I always look forward to release time because I can’t wait for you to read the next part of the journey. I usually get a room in a hotel and put the finishing touches on the release and do some sort of giveaway.
I got a hotel room.
I finished up the release.
And I cried.
I have been teaching for 16 years and this week has been life changing.
Sometimes it’s hard to leave one job and move on to the other. I think it’s been even harder since I have been writing the kids as teenagers.
As a high school teacher, I live and breathe my job. In this day and age of technology, I am more accessible to my students and their parents. I receive emails all the time from students who have questions and are struggling with the material for one reason or another.
I know them. I know their parents.
I know what they want to do with their lives and I’m so excited to watch them begin that journey.
Another school shooting.
So many injured.
So many lives forever altered.
I’d like to say that before last Wednesday’s shooting, I didn’t dwell on what could happen.
I’d like to say I feel confident that I am prepared.
I would be lying.
I think about it all the time.
I work in a building with almost 2000 people on any given day. I have no way of knowing what is going through their minds and hearts at any given moment.
Anyone can bring anything into our building, no questions asked. Students carry backpacks. Teachers carry bags. Everyone brings in what they need for the day and nobody asks questions.
And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.
I trust that I am surrounded by administrators and parents who have my safety and the safety of all of our students in mind.
We do our best to listen to our students and help them when we see anything out of the ordinary.
We have meetings and speakers and counselors who make themselves available for anyone who needs to talk.
I also know that those measures aren’t enough.
Nothing we do in the classroom is enough.
Sometimes when I am pulling into my parking space in the morning and I see a parent dropping off their son or daughter, I think about their morning. I wonder if the parent’s worry. I wonder if they talk about it.
I wonder if they fear they are dropping their most precious being off to unknown danger?
But we can’t live in fear, right? We can’t live in a bubble.
I also look at my classroom and I think about what I would do if we had a shooter.
I don’t have a closet.
I don’t have anywhere to hide 36 full-grown 16-18 year olds.
As a class, we’ve talked about it.
I teach upstairs and I have windows. We have talked about taking a desk and throwing it hard enough to break the windows (which don’t open) and jumping out.
We’ve talked about how jumping might cause broken bones, but it will be better than another option.
One thing I have never hesitated to tell them is that I will protect them with everything I am.
I hope that’s true. I hope, in that moment, I wouldn’t hesitate to stand in front of them.
They deserve that. They deserve to go through a school day without getting shot.
I can’t believe I’m even typing that.
I also hear people say that teachers should have guns.
I am a gun owner. I have shot a gun at a range and I spent five hours at the police station learning proper safety and technique.
I don’t carry a weapon and I don’t have any plan to do so.
I could never have a gun at school. I could never take a weapon out and shoot someone in my classroom.
How dare anyone ask that of me or my colleagues.
That’s not the answer.
We need fewer guns, not more.
I’m sorry for the rambling, but I’m struggling.
I think my biggest issue is what happens next.
My school has had a mini break which ends today. We will be back in school tomorrow for the first time since the shooting and I will stand in front of my students and field questions.
I know they will have them.
I know they will want to know how we are going to support Parkland.
I know they will want to know how safe they are.
I don’t know what to say.
I don’t have any answers.
I don’t know how to reassure them.
I don’t know how to lie to them.
I don’t know how we as a society continue to have to deal with this.
I have never regretted my decision to become a teacher and I still don’t. I love my job and I love watching student’s learn and grow.
I am proud of their achievements and I join them when they struggle.
I have found myself getting distracted a lot over the last week. I don’t have the patience I usually have and I don’t know why.
I’m scared. My classes in college didn’t prepare me for this.
I’m not scared of a shooter.
I’m scared of letting my student’s down. I’m scared I’m not going to do right by them.
But I also know that they are so much smarter and stronger than many people give them credit. As we see in Parkland, the students aren’t waiting for direction, they are leading by example.
So now what? What is the point of this post?
I’m not sure. Maybe a little bit of a form of therapy for me before I go to work tomorrow?
Maybe a little venting.
Maybe a way for me to say what I don’t know I will be able to tomorrow?
I don’t know. I sit here and type this as my cute pup sleeps next to me and I think about how many pups were waiting for their favorite people to come home last Wednesday and they are still waiting.
It’s not the most important point, but it’s another part of life that is forever different.
I am so proud and excited for my release on Thursday, but I felt I needed to explain my silence for the last week.
I just want to say thank you for being you.
I will have a much more upbeat post soon, and I’ll let you know how things go tomorrow.
For now, I’m just going to cuddle that sweet pup and try to be the safe place for so many tomorrow.
I will let them talk and I will listen.
