Stepping into the Sky: Jump When Ready, Book 3

Stepping into the Sky

Jump When Ready, Book
3

David Pandolfe

 

 

PRAISE FOR
JUMP
WHEN READY

 

“Whether you’re 14 or 24, this book
is a fun read with endearing characters and a quick-moving plot.
Jump When
Ready
is not a book to miss.” -Portland Book Review

 

"An engaging, poignant book that stayed with me long
after I read the last word." - Tracy E. Banghart, author of
Rebel
Wing

 

“JUMP WHEN READY combines charm and suspense in a sweet way
that leaves the reader completely believing this imagined in-between world.” -Indie
Reader

 

“The combination of
 coming-of-age, philosophical and thriller story comes together
to make a fascinating and engaging book.” - The Real Bookshelves of Room 918

 

“It impacted my thoughts in a serious way, and I will most
likely spend the next few days going over it, and over it, in my head.” - Bound
by Words

 

“There are few books out there that have characters that
make you wish you had friends like them.” - Book Nerds

 

“This was a great story. I personally have never read anything
like it.” - Reading is Better than Real Life

 

“I loved this book and am looking forward to seeing what the
author will come up with next!” - A Little Shelf of Heaven

 

 

 

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1

A
House
Full of Memories

 

Rose could see that her grandmother wasn’t in the best of
moods, which seemed nearly impossible on such a spectacular morning. They sat
on the terrace, the sun shining in an azure sky where just a few stray clouds
drifted past. A mild breeze carried the scent of blooms from the garden. At the
cliff’s edge fifty yards distant, gulls rode currents of air, every so often
swooping and calling out, while beyond them the ocean glimmered. It had been a long,
rainy winter and in a few months it might be too hot to sit out here, but right
now the world couldn’t have been more perfect.

“Honestly, I think they’re absurd,” her grandmother said.
“I know all of you kids love them but it’s little more than noise. And the
hair! Who ever heard of boys wearing their hair like that?”

Despite her words, Rose knew it wasn’t the Beatles hair
styles or music bothering her grandmother this morning. After all, Rose had
been listening to the Beatles for almost a year now and she’d more than once
observed her grandmother tapping her foot against the kitchen floor as she’d
unconsciously kept rhythm. The only reason Olivia had even brought them up was
due to the
Teen Screen
magazine Rose had been reading while they’d had
their coffee. Once again, the glorious Fab Four was featured on the cover. The
fact was, Olivia had always been a worrier and she’d been even more worried
lately. Although, to her credit, she kept her concerns to herself most of the
time. Rose knew that Olivia had mostly resigned herself to the situation—the
same situation Rose wouldn’t dream of changing in a million years.

At the same time, the wedding date was drawing near and
sooner or later Olivia would have to verbalize what she’d only signaled with
body language and sighs so far—the simple fact that she didn’t truly like
Joseph. She never had. Still, it seemed a shame to cast a shadow over this
perfect morning.

Besides, it wasn’t Rose’s nature to invite discomfort or
confrontation. Instead, she’d open the door and leave the rest up to Olivia.
“Is it really almost ten?” she said, checking her watch. “Joseph was supposed
to have called by now.”

As always, Olivia’s brow creased at the mention of
Joseph’s name. “What did you two have planned for today?”

“Checking on the flower arrangements one more time just
to be sure.” Rose laughed. “As you can imagine, Joseph was only so interested.”

Not surprisingly, Olivia didn’t comment. She nodded and
glanced out across the yard.

“He doesn’t think those sorts of things are all that
important,” Rose said. “Understandably. He is a man, after all.”

Olivia sighed, which Rose half-expected. Olivia didn’t
consider Joseph to be a man. Not truly. Just as she still considered Rose to be
a girl. That part, Rose understood. After all, they were fairly young to be
getting married. Rose had just turned eighteen a few months ago and Joseph had
just celebrated his twenty-first birthday in March. Still, it felt like it had
taken him a hundred years to come along.

Despite the beautiful day, Rose wondered if she should
open the door a little further. Eventually, they had to lay their cards on the
table. “Joseph also has plenty on his mind these days. You know, with work and
all.”

In Olivia’s steady gaze, Rose saw a message she’d seen
many times since her parents had died.
I’m worried about you. I want to
protect you from any more harm. It’s a hard world out there and you weren’t
raised in it.
But couldn’t Olivia see she didn’t need protecting any
longer?

