Category Archives: Novels

sewing machine

Chapter 2: All Hallows’ Eve | Part 1: Costumes | Any Other Way But Together

Halloween is the black hole that sucks you into the holiday season, spitting you out on New Year’s Day a few pounds heavier and a few dollars lighter. Indulging in candy and cocktails while dressing questionably would be considered inappropriate on any other night, but on the last night of October it’s completely acceptable.

Isobel rarely gets into the spirit of the holiday, but she dresses up and makes festive cookies so that her kids will grow up with happy Halloween memories. Esthie loves to dress up, but usually spends the last few days of October sewing together looks for her friends and family members, living little time for her to make one for herself.

This is the first year that Esthie doesn’t have plans to go out on Halloween night. She and Dominick are still working on their relationship and making plans as a couple has become tricky. After tossing and turning in the wee hours of the morning, Esthie had texted him to ask what his plans were, hoping he would respond with an invitation or suggestion.

It’s almost noon and Esthie has yet to receive a text back from him, so her contingency plan is to text her single friend, Lindsay, to see what’s going on around town. She is sitting at the table in Isobel’s formal dining room, annoyed by the cheery yellow wallpaper with blue paisleys, brightened by rays of sun creeping in through the French doors. She is holding up the jacket of the blue pantsuit she is tailoring for her niece Emmie when her smartphone chimes, indicating she has a text message.

“Wow,” Esthie mouths after checking it. She places her phone to the side of the sewing machine and signals to her sister.

“Was that him?” Iso asks, removing the left bud of her earphones to listen to her sister’s response. She is curled up at the head of the table with a mug of pumpkin spice flavored coffee, jamming to a nineties girl group playlist while her son enjoys his morning nap.

“Oh, I only get one ear?”

Iso rolls her eyes and removes the other bud. “So what was that wow about? Was it Dominick?”

Esthie turns back to the pantsuit. She took her final measurements this morning before Emmie went to school. The fit wasn’t bad, but not polished enough for a presidential candidate.

“Yes. I’m seriously over him right now.”

“What happened? I thought you guys were fine after the little hurricane honeymoon.” Hurricane Matthew just missed Miami-Dade County as it made landfall in Florida in mid-October. The city enjoyed a brief respite that week, weathering nothing more than the typical thunderstorm. Esthie spent the day at the apartment with Dominick primarily because she was concerned about Skimbleshanks’ anxiety, one of his many emotional issues.

“We were fine. Better than fine, actually. But then the next day he went into full Haiti hurricane relief mode and I just felt like I was in his way again.” Esthie runs the blue jacket through the machine, pulling off pins for what she hoped would be the last adjustment. “I just feel really guilty for making him choose between working to save the world and working on our relationship, but I also feel completely neglected when he’s immersed in his job, so I don’t really know where that leave me.”

Iso takes a sip from her mug before responding. “Why don’t you tell him these things?” After hours spent listening to Esthie’s relationship problems, the golden thread that Iso has found is that her sister has a no problem expressing her opinions, but she has a much more difficult time expressing her feelings.

“I do tell him things. I just don’t like to complain about relationship stuff while he’s dealing with craziness at work because I don’t want him to think I’m a nag.”

“Seriously, Esthie? Is that really the worst thing?” Isobel says, trying her best not to sound condescending.

Esthie places Emmie’s finished jacket next to the blonde wig at the end of the table closest to Iso and begins adjusting the length of Rudy’ long red tie.

“I still think you should have dressed them up as Princess Leia and Jabba the Hutt,” Esthie says, moving the conversation in a lighter direction.

“I’m not gonna dress my baby up as that creepy monster.”

“Really?” Esthie asks, holding up the red tie.

Iso laughs. “This political costume thing wasn’t my idea.” Emmie got her costume idea after attending a political rally with her grandmother. Iso spent days showing her different costume ideas to get her to change her mind, but all she wanted to wear was a blonde wig and blue pantsuit. “You can thank Marge for that one.”

“At what time is mommy dearest arriving?” Esthie and Marge aren’t seeing eye to eye regarding her decision to leave Dominick, so she would like to avoid a conversation with her mother at all costs.

“She should be here by the time Rudy wakes up from his nap.”

“Joy.” Esthie says sarcastically, throwing the finished red tie toward Iso’s side of the table. “Okay, well I’m gonna go out as soon as we finish trick or treating with the kids because I can’t deal with a slumber party slash relationship intervention tonight. It’s freakin’ Halloween. I’m gonna enjoy it while I still can.”

