Hi Everyone! Welcome to my 1st contribution to Tablo AND the first book in my Tales From Blessing series! As some of you might know, this is one of my older books. I self-published this book back in 2013 and was very proud of it and the acclaims it received.
After working deadend part-time jobs for a few years so I could center my attention on my freelance writing business and novels, I decided to return to school in Fall of 2015 for a bachelor's degree in IT. Because of this major change in my life (16 units a semester...ouch!) on top of my other obligations, I can't write or promote my books or business as much as I used to. (Believe me - I'm upset about this as much as my fans!)
So, instead of letting my work languish into oblivion while I go to school, I decided to remove my books from the retail sites, and instead post them here as serial pieces. That way, my little town of Blessing could live on while I took some time off to edu-macate myself. ;-)
Don't worry - I will keep on writing! (I mean, I have part 2 of Broken Shells to finish!) It's just going to be at a much slower rate. I'm also taking this time to update these books, so you'll see bits and scenes that weren't in the first e-printing!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book! After posting the first few chapters to get things rolling, I will post new chapters (around 1500 words) two times a week. (This schedule might change, depending on how brutal my Stats and Precalc classes are this semester!)
Follow along and comment! I always love talking to my readers!
"What time do you want to meet for lunch?"
Abigail Carr tucked the cordless phone between her chin and shoulder and pulled the dirty clothes hamper out of the corner of the master bedroom. It was laundry day and she had four loads to get done before her husband and two kids came home.
"Let's do noon," she replied. "That should give me enough time to get some laundry done and drop Charles' clothes off at the dry cleaners."
"You're one busy lady for being home all the time," her friend, Sue, chided. "I thought being a housewife meant soaps and bonbons all day long."
"I wish. The only soaps I see these days are Tide and Palmolive."
She collapsed on the edge of the bed and began to sort the laundry. Three shirts went into the colored pile. A handful of socks and underwear were tossed into the whites. As she dug through the hamper, a mix of smells hit her nose - her husband's cologne, old onion and garlic, sweat. She made a face. No one said being the wife of an up-and-coming chef in LA was all delicious dinners and roses every night.
"Are we meeting at our usual spot?" Sue asked.
"I don't know." Abbey pulled a pair of her husband's work pants out of the pile and automatically checked the pockets. Charles had a bad habit of leaving stray order slips, chapsticks, and pens in his pants. Why he never cleaned them out when he took off his pants she never knew. He just dumped everything - pens, receipts, and all - into the laundry hamper and left it for Abbey to deal with. "I'm getting sick of their caesar salad."
"You know, they do have other food there. There's a whole menu to chose from!"
She laughed. "I know but none of it ever sounds good. How about that place-"
Abbey stopped when her hand ran across something flat with sharp corners wedged deep within a back pocket. "What in the world-"
"What? What is it?" Sue asked, her voice suddenly filled with concern.
"Oh sorry. I'm sorting laundry and I keep finding weird things in Charles' pockets. Would you believe last week I found a handful of carrot tops in one pocket?"
"How did he do that?"
"I don't know. He gets so busy at work sometimes. Hold on a sec. This thing is wedged in here."
She worked the corners free until the item finally popped out of the pocket, revealing it to be a small envelope. It was the same shade of peach paper her best friend, Wendy, typically used for thank you cards and notes of condolences. She flipped it over but found no markings at all on the outside.
"Did you figure it out?"
Sue's voice brought her back to the fact that she was on the phone.
"Sorry. Yes, I got it out. It's an envelope. Probably a note from Wendy. It's her usual stationary."
"What's your husband doing carrying a note from a woman in his pocket?"
"It's my best friend, Wendy Farrell," she explained. "You met her at my mom's New Year's Eve Party last year. About my height, bleach-blonde hair-"
"-wearing that white dress that dipped so far down you could almost see her belly button? Yeah, I remember her."
Abbey could hear the disdain almost dripping off her friend's voice. Sue was not alone in her distaste for Wendy. Not many of Abbey's current friends liked her childhood friend.
"She lives only a block or so from the restaurant. She must have stopped by and given this note to Charles to give to me, but he forgot."
"Don't they have email in West Hollywood?"
"You know how some people are."
"Yeah, I know. Anyway, I have to go. Got a meeting to get to. Let's meet at my office at noon and we'll decide where to go from there. Okay?"
