Summer Day Hart grimaced when she heard
her husband singing like a drunken sailor outside their cabin at one in the
morning. Josh had lied to her again. Hadn’t he promised to stop drinking? Said
he’d quit hanging out at bars so they could focus on their marriage? He’d sweet-talked
her once too often, then gone back on his word. Married two years, she’d
already threatened to divorce him a dozen times. Joshua Hart plus drinking
equaled disaster, sometimes abuse. By his slurred words, he was sloshed
Not wanting him to see her latest
painting project, she grabbed a long-sleeved shirt and threw it over the wet
canvas resting on the wooden easel. Hopefully, the image wouldn’t smear. She
scooped up paint tubes and brushes and threw them in a cardboard box and then kicked
it under the table. For some reason, her paintings antagonized Josh, and she
didn’t want him irritated tonight. Not when she had good news.
She dumped gray paint water down the
sink in the corner of the one-room cabin, then with a washcloth, scrubbed at
green and yellow splotches on her arms. In the next second, Josh burst through
the door singing. Summer froze.
“She’s mine, all mi-i-i-i-i-ne,” he
twanged. “Hey, baby doll.”
He staggered toward her, and as he drew
near, his foul breath made her stomach clench. Several shades of lipstick
speckled his cheek and collar, and she wanted to scream at him. Would he ever
grow up and act like a married man?
He grinned and crooked his finger for
her to follow him. Like that was going to happen. Did he use the technique to
flirt with all the girls down at Joe’s Bar? “C’mere, Darla darlin’. Kissth me,”
he slurred and puckered up his lips.
Darla? Her stomach clenched at the
woman’s name. He had a wife. He was going to be a—
He stumbled toward her, tripping on a
discarded tennis shoe, and wrapped his arms around her waist. She shoved
against his chest, effectively stopping his unfaithful lips from landing on
“Hey, why’d ya do that?” His grin
turned upside down.
She yanked free of him, disgusted, but
before she could escape, he grabbed her arms, pinning her to him. She flinched
at his rank odor, acid creeping up her throat. Don’t be sick now. Think of
“Watcha been doin’ without me? Missth
me?” He leaned in as if to kiss her, then belched.
Twisting away, knowing he could
overpower her, even in his condition, she rushed to the other side of the bed
that took up much of the small space. What could she grab to protect herself?
She’d hit him if she had to. The alarm clock? Too small. A book? She snagged a
hardback of Shakespeare’s finest from the bookshelf, clutching it to her chest.
One hefty knock on his head might do the trick.
She despised the way she dreaded her
husband’s nightly arrival. What had he been doing all day? “Did you get a job?”
That’s what he’d said he would do. “Or did you spend the whole day and night at
Joe’s?” With hussies, no doubt.
“That’ssss all you care about.”
Slurring, he gawked around the cabin like he couldn’t see straight. How in the
world had he made it up the forested trail? Was there a full moon? Otherwise,
he couldn’t have traversed the path. She wished he hadn’t. If only he’d tripped
over a log and slept it off. Or died.
Guilt flooded her. But she stuffed it
down deep inside.
Something caught Josh’s attention. His
sharp intake of breath drew her attention.
The flannel shirt had dropped off the
edge of the easel, revealing her painting of his uncle Mac’s classic Willys
Jeep truck with the big gray barn in the background. She should have hidden the
wet canvas in their tiny bathroom. “Uh, Josh—”
A snarl creased his lips. A vein
throbbed in his neck. He clenched his fist. “Lookth nothing like it.”
His words pegged a tender place in her
heart and twisted a knife of lost hopes and dreams. If she hadn’t gotten
married so young, if she’d gone to college and taken art classes, she’d be a
better painter. She’d worked hard on this piece while Josh was gone on his
nightly binges. But every time he caught a glimpse of it, his nostrils flared
like a bull, his fists clenched, and things got ugly between them. And seeing
him like this, drunken and glass-eyed, reminded her too much of her mother’s habitual
consumption when Summer had been a little girl.
His bloodshot eyes glared at the
painting so intensely, hate seemed to ooze from him. Then, like a madman on a
rampage, he let out a guttural yell and rammed his fist into the bathroom wall,
leaving a gaping hole.
