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At thirty-one, Ellen Barrett has already won a Pulitzer prize. Sadly, though, her skill as a journalist far surpasses her ability to sort out her troubled past. When she returns to picturesque Petoskey, Michigan, for her beloved father’s funeral, it’s a traumatic emotional and spiritual journey for Ellen—a rediscovery of what is truly important and eternal.
Will facing her past tear Ellen apart—or teach her what is truly important in her life?
Ellen Barrett, thirty-one, is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist with an uncertain marriage, a forgotten faith, and haunting memories of her picturesque hometown and the love she left behind. The eldest of five siblings, Ellen longs for the time, long ago, when they were happy—when they were a family.
Then tragedy strikes. Now Ellen’s beloved father is dead, and she must leave Miami and return to her childhood home on the shores of Little Traverse Bay in Petoskey, Michigan.
As she returns to a world that was, an avalanche of memories is unleashed. And so Ellen’s quest begins—a quest to make peace with the people who still live there, with the losses and changes that time has wrought, and with the future God has set before her.
Story Behind the Book
“Each of my novels is a piece of my heart. Where Yesterday Lives was my first-ever novel, and as such it is somewhat autobiographical. The childhood story of Ellen Barrett, her love for her parents and siblings, is my story—though her current story and struggles are fictional. On Every Side sheds light on the struggle for religious freedom in today’s climate; something I am passionate about. Finally, When Joy Came to Stay is the story of one woman’s battle against depression and the secrets of her past.”
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.26(w) x 8.27(h) x 1.07(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Petoskey, Michigan - July 10, 1998
The first wave of pain seized his chest like a vice grip so that his hand flew to his heart and he gasped for breath. The second wave sent him to his knees. He felt his face contort from the pain, and he forced himself to concentrate on surviving.
Help! The word formed on his lips and died there.
Air refused to move in and out of his body, and his lungs screamed for relief. The pain intensified; the grip tightened. There was tremendous pressure now, as if a cement truck had stalled directly over his heart.
He clutched harder at his chest, ripping a button from his shirt. In the recesses of his mind, in the only place that was not consumed with pain, he knew what was happening.
His body crumpled slowly onto the matted brown carpet that lined the hallway. Get up! his mind screamed. But he remained motionless, every muscle convulsing in pain. Sweat beaded up on his forehead and his face seemed surrounded by flames. Frantically he gazed upward until he found the photographs that lined the walls.
His eyes darted across the familiar faces.
Another wave hit, and he squinted in agony, staring at the people in the photos, seeing them when they were young.
When they still liked each other.
He wondered if they knew how much he loved them and suddenly a million memories fought for his attention. Once more he tried to speak, to summon help, but no sound escaped and his eyelids grew heavier.
The strongest pain of all hit then, and in the haze of agony he calculated how much time had passed. How much remained.
He could no longer keep his eyes opena fact that brought overwhelming sadness. He wanted to see them once more, the photographs the people who lived in them. He struggled with every bit of his waning energy, but his eyes remained closed.
There was a ringing sound in his ears now and he became light-headed. He was fainting, losing consciousness. He told himself that perhaps he was no longer having a heart attack but rather giving in to an overwhelming urge to sleep. He relaxed and let himself be sucked into the feeling.
Then one last time searing pain coursed through his body, and he remembered what was happening. Someone seemed to be shouting at him now.
Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!
He tried to move, to open his eyes. But he was slipping further away and it was too hard to come back. For the briefest moment, he thought again of the people in the photographs and he prayed they would forgive him.
As he did so, the pain eased dramatically.
Then there was only darkness.
A dense blanket of heat and humidity covered the Florida peninsula the afternoon of July 10, but at the climate-controlled offices of the Miami Times the unending process of news-gathering continued at a frenetic pace.
That Friday afternoon, while the city sweltered under record-breaking temperatures, the editors sat quietly at their desks in the center of the newsroom and Ellen Barrett, back from a morning of interviews, worked intently at her computer several feet away.
"Jim, tell me there's not something more to this murder." She held up a news clipping and strained to see Jim Western. Jim sat in the cubicle immediately in front of her and worked the environmental beat, dealing with illegal chemical dumping and polluted harbors. He was not interested in homicides.
"Sounds fishy." His eyes remained focused on his own computer screen and the story he was writing. Ellen watched for a moment, fascinated with his neatly arranged notes, his clean desk, and the way he typed using only his index fingers.
