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Authors: Christa J. Kinde

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BOOK: The Blue Door
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3
THE HASTY RETREAT

W
hy has this child been put in danger?” demanded a pacing angel with a drawn sword. “She is confused,
frightened
!”

“Gently, my friend,” soothed a serene old-timer with snowy white hair. “We do not yet know how far into our midst Miss Pomeroy will be drawn. Her acquaintance with Koji may be the limit of her involvement.”

“That is enough to draw the
wrong
sort of attention!”

“Alas, that is so.”

The gentle admission cooled the warrior’s temper. With a pleading look, he asked, “Why has it been given to
her
to see such things?”

The old one merely shook his head. “Who can know the mind of God?”

Once the large stack of boxes was transferred into the shed, Harken set Beau to work opening the ones that needed to be shelved. As soon as the teen was caught up in his task, the shopkeeper took an armload of leather-bound tomes and moved to the far alcove, beckoning for Milo and Koji to follow. The mailman scooped up a few more books and joined the older angel.

Koji’s face was a portrait of confusion. “She does not
believe
in us?”

“That’s what she said,” Harken replied with a patient smile.

“But that will not change anything,” the boy pointed out.

“I know that,” the old man said, pointing to himself. “And you know that,” he stated, gently tapping Koji’s chest. “However, many humans believe that they can influence reality with what amounts to willful blindness. If they are confronted with something that doesn’t appeal to them, they often refuse to acknowledge it.”

“So she is going to ignore us until we go away?” Koji asked.

“That’s the sum of it,” Milo agreed, scrubbing wearily at his face.

Koji looked between the two adults and asked, “
Are
we going away?”

“No, young one. Things cannot go back to the way they were before.”

“Will she tell?” Koji asked worriedly.

“I don’t think so,” replied Milo.

“She isn’t going to go around telling people about something she doesn’t want to believe herself,” Harken explained.

“Have you ever had to reveal yourself to a human before, Harken?” Milo asked curiously.

“Not for many years, and then only in dreams,” his mentor replied. “I wonder at the purposes of bringing this girl into our midst.”

“She did not seem very pleased,” Koji unhappily pointed out.

“She might be a little scared,” Milo suggested.

“Of
us
?” the boy asked.

“Perhaps a little, yes,” Harken agreed. “But I daresay she’s struggling with disappointment as well.”

Milo drooped visibly. “Some of this is my fault. Could I have handled it better?”

Harken clapped his shoulder. “No, my boy. We’ll give her time to get over the surprise; in the meantime, I will ask for direction.”

“Yes, that’s good,” Milo said resignedly, then looked to his comrade. “I’ve always treated her the same as everyone else.”

“I know,” soothed Harken. “But now you don’t have to.”

“I don’t believe it. I
won’t
believe it,” Prissie muttered over and over as she hurried past the local paper, the post office, and the town hall, which housed a tiny branch library. Story time was underway in the big gazebo that stood out front, so she checked for cars and dashed across Main Street, heading for the comforting familiarity of Loafing Around, her father’s bakery.

Though Prissie didn’t know all the details, she’d overheard enough snippets of adult conversation to know that Grandpa had a hard time accepting his son’s career choice. Pete Pomeroy had wanted his only boy to take over the farm
and orchard, carrying on the family business, but Dad had gone to cooking school instead. The tension between them had eased considerably with the birth of Pete’s first grandson. Grandpa poured all his love for the orchard into Tad, and by the time the little guy was four, he’d tell anyone who asked that he was going to be a farmer. Momma said it was hard to tell if Tad loved the farm because he loved
it
… or because he loved Grandpa. In the end, it hardly mattered; Pomeroy Orchard’s future was secure.

The bakery offered a bit of everything, but Jayce Pomeroy’s specialty was bread, and they were famous for their dinner rolls. Soft, light, golden-brown potato rolls had been the Saturday Special since day one, and people actually lined up for them. It was the closest thing Main Street ever had to a traffic jam. Two years ago in shop class, Prissie’s next older brother Neil had made Dad a sign with routered lettering; it was proudly displayed on the bakery’s front door and invited patrons to
Get Your Buns in Here.

Prissie frowned at the sidewalk until she neared her destination, then glanced up to see a guy standing in front of the bakery, his nose practically pressed to the window. “What are
you
doing here, Ransom?”

