Mackenna on the Edge Excerpt

Mackenna on the Edge by Djuna Shellam

The Em Suite—Book Two

Mackenna EXCERPT



In this Mackenna excerpt of Mackenna on the Edge, we begin with the Prologue which shows the reader one facet of the motivation behind Mackenna’s fragile emotional state. Continuing into Chapter One, “Dream A Little Dream,” the reader is introduced to the deep emotional unrest present in Mackenna’s life, and her struggle to overcome her troubles.


To Mary-Mackenna Martín, my daughter and only child, 

This letter is to be read by you only upon the unfortunate event of your mother’s and my death by other than natural means. I regret the necessity for this document, but our excessive travel and my position in the world demand that I write this for you in case of a tragic ending for us. If this ends up in your hands, read it knowing Mother and I still love you, but from a distant place, and we pray, in God’s care. 

In the event we are both taken from earth to God’s house at the same time, all of my entire share of the Martín fortune, as well as all your mother’s worldly goods, will be yours to do with as you please as indicated in our last will and testament. However, I must ask you, before you take on the enormous responsibility of our estate, to remember something very important. You are of the Martín and MacKenna families, Mary-Mackenna. What you do in life reflects on everyone in the entire family. We have great pride in our family and our accomplishments. You must never forget that. You have your mother’s strong will and her heritage. You are part of her. But above all you are a Martín. 

Our families go back many, many generations, and joined, we have become a powerful family because we work hard and have never forgotten who we are. Do what you will in life, mi hija, but remember, if you disgrace yourself, or your mother or me, you also disgrace your family name and everyone in the family. You must know, as I do, that you carry a greater responsibility because you are our only child. 

You must be our daughters and our sons, a heavy burden for just one child, I know. But you have many gifts, and although your path in life has been a disappointment to your mother and me, we have never been disappointed in you. You are beautiful, intelligent and the greatest joy in our lives. 

Mother and I feel badly that we could not be the parents you wanted us to be, but we wanted the best for you and always tried to do what was right for you. We tried to give you what we learned for ourselves, too often forgetting that we, too, were young once and did not always agree with the wisdom of our mothers and papas. We were raised in a different time, my angel, and though we may have disagreed with them, we always did what our parents demanded of us. Except, as you have reminded us, when we married against your Granda’s wishes. You will see when you are older how easy it is to forget. We no longer fault you for your fierce independence, and hope that you will someday forgive us for our old-fashioned ways. 

I hope you never have to read this letter, mi hija, because it will mean I was not be able to say these things to you myself, which would sadden me greatly, because that is my ultimate wish. Someday I hope we can finally put away the pain and misunderstandings that have kept us from the closeness your mother and I want with you. Someday, I pray we can pull you to our breasts and give you the love and support you deny from us now. Before it is too late.

You are always my little angel, Mary-Mackenna, my pride and my joy, my mi hija. I know you have felt your Mother’s disappointment about her inability to bear more children. It is a sentiment I, too, share with her, but you must always remember, she loves you for the miracle you are and for the beautiful woman you have grown to be. She has thanked God everyday since you were born for His blessing. In good times and in bad. We both love you Mary-Mackenna, and if you read this letter, know that we will love you always, until the end of time.

Your Papa, 

Antonio Reyes Figueroa Martín


Dream A Little Dream

Their bodies entwined in the soft afterglow of lovemaking as shadows dominating the room enveloped them, blurring distinction beyond recognition. They were one — lovers — melded together from the searing heat of their writhing, forbidden passion and wrapped in the oppressive silence surrounding them, a stillness broken only by their rhythmic breathing and finally, hushed, velvety whispers.

“Mmm, I love you, my darling. You’re so beautiful and… so perfect for me — we’re just too perfect for each other. Mmm… Just perfect… Don’t you think so? Babycakes?”


“I mean, I think you are just the most perfect, perfect wonderful woman — and I love everything about you. Everything. I really do.”

