Dreaming August

By: Terri-Lynne Defino

Dedication




For Michael, Karen and Mark, my partners in crime; and for Dotty and Ace, who taught me love.





Acknowledgements




Huge thanks to CoLoNY, my fabulous writing group. Without them, this book would not have happened. An extra thanks to Sharon Struth, who was not only a first reader, but the reason I queried Lyrical Press to begin with.



Thanks also goes out to my Dollbabies, women who not only mean the world to me, but who have supported every effort I have made over the years with enthusiasm and love. A special thanks to Mary who came up with Bitterly Suite.



A humble thank you to my editor, Penny Barber. Her genuine concern for not just the work, but the author, is the stuff of dreams. All writers should be so lucky. Thanks, also, to Renee Rocco, whose efforts to make the road to publication go smoothly are epic. She’s pretty funny, too.



As always, the last thanks goes to the one and only Frankie D. I realized long ago that most of the noble heroes in my stories are incarnations of him, these men who see their women struggling to find themselves, and stand back while they do. Waiting. Watching. Completely accepting and loving whoever emerges from the fight, but never interfering with any expectations of his own. It’s a rare man who can resist “taming” a woman like me, and instead just hanging on for the ride. That’s my Frankie D, and why there is a list of women waiting for me to croak so they can have him.





Chapter 1


When Evening Falls



“You sure you want to do this?”

“Very sure, Harriet. I must.”

“That’s not exactly true. You could just stay here.”

“That’s your choice, not mine.”

“I never stepped foot outside of this town. Don’t ’spect I ever will.”

“Then you can?”

“’Course I can. And so can you. You don’t have to bedevil that young woman. Just go.”

“Bedevil? Harriet, I would never.”

“August, you miscreant, you bedevil me constantly.”

“Then you should be glad I seek her assistance. You’ll be rid of me for all eternity.”

“Lot’a’nonsense, far as I’m concerned.”

“Only because you are more stuck than you want to believe.”

“Stuck? Bah! I’m just waiting.”



* * * *

Dirt helped.

Cold earth. Fragrant, moist earth. Under-her-nails, in-the-cracks-of-her-chapped-hands earth. It smelled of snowmelt and leaf mold and worms. Black and rich and crumbly, it was the perfect medium for the colorful pansies planted among the forget-me-nots just starting to pop. Sitting back on her heels, Benny inspected her work.

“What do you think, Henny?” she asked. “Better than impatiens, right? This spot is way too sunny. Maybe we’ll do some morning glories this year. I still have that little wooden trellis in the shed. I love morning glories. The blue ones with yellow centers. Yeah, let’s do it. I’ll stop for seeds on the way ho—”

The nausea banished by dirt swished through her again. She shoved her hands back into the churned-up earth, let the cool fragrance soothe her belly. Swallowing, swallowing, swallowing until it passed. Benny turned to the neighbor. “What do you think, Mrs. Farcus? You like the pansies?”

Again the swell of nausea. Four months. This was supposed to be over. But it hadn’t just come in the morning, so why should it stick to the first three months? She’d ask Mrs. Farcus, but she didn’t know Benny was pregnant. No one did. And no one would. Yet.

Benny dusted her hands off on the front of her jeans and pushed to her feet. She picked up her trowel and the empty bag from the soil, bent again to grab the plastic potting containers and nearly vomited right there in the garden she’d just spent the last hour planting. Leaning heavily upon the tombstone, she screwed her eyes tight until it passed.

“Hey, Benny? You okay?”

Her eyes flew open and she was grateful for the dark fringe of hair obscuring her face. It gave her a moment to hide all she did not want anyone else to see. Straightening, she waved to Charlie McCallan standing with one foot in and one foot out of his truck. “I’m fine, Charlie. No worries. Just hungry. I think I forgot to have lunch.”

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