amazon - Kindle
 Barnes & Nobles

Barbara, a retired teacher with a Masters degree in Reading and Writing K-12 and seventeen years of teaching experience lives with her family in Stamford, Connecticut. When she received her Masters degree she began writing seriously. If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, Barbara’s first YA novel, was inspired by Paula Danziger. Barbara is a NY Literature Examiner for with several articles for them. Her blog, Barbara’s Meanderings, is networked on both Facebook and Blog Catalog. She hosts Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages on Blog Talk Radio every 4th Thursday. In addition, her children's story, “The Trouble with Follow the Leader” and an adult story, “Out on a Ledge” are published online She writes book reviews for and several of her reviews have been on Acewriters and Celebrity Café. She is a member of SCBWI. Writing is her life!

If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor

Carolyn Samuels’ freshman year becomes a series of lies to cover Jennifer Taylor’s terrible secret in return for popularity.

 Carolyn Samuels is obsessed with the idea of being popular. She is convinced that the only thing keeping her from happiness is her too heavy for fashion body and not being a cheerleader. Hyperventilating when she gets nervous doesn’t help. When she is paired for a Math project with the girl who tormented her in middle school, Jennifer Taylor, she is sure it is going to be another year of pain.With Carolyn’s crush on Jennifer’s hunky Junior quarterback Brad her freshman year in high school looks like a rerun of middle school. After Jennifer’s the only student who knows why she fell in gym class, Carolyn is blackmailed into doing her math homework in return for Jennifer’s silence. Jennifer takes on Carolyn as a pity project since she can’t be seen with someone who dresses in jeans and sweatshirts. When Jennifer invites Carolyn to sleep over to make her over and teach her to tumble, Carolyn learns Jennifer’s secret and lies to her own friends to cover it up. Will Carolyn become a cheerleader and become popular? Does she continue to keep Jennifer’s secret? Or will she be a target of this mean girl again? 

