PRAISE FOR THE SOUTHERN QUILTING MYSTERIES
Also by Elizabeth Craig
“The funny thing, Beatrice,” said Meadow, beaming through her red-framed glasses, “is that all this time I never knew that Boris was a genius.”
Beatrice looked doubtfully down at the aforementioned Boris. The massive animal of mixed bloodlines was grinning at her with his tongue lolling out. He actually looked rather slow. And this was the same dog who strong-armed his way into her kitchen on a regular basis and upset her canisters while searching for food. “How did you come to that conclusion, Meadow? I mean—I’m sure Boris is smart, but I wouldn’t have said he was more clever than . . . well, Noo-noo.” She looked with satisfaction at her own dog, a well-behaved, alert corgi.
“He’s so incredibly intuitive and communicative. Lately, he’s put his paw on my leg whenever he wants to tell me something. I’ve been amazed.” Meadow looked wonderingly at the huge animal’s tremendous paws. Boris yawned. “Yesterday morning, I had a real absentminded episode. I put eggs on the stove to boil and then something distracted me . . . I don’t now remember what it was. Anyway, I walked outside to get the newspaper. While I was outside, I saw weeds were really making inroads into my flower bed. So I pulled weeds for a bit.”
Beatrice took a bite of her shortcake cookie. She was used to Meadow’s meandering stories and had confidence that she’d eventually come to her point.
“Out of the blue, Boris bolted out the door. I swear I don’t even know how he opened it. Do you think he turned the handle?”
“Anyway, he galloped outside, giving me this incredibly intelligent pleading look. I get goose bumps whenever I remember it.” Meadow thrust out her arm for Beatrice to view the indisputable truth. “He put his paw on my shoulder—that’s because I was stooped over weeding—clearly telling me to come inside. He gave a few sharp barks and ran to the front door. I tell you, Beatrice, I started running. Sure enough, the pot was already blazing when I went in, so I sprayed my kitchen extinguisher on it and put it out. Boris saved the day!” Meadow choked up at this last bit and pulled a tissue out of her purse, blowing her nose loudly.
Noo-noo looked concerned and Beatrice reached over to rub the dog’s head. “That’s a very scary story, Meadow. Thank goodness that Boris paid such close attention. I’d hate for this gorgeous barn to burn down.” Beatrice gazed around her. The old barn had been turned into a beautiful home. Skylights in the cathedral-like ceiling lit the large, open living area, illuminating vibrantly colored quilts hanging from the walls.
Meadow reached over to refill Beatrice’s iced tea before she could protest. Meadow took her hostessing duties seriously, but Beatrice was wondering if she’d need to make a pit stop by the powder room before she and Noo-noo walked home.
Before she knew it, Meadow had put another couple of shortbread cookies on the china plate in front of her. “Meadow!” she groaned.
“Oh, please. Like you need to worry about calories. I’ve never seen a fitter sixty-something-year-old than you. Platinum blond hair, carelessly stylish button-down, and capri-length khakis.” Meadow snorted. “How did I end up with the big bones and crazy hair? The least you can do is eat a few cookies with me in sympathy.”
“I’m afraid my hair is white, not platinum. I’m not as fit as you’re giving me credit for. And your hair isn’t crazy at all. I’ve always thought your braid suited you.” It was a long gray braid that did suit Meadow to a tee.
Meadow said, “Hey, how is your quilt coming along?” Her eyes were wide and innocent, but Beatrice knew that this was a dead-serious follow-up.
“Oh, I figured I’d finish it the night before the quilt show. There’s still plenty of time,” said Beatrice in a studiously careless voice. Meadow gasped, choking a bit on cookie crumbs, and Beatrice chided, “Meadow. It’s all finished, of course. You know how I am about meeting deadlines.” She reached down and gave Boris a distracted pat as he laid his mighty genius head on her lap to look lovingly at her shortbread cookie.
Meadow flashed her a relieved look as she reached for her drink to wash down the cookie. She said, “Well, thank goodness. I only wish that everyone else in the guild had your work ethic. This show might be featuring a bunch of unfinished quilts from the Village Quilters.” She frowned thoughtfully. “Do you think we can spin that somehow? Promote it as high art? ‘The Process of Quilting,’ or some such thing?”
