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Confiding in Martin

Confiding in Martin

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Confiding in Martin

309 pages
4 hours
Sep 25, 2014


When a middle-aged woman seeks to satisfy her own neglected needs, her world turns amusingly complicated.

At fifty-five years old, Nan Marino is totally content tending her garden, watching her grandchildren, taking weekly walks with her two best friends, and keeping a clean house. Oh, and talking to Martin, her dead ex-husband. She either confides in him with all her problems or rails against him for leaving her for a younger woman.

Nan's tidy life is ticking away just fine until an unexpected trip to Kauai with her friend Myra takes her out of her comfort zone and propels her into the company of Myra's forty-one-year-old son, Jake. The attraction between them is palpable. Despite every effort to dampen her feelings, Nan cannot resist him, and her predictable world turns upside down when she tries to keep her love life to herself.

Confiding in Martin is not just a romantic comedy. It is also a story about a woman who, as a result of her association with a younger man, comes to realize by taking care of everyone else’s needs over the years, she has failed to take care of her own.

Sep 25, 2014

About the author

Candace Murrow, a Pacific Northwest author, writes poems, short stories, and novels. She enjoys writing about the intricacies of relationships and how people face life’s problems. Murrow is a highly intuitive writer. The paranormal, a favorite subject of hers, inhabits many of her writings.

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Confiding in Martin - Candace Murrow

Confiding in Martin

Published by Candace Murrow at Smashwords

Copyright 2014 Candace Murrow

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Other titles by this author:

Visions of Hope

Rose from the Grave

Tangled Affairs: sequel to Rose from the Grave

The Transformation of Francine

Zak and the Mystery Girl

The Day Mel Quit Dreaming and Other Stories

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39


Other titles by this author

Connect with the author online


I talk to dead people. Actually, I only talk to one dead person, my ex-husband.

Sure, Martin, that’s just what I’m going to tell Myra and Joan. I can share my most intimate thoughts with my best friends, but I have not had the courage to tell them about our conversations, albeit one-sided as they are. I don’t think I could stand seeing Myra’s wrinkled forehead or Joan’s raised artificial eyebrows.

As for telling the children, that’s out of the question. Sara is busy with the grandkids, and besides, if she knew I was talking to her dead father, she would have me committed, even if I am her mother. I wouldn’t put it past her. I would have to swear on a stack of Bibles that I, Nanette Louise Marino, am in my right mind.

Sure, there’s Michael. I have always been close to our son. But he’s busy with his dissertation, and he has enough on his mind.

It has been a year now, and I wonder how it has come to this, my talking to you. Oh, yes, I remember. Six months after you died, strange things started happening, like the lights flickering on and off for no apparent reason. I thought the house was having electrical problems, but when I smelled the faint odor of cigar smoke, that’s when I guessed it was you, and we (I) began having these little chats. And why is it I talk to you? I suppose it makes me feel as though you never left me. But for now, I will keep our conversations to myself.

You know, Martin, it has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. I hated that you ran off with another woman, but at least you had the decency to die from a heart attack in her arms and not mine.

Leaving her thoughts adrift, Nan drives past Myra’s taupe Prius and backs her ten-year-old Civic at an angle, careful to avoid hitting the iron gate that leads to Conservation Trail, situated in Harbordale, Washington, about sixty miles south of Seattle. This old railroad grade had been converted into a paved lane for walkers, joggers, and bicyclers.

After Martin left her two years ago, Nan made it a weekly routine to accompany her friends on a four-mile hike, depending on the weather. She looks forward to Saturday mornings with her sole emotional support, not counting her dead ex-husband.

Billowy clouds drift eastward, assisted by a steady, late spring breeze. Nan tops her shaggy, silver-streaked hair with a baseball cap and ties the arms of her sweatshirt across her upper chest. After locking her wallet in the glove compartment, she prepares to join Myra, who is sitting on a wooden bench engrossed in a book.

