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Chapter 1 - March
It was a sad and tragic day. Not only that, but Meredith had just lost the one person who understood her. Sitting in the hospital, she couldn't stand the sight of the hospital staff and the few friends she had looking at her in pity. She stood up from her chair, which was placed next to the hospital bed and pushed everyone out, shutting the door behind them. Slowly she turned to where her late husband laid, resuming her place in the chair next to him.
Uncertain of how her life got to this point, she crawled up into the hospital bed and laid next to her husband, realizing how much she was going to miss his touch, his voice, and every bit of him that made him the man he was. She wondered how she would overcome this. Their life together was so short. They were only in their mid-twenties with him being twenty-seven and her being twenty-five.
This was completely unexpected. One minute Jason was kissing her and running out for dinner, the next she gets a phone call stating her husband was killed in a car crash. Something must have distracted him because he drove off the side of the road. Meredith couldn't put all the pieces together. It just didn't make sense to her. The police said he must have been dodging an animal that was in the road.
Meredith had nothing left to remember Jason by. They had only been married for a year. No children, no house, and now she had no car and no husband. No Jason. Most importantly, all they had were each other and Jason's mother, Connie. She still had their apartment, but not for much longer as they were already late on rent this month.
Meredith wept even more now, thinking of all the times Jason had been there for her and never neglected her. Not even once in all the years, they knew each other. They were meant to be together for eternity.
After what seemed like a lifetime, there was a knock at the door. Meredith looked up and saw Connie peaking in the room.
"I wanted to say goodbye one last time," Connie nodded towards her son and walked to the bed. "Meredith, this has to be hard on you. I completely understand. Remember, I lost Tim when I was young. Maybe not as young as you, but I was 35."
Meredith knew that Connie was right. She did lose Tim at a young age. Meredith stood up and walked over to the window and looked out.
"I am just scared. I don't have anywhere to go and there is no way I can afford to live on my own! My salary is barely enough to pay for groceries!"
Connie placed a hand on Meredith's shoulder, who was still staring out the window at the dark sky.
"Honey, that is not true. You know you are like a daughter to me and always have been. I know things aren't easy but you need to come with me. We have much to discuss and this is not the place. You must say goodbye now. I taught you to be strong. I have faith that you will get through this and you know I will be here for you every step of the way. "
Meredith walked towards the bed and kissed her husband one last time. Knowing this would be the last time she would see her love she whispered in his ear, " I will always love you."
She went home with Connie that night so she wouldn't have to be alone. She knew Connie was the best person to be with right now. Connie was always a very strong and independent woman and Meredith knew she had much to learn from her.
"Honey, please come with me," Connie directed her to the office which was only used in rare instances. "Have a seat."
Connie went over to one of the filing cabinets as Meredith looked around the office noticing a picture on the wall from the day her and Jason were married. That was the day she became Mrs. Jason Lockhouse. This was her favorite picture. Jason was looking at her with complete love in his deep blue eyes. His dark brown hair was slicked back and his smile indicated that he planned on spending a lifetime of happiness with her. Meredith's long golden brown hair was pulled back in a bun as her sea green eyes were looking down at her bouquet. Her thin body was leaning back into Jason's strong arms as he held her. As she looked closer she couldn't help but notice how much Jason looked like Connie. They shared the same smile, hair, and eyes.
After a few minutes, Connie sat down at the desk and opened a file she had obtained from the filing cabinet.
"I feel like this is the best time to do this. I was going to wait a few days, but seeing how worried you are, I decided to go over this now. Hopefully, this will ease your mind. As you know, before Jason's father passed, we were very well off. Jason knew about this too, but wanted to save this in case of an emergency, such as this."
Meredith glanced at her in confusion. "What on earth are you talking about?"
“Tim left Jason a house that has been in his family for at least a hundred years. It's on a small beach in California. Along with that, we have money set back in an account for him. That money was supposed to go for your children's tuition, but since that is no longer a possibility, I can see no better use of the money. It is now yours, both the money and the house, of course."
"Connie, this can't be right. California? That is across the country. I have only ever lived in Illinois. I haven't even left the state. How much money are we talking about exactly?" Meredith stood up and paced the floor.
Connie stood up and walked over to Meredith. “Please don't be upset when I tell you this. Think of this as good news. There are close to five million dollars set aside. I can have the money out of the account tomorrow.”
Meredith looked as though she was going to faint. “Five million dollars? He hid this from me?”
“He felt it was for the best. In case of an emergency like this,” Connie attempted to explain.
She couldn't imagine moving away from Chicago, but this would help her out so much. She thought about all the things that piled up this night and how quickly it was all happening. Meredith knew she had to pull herself together and get on with her life. As hard as it was going to be, Jason wouldn't want her to stop her life. She was never the type to mope around and she wasn't going to start now. So she would follow her heart and do what she knew Jason would want.
Connie was relieved to see Meredith coming around. She knew her son would be proud of Meredith and would have wanted this. Ever since he was little, Jason had followed the concept of earning what you have. He wasn't going to just take anything his father had left him unless it was an emergency. This must have been why he kept the house and money a secret.
Connie felt bad and didn't want to send the young woman off on her own. She decided to go with her and help Meredith settle in. As the two discussed the details of the move, they also planned out a small ceremony to celebrate Jason's life.
