Good morning. IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR TODAY’S A TO Z BLOG FOR THE LETTER K, KEEP SCROLLING.
It’s beginning to look a little like spring, and as each day passes, I find it harder and harder to concentrate on what I should be doing. The desire to be able to get out and about is strong and I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to do just that today. Believe it or not, it’s taken me the better part of an hour to get this post up this morning thanks to erratic internet and wifi. Does it brun your butt as much as it does mine to pay for something that’s unrelaiable when you need it most? For the last couple of weeks, this tendency of the signal to blink, has caused me nothing but distress.
So, disappointed that I cannot promote my Kindle Scout Campaign as much as I’d like, this morning, I give you another taste from Hello Again. If you managed to read the excerpt last week and nominate, I thank you. If you didn’t, please consider doing so today.
Charley stood up from her desk where she’d been working on lesson plans for next month. She hated vacation time, when most of the students got to leave for the last two weeks of August and visit family. During the day, she and Miri supervised those who had to remain incarcerated here, but at night, while Miri visited with Luke, her fiancé, there was nothing to fill the long hours before breakfast rolled around again. Not even the television set, whose satellite reception was sketchy at the best of times, had anything to offer.
Crossing the floor of the tiny one bedroom apartment that had been her home for the last forty-six months—but who was counting?—Charley stood in front of the dormer window, staring out at the dark, ominous evening sky, the hot, humid August weather presaging another storm. There’d been one every night for the past two weeks, and her nerves were shot. She hated thunderstorms, especially those accompanied by blinding lightning and rain that pounded down so hard on the roof, it was a wonder it didn’t come straight through.
In the distance, wolves howled as they did every night, their plaintive wails reminding her of the day Mike died. Had the animals always done that? She didn’t remember hearing them when Mike had been with her, but then, she’d had other things on her mind. She envied the animals their freedom. They could run and roam and yet here she was stuck in time and place, waiting to cash in her chips and join those she’d lost.
Being cooped up for hours on end inside the small space that was her home got to her, and if the power went out, plunging her into the dark, Lord help her. Mike had teased her about her fear of storms, but nothing he’d invented about spirits bowling or angels playing jacks had been able to assuage her terror. During the night, when he’d been home, he’d held her tightly, but there’d been more stormy nights without him than with him, and she’d yet to learn to cope with the anxiety they produced.
She’d spent more than one night in the garage checking the school’s various vehicles, as well as those of the staff who’d stayed at the academy during the break, but there wasn’t anything more to do there. Matilda’s engine had been washed and cleaned and looked like new. She’d even managed to do a little bodywork and repainting. Dad would be proud of how well she maintained that car.
Moving to the table, she turned up the portable fan, hoping it would cool her, knowing if she had another one of those dreams, she’d combust, fan or no fan. This past month, when she’d finally dragged herself to bed, so exhausted she could barely keep her eyes open, she dreamed of Mike, but those experiences were as different as night and day from the usual ones she’d had for almost four years now. In those, she tried to apologize for her part in his death, while he begged her to be happy, listen to his last wishes, and move on. Occasionally, she’d relive memories of happier times, but inevitably those ended with her in tears and filled with loneliness, so profound it sucked all the joy out of her.
She was depressed—had been ever since losing everything that mattered to her. She’d tried to set it aside, rise above the pain, but it was a futile effort. She’d gone to grief counselling, had taken the antidepressants that left her in a fog, incapable of thinking coherently, of functioning properly, and in the end, had given up on all of it. Life like this was her penance.
Miri claimed it was more than that. She was convinced Charley was being haunted, and she probably was—by her own guilt—but recently she had to admit there was something else going on.
These new night visions were wildly erotic dreams, so realistic that she’d swear they were actually happening. Since when was she so consumed with sex that she imagined having intercourse with what had to be her husband’s ghost? It was as if she’d morphed into some kind of succubus, an insatiable creature who couldn’t get enough of the man who infiltrated her deepest dreams. While the love making was similar to the special moments she’d shared with Mike, there was something different about the taste, the texture, and the scents she remembered. It was wilder, resulting in an earth-shattering climax each time, followed by hours of dreamless sleep.
The slightly furred chest she’d fondled, less hairy than she recalled, was smooth except for rough skin near the heart, but otherwise, the phantom who drove her wild was the man she loved. She prayed she didn’t cry out in her release, but no one had looked at her oddly or commented. Of course, with Miri and Lory at the far end of the hall, there was no one to hear her anyway.
While in the past she’d shared everything with Miri, these dreams or whatever they were, she kept to herself. The last thing she wanted was Miri dragging her to see yet another psychologist.
At first, the dreams had frightened her, but now, they brought comfort. What was happening to her? Had that damn biological clock of hers gone off, reminding her she’d be thirty in a few months? The last time her hormones had played havoc with her was when she’d been pregnant, and she was pretty damn sure her night visitor wasn’t the Holy Ghost.
It didn’t really matter who or what was behind the dreams. She’d never fall in love again. There was no room in her heart for anyone other than Mike and the twins, and casual sex was definitely not in the cards.
Sitting at her desk, she activated the computer screen once more. For some reason, her social media page was constantly displaying travel pages about Saskatchewan. It was one of the places she and Mike had wanted to visit. Too unsettled to focus on anything, despite the electrical storm outside, one that promised to be Nature’s finest temper tantrum yet, she opened the matching game she played occasionally.
Would he come to her tonight? Would he hold her and make love to her? She hoped so because the only time she was alive was when she was in his arms. Dream sex with the ghost of the man she loved was all she had left, but even that was better than nothing.
But the dreams ended as suddenly as they’d begun, leaving her alone and as bereft as she’d been four years ago.
Summer gave way to fall and the anniversary of Mike’s death. For weeks, there’d been nothing but the day to day drudgery of work, and long lonely nights where she eventually cried herself to sleep, unable to get the idea of going to Saskatchewan out of her head.
It made no sense. There was no one she knew there, nothing to drag her halfway across the country, and yet, it was like an insatiable urge, a craving as strong as any she’d had during her ill-fated pregnancy. Not even working on Matilda or any other car engine gave her any respite.
By spring, she knew she had to do something or she’d go crazy. After weeks of contemplation, she decided the only thing she could do was try to satisfy Mike’s wishes and while she couldn’t let go of him, she could begin to check off the items on their bucket list. She still couldn’t afford to open her own garage, but she could look for a job that would let her use the skills she loved, and thanks to her current principal, she found one—at least it looked like she had—in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan of all places. She took that as a sign this was meant to be. Teaching English could be fun at times, but not anywhere near as exciting as stripping down an engine and rebuilding it, and teaching those skills to eager young students—both male and female—would be heaven. For the first time since Mike’s death, a kernel of optimism sat amid the doom and gloom that had been her future.
Few people appreciated the fact a woman could be every bit as good a mechanic as a man. Dad and Mike had understood that, and if there were an ounce of justice in this world, she and Mike would be running their own garage now, with Dad by their side, watching his grandkids, encouraging them, and facing the future together. Instead, ever since Mike’s death, she’d taught English to bored rich kids who’d managed to get themselves into the juvenile court system despite their family’s healthy bank accounts and influence, while most of her dreams were lost forever. Well, that was about to change.
Now, please check out the rest of this week’s teasers.