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First pages

September

One

Katie watched her baby boy play. Crawling across the floor, he stopped and swatted at the dust particles dancing in the sunlight. He was fat, with dimpled cheeks and soft, blond curls.

The baby pulled himself up on her chair, leaning against her knee. He pressed his rosy cheek against her lap, and smiled. Katie pulled him into her arms, and kissed his curls. “You’re such a good boy, Tommy.”

Katie’s phone rang and interrupted their moment. She grimaced at her husband’s picture on the screen. She waited for the third ring to answer. “Hey, Stephen.”

“Hey. I’m going to be a few minutes late for supper.”

“That’s okay.” Katie traced a finger across her baby’s forehead, drawing it down next to the bright, green eyes that were an exact replica of her own. “I’ll keep it warm.”

“Thanks.” Stephen sounded distracted. “Did you make that casserole I like?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Her husband sounded pleased. “And did you make a salad?”

“Not yet.” Katie replied, and then added. “But I will.”

“Make sure you do.” Stephen said. “I want a salad tonight.”

“Okay. See you in a while.”

“See you in a while. I love you.”

Katie paused, and then said, “I love you, too.”

She hung up the phone and stared at the carpet. Tommy rubbed his face against her shoulder. He was sleepy. As she carried him to his crib, the baby snuggled into her shoulder, and she held him tighter.

 

When her husband arrived home, he glanced at the table she had set and nodded. There were no smudges on the water glasses. She had poured salad dressing into a small bowl. He hated when she put condiments on the table in their original containers.

Pulling his small wife against him, he murmured into her dark, brown hair, “You are doing very well, Kate. Very well.”

“Thanks, honey.” Katie pulled away, and stepped toward her chair. He pulled it out, and then scooted it forward as she sat down. Stephen sat down across from her and smiled.

Katie bowed her head, and listened to her husband’s deep voice. “Gracious Lord, we thank thee for this beautiful meal and for the hands that have prepared it. Bless it to the nourishment of our bodies. Keep us in your will and in your care. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Stephen scooped a large piece of casserole onto his plate, and then a smaller portion into Katie’s. He smiled at her. “How was your day, Sweetheart?”

“It was good.” Katie offered him a small smile. “Tommy was really good today. He’s starting to cruise around the furniture a little bit. I think he may walk early.”

Stephen beamed. “I’m sure my son will walk early. I did. He’s so strong to be so little still. Like father, like son!”

Katie just smiled.

“The search committee has found a new pianist for the Sunday morning services. Elise Matthews. I think you know her?” Stephen’s eyes searched Katie’s face. She always felt as if he was examining her for some innate untruth.

“Yeah. I think so. I think I met her at the Mommy and Me thing that Sarah hosted.” Katie answered. “Does she have red hair?”

Stephen nodded. “Yep. That’s her. She’s not coming full time right now, but we are going to give her a shot for a while. The church really needs someone good for the Sunday services.”

Katie jerked her head up. She saw a flash of something in her husband’s eyes. She smoothed the napkin in her lap. “Will you still need me to play on Wednesday nights?”

“For now.”

“Okay.” Katie bit her lip as she raked the food around in her plate. She liked Elise when she met her at Sarah’s house. She would try very hard not to hate her.

Two

Katie stirred in her sleep. She gradually emerged from her dream. Was the baby crying?

“Kate?” Stephen touched her hair.

Katie groaned. “Stephen, I’m sleeping!”

“I can’t sleep, Baby.” He arched his back and pressed himself against her hip.

“The baby had me up until midnight.” Katie protested. She rolled away from him, and looked at the alarm clock. One forty-seven a.m.

Stephen scooted closer toward her, pressing the length of his body against hers. She felt him hard in the small of her back. She imagined shoving him away. Telling him to “fuck off and leave her alone”. She wanted to jump up and storm out of the room. She wanted to go back to sleep!

She felt his hands fumbling at the hem of her nightgown. His breath on her neck was hot and fast. She didn’t resist as his hand roughly kneaded her breast.

“Talk to me!” Stephen demanded. “Tell me you want me.”