"More than fishy." She reached for her coffee and took a sip, wiping the moist condensation off the notepad where the cup had been sitting. Her eyes traveled across her desk, searching for a clear spot. She alone could make sense of the disaster that was her work area. Somewhere, buried under layers of rumpled notes, was a picture of her and Mike on their wedding day and a Bible he had given her three years ago. It was dusty now, though its pages were stiff and cleanmuch as they had been when she received it.
Ellen studied the heap of papers and, as she had once a month for the past year, made a mental note to get organized. For now she pushed her keyboard back and set the hot drink in the space it created.
She looked at Jim again. "Guy lives his whole life in his father's shadow, tells his friend he hates the old man, and next thing we know Dad opens the door and gets blown away by an AK-47 on the Fourth of July."
"Neighbors think it's fireworks and no one sees a gunman. What does the grieving son do? Hops in Dad's shiny, new Corvette and shows it off to half the people in town."
"Not to mention the tidy insurance settlement sonny boy figures to get now that Dad's gone."
"Know what I think?"
Jim sighed. "What?"
"Prison time for sonny boy."
"Hmm, yes." Jim continued to type, his index fingers moving deftly across the keyboard.
"And won't that be something after everyone's been busy doling out sympathy cards to the guy like he's some kind of forlorn victim? Truthfully, I can't understand why he hasn't been arrested. I mean, it's amazing, how obvious it is."
Jim sighed once more, and this time his fingers froze in place as he looked up from his work. "That all you and Mike talk about at home? Homicide investigations? Must make great dinner conversation."
Ellen ignored him, but she was quiet for a moment. She didn't want to think about Mike and the dinner conversations that were not taking place. She glanced once more at her notes.
"Well, I think the kid's dead in the water. No doubt in my mind. He'd better enjoy the Corvette while he still has his hands free."
Jim continued typing and the conversation stalled. Ellen settled back into her chair and glanced around the office. The newsroom was a microcosm of the outside world and it pulsed with a heartbeat all its own. If a story was breaking anywherefrom Pensacola to Pennsylvania, Pasadena to Pakistanit was breaking at the office of the Miami Times.
The room held twenty-four centers, each with eight computer stations manned by hungry reporters. By late afternoon, most of the reporters were seated at their desks, tapping out whatever information they had collected earlier in the day.
Like the product it produced, the newsroom was broken into sections. News, sports, entertainment, religion, arts, and editorial. Each department had its physical place in the office and operated independently of the others but for the constant relaying of information to and from the city desk located at the center of the room.
Despite the hum of activity from the other sections, Ellen knew it was the editors at the city desk who ultimately made up the life force behind the paper. They had the power to destroy a local politician by placing his questionable use of campaign funds under a banner headline on the front page instead of burying it ten pages into the paper. A plan to expand the city's baseball stadium could be accepted or rejected based on the way the editors chose to play it in print.
Stories from around the world poured into the office through computerized wire services while editors sorted through reams of information and argued about whether children starving in Uganda was a better lead story for the World News section than Saddam Hussein's latest threat against American armed forces. Whatever was deemed worthy of writing was passed on to the other reporters.
It was a powerful jobone where perspective was difficult to maintain. At the Miami Times, editors did not walk in the same hurried fashion as reporters. They sauntered, carrying with them an unmistakable aura of importance and often causing reporters to shrink in their presence.
Except for the editors, Ellen's peers at the Times generally enjoyed their jobs, thriving on the kind of pressure that causes stress disabilities in other people. Angry sources, missing information, daily deadlines, mistakes in print the reporters would have taken it all in stride if not for the wrath of the Times's editors. Among media circles, the Miami Times's editorial staff had a reputation for being demanding and difficult to work for.
Reporters at the Times credited one man with earning that reputation for the paper: managing editor Ron Barkley.
For three years Barkley had been in charge of the Times's news desk. Every section of the paper had at some time come under his scrutiny, but he paid particularly close attention to the front section. Stories that made the front section were produced by Barkley's general assignment reporters, a handful of the paper's best writers who gathered and crafted stories that did more than entertain readers. Front-page news changed lives. The real news, Barkley called it.
If anyone knew Barkley's wrath, or the impossibility of his demands, it was the general assignment reporters. His presence among them had caused more than a little grumbling in the newsroom. Ellen had even heard talk of a union forming to combat what some reporters considered inhumane treatment.
