Welcome to Fiction Friday, my chance each week to post an excerpt from one of my books or those of my friends and colleagues.
Last week I introduced The Christmas Wedding Quilt, an anthology with three novellas by Janice Kay Johnson, Sarah Mayberry and me. The Christmas Wedding Quilt will be at your favorite bookstore on November 5th or you can order it online, with links below. If you missed last week’s introduction, which sets up the story behind the three individual novellas, you can find it here.
Today I’ll introduce the first novella, Let It Snow, which is my contribution. You met Jo last week. Now she’s decided to go back to Hollymeade, the lake house in Western New York that belongs to her father’s family to enjoy a few weeks in December. Jo has been given the center block of a round robin quilt–a folk art portrait of Hollymeade–and now she’s expected to do the first border. The quilt will be a wedding gift for her cousin, completed by Jo and two more cousins, and Jo has fabric to use from the bride’s childhood, but she hopes to find fabric from the groom’s to add to it, as well.
This is a novel, right, and I didn’t choose the title out of thin air. Nothing is ever easy for my characters. So let’s tune in on Jo, who has traveled to Kanowa Lake, New York from sunny California at Christmas time, sure that a little winter weather will be a welcome change. She’s finally made it through near blizzard conditions to what she hopes is the turnoff to Hollymeade.
“Welcome to Hollymeade,” she whispered as she turned into what she hoped was the driveway.
She was parked in front of the house with the engine off before she took another deep breath. She couldn’t believe she had made it through the drifts of snow piling higher and higher. But here she was, the familiar old house just waiting for her. She had fought the elements and won. Memories of her childhood summers were just in reach. She couldn’t wait to go inside.
Of course part of the reason she couldn’t wait was that cold was already seeping into the car, and the air wasn’t getting any warmer.
She reached for her jacket again, the warmest she owned, and wished she had taken the time to buy a better one. She leaned forward and shrugged into it, this time zipping it to the top before she opened the door and stepped outside.
Snow immediately filled her boots, which hadn’t been designed for blizzards. She pulled on lightweight leather gloves and grimaced as she opened the rear door and reached for her suitcase and the groceries. She wondered how long she could make those three silly candy bars last.
Lifting the suitcase over the top of the snow she trudged to the front steps, feet already turning numb. By the time she arrived she was winded but cheered. In a minute she would be inside, where she could take off her boots, turn up the heat and make herself a cup of something warm. Then she could explore to her heart’s content, choose a bedroom, make the bed and settle in for the night after a meal of corned beef hash or a bowl of cereal.
Gray canvas awning swaddled the wide front porch to keep the snow outside. She unzipped the doorway and hefted the suitcase in with her, zipping it behind her. Then she rolled the suitcase to the door and leaned it against the wall with her purse and grocery bag.
The vase where the key was hidden was farther from the door than she had anticipated, and the tented porch was so dark she had to feel her way along the wall with one hand to stay steady. But she reached it and lifted the vase.
She squatted, stripped off her gloves and searched the floor with her fingertips. Only a cobweb wrapped itself around her fingers in welcome.
“Yuck.” She wiped her hand on her jeans as she stood. She was out of the wind and the snow, but cold was still her enemy. The temperature was probably in the twenties, and her clothes and feet were soaked.
No key, no light. While it was dark outside, it wasn’t this dark, She went back to the door and unzipped it again, tying back the flaps to let in what light she could. Then she carefully walked the length of the porch, lifting various knick knacks, a row of concrete ducklings, a plant stand, checking each for the key. She felt along each shelf on an empty book case at the end, opened the drawer on a small end table between two shiny metal chairs.
Now she was shivering. She pulled out her cell phone to call her great uncle for advice, but there was no coverage. Either because of the storm or the rural location, she was on her own.
The town of Kanowa Lake lay beyond the lake house, perhaps three miles farther. There were other houses around the lake, of course, but most of them were summer cottages, many without heat. Now they were tented and locked tight, pipes drained and electricity turned off until warm weather brought them back to life. Without suitcase or groceries she unzipped once more, trudged back down the steps, stepped into a snow drift and peered into the distance, making a slow circle.
Not a single light was visible.
Brrr. . . . But I promise I don’t just leave Jo standing there in the snow and the cold. A lot can happen in a few minutes. Entire lives can change.
Don’t forget to come back next week for a preview of Ella’s story, You Better Watch Out, by Janice Kay Johnson.