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The yarn spinner, p.1
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       The Yarn Spinner, p.1

           Deborah Smith
 
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The Yarn Spinner


  Praise for Award-Winning Author Deborah Smith

  “As enchanting as Tallulah’s biscuits . . . This novella truly captured the essence of what [coming home] means to the heart.”

  —Teresa Medeiros, NY Times Bestselling Author

  “An extraordinarily talented author.”

  —Mary Alice Monroe, NY Times Bestselling Author

  “A storyteller of distinction.”

  —Book Page

  “An exceptional storyteller.”

  —Booklist

  “Deborah Smith just keeps getting better.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  Praise for The Crossroads Café

  “Unforgettably poignant.”

  —Booklist

  “A top five romance of 2006.”

  —Library Journal, starred review

  “A perfect 10.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “The best romance of 2006.”

  —The Romance Reader

  “A true treasure.”

  —Romantic Times BookClub

  “A book that readers will open again and again.”

  —Romance Designs

  Winner of a HOLT Medallion and a Reviewer’s International Award (RIO)

  Other Novels by Deborah Smith

  The Crossroads Café Series

  The Crossroads Café (novel)

  The Biscuit Witch (long novella)

  The Pickle Queen (long novella)

  The Yarn Spinner (short story)

  The Kitchen Charmer (coming 2014)

  The Mermaid Series

  Alice at Heart

  Diary of a Radical Mermaid

  Single Title Releases

  A Gentle Rain

  Sweet Hush

  On Bear Mountain

  The Stone Flower Garden

  Charming Grace

  A Place to Call Home

  Blue Willow

  Silk and Stone

  Miracle

  When Venus Fell

  Anthologies

  The Mossy Creek Series (contributor)

  The Sweet Tea Series (contributor)

  The Yarn Spinner

  A Crossroads Café Short Story

  by

  Deborah Smith

  Bell Bridge Books

  Copyright

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Bell Bridge Books

  PO BOX 300921

  Memphis, TN 38130

  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61194-430-3

  Bell Bridge Books is an Imprint of BelleBooks, Inc.

  Copyright © 2014 by Deborah Smith

  Printed and bound in the United States of America.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

  We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers.

  Visit our websites – www.BelleBooks.com and www.BellBridgeBooks.com.

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Cover design: Debra Dixon

  Interior design: Hank Smith

  Photo/Art credits:

  Woman (manipulated) © pilgrimego | istockphoto.com

  Sunburst/compass textures (manipulated) © Sofka_QWE | Fotolia.com

  Textures (manipulated) © Yobro10 | Dreamstime.com

  Title Lettering © Jaguarwoman Designs

  :Esyr:01:

  The Yarn Spinner

  2010

  Late November

  Cathy and the Cousinhood

  The day I met Lucy Parmenter I gave her worse odds for surviving than I’d given myself a few years earlier when I arrived in the Crossroads Cove, determined to keep the world from ever seeing what a burning car had done to the most beautiful actress in the world. At least I’d had a family connection here in the remote Appalachians of North Carolina—cousin Delta—and a handsome, mysterious man who’d already saved me from myself once, long-distance, and was waiting to save me again the moment I began hiding in my grandmother’s abandoned house up on Wild Woman Ridge.

  Tom Mitternich’s love, combined with Delta’s mother-hen supervision, made all the difference in pulling me back to the land of the living.

  But could we fix Lucy? She, just three months past a brutal rape, had been sent here from the other side of the state by her therapists. She’d been an art teacher; everyone agreed she was a cheerful blond angel, kind and friendly, a sweetheart adored by the kids. She’d been perfect until two maintenance men from her apartment complex, both meth addicts, were waiting for her in her bedroom when she came home one night. She’d tried to help them, offered them rides to church—to outreach programs, been kind to them. They decided she wanted more than friendship. Her heartbroken father, a prominent Methodist minister, had died of a massive heart attack as she lay in a Charlotte hospital.

  Lucy Parmenter, now alone in the world and shattered, was only twenty-six. A lost soul.

