Excerpt from Finding Maggie

Maggie Murphy teetered on the brink of the precipice – her toes curled over the rocky ledge to keep her balance. Her legs wobbled with fatigue. It had been a long climb to the summit but the view was definitely worth it. At the bottom of the steep ravine she could make out huge boulders tumbled along the bank of a rushing river. A gust of wind tousled her hair and a single drop of perspiration dripped from her forehead and down her cheek. A large bird swooped over her head nearly brushing her face with its wing. Maggie ducked.

She heard a branch snap as a shower of small pebbles exploded from the mountain path behind her and cascaded down the slope. Startled, Maggie’s heart pounded. She wasn’t alone? What was it? A bear? Was she about to be eaten by a bear? She lurched away from the drop off and whirled to confront the intruder. Not a bear but a man, dressed all in black – his eyes glaring and his face contorted with rage.

She inched backward as he advanced toward her. One step. Then another. She couldn’t tear her gaze from his face, lost her footing and toppled over the edge of the cliff into the void.

Maggie opened her mouth to scream but the rushing wind tore the words from her lips as she plummeted toward the rocks far below. The sky and trees blurred as the boulders loomed closer and closer. She squinched her eyes closed and braced for the impact and – woke up in a cold sweat.

Heart racing, Maggie rolled over onto her back and yanked the covers up under her chin. She focused on the ceiling as she reentered the real world. Her breathing slowed and she used a corner of the sheet to wipe the perspiration from her forehead.

It wasn’t the first time she’d had that dream -- no, nightmare -- and, she feared it wouldn’t be the last. She turned onto her side and tried to forget it and the stomach-clenching plunge, but she couldn’t escape the images no matter how hard she tried. She did her yoga breathing exercises in an attempt at sleep but it was no use. She gave up, shoved aside the tangled covers and stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom.

She didn’t turn on the lights until after she used the toilet and was standing at the sink with cold -- damn the plumbing -- water running over her hands. She contemplated her image in the mirror. Then she dried her hands and ran her still damp fingers through her short blonde hair trying to fluff it back into something other than sleep- distorted disarray. She sighed. She looked exactly like she felt. Tired, disheveled and out of sorts.

She turned out the light and reached for the door into the bedroom -- illuminated by the neighbor’s bright security lighting. She could see the lump in the bed that was her husband, Dwight. Oblivious to every- thing. Especially her. Her hand on the door, she stopped and, without actually thinking about it, stepped into her walk-in closet. She felt for the light switch, jamming her nail against the wall before she found it and flicked it on. And then, as if guided by some ethereal presence, she pulled on her favorite pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a sweater and grabbed her gym bag from the floor.

She tiptoed through the bedroom and paused by the bed to stare at Dwight. His snores were the only sound in the room. She shook her head and closed the door behind her, careful not to make a sound as she made her way downstairs and into the kitchen.

Coffee, she thought. I need coffee. She tiptoed across the room to get to the coffeemaker. It stood as a reproachful sign of the direction Maggie’s life was taking, because at that moment she remembered that she had forgotten to buy coffee during her grocery-shopping trip the day before. Life without coffee in the morning was simply unacceptable.

Okay, then, I’ll just go out and get a cup. She glanced at the clock on the stove. Not even five o’clock. Not much open, but maybe the gas station on the corner? Yes, of course, the gas station was open. She could get coffee there.

Maggie pulled on her tall boots and her leather jacket. She scooped her purse off the counter, threw it over her shoulder and started out the door. Then she turned back to the dry erase board hanging on the wall. Probably the majority of the communication between Dwight and her was done on that board. Snippets of information about comings and goings. That was about it these days. Still ... she scrawled a quick message so that he wouldn’t worry about her. “Gone for coffee. And a drive. Talk later. M.”

She yanked open the back door to the garage and a puff of air blew a crumpled piece of lined note paper off the counter and onto the floor. Maggie stooped to retrieve it and recognized Dwight’s precise handwriting. “Maggie. Pick up my good suit at cleaners. Go to bank to pay mortgage. Buy beer.”

Maggie stared at the note. She was certain that if she’d looked in the mirror she would see smoke curling from her ears. Seriously. What ever happened to please and thank-you? Buy beer? I don’t even drink beer. Uh uh. No way.

She snatched a pen from the counter and scratched her response. “Do it yourself!” Then anchoring the page under Dwight’s car keys, she stalked out the door.