Title: Take Care, Sara
Author: Lindy Zart
You breathe in, you breathe out, and everything you know is gone.
Sara Walker knows firsthand what it feels like to have your reality ripped away, scrambled, and shoved back at you in an undone puzzle where pieces are missing and nothing fits. She’s lost so much and is struggling to live and to find the strength to forgive herself for being human. With the help of Lincoln, her husband’s brother, Sara realizes it’s not about finding who she used to be, but about finding who she is now.
You breathe in, you breathe out, and everything you know isn’t gone, but reborn.
Lindy Zart has been writing since she was a child. Luckily for readers, her writing has improved since then. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two sons, and one cat. Lindy loves hearing from people who enjoy her work.
“Remember the day on the river when we went tubing a few summers back?”
Sara shifted the gear from reverse to forward, eyes darting over cars and trucks in the immediate vicinity. “Yes. What about it?” She stalled at the stop sign, not wanting to go at the same time another vehicle intended to. A horn honked and she jumped, glancing in the rearview mirror at the large white truck behind her.
“I think it’s your turn to go,” he said dryly.
The truck crept forward. Lincoln laughed, which caused her face to burn, but Sara ignored him, concentrating on driving.
“Remember how Cole was determined to knock us off the tube?”
The sun was burning down on them. The inner tube bobbed up and down in the small waves made by other boats, splashing warm brown river water on her. Sara smelled seaweed and sand, the faint scent of fish in the air. She was on her stomach, one arm under Lincoln’s hard chest, the other pulled toward her with her and Lincoln’s arms crisscrossed over each other’s, both hands locked on the handles. Her lifejacket dug into her ribs, slightly raised over her shoulders from the way she was laying.
Water glistened down his face as he turned his head to grin at her, his gray eyes sparkling silver in the sunlight. “Ready?”
Sara glanced up at the white and green pontoon boat and saw Cole watching her with a certain gleam in his crystal blue eyes. His light brown hair was streaked with gold from the sun, his body tanned and toned from working outdoors on an almost daily basis. A slow smile curved his lips, turning her into a fiery ball of need. Her eyes stayed locked with his, promises communicated back and forth. He winked at her.
“You know he’s going to try to dump us, don’t you?”
“I told him not to.” She glanced at Lincoln, saw his eyes were on her.
“He still will. You know that, right?”
She locked her jaw, nodding. “I do.”
Cole laughed, raising his bottle of water in a salute and turning to the seat behind the dashboard of the boat.
“Wrap your leg around mine.”
She shot him a look.
The boat started, a low purr filling the air.
He rolled his eyes. “I know you’d like any excuse to touch me and I really shouldn’t encourage your behavior, but unless you want to take a bath in the not so clean Mississippi, you’ll wrap your leg around mine.”
The boat started to move, gaining speed as it went.
“Sara.” Without thinking, she edged closer to Lincoln, his muscled leg twining around hers. “Hang on,” he shouted as the boat slammed forward, the tube gliding along the river after it.
“You can pull over now.”
She blinked. Trees and rolling hills loomed ahead. They were almost in the country. Sara shook her head. “No. I’m okay.”
“Yes. Just tell me where to go.”
He didn’t speak for a time, and then said, “Okay.”
“Why’d you bring that up?”
“The river. Tubing.”
“It was the first thing I could think of to take your mind off driving. Did it help?”
She nodded, taking a slow breath. “Yes.”
“Good. Turn left up here. The first house on the right. It’s blue. See it?”
“I see it.”
“And we’re here.”
She turned the key and the engine went silent. Her taut nerves were slightly relaxed, her breathing close to normal. She let her hands drop to her lap, staring at the red barn to the left of the house. A chicken darted past as she watched.
“Way to go, Sara Lynne.” He gently slugged her shoulder with his fist.
She turned to him. “Why that memory?”
He shrugged, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I told you—”
“He dumped us. He dumped us and then I hit the water and was sucked down. My lifejacket got stuck on a limb underwater. I couldn’t get it loose and I was fighting to undo the lifejacket. I even thought maybe I would die.” She was breathing fast, the words stumbling from her lips.
