It's one of life's most bitter and unavoidable lessons: bad things happen to good people
But it's those choices we make after such catastrophes that really matter. When all else fails, survivors learn to keep their hearts open because in the end, they trust that love always wins. For Kathy Martin and Bryce Peterson, whose young lives were darkened with cruelty, tragedy, and abuse, it's a lesson they learned early on.
Kathy's once-ideal childhood was suddenly shattered by tragedy, and she was cast into the callous waters of the foster care system. Terrified and alone, she embarks on a grueling journey to adulthood. Scarred both physically and emotionally, her heart remains closely guarded as a survival strategy.
For Bryce, a forgotten child from an abusive family, his own path has been littered with sadness and crushing disappointment.
But now, against all odds, these two damaged souls have found each other. Perhaps, for the first time, they both dare to hope that from the twisted wreckage of their lives, a miracle might emerge. Can they discover true love- something they never believed was possible?
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
When All Else FailsBook One of the Sweet Ever After series
By Elaine E. Sherwood
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Elaine E. Sherwood
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was June 15, 1955 - my seventh birthday. I had invited all my little friends to a birthday party at a local restaurant. I was so excited I could hardly stand still. Earlier that day Daddy had given me my present. He told me I was a big girl now, and he had gotten me a big girl present. He handed me a little box wrapped in pretty pink paper with a pink bow. I carefully unwrapped the little package as my parents watched. When I lifted the lid, tucked inside was the most beautiful heart-shaped locket I had ever seen.
Daddy put the locket around my neck, and showed me how to open the tiny clasp. To my surprise, inside was a picture of my mom and my dad. I threw my arms around my father's neck and buried my face in his shoulder. Then I ran to hug my mom and show her how I could open the clasp all by myself.
Whining usually worked on my dad so I began nagging him to hurry up. I didn't want to be late for my own party. What would my friends think? Besides, I couldn't wait to show all my friends what a wonderful present I had received.
When mom was FINALLY ready we piled into the car. I was sitting in the back seat gazing out the window. The trees were whipping by so fast it almost made me dizzy to watch them. I remember trying to guess what kind of presents my friends had gotten me.
I never saw the truck that slammed into us head on. All I remember was an explosion of flying glass and my mother screaming; then everything went black. I woke up in the hospital the next day confused and frightened. The concussion was minor, as were the cuts and bruises. The doctor said I was extremely lucky to be alive.
A nurse with sad brown eyes explained that my parents had "gone to heaven." Not understanding exactly what that meant, I wondered why I hadn't gone with them. I was inconsolable.
Apparently at the point of impact I had been thrown forward and to the floor behind my father's seat; that's what saved me. My parents had both been ejected from the vehicle through the windshield. They were dead at the scene.
The headache was bothersome, but my injuries were not serious. They kept me in the hospital only a couple more days before discharging me into the care of Child Welfare Services. Since there were no living relatives I was placed in a foster home. Now I was terrified! My heart pounded in my chest and nausea was just a swallow away. Why was this happening? I wanted to know where Mommy and Daddy were! Nobody had ever come out and said they died. They used vague euphemisms like, "they went to a better place" and other such nonsense. This only served to infuriate me. Unfortunately, I had more immediate problems.
Chapter TwoThe first thing the foster mother did was cut my long, curly, reddish-blonde hair. She said it was too much work to keep it long. I was heartbroken and tried to protest. What would she do to me next?
"I really don't care what you want little missy," the foster mother said with a cruel smile on her thin lips. "You're in my house now, and you will do what I say." It was a very rude awakening.
There were three other children living in this foster home, two girls and a boy. It was controlled chaos - completely different than anything I had ever experienced. I was definitely NOT the center of attention as I had been with my parents. I had been their only child. The apple of my father's eye.
Mealtime was every man for himself. Not being accustomed to needing to fight for my food, I went hungry until I learned to grab and gulp. I didn't get my little peanut butter sandwiches with the crust cut off or chocolate stirred into my milk just the way I liked it. In fact the peanut butter was slapped haphazardly on bread that was a bit too stale for my taste. There wasn't any chocolate milk.
To this day, I don't know what happened to all my clothes and toys. Or for that matter, what happened to my house. I guess because I was only seven years old no one thought it necessary to explain anything to me.
I was allowed to keep only a stuffed teddy bear that I had gotten for Christmas that year. Someone must have gone to my house, and gathered up a few of my clothes; very few, because everything I now owned fit into a small suitcase. I was smart for a seven-year-old. I hid my locket under my shirt so no one would see it, and make it disappear like all my other belongings.
Every night I would beg God to PLEASE send Mommy and Daddy to get me. I would look at the pictures in my locket and the tears would come. Over the next weeks and months, I learned what "dead" meant. Mommy and Daddy were never coming back, ever. I felt lost and frightened in a world filled with strangers.
The outgoing, fun-loving child I had been disappeared, and in her place was a sober, quiet, thin, little wisp of a girl with huge, sad eyes. When I looked in the mirror, I hardly recognized myself.
