You can read the first SEVERAL chapters at Goodreads in a very pretty interface.
Part One: Melinda
The radishes called to her. Despite the hour and the warmth of her husband asleep beside her, Melinda slid from the covers, her bare feet arching against the cold floor.
She hurried down the stairs of the silent house, her lace nightgown billowing around her legs, and padded into the kitchen. The refrigerator’s searing light forced her eyes closed, but she could not bear to hesitate and reached blindly into the vegetable bin.
Her fingers fumbled with lettuce, cucumbers, and finally, the radishes. Despite her mother’s voice scolding her to wash them first, she crunched into an icy bulb. Her teeth throbbed, but the peppery bite eased her desperation to eat. She leaned against the counter, sated, running one hand over her stomach.
Ten weeks along and still no belly bump. Probably a good thing. Her Aunt Bea waited until thirty-five to have a baby too, ending up wider than the door of her travel trailer. Melinda had a closet full of custom-tailored suits to return to. Eventually.
“Quitter,” she muttered. She’d been unemployed for six months and still hadn’t stopped chastising herself for going domestic. She’d been out-argued, hoodwinked into stay-at-home-wifely submission by the lead attorney for Lindeman, Crum, and Finch. Her husband.
She tugged another radish from the stem, ignoring the dirt that clung to its wiry root.
Folic acid, a friend had told her. That’s why she craved them so much. Melinda was glad for the reason, as ever since the need hit her, all she could think of was Rapunzel’s father stealing radishes in the enchanted garden, and the deal he had struck to give up his first-born child to spare him punishment.
That man should have called her husband.
The third radish burned in her mouth, so she filled a glass with filtered water. Melinda glanced around the kitchen as she gulped. Only the scraggly vegetables broke the perfection of the sweeping marble countertops and inlaid tile, the gleam just visible in the light from the hall.
The cleanliness wasn’t her doing. She had more help than a Louisiana plantation. Her mother would have had a conniption, never putting any stock in some other woman swiping your toilet. Melinda had no such prejudice. Too bad Mom died well before the onset of Jake. She would have thought he was a movie star.
Ajax whined from the utility room, so Melinda popped open the door to release the chocolate lab. “Hey puppy dog, love muffin.”
His dark nose sniffed at her hands
“Midnight snack for you too? Let me find some biscuits.” She opened the cabinet beneath the sink and bent down to locate the box.
A strange pop low in her abdomen made her double over and clutch her stomach. A cramp began, like a fist in her belly, starting small and tight but rapidly rippling out. Her breathing shifted to huffs, like labor. Before she could consider what might be happening, fluid gushed between her legs, soaking her panties. Melinda froze, afraid to make it worse, trying to calm her breath wheezing in and out.
Ajax whined again, rubbing his nose on her thigh. Melinda grasped the hem of her nightgown and pressed the white lace between her legs. Even in the dim light she could see it soak scarlet. The baby. God, the baby.
She walked in mincing steps across the floor toward the bathroom. A wet drop hit her ankle and she looked behind to see a red trail from the cabinet to her feet. She leaned against the wall, shivering and gasping to breathe.
Pull yourself together. Melinda reached for the phone to call an ambulance, her doctor, someone, then set it down again. Jake first. She could scream, perhaps, make enough noise to wake him upstairs. He was such a heavy sleeper.
Only one thing would get her husband up during the few hours he slept each night. She snatched her purse from the counter and tugged out her cell phone. She sent a text message to his work line, a ring tone he always answered unless he was in court. Her Hail Mary, one she never used. “Come downstairs. Emergency.”
She heard his feet fall on the floor above, then his frantic steps crossed the room and down the stairs.
“What the hell?” Jake stumbled into the kitchen and stared at her as she leaned over the counter. Then he saw the floor, his eyes following the smear of blood on the tile. He flipped on the light.
Melinda could not meet his eyes. The chandelier blinded her, the room swirling white and hot.
He bent near her in his pajama bottoms, his bare chest tan and smooth. “Mel?”
“The baby,” she said. “I lost the baby.”
He picked her up, cradling her against his body, and carried her upstairs, away from the blood. “Let’s get you changed and go to the hospital,” he said. “They can do something.”
Melinda could have argued with him, as she had read that first trimester miscarriages could not be saved. But she knew Jake, and he needed reliable testimony, expert witnesses, hard facts. They stopped in the bathroom, and he brought her a clean nightgown and panties. She searched through the cabinets for pads and cleaned herself, the bleeding now slowed to a trickle. Ajax had followed them, sitting quietly by the door, his pink tongue lolling out.
For once, Jake ignored her dog. “Ready?” he asked, handing her a blue pea coat. “Can you walk?”
Her arm caught inside the sleeve, and Jake tenderly tugged it on. “Would you rather have an ambulance?”
She shook her head for no, not trusting her voice. It seemed too much, the sirens, the uniformed paramedics. The baby, she knew, was gone.
They drove silently through their neighborhood, past mansions and perfect lawns, until he entered the freeway. “You going to tell me what happened now?” Headlights flashed into his face, chiseling his features with hard edges.