Katie was silent. Her compliance was the most she would give him.

He flipped her to her back, and positioned himself over her. Her nightgown was bunched around her armpits. He pushed his underwear down with one hand and shook them off with his foot. The thick blonde hair on his chest felt rough and abrasive against her breasts. He pinned her hands to the bed with his as he entered her. “Look at me!”

Katie’s eyes were closed. He was sweating and panting. “Look at me!” He demanded again.

Katie opened her eyes. He was staring back at her, frantic with power and passion. The headboard was creaking, and she heard the baby stirring through the baby monitor.

She just wanted it to be over. “I want you!” she said to him. “You’re so good. I want you. I want you.”

Moments later, Stephen collapsed on top of her. He squeezed her chin in his hand and pressed a hot, wet kiss against her lips. Rolling over, he pulled the sheet off her. Katie tugged her nightgown down and got out of bed.

 

Morning came as it always did. Katie turned off the blaring alarm, and trudged to the kitchen. She struggled to wake up as she made Stephen’s coffee. He was already in the shower, whistling, as he always did.

Katie poured batter onto the griddle. She flipped the pancakes and tuned out the whistling. Her breasts felt heavy and sore. She needed to nurse the baby, but she had to get Stephen’s breakfast ready first.

He strode into the kitchen, his short, blonde hair still wet from the shower. Katie watched him for a moment. He looked like the boy she met in college, the one who stole her heart with his good manners and his striking good looks.

“Good morning, Kate!” Stephen rested his hands on his wife’s hips, and kissed her forehead. “Pancakes sound amazing!”

She hated herself for smiling at him with genuine affection. She set his plate and coffee in front of him, and said, “I need to feed Tommy.”

Stephen opened his big, worn Bible beside his plate. “Okay, Sweetheart. Tell my boy his Daddy loves him.”

Three

“Katie!” Her mother held the screen door open to allow her daughter and grandson to come inside. “What a nice surprise!”

Katie set the diaper bag and her purse on the floor and handed Tommy to his grandmother. “Hi, Mom.”

Katie’s mother, Brenda, was an older version of herself. Her hair was no longer brown like Katie’s, but silver. They had the same green eyes, though, and the same fair skin. She smiled with pride at the baby in her lap. “He’s gotten so big!”

“I know,” Katie agreed. “He eats often enough, that’s for sure. I can barely keep up with him.”

“He’s a growing boy, isn’t he?” Brenda stroked the baby’s hair and kissed his fat cheeks.

“So, how’s it going?” Katie asked.

“Oh, good.” Brenda smiled at her daughter. “I think I may get that position I put in for. Tonya is moving to the downtown branch, so she isn’t up for it. I don’t know who else wants it, but I have seniority over most of the other girls.”

“That’s good, Mom.” Katie was so glad her mother had finally settled into a secure job. For years after her father left, Katie watched her mom struggle to find her place. She had stayed home with Katie and her younger brother, Shawn, their entire childhoods. As soon as Shawn left for college their father had told their mom he had met someone. Brenda was devastated and totally lost.

“How is Stephen?” her mom asked.

“He’s doing great,” Katie smiled. “He’s so happy at the church. The senior pastor has given him control over several ministries, and he stays busy all the time. He does a really good job.”

“He works too hard.” Brenda shook her head and frowned. “I never knew ministers worked so much. I thought it was just preach on Sunday and count everyone’s money the rest of the week.”

Katie laughed. “Oh, he does work a lot, that’s for sure. I don’t mind him being gone so much, since he has important work to do. Tommy and I have a good time at home by ourselves.”

Brenda narrowed her eyes at her daughter, and Katie added, “He’s taking a week off next month, and I’m really looking forward to that.”

“Well, good.” Her mother smiled. “It will be good for you two. If you need a babysitter for this little guy, just let me know. I know he would love to stay with his Nana while Mommy and Daddy go on a date.”

“Oh, I don’t like to leave him yet.” Katie said. “We just take him everywhere with us. It’s easier, too, since I breastfeed.”

Brenda frowned to her grandson. “Well, that’s no fun for Nana, is it?”

