- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Gerry slipped a hand into her coat pocket. The envelope was still there: folded and refolded, the letter inside dog-eared, its contents long since committed to memory. In the two days since it had arrived in the mail she'd carried it everywhere, fingering it as compulsively as she once had her rosary beads. Her name is Claire. Not a name she'd have chosen. In her mind it would always be Ai-leen. Aileen Fitzgerald, after her great- grandmother from Kenmare.
An image surfaced in her mind: a small red face peeking from the folds of a blanket, topped by a tuft of pale brown hair. An old pain flared to life, and her ears were filled with a rushing noise that momentarily dimmed the warbling of the carolers. On the thronged sidewalk, in the flickering glow of countless bobbing candles, their voices drifted toward her as if through layers of cotton: Silent night, holy night ... all is calm ... all is bright ...
The knot of people in front of her inched forward: men and women, each clutching a lighted candle and bundled up against the unaccustomed cold, many with babies in their arms or toddlers on their hips. She spotted Sam's sister, Audrey, with her husband, Grant, the tin of coconut snowballs Audrey gave Father Reardon every year tucked under one arm. And who could miss Marguerite Moore, in a crimson jacket, sailing at the head of the line like a brightly decked barge? Or the elderly Miller twins, Rose and Olive, dressed in identical green velvet coats and matching cloche hats.
It was a tradition that had been a part of Christmas festivities in Carson Springs since the days of the early Spanish settlers, this candlelight procession up Calle de Navidad that ended with evening mass at St. Xavier's. Gerry remembered when she was small, trudging dutifully at her mother's side, wanting only to be inside where it was warm and she could keep an eye out for Santa. Tonight it was the only thing keeping her sane. She straightened her shoulders, joining the chorus in her sure, strong alto.
Round yon virgin, mother and child ... holy infant, so tender and mild ...
The familiar lyrics acted like a tonic, and her fears seemed to evaporate along with the frosty plume of her breath funneling up into the night sky. The knot in her chest loosened, and she felt a surge of wild hope: that she and Claire would meet and find they had more in common than not, that they would find a way to put the past behind them and move forward, like a broken leg that's healed badly but is still strong enough to walk on.
Yeah, and a few hours from now Santa and his reindeer are going to land on your rooftop with a sack full of goodies. She gave in to a small, wry smile. It was Christmas, the time of the year one was allowed visions of dancing sugarplums. Tomorrow, when the wrapping paper was cleared away, she would get real, as her daughter would say.
She caught sight of Andie, a dozen or so yards ahead, gabbing with a group of friends from school, their faces rosy in the candlelight. She looked happy and relaxed, and Gerry couldn't help thinking of how long it had been since she'd been that way at home. Justin, dragging his heels at Gerry's side, followed her gaze and sighed.
"Mom, how come Andie gets to be with her friends?"
Gerry turned to him, answering mildly, "Because all of yours are with their parents. And because," she threw in, "you'd be leaving your poor old mother all alone on Christmas Eve."
Justin, not seeing the humor in her reply, merely eyed her plaintively, his narrow freckled face, framed by the hood of his sweatshirt, making her long for the Christmas Eves when he'd been a baby in his snowsuit and she'd carried him in her arms up Calle de Navidad. "It's just ..." His voice trailed off, and he looked down at his Air Jordans that were two sizes bigger than last year's. He was small for his age, but his feet seemed to have a life of their own.
"I know," she said gently.
"It's nothing against you, Mom."
"It'd be different if Dad were here."
"You miss him, don't you?"
He gave her a sheepish look. "Sort of ... but only a little." His brand of loyalty, she knew. He must think he was sparing her in some way.
"Look at it this way," she said. "Think of all the fun stuff he's missing out on."
A dark and decidedly unchildlike look flitted over her eleven-year-old son's face. "Yeah, like what?"
"Christmas with you guys, for one thing, and—"
"Snow?" A corner of Justin's mouth hooked up in a wise-guy smile.
"Okay, but a time-share in Tahoe isn't exactly what the guy who wrote 'Jingle Bells' had in mind," she said dryly.
Her son fell silent, his unspoken words hanging in the air: He could have invited us anyway. Not that Justin would have preferred spending Christmas with Mike and Cindy, just that it would've been nice to have been asked. Gerry knew exactly how he felt. Hadn't she spent the better part of fifteen years waiting for Mike to do right by her?
"Mom, watch it."
