To get fans ready for the Tuesday, Oct. 6, book release, Chamberlain has given SheKnows readers an exclusive opportunity to read an excerpt from her latest book before it hits the shelves. Enjoy!
When we get home, Aidan and I sit in our office to check e-mail. We have two large identical desks that face each other and he begins typing at a rapid clip while I pull my mail up on my screen. There is only one message and it’s from DanielleK422. My cousin Dani. I stare at the link without moving my cursor over it. I haven’t spoken to Dani in several years, although I received the usual card from her at Christmas. It had been a photograph of Dani and her husband, Sean, their two dogs, and their eighteen-year-old son, Evan, whom they’d somehow roped into posing with them. Evan’s hair hung down to his shoulders and he sported a barbed-wire tattoo around his neck. Dani, who looked like a straitlaced woman approaching middle age in the photograph, is getting the same run for her money that she gave her own parents. I feel for her. At least her eye makeup washed off.
Although Aidan and I also send out picture cards at Christmas, I never send one to my cousin. I’m afraid she’ll share it with my relatives, and the less they know about my life, the better. I usually get a birthday card from Nora. Although Nora doesn’t have my address, she sends the card to Dani, who sends it on to me. Letters always accompany those cards, but I haven’t read a single one. Straight into the trash. I’ve never relented. I haven’t seen or spoken with anyone from Morrison Ridge other than Dani since I was eighteen.
I click on the message.
Hi Molly. Thought I should let you know Amalia broke her leg and has to have a bunch of surgeries to repair it. Mom doesn’t know how she did it— you know they don’t talk. She just knows Amalia is going to be in the hospital for a while afterward and then go into rehab. Thought you might want to know. Xoxo Dani.
“You’re frowning,” Aidan says from his side of our double desks. “Is there something from Hope Springs?”
I shake my head and try to smile. “No,” I say. I’m staring at the e-mail. Staring without seeing. I can’t remember Dani ever mentioning Amalia in an e-mail to me before. “Just an e-mail from my cousin Dani about a family friend who broke her leg.”
“Someone you were close to?” he asks.
I hesitate before shaking my head again. I imagine the scent of honeysuckle in the room. “No,” I say. “It’s no big deal.” I lift my fingers to the keyboard and type.
Thanks for letting me know, Dani.
I don’t sign it. No little Xs or Os. Nothing that happened at Morrison Ridge was Dani’s responsibility, and yet the chill I feel for my family extends easily to her.
“I love you, babe,” Aidan says, out of the blue from across the sea of our desks.
I smile at him. “Love you, too,” I say, and I return my attention to my computer screen, although I don’t really see it.
Aidan is the last person I want to hide things from. Once a friend asked us what our secret is, since our marriage seems so strong, and we both answered, almost at the same moment, “Honesty.” When that word left my mouth, I didn’t feel hypocritical. I believe Aidan and I do have an honest relationship. I told him my relatives were caustic and crazy and I needed to cut ties with them to have a healthy future. That was the truth. Yes, I embellished as needed: my mother was dead, for example. But most of my dishonesty is due simply to omission. Sometimes he jokes about my family, calling them “inbred Southern mountain people.” I never bother to correct him. What does it matter?
He knows I’d loved my father, though. And he knows that once my father was gone I’d found living at Morrison Ridge intolerable. That had certainly been the truth.
I used to wish I could tell Aidan everything, but I’ve moved past that now. It’s too dangerous. I trust him more than I trust anyone I know, and yet, I am a lawyer. I’ve seen too many good marriages go sour, and when they do, all bets are off. Confidences shared over the years become fair game. I will never tell him what happened on Morrison Ridge. I will never tell him why I left my family. It no longer has any bearing on my life. At least, that’s what I tell myself. But this e-mail from Dani coupled with the prospect of adoption leaves me shaken. I suddenly feel as though I’m walking a tightrope and gravity is nipping at my heels.
Most days I think I’m over it. I’ve moved way beyond my adolescence and replaced the pain and anger with my degrees, my career, my volunteer work, my fabulous friends, my loving husband. But it doesn’t take much to bring it back to me. It might take an article in the newspaper about someone with MS, or something on the news about North Carolina. Or, I see now, a short e-mail from Dani. Yes, I think as I stare blindly at my screen. That’s enough to bring it all back.
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