Myra reminds Nan of a cocker spaniel. Her wavy hair, crowning her shoulders, is parted in the middle and dyed a chestnut brown. Her deep amber eyes are almond-shaped, her nose prominent, and the skin beneath her cheeks sags a little.

Nan’s quirky habit of classifying people into dog breeds, and on occasion into other types of animals or insects, no disrespect intended, comes from a love of nature, but more directly from years working as a library assistant, immersed in books, dictionaries, and the Dewey Decimal System. With one descriptive word, she captures a person’s essence.

Nan does not exclude herself in making these judgments. She likens herself to a West Highland white terrier, small in size, cute with rounded facial features, wide-set earthy eyes, hardy, but with the fault of having too much nervous energy and being too eager to please. Her hair is for the most part dark and not yet white, but that is coming next, she is sure.

Nan has always been considered a very attractive woman, but in her mind now that she is fifty-five, she doesn’t feel considered at all. Why is it that aging women suddenly become invisible to the world? Maybe that’s a question for you, Martin, since you left me for someone our daughter’s age.

After his departure, she labeled him the Rat for obvious reasons. But when he died, she eased up a bit and now deems him the Cockroach, referring to his constant appearance in the deep recesses of her mind, a fixation she cannot easily get rid of.

She hustles Martin out of her thoughts and waves a hello to Myra. So, where’s Joan?

Myra, a local librarian, five years older than Nan, looks up from brushing her beige cotton knit slacks and laughs at Nan’s question, as if Nan should know.

Was she out last night with what’s his name… Tiger, Rider, Easy Rider?

Spider, his name is Spider, Myra corrects, chuckling again.

Well, is she coming or not?

She said she would catch up with us. Myra ties a scarf around her head to hold down her well-groomed hair.

Nan starts up the path with visions of Joan, their lion-like, fifty-three-year-old hair stylist, riding behind her boyfriend on the back of a Harley. Nan would never have the nerve to ride a motorcycle. The most daring thing she has done in recent years is ride the Ferris wheel with her grandchildren at the county fair. The most daring thing she ever did with Martin was to make love during their courtship in the basement of his parents’ house while his folks were upstairs. After that, there were no surprises. Their life was normal, if not boring. Boring is predictable, and that was just fine with Nan, but clearly it was not with Martin.

Shade engulfs the first leg of the trail. The sun’s rays shine at a slant and cannot pierce through the densely packed fir and cedar trees. Ferns, salal, and blackberry vines vie for space on opposing embankments in a tangled mesh of green.

The wind picks up, and Nan stops to pull on her sweatshirt. Two very thin joggers pass by, and she starts dreaming up dog classifications until she hears Myra’s attention-getting cough.

I have some news I want to share with you, Myra says. I wanted to wait for Joan, but she may not show up.

What is it, Myra?

Remember the trip to Kauai?

You’re leaving in a couple of weeks, right? You’re still going, aren’t you, or did your son renege?

My beautiful son is still going, but Glen isn’t.

What about your anniversary?

Glen promised we would celebrate after Jake and I return home. Myra wags her head with annoyance. There’s some big real estate deal that’s just too important to leave unattended, and he can’t get away. You know how he is.

Nan pictures Glen as a bulldog of a man, jowls and all. So, you’re still going with Jake, aren’t you? Nan has not been around Myra’s son in quite a while and suspends any opinion of him.

Yes, but I’m not so thrilled.

And why not? I thought you would love to spend time with your son.

That’s an indisputable fact, but Jake is forty-one years old now, and I know he would be going just so he wouldn’t disappoint his mother. He was planning to play tennis with his father. He was also planning to go off on his own. Now he’ll feel obligated to look after me.

I’m sure he won’t mind.

But he needs to get out more. I was hoping he might meet some nice Hawaiian girl or a pretty tourist. I want to spend time with my son, but the only thing that would make me happier would be to have him married with babies. Myra sighs. I want so much to have grandchildren. You’re so lucky that way.

