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Authors: Wendy Sand Eckel

Death at the Day Lily Cafe

BOOK: Death at the Day Lily Cafe
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To Elizabeth and Madeline, with love

 

A symbol of birth and humility, the lily reminds us that our good deeds do not need to be known by others. It is helping someone that gives us the greatest reward.

When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.

—CHINESE PROVERB

 

O
NE

The Day Lily Café

Join us Thursday for our Grand Opening. Enjoy a complimentary cinnamon muffin with any coffee purchase. Open for breakfast and lunch, 7:00–3:00.

167 people like this.

VIEW ALL 17 COMMENTS

Annie Hart

Yay Mom!!!!!! I'm so proud.:)

Tony Ricci

Good job, princess, but for crying out loud, stop giving away free stuff

Janice Tilghman

Way to go, Rose Red. Way cool.

Mr. Miele's high-pitched beep signaled the first batch of French roast had finished brewing. I cinched my robe and trotted down the narrow stairs of the two-hundred-year-old farm house that had been bequeathed to me by my beloved Aunt Charlotte. The breaking dawn lightened the sky to navy blue, bringing the shapes of the various objects in my kitchen into focus. The glowing green clock of my treasured coffee bistro read 5:00. Boot stomps on the front steps announced Tyler's arrival. After removing two mugs from hooks under the cabinet, I rolled my shoulders back and smiled. I'd done it. I opened a café, and Tyler and I had the organic produce to provision it. I was looking forward to seeing him. He had been swamped with the farm lately, and I spent all day, every day planning menus, prepping, and shopping for the best ingredients I could find—ideally local and organic. As a result, Tyler and I only saw each other for a brief shared coffee in the morning and an exhausted hi/good-bye in the evening.

We first met the day he appeared in the lane leading to my new residence, visibly annoyed at my neglect of the property for the previous two years and anxious to get the fields working again. But over the past year and a half, he had become a dear and trusted companion.

“Just in time.” I spun around, a wide grin on my face. “I've been so nervous I couldn't sleep.”

“That's understandable,” he said, and accepted the mug. Early morning sunlight streamed in the window, irradiating his emerald eyes. His hair was freshly washed, the sandy blond contrasting with his tanned skin.

“We did this together. You and me.”

He walked over to the sugar canister. “That's not really true.” He pulled open the silverware drawer.

“Sure it is,” I said. “You grow most of the produce. You help me with the flowers and herbs. And what about the eggs? All of them come from our own free-range, fat, happy chickens.”

“Speaking of chickens.” He turned to face me but avoided my eyes. “A hawk got one yesterday. I tried to stop it.”

“And?”

“I was too late.”

“Oh no. How awful.” I gripped my mug tighter. “Which one? It wasn't Scheherazade, I hope.”

Tyler shook his head. “I told you not to name them.”

“I can't help it. They have such distinct personalities.” I searched his face. “It was her, wasn't it?”

“Nope. It was one of the bantams. Mick Jagger set off the alarm by squawking his heart out. He was trying to protect his hens.”

“I didn't know roosters did that.” I set my coffee cup on the counter. “See? Chickens are amazing. Thus they deserve names.”

Tyler peered into the bread basket. “You don't happen to have any extra muffins, do you?”

“Those are my trials from yesterday, so please, help yourself. I think they came out pretty good. Did you ever eat cinnamon toast as a kid?”

“The best.”

“That was my inspiration.” I removed a plate from the cabinet and arranged the muffins in a circle. “Will the hawk come back?”

“For certain.” He sipped his coffee. “It's probably out there right now.”

I suppressed a shiver. “Oh, I almost forgot. I have something for you.” I tugged my robe tighter around my waist, and walked over to the table. I unfolded a T-shirt and held it up for him to see. “Ta-da!” The tee was a deep forest green with small white letters in the upper left-hand corner that read:

BARCLAY MEADOW

AN ORGANIC SUSTAINABLE FARM

I flipped it over. The same words, only in a larger font, spread across the back. “Do you like it? I ordered a couple. And I got a few for me, too.”

Tyler smiled. “I do, actually. Good color.”

“It will go nicely with your eyes.”

“I would have been better off not knowing that.” Tyler took the shirt from my hands, finished his coffee, and set the mug in the sink. He turned around, his face animated in a rare smile. “Good luck today. You've worked hard. You deserve to have this success.”

“Thank you.” My heart skipped around in my chest. “You know that means the world to me, coming from you.”

