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Authors: Ginny Baird

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BOOK: The Calendar Brides
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Emma rolled her eyes at the others.
 

“Well…” Jane spoke firmly, but not in a yell. “As far as I can see, we have two options.”

“Like?” Trish pressed.

“We can send her there, or bring Luigi here.”

“What are you talking about, Jane?” Susan asked. “Buying plane tickets?”

“Precisely.”

“But none of us has the money,” Zoe objected.
 

“How about if we all chip in?” Claire asked.

“Yeah,” Haley said. “We’re all gainfully employed.”

Trish glanced at Rachel. “In a manner of speaking.”

Rachel refused to acknowledge Trish and turned toward the group. Everyone knew Rachel secretly wanted to be a writer, but had never gotten up the courage to try. Except for that one time in high school when she’d chronicled her dating exploits in the high school paper. Who knew it was possible to date three boys at once and not have any of them the wiser? Until the article went to print, that was. The episode had earned Rachel the nickname
Runaround Rachel
, and also a reputation as a boyfriend stealer. To add insult to injury, she’d been reprimanded by the principal and grounded by her parents. She’d given up her literary ambitions shortly thereafter. Or so she said. She’d still majored in journalism in college. Not that she’d done anything with it. The only lasting ramification from that early ordeal appeared to be the fact that Trish still hadn’t gotten over Rachel nabbing Brett. Okay, so that had left Trish without a date to homecoming. But that was
so
long ago. “How much would that cost?”

Bev pulled out her smartphone. “I’ll investigate.”

“What if Luigi doesn’t want to come here?” Angie asked.

“He may not,” Lena said. She fingered the highlights in her hair. “As I recall, the invitation went the other way.”

“Well, that’s asking a lot,” Jane snapped. “It doesn’t exactly seem fair. That he wouldn’t be willing to make the same sacrifice.”

“You weren’t listening to Nona,” Susan said kindly. “She
wants
to go.”

The women studied each other a moment in silence.

After a beat, Bev looked up from her phone. “It’s more than I thought.” She met their questioning faces. “The tickets. Since the island is off the coast of Sicily, it seems there’s no way to get there except by ferry. And you can’t fly straight to Sicily from here. You have to go to Rome, and maybe Frankfurt first, via New York or Atlanta.”

Zoe sucked in a breath. “Can Nona do all that?”

“Sounds like a lot of connecting,” Haley conceded.

“I don’t think she could manage it alone,” Trish said.

“Then one of us will have to go with her,” Bev added hopefully. “As a companion-slash-escort.”

“So, now we have to raise money for
two tickets
?” Emma asked. “One for Nona to get there, and another round trip—for one of us to take her and come back?”

The women slowly shook their heads. “Maybe this was a silly idea,” Lena said with a frown.

Tiny stopped chewing a moment. “No. It was a good idea. A great one, in fact. We just need to find a way to make it work.”

 

Haley bent forward and rested her elbows on her knees. “How about a fundraiser?”

“What do you mean?” asked Rachel.

Lena’s face brightened. “What a cool thought. We’ll raise the money!”

Tiny considered this. “Sounds good, but how?”

Angie had gotten the kids occupied with a huge bucket of connecting toys by the window and now returned to join them. “What about crowdfunding?”

“You mean online?” Trish asked. “I know it can be done, but this seems a little personal.”

“She’s right,” Jane said. “We don’t want to ask complete strangers for money.”

“They wouldn’t have to be strangers,” Claire said. “We could start with friends.”

“By asking them for handouts?” Bev asked. “I don’t like that idea.”

Emma stroked the snoozing puppy in her lap, then spoke thoughtfully. “It’s for a worthy cause.”

Zoe nodded. “But Bev and Trish are right. It seems a little… I don’t know…”

“Like airing our dirty laundry in public,” Susan said, speaking for the first time.

“This isn’t dirty!” Lena protested. “It’s about love.”

Bev adjusted her scarf, flipping its long end back over her shoulder. “Yeah, but how do you think Nona would like it if she knew what we were up to?”

“Maybe she’d be flattered?” Rachel said hopefully.

