3, 2, 1… Cover Reveal time!
Summary from Goodreads:
Pain can take a lifetime to heal, but hope lasts even longer…
Corie Harper is twenty-eight years old when she is first visited by a ghost—in the form of a graduation letter she forgot she wrote. Although she spent a decade burying that desperate girl and her regrets, each page resurrects the past, dragging Corie back to a time when all she craved was Scarlet Hinden’s friendship and Tuck Slater’s heart. But she couldn’t keep them both and keep her word.
Scarlet is haunted in her own way, by memories of Corie and of a night that left her wishing she were dead. But Scarlet is not only alive, she’s carrying new life: a baby she never wanted and is terrified to have. Convinced she would be a disastrous mother, she questions whether or not she deserves the love of any man. Especially the father of her child.
“Letters for Scarlet” traces one friendship from deep roots to branches torn by broken promises and loss.
Letters for Scarlet
By Julie C. Gardner
After dinner Tuck washes dishes while I remain in the dining room with a folder of student essays. I mark them with purple ink instead of red and try to write at least one positive comment for each critique. Sometimes the writing is so bad I’m stuck with Good choice of college-ruled paper or Thanks for removing the raggedy edges from the left side of the page.
Greer Larson’s character analysis of Sydney Carton seems especially awful, but the truth is, I am harboring a negative attitude like a fugitive in an attic. Since leaving school today, I’ve cradled it, this lump of sadness swaddled in my arms. The failure leaves room for nothing else. It’s all I see now, what I look for.
Tucker enters the room so quietly I do not notice him at first. Since my sister and her children moved in with us, Tuck and I have taken to creeping around on tiptoes. But tonight the kids are with their father, and Bets won’t be back from her night shift until morning. Tuck clears his throat, and I look up. He has changed out of his work clothes into gray sweatpants and my favorite of his T-shirts. The cotton is faded red, frayed by frequent washings. From ten feet away my husband smells like Tide.
“Almost done in here?” he asks.
“Never,” I tell him. “Ever.”
“Give ’em all As and take me to bed.” He grins, and I imagine I could fit my whole thumb in his dimple.
“I wish. Didn’t you bring any work home from your trip?”
“Just a suitcase.” He takes the pen from me and sets it on the table. “Come on, Core. These kids won’t spontaneously combust if they don’t get their essays back tomorrow.”
“No,” I admit. “They won’t.” I study my empty hand and remind myself that Tuck doesn’t mean to minimize my career. He values teachers and me in particular. But the way his words erase my goals—even in jest—leaves me feeling hollow. Unimportant. Less than.
Act full, Corie. You have so much already.
“I missed you this week,” I tell him.
“Don’t you always miss me?”
“Hmm,” I say by way of agreement. He pulls out the chair next to me, and I push my gradebook away. I can make room for him. I will.
“I forgot to ask how your evaluation went with the new guy. What’s his name? Calloway?”
“Callaghan. Henry Callaghan.” I picture his spiked hair and wrinkled pants, hear him calling the words in my journal work. “He’s on the young side. Not much older than I am.” My lips are dry, and they crack on a smile. Tuck shifts in his seat and appraises me.
“He any good?”
I consider the question. “I have no idea,” I say.
Tucker prompts me with a tilt of his head. “Come on. What does your gut tell you?”
“Stella and Bart haven’t organized a lunchtime protest against him yet. I guess that qualifies as good.” Before Tuck can push any deeper, a cramp cuts through the center of me, and a grimace replaces my smile.
“Hey, hey,” he says. “You all right?”
“Yep,” I tell him, although I’m not.
“No,” I say. “Unfortunately, it’s not a headache.”
“Oh.” Tuck studies my face for the answer he already knows. “I’m sorry, Core.”
“I’m sorry too.”
He stands and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Guess I’ll shower and unpack.”
“I’ll finish up here soon,” I say. “Promise.” When he leaves, I stuff the essays in my book bag and grab some Advil from the lidless container above the refrigerator. Throwing away the childproof tops is a habit Tuck hasn’t broken.
They’re a pain in the ass, and we don’t have kids.
Yet, I tell him. Not yet.
Filling a glass with water, I swallow three tablets. Then, once I hear the shower running, I pluck my cell phone from its charger. Almost a year has passed since I tried the number, and I enter it quickly before losing my nerve. Eleanor Hinden never answers anyway. Each time, I get her answering machine with the same old message Scarlet and I recorded more than a decade ago. I like to listen and hang up without saying a word. I’m simply being kind, making sure Scarlet’s mother is all right. Still, I don’t tell Tuck about the calls. He would claim they’re motivated by something else entirely.
Tonight the phone rings four times, and I await our giggled greeting. Scarlet’s voice with my bright laughter in the background. A bridge across ten long years. Instead, there is a hiccup followed by the robotic sounds of the default message: No one is available to take your call; please leave your name and number at the beep, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.
Truth settles in the pit of me, a friendship replaced by the programmed lines of a stranger. Scarlet has finally left me.
Julie C. Gardner is a former English teacher and lapsed marathon runner who traded in the classroom for a writing nook. Now she rarely changes out of her pajamas. She is co-author of You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth and her essays have appeared in BlogHer Voices of the Year: 2012 and Precipice Literary Anthology. She lives in Southern California with her husband, her two children and her three dogs. Letters for Scarlet is her first novel.
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T