Change. Sarah hated it, unless it was good and was happening to her. What she hated most was when people moved away. First her sister and brother-in-law had to drift off to California in search of sun – which was highly overrated, if you asked Sarah – and take her nieces. (At least one of them had had the good sense to come back.) Then Jonathan had left. And now Steph was moving.
And speaking of moving, Sarah thought, checking out the strangers driving past her, was Heart Lake some new destination spot? It seemed like lately she was seeing as many new faces as old, familiar ones. Why couldn’t life stay the same?
By the time she came through the door of the chocolateria even the sensual aroma that danced around her nose couldn’t tease her into a happy mood.
She took in the array of truffles behind the glass counter with a scowl and marched to where her niece, Jamie Moore, stood, smiling and holding out a steaming cup of Sarah’s usual weekly treat, a coconut mocha. (Hold the whipped cream – a woman had to draw the line somewhere.)
“I hope that’s a double,” said Sarah. “I need it.”
“A double with decaf so you won’t be awake all night,” said Jamie. She arched a delicately penciled blonde eyebrow. “Is this a two truffle day?”
“More like a ten, but I’ll stop at one. How could you tell?”
“Other than the fact that I knew Steph was leaving today? Just a lucky guess.”
Sarah took the mocha with a sigh and moved over to the glass case. A summer of weekly truffle treats at her niece’s new shop had already added three pounds to her hips. Even when Sarah was young she’d had a bit of a bubble butt. After opening the bakery it had grown from a bubble to a balloon, and now, by fifty-six, it was nearing the size of a hot air balloon. Every once in awhile she suggested to herself that changing this weekly coffee klatch to the back room of Emma’s quilt shop wouldn’t be a bad idea. A girl couldn’t get fat on fabric.
Her friend Kizzy, who owned a kitchen shop in town, kept urging her to join her teeny bikini diet club, but Sarah wasn’t ready for that. So Kizzy settled for getting Sarah out on a Sunday afternoon walk around the lake. Sarah wasn’t sure it did much good. At the rate she was going, to see any improvement she’d probably have to walk all the way to Florida. And back.
Okay, one truffle. She bent over to examine the rows and rows of treats calling to her from behind glass. Flavors ranged from dark chocolate with Grand Marnier filling to white chocolate with lavender. Then there was the fudge: traditional chocolate, rocky road, penuche, and the new caliente flavor with its south of the border bite. And now, with summer giving way to fall, white and milk chocolate-dipped apples had replaced double-chocolate ice cream bars.
“Decisions, decisions,” teased Jamie. How she managed to stay a size eight was a mystery.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the girl didn’t eat.
“Don’t laugh. It’s hard when you’re only choosing one,” said Sarah. “You could do my hips a good deed and come up with a no-fat, no-calorie truffle.”
“I could,” Jamie agreed, “if I made it out of cardboard.”
“How about the white chocolate-raspberry?”
“Good choice,” Jamie approved, and pulled one out for her.
The shop door opened and in stepped a woman in her early thirties with a round, freckled face, a curvy figure, and strawberry blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. She had a coat thrown on over jeans and a pink flower print flowing top. Emma Swanson, proud owner of Emma’s Quilt Corner. One Wednesday in September, she’d wandered into the shop just as Jamie and Sarah were getting ready to end their day with a dose of chocolate. The impromptu get together had quickly become a weekly tradition, and casual friendship had made a fast evolution into sisterhood.
Emma flipped the sign hanging on the door to Closed and locked it, announcing, “It’s officially five.”
“Good,” Jamie said with a sigh. “I’m ready to sit down. I’m pooped.”
“Too much business,” said Emma. “I wish I had that problem,” she added with a sigh.
“Be patient,” Sarah told her. “Quilting is catching on.”
“I hope so,” said Emma. “So far my best customers are still my grandma and my mom. And Mom doesn’t even quilt. Oh, and you, of course,” she added, smiling at Sarah.
