Sharing chapter 1 (the beginning only ☝️- 1500 words) from my upcoming thriller ALMOST FAITHFULL – ebook and paperback ready in June 2021.
There’s something pathetically childish in running away from problems. Margo knew that better than anyone. How could she not? She, the New York Times bestselling author of many self-help books, who encouraged countless people to transform their personal and professional lives via her seminars, workshops, and speaking engagements.
Day after day, the feeling of an empty void tore her apart, but Margo postponed her escape in the hope of picking up the ashes and rebuilding her life just as she advised the millions of women across the world who read her books. In some way, the trip she had planned was her rebellion against the stagnation she’d been in for the past ten years; it was the attempt to find her “spine,” to grow and develop confidence or a sense of self, despite the pressure from friends and society. She wanted to break out of everything that was recognizable and comfortable, from all the things that forced her to suffer, from the internal struggle growing within her. It was too strong to ignore. Not this time…
That Saturday, she had woken up far earlier than usual, opening her eyes to an inevitable change, an adventure that would be the start of her long-awaited freedom. The house was quiet. Margo dressed, stepped out into the hall on the second floor of her cottage, and looked at the big mirror in the golden ram — a place of many silly affirmations, promises, and tears. “Some Saturdays are more amazing than others — and this is one of them,” Margo said to the smiling reflection inside. Yesterday, she and the bottle of red Graveyard Shiraz had stayed up for too long — that’s why her eyes were a little bit swollen. It wasn’t wise to get drunk the day before the trip, but she didn’t follow her books’ rules — she saved them for her readers.
Margo believed she had prepared well for this escape: she’d spent the previous two days shoving clothes into her purple hand-crafted Bottega Veneta traveling bag. She’d informed her editors and agents at StingRay Publishers about her vacation. She’d filled in every necessary piece of paperwork. All was set. Like a kid on her way to Disneyland, she skipped down the stairs, two at a time, and was soon at the kitchen. She leaned against the cabinet, caught a whiff of the rose-scented wall plug-ins, and sighed.
It was a beautiful morning in Highland Park, Illinois. A brilliant stream of sunlight danced through the kitchen window before eventually settling on the countertop, bringing the cheer of a new season. Margo reached for the coffee maker, filled the reservoir with water, and switched it on. “BREEEEE!” the machine grunted.
Margo sat by the kitchen island with a satisfied look on her face. She loved the white noise coming from the machine, she loved the season of early autumn, and she loved that it was Saturday, October 6 — the day of her liberty. She poured coffee in a floral porcelain cup from Royal Copenhagen, took a few sips, then flinched as a ninety-pound golden retriever suddenly burst into the kitchen, tails wagging wildly.
“Oh Toby, I’m gonna miss you so much,” Margo said, clasping his fuzzy head in her palms, but then she noticed he was getting more and more agitated.
“Okay, that’s enough. Don’t need your hair all over me”, she said sternly.
The dog cast a forlorn look and went to sit in the corner. The woman quickly glanced at her gold Cartier watch — it was 8:45 am. Only two hours left.
“I better text Jonah now,” Margo decided.
She still couldn’t put the finger on what was making her so excited about this trip. She wasn’t going to Vegas or Machu Picchu; she was only traveling to Perth, Australia, to try to help her sister, Ellen, solve her marriage problems — not exactly a dream vacation.
Poor Ellen! In Margo’s mind, she never stopped being that little teenage sister with freckles and jet-black hair. When they spoke on the phone the evening before, Ellen sounded unusually downcast.
“What’s wrong? What did David do again?” Margo knew it had to be something Ellen’s husband had done. Ellen was too eager to please everyone.
“He’s not been home for two days, and he isn’t responding to my messages or calls. Why is it so difficult for men to consistently treat us like the precious jewel that we are? Is that too much to ask?” Ellen queried.
Margo wanted to scream. I know, it’s totally annoying! But instead, all that came out of her mouth was: “Sweetie, you need to remain positive. Things will get better. Wait till I come to Perth, and you’ll see.”
