Authors: Dan Kolbet
Better Not Love Me
By Dan Kolbet
Better Not Love Me
Copyright © 2015 by Dan Kolbet
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
For My Mom
Better Not Love Me is the sequel
Don't Wait For Me
also available on Amazon Kindle.
Amelia Cook dug her toes into the warm sand and adjusted her sunglasses to block the glare of noontime sun glinting off the dark blue surface of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Despite being just the first of July, the northern Idaho lake was high and the water warm. The waves gently lapped against the soft, sandy beach in front of her rental cabin. A breeze was nowhere to be found. She wiped a bead of perspiration from her forehead and wished she'd remembered to bring a hat down to the water, even for this brief solitary visit.
Amelia glanced at her exposed legs. Her normally pale complexion was currently a light bronze thanks to the early summer weather. It didn't hurt that she and her two children had been staying at the lake cabin since school released three weeks ago.
She wore board shorts over her conservative, but form-fitting one-piece bathing suit and admired her tan legs—something she rarely did. She'd been working on her fitness level and figure when she could find time, and she had to admit that the results showed. It made her just a little proud. She'd never considered herself attractive, but she'd never really been on the market very long either, until recently, of course.
The beach was quiet except for the occasional boat that whizzed by towing a skier or kids on tubes. The lakeshore was lined with large pine trees and hundreds of cabins similar to the three behind her in the small cove. She'd spotted the occasional eagle soaring overhead and plenty of deer darting about under the shade of the pines. The place was peaceful and exactly what she needed.
She was finally in relaxation mode, just a few weeks removed from counting the days, then hours to the end of the school year when she could finally escape with the kids. She so desperately needed to get away from everything corporate and get back to her family. This summer she rented the cabin where she planned to introduce herself to her kids again. She'd lost out on so much with them—all because of her executive position at Mr. Z's Toys. She hated to even think about the stores or her awful former boss at Riddell Industries, which owned all of the Mr. Z's Toys stores across the country.
She put thoughts of the company to the side and reflected on her children.
Her son Marcus was going to be 18 soon and a high school senior next year. He'd grown up way too fast and not just because Amelia wasn't around enough to experience the boy's childhood. He wasn't the same kid he was six years ago; the kid who fell in the frozen lake. That had changed everything. It had changed her too, in every way imaginable. Marcus was distant and moody. He fought with his teachers and classmates. He spent hours at the gym or basketball court. His small frame had been transformed into a strong, lean young man. But a young man who was troubled. She hoped that spending time with him—time when he couldn't escape her attention and conversation—would help them reconnect. She wanted to see the boy she knew, not the teen she feared was on the wrong path.
Her other child, a daughter named Susanna, was 12 and hermetically sealed to her smart phone. She chatted with her friends constantly and rarely looked up from the device to see the world around her. They talked occasionally, but not like before. Amelia knew why. She wasn't around enough. She couldn't be relied upon. That horrible corporate job had taken her away.
The irony of her situation wasn't lost on her. She grew up with nothing. She was the daughter of a drug addict mother who didn't deserve the title of mother at all. Amelia worked any job she could find and was always on her feet, hustling for tips or extra hours. Luck, both good and bad, brought her into the business world. It provided her with opportunities, and yes money too. But the tradeoffs turned her into someone she did not recognize or appreciate.
Amelia couldn't shake the feeling that she had made a terrible mess of her life. If she would have known years ago that today she'd be a divorced, absentee parent, who spent more time in boardrooms than her own home, she never would have accepted the responsibility of running a company.
Yes, she did choose to do it; chose to accept the responsibility of the Mr. Z's Toys legacy, but eventually it became too much. It wrecked her. So she made a drastic change to end it all. She walked out the door and left the corporate world behind.
* * *
On Christmas Eve nearly six years ago, Mr. Z's Toys became a household name across the country. The store was bankrupt and despite the efforts of owner Edwin Klein, and his sole employee Amelia Cook, it was over. They had done their best to keep the store alive. When all hope was lost Edwin decided to help those in need as he closed the iconic shop in downtown Spokane, Washington. Yet something wonderful happened when Edwin decided to donate his entire store to charity. The world took notice. At a time when greed and selfishness ruled, this act of generosity made headlines and garnered live TV coverage around the country. Edwin Klein and his store became a legend.
That night as Edwin said goodbye to the store after such a long struggle, he got an unexpected phone call. A man named Walt Riddell, from Riddell Industries, offered Edwin the chance to save the store for good. Riddell gave Edwin a five-year contract to franchise Mr. Z's Toys around the country and return the store to the glory it once held. Edwin was shocked and overcome, but he accepted gratefully.
On a snowy Christmas morning he rushed to see his new love, Amelia, to tell her about the news. Amelia and Edwin had only known each other a short time, but they had grown very close. They found each other when they needed each other most and they only had their future ahead of them. But the direction of their budding relationship was put on hold that day when young Marcus and his cousin Max went missing in a winter storm.
