The Music Behind the Story from First Love by Dellani

music-behind-the-storyA few weeks ago, I shared Music Behind Under the Western Sky, set in 1976. This isn’t my only story set in that same time period, though First Love isn’t published yet. The Seventies were an era of great music, no doubt about it. We had bands like Carlos Santana, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Gary Wright. Fantastic songs filled the airwaves and my characters, like me and my friends, listened to each new song with enthusiasm.

I did a lot of research so that I would have the right songs for the year. Though I lived through this era, my memory for when each song came out, was kind of faulty. I enjoyed revisiting songs from my past and now sharing them with you. One of the first songs mentioned is Love is Alive by Gary Wright. No visit to the Seventies would be complete without Stairway to Heaven. This song evokes strong emotions even today. I also mention the album Blow by Blow by Jeff Beck. This album woke a love in me for this kind of music and I’ve been a fan of Beck, and others like him, since.

We begin with a road trip from Western Nebraska to New Mexico. A group of high school students from a church youth group, are on a mission trip over the summer. Traveling together, they have to compromise on some things, but the one area where they are all in agreement is the music they want to hear—the good stuff, (which does not included Barry Manilow, who was very popular at the time.)

First Love cover“Can we have on the radio, Mr. C?” Brad asked. “Mrs. C wanted to play Barry Manilow. It was a unanimous veto on that.”

“What makes you think I don’t like Barry Manilow?” he asked over his shoulder.

“Because you’re too cool to think It’s a Miracle for Mandy to Be Somebody’s Baby over on Avenue C,” Brad replied.

The boys gave him an evil eye.

“You know an awful lot about Barry Manilow,” Maddie said. “Are you sure you aren’t a closet fan?”

“My mom listens to Manilow like—all day and forces me to pollute my mind with his lyrics. But when she’s gone, I put on some Hendrix or a little Jeff Beck and rock the rafters.”

“I’m not much for Manilow either,” Craig admitted. “Okay. Maddie, pick a station.”

Delighted at being given that honor, she reached for the dial and turned it for a few seconds before coming to an audible station. The new, but familiar, opening strains of Love is Alive filled the car.

“Leave it there!” the boys yelled.

Maddie passed it, just to tease them, but went right back to it. She happened to like the song too. By the first chorus, they were singing with Gary Wright. Brad played air guitar, imitating the part to perfection. Clayton took bass. Daniel beat on the back of the seat to the drums. Maddie and Richard sang, harmonizing together. Craig bounced to the beat, tapping the steering wheel. They cheered when the song ended.

“Danny, you got that Zeppelin tape with you?” Craig asked when the radio went to commercial.

“I do.”

“Got a perfectly good cassette player up here. Toss it up.”

Seconds later, the tape was in the player and cranked up. Stairway to Heaven filled the air. This time, they made Maddie sing solo because none of them could hit the notes like Robert Planet, except her.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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Excerpt from Under the Western Sky by Dellani

It’s small town Nebraska in the late 1970’s and life in the small Midwestern town is quiet and uneventful. That’s what Libby Marshall and Bobby Menedez think until Bobby’s cousin, Ramon is beaten by a group of white boys. Racial tension is high after the beating and it’s soon revealed that something quite evil lies hidden Under the Western Sky.

Once they had their tickets and popcorn, they went into the theater and found a good spot. The boys liked to sit in the back because there was more leg room, but the girls liked the middle. To compromise, they sat somewhere between the two and let Danny have the aisle seat since his legs were the longest. Toni snuggled next to him as he put his arm around her shoulders. Libby sat next to her, not really looking at Bobby, although they shared the popcorn.

“Are you mad at me or something?” he asked her quietly, not wanting to bring their friends into it.

The others were so wrapped up in one another, they didn’t hear him. Libby scooted a little closer, lowering her voice as she took a bite of popcorn.

“No, I’m not mad, Bobby. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with this whole arrangement, that’s all.”

“We’re a couple friends going to a movie. You got a full social calendar I don’t know about?” He tried to make light of it, but his feelings were hurt.

Libby nudged him, nearly spilling the popcorn. “Don’t be a goof. Of course not.”

