Have you read Three Heartbeats Away, the final book in my Mortician’s Daughter series? Riley’s dad has been drinking again, and she isn’t sure what to do about it. She’s afraid he’s an alcoholic, afraid he’ll drive drunk or lose his job—again. That’s a lot for a teenager to deal with, really it’s a lot for anyone to deal with. But Riley’s got spunk. I mean she faces down homicidal ghosts, she can deal with her dad. Can’t she? So, she gives him an ultimatum: go to an AA meeting or she’s gone. Will she be disappointed? Or will her dad be there for her?
The good feeling wanes as I fill the Crock-Pot with one of Dad’s favorite meals. Beef stew with carrots, potatoes, and pearl onions. I even picked up some frozen rolls to sop up the gravy. Dad likes to sop.
Scared my heart is about to be broken again and not wanting to dwell on it, I do something I’ve let go these last few weeks. I vacuum, do laundry, and give the downstairs a good cleaning. When I finish, the meaty aroma of beef stew fills the house. I check the clock. It’s five-thirty. Is he coming?
How the hell am I going to deal with it if he doesn’t show?
No, I tell myself. Dad loves me. He’ll be here.
I run upstairs to put on a little makeup and try to figure out the appropriate attire to wear to an AA meeting. Is it like church? I choose plain black pants and a light green blouse. Again, a color I remember Mom wearing. I keep moving, pretending Dad will walk in any minute. Pumpkin follows me around the house, happy that I’m here.
At five-fifty, I go back downstairs. Put the rolls in. Then I lean against the counter. I could set the table. Fix some tea. I could call Hayden just to chat. Text Kelsey and see what she’s doing. I could.
Instead I stare at the clock on the wall. Watch the minute hand tick, tick, tick.
I don’t move. I just breathe.
The timer for the oven dings. The rolls are ready. But I’m not.
I’m not ready to face that Dad’s not coming.
I pull the rolls out. They are golden brown. The smell of fresh-baked bread rises from the pan. Glancing at the time, I see it’s six. I drop the pan on the top of the stove. The rolls could be burnt for all I care.
Will Riley’s dad come home? Will he go to the AA meeting? You’ll have to read Three Heartbeats Away to find out. What do you think will happen? (If you are reading this on Goodreads, please go to my actual blog to leave a comment.)
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