Mary Wulf, wife of baseball slugger Gary Wulf, has invited her four dearest friends to her Southern Connecticut home for a fun-filled late August weekend get-together. They’re coming from Maryland, Ohio, Colorado, and as near as next door. Sports Wives coming together with their unique personalities and emotional perspectives.
Being together for the very first time, the women reveal far more of themselves during the weekend than they ever expected. Indeed, the humor is continuous—while tenderness, poignancy, and sorority will also pull at your emotions. There is much on multiple levels to draw one into the lives of these women—who are in effect, wedded to sports as well as to their men.
All right, let’s take stock. I am thirty-five years old. A reasonable, loving, and notoriously cautious woman. I am married to Gary Wulf, the current right fielder for the New York Mets. I am deeply in love with his agent. I have violated the Seventh Commandment. On several occasions. Other than that, I have no complications in my life.
Mary Wulf stood in her kitchen staring at her reflection in a bottle of tequila, wondering how much of the bottle would be consumed before the evening was out. She couldn’t contain her delight at the prospect. The weekend series was about to begin–only minutes away now from the first pitcher . . . of margaritas. Ha, ha.
Look, it’s late August, and the Mets are only seven games out of first. They could still win the division; it’s not too late. But I can’t say the same thing about my marriage, can I? Nor would I want to. At least the Mets have a chance not to finish in the Eastern Division cellar, the way Philadelphia ‘s playing. Yes, the cellar. If Gary only knew what I have hidden in mine. Figuratively, I mean. The poor Mets. This will be their sixth straight losing season. How many have I had in a row with my husband? About the same? More than that? Up in Boston they were for forever saying that this year could be the year they’d win The Series. The Curse of the Bambino once and for all exorcised. And they finally had their year–twice. Here it’s the curse of Mary Wulf. But this also could be the year. My year.
While Mary pondered her personal life in the context of Major League Baseball, she put the CD player in “Random” mode. For once the batting order of her Broadway CD mix would be shaken up, providing Mary some variety and surprise rather than disgorging once again the same tracks in the same familiar pattern—one long ago memorized. “Memory” from Cats was hitting second, instead of eighth as it usually did. Then again, this wasn’t the song to come so early in the lineup—it seemed highly out of place in that position. It spoke too deeply to its listener; it was too emotional, too relevant for it simply to waft through a room without adequate preparation, without at least some expectation, without any anticipation from the woman in the house, who played it whenever she attempted to communicate with her soul.
Hearing the opening bars of the song, Mary came quickly into the room from the kitchen, where she had begun filling bowls with high-calorie, indefensible, and long-denied tortilla chips, pouring two kinds of salsa into “authentic” Mexican serving bowls, after having pulled down from the shelves of the liquor cabinet the accompanying tequila and margarita mix. She felt a bit startled moving from the gaiety south of the border to the tragic and poignant setting of Griselda the Glamor Cat among the piles of unwanted junk. Mary disliked sudden shifts of mood, sudden news of any kind, sudden demands on her time and emotions. And now one of her favorite songs was causing her sudden anxiety.
Six weeks into their relationship, eight months before they were married, she had given herself to Gary Wulf only because the tune was playing in the living room of her small apartment. She thought earlier in the evening that in spite of her physical attraction to the young and ardently insistent ballplayer, it was really too early in their relationship for sex. She just had too many questions about him as a man and as a potential husband. But the tune had begun to play at the exact moment he touched the top of her thigh with unmistakable amorous purpose—and there was little she could do or wanted to do to make him cease. The song stimulated her pity and understanding, and she felt more vulnerable every time she heard it. She had loved the song long before she had fallen in love with Gary Wulf, having sung it as part of a musical revue at a local community theatre, and she had frequently fantasized about making love while it provided the most erotic musical accompaniment she could have imagined. She wondered if she wanted a sexual encounter to purge the pain the song featured—the loneliness and regret as one’s life sped off course to it’s inevitable end. Her doubts after that night about what she had allowed to happen with Gary had absolutely no effect on her love for the song. She knew now, however, that her feelings for Gary were never the same afterward. And still she had married him. When she was only twenty and a far distance from the aging Glamor Cat.
Mary turned off the disc, felt her tension immediately lessening, and replaced the compilation with the other CD sitting on top of the player—Carole King’s gift to the 1970’s, the album Tapestry. Mary felt it almost a duty to listen to the CD at least once a month—that is, a duty to her mother, who found almost every cut an anthem worthy of respect if not devotion. Carole King was the first singer Mary could recall from her childhood. Her mother had loved the album for almost ten years before Mary was born, and Mary felt unashamedly wistful recalling how her mother wore her hair in King’s curly mane as shown on the album cover and how from the ages of one and a half to seven she would dance to “Smackwater Jack” while her mother roared with delight, giving Mary a standing ovation after every performance. Mary put the CD in the player but this time did not want the “Random” mode dictating the lineup; no, what she needed now was familiarity and control. Of course she wanted to hear the album’s opening song—after all, her closest friends would arrive soon, and they would surely make the earth move if Carole King couldn’t. But more importantly, Mary wanted to know where that third cut on the album was. She wouldn’t listen to it. She hadn’t listened to it for months. She couldn’t, even though she knew it was too late for her and Gary.
Mary decided to stay in the room until the second song finished; then she could skip to cut four and go back in the kitchen and begin mixing the margaritas. She swished her lips from side to side—her familiar though unconventional gesture of approval—as she thought how well the renovations of this room had gone this past March. Her spring training, as it were, while Gary was doing his with the Mets in Port St. Lucie. The room was so much brighter—yellow and white—so perfect for listening to her music, contemplating the backyard through the French doors, and entertaining friends and guests. And how perfectly the room would serve the purposes of this special weekend. The inaugural meeting of “Sports Wives”—the name Mary came up with in the middle of the summer for her and her four closest friends, all married to men with intimate connections to sports. Why not invite them all to come to her place and meet each other? Why not have them all here in Connecticut to help shove her toward a decision about terminating her marriage? It seemed like such a brilliant idea.
Mary made a final check for neatness—and for anything that might cause discomfort or embarrassment. As the song concluded, she noticed something lying behind the plush chair against the wall. She headed toward the chair at the moment the piano intro to “So Far Away” began. Halting, Mary felt an immediate and depressing realization that she didn’t want to hear that selection either, so she walked to the CD player and turned it off. The silence in the room put its arms around her; it was what she needed–at least until her friends arrived. This silence did not chide her, as had her conscience the past several months.
Expelling a soft breath, she bent down and pulled from behind the chair a baseball bat and a vintage Brooklyn Dodger baseball cap—one of the many bits of sports memorabilia her husband just had to have but soon after discarded with indifference. Mary’s face registered no disdain or pleasure; she simply laid the bat on the sofa and brought the cap closer to her face. She traced the classic white “B” on the blue cap with her finger and once more accepted the fact that she ought to think of herself as one lucky girl. Oh, absolutely–one lucky girl. But . . . that’s what the “B” stood for at this moment—the contradictory tag “But . . .” After taking the bat and cap to her husband’s game room, she heard the steps on her patio, followed by the sound of a platter breaking on the flagstones, and then the expected “Oh, Mother of Shit!” Yes, of course. Miranda Peterson. The weekend could now formally begin.
