It always seems as if the moment I have a million things to accomplish, my brain insists that I write one more new story. Crazy brain. Sometimes it’s easier to just acquiesce.
My mind is consumed with Bellingwood characters. Right now, while I’m editing and formatting Book 18 – Just Around the Bend, I have more short stories in process and evidently, multiple vignettes chasing me. As much as I love Polly, the other characters in town sometimes want to be sure you know them just as well.
Just a couple of bits of information you need to know:
Book 18, Just Around the Bend will be published on Sunday, June 25th. My publication dates are always the 25th of March, June, September, and December. Anything that is published in between those dates is just icing on the cake.
If you want to ensure you never miss out on any exciting news from Bellingwood, be sure you sign up for the monthly newsletter. It also comes out on the 25th – but every month. There is always a vignette and you never know what else I’m going to come up with for you. Sign up here.
Pre-publication Trivia Party – Friday, June 16 from 6-11 pm (CDT). Facebook Bellingwood page. There are prizes and fun conversations happening throughout the evening. I do these to have fun chatting with you, but the questions will help trigger memories about characters and events you might have forgotten.
Okay – this vignette is a sweet moment with Dr. Mark Ogden, Bellingwood’s gorgeous veterinarian. There was a post on the Facebook Bellingwood page about possible vignette ideas. I’ll dig back through and contact you if Mark was your suggestion. If you did and I miss that – let me know.
While You Sleep
Mark kissed Alexander’s cheek before putting him in the playpen, then bent over to kiss his wife.
Sal was not a morning person and it looked like Alexander was going to be more like his father – up at the crack of dawn, ready to greet the day.
Now that the boy was older, Mark enjoyed spending these early morning hours with him. Sal was thrilled when Mark started taking this shift. He made sure Alexander was fed and clean, played with him in the living room and now that the weather was warmer, took him outside while the dogs played and ran in the back yard.
The two dachshunds had already climbed back up on the bed with Sal and were doing their best impressions of slugs, burrowing into the blanket beside their mother.
He knew Sal was mostly awake, though she’d pulled the blanket up to her shoulders and buried her face in the pillow. Alexander would give her another twenty minutes or so before his playing became too noisy even for her.
Mark stood in the doorway of their bedroom, something he did nearly every morning. His wife was even more beautiful when she slept and their son was pure perfection. He was such a lucky man.
The first time he met Sal, he knew that he wanted to know her better – whatever it took. She’d been such a surprise. From Polly’s description, he expected to meet a wealthy, spoiled princess who had little time for the slow, laid-back lifestyle he loved here in Iowa. That had been far from her reality.
Now, Sal knew what she liked and was intent on getting it. She was focused and driven, but she was also generous and kind. The woman was an absolute live-wire. He assumed that at least forty percent of her blood consisted of one hundred percent caffeine. When she was awake, she moved ninety miles an hour in every direction, but once she wound down, she became easygoing and snuggly, even. She also deliberately slowed her actions whenever Alexander was in her arms and sometimes Mark caught her gazing at her son with a face that radiated love and adoration.
It was all of these moments that still surprised him. These were some of the many reasons he loved this woman. Sometimes he couldn’t believe she had chosen to give up her cosmopolitan life in Boston for him. They’d gone back and forth about how to make a relationship work across country. She hadn’t been prepared to leave her job and he couldn’t imagine giving up his practice. Mark didn’t want to ask her to give up the life she loved and had begun researching veterinary positions in Massachusetts, but he could barely stomach the thought of living in a big city again.
Then out of the blue, Sal told him she was done fighting it – she wanted to come to Bellingwood. He chuckled to himself. If Polly hadn’t been living here, he wasn’t sure Sal would have been so ready for the move. But then, if Polly wasn’t here, he’d never have met this amazing woman. His deepest darkest fear was that she would wake up someday and realize that her life with him wasn’t enough.
When she invested in the coffee shop downtown, his heart settled some. That seemed to be the thing she missed the most. He knew the hustle and bustle of activity stirred her to life, even if Sal insisted that she was becoming accustomed to the slower pace of Bellingwood.
Mark’s family had been hesitant about him marrying Sal. He gave his head a quick shake. That wasn’t it. They were worried that she wouldn’t make the transition to rural Iowa life well. A smile crossed his face. Bellingwood really wasn’t all that rural. It could be if that’s what you wanted, but there wasn’t a single community in this state that didn’t have access to theaters, museums and excellent restaurants and shopping. It might require a short drive, but even when he’d lived in the Twin Cities, things that were important required you to leave your neighborhood and drive. You just traveled on city streets rather than peaceful country roads for forty-five minutes.