School began in the fall, and I started second grade. My teacher was a middle aged, married woman nearing retirement. Since I was a willing student who excelled in most of my subjects, I became one of her favorites. Mrs. Morse gave me a little of the attention I craved, and school became my solace.
Adjustment to this new life had taken a while, but I had finally come to accept things such as they were with this family. One day, for reasons I was never told, I was moved to a different foster home, and a different school. Nothing felt real anymore, and my tummy was upset most of the time.
Chapter ThreeChild Welfare moved me five more times over the next few years. I never understood why. Had I done something wrong? Didn't the families like me? I tried to be as good as I could, thinking it would make a difference. I began to realize I couldn't count on anyone so I turned inward and hardened my heart.
My life seemed to be one upheaval after another, and I soon learned it was pointless to become attached to anyone or to care about anything outside myself. I became reconciled to the fact that until I was old enough to control my own circumstances, I would always be alone, passed around from here to there without any regard for what I wanted or how I felt.
My entry into puberty was a rough one. Everything I knew about how my body was changing I learned in health class or from eavesdropping on the conversations of other girls. Not wanting to appear stupid, I never asked questions.
When I was fourteen I was put in a home where there were other teenagers. One was a fat, ugly, pimple-faced boy named Roger. As my body matured I began to understand what my dad had meant when he said my mom had a "good figure." Roger noticed.
Late one night after I had been in bed for several hours I heard a strange noise that woke me up. Before I knew what was happening Roger was on top of me, straddling my hips. One pudgy hand was over my mouth while the other hand roughly ripped my nightgown, and began groping my bare chest!
He found my locket, and tore it from my neck leaving a little trail of blood behind. He stuffed it in his pocket before he continued his quest. Panic filled my mind. I could hardly breathe! I thrashed and bucked, hitting him in the face with my fists as hard as I could.
Being terrified gave me more strength than Roger expected. I managed to bite down hard on the hand that covered my mouth dislodging it long enough to scream.
The foster mother burst into the room.
Roger jumped off me as if I was on fire, and started whimpering. As I trembled from exertion and fear, rivulets of sweat poured down my body. I sprang off the bed, and stood against the wall as I tried to cover myself with what was left of my nightgown.
He told the woman that I had been "teasing" him all day, finally inviting him to my bedroom. When he tried to kiss me, I began kicking and screaming. How he managed to get tears to come from his squinty, near-sighted eyes was the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed. I couldn't believe he was blaming ME!
The foster mother spun around, and slapped me hard across my face. She called me names that I had only heard in association with "bad" girls who "did things" with boys. When I tried to stammer out an explanation, she slapped me again.
The woman's voice escalated as she yelled at me.
"Maybe you were allowed to act this way in other foster homes, but your behavior will NOT be tolerated in this house."
I was locked in my room, and told that I would be sorry for "starting trouble." My behavior? What had I done exactly? Dazed and confused, I slid to the floor.
At first I cried, not able to comprehend what had just happened. My locket was gone along with the pictures of my parents. The thing I treasured most in the whole world had been ripped from me, and the anguish I felt was overwhelming. My nightdress was in shreds. My cheeks were bruised and stinging.
I have to get away, was my next conscious thought. I knew I couldn't stay in this house a minute longer. Sooner or later Roger would try again, and he would keep trying until he succeeded in getting what he wanted. I had learned enough in health class to know exactly what that involved as well as what the consequences might be. I also knew I would be blamed as being the instigator.
Chapter FourVery quietly I pulled on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. I tied my shoes together by the strings so I could carry them around my neck as I tiptoed across the floor. The window was heavy, but I managed to push it up and crawl through, dropping to the ground. I landed hard, hurting my knee in the process. Terror pushed me to my feet. I had to keep going!
Fortunately, it was a new moon and very dark so no one saw my escape. I decided following the highway would be the best course of action. When a car passed by, I hid in the ditch that ran along the side of the road. In the morning when the sun came up I crawled under some dense underbrush and collapsed into a restless sleep.
As I tossed and turned, a realization came over me. Maybe it was the result of losing my locket, but I began to think what had happened to my parents was my fault. I had begged them to hurry that day. If we had left the house later, the truck would not have hit us. We were at that exact spot at that exact moment because I didn't want to be late for my party!
It was MY fault they were dead! MY FAULT! The weight of guilt crushed me, and a deep sadness engulfed me. Maybe I DID encourage Roger in some way. What kind of person am I? It's no wonder no one wants me!
When it was finally dark, I knew it was time to get moving. Thirst and hunger were taking their toll. I would soon be too weak to cover much ground. My knee was aching so bad I could hardly walk, but I needed to find something to eat and drink. There was a small stream running parallel to the road. I dropped to my stomach, cupping water into my mouth until I was full.
If there were berries I could have eaten it was impossible to find them in the dark, so I continued to follow the highway. After walking what felt like miles, I came to the edge of a small town.
