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?
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 herself from 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.
Julie Farley was born and raised on Long Island. Even though she now lives in Virginia, a piece of her heart still lives in New York. And there’s one in Chicago and South Bend, IN home of her alma mater Notre Dame. When Julie’s not writing she’s teaching preschool or taking care of her own four children. Julie grew up with her nose in a book and her love of books turned into a love of writing as well. Julie published her first book, Tripped Up Love, in May of 2013. The sequel, The New Ever After, will be released in July of 2013.
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