Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Welcome, Prologue, Part One, Chapters 1 & 2

My Second Wind, A West Texas Story of Romance and Adventure 
Novel Blog by Main Character Maggie Grant
I’m Maggie Grant. I live on the pages of the unpublished novel My Second Wind. Plain, ordinary, God-fearing Maggie Grant. Graduate of Texas Tech University and SMU. A mom, wife, professional at the local university, and definitely an unwilling participant in the adventures about to be foisted upon me. 
 Although I understand from my author that the novel is completed—my course set with the ending written—(hopefully a happy one) I’d love for you to help me through the next few months. Your thoughts, advice and wisdom might change the course of my life. Although mortals try to direct their lives according to a script, God often laughs at those plans, and life becomes an adventure. Join me as I prepare to leave my comfortable home in North Dallas to travel to West Texas to begin my life again. 
From time to time, my author will want to bring you information that I can’t or shouldn’t know about, so she will insert information, such as the Prologue below. Because it is in italics, I won’t read it, but you should to help you understand the story ... or so I’m told.
Fiction, remember? Imagination is paramount! 
My goal is to blog at least once a week, but circumstances may demand and dictate more frequency once the plot thickens! At only five to ten minutes a week, I hope you follow along to the end of the journey. Sign up as a follower! It promises to be an interesting ride.
My Second Wind
Prologue ~ Twenty-three years ago
    She didn’t care that the entire town of Muleshoe was in attendance despite the heavy spring rain. She didn’t care that black mascara ran down her cheeks. All she cared about was that she couldn’t make the pieces fit. Something was dreadfully wrong. 
When the funeral ended, she needed to walk. Heading away from the cars, down the semi-deserted street in the small West Texas panhandle town, going nowhere in particular, she walked with determination, wanting to simply get away and be alone. His umbrella couldn’t keep up. They were both soaked. 
   After a few blocks she reached the entrance of a park. He thought they should return to the car and leave, but he’d go into the damn park with her if that’s what she really wanted. He needed the rain, the day – the nightmare – to be over. 
She turned tearfully to her lover and clutched at his shirt. “You know she wouldn’t have done that. She just wouldn’t!”
   He put his arm around her, but turned his head away. “But she did, and it’s over.”
   “Over? It can’t be over. She would never have killed herself.” She took a step back, oblivious to the rain.
   “I don’t know,” he said, rubbing his head in obvious distress. He turned to look back in the direction of the cemetery and the car. “Maybe it was an accident.”
   “An accident? How could it have been an accident? There was a note!”
   “Yeah, the note ... Look. I don’t know,” he said, his usual self-control beginning to crumble, wishing they’d simply gotten into the car and driven back to the university. 
   She moved around to confront him. 
   “What made you say it was an accident? What aren’t you telling me?”
   “Nothing,” he said tentatively, attempting to fight his growing fear. “Look, we’ve been over this a hundred times already. You’ve got to move on. She’s dead. She killed herself. Forget it. Let’s go.”
   “But I can’t forget it. Something’s not right.” She batted the umbrella away. 
   Snapping it shut, he cursed as he threw it to the ground. He grabbed her roughly by the shoulders. “I’m telling you to forget it. She’s gone and nothing will bring her back. Now either you drop this or ... or I can no longer be a part of your life.” He pushed her away, stepped back a few feet. Then moving around her, he headed in the direction of his car.
   “What! How can you say that?” she shouted after him.
   He stopped, head throbbing so he rubbed it again, angrily turning around to face her once more. He marched back to where she stood. Shouting now, control gone, he said, “Just drop it! She’s dead and buried. Don’t ever mention her name again or I’m gone. Do you understand me?”
   She looked at him in disbelief, not recognizing the stranger who stood before her. Then she closed her eyes, crossed herself, and turned quickly away, running up the street, away from him. Away from the grave of her best friend. Away from the nightmare.
   He stood there and continued to rub his brow, intense pain creasing his head and his heart. 

