Okay. So it’s not a screaming match or anything, but this is a fight for them. And this opens up a great potential conflict for the story, so I’m thrilled they aren’t getting along as well as they were threatening to in my interview with them. Now I have somewhere to go in the book! Yay!
This is an excerpt from To Have and To Hold. I’ll see about getting them in for an interview in a day or two to discuss this scene. (Please note that this is the first draft. I have not proofread anything yet.) And to go with this story excerpt, I have decided to experiment some more with GIMP. This is Mary and Dave and the house is the one she grew up in when she lived in Maine.
The next day, Mary decided to help her mother make breakfast to see if she could smooth things out with her. She wasn’t sure what she was going to say, but she knew if she didn’t say anything, the rest of the trip would be awkward and she didn’t want there to be any hard feelings between her and her mother. Perhaps she was content with the strained tension in the past, but she didn’t wish for things to continue as they had. As she saw it, this was a chance at a new start.
After she got ready for the day, she turned to Dave as he pulled on his boots from where he sat on the bed. “What would you like for breakfast?”
“Are you sure you feel up to cooking?” he softly asked.
“I enjoy it. Besides, I’m not used to sitting around and waiting for others to do things around the house. I’ll be restless if I spend as much time doing nothing like I did yesterday.”
He stood up and walked over to her. “You needed your rest, sweetheart.”
Blushing at his term of endearment, she shrugged. “I miss being in the kitchen and preparing food for you.” She also missed their children and longed to hold Rachel and Isaac, even if Isaac would groan and pull away from her because he was too old for hugs and kisses.
“I just don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to.”
“I’m afraid I’ve heard that before,” he kindly warned. “You said you could say no whenever you wanted but couldn’t. I won’t have anyone taking advantage of you.”
“I mean it, Dave. I really want to cook.” Deciding to tease him, she added, “Unless you prefer my mother’s cooking.”
He shook his head. “No, I don’t. No one’s food taste as good as yours.”
“Then you should be glad I’m volunteering to do this.”
“I am, but only if you want to do it.”
“Well, I do.”
“Alright. What am I supposed to do while you leave me alone to fend for myself?”
She giggled. “You’ll find something to do. So, what would you like to eat? My mother has just about everything you’d find at a mercantile in the kitchen.”
“I wouldn’t mind your french toast and hash browns.”
“I’ll make it then.” She kissed him before she turned to leave the room. Glancing at the closed door to her father’s room, she wondered when he’d want to see her again. “I suppose he’s still asleep.”
“Probably. He doesn’t seem like he has a lot of energy.”
“No, he doesn’t,” she commented as they walked down the hallway and headed down the stairs. “I don’t remember him when he was younger. It’s hard to imagine him as anything but how he is now.”
“He might be weak in his body, but his mind is sharp. He’s glad we came, especially so he could see you again.”
“I’m glad I got to see him, too. If I don’t remember anything else, at least I have this trip. I reckon it wasn’t a completely bad idea to come here.”
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, she was surprised to see that no one else was downstairs. “Do you think everyone else is still asleep?”
He shrugged. “It appears so. It’s an hour after sunrise. I thought we slept in too long.”
“I must have slept in when I lived here.”
He took her hand in his and led her to the front door. “There’s no sense in cooking until everyone is up. We’ll just have to spend a little more time together.”
“I wouldn’t mind that,” she confessed as he opened the door and waited for her to go out first before he followed her onto the porch and softly shut the door behind him. Examining the quiet neighborhood, she smiled. The sound of birds chirping in the air and the smell of the cool summer air hinting at the ocean not far from where they were made her smile in appreciation. “This is rather nice, don’t you think?”
“It is.” With a mischievous grin, he picked her up and sat down on the chair, making sure she was comfortable on his lap. “Now this is how you enjoy a summer morning.”
She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Now this is familiar.”
“What? Are you telling me some other man did this to you when you lived here before?”
Though he joked with her, she sensed the possessiveness underlying his tone and thrilled at the thought he’d be jealous if another man had, indeed, touched her this way. “No, silly. I just meant that you do this back home, in Nebraska.”
He shrugged and, his arms still around her, gave her a gentle squeeze. “I like surprising you from time to time.”
“As long as you don’t surprise me when I’m sewing.”
He grimaced. “Yes, I learned my lesson. Never startle you when you have a needle in your hand.”
She chuckled when he shuddered. “I didn’t prick you that hard.” She stroked the area of his arm where the needle had punctured him. “You healed from it.”
“I don’t know. I think you need to kiss me and make it all better again.”
