Authors: Jennifer Chiaverini
Tags: #Historical, #Adult, #Contemporary
ALSO BY JENNIFER CHIAVERINI
The Christmas Quilt
The Sugar Camp Quilt
The Master Quilter
The Quilter’s Legacy
The Runaway Quilt
The Cross-Country Quilters
The Quilter’s Apprentice
Elm Creek Quilts:
Quilt Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels
Return to Elm Creek:
More Quilt Projects Inspired by the Elm Creek Quilts Novels
An Elm Creek Quilts Novel
SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS
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SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS
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New York, NY 10020
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2006 by Jennifer Chiaverini
All rights reserved,
including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.
First Simon & Schuster paperback edition 2007
SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS and colophon are registered
trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
For information about special discounts for bulk purchases,
please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales: 1-800-456-6798
or [email protected]
Manufactured in the Unites States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Circle of quilters : an elm creek quilts novel / Jennifer Chiaverini.
1. Compson, Sylvia (Fictitious character)—Fiction.
2. Female friendship—
PS3553. H473C7 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-7432-6021-3 (Pbk)
ISBN-10: 0-7432-6021-X (Pbk)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5189-8 (ebook)
To Nicholas and Michael Chiaverini.
I love you a million billion.
I love you infinity.
I am more thankful for the friendship, dedication, and expertise of Denise Roy, Maria Massie, and Rebecca Davis than I could ever adequately express. I am also grateful for Annie Orr’s tireless efforts behind the scenes and the beautiful artistry of Honi Werner and Melanie Marder Parks. How fortunate I am to work with such brilliant, talented women!
Hugs and thanks to Lisa Cass and Jody Gomez, who cared for my boys and gave me time to write, and to Anne Spurgeon, who laughs with me, commiserates with me, and answers obscure historical questions with remarkable speed and accuracy.
Many thanks to Brenda Papadakis and Ami Simms for inspiring me with their quilts, creativity, and contributions to the quilting world. Thanks also to Lee Keyser for her suggestions for the romantic date in Seattle that appears in this book, and to Joelle Reeder of Moxie Design Studios, who created my fabulous new website.
Thank you to the friends and family who have supported and encouraged me through the years, especially Geraldine Neidenbach, Heather Neidenbach, Nic Neidenbach, Virginia and Edward Riechman, and Leonard and Marlene Chiaverini.
Above all else, I am grateful to my husband, Marty, and my sons, Nicholas and Michael. Whenever the frustrations, disappointments, and loneliness of the writing life get me down, you remind me that I already have everything I ever wanted.
Seeking qualified applicants to join
the circle of quilters at the country’s finest
and most popular quilters’ getaway, located
in beautiful rural central Pennsylvania.
Applicants should demonstrate mastery of two
or more of the following subjects: hand piecing,
machine piecing, machine quilting, pattern
drafting, computer-aided design, quilt history,
quilted garments, hand dyeing, or other notable
quilting technique. Seasonal work, flexible
schedule, and/or live-in arrangement available
if desired. Teaching experience and sense of
humor required. Ability to tolerate quirky
coworkers, emotional turmoil, and the occasional
minor disaster highly recommended. If that
didn’t scare you off, send résumé and portfolio,
including sample lesson plans for two courses,
photos of completed quilts, and letters of
recommendation from at least three students to
Elm Creek Quilt Camp
Attention: Sarah McClure
Elm Creek Manor
very morning after breakfast, the Courtyard Quilters gathered in the recreation room of Ocean View Hills Retirement Community and Convalescent Center to quilt, swap stories about their grandchildren, and gossip about the other residents. Nothing escaped their notice or judgment, and woe be it to the new resident or visitor who pulled up a chair to their circle uninvited. No one made that mistake twice, not if they coveted the friendship of seventy-year-old Helen Stonebridge, the leader of the circle of quilters and the most popular woman in the facility.
