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Authors: D.M. Hamblin

Tags: #General Fiction

Once Broken (24 page)

BOOK: Once Broken
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Tara knocked three times and joined the group, throwing her goose-down ski jacket on a hook.

“Perfect timing. We do have
great
news!” With Sean’s arm around her, she held up her left hand to display the sparkling diamond ring.

“Mom! Sean!” Gina shouted, clenching her fists to her heart. “You’re getting married!” She jumped up with joy.

“Yes honey,
we
are!”

“I’m so excited!” With tears in her eyes, she said, “I love you, Sean.”

“I love you too, Gina.” He hugged his future stepdaughter.

Everyone congratulated Jackie, Sean, and Gina in one big group hug. Ellen and Margie followed. After some excitement wound down, Tara pulled Jackie aside. “I’ve never been happier for anyone. You so deserve this.” A tear of joy streamed down her cheek.

“Oh, don’t cry or I’ll cry. I’ve never been happier.”

They sat down for coffee and muffins that Sean and Jackie had brought. Gina sat next to her mother. “I’m so excited, Mom. I love Sean. Do I get to call him Dad?” she whispered with a slight frown. “That’d be weird, even though I love him like a dad.”

Jackie patted her daughter’s arm. “Oh just let whatever comes, come naturally. We’ll make a great little family.”

*

“So, Sean, is next year too soon to plan our wedding? I can’t wait to be Mrs. Sean Gallagher!”

“And, I can’t wait either. Next year is fine, so long as there’s enough time to plan the wedding of your dreams. You deserve that. And I want to be the one to give it to you.”

“I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

Sean pulled her toward him for a long, ardent kiss.

“Oh I love the things you do to me,” she whispered.

Sean chuckled. “Getting back to business. We should also be looking for a house. This condo’s too small for the three of us, don’t you agree?”

“Hmm, I hadn’t considered that. But yeah, I guess it is. How exciting! Planning a wedding and buying a house. Let’s talk about the wedding. Who will be your best man?” Jackie asked as she imagined their wedding.

“My brother Sam. We’ve always been the closest. My other brothers will be ushers, and I’ll ask your brothers as well.”

“I want Gina’s to be my maid of honor. As much as I love Karen, Tara, Ellen, and Margie, that honor should be reserved for Gina.”

“Agreed.”

“Great! And I’ve always dreamed of having a wedding reception at the Lyman Estate,” Jackie said. “Could we do that?”

“Absolutely, it’s your dream.”

*

Gina was ecstatic when Jackie asked her to be the maid of honor.

“That’s so cool! I get to be the maid of honor. I’m so excited! We’re going to be a family!”

“And we’re looking for a new house too.”

“Really? I don’t want to change schools.”

“Oh, no worries. We’re staying in Watertown.”

Mother and daughter discussed their brand-new lives with great anticipation.

 

April 1990

Sean and Jackie spent the weekend working on wedding plans. They toured the Lyman Estate, which was as fabulous as Jackie had dreamed. Built in 1793, the classic New England mansion was stunning. The ballroom was a beautiful spot for the reception, and the library was cozy with an elegant bar for cocktails. The magnificent grounds were perfect for photographs, and the large covered veranda would be enjoyable for guests who might want to visit with each other away from the music. They both fell in love with the Lyman Estate as much as they had with each other, and they booked it for May 18, 1991.

Later that evening they joined Tara and Jim, and Sean’s brothers and wives at a local club to check out a wedding band. They had a great time dancing to the sounds of Young Love and The Thrills, which was a distinct possibility.

*

As they settled to sleep side by side after steamy lovemaking, Sean said, “Next we’ll start house hunting. I can’t wait to sleep with you every night.”

“Oh Sean, if we find the house we want now, we should wait until we’re married before we officially move in, because of Gina. I don’t want to send the wrong message. Or if something should happen, I don’t want to disrupt her too much.”

“What could happen?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Nothing, of course. I love you. But, we’re not married until we’re married. We can start looking now. And if we find the right house, you can move in and we’ll wait until after the wedding. Okay?” She kissed him.

“Okay, after a kiss like that, how can I argue? Besides, I have to sell my condo. Once we find the right house, you can decorate it while we wait for the wedding. I want Jackie Gallagher written all over it.”

“Oh, I love the sound of that!” She cuddled up against him.

“What’s your favorite type of house?”

