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FIRST CHAPTERS:

Time to Heal: A Novel
Linda Pynaker

"Ted, we have to talk."
This is an already completed novel about a woman on a personal journey to discover herself, and regain her life and spirituality through Healing Touch and new friendships.

Ted had gone off to work as usual that day. Debra, on the other hand, was numb and could hardly function. The thought of eating breakfast made her sick to her stomach.
She was exhausted anyway. She had been so preoccupied, she hadn’t slept well for days. When would be the best time to ask? What would she say? How would he answer? That one scared her the most. Or worse – would he even answer? Lately, he’d become almost impossible to talk to.
She’d finally done it and now she felt even worse.
"Do you feel like you have to work really hard to keep this marriage going?" Debra had asked Ted that morning as he was pulling on his socks.
Without hesitation, he had said, "No."
"Then why do I?"
He had barely glanced at her as he walked into the bathroom.
Stunned, she had walked away. She felt as if they were barely surviving. How was she going to make their relationship work without his help?
How could he NOT realize there was a problem? No…he knew it was bad. He certainly didn’t look happy to her. Ted had always been easygoing and quick to smooth ruffled feathers rather than get involved in conflict. Lately, he didn’t seem to care about anything but work. His sandy brown hair was now marked with salt and pepper gray and his face was often lined with tension. If and when he mentioned work, he spoke through clenched teeth.

She wasn’t sure exactly when they started the downward slide – sometime after Ted’s promotion and transfer to San Diego just over one year ago. Debra couldn’t remember the last time she and Ted had enjoyed each other’s company. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had had kind thoughts about him. Almost every morning, Debra told herself, "I’m going to be less demanding. I’ll be more cheerful. Today’s going to be a better day for us." But, somewhere before the end of the day, usually earlier than later, she’d get frustrated and lose her resolve. Things couldn’t continue this way.

Debra had her morning shower, applied mousse to her medium length sandy colored hair and lightly tossed her natural curls before getting dressed in her office clothes. As her blue eyes looked back into the mirror, she hardly noticed her appearance. She had always been a low maintenance woman. Her frame was average, with pleasant curves where they counted most. She could possibly lose five pounds or so, but Ted had always said he didn’t like women built like boys, and she had never worried about losing the extra inches. She hurried downstairs where she joined their two children, Jonathan and Leanne, in the kitchen.

Jonathan, a tall gangly redhead, with blue eyes and a freckled nose, was cramming his mouth full of toasted frozen waffle as he grabbed his lunch out of the fridge. Leanne looked at him with disgust as she nudged past him and picked up her lunch bag. She was a first year senior and, at times, was appalled by her brother’s early adolescent behavior.

Debra ended up dumping most of her breakfast in the garbage disposal before heading out the door. As she drove down the block, she noticed Leanne had met up with a couple of her friends who walked to school together every morning. Despite her lithe figure, long brown hair, and brown eyes, Leanne was modest about her appearance and was well liked. Jonathan was straggling down the sidewalk all by himself. He was thirteen and was at a difficult age in terms of finding his place among his peers. He was only just starting to make friends since their move.
Debra was so busy that day preparing for a conference at work, she didn’t have time to think about the mess her marital relationship was in. Her desk phone rang steadily while she typed agendas and a multitude of workshop handouts. She delivered the originals to printing for reproduction and then made phone calls to book conference rooms at Marina Village and ordered food and beverages for workshop participants.