Within days of coming to work at Ocean View Hills—a name she had trouble saying with a straight face considering they were in Sacramento—Maggie Flynn joined the ranks of Mrs. Stonebridge’s admirers. Maggie had heard other members of the staff mention the woman as a sort of unofficial leader of the residents, but it wasn’t until she witnessed Mrs. Stonebridge in action that Maggie understood how influential she truly was. On that day, Maggie was sorting art supplies in the recreation room not far from where the quilters gathered every morning after breakfast. Their conversation turned to an altercation in the cafeteria the previous day in which a certain Mrs. Lenore Hicks had knocked over another resident in her haste to be first in line.
“She plowed right into Rita Talmadge’s walker,” tsked one of the quilters. “Rita tumbled head over heels, and Lenore didn’t even stop to help her up.”
“Lenore must have seen the banana cream pie on the dessert tray,” another quilter explained. “Never get between that woman and pie.”
“Rita could hardly dodge out of the way,” said the first quilter indignantly. “She’s had three hip replacements.”
Maggie was puzzling out how someone with only two hips could have three hip replacements when the youngest of the group, Mrs. Blum, piped up, “This isn’t the first time Lenore’s bumped into a lady with a walker. Remember Mary Haas and the Mother’s Day brunch? Margaret Hoover and the reflecting pool? Velma Tate and the Christmas tree?”
The quilters considered and agreed that Lenore did appear to have a habit of barreling into the less agile residents of Ocean View Hills. So far none of her victims had suffered more than bumps and bruises—and in Margaret Hoover’s case, an unexpected al fresco bath—but if the pattern continued, it was only a matter of time before someone broke a bone.
“I would be less concerned if these incidents didn’t happen so frequently,” mused Mrs. Stonebridge. “It’s also troubling that Lenore didn’t help Rita to her feet. No pie is worth adding insult to injury.”
The other ladies waited expectantly while Mrs. Stonebridge deliberated, her needle darting through two small squares of fabric with small, even stitches. Maggie found that she, too, had stopped sorting out watercolor paints in anticipation of the verdict.
After a few moments, Mrs. Stonebridge spoke again. “Dottie,
would you please tell Lenore that I would enjoy chatting with her whenever she has a spare moment?”
Mrs. Blum, the spriest of the group, nodded and hurried off. Maggie suspected that Mrs. Stonebridge expected an immediate response despite the casual wording of the request, and sure enough, Mrs. Blum returned several minutes later with a tall, solidly built woman with a slight stoop to her shoulders and a look of puzzled wariness in her eye.
Mrs. Stonebridge greeted her with a warm smile. “Oh, hello, Lenore. Won’t you sit down?”
Mrs. Hicks nodded and seated herself in the chair Mrs. Blum had vacated. Mrs. Blum frowned and glanced about for another chair to drag over into the circle, but the only empty seats were heavy armchairs near the fireplace. She folded her arms and stood instead.
“You wanted to speak to me?” asked Mrs. Hicks, anxious.
“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Stonebridge. “You see, I’m worried about you.”
Mrs. Hicks, who had clearly expected to be reprimanded for some forgotten offense, relaxed slightly. “Worried? About me? Why?”
“I’m concerned that you might have an inner ear disorder. You seem to have some balance problems. I’m referring, of course, to your unfortunate collision with Rita in the cafeteria yesterday. Anyone can have an accident, but you must have been feeling especially unsteady on your feet to be unable to help Rita up after you had knocked her down.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Hicks, uneasy. “Well, I was in a hurry, you see, and her friends were there to help her, so I thought she was all right.”
“It turns out she was,” Mrs. Stonebridge reassured her. “But I’m sure you saw that for yourself when you went back later to apologize.”
Mrs. Hicks said nothing, a guilty, pained expression on her face.
“Oh. I see,” said Mrs. Stonebridge, sorrowful. “Well, I’m sure your balance troubles are nothing to worry about, but you should get yourself checked out just in case.”
“I’ll see the doctor today,” said Mrs. Hicks in a small voice.
“And—this is just a thought—since poor Rita is still bruised from her fall, perhaps you could bring her meals to her until she recovers.”
“The busboys can do that, can’t they?”