Is the only time you get free time to read is in the bathroom. This is for moms that need a break and recommendation on good books and also free reads ( cause lets face it if you are a mom that has to sneak to read, free is about all you can afford.) 18+++
Heather Meadows lost the only love she’s ever known. Her perfect, yet ordinary life was turned upside down the day her 38-year-old husband died. Her happily ever after was gone in the blink of an eye. Heather’s life becomes the subject of scrutiny and pity as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered world and raise her three children on her own. In the midst of suburbia and gossipy neighbors, Heather tries to re-build a normal life. Little does she know she’s about to trip into a new adventure.An adventure she could never have imagined.Where will her misstep take her and how will Heather handle the prying eyes of those around her?
Author Julie Farley bio
Julie Farley lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, four rarely quiet children, and her 50 pound lap dog. She chronicles her adventures on her blog atwww.juliefarley.com.
Julie has been kind, and is giving us the first few chapters!
Heather stood at the altar and read the eulogy.The eulogy for her dead husband.
I met Hank on the first day of kindergarten. He was building with the big blue plastic blocks and knocked them over on top of my head. I went to the nurse and got a booboo sponge and Hank had to sit on a chair in the corner. We both ended up in tears. On the second day of kindergarten, I accidentally ate Hank's snack. Meadows and Nester, our cubbies were right next to each other. So were our seats. We both ended up in tears, again. The alphabet pushed us together - Heather and Hank, Hank and Heather.
In first grade, we had our first sleepover and shared our first kiss under his bed. In fourth grade, we played Joanie and Chachi at recess. In seventh grade, I lip-synched “Let'sHear it for the Boy” and dedicated it to Hank at the middle school talent show. In high school, he asked me to prom. I said no. Things got complicated.
For 32 years, Hank was my life, my everything. I can't remember my life before Hank. I can't imagine a world without him in it. And he's gone.
But, now, as I look at the faces he loved most, I know Hank is still here. Hayes has his inquisitive mind and all of his hair. Gracie has his eyes and relentless dedication. And Henry, he has his laugh and wicked sense of humor.
We lost the sunshine in our days, the cherry on our sundae, the strong arms that kept us safe and wiped away our tears. I lost my Chachi. We lost our everything.
She got through the entire thing without a tear, which was a minor miracle. But, Heather doubted there were any left anyway. The sun shining through the skylights made the tears streaming down everyone else’s faces glisten. She walked unceremoniously back to her seat in the first pew and sat next to their kids - Hayes, Gracie and Henry. She knew she would have to resume her position as rock of the family shortly, but for this moment she let the rest of her family and friends carry her. Jenny rubbed her back from the next pew back and her mom, who was sitting right next to Jenny, gripped her shoulder so hard Heather could feel nails digging into her skin. Her mother-in-law, Hank’s mom, sobbed as she held her head in her hands, but her father-in-law gave Heather a small smile and a wink.Lauren, Hank’s sister, gave her a sweet, tear-filled smile.
After the ceremony, Heather stood in the back of the church with the kids and shook the hands of all the mourners. The mourners needed to see Heather wasn’tgoing to crumble. They needed her to be strong, and they needed to see life could and would go on. It took every ounce of Heather’s strength not to fall down onto the floor of the church screaming. Her happily ever after was over.
Eighteen months later
“I can’t believe he didn’t take the fucking garbage out again,” she yelled without even thinking.
Shit, Heather thought. He’s dead. He’s been dead for over a year and I’m still yelling at him.
And then the tears came again. He’s dead and I’m still talking to him. I’m supposed to be taking care of three children and finding a job and I talk to my dead husband. No less, I yell at him. I don’t cry and say I wish he were here. I automatically yell. What does that say about me? I’m a complete bitch. The thoughts in her mind were racing.
And the cycle continued. Crying and beating herself up because she had forgotten Hank was gone. Hank had been Heather’s world. But in an ironic twist right out of the Alanis Morrisette song, her everything was here today and gone tomorrow.
It was time to wake Hayes up for middle school. Gracie was still asleep in Heather’s bed under the quilt of Hank’s t-shirts Heather had made a couple of months ago. Henry was watching his morning dose of ESPN before he got on the bus. Fortunately, Heather didn’t think Henry had heard her yell at his dead father.