Rose loved her grandmother dearly. In fact, at one time Olivia
had been the only person in her life. Rose understood that it couldn’t be easy
for her now that she was getting married. And it broke her heart imagining Olivia
on her own in this big house once she was gone. This house full of memories and
sadness—a house in which Olivia had ended up playing the role of parent to an
orphaned child after suffering her own crippling loss.

“Has he actually started working yet?” Olivia said.

“Mr. Hanson’s been showing him how he’ll manage things.”

“And how much can there be to managing the sale of cars?”

It wasn’t Olivia’s words as much as her tone that once
again reinforced what Rose had long suspected. Olivia considered the Hansons to
be common. She’d never used that word but she didn’t have to.

“Grandmother, it’s not like they stand in the lots
themselves haggling with customers. Mr. Hanson owns dealerships throughout the
state. It’s something of an empire. At least, that’s how Joseph describes it.”
Rose smiled, thinking about Joseph’s pride in his family’s business. “Okay,
maybe
empire
is a bit of an exaggeration but they’ve done quite well for
themselves.”

Surely, Olivia had to know this. The Hansons might not
live on the Cliffs as did Rose, Olivia and much of Woolridge’s elite but they
owned an impressive home of their own overlooking Pegoty bay. Not to mention
their second home in Castle Beach, where Joseph’s parents were right now
preparing to host next weekend’s wedding reception.

Olivia reached for her cigarette case. She withdrew a
Virginia Slim and once again Rose wondered at the pretense of using the case,
at least while they were home. Cigarettes came in boxes of their own, after
all.

Olivia puffed out a light stream of smoke and fanned it
away. She parted her lips to speak, hesitated, then said, “My understanding is
that Mr. Hanson has quite a bit of competition these days.”

Leave it to Olivia to know the lay of the land
financially. Although she’d never had to worry about money, she still kept her
eye on the markets and trends in order to protect her family’s wealth.

“I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about,” Rose said.
“Besides, we’ll have my money.”

Olivia tapped her cigarette against the ashtray. “That’s
part of what I’m worried about.”

Silence followed as Rose digested the meaning of her
grandmother’s words. She understood that Olivia found Joseph silly at times and
even immature. Rose, on the other hand, adored Joseph’s exuberant boyishness.
Either way, she’d never imagined Olivia suspected Joseph’s motives in any way.

Rose felt the blood rise to her face but reminded herself
that her grandmother was just being overprotective. As always. Enough for
today, though.

“I wonder what’s keeping him.” Rose checked her watch
again. She imagined Joseph had probably stayed up late drinking and playing
cards with his friends. Not that she’d ever mention that possibility in front
of Olivia.

“I’m sure he’ll call,” Olivia said. “He doesn’t usually
stay away from you for very long.”

It was hard to be sure from the way she said it but Rose
decided to take that as a compliment rather than a dig at her fiancé.

Olivia stubbed out her cigarette having barely smoked it.
She leaned in toward Rose and spoke softly. “Honey, you know I want only the
best for you.”

Rose nodded. “I know, Grandmother.”

“When your parents died, it became my responsibility to
do everything I could to ensure your happiness. I realize, under the
circumstances, finding happiness hasn’t been easy.”

Olivia almost never alluded to the fact that she’d lost
her own daughter in that horrible crash. She’d always prioritized the fact that
Rose had lost her parents.

Rose’s eyes started to fill. “I’ve been happy,
Grandmother. At least for these last few years. I’ve had you. And Linda.”

“It’s true. Linda’s been a very good friend to you.”

Rose reached out and took hold of Olivia’s hand, which
had grown slightly more frail lately. “You have too, Grandmother. You really
have.”

“Thank you, dear. It means so much to hear you say that.”
Olivia’s eyes brimmed too, and she dabbed at their corners with her napkin.
“How is Linda doing? Is she excited about being in your wedding?”

Rose felt her spirits rise again. “Yes, very! She’s
convinced it will be the event of the season.”

A moment passed before Olivia said, “I’m sure it will be
a lovely day for you.”

