September 8, 2015 – Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six, Chapter Seven, Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, Chapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen,Chapter Sixteen, Chapter Seventeen, Chapter Eighteen, Chapter Nineteen, Chapter Twenty,Chapter Twenty-One, Twenty-Two,Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six
Saturdays at the shop were usually quiet, but Jenny’s extracurricular activities lately made weekends seem just as hectic. These last few weeks sped by as she handled her regular shop duties with ease, but with the added pressure of getting ready for the big unveil. She’d been putting it off too long now. There was an acceptance speech to write, along with her next article for the newspaper, and in each she wanted to make a huge impact. When Andrew emailed to see if she could help him with notes for his speech, her tasks were easy to push aside. Everything else could wait, she told herself, as she willingly gave him whatever time he had requested. Yet she had so much to balance, she even skipped a few Sunday brunches.
Her mother had agreed to free her from the obligation because Jenny hinted of a man in the picture, casually dropping, “I’m working with Andrew on his DIH gala presentation,” and it worked wonders. She explained that Andrew was a professor at the University, and he also headed her historic book club.
“I’ve asked him to come to the gala, so it’s the least I can do for him,” she said.
Sure it was a bold exaggeration, but her mother did not need to know all of the details. Her mother tricked her into bringing Andrew to brunch soon, and although she hadn’t figured out how to get out of that obligation yet, it was the least of her worries.
It was easy to agree to help Andrew work on notes for his speech, meeting him at the coffee shop twice in the last two weeks. A bond had formed between them, no one could deny that, and it made her hope for more. Even though friendship and romance were two very different things, some of the best love stories began with couples as friends first. It struck her as humorous that she had the gall to even consider such a thing. Andrew seemed more relaxed these days, over the drama of the breakup, although he’d been a bit worried that Melissa would come to book club. Jenny realized her luck continued when they got through that night without an appearance.
Helping Andrew meant spending time with him, and she would never be sorry for that. Now faced deadlines for an article and a speech, she felt the pressure. She focused on the article first, as she sat typing swiftly in the back office downstairs. She kept the article positive, writing a glowing report of what the DIH did for the community. It didn’t seem like the right time to slam them now, before they received the big shock. She also hinted that she would attend the DIH gala after receiving an invitation from the group. She found it hard to concentrate though, reviewing everything that needed to be done in the next few weeks. Her speech was on top of that list, along with the shop’s spring inventory, a necessary chore she always dreaded.
Adding to all of the drama, she couldn’t find the underlying cause of what was bothering Fiona. Her friend wouldn’t admit to anything specific, and kept insisting she was fine, but Jenny knew better. Not that she had time to push the issue, but something was wrong. Fiona hadn’t bothered to come downstairs to chat for nearly two weeks, and even missed one of their sacred Saturday morning breakfasts.
“I’m just feeling tired,” Fiona said last night as they passed in the hall, though Jenny did not believe one word. “Spring allergies do that do me.”
Jenny looked at her with quizzical concern. “You’re forgetting I know you, Fiona. I’ve never known you to suffer from spring allergies.”
Fiona forced a smile. “Apparently, I am this year. They can hit at any time, any age, you know, and the headache is awful,” she said covering her track. “Give me a few days, Jenny. I’ll be back to my old self in no time.”
Jenny doubted that, but left her friend alone. Fiona would come clean when she was ready. “Did you find a dress online for the gala?” Jenny asked. “You haven’t mentioned anything about it.”
Fiona shook her head. “I hadn’t thought about it. Would you mind if I passed? I just don’t feel up to it.”
Jenny shook her head. “No, I wouldn’t mind. I understand.” She was disappointed, but it also renewed her fantasy of Andrew escorting her to the gala.
As Jenny pushed the send button to email the article off to the paper, she heard the front door bell chime. Walking to the front, she smiled when she saw Charlotte enter.
“Hi, Charlotte,” Jenny said. “What brings you here today?”
“Sorry to be popping in so much, but as you know we’re getting close to the gala, and I wondered how you were doing with your speech.”
“That’s a bit presumptuous since I didn’t even agree to come,” Jenny said with a sly smile.
Charlotte looked at her and grinned. “Well maybe not officially, but I figured you’d be there since your professor agreed to make a speech.
Jenny smiled. “I just filed my story to be published in Thursday’s edition of the paper. And yes, I’ve hinted that I’ll be there, so the speech is next on my list of things to do.”
Charlotte laughed. “I knew it,” she said. “I’m looking forward to reading it.”
Jenny was glad Charlotte didn’t ask to read an advanced copy. For weeks now, Charlotte kept hinting that the private investigator she’d hired found a multitude of sins committed on behalf of the DIH courtesy of its two board guilty board members. Jenny pressed for details, yet Charlotte told her she was not ready to share them yet. Jenny did the same with Mr. Hiller’s information, and now with her newspaper column. She did not want to reveal her hand before its time either, and she hoped she didn’t have to use the information about the Chadwick’s scandal at all.
“Have you found anything you can share from the investigator?” Jenny asked even though she knew what the answer would be. Still, she was curious began to wonder if the women were involved in criminal activity. It would be the only explanation that would require such secrecy.
Charlotte shook her head. “I don’t mean to be so vague, but I’m not ready to share right now,” she said again. “I know this runs deeper than what they found so far.” She shrugged. “I’m also here because I wanted to make sure I could place Carrie Grant’s name in the program.”
Jenny nodded. “I think it’s a safe bet.”
“And I know you’ve been meeting with Andrew,” Charlotte said slyly. “Do you know how much time I should allot him in the program? I’m taking it to the printer now and wanted to fill in the details.”
“It’s not a very long speech,” Jenny replied. “I’m not sure what the final timing will be, but I wouldn’t expect he’d need more than 15 minutes.”
Charlotte nodded. “Good, I’ll keep it generic then. I better run,” said with a grin. “The printer closes at four on Saturdays.”
Jenny watched Charlotte leave with her secrets, knowing she had some of her own. Mr. Hiller had asked her if she decided to use his information in a letter she received from him yesterday, and she hadn’t responded yet. She was happy to learn he had been thriving in England, visiting with old friends and relatives, and he told her to watch for a package from him coming soon. It was something she needed for the DIH gala. The gala was only two weeks away now, and she wondered what it could be. Perhaps it involved more information about Martha Chadwick.
When she closed up shop that Saturday during that last week in April, she wandered upstairs deciding she would go to brunch tomorrow because in a funny way, she actually missed everyone and that surprised her.