My latest novel, FIXER UPPER, is available now on Amazon. City girl Hannah lost herself gradually, in pieces. It takes moving to the country – and meeting rough, seductive Avery – to find herself again.
Read the bonus scene below.
Avery’s last visit to Nora
The drive to Nora’s nursing home was an arduous one. Avery went as often as she could, although she usually only managed on her precious Sundays off. She would get an early start and head over to Hansen’s to pick up all of Nora’s favorite items from the bakery and produce sections, plus whatever treats Nora wanted to bring to Minnie that week. Then she would turn the truck around and head in the opposite direction, settling in for the hour-long drive to Cincinnati where Nora’s grandkids lived.
It would be another thirty minutes in the opposite direction once she picked Nora up, before they finally arrived at their destination, Minnie’s nursing home. Angela and Junior did their best to convince Nora the reason they brought her to Cincinnati was that it would be easier for them to visit her, but in the four months Avery had been making the drive out to pick her up, she had never run into a single member of Nora’s family at the home.
“Do they come during the week?” Avery asked her one time. It was an indelicate question to ask, especially because she already knew it was bullshit, but she couldn’t hold her tongue. “They’re keeping you company, right?”
“Oh, sweetie,” Nora had said, shaking her head, and her own expression was perhaps more pitying than Avery’s. She never came out and said what she thought of her grandchildren, but what she didn’t say spoke volumes.
Avery did what she could to help out. Nora and Minnie were good neighbors and they made the soybean fields surrounding Avery’s house feel more like home when she’d get back after a long day of work to find a basket of fresh green beans on her porch, or an invitation to dinner. Avery didn’t have much family left, and none at all in the area, but it wasn’t long before Nora and Minnie started to feel like family.
That’s why it didn’t feel like a chore to make the drive to Cincinnati, or pick up the groceries, or help reunite Nora and Minnie once a week. It was the least she could do and she even began to look forward to it.
That is, until the day she arrived find Angela and Carl standing in the hallway like sentinels outside of Nora’s room. Carl looked a little uncomfortable, or perhaps just inconvenienced, but Angela stood there with her arms crossed over her chest and a sour expression on her face. As Avery walked up the hallway, she got a sinking feeling in her gut and she knew exactly where this was going, but she wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of backing down.
“Angela,” She said curtly, “Carl. What brings you here?”
“It’s come to our attention that you and our mother have been making road trips on the weekends,” she said with a scowl. Nora’s door was closed and Avery wished that she could just push past this shrew of a woman and go about her day, but she knew that Angela and Carl were family, and she was not.
She couldn’t act like she was in this moment. “You’ve been taking her to see that woman.”
“Her girlfriend, Minnie,” Avery said. She could tell already, by the way Angela was looking at her, that she was not going to win this battle. She at least wanted them to acknowledge what Minnie meant to Nora and why she was spending every Sunday morning driving back and fourth across the county for them. “Yes I have.”
“Well, you’ve made your last trip,” Angela said with a snarl. “Our mother would like to thank you for the groceries and inform you that your chauffeur services are no longer necessary. We took the liberty of removing you from the approved guests list this morning.”
“You can’t do that,” Avery said, her mouth dropping open. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she had no better rebuttal than this weak objection. She figured Angela was probably here to do her level best at keeping Nora and Minnie apart–Jennifer had been able to cope with the fact that her mother didn’t actually love her father–but Avery never expected to be banned from the nursing home.
“You were just her neighbor,” Carl said. “What do you care?”
“Maybe she’s in love with her too,” Angela spat. “You’re all sick. Get out of here–there’ll be no use coming back because you won’t get past the desk.”
“Let me at least say goodbye to her–“
“You’ve done enough damage for one lifetime ,” Angela said, turning Avery around and pushing her back towards the door she came in.
She was seeing red and it was all she could do not to whirl around on her heel and slap the smug, righteous look right off her face. Instead, Avery marched outside and threw the sack of groceries she bought for Nora violently into the bed, then slammed the door and just sat there for ten minutes, unsure of how to proceed if at all.
In the end, she decided that in a round-about screwed up way Angela was right–Avery really didn’t have any right to Nora or Minnie, and if they wouldn’t allow her to see Nora, then what was there to do?
She only ever tried to go to the nursing home one more time–two months later, on the morning of Minnie’s funeral, when she snuck Nora out of the place–and that day had been one of the hardest of her life. Throughout the whole funeral service, she couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that Minnie died of a broken heart. Maybe if Avery had fought harder or challenged Nora’s kids more, they wouldn’t have been able to restrict her visitors and she could have seeing many. Avery was convinced that Minnie’s sudden death had to do with Nora’s absence, and the certainty of it ate away at her stomach
By the time she dropped Nora off again at the nursing home, her absence had been noted and the kids have been called. They were waiting and Angelo started screaming at Avery the minute she pulled up to the door in her truck. Her words were muffled through the window glass and it gave Avery just enough time to say goodbye to Nora.
“I don’t think they’re going to let me come anymore,” she said, reaching out to pat the back of Nora’s papery thin hand. “ It was enough of a trick just to get you out of here today.”
“I understand,” North said, seeming impossibly frail after a long morning of tears. “Thank you for today, dear. I’ll never forget your kindness.”
And then Angela was wrenching open the passenger door, screaming at Avery about her audacity and her moral decrepitude as she pulled her mother out of the truck and into a waiting wheelchair. Avery watched them wheel her inside and then she drove away, and part of her was grateful that she could pass off the burden. Watching Nora breakdown at the gravesite was more than she could handle.
Knowing that she always could’ve done more to try to help Minnie and Nora stay together made it impossible for her to come back to Westbrook and confront her own guilt ever again. She wasn’t strong enough to stand up for Minnie and Nora, and she sure as hell wasn’t strong enough to go through something so gut-wrenching herself.
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