Abbey agreed, hung up the phone and dropped it on the bed next to her. She opened the envelope and pulled a small sheet of paper, folded in half from within. When she unfolded it, she found a short note inside, not addressed to her, but rather her husband:
Last night at the beach was the most wonderful night I've ever had. I've never had a man make love to me the way you did. If only we could have stayed there in each other's arms forever...but of course you had to return to your wife and kids. Maybe someday we'll be able to love one another without fear of discovery.
Abbey heart leapt up into her throat as she read the last few words. No...this had to be a joke. She had to have read it wrong. It couldn't be... Her Charles would never...
She read the note again and then a third time, making sure her eyes were not deceiving her. They weren't.
Her husband was cheating on her.
Abbey pulled her minivan into the empty parking lot for Gustoso's Italian Bistro and parked in one of the spots near the back door where a supply truck was unloading crates of vegetables. As she climbed out of the car, she spotted Antony, her husband prep cook, standing just outside the back door, taking inventory.
"Hey Tony!" she called as she approached. "Is Charles here?"
The man's face lit up at the sight of his boss' wife. "Morning, Abbey! He's in the office. Go right in."
She nodded and headed inside. The smell of Charles' patented marinara sauce hit her as she walked in the door. She sighed at the smell. It had been ages since she had any of his Italian cooking. He was always so tired when he got home.
Her mind snapped back to the peach-colored note tucked in the side pocket of her purse. A flash of anger rushed through her. No wonder he was always so tired. He was messing around with her best friend on the side. All thoughts of food vanished from her mind. She turned and headed upstairs.
She found Charles sitting in the office, just as Tony said he would be, pounding away at the computer keyboard.
He looked up as she entered and smiled. "Hey! I didn't expect to see you today. Thought you had lunch with Sue."
"I'm on my way there right now." She paused. "We need to talk."
His face clouded over with concern. "Talk? About what? Is everything okay with the kids?"
She didn't answer him. She just laid the peach-colored envelope on the desk in front of him. Then she stepped back and waited for his reaction.
She didn't have to wait long. A look of confusion crossed Charles' face, followed quickly by shock and horror.
"I found it while doing laundry," she replied. "Is it true? Are you and Wendy...?"
She couldn't finish that sentence. It hurt too much to verbalize what she suspected had been happening under her nose.
Charles wouldn't look up at her, wouldn't meet her stare.
Her heart sunk: the note was true.
"How long?" she demanded.
"How long, Charles?" she repeated, trying hard to keep the tears out of her voice. "How long have you been screwing my best friend? I want to know."
He sat back in his chair with an air of resignation. "Almost a year."
His words were like a punch to her gut. She staggered back, finding it hard to breathe. A whole year? How did they...?
And then it hit her – the long hours at the restaurant, his late night phone calls telling her he would be late, the higher credit card bills. It had all been a ruse so he could wine and dine his little whore while she stayed home and took care of the house and kids.
A slew of feelings - anger, sadness, confusion - rushed through her. She staggered back, unsure of what to do next. She wanted to punch him. She wanted to throw things and scream. She wanted to slump down to the floor, curl up in a ball, and cry.
Charles rose, concern written across his face. "Abs? Sit. I'll get you some water or something."
"No!" That single word came out a lot louder than she wanted to. "Just...just leave me alone."
She bolted out of the office before he could see her cry.
"That bastard!" Sue slammed the peach-colored note down on her desk so hard, pens flew off in all direction. "That son of a bitch! How could he do this to you? And with your own best friend! Hell, how could she do that to you? How long have you known one another?"
Abbey took a deep breath and wiped at the tears running down her cheek. Hearing her friend rally against the note made her feel better. "Since high school."
"That bitch! I knew there was something evil about that girl! Wearing a dress that showed off almost all of what God gave her. What a slut! If I knew where she was right now, I'd....I'd.... Well, I'd give her a piece of my mind!" Sue shoved the paper back into the small envelope. "I'd offer you a drink but I know you won't take it."
She was right. She had to pick up the kids in a couple hours and she didn't need to add a DUI to her bad day.
Abby sighed. "What do I do now?"
"Find yourself a good lawyer and sue that asshole for a divorce, of course."
The D word startled Abbey. A divorce? Really? Wasn't there something less drastic she could do? Marriage counseling maybe?
Sue must have seen the doubt in her face. "Abbey! Are you serious!? You'd really stay with a man who not only cheated on you, but cheated on you with someone you considered to be a sister?"
