Restless in Carolina, страница 1
Restless in Carolina
“Tamara Leigh has done it again. Restless in Carolina will have you falling in love with its swoon-inducing romance, characters you won’t want to leave behind, and message of hope and healing.”
—JENNY B. JONES, four-time Carol Award winner and author of Save the Date and Just Between You and Me
“Tamara Leigh is a master storyteller who weaves deep spiritual threads with quirky characters that I love. With Restless in Carolina, she returns to Pickwick, North Carolina, where Bridget has determined that happily ever afters don’t exist and God isn’t fair. Open the book and be swept into her journey, one filled with laughter, tears, and a large supporting cast that will make it seem like a return to a favorite vacation spot for readers of her other Pickwick books.”
—CARA C. PUTMAN, author of Stars in the Night
“Wonderful wry humor, a plot that kept me glued, and delightful, unique characters—what more could a reader ask? Tamara Leigh has given us southern living with down-home charm and thoughtful insights all wrapped up in joy. Highly recommended!”
—GAYLE ROPER, author of Shadows on the Sand and A Rose Revealed
“She’s as southern as fried chicken, but Bridget Buchanan is no Scarlett O’Hara. She’s spunky, quirky, and determined to save the world from environmental destruction—starting with her own family’s estate. This southern gal loves faithfully, grieves deeply, and touches tender places in our hearts. A great story!”
—VIRGINIA SMITH, author of Third Time’s a Charm and the Sister-to-Sister Series
“Tamara Leigh creates another of her quirky heroines, Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, in Restless in Carolina. Bridget is sassy and unconventional, a green peg in a brown hole. She meets her match in J. C. Dirk. Don’t miss an entertaining read about forgiving past wrongs and even the ones we love who make us crazy.”
—LYN COTE, author of Her Abundant Joy
ALSO BY TAMARA LEIGH
RESTLESS IN CAROLINA
PUBLISHED BY MULTNOMAH BOOKS
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921
Scripture quotations or paraphrases are taken from the following versions: Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The characters and events in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.
Copyright © 2011 by Tammy Schmanski
Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications Inc., 7680 Goddard Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920, www.alivecommunications.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.
MULTNOMAH and its mountain colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Restless in Carolina : a novel / Tamara Leigh. — 1st ed.
p. cm. — (Southern discomfort series; bk. 3)
1. Women environmentalists—Fiction. 2. North Carolina—Fiction. I. Title.
I dedicate this fourteenth book to my readers,
especially those who have supported me since my first book,
Warrior Bride, was published in 1994 and who stayed with me
through the transition from the secular to the inspirational market.
Thank you for believing in me and allowing me to weave
my faith journey through the characters who tumble
around in my head whispering, “Me next.”
It has been an amazing eighteen years.
I couldn’t have experienced them as fully without you.
Other Books by This Author
Your presence is eagerly anticipated
at the wedding of
Ms. Trinity Templeton to Mr. Bart Pickwick
on Saturday, July 24, 10:00 a.m.
at the Pickwick Mansion
1001 Pickwick Pike
Pickwick, North Carolina
Reception to immediately follow
Deep breath. “… and they lived …”
I can do this. It’s not as if I didn’t sense it coming. After all, I can smell an H.E.A. (Happily Ever After) a mile away—or, in this case, twenty-four pages glued between cardboard covers that feature the requisite princess surrounded by cute woodland creatures. And there are the words, right where I knew the cliché of an author would slap them, on the last page in the same font as those preceding them. Deceptively nondescript. Recklessly hopeful. Heartbreakingly false.
“Aunt Bridge,” Birdie chirps, “finish it.”
I look up from the once-upon-a-time crisp page that has been softened, creased, and stained by the obsessive readings in which her mother indulges her.
Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, my niece nods. “Say the magic words.”
More nodding, and is she quivering? Oh no, I refuse to be a party to this. I smile big, say, “The end,” and close the book. “So, how about another piece of weddin’ cake?”
“No!” She jumps off the footstool she earlier dubbed her “princess throne,” snatches the book from my hand, and opens it to the back. “Wight here!”
I almost correct her initial r-turned-w but according to my sister, it’s developmental and the sound is coming in fine on its own, just as her other r’s did.
Birdie jabs the H, E, and A. “It’s not the end until you say the magic words.”
And I thought this the lesser of two evils—entertaining my niece and nephew as opposed to standing around at the reception as the bride and groom are toasted by all the happy couples, among them, cousin Piper, soon to be wed to my friend Axel, and cousin Maggie, maybe soon to be engaged to her sculptor man, what’s-his-name.
