Gone But Not Forgotten

Gone But Not Forgotten

Sabrina Jeffries

September 2014 $1.99
ISBN: 978-1-61194-530-0

Available in eBook only!

A Mossy Creek Short Story

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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

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A mother’s work is never done.

Not while Sunny has a ghost of a chance.

Her sister and brother-in-law, Honey and Bert, are good people, no worries. Sunny’s twins will have a loving home with them in Mossy Creek, a warm-hearted small town in the mountains of Georgia. But Sunny, a San Francisco voiceover artist before the accident that killed her and her husband, has bad memories of Honey and Bert’s unpredictable, autistic son, Jeremy. Will he harm her babies? Sunny’s not leaving until she’s certain they’re safe.

Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling author of 36 novels and 9 works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze of dreams and madness is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions—jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 7 million books in print in 18 different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams big.



Coming soon!



I SHOULD HAVE GONE back to Mossy Creek for a visit sooner. Like maybe before I died. Then my twin baby girls would have met their aunt and uncle, Bert and Honey Lyman, while Cam and I were still around to ease them into the relationship. And maybe now they wouldn’t be screaming at Honey while she laid them into car carriers in the back of her beat-up ‘98 Pontiac Lemans.

Shoot, my sister Honey hadn’t even met their daddy. And no, it’s not what you’re thinking—it wasn’t my husband who’d kept me from going back to see my sister. From the time I met Cameron Ross, an executive at the San Francisco movie studio where I did voice-over work, to the day we had the twins, he’d wanted to meet my family.

They would have liked him, too, if only because of how he’d taken to me. Just as an example, my specialty at the studio was a Southern accent. I know, I know, but hey, a woman born and raised in Mossy Creek whose accent was thicker than syrup had to start somewhere. I still always worried about it sounding too countrified, but Cam thought it was "sultry.” Go figure. He found everything I did "warm” or "cute” or "adorable.” You gotta love a man like that.

Anyway, it wasn’t Cam’s fault I didn’t go back. Or Honey’s either. Honey and I were close, even if we did live on opposite coasts. We weren’t the kind of sisters who called each other up once a year to exchange stilted "how are you’s” and excuses about why we had no time to write. We were the in-your-face kind, always intruding on each other’s lives.

She’d e-mail me articles about how to make a Thanksgiving centerpiece with just a burlap sack, some chickpea hulls, and pumpkin-orange ribbon, and I’d send her a cappuccino machine. Even though I knew she could be at the Naked Bean in five minutes to get her own cappuccino.

It was easier than sending myself.

But I was here now, and not exactly by choice. All because me and Cam hadn’t made a will. We kept putting it off until we had time. After that freaking bus hit us on the one night we hired a babysitter so we could go to the movies, the time factor became pretty much irrelevant.

After the accident, Cam had floated right on up the tunnel and into the light—he was sensible that way. You don’t get to be an executive, even in the movie business, by breaking the rules.

But me, Miss Ever-Loving Rule Breaker, I was still here. I couldn’t let go of Amy and Anna, especially when I knew where they were headed. To be raised by our only living kin, Honey and Bert, in the same house as the Demon Child: Jeremy Albert Lyman.

Where was Jeremy anyway on this surprisingly icy Georgia afternoon? Why hadn’t he gone with Bert to the airport to pick up Honey and the babies? Had she finally come to her senses and sent my severely autistic nephew to an institution? Or at least placed him in a group home?

"How was your flight?” Bert asked Honey from the driver’s seat.

She flashed him a crooked smile. "How do you think? I had two babies with me.”

"Couldn’t have been worse than flying with Jeremy.”

"Want to bet?” She smiled. "Actually, they weren’t too bad. At least they only screamed at takeoff.”

"So the other passengers weren’t cheering when you got off the plane?”

She laughed weakly. "No, thank heaven. I hope I never have to go through that again. Although with the way Jeremy has improved, these days I think he might actually behave well on a plane.”

I snorted. That was Honey’s latest tall tale—how much better Jeremy had gotten since my last visit. I didn’t believe it for one minute.

"You look tired,” Bert said.

Honey pulled down the car visor to examine her face in the makeup mirror. "I guess I do.”

She should have tromped on the fool’s foot. A man ought to know better than to say something like that to his wife. Especially a sweet guy like Bert, who bought Honey roses whenever she cooked him a roast because "roast is a lot of trouble to make.”

