Lorraine Albright Lopez is released from an Arizona prison after serving fifteen years for killing her husband in self-defense. She is now thirty-seven and has three children who have been alienated against her by her husband’s parents who have custody of them. Bitter and resentful of her in-laws, whose money and power had her incarcerated when she should have gone free, Lorraine decides to leave Arizona in a used RV and start a new life on the road. But her in-laws want her dead and will stop at nothing to achieve this. Can Lorraine put her past behind her and start over, or will the mistakes she made when she was young and foolish haunt for the rest of her life—however long, or short, that may be?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Released by Ellynore Seybold-Smith, Lorraine Lopez kills her abusive husband in self-defense, but because of her in-laws power, money, and influence, she is sentenced to 15 years in prison. When she gets out, she wants to start a new life, but her troubles are not yet behind her. Someone is out to kill her—most likely, her in-laws—and she is forced to flee her home state of Arizona in a used motorhome to start a new life on the road. Even there, her past comes back to haunt her, threatening to destroy the new life she has created and the new love she has found.
Seybold-Smith writes a touching tale of second-chance love and forgiveness with charming characters and real-life experiences that makes you think the author has been there and knows what she is talking about.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Released by Ellynore Seybold-Smith is a contemporary romance with a darker side. Our heroine, Lorraine Albright Lopez, gets pregnant at seventeen and has to marry her boyfriend Alex, who turns out to be an abusive pervert. When he attacks Lorraine and she is forced to defend herself, it is a clear case of self-defense. However, Alex’s parents are very wealthy and have a lot of influence in Lorraine’s home town of Yuma, Arizona. And Lorraine’s parents are strictly lower middle class. Her public defender attorney is no match for Alex’s parents’ influence, and Lorraine is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. When she gets out, her father is dead, her three children—who have been in the custody of Alex’s parents—want nothing to do with her, and someone starts taking pot shots at her, trying to kill her. Knowing that there is nothing for her in Yuma anymore, Lorraine buys a used RV and takes to the road to start a new life and leave her past behind her. But she discovers, much to her dismay, that her past won’t stay put that easily.
Released is a poignant and heart-warming story of second chances, courage, and the scars that domestic abuse can leave on its innocent victims. Seybold-Smith has constructed a good solid plot with endearing and intriguing characters that tug at your heartstrings.
The horrible sound of the steel bars closing was suddenly like sweet music. Now it was the music of release. Everyone looked at Lorraine Lopez as she walked past their cells.
“Good bye, gringo.”
“Good luck out there, Lori.”
“Say hello to the sunshine for me.”
“We’ll see you in six months or so. You’ll be back.”
No, never will I be back. I will make it. I will not return to this hell hole.
In a dressing room, she opened the bag of clothes her brother had brought her. There was a pair of black cotton slacks and a soft, silky tunic with many colors and some sequins. She put it on and looked in the mirror. “Wow, how beautiful. I will never wear the color orange again.”
Outside, she met her brother, Frank Albright. After the lengthy hug, she looked at his face and saw tears in his eyes.
“Sis, good seeing you again. Mom didn’t come. She wants to have a nice dinner ready when you get home.”
Home, I’m going home. Oh, Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you.
They went to get her belongings, a watch that was not running, a golden wedding band, an engagement ring with a one carat diamond, a golden cross on a chain, pearl stud earrings, and a set of keys.
“And here is the money you had in your bank account. You’ve accumulated quite a nice nest egg,” said the paymaster.
“Thank you, and good bye.”
Frank and Lorraine stepped into the sunshine as the heavy metal door shut behind them.
She looked at the blue clear sky and took a deep breath of the clean March air.
“Free, free at last. Oh God, I’m free at last.”
“The car is right over there, Lori.”
“Lori was the little girl from the past. Now I am Lorraine, Brother.”
“Whatever you say, Sis.”
Frank opened a silver Dodge minivan, put in her small duffel bag while she took a seat on the passenger side. “Nice car, what year is it?”
“A 2016, you like it?”
“Yeah, the chariot taking me into freedom. Get those horses moving to Yuma.”
“You want radio?” he asked.
“No, Frank, silence is golden. Just hearing your voice is music enough.”
“You know I’m not much of a talker while driving.”
As they drove through the desert Lorraine enjoyed looking at every bush and saguaro cactus and every tree struggling in the harsh environment. Soon her thoughts went back, back to the time when she was young and innocent. A time past with so many mistakes. If only she had known then what she knew now was the prevailing thought.
Twenty years earlier:
“Lori, you ready to go?”
