Realizing that life has more to offer when he meets his new coworker, firefighter Gil Gerard pursues a new realm of opportunities, until he discovers the hazards of pursuing a relationship with someone who also holds a high-risk job. Reissue.
Nancy Walker Elrod's footsteps, breath, and peace of mind halted outside the doorway of her mother's kitchen.
Lyrics echoed in her mind:
Fifteen years ago and I still feel the same .
Surely her mother wasn't humming that song. Not that Nancy had anything against country music. Her mother introduced her to all kinds in their younger days. But this one she'd rather ignore. However, at this nostalgic time of year, conversations turned to the good ol' days and thoughts of past Christmas seasons.
The last two Christmases had been hard for her, without Ben. This year was easier, and Nancy had felt ready to come home again. At some point she needed to discuss the possibility of coming home permanently. She could relate to her widowed mother in new and old ways.
The familiar aroma wafting into the hallway punctuated that point. Her mom's famous cookies were baking. Wheat flour replaced the former white. But the ingredients of apple sauce, walnuts, and chocolate chips were. still the same.
Nancy walked into the kitchen and laid her scarf and shoulder bag on a chair.
Her mother turned from the stove. "As soon as you find out anything more about Marge, let me know."
"I will." Nancy knew her mom was worried about her best friend. Staying busy and humming songs, usually hymns, were ways of coping.
Her mom sighed. "I should be there."
"Others are with her. And you know Mrs. Lawing was more concerned about that furry little mongrel than she was about herself." Nancy looked around. "Where is that dog anyway?"
Her mom gestured toward the back door but lifted her eyebrows. "Better not let Marge hear you call Sophie a mongrel or a dog. She's sensitive about her little companion," she warned. "Sophie is more valuable to her than those cell phones are to the younger generation."
"Your cell phone was a convenience for you today."
"Well, yes. They're good for emergencies."
Today had been an emergency. Jean Walker and Marge Lawing had gone to a missionary program and luncheon at church. After eating, Mrs. Lawing complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. She blamed reflux, since she'd had that before. When her mom called Nancy, she insisted that Mrs. Lawing be taken to the doctor.
"I don't suppose they'd let her have any of these." Jean Walker set the freshly baked cookies on a cooling rack and lowered the pot holder to the countertop.
"No, Mom. Dr. Stevens' nurse said they're going to do additional testing at the hospital. That will take a while. But the EKG she had at the doctor's office showed no indication of heart trouble, and that's a good sign."
Her mom nodded and looked across at Nancy. "Well, I hope. Carl Stevens said he wants her tested for pneumonia, and he will call Woodrow." She paused. "He might be at the hospital, you know."
Nancy turned from her mother's gaze and focused on her arm making its way into the jacket sleeve. Woody.
Why did someone have to mention your name?
Another line of that song. Old memories threatened. Her mother hadn't hummed that line, but it made its way through the years and into Nancy's mind.
She glanced over when her mom said, "Hear that?" She reached over to the TV on a small shelf above the countertop and turned up the volume. "Getting down to freezing tonight. Better dress warm."
By that time Nancy had shrugged into her jacket. This was like the old days, too. Nancy didn't mind. She felt good being back in Silver City and feeling much like Mom's little girl again. She patted her pockets. "Gloves in here, and I have my scarf."
The weatherman finished his report. A commercial came on. Nancy glanced at the wall clock. "I'd better go."
"Cookies and hot coffee will be waiting. You know you can bring friends home."
Nancy knew she meant Woody. But he wasn't a friend. She'd ruined that years ago. But this house had always been a place where friends could congregate.
Fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years ago.
Through the years, however, her friends grew up and had families of their own.
"Thanks," she said. "I'll look in on Marge."
"Call and let me know how she is right away. And tell her I'm praying for her."
Nancy nodded. "I shouldn't be gone long." She wrapped the scarf around her neck and drew her keys from the shoulder bag then glanced at her mom picking up a cookie. "Save some for me, now."
"Only testing." Her mom grinned. "Have to make sure they're just right."
Nancy laughed. "They're always just right." She opened the back door, and Sophie, the saucy little shih tzu mix, scooted in and marched like she owned the place through the kitchen and into the hallway.
Jean Walker laughed. "Sophie likes the spot next to the fireplace. I'll go turn on the TV for her."
After saying "Bye," Nancy closed the kitchen door and stepped into the carport where her car was parked beside her mom's. She shivered but breathed deeply of the welcomed crisp fresh air.
On the fifteen-minute drive to the small hospital at the edge of Silver City, noticing that lights already decorated most businesses and many homes, she hummed the songs the choral group would sing. She didn't consider herself a great singer, but it was something her family had enjoyed.
She'd been pleased when asked to join the carolers who visited the hospital several evenings a week during the Christmas season.
She hadn't known that her mom's best friend would become ill.
She did know Woody would come if possible.
An audible gasp escaped her throat. She was no longer humming the carols but the one her mother had hummed.
Still feel the same? the lyric asked her.
Well, yes and no. A memory could pop into one's mind and spark feelings that produced laughter or tears. Like when she and her daughter, Rebekah, mentioned Ben. And of course, she couldn't dismiss Woody from her mind. After all, he'd been a vital part of her lifeher family's liveswhen she was young.
And in those days she'd never had what some spoke of as Plan A and Plan B.
She almost laughed aloud at that.
Her Plan A had been to act on impulse. Plan B was never much better. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.