The Husband She Couldn't Forget
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Kneeling beside him, she put her hand on his forehead and saw the mark on her finger from the absent ring. The reminders of her past life.
Rolland held her until she was still. ďBesides liking that youíre blocking the sun, I would really like to kiss you.Ē
His lips greeted hers in a kiss that defined perfection in its simplicity. There was a knowing about the way his mouth moved over hers, an assuredness in how his head tilted, and hers dropped to the side and back to accept his mouth and tongue, that made her know this wouldnít be the last time. That thought brought reality screeching back.
She planted both her hands against his chest and moved herself away.
ďWait. I need a minute.Ē All of her senses began to work again and she heard birds caw. Squirrels hustled about their business and a deer ran past heading east.
Rolland got closer and though she didnít want to, she had to stop him.
About the Author
CARMEN GREEN was born in Buffalo, NY, and had plans to study law before becoming a published author. While raising her three children, she wrote her first book on legal pads and transcribed it onto a computer on weekends before selling it in 1993. Since that time she has sold more than thirty novels and novellas, and is proud that one of her books was made into a TV movie in 2001, Commitments, in which she had a cameo role.
In addition to writing full-time, Carmen is now a mum of four, and lives in the Southeast of America. You can contact Carmen at www.carmengreen.blogspot.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is my inaugural book for Mills & Boonģ Cherish, so I thought I should introduce myself. I am Carmen Green and Iíve been a writer since the mid-nineties. I love writing funny, offbeat novels, but I have a serious side too, so youíll never really know what to expect. I love learning, flowers, family, friends and food. I never go on loops, but I donít mind talking to people, doing interviews or appearing at conferences. I love travelling and experiencing new things. I have great friends in this business and those that know me well know that Iím funny, straightforward and honest.
This book is quite special to me. Traumatic Brain Injury is a very serious condition, and for those that suffer from this condition and their families it is often life-altering. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of those who continue the battle to improve their lives and the lives of those affected by TBI. I try to reply to all of my readers. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and my website is www.authorcarmengreen.com.
I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Peace and blessings,
This book is dedicated to the US Military, and to Lori Bryant Woolridge and Nina Foxx, two of the women along with myself who founded the Femme Fantastik Tour.Itís been a humbling experience travelling to bases and speaking to the soldiers and their families. I became interested in the subject of Traumatic Brain Injury because of an injury to a soldier, and I have a healthy respect for all that they and their families must endure on the path to recovery. Iím very proud of our soldiers, and I hope to see you all again soon.
Melanie stood on the top step of her Atlanta, Georgia, home and wondered how any woman in her right mind could be wearing stockings in this kind of June heat. The tall black woman whoíd just rung her doorbell smelled faintly of cigarettes and looked as if she needed one bad.
An odd expression crossed her face, and Melanie looked at her own left hand and jerked it behind her back, embarrassed. She was still holding the Not Pregnant test stick from the pregnancy test sheíd just taken, and her flush of disappointment sizzled into nothingness under the bright noon sun.
ďIím sorry, I just heard the door a second ago,Ē Melanie said, pocketing the apparatus.
ďMrs. Melanie Bishop?Ē
ďYes, thatís me.Ē
Regret passed over the womanís face before she tapped Melanieís arm with a large manila envelope. ďYouíve been served.Ē
Hubert, Boyle and Stein. Divorce attorneys. Sheíd heard whispers about them in the ladies locker room at the country club her husband had insisted they join. They were the best. Or the worst. Depending on which side of the table you were on.
Her smile felt parched and false.
The woman took the winding steps down to the sidewalk in a hurry but sensing no threat, slowed down as she walked to her old grayish-looking Civic and got in. The car rumbled to life, but she didnít pull off.
Melanie stared at the envelope, knowing, but not wanting to know, why Deion was having her served.
The massive front door was blue. Deion wasnít fond of blue, but he hadnít said he hated blue. She couldíve changed it. Wouldíve, had she known.