“I felt a pop, and the bleeding started.”
“What were you doing in the kitchen?” Jake zipped across the freeway to the far left lane despite the lack of traffic. “Eating?”
Melinda gripped the door handle. “Yes, I wanted some radishes.”
“And it just happened like that—pop.”
“I was getting a dog biscuit.”
“Did that dog jump on you? Jump on your belly?”
Melinda watched the signs whiz by. Hospital, next right. He was going to miss it. “That wouldn’t hurt anything.”
“You don’t know that. Something caused this.” He jerked the steering wheel to cut across lanes, just making the exit.
Her fingers tightened on the handle. “Not everything has to have a reason, Jake. Some things just happen.”
“Not in my world.”
“Then welcome to mine. Dead mom. Dead dad. Dead baby.”
They coasted to the light. As the car idled in the red glow, Jake laid his hand on her arm. “Baby, I’m sorry. Let’s see what the doctors say.”
The bright cross marking the hospital beckoned across the intersection. Jake pulled into an emergency slot and pressed his palm to Melinda’s back as he escorted her inside. “Sit here and rest.” He directed her to an empty section of blue plastic chairs. “I’ll check you in.”
Melinda watched Jake stride to the large white desk, disconnected, as if he were some other man, and this was some other place. The cuffs of the coat scratched her bare wrists, so she pulled her hands up inside, shivering despite the wafts of heat coming from the ceiling. A dozen people waited in the long room, scattered among the seats lining the walls.
Jake returned to sit beside her. He crossed a foot over his knee and balanced the clipboard on his ankle. “I can’t fill this out—date of last period and all that.” He passed the paperwork to her and leaned forward, bracing on his elbows.
She stared at the words and lines, trying to decipher the questions. Date of birth. Allergies. Medical conditions.
Jake began tapping his leg with his thumb, a nervous habit he usually kept tightly controlled. Melinda hoped they would be called back soon, for his sake. She kept her head down, focusing on the white paper and its small checkboxes.
The nurse called for a mother carrying a sleeping child.
Jake stood. “What’s the freaking holdup?” He strode back to the white desk and leaned on his arm, flashing a bright smile at the woman seated there. Melinda closed her eyes again, torn between chagrin and pride. Jake could get the job done. He always did.
Her eyes flew open when a hand cupped her knee. She felt a wave of embarrassment now at her nightgown covered in the blue coat. Everyone else in the waiting room was dressed despite the hour. Jake squatted beside her, taking her hand, eyes beaming concern. “They should call you soon. I explained things.”
Melinda nodded, and the clipboard slid to the floor.
“Here, baby, let me get that.” He scooped up the paperwork and stood, tapping the flat acrylic against his hip.
“Melinda Carmichael?” The nurse in scrubs standing by the entrance to the examining rooms looked right at her.
“Now that’s more like it,” Jake said, again touching the small of her back as the frosted doors hissed open.
The nurse slid back a section of blue curtain on a track and patted the examining table. “Up here.”
Jake stood in the corner, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans. He had ruffled his hair several times, and now the front section stood straight up like an exclamation.
The nurse asked about the amount of blood, and if she were cramping anymore. Melinda shook her head no.
“See?” Jake said when the woman left. “No indication whatsoever that this is the end. They can probably give you something, and it will all be fine.”
Melinda could have told him that she just knew, some intuition, some internal warning system had sent out a flare, but he would not listen. “If you can’t prove it, it ain’t so,” he liked to say both in court and out, paired with a thermonuclear smile and an almost-but-not-quite wink.
The curtain slipped aside, and a young doctor entered. “I’m Dr. Blais.” He flipped through the chart. “Let’s take a look. Have you had a sonogram yet?”
“Last week,” Melinda said. “He measured out perfectly. Good solid heartbeat.”
Jake stepped nearer to the table. “Any explanation for the bleeding and cramping? Does this happen often?”
Dr. Blais picked up the ultrasound wand. “About forty percent of all pregnancies have some sort of bleeding. Only ten percent of pregnancies miscarry overall. The odds are with you, especially at this point.”
Jake turned back to Melinda, one eyebrow cocked.
The doctor sat by the sonogram machine and squeezed lubricant on the probe. “We’ll do a transvaginal ultrasound, probably just like you had last week.”
“I’m bleeding, though,” she said.
“It’s okay. It won’t affect the image.”
Melinda lay back and fitted her heels in the stirrups. Dr. Blais did not turn the machine’s screen to them as her obstetrician had. The sound was on, however, its crackle and static puncturing the quiet.
The whomp whomp of a heartbeat filled the room, but before Melinda could relax, Dr. Blais said, “That’s mom’s heartbeat. A little fast at ninety but still nowhere near baby’s speed.”
He pushed the probe more firmly against her and she felt the pressure, the hardness of it. Her fists clenched until she couldn’t feel her fingers. Jake’s shoes scraped across the floor as he paced.
The pulse sounds skipped a beat as Dr. Blais shifted the probe. “I can see the sac and the baby now,” he said. “I’m going to take some measurements.”
