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Authors: Marie Bostwick

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A Thread So Thin

BOOK: A Thread So Thin
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A Thread So Thin
Also by Marie Bostwick

A Thread of Truth
(Cobbled Court #2)

A Single Thread
(Cobbled Court #1)

On Wings of the Morning

River’s Edge

Fields of Gold

“The Presents of Angels” in
Snow Angels

“A High-Kicking Christmas” in
Comfort and Joy

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

A Thread So Thin
MARIE BOSTWICK

KENSINGTON BOOKS

www.kensingtonbooks.com

To my precious daughters-in-love

With thanks…

To Father Robert Tucker, of St. Anthony’s of Padua church, for sharing his insights on counseling engaged couples. To Joseph Montebello and Davyne Verstandig, who are good writers, good listeners, and cherished friends.

To Brad, my cheerleader, lover, husband, and best friend. To Betty Walsh, my first-round reader and in-house literary critic, for being an outstanding older (and much wiser) sister.

And to the team—Audrey LaFehr, Jill Grosjean, Nancy Berland, Sherry Kuehl, Adam Kortekas, and Molly Dane Skinner—for everything else.

A Thread So Thin
Prologue

 

 

Liza Burgess

B
y the time a person gets to be twenty-two years old, you’d think she’d be pretty self-aware. I always thought I was. But recently I learned something new about myself: I don’t like surprises.

I don’t like decisions, either. Until pretty recently, I didn’t have to make many decisions, not important ones, not the kind that will change your life. When you’re a kid, adults tend to make your choices for you.

Life is just filled with too many choices. That’s what I think. Maybe I’d feel differently if my childhood hadn’t been cut short by a few years, but it was. The way I see it, the older you get, the more chance there is that the choices you make now will screw up the whole rest of your life. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about.

My mom died from breast cancer at about the same time I graduated from high school. Just like that, I was alone in the world.

My dad is alive—at least I guess he is—but I’ve never met him and wouldn’t have known how to contact him even if I’d wanted to. I knew I had an aunt Abigail, too, my mom’s older sister, but I didn’t want to contact her either, and for good reason.

Mom and Abigail hadn’t spoken to each other since before I was born. Their falling-out was complicated and multifaceted, but it began because of my father, the man they’d both loved and, eventually, were both deserted by. But when my mom died, I didn’t know that. All I knew was that Abigail had cut off all contact with Mom and, by extension, with me. She never called or came to see us, not even when Mom was dying. Abigail was the last person I wanted to turn to for help.

The person I did turn to wasn’t even family. Not then.

I know people like to make jokes about lawyers, but they’d better not do it in front of me. When Mom died, Franklin Spaulding, our lawyer, was the only one on my side.

With his help, I sold our tiny town house, settled the estate, paid off Mom’s hospital and funeral bills and, with the money that was left, went to art school in Rhode Island. Franklin helped me fill out the application and even wrote me a recommendation. And it didn’t end there. He helped me move into my dorm and even showed up and took me out to dinner on Parents Weekend. Franklin is a great guy. I don’t know what I’d have done without him. He called me every couple of months just to see how I was doing. I always said everything was fine. But it wasn’t.

Even with Franklin’s help, being an adult, making all my own decisions…well, it didn’t exactly work out for me.

After three semesters, I flunked out, did something really stupid, and ended up in front of a judge. The judge didn’t think I was the sort of person who should be “left to her own recognizance” (you think?), so he basically forced my aunt Abigail to be responsible for me.

To say I wasn’t too happy about this arrangement would be an understatement. But now I can admit that a part of me was secretly relieved by the judge’s order. I was only nineteen. Letting somebody else, even someone I resented as much as Abigail, be in charge for a while was an improvement.

But for a long time, the jury was definitely out on whether or not Abigail and I were going to work out. We loathed each other.

I was angry with the world as a whole and Abigail in particular. I went out of my way to do and think exactly the opposite of whatever Abigail did or thought, and basically I made her life hell. If Abigail said white, I said black, and vice versa, just so I could tick her off. It wasn’t hard. She took the bait pretty easily.

But we eventually called a truce. It’d take a book to explain exactly how, but after a year of living with Abigail in her enormous mansion in New Bern, Connecticut, and many long, drawn-out battles, we worked out our problems…well, most of them.

Now Abigail is family to me—and all
that
implies. Sometimes I’d like to smack her. Sometimes I bet she’d like to do the same to me. But I love her and she loves me, even when she doesn’t understand me, which is pretty much all the time. Still, in her own way, she’s like a second mother to me—a caring, pushy, controlling, overbearing, and incredibly rich second mother.

After a lot of soul searching, I did decide to go back to school in New York, but once I got here, I didn’t have to make too many choices. The curriculum for studio art majors is pretty well set, and as far as the other stuff—where I’d live and how much allowance I’d get, that kind of thing—I mostly leave that to Abigail. She’s more than happy to take over, and I’m more than happy to leave it in her hands, so it works out well.

Like I said before, Abigail is rich. Really rich. Like Jimmy Choo, chauffeured limousine, Park Avenue penthouse apartment rich, and if I wanted all that, she’d be happy to get it for me. Heck, she’d be giddy with joy to get it for me. Abigail loves a project. But I don’t want any of that stuff. It’s just not me. I’m not glamorous. Never have been. Besides, I don’t want to stick out.

