Maggie's Turn

Deanna Lynn Sletten 

Book Description:

Sometimes you just have to walk away.

Maggie Harrison is a devoted wife and mother, until one day, without planning to, she drives away leaving behind her indifferent husband and two sulking teenagers. Maggie goes off on a quest of self-exploration, enjoying adventures, meeting new people, and rediscovering her passions. For the first time in years, she dreams of what she wants out of life, and realizes that her deteriorating marriage can no longer continue as it is. Can she and Andrew repair their broken relationship, or is their marriage over?

Andrew Harrison likes his life to be in perfect order. He enjoys his work and status in the community, leaving Maggie to take care of their home and children. He knows his marriage isn't perfect, but after twenty-three years and two kids, whose marriage is? When Maggie leaves without a word, he is forced to pay more attention to his home life and his almost-grown children, and he begins to do a little self-exploration of his own. Slowly, he begins to understand what drove Maggie away, and how important she is in his life. Is it too late to resolve their differences and save their marriage? Or will Andrew lose Maggie forever?

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Contemporary Women's Fiction/Family Drama

Enjoy the First Chapter of Maggie's Turn

Chapter One



It had been a hectic Monday morning at the Harrison household. Especially for Maggie. Her nineteen-year-old son, Kyle, had overslept, which meant he was late showering and would be tardy to one of the four college courses he was intent on failing. Because he was running behind, her fourteen-year-old daughter, Kaia, was also late getting ready for school. That meant Maggie’s husband, Andrew, had to rush to shower for work. And, of course, Maggie then had to rush, too, since she was always the last one in the family to use the bathroom.

Kaia was pouting and stomping around because she’d wanted to get to school early to “hang” with her friends. Kyle rolled his eyes as he went out the door to his rusted pickup truck, muttering that it didn’t matter if he made it to class or not. And Andrew ran through his schedule with Maggie before he rushed out the door to work.

“Remember, I have a seven o’clock meeting tonight—make sure dinner is on time so I’m not late,” he instructed Maggie and was gone a second later.

All Maggie had time for was one long sigh as she slipped a light sweater on, pulled on khaki pants, grabbed her red coat and purse, then ran out the door, hoping Kaia wouldn’t be late for school.

Maggie stole a glance at her sulking daughter as she maneuvered her minivan through the morning traffic. Kaia was a pretty girl, with long, thick auburn hair and brilliant-blue eyes. Her clear skin was still lightly tanned from summer vacation. She’d be even prettier if she’d smile once in a while. Maggie couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen Kaia smile. Or joke, tease, or giggle. Much less laugh. It seemed as though she’d gone from a happy, young girl to a sulking teenager in the blink of an eye. But Maggie couldn’t complain. Despite Kaia’s constant irritation with her, she was a good student, had nice friends, and wasn’t a troublemaker. Maggie knew she was fortunate. Both of her children had turned out to be decent people, even if they were a little confused about life. But who wasn’t confused at their ages? Being fourteen or nineteen wasn’t easy. Though Maggie tried to be understanding and give both Kyle and Kaia room to figure out their own lives, doing so was difficult sometimes. Kyle had gone from being a high school honor graduate to a flunking college student, and he didn’t seem to care one bit. He enjoyed his part-time job at the local motorcycle shop more than he did college. Evidently, earning seven-fifty an hour was fine with him. He had no financial obligations other than keeping gas in his pickup and going out with friends. Maggie sometimes wondered how he thought he’d make it on his own without a decent education, but she forced herself not to obsess over it. She had so many other things she could choose to worry about.

The northern Minnesota town of Woodroe was small—only twenty thousand people—yet the morning traffic was heavy as everyone rushed off to school and work. Maggie sighed again as she followed the parade of parents in minivans and SUVs rushing to drop their children off. It was only the third week of school, and she was already weary of the morning traffic in and out of the middle school parking lot. Maggie had always maintained that parents in minivans and SUVs were the worst drivers on the planet. She found herself in near accidents at least three times daily upon entering or driving through the parking lot. Everyone had somewhere better to be and needed to get there faster than the next person. It was the same old story, year after year.

Maggie waited her turn to drop Kaia off at the front entrance. Country music blared from the minivan’s speakers—Kaia’s choice. Maggie always let her choose the music when they rode together. It was easier than fighting about the radio. Maggie could pop in the CD of her choice on her way home.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t get here earlier,” Maggie said as they pulled up in front of the school and stopped.

“Whatever.” Kaia gathered her book bag and tennis racket. “Remind Dad to pick me up after tennis practice tonight” were her last words before she slammed the van’s door and stormed off. She didn’t even give her mother time to say good-bye.

