It seems like only yesterday when five friends with five dreams stood together at their Stanford graduation ceremony, turned their tassels, and looked forward with optimism. But two decades later, Neva, Annette, Lauren, Tamara, and Heather have all experienced a reality much different than the dreams they once envisioned.
Unexpected motherhood and a troubled marriage threatens to still Neva’s voice forever. Annette’s inability to conceive a child challenges everything she knows to be true about herself. Lauren is weary from juggling her career, motherhood, and marriage. Tamara has abandoned the hope of a loving relationship in favor of an all-consuming career.
However, it is Heather who is in the worst trouble of all. A heartbreaking job loss sends her spiraling downward into darkness, and she attempts suicide. As she slips into a coma, the friends reunite at her bedside, forge a stronger friendship, and finally face hard truths about themselves.
In this poignant tale, the secret of each woman’s shattered dream is revealed, forcing each to embark on a unique journey to discover what beauty lies beyond the broken.
The author has rated this book R (not suitable for those 17 and under).
Neva pressed her chocolate hands against the brown-and-white marble in the double shower when a familiar heaviness halted her breath. Breathe, she told herself as she instinctively put her hand on her chest as if she could keep her heart from leaping out. Breathe.
She inhaled, slow and deep, shaking her head as she tried to focus on her breathing.
The sharp sound of her son’s scream surprised her. Neva jumped a little and pressed her hand even harder into her chest, bending over in the shower, now unable to stand. There was plenty of room for her slightly taller-than-average frame to fit doubled-over.
The water peppered her back as Ellington continued to yell from his bedroom down the hall.
I hope he doesn’t wake his father, she thought as her heart continued to beat faster and harder while her son kept screaming louder and longer. Stand up. Breathe.
“Mom-my! Come here! Now! It’s a me-mergency!” he shouted. “Mom- my! Where are you?” Neva knew that Ellington was persistent and would not stop until she appeared. Stand up.
Neva struggled to straighten and placed her hands against the slippery walls to steady herself as she turned off the water. She gingerly stepped out of the shower, removed the shower cap from her dark, shoulder-length hair, and wrapped a towel around her cocoa-colored torso, not bothering to dry off. Fearing the consequences if Ellington screamed once more, she walked as fast as she could toward her five-year-old’s room, trying not to slip down the hall. She knew that the pain in her chest would only worsen if she didn’t quiet him down before his father woke up. Thank goodness he’s a heavy sleeper.
Ellington had wet his bed again. Instead of getting up and taking off his own soiled pajamas, he just lay there screaming for her.
“Mom-my! I was waiting for you!”
“Shh! Be quiet, baby. I’m here now,” Neva whispered. “C’mon, you can take o? your own pj’s.”
“But they’re all wet. Can’t you do it?”
“Please try. That way Mommy can get dressed and we can be on time for school.”
“I need your help, p-lease!” Ellington whined.
Neva sighed as she dutifully helped him peel off the heavy flannel bottoms and stripped the damp sheets off the bed, while struggling to keep hold of the towel that protected her from his increasingly curious five-year-old eyes.
“There, I helped you. Now take off your shirt, so I can run you a warm bath, okay?”
“Okay, Mommy,” he replied sweetly as Neva dashed into the Jack and Jill bathroom; the bedroom on the other side was the one unfurnished room in the house. Neva wanted to make it a second office, a space of her own, kind of like what Claire Huxtable had in that episode of The Cosby Show when Cliff turned one room in their house into her own private space where no children were allowed. Neva chuckled as she remembered how everyone was trying to get in that room during that episode, but Claire was unflappable. It was funny.
It would not be funny if we were late, she thought. I hate to start my week that way. Once I start out behind, it feels like I can never catch up. On the way back to check on Ellington, she noticed that tiny puddles of water spotted the hallway. The thought of Dante’s potential response made her forget about being late. Neva carefully got down on her knees, took the edge of the towel, and gently patted the tiny pools one by one—soaking in all the liquid to avoid any damage to the new hardwood floors he recently installed. The other ones were too dark, he said.
Neva’s husband, Dante, dictated what colors went on which walls, approved every piece of tile that was purchased, selected every knickknack, and inspected each detail of, well, everything. The result was an entire house that looked like him, all beige and brown. Neva’s favorite color was pink.
She had silently hoped that Ellington would have been a girl, so she would have had her chance to sneak in a hint of femininity. The bedding was all picked out, but she never got to buy it. Instead, Ellington’s safari- themed nursery seamlessly assimilated into the home’s decidedly neutral décor, just as her husband wanted.
All the water gone, Neva let a small sigh of relief escape from her lips as she walked back into Ellington’s room and found him jumping on the naked bed, wearing nothing but a smile. Neva tightened the towel around her chest, gathered him up, and put him in the tub. He splashed around loudly.
“Honey, hurry up,” she said as she turned her back to him and leaned forward with her elbows against the vanity, which was directly opposite the tub. Almost instinctively, her head fell into her hands. As she mentally resigned herself to another day of covering her body in sweats and stuffing her uncombed hair under a baseball cap, she took some solace in the fact that at least she had taken a shower. Some accomplishment.
Neva sighed and shook her head as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. The emptiness behind her eyes startled and saddened her. She wanted to look away, but found herself drawn into her own spacious stare. She kept looking, trying in vain to find the self she once knew, the person for whom a shower could no more pass as an achievement than earning a B. The deeper she searched, the louder Ellington splashed. And splashed. Water was getting everywhere, including on Neva.
“Ellington!” she yelled as she turned away from the mirror to scold him. As she turned back to try to find herself again, a single tear escaped down her cheek when it became clear she could not.
Copyright© Sharisse Kimbro. All rights reserved.