Her friend was right. She couldn't be with a man who cheated on her. There wasn't enough marriage counseling in the world to repair that break in trust.
"Look, I know a good guy." Sue reached for the monstrous Rolodex on her desk. "He's one of the best in the valley, but he doesn't change an arm and a leg. I'll email you his information and you can do what you want with it. Okay?"
They sat in silence for a moment while Sue snapped a picture of a business card with her cell phone and then emailed it to her. Abbey heard her own iPhone beep in the depths her purse. When she was done, Sue locked her computer and grabbed her purse from under her desk.
"Come on. Let's get some lunch. I say we try the bakery down the street. You look like you could use a super mega dose of chocolate right now and they have chocolate cake to DIE for."
Abbey arrived at her daughter's middle school with five minutes to spare. She pulled around the corner from the school and parked along the curb in the same shady spot she parked every afternoon. Parking in the residential area and having Fye walk the block with her friends killed two birds with one stone - Abbey didn't have to fight her way in and out of the pick up zone and her daughter got to keep her street cred up but not having her mommy pick her up from school. Anyway, the girl was 12 years old. It was time to let go just a little bit.
Abbey flipped the sun visor down and checked her reflection in the little mirror on the back. Her eyes were a bit bloodshot but her cheeks and nose were not longer red from crying. The bit of makeup she applied from Sue's in-office cache helped to cover any longer-lasting evidence of her cryfest she had in Sue's office.
Her cell phone rang. She glanced at the screen - Charles again. He'd been texting and calling her ever since she left the restaurant. It was only after Sue called him and told him to lay off, that she was safe and wanted to be left alone, that he finally stopped calling her every five minutes. Now he only called once an hour.
She sent the call to voicemail. Then she leaned her head against the steering wheel, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She had to keep herself together, even though it felt like her world was falling down around her. She was Mom – the anchor of the household. She had to stay strong for her kids.
A knock on the passenger door startled her. She looked over to see Fiona standing at the door, smiling in at her. She plastered her own smile on her face and unlocked the doors.
Fiona, launched herself into the car with a squeal. "The band gets to go to Disneyland!"
"Disneyland?" Abbey said, trying to put some sort of excitement into her voice. "Why?"
"They're having a band competition and the advanced band was invited, but we made enough money to take everyone in the band program! Isn't that cool?"
The news of an unexpected trip to Disneyland made Abbey's mind freeze with fear. Money. If she left Charles, what would she do for money? Before they got married, she had worked just one year for a PR firm after graduating from the university, and even then, that job wasn't so great. She had been a glorified gofer, making runs to the printer, fetching coffee for clients, and sitting in on design and planning meetings, but never doing any actual PR work.
She hadn't worked for the last 12 years. Charles always wanted her to stay home and take care of the house and kids. Now, she'd have to find a job and with the economy the way it was, she knew PR companies were laying people off left and right. Finding a decent job would be an almost impossible task.
Her mind wandered to all the other things she'd have to leave behind if she moved out – the good schools, the great friends, the good neighborhood. She mentally cursed at Charles. Why did he have to fuck up all of their lives?
She sighed, started the car, and pulled out into traffic.
As she pulled up to the curb in front of the elementary school, she could tell from her 9 year old face that had had a bad day too. Aaron opened the back door, threw his bag onto the floor, and collapsed into the seat with a sigh. Then he crossed his arms and glowered at his feet.
"What's up with you, dweebo?" Fye asked.
"Leave me alone."
"What? I didn't do anything!" She leaned forward so her head was between the front seats. "Mom, make him be nice to me."
"I don't have to be nice to you, butthead."
Fye smacked her brother's arm. "Don't call me a butthead!"
"I'll call you whatever I want!" He returned the punch.
Abbey sighed. She hated it when the kids fought during pickup. "Guys-"
"Mom! He hit me!"
"You hit me first!"
"Dad said you're not allowed to hit me because I'm a girl and you don't hit girls."
"But you hit me first and dad said I shouldn't let anyone hit me."
The word came out of Abbey's mouth a bit louder than she wanted it to but it got the reaction she seeked. Both kids fell silent and stared at their mother, their eyes wide with surprise.
She took another deep breath before speaking, this time her voice much softer. "I've had a really crappy day, guys, and I'm not up to listening to you two fight. Please stop."
"Okay, mom," Fye replied. "Sorry."
They spent the rest of the drive home in silence.