We met Roni Connolly in the Fatal Series, and now she stars in this new series about widows looking for a second chance at love
After I suddenly lose my husband, Patrick, in a senseless shooting, I’m lost in a sea of well-meaning people trying to make the unimaginable seem possible. How am I supposed to go on without the man who’s been at the center of my life for nearly a decade? My friends and family do what they can for me, but I quickly realize that surviving this loss is going to be on me. One day to the next, I have to make the decision to go on, but life isn’t done throwing me ringers, and just when I think I’ve got this young widow game figured out, I find out how wrong I am. When a friend of my sister’s connects me to the Wild Widows, I find a group of fellow travelers who understand my new reality in a way no one else in my life ever could. The Wild Widows have one requirement for membership to their group—I must be open to the possibility of a Chapter 2, which is what they call a second chance at love. While I’m not in any way looking for or ready for a Chapter 2, if I’ve learned anything it’s that I’m not in control of where this journey will take me.
Come along as Roni and the other Wild Widows navigate their new realities with grace, humor and compassion. They will make you laugh and cry and root for each and every one of them in this exciting, heartfelt new series from New York Times bestselling author Marie Force.
More print and audio links coming soon.
Someone Like You
A Wild Widows Novel
Five and a half months ago today, I married Patrick Connolly, the love of my life. During the spring semester of my junior year at the University of Virginia, where he was attending grad school, Patrick stopped by my dorm room with my roommate Sarah’s boyfriend and never left. We were a couple from the moment we met. Sarah told me later she’d never witnessed such an immediate connection between two people. After Patrick was shot and killed on October 10, just over two months ago, she told me she’s still never known any couple more “meant to be” than we are.
Or I guess I should say than we were because we’re over now. He’s gone at thirty-one, and I’m left to face the rest of my life without him. I’m a widow at twenty-nine, and it’s my fault Patrick was killed. I wasn’t the one who fired the stray bullet that hit him in the chest and killed him instantly. But I was too lazy to go to the grocery store the night before, which meant we had nothing for him to take for lunch. He left his office on 12th Street to go grab a sandwich and was on his way back when an argument across the street escalated into the shooting that left my husband dead.
Of course, Patrick could’ve gone to the store, too, but that was something I did for both of us, along with the laundry and the dry-cleaning pickups. As an up-and-coming Drug Enforcement Agency IT agent, Patrick worked a lot more hours than I do as an obituary writer for the Washington Star. I can bring work home with me, but due to the sensitive nature of his cases, he couldn’t do that. So I took care of the things I could for both of us, including the grocery shopping. For the rest of my life, I’ll have to wonder, if I’d gone to the store that night, would Patrick still be alive?
I’ve shared my guilt about that only once—at a grief group for victims of violent crime that my new friend Sam Holland invited me to attend. She’s the lead Homicide detective for the Metro DC police department—and the nation’s new first lady. For some reason, she’s decided we need to be friends, which is funny because I’ve had a huge lady crush on her for the longest time. She’s a badass cop who happens to be married to our new president, but she doesn’t let that stop her from chasing murderers. The day Patrick was killed, she was the one who had to tell me the horrific news.
I’ll never forget that day, or how I went from being happily married to my one true love to being widowed in the span of ten unbearable seconds. I can’t even think about that day, or I’ll put myself right back to the beginning of a lifetime without Patrick. At first, I was surrounded around the clock by people who care, especially my parents, sisters, brother, extended family and close friends. They saw me through the dreadful first week and the beautiful funeral at the National Cathedral. They took care of the massive influx of food, flowers, gifts and sympathy.
One by one, they had no choice but to return to their lives, leaving me alone to pick up the pieces of my shattered existence. My mom held out the longest. She was with me for three weeks and even slept with me many a night, holding me as I cried myself to sleep. Once, she found me on the floor of the bathroom at two in the morning. I have no idea how I got there or how long I was there before she found me shivering violently.
I shook for hours in bed afterward, unable to get warm.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be warm again.
Our bed, which once bore the scent of Patrick on the pillows next to mine, now smells like my mother. I’m left to live alone in the Capitol Hill apartment we chose together and furnished with loving care over countless weekends spent at flea markets and antique sales. We wanted something different, funky and special, not just another living room or bedroom plucked from the floor of a furniture showroom. We wanted our place to reflect us—a little artsy (me), a little nerdy (him), with an emphasis on music (both of us) and cooking (both of us, but mostly me). We also wanted to be able to entertain our friends and family in a warm, comfortable space. Our apartment is gorgeous. Everyone says so. But now, like everywhere else that meant something to us, it’s just a place where Patrick will never be again.
For something to do, I’ve been taking long walks through the neighborhood, getting lost on side streets for hours. Anything to keep me away from the apartment where I see my late husband everywhere I look, and not just in the framed wedding photos in the living room and on the bedside table. I see him on the sofa watching football, hockey and baseball. I see him lounging on the bed, completely naked and erect, a smile on his handsome face as he reaches for me and drags me into bed with him, making me laugh and sigh and then scream from the way he made me feel every time he made love to me.
I miss his hugs, his kisses and the way he had to be touching me if he was anywhere near me. Whether on the sofa, in bed or in the car, he was always touching me. I crave his touch, his scent, his smile, the way he lit up with delight anytime I walked into a room. I fear no one will ever again look at me like that or love me the way Patrick did.
Our life together was perfection, from Ella Fitzgerald Sundays to Moody Blues Mondays to Santana Taco Tuesdays to Bocelli Italian on Wednesdays. Every week, seven different themes chosen by my music aficionado husband from the fifteen hundred records he was collecting since he was fourteen, when his grandfather introduced him to the magic of vinyl.
The first minutes of every new day are the worst, when I wake up, reach for him and have to remember all over again that he’s gone forever. He was the most important person in my life. How can he be gone? It makes no sense. He was thirty-one years old, with his whole life ahead of him, a dream career, a new wife and more friends than most people make in a lifetime.
One random second of being in the exact wrong place at the wrong time, and it’s all over. That’s what I think about as I walk for miles through the District, finding myself in places I’ve never been before even after living here for more than five years. I came to DC right out of college and lived in Patrick’s nasty apartment in Shaw for a couple of years before we moved to our dream place on Capitol Hill after Patrick received a huge promotion—and a raise.
Fortunately, he also had awesome life insurance through work, which means I won’t have to move. Not right away, anyway. Eventually, I’ll probably want to live somewhere else, where the memories of the life I had with him aren’t present in every corner of the home we shared.
In addition to the emotional trauma, no one tells you how much work death is. The endless forms to be completed, not to mention the number of times you need to produce a death certificate to close an account or change something simple. Every piece of mail comes with someone who needs to be told the news—a credit card company, an alumni association, an insurance agent. It’s endless and exhausting and results in a slew of fresh wounds every time someone expresses shock at the news of Patrick’s sudden death.
And then there’s the criminal element, which is marching forward with hearings that must be attended by the loved ones of the murder victim. That includes the special joy of dealing with the anguished family members of the shooter, who made a tragic mistake and ruined multiple lives in the span of seconds. I feel for his heartbroken mother, sister and girlfriend. I really do, but he took Patrick from me, so my empathy for them goes only so far.
It’s all so screwed up, and every day I’m left to wonder how my perfect, beautiful life has evolved into this never-ending nightmare. Thank God for my parents, sisters, brother and a few of my closest friends, who’ve been so relentlessly there for me. I say a few of my closest friends, because some have all but disappeared off the face of the earth since Patrick died.
Sarah, the college roommate who was part of us from the beginning, told a mutual friend who has been there for me that she just can’t bear it. I know this because I pleaded with the mutual friend to tell me what the hell was going on with Sarah, and she reluctantly told me what Sarah had said. How sad for Sarah that she can’t bear the loss of my husband. The minute I heard that, a close friend of ten years was dead to me. If she can’t put her own needs aside to tend to mine in my darkest hour, then I guess we were never friends to begin with. I’m tempted to cut her out of the wedding party photos.
On top of this already huge mountain of crap, I feel like absolute shit most of the time. I can’t eat without wanting to puke. I can’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. My head hurts, my eyes are probably infected from all the tears, and even my boobs are aching as if they’re mourning the loss of Patrick, too. I’ve lost fifteen pounds I really didn’t have to lose, as I’m one of those women you love to hate—the one who struggles to keep weight on while everyone else is trying to lose it.
It’s okay to hate me for that. I’m used to it. But losing fifteen pounds is not a good thing for me, and it has my family freaking out and insisting I see a doctor immediately. I have that to look forward to tomorrow.
In the meantime, I walk. It’s barely seven in the morning, and I’ve already been out for an hour when I circle back to Capitol Hill to head home. I’m walking along Seventh Street near Eastern Market when I see a man on the other side of the street. He’s moving in the same direction I am, so I can’t see his face. He’s built like Patrick, with the same lanky frame, and has the fast-paced stride that used to annoy the hell out of me when I tried to keep up with him. We fell into the habit of holding hands whenever we walked somewhere together so I wouldn’t get left behind.
I pick up my pace, curious to see where the man is going. I’m not sure why I feel compelled to follow him, but hey, it’s something to do. I went back to work two weeks after Patrick died and decided I just wasn’t ready to be writing about death, so the Star management insisted I take paid bereavement leave for a few more weeks. That’s super generous of them, but it leaves me with way too much time with nothing much to do. Following a man who looks like my husband from behind seems like a good use of fifteen or twenty minutes.
When he ducks into one of my favorite coffee shops, I go inside, standing behind him in line. He’s wearing gray pants and a black wool coat that I stare at while we wait to order. He also smells good. Really good. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t even drink coffee. I hate the taste and smell of it, and Patrick tended to his morning addiction after he left the house most days so I wouldn’t have to smell it.
