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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 7

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 7

Holden arrived back at Addison’s and looked around.  He hadn't been able to stop thinking about Kari.  He didn't know if he should attribute it to the fact that he hadn't been out on a date for almost a year now, or if there was some other reason.  There had been a zing between them when they touched.  He had purposely left his hand in place a moment or two longer this time to test the theory, but as to why that was he wasn't sure.  He had to do something that would put his thoughts back in order.  The house, although in decent shape, could always use some work.  He needed another project to keep him busy and his thoughts far away this afternoon.  Problem was that nothing was jumping up and volunteering itself to be done.  It hadn't taken him long to chop some wood after Addy left for work, but that was done.  He couldn’t just sit around the house like Addy would have liked.  No matter what he did she would be upset, a silent brooding, about all the work he had done.  As he let himself in the backdoor he entertained the idea of sitting down and writing a piece, but just as fast as he had thought it he knew he wasn't ready to write anything down no matter what his editor had to say.
No, he needed something to keep his mind and body occupied, busy, far away from the pain and the loss he had experienced and the pleasure that could be Kari.  Definitely the pleasure that could be Kari, at least until he figured it out.  He wasn’t sure how long he could run from everything but until they caught him he’d just keep running.  He’d painted Addy’s house, inside and out over the last couple of weeks and chopped wood this morning.  In fact he had chopped so much he had had enough to take a truckload over to the Cortez’s.  That was a good thing in a couple of ways.  It meant that Addy wouldn’t really know how much he had chopped when she got home today.  Well at least not until Lora talked with her.  And they both had a good start for winter.  She didn’t rely on the wood burning stove all winter but right at the start and end of it she used it daily.  He’d already cleaned the gutters and weather-stripped the windows.  That had been in the first few weeks when getting up and moving had been harder than it was now.  It had been a trick on crutches and a cane but he had managed.  If he was ever going back out in the field as an imbedded journalist, he wanted to be back in shape.  He had gotten the better assignments and seen more because he had been in top notch shape and the guys respected that.  Scratching his head he looked around the kitchen.  The clock said it was just about noon, but he wasn’t hungry yet.
Walking over to the frig he pulled out a can of soda and popped the top.  As the sound of the fizz escaping filled the air he looked out the window toward the backyard.  It was then that it hit him.  The flowerbeds needed to be mulched in for the winter, leaves raked and here he was just itching to do it.  He'd be sore tomorrow but happy, so he set down the soda can on the counter and walked out the backdoor towards the shed in the back with as much of a spring in his step as he could muster.  So far he had avoided dealing with all those things that had happened to him and for now he still wouldn’t have to confront the remorse of being one of the survivors instead of one of the ones that had died.
Addison looked at her watch and then at her class.  She had been a teacher at this school for the last eight years.  For the last three years she had felt especially lucky.  Three years ago, when Mia turned five, she had started coming to school with her.  It was the perfect arrangement for the both of them.  Addison loved what she did and they both loved being able to be so close to each other.  It was important to her to be part of her child’s life and to be close to her but she also had to pay the bills.  This job came close to meeting all those needs.  The money was sometimes thin but the time with Mia was priceless.
Mia’s father had disappeared from their lives before Mia could remember him.  The jerk just up and left when he found out Addy was pregnant.  If he didn’t want anything to do with their child she didn’t want anything to do with him, so she never looked for him or tried to track him down.  For the entire second year of her life Mia had asked for Daddy not really knowing what she was asking for.  For Addy it had been hard.  At first she hadn’t told Holden anything about Mia's father though she knew none of it was her fault.  It wasn't until a year after Mia was born that Holden had come for a longer visit, he had sat down with her and had a good long talk about what had happened and why she hadn’t come right to him for help.  It had been a long talk with tears and all, but she knew then and there she should have come clean to begin with to him.  It had felt good.  From that moment on Holden had become an essential part of their lives, coming back when he could and being an important part of Mia’s life, a substitute father.  He even had helped with the bills to begin with.  Daycare wasn't cheep but now that Mia was in school Holden hadn't needed to give them financial support.  He still tried, but Addy steadfastly refused. 
After Addison had let Holden back into her life, she had let Mia get to know her uncle, and she had never looked back.  Holden had done what any good man would do, love that kid like his own, being a super-uncle.  The connection that had developed between them had helped all of them.  Him to balance the things he saw when he worked and her to have someone who was a father figure.  It helped him approach his job with fresh eyes and a spirit that had made him who he was.  He had become Uncle Den to Mia and she had become Me-Me to him.  When Mia had started to talk she hadn’t been able to call him Holden, and Den was close enough for all of them.  It had never changed.  Addison smiled as she thought about why Holden had started calling Mia Me-Me.  It was the end of her terrible twos and the beginning of her thrilling threes.  Everything was Me-Me, hence he had started calling her Me-Me and it stuck.  Mia missed him desperately when he was gone but he would always call when he could and they would talk incessantly for hours, mostly about the little things important to Mia.
Sometimes Addison felt like she was using him.  He had spent so much time with her and Mia that it seemed almost impossible for him to start his own life, have his own kids.  Normally she worried about him when he was out on assignment until he showed up healthy and whole, and he always showed up heathy and whole.  This time had been different.  Whatever he had been through had affected him so deeply and more than she had ever seen before.  When she first saw him she would have described him as broken and beaten down.  The worrying part had been the fact that a psychologist phone call had never preceded a visit from him before.  She was beginning to see the spark of the old Holden with each passing day she had hoped they could help him heal.  Holden just yesterday had talked about change, about putting down roots.  Roots had never been in his plans before.  Whatever happened it must have been big.  She recognized avoidance when she saw it, and he was doing it big time.
The murmur in her class increased a decibel or two and Addison was brought quickly back to the present.  They were supposed to be writing.  It was hard to keep eight and nine year olds quiet while they wrote a letter to their pen pals.  They were too eager to share what they were writing with their friends here.  She started walking about the room again and checking on their progress, helping them with their spelling, and in general reminding them to capitalize where they had forgotten to do so and uncapitalize when necessary.  
It was nearly noon and she was ready to take them to lunch and they were ready to go.  It had been a very busy morning.  She glanced in the direction of her phone.  Each and every day at noon she had wanted to call Holden to see what he was doing but she was afraid to.  She didn’t want to sound as if she was a worrier or as if she was harping on him to just sit around and recuperate like he was supposed to be doing.  Funny thing was that’s exactly what she wanted to do though.  After all he was her brother, but she wasn’t his mother.