Maybe they shouldnít have compromised on the Porsche heíd wanted, and should have gotten it instead of the Lexus SUV.
But where would he put the baby when they had one?
That had been her argument.
Maybe heíd gotten tired of her arguments for everything.
Maybe Deion hatedó
ďYes?Ē she said, looking around, unsure of who was calling her. It was the process server.
The woman had leaned over the passenger seat and was looking out the window. ďYou got a mama?Ē she called up to her.
ďShe died seven years ago.Ē What an odd question coming from a stranger.
ďA sister or best friend?Ē
ďA friend.Ē Him. Only him.
ďGo in your house and call her right now. Okay?Ē
ďOkay.Ē Melanie turned the knob and put her shoulders into pushing the heavy door open. ďThank you.Ē
Inside the house, her sneakers made hush, hush sounds on the nearly black hardwood floors and not for the first time, she felt as if the cool silence was mocking her. Sheíd only agreed to this house because sheíd thought theyíd fill it with children. But theyíd been trying for five years and she didnít need telepathy to tell her that the papers in her hand were her expiration notice.
ďDial Deionís cell phone,Ē she said aloud to the voice-activated system that controlled everything in the house.
She walked to their bedroom to Deionís closet and didnít notice more than the usual amount of clothes gone.
Deion was in New York at a conference for portfolio managers. She could hear his cell ringing, then roll over to voice mail. She sat on the end of their bed.
ďThis is Deion Bishop. Iím making deals happen, and if youíre ready, Iíll make them happen for you. Leave your name and number.Ē His voice was still sexy after seven years of being together. She hadnít tired of it. Would never.
ďHoney, we need to talk,Ē she said, injecting a smile into her voice. ďThere has to be some way we can make this work. We can talk about anything. Please call me here at home. I love you. Goodbye. End call.Ē
Two weeks after she was served, Melanie slid her maidís paycheck through the crack in the front door, but wouldnít open it all the way. ďI donít need you this week, Juanita. Iím just not feeling well and I donít want you to catch my germs.Ē
ďMrs. Bishop, I clean two times a week, every week for five years. Mr. Bishop says so. He doesnít like his bathroom with any dirt. Iím coming in.Ē
ďNo!Ē Melanie swallowed her tears. ďMr. Bishop isnít here right now, so thereís no need to worry about his bathroom. Here, Iíll pay you for the entire month. Iíll call you when I need you. Thank you, Juanita.Ē
ďMrs. Bishop, you okay?Ē
ďIím fine,Ē she said, closing out the concerned-looking woman. ďGoodbye. Iíll call you. Really. Bye, now.Ē
Melanie closed the door and walked back to her bedroom. ďCall Deion at work,Ē she commanded, relieved when she saw Juanitaís car slowly leave the cul-de-sac.
ďGood morning, MJM Portfolio Management.Ē
ďThis is Melanie Bishop. May I speak to Rod Burke?Ē
ďJust a moment, please.Ē
At least this time she didnít get the baffled silence from the receptionist.
ďMelanie, itís Rod. I heard that youíve been calling.Ē
ďI have, Rod. Deion isnít home from a trip he left from two weeks ago. Iím worried. He hasnít answered his cell and Iím not sure where exactly he is.Ē Sheíd been weeping so long, her throat was raw. She cleared it, knowing she sounded like a desperate housewife. ďWhere is he?Ē
ďMelanie, Deion quit working here two weeks ago.Ē
ďWhat?Ē Shock and panic and a desperate sense that everything was coming to a close enveloped her. He loved his job and if he quit there, he had much bigger plans.
ďDeion walked in one day, said he had an opportunity he couldnít pass up and handed in his resignation. I wasnít happy at all, but I couldnít stop him.Ē
ďWhen was this?Ē
ďExactly two weeks ago today.Ē
ďRod, do you still hold his license?Ē
ďNo, I gave it to him. We severed all ties, and he left. Funny thing, though, I thought he was going to try to undercut me and take his top clients, then Iíd have recourse to sue him, but he hasnít touched them.Ē
Melanie knew better than to say Deion wouldnít cheat Rod, but thatís how Rod had gotten his startóby avoiding his former firmís client list.
ďNothing at all, Rod?Ē
ďNot a peep. Mel, I wish I could help, but Iíve got a meeting. I donít know any more than Iíve told you.Ē
ďSorry to bother you.Ē
ďNo bother. Bye,Ē he said and hung up.
Melanie listened to the dial tone. All communication between her and Rod was probably over forever.
The tears poured from her as she walked from room to room, opening doors, letting her pain fill each space. Open-mouthed she cried out her sorrow in the nursery that would never know the rhapsody of her childrenís glee. The guest room that had never experienced the joy of a guest, and the master bedroom that had lost its master and mistress.
Tripping on her slippers, she tumbled down the step in the den and lay there, wishing her pain would end. Why hadnít he just told her face-to-face it was over?
How could he break her heart this way?
A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped.
ďMrs. Bishop, why are you crying?Ē
ďJuanita? Youíre back.Ē
ďYes, maíam. I was worried about you. Come on, get up. I was afraid. This is my husband, Jusef.Ē
They helped her off the floor and to the sofa. Juanita dispatched her husband to the kitchen for a towel and glass of water. ďWhatís wrong?Ē
ďHe left me and I donít know why. Just served me with divorce papers weeks ago and heís gone.Ē
Juanita rubbed Melanieís back and closed her eyes. ďLet me pray for you.Ē
Softly in Spanish she prayed for Melanie as Jusef stood in the doorway and waited. When his wife was done, he brought the water. ďMay I see the papers? Iím in law school.Ē
ďYou are? Juanita, I didnít know.Ē
Shame filled Melanie because sheíd never gotten to know the woman who cleaned her house and had indulged her and Deionís nonsensical wishes. ďIím so sorry.Ē
ďNo. I came here to do my job not to talk, talk, talk. I do enough of that at home. Iím helping Jusef through law school and then he will help me through culinary arts school. We will do well together.Ē
There was love in this family, Melanie saw, and respect. She wished sheíd been able to have that with Deion.
Melanie finished the water and felt better.
ďJusef, the papers are on the dining room table. Theyíre clear-cut and he even signed them. Iím leaving. I was just walking around thinking about all the dreams that were lost, and I guess I got overwhelmed. This morning I accepted a job in Kentucky.Ē
ďAre you sure you wonít give him a little more time?Ē Juanita asked, her own eyes sympathetic.
Melanie wiped her tears and accepted Juanitaís hug. ďNo. I talked to his boss and he said Deion quit his job. Iíve called everyone and nobodyís seen him. Nobody knows anything and if they do, nobodyís saying. He doesnít want me to find him. Itís time to face reality that heís gone for good.Ē
Jusef returned, reading the papers. ďYou can take what you want. Do you want to contest this?Ē
ďNo. Heís being more than generous.Ē
ďHe may have more assets.Ē
ďNo, Iím not going to fight over anything. I put some things in the car and I shipped my gardening tools and seasonal clothing yesterday.Ē
Juanita looked around. ďYou didnít take anything.Ē
ďI did. Some papers and other smaller things I wanted. I kept the personal things he gave me, but overall I want to make a fresh start. I have money, so Iíll buy whatever I need once I get there. Do you need anything, Juanita?Ē
ďNo, maíam. We are just fine.Ē
ďJuanita, we need a bed. Our bed is twenty-five years old and we are only thirty. Why are you saying no?Ē Jusef said. ďYou didnít learn anything from church on Sunday.Ē
Melanie smiled for the first time in days. ďJusef, Iíve got just the bed for you.Ē
The next morning, Melanie felt the tears building, but kept them at bay. She swept up the last of the trash and pulled the garbage can to the curb, waited as the garbage man dumped it, then dragged it back to the garage where she hosed it down. She washed her hands, then walked back down the driveway.