The ceremony was held a few days later. The two women would leave immediately after the ceremony. Connie would be moving in with Meredith for a while until she found a place. With both her husband and son no longer alive, there was nothing left for her in Chicago. She wasn't leaving her son behind, so she and Meredith decided to have him cremated. Each of them had a small urn for some of his ashes. They packed lightly and left for the long drive to California.
Connie had seen the house before but was still amazed by it. As they pulled up in the driveway, they stared up in awe and amazement at the house.
It was a two-story white house with green shutters on each of the windows. There was a screened patio that stretched around the whole house. There was a big yard and a few trees. It certainly didn't look like a beach house to Meredith, but then she had never seen one before.
Meredith decided to examine the house a bit and look around. There were pictures all over the wall. Meredith guessed these were pictures of her late husband's relatives. The house was fully furnished, yet needed to be cleaned up a bit.
She noticed there were five bedrooms, each adjoined with their own bathroom. Meredith decided to take one that faced the beach. Jason would appreciate that.
Both Connie and Meredith felt at home right away. It didn't take the women long to get settled and move on with their new lives. It made them feel some completeness inside and helped them focus on filling the empty spot in their hearts, where Jason's presence no longer resided.
A week later Meredith decided to start job hunting. She didn't have to work, but she needed something to help get her mind off of things. So on top of the five million Jason secretly had hidden in case of an emergency, she would also have a paycheck. She wanted to be independent like Connie and learn not to rely on it.
Meredith thought the situation over many times. She felt a little betrayed that Jason never told her about the money. There were many times that the money would have come in handy. However, she understood his intentions weren't bad. In fact, it was the money that allowed her to start a new life, away from all of the memories.
During her second week in California, Meredith was determined to get to know the town of Em Island. The town was very small with a population of about fifteen hundred. It wasn't very well known.
As she was walking through the shopping area of the town, she noticed a tiny bookstore. It had been a while since she read a good book, so she thought it might be nice to look for a good read. She, however, wanted to stay far away from romance and decided science fiction might be her best option.
As Meredith was looking around the store, she felt like she was being watched. She looked to her right and noticed a man standing on a small ladder, placing books on a shelf. He was smiling at her, so she smiled back.
"Are you new to town?" The man asked.
"Is it that obvious?" She asked looking back at the books.
"Well it's the first time I have seen you and I know everyone in town so yes it's obvious. Is there anything I can help you find?"
Meredith turned and faced the man. He had short curly brown hair, his eyes hiding behind glasses looked blueish. He was a little taller than she was. Christoph had a friendly smile and set off a vibe that she questioned, as she felt something in her soul start to fill. It was a very unusual feeling.
"I am just looking for a science fiction book. Do you have any suggestions?"
"It all depends on what you are looking for exactly. We have Soulmated. It’s the first book of the Fairies and Goblins series, but we also have a few other new arrivals. May I ask your name?" Christoph approached the section Meredith was looking in and looked through the books"
"I'm sorry, my name is Meredith. I just moved into the old Lockhouse place off of Everett Street." She wasn't sure why she revealed that much information to a stranger, but Meredith felt like she was talking to an old friend.
"No kidding? That place has been empty forever. How did you snag that old place?" Christoph looked completely intrigued by this.
"It was actually left to me." She wasn't sure if she felt comfortable talking about the situation just yet and she could feel her eyes tearing up.
"So it was left to you by a family member? So you must be a Lockhouse, right? The Lockhouse family were one of the original founding families of this town" He stepped back on the ladder to search the top shelf. " We just got in a new book about a woman who travels back in time to save her husband."
Meredith jumped at this. It was a shock to hear him suggest this book. Quickly she looked for somewhere to sit down. Christoph ran over to her and sat down next to her.
"Was it something I said? Sometimes I am such an idiot. If I said something wrong, please tell me so I can fix it." He was waiting for an answer as Meredith started to break down.
Just then she heard the bell ring at the front of the store, indicating someone had entered. She turned to look and saw Connie walking towards her.
"Honey, what happened?" Connie sat down in a chair across from her. She then looked to Christoph, extended her hand and introduced herself.
"I was telling her about a new book I just got in and I must have said something wrong." He stood up and handed the book to Connie.
"Oh dear! Christoph, it's not your fault. She just lost her husband, my son. I am her mother-in-law. We lost him a little over two weeks ago and it has been hard," Connie grabbed for Meredith's hand. "Come here my child, we should go home. Maybe reading isn't the best idea right now. Besides, someone from the elementary school called. They are looking for a new first-grade teacher."
Christoph stood up. "Meredith, I am so sorry. I had no idea. I always do things like this." He led them to the front of the store, grabbed a business card, and handed it to them. "There is a meeting once a month, it is a support group for men and women who have lost a spouse. The next meeting is in about three weeks. If you would like to come, then you are more than welcome to do so. We would love to have you. I know it seems soon right now, but I will check back in with you a few days before the meeting. I will be there as well. I lost my wife a little over a year ago."
Meredith nodded. "I am sorry for your loss. This is all so new to me. I will let you know if and when I am ready."
Connie smiled as she walked out of the store with Meredith. She thought this would be good for Meredith, to have someone to talk to who was in the same situation She felt happy things were starting to fall into place.