When she got home, she threw a load of laundry in the washer, tidied up the family room, and made dinner. She was folding laundry when Ted arrived home shortly after seven o’clock that evening. Jonathan was playing computer games in his bedroom and Leanne was at a friend’s home working on a group school project. They had already eaten dinner. Ted took the plate she’d prepared for him and walked over to the couch where he sat down and turned on the television.
Debra had been waiting for a chance to talk to him. She hoped that, if she could get him to talk to her they could do something about their relationship.
"Ted, we have to talk."
"What about?"
"The ways things are going in our relationship." She sat down in a nearby armchair.
He raised his eyebrows.
"We never do things together anymore," she explained.
"We’re together now. As far as I can see, you’re here and so am I."
"You know what I mean. We don’t go places, we never see anybody. We don’t talk."
He’d already tuned out and was absorbed in the television.
"Ted! You’re hardly ever home and when you are, your nose is buried in the TV. Ted!"
"O.K." He grabbed the remote off the end table and muted the volume on the television. "I’m listening. What do you want me to do?!"
"I want…I want you to spend time with me…and with the kids." She sat forward. "Don’t you care what happens to this family?"
"I’m working hard to make a good living so you three can have the comforts of life. I can’t be here and at work at the same time." He punched the volume button on the remote and the TV blared to life again.

That was always his response when she talked about his absences from home. How could she argue with that? It was hopeless. Debra went back into the kitchen to finish cleaning up.
The rest of the week, Ted did not arrive home from work before nine o’clock in the evening. The most he said to the children was, "Goodnight", when they poked their heads around the entryway of the den each evening before going upstairs to their bedrooms.

He was apparently working on an insurable loss projection system for a new prospective client, Sprint Telecommunications. He had told Debra he wanted the contract assigned to him no matter how much work he had to do to get it.

One evening, Jonathan approached his mother in the kitchen, "Mom, are you and Dad going to get a divorce?"
She stopped loading dishes into the dishwasher. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, you hardly ever talk to each other. You know Denny, the guy I play soccer with? He said that was what it was like just before his parents split up."
"Jonathan, your father is very busy at work. He’s under a lot of pressure to produce a huge project right now to win over a new client. It’s very important to him." She put her arm around Jonathan’s shoulders. "Things will eventually slow down a bit and he’ll be around more." She wasn’t sure who she was trying to convince more, Jonathan or herself.
"How about you get ready for bed and I’ll make you a snack?" she offered.
He looked up, "Popcorn? The real stuff, the stuff you cook yourself instead of in the microwave?"
Debra agreed as he scooted off to get ready for bed. By the time it was ready, Jonathan was already in his pajamas. The aroma of freshly popped popcorn and butter alerted Leanne and she arrived in the kitchen right behind Jonathan.

Leanne, who was in a particularly cheerful mood because her team had won their after-school volleyball game, fetched sodas for everybody. The three of them moved into the family room where they sat around the coffee table and took turns reaching into the bowl for handfuls of popcorn. As they munched away, they chatted about things they missed in Sacramento and the things they liked most about San Diego.

Saturday morning arrived and Ted was up at the crack of dawn getting ready to go to the golf course for his weekly eight o’clock tee time. He and a few of the guys at work played golf every Saturday morning, weather permitting. The courses are open year round in San Diego and it rarely rains so that meant he played almost every Saturday. Debra didn’t resent his golfing Saturday mornings. What she minded was the fact that he often worked late and, on the days he did not work late, he took off to the squash courts. She felt he was avoiding her.
Debra followed Ted into the bathroom where he picked up his shaver. "Ted, maybe we should see a counselor. Maybe an outsider could help us get things back together again."
Ted looked at Debra as if she was insane. "You go to the counselor. You’re the only one here who thinks there’s a problem. I don’t think we have a problem except for you nagging me." He turned on his electric shaver, which buzzed noisily. There was no point in trying to talk to him with that racket.
"Heck," she muttered to herself, "there’s no point trying to talk to him period!"

Debra headed down the stairs and walked outside, slamming the door behind her. She started hoofing it down the block at a steady pace. She had barely gone half a block when she almost collided with one of her neighbors who was coming out of the gate of her own yard.
"I’m sorry. That was close, I almost nailed you," Debra apologized.
"That’s O.K. Close only counts in horseshoes, darts, and hand grenades."
"I hadn’t heard the hand grenades one before." She laughed. "I tell you, in the mood I’m in, I wish I had a hand grenade."