“I really like you, Libby. If you can’t see that, I’m sorry.”

“I thought maybe you were going out with me because of what Toni said to Danny. That she wouldn’t go if I didn’t have a date.”

“All this time you thought that’s what this was? A mercy date? Baby, I think you’re the greatest!”

“You do? For real?”

“Yeah, for real. Hey, would I make comments about your ass if I didn’t think you were cute?”

“I dunno, you’re a guy. I mean, Danny’s always drooling over my tits.”

“Danny’s a goober. He drools over any tits he can see. You have to admit, you’re killing us both with the no bra thing.”

She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll remember you said that, Roberto.”
“What, are you my mom? You have to scold me into behaving? I want to date you, Libby. If I wanted just to jump your bones, I’d have done that already. You know, some women actually find me very attractive.”

She giggled, tossing her hair. “Yeah, I can see the appeal. You’ve got that whole Latin Lover thing going. The dark hair and bedroom eyes. You’re cute, for sure.”

“Then why won’t you let me kiss you?”

She looked at the screen as the movie started. By the set of her shoulders, he could see that she didn’t know how to respond. Taking a chance that he was right, he blundered on.

“Is it because all this time you thought I didn’t really like you? How could I not? You’re wonderful. I’ve had a thing for you like—forever,” he whispered as the cartoon started.

Libby gave him a curious stare as the lights dimmed, her popcorn halfway to her mouth. She couldn’t believe his admission was real. He didn’t really want her, did he? He was taking her out so Toni would go with his best friend. That’s what friends did for one another. Was he kidding? She was too inexperienced to tell.

Libby knew a lot of girls her age had already lost their virginity. She and Toni were among the few left in their graduating class who had never been with a guy. If Danny got his way, that was going to change and soon. He was so hot for Toni, he got a boner every time he talked to her. Bobby, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly mean it. Or did he?

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Character Quotes from Savage Heart

Savage Heart is the much anticipated (and demanded) sequel to my historical romance, Indian Summer. Set in the early summer of 1740, Gabriella and Manuel are now happily (or maybe not so happily) married.

savage heart cover“Señora Enriques is feeling a bit under the weather. I need to check on her.” Manuel moved toward the steps to the house quickly.

“She sounded a might put out to me,” Willem replied, spitting in the dirt as he led the horses away to the barn.

“Yes,” Manuel said softly. “Yes, she was.” He paused on the steps. “Willem, did you hear everything?”

“Entire country heard, I’ll warrant, sir.”

“And you think I’m wrong?”

“Not my business to judge right nor wrong on your decisions, sir. I can agree or not as I choose, makes no difference. But I will say this, that girl loves ye above her own life. If ye go ‘gainst her wishes, ye might not have a home to come back to. She’d as likely leave ye as mind ye.”

Manuel hung his head, laughing sardonically. “You’ve put your finger upon it, Willem. As usual, you point out my foibles.”

“We all work to our strengths, sir,” the old Irishman said with a smirk. “Give her a big kiss, love her hard and maybe she’ll forgive ye. But don’t niver lie to her, sir, or I guarantee—that she’ll not forgive.”

© 2016 Dellani Oakes

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Under the Western Sky – Excerpt from Chapter 4

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500Their mothers are delighted to hear that they are dating. They’ve been waiting for months for them to realize that they are in love. However, with this realization comes the cold hard fact that eventually their relationship will progress.

Libby’s mother was sitting in the living room, something they hadn’t expected. Usually Grace was working or already asleep if Libby came in after nine.

“I wanted to talk to you kids and I knew I wouldn’t have another chance for a few days. Sit.” She patted the couch on either side of her.

They sat down and she took both their hands, clasping them in her lap.

“I know this isn’t something you want to talk about,” she said in her matter-of-fact tone.

This was the voice she used when she didn’t want them to argue. Libby had come to dread that voice because it always meant an uncomfortable conversation.

“I’m talking to you because I know Connie can’t. She’s not made the same way I am. It doesn’t bother me to be frank and open with you.”

They both knew that was true. When they had turned twelve, it was Grace who had told them both the facts of life. Bobby’s mother was too shy and prudish.

