Author: Joseph Monninger
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
Release date: December 24, 2012
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
The end of Maine Guardsman Sgt. Thomas Kennedy’s conscious life is ushered in by a flash of light on a plain in Afghanistan. While he languishes in a veterans’ hospital, Thomas’s devoted wife, Margaret, is raising their son on a dairy farm in rural Maine. She receives an invitation to Washington, DC, to meet the President of the United States as he signs a bill in support of wounded veterans with war veteran and West Point graduate Charlie King as her appointed escort. Charlie and Margaret’s shared circumstances inspire them to confide in one another. Suddenly, the pair creates a private world all their own, leaving the effects of war behind them. Margaret’s vows to her husband linger, raising a series of harrowing choice.
MARGARET FROM MAINE
Charlie King, thirty-three, slid across the backseat of the town car, preferring to climb out on the blind side rather than the house side of the vehicle. As much as he tried to ignore it, he was conscious of his right leg and of the prosthetic that dragged beneath the stump of his thigh. Although he walked well with the prosthetic device—he had himself filmed as part of his therapy and he was pleased with the results—the artificial leg caused a problem occasionally climbing in and out of vehicles. It caused other problems, too, of course, but none that he could not overcome. As always, as he climbed out of the car—his hands on the door opening and hoisting his weight like a man levering out of a small window—he wondered how long it would take before the subject of the leg came up. It al- ways did eventually. Still, he took it as a small challenge, a gauge of his returning health, that people sometimes failed to discover his leg at all. He did not think he was deluded in that.
He stood to his full height, six feet, two inches, and straightened his suit jacket. It had been pleasantly cool in the car’s air- conditioning, but now, in the yard before the farmhouse, he felt the day’s warmth growing. He hated wearing a jacket, or a tie, for that matter, but if the occasion demanded it he did not com- plain. It was better, at least, than a dress uniform, something he had worn both at West Point and for five years in the army. This suit, a deep navy with a trace of a pinstripe through the fabric, fit him well. He put his two thumbs under the front of his pants and ran them to the points of his hips. He did this unconsciously, a tiny tic that he had kept since boyhood.
He bent back into the car and grabbed a small bouquet for Mrs. Kennedy, Margaret, and a stuffed meerkat for the boy, Gordon. The driver—a local man whose name Charlie hadn’t fully caught but sounded like Caleb or Callum—turned slightly to see over his right shoulder.
“Be a minute,” Charlie told him, his head still in the interior. “No rush,” the driver said with a Maine accent. “We have time.”
Charlie closed the car door, self-conscious of the flowers and the meerkat. The flowers and stuffed animal were not strictly protocol, but they had seemed, when he left the Bangor hotel in the morning, like an appropriate ice-breaking gesture. Why not? he thought when he purchased the items in the hotel lobby. He particularly liked the meerkat, which seemed to take an interest in the ride out to the farm, its button eyes glowing with the lovely spring scenery as if actually alive. He tucked the meerkat under his left elbow, the same hand that held the flowers.
On the short walk up to the porch, he smelled the heavy odor of cows and manure. He also smelled lilacs and something less familiar that he could not name. He turned a little to see if he could spot its origin, but he came away with the general impression of a farm and little else. He saw sheep fencing and a faded red barn; three Barred Rock chickens pecking in the field beyond the barn; and black and white cattle—Holsteins, he thought—grazing on the spring grass.
When he turned back, an older man stood on the porch, watching him.
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Joseph Monninger is the author of Eternal on the Water and The World as We Know It, as well as several award-winning young-adult novels. A professor of English literature, he lives in New Hampshire.
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