Sneak Peak of What We Leave Behind by Linda Oaks!

January 21, 2021

We are excited to announce that What We Leave Behind by Linda Oaks is now LIVE and available on Kindle Unlimited. Read below for a sneak peak of this romantic suspense that you won’t want to put down!

Copyright © 2021 by Linda Oaks.
Published by Boom Factory Publishing, LLC.



AFTER THE FIGHT downstairs, Momma left Daddy sitting at the kitchen table with his face buried in his hands. I’ve never seen him like that before… so alone and so sad. I have questions, but no one is talking to me. Earlier that morning, Daddy returned from his shift at work just as we finished our breakfast. Momma made my favorite: pancakes with chocolate chips.

Momma is taking her clothes from the dresser and placing them into neat stacks inside the open suitcase on the bed. I watch quietly from the doorway, but she has yet to notice me.

“Where are you going, Momma?”

Her body stiffens, her dark hair sliding forward to shield her face. “I have to leave, baby. I can’t stay here another second longer.”

She raises her head, shoves her hair aside, which reveals the tears sliding down her cheeks. Her expression is pinched tight like the time we ate lemons when we last made lemonade. Our eyes meet, but only for a second before she turns away.

“Can I go with you?” My lower lip trembles. I can’t stop how it wobbles and shakes. My eyes burn, filled with tears. The thought of leaving my daddy behind is unthinkable.

I don’t want to go, not without him. I love them both. I shouldn’t have to choose.

“Not this time, sweetheart.”

I can tell by the tone of her voice that her reply is final, and it’s then my stomach contracts into a painful knot around the fluffy pancake I ate. It’s only then I begin to understand what’s really happening here.

She’s not only leaving him but she’s leaving me too.

Her slim fingers connect the straps inside the case, securing her clothes, and then she zips up the suitcase. In the silence, the sound of the zipper is loud. The ache that’s built in the center of my chest blooms with intensity.

She’s really going to do it this time.

Every fight my parents have had—and lately, there’s been a lot—always ends with Momma threatening to leave us, but I never thought she’d actually go through with it.

What makes today any different?

“Why?” I ask, my voice cracking. Her dark lashes lower, hiding her eyes, and then she sighs. That sigh is a tired sound, one that has her shoulders slumping forward as if she carries the weight of the world on them. A sigh that comes from somewhere deep inside. One she’s made countless times before, but I never understood until now.

Last year, our lives changed when my baby brother Jessie died. Somehow, he’d managed to unlock the back door and slip through the neighbor’s gate into their yard, where he drowned in their pool. Jessie always loved the water. He was fascinated by it. He was a curious little guy with sparkling green eyes and full of mischief, his face sweet and round, a dimple in his pudgy chin. Except for his green eyes, he was a carbon copy of Daddy.

The day was like any other, nothing out of the ordinary. Momma packed my lunch, and as usual, I grabbed the paper bag from the kitchen counter and raced through the house at full speed, in a hurry to get outside in time to catch the bus. Momma and Jessie were on the couch. I only looked their way long enough to shout goodbye. It was Friday, my favorite day of the week, and I couldn’t wait for the weekend. Little did I know that particular Friday would become a day I’d never forget. The worst day of my entire life.

The night before, Jessie had been sick, running a fever. Daddy had to work, and with no preschool the next day, Momma stayed up late with him. I still remember his laughter, and the two of them snuggled together on the couch, watching cartoons as I rushed out the front door.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken the time to tell Jessie I loved him, but as usual, I was in too big of a hurry. I didn’t want to miss the bus, but maybe if I had, I could have stayed home, and maybe I could have saved him. Maybe, I could have stopped the worst thing in the world from happening to him… and to our family.

“Lucy,” she says. Her lower lip quivers, her mouth pulling into a tight smile, one that seems out of place with her tears. “You have to stay here with your father. He needs you now.”

My knees begin to shake, but I try to hide how scared I am. I’m a big girl now, not a little kid. We both need her. I can make her stay. I can make her understand. “Daddy needs you too,” I tell her.

She shakes her head, wiping at the wetness on her cheeks. Her heart-shaped face is ghostly pale. “He needs you more, baby girl,” she replies and then retrieves her coat from the bed. Slowly, she slips her arms through the sleeves, not looking at me, and picks up her suitcase.

The sudden tightness in my chest makes it difficult to breathe. My plan isn’t working. She’s going to leave us. “Momma, please.”

I can’t allow this to happen. I’m here this time. I can stop this.

Her lips press into a thin line; her jaw clenches. I know that look. It’s the same one she gives me whenever I misbehave. Her green eyes rise to meet mine, and there’s a coldness in her stare that sends my heart sinking to my feet.

“Never beg anyone for anything in this life, Lucy.” There’s not an ounce of softness to her when she says it. Her words are cruel and so unlike her.

“But, Momma….” But my pleas fall on deaf ears as she closes the distance between us. The rest of my words freeze in my throat. Her slim, dark eyebrows are furrowed deep in thought over her almond-shaped eyes. Silently, she watches me. Beneath her stare, I shiver. It’s as brutal as the weather outside.