“K. What are your plans, by the way?” Isobel is trying to work another angle since Esthie is avoiding talking about Dominick’s text.

“I’m gonna go to Lincoln Road and meet up with Lindsay and them most likely.”

“Oh.” Iso responds, hiding her disapproval behind her oversized mug. Lindsay is the last friend Esthie keeps in touch with from her party girl days and Esthie only makes plans with her when she wants to make a guy jealous, a rookie move in Isobel’s book.

“Seriously Iso, I can’t deal with you and Mom ganging up on me about Dominick today. I know you guys think I’m running away from my problems like I always do, but I’m really not. I just need to sit in my emotions and figure out what I’m gonna do with my life and I can’t do that if I’m around him right now.”

Marge makes it no secret that she thinks Dominick is the guy for Esthie. Before meeting him, Esthie had a string of bad boyfriends that left her mother and sister wondering if she would ever find someone that valued her. Then she came home from India with a boyfriend that treated her right and they thought their prayers had been answered. Their messianic view of Dominick drives Esthie crazy and makes it difficult for her to talk to them about her relationship without getting defensive.

“Alright, I’ll change the subject if she tries to bring it up.”

Esthie picks up her sewing machine and walks toward the hallway.

“Honestly, she’ll probably be too busy cleaning my house and micromanaging me with the kids to deal with you and your issues today.”

“That would be great,” Esthie says.

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day   Contents   Part 2: You Know Me and Halloween

photo of a cat on a bed

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 4: Take Care of Skimbleshanks For Me | Any Other Way But Together

Made up of small bridges that connect quiet island neighborhoods along the bay, the Venetian Causeway offers a peaceful alternative to the frenetic tourist traffic of the busier causeways that connect Downtown Miami to South Beach. The sunset looks like a fire raging on the horizon, with clouds of gray smoke connecting the sea to the night sky. Jogging past one bridge after another, Dominick Clarke is reminded of his home in the US Virgin islands as he makes his way back to the mainland after his run.

Dominick’s father is a hotelier that runs a beautiful property in the mountains of St Thomas overlooking Magens Bay. His hard work afforded his son a picturesque childhood, but he wanted more for him than what their island home could provide. With his father’s blessing, Dominick attended the University of Miami and began a new chapter for the Clarke family in the capital city of the caribbean. After receiving a masters degree in public administration, he started a climate change initiative that he hopes to turn into a national non-profit.

With the build of a basketball player, he maintains his fitness with long distance jogs and bike rides. His dreadlocks are pulled back tightly behind his shoulders, allowing him to wear large headphones during his workout. The transition from the Venetian to his apartment off Biscayne Boulevard takes him from an island vibe to a city vibe, with large condo buildings rising over old walk ups in neighborhoods as diverse as any in South Florida.

Upon entering the apartment he shared with Esthie until she decided to move out, he is ignored by Skimbleshanks, their rescue kitten that has grown into a remarkably angsty adult house cat. The fact that Esthie and Dominick saved him from a kill shelter is of no consequence to Skimbleshanks, and the fact that he doesn’t even bother to acknowledge Dominick upon entering proves it. Nonetheless, Dominick places his food out just as Esthie instructed and takes off his damp blue sneakers.

It isn’t until Dominick sits down in front of the tv with a bowl of microwaved pasta that Skimbleshanks enters the room, glancing at his caretaker and walking to the kitchen for his dinner. Dominick laughs at his ungrateful companion and grabs his phone to read a text from Xavier.

yo, your girl is moping around here wondering why you haven’t texted her. make a move already, bro! send her a goodnight text with a smiley or something.

He responds with an lol then picks up the wireless control for the gaming console that has replaced spending time with his girlfriend on weeknights. Dominick had every intention of texting Esthie on Labor Day, but after an hour of drafting and deleting messages, he decided that saying nothing would be better for their relationship than saying the wrong thing. Dominick was still trying to figure out what he had done or said to trigger their breakup, something he didn’t see coming. His control suddenly rumbles, indicating that his game is about to come to a bloody conclusion if he doesn’t start paying attention to it.

Unable to focus, Dominick turns the tv off and looks over at Skimbleshanks, who is slowly approaching the bright yellow chair next to the couch. Esthie had upholstered it with fabric from her old bedroom curtains when she moved in. At some point, Skimbleshanks had claimed the chair as his own and would viciously attack anyone who got near it. Dominick was the first person to have been attacked for sitting on it, an incident that Esthie found hilarious but failed to get on video because she was laughing so hard.