Unable to resist the temptation to kiss him, she did. His lips were soft and welcoming on hers, his embrace pulling her closer to him, and his hands caressing her back.
The front door opened, and at the sound of someone’s startled gasp, Mary pulled away from Dave, surprised to see her mother standing in the doorway. Her mother’s eyes narrowed at them before she gave a slight shake of her head and went back into the house, slamming the door behind her. Mary bolted out of Dave’s arms and got ready to follow her mother when he grabbed her hand.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“You don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” he softly replied.
“I know that. I’m just going to talk to her.”
“Your pa said she didn’t approve of anything you did.”
She stared at him in curiosity and debated whether or not she wanted to know more.
“You’re a wife and mother, Mary. You don’t have to answer to her for anything. You’re not a child anymore.”
“I know that.”
“Just be sure to remember it.”
Her gaze went from the door and then back to him. “I will.”
He released her hand and nodded.
Standing still for a moment so she could regain her composure, she realized part of her problem with her mother was that her mother was used to making her feel inadequate in a lot of areas of her life. If that was the case, it was no wonder she didn’t keep her mother’s letters.
Feeling prepared, she entered the house, letting the door fall softly behind her before she proceeded to the kitchen. She heard some movement from upstairs and guessed everyone in Grace’s family was getting ready for the day. As long as they stayed up there, she could talk to her mother alone.
Her steps slowed as she reached the kitchen. She peered around the doorway and saw her mother taking a pan off the hook from the wall. She could do this. She could walk into the kitchen and talk to her mother. Ignoring the way her stomach tensed, she stepped into the room and cleared her throat. Her mother didn’t turn in her direction as she placed the pan on the cook stove.
Taking another step forward, she steeled her resolve. “Can I help make breakfast?”
She waited as her mother placed some butter into the pan. It was on the tip of her tongue to warn her that she didn’t need that much butter but decided against it. Instead, she approached the worktable and watched as her mother grabbed a loaf of bread from the breadbox and a carton of eggs.
As her mother cracked the eggs into a bowl, it occurred to her that her mother had no intention of answering her, so she decided to press the issue. “Mother?”
Her mother’s gaze shot in her direction, her blue eyes sharp, her mouth forming a thin line.
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “I don’t understand. Why are you upset?”
She shook her head as she grabbed a fork and mixed the eggs together. “I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that you even have to ask or the way you were acting just now.”
Mary’s cheeks warmed in shame. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? Sorry for being so daft you don’t know what you did or sorry for whoring yourself in front of everyone?”
“Whoring myself?” she asked, shocked.
“Disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful. You and him on the porch in front of everyone.”
“But…but…no one was out there.”
“Thank God for that! Can you imagine the talk if there had been? I don’t know what kind of behavior is acceptable out there in Nebraska, but when you’re in Maine, you’d do well to remember we stand for decency here. That’s all I need. Your father is on his deathbed, and all you can think about is acting…like that…where everyone can see.”
“We were alone. No one could have seen us from that angle on the porch.”
“Well, I did, didn’t I?”
Tears sprang to Mary’s eyes at her mother’s bitter tone.
Footsteps fell on the stairs and her mother turned her back to her and placed the eggs into the pan. Grace entered the kitchen and told her children to play quietly in the parlor. Mary quickly brushed her tears away so her sister wouldn’t see them. The last thing she needed was for her sister to see that she’d been having an unpleasant discussion with their mother.
“Good morning,” Grace said in a cheerful tone that contrasted strongly to the dark mood in the room. “What are we making this morning?”
“Omelets and bread,” their mother said, her voice pleasant.
“Sounds wonderful.” Grace glanced at Mary, but Mary quickly averted her gaze. “Mind if I help?”
“You know where the tomatoes, onions, and cheese are,” their mother replied, still not looking at Mary.
“Yes, I do.” Grace looked over at Mary again and smiled. “I bet you’d figure out a way to season everything so they’d be better than anything Mother or I can make. I’m almost afraid Calvin won’t want to eat my cooking once he tastes yours, but I’m willing to risk it.”
As much as Mary appreciated the teasing tone in her sister’s voice, it did little to make her feel better, especially when their mother grunted a reply.
Grace’s gaze went from their mother and back to Mary where she shot her a questioning look.
Mary shook her head and left the room. She couldn’t pretend nothing was wrong, not until she had sufficient time to regroup. As she hurried toward the stairs, she almost ran into Cal Junior.
“Sorry, Aunt Mary,” he said.
