Monday, June 11, 2018

#AmazonTour #GoodreadsTour - The Art of Healing by Jeanne Felfe

Title: The Art of Healing
Author: Jeanne Felfe
Genre: Women's Fiction/Romance
Release Date: June 5, 2016

Julianne Garvoli is content with her life as a pediatric nurse at a St. Louis hospital. She is following her every dream, or so she believes. After her idyllic world is shattered, she must reconcile her lost past to rediscover her deepest passion.

Jokob O'Callaghan, a world-renowned photographer, lives a life most could only imagine with his life-love, Keara—until cancer delivers a direct and devastating slam. He walls himself off, focusing solely on his art.

When one of Jokob’s photos brings the two reluctantly together, even a growing love may not be enough to keep them that way. Tragic circumstances and long silent dreams work to sever their bond. Can they each find a way to heal, love, and follow dreams together?

Chapter One

Julianne rolled over in bed and reached for the warmth of her husband. Her hand met an empty space, already cold. “Clay?” Wondering why he was up so early, she slid to the edge and dangled her feet, patting the floor in search of her house shoes. Where are they? She hopped to the floor and lifted the duvet. Not finding them, she pulled on her robe and hobbled on the heels and balls of her bare feet, keeping her toes cramped upward to avoid the frigid hardwood floors. She found them, right where she’d left them inside the bedroom closet.

She hurried down the narrow hallway toward the bathroom and twisted the knob. Locked. That’s weird. She made haste to the kitchen and popped a coffee-pod into place before heading back to the bedroom. Julianne flipped through her assortment of scrubs, selected a set with yellow and green elephants, and slipped them on. After tossing her nursing shoes into her backpack, she grabbed her sneakers for the walk to work.

Shoes in hand, she walked to the bathroom door and knocked. “Clay, sweetie. I really need in there.”

Silence. She tried the knob again. Still locked. She knocked louder. Groaning, she leaned her back against the city-apartment-white wall across from the bathroom and put on her shoes. “Clay?” she called through the door. “Come on, sweetie. Coffee’s ready. And if I don’t get in there now, I’m gonna pee my pants.”

Silence. She pounded on the door. “What’s taking you so lo—”

The door swung open and banged against the wall. “There. I’m out.” Her husband held up his hands in surrender. “Geez, get a grip.”

Julianne blocked his way to the living room, arms crossed over her chest. Tilting her head to the side, she tapped her foot and pursed her mouth. “We’ve talked about this. Now that I’m back on dayshifts, you have to share the bathroom in the morning.”

A frown pulled his eyebrows together in the center, and he slowly shook his head, not a single auburn hair out of place. “Sure, whatever. I gotta go.”

Julianne closed her eyes and arched her neck back, lips parted in anticipation of his goodbye kiss. 

Clay’s lips airbrushed her cheek before he twisted around her, snatched his bag off the couch, and bolted for the door. “I’m outta here.” The click of his wingtips echoed off the walls.

Julianne’s eyes popped open. Raising her eyebrows, her mouth slackened. “Uh, seriously?” Hands on her hips, she stared at the back of his tailored suit disappearing out the door. Why am I bothering with a nice dinner? He’s become a real jerk since he changed jobs. I liked him much better when he was still a pharmacy tech. This pharmaceutical rep stuff has gone to his pretty boy head.

Shaking her head, she stepped into the bathroom and stumbled over the pile of wet towels on the pink-tiled floor. Looking at the disarray on the counter, she groaned. He can clean up his own mess when he gets home. I don’t have time for this today.

She wet her short blonde curls and fluffed them with the blow dryer diffuser, and speed-brushed her teeth. Pausing to stare at her reflection in the mirror, she noted the dark circles under her denim-blue eyes. I’m so glad my night shifts are finally over. Maybe now I can get more sleep.

In response to their loud mewing, Julianne padded to the kitchen, her new shoes squeaking on the wood, to feed Ben and Jerry, giving each a quick scratch behind the ears. She grabbed a Power Bar from the pantry and a bottle of tea from the fridge and added them to her backpack. After racing out the door, she took the inside stairs at a gallop. She sped off on a brisk walk to the hospital, passing the ubiquitous three and four-story brownstones that surrounded the hospital in the Central West End. She loved the smattering of single-family homes mixed in among the multi-family dwellings that gave the neighborhood an eclectic vibe. She hoped to save enough to buy one someday.

St. Louis was finally coming out of one of the worst winters on record. For months, her four-block walk to the hospital had been treacherous due to ice, but she dreaded paying the outrageous fare for such a short cab ride. Still, on the worst days, it beat digging her car out from under two feet of snow.

This morning she took full advantage of the pre-spring warm-up and enjoyed her walk. The cardinals, robins, and blue jays tweeted raucously to greet the morning sun. Squirrels darted across her path, oblivious to her impending footfalls, chasing each other in pairs and scampering up the decades-old maples that towered over the street.

