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A Time to Push Daisies
SERIES: Under the Sun – Seasons of Change, Book 3
GENRE: Clean/Wholesome/Sweet, Inspirational/Spiritual
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 60,000 to 74,999 (average book)
HERO’S AGE: Over 50
HEROINE’S AGE: Over 50
HEAT LEVEL: Chaste (Hold my hand)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: None (as in zero, or no more than 1)
Not every woman is fortunate enough to find her soulmate. Fewer find him twice.
JoAnn Stanson has loved and lost. Widowed a mere eighteen months ago, JoAnn is less than thrilled when her son arranges a luxury cruise around the British Isles as an early birthday gift. She’s not ready to move on and “meet new people”.
Caleb Blume has faced death and won. Had it not been for an unexpected Christmas present, he would surely have been pushing up daisies. Not that the silver-haired landscape architect was averse to those little flowers–he just wasn’t ready to become fertilizer himself.
To celebrate his sixty-fourth birthday and the nearing two-year anniversary since he’d cheated death, Caleb books a cruise and flies to London. He is instantly drawn in a way that’s never happened before to a woman he sees boarding the ship. But this woman who steals Caleb’s heart is far more guarded with her own.
For JoAnn, so many little things about Caleb remind her of her late husband. It’s like loving the same man twice. Yet different.
Or is it?
READ AN EXCERPT
Caleb Blume shuffled outside onto the wooden deck of his posh Camps Bay apartment, feeling three decades older than his sixty-two years. Raising the glass of sparkling water clutched in his hand, he toasted the African sun, slowly inching its way toward the watery horizon of the Atlantic. The summer solstice having passed merely days before, the golden ball wouldn’t set for a few more hours.
“Merry Christmas, world.” Even those few words sapped his breath. But then he had just walked twenty meters from his living room without stopping to rest.
He sank into the comfort of the reclining patio chair, made of weather-resistant rattan, and topped with ivory-colored cushions. From his lofty home, Caleb narrowed his gaze to stare at the azure ocean below, frothy waves lapping the white beach. Would this be his last Christmas on earth? Or would he live to see another? Not if a suitable donor heart didn’t become available soon, that much was certain considering his declining health.
He pursed his lips. His bitter snort resonated. How his life had changed. Pitiful. Sitting here waiting for someone to die, so that he could live. Or at least have a fighting chance at life.
Everyone had thought it was the winter flu. But it wasn’t. Viral myocarditis a few months ago had damaged his heart and turned his entire world upside down. Now instead of spending his days getting his hands dirty in rich, compost-laden soil, creating beautiful gardens, he was confined to his home with a live-in nurse cum housekeeper as his only companion.
Gone was his carefree bachelor lifestyle. Gone were the parties and “friends”.
He had never felt so alone in his entire life. If only he didn’t live so far away from his brother in England.
“Janine…” Caleb barely had enough volume to call his nurse.
Thankfully the forty-something woman’s ears were tuned to his every call. She hurried through the frameless sliding-folding doors that gave security and shelter during the night but were now pushed open wide, merging his home with his garden deck.
“Could you bring my cell phone to me, please? I need to…return my brother’s call,” he sucked in a deep breath, filling his lungs, “before Christmas is over.”
When Joshua had phoned earlier, Caleb had still been asleep. He’d put off phoning back, knowing Joshua would be at church with his family, after which his brother and his wife, Viola, would be frantically busy cooking their traditional Christmas fare for the family. He would have loved to be spending this particular Christmas with his brother and nieces, seeing as it could be his last, but traveling was out of the question for him for quite a while. By now though, his English family’s Christmas dinner should be finished, as should the washing of the dishes and cleaning up—what with seven daughters there to help.
After first making sure that Caleb was comfortably reclined, Janine hurried back inside, soon reappearing with Caleb’s phone. She dialed the number and then handed the device over.
“Caleb!” Joshua’s voice boomed through the speaker. “Merry Christmas. I tried to call you earlier.”
“I know. Merry Christmas…to you…too.” Caleb gasped for a breath.
“How are you doing, brother?” Concern edged Joshua’s voice. “Do you need help? I could fly out, or one of the girls could—”
Caleb shook his head, even though Joshua couldn’t see. “I’m…hanging on. Enjoying the…sunshine.” The fresh, salty smell of sea air filled his nostrils as, once again, he breathed in deeply. “How are the…girls?”
“They’re all doing just fine. Getting married one by one. Oh, did I tell you I’m going to be a grandfather again?”
“No. Who’s expecting?” An ache formed in his chest. While life was flourishing for the Blume’s in England, he was dying a slow death on the other side of the world. Alone. He envied Joshua having a legacy to leave behind. Caleb, on the other hand, would leave nothing. No wife or children to mourn his passing. He would have loved to have a son, a wife. Perhaps he should’ve sought someone to share his life decades ago. Too late now—for children and for love.
“Maggie. Sometime in April.”
“And you’re only…” He sucked in a breath. Maybe he should ask Janine to bring his oxygen bottles. “…telling me now?”
“We only just found out. Maggie and Davis have managed to keep it a secret for five months. They wanted to get way past the first trimester, and then it wasn’t that long until Christmas, so they decided to save the big news for today—thought it would be more special.”
“A wonderful gift. Congrats to…you all.”
“I’d best not keep you,” Joshua said. “I can hear you’re weary.”
Caleb closed his eyes and swallowed hard. His lip quivered and he clamped it between his teeth, holding it in place. “I–I am. Send my love…to the girls.”
“I will.” There was a pause before Joshua continued. “Caleb, I’m praying for you—for that new heart.”