“I don’t think so, no.” Somehow Beatrice didn’t think a postmodern deconstructed-quilt exhibit was going to go over well in tiny Dappled Hills. “Are you sure that everyone is running so far behind? That doesn’t sound like Savannah, for instance.”
Meadow cleared her throat. “Well, Savannah has been busy doing other things lately.”
“That sounds ominous,” said Beatrice slowly. “Are you talking about her little borrowing problem?” Savannah, who looked like a prim and proper buttoned-up old maid, was a complete kleptomaniac.
“Let’s say she’s kept her sister busy lately,” said Meadow with a sigh. “I happened to be in the quilt shop when Georgia came in to return a thimble that Savannah had swiped. Sometimes she goes through spells with it, you know. Just be sure to nail down your stuff when it’s your turn to host a guild meeting.”
“Okay. Well, I can understand the two of them being a little behind, then. But Miss Sissy? She’s up all night with insomnia. You can’t tell me that she hasn’t finished her quilt. What else does she have to do?” Miss Sissy was the oldest member of the guild. She’d gotten a bit demented and was fairly arthritic, but she could still produce the best needlework of anyone in the state.
“Who knows?” said Meadow gloomily. “Whatever she’s doing, it’s not quilting. At least not on the quilt that’s supposed to be in the show.”
“And Piper?” asked Beatrice. “Surely my own daughter is enough like me to meet her deadline with lots of time to spare.”
“I think Piper and my son have been spending a lot of time talking on the phone together lately,” said Meadow. This, at least, put a smile back on her face. “Ah, they’re really a lovely couple, aren’t they? I can tell that Ash is just wild about Piper. Oh, and he’s probably at the airport even as I speak, getting ready to fly here for a little visit.”
It was a pity that Ash lived all the way over on the other side of the country. Beatrice was both happy for her daughter and sorry that she was in a relationship that might eventually result in a move. Piper had only recently returned from a long visit in California to see Ash.
“So Piper isn’t done with her quilt, either?” This was looking bad for the quilt show. “I wonder how the Cut-Ups are doing with their quilts?” asked Beatrice. The Cut-Ups and the Village Quilters had a friendly rivalry with each other. Friendly most of the time, anyway.
Now Meadow’s face looked even glummer. “I’m sure they’re completely done, as usual.”
“Well, why don’t we set up some sort of bee?” asked Beatrice. “You know the Village Quilters love to socialize—maybe that would be the best way to keep everybody from procrastinating and finish their quilts.”
Meadow brightened. “Great idea, Beatrice. Maybe Posy will let us use the Patchwork Cottage’s conference room. We could set up a bunch of long tables, run some extension cords, and everyone would have plenty of space to spread out.”
“A retreat,” said Beatrice, nodding. “A quilting retreat. We could all bring some food—that’ll lure them in if the quilting doesn’t.”
“Do you think Posy will go for it?” asked Meadow. “The shop has been so busy lately and it seems like she’s always on the go.”
Beatrice could tell when Meadow would keep stewing over this issue until it was addressed. “Tell you what. Why don’t we head over to Posy’s shop and find out right now? We can ask her about the retreat and I can pick up a few things for the new quilt I’m working on. Can Noo-noo visit with Boris while we run the errand?”
Meadow beamed at her. “Boris will love it!” she said as she snatched her keys off the kitchen counter.
Noo-noo apparently didn’t share the sentiment and stared reproachfully at Beatrice as she and Meadow left.
* * *
Beatrice felt a smile pull at the corners of her mouth as soon as she entered Posy’s shop. The Patchwork Cottage always made her feel a bit more relaxed, a little more mindful. Posy had soft music playing in the store, usually by local artists. The large room was a visual feast for the eyes with bolts of fabric and lovely finished quilts on display everywhere—even draped over antique sewing machines and old washstands. Gingham curtains hung in the windows. Posy had made the shop as welcoming and friendly as she was.
Beatrice and Meadow waited a moment while Posy was finishing up with a customer. Meadow elbowed Beatrice. “Looks like Miss Sissy has taken up residence in her usual spot.”
Beatrice glanced over at the sitting section to see the cronelike old woman sleeping on the sofa. As if somehow feeling their gaze, she abruptly awakened, glaring around the store and muttering, “Poppycock! Poppycock!” She spotted Beatrice and Meadow looking at her and brandished an arthritic fist at them.