“Yeah,” Birdie’s twin, Miles, calls from where he’s once more hanging upside down on the rolling ladder I’ve pulled him off twice. “You gotta say th
Outrageous! Even my dirt-between-the-toes, scab-ridden, snot-on-the-sleeve nephew is buying into the fantasy.
I spring from the armchair, cross the library, and unhook his ankles from the rung. “You keep doin’ that and you’ll bust your head wide open.” I set him on his feet. “And your mama will—” No, Bonnie won’t. “Well, she’ll be tempted to give you a whoopin’.”
Face bright with upside-down color, he glowers.
I’d glower back if I weren’t so grateful for the distraction he provided. “All right, then.” I slap at the ridiculously stiff skirt of the dress Maggie loaned me for my brother’s wedding. “Let’s rejoin the party—”
“You don’t wanna say it.” Miles sets his little legs wide apart. “Do ya?”
So much for my distraction.
“You don’t like Birdie’s stories ’cause they have happy endings. And you don’t.”
I clench my toes in the painfully snug high heels on loan from Piper.
“Yep.” Miles punches his fists to his hips. “Even Mama says so.”
My own sister? I shake my head, causing the blond dreads Maggie pulled away from my face with a headband to sweep my back. “That’s not true.”
“Then say it wight now!” Birdie demands.
I peer over my shoulder at where she stands like an angry tin soldier, an arm outthrust, the book extended.
“Admit it,” Miles singsongs.
I snap around and catch my breath at the superior, knowing look on his five-year-old face. He’s his father’s son, all right, a miniature Professor Claude de Feuilles, child development expert.
“You’re not happy.” The professor in training, who looks anything but with his spiked hair, nods.
I know better than to bristle with two cranky, nap-deprived children, but that’s what I’m doing. Feeling as if I’m watching myself from the other side of the room, I cross my arms over my chest. “I’ll admit no such thing.”
“That’s ’cause you’re afraid. Mama said so.” Miles peers past me. “Didn’t she, Birdie?”
Why is Bonnie discussing my personal life with her barely-out-of-diapers kids?
“Uh-huh. She said so.”
Miles’s smile is smug. “On the drive here, Mama told Daddy this day would be hard on you. That you wouldn’t be happy for Uncle Bart ’cause you’re not happy.”
Not true! Not that I’m thrilled with our brother’s choice of bride, but … come on! Trinity Templeton? Nice enough, but she isn’t operating on a full charge, which wouldn’t be so bad if Bart made up for the difference. Far from it, his past history with illegal stimulants having stripped him of a few billion brain cells.
“She said your heart is”—Miles scrunches his nose, as if assailed by a terrible odor—“constipated.”
“That you need an M&M, and I don’t think she meant the chocolate kind you eat. Probably one of those—”
“I am not constipated.” Pull back. Nice and easy. I try to heed my inner voice but find myself leaning down and saying, “I’m realistic.”
Birdie stomps the hardwood floor. “Say the magic words!”
“Nope.” Miles shakes his head. “Constipated.”
I shift my cramped jaw. “Re-al-is-tic.”
Pull back, I tell you! He’s five years old. “Just because I don’t believe in fooling a naive little girl into thinkin’ a prince is waiting for her at the other end of childhood and will save her from a fate worse than death and take her to his castle and they’ll live …” I flap a hand. “… you know, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me.”
Isn’t there? “It means I know better. There may be a prince, and he may have a castle, and they may be happy, but don’t count on it lasting. Oh no. He’ll get bored or caught up in work or start cheatin’—you know, decide to put that glass slipper on some other damsel’s foot or kiss another sleeping beauty—or he’ll just up and die like Easton—” No, nothing at all wrong with you, Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, whose ugly widow’s weeds are showing.
“See!” Miles wags a finger.
Unfortunately, I do. And as I straighten, I hear sniffles.
“Now you done it!” Miles hustles past me. “Got Birdie upset.”
Sure enough, she’s staring at me with flooded eyes. “The prince dies? He dies and leaves the princess all alone?” The book falls from her hand, its meeting with the floor echoing around the library. Then she squeaks out a sob.
“No!” I spring forward, grimacing at the raspy sound the skirt makes as I attempt to reach Birdie before Miles.
He gets there first and puts an arm around her. A meltable moment, my mother would call it. After she gave me a dressing down. And I deserve one. My niece may be on the spoiled side and she may work my nerves, but I love her—even like her when that sweet streak of hers comes through.
“It’s okay, Birdie,” Miles soothes. “The prince doesn’t die.”
Yes, he does, but what possessed me to say so? And what if I’ve scarred her for life?
