For all the evers, p.1
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       For All the Evers, p.1
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           Debra Anastasia
For All the Evers


  Table of Contents

  For All The Evers

  Copyright

  Titles by Debra Anastasia

  Dedication

  To My Uncle Tommy

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  The Real Thomas F. McHugh

  Acknowledgments

  Sources

  copyright (c) 2016 Debra Anastasia

  All rights reserved

  Published by Debra Anastasia

  Cover Art Design - A true friend

  Cover Art Image: Depositphotos Artist: kiuikson, handwriting, Thomas McHugh

  Editing: Jessica Royer Ocken

  Formatting: CP Smith

  For All The Evers is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are all products of the author's twisted imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Except as permitted under the US Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

  ISBN-13: 978-1540335777

  ISBN-10: 1540335771

  Titles by Debra Anastasia

  Crushed Seraphim

  Bittersweet Seraphim

  Poughkeepsie Begins

  Poughkeepsie

  Return to Poughkeepsie

  Saving Poughkeepsie

  Shackled

  Late Night with Andres

  The Revenger

  Fire Down Below

  Fire in the Hole

  Booty Camp Dating Service

  Felony Ever After

  Dedication

  Always for T, J and D

  In Honor of Thomas McHugh

  To My Uncle Tommy

  Uncle Tommy,

  I wish I had known you. I know that you died in World War II. I know you had no wife, no kids, no descendants other than your brother’s children. I’ve often wondered how life would have been different if you’d lived.

  My mom never met you, but you’re talked about a lot. My poppy, your brother, told us your stories. He was hilarious, and I guess you’re together now. That’s a good thing. I know he missed you. And I was proud of the stories I heard about you.

  I’ve felt helpless because there’s no fixing the past, but now I realize maybe I can. This letter is to thank you for your sacrifice, but I went further than that. I finished the book I promised your niece I would write.

  After people read this, you will be known. You will be remembered. And you will be loved. Your niece found your grave, and this book brought you to life again. We haven’t forgotten you.

  And we love you.

  Deb

  Prologue

  Make Me Brave

  “Don’t close your eyes. Please, stay. Just stay.” Fallen held on to him as tightly as she could.

  He tilted her face toward his, lips smiling but eyes sad. “I won’t. I can’t stay.”

  “You can.” She climbed up him until he held her, her legs wrapped around his middle. “I believe we can stay here. Just don’t wake up. Don’t go back.” She ran her fingertips down his handsome face. “I know what’s going to happen. I’m begging you. And I’ve never begged anyone for anything. Ever. Please, Thomas.”

  He put his forehead against hers. “I’m going to miss you.” His eyes teared up a little, but his determination shone through. “So, so much. Forever.”

  Her own tears were free now, coasting over her lips and into her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and spoke against his mouth, the salty emotions painting his lips as well. “Love me enough to stay.”

  He shook his head infinitesimally, refusing to break the contact. “Don’t say that.”

  She had to play dirty. He was her everything.

  “If you loved me, you’d stay.” She gripped his wide shoulders.

  “Dream girl.” He sighed his nickname for her for one last time. “I love you enough to die for you.”

  She panicked in his arms, hearing the finality. “No. No. No! Please. No.”

  He held her closer as she struggled to get away. If she didn’t say goodbye, he couldn’t leave.

  “Stop. Don’t. Be still.” He set her on her feet and stroked her hair from the crown to where it ended at the middle of her back. “I need this. This one moment with you. It makes me brave.” He began to nod. “It’s happening. It’s going to happen. I can’t desert them.”

  His voice sounded less commanding. He was scared.

  They weren’t going to get to have this life together, but she could try to help him with his death.

  “Okay. Okay.” She wiped her tears, centering herself with a strength she hadn’t possessed until this very second. “Look at me.”

  They looked into each other’s eyes. Despite all she had done—the hoping, the praying—it had come to this. He began to fade, his lids getting heavier.

  “Remember this. Remember us,” she told him.

  He put his arms around her. She made sure they maintained eye contact.

  He’s leaving.

  Superhuman strength welled up in her as she focused instead of dissolved.

  “Know that I love you more than time.” She kissed his lips, his nose, his lips again.

  “What if I’m a coward...in the end?” He voiced his unspoken fear.

  “I swear on this, on our love—I know you will be remembered only for your valor.”

  She’d seen his Purple Heart. His legacy was bravery.

  “Dream girl.”

  He grew quieter; this was how it went, the way it ended in all her waking nightmares.

  The pain of not saving him would crush her soul.

  “Yeah?” She put her hand on his heart, feeling it thump against her hand.

  “Live. And that flag?” Even in his last moments, pride and commitment.

  “It’ll fly every day.” Her heart performed a wedding here, in this place, only to that piece of material instead of to him.

