Authors: Ashley Christine
Copyright © 2013 Ashley Christine
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Published by Ashley Christine, August 2013
Cover Image ©
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead,
is coincidental and not intended by the author.
All written material is the intellectual property of the author, except for any song/movie titles, lyrics or mentions of music/movies are property of their particular writers and copyright holders.
This book is dedicated to every romance lover out there. Each passionate, heart-hammering mention of love is for you. We live vicariously through our favorite characters.
We get to
step a little outside of our own world—for a few hundred pages.
Even if this is a type of love we may or may not have experienced personally, it’s something we can connect to on a deep level. The passion put into books of love comes from the heart.
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Friday, June 21
– 2:36 pm
When I was asked if I had a certain outfit in mind that I would like to bury my mother in, I knew right away that it had to be blue. I didn’t know
to answer the question, though. I sat there, in that too comfy, too plush chair at the funeral home blinking expectantly at the man behind the desk.
“Mrs. Morgan, I’m very sorry. I know these things seem immaterial, but it’s the little details that we look for to ensure your mother is laid to rest exactly how she would want to be.” He rolled a pen between his fingers as he spoke.
I wanted to reach over the rich mahogany desk and slap him right in the face. If it were up to her, she wouldn’t be downstairs on a metal slab at all. I felt like saying it, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
“I know,” I said. “I’ll find something.”
“If you’re still okay for three days from now, we will give you some time to go home and find something for her. If not, we can wait. This is all up to you, dear.” He was a little more sympathetic this time.
I still wanted to smack him.
I nodded, picked up my purse, and slung it over my shoulder. “Thanks…I’ll be back later.”
I left not knowing what to do next. There weren’t classes in school, or on-line courses you can take on how to deal with the death of the most important woman in your life. A mother, a best friend, a constant. She was gone, I was left here. Having to deal with everything that comes after. It’s the not knowing part that was almost harder than the actual losing part.
Absentmindedly climbing into my car, I pulled up to the intersection. If I turned left, I would go home, probably cry and still not know what to pick out for her, or if I turned right I would drive to my husband’s work and ask him what I should do.
I turned right.
I parked in the visitor’s section of Rosemary High School, sat idling for a few moments—okay, about twenty, then finally shut off the engine and got out. The loud school bell had just rung, and the sound of laughter, locker doors slamming, and clicking of flip-flops filled my ears.
I should have turned left.
Walking up the steps, the doors burst open and kids flowed out like a dam had just been broken and I almost got lost in the current of teenagers.
“Sorry, Mrs. Morgan!” one young girl said.
I smiled. I don’t know who she is, but I thanked her when she held the door open for me.
My husband, Matt, was still in his classroom, standing in front of a tall filing cabinet when I walked into the room. The chalkboard still had scribbling all over it. He had been teaching them about Egyptian history on their last day of school.
Summer vacation was here.
“You didn’t let them just watch a movie on their last day?” I asked, smiling.
“Nope, kids gotta stay sharp. Movies—”
“Dull the brain, I know,” I said before he could finish.
Matt smiled and held his arms out to me. “Rough day?”
Add another person to the list of people I wanted to slap today.
I furrowed my brow and frowned. “Funeral home?”
“Oh, shit. Sorry, Em…I totally forgot. Why didn’t you say something this morning? I would have went with you.” He hugged me.
“I did say something, yesterday.” I nuzzled into the crook of his arm. I couldn’t stay mad, this was all I had left. “Doesn’t matter, anyway. I just need to get something…for her to be buried in.”
Matt pushed the steel cabinet drawer closed with one hand, then brought it back to finish our hug. He held me at arm’s length and smiled. “Do you want to go over there now? We can get something then maybe go out for dinner. Celebrate my last day.”
The last thing I wanted to do was celebrate. Anything. I wanted to curl into a ball, cry, and maybe eat some chocolate cake.