Ellen had once interviewed J. Grantham Howard, the paper's owner, for a piece about the Times's evolution over the years. Howard had acknowledged the friction between Barkley and his staff and told Ellen he kept himself apprised of the situation. Certainly the owner understood that Barkley did not make conditions pleasant for his reporters. But Howard was a multimillionaire with a keen business sense and he readily admitted he was not about to disturb the very successful chemistry in the newsroom.
Howard told Ellen he'd kept a close eye on Barkley and found him to be as brilliant as he was demanding. In the years since Howard had hired the managing editor, circulation numbers had reached more than a million on Sundays and advertisement rates had nearly doubled. The same thing had happened at the paper Barkley had run in New York, and Howard believed the editor was the common denominator. Still, whenever Howard would visit the newsroom, Ellen had seen him cringe at the way Barkley treated the staff. Especially her.
"Barrett!" Barkley would boom across the newsroom on occasion, shoving his chair away from his desk and rising to his full height of six feet, four inches. His eyes would blaze as he pointed toward his computer screen. "Get over here! We can't run that story unless you verify those things Jenkins told you. You wanna spend the rest of the year in court?"
His voice would echo off the fiberboard walls of the newsroom as other reporters busied themselves in their notes. Ellen knew they were empathizing with her and envying her at the same time. For all the grief she took from Barkley, Ellen knew the position she held at the paper. She'd heard it too often to doubt it: she was unquestionably the Miami Times's best reporter.
Ellen smiled, and glanced toward Ron Barkley's office. He thought Ellen feared him much the way her peers did. Her smiled broadened. Poor Ron would have been shocked had he known that his prize reporter really thought he was an emotional kitten of a man, a fifty-six-year-old gentle giant, whose rough exterior was only a cover-up for who he really was inside.
Ellen had been at the paper before Barkley's arrival. She had moved to Miami four years after earning her journalism degree from the University of Michigan and had been a sports writer for a year before being promoted to the front page. When the Times hired Barkley, she heard rumors that he was hard to work for. She researched his background and found the names of several reporters who had worked for him in New York.
"Tough as nails," a senior reporter told her. "He'll yell and scream and throw a fit until you get the story perfect. But don't let him fool you."
And then the man told Ellen a story she had never forgotten. Ten years earlier Barkley's son had been a bright investigative reporter with a brilliant future in the business. The young man was driving home from the office one night when he was hit head-on by a drunk driver and decapitated. After that, there had been something different about Barkley's presence in the New York newsroom. He still sounded loud and acted angry, but there were times when he would be reading a story about somebody else's tragedy and suddenly start coughing.
"I'd catch him swiping at a tear or two when he thought no one was looking," the reporter said. "Eventually the memories were too much and he needed out of New York."
"You liked him?"
"I understood him. The man knows the stuff we write about is more than a way to fill a newspaper. Another thing. He's the best editor you'll ever work for. Ignore the rough package and listen to him. He'll make you a better writer than you ever dreamed."
That had been three years earlier, and Ellen had taken the reporter's advice to heart. When other writers fought with Barkley, Ellen Barrett gave in. When he demanded, she produced. When he screamed, she produced faster, nodding in agreement and accomplishing all he asked of her. She learned to rely on the man, ignoring his outbursts and allowing him to fine-tune her journalistic talent with each story. As a result, if Barkley got wind of a sensational tip or a front-page lead, he would always pass it to Ellen.
For her part, the effort paid off immensely. She was the highest paid reporter on staff and her name was known throughout Miami. Twice she had worked on Pulitzer-prize-winning articles and she was only thirty-one years old. She had no problem with the fact that the crusty veteran editor credited his editing practices as the cause of her success. Whatever the appearance of their working relationship, Ellen was not looking for sympathy. The situation suited her perfectly.
She flipped through her notepad and considered the homicide story on the screen before her. She wanted to scrap the whole thing and write a story blasting the dead man's son, painting him as the primary suspect. But that was impossible unless the police were at least headed in that direction. If only they'd arrest him and make it official.
She tapped her pencil on her notepad and wondered whether she should call Ronald Lewis, the sheriff's homicide investigator. Earlier that morning she'd visited his office and he'd told her there were at least a dozen leads on the case.
"What exactly are you looking for, Lewis?" Ellen had asked impatiently. "The guy's son did it, and you know it."