ďMrs. Bishop, you sure you want me to take all of this?Ē
ďYes, please enjoy everything.Ē
Melanie looked at Juanitaís overloaded Chevy Trail-blazer. Sheíd filled the SUV with all the items a new couple would need to start a home. Jusefís brother had brought his big truck and had carted away the bed this morning after Jusef and Juanita had awakened. Theyíd been kind enough to stay overnight with her.
Melanie stood by Juanitaís side, then hugged her fiercely. Jusef came down the driveway and handed her the keys. The house was locked up and she couldnít look back.
ďIíve paid the utilities and taxes. Youíre going to come by every two weeks to check on the place and make sure nobody bothers it,Ē Melanie said to Juanita, looking at the ground.
ďThatís right, Mrs. Bishop, I mean, Melanie.Ē
ďHereís my number if you need me. The alarm company has your number. If you want to quit, move, or whatever, please call me.Ē
ďI wonít quit. You paid me a yearís salary in advance. If he comes back, shall I call you?Ē
ďNo. Just tell him all the bills have been paid, and heís officially divorced.Ē
Melanie climbed into her car, which had been backed down the driveway by Jusef moments ago. Heíd turned the Volvo around and positioned it on the cul-de-sac so she wouldnít have to look at the house as she drove away.
ďYou are sure?Ē Juanita asked.
ďStop, Nita,Ē Jusef cajoled. ďShe is ready.Ē
Melanie took a deep breath, then stuck her left hand out the window, and they grasped it and blessed her. She let go first and drove away, tears blurring her eyes, listening to the recording as she drove, ďIím sorry the number you have reached is not in service or has been temporarily disconnected.Ē
ďRolland, youíre doing great.Ē
Rolland Jones didnít doubt for a minute that he was doing better than great. When heíd first arrived at Ryder Rehabilitation and Spinal Center, he couldnít even sit up without help. Now he was in a mad race to the finish on his stationary bike against Horace, his physical therapist.
Horace perspired like crazy as if theyíd been riding for hours, when theyíd been on for only twenty-five minutes. Rolland couldnít help but laugh at the enthusiastic man who never seemed to have a bad day.
ďOkay, big Ro,Ē Horace challenged. ďWhat is a biathalon? Forty-five seconds.Ē
Rollandís legs were longer but he stayed at a moderate pace as heíd been taught. ďA biathalon is a cross-country skiing and shooting event.Ē
ďCorrect.Ē Horace pumped his arms in the air cheering. He picked up his water bottle and used it as a pretend microphone. ďAnd now for the final two thousand points, and to be crowned the unofficial, unolympic winner of the miniature-size trophy of a chocolate candy bar with peanuts, you must answer this question correctly.Ē
Rolland was already laughing. ďGive me the question.Ē
ďSir, donít rush the announcer. Who is the all-time highest scoring male basketball team of the U.S. Olympic Games? Sixty seconds.Ē He started an offbeat drumroll that spun crazily throughout the workout room to the other patients and therapists.
Shelby, a physical therapist who occasionally worked with Horace, stopped by. ďYouíre looking good, Rolland,Ē she said, mischievously.
Rolland had no problem identifying Shelby because of her green eyes and red hair. One of the first things heíd learned with his injury was how to associate people with their eye and hair color.
ďShelby, donít cheat and help him, or when you need chocolate, Iím not going to help you.Ē
Shelbyís mouth dropped open in mock hurt. ďAre you accusing me of impropriety? I thought Horace and I were friends, right, Rolland?Ē
ďThatís right, Shelby. Iím hurt for you.Ē
ďShake your head, Rolland,Ē she told him, and he did.
Horace didnít buy it for one second. ďYou two are full of hot rocks. Shelby,Ē Horace stood pedaling fast, ďif you tell him, youíre going to suffer. You know how you get. Youíre gonna need some chocolate.Ē
Rolland laughed. ďGive me a hint, Shelby. Come on, my friend. I know where he keeps the candy stashed.Ē
She pretended to fall asleep, with her hands by her cheek. ďIím so tired. I canít wait to go home and have sweetóĒ
ďThe Dream Team!Ē Rolland shouted just as Horace hopped off the bike and ran after Shelby who sought refuge behind two large male nurses.
