He counts her smiles every day and night at the train station. And morning and evening, the beautiful commuter acknowledges him—just like she does everyone else on the platform. But Blake Hartt is not like the others . . . he’s homeless. Memories of a broken childhood have robbed him of peace and twisted delusions into his soul. He stays secluded from the sun, sure the world would run from him in the harsh light of day.
Each day, Livia McHugh smiles politely and acknowledges her fellow commuters as she waits for the train to the city. She dismisses this kindness as nothing special, just like her. She’s the same as a million other girls—certainly no one to be cherished. But special or not, she smiles every day, never imagining that someone would rely on the simple gesture as if it were air to breathe.
When the moment comes that Livia must do more than smile, without hesitation she steps into the fray to defend the homeless man. And she's surprised to discover an inexplicable connection with her new friend. After danger subsides, their smiles become conversation. Their words usher in a friendship, which awakens something in each of them. But it’s not long before their bond must prove its strength. Entanglements from the past challenge both their love and their lives.
Blake’s heart beats for Livia’s, even if her hands have to keep its rhythm. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never fails. Love never fails, right?
In an interwoven tale of unlikely loves and relationships forged by fire, Debra Anastasia takes readers into the darkest corners of human existence, only to show them the radiant power of pure adoration and true sacrifice. Complicated families and confused souls find their way to light in this novel, which manages to be racy, profane, funny, and reverent all at once.
Livia parked her aging Escort in one of the last remaining spots on the back row of the Park and Ride. Crap. Am I running late? She sprinted for the platform to make the 7:10 train departing from Poughkeepsie.
I am fulfilling my dream, she told herself with every hurried breath. Dreams hurt. My calves hurt. I hate heels.
Livia’s job as a professor’s assistant this semester certainly made grad school more affordable, but every fiber of her being longed for the sweatpants and baggy jeans most of the other students wore to class. By the time she got to the platform, there was much outfit readjustment necessary.
After making herself presentable again, Livia looked up to find the usual suspects waiting in the crisp, fall-morning air—mostly businesspeople headed to work, it seemed. Livia nodded and smiled to each person. Everyone had a return smile for Livia. She had no idea how many people looked forward to her smile each morning—a simple human action she provided like clockwork, even to the homeless man always slumped under the overhang in the shade.
His green eyes were, without fail, waiting for hers, but as soon as the smile reached her lips, his gaze scurried away like a frightened mouse. He hardly looked at anyone, and never asked for money. Livia had come to the train station each weekday morning since she started studying clinical psychology in the city last summer, and she’d spent quite a few mornings “diagnosing” the homeless gentleman.
She always found him in the same spot when she got off the return train at night, and again she’d find his eyes and smile into them. She wondered what could have happened to a seemingly healthy man in his twenties that would leave him on the streets.
The nickname the waiting passengers had given him was grating and harsh to her ears. Granted, the man did spend a good amount of time running his fingers over a flat piece of cardboard, as if he were typing or playing the piano. Calling him Crazy seemed to dehumanize the man in the onlookers’ eyes. Livia’s nickname for him was Green Eyes, as his were spectacular—the clearest jade and almost glowing.
Livia put in her ear buds and plugged the cord into her iPod.
She stabbed quickly at the buttons, and in the unintentional silence that ensued, she heard a group of teens next to her plotting some evil.
“How about we give that homeless ass a wedgie he won’t forget?”
The snickering curled her lip in disdain. Looking out of the corner of her eye, she counted the bunch. Three burly boys.
“Better yet, let’s strip him naked and throw him on the train.” Enthusiastic backslapping rewarded this novel idea. The boys were quite proud of themselves.
What the hell are they even doing up this early?
One of the thugs then answered Livia’s internal question. “Danny, going sightseeing with your aunt’s going to be boring as piss. Let’s have some fun.”
The group headed in Green Eyes’ direction. Livia slid the ear buds into her pocket and looked around. The other people waiting for the train seemed oblivious, their backs turned to the teens.
Didn’t they just hear what I heard?
In the next beat she got it. They don’t care if Crazy gets a thrashing.
The teens now stood in front of Green Eyes, taunting him in low voices.
“Hey, stinky bastard!” The tallest teen kicked Green Eyes’ shoe lightly, then harder. “You’re making our wait unsanitary. You’re going to pay for that.”
The smallest teen grabbed Green Eyes’ ever-present cardboard and began flinging it back and forth with the middle-sized idiot like a Frisbee. Livia looked desperately at the men in suits scattered along the platform.
They’re dressed the part, but not one of them is a gentleman.
Decision made, Livia strode over to the jerk holding the cardboard above his head and jabbed him in the armpit, stealing it back when he flinched. She put her heels right in front of Green Eyes’ legs and faced his attackers.
“You’ll leave right now.” She tried to infuse as much venom she could into the words.
“Lady, we’re just having some fun with our friend here.”
Standing close to the tallest one, she could see he would make a handsome man someday. With a heart as black as hell.
Livia could feel Green Eyes standing up behind her. Then she caught his reflection in the shortest attacker’s sunglasses. He was easily six feet tall. The teens’ faces registered shock as he unfurled himself. But instead of trying put the fear of God in the bullies, he whispered in her ear.
