What do you do when your past confronts you?

February 21, 2010 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

It has been a long weekend for me.  Unfortunately, I have some kind of bug and have been feeling bad since Friday.  I did get to make it to see Percy Jackson, though, with my husband and son.  It was very good and I know my son loved it!

I hope that you are all enjoying Choices.  The past is about to collide with the present in a BIG way…

Excerpt 17

Jackson walked into the room where his mother’s lifeless body lay. 

“I’ll just give you a few minutes alone.”

He heard the door close behind him.   A shiver raced up his spine as he realized that this was really happening.  Denial was so powerful, that it was sometimes hard to give up.  But there were no more hiding places left.  He was really about to bury his mother.  Never again would he hear her laughter or her stern, all-knowing lectures about what she wanted out of life for him.  She would never pat him on the back again giving him that unspoken sign that everything would be okay.

He didn’t want to say goodbye, wasn’t ready to face this moment.

But here it was, and it wasn’t going to go away.   

            Taking a couple of steps into the room, he stood before the beautiful ivory casket that he had chosen for her, despite her wishes.  A variety of brightly colored roses surrounded her.  The sweet fragrance wrapped around him.  He was sure that he would get a harsh scolding when he met her in heaven for disobeying her direction.   But he didn’t care.  He wouldn’t see her out without something that was as grand as she was.

She looked so hollow.

So empty. 

Makeup had been applied to even out her coloring.  Leaning over her, he reached up to push an errant strand of gray hair back into place.  He placed his hand on top of hers.  This was really it.  This was really the end. 

How was he supposed to say goodbye? 

            In vain, he wished for all of the things that he knew could never be.  He wished that he had visited more often.  He wished that he had spent more time with her.  He thought of all the moments she would never share with him. 

His wedding. 

His children.

Gripping the edge of the casket, his head fell between his shoulders. 

His shoulders shook as he wept for everything they would never share. 

****

            Mallory sat in her car, her hands gripping the steering wheel.  The old funeral home loomed high reminding her of a long ago day when she had put her own mother into the ground.  On that day, she vowed never to come back here.  Yet, here she sat.  She only came today for Jackson.  Despite his harsh words, she knew what he was feeling right now. 

            Still, a part of her knew that she was a fool for coming here.

            But then again, she had always been a fool for Jackson Hart. 

Taking a deep breath, she opened the car door.  If Jacob was here, it would be easier.  For the last year, he had been her support system.  Maybe she had leaned on him too heavily, depended on him too much, but she couldn’t help it. 

He was all she had. 

Unfortunately, tonight he was with Derrick. 

            With him away, she couldn’t help but worry.  Derrick had been a sorry excuse for a stand-in father over the years.  He seemed to make it a point to miss Little League games and school plays.  Despite Jacob’s best efforts at getting his attention, Derrick had remained at a distance.  The indifference caused Jacob to wilt every time his efforts failed, and it killed her a little bit every day to witness it.  In the beginning, she tried to make Derrick see the harm that he was doing, had begged on more than one occasion for him to at least put in an appearance, but it had all been a wasted effort. 

            Only she knew the real reason for his indifference.  Jacob would always be a constant reminder of what happened to him.  He had never forgiven her for her indiscretion with Jackson, no matter how short-lived.  He had made her pay in too many ways to count, including the rough way he had taken her on their wedding night.  Watching her son suffer at his hands had been the ace up his sleeve.  It had done more damage than any physical pain he might have inflicted. 

            Slowly, she climbed the steps realizing that it was just as she feared.  She was early.  The half empty parking lot confirmed that fact.  In truth, she wanted to get here before everyone else.  If Jackson changed his mind about wanting her here, it would be better to find it out in private rather than subject herself to a public scene.  She pulled the door open stepping inside.  The familiar smells washed over her.  She fought the urge to leave, to run back to her car, but refused to give into the impulse.

With no one to greet her, she took a step further stopping beside a table filled with pamphlets.  Memorial announcements were scattered along the top with scriptures neatly printed on them.  Picking one up, she idly fingered the edges. 

A sound caught her attention, bringing her head up.  The door was cracked slightly, and she couldn’t help but peak inside.  Jackson stood alone in front of his mother’s casket, his shoulders shaking as he wept for her.  Tears filled her eyes at the solemn sight.  She wanted to go to him.  Every part of her cried out for it, but she couldn’t.  She wouldn’t intrude on such a private moment.  Besides, she of all people knew how raw the emotions were at a time like this.  No words could ease a person’s suffering as they said goodbye to someone they loved.

            Jackson watched as people milled about in the large room.  People he hadn’t seen for years turned out to say goodbye to his mother.  It always amazed him how quickly fame changed people’s opinions.  After all, he was still the same person that they had all turned their noses up at years ago.  Only now, his recent success seemed to buy him a one-way ticket into Princeton’s elite.  He watched them as they watched him.  They sat in chairs leaning over the backs to whisper the latest rumors. 

Remaining by his mother’s side, he calmly greeted the guests as they strolled in.  An elderly group of women came up to him, one coming to stand directly in front of him.  Her gray hair was pulled into a neat bun, her navy blue dress covered in cheerful flowers.  She grabbed his hand, holding it tight. 

“I’m Gladys Ridgefield.   I knew your mother from church.  She was such a wonderful woman.  She talked about you all of the time.”

“All good I hope,” he joked.

She laughed.  “She was so proud of you.  Always going on and on about what a great son you were.”

“That was nice of her.”

“She was always such a help over at the church, sang in the church choir.  We’re all going to miss her so much.”

His gaze inevitably strayed to the woman who had broken his heart years ago.  The black dress she wore outlined the curve of her breasts, the flare of her hips.  As she moved, it flowed with her brushing against her long legs as she made her way to the front of the room.