“Mary, Mary, the song canary—my, how your garbage grows!” Miranda Peterson had branded her claim to Mary’s Wulf’s friendship with the habitual pun on familiar nursery rhymes when she was inclined to make a grand entrance. “There was a young woman who lived in I-talian shoes. / She spent so much on sandals, her husband had no money left to lose” was one Mary particularly loved, as her neighbor–one of America’s most successful authors of romance novels–didn’t have enough of an ear for poetry to get the number of syllables right. On the other hand, Mary was highly embarrassed by “Little Miss Wulfit sat on a toilet, touching her curls so gray,” because Miranda had thrice offered it while others were in the room. On the first two occasions, Mary protested with animation the unfair characterization; on the third, she merely smiled, recalling that she had in fact just celebrated the first anniversary of her touching-up the gray in her curls.
“Do you need a broom, Miranda?” Mary stuck her head out the French doors.
“I wouldn’t want to borrow your favorite mode of transportation, Mary. Let’s just leave it alone. Clams on the half-shell biodegrade, don’t they?” That face—that puckish pretty face. Not the same austere and intimidating one that graced a good number of dust jackets and that garish website of hers.
Mary headed for the kitchen. “The clams biodegrade perhaps–not sure about the half-shells.” Within thirty seconds she was out on the back patio helping Miranda dump the two-dozen clams with accompanying half-shells in a paper grocery bag. She complimented Miranda for at least having her heart in the right place.
“My heart may be, but unfortunately my heel got stuck between the flagstones on your patio. Right time, but wrong place.”
Mary’s face exploded like popcorn. “My God, Miranda. I just realized. You’re actually on time! How does it feel?”
“Not bad. I think the heel will stay on. Seriously, Mary, I told you that I wouldn’t be late for the first of what we hope will be many an annual meeting of ‘Sports Wives.’ I promised I’d be the first of the wives to check in, and–Voila!—here I am. Sans clams, sans shells, sans everything.” Miranda was bouncing her heads from side to side in childlike excitement. Mary thought she looked like a little leaguer entering Yankee Stadium for the first time.
“Right, Miranda. Anyway, you’re the first here, but not actually the first to check in.” Miranda’s face dropped and her lips bubbled forward in the classic pout that made her the darling of all her friends. “I am truly sorry, but Sherry McDuffie called me from New Rochelle, where she spent last night with a favorite cousin she hasn’t seen in nearly fifteen years. She has a rental car and is on the way.” Mary knew Sherry would be both the jaw dropper and the ultra sweetener the others would absolutely adore. She might also be the soft rod of stability Mary would require if she could conquer her fear and share her big news with the rest of the Sports Wives. But then again, the happily-married and traditional Sherry McDuffie would likely be the last one to sympathize. But then again. Yes, but then again. How tired Mary was of all the “Buts” and “But then agains” that more and more bedeviled her waking hours. For her part, Miranda lamented the fate of her best friend–the “poor, poor woman” who had to take that “horrific drive from parkway to parkway to parkway past golf course and golf course and another golf course until arriving at this little nineteenth hole” Mary called a home in Southeastern Connecticut.
When the two women entered the house, Mary headed for the kitchen with the bag of unusable clams and Miranda toward the CD player. As she dumped the clams in the trash container, Mary heard Miranda informing her that she forgotten to take the “Best Value” sticker from her Carole King CD–and then uttering some half-unintelligible remark about how impossible it was to open those “damned CD’s” the way they have them wrapped. “The ancient Egyptians should have been so good. Anyway, when are you going to upgrade to MP3?” Miranda flipped the case over and began going down the song list as Mary returned from the kitchen. “Tell you what, Mary, let’s put on ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’ and get naked on the couch when your friend Sherry comes in. What do you say?” Miranda began to unbutton her blouse. Again, one would not have imagined such behavior by looking at Miranda Peterson’s website.
“Whoa, Tigress. Sherry wouldn’t quite approve.” Mary was therefore reminded of the single most glaring difference between the two of them. Miranda had seemingly never met that distasteful brood called The Inhibitions, whereas Mary had given them room and board for her entire life. Miranda would often brag to anyone who listened that she was one of the leaders of the short-lived “Streaking” craze in the early 70’s. And even when Mary reminded her that she only five or six years old at the time, Miranda grinned and added, “Want me to show you?” Mary wondered whether her neighbor’s effusive influence had finally begun to make inroads when she considered the changes she herself was making in her wardrobe since the spring. What made her uncomfortable about her new outfits and shoes, however, was any assumption that she was dressing to please Gary. She had claimed to friends on more than a few occasions that she was refitting herself to please herself and no one else. But she knew that to be a lie. There was most certainly someone else.
Miranda offered her characteristic mock horror at the possibility that Sherry McDuffie was a prude and would therefore ruin the entire weekend.
Mary countered, “No, she’s not a prude, Miranda. She’s a lot of fun. A lot of fun. She’s just a bit more conservative than you are when it comes to the matter of . . . you know.” Miranda raised her eyes in a way any hard-working imp would have envied. “Then again, Miranda, the far left is more conservative than you are.”
Miranda flung herself onto the sofa. “Now this fun-loving prude is just like me, right.” Mary spent the next six seconds shaking her head back and forth. “No, no, Mary. I mean she’s never met three of the five Sports Wives, right?” “Right. She knows only me. You know only me. The other two know me and each other.” Having noticed Miranda’s expanding and examining eyes, Mary was now unhappy with the color of her blouse. Miranda thanked her for the clarification and asked if Sherry was married to the college football coach “Alan” McDuffie. Mary knew light blue, not the black she was wearing, would be the right color, especially since Miranda was wearing silver and black. “Alex McDuffie, Miranda. And he’s the defensive coordinator for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.”
Miranda now lay completely stretched out on the sofa, appearing more fit for an interment or necrophiliac sex with Poe’s Roderick Usher than a fun weekend with Mary’s other friends. “Hmm. She should tell old Alan that he’d get a lot more coordinating done if he weren’t so defensive. Do you have an apple, Mary?” Miranda lifted her left leg straight up—for a reason known only to her.
Perhaps red would be better, Mary thought. She ignored the apple request and informed her best friend that she’d get the chips and margaritas percolating just as soon as the others arrived.
“Wonder what it would be like to be married to a football coach. Think, old Alvin . . .”
“. . . makes Sherry bend over and . . .”
“Miranda, don’t start with the lewd jokes now. You have no audience here for . . .”
“. . . hand him his eggs and bacon . . .”
“. . . through her legs like one of those centers?”
Yet, Miranda Peterson’s brand of vulgarity was always sanitized by her infectious and playful spirit. She never wrote in a vulgar way—although her novels were surely far more than mildly stimulating—but her mouth was clearly sprightlier than her pen. At this moment, Mary couldn’t help visualizing Gary Wulf, like Alex McDuffie, as a coach or manager when his playing days were over. And at thirty-seven, his days were surely numbered. The thought frightened her but only because she also saw herself standing next to him, older than she was now. Next to him. Having lost her chance at something to revitalize her spirits. She just couldn’t tolerate the thought.
