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Excerpt of A Winter Sabbatical by Cheryl Wright 

Copyright 2012 






The bed covers were pulled back ready for Marissa Temple to climb in.  

She stared at them almost blankly, wanting so much to sleep. As she leaned forward her whole body began to shake. So she stood upright again, tears welling in her eyes. 

She knew what would happen if she went to sleep; every night was the same – always the same.  

Marissa saw herself walking along the footpath with Jeremy; they were so happy, so much in love.  

They were to be married, to prove their love for each other.  

They’re on their way home, holding hands as they always did, touching each other, feeling their love for one another. Marissa hears the birds singing and chirping, and tells Jeremy how happy she is, that she wishes they were already married. 

Jeremy smiles – the smile that makes her feel warm inside – then picks a flower from the roadside, tucking it into her hair. He pulls her close against him.  

His warmth makes her feel so good, so loved. And then he kisses her. Marissa knows there is no other man in the entire world for her – Jeremy is her Mr. Right, her knight in shining armor, the one and only love of her life.  

She wraps her arms around his neck, and his hands slide to her waist. Oh, how she wishes they were already man and wife!  

He lifts his hand to her face and brushes a wisp of hair back into place. Marissa closes her eyes, breathing in the smell of him, the essence of him and his whole being. She brushes her lips against his, gently kissing him. The tingling that starts in her lips flows all the way down to her toes.  

As his arms encase her in his love, his warmth, and his adoration, she whispers in his ear. “I love you, Jeremy. So much. Maybe even too much.”  

“Ditto,” he whispers back. 

“No!” Marissa screams.  

“Leave me alone!” she yells into the empty room, her heart-beat quickening as hot tears roll down her face.  

She closes her eyes trying to block out the memory. But it won’t go away, won’t leave her alone, and her memories play out like a movie. One she watches over and over again.  

“We have to go,” Jeremy says, looking deeply into her eyes, regret evident. They walk hand in hand to the pedestrian crossing.  

There are no cars in sight, not a one, so together they walk out onto the road. They take a few steps, and that’s when she hears it; the roar of an engine and the squeal of brakes. Marissa feels Jeremy’s grasp tighten. She hears the thud, feels the impact. And hears Jeremy’s scream somewhere in the distance. 

Endless stars float around her, she’s disoriented, can’t think, can’t move.  

She sinks into a deep black void.  

Marissa opened her eyes and shivered. Her heart was now racing so fast she felt as though she would faint. She was barely able to stand and was shaking violently.  

She put her hand to her heart, willing it to slow, at the same time trying to control her breathing. She couldn’t chance hyperventilating yet again.  

Her stomach was churning over and over, and she was convinced she was going to vomit. She knew from experience all of this was the remnants of her daydream. Or rather, her nightmare; the one that repeated over and over with each waking moment. The one that stopped her from climbing into bed each night. The one that controlled her life, and essentially stopped her from living. 

With an overwhelming emptiness, Marissa walked out into the lounge room in a daze.  

Resigned to the fact that once again she wouldn’t sleep, she turned on the television, flicking through the channels.  

Her head pounding relentlessly, Marissa weighed up her options. She couldn’t cope with a romance; too many memories of what she’d lost. Murder wasn’t an option either; how could she watch another person die? Comedy didn’t seem appropriate either. 

Her mind wasn’t letting go, and her heart was hollow. “How could you do this to me?” she whispered to the empty room, knowing that Jeremy couldn’t hear, but wanting, needing him to answer. “I have to move on. Please, leave me alone.” 

Marissa sobbed until she was completely wrung out, until there were no more tears. But the pain never left, it was always there — inside her, controlling her life. 




Chapter One 



Marissa looked around the room; it was in total disarray. Sealed boxes were stacked in the corner, hurried instructions scribbled across them. Piles of clothes – some on the bed, some on the floor – yet to be hung in cupboards or folded into drawers. Papers lay strewn across the floor. 

As she began the tedious task of unpacking, Marissa sighed, and tried to shake away the pain, the memories of another time, another place.  

She was going through the motions of pretending to live, but really only surviving.  

As she hung clothes in the wardrobe, she had no sense of order. Sure, she was putting them on hangers and placing them in the cupboard, but why or where were not things she thought about.  

Today would be the start of her new life. She had to put Jeremy behind her. It would be hard, but she could do it.  

She sounded convincing; now all she had to do was find a way to make it happen. “Damn it.” She took deep breath. It would be a lot harder than willing it to happen. 

She straightened her shoulders, then walked purposefully toward a pile of crumpled dresses. “You’re fine,” she told herself sternly. “There will be no more tears, and you will not feel any more pain.”  

Forcing a smile on her face, Marissa resolved to move forward and not look back.  

She began to hang her clothing, deciding to iron out the creases once she had the rest of the house sorted.  

Why, of all the dresses she had, did this have to be the first one she hung? The night she and Jeremy....  

She threw it aside, not willing to face the nightmare all over again. Not today. Not now.  

Note to self: get rid of that dress - once and for all. 

As she shoved the dress into a charity bag, heart wrenching, gut twisting emptiness returned, and tears began to well in her eyes. She would not let herself cry! Marissa blinked back the tears, demanding they stay right where they were. And amazingly, they did. 

When her childhood friend Daniel offered her the use of his house for six months – effective immediately – Marissa was reluctant at first, but finally realizing the advantages for her, grabbed it with both hands. As a result, she had to leave Melbourne in a rush.  

Her family wasn’t at all happy about it. But, she decided, this was her life, and she needed to get over Jeremy. Finally and forever.  

As she bent down to pick up the pile of blouses balancing on the well-worn footstool. Marissa heard a scratching sound.  

She stopped and listened, then walked out into the lounge room. It sounded very much like it was coming from the front of the house.  

She gingerly opened the front door. 



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