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Outliving Her Past

Chapter One

“I don’t want to do this.” I lower my head, one hand holding so tightly to my dresser drawer that my knuckles turn white.

“He’s your dad. You have to go.” Isaac’s warm hands settle on my shoulders. “Why don’t you let me go with you?”

His request spins me around, and I practically dance out of his arms. “We’ve had this conversation before. The last place you want to be is around my family.” It’s the last place I want to be. And I wish I could tell my mother I can’t come. I could make up an excuse, but we’d both know it would be a lie.

“I still don’t like you going alone, not with everything you’ve told me.”

“It’s a bad situation, but it’s my family. I can handle them, but no one else should have to suffer.” I manage a smile though we both know it’s fake. “It’ll be fine. I’ll stay during the surgery, make sure he’s stable, and I’ll be back here within the week.” I hope.

Dad’s having open heart surgery. Complications could arise, and I’d be stuck in Snyder for far longer than I would ever want to be. I’d left the day after I’d turned eighteen, and except for the occasional obligatory visit when my shoulders can’t handle the guilt any longer, I stay as far away as I can.

He tilts my chin up with two fingers, brown eyes easing some of my anxiety. “You know I love you, right?”

This time the smile is real. “How could I not? You tell me at least ten times a day.”

“It’ll never be enough.” He captures my hand and pulls me in close. “Just remember you’re not going to be there long, and don’t let them get to you.”

I rest my head against his chest where his heart beats strong against my ear. This heart that’s united with mine. My arms slide around his waist, and I hold on tight.

My family does get to me. That’s the issue. They know every button to push. Maybe they don’t even know they’re pushing them, but I’m always on edge when I drive into Snyder, Tennessee, knowing I’m two dirt roads away from my parents’ white clapboard house and the suffocating memories that linger.

“Come on. I’ll drive you to the airport.”

Neither one of us make a move to leave in spite of the words.

“You’ll be back before you know it.”

The reassurance is one I cling to as I kiss him goodbye at the airport thirty minutes later. In less than five hours, the plane will touch down in Knoxville, and I’ll be an hour’s drive away from the family home I’ve hated for all of my thirty-three years.

 

“It’s about time you got here.” Mom holds the screen door open. “Your daddy’s getting his stuff together for the hospital. They want him there tonight.”

No kisses or welcome hugs. I’m grateful I don’t have to pretend. “I didn’t know what time he’d be there so I decided to come here first.” I really don’t know what else to say. Mom and I haven’t had a conversation about anything of substance in the past fifteen years.

“If you’d bothered to call, I would have told you.” The snap in her voice sounds the same with its edge of displeasure.

I don’t answer because there’s nothing I can say that will smooth away her disapproval. I learned that years ago.

After several long seconds where she continues to stare at me, she finally leans around me to peer outside. “Your boyfriend ain’t with you, is he?”

Here we go. “No. He has a big case coming up for trial and needs to prepare for it.”

Mom’s already walking away now that I’ve reassured her I’ve come alone. Her sandals slap against the tiled floors in the kitchen.

I follow her, the sights and scents of my childhood belting me in the face. The cracked floorboards, peeling wallpaper, and threadbare carpet have only gotten worse. No repairs have been made because that’s not where Dad chooses to spend his money. No doubt there’s at least a twelve pack of beer in the refrigerator, though.

“You want some coffee? It’s not that fancy kind like you’re used to, but it’s good enough for all of us.” Although Mom sounds pleasant enough now, her shoulders are tensed, and from the corner of my eye, I see her sneer.

My teeth grind together, but I’m too tired for a conversation about what she’s thinking or why she feels the need to be on guard around me. “Thanks, but I had enough on the plane. Yesterday was a long day, and I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

She sets her mug on the chipped countertop and brushes wisps of gray hair away from her pale face. “None of us have been sleeping much here since we got the news about your daddy needing surgery. I don’t reckon we’ll be getting much for a while.”