“You found me. Somehow. You got the lifejacket off me and you pulled me from the water. The boat was coming back around. Your arms were locked around me tight. You had to be tired, but you never let me go. He was frantic, hauling me up first, hugging me, kissing me, telling me he was sorry. You got into the boat, you spun him around, and you punched him in the face. Spencer and Gracie were there, on the boat. Spencer had to pull you off him. You shouted things.” She suddenly stopped, a lump in her throat. She couldn’t say anymore.
“I told him he was an idiot.”
Other things. You said other things too. But all she said was, “Right.”
“Ready to work?”
“Lead the way, boss.” She followed him as he crossed the yard to get to the house, but her mind was still stuck on that day.
“You knew she didn’t want to be dumped! What the fuck were you thinking? She could have drowned. Fucking idiot,” Lincoln snapped and turned away from his brother, incalculable rage flashing in his eyes, stiffening his jaw.
Sara watched him storm to the back of the boat, ignoring Gracie when she tried to talk to him. She’d never seen him so furious before—never. Lincoln’s red plaid swim trunks were stuck to his legs like another layer of skin, his broad back taut. She was stunned by his reaction. Looking at Cole, she knew he was too.
Cole turned to her, his features tight. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t—I was just having some fun. You’re okay?”
She wiped water from her face, nodding. The outdoor carpet of the boat prickled her soft flesh and she moved to stand. “I’m okay.”
He helped her up, wrapping his arms around her. “If anything had happened to you—”
“It didn’t,” she broke in, eyes on Lincoln. He stared out at the endless water, profile carved from stone. He’d isolated himself from the rest of them, as though he didn’t want their taint of irresponsibility near him, or maybe just his brother’s.
“Because of Lincoln.”
Something in his tone made her glance at him, the flatness of it maybe. “Are you mad that he saved me?” Incredulity made her voice higher than it usually was.
He scowled, dropping his arms from her. “No.”
“Well, that’s good, because the alternative was drowning.”
The scowl deepened. “I know. It’s just…I’m supposed to save you, not him. I’m supposed to be there for you, not him.”
“You were too busy having fun driving the boat and trying to dump us,” she snapped.
“I know. I’m an ass.”
Her anger faded at the look on her husband’s face. It was full of self-recrimination.
He nodded somberly. “That too.”
She felt herself soften toward him, as she always did. He looked so young, so pitiful. “I still love you.”
Cole looked up, flashing a grin brighter than the sun. “Good to know.”
“But if I was dead, I wouldn’t.”
“I’d still love you even if I was dead,” he retorted, trailing a hand along her hip and causing her to shiver.
“Okay, you two, it’s fun watching you almost make out and everything, but can we get going?” Spencer asked from where he lounged on the seat, Gracie beside him.
Cole moved to captain the boat and Sara walked toward Lincoln. The boat lurched forward as it accelerated and she grabbed the ledge to steady herself. She adjusted the yellow swim shorts as she neared him, tightening the straps of the turquoise bikini top. He didn’t look at her as she approached, his cool gaze trained ahead.
“Thank you,” she said quietly, sitting in the seat next to him.
Lincoln glanced at her. “I was scared out of mind, when you went under and I couldn’t see you. I—”
“Earth to Sara.” She ran into Lincoln’s chest, his hands steadying her as he set her back. “Sleepwalking again?”
She shrugged, her face burning. I don’t know what I would have done if anything had happened to you.That’s what he’d said. She hadn’t wanted to think about what it could have or could not have meant at the time. She wasn’t inclined to think about it that much now either. And yet…why had he brought up that day? Was he trying to tell her something without telling her something? Was she looking into it too much? Did he want her to remember what he’d said? Did Lincoln remember what he’d said?
“Why that day?” she pressed. An icy sharp wind started, tousling her hair around her face. Sara impatiently pushed it behind her ears, not letting him look away.
His neck convulsed as he swallowed. But he didn’t look away. Lincoln’s eyes were zeroed in on hers, looking at her in a way that made pressure form in her chest. “That was the day things changed for me.”
He finally looked away, tapping a pad of paper against his thigh. “Do you remember what I said to you, after it happened?”
She wasn’t prone to lying. She didn’t like being lied to and she didn’t like doing it to others. He was so intense, so still as he waited, like what she said mattered astronomically to him. Lie, Sara. For him. For you. Lie.
She opened her mouth.