Contemporary Women's Fiction
Cover art by Pat Evans, photo by Beth Lapin/Karl Moore
Ebook or print; 340 pages
Following her father's disappearance when she was a child, Maia blames herself for her failed relationships. Ben questions his ability to satisfy another, after he was abandoned by his wife. Introduced by their dogs, Ben and Maia sense relationship potential. Can attraction for each other move them beyond limitations?
“Ben,” she said, “this is good. Thanks for inviting me.”
“Glad you like it. You’re my first guest at my new house.” Connecting with her eyes, Ben smiled and stretched his long legs to the side of the table. She could hear the kitchen clock ticking and looked at the old-fashioned dial. She used its sound to match her breathing, in-out, in-out, to help her relax.
“So, when did your father leave?” he asked.
The suddenness of his question caught her off guard and she answered without her usual avoidance. “When I was in grade school, I came home one day and he was gone.” She paused and he looked encouragingly at her. “My mother didn’t say much, didn’t talk about it, and didn’t explain. He was just gone.”
“Maybe you should find out where he went. I mean, there might be a simple answer.”
Maia guessed Ben was trying to be helpful. There was no hint of sarcasm in his voice or smirk on his face, unlike people with similar suggestions during her adolescence. It sounded reasonable when Ben said it that way. But through the years, the story of her father’s disappearance had taken on a life of its own. It was her family secret, talked about in hushed tones so she couldn’t overhear. When she saw people huddled, whispering, Maia knew exactly what they were discussing.
“I’ve thought about it for years, as you can imagine. But by now, I’m not sure I can handle the answer. Do I want to know that he was killed, or just up and left us to live somewhere with another family? You read about those things all the time. I felt weird enough being the one whose father just disappeared but then to bring it up again and become a tabloid topic—I don’t know if I could deal with that.” She didn’t mention her fear that she had been the cause for his departure; that was too much to share or even verbalize aloud.
Ben got up, cleared the plates from the table and put them in the sink. “Well, it’s not as though he was Charles Kuralt, for example,” he said, rinsing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. “We loved and trusted his commentaries on small town America. When he died and his second family was discovered, we learned he had been living this big lie, which made me wonder if his reporting had been true. His double life impacted many people. I don’t mean to be rude, but your family…well, it’s just your family who would find out.”
Again, Maia could see the validity to what he was saying and it challenged her life-long fear of discovering the truth, particularly about her role in it. And made her very uncomfortable. “I’ll think about it, Ben. I will. Meanwhile, I need to get going. I have some work to do.”
Surprised by her abrupt departure, Ben hugged her as she headed out the door with Orion. “Take care of yourself,” he said.