Monday, December 26, 2011

For Better or Worse, a love story

This is something I wrote many years ago after my grandpa died.  He and my grandma were significant inspirations in my life.  When I think of a great love story, they always come to mind.  This is for my Grandpa Bill and Grandma Pearl--both gone now, but living forever in my heart.  

For Better or Worse, a love story
by Amber Lea Easton

Dark, scarred bricks rose up from the frozen ground.  Dormant ivy vines covered the the side of the building like brittle lace.  Wind howled in mutinous glory and whipped everything in its path. Low silver clouds rolled and swirled across the gray sky.  Forecast called for snow.  Good thing he’d decided to come early today.  
Simple things like walking weren’t easy these days.  Cold, crisp air heavy with the smell of snow filled his lungs.  He pulled the coat tightly around his chest, the cap low over his forehead and shuffled toward the building, steps true despite the stroke.  The doctors, physical therapists, all of them had said he wouldn’t be able to walk again.   
Well, he’d never had much faith in the medical profession.  Ninety-two years old and he still walked the earth under his own power. Maybe a little slower, true.  Yes, his back was bent, his speech slurred and his mouth a bit crooked, but the sparkle in his blue eyes hinted at the sharp mind beneath the gray hair.   
Bill pushed open the door to the Odd Fellows Home, his wife’s home for close to a decade.
“Hey, Bill.  Good to see you.”  A nurse stopped in the hallway, a bright smile on her chubby face.  She fidgeted with a pen in the pocket of her blue smock while her eyes scanned him from head-to-toe.  Her name tag said Mary Jo. 
Always sizing me up, she is.  Probably wondering how long I’ll be able to get around on my own.  Bill laughed at the private thoughts.  
“How is she today then?”  Speaking proved difficult since the stroke, but he did it well enough to be understood.  
“She’s awake.  That’s something.” 
“Good mood or bad?”
“Not bad.”  The nurse squeezed his arm before moving down the hallway.  
His wife, Pearl, suffered from Alzheimer’s for over a decade.  In two months, she’d celebrate her ninetieth birthday.  He still lived at the farm where they’d raised their four children, where they’d laughed with friends, where their grandchildren had played.  He’d tried to care for her himself for a long time.  Hired at-home nurses, twenty-four hour care.  He’d promised never to put her in a home.  Oh, how he’d tried to keep that promise.  
Even after the violent outbursts began, he’d tried to keep that promise.  But then it all came tumbling down. Once she’d locked him out in sub-zero temperatures during the middle of a harsh South Dakota winter.  She hadn’t known him any longer, had thought him a stranger.  
That’s what had hurt the most--the fact that his wife hadn’t known him any longer.  
He shuffled toward the room at the far end of the hall.  Brightly colored paintings of Christmas trees and Santa Clause decorated the wall, done by local school children.   
He hesitated in the doorway at the sight of Pearl sitting in the green recliner near the window.  Guilt collided with love. 
My bride for nearly 65 years now...still as beautiful as the day I met her.  Sure her hair is white now when it used to be strawberry blonde, but I barely notice.  No, when I look at Pearl I see the feisty young woman I fell in love with, the woman with the quick laugh and snapping blue eyes.  The woman—the only woman—I’ve ever needed.
 “Hello, ma,” he said, taking a seat on the bed next to her chair.  “It’s a nasty day out.  The wind is blowing something fierce.” 
Gently, he lifted her hand and rubbed her favorite rose scented lotion into her translucent skin. He hadn’t realized he’d missed that smell until she hadn’t been able to pamper herself any longer.  
“Hi.”  Pearl finally noticed him with vague recognition in her eyes. Sixty-five years of marriage leaves a lasting impression, even in the path of Alzheimer’s.   
History reverberated through the air like a million little shockwaves.  There were many things he missed talking to her about, little things like the weather and big things like grandchildren.  
“Did you do the chores today?”  she asked him with an innocent, loving smile.
“Sure did.  Need you to gather the eggs, though.”  I can’t tell her that I sold all the cattle this autumn.  I wonder what she would say, though, if she knew.  
He patted her hand and held it against his knee.
“Those damn boys were fighting behind the barn again last night.  Always fighting those two and getting into trouble.  You need to knock their heads together, Bill.”   She shook her white head and laughed a minute before the blankness reclaimed her eyes.
They’d had four children together.  Two boys and two girls.  Harold and Cliff had always been into some type of brawl.    
He laughed, too, and smoothed his finger over the top of the raised veins on her hand.  She used to shoot a cap gun into the air to get the boys’ attention.  That usually put an end to whatever scuffle was ensuing at the time.  
That’s my Pearl, my bride.  Forever feisty.  I think the boys were more intimidated by her than me.  
“I miss you at the house, ma,” he said. 
A vague smile flittered across her lips, but her eyes were distant.  
He held her hand a bit longer, wanting another glimpse of the woman locked inside the elderly body.  He wondered what went on behind those eyes and imagined a constant replay of years past that she now believed to be present. 
I’d like to believe she’s remembering me as a handsome young man with a full head of dark hair.  I’d like to think she’s trapped in a time when we had a house full of children and friends stopping over for dinner. A happy time.   
No words were spoken for a long time. He held her hand while she gazed unseeing at the television droning on about the winter storm.    
“I love you, ma.”  He kissed her on the forehead and squeezed her hand one more time before standing.
“That’s nice,” she said with a fragile smile hovering on her mouth.  For a moment, an old familiar light gleamed in her eyes. For a moment, he believed she'd been present.    
Tears blurred his vision when he turned from his wife.  Time to go.  There were still some chores to be done, even if the cattle were gone.  Still some sheep and dogs to care for, things to do, a life to live even at ninety-two.  
Mary Jo waved from the nurse’s station.  He noticed the way she looked at his shuffling steps.  You won’t be seeing me in here any time soon, he thought. Pearl isn’t the only feisty one in our marriage.
The door slammed when he stepped back into the cold air. 
Snowflakes blew horizontally across the parking lot.  The wind slapped hard against his face.  Cold seeped into his bones.  He grinned and rubbed his hands together.  Breath formed a cloud in front of his face.  
He welcomed the biting wind and the harsh cold air rushing into his lungs.  He lived.  He loved. He had things to do.  He'd return tomorrow, maybe stop by the store to bring her some orange slices.  She'd always loved orange slices. He revved the engine of the Chevy truck, looked back at the brick building with a twisted grin and a whole lot of longing and sped out of the parking lot toward home.   

