Authors: Heather Muzik
2 Weeks ‘Til Eve
Three in the 2 ‘Til Series)
2 Weeks ‘Til Eve
© 2014 by Heather Muzik
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in
any manner, nor stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by
any means without the prior written consent of the publisher, except for brief
quotations in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine, or journal.
This novel is a work of fiction. Characters, places, and incidents are
either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or
dead, is coincidental and unintended.
Cover Illustration by J. Muzik
Let It Snow
Monday, November 13
The dome was stationed just a few feet away, and
Catherine eyed it warily, knowing that what whispered from within would start
hollering and clamoring soon enough. It was inevitable. She never made it out
of here anymore without “raising the dome”—which was what she had come to call her
complete lack of self-control these days.
She averted her eyes the best she could, trying to
focus on anything else—the walls, floor, counter. She pulled a sugar packet
from the caddy of sweeteners in front of her and fingered it nervously, wishing
she had taken a table instead, someplace that didn’t have a direct line of
sight to the tiered desserts. But singles at tables were frowned upon—
what the counter is for
. Catherine had been on the receiving end of that admonishment
before, seeing as how the owner was less the-customer-is-always-right and more
“So, what’ll it be?”
Speak of the devil. Mel. Waitress, hostess, busboy,
and owner all in one. And that wasn’t a nickname. She wasn’t a Melanie or
Melody or Melissa. Just plain Mel. A chronically bored and moody Mel at that. Though
from the constant stream of customers in the tiny diner on a tiny length of
Main Street at the heart of this tiny town, her attitude wasn’t hurting her
bottom line in the least.
But her food is hurting
Catherine was ballooning, which was something pregnant
women had a tendency to do, but not at quite such an alarming pace, or at least
that was what the nurse practitioner at her regular OB appointments kept
pointing out every time she stepped on the scale (which she’d just been forced
to do again, like walking the plank). Ms. Meany-Pants had that way she shoved the
weights around and the
shake of her head as she noted the tally for
the record right before launching into her spiel of threats to send her to a dietician,
as if that would scare her straight onto the path of healthy eating when all it
did was send her right back here, depressed and contemplating food suicide.
She’s just jealous. Always an N.P., never a
Not that Catherine knew her story. Maybe she wasn’t a
childless old maid. Maybe she was bitter for a whole different reason. She
could have a bunch of kids… with her lesbian lover… who carried them all to
term after having mad monkey sex with her handsome ex-boyfriend from college…
who agreed to donate his sperm as long as it was the natural way. And perhaps
she only saw those kids every other weekend now because the love of her life had
fallen in love with that man and his massive endowment.
“Hey, New York, I don’t have all day,” Mel grumbled,
snapping her fingers.
It didn’t matter that Catherine had been a genuine
citizen of Nekoyah, Minnesota for eight months. That she had fallen hard and
fast for a respected member of their community. That she was a regular customer
now, who did her part to keep the doors open and lights on. Mel continued to
call her New York, like she was still
who’d had the audacity
to come in here for a meal and then ask for exact specs on the thickness of
bacon slices and method of cooking said bacon; the one who wanted specialty
bread and all the things that made plainspoken, plain-living people want to
crack skulls. Mel was borderline Soup Nazi, but instead of refusing to serve
her, she chose to serve her with a side of scorn and a heavy dollop of derision,
because her money was still as green as the next guy’s.
Besides, Mel was wrong about her. Catherine wasn’t one
people. She might have come to Nekoyah by way of New York City,
but she wasn’t actually from there. She didn’t stare down her nose at Middle
Middle America. Born and raised in Chesterton,
Pennsylvania, a place that was only marginally bigger than Nekoyah. That was something
rational people called common ground. Not that Mel wanted to hear about such
things. She wanted the skinny on your order and that was all. Short and to the
point. No substitutions; no “holds”. Don’t like mayo? Tough. Want extra
pickles? Good luck. Prefer well-done? Not a chance. Forget R.I.P., “No Subs”
should be chiseled on her tombstone.
Mel cleared her throat in a final warning that Catherine
was wasting her time, though a quick glance around the restaurant verified that
all Mel had was time at this point in the day. Too late for the lunch crowd and
still short of the flock of early birds. Just Catherine and a small knot of
Nekoyah natives who preferred sipping their daily brew out of speckled
stoneware mugs with honest-to-god handles rather than out of Grande paper cups
with paper sleeves and plastic tops—people who preferred
it named as such, not that rat’s maze of menu options on the other side of town.
Her eyes darted from one of Mel’s pies, teed up under
the nearest dome, whispering sweet nothings in her direction, to Mel’s much
less inviting gaze. “I was just—”
“You were just daydreaming at my counter,” she warned.
“So, what’ll it be?”
“I guess I’ll have…” pausing for casual effect, “… a
Reuben.” Catherine used her most level and breezy I-could-eat-here-or-not voice,
while inside she was jonesing for the food that she knew she shouldn’t be
eating, her stomach grumbling for bad, bad, very bad goodness.