They grinned at Horace who was the most senior therapist because of his candidacy for his Ph.D. But he maintained a sense of humor about himself and made everyone laugh by jumping around, never quite reaching Shelby.
Horace went around the room, harassing other patients by doing a couple squats with Harold, and some legs lifts with Lavenia, and some arm curls with Maven, until their therapists shooed him away.
Rolland mopped his brow while Horace guzzled water. ďFour miles, man. I swear, I think youíre trying to kill me.Ē
ďMe?Ē Horace shook his head. ďIíve lost fifteen pounds since you got here. My wife thinks Iíve got another woman. I keep telling her itís you.Ē He chuckled. ďShe canít believe Iím losing weight because of a dude.Ē Horace tried to look disgusted, but lost his frown to a smile. ďYouíre not even my type.Ē
ďAnd people think I have the brain injury,Ē Rolland said, playfully shoving Horace as they headed for the weight room. Everyone applauded as they walked by.
Horace bowed on his way out. ďSecond show, three oíclock,Ē he called.
ďDo you think I was in shape before the accident?Ē Rolland asked him when Horace caught up in the state-of-the-art weight room. They passed the therapy tables where Rolland remembered spending many a day getting his knee back to working order.
ďYes. You had good muscle tone when you got here two months ago. You spent a month in that hospital in Las Vegas and that was to heal the fractures and for reconstructive surgery of your knee. You had good muscle memory. That told me youíd been athletic.Ē
They passed a mirror and Rolland didnít stop and look at himself as he used to. Heíd had work done on his face, too, but he was healed for all intent and purposes.
Most of the people here were in some form or another of reconstruction. Be it physical or mental. Fortunately, he was, physically whole. It was his brain that didnít know who he was.
ďCome on and show me what you got,Ē Horace said, adjusting the weights to forty pounds for the chest press.
Rolland sat down, planted his feet and breathed through the first ten reps.
ďGood. You got ten more in you?Ē
Rolland nodded. ďWith this brain injury, do you ever remember your favorite color?Ē
ďPossibly. Good,Ē Horace praised. ďEven if you donít, you develop new taste. Itís like, do you like green now? Is that important? Is your wife green? Does that matter?Ē
Rolland laughed. ďYouíre sick, you know that?Ē
Horace shrugged. ďYes, sir, I do, and I appreciate my gift. Youíre meeting someone new today. Melanie Wysh. W-y-s-h. Wysh. Itís not the conventional way youíd spell wish.Ē
ďNo. Thatís w-i-s-h. A good sentence would be I wish I was taller than you. Youíre an average-looking bloke at six-feet tall, and Iím smashing looking at five-foot eight. Want to try ten more reps?Ē
ďYes.Ē Rolland did eight and struggled through the last two. He was almost done at Ryder and this Melanie would have a lot to say about his next steps in his life.
Horace handed him ten-pound weights. ďAre you comfortable with the weights?Ē
ďYes. Is Melanie already here?Ē Rolland asked the same questions each time he was introduced to someone new, but Horace never got tired of them.
ďYes, she is.Ē
ďHave I seen her before?Ē
ďOccasionally. Sheís a tiny woman. About five-four. She wears dresses all the time. Brown-skinned. Nice lady.Ē
ďIs she black?Ē
ďYes, sheís a black lady.Ē
ďOkay.Ē Rolland closed his eyes and tried to picture her, as his brain flipped through the women heíd met at the facility. He still couldnít place her, but the frustration he used to feel from not remembering someone didnít come today. ďWhat else do you know about her? Is her hair short like Purdyís?Ē
ďNobodyís hair is like Purdyís, and you donít want it to be with that permanent hairnet she wears.Ē
Rolland laughed and pumped the weights. ďI donít think Iíve met Melanie. Has she seen me?Ē
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