Here’s an inside peek of A Promise in Ash’s main character, Norah Taren’s, life, written from her perspective before the start of the book. While I tend to write third-person stories, it is fun to step into first and see life through their eyes. Enjoy!
During the work week, I start my mornings with a double-shot caramel macchiato at the coffee shop just off of Highway 45 in Houston, Texas. Sometimes Samantha, who always remembers me, makes it a triple for free. I do the best I can to hide my exhaustion, but she always knows.
I work at Clerester Enterprises Inc. as an accountant. It’s a fast-growing plastics repurposing company, and I often find myself staying late. But I promised my younger self that someday I’d be a manager, an important person, and be able to afford a house of my own.
Evan, who works in marketing, sits across from me in our cubicle row. He’s built like a figure model, with forest-green eyes and a dimpled smile. If he wasn’t a devoted widower, he’d be a terrible tease. His daughter is in middle school, and I occasionally tutor her with math—and other subjects Evan claims he isn’t good at—via video chat during lunch. She’s a sweet, ever-curious girl, and I’m glad I gave in to Evan’s pleas for help two years back. I only let Evan order lunch for me those days without complaint.
The few evenings I don’t work late will be filled with errands or Evan and Ashley. Ashley takes Karate. I go to support her. My step-mother was abusive, so I know how Ashley feels: not having a mother that loves her. Occasionally, Evan and I will spar in a training room if he gets a wild hair, which seems to be happening more lately. We always go out for ice cream after. But Evan and Ashley live on the coast, and I live between them and Houston, so I have to head home before it gets too late.
Sometimes I’ll get a call from my fiancé, Ray, to go on a dinner date. It’s always to a fancy, upscale restaurant, and he’ll expect me to dress to please. He’s a manager at a sister company and hoping for a promotion soon. So he’s always going to company meetings and dinner parties. He’ll tell me what to wear and will pick me up in his Maserati. Everything about him is pristine.
He rarely asks me to join him on business trips out of the country. I’ve realized I’m more of a jewel on Ray’s crown than I am a queen at his side. But I’ve only known him a year, so I figure there are still kinks to work out. He doesn’t care that I tutor Ashley or spar with Evan. He’s only concerned that I show when he needs me to. I have yet to figure out if that’s because he trusts me, or because he just doesn’t care. I’ve tried to talk to him about our plans for a wedding and for living together, but he usually says that I’m worrying too much, that I shouldn’t push things. He’s not as nice as he was before I said yes.
I regret that word a little more every day.
On the weekends, I drive to the gulf coast and spend Saturday surfing in the warm waves. My father taught me to surf when I was a child. I love the light crunch of the soft sand between my toes and the thundering rush of riding into shore. My father taught me to find peace in Mother Nature. He said it reminds him, through all the frustrating parts of life, that we are still simple humans underneath the bills and suits and deadlines.
My father, Phil, turned to drinking after my mother died when I was young—like Ashley’s did. One night, he came home with Jolene, my wicked step-mother. But he’s a man of his word and married the abusive woman. I admire his morals, but I do not know what he ever saw in her. My father quit drinking after that.
I call Phil every Sunday morning. I can’t bring myself to visit the house that often with Jolene still living there. With Jordan, my half-brother, off to college, I have less reason to stop by. I love my father and miss our time together before Jolene. So I climb up on the hood of my Jeep and stare out at the shimmering water of Trinity Bay while we talk. He shares his life lessons with me then tells me to leave Ray and ask Evan out. Every weekend. The same conversation. If only it were that easy. There’s something important I haven’t told him.
Anything stressful exacerbates his COPD. I could tell my father the truth about how Ray is growing manipulative like my ex Damon, how Evan has been acting depressed, or that Jolene used to hit me and lock me in my room when I lived at home, and he was gone to work. But I won’t. I’m a habitual white liar who struggles with the concept of her self-worth. Abuse does that to a person. But I push through it because I want him to be proud of me.
So I return to Clereter Enterprises each week. The nausea grows as does my pile of work. I stop drinking coffee and try to eat better. Evan’s quieter and his smile isn’t as strong as it used to be. Sometimes I think he knows. When I ask him what’s wrong, he hesitates then tells me something reminded him of Demi, his deceased wife. I’m not sure if I believe him.
I do what I can to make others happy then wonder when I’ll take the time to work on myself. But Mr. Clerester’s called a meeting, and Evan needs a hug. So I pick up my tablet, pat Evan’s shoulder, and start for the conference room.
“Magnesium,” he says behind me.
I turn around. Evan won’t look at me.
“What?” I ask.
“For the nausea—”
A prickle of awareness slithers down my spine. Evan knows.
But I’ve had practice hiding pain for years.
Not even Evan can know about the tearing ache in my gut.
Something is wrong with me.
To find out what happens with Norah and Evan, check out A Promise in Ash!
Thanks for reading!