The Righteous and The Wicked

BOOK: The Righteous and The Wicked
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Notes

The Righteous and The Wicked

By

April Emerson

 
 

First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2014
Copyright © April Emerson, 2013

The right of April Emerson to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000

This work is copyrighted. All rights are reserved. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

All characters and events in this book—even those sharing the same name as (or based upon) real people—are entirely fictional. No person, brand or corporation mentioned in this book should be taken to have endorsed this book nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
This book is a work of fiction and should be read as such.

The Writer’s Coffee Shop
(Australia)
 
PO Box 447 Cherrybrook NSW 2126
(USA)
 
PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168

Paperback ISBN- 978-1-61213-220-4
E-book ISBN- 978-1-61213-220-4

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.

Cover images by:
 
© depositphotos / Kamil Macniak,
© depositphotos / Danny Kosmayer
Cover design by:
 
Jada D’Lee

www.thewriterscoffeeshop.com/aemerson
 

“The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order which may or may not be divinely inspired.”

~Steven Hawking

Chapter One

The forest is invaded by an unwelcome guest. It uproots ancient trees and moves the earth. The dense vegetation, so accustomed to being undisturbed, resists the intruder. Tree trunks crack in protest, and stubborn boulders push back against the machine. The bulldozer leaves a path of destruction and wakes Emma up—on a Saturday.

She rubs her eyes, wondering who has purchased the neighboring plot of land, then looks out the window in an effort to identify the source of the noise that woke her. Through the dew-covered glass, her tired eyes catch a glimpse of the yellow beast wreaking havoc in the woods beside her home.

“This can’t be happening,” she says, but no one is there to hear her. Emma is unwilling to accept this disturbance in her precious routine. Her house has stood alone and isolated on this street for as long as she can remember, and there’s never any noise. A sigh escapes her lips as she stretches her thin body and succumbs to the fact that her only day to sleep in is ruined. But Emma Santori is no stranger to disappointment. She rises from her squeaky bed, dresses, and goes downstairs to make breakfast for one.

The constant exhaustion Emma feels never lets her go, but she has duties to fulfill, the most important being her job. On Monday morning, the bell rings and her students take their seats. Ms. Santori begins her class the way she has for the past six months.
“Good morning, ladies. Let us start our day as the Lord would want us to: with a prayer. In the name of the Father, the Son . . .”

She forces herself to smile at coworkers and feigns enthusiasm regarding the details of their personal lives, but her affection for the children is genuine. She cares for them more than anyone knows or could understand. She guides them in their education, tending to their young spiritual needs the way her teachers tried to do for her in these same halls. The children are sent off to Mass and Emma knows she should attend, but she doesn’t. Instead, she sits alone in her empty classroom, and stares out the window until her students return.

At the end of the day, she waits outside with her class for the children’s parents to pick them up. One of the mothers is very late, and a little girl is becoming anxious. She begins to cry as the last of her classmates depart and she and Emma are left alone by the gate. Emma searches through her purse for something to ease the child’s mind, and discovers a lollipop buried at the bottom. She hands it to the girl without a word and the child smiles with gratitude. Emma puts her arm around the little girl and doesn’t remove it until the mother arrives.

After work, Emma stands in her bedroom looking in the mirror, wondering who it is that’s staring back at her. She remembers the person she once saw there. A full heart and a hand to hold. A future and a room to paint. Her memories torment her, and she turns away from them.

The phone rings. It’s Emma’s father calling to check on her. She wants to tell him she’s struggling. That she’s lonely and she needs him. If she were honest, her father would be at her side. When Emma’s parents divorced during her childhood, she became a master of pretending she was fine, and that’s what she continues to do each time her father calls.

She takes inventory of her fridge as she contemplates what to make for dinner.
Fried chicken . . . or meatballs
. She chooses the latter and begins to cook. It’s the routine she needs, not the food. She never feels hungry anymore. Her fingers work independently from her brain as she gazes out the window at the empty lot next door. She eats alone in silence.