Ransom Pavlos was a classmate, and for the last couple years, he’d been the bane of her existence. The gangly teen casually sat back on the seat of his bike and shifted the wide strap that crossed his chest. “None of your business, Miss Priss,” he smirked.

“This is
too
my business!” she declared. “It’s my dad’s bakery.”

He glanced through the display window and muttered, “Your dad’s, huh? Well, that changes things.”

“What’s
that
supposed to mean?” Prissie demanded.

Reaching into the pouch angled across his back, he fished out a newspaper and tossed it at her feet. “It means I’m not interested,” he replied before pedaling away.

“Hey! she called after him. “You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalks!”

Ransom lifted a hand in farewell, but otherwise ignored her words.

Prissie scowled after him, then bent to pick up the tightly rolled copy of
The Herald
, letting her old, familiar disgust with Ransom push Milo far from her mind. “Whatever,” she grumbled as she shoved through the bakery’s front door, setting its bell to jangling. Inside, she sniffed and smiled. It was impossible not to, because the bakery smelled just as it should — spicy, yeasty, sweet, and safe. Her father might wear the apron in the family, but he was her daddy, and this place was a little piece of home.

The woman sitting on a stool behind the counter set aside her knitting and smiled bashfully. “You haven’t been by in a while, Prissie,” she greeted. “That sure is a pretty dress! Is it new?”

“Hello, Pearl,” she replied, beaming under the compliment. Pearl Matthews was a statuesque young woman with warm brown skin and wiry black hair who always noticed the right kinds of things.

“Are you out doing errands with your momma?”

“Not today,” said Prissie, her smile faltering. “It’s just me and Beau.” For several moments, she stared at the other woman, wondering if she was really
real …
or if she might be an angel, too.
No.
She shook off the notion as impossible. Pearl had a husband and a little girl, while Milo and Harken
were both single, with no families that she’d ever heard of. “Is Dad here?”

“Where
else
would he be?” Pearl teased. “He’s up to his elbows in peaches.”

“We brought in two crates, and Louise put him to work,” drawled a voice from the corner.

“Oh, hello, Uncle Lou!” Prissie exclaimed, embarrassed to have overlooked him.

The quiet old man rarely made eye contact with anyone and spent many a morning camped out in the corner of the small seating area, sipping coffee, reading the paper, and waiting for handouts. His wife was the bakery’s only other employee.

Louise Cook, a tiny, spunky woman in her late sixties, just couldn’t get the hang of retirement, so Prissie’s father had offered her a place in his kitchen. For the last three years, she’d been turning out dozens of delicious pies on a daily basis. Jayce was fond of saying that he was hard-pressed to keep up with her, and he was only half-kidding. Auntie Lou wore big, floral aprons, handed out cookies to growing boys, and didn’t take
no
for an answer. It didn’t surprise Prissie at all that her father had been roped into peeling fruit.

Louise’s husband wasn’t really named Lou. Zeke had been the first to mix up their names, and even though Mr. Cook’s given name was Paul, “Uncle Lou” stuck.

“Is that the afternoon edition?” he inquired.

Prissie glanced down at the paper still clutched in her hand. “Oh, yes! Would you like it?”

“If you please,” he smiled, and she hurried to present it to him. “How’s your summer been, young lady?”

“The usual,” Prissie sighed. “Lots of gardening and canning.”

The old man shook out the paper, adjusted his glasses,
then tapped the lead article on the front page. “County fair’s just around the corner. You planning on entering anything this year?”

“I am!” she replied confidently. “I can’t compete with Auntie Lou or Grandma Nell, but I’m going to enter a pie in the junior division.”

“Oh, that’ll be wonderful!” chimed in Pearl. “What kind?”

“I’m still testing recipes,” Prissie hedged.

“If you’re looking for inspiration, there are a few beauties left in the case,” prompted Uncle Lou. He shooed the girl toward the display, and she crossed to check out Louise’s pies.

Pearl joined her in
ooh
-ing and
aah
-ing over a lattice-topped cherry and an old-fashioned buttermilk pie decorated with whipped cream and raspberries. “I want a piece of
that
one,” the tall woman confided, pointing to a nut pie that definitely had chocolate in it. “It’s a new recipe, and it looks heavenly!”

Prissie cringed at her choice of words, but nodded in agreement.

