Welcome! If you are here from the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog, the rest of Babbet’s New Beginning featured on December 18th can be found below. Enjoy!
Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog at THIS LINK and read Babbet’s introduction. Then PLEASE jump back for more of Andrew’s story. This is the short story featured in the anthology just recently released. Seasons and Seashells is a great compilation of seven different authors and seven completely different stories featuring one or more of the themes from the title of the book. I promise you won’t go wrong if you grab a free download of the book for your eReader at Smashwords. That way you’ll have all eight stories with no interruptions.
Finally, as an added treat (in addition to the chance to win one of the three prizes being offered by the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog and in addition to the Rafflecopter prizes listed below this post), I’m giving away a $10 Amazon Gift card to one lucky commenter on today's post over at PF&HTs. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment (at PF&HTs) telling me what was wrapped around the paper Andrew found in the bottle. And for that answer, you have to read the rest of the story…
Babbet’s New Beginning
My Home Town Series by Tami Brothers
Babbet’s introduction can be found here…
Andrew Monroe kicked a decaying pile of seaweed, then blinked in surprise as water soaked through his brown leather Berluti’s. Coming out of the fog he’d been swimming in since coming to Tybee Island five days earlier, he realized what he’d done. A wry laugh bubbled up from his chest. Elizabeth would be appalled that he’d probably ruined a pair of $1,800 shoes. Or more likely, she would have griped about him being oblivious to the world around him, then she would have promptly gone out to buy another pair. Or even two. With his hands jammed into his front pockets, he ignored the cold numbing his toes. His loosened shirt tails flapped in the frigid breeze coming off the ocean, the sound thumping in his ears like a base drum. Unfazed, his gaze remained on the shadows breaking over the waves.
When had money become his wife’s driving force? Scratch that. Soon-to-be ex-wife. He’d received the papers stating just that on Christmas Eve. Not a surprise, really. They’d been separated since Valentine’s Day. But the timing had thrown him for a loop. She’d had him served on their tenth wedding anniversary.
Clenching his jaw, he fought through the anger for that one act of betrayal. One of many.
Why had he not seen this coming?
On top of that, his work had suffered. He’d not been able to write a single word since she’d thrown the Baccarat crystal vase at his head right before she’d stomped out of their New York penthouse. Lord knows he’d tried. He hated the thought, but he was close to admitting defeat by the term all writers dreaded. Writer’s block.
He used to pity those who complained about writer’s block, scoffed even. Always the doubter. How could they lose the stories running rampant in their heads? Man, he wished he could get that time back.
Now he was left to question how in the hell it had happened to him.
As the darkness of the night faded, his spirits sank deeper into pity. Kicking another pile of seaweed, he ignored the fresh bite of cold water that engulfed his foot.
His book had been due yesterday. And he didn’t have a single word on paper. Not an outline. Not even an inkling of an idea. Even now his mind was a complete blank. No matter what he did, nothing came to him.
Home was a black hole. The space was too big and too empty. He was suffocating in all that space. Hoping to snap him out of this hole he’d sunk into, his agent had suggested he come to this place, saying the lap of the waves against the sand would be soothing. With very few tourists in the winter, he’d have plenty of time to think and come up with the next best seller his editors were expecting. Needing to get away from the memories the holidays evoked, he’d let her make the reservations.
Now, glancing around the abandoned beach, he laughed at his pathetic hope. What had he expected to find? He’d been here six days now. He was sure his agent had done some fancy negotiating to find him a room on Christmas day.
All for what? There was nothing here. Nothing to spark his creativity.
Defeated, Andrew stopped walking and looked up as the sun broke fully above the ocean. The scene should have been a beautiful site. Should have taken his breath away. Should have brought him to his knees at the power the new day held. Instead, all he could think about was what he didn’t have. What he’d lost. What he no longer was. Author. Husband. Lover.
Scoffing at this last thought, he sank deeper into despair. If he packed his laptop and suitcase right now, he would be back in New York by nightfall. It was New Year’s Day, so he’d missed all that hoopla. Maybe back home he could come up with an excuse to appease his agent.