Gerry's eyes dropped to the candle precariously atilt in one hand, molten wax a hairbreadth away from dribbling onto her knuckles. She tipped it so that the wax drizzled onto the sidewalk instead. "We'll have a wonderful Christmas, just the four of us—you, me, Andie, and Grandma," she said in what she hoped wasn't too hearty a tone. "You'll see."
The procession inched forward. Justin took a shuffling step, only the toes of his sneakers protruding from the jeans puddled about his feet—gravity-defying jeans that rode so low on his hips the back pockets were roughly in line with his knees. "Is Grandma spending the night?" he asked.
"If it's okay with you." Her mother lived only a few miles away, out by Horse Creek, in the ramshackle Victorian Gerry had grown up in, but her eyesight had gotten so bad she no longer drove, and it would save Gerry from having to pick her up in the morning. The only thing was that Mavis would have to bunk in with Justin since his was the only room with two beds.
"Sure." He shrugged, though she knew he was secretly pleased. "Except Buster won't like it."
"It won't kill him to sleep on the floor for one night." Their elderly Lab was far too spoiled as it was.
"You should've let her come," he said with mild reproach.
Now it was Gerry's turn to sigh. Mavis was still recovering from a bout of pneumonia that had left her with hardly a scrap of meat on her bones—though naturally she claimed to be fine, insisting she had the constitution of an ox. If she'd still had her car, she'd have driven here on her own. "It's too cold," she said. "We wouldn't want her to get sick again."
"She hates being left out even more."
From the mouths of babes. Maybe she was being overly protective. But somebody had to play the bad guy. She only wished it didn't always have to be her. Mavis was peeved. Half the time Andie didn't speak to her. And Justin ... well, he'd only be a little boy for so long.
They were nearly at the crosswalk. On their right lay Muir Park, with its adobe walls over which a dark crown of treetops rose. Directly across the street a spotlight showcased the two-hundred-year-old mission with its fluted bell tower and rows of campanario bells ringing in the Yuletide. On the sloping lawn out front the procession had slowed before the life-size crèche. One woman was snapping pictures. Gerry recognized former classmate Gayle Warrington, no doubt gathering material for another of the brochures she was always putting together in her tireless effort to boost winter tourism in Carson Springs. Gayle, who'd been school spirit commissioner and now owned a successful travel agency. Gayle, happily married for more than thirty years, with an elderly mother she looked in on at least once a day and two perfect children—a son in premed at UCLA and a daughter at Columbia Law. Gayle, who even at twenty would have sold pencils on the corner of Old Mission and Juarez rather than give up her own child.
"Mom?" Justin was giving her that look: the one that reminded her he was too old for some things, and not nearly old enough for others. "It'd be okay if we made believe there's a Santa Claus. Just, you know, in case Grandma forgets I know there isn't."
Her eyes prickled suddenly, and it was all she could do to keep from reaching for his hand. What would he say if he knew he had another sister? What would Andie's reaction be? Her children would be confused, maybe even hurt. They'd want to know why she'd kept it a secret for so long. Mostly, they'd want to know why she'd given her baby away, her own flesh and blood. And what could she tell them? What viable excuse could she give?
I was a different person then. Scared out of my wits. Nearly three years in a convent had left her hardly equipped to care for herself, much less a baby. But how could she expect them to understand?
At that moment she spotted Sam up ahead, hand in hand with Ian. Gerry caught her eye and waved, edging toward them. In her red jacket and knitted cap, Sam, six and a half months along, made her think of the pregnant young moms you saw in the playground, pushing their toddlers on swings. Never mind that she was forty-eight, the same age as Gerry, with two grown daughters old enough to have children of their own. Gerry noted, too, as she drew near that the candle Sam carried was in a decorative punched-tin holder. She smiled. Wasn't that just like Sam. In high school, when their classmates were donning love beads and letting their hair grow to their waists, she'd worn hers short and taken up macramé.
Sam greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. "We missed you at the Tree House," she said. Every year the procession was kicked off with gingerbread cookies and hot mulled cider at the Tree House Café.
"I had trouble finding a place to park," Gerry told her. The truth was that by the time she'd rounded up Andie and Justin, they were too late. Sam would have understood, of course, but such explanations always left Gerry feeling slightly inadequate. She turned to Ian, who, perhaps in honor of the occasion, was sporting a tiny cross in one ear. "Hey, Dad. How's it going?"
