THE LOFT

The Memory House Series

Book Two

The First Stone

They say that somewhere far beyond what mortals see there is a scale of life, and for each moment of happiness a stone of sorrow is dropped onto the scale.

When the Keeper of the Scale saw that Annie Cross’s life had been weighted with sorrow for far too long, he selected a stone the color of an early morning sunrise. It was round, worn smooth and without jagged edges. He gave a smile of satisfaction, then dropped the stone onto the happiness side of Annie’s scale. That was the day she knocked on Judge Oliver Doyle’s door.

As she looked into the blue of his eyes, she knew he was the one.

* * *

Exactly 3.2 miles from Ophelia Browne’s Memory House Bed and Breakfast there is a small clapboard church. It is set back from the street and surrounded by oaks that have stood for centuries. If you lift your head and search the treetops, you will find the steeple. The tip of it is just a bit above the tallest oak, and when the sun is high in the sky a person must shade their eyes to catch even a glimpse. Although the steeple is sometimes difficult to see, on Sunday morning when the bells chime they can be heard throughout all of Burnsville.

Pastor Willoughby claims the Good Shepherd Church will accommodate 90 parishioners, but today 120 people have crowded in. It is the first Saturday of June yet hot as the middle of August. The side windows have been thrown open and a soft breeze drifts across the room, but it is not enough to cool the crowd squeezed shoulder to shoulder.

The first time Ophelia came to this church was the year she and Edward were married. That was almost seventy years ago, yet nothing has changed. When she steps into the vestibule her mind slides back to a sadder day, the day of Edward’s funeral. Before the melancholy of remembering can take hold, a young man steps up to her.

“May I?” he asks and offers his arm.

Ophelia smiles. “Thank you,” she says and slides her hand into the opening that is offered.

Charlie Doyle is Oliver’s brother. Together he and Ophelia walk slowly down the aisle.

The first pew is the only spot where there are still seats. The left side is reserved for the bride’s family, the right side for the groom’s. Charlie guides Ophelia to the pew on the left side and waits for her to smooth her skirt and sit. Once she is seated, he gives a pleasant nod and turns back to the vestibule. Ophelia is the only person in that pew. She is Annie’s family.

The tall white-haired man on the right side looks across at Ophelia and smiles. He stands, goes to her and extends his hand.

“Please,” he says, “come and sit with Laura and me. We should be one family now.”

Ophelia takes his hand and stands. “Thank you, Ethan.” They have met only once before, but Ophelia feels she has known him for a long time. His eyes are the same blue as Oliver’s, and although his lips are thinner now his smile is the same. Ethan Allen Doyle is Oliver’s daddy.

Moments after Ophelia is seated, Oliver and Charlie walk down the aisle and stand side by side to the left of the altar. The organ then fills the room with the sound of music, and everyone stands.

Giselle is first down the aisle; she works with Annie at the library and is the matron of honor. When she reaches the altar, she steps to the right.

The organist then stomps on the pedals and starts to play the traditional wedding march. All heads turn.

Annie appears in the doorway. Her veil is pushed back from her face, and she carries a bouquet of the bright pink peonies grown in Ophelia’s garden. She smiles and starts down the aisle. She has dreamed of this moment for more years than she has known Oliver. It is just as she imagined, yet it is different.

Michael Stavros is not the man waiting at the end of the aisle; it is Oliver. And she is no longer a girl blinded by the thought of love. Annie is now a woman, a woman who has learned to love and be loved. It is the kind of love that runs deep and is destined to last forever. The night Oliver slipped an engagement ring on her finger, she could see the future as easily as she sees the past.

Today they will start to create their own memories, memories that Annie hopes will one day be found in the objects they leave behind.

 Oliver reaches out and takes her hand; together they turn to Pastor Willoughby.

He starts to speak. “Today we are gathered together…”

Annie and Oliver have both written their own vows. In hers she promises to love him always and unconditionally.

