Sample text for The cross-country quilters : an Elm Creek Quilts novel / Jennifer Chiaverini.


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Chapter One

Julia loathed retirement parties. Watching the guest of honor make the obligatory final curtain call evoked a predictable yet uncomfortable melancholy, but worse yet was the sense of the other guests' eyes upon her. She imagined their whispers: Isn't it about time we threw one of these parties for her, the dowager queen of the television drama? Doesn't she realize her time has passed?

As she raised her champagne flute to join the others in a toast to Maury, the man who had been her agent throughout her career, Julia forced herself to smile. Despite the critics' lukewarm appreciation of her talent, she knew she was a fine actress. No one would detect her dismay at realizing that she was one of the oldest people present, that she could no longer count on being the most beautiful woman in the room, that maybe it was best that she retire with some dignity instead of lingering on long past her prime.

No doubt the stars and would-be stars assembled there expected her own announcement soon, especially since Family Tree had just ended its lengthy run. She had hoped for at least another two years, but as the three endearing cherubs who played her grandchildren grew into sulky adolescents with various addictions and attitude problems, the program's once-spectacular ratings had begun a gradual but unmistakably downward slide. The final blow had come the previous winter, when the actor who played her son-in-law developed a particularly nasty infection in one of his pectoral implants. When his hospitalization forced them to shut down production for a month and show reruns during sweeps week, the studio heads decided not to renew any of their contracts. Most of the cast moved on to other projects, but for the first time in over two decades, Julia found herself facing a summer hiatus that threatened to extend indefinitely.

If she were planning to leave the business, this would seem to be the time to do it. Money wouldn't be a problem she had invested her earnings so wisely that she wouldn't need to earn a paycheck to maintain her lifestyle -- even with the ungodly amount of alimony she had to pay her third husband. But to retire now, before she had starred in a hit movie, something meaningful and important and true -- that would be unbearable.

A handsome young waiter smiled as he offered her another glass of champagne. Drowning her sorrows didn't seem like such a bad idea, given that her series was over and Maury was abandoning her, so she placed her empty glass on the waiter's tray and took another. As she raised it to her lips, Maury caught her eye and inclined his head in the direction of his study. She took a hasty sip and nodded to indicate she would join him there. If he intended to scold her for drinking too much, she'd scold him right back. What was he thinking, retiring when she needed him so desperately?

"You look lovely," he greeted her, kissing her on the cheek as she entered the study. He closed the heavy door behind them, shutting out the noise of the party.

"Thank you, Maury. You look rather lovely yourself."

He grinned and tugged at the sleeves of his elegant tuxedo. "Evelyn insisted," he said. "I didn't want such an ostentatious send-off. I would have preferred eighteen holes and a quiet lunch at the club with a few friends."

"And disappoint everyone who wanted to bid you a proper good-bye?" Julia tried keep her voice light, but she couldn't prevent some bitterness from slipping in. "It's not like you to put your golf game ahead of your friends."

"Now, Julia, don't be like that." He placed a hand at the small of her back and guided her to a soft tapestry-covered sofa in front of the fireplace. "You're going to be well looked after. Your new agent will be able to do more for you than I have these past few years."

The apology in his voice touched her. "I've had no complaints," Julia said, resting her hand on his arm. "There's no one in this world I trust more than you."

"Thank you, Julia." Maury cleared his throat and drew out his handkerchief. "That means a lot to me." Abruptly he strode over to his desk, and when his back was turned, Julia watched him fondly as he composed himself. Maury was a good man, one of Hollywood's last true gentlemen. He had been her first husband's oldest and dearest friend. He and his wife, Evelyn, had seen her through Charles's death, and the two foolish marriages and bitter divorces that followed. He had insisted that the producers of Family Tree audition her for the role of Grandma Wilson despite their complaints that she wasn't the right type. He had unraveled hundreds of management snarls and eased countless disappointments throughout the years. Maury was a true friend in a city that knew little of friendship and everything about opportunism and greed.

He tucked his handkerchief away and picked up a thin stack of papers bound by three gold brads. "What's this?" she asked as he placed the papers in her hands.

"A little farewell present. You didn't think I'd leave you without one last great project, did you?"

That was precisely what she had thought, but she wouldn't tell him that. She glanced at the top sheet of the script for the writer's name. "Who's Ellen Henderson? What else has she done?"

"You won't have heard of her. This is her first major motion picture."

