The grass had long grown over my husband’s grave—but the plot in which I buried my heart was dug fresh every day. My fault—the accident was all my fault—yet my lungs still expanded and contracted fifteen times each minute, stubbornly insisting that I continue to live. John was turning to dust now, and a sheen of dust blurred every surface in my home and in my soul.
A letter from my agent brought the bittersweet taste of irony to my throat: my second novel was outselling my first. It seemed that there was great appeal in owning a Christian chick-lit book written by a woman who had killed her husband. Additional printings had been ordered. The publisher was talking about a series of five books, each centered on a different women’s club.
The letter closed with a handwritten note: Come to lunch with me, Amanda. You have to leave the house eventually, you know. Are you working on the new book at all? I’d love to read a few more chapters some day soon…first of next month? I’m praying for you, girlfriend…Theresa.
I glanced at the stack of yellow pads on my desk—the first five chapters of my third book. Its working title: The Milk and Honey Cookbook Club. My main character was Melodie, a chirpy and headstrong entrepreneur who’d been causing trouble for me even before the accident. She was too pert, too quirky, too everything-I-had-never-been. Now I thought of her with a snort of derision—you wouldn’t be so spunky if you lost your jolly, curly-haired husband, would you, Melodie? You wouldn’t hang out with those Scripture-spouting estrogen factories if you were responsible for the death of your soul mate, would you?
And there it was—a way out of my writing slump. Christians shoot their wounded, I thought. Let’s see how Melodie’s Cookbook Club treats her now. With a row of freshly sharpened pencils close at hand, I started on a new yellow pad.
A few cruel pencil strokes later and Melodie’s life lay in ruins—husband and child both lost because of her foolish inattentiveness. At the start of the fourth page, I introduced an antagonist: Doris, a newcomer to the Cookbook Club, complete with a biting and judgmental spirit.
Over the lines of several yellow pads, Melodie and Doris waged their angry battle. The other girls in the Cookbook Club had their hands full with those two. I didn’t recognize my own writing. The characters were richly layered, their emotions raw, their lives exposed and their spirits bleeding. My previous books had been sugary fluff, but this was substantial, moody and dark.
I wrote for days.
I ate little and slept less.
And then it was over.
I slept for twenty hours and awoke ravenous. I slipped into too-loose jeans and a baggy sweatshirt and bought a quart of mint chocolate ice cream to celebrate. With the carton in my lap, I re-read the last page of the last pad.
…and as she watched Doris, Melodie realized that she was a stranger now. No longer a woman consumed by bitterness and pain, the love of three godly women had bestowed on her an unfamiliar softness, a lovely pastel glow.
Doris and Joy laughed together at the latest photographer’s proofs, and Louise and Clarissa hurried over to join them, the quartet of women’s heads bending over the desk. Auburn, blonde, silver, chestnut—I should join them, Melodie thought absurdly. My hair is black.
She took a step, but her stubborn heart shouted “No!” and she stopped, breathing deeply, struggling with her obstinate spirit.
The women’s voices faded—Melodie found Doris’s gray eyes—and they spoke to her of forgiveness, redemption, love.
Melodie took five more steps, and Doris squeezed her hand as she stepped into the shining circle of friends.
A glob of pale green ice cream dripped onto the yellow paper; I had forgotten to eat. If not for the backward slant of my awkward left-handed penmanship, I wouldn’t recognize this as my own work. This was not what I had intended to write. I had created a character to kill Melodie’s spirit, but Melodie and Doris, with their little Cookbook Club, were disinterring my buried heart.
I would call Theresa in the morning.
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