Friday, November 12, 2010

Letters in the Attic; Simple Deceit


by DeAnna Julie Dodson

Up in her grandmother's attic in Stony Point, Maine, Annie Dawson finds a stack of old letters from her childhood friend Susan Morris. Annie remembers Susan fondly and would like to get back in touch, but nobody seems to know what's become of her. Her friends at The Hook and Needle Club aren't much help either. All they remember is that Susan left town more than twenty years ago to marry a very wealthy man, but none of them is quite sure who he was. And Annie can find no record of any marriage.

The more Annie searches, the more she begins to wonder if something has happened to Susan. Something bad.

"Well paced, well constructed, and explosive in the end. A 5-star rating."

-- Robin Hardy, author of the Annals of Lystra and the Streiker Saga


"What do you think?"

Annie held up the beginnings of her sweater for the ladies of the Hook and Needle Club to see.

"That's really nice." Gwen stilled the clicking of her knitting needles to give Annie's creation her full attention. "Looks like it'll be warm, too."

Alice fingered the worsted yarn and grinned. "That'll be warm enough for a Maine winter."

"Oh, good!" Peggy dropped her quilt block and clasped her plump hands together. "Annie's decided to stay."

"Hold on! Hold on!" Annie laughed and shook her head. "You're all going to hurt yourselves jumping to conclusions like that."

Mary Beth nodded wisely. "You're making a sweater, not a commitment, right, Annie?"


"Well, we'd like you to stay." Kate shyly lowered her head and went back to work on the delicate crocheted vest she had almost finished. "It's been so nice having you here."

Annie beamed at the younger woman and went back to work on an azure stripe in her sweater. "I've loved being here. I guess getting Grey Gables fixed up and de-cluttered has been more of a job than I expected, but getting to know everybody here has been a nice fringe benefit. It kind of reminds me when I used to visit here in the summers when I was young."

With a hint of a smile, Alice made a french knot in the intricate floral bell pull she was cross stitching. "When you and Susan Morris were such good friends."

"Susan Morris?" Gwen tilted her blonde head to one side, thinking. "I remember her. Didn't she lose her parents in a car accident?"

"Yeah, she did." Mary Beth sat in one of the comfy chairs in the circle of crafters. "She'd just come back from college and was living at home again when her mother and father were killed. It must have been so terrible for the poor girl."

"I had no idea. Poor Susan." Annie had met Susan's parents only a couple of times, but she knew how close to them Susan had been. What had her life been like after their loss? "You don't know what she did next, do you?"

"I thought she went off and married some rich guy." Gwen pulled more yarn from the ball in her knitting bag. "Can't remember his name now."

"That's right." Mary Beth bit her lip. "What was his name? He was some bigwig in shoes or something. I could pick him out if I saw the name again. Anyway, she sold the family home, that house out on the far end of Elm Street, and left to get married. Never came back to Stony Point as far as I've ever heard."

"I knew her parents." As usual, Stella had been nearly silent for most of the meeting, but now she shook her head, not looking up from her knitting. "That house had been in the Morris family for almost two hundred years, but young people, well, they don't understand what family means anymore."

That was just like Stella, and in spite of herself, Annie smiled a little.

"I don't know, Stella. From what I remember, Susan loved that old house. She always said she never wanted to leave it. Ever. I guess Mr. Right, whoever he was, didn't want to live in little Stony Point."

"I wonder if that's the house that other handyman lives in. He's way out on Elm, I know that much." Peggy stopped to cut out another piece of fabric to add to her appliqué flower. "Sometimes, when somebody needs a handyman and Wally's busy, he has them call this guy. His name is Tom something. Maxwell, I think. Of course, until now, there hasn't been enough work to keep Wally busy."

"Until now?" Gwen asked.

"Wally got a job installing kitchens. Should be pretty steady work for a few months. Maybe more."


Everyone looked up at Mary Beth, and her face turned a little pink.

"Oh, no, I don't mean I'm not happy for you and Wally, Peggy." She patted the younger woman's arm. "I was just hoping he could put in my new cabinets. That is, if the place I ordered them from ever gets me the right ones."

Annie shook her head. "Didn't you get that straightened out yet?"

"As far as I can tell. If they do, I'd like to get them installed as soon as possible."

"I hope so." Kate frowned. "All the new inventory and extra supplies are such a mess down there."

"And that's exactly why I want these new cabinets. A place for everything, and everything in its place."

"And after he's done, Wally can come work for me again." Annie finished up the azure stripe and fished in her bag for her crimson yarn. "He did a great job on my kitchen, and I'm going to have him work on the upstairs bathroom once I decide what I want done."

"Really?" Peggy's eyes lit up. "That would be great. You know how tight finances have been for us lately."

Kate sighed. "Tell me about it. At least your Emily is still little. Vanessa will be wanting to go to college before long, and I don't know how I'm going to swing that on my own."

Mary Beth gave her a motherly hug. "One day at a time, hon. That's about as much as any of us can really handle."

"Yeah, I know." Kate smiled. "One day at a time and a few good friends."

