Date Published: March 18, 2021
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Disillusioned about her broken marriage and her husband’s PTSD, mom-of-three Sadie Rollins-Lancaster heads to the grocery store for Father’s Day fixings. But after a charged interaction with the man behind her in line, she brings home more than just vegetables and milk: the man’s voice and smile linger in her mind for weeks. When Sadie formally meets him months later, she’s challenged by emotions and feelings she never expected to feel again. But life is complicated. Sadie’s husband, Theo, the one to instigate the divorce, now refuses to sign the papers. And Sadie has to ask herself: What do I want? REWRITE THE STARS is an authentic and heart-touching novel about being brave enough to acknowledge the difficulties we face and having the strength to actively shape our own futures.
Chapter 1: Sadie
On the morning my life began to unravel like the hem of my worn-out sweater, I found an old love letter from my almost ex-husband in the bottom drawer of my home office desk. The paper, at least fifteen years old, felt thin to my fingertips, like the lace on the bodice of my wedding dress. Inside the folds of the sheet, Theo had printed a few lines of text in his block scrawl—some words he’d written on his own, some he’d borrowed from our favorite poet, Rumi. You have disturbed my sleep, the text read. You have wrecked my image. You have set me apart.
Times had changed.
Without you, I can’t cope.
And yet, they hadn’t.
The letter’s edges scraped my fingertips one last time before I placed the paper into a file folder near my computer. The summer humidity made the drawer stick, and I pushed it closed, upsetting the small pile of bills balanced on the desk. Water sloshed from the tall glass near the computer—Theo had probably left it out all night—reminding me dishes still needed to be washed and put away. Moving toward the door, I kicked a toy car with a missing wheel. The vehicle crashed against the wall and came to rest near a singing-alphabet snail that had been waiting for new batteries for two weeks. From sweet love letters to dirty glasses and broken toys.
Insane giggles from the next room interrupted my progress, and the scene unfolded before me: Theo on hands and knees, three rambunctious children scattered across his back. Make that hand and knees—he possessed enough strength to balance on one hand. His arm muscles rippled against his favorite blue T-shirt as he tickled the children’s bellies. One tumbled off Theo and onto the carpet, while the second attempted to pull his shirt. The youngest, a pile of curls and drool, peered up at her father, joy radiating from her eyes as her pudgy fingers gripped his waistband. She clenched her teeth and yanked with a linebacker’s strength such that in one fell swoop, a portion of Theo’s shorts sprang away from his body. The kids rocked onto their heels, clapping their hands and howling, pointing at their father’s underwear. In return, Theo growled, his voice echoing across the great room rafters. The guttural noise sent the children to scatter from one toy-filled corner to the other and then back to him again.
I pinched my lips, stifling the laughter, before my gaze met Theo’s. It had been a long time since I’d witnessed such life in his eyes and in his actions. In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time he’d played with the kids so effortlessly. On many days, an ordinary day’s struggles wore him out long before he had a chance to interact with the children. Wiping away a tear from my cheek, I smiled—breathing in the happy moment, reveling in the charming family image, hoping to hold onto the contentment enveloping me as I went about the rest of my full day.
“I’ve got this.” Theo craned his neck to look at me as the children began another round of assaults on his back. “You’re overworked and underpaid. Go do what you need to do.”
“But it’s Father’s Day. I can’t do that to you.”
“Do what? Leave me with my children? I’m right where I want to be.” Theo—in one swift move—flipped his body over, grabbed the children, and clutched them to his chest. The move surprised me and gave me hope that Theo still existed. He did have this.
A mental check of my to-do list: most of the day consisted of tasks to be accomplished at home—laundry, decluttering the mud room, sorting old toys for the Vietnam Vets pickup scheduled for the next week—except for grocery shopping. “Okay, but at least let me take Lexie to the store. She loves to see her grocery store friends. Plus, Charlie and Delia have been complaining about their lack of Daddy time.”
A year ago, when Lexie turned six months old and Theo had been struggling with PTSD for eleven months, we called it quits. Somewhat. Theo and I as a unit didn’t work, mainly due to his diagnosis. He’d turned inward, and nothing I had tried brought him back. At that time, we stopped sharing our day, stopped touching one another, and eventually, stopped sleeping together. Theo refused to see a therapist with me on a routine basis, claiming we’d be “better off with different expectations of our future together.”
After much thought and debate, and because we still both respected one another, we decided to be frank and tell the kids of our separation. The PTSD made sure Theo needed our help, so he still lived in an addition at the back of the house. But with the older kids at all-day summer camps and school the rest of the year, Charlie’s and Delia’s time spent with Dad was at a premium.
He didn’t hesitate. “All right. Take Lexie and go get the grub. It’s Father’s Day, and I’m not doing the cooking!” He convulsed with laughter as the kids’ fingers found their way into his armpits.
“Ha! Like you ever do.” I winked at him.
Not wanting to waste a moment, I pried Lexie from Theo’s legs and nuzzled her belly with my nose, drunk on the scent of my eighteen-month-old daughter. She giggled and squirmed and, like an inch worm, wriggled to the floor, then caught my hand in hers. With a quick swipe of the car keys and diaper bag and a check that a snack was accessible in the refrigerator, we wound our way through the back hallway to the garage.
“Do we know what we’re getting?” I asked Lexie, who held the paper between her thumb and forefinger. She lifted the list in the air and waved it like a flag before crumpling it in her tight, gooey grip. When I pried the list from her hands, her grin stretched as wide as her face.
Once I’d buckled Lexie into her car seat, I grabbed my favorite cotton sweater from the seat beside her. “Okay, sweetie, to the store we go!” I tugged my sweater onto my arms and adjusted the buttons across my chest. It wasn’t until later, as I hung the sweater on the drying rack in the laundry room, I noticed the loose thread at the bottom hem.
About The Author
Christina Consolino is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in multiple online and print outlets. Her debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, was named one of ten finalists for the Ohio Writers’ Association Great Novel Contest 2020. She serves as senior editor at the online journal Literary Mama, freelance edits both fiction and nonfiction, and teaches writing classes at Word’s Worth Writing Center. Christina lives in Kettering, Ohio, with her family and pets.