Monday, July 30, 2012

Chapter 5

Once we arrived at the store, Dominic pointed out his car in the early dusk of evening.  “That’s her,” he said with a slight grin.  And he said I had a nice car.  

The man drove what was clearly a customized new Shelby-GT Mustang.  That piece of machinery had to cost at least 80K.  The sleek, black body with its gold race-stripes hunched low to the ground.  The 18-inch polished wheels glistened even with the fading light.  The windows were dark, adding to the smoothness of the vehicle as a whole.  

I stopped my BMW and pulled the emergency brake.  I never took my eyes off the Mustang as I climbed out of my car.  This car made my mouth water with its sheer impression of power.  I wanted to touch the smooth black body.  I wanted to slide behind the wheel and feel the power of the engine beneath me, vibrating through my hands as I gripped the wheel and shifted from gear to gear.  I longed to feel how tight she was on the road.

“You wanna drive her, don’t you?”  Dominic’s question drifted through the bubble that had encased me at the sight of his car.  All I could do was nod slightly.  My eyes ran the length of the car as I turned my head to look at him.  When I met his eyes, he was grinning from ear to ear, apparently enjoying the lust he must have seen in my scrutiny of the vehicle.

A smile spread across my face at the thought of driving the only American muscle car never taken out of production.  She had to be fast.  She had to be tight.  I longed to feel her power, but not now.  “I really need to get home,” I said as I turned back to the car again.  “But I’ll take a rain check on that offer.”

“Whenever you like.  Of all the people I know, you’re the only one I’d let drive her.”  He had walked up to me and slipped his arm around my shoulder.  It was amazing how right and wrong the situation felt.  His arm fit my body so well, so comfortably, and it felt right in some deep part of my being.  It felt wrong because of Michael.  My mind was spinning in inner turmoil.  What I really needed was to get away from Dominic and clear my head.

“Thanks for the offer.”  I turned to face him.  “It was really great to see you again.”  I didn’t want to leave him, but I had to go home.  The nurse would be waiting with Michael and Allison.

“Hey.  It’s not like we’ll never see each other again.  I live here, remember?”  He wrapped me in a hug.  “Can I see you tomorrow?”  The question breathed into my ear sent shivers down my spine and need coursing through my blood.

“I don’t know Dominic.  Friday’s a long, busy day at the bank, and I usually take Allison out to dinner.  I’ll call you later tonight and let you know.”  

“I look forward to it.  I’ll be sitting by the phone, so don’t leave me hangin’.  Let me walk you back to your car.”

“My car’s right here,” I said giving him a look of humorous suspicion.

“I know.  Why do you think I offered?  I don’t have to walk far to get back.”  This time he laughed heartily when I gave him a light punch on the arm.  Then he opened my door for me, and I climbed in.

Before he closed it, I looked up at him and said, “It really was good to see you.”

With one arm propped on the roof, he leaned down so we were face to face.  “It was good to see you, too,” he said.  Then, without warning, he leaned in and gave me a quick kiss, mouth to mouth.  

It happened so fast I didn’t have time to react.  But if I had, I don’t know if I would have pulled away or leaned into it.  There was a brief, but very hot, spark when our lips touched, and it scared me.

He closed the door and I started the car.  When I glanced through the open window, I couldn’t look away.  I was compelled to watch him as he walked to his car.  The wind caught his hair and played with it.  I could see the muscles in his back and arms moving under the soft cotton of his button-down shirt, which tucked into the waist of his faded blue jeans and allowed an uninhibited view of his tight rear.  The man still had the build of a twenty-year-old man.  That and the brief brush of his lips stirred an intense desire deep in the very pit of my being.

I pulled away with a wave as he closed his door.  I didn’t want to hear the Mustang’s engine when he started it.  The need the car stirred in me had me hovering on the edge as it was.  Hearing it could push me over.  To block out the sound I rolled up the windows and cranked the radio.  Then I took off through the empty lot and headed for home.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chapter 4

We walked toward the parking garage I used for work.  I was probably just walking that direction out of habit, and Dominic followed.  When we got to the entrance, I suddenly realized where we were.  “Oh.  This is my garage,” I said looking up at the structure.  I turned to Dominic, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t even realize I was heading this way.  Where are you parked?”