Nothing I say will be right so I simply nod. “Are Faye and Missy coming to the hospital?” I don’t have to ask about my brother. He and Dad are so close I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe sleeps in the bed with him tonight.

“Faye’s got the young’uns, but she’s thinking Marcia is about ready to start watching out for ‘em.” She turns her back on me, running water in the now empty coffee pot.

“All of them?” My sister, Faye, has ten kids, and I can’t imagine my fifteen-year-old niece taking care of more than three.

The water shuts off, and Mom takes her time drying her hands on a kitchen towel with faded chickens on it. “I don’t expect you’d know anything about taking care of babies, but Marcia’s being raised right. She’ll handle ‘em just fine.”

My cell phone rings, saving me from a response. I check the caller ID. It’s Isaac.

“That that boyfriend of yours?” Mom’s upper lip curls as she reaches for the chipped coffee mug.

I turn away from her scorn and hurry out onto the front porch before answering the call. “Hi.”

“Hey. Just wanted to make sure you got there safe and sound.”

“I’m here. Not sure how safe or sound I’ll be in a few hours.” I hold the phone close to my ear. It’s as close to him as I’ll get in the next week or so.

He chuckles, and the deep rumble releases some of the tension in my neck. “You know why you’re there, Kate. That’s all that matters.”

“Yeah, I know.” My gaze takes in the straggly landscape on which my parents’ house sits. The upkeep is as lagging outside as it is in. Mom’s always blamed that on the lack of help she gets from her kids, mainly me.

Even though I live hundreds of miles away, I’m still responsible for her misery, and the last thing I wanted to do was put myself in her line of fire again. When I’d gotten the news of my father’s surgery, my first instinct had been to stay put in Charleston, to tell my sister, Faye, to call me if anything went wrong, but Isaac had convinced me I needed to here. If something were to happen, I’d want that last chance to say goodbye to my father.

“You about done with that phone call?” The creak of the screen door and Mom’s jarring voice drags me back to the present and away from the home I’m missing desperately.

“I’ll be in shortly.” I’m not fifteen any longer, and she can’t intimidate me. But there’s something about being in this house that makes me feel like a little girl again. I hate that.

“Call me if you need me.” Isaac’s words comfort me, reminding me yet again that I’m not alone.

“I’ll always need you.” At the sound of tires rolling across gravel I look up.

A Ford Ranger that’s primer gray pulls up onto the grass. There’s no official driveway, and most people just park wherever they find a spot. I recognize my sister, Missy, in the passenger seat, her husband beside her.

My stomach clenches. Missy and I have never been close, but when Isaac and I started dating almost a year ago, she made it her business to tell me how I was breaking my parents’ heart. And she doesn’t attempt to hide her dislike even though she’s never met him.

“I’d better go. My sister just got here, and I’m sure the night’s going to go downhill from here.”

“You keep talking like that, and I’ll be on the next plane out of here.”

I smile though I’ve never felt less like smiling. “I love you.” I end the conversation as Missy jumps down out of the pickup, her boots thumping against the dirt.

“Nice car.” She juts her chin toward the Lincoln Navigator I’d rented.

“It’s a rental.” My defenses are up.

“Probably not much different than the one you drive in that fancy town you live in. Must be nice to have money you can just throw around like that.” Missy saunters past me, leaving behind the scent of cigarettes and her favorite perfume she’s been wearing since high school. “Dave’s gotta get back home to the kids, Mama. I told him I’d drive you and Daddy to the hospital.” She kisses our mother’s wrinkled cheek then heads into the house.

“I think Joe’s driving us, but you know you’re welcome to ride along.” Mom steps out onto the porch, her gray t-shirt clinging to her thin body. She’s lost weight since I last saw her. It shows mostly in the gauntness of her face.

“Fine by me,” Missy calls back. “Just as long as I’m not riding with her.”

The emphasis on the pronoun can’t be mistaken, but I don’t take offense. I don’t want to be confined in a car with my sister any more than she does with me. Honesty has always been brutal in this family.