Maggie tried not to take Kaia’s rudeness personally, but her heart felt heavy as she switched AM on the stereo to CD and listened to Bob Seger sing “Roll Me Away,” a song about escaping down a Western highway. Maggie had bought the CD on a whim two weeks ago, remembering how much she’d loved listening to Seger in the years before marriage, before kids—before life took control of her instead of the other way around. His music had a freeing effect on her, and she'd been listening to the CD continuously for the past two weeks.

Maggie dutifully followed the line of cars out of the parking lot to go home. She was relieved she didn’t have to work today. Three days a week, she worked at a group home with developmentally challenged adults. She found it gratifying working with the residents, but it was exhausting to meet their needs all day, then go home to care for her family. Lately, she’d felt overwhelmed by it all—home, work, Andrew, and the kids. There never seemed to be a break in everyone’s needs and wants.

Maggie glanced at her camera and laptop in the backseat—she took them with her everywhere—and smiled. She loved photographing Kyle’s and Kaia’s sporting events, school activities, and even her friends at the group home. Sometimes, her photos made it into the local paper. She’d been an art major in college and had fallen in love with photography. That was the one thing that made Maggie happy in between all the must-dos. She just wished she had more time to devote to taking photos . . .

Once, a long time ago, Maggie had dreamt of becoming a professional photographer and owning her own shop, where she could sell photos and artwork by local artists. When she and Andrew were newlyweds, they’d talked about this often, and he had said that once they were settled and had some money, it might be a possibility. But the years went by, and Maggie became so immersed in the children’s lives, and in Andrew’s, that her dreams had been put on the back burner, long forgotten. As Maggie sat in traffic behind other parents leaving Kaia’s middle school, she thought about her old dreams and wondered if they would ever come true.

As the music played and traffic crawled along, her thoughts drifted back to the morning rush at home. Andrew hadn’t kissed her good-bye. Not even a peck on the cheek. When was the last time he had really kissed her? She couldn’t remember. Was it a year ago, two years ago? The heaviness in her chest swelled. Their relationship had changed greatly in the twenty-three years they’d been married. She remembered when they had first started dating in college, in Seattle. Andrew had moved there for school because he'd wanted to experience something different from his small-town upbringing. Maggie’s father had been stationed at a military base there.

Andrew had been a junior and a communications major, and Maggie had been a freshman majoring in art. They'd met when they took a photography class together. He was quiet and serious in those early days, but Maggie’s impulsive nature had brought out his fun side. She had spent her youth being the dependable, responsible one, but in college, she had shed her old persona to become the carefree girl she’d always wanted to be. Even though they were opposites, something about Andrew had drawn her to him. Maybe it had been his boyish good looks or the charming smile that she was sometimes able to coax from him. She wasn’t sure, but there had been something about him that made Maggie believe there was more to him than hard work and good grades.

With Andrew, Maggie had planned trips on a whim. She dragged him along with her, camera in hand, to rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, and lush, green parks on Puget Sound. Sometimes, they drove to Lake Tahoe for long weekends, enjoying its beauty. They’d married after Andrew graduated, and Maggie quit school to follow him to Minnesota. She made him promise on the day they married that they would always allow a little wanderlust in their lives, no matter how conventional they became. And she’d believed him when he'd said they would.

Maggie stopped at the red light, where she was to turn north to go home. She hit the “Back” button on the stereo to replay “Roll Me Away.” She didn’t switch her right blinker on to signal her turn. She just sat there, looking straight ahead. The lane she was in headed west, just as Bob did in the song. West, across the plains, over the mountains, to the ocean. She glanced again at her camera in the backseat. Wouldn’t it be fun to drive in a different direction and take a few photos? Just a few miles, not too far, not for too long. Her heavy heart lightened at the thought, and a smile lit up her blue eyes. North or west? One direction meant home; the other, adventure. North or west?

When the light changed to green, Maggie turned up the stereo, smiled wide, and said out loud to no one but herself, “Roll me away.” And she rolled clean out of sight.




It was just after five o’clock in the evening when Andrew Harrison stepped through the back door of the family’s 1890s Victorian home with Kaia close on his heels. He’d planned on taking a quick shower before he ate dinner and then headed off to the county planning committee meeting he was expected at by seven.

