I just wanted to let you all know that my sweet contemporary romance, Stepping Stones, is now available in print. If you're interested in getting a paperback copy of this family orientated, seasonal romance you can purchase one from the following sites:
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(A sweet contemporary romance)
There's nothing like a wedding to bring the family together . . . .
And if it wasn't her baby sister’s wedding, Margaret West, wouldn't be returning home at all.
Why else would she go back after six years knowing full well that she has people to face, and explanations to give?
If her parent’s interrogation wasn't bad enough, the fact that she has to be civil to her foster brother, Adrian, is. Best friends since childhood, they haven't spoken since he went to America . . . The day before Margaret was supposed to be getting married.
And to make matters worse, her ex-fiancée, William, is the Vicar who will be conducting her sister’s wedding ceremony!
All want an answer from her, and they aren't taking no as one of them. Why did she run in the first place? Why has she been so angry with, Adrian? Why didn't she marry, William?
Margaret isn't even sure she knows the real reasons any more.
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December 9, 2013
Several months ago, Jessica—my younger sister—called to announce that she and Edward finally set a date, and she wanted me to design and make her wedding dress. I had promised her that I would when her big day came; so I had to keep my promise.
That seemed like the simple part.
Then she informed me that she wanted me to be her maid of honour; I hadn't been expecting that piece of information.
I tried to coax her into changing her mind and giving the honour to her best friend Stacie, but being a sweet and determined young woman, Jess managed to make me agree. Any other sister would be thrilled by such a requested; for some reason, the honour didn't thrill me.
My sister's impending marriage to Edward made me happy, but the thought of trying to excuse myself from the wedding, well, the idea slammed against the walls of my brain more than a few times over the last four months, and, I'm ashamed to add, repeatedly. But I couldn't do that. Not to Jess, not my baby sister, and not on her special day. I wouldn't miss it for the world. I couldn't. I would never forgive myself.
So why do I have an overpowering urge to fling open the train door and jump?
I watched the passing scenery blend together, turning into nothing more than flying colours as the train to Penzance took me farther away from the hustle and bustle of my busy London life. With each second, I felt my heart sinking lower and lower into my stomach as the carriage gently rocked from side to side.
Survive two days, and then go home. Back to my routine, my life; far away from the end of the world.
I closed my eyes and rested my head back against the seat, holding back the tears.
What kind of a sister am I? It’s bad enough that I’ve delayed coming until two days before the wedding. Now I want to cry like a silly child, just because I have to go somewhere I don’t want to go.
I took a deep breath and looked out of the window. "Stop being stupid." I mumbled to myself, grateful for the empty seats nearby.
The sun crept downward, trying to hide its face behind the passing hills. Hiding the way I wanted to; the way I had been.
Not yet 4:00 p.m. yet, and the sun had almost vanished. Typical of Jess to want to get married in winter.
"The magic of Christmas." She laughed down the phone when she told me the wedding would be in December; my sister, the young romantic.
Early today, my mother phoned and demanded I stay in my family home instead of going to a hotel. Reluctantly, I agreed. In all honesty, I actually missed her, and my father, even though I knew he wouldn't keep his mouth shut for the duration of my visit. He would probably guilt trip me into going back for Christmas.
I looked forward to a long and uncomfortable few days.
And no one to blame but myself.
* * * * *
I paid the taxi driver extra money to take me the long way around, through Church Cove to Helston, mainly because I wanted to drive past Lizard Point.
It took fifteen extra minutes for me to get where I needed to be, but I felt no hurry to arrive at my parents' house.
The sun completely disappeared, and the moon took her place. I rolled down the back window and stared out across the fields to the distant sea, watching the bitter wind dance through the tall grasses and make its way to me. I inhaled the familiar scent as the gusts spun around my face in a frantic caress, welcoming me home. It would probably be the kindest welcome I received, so I soaked it in as the car continued to drive.