“I took the bus here from the store.  I can just catch it back.”

“Nonsense,” I said, taking his hand and leading him into the garage.  “I’ll drive you to the store.  There’s no reason for you to ride that stinky bus.”  I felt his grip melt into mine as he fell into stride.  It was a wonderful sensation that I hadn’t realized I’d been missing.  Michael couldn’t hold my hand anymore, not like he used to, and I never realized the intimacy of that simple gesture until now.

When I chanced a look him, he was smiling at me.  I quickly looked away and tried to ignore the fluttering of my heart.  The thought and feel of Dominic had my cheeks flushed.  I could feel the heat.  I knew he could see what his presence was doing to me.

I dug my keys out of their assigned pocket in my purse and pushed the “unlock” button on the remote.  

“That’s your car?”  Dominic asked with a tone of awe in his voice.  “Wow.  You must really be doing well for yourself.”  He smiled and became playful.  “Either that, or you’re in debt up to your eye balls.”

“It’s actually a company car,” I said, opening the trunk of the deep blue BMW and tossing my bags inside.  “I would never buy something like this.  It’s way overpriced.”

“I bet you don’t mind the bank buying it for you, though.”

We climbed into the car.  “Hell no.  I love this car.  I love it even more since I didn’t pay for it.”  The engine turned over smoothly with a soft roar before settling into a purr.  I let it warm up for a few minutes while Dominic sifted through my music selection.

He picked a CD and slid it in.  I put the car in first and crept out of the garage.  At the exit, I waved my card to open the gate and turned onto the street.  

We crawled through town, and I asked Dominic if he minded if I took the long way to the store.  Of course he didn’t.  So I cut through a few back streets, making my way to the main road that was the life-line for Church Hill.  I felt like driving so I was going to take the really long way.  

Turning onto the road I smiled and said, “Hold on.  We’re gonna have some fun.”

“Thrill me, Baby,” he said, gripping the door a little tighter.

I shifted into second and made the turn.  Winding each gear to its most efficient RPM, I shifted smoothly, flying through the gears as the car sped down the road.  We took the turns with ease and precision.  I could feel Dominic looking at me, but at 80 miles an hour, I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road.  Anything could happen.  Michael was proof of that.

The car slowed as I turned onto a twisting country road for a more leisurely drive.  That’s when I finally glanced over at him.  He was grinning from ear to ear.  

“What?”  I asked.

“You’ve still got it,” he said.  “After all these years, you’ve still got it.  I must admit, I am surprised.  After what you told me about Michael and his accident, I never would have thought that you would still drive like that.”

“I don’t do it very often.  Sometimes I just get the itch to go.  When it comes, I have to scratch it.  I’d probably go crazy if I didn’t.”  I looked at him again and smiled.  “When you need speed, nothing else will do.”

“You always were my best driver.  Even if I didn’t want you to drive.”

“Yeah, well, that part of my life is long over.  I don’t think about it, and I don’t talk about it.  I put it far behind me and moved on.  So if that’s why you’re here, tell me now.”  I didn’t want him bringing our past to the surface.  We were young, reckless, and without a care in the world.  Those things combined made for a very dangerous lifestyle.  I counted myself lucky to have survived and turned my life around without any repercussions. Michael knew little about that chapter in my life, and Allison would never know unless she started heading that way.  I had become a different person since the last time I saw Dominic.  And I was hoping that he had changed his ways, too.

Pulling the car off to the side of the road, I turned to look at him.  As I turned he placed his hand on mine over the shifter and gently squeezed.  Then he met my eyes.  That was enough.  

“I’m not that person anymore.”  He said it simply, though he needn’t have said anything at all.  “If you want to talk about it, that’s fine.  If you don’t, that’s okay too.  But please, Ella, don’t hold it against me.  I learned my lesson the hard way.”  He shrugged and added, “Maybe I needed to.”

