AN: In this story my own daughter makes an appearance. My Wen, with her pinstraight black hair and beautiful almond shaped eyes, was the inspiration for Katherine's story. I'm so blessed I found her.
SEPTEMBER – PART FOUR
That Friday Katherine sat with her tea and made a list of errands on her phone, hoping to cram the day full enough to push out the empty moments that might sneak up on her. She usually loved her days off, but that day she wished she had work to distract her. At least she could wear comfy sweats. Downing the last of her tea, she picked up her keys from the table by the door, slipped into her sandals and patted the dog gently on his head. “Sorry, Coop, no dogs allowed at the grocery store.” He lifted his ears and cocked his head as her hand touched the doorknob. “No, Cooper. Stay.” The dog’s tail and ears dropped. She pushed the door open and stepped into the crisp fall morning air.
She turned the ignition over and the country radio station up, relieved it was an upbeat tune. Music always soothed Katherine, no matter how broken she felt. With a shoulder check, she pulled onto the road and accelerated, shifted gears and turned the radio up another notch. She sang along as Brad Paisley coerced a girl into a walk in the woods. As he led into a guitar solo, Katherine’s mind wandered to her own journey that had ended that week.
She and Danny had been married for seven years. University sweethearts, they’d married after graduating with their first degrees and moved together to Boston, where they could both finish professional degrees and start careers. She remembered worrying about becoming pregnant while in school — an unexpected baby would throw a wrench into their plans. Determined not to blow her academic chances, she was militant about their use of birth control. Years of fear-inducing health classes in high school had left her feeling that looking at Danny sideways under the wrong alignment of stars could leave them too-soon parents, and her a professional never-was.
In the car that September morning, she laughed bitterly at her lack of forewarning. She wondered if she would have had more fun had she had known the futility of her vigilance. She wondered if Danny thought so.
They had been so excited when they started trying to have a baby five years ago. They’d counted forward to the baby’s first Christmas, planned their summer vacation around the practicalities of traveling pregnant, just in case. Month after month Katherine had searched her body for signs. Month after month she was met with disappointment, right on time. They tried everything. Doctor’s visits and tests, diets and charting and timing and supplements gave way to drugs and medical procedures. They asked all the right questions, researched all the right places, followed instructions to the smallest detail, from top medical specialists to busybody acquaintances who tried to be helpful with “Pray harder!” or “Just relax and it’ll happen.” As much as she hated to admit it, Danny was right. They needed to stop. Enough was enough.
Brad Paisley started the final chorus and Katherine shook her head back to the moment, chiding herself for allowing her thoughts to wander. Years of practice had taught her one thing about failure: there was no value in wallowing. The faster she could push herself through the disappointment, the easier it would be to get on with everything else. Still, it surprised her that the world kept turning around her, oblivious to the deafening sound of her heart breaking into pieces. She pulled her shoulders back, sat up straight and blinked her eyes, setting her jaw in tight resolution. Slowing to turn into the grocery store parking lot, she ordered herself, “Right, then, Katherine. Let’s get it done.”
Katherine preferred to hit the grocery store on Friday mornings, when there was no crowd. The downside was that the other shoppers usually had reminders of her heartache in their carts or toddling beside them. Walking, smelling, babbling, crying, screaming — unavoidable reminders.
Katherine watched the bouncing raven-headed girl in line in front of her. She was about three years old with almond-shaped eyes and long, shiny, pin-straight hair. Her socks were two different colors. She sang as she flitted around her mother and Katherine smiled in spite of herself. Ahead of the mother, a woman started playing peek-a-boo with the toddler, hiding her face behind her Redbook, then pulling it away to reveal drooped, watery eyes, wrinkle-creased cheeks and a yellow-stained grin. She was oblivious to the child’s unease as the toddler stopped prancing and hid behind her mother’s legs.
“Beautiful girl,” the lady said. “When did you adopt her?”
The mother seemed to push her lips into a wary smile. “Earlier this year.”
“Is she a good girl?” she asked.
“Yup, she’s pretty perfect.”
“Well, they can’t be perfect, dear. Remember they all have their moments.” The lady looked from the mother to the child and back again. “It’s so good of you to save her. God knows what her life would have been like over there. Do you have any children of your own?”
Your own. Katherine cringed hearing those words trickle out of the woman and couldn’t help but lean forward to hear the response. With a deep breath, the mother squared her shoulders and spoke in a steady voice. “She is my own and I’m very lucky. C’mon, Wen, I forgot those bagels Daddy wanted.” She lifted the toddler up onto the cart handle and turned out of line. The child reached her arms up and around her mother’s neck. The mom nuzzled her shoulder and whispered in her ear.
Katherine resisted the urge to pump her fist. She settled for a bright smile at the lady, who looked at her in bewilderment. Deep in the darkness that had settled, Katherine felt a prick of light. She took a deep breath, realizing it didn’t hurt quite as much to breathe. Danny’s words echoed in her mind — “It would be our own, Kat. I know it” — and she felt his certainty. Maybe it was time to start listening to him.
AN: Thanks for reading this excerpt of Game Plan. I will post a new part every Monday and Friday until the chapter is complete. If you need to know what happens with Ella and Katherine, you can get the rest of the story from Amazon or Chapters in ebook or print. Let me know what you think, either here or follow me on Twitter (@NSampson17) or Facebook (www.Facebook.com/NatalieCorbettSampson). Happy Reading!
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Game Plan (an excerpt)Teen Fiction
"Poignant, well-paced and compassionate, Game Plan is an achingly real look at how two families cope when life doesn't go as planned."—Tish Cohen, bestselling author of The Truth About Delilah Blue and Inside Out Girl Just because the play goes wron...