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"Waking up alone has all the excitement of interviewing a hamster breeder. And none of the action."Jimmy's tone was cheerful, but ,I didn't miss the message.
"We've brought each other some comfort there, these last few years." I chose my words carefully and kept my voice light.
The silence on the line built.
I could picture Jimmy in his hotel room in Los Angeles. Tall and lanky. In Levi's and a sports shirt. He would be draped casually over an easy chair, a book open on the coffee table. His face is long and lanky, too, with that deadpan quality that often fools those he interviews into thinking him placid, perhaps a tad obtuse. It wasn't a mistake they'd make twice.
Jimmy likes gourmet meals, art museums, small. towns, and parties where people know each other.
No wonder he felt lonely,
Los Angeles is a sprawl of broken dreams and lost opportunities, disconnected souls and entertainment junkies. The sunny skies and graceful palms don't redeem jammed roadways to nowhere.
But it wasn't simply that he was in L.A. on a book tour.
"Henrie 0." Jimmy's voice is a pleasant tenor.A nice voice. A nice man. An old friend. A sometime lover. "Henrie 0, I've been looking at a house in Cuernavaca. You'd like it." Eagerness ran the words together. "I've been wanting to tell you about it. I'm going down there next week. I want you to come with me."
Suddenly, I knew what was coming. And I was totally unprepared.
Since we'd both been widowed and become reacquainted, we'd taken a number of holidays together. And enjoyed them and each other. But "Henrie 0, I want to build a life there. With you. As my wife."
"Jimmy..." I didn't know what, to say. I'd not. thought about where we were going. I'd not actually ,thought we were going anywhere. I'd seen our occasional meetings-Acapulco, New York. Paris, Charlotte Amalie -- as interludes: sensual, satisfying, self-contained; a lovely enhancement but not a basic component of my life.
Yet I've never seen myself as an opportunist. Certainly not in connection with people for whom I have great respect and liking. I'd just never figured Jimmy Lennox into the equation of my life. At least not on a permanent basis.
"Think about it, Henrie 0." The words were still casual, but his voice grew huskier. "We'd have fun. You know that."
"I know that." But there is a world of difference between occasional liaisons and a permanent commitment.
"I'll be here until a week from Friday."
And that was all. I was left holding a buzzing, line.
As I walked briskly across the campus, I saw it with a more thoughtful gaze. This had been a beating place for me, after Richard's death. We are none of us ever prepared for the loss of a beloved partner. When the loss comes without warning, the devastation is complete.
Richard's last call had ended, "I'll be home Monday. Love you, sweetheart."
But when Monday came, Richard, my surefooted, athletic, graceful Richard was dead froma fall down a rugged cliff. He came home from the island paradise of Kauai in a coffin.
One day I'd been Mrs. Richard Collins. The next I was a widow, a widow remembering how bitterly she'd grudged his island visit.
Nothing softens that kind of loss.
The common wisdom urges no changes for a year. I'd stayed in our Washington apartment, but the joy was gone.
Millay's verse was a refrain in my heart:
Oh, there will pass with your great passing Little of beauty not your own.Only the light from common water. Only the grace from simple stone!
Richard and I, had freelanced for a number of years. We'd taken assignments where and when we wanted, as long as we could work together. Without Richard, none of it mattered. It was months later when a good friend who taught journalism called on me to take over her classes while she recuperated from a broken hip.
So I'd come to the little town of Derry Hills, Missouri, to Thorndyke University, and joined an unusual faculty made up primarily of retired professionals.
That was, four years ago.
Now Derry Hills was home, or as close to home as a wanderer would ever know. Tborndyke was a thriving, prosperous school. I liked the weathered limestone and ivy-laden brick buildings, the curving paths among towering oaks and sycamores, the old redbrick bell tower.
Most of all, I enjoyed seeing students, young, old, scruffy, well-dressed, smiling, scowling, but all of them purposeful; going somewhere fast. It might be to a class or the mailroom or for a beer, but they were racing ahead. And whether they knew, it or not-and many of them did they were starting the lives they would one day lead, building the habits of success or failure, happiness or despair.
I relished being a part of that.I enjoyed this hilly, wooded Missouri terrain, the misty curtains of fog in autumn, the crunch of snow underfoot in winter, the gentle greening in spring. I found each season invigorating, especially winter. But, I always move swiftly, no matter the season, a woman in a huffy though the days of huffy are past.
It wasn't simply the beauty of the campus that pleased me, though it was spectacular now as the November leaves blazed. In some ways, I was like in old dog luxuriating in a sunny spot, drawing strength from the vitality that surrounded me. An almost seismic sense of expectation emanates from a college campus. That is the true elixir of youth...Death in Lovers' Lane. Copyright © by Carolyn Hart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Excerpted from Death in Lovers Lane by Carolyn G. Hart
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