I nodded, sighed, and followed him out the door.
I shadowed Matt’s Volvo in my car. My blue Corolla. My boring, Plain Jane, blue Toyota. It was my first car, actually. My mom helped me pick it out when I was seventeen. I guess it wasn’t so Plain Jane after all—especially if she had something to do with it. That made it extra special, and I knew I would probably never part with it just because she said, “
That’s the one, Em! I can just see you cruising around!
I pulled up in front of my mother’s house, right behind Matt, and parked. He got out and opened my door for me. Climbing out I took his hand in mine, threading our fingers and taking a large breath to work up the courage to walk into her house.
I turned the key in the lock and walked in. Letting out my held breath, I took in another. I smelled her. Her soft perfume still lingered in the air, and the smell of Clorox that she still insisted on using on her whites, even up until two days before she died. She refused my help. She did everything on her own, always had.
“I need a drink. Want anything?” Matt asked.
I shook my head. “No thanks.”
Matt headed to the kitchen and I heard the fridge door open as I made my way up the stairs and down the hall. I turned into my mother’s bedroom. The bed was made, just like it always was right after she got out of it, her dresser was perfectly unkempt, with not even a sock sticking out of a drawer like you would always see in my own home.
I started to think that this would be a lot easier than I thought. Then I opened her closet, and nearly fell face-first right into her clothing. I reached my hand out and trailed my fingertips along each item. Feeling the fabric and remembering when she had worn each specific article that was hung in there.
“What about that one?” Matt asked, standing in the door way, drinking a glass of juice, leaning against the frame.
I looked and noticed I had a hanger in my hand with a red dress on it. I frowned. “She likes blue.”
Matt swallowed the apple juice a little too loud, and I cringed as I hung the red dress back up. He waltzed into her bedroom and plunked right down on her bed. Her perfectly made bed. I felt my cheeks heat, but I didn’t say anything. It wasn’t worth it.
Instead I blew out a long breath through pursed lips and grabbed a navy blue pants suit. One she had worn to her work Christmas party last year. I remember it because some drunk asshole spilled his beer all over it when he bumped into her, and I had taken it personally to the dry cleaner’s to be cleaned.
Gary’s such a dick
,” Mom had said. “
If his wife only knew how drunk he got at these things. She’d probably never let him out
“Okay, let’s go.” I hung the suit over my arm, grabbed a white linen shirt to go with it, and pointed at the door with my thumb.
Matt got up and followed me out. He left the empty glass on her dresser, and I just took another big breath, trying to ignore it. I wasn’t going to get worked up anymore today. A voice had never been raised in this house. Not once. So, today it wasn’t going to happen either.
. Did I need to get shoes too? Mr. Smith, the funeral home director, never said anything about shoes.
“I’ll be right out,” I told Matt. I went back to the bedroom, grabbed her heels—blue ones, from the floor of the closet and left. Not before grabbing the juice glass off the dresser.
“I’ll have the…seven ounce steak. Medium. Not medium
. Just medium. Extra horse radish on the side, with steamed mushrooms,” Matt rambled off his order to the patient waitress and handed her his menu when he was finished. “And, a bottle of wine. What kind do you want, honey?”
I shrugged. I didn’t want wine. I didn’t even want to be in this stupid restaurant. What I did want to do was yell at my husband and tell him what a pompous asshole he was. “I’ll have cake. The chocolate one with the caramel drizzle, please.” I smile, handing the waitress my menu.
“Okay.” She smiled sweetly, glancing at Matt who was glaring at me.
“What?” I asked him, folding my arms on my chest.
“Cake? That’s all you’re going to get?”
“That’s all I want. So, yes.”
Matt rolled his eyes. “Miss?” he said as the waitress was turning to leave. “We’ll have a bottle of your house wine. Red.”
Dinner/dessert was eaten in complete silence. Aside from his obnoxious chewing—which he knew I hated—Matt was eerily quiet. I took my time eating my cake. It was too sweet, and I regretted ordering it.