And they were good friends. Annie blinked hard, clearing the mist out of her eyes so she could see her crochet hook again. These were good people, and she was glad to know them. Still, she couldn't help wondering about who had been there for poor Susan after her parents' accident. Did she have friends who cared about her now? Well, wherever she was, she couldn't be that hard to find.

Annie started crocheting again, the rhythm of her hook brisk and determined.

Copyright 2010 DRG – Do not reproduce without permission.

Step Into Time . . . Historical Fiction by DeAnna Julie Dodson




* * *

Simple Deceit: The Harmony Series
by Nancy Mehl

Harmony, Kansas has grown on Gracie Temple, including its Mennonite residents. She decides to stay and take on freelance graphic work, but when her new client is a developer intent on bringing tourism to the area, Harmony residents become divided. Many believe the opportunity will strengthen their businesses and help their families, but some are afraid the small town life they love will be destroyed. When the deal begins to fall apart and the man she loves, Sam Goodrich, seems to turn his back on her, Gracie starts to wonder if she really heard from God. And when other strange events lead her and the people she loves into danger, she faces a decision of the heart. Will she run back to the city or stay and fight for all she has come to love?

Sarah pointed toward a small table with two chairs. "Why don't we sit down for a minute? I'd like to talk to you if you don't mind."

"Of course I don't mind. You're my friend."

Sarah sat across from me, folding her long blue dress under her. Her dark hair matched the black apron over her dress. White ribbons on the sides of her prayer covering touched her smooth unblemished skin. Her natural beauty had no need of makeup. I envied her in this respect. Although I didn't use much makeup myself, I was certainly too insecure to go out in public au natural.

"This is where Papa and I have our lunch," she said. "Sometimes we go to Mary's, but Papa doesn't like to spend money in restaurants."

That sounded like Gabe. "Where did you and your father sleep last night?" I looked around the room. There didn't seem to be any place to bed down.

"Oh, Papa brought the blankets in from the carriage. We always carry some in the winter. And John Keystone brought us a couple of cots he keeps in his shop. When he first moved here, he actually lived in the back of his store for a while. Now he has a nice little house outside of town. Papa and I were quite comfortable." She flushed at the mention of John's name.

"I saw John briefly when I got into town. He seemed to be doing well."

She cast her eyes down and wouldn't look at me. "Oh? I'm pleased to hear that."

I didn't say anything. Sarah had never confided in me about their relationship. Not directly anyway.

She raised her head and looked toward the door to the shop. "I—I wonder if I could talk to you, Gracie. About something…personal." She swung her large, doe-like eyes back to me. "I haven't really had any friends for such a long time. Papa kept me away from everyone except the people in our small church group for the past several years. He's afraid I'll leave him - like my mother did." She reached up to wipe away a tear that slid down her cheek. "I could never cause my father that kind of pain. I know how much it hurt him. I wonder if being abandoned by the person you love isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person." She let out a deep sigh. "You know, I've wondered for many years if she left because of me. Perhaps I was too much trouble. It hurts me to think that might be the reason." She gave me a sad smile. "I realize I don't know much about the world. I'm sure there are things much worse that people must bear."

I reached over and put my hand on hers. "There may be," I acknowledged. "But losing a parent is right there at the top." I squeezed her hand. "Your mother left because she was unhappy with herself, Sarah. Not with you. Perhaps not even with Gabe. She may have gone away with another man, but there was something wrong inside her. A healthy person doesn't walk away from their family. You should never, ever blame yourself for her choices."

"It's hard not to. In all these years, I've never heard a word from her. If she cared about me, I would think she would contact me, don't you?"

I didn't know how to answer the beautiful Mennonite girl so full of grace, dignity, kindness and pain. I thought carefully. At that moment the idea of having about ten minutes alone in a room with her so-called mother for some real "come to Jesus" justice sounded very appealing. But that probably wouldn't set well with someone like Sarah who believed in peaceful solutions. "I have no idea why you haven't heard from her. But wondering about things you can't control or situations you have no direct knowledge of is useless." I smiled at her. "There is one thing I do know. Missing out on being with you should be the greatest regret of her life. You're a wonderful person. Any mother would be proud to have you for a daughter."

Another tear coursed down her face. "Oh, thank you, Gracie. You're so kind. And such a dear friend." She hesitated and looked toward the door again. "I'm so torn. I need some advice, and you're the only person I feel safe enough to confide in."

I knew where this was going, and to be honest, I wanted to get up and run away. Instead I gave her a smile of encouragement.

"There's a…situation," she said, almost whispering. "And I'm afraid Papa will be very upset if I tell him about it." She shook her head. "He was so angry for so many years. I'm afraid. Afraid if I'm honest with him, life will go back to the way it was before. When he had nothing to do with others, and I had to stay inside all the time." She stared deeply into my eyes. "I can't cause him more pain, Gracie. Yet I can't continue to deceive him either. I don't know what to do." She took a deep breath. "You see, I am in love. I am in love with John Keystone."

From behind us came a strangled sound – more of a groan really. Sarah's face turned deathly white. I turned around to find Gabe standing in the doorway, his expression one of incredible rage.

In December, you can buy "Simple Deceit" at your local bookstore. You can also preorder "Simple Deceit" at or For more information about Nancy Mehl visit Nancy's Web site at Do not reproduce without permission.

No comments: