A thought tapped in a quiet corner of Daniel's mind. A familiarity. A feeling too close for comfort.
The skin on Mark's rough, red hands was now striped with white. "I'm not sure how to say it—" Mark's forty-five-minute silence cracked as his words tumbled out. Laurie squirmed on the sofa, keen to contribute, to clarify and correct. Mark looked up, sheepish embarrassment on his face. "What's that saying? Like ships passing in the night? That's us."
The thought tapped again. Daniel's jeans rustled as he shifted his weight to usher it to one side. "Thank you for your openness and honesty, Mark." He sat with fingers steepled under his nose. "May I give you my take on where you are?"
Laurie leaned forward with an expectant nod, no doubt hopeful of an immediate solution to the pain of their marital struggle. "Please."
"I don't think it's ships passing in the night. You're sailing alone and don't even know another ship is sailing alongside you."
Laurie reached for the tissue box on the coffee table. The familiarity tapped again.
"You need to bring some things out into the open. You each hold a part of the solution." Daniel spread his hands at the expected response.
Two sets of defenses shot up with a 'clunk'. Mark resumed the hand- wringing, and Laurie leaned deeper into the couch.
"I won't tell you to share everything this minute, but the first step is a willingness to consider it."
He reached to the neat stack of white-spined books on his desk and handed one to each of them. "You might have seen my book."
Laurie snatched it and resumed her nodding—they were in his office because she'd seen Daniel on TV promoting 'No Secrets'. All the new couples said that. His book wasn't just a bestseller; it had lifted the practice out of near bankruptcy after Howard, his mentor and boss who had established Crossroads Counseling, passed away.
Mark studied the book's spine, inspecting its construction.
Laurie pored over the opening pages. "All my girlfriends have said it's as if you've put a lifetime's worth of knowledge into it."
Mark continued to study the book, its cover closed.
Daniel leaned forward with a conspiratorial whisper. "I've also got an audiobook version if you're not much into reading."
Mark smiled in relief as the men in Daniel's office often did when given the chance to 'not' read something.
Laurie's eyes seemed to devour page after page, searching for the solution to her broken marriage.
Daniel studied the couple. Mark's distance from the solution to their problem. Laurie's overeager expectation of a quick fix. "I'm not giving this to you because it's 'my' book. I'm giving it to you because I believe this is what you need. No secrets. Honesty is the key to your marriage recovering and then thriving."
His desk phone buzzed. "Let's leave it there today. Please read the book, and for our next session, we'll work toward taking that first step in your being honest with each other."
Mark and Laurie stood as one. Another good sign.
"Monique will look after your next appointment." Daniel ushered them from his office and then flopped back into his chair. The Woods were another couple who had buried their differences deep enough to be out of reach but shallow enough so they both knew they were there. He heard the same thing every day from couples who poured through his office door as if the community were a clown car of unhappy relationships.
Daniel picked up Gramps's camera. His professional day over, the moment had arrived. He lifted the gift to his eye, and when he spun his chair, luscious blond tresses filled his vision, along with a ruby-red smile. His welcome to work every morning for the past month.
Monique gave a playful rap on the door. "May I speak to you for a moment, Daniel?"
With a broad smile, Daniel put down the camera. "Of course."
She bounced into his office, a heady mix of youthful energy and perfume. She perched on the edge of the couch, her long legs crossed as she held out a small gift box tied with an extravagant red ribbon. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry for your loss."
Daniel was touched. She was sweet, and everyone loved her youthful enthusiasm. "Thanks, Monique. That's special."
He tugged on the ribbon, and a flash caught his eye as he lifted the lid of the box. Gold. Two cuff links nestled in pristine white silk. Two engraved letters on each. His initials.
This excerpt ends on page 19 of the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book THE ROLL OF THE DRUMS by Jan Drexler.