“I… I don’t think you, well… you shouldn’t.”

“Are you teasing me, or what? How could I not just love you to pieces? Why would you say that? C’mon, sweetie… tell me.”

“Because… I’m… I’m not who you think I am.”

“Oh, you… Yes you are — of course you are. Don’t be ridiculous, you silly… now you’re just toying with my emotions. You’re such a kidder…”

“I’m not being… I promise — I’m not toying with you. You just think I’m a much better person than I really am, that I can make the kind of commitment you expect, and love you he way you want me to — the way you deserve. I know you can’t help it. It’s just your way and I love you for it. But… well, my sweet… it’s time you realized you’re wrong — that you’re just wasting your time on me.”

“Shhh… don’t even say that. I don’t know what would make you say such a thing. I couldn’t hope to have a better lover. You’re wonderful, Al — you’re everything I’ve ever wanted. You know that!”

“I’m everything you think you wanted because you don’t know me — you never really have… and you’re never going to be happy if you continue this fantasy of who you think I am. You’ve been doing the same thing for years and getting absolutely nowhere. You are nowhere. And you’re unhappy, right? Well, aren’t you? You can’t keep running away from the truth, sweetness. You must understand, I will never make you happy — it’s not possible, baby. I can’t… and it’s time you just accepted the truth about me. Learn from your parents, Em. You must accept the truth — once and for all.”

“My parents? They’re… dead. I don’t understand, Al… what do you mean? What truth?”
“The truth.”

“I… don’t… understand —”

“Yes, you do — you do but you just don’t realize it yet. That’s why it’s so important that you… just forget about me and move on — find that person who will really make you happy. Move on.”

“Move on? Forget about you? How can you say that? I can’t forget about you! God… don’t you love me anymore? Is that what you’re trying to tell me? Have you stopped loving me? Tell me!”

“Shhh… Of course I still love you — I’ll always love you. I’ll always love you. But, honey, listen to me… I can’t love you the way you need me to — the way I should. You deserve so much more… and I can’t give it to you.”

“You’re more than I deserve!”

“No. No, it’s time for me to leave, Em.”

“No! Don’t leave me… Al — not yet!”

“I have to.”

“You said you loved me — you said you loved me! How can you leave me now? I need you! I need you — don’t go…”

“You don’t need me, Emmy — you’ll see. You’ll see. You’ll be fine once you realize I’m wrong for you — I always have been. There’s someone out there who can give you what I can’t — find that and you’ll be happy. But you must forget about me. You’ll see…”

“Nooo… come back!”

“You’ll be fine. You can do it, Em. You can do it… you’ll see.”

“No… I don’t want to see… No, I can’t! Wait!”

“Good-bye, Mary-Mackenna Martín. Good-bye…”

“Nooo! Allie, wait! Wait!” Mackenna cried, her wail disappearing into the dimness of the first light of morning. “Come back! Don’t go, don’t go…” The sound of her own voice pulled her from the emotional dream that was now a ritual, cruelly replaying every night for the past week. “Oh, Alice… why? Why did you leave?” she cried, half-asleep. “Why did you leave me? I wish you would come back… Come back to me — I miss you… I need you. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry — I know it’s my fault. All my fault…”

Slightly disoriented and confused by the source of her emotions, Mackenna struggled to awaken. Momentarily startled by the raw passion breaking through her fitful slumber, the crux of her dream finally climbed out of the fog that was her brain, and her reality became painfully clear. She was alone. Alone in her own bed, where she cried quietly into her tear-soaked pillow to muffle her sobbing. She wept until the piercing ache inside subsided to a dull pang, and the sweet sound of Alice’s voice faded into the deepest recesses of her memory. And when she could no longer hear Alice’s voice, she wept some more.

