4.3 6
by Greg Messel

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In 1968, Dan and Katie are one of the hottest couples at Ballard High School in Seattle. He is the hero football player, and she is the beautiful cheerleader.
These high school sweethearts believe theirs is a love that will never die.

Life changes when Dan leaves
Washington to start college at the University of California
Berkeley and pursue his dream


In 1968, Dan and Katie are one of the hottest couples at Ballard High School in Seattle. He is the hero football player, and she is the beautiful cheerleader.
These high school sweethearts believe theirs is a love that will never die.

Life changes when Dan leaves
Washington to start college at the University of California
Berkeley and pursue his dream of working for a big time newspaper in the glamorous city of San Francisco. The quest for his dream occurs against the turbulent background of
Berkeley and San Francisco in the 1970s as Dan and Katie go their separate ways.

Now, thirty years later, Dan is back in his hometown of Seattle attending his mother's funeral. He's never stopped thinking about Katie, his long-lost love. But the two former high school sweethearts reconnect in a most unexpected way as the rest of the world grows more fearful of Y2K and the dawn of the twenty-first century. They are hoping that their love, once lost, can now be reclaimed.

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Trafford Publishing
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Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)

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Trafford Publishing

Copyright © 2010 Greg Messel
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4269-2855-0

Chapter One


November 29, 1999

"Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending" - Maria Robinson

My sudden and unexpected return to Seattle was about to trigger a chain of events which would completely change my life. Three months from this date my career, my life in San Francisco with my daughter and everything I had known before would be radically altered.

Everyone was feeling the pressure of the uncertainty which surrounded the dawning of a new century, which would occur in just about a month. Fear had been spreading around the globe for months in anticipation of the calendar flipping over to 2000. As the final month of the 20th Century came, fear was so rampant that you could sense it and taste it. The fear was so real that it was being sold as a commodity in various forms.

However, not all change is to be feared. Change makes us uncomfortable. The wave of turmoil about to overtake my life would ultimately result in me becoming happier than I had been for years. Abrupt and profound events were about to occur.

The week had begun routinely. I was finishing my work day at the newspaper where I was a reporter. I was looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving with my daughter, her boyfriend and the parents of my late wife. My twenty-two year old daughter was taking charge this year and was going to prepare the family meal.

I was putting the finishing touches on a story I was writing about a pending garbage strike which could hit San Francisco just before the holidays. I had 15 minutes until deadline, when my phone rang. It was my daughter. She had just received a call from Seattle informing her that my mother was found dead in her home about three hours ago. My mother's death had been completely unexpected despite her advancing years.

An anticipated joyous gathering for Thanksgiving was overshadowed by the sudden passing of my mother. Much of the day was spent communicating with my brother and sister and making travel arrangements.

I also contacted my employer to inform them of the family emergency. My early estimate was that I might be in Seattle for a couple of weeks. My editor expressed his condolences and then reminded me that I had not taken a day off for a very long time. My workaholic habits had become a topic at the newspaper with my boss for some time. He kept urging me to use some of my allocated days off to recharge my batteries. I was teased by my editor that San Francisco and the newspaper could actually function without me there.

San Francisco was renowned for its resiliency and had bounced back from many catastrophic events. My newspaper-the San Francisco Chronicle-had been operating for over a hundred years. I was assured that both the city and the newspaper had somehow found ways to cope in the past without me. My editor didn't want to use this time of bereavement as a chance to ping on me about taking some time off. I'm sure he was showing restraint when after informing him of my mother's death, I said I would need to take a couple of weeks off.

"Take all of the time you need," my editor replied.

I flew to Seattle to meet my brother and sister on Friday. We made funeral arrangements and began the process of putting my mother's affairs in order. My sister was already in Seattle on Thanksgiving when I talked with her. She was getting several things in motion and we jointly decided to have the funeral on Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend. My sister contacted the Seattle newspapers with obituary information and the time and location of the funeral, so my mother's passing would get the attention it deserved.

I flew out of San Francisco on the busy Friday morning after Thanksgiving. I didn't know that it would be much longer than a few weeks before I returned to my beloved city. I also did not realize that when the plane's wheels lifted off of the runway in San Francisco that events were now set in motion which would change my life forever.

The change would be the stuff of which dreams are made.

On Monday, as we entered the church, the congregation arose out of respect for my mother. I walked with my brother and sister as my mother's casket was rolled slowly down the middle aisle of the church.

