By Trish Hubschman
“Meet Tara. You’ll love her. She’ll love you.” Laura had been trying to fix her brother up for months. He’d hidden himself away since Debbie died. “It’ll just be the three couples for dinner– me and Dave, Janie and Rob, and you and Tara.”
Nick paced back and forth, waving his hand. Stopping, he faced Laura. “Did it ever occur to you that I don’t want to meet anyone. I’ve been through that. Debbie was the greatest but she’s gone now and I went with her.”
Laura’s heart sank. She wanted to wrap her arms around him. At the same time, she wanted to shake him and tell him that if Debbie could see him, she’d tell him he was being a jerk. “Is that it?” she dared. “The door is closed?” She threw her hands up. “I think you’re crazy. Debbie would too.”
Pain flashed across his face. “You have no idea of any of this, Laura, not the slightest.” Nick and Debbie had been engaged, then, just like that, she was gone. She was hit by a drunk driver. “Just leave me alone,” he said. “When I’m ready, if ever, I’ll let you know.”
They stared at each other silently for a long time.
. . .
He had trouble sleeping. He tossed and turned, punched the pillow, pushed the covers off, pulled them back on. But he couldn’t get comfortable. Eventually, he plopped onto his back. His fists were pressed into the mattress, his eyes squeezed shut. Maybe he could trick himself into falling asleep.
“If mattresses could talk, that one would say you’re annoying it,” came a female voice in the dark bedroom.
Nick’s eyes flew open. His head popped off the pillow. Sitting -up in bed, he gazed around the room. “Who’s there?” he muttered. But he knew! She was in the chair in the corner beneath the window. Bright moonlight shined in around her. “Debbie?” he asked. She was blonde and beautiful. Her feet were crossed at the ankle.
Her broad smile made his heart skip a beat. “Still lonely and adrift, Nicky?’ She scowled. “As I see it, you’re spending too much time reminiscing.”
“Is that so bad?” he asked. “you were my whole life. We were supposed to be together forever.”
“Till death do us part, baby,” she added. Rising to her feet, she moved across the room to the bed. “if I’m seeing this right, one of us is dead, which mean us two have parted.” Her hands were together, but came apart with her last few words.
Nick scowled. “That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one who has to pick up the pieces to your life.”
She plopped down on the edge of the bed. “True but you’re not even trying. I’m thrilled I left a mark on you but come on, Nicky, get a life!” She was peeved.
Nick was ready to fight her head-on – just like old times. Yanking back the blankets, he jumped out of bed. He took strong, heavy strides to the door, and then stopped and swung around. He pointed to her. “If you think I’m going to meet up with my sister’s friend, you can forget it. I don’t do blind dates.”
She faced him with as much gusto. “And why not? This Tara seems to be okay. She’s pretty, smart, robust…”
His mouth dropped open. “How do you know that?”
She looked sheepish. “I’ve been following her around.”
“You’ve been checking up on the perspective girlfriend?” he shouted.
She shrugged. “Somebody has to. I keep an eye on you,” she replied. Debbie stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Tomorrow, call your sister and tell her you’ll be there Friday night.”
His breath sharpened. Nick lowered his head to gaze down at the floor. He counted to five. “What if I don’t?” he said. He glanced up, but she was gone.
. . .
Nick arrived at Laura’s at seven Friday night. He wore a suit and carried a bouquet of daisies. He felt like an idiot! Debbie had suggested the flowers.
“Look who’s here?” Laura said. She grabbed Nick’s arm and pulled him into the house. “Tara, I’d like you to meet my brother, Nick.”
Nick glared at his sister. She should have given him a chance to steady himself first. He still held the bouquet of daisies. “Nice to meet you,” he mustered, juggling the flowers into his left hand and shaking Tara’s with his right. Behind him, Debbie giggled. His stomach clenched.
Tara was a tall, slender brunette. “Tara’s a professor at the community college,” Laura explained.
Tara blushed. “Actually, I’m not a full professor yet but I’m working toward it.”
“My girlfriend was a teacher,” he said.
Debbie jabbed him in the side and scowled.
“Why don’t I take those,” Laura said, reaching for the flowers. “And we can all go into the dining room. Seating is boy-girl, boy-girl. Nick you sit next to Tara.”
