The book has a few major plot threads, and one of them deals with Syd’s divorce. The others? Well. There’s a big tornado that changes a lot of things for a lot of people — and that causes David and Michael to move in with the girls for a while (do the math on THAT one). And Henry’s dad comes home from the army a very changed man.
Celine visits for a bit. Michael gets a new job, and a new mentor. And Roma Jean gets a girlfriend.
We also get to spend some time with a few quirky new residents of the county—one in particular who has some difficulty accepting the outcome of the War of Northern Aggression.
So it’s Friday and it’s HOT—and I thought it might be nice to share a little bit of what I’ve been doing. So here’s a sneak peak at Jericho II: Aftermath.
Excerpt from Aftermath: A Jericho Novel
By Ann McMan
“How do you want to handle this?”
Syd looked across the desk at her new attorney. Michelle Westin was a pretty woman. With her short, stylish hair and hazel eyes, she looked more like a twenty-something sorority sister than a hard-nosed trial lawyer. But Michael said she had the best reputation in southwest Virginia—and she was also licensed to practice in North Carolina. Syd was lucky just to get the appointment. They were meeting in her Wytheville satellite office, where she kept hours twice a month.
“I honestly don’t know,” Syd replied. “What are my options?”
Michelle lowered the stack of papers from Jeff’s lawyers. “Essentially, you have three. One: you can reconcile.”
Syd shook her head.
“Didn’t think so,” Michelle said. “Two: you can request mediation.”
“What does that really mean?” Syd asked.
“It means that you both agree to sit down for an undetermined number of sessions with a third-party mediator who will try to help you resolve your differences amicably.”
“I thought we had already done that.”
Michelle nodded. “It seems that your husband has changed his mind.”
Syd sighed. “What’s the third option?”
Michelle sat back in her chair. “We face him in court before a judge, provide compelling evidence of his infidelity, and hope that you walk away with a divorce decree.”
Syd closed her eyes. When she opened them, Michelle was quietly watching her. She was slowly rotating a paper clip between her thumb and forefinger.
“Why is he doing this?” Syd asked aloud. She really meant it as a rhetorical question.
Michelle shrugged. “You tell me.”
Syd looked at her in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“You were within weeks of a final decree, and he changed his mind. He must have had a reason. Have you had any contact with him?”
Syd shook her head. “No. None.”
“Has anything in your personal life changed? Anything he could have discovered and taken exception to?”
Syd didn’t like the direction this conversation was taking. “What I do with my personal life is none of his business.”
“Unfortunately, it is his business as long as you’re still his wife.”
Syd opened her mouth to say something, but thought better of it.
Michelle sighed. “Look, Syd. This is going to go a lot better if all the cards are on the table.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Michelle seemed to shift gears. “You said that your husband is from a family of means, is that correct?”
“And you also said that you never signed a pre-nup agreement before your marriage, is that also accurate?”
“Does your husband have any kind of trust fund?”
“Yes.” Syd began to grow uneasy as she got the drift of Michelle’s questions.
Michelle sighed. “I really don’t think it’s too hard to connect the dots here, do you?”
Syd felt embarrassed and vaguely light-headed. How could she be so stupid? “But that’s ridiculous—I’m not after his money.”
“It doesn’t matter what you’re ‘after,’ Syd. It only matters how the State of North Carolina chooses to divide what it regards as community property.”
“But this doesn’t make any sense! Why would he suddenly decide to make an issue out of this? Why wouldn’t he just ask me not to make any claim on his precious inheritance? I’ve never wanted his money.”
Michelle watched her in silence for a moment. “As I said, something must have changed his mind.” She continued to rotate the paper clip. “Any thoughts about what that might be?”
Syd stared back at her. She felt uncomfortable—like she’d just walked into a job interview with something stuck in her teeth. She began to get a sense of what it might be like to face this woman in a courtroom. It was clear to her that Michelle had something specific in mind.
Enough was enough.
“Why don’t you just go ahead and ask me about whatever it is that’s plainly dangling here between us?” she said.
Michelle seemed to dial-back her penetrating stare. She dropped her paper clip. “I’m not your antagonist, Syd.”
“Really? Then why do I feel like I’m turning on a spit over here?”
Michelle smiled at her. “Okay,” she said. “Fair enough.” She leaned forward in her chair. “Tell me about your relationship with Dr. Stevenson.”
“With—” Syd began. “How do you know about that?”
“I’d venture to guess that the entire county knows about ‘that,’ Syd.”
Syd looked at her in amazement. “You don’t seriously think that Jeff….” She didn’t finish her sentence.
“Wealthy family. Trust fund. Philandering husband defends his behavior by alleging that his wife left him for another woman.” Michelle shrugged. “In my profession, we call that a blue-plate special.”
“That’s ridiculous. I didn’t even know Maddie when I left Jeff to move up here.”
“Were there other women before Dr. Stevenson?”
Syd could feel herself blush. “Of course not.”
“Can you prove that?”
Syd was speechless.
Silence fell between them like the heavy curtain that drops between acts of an opera.
