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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Holkenbrink-Monk

A Different Family: An Introduction

This is an introduction to the first realistic fiction novel I am writing. Meeting this family, we learn that they are a little different, but they only learn it while on their journey of self-discovery and healing while moving across the country. Unearthing deep secrets that were hidden thanks to U.S. Imperialism and patriarchal expectations, they learn to love their differences, tap into them, and find a way to heal not only their own family unit but much of what was left over from their ancestors. Subscribe today, or subscribe to my Substack to stay updated on this novel and more excerpts I share as it progresses.


Read the excerpt here as we develop more of the story!


© 2021


Book 1: A Different Family

"That's all it ever was. Anxiety."

Chapter 1: Just A Family


You could say they were your normal family. Kids. Parents. Pets. Lots of pets. And especially black cats.

Nothing seemed abnormal, not really, anyway. Ray was a shy, smart, and sarcastic 14-year-old boy. He looked a lot like his dad in many ways but was definitely his mother’s son. He had brown hair, and light skin like Mom, but was very tall. He had rainbow hair because, quite frankly, he liked to reject a lot of the expectations people had in the world. His sister, Eliza, was a pretty assertive, also sarcastic, yet kind and gentle 12-year-old girl. She looked so much like their mom, though she had a darker skin tone and brown hair. The two kids looked a lot alike, they fought, a lot, like your typical siblings, they loved school, and they had quite the imaginations.

Driving from Northern California to the Midwest was not exactly what every teenager wanted, but here they were. It was a good thing that, despite both of their phones dying and their mom’s reluctance to let them charge them, Eliza and Ray both had phenomenal imaginations. Though, for some reason, they never shared them with each other. As Ray looked out the window, sitting in the left side of the backseat, he imagined large buildings amidst the flat on the way to Illinois. He saw a black car out on the far-out road and as he blinked, imagined a black car, similar to make, but perhaps a different model, crash into another car, but the road was a freeway. Within that blink, he imagined his mother having to veer off into other lanes and go left, resulting in almost crashing into a large, blue truck, and before he saw what happened next, he shook his head, opened his eyes quickly, and picked up his sketchbook.

Phew, he thought to himself, that anxiety is bad today.

That’s all it ever was. Anxiety.

Eliza, on the right side of the backseat, stared out into similar scenery; that is, the scenery of almost nothingness except occasional farms, green, but all flat. She painted pictures of what could have been in her mind, spirals of color and shapes, and imagined a family in the same house but with 8 children running outside, loading up into a wage. She, too, shook her head.

I’m so bored. What was that?

It was just that - boredom and her creative mind getting the best of her.

And of course, that boredom and anxiety combined to make a combustion of frustration and fighting. That’s all it took. An hour later, the car transformed from being a place of over-imaginative teenagers to instead, angsty, annoyed teenagers.

“Eliza, stop it! Leave me alone.”

“Ray, you’re always such a pain. Stop humming!”

Yelling erupted and their mom, Lily, couldn’t handle it anymore.

“You two need to stop it, now!”

And of course, they didn’t listen.

Lily looked into her rearview mirror quickly to see what the kids were doing in hopes of preventing a physical fight, and then there was a giant screeching of tires, horns blaring, and a crunch.

Ray screamed, “MOM! Go right.

Without thinking, she did just that. She looked behind her left shoulder as quickly as possible, moved the steering wheel right, managed to cross across the far right lane, and stopped at the emergency exit. As they waited, they watched a large, blue truck slam on its brakes, miss clipping a car, and nearly spiral into other lanes. It was a potentially catastrophic display on the freeway, but at that moment in time, all were relatively safe. Except for the person that Eliza swore she had seen just exit from his car from the driver’s side, hug his loved one in the passenger seat, and walk off into the flat land as well. She shook her head again, terrified of what she’d imagined, but perhaps it was just her anxiety as well.

“That… that was a close call,” Lily said, exasperated.

“I’m sorry, Mom. I really am sorry. We shouldn’t have fought. It’s just, that we’re cooped up in this car and our phones died. I just… when are we going to be at Grandpa’s?” Ray asked.

“I’m not sure. Not soon enough. Let’s call it a night and go to the hotel. Are you ok Eliza? You’re awfully quiet. I know this was stressful, but…”

“I’m fine. I just… I thought I saw something weird. But I’m fine. Do you know if everybody was ok in that black car?”

“No, I’m not sure. I hear sirens, and I imagine they’ll all be out here soon. Let’s go find a hotel and we’ll figure out the rest later.”


Eliza looked beyond spooked - what did she just see? Why did that person get out of their car? Where did they go? She stayed quiet the entire drive back to the hotel.

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