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Take Care, Sara, page 1

 

Take Care, Sara
 



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Take Care, Sara


  Take Care, Sara

  Lindy Zart

  Take Care, Sara

  Lindy Zart

  Published by Lindy Zart

  Copyright 2013 Lindy Zart

  All rights reserved.

  Cover Design Copyright 2013 by Eden Crane Design

  License Notes

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Also by Lindy Zart

  Charmed

  Charmed Again

  Safe and Sound

  Dating Husbands

  Ordinary

  Take Care, Sara

  Many, many thanks to my awesome beta readers: Tawnya Peltonen, Kim Drake, Tiffany Alfson, Migdalia Gerena, Shane Lucas, Judith Frazee, Ana Love, Melissa Yoder, Kendra Gaither, and Robin Nichols. Thanks so much for all your input. You are greatly appreciated.

  Thanks to Lauren Marie Sloan for the name inspiration of Cole Walker and Jessica Ryba for the name inspiration of Mason Wells.

  Special thanks to Cassie Chavez.

  I don’t know if I would have finished this without urging from you. I know I wouldn’t have finished it this soon.

  Thank you!

  This is dedicated to Tawnya Peltonen and Judith Frazee for the simple reason you are exceptional, humorous, wonderful ladies that I am so glad I had the fortune to never meet. You know what I mean.

  And that really isn’t a “simple” reason at all.

  Again, you know what I mean.

  Table of Contents:

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  EPILOGUE

  1

  He asked her name and smiled.

  It wasn’t the blueness of his eyes or the crinkles around them when he grinned. The brown softness of his hair or the way it curled on the nape of his neck didn’t come close. The masculine beauty of his face; plain, but so much more, and yet nothing more than average wasn’t it either. It wasn’t any of those things that had made her pause and pretend her heart didn’t speed up, though the blush of her skin proved otherwise.

  It was all of that and as little as that.

  Sara blinked and drew in a ragged breath. Her eyes took in her surroundings, a reminder of where she was and what she was about to do. The park was empty, which was just as well. The wind was picking up, caressing her dark brown hair and sweeping it up and around her head.

  She had realized something over the recent months: it didn’t matter who you were or what you’d accomplished in life; none of that mattered when tragedy struck. You had no pull; no power. You had no choice. There was nothing to gamble with; nothing to do to put the odds in your favor. You were there and then you were gone, leaving those around you to realize how insignificant they all really were; leaving them to try to pick up the destroyed pieces. Sara knew now. No one mattered, not really.

  The sun, making a brief appearance moments ago, was once again behind the clouds, and it was fitting somehow. Why should the sun shine on this day, as though to applaud her actions? Sara’s flesh was bumpy and tingly and her teeth lightly chattered together.

  She looked down and reflexively jerked back. It had seemed so simple earlier, so very easy. Now that she was about to do it, it wasn‘t as uncomplicated as she‘d thought.

  “Don’t,” she told herself, “don’t you dare be a coward.”

  Sara squeezed her eyes tight against the burning wetness. It trickled past the closed eyelids and made jagged trails down her cold cheeks. He had always loved her eyes, said they were like warm chocolate. Sara let out a shaky laugh. He wouldn’t think they were so lovable right now, would he? The laughter abruptly cut off and Sara forced her eyes open.

  It registered in her mind that she was clutching her midsection, as though to hold the pain in, and she let her arms drop to her sides. Inhaling slowly, she stepped toward her destination. Leaves crackled under her shoes and a sob escaped her.

  “Leaves make their own music. Listen once. You’ll see what I mean,” he’d told her with a wink and a sweet smile.

  She stared straight ahead at the mountain on the other side of the vast river. The mountainside was trees and rocks, and a covering of fog kept it out of focus.

  A bird’s cry startled her and she jumped, flinging her arms out to steady herself. Sara’s eyes traveled downward, focusing on the choppy water below. She watched the waves lower and rise, over and over. The river was wide and deep and brown and cold; she knew it would be so cold.

  He came home every night from work and before anything else, before he took off his coat or boots or baseball cap, he’d pull her into his arms and hold her close. He’d kiss her forehead and tell her he missed her and he’d smell so good, so familiar, like sunshine and warmth. Like home.

  He told her once that if anything ever happened to her, there wouldn’t be enough tears in the world for him to cry.

  Sara placed a hand to her mouth.

  If she focused really hard, she could almost remember the feel of his arms, the scent of him; that addicting combination of man and soap. His lips had always tasted like cherry Carmex and coffee.

  She took a step forward.

  Sometimes, when she was really silent and still, she thought she could hear his deep laughter, hear his low voice. He always sounded far away and faint and Sara had to strain her ears to make out his words. But if she thought too hard about it, his voice disappeared, and she was left feeling empty, hollow.

  Another step.

  They’d bought their first house together. It wasn’t much, just a little two bedroom ranch, but it was theirs. She planted flowers along the front of it, red and pink and yellow ones. Sara kept forgetting to water them and they died. He’d teased her about her green thumb. Then he bought her a fake plant to put outside on the porch.