Feeling my old hatred of gym, I glance across the locker room and see Jennifer in red designer shorts and a tight sleeveless shirt to match. She's standing in front of the only mirror in the room turning back and forth.
Becky and I slide into our loose camp shorts and a T-shirt, and once they're on, we race onto the gym floor. Always better to be early for gym the first day. You never knew what kind of teacher you'd have. My athletic ability is zero, so I don’t take chances. Once I was a few minutes late, and the gym teacher in middle school made me run around the gym ten times. It took me the whole gym period.
Becky and I sit on the low seats in the bleachers, but Jennifer and her group saunter into the gym and choose the highest seats avoiding the rest of us. Miss Gaylon, the gym teacher introduces herself and gives us a few minutes until the last stragglers come from the locker room. For those few minutes, I almost feel comfortable. My breathing returns to normal. I hear giggles from Jennifer and her group, but I ignore it.
"Maybe it won't be so bad this year, Carolyn." Becky always tries to cheer me up now. This wasn’t true a few years ago. I had to cheer her up a lot. Becky’s brothers are just turning five, and they’re both in kindergarten. Her mom remarried after being divorced for ten years. Becky was just getting used to her new stepfather when her mom got pregnant. I remember how miserable Becky was the first year of middle school when her mom spent so much time with her twin brothers and didn’t have enough time to help Becky with her homework. Luckily, Becky’s stepfather is a history teacher, so she got very interested in history and current events.
"Right, Becky, and maybe I'll learn to be a gymnast in ten minutes. Reality check, remember last year?"
"Okay, I'm hoping it won't be so bad."
"You mean like the dentist finding you only have one cavity and filling it the same day?"
"You’re so lame, Carolyn. Since we're all older, maybe she'll treat us differently. People change over the summer you know."
"Look at her, Becky."
Becky turns to look over at the group at the top of the bleachers and then turns back to look me in the eye. “You know you have to put that stupid day behind you.”
I pretend not to know what she’s talking about. “What stupid day?”
Like I don’t remember every detail.
“The zip line day.”
“Oh, that day,” I say with a combination grimace and smile. “The day I wound up having to climb off the platform. I wanted to bore a hole into the ground so I wouldn’t have to walk past them but couldn’t, and everyone screamed at me: ‘Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’”
“You have to admit it was funny the way the gym teacher ran up the ladder like a squirrel to rescue you. Everyone laughed at how stupid she looked. Jennifer got the whole class going with that ridiculous ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe.’” Becky looks behind her to Jennifer. “You know I wanted to run over and punch her, but I couldn’t because I was still on the platform, and it was my turn to go.”
“Yeah, if I had a few more minutes, I would have been able to get up the courage to grip the zip line and hook myself to it. Stupid teacher didn’t give me a chance. This not breathing thing when I get nervous really sucks.”
Becky nods because she knows me so well.
“So then Jennifer started with that horrible chant, and of course, the whole class followed her, like always.” My eyes fill with tears as I remember, and my breathing is getting worse by the minute.
“I thought it was a dumb idea to do ropes course stuff in school. We did it at my camp the summer before, and no one was forced to do it. Anyone could get nervous with Jennifer in front of them,” Becky comforts me.
I continue talking as if I’m in a trance. “Remember how last year whenever I ran into Jennifer she would whisper ‘breathe, Carolyn, breathe,’ so no one could hear it except me. Once she did it just before I had to go up in front of the class in math. Sometimes she would do it in front of everyone and, of course, get a big laugh while I wanted to turn into a piece of furniture.”
Becky grabs my arm. “Do we have to go back over this again? You need to forget about it.” She takes her hand away from my arm as I continue to speak.
“Becky, I can’t. The thing is it’s this bad movie in my brain looping the same horrible scenes. The funny thing is, most of the time, she would ignore me. I would never know what she was going to do. You have to admire someone so single-minded she managed to get to me at just the right time.
You remember don’t you? And today did you see how she wore the same outfit as me? It’s spooky.”
My funny breathing returns as Miss Gaylon tells us to line up on the yellow line alphabetically. I hope there will be someone to go between Jennifer and me. No luck. Jennifer is going to be behind me all year. I hold my breath. I couldn't stand more of the same this year. I pray for the day to end soon. A glance at my new watch shows me fifteen more minutes left of the period. Is Miss Gaylon's voice getting lower? What is that pounding in my ears?
Jennifer turns to face me, and I hear, "Breathe, Carolyn, breathe.” Then my world turns black.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Conclusion - Of An Only Slightly Premature Holiday Kick-Off!

Conclusion – of an only Slightly Premature Holiday Kick-Off
Today Tanja Cilia’s “timely” Christmas trilogy concludes.  And personally, I think I saved the best for last.  I have to confess I think this one’s my favourite.  If anyone missed the first two, here’s your golden opportunity to read them all at once.  I hope all of you enjoyed this view of Tanja’s “dark” side as much I did.  Didn’t these stories remind you of looking through a mirror?  Into a world where things are slightly skewered, a bit out of line, a little hazy but sharp at the same time?  Please stop by and let Tanja know how much you enjoyed them!