“I know right now you’re not fooling around. I can see it in your faces and the way you hold one another. And I’ll be just as able to tell when your relationship progresses.”

She gave them each a pointed look, green eyes penetrating. “Connie and I won’t be mad, so don’t think we will condemn you for what’s only natural when two kids love one another as much as you. Why it took you so long to see it, I can’t imagine. But now that it’s real, we need to face facts.”

“Mom, we know how it works, okay? We aren’t stupid.”

“I’m not talking about that,” her mother countered firmly. “There are some things you haven’t considered and I’m going to tell you about them right now.”

“Mom, please!” Libby tried to stand up, but Grace held her none too gently.

“Elizabeth Pearl, sit down. You, Roberto and I are going to talk about this, no matter how embarrassing. I will not have happen to you what happened to Chase and me.” For the first time, Grace blushed slightly.

“What do you mean, Mom?”

“Honey, I never told you exactly the truth about yourself. I told you that you were a little premature. The truth is, I was already pregnant when we got married.”

Libby sat heavily, turning bright red with shame at her mother’s confession. Bobby shifted uncomfortably on the couch.

“I loved your father more than my own life,” Grace said quietly. “And he was so damn handsome and sexy, you can’t even imagine! A Marine! He was the most dashing, gorgeous hunk of man as ever crossed three States, and I fell desperately in love with him the moment I met him. But my father wouldn’t let us get married. He said I was too young and put his foot down. Chase and I came up with a plan so we could be together forever. So I got pregnant. I was lucky Grandad didn’t kill your father and throw me out on my ear! We got married on the sly and that was that.”

“Mom, you don’t have to tell me this, really.”

“The point is, many girls have been caught up short because they let their hormones get the better of them. I don’t want to see that happen. So this week we go to see my doctor and we’re putting you on the pill. And Bobby, your mom said she’ll buy condoms.”

“Oh, my God, Grace. I didn’t even think you could embarrass me more, but you just did.” He wanted to melt through the floor.

“Mom, you and Connie are acting like all Bobby and I want to do is fool around! We haven’t even gotten that far. All he’s ever done is kiss me! We do have some self-control.”

“I know, honey. But you have to prepare for the times when you lose your head and can’t stop yourself. You’re a pretty girl and Bobby’s got a man’s needs. The combination is fire and oil. Sometimes, no matter what you know you’re supposed to do, you can’t help it. Believe me, I’ve been there. Even now, a good looking man gives me the eye, it’s enough to turn my head.”

“Mom!” Libby was horrified.

“I’m a widow; I’m not dead! I still go out from time to time. I just don’t say much about it because I don’t want you to get all upset. I’ve been alone a long time, Libby. I loved your father, but he’s dead and he’d want me happy.”

“Mom, this is too much for me right now. We just started dating!”

“And he’s already had his hands all over you,” Grace said, her lips forming a tight line. “Don’t think your mother missed that, Roberto. She saw. So did one of the neighbors. From now on, you say your goodbyes inside, with the door closed. That does not give you permission to fool around in my house, however. I put my foot firmly down about that.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Under the Western Sky – The Story Behind the Story

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500As an author, I think it’s fun to explore where inspiration comes from. Sometimes, it’s a very clear cut source, other times, it’s vague and kind of hazy. Words pop into your mind and off you go.

Under the Western Sky was one of these. I heard a song by KC and the Sunshine Band that I used to listen to as a teenager, and all of a sudden, the first lines were in my head, demanding to be written down. I did so. What followed was a story I’d never anticipated, and I love it.

I grew up in Western Nebraska, though I wasn’t born there. I lived there the formative years of my life, from the time I was nine until I graduated from high school. The places in this story are real, though the events are not based on any true events. The character of Libby is, very loosely, based on me. I never had anything very exciting happen to me, but honestly, I’m not sure I’d want this much excitement in my life!

The first scene, in Toni’s basement, was also loosely based on something that happened when I was playing pool with a good friend of mine. A couple of our guy friends dropped by and they were openly admiring us. That was back in the days of hot pants and no bras—something every teenage boy enjoyed.

While this scene didn’t happen this way in real life, I did have to scold one of the guys for not only staring at my ass while I took my shot, but goosing me with the pool cue. He’s lucky I didn’t jab him in the nuts.

