About the Book
In a city full of dreams… Karen Marino’s life is a nightmare. The New York City restaurant manager is a professional success, but her marriage is in shambles. When her husband, Barry shows up drunk at her restaurant, she loses both. She flees The Big Apple and returns to her Midwestern home to sort through her options. But instead of answers, she finds an old boyfriend ready to rekindle romance, a family full of secrets and an angry brother bent on revenge.
Still in New York, Barry fights his own demons. He knows he messed up, but is powerless to stop his rage and addictions. A fistfight on the streets of the city lands him in jail and forces him to face the possibility of a future behind bars.
Karen knows holding onto her bitterness won’t repair her marriage. But how do you forgive someone when you don’t feel like it? As she searches for the answer, she uncovers the family secret that threatens to tear them all apart. Can she find her way back to the place Where Hope Starts?
Karen Marino choked back a cry as she stared at the words scribbled on the front of the envelope. She slid her fingernail under the flap and gaped at the plane ticket nestled inside a letter. Why now? She gritted her teeth. Heat flushed from her neck to the top of her head as she remembered the look of disgust on her father’s face.
The clash of pans in the restaurant kitchen startled her back to the present. “What the…?”
She glanced at her watch. Almost eleven. She slid the ticket and letter back inside the envelope and tucked it into her purse. She took a deep breath before stepping out of her office.
“Steve, how does the schedule look?” Karen hired him straight out of culinary school. His lack of experience paled next to his talent, and within a year his specialties had drawn in customers from all over New York City’s five boroughs, earning the restaurant a five-star reputation.
“Perfect, my love.” He crossed his arms and smiled. “Now, when are you going to marry me?”
She laughed. “Your mother would be disappointed. I have more red hair than Irish blood.” She enjoyed the attention her hair brought in The City, where she no longer stood out like an apple on an orange tree.
“My ma would love you anyway.” Steve placed his hand over his heart.
She shook her head and waved him back to work, then strode through the kitchen inspecting the line cooks as they prepped for the noon rush. “Be sure and clean up as you go….No, not that dish. Use the glass one. And keep a towel nearby.…How long have you worked here?…Don’t wipe your hands on your apron.”
She stopped. “Jimmy,” she yelled above the din of the kitchen. Her voice carried to the break room where the young man sauntered out with a donut in one hand and a coffee cup in the other.
She glared at him. “What’s with all these dirty pots and pans?”
The guy shrugged. “Had somewhere to be last night, so I saved them.”
“Get rid of that donut now and finish your job in the next half hour, or you’re fired, no matter who your cousin is.”
He threw the donut and coffee in the trash can and plodded off to his station.
“You okay?” Her assistant manager, Cathy, raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to snap.” Karen took a deep breath. “Is the dining room ready?”
“No problems there. But…” Cathy glanced over her shoulder. “Barry’s at the bar.”
“Not with the new owner coming in.” Karen clenched her fists. If she talked to her husband now she would lose her cool. “Did you tell him I was busy?”
“Yes. But, he’s got that look.”
Karen rolled her eyes. That meant another of Barry’s money-making ideas. Ideas didn’t pay the rent. “I better go talk to him.”
Barry grinned as she approached and she paused at the sight of his dark wavy hair and strong jaw line. If life were a photo, he would take her breath away. But once you added sound and action, that fantasy vanished.
She bit her lip. A part of her longed for what they used to have. How does a man change so much? He used to lead people. Now he controlled them, like the other night. Karen shuddered, then closed the gap between them. “We’re about to open. You need to go. We can talk tonight.”
“Like all those other times? Please.” He leaned against the bar.
“I said, we’ll talk.”
Barry slid off the bar stool. Although he stood only a few inches taller than her five foot seven frame and didn’t work out enough to have an impressive build, he carried himself with a bravado that demanded attention. “We’ll talk now. You’ll like this idea. It’s a chance to get in on the ground floor of a start-up company.”
Karen caught a whiff of liquor on his breath. “A little early to be drinking, don’t you think?”
“Don’t change the subject.” He banged his fist on the bar.
