Read an Excerpt
The Forever Summer
Lila Abbott dropped her aluminum demo tray of Ritz Crackers, Cheez Whiz, and green olives on the unforgiving floor of Market Foods with an earsplitting clatter. The sound echoed throughout the store, but no one turned around to look. Not even one person.
A pure panic swept through Lila, and it wasn't because of her lost Cheez Whiz demo. The panic was for Emily Ruth Griffin who lay face down on the floor of the produce department surrounded by lemons.
Lila ran past the spilled tray and fought her way through several other customers circled around Emily Ruth. What in God's name did I do that would make Emily Ruth keel over?
Larry Pierson had gotten to her first. He checked her breathing, which wasn't happening, and frantically began administering CPR to Emily Ruth. Lila prayed he could bring her around. Please, God, don't let the beautiful Emily Ruth die in our store. She might be perfectly rich and perfectly dressed, and perfectly bitchy, but she didn't have to be perfectly dead, did she?
Mr. Trent, the pharmacist, came running over. He kept checking Emily Ruth's wrists for something—maybe a pulse, and tried to talk to Larry.
Pilar, from the deli, called 911 from the upstairs office phone. She must have been looking out the observation window and seen the whole thing. Even with Pilar's very cool but complicated Argentinian accent the 911 crew must have gotten the general idea. Within twenty seconds Lila heard sirens.
Tom Boscov, the store manager, was running up and down the aisles trying to calm his regular customers. Tom would do that. The townieswere the meat and potatoes of his year-in-and-year-out business. His short-sleeved white shirt had big wet spots under the arms and on his back. He was sweating it, for sure. Lila saw him round the back end of aisle two and heard his quick footsteps down the next row toward Emily Ruth.
Everything went all cold and slow during the next few minutes as the paramedics arrived at a run. Boy, those guys were fast.
Lila helped them back people away. A good-looking gray-haired man with a nautical outfit soothed a crying Mrs. Gordon. The summer people and the townie people coming together over a tragedy, Lila thought. How touching.
Lila tried not to look at Emily Ruth's body, which wasn't pretty anymore, as the medics worked on her valiantly.
Larry Pierson was having a complete meltdown. He wept over Emily Ruth like his heart was splitting in two. Poor Larry, and what a good effort he'd made. The medics had to move him out of the way several times.
Lila kept thinking about the last thing Emily Ruth had put in her mouth.
It wasn't like Emily Ruth to eat a non-natural thing—that's what she'd said when they'd chatted just moments earlier. Lila remembered Emily Ruth carefully reading the ingredients on both the Cheez Whiz and the crackers, complimenting Lila on her olive and pimento artwork, then ever so casually, popping one in her mouth.
She had commented how starved she was from South Beaching herself to bikini weight and that maybe just this one cracker wouldn't kill her. Just one little carb moment.
Had it killed her? What in God's name could be in a blob of Cheez Whiz that would kill someone? Was it a tainted olive? Was the cracker moldy? Lila trembled all over. It was like the shadow of death had formed a dark misty cloud over the entire store.
Emily Ruth was dead.
Dave McInnis, chief paramedic, declared time of death, then he and an orderly gently lifted Emily Ruth onto a gurney. Larry clutched the side rails. He was a high-strung kind of guy, and trying to revive someone like that had probably been too much for him.
Dead. Dead as a doornail. Lila shuddered again. Then she thought how good-looking those McInnis boys were. Then she thought that was a terrible thing to think—but, hey, she wasn't dead—just coming out of hibernation from seventeen years of being a single mother.
Just suffering empty-nest syndrome from her only daughter Mallory leaving for college at the oh-so-young age of seventeen. Just freaking out for not being able to reach for and hug her only child right this minute. Her mom instincts went into high gear and all her fears about letting Mallory go early to that math-geek-club-sorority-rushing-welcome-to-your-new-life-away-from-the-parents thing came surfacing up. Anything could happen to her!
It must be the heat making her think like this. The summer heat always got to her. Plus, one tends to take stock when death comes lurking around. Lila's life flashed before her in a strange series of disconnected thoughts, including a certain summer night many years ago when she'd gotten herself knocked up. Nothing she could think right now would make any sense or feel correct so she gave up torturing herself about her thoughts. Apparently her mind was trying to grapple with the whole situation and doing a rather random job of it. It must be shock.
The local chief of the Port Gamble Police Department came in the store. He took a look at Emily, talked to the paramedics and Mr. Trent, all very matter of fact. Tom Boscov joined the other men in their short-sleeved-shirt pow-wow. Many forms were passed between the officials and signatures given. Why did life come down to paperwork in the end?
Lila skirted around the death area sweeping up fallen crackers and cheese and doing recon on the side. They extended the gurney and rolled Emily Ruth out of the store, no sheet to cover her once-beautiful face. Talk about your cleanup on aisle one, Lila muttered.
She picked up Emily Ruth's expensive lime green leather clutch. It was the size of a doll's purse. Or a little girl's. Lila clutched the clutch. Police Chief Bob Boniford came toward her. He looked a little flirty but still maintained his professional air, if such a thing was possible.The Forever Summer. Copyright � by Suzanne Macpherson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.