Authors: Kaitlin Saunders
Copyright © 2013 Kaitlin Saunders
All rights reserved.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-63003-910-3
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013914875
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
Book Edited by Brier Nitz and Anastasia Soohoo-Hui
Book Cover Design by Audra Radke
This book is dedicated to my
precious daughter Emma and
her much-awaited sibling:
May this book inspire you to always
reach for the stars and make your
own dreams come true.
I love you.
Diane Dashwood was beyond exhausted. It was nearly dawn, and she had yet to sink into a peaceful slumber. Desperate in the wee hours of the morning to achieve sleep, Diane had tried everything: lavender, taking a sleep aid, curling up with a heating pad, and even counting sheep—but none of them had worked. Her sympathy for insomniacs skyrocketed. Although her doctor had warned her that she was entering menopause and should expect changes in mood, sleeping patterns, hot flashes, and other hormonal upsets, Diane knew that last night could not be blamed on any mid-life changes. Her husband of twenty-seven years was away on business, and the fact of the matter remained that when Thomas was gone, Diane just could not sleep. Not that she worried about him, but after sharing his bed for that many years of marriage, she’d grown accustomed to having him beside her.
Pulling the blankets more snugly around her shoulders, Diane’s thoughts began to drift to that of her beloved husband. Thinking about Thomas brought to mind so many wonderful memories, including the romantic circumstances surrounding their courtship.
Diane had been a twenty-four-year-old flight attendant at the time, serving passengers in coach on international flights. On one particular rainy afternoon, her friend Jan,
who catered in first class, came down with the flu and wasn’t able to work her scheduled flight to Japan. The airline had asked Diane to take her place. It was on that fateful flight that she met
Their chemistry had been undeniable. After the initial encounter, the two had talked for what seemed like hours while the other passengers slept soundly. Diane had learned that Thomas was a widower of three years and had a six-year-old son, John. Diane had cried at hearing him recount his heartbreak and Thomas had comforted her although it was he who probably needed comforting the most.
Later during the flight, her fellow stewardess Rita noticed what was going on between the two and had pulled Diane aside when they were in the plane’s kitchen.
“You and Mr. Dashwood are getting along very well. I’ve never seen him like that around anyone and he’s been taking this flight weekly for three years now.”
Diane listened intently. The thought had crossed her mind that maybe this was his routine, to charm and seduce a flight attendant during his travels. But then, Thomas didn’t seem like that type of man, and the more she got to know him, the less she thought him capable of such motives.
As they neared their destination, Thomas offered to take her, if she liked, with Rita as her companion, out to dinner after they landed. She took him up on it and he treated both her and Rita to a great Japanese dinner. Afterward, they exchanged mailing addresses and began a correspondence.
Diane and Thomas wrote back and forth to each other for eight months, occasionally crossing paths on a flight. It was one evening during a stroll after a late-night flight and dinner that Thomas had popped the question on bended knee. They were married two months later in a private ceremony on a glistening Hawaiian beach.
The sound of the telephone ringing broke Diane from her thoughts, and she had a momentary panic attack until recalling that all three of their daughters were safely asleep
in their beds. But then, why would someone be calling at this hour? Her nerves still on edge, Diane picked up the receiver. “Hello?” she answered.
“Is this Mrs. Thomas Dashwood?” It was a man on the line.
“Yes . . . what is it?” she asked with alarm.
“There’s been an accident—”
The icy wind tickled Diane’s face as it rustled around her, tossing about her loose blonde hair—but she felt nothing, not even the tingling from her exposed fingers as the frost slowly tried to claim them. Thomas had died. Thomas was no more—and Diane felt as if her heart had been ripped out that sleepless and fateful night. Since then, Diane’s attempts to sleep had been even more useless, as was evident by the dark circles beneath her tear-stained eyes.
Thomas’s flight mistakenly entered the eye of a storm forming over the mid-west, and had gone down. There were no survivors. Diane was not the only grieving widow standing at her spouse’s grave-site; even still, she felt all alone—as if her grief was unparalleled by another living soul.
On this cold November day, Diane’s only source of comfort was that of her three daughters: Ellie, Marianne, and Margaret, all of whom were even now huddled closely beside her, trying to help shoulder her pain. Although the funeral was well-attended by family, friends, and associates—the four felt isolated in their large bubble of hurt. It was an isolation that penetrated deep within, for they knew they would never again see the man they all held so dear.
As the preacher closed his Bible, he looked sympathetically at the shell-shocked Dashwood women. He was a kind man, and had been ministering to them for several years now. Having witnessed the tight bonds the family shared and
how grieved they now must be, he had volunteered to make all of the funeral arrangements in Diane’s stead, to which she had gratefully accepted.
Slowly moving his eyes to observe the rest of the grieving guests, the preacher began again, “Mr. Dashwood will be remembered by all as a loving husband and father. He was a generous man. . .” the preacher smiled gently at Diane and the girls, “. . .and will be missed by so many.”
Back at the Dashwood’s residence, Diane’s eldest daughter Ellie had made arrangements for the reception. Thinking ahead, she’d called in her family’s caterer to prepare a selection of meats and cheeses, as well as a variety of fruits and veggies still in season. It was the least the Dashwoods could do for their extended family, friends and Thomas’s business associates.
Although Ellie’s hurt seemed as endless as her mother’s, she forced herself to keep it together—someone in the family had to remain level-headed. Ellie always been more like her father in that respect; she felt the weight of circumstances just as deeply as her mother and sisters, but held her emotions within. Doing so could be very wearing at times, but it was the only way Ellie knew to balance her family’s dynamics and maintain order at home.
Taking a deep breath, Ellie knocked on the door to the downstairs study once more. Diane had locked herself inside, unable to keep her grief at bay following the funeral, and refused to mingle with guests. Ellie understood how her mother was feeling, but she was also conscious of what was expected of their family this morning. As the four of them were driven back to the house, Ellie foresaw she was going to have trouble helping her mother cooperate—Diane’s reasoning: “Why pretend I’m accepting this when, in fact, I can’t?”
An hour later, guests were asking for Diane but Ellie was too embarrassed to admit her mother had locked herself
away. Instead, she’d come back to the study, attempting once more to coax her mother outside.
“Mom, you can’t stay in there all day. What will the guests think?” Ellie pleaded.
“Who cares what they think! I’m tired of being brave, Ellie! I won’t do it! I won’t!”
Sighing, and simultaneously attempting to hold back her own tears pleading to be released, Ellie forced her eyes to survey the guests visible through the long hallway leading to the vaulted living room. She caught a glimpse of her half-brother, John, talking with their family’s lawyer. John, acknowledging his sister, excused himself and came toward her. Ellie moved away from the study door and greeted her brother with a smile. John, observant as usual, noted her slightly moist eyes but said nothing, aware as he was of Ellie’s private nature.
“Ellie,” he began, but paused, searching for the right words to bring comfort.