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A Time to MendSafe Harbors Book One
By SALLY JOHN GARY SMALLEY
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Sally John
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHuddled on the sofa in the dimly lit living room, Claire Beaumont gazed through the bay window. Car headlamps swept across a stand of eucalyptus trees. The automatic garage door rattled up. A long moment passed. The door rattled back down.
Its rumble vibrated through her. She clutched a throw pillow tightly at her waist.
The door between the garage and laundry room opened and shut. Her husband's footsteps clicked against the ceramic-tiled floors, across the kitchen.
Claire moaned. There was still time. She could scurry off to bed, feign sleep, forgive and forget. Carry on.
His footfalls clacked into the foyer and passed the front door. Then they went silent, muffled by the hallway carpet.
Claire's breath caught, squashed under the unbearable weight produced by the thought of carrying on.
Max appeared at the wide entrance to the living room and halted. "Claire! You're still awake?"
It was now or never. "I quit," she whispered, more to herself than to the man across the room.
"It's 2:00 a.m., hon."
As if she didn't know what time it was. Her heart slammed against her ribs and thrust the words upward again, more loudly this time. "I quit."
"It sounds like I've walked into the middle of a conversation here." With a distinct air of weariness, Max draped his sport coat and tie over the back of the nearest chair and then plopped onto it. "Okay. What do you quit?"
"I quit ..." She froze. Normally she would not have waited up for him. Normally she would not have confronted him while the anger still boiled. No, normally she would not even have admitted she was angry.
Nothing about the night, though, resembled normally.
The grandfather clock struck two fifteen.
She'd had hours to figure out what she was quitting. Or had it been years?
"Look, Claire." His patient tone exuded sympathy. "I imagine you're upset because I missed the birthday dinner the kids had for you. Even though I'm taking you to San Francisco on Saturday, on your birthday, tonight was important. When you think about it, those four hardly ever get together anymore. They only did it for you. So it was your special time with them. You really didn't want me here."
"Don't tell me what I didn't want." Ignoring the pathetic warble in her voice, she pressed on. "You always do that. You always think you know what I want or how I feel."
"I'm lost here. What are you talking about? I missed one lousy dinner."
She shoved the throw pillow against the cushion and unfolded her legs. "It's not that you missed one lousy dinner." Her voice steadied. "It's that you've missed thirty years of dinners and events. I can't live like this anymore. All of a sudden, I'm tired."
"Hon, we're both tired. We'll talk tomorrow."
"No, Max. I mean I'm tired. I'm tired of the whole charade."
"How about we take a vacation? We'll do the cruise thing again. You enjoyed that. September might work-"
"No." She shook her head vehemently. "I'm tired of pretending everything is fine. I'm tired, really, of letting you off the hook. I quit. Tonight was the last straw."
"'The last straw'? What in the world does that mean?"
"I don't know." She stood on unsteady legs. "I just don't know. But I can't talk any more right now. I'll sleep in the guest room."
She sidestepped the coffee table and breezed past him, heading toward the hall.
"Claire, honey, come on." He used his husky voice-the one with the unmistakably masculine timbre, the one that always assured her things would be all right.
She didn't break stride.
Shaking from head to toe, Claire spread an extra blanket over the bed and climbed in. She was wearing flannel pajamas in the middle of July in Southern California, and she couldn't get warm.
Her thoughts whirled as she stared into the dark with wide-open eyes. She'd never slept in the guest room before. She probably wouldn't literally sleep in it tonight either.
Dear God, what just happened?
No. She couldn't go there. Not yet. She'd wait until the sheer emotion of it dissipated. She'd wait for rational thought to return. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears.
Help me, Lord!
A picture of the evening came to mind-the evening Max had missed. Their grown children and one son-in-law had treated her to a surprise birthday dinner. Erik, Daniel, Alexis, Jenna, and Kevin cooked and danced like five wild chefs in her kitchen. They made her laugh. They made her feel like a queen.
But in the end the scullery maid won out.
Claire rolled onto her side, curled herself up into a tight ball, and prayed for the night to end.
Excerpted from A Time to Mend by SALLY JOHN GARY SMALLEY Copyright © 2007 by Sally John. Excerpted by permission.
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