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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Nopeming Shores - by Margie Church with J. Andrew Lockhart

An IED snuffed out Gabe Holliway's life, but couldn't destroy his love. Using his unique gift, Gabe struggles to help his young wife, Lily, rebuild her shattered future.

But when Gabe's ghost reaches out to her, Lily fears she's lost her last hold on sanity. Can she trust what she discovers and what her heart says? When she sees Gabe face-to-face, can she believe her eyes?

When love transcends death, the answers are found in Nopeming Shores.

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Margie's Web Site:


as if the sun,
so far from you
yet felt

Chapter One

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The rhythmic sound reverberated in Lily Holliway's head. On the fringes of consciousness, she flinched from the noise in her dream.

Her husband, Gabriel, sat on an outcropping of rock. Desert sand spindrift played around him. An army-issued helmet shielded his eyes from the unyielding sun beating down on the barren earth. An M4 rifle lay across his knees, his suntanned, right index finger curled on the trigger—just in case. Gabe looked straight at Lily, stone-faced and unflinching, as though waiting for her to dream the same ending again tonight. The image flickered like a silent, black and white movie.

She rolled onto her back. In her subconscious state, the word no pulsed in time with the ticking clock. She covered her eyes with her arm, falsely shielding them from the horrible sights and sounds that visited her almost every night.

The ticking grew louder.

"No. Gabe, move!"

She was helpless to alter the outcome; the nightmare unfolded. "No, Gabe, please move out of the way."

The words tumbled from her lips. Her breaths came in short huffs and then stopped. Her body stilled for the denouement.

The vision of Gabe pixilated and dropped to the ground like a curtain of rain.

Limbs flailing, Lily awoke. Oxygen surged into her body in a huge, life-affirming gasp. She shot straight up in bed.

"Gabriel! Oh, my god, Gabe. Why? Why you? Gabe . . . ." Sobs wracked her body. She buried her face in her hands and grieved.

"Gabe." His name was a wail, a pitiful plea from a heartsick wife. She fisted her hands in her short hair and tugged with frustration. "Why? Why did you have to die?"

She fell against her bed pillows, anguish twisting her soul like a fatted calf on a spit. Tears, soaked with pain, streamed down her face. And when there were no more to shed, she wiped her face with the sleeve of her cotton nightgown. There'd be more tomorrow, and the next day.

After flinging the drenched garment into the hamper, Lily got a washcloth and then dabbed her swollen eyes with cool water. She stared at her forlorn reflection in the mirror, wondering how many more days and weeks would pass before this inexorable ache would ease.

She didn't recognize th
e pale, hollow-cheeked woman gazing back at her. The almond-shaped eyes that used to sparkle with life were dull, the color of warm chocolate. She ran a finger over her lips. They used to part so easily into a smile. A grim line seemed indelibly etched there now.

Bracing her hands on the bathroom vanity, Lily took a cleansing breath. She closed her eyes and shook her head, knowing time would heal this wound. How and when, she had no idea. She was along for the ride. The dreadful, exhausting, excruciating ride.

* * * * *

Early the next morning, Lily waited her turn to drive through the security gates at Fort Leavenworth U.S. Army CAC. She sighed, let her foot off the brake, and inched forward. She didn't usually have to wait like this, unless something was going on. During her nine-year tenure at the Combined Arms Center, she'd seen Presidents Bush and Obama, countless other high-ranking military officials, and occasionally, heads of state. Sometimes, she wished the Amy could dispense with the formality of showing her ID. After all, everyone who worked the gates knew her.

"Morning, Tad." Lily handed her badge to the guard checking her lane.

"Good morning, Mrs. Holliway. Have a good day." The electronic gate opened to let her 2007 Chevy Malibu pass.

Two minutes later, Lily pulled into a parking spot at the commissary and turned off the ignition. She grabbed her purse and lunch from the front seat. Her colleagues teased her about bringing a bag lunch to work, but she always said frugal habits die hard.

"Hi, Lily, how's it going this morning?" Her closest friend, Jana, waited beside the car.

No sense telling the truth. "Pretty good."

Jana put her arm around Lily's shoulder, giving her a brief hug as they walked toward the building.
"Did you sleep any better?"

She shook her head.

"Sorry. Why don't you take my suggestion and go see your doctor? Maybe he can prescribe something to help you sleep."

A geyser of frustration bubbled up in Lily. She'd had this conversation with Jana one too many times. Stopping in her tracks, Lily didn't care who heard her today.

