A humble heart, p.1
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       A Humble Heart, p.1
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         Part #1 of Hollywood Hearts series by R. L. Mathewson

  Chapter 1

  “Dana, the kids are in bed,” Jeff muttered before he turned his back on her and made his way downstairs to his office, his “man town” as he liked to call it, to spend the remainder of the night on his computer.

  She sighed as he walked away. This was the way it was now, the way it had been for a long time. His computer and video games were his world. He took no pleasure in anything else, including her. A few years ago that really bothered her, but not now.

  After a long moment she opened her laptop back up and typed in her password. The video she was watching when she heard her husband’s approach was still there, paused. She clicked the play button and smiled. Edward Pierce’s late night interview began playing once again. She watched this video ten times today. She couldn’t help herself.

  It wasn’t that she was in love with or even obsessed with this actor. There was just something about him that she found very comforting. He was handsome, funny, polite and most importantly laid back, something she used to be once upon a time.

  She bit her lip to hold back a soft sob. Damn, things had changed so fast. It seemed like only yesterday she was level headed, confident and happy. Those memories felt wrong, like she was thinking about someone else’s life. It wasn’t her. At least it hadn’t been for eight years now, not since she met Jeff.

  Back then she had been a kid, a twenty-one year old kid if there was such a thing. Life was good back then. She remembered the year of freedom that seemed like such a treasure back then. It was the year all her dreams were becoming a reality. She finally rid herself of a boyfriend, well she never really considered him a boyfriend. They had been friends since high school and out of loneliness and boredom they decided to say they were dating. She couldn’t recall kissing him more than twice in the entire year they dated. It felt like kissing her brother. He was sweet, too young and boring in a nice way.

  It was clearly one of the biggest mistakes of her life to allow that relationship, well, the illusion of that relationship.

  She remembered hiding behind it like she always did, too afraid to go after any real attraction. The story of her life, crush on a great guy and settle for a safe guy who couldn’t possibly break her heart. There’d been two great guys she fell for that year. Unfortunately, she worked with both of them on and off. Dating Henry was her excuse to turn down their advances. God, she’d been stupid.

  Henry was predictable and boring. He was a nice guy, but not for her. He was also inexperienced when it came to women. His ideal date was a trip to the mall; every single date for a year. Dana knew it was a mistake to allow it.

  There was no chance the relationship was going to be physical she made sure of that. She lied to Henry telling him she was a virgin and wanted to remain that way until marriage. It hadn’t been a ploy to make him rush out and buy a ring. The lie was the only thing she could think of to make sure he didn’t expect anything, and clearly he hadn’t.

  It would have killed her to hurt such a nice guy.

  Hurting him was unavoidable. For the entire year she sought out advice to get rid of the guy, make him dump her.

  At the time the advice sounded reasonable. Then again she was only twenty-one and didn’t have much experience in driving off guys she cared about. Usually a break was simple. She talked to the guy, feelings were hurt, but it was always a clean break.

  It had been a long and boring year with Henry. The advice was driving her nuts. The worse of it, the one she actually thought was going to work, was calling Henry every day at exactly seven o’clock at night. It was beyond old and boring and it didn’t work. Thankfully she had a cell phone so she wasn’t stuck at her father’s house waiting to call him.

  Not that he knew she left the house. She never told him anything. She didn’t have a car, but had a good paying job so she could hire a taxi, take the train or call up one of her many friends Henry didn’t know about.

  As the year mark approached it was becoming too much for her. She had a game plan. She invited him over for dinner, but she didn’t plan anything for dinner. It was not going that far. When Henry came over she was going to take him outside for a walk and end it, lay everything on the table for him. Tell him about the tips she received from friends and the internet and let him know she wasn’t in love with him and they didn’t belong together.

  Thankfully Henry came to his senses at the same time.

  When Dana received the phone call she had to muffle her relieved sigh. He was a nice guy and she didn’t want to hurt him by sounding relieved when he told her he wasn’t in love with her. She was practically beaming with the news. That was until he filled the conversation with drama. He claimed she was head over heels in love with him and he couldn’t return the feelings. When she informed him that she wasn’t and that she had been trying to spare his feelings all these months he scoffed as if that was impossible. She was in love with him. He actually said so.

  She ended the conversation on what she thought was a friendly note, but there was no mistaken the relief in her voice. After she hung up there was denying she was pissed at his attitude and the way he ended things. At least she was going to do it in person. Her temper escalated days later when she talked to him again asking if he wanted to help with a charity for their favorite history teacher from high school that had passed away the year before. His widow called Dana moments before begging her to call Henry and ask for his help. She reluctantly agreed to make the call.

  When he used a tone with her that she’d never heard from him before something in her snapped. He really thought she was in love with him, obsessively.

  She couldn’t stop herself. She sent him an e-mail telling him how much she didn’t love him. She told him everything she did in the last year to get away from him, how she never felt a moment of attraction for him and he wasn’t even a good friend. It was harsh and probably some of it uncalled for even if it was true, but that didn’t mean she should have written it. She regretted the way she did it, but the results were a relief. He was out of her life for good.

