- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The author of the Nebula Award-winning novel Healer's War returns with an enchanting new tale. When social worker Rose Samson wishes Seattle had a fairy godmother, she never expects her wish to come true. Then she meets a strange woman who accompanies her when she checks up on her clients . . . who brings enough magic to turn lives around.
ONCE UPON A time in a beautiful city by the edge of the sea there toiled a young woman who did not believe in fairy tales. Fairy tales, she said, had no relevance to her life and none to the lives of the children she knew. She and the children she knew inhabited another realm altogether. "More like a soap opera," she explained. "You know, boy meets girl, boy and girl have children, girl quits job to raise children, boy loses job, boy loses girl, girl meets second boy, second boy abuses girl's children by previous marriage, children abuse themselves and their children unhappily ever after."
"You don't believe in happy endings, then?" a friend asked.
"No, I believe in happy moments," she replied, for she was even wiser than she was beautiful. Much wiser, as a matter of fact. "Which is why I love to come in here." Her gesture took in the interior of the shop, a place filled with rhinestone tiaras, Himalayan silver rings and silk kimonos, Indian saris sewn with golden thread and brilliantly colored gauzy Arabian thwabs. Not to mention the Victorian and Edwardian antique paisley shawls and velvet smoking jackets, the bustled skirts and flounced nightdresses that were the import stock making Fortunate Finery the most intriguing shop in Pike Place Market and by far the best vintage clothing shop in all of Seattle. "That white ruffled skirt is absolutely gorgeous. I don't suppose it's a fourteen, is it?"
"I thought you didn't believe in fantasy," chided her friend, who was the proprietress of the fabulous establishment where the young woman liked to spend her lunch hours and much of what she laughingly described as her disposable income. "It's a three."
The young woman sighed and turned her attention to an ebony Chinese shawl embroidered with peacocks in emerald, cerulean, aquamarine and gilt threads. She draped it across her upper body and admired her reflection in the mirror. The greens in the shawl made her eyes look emerald instead of merely hazel, and the black brought out the reddish glints in her curly dark brown hair. By no stretch of the imagination did she look like a Chinese empress, but with her dimples and clean-scrubbed, open, heart-shaped face, she could have passed for a character in a Victorian novel. Not the tragic governess. The good-hearted cook maybe, or the nice, but slightly boring, well-off school chum of the heroine.
"Oh, no, I never said that," she replied, reluctantly replacing the shawl around the shoulders of the mannequin. "Fantasies are essential. Escape is essential, or life would be unbearable. It's when you start believing in your fantasies that you run into trouble."
"Did you learn that in school?" her friend asked.
"No. In school they taught us that we would be able to make a difference. They tried to inspire us with the notion that by helping a single junkie, prostitute or wino we would make Seattle a better city and the world a better place to live in. To the best of my knowledge, that's a fairy tale."
"Had a hard day, have we, Rosie?" the friend asked.
"I've had a hard day ever since the new governor took office, cleaned house in the administration and implemented her idiotic idea of a budget. So has everybody else working in the social sector. Our staff has been cut by half, our budget is down to zero and our new supervisor is a complete idiot. Of course, we're not suffering half as badly as the clients except that they're quite used to suffering and if we don't watch out, we're going to be competing with them for street turf and cardboard condos."
"Oh, my, you are down. Here, have a chocolate. They're Dilettante." She referred to Seattle's premier gourmet chocolatier. She always kept a dish handy for her customers and her other guests, among them the panhandlers who brought her their pets to board when they had to go to hospitals or treatment programs—or got itchy feet. The city of Seattle would allow stray people to wander the streets, but animals found doing the same would be taken to the pound where they, unlike the people, would be fed and housed for a few days before being euthanized, if not claimed. Rosalie Samson had first met Linden Hoff because of the street pet shelter, back when Fortunate Finery was between Pioneer Square and the International District. Linden treated customers, street people and pets pretty much the same, and everybody was welcome to a bit of chocolate.
"I know, Linden," Rosie said, taking a bite from a truffle. "They always are." She sighed, half with resignation, half with bliss, as the truffle touched her tongue. "I should be jogging or walking or weight training on my lunch hour," she added after demolishing the morsel. "It would be much healthier, and less expensive."
Linden Hoff, who had heard it all many times before, clucked at her and opened the door to the ugly-brown clad UPS lady, who hauled a dolly full of boxes into the tiny portion of the shop that wasn't covered in racks of frilly, colorful, exotic, or merely amusing vintage clothes. "From England, Linden," the UPS lady said. "Don't sell everything before I get back, will you? Sign right here."
"I'll save you something special to make up for having to wear that godawful uniform, Lenore," Rosie's friend promised. As soon as Lenore and the dolly left, Linden pulled a box cutter from her pocket and went to work.
