Heart Like Mine A Novel - By Amy Hatvany


Later, I would look back and wonder what I was doing the exact moment Kelli died.

When I left the house for work that morning, nothing was different. There was no sense of impending doom, no ominous soundtrack playing in the back of my mind warning me that my world was about to change. There was only Victor asleep in our bed, and me, as usual, trying my best not to wake him as I kissed him good-bye.

It was a Friday in late October, and I drove my usual route downtown, taking in the dark silhouette of the Seattle skyline etched against a coral sky. “Good morning,” I said to my assistant, Tanya, after I’d parked and entered the building. She was a stunning woman with skin the color of the deepest, richest cocoa who favored brightly hued dresses to show off her abundant curves. “A pre–Weight Watchers Jennifer Hudson,” I told my best friend, Melody, describing Tanya to her after I initially interviewed her for the job.

“Morning,” she said, so focused on whatever she was doing that she barely looked up from her computer screen. Her long red nails clackety-clacked on her keyboard. Six months ago, Tanya had been living with her two toddlers in one of our safe houses. At the time, she desperately needed to work and I desperately needed an assistant, so we seemed like a perfect match. I’d taken over as CEO of Second Chances the previous fall, honored to take the lead in an organization that began in the early nineties as a simple twenty-four-hour support line for battered women and had slowly grown into a multifaceted program including crisis response, counseling, temporary housing, and job placement assistance. We’d even opened a thrift shop earlier that year, where our clients had first pick of donated clothes for job interviews and later, when they were ready to go out on their own, entire wardrobes. My job was to make sure that the more practical, administrative aspects of the program, like funding and staffing, ran smoothly, but the real reason I’d accepted the job was for the privilege of helping women like Tanya rebuild their shattered lives.

I set down the latte I’d bought for her at the café downstairs so it would be within her reach, then turned and walked into my office, closing the door behind me. I assumed this would be like any other day. I positioned myself at my desk, booted up my computer, and reviewed my calendar. Other than a couple of phone calls, there was only a staff meeting at two o’clock, so I got busy studying the client files Tanya had pulled for me. It was time to decide if these women were ready to make the transition from our safe houses into a place of their own. Leaving the first home where they’d felt protected was often the hardest step for victims of domestic violence; I made sure we held their hand every step of the way.

I barely looked up from my papers until a few hours later, when my cell phone vibrated in my purse. I reached for it with a skipping, happy feeling in my belly at the sight of Victor’s name on the screen. “Hi, honey,” I said, glancing down at the ring on my finger. He’d only proposed five days ago and I was still unused to the weight of it, still a little stunned that he’d asked me to marry him at all.

“Can you go pick up the kids from school for me?” Victor asked. His voice was strained and carried an urgency I didn’t recognize.

“What, I’m your fiancée now, so I don’t even get a hello?” I said, hoping I could tease him out of his seemingly ugly mood. Victor was usually the most easygoing person I knew; I wondered if something had gone wrong at work, if his head chef had called in sick or one of his busers dropped a box of wineglasses. “Is this what it’s going to be like being married to you?”

“Grace,” he said. “Seriously. I need you to pick them up and take them back to the house. Please.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked, sitting up straight in my chair. Every muscle in my body suddenly tensed, realizing this wasn’t just a case of Victor’s having a bad day.

“It’s Kelli. Her friend Diane found her a couple of hours ago. She wasn’t breathing and . . .” I heard him swallow once, hard. “She’s dead, Grace. Kelli’s dead.”

My mouth went dry.