Debra noticed she was attractive, with long chestnut hair swung up in a ponytail and a trim figure dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. She wore tennis shoes and was carrying a water bottle. She was about Debra’s age, but she looked like she was seriously into exercise. "Liz," her neighbor said as she held out her hand. "I’m new in the neighborhood and I’m about to go on my morning walk. It looks like you have energy to burn. Care to join me?"
"Sure, I’m Debra," she lightly clasped Liz’s hand. "I noticed you move in a while back. We moved here a few months earlier."
They started to walk side by side down the sidewalk. "So, who’s the hand grenade for?" Liz asked.
"My husband."
"I’ve got one of those too and some days I wouldn’t mind blowing him up either."
They both laughed.
They chatted about the weather and scenery. After they had walked a few blocks, Debra said, "I don’t usually go for walks. This feels pretty good. Actually I don’t usually do much of anything that doesn’t involve work or chores."
Liz looked at Debra and raised her eyebrows, "Why ever not?"
"I work full-time and between that, chauffeuring the kids around, and taking care of household chores, I haven’t been able to fit much else in."
"Sounds like you’re another one of those Super Mom types. Well, if you give me a chance, I’ll sure help you fix that!" Liz declared. "I discovered that sacrificing yourself to your husband and children won’t get you anywhere. At least not anywhere I want to be. My kids are grown up now and living on their own and I sure don’t see them bending over backwards to stay close. I could give that, ‘after all I’ve done for them’ speech, but I long since realized that doesn’t carry a lot of weight."
"I can’t imagine the kids being gone and having time to myself. I don’t know what I would do with it."
"My husband, Kurt, and I have since made some kind of life together, but if it weren’t for me taking care of myself, there would be nothing left of me. Granted, I’m still working full-time, but I make sure I get out for walks every Saturday morning and the occasional weekday. Right after we moved here, I signed myself up for aerobics classes and I recently joined a Book Discussion group at the local library. Plus I have my hobbies. If I didn’t do those kinds of things, I would die of loneliness here. I miss my life back in Denver."
"It’s hard. I still don’t have roots here," Debra told her between gasps for breath. It was a long time since she’d had any structured exercise and the pace was starting to get to her. Not only that but, despite the fact that it was January, it was a beautiful, sunny morning and she was wearing bib coveralls over a T-shirt. She was extremely warm.

Liz noticed Debra’s jagged breathing. "I was planning on taking a little jaunt around the Bay. I discovered a really nice paved path that winds through the beach and it’s very scenic. Now that you’re not so fired up about whatever it was that was bugging you, we could slow the pace. Are you up for it?"
"I’d like to. Are you sure I won’t slow you down too much?"
"Actually, I’m enjoying your company. Once we get around the Bay there’ll be a sea breeze that will make you more comfortable."
Liz gave Debra a couple of squirts from her water bottle. They headed off Honeycutt Street and down the paved road to Crown Point Park. They were soon walking on the beach and Debra welcomed the cool breeze.

Both had moved to San Diego due to their husband’s transfers, with Liz having come from Denver and Debra’s family having moved from the outskirts of Sacramento.
They talked about how tough it was to get established in a new city. Debra mentioned her job as an executive assistant for a team of consultants who do professional development workshops. She then asked Liz about her employment.
"I’m in advertising. As a matter of fact, I requested a transfer and it just so happened our firm had an opening come up in San Diego, so here I am," said Liz. "It was difficult to leave, though." She explained that her two grown up daughters continued to attend college in Denver and that, although they talked on the phone occasionally, her daughters were busy with their studies and socializing so it wasn’t the same as sharing the same household.
Liz suggested they turn around and head back home. "I don’t want to be carrying you home. We’ll have to break you in slowly, that is assuming you’d like to do this again."
Debra didn’t hesitate to agree. "It’s a great chance to let off steam and, God knows, I’ve got a lot of that lately."

