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Authors: Melody Carlson

Hidden History (9 page)

BOOK: Hidden History
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“But what shall I put in it?” she asked. “I don’t have any more ribbons.”

“Put in things that mean something to you,” he suggested. “It’s just a keepsake for you to enjoy when you are older.”

So Alice had begun sticking this and that on the sturdy gray pages—photos of friends, her graduation announcement and her honor roll tassel. She set it aside after she started nursing school in Philadelphia, too busy with a full load of classes and her part-time job at the pharmacy to keep up with such things. Of course, that changed at the end of her sophomore year when she rescued the wounded cat and began to date the handsome young veterinarian, Mark Graves. After that she started taping in movie stubs, birthday cards, theater tickets, pressed flowers and even the few love notes that he had sent her during the more than two years that they had seen each other exclusively. Alice flipped past these faded bits of memorabilia now, going to the later pages of her scrapbook. These pages held recent newspaper clippings sent to her by an old college friend, Virginia Herman, who still lived in Philadelphia and stayed in touch. Several of them were about Mark’s career.

Alice studied the most recent photo of Mark. He had kindness in his dark eyes. She liked that he sported a full beard. It was hard to tell by the grainy newspaper photo, but his hair looked fairly gray. He looked dignified, like someone Alice would enjoy knowing. And yet they lived in completely different worlds—only an hour away, but a lifetime apart. She closed the book and sighed. How odd to think that Mark’s sister was downstairs right now. Wasn’t life funny?

Susan joined them for dinner again, along with Ethel. Jane did not mind extra mouths at the table. She often said it was easier for her to cook for a group. This was fortunate, since the more people heard about Jane’s fine culinary skills, the more they seemed to show up at mealtimes.

“Are you ready to go to the meeting, Alice?” asked Ethel after they finished a dessert of chocolate mousse.

“Meeting?” Alice frowned. “Oh, I totally forgot.”

Ethel smiled. “Good thing I stopped by. Better go get a sweater, it is starting to get cool. I’ll wait.”

Alice thanked Jane for the lovely dinner and then excused herself. Her steps felt heavy as she went upstairs. While she was committed to the church and the board meetings, she would have preferred her sisters’ company tonight.

“I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow for our reading,” said Louise as Alice and Ethel headed for the door.

Alice nodded. “Sorry, I completely forgot about this meeting.”

“What reading?” asked Ethel as they walked over to the church.

Alice considered this. She would not mind if Ethel read the journal later, but this time with her sisters had been special, and she did not want anything to spoil it. “Oh, we just decided to have reading nights.”

“You mean like a book club?” asked Ethel as Alice held the door open for her. “Something like that.”

“Well, I think that’s a complete waste of time,” said Ethel. “If you’re going to read a book, just read it. You don’t need to belong to a group. I think it’s just something that Orpha woman invented to sell more books.”

“You mean Oprah Winfrey?” Alice stifled a giggle.

“Yes, that woman on TV. I heard she got rich selling all those books for reading groups.”

“Actually, I don’t think she gets money from selling books. She just promotes good books because she loves to read.”

That’s what she’d like you to believe.”

“Hello,” called Lloyd from down the hall. “You girls are running a little late tonight.”

“Blame it on Jane’s chocolate mousse,” said Ethel as she patted her hair.

As usual, the board meeting was not terribly exciting, and that was fine with Alice. She did not enjoy those times when members felt the need to light off fireworks. Tonight they discussed the budget and the church’s part in the upcoming, first annual Fall Festival. To the community’s great surprise, the idea of a Fall Festival had originated with mayor Lloyd Tynan during a Chamber meeting only a few weeks earlier.

“I think it’s important for Grace Chapel to be involved in the Fall Festival,” said Lloyd. “It shows that we’re an interested and active part of our community.”

Florence Simpson frowned. “Since when did you become a cheerleader for civic celebrations in our town, Lloyd Tynan? Haven’t you always said that we should keep things the same in Acorn Hill?”

He nodded. “Yes, but sometimes change is good. We all saw how much the town enjoyed our summer celebration and how it brought people together. Nothing wrong with that.”

“Besides,” said Sylvia Songer, “the purpose of the Fall Festival is to support community services. I’m all for that.”

