Monday, November 04, 2019

Gardenia Duty

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Women's Fiction, Military
Published: June 2019
Publisher: Gatekeeper Press

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In 1957 jobs are scarce in rural Ashland, Alabama. Bobby Higgins is facing life decisions; his family’s farm struggles and threat of the draft hangs over 18-year-old males as the Cold War rumbles in the distance. Bobby heads off to boot camp, vowing to provide for his family from his pay. Between shore and sea duty, Bobby leaves broken hearts in every port.

When his own heart is stolen by Rose, he’s shocked to learn that she comes with four daughters, a package deal he’s unsure he wants. But when Rose disappears, Bobby finds her and persuades her to marry him. Somehow they navigate their way through the trials of marriage and parenting as he fulfills his patriotic career and his promise to raise four willful daughters.

In the spring of 2004, his daughters are brought together by grief. They forge new bonds, sharing their joys, losses, regrets, and ultimately family secrets that will seal all their fates…if they can summon the courage to report for duty.


October, 1980

She stared at the venetian blinds, blurred by tears,

gripping the hospital bed rails. They should have

been tears of joy. Her family should have been standing

in the sparsely furnished room. Should have, would

have, could have.

Suck it up, cupcake, she thought. She knew this day

would come. She had to think about what was best for…

for him. And once she had finally decided, even the excitement

of her budding career had been overshadowed. She

scanned the room through the blur, now void of the nurse

who had taken pity on her solitude. The never-ending

loop of self-recrimination flooded her brain yet again.

Funny, she thought she’d be over it by now, that somehow

the loop would be flushed—like afterbirth.

How could she have been so careless? Why hadn’t she

focused on school instead of letting herself be attracted to

Larry’s blue eyes? With that twinkle and his boyish grin,

he had relentlessly worked his way into her heart on a

girls’ night out. Eventually, walks on the beach, romantic

dinners and line dancing at The Lazy B. If she had known

his orders were only five months away, would she have

continued the romance? She didn’t let just anyone in. She

was the Master of Unavailable and The Life of the Party.

But Larry had pulled her off center and made her laugh.

She thought he’d bore her. She thought she’d grow tired

of him. But no. Damn you, Larry. The aching memories

made this day that much more difficult.

There was a knock on the thick blonde door. “Dinner

time,” the nurse said. She stared at the tray as the nurse

gently placed it on the table. She peeked under the lid and

was hit with the aroma of chicken and broccoli. Typical

hospital menu; something from all the food groups.

“Does the chef suggest a wine pairing?” she smiled

weakly. Her nurse smiled back and checked the IV bag.

There was iced tea and a little carton of milk on the fiberglass

tray, the same type served up in school when her

biggest decisions were made on a playground, or when

sneaking a cigarette on the senior lawn behind the huge

live oak.

“When can I shower?” she asked, poking at the

mashed potatoes.

“After this bag runs out I’ll take out the IV.”

Her nurse’s deep blue scrubs were adorned by a shiny

chrome stethoscope. “Can I do anything else?” Her eyes

betrayed the facade of pity for her situation. This may

have been her first rodeo, but the nurse had seen too many

of her situations. “No, I’m good. Well, not good. I mean,

you’ve been wonderful,” she fumbled.

The nurse walked back to the door, patting her feet

with a soft hand on the way. She felt the tears welling

again. How she needed her sisters. But, no one could

know. She needed to get back on track at work and put

this behind her. How the hell do you put something like this

behind you, she thought to herself. She suspected it would

always haunt her. “Please, God, give me the peace I need. I

hope you know I’m not heartless. This is for his future. I’m

still a kid.”

There was another knock on the door. As the couple

entered the room, he was carrying a fast-food bag, Taco

Bell. She carried flowers. It had to be as awkward for them

as it was for her. “You’re a lifesaver! I hope there are tacos

in that bag,” she said, with as much bravado as she could

muster. But she knew there was a deeper meaning to the

first part of her comment.

“Did y’all finally decide on his name?” she asked.

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About the Author

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Kathleen Varn's love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. Eventually, Kathleen dove into journaling, which helped her find solace in the grief of a toxic relationship. Kathleen is now very happily married to her soulmate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. Her first novel, Ameera Unveiled, released in 2013. Gardenia Duty is her second novel.       

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