They’d talked about finding an acreage in the country so he could have horses and maybe even a few goats. Looking at Sal sleeping so peacefully he thought she’d make a great country mother. No, he couldn’t even think that with a straight face. When he first brought it up, the look of terror and shock on her face was priceless. He’d backed far away from that conversation as soon as he understood what she would lose. No one else knew, though, that she had returned to the conversation the next night, apologizing for letting her fears stop her from trying something new. If he really wanted to move out of town, she’d support him. He loved her too much to ask that of her again. Maybe someday she would seriously consider a move to the country, but that would surprise him.
The first time Sal’s mother came to Bellingwood, she was aghast at how simply they lived. Where was the nanny to take care of Alexander or the housekeeper to help Sal around the house? Mark joked about hiring a cook because of Sal’s less-than-stellar kitchen skills and received a swift kick under the table. If Mark hadn’t met Sal’s father, he would have had to assume she was adopted. That old biddy was a shrew. She’d criticized everything about their life, couching her nastiness in polite conversation, as if the entire world didn’t understand exactly what she was saying. The only person she was kidding was herself.
Now that he thought about it, Iowa was probably an escape for Sal from an interminable lifetime of torture with that woman in charge of the rack. Sal didn’t say much about her life in Boston any longer. When they’d first gotten to know each other, she told him more than he cared to know about the woman who raised his wife. How she’d grown into such a self-confident young woman, he didn’t know.
Sal had told him that a lot changed the day she met Polly. After years of living to please her mother, she discovered that she could be her own best self without any regrets. He wondered if she’d ever told Polly how much her life changed because they lived together throughout college and continued their friendship through the years. It had nearly killed Sal when Polly moved back to Iowa. The one person she trusted to show her what normal looked like was gone and Sal had done her best to stay out of her mother’s clutches, but it hadn’t been easy.
He smiled again, wanting to lie back down beside her and gather that strong confident woman into his arms. She had so many broken bits and pieces within her, but Sal was determined to find her way. She wanted to love freely and exuberantly, without fear of rejection. Polly showed her every day what that looked like and sometimes Sal would talk about her friend for hours in the evenings. The funny thing was, Mark watched the two of those girls when they were together and saw how envious Polly was of her tall, brilliant, gorgeous friend. If only Polly knew. Both girls would be surprised at how they perceived each other.
“What are you doing over there?” Sal mumbled, lifting herself up on the bed. She turned over and dropped her hand into the playpen beside her to stroke Alexander’s hair.
“Just watching you sleep.”
“That’s creepy. Aren’t you going to be late to remove an abscess or castrate some poor pig?” She blinked her eyes, trying to come awake. “My friends at home think you play with cute puppies and kitties all day long. I hate to tell them what you actually do.”
“I run into cute puppies and kitties out on the farms,” he said.
She worked to untangle herself from the sheets and the two dachshunds, who refused to move away from her. “I keep telling these dogs they’re going to be the death of me. So really, why are you still here?”
“I wasn’t joking. Just watching you sleep. Do you know how much I love you?”
Sal peered at him and pushed her long black hair back, tucking it behind her ears. “It’s a good thing. Otherwise what we’ve been doing around here would be quite scandalous.” She sat up on the edge of the bed and stretched her arms, yawning. “I’m feeling awfully sexy right now. Wanna get you some of this?”
Mark walked over, slid between the bed and playpen and sat beside her. He pulled her into his arms, crushing her against him. “I’d take you any time. You are every dream of mine come true. I love you, Sal.”
“I love you, too.” Sal pushed back from him and blinked again, then rubbed her eyes. “What brought all of this on?”
“Just watching you sleep. You make me happy.”
Reaching down to pick Alexander up, Sal leaned toward him. “I’m not a normal wife.”
“I wouldn’t want anything different. You’re perfect for me.”
“I think we’re pretty perfect together.” She bounced Alexander in her arms. “We make pretty babies, that’s for sure.”
“Didn’t mean to wake you up,” Mark said. “I’ll go to work.”
Sal lifted her face so he could kiss her. He held her for just a few more momeents and then got up and headed back for the door.
“How often do you do that?” Sal asked.
“Watch me sleep?”
“Every once in a while.”
She shook her head. “You go to work and be good today. We’ll talk about this later.”
“I can’t wait.”