Through a tragic turn of events, Edwin died saving Marcus and Max from the icy waters of the half-frozen Rocktop Lake. His death solidified the Mr. Z's Toys legacy of selfless giving. It was tragic, but Edwin died a beloved, charitable hero.
Amelia's life was forever altered when Edwin died. As the only other individual named in the newly signed Riddell Industries five-year contract, it was now her responsibility to helm the store, and a newly formed company with its expansion across the country.
Marcus and Susanna's father, Josh, had stepped up and helped Amelia as she mourned Edwin and took on the responsibilities of running the company. It was a great experience for a time. She and Josh even got married and promised to face the next challenge together, but it didn't last long.
But as Amelia soon found out, fairy tale endings aren't real life. At least they aren't for her.
* * *
Amelia collected her beach blanket and belongings from the sand. She stretched her legs and took a long look at the cabin. The 4,000 square foot palace was over-the-top. Pricy reclaimed wood adorned the floors. Granite countertops. Floor to ceiling windows with expansive views of the private cove and lake beyond. It boasted six bedrooms, each fit for a king. A Hollywood actor owned the cabin, but he hadn't used it in years.
The neighboring cabins were significantly smaller and much less opulent. To the west was a two-story wood-shake cabin with white shutters and trim. The cabin to the east was elevated slightly above the others and surrounded by trees. It was green with a large deck painted red. It had the best view of the lake, but so far this summer Amelia hadn't seen anyone at the cabin. Each residence shared a single dock, with three boat slips extending into the water. Short trails connected the cabins to each other and the beach, as if at one time the owners knew each other well enough to visit frequently. It was charming and she guessed it was a reflection of the type of people who lived at the lake. She imagined chats by a beach bonfire or cocktails on the deck. Friends would regale one another with stories about their interesting lives and terrific families. Unfortunately she'd yet to see any of this joyous regaling first hand. The neighboring cabins sat empty.
She weaved her way up one of the trails toward her temporary home. The rent on this place was ridiculous, but she had the money. This made her chuckle a little. It was an odd feeling to be able to afford such a place. She'd come a long way from waiting tables during the breakfast rush. She appreciated her newfound wealth, but it felt like blood money too. Give us five years of your life and we'll make you rich. In retrospect, it wasn't such a good arrangement at after all.
She walked past the manicured green lawn and bubbling water feature to the side entrance of the cabin. Once inside she felt very small in the massive great room. Marcus and Susanna were at the park at Coeur d'Alene City Beach. Marcus had found some friends at the basketball courts and they would play all day if they could. Susanna wasn't interested in basketball, but she'd sit on the benches nearby watching the boys. As long as she could find some shade so she could view her phone, she was all set. Amelia was OK with the kids going to the park. It was a long summer and during these first few weeks at the cabin it was just she and the kids. They'd eat dinner together each night and do activities during the evening, but she let them set their own schedule during the day. That was the deal until today, when their additional guests were set to arrive.
Amelia had been looking forward to her sister Amy's arrival. Amy was also bringing along her daughter, recent high school graduate, Priscilla for the summer. Amelia was disappointed that her nephew Max wasn't visiting too, but he was in college and busy trying to change the world for the better.
She rarely saw Amy anymore. Amy owned a diner and catering business, which kept her busy in another city. Had they tried, the sisters would have gotten together more often. They just didn’t. Each sister was busy and life has a way of making your priorities slip away when you're not paying attention. This summer was their opportunity to reconnect. Amelia secretly hoped that her elder sister would provide her some sage advice on life, because she was adrift in a sea of confusion. Unemployed. Aimless. Alone.
Her only clarity was that she knew exactly what she did not want in life. No more toy store. No more oversight by Riddell. No more corporate demands from people like her old boss, Riddell Vice President Nate Rosen. She shuddered even thinking about him and how he dictated her every action for years. She'd never been in a position to be micromanaged before, but Rosen took it to the next level. Now she was finally free of those demands. She never understood why such a good looking and savvy businessman felt the need to be such a complete jerk. He never let up on her until the day she quit.
Enough! Stop thinking about that old life. It's not good for you.
Amelia picked up the David James Duncan novel she was reading and found an Adirondack chair in the courtyard near the driveway that faced away from the lake. She wanted to see Amy and Priscilla the moment they arrived. The novel,
The Brother's K,
was a sweeping epic set in the 1960s with roots in the Vietnam War and minor league baseball. She had found it on a bookshelf in the cabin and decided to give it a try. It wasn't her typical novel at all, which is why she continued to read it. She wanted this summer to be different than the past years, so she was committed to doing different things. If reading a novel outside her tastes would help her keep that mindset alive, she'd do it.
Her only goal was to finish the book. She'd been taking stabs at it for days but had not gotten very far. She needed a better goal. This was not enough to satisfy her.
She cracked open the book and was sound asleep within minutes.