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


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


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


“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


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


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.

First chapter of The End Begins

For the first time, the reverent stillness of the old limestone church didn’t fill Meryn O’Reilly with peace.

Her best friend, Kate, sat on the pew beside her, clutching her daughter, Gracie, to her chest. Matthew, her four-year-old son, pressed close to her side, as though he could sense the tension in the sanctuary.

Meryn raised her gaze to the gleaming wooden cross on the wall behind the pulpit. What would happen now? Even the air felt different, colder, in spite of the warm October day. On the way to church she had hardly seen a single person out walking, and only the odd car had passed by her. Everyone seemed to be taking refuge in their homes, as if it were safer, somehow, to stay out of sight. If that continued for long, she didn’t know what would happen to her secondhand bookstore, but there were more important things to worry about this morning.

The minister climbed the steps to the the stage. Although he was a young man, today his steps were slow. When he turned to face them, the invisible weight he carried bowed his shoulders. He clutched both sides of the oak pulpit. Thin light filtering through a stained glass window cast an eerie rose glow over his lined face. “My friends, you don’t need me to tell you that dark days have come to Canada. A group calling themselves Christians has claimed responsibility for—”

The doors to the right of the stage crashed open, shattering the hush that had fallen over the room.

Uniformed soldiers, carrying rifles, marched into the sanctuary and started down the aisle.

Kate’s short red hair fell over one eye as she dug her fingers into Meryn’s arm. “They’ll arrest us all.” She pulled Gracie closer as other parishioners pushed past them, fleeing toward the back door.

“Down on the floor!” More soldiers appeared in the back of the church, ordering any who tried to escape that way onto their knees.

Meryn looked around wildly. What should they do? Her eyes fell on the little side door at the end of their pew. “Quick, Kate.” Meryn grabbed her elbow and tugged her toward the opening. In all the fear and confusion in the room, no one moved to stop them as they slipped through the door. The shouts and cries faded behind them as they hurried down a dimly lit hall lined with old wooden tables and stacked chairs. The hallway led to a set of stairs down to the basement. “We can go out the back exit.”

She stopped at the bottom and waited for Kate to climb down, Matthew at her heels. “Why are they doing this, Kate?”

Her friend shifted Gracie to her hip so she could take Matthew’s hand and help him down another step. “Ethan says Parliament convened an emergency session last night. They pushed through a bill to give the military virtually unlimited power to put down the terrorists responsible for the bombings.”

Kate’s husband was editor-in-chief of the local paper, the Kingston Whig-Standard. He’d been at the office for the last forty-eight hours, ever since seven mosques across Canada had been blasted from their foundations during Friday prayers. The deadly attacks on October 10, 2053, the worst on Canadian soil, were known simply as 10/10.

A question rose in Meryn’s throat but she bit her lip, holding it in for a few seconds.

The fear in Kate’s eyes told her that she was not going to like the answer.

She pushed back her shoulders, steeling herself. “Do they know who is responsible?”

“They think they do.” Kate’s voice shook.

Meryn wiped the palms of her hands on her tan dress pants. “Who?”

Matthew hopped down the last step.

His little knees buckled and Kate held up their clasped hands to keep him from falling. Her hazel eyes met Meryn’s.


One Response to Excerpts

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s