I will try to help.
I will try to facilitate positive action.
I will look for the child who is quiet and withdrawn and I will make an extra effort to be a listening ear.
I will have them write letters to survivors if they want.
We like to say that when things seem at their worst, we have no choice but to make difficult decisions. We have no choice but to take control. We have no choice when faced with impossible circumstances.
Or do we?
Does the simple act of choosing negate the idea of having no choice?
Does your head hurt yet? Mine does 🙂
Book 27 is a lot about choice. It’s about the choice a man makes with a gun.
It’s about a choice Ian makes to save the young man his daughter loves.
It’s about the choice a wife makes when confronted with a battle she never saw coming.
It’s also about the choices we make as teenagers when young love is all consuming.
What we do can have lasting effects.
Sometimes in the wrong way.
What happens in the lives of all of the characters in this installment will alter a lot of what happens next. The aftermath of trauma is different for everyone, and at times, it seems as if old wounds become fresh once again.
For Bill and David, this book is a turning point.
That leads me to the point of this post.
No Choice is largely David’s story.
He has been a character that I have struggled to define.
Being the only boy amongst so many girls afforded me the opportunity to create humorous antics and adorable scenarios.
But as they all grew, I saw the girls as individuals and David sort of remained a mystery.
Sabrina loves fashion design.
Tessa loves animals.
Naomi loves to cook.
Josie loves the Military.
What does David want out of life?
What is his passion?
What does he see himself doing in the future?
I wasn’t really sure, and I think that effected how I wrote him. Looking back, his job was to be a sounding board for Sabrina and then a partner to Desi.
But I had trouble hearing him without them.
Recently, I put out a poll about David. I asked who people would prefer him to be with: Sabrina, Desi or someone new? Or maybe alone?
The results were overwhelming towards one choice.
David should be with Desi.
So I figured I must be doing something right if people like him with her.
I know I do.
But still, David needs to be a person on his own- apart from a girl.
That’s where this book comes in.
I realized, along with David, that there has been a silent rift between him and his father.
Bill adores his children. He would give his life for them and he would do absolutely anything to make them happy.
For some reason, after the trauma at the farm, David turns his anger on Bill.
It’s not rational, but it’s understandable.
Bill has seen a lot in his life. Before joining the Army, he lived through a lifetime of abuse and horror.
He never heard a kind word from his father and he never felt his mother was proud of him.
Finding Julie was truly a new birth for him. A life in which he could have pride and happiness and respect.
War added a whole other level of trauma to his heart.
David doesn’t understand that part of his father.
He doesn’t understand how and why Bill reacts the way he does.
He is angry and hurt and scared and he sees in Bill, his own failures.
He couldn’t protect Desi.
He couldn’t protect Ian.
He did nothing.
And his world was blown apart.
The irony is just how similar they are to each other.
David evolves through this book. His relationships and his attitudes are changed.
It’s an important transformation, but it isn’t without damage.
One of my favorite scenes happens during a conversation between Julie and David.
She tries to set him straight about a few things after David lays into his father.
It’s profound and important, and it’s fitting that it comes from Julie.
“I didn’t take it out on him, but he’s impossible to talk to. He never gets angry or upset and it makes me feel like an idiot for not handling things that way. He’s not normal. The military messed him up and it messed up Desi’s mom, too. He makes me feel like a failure.”
“You told him that?” Julie asked as her heart broke for her husband.
“Yeah, I told him. I’m a terrible person who was mean to my dad. Whatever mom,” he stood up. “I need everyone to just leave me alone.”
Julie looked at him.
“Do you know the first time I learned that your dad had trouble at home?”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“He was supposed to pick me up and take me on a date and he cancelled. He made up some story and I could tell he was lying, so I made him come to get me.”
“How did you make him come?”
“I told him I would walk to find him and it was dark and I was all dressed up.”
“So of course he didn’t let that happen because he’s such an amazing hero,” David said.
Julie tempered her anger and stood up to face him.
“He loved me and my safety was important to him. I’m not sure why that’s somehow shameful in your eyes. However, my point was that when he came to get me, he had been beaten up.”
David was surprised.
“By who? What happened?”
“Why? Why would he beat him up?”
“Because it was a day ending in ‘y’. His father was very abusive, David, you know that. He didn’t need a reason to beat your father,” Julie sighed as she sat down. “Up until then, I didn’t know about it.”
“So what is this supposed to mean to me now? What are you trying to tell me? What’s the point?”
“First of all, I don’t have the temperament your father has and if you continue to act like a little spoiled punk, then you and I are going to have more problems. What I am trying to tell you is that when someone lives their entire life in fear of being abused, it does a lot to harm your self-esteem. When your dad showed emotion, his father punished him. When he did anything to help his mother, his dad hurt him. Do you know he worked two jobs after school to help his mom pay bills so his dad wouldn’t know she was an alcoholic? Your dad doesn’t drink because he’s seen the damage drinking did to the only person who showed him a miniscule amount of love growing up. His mother forgot him first when her disease took over. She denied he was her son and she looked at him with hate and anger. That caused irreparable damage to your dad’s heart.”
David was stunned hearing all of this and he had no idea of the trauma his dad lived through.
“As for the military, which you seem to despise, your dad joined because it was the first time he could be proud of himself. He worked his ass off to make something of himself despite having zero support. He loved me and welcomed my issues into his heart because he is a good and decent man. What you call weak or weird is what he worked so hard to be. He never wanted you to look at him the way his father did. He has also been through unimaginable horror while serving and he has always, always fought his way back to us. When he was injured the first time, when you were a few months old, do you know what he went through?”
“He hurt his leg,” David said quietly, his shame growing.
“He hurt his leg? Let me explain a little more. He was on a humvee, which hit an IED. When he woke up in the middle of burning metal and flesh, the bodies of his entire regiment were scattered all around. He was riddled with shrapnel and his leg was almost severed, with the bones in pieces sticking out all over.”
David let his tears fall as he stared in horror.
Julie felt her own tears fall as she continued.
“He somehow, in the middle of the burning mess around him, wrapped the pieces of his leg together and got up. He found Mike who was almost cut in half and he picked him up and carried him to safety. When I got to Germany, there was little chance he would survive and the only thing that gave him hope was you.”
“I brought you with me because you were the most important thing to your father. He was so excited to have a son and he adored you. He wanted to be everything to you that he never got from his father. He recorded messages for you so each night while he was gone, you would hear his voice and not forget him. He never wanted to leave you and he was tormented by being away while you were so small.”
“Mom, stop,” David said as his tears fell.
“No. I have one more thing to say and you better listen. Your dad doesn’t yell because growing up, that’s all he heard. He doesn’t react with violence because that’s all he was ever shown. He doesn’t react with fear because that’s what gets people killed. Those things are not what make your dad weird or weak. Those are the things that make him an incredible man. They are the reasons I love him and they are why I am so proud of the man he is. He isn’t perfect. He feels he has so many flaws that it makes him overcorrect things. We have both taught you to be a kind and giving person. To listen and not judge. To be compassionate and not violent. That goes for your words as well as your actions. Now I know you have had an awful night and I wish more than anything I could take that from you, but that does not ever give you the right to treat your father with such disrespect. He has had that for so long and he deserves so much more from you. He will never, ever get that from his family again, okay?”
David nodded and put his face in his hands as he cried.
Julie hugged him.
“I’m sorry. I just hate violence. I hate that he’s a cop and I hate that Josie idolizes that. I don’t want anyone else I love to get hurt.”
“I hear you, but you don’t get to decide what Josie thinks and feels and it’s important to respect other people’s decisions whether or not we agree. As for hating that he’s a cop, I think you need to try and figure out why. He does so much good. He gives people closure after they lose someone to violence. He is a great detective and that isn’t something to be ashamed of.”
I hope the holidays are a time where you can relax and enjoy life, but I know that isn’t always the case. For some people, the holidays are a time where life can feel overwhelming and out of control.
If that’s you, then I hope you know it will pass soon and that you aren’t alone.
I have been spending a lot of time over the past month or so reflecting on my writing and on my life. Kind of where I am and where I hope to be.
I have a few ideas and some goals, but to be honest, I take a lot of things day by day. With a full time job and managing my MS, sometimes the best I can do is make it through the day.
I try not to get too down on myself when I can’t finish everything. I want to update my blog weekly and I find that sometimes I can’t even do it monthly.
I want to advertise more to bring in more readers and I can’t always do that.
I want people to love my characters and get into the series and I find more and more people telling me it should end.
But this time of year isn’t about ‘wants’ and I need to take my own advice and relax.
I have been in a bit of a funk while going over some reviews for the series. Nothing new, really, but looking back over some sites where I didn’t even realize there were reviews has brought out my insecurities.
It’s hard to hear people criticize something you love.
I get it, I really do. If I put my stuff out there, I am asking for feedback.
To be honest, I relish it. I love to hear people’s opinions on these characters who I adore.
I am also accustomed to some of the common points of feedback.
These characters can’t catch a break! It’s so unrealistic! People with HIV aren’t sexy!
That last one has taken me a long time to look past and it infuriates me every single time I read it.
But then I get the ones who tell me I have no idea what it’s like for someone having Multiple Sclerosis.
