Title: Prologue to These Foolish Things
Author: Susan Thatcher
Published: March 24, 2013 by Susan Thatcher
A man’s life hangs in the balance. His fate undetermined, his loving wife finds an assortment of mementos from their life together. As she sits by his side, she begins to tell him their story…
Prologue to These Foolish Things:
It was chilly in the hospital room. The walls were a depressing sort of green. Someone must have believed that this color was soothing and calming. However, since it had now become the standard background for hospital rooms, the shade had been carrying with it an inseparable link to sickness and pain for years. And it now surrounded her.
Elizabeth hugged herself, unable to take her eyes from the bed. Monitors and other machinery surrounded the head of the bed, their noises adding to the uncomfortable ambiance of the room. A man lay on the bed, eyes closed, his breathing assisted by at least one of the machines around him through a tube inserted in his mouth and securely taped in place. The other machines had their slender tentacles attached to him through electrodes. They fed on his heartbeat and brain waves, digesting this input and turning it into wavy lines on either a screen or a piece of paper. A clear plastic bag on a stand slowly dispensed some kind of medicated fluid into his arm. This man, usually so strong, was utterly helpless. And Elizabeth was powerless to help him. The sight of him like this was almost enough to make her faint.
No, this wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. For Christ’s sake, he’d been fine this morning, giving her the usual coffee-flavored kiss as he left, murmuring “I miss you so much already. I’ll call and I’ll be back before you know it, I swear.” He had hugged and kissed their children, picked up his briefcase and garment bag, winked at her and left. She had noticed that his face looked a little more drawn this morning. When she’d asked him about it, he’d said, “It’s just a headache. I took something. I’ll be fine. Stop worrying.” Elizabeth looked at the bed. He’d been wrong. It didn’t happen very often, but when he was wrong, it was spectacular. Like right now.
There had been talk from the medical staff about “will to live” and its power to heal. She had tried to listen, tried to focus, but she could still see the bed and its occupant over their shoulders and that had commanded her attention. There had been gentle attempts to shoo her out of the room, but Elizabeth would not be moved. Finally, the nurses had given up, one or two secretly hoping that if she lay in a coma, someone would care enough to stay with her like this.
Elizabeth heard a knock on the door. She turned and saw one of his associates peering through the small window. She beckoned the man in.
“Gee, Liz, I’m so sorry to intrude. How is he?” The man was in his mid-thirties, nicely dressed in an expensive suit and carrying an equally expensive, new briefcase. Liz steeled herself to sound casual, not to give in to the choking fear that she felt.
“It’s hard to say, Fred. The term they’re using is ‘unresponsive.’ I guess it doesn’t sound as frightening as comatose. They tell me it’ll be 12 hours before they know,” Liz looked at the bed, an ironic smile on her face. “We were discussing retirement last night. I think this clinches my argument. If he survives, I promise I won’t be telling him ‘I told you so.’” It took all her strength not to sob on the words.
Fred cleared his throat. “If anyone can make it, he can. That man hates to lose.” Fred’s voice became almost apologetic. “Look, Liz, I really hate to ask this, but I need his files.”
She could tell by the tone of his voice that he didn’t really hate to make the request. In fact, one man’s crisis can be another man’s opportunity, particularly if the second man is looking to get a leg up on the competition for a partnership in a prestigious law firm.
Liz crossed her arms, nails digging into the palms of her hands. “Under the circumstances, maybe a continuance would be granted, don’t you think? Clearly, the attorney of record is unavailable to be in court.” You insensitive pig, she added mentally.
Fred gave her an annoyed shrug, “Look, I’m just doing what I was told. Come, get the file, get on the plane, which I’ll miss if I’m not out of here in 5 minutes. I just got married 2 weeks ago. Dontcha think I’d rather be at home?”
Probably not, thought Liz. This was one shot at the brass ring that was too good to pass up. And since the man in the bed had done most of the work already, it was an easy brass ring to grab. Fred had probably told his new wife she could quit her job and look for a house in Chestnut Hill. And so the bribery had begun, the parade of gifts to distract the woman from the knowledge that her husband’s job was more important to him than she was. Fred would probably be divorced with an ulcer within 5 years.
“Hang on, let me get it.” Liz knelt under the hospital bed and located Ty’s briefcase, a handsome one she had given him the previous Christmas. She opened it and stopped in the act of removing the sought-after files by what was lying under them.
“What the hell is that crap?” Fred asked, looking over her shoulder. “Books? When was he going to read? Letters? Who has time for that shit?” He started to reach around Liz, who slapped his hand away.
“That ‘crap,’” she said icily, “is none of your god-damned business. Here,” she thrust the files at him. “Get out. You don’t deserve to be in the same room with him, even if he doesn’t know you’re here.”
Fred snatched the files and ran, slamming the door behind him. Liz heard his snarled, “Bitch” even as the sound of his footsteps faded.
Liz didn’t give a damn about Fred or the others who were scrambling to achieve what Ty already had. They’d try to do it faster or better than their peers and those who had gone before them. Most wouldn’t succeed or would end up as casualties of legal warfare.
Liz reached into the briefcase and began to remove the items that had caught her eye, setting them on a tray near the bed. She found a framed photo of a man and a woman with a black eye sitting at a table and smiling together. She found the fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie, the lettering almost completely faded with age. There were two books, one of John Donne’s love poetry that showed its near-daily readings over the past years. Liz could hear her husband’s voice, warm and deep, reading passages as he’d held her naked body against his, her head pillowed on his shoulder and contented from their lovemaking. She quickly squashed the “maybe for the last time” that had come into her head. No. They hadn’t been together long enough. She wouldn’t let him leave. Not now.
Liz picked up a collection of short stories by one E.D. Gardner, as well-used as the Donne. Those, he’d insisted that she read to him. She smiled, remembering how self-conscious she’d been about it.
