A Home For Misty

This month’s post is a piece I deleted from the first draft of my book Misty Dreams. For those of you who have read my book and have heard my story of how the first draft turned out to be a massive 360,000 words, this is one of the many scenes I regretfully had to cut out to make the book ‘marketable’. Every author knows how painful it is to edit off entire passages or ‘kill off’ secondary characters from a draft after becoming emotionally attached to them. If they’re anything like me, they’ve stored away these discarded bits like the broken pieces of a priceless ornament because they can’t bear to let them go. For those of you who haven’t read Misty Dreams, I hope this will entice you to check it out.

Image from Pixabay

Misty couldn’t believe it had been six months since she’d left Mercy General and moved in with Mrs. Butler. What was even better, Dr. Max had moved in too, and now, with the boys and Molly in the downstairs apartment, they were all living under the same roof, like a big, happy family!

Three weeks earlier, everything had changed when she overheard a conversation between Dr. Mallory and Mrs. Butler. She had been playing hide-and-seek with Mozart, and neither Dr. Max nor Mrs. B was aware of her hiding in the pantry. Dr. Max had marched into Mrs. B’s kitchen after his shift at the hospital and declared, “Mary, my girl, there’s no two ways about it, we’re getting married.”

It had been the best day of Misty’s life. Of this life, anyway, since that stupid accident in the department store had wiped out her previous one from her brain.

There was a long silence, then she heard Mrs. B’s incredulous laugh.

“Well, if that isn’t the most unromantic proposal a girl’s ever heard!”

Hugging Mozart to her, Misty struggled to suppress the giggles that bubbled up to her throat. She could picture Mrs. B, all flushed and flustered, smoothing her hair to cover her embarrassment. She stroked the cat’s fur, hoping he wouldn’t mew and give them away.

“Aw, Mary, you know I’m not the romantic type,” Dr. Max mumbled. “Besides, we’re too old to play games.”

“A lady’s never too old for romance. Anyway, what makes you think I’d want to marry a hopeless grouch like you?”

“How about because you’re hopelessly in love with me?”

His response almost sent Misty into another fit of giggles. Mrs. B’s intake of breath was so intense even Mozart flinched. “Well, I—that’s a pretty big ego you have. Careful you don’t trip on it and land flat on your face.”

“Come on, don’t play coy, Mary. I know you got feelings for me.”

Another strangled sound. “And how would you know that?”

Then something happened that made Misty’s insides turn all soft and gooey. Dr. Max’s voice took on a tone she’d never heard from him before, kind of croaky, like he’d swallowed a frog. “Because . . . well, because a man picks up on these things, ‘specially a man who’s . . . not entirely indifferent to you.”

Misty thought her heart would burst out of her chest. They weren’t just poking fun at each other as they often did. Dr. Max was acting strange, and Mrs. B was having trouble talking, which was really unusual. “You . . . you aren’t?”

Misty couldn’t hold back her curiosity any longer. Still clutching Mozart, she inched closer to the open doorway and peered into the kitchen. Mrs. B was standing at the gas range, a white apron tied around her waist. One of her hands was brandishing the wooden spoon with which she’d been stirring the ragù, the other was splayed on her chest. The way she was staring at Dr. Max, you’d think she was seeing a ghost.

As for Dr. Max, his face was all sweaty and red, like the time Mrs. B had given him a smacking kiss on the cheek to thank him for the flowers he’d brought her for her birthday.

Dr. Max took the wooden spoon from Mrs. B’s hand and placed it on the counter, then he took both her hands in his. “I love you, Mary. I’ve been in love with you for a long time, and I know you feel the same. It’s in Misty’s best interest that we . . . that we finally acknowledge each other’s feelings and provide her with a stable home. The six-months custody agreement you were granted is almost up. You could get an extension for a month, maybe two, and then what? Watch her be shuffled off to a stranger’s home?”

Misty’s stomach clenched. Leave Mrs. B’s? Leave the boys?

“We’re too old to adopt, but as a married couple we could apply for permanent foster care. We could . . . Aw, Mary, don’t cry!”

Misty flinched when Mrs. Butler started to pummel her fists against Dr. Max’s chest. “You . . . you silly old goat! You . . . you stubborn, insufferable man! How can you stand there casually talking about—” She sniffed loudly, “—about being in love with me and expect me not to cry?”

Misty’s vision blurred again when Dr. Max’s hand cupped Mrs. B’s cheek. “I’m a fool, I know. I just never had the courage to tell you. I started loving you a long time ago, back when you belonged to another man. After Vince died . . . well, I guess I grew too comfortable in my independence. It took Misty’s predicament to finally open my eyes.”

“Oh, Max!” 

Misty didn’t know what ‘predicament’ meant, but she was glad it had worked in her favor. Mozart stirred restlessly, and she set him on her lap, then she brushed tears from her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. Her throat felt tight, as if a lump were stuck in there.

“What do you say, Mary, do you want to spend the rest of your life with this old fool?”

Misty pressed her fist to her mouth. Please say yes, please say yes! 

Mrs. B gurgled a watery laugh and clutched the ends of Dr. Max’s beard, pulling his face to hers. When Dr. Max encircled Mrs. B’s waist and nudged her toward the back of the kitchen, Misty’s eyes almost popped out of her head. Then the couple disappeared from her line of vision. She scrambled to her knees and hugged the doorjamb, craning her neck to get a better view, but the table was in the way. She could tell they were kissing from the sounds they made. They did a lot of that on The Bold and The Beautiful when Mrs. B was watching it, and it sounded all breathy and squishy—just like that. She jerked back as the couple reappeared.

“I’ve wanted to do that for so long, but it didn’t seem right. Vince . . .”  Dr. Max sounded breathless, just like he had last spring after a bout of bronchitis. Congestion, Mrs. B had called it, though he didn’t look as miserable now.

With her arms still around Dr. Max’s neck, Mrs. B said. “Vince and I shared twenty wonderful years, but that was then, and this is now. I love you, Maxwell Mallory. I’ve loved you for a very long time.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Of course it’s a yes, you old knucklehead!”

Dr. Max’s arms caught Mrs. B around the waist, lifted her off her feet and twirled her high into the air. Mrs. B shrieked delightedly, the sound mingling with Dr. Max’s throaty laugh. A frightened Mozart mewed loudly, sprinted out of Misty’s arms and bounced onto the kitchen counter. Misty watched in horror as the wooden spoon sailed high into the air, spun a full circle, and landed on the floor, splattering tomato sauce everywhere. It was mayhem in the kitchen.

From her hiding place Misty sighed happily.

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