It had been a gray, rainy Monday in Seattle and the sky was like a thick layer of gray cotton balls. There had been a dense overcast all day with no hint that the sun could ever penetrate the heavy blanket of clouds. The church was full of many of those people who had shared parts of my mother's journey through life. She had spent most of her days in the Seattle area since her entry into the world in 1916.

It was just after my mother's birth in January of 1916, that Seattle was hit with the Great Storm of 1916. It began to snow in Seattle in late January of that year. Before it was over on February 2, there were more than 21 inches of snow. It still stands as the largest snowfall ever in a city which rarely gets snow. I've seen old sepia toned pictures of piles of snow on Yesler Way downtown. Trolleys were stranded by huge piles of wet snow and there was no way of removing it. A large snowman blocked the sidewalk on Third Ave. and the dome of St. James Cathedral collapsed. There are pictures of turn-of-the-century-looking men in bowler hats looking perplexed at the huge piles of snow, perhaps wondering why God made the rain freeze and behave it such a strange way.

There were many intersecting lines between her life and the collective experience of those who populated the pews. My mother's mortality had lasted just over 83 years. My mother entered the world in the middle of the "great war", the war to end all wars supposedly, as American troops headed to Europe to fight the aggressors.

She was about two years old when the influenza epidemic hit the nation just as they celebrated victory, with masks over their noses and mouths to prevent the spread of the deadly plague. Mom was a teenager during the Great Depression and a young woman just as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor as Hitler marched across Europe.

My father, who died five years ago, had survived the Pearl Harbor attack on one of the ships while regularly writing letters to my mother. He continued to fight in the South Pacific through the rest of the war. Dad finally reunited with my mother in Seattle where they were married in 1947. It was an incredible chunk of history which ran concurrently with my mother's life. She witnessed firsthand most of the major events of the 20th Century but she succumbed just weeks before the dawn of the new century.

Her three children, who now walked silently behind her, had hoped her journey would last a little longer but the end came suddenly and peacefully. My mother had a good life and, as far as I'm aware, enriched the lives of others she encountered. My brother Raymond was born in 1948 and my sister, Diane, came two years later. Finally there was me, who entered the family last- just two years after Diane.

The last time I talked with my mother we had made plans to get together at Christmas time in Seattle. My daughter Vicki had the holiday break approaching and was planning to come with me. Vicki is a beautiful blend of her Japanese mother and my gene pool. She was about five foot five, had thick black hair and large brown eyes like her mother. I'm proud of her as she finishes her senior year at the University of San Francisco. I only have one child, but this one is a thoroughbred. I appear to have gotten quality in place of quantity in the offspring department.

Vicki and I are now in Seattle to be with my mother, but not in the way we envisioned. The world will be an emptier and colder place without my mother. I knew she was getting older but I actually thought she would be around for several more years.

I walked slowly and tried to appear appropriately serious for this occasion, mostly looking at the back of my mother's coffin. I was aware that as part of the trio walking behind her, we were the focal point of the crowded church. We were to accompany my mother's final entry into the church to the front of the chapel where we would take our place on the front row. About halfway down the long aisle, something made me glance up. Then I saw Katie.

Could it be, after all of these years?

I'm sure my solemn, sad mask slipped as I registered complete astonishment. It had to be Katie! I briefly broke ranks and gave her a quick hug, saying, "Wait for me afterwards." I sure hoped that was Katie or else I had just picked up a woman, who was a total stranger, at my mother's funeral.

She looked so good and I couldn't resist stealing glances at her all through the funeral service. My brother and sister gave me a couple of inquisitive glances which sent the message, "what are you doing?" I kept swiveling to the right to check her out. She caught me looking a few times and gave me a small smile.

I was now feeling guilty that my own mother's funeral had become background noise to my thoughts as I remembered my time with Katie in the magical years of youth. I also pondered all of the years without her. I've spent many years wondering where she was.

I hadn't seen Katie for almost 30 years. Yet I had seen her ... in my mind in the often-remembered golden days so long ago when we were "the couple." We were the couple that in everyone's estimation would be together forever.

In our high school years, Katie and I dwelt in a privileged existence. We had everything at our disposal as the royalty of our popularity-fueled high school world. We were mostly oblivious to our status and thought it was just the way the world was structured. Then it all came apart after high school graduation and the intrusion of the harsh, real world.

What was her married name now? She didn't go by her maiden name Katie Broussard. I know she didn't.

