|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
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Six weeks earlier
Revere Beach, outside Boston
I stripped my socks from my sweaty feet and tucked them in my sneakers. I plunged my toes into the sand of Revere Beach, America's historic first public beach. I inhaled the salty sea air, felt my mind wandering to California.
Only a few more weeks and I'd be at the prestigious training base, putting action to my dreams. BUD/S training was no joke, but I was prepared. I would make it happen.
There was only one thing I needed to do before I could clear myself for takeoff.
Too bad the thought of seeing Lena made my stomach tie itself in knots.
I sighed, leaned back against the sand, just beginning to warm from the cool night air. The sun rose early at the beach, and already it began its climb upward. I closed my eyes, listened to the lull of the shore. A seagull's call came from above. The muted sounds of lifeguards chatting a stand over, then two women talking as they passed — something about hot flashes and sweaty sheets — competed with that of the waves crashing on the shore.
Maybe coming to Massachusetts hadn't been a good idea after all.
Surely I could accomplish training without my past hanging over me. I could become the first woman SEAL by simply looking forward, by focusing on the goal instead of what lay behind. And I could do it all without laying eyes on my mother, without facing the weak little girl I used to be.
But while I owed Lena no amount of loyalty, perhaps I did owe that scared little girl some.
I suppressed the temptation to book a flight out of Boston. I'd come all the way here for something. And the woman I wanted to be — the strong woman who would soon possess one of the most honorable positions in the military — would not back down.
I sat up, my abs still sore from the sit-ups I'd done that morning. I squinted against the sun, to where a child of about five years jumped over a small wave not far from the shore.
I'd run away before. It was time to make amends. Or at least put the past to rest. If I couldn't tackle these mental and emotional demons, how could I expect myself to tackle the biggest challenge of my life?
"Does he need help?" An older woman in a sun hat clutched the hand of a big-bellied man and pointed farther out from where I'd just seen the child playing.
Only the child was no longer there.
I stood, immediately on alert, searching the waves. From behind came the deep yell of a man. "Braden!"
I ran toward the water, seeing flailing arms much farther out than I had just been searching, and I knew the undertow had taken him.
I sprang into action, my high school summer job as a lifeguard all coming back to me. I stripped off my khakis, swimsuit underneath, seeing the girls on the lifeguard stand scrambling down out of the corner of my eye. They had the rescue buoys, but I could likely swim faster — could get to the boy in what might be lifesaving seconds.
I ran past the couple and made for the bobbing head with steady strokes. Determination and a foreign desperateness pulled me forward. This was one mission I could not fail.
The cold pull of the undertow slowed me, but I forced my burning muscles on.
Closer. Closer still.
The boy went under again and didn't come back up. Terror seized my chest as I forced my kicks strong, then dove down and opened my eyes against the burning salt of the sea.
I came up for air, dove again, promising myself I wouldn't surface without the child.
I swam deeper and hit bottom. In the murky distance, I spotted a shadow and swam for it. My lungs pinched, on fire within my chest. I released a small amount of air, measuring, knowing once my lungs emptied, I wouldn't have more than fifteen seconds.
The figure floated farther away. I emptied the last of my breath, grasped at the hazy form. My fingers grazed a clump of hair. Lunging for it, I fisted it tight at the same time that I pushed off the sandy bottom.
We both came to the surface, but I was the only one gasping for air. From behind, I slid both of my arms beneath his, locked them firmly, made certain his mouth and nose were above water, and used all my core body and leg strength to kick toward shore.
"Here." One of the lifeguards was behind me with her rescue buoy, offering to take him. I gave the boy over, swimming alongside the guard, making sure she kept the child's mouth from the water.
After what seemed an eternity, I felt bottom again. We carried the boy to the beach, the father beside us, his clothes soaked.
"An ambulance is on its way," another guard said.
My breath came hard as we laid the boy down. Was he alive? The guard dropped to her knees but hesitated. I pushed her out of the way, alongside the child's father. "I'm trained," I said, tilting his mouth and chin back, his skin not quite a normal color. I crouched close to listen.
No breath met my ears.
I placed my hands in the middle of his chest. Hard and fast, I used my body weight to deliver multiple compressions. A woman behind me started praying aloud, and the sound of her words beseeching a mighty God nearly undid me. I pushed my emotions away — would they forever be my downfall?
I tilted his head again, lowered my mouth to his own small one, sealed my lips over his, and breathed two long breaths.
More compressions before finally he choked and spluttered, seawater spewing into my face. I swiped at it. Someone offered their towel and I took it. After several more chokes and gasps, the boy started breathing.
I sat back on my heels, relief soothing my tight insides as color returned to the child's face.
"Thank God," the man beside me said, scooping the boy up in a hug.
I placed a hand on his arm, pushing him away slightly. "Give him some room for a few minutes, okay?"
"I don't know how to —" The man looked up at me, his words cut short as his gaze met mine.
No, it couldn't be. Not him. Surely I would have recognized his voice when he'd shouted his son's name. Surely I would have recognized his form as he was in the water with the child. No matter the urgency of the moment. I would have known.
He straightened, looked to the boy again, who seemed to be breathing clearly. He opened his mouth, slow. "You."
I looked away, ashamed. It didn't matter that I'd just saved his son's life. It didn't matter that years had passed since I'd last seen him. My guilt felt fresh now, his shock piled upon recognition making me realize that while I had been able to ignore what I'd done to him years ago, he hadn't possessed the same gift.
Perhaps my mother wasn't the only one I needed to make amends with.
I forced a small smile, but only one corner of my mouth lifted, and it felt fake. So very fake.
"Yeah ... me."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Tea Chest"
Copyright © 2020 Heidi Chiavaroli.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
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.
What People are Saying About This
Chiavaroli does a good job of tying up the various loose ends she has created. Suffice to say, and not to spoil the ending, when one reaches the end, one closes the book satisfied.
An enthralling story of beauty birthed from sorrow, hope amid ashes, and healing through pain.
Captivating from the first page. Steeped in timeless truths and served with skill, The Tea Chest is sure to be savored by all who read it.
Seamlessly blending both the colonial and contemporary, Heidi Chiavaroli rivets readers with this compelling timeslip novel. I could not put this novel down.