Lewis had studied her thoughtfully for a moment. He trusted her. She was thorough and truthful and careful not to burn her sources, and he knew that. She'd made sure that when someone talked off the record with Ellen Barrett, the information never appeared in print. It had been a long road, but she had earned the department's respectand Lewis was no exception. There were things he would tell her that he wouldn't consider sharing with another reporter.
"Listen, you're probably right," he had admitted finally. "But let me make the arrest first, will you?"
That was six hours ago, and now Ellen stared at her story knowing it was noticeably vague and really only half written. She reached for the telephone just as it rang. "It's about time, Lewis," she muttered, picking up the receiver. "Miami Times, Ellen Barrett."
"Ellen, it's me."
It was Mike. She relaxed and glanced at her watch. Five-fifteen. He would be home wondering when she was leaving work. Lately their schedules had been hectic; sometimes weeks passed without a single dinner shared together. But that was the price of being successful reporters, she supposed. The success they both had achieved before they married had continued and grown after the marriage. Mike knew the business well, and so had understood the long hours. He'd even been the one to encourage Ellen to keep her maiden name since that was the name people in the industry knew.
"Hey." She softened her tone. "How was your day?"
"Ellen " There was a long pause. "Ellen, I have bad news. Your dad's had a heart attack, honey. Your mom wants you to call right away. She's at the hospital in Petoskey."
Ellen felt the blood drain from her face and she hunched over in her chair, elbows on her knees, feeling like she'd been punched. A heavy pit formed in her stomach, and she pressed her fists into her midsection in an effort to make it go away. She felt nauseous. Dear God, help me. Deep breaths, Ellen. Take deep breaths and stay calm.
She had expected this phone call for as long as she could remember.
"He's alive, right?" Her voice betrayed none of what she was feeling.
"Sweetheart, I don't know anything. Your mom said for you to call her. I think you should come home."
She was silent a moment and Mike exhaled softly. "I should have waited until you were off work" He broke off, then, "Are you okay?"
Ellen squeezed her eyes shut. "Yeah. I'll be home in a few minutes."
Friday was the day Sunday's front-page stories were filed and approved by the city desk. None of the general assignment reporters dared ask Barkley if they could leave before he cleared their Sunday stories. Even so, Ellen stood up, gathered her purse and her notes, and moved mechanically toward Barkley's desk.
He looked up as she approached. "What is it, Barrett?" he barked.
"Something's come up and I need to leave. My story's finished; it's in your file. I'll be at home."
Ellen studied Barkley, waiting, and she thought she saw a flicker of compassion. Maybe losing his son had enabled Barkley to tell when something equally devastating had happened in another's life. His response surprised her.
"Fine." Barkley's tone was almost gentle. He returned his eyes to the computer screen and stretched his long legs beneath his desk. "I'll call you."
Ellen turned, barely aware of her surroundings. She made her way to the elevator, and then to the parking garage outside where she climbed into her dirty, black convertible BMW. Vanity plates on the front and back read, RTNBYEB: "Written By Ellen Barrett." She switched off the car radio and screeched out of the parking lot, intent only on getting home.
"Please let him live," she whispered. "Please, God."
When Ellen pulled into the driveway of the two-story house she and Mike owned near the beach, he was waiting on the porch.
Even masked with deep concern, her husband's face was strikingly handsome. Marked by masculine angles and high cheekbones, punctuated with piercing pale blue eyes, Mike Miller's face looked like it belonged in a high-fashion advertisement or a cologne commercial. For some reason it seemed unfair that he should look virile and healthy when her father was fighting for his life eighteen hundred miles away.
"I'm sorry." He met her halfway down the sidewalk and nervously pulled her close, stroking her hair. "I've been praying."
Ellen remained stiff, unwilling to be comforted. Mike had never known how to deal with the emotional moments in their marriage, and she didn't want him practicing at a time like this. She refused to allow herself to break down. Her father was sick, but he was alive.
There would be time for tears later.
She pulled away. "I need to get inside and call."
Mike followed lamely behind her, and as they entered the house he sat on the couch and buried himself in a magazine. As usual, he would let her take care of making the call. Ellen clenched her teeth, but she couldn't exactly blame Mike. Her father, John Edward Barrett, was fifty-four that year and had undergone triple-bypass surgery the previous summer. Since then he had ignored doctors' warnings and continued to smoke three packs of unfiltered Camels a day. He ate eggs and buttered toast for breakfast, juicy beef hot dogs for lunch, and pizza for dinner. It was fairly certain the news would not be good.
