A Year of Firsts Second Chances Book 1
by Liz Flaherty Genre: Contemporary Romance
Widow Syd Cavanaugh is beginning a “year of firsts” with the road trip she’d promised her husband she’d take after his death. An unplanned detour lands her in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, where she meets the interesting and intelligent editor of the local paper.
Television journalist Clay McAlister’s life took an unexpected turn when a heart attack forced him to give up his hectic lifestyle. He’s still learning how to live in a small town when meeting a pretty traveler in the local coffee shop suddenly makes it all much more interesting.
While neither of them is interested in a romantic relationship, their serious case of being “in like” seems to push them that way. However, Clay’s heart condition doesn’t harbinger a very secure future, and Syd’s already lost one man she loved to a devastating illness—she isn’t about to lose another. Where can this relationship possibly go?
Sell it and take care of the kids.
It was the decision they’d made when they were halfway through the renovation of the brick Cape Cod that proclaimed itself to be Peaceful Cottage on the sign on its picketed white gate. Syd and Paul had referred to it as the Cavanaugh Money Pit.
But now the kids were grown and gone from home. The college bills were paid off and no one slept in the bedrooms under the eaves. The house was finished to the point that it was on the home tour that took place in Peru, Indiana during the almost-annual Cole Porter Festival. It was a beautiful place.
Syd kind of hated it. Give yourself a year to mourn if you think you need to, then put it away. Make the next year a time of firsts. Do things you’ve always wanted to but haven’t because life—or I—got in the way.
They hadn’t made that decision together, but it had been written in the last of the coil-bound notebooks with The Marriage Book printed on the covers that had diarized their lives together. You’ve taken care of me through All of This. Now it’s time to take care of you.
She hadn’t taken care of All of This, though. If she had, she’d have found a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Paul would still be with her. They’d be sharing Marriage Books and boxes of scandalously cheap wine and making plans for what they would do Someday.
Had she always thought in words that started with capital letters? She thought maybe she had.
It had been more than eleven months since Paul left them. Still smiling although he couldn’t talk, still the man she’d loved since the sixth grade. Syd had taken that eleven and a half months, every minute of it up to this very day, to learn to live without him. She’d read every book on loss the library offered, joined a grief group, and tightened the already strong bonds of her relationship with her daughters and sons-in-law.
She’d given away things Paul had loved to others who would care for them as he had. One morning, wearing disreputable jogging pants and one of her husband’s equally shabby flannel shirts, she’d packed his clothes and driven them to the veterans’ thrift store in a neighboring city, crying all the way there and singing along with Paul’s beloved Eagles on the way home. She’d given his motorcycle and his pickup to the girls’ husbands, with all five of them weeping as she handed over the keys.
And then she sold the house, standing for a long time at the sign on the gate when she left it for the last time. Peaceful Cottage. She’d loved the house for a long time, but thought Tribulation House would have been a more fitting name. Leaving it was painful because it felt almost as if she was leaving Paul, but there was respite in the move, too. That she had felt relief at her husband’s death was something she couldn’t make herself say.
She made sure her will was in order and gave lists of passwords and account numbers to the girls. She sat at the rolltop desk that had been one of the first pieces of furniture she and Paul had bought and that now lived in in Haley’s big farmhouse kitchen and made a list. The girls helped her with it, sharing memories and ideas and a bottle of the same wine their parents used to drink out of a box.
When the list was complete, she handed it to them. “What do you think? What would Daddy think?”
They pored over the handwritten sheet, Haley’s brown head and Shiloh’s blond one close together. Syd stopped for a moment, interrupting the plans that were jumbling together in her head, her heart spilling over. If she hadn’t had them when their father died, she’d have wanted to die, too. How could she leave them?
Paul had covered that question, too, in the marriage book. Don’t start feeling as if you’re deserting the family. The girls will want this for you, and you’ll always be there if they need you. Do this for you, Syd. What will you do first?
Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and thinking she should clear a path through the fabric stash that furnishes her office. She also loves to travel and spend time with the grandkids (the Magnificent Seven) and their parents. She and Duane, her husband of a really long time, live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They've talked about moving, but really, 40 years of stuff? It's not happening!