It is time to play a Wild Card! Every now and then, a book that I have chosen to read is going to pop up as a FIRST Wild Card Tour. Get dealt into the game! (Just click the button!) Wild Card Tours feature an author and his/her book’s FIRST chapter!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Marlo Schalesky and her book: Beyond the Night
Multnomah Books (June 17, 2008)
About the Author:
Marlo Schalesky is the award winning author of six books, including her latest novel, Beyond the Night, which combines a love story with a surprise ending twist to create a new type of novel that she hopes will impact readers at their deepest levels. Marloâ€™s other books include Veil of Fire, a novel about finding hope in the fires of life, Empty Womb, Aching Heart – Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility, and Cry Freedom.
Sheâ€™s had over 600 articles published in various Christian magazines, including Todayâ€™s Christian Woman, Decision, Moody Magazine, and Discipleship Journal. She has contributed to Dr. Dobsonâ€™s Night Light Devotional for Couples, Tyndaleâ€™s Book of Devotions for Kids #3, and Discipleship Journalâ€™s 101 Small Group Ideas. She is a speaker and a regular columnist for Power for Living.
Marlo is also a California native, a small business owner, and a graduate of Stanford University (with a B.S. in Chemistry!). In addition, she has recently earned her Masters in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Marlo lives with her husband and four young daughters in a log home in Central California.
When sheâ€™s not changing diapers, doing laundry, or writing books, Marlo loves Starbucks white mochas, reading the New Testament in Greek, and speaking to groups about finding the deep places of God in the disappointments of life.
Visit the author’s website by clicking on her picture. And don’t forget her blog. (ISBN#9781601420169, 304pp, $12.99)
Darkness rose from somewhere within her. Blackness, like a great, choking wave. Immersing her, drowning her, until she couldnâ€™t breathe under the weight of it. It flooded her mind, spilled down her back, and submerged her limbs in icy heaviness. She fought against itâ€¦and failed. Deeper. Darker. Until her world was nothing but a black river, crashing in currents of pain.
Help meâ€¦ The words squeezed from her, unspoken yet real. They became a silent cry, like mist above the water, shimmering, then gone. Did anyone hear? Did anyone know? Was there someone listening out there beyond the darkness? Help me. Donâ€™t leave me alone. Pleaseâ€¦
Time wavered. Stillness breathed. In. Out.
Then a voice dipped into the blackness. A single word, spoken from a world beyond her own. It came like a slender ribbon of light, rippling over the waves. â€œMaddieâ€¦â€
One word. And in it, hope.
I am not alone.
The water receded. A little.
â€œWake up. Iâ€™ve come to take you home.â€ The blackness shivered, broke, then settled into a familiar gray. Her breath came again, steady and comforting.
â€œCan you hear me, Maddie?â€ The voice caressed her, embraced her in its gentle warmth.
I hear you. The answer formed in her mind but refused to be spoken. Stay with me.
â€œCome to me. Remember.â€
I canâ€™t. Silence. Dreaded, awful silence.
Pleaseâ€¦ Donâ€™t leave meâ€¦ You promisedâ€¦
The dreariness of the hospital room pressed into Paulâ€™s consciousness more heavily than the Monterey fog pressed outside the window. Damp. Gray. Cold and unwelcoming. A moment, a lifetime, before he had laughed and loved, hoped and dreamed. But all that had tunneled into this one imageâ€”a flickering fluorescent light, the reek of antiseptic, and the woman he loved in the bed before him. His vision blurred.
The word fell and was lost in the buzz of the light, in the steady beep of the EKG machine. For so long he had sat here, with doctors and nurses going in and out, taking her blood pressure, scribbling on charts. Heâ€™d almost lost track of them all, as the day faded to twilight. As shifts changed. As visiting hours dwindled. But no one would ask him to leave. Not tonight. Because Maddie was doing much worse than anyone let on.
It was going to be a long night. And there was no way he was going to leave her.
So he sat here, watching the liquid drip incessantly through clear tubes, watching Maddieâ€™s chest rising, falling. And the fog blotting out all hint of the California sky. So long, yet nothing changed.
