Excerpt from The Heart's Song
"So you're really going through with this."
"Yep." Graham Lockwood shoved the last box into his Tahoe without glancing Mike's way. He'd said all he had to say on the subject last night.
"I can't believe you're leaving without telling anyone."
Graham slammed the hatchback shut. "I told you and Carla."
"Not until last night." Mike stared at him accusingly. "You must have had this move planned for a while now."
Graham only shrugged. Interviewing for this job had taken him out of town overnight twice in the past month and it appeared no one had noticed. Not even Mike, who was both his best friend and his brother-in-law. Or was one still considered a brother-in-law when the connecting link was gone?
He pulled his sunglasses out of his pocket and slipped them on. Mike was too perceptive by half.
Mike hunched his shoulders. "I know you needed a break after..." His Adam's apple bobbed. "well, after what happened."
Graham's jaw tightened. Even fifteen months later, Annie's brother couldn't say the words either.
"You can still reconsider," Mike added. "They haven't filled your position at J.T. Simmons yet. And Patty's ready to step down as the church's music director whenever you say the word."
"J.T. Simmons will find another teacher." Graham checked the back seat to make certain everything was properly secured. "As for the music director job, I meant it when I said I'm no longer interested." He hadn't set foot in a church since the funeral and didn't see that changing anytime soon.
He closed the vehicle door and forced a smile, trying to ease the tension. "Education is my vocation, but music's only a hobby."
"It's a God given gift," Mike insisted stubbornly. Then he gripped the top of the vehicle's driver-side door. "You've got friends here, Graham," he said quietly, "people who care about you. You owe them the chance to say good-bye."
"I don't want a big send off." He'd had enough of the sympathetic looks, the everything's-going-to-be-fine speeches and the pretend-nothing's-changed conversations to last a lifetime.
"But someplace called Ten Penny Ville, Louisiana?" Mike's lips quirked up in a smile that almost looked believable. "Are you trying to hide yourself in the swamps of Cajun country?"
"It's called Tippanyville." Graham nudged his sunglasses higher with the tip of his finger. "And it's closer to central Louisiana than the southern half. As for why I chose Tippanyville - the school there needs a new math teacher and it seems as good a place as any for a fresh start." Truth be told, what he needed was a complete change of scene. Something that didn't shove unwelcome reminders in his face every time he turned around.
He straightened. Time to go. "Give Carla and the boys my love."
Mike took his proffered hand, then impulsively threw his other arm around Graham's shoulder in a quick, masculine embrace before stepping back. "Carla wanted to be here to say good-bye herself. But with Andy running a fever..."
"I know. The kids come first, and that's how it should be." Graham tried to keep his tone even, but from the flicker in Mike's expression he knew he hadn't entirely succeeded. He was glad he had the sunglasses to hide behind.
Mike stepped back and jammed his hands in his pockets. "Whatever you're looking for, we'll be praying you find it."
Graham wanted to tell him to save his breath, that he didn't believe in the power of prayer anymore. Instead he gave a short nod, closed the door and turned the key in the ignition.
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