Determined to remind Lizzy who she was, they decide to take matters into their own hands. New people, new experiences, and new places are just the key to her return to joy; together, they will help their lost friend. But the best-laid plans sometimes go off in ways that no one can predict, and for Lizzy this strange new world is a little much to absorb.
A chance encounter with Dale and Bailey Boudreaux will change Lizzy's life in ways too profound to foretell. They help Lizzy grow beyond her well-earned distrust in people, and that's just one way they will change her entire life.
Is what happens next kismet? Only one thing is for sure: when destiny sets its sights on you, there really is nowhere to hide.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)|
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By K. T. ARCHER
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 K. T. Archer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOpening my eyes, I stretched and lay listening to Charlie as he ran through all his whistles, words, and phrases. Charlie was my African gray parrot, whom I'd shared my house with for the past five years. Our life together was very structured and, according to my friend Kay, mundane. She believed I wasn't living life to its fullest potential and that I was going to end up as the old spinster lady at the end of the street with nothing but my bird. There might be some truth in that, because I truly had no use for people. I could hear her now: "This plan-for-the-worst-and-hope-for-the-best attitude of yours just sucks." That attitude was a residual side effect of having a number of bad things happen back to back. A therapist could have a field day with my life, but I chose to deal with it in my own way. After all, who wanted to pay someone just to hear him or her say, "And how does that make you feel?"
Splashing water on my face, I caught a glimpse of myself in the medicine cabinet mirror. I could see my mother all over my face. The oval shape, the full lips, and the apple-round cheeks were all from her. My deep-set blue eyes, however, were 100 percent my dad's, along with the rich brown hair that I carefully highlighted, just to disguise a few strands of gray. I couldn't say who I blamed for those at the age of thirty-three. Mom's cancer? Grandma's Alzheimer's? My mother's sister? My ex-husband? I was certain one of the four did it.
Before heading into my home office, which was only a guest bedroom but played triple duty with a bed, my computer, and Charlie's cage, I started my morning coffee. The house was nothing elaborate but was just right for Charlie and me. I loved it dearly, but the circumstances of how I attained it ...? Not so much. Purchasing it was a promise I had made to my mother as she was losing her battle with cancer. It was her fear that I wouldn't have a place to call home after her death. I'd been living in an apartment since moving to Montgomery, and we both knew I wouldn't move back to her home in our hometown.
The year she died had been deemed officially the worst twelve months of my life. It's funny how things can go from really good to exceptionally bad in the blink of an eye. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, my mother received the terrible news about the big C, I was married and divorced, and then I buried my mother. As if all of that wasn't horrendous enough, my mother's sister fought me for guardianship of my grandmother and sued me over my mother's possessions. Neither of which she really cared about, but she thought both had some monetary value.
I emerged from that horrid time a drastically changed person, and I didn't mind admitting it. I trusted most people about as far as I could throw them. I wouldn't classify myself as a recluse, because I did go out of the house to work and occasionally for dinner. And then there was the very rare chance that Kay could get me to go out with some guy she just knew was destined to change my life and attitude toward it. Of course, it never worked out the way she planned it, but it gave us something to laugh about until the next time.
I turned on the computer, and as it booted up, I opened Charlie's cage door and handed him a treat. "Good morning, Charlie bird."
He replied, "Good morning, bird." The treat didn't last long. After devouring it, he climbed onto the cage door, stretched his legs, and then flapped his wings a few times. Once he'd begun his morning ritual, I grabbed a cup of coffee and returned to the computer.
"Wow, Charlie. It seems we're really popular today. Twenty new e-mails."
"Shugas, bird." He has my Alabama Southern drawl.
"That's right, baby. Sugars or someone wantin' to give us sugars. Nine are from mylovelife.com." Believing they were junk e-mails, I deleted them all and then checked my spam filters. Everything appeared to be set at the highest settings, so I chalked it up to a fluke and continued clicking through the remaining e-mails. Charlie preened and muttered to himself as I paid some bills online.
"All done, baby." I held my arm out. Charlie stepped on, and I moved him to his perch in the living room. To keep him company, I turned on the television before heading to the shower.
"Good morning, bird," he said as I returned to the living room.
"Good morning, Charlie bird. Love you."
I sat on the couch, enjoying more coffee as I watched the midday news. My shift in the lab at the emergency department didn't begin until 1:30, so I had some leisure time before going in. Everything was routine in our lives, so when I grabbed my tennis shoes, Charlie said, "Bu-bye. Bye, baby."
"You're right, baby. It's almost time."
I returned to the office to get his bowls. Once he had fresh water and food in his cage, I packed my dinner. The whole time I could hear Charlie saying, "Bu-bye. Bye, baby." Every time he got a little louder, making me laugh.
Finally, I walked back in the living room, sat my bag by the door, and held my arm out to him. "Bird, you act like I can't get out of here fast enough for you. Do you have a hot date or something?"
I rubbed the back of his head as I carried him to his cage. "That's right, baby, sugars. I'm going to work. See you in a little while. Bye, baby."
