The Last Breath by Leigh Lennon
Loss is not foreign in the life of Julia Barnett. To the outside world, she is the epitome of the perfect mom that is until the doors of her perfect life are closed and real life hits her square in the face. With an absentee husband, an intrusive father, a troubled child and an ex-fiancé that is tied to her life, no wonder Julia is grasping for air in her very full and cluttered world.
Very few understand the bruises that Julia lives with, invisible to most everyone. She lost so much early in life is loss a woman can undergo. However, she now grapples with resentment towards her husband due to all the empty promises he’s made. In the midst of this turmoil, test results indicate an illness that she is not sure she will survive. For Julia, it is not the life that may be cut short that consumes her but how her family will survive without her there. As everyone rallies around Julia, as she fights like hell to live, she learns family comes in many shapes and sizes but it is her family that gives her the strength to fight.
Last Breath Excerpts
Every year as summer faded into fall and fall approached winter; Julia would find herself watching the calendar with dread. She knew that as November approached, she would once more have to face the remainder of her life’s greatest tragedy. The day served as a bitter memento of what Julia had lost seventeen years before. What made the anniversary even worse, if that was possible, was the fact that she could not confide in her husband the agony she felt. Joe, her husband, did not share in her grief and considered the events surrounding that fateful day to be a part of her life before him. While she wanted to be held by him and consoled as she worked through the agony of her loss, Joe treated it all as a distant anecdote in their lives that had no bearing on life today. In Joe’s eyes, the time Julia spent mourning the loss of her first child was her way of continuing to mourn for the life she once had. Sitting in her office that morning, Julia stared at the bouquet of baby pink roses that had just arrived. She received the exact same flowers every year on this day. They came from the same florist and were always sent by the same man. The trouble was that these flowers never came from her husband, Joe. They came from Dean Edwards. Julia was a rare beauty. She had an olive complexion just like her father’s and dark brown hair accented by mocha brown eyes. While she only stood 5 feet and 3 inches, Julia had no problem standing out in a crowd. Besides her obvious beauty, Julia was a kind-hearted woman with a warm and caring personality. She loved the people in her life immensely and worked hard in each of her relationships. She was an excellent boss, a trusted friend, dedicated wife, and mother. It was her ambition to serve as a model for other people and to treat them, as she would want to be treated. As Julia looked up from the flowers before her, she noticed her business partner, Len Edwards, waving to get her attention. This man was like a second father to Julia. “Hey Jules, mind if I come in for a second? I see Joe sent you some flowers. That man sure has a way with making you feel special, wouldn’t you say?” Len didn’t know the flowers were actually a gift from his son Dean and not Julia’s husband. Smiling warmly at Len, she did her best to ignore the compliment about her husband the same way she was trying to ignore the roses sitting on her desk. “Hey Len, come in. I’m glad you’re here. I need to take off early today. I have some personal stuff that I can’t keep putting off. Mary Beth will be here though, and she can take care of anything that comes up.” Julia Hudson and Len Edwards had been in business together for the past nine years. They ran a very successful marketing firm that had grown from a small independent company into one of national prominence. Their success was due to a shared commitment to core values of honesty and integrity. “You okay, Jules?” Julia understood that Len had always looked at her as an unofficial daughter and worried about her. This fact was less than surprising given how long Julia had been a friend with Len’s own children along with the amount of time they had all spent in the company of one another. Like many who had known Julia for years, Len could see that she had lost the spark that had once been in her eyes. He knew that life at home was hard for her and had been for some time. In truth, the spark had started to fade seventeen years prior when Julia had mysteriously broken off her engagement to Dean. She had regained some of that spark back two years later when she met Joe, her husband today. The trouble was that in the past five years, it had started to fade again. “Oh, yes, um, sorry to just leave like this. I have the Laney Farms contracts ready for signatures. Mary Beth will come get you when they arrive for the 2:30 meeting. She’s lead on this contract, but it may help if you are there as well.” She was distracted, grabbing her keys, pocketbook and flowers. She tried her best to make it to her car before she fell apart. If it hadn’t been for this important contract, she would have never even attempted to come in at all today. The flowers were not the only routine event she followed when this day arrived each year. It was a standing custom that Julia and Dean would arrive at the cemetery around the same time. Julia knew that the roses she received were never for her, but were a clear indicator that the fateful day had once more arrived.
Opening his eyes, Dean began to register the sound of sirens in the distance. His hand was still on Julia’s knee. “Jules, can you hear me?” Dean yelled. He saw paramedics trying to open the doors to the car and somewhat heard them calling out to him. Feeling as if he were having an out of body experience, it started to dawn on him what had happened. The paramedics were trying to talk to Julia, but she wasn’t answering. Dean became frantic, “My fiancé! She is pregnant! Please help her! Julia! Answer me!” “Sir, how far along is she?” “Around 30 weeks.” Hearing the paramedics talking to one another, his heart seemed to stop beating. “This one is in shock and we need to get him out of here. How is the girl?” All of a sudden, they broke glass and a fireman yelled out, “She has a pulse, but she needs help soon” “Get her out of there! Take care of her first! Please!” Dean yelled. He heard the twisting sound of snapping metal as the Jaws of Life opened the door. “Sir, we are doing all we can for your fiancé. As soon as we get her out she is going to the hospital. Who is her doctor?” “Chow is her doctor's name. Please take care of her! Her and the baby are my everything.” This was the last thing Dean remembered before things went black. The next thing Dean knew, he was being wheeled on a gurney into the hospital. He had blacked out while the firemen were trying to get Julia out of the wreckage of their car. Hearing Julia screaming, he needed to get to her but he was hooked up to an I V. “No, I don’t want them called! Don’t call them!” It was all he could hear.
It took Joe by surprise when someone knocked on his door but excited to see it was Julia. “Jules, what a surprise. I didn’t know you would be in town today. I thought you had an errand near Raleigh. But, I’m so glad to see you.” He said as he pulled her close to him and gave her a kiss. “That’s true. I had to see to something in Raleigh but I’m back now. I guess I just needed to see your face too.” She said, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Come on in, stay a while.” He said to her. “I’m not imposing, am I?” She asked. He swung her into the apartment and onto his couch. Sitting down next to her he simply said, “You are my bright spot. I would be with you all the time if I didn’t think you would tire of me. Jules, I think I love you. I know that sounds too soon but I know. That is the best way I can describe it. As a matter of fact, you can stop by whenever you want and if for some reason I’m not home, use my spare key and let yourself in,” he said as he walked over to his keys and took the spare off for her. “I think coming home to you here is the best surprise I could have in my day.” She was stunned by this revelation. “You love me?” Joe was afraid he would have scared her away with this piece of information. “Yes, Jules, you make me a better version of myself. I want time to get to know you but I have a feeling we will one day grow old together, that is my hope anyway. I want to be the man you trust and love and share all your dreams with. This is the beginning, but this is how I feel and I could not be happier.” He looked at her affectionately, not expecting a return sentiment. It was obvious she was gun shy and for a very good reason, though it had not been anything she had opened up about, not yet. He’d wait as long as she needed. He was in no rush, not for this girl.
About the author:
Leigh Lennon is mother, veteran and a wife of a cancer survivor. Originally with a degree in education, she started writing as an outlet that has led to a deep passion as she wrote twelve books. Now ready to publish all of them, she lugs her computer with her as she crafts her next story. She can be found drinking coffee or wine, depending on the time of the day.
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