When I came to New York to take another run at art school I wanted to fit in and be a regular student like everyone else: living in a crowded apartment with three other girls and sharing one sink, eating ramen noodles from the microwave and hot dogs off vendors’ carts, getting woken up by the screams of sirens in the middle of the night or the shouts of drunks stumbling home after the bars have closed, sweating in summer when the window air conditioner breaks, getting soaked in the rain trying to hail cabs that shower you with water as they speed through puddles, slogging through the dirty slush of winter as the wet seeps in between the stitching of your boots and freezes your toes. If you’re not glamorous, living in New York can be hard.

But I like New York. I like it a lot. I like the busyness of it, the way everything is always moving and changing.

But, that being said, New York isn’t the center of my universe. I’m here for a while, just till I finish my degree, and then I intend to go home to New Bern, where Abigail lives and where I live, too, or will, at the end of next term, when I graduate. Maybe you wonder what I’m going to do with a degree in studio art in a little Podunk village in Connecticut. The same thing I’d do with a degree in studio art in New York, or Paris, or anyplace else: work in retail during the day, and paint at night. You can be a starving artist anywhere.

It isn’t like I’ve worked out a grand plan for all this; it’s more that I don’t have anywhere else to go or any other prospects. When all you’re good at is painting pictures, your horizons tend to be a little limited. But the way I see it, limited prospects save me the worry of trying to decide what I should do with my life, you know? Everything is all settled. Well, it was…until tonight. But I’ll get to that later.

The thing is, going home to New Bern is no hardship because, while I like New York, I love New Bern. I really do.

I love the way the hills are painted orange and yellow and red every fall, and how all the crocuses bloom on the same day in the spring. I love waking up early on the morning after a big snowstorm, going outside to get the paper from the box, and leaving the first footprints on the sidewalk. I love sitting with a picnic basket on the Green and listening to free concerts on Wednesday nights in summer, watching kids race around chasing fireflies while their parents lie on the grass and surreptitiously sip wine out of generic plastic thermoses because the Green is town property and you’re not supposed to have alcohol on town property. And I love how, as long as people behave themselves, the police pretend they don’t know what’s in the thermoses. I love how everyone in New Bern knows everybody else’s business and talks about it. And I love how nothing there, at least nothing big, ever really changes. But most of all, I love the people. New Bern is all about the people.

Evelyn Dixon, who owns the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop, has a job waiting for me when I come back. Evelyn’s like my other second mother except that, unlike Abigail, she’s calm, practical, and wise. And, most of the time, she does understand me.

Then there’s Margot, who is like the big sister I never had: sweet and tolerant and smarter than me. Margot was a marketing executive in New York until she got downsized and moved to New Bern. Now she does all the marketing and accounting for the quilt shop, though a lot of the time she works selling fabric and thread. We all do that.

Everyone at Cobbled Court pitches in whenever and however they can. Ivy Peterman is in charge of order fulfillment for our telephone and Internet sales; Cobbled Court does a big online business. She’s newer on staff but she fits in like she’s been here from the beginning. Ivy’s just a few years older than me but she has two little kids, Bethany and Bobby. She’s had a hard life and can be pretty serious. I consider it my job to help her lighten up and remind her that she’s still young. In other words, I like to tease her. She doesn’t mind. We’re friends. They’re all my friends and, in a way, my family—Abigail, Evelyn, Margot, and Ivy. They’re also the members of my quilt circle. I know, it’s weird to think of a twenty-two-year-old sitting around with a bunch of older women making quilts, but what can I say? They’re my girls.

And I love making quilts. Quilting is just another medium, another means for creating art. After I got tossed from school, learning to quilt helped me realize that I really
am
an artist, a good one, no matter what those pruney professors in Rhode Island thought. I’m doing really well at my current school. In fact, I’ve got the highest grade point in my class. Not that grade point means so much in art school—what matters is the work—but I’ve produced some pieces that I’m very proud of and, if not for what I’ve learned about myself through quilting, I might have given up on art altogether.

So, you can see why New Bern has such a pull on me, why I spend as many weekends there as I can. But New Bern has another, very important, attraction for me: My boyfriend lives there.

Garrett is Evelyn’s son. He was a programmer for a big company in Seattle, but he came home to help Evelyn after her mastectomies. He liked New Bern, and me, so he stayed. Now he takes care of Cobbled Court’s website and is in charge of all the computer stuff. Garrett is a genius. He’s also funny, and considerate, and absolutely gorgeous. He has the most amazing brown eyes. And he’s taller than me by five inches, which I love. I’m five-ten, and I can tell you from personal experience, there’s nothing romantic about being the girl who has to bend down to kiss her date good night. But that’s no problem with Garrett. He knows just when to pick up the phone or send me an e-mail, and he remembers things like the anniversary of our first date. When he picked me up for that first date, he brought me one perfect pink rose and he’s done the same for every date since. He’s got romantic down cold.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, he went all out in the romance department. In fact, he went overboard. Before now, I wouldn’t have believed that was possible, but believe me—it is.

BOOK: A Thread So Thin
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