I glance at the menu and see they have hot chocolate and decide to order that and a cinnamon bun because I need the calories, and the pastry looks good to me. I can’t recall the last time food of any kind tempted me. My mom bought me those Ensure drinks they give to old people in nursing homes because she’s so alarmed by the weight I’ve lost since Patrick died.
I lean in a little closer so I can listen to the man in front of me order a tall skinny latte and an everything bagel with cream cheese to go.
That’s all it takes to send me reeling. Patrick loved everything bagels loaded with cream cheese. I used to complain about the garlic breath they gave him after he ate one.
I turn and leave the shop before I can embarrass myself by bursting into tears in a crowd of strangers who just want their coffee before work. They don’t need me or my overwhelming grief in the midst of their morning routine. Tears spill down my cheeks as I hustle toward home, feeling sick again. I’m almost there when the need to puke has me leaning over a bush a block from home. Because I’ve barely eaten anything, it’s basically another round of the dry heaves that’ve been plaguing my days and nights for weeks.
“Gross,” a man behind me says. “That’s my bush you’re puking in.”
I can’t bring myself to look at him. “I’m sorry. I tried to make it home.”
“Have you been drinking?”
“Sure, you haven’t. Move along, will you?”
I want to whirl around and tell him my husband was recently murdered, and he needs to be kinder to people because you never know what they’re dealing with, but I don’t waste the breath on someone who probably isn’t worth the bother. Instead, I do as he asks and move along, half jogging the remaining block to my building and rushing up the stairs to my third-floor apartment full of memories of my late husband.
There’s nowhere to hide from a loss of this magnitude. And now I’m doing weird shit like following men who remind me of Patrick. I’m glad I never saw the guy’s face. For now, I can hold on to the illusion that it could’ve been Patrick, even if I know that’s not possible. Maybe me seeing someone who resembled him from behind was a message from him. Sometimes I feel like he’s close by, but those moments are fleeting.
For the most part, I feel dreadfully alone even in a room full of people who love me. Bless them for trying to help, but there’s nothing they can say or do to soothe the brutal ache that Patrick’s death has left me with. I’ve read that the ache dulls over time, but part of me doesn’t want it to. As long as I feel the loss so deeply, it’s like he’s still here with me in some weird way.
I’m aware that I probably need therapy and professional support of some kind, like what I got from Sam’s group for victims of violent crime. It was helpful to know there’re others like me whose lives were forever altered by a single second, but again, that support doesn’t really change much of anything for me. Patrick is still gone.
Thinking of Sam reminds me I owe her a call to find out if she meant it when she asked me to be her communications director and spokesperson at the White House. A few months ago, a call from the first lady asking me to join her team would’ve been the biggest thing to ever happen to me. Now I have to remind myself to call or text her or something, but that’ll take more energy than I can muster right now.
I remove my coat, hat and gloves, toss them over a chair and head for the sofa where I’ve all but lived since Patrick died. As I stretch out and pull a blanket over myself, I feel sleepy for the first time in a few days. I hope Sam won’t mind if I call her tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. She said she’d hold the job for me until I’m ready. What if I’m never ready? What would being ready for something like that even look like in the context of my tragic loss?
I’m so confused and lost and trying to figure out who I am without Patrick. That’s not going to happen overnight. It’ll probably take the rest of my life to figure that out.
My eyes close out of sheer exhaustion, and I’m shocked to wake up sometime later to realize I slept for a couple of hours, waking when my mom uses her key to let herself into my apartment.
“Oh, thank goodness you’re all right.” My mom, Justine, is tall and whip thin, with short gray hair and glasses. “I was worried when you didn’t pick up.”
While she gets busy in my kitchen making me food I won’t eat, I check my phone to see I missed four calls from her. My family is worried I might take my own life, even though I’ve promised them I wouldn’t do that to them. Not that the temptation isn’t tantalizing, because it is, but I love life too much to ever consider ending mine prematurely, even if it would mean I could be back with my love sooner rather than decades from now.
Decades—five, six, seven of them. That’s how long I’m probably going to have to live without Patrick. The thought of that is so overwhelming, I can’t dwell too much on it, or I won’t be able to go on.
I never gave much thought to the concept of time when I thought there was plenty of it. Now I know that’s not necessarily the case. Why would we think about such a thing when we’re in our late twenties or early thirties and just starting our lives? It’s not until disaster strikes that we understand that time is the most precious thing we have, and we don’t know it until it’s too late.
Time used to stretch out before me in an endless ribbon of possibility. Now it’s a vast wasteland of nothingness that’ll need to be filled with something until I run out of it.
I have no idea what that “something” will be.
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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
~ Calvin Coolidge
Marie Force, Gansett Island, A First Family Novel, A Wild Widows Novel, A Miami Nights Novel, A Green Mountain Romance, Quantum Series, Fatal Series and Butler, VT are registered trademarks with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.