“I will forever be your best friend and stand beside you,” she says, “for as long as the stars shine in the night sky and, God willing, even longer.” The words are soft and gentle as she speaks them.

A tear falls from Ophelia’s eye as she listens. She can remember making just such a promise to Edward, but long after he was gone the stars still lit the sky and she could do nothing but ache for his body to again lie beside hers.

Oliver tells Annie she has brought a newfound happiness to his life, that the ordinary things of yesterday are no longer ordinary but amazing because he can see them through her eyes.

“Although I may be an imperfect being,” he says, “I will for the rest of my days love you, honor you and cherish you with every ounce of my heart and soul.”

They exchange rings, and as they share a kiss the organist begins Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. She plays softly at first, but when Annie and Oliver turn to the congregation the music grows louder and the church bells begin to chime as they do on Sunday morning.

Oliver whispers, “I love you, Annie Doyle,” and they start back down the aisle together.

Annie

It may seem like this special day is the beginning of my story, but it’s not. My story began a year ago when I knocked on Ophelia Browne’s door. Back then I thought she was just a sweet little old lady with a bed and breakfast and a magical potpourri that smells like whatever you’re thinking of. It may be difficult to imagine such a potpourri, but that’s only because you don’t know Ophelia. She’s a woman who can find the magic hidden in everyday things.

When she first told me it was possible to connect to a memory someone had left behind in a forgotten object, I thought she was joking. But once I experienced it for myself, I knew it was true. I guess if you want to live life to the fullest, you’ve got to be open-minded about the things that seem unbelievable.

Ophelia taught me how to touch an object and find the memory in it.  At first I thought maybe it was her dandelion tea that enabled me to do this, but she said it was more than likely something I was born with. She claims this ability is a gift given only to those with sensitive souls. I can’t say whether or not this is true, but I can say I’m very glad for having met Ophelia. Knowing her has changed my life.

It began the day she showed me the bicycle in the storage shed. The minute I touched it, I heard a boy’s laughter. The sound of his laughter so intrigued me that I wanted to know more about him.

The thing is, you can’t just pull a memory out of something the way you’d pull a splinter from your finger. It takes time and lots of love.

For months I worked on that bicycle, polishing it, shining it and always listening for another word or two from the boy. Little by little it came to me. I felt his heartbeat, and I knew of his fear, but I never knew his name. Then one day I found a book called The Wisdom of Judicial Judgment in the Practice of Law. The minute my hand touched that book, I knew the author, Ethan Allen Doyle, was my bicycle boy. Yes, he’s Oliver’s daddy, but he’s also my bicycle boy.

My search for Ethan Allen is what led me to knock on Oliver’s door.

You can tell me seven ways from Sunday there’s no such thing as magic, and you might be right.  But since I’ve allowed my heart to believe in the things Ophelia taught me, my life is filled with the magic of love and happiness.

And that’s something there is no question about.

The Swans

  The reception is held in the side yard of Memory House. It is what Annie asked for, and Oliver has arranged everything. The caterers arrived at the break of dawn, and by the time the guests come from the church there are several white tents dotting the lawn and a bubbling champagne fountain in the center.

Three days ago a pair of trumpeter swans came from out of nowhere and settled on the pond. They are long-necked and graceful. Annie believes it is a good omen. Like Ophelia, she has come to believe in such signs.

She whispers in Oliver’s ear, “I think this means we’ll be mated for life.”

Oliver laughs. “I know we’ll be mated for life and not because of the swans.”

Annie stretches up and kisses his cheek. His practicality is one of the many things she loves about Oliver. Even though she has told him the story of the bicycle boy and how she came to be standing on his doorstep that night, he still believes it was simply a stroke of good fortune that brought her to him.

When Annie spots Ophelia sitting in one of the wicker chairs placed about the yard, she makes her way through the crowd and squats beside her.

“Without you none of this would have happened,” she says. “How can I possibly thank you?”

Ophelia leans forward and lovingly traces her hand along Annie’s cheek. “You don’t need to thank me. Just having you with me for this past year is more than I could have asked for.”

