Thirty days of red, p.1
Thirty Days of Red,
Thirty Days of Red
About the Author
Other Books by Geraldine
Thirty Days of Red
Copyright ©2015 by Geraldine Solon
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design: Natasha Brown
Created with Vellum
For my greatest treasures,
Arnel and Stefan
I saw it coming and couldn’t deny it. When the person you love collapses right in front of you with eyes flickering like strobe lights at a club, you know damn well you need to call for help. But I didn’t. I just stood there, listening to the waves of air emerging from his chest, counting the seconds when he would go. But he stayed, and I was Olivia Walters once again, the nurse who took care of everyone except herself.
My garage doesn’t only store valuable tokens and trash. It stores secrets, stories only my husband and I know. Even so, today, I opened my home to strangers―to get rid of what we don’t need and keep what’s vital.
Counting the money from the sales, I examine David’s medical bills piled on a container. This doesn’t come close to what’s due.
A whistle startles me.
I turn around and spot Christopher Harris, my best friend since senior year in high school. David would exude a frown if he saw him, often complaining I spent more time with Christopher than with him. I’m glad Christopher’s here to comfort me.
He raises his eyebrows. “You need to get out of those scrubs.”
That’s Christopher, blunt like vomit.
“You know how comfy they are.” I give him a big hug. “You’re late for the party. The garage sale is over.”
“Sorry.” A puppy dog look appears on his face. Setting a spider web to the side, he sneezes, studies the boxes, and shakes his head. “Good lord, what do you have here?”
“Stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. Lots of junk, as you can witness.”
My mother-in-law exits the back door and sets two glasses of lemonade on the table.
Christopher kisses both of her cheeks. “Diana, you’re looking fabulous as ever.”
My ever-jolly mother-in-law straightens her khaki dress and does a curtsy. “I thought I heard your voice. How are you, Christopher?”
“Never been better. Just got a massage. Which explains why I’m late.” He smirks at me. “I feel like a new man.”
“You’re spoiled.” She winks.
“Yup, Christopher is always ready for an adventure.” I set folding chairs for us to sit.
We settle in our seats.
“Of course. I’m leaving for a Mediterranean cruise in a week and will need to eliminate this.” He sucks in his abs.
My mother-in-law giggles. She pretends everything’s all right despite her son recovering from a coma. David came home a month ago and since I’m a nurse, I opted to take care of David at home versus a facility so I can monitor him around the clock. My mother-in-law can be more of a handful compared to David. She is the attention seeker.
“I remember going on a cruise when I was your age. I had so much fun,” she says.
As they continued to chatter, I dump trash in the garbage bin.
“Hey, Liv, I think you should join me,” Christopher says.
I roll my eyes. “And who will provide for David’s care?”
“Oh, I can do that,” my mother-in-law chimes in.
Laughter erupts out of me. “Mom, you complained about leaving your cat alone.”
“I can always bring Homer to stay with us.” She shrugs and flashes me a sheepish grin.
“Did you forget David’s allergic to cats?” I remind her.
“Right. Let me leave you both while I check on David.” She scoots to the back door.
Facing Christopher, I say, “She doesn’t realize the responsibility entailed to treating a sick person.”
“But you can’t be everybody’s caretaker.”
“I know. I know.” Tears well. David had been so energetic, never failing to go on his morning run or hike on the weekends. I hate seeing him so helpless and not being able to remember a thing.
“What did the doctor say?”
After taking a sip of my lemonade, I swallow hard. Although David talks and has regained his strength, he seems to be lost in space. “There’s no guarantee he’ll regain his memory back.”
“There has to be a break from all of this. Although the bills are piling up and work is calling you, we can do better than this garage sale. I can organize a fundraiser. You have to remember to take care of you.” He squeezes my arms. “You’re exhausted, drained, and hell, no sex.”
Laughter spills from my mouth, but it’s short lived. “Right.”
“Girl, there must be cobwebs down there.”
“Stop. C’mon, help me go through these boxes.” Christopher manages to wipe out the gray shades in my life. I point to the remaining ones in the corner. “I don’t want to be a dumb hoarder.”
A grin forms his lips. “Okay. I’ll work on these two small ones.”
“Be sure to show me before you throw out anything.”
He shakes his head. “You are a hoarder.”
I open the box and scream as a spider crawls out. “Get rid of that.”