“Listen,” Mom folds her arms across her chest, “since you’re going to be here, be here. Your daddy needs all the good luck he can get, and he needs his family. You ain’t helping if you’re gonna be talking to that guy.”

She won’t even say Isaac’s name. “It one was phone call, Mom, and his name is Isaac.”

“I know that.” Her voice is sharp, unyielding, her eyes cold. “And I ain’t interested in knowing any more about him. The sooner you get rid of him, the better off we’ll all be.” She shudders like the conversation is as horrific to her as a pit of vipers.

My ire climbs, and I forget Isaac’s words of wisdom. “Why? You don’t see him or talk to him. Why will you be better off if something were to happen to our relationship?” The challenge is out before I can stop the words.

Now isn’t the time for this conversation. There will never be a right time because I might as well be talking to air. Arguing with my parents makes as much sense as trying to ride a bicycle across a river.

“You know what being with that man does to your family name. Now, I ain’t talking to you no more about this, Katie. You know how your daddy and I feel about you dating him, and you’re just doing it to spite us. You got a mean streak in you a mile long, and we don’t know where you git it from.”

“I’m with Isaac because I love him.”

Mom gasps and stumbles back, her way of appearing helpless. “No, you don’t. You cain’t love him. Your daddy and I won’t allow it.”

“I’m thirty-three years old. How I live my life is out of your control and none of your business.” I walk down the steps, desperate to reach the sanctuary of the Navigator. It won’t be a long reprieve, but I need to regain control of my emotions before the anger segues to fury.

Mom follows me. “Why did you come if you’re going to spend all your time talking to him? You know how your daddy feels about that…that…”

“Man, Mom. He’s a man, and a good one, but you and Dad will never know that. Both of you are so mired in hate you don’t want to see him for who he really is. You’ll never be willing to have an actual conversation with him for fear you might realize you’ve been wrong all of your lives.”

She reaches the driver’s side of the SUV and snags hold of my arm. “Sticking to our own kind’s got nothing to do with hate. You know how your daddy and I feel about that, and you weren’t raised to—”

“I was raised to believe I was better than anyone that didn’t look like me, but I glad that lesson didn’t stick.” I yank open the door. “And Isaac is my kind. He’s loving, honest, and a better person than I’ll ever be. I’ll see you at the hospital.”

Wedging her body in between me and the door, she points her finger up at me. “If you think that way, I feel sorry for you. But I ain’t got time for this. You just need to know there’ll be no talk of him while your daddy’s at the hospital. You hear me? I won’t have you upsetting him when he needs all his strength.

“Sure, Mom. Anything you say.” I punch the button to start the engine to drown out any additional demands. “Like I said, I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

“I guess you don’t want to wait to see if Faye needs a ride.”

“There’s room in your car, and to be honest, I’ve had about all the judgements I can stand.”

She steps out of the way and slams the door. I don’t look in the rearview as I back up. I can’t wait to get this over with. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to go another fifteen years without having to cross the town limits again.

 

I’m the first to arrive at the hospital, and since Dad hasn’t checked in yet, I drop my purse into one of the plastic chairs in the lobby of the emergency room to wait for the entourage. I text Isaac to let him know I’m still standing. Holding on. He responds immediately, letting me know again how much he loves me.

“Hey, you.” My sister, Faye’s, southern drawl captures my attention.

I tuck my phone into my purse and stand to hug her. “Hey, yourself. It’s good to see you.”

Of all of my family members, Faye is the least antagonistic. She doesn’t understand the path I’ve chosen any more than I understand hers, but she keeps her judgments to a minimum.

“Mama and Daddy here yet?” She blows the bangs of her inky black hair out of her eyes and plops down onto one of the red, plastic chairs. “I thought I’d never get out of that house.”

I smile and sit beside her. “The last time we saw one another, you had seven kids.”

She gives me a weary smile in return. “Yeah. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment.” Her gaze sweeps around the lobby. “So no one’s here yet?”