“Well, don’t think you’re rid of me,” Annie says with a grin. “I plan on working in the apothecary two days a week and coming over weekends to help with the garden.”

Ophelia sets her tea aside and takes Annie’s hand in hers. “You’ll do nothing of the sort,” she says. “I’ll be just fine. What I want you to do is to go off on your honeymoon and have the most wonderful time of your life.”

Annie laughs. “That shouldn’t be too hard.”

The party lasts until the sky settles into dusk. When the crowd thins, Ethan Allen spies Ophelia sitting alone and walks over. He is carrying two glasses of champagne.

“I thought you could use this,” he says.

He hands the glass to Ophelia and sits beside her.

It has been a long day; happy, yes, but also emotionally draining for Ophelia. She accepts the glass and is glad to have it. “Thank you,” she says and smiles.

They sit in silence for a minute; then Ethan says, “I’m glad Oliver has Annie.” He turns to Ophelia and adds, “It’s not good for anyone to be alone.”

Ophelia looks down at the hand not holding the champagne. She still wears the narrow gold band Edward once placed on her finger.

“That surely is true,” she says sadly.

“So what are you going to do?” he asks.

Ethan grins, and the years fall away. Ophelia sees the face of Annie’s bicycle boy. For a moment she is held spellbound; then she shakes the image loose.

“Do about what?” she asks.

“About staying here alone,” he says.

“I’m not alone,” she replies indignantly.

He leans forward and rests his hand on the arm of her chair. “With Annie moving into Wyattsville, you will be,” he says.

“I will not!” she snaps back. “I have friends. Customers too. There’s not a day that passes when I don’t have a dozen or more people stop by the apothecary.”

Ethan smiles at Ophelia’s feistiness. She is a reminder of the eleven-year-old boy who made his way to Wyattsville. He can almost hear himself saying I don’t need nothing from nobody! It’s what you say when your back is to the wall and you’ve got no place else to go.

“Why, with taking care of customers and tending my garden,” Ophelia continues, “I’m busy morning ‘til night.”

“Well, then, maybe you need a housekeeper.”

Ophelia’s eyes grow wide and she gasps. “Housekeeper?” Before he has a chance to say anything more, she charges ahead. “Why? Do you think my house is dirty? Are the beds unmade? Is the floor not swept?”

“I only meant—”

“I don’t care a fig for what you meant,” she snaps. “I’ve run this bed and breakfast all by myself for over fifty years, and I can run it for fifty more if I’ve a mind to!”

“I don’t doubt that,” Ethan says, “but Laura and I live in a lovely retirement village in Florida, and we thought maybe—”

“I’m not retired!”

Ignoring her comment, Ethan continues. “In our complex we’ve got a gardening club that would be delighted to have an expert like you teach them—”

“I told you, I’m not retired!”

Ethan chuckles. “So you said. But if you ever should decide to retire, I want you to know we’d welcome the opportunity to have you.”

The muscles in Ophelia’s face relax. “That’s very nice of you,” she says politely. She swallows the last of her champagne then adds, “I’ll keep it in mind if I ever do decide to retire.”

Ethan stands, but before he turns away he bends down and kisses Ophelia’s cheek. “You remind me of Grandma Olivia,” he whispers, “and she was one damn fine woman.”

After everyone is gone, the waiters start to clean up. Glasses and dishes are put into plastic bins and loaded into the truck parked in the driveway. Tablecloths disappear into a laundry bag, and the tables themselves are folded flat and carted off. Tomorrow another crew will come and take the tents. Then it will be as it was before, and the party will exist only in Ophelia’s memory.

How sad, she thinks, that the most wonderful things disappear so quickly and yet sorrow hangs on forever.

Ethan Allen Doyle

 You might think it strange that I suggested Ophelia come to Florida, especially since we haven’t known each other for that long. But I’ve been in her shoes, so I know how it feels to be alone and without a soul to turn to. The last thing in the world you’ll do is ask for help. You build a defensive barrier around yourself, and you’re afraid that one moment of weakness will bring that wall crashing down.