  “This one can’t die ‘cause it ain’t alive,” he’d drawled in that slow country boy way of his. That twang had always been an enigma to Sara, since he’d lived in Wisconsin his whole life.

  Sara lined the toes of her scuffed tennis shoes an inch away from the end of Wyalusing State Park. The side of the bluff was jagged rocks and bent trees and dirt. She tried not to look at it. She didn’t want to think about the landing, she didn’t want to think about where that landing might be. She didn’t want to think. Period.

  “I’m sorry,” she whispered, wondering if he could somehow hear her. Sara closed her eyes, inhaled slowly, and let her body fall forward.

  “Hey!”

  The unexpected shout caused Sara to snap her eyes open and flail her arms, which in turn propelled her backward and away from danger. Before she could land on the hard ground, vice-like arms were wrapped around her and pulling her farther and farther away from where she wanted to be. Sara didn’t like the arms around her. She didn’t like what she knew i
nstinctively to be a man holding her that way, the way he’d held her. No one else could hold her that way.

  “Get away! Let me go!” she shrieked, kicking her legs out and slapping at the warm flesh.

  With a grunt, the arms were suddenly gone. Sara landed on her side in the leaves, the crisp sound of them agonizing to her. She stumbled to her feet, shaking, and turned to face her unwanted rescuer. She didn’t see features or eye or hair color, she didn’t see anything but a person who’d thwarted her plan, a plan it had taken every ounce of her courage to put into motion.

  The man asked something. Sara saw his lips move, but there was a buzzing in her ears, blocking out the sound of his voice. She felt numb, like all the energy it had taken to get to that ledge had drained her. She was spent. Sara looked at him, not really seeing him at all, and turned away, back to her car, back to her unnecessary life.

  “Hey! Lady! Do you need help?”

  Sara walked the short distance to her car, a red four door Pontiac Grand Prix, opened the door, and bent her legs and body into the front seat. She sat with her hand on the keys, looking out the window. She could drive her car over the edge. A vision of her in her vehicle falling, falling, falling into the icy cold water shot through her mind. She saw the car filling up with murky water, she saw herself struggling to get out, to breathe. Sara shuddered. No. Not today.

  A knock on the window had her turning her head. Her brown eyes met amber ones. The man motioned for her to roll down her window. She shook her head. He mouthed, “Are you okay? Can I help you?”

  Sara stared at him for a long time. He stared back, his brows lowering. She slowly faced forward, turned the key in the ignition, and put the car in reverse.

  ***

  Sara sliced a tomato, her eyes fixated on the long serrated blade. She looked at her right wrist, at the way the veins formed an ‘H’. The veins of her left wrist wove a jagged line to her palm. She carefully set the knife down on the counter and turned her attention to her salad.

  She sat at the table and forced two bites down her throat. Her body unconsciously turned toward the chair he’d always taken. Sara’s appetite disintegrated as she watched the empty spot, waiting for him to appear and tease her about eating ‘rabbit food’. Abruptly standing up, Sarah threw away the salad. Her eyes skimmed across the kitchen walls, looking through the pale blue wall paint and decorative pieces and white cupboards and remembering him.

  “Why do they call them cupboards?” he asked, standing with one lean hip against the counter.

  Sara gave him a quizzical look. “Why do they call a door a door? Who knows?”

  Cole followed her into the living room to continue the conversation. “But…they’re not boards, not really, and there’s more than just cups in there, so why cupboards? Why not…dinnerware holders? And another thing; why is it spelled like that? ‘Cause when you say it, it comes out like ‘cubberd’, not cup and board together. You see what I’m saying?” he asked, plopping down beside her on the couch and flinging his arm around her shoulders.

  “I know you’re saying something, but I’m not sure what.”

  To which he responded by grabbing her face and kissing her breathless. “You know what I’m saying and you know I’m right ‘cause I’m always right.”

  “I know you think you’re always right.”

  He shrugged. “Same difference.”

  “In your mind.”

  “That’s right, darling, and that’s all that matters. As long as I make sense in my own head, everything’s okay.”

  “You’re delusional”

  Cole grinned, showing off white teeth that were slightly crooked and completely endearing. “And you love it.”

  “I must be delusional,” she said, smiling.

  “And I love it.”

  Sara took a staggering breath and rubbed her eyes. She was standing in front of the garbage can, an empty plate and fork next to her on the counter. She quickly washed the supper dishes and dried them; putting them in their proper places.

  A long, almost unbearably hot shower soothed Sara and she thought maybe, just maybe, this one time she wasn’t crying. But when the water stopped and the wetness continued to trickle down her face, she knew otherwise.

  Wrapped in a towel, she combed her long hair and brushed her teeth. When she looked in the mirror, the face she saw was close to unrecognizable. It was too pale and the bone structure was overly prominent. The red and puffy eyes couldn’t be hers. But who else’s could they be? The life had been sucked from her brown eyes, leaving them dead. Her brown hair was limp and hung past her shoulders.