Under the Western Sky

Libby Marshal leaned over the pool table, slender hips twitching to KC and the Sunshine Band. She hummed distractedly as she lined up her shot.

Bobby Menendez stood behind her, enjoying the view; his hands tingling to touch her.

“Touch me and die, Roberto Hermida Menendez.”

“Man! How did you know?”

She made her shot, long distance across the felt top, nearly nailing him in the balls with her pool cue when her arm drew back.

“Shouldn’t stand so close,” Danny said, across the table from her.

“Oh, man, the view!”

Bobby held his hands the width of her hips apart. He bit his lip as she faced him, a frown on her face. Her green eyes flashed at him. With a toss of her short, blonde, curly hair, she moved away from him with a glare. His dark brown eyes followed her, longing in his well-tanned face.

“View’s damn good over here, and safer,” Danny grinned.

He’d been looking down her top as she bent over to shoot. He loved the fact that it was 1976 and even in this small, conservative, western Nebraska town, girls were liberated, freeing them from the confines of establishment undergarments. The no-bra look was great! And Libby had such perky tits. Bobby could have his dangerous ass view, Danny went for tits every time.

“Boys, behave,” Toni’s father said from his office behind them.

Funny thing how Toni’s old man always had work to do when the boys came over. He would casually follow the four of them down to the pool room in the basement and sit in his workroom fiddling with some electrical components while they played pool and listened to music. He didn’t mind them coming over, but they weren’t going to be unchaperoned either.

“Yes, sir,” they chorused.

They stepped back, snapping to attention, not quite saluting. Each with military fathers, it was hard not to when he talked in that tone. He’d been fifteen years as a Marine before a shell shattered his right leg. Everyone in town called him Captain Cristo. Only the very brave called him Grant.

© Dellani Oakes

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Under the Western Sky – Excerpt from Chapter One (part 2)

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500Bobby has just told Libby that he likes her. She’s not sure what to do. She has zero experience with guys and all this time, she thought he was only going out because of Toni and Danny. Her friend told his that she wouldn’t date him unless Libby had a date. No wonder Bobby couldn’t make any progress. Now, he’s broken the ice. It’s time for him to make his move.

Libby watched the movie, giggling every so often. Danny and Toni weren’t paying any attention at all. As soon as the lights went down, they were necking, their popcorn forgotten on the floor. Bobby was still holding theirs, taking a bite every now and then, pretending to act casual, but she could feel the tense set of his shoulders. She glanced at him, his handsome face cast into highlights and deep shadows by the movie.

Feeling her eyes on him, he turned to face her, a half-smile greeting her curious gaze. Setting the popcorn on the floor, he leaned toward her, lips slightly parted. His kiss caught her by surprise, although she knew he was going to do it. She hadn’t expected it to be so nice.

To her, Bobby was like a fixture, something that was always there. They had known one another since their dads went into the Marines, doing recon in hostile territory. Their deaths had forged a bond between her family and his, making them virtually inseparable.

His kiss felt good, warm, sexy; more than just friendly. She had thought it would be like kissing a brother, but it was anything but that. Smiling to herself, she took a breath and opened her mouth slightly, letting him kiss her more deeply. No guy had ever kissed her like that. His lips left hers as he leaned against her forehead, sighing contentedly.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it? I mean, you’re not like throwing up or anything over there, are you?”

“That was nice,” she admitted. “It was more than nice, it was lovely.”

Bobby chuckled, kissing her playfully on the nose. “Yeah, it was. Now do you think I’m doing this just to make Toni and Danny happy?”

“No.”

“Good, cause I don’t give a shit about either of them. I like you a lot, Libby.”

“I like you too, Bobby.”

They didn’t watch much of the rest of the movie, but kissed and talked quietly while the theater went crazy around them. They were in their own little world.

When the houselights came back up, Toni and Danny resurfaced slowly. Bobby and Libby were already getting their things and standing up when their friends looked around bleary-eyed and blinking.

“Que pasa, Danno?”

“Nada, asshole. Dammit, I have a cramp.” He stood, shaking one leg to release the muscle. “Next time, can we please sit in the back? I about have to fold in half to fit.” He was nearly six foot three.