“Looks like she’s in rare form today,” murmured Beatrice.
Posy quickly walked over and greeted them and they filled her in on their idea for the quilting retreat. “Oh, I think that’s a marvelous idea!” said Posy, twinkling at Meadow and Beatrice. She was a tiny bespectacled woman with a gentle smile. “Believe it or not, the store has been so busy that I haven’t finished my own quilt yet.”
Meadow said to Beatrice, “See? This is what I’m talking about. Even Posy can’t get a quilt finished.”
“Can we do it Friday night?” asked Posy. “You know the shop closes early on Fridays, and that would give us a little time to catch up before the quilt show. We can put long tables in the storeroom and extension cords for all the tables.”
“May I come, too?” came a voice behind them, and they turned around to see an attractive woman who looked to be in her late fifties although she had a remarkably unlined face. “Sorry for listening in. But I’m way, wayyyy behind on my quilt for the show.”
Posy quickly said, “Oh, Beatrice. This is Phyllis Stitt—she’s a member of the Cut-Ups guild. I don’t know if y’all have met.”
Beatrice and Phyllis shook hands. Phyllis gave her a solid handshake.
“Do you mind, Posy?” asked Phyllis again. “It would really help me out.”
Meadow looked a bit scandalized. “But it’s a guild meeting for the Village Quilters!”
Miss Sissy wandered up from the sitting area and glared at Phyllis. “Village Quilters!” she repeated in a low growl.
“Pooh,” said Phyllis, waving away Meadow’s objections with a sweep of her hand and completely ignoring Miss Sissy. “We’re not talking about industrial espionage or uncovering state secrets here. Quilting is quilting, right? I’ve gotten behind because things have been completely awful at the Cut-Ups lately. In fact, Meadow, I was planning on giving you a call and talking with you about it. I might be a refugee from the guild.”
“Whatever do you mean?” came another voice behind them. This one was a good deal colder in tone. Beatrice turned to see Martha Helmsley standing nearby. Martha was also in the Cut-Ups and was their most elegant member with her loosely upswept red hair, pearls, and tasteful designer clothes in various neutral hues. She was usually fairly reserved when she spoke, but this time her tone was downright frosty.
Phyllis colored slightly at being overheard but raised her chin and said, “You heard me, Martha. The Cut-Ups hasn’t exactly been a fun group for me lately. I don’t get the warm fuzzies when I go to the meetings anymore. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, either. You’re the one responsible for the rest of the group giving me the cold shoulder.”
“That’s ridiculous,” snapped Martha. “You’re imagining things. And I’m sorry to hear,” she added in a censorious voice, “that you’re behind on your quilt. You certainly shouldn’t be.” She stalked away to shop for fabrics.
“See what I mean?” asked Phyllis in a shaky voice. “So, what do you think, Posy? You’d really be helping me out.”
“No room! No room!” snarled Miss Sissy. Beatrice decided she sounded very much like one of the demented guests from the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland.
Posy, whose blue eyes had anxiously watched the standoff between Martha and Phyllis, said quickly, “Actually, I was just counting tables in my head. I’m sure we have room for you at the retreat.”
“But for heaven’s sake, don’t tell anyone else!” said Meadow in her loud whisper that could likely be heard by passersby on the street outside.
“Thanks so much,” said Phyllis, giving Posy and Meadow and even a startled Beatrice a hug. “I’ll be here Friday evening.”
“Let’s make it five o’clock,” said Posy.
“Remember to bring food,” Meadow called out as Phyllis started walking toward the door. “We have to have lots of sustenance for this kind of thing.”
The door chimed as Phyllis left the shop. “That was interesting,” murmured Beatrice.
“Those Cut-Ups with these silly melodramas,” said Meadow with a sniff. “It’s good to belong to a grown-up guild.” She froze as Martha Helmsley gave her an unfriendly stare. “That is . . . well . . . oops. I have foot-in-mouth disease. Sorry about that, Martha.”
Beatrice could barely see Martha’s tense face over the huge pile she was holding. She held yards of several different patterns of fabrics—enough material for several quilts—and quilt batting, to boot. Posy quickly rang her up and Beatrice raised her eyebrows at the final total for the purchase.
“Thanks so much, Posy,” said Martha smoothly. “You always have everything I need here.”
“Thanks for being one of my best customers,” said Posy brightly.
