- First Chapter
By Catherine MacDonald
Diana Shaw arose early that December morning. She showered,
and sipping her coffee while dressing, kept one eye
glued to the morning news. “A snowstorm will hit the
Sierras by noon. Stock up on candles and food,” the
talking head warned. “This storm has the potential to
drop at least half a foot in the valley and several
feet in the mountains.” She smiled. In her life that
would mean that she’d have to shovel the walkway to
her shop, shift her car into four-wheel drive to get
up the driveway, and perhaps, if Chuck wasn’t home,
haul in a load of wood and light the fire.
“I’m going into the office for an hour, and then I’m
heading up to Mount Rose,” Chuck said. He kissed her
lightly on the cheek. “I’ll be back by five. Where do
you want to go for dinner? It’s your turn to choose.”
“Are you sure you want to go up skiing? The weatherman
says there’s a nasty storm coming in.” She studied her
husband. “I saw you limping yesterday. Is your knee
still sore? Be honest with me.”
He lightly touched her cheek. “And when has a little
snow or pain stopped me? Relax. You worry too much.
Besides, the weatherman is usually wrong. Remember the
big storm they predicted last weekend? We got all of
two inches. Besides, my knee feels much better since
I started taking those chondroitin tablets.” His tone
grew serious. “How are you feeling today? You’re staying
away from those pills, aren’t you?”
She coughed. “Of course. A promise is a promise. And
you promise me you’ll come down the mountain if it gets
bad. I don’t plan on being a widow.”
He reached for his parka and gloves, leaned over, and
kissed her firmly on the lips. “Nor do I plan on making
you a widow. We have too much living to do. Just think,
in a few weeks you’ll have me underfoot all day.”
“Your retirement will be interesting.” She still felt
unsure about having him home, but she didn’t want to
dampen his enthusiasm.
He slid his bulky parka on. “We’ll play all day.” His
tone grew serious. “We’re going to beat your problem—together.”
She nodded. She didn’t want to talk about it. He had
been nagging her enough. “Smile, Diana. This will be
fun. I’ve worked six days a week for the last thirty
years and I’m burned out. Besides, when I get on your
nerves you can always go to your little shop. See you
tonight, honey.” He closed the door and headed out to
She heard the sound of his diesel pickup and glanced
at the clock. It was just after eight and she didn’t
have to be at the shop until nine. She poured another
cup of coffee and took it over to the windowseat that
faced the front lawn and peered out the window. The
wind blew, and the remaining leaves shook violently
on the branches. She felt the temperature drop and prayed
that Chuck had enough common sense to stop skiing if
the storm arrived. She sipped her coffee and thought
about the day.
Diana owned a small specialty store with her friend
Sara. They sold one-of-a-kind furniture, jewelry, and
art objects, all made by local artisans. Christmas was
the busiest season, and while she was looking forward
to the post-holiday slowdown, Chuck’s retirement scared
But he was excited about his new direction.
Recently, he had purchased a new motorhome. She spied
"the monster," as she called her, sitting
in the driveway, all thirty-eight feet of her. She hated
to admit it, but she was beautiful, and equipped with
every modern convenience. She smiled as she remembered
walking into the motorhome and telling her husband that
she wouldn’t travel without a dishwasher. Chuck grinned
and opened the compartment that showed the tiny appliance.
“There’s even a washer and dryer,” he pointed out. “Now
we can take off for a year and travel wherever the road
leads us: Mexico, Canada, Alaska. You’ve always wanted
to see Graceland.”
“But my shop,” she had protested. She didn’t want to
travel in that thing, much less sleep in it. Where was
room service? She’d have to launder the sheets and towels.
Her stomach lurched at the thought of speeding down
the highway, with him behind the wheel.
They had argued back and forth, finally agreeing on
a two- month trial trip. If they liked it, she would
sell her interest in the shop and they would travel.
If not, he would sell the motorhome and that would be
that. But she had already made up her mind.
* * *
The wind shook the shop. By two p.m.,
six inches had already accumulated. “Chuck must be in
heaven with the fresh powder,” Sara said.
Diana glanced out the window. She could barely see across
the street. “I hope he has the sense to come off the
mountain. I’ve tried his cell phone several times, but
he’s not answering.” She and Sara were unpacking a shipment
that had arrived that morning.
“He probably has it turned off,” Sara said. She reached
into a box and retrieved a bubble-wrapped vase.
“I’m worried about his knee,” Diana said. “The doctor
advised him not to ski, but Chuck won’t listen. Maybe
it will be a good thing to take that monster for a trip.
Then I won’t have to worry about him skiing.”
Sara stood and stretched. “I’ve got to hand it to you.
You’re brave to go on the road for two months. Tom and
I have difficulty spending one week together.” She sighed.
“I guess that’s what I get for marrying a Type A personality.”
Diana wiped a Raku-fired bowl with a rag. “I promised
him. I just hope he gets tired of being on the road
after a few weeks and we can come home and sell it.
He’s got this stupid idea of wanting to be a snowbird
and spend the winters in Arizona. Did I tell you he
even went out and bought me a set of golf clubs? He’s
going to teach me how to play.” She made a face. “I
could break a nail playing that sport.” She glanced
at her French manicure.
Sara grinned. “I tried golf with Tom a couple of times,
but he thinks he’s a master at the sport and tells me
how to play.”
