Released: January 5, 2016
Hearts, horses, and healing…
Knowing how the story ends doesn’t mean there aren’t wonderful surprises along the way.
When her son was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy Marilynn Morgan knew how the story was going to end. What she didn’t know was what life would bring her along the way. She didn’t anticipate her husband leaving her or getting remarried a few years later. She didn’t realize how lonely her life would become, and she certainly didn’t expect to feel the way she did when her ex-husband’s best friend, Eli Briggs, showed up to fix Joss's lift.
Back in high school, Eli fell head over heels for Marilynn, but when she started chasing his best friend he buried his feelings. Over the years, he silently stood by his friends through the good times and the bad. Now, three years have passed since Dan walked out, and Marilynn’s late night call has him back in Marilynn and Joss’s life—and is giving him a chance to rewrite a future he thought he knew.
After his family lost the farm, Eli started working at MacNeil Auto—and living in the small apartment over the large brick building sitting on the curve of the main road heading south of town. She’d wondered what he’d been up to since the repair shop closed earlier this year. Somehow, this new job seemed both logical and unlikely all at the same time.
Eli was an expert mechanic, but what had he done in his past to qualify him for any kind of a sales job?
The air deflated from her lungs. “I know his number.”
She paused and rapped her knuckles against the kitchen wall behind her. The situation with Eli might seem easy to explain on the surface, but like a rich, sweet dessert, there were nuances and layers to the relationship.
“I’ve known him since grade school.” And—for as long as she could remember—he’d been someone she could count on.
After the divorce, Dan got custody of their best friend. At least, that’s how it felt. Whenever she ran into him around town—frequently, given the size of Caseville—Eli kept their conversations quick and stilted. She wasn’t sure how receptive he would be to a call for help.
“Then I don’t have to tell you he’s a good guy. Problem solved.”
No. Problem just beginning. Dan would accuse her of playing the damsel in distress or pitting his best friend against him if he ever found out she asked Eli for help.
But, why should she care what Dan thought?
He’d stopped worrying about her and Joss three years ago when he packed his bags and left in the middle of the night.
Joss’s disease may be dissolving his muscles, but he weighed more than a hundred pounds these days. If she tried to lift him, she’d likely hurt herself or, worse, drop her son.
That couldn’t happen. Wouldn’t.
If Dan couldn’t be available to help, she’d take care of things in the best way she could, even if that meant turning to Eli. To get more input in the way she handled things, maybe Dan should have made himself more available. Not made things so difficult when she tried to co-parent.
“I’ll give him a call.”
“Good. I’m driving home tomorrow and have regular office hours the day after. Will I see Joss for his appointment?”
“We’ll be there.” Marilynn pushed the button on her cell phone, disconnecting the call, and retraced her steps from the kitchen to the living room. Leaning against the back of the old, worn recliner, she focused on her son.
A year and a half ago he still had enough strength to help her move him from wheelchair to couch or bed, but his muscular dystrophy had progressed to the point he had very little dexterity. He could get to his feet—with a great deal of assistance—but the hospital bed in his room was too high for him to manage—even with her help.
At thirteen, he’d grown too big for her to lift him on her own.
Thankfully, Joss focused on the television instead of his long past bedtime. It was easier to let him believe staying up to watch the whole football game was a treat. Once he learned the lift broke—again—anger would darken his beautiful smile.
As if he could sense her, Joss turned from the TV. “There’s only ten minutes left, Mom. Please, let me watch the rest?”
“Well…since you asked so nicely.” She punctuated the permission with a wide, painted on smile. When he turned back to the TV, Marilynn covered her mouth with her hand and eyed the one shining light in her life.
Time to put off the inevitable phone call, but what if Eli acted like Dan did when she asked for help or made her beg? It would cost her the last bit of pride she had left.
She steeled herself, remembering this request was for Joss. Eli wouldn’t hesitate to help him.
A push of the button lit up her phone screen, and she hit the contacts icon. Scrolling down, she let her finger hover over Eli’s name. The notation beneath—last call thirty months ago—made her heart hurt. Had it really been that long? They used to speak daily.
Her despair morphed to something harder. Bitterness filled her mouth. Dan took so much when he left. Did he really need Eli too?
Activating the call and lifting the phone to her ear, she walked back to the kitchen, out of Joss’s earshot, in case Eli refused.
On the third ring, his deep voice came across the line, tickling her ear and sending a chill down her neck as if he’d brushed his hand against her flesh. “Yeah.”
The low timber caused a tingle that was familiar, yet long absent in her life. She’d always found him to be good looking and fun, but, while married, she’d been one hundred percent committed and loyal to Dan. Her eyes never strayed back then, but now she’d been alone for three years. “Eli? It’s Marilynn…Morgan.”
“What’s up?” His voice raised a notch. Any attempt to hide his shock failed.
“Uhm…” She clenched her teeth. I can do this! “Trevor Collins told me to call you. Joss’s lift is broken. I need to get him to bed—”
“I’ll be right over.”
Marilynn couldn’t have heard right. Of all the guys in town, Trevor had to suggest him. “Is that all you got?”
“There’s always Dan.”
She didn’t miss the well-deserved sarcasm in the voice of her son’s physical therapist. She and Joss were part of her ex-husband’s long forgotten past. He’d proven it more than once.
“I told him the lift was acting up two months ago. First, he promised to buy a new one after he got back from his honeymoon. Then, he said he’d take care of it as soon as he got caught up at work. Now, the damn thing won’t even engage. I can’t get Joss from the wheelchair to his bed on my own.”
“I’m sorry. I’m in Chicago. You know if I was home, I’d be right over.”
Marilynn recognized the tone in Trevor’s voice. She’d heard the sound of helplessness more than once and instantly regretted unloading her anger at Dan. Trevor had no reason to feel guilty about her situation. He and his wife had gone out of their way to help her since he became part of Joss’s medical
team. “I didn’t mean to lash out.”
“You can call Eli. He’s been selling and repairing therapy and medical equipment through Mid-Michigan Healthcare for six months. He’ll have that lift working in no time. I promise. Let me get off the phone, and I’ll text you his number.”
All That's Unforeseen
Sunnydale Days, Book 5
Hearts, horses and healing...