Rose checked her watch once more. “Okay, well, we’re
going to be late.” She got up from the table. “I’ll just pop over there to see
what’s keeping him. If Joseph calls, tell him I’m on my way.”

~~~

Rose pulled out of the driveway in her convertible
Thunderbird, her hair blowing in the sea breeze. As she took the corner, she
glanced through the bars of the gate in front of the Morgan’s Tudor, which
she’d heard had finally sold after remaining empty since Mrs. Morgan passed
away last winter. Her husband had died a few years before, although Rose
couldn’t say she’d known either one of them very well. They’d kept to
themselves, but they’d seemed nice enough on the few occasions she’d met them.

She’d heard that a newly married couple had bought the
house and she wondered if the rumor was true. It seemed such an imposing place
to start a new life together with all those halls and rooms to ramble through.
She supposed someone’s family must have bought it for them. Hopefully, they’d
throw all those curtains open soon and let light into a house that had sat dark
too long.

Rose cruised the winding, wooded road that traversed the
town, enjoying the sunlight as it flickering through arched branches overhead.
The few drivers passing in the other direction waved from open windows. That
was one thing Rose particularly loved about driving her convertible, the sense
that she was no longer solitary, that she was becoming part of the world again.
In many ways, hers had been a lonely life but she felt sure things were finally
going to change. Soon, she’d be part of Joseph’s family too. She’d liked his
parents from the start. They struck her as honest, straight-forward people
without pretension. They weren’t afraid to laugh or raise their voices as they
gestured and told stories. In the future, who could say what might happen? She
envisioned holidays spent together, maybe some sailing and travelling at first.
Down the road? Children, definitely. Joseph had avoided the subject the few
times Rose had ventured there but that was understandable. She herself wouldn’t
be ready for years. Still, she could imagine children in their future. Joseph
would make a wonderful father someday, she felt sure.

This was the future Rose imagined and she held these
fantasies dear already, suspecting—no, knowing—that in some not too distant
future her wishes would become reality. After all, it wasn’t much to ask for. A
family of her own again. Olivia had done her best and Rose would never tell
her, ever, but she’d longed to have more people in her life for as long as she could
remember.

A few minutes later, Rose drove into Joseph’s
neighborhood and noticed from a distance that he’d left his car parked in their
circular drive. That was unusual for him and she knew his parents preferred
that he park in the garage.
Oh, but they’re out of town
, she thought.
Of
course.
She chuckled softly at this minor sign of rebellion. No doubt he’d
come home late after spending the night laughing and talking with his friends.
He was still a boy, in so many ways.

Rose parked behind Joseph’s gleaming, red Camaro and
approached the front door. She was about to ring the bell but then stopped,
imagining how nice it would be to quietly slip into bed next to him. She’d
nudge him softly out of sleep with a few kisses. Almost certainly then more
would happen and she felt a tingle of excitement. Yes, they’d be even later for
their appointment but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Sure enough, he’d left the door unlocked and Rose stepped
inside. The house was quiet, as she’d imagined. Rose listened again to be sure,
gazing at family photos lining the hallway—pictures of this smiling family
who’d soon welcome her into their lives. When she felt sure she hadn’t been
heard, Rose climbed the stairs, barely pressing her weight against the runner
so the boards beneath didn’t creak.

She stopped again at the top landing, listening, her
excitement building. Within moments, she’d be wrapped in his arms. She was
about to take a step but paused, for one moment thinking she’d heard a voice.
Rose remained where she stood, her hand resting lightly on the newel post. Then
she heard it again. A hushed murmuring followed by the sound of someone
sighing. But Joseph was alone, she reminded herself. She smiled, remembering
that sometimes he talked to himself when he thought no one was listening. Maybe
he’d heard her pull in and was just now climbing out of bed.

Rose took a few steps toward his bedroom, then froze. She
heard laughter, the trill of a woman’s amusement.

A moment later, Joseph’s voice carried down the hall.
“Seriously? Already? We just finished.”

Again, she laughed, whoever she was. Rose heard her
murmur something but couldn’t make out the words.

Joseph’s laughed too. “God, you’re
unbelievable
!”

Sheets rustled and the bed creaked, followed by total
silence for a few moments. Then, Joseph’s voice rose in panic. “Hang on, what
time is it? Shit! I’m supposed to be there already.”

Rose stood rooted to the floor, her heart hammering in
her chest. She wrung her skirt at her thighs, bunching fabric in trembling
hands. This couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t be real. She wanted to run down
the stairs and out of the house. She wanted to be home waiting for him. She
knew that if she was there, right now, he’d pull into the driveway honking.
He’d be at her front door smiling, his eyes warmly meeting hers. That was real.
That’s what was supposed to be happening.

Footsteps sounded against the floor and the bedroom door
opened. Rose saw flesh. His first, then hers. She sat on the bed yawning and
stretching. Rose wanted to clench her eyes shut but they wouldn’t obey her
command. Instead, they widened, first as Joseph’s eyes, then Linda’s, met hers.

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