She gasped. She’d better get out of
When he lunged for the framed canvas,
she dashed around the table, yanking the picture off the easel. She clutched it
to her like a treasured Mona Lisa. Her breath came in spurts. She wanted
to demand he leave and never come back. But she’d done that before, and he
His eyes gleamed fire. “Give it to me.”
She’d like to give it to him. A punch
in the eye. A well-aimed kick. Why had she married this oaf? Oh, she’d been
dazzled by his handsome face and his promises of love. Liar, that’s what he
was. And lazy. Mean. And hateful.
He came at her again, his fist clenched
and bloody. But he tripped over a pile of dirty laundry and swore. “Don’t you
do anything around here other than finger paint?” He grabbed her arm again, but
she pulled free.
If she could reach her cell, she’d call
the police. A night in the Newport jail would serve him right.
Grasping for anything to protect
herself, she flung a Bob Ross manual at his head, followed by a can of paint
brushes. He ducked, but she was sure some of the contents hit him.
Kicking at clothes, shoes, books,
anything in his path, he came at her like a rabid dog. There was nowhere for
her to run. He clawed at the canvas, his fingers smearing paint.
“Stop!” She didn’t want her art ruined.
“Let go,” he seethed.
He grabbed her wrist with his other
hand, pulling her tight against him, the painting caught between their bodies.
They struggled, and as she fought him, the picture slipped from her hands,
landing on the floor with a thump. He released her and reached for it.
This was her chance to run out the
door, down the trail to Mac and Em’s, Josh’s elderly uncle and aunt. Instead,
she swung her shoe back and kicked his shin as hard as she could. He groaned,
swearing up a storm. The distraction worked, and she grabbed the canvas before
flying toward the door.
“Wretched woman!” His shoes thudded
against the wood flooring as he tromped after her.
She held the picture against her; paint
had to be smearing across her shirt. She’d fix it later, if she could just get
away from him. She knew he’d sleep this off and be sorry tomorrow. But she was
sorrier than she’d ever been that she’d married such a man. In heated moments
like this, it was hard to remember the nice guy he used to be, before he
started drinking. As she pulled open the door, he snagged her shirt at the
neck, transforming it into a cloth noose cinched at her throat. She gasped and
flailed her arms.
He yanked the picture out of her hands.
“I don’t know why I married you.”
“Every night I wish you hadn’t.”
He released her, and she crumpled to
the floor. Then, with a howl, he slammed the painting against the log wall,
over and over.
“Noooo!” Her wounded cry circled the
The frame broke, and the canvas
buckled. And her heart bled. On her knees, she crawled to the ruined piece of
art. Tears burned her eyes. Then something consuming erupted in her. She hated
him. For what he’d done to the painting. And to their marriage.
“Mac’s right,” she snarled in a tone
she barely recognized. “You’ll never amount to anything. Get out!”
“I live here.”
“Not anymore!” A wild woman set on
revenge, she lurched across the room to Josh’s most prized possession. She
would hurt him like he’d hurt her. As she grasped for his precious guitar
leaning against the corner, thinking of all the times he’d played it instead of
spending time with her, chosen it instead of loving her, she heard him make a
Faster than he could stop her, she
flung the instrument as hard as she could against the cabin wall.
The crash resounded through the 16 x 20
foot building. The guitar broke in two, its neck lying at an odd angle on the
wooden floor. Satisfaction raced through her veins. A discordant twang settled
in the room like a dying animal. The same as their marriage, broken and dead.
Gasping, Josh stumbled to his knees. “I
can’t believe it. You killed my guitar.” He reached for the pieces, cradling
them tenderly like they were a wounded child. “How could you?”
“I hate it. I hate you. Now, get out
and never come back!” She jabbed her index finger toward the darkness beyond
the open door. She couldn’t keep living like this. Wouldn’t. Not with so much
at stake now.
In a stupor, clutching the mangled
guitar, he left. Without a good-bye. No “I’m sorry.” Without her telling him
she was pregnant.
She slammed the door and weakly sank to
the floor. Her palm glided over her stomach. “Just you and me now, little one.
Just you and me. I’ll be your mommy and daddy.”
Summer's Dream is available in Paperback & Kindle:
Summer's Dream is available on Nook: