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Can't go home again. Can't go home again.
The words repeated in the slap of the car's worn tires against the highway as Kate Wallace headed west out of Burnet and into the heart of the Texas Hill Country.
But here she was, doing exactly that. Going home. And not a bit happy about it.
She took the curve on Highway 29 too fast. As the car leaned into the turn, Kate put her hand on the elderly buff cocker spaniel sleeping next to her to make sure the dog didn't fall off the seat.
Why was she in such a hurry? It wasn't as if the town of Silver Lake would disappear if she dawdled.
Slowing, she headed north on County Road 144A. Within a few minutes, she was speeding through rolling hills, past the thick groves of trees and the shimmering green grass that covered central Texas in the spring. Here and there, she spotted patches of bluebonnets, promises of the beauty to come.
Twenty minutes later, she pulled off the highway at the top of the hill that overlooked Silver Lake and kept the engine running.
Scratching her dog Coco's ears, Kate breathed in the spicy scent of cedars as she studied the town spread out below her.
"Kate Wallace," she whispered. "You really are home again." An emotion filled her, an odd mixture of hope and resignation, shame and excitement which made her want to grin and to cry and to flee from here as fast as her old car could take her.
At twenty-one, she'd left Silver Lake with a brand-new degree in journalism and her entire future ahead. Without a backward glance, she'd shaken the dust of small-town Texas off her feet and headed to the big city.
Twelve years later, here she was, back in Silver Lake without her youth andconfidence and missing a few other things, as well.
She closed her eyes, trying to replace the view of the small hill-country town with the towering buildings of New York and Houston and the pulsing rhythms of Miami, the cities she'd loved so much. When she opened her eyes the city limits sign—Silver Lake, Population 7,881—stared back at her and the leaves of post oaks rustled in the breeze.
No doubt about it. She was in Mesa County, Texas.
She glanced at her watch. Noon on Saturday. She could sneak into town. With everyone shopping in Austin or Granite Falls, the square would be deserted.
Not that anyone would recognize her now. She was thirty-three and looked every day of it. Her silver-blond hair had darkened over the years and she'd chopped off her long curls six months ago.
Coming home wasn't her choice, but it was the only remaining option.After she'd testified against her boss—a well-known congressman she'd served as press secretary—few choices remained. When her sister Abby's e-mail had arrived three weeks earlier asking Kate to come home and care for her after shoulder surgery, she'd grabbed the opportunity to escape.
She shifted out of Park and stepped on the gas. Within minutes, she passed a new Dollar Merchandise store next to a new H-E-B grocery store.
When a chatting group of people stepped off the curb, Kate returned to reality, slammed on the brakes and stopped inches short of them. Thank you, Lord, she whispered, a little surprised at how good that short prayer felt. She couldn't remember the last time she'd said one.
On the sidewalk stood Sara Arroyo, her former best friend. She'd changed, but no one else in town had hair that dark and full and beautiful. Kate should jump from the car and apologize for dropping out of sight. She should tell Sara she was home and they had to get together. But she didn't. Today she wanted to slink back into town. Besides, Sara held the hands of two children. Kate didn't want to interrupt whatever they were doing, an explanation even she recognized as a terrible excuse.
At Lloyd's Auto Repair and Battery Services, she turned left onto Goliad Street. She followed the curve for another block as she drove between rows of towering live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss until she stopped in front of the three-story Victorian house that used to be home.
The house appeared exactly as it had when she took off, the walls still pale yellow with the gingerbread trim painted green, pink and lavender. In the noonday sun, the house, a national historic home, shone like the multicolored jewel she was.
"That's where I grew up, Coco." The fragile old dog smiled up at her.
Kate hit the trunk latch and got out of the car. After grabbing a couple of worn Louis Vuitton suitcases from the back, she toted them around the passenger side of the car and opened the door. She snapped on Coco's leash and lifted the dog out of the car and onto the grass.
Matching Coco's pace, she ambled to the porch steps where the little dog tried to climb the first step but couldn't lift her arthritic rear leg. The cocker slid down to the stones of the sidewalk, her soft brown eyes focused on Kate, and gave her a "Woof."
"I know, Coco. Old age must be tough." Kate dumped the luggage and leaned down to pick Coco up and place her gently on the porch.
"Why do you carry that dog around?"
Surprised to hear the voice, Kate straightened and saw a girl, probably eight or nine years old, standing inside the front door. She wore pink slacks and a black-and-pink-striped T-shirt. With her hand, the child combed out tangles in her straight brown hair. Who else could she be but her niece? She had Abby's small bones and beautiful features.
"Hello, Brooke. I'm your aunt Kate."
Brooke stared at her.
"This is my dog, Coco."
Coco woofed, not loudly, just as a greeting.
"She's old and has arthritis so she can't get up and down very well."
"That's a really ugly car," she said, then headed upstairs. When she reached the landing, she said, "My mother's at work."
Kate dropped her suitcases on the shiny parquet floor inside. "On Saturday?"
Brooke disappeared without another word.
It wasn't as if Kate were a guest or helpless. She'd grown up here and could find a room for herself. "Stay, Coco," she said as if the little dog would move. She climbed upstairs and looked down the long hall. Three bedrooms and a bath on each side before a right turn into the other wing.
As she contemplated the staircase and the difficulty of carrying Coco up and down, she remembered a bedroom off the kitchen where their housekeepers had stayed years ago. With its private bathroom and proximity to the back door, it would fit her and Coco perfectly.