“Will you love me tomorrow?”
Miranda’s intrusion startled Mary, but it at least swept away her disturbing vision of a lifeless future. “No, Miranda. I’m just in it for the quick and cheap thrill. What are you talking about?”
“One of the songs on the Carole King album.” Miranda lurched off the sofa and walked again to the CD player. Yes, Mary concluded. Red was the right color. She informed Miranda that she was going to change her blouse and to “hold the fort.” Miranda saluted and as soon as Mary walked out of the room, Miranda commenced a thorough search for any trace evidence of Mary’s husband in the room. She wasn’t quite sure, but it seemed to her that, recently, every time she came over to Mary’s something new was in the room and something Gary was removed.
The various tokens of Gary Wulf’s career in Major League Baseball, though certainly impossible to coordinate with the décor, still had been conspicuous only eight months before, but after the Christmas Holidays, Miranda began to sense that an object here or an object there was no longer in the room. By the end of April, she was certain something was up. By June she knew pretty much what it was. Now it was late August and she wasn’t yet sure what it would end up being.
“Okay, what do you think, Miranda?” Somewhere along the way, another color had lain in ambush.
“As I’ve always said, green’s your color, Mary. Goes really well with your red shoes. Christmas come early this year—or are you auditioning to be a traffic light?” Yes, Mary thought, how perfect for her emotions–the green and red of “Go” and “Stop.” She found grim humor in the realization that she had out of character ignored the yellow caution light. First when she was beginning her relationship with Gary and especially more recently when she had given herself to . . . well, she didn’t want to think about that now.
“Damn. Be right back.” Mary returned to her bedroom and Miranda finished her general sweep of the room, turning her attention to the CDs for any sign of Gary Wulf music. Admittedly, she had made frequent humor out of Mary’s love of classical music, opera, and Broadway tunes and Gary’s refusal to listen to, let alone understand, any of them. Gary preferred the hits of his youth and the videos that garnished them throughout the later 1980’s and early 90’s. He reached his teens in January of 1991 and, on the very last day of the 1995, he received yet one more recognition of his incredible athletic prowess with the offer to sign with Cincinnati Reds following his high school graduation.
Now at thirty-seven, Gary Wulf was playing for the Mets, at the end of what many felt was a sure Hall-of-Fame career, even though the last four years were many miles from Cooperstown. Mary had encouraged him to take the first steps toward the new period of his life by expanding his musical and recreational interests. But he would have none of it. He wasn’t a man to let go. Miranda recalled that those were the very words Mary had only recently quoted to her over several Long Island Ice Teas—“Gary’s not a man to let go.” Miranda had her share of friends and acquaintances whose marriages resulted in depression and a few of them in violence, but she had always been assured that the advice she freely offered was correct and appropriate. But with Mary, she found it difficult to come right out and ask the tough questions—and she wasn’t sure why it was so. Perhaps she had never cared for a friend or respected one as much as she did Mary Wulf. In many ways, she looked up to her, although again she wasn’t exactly sure why.
“Okay, how are these?” Mary displayed her green sandals.
“Hmm. Let’s see. It’s not yet Labor Day—but it’s after St. Patrick’s Day—so they’re perfect.” Miranda started sifting through several discs. “Carole King I always hear—that is, when I’m here. Diana Krall? Could be. Nora Jones? Love her. Charlotte Church? Cute but I don’t like mixing religion and surnames. Or perhaps some soprano arias by—how do you pronounce this? Really Mary, what gives with these opera singers’ names? Mary patiently informed her that the name was pronounced “Renée Fleming.”
“Here’s one you like ‘Vissi d’arte’ I know, I know.“ That’s from Wagner’s Tosca—right?
Almost. It’s by Puccini. But I’m impressed, Miranda. It wasn’t long ago that you thought a ‘Tosca’ was something new and tasty from ‘Taco Guaco.’”
“Hey. I was getting tired of burritos. So sue me.”
“You should have gone to see the opera with me at the Met when it played a couple of years ago. Quite fabulous.” Mary had gone to Lincoln Center by herself while Gary was on a road trip with the Mets. It was at that performance that she began contemplating the possibility of saying goodbye to a husband and a way of life. But there would be no bows, no eruption of cheers, no flowers thrown at her feet. She wouldn’t be surrounded by family and friends who would see the justice or inevitability of the split with Gary. His family and friends would of course view her as the villain. Gary wasn’t agitating for a separation; he hadn’t abused her in any way; he hadn’t had an affair–at least as far as she knew. The scouting report his side would have on her would be nothing short of devastating. She was the one who had the affair—and with Gary’s agent no less. The line behind Judas wasn’t very long, and she’d have a prime place in it.
After the comfortable and exciting life Gary Wulf had provided her, she could do such a thing to him—and then want to leave him? She wanted badly to be taken out of the game, relieved of the responsibility of being Mrs. Gary Wulf—the wife of one of the very few men good enough to make a successful career in Major League Baseball. She wanted to tell all the reporters in the locker room after the game was over that she couldn’t help it. She had given it her all, but time had taken away the edge. She had lost her curve ball, her power, her speed on the bases. She had to call it a day. But Mary knew these now so familiar metaphors were literally what her husband was beginning to say about the past few years of his career—about the literal erosion of his athletic skills—and she felt absolutely horrible for him.
“I know I should have gone to the Met with you, Mary. It’s just that I don’t like the kind of farewells you see at the end of operas. People dying and singing at the same time, with a knife sticking out of their throats. Ugghh. Too horrifying. That is, for a deeply sensitive soul like me.” Miranda’s eyes met Mary’s and each understood what the other was trying to say with them. She knew Mary was thinking of “Farewell” as some kind of grim literary personification, hovering over her and masking its intentions while it accelerated her anxiety. For a moment, Miranda didn’t know where to go, but, as always, sports provided a welcome signpost. “Speaking of the Met, Gary has been with them for how many years now?”
“This is his sixth. He also played two transitional years with Colorado after his nine years with the Reds, before we came to New York.” Mary recited these facts without blinking her eyes. She now touched her blouse—so happy that she had chosen green. She could have told Miranda more about her husband’s exploits, if her friend had the desire or capacity for remembering such specifics. She might then have reminded Miranda that when Gary was with the Reds he was an eight-time All-Star, twice National League Batting Champion. Just two home-runs shy in 2006 of winning the Triple Crown. That he made enough money to give his wife the kind of financial security very few women ever get. That he provided her with comfortable surroundings, money enough for her occasional desire for the lavish shopping spree, and time alone to pursue her needed diversions. Indeed, those needed diversions. Her friends, her occasional singing, and now another man.
“Mary, I should know all that. You’ve—my husband’s–told me plenty of times. I just don’t have the head for dates and statistics that you—my Tony has.” Miranda was back in random comic mode again, convinced she could reanimate her closest friend. “I swear if my husband could recall the location of my erogenous zones as well as he does the middle initials of the eight guys who played third base for the 1962 Chicago White Sox, I’d be one contented woman.” Miranda demanded that her friend enjoy the remark—and Mary complied. Mary appreciated just how essential Miranda Peterson was to her life. She was always there—with her puns, with her bawdiness, with her teasing, and with her loving encouragement.
