A sleepy rural town in South Carolina. The end of summer and a baby about to be born. But in the midst of hope and celebration comes unexpected tragedy, and Dylan Styles must come to terms with how much he's lost. Will the music of his heart be stilled forever--or will he choose to dance with life once more, in spite of sorrow and heartbreak?
The Dead Don't Dance is a bittersweet yet triumphant love story--a tale of one man's spiritual journey through the darkness of despair and into the light of hope.
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Charles Martin is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of 12 novels. He and his wife, Christy, live in Jacksonville, Florida. Learn more about him at charlesmartinbooks.com. Facebook: Author.Charles.Martin Twitter: @storiedcareer
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Last October, after the soybeans had peaked at four feet, the corn had spiraled to almost twice that, and the wisteria had shed its purple, a November breeze picked up, pushed out the summer heat, and woke Maggie. She rolled over, tapped me on the shoulder, and whispered, "Let's go swimming." It was two in the morning under a full moon, and I said, "Okay." The tap on the shoulder usually meant she knew something I didn't, and from the moment I'd met her, Maggie had known a lot that I didn't.
We rolled out, grabbed a couple of towels, and held hands down to the river, where Maggie took a swan dive into the South Carolina moonlight. I dropped the towels on the bank and waded in, letting the sandy bottom sift through my toes and the bream shoot between my knees. Leaning backward, I dunked my head, closed my eyes, then let the water roll down my neck as I stood in the waist-deep black river. Summer had run too long, as summers in Digger often do, and the breeze was a welcome comfort. We swam around in the dark water long enough to cool off, and Maggie spread a towel over the bleached white sand. Then she lay down and rested her head on my shoulder, and the moon fell behind the cypress canopy.
A while later, as we walked back to the house, her shoulder tucked under mine, Maggie knew that we had just made our son. I didn't know until four weeks later, when she came bouncing off the front porch and tackled me in the cornfield. Grinning, she shoved a little white stick in my face and pointed at the pink line.
Soon after, I started noticing the changes. They began in our second bedroom. Previously an office, it quickly became "the nursery." Maggie returned from the hardware store with two gallons of blue paint for the walls and one gallon of white for the trim and molding.
"What if she's a girl?" I asked.
"He's not," she said and handed me a paintbrush. So we spread some old sheets across the hardwood floors and started goofing off like Tom and Huck. By the end of the night, we were covered in blue paint and the walls were not, but at least we'd made a start.
The smell of paint drove us out of the house, so Maggie and I shopped the Saturday morning garage sales. We found a used crib for sixty dollars, the top railing dented with teeth marks. Maggie ran her fingers along the dents like Helen Keller reading Braille. "It's perfect," she said.
We set up the crib in the corner of the nursery and made a Sunday afternoon drive to Charleston to the so-called "wholesale" baby outlet. I have never seen more baby stuff in one place in my entire life. And to be honest, before going there, I didn't know half of it existed. When we walked through the sliding glass doors, a recorded voice said, "Welcome to Baby World! If we don't have it, your baby doesn't need it!" The tone of voice gave me my first hint that I was in trouble.
Maggie grabbed two pushcarts, shoved one into my stomach, put on her game face, and said, "Come on!" Midway down the first aisle I was in way over my head. We bought diapers, wipes, pacifiers, a tether for the pacifiers, bottles, nipples for the bottles, liners for the bottles, bottles to hold the bottles and keep the bottles warm, cream for diaper rash, ointment for diaper rash, powder for diaper rash, a car seat, blankets, rattles, a changing table, little buckets to organize all the stuff we had just bought, a baby bag, extra ointment, cream, and powder just for the baby bag, booties, a little hat to keep his head warm, and little books. About halfway through the store I quit counting and just said, "Yes, ma'am."
To Maggie, every detail, no matter how small, had meaning. She must have said, "Oh, look at this," or "Isn't this cute?" a hundred times. When we reached the checkout counter, we were leaning on two ridiculously overflowing carts.
Some marketing genius had stacked the most expensive teddy bears right up in front. Only a blind man was without excuse. Maggie, wearing a baggy pair of denim overalls, batted her big brown eyes and tilted her head. In a deep, whispery, and all-too-seductive voice, she said, "Dylan, this bear's name is Huckleberry."
I just laughed. What else could I do?
I loaded up the truck and started to breathe easy, thinking the damage was over, but we didn't even make it out of the parking lot. Just next door to Baby World stood a maternity clothing store. Maggie, the possessed power shopper, stalked the racks and piled me high for over an hour. When I could no longer see above the heap of clothes in my arms, she led me to the changing room, where, for the first time in my life, a woman actually told me to come inside with her. Maggie shut the door, slid the latch, and pulled her hair up into a bouncy ponytail.