Crocuses and daffodils lining the block made Julianne’s heart lighter, as she breathed in the crisp air that smelled like sunshine. Bright yellow, they danced like tiny ballerinas in the morning breeze. Finally seeing some color peeking out from the drab, still dormant grass lifted her spirits.

* * *

Julianne charted patient notes at the bustling nurses’ station. She glanced at the clock on the computer for the umpteenth time. Four-thirty… finally. Her charge-nurse, Barb, had granted her request to leave at five instead of seven, and Julianne was anxious to get going. She thought through her plan again. Clay gets home around five-thirty, so I should be able to stop and get everything and have dinner ready by six-thirty. That oughta work.

“Earth to Julianne.” Debbie stood in front of her. She was coming on early to relieve her. 

“Sorry, did you say something?”

“I asked if you were glad to be back on days,” Debbie said.

“Oh. Gawd, yes.” Julianne yawned and rubbed her eyes. “Sorry, I haven’t been sleeping well during the day. I love nursing and was happy to help out for a few months, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again. It was brutal. I don’t know how you work nightshifts all the time.”

“I actually prefer nights, but I always was a bit of an owl.” Debbie leaned against the counter. “So, any special reason to take off early today?” 

Julianne’s eyes lit up. “Today’s the anniversary of mine and Clay’s first date, and I have a special dinner planned. Marco put together a meal I can simply pop in the oven when I get home.”

“Yummy. Marco’s is the best.”

“I’m doing all of Clay’s favorites—pork loin, au gratin potatoes, green beans almandine, and a German chocolate cake. Plus, I picked up a bottle of Little Hills Traminette—that’s what we had that night at their restaurant. I can’t believe it’s been five years since that date.” Julianne sighed and logged off. “Done.”

“Does he know?”

“No, it’s a surprise.” Julianne gathered her things. “We’ve never celebrated that anniversary, and I decided it was about time. I even bought a sexy little teddy.”

“You devil, you.” Debbie giggled.

“I’m buttering him up. I’ve decided that tonight’s the night to have the ‘I want a baby’ talk. When we were dating, he said he wanted kids, but he’s never even mentioned it since we got married. Not once in three years.” Julianne flipped one hand in the air. “What does he think? They simply show up on your doorstep in a car seat?”

Debbie laughed and headed off in response to a patient call light. “Have fun. Please do all the things I never get to do,” she called over her shoulder.

* * *

Julianne strolled the three blocks to the market. It wasn’t on her way home, more like in the other direction, but Marco cooked the best food in the West End.

The bell on the door chimed with her arrival. Marco’s handlebar mustache tilted into a grin. “Jules,” he called out. “I’ve got everything ready for you. I even threw in a little something extra.”

Marco’s Market was a staple of the neighborhood. Doctors and nurses who worked in the four-hospital complex and med students living in the area comprised most of its clientele. His services far exceeded simple groceries on the shelf. He could also cook almost anything and package it for reheating, or for the freezer.

The market took up the entire bottom floor of a large building. Twelve families lived above the store, including Marco and his wife. They’d considered moving to one of the homes in the nearby upscale area of University City, but chose instead to remain there among their patrons.

“Marco, you’re an angel. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” Julianne stepped around the counter and hugged the man who had become like a second father to her. She stopped in two or three times a week to select fresh food, and he was a regular at her parents’ home. 

Marco loaded everything into two paper sacks. “Are you sure you can handle all this?”

“I’m good.” She patted the top of her thigh. “That’s what hips are for,” she said. Laughing, she handed him her card. After he rang up her purchases, she picked up the bags, placing one on each hip.

Marco waddled over to open the door. “I sure hope Clay appreciates you.” He kissed her on both cheeks.

“Me, too. Love you. Ciao.”

* * *

By the time Julianne arrived at her apartment, the sun hung low in the sky. Even with the longer days of daylight-saving time, it was still difficult to avoid coming home at dusk. She hefted the bags up the front stairs and breathed a sigh of relief when her neighbor opened the security door as she reached the top.

“Thanks,” Julianne said, propping the door with her thigh.

“No prob, just heading out,” he said, jogging down the steps and onto the walk.

Julianne struggled up the stairs with her purse and two overflowing paper bags of groceries. Damn, when will I learn to keep handled bags with me?

“Clay, honey, open the door!” she yelled, kicking the door. “Clay?” She kicked it again. Silence.

“Harrumph.” As she bent to set one bag on the floor, the edge tore, and she barely escaped dumping the whole thing. She rummaged through her purse for her key, unlocked the door, and peered inside the dark room, lit only by streaks of evening light sneaking in through the closed blinds. Her eyes strained to adjust.

Slamming the door with a hip bump, she juggled the bags and moved blindly toward the kitchen island, again cursing the builder for not installing a light switch by the door, instead of on the other side of the kitchen.

“Clayton, I need help in here!” She reached to set the bags on the butcher-block cart. Both bags hit the floor with a crunch and crash, sending cans, bottles, and loose apples rolling in all directions.

Startled, she raced across the room and hit the absurdly installed light switch. She froze, taking a second to register the now empty spot where the cart had been for the past three years. 

Julianne gasped, not sure whether to run out of the apartment in terror or into the bedroom to find Clay. Recalling a news story from last night about a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood, fear crept up her spine. She tiptoed from room to room, feeling a little ridiculous, clutching a can of creamed corn over her head. Noting the oddest items missing—in the kitchen, the butcher-block cart and the microwave cart, but not the microwave, which now tilted haphazardly on the counter top; in the living room, the thread-bare blue lounger she hated, and the god-awful talking bass—a sick sense grew in her gut. Confused panic morphed into dread. She raced to the bathroom, almost tripping over the morning towels, and flung open the medicine chest. Gone. All gone. Razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, dental floss, weird hair gel. Gone.

Stunned, Julianne left the medicine chest hanging open and willed herself to the bedroom. Flipping on the light, her gaze fell to a single dingy-white sock on the hardwood floor in front of the partially opened, now empty, dresser drawers. Looking at the rumpled creamy tan duvet, half-on, half-off the bed, her mouth pursed to one side. She distinctly remembered making the bed that morning. On his side of the bed, there was a space where his pillow should have been—on her side, a small scrap of paper in the middle of her pillow. Trembling, she reached for what turned out to be a greasy In-Out Taco receipt. Dazed, she flipped it over.

“Jules, I moved out, but I guess you can see that. I couldn’t do it anymore. Thought it’d be easier if I left while you were at work. Clay.”

Slumping onto the bed, she missed the edge and her butt hit the floor, scraping her back on the lip of the metal frame. With her feet sticking out in front of her, she remained motionless while Ben purred and rubbed his white fluff against her head. Jerry poked his black nose out from under the bed and nuzzled her hand. 

Turning the note over, she read off the items of food— two burritos, six tacos, two large sodas—enough food for two. Didn’t even bother to use clean paper. She crawled to her nightstand, reached for the house phone, and dialed.

“Let…” She cleared her throat, trying to find her voice. “Let me speak to Clay.” The words stuck in her throat, like burnt toast.

“Jules,” Gary said, followed by a long pause. “Um, he’s not here.”

“Well, where the hell is he?”

“Um, I don’t know.”

“Gary, you’re his best friend. There’s no way in hell you don’t know.” Her voice barely escaped through clenched teeth as she struggled not to scream.

“He asked me not to say.”

“You knew? You knew and said nothing? Did you know last Sunday at dinner? Shit, did Tammy know, too? What the …?” The volume and pitch of her voice increased as she fired question after question. The sickness in her gut rose and singed her throat. 

“No. Tammy didn’t … doesn’t know. Jules, I—”

“I bet you even helped the coward sneak out. I thought you were my friend, too. You bastard!” Screaming, she slammed down the receiver, picked it up, and slammed it again and again. She grabbed the handset and threw it across the room, ripping the cord from the wall, sending Ben streaking in search of a safe haven. She circled in the middle of the room screaming until hoarse, not caring what the neighbors might think.

Unsure of what else to do, she stumbled to the kitchen, picked up the bottle of Traminette from where it had rolled, grabbed a glass, and poured.

* * *

The bathroom was dark, except for the glow from a dragonfly night-light, by the time Julianne dragged herself out of a now icy bath, leaving the mostly empty bottle of wine sitting on the edge of the tub. Not bothering to dry off, she rose and the room spun. Tiny goose bumps covered her skin. The beast rose up from her belly and out, and she barely made it to the toilet before hurling until acid bile burned her throat. When she regained the use of her legs, she flipped on the light. She flinched from the brightness and put up a hand to cover her eyes. 

Leaning her elbows on the vanity counter, she rinsed her mouth and splashed cold water on her face. Lifting her head, she blinked in the mirror at her swollen eyes. Her curls stuck out in all directions, looking like she’d dried them while standing in a Texas windstorm. A guttural moan that began at her core mutated into a sound she didn’t recognize as her own voice. She swiped her hand out and hit the wine glass. It flew off the counter and shattered into pieces on the floor around her feet.

Sobs gurgling in her throat, she stepped away and leaned her bare back against the cold, sweaty wall. Her thighs quivered and gave way as she slid her butt to the floor. She passed out, naked, slumped half on the pile of wet towels, half on the Pepto-Bismol-pink tile.

Jeanne Felfe loves to write emotional, character-driven stories, with heart and soul. Having grown up along the gulf in Texas, Jeanne embodies the phrase, “you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.” Now in the land-locked Midwest, she longs for the tropics and grows bananas and hibiscus. In the winter her house looks like the set of Jumanji. 

For kicks, she joins friends in rowdy rounds of Cards Against Humanity. Her passions include gardening, and saving the environment, along with the animals. She is owned by two rescued dogs who believe they are tiny humans.


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