I see a lot of myself in Ophelia. I was eleven when Grandma Olivia took me in, and I shudder to think what would have happened if she hadn’t. My mama and daddy were both dead, and I didn’t have anybody else to turn to. Olivia Doyle wasn’t even my real grandma. She’d simply married a granddaddy I’d never even laid eyes on, and he was already dead when I got there.

I was sassy-mouthed, cussed like a sailor and had the man who killed my daddy looking for me, but Grandma Olivia overlooked all of that. She said we were family and family had to stick together. If she could find room in her heart to love a kid like that, Laura and I can certainly make room in our lives for one sweet little old lady.

Ophelia is ninety, but she doesn’t seem it. She’s sharp as a tack and plenty spry. Unfortunately she’s as sassy and independent as I was, so I’m sure that when she makes up her mind to do something there’s nobody who’s going to change it.

I know Annie will keep a close eye on Ophelia. Oliver will too.

I told him the same thing I’m telling you and he said, “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll see she’s well taken care of.”

He will. I’m certain of it. Oliver’s serious-minded and carries responsibilities like a briefcase shackled to his arm.

I’m mighty proud to have a boy like him, and I think if Grandma Olivia were here to see him she’d be just as proud.

The Dream

When the caterer’s truck finally leaves, Memory House is silent except for an occasional squawk from the ducks on the pond. Ophelia climbs the stairs to the loft where she sleeps. It will be comforting to lie in bed and search the night sky for a few familiar friends.

She changes into a soft cotton nightgown, plumps the pillow and crawls into bed. Above her there is a large skylight—the skylight Edward built. On nights when she is most lonely, she can look up and imagine him there among the stars he loved so dearly.

Tonight they shine brighter than usual. She can see the constellation of Pegasus clearly. She searches her mind for the names of the stars in the constellation but can remember only one: Enif. It shines more brightly than any of the others.

Even after Ophelia has closed her eyes she can still see the night sky, and she can remember the sound of Edward’s voice naming each individual star.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” a voice says.

It comes from behind her, but Ophelia knows without turning that it is Edward.

“Yes, it is,” she answers. She feels the warmth of his hands on her shoulders.

“We had some good years, didn’t we, Opie?”

Ophelia feels herself smile. Opie. It is a name only he uses, and it is good to hear it again. Then she sighs. “It’s been so long.”

“Too long.”

“It hasn’t been easy,” she says, “taking care of this house, the garden, the apothecary…”

“I know.” He gives her shoulder an affectionate squeeze. “I was glad when the girl came. It was good to see you laugh again.”

“She’s gone now,” Ophelia says sadly.

“I know.”

She feels the tug of his arm as he pulls her closer to his chest.

“Maybe you too should leave here,” he says. “Find a place where there’s less work and someone to watch over you.”

“I could never,” she says. “This is where I belong.”

“It’s not good for a person to be alone,” he says.

“I’m not alone. You’re here with me.” She snuggles deeper into his arms. “I stay here because this is where I can look into the night sky and find you.”

He laughs. It is the same gentle laugh she has heard a thousand times before.

For a moment there is only silence and the joy of having him hold her. She would like to remain like this forever, but soon he will disappear just as he always does.

He knows her thoughts, and again there is the soft sound of his laughter. “Opie, my dear sweet Opie. I don’t live here in this house. I’m alive inside your heart. I’ll go wherever you go.”

“But here in this room—”

“Look at the sky,” he says. “On nights when there’s a cloud cover overhead, you can’t see the stars but you know they’re still there.”

Ophelia smiles, realizing this is true.

“So am I,” he says. “No matter where you are, I am with you and I will be until the end of days.”

She gives a melancholy sigh. “But I miss you terribly.”

He touches the side of his face to hers, and she can feel the heat of his breath.