Getting everyone up and ready to go hadn’t gotten any easier in the last year and a half. At first they were buoyed by the constant barrage of meals and help from every which way imaginable but that was long gone. Now, Heather was the pitied one. She was still included in all of the neighborhood get-togethers, but Heather’s Catholic guilt was tired of bringing the party down. Tanya, one of her neighbors, had once mentioned to Heather that she must be jealous of all the women. Heather was astonished to hear that. Of course, she wished that Hank could sit next to her at the happy hour, but she could not imagine being jealous of the other women because they had their husbands. Most of their husbands treated Heather like a little sister and not their next conquest. Some thought Heather might be out to steal their husbands. Tanya kept a watchful eye on her husband whenever he came over to help Heather. She obviously wasn’t sure what kind of plumbing problem he was going to fix. Heather knew that was more Tanya’s problem than her own, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with.
Last month, she went out with one of the newly divorced neighborhood moms. Heather had noticed an increase over the last few years in the number of divorced women that she knew. She stayed away from the gossip but was able to piece most of the stories together on Facebook between snide comments made by spouses or friends. Heather found herself in a similar single parent situation, but her situation was also different. Her husband wasn’t going to take the kids on alternating weekends or every Wednesday night for dinner. He was dead. He couldn’t help from the grave, and it made her so mad sometimes. Not sometimes…most times. They had had everything, and now she had a hard time believing she had anything. She had three fabulous kids who were holding on to her like she was an anchor. And she felt like she was the worst kind of anchor. The kind that was about to pull them under.
Heather forced all of her thoughts out of her head because it was time to execute the morning routine. Heather popped two frozen waffles into the toaster and went upstairs to wake Hayes up. He jumped into the shower and screamed, “HENRY! You spilled all of the Axe all over the shower!”
Once again, Henry, the early riser, had messed with his big brother’s stuff. Heather wondered what a kindergartener needed Axe for anyway.
Heather peered over the balcony and saw Henry smiling on the couch tossing his ball in the air and catching it with his mitt. He had gotten the reaction he wanted.
Now, to wake up the little angel who seemed more like a saber-toothed tiger when she had to get up.
“Gracie, sweetie. Time to wake up.” Heather slowly lifted the t-shirt quilt off of Gracie in hopes a blast of cooler air would get her up.
“I don’t want to go to school, Momma.”
“I know, sweetie, but you have to go. Let’s get up and get you dressed.”
Picking out clothes with Gracie was one of the most torturous parts of Heather’s day. Gracie was so particular, hating tags and rough seams in her clothes. Hank used to tease her and pretend her clothes were biting her. Heather tried to tease her now, but they both usually ended up in tears. Flip-flop season freed them of socks, and fake Uggs, stinkily, did the same. Heather picked out a t-shirt and skirt that were quickly rejected because they were too green. The next choice, a dress, was too flowery. The third choice Heather presented was a pair of leggings and an off the shoulder neon shirt from Justice. Gracie acquiesced after a few minutes, got dressed and ran downstairs for breakfast. And finally, all three of Heather’s cherubs were awake and ready to face the day.
Breakfast was the same every day - a frozen chocolate chip waffle and a mango, banana, kale smoothie. One offset the other. Henry preferred to eat his waffles frozen, so there was even less preparation. As long as he didn’t break a tooth, Heather didn’t really care. But she really didn’t care about much lately.
Hayes left first, and the other two got on the bus about 45 minutes later. As soon as the kids were gone, Heather came inside and sat at the computer for a bit. First she got on Facebook - a great diversion - and she caught up on all of the other mommies’ going ons. Elizabeth had just gotten back from Tennis sectionals in Florida. Tanya’s daughter had made honor roll for the eleventh time in a row in middle school. It made her feel like a part of them without having to leave her house. That was just what she wanted. She promised herself she would do some writing as soon as she walked the dog and cleaned the house.
