The countdown to the release of my third book, It’s Time To Love Again, is on! Coming Monday, November 12!! Here’s a sneak peak:
Two Years Ago
Andrea sat at the graveside surrounded by the ladies who’d been by her side for most of the previous year. She’d only known them for three years, but they took care of her as if she’d grown up in Hope Springs.
As the cold January wind whipped at the flaps of the funeral tent meant to protect the mourners from the elements, Andrea pulled her long coat a little tighter around her. How had she gotten here? Not to the cemetery, but to this place in her life where she was now all alone.
She heard the minister talking, but she wasn’t really listening. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. This wasn’t the plan. They were supposed to grow old together in Hope Springs, working in their diner until they were too old to do it anymore. There were no children to take over and keep their small-town diner going.
But now she was alone, no Jeremy and no children. Just three years after the diner opened, their dream was over. She didn’t want to even think about going on by herself. That wasn’t part of the plan either.
Soon the minister was reciting the Lord’s Prayer, with all the mourners joining in. Andrea looked to her left and saw Jeremy’s parents staring stone-faced at the casket that now contained the remains of their only son. She was sure that this wasn’t part of their plan either. While Andrea’s relationship with them had been strained at best, she still felt their pain. She also knew they held a resentment toward her for the move she and Jeremy had made to Hope Springs. His parents had wanted them to stay in upstate New York, but Jeremy had wanted to go south where the winters were less harsh. Andrea figured that once this was all over, she’d probably never see his parents again.
Rosie Macintire, who Andrea had come to love like a mother, sat to her right and reached out to hold Andrea’s hand. She knew the whole sordid story, and since Andrea had no other family, had stepped in to be present for her.
Soon the funeral director was instructing his staff to begin lowering the casket into the ground. Andrea could hear Jeremy’s mother begin to sob, but she was wrapped up in her own grief, and didn’t have the strength to console her. She’d leave that up to Jeremy’s father.
Once the service was over, the minister invited everyone to the firehouse for a lunch reception. Jeremy had been a member of the Hope Springs Volunteer Fire Department from the time they’d moved to town. The ladies of the Advice Quilting Bee, as well as other civic groups, had prepared the meal.
As her friends stood waiting, Andrea turned to her in-laws. “You’re welcome to join us. It would give you a chance to meet some of the wonderful people here in Hope Springs.”
Jeremy’s mother just gave Andrea a look that could best be described as a death stare. “You brought our son to this Godforsaken place to die,” she spat at Andrea. “I don’t want to meet any of these people. My son would still be alive if he’d had proper medical care.”
Her husband put his hand on the grieving mother’s shoulder. “Now honey, you know that’s not true,” he said, giving Andrea an apologetic look.
“Jeremy developed his cancer after we moved here, and had the best medical care at Johns Hopkins Hospital,” Andrea tried to explain.
“But if he’d still lived near us, I could have cared for him,” his mother cried. “I blame you for all of this.” She dropped to her knees next to the grave side. “And now he’s in this hole,” she sobbed.
Her husband turned to Andrea, “I’m so sorry about this. I had no idea she was feeling this way. I hope you know that deep down, we both know you did everything you could to take great care of our son. And we truly thank you for that. It’s just still such a shock.” He stopped and pulled Andrea aside. “He never told us it was terminal.”
Andrea felt for them even more upon hearing that. Unlike them, she’d had time to prepare. She’d seen him when the pain was unbearable and the drugs weren’t working anymore, and knew he was in a much better place. “I had no idea that Jeremy hadn’t told you,” she told Mr. Porter, sympathetically. “It’s just like Jeremy to not want you to see him suffering. Better to remember him the way he was when you last saw him, vibrant and healthy.”
Mr. Porter turned and glanced toward his wife, still on her knees with Rosie at her side trying to console her. “In some ways it may have been better,” he agreed, “but I think my wife would have been able to handle it better if we’d known.” He went to help his wife rise. “Come on honey, it’s time to go.”
Mrs. Porter got to her feet and gave Rosie a hug. “Thank you for your kindness,” she said.
“It might help you if you came to the firehouse and met some of Jeremy and Andrea’s friends,” Rosie told the grieving mother, hoping she’d accept the invitation, if not for herself, then for her husband.
She gave Rosie a small smile. “That’s very thoughtful, but I just don’t think I’m up to it.” Turning to her husband, she said, “I think I’d like to check out of our hotel and head home.”
Clearly her husband knew not to suggest anything else. He gave Rosie a hug and then reached out to Andrea. “Thank you again for everything. He was his happiest when he was with you,” he said, hugging her so tightly Andrea had trouble breathing. She could feel the pain radiating from his body as he said, “I hope we see each other again someday.”
Andrea smiled a small smile. “So do I.” As she watched them walk away, Andrea knew deep down that would probably never happen.
“Take as much time as you need, dear,” Rosie whispered as Andrea turned back toward her husband’s grave. Rosie and the others stood circled around Andrea like a warm quilt blocking the cold wind.
Bending to take a single white rose from the spray her quilting group had given, she turned to the women standing around her. “I’m so thankful for each and every one of you,” she told them. “Let’s get out of this cold.”
Watch for the link to my latest book coming Monday, November 12!
Jennifer Skinnell is the author of One Sweet Development and Patience for Love, the first two in the Hope Springs Romance Series available on Amazon, indiebooks.com, and booksamillion.com.