I have to restrain myself from replying to that one- every single time.
I also take reviews as a way to help me improve. It has caused me to reevaluate some of my decisions and go back over some of my stories.
That’s not to say reviews influence plot, but sometimes people bring up amazing points and they are right.
That’s why I pulled Nothing Matters off the shelf over a year ago.
It’s not because people liked or didn’t like it, but more because I realized the development of Jack and Stephanie had become incongruent with who they were in the series.
I wanted them to evolve and change, of course, but the way I wrote them in the beginning didn’t mesh with the characters I see today and I have been reworking it to bring a better and stronger story to begin their connection.
I also wanted to introduce Brittany into that story- not in a physical way, but at least in a way that showed how important she was to Stephanie and Nikki.
Change is good, albeit hard.
I’ve also been told I should have split the series up into two. One before the kids grew up and one after I moved ahead 9 years.
That probably would have worked, but going back and changing that will be a daunting task and one I can’t do just yet.
I am thinking of ending the current series and moving ahead six or seven years to explore the kids as adults.
That’s still in the works.
I have also been working on a few novella’s that will stand alone for some of the characters. I am starting with Julie and Elizabeth and depending on the feedback, more will come.
I am really trying to write one of Bill during his teen years, but it’s challenging, to say the least.
In the meantime, book 27 will be out in February. If you have been with me through it all or have recently started the series, I hope you enjoy this one.
More drama and more danger- that’s my thing, so it becomes my character’s thing.
This book will bring in the new Stephens’ twins (a plot twist I was told was super unrealistic- but honestly- it happens)
It will also begin with a major event impacting David and Ian and by default, Julie, Bill, Josie, Cassie and Desi.
Here is a little preview… And if you received any gift cards for books- mine are all on sale 🙂
Enjoy and please sign up for my newsletter at the bottom of this page.
“Yeah, so do you. He’s Katie’s father,” David said as he walked closer.
“David, stay back,” Ian said. “Let me handle this asshole.”
“Where is my daughter? Where is my wife? I know you both know where they are.”
“Why would we know?” Ian walked towards David, trying to protect him.
“Because Katherine was supposed to be with him,” he said pointing at David. “She will be fine if you help her. Get her to sleep with you and change her back.”
David was stunned.
“Your daughter is gay,” Ian said. “What the hell is your problem with that?”
The gun crashed across Ian’s face and he fell back, David half catching him.
“Stop it!” David yelled. “What are you doing?”
“It’s stand your ground. You took something of mine and I am perfectly within my rights to get it back,” Samuel said.
Ian stood up and spit out the blood in his mouth.
“Michigan doesn’t have stand your ground and the last time I checked, this is my ground. This is my farm and my barn and you can get the hell out.”
“Give me your phones,” Samuel said.
“No,” David said.
Ian was hit again and David felt his eyes prick with tears. He handed Samuel his phone.
“Get his, too.”
Ian looked at David and nodded it was okay. He gave his phone to David who handed it over.
Samuel smashed them both on the ground.
“Do you feel better now? Did that make you more manly?” Ian asked as he stood up.
“Where is she?”
“She’s happy and living a life full of love and happiness. Why do you even care?” David yelled.
Ian looked at him, silently telling him to be quiet.
“So you do know where she is.”
“David. Go into the kitchen.”
“I’m not leaving you,” David said.
“How sweet,” Samuel said. “All of this can be over if you just tell me where to find my wife and daughter.”
“Why does it bother you so much that she’s gay? What does it even have to do with you?” David asked. “Why can’t you just let her be happy?”
“It’s not natural. God commands a man lie with a woman and that’s the way it is. She’s just confused. I can show her the truth.”
“And how exactly will you do that?” Ian asked as he stood in front of David. “What is your plan?”
“She needs to learn to obey a man. I sent a boy after her and he failed. I’ll try again.”
“You sent Derek after her?” David asked incredulous.
“He was a nice boy who knew his place. You weren’t man enough to do it. Katherine can thank you for my choices.”
“Shut up,” Ian said. “You are a disgusting piece of shit and I am telling you one more time to get out of my barn.”
David reeled from Samuel’s words and he shook his head.
“She’s my friend,” he said almost to himself. “I tried to protect her.”
“You could have protected her,” Samuel said.
“By forcing myself on her? By raping her?” David asked.
“It’s your right,” Samuel said.
“Oh my God!” David cried. “Who says things like that? What is wrong with you? Do you know what happens when someone is raped? It destroys the part of them that saw the world as a safe and welcoming place. It makes them doubt their worth and it takes away their right to choose who and when they want to be with someone,” he said as his tears came.