“Nope. Missy had just gotten to Mom and Dad’s before I left. They’re waiting on Joe.”

“Stan dropped me off on the way to work.” She slides a glance at me. “Isaac isn’t with you?”

“Really? You think I’d bring him around this crowd?” I shift in the chair, cross and uncross my legs.

“You got to sometime.” Faye is a firm believer in live and let live. Never once has she made any condescending remarks about Isaac. Other than occasionally reminding me I’ve gotten above my raising, she keeps her comments to herself. It’s one reason why she and I can still talk.

“Why? So he can see how prejudiced my family is? No, thanks. I already told him.”

She sniffs then shrugs. “I don’t know what their problem is.”

“Really? After all this time, you still don’t know?” I know there’s tension in my voice, but I can’t temper it. Faye will defend our family with her last breath even if she doesn’t agree with them.

“Just live your life. You don’t have to let them keep getting you worked up.”

“I don’t. That’s why I don’t communicate with them.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed. Mama tells me all the time how she hasn’t heard from you.” Faye gives me a look filled with disapproval. “Look, even if you don’t like what she has to say, she’s still our mother. She and Daddy did the best they could raising us. They were just born in a different time, and their beliefs aren’t going to change.”

I’ve heard all of this before, and no good will come out of rehashing it. Even though I know I should keep my mouth closed, the attorney in me isn’t good at staying silent.

“You know I don’t buy that whole “did the best they could” stuff. They made our lives miserable, and we’re supposed to act like nothing happened. Treat them like royalty because they raised us. It doesn’t work like that for me.”

Faye makes a noise I recognize as irritation. “Well, while you’re here, can you just…act like you want to be? It’s not like you have to hang around very long so, for the sake of all of us, please pretend.”

“There’s a reason I didn’t go into acting, Faye. I’ve never been good at it.”

The emergency room doors slide open, and my family comes piling in. Mom’s fussing at Dad because he forgot something while Missy is going on about how Dave’s been working overtime to keep their lights on. Joe is right on their heels, wearing his usual attire of jeans and t-shirt with scuffed boots.

My brother and I don’t talk much, either, but that’s only because there’s not much to say. We don’t dislike each other, but we went our separate ways. Our worlds are oceans apart. His days are spent with his buddies, fishing, hunting, and drinking beer while mine are spent in courtrooms trying to put criminals behind bars.

He’s never been big on working and still lives with our parents. They don’t seem to mind he depends on them, but I have to wonder what’s going to happen to him when they pass away.

Still, I get to my feet and walk over to hug him and ask how he’s doing.

“Could be better.” He eyes me from his six feet height. “You look good. I guess city life’s treating you okay.”

“It is.” I pat his rock-hard stomach. “Still working out, I see.”

“Got to. Never know when someone’s gonna mouth off, and I’ll have to put him in his place.”

Joe’s a brawler who’s been getting into fights his entire life. He’s seen the inside of the local jail more times than I can count. My parents have always excused his behavior, blaming the other person. Never once would they consider their baby boy could be at fault.

I flip the edge of his long brown hair with the tips of my fingers. “And I suppose you still have a girlfriend of the week?”

“Nah, I’ve moved it up to a month now. Let the ladies have a little more of me.” He winks at me, and for a brief moment, I feel a splash of welcome, like I’ve actually been missed.

“I need to know what room my husband’s supposed to be in.” Mom’s standing at the ER admit desk. Her demanding tone captures all of our attention.

“What’s his name?”

“Joseph Marks.” She leans over the counter in an attempt to see the clipboard the receptionist is scanning.

“He’s in the cardiac unit.”

“Well, where’s that? No one told us there was a special place for him to go.” She waves Dad over. “Joseph, tell her you’re about to have heart surgery in the morning.”

“Double bypass,” Dad answers dutifully. He leans against the counter like it’s too much of an effort to stand, and even from where I’m standing, I can hear him huffing.