“Mrs. Westlock, I don’t know what else to write,” one of her students blurted out without waiting for her to get there and after he raised his hand.  He hadn’t waited to speak but that was normal for this bunch.  By the time she brainstormed some new ideas with him she looked at the clock.  It was finally time to go to lunch.  She lined them up and took all her wigglers down to the lunchroom, or gym that served as a lunchroom right now.  Lunch was of course the most exciting part of each and every day because recess was soon to follow.  She stood there and watched them go in the cafeteria doors and waited for the next class to come in.  She watched as Cindy’s class bounced in right behind hers.  Addison often waited just so she could give a quick wave to Mia who was in Cindy’s class.  
“Daniel, head on up to the nurse’s office,” Cindy watched him lope off as the rest of her class lined up behind Addy’s class.  All were standing, or wiggling really, prepared to take the plates of whatever the mystery food was today.  Some days were better than others but most of the time it could be just about anything.  Daniel happily left the line and smiled as he galloped and twirled his way out of the cafeteria doors toward the nurse’s office.  “He’s having a good day.  He’s pretending to be a horse,” she leaned over and told Addison.
“I can tell,” it made Addison smile placing one finger on top of her lips to hold in the laugh that wanted to come out.  As Addison turned to look at the line Mia waved ‘Hi’ to her mother.  This year Mia and Daniel were again in the same class.  For some reason, on the first day of kindergarten, Mia had taken a liking to Daniel.  They had become best of friends quickly and now spent a lot of time together when Holden wasn’t in town.  Holden spent time with both of them when he was in town.  Daniel was a good distraction for Mia when Holden left.  Holden was a good distraction for Daniel and his family when he was here.  In fact Mia and Holden had helped to paint the Cortez house last spring.  It really hadn’t been Holden’s idea of a good time with two seven year olds but with a little pleading from Mia he had gotten on board quickly.  One day they had both come home armed with smiles.  It was the only thing Addison could see, the rest of them had been covered from head to toe with paint.  She was still unclear of how much paint had gotten on the house and how much had gotten on them.  From what she had discovered with a quick phone call, Daniel and his brother were covered as well.
“How’s Holden doing?” Cindy asked as they walked out of the cafeteria and back towards their classrooms to eat their own lunch.
“He hasn’t opened up about anything yet if that’s what you’re asking.  Not that I really expect him to but I didn't known what to expect after I got that phone call,” and they went back into Addison’s classroom.  Sitting down at the back table she pulled out her sandwich from the frig and sat it on the table.  
“I don’t remember you saying that he ever talked about his work,” Cindy put her hand out as Addison reached back into the frig for her food.
“No he doesn’t.  When I’ve asked in the past he just tells me its all in the papers for everyone to read.  This time he was different though.  He’s never been this restless before,” she handed Cindy her lunch from the frig as well.  
“How so?” Cindy knew the only thing she could do for her friend was to listen.   Up until now Addy hadn't said much but she knew Addison was worried this time, really worried.
“He hasn’t stopped to rest, to,” and Addison was looking off in the distance, “think.  In fact he just hasn’t stopped moving except to collapse at night to sleep.  It didn't matter how bad he was hurt.  Don't you remember me telling you about him doing the weatherstripping on the doors and windows while he was on the crutches?" Cindy just nodded, "He's avoiding it big time and I'm not sure that is healthy.”
“He will talk when he’s ready.  From what you shared with me after that doctor called, whatever happened to him was pretty bad,” Cindy unpacked her lunch.  “Did that doctor give you any clues?”
“No, not one even when I tried to get him to tell me more by asking what kind of medical treatments he would need once he got here.  He said the same thing you did.  He’ll tell you in his own time if he wants,” Addison took a bite of her sandwich.
“Then let him be.”
“Easier said than done,” she smiled, “and I don’t know if the house can take much more of his tinkering.”
“Hey, it may be therapeutic for him,” at that moment the classroom door flew open and in popped Daniel.
“The nurse isn’t there right now,” he said in almost a whine.  He wanted to be done so he could go and play.  Cindy got up and walked to the door.  
“Let’s go get you fed my boy,” and she patted him on the head as they both walked out leaving Addison to think about Holden.  Holden, her brother, who had told her just last night that he was wanting to make a change.
Kari got back to the office just before the lunch.  She had made two more home  visits to a couple of very nice elderly couples.  Both had been married for over forty years and it was sweet the way they had treated each other.  It made her a little melancholy about her life.  She was supposed to have had that, and now she still had a hard time thinking of her life without him.  Arguing with no one in particular, she stated the obvious, she could still have that life.  Many of their friends had even encouraged her to start looking for it again.  
Slamming the car door brought her back to reality and her job.  These visits had been fast and easy.  It seemed that the last case manager had taken the time to set up the services needed before they left.  The job had been empty for about four months but nothing had lapsed too bad and for that she was happy.  After lunch she would do one more visit and then Kari planned to spend the rest of the afternoon going over the files.  She would then set up training sessions for those who dealt with Daniel.  He was the one who most needed her attention right now.  It would be a busy few weeks just getting to know everyone that dealt with him.  The list was a long one.  On the top of her list for training was the school staff for Daniel and his feeding tube again.  It should be done once a year and the lack of a case manager had allowed that to slip.  That was only one of the things that needed to be done for them, among the various others were updating the medications he took.  Lora, his mother, had said that they had been trained a little over a year ago.  The last year she had gone in and instructed the teachers on how to deal with it, and although this was good, trainings like this should be done yearly and by medical staff.  Kari just wanted to do a follow up to make sure all was going okay and that no one there had any questions.  They were lucky to have a medical facility in town that could take care of Daniel most of the time and that hired a case manager, so she planned on giving them their monies worth.
Pulling her car into the lot it looked a lot calmer than it had earlier.  There were only a few cars and a couple of SUV’s in the lot.  Kari had to believe that most of these vehicles belonged to the staff.  Looking at her watch Kari knew the reason for the lack of business, it was lunchtime.  She put her car in park and was about to get out when she saw Jordan coming out of the front door and locking up.  When Jordan turned she spotted Kari in her car and waved as she walked into the parking lot.  She walked up to the car as Kari got out and closed the door.
“Hey come join me for lunch.  I think I’ve earned a good meal today,” she didn’t wait for Kari to say anything or even to choose to follow not.  She walked on just expecting Kari to be there, “I’m buying!”
“If it’s been that hard of a morning then maybe I should be buying you lunch,” Kari said as she slung her bag over her shoulder so she could double step it and follow. All the time amazed at Jordan’s continuously sunny attitude.
“Let’s discuss that once we get the bill,” and then as if it suddenly hit her she stopped, turned and looked straight at Kari, “Hey, how’d your visits go today?”
“Better than expected.  The last case manager must have been good,” Kari had finally caught up and they started to walk again.  She noticed that they were headed for the same small cafe she had eaten in last night, “Does everyone eat here?”