Ellen kicked off her heels and picked up the cordless phone, collapsing in a cross-legged heap on the floor as she studied the message Mike had taken. As quickly as her fingers could move she punched in the numbers for Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey.
"John Barrett's room, please." She dug her elbows into her knees and rested her forehead in her free hand.
"Nurse's station," a woman announced.
"Yes, John Barrett's room."
"This is his daughter, Ellen. May I speak with him please?"
"Just a minute, ma'am. Let me get your mother."
Ellen waited, praying against all odds that she was wrong, that the news would be good. Her father's health was poor but he had never suffered a heart attack. There was a chance he might recover completely if he had made it to the hospital in time.
"Ellen?" Her mother's voice was raspy and tired, and Ellen could tell she'd been crying.
"Mother, is he okay?"
"No." A single sob escaped from her mother and for a moment she was unable to continue. Ellen waited breathlessly.
"He didn't make it, honey. I'm so sorry."
Ellen could feel the floor drop away from beneath her. She refused to believe it. "No, Mom, that can't be true. People live through heart attacks all the time. He was"
"Not this time," her mother cut in. "He died four hours ago. Ellen, he's gone."
"No! Mom, please! He he can't be gone."
"I'm sorry, honey. He loved you so much. You know that."
Ellen was silent as the truth coursed through her veins, searing her, weighing her down. Her father was dead.
"Mom" her voice was barely a whisper"what are we going to do?"
"We're going to survive and we're still going to be a family."
Ellen nodded and fought a wave of anxiety. "Are you by yourself?"
"No, Megan and Aaron are here with me, and Amy's on the way. I've called Jane. She's coming out Sunday afternoon."
"How are they handling it?"
"Not well. Especially Aaron. He hasn't said a word since it happened."
A thousand memories crowded out Ellen's ability to speak, and she realized there was a lump in her throat. Her father was gone, and she hadn't gotten to say good-bye. Certainly Aaron, her only brother, would be devastated. The others, too. He's in heaven. He's still alive, just happier now.
Ellen thought about the last time she'd talked with her father, only a few days earlier. He had sounded fine. There had been no warning that it was the last time she'd ever talk to him. She called him often, keeping him up-to-date on her latest assignments. He had always been interested in the little-known details and behind-the-scenes anecdotes that went into her reporting. Now he was gone, and Ellen wondered if she would suffocate from the shock.
"Are you okay, honey?"
Her mother's strained question pulled her back. "Mom, what happened?"
"Well," her mother drew a ragged breath. "He wasn't feeling well when he woke up this morning, and he took a long nap in his chair until about one o'clock. Then he got up and had something to eat. He was walking back to take a shower when he collapsed in the hallway."
Ellen closed her eyes, picturing the familiar house, its aging dark brown carpet and narrow hallways.
"He didn't have a chance. We lost him before the paramedics arrived."
Ellen was quiet for a moment. "When do you want me home, Mom? When's the funeral?"
"Oh, honey, I don't know. I guess we'll have the funeral next Saturday. That's when your father's sister can get here from California. I don't know, it's all happening so fast." Her mom's voice cracked and she began to cry. "I guess none of us should be surprised, but it doesn't make it any easier."
Hearing her mother cry triggered something in Ellen and she felt her eyes well up with tears. Her parents had been married thirty-two years. How did one let go of something like that?
"Mom, you sure you're all right? You shouldn't be alone."
"I'm okay and I'm not alone. Listen, why don't you try to get here Sunday. Jane's plane is coming in around noon at Detroit Metro. If you and Mike could get here about the same time you could all ride up to the house together. Then we'd have a week to take care of everything."
"Okay. I'll make the plans and call you back. Where will you be?"
"At the house. I've already signed the death certificate so there isn't much else I can do here." Her mother sobbed softly and struggled to speak. "Dear, God, Ellen. How on earth am I going to get through life without him?"
Ellen had no answers. She was too busy asking herself the same question.
She finished talking with her mother and then moved into the next room. A shaky sigh escaped her and she stared at Mike. His long body was stretched out on the couch, his feet dangling over onto the floor. He had fallen asleep, still dressed in his designer shirt and tie, the magazine clutched in one hand. She wiped her tears and wondered why she was angry with him.