There had been many late, lonely nights when my stray thoughts would turn to her for some reason. I wondered where she was now. Is she still in the Seattle area? Is she still married? Is she happy? Does she have kids? Is she still alive? If she is still alive and any of these other things ... would she like to see me? Does she still harbor resentment towards me because of my insensitivity to her feelings so many years ago? How could I've so carelessly tossed away a jewel such as her?

Over the years when I would return to Seattle, I wondered if I would see her again. I secretly looked for Katie in crowded places and sometimes would even see a woman with blonde hair that I thought might be her. When I returned to the old neighborhood, I sometimes imagined what it would be like if I did see her again.

I had searched on our high school reunion web site for her name and launched internet searches sometimes late at night when I was feeling lonely or melancholy. In all of the vast power of the internet, "my" Katie was MIA. She was flying below the radar of the electronic surveillance we were all under as the 21st Century neared. I launched these electronic reconnaissance missions sometimes even when my wife, Wendy, was still living.

There were never any signs of Katie. However, Katie was always with me. I fantasized about what my alternative life would have been like if I had been true to Katie. What if I had come back from San Francisco to get her, like I promised I would? She was the one that got away ... or more accurately the one I sent away. I went to our ten-year reunion hoping Katie would be there. There was no Katie. Some of our old friends thought she would come. They had lost track of Katie but they said she still lived in Seattle. A few people I met at the reunion said that they last they had heard she was married to a doctor.

I didn't go to the 20-year reunion because it was held during the last weeks of Wendy's life and our home had been damaged by a severe earthquake. We were all robbed of seeing our beautiful, golden Katie, one of the most popular girls in our high school.

I remember those faded memories of Katie the cheerleader; Katie the homecoming queen and Katie, my anointed girlfriend for life. It was because Katie loved me that many people thought I was blessed with abundance of all things a teenage boy values. Many guys were jealous that Katie loved me. Many girls, who in my hormonal turbo-charged 17-year old mind, might have been interested in me-were not, because they knew I belonged to Katie.

Now at the most unlikely of times, Katie reappears in my life-at my mother's funeral. She is barely over five feet tall. She weighed less than 90 pounds in high school. Katie now, over 30 years later, looks only 10-15 pounds heavier. I very much approve of the strategic location where those extra pounds decided to land.

Geez, I'm such a pervert and such a scum. I'm sitting at my mother's funeral thinking about how Katie's breasts and hips have filled out in such a delightful way. She came appropriately dressed in a sleek black dress and black nylons. Katie looks great in black.

What kind of person has these thoughts while their dead mother lies before them being eulogized as a wonderful person? I haven't heard most of what has been said. I wonder how much privacy we have from those spirits on the other side. Does my mother, now part of the great hereafter, know that I'm spending her funeral thinking about the cup size of my long lost love? If she could, would mom cuff me alongside the head and say, "Pay attention!"

I'm picking up a woman at my mother's funeral because I think she looks hot in black.

Actually it is much, much more. Katie is my long-lost love. I had wondered if I would ever see her again. The way she looks now is beyond my most optimistic fantasy about how middle-age would descend on Katie. Her blonde hair is still blonde, but shorter, trimmed just below her jaw line. The Katie of my youth always had long blonde hair, which bounced freely in the carefree days of our love. Sometimes she had her hair pulled back in a ponytail which, because of her diminutive size, made her look about 13 years old when we were seniors in high school.

Her face was still beautiful, and her sparkling green eyes still looked the same as when I'd stared into them on Friday night dates or at the beach. There were more lines on her face but she actually looked better than ever. Speaking of lines on your face ... is Katie sitting back there taking the same physical inventory of me that I'm taking of her?

Is she thinking, "Wow, what happened?" Is she thinking, "Someone has really had a hard life ... or maybe he was in some kind of deforming car accident or fire." I hope I look anything close to as good as she looks. Do I look fat to her? Is she thinking-"I wonder what he has been doing for the past thirty years? Apparently eating!"

I was just over six feet tall and weighed about 170 pounds last time Katie saw me. I no longer weighed 170, but more like 200. My sandy-colored hair was now starting to be speckled with signs of gray.

I need to snap out of it and get back into my mother's funeral. I wonder why Katie came. Was it to see me? Or am I delusional and she was closer to my mother than I realized? Why did Katie choose this moment to reappear after all of these years? Does this mean she is still interested in me? Could it be? She appeared glad to see me. Who is that guy sitting by her? Is that her husband? Oh, no, I bet it is her husband. Maybe he came to kick my butt because of the way I treated his sweet wife.

