Excerpt from Labyrinth, a novel

Almost everything Abbey had lost she’d been glad to lose. Sweep up, throw away, and forget. She could do it again if it came to that. If she’d learned anything in fifty-six years, it was that no companion is better than the wrong companion. Simply put, separateness is the human condition, and what people like to call “bonding” can never be complete or even completely satisfying. But it can be something, Frank had insisted. Together can be an improvement on Apart. Maybe. But not in her experience up to now.  


 Driving from her home near Bardstown to Lexington, she kept up her inner dialogue, steeling herself for the conversation ahead. If it went poorly, and Frank still refused to go to New York, she’d stay at her daughter’s house tonight and go alone tomorrow. The problem remained hers to resolve, not his. She knew that. But she owed him what he insisted he didn’t need, and the debt weighed on her. He would be busy with the new building project, no doubt, but she had plenty of errands to do while she waited. She would stop in, make an appointment for late in the day, and return at six.   


Frank’s face brightened when he looked up and saw Abbey on the other side of the glass that formed the wall of his office. “This is a surprise,” he said. “I hope that means you’re looking for a burger and a place to crash before the safari to the concrete jungle. Is that Thursday?”   


Abbey smiled. “Yes. I’ll go back home tomorrow and leave early Thursday. Gen has my room ready, and the charge is minimal,” she hedged. “That is, if you decide not to take pity on me.”

 

“Now, why would I turn away a beautiful woman in need?”  


“Outrageous flattery. You should be ashamed.” She let a few seconds settle between them. “Lots of reasons.” 


“Oh?” His eyebrows, thick above his eyes and mostly gray, rose in their scraggly way.  Charmingly.  


Abbey sensed his light, possibly forgiving, demeanor, and she forged ahead. “For one, the terrible injustice I’ve dealt you I’ve dealt you for years.”


“Abbey Livingstone, you’re harder on yourself than you are on that stone you chip.” 


“Sculpt,” she said, but she smiled, if only slightly, knowing he was teasing her.


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