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Hello Hell
by Sheila M. Good

When circumstances force Claire Nelson to return to her hometown, after sixteen years of estrangement, She must leave the life she’s built for herself behind, face the painful secrets of the pasts, while confronting a truth she never expected to find.

Chapter One
Chance Encounter

Claire’s feet made soft lite taps on the pavement. A swirl of multicolored leaves fluttered across her path like confetti as she rounded the last curve. Grateful Blossom Street Bridge was in sight, she slowed to a walk, pushed stop on the iPhone strapped to he...

Chapter Two
Luck of the Draw

Gabe couldn’t believe his luck. What were the odds of running into a woman named Claire Nelson on his first day? Of course, she might not be the right, Claire. With little information to go on, proving it was gonna be a challenge. He pulled a notepad from his ...

Chapter Three
If It Ain’t Broke

At five-fifteen Claire hit the send button, turned off her computer, and stretched, proud of herself. The overhead light brightened automatically as the sun slipped behind the tall buildings. Situated on the twelfth floor of the hospital, Claire’s office, with...

Chapter Four
Lying Was Always Easier

Sam’s words, you have an obligation, played over in Claire’s head like a broken record. She couldn’t believe Sam tried to pull that Sunday School shit on her; he knew better. Honor your Mother and Father, that your days shall ...

Chapter Five

What the fuck? Stephen slammed his fist against the steering wheel, put the car into gear and backed out of Claire’s drive, made a left at the end of the street, and headed in the direction of the lake. What the hell just happened? He felt blindsided. It was as if he&rsquo...

Chapter Six
Shifting Ground

It was ten-thirty by the time she arrived at the kennel and Sadie was neither happy nor cooperative. Claire tugged on her leash, "Come on, girl. Don’t be difficult.”

The teenybopper covering the night shift greeted them from behind the counter. &ld...

Chapter Seven
The Road Home

The Inn’s driver held up a sign with her name on it. He looked like one of the locals she remembered. Dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, he could have been the father of any of her old friends. When he saw her head in his direction, he broke into a warm smi...

Chapter Eight
Main Street Bed & Breakfast

Shimmers of soft light danced across the dark walnut floors of the entranceway from one of the largest crystal chandeliers she’d ever seen in a foyer.

A woman rounded the corner, wiping her hands on the apron she wore over her calf-length skirt and class...

Chapter Nine
Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

Gabe examined himself in the mirror and adjusted his tie. Better, but still felt like a damn noose around his neck. The last time he’d worn a tie was in parochial school as a kid. It had taken himself the night to come up with enough facts for a cover...

Chapter Ten
Cold Reality

The bedside clock read just past six AM when Claire awoke from a fitful night's sleep. The aroma of fresh baked bread and coffee drifted up the stairway. She thought, briefly, about burying herself under the goose down covers for the next week, but then the cold rea...

Chapter Eleven
Old Acquaintances

Claire wished she could talk to Stephen. She understood his anger, especially after she made a promise, melted under his touch, and lead him to believe he had a chance of her saying yes. Blowing him and the weekend off after that performance, he probably would never...

Chapter Twelve
Post-Op Conference

“Ms. Nelson?”

Claire stood and laid the tattered magazine aside as the doctor approached. 


“I’m Dr. Matthews. “Your mother’s surgery went well. There were no complications. She's stable an...

Chapter Thirteen
The First of Many

Claire paced the length of the hall trying to figure out what to do next. She needed to talk to Sam and her boss. Arrangements had to made for her mother, and even with Sam’s help, Claire didn't think anything would get done over the next twenty-four hours. Sh...

Chapter Fourteen
Information Airways

Gabe spent his Sunday afternoon in his new favorite bistro taking advantage of the free WIFI scanning pictures of every social event he could locate connected to Mass General. He’d already discovered the hospital hosted an annual fundraiser at Christmas to ben...

Chapter Fifteen
Junior High Again

As planned her mother had been transferred the following day to room 505 on the orthopedic floor. Claire spoke to the nurse in ICU earlier and received a full report. Her mother was awake but still confused at times. 

 It was seven-thirty by the time...

Chapter Sixteen
A Meeting With Sam

They had finally gotten a break; for the last forty-eight hours, Dorothy had remained lucid, and Dr. Norman agreed to go ahead with his evaluation. Claire took the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Sam. He’d been after her for days. Luckily, his mid-day a...

Chapter Seventeen
The Evaluation

Claire was the first one in the dining room after a fitful night's sleep. She needed to get in, grab her coffee, and get out; today promised to be another long day. 

Dorothy was coming along nicely in physical therapy, but today Dr. Norman would begin his...

Chapter Eighteen
Flying Shrapnel

Claire left the cafe unnerved. Memories were coming at her like flying shrapnel and the desire to run, was almost overwhelming. How did she manage to let Sam bring her here? 

In light of her hectic and stressful week, Claire had looked forward to reconnec...

Chapter Nineteen
Pressure Mounts

Time raced by Claire in a blur. In the last few days, her visits with Dorothy had been brief; the shorter, the better for now. The rest of the time she'd spent observing Dorothy’s rehabilitation, meeting with caseworkers, or investigating other options. In spi...

Chapter Twenty

Claire didn’t bother going back to the hospital, and she didn't call to check on Dorothy either. By the time she left the house, Claire had nothing left to give. 

 The hospital staff could take care of Dorothy tonight. She’d do just fine ...

Chapter Twenty One
The Going Rate

Claire barely slept a wink. Tossing and turning, kicking covers like a four-year-old. She finally got up about three and took a long soaking bath which helped relax her a bit, but now she was exhausted from lack of sleep. She felt like a school girl when she thought...