Monday, December 19, 2011

Author Tammy Maggy Shares a Cut Scene from "For the Love of Quinn"

For "Open Mic Monday", I'm welcoming back Author Tammy Dennings Maggy.  Today she's sharing a scene that didn't make the final cut for "For the Love of Quinn", but it's one she holds dear to her heart.  Enjoy! 

This was originally a scene that I just toyed around with but ultimately decided to cut it since it sort of slowed the pace of the story.  It is a great scene between Derek and Steve.  Here Steve gets to ask Derek a bit more about Quinn, Jake and his connection to her.  In this scene, Derek is busy inking in the tattoo he designed for Steve, a portrait of his sister Quinn.  Since it was a surprise for her, Steve asked Quinn to stay out in the lobby until Derek finished it.
Derek had another station all set up with the inks he would need to do Steve’s tattoo.  He didn’t want to have anything out that would give a clue to Quinn what Steve had asked him to do.  Since he already did tattoos for both of his sisters that day, Derek was more than a bit amped up on adrenaline.  First his family and now the owner of the casino agreed to be his canvas for his art.  Nothing jazzed him more except performing with his band Quarter to Three.  
Steve removed his shirt to a chorus of appreciative giggles, and ah’s.  He smiled at the groupies outside of the glass enclosed tattoo parlor.  “So is it like this all the time?”
“Always.  There are a few times I wanted to put in some screens to protect some of our more famous clients, but those are the very people who love to be on display anyway.  Once in a great while we have a client who wants to be inked or pierced in private, so we set up another area for those individual appointments.”  Derek winked.  “We could move you to the back room if you wish.”
Steve smiled and shook his head.  “Not a chance.  I want to experience it all first hand.  Ever since you opened your shop here, I’ve been meaning to stop in and get my first tattoo.  Now here I am.  Thanks to your sisters.  And why is this the first time I’m hearing about your family?”
Derek applied the basic outlines of his portrait of Quinn to the left side of Steve’s chest, rubbing a bit so they ink transferred to his tanned skin.  “It’s never come up before.  You were always busy with your construction and casino projects.  There really wasn’t a time when you crossed paths with Quinn until this year.”  He loaded up his tattoo tube and needle with black ink to start the outlines.  “Just for the record, I haven’t seen her smile that much in years.”
Steve winced with the first few strokes of the needle, but then relaxed completely in the chair.  “Her smile does light up the room.  And those eyes of hers, you have to make sure you capture that color.”
“I know, blue green like the ocean.   Trust me, when I’m done, you’ll think you have a living portrait of Quinn on your chest.  She is going to flip when she sees this.”
“Since we are going to be here a bit, mind if I ask you a few questions?”  Steve’s eyes glanced out to the lobby where Quinn and Miranda were busy looking through the tattoo books and people watching.
“You can ask, but if you want to know anything about Quinn, I suggest you ask her directly.  She may have a few secrets that she’s not ready to share just yet.”  Derek wiped excess ink from Steve’s chest and continued with his work.
“I’m having way too much fun discovering her secrets between her and your sister Randi.  Who I want to ask you about is Eric’s brother, Jake.”
Derek stopped working and held Steve’s intense gaze.  “You felt it between them too didn’t you?”  Goddamn it!  Why couldn’t Jake have left town last week?
“It was hard not to notice.  The room nearly crackled from the electricity between them.   Hell, the way they looked at each other at my club last night had my jealousy meter in overdrive.  I got her out of there as fast as I could.  I wanted her for myself.  Sorry.”
“No need to apologize to me. I’m glad she’s with you.  Jake’s got a lot going on right now.  It’s not the best time for him to be hooking up with anyone let alone my sister.  I don’t care what flashed between them.  He’s not right for her now.”
