A Gift of Time (The Nine Minutes Trilogy Book 3)

By: Beth Flynn

Book Three in the Nine Minutes Trilogy


Prologue

Ginny

2007, North Carolina



A very old and wise friend once told me, “It’s not by coincidence that everything comes full circle, back to the way it was meant to be.”

I remember holding her bony and gnarled hands in my own. Her strong grip had a strength that belied her age. Intelligent blue eyes met mine as she gave me those words. I saw a challenge in them as if she was daring me to defy or question her wisdom.

Looking back at that moment, almost six years past, I have to concede she was right.

The memory washed over me now as I sat on the cool grass, inhaling its sharp, crisp scent. I’d always loved the smell of freshly cut grass, which would hang in the humid air like a blanket during the hot summer days in Florida. That’s where I grew up and spent most of my life—Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But I was a long way from there now. The sun warmed my shoulders and felt good on my face. I grabbed another weed, tugging it softly. It came up easily, and I tossed it to the side.

I glanced around the tiny cemetery and sighed as I looked at the gravestones. Some were bigger and newer, standing erect in tribute to a lost loved one. Some were worn and slanted, fighting to stay upright out of respect to the person or persons that lay beneath them. One thing they all had in common: Not one grave was bare. They each displayed some form of remembrance. Flowers—fresh and artificial. Flags, banners, personal mementos. Regardless of the dates, some going back to before the Civil War, each grave was cared for with high respect.

My eyes settled on a headstone two rows over that always caused an ache in my heart. It simply read “Our Children,” then listed seven names with a set of dates beside each one. Each child hadn’t lived past the age of two years old, the last one having passed away in 1932. I was fascinated enough about that grave to do some research when we’d first moved here. After all, they were family, and I was very curious to know what had happened. Well, they weren’t exactly my family, but they were distant relatives of my husband and children, and even though I wasn’t their blood ancestor, I still considered them my family.

I returned my gaze to the dark granite gravestone I sat before and found myself fighting back tears. Another ache in my heart. One that would always be there.

But along with the tears came acceptance. Acceptance of the gift we call life and all it brings, including death. His death.

I never expected to be sitting on a mountaintop so far away from the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale. So far from the ocean and the feel of the sand beneath my toes. So far from everything that had been familiar and safe to me. But I’d more than willingly traded it for this existence, this new beginning. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I traced my left hand over the gravestone, over his name. In spite of the sun’s warmth, the hard granite was cool beneath my fingertips. My nails dug into the crevice where his name was etched, and almost unconsciously, my eyes focused on my ring finger. Two rings. One of ink and one of gold. Not too many women would ever know the blessing of being loved so deeply by more than one man.

Blessed to still have one of them in her life now.

Just then I heard them, and I quickly turned my gaze to the tiny white clapboard church adjacent to the cemetery. The majestic Blue Ridge Mountains served as a backdrop to the picturesque scene. As I watched, my husband walked down the wooden deck steps, a child clinging tightly to each hand. It was a Wednesday morning, and we had the old church and family cemetery all to ourselves. Our four-year-old daughter, Ruthie, stopped and looked up at him.

“Pick me up, Daddy. Pick me up!” she insisted.

I watched as he smiled down at her and effortlessly scooped her up, wincing when she accidentally kicked a tender area. He’d suffered a serious wound years ago, and it still caused him some pain and probably always would. It was a reminder of our old life. The life we’d finally put behind us.

Ruthie’s twin brother had already let go of his father’s hand and ran to me, plopping himself down hard on my lap. I buried my face in his hair and inhaled deeply. He smelled like soap, sweat, and maybe even some dirt. I smiled. I remembered telling my husband when I’d confirmed my surprise pregnancy, “I’m too old for this. We’re too old for this!” He’d just laughed then, and reminded me I was always the one talking about unexpected blessings, fresh starts, and new challenges. Well, I can say for sure having twins at our age was and still is a challenge. But I’ve never been so invigorated and optimistic about the future—in spite of certain things I’ve learned. And I’m loving every single minute of it. I didn’t love the extra stretch marks that came with having two babies in my belly, but there is even beauty in those. I feel like they speak to me: Look at the beautiful children you’ve made. Job well done, Ginny.

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