Sarah had spent a small fortune on fabric a week earlier so she could make quilts for both the girls for Christmas. She’d been so busy with the bakery that she hadn’t quilted in years. But she was sure it would all come back to her, like riding a bicycle. She hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years, either. She’d rather quilt.
They settled at one of the white bistro tables on the other side of the shop, Emma and Sarah armed with their mochas and truffles and Jamie only with a cup of chocolate tea.
“No wonder you’re so skinny,” Emma said, pointing to it. “I don’t know how you keep from eating all your inventory.”
“I have Clarice for that. Anyway, I sampled so many truffles when I was first learning how to make these things that I don’t care if I ever taste another one again as long as I live. Well, unless it’s a new recipe,” she amended.
“I sampled a lot of my recipes when I started the bakery, too,” said Sarah. “All it did was turn me into an S.T.”
“Yeah, that was what did it all right,” mocked Jamie.
“What’s an S.T.?” asked Emma.
“Sweet Tooth,” Jamie answered for Sarah. “And you were an S.T. before you even opened the bakery. I was around, remember?”
Sarah shook her head. “This is the problem with having an older sister who makes you an aunt before your time. You end up with lippy nieces who know too much.”
“You imported me,” Jamie reminded her with a smile.
“And I’m glad I did. Someone in your family needed to come back home. You make a great addition to Heart Lake.” She took a sip of her mocha, then sighed.
“They’ll be back by Christmas,” Jamie reminded her, accurately interpreting the sigh.
“Seeing them go had to be pretty hard,” said Emma. “I know how much you love your granddaughters.”
“My mom wore sunglasses when I went to say good-bye,” said Jamie.
“Doesn’t everybody in L.A. wear sunglasses?” asked Emma.
“In the house?”
“Um, that’s weird.”
“She didn’t want me to see she’d been crying.”
“I was brave and didn’t cry,” bragged Sarah. “Not until they left, anyway.”
“Well, we sure could use a few more Stephs here,” said Jamie. “You’re not going to believe this, but two little twits ran the four-way-stop on Lake Way and Alder yesterday.”
Emma looked at her questioningly. “Somebody ran a stop sign and you’re surprised?”
“Somebody ran a stop sign in Heart Lake and I’m surprised,” Jamie corrected her. “There were two old ladies at the crosswalk. If I hadn’t let them go they’d still be standing there.”
“You know, people used to just about kill each other with kindness at that four-way stop,” Sarah reminisced.
“Well, they’ve kept the kill each other part,” said Jamie.
Emma sighed. “I wish Heart Lake could stay just like it was when I was in school.”
“Nice places like this can’t help but grow,” Sarah said. “Everyone wants to be the last person in Paradise. Of course, as more people move into Paradise it gets harder to stay connected. Then people stop caring and it’s not paradise any more.” She frowned and took a sip of her mocha. “I guess people are too busy to be nice.”
“It only takes a minute to let two old ladies cross the street,” Jamie said in disgust.
“Well, there’s your random act of kindness for the day,” Sarah told her. “You know,” she added thoughtfully, “if everybody just did one nice thing a day . . .”
“We’d be living in Mayberry,” Jamie finished.
“I used to love those old reruns when I was a kid,” said Emma.
Jamie rolled her eyes. “Why am I not surprised?”
Sarah was still thinking. “Why couldn’t we do one good deed a day?” she asked suddenly. “It might be fun to try. You know, paying it forward.”
“Like in the movie,” Emma said with a smile.
“That worked real well at the stop-sign,” said Jamie. She downed the last of her chocolate mint tea. “Well, here’s my something. Your chocolate therapy is on the house,” she said to Sarah and Emma. It always was, but she cocked an eyebrow and grinned at Emma. “So, top that.”
“Maybe I will,” Emma said. “If I see a hot-looking homeless guy, I’ll take him in for the night.”
Okay, they weren’t taking her seriously. Sarah could see that. But somewhere in there was a good idea, and she was going to find it.
--Book Excerpt from Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts. You can visit Sheila on the web at www.sheilasplace.com or pick up a copy of her book at Amazon by clicking here!