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The Gift of a Child, #1

The Gift of a Child, #1

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Sometimes, the smallest hearts show us the way back to the wonder of Christmas. Recently widowed Rae Cavanaugh faces the daunting task of celebrating the holidays with her two young children, all while the shadow of what’s missing looms large. Her new neighbor Dylan, navigating the tender role of guardian to his own nephew, brings to their doorstep the possibility of laughter. Together, they discover that the most profound blessings aren't always wrapped in paper and ribbon, and that the gift of a child can bring back the joy of the season.

Main Tropes

  • Women's Fiction
  • Friends to Lovers (eventually)
  • Christmas

Synopsis

Sometimes, the smallest hearts show us the way back to the wonder of Christmas.

Recently widowed Rae Cavanaugh faces the daunting task of celebrating the holidays with her two young children, all while the shadow of what’s missing looms large. Her new neighbor Dylan, navigating the tender role of guardian to his own nephew, brings to their doorstep the possibility of laughter. Together, they discover that the most profound blessings aren't always wrapped in paper and ribbon, and that the gift of a child can bring back the joy of the season.

Intro Into Chapter One

It was the second worst day of Rae Cavanaugh’s life. She lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling. It’d been two months to the day since the men from the coroner’s office had shown up at her door; two months since they’d ripped out her heart. Two months, and she was still running from the grief.

Shouldn’t the raw, open wound left by Mike’s loss have closed by now, even a little? Some days it hurt so badly Rae found it hard to believe people couldn’t tell she was bleeding out emotionally right in front of them.

But no, she had to put on a brave face. Grief was such a private thing. It made people uncomfortable if she showed it openly, like if she’d shown up to an event wearing only her undies. Rae had learned to wear the face they wanted to see, that of a resilient young widow with two small children who was moving on. But those people didn’t have to come home to an apartment every night that echoed with her late husband’s absence.

She had to stop this, had to fight this crippling lethargy. So what if it was the two-month anniversary of Mike’s death. So what if it was her birthday. So what that no one, neither her dad nor Mike’s parents, had remembered. She had to stop wallowing in this despair.

Rae stared at the afternoon light coming through her window. It was getting darker so much earlier now. Every day, she had to face coming home sooner to the apartment after work. At the park, where she and the kids had spent so much time these last two months, she was able to pretend Mike would be home when they returned, and that he’d joyously sweep them into his arms.

Her eyes stung. The children. She had to focus on them. They needed her. If she succumbed to this despondency, they had no one else.

Rae forced herself to sit up. She slid her legs to the side of the bed and stood. What should she do? The laundry was finished, the apartment immaculate. They’d already been to the park once today.

Start living your life again. I want you to be happy.

She heard the words as though Mike had spoken them to her. Closing her burning eyes, she imagined him standing behind her, his arms encircling her. It made her feel cared for again.

He was right. She had to be strong, if not for herself then for those two little children. She recalled a friend from high school whose wife had died in childbirth, leaving him with two young children as well. He’d completely disconnected emotionally. She’d felt so badly for those kids. They’d lost their mother and then, essentially, their father too.

Rae opened her eyes, a sense of purpose filling her. She refused to do that to her children. Her own mother had died when she was a teen, and she’d had to do the mothering thing on her own. Dad was a loving but emotionally distant grandfather. It wasn’t like Rae could drop in at his house for a cup of coffee and a word of advice.

So what should she do to start living again? Preston and Beth needed Rae to be all there for them, to model appropriate behavior. With that thought, she knew what to do. Since it was her birthday, she’d make a birthday cake.

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