Ian knew he was talking about Desi and it make him incredibly sad.
“Katie wanted to die because of you,” David continued. “You broke her down in every way and what you said to her made her feel worthless and empty. A father is supposed to love and protect his children no matter what. My dad almost died protecting his family. Dr. Yearling would do anything to protect his daughter. They are the definition of a father. You could learn something from them. You are a terrible excuse for a man. You’re a coward!”
Samuel lunged at David and Ian stepped in and stood in front of him.
“Here, take my keys and go,” Ian said as he tossed David his car keys.
“I slashed your tires. I told you both that I’m not leaving here without information.”
David got scared, really scared.
He wondered what his dad would do.
He had to find a way out of this.
“And as for being a real man? What kind of real man lets his wife go serve in the Army? Did she take your balls with her as fuel? I mean she leaves you to play mommy to a sick daughter? What a pussy.”
David went to say something when Ian put his hand up.
“He’s trying to get a reaction. Just let it go. It doesn’t bother me to hear crap from someone who I think is trash. The day I value his opinion will be the day I’m insane.”
“I bet she can do everything better than you” Samuel continued. “Does she take control in the bedroom too? Does she let you touch her? Maybe that’s why you need to work with large animals. That’s probably the only way you can gain control.”
Ian crossed his arms.
“What’s your plan? Is this just to dazzle us with your intelligent musings on my sex life or is there something that will make you get the hell out? We don’t know where your wife and daughter are. If you’re smart, you’ll get the hell out now.”
Samuel shoved Ian away and held the gun to David’s head.
“Where is she? I know you know.”
David stood frozen and Ian scrambled to his feet, his head spinning. He grabbed a pitchfork and smashed Samuel behind the knees.
“David run! Go!” he yelled and saw Samuel get up and point the gun at David who was still frozen. Ian pushed David out of the way as Samuel fired.
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks thinking about life. I guess more about the life these characters have taken on and who they are evolving into.
I always said I didn’t want to write a young adult series, but looking at where the story is going, it has to have some of the elements of YA to work.
The kids are growing up. They are evolving into their own people and their stories are permeating the canvas.
I have found a new layer to the core characters by writing how they deal with their children. How the younger generation fits in and how they are able to see and explore the world around them has opened up a ton of opportunities for everyone.
Amongst the kids, Josie has always been the hardest character for me to write. She is like her mother with her fighting spirit, but she isn’t Julie. She is like her father with her sense of right and wrong, but she isn’t Bill. She is like her brother with her sense of humor and her love for family, but she isn’t David.
Josie was named for John, and I like to think she embodies many of the characteristics he had. She is loyal and fiercely protective of those she loves. She is honorable and stoic and also vulnerable and compassionate.
But she isn’t John.
She is Josie and I adore her.
But she also confuses me.
Why does she want to join the military?
What are her hopes and dreams really all about?
It was when I began to think about Josie that her illness came out.
I realized, like her, I was missing her connection. I had ignored part of who she was by leaving her out of the loop of her amazing beginning.
That sounds confusing.
What I mean is, she was a triplet and she didn’t know.
That was wrong.
So “One More Miracle” was born out of my need to evolve Josie into a
Her anger at her parents was her anger with me.
Her need to know the truth was real and important. I let her down and I needed to fix that.
I also needed to jump-start the rest of the crew.
The triplet storyline and subsequent miscarriage of the boys was one of my hardest books and some of my proudest work. I remember agonizing over those scenes and trying to balance the loss with the gratitude of Bill having survived his most serious crisis. I also needed to give enough respect to both Bill and Julie in how they dealt with their grief.
It was a surprise for me when the triplets didn’t survive. I pictured them. I saw Julie and Bill trying to handle four kids under two and I saw the humor and the love.
But, as with much of this series, the stories flow as they must and the two boys passed away.
A few months later, Josie came into our world.
What a little spitfire she was from day one.
Book 26 is finally time for me to focus a little more on Josie and the young woman she is becoming.
It’s time her story was heard.
“One More Miracle” is now available everywhere books are sold. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
For special offers and news, please sign up for my newsletter- the form is on the bottom of the page.
It might not seem like so long to some people, but for me, it’s been a lifetime.
My life is broken up into two parts. Before my dad died and after.
Every bit of my writing and publishing has happened after.
That’s not entirely true. I wrote before he died. I actually created Brittany before he died.
But this series was born after and most of the fictional life which became “Family by Choice” also came after.
That’s why deciding whether or not to end the series is so hard for me.
It’s a part of that time in my life when I found a way to move forward. I found, through writing, that I could focus on something tangible. I could stop sitting in despair and begin to find a new normal.