Chapter 1
One year ago
   “Really?” Carol asked, coming out from the stilted rental house on the Texas Gulf Coast. “He was that inept?” She settled into one of the well-worn adirondack chairs on the spacious deck.  
   “So very inept,” replied Sharon, waving her half-full wine glass at us for effect, “that he couldn’t find his balls with a GPS.” 
   We burst into laughter with graceful me spitting out my mouthful of wine at the crude, but probably accurate description of my friend’s former boss. I reached for a napkin to mop up the mess on my sweater and jeans.
   “Luckily, his replacement is really smart and is setting the engineering department on fire. I couldn’t be happier,” Sharon continued smugly as she burrowed further under the afghan.
   “Awesome,” Carol said, as she lifted her glass in salute. “Here’s to Texas Tech University and its ability to sometimes hire the right people. Like you, Sharon, and your new boss.”
   “Yes,” Sharon said, mockingly superior, “The university is extremely lucky to have me on the faculty.” 
   I turned my attention back to the captivating waves crashing on the deserted shore and said with sincerity, “I don’t think I’ve ever reported to someone who was awful. President Ramsey at SMU always just lets me do my job, no questions asked.”
   Sharon said, “That’s because he recognizes real talent when he sees it. You’re one lucky woman, though. It’s all too common to work for an idiot, no matter how good you are. Don’t you read Dilbert? I’m willing to bet the majority of folks don’t like their bosses.”
   “Well, I do like mine, and respect him. Jim’s boss is decent, too. We really don’t have anything to complain about either of our jobs ... really,” I replied.
   “Definitely lucky, my dear. A little boring, but lucky.” Sharon saluted me with her wine glass, looking out again at the ocean.
   Smiling, Carol, took another long drink, then added with an innocent air, “You know, sometimes I think my boss is inept, too, but I just sleep with him to get what I want.” 
   We eyed her in mock surprise, then Sharon said, “The fact that your boss is your husband wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would it?”
   Carol blinked her light brown eyes innocently. “No, not a thing.” 
   More laughter. 
   It always happened like this at our annual weekend retreat, now in its third decade. I’m so blessed. Two of the greatest women in the world, and I get to run away with them every January to drink wine, catch up on everyone’s adventures and renew friendships, even if it is only for a few days. This is our first year back since Hurricane Ike. Our beloved rented beachhouse, Sandcastle, was one of hundreds blown away. I was surprised by how clean the beaches looked. And new construction is everywhere. 
   I took another sip of wine as my two friends continued the discussion. As I looked at them lovingly and listened to their light banter, I felt the last of the tension of my ordinary daily life drift away. 
Sharon Phelps, with her red and gold streaked hair in a spiked pixie cut, perfectly suiting her short stature and her intelligent, unpredictable personality. I’ve always thought of her as a female Peter Pan. Adventure is always her goal, but it contrasts sharply with her love of engineering and her appointment as a tenured faculty member at our alma mater, Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Maybe it’s the contradiction that makes her so interesting, not only to her friends, but to her students, who consistently vote her a department favorite. 
   Then there’s Carol Penn, tall, lithe, blonde, sophisticated. Always dressed in designer clothes, a little on the whimsical side, though. She’s such the fashionista. Carol faithfully comes to our Texas weekend retreat every year from Washington, D.C., where she and debonair husband Robert own and operate an environmental consulting business that is both political and profitable.
   And then there’s me. Plain, traditional, not really sophisticated or adventurous, but thoroughly content with my life. I don’t usually have any exciting stories to tell. 
   A ringing phone brought me back to reality and the conversation stopped as Sharon begrudgingly crossed the deck to silence whichever cell phone was disrupting our peace. 
    “Let it ring,” Carol said. “Voicemail will get it or they’ll call back if it’s important.”
   Shrugging her shoulders, Sharon picked it up on the fifth ring. “Benjamin? Of course she’s here, but you know better than to disturb your mother during this sacred retreat and we’ve only been here one day ...”   
