Excerpt Stay for Me by Corinne Michaels
Beep. Beep. Beep.
It can’t be six thirty already. I swear, I just fell asleep.
I roll over, check the clock, and sure enough, it’s time to get my ass up. My hand slides across the sheets to feel the cold, and I want to cry. Over the last eight months, I’ve felt like I’m living the same day on repeat. I look for him, ache for him, try to feel the warmth that was once there, but it’s gone.
Just like he is.
“Mom!” Melanie’s voice screeches at the end. “Get up!”
I sit up in the bed, drape my legs over the side, and close my eyes.
I can do this. I’ve been doing it this long, and I’m doing the best I can. The kids need better, and I have to be that for them even if the pain is still so intense I want to give up.
Ten days ago, we moved into this new house, which is a simple house in the middle of nowhere, but it’s close to my husband’s—my now-gone husband’s—family and the place he’s buried.
I’m struggling to breathe, to find something to hold on to that will let me know that life will be okay again. It will be. I know this, but I’m alone, and it hurts. I don’t have Luke or his steady faith to remind me that I’m a warrior and I always find a way. I’m the one having to push myself up and remind myself that this isn’t just a deployment. It’s forever. He’s gone. He’s buried in the ground, and I’ll never hear his voice again.
When I closed on this place, it should have been a time of joy. Instead, I sat in that cold chair, signing the mortgage papers with just my name. There were no smiles or jokes as we notched another address on our list. It was tears that filled the space as my pen swiped along the final black line.
My head tilts back to the ceiling and the hurt in my heart grows.
“Mom! Sebastian won’t get out of the bathroom! I have to do my hair!”
I release a deep breath. “I’m coming.”
Clenching my teeth so hard they may shatter, I get to my feet, pull a robe on, and shuffle out the door.
Melanie gets one look at me, and her eyes bulge. “Oh my God!”
“I look that good?” I joke. Sure, I haven’t slept in a week and was up crying half the night, but I don’t think I look that bad.
“No, it’s . . . your eyes are swollen. If Miss Cybil were here, she’d be screaming.”
“It’s been a rough few months.”
Plus, Cybil wouldn’t say shit. When I met her, we were two lonely military wives, stuck in Pensacola without any family or friends, and I was pregnant. Cybil was a sweet Southern girl with a thick accent and a heart of gold. We’ve been best friends for twelve years.
She’s a peach. On the outside, she’s soft, sweet, and you think she’s easy to bruise. But on the inside, there is a pit. A hard shell that’s impenetrable and able to withstand almost anything. She’s my rock, and I miss her more than almost anything.
Mel sighs and then looks at the bathroom door. “I know.”
And she does. It’s been rough on all of us and we wrestled with the idea of coming to Luke’s hometown. Not because we don’t love it here or want the family close but because it meant another life altering change.
We were a military family. Always close to a base, stopping the car at sunrise and sunset to hear the national anthem, and living in cramped houses that had more issues than we could count, but it was our life.
After having held Sebastian in my arms as he sobbed hearing the jet fly over the house, I knew we had to go. It had gone from being a source of joy, of knowing his father could be in that plane, to an ever-present reminder that Luke is gone and will never fly again.
I left, stayed with my in-laws as we looked for somewhere to live. This house came on the market, and thanks to one of the teachers I met at my new job, I was able to grab it quickly. The only issue is that it’s small and the kids don’t have their own separate bathrooms.
“He has to get out of there!”
“You will be totally fine, Melanie. I promise that no one will care if your hair isn’t perfect.”
“You don’t know that. What if these girls are mean? What if the boys don’t like girls who don’t wear makeup? Why can’t I get ready in your bathroom? Why won’t you let me put eyeliner on?”
The life of a preteen girl is always so dramatic.
“Well, I need to get ready in my bathroom. To answer your other questions . . . you’re twelve, your father said he didn’t want you to do it, and I’m going to abide by it because he’s dead and I’m tired.”
Her eyes meet mine, and then she sighs. “I’m sorry, Mom. I shouldn’t have said it . . .”
My sweet girl, always the caretaker. She may only be twelve years old, but you’d never know it. She’s sometimes more grown up than most of the adults I know, but that’s the life of a military child. They grow up too fast, understanding that a family is its own unit and everyone needs to do just a bit more.