Wait, what kind of guy comes to a funeral to beat up his wife's former boyfriend? Oh, no. I suddenly bent over with both hands covering my face. I then realized that the congregation must have thought I was suddenly overwhelmed with grief.

How could I be doing this to my sweet mother? When I removed my hands from my face, Diane gave me a sympathetic glance and wiped tears from her eyes with a Kleenex. Raymond leaned around Diane and frowned at me as if to say, "What the hell are you doing?"

I tried to put my funeral-face back on and get into the event at hand. Suddenly, as I pulled myself back into the moment and tried to forget about Katie for a minute, I heard "amen and amen" then organ music began. It was over. I don't remember a single thing about my own mother's funeral because I was obsessing about Katie. I'm so confused by the sudden unexpected intersection of two divergent events-my mother's funeral and the startling reappearance of my long lost Katie.

I felt sadness and extreme excitement all at once, which was short circuiting my ability to think rationally. Amid my complete disorientation I heard the clergyman say, "Will the congregation please rise." Whoa, it's time to leave. I had to find some way to secure Katie so she wouldn't suddenly disappear from the funeral and again from my life.


Excerpted from Expiation by GREG MESSEL Copyright © 2010 by Greg Messel. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Greg Messel is the author of
Sunbreaks. He has spent most of his adult life interested in writing, including a career in the newspaper business. He won a Wyoming Press Association
Award as a columnist and has contributed articles to magazines. Messel live in Edmonds, Washington, with his wife, Carol.