I use that phrase a lot in the series.
A new normal.
At some point, I suppose the new normal simply becomes normal and I guess, in a way, that’s where I am now. I have a routine and a life that is good. I have a family I love and people who support me in all I do.
I also have this world that constantly moves forward in my head. I am always thinking of these characters and what is happening in their lives. I see them throughout the day and there are times I look forward to writing them in the evening the way I look forward to talking to an old friend.
They are comfortable and comforting to me.
They are my way to hold onto my sanity when things get too hard.
They are a part of everything I do and when they are in trouble, I feel it. When they are happy, I know it. When they are hurting, I try to fix it.
The one thing that I never could have imagined when I first put the series out for people to read was that others would care about these people, too.
They would care about them and they would come to love them like I do.
As I approach the release of the 26th book in the series, I think of the focus and how it’s full of a family much bigger than I initially envisioned. The extended family and friends have added a rich and vibrant level to the plot that keeps me energized and excited for what comes next.
So what does come next?
I have written up through book 28, so for now, there are at least three more in the works. I am also really excited to announce a series of novellas that will be released beginning in the spring.
Each character I choose will have a small book written about an important moment in their lives not covered directly in the series.
The first will be Julie’s Story.
I am not saying the series is ending, but it will slow down a bit in the spring to allow for these novellas to come out. The characters chosen will depend on your feedback. The few polls I’ve put up here recently have helped me to know what you might like to see. As always, comments here and through my email are always appreciated.
In the meantime, book 26 is ready to go. I have included a preview of a scene involving Sabrina and Elizabeth- two characters who are about to get a bit more of a focus.
Please preorder your copy today and if you can scroll down to the bottom of this page, please sign up for my newsletter.
Elizabeth pulled up to the restaurant and Sabrina came out. She got in and Liz smiled.
“Are you okay? I was surprised you called me.”
“I’m fine. I needed some advice and I was hoping you might be the one to help me”
“How about we go grab some coffee and we can talk, okay? Do your parents know where you are?”
“I’m supposed to be working for another hour, so I’ll text them before they worry.”
Liz smiled. She would text Stephanie just in case.
They drove a little way to the diner nearby and went in.
“Okay, so what’s on your mind?” Liz asked after they were in a booth and had coffee.
“Well, Drew’s mom is looking for me. She came at my mom at our house and tried to hurt her.”
“What? She did what? Why didn’t anyone tell us?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It just happened yesterday, and everyone was okay. Uncle Bill came and took her away and my mom is okay.”
“These people need to move on. This is ridiculous.”
Sabrina felt her eyes fill.
“I think this is because of me and I really need to fix it. I want to talk to his mom. I want to try and help her with her questions. That’s why I wanted to talk to you. I was hoping maybe you could take me to see her.”
“Why me? Why don’t you ask your parents or Bill or Julie?”
“I can’t ask my parents because they will just freak out and I don’t want to bring Uncle Bill into this because then David will find out and it will be a huge deal. I was going to just go alone, but I didn’t want to be stupid. I know how kick ass you are and I thought maybe you would be a good person to help me.”
“Kick ass?” Liz smiled. “Hardly.”
“You flew a helicopter in a blizzard and saved my mom and sister. You also flew a plane into a war zone to rescue Uncle Mike. I know the stories and I know you. You’re an amazing woman.”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, but I like your version. Do we know where Drew’s mom is now? Is she able to have visitors?”
“My dad said they took her to get help, so I’m not sure what that means. I also have another worry, but it might be nothing.”
Liz raised her eyebrows.
“What is it?”
“I didn’t tell my parents about this, but Drew’s dad is a really mean man. He was abusive to Drew and I think a lot of his anger had to do with how much he hated his dad. They were away when I was with Drew and if his mom is here,” she stopped.
“Then his dad probably is, too,” Liz said.
“I worry he is. I don’t know him, but I know what Drew said. We talked a bit before everything happened. I know everyone thinks I was just a selfish bitch who hurt David, but Drew wasn’t always like that. When he asked me out, he was sweet and sensitive. He turned into a different person after I agreed to go to the dance with him and after I broke up with David. He wasn’t always such a jerk.”
“Did you like him?”
“It doesn’t matter. He was a part of Desi’s rape and that means more than any shred of decency he had before. I would never, ever support anyone like that and I feel sick that I didn’t see it before. If I had, so much could have been avoided.”
Liz felt something big was there behind the surface. She knew of Bee’s struggles and how much Jack and Stephanie tried to help her.
Maybe it was time to stop coddling her.
“What could have been avoided?” Liz asked.
“Just a lot of heartache.”