Thinking it would be the perfect icebreaker, Dominick turns on the camera of his smartphone to film Skimbleshanks’ reaction to him sitting in the chair. As soon as Skimbleshanks realizes that he’s about to go for seat, his green eyes light up with fury and he leaps toward Dominick, ready to claw his eyes out. Dominick jumps back on the couch to avoid another scar and Skimbleshanks jumps from the chair to to couch, knocking the phone onto the floor.

The video turns out to be just as funny as Dominick had hoped, so he sends it to Esthie with a message reading my man’s got no chill followed by an emoticon. He hopes that the act of putting himself in harm’s way in order to put a smile on her face will be enough to make her realize how much he’s willing to do to make her happy.

Part 3: Spreadsheets in Bed   Contents   Chapter 2: All Hallows’ Eve

photo of a laptop on the bed at night

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 3: Spreadsheets in Bed | Any Other Way But Together

“Babe… have you talked to Esthie about her timeline for moving out?” Xavier Rivas asks his wife, careful not to make it seem to Isobel that he’s dying for his sister in law to move out. He is laying in bed wearing navy pajama pants with his bare feet hang off the edge of their bed while he reviews their family finances on his laptop. The reclaimed wood headboard behind his white pillow goes all the way up to the ceiling, with mason jar lighting fixtures on either side of the bed. The walls are painted sage green and the room remains otherwise empty, aside from their rustic gray nightstands and the wicker hamper Iso tosses her broccoli-stained denim shirt into.

“I don’t wanna talk about my sister right now, Babe,” she says before taking a sip of the red wine that Xavier had just poured for her on the nightstand. “But don’t let that stop you from telling me everything Dominick said at lunch today.”

Xavier laughs, spilling some of his red wine onto his small patch of chest hair. “Dude, your sister’s still obsessed with him, I don’t know why she doesn’t just figure out whatever she needs to figure out already.”

“Well, what does he think they need to figure out?” she asks.

“Bro, he’s not the one that woke up one day, dyed his hair purple and moved out on her after four years together. She’s the one that needs to figure things out.”

Annoyed by her husband’s oversimplification of the situation, Isobel rolls her eyes and takes another sip of her wine, one of the few indulgences she allows herself on weeknights. She likes having Esthie around so much that, for the moment, she’s willing to overlook the fact that he has a point. Their parents, retired college professors, visit often from their home in Naples, but she misses having them around and Esthie helps fill that void. Feeling exhausted from her day and not quite ready for her shower, Iso cuddles up to Xavier while he works on his spreadsheets.

Looking over his college loan payoff schedule, Xavier is trying to figure out how to make room in his young family’s monthly budget for the kids’ college funds. If somebody had told him when he was a senior in high school that he’d be contributing to four college tuitions while still in his twenties, he probably wouldn’t have went to college in the first place. The whole thing feels like a scam to him, but he wants his kids to have all the opportunities he had.

He runs his hand through his salt and pepper hair then rubs his brown eyes, which are swollen from lack of sleep. Xavier puts his arm around his wife and breathes in the sweet, calming energy that made him fall for her during their freshman year of college, when he would lay in bed with her all day ordering takeout and binge watching tv shows.

These days, Xavier feels lucky to get one full night’s sleep in a month. His career in luxury real estate requires a lot of networking and between that and his growing household, he’s happy when he’s able to unwind after a long day. Feeling like he can’t make sense of numbers anymore, he closes the spreadsheets and opens a listing for a sailboat he had bookmarked earlier that day. Xavier always dreamed of raising his family in Coconut Grove with aspirations of teaching his kids how to sail just down the road from their home.

“Check this out. This guy’s only asking a few grand. Tell me that’s not a beautiful boat.” Xavier flashes her a smile, hoping to bring her along on this journey.

“It’s gorgeous,” she says. “The only problem is that my kids aren’t getting on a boat without learning how to swim first,” she flashes a toothy smile back at him. “Just sayin’.”

“So that’ll be a few grand, plus…” Xavier look at his wife for an estimate. Iso places her wine glass on the nightstand and grabs the laptop. She searches for children’s swimming lessons in Miami and shows him the pricing.

Xavier laughs. “So I need to sell about a million dollars in real estate next year to make this happen, is what you’re saying.”

