Welcome to Fiction Friday where I post a chapter from my current work in progress. There are often typos, plot holes, etc. in these chapters that I will fix in the future before I self-publish the book.
To catch up with the story, click HERE.
Keith slid his sunglasses back on as they stepped outside the community hall. “Well, that was fun. I’ll have to try this again sometime.”
Ginny tossed her art bag into the passenger side of her car. “It was. I haven’t sketched a live model since college.”
Ginny looked across the parking lot for Liz as she closed the car door. She saw her driving out of the parking lot and raised her hand in a quick wave. Her brow furrowed when Liz kept driving, looking straight ahead.
“I hope everything is okay with Liz,” she said, watching the car turn out of the parking lot. She turned and watched Matt climb into his truck. Had something happened between them? She’d have to ask Liz later.
Keith straddled his motorcycle and zipped up the leather jacket. “Ginny, I’d love to get together with you and Stan for dinner sometime.”
Ginny turned away from watching Liz’s car to look at Keith, trying to picture him and Stan sitting next to each other at a table. The thought made her a little woozy. “Oh, that would be nice.”
Keith winked before he slid his helmet on. “I’ll give you a call and we can find a day that will work for all of us. Tell ole’ Stan I said, ‘hey’.”
Ginny nodded then watched him drive away before sliding behind the steering wheel and letting out the breath she realized she’d been holding. How would that go down? Telling Stan her ex-boyfriend sent his greetings? She hadn’t even told Stan that Keith was back in town. Then again, Stan didn’t seem to hear much she said these days so it probably wouldn’t matter.
It had been nice to see Keith and even nicer how he’d noticed her haircut and complimented her. She knew she shouldn’t have enjoyed the dimple in his cheek when he smiled at her or the jokes they’d shared during the class, but she had. It was the most — how could she explain it?
Noticed. That was the word.
It was the most noticed she’d felt in years.
Her phone rang as she pushed the key in the ignition.
“Sorry I didn’t say goodbye before I left.” Liz sounded tired. “I guess I was preoccupied.”
“I wondered what was going on. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, just — yeah. It’s fine really.”
“Well, I tried to catch you before you left. I was wondering if you have time to stop by the house before you head home. I wanted to talk to you about a job idea.”
“Sure.” Liz sounded a little more cheerful now. “I have time.”
Ginny’s phone rang again as she pulled out onto the road. She tapped the speaker button.
“Hey, hon’. Just letting you know I won’t be home for dinner. I’m meeting Matt out at that property the commercial company is interested in.”
Ginny bit her tongue. How was this any different than any other day lately? “Okay.” She clipped the word out. She didn’t feel like saying much else.
“Talk later. I’m running into a dead zo—”
Ginny scowled at the phone and tossed it on to the seat next to her. Pulling into her drive a few moments later, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She really needed to pray about her attitude toward Stan. Having this much anger for one’s spouse wasn’t healthy or what God would want.
“Lord, help me calm down,” she whispered as she shut off the engine. “Or I might just smack him.”
She noticed the inside screen door was open as she walked up the front sidewalk and she knew she hadn’t left it open. Maybe it had been Stan.
Walking inside she glanced around the living room for anything out of the ordinary and all appeared well until she spotted a suitcase on the floor by the doorway leading to the dining room.
She recognized the black and brown case as the one they’d given Olivia when she’d left for college the year before.
Before she could call her daughter’s name, she heard the clink of glass against a countertop. She found Olivia in the kitchen pouring lemonade over ice in a tall glass.
“Olivia! What are you doing here?”
Olivia raised an eyebrow as she listed the glass. “Well, thanks, Mom. What a nice way to greet your daughter.”
Ginny embraced her youngest and stepped back. “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.” She took in Olivia’s blond hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, her heavy eyelids and make up free face. “I just wasn’t expecting you for a few more weeks. Is something wrong?” She didn’t need to ask really. She knew the answer.
Olivia sighed, sipping the lemonade. She shrugged a shoulder. “I just don’t fit in in California anymore, Mom.”
Ginny tipped her head slightly and looked at her daughter quizzically. “But you love California.”
Olivia shrugged her shoulder again. “Maybe not as much as I thought.”
Ginny tossed her bag onto the kitchen island and slipped easily into mom-mode, without realizing what she was doing. “Livvie, have you dropped out of school?”
Olivia opened her mouth to speak at the same moment Liz called from the front of the house.
“Ginny, are you here?”
Ginny kept her gaze on Olivia as she answered. “In the kitchen, hon’”
She didn’t miss the quirk of her daughter’s brow when she called Liz hon’.