"Bye, baby." I smiled, locking the cage door.
When I got to the lab, I found an envelope with my name written in big black letters hanging from the time clock. I opened the envelope and pulled out the note, immediately recognizing Kay's handwriting. Lizzy, I need to talk with you. Find me on your dinner break. Kay
Kay and I had met during hospital orientation ten years ago. When we both realized we would be working in the lab, it was a bonding moment for us. I was happy to call her a friend, but in the early days it was a limited friendship. She was a wild card, to say the least. There wasn't anything she wouldn't say, and the girl did love to party, as if tomorrow wasn't coming. Being raised in rural Alabama, I knew that this gets you a reputation. My grandmother had taken great pride in teaching me how to conduct myself as a lady, and she would have been appalled at some of the things Kay did. Sometimes I would go out with Kay to be her designated driver, and I'd find myself blushing as I watched her flirt with men after consuming several drinks. She took great pride in telling men, "Fire on the head means fire in the hole." Who knew the color of your hair could be a dirty joke?
Not only did she and I differ in our personalities, we differed in our physical appearances. At five feet ten inches tall, Kay towered over me. She had auburn hair and hazel eyes, and her olive skin gave her an exotic look. She looked tanned year round, which just made me sick. I was so fair, thirty minutes in the sun and I looked like a lobster steamed to perfection.
For some reason, though, she and I blended well together. We got each other's sarcastic jokes; what some people might think was just mean humor. Although she was the redhead, I was the one with the quick temper. My temper never seemed to faze her, even when it was directed at her.
My mother's death had shown me just how good a friend Kay could be. She toned down her partying ways and morphed into someone very supportive, after my other dear friend, Spencer, moved away. Spencer and Kay were friends as well, and it seemed the hospital where we all worked had given me a new little family. Spencer might have moved, but we all still stayed in touch via e-mail and phone, along with the occasional visit when time allowed.
Tucking Kay's note in my pocket, I headed to the ER. The doors had barely opened when I realized it was going to be a busy night. The trauma bays were full, and patients lay on gurneys in the hallways. I had barely made it to the satellite lab in the trauma center when the phone rang.
"Lab," I answered. "This is Lizzy."
"Lizzy, we need you in trauma four. Michael's tied up in trauma one but my guy is bleeding out."
It was Madeline, one of the ER nurses. She sounded extremely stressed.
"I'm on my way." I tossed my stuff under the counter and grabbed my blood collection tray. Sticking my head in trauma one, I said, "Michael, I'm here. I'll get report in a minute. Going to get blood in four."
"I hope you brought your roller skates." The exhausted look on his face was another sign it was going to be a hectic night. Michael worked the day shift, and whenever he has a bad day, it meant the evening would be even worse.
After being sidetracked twice, I finally made it back to the lab. Michael was waiting impatiently with his book bag already on his shoulder.
"It seems the other trauma center had some kind of plumbing issue," he said. "It's flooded, so everyone has been coming here. I have two left from my shift, sorry. I want to run outta here screaming today."
He had barely gotten the words out when he bolted from the room.
"Well, all righty then!" I said to the empty doorway. "Have a great night."
I looked at the orders on the countertop. Luckily, they were the two I had just gotten. The rest of my shift was a blur. One patient after another rolled in, until finally my relief arrived. I gave the report to her, grabbed the dinner I'd never gotten to eat, and headed home. I was getting out my scrubs when the note fell out of my pocket.
"Shoot!" I'd forgotten all about Kay's note. I'll call her tomorrow, I thought. She must have had a busy night, too, because normally she'd pop in for a minute or two during our shift.
I was exhausted, but felt bad about going straight to bed without spending any time with Charlie. He was like a perpetual two-year-old and needed interaction. I started the computer, handed him a treat, and then went to the kitchen for a glass of tea. Charlie was muttering to himself when I returned.
"So how was your night?" I asked.
"Is you a good boy?" he asked in return.
"No, but you are."
He broke off another bite of the treat, and I logged into my e-mail. Again, several e-mails from mylovelife.com were sitting in the unread folder. Once again I checked my spam filters; they were still at the highest setting. This piqued my curiosity, and I decided to open one.
Hey Little Lady, I saw your profile and think you are just cute as a butterbean. Isn't that what you all say down there in the South? I'm from Rhode Island but come through your area once a month on business and thought we might get together. I just love a woman with a Southern accent and that Southern Belle persona. Hope to hear from you soon! Edgar
What in the world? What profile? How did he know I was from the South or even what I looked like? I returned to my in-box and clicked open another one.
The previous e-mail hadn't contained a picture, but this one did. The man staring back at me from the computer looked old enough to be my father. I scrolled past the photo and found the message.
