Book #1 Night Walks Softly Book #2 Should Night Come Book #3 Silent Night
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Silent Night will be available soon. I am so excited to share Deb's story with all of you.
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If you've read the other two books, go ahead and take a peek at chapter one of Silent Night.
The day Deb found out that she had cancer was the same day she feared that Gary was back.
It was early December. Heavy round white clumps of snow bent young tree branches almost to the ground. They sprawled at the edge of the sidewalk. Though Yellow River looked like a fairyland with cottony panicles of white covering the trees, Deb noticed the jagged branches, leftover like a snowball that had exploded at its target. Deb was jogging, as she always did in the early afternoon.
The sweat beaded on her back and neck under the heavy down jacket. She took off her mittens. She could feel cold air rush into her lungs as she breathed in. The crisp air invigorated her; she went faster. The workouts were a routine for Deb, a necessity since she spent so much time in the kitchen surrounded by that which was delicious.
Deb was a cook. She was the kind of cook to cook for cooks, a perfectionist, an artist with food. Food was her passion and also her bête noire. If she had the ingredients, the timing, the precision just the way she wanted them, all was well with the world. If not, she felt she had failed.
It was this attention to detail and sheer skill with a pan, a rolling pin, or a spatula that had made Deb an instant success in the small town of Yellow River. Her shop was her home. She planned parties, catered events for the hospital, for local companies, for civic groups. Her vision had improved Yellow River’s collective palate in the seven months she had been in business. Mesclun had replaced iceberg, Gorgonzola had won out over Swiss.
She jogged up to the house. Her headband was sweaty; her face glistened. It was time for a shower and then off to her office for organizing. She had cookie trays to do for the Women’s Society and hors d’oeuvres for a local attorney’s holiday party. And a wedding on Saturday.
Her cell phone rang.
Deb thought about not answering. The phone ruled so much of her life as an independent businesswoman --- quick frantic calls for a dessert when the flàn had failed or measured organized voices demanding Deb’s capable perfection for an evening soirée at one of the grand homes on the river. Deb did it all with finesse. But something inside her did not want to break the still peace of that afternoon. The light hit the snowy trees and made them sparkle as her feet jogged on. She sighed and slowed to a walk. This was their livelihood. She picked up the phone and opened it. “Hello?”
“Mrs. Schloss?” The voice was professional, disinterested.
“Yes?” She knew then that it was not an order. Orders to the shop always came for Deb. Only Deb. She no longer considered herself Mrs. Schloss.
“Your mammogram showed some areas of concern. Could you come over today to have another look? The doctor wants to see you.”
Deb’s breathing came in bursts, lungs fighting to get air as her mind fought to take in this news. The world was suddenly grey. She shivered. “How soon?” She whispered, eyes floating up to the sky and fixating there on the scattering of clouds that blanketed the sun.
Just then Christina rounded the corner, face rosy with life, skipping. The sight of the high blond ponytail bobbing with each stride, made Deb smile. She waved and pointed to the front door. Deb walked in with Christina, patted her daughter’s head and scooped up the mail with her free hand.
The receptionist had found a free appointment. “I see. Tomorrow is fine. Eight o’clock is good.” She sighed and snapped the phone shut. She just would not think about it now. This happened all the time, she told herself. She was healthy. She ate right. She followed the rules. She was good. This would just not happen to her. It could not happen to her. Not now.
They had entered the house, warm air wafting around them in a cocoon of comfort. She flipped the mail over in her hands and smiled at Christina. “How was your day?”
Christina had hung up her coat and put her boots and mittens in the cubby in the mudroom. The back hallway connected the kitchen door to the back door with the stairs to the basement off to the side. There was just enough room for a set of hooks for jackets and a small bench with boots tucked underneath. A cubby for mittens was on the seat. Deb pulled off her headband and gloves and stowed them there. She put her coat on the shiny brass hook right next to Christina’s. Their two coats. That was just as it should be.
Christina reached for the cookie jar. She had thought of the molasses cookies all day. “School? It was fine. We had a substitute.” She bit into the cookie, finding it soft and sweet with a little bite of spice.
Deb paged through the mail. So much junk mail, she thought. And bills. And nothing in the paper. Then she stopped. There, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the headline. She looked up. Christina was balancing on the balls of her feet and looking out the window, humming.
“Do you have homework, honey?” Deb’s question was sharp. Christina’s ponytail stopped bobbing.