  After a year of boredom and illness thanks to a patient she’d transported that year she was ready to start dating again. Thanks to the illness she caught because a nurse failed to inform Dana and her partner of the day of the patient’s health precautions, she’d walked into a patient’s room and caught a lovely airborne virus.

  It was only after a doctor came running down the hall waving his hands frantically in the air for her to leave the room had she realized the mistake. The nurse was suspended with pay, not much of a punishment if they asked her, and Dana was left with a painful illness that required multiple shots and took most of the “boring” year as she liked to refer to it just to heal. She missed a great deal of work and college thanks to the illness as well as lost fifty pounds.

  The new year, her new life of freedom started off poorly.

  She lost her job with the top ambulance company in the state and ended up working in another field outside of emergency medicine. She was also kicked out of college when her GPA dropped. She went from being an honors student with a triple major in biochemistry, history and biology with a real possibility at either law school, med school or a promising career in forensic science to working in a pizza joint until she got her act together.

  That was a strange period. Her professional career was gone. She was kicked out of school and she had no real focus. Things began coming together slowly. She finally bought a car, she was in a management position that she had no plans of exploring and she had more men actively pursuing her than ever before.

  Except this had been different, they were men not boys.

  She felt overwhelmed and awkward at the same time.

  Although she wasn’t a virgin she was still extremely inexperienced whe
n it came to the opposite sex.

  She had men at work pursuing her, customers, coworkers and even ex-co-workers. It was overwhelming. She decided to focus on work and try figuring things out. A pizza joint wasn’t her future. She knew that much at least. She worked during the day and at night she used the internet to search for answers.

  It was the internet that changed her life. She was lonely.

  Her friends were all in relationships or she was avoiding them because she was too embarrassed with her current career choice. The internet seemed like a safe way of making friends, well on-line friends. She had no plans on meeting any of them in person.

  Some of the guys she talked to were nice. Most had serious relationship issues they were getting over or immaturity problems. She talked to them until they started to talk about sex and then they were blocked. This went on for months. When she refused to meet them in person they ended the online friendship with her. One man was hard to refuse, Brian. He was funny, nice and had a lot in common with her. He was also dating someone else, which made him perfect. They talked online for hours at a time.

  Things changed quickly when Brian dumped his girlfriend for her. It was difficult to continue to talk to him. He wanted to meet her. It couldn’t happen, she felt awkward and ugly. She didn’t think much of herself at all, which was one reason she didn’t like to date much. Her self-esteem was non-existent. She really thought she was the ugliest girl in the world and Brian would take one look at her and run the other way.

  The day he ended their online friendship she actually cried. She knew if she met him in real life she would fall head over heels in love with him if he was even one tenth like the Brian she knew online. After that she didn’t talk to many people online. It hurt too much.

  After several months of avoiding emails from guys wanting to chat an email from Jeff caught her eye. She began talking to him and liked what she read. He was a few years older than her, but his dating history was practically non-existent. He was intelligent, funny and appreciated her sense of humor and he never talked to her sexually.

  When he asked to meet her in person she didn’t hesitate. She was a nervous wreck the entire day. She tried to keep busy with work and friends, but nothing kept her hands from shaking. They had to set a midnight date because of her job, leaving her with the entire day to be nervous.

  She didn’t have any expectations of the date. Actually, she refused to have any expectations. The last thing she needed was to feel the pain when this guy saw her and ran screaming the other way. But he didn’t. He gave her an angelic smile when they met. He was handsome, but he had low self-esteem like her, which at that point was the only explanation she could give herself for his lack in dating experience.

  Everything in her life improved the moment Jeff entered it. Dana began to focus on her own life. She started applying for other EMT positions and landed one in Boston.

  It was unbelievable and surprising. Boston was an ideal location for an EMT. There were so many possibilities and so much experience to be gained.

  She also moved out on her own for the first time in her life. The freedom was great. She had the typical first apartment experience, a small two bedroom dump with a slum lord, but it was hers and she was proud of it. Who cared if there was no heat in the winter and sometimes she went days without hot water and had to endure ice cold showers? She was free.

  Things with Jeff were great. They took things slowly and fell in love. Things became hot and heavy quickly, but they held off consummating their relationship for several months.

  Dana couldn’t sleep with a man she wasn’t in love with, not again. She also couldn’t stand the thought of having sex with a man without a sense of commitment.

  It was embarrassing for her to open up to a man sexually. The thought of sleeping with a man only to break up with him and see him in public sent shivers down her spine. What if the relationship ended poorly? There would be nothing stopping him from telling all his buddies all the sordid details of their relationship. No, she couldn’t just sleep with a man she didn’t love.

  Jeff spoke those three little words to her just a month after they began dating. It took her breath away when he said it only to realize she was closely coming to feel the same way. Still they held off taking their relationship to the next level.