“He cain’t be walking no long distances.” Mom gives the receptionist her best glare while expecting the woman to read her mind. “Y’all oughta know that. Ain’t his doctor called?”

“I think what my mother is asking is would it be possible to have an orderly take him up in a wheelchair?” I intervene even though I know it won’t be appreciated, but there’s no reason anyone unrelated to my mother should be exposed to her vitriol.

“Certainly. I’ll call someone right now.”

“I don’t need a wheelchair.” Dad’s breathing heavily, and his face has taken on a sickly pallor.

The receptionist pauses. “The unit’s on the fourth floor. If you’re short of breath—”

“I’m not.” Dad begins walking, but it’s more of a stumble.

“Katie, just so you know, I can speak for myself,” Mom snaps at me.

“Oh, Mama, let it go.” Faye wedges herself in between me and Mom to ward off any potential argument.

“Katie, why don’t you ride up with me?” Dad’s suggestion surprises me. It’s not often he wants to talk to me considering the choices I’ve made in my life.

“Mr. Marks, we can get you a wheelchair.” The receptionist has come around from the behind the desk and is watching him with clasped hands.

“It’s okay. I’ll go with him.” Reluctance in every step, I move toward the elevator with my father. I’d rather be facing the Supreme Court.

When everyone starts to follow, Dad holds up his hand. “No, I need some time with Katie. Y’all come on up in a bit.”

The elevator walls close around me once the doors glide shut. Dad wastes no time in revealing this sudden interest in conversing with me.

“Katie, I want you to promise me something.” He coughs after the sentence.

“I’ll try.” My palms dampen.

“If anything happens to me, I want you to end things with that guy of yours.”

Chapter Two

I lower my gaze, my hands curled tightly into fists. “You need to focus on your health, Dad.” This isn’t a conversation I’m going to have with him…again. And certainly not while he’s facing major surgery.

He grips my arm with a calloused hand. “I mean it, Katie. I don’t think I could rest in peace knowing you’re with him.” His fingernails dig into my skin, and bloodshot blue eyes stare at me as though daring me to deny him what could be his last request.

Tears fill my eyes, and I wish, not for the first time, I’d been born into a different family, one that didn’t have so much hate in their hearts. “I won’t make that promise.”

His fingers tighten around my flesh. “He’s not your kind.”

“Dad, stop. I’m not talking about this with you. I’ve already heard it from Mom, and I haven’t even been here two hours.”

“She’s trying to talk some sense into you. This has gotten us both so worked up I’m surprised my heart’s made it this far.”

I yank my arm out of his grasp and take a step back as the elevator dings, signaling the arrival at the fourth floor. The blame in his voice is crystal clear. In his eyes, I’m responsible for the decline in his health, his need for surgery.

“My relationship with Isaac didn’t do this to you, Dad. Years of eating fried foods, smoking, and drinking did.” I step off the elevator.

“Listen to me. I’ve put up with his long enough. That man’s not good enough for my baby girl.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. If anything, he’s too good for me.”

Dad recoils like I’ve struck him. “Don’t you dare say that to my face. No black man will ever deserve one of my daughters. I cain’t even stand the thought of him putting his dirty hands on you.” He slaps one hand against the wall, wheezing while looking at me with a disgusted gaze.

The tears threaten to spill down my cheeks so I start walking to the nurses’ station. I shouldn’t have come, and once my father is checked into the hospital, I’m going home.

“Let’s just get you checked into your room. Everything else can wait.” Till hell freezes over. This is the last time I’m going to have this conversation with him.

“Katie, I’m not finished.” The fire is back in his voice. Despite his declining health, he’s the same overbearing, controlling father who’d raised me. The man who’d demanded I bend to his will even it if compromised my own morals.

I keep my back to him. “I am.” I toss him a quick look so he can see how serious I am. “I’m not discussing this with you any further. Who I love is none of your business.”

The elevator opens again, and the rest of my family joins us on the floor. I’ve never been more grateful to see them which is saying a lot.