Mary sat on the arm of the sofa. “I wonder that they’re saying about us about now?”
“Tonight, Mary, our boys are in San Diego.”
“San Francisco, actually. The first of three with the Giants.” Mary focused on the clock above the mantle of the fireplace. “It’s after 1:00 there. He’s . . . they’re probably through with lunch. How many road trips has your Tony taken this year with the Mets?” Mary again looked at the time and wondered how Sherry and the other two Sports Wives were doing in their life and death struggles with the traffic.
“This would be, I believe, only this third. Been more of a homeboy this season. He actually once went twelve straight days without taking a sports-related trip.” Now it was Mary’s turn to provide the mock horror. Miranda ignored it. “Though I must say, Mary, that Tony’s certainly had his share of epic sports travels over the past several months. Let’s see. In no particular order, this year he’s been to Churchill Downs for the Derby. Followed the Mets to St. Louis and Atlanta. He also went to Fenway Park for the intramural games the Mets played with the Yankees.” Mary reminded her that the proper term was “interleague.” “But I don’t count going to the Bronx as a real trip. Anyway. Umm, Augusta for the Masters. Somewhere in the South for Tennis—or was it for bowling? Can’t remember. Oh yes, in January up to Massachusetts for the KFC Championship game.” Mary asked if she meant “AFC.” Miranda said no. She was starving–that was why she said “KFC.” Again advising patience as a futile antidote to hunger, Mary felt once more buoyed by the familiar banter between them. Miranda continued. “And a few championship fights, some basketball, and who knows what else. Ah, the freedom of wealth. But I’m in love.”
“With the freedom, the wealth, or the man?”
“Mary, dearest one, you know the answer to that. Ménage à trois!” Mary’s smile seemed to Miranda only a bit qualified. Mary was laughing now at Tony’s miscellaneous sports caravans—very few on which Miranda ever ventured. And Miranda found a brief moment to think of the peculiar match she and her husband made. She knew of Tony’s pathological obsession with all things sports when she first met him eight years ago, at the time she turned thirty. After he learned she was a highly successful novelist—his library respectfully expansive but consisting of only one subject, of course–he demonstrated a gentlemanly regard for her career, restricting his inquiries to the way she worked as a writer, not to any feigned interest in her characters or plots. Miranda was especially pleased by his line of questioning, as no one had ever, at least socially, wished to know about the nuts and bolts of her craft. Tony had immediately made her feel comfortable, but more–appreciated and safe. Miranda knew she would never have to work to please him, as he was seemingly pleased just being around her. Pleased that she let him be him. Teasing him certainly, but more importantly indulging all of his sports-related activities and accoutrements without being part of them. Stepping over, around, and through a minefield of sports memorabilia filled her with neither frustration nor trepidation. Miranda appreciated what a good deal she had with Tony as a mate. Predictability and conservatism—two qualities that seemed like anathemas to her vivacious and daring personality—merged to form the very spine of her daily life.
“And you insist, Miranda, that Tony’s never shown any jealousy over your success?”
“Nor any reluctance to spend my money. Just kidding. No, Mary, to be fair–as a successful computer geek working out of the home, he makes enough to pay for all his trips. Of course, my money allows him to forego the bus and actually fly first-class all over the country—and actually stay in nice hotels—and actually eat decent meals.”
“As you have so often told me—but I ask again—no jealousy over the fact that his wife is Miranda Peterson, nationally . . .” Miranda interrupted with an “internationally.” “ . . . adored author of best-selling romance novels?”
“No, and I mean that. You know Tony. He’s never strays beyond the borders of his own little sports empire. Only drinks out of cups with team logos on them. You know, his Florida Marlin martinis? Wears little else but replica uniform jerseys.” Feeling her own stomach growl, Mary asked if he so bedecked himself on formal occasions. Miranda pointed to Mary’s stomach. “Heard that. No, on formal occasions it’s black tie and Cleveland Browns. More well-adjusted women might put on the latest hot number from Victoria’s Secret and prepare for a night to remember. But in my case, I don a jock strap, a pair of shoulder pads, and catcher’s mask–and my forty-five year old tiger is rarin’ to go. Ruff.”
“And I know he sings a devastating ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game.’” Mary often saw herself as an engineer shoveling coal into the witty and amusing locomotive that was Miranda Peterson.
“His ‘Star Spangled Banner’ needs a little work, though. You know how low his voice is. Well, he always begins it in a tenor’s key—or soprano’s—and that part ‘and the la-a-a-nd of the freeeee’ is so bad that we’ve had five cats pack their litter boxes and move out of the house in the last year alone. That’s why we finally had to get a dog. Maybe you should give Tony voice lessons, Mary.” Mary was reminded that since she had no children, she ought to spend more time teaching voice. She would love to do that—if she had more time. Yes. Time. More time. She wondered if there was still time or was it that now was the time? She wanted more time but she was running out of it. Miranda saw her friend’s fingers touch the bottom of her lower lip—the tell-tale sign that Mary Wulf was once more giving in to her fears.
“Mary, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to this weekend.”
“You’re really going to like Sherry, Miranda.” Mary stared intently at Miranda’s left wrist. When she needed a brief moment alone with her feelings, she refused to look anyone in the eye.
“So . . . also soon to arrive are the pro football player’s wife and the PGA golfer’s bride.” Mary nodded and lowered her hand, providing her mouth the room to smile. The other two were coming together from La Guardia. They had called Mary earlier and she assumed they would arrive any moment as well. They might even beat Sherry.
“Rand told me that her flight arrived on time and that she was waiting for Kip’s to land. I’m sure they had no trouble getting a rental.” Miranda wanted to twist her head around in a circle. Did she really hear Mary correctly? Rand and Kip? “Miranda, didn’t I ever tell you their names?” Miranda shook her head in that highly exaggerated manner that denoted incredulity. “Rand Connor was born with the name Randee Lynn Beaufort. But as you will soon see, Miranda, she’s not a Randee Lynn.”
“Okay. But what about Clip—or Crip?” Miranda and names. Natural enemies. Mary said that she would let Kip explain that one—but Miranda was certain she was a pretty young thing, to say the least. Miranda puckered her lips like an experienced crone. “Oh, good. Someone to hate.”
“No, Miranda. No hating. Just bonding. Sports Wives, remember?”
“First Annual Meeting. Got it. And good on the name too. Now refresh my memory. When did you meet the other three again?” Miranda sat down in one of the easy chairs, certain that she was weakening owing to starvation. She made a little finger gesture to Mary suggesting food going into mouth. She did a simply superb job of simulating a difficult death in an easy chair.
“I met Sherry in Cincinnati when Gary played for the Reds. And I met Rand and Kip at a party David threw four years ago for his new clients. Rand’s Jeff, Kip’s Chris, and my . . . husband.”