Uncle Lou kept his eyes on his newspaper as he nonchalantly said, “Your pa might let us test a few, being as it’s the end of the day.”

“Are you trying to get Prissie to sweet-talk a piece of pie for you?” Pearl scolded.

The old man peeked from under bushy white brows. “I wouldn’t object to a wee wedge — or a warm-up?” He lifted his coffee cup hopefully, and Pearl shook her head in mock dismay.

Prissie smiled as the two entered into their usual routine of polite wheedling and gentle bossing that always ended in Uncle Lou’s favor. She was feeling better by the minute, and then, the kitchen door swung wide, and her father strode
through, dressed in chef’s whites and wiping his hands on a well-spattered apron. The minute he spotted her, he broke into a wide, boyish grin.

Jayce Pomeroy was tall and broad, with brown hair and blue eyes that sparkled with good humor. While Prissie didn’t necessarily want her friends to find out that her dad spent most of his day wearing a hair net, that didn’t stop her from hurrying forward when he opened his arms. “There’s my girl! What are you doing here, princess?”

She explained the bare minimum, and her father nodded his understanding. “Then call your mother and tell her we’re bringing home peach cobbler tonight!”

A couple hours later, soft chimes sounded when Mr. Pomeroy opened The Curiosity Shop’s front door and stepped inside. He lifted a hand to greet his old friend. “Good afternoon, sir! I hear you’re in possession of one of my lot.”

“I am at that!” Harken gestured broadly at Beau, who was hunkered down in the corner, poring over an illustrated history of nearby Sunderland State Park. “As you can see, he’s enjoying the fruits of his labors.”

The teen stirred enough to blink blue eyes at his father over the top of the oversized book before breaking into an enthusiastic grin. “Hi, Dad! Mr. Mercer’s letting me keep this! It’s pretty cool … it even has maps of the caves!”

Jayce raised his eyebrows at Harken, who waved his hand. “The boy
earned
it.”

Milo strolled out of the back room, a hammer in hand. “Hey there, Mr. Pomeroy! Did Miss Priscilla make it over to the bakery all right?”

“Sure, sure … that’s partly why I’m here,” her father replied, causing the two angels to exchange a quick glance. Jayce shoved his hands into his pockets and addressed the shop owner. “My wife tells me that Milo’s coming to dinner, and she asked me to invite you as well … unless you have other plans?”

“Well, now,” Harken replied thoughtfully. “That’s very generous, but I don’t wish to impose.”

“Don’t even think it,” scoffed Jayce. “You know Naomi, it’s always the more, the merrier. She said my mother’s pulled out the stops, and Prissie and I made dessert.”

The old man’s low chuckle filled the shop. “I would be honored to accept your hospitality, Jayce. Thank you for thinking of an old bachelor like me.”

“You and Milo are most welcome,” Jayce assured.

“Yo, Prissie, anybody home?” demanded Neil, her next brother up the family order.

Snapping fingers in front of her eyes startled Prissie out of her thoughts, and she looked in confusion at her oldest brother Tad, whose lips quirked in amusement. “Where’ve you been?”

Pointed ears, shining clothes, blue doors, and forest glades filled her mind, but she wasn’t about to admit it. “Sorry, what?”

Neil rolled his eyes and half-stood to reach across the table and snag the butter dish sitting in front of her plate. “Here ya go, Milo,” the sixteen-year-old declared. His blue eyes twinkled with mischief as he added, “Please excuse our sister; she’s not usually this neglectful of our guests. You must be a special case.”

“Thank you, Neil,” the mailman politely replied, though his gaze rested uncertainly on Prissie.

If she hadn’t prided herself so highly on good posture, Prissie would have slouched … or slid right under the table. Having Milo over for dinner was a rare treat. On any other day, she would have fought tooth and nail to claim a place of honor at his side, but tonight, Grandma Nell had needed a firm hand to haul onto her usual seat between her mother and Tad.

The Pomeroy’s table was a long, wide, solid piece of craftsmanship that had dominated the farmhouse kitchen for the better part of a century. Its wooden surface showed years of wear, scarred and smoothed by turns, and it could accommodate the entire family with room to spare. With a dozen people crowded around it, dinner was even more lively than usual, which made it easier for Prissie to hang back. Normally, she was in the thick of every discussion, but tonight, she joined Tad on the sidelines.

BOOK: The Blue Door
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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