“You wouldn’t let me drive that night,” I said.  

“I needed you to drive.  Something told me otherwise, though.  It was better that you didn’t.”

“You may never have been caught if I’d been driving.”

“Maybe.  Or maybe we’d’ve both been caught.  Things happened the way they did for a reason.  I knew that when they cuffed me.  That’s why I cut you off.  I thought that maybe some higher-power was telling me I was no good for you. You deserved better.”  He looked out the window.  “I loved you, but I let you go.  I had to.”  His head dropped and his voice became tighter.  “Losing you was the hardest part of the entire experience.  I never quite healed from that wound.”

I didn’t know what to say.  He was telling me he felt something that I also felt in some deep part of my heart.  A part of me had always been his.  Now he was telling me that a part of him had always been mine.  After all those years, we still belonged to each other.

I tried to change the subject.  “So, you never married?”

“Not once.”  He shook his head.  “Every relationship after you failed miserably.  I found myself comparing each one to you.  None of them could measure up, so I’d end it after a couple months.  It wasn’t fair to string them along just to satisfy my primal urges.”

The reaction those last words caused in me was shocking.  It made me sick with jealousy and remorse.  Why, I couldn’t understand.  The thought of Dominic with another woman had never hurt like it just did.  In fact, that was one reason why we were so good together in the past.  Our primal urges, as he put it, had ruled our lives.  To put it mildly, we were wild.  Besides, I was married to Michael.  I shouldn’t have felt that way about any other man.

I pulled back onto the road trying to clear my foggy head.  There were emotions stirring in me that I hadn’t felt since the accident.  Not the least of which was desire.

Silence invaded the car on the ride to the store.  The air inside was becoming stuffy, so I rolled down the windows to freshen it up.  One time, Dominic asked if it was ok to crank the music up.  I nodded in the affirmative, and the music became loud enough to push my thoughts away for the time being.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chapter 3 (part 2)

I looked past him, taking in the people filling the café.  He let me take my time. Then I took a deep breath and looked back at him waiting patiently.  “Michael and Allison were in an accident on the interstate.  Some kid and his girlfriend came on way too fast and hit them.”  I looked away, trying to tell the story without bringing the pictures back.  “Michael’s car rolled.  The kid ran into the embankment.  He and his girlfriend were killed instantly.”  I looked back at Dominic, his face filled with concern.  “They had so much cocaine in their systems, the coroner was amazed that their hearts hadn’t exploded.”  I just sat there and let the impact of that basic fact sink in.

“Anyway, Allison had a broken arm and a minor concussion.”  Again I paused, though not for effect.  This pause was for strength.  “Michael was flown to a shock trauma unit.  He had several broken ribs, two broken legs, a broken arm, a punctured lung, severe internal bleeding, and severe head trauma.  They removed his spleen, part of his liver, and part of his intestines.  His skull had been crushed on one side from hitting the window.”  I took another steadying breath.

Dominic had reached out to hold my hands again.  Tears were flowing steadily from my eyes, and every so often he would dab at them with his napkin.  “You don’t have to tell me,” he said softly.  

“No.  I want to.  I need to tell you.  You’re not from here, so you didn’t read the paper and come running to offer your condolences.  I need someone to only hear my words, not the media’s.  I don’t want you to pity me.  Just help to give me strength.”  He nodded.

After another deep breath, I looked again into those green eyes and continued my tale.  “Michael is now confined to a wheel-chair.  He can’t speak very well, though he learned to write somewhat with his left hand, so he communicates through a combination of the two.  It’s like a child that’s just learning how to talk, but has the mind and emotions of a grown man.  He has only part of one lung and is on oxygen therapy.  It’s almost like he had a stroke, ya know?  He can move his left side, but it’s very limited.  His food is pureed and I feed him with a spoon.”  

