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Milo's Journey: Finding Home, #3
Milo's Journey: Finding Home, #3
Milo's Journey: Finding Home, #3
Ebook152 pages2 hours

Milo's Journey: Finding Home, #3

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Two years have passed. With Traci in his corner, Milo has surmounted every challenge to become a rising star in Faucier County. His journey to success engenders hope to thousands of young people throughout the community. But when a cold case is reopened, it shatters everything he believes about himself and threatens to dismantle his relationships and his new life.

Release dateDec 6, 2020
Milo's Journey: Finding Home, #3
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Barbara Howard

Barbara Howard is a "not-so-cozy" mystery and YA author of a dozen books, including her most recent trilogy, Finding Home Mystery Series; Final Harvest, Charlotte's Revenge, and Milo's Journey. She is a first generation tech geek turned master gardener with a passion for fresh air, vegan cuisine, and tracing her roots. A big city girl with a small town heart, she returned to her family home in the Midwest after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur-babies, growing veggies and raising chickens. She has also published a collection of books on food-related topics, food safety, and heirloom recipe cookbooks under the pen name, Arlene Lee. Read more at http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com 

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    Milo's Journey - Barbara Howard

    Chapter One


    TRACINDA, STOP CRYING and tell me what's wrong, Randall said and sighed. It was their third video chat in less than an hour.

    Traci wiped her eyes and straightened the curls that were stuck to her cheeks and tried again. Nothing, just calling to ask how your day is going, she lied.

    What's happening? He rubbed his eyes and focused back on the screen. Tell me what's going on.

    He won't latch, Randall. I've tried everything Candace told me to do and nothing's working. He just keeps refusing. I don’t understand. It shouldn't be this hard. Why is it so hard?

    It's going to be okay, angel. he said with his usual calm reassurance that she found very irritating today.

    No, it's not. It's like he doesn't know that I'm his mother.

    "He knows, believe me. I watched you give birth and I'm sure he could never forget that experience. I know I can't." He shook his head and chuckled.

    That was another thing. Why was Randall always so sarcastic these days? He never took her seriously when she explained the problems she was having with the baby. And the times he actually listened to her, it seemed like he just dismissed whatever she said like it was nothing. She shifted the fussy infant to her other arm and lapped another circle around the room while holding the phone with two fingers.  She found the pacifier dangling from a ribbon around her neck and deftly inserted it into little Remy’s mouth.

    Although she welcomed the silence, it underscored her heartache once again. She felt like a failure. No matter what she did, it was wrong. She wanted Randall to understand what it was like to watch all the other new mothers serenely breastfeeding their babies and when she tried, her son looked at her like she was a total stranger. A stranger. Every day she tried with him. And every day she felt sore and lonely and disheartened and ... all the things she could not put into words. She wanted to make Randall see her side of things but all she could do was cry.

    See? Everything’s alright now, he said, clueless again.

    But, Randall ...

    Put him on the phone. He took a deep breath, swept his hand across the top of his head and blinked his eyes to refocus.

    She knew that look. He was losing his patience with her, but she didn’t care. What do you mean? Don't be ridiculous. You’re just making fun of me.

    Put him on the phone. Go ahead.

    Traci lifted Remy’s face to the side and placed the phone in front of him.

    Remy James, this is your father. Listen up.

    Traci watched the baby’s eyes brighten and search toward the sound. He's looking right at you.

    Of course he is. Randall grinned, his dimples popped, matching the cheeks of his son. Stop giving your mother a hard time. And, do the thing ... what's it?


    Yeah, yeah. Get to it, boy.

    I don't know if that will help but he definitely heard you. She couldn’t help but laugh. Those two were so cute together and she missed Randall desperately when he wasn’t home.

    A security alert sounded on Traci’s phone. She placed the baby against her chest and swiped the screen with her thumb. The video showed a tall dark-skinned woman with long twisted locs wearing a bright floral tunic bent over and removing her sandals at the front door. Traci swiped the screen back to Randall. Candace is here, gotta go.

    She ended the call and rushed to the door, picking up and straightening blankets, cushions and tossing toys into the bin as she went. Remy grew irritated again as she jostled him about and was in a full-throated wail by the time Traci opened the door. When she looked into the kind face of the doula, her eyes welled over and she poured herself into the waiting arms.

    Ahh, tears flowing, the woman said softly. Her Jamaican accent was more expressive than usual as a result of her recent visit back home to breathe the island air and was music to Traci’s ears. Candace carried the peaceful aura of a confident professional baby wrangler as Brad called her.

    Nothing's working, Candace. Why am I so terrible?

