All That’s Unspoken
By Constance Phillips
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Q: Please tell us a little about yourself...
A: I live in Ohio with my husband and daughter. My son moved out this past year and is currently planning his wedding to his fiancé. For many years, I worked in the office of my husband’s hardwood flooring company, but have been able to move away from that to write in the last year. (Which is so exciting to me!)
Q: What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?
A: My husband was just telling this story last night. My son’s second Christmas (he was about 14 months old.) When we went to bed, my husband and I agreed to let him sleep as late as he wanted on Christmas morning, but at five a.m. I couldn’t take it anymore and woke him up to open his presents.
I was just so excited to have that traditional Christmas morning.
Q: Do you like to decorate your house? Anything special that you do for your decorating?
A: I love to decorate the house up big, but haven’t done it in recent years because we usually travel to my parent’s house in Florida. For a few years I didn’t even put up a tree, but that was too depressing for me.
I hope in the next few years to move back to a schedule where we travel every other Christmas and on the years we stay home, I can decorate the way I’d really like to.
Q: Do you have any special tradition that your family celebrates for the Christmas Holiday?
A: Baking cookies – all of us together – has always been a tradition.
Q: Are you the holiday cook or do you let someone else do the cooking?
A: I’m the cook for both my family and my husband’s side of the family. We like to do a traditional turkey or ham dinner for Christmas day, but will do something fun on Christmas Eve like homemade pasta or a nice beef roast.
Q: Do you like to be where there is snow for the holidays or are you (or want to be) a snowbird that likes to fly south for the winter?
A: When I was younger, I loved for there to be snow on Christmas. As I get older, I’m just as happy to be where it’s warmer.
Q: As a reader, do you like to read Christmas stories?
A: I love Christmas stories, especially a romance!
Q: As a writer, do you like to write Christmas stories?
A: Well, since All That’s Unspoken is a Christmas and New Year’s story, I guess the answer is yes. I really enjoyed mixing the holidays with Hailey and Nate’s story and will probably write another Christmas story in the future.
Q: Do you give the gift of reading for Christmas?
A: Yes! Books are always on my Christmas list for family and friends.
Q: For fun, I have a few personal questions,
Your Favorite 5
1) Favorite Christmas song – What Child is This?
2) Favorite Christmas movie- A Christmas Story.
3) Favorite Christmas story – The Gift of the Magi
4) Favorite Christmas color- Green
5) Favorite Christmas food – Christmas cookies!
Q: And for a bonus, if you were given the gift of travel to anywhere for the holidays, where would you want to go???
A: I’m totally hooked on the show, Dracula, and it’s made me think a lot about this Vampire book I drafted a few years ago that was set in the Greek Islands in the late 1800s.
I would love to travel there so I could do some research.
After eight years, Hailey is back in Caseville Michigan. Just months after her mother’s death, her siblings want to put their father in a nursing home and rent out the family farm. If that wasn’t enough, the prospective tenant is Nate, the high school crush she left behind the day after they acted on their mutual attraction.
After high school, Nate Jenkins planned to leave small town behind, but life dealt him a different hand of cards to play. He’s now back in Caseville, raising his daughter, and running his family’s diner. His daughter’s speech disorder has been improved by therapeutic horse riding and if he can lease the old Lambert farm, he can get her a horse of her own. The only standing in the way is Hailey, the same woman who left him eight years ago without even saying goodbye.
Can they get over all that’s unspoken between them?
Only when she heard the bell above the door ring out, was she able to unclench her fists and let out the breath that had tightened her chest. She’d seen Nate lingering around the edge of the counter with her plate of pancakes in hand but didn’t want him to approach her now.
She really didn’t have it in her to deal with him.
He came forward anyway, and set the plate in front of her. After a hesitation, he asked, “Can I sit for a minute?”
Her eyes fluttered closed, but she gestured to the chair. She heard it scrape against the old worn tile and could feel him just inches away from her.
“I’m sorry your dad’s health is on the decline. I’ve always really liked him. It stinks, you know.”
She took a deep breath; maybe they could talk as old friends and ignore the complications of the night they’d spent together. “I don’t think he’s that bad. Jake and Kelly are overreacting.”
He twisted his hands on his lap. “I can see how you would think that. Some days when I see him, he’s sharp as nails. Others….”
Her phone vibrated against the table. The habit to check the ID won out against the desire meet Nate’s stare. An eight-hundred number flashed, twisting Hailey’s stomach into knots. Another bill collector wanting to take the money she was trying to stretch just a little further, hoping to get through a few more weeks. She hit the button to ignore the call.
“I overheard what you said about your dad wanting the property to stay the same,” Nate said. “I’ll take real good care of the place and won’t change a thing. I love that farm the way it is.”
That brought her attention back. “What are you talking about?”
“I’ve been talking to Jake about renting the house.”
She took in his deep brown eyes and almost black hair. It was cropped short like he was trying to beat-the-heat, even if the average temperature this week was somewhere around ten degrees. Much shorter than he wore it in high school. The neatly trimmed beard and mustache were new too.
He looked older. More settled.
They’d both thought this small town would smother them back then.
For a fleeting moment it comforted her to picture Nate cooking in her family’s kitchen, and then she realized it wouldn’t be her house anymore. She’d be on the outside looking in. “It feels like everything is being taken away from me.”
His body stiffened as he pulled back. “It’s not like I’m stealing it. I’m going to pay you for it.”
“This isn’t about money!”
“Then what is it about?”
She reached for her purse and fumbled for her wallet with trembling hands. “Everyone seems to think that just because I don’t live here, I don’t have a voice, but you’re all wrong.” She threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “I didn’t leave the planet, I moved to New York. I didn’t abandon my family, but it feels like they think so. I’m sick of being treated like an outside in my hometown, in my family home, in my own life.”
She stood and tried to turn, but he grabbed her wrist. Looking back would weaken her resolve—Nate had always had that effect on her—but she did it anyway.
“Please, it would mean a lot to Lori…and me.”
His daughter. The child he’d had with someone else. She couldn’t stand the thought of the two of them in her living room without her.
Why did it hurt so much?
It wasn’t as if he left her. She’d pursued and claimed the future she’d always wanted.
If everything she’d attained had been all she ever wanted, why was it tearing her in two to know Nate had gone on with his life without her? It wasn’t as if she’d expected he wouldn’t. She should be happy he was settled. Instead, it made her long for that place next to him even more.
A lump formed in her throat, making speech impossible. Instead, she headed for the door.
“That’s right, Hailey. Run away. It’s what you do best!”
His words stopped her, and she twisted back. “I what?”
“Run. Away. When the pieces of your life don’t come together like a neat little puzzle, you scatter them all around you and stomp out of the room.”
She bristled at the venom in his voice. “That’s not what happened.”
“Oh, no. You handled it so well, just breezed out of town with no concern for those you left behind.”
They weren’t talking about her father or her house anymore. This was about how she’d reacted eight years ago, when the feelings got too real.
Just as they were now.
“I care, dammit!” She let out a long exhale. “I always have.”
Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter, and four canine kids. Her son, now on his own, is planning a wedding, reconfirming that romance still lives and breathes. When not writing stories of finding and rediscovering love, Constance and her husband spend the hours planning a cross-country motorcycle trip for the not-so-distant future…if they can find a sidecar big enough for the pups.
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