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This has been a year of family turmoil?and it's only June! Life hasn't been the same since I learned my long-presumed-dead mother is actually alive, and then my father was arrested for murder. I'm so thankful that Reverend Gregory Brown is here. My caring confidant is haunted by something from his own past, but Greg has put that aside to help me find my mother. I just pray we find her before it's too late!
This has been a year of family turmoil—and it's only June! Life hasn't been the same since I learned my long-presumed-dead mother is actually alive, and then my father was arrested for murder. I'm so thankful that Reverend Gregory Brown is here. My caring confidant is haunted by something from his own past, but Greg has put that aside to help me find my mother. I just pray we find her before it's too late!
Why is everyone being so horrible to my darling Ronald? How can the police believe that someone with his wealth and reputation might be guilty of murder? If I went to them and confessed, he would be free, but then all my efforts would be in vain. I've worked so hard so that we can be together. Even that awful woman didn't get in our way. Now if his daughters will just stop their infernal digging into the past, maybe Ronald and I can finally be happy.
Was her father truly guilty of murder? The question whirled through Miranda Blanchard's thoughts as she tried to concentrate on the familiar, repetitive work of making endpapers for her latest edition of handmade poetry books. Swirling the heavy paper through the color bath to create the marbled design she favored usually took her mind off her troubles. But on this beautiful late–spring day her worries crowded in so close that not even this task succeeded in distracting her.
Setting the latest sheet with its rich green, teal and indigo design aside to dry, Miranda pressed the back of one hand to her throbbing temple. Even gloved and swathed in an apron, with her dark hair swept away from her face, she would probably find a way to dot herself with paint.
Normally her workroom and studio tucked up under the eaves of her family's hugehouse, near her grandfather Howard's third–floor suite, was a peaceful haven. Cool and pleasant, with pearl–gray walls and a large window to let in just enough light, it was where Miranda went to relax, write poetry and craft the chapbooks and limited editions she made for her own work and a select few other writers.
Relax, or hide? a cynical voice from inside taunted her. Pushing back a stray lock of wavy hair, she could feel the flutter in her stomach and the tightening of her chest that heralded the beginning of a panic attack. Not another one. She couldn't afford one now, when she was so behind in her projects.
She hadn't written anything new in months, or nothing worth keeping, anyway. Even the piece she'd tried to do for her mother's funeral came out flat. Of course when they discovered later that it wasn't Trudy the family had buried, Miranda tried to convince herself that somehow she'd known all along, but she couldn't manage to fool herself that way.
This batch of a hundred books for another poet at the university in Augusta should have been finished weeks ago. So many other things had claimed her attention in the first five months of the year that Miranda had trouble believing everything that had gone on.
From the moment Bianca had produced that picture of Mama with her friend on Cape Cod, dated after her supposed death, life had been a jumble of highs and lows. Trudy Blanchard was apparently alive after all, or at least she had been recently. This last blow had been the most wrenching. Miranda still had flashbacks of her father and sisters around the grave in Stoneley's windswept cemetery, all of them weeping to think that they'd come so close to rediscovering the wife and mother taken from them so long ago, only to find her dead in the house instead.
"You could at least be grateful for what happened," she chided herself out loud, her soft words echoing off the angled ceiling of her studio. Finding grandparents they thought were dead, and learning that Aunt Genie—not her mother—died should have made her ecstatic. Instead, Miranda was caught up in the anxiety around her as her father was arrested for the murder of his sister–in–law.
"He has to be innocent," Miranda said, hoping the words spoken out loud would calm her nerves and convince her that the statement was true. That was the hard part. Ronald Blanchard might be innocent of Genie's death, but the revelations of the past few months had shown he was far from innocent regarding the faked death and disappearance of his wife, and Miranda couldn't imagine how she and her sisters could ever forgive him for what he'd stolen from them.
Maybe some of her sisters would be able to forgive him. Not her, and probably not Juliet, either, because of the revelation that Ronald had known even before Juliet was born that he wasn't her biological father. Never did he tell any of them. All these years he'd been distant and cold with all his daughters.
Miranda looked down at the paper she should have been swishing through the paint floating on top of the water bath. Instead she'd let this sheet stay there so long while she wrestled with her thoughts that the heavy paper threatened to dissolve back into pulp. "So much for trying to do anything useful today," she muttered.