Miles pats her head onto his shoulder. “Aunt Bridge is just”—he gives me the evil eye—“constipated.”
“Yes, Birdie.” I drop to my knees. “I am. My heart, that is. Constipated. I’m so sorry.”
She turns her head and, upper lip shiny with the stuff running out of her nose, says in a hiccupy voice, “The prince doesn’t die?”
I grab the book from the floor and turn to the back. “Look. There they are, riding off into the sunset—er, to his castle. Happy. See, it says so.” I tap the H, E, and A.
She sniffs hard, causing that stuff to whoosh up her nose and my gag reflex to go on alert. “Weally happy, Aunt Bridge?”
“Nope.” Barely-there eyebrows bunching, she lifts her head from Miles’s shoulder. “Not unless you say it.”
Oh dear Go—No, He and I are not talking. Well, He may be talking, but I’m not listening.
“I think you’d better.” Miles punctuates his advice with a sharp nod.
“Okay.” I look down at the page. “… and they lived …” It’s just a fairy tale—highly inflated, overstated fiction for tykes. “… they lived happily … ever … after.”
Birdie blinks in slow motion. “Happily … ever … after. That’s a nice way to say it, like you wanna hold on to it for always.”
Or unstick it from the roof of your mouth. “The end.” I close the book, and it’s all I can do not to toss it over my shoulder. “Here you go.”
She clasps it to her chest. “Happily … ever … after.”
Peachy. But I’ll take her dreamy murmuring over tears any day. Goodness, I can’t believe I made her cry. I stand and pat the skirt back down into its stand-alone shape. “More cake?”
“Yay!” Miles charges past me.
Next time—No, there won’t be a next time. I’m done with Little Golden Books.
Birdie hurries to catch up with her brother. “I want a piece of chocolate cake.”
I want to go home. And curl up in my hammock. And listen for the hot air to stir up a breeze and creak the leaves. And try not to think about my lost happily ever after. I set my shoulders and thoughts against memories and check my watch. I’ve been in this dress and these shoes for four hours. It’s time.
Outside the library, I pause at the grand staircase, step out of the heels, and try to flex my toes. They’re numb. I declare, if I have to have anything amputated, someone will hear about it. I retrieve the shoes and hobble into the hallway, through the kitchen, and outside into a bright day abuzz with wedding revelry.
No matter the season, the beauty of Uncle Obe’s garden always gets to me, especially now that it and the entire Pickwick estate will be passing out of Pickwick hands. For months I’ve about killed myself trying to find a way around the sale that will provide restitution to those our family has wronged as well as something of an inheritance to kin, but everywhere I turn, I find walls.
“Hey, babies,” my sister’s voice rings out, “did you have fun with Aunt Bridge?”
I halt and look toward the linen-covered table, where a large three-tiered wedding cake was the centerpiece earlier. Only one tier remains, and it’s had its share of knifings.
“Yeah, it was okay.” Miles holds out a plate for his mother to fill. “Until she made Birdie cry.”
My little sister’s gasp shoots around those standing in the twenty feet between us. “What happened?”
“Aunt Bridge didn’t want to finish the book. Did she, Birdie?”
Hugging it to her, she shakes her head.
“Well,” Bonnie slides a piece of cake onto each of their plates, “maybe she’s tired.”
“Nuh-uh.” Miles leans his face into the cake, takes a bite, and with crumbs spilling and frosting flecking, says, “She told us the prince gave the glass slipper to another girl and kissed Sleeping Beauty and then died.”
“Oh.” Bonnie’s lids flutter. “Huh.” Sunlight glints off the knife in her hand as she meets my gaze. “Well.” She forces a smile. “Hmm.” Back to her daughter. “We know that’s not true, don’t we, Roberta baby?”
Birdie bounces her head. “They lived happily … ever … after.”
Time to go. But as much as I long to run, I’m civilized, despite rumors to the contrary. I search out my brother where he stands with his bride, Trinity, my mother and father, and Uncle Obe in the gazebo built for the reception. A quick congratulations and I’m out of here.
I hurry past Maggie’s brother and his latest wife, around Uncle Obe’s attorney, between—
“Don’t think I don’t know you can hear me, Bridget.”
And so can everyone else. I swing around. “Bonbon!”
Bonnie rushes the last few feet. “I know we’re mostly family here, but I’ll do you the kindness of talking to you in private.” She points to the mansion.
I don’t care to accompany her, but neither do I want to throw a shadow over Bart’s special day. And going by the eyes turning our way, it’s fast approaching. “Of course.” I set off ahead of her, raise my eyebrows at Maggie when she turns a worried face to me, and give Piper a shrug.