I sighed some of the stress out of my system.  It felt good to talk about it with Dominic.  After the initial shock had worn off, the only person who really stuck by me was Cassie.  I had the pity of everyone in Church Hill, but I didn’t want or need pity.  I just needed companionship.  Dominic would give that to me.  I was sure of that.

“Enough about my complicated life.”  I waved a hand as if to clear the air.  “Tell me about your store.  I’ve been waiting for it to open.  It seems like it’s taking forever.”

“Tell me about it.”  He rolled his eyes.  “Building a new store is a lot more complicated than I ever imagined.  There are so many hoops to jump through.  But, thankfully, I have corporate to step in when I need them.  They get things done.  We’re working on the finishing touches now.  You know, all the interior stuff.  I’m looking at opening, hopefully, in about two to three weeks.  I have a management staff, and we start hiring for the regular positions next week.  Know anyone who needs a job?”

“As a matter of fact, Cassie said her friend was thinking about looking for a new job.  I’ll send her your way.”

“On a more personal note, I’d like to give you my address and phone number,” he said.  “And maybe get yours in return?”  He pulled a business card out of his pocket while he asked the waitress for a pen.  On the back he wrote his address and phone number.  “I live in Church Hill,” he said as he handed me the card.

I looked at his angular handwriting and then at his handsome face.  “You live two blocks away from me and Michael.”

His beautiful smile graced his features again.  “Really?  That’s great.  You’ll have to introduce me to your family.  If that’s okay of course.  I can’t believe it.  We’re neighbors…in a sense.”

When the waitress laid the bill on the table, he picked it up.  He laid down the money for the bill and a tip.  Then he stood and, always the gentleman, offered me a hand.  I accepted graciously, and allowed him to help me to my feet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chapter 3 (part 1)

We held each other for a short eternity, and when he set me on my feet again, I wasn’t sure I could stand.  I took a small step to steady myself.  “What are you doing in Summerville?” I asked, my voice shaking slightly with emotion.

“I was doing some research, and I found this place.”

“Research for what?”

“A couple things.  The retail chain I work for offered me a new store of my own, so I started looking for good areas.  Summerville seemed like the perfect place.”

“I don’t get it.  Why would you pick a small town like this?  It’s not exactly big chain friendly.”

“Book stores do well anywhere.”

“Book stores?  You mean Between the Lines?  That’s your store?”  I was surprised.  That store was due to open in about a month.  I was anticipating its grand opening.

“Yup.  That’s my store.  I think it’ll do well in this area.”  He seemed very confident, almost cocky.  But I guess he had a right to be.  After all, he had supposedly hand-picked the location for this latest addition to the nation-wide chain.

“Yeah, but you were always the beachy, blue-seas type.  And we’re far away from the ocean.  What’s the other reason?”  I was very interested in why this beach-bum hunk would want to settle in a town nestled in the middle of the Pennsylvania mountains.  The only water around here was lakes and streams.

“I’ve out-grown my beach-bum phase,” he said as if he was reading my mind.  “There’s good fishing, hiking, and skiing here.  If I don’t get away from the beach, I’ll never grow up.   And I need to grow up.  Being the general manager of a store like Between the Lines is a huge thing.  I don’t want my care-free lifestyle screwing that up for me.”

“So you’re done with the party life?  Are you sure that’s what you want?”  When I had known him, he partied every hour he was awake.  That was one reason why we had drifted apart.  I was grounded and he wasn’t.

“Yeah.  You can only party for so long before it catches up with you.  I started to notice that I was getting older, but the bar crowd was staying the same age.  It made me think that maybe I needed to re-evaluate my life.”  He shrugged.  It seemed that he was still trying to get over this drastic change.  

Trying to change the subject, or at least soften it up a bit, I asked if he wanted to get some coffee and catch up.  I knew a great little café down the street that had good food and even better coffee.

I replaced the Byron book I had been planning to buy, and led the way down the busy street to the café.  One time Dominic tried to take my hand, but I told him no.  As much as I craved his touch, it was inappropriate. 