  She didn’t know it yet, but when a lost soul arrived in the Cove, just as I had, and Tom, and so many others, it was impossible to stay lost unless you could avoid all of the following: Delta, her famously spellbinding biscuits, people who told Delta where to find you, people who brought you Delta’s biscuits, people who came looking for you in the spirit of Delta and Delta’s biscuits, and anyone remotely related to Delta, which meant you, too.

  Because, sooner or later, Delta’s blue-green Appalachian eyes would zoom in on you and find a formerly invisible twig on the Crossroads ever-expanding family tree, which confirmed that you are her cousin. Once, twice, or twenty-times removed, whether through some already known branch of the Scots-Irish-Cherokee pioneer heritage that rooted her to the Cove or through various off-shoots, Delta would adamantly insist you are kin. And that was that.

  From then on, you were under the protection of the Cousinhood of the Worldwide Biscuit.

  As a member in good standing, I had a duty to bring biscuits and hope to Cousin Lucy.

  Banger gets a makeover

  Years of killing time on movie sets and between photo shoots had taught me the fine art of texting dumb jokes to anyone who’d play. Even now, long past my Hollywood days, I reverted. I missed Tom and our finally-adopted daughters, Ivy and Cora, who’d stayed over after Thanksgiving in Chicago with his younger brother John, a financial planner. John was recovering from bunion surgery. He and Tom were logging some time in front of football games while Ivy and Cora toured the city with Tom’s wife, Monica, and their cousins Jeremy, Bryan, and David. Five juvenile Mitternichs ages ten to sixteen. Thanks to texting, I could pretend Monica had it better than me, and I could remind my husband that I was in a drafty barn having my picture made with livestock.

  WHAT DO U CALL AN UNEMPLOYED GOAT?

  Tom had heard these jokes a hundred times before. He dutifully typed back.

  BILLY IDOL. COME ON, CATHY, FIND SOME NEW ONES.

  WHY IS IT HARD TO TALK TO A GOAT?

  BECAUSE HE ALWAYS BUTTS IN. PLEASE. DREAMGIRL, GIMME A CHALLENGE.

  WHAT DO YOU CALL A GOAT STANDING ON A HILL?

  A HILLBILLY. I AM SO BORED. I MISS YOU.

  WHAT DO YOU CALL A GOAT THAT JUST ATE THREE LIPSTICKS AND AN EY
ELINER BRUSH?

  NOW YOU’VE GOT MY ATTENTION. WOULD THIS BE THE SAME GOAT WHO EATS MY CELL PHONES?

  YES. MUST GO NOW. LV, CATHY.

  HIDE THE PHONE. LV, TOM.

  I shoved my cell phone in my satchel and pushed the satchel against the interior wall of the tall, kiosk-like display built for the advertising shoot. I was behind the counter with one of the barn’s stall doors blocking me from behind. My namesake Guernsey milk cow, Cathy, hung her head out of the stall’s half-door and licked the arm of my lavender mohair sweater. Her pearl-gray horns had been polished for the photo session, and a small red Christmas bow had been pinned to the tuft of hair at the apex of her gold-and-white head.

  Everyone else suddenly noticed that Banger, my and Tom’s large gray billy goat, had hopped down from his decorative hay bales next to the kiosk and was now raiding the makeup artist’s enormous, unzippered tote bag.

  Shrieks filled the barn. One of them, mine. “Banger! Get out of that!”

  But the notorious leader of our Wild Woman Ridge herd, now a famous celebrity spokes-goat for Bah Spa, our line of goat milk soaps and lotions, was head-deep and on a mission to munch. I could see the top of his muscular gray jaws working swiftly. His curled horns hooked the air as if he were plowing a field of Max Factor daisies. Plastic cases snapped. Poofs of foundations and blushes swirled up. The makeup artist danced around him like an emo scarecrow hit by lightning, flailing him with a brush, while the photographer and his manly assistants sounded a retreat and ran with their equipment.

  The art director for Southern Hunting & Kitchens Magazine, accompanied by Suzanne Alderson, the manager of my Bah Spa store in Turtleville, stationed themselves in front of the expensively designed holiday kiosk, guarding me and it.