“Basically,” Isobel says. She kisses him on the side of the lips, making her way into their bathroom with her wine and bluetooth speaker, tossing her bra into the laundry basket on the way.

As soon as Xavier hears her turn on the shower, he closes the laptop he pulls his phone off the charger. He knows Iso would be upset if she finds out who he’s texting, but he can’t help himself.

Part 2: Two More Bites   Contents   Part 4: Take Care of Skimbleshanks For Me

photo of vintage looking kitchen

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 2: Two More Bites | Any Other Way But Together

Greeted by the scent of roast chicken and broccoli casserole, Esthie walks into the cool interior of her sister’s home and takes off her muddy sneakers. Even though she’s hungry, she walks toward the tufted leather couch in the formal living room to grab her smartphone before heading to the kitchen for dinner.

No new messages.

Esthie’s heart sinks. She felt so strong when she decided to break up with Dominick. She loved him, but she felt that she needed to spend some time away from him to figure out what she wants. Everything seemed to be going fine until she ran into him over Labor Day weekend. As soon as Esthie saw him again she realized how much she missed him and a few cocktails led to a drunken hookup and an awkward morning, after which she hadn’t heard a word from him.

Deflated, she walks toward the kitchen where Isobel Egret is feeding her young children.

“I’m full, Momma,” Emilia says to Isobel, who instructs her three year old daughter to have two more bites. With her light brown hair in a messy ponytail and the sleeves of her light denim shirt rolled up, she is standing in front of her one year old son, Rudy, with a spoonful of casserole.

Her kitchen has modern appliances like a stainless steel fridge and induction range mixed in with more traditional elements, like cream colored cabinets that displayed her porcelain cookware and antique copper pots through glass windows. A large white sink sits in front of a bay window that overlooks an empty backyard. She and her husband don’t have the energy to spend on a yard renovation project, so their current plan for the yard is to put off planning for the yard until the kids are a little bit older. Eventually, Isobel would like to plant a row of white bougainvilleas along the fence in the backyard so that she can admire them from the kitchen window while she cooks. She dreams of hosting dinner parties for friends and family under the night sky, with string lights twinkling over a long table decorated to perfection with flower arrangements and candles surrounding a home cooked meal.

While Isobel finishes feeding the baby, Emilia, or Emmie as she was dubbed by her little brother when he learned his first words, turns away from her plate of food and looks through the gaps in the wooden dining chair she’s sitting in toward the hallway, waiting for her father to save her from the last bites of broccoli on her plate.

“Daddy!” Emmie suddenly screams as Xavier, Isobel’s husband, walks in. Standing on her chair, Emmie leaps into her father’s arms as soon as he is within reach.

“Hey Princess,” he says, giving her a kiss on the forehead.

Iso knows that once the kids are out of their chairs greeting their father she has no chance of getting their attention again, so she rinses their plates off as Xavier grabs Rudy with his free arm.

“How’s my baby boy?” With a kid on each arm, Xavier leans back and gives his wife a kiss on the lips. “How’s your day been, Babe?”

Feeling like she’s intruding on an intimate moment between Isobel and her husband, Esthie sits on the counter next to the crockpot and quietly eats her dinner. Meanwhile, Isobel glances at Esthie’s toned legs hanging off her counter and immediately regrets the carbs she just ate. She and Esthie are technically identical, but Iso feels like Esthie’s older sister after becoming a mom, mainly due to the baby weight and bags under her eyes that never seem to go away.

“Good, Babe,” Isobel says, letting her husband know that there’s a breast for him in the oven. Xavier possesses a charm that, when combined with his classic looks and baritone voice, makes him irresistible to his wife. Even after long days of shuttling their kids around the city, cooking and doing laundry, she looks forward to lying in bed and reconnecting with him at night, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Xavier serves himself chicken and opens the red slow cooker next to Esthie, who cracks a smile when she remembers that he had lunch with Dominick earlier. He also cracks a smile, knowing exactly why she’s suddenly interested in talking to him. “So, I hear you had a nice weekend,” he says.

“Babe, don’t get involved!” Isobel says to him as she ushers the kids toward the hallway for bath time.

“And what is it that you heard, exactly?” Esthie asks, giving her sister the side eye and hoping her brother in law will ignore her advice.