“Is everything all right?” my mother-in-law calls from the kitchen. She’s supposed to be upstairs with David and not eavesdropping on our conversation.
“Yes, just a spider.”
We both giggle.
“My dear, your hands are full,” Christopher says.
“Tell me about it.”
He ransacks the remaining box and slits it open. Christopher removes an envelope and reads. “‘Dear David…’“
“Hey, those are our love letters.”
“‘I was so touched…’ I didn’t know you were cheesy back during the day,” he chides.
I pluck the card from his hands and return the items inside the box. “We were college sweethearts. Did you forget?”
Christopher bats his eyelashes. “You’ve been sweethearts for as long as I can recall.”
My thoughts shift to the day David and I first met.
High heels clasped around my finger, I strode barefoot toward the door to my dorm. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I fumbled with my key.
“Excuse me,” a male voice called out to me.
I refused to turn around after my date stood me up.
He appeared in front of me, green eyes spelled with gentleness. “I’m sorry, but my conscience will bother me if I didn’t ask you why you’re crying.”
Not saying a word, I glared at him.
He raised his hands in the air. “I saw you waiting at the cafe and―”
“You’ve been following me,” I cut him off.
“Yes, I mean, no... not the way you think.” He dug his hand inside his pocket. “A beautiful lady like you shouldn’t be sad. I want to cheer you up.”
Our eyes locked, and from that day on, I knew David was a keeper.
Christopher snaps his fingers. “Hey, are you listening to me?”
“Huh? I’m sorry.” I set the letters aside.
“I’m sure there’s something you want to do for yourself, don’t you?”
“Actually… I planned on starting a thirty-day wisdom project that should help me cope during this time of grief.”
“Geez, so profound of you. Tell me more about it.”
“I need to write down the things I learn each day for a compilation of thirty days.”
He tucks a strand of my long strawberry blond hair behind my ears. “That sounds useful.”
“Yeah. I envy you, my friend. I wish I could wake up in a different place every morning and feel alive again.”
“Sweetie, you need to think about my invitation. Imagine you and I on a cruise. We’ll have loads of fun and not to mention all the laughter.”
I grin. “Let me take that box of love letters inside. Perhaps I can read it to David before I sleep.”
As Christopher bids me goodbye, my shoulders drop knowing it will be another quiet night. I can’t bear to look at David, who only gives me blank stares and converses with no emotions.
* * *
That evening, I cuddle David in bed as I comb his wispy brown hair.
Gathering the letters and cards, I inch beside him. “Honey, I found your letters to me in college. Remember our tagline? You’d always say, ‘I love you first,’ and I’d say, ‘No, I loved you the minute I saw you’, and you’d argue, ‘But I saw you first.’ We were inseparable.” A giggle burst out, my emotions bittersweet.
David watches me and repeats. “Letters.”
When I unfasten an envelope, a photo of David and I pop out.
Ignoring his lifeless expression, I add, “I remember this. We had a tennis match, and you were amazing.” Leaning my head on his shoulder, I spot a notebook. “When we’re old, we can read these letters again and show them to our children and grandchildren…”
For the past six years, I tried to get pregnant but failed. The doctors told us to be patient despite my three miscarriages. Perhaps children and grandchildren aren’t in our future.
A notebook is inside the box. I recognize David’s handwriting. It’s written as if he was in hurry.
Thirty Days Before I Leave My Wife.
My hands freeze. Is this for real? I reread the note again. A cold shiver runs through my spine. Dashing to the toilet, I throw up the last piece of lasagna I ate that evening. Soaking my face with water, I start hyperventilating. Why would David want to leave me? Shit, I was a good wife. I am a good wife.
David lies in bed clueless and oblivious to the world while I inch back close to him. A part of me wants to smother him with a pillow, and another side of me wishes to ask him why.
Aware it’s late; I grab my iPhone and text Christopher. I’m coming with you on the cruise.
Then I return all the letters including his notebook inside the box and seal it over and over and over again until the box is nothing but tape.
“Nobody can touch this box,” I announce, slanting my eyes toward David to check if he would react. I tuck it underneath my clothes, inside our closet where it’s safe and I can forget. Yes, that’s right. All I want to do is forget David is in a coma, forget the medical bills, forget David planned to leave me, and forget I’m Olivia Walters―David’s wife.
