Time to Heal

By: Karen Young

CHAPTER ONE




“I THINK I’LL GET A JOB.”

A second or two passed before Jack McAdam abandoned the sports page and lifted his gaze to his wife. Her tone was soft and low in the early-morning stillness. Musical. He’d always thought of Rachel’s voice as musical. It was one of the first things that had attracted him to her. Settling back, he studied her. Straight and slim, she stood with her back to him watching a fierce fight for turf between two hummingbirds just outside the kitchen window. Inside, it was quiet. Too quiet. Would he ever get used to the silence?

He swallowed black coffee and grimaced at the bitter taste. “Is it a done deed,” he asked, setting the cup down gently, “or can we discuss it?”

“What is there to discuss?”

He lay the newspaper aside and stood up. “Where, Rachel?”

She shrugged, a brief lift of one shoulder. “The bank, I guess. I don’t know.”

He drew in a slow breath. “Which bank?”

“First State.”

“Doing what?”

She turned then to look at him. There was little emotion in her voice.

“Typing, filing, clerical stuff…” She shrugged again. “What does it matter?”

“If it doesn’t matter, why do you want to do it?”

“I can’t sit around here forever, Jake. I’ll go crazy if I do.”

Wearily, he rubbed at the back of his neck. “Is this necessary, Rachel? Don’t you have enough to do without taking on some—” he made a vague gesture “—some go-nowhere job that won’t pay beans and will probably only boost us into a higher tax bracket?”

“It’ll take me out of this house.”

Away from the silence. Away from the reminders. Maybe she had the right idea. Maybe it would work for her. He fingered the edge of the paper. Burying himself in his job hadn’t done a thing for him. Hadn’t distracted his thoughts no matter how much he’d crammed into his workday. Hadn’t eased the raw, desperate dread that rode him constantly. Hadn’t dulled the grief that lay like a tangle of barbed wire in his gut. Hell, he couldn’t blame her for wanting to escape. Reaching blindly for the paper, he accidentally knocked his cup to the floor where it shattered.

“I’ll get it,” Rachel said, going to the pantry to get a dustpan and brush before he could move.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

Bending quickly, Rachel began to sweep the broken china into the pan. Outside, a dog began to bark excitedly. In the next house, a door slammed and a boyish voice called out a command to the dog. The next sound was the rumble and groan of a large vehicle.

The school bus.

Rachel’s hands stopped. Her head bent lower, so that her blond hair fell around her cheeks. Then, working blindly, she cleared the floor of the last slivers of china and straightened, turning toward the trash can. “Don’t forget to take this out,” she said, her tone slightly choked. “The garbage run’s today.”

“I’ve already taken it out.” Jake moved the can toward her, knowing she couldn’t see. Her eyes would be filled with tears. “I put in a new liner.”

“Oh. Okay.”

A squeaking noise sounded from outside. Both Jake and Rachel glanced up, their faces turned to the window. The school bus again. It stopped. Timmy, the six-year-old next door, would be boarding. He yelled at Max, his big Labrador retriever, who barked a spirited farewell. The familiar sounds winged across the lawn and into the McAdams’s window, heightening the tension in the kitchen. The bus changed gears and pulled slowly away. Silence descended again.

Jake moved to the countertop and poured himself another cup of coffee. He cleared his throat. “Maybe you could do some volunteer work at the courthouse. It’s time for the voters’ registration drive. They can always use someone to—”

“Why?”

He looked at her. “Why what?”

“Why do you think I should volunteer at the courthouse? Don’t you think I have any marketable skills?”

“I didn’t mean it that—”

“I have a college degree, Jake. Why shouldn’t I put it to use?”