Part1: Mercury in Retrograde    Contents   Part 3: Spreadsheets in Bed

Any Other Way But Together Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 1: Mercury in Retrograde

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day | Part 1: Mercury in Retrograde | Any Other Way But Together

Raindrops sprinkle down from a large banyan tree as the sun sets over Miami, bringing the tuesday after Labor Day into twilight. The humid air feels thick and smells like a combination of wet asphalt, car exhaust and freshly cut grass as Esthie Egret cools down in the shade. She is waiting to cross Douglas Road, one of the busier streets in an otherwise quiet neighborhood in Coconut Grove. It’s the unofficial end of summer and Esthie can already feel the holidays approaching, a time of year she had been looking forward to until the events of the long weekend clouded her perception of the present.

Beads of sweat and rainwater are trickling down her temple, circling under her light blue eyes that are puffy from a weekend spent drinking, dancing and crying. Esthie pulls her wavy hair out of a low, messy bun. Shoulder length, it goes from light brown at the root to blonde and lavender at the tips. She added the lavender after going through an existential crisis that ended with her breaking up with her boyfriend over the summer. It should be noted that both the break up and the existential crisis just happened to follow her twenty-ninth birthday.

With the curtains closing on her twenties, Esthie questions every decision she’s ever made. And with an identical twin sister to compare all of her life choices to, she finds it very difficult to look at them objectively. Esthie and Isobel are identical only in DNA, with dichotomous personalities that took them in very different directions after high school.

Lumped together as ‘The Egret Twins’ from kindergarten through senior year, Esthie and Iso chose to attend different universities so that they could experience freshman year as individuals and not as a genetically exotic curiosity. Their years apart during college allowed them to explore areas of their personalities that would ultimately inform the women they would become in their twenties. Iso is a married mother of two who is taking a break from her career to stay at home with her young children. Esthie is a recently single creative professional with big dreams, a small budget and an even smaller window of time to make them come true before giving up on them entirely.

Esthie hasn’t lived with her sister since they were teenagers, but after breaking up with Dominick, her boyfriend of four years, she decided that it was better to share a bunk with her three year old niece than to stay in a relationship that wasn’t headed in the right direction. Esthie fell in love with Dominick after meeting him on a yoga tour of India. His endless fascination with the world was infectious and it made Esthie gravitate toward him immediately. She had every intention of continuing her education after that trip, but was inspired to develop her creative talents instead. As soon as they got back from India, she quit her job and became a certified yoga instructor, spending all of her free time focusing on her passion projects and her blossoming romance.

One of those projects, making rag dolls to resemble famous artists, generated enough interest at local street fairs to convince Esthie to pursue it as a small business. She learned how to sew while holed up in her dormroom during her first winter in New England. She had never experienced snow before and she had never been away from her sister for so long, two things that she was excited about at first but began to hate as soon as the novelty wore off. Lonely and cold, she wanted to move back home after the holidays, but her mother, Marge, wouldn’t hear of it. She flew up for a couple of weeks to teach her daughter how to quilt and cook her way through the isolating days of winter. While the cooking skills fell by the wayside some time after graduation, Esthie took the sewing skills she learned back then and used them to improve her life once again.

After two years of developing a social media presence and visibility in the local marketplace, Esthie makes just enough money selling her dolls to stay in business but not enough to earn a living wage in Miami. The success of her startup has been her main focus since moving in with her sister. It’s what gets her through the nights when she wakes up in her young niece’s room and wonders if she’s made a huge mistake in breaking up with her boyfriend. As she approaches Iso’s charming gray home, tucked away behind green foliage and a white porch, she begins to feel the weight of her decision to leave Dominick.

This afternoon jog was supposed to help her forget about what happened when she saw Dominick over the weekend. She even left her smartphone inside so that she wouldn’t feel compelled to check for messages for the duration of her run, but that only gave her more time to analyze every single interaction she had with him.

Her brain tells her that breaking up with him was the right decision. They had fallen into a dynamic that put career ambitions before family and when she realized that she would be turning thirty within a year, Esthie began to wonder if she and Dominick were making a mistake by not starting a family of their own. Although she didn’t think she was ready to have kids right away, she wanted to know that their relationship was at least headed in that direction before it was too late.

Her heart still breaks every time she sees him. When Dominick is in front of her there’s nowhere else Esthie wants to be. As soon as she sets her eyes on him she forgets everything that doesn’t work in their relationship and can’t focus on anything but the way she feels his arms wrapped around her. Terrified that she may have just broken up with the love of her life, she rushes toward the front door, hoping to find a text from him that would to prove to her that what happened between them over the weekend wasn’t a mistake.