She found a bundle of old letters addressed to the man in the bed that also showed how often he’d re-read them. There was another photo of the man and the woman, this time holding two small children, everyone smiling. The oddest item was a hank of blonde hair, carefully braided and tied into a circle. It was attached to a reusable glitter tattoo of a rose. Liz smiled.
She found his clothes in a bag under the bed. Liz located the shirt he’d been wearing that morning and dug into the pocket. There was a small plastic disk that she turned it over in her hand, smiling even more. Her fingers had touched something else in the pocket and she removed a lavender-colored rose blossom, wilted and flattened, but still wonderfully fragrant.
“It’s a wonder you had room for files,” she said to the man. She didn’t expect a response and didn’t get one. “For a ferocious, fire-breathing litigator, you certainly are a sentimental bugger. Fred took it as a sign of weakness, but then Fred’s going to find himself with an ulcer and a divorce in about 18 months, give or take. Fred’s a prick. I think you ought to fire him.
“Look at this stuff. These are foolish things to lug around.” Liz picked up the crushed rose. “All you need is the airline ticket to romantic places and you’ve got the song. Cleveland’s not romantic. No cigarette with lipstick traces, though,” Unaware, she began to hum the tune. She touched the items, different memory pictures crowding her mind. Some good, some bad, some exquisitely wonderful, some carrying excruciating pain that was almost physical. Liz looked at her watch. Still about 11 and a half hours to go.
“Since nobody seems to know for sure whether people in comas, excuse me, people who are unresponsive, can hear, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. We’ve got some serious time to kill.” Liz seated herself on the edge of the bed.
“You know, I’m looking at this collection. If an archaeologist found it a thousand years from now, he could piece together our story. Well, with a little help here and there. I’ll show you right now. Don’t worry, we have plenty of time.”
Liz picked up the photo of the man and the woman with the black eye. “See? Here, we have the starting point.”
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Title: These Foolish Things
Author: Susan Thatcher
Format: Paperback, 206 pages
Published: June 9, 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 149039754X (ISBN13: 9781490397542)
Meet Elizabeth Gardner. She’s given up on being anything but a single woman who plays a supporting role in the lives of those around her. Fate, however, has a different plan for her. During a softball game, handsome, successful Tyrone Hadley literally runs into her and a stealthy kiss opens a world of new possibilities to her. What might have been “happily ever after” in most stories is just the beginning. Is love strong enough to survive?
Excerpt from These Foolish Things:
Ty sat down and hitched his chair even closer to Liz’s. This undermined her careful self-control to a dangerous degree. So much for the weekend to clear her mind. “What’s this?” Ty reached over to Liz’s notebook. “You were pretty engrossed when I came in.” He pulled the book closer.
“I told you I wanted to be a writer when I grew up,” she said. “I’m writing.”
Ty glanced over the pages. “I’d like you to read it to me later. If your creative writing is as good as your legal writing, this ought to be a real pleasure. Here,” he handed Liz the untouched glass of wine. “You look like you could use some of this.”
Liz sipped some wine, willing her nerves to calm. She had tried to ignore the thrill as Ty’s fingers touched hers when he passed her the glass. She could feel the deep, slow vibration she had felt on the dance floor and the knot in her stomach. And the fear.
Ty took the glass back from her and sipped some wine himself, his eyes never left her face. “You’re hiding from me,” he stated. She nodded.
Ty reached over and touched the nape of her neck. His fingers stroked downward, probing the tension Liz was carrying there. He began to knead her shoulder, massaging the tight muscles. His eyes were still on hers, looking for the answer to some question she was afraid to acknowledge.
Liz could feel herself begin to shake and tried desperately to will herself to stop.
“What brings you to Hyannis, Ty?” Her voice was unintentionally husky.
“You.” He said it softly, his voice caressing the word.
The single word devastated Liz’s self-control. Without really being aware of what she was doing, Liz reached up and covered Ty’s hand with her. She knew he could feel the shaking.
“Feel that?” He nodded. “It happens every time I’m near you. Kissing me the other night made it worse. I don’t want to eat, I can’t sleep and I can’t get you off my mind.” She gently removed his hand from her shoulder. “I came here to find peace. If you’re just looking to get laid, Ty, then leave me alone. Please.” She released his hand.
Ty sat back in his chair. For a moment or two, he said nothing. When he did speak, his voice was low and angry.
“Is that what you think? Listen, Baby. You’re not the only one not sleeping, not eating. If all I wanted was sex, I could have stayed in Boston. I’m here for you, Liz. I want you. I told you that the other night.”
“You were pretty drunk. I’m surprised you remember.”
Ty looked as if she’d slapped him. “That was cold, Counselor. I remember saying it because it was true then and it’s still true now.”
Liz looked squarely into those beguiling eyes. “You sure it’s not just because I didn’t want to sleep with you? Wounded ego? We know you don’t like to lose. You don’t know what you’re getting into. Or into bed with, for that matter.”
“I don’t care. I want you. I want to be with you.”
“Yeah, right. The man who’s been seen with models and socialites wants the middle-aged, pudgy nobody.”
“You know I don’t see you like that. Why would you say such a thing?” Ty practically snapped at her. “Christ, won’t you even give me a chance?”
“Because every time I give someone the chance, it blows up in my face. I don’t want to be hurt again.”
“I promise you, I will never hurt you. I love you.”
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About the author and where to find her:
Thatcher was tired of romance novels that only featured 20-something women with supermodel features whose sole purpose was to capture a man. So, she set out to create a realistic character that would appeal to today’s women. Thatcher grew up in Rutland, VT, graduated from University of Vermont, Class of 1983 and Franklin Pierce Law Center, Class of 1998 (Now UNH School of Law).