I had walked along the cliffs as a child so many times. My gaze had constantly searched the horizon, while I waited for . . . something; anything or anyone that would sweep me away on an adventure. I had wanted adventures. I had needed them as much as I needed oxygen to live. I had wanted something more than this; more than Landewednack and the Lizard.
Unexpected laughter bubbled up my throat and poured from my lips. I placed my hand over my mouth, my cheeks heated; I noticed the taxi driver looking at me through the rear-view mirror. I dropped my hand to my lap and gave him an apologetic smile, then returned my attention to the familiar landscape.
Something more than Landewednack? Perhaps I should have reminded myself of that small fact six years ago, and then everything wouldn't be such a mess.
I closed my eyes and listened to the distant ocean as it argued with the cliff wall.
The Lizard had always been my favorite place. Just being there made me feel like a child again. My mother and father would take us to the Lizard every second Sunday after church. Jess would sit between me and Adrian . . . . The thought of him sliced through my chest.
I sighed and opened my eyes. I fixed my focus ahead as the taxi turned and Lizard Point vanished from view.
Adrian, my foster brother.
Mother and father took him in when his mother, Joyce—my mother's best friend since childhood—died of breast cancer. Adrian had been ten years old.
I could still remember how sad he had looked. His golden blonde hair had flopped around his face, hiding his blue, puffy eyes.
I had been seven. Mother hadn't told me that Joyce had died, just that Adrian would be living with us from that point onward, and that I had be nice to him.
I'd met him only two times before his mother passed, but I found it impossible not to be nice to Adrian.
He took two weeks to come out of his shell, just enough so he could start playing games with me. He didn't talk, just played. A few months and that eventually changed; we could never get him to shut up.
I still remembered the first thing he said to me after all that time. On an extremely hot day, we sat at Kynance Cove with our feet in the ocean. He pulled my hair playfully, and said, "You know, you have pretty hair."
We were best friends from that moment onward.
I felt the sting of my tears as they crawled down my frozen cheeks. The wind continued to blast through the open window, pushing against me as if it wanted to sweep my tears away. I buried my chin in the warmth of my crimson scarf and hugged myself tightly, a weak attempt to warm a deeper chill.
I asked the driver to drop me off round the corner from my parents' house. I paid him, then grabbed the four dress bags off the seat beside me while he got my suitcase from the trunk.
Taking a cigarette from my handbag, I lit it while I watched the taxi drive away. I wanted so badly to go with him.
I took a long drag of my cig; the familiar smoky burn hit me, and I felt my body relax. I could do this. I had to.
Once I finished my cigarette, I flicked it to the ground and stubbed it out, while I cursed myself for not buying some chewing gum from the train station. No doubt, my mother would give me an earache on the dangers of smoking.
I flung the dress bags over my shoulder and grabbed the handle of my suitcase. The steady rumble of the wheels and the sharp click of my stilettos echoed throughout the silence, as if everyone needed to know I had finally returned.
My index finger felt close to breaking, due to the weight of the dress bags, but I refused to walk any quicker. Not that my forced lack of effort mattered, because within a second I stood looking directly at the familiar grey stone house.
I felt the metal handle of my suitcase digging into my palm as my grip automatically tightened. I fought the wave of nausea in my stomach.
Six years later, the house still looked exactly the same, as if trapped in time. The grass-green gate with its bold brass numbers seem to stare at me, while warm light peeked through the net curtains in the kitchen, beckoning me inside.
How much of this place is trapped in the past? The thought alone scared me.
I stood silently on the other side of the deserted road. The wind danced my hair across my shoulders and brought the smell of the salt from the sea with it. Both seem to push me to go and ring the bell to my family home.
I took one last deep breath, hoping to ease the growing knot in my stomach as it slowly tightened. The sudden need to run away took over, again.
"Stop it." I shivered. "You're being stupid, Maggie. It's two days." I stepped onto the road. The wheels of my case rumbled against the stone; the noise rang in my ears.
"Two days, and you will be on your way back to London." I pushed open the green gate, then walked through.