“So the stories about him around the casino are true?  He’s a love them and leave them kind of guy?”  Steve’s whole body tensed up causing Derek to ease up with the shading he was doing.  “Sorry, it’s not the needle.  I guess that jealous streak is still running through me.  From what she’s told me about her marriage, I don’t think she needs to be with another man who will only hurt her in the end.”
Derek smiled and sat back on his stool while he changed ink tubes.  “I’m sure Eric can fill you in on Jake’s history with women, but from what I’ve seen here in Vegas, he’s not one to hang around when things get serious.  He’s concentrating on his career now which is a good thing, but once again he’s bolting from a chick.”
“That barfly?  Caroline?  I’ve had to have her escorted out of Saints and Sinners on a few occasions the last couple months.  She’s definitely someone to bolt away from as fast as you can!”
The rest of the artists in the shop laughed along with Derek.  “You got that right, brotha.  She made Jake crazy with her search for a sugar daddy.  She only came crawling back when she didn’t have anyone around to pay for her drinks at the clubs.  She would bring her friends in here when I was working on the dragons on his back and try to start a fight with him.  He needed to stay relaxed during all of that work and she was determined to screw it up.  I was having none of that.”
“Understandable.”  Steve narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice.  “So when does Jake leave town?”
Derek chuckled softly.  “Tomorrow morning.  Just to give you a heads up, he will be at the concert tonight.  You might want to keep a few people between Quinn and Jake.  If those sparks continue to fly between them, I’m not sure even you can stop them from getting together.”
“Is that a challenge, Mr. Quartermarsh?”  Steve looked in the mirror after Derek put the finishing touches on his tattoo.  He seemed mesmerized.
“Do you like it?”  Derek continued to watch his landlord and friend in the mirror.  He knew he captured Quinn’s likeness perfectly.  Depicting her as a fallen angel with her wild pixie hair and tiny horns peeking out was something he added at the last minute.
“I love it. You are one hell of an artist, my friend.”
“Thank you.  To answer your question, no it’s not a challenge.  All I ask is that you give Quinn the time and space to listen to her heart and do what makes her happy, no matter what path she chooses.”
“You ask a lot.  I’m used to getting what I want, when I want it.  With Quinn, I knew right from the start she would be the one to call the shots.  I’m not saying I won’t do everything I can to keep me number one on her list, but I won’t push her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
Derek shook Steve’s hand.  “That’s all I can ask.  How about we call the girls back in to see your tat before I have to cover it with the plastic wrap?”  
* * * *
Thanks for having me again this week, Amber!  It’s been a lot of fun sharing the excerpts from my novel For the Love of Quinn, whether they made the final cut or not!
For the Love of Quinn, now available at and  
Follow Tammy on Twitter at!/dochappycamper

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Secrets of the published author

I've been asked if there's a secret to getting published.  For awhile, I thought no.  Now I think yes.  

I know people who've spent years revising the same novel, adding here, cutting there, expanding on one idea, tweaking another while they send out query after query to the same literary agents.  At my first fiction writers' conference, I met a woman who proudly declared that she'd been revising the same novel for twenty years, but no way in hell was she going to listen to the all of the agents who told her to cut the first five chapters because they felt the story started in the wrong place. Let me repeat that--"revising the same novel for twenty years" and "no way in hell was she going to listen."