“Only the people who want good food.  It is hands down the best place in town for home cooking,” and with that said they turned and walked up the path to the front door, “and to answer your sort of question, yes she was.  Jamie was great and she would have stayed except her mom was having issues so she left rather quickly but Doc McCoy must have told you that.”  The colorful latticework framing the corners of the porch and highlighting the door of this Victorian house give this place a bright cheery look.  Something she hadn't noticed last night.  It had looked like a handy place to eat last night, but on closer inspection today it looked warm, inviting, and lively.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Intercession - Learn about the author

Annay Dawson was born in a small town in Iowa with a very large imagination. Not sure how to contain it she started writing. Instead of pursuing a writing career decided to go into teaching and use that same imagination to inspire children to learn. Over the years the need to write down the stories twirling around in her head motivated her to write her first novel. Once the first one was out the others followed quickly. She now lives a ‘double life’, teaching by day and writing by night.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 6

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 6

Kari finished her hike and went home for a shower and change of clothes.  She still made it to the clinic before the rest of the staff.  She had decided to stop in at the clinic before she went out to her first home visit just to make sure that she had done all her research.  She wanted to make a good impression. 
By the time Kari was ready to leave the waiting room was full and all the doctors were busy in the examining rooms.  Even Jordan was busy on the phone making more appointments as she walked through, but Jordan still managed a smile and wave when Kari passed by.  Since the hike this morning the thoughts of Holden Parker had been locked securely in the back of her mind.  All the thoughts of the man's amazing body that looked like it had been sculpted from stone.  Not that she could see much in detail because of the shadows.  And even though she wasn't thinking about it she could tell that his muscles were well used and he wasn’t ashamed of them.  He could certainly give Michael Angelo's David a run for his money.  If she hadn’t turned around fast after his warning she would have bet that she would have been treated to looking at the rest of his impression of the statue David.  None of that explained what she felt when he had touched her.  It felt as if she had been shaken to her very soul; made aware of him on some level she still had trouble comprehending.  
He must have felt it as well because he had quickly looked at his hands before he moved back and making sure not to get too close again.  It was at that point she knew she hadn’t imagined it.  She had gone over each step in the conversation knowing that he had stayed back at first only to make sure she was comfortable.  He must have sensed how wary she was of him and he had made sure to not get to close.  The only exception was to catch her as she tried to back away.  It was then that like a clumsy elephant she had tried to retreat unsuccessfully and began to tumble over her own feet.  Losing her footing she would have hit the ground unceremoniously on her rear but before she could fall he quickly moved in steadying her and then, almost as quickly, he was right back out of her space but not before the electricity zinged through them.
The one thing she couldn’t get out of her head though was his eyes.  It sounded funny to even her ears when she said it.  They were safe, warm eyes that instilled trust even though everything she had practiced about stranger danger over the years made her pretty sure she shouldn't trust him at all.  Keri stopped and moved to the side as another three people walked into the clinic before she could get out.  A thought drifted through her head; maybe it was he she shouldn’t trust.
“Hey Kari,” Jordan hung up the phone.  “Do you need a cup of coffee for the road?”
“Thanks,” and Kari wasn’t sure how she had done it but she was around and out with a to-go cup in hand.  “Can you use any help before I go?” Kari took a sip of the coffee welcoming the caffeine after the night of sleep she didn’t get.  The hike had helped and not helped all at the same time and she still had to figure what had exactly happened with the man she had just met.  The next sip she used to wash away as many of the thoughts of Holden as she could.
“No, got it under control,” and Jordan was back behind the counter as quickly as she had come out.  Kari looked down at her files and nearly jumped when Jordan flew back around dropping her hand on Kari’s shoulder, “Oh and by the way Dr. McCoy won’t be back for two weeks because he’s having so much fun with the new baby,” she smiled.  “His words, not mine!” and she was gone again.  Kari smiled at that thought and walked out the door.  That would keep this place hopping being one doctor short.
Kari got in her car and started to make her way out to the Cortez’s house.  She was still nervous.  GPS got rid of one worry at least.  She would get to know this town soon, but she didn't know it well enough right now to do her job.  Now all she needed to worry about was making a good impression.  Turning down a tree lined street she took a moment to realize how beautiful this time of year really was.  Each leaf contained the potential to become the most gorgeous pallet of colors.  Some of them would be lost before the change and fall hopelessly to the ground without reaching their full potential.  At that thought Kari felt saddened.  She wondered what her fall colors would have been. it should be the brilliant reds and gold’s of fall not the dull browns of leaves that had fallen missing the most exciting part of life.  Kari shook the thoughts from her head and refocused on the road.
The Cortez family lived on the edge of town in an older, smaller house.  Upon arrival Kari noticed an late model pick-up parked alongside the curb.  Pulling into the driveway she noticed that the house must be closer to one hundred years old.  She could tell that they cared for it as best as they could with everything else on their plate.  It had been recently painted and the porch had been repaired.  It still looked like it could use some work but most importantly, it looked like home.  
Walking up to the door she noticed there was no fence around the place.  It was easy to get a good look at the front and most of the back yard.  There were bikes and toys in the backyard, which meant that Daniel was not an only child, something that wasn’t in his case file but information she needed.  Potted plants lined the porch and wind chimes sweetly sang.  This family had the most important piece of any puzzle.  They had love, and she smiled outwardly.  Inwardly she wondered if she would ever find this happiness.  
Remembering why she was here she realized that happiness was fragile.  Raising her hand to knock she was shocked and surprised when the door swung open and out stepped the man she had run into early this morning, Holden Parker.  Like earlier he nearly knocked her over, except literally this time.  Kari missed a step as she tried to back out of the way.  Like the gentleman he had been earlier, he reached out and caught her again with the same electric-like results only this time he didn't let go quite as fast.  She looked, with both surprise and fear, at where his hand connected to her arm.  
“Well how about this,” his smile was mind blowing, “I get the pleasure of catching Kari Jackson twice today,” and as he had done before he released her when he knew she wouldn’t fall over.  He moved slowly, deliberately around her at the same time turning to look at Mrs. Cortez, “Let me know if you need anything else will you Lora,” and he smiled, boy did he smile.  He had smiled this morning but she hadn't gotten the full measure of it.  Kari turned a bit to watch him as he nonchalantly spoke to Lora and moved past her.  
"I hope I get a chance to catch you again," and he winked, he couldn't help it.  She smelled so good, like wildflowers.  He tried not to stare as he went down the three steps and over to the truck quicker than she could recover.  She was still looking at him and didn't that say lots.  
“Ms. Jackson?” Mrs. Cortez turned her attention toward Kari as the door to the truck closed and the engine started.
“Yes,” and she held out her hand.  She had barely recovered from her contact with Holden again.  From her second encounter though she could confirm her earlier conclusion that he seemed to be as good of a man as she had suspected.  This time she had some evidence to support it.
“Come on in,” Mrs. Cortez shook her hand and then moved out of the way so that she could come inside.  “I take it you know Holden.”
“No, not really, just met him this morning when I went hiking,” and she walked into a living room that had two worn and tattered tan and brown love seats.  It was obvious that all their extra cash went directly to help their son Daniel.
“He just shows up and fixes things when we don’t have time to. Don’t know where he finds the time or energy.  I also don’t know what Neal and I would do without his help at times.  He painted the house for us just last spring and he was bringing us a load of wood he chopped up this morning to help us through the winter.  With Neal working two jobs and the boys in school and me taking on odd jobs here and there, he’s been nothing but good to us.  Please sit.”  Kari sat on the nearest couch.  
“Community support is so important,” Kari was still trying to process what she was learning about Holden.    What did he do for a living?  How did he have all this time to help others?  Why in the world would he be swimming in such cold water on an already cool morning?  Also how did he have time to chop a truckload of wood this morning?
“Can I get you a cup of coffee?” Kari was shaken back to reality and noticed that Lora Cortez hadn’t sat down yet.
“No, no I’m just fine,” and then Lora sat down on the other couch.  “I just wanted to come over and introduce myself.  I want to work with you and your family to make sure that all your questions are answered and that we do everything we can to help you with Daniel.”
“Daniel is doing well right now,” Lora smiled cautiously as she talked.  Kari noted that her positive outlook probably had a lot to do with being optimist given that she knew they were coming up to a time when Daniel traditionally ended up in the hospital for a month or more.
“I’m so glad to hear that,” and Kari made sure she matched Lora’s mood.  “Does the school, his teacher, or anyone else have any questions that we can answer?  I would like to do another training with them on how to work with his feeding tube.  I see its been quite a while since anyone has been out there.  We can also talk about how to deal with any other issues he may be having or,” and she took a breath, “we can do some work with his peers to help them better understand his issues if he is having trouble making friends or being different.  I know that as kids grow up things change and being different gets harder.”
“Wow,” Lora looked a little surprised.
“Sorry?”  Kari wasn’t sure where her surprise was coming from.
“The last case manager with the clinic was helpful, don’t get me wrong, but you are a real go getter aren’t you,” and Lora was still smiling.
“It’s hard when someone we love is chronically ill, so I just want to make sure we can support you with what you are already doing, and doing so well,” Kari had chosen to go the honest route.  She had hated it when they had tried to tiptoe around the fact that Trevor really hadn’t had any hope of surviving from the beginning.  She wasn’t going to hide anything from them, or anyone else again.  She definitely was not going to do that to people that looked like they were working hard to deal with the hand they had been given and were gracefully coping.

“Some days,” and Lora looked at her hands facing the facts of what was coming for only a moment, “are harder than others.  Today, thank God, is not one of them.”  They talked for another hour about family and the health of each member of the family.  Kari didn’t want to leave anyone out, mostly because the emotional and medical status of all of the family affected what would happen, how Daniel would respond to treatment when it came.  She made sure to take good notes.  Before Kari left she gave Lora her card with her cell number written down on the back.  She liked them and as she got into her car she knew that this job was where she was supposed to be.  It was a place she would make a real difference.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 5