Lorraine heard her friend Kimberly calling up the steps of the small craftsman house in the old section of Yuma, Arizona.
“Yeah, I’ll be right down.”
One last check in the mirror was satisfactory. She was proud of the look she gave to her jeans. Plain fifteen dollar jeans were updated with appliques of lace, giving them an expensive boutique look. Two foam pads cut out of an old dress of her mother’s added the just needed amount of padding to make her cleavage visible in her red shirt. Her brown hair spilled over her shoulders in large curls. Amazing how a little color on the eyelids make the eyes look so much larger. A trace of red lipstick gave her face a glow.
She went downstairs and stood the scrutiny of her mother after pulling up the neckline of her shirt as far as she could.
“You pass. Now you two girls enjoy the rodeo. I’m expecting you back for supper. Of course you are invited too, Kimberly.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Albright. We’ll be back as soon as the rodeo is over. May Lori go to the dance with me tonight?”
“You girls looking to pick up some cowboys?”
“Just to dance with,” Kimberly said. “Maybe Frank can go too.”
“I don’t know what his plans are. He’ll be home for supper.”
“Good,” said Kimberly with a smile.
As the girls headed toward the little Honda parked at the curb, Lorraine said, “You sure are lucky to have a car. It’s too far to walk to the fairground.”
“Yeah, my father gave it to me. Since my parents divorced, they are competing with each other for my love. Mother buys me nice clothes. Father buys me a used car. When I get mad at Mom, I threaten to live with Dad. It works. I can do what I want, get showered with gifts. Maybe you should wish for your parents to get divorced.”
“Doubt that would work for me. I do love both my mom and dad and I’m glad they get along.”
At the fairground, they sat in the bleachers near where the contestants entered. Soon three Mexican men took the seats next to them. The young man next to Lori was about an inch taller than her five feet seven inches. He had the most handsome face Lorraine had ever seen.
He smiled at both girls. “Buenos tardes.”
“Buenos tardes,” the girls replied.
“Oh, you speak Spanish.”
“Yes, two years in high school and the rest practice with friends,” Lorraine replied as she looked deep into his brown eyes.
He returned the look by staring into her face as if she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Suddenly no one else existed around them.
“My name is Alexandro Lopez. But everybody calls me Alex.”
“I’m Lori Albright.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss Albright.”
“Please, call me Lori.” Feeling a nudge from Kimberly, she said, “and this is my friend Kimberly.”
“And these are my friends Jose and Ricardo, known as Dick.”
“Nice to meet you,” the girls said. “Been to the rodeo before?”
“Oh yes, we go every year. We live in Yuma,” Alex said. “I hope to see more of you, Lori.”
“I’m going to the dance tonight.”
“I am too,” Alex said enthusiastically. “You boys going, too?”
“Yea,” said Dick, “I’m bringing my girlfriend.”
“I don’t have a girlfriend to bring,” Alex said. “I’d be delighted to meet you there.”
“Since you don’t have a girlfriend to bring, does that mean you have one you cannot bring?”
“No, it means I don’t have a girlfriend. Maybe that is about to change,” he said, giving Lorraine a very intense look.
I can’t believe this. This very handsome man interested in little old me. He could have a million girls swooning over him. What does he see in me? Maybe he’s an illegal looking for an American wife? How can I ask if he is legal without seeming too prying?
“You lived in Yuma long?”
“All my life,” he said proudly.
“You were born here, well so was I.”
“I knew we had a lot in common.”
Their conversation ended abruptly when the announcer started the beginning of the rodeo. Everyone stood for the prayer and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Then the rodeo queen with her court rode in on horses decorated with glitter on their flanks. The afternoon was peppered with loud enthusiastic cheers. After one cowboy got a good time roping a calf, Alex turned to Lori. “That’s my cousin.”
“Wonderful.” And she gave an extra loud cheer.
When the rodeo was over, Alex turned to the two girls. “Hope to see you at the dance tonight. Please save a dance for me, Lori.”
“I think I can manage that. See you later.”
She watched the boys walk in the other direction. Alex turned around and gave her a friendly wave, then walked with his friends to another section of the parking lot.
“Lori, I see your cheeks are red and it’s not only from the sun. You look like you’re in love.”
“Kim, I think I am. I really don’t know what being in love feels like. In all my seventeen years I have never felt like this. Do you think it’s love? This feeling is inside me all the way to my crotch.”
“Girlfriend, you better not talk like that around your mother.”
“You bet I won’t. That’s why I talk like that to you.”
“That’s what girlfriends are for.”
“Have you ever seen a better looking man in your life? I wonder how old he is.”
