Among the Broken
Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)
In the sleepy little coastal town of Fernandina Beach, Florida, Aaron Michaels has fallen into a predictable, yet uneventful life as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep. But his ordinary existence is shattered when he turns on the evening news and discovers that the only woman he has ever truly loved has gone missing.
Adele Peterson has made her home among the salt marshes and sandy river banks of coastal Florida. While she yearns for the quiet solitude and serene back country of her youth, she feels suffocated by the demands and pressures of corporate life.
When Adele disappears without a trace, Aaron goes in search of her. But when his quest leads him to the unexpected, he’s forced to confront a past he thought he’d left behind. Propelled by a love that began three decades ago, Aaron reflects on their childhood together in rural Suwannee County – along with Adele’s cousin, Gregory – discovering the world and learning the meaning of friendship together.
In this emotionally gripping journey from the past into the present, Aaron’s search for the missing love of his life takes an unexpected turn in this unforgettable tale of love, mystery and heartache.
The afternoon sky was fading fast. Soft hues giving way to brilliant bursts of color as the sun dipped below the horizon, a trail of warm fuchsias and lavenders marking its descent. The air shifted and something told Aaron summer was losing its grip on the calendar. September already. From the rails of his front porch, Aaron could smell raw earth and something else. A pungent, yet comforting smell that always took him back to his childhood. Here, marsh grass and pluff mud competed with the saltier smell of ocean air in a never-ending tug of war. He needed the salt air to breathe the way a fish needed water.
Aaron loved this place. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. His day had ended badly, but now he placed his hands on the railing and let the walls of his beach cottage wrap him in a familiar embrace.
In the distance, he could hear a dog barking and a car door slamming. He breathed in deeply, filling his lungs as much as his mind, with all that was Fernandina Beach. From a tower a half mile away in the Town Center, church bells rang out, breaking the night’s silence. Right on cue, Aaron thought. He felt his stomach tighten and shook his head, knowing full well the church bells had no personal agenda, not against him or anyone else. Still, he hated the nightly ritual. The bells rang out three times a day from their perch atop the tower, and sadly, they only served as a reminder of all he had lost. Loved and lost…
…Outside of Suwannee County, in school districts as far away and as unfamiliar as Mars, hair inched taller, skirts got shorter, jeans got tighter and Members Only jackets covered the biceps of young boys on the verge of manhood. But here in Suwannee County, Adele was sheltered in a companionable cocoon of family bliss.
The August sun was still high in the sky by the time Adele and Gregory finished their homework and bounded out the back door. Adele got the shovel while Gregory pried open the old metal box. They’d found it in the barn last spring and had been meaning to turn it into a time capsule. Adele had gotten the idea from an article she’d read in National Geographic about a bunch of senior citizens in Brazil who had buried some relics in a tin box when they were teenagers. Sixty years later, they unearthed their treasure and found that most of the objects were now worth thousands of dollars. Things like old stamps and comic books and war memorabilia. Adding to that, all the objects had sentimental value as well, making the old geezers blubber like babies when they recounted their story to the news media.
“So, you mean he can’t hear at all?” Gregory asked, a ray of sunlight ricocheting off the metal box.
“I guess not. I mean, I don’t know for sure because he disappeared after first period and never came back,” Adele said.
Just then Lucky came barreling out of the thicket, curious to see what Adele and Gregory were doing, his awkward canter and droopy ears complementing his goofy grin. He shook his enormous ears from side to side and gave a great, big rattling sniff, a trail of slobber somersaulting wildly from his jowls. With his nose to the ground he snuffed and snuffed, grinning like a goat in a junkyard.
“Are you gonna talk to him?”
“Well, I don’t know, seeing as how it didn’t go so well the first time around.”
“But maybe it’ll be different now. You said he has an in-ter… an inturp…”
“An interpreter?” Adele asked.
The forest was bathed in magic, tall pines and centuries old oaks lined both sides of the highway. Occasionally the landscape would take a dramatic turn, and a solitary farmhouse would appear at the top of a grassy knoll, flanked by rolling pasture land and fields of Butterfly Weed and Blue Phlox on either side.
Trees and farmhouse became a dizzying blur as Richard and Aaron sped past, their gazes fixed on something they couldn’t yet see; an image they carried around in their minds, one that was firmly emblazoned on their hearts; an image of a young woman whose smile could light up a room and whose laughter could melt the hearts of strangers.
Richard stared straight ahead. Not only was he racing against the clock, but against the last vestiges of daylight, the setting sun now sinking lower into the west. Worse, he didn’t know what he was looking for. A visible sign. Some hidden clue. For God to call an audible. And then it hit him. That’s exactly what they needed to do. Pray.
He turned to Aaron with the intention of telling him this, but before he could even get the words out, he choked, the burden he was carrying simply too much for a father to bear. Richard’s shoulders crumpled and he fell forward against the steering wheel. Aaron reached over and placed his hand on Richard’s back, and without even hesitating, he launched into a simple prayer of his own. Since the whole faith journey was still somewhat unfamiliar territory to him, Aaron closed his eyes and bowed his head, praying the only way he knew how. From his heart.
“God, you know we’re hurting. And we’re also kind of clueless here. There’s a girl we love, but we have no idea how to find her. We’re gonna need your help on this one. We’re doing all we can, but it’s just not enough. We’re gonna need something more if we want to find her. We need You.” Aaron said this last part with breathless conviction, a simple statement that held more truth than all other truths combined. As he finished, he let out the breath he had been holding, unaware that just to his left, Richard’s gaze had become fixed on something in the distance.
SHERRI WARNER BYRD graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in broadcast communications. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in Jacksonville Magazine, the Jacksonville Business Journal, and the Florida Times-Union. She lives in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, with her husband, two daughters, and three cats.
Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)
Dust Jacket Hardcover(B/W)