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 5

Kari had fallen into bed early tonight but sleep hadn't come easy.  After many hours of tossing and turning her fitful sleep tortured her even more.  The dream had returned but this time it hadn't started with Trevor making love to her.  The demons in control had skipped that this time.  No, they jumped right to the part where he was laying in the hospital bed with a million tubes and hoses going in and out of him while she sat there holding his hand.  Holding his limp cold hand and thinking about what the doctors had just told her.  Tears slipped silently down her face as one machine breathed for him and another made sure that his blood continued to pump. The diagnosis was worse than bleak, what little they had had was gone.  He was brain dead.  She was to make the decision on whether or not to pull the plug.  The sobs started slowly at first but it didn't take long for them to take overwhelm her.
Suddenly the dream took a nasty turn and time compressed to the single most devastating moment she had ever faced.  She stood there and watched as the machines were turned off.  Even though she knew his mother was in the room the only thing she could remember was Trevor.  The breathing machine stopped, the man she knew as Trevor slowly and quietly faded away in front of her.  Watching as a third person helplessly from some distant place in the dream all she wanted was to wake up, but each time she had this dream it ended the same way.  Each time she watched him die over and over again and each time she hated it, hated herself when she woke up.  Hated the tears on her pillow.  Hated the fact that she was still alive, he was dead, and that life somehow had to go on.
Sitting bolt upright in the large bed they had shared, and one of the only things she had kept, she tried to catch her breath.  She realized she may have started her life again but the past hadn’t let go of her.  The first three months after his death were dark, gray, ominous times that she hardly remembered but over the last year she had come to some very sobering realizations: death was hardest on the ones left behind, very few people understood the pain that ached inside of her, and that the first steps were the hardest and close to impossible to take.  She didn’t want to think that she was just forgetting the time she had spent with Trevor though.  One part of her mind knew that, rationalized it, but there was still that little piece that wasn’t ready to let go.  Until that piece was ready she just couldn’t move forward.
The moon had been full last night and the light streaming in from the other room almost made it feel like daytime.  She looked at the clock beside the bed.  It was almost five thirty in the morning and the sun would soon be chasing the moon from the sky.  Morning would come, and also a respite from the dreams that never seemed to stop.  Until it was time for morning and work though she would need to do something to keep her mind occupied.  Crawling from the bed she decided to try the path in the state park just on the edge of town she had read about before moving here.  
Douthat State Park was one of the oldest around and had boasted more than forty miles of trails, some easy and some hard.   Kari couldn’t wait to try them all when she had read the information on the area.  The more difficult routes were closed right now, but the easy ones would be open.  Getting dressed she knew that the main gates wouldn’t be open but some of the easy trails came off the mountains and ended up in and around the town.  She grabbed her clothes and her shoes.  If nothing else an early, early morning's walk would help to exorcize some of the ghosts that haunted her right now.  Putting on her light jacket and pocketing her mace she was out the door in less than fifteen minutes.  It was a ten-minute drive to the trailhead she had seen only days before.  Just what she needed to clear her mind.
Getting out of the car she could see that the sun was just about to rise.  There was an eerie gray that claimed the sky before the sun rose and repainted the world.  A color she could relate to.  The moon was dancing just above the western horizon as the sun slowly made its entrance into the new day.  The air, although it was cool, breathed a freshness into her that she thought she would never feel again.  Maybe this was where she was supposed to be.  She started up the path and carefully watched the area for any wild animals, or other types of animals, that might be around making sure to keep her mace close at hand.  
The leaves and branches of the trees stretched back and forth across the pathway as if it were some elaborate lace work.  The colors of the rising sun only served to highlight what were already brilliant shades of green in the leaves.  Looking more closely at the leaves above she noticed that some of them had just begun to turn.  Marveling at the different shades of reds and golds that had just started to tinge the edges of the leaves, the ones more exposed to the weather.  Taking a deep breath Kari felt nearly whole.  The dry grass crunched under her boots as another early riser, a squirrel, skittered across the path and up a nearby tree.  There were other animals out there she could tell, small ones by the types of noises they made, just waking up to the new day.  The birds in the surrounding trees were chirping.  If it hadn’t sounded so corny she could have started to sing an old song from a kid’s movie about a blue jay being on her shoulder.  The fact was that she hadn’t felt this alive for a while and it really did feel good.  
As she walked she began to warm up.  She slipped off her light jacket without missing a step and tied it around her waist.  Her new hiking boots, the ones that she had just bought two weeks ago, seemed to be working out just fine.  It had been about two years since she had been hiking and she had forgotten how much she had missed it.  Trevor never really cared for hiking, or maybe it was just the outdoors, so over time she had just stopped trying to make him go.  She stopped to look at a particularly blue wild flower hiding out under a big old tree when she heard something.  Or at least she thought she heard something.  Staying very still she just listened and it wasn’t long before she heard it again.  Voices.  Singing.  
And it wasn’t just any singing.  It was out of tune, off key, bad singing.  The songs themselves were old eighties tunes for the most part.  Not wanting to disturb the man with the not so golden voice she tried to move more slowly down the path to get past him.  As she entered the clearing she noticed that it opened up onto a large pond or pool of water.  It would almost be impossible to get past him without him seeing her.  Still staying out of his sight she was surprised to see that he was swimming in it.  It was cool enough to need a jacket in the mornings and evenings and this man was swimming around singing like it was summer.  Wondering what to do she stood there listening.  She tried to recognize the song, but couldn't.  Obviously it wasn’t on the top ten list back then and so it would be far more difficult to identify.  However it’s style definitely placed it squarely in the eighties.  
Before she came completely out in the open though he swam up to the side of the pond and began walk out.  He had on a white t-shirt that probably did little to protect him from the cold, especially since it was wet, and what looked like running shorts.  The wet clothes clung to his very fit body and made it difficult for her to look away.  Without knowing it she stared at this man in the morning shadows and watched him move toward a large rock off to the side.  The day had just begun so the light was bad.  That’s when she noticed a pile of clothes lying near that rock.  Kari realized that it was too late to come out into the open and announce herself as he began to strip off his shirt.  Kari quickly averted her eyes before the shirt had a chance to leave his torso.  She could hear the drips from it as he was wringing it out whistling as if he was the only one in the world.  
Kari wasn’t sure what she should do.  It was hard not to keep from sneaking peeks at him.  What she had seen of his body was pure tanned muscle and not the kind that had been built in a gym just for the purpose of looks.  His muscles looked sleek, strong, and probably well used.  Temptation got the better of  her and Kari took a quick peek that turned into a longer one.  She wanted to look away as he quickly toweled himself off but she didn’t.  The early morning light hid most of the details from her but the outlines she could see were gorgeous.  There looked like there might be scars on his chest and back but it was still too dark for her to get a good look at what they were.  He rubbed his face with the towel and that directed Kari’s attention back upwards.  
As he turned the bits of sun touched the corners of his face just enough to see some details.  His face was serious and had a hardness to it, like it was chiseled from stone.  Surprised and stunned she realized she had just used a term used in romance novels.  At least it had been used in the one romance novel she had tried to read about six years ago.  It was not a term she thought was ever used in real life, but it fit in this instance.  It fit him.  He took his hand and slicked back his black hair wet from swimming by running his fingers through it and she unconsciously licked her lips.  She continued to watch transfixed as the muscles in his arm rippled as he dried.  She had never seen anything like it; it was almost poetry in motion.  Trevor had been in good shape, but not ripped.
Picking up a dry long sleeved t-shirt he pulled it over his head.  The material hugged his body nicely.  It suddenly occurred to her that if she came out of the underbrush now it would look like she was some kind of peeping tom.  If she stayed here though, she would be.
“Liking what you see?” The voice boomed through the quiet morning unexpectedly.  The question was rhetorical but it was his deep voice that jolted her.  She really hadn’t thought he had seen her, but obviously she had been wrong.  Now, she did look like a peeping tom.  “If you don’t turn around soon you’ll get a real show,” she quickly turned around making more noise than expected and heard him laugh.  Redness rose in her cheeks as she was now officially more embarrassed than he was.
“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to be,” she paused not really knowing the right words to say at this moment, “I mean I wasn’t,” stumbling over her words.  Did she want to say ‘looking’ because she wasn’t sure she was sorry that she had.  Maybe she should apologize for intruding on his time and privacy.  It was obvious that he hadn’t expected anyone else up here.  And who swam in this weather, especially in the morning?  Or maybe she had time to run away and he would never know who the early morning gawker was.  Before she could decide though she heard his deep lazy voice right behind her and she nearly jumped a foot off the ground.
“Don’t worry about it,” he saw her almost fly out of her shoes but he ignored it.  At first he was afraid that she had been staring at the scars that had been left on his back and chest, but then he realized that the sun, what there was of it, had been at the wrong angle.  She may have gotten a good view but mostly in shadow, not any good details.
“How,” she turned to look at him.  If he could move that quietly she should be scared.  She wasn’t sure that she was, but she also wasn’t sure she wasn’t.  The only thing she was sure of was that she was bright red with embarrassment.  Looking up into his face she saw something there that kept her from running away.  She couldn’t quite say what it was but she thought it was his something in his eyes.  They were a rich dark brown, almost black.  They reminded her of luxurious dark chocolate, which made it hard to look anywhere else. 
“Sorry, didn’t mean to shock you,” he ignored her question of how he had gotten so close without her hearing.  He wasn’t ready to explain that one.  It would only lead to more questions and talking about what he did right now wasn’t on his to do list.  He had first seen her standing in amongst the reeds while he was doing his laps in the pond.  He had chosen to ignore her and continued to sing.  
Truth be told he had been singing so loudly that he had missed her approach completely.  In another place that could have been fatal, but here it looked like it might have served him well.  He recognized her immediately as the blond from the restaurant.  His eyes slowly took her all in.  She was a little more than a foot shorter than he was and her curves were in all the right places, well balanced from top to bottom and what a bottom it was.  He’d gotten a good look at it as he had approached just now.  Her blond hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail but he didn’t mind because he could study her facial features better.  Independently they weren’t anything to speak of but together they gave her an exotic look.  Her skin should be fair considering the coloring of her hair but she was a rich olive tone.  The corners of her eyes slightly tilted upwards making it look as if they were smiling.  There must be some Greek or Italian in her family tree and she was a beneficiary.  Her hiking boots were so new he would guess that she was either trying out a new hobby or renewing an old one.  Looked like he was going to get the jump on Doris for information this time.  
When he had gotten out he was surprised that she had just stood there and watched him.  When she hadn’t turned around after he changed his shirt he decided he should warn her about the impending change of shorts to pants, especially since there was nothing on under his shorts.  He didn’t mind but he expected she would be mortified and he was right looking at the lingering tinge of red on her cheeks and the tops of her ears.
"I need to,” and she stumbled over her words as she started to back up.  
“Let me introduce myself,” he held out his hand just in time to reach out to catch her as she backed up and tripped.  With one hand he grabbed her open hand and with the other he quickly placed the other under her elbow to brace her, “Holden Parker.  I saw you at the cafe last night but you were reading your files and too deep in thought.”
“Thanks,” she quickly got her footing and he released her just as quickly because of the frightened look on her face, but not before he had felt it too.  It felt as if there was an electric shock between them when they had touched, a connection.  It had taken her off guard.  Him as well.  He suspected that he enjoyed it more than she did though, “Kari Jackson.”  His name sounded familiar but her brains felt pretty scrambled right now. 
“Well it’s nice to meet you Kari,” and Holden took a step back to give her some breathing room, “I take it you’re new in town.”
“I am,” and she left it like that, still a little flustered about what she had felt when they had touched, and not expecting that electric current between them.  She had never felt anything like that before.  Not even when Trevor had touched her and it threw her.  Made her think about him.  She had always felt safe and comfortable with Trevor.   He was what was called a safe man.  Trevor had had a good job, a nice nine to five and they had enjoyed each other’s company, but there had been no electric shock, no spark.  Oh, she had loved him, and she wanted to build a life with him, but there wasn't that spark.  One of her friends had talked about something like this but she had thought it was an overstatement.  Worst yet she wanted to touch Holden again to see if it would happen again.  Using some self-restraint she instead locked her eyes onto his as he spoke.
“Since this is,” he watched as Kari seemed lost in thought, “your first time out here you need to be careful.”  He adjusted his bag on his shoulder, “There’s one trailhead up the way that should only be taken by experts.  Its well marked so don’t worry about accidentally getting on it.  It's closed right now, not a fall or winter trail.  I’ve been on it a couple of times and would think twice about going that way without the right supplies.  The trail you're on is the best one for a quick morning hike.  Good choice for someone just starting out.”  He saw the confused look in her eyes and understood.  
“Again, how?” and she now looked a bit more confused and wary.  Ready to run if necessary.