He flashed her the grin that had no doubt brought stronger women than Sam to their knees. He was nearly fifteen years Sam's junior, and her eldest daughter's stepson to boot. Gerry liked to tease Sam that she'd gone from Family Circle to the National Enquirer all in one leap. One thing was for sure: Nothing had been the same since Ian.
"Sam's great," he said. "I'm a nervous wreck."
"I've had practice, remember." Sam slipped an arm through his, and smiled up at him reassuringly. "It's like riding a bike. You don't forget."
Gerry opened her mouth to remind her that it'd been more than a quarter of a century since she'd last ridden this particular bike, but just as quickly shut it. Except for the straining buttons on her jacket, Sam was as slender as ever with the energy to match. Women half her age would be begging to be put out of their misery while she was valiantly bearing down. All Gerry said was, "Just give her a leather strap to bite down on, and she'll be fine."
Ian pulled Sam close. The top of her head fit neatly under his chin, over which he smiled at Gerry. "I'm counting on you to be my understudy," he told her. His blond ponytail curled rakishly from beneath the navy knitted cap he wore pulled down around his ears.
"He's afraid he'll pass out," Sam said with a laugh. "I told him it only happens in movies."
"What she actually said," Ian corrected, "was that if I valued my life, I'd better not dare."
"That sounds more like it," Gerry said with a laugh. Sam tended to soft-pedal, but rarely hesitated to speak her mind.
"He's been delegated to cut the cord," she reported matter-of-factly. "Inez says it's what fathers do these days."
Gerry and Sam shared a look: It wasn't like that in their day. Times had certainly changed. She remembered when Sam had had Alice; it had practically taken an act of Congress for Martin to be permitted in the delivery room, where, come to think of it, he had fainted.
"Gross." Justin made a face.
Ian gave him a solemn look, man to man. "Just wait till it's your turn, buddy. You'll see. I'd fight a tattooed, beer-swilling biker before going up against a pregnant woman."
"The voice of wisdom." Sam poked him in the ribs with her elbow, and stepped away as the procession moved forward into the street, calling over her shoulder, "Why don't you stop by the house on your way home? I made my marzipan coffee cake. If you guys don't help me out, I'll be big as a house by the time this baby is born."
"Sounds good," Gerry called back.
How did Sam do it? she wondered. Having a baby when most women their age were planning graduations and weddings. She recalled those bleary days of stumbling about in a sleep-deprived trance, a diaper over one shoulder that did more to cover old spit-up stains than prevent new ones, the nights of pacing the floor as she'd struggled in vain to quiet a shrieking baby. No, she wouldn't have traded places with her friend in a million years.
Still ... when she was around Sam, she felt it: regret beating like a tiny heart beneath the layers of old excuses and protective reasoning. She'd watch her friend bring a hand to her belly, wearing that secret little smile shared by expectant mothers the world over, and find herself steeped in the memory of her first pregnancy, the wonder of those stirrings. As Sam's belly grew so had Gerry's desire, long since put to rest—or so she'd believed—to be reunited with her eldest child.
Three weeks ago she'd hired a private investigator. She hadn't expected to hear back so soon. In fact, she'd half expected no news at all, which in some ways would have been a relief. When it had come, the shock had had the effect of a tornado on a haystack. Underneath this calm exterior she was thousands of whirling bits. Which was why she hadn't told anyone, not even Sam. First she had to get her head on straight, decide how to handle it.
The image rose once more: bright blue eyes peering from the folds of a blanket, a feathery tuft of hair. She felt a profound sense of sorrow sweep over her. That baby girl was gone forever. Gerry would never again hold or cuddle her; she could only hope to know the woman her baby had grown up to be. She slipped her hand into her pocket, once more fingering the envelope and seeing in her mind the address neatly typed at the bottom of the letter inside: Claire Brewster, 457 Seacrest Drive, Miramonte. That's what had gotten to her the most, that all this time she'd been so close, just half a day's drive up the coast. She recalled the weekend, six years ago, that she and Mike had spent in the quaint seaside town, strolling along the wharf, with its rows of tacky tourist shops, where they'd warmed themselves with bowls of thick chowder and peered through cloudy windows at saltwater taffy being made. To think she might have passed right by Claire and not have known it.