"Back home." I stopped at the porch door, my gaze fixed on the bell. "You can do this."
Before I knew it, I lifted my hand and my right index finger pressed the buzzer. My mother's smile greeted me as she eagerly threw open the door. Her faded, strawberry blonde hair framed her oval face in a short bob. Her moss green eyes glinted in the dull lighting, so similar to my own hazel-green irises yet always so much brighter.
My smile came naturally. "Hi, Ma."
Mother opened her arms wide, and before I knew it, she'd wrapped the dress bags and me in her embrace. She gripped me tightly. The familiar smell of lavender and home-made bread rose from her clothing, hitting me hard as I rested my head on her shoulder. I felt the knot in my stomach shrink as I rested my free hand on her back.
"I've missed you." She whispered, before pressing a light kiss on my cheek.
"I've missed you, too." More than I actually realized. Guilt flooded me. I had acted so unfairly, but I already knew that. As much as I tried to ignore the feeling, as much as I didn't want to hear anything from anyone else, I knew my actions had been harsh.
Mother pulled back and studied me.
"I smell smoke." She leant forward, her nose wriggled. "You're smoking? Oh, Margaret, it's very bad for you, you—"
I picked my suitcase up and squeezed past her. "You've decorated the hall."
I looked round at the new, warm yellow walls. The familiar art of country landscapes hung where they always had. The hall use to be magnolia. A popular shade for decorating, but I always thought that the colour didn't look right in any hallway. When people stepped into someone's home, they wanted to feel warm and cosy; the new shade of yellow gave that feeling.
"No, we haven't." She shut the door.
I turned and faced her. "The hall has always been magnolia."
"What your mother means by 'no' is that the hall has been like this for the last four years."
I turned to see my father stood in the doorway of the living room. His expression appeared unwelcoming. I didn't think he'd be happy to see me, but he couldn't force himself to smile, even for the sake of being civil. But my father never changed, always stubborn and strait-laced.
He looked older and slightly larger. Silver streaked through his jet-black hair, and he now wore a beard. It suited him. He crossed his arms over his broad chest. His dark brown eyes fixed on me.
"Welcome home, Margaret," he said. "It's taken you long enough."
"George." Mother's tone remained gentle, but the note of warning rang clear.
"I know. I'm"—I sighed—"I'm sorry. I've been really busy."
The lie dripped from my tongue like melted butter.
"Huh." His laugh sounded forced. "So you always say. Explain to me, then, why Adrian, who lives all the way in America, comes to visit three times a year, yet you can't manage it, and you're only three hours up the road."
"George, please don't do this right now." Mother sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "She only just got here."
"I know that, Victoria, which is precisely why I am doing this now. I don't know when she next intends to grace us with her presence."
"It's all right, Ma." I hated the fact that I could feel tears gathering in my eyes. "If my father has something to say, he can say it."
"Well, thank you for your permission, Margaret."
I really hated my father when he acted like this.
"Adrian is obviously not as busy as I am." A rather cheap and petty shot, but who cared?
I watched as my father's face turned red. His eyes darkened as he unfolded his arms.
I needed that; I needed him to be angrier so I could be angry. So I wouldn't cry like some stupid child getting scolded.
"Besides, you haven't been to visit me."
His eyes widened. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me, Pa. If I'm 'only up the road' as you put it, why haven't you come to see me?"
"Children come to visit their parents. Parents shouldn't need to visit their children."
"What a load of—"
Mother's gaze turned on me. "Margaret Louise West, don't you curse in my house."
"Don't you dare try to turn this on me and your mother, Maggie." My father continued as he stepped through the doorway. "After everything you put us through."
"Oh, George, please—"
I felt my nerve snap. "I have apologized for everything, okay? I'm sorry!"
"So you have said—"
"There is nothing more to be said. I am sorry I didn't sit down and talk to you both about everything; about how I felt. I made a spontaneous decision, and I handled it wrong, but, I paid you back, I—"
"This has nothing to do with money! This is to do with you not being home for six years; for not visiting and for short phone calls every few weeks!" He placed his hands on his hips. "Do you know how many people you've hurt, young lady?"