He lingered a moment and then headed toward the front door. There was no chocolate Lab following him today. Dickens, getting on in years, now waited for Tyler under the shade of a sycamore tree.

I hurried up the narrow, creaky stairwell. I hung my robe on a hook and slipped into a white blouse, short black skirt, and my favorite pair of wedge heels. Once I had fluffed my hair and added a little makeup, I clasped my mother's pearls around my neck. I raised my eyes to the ceiling and, as I always did when I put on the pearls, said, “Miss you, Mom. Every day, all day.” I gave my watchful cat a little pat and was on my way at last.

 

T
WO

A dense mist rose from the Cardigan River as I drove into town. Despite my best efforts, I was running late. I scrolled through the contacts on my hands-free phone menu, careful to keep an eye on a pair of cyclists weaving along the road in front of me, and clicked on Glenn's number.

“Rosalie, where are you? People are already reading the menu outside.”

“I'm on my way,” I said. “Have you started the coffee?”

“Of course,” Glenn said. I felt instantly soothed by his calm, confident tone. He was my path to Zen.

“There are a couple of bikers in the road in front of me. They must think we Eastern Shore folks have nothing better to do.”

“Careful,” Glenn said, “you're starting to sound like a native. And I think they prefer the term
cyclists
.”

“Has Custer put in the first batch of muffins?”

“The aroma of that cinnamon is making me salivate.”

“Thank you, Glenn. I don't know what I would do without you.”

“No need to find out. All right, dear. Crystal is setting the tables. She's doing some fancy thing with the napkins. It looks pretty good. Be safe, and remember to share the road.”

I ended the call and exhaled a deep breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. I was relieved my employees were ready to start the day. So far I had three: my cook and dishwasher, Custer Wells, Tyler's wayward nephew who had needed a job; and two wait staff—Crystal Sterling, a young woman who was taking an extended break from her fine-arts education at John Adams College, and my best friend, Glenn, who at the age of seventy-two was able to keep orders in his head, soothe ruffled feathers, and pour a cup of West African blend without spilling a drop.

I stared at the cyclists, willing them to turn. That was a lot of spandex. A little too much information for my taste. One of them pointed to a farmhouse. The other wobbled as he turned to look at it. I eased off the accelerator. At least the fog was lifting. A lazy flock of Canada geese flew in a low
V
over the river, their out-of-sync honks piercing the quiet. I sank my teeth into my lower lip. I seemed to be the only one in a hurry this morning.

When the cyclists finally turned down a side road, I gunned the engine—but instantly slammed on the brakes when I noticed Sheriff Wilgus's cruiser idling on the berm. I had slowed to the posted twenty-five miles per hour by the time I passed him. He was scowling, a radar gun at the ready. I gave him a little wave and rounded the corner into town.

 

T
HREE

The windows of the Day Lily Café glowed like sun-kissed tangerines in the early morning light as I drove past the front of the restaurant. The café was tucked in a row of storefronts on Main Street, not far from the park in the center of town and just around the corner from Birdie's Shoe Store. Two large white window boxes flanked the glass door, filled with an assortment of fragrant herbs. Royal blue awnings piped in white flapped in a gentle breeze. I continued down Main Street and turned into the alley, toward my parking spot behind the café.

“I'm here…” I called as I passed Custer's motorcycle and pushed open the door. He had his head out a window, the small butt of a cigarette tight between his fingers.

“Custer, please, how many times have I told you to go all the way outside to smoke?”

“I just needed a couple of puffs.” He stubbed out the butt on the windowsill and shoved it in his front pocket. “You're late.”

“I know. Don't forget to wash your hands.”

“Yes, boss.”

I ignored his sarcasm and tied a short turquoise apron behind my back. “Have you started the potato cakes?”

He shook his head as he lathered his hands. “Too soon.”

I studied him. Today would be a test of us all, individually and as a team. Although we had done a cold-open a few weeks ago in order to work out any kinks, I'd chosen Memorial Day weekend for our grand opening. Cardigan would be overrun with tourists from DC, Philly, and Maryland's Western Shore on the opposite side of Chesapeake Bay.

I watched as Custer tossed a paper towel into the trash as if it were a basketball. At twenty-four, he was illegally handsome, with chiseled features not unlike his uncle Tyler. Thick brown hair jutted out of a black-and-white bandana tied around the top of his head. His eyes were mesmerizing, with light-colored irises centered in a pool of deep green.

BOOK: Death at the Day Lily Cafe
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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