Excerpt

 

Chapter One of The Watcher

 

Kathryn Ellison’s laugh ended abruptly, like it

had been placed on a block and chopped in half. She’d been 

in her kitchen, leaning against the counter and talking to her 

daughter on the phone when the knock sounded on the screen 

door. That in itself was not unfeasible. Her only daughter, Lexi, 

was in her second year of university. Still unused to her absence, 

and the uncharacteristic silence of the farmhouse that 

had seen several generations of children born and raised within 

its old stone walls, she phoned her daughter often. And, still 

a bit homesick although she’d never admit it, Lexi often called 

her, too. Which made it not only possible, but quite likely that 

when the knock came, she would have the receiver pressed to 

her ear as she listened intently to her daughter’s recounting of 

the day’s events. 

I say the knock, as if this one were more significant than

any other knock that had rattled that screen door over the 

years, because, to Kathryn at least, I suspected it would be. Not 

that she knew it at the moment. In fact, as she made her way 

around the island and over to the door, still chatting away, she 

was blissfully oblivious to the fact that her life was about to 

change completely. And not for the first time. I couldn’t suppress 

a shiver of excitement. A perfect metaphor always does 

that to me. And her pushing open the screen to see the man 

waiting on the other side, thereby flinging open a door she had 

long ago wedged a shoulder against, figuratively speaking, was 

in fact just such a metaphor. 

Her daughter must have said something funny, because 

she had just thrown back her head to laugh when she elbowed 

open the screen and it was cut off. I held my breath, anticipating 

a strong reaction. She didn’t disappoint me. 

“Nick.” The whispered word fell from her lips, rich and 

full, as though it had been there, growing and ripening for 

years, waiting for the sight of him to pluck it from her. The 

phone she been holding to her ear slipped down her cheek. 

“Mom?” The concern in her daughter’s voice called her 

back and she lifted the receiver. 

“Lexi, I’ll talk to you later. Someone’s here.” I had to lean 

forward to catch the words. They came out quiet and shaky, 

like they’d traveled a long distance and needed to rest awhile 

to catch their breath. Not waiting for a response, she pressed 

the off button and dropped the phone onto the little wooden 

table just inside the door. She leaned against the frame as 

though she would sink down to the porch in a quivering heap

without its silent support. 

Nick might not have noticed the way her legs trembled 

and her fingers gripped the door handle until they turned 

white at the knuckles, but I certainly did. In fact, when the 

knock had first sounded I roused myself from a deep sleep, 

instantly aware of the significance. The rush of adrenalin, the 

memory of which had faded almost completely over the years, 

propelled me to my feet. I groaned as my long idle bones and 

muscles stretched and clicked into place, atrophied enough 

that I had to lean against the porch railing myself to stay upright. 

I wouldn’t have missed this meeting, though. Not for 

anything. It was what I—and Kathryn, whether she knew it 

or not—had been waiting for ever since that day in the courthouse 

seventeen years earlier when she’d fi rst laid eyes on Nick 

Lawson. 

But I’m getting ahead of the story here. And not getting 

ahead of the story is a rule I strictly adhere to. It’s a matter 

of pride. And professionalism. And I am nothing if 

not professional. 

Of course, this story is not about me, not really. I’m 

just here to observe, to find out if I am actually to be called 

into service to the woman I had long since despaired of 

being any use to. It’s not certain yet that I will be. It 

never is, until the end. And not even then sometimes. For 

now all I can do is watch and wait, with a newly piqued 

interest, to see if Nick and Kathryn will find me, or if 

either of them will even have the courage to try. In the 

meantime, I can spend my time telling you what I see, 

and all that has gone on before. You know, about the letters 

and such, and about the night that changed Kathryn’s 

life so completely. I may as well be of use to someone while

I wait. 

I’ll start by taking you back to the meeting occurring 

right now, although I warn you neither Kathryn nor 

Nick has spoken since we left them. This is an interesting 

phenomenon I have noted about humans in intense situations— 

the words are the first thing to go. Frankly, I am 

uncomfortable with this. Silence rarely sends you hurtling 

toward me, so I usually attempt to fill in the blank 

spaces (when I don’t forget myself and become caught up 

in the drama of the moment) with dialogue of my own. 

