Change is rarely easy.
In the past two weeks I’ve introduced two of the three major women characters in No River Too Wide, which made its debut this week at your favorite bookstores. If you’ve been reading my Goddesses Anonymous series, then you already met Harmony Stoddard and Taylor Martin, who were both in One Mountain Away and Somewhere Between Luck and Trust. By the time you read No River Too Wide, you’ll know them a lot better.
No River Too Wide is the first chance you’ve had to meet Janine Stoddard, Harmony’s mother. Janine has been mentioned before, and in One Mountain Away, Harmony speaks to her on the telephone. But this is really Janine’s story because she’s finally found both a path and the courage to do something she wanted to do a long time ago.
Janine–who now calls herself Jan–has left her husband, a man whose physical abuse made her life a nightmare. Unfortunately moving back into the normal world is anything but easy, particularly when she is afraid she’ll come face to face with him every time she turns a corner.
No River Too Wide is the story of the way we choose our lovers and mates, the problems we encounter both inside ourselves and outside. It’s also a story of hope and second chances.
The Goddesses Anonymous series is set in Asheville, North Carolina, and the photos here are snapshots from my last research trip to the city, typical downtown scenes. Try to imagine Jan, who has been isolated and alone, encountering these scenes on her first real shopping trip in years. Taylor is dropping her off to buy clothes. Seems simple, doesn’t it? But only if you haven’t forgotten how to trust yourself.
I’ll let Jan introduce herself.
Jan knew she had to get out of the car, but her arms and legs felt as inflexible as steel girders. She forced herself to open the door, swing her legs to the curb, and stand.
“See you back here,” she said, forcing a smile that Taylor returned.
When Jan closed the door, Taylor pulled out into traffic.
And Jan was alone.
She would have been alone in New Hampshire. More alone than this. Here she had Harmony just a phone call away, although she certainly couldn’t call or visit her daughter without advance preparation. Still, just knowing she was nearby helped, and Taylor had told her if anything came up, all she had to do was call Taylor’s cell phone.
Getting a new phone was on her list of things to do, a phone registered to the stranger Jan Seaton, but she would have to check into what questions might be asked, and how she could answer them. The very basic disposable that Moving On had provided had limited minutes remaining, and she needed to save them in case she had to contact her benefactors.
The sidewalks seemed to undulate like ocean waves. It was unlikely there was any place in the Asheville area where she wouldn’t be walking either up or downhill, and for a while her legs were going to feel it. The terrain, like everything else here, would seem strange for some time to come.
She assessed her surroundings. To her right was a shop that sold chocolates. Across the street, beside the tattoo studio, was a café that looked to be closed, already done for the day or not yet open for the evening. She trudged in the direction Taylor had suggested, to what looked like as major a street as she would find here. Some of the shop buildings were painted bright colors, and while she didn’t stop to investigate, they seemed filled with things she didn’t need. Jewelry, crafts, photographs and exotic statues.
By the time she got to the corner she could feel unease turning into panic. The feeling, if nothing else, was familiar. She had felt just this way on the evenings Rex was late coming home, not because she’d worried about his safety, but because trying to keep dinner warm had been nearly impossible. After an hour had passed she had then been faced with trying to make something new, something quick that would still be fresh when he arrived. Nothing had made him angrier than walking through the door to find his dinner was dried out or just being prepared.
She told herself the kind of panic she had felt back then was finished. She told herself there was no reason to transfer those feelings to a simple shopping excursion. Unfortunately nobody knew better than she that telling herself something helped very little. Because for too many years at the beginning of her marriage, she had told herself if she just learned to be a better wife, she would have a happy life.
She needed to sit down. Taylor had said something about a park. She saw a green space to her right and started in that direction.
The little triangular wedge was picturesque, with rocks that mimicked the surrounding mountains and a waterfall running over them. Cantilevered steps, or possibly seats, led to a flat area near the center. People were playing chess at one end, and not far from her a disheveled old man on one of the benches strummed a banjo. In between bursts of discordant music he fed a pointy-eared boxer bites of a sub sandwich.
Had she been snatched by aliens and deposited on Mars, she couldn’t have felt more like a stranger in a strange land.
Copyright © 2014 by Emilie Richards McGee
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A