"Mike." The word came out flat, cool.
He stirred and instantly sat up, wiping a trace of saliva from the corner of his mouth and trying to look awake. "Sorry, honey. What happened? How is he?"
Ellen sat down in a chair across from him and leaned back, staring at the plant shelves that lined the high walls of their living room.
"He's dead. Died before the paramedics arrived."
Mike leaned back and sighed. "Ellen, I'm sorry." He loosened his tie. "Come here."
She paused a moment. Mike had never made an effort to be close to her father, and now that he was gone, she was angry with Mike for not trying harder. He didn't understand what she had just lostand with all her being she wanted to refuse his comfort.
Instead, she fell slowly to her knees and crawled the few steps that separated them. Then she dropped her head in his lap and gave way to the despair that gripped her.
"Why didn't he take better care of himself?" Her anger brought fresh tears, and they spilled from her eyes. "It makes me so mad at him."
Mike stroked her hair and said nothing. Finally, Ellen wiped her eyes and looked wearily up at him. He was her husband, and she believed God had brought him into her life. She loved Mike whatever his shortcomings, but she did not always feel loved by him. He rarely made an effort on her behalfespecially where her family was concerned. Now his attempts to ease her grief seemed too little, too late.
"My mom wants us to be there Sunday afternoon." She leaned up and away from him. "That's when Jane's coming in. The funeral will be later that week, Saturday morning."
"A week from now?" He sounded incredulous.
Ellen blinked twice. "Yes. That's the soonest Aunt Betsy can get there. Is that a problem?"
She saw Mike's hesitation, watched his eyes look away from her, as though he were trying to think of the right way to say something he knew she wasn't going to like.
"Honey," he started, shaking his head, "I've got a baseball game to cover that Saturday. I don't know how I can find a replacement on such short notice."
There was more to it than that, Ellen was sure. She knew Mike wasn't comfortable at funerals, knew he wouldn't be looking forward to spending a week at her parents' house in Petoskey. She loved her family, but she was aware that they had their problems that there would be bickering even as everyone pretended to get along.
Still, the least he could do was be there for her. "A baseball game?"
"Honey, maybe it'd be better if you went by yourself." He searched her face for a reaction. "I could always join you later when I can get away."
She burned with anger and she didn't even try to hide it. Drawing herself up onto her knees, she stared at him. "No, that wouldn't be better, Mike." Her voice was even and measured, a study in controlled fury.
"I have a game Saturday. Come on, Ellen, you know how the producers are about last-minute changes."
"Wait a minute. I don't believe what I'm hearing." Ellen's temper blazed. "This isn't some friend's wedding or a class reunion where you can back out and blame it on your work. My father is dead. My mother wants us both to come out for the week. Can't you understand that?"
"I'm not married to your mother." Mike looked like he regretted the words as soon as he said them, but it was too late.
Ellen's mouth dropped open. "Fine. I want us both there. Okay?"
"Ellen, you know I can't take a week off without any notice. Work is a fact of life." He paused. "Besides, I don't like funerals. I never know how to act."
Ellen's eyes grew wide, full of disbelief and accusation.
He cleared his throat before she could speak. "You'll have your family there," he insisted. "It's not like you'll be all by yourself." Mike shook his head. "Oh, forget it! You don't understand."
"You don't like funerals!" Ellen stood up and paced the floor. "No kidding, Mike" She stopped and stared at him. "Me, neither. I don't like death, for that matter. But my dad is dead, and I need you there. So don't tell me I don't understand!"
"Don't yell at me. I don't deserve that."
"What? I deserve a husband who has complained about attending social events with me since we got married? A husband who doesn't want to go with me to my own father's funeral?"
"It's not that I don't want to go, Ellen. I told you I can't get away. Not on such short notice."
"What if it was you who died, Mike? I bet the station could get by somehow without folding."
She went to slam the cordless phone back onto the receiver. She was so furious she was shaking. She turned to face him, and when she spoke, even she heard the hatred in her voice. "What is it, Mike? Some ditzy little news anchor have your attention?"
He stood up, recoiling as if he'd been slapped.
"Is it?" Her voice was still angry, but softer now. "Is it really, Mike? My dad dies and you won't take one lousy week off work for me? What am I supposed to think?"
Mike looked past her then and reached toward the fireplace mantel for his car keys.
"I don't know what you're supposed to think," he said, pausing by the front door.
Ellen was speechless.
