Good evening and welcome back to the Author’s Corner.
After a day of stormy weather with lots of lightning, I’m finally able to get back onto the computer to share this heartwarming tale by author Trish Hubschman with you.
I must say this is quickly going into my favorites folder as one of my favorite tales from Trish.
Once you’ve read this great tale by Trish, I’d like to invite you to continue reading to learn about her newest released work.
Yeah, that’s right, Tracy Gayle fans, the series continues.
O.K. now, I give you Trish and her terrific Tale.
By Trish Hubschman
“Don’t blame your father. It’s not his fault!”
Diane’s own words surprised her. She was defending the husband that abandoned her and their son twenty-five years ago. Craig hadn’t had any contact with his father since he was ten. She just found out that he married again? How could that be possible? Diane never agreed to a divorce and, as far as she knew, they were still married. She had never once bad-mouthed Charles to their son. She wouldn’t do it now either, despite the news she had just given Craig. Charles was dead and she, Diane, was his legal widow.
Craig’s arms were crossed over his broad chest. He was a nice-looking young man and had always been a good boy. She was proud of him. “How did you find all this out, Mom?” he dared. “You haven’t spoken to him in years. You’ve had no idea where he was or what he was doing?”
Diane had known where Charles Sparks worked, though she never made contact with him. She hadn’t known what he’d been up to. “The pension department of his company called me to find out who they were to send your father’s death benefits to, his son by his first marriage or his second wife,.” She explained. Craig was waiting for her to continue. She suddenly felt very nervous. He was asking a question with his eyes. “I told them I’d have to get back to them on that and I called a lawyer.”
Craig smiled, though it didn’t exude happiness. “Who gets his pension now, Mom?” The question was sarcastic and not in Craig’s nature.
Diane closed her eyes briefly. “Legally, I do,” she whispered without opening them. “I’m his widow.” She opened them.
He shook his head. “Did you talk to this other woman, Dad’s second wife?” He practically spat the last words.
Diane didn’t flinch. She nodded. “Allison seems to be very lovely,” she said. Diane licked her lips. She had more to say, but wasn’t sure how Craig would take it. ””We’re doing okay, honey, you know?” She gestured around the small apartment they shared. She had the one bedroom in it. Craig slept on a convertible sofa. “I think Allison Sparks should get the continuation of your father’s pension.” She let out a heavy breath.
He tilted his head to the side and stared at her in disgust. “Why?” he asked.
The one word hit her square in the face. She took another quick deep breath. This one was going to be the hardest. “Allison and your father had a son. He’s thirteen. She averted her gaze. “His name’s Noah.” She looked up. She wasn’t sure what she was seeing in her son’s face, shock maybe, uncertainty. He had always wanted a brother. She swallowed and nodded. “The boy just lost his Dad, Craig.” Heck, her son had lost his father twenty-five years ago. “He also just found out that his mom and dad weren’t legally married, even if they thought they were,” Diane added.
Craig was gripping the back of a kitchen chair so tightly, his knuckles had gone white. “Where is this leading, Mom?” he asked. “I’m not looking for anything from the old man. That’s up to you. Do what you feel is best financially. As far as finding out that I have a step-mother, if you can call it that, and a teenage brother, heck, I don’t know what to say about either.”
Diane blinked her eyes. Here came the clincher. “I think we should meet them. Maybe we should help them. I know this sounds crazy, honey, but I feel they’re related to us, in a sense.”
Craig shook his head. “That’s too fast, Mom,” he protested. ‘Maybe you’re right, I don’t know, but I have to swallow all this first.”
Diane nodded. “That’s fair,” she whispered.
“Without saying another word, Craig swung on his heel and headed to the doorway of the kitchen, living room. Before passing through, he grabbed a set of car keys from a bowl. “I’m going to Lauren’s. I’ll be home later.”
. . .
“You’ll be a wonderful big brother, Craig,” Lauren assured him, squeezing his hand. They were sitting on the sofa in her parents’ basement. He had told her everything. They’d been together four years. He’d been considering asking her to move in with him, but the issue of his mother kept popping up. He felt a responsibility to Diane. Now that she had decided to turn down the continuation of his father’s pension, he didn’t know how she’d afford to live if he didn’t help support things.
“You’re saying I should meet these people, babe?” he posed. It wasn’t exactly a question. He shook his head vigorously. “I don’t know if I can, Laur.” He shrugged.
Lauren smiled. “You can’t blame Allison or Noah for this. They were as much in the dark as you and your mother,” she said gently. He nodded. “Maybe you shouldn’t even blame your Dad. He forfeited a lot too.”
Craig’s eyes widened. You and mom think alike and I have no idea what the two of you mean,” he fired at her. Lauren wanted him to figure this out himself. Frustrated, Craig tilted his head to the side. “Dad asked Mom for a divorce a long time ago. She wouldn’t give it to him. She’s got this old-fashioned idea that marriage is for life, no matter what.”
