The Forgotten Child

By lorhainneeckhart All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Other

Blurb

Emily Nelson, ends a loveless, bitter marriage and answers an ad as a cook and live-in caregiver to a three-year-old boy on a local ranch. Ranch owner Brad Friessen hires and moves in Emily and her daughter. But Emily soon discovers something's seriously wrong with the boy, and the reclusive, difficult man who hired her can't see the behavior and how delayed his son is. As their lives become intertwined, their attraction is unavoidable--a connection sparks between them. But just as they're getting close, Brad's estranged wife, Crystal, returns after abandoning the family two years earlier driving a wedge in the emotional bond forged between Brad, Emily, and the children. Brad fights to save his boy, to protect what's his, and struggles over his greatest sacrifice--Emily, and the haunting question: Has he lost her forever.

Chapter 1

Every woman, at one time in her life, will experience the phrase, I had an epiphany. Well, that’s exactly what happened this particular spring morning. Emily Nelson’s eyes popped open just as the sliver of light, at the break of dawn, crept up the horizon; and, for a moment, there was peace. Until she blinked a couple of times and reality set in. She glimpsed the lump beside her in their king-size bed—her husband, Bob. Emily pushed her thick, dark hair back, and slid to the side of the bed. She was hit by an irritating turmoil, an unwelcome friend, twisting up her insides as if wringing out a wet rag. Not even a shred of interest remained for the man she once loved. She’d more empathy for the crotchety old geezer at the end of the street.

So what made this morning different? She didn’t know how to explain this awakening, this unfolding, from deep inside some place she thought had long since been closed and sealed off. Find some courage. Believe enough in herself, and then she’d soon be living a life that was hers, for the first time, filled with an amazing peace and hope. And that’s what compelled Emily to shake off her 10-year funk, throw her thin, pale legs over the side of the bed, and get up.

Emily, a 35-year-old, average-looking mother and wife, slipped into the ugly brown bathrobe her husband bought her this past Christmas. The one he meant to give his mother but got confused after he wrapped them, since the boxes were identical. His mother got the old lady polyester pants with the elastic waistband meant for Emily, so she supposed she got the better of the deal.

She held her breath when she chanced a glance at Bob, who lay softly snoring on his side of the big bed; the fact he was still asleep eased her anxiety. Emily suppressed a sigh of relief. She had no interest in spending time in a room with this man, any more than the grumpy old geezer up the street. Maybe that was why the knot in her tummy loosened when she left the room and stood outside their daughter’s door. Katy, her blonde two-year-old beauty, was sleeping like an angel in the bedroom across the hall, in their average, very plain, box-style rented bungalow. Emily tiptoed across the cheap neutral-colored carpeting, the same quality you see in most rental homes, which showed every stain imaginable, even after shampooing year after year. She pressed her hand on the doorframe and pulled Katy’s door closed so she wouldn’t hear Emily at this early hour. Five a.m. was her personal time, when her head was clear, when her creative juices flowed, when she faced reality and could make the tough decisions with absolute clarity.

Today’s the day. When he comes down, I’ll say it. Her gut twisted, but she knew that it was nothing more than fear of the unknown. She couldn’t wait anymore; it had to be today. It was past time and she knew she’d ignored this decision for too long. The signs were all around her—they had been for months. Now, with no chance to think it to death or get cold feet, the floor squeaked as his heavy footsteps thumped down the hall toward her. Her skin chilled and she had a buzzing sensation in her ears, as if the floor were about to drop out from beneath her feet. Bob, her husband of twelve years, shuffled into the kitchen past her as she leaned against the counter. What made it worse was the way that he looked away, as if to dismiss her; a woman of no importance.

“It’s over between us.” Wow, she’d said it. Her courage wavered, but she crossed her arms over her small breasts and stood her ground, feeling enormous in the bulky robe even though she kept her body slim with womanly curves.

Bob turned and, for the first time in months, he really looked at her. His dirty blond hair was gelled and impeccably groomed. His pale face was flushed and his icy blue eyes appeared so dull and tiny in his round face. His body was ordinary, average height and build—a man who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. She felt nothing for him, just a hardness; whatever love had been was now long dead and gone.

Time stretched out painfully; it took an eternity to pump the blood through her body, roaring louder and louder in her ears between breaths. Bob turned away. He poured himself a cup of the coffee she’d freshly brewed, dismissing her again. He’d mastered that skill long ago, hammering her pride down a little further each and every day. No wonder it took an act of sheer courage for Emily to look strangers in the eye. Hadn’t her dad done it to her own mom?

“You know we haven’t had a marriage for a long time, Bob. There are no feelings left between us. We don’t communicate, and Katy’s picking up on the tension in this house.”

He dropped his mug on the counter, and fired off his delusion. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I think you’re the one with the problem. Katy’s fine if you’re not around.” His words stung, even though Emily knew it wasn’t true. Why didn’t she expect this? Because her mind didn’t play those kinds of games, that’s why.

“No, Katy is not fine. You’re always yelling at her. You won’t spend time with her. When you’re home, you sit in front of the TV 24/7. You do nothing to help me.”

Shouting, he stepped toward her, “You know what I think this is really about? Money! It’s your fault that we have no money!”

Okay here we go. She’d expected an attack. He was really good at twisting things to his way of thinking. This man she’d married, at one time loved, had become an unwelcome stranger. “I think it has to do with no communication,” Emily rebutted. “The only time I know what’s new with you, is when I overhear you on the phone. You know… those nightly conversations with your mother. And come to think of it, that’s part of the problem. The only relationship you have is with your mother. And it’s just plain weird. You’re not a child. Grow up. It’s disturbing that you talk to her about what’s going on in your life, and not me. If you were being honest with yourself, you’d admit you’ve made no attempt to have a relationship with me. And I’ve ignored how you’ve treated me for years.”

Emily held up the flat of her trembling hand, unable to stop her mouth from spewing everything she’d suppressed for so long. She continued, “You’ve always had this strange relationship with your mom. What’s really sick, is that I’ve had to stoop to eavesdropping when you’re on the phone with her—just to find out your latest news. A vacation you’re planning with friends of yours. A new job you’re applying for in Seattle. Taking a few courses at night school. Don’t you think that as your wife I have a right to know about these things?”

He dumped his coffee down the sink. His face hardened into someone she didn’t know. “It wasn’t as if I was hiding it from you, but you’re sure happy to launch a war with my family. You could have just asked.”

Emily shut her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. Katy would be awake soon, and Bob needed to leave for work. “This is going nowhere,” she said. “I’m not going to keep fighting with you. I’d like you to move out. Take whatever you want.”

He didn’t answer her. What he did instead was grab his coat and storm out the door, slamming it behind him hard enough to rattle the double-paned windows. But apparently he wasn’t done with his temper tantrum, because he followed up by gunning the engine of their two-door rusted Cavalier; the tires squealing down the driveway. In her room, Katy screamed. Across the street, lights came on in the front window of the Hanson’s house. Great! Now she needed to apologize for Bob disturbing them, before six a.m., with his irresponsible behavior.

Emily raced down the hall to comfort her daughter, furious at Bob for yet another mess he’d created for her to clean up. Except this time, it didn’t stick—the mad, that is. With the words finally out of her, Emily felt the dark, oppressive weight lifting from her shoulders, leaving her with a light peaceful feeling flowing through her body. You know, the feeling you get when you know you’ve finally done the right thing. Even though she had no money, no job, a child, and no idea how she’d make ends meet... still, the right thing. A dismal sounding outcome, but for the first time in years, Emily Nelson felt the sun shoot out a powerful ray of hope.

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