Seven years ago today, I posted the first chapter of Over the Top on this website. Today it's my pleasure to return to where it all began, to let you all know that my first original novel, entitled Run, will be published by Dreamspinner Press on February 26th. More on that below!
To celebrate the 7th anniversary of OTT and the release of Run, and to thank everyone who has favourited and followed OTT over the years, please enjoy this "bonus director's outtake" of Over the Top, set in what's happening in Edward & Jasper's lives this year.
The Last Trip
"Noooo," Annie whines. "Daddy stay."
"I can't stay, baby." Edward gently tries to remove her tiny hands from his neck, but it's like disengaging a very clingy octopus. He looks up from where he kneels on the floor, asking for my help with his eyes.
"Daddy no go!" Annie's lower lip is jutting out, threatening a heartbreaking scene.
"Daddy has to go, sweet pea." As Edward again unclasps her hands, I lift her up and away from him, but she struggles and her eyes fill with tears. I don't blame her. I have a lump in my throat, too.
Because Edward is on his way on yet another trip, his third in three weeks. This time he's on his way to Atlanta. I should be glad that his business is going so well and that so many clients are asking for him by name. I am glad...but it is pure hell on our family life. Annie turned two a few weeks ago, and she has started to realize that when Daddy's suitcase comes out, she won't be seeing him for several days. Every time he has to leave, we go through this performance. She hates it, I hate it, and though he hasn't said so, I think Edward is coming to hate it, too.
It wasn't as bad when we were first married, back before Annie came along and I was working on my Masters. I missed him like crazy, of course, and it wasn't fun saying goodbye to him for four or five days out of every few weeks. But it was just the two of us then. His absences, and especially these scenes at the moment of departure, are so hard on Annie.
Edward has put on his jacket and is standing inside the front door of our little house, his car keys in hand and his suitcase by the door. I put Annie into her play yard for a moment to contain her while we say goodbye. Over the background of her wails, we wrap our arms around each other.
"I don't want to go."
"I'll miss you guys so much." I pull back a bit to kiss him, but to my surprise, my strong, stoic husband has tears in his eyes. I pull him tight again and he sniffles against my neck. "Sorry," he murmurs. "It gets harder every time. Leaving you and Annie..."
"I know it does, beautiful. It's hard for us, too. It's your job. Annie will get used to it eventually."
He pulls away so he can wipe his eyes on his sleeve. "I don't want her to get used to it. I don't want to be a part-time father. I chose to make a life with you, to have a baby with you. I want to be here for our life and our baby – all the time, not nine days out of every fourteen."
I take a deep breath, hoping what I'm about to ask will sound encouraging, not demanding. "So what are you saying?"
He doesn't answer right away, but takes my hands in his. Annie has become distracted by one of the toys in her play yard, and though she's still fussing a little, it's much quieter in our house as I wait for Edward to reply. Eventually, looking at our clasped hands, he does. "I was thinking about what Gareth and Lily's friend said about SFAI looking for more teachers."
We were at dinner a few nights ago at our friends' home, where we met Dave, their friend who was visiting them from San Francisco. He's a professor at San Francisco Art Institute, where Edward took photography. When Edward told him he'd graduated from the Art Institute, Dave asked if he'd heard about the program expansions in the Photography Department, that they were planning to hire some new teachers. "You want to apply?"
"I think I do, yeah."
"Wow." I'm trying not to make too big a deal about this, because Edward really can't be rushed into things. He has to come to them in his own time. But I would love to move back to San Francisco. I could get in touch with my old boss at SF Children's Hospital, see if there might be a possibility of returning there... My mind is spinning.
"You know an adjunct prof doesn't make a lot of money," Edward continues, "so we'd have to be frugal. But I've got royalties coming in pretty regularly now, and I know you could get work in two seconds. And if we sold the loft..."
"You want to sell your loft?" I squeak.
"Our loft, Kas," he reminds me gently. "And why not? We're never going to live there again, and the rent money is great, but you know it's worth a small fortune. We could invest the money and it would make life easier in lots of ways."
I can tell he's already given this quite a bit of thought; and for that to happen so quickly is almost unheard of for him. I suspect he was already thinking about it long before Dave told us about the Art Institute, trying to decide what path would be right for our family and puzzle out a way we could make it work.
I fucking love my husband.
"I fucking love you." I throw my arms around him, and he laughs, squeezing me tight.
"Does that mean you approve? You'd be okay with us maybe moving to San Francisco?"
"Beautiful, I'll follow you anywhere if the three of us can just be together – our family, in our home." I kiss him, my fingers sliding through his wild locks, and he gently backs me against the wall of our tiny front foyer, pressing into me. It would be so easy to ignore the clock, let Annie chill in her play yard while we slip into our room...
I have to break the kiss, push him back as we both try to get our breathing under control. "You're going to be late if you don't go soon."
He groans softly. "Okay. You're right." He straightens his shirt and jacket, and unsubtly adjusts himself in his jeans. "Love you, angel," he says before giving me one last soft, sweet kiss.
"Love you. Travel safely."
"Always. I'll call you when I get in. Should I say goodbye to you-know-who?" He leans around me to see Annie in her play yard.
"Better not. She's distracted at the moment."
After one more quick kiss, he's gone. I close the door behind him, and turn, sinking against it, my hand still on the knob. I rest there a moment before I slowly make my way back into the living room to see my Anniegirl.
Annie looks up at me, her copper curls so much like her daddy's. I pick her up out of her playpen and she brings her dolly with her. I switch on the radio and the two of us – forgive me, the three of us, dolly included - dance in the living room; but in my head I'm only partly there with her.
My brain is full of everything that's to be, everything that could happen for us in the next few months. Even if SFAI doesn't work out, I know Edward is ready to make a change for our family. I wish we hadn't had this conversation when he was on his way out the door; I wish we had the time to make love, to talk, to make plans. But he's only gone for four days this trip, and when he gets home, we'll start figuring it out.
I'll do whatever it takes, even if it means moving heaven and earth to make it happen.
As I was getting ready to write this, I re-read the Over the Top epilogues and outtakes again for the first time in years. It was only moments before I had fallen back into that world with these beautiful boys and their baby girl. I hope you enjoyed this anniversary gift!
As promised, a bit of info on my upcoming novel:
"Amid the tumult of the Iowa Democratic primary, young but brilliant speechwriter Tom McAlindon meets Nathan Harris, the deputy campaign manager for an opposing candidate. Their acquaintance is strictly professional until an impetuous kiss on a cold winter night leads them into a secret romance. As their feelings deepen, both men struggle with the complications of keeping the relationship separate from their jobs and the inner workings of the campaigns.
"But in the nation's most high-stakes political game, no secret is truly safe. When an observer realizes their connection, Tom and Nate discover that striving for the best of both worlds has a much higher cost than they bargained for… and that love can't survive while Nate is hiding the truth from Tom."
Hope you'll head over to my website to check out Run! I'll be doing a few guest posts on several blogs, coming up, with some exclusive excerpts!
You can find me on the web: www . anniekaye . com
Thanks so much for reading! xoxo Katie