At I Heart Lesfic, we believe the world could use a bit more kindness after one of the hardest and longest of years. Many authors have signed up to help IHL spread kindness in the world.
Today, the wonderful Jo Havens is here to share a story. Also, Jo is giving away 1 ecopy of The Blood We Spill. Below the guest post, you’ll find more details about the giveaway.
Take it away, Jo.
Don’t Get Leukemia, It Gives You Barbie Dolls – or, Kindness is All Around Us
People are bursting to be kind. They just don’t often know when they should, or how. A few years ago, stuff happened that may as well have hung a sign around our necks: In Need of Kindness. It taught me a lot about human nature.
My daughter was diagnosed with leukemia when she was five. For one of the many stages of her treatment I was told her appetite would ‘increase exponentially’ — she would be ‘ravenously hungry’ the nurses told me. I smiled and nodded. My daughter was two-foot-nothing, skinny as a rake and tapped out after half a piece of toast. I’d believe it when I saw it.
Initially she craved SpaghettiOs. Easy. I tipped them into a bowl at first, with little toast soldiers on the side. After two days and, I kid you not, twelve full-sized cans later, I let her eat them straight from the tin. (And that has a set of side-effects to rival the worst chemo, let me tell you!)
By the second week, her taste buds drew her to sushi. Specifically, salmon sashimi. Plates and plates of the stuff. We’d visit the local sushi train after bloods, after chemo, the moment they opened in the morning, back in for morning tea, a visit for lunch and some take-out for dinner, dessert, supper and the 3am munchies. After sitting dull-eyed at the sushi counter again, picking at some edamame and almost crying at the amount of raw fish disappearing into my daughter, the chef would wordlessly pass plates of sashimi over the counter to me, then, with a side-eye at the boss, top them up again straight from his knife. I never learnt his name, but that gentleman probably fed my kid an entire school of salmon over a five week feeding frenzy (and kept who knows how much off my credit card.)
After six months of different treatment protocols, we found ourselves back on the Ravenously Hungry chemo schtick and I stocked up on SpaghettiOs. I braced myself to face the sushi train again but this time my daughter skipped the dodgy pasta and the uncooked fish and went straight to… lamb chops! What can I say? The kid has expensive taste. Clearly, I taught her well. And I regretted this dearly one morning at 3am as my beautiful baby, bald as a button, lay on her stomach in front of the open refrigerator in her PJs, one hand wrapped around my ankle, the other pounding the floor with her fist crying, “If you really loved me, mum, you’d just give me some lamb chops!”
You have to laugh, or you’d cry – she’d already eaten an entire sheep that day – so I told my bestie coz it was good for a giggle. And for the next month supermarket gift cards turned up in my letterbox, anonymously, in different envelopes, in ziplock baggies, all certainly from different people. Word seemed to spread. I didn’t pay for groceries for months.
Eventually, the kiddo started craving plain old hot chips – fries. Finally, something cheap and easy. We’d be down the chippo for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and, after the first few days, the women behind the counter extracted our story from us and never charged a cent.
But one day, my lesson in human kindness hit me hard in my prejudices and I was humbled. My girl and I sat at a table waiting for our hot chips while a group of roadworkers waited for theirs. They were loud, brash men, laughing and making lewd jokes, guffawing, paying out on each other – just being lads. Nothing wrong, but I kept my head down. Show me the single woman who hasn’t learnt the hard way to do exactly this. I distracted my daughter. She was feeling low that day and she sat on my lap, resting her head in its pink stretchknit headscarf against my chin. I kissed her forehead through the fabric and drew circles on the palm of her hand with my finger.
The guys paid for their lunch and then, as a man, walked by our table and placed a candy bar in front of my daughter. I looked up from the pile of chocolate in front of us as the last bloke trooped by. “She’ll be right, love,” he said, gruffly, and they were gone before I could clear the lump from my throat and croak an unworthy ‘thank you’.
I had judged and I had judged harshly. People are kind. Just about all of them are, but our crazy world doesn’t often give us the opportunity to be kind. Our culture tells us that we’re all just looking out for ourselves and so we expect the worst instead seeing the best. My lesson was to acknowledge the kindness in others before they know its there in themselves. At the very least, smile first. It works a charm.
And the Barbie dolls? My daughter wasn’t going to grow up with that insidious agent of female oppression in her toy box. Before she was diagnosed, she didn’t know what a Barbie doll was. Three days after diagnosis, a stranger gave her her first one. It came with a hot pink mo-ped. Two months later, she had thirty-five of them, the horse and carriage and the campervan. Those bitches took over my living room, established nudist camps all over the house and a radical intentional community in my study. Our lives were changed irrevocably. Never, ever underestimate the power of human kindness.
by Jo Havens
Available in Kindle Unlimited
What would make the most ruthless ice-queen assassin in the Kingdom hesitate?
Bound to the Kingdom for life, Cie serves a cruel King, her knives pledged to his word, her life at his mercy. She is also one of the Kingdom’s most privileged slaves – one of the Praetoria: five of the best, sworn to protect the Prince and, one day, to rule at his side. It’s not a bad life – luxurious parties in any of the eighteen worlds, beautiful women falling over themselves to land in her bed, her orders to be obeyed by over forty-eight billion citizens.
But when a routine job goes spectacularly wrong, Cie discovers there is a witness to her failure – a witness to a political assassination the King would never want revealed. It’s Cie’s intense misfortune that the witness is a beauty – a woman with sweet, warm skin that Cie longs to sink into, with deep, brown eyes that hold promises that Cie has only ever dreamt of, a woman whose embrace offers a gentleness and a kindness Cie craves above all else.
Jemma thought she’d been in love before, but when she falls for the King’s assassin, she falls hard. Cie burns her up – the assassin plays fast and loves harder, and Jemma’s head is whirling even as her body is thrilled. Jemma watches as a growing terrorist threat pushes the King to madness and Cie’s orders become more and more violent. The woman she thinks she loves is steeped in red. Is it even possible for a girl from the suburbs to love a person so drenched in blood?
MEET THE AUTHOR
Jo lives in Australia with her daughter, and a cat named Howl. She loves to hear from readers. Her debut novel, The Blood We Spill, is a sumptuous sapphic romance with an ice queen assassin, the gorgeous girl-next-door and a journey to true love that asks both women to challenge their deepest hopes and fears, risk all and, finally, rest lovingly in each other’s arms. Get a free novella set in the same world by signing up to Jo’s newsletter on her webpage.
CONNECT WITH JO HAVENS
Thanks so much for stopping by today!
Miranda & TB