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Synopsis: After a lifetime of dealing with the psychological mischief of her crazy ex-husband James, Maudie adopts a misfit German shepherd and settles in seclusion to pursue her drawing and her nature research. But her efforts are thwarted by a daughter as dangerous as James had been. Imprisoned in a nursing home under threat of being declared mentally unfit and separated from her beloved dog Tory, Maudie must now fight for freedom all over again.

Delayed Flight  (Sneak Preview Sample)



“You could have died out there.” Maudie had heard those reproachful words dozens of times. They were far more of a threat to her than physical death could ever be. Why did so many people, her own daughter included, associate such fear with the thought of existing “out there,” as though it were some sort of hell’s pit surrounded by quicksand instead of a simple home in the mountains?


Before, she would have argued, defended, cajoled even. But now the fight had seeped out of her, and all that remained was a grim determination not to give herself away. She lounged limply in the overbearing armchair, unmoving except for the piercing blue eyes that followed Joan’s nervous flitting about the room.

“You could have died out there,” repeated her daughter accusingly. “You’re so much better off here where David and I can keep an eye on you. Just think what might have happened if you’d had your stroke out there instead of here . . .” Joan’s voice tapered off, as if her conclusion were unthinkable.

Maudie savored her lack of obligation to answer. She wasted her breath with this woman who was her own flesh and blood and yet who seemed even more estranged from her than James, the husband who had abandoned them both eighteen years ago, when Joan was twelve and Maudie was thirty-two. He had claimed being in love with a twenty-year-old co-worker, had later married the woman in fact, but Maudie knew that wasn’t why he’d left.

When she recalled his dark good looks, the sexy drooping eyes, the full lips and charming smile, the thick black hair tossed carelessly across his brow, the agile strength that seemed most powerful when he was absolutely motionless, it was not with regret but with trepidation. She could still feel his heavy eyes upon her, silently demanding that she cease whatever she was doing. She lived in two worlds; she knew that even then. She had her books and projects, and when she was into one of them, she was completely absorbed to the point of entering another plane of being. Yet she was always able to rouse herself long enough to attend other responsibilities, and she honestly didn’t believe anyone could pronounce her lacking on them.


But that wasn’t enough for James, never content to share a room companionably. If they were both reading, he would lay his title tentatively face down on his lap, as though poised to pick it back up any moment, and then stare. Maudie didn’t need to look up to know this; she could sense his eyes boring into her, imploring her. When at last she gave in and glanced up, she would glimpse, for a fraction of a moment, a flash of savage anger. And then, nourished by her attention, he relaxed into a normal smile, after which he proceeded to ignore her completely, while she, whether reading or writing, studying avian biology or sketching in her bird notebooks, could never wholly recoup the fascinated spirit of her absorption.


Such episodes were nonexistent when James was courting her; he seemed instead impressed with the number and variety of her interests. But after they were married, he slowly became more obsessive. Behaviors that were merely cute before, such as the way he jokingly finagled the focus away from whoever else was talking, later became signs of oncoming episodes of disturbance. And when Joan was born, he competed with her for attention, as new daddies sometimes do, except that he never outgrew it. His fatherly acts always seemed to be aimed at Maudie rather than bestowed on Joan, and even Joan knew it.

Once at a picnic by a quiet stream near some rocky cliffs, six-year-old Joan was begging Daddy for a piggy-back ride. Maudie, after having prepared their spread and then clearing it back up after lunch, was savoring a few moments to sketch her memory of a wood duck against the background of a sheltered cove across the water, where it was paddling when they first arrived. The most colorful of all the ducks, it was a rare sighting of startling vibrancy, dressed in the iridescent hues of mating season. Out of its burgundy breast rose a stark white throat in total contrast to the circular black cheek patch that blazed with cobalt when the light hit just right. Above it, the luminous ruby eyes and bill stood out like beacons to escort the female, with a glistening emerald cap to top off the ensemble. James and Joan had frightened it off almost immediately and perhaps even deliberately, Maudie privately thought, although she put on a cheerful face for the duration of lunch. But now that she was focusing on the background details for her waterfowl picture, she was hoping that James would offer Joan the coveted attention.

When James obliged, first grabbing his daughter by the arms and swinging her around to the tune of her delighted shrieks, he suddenly slung her up on his shoulders as though to reward her with a great ride, but then he strode purposefully straight toward the rocky cliff. 

“Look, Mommy! No hands!” he yelled at Maudie, struggling up onto the first couple of boulders at the base with effort to maintain his balance. The bottom dropped out of Maudie’s stomach as Joan screeched in fear. The cliff was not anything for a true climber to worry about; even an amateur could probably scramble up two-thirds of it without mechanical assistance. But it was no place for anyone with a child perched precariously on his shoulders; if he slipped, Joan might fall and smash her head on the rocks. Maudie stared, frozen with terror for her daughter, but once assured of her gaze, James merely lurched toward the next boulder in the ascent. It was too far above the previous one for a step up to it—he would need at least one hand to help pull himself onto it while balancing on his knees, which would mean letting go of at least one of Joan’s arms.

“Come down from there NOW!” Maudie demanded as she stood slowly and walked toward them. She knew better than to run; any sudden moves on her part when James was like this would only spur him on. She had found instead that playing the part of a stern mother figure was the best way to get through to him. “Right now!” she repeated in a low firm voice as James hesitated.


And then it was over. James plopped down on his rock and let Joan climb off his shoulders, guiding her down with a satisfied smile in Maudie’s direction and a laugh of pleasure at his own antics. Maudie swam in a mixed turmoil of anger at his recklessness and relief for her daughter’s safety, both of which eventually settled into a seething resentment that he had once again managed to distract her from the thing she wanted to do most. He should have been a Victorian, she mused, so he could live in a time when insecure men simply quieted their wives’ artistic urges by conspiring over repressive rest cures. But this sarcasm failed to relieve the knot in her stomach, because nothing could alleviate the growing knowledge that her husband was slowly but steadily losing it.

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