Prologue    Contents   Part 2: Two More Bites

photo of young woman

Prologue | Any Other Way But Together

On the Sunday morning after her twenty-ninth birthday celebration, Esthie Egret is in a beauty supply store in South Beach looking for a bottle of lavender colored hair dye. After teaching a yoga class and spending a few minutes on the sand, she can’t shake the panic that set in when she realized that she would be turning thirty in less than a year. Feeling a strong desire to shake things up in her life, she decided to begin with her hair color.

Her identical twin sister, Isobel, is married with two young children and living in the suburbs while Esthie can’t get her boyfriend of fours years to commit to more than sharing a cat and an apartment with her. She loves her life with Dominick, but they’ve never really talked about starting a family. She’s been anxious to start that conversation, but she feels like initiating a conversation about having kids would be premature considering that they’ve barely even talked about marriage.

When her sister gave birth to her first child, Esthie realized that what was once her nuclear family had become her extended family. Isobel is now a mother of two under five and in her new role as Aunt Esthie, the more independent Egret sister has suddenly started to think about what her own family will look like. She doesn’t want to rush into starting one, but the perfectly choreographed birthday dinner her sister hosted for their almost-thirtieth birthday made Esthie think about motherhood more and more with the each candle that was added to her cake.

What she decides to do at any given moment can dictate what the next decade of her life will look like. Esthie has this paralyzing fear that life is going to fly by before she’s able to make any of her dreams come true. She and her sister always dreamed of raising their children together and she feels like this is the moment to decide whether or not to give up on that dream to pursue another one. At the moment, the only thing Esthie feels she can hold on to is the bottle of lavender hair dye in her hands.

Chapter 1: The Tuesday After Labor Day

West of Collins Avenue: A Novel About First Generation Cuban Americans in Miami

West of Collins Avenue: A Novel (photo: Martin Ezequiel Sanchez)

West of Collins Avenue: A Novel (photo: Martin Ezequiel Sanchez)

A novel about five Miamians aged twenty-seven, West of Collins Avenue brings you into their daily lives as they navigate the murky waters of finding love, establishing careers, maintaining friendships and honoring culture in the Magic City.

The land in Miami has been bought and sold so many times over the past century that the city has very few historical landmarks to speak of. Its most enduring legacy is that of a city tourists value for its beaches, bodies, drugs, clubs and now casinos.

There is little else about Miami that outsiders seem to care about. But the most interesting part of this city lies just beyond the fluorescent lights of the art deco district.

Miami is an exotic ethnic melting pot with a considerable concentration of first generation Hispanic Americans who learn to differentiate between ethnicity, nationality and culture early on in their lives as a way to make sense of who they are.

While race relations have become a hot button issue in other parts of the country, a popular Miami radio station features a game called ‘Black, White, Hispanic or Other’ on their morning show, where callers guess the ethnicity of a criminal based on his or her charges in order to win concert tickets.

Gender wars wage on in national politics and marriage equality triumphs in the Supreme Court, but you couldn’t really tell if you were eavesdropping on a couple’s conversation over dinner in Miami – gay or straight.

There is a complacency in heteronormativity here that has driven out most of the queer culture, yet South Beach is still sold as a gay destination to people from around the world.

The Wynwood art district has received global attention as a center for art, but not the type of art that you hang on the wall. Street art has flourished on the exterior walls of the industrial area and, ironically, real estate prices there have skyrocketed, driving artists north to Little Haiti to find affordable studio space.

There are few places as misunderstood as Miami is in the twenty-first century and even less as absurd – just ask the natives.

Dr. María de la Covadonga García

Coco sat in the driver’s seat of her gray hybrid sedan sipping a steaming hot cortadito as the sun rose over Miami on an uncharacteristically cool Friday morning. While most twenty-nine year old professionals were hitting snooze on the alarm clock to avoid starting the workday for another ten minutes, Dr. María de la Covadonga García was trying to stay awake after a twenty-four hour shift at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She scanned her phone for missed text messages, phone calls or emails that would require immediate responses before pulling out of the parking garage.

A nickname she adopted officially after her first day of kindergarten, Coco was the name her father gave her when she was a baby and the first word she spoke. Having recently become engaged to her boyfriend, she was confronted with the question of whether to legally change her first name to Coco when she went downtown to change her last name. The idea of changing either one of her names made her feel uncomfortable in a way that none of her girlfriends in Miami could understand.

