Those of you who have followed this blog from way back will be familiar with Written Fireside. These are stories written as a serial with a new part published each week, by a group of authors taking it in turn to write.
Written Fireside is the brainchild of the fabulous Lori Connelly. This story will eventually be published with all proceeds going to the charity Pets for Vets. This is a US charity dedicated to providing a second chance to shelter dogs by rescuing, training and matching them with American veterans who need a companion pet.
Noah Hale is an author suffering from PTSD related insomnia, needing peace and sleep. All he wants is to be left alone. A certain little dog has other ideas.
Amanda Bell, a teacher, is grieving the loss of her sister, Rachel. Caring for her sister’s dog is comforting until a new neighbor moves in the other half of her duplex. Suddenly, the dog starts escaping her yard, running off to the man on the other side of the fence.
Parts 1-6 are complete and can be found at the links below:
Written Fireside: Schedule:
PART 1 – Tuesday June 23rd – Lori Connelly
PART 2 – Tuesday June 30th – Elsa Winckler
PART 3 – Tuesday July 7th – Angela Campbell
PART 4 – Tuesday July 14th – Jane Hunt
PART 5 – Tuesday July 21st – Charlotte Phillips
PART 6 – Tuesday July 28th – Mandy Baggot
PART 7 – Tuesday Aug. 4th – Susan Horsnell
PART 8 – Tuesday Aug. 11th – Paty Jager
PART 9 – Tuesday Aug. 18th – Zara Stoneley
PART 10 – Tuesday Aug. 25th – Summerita Rhayne
Noah cradled the mug in his shaking hands. His neighbor watched him carefully. “You’re wondering what I’m going to do next, aren’t you? Stay and talk or tear off back to the sanctity of my own place.” He sighed deeply. What did he have to lose? “Tell me about your sister.”
‘Rachel was two years younger than me but we were more like twins. Joined at the hip. We did almost everything together.” Tears filled her eyes. “I’d refused to go with her the night she had her accident. I was cranky, tired from a bad day. Normally she would have stayed with me but there was a band playing at the club that she loved so, she went alone.’ She quieted, reached for a tissue and wiped her eyes.
‘You don’t have to tell me. It’s obviously painful.’ Noah moved to sit at her feet, Gertie scrambled onto his knees. He lifted her hand into his, a calm washed over him.
Amanda felt at ease with her hand in Noah’s. It gave her the strength to continue. “About two minutes from the club a semi ran a red light and caused a massive pile up. Rachel didn’t stand a chance. When the police came and told me, I felt like I’d lost half of myself. I spiralled into a darkness I hadn’t known existed. I couldn’t sleep, I had nightmares about the accident. I saw everything as though I’d been in the car with her. It played over and over in my mind. My mom couldn’t stand to watch me following my sister to the grave so she arrived one day, forced me into her car and drove me to a therapist. She diagnosed PTSD. That’s why I can recognize it in you.”
The sadness in Amanda’s eyes tore at Noah’s heart. Here was a woman who could understand what he was going through. A woman who wouldn’t pity him, tell him to man up and get over it. He could risk telling her about what had happened without fear of ridicule.
‘Noah, I understand if you don’t want to talk about what happened. I just wanted you to know I’m here if you decide to.’
Gertie licked at their hands. The little mutt switched her look from one to the other.
“I swear this mutt was trying to get us together. I know it sounds stupid but, I think she knew we were both suffering.” Noah said.
‘Maybe dogs are a lot more intuitive than we give them credit for. I know she’s helped me a lot. She gives me a reason to keep going. Rachel loved her so much and I think if I let Gertie down, I’m letting my sister down. As much as she’s been a pain in the ass for the last day or so, she soothes me.’
‘She’s sweet. Any time you’d like her looked after, I’d be happy to have her.’
‘So, what do you do?’
‘I’m an author.’ He paused. ‘I was in the Army.’
‘I thought your place was military tidy.’
‘Yep, hard habit to break.’
‘Where was your tour overseas?’
‘Afghanistan. Almost a year.’ Can I open up to this stranger? Sure, therapy’s good but Amanda understands PTSD so much better. She knows how I feel. The nightmares, reliving the events. Maybe we can help each other. ‘How about you make coffee while I take Gertie out to relieve herself? Then, I’ll tell you my whole sordid story.’
Amanda unwound herself from the chair and padded through to the kitchen while Noah headed for the back porch. Gertie trotted beside him, glancing up every now and again.
‘Feeling smug, huh?’ Noah said to Gertie as he opened the sliding door and stepped into the early morning air.
And, please meet “Gertie”