Deb’s heart pounded in her chest, drowning out everything. She felt faint. She breathed and steadied herself. First the doctor’s office and then this? She attempted a smile. It was a small upward movement of the corners of her mouth that fought not to be a grimace.
Christina put her heels back down. “Homework? Yes. I have a whole story to write! And illustrate.” She cocked her head to one side, ponytail flopping to follow suit.
Deb’s smile was genuine now. Christina loved that kind of thing. “Why don’t you get started? I’ll call you for dinner.”
Christina grabbed her backpack. “Kay. Is Peter coming tonight?”
Deb’s hand went to her forehead where she could feel the ridges on the skin. Her worry lines. “No. No.” Thank heaven, she thought. “Not tonight. Tomorrow.” Christina was already up the stairs.
Deb sat at her round oak table and stared a moment at the paper. “Local doctor” was all she could see. She unfolded it and spread it out.
Phillip sat back in his chair in the stone villa. It was frosty outside, no snow in the Paris suburbs, but a chill was in the air, none-the-less. A faint fire crackled in the ancient stone fireplace, large enough for him to walk into. He put one leg over his knee and stared into the coals. It would be Christmas soon. He would be seeing Anne.
He had tried to forget Anne. She was married. She was a mother. Yet, despite all of that, he was still in love with her. This sentiment was made only stronger by the fact that his mother was gone. He would be spending his first Christmas without her. If grief were a process, he thought, his journey of this past year must have been a part of all that.
He stared at his bag, a simple leather carry-on, sitting in the corner by the door. There was a slow rap at the door. Phillip sighed and pulled himself out of his chair. He was in admirable shape for a man of his age. Long strong legs, thin hips and broad shoulders, not too broad, just broad enough to give him a lean yet refined look. He wore his signature jeans and pressed white shirt, arm creases adding a sharp vertical line. His work clothes.
His hair, completely grey, was trimmed short and showed off intense brown eyes and the kind of mouth that was always fooling, always laughing at something, another, a situation, or himself. There was a furrow to his brow now, a furrow that before losing his mother, had not existed. It had been a hard year.
He walked to the door and opened it, long strong fingers grasping the timeworn wrought iron handle. A gust of wind blew in with the visitor, a hugely Gallic man.
“Ah, Bruno!” Phillip smiled. “Please! Come in.”
Bruno, answering in a French that was much more filled with patois than Phillip’s standard version, shook his head. “Monsieur. You air crah-zy, fou! Zair eez nozing for uu thair, een Amérique! Geet a good French wife. You air steel young! My wife, she say you vairy good-looking…” He winked.
Phillip looked down, still smiling. “So you want me to take her off your hands?”
The burly man slapped him on the shoulder. “Zat ees a promesse?”
Phillip nodded toward the bags. “Bruno, I’ve left every instruction in the kitchen. Just watch the place for me, will you? And thanks for the lift to the airport.” He walked back to the fire and put out what remained, lost again in his own thoughts. The last embers flickered and went out. Time to go home, he thought.
The paper sat on the table, opened. Deb put her head in her hands. He was out. The paper had said that Gary had been released because police evidence was not admissible. Tampering with evidence. Hung jury. Could not come to a conclusion. Mistrial, out until the prosecution can perform another trial. She did not understand any of it. Her head felt like a lead weight.
The kitchen was still the same kitchen. French blue paint, natural pine woodwork, and vestiges of her passion, her livelihood, everywhere. She had cookies cooling on racks, phyllo cups baked and ready for the surprising combination flavors that would make up the fillings. On the sturdy farm table rolls rose in the huge blue stoneware bowl, pushing the damp towel that covered them up, burgeoning, growing. She hoped that if she did have cancer, it was not like those yeast cells, popping up bigger and bigger with happy abandon. She put her hands to her breasts. She shook her head. She had no way of knowing.
She watched the dark sky start around the corners of her kitchen window. Outside, the landscape was the desolate flatness of northern Indiana in the winter. Flat, plain, and in its simplicity, very comforting and beautiful, in the minds of many. Not to Deb. Not today, not any day. Deb lived in the moment. She stayed busy, and while she would notice the golden brown and flaky crust of a perfect croissant, or the gentle mix of a new set of spices, noticing the beauty of a landscape that had been her background all her life was not typical. She watched the darkness and could only think of what night would bring. How would she ever sleep knowing that the doctor may find something terrible and that Gary may be outside, waiting and watching?