“I know,” he answers. “In time we will be together again.”

“When?”

Ophelia feels the movement of his body as he shrugs.

“It’s still in the future,” he says. “I don’t know when it will happen, but on that day I’ll come for you.”

“You’re here now. Why can’t you just take me with you?” She turns to face him and is startled. Never before has she seen Edward older than he was the day he died, but now he has white hair and looks remarkably like Ethan Allen Doyle.

“Edward?” she says, but before there is time for an answer he is gone.

 Ophelia bolts up and screams out his name, but it is too late. Now there is only the empty room and the rose of a new dawn drifting across the skylight. She is still groggy from sleep and wants to hold onto the dream, but it is impossible. She remembers only that he was there and knows only that he is now gone.

She sobs and lowers her head into her lap. “Oh, Edward.”

 Today is Sunday, a day when almost no one comes to the apothecary. It stretches in front of her like a long road to travel. Ophelia climbs from the bed with the steely resolve that has carried her through the years.

For breakfast she makes blueberry pancakes. It is the same breakfast she sets out for guests, but today they seem tasteless. She sprinkles a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar on the pancakes, but they still are flavorless as cardboard. Finally, she scrapes them into the garbage can. She was not all that hungry anyway, she tells herself. Instead she will brew a full pot of dandelion tea, perhaps with a bit of chamomile and a sprig of mint.  Then she will sit on the back porch and read or perhaps crochet.

After the kitchen is cleaned and the breakfast dishes put away, Ophelia pulls a book of Walt Whitman poems from the shelf. She is just about to settle on the porch when she hears the sound of the Good Shepherd’s bells. They are calling people to worship.

The memory of yesterday is fresh in her mind. It has a certain warmth in it. People she has known for years go there. Friends shake hands and hug one another. The thought of a casual embrace or her hand touching another is welcomed on a day such as this. She sets the book aside and takes a lightweight jacket from the hall closet. Being at the Good Shepherd Church is far better than being alone.

Some days Ophelia can tolerate the loneliness, but today it is harder. Why, she cannot say. Perhaps because she has grown used to Annie being there, or maybe because of the dream. Feeling Edward’s closeness and then having him disappear again freshens the pain of his absence.

Ophelia has not driven for well over a year, but she has not forgotten how. It is like walking; you take a single step then it all comes back. Anyway, it is just over three miles to the church. Not a busy road. An easy drive. Nothing to be nervous about.

“Don’t carry on like a helpless twit,” she tells herself and takes the car key from the basket in the kitchen.

When she slides into the driver’s seat Ophelia feels her heart pounding against her chest. “Silly old woman,” she grumbles and turns the key in the ignition.

The engine sputters and coughs then dies. She tries again. There is a momentary growl of resistance; then it surges to life. She adjusts the rear view mirror and backs out.

Ophelia is halfway to the church when the first pain hits. It is like a hammer slamming against her back and pummeling her ribcage. She slows the car, but before she can pull to the side of the road the second one comes. It is worse than the first. She falls across the steering wheel, and the car slowly rolls over the edge of the road. When it finally comes to a stop, the right wheel is in the creek that runs alongside the road.

Short Honeymoon

 On Sunday morning Oliver is up and dressed before Annie even opens one eye. They will honeymoon in New York, and he has the week planned: several Broadway shows, dining in five star restaurants and strolling through Central Park. He bends down and kisses her nose.

“Wake up, sleepyhead,” he says. “We’ve got to get going.”

She sits up and rubs her eyes. “What time is it?”

“Almost seven,” he says and sets a cup of coffee on the nightstand beside her.

Annie pushes the covers back and climbs out of bed. “Isn’t there any tea?”

“No,” he says. “Sorry. I got so involved with the reception I forgot to get it.”

A year ago Annie couldn’t start the day without a tall mug of coffee; now she dislikes the bitter taste. She wrinkles her nose.

“I’d like to check on Ophelia anyway,” she says. “Let’s stop by the house, and I can grab a cup there.”