 

Lunch had been so nice. Katie couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten a meal she had not prepared herself. Afterward, as her mother played on the rug with the baby, Katie sat at the piano and played all the songs Stephen disapproved of. He only wanted her to play hymns and church music… stuff that was “honoring to the Lord”. Her fingers flew over the keys with practiced agility. It had felt so good to be with her mom, in her childhood home, swaying to the music and remembering what it felt like to be herself.

 

“Mom, do you remember that girl from Sarah’s Mommy and Me thing you went to with me? The one with red hair? Elise?” Katie sat curled up on her mother’s sofa, cupping a steaming mug of tea in her hands.

“Yeah, I think so.” Brenda rocked back and forth in a rocking chair, holding her grandson close.

“The church just hired her to be the pianist on Sunday mornings.” Katie said.

“What?” Brenda looked surprised. “I thought you were the pianist.”

“I was just filling in while the church looked for a permanent replacement,” Katie explained.

“So why were you not the permanent replacement?”

Katie shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. Stephen doesn’t want me to be overburdened. He likes me to stay at home with Tommy, and he doesn’t like me to put him in the nursery at church.”

“What’s wrong with the nursery?” Brenda demanded. “Lots of babies stay in the church nursery, and they are just fine. It’s good for them. And good for you! You need a break from taking care of Tommy every now and then.”

“I know,” Katie agreed. “but Stephen doesn’t think…”

Brenda interrupted her daughter. “Who made Stephen the king of the world? You are Tommy’s mother. Don’t you get a say?”

“It’s not like that,” Katie protested.

“Oh, isn’t it?” Her mother raised an eyebrow. “I respect that Stephen is a minister and all. I think that’s a noble profession. I’m just not sure I like this church you two have moved to. Why do all of the men boss everyone around? Why are you supposed to do everything Stephen wants you to do? Marriage is compromise, you know. You both need to have a say to be really happy.”

“I’m happy, Mom.” Katie assured her. “I don’t like everything about the church, but we’ve met a lot of nice people since we moved there. Stephen is so important there. I like playing the piano, but I don’t necessarily need to do it all the time. Besides,” Katie grinned at her mother, “I don’t really love playing church music that much.”

Brenda laughed. “Well, that sounds more like my Katie. Glad to see my girl’s still in there.”

A shadow crossed Katie’s eyes. She considered asking her mother what she meant by that, but decided to just let it go.

“We really need to get going.” Katie stretched and stood up. “I wish I could stay. It feels so good to be here with you.”

“I wish you could stay, too, honey.” Her mother pulled her into a tight hug. “I miss my babies.”

“We miss you, too.” Katie kissed her mother’s cheek. “Come see us sometime.”

 

As Katie drove away from her childhood home, tears began to fall down her cheeks. She missed her old life. She missed college. She missed her friends. She missed her mother. She missed her bedroom. She missed being single. She missed two a.m. coffee with her best friend, Lauren. She missed not being a mother. She missed being happy.

Most of all, she missed herself.

Four

Katie awoke with a start. Someone was knocking on the door. Her heart raced. She glanced at the clock and realized it was only one in the afternoon. It wasn’t Stephen home from work.

She opened the door and was surprised to see her best friend standing on her doorstep. “Lauren!” she squealed.

They hugged each other tight for a long time before Katie pulled her inside. “I’m so happy to see you! What are you doing here?”

“I’m headed home to see my parents. I thought I would stop along the way and see you.” Lauren smiled and showed the deep dimples in both cheeks. Her blue eyes sparkled with amusement at Katie’s obvious delight in her surprise visit.

“I’m so glad you did!” Katie had not seen her best friend in six months. They talked on the phone and texted nearly every day, but she had no idea Lauren was coming to see her.

“Me, too.” Lauren sat on the couch and sighed. “I’m so sick of driving!”

“Do you have big plans for your break?”

“Not really. I have a couple papers I need to write, so that sucks. Takes too much time, especially with all the driving. My mom insisted I come home.” Lauren smiled. “I think she misses me.”

“Of course she does. You’re her only child.”

“Speaking of only children,” Lauren’s eyes lit up, “where’s Tommy?”