  “Love. Don’t give up on that.” He held her face and kissed her.

  Beneath his gentle lips, she couldn’t lie—even if he wanted her to. “There’s only you. There will only ever be you.”

  “Okay.” He ran his knuckles along her cheek and jaw. “Yours is a face worth fighting for. Don’t worry. I’ll make your future safe.”

  “When I die, I’ll come here. I’ll find you.”

  Thomas nodded. He was almost gone now, barely in front of her.

  She wanted him ready for battle on the other side.

  “I love you forever, Fallen.” He was just a ghost of a shape.

  “You give them hell, Thomas McHugh.” She went to her tiptoes as he took his last kiss.

  In the wisp of his silhouette, after the kiss could go on no more, she sensed his stunning blue eyes on her, like she was his talisman.

  “I’ll love you for all the evers I get.” She blew a kiss, and the wisp of him washed away with the sentiment.

  Then he was gone. She’d sent the man she loved to his death.
r />   A sound as close to the soundtrack for hell as she’d ever heard ripped though the quiet. It wasn’t until she put her wrist to her mouth, blocking her airway, that she realized the noise had come from her.

  She bent at the waist, hugging her middle as she gasped.

  Was it now?

  Was it now?

  Was he dying right now?

  She cried herself to a prone position, and desolation found her like a rogue wave.

  It had all been for nothing in the end.

  A little while later, when she felt the heat, she opened her eyes. She was awake, back in her world, and it was on fire.

  Engulfed in flames, Fallen felt a small hope. In death she could see him again. In death she could triumph.

  Chapter 1

  Milk

  Fallen Billow looked at the list of her brother Fenn’s 11th grade school supplies and fees. She’d just paid the electric bill the day before when the man from the company had appeared on her front door step. There might have been some change from her car’s cup holder involved. And now the rough total in her head for what Fenn needed to start his junior year at White Plains High School was enough to make her cry.

  The list was yet another reminder that her decision to leave college and her part-time job there had been necessary—and unavoidable. Fenn needed a full-time income, not to mention a full-time presence in his life, to support him. Her classes had been too expensive anyway, and she’d been turned down for another school loan. But above all, things here at home were more than desperate. She hadn’t been back long, but that much was abundantly clear.

  Just then Fenn popped into the kitchen, his dark blond hair flopping over his eyes. He proceeded to pour the largest glass in the history of milk and guzzle it down like he did that very thing for a living.

  She tried not to parse out how much money he’d just swallowed, but she smiled at him a second too late, and he wiped his mouth with regret in his eyes.

  “I’m sorry. Is it really tight this week?”

  She tried to shield him from the worst of it. And thankfully, he was so easygoing that he accepted some of her lamer excuses. For now, Fallen went along with his belief that their mother, Nora, would come back. Even though she’d taken every red cent they had and left her kids behind, she might come back. She might be able to kick her addiction and be an adult for Fenn.

  “We’re cool,” Fallen told him, mustering a more genuine smile. “You’re allowed to drink milk.”

  She turned her back on her brother and went to her room. Her eyes went automatically to her textbooks gaining a layer of dust in the corner, but there were no tears, no sadness. She’d wanted to be a teacher, but for now she was shelving her hopes for her brother’s dreams. And those dreams cost money. To that end, tomorrow she would start the new job she’d miraculously found in housekeeping at an old hotel in downtown White Plains, a walkable two miles from their home, and just 40 minutes from New York City.

  ···

  Just after seven in the morning, Fallen accepted her new uniform from what appeared to be the oldest woman in the world. Desta, she’d said her name was.

  “Wear this every day. You’ll have two. Put this one on now, and there’s another in a bag with your welcome packet.”

  It was a classic look: black with white details.

  “Get yourself a pair of the white sneakers with the Velcro down at Payless. Buy one get one sale going on now. Stock up. And get bleach at BJ’s in bulk. You will not believe the stains you’ll have to get out of the shoes and the uniform. You’d think we were working at a hospital.”

  The oldest woman in the world started laughing at her own joke, before seguing into some really wet-sounding coughs. Fallen had started to panic at the woman’s wide eyes and blue lips when she made a loud, popping noise in the back of her throat and began breathing normally.

  “I smoked for twenty-five years,” Desta explained with a shrug. “It did some damage.”

  “When did you quit?” It seemed the obvious way to continue the conversation.

  “Who said I quit? No end in sight for this lady.” Desta started laugh-coughing again, covering her mouth with a weak wrist.

  “Well, you’ve got a firm commitment there,” Fallen offered.

  “Anyway, you’ve been assigned to the fifth floor. That’s yours. If you’re not here for work, that floor doesn’t get cleaned. And we pride ourselves on clean.” Desta gave Fallen a hard look over her thick glasses.

