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Authors: Jodi Lynn Anderson

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T
here were so many ways to get between Bridgewater and NewYork and Florida. There were buses, planes, trains, and cars. Only it can take so much time to get enough money for gas. It was years before Murphy, Leeda, and Birdie were all three together at the orchard again, and by that time, it wasn't anything like it had been.

The year they graduated, Murphy and Rex found they couldn't really be friends and never really had been. They compromised and met in Chicago—where Murphy could have her big-city flair, and Rex could have his outdoors close by, and they could shiver together through the winters in the tiny little apartment they shared. They were married in Bridgewater the following year. Even though she thought it was a sexist tradition, Murphy let her dad give her away. Mr. Taggart had insisted they get married at the Church of the Holy Redeemer. Murphy had insisted they didn't send out invitations. They just put out fliers. Three of the people who showed up had made out with Murphy at some point in time.

Birdie had read a book once called
The Age of Innocence
. Enrico
had recommended it. In it, at the end, it was pointed out that one of the main characters had given up the thing she loved most because giving it up meant keeping it beautiful and right. Birdie had tried to look back on this at moments when she felt desperately homesick. But as time went on, she didn't have to remind herself. It became so clear that where the orchard had been, her life had filled itself in with wild colors and soul-shaking experiences and other things as meaningful as peaches and white dirt. Birdie, of all three girls, became the hardest to pin to a specific time and place. She would send Leeda and Murphy and her family cryptic letters with clips of her travel articles from Brazil, from India, from Switzerland, and she would promise to come home soon. But home, it seemed, was something Birdie carried on her back. She finally thought she knew what Poopie had felt when she'd first come to Bridgewater and, seeing shapes in the clouds floating above a place that was completely foreign, found a reason to stay.

Leeda's third year into running the shelter, while Grey was in Atlanta buying supplies, two teenage guys—friends—came walking up the driveway looking for jobs working with the animals. Standing on the porch, they looked like stray puppies. Leeda hired them on the spot. They didn't see the orchard as something that had been lost. They found new spots nearby to swim. They stayed out late. They settled in and grew into the place like trees.

Grey had made a sign and placed it by the door as a joke, but Leeda had kept it. It read
Leeda's Home for Lost Souls
. Below it, Leeda hung a framed photo that Birdie had given her. It was of two Mexican women and three sixteen-year-old American girls: one looking wild and angry; one turning her eyes up, shy and
meek; and one standing apart from the other two, thin and perfect, removed and ghostlike.

Without anyone to prune them or care for them, the peach trees slowly died, absorbed by the woods. There was the occasional holdout. A lonely tree here or there that somehow managed to survive and produce ripe, delicious fruit, better than any Leeda could find anywhere. But the last time they were all at the orchard together, Birdie only found one lone blossom, drying up. She took it with her and tucked it in her hair.

What mattered was still there. That was what they all felt, and it was what surprised them all. What mattered couldn't be shaken.

My continued gratitude goes to Sara Shandler, as well as Zareen Jaffery, Nora Pelizzari, Kristin Marang, and Elise Howard. Thanks to Glenn Smith at Camp Tall Timbers in High View, West Virginia, for giving me a place to write and spend time with horses. Much appreciation to Barbara Birney of Cause for Paws Animal Shelter in Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, for sharing her time and knowledge. Donations can be made to Cause for Paws at P.O. Box 271, Harper's Ferry, WV, 25425.

Finally, thanks always to my friends and family.

About the Author

Jodi Lynn Anderson,
the national bestselling author of PEACHES and THE SECRETS OF PEACHES, has lived in Georgia, Costa Rica, and New York, but she currently hangs her hat in Washington, D.C. You can visit her online at www.thesecretsofpeaches.com.

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Jacket art © 2008 by Howard Huang

Jacket design by Sasha Illingworth

LOVE AND PEACHES
. Copyright © 2008 by Alloy Entertainment and Jodi Lynn Anderson. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

EPub © Edition SEPTEMBER 2009 ISBN: 9780061855061

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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BOOK: Love and Peaches
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