Then she lost her father, and her childhood became nonexistent. Gone was the girl who spent hours on fashion and beauty. Instead, she has been trying to be an adult and I’m doing everything I can to stop that progression.
“Don’t be sorry, sweetheart. I am. I shouldn’t have snapped. I was wrong.”
She waits for me to breathe normally and chews on her lower lip. “I’ll get Sebastian and me off to school.”
“No, that’s not necessary. I just need to get going. It’s a first day for all of us.”
Luke’s favorite saying was that everything happened for a reason. He felt that kismet was real, and that it was the reason we met. I don’t know if it’s true, but I never argued. I was eighteen years old, met a man who was a pilot, and I fell—hard. Within a few months, I was pregnant with Melanie and we were married.
No one thought we’d last—in a way, I guess we hadn’t, but it wasn’t the ending anyone had in mind.
“Did Grandma make our lunches?”
I really freaking hope so. I was unpacking while she helped get things ready for today. “She said she did last night.”
“Did she make Sebastian’s sandwich without the crust?”
“I gave her all the instructions.”
She sighs, knowing that, most likely, it didn’t happen. “She’s as bad as Daddy. He doesn’t make the sandwiches right either.”
Her body tenses at her slip. She never mentions Luke. She pretends that he’s just deployed and that we didn’t suffer the most unimaginable pain a family could feel. Melanie has taken it horribly. Luke was her world.
The father that every little girl dreamed of. He may not have always been there because of his job, but neither she nor Sebastian ever felt neglected. His job came first, yes, but kids never felt that. It was only me who got shafted in the time department when it came to Luke’s job, and I accepted my role. I was to handle everything at home—the kids, appointments, moves, and shuttling them around. I ensured that our home was a well-oiled machine, and if something broke, I got it fixed.
However, no one told me to plan for me being the broken piece or what happened when the plane went down.
“Everyone is trying,” I tell her with a smile, thankful that my mother-in-law has been able to step in and help.
“I’ll check on the sandwich while Sebastian is hogging the bathroom!” Mel screams the last part so loud I wince. Then she heads downstairs, missing the soft sound of her brother laughing at her.
“Sebastian, you have five minutes, buddy. All you need to do in there is brush your hair and your teeth. Doesn’t take more than that.”
He’s eleven and this is really just to irritate his sister. I love my kids, but I really hoped to have today go smoothly.
It’s their first day of school in Sugarloaf. They’ve met a few kids over the years when we visited Sylvia and Dennis, but it’s all uncharted for them here. Typically, a new school is no big deal, but this time felt different because we had left military life behind. There was camaraderie between military kids. They understood how hard it was to be the new kid, year in and year out, and tended to be more welcoming.
Now, they’re going to a place where these kids have known each other their whole lives.
Not even thirty seconds later, he’s standing at my door. “Do I match?”
I look at him, dark brown hair just like his father’s and that grin that is impossible to resist. Then I look at his attire and groan. “I thought you and Grandma laid your clothes out last night?”
Oh, Jesus. “And that’s what you want to wear for your first day?”
“Granny said it had character.”
I snort. It has more than that. “Sebastian, sweetheart, that doesn’t match. Go put on the pair of new jeans I bought you.”
“What about the shirt?”
This is not the hill I want to die on, so I say, “If you like it, I think it’s great.”
My mother-in-law has a thing for loud colors and animal print. If it has stripes or spots, she owns it and wears it. I am nothing like that, but she and Sebastian bonded over it years ago, prompting her to help him, “Dress to own the world.” If he likes the shirt, I am not going to stop him.
A boy named Bruce or Troy or God-only-knows-what with fists the size of watermelons will probably have something to say about it, but Sebastian has long since tried to make people like him. He’s a sweet boy who loves to make us smile and constantly entertains us with jokes or music. He writes songs, plays the guitar, and has straight A’s. I couldn’t be any prouder of him if I tried.
“I wish Dad were here.”
“He would’ve liked the shirt.”
I fight back the tears that threaten to form. “He would’ve bought a matching one.”
One thing that Luke didn’t have was fashion sense, but he loved trying to give Sebastian the confidence to wear what he wanted. If he—a big bad navy fighter pilot—would wear a zebra shirt, then Sebastian would too.
“Do you think he’s in heaven watching me today?”
“I would bet all my dollars.”
Sebastian’s face falls slightly. “I miss him.”
