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Authors: Karen Kingsbury

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BOOK: Where Yesterday Lives
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Of course she had seen it coming. Her father had heart disease and diabetes, and if high blood pressure and excess weight were any indication, he should have died more than a decade ago. But that didn’t make his death any less painful.

“So, this is it, huh, Dad?” she whispered, her eyes closed. “Time to say good-bye.”

She silently summoned a strength she had not known she possessed, one she would certainly have to draw on in the days to come. She would go home and face her four younger siblings, all of whom had been unable to get along for years. She would help her mother pick out a casket and plan a service. Then she would see that her father was buried. She would remember the past, walk through it, relive it, and try her best to put it behind her.

“God, help me get through it.” But the whispered words felt foreign, as if praying was something she had forgotten how to do.

She sighed and wiped her eyes. How could he be gone, the father who had shared so much of her life? How could she bury the one person who had always believed in her? He was the man who had attended football games with her, teaching her the rules of play even after she’d been hired as a sports writer for the
Detroit Gazette
. There was nothing he would not have done for her, and now she would have to learn to live without him.

Never mind about Mike. She would be on a plane soon enough and then she would have one week before she would see him again. Meanwhile, she had a lot more to think about than what was wrong between the two of them.

Ellen lowered her head back down onto her arms. There had been a time when she thought the world revolved around Mike Miller, a time when she couldn’t have imagined a scene like the one that had just taken place. Back when they spent Saturday mornings laughing at I
Love Lucy
reruns and Sunday mornings at church. But somewhere along the path of deadlines and breaking stories and babies that would never be, something had changed.

She tried to think back to the beginning, to the days when she and Mike couldn’t stand to be away from each other. Images drifted through her mind…. Mike bringing her breakfast in bed on their first anniversary and the two of them giggling for hours because the eggs were rubbery and the toast like cardboard…. The birthday when she left work to find her BMW plastered with flowers and balloons, a task that had cost Mike a double lunch break….

It felt good to remember those things—and it forced her to think of something other than her father. The memories raced through her mind like a highlight film and, despite herself, the corners of her mouth lifted as she remembered.

Mike Miller was handsome and intelligent, a Christian man with morals and a sense of humor. He had completely swept her off her feet. But too many times since then he had left her alone when she needed him. If he could let her face the week ahead by herself, then what strength did their marriage have?

Ellen dried her cheeks with the backs of her hands. She would go back to beautiful Petoskey, to the shores of Little Traverse Bay along Lake Michigan, to her childhood home. She
would say good-bye to her father, then she would come back to Miami and see if there was still a heartbeat in her marriage… or if that, too, had grown ill and died.

Ellen sighed. Every muscle in her body ached. She barely had the energy even to stand. Rising from the chair, she stretched and headed toward her bedroom. She peeled off her clothes, leaving them scattered about the floor, and slipped into a long T-shirt. Then she pulled back the covers and slid between the cool sheets.

She did not often dream and that night was no exception. But in the hours before she finally drifted to sleep, she found herself remembering a time when her father was still very much alive. A time when she and Mike were just starting out… when Mike had loved her completely and had done something no one else had been able to do.

He made her forget about Jake Sadler.

As she closed her eyes, she found herself there, immersed in the vivid memories of a time that would never be again.

Two

F
or as long as she could remember, Ellen Barrett had known what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was not like other little girls who talked of being princesses or famous ice-skaters. Ellen was a writer. It was something that grew from her heart and worked its way through her very being.

As a child Ellen spent hours writing short stories and poetry Her mother took her for a silly dreamer, but Ellen was nothing of the sort. She was merely a single-minded young girl honing a skill she was certain to draw from in years to come.

When she was ten years old, Ellen first understood her need to place on paper all that already existed in her heart. It was then that she made her decision. One day she would write for the
Detroit Gazette
.

