Thursday, July 16, 2009

Excerpt - Mortal Coil by Julie Eberhart Painter

The Ponytail Perp is on the loose. Ellen, the long-term care facility administrator and single mom, could lose her job and she's conflicted about her feelings for the detective whose trying to solve the crimes. In the comfort of her kitchen, she and her almost eleven-year-old daughter, Patti, share a tender moment processing their grief. It's the first time Ellen admits to herself that her husband's death may not have been an accident. But can she ever tell Patti?


A few nights later, Ellen and Patti were putting supper together. Sherman was curled safely off in the corner, watching for the signal that his dinner was ready.
“Mom, do you ever get lonely?”
Ellen put the pot back on the stove and looked at Patti. “Sure. I miss your father terribly. You must miss him, too.”
Patti picked up the dog’s dish and began ladling dry dog food into it. She faced her mother, spoon in the air. “I think about him a lot, Mom. Sandy’s parents have been really nice to me. They include me in a lot of their family stuff, but sometimes I feel like a charity case. It’s not like when we used to get together--when Daddy was here and the weekends were... fun.”
“We can’t expect the Millers to include us the way they used to. Les is their dad and he sets the pace with his own family. I don’t think he wants the widow...” Ellen’s voice caught in her throat. “...the neighbor lady tagging along on their family outings.”
“We had so much fun when Daddy was here. He knew all about baseball.” Patti paused. “He was...”
“Yeah.” Patti put the spoon on the counter and walked into her mother’s arms. “I miss him, Mom. The KidzCamp counselor said I always would. Doesn’t it ever stop hurting?”
“It will hurt less someday, especially if they find the person who was driving the car that caused the accident. But for both of us, there will always be an empty space where your daddy was.”
“I get scared sometimes. I woke up this morning, and I couldn’t remember what he looked like.”
“You’ll remember him again, just the way he was when you were little. You have his pictures to remind you. We should get one laminated so you can carry it with you in your backpack.”
“You moved them downstairs, but I know where they are. I went to look for the pictures this morning. I just couldn’t go to school without seeing him. Is that okay? Is that normal?”
“Sit down a minute, honey. Let me explain something.”
Patti sat.
“Everything you’re feeling is normal. It’s okay to remember your dad any way you want to. No one should talk you out of it.”
“Do you think about him... a lot... when you’re at work?”
“Sometimes. Mostly I think about him at home and on those long, empty weekends you mentioned.”
“When the kids have things they do with their families. That’s the worst.”
“Maybe you and I could go see Great-gramma some weekend soon--when the weather in Pennsylvania gets better, before your softball season begins.”
“I’d like that. She’s very old, Mom. Is she gonna die, too?”
“We all die. We just don’t know when. She’s quite the miracle at her age.”
“Daddy wasn’t old. He was only forty-five when… And you’re forty. Are you--? But his was an accident.”
“People die when it’s their time.” Ellen had never told Patti she thought Tom might have been deliberately hit. At her age, Patti shouldn’t know about that kind of meanness. “We just have to move along in our lives and trust that we have enough time left to do what we came for.”
“I hope you have a hundred years, Mom.”
Ellen hugged her daughter. A hundred years without Tom sounded like a life sentence.
~ * ~

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