Special Fiction Saturday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 31 and 32

As always, this is a continuing/serial story. I share a chapter a week and at the end of the story, after I edit and rewrite it, I self-publish it. To catch up with the story click HERE. To read the rest of the books in this series click HERE.

Let me know in the comments what you think. Or don’t. That’s okay too. *wink*

If you would prefer to read the book when it is all complete, you can pre-order a copy HERE on Amazon. It releases January 31, 2023.

Chapter 31

Telling her parents about her past, the night with Jeff, and all the dumb things she’d done in the last several years was definitely hard, but if she was going to testify against the jerk, they needed to know. It would avoid a lot more questions and concerns later.

There was one thing about her family Judi couldn’t deny. They loved her.

She didn’t know why, but they loved her and wanted the best for her even when she didn’t want it for herself.

Ellie had held her hand as she talked and when she was done her mom had hugged her close. Her dad had pounded the table once with a closed fist, stood and turned away from his family looking out the dining room window across the cow pasture. After a few minutes he said in a deep, emotion choked voice he’d like to drive to the city and let Jeff know how he felt with his fists.

“No man should ever — And my daughter. I’d like to —” Tom shook his head, fists propped against his hips, looking out the window again.

Rena had reminded him that the courts would take care of Jeff and that Judi was going to try to help that along.

Back in her apartment, Judi pulled a fuzzy blue blanket around her and turned the television on. She needed to disappear into a good movie for a while, quiet her brain before returning to work at Ben’s office tomorrow. She also needed to start looking for another part time job soon or she wouldn’t be able to pay her rent.

Half way in to the movie a knock on the door startled her and she looked at the door reluctantly. She wasn’t up to visitors tonight. She shuffled to the door and peaked out the front window.

Good grief. Why was he here?

Ben smiled, one arm leaning on the door frame as she opened it. “Hey, employee. How ya’ doing?”

She stepped back to let him in, frowning in confusion. “What are you doing here? Haven’t you had a long day?”

“Oh, well, hello to you too,” he said with a laugh as he walked by.

“Oh. Sorry. It’s just that it’s a long drive from Burkett and you’ve never stopped by before.” Her eyes widened. “Oh man. Are you here to fire me?”

Ben laughed, sitting in the chair across from the couch. “Judi, no! I’m here to check on you.” He winced apologetically. “And maybe discuss your case a little bit. We can do it in the office, but I thought it might be better on your own turf, so to speak. Also, I stopped by after visiting my parents.”

Emotionally drained or not, she knew they did need to discuss the case. “Can I make you a cup of coffee? Tea? A soda?”

“A soda would be fine.”

“How is Angie’s dad?” she asked over her shoulder as she walked toward the refrigerator. “And your sister?”

Ben spoke through a yawn. “Angie’s dad is doing okay. He came with her to pick up Amelia. He said the doctor said he didn’t have a heart attack, but needed to follow up with his cardiologist. His blood pressure was high and he seemed to have intense acid reflux. I know he’s been pushing himself too hard.” He took the soda from her and cracked it open. “As for Maggie, she’s okay too. She just found herself at a drinking party she didn’t expect to be at and wanted a ride home. I was glad she called me, but it was a little humbling when she asked if I had acted that stupid when I drank.”

Judi cracked open her own soda and sat on the couch, pulling her legs up underneath her. “If you didn’t, I can tell you I did. Alcohol made me a bigger moron than usual.” She took a sip of her soda. “How are things with you and Angie? Have you swept her off her feet yet?”

He scoffed and pushed a hand back through his hair. “Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen. She was at least civil to me and did ask if I’d watch Amelia for her, but no. I don’t see her running back to me anytime soon.”

“Would you want her to run back to you?”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. She has a fiancé.”

“Who let her move up here without him and probably hasn’t even visited since they moved here.”

Ben leaned forward, placing the can on the coffee table. “Hey, you know what’s weird? I think I said I stopped to see how you were doing, not to talk about me.”

Judi shrugged her shoulder. “Yeah, but you can see I’m fine so let’s talk about you and Angie. Ben Oliver, you’re so used to burying yourself in the law, you don’t even know how to talk about your personal needs and desires.” Mischief sparked in her eye as she adopted a mock serious expression. “I for one, don’t believe that is healthy.”

Ben propped his elbows on his knees and tented his fingers together under his chin. “Let me put it this way, Miss Lambert, it may not be healthy but it also isn’t healthy to want something I can’t have.”

Judi reached for a pad of paper and a pen on the table next to her couch, crossed one leg over the other, and narrowed her eyes. “So, what you are saying, Mr. Oliver, is that you want Angie Phillipi, but you think you can’t have her. Isn’t that what you’re saying to the court?”

