Authors: J.J. Ellis
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places,
events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or
used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Jaimee Jenkins Ellis and Timothy Andrew Ellis
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be
reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written
permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book
First Printing, 2014
This book is dedicated to our own Miranda – our daughter Isabella.
She is our Asperger’s child and has given us so much joy through the years.
We would like to
thank our kids Gwen, Bella Livy Trent and Lily
We would like to
thank our parents Ann, Chuck, Alberta and John and our many siblings
Thank you KW for all
of the advice, constructive criticism and time you have put into this book
Thanks to PIF for all
of the encouragement and help. You guys are the best!
Thank you Kristin
Wilson for giving us the name of our villainess Vivienne!
Thank you Gwen for
helping me flesh out some of these characters initially!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Harper’s Rock Novel
JJ & TA Ellis
Home was the last place he
wanted to be
Home was the only place
she could truly breathe
Harper’s Rock, Wyoming is
a fictional town that we have placed in the northern part of the state. If
looking at a map you might think that it is somewhere near the town of
Many small towns here in Wyoming are much like
Harper’s Rock and we hope you enjoy your visit!
Despite the late hour the sun was still
shining on Harper’s Rock Wyoming. This was usually Russell Harper’s favorite
time of day in late summer. All the colors of the world around him were rich
and deep and tranquil. He should be feeling peaceful, at ease with himself and
the world around him. But not today. Today he felt as if he were about to
“Okay Miranda, what do you think? This
is where your ol’ dad grew up.” Russell peeked at the rear view mirror into the
perpetually sad brown eyes of his nine-year-old daughter as they made their way
down the main drag of Harper’s Rock, Wyoming, population 6,114 at last count.
Only one hundred more people than when Russell left town thirteen years ago.
If ever there was a picture perfect
small western town, this was it. The cars that were parked along Main Street
actually looked out of place; horses tied to the posts that lined the sidewalks
would probably have looked more appropriate. Mom and Pop businesses, most with
apartments above, dotted the streets throughout the oldest parts of town.
Any newer structures were just outside of town, still on Main Street, but far enough
away to not interfere with the aura of the perfect small western settlement.
“That’s the grocery store over there,
the big brown building with the blue awning. The second story is an apartment
where your Uncle Logan lives.” Russell made an attempt at a contented sigh to
help emphasize the statement he was about to make. “That store has always had a
fresh bakery that makes the most amazing donuts you’ve ever eaten, and I know
you love donuts. We could probably even get a discount since Uncle Logan owns
the store now.”
Complete silence enveloped them and
another peek in the rear view told Russell that his beautiful, highly
intelligent daughter was looking in the opposite direction, paying him and his
ramblings absolutely no attention. Her favorite food and favorite uncle hadn’t
worked to break the long silence of their two day trip from Las Vegas to
Harper’s Rock. His shoulders sagged as he realized he would have to try
something else. Something involving another of her favorite things maybe, but
for the life of him he didn’t know… and then he saw it. “Over there is the
hardware store. Grandma says they still have a toy section to rival any big
city toy store. Maybe we could stop by later. What is it you’re into now, you
know, those little talking critters? Didn’t they just come out with a new one?”
But not even the promise of a new toy
got him a response from the back seat. So it was on to the next landmark. And
he knew the perfect one. Just six buildings down from the hardware store was
one of her favorite places on Earth. “Do you see the red brick building over
there next to the feed store? That’s the library. I bet you’ll be spending a
lot of time there, huh? Grandma even said she’ll take you to get a library card
after school tomorrow!” If that didn’t get him a response, nothing would. His
daughter absolutely loved libraries and books. She had two tall bookcases
packed full, or at least she would again once they were unpacked. And her
collection seemed to grow pretty quickly. His wallet was glad that the little
town still didn’t have its own bookstore. He would have been in big
trouble if they did. To make up for moving her here he probably would have had
to buy out the entire kids’ section.
But the backseat remained quiet and he
didn’t know of any other landmarks on Main Street that might catch her
interest. They rode in silence for a while until he just couldn’t stand it
anymore. “Sweetie please, you have to talk to me. Tell me what you really
think of Harper’s Rock. It should be a nice place to live, right?
Just look at the beautiful scenery, doesn’t it take your breath away? Plus
we’ve got yummy donuts, lots of toys to choose from and a really nice library.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget about your Grandma and your uncles.”
“I hate it and I hate you!” she wailed
in a high pitched screech that sounded more like someone being murdered than an
unhappy nine-year-old. When he glanced back at her she was rocking back and
forth and sobbing even though there were no tears falling. Her long slim
fingers twisted a strand of her hair into a ringlet.
Russell just sighed and kept driving. He
figured these tantrums might get worse when he took her away from the only home
she’d ever known, but he also hoped and prayed it wouldn’t be the case. He
thought that maybe the city was just too busy and overwhelming for her and the
small town atmosphere would be better. He really had held high hopes that
they could have a fresh start. But his hopes were quickly fading.
When his ex-wife left them without a
word two years ago, Russell tried his hardest to give Miranda everything she
needed; but because she was such a difficult child, his patience and abilities
were worn dangerously thin. He soon realized he just couldn’t do it alone
anymore. He knew he should be extremely grateful to his mother for inviting him
home, but that would take time. And so here they were, Russell and
Miranda Harper, starting their new lives. And it seemed nothing was going to
change. No matter how much he prayed it would.
Whatever happened though, Russell
couldn’t start regretting his decisions now. What’s done was done, and he
really needed his mother’s help with Miranda. If that meant uprooting and
moving them back to where his family was, years after leaving to get away from
this stifling small town, then that’s what he would do. For Miranda.
“Sweetie, please just give it a
chance. You can start fresh here and make some friends. The people here
are so nice…”
“Don’t talk to me,” she cut him off. Her
teeth were clenched and she rocked back and forth even faster now.
“Randi,” Russell sighed again. Maybe she would respond
better to her nickname.
But he knew when to give up. The stress
wasn’t worth it for either of them. Pouting, screeching, rocking back and
forth, getting frustrated - it had become a way of life. But that didn’t mean
it got any easier to deal with. Besides, she was very intuitive and she
probably sensed that he wasn’t too thrilled about being in Harper’s Rock
Father and daughter continued on in the
familiar uneasy silence that always followed one of Miranda’s tantrums, driving
past various other businesses, houses and apartment buildings to pull into the
parking lot of
Movie and a Pizza Place
. The movie theater/pizza
restaurant had belonged to his family for over forty years and now he would run
it so his mother could retire. He would have to endure the fate he’d always
fought - joining the family business.
Russell pulled to a stop in front of the
newly remodeled, more modern building and turned off his SUV. Newly resurfaced and
painted with all new doors and fixtures, the theater looked worlds above the
rest of the buildings in this newer part of town and so much more modern than
the stores in old town. He looked up and down Main Street and realized with
dismay, that aside from the theater, the town hadn’t changed much since he’d
last been here eight years ago. Old town had the same old-fashioned
false-fronted buildings, this newer section looked rundown, with the same old
family-owned and operated businesses. No new paint jobs, business names or
progress anywhere. He’d always joked that the word ‘progress’ was against the
law in Harper’s Rock. Oh man, it seemed his feelings of suffocation grew by
leaps and bounds with every passing minute.
Russell remembered his ex-wife Vivienne’s
reaction to Harper’s Rock. She, designer jeans, four hundred dollar boots and
all, had hated the little town more than he had. He’d always loved the scenery
if nothing else. He always felt so free hiking in the nearby mountains with
only animals and beauty to keep him company. A picnic in one of the rolling
valleys on a day off from work gave him that same sense of freedom. And
all of that was nothing compared to the freedom and serenity surrounding the
rushing rivers and quiet lakes that dotted and striped the landscape near
Harper’s Rock. Vivienne, who on the other hand only felt free in a
shopping mall or a five star resort, hated anything that had to do with nature.
And to her, nature and Wyoming were synonymous. From the minute they drove out
of town after their weeklong visit, his family had to come to Nevada if they
wanted to see Miranda. Luckily they had been able to do so quite often.
Russell knew he should have put his foot down and made sure he brought Miranda
home to Wyoming to visit too, but like many things involving his ex-wife, he’d
been way too selfish. Now it was time to start making amends.