“So what did the guy say?”
I blinked at him. “What guy?”
“The funeral home guy. What did he say?”
“Probably the same thing he says to everyone when someone dies.”
Matt frowned. “Emery, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked you to come here. I guess I just have so much on my mind lately, that I’m probably coming off a little insensitive.”
I almost laughed out loud.
“So, how about we get the rest of this to-go, and I take you home…How does that sound?”
“Good. It sounds good.”
We drove home in Matt’s Volvo, in silence once more, and I reached for the door handle to get out even before he had the car completely parked. My flip-flops clicked against my feet as I walked up our stone walkway and up each step onto the porch.
I dropped my purse on the sofa as I made my way to the staircase. Padding up each step, I started to undress. Only my bra and underwear remained when I got to the bedroom, and I tossed my shorts and t-shirt into the laundry hamper before I stripped completely naked. I pulled on a long t-shirt, an old purple Northwestern one of Matt’s, climbed into our bed and closed my eyes.
“Mmm, you smell so good.” Matt climbed in behind me and wrapped his arms around me. “Tired?”
I wasn’t. I was actually wide awake. “I’m exhausted.”
“Too bad,” he rasped. “I was hoping…”
I turned over, blinking at him. “Really? You want
“It’s been a few days, baby.” He pressed himself against me. It was evident he was turned on. I don’t know how he could be. I was a hot mess. Nothing about me was attractive in this moment. I didn’t even brush my hair today.
“Matt, I—” I didn’t even get the words out before he began to lift the t-shirt and started sliding himself into me.
The familiar feeling of him wasn’t why I began to cry. It wasn’t even that I wasn’t in the mood and he started regardless of what I said. It was the fact that I had just lost my mother, my sweet and beautiful mother, and the last thing I wanted to do was be selfish and actually feel good.
My body had other ideas. I fell victim to Matt’s persistent thrusts and even let out a small whimper as I felt myself starting to build. I kept my head turned so he didn’t see my tears, and I cried out as my orgasm hit me. Even though I was really crying for another reason, Matt wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.
He was asleep when I came out of the bathroom. He was snoring softly, hugging one of my pillows. I stood there, looking down at the man that I’ve known since I was sixteen years old, and felt nothing. Just, nothing.
He was still handsome. I mean, he’ll be one of those guys that grows old and is still good-looking. Even at twenty-seven, he doesn’t look his age at all. His dirty blonde hair is cut short, like his father’s—a retired Marine, and his skin is pale and creamy. From never being outside, probably. He’s been in a classroom since Pre-K. Straight out of high school, he went to Northwestern and got a teaching degree. He came back and started right away at Rosemary.
I wondered what he would look like with a little dirt under his nails, callouses on his hands, or even tanned skin. Any yard work we’ve had done around this house has been taken care of by a professional. Matt wasn’t really a hands-on type…well, when it came to lawn care, anyway.
I kissed his forehead before I yanked my pillow from his arms. He let out a small grumble but didn’t wake. I walked over to my side of the bed and stared blankly out the window until the sun rose and I dressed for another day by myself.
Monday, June 17
— Five Days Earlier
I glanced up at the nurse standing at my side.
“Is there someone I can call?”
I cleared my throat, nodded, and looked back over at my mother. “My husband, Matt.”
“Okay, sweetie. Is his number on file?” she asked.
I reached into my pocket and handed her my cellphone. “It’s in there.”
The nurse left the room and, I assumed, called Matt, because he showed up about thirty minutes later and picked me up off the chair.
“I’m so sorry, Em. I should have been here.”
I wanted to tell him that my mother had never really liked him anyway, so she wouldn’t have wanted him here as she drew her last breath. But, I needed him there. With her gone, I quite literally had no one else.
I kissed her still-warm cheek before he took me out of the room. “Till later, mama.”