Home > My Husband's Secret

My Husband's Secret
Author: Kiersten Modglin

Chapter One

 

 

Naomi

 

 

Today would change everything.

Nothing would ever be the same.

The sky was as dark and stormy as the clouds I felt looming in my heart. I climbed from the car with a belly full of apprehension. Opening the back door, I pried my daughter’s cheek from the drool-covered car seat strap. “Becca, wake up, sweetheart,” I said, lifting her carefully from her seat. “We’re here.” I clutched the child to my chest, one hand placed on the back of her neck.

Her tiny body stirred in my arms. She smacked her lips together in her sleep and rolled her head to the other side. She mumbled something, not awake, and yet not completely asleep. I placed my cheek against hers.

There was no point in waking her up, I decided. Given any choice at all, I myself would’ve slept through this dreadful day.

I glanced down at the soggy grass, the leaves of fall sticking to my best black heels. In the distance, I could see the blue tent they’d put up to shield his casket. There seemed to be no one around, not that it surprised me entirely. Lucas wasn’t exactly social or well-liked, even with all that he did for our little community. All that I did, via Lucas, anyway.

I brushed a bit of my chestnut hair back out of my face as the wind began to pick up and pulled my daughter in closer to my chest. I should’ve packed her a heavier jacket, but it hadn’t seemed that cold when we first left the house. That was a Tennessee fall for you. You could never tell what to expect.

Then again, maybe I’d just become numb to it all. The weather, what to wear, what to say. How to live. It all felt a bit pointless. Losing a husband, I guessed, would do that to you.

When we finally reached the tent, I was soaked up to my ankles in freezing cold water, my legs already shaking from my daughter’s weight. It killed me how big she was getting. I could vividly remember the days when she could almost completely fit in Lucas’ palms, and now, she was nearly half the length of me. Death made one introspective, I was realizing. More sentimental thoughts came to me than ever before, washing over me with a vengeance that begged to be acknowledged. Dealt with. Pain that demanded to be felt.

My husband was dead.

My daughter was growing.

Soon enough, I’d be alone.

As I reached the casket, I made eye contact with the pastor. He was rather short and plump, with wild, gray eyebrows and freckles across his nose. His gray hair had been slicked to the side, so caked with gel it looked as though it wouldn’t move in a hurricane. He offered me a small smile, his lips purple and thin in the cold. I didn’t know him, except for our brief meeting at the funeral home. Lucas wasn’t religious and I had my doubts about spirituality as well, so we’d never looked into a church. I guess you don’t think about those things until you need them.

I’d opted for a closed casket—though I hadn’t really been given a choice. His body wasn’t in a state to be seen. With all the damage, it would be too much for me to see him like this. Too much for Becca especially. Instead, we remembered him through the oversized photo sitting on an easel beside the casket, a photo he would’ve chosen himself. He was smiling in it, warm and friendly like he’d done so many days in the beginning. He was charming then, and still after, but only when he needed to be. Becca stirred in my arms, bringing me back to reality. She was still too young to understand it—any of it. She kept asking for him, wondering when he’d be back home with us. I wondered if she’d remember him in the long run. There would be pictures, of course, and videos. I would tell her stories of her father and all of the goodness he brought to our lives, but I wouldn’t tell her the bad.

She didn’t need to know about the darkness.

It didn’t matter anymore anyway.

I glanced up, noticing someone else approaching the gravesite. The intruder was a woman, though not one I recognized. She was tall and rail-thin, a jarring contradiction to everything about me. She held a cigarette between two claw-like fingers, blowing smoke into the breeze. I put a hand over Becca’s face, stepping further away despite the already large amount of distance between us.

Though it was cloudy out, she was wearing large sunglasses, her tan legs shaking from the cold, and her lack of leggings. I would’ve felt almost bad for her, she was obviously distraught, but I couldn’t focus any further than the burning questions swirling through my mind: who was she? How had she known my husband?

I watched the last bit of white on her cigarette burn orange before she tossed it to the wet ground, the stale smell carrying toward me as the wind’s direction changed. She made her way up toward the casket with shaking hands, placing an outstretched palm on the oak I picked out. I looked around, wondering briefly if it was possible she had wandered up to the wrong burial, but there were no other services being performed in this cemetery today. Slowly, a group of others—mostly people Lucas had worked with at the hospital—began trickling in under the tent. I spotted a few familiar faces offering up sympathetic smiles. Some of the newcomers spoke to the blonde. It was obvious then that she was one of them. Someone who’d worked with Lucas. From the looks of it, someone who’d cared about him very much.

When the incoming traffic had come to a halt, we stood under the tent in silence, staring at the pastor, the solemn man who would say the final words before my husband and the secrets he was taking with him were placed in the ground for good.

All in all, there were fewer than ten of us. It was almost worse than there being none.

“Are we ready to get started?” the pastor asked under his breath, his eyes locked on mine.

I nodded without thinking. How was I supposed to answer that? How would I ever feel ready to say goodbye to my husband?

He cleared his throat, not reading the worry on my face, and moved to address the small crowd. “Thank you all for coming today. I know Naomi and the family really appreciate the support on what is going to be a hard day for us all.” He opened the Bible in his hands and glanced back at me. A hard day for us all. Well, that was just the understatement of the year, wasn’t it? My guess was, most of the people would head out to dinner after this or go back to work without a care in the world. Their lives would go on. They could imagine laughing again. They could breathe without the debilitating pain I felt at the mere thought of tomorrow. Next week. Next year.

What was the point of any of it without him?

Lucas meant nothing to his coworkers, his friends, compared to how I loved him. It wasn’t a hard day. It was the worst day of my life. No one else understood that.

“Lucas Martin was a loving husband and father, a devoted surgeon, and a trusted member of the Nolensville community. He was…”

The words slammed into my chest, causing me to take a half-step back, and I inhaled sharply.

Lucas was.

Lucas is no longer.

I stopped listening, letting the words turn to a soft lull in my ears as something to my left caught my attention. I turned my head slightly, staring off toward where I was parked. A woman with raven, pixie-cut hair was rushing forward, her black trench coat flying out behind her as her boots hurried across the soggy ground. When she grew closer, slowing her steps so she could sneak in without disturbing the ceremony, I was immediately in awe of her beauty. Large, round eyes with carefully drawn brows and winged eyeliner; full, brown lips; and a hint of bronzer to accentuate her already high cheekbones. I couldn’t help staring at her. There was something oddly familiar about her, but I couldn’t place it. Who was she? How did she know Lucas?

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