On Fridays I’m going to share a chapter a week from one of my books. The first book is Souls Lost. If you wish to purchase it to read faster, you can find it at your favorite retailer. Find chapter 1 here.
Zoe listened to her dad talking about the gossip he’d picked up down at the bar earlier in the evening. He always went out during the day because, he said, it made him feel as if he were still useful and had a purpose. Grocery shopping at the locally owned store on the corner of Meadow Blue and Main, followed by sitting at the Saunders Coffee Shop with four other men his age who were also retired, then lunch at the diner or maybe the tavern and grill, and then home for a couple of hours. Two nights a week he bowled after dinner, one night he had poker, the rest he spent an hour or so after dinner down at the tavern, this time in the bar section rather than the restaurant side.
Zoe was still on the sofa, her feet stretched out, her hands wrapped around a mug of hot water. She’d wanted tea but it wasn’t something her father normally had in the cupboard. She’d have to go to the store tomorrow, which would hopefully carry something she liked, and if not, she’d have to go down the mountain to Hickory which was the nearest “large” city, although large was probably a stretch when it came to Hickory.
The house still smelled of the BBQ they’d eaten earlier, the ribs that Ed had started marinating earlier that morning. Naturally there was corn to go with it, not homegrown, of course, because they hadn’t ever grown corn at the house, so close to the city. Beneath her father’s rough voice that was starting to hold the slightest hint of a shake, something Zoe didn’t want to focus on, she heard the television broadcasters talking about the weather that was coming through, bringing unseasonably warm temperatures for the next three or four days.
“And you don’t believe in global warming,” Zoe interrupted looking at the numbers. By October it was never that warm up in the hills.
Her father closed his mouth, his face turning the faintest hint of pink—a sign he was ruffled but not quite mad. Mad was a full on tomato red that covered his entire head, even beneath the hairs that still proudly covered it, though they were sparser every year.
“Don’t go spouting that liberal nonsense here, missy. Even if the planet is warming, no proof that we’re doing it and we certainly aren’t doing it here,” Ed snapped. He crossed his arms, a sign that proclaimed as loudly as a billboard that he wasn’t going to discuss it further with her.
Zoe sighed and sipped her hot water. “So the word about Ms. Wilcox?” Zoe said.
Her father didn’t say anything about her use of Miz, which probably meant he wasn’t sure if Elaine had ever been married or not. If she had been, it had been years ago, though so far as Zoe knew, Elaine Wilcox had always lived in Corbin Meadow and had always been single.
Ed shook his head, looking away, probably thinking how Elaine had died exactly like his wife, Jodie, whom, everyone knew, he had adored. “I don’t know if it was a good thing to bring in the sheriffs or not. That Sheriff Fellows is an arrogant ass from what I’ve heard.”
“Down at the tavern where everyone would be getting Chief Rees’ opinion?” Zoe pressed. Not that Taran was someone who frequented the tavern too much, not really, but everyone knew someone who knew him even if they weren’t directly connected. It’s the way things were in Corbin Meadow.
“He’s a good man,” her father said. “Would’ve done you good to find someone like him instead of…”
Zoe loved that her father was taking her side in the pending divorce, even going so far as to not mention it around town, although her inability to sustain a relationship would be an embarrassment to him with his friends, but the fact that he’d never mention Tyler’s name struck her as amusing. As if by not saying the name he could erase Tyler from existence. Zoe wasn’t certain she wanted Tyler to be erased, at least not the Tyler she had first met, but who knew?—maybe life would have been better that way.
“What else is going on?” Zoe changed the subject, not wanting her father to wax on about Taran Rees, who’d been a good three years ahead of Zoe in school and had been matched with Kay Pugh by his senior year in high school, though Kay was only a junior. The gossip about Kay’s leaving town and then demanding a divorce had made its way all the way across the country to Zoe’s ears.
“There was talk about integrating the local library with the county library system to get more books,” Ed said. “Don’t know what’s on about that now that Elaine is gone. In fact, she was spearheading some sort of touristy thing here, you know, for folks who wanted a country weekend, getting publicity to the town, brainstorming all kinds of crazy things about the ways other small towns brought in tourism.”
Corbin Meadow, like so many towns in that part of the state, had relied heavily on money from the furniture industry, particularly handcrafted furniture, but work like that was all but dead. Her father was lucky that he’d been a poor craftsman and had turned to working on cars, something that would never quite go out of style, even if he had to commute down to the nearest dealership in his later years.
“What about that IT firm?” Zoe asked.
“Still there. It’s why our property taxes went up like they did last year,” Ed said, his face turning that shade of pink, gearing for a fight with his daughter and her liberal leaning ways.
Zoe said nothing, not in the mood to fight with her father about taxes and the need for them. In fact, the banking tech firm that had made a home in Corbin Meadow hadn’t brought in as many local jobs as hoped, and the people who did work and live there often didn’t bother to use the local services, going instead down the road to Lenoir, or less often, Taylorsville, both of which were on the beaten track, unlike Corbin Meadow.
She sipped her hot water, letting her mind wander to the ways in which tourists coming to town might change Corbin Meadow. She wasn’t sure she liked the idea, not really, but it was an interesting mind game which took kept her from thinking too much about Elaine Wilcox and how she’d died just like her momma.
What would Zoe do if the sheriffs found the killer? She didn’t know if she’d feel relieved—although she fantasized that she did—or if she’d feel angry with the person who had taken her momma from her. She’d been through these types of mind games when her momma had died. She’d played scenarios over and over again, driving Tyler further and further away until finally the threads of their marriage had unraveled into nothing, or at least nothing salvageable.
Perhaps it was good that he was back home and she was here in her place of birth, that had once been home but hadn’t felt like it since she’d come back for her momma’s funeral. Even now, it still wasn’t quite home. There would be nothing quite home again, not with her momma gone.
Chapter 5 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.