“I’d love a craftsman style, with an open porch and a big, updated kitchen.”

“And a backyard for parties and volleyball.” Sean added. “Maybe a pool? I need at least a one-car garage. Two cars would be better. Let’s start looking. A cop at work recommended an agent. I’ll call her tomorrow.”

Jackie propped up on one arm to kiss Sean good night. “Good night honey, I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

 

July 1990

Jackie met Tara and Margie for brunch on a Saturday while Sean was working. She described the Lyman Estate and told them about the band selections and menu options.

“I’ll be so much fun dress shopping,” Tara said.

“I know. When should we start?” Jackie asked.

“Why not now?” Margie said.

“It’s not too early?”

“It’s never too early.”

“Wow, then let’s! I’ll pick up Gina and we’ll go. Wanna start where you got your dress, Tara?”

“Sure, Veronica’s Bridal Shop. It was reasonable and I loved my dress, didn’t you?”

“It was gorgeous!”

They had a wonderful time looking at bridal gowns and bridal party gowns. With Gina only twelve, it was difficult to coordinate the group. But with the help of a consultant, they found A-line tea-length dresses, off the shoulder. Gina would wear a ribbon around her waist. Everything was coming together.

Jackie tried on several bridal gowns before finding the one she loved. She stepped out of the dressing room to a collective gasp. It was a strapless lace ball gown with a chapel train. The neckline was gently scooped. Draped tulle accentuated the French couture-inspired corset bodice. Garlands of lace appliqué highlighted the waist and were scattered over the full skirt and train. The two-tier mid-length veil was sprinkled with crystals.

 

December 1990

To Jackie, Christmastime was never better. Sean helped shop for Gina. They planned to spend Christmas Eve with the Gallaghers, and Christmas Day with Jackie’s family. It was a festive, loving family time.

Since Sean’s family was much larger than Jackie’s, Jackie assumed she and Gina might be uncomfortable. Including Sean’s siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, a couple of aunts and uncles, and Jackie and Gina, there were twenty-five people cooking, chatting, and toasting the holidays. After a delicious dinner buffet, the family settled in the living room to exchange gifts. It was a warm, bustling household that Jackie and Gina fit into quite nicely, much to Jackie’s delight.

As Jackie, Sean, and Gina were leaving, Sean’s mother, Jean, walked them to the door. “Jackie and Gina, it was so nice having you with us. We’re so looking forward to the wedding.” She hugged each good-bye.

“Thank you so much, Jean. We had such a wonderful time. I love your family. But I’m not surprised. After all, you did produce this gem.” She put her arm around Sean. “Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Gallagher,” Gina added.

“Oh Gina, it was our pleasure. You’re a delight!” She kissed Gina good-bye.

 

January 1, 1991

The couple decided to spend New Year’s Eve quietly. Gina spent the night at Krissy’s. Sean and Jackie went to Sean’s brother Sam’s house party. Safely home by eleven o’clock, the couple got comfortable and turned the TV on to watch Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve. Sean filled the champagne glasses halfway and handed Jackie her glass.

“To 1991. Sure to be the best year of our lives. I’m can’t wait to marry the love of my life.”

With a clink of the glasses, the two celebrated New Year’s Eve the best way of all, head over heels in love.

*

Jackie and Sean kicked off the new year by stepping up their house-hunting efforts. Together with their agent, they had looked at several houses before finding the one they decided on. It was a four-bedroom craftsman, two baths, on a quiet street. The open porch and updated kitchen fit Jackie’s dream, and Sean got his backyard and a two-car garage. It needed some updating, but that didn’t bother Sean. They agreed that remodeling would provide an opportunity to put their own stamp on it. The scheduled closing date was two months before the wedding.

 

April 1991

While Jackie and her bridal party were at the final fitting for their gowns, Officer Sean Gallagher was making a routine traffic stop. He walked toward the blue Ford Tracer he’d pulled over. At the same time, a passing tractor-trailer’s tire blew. The truck swerved out of control and pinned Sean against the sedan, killing him instantly.

Jackie returned home to find Sean’s brother John and her entire family on her porch. She knew by the group’s facial expressions that something was terribly wrong.
My mother?
She spotted her.
No
. She scanned the group for Sean.
Where’s Sean?
Panic grew. She leaped from the car, leaving the motor running and door opened wide. Gina followed. Paul met her at the top of the stairs. “What’s going on?”

