The Amethyst Heart: Newly Repackaged Editionby Penelope J. Stokes
When she discovers her son has designs to sell her home out from under her, Miss Amethyst-ninety-three years old and as sharp as ever-isn't about to let her legacy go. She pins her hopes on her granddaughter, Little Am, a good-natured child who has mutated in her teenage years into something else altogether. Whatever it takes, Little Am will know that the Noble
When she discovers her son has designs to sell her home out from under her, Miss Amethyst-ninety-three years old and as sharp as ever-isn't about to let her legacy go. She pins her hopes on her granddaughter, Little Am, a good-natured child who has mutated in her teenage years into something else altogether. Whatever it takes, Little Am will know that the Noble family heritage is worth fighting for.
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Read an Excerpt
* * *
Con! Hurry up, or we'll be late!"
Conrad Wainwright grimaced as his wife's shrill voice pierced through the study door. Why couldn't the woman speak in a normal tone?
Forty years ago he had thought it cute, that high-pitched squeal of hers. Mimsy. The perfect empty-headed Southern girl, who would keep his house, cook his meals, bear and raise his children, and be utterly satisfied to be known as "Mrs. Conrad Wainwright." The straight-C student who would never question his authority, challenge his decisions, or rock the domestic boat. The cheerleader who would devote her life to encouraging him. The prom queen who would entertain his clients and decorate his world.
Forty years ago Margaret "Mimsy" Hanover had been everything Conrad Wainwright had wanted in a wife. But back then she had been petite and blonde and beautiful, and when she had hung on his arm, simpering and fluttering her eyelashes and claiming that every word out of his mouth was nothing short of genius, he had thought her silly and sweet and utterly entrancing.
Over the years, however, the trance had worn off; now that voice could send him into a migraine without a moment's notice. She had fulfilled her part of the unspoken bargainshe had made a home for him, raised two children, entertained his clients, and always supported his decisions. But somewhere along the way, things had changed. The petite cheerleader had undergone a grotesque metamorphosis. Her hair had gone from blonde tobrassy, her figure from lithe to lumbering, and that squeal of hers had grown so shrill, so insistent, that it could make a hyena cringe and run for cover.
Conrad closed his eyes and fought against the storm of emotions that assailed him. Fifteen years ago he had considered divorce, had actually gone to see a divorce lawyer to discuss his options. But before he had the chance to take any action, his son William and daughter-in-law Marlene had been killed in an auto accident. On the highway between Memphis and Nashville, a drunk driver had crashed head-on into their car, leaving them dead at the scene and their eighteen-month-old daughter orphaned.
The last thing Con had wanted to do at age fifty was to raise another child. But what other choice did they have? William's sister, Lauren, the child's only aunt, was totally worthless as a prospective parent. Still single and roofless, she was living with three friends in Greenwich Village. They heard from her two or three times a year, at Christmas and birthdays. The year before the accident she had called at four in the morning to tell them she had changed her name to Selina or Salmonella or some other odd thing Conrad couldn't remember. No. Lauren was not a viable option.
For once in her life, Mimsy, a veritable mass of motherly instinct, had taken over and insisted upon having her own way. The baby would come to live with them and be raised as their own daughter. She put her foot down and refused even to consider any other options. So, at midlife, he had found himself cast in the role of father to the infant Little Am, named Amethyst after her great-grandmother.
Mimsy was in heaven. Her empty nest had been filled again, her shallow life given depth and meaning by a senseless tragedy. Conrad, on the other hand, felt trapped, imprisoned by fate in a claustrophobic cell of responsibility.
Almost without realizing it, Con began to retreat into himself, to insulate himself from a world spun out of control. He started to drink on the sly, and his business began to slide. No one wanted a lawyer who couldn't keep up with his commitments, who didn't return calls, who misplaced files, got his clients confused, couldn't keep his billing straight.
Finally he had gotten a grip on himself and curtailed the booze, but it was too little, too late. In an attempt to get out of the hole, he had made some bad investments with money borrowed from the trust funds of several of his clients. At the point in his life when he should be looking forward to a comfortable retirement funded by ample stocks and bonds and IRAs, his practice was in the toilet, and his creditors were closing in. Bankruptcy loomed on the horizon.
Mimsy, of course, knew nothing of his dilemma. She had never taken an interest in his business dealings, always content to let him bring home the paycheck and control the finances. As long as she had a fine house, a gold card, her society friends, and Little Am, she didn't ask questions. And he certainly didn't volunteer any information.
Conrad raked a hand through his hair and shuffled the papers on his desk. If he didn't do something fast, he was going to lose it allthe Mercedes, the house in the country, everything. He could see only one option.
"Con-rad!" The shrieking voice came again, this time accompanied by an insistent knocking on his study door. "Conrad, come on! We don't want to keep Mother waiting!"
Con gathered up the papers from his desk, folded them lengthwise, and shoved them into the inside pocket of his sports jacket.
* * *
It was a ninety-minute drive from their ten-acre estate in the countryside south of Memphis to Con's boyhood home in Cambridge, Mississippi. Cambridge was a small, compact university town, its streets lined with venerable antebellum homes and tall magnolia trees. At the center of the courthouse square stood the statue of a Confederate soldier, and the sight of it always evoked a wave of nostalgia in his heart. As a boy he had played under the watchful eye of that statue; as a youth he had painted his initials on its base. As a freshman at the university, his fraternity hazing included a long night chained to the soldier in his boxer shorts. As a law student he had attended trials in the courthouse and gazed out the window to see the soldier standing there, ever attentive, ever vigilant.