“Whoa, whoa, partner. Too many names—not enough chips. I’m not good with names even when I’m stuffed.” Mary had never been able to resolve this bizarre paradox. She asked how Miranda could have that much trouble with names considering all the characters she had created over the years. “Yes, but I write them down, remember?” Miranda knew better, but the opportunity defied all restraint. No time was going to be a good time. Therefore, why the hell not? Miranda didn’t even offer Mary a heads-up by clearing her throat. “And just how is that sports agent extraordinaire, Mr. David Rowe these days?”
Mary’s heart halted and then accelerated at the sound of his name from another pair of lips other than her own. “Miranda, not now.” Yet Mary’s voice belied the assertion. Miranda hesitated for a few seconds, and then rejected the impulse to pursue the matter at this time. Still, she was sure that Mary was simply dying to tell her everything about her relationship with her husband’s agent. Yes, Miranda was sure about that. She just wasn’t sure that Mary really understood that she was really dying to tell Miranda everything about that relationship.
“Okay, Mary. So you’ve got Sherry coming from Ohio and the other two from . . .?” Mary replied that Rand was flying in from Maryland and Kip from Chicago. Having spent several years in the Chicago area when she was in her twenties, Miranda was curious to know exactly where Kip lived. “She doesn’t live in Chicago, Miranda. She lives in Denver.” Mary thought it was interesting how her friend’s top lip vibrated whenever she was confused. “She’s flying in from Chicago.” No help to Miranda. “Where she visited her parents—who just moved there from San Diego.” Miranda nodded, implying cautiously at any rate that she was all straightened out now. “And you cruised in from next door.”
“I did? Gee, Mary, all of these women coming from all parts of the good old USA just to see you. What an ego trip. Should make you feel like singing.”
A lovely melody began playing in Mary’s mind, but in an instant it was obliterated by the blaring sound of a car horn in her driveway.
About the Author
During his career as Professor of English at the University of Georgia, John Vance was the author of six books and numerous articles devoted to literary biography and criticism. He also began indulging his love of theater as actor, director, and playwright, with thirty-five of his plays staged. Now he has turned exclusively to fiction, and is the author of fourteen novels, including the humorous memoir Setting Sail for Golden Harbor and the recently BookBub featured In Mind of the Vampire. He lives in Athens, Georgia with his wife Susan.
In 1970, Violet Hawkins’ only wish at eighteen is to escape her life in the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system and make her way to the west coast to enjoy a mellow life and find the love she’s been missing all her life. She makes it to San Francisco, but soon learns she needs a job if she’s to live properly. A kind, young man named Kenton Chandler offers her a sandwich and a job at his father’s inn and vineyards. With nothing to lose, Lettie takes him up on his offer and begins a whole new life in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. She immediately falls in love with the land and is fascinated with the idea of growing grapes in order to make wines. She, Kenton, and Rafe Lopez become friends as she learns about running the small inn on the property.
At the same time she marries Kenton, a stroke kills his father. And then before she can tell Kenton she’s pregnant, he dies in an automobile accident. Heartbroken and burdened with the gift of the Chandler Hill Inn and Winery, she’s left with the task of making them a success. Struggling to raise a child alone while working to grow the business, Lettie makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.
Some people’s lives unfold in the most unusual ways.
In 1970, the only things Violet Hawkins wanted for her eighteenth birthday were to escape the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system in which she’d been raised and to make her way to San Francisco. There, she hoped to enjoy a mellow lifestyle and find the love that had always been absent in her life.
Though she made it to San Francisco easily enough, she soon discovered she couldn’t afford a clean, safe place in which to settle down. At first, it hadn’t seemed to matter. Caught up in the excitement and freedom of living in a large city where free love and openness to so many things reigned, she almost forgot about eating and sleeping. One couch, one futon was as good as any other as long as grass or other drugs were available, and others didn’t mind giving her a place to sleep. But after spending four months there, the dollars she’d carefully saved, which had seemed so many in Dayton, were nothing but a mere pittance in a city where decent living was too expensive for her. She took to wandering the streets with her backpack until she came upon a friendly group willing to give her a sleeping space inside or a bite to eat.
One June day, feeling discouraged, she’d just sunk down onto the steps outside a row house when a young man emerged.
He smiled down at her. “Tired?”
She was more than tired. She was exhausted and hungry. “Looking for work. I need to eat.”
He gave her a long, steady, blue-eyed look. “What’s your name?”
“Violet Hawkins. But call me Lettie.”
His eyebrows shot up. “With all that red hair, no flowery name for you?”
She shook her head. She’d always hated both her hair and her name. The red in her hair was a faded color, almost pink, and the name Violet indicated a delicate flower. She’d never had the luxury of being the least bit frail.
He sat down beside her and studied her. “You don’t look like the hippie type. What are you doing in a place like this?”
“On my eighteenth birthday, I left Dayton, Ohio, to come here. It sounded like a great plan—all this freedom.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Four months. I thought it would be different. I don’t know … easier, maybe.”
He got to his feet. “How about I fix you a sandwich, and then I’ll tell you about a job, if you want it. It’s at a vineyard in Oregon. I’m heading there later today.”
Her glance slid over his well-built body, rugged facial features, and clean, shoulder-length, light-brown hair. He didn’t fit into the usual crowd she’d been with, which made her cautious. “Who are you? And why would you do this for me?”
“Kenton Chandler.” His lips curved into the same warm smile he’d given her earlier. “I’m heading to Oregon, and, frankly, I could use the company. Keeps me from falling asleep.”
“Yeah? And what is this vineyard?”
He shrugged. “A couple of years ago, my dad bought a small inn with 75 acres in the Willamette Valley south of Portland. He’s planted most of the land with grapes. He doesn’t know that much about making wine and wants me to learn. That’s why I’m in San Francisco. I’ve been working at a vineyard in Napa Valley just north of here, learning the ropes.” He grinned. “Or maybe I should say, learning the vines.”
“What kind of sandwich?” she asked, warming toward him and his wacky humor. Her stomach rumbled loud enough for them both to hear it.
“How does ham and Swiss sound?” he said, giving her a knowing look.
“Okay.” Lettie didn’t want him to think she couldn’t manage on her own. That was dangerous. She’d learned it the hard way, fighting off a guy who thought he could have her just because he gave her a puff of weed. She’d been careful ever since to stay away from situations and guys like that.
“Well?” He waved her toward the door.
Lettie checked to see if others were within hearing range if she needed them. Plenty of people were hanging around nearby. Thinking it was safe, Lettie climbed the stairs behind Kenton. He didn’t know about the knife tucked into one of the pockets of her jeans.
Inside, she found the same kind of contrast between this clean house and others she’d been in. It wasn’t sparkling clean, but it was tidier than most.
He led her into the kitchen. “Sit down. It’ll only take me a minute to make your sandwich.” He handed her a glass of water. “Mustard? Mayo?”
“Both,” she replied primly, sitting down at a small pine table in the eating area of the room.
She sat quietly, becoming uncomfortable with the idea that he was waiting on her. She wasn’t used to such a gesture. She was usually the one waiting on others both in her foster home and at the church where she’d spent hours each week attending services and events with her foster family. Thinking of them now, a shiver raced across her shoulders like a frightened centipede. It had been her experience that supposedly outstanding members of a church weren’t always kind to those they’d taken into foster care primarily for the money.
