Authors: Becky Melby
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance
© 2012 by Becky Melby
Print ISBN 978-1-61626-239-6
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-60742-870-1
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.pre) 978-1-60742-871-8
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commerical purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.
Scripture taken from the H
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
For more information about Becky Melby, please access the author’s website at the following Internet address:
Cover credit: Studio Gearbox,
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683,
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.
Printed in the United States of America.
In loving memory of my mom,
Edith Parish Foght,
who went home to Jesus on June 16, 2011.
In her 93 years, she lived out the quote we found in her scrapbook:
Only one life twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
A special acknowledgement to the staff and kids—
past, present, and future—
of Common Grounds Coffee House in Burlington, Wisconsin.
I will always be grateful God allowed me a season
of being part of something that truly makes a difference.
Thank you to:
Bill, for loving me and living on hot dogs and peanut butter while I finished this.
My kids and grandkids for the fun, messy, noisy crowd we make when we’re together.
Cathy—Thank you for your blessing on this project. Dani and Nicky and a host of other characters would not exist without you. Thank you for your steadfast friendship.
My father-in-law, Irvin Melby, for sharing true stories of his father’s bootlegging days.
Cynthia, for always helping me see God’s hand and purpose in everything.
Kathy, for on-going prayer and for weekly talks and walks.
Jan, for printing this out in tiny print so you could carry it with you to edit.
My Bible study sisters, for praying for this book and the people who will read it.
Rebecca Germany and JoAnne Simmons, for opportunities and nudges.
Jamie Chavez, for wonderful editing and being so much fun to work with.
The neighborhood where much of
takes place exists
only in my head…and now yours. The storyline is based on a problem
common to most larger cities and is in no way intended to reflect negatively on the beautiful city of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
September 14, 1928
ook for the silver lining when e’er a cloud appears…” The song and the familiar rhythm of needle tugging thread freed Francie Tillman to dwell on all that might finally be going right.
Curled in the white-painted rocker in the corner of her shop, she sang along with the Radiola as she stitched, counted her blessings, and tried to ignore all that was unfixable in her life.
She had her own business, the kind of friends who stuck closer than family, and maybe—she threaded the thought into a prayer— they were finally safe.
Bits of plaster dust clung to the wallpaper beneath the framed print she’d just hung—black clouds threatening, trees bent with the wind, a cluster of terrified people fleeing the impending storm.
“Somewhere the sun is shining…” Her voice echoed in the windowless room as she sang. “…and so the right thing to do is make it shine for you.”
The picture reminded her of the day she’d discovered where to hide in the storm.
“A heart, full of joy and gladness will always banish sadness…”
The music didn’t mask clanking tools and sputtering motors on the other side of the wall, nor the scrape of chairs and an angry stream of Italian above her, but they were predictable sounds, the backdrop of her new world. Never again would she complain about a predictable life.
She sewed the final stitches on the voile overlay that flowed in angled layers over snowy, calf-length satin then snipped the thread with ivory-handled scissors. Holding the wedding gown against her chest, she struck a Greta Garbo pose in front of the mirror. She tried to imagine gliding down the aisle with yards of Italian lace floating from a diamond tiara and ribbons trailing from a spray of calla lilies. The vision blurred. It wasn’t her dress. There would be no white satin in Francie Tillman’s future.
But that was all right. She had all she needed. And some she didn’t.
She hung the gown on the dress form and covered it with a sheet then took a second glanced in the mirror.
The floral “One Hour Dress” she’d made in forty-eight minutes from leftover polished cotton had rumpled and would never do for meeting with her biggest client yet. She closed the door on quiet and order and took the stairs down to the shadowed passage that led to the part of her life that wasn’t going right.
In her upstairs room, with humid, late-afternoon air ruffling the eyelet curtains, she kept the song alive as she changed into the peach-colored silk charmeuse. “So always look for the silver lining, and try to find the sunny side of li—”
“What’re you gettin’ all dolled up for?”
Suzette leaned on the door frame, ashes cascading from the end of her cigarette. Coffee stains streaked the housecoat she’d worn for three days.
“I have a fitting.” Francie aimed her answer at a clear glass button on her shoe. She couldn’t bear looking up at her sister’s once-beautiful eyes, or at the way the billowing gown engulfed the figure she’d once envied.