That’s when I’ll fill you in on what has happened in the 

life of Kathryn Ellison to bring her to this point. There is 

only myself and one other who can do it. Only the two of 

us have been with her since the beginning, or very nearly. 

At times both of us have packed to go, thinking we were 

soon to be, in the case of my friend, Faith, ordered away, 

or, in my case, lost beyond reclaiming. 

We never have been. Not quite. I’m still here, and 

so, somewhat battered and bruised, is Faith. Over there, 

in the corner of the porch where she has climbed up on the 

railing and sits, swinging both legs in front of her and 

watching the encounter taking place with as much interest 

as I was. She accepted this post about the same time 

I did—the year Kathryn attended summer camp and 

the two of them met. It was also the year, incidentally, 

that seven–year–old Kathryn first donned her mother’s 

old wedding dress and pretended to march up the aisle 

with young Thomas Gladstone. That’s when I showed up. 

When those types of dreams start filling a young girl’s 

head, I know that my time has come. 

“I shouldn’t have come by without calling.” Nick’s voice 

was as thin and unsteady as hers and I took a step toward them 

so as not to miss anything. “I just… needed to see you.” 

“No, it’s fine. Do you want to sit down?” His eyes hadn’t 

left hers and Kathryn could barely hear her own words past 

the blood pounding in her ears. 

He wore a black t–shirt and jeans and his light brown hair 

hung almost to his shoulders. Nick Lawson had been born 

after his time. His bearing and the look in his eyes revealed a 

man right at home herding cattle on the open range. He was 

a cowboy, at heart if not by profession. I watched her struggle 

to take a breath.

Air, apparently, is the second thing to go in this type of 

situation. Frankly, it’s a wonder any of you even survive 

them, let alone manage to manoeuvre yourselves through 

them to make your way to me. 

“Sure.” He sank down on one of the white wicker chairs 

on the porch. 

“Can I get you something to drink? Lemonade maybe?” 

Kathryn Ellison was, at the moment, clearly in need of something 

to wrap her trembling hands around. 

Nick managed a grin, although his dark brown eyes 

churned with as much emotion as she felt. “Lemonade would

be great, thanks.” 

I watched her through the screen as she pulled open the 

refrigerator door and took out the pitcher. 

Get a hold of yourself, Kathryn, I heard her tell herself.

I grinned at her self–admonishment. I’d listened in on 

a lot of that over the years and it never failed to amuse me, 

particularly as she rarely followed her own advice. Her hand

shook as she poured them both a tall glass of lemonade.

It’s been two years. He could easily be with someone else now. She set

down the pitcher and pressed a hand to her chest at the sudden 

stab of pain that thought caused.

Just breathe. She picked up the glasses and returned to the veranda.

After handing ick a drink, she sank down on the wicker chair beside him.

He took a sip and raised his glass. “That’s good. Not from a can.” 

“Oh no.” Kathryn’s eyes widened in feigned horror. “My 

mother would die before she’d serve lemonade, or anything 

else for that matter, from a can.” 

His laugh was infectious and she couldn’t help grinning 

back. Nick took another swallow of lemonade, then set his 

glass down on the small table between their chairs and turned 

to face her. 

I glanced over at Faith, well aware of the magnitude of 

this conversation. Lifting her head, she winked in my direction, 

then turned back to watch, equally aware, I was sure. 

Kathryn was drawn to Nick’s eyes. They were even darker 

than she’d remembered, almost black, and she felt, when they 

were directed at her, as though he could see right through her. 

She swallowed hard. “How have you been, Nick? I’ve thought 

about you and James often and wondered how you were.” 

A shadow crossed his face. “We had a rough couple of 

years after Halyna died. I think we’re better now. The pain 

isn’t as sharp, and I can go a whole day here and there without 

thinking about her, but it hasn’t been easy. We all miss her.” 

