Maggi Myers writes so eloquently. Such gorgeous story-telling, no matter the dark, heart-wrenchingly emotional subject matter. Dark pasts affecting the present (and the future), but so many moments of warmth, growth and hope.
Whoa! What a BLURB! Marriage crumbling, a young daughter with a disability, and an encounter with a stranger…
Caroline used to have it all: she was madly in love with her husband, Peter, and they worshiped their beautiful baby girl. But as Lily grows into a toddler, Caroline notices that her daughter seems to live and act with a disconnect, and soon the perfect future Caroline had envisioned, along with her marriage, begin to crumble. Now she and Peter are no longer lovers, they’re plaintiffs in the throes of divorce while still struggling to care for Lily. After years of blame and overwhelming despair, Caroline’s chance encounter with a stranger at University Hospital opens her eyes to the prospect of accepting new support, new loves, and new dreams.
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An excerpt from LILY LOVE by Maggi Myers
The cafeteria is relatively quiet this afternoon and I’m grateful to find my favorite booth vacant. It’s in the corner, sheltered from the fluorescent glare of the lights above. I shift across the seat and place my back against the wall. I pull my knees to my chest and rest my cheek against my knee. Just a few minutes of peace, that’s all I want. My mind won’t allow for it; even in the silence, it churns and spits mercilessly.
“Ma’am?” I jump, startled by the man standing at the end of my table. I must look as strung out as I feel, because his face reflects pity.
Screw your pity, buddy.
“You left your coffee.” He raises the latté I just paid for and left at the counter. “Is it okay if I sit?” he asks, but he’s already moving to sit across from me. He folds his tall, lanky frame into the booth, with care not to bang his knees under the table. I take in this strange man warily. His hair is dark brown with a slight curl to it; it’s cropped close to his head, but not short enough to hide the gentle bend of the strands. He runs his hand through it and exhales heavily. I reach for my latté and curse under my breath at the lingering weakness in my hand. I rest it against the table and reach with my steady hand. The stranger pretends he doesn’t notice; at least I don’t have to suffer more of his pity.
“I won’t ask you if you’re okay.” He chuckles nervously. When he sees that I’m not sharing his humor, he clears his throat. “Sorry, I just…I don’t know. Can I just sit here and not talk to you for a minute?”
“Why?” I don’t know why I care, or why I’m even bothering to engage this man. I should get up and make my way back to the MRI clinic. His inquisitive brown eyes lock with mine. Something in way he stares, unapologetically assessing me, reminds me of Peter. Pain blooms anew.
“I don’t know.” He shrugs. “Does it matter?”
“No.” I sigh. “I guess not. I’m just not accustomed to chatting up strange men in the hospital cafeteria.”
“Is there someplace else you’re more comfortable chatting up strange men?” He laughs, and despite myself, I laugh too.
“Are you here a lot?” he asks cautiously.
“More than I want to be,” I offer. “My daughter is a patient right now.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and I cringe at the tears welling behind my eyelids. “Don’t be.” I shrug and look into my coffee.
“Can’t help it,” he throws back. “Can I ask what’s wrong with her?”
“You can ask, but I don’t really have an answer.” I look up from my coffee and find him watching me intently, waiting for me to explain. “My daughter has a developmental disability and a seizure disorder. Neither of which is specified, so we are here for tests. More tests. Endless tests…” I murmur.
“They don’t know what’s wrong?” he asks, sounding surprised.
“Nobody knows; she was born healthy but started to miss a few milestones in her first year. By her second birthday, she was at the developmental level of a nine- month-old and started having seizures. After the seizures started, she started to regress. She’s five now. Developmentally she’s a toddler. She doesn’t fit into any one diagnosis. She’s all over the place and no one knows how to help her.” I stammer over the last few words, embarrassed by my candor.
He shakes his head, “That must be incredibly hard.” He dips his pinky finger into his coffee, swirling it while he speaks.
“It is what it is.” I dip my head I watch him curiously as he lifts his finger to lick the froth from his fingertip.
As if he can hear my thought, he glances up. Blotches of color stain his cheeks.
“Sorry, I’m really not a Neanderthal.” He chuckles. “I nearly burned every taste bud off my tongue earlier. Just testing the temperature. Y-you know,” he stammers.
I feel my eyebrow raise involuntarily. “So you’re willing to burn your finger and not your tongue? What did your finger do to you?” He smiles, transforming his face. I smile in return.
“I don’t have to taste anything with this.” He waves his pinky at me.
“I guess not.” A wave of self-consciousness grips me as silence stretches between us. I clear my throat and sip my own cup.
“What’s your daughter’s name?” he asks.
“Lily,” I whisper. The sadness I’d forgotten for just a moment cloaks me in darkness once again.
“Lily is a beautiful name,” he offers. The brown of his eyes reflects the warmth in his tone. Peter has warm, kind eyes, too.
“I should really get back to her. She’ll be awake soon,” I blurt as I scoot out of the booth.
“It was nice talking to you, Lily’s mom.” He offers his hand and I shake it without meeting his eyes. I don’t think I can look at them again without allowing nostalgia to pull me down further. I notice he doesn’t ask for my name. I don’t ask for his either. Besides, I’m used to being “Lily’s mom.” I haven’t been just Caroline in more years than I can count.
My phone chirps with perfect timing.Max: Lily Love is starting to wake up. We're good; don't rush. Just wanted you to know.
“That’s my cue,” I hold up my phone. Unsure of what else to say, I smile tightly and walk away. He doesn’t stop me and I’m relieved.