"Oh, Maury." Julia frowned and tossed the script onto the coffee table.

He took up the papers and sat down beside her. "Don't 'Oh, Maury' me before you read it. This is the project we've been searching for. It has heart, it has warmth, and it has a fantastic part for you." He placed the script in her lap and closed her hands around it. "Trust me."

"Who's directing?"

"Ellen is."

The alcohol helped flame her temper. "This is your big plan for getting me my breakthrough role? I've won four Emmys and a Golden Globe, and you give me a script written by a nobody. How dare you, after all I've sacrificed?" The last words came out almost as a sob, which she tried to disguise with another sip of champagne.

Gently Maury took the glass. "Don't hold her inexperience against her. Two years ago her student film won an honorable mention at Sundance. Plus, William Bernier is producing."

Julia raised her eyebrows at him, her anger forgotten. "I thought he had a three-picture deal with -- "

"He does. This will be one of those projects. We'll have all the perks and publicity a major studio can provide."

"That's not bad," Julia admitted, picking up the script. Even if the production fell through, Bernier would remember that she had been willing to take a chance on a neophyte director for his sake. Not every actress of her caliber would take such a risk, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to have a man like Bernier in her debt.

"I'll leave you alone to read it." Maury patted her knee and rose. "If you don't love it, I promise I'll go out there in front of all those people and tell them I'm canceling my retirement until I can find you the project of your dreams."

"Don't tempt me," Julia teased as he left the room, though she knew such an announcement would embarrass her more than it would him.

Alone in the restful silence of the study, she settled back on the sofa and decided to skim through the first few scenes. If nothing else, Maury's script would provide an escape from an evening of phony smiles and niceties and too much rich food. She read the cover page aloud to test the sound of the title. "A Patchwork Life," she said, and winced. She wanted Masterpiece Theatre, and Maury had given her something so hokey it could have been plucked minutes before from a Midwestern cornfield. If Bernier was half the savvy producer his reputation claimed, he would change that title before releasing a single dollar. Shaking her head and expecting the worst, she turned to the first page and began to read.

Within a few minutes she forgot the party, the humiliating dearth of offers, the patronizing responses of the few movie producers who owed Maury too much to avoid returning his phone calls. A woman named Sadie Henderson and her life in pioneer-era Kansas drew her in until they became more real than the tapestry sofa beneath her, more vivid than the music of the orchestra and the celebration just beyond the study door. She could almost taste the dust in her mouth as the script transported her to the small prairie homestead Sadie struggled to build with her husband, Augustus. Her heart broke when Augustus died, leaving Sadie with two young sons. Alone, Sadie persisted despite grasshopper plagues and drought when other neighbors gave up and returned to homes back east. She shared Sadie's grief when she sold off cherished family quilts to raise money to improve the farm. Sadie then took in sewing from her more successful neighbors, running the farm by day and stitching her neighbors' quilts late into the night. Her quilting kept the family alive until at last, years later, the farm flourished.

Long after she finished the last page, Julia held the script to her chest, lost in the details of Sadie's hardship and triumph. In Sadie's place, Julia would have crumbled in a week. She longed to meet Sadie, understand the source of her strength, and somehow harness that power for herself.

The door opened, startling her out of her reverie. "Well?" Maury asked, sitting beside her.

"It was quite good," she said cautiously, testing him. "But who would pay to see a movie like this, old ladies and nuns? It's a little -- well, I don't know. A little too squeaky-clean." She thumbed through the script, shaking her head. "Maybe you should see if Sally Fields is available."

"How can you say that?" Maury protested. "You said you wanted something meaningful, something worthy of your talent. This story has all the pathos and character development you wanted -- or at least I thought you wanted."

"Relax, Maury. I didn't say I wouldn't consider it I'm just not sure what this will do for me."

"It'll get you an Oscar nomination, that's what it'll do," he said, but his voice had lost some of its distress.

"It does have some great monologues," she admitted, but suddenly a horrible thought struck her. "Which part did you have in mind for me?"

"Sadie Henderson, of course. Not when she's in her twenties, but after that. Bernier will get his best makeup people. I'll insist on it."

She was too relieved to notice Maury's implicit admission that, without makeup miracles, she was far too old to play anyone younger than a matriarch. For a moment she had feared that Maury intended her to play the cruel elderly neighbor who tried to buy up the Henderson farm.