We sat at an outside table and ordered our drinks and sandwiches.  “I still don’t understand why you came to a place like this.  Partying aside, it’s cold here.  We have snow on the ground practically all winter,” I said.

“Like I said.  I’ve grown up.  I’ve also developed a passion for skiing.  I love the seasons, though, so farther north wouldn’t suit me.”  He smiled at me with that grin that could melt the iciest of hearts.  “Now I have another great reason to stay.”

“Really.”  I gave him a curious look.  “And what might that be?”  I asked, though I had a pretty good idea what the answer was.  I just wanted to hear him say it.

“Do you really have to ask?”  

I smiled at him.  “I don’t think so, but why don’t you tell me anyway.  Just to be sure.”  

His smile broadened and a blush came to his cheeks, but he reached across the table and took my hand in his.  “You’re the reason.  You know that.  I thought I’d never see you again, Ella.  I have longed for this moment for what seems like an eternity.  Now that I know you’re here, I’ll never leave.”

While I had known I was his reason to stay, I never thought his feelings would still run so deep.  It was obvious that the man was still in love with me.  Now I had the horrible task of breaking his heart.  

“Dominic,” I squeezed his hand and looked directly into his soft green eyes as I spoke his name for the first time in so many years.  “I’m married.  I have a ten-year-old daughter.”   I didn’t want to tell him that he couldn’t just walk back into my life after all those years because it would hurt him.  And it would be a lie.  He could come back to me anytime.  I’d take him one way or another.  Just to be near him I felt like a void in my soul had been filled. 

“I figured that,” he said with a shrug.  “But just being near you again is enough.  Even if we’re just friends.  I need your presence in my life, Ella.”

“You never cease to amaze me Dominic.  You show up in Summerville, PA claiming to be opening a book store…”

“I am opening a book store,” he cut in.

“That’s not my point.  I haven’t seen you in over fifteen years.  And yet you sit here telling me that you can’t live without me.  What about before, Dominic?  What about the effort you stopped putting into our relationship?  I may have walked away, but you can’t say I didn’t try.”  

He sat there quietly.  I allowed him time for the words to sink in.  “I deserve that,” he said with sullen conviction.  “You’re right.  I didn’t try very hard at the end.  But I was young and stupid.  All I wanted to do was party, and I never thought about the consequences.”

I nodded slightly in agreement.  “What happened that night, Dominic? What happened that night you never went home?”  The pain of our last night together was coming back, and I didn’t want to feel it.  I tried to push it back down, but it wouldn’t go and I could feel the tears stinging my eyes.  However difficult it was, I kept my gaze on his, determined to be strong in the face of my old pain.

“I was caught,” he said simply.  “The cops pulled me over just before Bridgewater.  I had a good bit of weed and coke on me.”  He tried to shrug it off.  “I spent some time in jail, of course, but I had a good lawyer.  He got me off on technicalities over the paperwork.”

“You never called.”  I tried to hide the hurt in my voice, but I don’t think I was successful.  “I never knew what happened to you.  No one told me.  They just told me to forget about you.  I found out what happened by reading the paper, Dominic.”  Tears flowed freely down my cheeks.

“I’m sorry, Ella.”  He scooted his chair around so he was sitting next to me, and held both my hands in a firm, steadying grip.  “I thought that was best for you.  Really.  I didn’t know how long I’d be locked up.”  He brushed the tears from my cheeks.  “I’m so sorry.  I know now that I was wrong.  And I know I’m too late, but please believe me, Ella.  I loved you.  I thought I was doing what was best for you under the circumstances.”  He dropped his head to face his lap and was quiet for a minute.  “I loved you, Ella.”  A shuddering breath escaped him.  Then he met my eyes again, tears falling freely from the green depths of his.  “I love you still.”

It was my turn to hang my head.  So many thoughts and emotions were swirling through my mind and body.  I shook my head and said, “I’m married.  I have a daughter.”  I took my hands from his and wiped my face.  “A year ago I thought my world was going to crash and burn.  But I survived.  We survived.  All of us.  Michael and Allison and I.  Life isn’t what it used to be, but we survived.”  I looked up at Dominic.  “And now you come waltzing back into my life, and I feel it up-ending all over again.”