A deep laugh rumbled from Ben as he leaned back casually in the chair, sliding down comfortably and draping his arms over the side. “Don’t forget who is the actual lawyer here, Lambert. I’ll out maneuver you every single time. Enough about me. How are you? Nervous about this case?”

Judi tossed the pen and paper down and sighed. “You just want to know if I want to crawl back into a bottle and yes, I did want to, and yes I did visit a bar and have a whiskey, but no, I’m not ready to go back to my old lifestyle yet.” She made a face. “In fact, the alcohol made me sick to my stomach and I spent most of that night throwing up or doubled over in bed.”

His expression had faded from playful to more serious. “Tell me about that night with this guy. All of it, if you can. As your lawyer I need to know to what extent he hurt you.”

She pulled her knees up to her chest, let out a breath, and launched into the same story she’d told Ellie a year and a half ago and her parents the night before.

When she was done, Ben stood, his expression similar to her dads. He set his hands on his waist and paced behind the chair a couple of times. “Okay. Now I have another question for you, and I hope you don’t mind me asking.” He stopped pacing and looked up at her. “Have you seen a counselor about this?”

Judi pressed her forehead against her knees and groaned. “Not you too. No. I haven’t seen a counselor. I’m fine.”

“Judi, this is something that —”                                  

“Ben! Stop!” She looked up, her voice softening. “It took all I had to admit I had a drinking problem and go to AA, okay? I don’t want to go to a counselor. I’m fine. Really.” She sighed. “I appreciate you and Ellie and now my parents pushing me to talk to someone and I’ll consider it, but right now, agreeing to support this case against him is a therapy of its own.”

Ben held a hand up, palm out. “Okay. I understand. I don’t want to pressure you, but if you do decide you want to talk to someone, there is a woman at my church who is great.”

Judi took a long sip from her soda. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She stood and stretched, yawning. “For now, though, I need some sleep if I’m going to get to work on time and you look like you could use some sleep yourself.”

Rubbing his hand against his chin, Ben matched her yawn with an even bigger one. “I definitely could.”

Following him to the door, Judi leaned against the door frame as he walked out onto the landing. “Ben, have you thought of a new hairstyle?”

He turned and looked at her sleepily. “What?”

She tapped a fingertip to her chin and looked at him with a pondering expression for a moment. “It’s just — maybe Angie would be more apt to pay attention to you if —”

He turned back around. “Good night, Judi.”

“I’m just saying. Appearance is important and —”

He waved over his shoulder as he walked down the stairs toward the parking lot. “See you in the morning.”

“It’s not that you look bad now, but a new hairstyle might make her look at you differently and if she looks at you differently —”

He pressed the unlock button on his keychain and it beeped. “I appreciate the advice. I’m sure I’ll place it in the file it needs to go in.”

Judi let out a small huff of breath, watching it fog the air in front of her. “Hey, I’m just trying to help keep you from becoming a lonely, bitter old man. What can I say?”

Ben waved as he slid into the driver seat and she laughed, stepping back into the apartment and closing the door. He might be ignoring her now, but eventually he would realize her advice would be just what he needed to get what he wanted.

Chapter 32

The next afternoon, Judi’s fingers ached from all the briefs she’d typed, appointments she’d set up and paperwork she had filed. She stretched them briefly and she looked up to see Ben come in the front door with two take-away containers and a cup of coffee.

“You’re lucky,” he announced. “They had the corn beef on rye you wanted.”

He set a takeaway container in front of her and headed toward the back office, but not before she spotted the shorter haircut he was sporting.

“Hold on a minute. I thought it took you longer than usual. What’s with the new haircut?” She smirked, leaning back in the chair and folding her arms across her chest. “Looks like someone took my advice after all.” She stood and took a quick lap around him, arms still across her chest, inspecting the cut. “Looks nice. Now we can talk about what you should wear next time you go over.”

He lifted a hand and stepped toward his office. “I got my haircut because I needed it. That’s all. Don’t start getting cocky. And I can dress myself thank you very much.”

She looked him up and down. “You can dress yourself for work, but this outfit is way too uptight for —”

“Go eat your lunch.” He gestured toward her desk. “I’m going to eat mine in my office. With the door closed. Firmly closed.”

She was almost done with her lunch when the front door opened, and she looked up to see Bill Henderson walking in. Ben’s office door opened a few seconds later.

“Bill, hey there!” He stepped forward and held a hand out. Bill took it and they shook firmly. “Come on back. I’m free. I just came out to get some creamer for my coffee.”

Bill gave a quick shake of his head. “Actually, I’m on my way to a lunch date but I wanted to drop in and let you know I won’t need Friday’s appointment.”

Ben’s eyebrows raised. “You and Veronica ready to settle? I’ll call her lawyer and work out a new time.”