When Michelle finally spoke, her tone was more congenial. “Do you see now what we might be up against if we face him in court?”
“I’m sorry to be so hard on you—but you need to know where this might all be headed.”
Syd slowly shook her head. “I just don’t get it. Why would he want to do this?”
“People do all kinds of things when they’re hurt and angry, Syd. He may just want to stop you from ruining his reputation.”
“How?” she scoffed. “By ruining mine?”
“No,” Michelle said quietly. “Not yours.”
Syd stared at her in disbelief.
Oh, my god.
“Are you going to tell me what she said?”
Maddie was watching Syd fold clothes. She was seated at the kitchen table, and tidy stacks of darks and lights stood tall around her like obelisks. Since the boys had moved in, laundry had taken on a whole new meaning. Just pairing socks was now an enterprise that required focus and concentration. Syd was adamant about taking on this role since her broken leg rendered her incapable of performing many other routine housekeeping tasks.
She pulled a pink and gray argyle sock from a pile of solids and held it up.
“Is this yours?” she asked, sweetly.
“Hardly,” Maddie replied.
Syd tossed it back into the laundry basket on the floor next to her chair, where it became part of a growing pile.
“How is it possible for David to have so many socks without mates?”
Maddie shrugged. “I think that’s a question for Carl Sagan.”
“Well, next time we run into him, let’s remember to ask.”
Syd continued to sort socks. Maddie watched her in silence for another minute.
Syd looked up at her.
“Tell me about your meeting with Michelle Westin.”
Syd took a deep breath, and expelled it slowly. “Do I have to?”
“You might as well. I came home early to find out—and eventually you’ll run out of socks.” She sighed. “You should also know that I’m determined to sit here until you do.”
Syd pushed her jumbled pile of laundry away and turned to face her. “How do you always do that?”
Maddie looked confused. “How do I always do what?”
“How do you always make me forget what I’m pissed-off about?”
“Oh, that,” Maddie said. “I’m afraid I can’t share that with you—you don’t have the proper clearance.”
Maddie looked her over “Nope. Not seeing it.”
Syd leaned toward her. “Maybe you need to look closer?”
Maddie raised an eyebrow. “Is that an invitation?”
Syd kissed her. “What do you think?”
Maddie sighed. “I think it’s nearly three o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re trying to distract me.”
Syd looped her arms around Maddie’s neck. “How am I doing?”
“Normally, you wouldn’t have to ask me that question.”
“I know.” Syd kissed her again. “Why is today different?”
Maddie took hold of her arms and gently lowered them. “Because it’s clear that we need to talk about whatever it is you’re trying to avoid.”
Syd leaned her forehead against Maddie’s. “I know. I’m sorry to be such a pain in the ass.”
“You’re about the furthest thing in the world from being a pain in my ass, Syd.”
“I wish that were true.”
“It is true.”
Syd sat back and looked at her sadly. “Not for long. Michelle thinks that Jeff is going to drag our ‘relationship’ through the mud, alleging that it’s my real motivation for seeking a divorce—and besmirch your reputation in the process.”
Maddie was silent for a moment. “Is that all?”
Syd looked at her with incredulity. “Isn’t that enough?”
Maddie shrugged. “I don’t see how he could expect to gain anything by doing that.”
“Darling, I think you’re missing the part where Jeff publicly outs you as ‘the other woman’ in this ludicrous little costume drama.”
Maddie laughed. “Honey…this would hardly be breaking news. We’ve been living together for nearly a year now.”
Syd stared at her in amazement. “But surely you don’t want something lurid like this being broadcast in the local media?”
“It wouldn’t be in the local media, Syd. If this goes to trial, it’ll be back in North Carolina. And, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about who knows what, where you and I are concerned. We don’t exactly hide the nature of our relationship right now—and I don’t see any reason to have to start.”
“What about your practice?”
Maddie shrugged. “My practice won’t suffer much. And if it does, it does. We go on.”
“And what about my job? Are you forgetting that I’m a public school teacher?”
“No,” Maddie shook her head. “I’m not forgetting that. I’ll admit that we might have to do some fancy footwork there.”
“And what about Henry?”
“Henry will be just fine—as long as we keep a watchful eye on the contents of Astrid’s toy box.”
Syd laughed. “You’re dramatically over-simplifying this.”
“But I love you for that.”
“I know that, too.”
Syd rolled her eyes. “You know…I’d really like to kick his cheating, pampered ass for this.”
“Me, too,” Maddie agreed. “But since we can’t, we need to do the next best thing.”
Maddie smiled. “We let Michelle do it for us.”
Syd sat quietly for a moment, and then looped her arms back around Maddie’s neck.
“Wanna rethink my earlier offer?”
“Which offer was that?” Maddie ran her hands up along her back. “I can’t really recall.”
“Really?” Syd glanced at the wall clock in the kitchen. “I have about forty-five minutes to jog your memory.”
Maddie kissed her. “You’d better work fast.”
Syd smiled against her lips. “Fortunately, for you, I always do.”