© Copyright 2008 by Elizabeth Delayne
Andrea’s kitchen was as wide open as Amy’s was tiny. Her appliances were all in matching stainless steal, with granite counter tops, and glass-etched, frosted cabinet doors. It looked like something out of a magazine then an actual home.
But Amy knew for a fact that Andrea and Eric used the kitchen. It wasn’t always this spotless—in anticipation of her parents and Amy’s father, who were coming over tonight.
Andrea looked great. Her skin had a healthy glow, her golden blond hair had been cut somewhat shoulder length, but she managed to look cover model fresh. She wore black capri pants and a elegant white button down shirt. She looked, Amy thought, like the modern woman entertaining for the evening.
Still fitting into her magazinesque kitchen.
Amy rolled her eyes as she sat on the bar stool and watched Andrea work. In her hands she held a glass of what amounted to carbonated water. It helped settle the nausea.
Amy’s own hair was still long, and looking a little darker than normal as she hadn’t spent nearly as much time in the ocean as she would have liked. She missed the roll of the waves under her board as she caught a wave.
She missed the adrenaline of working as a life guard.
Still, she had made her choices. She was used to being healthy and as active as she wanted to be. She was used to working hard, until her muscles ached. She was still going through school, finished with her master’s in psychology and working toward her PhD, but she’d had to put that off for a little while. She’d never been one to be sick, so it was hard to deal with this day long morning sickness that wouldn’t go away. Still, she was building a life and a family, everything her mother had found precious.
She frowned a little over that. She knew why they were having this dinner tonight. Why Chloe was coming down for the week. Why Derek had organized the guys to work on the nursery. Why her father had chosen this week to have the bay windows installed.
Everyone was worried about her.
Tonight was the first night of a mini-series detailing her father’s life and the tragic turn that Vince Jamison had caused. There had been people around town for weeks before, during and after the trail, interviewing everyone, including those people who still held her accountable for a tragic accident on the back bend. The same people who were holding up the progress for the center she was building in her mother’s honor.
She hadn’t been the only one there that night, nor had she been driving the cars, the oldest, or one of the many to leave the scene. She had been the one to stay, to do what she could. She was learning to deal with that, with those terrifying memories and she supposed, survivor’s guilt.
And maybe it was her fault for not giving the names of all the people who fled the scene. She’d been a teenager. Would it help now to spill their names? Several of them had spoken out in her favor in the years since the accident. And many of them agonized in their silence. Coming forward wouldn’t do anything for them.
But she was still the one held responsible.
So the mini-series, who’s main focus was supposed to be Vince and his horror, was also going to tell the true story of Lance’s one time infidelity to his wife, and the way his only daughter had managed to turn a town upside down. It had been one of Vince’s ranting tactics. He’d been interviewed, splashed into the national media, taking with him his twisted truth, his lies ... his own sorry, angry state.
It hadn’t been fair to anyone.
“I’m thinking,” Amy muttered.
“Tonight,” Andrea said, handing her a platter of sliced bread, a bowl of garlic butter and knife, “you’re not allowed to think.”
“I’m all right.”
“Of course you are.”
“You don’t like for people to boss you around when you say you’re fine.”
“That’s me and you’re you, and you’re currently the mother of my favorite person in the whole wide world.”
“Look at you!”
Amy turned toward the doorway and grinned as she spotted Chloe. Of the three of them, Chloe had changed the most. Her dark hair, once long and wavy, was now cut short–to chin length, and showed off her delicate face. She’d gained some weight, looked more natural than the too-skinny beach girl Amy had roomed with.
“And look at you!” Amy returned with a grin.
“No–I can’t believe how much more you’re showing. You’re showing now.” Chloe came over, and always one to touch, put her hands over Amy’s extended stomach.
“It was like ... bam! It feels that way this last month. And now I get to look pregnant and not just feel pregnant.”
“Wow.” Chloe kept a hand on Amy’s stomach. “Can you feel him ... her? Are you ever going to tell us.”
“We don’t know for sure, yet.” Amy shrugged. “Stubborn little child, I think. Has a lot of—“
”You?” Andrea quipped.
She held up her hands. “That’s what I was going to say. Actually ... both of us are pretty stubborn in our own way.” She frowned as her stomach rolled and looked over at the garlic butter. “And no–I haven’t felt him move, yet. But the doctor says any time. He’s moving a lot. Active on the screen when we did the sonogram. Or so she says. I just trust her.”
