I’ve been trying to write daily, and… well, I’ve been writing every other day. Since writing and blogging today just wasn’t going to happen, you’re getting a snippet of what I wrote today. It’s not a beginning, it’s part of a story but a chapter or two in, and I haven’t written the beginning yet. I just woke up with this scene in my head so I wrote it out. This is a cozy I’ve planned for some time, it will be titled Apple-Cheeked Poison, and Chris is the main character, while the other are well-enough introduced here for the time. I’ll see if I can go back and finish the beginning.
Now, I’ll post the snippets as I’m working on them, but I may come back later and take them down when the book is ready to be finished. As always, this is my work and is not to be duplicated elsewhere. It’s a raw working manuscript and changes will almost certainly be made before publication. With that minutiae out of the way…
“The very definition of insanity, you know.” Chris lifted her coffee cup and took a sip, grimacing at the cooling liquid. “Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”
The woman seated across from her shrugged, a small, helpless gesture. She was holding her mug, another of Chris’s collection of battered but humorous cups. This one was shaped like a pill bottle and suggested the coffee it contained was prescribed.
“I know.” She said finally. “I just keep thinking that maybe this time will be different.” She lifted her head and looked Chris in the eyes. Her own were slightly reddened and puffy around the lids, like she had spent some time crying before she’d arrived on Chris’s doorstep. Her visits were infrequent and unannounced. Chris suspected they were stolen time from other errands, illicit pleasures in her days.
Chris understood. She had a past she never talked about, but that rationale was a familiar pang as the past impinged on the present. She hesitated, tempted to open up for once and lay it out there. Then she bottled that impulse again. Talking about it wouldn’t do the younger woman any good, because she did know, and knowing wasn’t enough. This wasn’t something Chris could do – would do – for her.
“You can always come talk to me.” She offered instead. “Or go to Lily.”
Now it was Dana’s turn to grimace. She put her cup on the table and Chris recognized it as the preliminary to making her exit. “Lily has been so distant recently. Since Vivi died.”
Chris put her own cup down, and when Dana rose, she was ready to grab her cane and get to her own feet, supporting herself from chair to erect by holding onto the heavy butcherblock table. It could bear her weight, she knew. She admonished the younger woman teasingly. “Don’t be a stranger.”
Dana came around the table, nimble and young in comparison to the way Chris felt, old and crippled even if the doctor did tell her that the weakness was normal at her age after a broken bone. Dana hugged her gently. Chris snorted. She wasn’t made of china.
“You know I’m busy with… with everything. But I’ll come as often as I can.” Dana promised, and slowed down enough for Chris to walk to the door with her.
Chris stood in the open door, enjoying the warmth of the late summer sunshine and watching the little red car until it was out of sight on her long driveway. She contemplated the apple trees. They had gone in the year after she came here with Henry, shy, frightened of her own shadow, and afraid they would come take her back again. The trees were twenty years older, full of ripe fruit – she could smell the winy scent of the drops from here, even if her eyes weren’t up to making out the busy wasps under the trees. She was older too, settled. No longer full of fear, but… her eyes drifted back to the curve of the driveway where Dana had gone out of sight. She remembered it. There was little enough she could do for Dana, that was a blindfold of her own making and only she could remove it.
Now, Lily. Chris walked back into the house. Lily was a conundrum. That woman had never been afraid of anything, and for good reason. But Chris couldn’t escape the memory of the older woman’s haunted eyes as they stared into her sister’s casket. Chris, back in her own warm kitchen, shivered, and picked the cordless phone, as battered as her mugs, up from its charger. She dialed from memory.
“Hello?” The voice on the other end of the line sounded harried. Chris smiled, imagining the scene at the other end of the signal.
“Meg, how would you like to get out of the house and give those youngsters something to do?” Chris knew the other woman was likely standing in her own kitchen, a cluttered room with kids running through – yes, she could hear a little voice in the background now – with a baby clinging to her leg and the slim cell phone tucked half under her chin. One thing about the cordless, it had enough chunk to do that without giving her a crick in her neck. She didn’t know how Meg managed.
“Oh, well, yes, but are you sure?” Chris could hear the doubt in her voice.
Chris chuckled. “School isn’t in for a week, you’ve had them all summer, and I have trees full of apples I can’t pick. You’ll be doing both of us a favor.”
“If you put it that way…” Chris heard the phone clatter, Meg’s voice distantly, then she was back, breathless. “It won’t be until later.”
“That’s fine. I’ll make cookies, you come after dinner. The kids will sleep after you get home again.”
Meg, on the other end, laughed, “I bow to your wisdom. And it sounds lovely if we’re not putting you out.”
“I don’t want the apples to go to waste this year.” Chris hesitated. “And Meg? Bring Mac.”
“Oh?” Meg sounded interested, ‘no! Patrick James… Chris, not you. But we’ll talk tonight.”
“Go deal with Pat.” Chris heard what might have been a goodbye or a garbled command to comedownrightthisverysecond, and the phone went dead.
She put it down firmly on the counter. It was past time she talked to Lieutenant Appleton again, but this time it wouldn’t be in his official capacity. She didn’t have anything official to offer him, just the gut of an old woman talking. He’d listened to her before and respected her, she needed that again. Something was very wrong and she couldn’t deal with it alone.
In the meantime, she had cookies to make, and an aching leg to rest before the swarm of happy but boundlessly energetic children descended on her house. If there were no chocolate chips in the pantry, it would have to be oatmeal. She wasn’t rolling out sugar cookies today.