Annoyed by his failure, he kicked another pile of seaweed. When his foot made contact with a harder object and the plinking sound of something solid hitting glass echoed through the base drum vibrating his eardrum, he toed the pile aside. A sea green bottle sparkled in the rising sunlight.
Half fascinated at the find, half irritated with mankind for turning the world into a garbage heap, he picked up the bottle. Judging by the light weight balancing in the palm of his hand, the sealed bottle was empty. Brushing the sand from the outside, he held it up to the morning light.
At first, he would have assumed the rolled object was the label someone had peeled off and tucked inside. He’d done that often enough with beer bottles. Hell, he’d even pulled off a few labels from the expensive champagne bottles. But something was wrapped around the tube of paper. Something that glittered in the light. Curious, he twisted the cap off. With a bit of effort, he used his little finger to urge the mysterious object out of the bottle. Something barely cleared the opening as he inched the paper out.
When he finally shook the paper free, the gold wedding band surrounding the roll was like a slap in the face. Perfectly round, with little scalloped ridges along the edges. The ring looked similar to the one he’d given Elizabeth when they’d taken their vows. Of course Elizabeth had been eager to pass her band along in a charity auction when he’d bought her the two carat diamond after the sale of his second book.
Disgusted at the thought of another woman being so fickle with her vows, he slid the band off the paper and up to the first join on his pinky. Unrolling the paper, he squinted at the handwritten note.
Mark left me.
There, I said it. Okay, I guess, technically, I wrote it. But that’s progress. Right? I’ll eventually be able to say the words out loud, and maybe I’ll be able to accept them, too. Until then, I’ll settle for this small victory.
Deep breath. That’s been my mantra the last two weeks. Deep breath, then think. So far it’s worked.
I should have known something was up.
Andrew paused as an eerie chill slithered up his spine. Hadn’t he just thought those exact words? Curious, he continued reading.
I should have known something was up. Mark’s been unusually quiet since we left Dr. Gregg’s office. Mark, who is always the life of the party, the first to comfort a friend, always knowing the right words to say. But not this time. I should have seen the change. He took me to our spot, the place he proposed to me. The dock by Taylor Lake has always been one of my favorite places. Not quite so sure about it now.
He tells me I’ve been preoccupied and not very understanding of what he’s going through. What he’s going through? I’m the one with cancer, but he tells me he can’t handle it. I’ve been so wrapped up in what I have to do to fight this that I didn’t foresee the breakup.
Okay. Not ready to dig that deep yet. I thought I could face it, but I guess it’s still too raw.
My Nana once said to me that the way to survive life is by taking one step at a time. She reminded me often to rejoice in the small victories. I’ll be settling for a lot of small victories in the months to come. Right now that one step at a time seems pretty darn tough.
Mark has moved out of Georgia, far away from our family and friends. And me? I’m now single. Or will be as soon as the papers are filed. I’m fighting this battle on my own. Or so it feels.
Tonight I’m sitting on my couch trying to piece together my future. If it was up to me I would focus specifically on what is about to happen and the road ahead of me, but Dr. Gregg said that’s not the way to fight this battle and win. He said I need to also focus on what comes next.
My assignment, ha, that sounds funny, doesn’t it? Reminds me of my college instructor, Mr. Grant, standing up in front of a room full of freshman yelling “Your assignment is…” Ah, the good ole days at UGA.
Anyway, my assignment is to write out five outrageous things I would like to do. He said to think outside the box. “Don’t let money or fears stand as road blocks.” So here goes. I’m calling this my wish list because I can’t, yet, bring myself to think past these next few months. I think that if I live through this… Well, I’m not going there just yet. One step at a time.
1) I want to be Mayor of my home town.
Yeah, yeah. No one will see that coming, will they? I want to do more than organize the Spring Fling festival. I want to make a real difference for the world. Starting at home sounds like a great idea.
2) I wish I had the physical strength to run a marathon.