The bells on the door jingled as two women entered the
shop. “Can I help you?” Diana asked.
“We’re just browsing, dears,” said the woman with the
white pageboy. She took off her scarf. “It’s quite nasty
out there. Oh, look at this, Ellen,” she said, dragging
her friend over to a tiny wooden box.
The phone rang. “I’ll get it,” Sara said. She hurried
to the back office. She emerged a few seconds later,
her face pale. “It’s for you, Diana. Someone from Mount
Diana’s eyes widened. “Chuck’s on that mountain.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Sara said. “Maybe he left his
wallet at the counter. You know Chuck.”
She picked up the phone. “Hello.”
“Yes. Is there anything wrong?” Her heart skipped a
The voice on the other end stammered. “Your husband
has had an accident. He’s on his way by ambulance to
Saint Catherine’s. Because of the storm, he couldn’t
be air lifted.”
Her knees buckled. “Did he break his leg?”
“Mr. Shaw hit a tree on Diamond Run. That’s all I know.”
* * *
Sara led Diana into the crowded emergency room and
up to the front desk. “Where’s Chuck Shaw?” she asked
the woman behind the counter.
The woman glanced up. “I can’t give that information
Sara hugged her. “This is his wife. He’s been in an
accident and the ambulance just brought him in. This
is an emergency.”
The woman stared at Diana. “Let me see some ID” Diana
fumbled in her purse for her wallet and showed the woman
her license. The woman glanced at the photo, studied
her, then punched several keys on the computer. “Go
through those doors. He’s at the end of the hall. Room
7. But I don’t think they’ll let you in.”
“Thank you,” Sara said. She ushered Diana down the hall.
“Here’s the room.” She opened the door and they peered
in. Several doctors were huddled over the bed. One of
the doctors turned around, and seeing them, motioned
for them to wait outside. Sara quietly closed the door.
“Let’s sit over there,” she said. “Can I get you some
Diana shook her head, her hands trembling. “Oh, Sara.
Do you think he’s going to be okay?”
Sara clutched her hand. “I’m sure he’s going to be fine.
You know Chuck. He probably broke his leg. They’ll cast
him and he’ll be home by dinner. You might even get
lucky and have to postpone your trip.”
But Diana wasn’t so sure. She had a feeling in the pit
of her stomach, the same feeling she had the night her
son had been in a car accident and rushed to the hospital.
She stared at the beige walls. How would she go one
without Chuck? He was her world. She listened to the
P.A. system announce the arrival of ambulances, calling
doctors to floors and phones. Men and women, clad in
white coats, scurried down the hall. She held Sara’s
hand tightly and waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally the door to Chuck’s room opened and one of the
doctors emerged. He walked over to the two women. “Mrs.
Shaw?” he asked Sara. She shook her head and pointed
The young doctor looked concerned. “Your husband has
regained consciousness. You can see him for a few minutes.
He’s suffered multiple fractures and we think there’s
internal bleeding. We’re taking him into surgery shortly.”
Diana clutched her heart as Sara helped her to her feet.
This couldn’t be happening. “I’ll wait here,” Sara said.
She let the doctor lead her to Chuck’s bedside. She
gasped when she saw her husband. His face was bruised
and his eyes swollen. She leaned over and kissed him
gently on the cheek. “I’m here, honey. Is there anything
I can do?”
He groaned and struggled to open his eyes. “Is that
you, Diana?” The next few words were inaudible.
“Don’t talk, honey. Save your strength. Everything’s
going to be fine. I bet you’re home tomorrow.” She stroked
his battered face and held back the tears. She had to
stay strong for him.
“I should have listened to you and not gone skiing.
That damn knee stiffened and I hit a patch of ice. I
don’t remember anything after that.” He groaned.
“Shush. Don’t talk. You’ll be as good as new in a few
days. I promise.” She leaned over and kissed him on
the cheek, praying for a miracle.
“I love you.” He closed his eyes. “I’m so tired.”
Tears filled her eyes as she touched his battered cheek.
“You’re going to be fine, Chuck Shaw. The doctors will
take care of you and you’ll be out of here soon. Besides,
you have to get well. We’re going on that motorhome
trip. Think positive.”
But he didn’t respond. His breathing was heavy and labored.
* * *
The door opened and several nurses entered. “We’re
taking him into surgery. You’ll have to go to the waiting
Diana watched as they wheeled him out of the room. She
followed the gurney down the hall and to the entrance
of the operating room and stopped. They wouldn’t let
her enter. Sara raced towards her. “Let’s get some coffee,
Diana. It’s going to be awhile.”
Several hours later, a doctor came into the waiting
room. “Mrs. Shaw?”
Diana stood. “I’m Mrs. Shaw.” She didn’t like the look
on his face.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Shaw. We did our best. Mr. Shaw died
in surgery. There was nothing else we could do. There
was too much internal damage.”
Her body shook. She grabbed the doctor’s hand. “He can’t
be dead. He can’t.” She felt Sara’s arms encircle her
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “Is there someone we can
“I’ll take care of Mrs. Shaw,” Sara said.
Her world went blank.
The doctor shook his head. “I am sorry.” He turned and
left the room.
She screamed, “How do I do this? How do I go on without
Chuck? I can’t believe it.”
* * *