She jumped. His eyes grew dark. She backed away, her eyes frozen on his hands. “You need to leave. Now.”
“Why?” Barry’s voice grew louder.
“So I won’t lose my job.” The new owner was a powerful man. Barry could blow it for her.
“Miss Indispensable? Lose her job?” His empty laugh bounced around the deserted room.
“Please.” Karen reigned in her hostility.
“I will do as I please.” He took a step toward her.
“If you hope to get your hands on my money, try honey not vinegar.” She crossed her arms and stared at him.
“What are you talking about?”
“This approach will not get you what you want.”
He looked behind her and backed away. “Yeah, maybe we should talk tonight.”
Karen wrinkled her brow. What’s got into him now? She turned. The new owner walked toward her. He reminded her of Danny Devito. Short, stout, and balding. Add a bit of swagger to his walk and you would have her new boss. She groaned. Glancing Barry’s direction she saw him leave through the kitchen. I hope he didn’t just cost me my job.
She turned to face the man. She mustered a smile and extended her hand. “Karen Marino. You must be Mr. Simon.”
The man stared at her. “You’re fired.” He smiled like a kid who just lifted a trinket from the store and got away with it.
“You can’t do that.” Her throat closed up. Breathe.
“I own this place, I can and will clean house as I see fit.”
His reputation was well earned. She forced herself to unclench her hands. “I built this restaurant into what it is today.”
“There’s no place in any of my restaurants for what I just witnessed. Home stays at home.”
“You’d get rid of me for one incident?”
“It’s not just one incident.”
She bit her tongue and glared at the man. Who talked?
“Leave now. Come back and clear out your desk after lunch.”
“Fine, I don’t need you or your restaurant. I have my reputation.” She regretted the words as soon as she said them.
“When I’m done, you won’t have a reputation.”
She turned and fled to her office. A man that powerful didn’t make idle threats. She grabbed her purse, squared her shoulders, and marched through the kitchen. She would not be shamed out of here. She did nothing wrong.
Her assistant manager barked orders at the staff. The new owner smiled while he watched. So Cathy betrayed me. An old pain grabbed at Karen’s heart. Why do people turn on me?
Letting the door slam on her way out, she rushed into the flow of human traffic. The wall of buildings hid the breadth of the sky and pressed in around her. Exhaust fumes mingled with the aroma of pizza from a nearby kiosk. She jumped when a taxi blared its horn. Two people shoved each other to get in, arguing over appointments. She picked up her pace, needing to escape the surroundings that for the last fifteen years had made her feel so alive. An image of the family orchard in Missouri filled her heart.
Her past caught up to her present and the old emotions, released from their prison, pinballed around inside her. She ducked into a nearby alley and leaned against the wall. Pressing her hands against the wall, she took several calming breaths against the tears welling up in her chest. She needed to think, not cry.
She pressed her fingertips against her eyes. I don’t want to go back to the apartment yet, and I don’t have an office anymore. Where can I go? She fought the desire to throw things and stomp her feet. She would not lose control.
Something brushed against her elbow and she jerked away. A pungent odor assaulted her nose as a man in a tattered jacket stepped closer.
“Some money for food?” He reached out his hands.
She pushed the man away and tucked her purse close to her body as she stumbled out of the alley and hurried away. Her thoughts latched onto her husband and the impossibility of the situation. Lost in a daze she walked several blocks before her stomach growled, reminding her of the time. She paused and looked around. Carnegie Deli looked like a good choice. Crossing the street, she stood in line for her turn, anxious for the line to move, yet longing for a slower pace.
Pressure built up in her right eye and tension grew between her shoulders. She dug through her purse for some pain reliever and popped two in her mouth.
She looked up at the man behind the counter. “Uh, I’m not sure, what—”
“I’ll take a Woody Allen and a coffee.” A construction worker shouldered his way past Karen, slapping some bills on the counter.
Karen glared at him, then raised her voice above the next person trying to steal her place in line. “Give me a Woody Allen, too.”