"Listen," Mike's voice was calmer as he continued. "I'm sorry about your dad. I loved him, too."
"Oh, don't give me that! Not now. You never even knew him, Mike. You never tried to know him. And you certainly didn't love him. Not enough to take me to his funeral, anyway." She snorted sarcastically. "I get the worst news of my entire life, and you can't think of anyone but yourself. What's happened to you, Mike? You're supposed to be a Christian, remember? The spiritual leader of the household?"
Mike shook his head. "Oh, don't throw that in my face. Not this time. Besides, I don't exactly see you rushing to the Bible for comfort."
"I'm not talking about comparing my walk with yours. I'm talking about you and me. You're supposed to love me like Christ loved the church, give up everything for me. But not you, no sir. You won't even take a week off work for me. What kind of Christian love is that?"
Mike's shoulders sagged and he sighed loudly, dramatically. "Ellen, I won't let you guilt me into going with you to Petoskey when I have work here in Miami. I could meet you down there the day before the funeral, but I can't possibly get a whole week off with no notice."
"Forget it, Mike." She turned her back to him.
"Look at me, Ellen," he demanded.
She whirled around and put a hand on her hip. "What?"
"You obviously need time to accept the facts." Mike's voice was measured and forced. "Your dad's dead. Nothing I can do can bring him back. You have family and friends in Petoskey, and you don't need me tagging along for a week of funeral preparations. I can probably get out there for the funeral. But that's all. Otherwise the topic's closed."
"Fly out for one day? I need you all week." Her icy anger melted and she began sobbing softly as she turned away from him again. "Forget it. I don't want you there."
Mike was silent, then his voice came from behind her, cold and hurt. "Fine. I won't go at all." He strode across the room, and flung open the door.
"Jerk!" she shouted, glancing at him over her shoulder so that their eyes met for an angry moment. Then he stepped outside and slammed the door.
She stood frozen in place, studying the door and relishing the distraction of her renewed anger. At that moment it seemed Mike had always been like this, and she cursed herself for marrying him.
"Jerk!" She said it louder this time, even though no one was there to hear her.
She marched across the living room, picked up the telephone, and sat down at the kitchen table. She dialed the Miami Times, and in a voice that was almost unrecognizable, she told Ron Barkley that her father had died.
"I'll need a week, Ron."
"Listen, I'm sorry, Barrett." Barkley's voice was soft. "Call us if you need more time."
She hung up and dialed the airline, scribbling flight numbers on a pad of paper and making reservations to fly to Detroit without Mike. When she was finished, she folded her arms on the kitchen table, laid her head down, and sobbed until she thought her heart would break.
Of course she had seen it coming. Her father had heart disease and diabetes, and if high blood pressure and excess weight were any indication, he should have died more than a decade ago. But that didn't make his death any less painful.
"So, this is it, huh, Dad?" she whispered, her eyes closed. "Time to say good-bye."
She silently summoned a strength she had not known she possessed, one she would certainly have to draw on in the days to come. She would go home and face her four younger siblings, all of whom had been unable to get along for years. She would help her mother pick out a casket and plan a service. Then she would see that her father was buried. She would remember the past, walk through it, relive it, and try her best to put it behind her.
"God, help me get through it." But the whispered words felt foreign, as if praying was something she had forgotten how to do.
She sighed and wiped her eyes. How could he be gone, the father who had shared so much of her life? How could she bury the one person who had always believed in her? He was the man who had attended football games with her, teaching her the rules of play even after she'd been hired as a sports writer for the Detroit Gazette. There was nothing he would not have done for her, and now she would have to learn to live without him.
Never mind about Mike. She would be on a plane soon enough and then she would have one week before she would see him again. Meanwhile, she had a lot more to think about than what was wrong between the two of them.
Ellen lowered her head back down onto her arms. There had been a time when she thought the world revolved around Mike Miller, a time when she couldn't have imagined a scene like the one that had just taken place. Back when they spent Saturday mornings laughing at I Love Lucy reruns and Sunday mornings at church. But somewhere along the path of deadlines and breaking stories and babies that would never be, something had changed.
She tried to think back to the beginning, to the days when she and Mike couldn't stand to be away from each other. Images drifted through her mind. Mike bringing her breakfast in bed on their first anniversary and the two of them giggling for hours because the eggs were rubbery and the toast like cardboard. The birthday when she left work to find her BMW plastered with flowers and balloons, a task that had cost Mike a double lunch break.
