Nothing could destroy their love, except the truth…
by circumstance and distance, former high school sweethearts Lindy and
TJ find their lives and passions once again entwined. For the past
twelve years, each lived and worked in separate worlds, but yet held
each other close in their hearts, one never sure what the other was
feeling. The sudden and cruel death of their dear friend, Jack, brings
them back together in Clarkson Grove, where their love had blossomed so
many years before. Each is breathless at the thought of reuniting,
hoping against hope that they can begin again. Can the love of their
youth truly grow into an adult, lasting relationship or are their
feelings just bittersweet memories of “the one who got away?” After so
much time apart, do they still hold the same, small town values? How
will they handle disagreements and disappointments along with extended
family strife? Is each free to resume the relationship they once had, or
have commitments to others been made, commitments that may even include
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day had begun with the sound of his parents’ harsh voices. The
familiar, relentless bickering made him angry, but it also saddened him
to know that nothing ever changed in the house where he’d grown up as a
spent the morning in the den, catching up on business emails and phone
calls. Again, he had received many messages from Cassandra and chose to
ignore them. When his work was done, T.J. wandered into the kitchen for
lunch. Unfortunately, his parents were there too, so he grabbed a
sandwich and cup of coffee and went outside to the old picnic table in
Whenever he stayed with them—as rarely as possible—he always felt like
he’d fallen into a terrible time warp, and this visit was no different.
As the day went on, tension stayed high and the sniping continued—his
mother harping about his dad’s drinking and latest fling, and his dad
complaining about her nagging voice. Why didn’t they have the decency to
mourn Jack’s death, or acknowledge their own son’s obvious grief?
off his thoughts, T.J. went inside to dress. He had packed lightly,
purchasing what he needed the next day at the new Kenfield Mall. The
Armani suits that hung in his Singapore closet had no place here. The
new sports coat and dress slacks would blend in with everyone else. The
Rolex watch would stay on the dresser. He’d wear the Timex, which had
been a high school graduation gift, and the ring Lindy had given him
that same June.
was furious when he realized all of the clocks were set incorrectly—and
by default, his watch was behind too. He was even more upset when he
realized his parents were taking their good old time getting ready, and
expected him to drive them to the funeral home because his dad’s car was
again riding on empty. When they finally were settled in his car, T.J.
pealed out of the driveway. He sped through Clarkson Grove, ignoring
their frantic shouts to slow down. Half-way to the funeral home, he
finally lost his temper. Unable to listen to them any longer, T.J.
roared into the nearest parking lot and screeched to a stop. He told
them to get out. When they refused, he grabbed the keys from the
ignition, and ran.
would be hard-pressed to forgive his parents, as well as himself, for
this disaster. No matter how fast he ran, he’d never be on time to help
Becka when she stood in front of Jack’s casket for the first time, or to
comfort the kids when they needed him most.
the time he arrived, long lines snaked around the parking lot and onto
the sidewalk. T.J. strode past everyone, ignoring the voices that called
out. Inside, the crowd parted when they saw him, allowing him to
quickly reach Becka’s side. He took her hand, kissed her cheek, and
whispered his condolences. He remained by her side, leaving her only
when she asked for more water or fresh tissue. Although Becka refused to
take a break, when the end of visitation hours approached, she insisted
it was time for T.J. to have some refreshments.
he made his way through the crowd and headed to the lower level
reception area, T.J.’s thoughts went to Lindy. He hadn’t seen her,
although he’d searched the crowd trying to catch sight of her. Becka,
even in her grief, had noticed. She told him Lindy was watching the kids
in the other room and also making sure they took breaks downstairs.
T.J. found Becka’s parents, who were now with the kids. He kissed each
of the children and said he’d take care of them, just like he’d always
promised their dad. He even managed to stop their tears for a while. No
matter how old his trick was—no matter how often he made quarters appear
from behind their ears—his magic never failed to bring smiles.
their grandparents escorted the kids upstairs, T.J. turned his
attention to the many pictures and photo albums on display. In addition
to pictures of Jack, Becka, and the kids, T.J. smiled sadly at the
photos focusing on Jack’s high school achievements. The pictures of
Jack, Becka, Lindy, and T.J. were the hardest to bear. He had to blink
away tears when he looked at their young faces, always smiling or
laughing into the camera. Even worse, after some point in time, Lindy
was obviously missing from the photos, and that reality caused T.J. to
fight back more tears and then walk away.
the voices of old friends, he walked toward an open patio door. As he
stepped outside, T.J. saw a beautiful woman in the shadows, standing
apart from the rest. He walked toward her and called out her name. She
turned. She smiled through tears. To his disbelief, she was at his side
in a heartbeat, reaching out and then hugging him.
He stood there silently and accepted her embrace, relishing it. When
they stepped apart, they looked at each other and waited, uncertain
about where, or how, to begin.
“It...it’s good to see you, T.J.”
“You too, Lindy.”
led her to a small bench that was tucked away in a corner of the patio.
He sat next to her, not touching, but only inches apart. “This is the
hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Coming home to bury Jack is beyond my
“I know. This can’t be real.”
“I…I loved Jack. He was the brother I never had. I’ve lost my best friend.”
Lindy took his hand. “All you can do is remember Jack as the wonderful person he was, and be there for Becka and the kids.”
right, of course. I’ll do my best. This can’t be easy for you either.
Jack and your other losses. I was so sorry to hear about Rae Ann and
Rick. I wish I could have been there, but it was impossible to get out
of Hong Kong in time for the services. I want you to know I tried.”
you. Yes, things have been pretty rough lately. James took his parents’
deaths very hard. That’s why I moved back to Indiana, to Kenfield,
after I adopted him. We both need the support of family and close
tells me you’re working at Kenfield Memorial. That you earned your
nursing degree on the west coast. I’m betting you’re a wonderful nurse,
“Well, I love my job. It’s hard sometimes, working in pediatrics—in the NICU. But it’s meaningful.”
“James seems like a great kid. Reminds me of Rick.”
“You met James?”
“Sure. Your dad introduced us upstairs. Lindy? You’re shivering. Let me give you my jacket.”
“Thanks. Yes, James is a very special kid. He…” Lindy suddenly switched gears. “How long do you plan to stay in Clarkson Grove?”
least several months. While I’m here, I’ll be working on the farming
co-op Jack started, and settling finances for Becka and the kids. I’m
staying at my folks right now, but moving to the Old Stone Inn as soon
as possible.” T.J. tried to catch her gaze, but she seemed preoccupied.
“Hey Lindy, are you still with me?”
“Sure. Sorry, T.J. I just realized I haven’t seen James in the last hour or so. But, please, finish your thought.”
“I also plan to catch up with friends while I’m here. Take some time to revisit the past, I guess.”
“That sounds like a great idea. I don’t mean to abruptly end our conversation, but I’d like to check on James.”
“I understand. Try not to worry. He’ll be fine, now that he’s with you. Always knew you’d be good with kids.”
have to go, T.J. Like I said, I better check on James. On Becka’s kids
too. This has been a difficult day for everyone and tomorrow will be
even worse. I hope you’ll look for me at the cemetery. It would be
helpful to have you at my side when we say our final good-bye to Jack.”
“I will. I want you at my side too.”
“I’m glad you’re here, T.J. It means a lot to Becka. Goodnight. See you tomorrow.”
“Night, Lindy. Be careful driving.”
J. watched her walk away and disappear into the crowd. He picked up his
sports coat from the bench and slipped it back on. He sat there alone
for a long time, until the room emptied and the lights dimmed, and the
familiar perfume that clung to his coat finally faded away.