My grin faded. Nick’s sister had died two years earlier and 

I’d accompanied Kathryn to the funeral so that she could pay

 her respects to Halyna’s husband James and to Nick. That had 

been another time when I had watched the two of them and 

wondered whether it was the beginning or the end for them.

 Rarely had I been involved with two humans where it was so 

hard to tell. 

“I’m sure you do.” The pain was back in her chest, an ache 

of grief for all he had been through. And she hadn’t been there 

for him. She blinked rapidly. Of course she hadn’t been there 

for him. It wasn’t her place. There was nothing between them… 

It’s time to stop lying, Kathryn—to yourself and everyone else. 

Her stomach clenched as she considered that thought. It 

was a revelation to her, I realized, although I could have told 

her that’s what she had been doing all those years, if she’d 

asked. I knew she’d fooled herself into believing she was only 

protecting her fragile heart. Nick Lawson was the first man to 

break through all her carefully laid defenses, and he seemed to 

do it effortlessly, with a single word or touch. 

Kathryn straightened in her chair.

I can’t let him in. It’s not possible, is it?

She set her glass on the table and raised her gaze

to meet his. He was studying her intently, as though trying to 

listen in on the internal dialogue he must have sensed she was 

having. A look of wonder crossed her face. I knew immediately 

what had happened. For years she had wanted him to go 

slightly more than she had wanted him to stay, although she 

wanted that desperately. Now, for the first time since he had

walked into her life, she’d realized that, finally, the opposite 

was true. 

When she didn’t speak, Nick drew in a deep, shuddering 

breath. 

Good. I was glad for her that she wasn’t the only one 

struggling for composure. 

“I’ve tried so hard to put you out of my mind.” 

“Me, too.” Kathryn nodded slowly, making the admission 

to herself as much as to him. 

“I hope it’s worked as well for you as it has for me.” He 

reached out and brushed back a strand of her long, dark hair 

before taking her hand in his. “I know the timing has never 

been right for us, and I’ve waited to feel a peace about when it 

would be. Not very patiently, I might add. I haven’t felt it, until

now, although I’ve had to get James to hide my truck keys occasionally 

to keep me from driving over here and taking you 

in my arms again.” 

Kathryn’s laugh almost ended in a sob. “I’m not sure I 

would have objected if you had.” 

A smile broke across Nick’s face. “Now you tell me.” He 

sobered as he leaned forward, their clasped hands resting on 

his knee. “I know you’ve been hurt, Kathryn, so it’s natural for 

you to be scared. I’m scared, too. I’m still dealing with the loss 

of a person I loved deeply, and the thought of getting close 

to someone again is a bit terrifying. The thing is,” he brushed 

the back of his hand lightly across her cheek, “I don’t think I 

have a choice with you anymore. I’m not sure I ever have, to 

be honest.” 

I waited for her to bolt. It was her MO. I’d seen it happen 

every time they had been together over the years. I realized 

suddenly that I had the porch railing in a white–knuckled 

grip. I yanked my hand away quickly as though the wood was 

burning hot. I was becoming far too involved with this one. 

There was something about Kathryn Ellison. She had been 

through so much since That Night. I wanted her to find me, 

more than I ever had with anyone else, I think. And so much 

so that on more than one occasion I had almost jumped out in 

front of her, waving my arms to let her know that I had not, as 

she supposed, abandoned her entirely. 

It was strictly forbidden, of course. My job was to watch 

and make myself available, not to interfere in any way. Sometimes, 

though, the watching and waiting, mostly because it 

occurred during those unbearable silences (like the one that 

filled the space between them now), required almost inhuman 

strength. Fortunately for all concerned, I am inhuman, but 

still— 

“I don’t have a choice, either.” 

She looked as shocked as I felt. The words floated from 

her mouth and hung in the air like the last notes of a particularly 

haunting song even after the instrument has been put 

away. 

A bright light ignited in his eyes. “Kathryn.” He said her 

name like it was a rare treasure in his hands that he needed to 

handle with reverent care. 

Hope helped straighten up my old bones. Maybe… If 

only a cloud neither of them could see, the only other thing to 

disturb my slumber that week, hadn’t recently formed over the 

horizon, they might have a real chance this time. 

A sudden apprehension swept across her face, a cloud of 

another sort. “But…” 

Oh dear. Too many clouds blocking the sun now, a storm 

obviously brewing. I looked over at Faith. Her legs had stopped 

swinging, but otherwise she did not exhibit any of the trepidation

I was feeling. Not surprising. Faith is a lot hardier than I 

am. She doesn’t dread storms. In fact, I sometimes wonder if she 

doesn’t wish for them to come along. Easy for her. She usually 

comes out of the battering wind and rain stronger than ever. For 

me it can go either way. If I emerge at all, I am either in better 

shape than before, or limping badly and in need of some sort of 

metaphysical assistance. Not that it mattered. There was nothing 

either of us could do but watch and wait for the hurricane 

to blow in. And hope and pray that they—and I—survived it. 

The light that had been glowing in Nick’s eyes flickered 

and went out. I shivered, feeling the cold wind that had extinguished 

it blow through me as I thinned to etherealness. 

He gripped her hand tightly. And uselessly, as it turned out. 

“Kathryn, no. Don’t do this. Not again.” 

“I’m sorry.” Her voice broke but she pulled her hand from 

his and stood, backing toward the house until she reached the 

cold stone side of it. “There are some things I have to do. I just 

need some time.” 

“How much time?” His gaze followed her, pinned her to 

the wall. 

“I’m not sure. A few days.” 

He pushed to his feet and strode toward the porch stairs. 

Thinking he was going, I took a couple of steps forward, prepared 

to follow, but he stopped at the post and gripped it with 

both hands, resting his forehead on the smooth, white–painted 

surface. She waited, twisting her hands together in front of 

her like she could feel me leaving on his heels and was struggling 

to hold on. 

When he turned back, the light had returned to his eyes, 

but a hot red glow now, not the bright yellow blaze that had 

been there before. “Don’t you think this thing has kept us apart 

long enough?” 

The same red glow leapt into her eyes as she pulled herself 

up straight, the rough stones scraping against her back. “This 

thing almost destroyed my life.”

Neither of them spoke for a few seconds, but I was too 

overwrought myself to jump in and fill the silence. I waited, 

but not, thankfully, for long. 

His shoulders sagged and he crossed the porch toward 

her and pressed the palms of his hands against the wall on 

either side of her head. The pulse pounded in her throat. “I 

know that.” He smacked the wall with both palms and she 

jumped. “Don’t you think I know that? I’ve watched it eat you 

up for years. And I’ve felt the prick of every tooth that ripped 

into you gnawing away at me, too.” 

It wasn’t the words that dragged the tears, against her will, 

up into her eyes. It was the pain that laced through them, like 

the yarn on a child’s sewing card, outlining and defining each 

one. 

Nick searched her face in the soft glow of the porch light. 

Then, with a heavy sigh, he lowered one hand, trailing his 

thumb across her cheek to wipe away the tear that had started 

down. “Well, it’s been seventeen years. What’s a few more 

days?” He stepped back and made an attempt, which failed 

miserably, at a smile. 

She did no better when she tried to return it. A few days 

was a lot, she knew. Except for Faith and me, no one understood 

more than they did what could be gained—or lost—in a 

few days. A few hours. A few seconds. “This isn’t like the other 

times. I promise.” 

Nick studied her, trying to find me in her eyes, no doubt. 

His jaw tightened. “I’m coming back for you.” He turned on 

his heel and started down the stairs. 

“I’ll be here,” Kathryn said. The words were soft, almost 

under her breath. Still, he heard them, and took Hope along 

with him. I could see it in the set of his shoulders. 

I’d started to follow him, but the quiet promise turned me 

back and I sank down onto my wooden chair in the deeply 

shadowed corner of the porch once again. 

She would be here. And so, apparently, would I.

One Response to Excerpt

  1. Pingback: Review: The Watcher, by Sara Davison « God With Us: Finding Joy

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