“I would say about twenty. When you see him again, and I’m sure you will, just ask him.”
“I’ll do that. Oh I sure hope he shows up tonight. Do you think I’m pretty enough for him?”
“He seems to think so. Lori, I don’t know why you think you’re not pretty. You have nice hair.”
“A mousy brown,”
“You have lovely hazel eyes.”
“With short lashes.”
“Yeah, but you can buy long lashes.”
“With my mother? She would ground me for a month.”
“Your lips are pretty full and kissable.”
“How would you know they’re kissable?”
“Just a guess. You’ve got nice teeth.”
“They should be. My parents paid enough for braces. But then there’s my nose. Do you think I should get a nose job?”
“Girl, there is nothing wrong with your nose. It fits your face.”
“I wish it was smaller with a little uplift like yours.”
“I have to be so careful that I show no buggers. Lori, you have to think pretty. Stand in front of the mirror and say I am pretty, I am beautiful. Tell yourself that until you believe it.”
“Is that what you do?”
It took a good fifteen minutes for them to get out of the parking lot and slowly through heavy traffic on Thirty-Second Street before they got onto Fourth Avenue toward home.
When they arrived at the Albright house, Mr. Albright and Frank were sitting on the porch drinking beer.
“Hello girls, have a good time at the rodeo?” called Mr. Albright.
“Yes Daddy, it was so much fun,” she said, giving her father a hug. “Hello, Frank, you have a good day?
“Great, sold a car.”
“Super, how many is that this month?”
“Three so far, and the month is still young.”
“You going to the dance tonight?” Kimberly asked,
“Yeah, I’ll be glad to take both of you girls.”
Kimberly smiled, giving Frank a hopeful look. “Great,”
I wonder if Kim is really my friend or if I’m just a means for her to get close to Frank. One never knows who is really a friend.
Mrs. Albright appeared at the door. “Supper’s ready. You all go and wash up.”
“We know to wash our hands,” Frank said.
“Mother’s said that phrase for so long, I don’t think she could say supper’s ready without that appendage,” Mr. Albright commented. Over the dinner the only conversation was the rodeo and their hope for the upcoming dance. “We’ll go tomorrow afternoon, won’t we, Lorne?” Mrs. Albright asked her husband.
“Yes, Mary, it’s Saturday when I always have a date with my favorite girl,” Mr. Albright said, giving his wife a loving look.
She smiled and proceeded to take a bite of salmon.
“Good dinner as usual,” said Frank.
“Thank you, Frank.”
“Yes, very good, Mrs. Albright,” Kimberly agreed. “Usually I don’t like fish, but when you make it, it’s delicious.”
She’s lying, thought Lori. She just wants Frank to notice her.
“Can I help you with the dishes?” Kimberly asked.
“Thanks for the offer, Kim, but I’ll have the dishwasher loaded in no time. If you want to help me clear the table…”
“Sure, then I have to go home and get ready for the dance. Will you pick me up at my house, Frank?”
“Yeah, I’ll be by at 7:30, how’s that?”
“Fine, I’ll be ready. Thank you again for supper, Mrs. Albright. Hope to see you at the rodeo tomorrow then.”
“Glad you could join us. Have a good time at the dance. Bye.”
Kimberly waved as she headed out the door. “Bye.”
“Nice girl, and pretty too.” Mrs. Albright said.
There, that’s Mom’s way of saying that I’m not pretty.
“I’m going for a little walk before I need to get dressed for the dance.”
“You don’t have much time. Don’t you want to take a shower and get ready?” Mom asked.
“I got my clothes laid out. I can be showered and dressed in twenty minutes.”
“Okay, don’t get lost.”
“I don’t think so. I’ve only been in this neighborhood for seventeen years.”
As Lorraine was walking through the neighborhood, she passed one old house that had been vacant for a good five years. She liked the old two-story house. With renovations, that could be a very luxurious place to live. Actually, it was the most gracious house on the street. The only one with a portico held up by two large wooden columns. Paint was peeling. The paint that was still clinging on was faded and dirty. Some shutters hung on one hinge.
Oh how I wish someone would buy it and restore it. I wish, I wish. What do they say? If you wish hard enough, it will happen. I wish for someone nice to buy this house and restore it.
After a quick shower, with a shower cap protecting her hair, she put on a long white skirt, a green peasant blouse, a wide, red glittery belt, and a fresh red hibiscus in her hair.
“I am pretty,” she told her reflection in the long mirror. “I am pretty, I am beautiful, I am desirable. I shall see Alex again and we will dance together. I am pretty. You know what, Lori? I believe it myself. My waist could be smaller, but twenty-seven inches isn’t bad. Yes, I look nice.”
