Mary Ellen Taylor, When the Rain Ends

When the Rain Ends

Available: May 1, 2023

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million | Indiebound

When artist Dani Manchester learns she’s slowly losing her vision, she becomes unmoored. Her ex-husband died only months before, leaving Dani and her preteen daughter grief stricken. Suddenly, the life Dani built for her family on the Outer Banks feels like a painful reminder of all they’ve lost.

On a whim, Dani sells her waterfront home and buys an old farm inland near the Virginia state line. But Dani’s daughter recoils at the sudden, drastic change. The Outer Banks’ sun-swept beaches, pink dawns, and savage storms are all she’s ever known.

But Dani is resolute, and the pair move to Virginia to embark on a challenging renovation. That summer, their efforts to turn a run-down silo into an art studio bring forth new friends, new loves, and new challenges.

As mother and daughter navigate the fiercest storm of their lives, they learn that instead of waiting for the skies to clear, they can withstand the wind and rain, so long as they do it together.

When the Rain Ends Excerpt

Chapter One
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Friday, June 2, 2023
11:00 a.m.
Describing the colors of the Currituck Sound had once been a complicated business for Dani Manchester. On sunny days, she’d have spoken of navy hues streaked with teal bands. Or traces of cobalt mingling with indigo. Sapphire marbling ribbons of cerulean. On overcast mornings, she’d have searched the greens on her mental color wheel for olives, emeralds, and jades. And then there were the undertones. Black. Gray. Avocado.
Blue was a fine color. Nothing wrong with blue. But as a descriptor of this body of water, it fell flat.
Today as she drove across the Wright Memorial Bridge toward her new life on the mainland, she scrambled through her adjectives hoping to translate the clear sky and calm waters into the familiar. But today, all the magical descriptors escaped her. And the only word that came to mind was “blue.” No vibrant displays, no heart-pounding bursts, no exotic tints.
Just blue.
Light. Clarity. Vision. They were her stock-in-trade as an artist and gallery owner. And they were all fading.
Dani’s carefully curated future had been rewritten a year ago by a doctor in Norfolk, Virginia, who’d told her she was slowly losing her sight. Retinitis pigmentosa was what the doctor called it. A genetic disease that in her case led to the slow narrowing and darkening of her vision. Her doctor had likened her field of vision to the interior of a pipe. For now, the cylinder was almost at full capacity, but it would narrow to the circumference of a straw. It could be years (number undetermined) before she lost her vision completely. Or it might all vanish next fall.
She’d made it through the tourist season last year at her Duck art gallery because she was so familiar with every turn in the road, all the street crossings and speed limit signs and parking lot entrances. During last winter’s lull, for the first time in her life, she’d dreaded the arrival of the spring and summer tourists. The season always brought vacationers who crossed Duck Road without looking, cycled a knife’s edge from traffic, or didn’t anticipate cars pulling out of driveways like hers.
The air tightened as the radio played the most recent Taylor Swift song. A glance in her rearview mirror confirmed her daughter, Bella, outfitted with wireless earbuds, was not listening as her head leaned against the window. Bella’s expression was lost and forlorn. The last link to her old life was ending. The child was convinced she’d never be happy again. Maybe it would take time, but Dani hoped that at some point they both would look back on this day as a good day.
Sitting next to Bella was their eighteen-month-old dog, Rosie, a shepherd mix who’d been pocket size when they’d picked her out. She now weighed sixty-five pounds. Rosie looked out the window, alert. This was her first trip across the big bridge and the Currituck Sound, and she was, as always, excited.
Bella had a right to believe her world was crumbling. And it had nothing to do with this move.
Her father, Dani’s ex-husband, had been killed in a car accident four months ago. A restaurateur opening two new establishments, Matthew Peterson had been working twenty hours a day and doing the work of five. Whenever they spoke, Dani always heard him moving around a restaurant kitchen, clanging pots and pans, and issuing orders to his staff. If he wasn’t in the kitchen, he was driving to the other location or a farmers’ market. All the scraps of his time went to Bella, and there was never a doubt that Matthew adored his only child. However, the time he cobbled together was often fragmented by tasks on a never-ending to-do list.
Just after 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, Matthew had been driving home from his Kill Devil Hills restaurant to his flattop house in Southern Shores. The drive was seven miles from end to end. No traffic. No rain. A clear night sky. But the police report assumed he’d fallen asleep at the wheel a mile from his house. The car’s black box indicated he’d never hit the brakes, and the car had veered off the road and slammed into a cement wall rimming a utility pole. He was killed on impact.
Bella had been crushed by Matthew’s death. The girl had adored her father, and his passing had turned her life upside down. Every day when they drove toward Bella’s school in Kill Devil Hills, they traveled through Southern Shores past the spot where Matthew had died. The third time Dani drove by, Bella burst into tears and was inconsolable. Dani had called the school and told them she was keeping Bella home that day.
Though Dani and Matthew had been divorced for over ten years, they’d remained friends. They’d married when he was nineteen and she was eighteen. She’d been four months pregnant with Bella. Neither of them had the first clue how to be married, let alone be parents. Fueled by frustration and fear, their immaturity resulted in a marriage fraught with fights, long silences, and finally separate beds. Thankfully, when they’d split, the distance and space allowed them to foster a friendship that enabled them to parent their daughter and give her a balanced, good life.
Dani had loved their house in Duck and her art gallery located two blocks away. She’d built a happy life for Bella and herself on that thin ribbon of land, and she’d always pictured herself staying until Bella went to college. Then, who knew what she’d do. Maybe explore some of that travel she’d longed for as a teenager.
The best-laid plans . . . as her father had used to say.

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