“You’re going to miss your train.”
Livia turned her face slightly but kept her eyes on the tall teen. “I’m good right here. Thanks, though.” She put the cardboard behind her back to keep it safe.
“Oh, I didn’t realize this fart was your boyfriend,” the tallest teen taunted. “You should tell his lazy ass to get a job and stop living off the taxpayers’ money.”
Livia snorted. “Do you even have a job? You’re like, twelve.”
She didn’t get to hear his retort because Green Eyes murmured in her ear again.
“Please, Miss, don’t get hurt on my account.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.” As she spoke, Livia pulled out her pepper spray. The teens took a step back, and the train pulled up with a huge clatter. “Get on the train and I’ll forget this ever happened.” She licked her lips and wiggled her trigger finger.
The authority she pretended to have reached them. They backed away to join the crowd boarding the train, still throwing insults and trying to save face as the doors closed on them.
Now that Livia was alone with Green Eyes, uneasiness pooled in her stomach. Nothing was as desolate as a train platform just after the train left.
She heard him in her ear again. “You didn’t have to do that.”
When Livia turned, she had to tip her head back to see his face as she handed him his cardboard. He’s beautiful.
The training she’d received from her father regarding being alone with a strange man tickled the edges of her brain, but she refused to acknowledge it.
“If they’d caused you pain, I’d never have been able to live with myself,” he said as he backed up a step.
“Watching you get attacked would have been more painful than taking a slug to the face,” Livia said. “You might want to find another place to sit. Those idiots could cook up a plan for revenge.”
Instead of being the friendly advice Livia intended, her words seem to slice into him.
Why is he in such pain?
“I can’t leave.” Green Eyes took a huge breath. “This is the only place where I get to see you.”
He looked like a man who’d just bet his entire fortune and laid his cards on the table.
Every morning and evening Livia smiles at her fellow commuters; Livia is a psych grad student and professor’s assistant. Just as she smiles at the commuters she also smiles at the homeless man sitting in the shade of the overhang. Green Eyes is her name for him. Livia’s often wondered what happened to cause him to be homeless. She has no idea that the fact she smiles at him and looks him in the eye means the world to him. He’s invisible to the others who come and go on the train but not to her. When events bring about a tentative friendship, Livia gets more from homeless Blake than she could’ve ever imagined.
While there were several places I found Poughkeepsie a bit implausible, my interest in the characters Ms. Anastasia has created got me through those rough patches. The characters are plentiful and vibrant. I have to confess, however, that if it had been only Blake and Livia I might not have made it. There were times that Livia was too good. Admittedly she’s perfect for Blake but she was the least interesting of the characters for me. In many instances Livia is the glue, and the backbone but the inclusion of Blake and Livia’s “families” is what made Poughkeepsie for me.
Livia McHugh, a Psych student who places importance on smiling and looking someone in the eye. Blake lives for Livia’s smiles. I realize Livia is the paragon, and maybe for that reason she’s the least colorful and, dare I say, almost boring.
Blake is not your typical homeless or hobo. Blake is unique. His old world courtliness and manners, stunning green eyes, personality, talent with the ivories, and huge heart are so appealing. Blake is broken though, as are most of the characters.
Chris is Livia’s boyfriend of many years. He’s had all the advantages and he’s still an insecure, hateful, control freak. Is it obvious I didn’t like him?
Kyle, Livia’s little sister, is hell bent on the road to self-destruction. She bears an unnecessary burden for something beyond her control and it’s killing her. Can she be saved?
Cole, religious wanna be priest and “brother” to Blake. Brother by choice and deed, not by blood. The former is often more powerful than the latter, especially when you consider Blake and Cole’s blood relations. Cole is also broken and religion is a soothing balm for him. Religion helps Cole atone for wrongs, even when they aren’t his.
Beckett, the oldest of the “brothers,” his love and protectiveness run to his very marrow. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his brothers. Beckett is contradictory, complex, and tortured. He is the most broken of them all.
Mouse, the incongruity of his appearance, voice, and hobby are so endearing. I loved Mouse and he broke my heart.
Eve, growing up with parental love and without any real depravation doesn’t guarantee life won’t kick you in the face. Eve has held onto a dream of revenge; let it mold her mind, body, and soul. What happens when what she’s lived and breathed for is finally in the palm of her hand?
There are some secondary characters, the two main ones being John, Livia and Kyle’s dad, and Ted, Eve’s dad and a pivotal character but not really a major player.
These are the characters that kept me reading Poughkeepsie. They are what I consider to be the main characters because they play too large a part to be relegated to a secondary role.
While all these characters are vivid, and occasionally larger than life, Kyle and Beckett do some of the funniest most creative cussing I’ve ever read providing much needed levity.
Be warned, there is a lot of violence in Poughkeepsie; with a wealth of moral ambiguity alongside strict adherence to a specific moral code. Their morals might not parallel yours but they will make you think. There are numerous moral issues raised, without being preachy or sanctimonious, and I really thought about them while reading. There’s a lot of pain but also joy. While there are some flaws, the excellent characters and their thought-provoking lives and choices evened it out. I’m looking forward to the sequel because it’s about one of my favorite characters, Beckett.
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