“Sometimes, rekindling things isn’t so easy. I’ve tried my best, believe me. Sometimes, one’s only choice is to say goodbye,” Ellen replied, but her voice lacked conviction, and Margo was thankful for that.
“Is he still refusing to see a marriage counselor with you?” Margo asked.
“He doesn’t even want to hear about that anymore. I can’t explain how frustrated and powerless I feel.” Ellen scoffed.
In all honesty, Margo understood where her sister was emotionally — it was a place she herself had been so many moments — a place she’d written about several times in her books:
Sometimes you just need someone to speak to, someone to listen — to bounce ideas off of. They don’t need to provide answers. In fact, the less they say, the better. Learn to be a soft shoulder for your sisters to lean on.
“And how is Marie?” Margo inquired about Ellen’s daughter.
“She’s fine. The truth is she’s the only reason I didn’t divorce him five years ago. Now I wonder if his bad example is influencing her. It’s tough, sis.”
“I know…” After a long pause, Margo added: “Don’t give up. Many people don’t want to explore an intimate part of their lives with a stranger. Probably, David is feeling uncomfortable about ‘airing out the dirty laundry’ to someone he doesn’t know. He might be willing to talk with me. I’m coming to help you work through everything. Promise!” she wasn’t even sure if she believed her own words.
Margo’s phone beeped. It was their personal chauffeur, Jonah, responding to her earlier message.
“Vehicle is ready, ma’am. Will be coming to get your bags now.”
Moments later, the housekeeper allowed Jonah in. He was a bald, hunky male of likely South American descent who always had an air of urgency about him. He walked in with a tight-lipped smile and nodded in woman’s direction. Wordlessly, he lifted her bags with the ease of a kid picking his lunchbox and went to the front door. Margo silently followed him out, gingerly holding her favorite grey Hermes handbag.
“Anyone else coming with us?” Jonah asked once they were at the driveway of their white five thousand square foot Isherwood mansion. A black Buick was already facing the intersection, engine running.
“No, just me. We should probably get going”, Margo replied.
“Okay ma’am”, the chauffeur responded, opening the door for Margo to get in.
Jonah closed the door after her and was about to approach the driver seat when he suddenly stopped and patted his right pant pocket. His phone was ringing! The man looked downwards and answered the call in a hushed tone: “Hey, uh… I can’t speak now.” He seemed to exhale deeply, then got in and began fiddling with the buttons of the car’s climate control. A moment later, Jonah pumped the accelerator, causing the rear tires to send a flurry of gravel over the pavement. The short trip to the airport began promptly, and as was Margo’s habit, she asked Jonah to play her favorite Dolly Parton mix on the vehicle’s music system.
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can…”
Margo sang along like a schoolgirl. The slightest smile parted Jonah’s lips as he sneaked a glance at his boss through the rear mirror. No one could ever know what he was thinking — always professional — devoid of opinions, but great at his role of driving: certainly not a bad mindset when you value your job.
The vehicle tore through the tree-lined city avenues and boulevards, always 10 miles per hour or more below the speed limit. There’d been a bit of drizzle earlier and Chicago’s inhabitants were just beginning to pour out of their apartments, enjoying the sun. With each passing mile, Margo’s gaiety grew larger, and her singing grew slightly louder. She could see that Jonah was determined to keep a straight face and continue driving as normal. She decided she’d stop torturing him with her probably horrendous voice. A quarter-hour later, they were rounding the sport center — the landmark that signified the beginning of the airport region. It was the last stretch of highway to the airport drop-off.
Jonah made a slight right to arrive at the airport ramp before continuing on the shuttle lane. Finally, he pulled up at the airport drop-off curbside. He marched toward the passenger-side and opened the door: he had a rare smile on his face. Margo couldn’t tell if he was sincere, or simply relieved to be dispatching her noisy self.
“Welcome to the airport, ma’am,” he said.
x x x
Forgot the blurb? Check here – Works in progress (via blog page)
No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself. It’s like your shadow. It follows you everywhere. Murakami
Next post – Seize the moments of happiness!