“Before I go,” said Martha carelessly, “I wanted to see if I could join you ladies on Friday evening, too.”
“Oh!” said Posy, startled. She looked helplessly over at Meadow and Beatrice for direction.
“No room! No room!” Miss Sissy repeated aggressively.
Meadow gave a ferocious frown, putting her hands on her wide hips. “I thought you told Phyllis that you were done with your quilt.”
“No,” said Martha, “I said that Phyllis should be done with her quilt. She procrastinates. I, on the other hand, have been incredibly busy. I have only a little ways to go, but this would give me a deadline for finishing my project.” She looked expectantly at Posy over the bags of fabric still sitting on the checkout counter in front of her.
Posy nervously fingered the beagle pin on her fluffy blue cardigan. “I’m sure I can find a spot for you at the retreat, Martha. I’d love to have you come.”
Martha rewarded her with a smile. “Thanks so much, Posy. See you ladies on Friday,” she added coolly to Beatrice and Meadow.
“Now, why on earth would she want to come to your retreat when clearly she and Phyllis don’t get along?” asked Beatrice.
“Isn’t it obvious?” asked Meadow. “To get on her nerves, of course.”
“Dangerrr,” crooned Miss Sissy, right on cue.
Beatrice had just finished doing some chores around the cottage the next morning when the phone trilled.
“Beatrice? It’s Wyatt.”
Beatrice felt a smile spread over her face at the sound of the minister’s voice. Wyatt, a widower for many years, and she had seemed to have a connection between them since Beatrice had moved to Dappled Hills. “How are you?”
“Great! I was wondering—I know this is a little last-minute—if you would like to have lunch with me today.” He hesitated, then hurried on, “I understand if you’ve already got plans, of course. I’m finishing up at the church office here and . . . well, I’d love to see you for lunch. Have you eaten yet?”
Was this . . . was Wyatt asking her out on a date? Beatrice’s heart thumped in her chest and she said rather breathlessly, “I’d love to. No, I haven’t had any lunch yet.” At this point, even if she’d eaten enough for ten lunches, she’d still go out with Wyatt for a meal.
“Wonderful. I’ll come over and pick you up in about—is thirty minutes all right?”
Beatrice touched her hair. It felt as if it must look like a squirrel’s nest after she’d been working around the house all morning. “Perfect,” she said weakly. And as soon as they hung up the phone, she hurried off to brush her hair and find something that looked nice—but didn’t look as if she were trying too hard. She settled on her favorite pair of black slacks, a cotton blouse, and a red infinity-loop scarf that Meadow had told her set off her hair well. After carefully applying some makeup and brushing her hair, she looked at herself critically in the bathroom mirror. A definite improvement.
She found herself feeling a little nervous as she waited for him to pick her up. Silly. It was only Wyatt. But this was the first time he’d asked her on any kind of actual date, despite the fact that it was lunch. Lunch was low-key, wasn’t it? Beatrice jumped as the doorbell rang, then fussed at herself some more. She paused for a couple of moments—it wouldn’t do to swing the door immediately open as if she’d been waiting by the door. Although she had been waiting by the door.
When Beatrice opened the door, all her nervousness quickly vanished. Wyatt’s eyes crinkled in a smile when he saw her. “Ready to go?” he asked. “You look wonderful, as always. Thanks for coming with me.” Beatrice flushed with pleasure.
Wyatt drove them to the Dappled Hills Eatery downtown. It was a popular meat-and-three-vegetable restaurant with Southern-inspired dishes that would melt in your mouth. Beatrice and Wyatt had a nice view of the park from their table by the window, and the little restaurant was filled with delicious aromas. “I thought a warm lunch would be a nice change,” said Wyatt, pulling off his jacket and hanging it neatly on the back of his chair. “If you’re like me, then you usually eat sandwiches for lunch.”
She did. And frequently, lunch would even pass her by completely and she’d realize she’d forgotten to eat it when her stomach would start rumbling in the middle of the afternoon.
After perusing the menu, Beatrice settled on chicken and dumplings with side orders of fried okra and black-eyed peas and Wyatt got the meat loaf with butter beans and fried green tomatoes. She’d ordered and Wyatt was still giving his order to their server when Beatrice glanced up and saw several tables of diners staring goggle-eyed at them. Most of them she recognized as members of Wyatt’s congregation. When one table of older ladies saw that she was staring back in their direction, they waved delightedly at her, grinning. Beatrice gave a small smile back, and then determinedly gazed down at the checkered tablecloth. Small towns.