That one is kind of a surprise, too. I’m not very athletic. I think a marathon would be the ultimate testament to being physically fit. Something to prove to myself that I am alive and well when I win this battle.
3) I’d like to kiss someone famous.
Okay, so that’s just silly. But right now I’m looking for something silly.
4) I’d love to buy that big antebellum home on Walker Hill and restore the dilapidated building.
Dr. Gregg did tell me to think outside the box. If I had all the money in the world… Yes, this is something I would want to do.
5) I’d like to watch the sunrise on New Year’s morning.
If I live through this, I will make this happen. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to sit and watch the sunrise. The first day of a new year seems like the perfect beginning. Man, do I want to do this.
Okay, these are my five wishes for my future. Silly. Weird. Impossible. But when I get through this, I will do my best to try to make them happen.
Now to seal the deal. I’ve decided I’ll take this one step further.
Nana believed that if a person releases her wishes out into the sea, and if the person is truly worthy, the magic of the sea will grant them. She told me the seashells littering the sand were proof of this. She was positive that a person could feel the magic that had been released when she held an empty shell in her hand.
I’m not entirely sure I believe my wishes will come true, but right now I need something to hang on to. So I’ve decided that I will give my wishes to the sea. And when I’m done with this phase of my life, when I’ve conquered this battle with my cancer, I will return. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I will find my own empty shells littering the sand.
When Andrew looked away from the paper something caught his eye. Bending down, he loosened the white object from the wet sand and lifted it. A small, perfectly formed spiral shell lay in the palm of his hand.
Glancing back to the last paragraph on the paper, he saw the irony. Twisting his hand around, he looked at the band on his pinky. Now he knew why it was fitted around the paper and placed in the bottle. He had to wonder what this meant. Did this mean the woman wished to get her husband back, or was this the first step of her letting the man go?
A shiver ran up Andrew’s spine. Dropping his hand to his side, he turned back to the sunrise. The waves peaked and ebbed, the sun glistened like the edge of a very sharp blade. His gaze followed one particularly bright wave rolling towards shore.
Tilting his head, he thought about that wave, the ridge resembling the blade of a knife slicing smoothly through the air. Raising the hand that held the bottle and shell, he peered through the rounded green glass at the distorted image of another wave rushing toward him. Lifting the paper and his pinky, he let the gold catch the reflection of the sun.
The beating of the drum in his ears grew louder with each wave as it crashed into the shore. As the biting cold shot pins through the bottoms of his feet, he caught a glimmer of an idea. Murder. Souvenirs. Clues left in a bottle to wash up on shores for unsuspecting tourists to find.
Yes, he could work with that. Suddenly his brain kicked into overdrive, the thoughts sped through, one after the other, at a hundred miles per hour. Inspired, he turned and rushed towards his condo, afraid the thoughts would disappear again. Clenching his fist made the seashell bite into the palm of his hand, and he briefly wondered about the woman. Maybe, just maybe, if he met this deadline, he would try to find her. To see if she lived. If the husband returned. If her wishes came true.
But first, there was a killer calling his name.
Hope you enjoyed the story. If you are bit irritated with me for leaving you hanging, don’t be too upset. I will give you a taste of Babbet and Andrews relationship throughout the next four books I have coming out in 2013 featured in My Home Town series. I’ll wrap up the series in December 2013 with Babbet and Andrew finally getting their HEA. I promise, it will be worth the wait.
Remember to hop back over to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog and leave a comment for a chance as some great prizes. BUT… As an added bonus, we are giving you ANOTHER chance to win some cool gift cards (who doesn’t love gift cards). Just follow the instructions below.
Wishing for a winter getaway to a warm, sunny beach but can't afford it? Escape with a sweet romantic short story instead. In celebration of the release of our new anthology, Seasons and Seashells, the ladies at the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog are hosting a month-long giveaway. Not only do you get seven different short stories by seven amazing authors FREE, we are also offering additional prizes. More prizes mean more winners. Simply fill in the information requested below and the winners will be announced at the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog on December 31, 2012.