    "You are not terrible. You're a new mum. She held Traci by both shoulders and looked into her eyes. It takes time. Let me have our little Prince Remy and you make us some tea. The one that I brought you on my last visit, do you remember? She scooped up the infant and cradled him in her arms. Ahh, yes, such a sassy baby boy you are. Yes, yes, yes." She stroked his cheeks and drummed her fingers delicately on his stomach.

    Why does he laugh when other people hold him but when I do it, he cries? Traci whispered, I don't think he likes me, at all."

    Hush, hush that. Make the tea while I measure and weigh him and update my records.

    How is he? Traci asked as she sorted through the tea blends in the kitchen cabinet. She adjusted her clothing and tried to wipe off the rainbow of stains from her sweatshirt, then glanced at the hamper of dirty laundry overflowing in the corner. The newly installed washer and dryer sat untouched. When would she have the time?

    He's perfect. He is perfect in every way. Don’t you worry now. If there was a problem, I would tell you. And, there is no trouble with this one here. Candace joined her as the kettle began to gain steam and whistle. She placed Remy in the baby carrier on the kitchen table.

    Another security alert pinged Traci’s phone. This time it was a courier in the familiar neon green and red Dependable Flyers uniform arriving to drop off a packet of documents for her. She greeted the messenger and offered a bottle of water which was received with a grateful smile.

    Traci remembered those days as a Flyer when breaks were limited and the sun scorching down so hot that you thought the bicycle tires would melt into the asphalt. She untied the cord on the packet from Dewey Station, fished through the folders and placed the most urgent items onto the table. She would take the rest upstairs to her small desk in the corner of their bedroom after the doula’s visit. But she wanted to respond to the most important issues immediately. It was a blessing that Mr. Kinsey let her continue to work from home and she didn’t want to slack up and risk losing the privilege.

    A breeze lofted through the window and brought the sweet smell of honeysuckle mixed with the earthy scent of compost. They had installed a small vegetable garden for her in the side yard, but she barely had time to attend to it. She closed her eyes for a moment and her mind escaped to the fields of Bent Willow and beyond. She walked over to the window and looked at the vacant house next door. She didn’t even have a neighbor to visit when she felt lonely. She turned back and joined Candace at the table.

    I miss working. I mean, I'm still working but I mean ... She paused searching for a way to express her desires without sounding ungrateful. I miss being out there where the people are and going around to the different places and ... but I love being here with my son. And, I don't want to miss a moment with him. I just ... sometimes, I really miss it. I wonder if maybe I should’ve ...

    She shook her head and changed the subject. Randall doesn't understand what it's like. He's got the business to take care of and meeting all those new clients and ...

    You are both making adjustments and it’s not easy. Candace said and patted her hand. You know that he would prefer to be here at home with his son and lovely wife. It's not a competition between the two of you.

    Candace filled the infuser with the loose organic papaya, chamomile, safflower and mango blend of dried blossoms and leaves, placed it in the Hazelton House souvenir teacup and covered it with boiling water from the kettle. She placed the cup before Traci, brushed the stray curls back from her forehead and lifted her chin. And all of those people you're worried about, do you think they’re missing you much? Huh? They’re too busy worrying about themselves, eh? They'll all be there when it's time for you to go back. Right now, treasure these moments that you have. They go by so very quickly, you know. And, you'll never get them back once they are gone. It’s your time to bond with little Remy.

    Yes, I understand. You’re right. I want that time, but ... I’m good at my job. As a mother, I’m not ... I can’t seem to ... I’m really struggling to get things right, Candace. Will it always be like this? She felt her eyes spilling over again as Brad and Milo sauntered in from the back yard.

    Every time Traci saw Milo, he seemed to have grown another two inches. Sure, she was probably exaggerating and had just seen him a week ago at his high school graduation. But it warmed her heart to see him again. He now matched Brad’s height but still had not lost his baby face. Both were smiling and a surprise visit from them was just what she needed.

    Hey sis, Brad interrupted on his way to the fridge to search for a beer but came up empty. Let Randall know we got the measurements and we'll pick up all the materials. So, he needs to start digging if he plans to get finished this weekend.

    Plans? Materials? For what? Traci asked with a furrowed brow.

    The firepit, Brad glanced at Milo who looked away quickly. He faced Traci again and grimaced. In the backyard.

    I didn't know about that.

    Sure you did. Brad tried to wave away her concern, but it agitated her even more.

    No. Nobody told me about that. I would’ve remembered it.

    He probably told you when you were handling your work stuff, or changing the baby, or feeding the baby or ... Maybe he was ...

    Afraid, Milo whispered with a smirk.

    Brad gave Milo a side-eye glance. Umm, he probably didn't want to bother you about it. No big deal.

    I feel like I don't know half of what's happening anymore. Traci tossed

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