Oliver winces. “I’d like to be on the road by eight,” he replies. “It’s a seven-hour drive, and we’ve got early dinner reservations.”

This evening is meant to be a surprise so he doesn’t mention that the reservation is at One if by Land, Two if by Sea, a quaint carriage house restaurant in the West Village. It’s a place where reservations usually require a six-month wait. He wants this night to be special and has asked for a table in the corner with a bottle of champagne and a ribboned rose for Annie.

“Would you settle for a chai from Starbucks?” he asks.

She smiles. “I suppose so,” she says and heads for the shower.

They are about to turn onto Route 95 when Annie pulls her cell phone out of her purse and punches in Ophelia’s number.  It rings a dozen or more times, but there is no answer.

“That’s strange,” she says. “Where would Ophelia be this early in the morning?”

“Outside in the garden?” Oliver suggests.

“It’s only nine-fifteen.”

“Perhaps she went to the store? Or church?”

Annie frowns. “I certainly hope not. She doesn’t drive anymore.”

“Maybe one of the neighbors came and picked her up.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t think so. Something about this doesn’t feel right…”

Annie hits redial and waits. Still there is no answer. She sits her purse back on the floor but holds the phone in her hand.

After she has tried several times, Oliver suggests calling a neighbor.

Annie gives an absent nod. “Emma Landon lives just down the road. I’ll call and ask her to check on Ophelia.”

Annie taps Search and types “white pages directory-Burnsville, VA” then puts in Emma Landon’s name.

The phone reports there is no listing.

She types in George Landon.

Still no listing.

She tries Bertha Warren and finally meets with success.

After punching in Bertha’s number she waits. It rings sixteen, maybe seventeen times, but there is no answer.

The ridges across Annie’s forehead deepen. “This really is strange.”

Oliver pulls to the side of the road. “I’ll call Andrew and ask him to go over and make sure she’s okay.” Andrew Steen was Oliver’s law partner and is still his friend.

“It’s a forty-minute drive from his house,” Annie says. “Do you think he’ll mind doing it?”

Oliver shakes his head. He is already dialing the number.

Andrew answers on the first ring, and Oliver explains the problem.

“It’s the white house on Haber Street,” he says. “All the way at the end.” He rattles off Annie’s cell phone number and tells Andrew to call as soon as he gets there.

As they pull back onto Route 95, Annie says, “I’m concerned.” The truth is she is worried, but she uses the word concerned.

Oliver glances over. He sees her lips stretched tight and a line of furrows hovering above her brow.

“Want me to turn around?” he asks.

Annie would like to go back; she would like to know Ophelia is okay and nothing is wrong. But this is their honeymoon. Oliver has special plans, and she doesn’t want to disappoint him.

“No,” she answers. “Not yet.”

Her finger nervously picks at the edge of her cell phone case and he hears the apprehension in her voice. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure,” she says. “Hopefully it won’t be long before Andrew calls.”

Oliver slows the car and eases off at the next exit. He crosses under the overpass and pulls onto Route 95 Southbound.

“Thank you,” Annie says softly. A few moments pass before she speaks again. “I’m sorry. I know this isn’t how you planned to start our honeymoon.”

Oliver stretches his arm across the seat and lifts her hand into his. “There’s nothing to be sorry about,” he says. “Our honeymoon is only one week. We’ve still got a lifetime of love to look forward to.”

“True, but—”

“There are no buts,” Oliver cuts in. “Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing about you. The kind of love you have for Ophelia is a rare and unselfish thing.” He glances over and smiles. “I’m hoping that one day you’ll love me as much as you love her.”

A tear rolls down Annie’s cheek. She brushes it back and looks across at Oliver. He doesn’t have the chiseled chin and dark eyes of Michael Stavros, but to her he is the most beautiful man in the world.

“I already do love you that much,” she says.

He slows the car and eases onto the shoulder of the road. Unbuckling his seat belt, he reaches across the console and pulls Annie into an embrace.