“The new shoes,” Holden pointed at them and then turned to go back down towards the pond. “If you ever want to take a swim though I can attest to the fact that it is perfectly safe,” and he walked back down the path not even turning to look at her.  “A little cold,” he said over his shoulder, “but safe.”  It left her wondering if he was talking about the lake or him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 4

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 4

The screen door of the café closed behind him with a small clatter as he walked in and across the room to the table where he always sat.  The place was busy, but not as busy as it was at lunch.  The table was by the fireplace against the wall.  There were a few other people in the place that he noticed giving them a nod or wave as he walked by.  This place was busiest at lunch when all of the office and other such workers scrambled in for something good to eat.  The evening crowd was thinner and seemed to dribble in over a two to three hour period leaving room for the occasional drop in.  Usually with one or two tables open.  He was lucky that the table he liked was open.
They weren't open for breakfast but if they were he was sure they would do a booming business.  From what he knew the owners just wanted a small business to keep them busy, earn a little money, but not to tie them down.  Most people in here he had seen before and he gave them a small nod or wave as he passed, but it wasn’t until he sat down that she came into his sites.  She was new.
“Hey Holden, twice this week.  To what do I owe the pleasure,” Doris was approaching his table.  She was just over five and a half feet with features that weren't above average.  She weighed about ten pounds more than she should have as well.  And as she approached his table she didn't miss the fact that he was staring at the newcomer.  
Doris had waitressed at this place for the last ten years and over the many times he had been in town she had gotten to know Holden.  Doris was about ten years older and many husbands wiser, but if she had been younger Holden knew she would have tried to get his attention, adding him to her list.  It was in the way she looked at him each time he came in.  It looked like she could make a meal of him starting at one end and slowly moving her way up.  Her eyes gave away the place where she would start as well.  It was also in the way she made sure that she stepped just close enough to be in his personal space every time she came over to him.  And even though he liked the attention he was thankful that she didn’t go any farther than that.  He wasn’t looking to be another notch on her belt.
Doris loved looking at him.  She could stand there all day and look if he’d let her.  She appreciated a fine work of art.  At six foot one inch he was built just right, broad and powerful on top, slimming nicely into the jeans that rested happily on his hips with a pair of thighs that were all muscle.  She was sure of that as she had purposely bumped into him a couple of times over the years just to find out for herself.  With her curiosity satisfied she had gone back to just stepping close enough to feel the heat that radiated from him, but she wasn’t ready for another husband and this one was too young anyway.  It was just fun to imagine and no one got hurt this way.  Plus she wasn't the focus of his attention right now.
His dark, slightly wavy hair was growing out a bit but it didn’t matter how he wore it, it always looked good and she could only imagine how soft if felt.  It framed his rugged suntanned face just perfectly.  Doris hadn’t seen him come in but she was going to make sure that she watched him go out because she wasn’t sure how many times that would happen before he was off again.  And seeing that tight backend was one of the best views in town and a personal pleasure for her.  After all she wasn’t dead just taking a break.  
“Addy and Mia headed out for a girls night at the mall,” he smiled. This happened to be one of the places Addison ate on a regular basis and he could understand why, “Hair, nails, the whole thing with a group of Mia’s friends.”
“Oh the Precious Princess.  I hear that they do great group parties, and you’re missing all that,” she said incredulously placing one hand on her hip and giving him a sarcastic smile.  Holden loved bantering back and forth with Doris.  He also knew that all he had to do was say the word and she would have jumped him, age be damned.
“I know,” and he flashed a grin, “Addy all but told me to stay home and watch football.”
“And yet here you are,” she folded her arms in front of her and waited for his answer, "Couldn't stay away could you?" 
“Was missing your smile, and a man’s got to eat.  I really didn’t feel like cooking tonight or watching football,” satisfied with his answer Doris went to hand him a menu and he shook his head, “No, don’t worry about that.  All I want is the meatloaf, potatoes and,” he paused a moment looking back over at the new comer, “to know who that person is that is sitting alone over there?”
“New in town I’d guess.  Haven’t seen her before tonight.  Don’t know that much about her yet either.  Not much of a talker but as you know if she keeps coming in here,” and Doris tucked the menu under her arm as she winked at him.
“You’ll soon know her life story,” and he laughed.
“Don’t you know it,” and she walked away sashaying just a bit more.  Holden now had a moment to study the new woman in town.  Maybe she was just passing through, maybe she was here to stay, but this cafe wasn't on the main path and would be a surprise if she had traveled in just to eat here.  She was eating soup and a sandwich while engrossed in some file, which made him think that she might be in town to stay.  She seemed to be consumed by work.  Similar to someone else he knew and he grinned a bit.  No matter he was enjoying watching her, studying her.  
Her hair, it looked like honey.  There were strands of it that had escaped from her ponytail and were drifting down past her cheek obscuring bits of her face.  The blue sweater she wore hugged her curves nicely.  When she nonchalantly pushed her hair back behind her ear Holden got his first good look at her face.  It surprised him, she had to be late twenties, early thirties.  Soft, pretty features reminded him of the porcelain dolls he had seen in the window of the antique store, but like those dolls her face looked like it was fixed.  She really didn’t look like she smiled a lot.  He could see the beginnings of frown or worry lines on her forehead, and they didn't belong there. Shouldn't be there.  He knew he was intently looking at her, staring really, but she intrigued him.  It looked like this pattern was more the norm for this woman than the exception as he saw no smile lines.  It made him wonder what had happened in her life to make her give up on living.  Was it her job that caused this or her life?  Glancing at his watch he thought about going over and introducing himself.
Kari subconsciously pushed her hair back behind her ear.  The file she was reading was sobering.  She had had some hard knocks in life, to say the least, but this family just kept getting bowled over by life.  The boy, Daniel, was really ill and would always be fighting to stay alive.  They had worked hard to care and love the boy for the last eight years of his life, but they would be caring for him for as long as he lived, if he lived.  That would be up to his heart and what the doctors could do about that.  Daniel had been in the hospital down the road an average of five times a year for one thing or another and if history was correct he was due for another trip pretty soon.  
Silently she sighed and closed the file.  Kari was glad she had made them the first stop on her list.  They were going to need her support fairly soon.  And even if she thought her life had been a mess, it had all been over fairly quickly.  With that thought the sadness overtook her again.  Pulling out her wallet she placed about twelve dollars on the table knowing that would cover the food and the tip.  She may not have a whole lot left but what she did have she knew enough to share.  Getting up she walked out without looking around.  Never knowing that she was being watched.
Holden couldn't take his eyes off her as she left and wasn’t surprised that she didn’t wait for Doris to bring her the bill.  It also didn’t surprise him that she didn’t talk with anyone.  Her face and body language had all but screamed that she had wanted to be alone.  It was too bad really.  A pretty woman like that shouldn’t be so isolated, or so somber.  As Doris came out of the back she noticed that she had left and she walked over to the table.  Doris cleaned off the table routinely and picked up the money.  Looking at the amount she just shrugged her shoulders and placed it in her apron before walking in his direction.
“Guess I’ll have to try for that history some other time,” she said in Holden’s direction.
“Guess you will,” but he doubted it would be an easy conversation.  He also doubted that she would really get down to the reason for her deep sadness.  Just by reading her body language, Holden was sure she protected that piece of herself pretty well.  She would be a tough cookie to crack.
It wasn’t long before his food arrived and he ate it without much thought of who or why the blond had been in the cafe.  It was true that he was feeling better.  A good night’s sleep was also on his list of things to do and realizing that if he could get home and get into bed before they got back he would have a much better chance at achieving it.  He had tried to tell Addison that his injuries had been nothing, but even he knew she didn’t believe him.  As he drove back to the dark house, he wondered if he would ever have the guts to tell her, or anyone, the whole story.
He walked into the house and didn’t bother to turn on any lights.  The moonlight filtered through the room leaving some corners dark and secretive but letting just enough light in for him to function.  Exactly how he felt right now.  Grabbing the notepad by the phone he started to jot down a note for the two women in his life right now.  