I give him a soft smile, one that is a signature. It says, I understand, I wish it were different, but I can’t fix this. “I know you do, but it’s a good thing that we’re in this town with Granny and Pawpaw, right?”
He nods, but I can see the disappointment. “Yeah.”
“It’s not the same, though,” I tack on. There’s nothing that will make this better for any of us, and trying to give him false hope is only going to make it worse.
We are alone.
We’re no longer the Allens, a family of four. We’re just three of us, down a spoke on the wheel that will never be mended.
I lost the man I love and the father of my children because of a mechanical failure. So many apologies. So many nights spent crying, wondering how our life would be if he hadn’t reenlisted three months before that.
If only he hadn’t let me down.
If only he’d loved me enough not to go to work that day like he promised.
If only . . .
But only is a dream that I can never have because reality took him from us, and now, we only have each other.
“No, but I have you.”
Sebastian rushes forward, arms wide, and I pull him tight. His hugs are the best. They’re full of warmth and love.
He lifts up onto his toes, kisses my cheek, and hugs me tighter. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too.”
Melanie comes back up. “Crisis averted.”
I laugh. “Thank you, Mel.”
She shoulders past Sebastian and darts into the bathroom. “Jerk.”
My son rolls his eyes. “Sisters.”
As they get themselves ready, I head to my bathroom, dressing in a pantsuit that I hope says hip but still professional. Working as the district counselor will be a huge change of pace from what I’m used to. In California, I was in a rough area. The kids I dealt with needed help in all areas of their lives, from escaping drugs, gangs, and abuse to passing SATs and applying to colleges. My days were never boring, and I loved helping everyone who entered my office.
Mrs. Symonds, the principal here, laughed and told me to prepare for days where I’d be searching for problems to solve.
I’m still excited and ready for any challenge that comes my way.
The kids meet me downstairs, backpacks slung over their shoulders, and I can feel the tension in the air. “You guys ready?”
They nod. Our house has very deep-seated traditions for the first day of school, and I’d like just one damn thing to be the same for them. They file into the room, pushing the other out of the way as they try to win the implied race.
“Move, squirt.” Mel’s voice is hushed.
“You move! You’re stupid.”
Oh, siblings. “Both of you stop.”
“She hears everything,” Sebastian says with wonder.
“Yes, I do. Now, stop being buttheads and let’s have our cake.”
They come into the kitchen area and grab a plate. This was something Luke and I came up with after our first duty station change. On that first day, we have cake for breakfast. It’s a celebration of the wishes we want to make. Even though this isn’t a first-first day of school, it’s a first for us in Pennsylvania, and we’re going to count it. Plus, cake has eggs, and eggs are a breakfast food. Sure, the sugar, oil, and frosting negate anything healthy, but I don’t care.
Each slice has a candle, and in order for the wish to be put out in the world, it must be spoken aloud.
“Melanie, you go first.”
She lifts the cake, staring at the flame. “I hope this year I get all A’s and I finally get a boyfriend.”
Sebastian laughs. “Yeah, right. No boys are going to want to go out with you. You don’t even wear makeup.”
Oh, I don’t have enough strength for this.
She glares at him and then blows her candle out.
“You’re next, Mom.”
I hope this year I don’t fall apart.
They don’t need to hear that. Instead, I bring the cake up and wish for something that might actually happen. “I hope this year gives us new friendships, lots of laughter, and we love our new home.”
“That’s sweet, Mom,” Mel remarks softly.
Sebastian’s voice is opposite of hers. “And boring.”
“Yeah, yeah, you go, Mister Adventure.”
He grins and then closes his eyes. “I hope that I can stop missing Dad so much, I meet some cool kids, and I get to see Jacob Arrowood, tell him how amazing he is, get to go on set, and become a famous actor.”
Melanie and I share a look because Sebastian might just get a part of that wish.
~One month later~
“I am not staying in that thing!” I tell Declan for the tenth time as I stand at his porch with boxes.
“You’re not staying here, Jacob. I’m married with a newborn. I love you, brother, but you really don’t want to stay here either.”
If he thinks that is going to deter me, he’s wrong. “Better than staying in that shack.”
“It’s not a shack. I stayed in it for six months, and Sean managed it as well. Your spoiled ass can handle it too.”
He’s out of his damn mind. He stayed there voluntarily because he didn’t want to stay with Connor. Sean did it because he was trying to win over Devney. I don’t have a damn reason to. “I’d rather not attempt it.”