I would have to say I am, Nan says, but there are some days I would rather take a trip to Kauai.

Nan, you don’t mean that.

You know I’m just kidding. But now that I’m alone, Sara is coming around more and more with the kids these days.

I think I would still trade you the vacation for a couple of grandbabies. I’d even settle for one.

Nan stops to move a large fir branch from the middle of the path, all the while thinking the trail needs a good sweeping. For a moment, she imagines handing off her grandchildren to Myra in exchange for that airline ticket. She pictures herself basking in the sun on a white sandy beach, surrounded by palm trees and pineapples, gaping at tanned young men. Don’t say a thing, Martin.

On the approach to the country road that cuts the trail in two, Nan, hearing the deep rumble of a motorcycle, holds Myra back from moving headlong into the crosswalk. A Harley Davidson screams toward them with Joan waving behind a man equal to her in size.

Joan does not necessarily look like a lion, as Nan has labeled her, especially with her very short, auburn-spiked hairdo, but she is a large-boned woman and presents a bold, powerful figure. Nan thinks Spider’s name is appropriate, but she would tweak the name to Tarantula because of his straggly hair and bushy beard that, to her, make him appear creepy. Besides, he always has his hairy arms around Joan, and Joan acts head over heels as if she is caught in his web, a reaction Nan cannot quite understand.

The motorcycle stops short, and Spider nods, then revs the engine, nearly causing Nan’s heart to implode. Joan swings her leg over the bike and tugs off her helmet, her moussed-up spikes entirely undisturbed. Hi, gals. She gives her beau a goodbye kiss.

With a blast of the motor, Spider takes to the road, the guttural vroom jarring Nan’s nervous system again, the exhaust triggering a burning sensation in her nostrils. She can almost taste the noxious fumes. What in the world do you see in that man? she sputters.

Joan shoves her fists into her generous hips. I know what you two are thinking, but the man works, for Pete’s sake. When I first met him, I couldn’t even imagine he owned his own motorcycle shop, but he does.

Nan and Myra exchange looks of disbelief.

Have I missed anything? Joan starts into the crosswalk, but Nan hesitates before crossing the road in case Tarantula doubles back.

The trail opens up on both sides to an expansive pond, its waters rippling from the breeze. Several buffleheads are swimming in wide circles, creating V-shaped wakes, and two mallards, near the edge, are weaving around the lily pads in murky water. Joan points to a lone great blue heron, hunched against a cluster of cattails, the sun capturing the beauty of his blue-gray silhouette.

A screeching sound captivates Nan. She hangs back and follows the path of an eagle, admiring the large wingspan and the white head and tail feathers.

She hurries to catch up and plunges into a canopy of maple trees where Myra is lamenting about Glen’s inability to make the Kauai trip.

It’s too bad about Glen. Joan, who has never been fond of Myra’s husband, uses a disheartened tone, disguising her insincerity, but still rolls her eyes. What are you going to do with the extra ticket? I bet it’s too late for a refund.

Myra frowns. Jake will lose the money because the ticket is not transferable. We’ll pay him back, but as I was telling Nan, he was looking forward to having some time with his father, and now he’ll feel like he has to look after me.

Except for the shrill chirps of the blackbirds, they walk on in silence until, out of the blue, Joan says to Nan, Why don’t you go in Glen’s place?

Nan snaps to attention. Me? Go in place of Glen?

That’s a wonderful idea, Myra says. I should have thought of that. You and I can pal around while Jake has fun with people his own age. Maybe he’ll meet a girl.

Nan feels as if a train has jumped the tracks and is coming at her full throttle. To divert her friends away from the current discussion, away from any suggestion that she should break free from her nicely arranged life to fly off to Kauai, she decides to take drastic action and let them in on her secret discussions with Martin, how she either rails at him or confides in him.

