Table of Contents
At the corner of the driveway to the house, there was a sign, hand-painted by Lindsay and decorated with ladybugs and a garden scene, that said, Welcome to Ladybug Farm. It never failed to make them smile. As they made the turn and started down the gravel drive, lined with tall oaks, the anticipation of some grand destination always made the heart beat a little faster. And then, coming out of the shadows and rounding the curve where the full, emerald lawn with its purple hydrangeas and brilliant pink peonies and carefully cultivated beds of hollyhocks and impatiens and showy, old-fashioned dahlias spread out like a ruffled quilt designed to show off all the colors of nature, there was always a catch of breath. In the background, the majestic blue mountains spilled their shadows onto a bright green meadow dotted with sheep. And in the foreground the big old house with its faded brick, painted columns, and tall, high windows seemed to reach out to them, and welcome them home. Bridget and Lindsay shared a glance as they pulled up in front of the wide front steps, each of them understanding what the other was thinking:I can’t believe we live here
Berkley Books by Donna Ball
A YEAR ON LADYBUG FARM
AT HOME ON LADYBUG FARM
LOVE LETTERS FROM LADYBUG FARM
A BERKLEY BOOK
Published by the Penguin Group
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This book is an original publication of the Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2010 by Donna Ball
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
eISBN : 978-1-101-46443-4
2. Farmhouses—Conservation and restoration—Fiction. 3. Weddings—Fiction. 4. Shenandoah River Valley (Va. and W. Va.)—Fiction. I. Title.
The recipes in this book are included for entertainment purposes only and have not been tested. In fact, I would be very much surprised if any of them are at all edible!
A Day to Remember
There was a magical quality to the hours just before twilight at Ladybug Farm. The June air was balmy and scented with roses, and the golden light filtered across the lavender-shadowed lawn like something imagined by the brush strokes of a Renaissance master. Hummingbirds darted back and forth between mounds of ruffled pink peonies. A bluebird family chirped chattily over its evening meal, and a barn swallow dipped and soared in graceful, silhouetted arcs against the pale violet sky.
A wayward breeze stirred a set of wind chimes hung from the low branch of an apple tree and scattered a froth of white chicken feathers across the lawn. An apricot chiffon ribbon, limp and tattered now, tugged away from the porch column it decorated and floated across the grass. A bedraggled-looking border collie, dragging a length of mud-spattered lace that was caught on his back paw, pricked his ears forward as though he might give chase, then decided against it and plopped down onto the grass with an exhausted sigh.
Strands of wilted ivy were twined around the porch railings, each two-foot interval accented by a bouquet of drooping Apricot Delight roses and ribbon-wired bows in Hint of Spring green. Potted ferns, now slightly askew in identical white stands, flanked each of the windows and the door along the deep front porch, and baskets of what once had been freshly arranged Apricot Delight roses, augmented generously with live oak, poplar, and maple leaves, hung by ribbons from the rafters.
The floor was littered with apricot petals and paper cock tail napkins, monogrammed in Apricot Delight and Hint of Spring green. A banner of ivory silk hung drunkenly over the front door, and when Cici pushed open the screen door, it ripped. She did not even glance up.
She was a tall, slender woman with an athletic build, abundantly freckled skin, and sun-sparked blue eyes. She liked to describe herself as being in her midfifties, going on forty, but the truth was that she was closer to the end of that decade than the beginning. Today despite her elegant suit, carefully coiffed hair, and perfectly applied makeup, she felt every year of her age, and then some.
Nudging aside an overturned champagne glass with the toe of her ivory brocade pump, she made her way across the debris-strewn porch to a rocking chair, and sank down heavily. Her honey-colored hair was beginning to come loose from its upsweep, and she had lost an earring. Her lipstick was long since gone. She undid the pearl button on the jacket of her ivory satin pantsuit, kicked off her shoes, and leaned her head back, pressing a pack of frozen peas to the side of her face.
The screen door gave another tentative squeak, the silk banner ripped further, and Lindsay came out, approaching Cici cautiously. “Did the aspirin help?” she asked.
Cici did not open her eyes. “A little.”
Lindsay was four inches shorter and five years younger than Cici, and on a good day could easily pass for forty if she bleached the faint brownish splotch on her right hand. But today was not a good day. She was still wearing her apricot lace sheath with its flirty sweetheart neckline, but she was barefoot and bare-legged. She had complained all week that the dress was too young for her and that it clashed with her auburn hair, but she was too tired now to change into something else. As for the stockings—Nearly Nude Shimmer & Silk and specifically mandated by the bride—they had been the first to go.
She picked her way through the litter of spilled birdseed, scraps of apricot netting and spring green ribbons, torn napkins and white-and-silver wrapping paper, then removed an empty wine bottle from the chair next to Cici’s and sat down. “Well,” she said after a moment, “the good news is that everyone had a swell time.”
Cici opened her one good eye and stared at her.
“I mean,” Lindsay tried to explain, “not that everyone wasn’t worried about you, but you saved the cake, and after the first little excitement, everyone forgot about it and moved on, and, if you think about it, at least you gave everyone a good story to tell. And no one was mad. Not really.”