“Go to Connor’s then.”
“He’s got two kids. You only have one. When it comes to chaos, that’s better.”
Declan huffs. “I swear, we should’ve tossed you off the mountain as a kid.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t. Now, let me in.”
He shakes his head, arms crossed over his chest. To anyone who didn’t know him, he might look intimidating. Not me. I find it hilarious.
I start to make my way up the porch steps but then see the only thing in this house that is scary shove her way past him. All five-foot-two inches of Sydney Arrowood stands there, brow raised and ready for battle. “Jacob Arrowood, you try it, and I’ll knee you so hard in the balls that they never come back down.”
I wince because I don’t doubt that she’ll do it. “Syd.”
“I can’t stay in that box. I’m claustrophobic.”
“You are not! You used to lock yourself in that chest your mother had as a hiding spot and you loved the dried out well down on Mrs. Beackerson’s land. Not to mention, you know you have to stay on Arrowood land. That’s the agreement.”
“Yes, but you merged your land with ours, so really, this is Arrowood land.” It’s a stretch, but I don’t care. The damn thing doesn’t even have running water. It’s a compost toilet. Seriously, I didn’t know that was a thing.
She sighs and steps toward me. “I love you, Jacob. I do, but I don’t love you that much. You are not moving in for six months. Not when I have a baby and Declan.”
“He’s worse than the baby, isn’t he?”
Syd nods with a grin.
“Nice,” Declan adds.
“Glad to see your hearing works, old man.”
Declan gives me the middle finger before Syd’s hand touches my arm. “Ellie has the tender heart. You should try her. Devney would let you stay in the main house if you begged enough. But seeing how they’re getting married in a few days and will probably be humping like rabbits when they get back from their honeymoon, I’m not sure you could beg enough. Plus, they have Austin, who needs stability, not their homeless uncle . . .”
“Syd, I’m begging. I’m begging you to let me in this house, you won’t even know I’m here.” I’m the damn charity case in the family.
She rolls her eyes. “No.”
“You know I’m a big fucking deal in the real world, right?”
“Yes, but you’re in Sugarloaf now, and we really don’t care how big of a deal you’ve become. Here, you’re just Jacob, the idiot brother who once starred on that horrible sitcom that I made a meme out of.”
“Wait, you made the meme?”
She grins. “It doesn’t matter who made the meme, the point is that you’re not staying here.”
I should’ve known it was her repaying me for putting a rubber snake in her bed or when I convinced her a bear ate Declan. That was a fun one.
It was also when I realized that acting might just be something I was good at.
Right now, all I want is a normal house to sleep in. So, I play nice. “You’re seriously going to turn me, your favorite brother-in-law, out?”
Not like I’m really homeless, I just don’t want to stay in that tiny house.
Sydney doesn’t look apologetic. “I really am, but for the record, you’re not my favorite, Sean is.”
My mouth drops at that. “Sean? Why the hell is he everyone’s favorite?”
“He’s the nice one.”
Okay, that’s true, but who cares about that? Nice is overrated. “I’m the attractive one,” I counter.
“True.” Sydney looks back at her husband and shrugs. “But it doesn’t change the fact that your ass isn’t staying here.”
Declan shakes his head. “Wait. You think he’s the attractive one? What the hell does that make me?”
Sydney’s fingers slide against his face. “The perfect one.”
Well, this is a bust and making me nauseated. “It’s not a great idea to start a marriage off on lies,” I shout as I stalk off to the car.
“And this is another reason you’re not staying here,” Syd yells back.
“Some welcome home I get!” I say.
“Welcome home, idiot!” Declan calls back.
If I didn’t have a box in my arms, he’d get a fist to the face.
I’m clearly going to have to stay in that damn thing or with Connor. The tiny house is a more appealing option. I love my brother, and he’s great and all, but we’ve always been the ones who bicker. It doesn’t matter how old we get, when we are around each other, my inner ten-year-old comes out. God only knows what the hell living together would be like.
Also, I love my nieces, but I’m not ready to have that twenty-four seven. Hadley is a handful—a loving, beautiful, adorable handful who never stops talking. I need to study my lines and prepare for my movie that begins shooting as soon as I get back.
“Come for dinner tomorrow, Jacob,” Syd says as she wraps her arms around the jackass she married.
“Oh, I will. If I have to sleep in that damn thing, you’re all feeding me!”