Bill smiled, a soft chuckle coming from him as he rubbed the beard now growing on his chin. “No, actually. She’s my lunch date.” He shrugged a shoulder. “We’re going to try to work things out.”

Ben couldn’t help smiling. “Hey, that’s great to hear. Really.”

“I know it cuts into your pay, but I want you to get a bill together for services already rendered,” Bill said. “I’ll be back next week to settle up.” He winked. “And I’ll have more time then to find out how your situation is going.”

After Bill left, Judi stifled a giggle. “Yes, Ben. How is your situation going?”

Ben sighed. “Get back to work. Oh, and I called that lawyer at the number you gave me. I set up a zoom meeting with him and his client for Friday. Does that work for you?”

“Yes. But about your situation —”

“And I’ll need the paperwork for the meeting with Jack Paulson tomorrow, so if you could pull that out of the filing cabinet, that would be great. Also, the file on Tony Murray’s deed transfer and —.”

Judi let out a dramatic exhale. “Fiiiiine. I’ll get back to work.”

Ben closed the door to his office, emerging an hour later with his coat and phone in his hand. “Hey. I just got a call from Cindy.”

“How’s her husband?”

“Doing really well. The cancer is responding to the treatment.”

That was good news for Cindy and her husband but not as great for Judi, who would probably need a new job now. “So, she will be coming back?”

“No and yes. She asked me if she could come back only a couple days a week. I told her that would work fine, and you can fill in the rest of the days. Actually, I’d love to have you on full time and work with her on the days she is here. What do you think?”

Full time work meant staying in Spencer full time. She wasn’t sure she really wanted that but it was a good offer and a good job. Beggars couldn’t be choosers.”

“Um. Yeah. I think I could handle that.”

Ben smiled and zipped up his jacket. “Great. That settles it. You start Monday.” He tossed his keys upon the air and caught them. “I’m going to head out a little early today. I want to check on Adam and see if he needs anything.”

Judi folded her arms across her chest and smirked. “Doesn’t he have two, muscular sons to help him?”

“Yeah, but they’ve got jobs that take them out of the area so —”

“So, maybe Adam isn’t the only one who you’re hoping might need some help.”

“Finish up those briefs and then you can head out and go focus on your own life, Lambert.”

Judi winked. “It’s more fun to focus on yours.” She squinted and wrinkled her nose. “You’re going to stop off at home and change, right?”

Ben looked down at clothes, holding his arms out to his side. “Why? What’s wrong with this?”

“You should look more casual and relaxed. Less formal. Go home for a pair of jeans and a t shirt and a pair of sneakers. Blue t-shirt to bring out your eyes.”

He rolled his eyes and walked away from her toward the front door. “See you tomorrow morning, Judi. 9 a.m. this time, not 10.”

“Change your clothes,” he said mockingly as he walked out onto the sidewalk. “You need to look more casual. Whatever. I look fine.”

He slid behind the steering wheel and started the car, questioning what he was even doing. He did want to see if Adam needed some help, but he could call and ask him instead of driving out there. Still, Adam would probably deny he could use the help, the same way he would if he were in the same situation.

He’d been telling the truth when he told Judi he wanted to see if Adam needed help, but, yeah, fine — He also wanted to see Angie again. He often though of how flushed she’d become that day just from him standing near her. He wasn’t naïve enough to believe he had a chance with her again, but he couldn’t deny that flustering her gave him a rush.

After he’d gone back to his apartment and changed into jeans and t-shirt like Judi had suggested, he pushed play on a Buddy Guy song and headed out, pulling into the Phillipi’s driveway as the late afternoon sun streaked at an angle through the trees and across the fields.

At the sight of a red sports car parked on the other side of the barn, he reconsidered the visit, but didn’t have time to back out of the driveway before the front door burst open and Amelia ran toward him. He opened the door, climbed out, scooped her up in his arms without even thinking. She smelled like fruit juice and peanut butter. Evidence that she’d had some jelly with her peanut butter was on her cheek.

“Ben! Come inside. William came to visit, and he brought me paints and a new doll.”

His chest tightened. “Oh yeah? Well, that was very nice of him.”

He set her on the ground, and she took his hand. “Come on! The doll has red hair and a green dress. She’s awesome!”

“I’m coming.” He laughed as she led the way, tugging him along behind her. “I’m coming.”

He didn’t really want to follow her, though, to walk into a house where he was clearly an outsider and where he’d see the man who was going to have the family he would have had if he hadn’t messed everything up.

3 thoughts on “Special Fiction Saturday: Mercy’s Shore Chapter 31 and 32

  1. Ha! Ben and Judi are so much fun in these chapters. The seriousness and the banter work so well together. But, wow, the way chapter 32 ended… I really feel for Ben.


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