She was filled with such emptiness; the immense pain she felt when she awoke from her recurring dream was almost welcomed. Almost. With the pain came vague memories and the memories were most unwelcome. Memories that had been deeply buried for the better part of seventeen years left Mackenna unsettled and perplexed, serving only to drive her further and further into her depression.

She could barely take it anymore. The dreams, the memories, the sadness, loneliness, and, worst of all, the searing guilt. Trying to deal with it all day-in and day-out was becoming overwhelming. A writer, and known workaholic, Mackenna hadn’t written for several months because she was unable to, which only piled onto her depressed state.

Most days were spent either roaming the expansive house or sitting alone on her balcony, looking out over the city below. Each day she did less and less until whole days, then weeks, would go by before she even left her room and the safe haven of her king-size bed. Inherently, Mackenna knew if she didn’t stop her downward spiral soon, she would not be able to fight the force of it — and would find herself dragged down and forever lost to herself and the world. But knowing something and doing something about it were altogether two different things.

Perhaps it was the urgency she heard in Alice’s voice, or the gradual build-up of her own resolve, but shortly after she awoke, Mackenna found herself downstairs, standing at the doorway of her father’s expansive and impressive library. Again. Only this time, she felt an inner strength that had been absent all the other times. She carefully closed the heavy double doors behind her and stood with her back flattened against them. She waited. Once her eyes adjusted to the darkened room, she tentatively crossed to her father’s large antique wooden desk.

Easing down into his leather chair, she sat in the semi-darkness working up the courage to continue her mission. Finally, after nearly an hour of battling her demons and doubts, she turned on the antique Tiffany desk lamp to reveal a shallow rectangular box lying on the desk, basking in the lamp’s warm, ambient glow. Staring at the laptop computer that lay closed and dormant before her, Mackenna worried that again, she would not be able to take the next steps — steps she knew she needed to take. Was her resolve stronger on this day than any in the months before? She wondered.

She sat for a long while, resisting the strong impulse to run back up to her room and remain in bed for the rest of the day as she had the five preceding days, with the covers pulled over her head separating her from the rest of the world. It would be easy. But all of the blankets in the world couldn’t protect her from her own mind and the depression that was threatening to thoroughly envelope her. It was up to her to take control. If she was up to the challenge. She was. She wanted to be. She had to be. And yet, there was still the faint memory of Alice’s voice, urging her on, fading in and out of her mind like a distant radio station.

At last, consumed with trepidation, yet determined to wrest herself free from her demons, Mackenna traced the smooth outline of the laptop with her fingertips, laid her hands on the cool surface of the black, hard plastic case and gingerly lifted the cover. Her fingers dragged hesitantly over the exposed keyboard as a familiar, though dulled, feeling of excitement filled her body. She caressed the side of the plastic rectangle and gently pushed the toggle switch on the side of the case. Immediately, Mackenna was met with whirring and clicking sounds as the small screen grew from black to a cerulean blue. She shivered as if touched by a lover.

Fraught with apprehension, Mackenna clicked on the icon for her writing software program and created a new document, but did not name it. She slowly leaned back into her father’s chair and waited. The cursor blinked incessantly at the top left of the blue screen as if anxiously awaiting to be put to work, waiting for its owner’s fingers to glide across the keyboard and create words and sentences with the wonderful dexterity and fluidity with which it was accustomed.

But the words didn’t come — wouldn’t come. Mackenna sat idle, staring into the screen that cast a ghostly blue pall on her face. The cursor continued to blink unabated. For the better part of three hours her mind was mired with conflict and deep thought until she, almost reluctantly, laid her fingers upon the keys and began to type. It was the only way she knew to finally liberate herself from the greedy clutches of melancholy. If she was wrong, she was all but dead.

Her fingers fumbled nervously on the keys for mere seconds, but long enough for their misalignment to create a whole line of garbled words. Scoffing to herself, she fought the urge to bolt back upstairs and took a deep breath. She deleted the line, properly aligned her fingers on the keyboard and began again, typing the words, I am an orphan.