Blog Tour – Leap of Faith by Michele Shriver

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Single mother Tracey
Hiatt prides herself on having a close relationship with her daughter-
the kind of relationship she’s always wanted, but never had, with her
own mother.
When her mother suffers a debilitating illness and faces a
lengthy recovery, family takes on a whole new meaning for Tracey as she
finds herself pulled back to her ex, Steve Eldridge. There’s only one
problem: he’s involved with someone else.
Steve is drawn back into
Tracey’s family drama and after her mother awakens from a coma believing
he and Tracey are married, the two are forced to confront some
fundamental questions about their relationship.
Can they put past hurts behind them and take a leap of faith into a new future together?
The
steady beep of the heart monitor filled the room, along with the
whooshing sound of the ventilator. Out in the hallway, Tracey Hiatt
could hear the occasional chime of the elevator and muffled voices
sounding over the hospital intercom, but she paid no attention to
them, her focus remaining on the still form in the bed. Pamela Hiatt
had long cut an imposing figure, at least where her middle child was
concerned, but now she lay completely motionless, a machine in charge
of her breathing. ‘Comatose and unresponsive,’ the doctors termed
her condition, while at the same time insisting Pamela was aware of
what happened around her and could hear what people said.



“Talk
to her,” Tracey’s brother had urged when she arrived at the
hospital, before leaving her alone in their mother’s room. “It’ll
mean a lot to her that you’re here.”


Yeah,
right.
Brian meant well. Tracey didn’t
doubt that. He’d always tried to be the peacemaker and stick up for
his little sister in the face of Pamela’s constant disapproval, and
Tracey appreciated that. It was because of Brian, for Brian, that
she’d rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital upon learning her
estranged mother had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and lay in a coma.


Talk to
her. Fine. What was she supposed to say? Tracey sucked in a breath as
she fought back tears. She’d long thought that Pamela lived to
torment her, and she wasn’t quite prepared to see her mother like
this, barely clinging to life.



“Hello,
Mother,” she finally said. “It’s me, Tracey. Bet you didn’t
expect to see me here, huh? It’s been a while.” How long,
exactly, she didn’t remember. Over the years, Tracey had extended a
few olive branches, hoping to repair the relationship with her mother
for the sake of her own daughter. Occasionally Pamela reciprocated
and they forged a somewhat tentative truce for a short period. Other
times, Tracey’s efforts were met with a frosty response and she
stopped trying.



“Anyway,
I’m doing well,” she said. “I’ve got a new class assignment
this fall. I’m teaching Tort Law. Isn’t that exciting?” Tracey
still recalled Pamela’s look of disapproval when she accepted a
position teaching Legal Writing at Northern Illinois University’s
law school. The job wasn’t prestigious enough for Pamela’s lofty
standards. Maybe not, but Tracey enjoyed teaching it and was good at
it. Still, with the retirement of one of the senior members of the
faculty, she’d been presented with the opportunity to take over a
Torts class and she jumped at it. She’d been contemplating calling
her mother, extending another olive branch, when Brian called to
inform her of Pamela’s stroke. Life was cruel sometimes.


Pamela
didn’t stir, but Tracey continued on. “I’m really looking
forward to the new challenge. Classes start next week.” She paused,
again studying her mother’s form. No change. Nothing. “Lindsay’s
starting sixth grade next week, too. I’m still trying to wrap my
head around that. You wouldn’t believe how big she’s gotten.”
Of course, maybe you would if you saw her on a
regular basis.


Tracey
took a deep breath and tried to get a handle on her emotions. Now,
with her mother fighting to survive, was not the time to dwell on
past slights and years of hurt. Once Pamela recovered, they’d have
the opportunity to talk about everything, and maybe, hopefully,
repair their relationship. Tracey wanted it to happen, but she wasn’t
quite ready to make a bargain with God. Instead of bargaining, she
settled for the simple truth.



“You
drive me crazy, Mother,” she said. “And you make me angry. Always
comparing everything I do to Brian or Kim, never just letting me be
me and loving me for it. Maybe I should have given up on you years
ago. I’ve wanted to plenty of times, but there’s something I want
more. I want a relationship with my mother.” Tears ran down her
cheeks, and Tracey wiped at them with the back of her hand. “Isn’t
that just the kicker? After everything you’ve done to push me away,
I’m still not ready to give up and say goodbye. So you better not
be, either, okay? We both
have some work to do.”


