Mary E Hanks Author
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Summer's Dream
Chapter 1



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 tonight.

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 hers.

“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 something else.

“Watcha been doin’ without me? Missth me?” He leaned in as if to kiss her, then belched.

Gag.

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 there.

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 always returned.

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.

She wouldn’t.

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 room.

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 gurgling sound.

“Sum—”

Faster than he could stop her, she flung the instrument as hard as she could against the cabin wall.

“Doooon’t!”

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 (2nd Chance Book 3)


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Mary E Hanks, author and playwright
   storyteller  

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