“You have pictures?”
“In my back pack. I’ll get them—“ she groaned and pushed the butter away with her hand. “But first I think I’m going to lie down. I’m fine. It’s just the garlic.”
She slid down from the stool and walked out of the kitchen with her glass of carbonated water in hand.
“Go sit in there and talk to her,” Andrea told Chloe. “She’s fine. Just pregnant.”
Dinner was quite an affair with Andrea’s parents, Amy’s dad and Anna, Derek, Chloe, Andrea and Eric. They’d sat around Andrea’s long dining room table in her elegant red dining room. Andrea was born to be a hostess and a wife.
Later, she stretched out on Andrea’s sofa, Amy stared at the ceiling and thought about the dinner. Derek had kept his hand in hers for much of the meal. She’d asked him to stay, but he was on call this evening and had probably put in a few hours at the station as he was taking time off the next few days to oversee the nursery construction—the reason she was out of the house.
She’d made it through dinner, despite the smells and the noise, and for that she was grateful. She loved her life. She loved the people in her life.
And she wanted to enjoy every moment of it.
She wanted to raise her child in the center of that life, that heartbeat, she’d been able to cherish for the last few years. She hadn’t appreciated it for so long.
If only Ham could have been there.
He was somewhere on the other side of the world once again. He wouldn’t be here for the birth of her child, but he’d already sent home a number of packages labeled for Baby Johnson. He’d learned to use email sporadically, if not regularly, and somehow managed to communicate with it from the other side of the world.
The sun was high in the morning sky when Mitch pulled his convertible up outside Amy’s home. It was a small two story Victorian home, but a little more narrow, with a small porch. It was painted yellow with white trim and stood pretty against the blue sky. There was a plant hanging on the porch, but little else—there was little room for much else. No one would linger in the front anyway. Not when the view was in the back.
The second floor was missing a window—completely. Through the gapping hole in the house he could see the construction workers.
The day was sunny and bright, perfect for running waves, but he wasn’t headed for the sand. His board was still propped up in Ham’s garage... a garage that was currently rented out by a group of college kids.
As he got out of his car, he could hear the ocean. He turned as the sleek convertible pulled up behind him. He lifted a hand to Eric. He’d cut his hair in the last year—better to deal with the heat and the California sun. He kept the goatee.
Mitch figured it would be gone soon as well.
Nothing remained the same.
And that made Mitch smile. He loved the ocean, loved the up and down ride. He loved the change of seasons from winter to summer. It came back around, even if it was to something different.
And he sure did love Chloe. They were building their own life in the mountains.
“Ever painted a room before?” Mitch asked Eric.
“Worked with Habitat a couple of summers.” Eric wore jeans that must have been old to him—but Mitch would have put more wear in them before he used them as paint clothes. “You?”
“Odd jobs here and there. What’s going on up there?”
Eric looked up. “Oh—Amy had a bay window when she was a girl, or her mom always wanted one. Her father gave them two–one for the master bedroom and one for the baby’s room.”
“Have you seen her?” Eric asked.
“Last night. I met up with them briefly when I got in. She looks wonderful.” He’d never imagined Amy as a mom—would never have thought she would enjoy it. But she looked ready and excited.
Derek opened the door and grinned. The proud father to be held out two cups of coffee. “My slaves have arrived.”
Mitch took the coffee and stepped inside. It was small. He’d been here before, but every time he came in, he had the same thought. The house was small. The living room was barely the size of a small bedroom. It held a love seat and a small entertainment unit. In the corner were boxes of baby furniture and paint supplies, all crammed and stacked into a tight space.
But the size didn’t matter. They had a great view out back.
Eric stepped in and filled up the place. Between the three of them and the furniture, the room shrunk down to little more than standing space.
Eric glanced over at the stack. “I know now why we are entertaining again at our house tonight.”
Derek chuckled. “Grab a tool. It’ll make room so we can come back down.”
“In a hurry aren’t we?”
“I’d like my wife back soon.”
“So would I.” Mitch muttered.
Eric chuckled, “I’d like my house back. Nothing personal, but three women is a little much.”
Because of the construction, plaster and paint, Amy couldn’t stay in the house. Chloe had been down a week, and they’d all been staying at Andrea and Eric’s.
It was a good thing, to. From all reports, photographers had been around all week, waiting for Amy. Not that it was anything new.
Mitch reached down to pick up the can and noticed the blue sample on top. “So it’s going to be a boy?”
Derek liked over, surprised, then noticed Mitch pointing to the bucket.
“No ... blue for the ocean, or the sky over the ocean. Amy makes some decisions easy on herself.”
Mitch grinned. “Some. You’ve got names—for the kids?”
“A middle one,” Derek said as he carried a roller and tray and led the way upstairs. “Carpenter if it’s a boy ... and Carpenter if it’s a girl.”
“He’s got quite a legacy on this side of the family.”
“Not on yours?”
“He ... she ... already has my name.”
And Lance Carpenter was known across the country, first for his ten year pitching career ... then for his turn to financial advisor and management. He had a listening base far more reaching then his baseball fan base had ever been.
And with the recent publicity, he was only more popular.
They stopped outside the designated baby’s room and watched as the men inside finish up the area around the bay window. Derek had already dropped cloths to cover the hardwood floors, but with the construction workers, there was little room to do much else.
“Didn’t I see a pile of furniture that needed to be put together?” Eric reached up and touched the ceiling with the tips of his fingers as he stretched. “We might as well get started.”
When Andrea and Eric married, they purchased a home on the east side of the city, in the growing outskirts of Basin Springs. It was almost between their collective jobs, and so far away from the beach scene that Amy craved.
She leaned back into the sofa cushions in Andrea’s living room and kept her eyes closed. In one hand she held her morning soother—a plate of crackers—in the other a glass of milk. She’d done little more then nibble the edges.
This, too, would pass ... she knew, but how long would morning sickness last?
It followed her into the mid morning, showed up in the afternoon, and sometimes kept her awake at night. Was it too much to ask to sleep in her own bed, in her own home?
She shook it off, tried to shake off the growing mood. She was used to waking with her husband, running the beach with him. She was used to the sound of the waves and watching the darkness fade to light over the ocean.
But–strategically–she couldn’t be home right now.
Oh she knew what her husband was doing. She knew what was behind her friends sudden frenzy and the gifts her father had bestowed on her and the baby. It wasn’t just a freak of nature that they’d picked this week of all weeks. They were protecting her—well, protecting the baby. And if Amy didn’t appreciate at least the sentiment, she wouldn’t have gone along with any of it.
A major network was exploiting the mind of a criminal and her father’s fame–making it their own.
This was the second of two movies. The first, on cable, had done very little. It had advertised that last year–the immediacy of Vance’s last acts of violence.
This one had brought in major stars, researchers scouring the town, getting interviews, trying to pick up pieces over the last three years. They went back to the past–through her father’s high school days, his career ... everything ...
Everything in between.
But the truth, Amy thought, they could not show. They would never know–no one would ever know–the depth of the darkness of those years after her mother died—was killed. So tragically.
Not just for her, but for her father.
They wouldn’t know the redemption, the climb out of the muck and marrow ... the days standing at the edge of the ocean, the end of the world ... the moments she’d thought of just stepping in, ending it all.
And found grace.
Found her place.
Maybe she would have talked to them if they had not been so bent on discovering the bad. Maybe she would have tried to explain.
But after weeks of prayer with Derek, neither one of them had felt peace. Neither one of them had seen a change of intent in the words of the researchers. They said they were looking for the truth. They’d been looking for a story.
“Feel any better?”
Amy opened her eyes enough to watch Andrea drop settle on the love set opposite her. She was already up and dressed in bright capris and a styled shirt to match. Such a California beauty.
She let out a breath, prayed for the nausea to pass—and caught the look Andrea sent over her shoulder. Chloe must be up as well, and already receiving their not so secret signals.
They’d caught her brooding—again.
“You ready to head out?” Chloe asked as she sat down beside her. She was looking rested—something she hadn’t looked when she’d arrived earlier in the week.
Amy closed her eyes. “Where to?”
“We could go to the beach. Or the store. We still have to find the perfect coming home outfit.”
“Come on, if she can survive the car ride, she can survive anything.”
Amy rolled her eyes, but allowed Chloe to help her to her feet.
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