Read an Excerpt
By Pamela Morsi
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Face it, Mom," Amber Jameson said, gazing not at her mother but at the road in front of her. "Your life has been like macaroni salad, white, bland and ordinary. It's just that lately, your mayonnaise has begun to go bad."
Ellen Jameson glanced up from the newspaper section of the classified to eye her twenty-one-year-old daughter disapprovingly.
"There is nothing whatsoever wrong with my mayonnaise," she insisted. "We're simply moving closer to downtown because I'm hoping to get a job there."
Amber rolled her eyes. "Denial is more than a river in Egypt," she said.
"Denial is a river in e-jepp!" three-year-old Jet parroted from the back seat.
Ellen ignored Amber and turned her attention to the child. The sight of her little dark-complexioned, curly haired granddaughter never failed to lighten her heart.
"Are you learning geography?" she asked Jet. "You are so smart!"
"I'm smart," Jet agreed.
"Yeah baby-girl," Amber piped in. "You better hope you inherited your geography genes from me. Your grandma couldn't find her own ass."
The child giggled delightedly. "Gramma's ass," she repeated.
"Amber!" Ellen scolded her daughter and then directed her next comment to Jet.
"You mustn't say the words your mama says," Ellen told the little girl. "Mama has a smart mouth and a smart mouth is very ugly."
"Mama's not ugly," the little girl declared with the absolute conviction of one who loves.
Ellen smiled. She appreciated the child's loyalty. And she agreed. Amber was beautiful. One just had to look beyond her current fashion incarnation to see it. Her pretty chestnut hair was overgrown and bleached out to an unrealistic yellow blond color accented by one inch brown roots. Her hands were encircled on the wrists by tattoo "slave" bracelets, a permanent reminder of a difficult adolescence. And she'd never quite lost that last five pounds since childbirth. But she still had the long lean body that was too tall for gymnastics and too curvy for ballet.
"Mama is very pretty," Ellen explained to her granddaughter. "But ugly words are worse than ugly looks."
"Oh, right, Mom," Amber disagreed sarcastically. "Don't listen to Grandma, Jet. Grandma is full of it."
"Gramma's full of it," she repeated.
Ellen voice was a scolding whisper. "Stop talking that way in front of her, Amber."
"Then stop giving the kid platitudes that portray the world as unrealistically benign and fair," her daughter said. She gestured toward the expanse of downtown San Antonio in the distance. "It's hell out there and the sooner she knows that the less likely she'll get screwed over."
"What would you have me tell her?"
"The truth." Amber replied. She glanced at her daughter in the rearview mirror. "Jet, there's no such thing as a bad word, just ones that are hard to spell. And people will treat you a lot better for being thin and pretty than for being kind or smart."
The younger woman didn't appear in the least contrite. "I'm just being straight with her, Mom," she said. "I wish you could have been as honest."
Ellen didn't argue with her daughter. She didn't have the strength. Besides Amber always won somehow. Instead she focused her attention on the road in front of her.
"The turn's coming up on your left," she said indicating the side street between the Purple Dragon Restaurant and Señora Oma, Psychic Advisor.
"I know where the turn is," Amber told her, irritated. "I don't need directions to get to Wilma's."
"Wil-ma! Wil-ma!" Jet began repeating her great-grandmother's name as if it were a yell-leader chant.
"Yes, we're going to see Wil-ma," Amber told her.
Wil-ma, with the accent on the last syllable, was Jet's name for Ellen's mother. It rhymed with all the other women in her life. There was Mama. There was Gramma. And there was Wil-ma.
"Slow down a little," Ellen cautioned. "The car handles differently pulling a trailer."
"I'm the one who's driving," Amber answered. To prove her point she turned left in front of oncoming traffic.
Brakes screeched. Horns honked. Ellen cursed, gritted her teeth, and waited for the inevitable crash.
When they were safely on the residential street, Amber spoke to her daughter in the rearview once more.
"Gramma said a bad word," she told the child.
"Gramma said a bad word," Jet parroted.
"I thought you said there were no bad words," Ellen complained.
The aging Chrysler, with attached orange trailer, bumped along the narrow shaded street filled with vintage bungalow homes. Mahncke Park was a working-class neighborhood. Hemmed in between the expressway interchange, Brackenridge Park and Fort Sam Houston, it was relatively clean and looked after, but far from the highly manicured suburbs where Ellen had lived the last twenty years.
Lush springtime growth disguised the deterioration of Wilma's neighborhood. It appeared sweet and quaint and nostalgic. But graffiti tags could be spotted upon the empty buildings. And the occupied homes, no matter how modest, had burglar bars on every window.
Her mother, Wilma Post, or probably more accurately, Wilma Pruitt Johnson Wilcox Abston Post, give or take a name or two, had finally, it seemed, settled into a stable life. She had been something of a serial bride. Widowed twice and divorced more than a couple of times as well, she had dragged her children, Ellen and her half brother, Bud, from one miserable Texas city to the next. Each new home came furnished with a new Daddy, and he was always called Daddy, as head of the house. Ellen could hardly keep the names straight, so she simply associated different towns with different stepfathers.
Wilma's last, a widower near eighty on his wedding day, had brought her into his little house just north of downtown. She'd taken care of him for about eighteen months before he died.
Mr. Post's children were still unhappy about that marriage. Whether their anger was derived from guilt about their father or simply a dislike of the chosen bride of his twilight years, Ellen didn't know. But one thing she was certain about. Her mother, who had always been unable to sit still anyplace very long, had been expected to move onto greener pastures long ago. Clearly she intended to stay put - just to irritate the in-laws.
That was a good thing. If Wilma hadn't had this place, Ellen and her family would have been homeless.
As soon as the thought crossed her mind, she pushed it back. Ellen no longer thought of the future. It was easier just to remember the past.
Excerpted from Letting Go by Pamela Morsi Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.