Through the Fireby Donna Hill
After a devastating tragedy left her convinced she'd never love again, successful songwriter Rae Lindsay sought refuge in the only thing that still brought her comfort—her music. But when Quinten Parker walked into her life, Rae suddenly found her peaceful solitude threatened—along with her heart. Now, torn between desire and painful memories, she… See more details below
After a devastating tragedy left her convinced she'd never love again, successful songwriter Rae Lindsay sought refuge in the only thing that still brought her comfort—her music. But when Quinten Parker walked into her life, Rae suddenly found her peaceful solitude threatened—along with her heart. Now, torn between desire and painful memories, she must search the deepest part of herself to overcome the past and take a second chance at love—the chance of a lifetime.
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Quinten Parker rolled over in bed, feeling the cool, empty space beside him. Each day for the past three years he'd hoped that he'd awake and the longing, the emptiness would be overNikita would be beside him, curled along the length of his body.
He released a sigh, adjusted his eyes to the light of a new day. Nothing had changed. The heaviness still hung in his heart and in his loinsa sensation that hadn't been quenched or filled by anything or anyone.
In the distance he heard his landlady, Mrs. Finch, moving around downstairs. A faint smile touched his lips. Some of the familiar things were still good. Yet, his friends Nick and Parris had repeatedly tried to convince him to move away from the place that he and Nikita had shared as man and wife. "You need to move on, start over," they'd insisted. "Too many memories." But the memories were all he had left. The things that kept him company when the loneliness became too much to handle.
"Daddy ... I'm hungry," came a tiny sleep-filled voice.
Quinn's chest filled with an almost unspeakable joy as he was momentarily taken aback at seeing the tiny version of himself staring boldly back at him. He sat up in the bed, the white sheet slipping to his waist, unveiling his bare chest.
"What would you like today, buddy?"
"Pancakes!" Jamel said with a wide grin, revealing a missing front tooth.
Quinn chuckled and threw his long legs over the side of the bed.The past four weeks had been pure magicthe first big block of time he'd spent with his son. He'd tried to squeeze six years into those four weeks. Sure, he'd been to San Francisco to visit several times during the year, but he'd never had this much time, all at once, one-on-one. It was an experience he wouldn't soon forget.
He'd learned things about himself during their time together. He learned that he was a good teacher as he helped his son figure out how to connect all the game wires to the television. He learned that he was capable of being a nurturer when he held his son at night and read to him, or bandaged a wounded knee. He learned that he still had the capacity to feel, to want to care, to want to do something for someone else, to give something of himself to another human being. He hadn't thought Maxine would agree to his request to have Jamel spend part of the summer with him. She'd surprised him when she agreed and told him "it was time." For that, he would always be grateful.
Quinn stood and came around the foot of the bed, swooping Jamel up from the floor and tucking him beneath his arm to delighted giggles and squirming.
"Pancakes, huh?" He pushed a finger into Jamel's side and wiggled it, eliciting more laughter. It was music to his ears, lyrical and perfect like the chords he'd once played on the piano. But it was about to end and his life would return to what he'd grown accustomed totrying to make it one day at a time.
Quinn spoke in quiet, but decisive tones to the stewardess who'd promised to look after Jamel during the six-hour flight back to the coast.
"Please don't worry, Mr. Parker," she insisted, placing a comforting hand on Quinn's hard bicep. "He'll be fine."
Quinn looked down at his son, who held his hand in a viselike grip, but otherwise appeared excited about his journey. "This nice lady ..." He glanced at the name tag on her navy blue lapel. "... Ms. Traynor is going to take care of you on the plane, J. If you need anything, you ask her. Okay?"
Jamel nodded, his dark eyes taking in the sights around him. He stuck a lollipop in his mouth and talked around it. "I'm a big boy, Daddy," he said with all the assurance of his six years.
Daddy. His heart fluttered for a moment as the corner of his rich mouth quirked upward into a half smile. "That you are, little man." He rustled his tight curls.
"I'd better get him settled on board," the stewardess said gently.
Quinn stooped down to Jamel's eye level, bracing his thin shoulders. "I had a great time, little man."
"Mommy will be there to meet you when you get off the plane."
Jamel nodded and sucked a bit harder on his lollipop.
"I'll call you tonight." Quinn tugged in a breath and drew Jamel's small frame close to his body. He hugged him tight, wanting to hold on to those last moments foreverneeding Jamel to know just how much he was loved, how much he mattered, the difference that his presence had made in his lifeif only momentarily. "I love you, son," he whispered, hearing the hitch in his voice.
"I love you too, Daddy."
Quinn gave Jamel one last squeeze and quickly stood before he broke down; that was something Jamel didn't need to see.
The stewardess extended her hand to Jamel and led him down the boarding entrance. She looked over her shoulder and mouthed, "He'll be fine."
Quinn pressed his lips together, swallowing over the knot in his throat as he stood framed in the wide window watching the plane take off and disappear into the cloudless summer morning. He tugged in a breath. As sad as he felt after separating from his son once again, this time it was with a sense of hope, of possibility. A feeling he'd forgotten how to experience. Hope, that there was a possibility for a life, a real life, though different from the one he'd once imagined.
"Your son needs you, Quinten," Mrs. Finch had counseled, during Jamel's four-week stay. "But the boy needs more than the shell of the man you've become. Let her go, son," she'd whispered, clasping his large hand in her thin, frail ones.
Quinn's insides contracted and his chest became full as they did any time the thought of Nikita was evoked, her name was mentioned or even alluded to. He heaved in a breath. When would it ever end? When?
He turned away from the window, head bowed, and started off toward the exit. The truth was, he mused as he caught glimpses of happy, hand-holding couples and laughing families, he didn't like who he'd become these last three years. Didn't like how he moved through his day like a shadow, there but untouchable. He hadn't written a piece of music since Nikita's death, hadn't played in the band, hadn't written a word for his long overdue second novel. All he'd done was try to find a way to open his eyes each morning and hope that he could get through the pain of the day until he could close them again.
He turned on the engine in his Navigator and eased out into the airport traffic. He wanted his life backa life back, filled with that joy he'd once known. But he was terrified. Terrified of how that pain would feel if he ever dared to love and lose again.
Excerpted from THROUGH THE FIRE by Donna Hill. Copyright © 2001 by Donna Hill. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
Essence bestselling author Donna Hill began her career in 1987 with short stories and her first novel was published in 1990. She now has more than seventy published titles to her credit, and three of her novels have been adapted for television. Donna has been featured in Essence, the New York Daily News, USA TODAY, Black Enterprise and other publications.
Donna lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
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