Hank’s life insurance policy had stated if he died at work Heather would receive more money. Fortunately, he died at his desk in the office. What a terrible thought, but true. If there was a silver lining, that was it. A $500,000 silver lining. Heather was determined to finish her book this year and submit it to publishers to see if she could be a real writer. Heather had never really given much thought to financial independence. She had a master’s degree and was a smart woman. But she had spent her time raising her kids and now felt lost without Hank and his career. Well, that was only one of the ways she felt lost. There were so many others it was sometimes hard to count. Writing was her dream, so writing was what it was going to be until the money ran out. She lived frugally, but frugal didn’t come easily with three kids. The truth of her financial situation was one that was hard to bear and certainly hidden inside the 3,700 square foot house she lived in. But for now, all she had to do was get through the next two days. Then her mom would have the kids overnight giving Heather a much needed chance to recharge.
The next few days were a blur of activity and before she knew it, Heather found herself on her own. She got up early and got dressed for a run. Her mom still had the kids, so she had some free time. She hoped the run would offset the popcorn and junior mints she had eaten by herself while she had watched Love Actually for the 700th time last night. Coco was thrilled to see her leash in Heather’s hand as walks seemed to have taken a back seat lately. The heat of the day wouldn’t come for a few hours, so Heather started running. She ran to the corner of the busy street and waited for her turn to cross. The first part of her route was uphill. It was her favorite part. The uphill allowed her to justify adding some walking to her run. The peace and quiet gave her the sanity she needed to get through her day. For some reason, as soon as she was pounding the pavement, writing ideas popped into her head easily. Her ‘memoir,’ in its scattered state, was printed out and lying on the kitchen table waiting for her to find some inspiration or dedication.
Heather’s run was going so well she decided to extend it and go down to the river. She got to the corner to cross the street. Leash in one hand, bag of dog poop and cell phone in the other. There was a break in the traffic, and Heather took off. Straight into a pothole and smack down into the middle of the street. A navy blue Lexus slammed on its brakes and pulled over.
Fuck, thought Heather. She ran on this route so no one would see her. It was her few minutes of anonymity. Now she had fallen crossing the road every PTA mom traveled. People would be writing on her Facebook wall in a matter of minutes asking her if she was ok. All of her friends would wonder what else could possibly happen to this poor widow. Heather didn’t want to look up. She knew a perfectly coiffed blonde would be getting out of the car in her workout clothes. She tried to get up quickly and realized she had messed up her ankle. Coco was licking her face when she noticed there was a man grabbing her arm and pulling her up. He put her left arm over his shoulder and somehow half dragged her and half carried her over to the car. He opened the door with his free hand and effortlessly sat her in his passenger seat. Heather was still holding onto Coco, who was looking at this stranger quizzically. He bent down to pet Coco and look at her ankle.
That’s when she got her first look at him. He was wearing a short-sleeved v-neck t-shirt and jeans. Tight well-fitting jeans. And he had tattoos on his arms. Beautiful tattoos. For a minute, she thought he was the guy on The Voice or maybe his older brother. But then she remembered where she was and knew he would never be hanging out in her neck of the woods. He looked up at her with his big blue eyes and asked if she was hurt anywhere else.
“No. It’s just my ankle. I think I twisted it in the stupid pothole.”
Shit, she thought, realizing she was still carrying the bag of actual shit. She held it up, smiled and tossed it into the woods next to the car.
“Let me drive you home. There’s no way you can walk and hold your dog at the same time.”
“No, really I’ll be ok. I just live on the next street.”
“I insist. Put your legs in. Your dog can go in between us.”
Heather gave in. Her ankle was killing her, and she didn’t want to be seen hobbling home. She could only imagine the questions and texts that would conjure up.
She directed him to her house. They pulled into the driveway two minutes later.
“Do you mind if I put your dog inside the fence in the backyard?”
“No, that’d be great,” mumbled Heather. While he took care of Coco, Heather had her first chance to get a good look at all of him. She noticed his jeans framed his ass perfectly. Even through the tattoos, Heather could see how defined his arms were. Before she knew it, he was headed back to the car, and she shook her head to force herself to stop checking him out. He walked to her door and opened it.
“Now it’s your turn. Hold onto my hands and I’ll help you out.”
“I’m fine,” Heather claimed, wincing as she tried to put any weight on her foot.
“Just let me help you. It’s not a big deal.”
She did. They went in through the garage door.Fabulous, thought Heather, The first things he will see are the messiest parts of my life - the garage and the laundry room. There were three stairs to get up, and he lifted her up and got her in past the laundry. He bent down and pulled out a chair at the kitchen table. Heather plopped down and let out a huge sigh. The sigh was an effort to stop herselffrom crying. Her ankle was killing her, and the reality of her life was smacking her in the face.
“Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I didn’t even ask your name.”
“I’m Peter and really this was no big deal. I’m just happy I didn’t run over you. And your name…”
“Oh, sorry. I’m Heather. That’s my dog Coco out there. Welcome to my house, the kingdom of chaos.”
“It doesn’t seem so chaotic right now. I’m guessing from all the stuff in the garage and all the laundry you don’t live here by yourself. And I apologize if you do and just happen to be a hoarder.”
“Hoarding would be easier. No, I live here with my three kids. They’re at my mom’s right now.”
“Well, Heather, I think you need to get to a doctor. Who can I call for you?”
And suddenly the sigh wasn’t enough. Heather didn’t really have an emergency contact anymore. Her emergency contact was dead. She had friends but didn’t want to burden them with yet another saga in the ongoing Heather Story. The tears rolled down her cheeks. Poor Peter looked like he was sorrier than ever he hadn’t run her over. He had a panicked look on his face.
“Umm…I’m sorry it must hurt terribly. Let me get you some ice and we’ll sort this out.”
Instead of ice, he grabbed a box of chocolate chip waffles, pulled out a chair and held the box over the swollen egg on what was now a cankle. Heather sniffed and cleared her throat.
“I’m fine. I can take myself to the doctor.”
“No, you can’t! There is no way you can drive.” Peter was afraid to ask if there was anyone she could call again. Nothing good happened the last time he had said that. “I’m taking you. Let’s grab your purse and go.”
Peter didn’t wait for any hesitation. He scooped Heather up and took her to the car only stopping for a second so she could grab the purse dangling on the laundry room door.
“Let’s go to Ortho on Call. That’s where I took Henry last year. It was pretty fast and easy.”
“No problem. Just show me the way.”
Clearly, Peter was either not from around here or didn’t have any kids. Every parent in the zip code knew how to get to Ortho on Call. Peter was afraid to say anything else in case it might make Heather cry. Heather was filled with embarrassment, annoyance and a dash of sadness. Actually, more than a dash of sadness. Whenever she felt helpless, she could not help but miss Hank. If he had been alive, she would have waited on the road for him just like she did the time she had all three of the kids out for a bike ride and had gotten a flat tire. He left his meeting, drove over to repair her bike and got them on their way.
Peter helped Heather into Ortho on Call and sat her down. He got the registration forms for her and sat down next to her. Heather started to fill them out. Peter not so slyly watched her and realized she checked the box indicating she was single.
A divorcee with three kids, he thought. Must have been a bad divorce if she couldn’t call her ex and it still made her cry. And on cue, he noticed her eyes were welling up with tears again.
“What can I get you? Some water? Some ice? Want to use my phone to call your mom?”
“No, not till I know what’s wrong. She’ll just worry. I’m fine,” she sniffed.
“Obviously, you’re not. Your ankle is huge, and I can tell it really hurts. I also have a feeling you might be crying about something else as well. Please make me feel useful.”
“I am so tired of everyone wanting to help me. I am so tired of needing to be helped. For the last year, all I have wanted was a hug. One of those big hugs that only a man can give you. The kind that makes you feel so safe and protected that nothing else matters in the world. And now my stupid fall is going to make me the charity case again. Dinners will be piled up on the doorstep within minutes of my return. People will offer to take the kids and walk the dog, but all I want is a hug. And no one has offered one yet.” Heather looked up skeptically figuring she had just scared Peter away and was going to have to call a taxi or Jenny. But when she looked up, he was still there. Stillthere with a scared look, but he had opened his arms and was about to hug her.
How could Peter resist this tiny, teary injured woman? Her eyes were the color of emeralds underneath the tears, and her auburn hair was all catawampus after her run. But she was beautiful in a crazy, weird and irresistible way, and he hated to see anyone cry - let alone a gorgeous woman. So he hugged her. He cradled her head onto his chest and just held her.
“Mrs. Meadows? You can come back now. Your husband can come with you.”
“He’s not my husband!” Heather sobbed.
“But I’m coming anyway,” responded Peter.
