Authors: Cricket McRae
Something Borrowed, Something Bleu: A Home Crafting Mystery
Š 2010 by Cricket McRae.
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First e-book edition Š 2010
E-book ISBN: 9780738726311
Book design and format by Donna Burch
Cover design by Lisa Novak
Cover photograph Š Lisa Novak
Editing by Connie Hill
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This book is dedicated to libraries everywhere.
Im grateful to everyone who had a hand in this book: agents Jacky Sach and Kim Lionetti; my critique partners Bob and Mark; and the hard working crew at Midnight InkBill Krause, Terri Bischoff, Connie Hill, Courtney Colton, Lisa Novak, and Donna Burch, among others. Meg and Arden, owners of the Windsor Dairy, were kind enough to answer my questions. They make the best raw-milk artisan cheeses imaginable. Anything I got wrong is my own fault. The staff at the post office in LaPorte, Colorado provided information about lost mail. Thanks also to my parents, supportive friends, and readers who continue to ask after Sophie Mae. And, as always, Kevin has offered unfailing encouragement. Thanks for having my back.
The shrill ring of
the telephone startled me out of a sound sleep. My heart bucked, and panic shortened my breath as I stared wide-eyed into the darkness and felt around for the handset. The numbers on my bedside clock glowed 3:58.
Any call at that hour inevitably signaled grim news.
The phone tumbled, slammed onto the hardwood floor, and skittered beneath me. Brodie let out a single, sharp bark from Erins bedroom down the hall. Swearing, I slithered out from under the sheet. Pajama-clad behind up in the air, I groped under the bed.
There: something, but definitely not the phone. I dragged the mystery item out and held it up to the pale gray light barely beginning to glow through the window.
A pair of purple lace panties.
So that was where those had disappeared to.
The phone reverberated again. I tossed the errant underwear in the corner and pressed my cheek against the floor. My fingers scrabbled against wood. Dust bunnies retreated to the far reaches as I touched hard plastic and teased the wailing handset into my grasp. I sat up on the cold floor and peered at the caller ID with bleary eyes.
It was my mother, calling from Spring Creek, Colorado.
Anna Belle, whats wrong? I demanded. Is Dad okay?
Her sorghum-laced voice floated over the line. Good morning, Sophie Mae. I hope I didnt wake you.
What? Of course you woke me. What happened?
You sound upset. Its too early in the morning for that, dont you think?
I managed not to growl. However, my blood pressure dropped an infinitesimal amount.
Why, I began, the words even and deliberate, are you calling me at this hour if someone isnt sick or dying?
Oh, good Lord, Sophie Mae. You used to be such an early riser in the summer. It is, after all A pause as she no doubt consulted her watch. Oh, dear. I didnt realize its only five a.m. Im sorry, hon.
Four a.m., I said.
But oh. I always seem to forget about the time difference.
So nothings wrong?
Can I call you back in a few hours? Id been working my tail off lately, making handmade toiletries and filling orders for my Winding Road Bath Products business, and I wanted a little more shut-eye before starting in yet again.
Plus, these days I wasnt in much of a mood to talk to my mother. Maybe I was a horrible daughter, but the frequency of her calls had increased lately as she tried to weasel her way into my wedding plans. Right now I didnt have the time or energy to try again to convince her that Barr and I wanted a small, simple ceremony. No wedding she was involved with would be either.
Well, as long as youre up, I do need to talk to you, she said.
I sighed. Right. As long as Im up.
Couldnt quite keep the sarcasm out of my voice. Anna Belle Watson had no qualms about doing whatever she needed to in order to get what she wanted. Her polite, Southern belle demeanor softened her manipulations, as did the accent toned by time to an alluring lilt. However, I wasnt one of her students or some untenured professor in the marketing department at Northern Colorado University. I was her daughter, even if she insisted that I call her by her first name, and Id had a lifetime to see how she worked.
Please, she said.
That, along with the tiniest quaver in her voice, gave me pause. Are you sure everythings okay? I asked.
I want you to come home for a visit.
I blew out a frustrated whoosh of air and stood. Sliding on my ducky slippers, I began to pace in the limited confines of my bedroom. From the backyard, the murmurs of contented chickens already pecking at their layer ration rode the cool breeze that curled in through the open window.
Seriously, I said. I want a no-fuss, no-muss ceremony. Ive already had one big wedding. That was enough for a lifetime.
A small sound on the other end of the line. Then another.
Anna Belle? I stopped short.
Ohmygod. Are you
Another pause, and then a quick, sharp laugh. Dont be ridiculous. Sniff.
I pushed. Tell me.
A pause, then, You have to come home.
What on earth? Was this one of her tricks?
Now, she said.
Now? The word came out as a squeak.
Yes. As soon as you can. No sniffling and no hesitancy now, just hard demand in her voice.
I bristled. Well, I dont know when that would be. Its hard to up and leave when you run your own business.
Im sure you can manage.
I thought of the rows of boxes on the counter in my workroom waiting to be filled with Winding Road orders. Anna Belle
Its about your brother.
Slowly, I sat down on the edge of my bed. Bobby Lee had been dead for eighteen years. I realized with a start hed been gone half my lifetime. What are you talking about?
One evening, my brother had tossed a rope over the main beam in the great room of my parents home and hung himself. Anna Belle had found him when she came downstairs for her morning coffee. Half a country away, in Seattle, Id been sharing a dorm room with my best friend Meghan Bly at the University of Washington.
He left a note, Anna Belle said. The words punched through my memories.
No, he didnt. My voice was quiet in my own ears. We looked everywhere.
He did. A letter, actually. And its recently come into my possession. It reveals something we didnt know before. Perhaps even the key to why he did it.
Sadness, curiosity and something very like fear rushed over me. What does it say?
Ill show it to you when you get here.
Come home for a few days, Sophie Mae. We need you.
Please? Again? I peered out the window at the high gray pre-dawnnope, no pigs winging their way above the rooftops yet. But they should be showing up any time now.
Its been over a year, she said.
I closed my eyes. Dirty pool, Anna Belle. But she was right; it had been too long. On top of that, I knew very well that my mother wouldnt tell me what was in Bobby Lees note over the phone. She had a bargaining chip, and she wasnt above using it.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped off the cliff. Ill see when I can get away, check some flights, and get back to you.
Ill tell your father. Hell be thrilled.
We Watsons had once been a normaland very closefamily. My childhood had been flavored with lively conversations over the dinner table about politics, religion, and current events. My mother was an opinionated intellectual who insisted Bobby Lee and I call her by her first name. My father, Calvin Watson, had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of fascinating stories from his days as an investigative journalist. Over and over they told my brother and me we could be or do anything we wanted.
Then Bobby Lee died, and everything changed.
And honey? my mother continued. You might see if your new fiancé can come. Might be nice if we actually met him before the wedding, dont you think?
Hes looking forward to meeting you both. I just dont know if hell be able to change his schedule on such short notice. I said.
I understand. As long as you can. So well see you soon?
Soon, I confirmed.
Her voice softened. And I want you to know that I love you.
Flummoxed, I muttered, Love you, too, and we said goodbye.
She hadnt said that to me for I didnt know how long. Whatever shed discovered about my brother, it had affected her deeply.