Conrad knew every street in Cambridge, every alley, every path through the woods that surrounded the town and the college. Even though his law practice forced him to live within commuting distance of Memphis, he still loved Cambridge and thought of it as home.
Today, however, the drive into Cambridge made Conrad unaccountably nervous. Usually he looked forward to the tripthe rolling green landscape, the sensation of power as the Mercedes accelerated around each bend in the road, the feeling of welcome as he drove up the long hill into the town square and made his way around the circle to Jefferson Davis Avenue, where Noble House sat as a monument to his family's longevity. All he could think of now as he pulled the Mercedes into his mother's driveway and parked it in the shelter of the hundred-year-old magnolia tree was that because of him, Noble House would soon become little more than a faded memory.
Reluctantly he got out of the car, took the presents from the trunk, and proceeded up the walk toward the front of the house with Mimsy and Little Am trailing behind. `
"Do I have to go?" Little Am asked for the umpteenth time. She was seventeen, and Con was sure that visiting her ninety-three-year-old great-grandmother seemed like cruel and unusual punishment to the girl. But when she got out of sorts, which happened on a regular basis these days, her voice took on that shrill and strident tone she had learned as a baby at her grandmother's knee.
Conrad stopped in his tracks and turned to glare at her. "Yes, you have to go. Now stop whining." He looked her over and shook his head in dismay. Little Am was dressed in black jeans, a cropped-off black T-shirt that bore a Harley-Davidson logo and revealed five inches of her belly, and a black leather vest studded with silver spikes. His eyes locked onto an inch-long design just above her navela heart pierced by a thin blue dagger. A tattoo? Con sighed. He could only hope it was one of those temporary things that came off with baby oil and a good scrubbing. At least she looked clean and, except for that awful black stuff around her eyes, had toned down the makeup a little. Maybe he couldn't expect any more than that.
He turned and continued up the walk. The pink azaleas across the front of the porch were budding, and around the big magnolia tree, clusters of daffodils had already bloomed. In a couple of weeks, when crowds of people would be flocking to Cambridge for the annual pilgrimage tour, the place would be a riot of color.
Mother had finally conceded to taking Noble House off the pilgrimage. It was simply too much for herdressing in a hoop skirt, having hordes of people coming through, standing on her feet ten hours a day to give "the tour." But folks still came by to see the outside of Noble House, which was the oldest historic home in the county. Sometimes Mother would still put on her rose-colored satin dress and sit on the porch swing waving to passersby, and if any of them had the nerve to get out of the car and come onto the porch, she'd offer them lemonade and regale them with her stories of Grandpa Silas and the War.
It was, he had to admit, a beautiful homea rectangular two-story of planter design, with square columns and tall, narrow windows across the front, and a balcony on the upper levela "courting porch," Mother called it. Noble House wasn't as large or as elaborate as some of the other stately homes in Cambridge, but it had a history, Mother said, that couldn't be matched. History, and a hundred and forty years of Noble love.
Con paused at the heavy iron-grilled doorway and rang the bell. This was Mother's one compromise to her passion for maintaining the historical accuracy of Noble Housethe installation of a security system and iron grillwork on all the doors. Anyone who had ever been on the pilgrimage tour, after all, knew what kind of treasures the house held. Everything from Limoges china and Waterford crystal to an autographed portrait of Abraham Lincolnan odd anomaly in a Mississippi antebellum, to be sure, but extremely rare and valuable. The carved, mahogany canopy bed in the Avery room upstairs had been appraisedtwenty years agoat $45,000.
Mother always said she was "house poor." She didn't have a lot of cash in the bankjust enough from pensions and social security to get by from month to month. But the house itself had been valued at well over half a million, and that didn't count the antiques. The truth was, the old woman was sitting on a gold mine.
Sooner or later, it would all come to him, of course. But he couldn't wait for later. Time was running out. Con could feel his life slipping away, as if he were trapped in the bottom of an hourglass while the sand sifted down around him and grew deeper with every passing minute.
Today. It had to be done today, or there might not be a tomorrow.
Meet the Author
Penelope J. Stokes is the critically acclaimed author of The Blue Bottle Club, The Amethyst Heart, The Amber Photograph, The Treasure Box, The Wishing Jar and The Memory Book. She holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature and was a college professor for 12 years before leaving the classroom to write full-time. Stokes resides in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Visit her website at www.penelopejstokes.com.
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Superb story with a captivating story Excellent novel filled with rich history and vivid detail. Very well developed characters which I grew to care for, deeply. There were times when I laughed out loud and others where my heart was almost breaking. I've read a few books by this author and they all were great, but I think this is the best one, so far. This story really helps to put value where it belongs. I can't decide which was my favorite character because there were several that I truly enjoyed. At first, I wasn't sure about Little Am, but she grew on me with her remarks. Ü Silas Noble was someone to respect and admire. Silvie was so sweet and loyal to her family and lifelong friend. Of course, Amethyst was full of spunk, which I loved about her. She was so much more than a lady, mother and a friend to many. Amethyst was a woman of courage and learned to trust in God to see her through. I'm sure I will be thinking about this story for a long time to come.
I have read this book twice, purchased for my daughter love the story line.