When she went downstairs her father was watching TV. “You look pretty,” he said.
Mary gave her usual inspection. “You pass. Have fun.”
Frank was dressed in jeans with a western style shirt and leather vest with fringe. “Okay, Sis, you ready to get truckin’?”
“Have a good time kids. Just don’t make any noise when you come in.”
“We won’t, Dad. Good night.”
As they walked to the pick-up truck Frank said, “You getting shorter kid?”
“You always wear high heels to a dance.”
“Since we dance on a concrete floor, I want to be kind to my feet, so I wore flats.”
“Smart choice. I have my Nikes in the truck just in case the cowboy boots get too uncomfortable. I can go and change.”
At the fairgrounds, the big hall was crowded with mostly local young people and competitors from the rodeo who were hoping to pick up a local girl and get lucky. Both Lorraine and Kimberly felt safe being chaperoned by Frank. If any cowboy should get too pushy, all Frank had to do was step in with his six-foot-two-inch frame and tell the boy to get lost.
The three found a space at a table with some acquaintances. The girls took a seat while he went to get something to drink. A beer for himself and two sodas for the girls. Soon a cowboy asked Lorraine to dance, which she did. Then Frank hit the floor with Kimberly and danced a fast two step. After that, the band on the stage played a slow dance. Kimberly put her head on Frank’s shoulder as they moved in time with the music.
While struggling on the dance floor with a cowboy who believed he could dance, Lorraine saw Alex enter the hall with Dick and a Mexican girl. Lorraine was able to maneuver her dance partner near to where Alex stood. When she waved to him, he caught her eye. His face lit up with a big grin. She gave him a come and rescue me look. Soon the music ended. The cowboy was a gentleman and walked her back to the table. After a smile and thank you, he left and went to join his buddies.
The band had hardly started another song when Alex was at their table, asking Lorraine to dance.
“You look lovely, even prettier than this afternoon. Are you wearing the Mexican colors for me?”
“I would be lying if I said yes. But I did have my clothes laid out before I met you this afternoon. You are a good dancer.”
“Gracias, mi amor. You are a graceful dancer yourself. I see your friend here, are you with anyone else?”
“Yes, my brother Frank. After the dance, I would like to introduce you to him.”
“I will be happy to meet your brother.”
Frank and Kim were at the table when they returned. “Frank, I want you to meet Alex. Alex, this is my brother Frank.”
“Nice to meet you Alex. Here let me give you a business card.”
“Frank, we are here for fun, not business,” Lorraine reprimanded.
“Never know.” Frank looked at Alex. “If you’re in the market for a car or truck, come see me and I’ll see to it that you get a square deal.”
Alex looked at the card. “My father’s business is looking to buy some new trucks.”
“Great, come see me. What business is that?”
“Lopez Contracting and Reconstruction. We do mostly water and fire damage work.”
“I’m familiar with your firm. So that’s your father.”
“Yes, I work for him full time. I’m the second man in charge.”
Frank gave Lori an approving look. Then the music started a slow melody.
“Excuse me Frank, but would you mind if I have this dance with your sister?”
“Not at all, enjoy. Kimberly, may I have this dance?”
The four young people went on the dance floor that was rapidly getting crowded.
Before the evening was over, Alex, along with Dick and his girlfriend Lucina, sat at the table with Frank and the two girls. When they heard the announcement for the last dance, everyone rushed to the floor. What started out as a fast dance was moved into a slow and romantic tune. Lori and Alex danced with their eyes level with each other. I’m glad I’m wearing flats, otherwise he would have to look up to me.
“Lori, I hope this does not end tonight. I really want to see you again.”
Oh my God, thank you, he wants to see me again. Little old me. Can this be for real? Can this gorgeous man really be interested in me? Not only is he drop-dead handsome, but he has good manners and is charming. Can this really be for real? “I would like that. I’ll write my phone number on the back of the card Frank gave you.”
When the dance was over, they lingered on the crowded dance floor. He wrapped his arms around her even tighter and his lips slowly approached hers. She did not move her head away as he came closer until their lips touched and he gave her a kiss that told her volumes about his feelings. She responded as if shouting “Yes, yes, yes.”
At home, lying in bed, all she could think of was his face. The music still played in her ears and she felt her body move in time. Dancing with Alexandro, and then the kiss. One kiss, but Lorraine felt her life will never be the same. One glorious wonderful kiss was like electricity surging through her body. She wished he was with her right now, kissing her and doing whatever would follow.
© 2015 by Ellynore Seybold-Smith