The only message that required an immediate response was one from her mother asking if Coco would be going by to drop off a guava cake later that morning. Unable to attend her great aunt’s birthday brunch because of her work schedule, she had offered to make a homemade rum cake with guava filling for the event and send it in her absence.

Coco baked the cake that Wednesday night and left it in the refrigerator of the Miami Beach condominium she shared with her fiancé, Sebastián, for him to deliver to her mother on Friday morning on his way to work.

Sí Mami, Seba te la va a llevar
a la casa antes de las ocho
de la mañana como te dije ayer.
Tengo que manejar y acostarme
que ya no puedo ni abrir los ojos.
Mandale un beso a tía. I love you.

Before putting the car into gear to head home, she activated the bluetooth system to call Sebastián and remind him about the cake.

Sebastián Salinas

Sebastián Salinas drove down the MacArthur Causeway leaving Miami Beach in his brand new hunter green pickup truck with the sun rising behind him as he made his way to West Kendall to drop off the guava cake that his fiancé, Coco, made for her great aunt’s birthday brunch. Wrapped in a thin layer of tin foil, he had placed the cake on the the tan leather passenger’s seat of his truck along with the commercial real estate listings he was going to show his client after making the delivery.

With thick black hair, fair skin and deep-set crystal blue eyes that slanted slightly downward toward his ears, Sebastián earned the nickname Gallego in high school because he resembled a Spaniard more than most of his peers. As children he and his twin sister, Stella, would spend their summers in Spain learning to speak spanish with a castilian accent, which always sounded funny compared to the spanish spoken by most Miamians.

There was very little traffic leaving the beach in the early morning, as most commuters drove east from the suburbs to work downtown. There was a small red coupe in front of him as he reached the exits for 836 West and I-95 South. The coupe was on the right lane furthest from the 95-South exit, Sebastián in the middle lane headed west when the coupe abruptly made a hard left turn in a dangerous last minute attempt to get off on the 95 exit. Sebastián had to swerve into the right shoulder of the highway to avoid a head on collision with the other driver.

“¡Me cago en la puta madre que te parió, joder!” he screamed as the cake and all of his files flew toward the windshield and made a mess of the frosting and MLS printouts he needed for that morning.

His car stopped just a few feet from the railing of the overpass overlooking the medical buildings of the Jackson Health System. Infuriated with the reckless driver who proceeded cut him off without a second thought, he punched his steering wheel with just enough might not to set off the airbags.

Knowing that Coco was just finishing up her shift at the hospital and likely in no mood for bad news, Sebastián placed his left hand over his eyes and tried to figure out what to do about the cake.

After the shock and anger wore off, he put his truck in gear. He would have to go buy a substitute cake and deliver it with enough time to go to his office and reprint all of his comps and listings before his client meeting.

Before he pulled back onto the expressway, he noticed the words Seven Urban Poets spray painted onto the side of the overpass in front of him. Sebastián was not a fan of the street art movement that had taken over the Miami art scene in the years before, but he was intrigued by the bold display which would likely be painted over in the coming weeks.

María Estela Salinas

It’s twilight on a Friday and the setting Miami sun paints the walls of Stella’s fifth floor office bright pink. Overlooking the green canopy of treetops that umbrella Coral Way, the couture committee of her nonprofit startup, Maison Vizcaina, is gathered around her Ikea desk settling in with Starbucks beverages in hand.

María Estela Salinas, as she is referred to only by her mother and her driver’s license, dangles two Oprah Chai tea bags over her steaming venti cup, careful not to ruin the fresh coat of red polish on her long cat nails.

The building that her office is situated in is a few decades old. Even though there’s a fresh coat of paint on the walls, the creaky wood floors and aluminum blinds give the space an old Miami feel – and smell. The elevator in the building is silver and volatile, with numbers above the doors that don’t light up.

After allowing the last drops of chai to drain into her cup, Stella tosses her tea bags into the waste bin and asks the three college students sitting in the ghost chairs across from her what they have prepared for the meeting.

Mariana, a Native Miamian like Stella, crosses her smooth, tan legs and pulls the shorts of her blue and white romper down to cover her exposed thighs. As chair of Maison Valentino’s annual gala, she was reviewing the minutes of their last meeting and following up on action items.