I want to tell you two something, she blurts, but the words halt at the edge of her tongue like a car at the edge of a cliff, and instead she stammers, Well, now, you see, I have to be mindful of my budget, and I have to look after the grandchildren, and my herb garden needs tending. It’s almost summer.

Oh, fiddlesticks, Joan says. You need some fun in your life. All you’ve done this past year is work your tail off getting your house sold and moving into your mother’s place.

I know, but I can’t possibly get a reservation this late, and if I could, it would cost double, I’m sure. Though Nan has the money, she is way too frugal.

I’ll pay, and you can pay me back monthly, Myra says.

No, I couldn’t.

With interest? Myra smiles and seems satisfied with herself, having come up with a brilliant solution.

Nan fidgets. Why does Myra know her so well, that she is a stickler for paying her share?

Come on, Nan, go for it. Joan is grinning along with Myra.

Nan hastens to come up with a rebuttal before her friends get too carried away. Then there’s the cost of the room. It would be too much.

We have a two-bedroom condo already paid for, Myra counters. In my room, there are two queen-sized beds. You wouldn’t have to pay extra.

As Nan strides ahead of them to think, she can feel their laser-like stares piercing the middle of her back. She turns and says with as much fake enthusiasm as possible, I’ll go home and sleep on it, knowing full well going to Kauai might as well be a pipe dream.

After the round-trip hike, Myra reminds Nan she will phone her in the morning for her answer. Joan bums a ride with Myra, and Nan drives home biting her nails.


Nan has always lived in Harbordale, population 50,000, but with a small-town feel. In her junior year at East Harbordale High, the oldest public high school, she started dating Martin. They spent many a starry night parked on the hilltop near the faded green water tower, which boasts a giant H on the side facing town. For Nan, instead of for Harbordale, the H stands for hussy, a constant reminder of her naughty senior year in which she let a persistent, overheated Martin have his way.

The newly renovated downtown area boasts quaint eating establishments, local coffee roasters, and a good-sized farmer’s market that supplies Nan with her favorite herbs: rosemary, basil, and her beloved lavender.

On the outskirts, a four-year experimental college attracts a diverse student populace from all over the world, attracts too many eccentric people in Nan’s opinion.

Crime has not flourished as it has in other towns Harbordale’s size, except for malicious mischief on the occasional Friday evening. This, Nan believes, is due to the rise in the number of teenagers. She checks her mailbox just to make sure it has not been vandalized while she was away.

Her house, a 1921 Craftsman style acquired on her mother’s death, sits on a tidy street, not far from the market. The neighboring yards have maple trees, but Nan’s does not. With more openness, she prides herself in having more light in the wintertime and nothing to rake in the fall, although in recent years stray leaves have become a nuisance.

Two homes are on the historical register and most of her neighbors are middle-aged or older, except one block away a family with two teenaged boys has recently moved in. After going inside, she secures the door.

Much to her daughter’s dismay, Nan sold the large family home she and Martin lived in while raising their children. Nan’s mother’s house is smaller, 1500 square feet, with two bedrooms on the main floor and an attic large enough for a third bedroom. The grandchildren love to prowl around and sleep upstairs. Two years before she died, Nan’s mother had the oak flooring refinished, the bathroom and kitchen updated with new tile, a work island constructed, and later purchased a new teak dining room set. A smaller house with no mortgage payment was a boon to Nan. Nan had inherited all this, along with her mother’s prudish and fussy ways.

Out the kitchen window, Nan checks the backyard patch where her herb garden grows. The lavender her mother planted promises to bloom in early summer, only a few weeks away. Nan imagines Royal Velvet’s soft buds, Melissa’s pink blossoms, and conjures up the eucalyptus-like fragrance of Dark Eyes with its pinecone-shaped head. Her love for the aromatic herb, shared by her mother, is evident by the number of lavender plants in both front and back yards and also seated in Tuscan red ceramic pots on the back cedar deck.