I saw an all-night diner with a big dumpster in back. The top was up. I was short and the dumpster was huge, but I finally managed to pull myself up and inside. They had apparently just thrown out the leftover supper food because I found any number of dried out burgers and soggy sandwiches. I ate as much as I could.
After rummaging around for several minutes, I gathered up everything else I could find that was edible, and wrapped it in a discarded paper sack so I could take it with me. I peeked over the top of the dumpster, and saw that the coast was clear so over the edge I went. I hurried as fast as my injured knee would allow back to the trees along the road and rested for several minutes before setting out again ... to where, I had no idea. My future looked bleak.
Chapter FiveI didn't dare stop moving. The child welfare people were probably looking for me. I was pretty sure the foster family had given them a colorful, albeit untrue, picture of my character. They had probably accused me of stealing or worse!
The thought of what would happen to me if I were caught gnawed at the edges of my consciousness making it almost impossible for me to keep focused on what I had to do. I knew it was imperative for me to stick to my pattern of sleeping in some secluded spot by day, and walking at night. I was following a main road and I figured eventually it would lead to a big city where it would be easier to hide.
The little sack of scavenged food was all I had so I rationed it carefully. The little stream frequently wound itself around close to the highway, so finding water was not yet a problem. I was dirty and tired when I took shelter in the early hours of the morning behind a large fallen tree.
The grass was damp with dew, but I didn't care. Before falling asleep that morning I wondered if this would be the day I just never woke up. It was obvious to me that God hated me. After all, he had taken away everything that held any meaning for me. He had turned my life into a living hell so why not just kill me now and be done with it. If I did see another day, I would need food again soon. My knee seemed to be getting worse making it almost impossible to make any real progress.
I woke up as the sun was setting with my stomach grumbling. I felt lightheaded as I staggered to my feet to begin the night's walk. I hadn't gone far when off in the distance I saw lights. It looked like a little farmhouse. There was a barn nearby with a few cows in the pasture. A cautious look around might be a good idea.
The possibility of finding something to eat gave me a glimmer of hope as I cautiously approached, hiding whenever I could behind bushes or trees. There didn't seem to be a dog, for which I was grateful. I made it all the way to the corner of the barn without attracting attention from the house.
Never having been on a farm before, I was unfamiliar with the routine. Everything seemed quiet enough, and the animals appeared to be content. I finally decided the work must be done for the day. I wedged myself between a couple of loose boards in the back of the barn finding it full of machinery and all sorts of equipment, but otherwise empty.
On the floor near the door was a large saucer of milk. There must be a cat, I thought wearily. Tonight he would go hungry. I slurped up the milk not caring that it was warm. As I spit out bits of straw that had been floating in it, I thought nothing had ever tasted so good.
In one corner of the rather dilapidated structure was a stall filled with sweet smelling hay. It looked clean and inviting so I told myself I was only going to lie down for a little while. My belly was full of milk, and I was emotionally and physically drained.
It seemed like I had only been asleep for a short time when a commotion at the barn door jerked me wide awake. I jumped to my feet ready to run, but in the dark I was unable to find the loose boards that had allowed me to enter. All I could see was the silhouette of someone in the doorway blocking any possible escape in that direction.
I was looking wildly around for some place to hide when a woman flipped on the lights. I was caught! We just stared at each other for several seconds. My heart began pounding in my ears, and I was trembling from head to toe. The milk in my stomach began churning as beads of sweat crept across my scalp.
"Please don't tell anyone I was here," I pleaded just above a whisper. "I'll go away, and I haven't stolen anything except the cat's milk!"
"You should have put the saucer back where you found it. I nearly broke my neck," the woman said, as she folded her arms across her chest. "Why don't you come on inside and tell me who you're hiding from? Then I'll decide whether or not to call the authorities."
Chapter SixThe sternness she intended was contradicted by the smile twitching around her generous mouth.
"I have leftover soup and, maybe, some cookies. It's warm inside and I would welcome some company. Boots, he's my cat, hasn't been very talkative lately."
The soup sounded like manna from heaven, but I was wary. This woman looked harmless enough, even friendly, but could I trust her? Probably not. Nonetheless, hunger outweighed my better judgment and I followed her into the house with every intention of eating and running.
"My name's Harriet," the woman said, as she pulled out a chair at the table and indicated that I could sit there.
Harriet Lewis was a tall, thin, plain looking woman in her 40's wearing funny looking clothes and thick glasses. Her outfit was completed by a pair of high rubber boots. Her hands looked callused with the nails broken off short. Mousey brown hair hung in a long braid down her back.
She must have to work hard, I thought, as I glanced nervously toward the dark corners of the other rooms. I wonder if there's a man around. The thought of encountering a man filled me with dread.
"If you want to wash up, there's a sink in the pantry," she said, as she stirred the soup.
Taking full advantage of the hot water, and good smelling soap, I scrubbed my hands and face until my skin felt raw. When the soup was hot, Harriet brought a bowl to the table.
"Mind if I sit?" she asked.
Excerpted from When All Else Fails by Elaine E. Sherwood Copyright © 2012 by Elaine E. Sherwood. 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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