   Her face turned ashen. “Of course, Ben.” She quickly crossed the deck, handing the phone to me ... and the weekend ended—along with my life.
Chapter 2
Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
   “So this is what you really think I should do?” I asked Jim. “Give up everything and start again? The girls agree, you know.”
   Early February rain pelted our home’s French doors creating a strong symphony of weather, with the storm raging in an uneasy cacophony of power. Normally I enjoyed nights like this. Dallas seems to have more than its share of storms all through the year and I always delight in their sounds, sights and smells. Especially the winter storms with ice and snow.
   But that night I didn’t hear the rain, didn’t see the lightning, didn’t feel the power of the Almighty in the thunder. That night, sitting in Jim’s big worn leather chair, I stared at the fireplace, where the flames somehow crackled even though the logs aren’t real and the fire is powered by gas. 
   I tucked my feet, cozy in thick socks, under my legs, pulling my flannel gown and robe tightly around for warmth. With both hands wrapped around my customary mug of tea, I was turned inward and noticed neither the storm nor the cup that had gone cold.
   “They’re right,” he answered me at last. “You’ve grieved long enough. It’s time to think of the future instead of the past.”
   “But how can I leave our home, our friends, everything you and I built together?” I asked. 
  “Because you should,” he said.
   Something compelled me to look at my left hand. Putting down my mug, I slipped off the wedding ring he’d given me more than thirty years ago, turned it, noticed the inscription – “God and I – Always.”  I’d forgotten the inscription was there. Hadn’t looked at it in years because the ring rarely left my hand. 
   With a wry smile I remembered Jim hadn’t let me see inside the gold band until our wedding night. It was a perfect inscription, I thought then–and now. We had started out as friends, and as we discovered we shared so many passions, especially deep religious beliefs, our friendship turned to love.      
   We felt God had brought us together. The writing inside the ring was a testimony to that faith. All I had engraved inside his band was the date. I smiled, remembering how apologetic I had been that night, because his inscription to me had been so much more meaningful. 
   I laughed now, too, at the memory of my shyness and embarrassment on that first attempt at lovemaking. The laughter turned to an angry sob. 
   “God and I – Always. You were supposed to stay for always … not leave me alone … Why did you leave me!”
   There was a flash of light– a simultaneous clap of thunder that shook the empty house. This time I noticed, and with a deliberate look upward through tears, defiantly said, “Fine, God, I know you’re there, too. All right, I’ll do it … but neither of you can make me like it.”

   The next day, I phoned across the country to tell my older son Michael and his wife Karen what I had decided. I needn’t call my younger son, Ben. I would tell him face-to-face. Since Jim’s death, he and his young family come each Sunday to take me to Mass and spend the afternoon trying to distract me from my grief. Dutifully playing along, at least on that one day a week, I cook a huge dinner and enjoy my two precious granddaughters.
Luckily, the weather was warmer. We had record cold temperatures that week, keeping many Super Bowl festivities in doors or cancelled. A letter to the editor in The Dallas Morning News had said God was asked why he would send ice and snow to Texas to spoil the Super Bowl? God replied that Tom Landry was in charge of the weather this week. I believe it. Serves Jerry Jones right for his arrogance. Anyway, the roads were clear enough for folks to get around this weekend, and Ben and his family had come again for dinner. 
  “They’ve made you an offer? But Mom,” Benjamin pouted, “this is your home, our home. How can you just pack up and move 300 miles away? You have a job at the university here. What will they say if you leave? Why go all the way to Lubbock?”
   “It’s a good opportunity for me,” I said slowly, looking up at my tall handsome son — like his brother, the spitting image of their late father. “Oh, I don’t know, Benjamin. I’ve been with SMU for so long, it’s gotten rather boring — sort of been there, done that. I could use a new challenge to keep me occupied.”
   Ben countered, “But there are other good communications jobs here in Dallas.” 
   “Yes,” I said, “And everywhere I go in Dallas I see your dad. Everything reminds me of him. I just think a change of scenery would be good. This house is too big for only me. And I’ve always enjoyed West Texas.”
