|Publisher:||Whiskey Creek Press|
|Sold by:||SIMON & SCHUSTER|
|File size:||425 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Sarah Sharpe studied the five other people in her group. They each had placards in front of them with their names and ages printed neatly. Their ages ranged from eighteen to fifty-one. She inwardly groaned. Alice, the oldest, was insisting on being the sole test candidate. Jeffrey, the youngest, had tuned her out and proceeded to point out he was the best for the study. Bruce, a little older than Sarah, at thirty-five, was trying to calm them both down. Margie, forty, was applying lipstick, and David, twenty-eight, was about to fall asleep.
Sarah grimaced as the impact of what she had gotten herself into hit her. None of them could leave this room without deciding who would participate in the special case study. Sarah had participated in case studies before and had enjoyed every minute. She usually just filled out a questionnaire and turned it in. It was an easy fifty bucks, and the holidays were creeping up on her.
Sarah wanted to help her older sister, Jessica, this year. Jessie's children had wish lists that were as long as their arms. Jessica held down a full-time job and was a single parent. Sarah loved and admired her. And this year, she was going to do what she could to help. Christmas was roughly three months away, and Sarah hoped it would be enough time. Sarah worked as a school secretary during the day and loved every minute of it. But she had been thinking about the holidays for awhile.
Riley and Heather had burst into the office on the first day of school. "Aunt Sarah!" Heather wrapped her six-year-old arms around her aunt and kissed her soundly on the cheek. Riley looked everywhere but at the display. He waited until Heather moved before hestuck out his hand.
Sarah's lips twitched. "No hug for your Aunt Sarah?" Riley glanced left, then right, and hurriedly bent down to hug her. At ten, he was already looking like the man he would become.
"What can I do for you two? In trouble already?"
Heather rolled her eyes. "No, Aunt Sarah. We wanted to ask you something."
Sarah nodded and smiled. "You go right ahead, hon." Heather glanced at Riley for help.
He sighed. "It's about Mom." He lowered his voice.
Sarah leaned forward. "Yes?"
Heather plopped down in Sarah's lap. "Good grief, Riley!" Heather turned back towards Sarah and explained. "We found what we want to get Mom for Christmas."
Sarah looked expectantly from one to the other. "And..." she prompted.
"A ring." Riley's voice broke the silence.
"How do you know she wants that?" Sarah asked.
"Easy," Heather replied. "We were going school shopping, and we passed by this pretty case with lots of rings in it. The woman asked Mama when our birthdays were. Then she said she could make a ring and put us in it."
Riley frowned. "Our birthstones, Heather."
"Whatever." Heather waved her hands. "Anyway, Mama got all quiet and looked really hard at the rings. Then she said 'Thank you', and we left."
"Did she say anything about it again?"
Heather nodded. "I asked her in the car. She tried to smile, but she couldn't. She said 'not right now'. Which is what she always says when we can't afford it." Heather turned towards her aunt. "Can you help us, please? Mama would be so happy."
Sarah looked at Riley and then at Heather. "I'll see what I can do." Riley's relief was evident and Heather let out a cheer.
Sarah called the store and asked for the total price of the ring. The 14K gold ring with three genuine stones was around two hundred and fifty dollars. She immediately began thinking of ways to make it happen. She called Jefferson College to see if they were doing any more studies. And now, here she was. Sarah's eyes scanned the table again, and she shook her head. The first level of hell, she thought grimly.
The researchers stood behind the thick glass and studied the participants. Alice and Jeffrey argued loudly. David, apparently able to tune everything out, slept soundly. Margie had moved to mascara. The head researcher pointed to Sarah.
"She's the one. Tell the others to leave." His assistant scurried to do his bidding. "And Paul..." the assistant turned around, "bring her to my office."
Sarah looked up as the door opened, and a short, bald man in a lab coat came inside. His voice rang out. "Thank you for your time everybody. You are free to leave."
"Who's the guinea pig?" Alice frowned.
Paul made a mental note to cross her name off future studies. "You will be compensated for your time spent here."
Margie nudged David, and they both left.
Sarah stood up slowly, already thinking about where else she could find the money, and pushed her chair in to the table. She smiled at Paul and turned towards the doorway.
"A moment please."
Jeffrey pushed through them and left the room. Paul shook his head. "Need to do a study about manners," he mumbled.
Sarah grinned. "Or lack thereof."
"You're right, Ms. Sharpe," Paul said and chuckled. "But for now, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to be in this special case-study."