But that was all in the past. Addie Malloy had finally moved on and made a life for herself and her young child. Except now Skip had come home. And he'd brought someone with him. Skip was determined to make amends for running out on Addie when she needed him most. But how would the single mother react when she discovered that his daughter was her daughter, too? Would this be the end? Or could this long-awaited reunion be a new beginning...for them all?
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Their Secret Child by Mary Forbes
Today she would see him again--the first time in thirteen years.
Thirteen years. And she'd counted every one.
Not because of him. Never because of Skip Dalton.
If she'd thought of him at all in that span of time, it was because someone mentioned his name in passing or because Dempsey Malloy had loved to watch football.
But she was no longer married to Dempsey and football hadn't crossed her TV screen in over a year.
Truth be known, little crossed her TV screen these days. Any leisure time she had, she utilized by sewing, baking or caring for her bees--when she wasn't teaching or tutoring. And then there was her mother, who'd decided last spring to cut back her hours at the hair salon, which meant this summer Charmaine called her every "free" day and asked, "Whatcha doing?"
No, the thirteen years Addie had counted had been for another reason--a logical decision her father termed it.
Forget emotion. Forget tears. Forget the hole in her soul that some nights threatened to kill her.
Decisions didn't cater to the weak-minded. Decisions meant logic--and Addie Malloy lived logic.
For a fleeting moment, her work-scarred fingers trembled at her left earlobe and she nearly dropped the tiny golden sunflower dangling on its fine chain.
God, why had she listened to her parents all those years ago?
Because you were a coward, Addie. Just as you are now, shaking in your boots, knowing you'll see him again. Shaking like a little scaredy-cat.
Clamping her bottom lip, she pushed the earring post firmly into place and uttered a sigh of relief when it was done. Should she add a bit of mascara to her stubby lashes? Her sisters, Lee and Kat, always demanded she should wear makeup, that mascara would augment her eyes, make them fab-u-lous.
But this wasn't a date and she wasn't going for Skip Dalton.
Stepping back from the bathroom mirror, she checked her face, her strong tanned arms, the yellow sundress that was a hand-me-down from Kat. It would have to do. She would have to do. Money wasn't a commodity on the island, especially Firewood Island with its two thousand souls, the majority of whose heritage heralded from the hippie sixties.
And as keeper of 480,000 bees she fit right in with the island's agriculturalists and minifarms, or "hobby farms" as some had the audacity to call them. Maintaining and nurturing twelve hives year-round wasn't a hobby. It was damned hard work.
She pulled her unruly hair--dirty blond hair, she'd always thought--into a thick knot on her head, shoved in four long pins to hold the mass in place and ignored the flyaway strands creeping free around her face. Not her best attribute, her hair. No, that would be her mouth. Her downfall at sixteen--and again at twenty-two.
Closer to the mirror, she scrutinized the absence of lines, creases or thinning. Thank God. Thirty-one and holding. Her lips remained full and feminine and youthful and...a little wanton. Maybe even sexy if she applied a trace of pink. She would not let him think she'd been kitchen-bound these past years with a passel of kids clamoring around her ankles.
Her heart lurched. You don't need a houseful, Addie. Michaela embodies every one of your dreams.
Still, she couldn't stop the ache that stabbed her chest. Thirteen years of memories bleeding out of a black mist like a herd of fire-snorting dragons. God, why today of all days?
She knew why--Skip Dalton.
Forget him! You did it before, you can do it now.
Right. That's why her heart hammered and a flush spread up her neck. Don't be an idiot. He won't recognize you, anyway.
Holding tight to that notion, she shut off the bathroom light and stepped into the hallway.
In her daughter's bedroom, seven-year-old Michaela sat on the floor, changing the apparel of three of her ten Barbies.
Her little sneakers were on the wrong feet again, and her left sock was missing. Addie noted the clothes Michaela had pulled on: a yellow T-shirt that was inside out and pink shorts. These days, neon pink and sunshine-yellow were prize contenders in her tiny fashion world. And she'd attempted to snap four pink barrettes at precarious angles into her dark ringlets.
Addie forced herself to remain calm, not to rush in, crush her baby to her heart, drink in her child's scent. "Ready to see Gram, honeykins?"
"'Kay." Scooping the dolls into her arms, her daughter scrambled to her feet and caught Addie's hand.
"You'll have tons of fun making cookies with Gram." Gently, she swung their hands. "Better than what Mommy's having at the high school and that boring party."
She wished her little girl would talk more. The school psychologist was trying, but it would take months of patience and a variety of strategies, Addie knew, before her baby would come out of the funk she'd fallen into with Dempsey's departure fourteen months ago.