Faye edges up next to me, bumping her shoulder against mine. “I don’t even have to ask what the topic of conversation was.”

“No, you don’t.” Lips tight, I turn away. “I’m not staying, Faye. No one wants me here, and to be honest, I don’t want to be here.”

“You have to stay. Like it or not, he’s your daddy. And if you anything were to happen,” her voice hitches, “you’ll regret not being here.”

“That’s just it. I don’t think I will.”

“You’re not leaving tonight, are you?”

“No. I’m going back to the hotel room.” I need space, air to breathe without the condescension I feel from every relative save Faye.

Her brows raise. “You got a hotel room? Does Mama know?”

“I didn’t tell her, but she’ll stay here tonight anyway. The more distance I put between us, the better off we’ll all be.”

Faye scuffs her sneaker against the floor until it squeaks. “I wish you could just accept them for who they are.”

“And I wish they could do the same for me.”

“You just…you just changed is all. After you graduated from law school, it was like you didn’t have time for any of us. I mean, my kids don’t even know you, and it’s not like you don’t have the money to come visit. So I can understand why Mama and Daddy have a hard time understanding.”

I let out a breath that’s becoming scarce. “This isn’t about my career, and you know it. They have to have something to criticize. First it was leaving Snyder. Then it was college. After that, they didn’t approve of my decision to become a lawyer because Dad thinks all lawyers are shysters. My move to Charleston especially angered them, and now, I’m dating a wonderful man who just happens to be black. His skin color means nothing to me but everything to them.”

“They didn’t want you to leave Snyder. None of us did.”

“I had to get out, Faye. I wanted more out of my life.”

“You mean more than kids and a husband.” She’s on the defensive now.

“I mean a career, a chance to travel, to see new things, meet new people. I couldn’t live the rest of my life in a small town. It wasn’t enough for me.”

“But it was enough for the rest of us.” Her hands are clamped on her hips, letting me know she’s getting fired up. “You know I don’t say this to you very often, but you act like you’re better than us, like because you have a nice job, a house, a fancy car, and money, that you can’t be bothered with us anymore.”

My back against the wall, I close my eyes. “No, I don’t, Faye. That’s your perception. It’s all of you who talk about those things.”

“Well, you’ve told me about your trips to Italy, Morocco, Spain, and some of those other places.”

I’m tired. Exhausted from too much time spent defending my life. “I was sharing my life with you. When something wonderful happens, you should want to share it with those you care about.”

“We know you’ve got money, Katie, and I guess it bugs us how you don’t mind letting us know you do. You wear fancy clothes, expensive jewelry, and I know you paid more than five dollars for that haircut. Would it have killed you to just throw on jeans and a t-shirt and leave the high-priced stuff at home?”

My heart cracks a little more, and I push off the wall and start walking away from her, not surprised when she falls into step beside me. “I won’t apologize for how I live my life, and I shouldn’t have to change who I am or how I dress just to make sure I don’t offend my family. I’m proud of my accomplishments. All of you should be, too.”

“Pride goes before a fall.” She sing-songs the words.

They punch my last button, and I whirl to face her. “If you’re going to quote the Bible to me, Faye, get it right. It’s pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Stop trying to use scripture you’re not familiar with to correct me.”

I leave her standing in the middle of the small hospital in the small town we grew up in. A town where nothing had changed, will probably ever change. And one more time, I have to escape.

 

The next morning

 

“Was wondering if you were going to show up.” Mom’s in the surgery waiting room, seated on the edge of the brown plaid sofa. The bags under her eyes are a clear indication she didn’t get a lot of sleep,

“I stopped for better coffee for everyone. I know how bad hospital coffee is.” I began doling out the specialty brews from the coffee shop down the street. “I think I still remembered what everyone likes.”

I hand one to Missy, but she doesn’t take it. “I’m fine with what they have here. Never had needed anything special.” She peers up at me over the rim of her glasses and curls her upper lip. “But then, I ain’t never got above my raisin’.”