  Never one to consider herself beautiful, or even that pretty, Sara had always found it odd that he told her she was on an almost daily basis. She was average. Average in height, in weight, in looks, and yet he’d looked at her like she was incomparable to anyone; like she was more than. The way her nose upturned at the end had forever been a recipient of his kisses. The fullness of her upper lip had repeatedly drawn his finger to it to trace and receive her kiss.

  He wouldn’t like seeing you like this, a voice told her.

  Sara blinked and turned away.

  She quickly dressed in a pink nightshirt and left the bedroom before too many memories ensnared her thoughts. A look at the clock told her it was eight. Sara grabbed a blanket and a pillow from the closet in the bedroom and set up her bed on the couch, as she did every night. Sara lay in the darkness, looking at a ceiling she couldn’t see. She held her hands together to pray, the act so ingrained in her she almost did so without thought, but caught herself in time. Prayers hadn’t helped before. Why would they help now? And what exactly would she pray for?

  Restless, she got up and turned the light back on, her agitated fingers continuously twisting the silver-banded ring with the lone diamond it. Around and around it went over her bony left-handed ring finger too small for the ring to properly fit on anymore. Remembering the wedding proposal brought a fleeting smile to her lips. He’d put the ring around a single red rose and presented it to her with an achingly honest speech.

  The walls were ivory and bare, but she still saw the framed photographs that used to grace the walls; their first picture taken together; the engagement photo; Christmas; their wedding. A photograph of them making silly faces at the camera. They had been too painful to look at them, day after day; mocking her. Reminding her of what she’d lost. Sara had taken them down and put them in a box and in the garage they now resided.

  Her eyes landed on the pale green recliner that had been his. He‘d complained about the girly color at first, but it hadn‘t been long before it was his favorite place to sit. Sara ran a trembling hand along the back of it, leaning down to sniff its scent. Pain, sharp and immobilizing, shot through her. It didn’t smell like him anymore. When had his scent disappeared? It was one more thing she’d lost of him, and the knowledge was too much to bear.

  Sara grabbed the blanket from the couch and climbed onto the recliner, pretending his arms were around her holding her close. She curled into a ball, huddled beneath the cover, and wept until she fell into a fitful sleep.

  The nightmares began with a flourish, as they did almost every night. Her mind replayed the otherworldliness of it; how it had started in slow-motion and still somehow ended before she knew what had happened. In Sara’s mind she saw the smile that had mutated to horror, the instant pain, the smell of blood, and the heat; the screech of heavy metal crashing and the eerie silence that had followed.

  Sara awoke screaming, tangled in the blanket. She struggled to free herself, to sit upright. Covered in sweat and shaking, her heart slammed against her chest. And of course, there were the tears. They streamed down her cheeks, warm and unwanted, and dropped onto her lap. Sara covered her face with her hands and rocked forward and backward, trying to remove the images from her mind. She would cut them out if she could.

  A kaleidoscope of that final moment with him raced through her brain. His smile she loved, the striking blue of his eyes, w
arm with love and happiness; his hand on her shoulder. Sara squeezed her eyes shut, but it didn’t block the remembrance of his grip tightening painfully, and then jerking away, as though something wrenched him from her. The shouts ripped from his lips. The fear on his face. But not for him; for her. Always for her.

  She found it strange the way she remembered it all; as though she had watched it from afar and her eyes had seen him and nothing else. Nothing but him had registered. Which made it that much more terrible. Because that’s what she remembered, what she relived, every single day.

  Him.

  In fine detail.

  Dying.

  ***

  “You have to move on.”

  Sara looked at her clasped hands. “I can’t.”

  “You have to. It’s not a matter of can or will; it’s have to.”

  “He’ll come back.”

  “He won’t.”

  “You don’t know that.”

  “I do.”

  Sara pressed her lips together and watched her fingers go white in her lap. “This is all a dream.”

  “This is reality. He’s gone, you’re not. Live, Sara.”

  “He’s not gone, not really.”

  “Yes. He is.”

  She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. “No.”

  “He wouldn’t want this.”

  The tears, her ever-present companion, showed themselves. “I know,” she whispered.

  “It’s been over a year.”

  Her eyelids slowly closed against the pain those words evoked. One year. Had it been so long? Had it been so short?

  “I know.”

  “Sara.”

  She stopped rocking in her chair, and then wondered how long she’d been rocking without knowing it.

  “Sara.”

  Her eyes opened. Sara jumped to her feet and looked around the room. It was empty. Her house was empty, like it should be, like it always was. She frowned and rubbed her forehead. It pounded. Her hands shook. It was happening again. Not again. She was losing her mind; she had to be losing her mind. There was no one there. On top of everything else, she was mad. But if she was insane, she wouldn’t realize it, right? So maybe she was okay.

 
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