“Sounds good to me,” Debbie announced.
Nick shot her a dirty look. Laura caught it. She glared back at him. Nick coughed nervously. Laura turned and went into the kitchen. The other five of them went into the dining room and took their assigned seats
. . .
He thought the evening had gone pretty well and was exhausted when he got home. He closed and locked his front door, then reached for the light switch. Debbie was sitting in his favorite chair. “Didn’t you hear your sister say not to talk about me so much?” she demanded. “It’s not good for your social life.”
He tossed his suit jacket on the side of the couch, and then turned to her and smiled. “What social life?” he shot back.
“My point exactly, Nicky.”
Sighing heavily, he plopped down on the sofa. He swiped his hand over his eyes. “Are you ever going to get off my back?” he shot at her. She cocked her head to the side and glared at him. “Should I ask you what you thought of my sister’s friend, Tara?” he said.
Her smile was broad. “I guess I should ask you that, but knowing you, you wouldn’t tell the truth.”
He was insulted. “Since when have I ever lied to you?” he asked. Debbie stared at him long and hard. It made him uncomfortable. Finally, he threw his arms up. All right, all right, I get your drift. You’re thinking I feel I’m two-timing you.”
She nodded. “That’s exactly what you’re thinking and you shouldn’t be.”
He slapped his knees. “Okay, then to answer your question, I thought Tara was very nice,” he said. “But I’m sure she’s not my type.” Nick rose and walked toward the bedroom. Debbie jumped up and followed.
“Are you going to ask her out?”
The question surprised him. He swung around. “Did you hear what I just said?”
She smiled and nodded. “The question is, do I agree and believe what you just said? The answer is no. Ask her out. She wants you too.”
He was too tired to fight. He threw up his hands. “I’m going to bed.”
“Nick!” she shrieked when he opened the bedroom door, went inside and closed it in her face. Debbie didn’t follow.
. . .
Laura called the next morning. Nick was in the kitchen making coffee. “Are you going to see Tara again? She likes you,” Laura said.
“Mmm, and how did you come by that one, sis, ESP?” he fired back.
She snorted. “Actually, Tara called me a little while ago and told me she had a wonderful time last night. Don’t interrupt, she snapped. “I know you’re going to say I’m reading more into this but I’m not. You’re also going to come up with some lame excuse why you can’t ask her out,” she continued. “But I’ve got that one covered too. Join me and Dave for brunch tomorrow…”
“Tara will be there too, right?” he said.
She giggled. “If I can arrange it… It’ll be a double-date but we won’t call it that. Don’t want to make you nervous,” she teased. “What do you say?”
He only hesitated briefly, glancing around the kitchen for his other conspirator. “I assume I don’t have a choice here, so, make the plans.”
He walked into Denver Café the next morning at eleven-thirty. Laura, Dave, and Tara were already there, seated at a booth. He was expected to slide in beside Tara, which he did.
A few minutes into the meal, Laura glanced at her watch and elbowed Dave. “I just remembered. We’ve got a church seminar to get to.” They slid out of the booth. “Sorry, we have to run,” Laura said. “You two hang around. Dave already paid for the meal.” She pulled Dave off.
Nick slid to the other side of the booth. “Do you think we’ve been set up?”
Tara giggled and agreed. “We might as well make the best of it, being Dave already paid the bill.”
. . .
They went out to dinner the following Wednesday. Saturday, they went to a lecture at her college, and then for coffee. They went to a movie, a birthday party for her niece and to a concert in the park. He was having fun. He enjoyed Tara’s company.
Three weeks later, Laura called him at work. “Are you and Tara dating?”
Nick swallowed hard. “I…um…”
“Tell Laura that you and her friend are definitely becoming a couple,” a voice whispered in his ear. Nick nearly jumped out of the chair. He hadn’t seen Debbie for weeks.
“You all right, Gibson?” the guy at the next desk asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Nick Swallowed hard and shook his head, and then held up the phone. “I’m fine, Mac, my sister just said something shocking.” Debbie made herself comfortable on his lap. He wanted to tell her to disappear or brush her away but Mac was watching him.
“Tell Laura the truth, Nicky. You like this woman, even if you haven’t gotten to first base.” Debbie examined her nails. Nick blushed beet red.