"So are you interested or not? Just say the word, and I'll send this along to Anne Bancroft, Judi Dench -- "

"I'm interested," she interrupted. She refused to entertain even for a moment the thought of Dame Judi collecting a golden statuette for a role Julia had declined.

"Then I have someone I'd like you to meet." Maury crossed the room, opened the study door, and ushered a young woman inside. She was slender and dressed in what was likely her best suit, but her unfashionable haircut and lack of makeup marked her as a breed apart from all the other young women at the party. "This is Ellen Henderson."

"Miss Merchaud, it is such an honor to meet you." The young woman approached and shook her hand. "I've admired your work since I was a little girl."

Julia twisted a wince into a smile. "That long, hmm?" The young woman's grip was strong and confident, and suddenly Julia realized something. "Your name is Henderson. Are you a descendant of Sadie Henderson?"

"She was my great-grandmother. My script is based on her diaries."

"I'm so delighted to hear that," Julia exclaimed, forgetting her reserve. She so wanted to believe that Sadie had been a real woman who had lived and breathed and walked the same world she walked.

"Your writing makes Sadie live again," Maury said.

Ellen blushed at the compliment. "It's the actor who brings the script to life. Miss Merchaud, there's no one in the world I'd rather have portray my great-grandmother than you."

Years in the business had taught Julia to suspect flattery. "And why is that?"

"You have this core of strength, this resilience. I've seen it in every part you've played, ever since Mrs. Dormouse in The Meadows of Middlebury."

"You saw Meadows?" That couldn't be. Mrs. Dormouse was her first major role, but Meadows was a children's film that had quickly slipped into obscurity despite strong critical acclaim. Besides, Ellen hadn't even been born when it came out. For that matter, her parents had probably been too young to see it.

"My public library ran it during its summer film festival when I was in the fourth grade." Ellen gave her a shy smile. "I loved the book, but when I saw how actors brought all those characters to life, I was transfixed -- and transformed. Especially when I saw how you made Mrs. Dormouse more real than she had been even in my imagination. That was the moment I knew I wanted to make movies when I grew up."

Ellen's genuine admiration hit home. "I'll take the part," Julia said, without thinking of contracts or box office or who might share top billing.

Ellen's face lit up. "Oh, Miss Merchaud, thank you." She seized Julia's hand and shook it again. "You won't regret this. I promise."

Julia laughed and eased her hand free. "I'm sure it will be a delightful experience." She raised her eyebrows at Maury, who recognized his cue.

"Miss Merchaud and I have some details to discuss," he said, showing Ellen to the door. "Why don't you go on out and enjoy the rest of the party?"

Ellen looked uncomfortable. "If you don't mind -- if you won't be needing me, I think I'd rather go home. It's getting late."

As Maury promised her they'd be in touch, Julia wondered how long the awkward little wren had been forced to mingle among that crowd of peacocks as she waited for Julia to read her script.

When they were alone, Maury said, "You've just won her loyalty for life. Bernier took on the project on the condition that she would obtain a major star for the lead role."

"Really?" Julia felt a rush of pleasure at being considered a major star by a man like Bernier, but the sensation was quickly followed by anger that she had not taken the compliment in stride. Dame Judi no doubt heard such praise twenty times a day. "I wonder why she didn't mention it."

"She wanted to be sure you took the part because you truly loved her story, not because you felt sorry for her."

"If she keeps that up, this town will eat her alive." Still, the young woman's sincerity was oddly refreshing. Julia wished she had not been in such a hurry to dismiss her.

"She'll learn."

"The sooner the better, for her sake," Julia said. "So, when do we get started? Will we be shooting on location?"

"We'll have to for some of the exterior shots," Maury said apologetically.

"That's fine." Then she added, almost to herself, "Some time away would be good for me."

"I'm glad you think so, because I was planning to send you on a little trip."

"A week at Aurora Borealis?" Wouldn't that be just like Maury, to pamper her at her favorite retreat in Ojai.

"Not exactly. This will be more of a working vacation." He was smiling, but he still looked tentative. "You need to learn some new skills for this part."

"I already know how to ride a horse."

"But you don't know how to quilt, unless you've been keeping secrets from me."

"You know I don't keep secrets from you." Then she paused. "Do I really need to know how to quilt?"

He nodded.

"Can't we use a stand-in?"

"You need to know how to quilt for this role. It's important, Julia."