“Ready!” said Kenton, jarring her out of thoughts of the past. He placed a plate with the sandwich in front of her and took a seat opposite her.
She lifted the sandwich to her face and inhaled the aroma of the ham. Keeping her eyes on Kenton, she bit into the bread, savoring the taste of fresh food.
He beamed at her with satisfaction when she quickly took another bite.
“Who lives here? Lettie asked.
“A friend of mine,” said Kenton. His gaze remained on her. “You don’t look eighteen.”
She swallowed, and her breath puffed out with dismay. “But I am.”
“And you’re not into drugs and all the free-love stuff everyone talks about?”
Lettie shook her head. “Not really. I tried weed a couple of times, but it wasn’t for me.” Her strict upbringing had had a greater influence on her than she’d thought.
“Good. Like I said, if you want to ride to Oregon with me, there’s a job waiting for you at the Chandler Hill Inn. We’re looking for help. It would be a lot better than walking the streets of Haight-Ashbury. Safer too.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “And if I don’t like it?”
He shrugged. “You can leave. One of the staff recently left for L.A. That’s why my father called me to ask if I knew anyone who could come and work there. You’re my only choice.”
Lettie’s heart pounded with hope. Acting as nonchalant as she could, she said, “Sounds like something I’d like to try.”
The ride to Oregon was mostly quiet as an easy camaraderie continued between them. Kenton answered any questions she had about him, the inn, and the way he thought about things. Lettie was surprised to learn he hadn’t joined in a lot of the anti-war protests.
“My best friend died in ’Nam. He believed in serving our country. I want to honor him,” he said to Lettie.
“A boy in my high school was drafted. His parents weren’t happy about it.”
“Well, if I’m drafted, I’m going,” Kenton said. “I don’t want to, but I will. I don’t really have a choice.”
As they talked, they agreed that John Wayne was great in the movie True Grit.
“And I love the Beatles,” said Lettie.
“Yeah, me too. Too bad they just broke up.”
“And what about the new group, The Jackson 5?” Lettie said.
“They’re great. And I like Simon and Garfunkel and their music too.”
At one point, Lettie turned to Kenton. “Sometimes you seem so serious, like an old man. How old are you, anyway?”
He gave her a sheepish look. “Twenty-two.”
They shared a laugh, and in that moment, Lettie knew she’d found a person with whom she could be herself.
Lettie woke to someone shaking her shoulder. She stared into the blue-gray eyes of a stranger and stiffened.
“Lettie, we’re here,” said a male voice.
As she came fully awake, she realized Kenton was talking to her.
“Here at Chandler Hill?” she asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.
She looked out through the windshield of the Ford Pinto and gaped at the huge, white-clapboard house sitting on the top of a knoll like a queen overlooking her realm.
Lettie scrambled out of the car and stood gazing at the clean lines of the two-story building. Across the front, four windows offset by green shutters were lined up with identical windows below. Beneath a small, protective, curved roof, glass panels bracketed a wide front door, welcoming guests. To one side, a two-story wing had been added to the house.
Green, leafy bushes offset by an assortment of colorful flowers she didn’t recognize softened the front of the building. As she walked closer, she realized between the main house and the addition a small, stone patio and private garden had been installed.
“Come on in,” said Kenton. “There’s a beautiful view from the back porch.”
Feeling as if she were Alice in a different kind of Wonderland, Lettie entered the house. As she tiptoed behind Kenton, her gaze darted from the polished surfaces of furniture to gilt-edged mirrors to a massive floral bouquet sitting on a large dining-room table. It all seemed so grand.
Kenton led her to a wide porch lining the back of the house. Observing the rolling land before her and, in the distance, the hills crouching in deepening colors of green, Lettie’s breath caught. The sun was rising, spreading a gold topping on the hills like icing on cake.
Lettie smiled and answered, “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, so peaceful.”
At the sound of footsteps behind her, she whirled around.
A tall, gray-haired man with striking features similar to Kenton’s said, “Welcome home, son.”
They shook hands, and then the older gentleman turned to her. “And who is this?”
Shy, she stared at the man who seemed so familiar to her.
Kenton nudged Lettie.
Minding her manners, Lettie held out her hand as she’d been taught. “Lettie Hawkins. I’ve come for a job.” A niggling feeling kept her eyes on him longer than necessary. When she could no longer stop herself, she blurted, “Aren’t you Rex Chandler, the movie star?”
He smiled. “Yes, I am. But I’ve changed professions.”
Lettie held back a chuckle of delight. A friend’s mother had privately adored him.
“Why don’t the two of you come into the kitchen,” said Rex. “Mrs. Morley will want to talk to Lettie, and I need to talk to you, Kenton.”
As Lettie followed the men into the kitchen, a woman hurried toward them, crying, “Kenton! Kenton! You’re home at last!”
Laughing, Kenton allowed the woman to hug him. “You’d think I’ve been gone a year, Mrs. Morley.”
“You almost were,” she said, smiling and pinching his cheek. “And look at you! More handsome than ever.”
Looking as if he couldn’t wait for her to focus her attention elsewhere, Kenton said, “Mrs. Morley, I’d like you to meet Lettie Hawkins. She’s here for a job.”
Mrs. Morley’s gaze settled on Lettie. “So, you like to work?”
“She likes to eat,” said Kenton, bringing a smile to Mrs. Morley’s full face.
“By the looks of it, Lettie, you could use more food,” said Mrs. Morley. “Let’s you and I talk about what kind of jobs you could do around here. I’m short-handed at the moment.”
Kenton and Rex left the kitchen.
Mrs. Morley waved Lettie over to a desk in a small alcove in the kitchen. After lowering her considerable bulk into a chair, Mrs. Morley faced her. Her green eyes exuded kindness as she studied Lettie. Her gray-streaked brown hair was pulled back from her face and banded together in a ponytail, giving Lettie a good look at her pleasing features.
“Have a seat, dear.”
Lettie sat in the chair indicated for her and clutched her hands. After seeing the small inn and the beautiful countryside, she desperately wanted the job.
“Where are you from, Lettie? And why in the world do you want to work here in the country? I’d think a pretty, young girl like you would want to be in a city having fun.”
Lettie paused, unsure how to answer her. She’d thought she’d like living in the city, being free to do whatever she wanted. But after four months of doing just that, the excitement had worn off. She liked to know where she was going to sleep at night and when she’d next eat.
“Maybe I’m just a country girl at heart,” she answered lamely. Her two best friends at home would scoff at her, but right now, that’s how she felt.
“Well, that’s what you’ll be if you stay on. A lot of activity is taking place around here, what with people buying up turkey farms and the like, turning them into vineyards, but it is country. I hope it always will be.” She leaned forward. “Know anything about cooking? Cleaning?”
“Yes,” said Lettie. “I used to do both in my foster home. I was the oldest of eight kids there.”
“Eight? My land, that’s a lot of kids to take in,” said Mrs. Morley.
“It’s a lot of money,” Lettie said, unable to hide her disgust. “That’s why they did it.”
“I see,” said Mrs. Morley, studying her. “So how long have you been on your own?”
“Four months,” she replied. “I was in San Francisco when I met Kenton.”
“Such a good, young man. I’ve known him for a while now,” Mrs. Morley sighed with affection. “You’re lucky he found you. Why don’t we start in housekeeping, see how it goes, and then maybe you can give me a hand in the kitchen.”
“Okay,” Lettie said, jumping to her feet. “Where should I put my things? I need to get them from the car.”
Mrs. Morley gave her an approving look. “I like your eagerness. Let me show you to your room and then I’ll give you a tour.”
The north half of the front of the house consisted of a large, paneled dining room she’d seen earlier. The long mahogany table that sat in the middle of the room held seats for twelve. A summer flower arrangement consisted of pink roses and pink hydrangeas interspersed with white daisies and sat in a cut-glass vase in the middle of the table. Along one wall, above a service counter, an open cupboard made of dark wood stored coffee mugs, extra wine goblets, and water glasses. A coffee maker and a burner holding a pot of hot water sat on the marble counter. A bowl of sugar, a pitcher of cream, and a dish of lemon slices were displayed nearby. At the other end of the counter, a large plate of homemade, chocolate-chip cookies invited guests to take one.
“How many guests do you usually have?” Lettie asked.
“We have six guest rooms, so we have as many as twelve people for the breakfast we serve. During the day, people come and go on their own, tasting wine at nearby vineyards or sightseeing. We offer a simple dinner to those not wishing to travel to restaurants at night.” A look of pride crossed Mrs. Morley’s face. “Sometimes my husband, Pat, grills out, or Rita Lopez cooks up Mexican food. Guests like these homestyle meals. In fact, we’re becoming known for them.”
Lettie’s mouth watered. It all sounded so good.
Mrs. Morley led her to a sideboard, opened its drawers, and gave her a smile. “Let’s see how well you polish silver.”
Later, after being shown how, Lettie was working on the silverware when Kenton walked into the kitchen.
“Well? Are you going to stay?” he asked.
“Yes,” Lettie said with determination. The whole time she’d been cleaning the silver she’d been able to gaze at the rolling hills outside. This, she’d decided, is where she wanted to be. It felt so right.
About the Author
Judith Keim was born and raised in Elmira, New York, and now makes her home in Idaho with her husband and their two dachshunds, Winston and Wally, and other members of her family.
Growing up, books were always present being read, ready to go back to the library, or about to be discovered. Information from the books was shared in general conversation, giving all of us in the family wealth of knowledge and a lot of imagination. Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the idea of writing stories early on. I particularly love to write novels about women who face unexpected challenges and meet them with strength.
A hybrid author who both has a publisher and who self-publishes, Ms. Keim writes heart-warming stories of strong women who face challenges and find love and happiness along the way. Her books are based, in part, on many of the places she’s lived or visited and on the interesting people she’s met, creating believable characters and realistic settings her many, loyal readers love.
Newly widowed and on the threshold of seventy, Lizzie Warton questions the value of her remaining years. Uncharacteristically, she decides for the first time in her life to do what she wants, instead of what everyone expects.
Against the wishes of family and friends, she sets out for Africa to work at a Ugandan middle school. When she lands at night in the Entebbe airport, her hosts are not there to meet her. Near panic, she hires a local taxi. The driver drugs her, steals everything, and dumps her limp body in a slum. Waking in the dark, she feels someone tugging off her shoes.
Without money, a passport, clothes, or medications, Lizzie is forced to start over and find a way to survive.
Soon she learns that nothing in Africa is as it appears. The grind of daily life in the third-world is beyond anything Lizzie imagined. Nevertheless, encouraged by budding friendships in surprising places, and against every sensible instinct she’s ever developed, Lizzie’s own personal search for meaning becomes the grand adventure of a lifetime.
Lizzie carried a towel, some rags, a folded robe, a big bar of deep blue soap, and a pair of flip-flops. Meg walked just ahead of her, lugging a large plastic bucket of warm water in one hand and tapping the ground ahead of them with a long stick.
“We rent this house,” Meg said, “and the owner keeps talking about upgrading to indoor plumbing. That’d be nice but we’re afraid if he does, we won’t be able to afford the rent. So far, it’s just talk.”
They passed long sets of clothes lines near the back perimeter wall and approached a painted enclosure with two wooden doors. Meg pulled open the left side door and stepped inside the closet-sized room, setting her bucket down on the slightly canted cement floor. “As a result, you will have the pleasure of a more traditional clean-up experience.” She grinned at Lizzie. “I know, it’s not exactly the Ritz, but bucket baths have their own rustic charms.”
She repositioned the two small benches in the room, pushing one against a wall and sliding the other into the center of the space. Turning back to Lizzie, still standing at the door, Meg set down the stick and held out her hands. “Here, gimme those, and I’ll set things up.”
Lizzie handed everything to Meg who efficiently arranged the items in a practiced order, using the outer bench and some convenient wooden pegs set into the walls.
“Okay. Let me show you the basics.” Meg crouched over the bucket and pretended to cup handfuls of water and toss them onto one shoulder and then onto the other. “You just kind of get the water going where you need it to go. Then you lather up. Rinse off. Repeat. It’s not complicated.”
She snickered and patted Lizzie’s shoulder as she exited. “Wait’ll you have to do it with cold water. I’ll remind Musaazi to leave another bucket outside the door for an extra rinse.” She winked. “I’m sure you’ll need it after all you’ve been through.”
Lizzie peeked inside the stark, white painted room and her eyes grew wider—there wasn’t any roof! She heard Meg outside explaining the next room in the enclosure, so she ducked back out to catch up.
“This is the bathroom side,” Meg explained. “I know it feels primitive but it’s clean. Just pretend you’re camping in the woods and you’ll be fine. Most women carry TP with them. You’ll get used to it. Here, the boys do a good job of keeping ours stocked.” She smiled as she stepped out so Lizzie could get a look. “And they no longer steal it, so that helps.”
Lizzie stepped into the bathroom, reassured to see a corrugated roof above her. There were a few pegs in the walls and a hole in the cement floor with room for feet on either side. A generous roll of toilet paper was within easy reach, and a small shelf nearby held two more rolls. She heard Meg’s voice continuing so she stepped back out.
“I know this is a lot to deal with, but you’ll be fine. Now, I’m sure you’re anxious to get started. I’m gonna go pull together some breakfast.” She stepped off toward the house, then stopped. “Oh, and just drape your dirty clothes over the bath wall. Musaazi’ll gather ‘em up, and I’ll get ‘em washed. Okay?”
Lizzie felt dazed, but not unpleasantly so. “Okay.”
Meg studied her for a moment, unsure whether to leave. “You’ll get your feet under you soon. I promise.”
Lizzie cocked her head, uncertain.
Meg grinned. “You’re made for this place, Lizzie. I can feel it.”
“Yep. Despite this beginning, you’re gonna love Uganda.”
About the Author
Originally from South Minneapolis, Gene Fournier earned a BA in Philosophy & Literature from St. Louis University followed by a Masters in Film from USC. Gene is a member of the Writers Guild of America West (WGA) and worked as a screenwriter and editor in Hollywood, but sadly, he never got that big break.