‘Had a great evening.  Went to bed early.  Can hardly wait to see your nails Me-Me.’ Taking the heart shaped magnet he stuck it to the frig and went upstairs quietly.  Stripping down to his boxers he threw on an extra large T-shirt that hid as well as protected the scars and slipped into bed.  His last thoughts were of the pretty but extremely serious blond he had seen at the café.  Getting comfortable in bed so as not to aggravate the new tissue he smiled as he came to the conclusion that they both had secrets they wanted and needed to protect.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 3

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 3

Holden pulled into the drive of the best local café around.  Driving past the side of the house down the small alley and to the back where the owners had made a small but sufficient parking lot he threw the truck in park and got out.  Slowly he straightened up, stretching cautiously taking care not to move too fast as all his muscles rippled with approval.  After the hard day's work he had put in at Addison’s he could feel the strain in each and every movement.  Slowly, as his arms relaxed and came back in towards his body he closed the truck’s door.  He was moving more slowly than he would have liked right now and wouldn’t admitted any of it to Addison, even if she had it video taped and presented it to him.  He was supposed to be recovering, some days he wondered if he would or could ever be the man he had been before the accident.  He had scars, both inside and out.  And even if he didn’t say it, his sister always knew when he overdid it.  If it hadn’t been for that helicopter crash he would still be in Afghanistan covering the downsizing of the American forces and the effect of the pullout.  Before now he had seen the misery, even written about it, but experiencing it was vastly different.  Now his entire world had tipped sideways and backwards.  As Cash, one of the guys who had died in the crash, would have put it catty-wampus, and he hadn't written in months.
Holden smiled as he walked toward the door and thought back over the discussion he had made earlier this evening.  Addison had saved him from a night surrounded by four eight-year-old girls and filled with shopping and squealing.  He had been subjected to this a couple of times when Mia had not only one but two sleepovers soon after he had arrived.  They had already been planned and hard to cancel, but all the noise and chaos had put him on edge.  A place he didn't like to be when he was with them.  Watching Addison earlier as they talked, Holden had known that coping with all this had been harder for his sister since he hadn't told her anything about how he had gotten hurt, how he had changed.  
She was trying to balance too many worries.  When he had shown up he had known that he didn’t want to be one more, but it was either stay with them or stay longer in the recovery center since they wouldn't allow him to be on his own yet.  He was better now, and if he wanted he could have gone back to his lonely little place but why would he.  He owed it to both Addison and Mia to be around a bit more after all he had been gone for quite a while.  He also needed to set Addy's mind at ease.  She worried about Mia and her job, and they should be the only things she should be worried about.  
Mia, at the age of eight, could work both her mother and him like a pro.  She could have taught the mind monkeys he had had to talk to a thing or two.  The first sleepover was when he had first arrived.  He had still been using a cane then and had no easy way to escape all the chaos that was uniquely Mia.  It was worse than when he had been on assignment in Iraq.  At least he had lost enough blood to lose consciousness back then.  He hadn’t been as lucky this time. 
He had been here long enough now to have lost most of his limp.  He didn't need a cane anymore.  Addy had used what she could still see to give him a way to escape from the girlie girl get-togethers that Mia seemed to plan with some regularity.  Tonight's ambush had happened when he was standing in the kitchen filling a glass of water unaware of what was coming his way.  Mia had run into the room with her mother on her heals.  Mia though, had only one purpose in mind.  Her goal was to beg him to go with her tonight to the mall, her and her friends, to help supervise their hair and nail bash.  He had seen no way to avoid the inevitable.  Preparing to surrender he was relieved to see Addison’s face, her arms folded securely in front of her, an unmovable force.   After all Mia had had him wrapped around her little finger since the day she was born.  
“Please, please, please come with us.  We are going to have so much fun and Mom says we can go to Pike’s Pizza and I know how much you love Pike’s Pizza,” when she looked at him with those big brown eyes he knew he couldn’t say anything else but yes.  Her long black eyelashes batted up and down as she stared up at him with a hopeful little smile on her face. Man she could work it. 
“Mia honey,” Addison quickly cut across the conversation that was about to happen and swooped in front of Mia to his rescue.  All she had to do was look into Holden’s eyes to know that he needed saving from the unfair emotional argument of a eight year old as well as some rest.  After all, today he had again done way too much, “Don’t you think we should let Uncle Holden stay home and rest.  I know how much he likes hanging out with you and your friends,” Holden wondered how she had said that with a straight face, “but after all he is trying to get better and he has worked really hard this week helping Daniel's family and doing things around here,” she gave him the look letting him know that she had seen and heard about what he had done.  He watched as Mia’s mood began to change, her shoulders drooped and her smile fade.
“Addy if it really is that important to her,” he started to say but he wasn’t allowed to finish.  Addison waved her hand at him dismissing his words as she would an unruly child in her classroom.  She placed both hands on Mia’s shoulders turning her around and then turned her attention back toward him.
“Holden, Mia will be just fine not having you at her beck and call tonight.  I’ll be there with all the girls and could really use the girl time myself as well.  Maybe when we get out of here you can take a few minutes to just kick back and relax, and I do mean relax.  Feet up, beer in hand.  The whole works and not the type of relaxing you’ve been doing,” she stressed the last word as she lifted one eyebrow.  “Mia, now go and get ready so we won’t be late,” giving her a gentle nudge.  She stood quietly in the kitchen and watched Mia moodily stomp out.
“Thanks Addy,” Holden visibly relaxed as he spoke and it didn’t go unnoticed.  Addy and Mia had known about his leg injury.  No way to hide that especially since he had been using crutches and then a cane, but they didn’t know about the severe burns he had suffered on his chest and back.  Those were still painful and hidden while they were healing.  Addy may have suspected there was something else but she had said nothing, waiting on him to talk to her.
“Hon, we both know how much you love her but you need a break from all the girl stuff,” Addison smiled and walked over to him.  She grabbed his water glass and took a long sip from it.  “That and you have been doing way too much around here especially if you were supposed to be resting and recuperating.  I’m pretty sure that doesn’t include painting the house these last few days.”  The worst Addison could do was look at him with her brows furrowed a little.  She had made a point of not telling Mia how bad she had suspected that Holden had been hurt.  What she knew, and Holden didn’t, was that a psychologist had called before he arrived and there had been a long talk about grief and recovery.  Whatever he had been through this time must have been way past what she would consider awful.  There wasn’t anything left physically, that she could see, but Addison knew he wasn’t here just because he needed to recover from all the physical wounds.  She hoped that being here with them would go a long way in helping in other areas.
Mia just loved it when Holden was around and it would scare her to know that at those times that he wasn’t nearby he could be in danger.  She spent every moment of the day that she could with her uncle when he was here.  Both Addison and Holden knew that when Mia was at school she talked incessantly about him to anyone and everyone who would listen.   So much so that her teacher had asked if he would be interested in coming in and reading to the class or helping out.  Holden also had a suspicion that there might be other reasons he had been asked as well.  
“I’m doing fine and you know that.  Painting the house needed to be done and you don’t have time or extra money for it.  If I had waited much longer it would be too cold at night,” Holden said and then took the glass and took a sip of water himself, “and I’m thinking about going in to school and helping out in her classroom.  While I’m here.”  He could hear Addison’s explosive blast of air as she harrumphed him and folded her arms again ready to become the heavy.  “Oh come on now, I’m resting the only way I know how to.  I won’t get better by sitting on my rear and watching daytime TV.  I don't need to see that kind of crap.  I may lose my faith in the human condition," he wasn't sure if he hadn't, "I’d rather be reading a book to her class and it would be fun.  I take it her teacher didn’t clear it with you first.”
“You are so spoiling her and it will take me a year to get her to stop talking about her hero after you leave again, even if it happens then,” Addison walked over to the fruit bowl on the table and picked up an apple for her then another throwing it at him, “Let’s change the topic.  How are you feeling, really?”
“Actually I like spoiling her and who cares if she can’t ever stop talking about me,” taking a bite out of the apple he talked on as he chewed.  He was as close to a father as Mia would get unless Addy actually started to date.  It was obvious that he was tired as he leaned against the counter more for support than as a casual stance, “As for me, I’m doing much better.  I don’t have much pain left in the leg.  I haven’t used the cane at all the last few days.  I’ve been swimming up at the pond in the mornings as you know and it seems to help,” the cold water had helped a lot with the pain he still felt from the areas of his body that had gotten burned.  Holden took another bite of apple and weighed whether or not he should tell Addison about what he was contemplating.  
“It’s pretty cold to be swimming up there this time of year,” she watched but didn’t see any reaction.  He may be standing here in her kitchen but he was miles away, “Okay, out with it Holden,” Addison put her apple down and placed her hands on her hips as she leaned up against the counter opposite him, “You may be able to hide what you feel from everyone else, but not me big brother.”
“I was just thinking about what I want to do with my future,” he focused on the apple now and paused for what seemed like a long time waiting for a reaction.
“Really?” Addison prompted softly not wanting to spook him, or push him away from the topic.
“Yah, really. Got an email from Tyler,” he smiled and looked back at her, “I might want to make a change, maybe settle down a bit.  Stay closer to both of you,” he watched to see if Addison was surprised but she hid it well if she was.  However, the conversation ended abruptly as the ever-bouncy eight-year-old Mia came flying back into the room with her pretty pink dress on as well as her furry boots.  Flinging her hands out dramatically she announced her arrival.
“I’m ready Mom,” her smile was contagious and Holden reached out and grabbed her in mid bounce and gave her a gigantic hug.  She hugged him back enthusiastically and even though it was painful Holden said nothing, hadn't ever said anything.  To him it would have been more painful not to accept hugs from her.
“Eat some pizza for me will you Me-me,” he told her as he set her back down giving her a great big kiss atop her head as he did.
“Come now, let’s get out of here and let Holden have a quiet night and maybe he’ll even watch some football,” Addison grabbed Mia with one hand and gave Holden a look at the same time.  She raised one eyebrow as she got pulled out the door by her daughter but the look said that she would be there for him to talk later if he wanted, “I happen to know there is a game on tonight.  Channel twelve.”