“He’s taking a nap.” Katie smoothed her hair with her hand. “I was asleep, too, when you knocked. I probably look crazy. He’ll be up soon.”

“Okay. I guess I can wait.” Lauren looked pained, but then smiled. “How are things with you and Stephen?”

“They’re okay, I guess.” Unlike when she spoke with her mother…or anyone else…Katie felt no need to hide the truth with Lauren.

“Just okay?” Lauren looked sad.

“Yeah.” Katie shrugged. “Sometimes I think things are getting better, but then he will just be such a jerk to me. It kills me. He’ll be so mean, and then turn around the next morning and act like nothing ever happened.”

“I’m sorry.” Lauren took Katie’s hand in hers. “I never would have thought Stephen would be like that. He treated you like such a princess when you were dating.”

“I know!” Katie’s eyes widened. “He was always so sweet to me, like everything was all about me. I didn’t really expect that part to stay the same, but it’s like a total switch. Now, everything is about him, and nothing is about me.”

“You really don’t have to put up with that, Katie.” Lauren’s eyes flashed. “You deserve to be happy. You didn’t sign up to be his servant.”

“I know,” Katie agreed. “I feel like I betrayed myself. Sometimes I wish I had never met him. I could be in graduate school with you right now. Instead, I’m a housewife who does nothing but stays home, cleans, and changes diapers.”

Lauren nodded, and Katie rushed to add, “Not that I don’t like taking care of Tommy. I do. I adore him, and I’m happy I have him. It’s just—I don’t know… disappointing. I worked so hard in college. I did so well. I had all these dreams and goals, and I was actually getting there. Then I met Stephen, and I just let it all go.”

“I know.” Lauren agreed. “You could go back to school. Women with kids do that all the time. You could put Tommy in daycare. You could afford that, couldn’t you?”

“Maybe.” Katie felt a bit of hope. “They just gave Stephen a raise at the church. I don’t know if he would let me, though.”

“Let you?” Lauren’s voice raised an octave. “I’m sorry, Katie, but you are a grown ass woman in the United States of America. Since when do you have to ask someone for permission to do anything? Stephen doesn’t own you!”

Katie grinned. “I know, I know. Calm down!”

Do you know,” Lauren asked, “it sounds like you’ve forgotten you aren’t Stephen’s property?”

Katie looked very sad. “I know it seems like that. I guess maybe it’s kind of true. I feel like I’m losing myself. I hate it when he bosses me around. I hate when he talks about Tommy being ‘his’ son. I know in my head it’s not supposed to be that way, but it’s like I’m in some new world at this church we’re going to. They treat us like we’re some kind of royalty. I honestly don’t get it. I mean, I went to church sometimes growing up, but I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

“Is it a cult or something?” Lauren looked very concerned.

“I don’t know.” Katie shook her head. “I don’t think so. They’re just kind of out of touch with modern society. The women there seem so proud that they ‘submit’ to their husbands, and don’t seem to care that a lot of them are jerks. This one lady, Julie, says ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ to her husband.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Lauren’s jaw dropped.

“No! I’m not.” Katie leaned forward, talking with her hands. “I bet she calls him ‘sir’ in bed. It’s just creepy!”

“That’s an understatement,” Lauren laughed. She affected a deep, bass voice, and said, “Woman, give me a blowjob!” Altering her voice to a high, fake soprano, she replied to herself, “Yes, sir! I’d be happy to, sir!”

Katie nearly fell over laughing at her friend. “You are terrible, Lauren. If you knew Julie, you’d feel bad. She is so nice. Just teeth-rottingly sweet.”

“Maybe she’s a Stepford Wife,” Lauren suggested.

I feel like a Stepford Wife.”

“Ugh.” Lauren held her friend by both shoulders and shook her gently. “You’ve got to do something, Katie. You’re going to suffocate in this marriage if you don’t do something.”

“I know,” Katie agreed, “I just don’t know what to do.”

 

 

When Stephen came through the front door that evening he was surprised to see Lauren in the living room, bouncing a very happy baby in her lap. He stopped short and stared at her for a moment until Katie came out of the kitchen and said, “Stephen, look! Lauren surprised me with a visit.”

Stephen’s eyes narrowed for a moment as he looked at his wife, but then he turned and smiled at Lauren. “So good to have you, Lauren! I’m glad you came.”

“Thanks, Stephen.” Lauren gave him a prim, reserved smile.

“Dinner’s ready,” Katie said to Stephen as she walked back into the kitchen. “I just have to put the food on the table. I was keeping it warm in the oven.”

Stephen followed her into the kitchen. “What is she doing here?” he hissed.

Surprised, Katie asked, “What do you mean? She just came to visit on her way to see her folks.”

Stephen scowled. “Why didn’t she call first?”

“I don’t know.” Katie’s eyes darkened. “She wanted to surprise me. What’s wrong with that?”

“What if we had plans?” Stephen asked.

“We don’t,” Katie replied.

“But we could have,” he countered.

“But we don’t!” Katie spun around and walked toward the oven.

“Don’t walk away from me, Kate!” Stephen grabbed Katie’s arm, and jerked her toward him.

“Ow!” Katie pulled away from his grip, and rubbed her arm. “That hurt, Stephen!”

“No it didn’t,” Stephen said. “I didn’t grab you hard enough to hurt you.”

“Don’t tell me it didn’t hurt.” Katie’s eyes flashed with anger. “I know if my arm hurts. You have no right to grab me like that.”

Stephen’s eyes were stormy. He said, “I’m sorry.” But it was apparent he wasn’t at all sorry. “I wasn’t through talking to you, though.”

Katie just stared at him. Knowing Lauren was in the other room gave her courage.

“When is she leaving? After dinner?” Stephen asked.

“No.” Katie answered. “I told her she could stay the night. She has six more hours of driving to get to her parents’ house.”

“You didn’t ask me if she could stay.” The vein in Stephen’s neck visibly pulsed.

“Why should I ask you?” Katie snapped. “This is my house, too.”

“Oh, really?” Stephen laughed. “Do you have a job? Do you pay the rent?”

Katie glared at him.

“That’s right–I do. I think it’s my house.” Stephen looked down at Katie with a cruel smirk.

Katie turned and began to set the food on the table, her shoulders slumped. She heard Stephen’s footsteps leaving the kitchen and then he said with forced cheerfulness, “Lauren, dinner’s ready. Let me take that boy so you can come and eat.”

 

Dinner was awkward. Stephen acted as if the confrontation between him and Katie never occurred. He asked Lauren about school, and she asked him about his church work. They talked about people they had all known in college, and about Tommy. Katie was mostly silent, seething inside. She hated Stephen so much at that moment.

 

Not caring what Stephen thought about it, Katie informed him she was taking Lauren to a movie, and asked him if he would like them to take the baby. Stephen insisted on keeping Tommy with him, and sent the girls off as if he was truly happy they were able to spend time together.

Once in the car, Lauren said, “I heard everything you two said in the kitchen.”

“I’m sorry.” Katie’s eyes filled with tears.

“Don’t be sorry for me, Katie,” Lauren said firmly. “I’m a big girl. I don’t care if Stephen doesn’t like me. I don’t like him! I’m just sorry he’s such a jerk to you. Did he hurt you? What happened?”

“He just grabbed my arm to stop me from walking away,” Katie murmured.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine,” Katie nodded.

“Well, that’s not okay. I ought to beat the crap out of him for laying a hand on you,” Lauren fumed.

Katie laughed. “You’re going to kick his butt, huh?”

“I could take him,” Lauren smiled. “I’ve dealt with bigger men than him and ended up on top.”

“Hey!” Katie grinned, “I don’t need the details of your love life!”

Lauren snorted. “Since when?”

“Okay.” Katie assented. “I do need the details of your love life. What was I thinking?”

“I don’t know.” Lauren shook her head slowly. “I thought I had lost my best friend for real.”

“Never!”

“Seriously, though, Katie.” Lauren laid her hand on Katie’s shoulder. Katie was driving and didn’t look at her, but she could feel her friend’s gaze. “This has got to stop. He can’t talk to you like that. He can’t put his hands on you like that. You deserve better than how he treats you.”

“Okay,” Katie sighed. “I’ll talk to him about it all when he’s in a better mood. I’ll let him know how I feel. Maybe things can change.”

“Maybe.” Lauren sounded doubtful.

“I’ll never know if I don’t try.” Katie stopped at a stop light, and, as she checked for traffic, she caught her reflection in the mirror. Her face was pale; her eyes looked tired.

The light turned green, and she drove away.

 

When the girls got home Stephen was already in bed. They tiptoed through the house, and Katie led Lauren to the guest room. She hugged her friend tight, and trudged off to her own bedroom.

She undressed in the dark, and skipped brushing her teeth. She tiptoed across the carpet, and slipped into bed, taking great pains to not disturb her husband.

“Did you have fun?” Stephen’s words were ice cold.

Startled, Katie didn’t say anything, but held her breath instead.

“I asked you a question.” Stephen rolled over and propped himself up on one elbow. Katie could feel his eyes on her, but couldn’t see him in the dark.

She stammered, “Yeah. The movie was good.”

“That’s good,” Stephen said coldly. “I would hate for you to leave your husband and child to see a bad movie.”

“I didn’t ‘leave my husband and child’,” Katie protested. “I just went to see a movie with my best friend, who I almost never get to see!”

“Whatever makes you feel better.”

“Whatever.” She clenched her fist.

Whatever.” Stephen mocked his wife in a shrieky falsetto.

“Stop it, Stephen,” Katie demanded. “You’re being stupid.”

In the dark, Katie didn’t see Stephen’s hand, but cried out in surprise as it struck the side of her face. She turned away and covered her stinging cheek with her hand, as Stephen whispered loudly, “Don’t you ever…ever...call me stupid again.”

Katie wept silently, but couldn’t get out of bed. Stephen had wrapped her hair around his hand. Katie winced as he tightened his grip on it and gave it a slight pull.

Katie was starting to get scared. “I’m sorry,” she told him.

“I accept your apology.” Stephen stroked her face, and wiped her tears. “You are so rebellious, Kate. You hate that God has given you to me. I know it’s hard for you to accept your role as my wife. You weren’t raised right. Your mother taught you to be rebellious and headstrong. I believe in you, though, Kate.” Stephen paused to kiss her forehead. “I know you can be the wife I need… the wife I want.”

Tears slipped steadily from Katie’s eyes, and pooled in her ears. She felt like she was going to choke.

“Do you want to be a good wife, Kate?” Stephen’s voice was so soft and pleading.

“Yes,” Katie’s frightened voice barely squeaked out.

Her eyes had adjusted to the dark, and Katie could see Stephen slowly nodding his head. “I know you do, Kate. I know you do.” He unwound her hair from his hand, and began to trace the line of her neck. “I’ll help you, Sweetheart. You’ve been programmed to buck against your role as my wife… my helpmeet.” He pushed her nightgown off her shoulder, and kissed the pale skin. “I will teach you how to be a good wife.” His teeth bit into her soft skin, not quite hard enough to hurt, but with the promise of pain to come. “Do you want me to help you learn, Kate? Will you let me teach you?”

Katie’s eyes were wide, and her heart pounded. She was silent.

Stephen wedged his knee between her legs, and used it to shove them apart. He interlocked the fingers of his left hand with hers, and pinned it to the bed. The weight of his body pushed down on her hand. It hurt. Katie’s ears began to roar. As his other hand pulled up her nightgown, Stephen again asked, “Will you let me teach you, Kate?”

Unable to speak, Katie barely nodded her head.

“That’s a good girl.” His mouth met hers with a demanding force. The stubble around his lips scraped her tender skin.

Katie trembled, but she didn’t resist.

October

Five

Katie tried to focus on the service. Tommy was asleep in her arms, so she should be able to pay attention. Her mind raced, though, and she kept finding herself somewhere else. Today was Elise’s first Sunday to play the piano. The first day Katie wasn’t playing.

Elise looked very pretty. Her red hair gleamed and caught the light as she moved slightly while her fingers flew over the keys. She looked very slim and graceful, even from the side while sitting. Katie was always self-conscious about how she looked to the congregation when she played. She was sure Elise looked better.

It had been a week since Lauren came to visit. Katie hadn’t told her what happened when she went to bed that night. She couldn’t say exactly why, but she felt a deep sense of shame about the whole event. Her brain told her it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t do anything wrong. Something else told her to hide.

Stephen, of course, acted like nothing had happened. He never spoke of these incidents. The morning after, he had been very sweet, and had surprised Katie by making omelets for breakfast before she had even woken up. He had been consistently nice to her for a solid week. He brought her flowers twice, and took her out to dinner. It made Katie feel kind of crazy. Her feelings about that night were so opposite from the way he made her feel when he treated her so well. It left her feeling off balance.

Today, Stephen was giving the sermon, since the senior pastor was on vacation. He was nervous that morning. Katie found it endearing. He spent half the morning in the bathroom with a nervous stomach, and he asked Katie three times how he looked. He reminded her of a little boy.

As he strode across the platform to stand behind the pulpit, Katie followed him with her eyes. He looked so handsome. His blonde hair was parted on the side in that boyish style Katie didn’t really like, but it did make him look very wholesome and old-fashioned. Old ladies loved him. His suit fit his trim, athletic frame very well. He wore a classic white shirt, and a tie the exact same shade of blue as his eyes.

As he opened his Bible and began to speak, Katie looked down. She rested her chin on Tommy’s blonde head, and tuned her husband out. She didn’t want to hear what he had to say. She had made up her mind. She didn’t know how, and she didn’t know when. But she knew she was going to leave him.

 

“Katie!”

Katie turned around to see who was calling her name. It was Elise. She was striding up the aisle of the church toward Katie.

“Hey,” Katie smiled at her.

“Hey,” Elise smiled back, “how are you?”

“I’m good.” Katie leaned against a pew, and shifted the sleeping baby in her arms. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” Elise shrugged. “I was pretty nervous today. I’ve never played at such a large church before.”

“You did well,” Katie offered.

“Thanks.” Elise peeked around Katie’s shoulder to see Tommy’s face. “He’s such a pretty baby. He’s gotten so much bigger since Sarah’s party.”

“I know.” Katie’s eyes lit up the way they always did when she talked about her son. “Where are your little ones?”

“They’re with their dad this weekend,” Elise said.

“Oh.” Katie was confused. “I didn’t know you weren’t together.”

“Yeah.” Elise shrugged again. “We split up. We never got married, so it wasn’t so bad.”

“Oh, okay.” Katie wondered why the church leadership had chosen Elise to be the pianist. They usually weren’t very accepting of people who had children outside of marriage or divorced people. Katie supposed that maybe if a woman was pretty enough exceptions could be made.

“I’ve not been here for a service in so long,” Elise mused. “It’s a lot different from when I was a kid.”

“You went to church here as a kid?” Katie inquired.

“Yeah,” Elise nodded, “off and on.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I've been writing stories since I was nine years old, but took a very roundabout path to pursuing my writing dreams full time. I married young, had four children, went through a divorce, met the love of my life, and am now living happily ever after with my husband and our six children. A huge part of my happily ever after is writing. My poetry and short fiction have been published in a variety of literary journals, and, as an Indie author, I've published two volumes of my "Little River" series.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
I want to show the humanity of my characters. My "bad guy" wasn't always bad. My protagonist has to dig deep to find her own strength. In the midst of their very human struggles, the resounding message is that good can come from bad, hope can come from heartbreak, and the end is not always the end.
Q. Why do you write?
A.
I write because I honestly love it. I have so many ideas. . . so many stories in my head. I lay awake at night thinking about the stories I want to tell. I keep a notebook of ideas and titles I don't want to forget. I never feel more like myself than when I'm sitting at my computer crafting a story.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I've kept a personal blog for over a decade at www.nothinggold.net . I have a writing website at www.RachelHolbrook.net I am on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Author Central, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I am very friendly, and I'm not known to bite. Say hello, and I promise to respond!

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