  “But Mom, Lubbock? Nobody moves to Lubbock on purpose. Really, mother. This is just not like you at all ... and you seemed to be doing so well after ... after dad’s accident. Have you talked to Monsignor Joseph about this?”
   “No, I haven’t talked to Monsignor Joseph,” I said, eyes flashing. “It’s none of his business. I need to do this. Please try to be supportive.” 
   “Well, I’m going to call him right now so he can talk some sense into you,” Ben stood up from the dining room table and reached for the cell phone at his belt. 
   “You’ll do no such thing,” Amanda and I said at exactly the same time, both glaring at him. We turned to each other and laughed. I whispered across the table to my daughter-in-law, “I knew from the first time he brought you home you were good for him. Just another confirmation.” 
Amanda whispered back, “Thanks, Maggie.” 
   Plopping down dejectedly, Ben knew better than to go against the two dominant women in his life. “Monsignor’s probably out at Cowboys Stadium anyway with his phone off. Did you know he’s rooting for the Steelers in tonight’s game? Aren’t there more Catholics in Green Bay?”
“Maybe, but he’s from up there,” I reminded him.
“Well, I’ve got $150 bucks on the Packers against him.”
“You bet against the Monsignor?”
“Sure. Green Bay’s a cinch to win. But Mom, getting back to your announcement, you know they say not to make rash decisions after a death in the family ...” 
   I cut him off with “the look” and spoke slowly and deliberately. “The saying is not to make rash decisions in the first six months.”
To his credit, he cringed.
I sighed and softened. “ Look, Ben. Your father has been gone over a year and this is not a rash decision. I made a list of facts, just like he always did ... the pros and cons. I weighed the options, and the pros outweigh the cons.”
   “Oh, thanks,” Ben said, throwing up his hands. “Your grandchildren are outweighed by what? By Lubbock! I just don’t understand you. Where will we go for Thanksgiving and Christmas? To that crummy little dust bowl college town?”
   “It’s not a crummy little college town. You’ve never even been there.”
   “No, and I don’t ever plan on going.”
   “Now, Ben,” I replied patiently, “it would be nice if you came to visit once in a while. Besides, I can always come back to Dallas to visit — it’s only an hour’s flight — and we can be together at your house on holidays.”
    “Great,” Amanda said brightly, then frowned as she looked at me with alarm, “But you’ll have to teach me how to do the turkey. My family always went out to eat. When you cook, it always looks so complicated to get everything done at the same time. The turkey, the gravy, the mashed potatoes, the peas... Oh! And the yeast rolls! And we’ve always just come here. I don’t know.” She shook her head, “I just don’t know, Maggie.”
   I smiled again, reaching over to pat Amanda’s hand, saying, “I was nervous the first time I tried, too, and I'll be happy to show you the magic.” Then I whispered, “It’s not nearly as hard as it looks.” I turned to my son again, my tone more serious.  “Ben, I just know this feels right for me. Besides, Sharon is there and she says the job will be perfect for me.”
   “Aunt Sharon? That’s because she never left Lubbock after you two roomed together at Tech, and she doesn’t know any other place.”
   “That’s not fair. She went east for her master’s and she travels to Europe almost every summer ... she knows lots of other places.”
  “Well, she’s a bad influence. You know ... with Doug what’s-his-name and everything.”
   I narrowed my eyes. “She’s been one of my best friends for more than 35 years, and since when did you get so all provincial about people living together outside of marriage? As I recall, you and Amanda ...”
   “I know, I know,” Ben said quickly raising his hands in protest, looking at his daughters, ages three and four, playing nearby. “But my generation does that … and you guys are ...” he stammered, “You are …you know … um, old … for that kind of thing.”
   Amanda and I rolled our eyes at the same time.
   “Sorry, son. End of discussion.”
And that’s how my story begins. Why I’m moving to West Texas -- to Texas Tech, in fact. Next week, the story will be in real time. See you then.

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