Outside the room a gurney squeaked, an intercom rumbled, footsteps hurried past and faded. Outside, the world went on. But here, in this tiny room, life teetered on the edge of darkness.
How had it come to this? To a hospital bed, a frayed chair, and an ocean of silence between them? All the years. All his love. All the memories of a lifetime past. All captured in this one woman, pale, shriveled, so different from the vital, lively girl who shared his heart. She lay there with her eyes closed, her breath ragged, her lashes dark against sunken cheeks. A single lock of hair, damp and dull, curled over her forehead. Tubes lined her cheeks, her arms, trailed over her chest. Rising. Falling. Breath rasping from lips once red, now the color of ash.
Why did it have to be like this?
Did he speak aloud? No one heard. Did she? Could she?
Paul leaned forward. He reached toward her. If he could just take her hand, pull her back from the dark place where sheâ€™d gone. But he couldnâ€™t touch her. Not yet. She was too fragile, her life hanging by too thin a cord. â€œWake up. Iâ€™ve come to take you home.â€
But Maddie didnâ€™t stir.
â€œCan you hear me, Maddie?â€
Was that a sigh? Did her finger twitch? A shiver ran through him.
â€œCome to me.â€ Itâ€™s time. Come out of the darkness. Remember. He waited. A second. An eternity. Almost. Almost he had reached her. A pen clicked. Shoes squeaked.
A nurse in hospital blue hurried to the far side of the bed. â€œBlood pressure check.â€
Paul stood and moved away from the chair. â€œNot again.â€
The nurse pursed her lips and didnâ€™t answer. She just checked the levels of clear liquid dripping in the tubes, tapped the band around Maddieâ€™s arm, then glared in his direction.
The nurse stabbed her pen at him. Her forehead bunched. Paul jumped to the side. â€œOh. Oops.â€ He had been standing in front of the EKG machine.
â€œBlood pressureâ€™s good.â€ With brisk efficiency, the nurse reversed her pen and wrote something on her clipboard. Then she turned and paused. For a brief instant, her hand brushed Maddieâ€™s. Her voice softened, as if she knew, understood, how hard this night would be.
â€œHang in there. Wonâ€™t be long now.â€
The words twisted through Paulâ€™s mind.
She clicked her pen again, shook her head, and rushed from the room.
Paul stared at the place where the nurseâ€™s fingers had touched Maddieâ€™s hand, so white against sheets that were whiter still. And her skin so thin that it seemed translucent. Delicate, frail. Yet, the freckle just below her left thumb was still there, reminding him that some things donâ€™t change. Some things are forever.
Warmth flowed through Paul. Perhaps, just once, he could kiss that freckle again. Heâ€™d done that, for the first time, years ago. Her hands were strong then, young and tan. But the freckle was still the same. He smiled. The kiss had been a joke, really. A prank done in passing. Yet he remembered it still. A simple gesture that changed everything. At least
it had for him.
â€œDo you remember?â€ He spoke, knowing she couldnâ€™t hear him, knowing she was still too far away to understand.
â€œIt rained that morning, before the sun came out.â€
Only the steady beep of the EKG answered him.
His voice lowered. â€œCome, Maddie, remember with me. Remember the day I fell in love.â€
Palo Alto, 1973
Paul smashed his racquet against the small blue ball. The ball thwacked into the front wall and zoomed toward the back corner. Maddie raced left, her racquet extended. She slowed, pulled back, and swung.
Paul squatted, ready.
Air swooshed through the strings as Maddieâ€™s racquet missed the ball by a good three inches.
Maddieâ€™s shoulder slammed against the wall. The ball dribbled into the corner.