“I had half a mind to put in the order when I saw you
park out front.” Smug.
Aren’t you just a mind reader,
snippily. Not that it took much of a psychic to pin her down these days. Same
time. Same place. Same frigging sandwich.
They had been doing this little dance for going on
three months now. Up till then Catherine had never thought twice about the Reuben
as a sandwich or corned beef as a food in general. She’d never hankered,
desired, or dreamed about it. Never been tempted by it. And now, all other diner
fare paled in comparison. One bite had done her in. Salty, meaty, dietary
But what was a girl to do?
The past year and a half of her life had been a
strange ride. She’d gone from single to married in ten months’ time, dropped
her whole adult existence as she knew it, quit her job in a grand gesture of
googly-eyed smittenness, and moved to a fly speck on the map to start a new
life with a man she’d met on a wholly misconceived lark any sane person would deem
psych-ward crazy (normal people do not track down a childhood toy through an
online auction, lose it to another bidder, then fly hundreds of miles and land on
the doorstep of a complete stranger, demanding to get it back). And to top it
she was pregnant—so quickly,
and at her age
was what the heartless bastards like her friends and family had said when
they’d shared the news, like thirty-five was the new fifty).
Now here she sat, unemployed, in a strange land, in a
strange and ever-expanding body; while her husband, the buttery-smooth-voiced Joel
“Fynn” Trager was busy enjoying little change in his existence as he had chosen
it before he even met her. Still living in relative obscurity, still building
cabinetry and furniture on his quiet plot of land, except now with the added
perk of having a woman around to cook his meals and do him sexual favors as
well—no condom needed.
Catherine’s day-to-day existence had slowed from Mach 2
down to twenty-five miles an hour. Safe, residential minivan speed. Everything
that had driven her in the past—angst about her personal life, deadlines, dead
ends—was all gone. Settled. She was no longer hurry—hurry—hurrying and
seemingly getting nowhere…. She simply
nowhere. In hindsight, staring
at the same four fake walls of her cubical ranked a scoshe more fulfilling than
staring at the much nicer walls in Fynn’s place—that still felt like Fynn’s
place, not hers.
Cara was her saving grace.
Cara, who was also suddenly dropped into this life.
Cara, who had been living with them since the
beginning of the summer.
Catherine’s problems paled in comparison to a child
losing her mother. And even though Fynn and Renée had prepared Cara for this
eventuality, the end of Renée’s protracted battle with cancer that was
ultimately a blessing for her at the same time it was the worst moment of
Cara’s young life. A moment that had made them into a peculiar little family of
three that was about to become four.
Cara had forced Catherine to get out of her own way. Having
this little girl who needed
her comfort and guidance and
while she grieved her mother, served as a balm on that rash of uncertainties
about her purpose in her new life. She was necessary. She was filling an
important position, even if she didn’t have a title for it beyond “wife of
Ever since summer ended, though, Cara had more
important things to do. A mere sixth of Catherine’s age and she had a purpose,
a school bus to catch and a place to go each day. Catherine had no idea who she
was anymore. Before this life, she hadn’t the time to consider who she was,
plodding along with all the other worker bees, like finding true meaning was a
luxury no one had. And she’d certainly never had time to cultivate any hobbies:
never learned how to sew or knit, couldn’t paint, didn’t garden, hadn’t taken
to stamp collecting… and she couldn’t churn her own butter (which she’d heard
was nice and time-consuming, and great for that crazy waddle that was settling in
her upper arms these days). Plus, there was only so much daytime TV she could
She thought of her friend Georgia, a stay-at-home mom
now herself. Georgia had a perfect marriage and a perfect life that she had
taken to like Cinderella to her royal marriage. No hitches or disillusionment
there. She was Georgia Love. Wife of Thomas Love. Now mother of Nell Love. Her
friend would never understand her growing pains from her ivory tower with all
her height and perfectly creamy pale skin (not translucently pale like her own)
and all that strawberry blonde hair that screamed shine! bounce! volume! like a
walking magazine advertisement, while hers muttered brown and dowdy, and even
that came from a box. Plus there was Georgia’s better than pre-pregnancy,
post-pregnancy body. Everything looked good on her, from bikinis to slinky
cocktail dresses to jeans to wife- and now motherhood. It all fit like it was
made for her. Catherine, on the other hand, always needed alterations. Nothing
fit perfectly right off the rack.
Maybe she was doing something wrong. Maybe she wasn’t
hardwired properly. Maybe she wasn’t “good mother” material, which was
surprising considering she was cut from the pristine Elizabeth Hemmings
cloth—high quality fabric. Which made her feel even worse. Her mother could
have been pictured next to “mother” in the dictionary.
Maybe I’m a late bloomer.
which was fine except she had less than four
weeks left to bloom… so while she waited, it helped to drown all those stubborn
uncertainties in Reubens and fries and pie from under those stupid glass domes.