Wyatt, on the other hand, seemed completely unfazed. He noticed the diners staring at them, too, but he immediately waved and smiled at them, even inquiring after one of the diner’s health. He was a bigger person than she was, reflected Beatrice. This might be expected, however, considering that he pursued the ministry.
“You’ve got the kind of job where you’re always on the clock,” said Beatrice ruefully. “Does it bother you sometimes?”
Wyatt considered this for a couple of moments. “Hardly ever. Maybe after a very long day or if I’m especially tired. But overall, I really enjoy being around people—you really have to, to be a good minister. What about you, though, Beatrice? I’d imagine you spent a good deal of time with people in your role as art museum curator.”
“Sometimes I did. We’d host special showings and events there—evenings with museum patrons and members. The difference was that there was a definite end to it—there’d be an event from eight o’clock to ten o’clock and then I could sort of decompress at ten. But there were plenty of times when I’d be by myself at the museum, too—setting up exhibits or planning events,” said Beatrice.
Their meals arrived, steaming hot to warm them up on the cool morning. There was something about comfort food that was just so . . . comforting.
Wyatt said interestedly, “Tell me more about the kinds of things you’d do as curator and the sorts of exhibits you’d put together.”
Beatrice talked a little about planning, preparing, and promoting exhibits, organizing community outreach activities, and developing relationships with museum patrons and collectors as Wyatt listened intently and asked questions at various intervals.
Wyatt said, “So although you worked a lot with artwork, and you’re remembering a lot of the time spent alone, it was also a job where you needed to foster relationships.”
Beatrice smiled at him. “Maybe our jobs were more alike than I’d thought. Although I have a feeling your relationships with your congregation might be a lot closer and more rewarding than the ones I developed. What does your usual day look like?”
She found herself listening with genuine interest as Wyatt talked about being a pastor in a very small town—the different generations he’d known and ministered to. The kinds of situations, both humorous and heartbreaking, that came up every day. And she found, as she listened to him and enjoyed her lunch, that the rest of the world faded away. They talked about books they always found themselves returning to, places they’d like to see, and music they enjoyed. And through it all, Beatrice realized that what she really missed was this type of companionship—this type of intellectual and spiritual connection.
Fortunately, they were both finished with their meals when Wyatt’s phone made a soft chime. “I’m sorry,” he said as he picked it up to look at it. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to go. Constance Bradley, one of my oldest church members, has been doing poorly for a while and has taken a turn for the worse. Her daughter says she’d like me to visit.” He quickly signaled for the check and gave Beatrice a rueful look. “I’m very sorry about this,” he repeated. “I guess this is one of those occupational hazards we were talking about. But I did enjoy our lunch and time together. Can we repeat it again soon?”
Beatrice smiled at him. “I’d like that, thanks.” She tamped down the twinge of disappointment that she felt. This was just the nature of Wyatt’s profession, after all.
Wyatt walked over to the cash register to stand in line to pay their bill. As Beatrice was waiting for him, she heard voices from the table behind her. A woman was saying, “I don’t know how you keep your temper around her, Jason. Every time I turn around, it’s like Phyllis is there, smiling in your direction. Doesn’t she realize that you’re not interested? That you’re with me now?”
Beatrice turned surreptitiously to see a woman near her age with red, upswept hair and a determined expression sitting with an older man with silver hair and very white teeth set in a tanned face.
The man’s voice was deep and soothing. “Martha, you can’t think that Phyllis wants to get back together with me. She can see how delighted you and I are in each other’s company—it’s plain to everybody. Besides”—and now his voice had an embarrassed edge to it—“you do know how Phyllis’s and my relationship went the last time. It didn’t exactly end on a good note.”
“She’s the kind of delusional person who just might believe she can get you back,” came the woman’s voice. She sounded put out.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about, Martha. I’d simply ignore her behavior. After all, won’t you have to learn to deal with her? She’s in your quilt guild, isn’t she?” asked the man.
“Not for long. Not if I have my way,” said the woman darkly.
