On October 17, 2022, my third novel will be published in The Best Revenge Series,TM a trilogy inspired by the true events of October 17, 1999. On that date twenty-one years ago, my nineteen-year-old niece Maggie was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend on a college campus in Michigan. Shocked and outraged by what happened to Maggie, suddenly my life’s work to end violence against women become more personal and immediate. I vowed to help women move on after abuse and reclaim their lives as Maggie could not.
To do that work, I originated in 2001 and have facilitated since then the My Avenging Angel Workshops™, based on the idea that “living well is the best revenge.” With the publication this month of Thrive: The Journey of the Human Soul to Discover a Life of Purpose, the work I do in the real world now overflows into the fictional world I have created in my novels. Starting with Awaken: The Awakening of the Human Spirit on a Healing Journey published in 2017 and continuing in Emerge: The Opening of the Human Heart to the Power of Love, published in 2019, the characters and circumstances in my novels closely paralleled my own experiences following Maggie’s death. For example, one of the fictional characters, Sophie, the best friend of Lacey, a young woman who is murdered as Maggie was, started doing — you guessed it! — her own My Avenging Angel Workshops.™
Below is a scene from this new novel, Thrive, in which Lisette, another character wounded by her own childhood trauma and oddly connected to Lacey’s spirit, is convinced to attend one of the workshop herself to find out if living well is indeed the best revenge.
HANGING WITH THE ANGELS
From CHAPTER TWO of Thrive: The Journey of the Human Soul to Find a Life of Purpose
A Novel by Susan M. Omilian JD
Publication Date Oct. 17, 2022
Lisette didn’t know what to expect when she entered the room where one of Sophie’s My Avenging Angel Workshops™ was being held. While Sophie was so excited about her coming today, Lisette was more worried about how she would do in a room full of women all who could read and write so much better than she could.
As confident as Lisette was about coming to a workshop at her last session with her dad, she was a wreck today, thinking about all the ways she could mess this up.
“You’ll be okay,” Sophie assured Lisette this morning on the phone when she called Sophie in a panic and tried to beg off attending the workshop. “Just come, and you’ll have a good time. No pressure, no problem. I know you can do this. Look at all you have done before this. Is this the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your lifetime?”
Sophie’s question surprised Lisette. When she put it that way, no, this workshop was nothing. Maybe she’d embarrass herself a little because her reading and writing wasn’t up to speed, but yes, she was going to be fine.
Still, Lisette wasn’t totally buying it. She wasn’t the type for this kind of touchy-feely stuff. But she figured the worst thing that could happen was that she would leave early and embarrass herself in front of everyone, and the best thing was that she could leave whenever she wanted to. Sophie would understand.
Lisette arrived at the workshop a little after the appointed time and was surprised how cheerful things were when she walked into the room. She had hoped that everyone would be there before her so she could melt into the crowd, but it didn’t happen that way. Instead, she was the first one in the room except for a young woman busily removing things from boxes and bags and putting them on the tables set up in the room. The woman looked up, smiled, and walked over to Lisette.
“Hi, I’m Brooke,” she said, extending her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Oh, nice to meet you, too,” Lisette muttered as she shook her hand. “I’m Lisette. I’m here for the . . . the . . .”
“Yes, the workshop!” Brooke said enthusiastically. “I’m helping Sophie out. She’ll be here soon. So glad you could make it today.”
She pointed at one of the tables with a stack of notebooks and folders.
“Sign in here and take a notebook and a folder,” she went on, as she picked up one of the folders up from the pile and opened it. “On the right side of the folder is a survey,” she explained. “If you could fill it out first, that would be great.”
She paused and then added, “And let me know if I can help you in any way, please!”
Lisette nodded and then looked at the pink sheet, terrified at all the words, but before she could panic, she took the folder from Brooke and picked up a plain-covered notebook off the table. She signed her name on the attendance sheet, and then Brooke said, “Take a seat anywhere around the table. We’re expecting twelve women total. We’ll see who else shows up.”
But before Lisette could take a seat, Brooke grabbed her by the arm and pulled her closer. Almost as though she wasn’t supposed to be having this conversation, she whispered, “It is such an honor to meet you, Lisette. Professor Stratford, you know her as Sophie, has told us all about you. You are an angel investor of our Survivor Strong, Thriver Resilient non-profit organization, right? Because of SISTER, we can offer these workshops free of charge to women coming out of violence and abuse and that means a lot to them. I’ve heard about how when you got rich, you donated a lot of money to SISTER. That’s so amazing! I want to do that when I get rich or get married or something like that someday too.”
Lisette gave her a weak smile. “Well, thanks! I’m glad the money has gone to a good cause. You said ‘Professor Stratford’—are you one of her students at the college?”
“Yeah, I’m taking a women’s studies class with her. It’s called ‘Women and the Law,’ and I love it. I’m learning so much about women’s history that I never knew before. And I’m an intern at SISTER, too, so I can help with her workshops.”
Just then all of Brooke’s attention and unbounded enthusiasm moved in the direction of several women who had just entered the workshop room, and she took off in their direction. Lisette took it as her cue to take her seat and fill out the survey.
She couldn’t help but wonder if the women who had arrived were also agonizing about coming to the workshop. Things in their lives had probably been pretty depressing, sad, and terrible, just like hers had been in the past. They were probably thinking, as she still was, How can one workshop really help a woman who had been abused or assaulted? It had taken Lisette years to get through all the trauma and drama in her life, so she didn’t believe it yet either. But she was here, and she could at least fill out the survey and see what happened next. What did they all have to lose? The workshop wasn’t costing them anything and they were all free to leave anytime they wanted. But for many of these women, Lisette thought it may be that nothing, really nothing, that was going on here or anywhere else could make them feel better. She remembered all too well when her life, too, was a mess and she was miserable.
Lisette took a seat at one of the tables set up in a U-shape in the middle of the room—a seat where she felt she could make a quick escape if she got too embarrassed or overwhelmed. As she settled in, she could hear Sophie’s familiar voice at the back of the room greeting other women who were entering and instructing them to fill out the survey first. So Lisette opened her folder and began filling out the survey sheet. While it took time for her to read all the statements there, so many of them fit her thoughts exactly.
I’m too busy for quiet time to think about where I’m going.
There is no way I can create the life I want right now.
I’ll never figure out who I am or what I want to be when I grow up.
Abuse has always been a part of my life. I can’t do much about it.
I don’t take any big risks. Life is too scary.
There are some voices inside my head that are very critical of me, and I’ll never get them to quiet down.
Sometimes I feel there’s a happy person inside of me who wants to get out.
She picked out the ones she had felt strongest about at different points in her life, but many were still part of her thinking today. The last one, about the Happy Person Inside, intrigued Lisette. Was that true? Was there a part of her that was always happy despite all the challenges and trials she had gone through? Lacey’s murder, even though it happened years ago, still haunted her thoughts and actions most days, and yet this idea of the Happy Person Inside stirred her.
Happy? Always Happy? No, she thought. That’s not possible. But what Sophie promised with this workshop was that “living well is the best revenge,” and Lisette knew she wanted some of that. She had come to this workshop hoping that promise was real and this woman, her friend Sophie, could deliver it.
Oh yes, Lisette was ready to wait for that!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Susan’s new book, Thrive: The Journey of the Human Soul to Discover a Life of Purpose,
is now available. Order it at www.thriverzone.com
and Susan will autograph a copy of it for you.