The following is an excerpt from Queen of the Skies (Book One in the Steam & Mettle Christian steampunk series). Keep in mind that any of this may change between now and when the book is published, but it will give you a sneak peek.
This series takes place on an alternate Earth in the present day.
This scene shows Marjorie Clarke, the African-American aunt of the main character, Merritt Baxter (who is biracial). Marjorie raised Merritt from infancy after Merritt was abandoned by her mother.
Marjorie is in New Amsterdam City (the original name of New York City) for a business conference and decides to check on her family.
----- Excerpt begins -----
She walked down the hall to a window facing the rest of the New Amsterdam cityscape. It was early evening, and the stars were starting to appear far above the lights of the skyscrapers. She was badly craving a cigarette, but that would have to wait. She took her mobile phone from her purse and dialed a familiar number.
“Henry!” she said, her voice immediately brightening. “I’m so glad you picked up. I miss you terribly!”
“You coming home tonight?” he asked in his grumbly voice. But she knew it was his way of saying he missed her, too.
“Sorry. But my flight is in the early morning,” she replied. “Maybe we can have lunch?”
“Mm-hmm,” he said. “Pick you up in front of the hotel at noon.”
She grinned. “Noon it is! I love you.”
His “love you, too” was so low, it was almost inaudible. Still, she heard it and it made her giddy inside, as it always did. Henry Clarke wasn’t the most expressive man, but he had long ago stolen her heart. And she had stolen his. That love had carried her through this wretched conference, and it would see her home again.
She dialed another number, but it went to voicemail. She waited for the beep.
“Lavinia, I’ll be back tomorrow from the conference,” she began. “Call me back, I want to hear about your day. Love you, babygirl.” Being forced to leave a message made Marjorie realize just how much she missed her only child. Lavinia was a busy young woman and had a life of her own now. It almost made Marjorie choke up, so she spoke quickly. “Bye!”
She took the elevator downstairs to the first floor.
But she stopped in the ladies’ room near the lobby to freshen up. She was pleased with her makeup and clothing choice, a simple but stunning Garibaldi jacket, blouse, and skirt combo. It complimented her trim figure. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, she took a comb to her shoulder-length straightened black hair. She frowned at the increasing number of silver strands she saw.
Time for some dye, Marjorie.
She also wasn’t pleased with the stress lines on her forehead or the hardening lines descending from her nose towards her mouth.
I’m only forty-eight, she thought. Maybe I need a vacation more than I thought!
Another thought drew her attention.
Should I call Merritt?
She straightened her midnight blue jacket and took a final appraisal of herself before going outside to the sidewalk facing the parking lot. Her thoughts slowed and became more manageable. The stress of the day melted away in the cool night air and she felt much better. She took her time finishing her smoke. Then she retrieved her phone from her purse once more and dialed.
“Hello?” Merritt answered.
Merritt sounded distracted.
“Is everything okay at home?” Marjorie asked.
“Oh. Yeah, it’s okay,” Merritt replied. “I’m watching Fantastic Adventures.”
Marjorie wasn’t familiar with that television show. But if it was on during prime time, it was probably okay, she reasoned.
“Did you eat supper?” Marjorie asked.
“What did you eat?”
“Blaze bought me a pizza.”
“Is Blaze there?”
“No, I saw him this afternoon. He left a while ago.”
That was nice of him, Marjorie thought.
“I’ll be home tomorrow,” she told Merritt.
“Good night, Merritt. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Marjorie.”
Marjorie looked at her phone screen for a moment. She pulled up recent pictures of her husband and daughter. Browsing through her digital photo gallery, she searched for a picture of Merritt. The only one she found was from Merritt’s high school graduation four years ago. She sighed and peered up into the night sky for several long seconds. Then she put the phone back in her purse and went back inside the hotel.
---- Excerpt ends ----
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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