Within minutes her order sat next to the construction worker’s sandwich. She grabbed her plate and cup of coffee, and turned to find a seat in the crowded dining room. From across the room, she saw two women get up from their table. She rushed to grab one of the empty chair.
She settled in to her seat and thought of the first time she came here. She was on a blind date, and he wanted to share his favorite place to eat. Crowded elbow to elbow with strangers at the shared table, it was not exactly romantic, but the food was delicious and plentiful. Her sandwich was piled so high with meat she ate for several days off of the leftovers.
Now, the deli gave her the anonymity she needed.
Cradling the coffee mug in her hands, she allowed the heat to calm her nerves. The day had not gone the way she planned. Lately, not much had. She rubbed her temples then scooted her plate forward to make room for her note pad. Avoiding the glares of her table mates, she pulled out a pen and began to list her options.
Find a job. In this economy? Right.
Barry find a job. She laughed.
Dip into her savings. She ripped the paper off the pad and wadded it up. Not again. That money was for the future.
Her head pounded as she fought back the tears. Barry’s scheme might be all they had. Maybe not.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the letter. Karen remembered how special it felt to be a daughter of Charles and Annibel Hannigan. They were well respected in the community and at church, and then everything changed.
What’s so important that they want me to come home now? She laid the ticket aside and unfolded the letter.
Please come home. Your mother is dying and she needs to see you. She needs to know you understand. You need to hear what she has to say.
We are both sorry for the past and ask your forgiveness. I’ve enclosed a plane ticket. Change the date to what works best.
Her hands trembled as she held the letter. Mom’s dying?
She laid the letter down and leaned her head onto her hands. She lost their favor with no explanation, and now they offered it to her again on a silver platter. It felt fake. What had she done to lose their favor in the first place? She wiped at tears she couldn’t stop. Did they think an apology could make up for everything?
“Hey lady, if you’re done, why don’t you move on. There’s folks waiting for a seat.”
Looking the bus boy directly in the eye, she reached for her sandwich and took a bite. He waved at her in dismissal and went back to work.
She glanced out the window as a mother bent down to look her child in the eye. She pointed at a large bulldozer across the street. The little boy smiled, looked back at her and nodded. They hugged. She grabbed his hand and continued walking.
She and her mother used to have a relationship like that. Carrying on like they were the only two people in the world. She looked away. Maybe going home wasn’t a viable option either.
She bit her lip. Am I supposed to just forgive them? How could they ask that of her? She hit the table with her fist and the coffee mug jumped, spilling onto the letter.
“Hey, watch it!” The man next to her grabbed his paper and picked it up ahead of the offending liquid.
“Sorry.” She grabbed some napkins and sopped up the mess. Blowing out a hard breath and tapping her fingers on the table, she checked her phone for the time before dialing her best friend.
Megan and Robert Fletcher reserved a table every Tuesday night at the restaurant Karen managed. Over time she became friends with Megan despite her penchant for religion. She always listened and gave good feedback.
And she’s the only person I trust.
Karen wouldn’t get the same attentive ear once Megan and Robert had their baby. The call went straight to voice mail, so she left a message. Megan must be at the women’s shelter she managed.
Karen picked up the letter and airline ticket and stuffed them in her purse. A walk might help her think better. Catching the waitress’ attention, she asked for a to-go bag.
Back on the street, her mind quickly turned to what her lack of employment meant for her life. Stay in New York and try to find another job without a reference. Give Barry’s scheme a chance. Or go home.
She cringed at all of those options. Like it or not, she had to consider them or maybe…her steps faltered as she did some quick mental calculations.
It would be risky and Barry wouldn’t like it, but she didn’t care. She quickened her step. She needed to stop by the bank.
© 2013 Angela D. Meyer
Angela D. Meyer lives in Omaha, NE with her husband of 22 years. They have two children whom they homeschool – recently graduating their son. She has taught Bible class for over 35 years and is on the leadership team of her local Christian writers group. She loves God, her family, the ocean, good stories, connecting with friends, taking pictures, quiet evenings and a good laugh. Someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon and vacation by the sea.
Where to Buy the Book
Purchase Where Hope Starts
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