Bee looked at her and her beautiful brown eyes were swimming.
“For David. For Desi. For you and Uncle Evan. For Aunt Julie. For Naomi and Tess. Everyone was hurt because of my choice. That can never be taken back.”
“So you figure if you never agreed to go out with Drew, then nothing bad would have happened?”
“Well not to the people I love. He was angry with David and he saw me as a way to get to him. Then his friends went after Desi and I was the reason David was late to get her,” Bee looked at him and her tears spilled over her cheeks. “Did you know that David actually asked me if I stalled him on purpose?”
Liz felt her heart break for the young woman.
“He was upset. He knows you, Bee. He knows you would never have done that.”
“I don’t know that I agree with you. As angry as you have ever been at Uncle Evan, would you ever think he was capable of something so horrible?”
Liz smiled sadly.
“No, but he thought something pretty bad about me, and it was because of what I did. It cost me two years of our life together. I was much like you, Bee. I was trying to do the right thing for the wrong reason and it caused more damage than I can ever take back.”
Sabrina was surprised.
“What did you do?”
“It’s such a long story and it was so long ago, but in a nutshell, I staged it so Evan would walk in on me with another man in bed so he would dump me.”
Bee was speechless.
Liz looked at her hands.
“Yeah, it was bad. It crushed Evan and it crushed me. We went two years without speaking and I don’t know if we would have ever gotten back together if it hadn’t been for my brother and Amber.”
“Why would you do that? What made you hurt him like that?”
Liz played with her wedding ring.
“It was a lifetime ago. Evan had an opportunity to go to LA and become what he always wanted to be. I had an opportunity here to go to flight school. It was incredibly hard to get into the program and for a woman; it was even harder. His dad knew if I told him about my opportunity, Evan would give up his dreams for me.”
“So you made him think you were over,” Bee said. “So he would leave and not look back.”
Liz smiled through her own wet eyes. She was purposefully leaving out the pregnancy and how evil Evan’s dad had been.
“It was wrong for me to make that choice for him. He left thinking that I didn’t love him. I mean Evan and I had been thrown together since we were six. I had such a crush on him my whole life, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that he finally asked me out. We were inseparable after that and for me to hurt him like that was inexcusable.”
“But you thought you were doing the right thing,” Sabrina said and squeezed Liz’s hand.
“I did, but it didn’t matter. It was wrong and I was wrong.”
Bee was quiet.
“Didn’t your brother know you were lying?”
“Jason?” Liz smiled. “Have you met him? He’s a little focused on himself.”
Bee laughed and then her face changed.
“I bet he knew but he didn’t know how to help you guys.”
“You’re right. My brother is incredibly handsome, but he’s so much more than that. You are a lot like him. You both carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
“But you and Evan found each other again and you’re married and happy, so everything worked out, right?”
“Yeah, but I had a lot to make up for.”
“But you did. I wonder if one day David and I will find our way back to each other,” she said softly.
Liz knew this was a huge issue for Sabrina.
“Honey, I think he’s really happy now. He loves Desi and she loves him.”
Bee nodded and wiped her eyes.
“I know. I just miss him. I will never regret anything more than hurting him and ruining my life.”
Liz moved to the other side of the booth and hugged Bee as she cried.
This was the heart of the issue, and unfortunately, it was a hard lesson to learn.
“You did not ruin your life and I hate to tell you this, but life is full of regrets,” she smiled when Bee chuckled a little.
Liz handed her a tissue and Sabrina wiped her face.
“I don’t think you ever really dealt with your breakup.”
Bee looked at her.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you broke up and then everything happened with Drew and then Desi was assaulted and everything spun out of control. I don’t think you really dealt with the loss of David.”
“But it was my choice. I don’t think I have any right to be upset about it.”
Liz walked back to the opposite side of the booth and sat down.
“When we make hard choices in life, even if they are right for us, it doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. David was a huge part of your life and to suddenly miss that is hard. It doesn’t matter why it happened, the loss is real and it hurts. I think you need to be able to grieve for that loss and take stock of who you are now and who you want to be moving forward.”
“It’s hard to be around David. Is that terrible of me? He is a part of our family and I keep finding excuses to not be around when he’s there. I don’t think that’s right, but it hurts to see him. Do you think that will ever change?” Bee asked.
“I wish I could tell you the answer to that. I think time makes everything better, but I also know that hearts don’t always work according to plan.”
“It’s been a year. The dance is coming up this weekend and I broke up with him a month before that. I’m scared I’m never going to get over him.”
“Then you need to find ways to get your mind off of things. How is work? Do you have any other hobbies you could pursue?”