I grabbed my suitcase and headed toward the door. "I can't do this right now."
He laughed. It sounded rough and grating, like stones in a blender. "That's right, Margaret, run away again—"
My jaw tensed. "I am going to stay at one of the hotels. I'm only here for Jess and Edward's wedding, then I'm going home," I said, without looking at him.
"I'm surprised you even decided to come—"
"Stop it!" Mother's voice seemed to shake the entire house. "Margaret, you're staying here. It is not open for debate. George, go in the living room and please keep your opinions to yourself!"
"There will be a time for this, but it isn't tonight."
I heard my father shuffle back into the living room with a huff. The door slammed shut behind him.
"Now go and take your luggage to your room, Maggie. I will make you a cup of tea."
I turned around and watched as she wandered off into the kitchen.
Five minutes. I had been there five minutes and, well, what had I expected from them? Flowers and a welcome home banner?
With a sigh, I walked up the stairs, carrying the dresses and dragging my suitcase behind me.
I didn't blame my father for being angry. Six years had been a long time not to visit, and I did feel terrible. I tried to visit, many times, but every time I did, I would just stop. The thought alone of being here . . . . It didn't matter anymore. I had returned.
I stood in the doorway of my old bedroom. They'd left the walls white, and the curtains, carpet, and bedding remained purple. Nothing had changed within it; well, the room looked tidier. I wasn't the neatest person, so my mother obviously cleared everything up at some point.
My vanity table, which sat just next to the window overlooking the sea, used to be covered with jewellery and products. My sewing machine in the corner, facing my bedroom door, used to have half-made dresses covering the desk. Instead, mum packed all my old material and threads in boxes, put them beneath the table, and placed a vase of fresh flowers on the windowsill.
I smiled as a comforting familiarity settled in me.
I shut the bedroom door, and hung the four heavy dress bags on the hook. I pulled my suitcase to the foot of the bed. I saw no point in unpacking the two spare outfits I had brought with me, because I wouldn't be staying longer than expected.
I skimmed my finger over the wood of my old vanity table; memories of getting ready in front of the mirror danced in my mind. I glanced out at our back garden, at the moon shining upon the ocean, turning the water silver. I inhaled the scent of the fresh flowers. Standing there made me feel as if I had never left in the first place, and the thought alone freaked me out. But then again, as they say, "there’s no place like home."
I walked to my wardrobe and opened the door. My heart felt like it had jumped into my throat.
Among a few old tops and a pair of jeans hung a familiar black bag. I reached in to pull out the bag. My hands trembled as I slid the zip down. I could already see the detailed lace bodice peeking through the small gap. I knew Mother hadn't thrown it out, but why did she have to put it in here?
I lifted out the dress, watching as the white silk skirt dropped and the train formed a puddle on the floor.
My wedding dress; the one I designed, spent days making, and never got to wear.
A simple design; elegant to look at. All the detail scrolled through the black lace that covered the firm white bodice; the intricate swirls, which seemed to climb like ivy. I didn't know why, but I walked over to the mirror of my vanity table and held the dress against myself.
How many times had I done that? At least once a day, for two months.
I ran my hands across the material and held it close as I studied it. The girl in the mirror cried. Confusion claimed her features. The weight of a sudden decision dragged her down, and what she intended to do hurt her more than anyone else would ever know, but why had running been the answer?
My eyelids fluttered. Tears caught in my lashes. How had everything suddenly gone so wrong, so quickly?
I carefully placed the dress back inside the bag, then hung it in the wardrobe. I ran my hand across the bodice, my fingertips tracing the design of lace one more time.
I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath. I could do this. I just needed to concentrate on Jess, on helping her, and being there for her. I could ignore my father's jabs and dodge everybody else. Simple.
I opened my eyes and zipped up the bag.
"Two days." I reminded myself as I shut the wardrobe door.