Three stories below her open window, someone was working in the rose garden. Since she could also make out the drone of a lawn mower, it had to be Aunt Winnie and not one of the gardeners. It only took fifteen minutes for Miranda to clean up her supplies, strip off the gloves and apron and go out to the garden with two tall glasses of lemonade. "I brought you something to drink," she called to Winnie, glad to see that her aunt had remembered the broad–brimmed straw hat Miranda had got her for Mother's Day just for occasions like this. Winnie never put on sunscreen even though she had the pale complexion that naturally went with her red hair.
That faded red hair threatened to escape its orderly chignon, and Winnie pushed a stray lock away from her face. "Lovely. Put it on the little table there between the chairs and sit down in one of them, Miranda. Keep me company while I tidy things up here. You could use a rest. You've been working too hard as it is."
Over her shoulder, Winnie gave Miranda a pointed look over her shoulder before going back to trimming unkempt spots in one of her pink climbing rosebushes. Miranda knew that what her aunt really wanted to say was that she'd been worrying too much and had too much stress in her life lately. After all, what she did could hardly be called working. While all of her sisters worked, Miranda knew that only someone who loved her as much as Winnie did would call writing poetry and creating handmade books "work."
Even Winnie herself worked outside the house as hard as any two people Miranda knew. The Blanchard fortune allowed her to volunteer her time at the hospital, several related charities and her church. It was a kindness that Winnie could tell her that she Miranda's throat tightened just thinking about her eventual wedding. Often these days the of going anywhere farther than the ornate gates at the front of the Blanchard estate made insides flutter like they did right now. Actually a three–ring circus, that same taunting voice in her head prodded. "Trudy's" funeral had been awful enough. A wedding would only provide more fodder for the gaggle of tabloid reporters who were having a field day at her family's expense.
"Miranda? I'm so sorry, dear. I didn't mean to upset you." Miranda nearly jumped out of her chair at the sound of Winnie's voice, her gloved hand lightly touching her shoulder. "Really, we don't need to worry about that yet. There will be plenty of time to plan the wedding and by the time it rolls around things will probably be so much better." Her aunt's hazel eyes reflected kindness almost to the point of pity as she tried her hardest to calm Miranda down. Taking a deep breath, Miranda willed herself to push away the thoughts making her tense.
"I'm sure you're right, Aunt Winnie." The words came out softly, but at least her voice didn't break.
Even as she spoke, so many questions crowded in. Would there ever be enough time to make things better? Perhaps her father would get out on bail soon, but then what? And how long could Miranda keep holding herself together while she struggled to provide all the support her sisters needed?Although with every passing day they appeared to need her less. Each of them had found a way to move on in life while Miranda stayed here, as tied to the house as her aunt's trellised roses were fastened to their supports.
"What would you think of a little practice run?"
Winnie's eyes shone. "I'm going to a lovely wedding at the church tomorrow and you could come with me."
Miranda shrank back in her chair. "I don't know about that."
"Don't dismiss it out of hand, Miranda," Winnie said. "The couple is just delightful, but no one you know particularly well. We could sit near the back and stay just as long as you felt comfortable. And it would give you a chance to really meet our new minister."
"I'll think about it," Miranda promised her aunt.
"How early tomorrow morning do you need to know if I'm going?"
Winnie waved a garden–gloved hand. "It's a oneo'clock wedding, so you can hold off until eleven if you need to. It would do you good to get out and enjoy yourself."
Miranda knew she was right. If only getting out was enjoyable for her. So many possibilities would open up if she could overcome her anxiety about leaving home. She could see her thoughts mirrored in Winnie's eyes. "I'll say even more prayers tonight at bedtime than I usually do for you, Miranda. For strength and courage and peace. Especially for peace."
"Thank you, Aunt Winnie." Miranda got up quickly, walking toward the house before her aunt could see how deeply those words had affected her. Going up the back stairs toward her studio again, Miranda climbed an entire flight before she realized she was humming the song.
Perhaps prayer gave Winnie peace, but Miranda's fragile peace was bound up in this song. It had been a part of her forever, the haunting melody soothing her through the worst of times.
During her recent visit, her grandmother Eleanor put it into perspective. "It was your mother's favorite. She hummed it all the time, too, even sang you girls to sleep with it. It's a tune Ophelia sings in Hamlet, dear."
Picking up the play and rereading it for the first time in years brought all the memories flooding back. Now when she hummed the song she could feel her mother's comforting touch, remember the way Trudy had eased her into sleep, even the night before she left.
Just thinking about the song and her mother made Miranda breathe easier. By the time she reached her studio, she found herself thinking about what to wear to an afternoon wedding.
Excerpted from Where Truth Lies by Lynn Bulock Copyright © 2007 by Lynn Bulock. Excerpted by permission.
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