The front door opened, and as soon as she saw Dave, she couldn’t stop her tears. She rushed up the stairs and fled to the bedroom. She knew he’d be disappointed in her, and right now, she didn’t want to hear it. It was enough she had to hear it from her mother. As she feared, he followed her, and since he was taller than her, he made to the bedroom just as she did so she couldn’t shut the door and be alone.
“What did she say?” he demanded as she fell on the bed.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she cried. “I just want to be alone.”
He stood by the open door for a long moment and watched her as she continued to sob. She hated this. She really did feel like a little girl who’d been caught doing something wrong, but she wasn’t. She’d seen Dave’s family show affection to one another. Sometimes the men would put their arms around their wives or the women would sit on their husbands’ laps. She’d even caught his parents kissing when they thought they were alone, and if someone walked in on them, they laughed it off. If she and Dave had acted so friendly in front of a group of people, she could understand why her mother would be upset, and if she’d known her mother was up, she wouldn’t have done it. But she thought they were alone.
Dave shut the door and walked over to the bed. He hesitated but then sat next to her. Placing his hand on her back, he whispered, “Won’t you talk to me?”
This only made her cry harder. Sighing, he brought her into his arms and let her cry for as long as she needed to. When her sobs finally died down, she remained in his arms, grateful he didn’t press her to talk because the last thing she wanted to tell him was what her mother said.
When someone knocked at the door, she stiffened and pulled away from him. “I don’t want to see anyone right now,” she whispered.
He nodded and stood up so he could open the door.
“I came to tell you breakfast is ready,” Grace said.
When he glanced her way, Mary shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do was eat in this house.
“Not this morning,” he told Grace.
“Is Mary feeling alright?”
He looked at Mary again, so she nodded. Grace didn’t need to be brought into the mess of a situation that occurred downstairs. In fact, she didn’t want anyone to know. She didn’t want anyone to know her mother had compared to her a woman of ill repute. It was bad enough she knew that’s what her mother thought of her.
Dave turned back to Grace. “She’s fine. Just tired is all.”
“Alright,” Grace replied. “Tell her she can talk to me if she needs to?”
She thanked him and left, so he closed the door and lumbered back over to Mary. “What happened with your mother?”
“Please, Dave, I don’t want to think about it.”
For a moment, she thought he was going to let the matter drop since he didn’t say anything, but then he drummed his fingers on the bed and let out a long sigh. “I don’t like this. Whatever your mother said, it has something to do with you and me, and as far as I’m concerned, that means I have a right to know.”
“No. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.” And really it didn’t. He wasn’t the one “whoring” himself.
“Yes, it does have something to do with me. I was out on that porch with you, and I saw the look your ma gave you.”
Her stomach clenched in protest. “It doesn’t matter. Let’s just forget it. Maybe my pa’s up. I should see him.”
He stopped her before she could get off the bed. “Why do you do this?”
Surprised by the question, she settled back next to him, mindful of his hand that was firm, but gentle, on her arm. “Why do I do what?”
“Whenever something unpleasant happens and I try to talk to you about it, you say you don’t want to talk about it and then you run off to do something else.”
“Well, I’d rather not discuss something you won’t like. I don’t want to fight with you.”
“You say that, too.”
Her eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t remember saying it.”
“You haven’t recently, not since you lost your memory, and granted, you don’t do it often, but there have been times in the past when you’ve done it. Like when Cassie kept asking you make her clothes, and even though you didn’t want to do it, you did. I’d ask you what you were doing, and you refused to answer my question, saying you didn’t want to fight with me.”
If she knew who Cassie was or why it mattered, his comparison to this moment would’ve made sense to her, but as it stood, she had no idea why making clothes would be something she’d wish to hide. Her mother’s words were far worse.
With a frustrated sigh, Dave added, “I’m your husband. When people hurt you, they hurt me. We’re together in this, Mary. I want to know what she said.”
“But I don’t want you to argue with her. We only have to be here for two weeks, and then we’ll go back and never return again.”
He waited for her to continue, but she didn’t. “I wish I knew what was in those letters she wrote you because I might have an idea of what happened in the kitchen just now.”
She was certain there was no connection between the letters and her mother finding her on the porch kissing Dave. Whatever her mother wrote had to be different, but she didn’t feel like saying that in case he kept pressing her on the matter. As it was, she detected that he was backing off from the situation and that’s what she wanted most.
He released her arm and shook his head. “It must be really bad if you won’t say anything. Alright. I can’t force you to say it.”
Biting her lower lip, she wondered if he was disappointed in her. He stood up and headed for the door. She thought he might say something before he left, but he didn’t. He softly opened the door and shut it, leaving her alone in the room. And for some reason, his silence bothered her more than anything he might have said.