“I want to start with the initial sketches for the gown that we still need to source fabric for,” Stella began as soon as Mariana finished. “I don’t want to be running around at the last minute again this year dealing with dress fittings. I don’t care how fast you can sew, I want all of the gowns that are part of the presentation fitted a week in advance so that we can actually enjoy hair and make up on event day.”

Mariana smiled and pulled a piece of paper out of her olive green quilted Marc Jacobs handbag and handed it to Stella. The committee sat in silence, sipping their beverages, waiting to for a reaction.

“Holy shit.”

Jordan Rovirosa

After a long workout and a steaming hot shower, Jordan Rovirosa stands at the threshold of his balcony air drying while the sunset ushers in another Friday night in Miami. He stares out at Biscayne Bay from his downtown condo, his white towel thrown on the large black sectional in his otherwise empty living room. Vocal jazz music plays on a bluetooth speaker placed in the corner of the room as he sips on his favorite single malt whisky.

Standing over six feet tall with an NFL build, his hands almost reach the ceiling as he stretches his bare torso. The ocean breeze is warmer than the temperature inside his apartment and walking out onto the balcony feels like walking back into the bathroom after his shower. The warm air is thick and it coats his tan body with a fine layer of moisture.

Jordy places his lowball glass on a plastic white table next to the balcony door and picks up the bootleg bong he made out of a coconut water bottle when he got home from work. While most people would think twice before venturing out onto their balconies to smoke weed in the nude, Jordan feels comfortable considering that he hadn’t seen a neighbor on his floor since he moved into the building.

Dark clouds have settled over the bay, giving it an ominous look in the absence of the sun. After months of living in his dream apartment in the sky, Jordy wants to look out at the water and feel like he’s actually living the dream, but there’s something about facing east while the sun sets in the west that makes him feel like there’s a storm coming.

He hears his Samsung chime inside as he takes another sip of his whiskey. It’s a text message from his boyfriend, Julian, asking for his estimated time of arrival. Jordan is supposed to be on his way to South Beach to meet him for dinner, but he had decided earlier that he would use the traffic on the causeway as an excuse to buy him a few minutes for a drink at home before starting his night.

In the uber. Traffic. See u now.

Jordan leaves his phone charging on the gray granite countertop in his kitchen and goes back to the balcony for his drink. He looks at the red tail lights of the cars driving toward South Beach on the causeway in the distance. He used to look forward to getting onto that causeway when he would drive in from West Miami to party in his early twenties. Now in his early thirties, he wants nothing more than to get high, order food and binge watch TV shows on Netflix.

As a tax attorney for one of Miami’s largest firms, he feels lucky to have even gotten home before 8pm on a Friday night. Even though he would kill to stay in, Jordy takes a final hit from his bong, grabs his drink, and walks back into his bedroom to get dressed.

Julian Cuesta

“Are you seriously starting another argument about my sexuality right before the sushi comes out?” Julian asks his boyfriend Jordan. The couple sits under the orange umbrellas of Sushi Samba, an asian fusion restaurant located on a busy corner of Lincoln Road, on a muggy Friday night.

“I’m not starting anything,” Jordan says. After spending an hour sitting in causeway traffic on his way to meet Julian for dinner in South Beach, he is suffering from a severe case of post-sitting-in-Miami-traffic irritability. “You’re the one trying to start shit by flaunting your bisexuality in front of the waitress like you wanna get laid tonight.”

Julian lets out a laugh.”I wasn’t flaunting my bisexuality – something you clearly have serious issues with, I’m learning.” He pulls back his chin-length, dirty blond hair with one hand and his sun-kissed cheeks, large green eyes and white teeth radiate light. Working for a design startup from his apartment in South Beach gives him plenty of time to spend kite surfing in the Friday afternoon sun. “I was flirting… and you know what? I do wanna get fucking laid tonight, Bruh.”

“Yea? Good luck with that.” Jordan says without resuming eye contact with Julian. He takes a sip of his scotch and gazes off at the diverse groups of tourists walking past them toward different hotels and retail stores with colorful plastic bags, suitcases and frozen yogurt in their hands.

Realizing that his boyfriend’s mood seems to be trending downward for the night, Julian decides to shut down the conversation to avoid an escalation in conflict. “You know what? You don’t have to pick a fight with me if all you wanna do is go home. Just be a man, say you wanna go home and call an Uber. I’ll eat your fucking sushi.”

Forthcoming

Back to Novels