Lauren nearly giggled. In trying to fight it, she landed up making a grunting noise and slapped her fingertips to her lips. She composed herself. “I’d like to think that too, at least go into marriage with that idea.” She said it easily. Craig felt heat rising in his cheeks. Lauren forged forward, “My point is, maybe your father felt your mother would eventually divorce him if he didn’t have any contact for a long time.” She shrugged. “She’d want to get on with her life or, I don’t know if this exists, but common law divorce.”
Craig shook his head. “As far as Mom knows, they were still legally married and she’s his widow.”
Lauren released a breath. “Still, that doesn’t mean your father broke the law intentionally. He’s dead now, so we can’t ask him.” That was obvious. “Allison and her son are here, Craig, give them a chance.”
Craig turned his head away. He looked at his knees, at his hands lying flat on them, at the wall in front of him. He had to think about this. He slumped back on the sofa. Lauren patted his shoulder.
“I guess I should go back home and try to figure this out with Mom,” he said grudgingly, and then turned to face Lauren. “Will you come with me?” It was a fair question.
Her answer came quick. “Nope, right now, I think you and your mom have to do this together.”
Craig made a face. “Why are you always right?”
She burst into laughter. Craig did too.
. . .
“Thank you for going with me today,” his mother said, her tone flat. She was nervous. They were on their way to meet his father’s second wife, Allison.
Three days earlier, he had taken his mother to a lawyer, so she could file for a pre-dated divorce. This way Allison would be his father’s legal wife and widow. Craig couldn’t understand why his mother was so hell-bent on doing that.
“You okay, Mom?” he asked. He was focused on the road ahead. They were in his prized Mustang. He had bought it five years ago as a thirtieth birthday present to himself.
Chuckling low in her throat, Diane shook her head. “Not really, but I know we’re doing the right thing,” she replied, trying to exude full confidence, which he wasn’t feeling. Suddenly, his mother changed the subject. “You’re going to marry Lauren someday, aren’t you, darling? She’s so lovely and perfect for you. I want her as a daughter-in-law.” That was said with total confidence!
He hadn’t expected that curveball. They were entering into a different world, so to speak. This was a really nice neighborhood, tree-lined streets, two-story, well-kept brick houses, not mansions by any means, but nice. He glanced at his mother and cocked a small smile. “You are going to consider moving in with me and Lauren someday?” he shot back.
Diane giggled. Her hand went to her cheek. “Goodness, you two kids couldn’t possibly want your meddlesome mother invading your personal space as newlyweds?”
Craig chuckled. “Try us!” he dared.
He almost missed the turn onto Allison’s street. His mother caught his near error. “Make a left on Chestnut,” she instructed, repeating what the GPS said. Craig did. “It’s number 142.”
Craig pulled the Mustang to the curb. He whistled between his teeth. “Nice place,” he remarked off-handedly, but his insides were tight. It wasn’t anger he was feeling or jealousy, he was sure of that. He considered himself too mature for that. What was it then, a nostalgia? He suddenly felt homesick, for what? He and his parents never lived in a posh neighborhood like this. If his child’s memory was correct, and he’d had both parents till he was around ten, they’d lived in a small house. He had his own bedroom and they had a dog. He sighed inwardly, wondering if his mother was thinking in past tense too. He looked at her and saw she was staring at the house. He reached out and grasped her hand. She looked at him. He smiled. “We’ve always been happy, Mom, just the two of us. Nothing has ever gotten in the way of that.”
There were tears in her eyes. “A house is made of brick and stone, a home is made of love alone,” she whispered. They were both quiet for a long time. Diane broke the spell. Suddenly, she reached for her door handle. “Let’s go meet your Dad’s second wife and half brother.” She swung the door open and got out of the car before Craig could say anything.
. . .
“Did you know about us?” Craig asked after the introductions with Allison were made. Thirteen year old, Noah, wasn’t around. Diane shot her son a scathing look, but Allison wasn’t perturbed by the question.
She shook her head. “Charlie never said anything about you two, I swear.” She held her right hand up. She glanced at Diane. “I honestly don’t know why. He was such a wonderful person. I can’t imagine any of this.”
Craig shot his mother a look. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Her face was uncharacteristically placid. In his own head, he was saying a thing or two to his deceased father. Lauren would whack him one if she knew. That almost made him laugh, but he caught himself. “Where’s your son?” he asked Allison.
His abrupt change in subject threw the younger mother. She took a step backward. “Oh,” she stammered, and then gestured to the staircase behind her. It led upward. “I told Noah about the two of you and that you were coming over to meet us. “ She sighed warily. “I’m afraid he’s not up to that, to put it mildly,” she added dryly, glancing at the stairs. “He locked himself in his bedroom a couple of hours ago. I don’t think he’s going to come out while you’re here. I’m sorry,” she added, glancing back and forth between Craig and Diane. Her eyes were pleading.