The
Gazette
was the biggest newspaper in Michigan, and after high school, when Ellen began plotting her way toward a journalism degree, it was with the sole purpose of one day being employed by the
Gazette
. A position on staff would mean living in a small apartment by herself, four hours away from her family and the small town she loved. But Ellen wanted a staff position desperately. She would have lived on the moon if it meant working at the
Gazette
.

In 1990, she was in her final semester at the University of Michigan when she was selected to do an internship for the
Gazette
. She was a Christian by then, and many of her childhood plans had undergone significant changes—but not the dream of working for the
Gazette
. From the beginning she saw the internship as an answer to prayer.

“Ms. Barrett,” the sports editor said when he called her at
her dormitory that January “We’ve reviewed your application and selected you as one of our sports interns for the coming semester.”

“Sports,” she repeated blankly She had requested an internship in the news department, but her hesitation lasted only a moment. “Fantastic. That’ll be perfect. What will I be doing?”

“You’ll be taking scores over the phone several nights a week. Of course, you’ll need a complete understanding of most of the major spring sports. Baseball, track, softball, volleyball, wrestling, tennis, swimming. And the city league sports, bowling and high-pitch softball. That kind of thing.”

He droned on about the details. The job involved taking hundreds of scores and statistics from local sporting events and turning them into brief copy for the scorecard in the back of the sports section.

“Sound okay to you?”

Ellen thought quickly She didn’t know the first thing about the rules of sports. She wasn’t even sure she knew how to keep score. “Definitely,” she said before she could stop herself. “No problem. When do I start?”

“Next week. Stop by the office and pick up your schedule. You can fill out the paperwork then.”

When Ellen hung up the phone, she let out a shriek so loud it brought students from several rooms away rushing to see what the problem was.

“I got the internship! I can’t believe it! I’m on staff at the
Gazette!

The other students rolled their eyes and returned to their business, unaware of the significance of the moment. Within two minutes Ellen was on the phone with her father.

“Way to go, Ellen! That’s my girl! I knew you could do it, honey.” Ellen could see his smile as clearly as if he were standing in front of her. “This is only the beginning.”

“There’s one small problem, Daddy I’ve been assigned to the sports department.”

“Sports?” John Barrett laughed out loud. “Honey you wouldn’t recognize the difference between a ball and a strike. Why would they put you in sports?”

“My clip file included a few sports features I did. Remember?”

“You don’t need to know sports to write about the Michigan quarterback’s asthma condition. Didn’t they ask you if you’d ever covered a game?”

“They asked me if I understood the games.”

“What did you say?”

“I said yes.”

“Oh, honey,” John muttered. “When do you start?”

“Next week. But I don’t have classes until then. I could get time off from the restaurant and I was thinking, maybe…”

“Get in your car and get here as soon as you can. We haven’t had snow in a while so at least the roads are clear.”

Her father’s voice was kind and understanding. He was a professor at North Central Community College in Petoskey and spring classes didn’t start for another two weeks. “I’ll give you a crash course on everything you’ll need to know. Maybe between the two of us we can fool ’em.”

Ellen broke into a smile. “Thanks, Daddy. I’ll be there in time for dinner. One thing though.” She paused. “If Jake calls, don’t tell him I’m coming up. I don’t want to talk to him.”

“I won’t say a word, but he’s got it bad for you, Ellen. I’ll never understand you two.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

She and Jake had dated for six years. But they had been broken up for ten months and the subject was closed.

“Okay, but you’re breaking his heart.” Her father sighed dramatically. “I’m sure you have your reasons.”

I do
, Ellen had thought.
Jake Sadler broke my heart first
.

“It’s nothing I want to get into. Just don’t tell him, okay?”

“Okay, okay. Get your things together and get down here. I’ll have Mom fix something special for dinner.”

The week flew by in a blur of guidelines and rules and scoring methods. She memorized player positions, team violations, and rules of play. She learned the difference between the high-arc and windmill softball pitches and that a slider was a type of baseball pitch, not to be confused with sliding into base. There were the spikes and sets and digs in volleyball, and whereas baseball gave its batters three strikes to get a hit, volleyball allowed three hits to form a play. She learned about the pin in wrestling, the splits in swimming, and the triple jump in track until finally the rules and terminology didn’t seem quite so foreign.

Once in a while they’d be working and the phone would ring. Her mother would answer it.

“Just a minute, Jake,” she’d say. Then in a whispered voice, “Ellen, it’s Jake. He talked to your roommate and he knows you’re here.”

Ellen would look up from her pages of sports notes and shake her head. “Tell him I’m out.”

Then she and her father would exchange a glance and Ellen would direct their conversation back to sports. She hated to lie, but where Jake Sadler was concerned, the greater evil would have been giving in to her feelings and seeing him. Jake was the only boy she had ever loved and now she could never, ever see him again. There was too much at stake.
My life depends on it. My spiritual life
.

“I’m sorry, Jake,” her mother would say. “Yes, we’re all doing fine. Yes. Well, I’ll certainly tell her you called.”

At week’s end Ellen was certain she knew at least enough about sports to take phone scores at the
Detroit Gazette
. Her father had been so thorough that she even had time to spend with her sisters and brother.

There were long talks with nineteen-year-old Megan about her troublesome boyfriend, and time spent helping Amy with her homework. Amy was seventeen that year, the quietest of the Barrett siblings, and Ellen enjoyed her company.

On the last day of her visit, Ellen, Amy, and sixteen-year-old Aaron, the only boy among them, played Password until they were laughing so hard they had to quit. Later Jane stopped by and the seven Barretts gathered round the worn oak dinner table as they had done every night before Ellen moved away.

Jane was twenty-one then, two years younger than Ellen. Growing up, the two had been inseparable, but in recent years they had grown strangely distant. Ellen searched for something that would explain the change in their relationship, but there seemed to be no answer.
When I finish school
, she told herself that night after Jane left,
everything will he like it was before
.

The next morning she leaned up and kissed her father on the cheek. It was time to get back to the city “Thanks, Daddy.” Their eyes met and held for a moment.

“Ah, honey” He pulled her into a hug. “You’re so grown up now. I can’t believe this is your last semester.”

“Yeah, I might even pass thanks to you.” Her eyes twinkled as she pulled away and grinned at him.

“It’ll be our little secret. Deal?”

“Deal!” Ellen’s eyes grew watery “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, honey Let me know how it goes.”

“Ellen?” her mother had called from the other side of the house. She’d been packing Ellen a sack lunch for her trip back to Ann Arbor and was a blur of motion, moving across the kitchen, reaching into the refrigerator, then up into the cupboards and back to the refrigerator again.

“Yes, Mother?”

“Now, Ellen, remember to eat these sandwiches in the car while you’re driving,” she said in a pleasant, breathless voice loud enough to reach across the house. “You don’t want to pull off I-75 and risk getting abducted by some stranger at a backwoods gas station.”

“Yes, Mother,” Ellen said obediently, raising her voice so her mother could hear her.

“And whatever you do, be sure to fill that car of yours with
gasoline before you leave Petoskey You should probably stop at Mr. Gardner’s station, right on the way out of town. You remember Mr. Gardner’s station, don’t you, dear?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“He’s been asking about you because he wants to send his son, Travis, to U of M next year. He’d love to see you, maybe hear a little bit about campus life and all. Could you do that for me, dear?”

“Yes, Mother.”

“You know, that Travis of his is certainly a smart one. He won’t have any trouble getting into U of M if you ask me. Of course Travis always did have a secret crush on you, Ellen. He was always…”

She continued on. Ellen and her father exchanged a conspiratorial grin and he hugged her once more.

“Go get ’em, honey. You want to know something?”

“What?”

“You’re going to be a great writer one day.”

Ellen nodded, too choked up to speak.

BOOK: Where Yesterday Lives
12.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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