“What are you talking about?  What happened a year ago?”  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chapter 2

One Year Later

Spring was finally starting to push winter out.  I had been waiting for this change of seasons for what seemed like ages.  Now the bite was gone from the air, the breeze carried a warm scent and the trees were starting to bud.

I had been working as the manager of the IT department for the largest bank in the area for a few months.  Just after our first Christmas and New Year with our new life I was offered the position in the heart of Summerville.  It came with a raise that almost doubled my current salary, and a company car.  (That was nice because it kept the miles and maintenance down on my own car.)  There was one stipulation to me taking the job.  Cassie came with me.  She knew how I worked, and we made a good team.  The bank accepted the condition.

It was because of this new job that I was walking down Summit Street in Summerville on that fateful Thursday afternoon.  I had left work early, and I decided to spend the early spring day shopping the town’s high-end boutiques.  Sometimes it just feels good to splurge a little.  Summit Street was Summerville’s answer to Rodeo Drive.

There was a new song on the air waves that reminded me a bit of my earlier life.  Before the accident, before Allison was born, before I had ever met James.  The voice singing the tune was deep and gravelly.  The words caused my mind to reminisce.  

That song was stuck in my head this particular day. 

I came out of a shop after purchasing a cute shirt and skirt for Allison, and as I entered the flow of people on the sidewalk, a familiar scent teased my nostrils.  I sniffed the air lightly.  Then, not even realizing what I was doing, I turned and followed my nose down the street.  

I never lost the scent.  It was like a cartoon where one character is led to something, usually a trap, by following the aroma of food.  Only I was following the scent of a man.

Just past the used-book store, the smell disappeared.  I stopped and turned in a circle, looking for something I wasn’t sure I would recognize.  Then the used book store caught my eye.

I rushed to the door and pushed it open.  As I entered, the musky smell of the old books flooded my senses.  Mingling with that smell was my luring scent.  The man had entered this store.  

It was perfect.  If I had been following the man from my past, he would have entered this shop.  He wouldn’t have been able to resist the words written so long ago.  They would have pulled him in here with the mysterious power they had always held over him.

But it was impossible that I could be following that particular man.  I was in central Pennsylvania, and he was in California.  Well, that was the last place I knew him to be.  (Although that was more than fifteen years ago.)

I began to browse the shelves.  I enjoyed reading, so I thought I might buy myself an old classic while I was in here.  As I drifted through the upper levels of the four-story shop, my original motivation for coming here escaped me.  Eventually I came to the Attic, as a sign designated the fourth floor.  

This was where the really old books were.  Most of the books on the shelves were falling apart.  A sign posted at the door read:  please do not handle the books unless you are a serious buyer.    

A strange sensation overcame me in this room.  It was an anxious feeling, yet I felt totally at ease at the same time.  Objects with history always seem to have this sort of effect on me.  But it wasn’t just the books.  I could sense someone else in the room.  Then, as I milled through the shelves, I smelled him.

The scent I had followed down the street and into this store was now here with me.  My senses heightened, and I slowly crept past the rows of book-covered shelves toward the back of the room.  I stopped at the second to last row and entered, feigning interest in the books.  

The man with the familiar aroma was on the other side of the shelf.  I could smell him as I stood there taking in the perfumed air deeply through my nose.  I allowed the scent to take me back to a time when life wasn’t so complicated.  

I could see his handsome face with the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea in the background.  I closed my eyes as I fell deeper into the memory.  The warmth engulfed me.  

I don’t know how long I stood there like that, but a sharpening of the man’s scent brought me back.  I opened my eyes to find him standing there gazing down at me with sea-green eyes.  His thick brown hair was wind-blown, his skin sun-kissed.  

I couldn’t look away from that beautiful face.  I had dreamt about this man.  He haunted me in my sleep.