Rose watched with bated breath. The things from England were what set Linden's shop a cut above the others.
"Surely," Linden said while slicing open a box that with very little encouragement frothed frills and spilled fringes from the cut. "Surely life doesn't always go as you say. Boy isn't always an abuser."
"No," Rose sighed. "Equality is actually gaining ground. We are seeing more mothers doing the abusing these days."
"Well, there then, you see. That proves my point. Things haven't changed so much. It used to be wicked stepmothers and witches all the time."
"You've cheered me immensely. Oh, this is lovely!" she said, holding up a delicate chain with a small crystal globe hanging from it. She peered closely at the globe. Within it was a single golden seed. "What is it?"
"Mustard seed," Linden said, shaking out a sixties-style white Nehru coat with gold braid and ribbon trim. "You know, from the Bible verse about there being hope for whoever has as much faith as can be contained in a mustard seed ..."
"Nope, don't know that one."
"Me neither, not exactly. Maybe it's not the Bible after all. Could be from The Prophet. Something spiritual. But anyway, back in the fifties and sixties, they were a very popular gift, and you were supposed to be able to make wishes on them."
"Hmph," Rose said, trying it on in front of the mirror. It accented the gold in her eyes. Funny, because it was small and delicate and rolled across her ample bust like a wagon across the foothills. Still, it showed up very nicely though it was unpretentious enough not to clash with the teal and purple flowered knit top and purple knit pants and jacket outfit she was wearing that day. In the winter doldrums after Christmas when the weather was usually gray and the mountains hidden by clouds and rain, the flowers and the bright colors helped cheer her. "How much?" she asked, fingering the little globe.
"I dunno. Don't tell me you might like it to make a wish on?"
"I can use all the help I can get at this point."
"What would you wish for?"
Rose thought about the clients she had to turn away because they weren't battered enough, that is, not in immediate danger of being murdered for a couple of days, of the budget cuts which allowed families to be put out onto the street and the disabled to have their benefits withdrawn. She thought of the stupid policy the new governor had pushed through the legislature that from now on the goal of family services was to protect the integrity of the family—that is, whoever was the strongest and in some cases had the biggest fist was to be protected and served by the agency. She thought of her caseload and that of her coworkers—all three of them, what remained out of an office of fifteen. "Reinforcements," she said. "I'd wish for reinforcements." "Ah, then you're wishing for a fairy godmother, is that it?" Linden asked with a fond smile at her favorite customer. "For the whole damned city of Seattle? Sure, why not?" Rose asked, fiddling with the little ball holding the mustard seed. "Anybody, as long as she's more competent than Mrs. Melvin Hager. We need all the help we can get." "In the face of such a selfless wish, I can hardly sell that to you. Go ahead, take it. It's on the house. Come back tomorrow and I'll have all this unpacked." "That's well worth a ferry ride on my day off. Right now I'd better get back to work. See you later."
* * *
In another part of that same city a fabulously wealthy young man had married a beautiful model and moved her into his palatial mansion overlooking Elliott Bay. This man had a daughter who was herself beautiful enough to be a model. In fact, the moment her stepmother's agent laid eyes on her, he begged to be allowed to sign her up.
The stepmother, whose career was waning, whose husband was younger than she and possessed of a reputation for playing around, feared for her identity if the girl remained in her house a moment longer. She sent to her Uncle Svenny for a hit man. Uncle Svenny had made his fortune in the most vicious end of the clandestine pharmaceuticals industry and had at his disposal many consultants in various related services. The hit man arrived promptly and she bade him take the girl out into the forest and dispatch her.
Snohomish Quantrill was the daughter's name. She had been named for the town that had given her father his acting debut on national television. Her father had legally assumed the name Raydir Quantrill to fit his rebellious onstage image, but he was only rebellious for show. His real name was Raymond Kinsale and offstage he was fairly conventional, for a rock star/actor. Too much sex, drugs and rock and roll and not enough time for his kid.
Sno felt sharply again just how little time he did have for her when a complete stranger picked her up from school that day. Of course, even if he'd been her dad himself, she probably wouldn't have recognized him, all decked out in full biker leathers, a helmet and goggles. But he had the authorization letter the school required of any staff member her dad sent to pick her up, so she figured it was safe to go with him, even if he did look a lot like Darth Vader. He was probably a new guy or someone who'd been off on the road taking care of stuff for her dad. She hadn't been living with Raydir all that long this time, and his staff tended to have a pretty big turnover.