  At least I hoped they were guarding me more than the Christmas bunting and flower arrangements. Behind me, Cathy’s large bovine head dipped lower, her gaze clearly peering at the tantalizing fresh ivy and red poinsettias winding down the kiosk post nearest her stall door. Her tongue became a sly pink elephant snout. Whoosh. She ripped two feet of ivy and fresh flowers off the post and wound them into her mouth like spaghetti.

  I stepped in front of the naked post to hide the damage. She was my namesake. There is an implied covenant to protect your namesake, isn’t there? She’d been a breech-birth. Tom happened to be at the farm that day, so he played midwife under the guidance of farm owners Alberta and Macy when they needed more combined upper body strength for the task at hand. Birthing a cow would make anyone woozy from the sight of the placenta and blood, but those were also the years when he’d been drinking heavily and struggling with memories of his son’s terrible death in the Twin Towers. When given the honor of naming the new calf, he’d answered with the first thought in his head.

  “Cathy,” he’d mumbled. “I name the little heifer Cathy.” He and I hadn’t met in person yet, though our cross-country correspondence was already intense.

  In a way, Cathy the heifer was my and Tom’s love-calf.

  So now I covered for her crime.

  A stern female voice rang out. “Everyone, stand down! I’ll take care of this buck-billy goat bastard,” Alberta Spruill-Groover yelled. Ex-marine, nurse, carpenter, berry farmer, sheep farmer, life partner of the far nicer and infinitely normal Macy Spruill-Groover, Alberta stomped our way.

  She was the woman whom I’d hired to add a few basic modern upgrades to my grandmother’s house on Wild Woman Ridge during my earliest months in these mountains. Now, the tough-love nemesis who’d taunted me for my own good, strode down the barn hallway in camo and plaid one hand tugging her Cardinals’ hat tighter on her curls while the other swung a fly swatter. She scowled at me. Our friendship had taken a long time to develop, and was still more prickly than pretty. “Dammit, Cathy, you know I hate this freakin’ meat sack with balls. You couldn’t have done this silly freakin’ photo shoot at your own barn?”

  “I’m here to advertise not only Bah Spa but also yours and Macy’s cheeses and jellies, which we’re selling at my and Delta’s store in Turtleville and, coming soon, in our online store. Need I remind you?”

  “Nobody asked my permission.”

  “That’s because you told Macy to handle marketing. Because Macy is the sane one.”

  “Out, Banger, out! You need to be castrated.” She began whacking the hell out of him. He grunted and shoved the tote bag toward her, head still inside it. She flapped him furiously—but backed up.

  I leaned over the kiosk’s counter. “Don’t back up. It only encourages him. And don’t take out your anti-male agenda on my goat.”

  “I’ll take out my testicle clippers on your goat! Finish up this marketing crap and get back to business! We’ve got a new . . .” She halted to look at the outsiders. Then at me. “Sister. Macy needs your advice on a ‘sister’ situation.”

  “Sister” was code for a new resident in the program Alberta and Macy ran for abused women. Rainbow Goddess Farm was a working farm, yes, but also a counseling center fully licensed by the state of North Carolina to treat women who were recovering from domestic abuse. At any given time there were two-dozen women living in the big house or cabins, along with their children. Some stayed for months. I was on the board of directors, along with Delta. Proud to be a patron.

  “He’s charging!” the makeup artist moaned.

  Banger plowed toward Alberta, the tote bag riding his head. Picture a large modern barn with open pens for newborn calves and their moms, offset by long rows of milking stations. A half-dozen women in overalls and heavy coats had been peacefully herding the placid milk cows into the stations. Alberta ran for a side door and hit an electric opener. The cold November air gushed in. My long brunette hair, artfully sprayed and molded over the scarred side of my face, flew back in dark tangles.

  Alberta went down fighting, with Banger and the makeup bag on top of her. A rainbow cloud of powders filled the air again.