Greetings! I'm an older gentleman looking for the company of a young woman such as yourself. When I saw your photo all I could look at was that beautiful mouth of yours and I must admit it caused a stirring even without the little blue pill. I live in Birmingham and would love to meet with you. Waiting for your response. Gerald
I gasped. Quickly, I closed the e-mail and deleted them all without opening another one. I clicked over to the web browser and typed in mylovelife.com. The website came up on the screen, and I found a profile search. After typing in Elizabeth Wallace, I clicked search and found no results. My racing heart slowed with relief.
Maybe it was just a mistype in someone's e-mail who's on this site, I thought. I said to the screen, "Whoever you are out there, I'm probably doing you a favor by deleting all that crap."
Charlie spoke suddenly, and I jumped as if one of those men were standing in the room with me. "Good night, bird. See ya in the mornin'."
He jerked at my reaction, causing me to laugh. "I'm sorry, Charlie. Didn't mean to scare you, but you're right. It's time for bed. Good night, Charlie bird. See ya in the mornin', baby."
Thank goodness I'm off tomorrow, I thought. I didn't even remember my head hitting the pillow.
I woke to the sun shining through the blinds, and heard Charlie running through the list of sounds he knew: the beep from the garbage truck as it backed up the street, the bobwhite whistle, the charge theme he'd picked up from watching the Atlanta Braves baseball games, and then dropping and exploding bombs. I'd never figured out where he got the bombs, but he enjoyed doing that sound the most.
I rubbed my eyes and stretched my legs. Just another exciting day in the life and times of Elizabeth Wallace. I had been so exhausted the night before, I hadn't moved at all. The aches and pains in my joints told me so too. I heard my voice coming from the office. "Hey, this is Lizzy. What cha doin'?" Charlie could mimic me exactly.
"Good morning, Charlie bird." I pulled myself out of bed, washed my face, and brushed my teeth.
When I walked into the office, he asked, "Is you a good boy?"
I unlocked the cage and grabbed him a treat. "No, but you are."
The talking stopped while he ate. When he started stretching his legs, I reached in to get his bowls. After booting up the computer, I headed to the kitchen to start the coffee.
"Good morning, bird. Shugas," he said.
From the kitchen I replied, "Sugars, baby."
While I prepared his bowls, the phone rang.
Charlie immediately replied, "Hey, this is Lizzy. What cha doin'? 'K, 'bye."
"Why don't we find out who it is first, Charlie?" I said, smiling. I saw on caller ID that it was Kay and picked up the receiver. "Hey."
"Girl, last night was a ball buster!"
"Tell me about it. I figured you must've been busy since I didn't see you."
"Busy isn't the word for it. Hell would be better. I took a trip to hell." She laughed.
"I hear you. Same here. Thankfully, I'm off today so I can recover."
"Me too! How did we ever manage that?" Normally, we were only off every other weekend together. Rarely did we get a day during the week off together too.
I poured my much-needed coffee. "I don't know, but let's not complain about it. What was your note about?"
"That's why I'm calling. I take it you and the buzzard are up."
"Buzzard" was Kay's little term of endearment for Charlie.
"Would I have answered this phone if I hadn't been up?"
"Good point. I'm going to throw on some clothes and stop by the bagel shop. What I have to tell you needs to be in person."
My cup hit the counter a little harder than expected. "Is something wrong?"
"No. On the contrary, it's good, but you won't see it that way at first. What kind of fruit can I get for the buzzard?"
"Apples. What do you mean it's good but—"
She cut me off. "In due time, my dear. It's a surprise. I'll see you in an hour." Before I could protest, she hung up.
I stood in the kitchen for a moment sipping my coffee, wondering what in the world she could have done. I probably should be afraid, I thought. The last surprise she had gotten me was on my birthday a few months ago. Spencer and his family drove down to join us for a nice dinner at Tequila Burrito. Everything was going well, until Kay's gift for me arrived. It was a guy dressed in a muscle man suit with nothing on but a thong, carrying a fist full of balloons. He placed a boom box in the middle of the table and began bumping and grinding all over me. While everyone in the restaurant whooped and hollered, especially Spencer, I was completely mortified. The more the crowd cheered, the worse it got for me.
"Yes," I said aloud, "I really should be afraid." I went to the bedroom to throw on some clothes before she arrived.
Realizing I had a little while before she'd be there, I returned to my office to check my e-mails. Charlie sat on his cage door preening. I gave him a scratch on the back of his head.
"Shugas," he said in a really sweet tone.
"That's right, baby. Sugars. Crazy Kay is on her way over with something special for you."
My e-mail in-box once more had numerous ones from mylovelife.com.
"Not this again! I don't know who you are, but I wish you'd check your typing abilities before sending out e-mails." I was still convinced that's how this mistake had happened. I looked over at Charlie as if he were going to offer me some condolences. He wasn't paying any attention to me, too intent on digging his favorite items out of the food bowl. I deleted all the mylovelife.com e-mails and read a few jokes forwarded from acquaintances. I had just finished when I heard a knock and then a key in the deadbolt on the front door. It had to be Kay. She was the only other person with a key.
Excerpted from Kismet by K. T. ARCHER Copyright © 2011 by K. T. Archer. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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