An hour later they were back in the car with a set of crutches and a fresh cast for Heather’s broken ankle. He brought her home, got her situated in her family room, and put her in a chair that could fit three of her. He pulled up the ottoman to rest her leg on, got her a glass of water and sat down next to her foot.
“Can I sign your cast?” He figured that was a pretty benign statement.
“Sure,” Heather kind of smiled. “There’s a sharpie on the table I think.”
Peter got up and scanned the mess of papers and found a purple Sharpie in the pile.
“You editing?” Peter asked.
“I don’t know if I am even at an editing point yet. Still creating. Still writing the shitty first draft.”
“Want me to pile it up and bring it over to you?”
“No, I just feel like feeling sorry for myself for a little bit longer. The kids will be home in a while anyway.”
He brought the Sharpie over and signed his name in a very I’m-used-to-autographing-things way. Maybe he was a professional cast signer. Who knew?thought Heather.
“I have no intention of leaving you here alone. So if you want to call your mother and let her know about your condition, feel free.”
“Seriously, go. I will be fine. I can hobble wherever I need to go, and I have taken up so much of your time already.”
“I have nothing but time. And every intention of making sure you are taken care of.”
Which made Heather start crying again. Soft tears fell down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry. You must think I am pathetic. I don’t usually cry this much. Well, I take it back. I’ve cried more in the last year and a half than I have in my last 40 years.”
Peter grabbed Heather’s hand and listened.
“My husband had a heart attack and died a year and a half ago. I have three kids, a dog and no job. I cannot stand being pitied, and I just fell in the middle of the road and broke my ankle. The thought of heading back to the pity place is killing me. The thought that everyone at the bus stop is going to bring me a casserole or pasta dish again for the next week makes me want to throw up. I want to be normal. I want to be what I was…what we were. I don’t want my kids to be the ones with the dead dad. I want them just to be Henry, Gracie and Hayes.”
Peter was holding her hand, rubbing her palm with his thumb.
“And now I am sure you are so sorry you pulled over. If you had left thirty seconds earlier this morning your day would have been so much different.”
He was drawn to her. Drawn to her in a way he could never have imagined. He wanted to cuddle in next to her on the chair and run his fingers through her hair to make all her troubles go away.
“Stop. I am here. I want to be right here helping you. I wasn’t doing anything important today.”
Hell, he hardly ever did anything important, Peter thought to himself.
“Because maybe you fell into my life for a reason. And you did literally just fall into my path. Who cares why? Let’s call your mom and let her know what’s going on. At least it’s a holiday, and you don’t have to face the bus stop. But that does mean you need to figure out what’s for dinner.”
“No, my mom will bring dinner I’m sure. She’s not one to miss an opportunity to roast a chicken.”
“Ok. Call her now while I run out and pick up some lunch. Tell her not to hurry back. I’ll stay with you until she gets here.” All of the sudden Peter was rushing out to buy this stranger lunch. His sister would tease him, as she had been trying to get him to settle down and be serious for the last twenty years. And now he was buying lunch for a widow with three children.
Heather was too tired to argue. She had a feeling she hadn’t had in a while. It felt relaxing to have someone else take charge of her life for a moment. And someone had finally hugged her. Even better, someone who looked like Peter. Heather had always had a thing for arm tattoos. Hank was a guy without a tattoo. It hadn’t mattered to her. Hank was about so much more than a tattoo. He was her home, her childhood, her life all packed into a 200 lb man. He was her everything. Hank had been part of her life for thirty-two years. He knew everything about her. When he died, he took so much of her with him. Things weren’t always perfect with them, but things were familiar. They had known each other since Mrs. Zarchy’s kindergarten class. He asked her to sleep over at his house when he was in first grade. He was her first love. She was his. There had been others in high school and college for both of them but just enough others to know they were all the other wanted. When he proposed to her in the lifeguard chair on the beach in September, a year and a half after they graduated from college, they both knew this was it. It was a relationship sealed in the bark of the old oak tree in front of the house her mom still lived in. A house and tree that were painful reminders of the current state of things.
But right now, this guy in a white t-shirt, well-worn skinny jeans and Doc Marten’s was going to buy her lunch and had rescued her from the turkey vultures and tennis moms who would have started swarming had he not stopped his car. He looked like the bad boy every girl dreamed of when her usually doting husband did something wrong. Like forgetting to put a Pull Up on your toddler before bedtime or leaving the half-gallon of organic milk in the car on a hot summer night. This guy, Peter, looked bad but seemed like he may have some shining armor in his closet.