“I just might do that,” he said as Addison and Mia went out the back door, but he hadn’t wanted to watch football.  Once they were in the car and down the road he looked in the frig and discovered that there was nothing ready to warm and eat in there.  He would have to put up with a fried egg for something fast, or do some real cooking which he was good at, but had no desire to do.  He could also go out and grab a bite to eat.  After a long day of painting it was a no brainer, he didn’t want to cook.  The painting today had really taken its toll on his body and he ached more than he wanted to admit to himself and more than he would admit to Addison.  She would be so in his face about how she knew best and he wasn’t going to give her that kind of satisfaction.  So he took his achy body and crawled into the old truck he kept there and drove to the diner. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Novel by the Numbers - Chapter 2

Broken Souls ... by Annay Dawson

Chapter 2

Kari didn’t even bother to go toward the kitchen for breakfast.  It was almost routine now, every time she had this dream she skipped breakfast.  Flicking off the light and pulling the apartment door closed behind her she made her way down the stairs out to the car.  She would have liked to call it home, but it wasn’t.  Oh the house was very cute and the way they had redone it into a couple of apartments hadn't taken away any of the charm, but it didn’t seem like a home, it seemed more like a stop over.  If her job at the clinic went well maybe she would settle down here, look for a small house to buy.  New Field was as good a town as any, and right now they needed her as much as she needed them.  She wouldn’t go back to Richmond, couldn’t go back there, too many bad memories.  There was also the fact that their friends, her friends now, were trying to fix her up.  She didn't say anything to them but this made her unhappy because she wasn’t ready, wasn't sure she ever would be.  
She hadn't wanted to leave the state, so when the opening at the clinic for a Medical Case Manager was the only thing she found that fit what she was qualified for and wanted to do she took it.  Her only other choice was to take a position as an assistant manager at the department store in Lynchburg a few miles down the road from here.  That wasn’t what she wanted and although walking into a health clinic was hard, it would have been nearly impossible to walk back into the hospital where she had worked a year ago.  She had resigned shortly after Trevor had died against everyone’s advice but she knew she couldn’t keep walking back into the place where he had died.
New Field was a good six hours away from Richmond and the life that she was escaping.  There she had managed the Human Resource department in one of the largest hospitals, which made her overqualified for this job in New Field.  The job had been challenging and rewarding until that day when Trevor had been brought into the emergency room.  She would never forget it.  She had been there from the moment that he arrived and had had some hope of recovery until the moment that there was no hope left.  It hadn’t taken her long to resign after they had 'pulled the plug'.  She then lived off of her savings for a while as she hid from the world and herself.  
It had been a rude awakening when she realized that life, as much as she hated the thought, would go on without Trevor, just not if she stayed in Richmond.  That was when she applied for this job.  When she interviewed with the director of the clinic he was open and honest with her and afraid that her qualifications would keep her from staying.  Kari in return was just as honest about her qualifications and why she wanted this job.  When she had explained everything to him, he hired her on the spot.
Kari walked down the street at a quick pace.  She loved to walk, to run, and to hike.  It was one of the reasons she had picked this area.  The town itself wasn’t huge but it was large enough to house a medical clinic that served not only this town but also the surrounding countryside.  That meant a lot of people and a few doctors.  It kept them very busy.  That was perfect.  Her new job included doing home visits as well as routine office work.  That meant that many days she would be out of the office traveling the area.  It would make her be social again if only for her job.  It was a big change for her and it would do her good.  She could still do what she had wanted to in life, just not in a hospital.  Not in a place that had caused her so much pain.  
Taking in a deep breath she let the cool air fill her lungs.  The day itself was brisk, not cold enough for a coat yet but brilliantly sunny.  It almost made her smile as she walked down the street protected from the worst of the wind by the old two story houses that lined each side.  The tall trees would obstruct the sun and provide much needed shade in the summer but for now, with their leaves of gold and reds, they added a much needed cheeriness to the day that she was still trying to feel.   
Kari noticed the gradual change along the street from residential homes to business and offices.  With her quick and steady pace she soon arrived at work.  It had only been about a fifteen minute walk after she left the apartment.  New Fields wasn’t home but with any luck it was her re-entry point to life, even Trevor’s sister had encouraged her to start doing something, anything, so she could start living again.  Her exact words were, “It was time to stop holding a candle for what couldn’t be anymore,” and she had been right so Kari had ended up here.  She paused for only a second on the bottom step.  Taking a deep breath she turned and walked up the steps of the clinic and pushed open the door.
“Kari right?” it was the receptionist that greeted her before she even got two steps into the room.  
“Yes and you are,” Kari hesitated.  She knew she had seen her at the interview but couldn't remember her name.
“Jordan,” she smiled and got up to open the dividing door between the waiting room and the internal offices for Kari.  She seemed to have a natural bounce to her, “Jordan Holmes and we are so glad to have you here on staff.  The Director, Dr. McCoy, was sorry he couldn’t be here to welcome you today.  He told me to give you his apologies especially since this is your first day and all but his wife went into labor last night and well, you can guess the rest,” Kari felt as if Jordan was doing a great job of welcoming her.  She was really hoping for less attention.  The less attention on her right now the better. Just the sheer fact that Jordan had finished talking while handing Kari a cup of coffee with one hand and a blueberry muffin for her other hand was quite impressive. 
“Thank you so much," she said with a little shock and a genuine smile, "I didn’t know his wife was expecting,” Kari sipped at her coffee trying to ignore the muffin.
“How could you," she smiled and almost bounced down the hall, "you’ve just gotten here.  But I’ll tell you we are so excited about it here.  They have been trying for the last three years to have kids and this time it took.  It’s a little boy.  They plan on naming him James,” she smiled again, “So I’m afraid we will all be on pins and needles until we get the call saying that all went well.  Speaking of that, the rest of the staff will be in within the next half hour or so.  They were all waiting at the hospital as long as possible but are now reluctantly on their way.  Patients will start to stream in here in about an hour,” Jordan walked her toward an office away from the examining rooms. “And here is your office,” the only thing she didn’t do was swing the door open with a ‘Ta-da’ but Kari could tell she wanted to do just that.
The first thing she noticed besides the ordinary functional furniture usually found in medical offices was that most of it was past it’s prime about five years ago.  This was definitely a clinic that ran one of two ways, on a shoestring budget or so busy that there was no time for anything else.  It didn’t matter though she wasn’t planning on spending much time here after the first few days and by the looks of the pile of files on her desk it may take a couple more days than she planned to get organized and then she could be out in the field.  By the looks of it she could safely assume that the case manager before didn’t get to spend much time here either.