* * *
That night, Noo-noo growled at the door and Beatrice, laying down her book, looked down at her in surprise. “What’s wrong, Noo-noo? What is it?” She listened for a moment, but didn’t hear anything, so she picked her book up again.
Then there was another growl from the dog, this time more persistent. Beatrice listened, harder, and this time she heard something. “Is that an animal out there?” she muttered. Noo-noo gave a small woof of agreement.
Beatrice flipped on the porch lights and peered out the window next to her front door, looking first to make sure there were no people out there lurking on her porch, then gazing down at the floor of the porch. But she didn’t see anyone, or anything, out there. “Noo-noo, I’m not sure what you’re hearing, sweetie. . . .” And then she stopped short, hearing the noise herself. She squinted, peering intently out the window at the corner of the porch. But she still couldn’t see anything.
Beatrice cautiously opened the door just a crack and a little gray fuzzy paw immediately came through. She opened the door farther and a gray kitten bounced through the door, rubbing against her legs and purring. She was a beautiful bluish gray with blue eyes. “Where did you come from?” asked Beatrice as Noo-noo growled at the cute intruder. The growling didn’t faze the kitten whatsoever and she ran over to lovingly rub against the growling Noo-noo. The corgi gave Beatrice a helpless look.
“Well, Noo-noo, it’s a chilly night, and our visitor did single us out to visit. She doesn’t seem to have a collar or belong to anyone. I guess she’s our guest until we figure out a long-term plan for her.” Somehow the little dog seemed to understand . . . and looked rather dejected.
Clearly, something would have to be done about a makeshift litter box. Beatrice thought this through for a moment and then found a small cardboard box that she lined with a trash bag. She tore up some newspaper into strips for the inside and then put the kitten inside. Apparently, she didn’t have to go, though. And Beatrice was ready to turn in.
Both animals followed her into her bedroom—Noo- noo probably to keep an eye on the little intruder. She lay down on the floor close to Beatrice, and the kitten somehow managed to jump and scramble and claw her way to the top of the bed, where she lay curled up against Beatrice’s leg.
The next morning was the perfect day for a fall quilt retreat. The skies were sunny and wispy clouds blew quickly through. There was a brisk breeze in the air, although it wasn’t quite cold—only a little crisp. Beatrice’s unexpected furry guest had behaved herself remarkably well and even figured out the temporary litter box. That afternoon, she went to the store and picked up cat food, toys, and a real litter box. Noo-noo had settled into wary acceptance of the kitten.
With the animals set, it seemed that the best course of action, as the sun started to sink, was to enjoy some tasty food and the company of quilters in the cozy quilt shop.
Meadow beamed when she saw her and immediately relieved Beatrice of half of the things she was carrying and led her to the store’s large back room, where long tables were set up next to one another. “Good. You came early. Figured you would, since you’re one of those strictly punctual types. Here, take this table.” She laid down Beatrice’s things with a flourish. “See, you’re here in between me and Miss Sissy.” Meadow gestured behind Beatrice.
Beatrice turned, repressing a sigh. How was Miss Sissy today, on the lucidity scale?
Miss Sissy glared fiercely at Beatrice, her black button eyes narrowed. “Wickedness!” she growled.
Apparently, Miss Sissy was not having one of her good days. Fortunately, Beatrice now knew how to make her a bit more even-tempered. “Could you help me out with my quilt today, Miss Sissy? I’m finished with my quilt for the show, because it was an easy pattern, but I wanted to try something harder for myself.”
Miss Sissy’s harsh gaze relaxed and she trotted spryly around her table until she was on Beatrice’s side. She gently helped spread out the quilt and ran a hand over it. “Double wedding ring,” she grunted, smiling down at the colorful arcs that Beatrice had started. Instability aside, Miss Sissy was a fantastic quilter. And Beatrice would take all the help she could get. Particularly if, in the process, it meant keeping the peace.
“Hoo-boy!” said Meadow, looking over Beatrice’s shoulder at her project. “That’s not a pattern for the faint of heart, is it? You’re a very brave quilter.”
Beatrice said, “Well, I figured the fastest way to learn was to do something really tough—and probably to fail at it. Besides, if I try a pattern this difficult, I know I’ll have experts volunteering to help me out.” She smiled over at Miss Sissy, who rewarded her with a small smile in return.