“Who’s the hoity-toity this time? Wait.
” Suze held one finger to her lips. “I heard you talking to Renata. It’s the mayor’s wife.”
Francie nodded and sat on her vanity stool. “Please keep it to yourself.” She pulled a book out of the narrow middle drawer.
“Sure. I get it. None of your beeswax, Suze. Fine.” Suzette walked to the far side of the room, to the twin bed that matched Francie’s except that it hadn’t been made in weeks. “I’m tired.”
You’re always tired.
Francie jumped up, grabbed the cigarette before it hit the rug, and then took a deep, slow breath. From the front room, the radio speaker her nephew called the “giant tiger’s mouth” spilled Paul Whiteman’s voice, “…strolled the lane together, laughed at the rain…” Francie sat back down, picked up her pen, and spoke to Suzette over her shoulder. “I told Franky to come to the shop when he wakes up.”
“Mm-hm.” The slurred syllables dissolved into a raspy snore.
“…we cried together, cast love aside together—”
A distant noise froze her pen in midair. A gunshot. Francie jerked and turned toward the window, waiting, not breathing.
Nothing. A car backfiring, maybe, or just memories playing havoc with her mind.
She opened the back cover of her five-year diary. The glue had dried on the picture she’d pasted there. Hard to explain why she’d felt the urgency. Renata had told her to heed the nudge. “Listen to Jesus,
Maybe the Lord had warned her. Or maybe she was just being paranoid. She couldn’t yet convince herself the danger had died.
She fingered the end of the yellow satin ribbon sticking out of the book and opened to the date it marked. Her gaze traveled up the page through four Septembers to her fifteenth summer.
September 14, 1924
Leaving Theo will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I love him more than life, but Suze needs me, and besides, I was never cut out to be a missionary’s wife. I know I was created for something big, and it will begin in Chicago. I’ll get over Theo and he’ll get over me. I just hope not too soon.
Four years had passed. She hadn’t gotten over Theo, and the one time she’d seen him, he’d said he was still in love with her. She focused on the blank slot at the bottom of the page. White, empty space, a new September 14 waiting to be filled. Setting pen to paper, she left Theo and her dreams of something big in a past she’d moved beyond.
A scream shattered the quiet. Francie jumped up and ran to the window. In front of the restaurant, her best friend knelt, sobbing beside her husband, who lay bleeding and motionless on the sidewalk.
ast night’s applause lingered in Dani Gallagher’s mind like footprints pressed in wet sand. With the tip of a pencil, she lifted the florist’s card on the bundle of Gerbera daisies festooning the corner of her desk then tunnel-visioned back to her computer.
The popcorn sound of keyboards capturing the pulse of Tuesday, July 10 slowed her adrenaline for several pithy sentences—until her phone binged an incoming text message.
A parade of exclamation marks marching behind an all-caps C
triggered a maverick smile. Just as her lips widened enough to show her teeth, a flash bounced off her screen.
Looking up through dancing spots, she met Evan Carr’s smug eyes peeking above the telephoto lens of his three-thousand-dollar obsession. Unruly brown curls and too-long-to-be-fashionable sideburns framed the elfish face of her zany sidekick. Something flat and green was wedged under his arm.
Evan winked. “I’m calling it ‘The Face of Victory.’”
A deep cough bounced off the oatmeal-colored walls of her cubicle. “More like ‘The Face of Gloating.’” Mitch Anderson, Kenosha Times feature editor, leaned his elbows on a fabric-covered partition. “You proved me wrong, kiddo. I didn’t think you were ready for the big leagues.”
Dani answered with a smile tinged with just a smidge of smugness.
Evan shoved aside papers and a microwavable container of Campbell’s Italian wedding soup and made a place for his posterior on the corner of her desk. He held out a package wrapped in green tissue. “A little something from all of us.”
“What is it?”
“One way to find out.” He picked at a piece of clear tape.
Dani slid her finger under a fold. The paper tore with a satisfying rip. Matted in sage green and framed in gold, her face stared back at her from page 1, section C, of yesterday’s edition.
Her lips parted as her reflection superimposed over her picture. “Thank you.”