â€œYou all right?â€ He wiped his brow with his wristband. â€œThat last chem exam gotten to you or something?â€
â€œWhat do you know about exams?â€
He grinned. â€œNot much anymore, thankfully. Itâ€™s been a couple
Maddie grimaced. â€œWell, maybe if I had some fancy research job in a big pharmaceutical company I could joke about exams too.â€ Paul bounced the ball with his left hand. â€œIâ€™m telling you, moneyâ€™s in research these days.â€
She rolled her eyes. â€œBlah blah. I think Iâ€™ll stick to being a doctorâ€¦someday.â€
Paul chuckled. â€œIâ€™ll mix â€™em, you fix â€™em.â€
It was an old joke. And not a very good one. â€œJust serve, would you?â€
â€œYou sure youâ€™re ready?â€ He bounced the ball again.
â€œHere goes.â€ He slammed his racquet into the ball. It hit the front wall and whizzed toward her. She swung. And missed. Again.
â€œYour game.â€ Maddie twirled her racquet, then let it dangle from her wrist. â€œWhatâ€™s that? Four games now?â€ She scowled.
Five. Paul shrugged. â€œWhoâ€™s counting?â€
She put her hands on her hips. â€œYou are. And donâ€™t pretend youâ€™re not.â€
Paul grinned, then sauntered over and picked up the racquetball. He popped it onto his racquet, making it dance there with small, precise bounces. â€œYou wanna go again?â€ He tossed her the ball.
She let it drop. â€œI already owe you a pizza, a movie, popcorn, and a Coke. At this rate, Iâ€™m going to go broke.â€
â€œNormally, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s just bad luck. Butâ€¦â€
Maddie glared at him. â€œGo ahead, say it.â€
â€œWell, you gotta admit your gameâ€™s off today.â€ His voice turned to a whisper. â€œReally off. Canâ€™t blame that on a summer class.â€
â€œSo, whatâ€™s wrong?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s like the ball just vanishes before I hit it.â€
Paul reached over and tousled her hair. He loved doing that. Her loose, short curls stood straight up when he did it just right. â€œDidnâ€™t I tell you? Thatâ€™s a new trick of mine.â€
Maddie chuckled and punched him in the shoulder. â€œCome on, letâ€™s quit while Iâ€™m behind.â€
â€œStop rubbing it in.â€
Paul slung his arm around her shoulder and turned her toward the glass wall behind them. A blonde in red hot pants crossed on the other side of the glass. The blonde was so different from Maddie. Where the girl was tall and slender, Maddie was, well, medium. Five and a half feet tall, not slim, not stocky. Somewhere in between. Athletic and built for racquetball. Usually, anyway. Just not today.
He paused. â€œSheâ€™s new.â€
â€œYou mean you havenâ€™t asked her out yet? Looks like Iâ€™m not the only one whose game is off today.â€
Paul scooped the racquetball off the floor with his racquet. â€œThe day is still young, my friend.â€
Maddie shook her head. â€œWhat happened with the girl behind the soda counter?â€
Paul opened the courtâ€™s door for Maddie and stood back as she slipped out in front of him. â€œI think she found me too suave and debonair.â€
â€œOh, yes, youâ€™re very swave.â€ She purposefully mispronounced the word.
â€œAll she did was giggle and talk about the Bee Gees. It was like she was fourteen.â€ He pulled out a towel from his gym bag and wiped the back of his neck.
â€œSheâ€™s nineteen. And everyone knows sheâ€™s a huge Bee Gees fan.â€
â€œWell, you could have saved me a bundle on dinner if youâ€™d told me before. I count on you for these things, you know.â€
Maddie slipped her racquet into its case and dug around in her bag.
â€œPoor baby. I thought you said all girls eat is salad anyway. How expensive could that be?â€
â€œSpeaking of food, Iâ€™ll take my pizza first, then the movie. The new 007 is out.â€
Maddie groaned. â€œNot another Bond flick.â€
â€œWhen you win, you can choose. Tonight itâ€™sâ€¦Bond, James Bond.â€ Paul faked an English accent.
â€œBond is supposed to be Scottish.â€
Maddie cringed at his joke.
â€œYou arenâ€™t still crying about their replacing Sean Connery, are you?â€
â€œItâ€™s not a replacement, itâ€™s a downgrade.â€
â€œYour date is leaving.â€
Paul glanced over to the blonde. She was sipping pink liquid through a straw and moving toward the back door. He stretched out his arms and cracked his knuckles. â€œOkay, watch the master work.â€ Maddie sighed and rolled her eyes.