“I don’t know,” said Florence with her usual skepticism. “Too much change can make a mess of things, too. I suppose we’ll start having a Winter Festival and then a Spring Festival. Maybe we can have one every month. We can change our name from Acorn Hill to Festival Hill.”

Lloyd cleared his throat and stood up. “Actually, whether or not Acorn Hill has a festival is not this board’s decision. The town has already decided that it will happen. What we are discussing tonight is whether or not Grace Chapel would care to participate in it.”

“That’s right,” said Ethel. “And I think that the Fall Festival is important. Besides, all of the proceeds will be going to good causes. Right, Lloyd?”

“Exactly,” he smiled. “Local businesses and philanthropic organizations will choose a charity to receive the profits from their various booths or activities. It’ll be good for Acorn Hill commerce as well as for the community.”

“I’d like to suggest that all proceeds from anything our church participates in should be donated to the Helping Hands ministry,” said June Carter, owner of The Coffee Shop.

“Is that a motion?” asked Fred.

June confirmed that it was, and Alice gladly seconded it.

“May we open it to discussion?” asked Florence.

“Of course,” said Fred. “That’s what we’ve been doing.”

“Well …” Florence stood up and cleared her throat, “as Lloyd has pointed out, there are already a number of philanthropic groups involved in this—this celebration. I don’t see any reason for Grace Chapel to go jumping onto a bandwagon that may or may not be heading for a disaster.”

“What sort of disaster?” asked Ethel.

“Who knows,” said Florence. “It might rain that day. Or what if someone from out of town fell and got hurt and decided to sue?”

“And the sky might fall too,” said Lloyd Tynan. “Really, Florence, you must know that the town has insurance to cover such things.”

“But we must be prudent,” she continued. “It’s our job as board members to protect our church.”

“That’s true,” said Alice. “But the church’s job is to serve the community.”

Fred nodded in agreement. “I think it’s time to put this to a vote.”

There was only one vote cast against the church’s participation in the festival. They also agreed—
unanimously—to donate all church proceeds to the Helping Hands ministry. And finally, at half past eight, Fred called the meeting to an end.

“How’s Vera doing?” asked Lloyd as they began to stand up.

“Not so well,” said Fred. “She’ll have more tests on Friday.”

“Maybe we should, uh, pray for Vera to get b-better,” suggested the assistant pastor, Henry Ley. “Before everyone leaves.”

So they paused with bowed heads on Vera’s behalf. Then Patsy Ley invited everyone to enjoy the brownies that she had baked. “It’s a new recipe,” she explained. “With coconut and pecans.”

“Have you seen Clara’s
yet?” Ethel asked Florence Simpson as the two older women made their way to the dessert table.

“No, have you?” said Florence.

“The brownies look lovely, but I better pass,” Alice told Patsy. “I already had one dessert tonight.”

“Not me,” said Sylvia Songer. “These are much too tempting to pass up.”

“I think I’ll hurry on home,” said Fred. “I need to check on Vera.”

“Here,” said Patsy as she loaded some brownies on a paper plate. “Take some with you.”

“Well, it’s simply the ugliest thing you ever saw,” continued Ethel in a voice loud enough for everyone to overhear. “It’s got this awful black snout and bristly hair.
.” She shuddered dramatically. “Can you imagine keeping that smelly thing in your house?”

“Not in
house,” said Florence. “I think Clara Horn has completely lost her senses.”

“I’ve heard those potbellied pigs can grow to be hundreds of pounds,” continued Ethel. She poked Lloyd Tynan now. “What do you think of that, Mr. Mayor?”

He shrugged as he picked up a brownie. “Well, I spoke to the town manager today, and it seems we don’t have anything in the ordinances that prohibits it.”

“You must be joking,” said Florence. “You mean people can have farm animals right here in town?”

“Well, it seems our laws are a little outdated. In fact,
did you know that according to our ordinances, you aren’t allowed to smoke or chew tobacco in town?”

“Now that just figures,” said Florence. “I better tell my husband to leave his pipe at home next time he takes a stroll through town and to watch his step if Clara’s filthy pig has been out for a walk.”

“Clara’s pig isn’t filthy,” said Alice. “She is actually rather sweet.”

It just figures you would side with her, Alice. You’re always for the underdog,” Florence said.

“Under pig,” Sylvia whispered to Alice.