He said it so gravely that at once she understood what he would not admit aloud: He had won the role for her by telling William Bernier she already knew how to quilt. "I see," she said briskly. "I'll just have to learn, then. I might even enjoy it. Are you planning to bring a quilt tutor to the set? Is there such a thing?"

"I had a better idea," Maury said. "I'm sending you to quilt camp."


*


Megan hadn't felt so frustrated and helpless since the afternoon Robby had come home from Cub Scouts with a black eye and a missing tooth. At first he wouldn't tell her what had happened, and when she phoned the scoutmaster, his only explanation was, "Some boys aren't cut out for the Cub Scouts. Why don't you try again next year, when he's thicker skinned?"

"This is the Cub Scouts, not the Marines," Megan had snapped.

"Tell that to your son. He threw the first punch."

Megan had been so flabbergasted by this obvious untruth that she could think of nothing to say, so she hung up. Her gentle, owlish son was among the smaller boys in his grade, and she simply could not picture him as an aggressor. He had few friends at school, but never before had he been beaten up by his classmates. More than anything she wanted Robby to be safe, healthy, and happy, but at that moment, she realized she couldn't protect him from everything. A bullying gang of seven-year-olds had bluntly defined the limits of her motherly powers.

As she tended Robby's wounds, the story came out, but only in defense against the scoutmaster's charges. Robby argued that maybe he had thrown the first punch, but the other boy had started it by teasing him. Robby had told some of the other scouts that his father never came to any scouting events because he was an astronaut working on top-secret research on the space station. When another boy loftily pointed out that Robby's explanation couldn't possibly be true since the space station was still being built, Robby told him that was just a cover story so other countries wouldn't know how far ahead of them the Americans were. "It's an international space station, you stupid liar," the other boy said, and in response, Robby slugged him.

Like all of Robby's stories, this one had a grain of truth in it, but only a grain. Although Keith was a corporate sales manager, Megan was an aerospace engineer, and one day the new technology she developed would be used aboard the space station. But although sometimes Megan wished her ex-husband had been shot into orbit, he and his new wife had made it only as far as Portland, Oregon.

That day Megan told Robby that hitting was wrong, and that if he became frustrated or angry, he should just walk away. Several times since, she had also explained -- after making certain her son did understand the difference between the reality and fiction -- how lies sometimes made people angry, because they didn't like to be deceived. "You don't need to exaggerate to get people's attention," she told him. "Just be yourself." Robby told her he had to tell stories because no one liked him just as himself. Megan patiently pointed to his bruises as evidence that they didn't seem to like him very much when he lied, either, and that in the future it might be better to err on the side of truth and caution. "If you like to make people laugh by telling a story, that's okay," she said, "as long as you tell them it is a story." Robby agreed, but it pained her to know that he thought no one would like him if he didn't put on an act. Maybe she was blinded by a mother's love, but couldn't everyone see what a sweet, sensitive, bright little boy he was? Couldn't the world appreciate him for that?

The Cub Scout incident had occurred two years ago, five years after Keith confessed to his affair and moved out. When she placed today's events in that context of misery, they seemed almost trivial. Why, then, was she so upset? This wasn't the first time she hadn't been invited to a party, although she never would have expected Zoe to exclude her. So few women engineers worked at their company that they all knew each other, and Megan had considered Zoe one of her closest friends at work. When she overheard Tina and Michelle discussing the Fourth-of-July barbecue at Zoe's house the previous Saturday, she first thought they were talking about a future event that she, too, would soon hear about from the hostess herself. But when Tina spotted her and both women abruptly stopped talking, Megan realized the truth.

Later, Zoe came to her office and tried, in her awkward way, to apologize. "There were only couples there," she explained. "I didn't think you'd have any fun, you know, being the only single person at a party full of couples."

Megan hid her disappointment behind a smile and assurances that she'd be delighted to join them next time, and if she needed an escort, she'd find one. Zoe looked relieved that she was taking it so well, never suspecting that after she left, Megan locked the door to her office and sat at her desk contemplating whether to burst into tears right there or climb out the window, flee for the sanctuary of home, and cry in private. She was a grown woman with a child, but she felt like she was back in high school. She regained her composure by reminding herself that she couldn't force people to include her, nor could she make them enjoy her company enough to excuse her involuntary single status. Nor could she resent Zoe when most of her other couple friends had also drifted away after Keith left. Maybe they feared divorce was contagious, or maybe they had always preferred Keith and tolerated her presence only because she was his wife. She would never know, because she wasn't the sort of person to confront others, even when they slighted her.

