• Everybody’s Daughter Excerpt

Everybody’s Daughter Excerpt

What would you say to a loved one who died if given a second chance? Michael Stewart is given this unique opportunity in the novel, Everybody’s Daughter.

A comforting breeze brushed Michael’s face as a white vapor swept through the air. He wiped his eyes with the cloth. He thought he heard a female’s voice calling his name.

He turned to Jesus. “Is that Vicki?”

Jesus nodded. “Speak to her.”

He turned around and looked up but he couldn’t see where the voice calling his name was coming from. “I can’t see her.” Michael wiped the moisture away from his eyes. “Vicki, is that you?”

“Yes,” the female voice answered. “It’s me.”

I can’t believe this. My wife is talking to me? He held his breath, hoping the voice would keep talking so he could walk toward her. “Where are you?”

“Look at me, Michael,” she called out.  It was a voice he’d never forgotten, a voice ingrained in his heart.

“I’m trying to find you,” Michael said, his heart in this throat. “But I can’t see you. Can you see me?”

“Yes, I can.”

The surreal experience made it hard to breathe, but he pushed through the anxiety, embracing the elation at the prospect of seeing her again. “Tell me what to do so I can see you.” He knew he was speaking fast and hoped it wasn’t incoherent. “I’ll do whatever it takes. What is it you want me to do?”

“Close your eyes and say a silent prayer. Do it now for me, please.”

“Okay.” He inhaled deeply, calming himself. “What do I pray for?”

“Pray for this moment so we can see each other.”

Michael took a few more deep breaths as his hands stopped shaking. He closed his eyes and prayed harder than he ever remembered.

The temperature rose and his fingers tingled. He finished the prayer, opened his eyes and gasped in wonder as a vision of Vicki, surrounded by the white vapor, appeared before him.

She looked like a hologram, wearing her favorite faded blue jeans and black shirt. A bright green ribbon held her hair in a long, flowing ponytail. Goosebumps scurried up his spine as a cool mist sprinkled his face.

He felt as if he were in a trance, not believing she was actually in front of him. “Are you in any pain?” he asked.

“No. There is no pain here.”

He put his hand out to touch her but his arm wouldn’t move. He tried to take a step toward her; his feet were planted to the ground. He bit his lower lip, remembering what Jesus had told him, to be happy with the things he had and not dwell on what he didn’t have. Right now, he was given the chance to speak to Vicki. He’d be happy with that for the moment.

She smiled and pushed the hair away from her eyes. “I’m glad you came when I called.”

“Called? I don’t understand.”

“I called upon you through our Father.”

“Why now?”

“I still have some remorse I can’t remove,” she said.

“I don’t understand.”

“A week before we got married you had gotten your tux and you hadn’t said a word about getting shoes. I knew you had a worn pair. I was afraid you’d just wear those shoes with the tux so I said something to your best man.”

“To Brian?”

“Yes,” she said, lowering her head. “I told him to make sure you get yourself a new pair of shoes that matched your tux.”

“Oh yeah, he mentioned something to me,” he said, confused. “What does that have to do with us now?”

“You were so angry at me at the time. I thought you would regret marrying me.”

“No. I could never regret marrying you. I was angry and embarrassed that you didn’t trust me enough to make such a simple decision.” He shook his head, smiling through the ache of wanting to hold her. “It’s so stupid now that I think about it. It was just a pair of shoes.”

“I was a control freak and shoes for our wedding day was serious business.” She bent her head to the side, sadness etched in her gaze. “I know that it was my need to control everything, even you and not to fully trust. I know it was a small thing but I’ve always felt terrible about it.”

“It’s nothing. Really. I never thought about it much.” He let out a short chuckle. “So you called me here to have a discussion about the shoes?”

She paused a moment. “No. There’s more.” Vicki frowned. “The shoes weren’t the only reason I asked our Father to see you.” She hesitated for a few more seconds. “I’m sorry for asking you to leave.”

Michael’s stomach lurched as deep gloom engulfed him. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

“What was that?”

“That I was only coming home because of the baby. I wanted to be with you.”

“I know.”

“I was angry, Vicki. But I’m sad I didn’t tell you then that I was saying it out of anger. I was hurt.”

“I was hurt too. I was confused. It’s why I needed to talk to Sammie so often.”

“I thought so.” He swallowed back a lump of guilt. “I messed up so much.”

“We both did.”

He gazed at her, willing his expression to show how contrite he truly was. “I wasn’t mature enough to realize that I should have come to you and talk about why we were growing apart.”

“We both have regrets, Michael. I neglected our marriage and didn’t nurture our relationship.” Her eyes held a tinge of sadness. “I was so worried about my pregnancy that I shut you out.”

