The Merry-Go-Round Excerpt

 The Merry-Go-Round by Donna Fasano

Chapter 1

You don't know a woman till you've met her in court.
~Norman Mailer

"It's a great day for a divorce." Lauren took a quick look around to see if anyone had heard her talking to herself before she hurried up the courthouse steps. If everything went according to plan, she would walk out of this building a free woman. She'd sleep a lot better and breathe a lot easier minus the hundred and eighty pounds of man meat she'd been lugging around for far too long.
    A blessed blast of cool air billowed from the building when she hauled open the plate glass door.  Although it was a few days into September, the hot, humid temps that plagued Sterling through the lazy months of summer were stubbornly hanging on.  She lifted her hand in greeting to Rusty as he tucked the floor polisher into the janitorial closet; she nodded to colleagues she met in the hallway.   
    The reverberation of her high heels clicking against the marble floor had her smiling.  It was a satisfying sound—one she'd heard nearly every workday since she'd passed the Maryland Bar and ordered the door plaque that read Lauren E. Hunkavic, Attorney At Law.
    Of course, it was Flynn now.  The name change was about the only good thing that had come from her marriage.  Not that she wasn't proud of her maiden name.  Her Czechoslovakian great-grandparents had risked everything, left everyone they loved in search of a new life across the ocean.  But kids were mean.  And mercilessly unrelenting.  Every Halloween she had been saddled with Hunk-a-trick.  The summer she went through a chubby stage, it had been Hunk-a-thick.  She lost the weight and they'd come up with Hunk-a-stick.  She hadn't gone on a single Saturday movie outing with friends that she hadn't heard Hunk-a-flick at least once.  Missing a couple of days of school turned her into Hunk-a-sick.  Although the teasing during her adolescence had been mostly innocuous, it had been endless and irritating as the hell.  Her parents and teachers alike had explained that the kids were simply goading her into reacting.  "They're paying for a ticket," her dad had told her, "but you don't have to put on a show."  High school seemed to mature most of her peers, but there had been a moron or two who just seemed to get crueler and nastier in their twisting of her last name.
    Turning the corner, she wasn't surprised to see her father sitting on the bench near the elevator.  His beat up Dodge Ram had been parked on West Main Street directly in front of the courthouse steps.  He must have arrived at daybreak to bag the prime spot.  Even though she was ten minutes early for their court appointment—the first slot of the day—Lauren had been forced to use the side lot.
    She tried to gauge her father's mood as she got closer.  If Eeyore ever took sick in the 100 Acre Wood, Lew Hunkavic would be the perfect stand-in for the pessimistic Equus asinus.
    "Hey there, Dad.  You look good this morning.  All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  You must have slept well."
    Asking her dad how he was feeling held too great a possibility of opening a huge can of big, fat blood worms.  Instead, she made a habit of making the most positive assessment possible. 
    "My hair hurts."  He raked his stubby fingers through the thatch of silver covering his scalp, tilting his head and wincing as he did so.  "Been hurting for days.  You'da known about it if you'da called."
    "Dad, we had dinner on Sunday," she reminded him lightly.  "It's only Wednesday."
    "I know what day of the week it is," he groused.
    She punched the elevator call button.  "Come the weekend, you won't have to worry about me calling you, will you?"  A slight movement had her eyes darting to his face.  She'd thought she'd seen his mouth quirk, but surely she was mistaken.  He had to be as dismayed about these circumstances as she. 
    "Besides that," she continued, "your hair can't hurt."
    He rose from the bench, the rubber tip of his cane squeaking on the polished stone floor. 
    "Hair is made up of nothing but dead cells, Dad.  No nerve endings, no pain."
    He glowered, his gray-green eyes narrowing on her, just as the elevator dinged, the up arrow lit and the doors slid open.  "It's carbunculosis."
    They stepped inside and Lauren touched the button that would take them to the third floor.
    "An infection of the scalp.  I researched it at that website I told you about.  All Natural Health dot org."
    The internet.  It was both a blessing and a bane.  A person could find information about anything there.  Anything
    Most people spent their golden years traveling the country, or engrossed in some well-loved hobby, or immersed in great works of literature.  Not her seventy-year-old dad.  Oh, no.  He spent his days hunched over a keyboard, trolling the Web for medical maladies with which to label every ache and pain he experienced.
