I’m delighted to welcome Kathleen Shoop to the blog today! Kathleen is the author of bestselling novel The Last Letter. Her newest release is After the Fog – you can read my review here.
Excerpt: After the Fog
Henry Feels a Pang of Jealousy
It couldn’t be her.
Henry whipped his head around to see, and shook his head. What was Rose still doing there? He ducked behind the coat rack and surveyed the room. He spread a brown wool coat away from a black one that smelled of body odor and peered past the wooden pole that held the whole thing up.
Rose. Her back was to him, then her profile, spinning on the stool. She threw her head back laughing like she didn’t have a care in the world, like she was being photographed for Life Magazine or some shit. She leaned over her beer, gulping it while lifting her hand to signal for another. Henry’s friend Jack sat with Rose, enraptured, swimming in her hilarity.
Henry squinted through the coats. Rose was not the type to linger and socialize after a call. Buzzy had told Henry over the phone that Rose had been unable to get into the back room and he would be trapped there until she was gone. Not that he could leave, anyhow. The men who were going to break his legs didn’t think it was smart to let him wander since Buzzy owed them seven hundred dollars.
Henry nearly stepped forward to spill the whole thing to Rose, to simply tell her the truth and make Buzzy, make all of them just own up to their deceit and start things over. But, Rose had been through too much that day. Did he really need to pile on more trouble? He was chicken-shit, he knew it. Maybe if Dottie hadn’t been involved he could come clean, but not then, not there.
Rose laughed out loud, bending forward, nearly into Jack’s lap. Her laughter was unladylike and he had loved it from the first time he heard it. When had he heard it last?
Rose straightened and hiccupped, laughing harder. Jack was enjoying her, his hard, barrel-belly quaking. Henry’s stomach tightened. Not with fear or dread, but full, black jealousy. Maybe he wouldn’t have felt threatened if he hadn’t put such mileage between him and Rose. He’d never felt jealous.
The first time Henry met Rose she was drunk. But sweetly so. She knew who Henry was, a pitcher for the Pirates, but unlike most women—those who were awed by him—Rose was charmed, not enamored. She regaled his teammates with tales of nursing, and for the first time, the fellas weren’t telling their stories of baseball glory. This chestnut-haired, long-legged, intelligent woman mesmerized them. She was an equal. And she knew it. A woman like that was the kind of woman Henry could marry.
He glanced at his watch. He needed to get to Buzzy before he was dismembered. He’d have to deal later with his envy over watching Jack share such a delightful time with Rose. He’d just have to go into the storage room through the back of the bar instead of through the front.
Henry turned and exited the bar, his breathing labored by the air. He moved slowly along the sidewalk, inching along the wall to get to the back of the building, remembering his first night with Rose—the night they married, and had sex for the first time. There was no coy, shyness on Rose’s part, no “help me through this, I’ve never done it,” act. And, when it was over, she left. Had a sandwich in the kitchen. Not with a pout and shame splashed across her face or weighing on her posture. She just had a bite then went to work.
Leaving Henry, utterly, somehow sadly in love. Rose was not a woman who thought she drew her first breath upon the arrival of her prince. No, this woman did not need anyone but herself and for Henry that was as intoxicating as a woman could be.
Henry did not have time to reminisce. Twenty years had brought problems and right then, his problem was Buzzy. Henry reached the back room door and pounded until a large man, his bloated fingers clutching a baseball, let Henry in. Henry watched as the man lobbed the ball into the air, spinning it, its autographs melting into a blur as he did.
Henry shook his head. In the cramped room of stale booze and broken souls, Henry saw once and for all, that his brother would sell anything for gambling, even the baseball Henry had gotten signed by every one of his Pittsburgh Pirate teammates. Even that.