Liz stepped into the kitchen with the car seat looped over one arm. Ginny took it from her and set it on the island in front of her. “Hello, little Bella. Did you have a good nap at our art class?”
She began unhooking the safety harness, anxious to hold the little one she’d come to love. “We were just at an art class. Bella’s mama and I have been taking art classes and today we had to sketch a live model.” She cradled Bella in her arms and smiled, delighted to see Bella trying to smile back. “Olivia, you know Liz.”
Oliva nodded. “Yeah. Hey, Liz. Nice to see you. I heard you had a baby. She’s beautiful.”
Ginny thought she heard slight tension in her daughter’s words, but she didn’t have the mentally energy to deduce the reason.
“How has California been?” Liz asked sliding onto a stool. “Your mom says you love it.”
Oliva sighed and reached for a cracker from a box open on the counter. “I think love is in past tense now. Honestly, I think I made the wrong decision.”
Liz winced. “Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”
A brief silence settled over the room as Ginny continued to talk to Bella. Olivia munched on a cracker and Liz pretended to straighten the books sitting on the edge of the island.
Olivia cleared her throat. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt you two. I’m bushed from the trip anyhow. I’m going to head up and crash for a bit.”
“You don’t have to leave.” Ginny turned her attention away from the baby to Olivia. “I just wanted to talk to Liz about a job opportunity at the library.” She stretched one arm out to hug her daughter. “I’m so glad you’re home, Olivia. We can talk about everything else later, okay?”
Olivia nodded and walked toward the stairs, carrying her glass of lemonade. “I’m sure we will. I’d better rest up for this one. Where’s Dad?”
The muscles in Ginny’s face and neck tightened at the question and she hoped neither of the women noticed. “He’s looking at a property and then I’m sure he’ll be home.”
Oliva snorted on her way up the stairs. “Some things never change. That man is a workaholic.”
Ginny let out a slow breath and sat on a stool next to Liz. “That was certainly a surprise. I had no idea she was coming home. I’m happy to see her, but . . . Well, anyhow, you don’t need to hear about all that.” She winked at Liz. “I wanted to talk to you about a possible job at the library. It would only be part time for now, but we need someone for the childrens’ story hour. You’d help create programs for the story hour and other special events during the month and then fill in on Sara’s day off. What do you think?”
Liz made a face. “Oh gosh. I don’t know. I’m not good with children.”
Ginny laughed. “You’d better start practicing. You have one, you know.”
“Yeah, but she’s mine.” Liz laughed. “I just don’t like other people’s children.”
Ginny sat Bella back in the seat and walked to the cupboard for some tea. “At least think about it. It probably won’t be enough to support you and Bella, but it could help until you can find a full-time position.”
“I’ll definitely think about it. I really appreciate the offer.”
Ginny pulled out a box of tea and two mugs. “It will have to be approved by the board, of course, but they had already asked me to start putting out my feelers for someone. They asked about a month ago, but I got distracted with planning the fundraiser. That’s next weekend, if you want to come. It’s an afternoon tea and silent auction. Not the most adventurous event I’ve ever planned but I am still resisting the wine tastings they want me to do.”
She dropped tea bags into the mugs and filled the kettle. “The board thinks a wine tasting is a hip and progressive fundraiser, but they haven’t thought ahead to what can happen when some of the members of the community decide to do a little too much tasting, if you know what I mean.”
Liz sighed. “I definitely know what you mean.”
Ginny bit her lower lip, mentally chiding herself for bringing up the topic of drinking. Liz had already mentioned to her that alcohol had been a vice for her when she’d been living with Gabe. Time to change the subject. “So, everything okay with you and Matt?”
Her back was to Liz, but she desperately wanted to turn around and gauge Liz’s expression when she asked that question.
“Yeah. It’s fine.”
Ginny knew that defensive tactic well.
It’s fine. Code words for, “Things are not fine.”
She turned and slid a plate of cookies toward Liz. “You seemed upset when you left today. Are you sure things are fine?”
Liz took a bite out of a cookie and chewed slowly, her gaze focused on the window over the kitchen sink. It took a few seconds for her to answer. “Matt’s as nice as can be and I guess that’s the problem right now. He seems nice but he lied to me about something, and it’s really been bothering me. I just haven’t had a lot of time to figure out how to address it since I started classes.”
Ginny sat back on the stool while she waited for the water to boil. “What did he lie about?”
Liz glanced at her then at the stack of books in front of her. She hesitated a few seconds before speaking. “He never told me he was the responding officer that night in my apartment.”
