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Authors: Richard Paul Evans

The Mistletoe Inn

BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
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In memory of my mother

June Thorup Evans

AUTHOR'S NOTE

A
few years ago I decided to write a collection of holiday love stories: The Mistletoe Collection. The first book in that collection was 2014's bestselling
The Mistletoe Promise
. This book,
The Mistletoe Inn
, is the second. The third book (still unnamed, but it will have the word “Mistletoe” in the title) will come out in the fall of 2016. These books are not a trilogy; rather, they are three independent love stories abounding with inspiration, humor, and romance—a Christmas present for my readers.

That's not to say that there's
no
connection between the three books. In this novel, our protagonist, Kim Rossi (named after my third-grade teacher), is an aspiring romance writer working on a book titled
The Mistletoe Promise
. This is a bit of an inside joke. I used the title only for fun, as it has little to no bearing on the actual story or its outcome.

I hope you enjoy this holiday offering and that it fills your home and heart (and those of the people with whom you share this book) with joy, love, and peace.

Blessings,

Richard Paul Evans

PROLOGUE

W
hen I was eleven years old I was walking home from a friend's birthday party when I saw an ambulance parked in the driveway of my house. I dropped my party favors and sprinted home. When I got inside, the house was crowded with people: aunts and uncles, some neighbors, and our pastor. Everyone except my parents.

“What's going on?” I asked.

My aunt crouched down until we were eye level. “Kimmy, your mother tried to take her life.”

The words froze my heart. “Is she still alive?”

“I don't know, honey. We're waiting to find out.”

I began to cry, wiping my eyes on the sleeve of my blouse. “I need to see her.”

“You shouldn't right now,” my aunt said, gently taking me by my arms. I pulled free from her grasp and ran to my parents' room. A husky paramedic stopped me outside the bedroom door, grabbing me firmly by my waist. “Hold on there.”

“Let go of me!” I shouted, struggling against his powerful grip.

“It's best that you not go in there.”

“She's my mother!” I screamed.

“That's why it's best.”

My father must have heard me. I stopped struggling when I saw him. He looked weary and in pain. He squatted down and put his arms around me. “She's going to be okay,” he said. “Everything will be okay. I need you to wait out here while the paramedics finish up. We need to get Mom to the hospital, okay? We'll talk on the way there.”

Someone, I don't remember who, took my hand and led me back to the front room and the somber faces. I could feel everyone's eyes on me. I felt like I was in one of those Tilt-A-Whirl rides at the carnival, the kind that spins you around until you don't know where you are. Or at least until you want to throw up.

Then the bedroom door opened and the room quieted as a processional emerged, a line of men carrying my mother out of the house on a stretcher, a blanket pulled up tightly to her neck, my father at her side, stoic and pale. I remember the heavy clomp of the paramedics' boots.

On the drive to the hospital I asked my dad, “Why did she try to kill herself?”

“Same as before,” he said. “Sometimes it just takes her.”

“Will she try again?”

He just looked ahead at the road. Even at that age, I knew that he was struggling to decide if he should tell me what I wanted to hear or the truth. “I don't know, sweetie. I hope not. But I don't know.”

Twelve weeks later, on Christmas, my mother tried again. This time she didn't fail.

CHAPTER
One

The combined ballast of my life's abandonment is only balanced by the substantial weight of my father's love.

Kimberly Rossi's Diary

My mother attempted suicide four times before she finally succeeded. At least those are the attempts that I know about; there could have been more, as my father often ran interference, hiding things that he thought would hurt me. My mother suffered from major depression. She also had migraines. By most accounts they were unusually severe. She almost always had visual effects, seeing strange lines and flashes of light and sometimes hearing voices. When the migraines came she never left her room.

Doctors tried to help, though it seemed to me like they were bailing out a sinking boat with a paper cup. Most just medicated her with the latest trending mind drug: Valium, Xanax, Prozac, etc. A few told her to “buck up,” which was like telling a stage-four cancer patient to just get over it. Then there were the insufferable people who said stupid things like, “I was depressed once. I went for a walk,” or, “You have so much to be thankful for, how can you be depressed?” then smugly walked off as if they'd just performed a service to society.

With my mother almost always ill, my father did his best to pick up the slack. It was not unusual for him to
come home from a long day of work, make dinner, clean the kitchen (with my help), then put in the laundry. I could never figure out why my father stayed with her.

The Christmas afternoon my mother died was the first time I ever saw my father cry. He also cried at her funeral, which for me was the most upsetting part of the day. I know that sounds weird, but in my young mind, my mother had died long before we buried her.

After the funeral, my aunt took me for a couple of days, until my father came and got me and we went on with our lives. Just like that. Just like nothing had happened.

My father, Robert Dante Rossi, didn't have a degree, but he was smart. He had started but never finished college (even though he insisted that I did). He was hardworking and good with people. I once heard one of his colleagues describe my father as “the kind of guy who could tell you to go to hell and you'd look forward to the trip.”

He was a Vietnam vet and had served two years in the air cavalry, which meant he saw a lot of combat. He rarely talked about those experiences, but he didn't seem overly affected by them either, at least not in the way the movies like to paint Vietnam vets: handicapped in mind and spirit. I remember when I was fifteen I asked him if he had ever killed anyone. He was quiet for almost a minute, then looked at me and said, “I served my country.”

When he got back from the war he went to college for a year before deciding it wasn't for him. He took a job managing a Maverick convenience store in Henderson. After five years and as many promotions, he was in charge of the
entire Las Vegas region for Maverick. I don't suppose that he ever made a lot of money, but I never felt like we were poor. My father was disciplined and frugal, the kind of guy who still mowed his own lawn and drove an old Ford Taurus.

BOOK: The Mistletoe Inn
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