  When they did, it was unreal and unplanned. It was beyond words for her. They made love all night in a hotel room they decided spur of the moment to rent because their makeout session became a little too hot and heavy for public, that and a cop caught them making out in her car

  on the side of the road

  with most of their clothes already undone

  .with her straddling his lap. Things probably wouldn’t have progressed that night if they hadn’t been kicked out of their favorite spot.

  Dana made the mistake of confusing love with great sex. In her mind the two were the same. She couldn’t imagine a man making her feel that good without love being involved. She was young, naďve and in over her head.

  Things started going downhill for her professionally. She had to leave her job in Boston for something closer to home because of her car. Then she began working at a mom and pop ambulance company with some of the cruelest people she had ever met.

  She was what they liked to call a “whistleblower”. She began reporting the abuse she saw when she responded to nursing homes for patients that had clearly suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of those entrusted with their care.

  She was reprimanded by the company she worked for when they began losing nursing home contracts. The nursing homes were being fined and families were using Dana’s reports to press charges. When they demanded she alter her reports to clear the nursing home staff of abuse she flat out refused.

  After she lost that job she was black listed. She would never work in emergency care again. She moved onto residential programs helping kids. The jobs were stressful, paid poorly and were god awful except for the kids who were the only plus in the jobs. She got along with all the kids the staff deemed “losers” and “bad seeds”.

  Her relationship progressed with Jeff even though Jeff’s family turned out to be an absolute nightmare. Something she never contemplated. They were horrid people.

  Thankfully there weren’t that many people in his family.

  Everything in his family seemed to wrap around his mother.

  Dana felt uncomfortable with his mother the first minute she laid eyes on her.

  The smorgasbord of mental problems in his family made Dana cringe. His family consisted of a small group of people that would drive Dr. Phil to drink. Dana avoided his family as best she could. It was a blessing that Jeff wasn’t close to his family. Just the thought of spending weekends and holidays with them was enough to send her screaming into the night.

  Things between them cooled off considerably after the “I do’s.” Jeff became obsessed with his computer and video games. Something she was unaware that he did when he wasn’t around her. She knew he used a computer, he was a computer tech after all, but she didn’t know it was an obsession.

  Jeff only came out of his office for meals and then he’d return to his “man town.” Soon they slept separately. There were a thousand and one excuses how that happened, but the truth was they weren’t friends and weren’t in love. It happens. She wasn’t sure how it happened but they ended up pregnant twice. Jeff wasn’t a part of either pregnancy.

  He showed no interest and didn’t talk about it. Something she hadn’t expected from him. She thought he would be an attentive husband and father, boy had she been wrong.

  Her attention went back to the video playing. A small smile touched her lips. She liked seeing Edward. Hell, she liked seeing anyone relaxed and enjoying life completely. It gave her hope and an ache for what life could be, scratch that, should be for her. She loved her daughter and son very much, but part of her deeply regretted how life had turned out for her.

  She was a twenty-eight year old stay at home mom of two sm
all children in an unhappy marriage. Dana was sure she wasn’t the exception, just the rule. She had no doubt men and women both got themselves into a loveless marriage only because they confused good sex with love or even worse she suspected she had been young and naďve and in love with the idea of being in love.

  “Mommy!” Cole cried.

  Dana pushed her desk chair back and went to see her small son. This was part of her nightly routine. Cole slept in his older sister’s room until he woke up around eleven.

  Then he came to sleep in her room. It didn’t bother her that her very sweet two year old son kept hogging her king size bed on her. They needed each other. Cole was a sensitive tough guy and she hated being alone at night when the loneliness seemed to multiply.

  She chuckled softly when she saw Cole standing in front of the baby safety gate that kept him from roaming the house at night. He stood waiting for her in only his diaper with his arms up in the air with his blanket fiercely in his hand as he silently demanded her to pick him up.

  After tucking Cole into her bed she turned her attention back to the task at hand. She closed the video and maximized the file she’d been working on earlier, her third book. It was the second book about her favorite characters she’d created, Christian and Bailey.

  The first book was sent off two months ago with the hope that a publisher would pick it up and sign her. She sent out ten thick envelopes and so far nothing. She pushed the aching in the pit of her stomach aside and focused. She had a game plan and she wouldn’t be distracted. She worked ten to fifteen hours a day on her books. There were eight unfinished books on her laptop that she tended to.

  She worked with each one until she became stumped then moved on only to come back later. It was relaxing as well as stimulating. Something she hadn’t found in a long time.

  They were her life apart from her children. Hell, she was doing this for her children. She didn’t have a job, a car or close friends or relatives. There was no clear way for her to escape this marriage, this life. Her only hope at the moment was a contract for one of her books.

  She knew if she ever signed a contract for a book she was out of here. Jeff wouldn’t fight her on the divorce. The only problem she would have would be custody. Although he didn’t show it he did love the kids in his own way. But once she was free she was out of here. She didn’t want to stay in this small New England town where she’d lived her entire life. There were things she deeply loved about New England like its history, many of its tourist attractions and some of its culture, but there were a lot of things she didn’t enjoy like freezing her ass off from late October until early May.

  Dana finished writing another chapter in the lives of Christian and Bailey and shut down her computer. The second book was coming
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