She laughs while Declan shakes his head. They might think I’m kidding, but I’m not. I’ve lived in Hollywood for the last nine years without having to cook. I am a pro at takeout and delivery, but this is Sugarloaf, and there’s none of that here.
I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without help. Hopefully, Mrs. Maxwell is still on the welcoming committee and will bring over a casserole or some shit. I make a mental note to stop by and visit with as many neighbors as I can.
Mom was always part of that crew. If someone came by, she fed them. If that’s still part of the town’s MO, I’m all for it.
I get the box back into the car and stand with the door open, leaning against the frame. “I really expected more from you, Syd. You could’ve offered the barn at least!”
“Where would I sneak off to have hot, crazy sex with your brother if I did that?”
I gag. “God that mental picture is now burned in my brain.”
I get in the car before anyone can say anything else. Now, I’ll have nightmares of them as well as what Sean and Devney will be like after they return from their honeymoon. I take the scenic route as I make the drive back to the Arrowood farm.
The corner store where I had my first job is still there. So is the gas station with the old pumps that they won’t change out because the new ones are complicated. Then there are the new things like the bakery that Mrs. Symonds’s daughter owns, a pizza place, and a dairy barn.
It’s the same in so many ways, but it feels different. It was like the first night after my mother died. Everything was there, just as it always had been, and yet, it was as though the house were empty. The most important thing was gone, and that void has remained.
After a few winding turns, I get to the entrance.
It doesn’t matter that in the last eighteen months I’ve been here several times. I still feel the same knot in my stomach as I get to the gate.
I stare up at the sign that has been there for fifty years and sigh.
“What’s one truth about an arrow?” I ask as I look up, wishing it were my mother’s voice asking. “Removing half the feather will create the curve and alter its course.”
She always made it seem like we needed to stick together, but in the last few months, I’ve realized that isn’t it. How does removing the feathers or creating a curve bond us together? It doesn’t. She clearly thought I needed to change directions—I think. Is it because I’m the one who always bends? Is it because I need to remove something in my life? Or that I never follow the right path? She never explained it, she would just smile and tell me that one day I’d understand.
Well, I’d like that day to hurry up and get here because it’s pretty lame not to understand what the hell my meaning even means. My brothers had lightning strikes with theirs, and I’m over here, still trying to figure out a riddle that no one has the answer to.
“A little help here, Mom,” I say. “I don’t think I’m asking for too much after all these years. The other three idiots got easy ones, but you gave me the one that requires an answer key.” I feel like an idiot looking up at the sign as though she’s going to answer. Still, there’s an overwhelming sense of her around me. “What would you think of all of us now? Would you at least be happy with three out of four of us being married? Well, Sean isn’t yet, but he will be in, like, four days.”
The sun peeks out of the clouds, and I smile. I thought she would be happy.
I get up to the house, and there’s a car there.
I park next to it, not knowing who the hell would be at the house since my brother is in the Caribbean.
As I open the door and get out, a woman emerges from the other car. Her long red hair blows softly in the spring breeze, her blue eyes lock on mine, and for a moment, I don’t know who I am. Everything escapes me. My name, where I am, the ability to breathe and think is gone.
I’ve seen beauty before.
I’ve known women who are every man’s desire, but this woman is . . . something else.
“Hi.” She waves tentatively as I stand there, staring. “Are you . . .” I watch as awareness strikes her. “Oh. You’re Jacob Arrowood. I’m . . . I didn’t think . . . I mean, I just . . . yeah, I’m Brenna Allen. I bought the house that Devney owned. It’s just down the road a bit. I guess her brother lived there before. I’m sure you know that since you’re from here and all, and . . . I’m rambling. But, anyway, I came by to bring this.” Brenna lifts a casserole dish. “It’s for Ellie, but I’m not sure where her house is since it’s a little confusing . . .”
Brenna’s voice drops, and she pulls her lower lip between her teeth. I need to say something instead of standing here like a fucking idiot. “Okay.”
That’s the best I can come up with. Jesus, I need to be slapped. I clear my throat and try again. “I mean, thank you, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
“Is Ellie here?”
“They live a little down the road that way. It’s the third driveway.”
Brenna closes her eyes and sighs. “I’m sorry. Ellie mentioned it was past the main house, but I don’t know which one the main house is.”
“This is the main house.”
