If you haven’t read Part One, The Long Road Home, you can find it here.
Edna stared out the old Buick’s window, mindlessly watching the landscape roll by. In the past few hours, her life had spun out of control, but she’d make sure things were in order before she left.
She took a deep breath and sighed. After Arthur had died, her childhood friend and now County Court Judge, Alan, had insisted on revising her will, but she hadn’t looked at it since. Sure, she’d planned to update it, especially after Nora found her way to Michael’s Ridge, but there never seemed to be time. She’d call him tomorrow and put things right. It was the least Edna could do to help lessen Nora’s pain when it came time to say goodbye. Too bad she couldn’t fix the fact that Nora would be left utterly alone.
The thought of that hurt Edna worse than knowing she was dying.
Gravel crunched beneath the tires as Rose pulled off the main road and onto an old drive. The car slowed to a stop in front of a weathered farmhouse that had seen better days.
“You sure you’re all right?”
Edna took a deep breath, trying to find the energy to smile. “I’m just tired is all.”
“Well, you go on in and get some rest, then. And if you need me, holler.” Rose’s voice drifted across the Buick’s wide bench seat as Edna opened the door and scooted out of the car.
She waved as the engine revved, and Rose pulled away.
Edna doggedly trudged up the stone porch steps, stopping at the rail to rest. Sunlight slanted through the trees, pouring over the forest’s floor in butter-soft rays. Time never felt finite before. How many sunsets did she have left? How many mornings to make biscuits, or afternoons to take in the sweet smell of hay?
She sighed and opened the front door, setting her purse next to the umbrella stand before stepping back out and walking to the porch swing.
The suspension chains groaned as she settled onto sun-aged pillows that lined the swing’s worn cypress wood. She smiled and looked at the brackets overhead. Years ago, Arthur had reinforced the porch’s overhang. He said all her good home cooking was sure to make him grow as round as he was tall. Years passed, him rocking with her on that swing, and she never once doubted that the bolts would hold, no matter how much weight they gained.
A mourning dove called in the distance, it’s melancholy sound matching the waning light in the evening sky. She had devoted her life to that wonderful man, her Arthur. And she’d never regretted it for one minute. But for the second time that day, her thoughts took her back to her youth, before she’d met her husband—to a day when she’d experienced colors so vibrant, sounds so clear, air so crisp and clean, that Edna thought she’d been taken to another place, perhaps another time.
She’d spent her adult life shying away from that memory, choosing to live in the moment instead. After all, the past was the past—no use fretting over what could have been. And no one knew what the future held, so no use in worryin’ about that either.
But, for tonight, she’d let go and remember the one day her senses had been set free. The day she’d felt laughter and love seep from someplace deep within and settle into the very marrow of her bones. That one precious day she’d truly felt alive.
The day she met Michael.
The screen door smacked the threshold with a loud crack. A mousy little woman with her hair pulled back into a stern bun stood with a rolling pin in hand.
“Edna Louis, how many times I gotta tell you to lock the henhouse while you’re in it. I had to chase three hens plum to the barn and back while you were gettin’ those eggs.”
Edna set a basket on the worn farm table. “I know, I know. I’m sorry, Mama.”
“You’ve been as addle-brained as a boxer after a fight. What’s going on with you?” Her voice gentled, but her brow stayed furrowed.
Edna turned to look out the window. “I don’t know. I’m just … restless. Like there’s something out there, waiting for me. And if I don’t pay attention, I’m going to miss it.”
“Well, if you don’t start to pay attention to your chores, your backside won’t be missin’ the smack of my wooden spoon.”
Edna bit back a smile. Her mother had been threatening her with that spoon for years but had yet to use it. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Hmph.” The older woman took the basket from the table and set it next to the stove. “Good thing the hens are happy. I’ll be needin’ most of these to fix those pies for the church picnic on Sunday.”
It was common knowledge around those parts that happy hens laid a lot of eggs. Happy, her foot. More like livid if the peck marks on her forearms were any indication. Edna sidled toward the door, feeling like she’d already sacrificed enough for the church’s social calendar. If she didn’t leave soon, she’d get roped into helping, and the wood-burning oven made the kitchen hotter than blue blazes. And then after rolling pie crusts all day, she’d most likely be put on clean-up duty.
Her mother reached into the cupboard, grabbing a well-loved cookbook from the top shelf. She started humming as she placed it on the counter and looked at the index.
Edna gently grasped the screen door’s handle and pulled. The door creaked, and she flinched.
“Where you goin’ now, girl?” Her mother never looked up from the cookbook as she thumbed through the pages. “Ah, there it is.”
“I … uh … I was reading in the barn, and I left my book.”
She shuffled to the pantry, already distracted. “Yeah, well, don’t laze the day away.”
“I won’t, mama.” Edna slipped out the back door, jumped off the steps, and hurried across the meadow.
A splash of color flitted in and out of the tree line as painted buntings playfully darted this way and that. Last spring, Mama had teased her that the birds never came out unless Edna was there. She stopped and smiled. They were beautiful little creatures, their bright chirp matching their festive reds, yellows, and vivid greens.
The sun rose from the east, glinting off the dew that hung heavy on meadow’s tall grasses, and she hitched her skirt up to her knees and jogged toward the forest’s edge. There was just something special about this day. It seemed almost—magical. A bunting dipped back and forth, drawing her further into the dense woodland. It finally opened its wings, gliding to the small branch of a budding dogwood tree. Edna’s footsteps slowed as she drew near. The little bird cocked its head one way and then the other, his round black eyes staring at her as if she were a curiosity.
“My, you are a brave little thing, aren’t you?” Edna stepped closer. Her fingers grazed the bird’s soft feathers, and she smiled, amazed that she’d gotten so near.
“They are friendly, aren’t they?”
Edna’s hand flew to her chest as she twirled around, her gaze darting from tree to tree. Early morning light weakly filtered through the dense canopy, leaving dark shadows among the copse and loam.
She squinted, barely making out a broad-shouldered silhouette, and her blood ran cold. She’d wandered too far from the farm for anyone to hear her if she screamed. Not that anyone would be there to help. Her father had gone to town, and her mother would be in the kitchen for the bulk of the day making pies.
She took a small step to the side, and then again, gaining a little distance between them.
“There’s no need to be afraid.”
The deep timbre of his voice washed over her, and she shivered.
He took one step closer. “Not of me, anyway.”
He finally stepped into the light, and she gasped. He was at least a foot taller than she, his frame lean, muscular, and strong. He held a fedora in his large hands, his long, tapered fingers tracing the bill of the hat. His black hair had parted to the side and neatly combed back with the help of pomade. His handsome features were even, masculine. But it was his eyes that took Edna’s breath away.
They were the deepest blue she’d ever seen. They almost seemed textured, like cut stone.
She took a tentative step forward. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Michael.”
“Hello.” Her voice grew husky as she stuck out her hand.
His large palm touched hers as his fingers wrapped around, encasing her hand in a gentle caress. He took a deep, slow breath as he closed his eyes, gently pulling her closer.
Heat enveloped her like she’d been out in the snow and had just settled into a warm bath. Her pulse sped, tickling the backs of her knees and bends of her elbows, and she shifted in her spot, unsure what to do with the sensation.
He opened his eyes, and she gasped. His irises no longer held that faceted quality but had become endless pools of blue with a light shining from deep within.
“I’m Edna,” she whispered.
He smiled as he brought her knuckles to his lips for a soft, chaste kiss. “I know.”
This is Edna’s story, one of the characters in the Kailmeyra Series. If you’re new to the series, click on the pic to get a copy of the first book, The Light of Asteria, today!