Title: Just Like the Bronte Sisters
Author: Laurel Osterkamp
Genre: Women’s Fiction/NA/Magical Realism
Sisters Skylar and Jo Beth adore skiing and they virtually share the same soul. After an accident, Jo Beth flees to Brazil, leaving Skylar behind in Colorado to obsessively read the Brontë sisters. While abroad, Jo Beth meets Mitch and her life takes some unexpected turns until tragedy leads free-spirited Mitch right into Skylar’s empty arms. With their Heathcliff/Catherine romance in full swing, Skylar wants to trust Mitch, but did he harm her sister? Loving Mitch could make Skylar lose everything. Just Like the Brontë Sisters is an unconventional romantic page-turner inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, full of magical realism, literary references, a ghost, and some healthy doses of suspense.
Mitch used tweezers to not-so-gently remove all the glass from Jo Beth’s skin. They sat in the bathroom, her atop the toilet with its lid down, and Mitch on the floor, his back leaning against the edge of the tub as he picked out the glass piece by piece, shard by shard, dropping each one into the wastebasket.
Occasionally he’d look up and his wide, dark eyes pooled with distress.
Jo Beth couldn’t keep silent. “Mitch, I swear that she started it. Magda hit me with that spoon and then she cut herself to make it seem like it was my fault.”
Mitch’s chest heaved up and down. He kept his eyes on her knees. “Jo Beth, you have to stop.”
“But I’m telling the truth.”
“Jo Beth!” His inhale was sharp like he’d just been hit. “Once the baby is born, we’ll leave. I don’t care where we go, but we’ll figure something out. Until then, you have to keep it together.”
“She’s still in love with you, Mitch.” Jo Beth could say this as loud as she wanted because Magda was out, having taken herself to the emergency room after Mitch said that her cut probably needed stitches.
Mitch vehemently shook his head. “No. It’s not like that. She dumped me.”
“Wait, what?” Jo Beth felt her brain synapses coil tightly in confusion. “I thought you said that your breakup was mutual.”
He dug the tweezers into the base of her ankle, right where some glass was lodged. Suddenly Jo Beth felt like he was playing that board game, Operation, and she was as real to him as the clownish cartoon character who needs gas bubbles removed from his stomach.
“No,” Mitch replied. “She decided it was time after I lost my ability to see through the blood-red cloud that surrounds her. That’s what happened.”
“Ouch!” Jo Beth yanked her foot away. His excavation attempts were just too vigorous. “What are you talking about? What blood-red cloud?”
Mitch grabbed her foot back and held it tight as he mined for more glass. “The one that surrounds Magda?” His tone was condescending and impatient, almost as bad as his nursing skills. “Don’t tell me you don’t see it.”
He wouldn’t look at her but stayed focused on his task.
“Mitch, you’re honestly telling me that a blood-red cloud hovers around Magda?”
“Yeah.” He sighed. “I realize that not everyone can see it, but I can. I’ve always been able to see things that other people can’t. My ability is more a curse than a blessing.”
The pressure behind Jo Beth’s eyes was uncomfortable, just like the pricking of Mitch’s tweezers. Could he possibly be for real? “Why haven’t you ever mentioned this before?”
“Magda wanted it to be our secret,” he said simply. “But things changed, she broke up with me, and it was fine. There was no tidal wave, no crisis, she didn’t disappear, and we stayed friends.” Mitch finally dislodged the last pieces of glass and after depositing them in the trash can, he dropped the tweezers like he was dropping a microphone. “And I love you, Jo. But you have to stop acting so crazy.”
She had to stop acting so crazy? Jo Beth just nodded and gripped the edges of the toilet beneath her. How could one little statement from this man change everything?
she kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks for taking such good care of me.”
Jo Beth went to bed and lay there until she heard Magda come in, and then there was the sound of their voices speaking in low, romantic tones. Were they kissing? Had they been intimate with each other this entire time? She was surprised to realize that she didn’t even care. But when Jo Beth was sure they were too consumed with each other’s company to worry about her, she got out her cell phone, hid under the covers so her voice would be muffled, and called Skylar. It was the middle of the night where she was, so Jo Beth thought for sure she’d answer, but it went straight to voicemail.
“Sky,” Jo Beth whispered. “You have to believe me because Mom doesn’t. Magda and Mitch have charmed her into believing that they’re innocent. But I know the truth. Magda is an evil bitch and Mitch is crazy.” She took a deep breath, trying not to feel claustrophobic underneath the covers. “I’m actually sort of relieved,” she continued. “Maybe Mitch actually does love me. Maybe’s it’s not his fault that he’s insane. I don’t know how long he’s been like this, maybe his whole life, but it explains everything. It explains why I can’t trust him.” She tried to keep her tears out of her voice. She had to stay strong. “Skylar, where are you? Why didn’t you come? I have to get myself and my baby away from Mitch. Once she’s born I’m going to leave and I’ll need your help. Promise that you’ll help me.” She took a deep sniff. “We need to talk in person. I don’t know how that will happen, but just know that I love you. You’re my favorite and I love you best of all.”
She pressed end, emerged from the covers, and sat up. Then she reached under the bed and removed the knife she’d kept beneath the mattress for over two weeks. Jo Beth gripped it in her sweaty hand, wondering if she was capable of murder, or if her subconscious just liked to pretend. Hell. She was pretty sure she was capable. The bigger question was whether she was up for the effort that murder required. Exhaustion slowly dripped through her, turning her muscles and mind to slush. She must have fallen asleep with the knife still in her grip because after what seemed like hours, she woke to Mitch’s face looming above hers.
“Why are you holding a knife?” His voice was sharp, like the blade she clutched.
He took the knife from her and her breath caught. If he wanted to kill her, right here, right now, there was no stopping him. “Are you afraid of me, Jo Beth?”
She pushed him away and struggled into a sitting position. “No, Mitch. I’m not afraid of you. But I think we should break up.”
“As soon as I have the baby I’m going home with my mom.”
Mitch closed his eyes and fell back against the bed. “You can’t do that,” he whispered.
She took the knife from his hand and he let it go without protest. “Yeah, I can.”
His eyes rolled toward the ceiling. “So much water,” he said, holding out his palms as if to catch a nonexistent flood. “Like the roof is crying.”
“Mitch…” She placed her hand on his shoulder. He sat up abruptly and swiped back the knife. “Why can’t we just be okay? Is that too much to ask?”
Suddenly Jo Beth was afraid, but not of Mitch. There was a flood, but it wasn’t coming from the roof. It came from between her legs. “Mitch!” she cried. “Stop being delusional. My water just broke.”
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Laurel Osterkamp is a Kindle Scout/award-winning author of women’s fiction and suspense. Her “day job” is as at Columbia Heights High School, where she teaches creative writing, college writing, and AP Lit. She resides in Minneapolis with her husband, two chatty children, an overweight cat, a gecko, and a hissing cockroach (don’t ask). Her other loves include chocolate, jogging, and boots.
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