He already knows. Melinda felt her heart race and waited for the echo of the machine to relay her anger to the men. He obviously wanted to hold off telling her the baby’s fate until he’d done whatever the hell he was doing. Her pulse sped up another notch.
Their curtained space fell silent as he switched off the sound. Beeps and coughs and lowered voices penetrated from other parts of the ward. He grimaced as he worked, finally pulling away and switching off the machine. Melinda’s face grew hot to the point of abject discomfort. Just say it!
He tugged off his gloves. “The baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. It’s measuring nine weeks now, so I am guessing it died shortly after your last doctor visit.”
Melinda shot forward as if pulled up by a string. “I knew it.”
“I’m very sorry.” His mouth was set tight, firmly in a line, and his concern didn’t meet his expression. He saw worse every day, she thought. This is small to him.
Jake waved his hands beside his temples. “Now, wait. Are you sure about this? What sort of equipment does this hospital carry?”
The doctor tossed the gloves into a lined can. “Good enough for this. With the combination of symptoms your wife is experiencing, it’s really just a confirmation.”
Jake turned to Melinda. “Did you strain yourself? Work on the baby’s room?”
Melinda steeled herself with calm. “No, Jake.”
Dr. Blais stepped forward. “Mr. Carmichael, your wife didn’t do anything wrong. Most likely this was a genetic loss, something formed incorrectly inside the baby, and it just stopped growing. Sad and unfortunate, but common.”
Jake turned to the doctor. “I already have two kids. We didn’t have any problems.”
Melinda gripped the paper cover of the examining table until it tore. “Stop it! Stop it now! You’re acting like I caused this to happen!”
The ward silenced. She felt a small cramp and a gush of fluid or blood or maybe just the lubricant from the probe. She curled over her belly.
“Ms. Carmichael, are you okay?” The doctor bent over and touched her arm.
His eyes had softened. He’d lost his professional detachment.
He squeezed her lightly, then turned and picked up the clipboard. “You can call your regular doctor for a D&C if you don’t want to wait it out.”
“Could be today. Could be two weeks or more. Here’s a prescription for some pain medication in case the cramps get very bad. Would you like something to help you sleep?”
“No, she doesn’t,” Jake said. “None of that.”
Dr. Blais tore the paper off the pad and handed it to Melinda. “It’s the Ambien. You can fill both or just one.”
Melinda tucked the paper inside the sleeve of her nightgown. “What do I do if the baby comes out? Do I need to save it?”
“You can if you want—put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate it until you can take it to your doctor. But you don’t need to. First miscarriages aren’t generally tested and usually get contaminated at home.”
The two men stared at each other, then at her, certainly picturing the grim scene to come. The doctor nodded, then rolled open the curtain and left her alone with her husband.
Melinda stood, holding the white liner in place until she could reach her underwear. Jake paced the length of the curtain.
Outside the room, Melinda halted, not sure where to go in the endless line of blue fabric on silver tracks. There seemed no escape.
A few feet away, a young man whipped open a curtain and dashed out. A teen girl, partially covered in a blue sheet, lay on the table, a machine strapped to her belly. Small feet sheathed in rainbow stockings peeked out the end. She was crying.
Jake came up behind her. “Is she pregnant? She can’t be sixteen.”
Melinda turned away, disarmed by the proximity of another pregnant person, the heartbeat on the machine, and the striped stockings. A nurse approached her, closing the open curtain as she walked by. “Ms. Carmichael? Here’s some information for you. Instructions and a flier for the pregnancy loss support group the hospital recommends.”
Melinda accepted the paper. “Thank you.”
She glanced back at the examining table where she’d just been, empty and rumpled but otherwise unchanged by what had occurred there.
“The exit’s over here,” Jake said. “We should go.” He strode away, strong and tall, glancing at the people he passed with curiosity and disdain.
What have I done? Who have I married? She struggled to keep up with him, each rapid step prompting another sticky gush from her body. The first crisis of their marriage, and he was failing miserably, unaware that he was losing her, rousing in her an anger she had forgotten she possessed. She was worth more than this.
Another cramp tightened in her abdomen. She froze, hand pressed to her belly, and decided screw him, and this time continued down the corridor at her own pace.
The Book Spot in Round Rock, Texas will have copies in by late August. Visit them or call for it. They are also hosting the book launch on Oct. 15 at 3 p.m.
Indie Bound has it listed finally (although without the cover yet), but you can follow that listing to an independent bookstore near you.
Barnes and Noble has it in stock in their online store and is shipping now.
Amazon is having trouble keeping it in stock, but they have it. (Discounted to $11.66 last time I checked.)
Amazon UK also has it if you live there.
If you want a copy signed by the author, you can order it through the publisher, and I will get the dedication or inscription to write inside before it ships. Signed copy through the publisher
The publisher also has a discount program for baby loss web sites to sell copies as well as hospitals or support groups who want to order five copies or more. Email them for details.
DRM-free at Goodreads for Sony, Kobo or other e-readers
Apple iBooks for iPad/iPhone (coming soon)