    Softly, she warned, "Dad, it wouldn't hurt to get a professional opinion."
    He straightened.  "You telling me my scalp isn't sore?"
    "I'm not saying that at all."  Suddenly, Lauren realized she'd better back peddle a bit.  She needed her dad in good spirits this morning.  Well, as good as his spirits could be, anyway. 
    The doors slid open and they exited the elevator.
    "I have no doubt you're hurting," she told him.  "I can see by the look on your face.  Maybe you should go see Dr. Amos."
    "Charlie Amos is a dimwit."
    "Dad, you and Dr. Amos have been friends for—"
    "I don't need a doctor, Lauren.  I bought myself some tea tree oil.  A few drops in my shampoo should take care of the problem."
    "Tea tree oil, huh?"  She stifled the sigh building at the base of her diaphragm.  "Where'd you hear about that?  Find A Cure dot com?"  Before he could respond, she said, "Dad, you need to forgive Doc."
    "Bless my butt and call me Betty.  The man couldn't diagnose a simple rash, Lauren."  Lew shook his head in disgust.  "Dry skin, my ass.  I knew I had a problem, and I found a cure, too.  That old quack can't even turn on a computer, let alone do a Google search.  He's way behind the times.  How can he ever expect to keep up with advances in health care?" 
    Medical journals, maybe?  Professional conferences?  Refresher courses?  But Lauren zipped her lip. The fact was that the good doctor had the gall to warn her father not to take everything he read on the Net as gospel truth.  That had been four months ago, and since then her dad had refused to acknowledge Dr. Amos existed.
    They arrived at the double doors of the courtroom, and Lauren spun to face her father.
    "Okay, Dad—" she lifted her free hand, palm up "—can we set this aside for now?  This is very important to me."
    The deep sigh he emitted could have been his reluctance to veer off the topic of his latest infirmity, or it could have been his reaction to the court petition she'd filed.  Either way, she'd felt it best to ignore his gloom.
    "We've gone over what the judge might ask you, right?"  She dipped her chin, arched her brows, straightening the collar of his royal blue dress shirt.  "You remember how to respond, yes?"
    "Lauren, I'm not a four year old." 
    She gave him a small smile, smoothing the fabric of his shirt.  "Sorry, Dad."
    Her attaché thumped against the door of courtroom number three as she grabbed the handle.  The room was empty and quiet as they made their way up the center aisle and took seats at the plaintiff's table.  Lauren snapped open her soft leather case and pulled out the file containing her divorce papers.
    Papers that were missing a vital signature.  And it wasn't hers.
    She spent a few minutes studying her notes and mulling over all the arguments and rebuttals that might arise.  The court clerk entered from one of the two doors located behind the judge's bench, perused the room and then ducked back inside the office.
    "The judge must be ready to start," Lauren told her father, glancing at her watch.  One minute before nine.  "It's just like Greg to be late.  Never takes a single thing seriously."  Dipping her gaze to her notes again, she murmured, "He's probably rescuing some poor, decrepit soul out there somewhere."  If there was a poor, decrepit soul within a hundred mile radius of Sterling Greg would find it, that was certain.
    A few minutes later, the door at the main entrance to the courtroom swung open and Greg waltzed in.  Lauren forced herself not to turn around, keeping her eyes glued to the documents in front of her.  But she could see his loose, breezy stride in her mind's eye.  And she could easily imagine his attire: battered, steel-toed Wolverines, worn blue jeans and t-shirt.  If he'd decided to dress up for the occasion, he might have gone all out and donned a polo shirt.
    With her arm firmly twisted behind her back, she'd have admitted the fact that, when they'd first met Greg's blue-collar style had appealed to her.  He was different from the men she'd dated—the studious collegians that had made up her social circle while she'd earned her law degree.
    Soft, worn denim had the ability to hug a man's rear like no other fabric.  And the physical nature of Greg's work tightened his glutes to pinch-tempting firmness.  The memory had heat flushing Lauren's face.
She'd grown adept at ignoring her husband altogether.  The practice had kept her sane for months now.  But to force those inappropriate images from her brain, she lifted her gaze to the empty court clerk's desk and snipped, "It's good that some people finally decided to show up."
    "Good morning to you, too, Lauren." 

  ~  ~  ~ 

New 5-star review: "This is one of the best ebooks I've read. It's such a sweet story about love, forgiveness, and making concessions for the one you love. I was sad when it ended and wish there was a sequel!"

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