Getting published requires forward momentum and an ability to let go.  Calling yourself a writer isn't enough.  There's work, self-discipline, perseverance and compromise involved.  

My novel, Kiss Me Slowly, isn't my first.  I officially completed my 'first' novel, Dancing Barefoot, in 2001. Excited, I attended a writers' conference certain that a lucrative publishing contract was the obvious next step. (So naive...) I pitched to agents, even had two agree to read the manuscript.  This was it! This was gonna be the big reward!  Nope.  This was the beginning of my education.  

I learned that writing a good story isn't the same as writing a novel.  Sure, I'd been a journalist for years and knew how to write.  But a novel is a living, breathing entity with character development, character arcs, subplots, and black moments.  It needs pacing, self-editing, and discipline. 

In 2002, I attended the RWA convention in Denver where Nora Roberts said that knowing when to stop revising is important.  (The reason she's prolific.) I'm sure I'm paraphrasing after all these years, but she said she has a firm process with revisions so they don't go on forever.  First, she writes the skeleton, then goes back and puts in the organs, then the flesh, then the personality...and finally the soul. That's it...then it's time to let go.  As writers, we can rewrite forever.  Perfection eludes us. 

So I put down Dancing Barefoot and moved on with other ideas.  Kiss Me Slowly is my fourth completed manuscript, but the first to sell.  My second published novel, set for release in late February 2012, is actually the second manuscript I completed.  Following me here?  If I'd hung on to D.B. all these years, tweaking and hoping...well, I'd still be aspiring, too.  Instead, I cut myself off, believed that I had more than one novel in me, moved forward, learned along the way, listened to mentors, and wrote every single day.  

When I hear aspiring authors talk about revising (again for the 100th time) rather than submitting, I cringe.  A book doesn't get born by staying in the womb.  

When I hear aspiring writers make excuses for not writing every day because they've got "a life to live", I think, "I write every day, solo parent, pay my bills, take care of the house...and so does every published author I know."  

When I hear aspiring authors scoff at my advice because it sounds "opinionated", because they're "different" and they're gonna get a million dollar advance with movie rights for their debut novel that the world is simply dying to read, I smile. Maybe they will...who knows?  

There are secrets to getting published--hard work, self-dicipline, belief in oneself, revisions with an end time, forward momentum, perseverance, compromise, willingness to learn, letting go and writing every day.  Every.  Day.  

Write on! 

Amber Lea Easton, romantic suspense author

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Last Dance (Part 4)

The Last Dance (Part 4--the ending)
an original short story by Amber Lea Easton
(a story about what ifs, longing and regret.)  

     “Mommy, can you make us something to eat?” Vanessa stood in the hallway and I wonderd how much she heard.  
All talked out,  I said nothing as I moved past him.  
“Why is daddy so sad?” she asked.  
I didn't have an answer so I said nothing.
In the kitchen, I made sandwiches while chatting absentmindedly with the kids about our vacation.  Sam dumped his shell collection on the counter.  
I'm struck by the absolute peace in the house. Calm.  
“Sam, can you find daddy and tell him I have some sandwiches ready?”  
He hopped from the counter and walked toward the hallway before stopping and shaking his head no.
“C’mon, Sammy, help out mommy.  Go tell daddy that we have sandwiches for him.”  Exhaustion weighted down my bones.  
I sank into the deep cushions of the sofa and toyed with Vanessa’s braids.  Absolute silence permeated the house.  A breeze caressed my bare feet through the open deck door, but made no sound.  It was as if even the birds stopped singing.
“Mommy,” confusion twisted Sam’s face, “there’s something wrong with daddy. He needs help.”
I moved Vanessa from my lap and followed Sam to the master bedroom.  One thing after another with this guy…I wonder what kind of bullshit he’s pulling now.  He said he'd go…he promised he'd make things better…he…
My mind can't register what it's seeing.  He's kneeling in the corner of our walk-in closet, my sweater-coat covering his face.  Weird.   
       I flicked on the light.
“Marshall, what the hell are you doing?  You’re scaring the kids.” 
No movement.  
I could almost hear my ribs cracking from the intense thumping in my chest. 
“Go in the hallway,” I told the kids as I walked toward him.  “Marshall, what're you doing?  This is stupid.”
I pushed his shoulder.  His body swayed.  