Diane looked at her son. “Why don’t you go upstairs and try to talk to Noah?” Diane suggested.
Craig was now speechless. What would he say to a teenager, brother or not. He didn’t know the kid and heck, Noah was young enough to be his son.
Allison understood. Craig could see that. He was thankful. She shook her head. “Thank you anyway, both of you, but this is my situation.” She glanced back at the stairs again. “I’ll work it out.”
Now, that stung! Craig felt a sharp pang of guilt shoot through him. He could do this! Well, his mother felt he could and he was pretty sure Lauren would tell him to march up those stairs and be a good big brother. “Which room is his?” he asked. The words just popped out of his mouth.
Diane smiled broadly. Allison looked nervous. Her gaze went back and forth from Craig to Diane. Finally, she turned and waved toward the stairs. “First room on the right. Only one with the door closed and music coming from behind it.”
For the first time in his life, Craig almost started praying for guidance. He glanced one more time at his mother, took a silent deep breath, and then darted up the stairs.
There were three bedrooms on the second level of the house and a bathroom. As Allison pointed out downstairs, only one door was closed up here – Noah’s bedroom. Okay, now that he was up here, what was Craig going to do? He was going to try and talk to the kid. That settled, he sidled up to the closed door and listened. Nope, he didn’t hear any music playing in there. Maybe the kid had headphones on or maybe he wasn’t in his room. Lifting his fist, Craig knocked lightly on the door. No response. That didn’t surprise him. He tried another approach. “Hey Noah, you in there?” he called out.
“Yep,” came an immediate response.
Craig hadn’t expected that and nearly jumped. He had to count to ten before speaking in order to regain his composure. “I’m Craig Sparks, your brother.” Wow, that sounded weird.
Noah laughed. “Correction, man, that’s half brother. I’m the illegitimate one.” He grew silent. Craig thought he heard a sigh of resignation or disgust. “Do you know how bad the kids at school will treat me once they find this out? They knew my Dad. We hung out together. Now, everyone’s going to call me names.”
Craig had to stop to think what the best answer was to give Noah. “Did you and Dad have fun together, Noah? What’d you guys do?”
Noah didn’t answer. Craig was sure the kid was crying. “I loved my Dad, your Dad. Mom told me he really wasn’t my Dad, you know what I mean.”
“Yes, he was,” Craig stressed. “My folks are divorced.” He didn’t go into any detail.
“Oh, mom didn’t tell me that.” Noah shot back. “Why are you here now?” His tone was almost suspicious.
Craig nearly laughed. “Do you want a big brother, kid?” Craig wrinkled his nose at what, he assumed, was a silly question.
There was no response from inside the room. Craig waited. Suddenly, the door started to creep open. “I like baseball,” Noah said flatly. “The Yankees are cool.”
Craig smiled. This was definitely a start. He held his hand out to Noah.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND HER WORK…
RATINGS GAME (TALK SHOW QUEEN)
by Trish Hubschman (C 2019)
In print ($9.50) and e-book ($2.99) from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers.
The e-book is text-to-speech enabled.
Cover image, free text preview, buying links, and more:
Trish Hubschman has three previous Tracy Gayle mysteries in print: The Fire, Unlucky Break, and Stiff Competition (Miss America).
Synopsis of Ratings Game:
The Danny Tide story continues.
Somebody’s trying to kill the rock star’s second wife, talk–show hostess Blair Nelson. Danny and Tracy, now a couple expecting a baby, get pulled into it because Danny finally agrees to do an interview with his ex–wife. She’s been bugging him for a while.
That evening, after a draining day at Blair’s studio, when Danny and Tracy are home in bed, Danny’s phone goes off. It’s his and Blair’s daughter, Liz, announcing that she found her mother unconscious on her bathroom floor. Blair ingested a drug overdose.
Who would want to eliminate the talk show queen, and why? Could the perpetrator be Blair’s housekeeper? Her personal assistant? The owner of the television station? The show’s producer? Even Danny and Liz are on the suspect list.
Everyone had opportunity, but no one has a motive. They’re all devoted to Blair. They need Blair to wake up and give them some answers.
In the foreground, a black TV camera is in sharp focus against a blurry blue and orange background. The words “A Tracy Gayle Mystery” are centered at the top of the cover, and the author’s name is at the bottom of the cover, off to the right. Both of those are in white letters. The main title, Ratings Game, is in red-orange letters just above the camera. The subtitle, Talk Show Queen, is in parentheses in dark gray letters on an off-white background on the small screen on the top of the camera.
Editing, cover design, print layout, and e-book conversion are by DLD Books Editing and Self-Publishing Services. Cover photo is by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash.