Here we are to Fiction Friday already. I doubled up again on chapters this week (so Chapter 13 was posted yesterday) but will be back to one a week next week as I work out some kinks in upcoming chapters. I already know most of my ending and some in between but there remains a large gap in the middle to finish writing. It isn’t so much that I don’t know what I want to do in the middle but in what order I want to do it. I’ll be hammering that out in the coming weeks.
As always, you can find the other links to this novel in progress at the top of the page under “A New Beginning” or at THIS LINK.
Also as always, there will be typos in this story or other errors because I still have a second draft, rewrite and editing process to go through. I simply share the chapters here for fun and to interact with other writers/readers/bloggers.
The first part of Blanche’s story can also be found on Kindle or Kindle Unlimited.
I winced at the bitter taste of the coffee from the styrofoam cup Judson handed me. Emmy’s parents were dozing in chairs in Emmy’s room, Daddy and Jimmy had gone home to rest and update Mama and Edith. Judson and I were sitting in the surgical waiting room, waiting for news about Sam, who was in surgery to remove a bullet that had lodged near his spine when he was shot. Sam’s parents were on their way to the hospital from their home in Maryland.
I closed my eyes briefly and tried to forget about the exhausted sobs Emmy choked out when her mom told her about Sam.
She’d clung to me, sobbing against my shoulder as I promised to wait for the doctor to come out of surgery.
“Oh, Blanche,” she whimpered. “I can’t lose him. I love him so much.
She’d eventually fallen into a fitful sleep while the nurses and her parents cared for Faith. I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around the events of the day. I ached to be home with Jackson, holding him close, but knew Emmy and Sam needed me.
I pressed my fingers against my eyes and tipped my head back against the hard back of the hospital chair.
“You okay?” Judson asked.
I nodded, but kept my eyes closed. “Long day. That’s all.”
“Emmy said you were amazing delivering the baby.”
“I just did what I had to do.”
“Blanche, without you, Faith might not be alive.”
I opened my eyes to look at Judson.
“I really didn’t think she was going to,” I admitted, my voice cracking. “It was a miracle.”
“Yeah, it truly was,” Judson said softly.
He leaned back on the couch, laying one arm across the back. He laughed softly as he looked down into his cup of coffee.
“It’s so crazy to think of little Emmy being a mom,” he said. “I keep thinking of her with her pigtails and dirty bare feet, running along the beach on vacation. One time she tripped and fell straight on her face and came up with a mouthful of sand. It was pretty hilarious. I was such a jerk back then. I didn’t even help her up. Just stood there laughing and pointing until my sides hurt. I was probably 12. She must have been …” he though a moment. “Nine I guess.” He shook his head. “Now here she is, all grown up, a wife and mom. Crazy. And here I am feeling like the immature kid who never grew up.”
Silence settled over us until all I could hear was the sound of nurses walking in the hallway and the beep of machines in the rooms of patients.
The enormity of the birth, the blown tire, Sam being shot – it suddenly all hit me at once and I closed my eyes again and turned my face away from Judson, swallowing the emotion.
“It’s okay to cry,” Judson said.
I shook my head and kept my eyes closed.
“No, it’s not.” I bit my lip, my face still turned away from his. “Because if I start, I don’t know if I’ll stop.”
Judson sighed heavily.
“You don’t always have to be so tough, you know.”
I slipped into the familiar comfort of emotional numbness, the urge to cry fading . “I used to be soft. It didn’t work so well for me.”
Judson sipped from his coffee and held it between his hands as he propped his elbows on his knees. “So, you just don’t feel anymore?”
My jaw tightened and I opened my eyes, feeling suddenly annoyed, lifting my head to look at him. I folded my arms right across my chest.
“I feel. I just don’t broadcast to everyone how I feel.”
Judson raised his eyebrows, looking surprised but then smiled slightly as he stood, walking across to the sink on the other side of the room. He poured the rest of the coffee in the sink, tossed the cup into the trash can and turned toward me, leaning back against the sink and folding his arms across his chest.
“You’re an interesting one, Blanche,” he said. “I can’t seem to figure you out. You’re like a gentle lamb one moment and a prickly porcupine the next.”
I winked and managed a tired smile.
“And do you really want to figure me out? You might be drastically disappointed if you do.”
Judson grinned. “I don’t think I’d ever be disappointed learning more about you.”
Good grief, how did I walk into that one? I mentally scolded myself for letting my guard down during a moment of exhaustion. I cleared my throat and stood, walking across the waiting room floor and looking out the window at the empty hospital parking lot lit by fluorescent street lamps four stories below me.
“So,” Judson said behind me. “Your dad was really worried about you today. You’re lucky to have him.”
A car turned into the parking lot and I watched it slide into a parking space. “I really am. It’s not lost on me.”
Judson sighed. “My dad only seemed to care about me when I was playing football and even then we only talked about drills and passes and strategy. When I told him I was quitting football, the look of disgust he gave me showed me I was nothing to him unless I was on a field with a ball in my hand.” He laughed softly as I turned to face him and sat in a chair across from him. “Apparently you’re my therapist now.”
I shrugged. “It’s okay. I get it. Daddy and I haven’t always have a great relationship either, to be honest. We were close until – well, puberty hit to put it delicately. I don’t think he knew what to do with a growing girl. He didn’t seem to understand I was still the same Blanche — just with a lot or rebellion and confusion in me. Our relationship definitely wasn’t any better after I ran away with Hank.”
Judson stretched his legs out in front of him. “What was all that about anyhow? I know I don’t know you real well, but you don’t seem like the type of girl to just take off with some man.”
I sipped the coffee again and grimaced at the bitterness. “I guess I was just tired of doing what everyone thought I would do and acting the way everyone thought I should. I thought Hank was my ticket to a life more exciting than the predictable one I was living at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the excitement I was expecting.”
I sat and my leaned my head back again, a wave of exhaustion over taking me. The magnitude of the day was beginning to hit me and I was struggling to keep my emotions in check. I didn’t want to talk about my ex-husband with Judson anymore. I wasn’t interested in sharing too much of my personal life, letting him too far in.
“Why don’t we pray?”
I turned my head and looked at Judson in surprise. “Um..yeah…that would be nice.”
He leaned forward and took my hands in his, bowing his head and closing his eyes. He laughed softly and looked up at me again. “I’m not great at this, so bare with me, okay?”
I smiled and closed my eyes as he closed his again.
“Father, we bring Sam before you. We ask for you to guide the hand of the surgeons, to bring comfort to Sam and to Emmy. Hold them both in your watch care tonight and bring them, and us, the peace that only you can give. Amen.”
“Amen,” I whispered.
I opened my eyes and my gaze met his. His face was much too close to mine, his hands much too warm around my fingers. I’d never had a man ask me to pray with, other than Daddy. Judson’s blue eyes were fixed on mine and he opened his mouth to speak at the same moment the door to the waiting room squeaked open.
“Are you here with Sam Lambert?”
I jerked my hands out of Judson’s grasp at the sound of the doctor’s voice.
Judson and I spoke at the same time. “Yes.”
“Are you family?”
“No,” I said. “His parents are on their way here.”
The doctor sighed and dragged his hand through his hair and across the back of his neck. “I don’t usually release information to anyone but the family, but it’s been a long day and I’m heading home for some rest. For now I can say the surgery went well. We were able to remove the bullet. It was close to the spinal cord so we will need to wait and see what that will mean with his ability to walk. We’re hopeful there won’t be any issues at all, but we’ll know more in the next few days. He also has a few broken ribs and those should heal well on their own.”
I thanked the doctor and promised to update Sam’s parents when they arrived. Judson and I sat on the couch next to each other to wait, sitting in silence. Leaning my head back against the couch, sleep overtook me quickly, despite my attempt to fight it. As sounds faded in and out I dreamed Judson slid his arm around me and pulled me against him as I slept, my head on his shoulder. In the dream I felt his hand push a strand of hair off my forehead.
I woke to Judson standing, talking to Sam’s parents, sharing with them what the doctor had told us. Judson’s rolled up jacket was under my head and I had slumped over on the couch. I sat up and rubbed my eyes.
“Thank you both so much for waiting.” Sam’s mother Maryellen dabbed her red-rimmed eyes with a crumpled tissue. “You’re more than welcome to head home and get some rest. We plan to stay here until Sam wakes up.”
“Of course,” I said, standing. “Please know we’re all praying and will be by tomorrow to check on him and Emmy.”
“Thank you, Blanche. So good to see you again,” Sam’s father, Freddy, said, hugging me briefly.
Outside the waiting room, Judson and I pulled on our coats and hats. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride home,” he said through a yawn.
As we walked outside a soft glow was brightening the sky along the horizon.
I looked at the sunrise through bleary eyes, drew in a deep breath of the crisp morning air, and looked up at the mainly gray sky. “God, please be with Sam and Emmy and their baby girl.”
Snow crunched under our feet as we walked to Judson’s truck and he opened the passenger side door for me.
“Wow. What a day huh?”
I yawned. “Yes. A day and a night. It all seems like a dream in some ways. I think we may have to trade church for a nap today.”
Judson rubbed his eyes and turned the heat up before pulling out onto the road. My eyelids were heavy and I blinked to try to chase away the exhaustion.
We drove in silence for several miles, farms and fields passing by, scenery slowly growing brighter as the sun rose over the hill.
“It was nice seeing you and Emmy at that movie yesterday,” he said suddenly.
A silence fell over us again as he drove. I stared out the windshield, thinking of my warm bed and anxious to hug my little boy.
He glanced at me quickly as he drove.
“Maybe sometime I could take you to a movie. Alone I mean.”
I tipped my head at him quizzically. “Excuse me? Weren’t you just out with another woman yesterday and now you’re asking me out?”
He grinned and glanced at me again, then turned his eyes back to the road.
“Well, yeah, but she’s just a friend. She asked me out. I didn’t ask her out. It’s not like we’re,” he made quotes with his fingers as he briefly lifted from the steering wheel. “going steady or something. It’s not like I gave her my class ring.”
I sighed, knowing I was too tired for this conversation.
“Is that a no?” he asked.
“You didn’t exactly ask. You just said maybe you could sometime.”
“Well, that was meant as a hint.”
“I’m too tired for hints.”
Judson pulled onto our road, heading toward our house. Smoke rose from our chimney and I knew Mama was inside, cooking breakfast, getting ready to wake Daddy and Jackson so they’d have plenty of time to get ready for church.
“So, I’ll ask directly,” Judson said as he drove down the driveway. “Will you go with me to a movie some time?”
I yawned again as he braked in front of the house and clicked the truck into park. I opened the passenger door and slid out into the cold winter air, shivering as I pulled my hat over my ears.
“Get some rest, J.T.” I said with a wink as I held the door, ready to push it closed. “Thanks for staying with me and for the ride home.”
I smiled and closed the door, watching him through the window as a smile tilted his mouth upwards and he shook his head at me.
After kisses for Mama and Daddy and Jackson, I undressed and climbed into bed, pulling the covers around my shoulders, too tired to even think about Judson’s question.