“Porcelain Keys” author Sarah Beard appeared on ABC4 in Salt Lake City last week to promote the release of her new book and to share some of the trials she went through in writing the book while she battled cancer.
Watch the inspiring video clip, then keep reading for another excerpt from “Porcelain Keys,” which is available in bookstores and from online retailers.
Aria’s friendly 40-something neighbor, Vivian, has convinced Aria to come over on a Friday night to try on some clothes and have her hair and makeup done. But Aria doesn’t realize that Vivian has more than just hair and makeup in mind.
What I really wanted to do was go home and spend the evening with Beethoven and Clementi, but the pleading look on Vivian’s face told me she needed my company more. So I consented to stay and play as her dress-up doll. She sat me down at the vanity in her bedroom and ran her fingers through my unruly waves. “Most girls would kill for your looks,” she said, studying me. “That long dark hair and milky complexion. You’re like porcelain and earth.”
She reached for a makeup brush and dabbed some rouge on it before brushing it over my cheeks. I looked up at her and thought how she was the pretty one, with her clear skin, green eyes, and full mouth, and I wondered why she didn’t have a man in her life.
“Vivian, what happened with you and your husband? I mean, why did you get divorced?” As soon as the words were out, I realized what a rude, nosy question it was. But she didn’t even flinch.
“Honey, I used to pick men the same way I picked accessories. As long as they looked good around my neck or slung over my shoulder, I didn’t care about the price.” She picked up an eyeliner pencil. “Shut your eyes.” I did, and I felt her precise, confident strokes above my lashes. “My husband was the most gorgeous accessory you’d ever seen. Full head of golden hair, a smile like a crescent moon. But he turned out to be one bull shark of a purse. And I realized in the end, he wasn’t worth the price I was paying.”
I opened my eyes. “And so you left?”
She sighed and gave a sharp nod. “A woman shouldn’t have to pay anything for a good man, because a good man gives himself to you for free. So I tossed him in the trash like the worthless piece of dollar-store jewelry he was.”
I smiled. “Well, I hope you find a free designer man someday.”
“I think I may have found one,” she said with a loaded tilt of her brow, “but I’m not so sure he’s free.”
I knew she was referring to Dad, but not wanting to encourage her, I didn’t say anything. She didn’t know Dad very well, and if she did, she would realize that not only was he broken goods, he was far from free.
“Now,” she said, brushing a last touch of lipstick on my lips. “Let’s go over and visit the Ashbys.”
“Uh, no,” I objected, shaking my head. “I think I’ll just head home.”
“Look at you, Aria!” She turned me to face the mirror. “You look gorgeous. It would be a waste for you to sit here with me all night. You need an admirer!”
“No, I don’t.”
“You do! Come on,” she pleaded. “We’ll bring them a pie. I have an extra one in the kitchen.”
“But why would I tag along with you to bring them a pie?”
“Who cares? It’s Friday night. Thomas is probably out with friends anyway.”
I sighed. “Fine. I’ll go.” I grabbed a tissue and dabbed off some lipstick. “Can we at least soften my eyes a little? If he is there and I show up like this, he’ll think I’m only trying to get his attention.”
“You are trying to get his attention.”
“I’m not. He’s my friend. He only sees me as a friend.”
She pulled me to my feet. “Come on!”
She picked up the pie from the kitchen and I followed her out the front door. Vivian walked fast, like an ostrich on a mission, and I had to hop every few steps to keep pace.
“So what’s our story again?” I asked as we walked down Thomas’s sycamore-lined dirt driveway.
“We don’t need a story, honey. We tell it like it is.” She looked over at me. “Don’t look so scared, darlin’. It’s not like we’re walking into the jaws of death.”
On Thomas’s doorstep, Vivian handed me the pie. She rang the doorbell, then leaned over and whispered, “By the way honey, you made the pie.”
“What? No, I didn’t!” I tried to give the pie back.
“You did.” She waved a dismissive hand, rejecting the pie. “And don’t be so modest about it!”
“No, Vivian. I—” The door opened before I could finish my objection.