“And maybe she’d be embarrassed,” Trish shot back. “Embarrassed if her financial state got laid bare for the whole world to see.”

“She can’t help it that she lost her money,” Claire defended.

“She didn’t lose it,” Trish corrected. “She spent it.”

“Yeah,” Zoe said with a frown. “Most of it on us.”

The women hung their heads and sighed. Everyone knew it was true. None of them came from wealthy backgrounds. Their Nona generously had helped put all of them through school. Eleven of them had graduated from colleges and Haley had attended a culinary institute. They wouldn’t have made it without their Nona’s help and the assistance of student loans. Now Nona lived on social security in the big house her husband had built them on the hill. Everyone in town still thought of her as a wealthy widow. Only her granddaughters knew the truth. Nona had sworn them to secrecy over not telling their fathers about the contributions she’d given them.
 

Their dads were hardworking men with big hearts, but a little clueless when it came to the costs of higher education. That was likely because none of Nona’s boys had been to college. She’d wanted more for her granddaughters, and had finally been in a financial position to help. When her husband died, he’d left her a tidy sum of cash, a sum that was—at this point—all but gone. If they’d known how greatly their Nona was sacrificing, they would have refused her kindly offers. But Nona had kept her financial particulars to herself until recently. She’d had some complicated tax matter and had asked Trish to straighten it out. Trish had been dismayed by how little of Nona’s initial estate was left. She’d lost additional money due to investments she hadn’t properly adjusted during the recession.

Susan stared down at the knitting needles in her lap, then slowly looked up. “She wouldn’t be embarrassed if we were clever about it.”

“What are you talking about, Susan?” Haley wanted to know.

“I mean, what if it looked like we were raising money for something else?” Susan tucked her knitting needles in her bag and gave a sneaky smile. “Something worthy?”

Bev gaped at her in shock. “Are you talking about doing something under false pretenses, Susan?”

“Not false. Veiled.”

Zoe stretched her legs out in front of her on the carpet and lunged forward, gripping the soles of her feet with her hands. “Now you’ve lost me.”

“How about…” Susan surprised them all by raising her normally soft voice. “We raise the money for charity: a historic preservation fund?”

Fine lines worried Claire’s forehead. “Isn’t that kind of cheating?”

Angie grinned. “Not exactly.”
 

Lena set her chin in her hands, highlighted hair swinging forward. “Nona’s historic.”

“Over eighty,” Haley agreed.

“We do want to preserve her,” Tiny said.

“She’s not like pickles, Tiny!” Rachel cried.

“No,” Emma said slowly, “but what she and Luigi have definitely deserves a chance. A chance to…” The puppy squirmed awake, but she snuggled it back to sleep.

“What, Emma?” Zoe asked impatiently.

“Hang on. I’m thinking.” Emma’s gaze panned to the window where the kids were finally behaving, then back around the room. “How about if Nona writes a book?”

“A
book
?” the others asked with surprise.

“Sure,” Susan said, apparently getting it. “Her story.”

Bev’s eyes lit up. “An immigrant’s tale in America!”

“That one’s been done,” Trish said. “Many times.”

“Not by Nona,” Tiny said.

Zoe met Emma’s eyes. “Are you suggesting that she do research? To recapture the flavor of her early days?”

Emma wore a proud grin. “I am.”

“Why, Emma!” Rachel said, “that’s geni—”

“Insane,” Jane cut in. “Who’s going to believe an eighty-something-year-old woman traveling abroad for research?”

“Anyone who knows Nona would believe it,” Claire said.

“Which includes everyone in this town,” Rachel agreed.

“She’s got more spunk than most sixty-year-olds,” Emma confirmed.

“But
Nona
write her story?” Bev asked. “You mean actually write it down?”

Zoe tucked her knees up under her arms and grimaced. “It’s true. Nona isn’t much of a writer. Never has been.”

“She’s a talker, though,” offered Haley.

“That’s it!” Angie beamed. “She could record it.”

“Someone else could write it down.” Susan gave Rachel a pointed look and all heads turned in Rachel’s direction.