"Take a sleeping pill so I don't miss one gory detail? So I can be stuck in that nightmare and let it play over and over? I'd be crazy by morning! Get it through your head, Jana. I don't want to sleep. I don't want to dream. I want this living nightmare to be over." Tears rimmed her eyes and gravity did the rest.

Humiliation replaced Lily's frustration. "I know you care, and I love you for it, but stop trying to help me. It's not helping."

Jana stood in the parking lot, slack-jawed, and didn't say a thing when Lily turned and rushed into the building.

While drying her face with the heel of her hand, Lily marched up to her supervisor. "Arthur, may I speak to you? Right now."

Concern was evident on his face. "Let's talk in the break room."

The other employees' stares bored into her. She kept her eyes focused straight ahead and followed her boss.

He shut the door behind them with a soft click. "What's the matter?"

The moment had finally arrived. "I'm quitting."

Arthur's eyebrows knitted together. "What brought this on? I mean, I know you're going through a terrible time . . . ."

Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks. Dropping a can of veggies on her bare foot hurt like crazy. This was an inferno, and Lily hated her pain. She hated the constant crying and emotional darkness.

"I can't sleep. I have nightmares about Gabe all the time."

"I'm sorry."

She rubbed her face with both hands, exhausted. "Maybe if he'd died a little more peacefully."

She shook her head, trying to blot out the final, horrific image she always imagined. "To be blown up . . . pieces . . . so violent and ugly. He deserved better."

Arthur looked at his shoes, seemingly embarrassed by her raw emotions. "I'm sorry he died that way. Too many of our soldiers have."

She glared at him, anger rearing its ugly head again. "Pardon me for not wanting this to happen to anyone, especially somebody I love. He was too young. So full of life."

Her composure crumbled, and she wept into her hands.

Arthur waited in silence.

When Lily regained some self-control, she continued. The weight of her situation crushed all the energy from her voice. "I can't come here and feel his presence every single day. It's killing me. I think I see him on the base all the time. This is where we met. Maybe if I quit, I could begin to put some of this pain in the past."

A fresh wave of anguish rammed into her chest as she realized she was actually making plans to put Gabe, and their love, behind her. "I can't take it anymore."

The last sentence left her lips barely above a whisper. She barely had the energy to speak.
"How about a leave? You could take some time off."

She gave him a humorless smile. "I appreciate the offer, but I need to get out of this place." She turned her gaze to the ceiling. "Before I lose my last grip on sanity."

Jana watched them through the break room window, her face contorted with worry.

Seeing Jana confirmed Lily's decision. "And before I lose my last friend in the whole wide world."

"You want to give your two weeks' notice today?"

She brushed away the last stray tear and sniffled. For the first time since she'd gotten the devastating news of Gabe's death, she breathed normally. "I'm giving my two minutes' notice. I'm sorry if it puts you in a bind, but I have to do this for myself."

She stuck out her hand. "Thanks for everything, Arthur. I've enjoyed working with you."

"Sleep on it. If you change your mind, call me. This conversation never happened."

The tenderness in his eyes touched her, but this was goodbye. To ease his concern, she pasted on a warm smile. "Sure, thank you."

Her lunch bag crackled as she fiddled with the paper sack. "Guess you'll have to find somebody else to pick on about eating these."

Arthur smiled. "Yeah, you're one of a kind, Lily. Good luck. Whatever you do. And come back and visit sometime, when you're feeling up to it. We'd love to see you anytime."

She nodded, and walked out of the room.

Jana stood near the shelves of breakfast items, her gaze fixed on Lily.

"I'm sorry I lost my temper in the parking lot, Jana. It's been a rough few months."

Jana nodded. "It's okay. I wish I could do something to help, but I always keep steppin' in it."

She pointed to Lily's lunch bag. "Want to eat together today?"

"I'm leaving."

"Okay, well, we can do it tomorrow."

Nervous anxiety made Lily's mouth dry as a wool sock. "I'm not just leaving for the day. I quit. Right now. I'm leaving for good."

Jana's eyes widened. "Really?"

Lily felt her shoulders slump in resigned defeat. She nodded.

A quivering frown tugged on the corners of Jana's lips. "I hope this is a good change for you, Lily. And I hope we'll still be friends. I didn't mean to interfere or hurt your feelings."

Emotion clogged Lily's throat. "I know you meant well. I have to work through this myself. Somehow, I have to accept . . . what happened. My life is different. Give me a few days, and I'll call you. I promise."

Jana hugged her and then patted her on the back.

"You take care now." Sadness cloaked her voice. "I'm here if you need me. Don't forget that."

* * * * *
In his spirit state, Gabe heard and watched the entire scene between his wife and Jana. He stood behind Lily while she said goodbye to Jana. He walked out of the building with Lily to the car. The wind caught a wisp of her hair, and he wished he could tuck it behind her ear. He used to love stroking Lily's soft, wavy tresses.

Not yet. She wasn't ready to know he was close by, trying to help her cope. Hell, he was trying to cope, too. God had given Gabe a chance to help Lily, and himself, but it was all in the timing. Gabe wouldn't get long. The Shepherd of Souls had been very clear about that.

Lily drove out of the parking lot, but instead of taking her usual direct route to the base exits, she drove through the grounds.

In his spirit form, Gabe followed her.

She slowed down near one of the park benches.

We met there. Gabe recalled seeing Lily with her brown-bag lunch when he'd gone jogging on the historic base. She'd caught his eye immediately. Her long, graceful limbs and full lips captivated him. When she smiled, the sun seemed to dim. Her charming demeanor wiped out all his defenses.

She'd shaded her eyes to speak to him. "I've never seen you before."

"I was in Seattle for some training, but I'm stationed here. Are you visiting your husband?"

She'd giggled this wonderful, heart-warming sound, and her face turned the loveliest shade of pink.

Gabe knew in that moment, he was pretty much a goner.

"No, I'm not married. I started working at the commissary last week."

"Well, if you have lunch in the park, I'll be seeing you. I jog through here almost every day."

Gabe didn't usually take that route, but he was darn glad he had that day, and every day after. Lily had waited for him, sometimes bringing along an extra bottle of water or a piece of fruit for him. They'd talk for a little while, then he'd finish his run, although his mind was never on physical fitness after he saw Lilianna Carston.

Now Gabe sat on that same bench, remembering the delight in her eyes when he'd asked her to dinner the first time. They'd been almost inseparable after that date. They thought they'd have a lifetime together.

He turned toward her car and saw the strain on her face.

He watched her shoulders rise and fall in a deep sigh before she drove away from the curb.

Gabe didn't get off the bench and follow her. Being dead wasn't exactly halos and fluffy clouds for him.

* * * * *

At home, Lily set her keys on the countertop. Frowning, she thought they made a very loud, metallic scrape and clunk for such a small number of keys. The clock chimed the top of the hour, and she glanced in the clock's direction. Lunchtime, more or less. She glared at her bag, kind of grateful she wouldn't be packing another one of them any time soon. But there was no sense letting the last one go to waste.

She unrolled the sack, thinking what a loud crunch the paper made. My nerves really must be shot. She took out the half sandwich. Ham and Swiss on pumpernickel. No mustard, no mayo, just plain. Exactly the way she liked them.

Lily leaned against the door jamb and watched deep green leaves flutter in the gentle breeze. She took a bite of her sandwich and chewed. Emptying her brain of worries and drama, Lily inhaled summer's fresh scents. Her heart thumped reminding her she was alive, even if her soul didn't feel like it.

A gust came up. A snap made her turn around. A pen rolled across the living room floor, apparently blown off its perch on the end table. Lily took another bite of sandwich, set it on the counter, then went to pick up the pen. Her soft-soled shoes made quiet thumps as she walked on the wooden floor. When she stooped to retrieve the dime store pen, her ankles cracked.

A piece of paper, half-concealed under the couch, caught her eye. She scooped it up. The gray-lined paper had a ragged edge, as though torn hastily from a notebook. She wondered where the paper came from, since there weren't any small notebooks lying around. Turning it over, she opened her her eyes wide in surprise. She'd recognize that chicken scratching anywhere. But how did a note in Gabe's handwriting get on my living room floor? Her vision blurred as she read.

new each day,
the river’s water-
second chance
The unexpected connection to Gabe's thoughts and emotions threw her for a loop. She crumpled the paper and then pitched the scrap in the general direction of the wastebasket under her writing desk. The paper ball bounced off the small trashcan and skittered across the floor, out of sight.

Dazed, she sagged into the corner of the couch. She rested her forehead on her arm. "What second chance? You're dead."

* * * * *

Gabe stood near the window and watched Lily's reaction. His effort to bring her some semblance of comfort had epic failure written all over it. He wanted to scream in agony and frustration. But, how would that help her? He'd find another way.

I promise, Lily, I'll get you through this.


  1. David, you are such a sweetheart for sharing my new book with your readers. I hope you'll enjoy the story and that you'll come blog with me to share your newest book. I'd be honored. I'll even dust.

  2. My pleasure, Margie.
    Blog with you? Anytime!