My jaw must have dropped, though I can’t be sure.  My entire body went numb, and I couldn’t speak.  

A slow smile spread across his face.  My God, he was beautiful when he smiled.  Then again, he was beautiful before he smiled, too.  His eyes gleamed in the sunlight slanting through the windows.  It was like looking into the depths of the sea, and I was drowning without ever jumping in.

“Lord Byron,” he said, indicating the book I held.  “I like his style.  But you seem more like a Poe fan than Byron.”

His deep voice flooded my system, almost sending me into overload.  I practically melted at the sensual tone resonating from his beautiful mouth.  My mouth actually started to water as I gazed up at him.

He chuckled at my paralysis, sending me further into my stupefied state.

“Hey.  You OK?”

I didn’t respond.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t move.  I was not OK.

He asked again, this time gently grabbing my upper left arm with his warm, masculine strength.  His eyes held genuine concern.

And it was that tender touch that broke the spell, had me dropping everything I held and throwing my arms around his neck.  I lost myself in his wonderfully strong and gentle embrace.  Burying my face against his neck I inhaled deeply and allowed his essence to flood my system once again.  Tears filled my eyes, and I held him tighter as he lifted me off my feet and squeezed his soul into me.

“Oh, Ella, I’ve missed you so much,” he breathed in my ear.

“I missed you, too,” I whispered.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chapter 1 (2nd half). . .

          We walked briskly down a corridor and entered through a door labeled Emergency Surgery.  My heart sank at the sight of the sign.

Dr. Sanchez met us on the other side of the door.  “Mrs. Boothe, please have a seat.”

I sat in the chair he indicated.  He sat in the chair next to me and turned to face me.  Cassie sat on my other side and held my hand in hers.

He looked me directly in the eyes.  “Mrs. Boothe, your husband and daughter were in a very bad accident.  They were hit at high speed by several cars.  Their car rolled.”  I squeezed Cassie’s hand.  “Your daughter suffered a broken arm and a minor concussion, along with a few scrapes and bruises.  She is fine and will recover with no long-term damage.”  Here he paused and looked at Cassie before meeting my eyes again.  “Your husband was not so lucky.  Both of his legs and one arm were broken.  He had several broken ribs which punctured his left lung.  He also suffered severe head injuries and some internal bleeding.  We need to helicopter him to a shock trauma unit.  He is being prepped now.  You may see him before he leaves, but I need to warn you that he is unconscious and disfigured.  I recommend that your friend stay here and two nurses escort you to see him.”

I nodded in agreement as Cassie helped me stand on my wobbly legs.  The nurses came, each taking a hand, and escorted me to where Michael lay on the stretcher awaiting the helicopter. 

Something died inside me when I saw him.  My legs no longer supported my weight, and I could feel the nurses holding me up as they guided me to my husband’s side.

I didn’t recognize him.  If I hadn’t been told that the body in front of me was Michael Boothe, I never would have known.  His sandy hair was matted and caked with blood.  The handsome face that I knew was swollen with reddish-purple welts, and covered with deep cuts and lacerations.  Both of his eyes were swollen shut to the point that it was hard to believe there were eyes there at all.  His lower lip was torn and a tube came out of his mouth and attached to a respirator.  

But the worst of it all was the left side of his head.  As I got closer, I saw it had been shaved and a temporary-looking drain came out of a flat area about two square inches in size.  That was when I knew my life would never be the same.

I was convinced he would die.  If he didn’t, then surely he would be as good as dead.  An injury like that must have caused a tremendous amount of brain damage.  And that wasn’t his only head injury.

The staff wouldn’t let me touch him, so I leaned as close as I dared and whispered, “I love you, Michael.  Don’t you leave me.  I need you.  I love you.”  

With tears streaming down my face, I watched as they wheeled the man around whom I had woven my life out to the waiting helicopter.  It felt as if they were slowly pulling the last vital thread of my being away from me.