They decided to meet at Liz’s gate at nine o’clock the following Saturday morning and Debra headed for home. She was energized after her walk and was humming at the thought of having a new friend as she worked her way through her weekend household chores.

Jonathan came around the doorway all sleepy eyed, just having climbed out of bed, and heard his mother still humming after she returned home from getting groceries. "What are you in such a good mood about?"
She told him about meeting Liz and enjoying their walk around the bay.
Jonathan nodded as he went to the refrigerator to get a glass of orange juice. Leanne had already left earlier to go to another school for a volleyball tournament.

Ted was later than usual returning from his golf game. She felt annoyed figuring that he’d probably hung out at the golf house for a while rather than coming home. He went up to the bedroom without saying so much as a "hello" to Debra or their children.
Ted came down in time for dinner, but he had a newspaper beside his plate. He didn’t speak throughout the entire meal, except to ask for another helping of meatloaf.
Debra and the children chatted amiably about their day. Debra asked Leanne how her volleyball team did in their tournament.
"We won four games and lost two. Central won the tournament, as usual. But, we were at a disadvantage because one of our center’s sprained her wrist when she fell in practice on Friday so she wasn’t able to play."
Jonathan piped in, "Like your team would have won anyway. Your team is full of a bunch of losers!"
"It is not." Leanne wrinkled her nose in disdain. "Like you’d know anyway. You couldn’t spike a ball if your life depended on it!"
"I could so!"
"That’s enough, you two!" Debra realized she’d raised her voice and Ted hadn’t so much as looked up.
Jonathan and Leanne exchanged dirty looks, but didn’t resume bickering.
Jonathan headed for the family room to use the phone to visit a new friend, while Leanne started toward the stairs to get ready for her evening out.
"Hey, you two! Don’t forget to put your dishes in the dishwasher before you go."

They rinsed their dishes and put them in the dishwasher amid mutters and grumbling before getting on with their plans for the evening. Debra started to clean up the kitchen as Ted wandered off to his den and shut the door. They didn’t see each other for the rest of the evening and Debra was sleeping by the time Ted came out of his den.

Debra groaned to herself as she got out of bed Sunday morning. Her legs were stiff from yesterday’s walk and it made her aware of how out of shape she was. She limped down to the kitchen and poured herself a cup of coffee from the pot Ted had made before he left that morning for the squash courts.

In an attempt to distract herself from worrying about what was going on between her and Ted, she tackled the yard work. She enjoyed the earthy smell of freshly dug flowerbeds and the bending and stretching helped her to feel more limber. When she was done gardening, she put the garden tools away, and looked around the yard with satisfaction. Then she headed into the house to wash up and make lunch. Jonathan was already in the kitchen putting a sandwich together. They ate their lunches and Jonathan left to shoot hoops in a neighborhood park.
Debra baked a lemon meringue pie. She put a roast into the oven and surrounded it with carrots, potatoes, and onions.
"I’m just a work horse around here," she thought as she finished washing and drying all of the laundry and then put Yorkshire pudding into the oven. She was putting the folded laundry away when she thought she smelled smoke -- it smelled more like burned food -- burned Yorkshire. The smoke alarm started to bleat.
"Oh, no!" she rushed to the kitchen and opened the oven door. Smoke billowed out. She grabbed oven mitts and snatched the tray of Yorkshire. "Ouch!" The tray clattered to the floor as she burned her hand through a hole in one of the oven mitts. She reached for a towel and retrieved the pan from the floor, tossing it onto the stove.
Debra grabbed a chair so she could pull the alarm open and dismantle the battery. She only felt slight relief when the thing stopped screaming at her. There were crumbs all over the floor and most of the puddings were burned to a crisp. Only the few toward the front of the oven were salvageable. Debra sat down in the chair in the middle of the kitchen, feeling defeated. It was a while before she got up to clean up the mess.