Seeking a return to his roots after twelve years in California, he accepted a Director of Media position with a multinational company headquartered in the Midwest. For thirty years he wrote, directed, edited and distributed corporate video programs around the world, managed live presentations, and orchestrated the creative elements for national and international meetings.
Retired now, with his seven children grown, and a dozen grandchildren to distract him, Gene is finally able to write down the stories he’s been carrying in his head all these years.
At a time when most people in American have never flown in an airplane, spunky Mandy McCabe test-pilots repaired war planes as part of the Women Air Force Service Pilots. If the Army Air Corp shuts down the WASP program, she must return to life in her hard-scrabble home and face her past.
DESPITE THE OPPOSITION
Army Air Corp Major Harvey Applegate lost his WASP wife test-piloting planes and doesn’t want any more women killed on his watch. He fights to close the WASP program. Women aren’t designed to fight wars. Men fight to protect women freedom, and the American way of life.
DESPITE THE RAGING WAR
This World War II romance shows Steel Magnolias meeting Band of Brothers. Can Mandy escape from her past? Can a man burdened with memories of death agree to added danger for the new woman in his life? Will their new love survive the test of opposing desires and the pain and separation of war?
“She’s late! Where is she?” Insides churning like pistons, Major Harvey Applegate stared hard at the tiny blonde standing in front of him, her hands clenched behind her back.
Her chin trembled. She looked so young he wanted to pat her on the back and send her to the hangar for a hot chocolate, but majors didn’t do that. So he gritted his teeth. He was supposed to show respect for the WASPs invading his air base. That was asking a lot. They were young and unpredictable. Men fought wars to protect American women. Men died in wars. Not women. He restrained his impulse to pound the metal side of the wet hangar and slapped his thigh with his cap instead.
“I can’t lose another WASP on my watch. Not two in as many days.” He plowed his hand through his short, dripping hair, frowned, and reminded himself not to get his underwear wrapped around an axle.
“She’s only half an hour late, sir.” Doreen’s lower lip quivered.
“Didn’t that pilot get the word this morning?” Harvey wrung his cap. He wouldn’t take his temper out on this innocent blonde.
“No, sir. Corporal Jones ran up to tell me we were grounded twenty minutes after she was in the air.”
Above the wail of the wind, Harvey picked up the faint lilting song of a Merlin engine running slightly rough. He gazed toward the windsock blowing straight out and pivoted toward the landing strip. A P-51 came in fast and low, circled the field, made a perfect three-point landing, and taxied to a halt.
He snapped his cap onto his head. He didn’t have many men who could land in a crosswind that well. Even he would have had trouble. Boots splashing water, he dashed across the tarmac and reached the craft before the propeller stopped spinning. The canopy of the single-seater flew open. A slight figure, clad in a man’s too-large flight suit, climbed out onto the rain-slick wing. He stretched up his arms and grabbed her waist to lower her to the ground. Even with the weight of her boots, flight jacket, and gear, this one felt light in his arms.
The pilot glanced at his insignia. If she’d actually been military, she’d have had to salute. But she wasn’t, and she didn’t. The minute her feet touched ground, the slender woman pulled off her goggles and gazed up at him. Wide blue eyes circled with goggle marks.
Another starry-eyed angel. Harvey swallowed hard. His chest hurt. She looked so vulnerable. He scowled, picturing that slender nose smashed and those winsome lips closed forever. He couldn’t face seeing another woman killed. He wanted these women off his air base. Wanted no more sleep lost over these young ladies. Wanted no more sending them into danger. Wanted no more funerals that tore him apart. He slapped the cowl of the plane so hard she jumped. No more charred women in downed planes. Trista took on a man’s job, and look how that turned out. Agony pierced his chest. He shook his head, trying to dislodge the memory.
“I’ll see you grounded!” Harvey thundered. “You were due back half an hour ago. Can’t you women obey rules?”
Ruby lips rounded into an O of surprise. Her sapphire eyes widened. Her dark brows arched. “What?”
“Women pilots!” He slammed his fist into his palm. “I’ll shut down this program.”
Her brows furrowed. Her chin poked out. Her hands flew to her hips. She looked ready to jump all over him. As long as she was alive and safe, he didn’t care. He could handle her. “You head-in-the-clouds dreamers think you’re on your own private missions. This base is no place for a woman!”
“You men have such a high opinion of yourselves. Women could fly in combat, but you keep us home.” Flames tinted her wet cheeks. “You won’t admit our country desperately needs us to fly these planes.” She stressed each word passionately.
Harvey could tell she wanted to say more, but she clamped her lips. He glared.
She glowered back.
Tough if she thought he had an inflated opinion of himself. Better that than for her to guess he had a soft spot for these female pilots. “I don’t want any more dead women.”
She cringed. Her face crumpled.
Why hadn’t he kept his trap shut? Even on a base this big, she probably knew the missing WASP pilot. But he’d wanted to scare her into obeying the rules. Obedience gave the women pilots some semblance of safety.
She recovered from her first reaction and blazed. “Connie’s alive. I know it. And rumor patrol says it’s just a couple of you big shots who want to shut us down. Most fellas like us testing repaired planes and towing targets. They want to be free to fly combat.”
He shrugged. She was right. And he couldn’t dredge up a comeback.
She stomped stiff-legged toward the open hangar door, parachute bumping her backside, rain blurring his view.
“Feisty pilot, you’re the kind gets yourself killed,” he yelled just as she reached the hangar door.
About the Author
Anne Greene lives in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, a few miles north of Dallas. Her husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. Her little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares her writing space, curled at her feet.
Besides her first love, writing, she enjoys family, friends, travel, reading, and way too many other things to mention. Life is good. Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.”
Anne’s an award-winning author of twenty-three books. She loves writing about alpha heroes who aren’t afraid to fall on their knees in prayer, and about gutsy heroines. She hopes her stories transport you to awesome new worlds and touch your heart.
Before We Were Perfect has been adapted into an award-winning screenplay titled Perfectly Normal in Flagstaff. The screenplay won Best Feature Script in the 2018 Top Indie Film Awards and a 2018 Silver Screen award in the Nevada International Film Festival.
Inspired by true events; Before We Were Perfect is a dramatic comedy about the Havreaux family and their ragin’ Cajun uncle. Julz Havreaux is a beautiful young woman with imperfections who meets an imperfect handsome wounded warrior turned writer. Through comedic mishaps and drama, they discover that in spite of their imperfections they are perfect together. Contains adult themes, intense drama, sensuality, humor, and love.
About the Author
Multiple award-winning Author: S.D. Moore writes in spite of being a brain-damaged, heart damaged Air Force veteran who also battles Lupus. She is the author of the award-winning screenplay, Perfectly Normal in Flagstaff which won a 2018 Silver Screen award in the Nevada International Film Festival. S.D. is also the author of Readers’ Favorite 2017 International Gold Medal (1st place) winning horror novel Wicked Prayers, the award-winning Adventures of PJ and Split Pea and the workbook Basics to Business: Minding Your Business with Excel. She is also a patented inventor of The Portable Hot Sink System; has an ABD towards a Doctorate of Education, holds dual master’s degrees in management and human resources development.