With
the issuance of a challenge, Tracey half expected Pamela to open her
eyes and object, but she never stirred. For another twenty minutes,
Tracey followed the advice of the doctors and talked to her mother.
She talked about her plans for the new school year—for herself and
Lindsay—and the prospects of the Bears or the Cubs ever winning
another championship. When finally she ran out of things to say and
couldn’t listen to the sounds of the heart monitor and ventilator
any longer, she got up to leave. “It’s been nice talking to you,
Mother.” The longest conversation they’d had in years, and Pamela
never said a word.


Tracey
jabbed at the elevator button, anxious to leave. The doors opened and
she rushed forward, colliding with a person stepping off the
elevator. “Excuse me. I’m sorry,” she stammered.



“No
worries,” Steve Eldridge said as he out a hand to her. The elevator
doors closed again, leaving them in the hallway. “You okay,
Tracey?”


She
wanted to say yes, tell him she was fine and to leave her alone, but
it would be a lie, and Steve would see through it right away.
Instead, she shook her head as she looked up into his green eyes.
Eyes their daughter had inherited. “It’s been kind of a rough
day,” Tracey said, opting for understatement rather than
dishonesty. “How’d you know I was here?”



“I
have a case with Brian. He asked to reschedule a hearing for personal
reasons,” Steve explained. “Obviously I was concerned. He gave me
the whole scoop. I’m really sorry, Trace.” There was no
questioning the sincerity of his words. “Don’t you think this is
something you should have told me yourself, though?”



“We’re
not married,” Tracey reminded him needlessly. They never had been,
but still Steve shared a close enough relationship with her brother
to freely chat about family news, a fact Tracey didn’t always like.
How was she supposed to get over Steve if her own brother basically
considered him part of the family?



“Your
choice, not mine.” Steve shoved his hands in the pockets of his
khakis. “It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.”


Care
about her, yes. Tracey didn’t doubt that. Love was another matter,
and one she didn’t care to get into with him at the moment, if
ever. Her primary concern was where their daughter was, since it was
Steve’s visitation week and he was now at the hospital. “Where’s
Lindsay?” she asked, changing the subject.



“Meredith
took her for pizza and ice cream.”



“Are
you sure that was a good idea?” Tracey couldn’t keep her
displeasure from her voice.



“Yes,
I thought it was a fine idea,” Steve said. “Why do you have to
say things like that? You make it sound like you don’t trust
Meredith around our daughter.” He raked a hand through his dark
hair, mussing it in front. “She passed a background check to be
admitted to the state bar, so it’s not like she’s a hardened
criminal, and besides, Lindsay’s known her for a year and a half
and enjoys spending time with her. You know that.”


Tracey
swallowed hard. Yes, Lindsay did seem to enjoy spending time with
Daddy’s girlfriend Meredith, and yes, Tracey still had a bit of a
problem with it. It was her problem, though, and she’d have to work
through it. It didn’t give her the right to be a total bitch.
“You’re right,” Tracey said, softening her tone. “I’m sure
they’ll have fun together. I’m sorry I snapped at you. Like I
said, it’s been a bad day.”


Steve
nodded. “Understandable. Want to go downstairs and get some coffee
and talk about it?”



“Actually,
I really just want to get the hell out of here.”



“That
works, too.” Steve placed one hand on her shoulder and with the
other pressed the elevator button. “I’ll drive.”


***


Tracey
didn’t say where she wanted to go, and Steve didn’t ask, instead
driving in silence through downtown Chicago before ending up at a
familiar sports bar. Steve had no idea why he chose it, other than
maybe because it was so familiar. After all, it was the site of one
of best moments of Steve’s life, and also one of the worst. That he
counted them as one and the same no longer seemed strange.



“Why
here?” Tracey asked as he held the door open for her and led her
inside.



“Why
not? It’s close to the hospital, and we like the food.”



“True,”
Tracey said, settling into a booth. “Thanks for getting me out of
there. I don’t think I could have stood it much longer.”



