My best friend in my life was a woman named Beth. I met her during my first week of college when we were eighteen. We grew up in uber-rural America, in cattle country, surrounded by stoic, hardscrabble elders who’d actually been pioneers.
It was the dawning of a new day and age for women, where we were just starting to realize we could “do” something with our lives besides be a wife or a teacher. Even though we were attending a tiny state university in the middle of nowhere, we were sure we would burst out in a big way and take the world by storm.
We did pretty well for ourselves. She eventually got an MBA, and I got my law degree. She became a high-level officer at one of America’s biggest companies. She worked in global marketing, a job that allowed her to travel and live around the world. I practiced law for awhile, but eventually decided it wasn’t for me. I became a (sort of) famous novelist instead.
After we graduated, we never lived in the same town again—or even in the same state. Most times, she was overseas or we lived on opposite sides of the US. But she was the sister I never had. Throughout my life, she was the first person I called when I had news to share, when I’d suffered a calamity, when I needed advice, and she did the same with me.
Our birthdays were the same week, and we spent many of them together, often flying off to lush locales to celebrate. I got married and had kids, but she never did. I was bogged down by life, but she was free and unencumbered. She loved to travel, to visit new places, to wallow in exotic experiences.
She did all the things I always wished I’d had the time and money to do. She rode a camel in the Sahara Desert, drove a dog sled in Antarctica, climbed Kilimanjaro. She’d visited all seven continents and three-fourths of the countries on the planet, and she never grew tired of her adventures and exploration.
At every spot she visited, she bought a Christmas ornament to remind her of the places she’d been. When December rolled around and she set up her Christmas tree, she decorated it with the ornament mementoes from all of her trips.
She was descended from a hearty, tough line of Finns, old homesteaders who always lived to be a hundred, and she assumed she would too. She planned to retire a few years early, then spend several decades traveling. Over the years, she socked away every extra penny so she could live that fun life.
But Fate doesn’t always sit back and let dreams come true.
She started having trouble concentrating, started having headaches, then one day, she collapsed on her way home from the gym. A neighbor found her unconscious in the grass in her front yard. Medical tests showed that she had glioblastoma, a virulent form of brain cancer that’s not really treatable.
We began a two-year downhill slog that ended in a nursing home, then hospice, then her passing away when she was only sixty-three.
The autumn after she died, her work acquaintances in New York held a memorial for her. I flew out from California to attend. Her sisters were there, and they’d been busy shutting down her house. They’d brought all her Christmas ornaments with them, and they spread them out on tables and urged us to take whichever ones we liked.
I scooped up every one that was pretty, and I brought them home to California. Now, when December rolls around, and I set up my own tree, I pull out my boxes of decorations and I have a whole sack of Beth’s ornaments mixed in with the rest. It means I get to hang little mementoes of my old friend all over my Christmas tree. It makes me think of her and smile.
Merry Christmas Beth! I often ponder you taking the greatest journey of all, but heading out much before you were ready—and leaving before it was my time to go with you.
I’ll see you again on the other side, and maybe we can decorate a Christmas tree together…
CHERYL HOLT delivers the first novel in her new and exciting “Lost Girls” trilogy.
As a tiny girl, Libby Carstairs was found by navy sailors on a deserted island in the Caribbean. She was all alone and had no memory of her past or parents. Who is she? And what happened to leave her stranded so far from home? After she was returned to England, her situation was sensationalized in the newspapers, which meant she’s enjoyed a life of public acclaim. Due to her unconventional history, she’s very different from other young ladies and has no desire to ever be ordinary.
Luke Watson had an exciting career in the navy, but on his brother’s death, he’s come home to assume his role as Earl of Barrett. His brother, with his repeated scandals, ran the family’s reputation and estate into the ground, and Luke is determined to repair all that’s been destroyed by exhibiting stellar moral behavior at all times. He will wed the perfect aristocratic girl, settle down to a tedious country existence, and try to be content.
But when he meets Libby, sparks fly and passion ignites. She’s the complete opposite of the woman he thought he wanted in his life, but she just might be exactly who he needs…
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Lost forever…finally found…
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CHERYL HOLT is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon “Top100” bestselling author who has published over fifty novels.
Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.
She lives and writes in Hollywood, California, and she loves to hear from fans. Visit her website at www.cherylholt.com.