After dinner, she grabs the box from under the bed and brushes her fingers across the etched wood. She knows she shouldn’t look, but Emma opens the lid . . . like she does every night.

Sleep still has its arms around Emma when an uninvited, but not unwelcome, guest arrives the next morning. Emma sits, wrapped in a warm sweater, reading the paper. Her closest friend, Danielle, never knocks. After letting herself in, she drops her gym bag on the floor and joins Emma at the kitchen table.

“We’re going out Friday. You should come.”

“Danni, I don’t want
to. I just don’t have the energy,” Emma says. She doesn’t look up from her newspaper.

Danielle pulls her light blond hair up into a sloppy bun and rolls her eyes. “You’re thirty, Emma, not eighty. You can’t stay locked in this house forever. It’s not normal.”

Exasperated, Emma puts down the paper. “Normal? Nothing about me is normal.” She returns to reading, rubbing her thumb against her empty ring finger.

“You know what I mean. You need to get out of here and meet people. This house is crumbling around you.”

“In
this
town? I think I’ve met everyone there is to meet in Pine Lake.”

“I don’t know about that. A lot changed while you were away.”

“Tell me about it.” Emma pushes her chair from the table with frustration and tosses the paper in the trash.

When Emma leaves for work, she spots her enemy—the bulldozer that woke her up on Saturday. It now rests at the side of the road. She narrows her eyes at it, revs the engine, and shifts her old car into drive. It rumbles into the town gas station as it has every morning for the past six months, and a single thought repeats through Emma’s brain.
Coffee, coffee, coffee.
She walks toward the glass doors and strikes her palm against her forehead when she realizes she has forgotten her wallet. She turns to fetch her purse but stumbles into the person behind her. She steps back, rubbing the tip of her nose. It burns from banging into this man’s chest.

“I’m sorry. Excuse me,” she says.

The man says nothing. Emma looks up at him and becomes entranced. He has short, dark hair, and thick, unshaven stubble covers his haunting, handsome face. His full lips twitch into an almost smile, and his eyes . . . Emma’s frozen in the storm of this man’s eyes. They’re a deep, cloudy blue, like a sky that’s waiting for rain to fall. They drill into her, and she can’t look away. He touches her arm, and the unexpected contact causes her to take a sharp breath. She opens her mouth to speak, but isn’t given a chance. The dreamlike quality of this moment persists as he takes her elbow in his firm grip. Still silent, he guides her out of his path and continues past her into the gas station.

Dazed, she watches him walk away, but he doesn’t look back. He takes an orange juice from the cooler and begins to drink it before he’s paid, moving like the world belongs to him and he couldn’t be less impressed by it.

Emma’s embarrassed and retreats to her car. She turns the key, and her coffee is forgotten as she speeds down the country road. At work, she stands at the chalkboard all day. She speaks as if from a script and goes through the motions, but all she can see are that beautiful man’s stormy eyes.

 
 

Eric Wilder steps off a plane and is greeted by familiar things. Things that are constant and never change: fresh air, big sky, and thick trees. They should comfort him, but they don’t. Dressed in flannel and denim, his modest clothes don’t match his wealth. A striking face in a sea of faceless strangers, he’s out of place but trying to act the part, to remember what his life was like in the northeast before he left. He wonders if the choice to return is the right one, but won’t allow himself to feel regret. He gets into a black Jeep and stares out the windshield at the endless, blurry green. A mantra repeats in his head:
I’m not running. I’m moving on.
He lies to himself, and he believes the lie.

Sean’s living room is adorned with a massive television, shelves of video games, and several game systems. These items are irrelevant to Eric, who sits on his friend’s couch, drinking orange juice and dragging his hand across his unshaven face.

“You’re getting married? Seriously?” Eric asks.

“I know. It’s hard to believe,” Sean says. “I never thought I could be tied to just one girl, but wait till you meet her. Danielle is amazing.”

BOOK: The Righteous and The Wicked
5.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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