Maybe that’s why she didn’t deck him for his comment. Because one thing you knew about Honey—she loved Bert. I guess I understood why, even if he did tell corny jokes and run a radio and TV station out of the renovated barn next to their house.

Honey sat back. "It’s been a wild week, I tell you—dealing with the custody thing, talking to lawyers and pediatricians, arranging the funeral—” She crumpled in the seat. "Oh, Bert, I should have flown out there before. After Jeremy got better, I should have gone to see Sunny. Now it’s too late.”

With a scowl, Bert reached over to take her hand. "Don’t you dare feel bad about that. It was a lot easier for her to come here, and she wouldn’t.”

Just as the old familiar guilt grabbed me, Honey said, "Can you blame her? On her last visit, Jeremy put on a real show for her—that was all she remembered.”

Oh, yeah, definitely. Five years ago, I’d visited them for three days of hell. Jeremy had slapped Honey a couple of times for trying to keep him from racing down the path to Hank and Casey Blackshear’s homestead next door so he could jump in the pond on their property. Whenever he escaped the house, he made a beeline for that scummy pond. And since he drank the water when he took a swim, Honey wasn’t about to let him "fill his belly with germs.”

For all her maternal trouble, she practically got beat up. And that wasn’t the first time either. Nor did he limit his "challenging behaviors” (isn’t that a nice euphemism for "beating people up”?) to Honey. He knocked Bert in the back once, and even took a swing at me.

Not that I blamed Jeremy for being mad about his lot in life. He couldn’t talk or even sign. His weird obsessions compelled him to patrol the house closing doors and toilet lids and putting the caps on things. Every time you walked through, he had to come behind shutting everything. And if you moved the books or videos he kept in some bizarre order only he understood, he went ballistic.

Jeremy went ballistic a lot.

No, it wasn’t his fault he was autistic, and yes, I should have been more understanding, but it’s hard to be understanding after hearing your sister’s head crack against tile when your nephew pushed her into the tub because she’d tried to make him bathe—apparently, ponds were fun but bathing wasn’t. Only the grace of God—and a hard head—kept her from splitting her skull open on the ceramic soap dish that day.

The truth was, the boy terrified me. I made a resolution then and there. No visits to Mossy Creek as long as the Demon Child lived in that house.

Yet here I was heading to Mossy Creek again anyway. Funny how fate messes with your life. Or death, as the case may be.

Honey sighed. "Sunny never gave Jeremy a chance, no matter what I said.”

How could I? I knew my sister—she always put a good face on everything. Like those god-awful outfits she wore. She claimed it was because she liked it that way, but I knew better. In grade school, I used to bask in the reflected glow of my older sister Honey. As the high school homecoming queen, she was considered the prettiest and most fashionable girl in Mossy Creek.

Now look at her, dressed from head to toe in khaki. Jeremy always pitched a fit if her clothes weren’t the same color—he liked brown or a nice olive green. God forbid she should wear a purple skirt with a goldenrod blouse like the one she’d worn to my junior high graduation. Jeremy would howl for days.

With a sigh, Honey twisted around to look at Amy and Anna where they were dozing in the car seats. "I miss Sunny already.”

When she brushed away tears, a lump filled my throat. Well, a lump would have filled my throat if not for my being dead.

She settled back in her seat. "And what on earth are we going to do with these babies? It’s been fifteen years since I had to deal with bottles and diapers and all that crap.”

"No pun intended,” he quipped.

Honey rolled her eyes.

He glanced over into the back. "We made it through puberty with Jeremy, so we can sure make it through bottles with a couple of rugrats. He’s better about helping out now, too. Maybe we can teach him to change diapers.”

Over my dead body. Pun intended. So much for hoping that Bert and Honey had come to their senses. But now they were pulling into the long driveway that led to our old family farmhouse just outside Mossy Creek. Somewhere back there, the Demon Child still lurked, waiting to pounce on my babies.

By the time we pulled up in back by the barn/TV station, I was practically sitting in little Amy’s lap, trying to figure out what to do. I peered out at the rambling house where I was raised, the familiar rub of memory stirring up old feelings. Bert and Honey had inherited it from Mom when she died, and I had been more than happy to let them have it.

What if I hadn’t? How would my life have been different if I’d stayed right here? Where nothing changed. Where the same old red brick chimneys and same old white clap-board siding graced the family-worn place.

If I’d stayed, I would never have known Cam and never had my girls. And I wouldn’t be floating around in the ether, watching for some sign of the boy who would surely be the death of my babies.

"You want me to go over to Hank’s and get Jeremy?” Bert asked. "Casey said she’d keep him as long as we needed.”

