Gotta Love Pumpkins (unedited)

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The first thing that struck Kade Beaumont as he entered Darbyville was the sameness. Sure, he’d seen a Walmart on the edge of town and there was a CVS Pharmacy where the old Rite Aid used to be. But the IGA and Eddie’s Fill Er Up still remained. Six years he’d been gone, but it felt like it was yesterday.
As he entered the town square, the location of the county courthouse anpumpkin-1083103_960_720d administration center, he saw the maple and elm trees in all their fall-colored drapery. Reds, oranges, yellows speckled with brownish greens served notice that he’d entered fall country. That was the one thing he’d missed about Darbyville, autumn when the town seemed to come to life.
Halloween was only two weeks away, he reminded himself. He’d already seen a ghost or two hanging from trees, and other assorted decorations. Soon, the square would be filled with vendors plying their wares during the town’s annual fall festival.
Not that he’d be among them. At least he doubted that his mom and sister had anything planned from the last text message Cindy had sent him.
One among many imploring him to come home.
Well he was here now with a mission to accomplish so he could head back to Florida. But first, a bite of lunch before he faced his memories.

* * * *
Watching her mother glance at her watch again, Cindy Hayden frowned in exasperation. She’d just checked it not more than ten minutes ago.
“Stop looking, Mom. He’ll be here.”
Sighing, Cleta Beaumont said, “He should be here already. He did say he was coming, didn’t he?”
Now, Cindy sighed. “Yes, Mom. He texted me this morning. He stayed overnight around Nashville.”
“It’s just, you know,” her mother continued, “he’s been gone so long. The memories are so painful for him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d just turn around and head back to Florida.”
“I know, Mom. But he is coming. Why don’t you go make some ice tea? I’m sure Kade would appreciate that after his long journey.”
“You think so?”
“Yes, Mom. Please. Go.”
She watched her mother rise from the worn couch, smooth down the flowered dress she’d sewn herself many years ago, and make her way to the kitchen, her gait slowed by the lingering limp from the spill she’d taken last week. Her left arm remained in the sling old Doc Barton had said could probably come off this week.
It was that spill that had caused Cindy to send the text to Kade begging him to come home, pleading that his mother needed him.
She gazed out the front window hoping to spot Kade’s truck, praying that she was right and he was still on his way. She didn’t know how she’d handle things if he didn’t arrive as promised.
* * * *
Reaching the kitchen, Cleta pulled a wooden chair from the table and sat. Her family had enjoyed many a meal around this table, she thought, brushing a tear from her eye.
But those were long-distant memories, all she had left, besides the farm, of what once had been. She knew Cindy knew she already had tea waiting for her son. She was aware that her daughter had grown tired of her restlessness while awaiting Kade’s arrival.
She hoped Cindy was right, that her son would appear as promised.
It’d been way to long since she’d last seen him, right in this room, six years ago.

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WIP Opening Scene (Unedited)

