Shannon here: Inspirational author, Linda Rondeau shares an excerpt from her latest release, Days of Vines and Roses plus a chance to win a copy. Comment on any post dated Oct 7 – 10 to get in the drawing. Deadline: Oct 19th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Linda:
Henry Fitzgibbons bit his lower lip and headed for the front door. What does one say when he leaves a marriage behind?
They’d argued into the morning hours, hurdling venomous accusations to one another, words he regretted but once said could not be taken back. He’d sensed Sylvia’s unhappiness over the past few years. Somewhere along the line, the chasm between them became a valley that neither of them could cross.
He glanced upward at Sylvia who gripped the upstairs rail. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, Henry. Sorry you don’t like the house.”
“It’s not a question of me liking the house. The house doesn’t like me.”
Sylvia stiffened. “That is your excuse for leaving me? Ghosts?”
“You’re the one who bought this house and moved in without consulting me. From where I stand, you left me.”
“Henry, it’s no use. Let’s not fight again. All we do is keep blaming each other. We’ll go on as agreed. You in Manhattan and me here.”
“I’ll come to Connecticut for your writing events, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the children’s special occasions.”
“And we’ll see each other on Wednesdays?”
“As agreed, at Chez Phillipe’s. After all, we do have a business we must maintain together.”
Henry put his hand on the door. “I love you, Sylvia. And somehow we’ll make the arrangement work. Face it. Neither one of us has been happy for a long time. Maybe this separation will give us perspective. And, it’s better for the children if we’re not fighting every day of the week.”
He studied her form, stooped as if defeated, the Sylvia that so rarely appeared these days. If only she’d allow that vulnerability to appear more often. He’d fight the ghosts to his dying breath to protect her.
Brave thoughts…illusions. Truth was, Henry Fitzgibbons knew he was a coward…a coward too afraid to fight for his wife.
When or why Sylvia decided to change her personality, letting her writer image dominate her whole being, he could not be certain. At first, Sylvia put on Lana Longstreet airs at parties and social events. Then, the other Sylvia moved into their bedroom and everywhere else Henry lived. He only knew he could not abide being in the same dimension as her Lana Longstreet persona, perhaps why he’d grown so aloof, as Sylvia complained.
A part of him had held out as much hope for this trial run at the new house as Sylvia had. Buying the Connecticut colonial the very thing Sylvia would do. His adorable impetuous Sylvia, the Sylvia swallowed by Lana Longstreet sarcasm. That whit sliced his manhood, left him bleeding and helpless against cruel accusations.
Though angered Sylvia had made such a life-changing decision on her own, he hoped the house would bring the real Sylvia back to herself. If so, he’d find some way to overcome his claustrophobia, handle the commute and give his marriage one last try.
If not for Lana Longstreet and quarrels her presence generated, the rose gardens would be almost enough of an enticement to stay. He couldn’t name a bloom if his life depended on it. Yet, he’d spent the greater part of the weekend sitting on the veranda admiring their beauty, their allure puzzling as much as mesmerizing.
He might even endure Lana’s harranging for a while longer, for Sylvia’s sake …if it weren’t for them. The bony apparitions that crowded against him every time he entered the ballroom, suffocating him with their murderous intent. Spirits that showed themselves to only him.
“I’ll see you Wednesday, Sylvia.”
Sylvia steadied herself against the balustrade surrounding the upstairs promenade. Henry stood at the door, a Rhett Butler giving up on his marriage. She mouthed Scarlet’s words, “Oh, Rhett, whatever will I do without you?”
At least, they’d have their Wednesdays in Manhattan. Mainly for business matters, true. But a little perfume and sultriness and Henry would desire her once more. Would Wednesdays be enough?
Her marriage, as she knew it, ended with a soft click, and Henry was gone, taking with him her hopes that this house could resuscitate the passion of their early years. Henry loved history, and she had hoped that the home’s integral part in the Revolutionary War would be the crowning persuasion to convince Henry to stay.
Ghosts. He blamed ghosts.
Ghosts did not exist. She was the one with the imagination. Of all the fiction she wrote, Henry’s excuses far surpassed her most tantalizing tale. Why didn’t he own up to the truth? He’d grown tired of her, settling for a pittance rather than the whole.
All she knew was writing, the place where Lana Longstreet shone.
Sylvia Fitzgibbons was a mealy mouse. Timid and afraid. A failure at every turn. Not until she became Lana Longstreet, famous suspense writer, did she find a part of herself she could admire, though Henry didn’t much like her Lana Longstreet façade.
She summoned Lana once again. If she were to survive alone in this house, she’d need her strength and ingenuity. Sylvia pushed away from the rail and toured her house, the home of her dreams, a place where her writer’s spirit could soar, the very air she breathed filled her with inspiration. A home where her children could play outside, away from the lascivious lure of city life. When she moved in, they’d scrambled about the house like explorers on an uncharted island.
Henry had made his choice, now Sylvia would make hers. Trumball Mansion would live again through twenty-first century galas, and Lana Longstreet would emerge as New Haven’s sauciest socialite. A last tear trickled down her chin and she wiped it away. No more regret.
A tapping noise, coming from the ballroom, broke into her thoughts.
Ghosts only existed in Henry Fitzgibbons’s cache of excuses.
Entering the ballroom, she found ten-year-old Julie standing three feet from the angel-engraved fireplace, staring at it as one might study a photograph. Her beautiful, artistic daughter. How proud she was of both her children, David handsome like his father, inheriting his love of sports. Motherhood had been the only arena where Sylvia felt confident, and Lana Longstreet was not permitted.
A residual pungency coated her throat. “Let’s get out of here, Julie. Smells like rotten eggs. Tomorrow, I’ll hire a cleaning service to purge the stench.”
Julie slowly turned. “They’re gone, Mom. They jumped back into the walls when Daddy left.
About Linda: Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight, LINDA WOOD RONDEAU, writes stories of God’s mercies. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, Linda now resides in Jacksonville, Florida.
Linda’s best-selling Adirondack Romance, It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas and is available wherever books are sold. Her next releases were her devotional book, I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Children and Days of Vines and Roses.
These books are also available in ebook format. Rondeau expects three more book-length releases this fall with a novella, A Christmas Prayer/Lighthouse of the Carolinas, and two short contemporaries: Joy Comes to Dinsmore Street/ Helping Hands Press, and Songs in the Valley/ Helping Hands Press.
About the book – Days of Vines and Roses: When a romance writer and her estranged publisher husband attempt to reconcile, malignant forces and a pending lawsuit seem bent on keeping them apart. After fifteen years of marital disarray, Henry and Sylvia Fitzgibbons (aka Lana Longstreet) independently contemplate divorce, their relationship relegated to Henry’s infrequent visits to the Connecticut estate and their once a week meeting at Chez Phillipe’s in Manhattan.
But, not yet. There is the matter of the decaying rose gardens and the thirtieth anniversary party the children are planning. Reluctantly, Henry moves in for the summer, steeled against the hauntings that torment only him. As reconciliation seems possible, the evil forces within begin to target Sylvia as well. Like the strangling vines within the rose beds, Henry and Sylvia have become victims of spiritual neglect. Their only hope remains in surrender to a power greater than the evil determined to destroy them.
Come back Oct 11th for a tribute to late author, Dianne Price!