“It’s got to be good,” Mac called over.
“What?” Nick snapped, flashing his head toward Mac. Nick’s mouth hung open. Catching himself, Nick swiveled his chair away from Mac, putting him face-to-face with Janet. She was also looking at him with interest. Pulling the phone against his ear, he barked into it. “Okay, yes, I surrender. We’ll talk about it later. I’ve got to go.” Laura was giggling wildly as he disconnected. Nick jumped to his feet and raced toward the men’s room.
. . .
Six months later, St. Francis Church.
Nick leaned against the wall in a room on the side of the church. He closed his cell phone after talking to Dave. His best man had to perform an emergency surgery last night, which went into this morning. He was on the way to the church now, bringing Laura, Tara’s maid of
Honor. The door opened. Nick glanced up. It was Debbie. She was dressed in a light blue chiffon gown, her blonde hair piled on top of her head. She looked breathtaking. A year ago, she would have been his wife. He wasn’t sorry that he was marrying Tara, just sad that Debbie had been taken from him so soon.
You’re coming to the wedding?” he asked.
She smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Seeing you happy again, I think is what I was sent here to do,” she replied.
His eyes suddenly held worry. “Is this where we’re going to be saying goodbye forever?”
She moved closer to him and reached up and touched his face. Nick was surprised that her hand felt so soft. Their eyes met and held for a long time. Finally, her hand dropped and she took a step away from him, her expression lightened. “It’s not that bad. I’m sure I’ve been a total pain in your butt the past few months.” He smiled. “But I guess I can hang around a little longer. That is, if you want me to come along on your honeymoon.” Her expression was playful. His was horrified.
“I don’t think that would be such a good idea,” he replied. They both laughed.
I guess not,” she added. “I’ll be sitting in the first row of the church and never take my eyes off of you two.” She was happy when she said that. He was too. She moved up against him and reached up and lightly kissed his lips. “Goodbye, Nicky, good luck in life and love always.”
Tears choked his throat. He stared down at her, imprinting her picture on his mind. The door opened and Laura stuck her head in. “Dave is waiting for you at the altar. Your bride’s at the other end eager to make her appearance.” Laura stopped, as if she saw or sensed something. Her tone got softer. “If you’re done saying goodbye to Debbie,” she added.
Nick’s eyes shot up. Debbie had vanished from his arms when the door opened. “I…oh,” he stammered.” What makes you think Debbie was here?” He glanced around him.
Laura came into the room and closed the door. She made a show of sniffing the air. “Debbie’s perfume? Mmm, I always loved that fragrance,” she said winking. Nick began frantically waving his arms as if to brush off the smell. Moving up close to him, Laura touched his nose. “I understand, Nicky,” she whispered, standing on her tiptoes and kissing him. “now go out there and wait for your bride.” With that, she turned and went to the door. Stopping, she glanced over her shoulder. Her smile was broad. “And I don’t have ESP, little brother. Just a good intuition and big heart.”
JUST PUBLISHED: the prequel to the Tracy Gayle mystery series
by Trish Hubschman
Available in e-book and print from Amazon and Smashwords.
Details, cover image, link to a free text sample, and purchasing links: https://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/
Tidalwave’s tour bus bursts into flames while the band is relaxing on the beach. The band’s leader, Danny Tide, hires private detective Tracy Gayle to do some discreet investigation into the matter. She’s joining the band on tour as security chief. The arsonist is discovered, but much deeper, more dangerous things come to light as well: an assault, an attempted murder, and then two murders. Tracy is faced with far more than she bargained for, and her stint with the band goes further than just that summer tour. She is fully determined to protect America’s favorite rock and roll heartthrob, and they become the best of friends along the way.
About the Author
Trish Hubschman and her husband, Kevin, along with their dog, Henry, recently moved to Northern Pennsylvania. They formerly lived on Long Island, New York. Trish is a graduate of Long Island University’s Southampton Campus and has a Bachelor’s degree in English-Writing. She is the author of the popular Tracy Gayle mystery series, Stiff Competition and Ratings Game. Tidalwave is the eagerly awaited prequel to the series. For more information about Trish’s three books, please visit her website, linked to above.