I want to talk a little about The Hardest Goodbye.
I know I have shared a few previews and it’s obvious based on the title and cover that Tramp is a part of the story. What I want to let everyone know is that the book is not all about Tramp. Actually, it’s only a small part- a few chapters, that deal with Tramp.
The aftermath, of course, will be discussed and dealt with, but the main storyline of the novel is not about Tramp.
I felt I owed it to him and to his inspiration to dedicate the title and cover to Tramp. He was such an important character to Tommy and Brittany and then Naomi and I just felt like he deserved a proper send off.
However, the main story of the book surrounds Tessa and Jack and Tommy and their recovery. Tessa will need to come to terms with the extent of what happened to her and Jack and Brittany will need to find a way to bridge the gap that has formed between them,
Sabrina and David will move forward with their relationship and that will result in a whole new set of issues- some of which can never be taken back.
Stephanie will come to grips with almost losing her daughter and husband and the toll it will take on her health can’t be ignore.
We also have Mike dealing with what happened and just how evil Nick and Rebecca really are. Jimmy is still recovering and he will need to be told the extent of his past.
There are twists and turns and drama (hey, it is me writing, after all). I hope this book takes you along on a bumpy and amazing ride full of laughter and tears and ultimately, family.
Here is one of my most favorite moments of The Hardest Goodbye. Enjoy.
Mike opened the door and was stunned to see the people who were there.
“Corporal? We are Steve and Penny Zimmerman,” the man said.
“I know who you are, please come in.”
Jade walked up to him and Mike turned to her.
“This is Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman, Scott’s parents. This is my wife, Jade.”
“Scott? The man you served with?” Jade asked.
She was surprised when the woman came and hugged her tightly.
Jade felt the woman’s tears and she hugged her back.
Mr. Zimmerman sniffed and looked at them.
“We would like to talk to you,” he said softly. “Do you have a minute?”
Mike felt his chin quivering as he nodded.
“Please come sit,” Jade said and smiled warmly as they walked into the family room. “Please excuse the mess. We have twin 10 year olds.”
They all smiled and Penny wouldn’t stop staring at Jade.
“Hello! Hello!” Peeps yelled.
They all laughed and looked at the bird.
“This is Peeps. She doesn’t like to be ignored,” Jade said. She noticed Mike hadn’t said anything.
“Can I get you some coffee or water?”
“Um, some water would be great, thank you,” Steve said.
Jade nodded and walked to the kitchen.
“Are you okay?” Steve asked Mike as he looked at the cane and walker.
Mike nodded, unable to find his voice for a bit.
Jade came in with some water and sat down next to Mike.
“You’re probably wondering why we just showed up,” Steve said.
Jade held Mike’s hand, trying to help him.
“Mike has told me so much about Scott. I am so sorry for your loss,” Jade said.
“He was an amazing young man and he loved and respected you, Corporal,” Steve said.
“Please call me Mike,” Mike finally said.
Jade smiled at them and knew how hard this was for all of them.
“Can you tell me about Scott? What was he like growing up?”
Penny’s face lit up.
“He was such a funny kid. He was a daredevil and broke more bones than I can count,” she said and smiled.
“He was super protective, too. He always watched out for the rest of the neighborhood kids. He was a natural to join the Army.”
Mike sighed and looked at them.
“I’m so sorry I let you both down. I wish I could bring him back.”
Penny looked at him and shook her head.
“No, you have nothing to be sorry for. You were an inspiration to our son and he adored you. Working under your command was something he was incredibly proud to do. He wrote to us all the time about you and how much he learned about strength and honor. He knew this was your third tour and he looked up to you and what you taught him.”
Mike stood up and limped to the window, ignoring his cane.
“What did I teach him? I did nothing and now he’s gone.”
Jade wiped her eyes and Penny walked to him.
“You’re wrong. You gave him a purpose. You gave him a belief that the life he chose was worthwhile. He made his choices and we are so proud of him.”
Mike was surprised when she hugged him.
“He wanted you to make it home. He wanted you to know it was okay.”
“There’s another reason why we came here,” Steve said as Mike and Penny sat back down.
Jade’s heart began to race and she felt a sudden joy at seeing them.
“I know. I can feel it,” she said.
Penny and Steve looked at her and both had tears in their eyes.
“You have his heart.”
Mike put his head in his hands and let his emotions come out.
“We asked the doctors to be sure it went to you because that was what Scott wanted. He was brought back critical, but he was brain dead and there was nothing they could do. We knew his wish. It was a long shot, but he was a match and we made sure his heart went to you. It took us a long time to get confirmation and I know it’s not really protocol for them to let us know, but since Scott was your friend,” she looked at Mike. “I hope it’s okay we came over.”
“Of course it’s okay,” Mike said.
“How are you feeling?” Penny asked Jade.
“I am amazing. Hold on and I’ll get something for you.”
They watched as she walked into the other room and came back a minute later with one of her stethoscopes. She gave it to Penny and put the end against her chest. They were quiet while Penny listened and heard her son’s heartbeat.
Mike was overwhelmed and Penny openly sobbed before she handed the ear buds to her husband. He put them on and his tears fell, too. They sat and listened for a while and then Penny nodded that it was enough.
“That must have been really weird for you,” Steve said to Jade.
She wiped her eyes and smiled.
“No, that was amazing.”
Jade went and grabbed some snacks for them and they ate and laughed about everything and nothing. After a little while, Steve grinned.
“Can I say something that might be completely inappropriate?”
Mike looked at Jade and then both shrugged.
“Scott was a chest man, so I think you’ve made him very happy.”
Jade turned red and Mike burst out laughing and Penny smacked her husband on the arm.
“Very nice,” she said to him.
Mike looked at Jade who grinned, too.
“I guess I’m glad I could do that for him,” she said laughed.
They all spoke a little longer and before they left, Jade promised to keep in touch. Steve went to Mike and took out an envelope.
“This was in Scott’s pocket when he was brought home. I think you should read it.”
He handed Mike the letter and Mike nodded.
Steve shook his head.
“No, thank you. Thank you for being with our son and for making sure he wasn’t alone.”
Mike stood with Jade as they left and then Jade turned to him.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m not sure. I know we talked about the possibility of you having his heart, but then we never checked. I just don’t know how this happened, you know? I am so incredibly grateful for his sacrifice, but I don’t understand why I was spared. I just don’t understand the grand plan.”
She stroked his cheek and smiled.
“Maybe it isn’t for us to understand? Maybe we should just be grateful for our blessings and live our lives the best we can? I think that is what Scott would have wanted.”
Mike hugged her.
“His dad was right. He was a chest man. I think he’s happy.”
Jade rolled her eyes and laughed.
Mike laughed and Jade wrapped her arms around his waist.
“Will it be weird for you?”
“Looking at me and knowing who my heart belonged to?”
“No, because your heart belongs to me and that hasn’t changed.”