Stu woke Marla early the next morning. Gale was nauseous and in severe pain. "The pills aren't doing any good, and Gale won't let me call the doctor. I don't know what to do," he said helplessly.
Marla put on her robe and slippers and went to Gale's bedroom. Neal got up and went to the kitchen with Stu to make some coffee.
Marla was stunned to see how sick Gale looked. During the time Marla had been staying with her, Gale had started looking better. Marla thought she might even be improving. After all, doctors occasionally made mistakes. Seeing Gale now though made Marla realize the doctors had been right. Gale would never get better. Of course, with everything that had happened, it was no wonder. She wiped Gale's face with a cool, damp washcloth and sat down next to her, holding her hand and stroking her arm.
"I don't think I can go with you to the Cottage, Marla. Not this time around anyway."
"Of course you can. We'll go there now."
Marla wiped the tears from her eyes and looked out the window. It was just getting light--that first gray light that comes with a promise of a colored, vibrant brightness to follow.
"We are in the motor boat and crossing the channel that runs between Morehead City and Portsmouth Island. It is still dark, because we want to get there before dawn. That way we can see and hear everything come alive." She continued holding Gale's hand, gently stroking it.
"The water is calm this morning, and there's a slight breeze. Our hair is blowing and the salt-water spray covers our skin with little droplets of mist. Neal pulls the boat up to the dock and hands Stu the rope. Stu gets out and ties the boat to the dock. It's just a short walk through the sand flats. You can smell the Jobellflowers. When it gets light, you will be able to see their beautiful orange-yellow color, but right now you just smell them."
"What do they smell like, Marla?"
Marla thought for a moment. "You know that mock orange bush in the corner of your yard? Well, they smell a little like that, except sweeter. Once we get past the sand flats, we walk on the wooden planks around the marshy area. The frogs are croaking. Scores of them. We hear several splashes as some of them jump into the water.
"Then we get to the yard proper of the Cottage. We walk through the moss-draped oak trees. The grass is soft and spongy, and damp with dew. We can see the Cottage. It's a rambling two-story, white frame structure. There is a peaked roof and lots of big windows trimmed in faded blue looking out to where we have just come.
"It's almost dawn now, but not quite. There is still time to make a pot of coffee. When it's made, we take our coffee out on the veranda. It's a huge wrap-around porch, and we sit in some wooden rockers, watching, listening, and sipping our coffee."
Neal and Stu came in as Marla was talking. Neal sat down in a chair across the room next to the window, and Stu lay down next to Gale on the bed.
"The first light is gray. It is the defining moment. It lets you identify shapes and forms off in the distance--the live oaks, the saw grasses, the Devil's cane. They are starting to come into focus now. And somewhere, not too far away, a single bird begins to sing. Tentatively at first, and then with a happy eagerness as other birds join in.
"Looking across the marshes and beyond where the ocean waves break, the first color of dawn appears on the horizon."
"What color is it?" Gale looked out of her bedroom window.
"It's a soft pink, almost salmon, still muted by the gray. Gradually other colors appear--yellow, violet, orange--and as they do, more and more birds begin singing. The seagulls and grebes, marsh sparrows and egrets. A flock of pelicans flies overhead in formation.
"You can see the Jobellflowers now. A carpet of yellow-orange spread out across the sand. A soft dew covers everything, and as the sun rises higher in the sky, a kind of gentle evaporation takes place which makes you feel like you are seeing everything through a lace veil. Everything glimmers, because it's a silver dawn--that perfect time of day when everything is fresh and new."
Gale's breathing was coming rapidly. "It's so beautiful," she whispered.
Marla got up, unable to hold back her tears. Neal took her out of the room leaving Stu alone with his wife. He was still with her when she died later that morning.
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The Coach's Wife by Barbara Casey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Coach's Wife by Barbara Casey is an Archebooks publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Marla and her husband Neal married after her abusive marriage ended and Neal was already in his sixty's His career as the head coach of the State University Coyotes has been his sole focus until he met Marla. Now, with a championship being a real possibility Marla joins the other wives pacing the halls during nail biting games. She has endured some gossip regarding the age difference between herself and Neal, but one lady whose husband is an assistant coach takes Marla under her wing and the two become good friends. But, there is serious trouble lurking and Marla and Neal will find themselves front and center in a basketball scandal involving drugs, sex , and murder.
I will confess upfront that I have only been a professional basketball fan and I really don't pay attention to that anymore. You would have to be deaf and blind though in order to avoid the highly anticipated March Madness hoopla that surrounds college basketball. So, you can sort of grasp the idea of how seriously this sport is taken on the college level. The author does an outstanding job of showing the underbelly of college sports . The attempts to cast the coach in a bad light, to create trouble for the players, to leak information to the media, to handing out perks to certain people , especially if they have deep pockets and of course a little cheating , in more ways than one. While I believe this book was written well before Gillian Flynn's " Gone Girl", this book has some that same dark tongue in cheek sarcasm that pokes fun at the scandals, and the other controversies that have soured the integrity of the game. I'm not sure the author intended the book to have that tone, but I could see dark humor all through the book. I could see most of this actually happening. Also the backstabbing and viciousness of other wives, the gossip, expectations , envy and most of all greed, make this a novel that is really hard to put down. My favorite thing was the friendship Marla had built with the assistant coach's wife and how the two of them leaned on one another as the sport of basketball that became so much more than a career for their husbands, took over their lives as well.
Not only do we get a glimpse at the behind the scenes politics and corruption, we also get a few tense moments on the basketball court. If you watch basketball at all you will relate to those last few seconds of a game when it comes all the way down to the wire. I have on many occasions fought the urge to cover my eyes as a man stood at the free throw line with a few seconds left on the clock and these two shots will either win or lose the game for team. It's really thrilling to watch and the suspense can be almost unbearable. Sadly, college sports has fallen victim to the high profile media coverage and the massive amounts of money involved making college sports pretty much the same as professional sports as far as advertising and marketing and exposure. Neal was an old school coach and he has begun to dislike all the new requirements and rules. He was a little late in finding a woman that was able to compete with the sport and actually come out the winner, but when he did find her he stuck with her through thick and thin and this was also a favorite part of the story for me. So often we judge people by appearances, but sometimes there are true love matches between older men and much younger women.
This is a crime novel , there is a murder, a trial, and really terrible secrets come to light as a result. The crime of course snowballs into bigger and bigger problems and is woven all through the story as we struggle to understand who is trying to corrupt the game and what one earth has motivated someone to carry things this far.
As the Goodreads book blurb states, you will not want to put this one down! 4.5 stars.