“I see that now.” Her cheeks blaze, and she ducks her head. “Well, what about Devney? I’d love to say hi since . . . I’m guessing this is her house?”
“Yeah, that would be great. I’m sure she’d love to see you, but my brother whisked her away to St. Lucia.”
“Oh! Wow. That’s one heck of a whisk.”
I smile—or, at least, that’s what I hope I do. “Yeah, my brother is a romantic at heart. He is surprising her by proposing and then marrying her in a few days.”
Brenna tucks her hair behind her ear. “That’s sweet.”
“Or really stupid if she says no and he’s paid for all of us to fly out there to celebrate a wedding that won’t happen.”
Her deep blue eyes look up, nearly taking my breath away. “Luke always said a man only asked that question when he knew the answer.” She laughs. “I would hope that your brother is confident.”
I take a step toward her, wanting to ease the look of pain in her eyes, and then stop myself. “I’m sorry to hear about Luke. I didn’t know him well. He was a few years ahead of me.”
No idea what possessed me to explain that, but at least I’m talking in full sentences.
“Thank you. We miss him a lot. It’s always so weird when people say they’re sorry.” She smiles. “I mean . . . I appreciate your saying it. It’s just that we’re finding a new normal and doing our best even though we miss him. My son, Sebastian, especially.”
I remember that. After Mom died, people were always apologizing, but we were just trying to live without the core of our family. I feel like an ass for bringing it up.
“Ellie mentioned your son is a big fan of Navigator.”
She nods. “Yes, he loves you. You play a superhero that happens to be a fighter pilot as your day job in the movie, so . . . I’m sure that’s a part of it. I don’t know why I just explained what you do since you clearly know that. Anyway, he pretty much worships the ground you walk on.”
I laugh. “That must be shaky ground then.”
Brenna’s smile is soft as she takes a step back. “I’m sure you’re worthy of the praise. After all, you’re willing to spend time with a kid you’ve never met. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
“I lost my mother at a very young age, and I remember all too well how hard that was. I think her death shaped all of our lives in a lot of ways, so if there is a way for me to help someone through a similar situation, I’m happy to do it.”
“You’re very sweet to say that, Jacob. Or is it Jake? I never know, and I hate to assume.”
“Jacob. Only one person is allowed to call me Jake. She’s nine and pretty much owns all of her uncles.”
“I understand. Sounds like the little girl is lucky to have you.” Brenna’s smile is warm but ushers in an awkward pause. “Well, I should go, but I’m going to be late getting back, would you mind giving it to her?” She extends the tray of food toward me, and I grin. I have one meal down.
“I would, but you see, I’m living in this house by myself for a week, and well, I will starve to death if I bring this to Ellie.”
Her lips turn up, and the sadness in her eyes disappears. “So, you’re telling me that this casserole will save your life if I give it to you instead?”
“That’s what I’m saying. I’m a man in need of food, and Ellie is completely capable of cooking for herself.”
“In that case, consider it yours.”
“You’re the hero here, Brenna.”
Her smile does something to my heart. “I appreciate you thinking that.”
“I appreciate the casserole.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
She starts to walk toward her car, and there’s a need so deep to stop her, to exchange even a few more words, or see her deep blue eyes brighten, that I step forward as if to follow her.
“Brenna,” I call out, forcing her to stop.
“I’d like to meet Sebastian whenever you think it would be okay. I leave for Sean and Devney’s wedding in two days, but then I’ll be back here for six months and will have more free time than I’ll know what to do with.”
Her smile is stunning, and my throat feels tight. “He’ll love it. He’s had a rough first month at school. Well, he’s had a rough nine months in general if I’m being completely honest. Sebastian is a sweet boy who is trying to fit in somewhere he’s not sure that he does.”
I planned to make a sarcastic comment about how I’ll save him, but the look in her eyes tells me she’s past jokes. She’s suffering, tired, and overwhelmed by everything on her plate, and this deep urge to make it better fills me.
I need to stop that shit.
She’s a widow.
The widow of someone I knew and liked. Also, she shouldn’t get involved with a bachelor from Hollywood who has zero intention of ever moving here.
Not because of the past or because I am nothing like my idiot brothers who found farm life more appealing than the city, but because my life doesn’t exist here.
There’s nothing in the world that could make me stay.
So, I give her my signature grin. “Hopefully, we’ll turn it around for him.”
“I hope so too.”
*excerpt posted with the author’s permission