Peter left before she could say anything. Heather called her mom, who was frantic and decided she would leave the boys at home and take Gracie to the store to buy dinner. She said they would come over later that afternoon.
Peter hopped in his car and ran over to his brother-in-law’s restaurant. He grabbed some iced tea, salad and sandwiches. Thankfully, Chris wasn’t there. Peter knew he was at a travel baseball tournament in Newport News with Peter’s nephew. Janie was at home with his niece.
He got back to Heather’s pretty quickly. Peter opened the food on the island. He carried a tea over to her.
“I have a chicken curry sandwich, garden salad and grilled cheese with tomato. What would you like?”
“Hmmmm… that’s easy. Obviously you went to Cafe Nouveau. I’ll have half of the chicken curry. It’s my favorite.” She decided not to mention she was a vegan. Or a fegan (fake vegan) as her best friend from high school not so lovingly called her. Heather happened to be a vegan who enjoyed a cheeseburger every once in a while and a good chicken curry.
Peter brought it over to her in the brown cardboard box it came in. Peter seated himself on the couch opposite Heather and ate the grilled cheese.
“Does your Mom take the kids often?”
“At least once a month. I like to have them here though. I’m not good about sharing them anymore. Hank’s mom likes to take them out when she can. But it gets too quiet without them. They have their friends here and usually don’t like to leave.”
“Do you run often?”
“As often as I can get away. I usually write better after I run - assuming I don’t fall in a pothole. But I guess that’s done for awhile.”
“You’ll be back at it before you know it. We’ll have to find other ways for you to workout.” We? What the hell was he doing? he thought to himself. He never said things like that.
We?Who the hell was this guy?thought Heather. After I ruined his day, he was brave enough to mention seeing me again.
“I can only imagine what I would do on another workout. Accidents and misfortune seem to follow me.”
“Yeah, I’ve only known you for a few hours, and I’ve picked up on that.”
“I have a stationary bike upstairs I can probably use to ensure my ass doesn’t get any fatter.”
“Don’t think you are in danger of that happening anytime soon.” Conversation was easy with Heather. He felt like he had known her all his life.
Heather hadn’t fallen into an easy conversation with anyone in the last year and a half much less a stranger of the male persuasion. It felt oddly familiar, and she was hoping she didn’t ruin it or over analyze it too much. She could hardly take her eyes off of him. She was having a hard time figuring him out. He was casually elegant, had at least two tattoos (she could only imagine what was covered), wore Doc Martens and drove a navy blue Lexus. He did not look like any of the men she knew in the area.
“Do you live nearby?” Heather asked.
“I actually have a loft downtown, but my sister lives out here. I dropped something off this morning and was on my way home.”
“Stuck in the 2-3-1-1-3. Lucky you.”
“It’s not so bad. Who knew I would get to experience so much of it today? I divide my time in a few different places. I have a place in Manhattan, and my family has a house in Maine.”
“Some of my favorite places.”
He said family, thought Heather. Did he mean his immediate family or his parents? He wasn’t wearing a ring, and she kind of doubted that a wife would love for him to be spending so much time with another woman.
“This is my home base though. The place where they send my mail.”
“I can’t thank you enough for getting me this sandwich.And for taking me to the doctor. Oh, and for picking me up off the pavement. Great first impression.”
“It was a first impression I am not likely to forget. I get the sense that life with you is always this memorable.”
Peter didn’t know the half of it. Heather had a knack for making waxing your eyebrows interesting. He hadn’t even met the kids yet.
“What are you writing?” asked Peter.
“A memoir. A love story of sorts. I just don’t get a lot of time to write lately.”
“Well, I would love to read it sometime. I guess I can wait till it’s published.”
“Ha! You’ll be waiting awhile then! Mom and the kids should be here soon. Why don’t you get on with your day? I’ve kept you long enough.”
“Only if you are sure you’ll be ok. I’ll be out here again to check in on you.”
Peter picked up all their lunch, made sure Heather had what she needed and left her with a quick tap on the shoulder. And for the first time in ages, Heather had a tiny smile in her heart.