“Annie Doyle,” he says, “I love you more than I ever dreamed possible.”

He presses his mouth to hers, and it is so much more than just a kiss. It is his promise of a lifetime.

When their lips part and he moves back behind the steering wheel, Annie gives a deep sigh. She knows he is her Edward; he is the whole of her life.

“We’ll have tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that,” he says. “But for now we have to go back and make sure Ophelia is okay.”

They are crossing into Virginia when Annie’s cell phone rings. The caller ID tells her it is Andrew Steen.

“Are you at the house yet?” she asks.

“Yes,” Andrew answers, “but there’s no one here.”

“Sometimes she’s slow answering,” Annie says. “Did you ring the cowbell over by the apothecary?”

“Yes. And I checked the garden and backyard. She’s not here.”

“Is the car in the garage?”

“I don’t know,” Andrew says. “There’s no window.”

“Go around back,” Annie tells him. “That door is never locked.”

“Hold on.”

Annie listens to the sound of footsteps and the squeak of the rusty hinge.

After a few moments Andrew is back on the line. “There’s no car in the garage.”

“Is there any sign of trouble? A broken window? Trampled bushes?”

“Not that I can see,” Andrew answers.

Annie lets out a whoosh of air that is drawn from the pit of her stomach. “Oh, dear…”

Oliver is going seventy-eight miles per hour; he pushes down on the pedal and takes it up to eighty-five.

“We’ll be there in forty minutes or less,” he says.

“Do you want me to do anything else?” Andrew asks.

“I guess not,” Annie replies. She wants to believe there is a logical reason why the car is gone, but right now she cannot think of one. Her only thought is that Ophelia is behind the wheel of the car.

 After Andrew hangs up, they ride in silence for almost a minute. Oliver wants to say something that will ease Annie’s mind, but he knows words are useless at a time like this.

“Perhaps Ophelia drove to church,” he finally offers. “There’s almost no traffic on Creekside road, so she should be fine.”

“She hasn’t driven in over a year. Maybe longer.”

“But that doesn’t mean she can’t.”

“I hope that’s true,” Annie says. By now she has picked the plastic loose from one whole corner of her cell phone case.

Annie Cross…now Doyle

I’ll never forgive myself if something has happened to Ophelia.

I should have known better than to go off and leave her alone. She’s ninety years old. A woman her age shouldn’t have to fend for herself. Someone should be there to drive her wherever she wants to go or call for help if she gets sick.

It’s easy to forget she’s getting on in years because she doesn’t act old, but that’s a poor excuse for me being so thoughtless. I should have ignored her objections and made arrangements for someone to stay with her.

I don’t say this to Oliver, but I know Ophelia gets nervous in the car, even when she’s sitting in the passenger seat. Sometimes if I turn a corner a bit too fast, she’ll grab onto the armrest so tightly her knuckles go white. That’s not the kind of person who should be driving.

I want to believe this is all just some crazy mix-up; that maybe George Landon borrowed the car to drive Ophelia and Emma to church or the vegetable market; but there’s a gnawing fear inside my heart saying that’s not the case. The truth is I’m scared to death she’s in trouble.

Don’t ask me what kind of trouble or how I know, because I don’t have an answer. I can only tell you what I feel.

Right now, I’m praying Ophelia is safe. If we get home and find…

…to continue reading CLICK HERE to buy the book

Editorial Reviews

“Heartwarming and Memorable”
The Haunted Reading Room

“The magic of memories, the healing power of love and a home where hearts beat on, welcome to The Loft…”
Goodreads

“Fabulous book! Fabulous Series!”
Amazon

Reviewer

“So many things to like about this book”
StoryBook Reviews

“A magical book of memories, treasures and stories from a Masterful Southern Storyteller”
Judith D. Collins

Amazon top 1000 Reviewer

USA Today Bestselling Author – Bette Lee Crosby

Scroll Through Stories by Bette Lee Crosby

Look No Further. Get Reading Today