“Okay sweetie, we’re here.” They both
stepped out onto the pavement at the same time. Russell paused and took a deep,
cleansing breath. One thing he had always missed about Wyoming was the great
fresh air. Weeklong camping and hunting trips in the nearby Big Horn Mountains,
with his brothers and his father, always brought him home refreshed and
rejuvenated. For a brief moment, he actually missed those days - the handful of
days every year when he hadn’t felt suffocated. “Why don’t you dig through our
stuff in the back and get your present for Grandma so we can take it in to
“No, no, no, no, no, no,” she screeched
at the top of her lungs. “I can’t. I won’t. I can’t.”
“Miranda please, you’re making a
scene. You need to calm down.” Russell ran a shaking hand along his jaw.
He never knew what to do in these situations. Should he stand his ground, give
in, or what?
“No, no, no, no, no! Daddy there’s too
much stuff back there,” she screeched again as she stomped her feet on the
“Miranda, stop it right now.” His strong
jaw was clenched so tight he thought his teeth might break. “Just get
Grandma’s present so we can go see her.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” she screeched
again. Her arms were wrapped around her midsection, her chin was tucked into
her chest, and she twisted her upper body to and fro.
Russell was bone tired from the long
drive and he could feel the people in the parking lot staring at them. He
wanted to scream and yell and cry himself, but knew it wouldn’t do anyone any
good so he took a deep breath to refocus himself. And then he counted to ten
very slowly. He decided that this really wasn’t how he wanted his homecoming
going down so he didn’t argue anymore, he just went to get the present himself.
Why this all frustrated Miranda so much, he wished he knew.
Emily Zane stepped out of the building
into the warm, late summer evening and lifted her long, red hair off of her
neck. She really didn’t mind the warm evening, all too soon the snow would be
flying and temperatures would be dipping below zero. Besides, she had been
inside of an air conditioned building all day, and the heat actually felt
really nice on the back of her neck. She had really enjoyed her last day of
freedom before starting a new job as the counselor at Harper’s Rock Elementary
School - total student population 198. It was hard to believe her six month
sabbatical was finally over. And a movie, some pizza, and some good company had
been the best possible way to spend her last free day.
“So Em, did you enjoy our
mother-daughter day out?” Margaret Zane had her arm around her youngest
daughter’s shoulder as they left
and a Pizza Place
. She always had been, and still was, oblivious to the
fact that her daughter hated being called Em. By the time she turned twelve,
Emily had given up trying to discourage her.
“Ha! You read my mind Mom. I’ve had a
fabulous time today.” She paused to kick a pebble off the sidewalk. “And I
can’t wait to start my new job tomorrow!” Stopping suddenly, she pulled
the older woman into a warm, comfort-seeking hug. “I’m so happy I was finally
able to come home for good. I’ve got my family close and a great new job.”
“And we are so happy to have you back,
darling,” she murmured as their hug lingered. “You were gone way too long my
dear, and after what happened...”
“I know Mom,” Emily interrupted. She
didn’t want to think about what had happened. Visions of six months ago danced
before her eyes and she realized she wasn’t breathing… and someone was
screaming. “Oh God, what now?” she cried, afraid that Seattle was happening all
“Oh no Emily, I think someone’s hurt,”
Margaret gasped. The women pulled apart and looked around the parking lot to
find out where the screaming was coming from. Their eyes settled on a
very tall, young girl with long curly auburn hair and freckles who was yelling
at a man in his thirties. “Do you think she’s okay,” Margaret whispered. She
had her cell phone opened and her finger was poised to dial 911.
Emily’s heart started beating normally
again as she assessed the situation, her professional demeanor taking over. “I
heard her call him Daddy and he isn’t trying to physically harm her. She
seems to be throwing a tantrum,” Emily whispered back.
“Isn’t she a little old for a tantrum?”
Margaret asked skeptically.
“Not necessarily, Mom. There could
be a lot of different reasons behind her behavior.” At thirty, Emily still
wanted to throw tantrums now and then but knew it wasn’t appropriate.
“Well I guess that’s true. You are
the professional, aren’t you?”