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Expiation 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept repeading it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Good. Now lets go find some prey." He smiled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Heavensent1 More than 1 year ago
Expiation is a romantic rekindling between high school sweethearts. Dan was the All-American dream boy in high school. Great at football, decent grades, popular, had a perfect girlfriend and great friends and family around him. His plans included graduating high school, attending Berkley in San Francisco studying Journalism, working an internship for the Chronicle and marrying the girl of his dreams. Katie was the All-American dream girl in high school. She was a friendly, beautiful cheerleader and girlfriend to Dan. She was going to go to school for a year in Seattle and join Dan after he got situated in San Francisco where they planned to build their future together. However, the course that life flows had other plans and the two drift apart and marry other people and lead their lives separately. On the day that Dan's mother dies, the two meet again after 30 years. The sparks fly and the two try to determine what path their future shall take. Will their love be rekindled so that the two can spend the rest of their lives together? Or will the fates continue to keep them and their love apart? I didn't mind this read. I liked Katie and enjoyed reading about her. She was personable, likeable and determined. I wasn't as impressed with Dan however. After leaving her with many promises, in which he continuously broke, he walks back into Katie's life with arrogance. I didn't like how he spoke to her upon their first initial meeting. He hasn't seen the woman in over thirty years and proceeds to oogle and salvitate over her. It would make me uncomfortable to have a man talk to me in such a manner, especially one who left me without any explanations and a load of heartache. I did like how Dan remembers the memory of his deceased wife, Wendy. Even though he has always loved Katie, his memories and heartache are real and I was pleased to see this. I also liked the interactions between Dan and his daughter, Vickie. I felt that the dialogue was a bit cliched and would've enjoyed seeing something new and fresh in the handling of Dan and Katie's reunion. I also thought having them meet again after 30 years at Dan's mothers funeral to be a bit tacky. I liked the background history of events that occurred, such as the WTO protest that broke out in Seattle in the late 1990's or the Zodiac Killer which plagued San Fran in the 70's. I equally enjoyed reading about the Y2K scare that folks were going through at the time of the books setting. I never felt that Y2K would amount to anything and to see the panic mongers as they were written was comical to me. I remember the talk at the time and many of the things shared were quite similar. I found that the read was easy and the flow was great. The editorial issues were infrequent and didn't hinder the read in any way. If you are a romance reader and especially enjoy those stories about long lost loves, then this book will be enjoyable for all who read such.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
ex-pi-a-tion: 1. Definition: [noun] compensation for a wrong; to make amends or reparation for (wrongdoing or guilt); atone for; satisfaction. 2. To pay the penalty of: suffer for; the act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing. Too many times at the end of our lives we look back and often times wish we could have a second chance, an opportunity to do things different, take the road less traveled. However in hindsight we also see that the good things that come from those choices, would also have to be altered or in some cases wouldn't exist as well. Dan and Katie were high school sweethearts. He was the all-American boy who played football as the quarterback and baseball, while Katie cheered him in as the popular cheerleader who every boy had a crush one. Everyone assumed that they would marry and live the proverbial, happily ever after, part of their lives with one another but that is not what happened. Upon graduation and college preparations each had their own desires to make it in the world, of course they always expected that they would marry and be reunited at some point but as often happens, plans change. Dan's ability in high school to write well has earned him an internship working for the San Francisco Examiner, a very prestigious position while he attends Berkley. His father isn't happy with this decision being a WWII veteran and believes that his sons should do their part in the war efforts. Only Dan can't support the war in Vietnam and believes he can help more by taking this opportunity to San Francisco. Katie is working towards her dental career while remaining in Seattle with her family attending UDub. If their plans work out, Katie will join Dan in a year in San Francisco and then they will both work hard at making something of their lives. But nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. In the heartwarming story of Expiation by Greg Messel, we get to see what happens to high school sweethearts when life gets in the way and an odd series of events will keep them apart for more than thirty years. Now on the brink of the Y2K scare, they are both going to be handed a unique opportunity for a second chance. Seeing life through their eyes over thirty years is a unique look at how strong love can be. At times you are happy for them and crying right along side them as you see where their lives have paralleled at points even though miles separated them. I received this book compliments of Pump Up Your Book Tour and Greg Messel for my honest review. I loved how this romance book took a different path than your traditional love stories. Dan and Katie's provides a different twist in what happens to a great romance that isn't meant to die. I LOVED this book and found myself falling in love all over again. This one rates a 5 out of 5 stars for me and provides a look back into the history of events from the 70's to current times.
The_Publishing_Guru More than 1 year ago
Greg Messel's Expiation is a riveting love story that transcends the material world and imbues the reader with raw emotion. Expiation is not a tearjerker, so leave the tissues aside; however, it is genuine in its portrayal of feelings, set on a realistic political backdrop of the 1970s in Northern California. Few books can truly affect the reader emotionally the way that Expiation does, and it is a reminder that the memory of your first love never dies, despite many relationships that follow. Reminiscent of Nick Cassavetes' Notebook, this story opens in 1999, prior to the Y2K scare. Dan, the main character, receives a call from his daughter informing him of his mother's death in Seattle. Dan, who has already lost his wife, Wendy, and his father, is shocked at his mother's sudden demise. At the funeral, he spots his high-school sweetheart, Katie, and thinks, "I'm sure my solemn, sad mask slipped as I registered complete astonishment. It had to be Katie! I briefly broke ranks and gave her a quick hug, saying, 'Wait for me afterwards.' I sure hoped that was Katie or else I had just picked up a woman, who was a total stranger, at my mother's funeral." Interestingly, Dan's walk down the aisle of the church-to bid his mother a final farewell-was more of a walk down memory lane. The memories flooded back to his high-school days, where he and Katie reigned over the high school. "In our high school years, Katie and I dwelt in a privileged existence. We had everything at our disposal as the royalty of our popularity-fueled high school world. We were mostly oblivious to our status and thought it was just the way the world was structured. Then it all came apart after high school graduation and the intrusion of the harsh, real world." This book is truly about expiation, or atonement for one's mistakes. Dan is portrayed as constantly wondering, "Does she still harbor resentment towards me because of my insensitivity to her feelings so many years ago? How could I've so carelessly tossed away a jewel such as her?" As the funeral progresses, it is astonishing to see Dan so immersed in Katie, conducting a mental and physical inventory of her and comparing it to the image of the Katie still engraved in his mind. While it seems a bit over-the-top that a man could pick up a girl-even if she is his first love- at his own mother's funeral, it's a testament to destiny, and the notion that unexpected encounters can often make for out-of-the-ordinary behavior. Expiation blends the past with the present, with numerous flashbacks of Dan and Katie's "golden days." Though it seems an awkward place for a reunion, the audience will be able to connect with Messel's intent to depict the closing of one chapter, and the re-entering of another. In fact, Expiation is structured like a wide-angle zoom lens: one chapter will zoom all the way out to the present, while the next will zoom all the way in to 1968, and the young, popular couple that was the epitome of Ballard High School. This is a must read for all romance aficionados, young adults and beyond. Expiation will leave you searching for answers: Can Dan and Kate's past cross the barrier that thirty years of separation has created? Will Dan's expiation be complete and their love rekindled amidst the political chaos of Y2K and the new millennium? Plunge into Expiation and the author will "put you there," and have you turning pages to the end.