We had a nurse come to our home every day to help me with the medical procedures that were necessary to keep Michael healthy and free from infection.  Drains had to be cleaned, dressings changed, and small amounts of physical therapy performed.  He was not on life support, I never would have allowed that, but he was very high-maintenance.

On top of him I had to deal with Allison.  Her cast was due to come off in one week, but we were still struggling with her short-term memory.  Though it was slowly coming back, the concussion had done its damage.  She was a trooper, though.  She tried so very hard to regain what she had lost.  I think it was her young age that helped her deal with it as well as she did.

Watching her father go through the pain and suffering while I did my best to help them both took a toll on her.  She knew her Daddy would never be the same.  That he would be confined to a wheelchair and on medications for the rest of his life.  She did her best to help me.

I lived like that—an invalid husband and an emotionally scarred daughter—for a year.  Then something happened that tilted my new life on its side…again.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Here I go. . .

After asking you, my readers, if you would like me to start posting my novel-in-progress on this blog I got only a few responses.  Those responses were unanimous, though:  Post it!

So this is my kick-off post.  While 500 words is a reasonable length for a blog post, I found that it seems to fall a bit short for my purposes.  I am going to stick to it as best I can, though.  However, because the small word count will leave readers hanging on for the next entry--definitely a good thing--and cuts the story in inconvenient places, I am going to post more than twice weekly.  If I don't, you'll have to go back to the previous post to refresh your memory about where it left off.  Looking at it this way, I will try to get three post out every week:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

This first one will begin with what you've already read with a bit added at the end.  So here it is. . .

Church Hill

Chapter 1

I received the call around eleven o’clock that Sunday morning.  I had to work that day because we were implementing a new program into the computer system at the bank I worked for.  The caller-ID read Church Hill Hosp and the phone number listed below.  I gave a questioning look to the small team working with me before answering.

“Hello.  Church Hill Bank and Trust, how may I help you?”

A man’s soothing voice came through the line.  “May I speak with Mrs. Boothe, please?”

“This is she,” I said as I gave another questioning look to my team.

“Mrs. Boothe, I’m Dr. Sanchez at Church Hill Hospital.  I’m afraid your husband and daughter have been in an auto accident.  I’ll need you come to the hospital.”

I collapsed into a chair, the telephone receiver I held in my hand started to slide from my grip.  I tried to ask the doctor how bad they were, but I couldn’t speak.  My jaw moved up and down, but my lips and tongue were immobile and my throat made no sound.  

Cassie, my assistant, took the phone from my hand.  “Hello?”

“Mrs. Boothe?”

“This is her assistant.  May I help you?”

“This is Dr. Sanchez at Church Hill Hospital.  I need Mrs. Boothe to come to the hospital right away.  Her family has been in an accident.”

“Oh my God.”  Cassie fumbled a bit, but quickly became the strong and steady assistant I needed her to be.  “Where do I bring her?”

“The ER.  I’ll be waiting.  Just tell the nurse at the desk you’re there to see me.  They will know the situation.”

“We’ll be there in ten minutes.”  Cassie hung up the phone and grabbed her coat.  Then she helped me to my feet and held my coat so I could just slip it on.

I don’t remember the ride to the hospital.  It seemed like hours, though it couldn’t have been more than ten minutes.  Cassie kept reassuring me that everything was going to be OK, but I don’t think I believed her.  How could I?  The doctor hadn’t said they were alright.  He just said to come right away.  And I had a terrible feeling that I was losing one or both of them.

Cassie threw her keys to the valet at the ER entrance and pulled me through the automatic doors.  We approached the front desk where an overweight nurse sat filling out paper-work.  She looked up at us.

“Can I help you?”  Her tone was a little irritated, as if she was tired of dealing with people’s “emergencies.”

“We’re here to see Dr. Sanchez,” Cassie demanded.  “He’s expecting us.  Last name’s Boothe.”

The nurse seemed to understand the urgency.  She stood and came around the desk.  “Of course.  Follow me.”  She swiped her ID card and the doors opened to admit us into the ER.