Over the next hour, my wife modeled each item of clothing while I marveled. The only light was a recessed forty-watt bulb above her head, but when she turned, lifted the ponytail off her neck, and whispered, "Unzip me," the light showered her five-eight frame like Tinkerbell's pixie dust. It fluttered off the blond, fuzzy hair on the back of her neck and the sweat on her top lip, over her square tan shoulders and down into the small of her back, along her thin hips and long runner's legs, and then finally swirled around the muscular shape of her calves.
God, I love my wife.
From shorts to shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, maternity bras, nursing bras, six-month underwear, nine-month underwear, jackets, and sweatshirts, the fashion show continued. As she tried on each item, Maggie stuffed the "eight-pound" pillow inside her waistband, put her hand on her hip, leaned forward on her toes, and looked at herself in the mirror. "Do you think this makes me look fat?"
"Maggs, no man in his right mind would ever answer that question."
"Dylan," she said, pointing her finger, "answer my question."
"If you're lying to me," she said, raising her eyebrows and cocking her head, "you're on the couch."
Leaving the dressing room, Maggie shone in full, glorious, pregnant-woman glow. Three hundred and twenty-seven dollars later, she was ready for any occasion.
Life had never been more vivid, more colorful, as if God had poured the other end of the rainbow all around us. Rows of cotton, corn, soybean, peanuts, and watermelon rose from the dirt and formed a quilted patchwork, sewing itself with kudzu along the sides of the old South Carolina highway. Ancient gnarled and sprawling oaks covered in moss and crawling with red bugs and history swayed in the breeze and stood like silent sentinels over the plowed rows. Naive and unaware, we rumbled along the seams while Maggie placed my hand on her tummy and smiled.
At twelve weeks we went for the first ultrasound. Maggie was starting to get what she called a "pooch" and could not have been prouder. When the doctor walked in, Maggie was lying on the table with a fetal monitor Velcroed across her stomach, holding my hand. The doc switched on the ultrasound machine, squeezed some gel on her stomach, and started waving the wand over her tummy. When she heard the heartbeat for the first time, Maggie started crying. "Dylan," she whispered, "that's our son."
At sixteen weeks, the nurse confirmed Maggie's intuition. Maggie lay on the same table as the nurse searched her tummy with the ultrasound wand and then stopped when my son gave us a peek at his equipment. "Yep," the nurse said, "it's a boy. Right proud of himself too."
I hit my knees. At twenty-nine years old, I had looked inside my wife's tummy and seen our son. As big as life, with his heart beating, and wiggling around for all the world to see.
That started my conversations with Maggie's stomach. Every night from that day forward, I'd talk to my small and growing son. The three of us would lie in bed; I'd lift Maggie's shirt just over her tummy, press my lips next to the peach-fuzzy skin near her belly button, and we'd talk. Football, girls, school, farming, tractors, dogs, cornfields, friends, colors, anything I could think of. I just wanted my son to know the sound of my voice. After a few days, he started kicking my lips. Before I told him good night, I'd sing "Johnny Appleseed," "Daddy Loves His Sweet Little Boy," "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider," or "Jesus Loves Me."
Sometimes in the middle of the night, when the baby kicked or pushed his foot into the side of her stomach, Maggie would grab my hand and place it on her tummy. She never said a word, but I woke up feeling the warmth of my wife's stomach and the outline of my son's foot.
Toward the end of the first trimester, while rummaging through a yard sale, I found a rickety old rocking horse that needed a lot of glue, some elbow grease, and a few coats of white paint. I brought it home, set up my woodworking shop in the barn, and told Maggie to stay out. A week later, I brought it inside and set it next to the crib. Maggie looked at it, and the tears came forth in a flood. I think that was my first realization that new hormones had taken over my wife's body and mind.
Pretty soon the cravings hit. "Sweetheart." It was that whispery, seductive voice again. "I want some fresh, natural peanut butter and Haagen Dazs raspberry sorbet."
I never knew it would be so difficult to find freshly churned natural peanut butter at ten o'clock at night. When I got back to the house, Maggie was standing on the front porch, tapping her foot and wielding a spoon. As soon as I got the lids off, we plopped down in the middle of the den and started double dipping. When she'd polished off the sorbet, she said, "Now, how about a cheeseburger?"
At the end of her second trimester, she became pretty self-conscious. The least little thing really set her off. One morning, while stud...
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Book Description Center Point Books, 2005. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111585475599