Paul strolled over to the blonde. She was pretty, he supposed. But a little thin. And her eyes didnâ€™t sparkle. She looked, well, bored. And boring. He could turn around now and forget it. He wanted to, but Maddie was watching. So he straightened his shoulders and sauntered up to the girl. Three minutes later, he walked back to Maddie. â€œFriday at seven. Easy as that.â€
â€œHope sheâ€™s a salad eater.â€
â€œShe is. I asked.â€
Maddie laughed. â€œI donâ€™t know how you do it. Next time, get a date for me, will you? I havenâ€™t been out in six months.â€ Paul ran his fingers through his hair. â€œYou find the guy.â€
â€œOkay, how about him?â€ Maddie shot a glance at a man heading toward the weight room.
â€œNah, too short.â€
â€œThat one?â€ She pointed to a guy at the check-in counter.
â€œClearly heâ€™s obsessed with his body. You donâ€™t want that, do you?â€
â€œWell, how aboutâ€”?â€
â€œNo. No. No.â€ Paul jabbed his finger toward the remaining men in the room. â€œNo one hereâ€™s good enough for you.â€ He cleared his throat, fighting to hide the strange dryness in his voice. â€œBesides, with that wicked backhand of yours, youâ€™d scare off all these namby-pambies anyway.â€ Maddie raised her eyebrows. â€œYeah, my backhand sure was scary today, wasnâ€™t it?â€
â€œAdmit it, you just wanted to see old Moore-baby.â€
â€œYou be good, or next time Iâ€™m going to find the most syrupy-sweet romance playing, and Iâ€™m going to win.â€
â€œYou hate those movies.â€
â€œYep. But not as much as you do.â€ Maddie grinned and batted her eyes at him.
Paul threw his hand towel at her. She reached for it midair but missed.
â€œI give up. My place, one hour. Youâ€™re driving.â€ She grabbed her bag and started toward the door.
â€œIâ€™ll order ahead. Pepperoni.â€
â€œGood.â€ She paused at the door and glanced back at him. â€œIâ€™m starved.â€
Paul slung his bag over his shoulder. â€œI thought girls only ate salad.â€ Maddie pulled open the door and flung a final comment over her shoulder. â€œHow dare you call me a girl.â€ She marched outside. Paul laughed as she disappeared from sight. He stooped over and picked up the hand towel. He frowned at it, then stuffed it into his bag. Something glinted at him from the floor. Maddieâ€™s keys. He grabbed them and trotted toward the door.
Maddie stood outside her car with one hand digging through her bag. The summer sunlight glinted off her russet hair, making it look on fire. Or maybe it was just her mood. Even from a distance of a hundred feet, Paul could see her muttering to herself. He snuck up behind her and dangled the keys in front of her nose. â€œMissing something?â€ She snatched them from his hand. â€œI seem to be missing everything today. First the ball, then the towel, and now this. Everything just disappears right before my eyes.â€
Paul spread out his arms. â€œEverything but me.â€
â€œWhat luck, huh?â€
He smiled at the dry humor in her voice.
She shook her head and attempted to insert the key into the keyhole.
It slipped to the side instead.
He plucked the keys from her hand and slid the right one into the hole. â€œGood thing Iâ€™m driving tonight.â€ He opened the door, took her hand, and helped her in. â€œYour ride, mâ€™lady.â€
â€œThank you, sir.â€
â€œWould hate for you to miss the seat.â€ He grinned, lifted her hand to his lips, then kissed it. Right on that little freckle. For a moment, neither moved. The shock of something strange and new flowed through him. Their eyes met. And he noticed in hers deep golden flecks against the brown, flecks that he had never seen before. He dropped her hand.
And there it was. An ordinary moment in what would be a lifetime of ordinary moments. A moment that nonetheless touched the edge of eternity.
Maddie quirked her lips into a smile and looked away. â€œSuave. Very suave. And Iâ€™m not even blond.â€
Read my review and don’t forget to click the bookcover for more info as well.