If you were a fan of the movie Sliding Doors like we were, you’ll love Kristin Harmel’s new novel, THE LIFE INTENDED! Kate, a music therapist living in New York City, was tragically widowed when her husband Patrick was killed in a car accident. Twelve years later, she’s preparing to begin a new life with a new fiancé—until something strange and a little magical happens. Read on to find out…
The next morning, as I blink into the sunlight, I have the dim sense that something’s off. There’s far too much light for our western-exposure bedroom. Dan put up blackout shades when he moved in six months ago, so mornings usually dawn in near pitch-blackness.
Where am I?
I squint, my head pounding from what is undoubtedly a massive champagne hangover. I sit up and look around, confused, as my eyes adjust and the room comes into focus. Indeed, this isn’t our apartment. The curtains on the windows are white and gauzy; the bed is a teak sleigh queen instead of a burnished black king, and the sheets and comforter are pale blue and soft instead of gray and sleek. The room is oddly familiar, but I can’t put a finger on why.
Had Dan put me to bed at a friend’s apartment last night for some reason? I struggle to remember, but the last thing I recall is falling asleep in his arms just after leaving the restaurant.
“Dan?” I call out tentatively.
I hear footsteps in the hallway, then the sound of someone whistling softly. Again, I have a strange feeling of familiarity, but it only unsettles me. Dan never whistles. In fact, he’d told me on our first date that he considers his inability to whistle one of his greatest failures in life. It was the first time he’d made me laugh.
“Babe?” I venture a bit more uncertainly.
And then the person whistling rounds the corner into the bedroom, and my heart nearly stops, because it’s not Dan standing there at all.
My husband, Patrick.
Who died a dozen years ago.
“Morning,” he says with a smile, and the sound of his sweetly familiar deep voice hits me like a punch to the gut. I was so sure I’d never hear it again.
This is impossible.
As I gape at him, I realize that he doesn’t quite look the way he used to. His dark hair is a little thinner around the temples, his laugh lines have deepened, and he’s more solid than he once was. It’s how I always imagined he might have looked if he’d lived to grow older with me. His eyes are just as brilliant and green and warm as I remember, though, and for a long moment, I forget to breathe.
“What’s happening?” I finally whisper, but my voice barely makes a sound. I notice with a start that there’s a sort of haze filling the room, the kind of softening of the light that happens when the sun’s rays hit particles of dust in the air just the right way. Those gossamer moments have always made me think of fairy dust and wishes come true. I wonder if that’s what’s happening now, something magical and unreal.
But as I stare at Patrick, something strange happens: my disorientation begins to fade. I look around and realize with a start that I knew somehow that there would be a slender Dyson vacuum cleaner propped haphazardly in the corner; I knew there would be a Word-of-the-Day calendar on the bedside table; I knew there would be a small cluster of yellow roses in a blue vase on the bureau.
This is our old apartment, I’m startled to realize, the one on Chambers Street, the one we were living in when Patrick died. The furniture is mostly new, but I recognize the layout, the hardwood floors I’d once loved, the walls I’d once pounded on while screaming and demanding to know how God could have taken my husband away. I can’t understand what’s happening.
“Katielee? You okay?” Patrick asks with concern, cutting into my confused train of thoughts and bringing me back down to earth.
I can feel tears rolling down my cheeks as I struggle to say something in return, but the only thing that comes out of my mouth is a meaningless string of vowels. A part of me is wondering if this is a dream, but the longer I’m here, the more convinced I am it’s not. After all, I’ve never dreamed this vividly and in this much detail before. Then again, if I’m not dreaming, what explanation is there?
Patrick sits down beside me on the bed. “You must have had a rougher night than I thought, honey,” he says with a chuckle.
Then he reaches out to stroke my arm, and my whole body feels suddenly like it’s on fire. He feels so real, and it startles me so much that I pull away and then instantly regret it, because I’d do anything in the world to have his hands on my skin.
“What is it, Kate?” he asks, reaching up to wipe my tears away. “What’s wrong?”
“You’re alive!” I finally manage to choke out between sobs.
His hand on my face is the only thing grounding me. I have the sudden feeling that if he moves away again, I’ll simply drift straight out the open window and back to the reality in which I belong.
“Of course I’m alive,” he says, looking puzzled.
I sniffle and try to explain. “But you . . . you died twelve years ago.” As soon as the words are out of my mouth, the whole room goes fuzzy. I reach out in a panic, groping for him.
“Honey, what are you talking about?” His voice sounds very far away. “Why would you say something like that?”
“Because—” I pause as the world around me continues to fade. Abruptly, I wonder whether my doubt is making this reality disappear. Isn’t that what happens when one shakes the foundation of a dream? All of a sudden, regardless of what this is, I’m desperate to stay here for as long as I can, so I take a deep breath, force a feeble smile, and say in a rush, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m saying. I’m sorry. You’re obviously right here.”
The room comes instantly back into focus—Patrick comes back into focus—and my heart skips a beat. For a few seconds, I look around in wonder, taking it all in. The impossibly blue sky outside the window. The technicolor yellow of the roses on the bureau. The searingly red glow of the numbers on our digital
bedside clock. It’s like someone has turned up the color dial by fifty percent, making everything more beautiful. I look back at Patrick, and although he seems to almost glow in the overly saturated room, he still looks like himself. Except that he’s frowning.
“Katielee, you’re scaring me,” he says. The room flickers again, and I grab his hand in a panic.
“No, I’m sorry,” I hurry to say. “I think I was having a bad dream.”
The minute the words are out of my mouth, I find myself wishing fervently that they’re somehow true. What if this isn’t the dream? What if everything that has happened in the last twelve years is instead the strange fiction?
Patrick climbs into bed beside me and slips his arm around me, pulling me close. “Honey, what are you talking about?”
“I don’t know,” I murmur. I close my eyes and breathe in his woodsy cinnamon scent, the one that’s so specifically and intimately his. I lean into his warm, solid chest, something I’d never imagined doing again. I reach up and kiss him, and it feels just like it always did. His lips are soft and gentle, and after a moment, he reaches up and strokes my right cheek with his left thumb, like he always used to do. He tastes like toothpaste and love and life, and I consume him eagerly, hungrily, as tears sting my eyes. As long as I’m kissing him, I’m not scared.
But then I’m hit with a sharp pang of guilt, and I pull away. Am I cheating on Dan? I shake the thought off. Of course I’m not. This isn’t real. It can’t be.
“Tell me you love me, Patrick,” I whisper urgently, because I need to hear him say it before reality comes crashing back in.
Patrick pulls back a little to look me in the eye. “More than you could ever imagine,” he says. “I love you, Kate. I knew before I met you—”
“—that I was meant to be yours,” I murmur, feeling the salty path of tears down my cheek.
He leans in to kiss me softly, gently, and it feels like magic.
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