Whisper Of Love (Whisper Lake #1)

By: Melanie Shawn


“Wow, this looks great!” she exclaimed.

Ricky had been working so hard on his project for weeks. He’d hypothesized the best designs for skyscrapers, drawn up blueprints, and then built mini-models out of Legos.

“Thanks.”

His monotone response didn’t surprise her. He didn’t get happy…or upset about much of anything.

She ruffled his hair as she passed by him on her way to start dinner. “How does Hamburger Helper sound?”

“Fine,” his answer was flat and automatic.

She was pretty sure she could’ve asked how cauliflower and cabbage sounded and his answer would’ve been the same.

It might seem in a side-by-side comparison that Ricky sitting in the well-lit kitchen, reading a book and being polite was more well-adjusted than KJ holed up in a dark, dingy, room staring at a screen, and being disrespectful, but out of the two boys she wasn’t sure which one worried her most.

At least KJ expressed himself, even if it wasn’t in a healthy or productive way. Ricky held everything in. He was quiet, did his homework, helped her at the rental shop, and always did his chores without being asked.

For the first few months after Patrick died, she was so grief-stricken and Ricky’s easy demeanor was a blessing compared to his brother’s. She never had to worry about him getting in a fight, flunking a class, or being detained for destruction of property. But lately she’d grown more concerned. Both boys were in therapy, but she wasn’t sure it was helping. Or maybe she wasn’t doing enough. Maybe she was failing them both.

Her mind was consumed with doubt as she bent down and retrieved her six-quart pot and set it in the sink and turned on the water. As she watched the water rise an all too familiar guilt rose up like bile in her throat. What if everything she was doing was wrong?

That was the biggest difference between being and aunt and a parent. It wasn’t that her life no longer belonged to herself, or that she had to budget in a way she’d never dreamed of, or that there never seemed to be enough hours in the day. It was the constant second-guessing. The constant worry and anxiety. The constant doubt about whether or not the decisions she was making were the right ones. The constant fear that she was dropping the ball and doing irreparable damage.

No. No time for that. She blinked back tears as she pushed those thoughts from her mind and went into survival auto-pilot, a mode she’d lived in for the past year and a half.

She set the pot on the stove and turned the knob igniting the burner. Then she moved to the laundry room and pulled the clothes out of the dryer before replacing them with the wet clothes on deck in the washing machine. She carefully synchronized slamming the door and pressing the on button at the same time. It was the only way to start the damn thing. It had to be jarred at the exact same second that she pushed the button. She’d figured out the trick after the first time it hadn’t roared to life and out of sheer frustration she’d began kicking it and slamming her hand against the button. It had started running and since then it was the only way to get the thing to work.

Resting the basket of laundry now heaping with freshly laundered garments on her hip, she headed out of the room and caught her reflection in the mirror across the hall and stopped up short. She looked haggard.

Her long honey blonde hair was pulled up in a messy bun, emphasis on the messy, there were dark circles beneath her eyes and her cheeks were hollowed out. Her clothes were hanging on her frame that was fifteen pounds lighter than it had been before her brother passed. Between taking care of the boys and running Whisper Lake Rentals and trying to keep up with the cleaning and repairs on this nearly one-hundred-year-old house, she never had time to take care of herself.

She let out a harsh puff of breath and revoked her one-way pass to Pity Town. She didn’t have time to visit there. Tonight, when she lay her head on the pillow, that’s when she’d let herself go and hit up all her favorite places: The Why Me Store. This Can’t Be My Life Shop. Feeling Sorry For Yourself Boutique. She was a regular customer at all three emotional destinations. But she only visited after the boys were in bed. When her responsibilities were taken care of for the day.

With renewed determination to pull herself together, she hummed as she headed up the stairs to fold and disperse the clean clothes. Sometimes it fooled her mind into thinking she was happy. If she sang or if she hummed, her mood instantly lifted no matter how much her life was imploding around her.

She hadn’t made it to the third step or finished the chorus of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” when she heard a loud knock at the door. The unexpected sound caused her to jump and the basket fell from her hands in a start and the freshly cleaned clothes scattered on the steps that hadn’t been vacuumed in…she didn’t remember how long.

Staring down at the T-shirts, socks, and boxer briefs she made an executive decision. The thought of doing another load of laundry today was just too much to bear. So, enacting the five-second rule she quickly scooped up the T-shirts, socks, and boxer briefs.

The open-up-it’s-the-police knock came again and she set the white plastic basket on the landing as she turned toward the front door. Her stomach churned in dread. The last three unexpected visitors had all come to tell her of some trouble KJ had been involved in.

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