The Ghost of Christmas Future
The calls from the withheld-number continued, and my migraines grew worse. The person who was calling me always seemed to know when I was alone. So I took to leaving it switched off. But whenever I switched it on to check whether I had any messages, the mysterious caller inevitably made his presence felt. It was not a missed call that came in when the other messages did; it was always in real time.
This was spooking me. I asked my children and my husband to swap phones with me. And the calls with the withheld-number switched to which ever phone I would be using at the moment.
I couldn’t take it any more, so I went to the Administration Department of my server. They told me I had to file a Police report, if I wanted to know who was invading my privacy; their simply divulging who was calling me would violate the Data Protection Act.
I went to the Hamrun Police Station, and indicated the screen of the mobile phone, which showed no less than 20 “withheld-number” calls within two hours. The Policewomen was sympathetic, but adamantly repeated what the clerk had said. She handed me a form to fill in, but I declined the offer.
As soon as I turned the corner, I smashed the phone against the wall, and then ground it with my heel. I knelt down, scooped up the pieces, and put them in my handbag, meaning to dispose of them bit by bit in each bin I came across.
I caught the bus to Valletta and bought myself a new mobile telephone from a different server. When it came to choosing the number, I asked each of the three clerks for a random pair of digits. The number these made up was fortunately available.
No sooner was the telephone functioning, than a withheld-number call came through. “See how popular you are?” joked the clerk. I felt faint. One of the young ladies ran to bring me a strong coffee from the eatery next door; another gave me her chair.
I took a deep breath and told them the bare bones of what had been happening. They informed me that with them, the procedure to find out to whom a withheld number belonged was the same as that of the other provider.
The only reason I had not placed a trace on my line before was not to give my tormentor the pleasure of knowing he had got at me. But it was now time to change my mind.
I was given a series of numbers for myself and all the members of my family to key into our phones immediately following a call from a withheld number. This allowed me to switch between using them.
But abruptly, on Christmas Eve the calls ceased. But, just in case they began again, I did not report this. I took to leaving my phone switched on.
On January 11, I was summoned to the Police Headquarters.
“Well?” I asked, mentally going over a list of people I knew disliked me. “Did you find the culprit?”
The Sergeant smiled wryly. “Do you remember Rom Houben - that man with the locked-in syndrome, misdiagnosed as comatose for 23 years? Do you remember how he said he was aware of what was happening all the time he was said to be vegetative, and how his imagination helped him survive?” “Yes, I do, albeit vaguely,” I replied, “but what does that have to do with the calls I’ve been receiving?”
“Do you remember Marija Refalo?” “Oh, of course I do, we were best friends in Primary School. When her Irish mum died, her dad had moved back to Gozo so his mum could take care of the family, but we’d lost touch after a couple of years...”
“Marija married a Norwegian. She’d been on holiday here - she was the pregnant woman thrown through of the windscreen in the accident where the bus overturned...”  “She’d lost the baby and was in a coma, wasn’t she?”
“Yes. At first her husband had insisted she be given artificial nutrition and hydration. Then, he met someone else... and he suddenly decided that it was cruel to keep her suffering. He decided to pull the plug on her. Incongruously, the calls you were getting came from her childhood home number... an empty house. No one lives there now.”
I flinched as if someone had slapped me. “It was Christmas Eve, wasn’t it, when they killed her?”

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Only Slightly Premature Holiday Kick-Off Continues!

Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence Country!  The trilogy of Tanja Cilia’s Flash Fiction, showcasing the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, continues with….
The Ghost of Christmas Present
He’s in Malta! she muttered, as she waited for the line to connect.  “Meet me at the Upper Barrakka in ten minutes, near where the Lift used to be!”  he said.  That’s all.  Not even the usual “See you!” which he knew could make shivers run up and down her spine.
He had told her not to contact him unless he gave the all-clear, and the coded message had finally come through on her mobile telephone. He was paranoid, she told him, when he insisted that she did not try to contact him on any social site, or even try and track his movements any online newspapers or on search engines. But he said he knew what he was doing – and she trusted him with her whole body, mind, heart and soul. So she didn’t.
Oh heavens, he knows I’m pregnant.  Why didn’t he pick the Lower Barrakka, just across the road? He knows I tire easily – and it’s uphill all the way... I will never understand that man as long as I live.
She bunched up her hair, jammed on her crochet beret, and as she struggled to put on her parka, she rapped on her neighbour’s door and told her she was going out, and handing her the key to the flat, asked her to switch off the oven in fifteen minutes’ time.
“You look excited!” exclaimed the woman into who she bumped as she turned into Saint Christopher Street.  Oh yes, something’s come up... she blushed, and ran up the few steps.   She crossed Saint Ursula Street and turned left when she got to Saint Paul Street.  She was already huffing.  She counted each corner. At the back of her mind, there were those dreary history lessons in which she had learned how the streets of Valletta, except for the coast road, were at right angles to one another.  However, learning their position on a map was extremely difficult for her (she is dyslexic).
Her English language teacher had mocked her in front of the whole class when, during the Careers Convention, she had declared she wanted to become a journalist.  “You can’t even read a Primer!”  I’ll show her, she’d thought.
Eventually, her name had appeared on the front page of The Times of Malta, over the story about how ghostly presences had been seen walking along Saint Barbara Bastions. 
The said teacher had called her editor to say that someone must be ghost-writing her articles...
A medium had sworn he’d been contacted by ‘foreigners speaking heavily accented Maltese’ who were against the proposed underground track service, since it would desecrate their final resting places.  The people who had been commissioned to see it through said he was talking bunkum – there was a lot of money involved in the project. But it turned out that a prison for slaves had existed underground in that general area at the time of the Knights of Saint John.
Not many people noticed that, one Sunday morning, a priest had visited the site, said some prayers and sprinkled some holy water from an asperges over the bastion sill. She had been looking out of her bedroom window, but kept mum. She included the incident in her report... and it was not gainsaid by Church authorities.
He’ll think I’m not coming she gasped, as began climbing the shallow steps in the upper part of Saint Paul’s Street.  People were looking inquiringly at her flushed face given her evident pregnancy. A couple of them made as if to stop her and ask whether she needed any help – but she waved them off. She was actually on maternity leave, but she wanted to one-up the silly journalist from the rival paper with this Christmas scoop.
Once at the very top of Saint Paul Street, she took a deep breath and ran all the way to the entrance of the gardens, heading towards the back. “You made it!” he smiled. It struck her simultaneously that he looked deathly pale, and that he did not get up to greet her. It was only when she went to hug him that she noticed he was sitting in a wheelchair. She flinched.
“They broke both my legs.  And then kneecapped me, to make sure I never walked again... But it doesn’t matter.  Here, take this,” he said, as he handed her a big manila envelope, bulging with secrets.  “Leave.  Now.” 
She made to complain. He shook his head; and suddenly the wheelchair was empty. She gasped, and instinctively felt that for their baby’s sake, it would be better if she left immediately.
Returning home down Saint Ursula Street, where the steps were right across the street that was narrower than the one from which she had come, and no traffic could pass, she felt safer. But she hurried, nonetheless. She heard a squeal of breaks and a sudden commotion. People screamed as an SUV skidded to a halt behind and above her, just in front of the gates of the public garden.
It was later reported that four thugs wearing balaclavas had dashed out of the vehicle, leaving the doors open, and ran into the gardens, guns blazing. Five persons, two of them children, had been injured.
Hearing the staccato shots, and knowing full well she would have been a victim had she been seen holding the envelope, she bent double and retched. An old lady looking out of a tiny side-window at street level saw her.  Idħol, she said, inviting her to push open the door - kept on the latch as is still the habit in some places in Malta. She accepted a mug of hot, sweet tea and played for time just in case ‘they’ began scouring the streets.
Later, much later, she googled his name. The first link that came up was his obituary. He had died five months previously, in an unexplained accident on a business trip.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Only Slightly Premature Kick-Off to the Holiday Season

Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence!   I’ve collected this particular Flower before.  On my second blog posting, in fact.  To refresh your memories, I introduced my sister-across-the-water Tanja Cilia and shared her impeccably crafted Haiku. 