  She nodded. Desta seemed to come to work dead every day, so Fallen guessed sick days weren’t much of an option.

  Desta led Fallen to the elevator. It looked original to the hotel, and instead of a moving room with secure, solid doors, it was more like a huge birdcage. They stepped on, and Desta jammed an old key in under the buttons, then hit five.

  “Do this; it takes you right to your floor.”

  Sure enough, the terrifying bird cage ground to a halt on the fifth floor. Fallen stepped out into the hallway, relieved to be on solid ground again.

  It was pretty, the hotel. But desolate in a way. The wallpaper seemed vintage and had peeled in some of the corners, bubbling in other spots. The rooms were spacious, but strangely configured. On the whole it was elegant, but odd.

  Desta was going on about charm and original finishes. The floor had fourteen rooms, she explained. Each needed to be cleaned after the guests had checked out, or during a moment when they’d stepped out.

  “Most important of all, room 514. That one you have to clean every day. Do you understand? Every day. Never skip it.” Desta repeated that particular direction four more times during their tour of Fallen’s new workspace.

  She learned she would shadow Desta for the first week, and then be on her own. After that, they got started.

  Old or not, Desta was a little dynamo when she cleaned. Every two rooms, she took a smoke break. She tossed hints and tips at Fallen as they went, but when Fallen attempted tasks on her own, they were always just a little under par.

  “Practice, practice!” Desta assured her.

  By the end of the day, Fallen’s back ached, and her hands were red from the stiff bleach used on the sheets. But the good news was more time she’d spent with Desta, the more she liked her. The care of the old hotel was obviously very important to her. She had a pride almost like ownership, even though she wore the same uniform as Fallen.

  ···

  One week later, when Fallen got home after her first day of solo cleaning on her very own floor, she’d worked three hours of unpaid overtime to get her rooms done. Desta told her she hadn’t even done that great a job either.

  She had just settled on the couch and closed her eyes, trying to think of something for dinner, when her brother walked through the door, sweaty from playing football with his friends.

  “Hey. How’d work go?” he asked.

  She smiled and nodded by way of an answer.

  “So I overheard one of the teachers talking today,” Fenn began. “Her husband is getting back surgery, and she’s allergic to pollen. Me and the guys were thinking of taking turns mowing her lawn until he gets better. You think it’s okay to use our mower?”

  Apart from cleaning instructions, Fallen felt like her head only held math these days. Her mind was fully occupied with deducting things from the paycheck that wasn’t even due to be deposited into her account until next week. The thought of a bunch of teenagers throwing their mower into different trucks had her concerned. But Fenn had great impulses. She rested her head on the back of the sofa.

  “You okay?”

  “Just tired. Of course, use the mower. That’s awesome of you to help them out.” If it broke, it broke.

  Fenn was mature for his age (nearly 17)—a product of growing up fast without reliable parents—and Fallen was downright old for hers (a recent 21). She had never known her father, and part of her wondered if her mother knew who he was either. Same for Fenn’s dad.

  Their mother, Nora, was an alcoholic. She’d
been a largely functioning one when the kids were little—only forcing Fallen to fend for herself when she’d had way too much to drink. And for many years that hadn’t been every night. Fallen still had memories of her mother reading to her and Fenn, tickling them before they fell asleep. But as Fallen reached her teen years, Nora had seemed to take her daughter’s growth and expanding capability as carte blanche to let alcohol overwhelm her. Fallen still remembered when suddenly she’d spent a straight week picking her mother up from the couch, the bathroom floor, and once the bar two blocks over. It was then Fallen had realized she was the only real adult in the situation.

  At fifteen.

  She’d cried the whole night through, but in the morning, she was ready. She had taped the list of her new chores to the fridge:

  Pay bills

  Clean floors

  Clean bathrooms

  Grocery shop

  Mow lawn

  Laundry

  It was an overwhelming list. And she hadn’t even put her personal chores on it.

  When Fenn woke up, he’d read the list and pointed to the lawn and the bathrooms. “I can do those.”

  She’d patted him on the shoulder. They were in this together. So they’d worked around Nora’s headaches, her bitchiness when the alcohol bled from her system. Fallen had driven her mother to work on more than one occasion without a driver’s license.

  These days Fallen did the bills after her brother went to bed. All the chores she’d lined up required cleaning supplies, and those had their own costs attached to them. That was the rub. Fortunately, a few years back Fallen had hit her mother up on a good day, at a good moment, and had talked her into getting an extra debit card. Now Fallen could pull money for groceries and the bills.

  She’d always watched the balance carefully, and she’d noticed that on payday, as soon as her mother was done with work, she would extract hundreds from the account at an ATM. So as a junior in high school, Fallen had begun leaving school grounds in the middle of the day to pull money before her mother could get the chance, hiding it in her locker.

 
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