“Jackie, sit down,” Paul said, his hand motioning to the top stair. He sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. Gina sat on the other side of her mother.

Jackie was petrified. Looking into each person’s face, she knew from their silence that something horrible was about to be divulged. She flashed back to being ten years old when she sat in the kitchen fearing her father wouldn’t come home. Mrs. Sullivan wouldn’t say the words. This felt the same. Her heart clobbered her stomach until she heaved. “Tell me,” she whispered. “Just tell me.”

“During a traffic stop this morning, Sean was struck by a tractor trailer. He was killed instantly, in the line of duty.” Paul’s face crumpled.

Letting out a heart-wrenching moan, Jackie dropped her pounding head into her shaking hands and wailed in an effort to alleviate the pain of her shattering heart. Paul rubbed Jackie’s back and offered his other shoulder for his brokenhearted niece to collapse into.

*

Jackie remained comatose over the next few days. Overwhelmed by shock, she could only function on automatic. She went where she was told to go. She wore what she was told to wear. She stood where she was told to stand. She shook hands with those who reached out to her. Many people were Sean’s relatives she expected to meet at their wedding with him by her side. “You’ll love my Aunt Marie. She’s so much like my mother,” she’d heard Sean say. “My cousin Johnny is a kick! He’ll crack you up.”

Sleep was impossible. She tossed and turned with a crushing ache in her heart. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t stand being in her own body, in her own mind. She couldn’t stand the agonizing pain. The Lorazepam her doctor prescribed helped some. But all she wanted was to be in Sean’s arms, just once more.

She cried on the shoulders of her close friends, praying she’d wake from this nightmare. She stared in disbelief at the closed casket covered in an American flag. Sean’s picture on the top of it proved nothing to her. Her mind told her that Sean’s body was in that casket, but her heart told her that was impossible.

The funeral was excruciating. The motorcade, the bagpipes, the last call. Jackie stared at the casket and then at her engagement ring. She shook her head, tears streaming down her cheeks. Gina was devastated but saved her tears for later. Knowing her mother was in grave pain, she helped guide her every move. Gina’s strength pulled Jackie through some of the hardest days of her life.

*

Jackie asked her mother, “How do I go on without him? This ache in my chest won’t go away. I can’t breathe. I miss him more than I can bear. I’m angry!” Jackie yelled with tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m so freaking angry!”

Lucille put her arms on her daughter’s shoulders. “Jackie honey, I know. I do know. You’ll miss him for a long, long time. I still miss your father, thirty years later. But you have an advantage I didn’t have. You know how to be alone. You know how to parent alone. You’re strong. Sean was your best friend and your fiancé. It’s a terrible, tragic loss you’ll have to get over. But you were never dependent on him like I was on your father. You have your career. You can support yourself and Gina with no problem.” Lucille hesitated. “I don’t know if that’s what you want to hear. But it’s true. You’ll always remember him and love him. And he’ll be with you, you know that. But life goes on, honey. You need to work your way through this. We’ll be here to help you.”

Jackie’s mother held her until her sobbing stopped.

*

A few weeks after the funeral, the real estate agent called her. “Hi Jackie. I’ve been trying to reach Sean about the closing. We need to do a final walk-through. He hasn’t returned my phone calls. Do you know how I can reach him?”

“Deanne, Sean died in an accident.” Each word descended into sobbing.

“Oh my God, Jackie, I’m so sorry! Please let me know if there’s anything I can do,” Deanne replied, without knowing what else she could say.

Jackie hung up the phone. The house, the wedding, the plans—it all came flooding back to her along with the anger and what ifs. What if Sean didn’t work that day? What if he didn’t stop that car? What if that freaking truck had been inspected? What if he stopped the car farther down the road? How can this be happening?

*

After three weeks, Jackie returned to work. She was numb. She couldn’t recall things she knew. Things she read, she couldn’t remember. She requested a leave of absence.

 

May 1991

Jackie spent the next month—the month they should have married— in bed for the most part. Gina was concerned, and reported her mother’s status to friends and family. They came to help Gina as much as to help Jackie. Jackie couldn’t stop staring, crying, and reliving her relationship with Sean. She’d talk about the time they did this, or the time they did that. She’d ask repeatedly, why did this happen? It was torturous for all involved. Jackie felt it. Gina suppressed it. Everyone else watched it.

BOOK: Once Broken
5.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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