Well, I’ve got a new mission in life.  Think back with me.  How many times in the group e-mails have you seen Tanja preface remarks with “I’m an editor, not a writer but…”  But nothing.  Tanja Cilia is a writer.  Her specialty – and I’ve been privileged to read many of them in the past months since we’ve come into each other’s lives – is Flash Fiction.  The woman writes Flash Fiction worthy of the most classic episodes of The Twilight Zone.  I have never, ever, in my entire life known anyone who says so much in so little, twisting and turning her words like a knife until – she flashes in for the kill.  She’s represented here by the image of Athena that has become her trademark.  She prefers it to an actual photo, she says, for the same reason she prefers radio over television.  The imagination produces better pictures.  Maybe that’s the secret to her incredible shorts.
After much cajoling, I have prevailed upon her to allow me to re-present a trilogy of Flash Fiction that appeared in 2009 in the online Christmas Supplement of the Malta Times.  Today Flowers on the Fence – most proudly – presents  The Ghost of Christmas Past, as told by Tanja Cilia.  Stay tuned, though!  The Trilogy will continue…through the present…through the future…..
The Ghost of Christmas Past 
I open the secret drawer of the bureau I’d bought myself as a Christmas present from the auction. I’d always wanted one.  The very idea of combining the old and the new – setting up my laptop on an antique, and in my own version of retro chic, excited me.
One of the carvings going down the side of the bookshelf stood proud of the rest.  I reached out to flatten it – and a panel at the side of the bureau sprang open.
Hey!  That’s MY handwriting.  That’s MY diary!  How on earth could my diary for 2008 be here, of all places? How come it’s so dusty?
I had been a gifted child. My peers and teachers had hated me for it, and tried to break my spirit.  When I fidgeted because I was bored, they said I was arrogant.  They mispronounced my name on purpose, just to see me get het up.  When I put my hand up to answer the teacher’s questions, I was always ignored.
For the official documents of my consultancy firm, I always use black ink.  For private use, I always use “nice” ink colours like aquamarine and lilac and peach.... I know it’s frivolous, but my friends, to whom I still send snail-mail letters, really appreciate it.
But the diary is written in blue ink, throughout.  It’s weird. I never, but never, use blue ink. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I am compelled to read the entries, as if this would soothe the unease I am feeling. It’s the exact opposite of déjà-vu.  A presentiment that something ominous is about to happen.
It’s like a rumbling behind my belly-button, and the vertiginous feeling you get when you look out of a high-rise building, and the aura before a migraine strikes, and a tingling sensation behind my knees..... as if something is not quite right with my body, but I cannot quite put my finger on it. 
April 12... My daughter came home from school in a teacher’s car because she had twisted her ankle when playing volley-ball.
The name of the teacher as given here is Miss Camilleri.  But I know for a fact that Miss Camilleri  cannot drive.  It was Mrs Brincat who had brought Ruth home; she had been in my class at school - we had been best friends -  and she always gave my daughter special attention, for old times’ sake .... 
I turn to June 5, on spec.  That was the day the brakes of our car didn’t hold, and we ran into the car in front of us.  Yes... here it is, “car crash”.  Oh, no!  It says we were in the ‘new’ Getz Malibu...  When the accident happened we could not have been in any other car but our old trusty Triumph Toledo. We never had any spare cash to purchase the car we really wanted – a Toyota.
July 28.  My sister-in-law’s baby was stillborn
It was not.  In fact, the baby died of an internal hemorrhage six months after he was born. And my sister-in-law says that she has never told anyone but me about her recurring dream, in which the baby is stillborn. 
August 17.  There was the explosion at the fireworks factory across the fields from our house. Someone had bought some contraband Chinese fireworks, and they were dismantling them to see how they were assembled. Snow put out the fire from the explosion.  
Snow?  I cannot understand this. We never get snow in Malta – and if we did, it would never have been in August, when the weather, as we say colloquially, is hot enough to fry eggs on pavements. 
My head spins; I think I’d best make myself a mug of tea and lie down. But first, I have to check - although I am afraid to do so - September 3....
I remember that on the night of my birthday, I had cried myself asleep because I felt unloved and unwanted.  The husband and kids know I hate surprise birthday parties and yet they threw me one anyway.  True enough.  I made a scene and spoiled it all for them, saying that what I want is respect and not empty meaningless, expensive parties... My sister-in-law called me a spoiled brat.
That is so not true. I didn’t want to be a killjoy, and so I pretended that I was enjoying it. I can still recall the ache in my jaws from my false smiles, trying to make them believe I was enjoying it. Later, the little one asked me whether I would have preferred “just a hug and a kiss” from each one of them... and that is when the dam holding back my tears had burst.  
I hear a key turn in the lock. I call out to tell my husband I am in the sitting room, and he asks what the matter is.  He probably realizes from my voice that I am under shock, and I hear him running along the corridor. 
He is not my husband.  I can see the puzzled look in his eyes. And when I silently point down at the diary in my lap, the pages are blank…