  The hair stylist, who had climbed halfway up a ladder to the loft, nearly flung herself to the floor in her hurry to save my ’do. “Hold that curl!”

  The ’do we do not talk about. I understand that my burn scars are a distraction. We don’t want Bah Spa customers staring at them instead of the products. I get that. It’s not a cop-out to be discreet, but I’m no longer painfully self-aware of the stares my disfigured face and body receive. I exorcised those demons, with Tom and cousin Delta’s loving help, years ago.

  For the most part. No one with scars like mine will ever be fully healed. But life isn’t about being flawless. Scars come with the journey.

  So when the stylist rushed me with a wild look behind her retro-rhinestone glasses, I took her calmly by the shoulders. “Grab goat first. Hide scars second. No problem.”

  She sagged. “Ms. Deen, they told me you’re a cool lady. Thanks.”

  I patted her shoulders and stopped myself from correcting the Ms. Deen part. I was Cathy Mitternich, or Cathy Deen Mitternich as a compromise in the screen credits when I took occasional acting parts, mostly voice work. My movie star ego had vaporized when Tom, an architect, showed me how to build a new me. One that I saw through his eyes. Always beautiful, scars be damned.

  Scars. All of Alberta’s and Macy’s “sisters” had scars, emotional and otherwise. This remote farm in the Appalachians, more than an hour from Asheville by a winding two-lane road, was a safe home in the arms of the Ten Sisters Mountains, a sipping sister to the deep warm tea cup of the Crossroads Cove below, where my cousin Delta Whittlespoon baked biscuit magic at her famous café. We were all Sisters of the Scar.

  No matter how damaged this new sister was, we would help her.

  I climbed over the kiosk counter and went to rescue Alberta from Banger, or vice versa. They were both covered in cosmetics.

  I’d bet it was the most makeup Alberta had ever worn in her life.

  I
wasn’t so sure about Banger.

  I meet Lucy

  “You put Lucy Parmenter in the sheep barn,” I said again. “Why? Were there no spots available in the milking stations?” Alberta, Macy and I trudged through the darkening day, our heads bent against a damp wind between barns. The Ten Sisters Mountains floated in the mists, majestically stark around us.

  Macy groaned. “She’s extremely fragile. Agoraphobia is such a complex thing. Right now she wants to feel . . . cocooned. She’s fainted twice since the therapist drove her here yesterday. She has constant panic attacks. Even with medication we couldn’t get her settled. I finally said, ‘Lucy, shut your eyes and tell me the first word that makes you feel safe.’ She said, ‘Burrito.’”

  Behind us, Suzanne said, “Magneeto? From X-Men?”

  Which might have been funny, except that spending five years as her husband’s punching bag had left Suzanne deaf in one ear. She’d spent a year in rehab at the farm, testified against him in court, gone to work for Delta and me, and made a new life for herself. We were so proud of her.

  “BURRITO!” Alberta bellowed.

  I took Suzanne by one arm and scowled at Alberta. “Macy, what does ‘burrito’ mean?”

  “Lucy wants to be protected. Cocooned. Literally. So I showed her the work room in the sheep barn. She loves it.”

  “Why?”

  “I’m not sure. It feels claustrophobic to everyone else.” Macy lifted gloved hands. A smile lit her freckled face. Macy has long yellow braids. She looks like she sings to baby birds in a Disney cartoon. “But she hasn’t had a panic attack since we moved her in there.”

  Alberta added. “She also hasn’t set a foot outside.”

  We climbed a rise to a long wood-and-stone barn where lights glowed in the mist. Several hundred fat ewes milled under the low ceiling, snagging hay and grain from feeders, lipping water from automatic spouts. Among them, their heads swiveling toward us like periscopes in an ocean of gray, dozens of llamas and alpacas confirmed that they looked down on us as well as the sheep. A grated floor allowed the herd’s waste to slip through to a collection drain, where it could be channeled to a drying bin for use as fertilizer. High-tech, healthy. Happy hooved woolies, their beautiful fleeces to be sheared and sold each spring. An eco-friendly system. A killer ventilation system for the office and work room.

 
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