As she left work that afternoon, still unhappy, she decided that after Robby went to bed, she'd go online and vent her frustrations to her best friend, Donna. They had been E-mail pals for years, ever since they had met in an Internet quilting newsgroup. Whenever Megan needed to pour her heart out, Donna was there with patience and understanding, the same way Megan tried to be there for her. Often Megan wished that Donna lived nearby rather than in Minnesota, so that they could meet for lunch or go quilt-shop hopping like normal best friends. She wondered what that meant about her, that she was best friends with someone she had never actually met in person. Maybe Robby had inherited his social ineptitude from his mother.

As she pulled onto the long dirt driveway leading up to her parents' house, Megan checked the dashboard clock. She had arrived later than usual, but probably too early to say hello to her father, who at this hour would be closing up his hardware store in town. Her parents owned nearly ten acres sandwiched between two larger family farms, and although they still cultivated most of the property, the small farm had always been more of a hobby than a career. Megan treasured childhood memories of playing hide-and-seek with her father in the cornfield, the green stalks topped with golden silk towering above her head. Soon Robby would play there with his grandfather again.

She circled in front of the house and parked beside one of the outbuildings. Her father's two dogs bounded over to greet her as she climbed the stairs to the front porch. "Hey, Pete. Hey, Polly," she said, petting the golden retriever first and then the German shepherd. She heard laughter inside, and found Robby with his grandmother in the kitchen.

"Mom," Robby cried out. "Did you know when Grandma was little she had her own cow? It would come when she called it and everything, just like a dog." His grandmother caught Megan's eye and shook her head. Robby saw the exchange and quickly added, "It's just a story."

Megan's mother laughed affectionately and ruffled Robby's hair. "You're my little storyteller, all right." She hugged Megan in welcome, but then her smile faded. "What's wrong, honey?"

"Nothing. Just some stuff at work." It wasn't anything she wanted to discuss in front of Robby, and she wasn't even sure if she ought to confide in her mother. Her parents had raised her to be strong and independent, and she was ashamed to show them how meek and accepting she had become since Keith had left her. As hard as it had been for her staunchly Catholic parents to accept the breakup, it would be even more difficult for them to understand how deeply his betrayal still affected her.

But when they heard her father's truck pull up outside and Robby ran out to meet him, Megan found herself telling her mother what had happened. Her mother continued shelling peas, nodding thoughtfully as Megan perched on a stool and rested her elbows on the counter as she spoke. It was a scene that had played out many times in that kitchen since Megan was a child, first learning the painful truth that the whole world wouldn't cherish her the way her parents did.

"What did you do last Saturday?" her mother asked when she had finished.

"We took Robby to the county fair," Megan said. "You were there, Mom. Don't you remember?"

"Of course I remember, but I wasn't sure if you did. We had a great time, didn't we? Wasn't the weather perfect? Didn't Robby love the rides and the animals?"

Megan nodded, not sure where her mother her mother's reminiscence was taking them.

"Well, then, seems to me this Zoe character did you a favor." Her mother finished the last of the peas and dusted off her hands as if brushing off both the chore and Megan's co-worker. "If you had gone to the party, you would have missed the fair. And for what? A party with too many rules to be much fun, or at least that's how it sounds to me."

"It's not missing the party that bothers me," Megan said. "It's being excluded."

Her mother's face softened. "I know, dear." She cupped Megan's chin in her hand for a moment, then patted her cheek. "My quilt guild is meeting at Dorothy Pearson's house tonight. Why don't you join me? Your father can watch Robby."

Megan squirmed. Her mother's invitation sounded too much like her father's offer to escort her to the homecoming dance sophomore year of high school, when none of the boys had been willing to ask her and she had been too shy to ask any of them. Her mother's friends were sweet women, but they had known Megan since she was in diapers and had never stopped thinking of her as a little girl. "Thanks, Mom, but I have some papers to read before bed tonight. I have a grant proposal due next week."

"At least stay for dinner."

Megan tried to picture the contents of her pantry, wondering if she had enough energy for something as simple as pasta from a box and sauce from a jar. Then she thought of her mother's homemade bread and baked chicken, and vegetables fresh from her parents' garden. "We'd love to."

When Megan and Robby returned home early in the evening, Megan knew before she leafed through the mail that Keith's child support check would not be there. The day had gone too badly to end on such a high note.

That's why she assumed the envelope from Contemporary Quilting magazine was a subscription renewal notice and didn't bother opening it until two days later, when she paid her other bills. She would have opened it immediately if she had known that the renewal notice was in fact a letter informing her that her watercolor charm quilt had taken first prize in the magazine's annual contest, and that she had won a week's vacation at the famous quilting retreat, Elm Creek Manor.


*


"Way to go, Megan," Donna shouted as she finished reading the E-mail note. It was about time her best quilting buddy had some good luck come her way. They'd been friends for years, ever since they met on an Internet quilting newsgroup when Megan posted a frantic request for a certain piece of fabric. Everyone at her son's school had gone crazy over a Saturday morning cartoon called Baby Dinosaurs, and Megan's son was infatuated with a character named Little Trice, a pastel triceratops who somehow managed to look adorable clad in a bib and diaper. Megan had secretly begun working on a Little Trice quilt for Robby's birthday, but she had found only one yard of Baby Dinosaurs print fabric at her local quilt shop. She thought it would be enough, but she ran out when the quilt top was only half finished, and when she checked at the store, they told her the print had been discontinued. "All I need is a half yard more," Megan wrote to the other quilters in the newsgroup. "I'll swap anything for it, just name your price. Can anyone help me?"

Donna sympathized, for despite her compulsive fabric-shopping habit, she had often found herself in similar situations. She phoned all the quilt shops in her area code and finally found one that had two yards left on a remnant bolt. She drove an hour to St. Paul to buy it, then E-mailed Megan with the good news. A week after Donna mailed her the material, Megan sent her a box of beautiful Civil War-era reproduction fabric and a heartfelt thank-you note. Donna immediately sent her an E-mail message to tell her how pleased she was with the surprise, and Megan wrote back to let her know how the Little Trice quilt was progressing. Their correspondence continued over the Internet and through the mail, and before long, they had become confidantes. Donna knew everything about Megan's divorce and troubles at work, and Megan knew everything about Donna's eternal struggle with her weight and her two daughters' nerve-wracking journey through the teen years. Although they had never actually met in person, they were so close that Donna was as happy for Megan as if she had won the Contemporary Quilting contest herself.

After replying with a note of congratulations, Donna shut down the computer and returned to her sewing machine. The fourth bedroom had been the girls' playroom, but when they reached the age when they preferred to shut themselves away in their separate bedrooms, Donna had adopted it as her quilt studio. Even with the door open so she could monitor all the comings and goings in the house, she still had a sense of peaceful solitude, the perfect antidote to a hectic day.

"Mom?" Lindsay appeared in the doorway, slender and lovely in her denim shorts and pink top, her long blond hair pulled back into a ponytail. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"

Donna put down her quilt block and swiveled her chair around to face her eldest daughter. "Sure, honey. What is it?"

Lindsay crossed the room and took her hands. "Not here. Downstairs." Lindsay led her out of the room. "Dad's already waiting, and Becca's about to go to work. I want to tell you all at the same time."

Laughing, Donna allowed herself to be guided downstairs to the family room. Paul was sitting on the sofa Becca sat on the floor beside him, glancing at her watch and looking bored. Exchanging a quick glance of puzzlement with her husband, Donna seated herself on the opposite end of the sofa so that Becca was between them.

Only then did she notice that Lindsay was wringing her hands and compulsively shifting her weight from foot to foot. "Lindsay?" Donna said, suddenly anxious. "What is it, honey?"

"I have an announcement to make." Lindsay took a deep breath. "Brandon and I are getting married."

Donna couldn't breathe. She groped for Paul's hand and squeezed it.

Lindsay looked around at her silent family. "Well? Say something."

"You're out of your mind," Becca said flatly.

Lindsay frowned at her, then looked at her parents, hopeful. "Mom? Dad?"

Breathe, Donna ordered herself, then gasped, "I don't know what to say."

Lindsay smiled nervously. "'Congratulations' would be nice."

"Congratulations," Donna and Paul said in unison, in a monotone. Becca merely groaned and let her head fall back against the sofa.

"But

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Female friendship Fiction, Quiltmakers Fiction, Quilting Fiction, Compson, Sylvia (Fictitious character) Fiction