No doubt Joshua didn’t only mean the actual organ. He’d been preaching to Caleb about getting his heart right with God for years. Maybe if he had listened, the one that beat so sluggishly in his chest wouldn’t be dying a slow death.
Was it too late to try a little prayer too? It surely couldn’t hurt. He raised his gaze heavenward.
Oh God, if You save me, if You get me a new heart, I will spend the rest of the days You give me on this earth, living for you. Somehow, I’ll learn how to.
“Caleb? A–are you still there?”
“Yes. Sorry…wandering mind.”
An incoming call beeped in his ear, and his heart thumped against his ribs—just as it always had in the past few months every time the phone rang. Every time he’d been disappointed. No doubt this call would be no different.
“Josh, incoming call. I…must go.”
They said a hurried goodbye before Caleb answered the interrupting call. “Caleb Blume.”
“Mr. Blume. Are you sitting down?” If Dr. Le Crouse, his cardiologist, was excited about something, he didn’t show it, his voice monotone as always. And for sure, the use of his surname was merely for effect. His doctor had called him by his first name from the moment Caleb had insisted, and only used his last name when he wanted to make a point.
“Lying down. Doctor’s orders.” Caleb managed a soft chuckle.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that you’re an obedient patient, but you might want to get up and hurry over to Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital. You’re being given the best Christmas present of all.”
Caleb eased forward. He swung his legs around, and his feet fell to the deck with a soft thud. “W–what?” Could it really be that he was finally getting the one thing he wanted? Needed? A new heart.
“A perfect match, at last. Your new heart is being harvested as we speak and will be flown to Cape Town. You’ll be on the operating table within four hours.”
“Th–that’s wonderful news.” Caleb choked, surprised to be this emotional.
“Are you able to get to the hospital, or must we arrange for an ambulance transfer?”
“I–I can get there.” This was one of the reasons he had 24/7 care. Janine could drive him wherever he needed to go.
“Good. And, Caleb, I know it’s Christmas, but don’t eat or drink anything from now on. Please.”
“I won’t, Doctor. See you…soon.”
Caleb paused for a moment after cutting the call. He bowed his head, first in thanks to God for answering his prayer so swiftly, and then out of respect for the one who had lost their life. Did they have a husband, a wife, children, whose Christmases would never be the same again? For them, the sun had set. For him, it was about to rise!
Releasing a groan, JoAnn Stanson opened one eye to the new week and the winter’s morn. Her room was still bathed in black. Even though she lived in a tropical climate, the mornings were definitely cooler, remaining darker for longer.
She reached out and brushed her hands over the cold sheets beside her. Her heart squeezed. Empty. Never to be slept in again.
JoAnn pulled the covers over her head, cocooning herself in the comfort the duvet offered. Some days she wondered how she got out of bed, wondered how she put one foot in front of the other. If it hadn’t been for God’s sustaining grace, she would never have made it this far.
But some days were that much more difficult than others. Especially the milestones—they were the worst. Today was one of those milestones. Eighteen months.
“Oh, Errol,” she sobbed into her hand, burying her head in the pillow as she turned onto her side. She curled her legs to her stomach. “I miss you so much.”
Giving herself sufficient time for a good cry, interspersed with prayer, JoAnn finally slipped out of bed. She opened the curtains. Even the breathtaking view of the sun rising over the horizon, spreading a warm swathe of light across the blue waters of the Indian Ocean, failed to lift her spirits.
Her heart weighing her down, she headed for her en suite bathroom. JoAnn leaned against the basin. She reached for the tap and turned it on. Perhaps the cold water she splashed onto her face would help ease the redness and swelling around her eyes.
Her gaze drifted to the blue toothbrush hanging beside her purple one. She still couldn’t bring herself to throw it out. Neither had she found the strength yet to donate her late husband’s clothes to charity. Soon she’d have to. Everyone was telling her—or at least hinting at it—that it was time to get over Errol, time to move on.
She sucked in a breath, pursing her lips. Well, what if she didn’t want to move on? Ever? Nobody could force her. Nobody would force her. She wouldn’t allow it. How could she find another love like the one she’d known for almost four decades? Yes, she did feel too young to be widowed, she did miss a warm body beside her at night, and she didn’t relish spending the next decade or two—or heaven forbid, three, depending on how long God gave her breath—on her own, but could she ever love again?
JoAnn dampened a cloth and wiped her face. She leaned closer to the mirror and smoothed a finger beneath one eye. Were those fresh wrinkles? Despite being told she still looked wonderful for sixty-five, JoAnn felt as if she’d aged twenty years in the last year and a half. She ran a brush through her hair. If it weren’t for her regular trips to the salon, that ash-blond would be more ash than anything else.
Enough staring in the mirror, indulging in her pity party. Many widows had walked this road before her and survived. She would too, with her ashen head held high.
Besides, she had important things to do today. Errol would have wanted her to do this. And this milestone felt like the appropriate time. A year would have been too early, and two years too late.
After dressing in a pair of jeans, a white short-sleeved T-shirt, and her favorite cashmere sweater, the soft cornflower-blue matching her eyes so well, JoAnn headed for the kitchen. By mid-morning, that soft woolen garment would be discarded.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee drifted toward her as she made her way up the passage. Jordan must be up already.
After Errol’s death, her son had moved home. When Jordan married Melanie six months later, he’d insisted that he and his new wife stay with JoAnn…said it was too early for his widowed mother to be alone.
Meet Marion Ueckermann
Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest’s no longer so empty.
Visit Marion at www.marionueckermann.net