“Now, we’ve made sure to leave you plenty of food in the refrigerator in the back,” the older woman said, as she patted his hands.  “We’ve left instructions on every dish, so that you know how long to cook it.”

“I can’t thank you enough for how kind you were to me and my mother.”

She pulled him into a bear hug, and when she drew back he saw fresh tears in her eyes.  “Your mother was one of the finest women I’ve ever known.  I’m going to miss her something awful.”  As if embarrassed by her lack of composure, she quickly moved away. 

He stared after her for a moment, before Mallory moved into view.  Her hair was pulled into a clip at her nape, but a few curly tendrils had escaped the rigid hold.  More than anything, he wanted to pull her against him and block out everything else. 

But he couldn’t. 

Too much had happened now. 

“I’m so sorry about your mother, Jackson.  I know how hard it is.  If there’s anything I can do…” she trailed off.

He offered her a cynical sneer.  “Don’t worry, Mallory.  I won’t be coming to you for any late night talks about my feelings.”  

He was being an ass, and he knew it.  After all, she was only here to pay her respects.  Privately she would turn her nose up at him, but publicly she would play the part. 

It was one of the things he hated most about her. 

“I only meant that I’m sorry for your loss,” she said, her lips pursing together.

His gaze strayed to her mouth.  Her lips were so full that they beckoned a man to take them.  He wanted to.  God, did he want to. 

He wanted to taste every inch of her…slowly. 

He hated himself for it.   

But it didn’t stop the ache.

****

Her lips fell open, and her eyes widened.  Her pulse began to race.  She glanced to the side to see that others were waiting to pay their respects.  Offering him a quick smile, she excused herself to escape the heat that emanated from him.  She felt his gaze on her as she walked away.  Why did he still have this hold on her?  As she moved to the back of the room, she noticed that Derrick had finally arrived. 

A leggy blonde on his arm appeared at his side.  She wasn’t sure why she was surprised that he brought Darcy with him.  After all, they had been dating for a long time, even before the divorce.  Still, watching them walk in together twisted in her side.  Furtive glances were cast her way from all areas of the room.  As if they all expected her to run over and scratch out the other woman’s eyes.  Well, they would be sadly mistaken tonight, because she refused to be a part of any more gross displays. 

Lifting her chin, she looked around the room.  She knew what they were saying.  It was probably the same thing she had been listening to for months.  Poor Mallory, I don’t know how she deals with it.  In truth, she was sick of being Poor Mallory. 

So her husband had run off with another woman? 

So what? 

Did this town never forget?  Or forgive? 

The answer, though unfortunate, was a simple no. 

She watched as Jacob separated himself from Derrick to walk over to Jackson.  Jackson reached out to shake his hand.  Fear raced up her spine as she saw the similarities between them.  Glancing around the room, she couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else could see how alike they were.  But no one else seemed to notice.  Only she felt the sharp pain in her chest as they watched them together.

****

Jackson watched Derrick walk in with a blonde woman on his arm, Jacob already a few steps ahead of them. He searched the crowd to find Mallory.  She sat in the corner, her eyes following Derrick.  So, this was the woman that Derrick Lange left his wife for.  He couldn’t deny that the other woman was overtly sexual.  Her breasts were barely contained in the black halter dress she wore.  She clung to Derrick’s arm, her short skirt riding up on her thigh as she pressed herself against him. 

It was a display of possession.

And it was obviously meant for Mallory. 

Watching the scene play out should have amused him. 

But it didn’t. 

Lange, himself, looked just as he remembered.  His chin was thrust upward as he strutted into the room in a navy suit.  He watched as Derrick made a quick scan of the room, and he couldn’t help but wonder if he brought the other woman just to make Mallory jealous. 

It shouldn’t have bothered him. 

But it did.

Jacob came forward to stand in front of him.  “I’m real sorry about what happened to your mom,” he offered solemnly.

“It teaches you to appreciate the time you have.  You never know what might happen,” he replied pointedly.

Jacob nodded, giving his hand a quick shake before moving to the side.  Derrick moved over to stand in front of him.  His gut tightened as he stared at the man who had been handed everything he had ever wanted out of life simply because he had the right last name. 

“Hart,” Derrick said slowly with a nod of his head.  “Sorry about your mother.”  He held out his hand expectantly.

After a moment of tense silence, he took his hand giving it a firm shake.  “Thanks, Derrick.  I don’t believe I’ve met your…” he trailed off not knowing what to call the woman at his side.

“My fiancé, Darcy Sampson,” Derrick beamed, a possessive look gleaming in his eyes.

Derrick moved aside to include Darcy.  She extended her hand.  “It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Hart.  I’ve read all of your books.”

Jackson shook her hand.  “I hope you enjoyed them,” he replied, noticing the way Derrick tightened his hold on her waist.  He couldn’t help but take a perverse pleasure in the other man’s unease.

Her hold on his hand tightened marginally.  “I always do.  I’m your number one fan.  I’ve bought all of your books.  I loved that last one ‘Death’s Last Dance’.  I think that was my favorite of all time.”

Noting Derrick’s scowl at her enthusiasm, he smiled at the young woman, his other hand coming up to cover hers.  “Thank you.  That really means a lot.”

Derrick took Darcy by the arm, pulling her away.  “It was really nice to meet you,” she muttered over her shoulder.

Watching the couple walk out the back door, he couldn’t help but notice Mallory’s gaze following them.  Once they were gone, her eyes met his.  He looked away. 

Mallory Westfall was not his problem. 

She hadn’t been for a long time, and he wanted to keep it that way. 

He just hoped that he could.

Stay Tuned for more of Choices…

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