Chapter Twenty-Two
One Step Closer

Gabe stuck his briefcase between his feet and the phone on his shoulder as he removed the top from the scalding hot coffee and brew on it. The ringing continued on the other end of the line. He set his cup aside at the sound of a click and gruff hello. &ldq...

Chapter Twenty-Three
A Crack in the Veneer

Finally, Claire felt as if all the stars were beginning to align. She had her sitter, Fanny was getting the house clean and ready, Sadie was happy as a lark with Stephen, and he was at least still talking to her, even though they argued. Claire would check on her mo...

Chapter Twenty-Four
Unexpected Guests

The way her moods were shifting, especially today, it’s a wonder someone didn’t accuse her of being off her meds. Amazing how one little accomplishment could make you feel as if you had a red cape draped over your shoulders. Claire laughed at the thought...

Chapter Twenty-Five
Safe Harbor

Sadie hopped up on the bed as soon as Claire closed the door to the room. She wasn’t prepared for all the surprises from tonight, but Sadie was a welcome and comforting sight. Claire sat on the side of the bed and reached for her favorite companion. Sadie didn...

Chapter Twenty-Six
The Hour is Late

Although the hour was late when Claire finally crawled beneath the covers, she slept like a baby cuddled next to Sadie. She’d always been a believer in the soothing power of man’s best friend, but never as much as when her eyes fluttered open with Sadie ...

Chapter Twenty-Seven
Lost Opportunities

A whimper, followed by a scratching sound woke Stephen with a start. Sadie? “Hang on girl; I’m coming.” He threw the covers aside, rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock; alarmed. It was five-thirty in the morning. Sadie was supposed to b...

Chapter Twenty-Eight
The Unraveling

Other than the directions, turn right, next left, coming from the passenger side of the car, the ride to the house remained silent. Stephen turned into the driveway and cut the ignition. “Would you like for me to come in with you?”

Claire ...

Chapter Twenty-Nine
New Evidence

That didn’t go as well as Gabe planned. Wendell’s aggressive and angry manner had caught him off guard. Obviously, he was closer to the family than your average attorney. A smart old codger, Gabe doubted little got past the man. From the look on his face...

Chapter Thirty
Time for Truth

The car-ride back to town was so quiet Stephen felt as if he could hear the tires rotate against the blacktop. It was driving him insane; much of how the whole week had left him feeling. When he couldn’t stand it another minute, he broke the silence. 


Chapter Thirty-One
Claire Comes Clean

“So, talk to me,” Stephen said, “I’m listening.”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“I believe I deserve the truth, don’t you?” 

Claire sniffled and dabbed at her nose. “Yes, I do...

Chapter Thirty-Two

The color drained from Stephen’s face. “What did you say? What child? Claire, what are you telling me?”

“I’m telling you about the complications. I’m telling you I was the poster child cliche for small town USA; knocked-up a...

Chapter Thirty-Three
Tell Me About Her

“Is Sam around?” 

Gale looked up from her computer, removed her glasses, and came around from behind the desk to greet Claire. “I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting this morning, but, “she grabbed an envelope off her desk, &ldq...

Chapter Thirty-Four
Gabe’s Cards

“Afternoon Mr. Lawrence,” Sam directed Gabe to the same chair from their earlier meeting, “please have a seat. I’ve asked you here to help clear up this theory of yours.”

Gabe took a seat in the chair across from Sam’s desk,...

Chapter Thirty-Five
Saying Goodbye

Claire didn’t linger in the tub. Time and the reality of the situation weighed heavy on her. Today, she had to say goodbye to her mother. This shouldn’t be so hard; it’s not like she hadn’t walked away before. The problem was, she could never...

Chapter Thirty-Six
The Disconnect

Claire stared at the woman in the bed for what seemed like an eternity before pulling herself up next to her. Tears filled her eyes as she looked down at the frail figure. This was the woman who gave her life, whose brushed her hair and told her all the secrets of b...

Chapter Thirty-Seven
Friends & Strangers

Annie set the tea tray on the table in the parlor, freshened everyone’s cup before taking one for herself and took a seat beside Sally Anne, “Did you know Claire well, Mrs. Waverly?”

“Yes. Well, I used to. We were best friends in high s...

Chapter Thirty-eight

 Claire awoke with a start at three AM, cold, and disoriented. Within seconds reality of the previous twenty-four hours settled upon her like a weight. She crawled into a hot bath and began her mental to-do-list for the morning. Might as well get a handle on this now. Her therapist taug...

Chapter Thirty-nine
Accolades to a Stranger

“You ready?” Stephen asked. 

“I would rather have my teeth pulled. I can’t believe I let Annie and Sam talk me into a two-hour visitation and at the church!”

“You can do anything for two hours. Besides, you won&rs...

Chapter Forty
Safe Place

Claire awoke to the sun streaming through the half-closed curtains and Sadie trying wedge herself between she and Stephen. Oh know you don’t, Claire nudged Sadie back to the foot of the bed and turned on her side. Stephen, his breathing slow...

Chapter Forty-One
Letting Go

Sam stared after Claire and ran his hand through his thick, white hair. It was true, the Lawrence man had left town. Sam wasn’t sure why, but he wasn’t fool enough to believe the man was gone for good. Hopefully, he could get Claire back to Boston b...

Chapter Forty-three
Envelope Please

Claire hung up the phone and smiled. God willing by six tomorrow evening, she would be back in Boston and in Stephen’s arms. They’d talked every night, sometimes, late into the night, since he’d left; they were making progress. For the first time i...

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