It felt good to remember those thingsand it forced her to think of something other than her father. The memories raced through her mind like a highlight film and, despite herself, the corners of her mouth lifted as she remembered.
Mike Miller was handsome and intelligent, a Christian man with morals and a sense of humor. He had completely swept her off her feet. But too many times since then he had left her alone when she needed him. If he could let her face the week ahead by herself, then what strength did their marriage have?
Ellen dried her cheeks with the backs of her hands. She would go back to beautiful Petoskey, to the shores of Little Traverse Bay along Lake Michigan, to her childhood home. She would say good-bye to her father, then she would come back to Miami and see if there was still a heartbeat in her marriage or if that, too, had grown ill and died.
Ellen sighed. Every muscle in her body ached. She barely had the energy even to stand. Rising from the chair, she stretched and headed toward her bedroom. She peeled off her clothes, leaving them scattered about the floor, and slipped into a long T-shirt. Then she pulled back the covers and slid between the cool sheets.
She did not often dream and that night was no exception. But in the hours before she finally drifted to sleep, she found herself remembering a time when her father was still very much alive. A time when she and Mike were just starting out when Mike had loved her completely and had done something no one else had been able to do.
He made her forget about Jake Sadler.
As she closed her eyes, she found herself there, immersed in the vivid memories of a time that would never be again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A scattered family is drawn together when the father dies. Four sisters, a brother, and their grieving mother are forced to face the past demons that haunt them and have made them a most disfunctional family in this moving, tear jerking novel. Sibling rivalry, temptation, and buried secrets come against this family as long held resentments are forced to the surface and arguments and tempers flare over the smallest things. Amidst this ballistic scenario, one of the sisters, Ellen, is reunited with a lost love, at the worst possible time. Her marriage is troubled and she is angry and hurt by her husband's behavior. Finding the man she has always loved again is a temptation almost too great to bear, especially as her family crumbles around her. Yet, despite all the negative forces, a more powerful one is interceding to work to make all things come together for the good. A new prayer chain encircles this grieving clan in the hope that the power of it will repel the forces of darkness that they have each allowed to enter their heart. ***** Everyone who has ever lost someone they love or been involved in family contentions will identify with someone in this book. Powerful, realistic, and moving, this novel will inspire you with the power of prayer and love. ***** REVIEWER: AMANDA KILLGORE.
I loved this book. Just like every other Karen Kingsbury book, you are grabbed immediately by the story and the characters that seem so real. Even though it was well written, the beginning was slow moving. Karen Kingsbury's "Every Now and Then" is much like this book. "Every Now and Then" was good, but slow moving (just like this book). But, I give it four stars because when the climax did come in the last few pages, the book turned around and made you think about how far the characters have come. Just like all her books, the end really closes the book on a happy note, and it almost ties the story together. Even though this book had a long beginning, I would still recommend it just like all of her other books.
Karen Kingsbury does it yet again. Once I start one of her books I cannot put it done. I did this one but not easily. And of course there was laughter, there was tears and then the calming sense of peace that you get when reading any of her books. This is a fantastic Christian author who can spill the most amazing stories using her faith without putting it in your face. If you have read her books you know what I am saying. If not you owe it to yourself to invest in one of her many books and get comfy and have a good read. It won't be the only book of hers that you read. Thank you Karen for just one more.....
I have raed all but three of Karen Kingsbury books and this one is one of her best!! (Except for the Redemption series and the Firstborn Series)
This is a novel that rises above the typical 'Christian Romance'... this is a book about life with real people who have real problems. Karen Kingsbury is a talented writer who helps you see past the page to the three dimensional lives she has created.
This book kept my attention until the end! It is a wonderful Christian romance that keeps you entralled until you can finally put it down. I recommend this one to everyone!!
This book just didn't do if for me... I felt Kingsbury spent a little too much time on Ellen and Jake(if that's his name. I don't even remember!) Ellen Jake, Ellen Jake. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Maybe it would have been better to spend more time on Ellen's sister who has some massive issues that all get solved within the span of the fathers funeral! That is just not very realistic to me. Ellen's siblings words at the father's funeral did pull some heart strings; but for the most part she just left me hating the other sisters spitfulness and being bored at an old love that is obviously headed nowhere.
It is The Detroit News. The Detroit Gazette was back in the 1800's