Patrick's Destiny - By Sherryl Woods

Chapter One

Spring came late to Widow’s Cove, Maine, which suited Alice Newberry just fine. Winter, with its dormant plants, icy winds off the Atlantic and stark, frozen landscape, had been more appropriate for her brooding sense of guilt. The setting had been just as cold and unforgiving as her heart.

But she was working on that. In fact, that was the whole reason she’d come home to the quaint Victorian fishing village where many of her female ancestors had lost husbands to the sea. Eight years ago she’d had a bitter disagreement with her parents and left, determined to prove to them that she could make it on her own without any help from them.

She’d done it, too. She’d worked her way through college, gotten her degree in early childhood education and spent several years now teaching kindergarten, happily nurturing other women’s children. She’d assumed there would be ample time ahead to make peace with her parents, many more years in which to have a family of her own.

Then, less than a year ago, on a stormy summer night, John and Diana Newberry had died when their car had skidded off a slick road and crashed into the sea. The call from the police had shaken Alice as nothing else in her life ever had, not even that long-ago rift when she’d been little more than a girl. Not only were her parents dead, the chance for reconciliation had been lost forever. So many things between them had been left unspoken.

From that instant, a thousand if onlys had plagued her. It tormented her that they’d died with only the memory of her hateful words echoing in their minds…if they’d thought of her at all.

Alice had wondered about that. She’d been haunted by the possibility that they’d pushed all thoughts of her completely out of their heads on the day she’d climbed onto the bus leaving Widow’s Cove for Boston. While she had lived with a million and one regrets and too much pride to ask for forgiveness, had they simply moved on, pretended that they’d never had a daughter? The possibility had made her heart ache.

When their will had been read, she’d had her answer. John and Diana Newberry had left everything to her—“their beloved daughter”—and that had only deepened the wound. For eighteen years she’d been their pride and joy, a dutiful daughter who never gave them a moment’s trouble. And then she’d gone and they’d had no one left, at least no one important enough to bequeath their home and belongings to. She’d had to face the likelihood that they’d been not just alone, but lonely, in her absence.

Coming home after the school year to settle their affairs, Alice had spent a lot of time in the cozy little house on the cliff overlooking the rolling waves of the Atlantic and tried to make peace with her memories…of the good times and the bitter parting. She’d realized by July it was something that couldn’t be accomplished in a few weeks or even a few months. So she’d applied for a teaching position in Widow’s Cove and come home for good in August.

This first school year in Widow’s Cove was passing in a blur, the seasons marked only by the falling of the leaves in autumn, winter’s frozen landscape and her own unrelenting dark thoughts.

Now, finally, in mid-April, spring was creeping in. There were buds on the trees, lawns were turning green and daffodils were swaying in a balmy breeze. She hated the fact that the world was having its annual rebirth, while she was as lonely and as tormented by guilt as ever.

Worse, as if to emphasize how out-of-step she was with the prevailing spring fever, her kindergarten students were as restless as she’d ever seen them. She’d broken up two fights, read them a story, tried vainly to get them settled down before lunch, then given up in defeat. The noise level in the classroom was deafening, an amazing accomplishment for barely a dozen kids. Her head was pounding.

Desperate for relief, she clapped her hands, then shouted for attention. When that didn’t work, she walked over to the usual ringleader—Ricky Foster—and pointedly scowled until he finally turned to her with a suitably guilty expression.

“Sorry, Ms. Newberry,” he said, eyes downcast as the other students promptly followed his lead and settled down.

That was the wonder of Ricky. He could stir up mischief in the blink of an eye and just as quickly dispel it. He could charm with a smile,