Casey had to be nuts. How could she defend herself in a wheelchair with a boy like that running around? I don’t care if she had been an Olympic contender in softball—Jeremy was dangerous.

"I’ll call her and tell her to have Hank bring him over. We should get these girls inside.” Honey opened the door and shivered, pulling her flimsy coat tighter around her as she got out. "Geez, it’s cold out here. I go away for a week, and suddenly the Deep South becomes the Midwest?”

"Knock, knock,” Bert retorted.

I rolled my eyes. Bert and his stupid "knock, knock” jokes. Why Honey put up with them, I’ll never know.

She just shook her head. "Who’s there?” she asked as she opened the back door of the car.


"Oldman who?”

"Oldman Winter came down to Georgia.”

She groaned. "Very funny.” She bent into the car. "Now come on, Old Man Lyman, and take a baby, will you?”

They each took one, which was a lot easier than taking one in each arm like I always had to do when Cam wasn’t around. You get used to it after a while, but it’s hard juggling two babies, especially at feeding time.

Feeding time! I floated over to glance at Bert’s watch. Uh oh, almost time for their bottles. The girls knew it, too, because as soon as their bare little faces hit the frosty air, they woke up on a wail.

Amazing what a motivator those tiny lungs can be—Bert and Honey got up those stairs faster than you could say, "bottle.” At the top, Honey shifted Amy to one arm so she could open the door with the other. "The way these girls cry sometimes breaks my heart.”

Mine, too. In more ways than one. The crying was why I was still around.

You see, when you die, you feel this strong compulsion to go after that great light shining at the end of the tunnel. Especially when you’ve got a guy like Cam at the other end waiting for you to show up.

But the babies’ cries dragged at me worse than the undertow at San Francisco’s Baker Beach. I couldn’t leave my girls. I just couldn’t abandon them.

So here I was, tethered to them like a balloon. The minute I wandered off, they’d cry, and it would be like jerking the balloon close. I’d bob up next to them and want to wrap my arms around them so badly I could practically smell the talcum on their skin.

Practically. I couldn’t actually smell. It seems that ghosts can’t smell—I’d discovered that early on. Hearing and seeing seemed to be about it—kind of like watching television, only you’re in the picture.

Which can be pretty maddening. I could get right up close, but I could only watch as somebody else picked them up and cuddled them and fed them. Then after they fell asleep, the big light would beckon me and before I knew it, I’d be wandering off toward the tunnel. Until they cried again, and the tether jerked me back.

Today, the tether was shorter than a shoelace as we came into the farmhouse. I got sloppily sentimental when I saw our old kitchen table, complete with a half-gnawed leg from the one time we’d had a pet, a Jack Russell terrier with a hankering for cheap pine.

But it didn’t distract me for long. While they caterwauled away in stereo, Bert settled into a chair and let Honey put Amy in his arms, so she could get the girls’ bottles made. And I was right there, with one ghostly hand on Amy and the other on Anna.

Not that I could feel them, because ghosts can’t feel either. But it made me feel better to sort of hover my hand over them as close as I could.

Meanwhile, Honey made her call to Casey, then scurried about the kitchen, putting stuff together. "Thank goodness Sunny’s nanny had a brain. You should see the instructions she sent along for everything from feeding times to bathing. You just add babies and stir. Although I don’t imagine it’ll be that easy. Did you get the formula?”

"It’s in the first grocery bag on the counter.” Bert raised his voice to be heard over the babies. "Didn’t have a chance to unload anything but the perishables. Jeremy and I had just got back from the grocery when you called from the airport.”

"Who’s handling the station?”

"Win. Said he could handle it for today as long as Clifford the Clown stayed out of his way.” Bert jiggled the sobbing babies. "It’s coming, sweet peas, it’s coming. Auntie Honey is getting it for you right now.”

"Shoot,” Honey said, "the special bottle nipples for Amy are in the diaper bag, and I left it in the car. Be right back.” She hurried out the kitchen door.

That’s when the Demon Child chose to make his grand entrance. He strolled in through the front door big as you please and headed through the house to the kitchen. If I could have wrapped my ghostly body around my babies when he walked through the kitchen door, I would have. Because Jeremy was even bigger than I expected—five foot ten and two-hundred pounds at least. And he frowned as he lumbered up to tower over Bert.

"Hey there, sport,” Bert said. "Meet your new cousins, Amy and Anna.”

"Amy and Anna,” Jeremy echoed.


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