This was the first time anyone had ever picked her up on a Harley-Davidson, though! Usually Raydir just sent the limo. She got on behind the guy and jammed her head into the helmet he tossed at her. Hitching her school skirt up to her crotch, she hung on for dear life as he roared out of the parking lot. But she was not amused. This was not her idea of a great way to ride home. For one thing, it was December and she had only the unlined red wool parka her private school allowed as an overcoat with the uniform—anything to squash her individuality. Little did they know about the love beads lurking beneath her prissy white blouse. But the uniform–blouse, skirt, sweater and parka– was not made for riding bikes in midwinter.
Not only was it cold, but she quailed at having to cuddle up to a strange guy even for the time it took to ride the few blocks to the mansion. She was thirteen now, and looked older, even in the stupid school uniform, not that it mattered how old she was to some of the pervs Raydir hung out with. Even when she was a little kid, back when she and Mom used to live with Raydir on the road, she'd learned to be quick and smart about who she was alone with in a hotel room or on the bus. Her mom had warned her against certain guys, even back when she was four or five, but she was too little to be able to always duck them and her mom couldn't always be there. That's why she and Suzanne—Mom—had left Raydir the first time.
That and the bimbos. For the last three years they'd lived with Grandma Hilda in Missouri. It wasn't exactly The Cosby Show, just the three of them and Mom's boyfriends and Grandma's art students hanging around after the beauty parlor closed for the day. And Grandma Hilda had a great vinyl LP collection of sixties oldies, which was how Sno had come to know and love her favorite music, music that had stories and melodies and rhythms that had nothing to do with Raydir's kind of music.
She had her eyes closed and her cheek pressed against the impersonal leather back of the driver. The wind bit through her tights and ran right up her skirt, and shivers raced across her shoulders despite the red parka. The wind was too strong for her to be able to keep the hood around her face.
Surely they ought to be home by now. But suddenly, even through the Harley's roar, the traffic noise changed and she saw that they were headed onto the on-ramp to I-5 headed north.
She tugged the dude's jacket. "Hey," she hollered. "We're going the wrong way."
"Party," he screamed back at her.
Oh, yeah, that was right. Raydir had said something about a party. She had just assumed she wouldn't be going. Well, damn, if she'd known, she'd have brought something to change into. Raydir didn't think of little details like that and it was just like Gerardine, her stepmother, to be sure that Sno arrived in her dorky red school uniform for the party. Not that she cared about most of Raydir's parties, or about fitting into the self-consciously hip crowd that attended them. They weren't all that much fun, in her opinion.
Raydir and all his friends thought they were so cool, so with it, but Sno was unimpressed. She was heavily into retro. While Mom was out on dates, Sno and Grandma used to make brownies and listen to the music, and Grandma would look deeply into the bowl of brownie batter and sigh, and after a while get out her protest buttons and tell Sno about the marches she had been on. So Sno loved more than the music; she was into the whole thing, the activism, the clothes, the marches, the—whatchamacallit—ambi-ahnce. She couldn't wait for bell-bottoms to come back. Fortunately for her, her hair was long, naturally straight and black, like Joan Baez's on her old album covers, so she had always kind of had a sixties look too. Raydir had sneered at such an unhip kid. Back before they left him for good, Mom had tried to please him by cutting Sno's hair a couple of times into a Mohawk and putting pink and purple stripes in it. Thank God that look was totally out now.
But Sno would have put up with it all over again if it meant having Mom back. The wind stung her face and whipped away the tears that otherwise would have trickled onto the leather jacket. Shit shit shit shit shit.
She was half afraid, riding in the open on the Harley, and halfway she just wished they'd hit something and she'd go flying until she crashed hard enough to stop the pain for good.
At least the wind and cold were numbing her now, and they had just exited toward Mount Baker. The mountains looked great today, clear and crisp with their new coat of snow, like humongous scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles where the snow hadn't stuck yet.
And they were getting close. Closer all the time. This party was really off in the boonies. True, a lot of the rich people lived out toward the mountains, but mostly they didn't expect people to come to their parties after it started snowing and the roads got icy. Nevertheless, the bike roared farther and farther from the interstate, and, as the road sloped upward toward the mountains, and the sky grew darker, it grew colder and colder. Sno clung even tighter to the driver, small against his broad black leather back.
Even as she cowered against the wind, the nervous feeling that had been pawing at her gut sharpened into panic. None of this made any sense. Maybe the guy had been sent to get her. Maybe there was a party. But now that she thought about it, hadn't Raydir mentioned something about Kirkland? And Kirkland was just a little north of Seattle, not all the way up here.
Who was this guy? How had he gotten the authorization letter? Oh, crap.
Excerpted from The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Copyright © 1994 Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. 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 July 10, 2013
Posted July 10, 2013
Posted June 24, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted January 9, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted November 28, 2011
No text was provided for this review.