In this excerpt from my Work in Progress, Interior Designs, we pick up at a point later in the story, when Martha and Caroline attend the trial of an ex-lover accused of murder. Narrated in Martha's first-person voice, she shares her thoughts about the trial, and about her daughter Meadow's issues with her father.
Martha and Hal Cummings divorced a few years before, and are still struggling with visitation issues. Hal is married to Amber, the protagonist from Embrace the Whirlwind.
Interior Designs (Blurb)
Meet Martha Scott Cummings: an interior designer, an abandoned wife, and a newly single mother to her daughter Meadow. Now she must begin an interior journey to reexamine the life she had, the choices she made, and to find the strength to begin again.
Zach’s trial began the last week of January.
I hadn’t planned to attend, but somehow I found myself driving toward the courthouse, securing parking in the underground garage, and riding the elevator to the Superior Court floor.
Standing in the hallway, I surreptitiously studied those who gathered around. I knew that witnesses wouldn’t be able to go into the courtroom before they testified, but there had been nothing that indicated others couldn’t sit in on the proceedings. And I hadn’t actually been subpoenaed. Apparently my deposition had been all they’d needed.
First there was jury selection, and I studied each contender, wondering who would be picked. Some seemed obviously biased, while others appeared overly objective, judging by their answers to the questions. As if they were pretending. Could anyone be that objective?
After awhile, I decided that this part of the trial was not necessary for me. So I left, driving slowly home. Caroline was in her office, silently working. She glanced up briefly when I entered, but said nothing. Did she know where I’d been?
For the rest of the day, I was antsy, and that night, as I watched the news, I saw that jury selection would continue the next day. Another day that I could skip.
Over dinner, I studied Meadow, again wondering if I should talk to her about her dad. She hadn’t visited him now for a few weeks, and while he had called her and even e-mailed her, I couldn’t help but think that she must be upset. But she didn’t seem to be languishing in his absence. Which made me even more curious.
Like Maeve had suggested, I’d been waiting to see if she would display any sadness or upset about the missed visits before bringing up the topic. So far, I had seen nothing of the sort.
“Meadow,” I began, deciding to plunge in, even in the absence of distress.
“Yes, Mom?” Meadow sounded so grown-up. When had she started calling me “mom”?
I smiled at her, displaying what I hoped was my understanding look. “I was wondering how you’re feeling about not visiting your dad? It’s been awhile…so, are you wishing you could visit again?”
She shrugged, glanced over at me as if to figure out where I was coming from, and then shook her head. “No, I’m fine.” Very mysterious.
“Did something happen on your last visit?” Nothing like the direct approach, I decided.
“Well, nothing unusual,” she finally said. “It’s always kind of weird there. I don’t like Amber, and her kids are brats. Nothing new there.” She seemed satisfied with her assessment, smiling a bit, as if the whole thing was a joke.
“What does your dad do when you tell him how you feel?”
She frowned. “Nothing. He just says I have to try harder. Why doesn’t she have to try harder?”
I couldn’t disagree with her logic on this one, but I bit my tongue and restrained myself from commenting. “Well, then, can you think of anything else you could do? Without trying harder, I mean.”
“I know you think I could just ignore her and those brats. But that’s not so easy.” She sighed.
When she sighed, she seemed to deflate, which gave me the first signs of her actual distress. Maybe she’d given up, or even accepted that nothing could change, but she wasn’t quite as nonchalant as she’d appeared.
I reached over and hugged her, patting her back. “I’m sorry. I wish that I could do something to change things for you. I have tried to talk to your dad, you know. I guess he feels caught in the middle.”
She stared at me then. “Shouldn’t he be on my side? I’m his daughter.”
Wow, she really packed a punch with that one! How to answer…well, there was nothing I could say, really. Except what I finally did say. I wasn’t sure I believed it, but I had to take this position.
“One thing I’m learning,” I began seriously, “is that we can’t change anyone else. Only ourselves. Boy, do I wish I’d learned that one awhile ago. So when you think about it that way, what do you come up with?”
“I dunno,” she muttered, suddenly looking angry. “Maybe I’m the one who has to change?”
Nodding slowly, I patted her back and then stood up. “If you think of anything more you’d like to talk about, let me know. I’ll talk to your dad afterwards.”