        I noticed everything at once.  Not kneeling, his feet skimmed the floor.  I pulled the sweater from his face.  Tongue stuck out sideways, blue eyes glazed over—not the same eyes at all.  Nylon cord cut into his neck.
“Oh my God, Marshall, what the hell have you done?”  I lifted him up, trying to slacken the cord.  “Vanessa, get me a phone, call 9-1-1,” I screamed as I held him up, pushing my leg beneath his hip as my fingers struggle with the cord. 
  Oh my God, oh my God, this can’t be happening.  This can’t be real. 
Vanessa rushed in with the phone asI yell at her to stay out of the closet, not to look at her daddy.  One arm around Marshall, I struggled to hold the phone.
“My husband…he tried to kill himself…he’s hanging…I don’t know what to do…yes, he’s hanging…no, I don’t know what to do…”
“Is he breathing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is he conscious?”
God, his face.  Nothing in my life has prepared me to see his face like this…like a contorted mockery of life, all twisted and grotesque.  
“He’s warm,” I said.
. “You need to get the cord from his neck and give him CPR.”
I never felt so stupid in all of my life.  CPR.  I should know this.  I should know what to do, but I can’t think.  None of this seemed real.  I dropped my head against his chest as I kept holding him up.  
He isn’t dead. He feels solid and warm.  I smell his soap on his skin.  
“He’s hanging,” I said again to the 9-1-1 operator.  “We need help.  I don’t know what to do.”
“He’s still hanging?”
“I’m holding him,” I said.
“Cut him down.  Give him CPR.”
Cut him down…of course.  Stupid, stupid, stupid….I dropped the phone, let him go, ran down the hall, grabbed a knife, told the kids to stay in the hallway.  
“Save daddy, mommy,” they cried.  “Save daddy.”
But I can’t save daddy.  I never could.  
I slashed the knife through the cord he'd tied around a beam in our closet.  His body fell onto the floor beneath the hems of my dresses, his head against a pile of my shoes.  Shaking, I grabbed the phone and followed the instructions of the 9-1-1 operator.  
Hands in his hair, I tilted his head back and pressed my lips to his.  My breath choked on a sob.  I wanted him to live.  I wanted him to cough and be okay.  Breathe, damn it, breathe.  My hands pushed on his chest.  
“Don’t you leave me, you son of a bitch,” I said.  “Please, don’t leave me.  You can’t leave us, stay with me.”
There are hands on my shoulders, lifting me from him.  A sheriff leaned over him, then a paramedic.
“Mommy, save daddy,” Vanessa screamed at me from where she stood at the closet door. “Save him, mommy.”
“He’s alive,” I told the paramedic who looked up at me.  “You can bring him back.  He can’t leave us.  He can’t leave us.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, we need room to work.”  A sheriff guided me from the closet.
I kept my eyes on Marshall, on his long body lying awkwardly on the closet floor with strangers hovering above him.  
“He needs to stay with us.”  Hand against my mouth, I struggled to think.  “He can’t be dead.  We were dancing in the laundry room, we were in the Bahamas this morning, he was going to plant trees, he promised to make it better, he promised…”
“I'm sorry, ma’am, we need you to calm the kids down.”  
I moved like a robot.  Kids in Vanessa’s room, movie on while my house floods with people in uniform.  I told the story repeatedly to one officer after another…unloaded the truck, bags in the laundry room, made lunch, hanging in the closet with a sweater-coat over his face, tried to save him.  Over and over I said the same words, but all I saw were those eyes of his…those blue eyes of his devoid of life…that twisted face…the cord cutting into his neck…his body on the closet floor…
“Ma’am, I’m sorry.   He’s gone.  We couldn’t bring him back.” 
I wanted to vomit.  
I rocked on the sofa where just an hour ago I'd been playing with my daughter’s braids and thinking about how quiet it had been.  I rocked. I couldn't stop rocking, couldn't stop moving.  
I pictured him as he'd been only a day ago, in the sun, on the beach, blonde hair wet with salt water and tanned skin glowing in the sunlight.  
None of this can be real.  I can't believe what they're saying to me.  
“We need to know if there is a note,” a man said to me.  
A note.  I shook my head, the repetitious story of the day coming out of my mouth.  And then, as if walking through water, I'm in the laundry room.  I had tossed that back at him, had told him that I'd heard it all…I retrieved the note he'd written on the airplane from the floor.
“He wrote this on the way home this morning.  I didn’t think it had any significance,” I heard myself say.  
Didn’t think it had any significance.
Suddenly, every word shared had significance; every word carried the weight of his existence.  
“I told him to go,” I whispered.  “I didn’t think….I didn’t know...I told him to go.”
I sank onto the floor and hugged my knees to my chest.  I told him to go.  I covered my ears with my hands, but I'm not sure I'll ever stop hearing the kids begging me to save daddy.  
I want a do-over.  I want one more day. I want one more chance. I want another dance.
The End

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Last Dance (Part 3)

The Last Dance (Part 3 of 4)
an original short story by Amber Lea Easton
(a story about what ifs, longing and regret.)  