“That’s what you get for eating your Wheaties every single morning,” Bobby chuckled. “Me, I skipped a few mornings and I’m not freakishly tall.” He was just past six feet.

“I want a DQ,” Toni held onto Danny, as they walked up the aisle. “Libby, you want DQ?”

“Sure. I don’t mind.”

Bobby took her hand, then put his arm around her waist, kissing her cheek.

“I need a bathroom break, baby,” Toni told Danny when they got to the lobby. “Come with me, Libby.”

She grabbed her friend and dragged her to the ladies’ restroom. Once they were inside with the door closed, she rounded on Libby.

“So, did you enjoy kissing Bobby?”

Libby blushed, looking evasive. “Yeah, a little.”

“A little? Your hair is a mess and it was only a little? He’s wearing your lipstick! It looks like you ate his face!” She went into the stall, banging the door.

“You and Danny didn’t even resurface. How did you know I was kissing Bobby?”

“I could feel it. Your energy radiated off you like some sort of super sex bomb.”

© Dellani Oakes

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Under the Western Sky – Excerpt from Chapter One

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500Bobby has had a crush on Libby for a long time. He’s tried to show her how much he cares, but she has never given him any encouragement and won’t even let him kiss her. He would like to date her exclusively, but so far, no joy. He and Danny invite Toni and Libby to the movies and he’s determined to make it clear to her how he feels.

The girls were waiting on the porch as they pulled up to Toni’s house. Bobby hopped out, holding the door for Toni and Libby to climb in. Toni sat up front, scooting over next to Danny. Libby reluctantly got in back, moving to the far side of the car as Bobby climbed in. Looking disappointed, he sat on his side of the wide car, staring out the window.

Once they had their tickets and popcorn, they went into the theater and found a good spot. The boys liked to sit in the back because there was more leg room, but the girls liked the middle. To compromise, they sat somewhere between the two and let Danny have the aisle seat, since his legs were the longest. Toni snuggled next to him as he put his arm around her shoulders. Libby sat next to her, not really looking at Bobby, although they shared the popcorn.

“Are you mad at me, or something?” he asked her quietly, not wanting to bring their friends into it.

The others were so wrapped up in one another, they didn’t hear him. Libby scooted a little closer, lowering her voice as she took a bite of popcorn.

“No, I’m not mad, Bobby. I’m just not sure I’m comfortable with this whole arrangement, that’s all.”

“We’re a couple friends going to a movie. You got a full social calendar I don’t know about?” He tried to make light of it, but his feelings were hurt.

Libby nudged him, nearly spilling the popcorn. “Don’t be a goof. Of course not.”

“I really like you, Libby. If you can’t see that, I’m sorry.”

“I thought maybe you were going out with me because of what Toni said to Danny. That she wouldn’t go if I didn’t have a date.”

“All this time you thought that’s what this was? A mercy date? Baby, I think you’re the greatest!”

“You do? For real?”

“Yeah, for real. Hey, would I make comments about your ass if I didn’t think you were cute?”

“I dunno, you’re a guy. I mean, Danny’s always drooling over my tits.”

“Danny’s a goober. He drools over any tits he can see. You have to admit, you’re killing us both with the no bra thing.”

She looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “I’ll remember you said that, Roberto.”

“What, are you my mom? You have to scold me into behaving? I want to date you, Libby. If I wanted just to jump your bones, I’d have done that already. You know, some women actually find me very attractive.”

She giggled, tossing her hair. “Yeah, I can see the appeal. You’ve got that whole Latin Lover thing going. The dark hair and bedroom eyes. You’re cute, for sure.”

“Then why won’t you let me kiss you?”

She looked at the screen as the movie started. By the set of her shoulders, he could see that she didn’t know how to respond. Taking a chance that he was right, he blundered on.

“Is it because all this time you thought I didn’t really like you? How could I not? You’re wonderful. I’ve had a thing for you like—forever,” he whispered, as the cartoon started.