Distracted by a dirty film on the window panes, left by recent showers, she drops to her hands and knees and rummages in a cupboard for a rag to wipe away the streaks. Her mind drifts to the discussion about the trip. How can I up and leave to go to Kauai, Martin? It can’t be done.

As she backs her head out from under the sink, her four-year-old grandson broadsides her. Nana! She topples onto her rear and is wrapped in a shawl of arms. Heather, her six-year-old granddaughter, hugs her from the opposite side.

Nan kisses one, then the other. I didn’t hear you come in, my sweet little Kittens. You scared me to death.

A petite, dark-complexioned girl, Heather is a carbon copy of Sara while Joey, stocky and pale, takes after Derrick, their father.

Nan hangs onto the edge of the counter and rights herself, then zooms in on their feet. Take those shoes off this instant and leave them by the door.

We wanna play outside, Heather says.

Then scoot.

The children scurry out just as Sara (poodle-like, because of her wild curls and high-spirited nature) prances across Nan’s recently buffed floor in her stocking feet with a hairbrush in her hand. I used my key.

I wish you would knock first to give me a little warning.

Sara removes a clip and proceeds to brush out her dark, frizzy hair.

Not in the kitchen, Nan scolds.

Oh, Mother. Sara buries her brush in her purse.

Nan peers at the backyard gate to make sure it’s latched before she herds Sara into the living room and asks her to sit down.

Disregarding her mother’s request, Sara stands with her keys in her hand, tapping her foot. I have to run some errands. Will you watch them for an hour or two?

Yes, I will, but I want to tell you something first.

Sara inches across the room and wraps her fingers around the doorknob. Will it take long?

Just a minute or two. Sit down.


Since Sara isn’t moving an inch, Nan plunges in. Myra asked me to go to Kauai with her.

Sara’s face scrunches up, as if she has bitten into a piece of moldy cheese, one of her pet facial expressions. Kauai? Her hand slides off the doorknob, and she comes back into the room. Mother, first of all, your grandchildren need you, and second of all, what would you do over there? You don’t even own a swimsuit, for heaven’s sake. It’s ridiculous.

Nan wishes she hadn’t mentioned it, but she cannot turn back now. I would have gone if your father had asked me. By bringing up Martin, she knows she has just stepped into a buried wasps’ nest.

How can you even bring that terrible man into this conversation?

Sara, please have some respect for the dead. Have some respect for your father.

How can I, after what he did? Sara’s lips slide into a pout.

You have to get over it. I certainly did.

But how can you forgive him like that?

Your father and I had a good marriage, Nan says. I loved him, and that love never goes away. Yes, he left me, and I was so angry, you have no idea, but when he died, the anger died, too. I’m sticking up for you, Martin. Do you hear me?

Well, I can’t forgive him for racing off to Cancun with Little Miss Fancy Pants and never coming back. Mother, you can’t go to Kauai. It’s just ridiculous. Sara checks her watch. I need to be home by two. I have to go.

All right, Sara, go then. What Nan failed to tell Sara is the anger she once held for Martin had only masked the loneliness that is now hovering in its place.

In the kitchen, she grabs a juice carton from a refrigerator whose produce drawers are on her hit list of cleaning projects. She sits at the breakfast nook with her OJ and keeps a watchful eye on the children.

Heather is pushing Joey on the swing. Kittens, Nan’s name for the grandchildren. She can’t possibly leave the Kittens.

Well, Martin, Sara’s reaction is just what I expected. Why did I even ask? And why am I even considering going? Once and for all, I should put this silly idea to rest.

She grabs the phone, calls Hawaiian Airlines, and finds out no space is available on the June 15 flight. Only reasonably assured, she dials up another airline company just to cross the T’s and dot the I’s. However, this airline tells her indeed space is available on that date, but for a cost high enough to cause Nan to choke on her orange juice. Though the service rep is ready and willing to take her

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