Chapter 1 Sneak Peek- Holding Onto Hope!
One of the things I find fascinating about life in general is how two people can be in the same place at the same time and have vastly different experiences.
Remember the scene in the beginning of Sliver of Truth when the mill girls are shopping at Paisley’s? Cece's struggle was the focus. But each of the other mill girls’ quirks were coming though. I included the feeling Kimber was exhausted even while keeping up the rapport with her closest girlfriends.
While I wasn’t quite sure at the time where the entire plot of Holding Onto Hope was headed, re-reading that scene gave me the perfect opportunity to flip everything around and peek into Kimber's mind. She was still struggling with the choices she made in the past and how it affected her and Trig's future.
I'm excited August is getting closer to share all of Holding Onto Hope with you. Until then, scroll down to read the first chapter!
Holding Onto Hope
“But are you living your best life?” I pose the question to Cece that’s been on my mind as of late.
It’s mill girls’ day. A bunch of us are meeting up at our favorite boutique in downtown Brighton and getting coffee next door at Baked Beans afterward. Only Sloan, Cece, and I have shown up so far. The two of them have already sifted through half of Paisley’s racks while Sloan plays the role of Cece’s personal stylist, something she’s well-suited to.
The sun is shining through the plate glass. As glad as I am to be hanging out with my best friends this morning, my eyes haven’t adjusted to the light. Thank goodness no one cares I haven’t taken off my dark sunglasses. I’m using my late shift at Sweet Caroline’s and the drive back-and-forth to drop my son off with his pseudo grandparents for all it’s worth. But, in my defense, I didn’t roll my eyes when I asked Cece if she was happy.
I love Cees and her ambition to go after a career she was meant for. But she’s been so focused she’s forgotten to have fun. Cece is more than ten years younger than I am, and I don’t want her to have the same regrets I do about the lost years before I met my husband, Trig. I wish I’d appreciated how easy life was when I had the chance, instead of stumbling over the roadblocks I’d put in my way.
With age, I’ve also come to know Cece won’t understand my perspective for another decade. So, a bit of playful teasing that she has to dump the tub of vanilla ice cream she’s currently in a serious relationship with is as far as I’m willing to push it.
Cece shrugs with a half-hearted and self-conscious smile as Sloan, my partner in crime, continues snagging clothes off the rack and putting them up to admire the colors against Cece’s flawless skin.
It’s a little unfair. I’ve got a stupid zit on my chin—the kind that’s so far under the skin it hurts like a bitch—and a ton of concealer on to hide the redness. Aren’t you supposed to outgrow acne?
The store bell jangles. Holly, the assistant manager at Sweet Caroline’s, makes a whirlwind entrance, allowing Cece to save face. She returns to the dressing room. I use it as an excuse to haul my behind back to the chaise and plant my lazy ass on its cozy cushions.
My to-go mug is resting on a side table and I take a sip, forgetting that it’s decaffeinated swill. Yuck.
“What time did the boys hit the links?” Holly inquires.
“Too early, but it was intentional. Trig and I have plans later this afternoon and Jake is all about the nineteenth hole.”
“Jake is all about any hole he can stick his putter into,” Sloan mutters.
The three of us snort in unison“I don’t care if we live in North Carolina, sane humans do not golf in January!” Cece pipes up from inside the dressing room stall.
I open a bleary eye and spy Holly twirling a countertop display.
“Will you bring me a pair of those silver dangle drop sets to see?”
“Sure thing.” She hands me a card from the rack.
I brush my thumb against the intricate earrings and lift the tag, surprised it’s got a slash with a markdown price.
“Gonna get it?”
“I think so.” I sit and pull a bill from my wallet.
Paisley, the boutique owner and its namesake, scans and bags my purchase. I wave her off when Paisley offers me the receipt and coins. We shop here often and I’m currently using her store sofa as a bed. So give a penny, take a penny, right? Or a buck ninety-five. It all comes out in the wash. At Baked Beans, I tip Aidy when she makes my coffee, and she lives in my attic.
I walk back to the chaise and flop down like a moody teenager, staring at the ceiling while the other mill girls finish their shopping.
In the end, Cece has an armful of clothes to wear for her new job as a pediatric physician’s assistant.
“You’re not getting anything?” she asks.
I hold the tiny bag containing my earrings up by my index finger.
Holly’s now futzing with bottles in a display of lotions. She twists the lid on a bottle and sniffs. “This smells pretty. And familiar. Hey, Cece, do you wear this?” Her nose wiggles, taking a second whiff.
Celine sidles up next to her. They stand around, inhaling each fruity, floral scent while Sloan is busy at the register.
I haven’t had breakfast and my stomach rolls at the words, basil, watermelon, mint, and even strawberry. I’m moving past hungry to the point where my maudlin mood will be apparent if I don’t start participating in the fun my girlfriends are having.
“What did you find?” I rise from the recliner and push my sunglasses above my brow, making them into a headband, but lean away from the icky perfumes. “Are we going to see Aidy?”
“Did your espresso kick in, dearest?” Holly counters the two swift questions with a pat on the arm.
“Yes, finally.” I lie.
“How long until your next dose?”
Eight to ten hours, but who’s counting? No one here. This hurts too much to share with my girlfriends.
“You’re awful.” I quip instead.
“Oh, I’m awful? Come here, let me hug you! Have you ever worked with you when you are caffeine-free? I’m terrorized by the idea of Owen becoming a big brother. Nine months of you drinking decaf at midnight and I’m jumping up and down when Jake drags his sorry ass into the club.”
We both snicker. I’m secure in the rapport we keep. But if Holly only knew.
“You know I will. I love you so much, I’ll even buy your next grande.”
There’s only one thing I want more than a Baked Beans’ grande. Yet, I’m done holding onto hope that this month will end any differently than the others have since my son was born. I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired for no damned good reason.
Sloan calls to me and I slide the sunglasses over my eyes again so none of them bear witness to the tears pricking behind my eyes.
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