      “A note is supposed to fix everything?” I asked.  “We spent ten days in the Bahamas trying to communicate and you write this on the plane ride home?  Just this morning at the airport you were flirting with that woman while the kids stood right there—"
“I'm not denying it.”  He braced his hands on the top of the dryer.  “I'm an ass.”
“You got that right.”  I twisted the note into a ball and tossed it at him.  “What did you tell me just an hour ago?  That you owe how much money to Joe?  Why?  For what?  Have you graduated from booze to drugs?  That would explain the mood swings on our trip…you looked like a man going through withdrawal.”
“You don’t want to know.”
“I do want to know.”  I poked him in the chest. “Damn it, Marshall, you’re standing here asking me for another chance---again---but you're still not telling me the truth.  Tell me what the hell is wrong with you.”
“I can’t.”  He pushed my hand away.  “I can never tell you.  I know I have really messed us up financially—"
“And I want to know why, where has the money gone?  And why did I just find out about it this morning after a luxury vacation?”  Anger rolled through me so fast I didn't know how to stop it from overtaking me.  “Is there another woman or is it drugs?  Thousands of dollars, Marshall…thousands of unexplained, unaccounted for dollars.  Tell me.  You are standing here wanting me to give you the benefit of the doubt—"
“I know I've messed up.  I know it.”  He shoved his hands through his hair.  “What more do you need?  Just tell me that there is hope.  That’s all I need to know.”
“I need the truth.”
“I can never tell you the truth, don’t you see?”  He grabbed my wrists and pulled me toward him. “If I tell you the truth, I know that will be the end of us.”
“But, Marshall, without the truth there is no saving us.” Oh God, the pain in his eyes…I had never seen such sorrow.  I looked anywhere except his face.
“Don’t say that. “
“You’ve been scaring the hell out of us for the past six months.”  I broke free and tossed laundry into the washing machine.  “I wake up in the middle of the night with you standing over the bed watching me.  You come home from work and sit in the dark.  You talk about things that don’t make sense…trucks being flipped over on construction sites, people following you.”  I smacked my palms against my forehead.  “Damn it, Marshall, what am I supposed to do?  What am I supposed to think? I have kids to protect, damn it.”
“Don’t you think I see how the kids are scared of me?  Do you have any idea how much that kills me to see them flinch away from me?  And I have never hurt any of you—"
“Maybe not physically, no.”  I wiped tears away with the back of my hand.  “I'm so sick of crying over you, Marshall Bryant.  So damn tired of all these tears and all of these arguments and of never knowing if the man I married is walking through the door or if it’s some altered version. “
“I know I’m out of control, don’t you hear me?  I hate that my wife and kids are scared of me in our own home.”
“Then do something about it.” Love, anger, hate, frustration, fear and regret swirled through me like a tornado. “Be a man and do something about it.”
He pushed past me, but stopped in the doorway.  Again, I fought the urge to reach out, hold him and beg him to do whatever he needs to do to get better.  I've done that so many times in the past and we always end up in this same place.  The cycle needed to end.  
“So what you’re telling me is that there is no hope?”  he asked without turning around. 
“That’s what I’m telling you.   I need to do what’s best for the kids.”
He looked at me over his shoulder, those blue eyes of his full of regret.  “And you know how much I love you?  Will you give me that much?”
“I know how much you love me,” I said even though I doubted it.  I doubted most things these days.
“Then I’ll go.”  He nodded and grinned at me.  “Tell me to go and I’ll go.”
“I need you to go.”
“Then I'll go.”  His grin faded.  “I don’t want to leave you, but I’ll go if that’s what you really want.”
“That’s what I want.  You just need to go.”  Defeat torpedoed my heart.  
We stared at each other, both tan from our vacation, both full of regret, both wanting impossible things.  
(continued with Part 4 tomorrow)