Ginny’s eyes widened as she realized she was the one who had spilled those beans. “Oh, Liz. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“I would have found out eventually. What bothers me is that Matt never told me. He let me believe another officer had responded. I mean, I should have guessed. Spencer only has six officers and Matt works the night shift a lot. The odds that he would be there were pretty good.”
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching Bella kick her feet and smile. “I didn’t have just have a fall that night. I know it’s what a lot of people think, but it wasn’t a normal medical emergency.”
She bit her lower lip, her eyes glistening. Ginny’s chest constricted. She’d known there was more to Liz’s story, but she’d never wanted to ask. The pain etched on Liz’s face was evident and while Ginny felt honored that Liz wanted to share the truth with her, she also wanted to blurt out that Liz shouldn’t feel the need to confess anything, that whatever happened that night wasn’t as important as how Liz was trying to live her life now.
“I tried to kill myself.”
Even though Ginny had already started to fill in the blanks, it didn’t make hearing the words any easier. She decided to not be a mother and pepper Liz with questions or pull her into an embrace, instead letting her share as much or as little as she wanted.
“I took five pregnancy tests. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about all I had done in the last year and a half that had gone against who I was, how disgusted in me that my parents already were, how disgusted I was in myself. I panicked.” Tears slipped from the corners of Liz’s eyes, rolling down her cheeks. “I just wanted to make it all stop. The shame. The voices in my head telling me I was horrible, and I’d always be horrible. I knew I couldn’t have a baby. I wasn’t thinking clearly. I took a handful of the painkillers I’d had left over from my knee surgery and waited to fall asleep, but within seconds of swallowing them I was panicking again.”
She let out a shaky breath and looked at Ginny. “I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the innocent life inside of me destroyed. I tried to throw the pills up while I called 911. I threw up some but not enough and I was already blacking out when I heard pounding on the door.”
She closed her eyes and gasped in a breath. “I’m so ashamed Ginny. I’ve never told anyone else what happened that night. I lied to my parents, to Molly and to Matt and after awhile I even started to believe the lie myself. I’ve tried to pretend that I didn’t do any of that, but I can’t pretend anymore. It’s all unraveling and what I don’t understand is why Matt keeps sticking around. I’m messed up. He knows that. Maybe he just pities me.”
Ginny shook her head. “No. I don’t believe that. He cares about you, Liz. We all do. I’m so sorry you’ve held on to this for so long.”
Liz wiped at the tears on her cheeks and then accepted the tissue Ginny handed her and blew her nose.
The whistle of the kettle brought Ginny back to her feet. She pulled the kettle from the burner and poured the water in the waiting mugs. “The way you need to think about it is that Matt knows all these things about you, yet he still cares for you. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It’s kind of like how God cares about us despite our failings.”
Liz narrowed her eyes, a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. “Ginny Jefferies, did you just compare Matt McGee to God? Seriously?” She laughed through her tears. “I mean, I know half the town thinks he’s a saint, but come on. Let’s not push it.”
Ginny laughed loudly, her hand against her chest. “Oh no. I didn’t even realize how that sounded. No, of course I am not comparing Matt to God. Matt is a man. He’s not perfect and he was wrong to lie to you about that night, but Liz.” She leaned forward and covered Liz’s hand with hers. “You need to talk to him about it. I’m sure he had a good reason. He loves you. You may not believe it, but I can see it. He loves you and if he doesn’t tell you soon, I’m going to kick him in his behind as motivation.”
Liz mocked gasped. “Ginny! I thought you were a sweet Christian woman and here you are talking about kicking people in the butt.”
Ginny winked. “Well, sometimes even sweet Christian women reach their limits.”
Liz shook her head and laughed softly. “Matt and I are friends, Ginny. That’s all. He’s a good friend. He’s been there for me when I’ve needed him the most and that’s why it bothers me so much that he was there that night and didn’t say anything. It’s just yet another humiliating experience of mine he’s witnessed.”
Ginny smiled as she watched Liz blow her nose again and accept another tissue to wipe the tears from her cheeks. Someday this young lady was going to wake up and realize what she had right in front of her and Ginny hoped it didn’t take years for it to happen.
Dropping a spoonful of honey in her tea, Ginny stirred it slowly and thought about how she’d reached her limit with more than just Matt McGee not admitting his feelings for Liz. She knew she should practice what she’d preached to Liz and tell Stan how she was feeling. Unfortunately, Stan hadn’t been very open to conversations lately and telling him how she felt might have to be done during a full-on blow-out argument at this point.