“I’ll take hers.” Joe snags the cup and pops off the lid to inhale the aroma. “That smells like heaven came down and brewed the beans.”

I sit next to him and take a sip of my own coffee. “Any news on how things are going?” Dad had been taken back to surgery over an hour ago. I suspect Mom is furious I didn’t come in early enough to speak to him, but after our last conversation, distance was the best for both of us.

“One of the nurses just reported that the doctor has made the first incision, and there’s minimal blood loss. Things are going as planned,” Faye chimes in. She’s kicked her shoes off and has her legs tucked up beneath her on the love seat with the faux wooden frame.

“Why didn’t you come say something to your daddy before he went back? Everyone else was here.” Mom leans around Faye to see me.

“Dad and I talked yesterday. There wasn’t anything else I could tell him that he didn’t already know. And I know Dad. He doesn’t like people hanging all over him, promising him everything’s going to be all right.”

“You know Daddy?” Missy’s drawn on eyebrows lift. “You’ve barely seen him the last fifteen years. I doubt you know what he likes for breakfast much less what he wants to hear right before he goes in for dangerous surgery.”

“Dad and I still talk.” It’s only occasionally and stilted, but it some communication. In a way, it assuages the unexplainable guilt I feel for my existence.

Years ago, Mom had made it known that I wasn’t wanted. If she’d had her choice, she would have aborted me because I’d been another girl. She and Dad had wanted a boy. And three children were just too hard to take care of at the time. She never did explain to me what made her decide to keep me, and I’ve often wondered if I would have been better off going into state custody. Years later, though, they had Joe, and that made their lives complete. Dad had the boy to carry on his family name.

Mom shakes her head at me and clicks her tongue. “You don’t talk with your Daddy. You talk at him. I guess it’s your way of reminding him he didn’t amount to much even though he put food on the table and clothes on your back. He worked long hours every day to make sure all of you stayed in school, but that wasn’t enough for you. It’s never been enough.”

It all comes back to money. My family’s been poor all their lives. By choice. Missy had the opportunity to go to a prestigious art school, but our parents had guilted her into staying in Snyder. Now she teaches art to preschoolers part-time while her husband puts in long hours in the last warehouse left in town.

All Faye ever wanted to do was get married and have babies. With ten kids and her husband working forty plus hours a week just to keep the utilities on, she wouldn’t consider a job now, now even if it meant improving their finances.

Mom realizes I’m ignoring her, and she leans across Faye even further to smack my forearm. “You answer me when I’m talking to you.”

I withdraw my arm and count to ten. It had been a long time since she’s hit me, since I’d allowed it. Once upon a time, hitting had been my mother’s go-to when she wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t about to let her bring it back. “Don’t hit me.” My voice is sharp, and I match it with a glare. “I’m not a child, and I don’t need to be disciplined.”

“Could we all just focus on what’s important and think good thoughts for Daddy?” Faye, ever the mediator, pushes against Mom’s shoulder to get her back into her seat.

“So Katie, how is that black stallion of yours?” Missy’s smug smile dances on my nerves.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I'm a published author of romance and suspense novels, and I write for MoviePilot, a website dedicated to movies and television. I'm fortunate to make my home in historical Charleston, South Carolina, a beautiful city filled with beautiful people. I also write articles for various magazines, including The Writer's Journal, The Writer, & Funds for Writers, When I'm not writing books, I love to read paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and young adult, create videos, shop, and work on crafts.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
I've come face to face with the kind of hatred Kate has dealt with in her life. Her story mimics some of the characters I've encountered. Choosing to distance yourself from your family can be a difficult decision, and Kate's decision comes at a price.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
Love comes in many colors, but there will always be people who can't see beyond the way they were raised or their choice to hate. Sometimes, you have to walk away to find true peace with the one you love.
Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
I'm almost finished reading Secret Stalker by Lena Diaz, a wonderful Harlequin Intrigue, and next up is Taken by Cynthia Eden.

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