“Work is fine,” she said. “I want to join the fashion club at school, but I don’t know if I should.”
“Why not? You love fashion and that sounds perfect,” Liz smiled.
“I like designing clothes, not really modeling them.”
“Is that what the fashion club does? Model?”
“I don’t know, really. I was just assuming I guess.”
“Well, why don’t you go to a meeting and see for yourself. You might be surprised.”
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll talk to Mike tomorrow and see if he has information on Drew’s mom. If it’s safe, I will take you to see her.”
“Thank you so much.”
“I also think we need to talk to Mike about Drew’s dad. If there is someone we should look out for, we all need to know.”
“Right. That’s a good idea.”
“One last thing.”
Bee looked at her.
“You are not to blame for any of this.”
“I’m serious. You are not responsible for what happened to Desi and you are certainly not responsible for me or for Evan. You are allowed to make choices in the world and those choices are not the catalysts for all the evil that exists. Please know that. Please understand that.”
“Tell me you aren’t responsible,” Liz smiled.
Sabrina took a deep breath.
“I’m not responsible.”
She started to cry again and Liz moved back to sit next to her, holding her while she cried.
Liz looked up as she saw Jack and Bill and Tommy and David walking into the diner.
Jack seemed to have a sense something was wrong and his eyes traveled to them.
“Bee? What happened?” he asked worriedly as he walked over. “Why aren’t you at work?”
Liz looked at Bill and shook his head to keep David away.
“Come on, let’s go sit down,” Bill said and he and Tommy led David the other way.
“What’s wrong with her?” David asked.
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Bill smiled and they sat down.
Sabrina looked at her dad and was embarrassed.
“I got off early and Aunt Liz and I were just talking,” she said through her blotchy face.
”This looks like more than talking,” he said softly as Liz moved to the other side and Jack sat down. “Sweetheart, what happened?”
Bee didn’t say anything and Liz smiled.
“Girl stuff,” she said. “Bee had some stuff on her mind and I was eager to help. Anything to get away from all the train talk between Kevin and Evan. I’ll take her home now and you can enjoy time with the men, okay? I promise, everything is okay.”
Jack looked at Liz and then at Bee.
“She’s right, daddy. I’m okay.”
Jack sighed, but nodded.
“Okay. I love you,” he said and kissed her forehead.
“I love you, too.”
Jack walked to the men and Bee looked at Liz.
“We should go.”
Liz stood up and put her arm around Sabrina.
“I’m really proud of you. This was a hard conversation, and you did it.”
“I asked you to leave me alone!” Desi yelled at her mother as Cassie came in to her room to check on her.
“I heard you and you don’t need to yell. I need to see if we should go to the emergency room,” Cassie said calmly, despite her fear. “I’d like to check your temperature.”
Desi hadn’t been feeling well, which wasn’t abnormal, but she was running a fever that was worrisome. Ian had spoken to Tommy and they were watching for specific signs to know if they should take her in.
However, Desi was in a foul mood and they weren’t sure why.
It just wasn’t like her.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Desi said as her tears came. “I want to be left alone and I don’t know why that’s so hard for you and daddy to do. I’m just done with this, okay? I just want to be alone.”
Cassie took a deep breath and sat down on the desk chair in the room.
“Desi, stop yelling and look at me.”
“Fine. I’ll leave if you won’t,” Desi said and grabbed a bag before she started putting clothes inside.
“That’s enough,” Cassie said in a voice Desi wasn’t used to hearing. “Stop acting like I’m the enemy and try to see that we can’t mess with this. If there is anything happening with your health, we need to catch it early. You know that. Why are you acting like this? What is going on?”
“I can take care of myself. I’ve done it for a long time you know,” she said and glared at Cassie. “Without you here.”
“Right,” Cassie stood up and nodded. “I was gone. I missed too much and I can’t change that. What I can do is be here now and help you. I don’t understand why you’re suddenly so mad at us.”
Ian walked into the room.
“What’s going on? You guys are making the house shake.”
“I’m leaving. I want some time alone and mom won’t get out. I need to think. I need to breathe. I just want you both gone!” Desi screamed.
Ian watched as Cassie got up and walked out and he faced his daughter.
“There is never, ever a reason to speak to either one of us this way. I’m sorry you’re upset, but this isn’t the way to handle it. You know better.”
“Oh, sorry to disappoint you. Sorry I’m not handling everything the right way. Sorry I’m not perfect,” Desi said, her face hot with anger.
“Nobody is asking you to be perfect, just not so cruel. We will give you your space. No problem.”
Desi watched as he walked away and she slammed her bedroom door behind him.
This was all too much.
They didn’t understand and it broke her heart that they didn’t figure it out.