Meadow grabbed her arm and gave it a squeeze. “Ash is here. Isn’t that exciting? I know he and Piper have already gone out a few times. Hope Piper can tear herself away from Ash to finish that quilt of hers. We need to get cracking to get ready for this quilt show.” She looked toward the door. “Hi, Georgia!”
Georgia Potter, one of the younger quilters, in her early thirties, gave Meadow a quick wave and then wrinkled her brow as she looked around the shop’s back room.
“Something wrong?” asked Beatrice.
“Have y’all seen Savannah?” she asked them.
Meadow gestured toward the store. “I saw her—looked like she was shopping for quilting supplies.”
Georgia sighed. “I was afraid of that.”
Meadow said, “Don’t worry about it.” She lowered her voice. “If she nicks something, you know Posy will just tell you about it later on. It’s not a big deal. Posy doesn’t even care.”
Georgia gave her a grateful smile and then said, “I know. And it’s sweet of y’all to cover for Savannah and work around her . . . problem. I’ll admit—lately, she’s worn down my patience a little.” Georgia’s eyes were tired.
Beatrice and Meadow exchanged glances. That was a huge admission for Georgia to make. She always seemed to have endless patience for Savannah. “Has Savannah been especially . . . challenging . . . lately?” asked Beatrice.
Georgia nodded. “When Savannah gets stressed out about anything, these incidents seem to happen more. With the quilt show coming up, she’s really been tense—she’s fallen behind on her quilt and wants it to be perfect . . . but she also wants it finished on time. She and I even had a little spat a couple of days ago, and that made her even worse.” She noticed that Beatrice and Meadow were giving her a surprised look and she explained, “We can’t agree on getting a pet. I want one and Savannah thinks they’re really untidy. I guess they are. And I know Savannah is already making a lot of concessions for me—it was her house, originally, before she let me stay with her after my divorce.” She shrugged.
“But Savannah has always been delighted to have you stay with her,” said Meadow stoutly. “You can tell how much she loves having you there. You’re her sister!”
“I know. I feel the same way. But I’m very different from Savannah and she’s had to make a lot of adjustments to the way she wants to live. She likes everything perfectly straight and organized. And I’m more . . . loosey-goosey.” Georgia gazed ruefully at the pile of quilting materials she’d brought in. Loosey-goosey was an understatement.
Beatrice said, “It’s probably only natural that y’all would have disagreements like that. After all, you spend so much time together. Maybe you need a little bit of a break from each other.”
Beatrice expected that Georgia, always so loyal to her sister, would immediately pooh-pooh that suggestion. To her surprise, she seemed to be seriously considering it. “Maybe. Maybe I should, just for a little while. It might be really good for Savannah, too. Actually, it’s funny but I have a good friend who asked me to pet-sit while she’s visiting her mother in Alabama. I was planning on checking in over there a few times a day . . . but she’d love it if I house-sat and stayed there.” She smiled and said, “She has the cutest little pets in the world—Snuffy and Mr. Shadow. I especially love Mr. Shadow—he’s this fluffy gray butterball of a cat.”
Meadow said, “See? It’s perfect . . . something like that has got to be fate. A break will do you good—maybe it will do Savannah good, too.” She cleared her throat. “And maybe it will give you both the opportunity to finish those quilts of yours in time for the show.”
Beatrice murmured, “Savannah is on her way over.”
They stopped talking and Meadow said breezily, “Hi there, Savannah!”
Savannah gave them a gruff greeting. She was wearing her customary long floral dress and had her hair pulled into a tight bun. But Beatrice noticed she seemed less put-together than she usually did. Savannah spotted Georgia’s pile of fabric and notions on a table and carefully took her place at a table across the room from it. Georgia sighed and gave Meadow and Beatrice a meaningful look.
A small woman with a round face and a constantly startled expression peered through the door to the back room. Meadow clapped her hands when she saw her. “June Bug! And you’ve brought cakes for us to eat. Perfect!”
Posy hurried over to relieve June Bug of the desserts. “Since we all know that June Bug makes the best cakes in town, I thought I should ask her to make some for our retreat. But I do wish you’d stay for the quilting, June Bug,” she said to the little woman.
June Bug flushed at the praise but shook her head swiftly. “I’m not in the quilt show.” She gave a hurried glance at her large watch. “I’d better run,” she said. And she was gone just as quickly as she’d arrived.