“I
figured.” It was why he’d left for the hospital as soon as he’d
learned of Pamela’s condition. Thankfully, Meredith seemed to
understand why he needed to go and offered to entertain Lindsay. At
least he hoped she understood. Steve knew it wasn’t always easy for
her, but Mer knew from the beginning he had a daughter. That linked
him, forever, with his daughter’s mother, and she had to accept
that. “You holding up okay now?”



“Trying
to.” Tracey picked up the menu, then set it down without opening
it. “It’s ridiculous to be this emotional. I don’t even like
the woman.”



“No,
but she’s still your mother and you love her, even if you don’t
always like her.” Steve long ago realized there was a difference,
especially when it came to the dysfunctional relationship between
Tracey and Pamela. “She’s a strong, stubborn woman, Trace,” he
said. “She’s going to get through this just fine.”



“Of
course she will, if only to torture me further,” Tracey said, but
Steve could tell from the look in her brown eyes that she wasn’t
confident in her words.



“How
hungry are you?” he asked, changing the subject. “Want to split
the taco pizza?”



“Sure,
that sounds fine.”



“How
about a beer?”


Tracey
shook her head. “No. Just a Coke for me. I still have to drive back
to DeKalb tonight, and I’d rather not fall asleep at the wheel.”



“I’d
rather you didn’t, too,” Steve said, and flagged a waitress down
to place their order.


For the
next forty-five minutes, while they polished off a taco pizza, Steve
tried his best to keep the conversation light. They talked about the
Cubs’ losing streak, the Bears’ prospects, the annual mid-August
heat wave, Steve’s recently completed trial and their daughter’s
upcoming school year. Sixth grade. He could hardly believe it. In
some ways, it seemed like only yesterday that he’d met Tracey at
this restaurant after work and she’d announced she was pregnant.
The news shocked him, and he’d proceeded to make a complete ass of
himself, a scene Steve regretted more than once. Since he couldn’t
undo it, he simply hoped he’d done right by both of them in the
decade since.



“Don’t
forget her reading list,” Tracey said, interrupting his thoughts.
“She should be reading half an hour every day.”


Steve
nodded. “Yeah, we got it. We’ve been working with her.”



“Good.
She likes to read, so it probably doesn’t take much to get her to
do it.”



“No,”
Steve agreed. “Are you going to be okay tonight, Trace? Because if
you want to take Lindsay back with you…” He didn’t want to make
the offer. He valued his time with her. Still, it seemed like the
right thing to do.


Tracey
shook her head. “No. It’s your week. School starts soon, and I
don’t want to cut into your extended time with her before then.
Besides, it’d be past her bedtime by the time I get back home. I
don’t want to disrupt her routine.”


Steve
smiled. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”



“Thanks
for rescuing me from the ICU. I should probably get on my way,
though.”



“At
least let me drive you back to your car.” Steve pulled his wallet
from his pocket.



“I
can take the L,” Tracey said. “Just as fast. Ten minutes back to
the hospital, grab the car, and I’m home in a little more than an
hour. I’ll be fine.” She stood up to leave. “I’ll see you
Friday, okay?”


Friday.
When his week with Lindsay would be up and she returned to her
mother’s home. They’d been following the arrangement for ten years
and had the routine down, but it still hurt to say goodbye to his
daughter at the end of a visit. “Sure.” Steve hesitated. “But
if anything happens in the meantime and you need to talk…”



“Yeah,
I’m sure Meredith would love that,” Tracey said. “Thanks, but I
can handle this on my own. I’m not your problem anymore, Steve.”



He
watched her walk out of the restaurant, then sighed. “That’s just
it, Trace. You’ve never been a problem.”
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I
caught the writing bug in sixth grade, when I threatened to write a
whole book after a class assignment to write the first chapter. I never
finished that book, but the desire to create stories never left.
When
I’m not giving life to the voices inside my head, I can probably be
found watching a hockey or football game on TV, hoping one day the
Dallas Stars will win another Stanley Cup and the Denver Broncos will
win another Superbowl. (Hey, it might happen!)  Either that or I’m busy
with my day job as a juvenile court attorney, a position that never
ceases to provide new material for my books! 
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