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Anne Grant’s mom, Joyce Baumann, noticed the man first and pointed him out to her daughter.
Unusual appearance, Anne thought. Even though it was two weeks before Thanksgiving, and the temperatures were mild, not unusual for this time of year, he wore a heavy denim jacket, and clutched a package close to his chest. Gray-haired, of indeterminate age, but not elderly, the man moved slowly from one display rack to the next, eying the packages of cross stitch kits.il_570xN.1690708139_9r56
Her mom seemingly paralyzed by the man’s appearance, Anne dropped the pair of scissors and Aida fabric she was cutting to offer him assistance.
“Hi, can I help with something?” she asked him.
The man glanced over at Anne. Up close, she noticed the gray stubble on his jaw, the lines that furrowed his brow, the crow’s feet spreading from the corner of his eyes. He shifted nervously from one foot to the other.
“Is that the owner back there?” He tilted his head in Joyce’s direction.
“No. This is my store.” Anne smiled, trying to calm his nervousness.
Now, he turned his attention to Anne, his gaze speculative. “I don’t suppose you know much about this?” he asked, pointing to the kits beside him.
“Cross stitch? Yes, I do. I’ve been stitching for years.”
“Hardly look old enough to be that good.”
Taken aback, but maintaining her smile, Anne tried again. “Is there something you’re interest in? If you’re not looking for something that’s Christmas related, we have some other kits and charts in the back.”
“No, don’t want to buy anything. I,” he indicated the package, “wanted to see if someone could tell me about this.”
Now that Anne was closer, she saw that whatever he carried was in a worn, large-size manilla envelope.
“Let’s go to the back and we’ll take a look at what you have.”
Anne turned and headed back to where her mom was working, the man following close behind.
“Mom, Mr…” Anne gave him a questioning look.
“Shinto. George Shinto,” he said.
Anne introduced her mom and herself, then offered her hands to take Mr. Shinto’s package.
“It’s pretty old,” he said. “Wife and I sold our place up north and moved into a condo down here. Found it in one of the boxes. Must have been in the attic of the old house.”
Taking the envelope from Mr. Shinto, Anne cautiously lifted the flap, then let it slide to the table as she withdrew the aged fabric inside. She lowered the brown material—linen it appeared—to the table, and together she and her mom spread it out. Joyce gasped as they revealed the intricate pattern stitched on the fabric.
Discolored in places, it was an heirloom sampler with the main feature being a lake with a deer, head bowed to the water. Beside her, a buck stood alertly on watch. A flock of geese flew overhead in the scene, an autumn setting apparently from the now dull oranges, yellows and reds appearing in the trees.
“Did your wife do this, Mr. Shinto?”
The man shook his head. “She ain’t interested in fancy frills like this. But she wondered about it. Made me bring it along when I told her I was coming to downtown.”
Anne had opened her shop, Candy Cane Stitches featuring cross stitch items, a little over a year and a half ago. But last year at this time, she wasn’t sure her store would last long into the new year. Plummeting sales, her bank account drained and credit cards maxed out, bankruptcy loomed as her only relief. Adding to her worry, was the constant attention from one Dr. Jim Grant, and the meddling of her mother, intent on making the two a couple. Unfortunately, now fortunately, Jim had seen the bankruptcy forms on her table, and in turn told father, a retired certified public accountant, who in turn confronted Anne. Forced to lay out her financial woes, her dad had taken matters in hand, and with Jim’s assistance, got a group of angel investors together to save her shop.
Anne gazed fondly at the rings on her left hand. What a difference a year had made.
She wasn’t out of the woods yet financially, but was on the way. And thanks to her mom, she’d undergone a name change, marrying Jim this past June.
Anne shook her head, clearing away the reverie she’d engaged in for a moment. She quickly realized her mom had picked up the conversation with Mr. Shinto.
“…us to see where this is from?”
“Yes, ma’am, that’s what the wife would like to know.”
Anne joined the conversation. “I can take a picture of it and post it in some of the cross stitch forums on Facebook and the Internet and see if anyone recognizes the piece and who the designer might be.” She looked up and saw Shinto nodding. “Would your wife mind if we kept this, get it cleaned up a little before we take a photo?”
“I reckon that would be acceptable. Don’t have any plans for it anyhow, leastways not that she mentioned.”
“I’d like to get it framed and displayed in my front window too, if you’d be okay with that.”
Shinto rubbed the stubble on his chin, considering, then nodded. “Reckon that’d be okay too. Don’t see any harm in that.”
The women folded the material back up, and while her mom delicately slid the piece back into the envelope, Anne led Mr. Shinto over to the checkout counter and got his address and telephone number. As he stepped away toward the door, Anne said, “Don’t get your hopes up, Mr. Shinto. It may take weeks before we hear anything, and I have to tell you, it’s probably a long shot that we will. That piece is so old.”
“Just appreciate the effort,” he looked at the card Anne had given him and added, “Mrs. Grant.”
Anne gave him a smile and wave as he left the shop.