Andrew was a busy man. He worked full-time as the marketing manager at Woodroe Communications, the local television and Internet provider. In addition, he served on several boards and committees in the area. The contacts he made at these meetings were important to his job, and his community service work looked good for the company. Besides, he loved the town they lived in, and he enjoyed being a part of the many decisions made about Woodroe’s growth and development. Plus, he also had a bigger goal in mind: he wanted to become mayor of Woodroe someday, just as his father had been. Many of the people he volunteered with believed he could accomplish that goal in the next election.

Tonight, the planning committee would be discussing the possibility of developing a large parcel of land as a new upscale neighborhood, and Andrew was anxious to get to the meeting early to hear how some of the other members of the committee felt about the proposal. He hoped Maggie would have dinner ready on time so he could leave right afterward.

But when Andrew and Kaia stepped into the back entryway, he immediately sensed that something was wrong. Their German shepherd, Bear, slipped past them and was out the door in a hurry, as if no one had let him out all day. The kitchen was dark, with only the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the windows, and there was no aroma of food cooking in the oven or on the stove.

Andrew set down his briefcase and hung his coat on the rack by the door. He called out, “Maggie, we’re home! What’s for dinner?” to the silent house. Their two chubby cats, Jazzie and Ozzie, ambled lazily into the kitchen to see who was there. Maggie was nowhere in sight.

Andrew frowned as he looked around the kitchen and saw that the breakfast dishes were still sitting, unwashed, in the sink. It looked as if Maggie hadn’t been home since this morning.

“Great,” he said under his breath, running his hand through his thick, dark hair in frustration.

Kaia noticed her father’s agitation. “Maybe Mom is at work and will be home soon,” she offered, laying her backpack on the kitchen table. “Sometimes she picks up takeout if she works late.”

“Did your mom work today?” Andrew asked. He didn’t keep track of Maggie’s work schedule and rarely asked her about it. She was usually home before he was, because she picked Kaia up from school except on tennis practice nights.

“How would I know?” Kaia shot back. She walked past him and opened the refrigerator to rummage for a snack.

Andrew eyed Kaia for a moment but held his tongue. He hated her smart mouth, but Maggie always told him to be patient before he reacted. Besides, he was more annoyed with Maggie for not being home on time than with his daughter.

“I’m going to shower. If your mom comes home, remind her I have to leave soon,” he told Kaia. She shrugged as she grabbed an apple from the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.

It was after six o’clock by the time Andrew came down from his shower, and Maggie still wasn’t there. Kyle was home by then, and Andrew heard him ask Kaia where their mom was.

“Who knows,” Kaia answered irritably, looking up from her algebra homework.

Now, Andrew was even more annoyed. He couldn’t believe how irresponsible it was of Maggie not to be home.

“Maybe Mom’s van broke down, and she’s stranded,” Kyle offered through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie. There were always homemade cookies in the house, and he usually went for those first when he was hungry.

Kyle’s offhand remark caused Andrew to pause a moment and Kaia to look up from her homework. He hadn’t considered that something might have happened to delay Maggie. He picked up his cell phone and dialed her number, although he realized that she’d have called him if she’d broken down.

The phone rang several times before his call went to voice mail. Andrew didn’t bother to leave a message. He hung up and stared at the kids.

“I just got her voice mail,” he reported. He wasn’t overly worried yet. He knew that there were places in town where there was no phone reception.

The three of them continued staring at each other until Kaia broke the silence.

“Do you think Mom is okay?” she asked.

Andrew wasn’t sure how to answer. Maggie was never late coming home. Not once in twenty-three years of marriage had he had cause to worry about where she was or what she was doing. He knew she couldn’t say the same about him. But seeing the worried look in Kaia’s eyes made him want to reassure her.

“I’m sure your mom is okay.” He glanced at Kyle for support.

“Sure,” Kyle agreed. “She might be in Walmart or at the grocery store. Cell reception is lousy in those places. Or she may have left her phone in the car. There could be a thousand reasons why she’s not answering.”

Andrew nodded, grateful to Kyle for trying to put his sister at ease. And who knows, maybe Kyle was exactly right?

Looking at his watch, Andrew realized it was getting late and he had to leave soon.

“Listen, kids, I have to go to my meeting.” He pulled out his wallet and handed Kyle some money. “Kyle, why don’t you take your sister out to eat? I’ll leave my phone on so you can call me when your mother gets home, okay?”

Kaia didn’t look pleased but kept silent. Kyle said they would call him.

By the time Andrew arrived at his meeting, he’d convinced himself that Maggie would be home any minute and there was nothing to worry about. The meeting held his attention, and for the next two hours, he thought only of property prices, taxes, and zoning permits. It wasn’t until the meeting ended that he realized it was nine thirty, and Kyle hadn’t called to say Maggie was home.


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