“Sorry about all the files, they just seem to keep piling up,” Jordan went into the room first and opened the curtains so that the sun streamed in.
“I thought that was why I was hired,” Kari set the muffin and the coffee down on the corner of the desk and smiled.  “Actually I’m really looking forward to getting to work.”
“Then I’m glad you got the job,” Jordan moved toward the door, “Just yell if you need something.  I will leave you alone to get to it.  Door open or closed?”  Jordan stood awaiting the answer with her hand on the doorknob. 
“Open I think and Jordan,” Kari made it a point to honestly take it all in and smile, for the first time in a long time, “Thanks for the welcome.”
"My," and Jordan's shoulders relaxed as she smiled, "pleasure."
The next time that Kari looked at the clock it was a little past one and almost each and every person who worked here had stopped in to say ‘Hi’.  It had been overwhelming and heart warming all at the same time.  She had made more progress than she thought she would have.  Half of the pile had been read and reviewed but she still had another stack next to the file cabinet that would take even longer.  It was evident that they hadn’t had a case manager on staff for a while.  Standing up to stretch she knew that the move and job choice had been a good one.  She wouldn’t have any time to wallow in the past and she would feel useful again helping others.  Who knew, maybe all this work may just help her as well.  It was the best place for her to rejoin the world she had no other choice but to just dig in and do it.  
The rest of the day went by about as fast.  It was about three-thirty when Jordan stuck her head in and told Kari that the little boy, baby James, that Dr. and Mrs. McCoy had been waiting on just made his entrance into the world.  He was seven pounds and six ounces and as healthy as could be.  
“And the mom?” Kari felt the need to ask.
“Both parents are just beaming I hear, tired but beaming,” Jordan herself was smiling ear to ear.  “Dr. McCoy will be back in the office next week I hear but it wouldn’t surprise me to see that change as well, so I guess you’re stuck with the rest of us for now.”
“Everyone has been great. I don’t think I will have any problems.  In fact, I was able to schedule three appointments, home visits, tomorrow for follow ups on treatments and service.”
“Wow, that’s great,” Jordan was impressed.  She had wondered a bit about Kari since she hadn't come out of her office except for the necessities all day long, but now some of that doubt was drifting away.  “Well don’t burn yourself out even before you get started.”
“Hey, before you go what can you tell me about the Cortez family?”  Kari had been particularly interested in his case.  The boy was about eight years old and had a whole host of problems the mildest of which was asthma.  The worst one was a gastroesophageal motility disorder, which caused him not to be able to eat normally.  The parents and school had to feed him through a feeding tube.  The clinic provided the parents and school with training and information.  It was an important place to start for Kari.  This family hadn’t had a visit in over two months, and the school hadn't been contacted in almost a year.  It was the top priority for her to make sure their needs were met and the boy was getting the service he deserved.  
“They are great people.  Been thrown a whole lot of pain but they take it one day at a time and are always smiling.  Why?”  Jordan was looking at her but glancing back toward her desk every once in awhile to make sure she wasn’t missing anyone.
“I made an appointment to see them tomorrow.  I think it's important that I meet them first.  It’s been two months since they have seen a case manager from here and I just wanted a bit more background before I saw the mom tomorrow,” Kari closed the file on her desk.
“I’m glad you’re going to see them,” Jordan turned and hollered over her shoulder, “Be right with you,” then turned back, “If patterns hold he will be needing us rather soon.  You don’t need to worry about them.  They will appreciate it so much.” 
“Glad to know that,” Kari said to Jordan’s back as she left the room.  Kari glanced at her watch and thought she would put in one more hour before heading home.  She still had so much to try and put away both in that small apartment and in her head, but after thinking that this was going to be so hard, she could be honest with herself.  It had been the right time for her to move on and she was more relaxed for doing it.
An hour and a half later just before the rest of the staff was finished making all their reports for the day Kari packed up and closed her door.  She hadn’t taken any lunch so she didn't feel bad leaving before everyone today.  With what she had read this would probably be a rarity.  On the walk home Kari noticed the small cafe she had seen in the morning.  It was literally inside a cute little house that had to have been built back in the nineteen twenties in the transitional area between residential and business.  The smells wafting from the windows would remind many people of grandma’s house and happier times and it called to Kari.  Ready for happier times and memories her stomach made a huge rumbling noise.  All these signs were trying to convince her to stop and eat.  Turning toward the front door it seemed like a good idea, if nothing else, just to grab a bite before going back to the apartment that had very little food in it and sorting stuff.  
As she walked up the three steps to the front door she was welcomed with a smile from another friendly person and ushered in and then to a table.  Kari didn't take the time to get her name, instead, sitting down at the small table near the door she tried not to draw too much attention to herself.  The room was rather large for the look of the building.  There were at least ten tables that varied from being able to hold two people to those that help up to six.  The room was painted a lovely blue and had a white wooden wainscot on the bottom of the wall.  She suspected that there was another room that sat guests as well, but couldn't prove it right now.  The windows were dressed up in pale yellow curtains with a billowy valance that waved gently as the fan blades moved the air about the room.  The fireplace in the corner only had candles in it but soon would hold a warm friendly fire, just perfect for the look and feel of the place.  The table and chairs were solid dark woods that had the weather looked of well-loved furniture and more importantly were comfortable to sit and relax on while the soft  sounds of country music played in the background.  It was like walking back in history, back into a time when she was little.  She was happy then and life had just started.
It seemed perfect.  After all she was trying to get back into life, her recreated life, and leave behind all the pain of the past.  It was like starting all over again.  Opening up the menu she noticed that it wasn’t a large menu but it was filled with comfort food of all kinds.  It took Kari a few moments, everything sounded good so she made the easy decision, a half turkey sandwich and potato soup.  
Pulling out the files she had packed for later she started to read them while she waited for her meal. The waitress and hostess tried a couple of times to make conversation but Kari had kept it short.  She had talked to more people today than she had in the last three months and she was ready to just sit quietly.  If she had food in her frig she may have gone home instead and not stopped here, but she would have missed out on something special.  She didn't want to be rude but was happy when the waitress started to keep the conversational bits pleasant but short.  

Kari didn't look away from the file when she picked up the spoon and placed it in the soup.  Food had been for sustenance not for enjoyment ever since Trevor’s death.  But her first bite of food made her stop reading for a moment.  It was surprising how much she enjoyed the taste of the soup, the creamy texture in her mouth, and it's warmth, just the right temperature for eating.  It had been a long time since she had appreciated the flavor and comfort of food.  She wasn't quite ready to admit it, but New Field was making a good impression on her.