There is little in the writing life that is more satisfying than typing The End. Especially when it’s the last page of the last book in a series. Don’t misunderstand—I love series. Especially other . I still have warm, fuzzy feelings about Nora Roberts’ Born In… and Brothers series, Nan Reinhardt’s River’s Edge shelf- of books, and more of Robyn Virgin River and Sullivan’s Crossing than I can come close to remembering.
When it comes to my own, however, the relief I feel at the end of a series is unparalleled. I feel like running around shouting, “I’m free! Free, I tell you!” and starting Chapter One of my next unfettered-by-possible-sequels project. It’s like when my youngest child left for and I no longer had to arrange my life around his schedule.
Although I learned to enjoy the unfettered life of the empty nest, it was just the loneliest time. I had to get good at a reinvention game I didn’t really want to play, and I…oh, I just missed him. Him and his brother and sister, the attendant noise and busyness, their friends, and their dreams and…
The book I’m talking about today, The Summer of Sorrow and Dance, is the last one in the Second Chances series. Its title, although I didn’t plan it, is reminiscent of those early empty nest days. Dinah and Zach, but I love their story. I hope you do, too.
a summer of change, they’re both searching for an anchor.
Dinah is a mom, a giver, and a doer, so she’s used to , but this summer is kind of overdoing that. The diner where she’s worked for half her life is closing, her college-age kids aren’t coming home for the summer, and a property on nearby Cooper Lake is calling her name, bringing long-held dreams of owning a B & B to the fore. Newcomer Zach Applegate is entering into her dreams, too.
Divorced dad, contractor, and recovering alcoholic Zach is in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, to visit his brother and to decide what’s coming next in his life. He doesn’t like change much, yet it seems to be everywhere. But he finds an affinity for remodeling and restoration, is overjoyed when his teenage sons join him for the summer, and he likes Dinah Tyler, too. A lot.
Dinah and Zach each experience sorrow and go on to dance in the kitchen. Together, they have something, but is it enough?
Seth was walking around the room, bouncing a little on a board that squeaked. “Are you going to live here?”
“Yes.” She could hardly believe it, but she was. She looked at Bendix, following his new boy around. “I think Bendix approves of it. My kids did. Grace is too young to have a vote.”
“Grace?” Seth looked up curiously.
She explained about the kitten. “I’m pretty sure Bendix thinks she’s his, too.”
“I like that window on the landing,” said Seth. “Mom and Dad had a fight about one of those once. He took one out of an old church that was being torn down and wanted to put it in a new . Mom was mad.” He grinned. “But Dad won that round, and the people paid a whole bunch more for the house so they could have it.”
Zach slipped a hand over his son’s mouth. “I’m sure you wanted to know just those very details, didn’t you, Dinah? If you like, I can give you lots of anecdotes about his potty-training days.”
She burst into laughter. “I can share some of those myself, but it wouldn’t be any fun without my kids here.” She looked at the time. “I’m going to watch Naomi and Rachel’s sons play baseball. I need to go. Thanks for going around the house with me, and for the notes. Maybe you’d like to come for supper tomorrow.”
They left the house together, Seth giving Bendix a thorough petting before going ahead of his father to where Mike’s boat was tied at dock. Dinah watched him. “He’s a nice boy.”
“He is.” Zach looked troubled. “Did your kids ever live with their dad?”
She shook her head. “They spent a lot of time with him, more as they got older—they spent a few summers in Colorado. He would have liked them just one at a time sometimes, but they didn’t roll that way. It was a shock to all of us when Arlie went to a different college than her brothers, and this is the first summer they’ve ever been apart.”
“Would you have allowed it if they’d wanted to live with him?”
She hesitated. “It would have depended on circumstances, I think. I wouldn’t have liked it. I certainly didn’t want them to.” She shrugged. “Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. Chances are I’d have had a screaming fit and dared Brian to take me to court, but I’d like to think I’d have been reasonable. I was this summer, after all.”
“How old did you say they are?”
“Maybe different when they were sixteen, though?”
She sighed. “Almost certainly.”
He nodded. “Thanks.” He put an arm around her waist, giving her a light squeeze. “See you tomorrow night. Text me what to bring.”
Later, she would wonder if she did it -on-purpose, the way the kids did when they pranked each other, but somehow when he bent his head to kiss her cheek, she turned her face just enough for his lips to meet hers. She lifted her hand to his and he tucked her body in closer to his and the kiss caught and deepened.
She knew this wasn’t what he wanted. If it was, he’d have made some move before beyond one-armed hugs and goodbye pecks on the cheek or the forehead. They hadn’t even talked about dating; they just saw each other. Often.
But now, in a sweet moment while Seth waited in the boat and Bendix leaned against her legs on this wonderful shady porch where her new life was to begin, something else new began, too. Something lovely.
USA Today bestselling author Liz Flaherty started writing in the fourth grade when her Aunt Gladys allowed her to use her portable Royal typewriter. The truth was that her aunt would have let her do anything to get her out of her hair, but the typewriter and the stories it could produce caught on, and Liz never again had a day without a what if… in it.
She and Duane, her husband of at least forever, live in a farmhouse in central Indiana, sharing grown children, spoiled cats, and their grandkids, the Magnificent Seven. (Don’t get her started on them—you’ll be here all day.) To find out more about her, stop by http://lizflaherty.net/ or sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/df7dhP.