The Secrets We Keep by Karen Rock
The concept for my current release, Heartwarming suspense A COWBOY TO KEEP, began with idea of secrets. Mitch Album said, “Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.” and I agree. That’s why we sometimes refer to secrets as skeletons in our closets. We think… out of sight, out of mind… but those secrets rattle and shake to make their presence known, no matter how many locks we put on those closets. The truth will out…
My heroine, Dani Crawford, a respected and newly promoted stable manager at Mountain Sky Dude ranch has been hiding from a past mistake she’d rather forget. She’s none too happy when law enforcement lands on her doorstep in the form of my cowboy/ bounty hunter hero. When he goes undercover to unmask the culprit behind a double homicide, a killer he suspects may have also murdered his brother, his sleuthing reveals explosive truths that, eventually, leads them both to forgiveness, happiness and everlasting love.
As I was penning the novel, I thought about some of the skeletons rattling in my closet and thought I’d share one exclusively with you… I’ve never told this to anyone else before, save my younger sister Cathy, who was a part of that dark and shameful day. Here’s how it goes:
Living in upstate New York, a stone’s throw (literally) from the Canadian border, it’s safe to say my family lived a fairly isolated life. When my older sister Jeanne got her first job (HUGE!) teaching in Brooklyn (INCREDIBLE!) and got her own apartment (THE HEIGHT OF SOPHISTICATION!), my younger sister Cathy and I begged, pleaded, and basically wore down my parents until they agreed to let us drive down for a visit over the Easter break. Newly minted license and the keys to a Delta 88 Oldsmobile in hand, I felt invincible. Empowered. And most of all FREE. My mother—not so much. She worried, second-guessed herself and made us promise, promise, that we would be careful… the catch-all maternal phrase that’s supposed to ensure that wayward lambs are not led astray.
Except my sister and I were actually really good girls. We were always careful. In fact, our nickname for Cathy was Sister Cathy because we were certain that she’d become a nun someday (she’s now happily married for twenty three years with two kids- but hey- it could still happen). I’d never even had my first kiss and wouldn’t until my freshman year in college which was still a year way. So, you see how two naïve, giddy girls, can certainly not intend on any trouble all the while heading straight into a heap of it. I tell you, we didn’t see it coming.
Our visit with Jeanne was everything we dreamed of. We ate at the polish deli in her neighborhood (EXOTIC!), visited the Brooklyn Library (CULTURE!), and stayed up to watch the David Lettermen show every night (EDGY!) which we thought—thought—would be the guiltiest secret we’d have to keep from a mother who kept us on strict schedules and didn’t approve of David’s sometimes foul mouth. Except for Cathy nearly smothering Jeanne’s cat to death when she fell asleep on top of him, the visit went off without a hitch. If only the same could be said about the trip home.
You see, finding Brooklyn is fairly straightforward. Leaving it is a labyrinth of one way turns and dead ends that will leave you sobbing and screaming, “How do I get on the BQE?” The BQE is short for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, the route we needed to take (according to our dog-eared map—no GPS back then!) to get home. Cathy was my copilot and, unfortunately for both of us, not the best navigator. We spent nearly two hours driving in circles, becoming more and more lost, going from bad neighborhood to worse while we frantically sought an onramp to the BQE. I suppose we could have stopped and asked for directions. And I believe we did that a couple of times without success. We didn’t know where we were, didn’t have cell phones back then to call Jeanne, and were too afraid to get out to ask to use anyone’s phone on streets littered with trash, graffiti and cars missing hubcaps, antennas, and even windows.
Finally, Cathy spotted a small sign with an arrow that read “BQE”. I was about to hit the gas when a man jumped in front of us, sprayed out windshield with Windex and began smearing it with a dirty sheet of newspaper. “What do we do?” I asked Cathy. She just shook her head. We’d never seen anything like it. Eventually, he stopped and knocked on my window, scaring the daylights out of both of us. I hit the gas pedal and heard a scraping sound as my Delta 88 Olds sideswiped a car that was, if possible, even bigger than mine and much much fancier. It was a “Pimp” car as my sister Jeanne had pointed out whenever we’d passed brightly painted, flashy cars with foxtails dangling from antennas and fuzzy dice hanging from rear view mirrors. She made us cross the street when we saw one and here I’d just gone and hit a one! Even our windshield washer guy ran away. Terrified.
“What do I do?” I cried, expecting the police, gunfire, a deranged man in a fedora at any moment. I couldn’t just leave the accident. I’d been brought up better than that. My mother would never approve of a hit-and-run. And she’d never let me have the car or go on a trip again until I was thirty, at least.
“What do I do?” I repeated, crying now.
“GO!” a voice hollered in my ear.
I whirled and there was my steely-eyed sister- Sister Cathy, who prayed in the morning and night and never missed a Sunday mass- pointing at the BQE sign. “GO!” she yelled. “Go, Karen, Go!” I hit the gas pedal again and for a sickening minute the car simply shuddered in place. Our rear fender was locked on the pimp car’s bumper. We’d never get away.
A man shouted something behind us, but Cathy’s voice was the only one I heard. “Go!” I slammed on the pedal again and we finally lurched free. My Delta Olds squealed around the turn and, miraculously we swerved onto the on ramp to the BQE. We didn’t speak on the trip home as we listened to my father’s limited music collection: Carol Carpenter and Barry Manillo. I don’t think either of us heard a note. We were sunk in our thoughts, reliving our close call. I kept wondering if we should go back and leave a note, watch the news, call a tip line?
What had we done? It was the worst trouble either of us had ever gotten into (circle back to the sheltered life lived a stone’s throw from the Canadian border). I’d been rehearsing my confession to my parents for the past hour, since I knew Cathy would insist on the truth.
My heart sank when I spotted our exit for home. Suddenly, Cathy broke her silence. “Don’t say anything to Mom and Dad,” she said. Dead calm. Like she’d just said, “And Peace be with you.”
I gaped at her. Who was this person and what had they done with my sister, the future nun? “We have to, they’ll see the marks,” I insisted (half-hearted, I’ll admit, since the nunnery was never in my future)
“We’ll tell them it was a hit and run. We found the car this way.”
They won’t believe us, I thought, especially since I’d never seen Cathy lie about anything. She’d be horrible at it. “Let me do the talking,” Cathy added, still calm. A wafer wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “You’re a terrible liar.”
I laughed, and we exchanged that “spit in your palm and shake” look—a secret between sisters we’ve kept all these years until this day. Since I’m pretty sure Cathy won’t be donning the habit, I feel safe in finally confessing this to you.
That being said, let’s just hope she doesn’t read this blog…
You can keep a secret, right?
If you made it all the way to the end of this long story, thanks! And you have a chance to enter to win an autographed copy of A COWBOY TO KEEP. Have you ever kept a secret? Share one, or something we might not know about you, in the comments section to enter. I’ll announce the winner here on Monday, April 10th as well as on my author facebook page http://www.facebook.com/karenrockwrites. I hope you’ll also check out A COWBOY TO KEEP which is on sale now at all major online retailers as well as http://www.harlequin.com