“Wait a minute. Why’s everybody staring at me?”

“You’re the writer, Rachel,” Jane said.

“You mean, when she’s not practicing her green thumb?” Trish asked pointedly.

Rachel blinked and her cheeks tinged pink.

“Let’s get back on track,” Bev suggested. “It sounds like we’re getting somewhere.”

“But why does there have to be a story?” Rachel questioned.

“Because,” Jane said logically, “this way it all makes sense. Nona is writing her life’s tale, and she’s going back to her home country to fill in the details.”

Susan nodded. “Recapture the essence of her youth, so to speak.”
 

Rachel appeared unconvinced. “Who would read this book?”

“Maybe nobody but us,” Angie said. “But that would be okay. Wouldn’t it?”

“I’d love to have Nona’s story,” Claire said. “Her complete story, written down to share with my children some day.” Her sisters and cousins nodded their agreement.

Bev wryly twisted her lips. “You might not want to share all of it.”

The others laughed, sensing what she was getting at. The boyfriend part. With Nona, you never knew how detailed those descriptions might be.

“I’ve got to be honest with you,” Rachel said. “I don’t think we could get something like that published. Like Trish said, that kind of story’s been done.”

“So?” Tiny asked. “We’ll publish it ourselves. Online. There are places we can do that at no cost or very cheap. It wouldn’t be a moneymaker anyway. We’d be printing it as a family keepsake.”

“That’s all well and good,” Haley said. “But you brought up a very good point. Moneymaking. We still don’t know where the dollars will come from to get our Nona to Sicily.”

“That’s where the veil comes in,” Susan said.

Angie turned to her. “Well, are you going to lift it?”

 

The women listened with rapt attention as Susan laid out her cunning plan. Just as they all agreed, everyone in town knew Nona had the energy of a person half her age. People wouldn’t doubt an octogenarian as spry as Nona would endeavor to take on something as bold as writing her memoirs. The townsfolk of Chandelier loved Nona for her spunk and for her spark. She’d been a staple of this community for as long as anyone remembered, and had given back to the locals through her tireless efforts with several charities. She still served at the soup kitchen and ran the church bazaar, and no one even came close to her organizational skills at setting up the annual fish-fry fundraiser for the fire department.

All the girls had to do was approach their Nona with the idea. Encourage her to write her story and say they wanted to help her get to Italy to complete it. Naturally, she wouldn’t have to
write-
write it. They’d arrange for her to record it. Then Rachel would transcribe her words, neatening things up as needed for a smooth literary flow. They’d beg her to go through with it, say they wanted to ensure she left her legacy behind, so they could share the history of their Nona with future generations. Nona was bright enough to know where they were going with this. She might believe the bit about the biography, but she’d more deeply understand that her granddaughters were trying to help. Help her find her way to Sicily—and back to Luigi.
 

The beauty of the memoirs cover story was that it gave Nona an
out,
in case things didn’t go as swimmingly with Luigi as she’d imagined. She could travel there and see for herself how things went between them. If they weren’t meant to be, Nona would have a guaranteed return ticket, and wouldn’t lose face before the town. Nobody would have to know she’d secretly gone to Sicily to reconnect with her long-lost love. That part would remain between her and her granddaughters. Including her ghostwriter, Rachel, who would accompany her on her mission as the logical choice.

The girls would pool their efforts to raise money for Nona’s “research trip.” And, well, if once she’d returned to her homeland she decided to stay…that would be up to her—just as long as she finished her story. Because now that they’d discussed it, the truth was that they wanted it, each and every one of them, to save as a memento. Their main task was raising the cash. They needed to find a product, something to sell. Something that wouldn’t cost too much money to make, but that would be of value to the purchaser. Something useful yet ordinary, the type of household item every family needed. To help keep them organized, all year through. From soccer games to dental appointments, school plays…yes, even the fish fry… If folks needed to know where they had to be and when, first they had to write it down. Record it so they wouldn’t forget or overschedule themselves on the same day. What every well-run home needed was…

BOOK: The Calendar Brides
11.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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