“Don’t do this.” Now, I’m the one standing before her, so alone and so sad.

“Don’t beg,” she snaps, and I drop my gaze, noticing her knuckles. They tighten around the handle of her suitcase, turning white. “I can’t live like this any longer. Don’t you understand, Lucy? I’m smothered here. I can’t breathe. I thought I could be a mother to you after losing Jessie, but I can’t. Not anymore. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be a mother or a wife. Not to anyone. Not anymore.”

The pain I’m holding in shifts around inside my chest, threatening to escape at any moment, but I clutch onto it tightly, trying to be a brave girl. Still, a sob rips from my throat. Tears stream down my cheeks. “Please, Momma. Please, don’t do this.” I’m begging again, but this time, I don’t care. I love her. Daddy loves her. She can’t do this. She’ll destroy what family we have left.

“Don’t make this any harder than it has to be. Someday, Lucy, you’ll understand. Your father will take care of you.”

She moves past me. Helplessly, I watch her walk away.

We’re a family. Families stick together through good times and through the bad.

“Will you come back?” I ask, hiccupping as my shoulders shake. Her steps slow, and then her back stiffens beneath her leather coat as she straightens to her full height, somehow seeming taller than her five feet and four inches.

Without a word, she continues through the doorway and disappears down the hall. I bite my lower lip, ignoring the wetness sliding down my cheeks. I stare at the bedroom, her and Daddy’s room. Nothing is out of place. Everything is the same; even the quilt Grandmother handstitched years ago still covers their double bed. The same faded, dull lilac curtains hang over the same pair of beige blinds. But today, something has changed. A glint of gold catches in the light. Downstairs, the heated sounds of an argument drift throughout the rooms. Voices grow louder, piercing the thin walls of the house we’ve called home my entire life.

This is a first. My father never raises his voice. He never shouts. Hot bile rushes up the back of my throat. A sour taste fills my mouth. My stomach clenches at their hurtful words. I can’t listen to them, so I cover my ears, but then I remember, and I’m running to the dresser. The ring she never takes off is heavy in my hand. I squeeze the gold band, and the metal bites into my palm. The front door slams, and then I race from the room, down the hallway and stairs.

He was supposed to make her stay. She can’t leave us behind.

The front door is open. She’s not here, but my daddy is—all alone, silent, and as still as a statue in the middle of our living room floor. He’s still dressed in his blue uniform. The gold badge pinned to his chest gleams in the overhead light. The neighbor’s dog is barking, and through the storm door, I watch my mom slam the station wagon’s trunk shut.

“Lucy,” Daddy says, and I turn to him. His eyes are a blue, dismal gray, clouded thick with emotion and pain. The tone of his voice leaves no more room for doubt, not this time. Mom’s intentions are crystal clear. She’s really leaving this time. “Don’t, Lucy!” he cries.

The storm door slams behind me. A frigid gust of air shoves my hair into my face. “Momma!” I scream, but it’s too late. I’m too late. She doesn’t hear me. Her station wagon pulls away from the curb. The air is so cold it hurts my throat to breathe. I shoot down the front porch steps, screaming her name.

At the end of our street, the station wagon rolls to a stop at the traffic light as it changes from yellow to red. The glow of the car’s taillights urges me to act. There’s still time. I can catch her. I can convince her to stay. This is all just a big mistake. Snow crunches beneath my bare feet. The cold turns them a blissful but still painful kind of numb. Darting across our front yard, I finally make it to the sidewalk.

Frozen concrete smacks the soles of my feet. The sound reminds me of clapping hands, and I run faster. Puffs of white air escape my lips, and my chests heaves. I’m almost there, almost to her. Then my feet fly out from underneath me. A scream rips from my throat as I land hard on the ice. My teeth snap together, and the copper taste of blood coats my tongue and fills my mouth. Then, the light changes to green.

“No!” I sob as the station wagon turns onto the next street. I’m too late.

“Lucy,” my daddy says, and then strong arms are lifting me from the sidewalk. “Shush,” he murmurs, his breath warm in my ear. My fingers curl into the stiff material of his police officer’s uniform as he cradles me to his chest.

I have to bring her back, I have to.

Desperate to escape, I squirm against him, but he doesn’t let me go. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get away.

“I’m here, Lucy.” At those words, I grow still in his arms, and then the reality of what has happened sinks in. This time, instead of pushing him away, I curl my arms around his neck, hugging him tight.

“Daddy,” I cry and bury my face in the crook of his neck. He turns and carries me back up the sidewalk to our house.

“Everything will be okay,” he whispers, his lips moving against my hair, but behind his brave words, there’s something else. He’s been crying too, and he never cries. Only once, when we lost Jessie.

Daddy’s never lied to me, and I need to believe him now, but deep down inside, I know… nothing will ever be the same. First, Jessie, and now her. I raise my head. Over his broad shoulder, I stare down the empty street.

She really did it this time.

She’s gone, and she left us behind.

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