The whole family ate dinner together, but despite their chatter, Ted did not join in. The children were pleased that Debra had made a typical British dinner, like the ones her mother used to prepare for them when they were still living nearby in Sacramento, even if their small portion of Yorkshire was crispy. Debra was fed up that Ted hadn’t even seemed to notice what he ate for dinner. She could have fed him dog meat and he’d be none the wiser.

The next morning Debra tried, again, to bring up the topic of their marriage. "Ted, please, we need to talk. We can’t keep living like this. We have to do something!"
"Oh, great. Here we go, again. Debra you pick the worst times to want to talk. Look, I’m under a lot of pressure." He pulled on his suit jacket and picked up his briefcase. "I’ve got a meeting first thing this morning to find out the outcome on the Sprint project. Can’t we do this another time?" He hurried down the hallway with Debra close on his heels.
"Ted, you’ve always got something more important to do. When will we ever talk?"
"I can’t say right now!" He snapped. "Now, please, I’ve got to get going," he sighed with exasperation as he headed out the door.

Debra had another busy day at work. There was a huge conference scheduled at the Convention Center. Her first task involved drawing layouts for six conference rooms outlining placement of tables, chairs, and video equipment. She consulted with Convention Center staff regarding the requirements for the Continental breakfast and buffet lunch. Then, she met with her clerical support team to delegate responsibilities for the many handouts that would need to be typed and copies made.

Ted had returned home from work even earlier than Debra that evening. She was surprised to see his car in the driveway. The door to the den was closed when she came through the front door.
She tapped lightly on the door, before opening it. "Ted, how was your meeting?"
He waited briefly before he growled, "That son of a bitch, Brody, took most of the credit for the modules I designed. He was assigned as project manager of the Sprint contract."
She walked behind his desk and put her hand on his shoulder, "Oh, Ted, I’m so sorry. Does that mean you’re completely off of it?"
"No, but I’m not going to work under that asshole. He’s an idiot who couldn’t design a decent program if his life depended on it." He stood up and went up to their bedroom, slamming the door. He didn’t even come down for dinner. Debra, once again, felt shut out.

Ted tossed and turned throughout the night. The sheets were mangled by morning and Debra felt like she had wrestled all night to hang on to a corner of the comforter. As a result, neither got a good night’s rest.

Ted was particularly distracted the remainder of the week. He even cancelled his weekend golf and squash games and, instead, spent most of the weekend in his den.
Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Debra went over to Liz’s Saturday morning. She didn’t mention her concerns about her relationship with Ted. At this point, it was all too confusing and she didn’t feel ready to talk about it anyway. She was glad to have a chance to relax and think about something else.

The scenery really was incredible. Earlier on in the walk they noticed several kayaks and team skulls gliding across the bay. As the breeze picked up and the water became a little choppier, locals and vacationers took their sailboats out and the bay was dotted with a multitude of colorful sails. There were birds everywhere, seagulls padding along the beach, pelicans dive bombing into the water coming up with fish, and ducks floating along the shore. It was a beautiful day and they encountered people rollerblading, cycling, walking, and pushing strollers around the bay.
Debra and Liz chatted about their jobs and their families. Debra found her time with Liz to be pleasant and they agreed to meet again the following week.

Ted called in sick to work on Monday for the first time in the history of their marriage. His mood, however, seemed to have picked up considerably by that evening. He announced, in a tone that implied she had better not ask questions that he would be going to Sacramento for a few days, "on business". He certainly had her curious about what was going on, but she decided she could wait, for now. As long as he was in a better mood, she wasn’t going to provoke him.

© Linda Pynaker August 2002.

If you have read this and would like to make your comments directly to the writer, please do. All constructive feedback is useful and this is why First Chapters exists to aide a writer in development of a novel.
email:
lindapynaker@hotmail.com

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