He held his hand up. “You were a wonderful wife. We both lost our focus and let the worries consume us.” He took a step toward her. “I don’t care about all that. I need you to come back and be with Elizabeth and me. Ask our Father to send you back.”

“That’s not possible.” Vicki smiled. “I’m so proud of Elizabeth. She’s beautiful and smart. She’s so strong and independent.”

Michael trembled. The fear of God gripped him as he formed the words.  “She misses you so much. It wasn’t fair of God to take you from us.”

“God did not take me. An accident did. An accident. It can happen to anybody. Please remember that, no matter what you may find out in the future.”

“What do you mean, Vicki?”

She didn’t respond.

“It’s not fair.” He felt a rush of heat travel from his neck to his face. “You never got to hold Elizabeth in your arms. Never got to look in Elizabeth’s eyes for the first time. Seeing her first smile, her laughter, the first time she walked. Watching her blow out her birthday candles.” He bunched his fists. “Makes me so angry every time I think of how much you’ve missed.”

“Are you angry for me or for you?”

For a moment he was speechless. “For all of us.”

She held out her hands, her ring as sparkling as it was on their wedding day. “I miss you both. I’m proud of her. You are a great father.”

He stared into her eyes, hoping for a brief touch of her flesh. “I wish I could hold you in my arms.”

“Behold,” Jesus said, standing behind him. “Love her as my Father had intended. Hold her next to your heart.”

Michael’s mouth dropped. The mist evaporated and Vicki stood in the flesh before him, wearing the same black and white dress from their first date. Her hair was bouncy, curled at the ends, a little bit of makeup on her cheeks. Her long nails were painted in light green, complimenting her eyes.

“Can I touch her?” He turned to Jesus. “Kiss her?”

Jesus smiled. “It is up to you to make it happen.”

“How?” He tried to embrace Vicki but he couldn’t. “What do I do?”

“Michael,” Vicki said. “If you close your eyes and believe you can touch me, feel me and inhale my scent, then you can.”

Michael closed his eyes.

“Touch my hand,” she said.

He reached out but felt a cold mist. “I can’t feel you.”

“Do you remember the day you asked me to marry you?”

“Yes, on the ball field, in the rain.” He laughed. “We got so soaked that day.”

“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” she said. “Take me there again.”

“How?”

“Believe you can.”

He got down on one knee. “It was the happiest day of my life too.”

“Are you asking me to marry you again?”

Michael reached up with one hand. “I am. Touch me, Vicki. Touch my hand. I believe you’re real. Marry me again. Love me again. Don’t let me go again.” He opened his eyes. “I can feel you now, can you feel me?”

She quivered. “Yes.”

They embraced.

He buried his head against her neck, breathing deeply to smell her hair. “My goodness, you’re cold.” He rubbed her back hard, trying to warm her up.

They swayed back and forth as they had on the dance floor at their wedding. She tightened her hug. “This feels wonderful, Michael.”

“I can smell your shampoo, oh Lord, I’ve missed that so much.”

Vicki did the same. “Keep rubbing me. It feels so wonderful. I never thought I would get to hold you again.”

They rocked back and forth as Michael pressed his cheek against hers. He kept the tempo at a crawl, hoping it would prolong the moment. He leaned back and soaked in her beauty. “I never stopped loving you.”

He kissed her. It felt like the first kiss they shared riding up the escalator in Rockefeller Center, the night he truly believed she would be the one he would spend the rest of his life with.

She pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel sad. I wasn’t there to help you raise our daughter.”

“Can you see us? Hear us from up here?”

She shook her head. “I don’t see you or Elizabeth the way I did when I was in your world,” she said. “I can feel your love, your emotions, the love you give to each other is the strongest sensation I have. It strengthens my spirit when you both think of me.”

“What kind of sensation is it?”

“The most extraordinary one you’ll ever have.”

“She’s my greatest joy, Vicki. You gave me that. No one else could have ever given me such an incredible gift. I hope you know that.”

She nodded and then lowered her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m feeling faint. I’m tired.” She backed away a few steps. “I need to leave.”

“No,” he pleaded. “Not again. Please. Stay.”

She looked up at Jesus. “Thank you.”

Vicki reached up for Michael’s hand; a fiery flame massaged his fingers as the mist returned. “Don’t waste a moment, sweetheart,” she said. “While time is eternal in my world, it’s fleeting and fragile in yours.”

“How much time do I have with you?”

“None.”

“How much time do I have before we are joined together?”

She looked at Jesus. He shook his head. Vicki lowered hers.

“I love you,” she said. “Be strong. We all must face tragedy to truly appreciate God’s gift of time.”

Her image faded.

Michael took a heavy breath. “Did I really see my dead wife?”

“Do you believe you saw her?”

“I don’t know what to believe.”

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