She found the linen closet and picked out everything she needed. From below came Coco's soft whimpers. "It's okay," she shouted as she climbed down the steps. Words the elderly and nearly deaf dog couldn't hear but it comforted her to say them. That short phrase was filled with optimism, the hope that everything would be fine, that her sister would welcome her and that Coco would live forever.
When she shoved the door to the small first-floor apartment open, she found a room empty of furniture but with a heavy covering of dust and a few cobwebs. She reached out to touch the wall and felt layers of dust on her fingers. Not up to Abby's usual immaculate standards. That shoulder must really be bothering her to allow dust and cobwebs to accumulate anywhere in her house.
Our house, Kate corrected herself, as her parents had left the house to both daughters.
She went back to the kitchen, dropped the linens on the counter and tried to reorient herself. What she needed was a broom, dustpan, some rags and maybe a chair or two. Where would they be?
For two hours, while Coco slept on a spot of sunshine in the kitchen, Kate swept and mopped, wiped down everything in the small apartment. That completed, she opened the bathroom door and groaned at the state of the tiny place but plowed right in.
Kate had never been much of a housekeeper. At times she wished she'd inherited a smidgen of her mother's compulsive need to clean in her own genetic makeup, never more strongly than now.
"Are you going to stay in here?" Brooke called from the hall outside the bedroom.
"Yes." Kate stood and stretched.
The child glanced around the small area and shook her head.
With one last scrub of the bathroom sink, Kate asked, "Why's your mom at work?"
"Trying to get caught up on stuff."
Exactly like Abby. "Why aren't you out with your friends on a pretty day like today?"
Brooke twisted her hair with a finger. "I don't feel well," she mumbled. "And I like to read. In my room."
Kate didn't pry further. "Is there a bed anywhere I can use?" she said.
Brooke said nothing. Like her mother, Brooke gave less information than anyone needed, but Kate refused to play that game. Arms crossed, she waited.
"There's a shed in the backyard," the child finally said.
Oh, yes, the old shed. Her father had used it for his woodworking shop, his tools mixed companionably with her mother's gardening equipment.
"Thanks." But Brooke was gone.
An odd child, but with Abby for a mother, who wouldn't be? Kate had been surprised that a man as nice as Charles Granger had married Abby, had actually seemed eager to, but he had and this lonely child was the outcome. Where was he now?
Thirty minutes later, with the rooms tidy, Kate headed out back to the shed. Once in the backyard, she paused to remember the glory of her mother's flower beds, imagining the heaps of orange and yellow roses and beds of tulips and daffodils of brightly colored blooms now replaced by thick grass. She wished she'd come back years earlier to see Mom attacking the weeds and fooling with her flowers while Dad built stuff in his workshop. An aching sense of loss rolled over her.
In honor of her mother, maybe she'd plant something while she was here. What else did she have to do except take care ofAbby after the surgery? Gardening would allow her time away from Abby before they drove each other crazy.
But she wasn't going to be here long enough.
She'd be leaving in a month, getting on with her life, whatever that meant. She headed to the shed again and shoved the door open to see a jumble of furniture that seemed to have woven itself into an enormous granny knot.
Posted August 26, 2008
I've only read a few inspirational romances, but this is one book I am glad I picked up! The author's writing is incredibly vivid-- from her character descriptions to her sense of setting, she immersed me in her character's worlds from the very first chapter. Kate and Rob are incredibly sympathetic and I found myself rooting for them all the way through the book. What a great read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 1, 2008
Years ago, Kate Wallace ran out on her boyfriend and family to chase her dreams and further her career. Now, disillusioned and betrayed, she questions her values. Was her ambition a bad thing? Are there more important things in life, like love, friends and family? When her sister Abby needs help as she recovers from surgery, Kate finds herself suddenly the ¿go to¿ girl and arrives back in her hometown to face her greatest challenge: The town and people she abandoned, most importantly her sister, her niece Brooke and her former boyfriend Rob are suddenly right there in front of her. And she has to deal with them as the person she is today. In this book, Jane Myers Perrine does an excellent job of showing Kate¿s growth and change and acceptance of the person she is becoming. Her reaching out in faith is a theme in this book. Of all her relationships, one of the most poignant for me is Kate¿s relationship with her niece, her sister¿s young daughter Brooke. Brooke¿s need for love and Kate¿s becoming her aunt in the truest sense is so brilliantly shown, as is Kate¿s realization that her sister has problems to deal with that may not stem solely from Kate¿s abandonment of her and their family. And since her ex Rob is now a grieving widower with a young daughter Lora , and her near neighbor, Kate is faced with the challenge of relating to him as the Kate she is now, not the Kate she used to be, and helping Rob to realize that he has closed himself off from so much in his grief, just as she has done because of her ambition. Kate¿s cocker spaniel Coco, a constant presence, is a real sweetheart, a loving and accepting soul who brings everyone together because of her warm and gentle heart. Kate and Rob¿s journey to reestablish themselves and their relationship in the present carries through the entire story. This is truly a book about relationships¿a woman with her God, her lover, her family and friends whom she left behind. Kate¿s ambition carried her from her home. When she comes back to all the with the people she¿s left behind, she begins to realize that maybe what she was running so hard to find was right in front of her the whole time. But would she have realized that if she¿d never taken the journey?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2009
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