Libby gave him a curious stare as the lights dimmed, her popcorn halfway to her mouth. She couldn’t believe his admission was real. He didn’t really want her, did he? He was just taking her out so Toni would go with his best friend. That’s what friends did for one another. Was he kidding? She was too inexperienced to tell.

Libby knew a lot of girls her age had already lost their virginity. She and Toni were among the few left in their graduating class who had never been with a guy. If Danny got his way, that was going to change and soon. He was so hot for Toni, he got a boner every time he talked to her. Bobby, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly mean it. Or did he?

Maybe she would let him kiss her. Hell, if she didn’t like it, she could always stop him and say no. There was no harm in a kiss, was there? She shifted a little closer and didn’t mind when his arm draped around her.

Bobby couldn’t believe his luck. Libby leaned against him, her head nearly on his shoulder as the movie started. Braving an arm across her shoulders, he played with a curl, wrapping it around his finger. One little flick of his thumb and she’d turn her head so he could kiss her.

© Dellani Oakes

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In His Own Words – Bobby Menendez

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500What is your name?

My name is Roberto Menendez, but I go by Bobby.

Where is your story told?

Some of my story is told in Under the Western Sky.

What do you want most?

I want to keep my friends and family safe. And I want to be with Libby forever.

Why is this so important to you?

What’s more important than love and family? My dad taught me that before he was killed. He died helping his friends.

What makes you happy or sad?

Libby makes me happy. Just having her smile makes me feel good. I get sad when I think that someone wants to hurt us for no reason.

How do you treat the people in your life?

I try to treat everyone well. I know that sometimes I’m a jerk, but I really try to be good to everyone. I read somewhere about Karma and I don’t want it to come back and bite me in the ass.

Can people count on you?

Absolutely. I am a man of my word.

What makes you angry?

Prejudice and hatred. Danny and me, we’re like brothers, but some lowlife wants to take that away from us. They want to drive a wedge between us because he’s white and I’m Mexican. Friendship doesn’t know color, though. My dad taught me that, too.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?

I do. A man backs up what he says. If he believes in a cause, sometimes he has to fight to protect it.

What excites you?

Would I sound like a jackass if I say that Libby excites the hell outta me? Just walking in the room, man….

What do you do for a living?

I’m in high school, but I work part time at the movie theatre downtown and I do yard work with my cousin.

What kind of books do you like?

Everything! I’m mostly into Robert Heinlin and Ray Bradbury. I’ve also read everything I can find by Richard Brautigan.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

Carlos Santana is the king! I like Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin—anything with great guitar playing.

If you could, what’s one thing you’d change about yourself?

I don’t want to change myself, I want to change the world, man. I want a place where I can love Libby and not worry about someone hating us for it.

© Dellani Oakes

Bobby’s story is told in Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes

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In Her Own Words – Libby Marshall

Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes - 500What is your name?

My name is Elizabeth Marshall, but I go by Libby.

Where is your story told?

My story is told, in part, in Under the Western Sky.

What do you want most?

I want to get out of this mess alive.

Why is this so important to you?

I don’t know anyone who likes running for her life, do you?

What makes you happy or sad?

Bobby makes me happy. Knowing that someone is trying to kill him doesn’t make me sad, it makes me furious! What’s wrong with some people?

How do you treat the people in your life?

I try really hard to live by the Golden Rule like they teach at church.

Can people count on you?

I like to think so. It’s not like I go through life trying to disappoint people.

What makes you angry?

The fact that someone wants Bobby dead, just because he’s Mexican, makes me so angry I can’t see straight. He’s a good person. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t date him.

Do you stand up for your beliefs?

Always. I try hard to live a good life and back up what I believe. If you back down from what you believe, how are you any different from anyone else?

What excites you?

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that when Bobby kisses me, I get—you know—excited.

What do you do for a living?

I’m in high school. I work part time at the A&W drive-in.

What kind of books do you like?

I like everything, but most of all, the books by Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austin.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

I love Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. I’ve heard a little Led Zeppelin and it’s pretty good. Oh, and Pink Floyd, of course!

If you could, what’s one thing you’d change about yourself?

I’d change hatred and prejudice so everyone could fall in love with the person they choose.

© Dellani Oakes

Libby’s story is told in Under the Western Sky by Dellani Oakes

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