Alice giggled, then said, “I don’t see how Clara’s pig is hurting anyone or disturbing the peace. Daisy seems to be a sweet little thing.”

“Daisy?” Florence shook her head. “She actually calls it Daisy?”

“Or ‘baby,’” said Ethel. “She wheels it around town in a baby carriage, you know. Just wait until that animal grows into a big fat hog. She won’t be so cute then.”

“Well, she’s sure cute now,” said Sylvia. “She brought Daisy into my shop the other day, and she’s just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Oh my,” said Florence. “I think you need to get your eyes checked, Sylvia.”

Alice decided it was time to make a break. “If you’ll all
excuse me, I’d like to call it a night. I have to get up early for work tomorrow.”

“You and me both,” said Sylvia as she linked arms with Alice. “Let’s walk together.”

“I’m sure that Lloyd will be happy to see you home, Aunt Ethel,” said Alice.

“No problem,” said Lloyd.

Alice sighed as soon as they were out of the door.

“You and me both,” said Sylvia.

They both laughed as they walked toward the exit.

“I don’t know why they love controversy so much,” said Alice. “It just wears me out.”

“It’s because there’s not much else going on in their lives,” said Sylvia as they left the church. “Haven’t you noticed that the ones who love to gab and criticize are the ones that don’t have much of a life?”

“But what about Cyril Overstreet?” asked Alice. “He doesn’t have too much going on in his life, yet I’ve never heard him say a mean word about anyone.”

“Yes, you’re right. I guess it’s not fair to generalize about people.”

“Do you really think Clara’s pig is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” asked Alice as they paused to part ways on the sidewalk.

Sylvia chuckled. “Oh, you know me. I’m sometimes
given to exaggeration. But it’s true that I thought Daisy was cute. I can’t believe she’ll grow up to be a ‘big fat hog,’ as Ethel likes to put it.”

“Well, as long as she doesn’t bother anyone, I don’t see why it should matter.”

“Nor do I.” Sylvia smiled. “Good evening, Alice.”

Alice went up the front porch steps and jumped when she heard a creaking sound to her right. “Who’s there?” she called.

“I’m sorry, Alice,” said Susan. “Wendell and I were just out here enjoying the quiet and the crickets and the moonlight. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to disturb your peace.” Alice’s eyes adjusted to the darkness until she finally spied Susan in the wicker rocker with Wendell curled up comfortably in her lap as she stroked his fur. “Louise usually leaves the porch light on.”

“That’s my fault,” said Susan. “I saw the moon just starting to come up over that hill, so I slipped in and turned off the light.”

Alice looked up at the nearly full moon. “Oh, isn’t that pretty.”

“You want to join us?” asked Susan. Then she laughed. “It sounds silly for me to invite you to sit on your own porch.”

“I’d love to join you,” admitted Alice. “Especially after
that meeting I just escaped from.” She sat down in the porch swing and leaned back her head.

“Board meetings can be pretty awful,” said Susan. “Believe me, I know.”

“What is it you do, Susan?” asked Alice. “I don’t know if I’ve heard you mention it.”

“I’m the curator for a corporate art collection.”

“Oh, that must be interesting.”

“It is. But board meetings can get pretty tedious.”

“I’ll bet they don’t waste all their time arguing about potbellied pigs,” said Alice.

Susan laughed. “Well, no, that particular subject hasn’t come up yet. But you’d be surprised at the silly things that can consume some people.”

They chatted amicably for a while and then grew quiet.

“Do you mind if I ask you something?” said Susan.

“No, of course not.”

“It’s really none of my business, but now that you have had time to think about it, do you remember why you and my brother broke up?”

“You know, it was so long ago that it is a bit muddled in my mind. We were both young and had definite visions for the future. I had commitments that I felt I had to honor, and Mark had things he felt he needed to do. Life just pulled us in two completely different directions. We wrote
letters and called for a while, but we slowly drifted away.” Alice knew that was not the complete story, but it was the best she could do at the moment.

“That makes sense. Mark’s life and routine have never seemed very conducive to a long-term relationship. Every time I turn around, he seems to be hopping off to some strange locale to treat an exotic animal. Did you know that he spent two months in Antarctica last year treating penguins for some kind of fungus?”

BOOK: Hidden History
13.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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