The caroling drifted to a close. They were mounting the steps that led up a steep slope to the mission, perched in theatrically lit splendor atop the grassy knoll overlooking the park. Another, smaller spotlight was trained on the creche, artfully banked in poinsettias—dozens and dozens, in every shade ranging from pale pink to blood red—that gave the illusion of a tropical island inhabited by Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Three Kings. She was reminded of the Christmas Eve some years back when the manger had been found empty, the baby Jesus missing and a live infant left in its place: a tiny boy just hours old. The mystery hadn't remained unsolved for long. Within hours his remorseful mother, a popular junior at Portola High, had shown up to claim him, and after much ado the authorities released him into her parents' custody. The following morning, Christmas Day, the infant Jesus reappeared in the manger, none the worse for the wear. These days she often saw Penny Rogers around town with her little boy, who looked happy and well cared for. Gerry always made a point of being friendly.
Inside, the church was packed, with standing room only. She quickly lost sight of Sam and Ian, and had to keep a close eye on her children lest she be separated from them as well. Andie cast one last longing glance at her friends before joining her and Justin. Together, they made their way up the narrow flight of stairs to the choir loft, where they were lucky to find three seats together.
Excerpted from Taste of Honey by Eileen Goudge. Copyright © 2002 Eileen Goudge. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted January 27, 2013
Posted February 24, 2012
This sequel to Stranger in Paradise is better than its predecessor, to me; but knowledge of the Paradise characters is necessary to understand Taste of Honey. This story is a bit strung out thru many sub plots and characters, but it moves along at a steady pace and is an enjoyable tead. I want to read Wish Come True now to see what happens to the various characters.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 15, 2003
The author has successfully captured the various human responses to loss, regrets and the need to make amends with the past. Author¿s description of the scenic little town was sinuous and the emotions of the characters were stimulating.Goudge delivers a unique narrative with sharp dialogue and quirky characters amidst a beautiful landscape that encompasses a small, friendly little town. There are many subplots to pursue, so readers may take awhile to absorb and comprehend. Maybe a bit too much was going on all at the same time that itsy bitsy details vital to the stream of the novel may be forgotten.But I must say that although there were irrelevant images and descriptions thrown in by the author, they did indeed provide excellent amusement. The story¿s robust momentum and lively characters make this an energetic read. Imagine an iced lemon tea by your side while you position yourself Cleopatra style, either by the fireplace or under the friendly sun, and you are in for a pleasant trip into sun drenched Carson Springs.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 28, 2003
Gerry Fitzgerald is moved to revisit her past when her best friend, Samantha Kiley becomes pregnant. Suddenly, she needs to find the child she gave up for adoption thirty years ago, when she was a postulant nun and could not keep the child. This has been a haunting secret from her family, and learning it shocks and angers her two nearly grown children, each of whom are dealing with their own painful situations. Gerry's firstborn is not all that thrilled with meeting her either, but does so anyway, defying her own family. The road ahead of each player in this excellent drama is rocky, to say the least. Matters of the heart, both romantic and otherwise plauge them as the newly found families learn to love one another and deal with romances. New love and new life await, but so do pain and danger. ............. **** Not classified an inspirational romance, this novel still has profoundness that will appeal to the Christian audience, despite occassionally strong language and sexual tensions. However, like Andrew Greeley or Nelson DeMille, Ms. Goudge has succsessfully realized in her writing that Christians do not live in a whitewashed world and have flaws and issues just the same as secular people.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
In Carson Springs, Californian recently divorced Geraldine Fitzgerald still feels guilty over the infant she gave up for adoption almost three decades ago. Gerry was a novice in love with a priest. When she became pregnant, she gave up her vows to give birth to the girl that still haunts her though she has two other children teenage Andie and preadolescent Justin from her recently ended marriage. Unable to resist, Gerry begins a successful search to locate her lost Claire. <P>On Christmas Day, Gerry calls Claire, a discontented attorney. Two caring parents who worry about her all the time have raised Claire. Though she knows they love her, she feels that at twenty-eight she is an adult and needs some air from their smothering concern. Curious, Claire agrees to meet with her biological mother over the objections of her adopted parents and the jealous anger of Andie. Whatever happens from this mother and adult child ¿reunion¿, the meeting will alter the other relationships with others in their spheres. <P>The return to Carson Springs (see STRANGER IN PARADISE) is an engaging relationship drama for those readers who desire an overwhelming TASTE OF HONEY in their novels. The story line is loaded with numerous subplots, all of which are soap opera in nature, but fun to peruse because the cast is inviting and alive. Even with the sugary fluff, Eileen Goudge provides a deep adult undercurrent mindful of Gibran¿s bow and arrow metaphor to describe the relationship between parents and children. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 2, 2008
No text was provided for this review.