My mother-in-law hugs me tight before Christopher and I board the plane to Barcelona. After seeing me pace around my bedroom like a caged animal, Diana insisted I go with Christopher. The caregiver and she would take turns in attending to David’s needs while I’m away.
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep David safe,” she whispers. Her words trigger a memory.
David’s hands covered my eyes. “Just a few more steps and we’ll be there.”
A cold gust of wind brushed my cheeks. “Where are you taking me?”
He clasped my hand. “I want our first date to be special.”
His smooth voice and the strong waves crashing to the shore crept inside my ears.
“We’re here.” David removed his hands, and right in front of me displayed a pink sky that cloaked the golden sun.
Silence crossed between us. The way he held my hand made me feel safe.
“Didn’t I say I wanted to cheer you up?” He cupped my cheek, leaned forward, and rested his lips on mine.
Eyes closed, I didn’t want this moment to end.
My mother-in-law releases me from her embrace. Safe? Safe is what I felt that day on the beach. Safe is what made me marry David. Safe is all I ever associated with him until I read the letter.
But I’m here to forget.
* * *
The flight from San Francisco to Barcelona is smooth, but I don’t sleep a wink. The cruise line awaits us with her majestic presence. As I gaze at the mother ship, a surge of excitement washes upon me.
Christopher socializes with other patrons while clutching my arm. Should I tell him? He always thought David seemed too weak for me, that I carried him on my wing. I didn’t know what he meant until we got married and I wore the pants. But Christopher said as long as I was happy, then that’s all that mattered.
We head to our cabin and set our suitcases on the side. A sailor-themed room with two full-sized beds welcomes us.
Christopher sprawls himself on the bed overlooking the ocean. “La Dolce Vita.”
Out the window, the sun continues to set, and I wish the sea can sweep away my memory and erase what I read.
Christopher sways his hips. “What do you want to do? Swim? We can sunbathe on the pool. Go bowling or gambling. You name it, Liv.”
“How about I go to sleep?” I remove my shoes.
“Sleep?” He raises his eyebrows. “No, no, no. We are going to party, girl. We’ll paint the town red.”
I chuckle. Fun. Yes, that’s the point of all of this. Seven days with nobody to think about but myself and not feel guilty about anything. Still, images of David’s goal keep flashing through my head, making my mind spin. “I need a drink.”
“That’s my girl.” Christopher claps his hands. “I promise you this will be a vacation of a lifetime.” He unfastens the zipper of my luggage. “Let me choose your outfit.” He removes two dresses—black and red. “I’ll go with red.” He presses his lips together. “Oh, boy. I better be your bodyguard tonight.”
* * *
But tonight I’m going to drown myself in the Bloody Mary that I order.
While Christopher dances the night away, I sit by the bar with my legs crossed. From working as a nurse, I’ve learned to gauge people based on their actions. Pain delivers a threshold that’s not tangible. Patients come to me needing reassurance more than cure, and most of the time, they seek someone they can trust.
Sipping my drink, I study the people swaying their bodies. Are they here to have fun? Are they high on some drug? Are they nursing a broken heart, or are they like me, wanting to forget?
Christopher points at me, requesting me to join him at the dance floor, but I shake my head.
Taking a big gulp of my Bloody Mary, I tell myself that tonight, I’m going to chill and be the outsider. I’m going to think about what would it be like to be someone else and not Olivia Walters.
A soft tap on my shoulder wisps me back to reality. Right before me is a tall man with dark wavy hair and the smoothest skin. He flashes me a dreamy look, like the one you see in the movies. His long-sleeve shirt doesn’t hide his broad shoulders and chest.
With the music blasting in my ears, I lean forward. “I’m sorry. Can I help you?”
He runs his fingers through my hair and whispers, “Something tells me I can help you.”
My throat constricts. Am I that obvious? How can he read through me? He intimidates me. His muscular scent mixed with fabric softener tugs me in the inside. “I’m not sure what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything.” He sits beside me.
Pressing my lips together, I admire his curly lashes and thick eyebrows. Why is he so beautiful?
“Are you alone?”
“With a friend.” I search for Christopher, but he’s lost in the crowd.
The man eyes my wedding ring. “Your husband?” When I don’t respond, he adds, “You don’t need to answer that.”
This man is teasing me, and I don’t know how to handle him. Do I look available?