Francesca has had enough of her dead-end marriage. She walks out with no regrets and in hopes of discovering what will make her life more fulfilling. Following her passions for gardening and sustainable living, she enrolls in a course to learn more and collides head-on with a handsome Irishman, Callan O'Toole. Callan challenges her to apply for a summer internship at the Bouncing Butterfly eco-village. She does and is overjoyed to be accepted.
Working so close to a man who fills her every erotic daydream is a bit more than Francesca can take at first, so she tries to avoid Callan. He won't cooperate—and soon they are in each other's arms and in Callan's bed. Their summer lovin' is approved of by all, but Francesca doesn't want to become a permanent villager simply because she’s Callan's partner. She wants to be invited to live there on her own terms. Besides, her parents and her boss are waiting back in the city for her to return and take up her former existence. Can Francesca have it all—a lover, a career, and most importantly, what money can't buy?
“Could you give me a hand?”
Francesca waited a full five seconds knowing what her husband's answer would be.
“Shit! After the game, Franny. Just let me watch the game in peace, will ya?”
Franny. She'd hated that nickname. He knew it, but he didn't care. All he cared about was his daily intake of televised sports events when he wasn't working sixty plus hours a week in order to buy a bass boat she didn't want and they didn't need.
Francesca shook her head as she re-entered the kitchen. He's never going to change. She decided to give the homemade pickle jar lid another try. Grasping the rubber gripper hard, she twisted and tugged. It wouldn't budge.
Steve's big paws could have easily opened it for her, but they were busy with the television remote. He sat sprawled across their new leather sofa with his bucket of chips while consuming mass quantities of NFL action and beer. The sofa was another thing they couldn't afford and didn’t need, but Steve insisted on buying leather furniture since it might impress his boss if and when he ever came over for drinks.
I just want to open this jar. My aunt's homemade bread-and-butter pickles are the best, and I'm in desperate need of comfort food.
Running out of options, Francesca grabbed a butter knife from the drawer to tap the lid seal a couple of times and break its vacuum. It was a risky move, and she needed to be extra careful in case she—
She'd hit the rim a little too hard. The jar shattered in her left hand, slicing her palm. Tears stung her eyes. She attempted to save her aunt's pickles by pouring them into a bowl without getting glass shards into the mix. Once the pickle decanting was finished, she put her hand under the faucet and ran cold water over her torn flesh.
“Ow.” Francesca bit her tongue to keep from screaming in agony. She knew the unspoken house rule—no interruptions on game night. The cut looked bad. It needed stitches. She grabbed a tea towel to wrap around the cut and entered the living room.
“Steve, can you take me to the urgent care center? I need stitches.”
Her husband of ten years frowned, but his focus didn't leave their large screen television until a commercial began.
“Whatcha do now, Franny? Can't you give me a break? I have one day off a week, and you want me to waste it in an E.R.?”
“The pickle jar broke when I tried to open it. Remember, I asked for your help?”
She held out the bloody towel-wrapped hand for his view. He winced and pulled back as if she had hit him.
“Don't bleed all over the rug.” He returned his focus to the game as the commercial ended. “We just had it shampooed. Stick a couple of Band-Aids on it. That should hold it together until after the game.”
Francesca felt dizzy. She was losing blood, and she realized she hadn't had a tetanus shot in a long time. She wrapped the towel tighter about her hand. One way or another she had to get stitches.
“I don't think I can wait that long. It's only the first quarter, right?”
“First quarter and we're up by a field goal.”
Steve settled back against the sofa and took another swig of his beer, cheering as his team made another successful play.
Francesca sighed and turned to gather her purse and car keys. It would be a challenge driving with one hand, but she supposed it could be worse. She could have shattered the jar on her wrist. Even now she would be lying on the floor of their newly remodeled kitchen in a pool of blood waiting for half-time when Steve would take a bathroom break and refill his chip bucket. He'd scold her about ruining the new tile with blood stains and then return to his game. That would be the last thing she'd hear on this earth before she bled out and died.
The maudlin thought was, in truth, the essence of their marriage.
Francesca crawled into her small sedan and drove off without another word. She'd wasted enough words on a man who didn't really care for words if they didn't stroke his ego or make him money so he could buy more status items. She needed to face it—he didn't care for her when she wasn't of any use to him. Interrupting his sports fix wasn't a role he wanted her to fill.
By the time Francesca arrived at the urgent care center she felt nauseous and exhausted. She stumbled through the front doors and almost fell as she approached the check-in desk. Luckily it was a slow afternoon, and the nurse practitioner on duty guided her to an exam room to lie down.
“That's a good scratch you got there. You really should have elevated it on the drive over.” The N.P. frowned as she took Francesca's pulse and blood pressure. “Is your significant other in the building?”
“I drove myself here, if that's what you're asking.”
The N.P. bit her lip. “I ask because if we shoot you up with painkillers to do the stitching, you're going to feel very woozy. You probably shouldn't drive home afterward. Do you have a friend or family member who can pick you up?”
Francesca winced as the nurse practitioner cleaned out the deep cut in her palm. “I'll call my mother. She lives about twenty miles away.”
The N.P. smiled and patted her shoulder. “Call her now while you're still conscious. You might feel so good you'll fall asleep while we sew you back together again.”