It wasn’t long after Taran left that the clouds that had been threatening opened up and dropped waves of water on the town. Zoe hoped her father had the sense to stay in the coffee shop where it was warm and dry, and where he could discuss the weather with his friends. For her part, she’d finished her iced coffee and was sitting in the front room watching the rain pour out on the street, which now looked like a shallow river.
Even the wind had picked up, whistling ghostly tunes under the eaves of the house, something that had once scared Zoe but now made her feel at home because no other house had exactly the same tune. She was comfortably warm but the bad weather made her consider making another cup of coffee, this one hot, and enjoying it inside, pretending that it wasn’t nearly eighty degrees outside.
Zoe stood up, walking into the kitchen. The chair where Taran had sat still had the faintest indentation of his butt, which, Zoe had to admit, was very fine. She wasn’t going to say that out loud, certainly not to anyone in Corbin Meadow, although if she caught up with her friend LeAnne, who lived in Portland, she might make a comment. Both women worked in the hospital lab reading blood work, working with the blood bank, hiding away from the world while they did their magic to help doctors pinpoint the reasons their patients weren’t doing well.
Zoe picked up her phone, taking it over to her favorite spot in the small family room area, just an alcove, really, off the kitchen, something built long before people wanted such spaces to be huge so they could call them great rooms. It might not be fashionable but this was home. This was comfortable. It wasn’t a good time to call LeAnne, who would certainly be at work, but there were other people who could answer the questions Taran’s visit had gotten Zoe noodling over.
“Hey, Stacy,” Zoe said when the phone was answered. It had taken her but a moment to find the number using the computer search on her phone. Zoe was far too good at using the internet to find what she wanted, particularly when she was on a mission. LeAnne often said that Zoe was like the computer nerds on the crime drama shows who could find anything by typing in a bunch of garbage on their keyboards. Instantly they’d find the answer for the detective, leading them to solve the case within the hour. It was a ridiculous claim, but Zoe appreciated it all the same. She didn’t know how to program or hack, but she did understand the upper level workings of social media and search engines.
“How can I help you?” Stacy asked, her voice formal, slightly curt but not unfriendly. Stacy’s family was from Virginia, leaving her with a lower, softer, old-style Plantation southern accent rather than the Appalachian drawl that was more common in Corbin Meadow. Her husband had come in with Jack Lyle. Stacy had joined him, not as his wife, but in the last six months they’d married. Zoe had learned all of that from Donna when she’d asked what was new in town shortly after she’d arrived.
Now, Stacy worked in the mayor’s office, his third secretary since Bethany Shields had been murdered. Zoe had no idea if the Mayor just wasn’t good at hiring people who would stay or if he was particularly difficult to work for. Bethany had been there forever and had had no problems with him, but perhaps she was unique.
“This is Zoe Mason-Hyer Parker,” Zoe said, thinking again how glad she’d be when the divorce was final and she could drop the Parker. In Portland she was just plain old Zoe Parker. Here, Zoe Parker meant nothing. It was the Mason-Hyer name that got people’s attention and reminded them that she was one of them. In school she’d often thought of dropping the Mason and just being plain old Zoe Hyer, but now that her mom was gone, she didn’t want to lose that connection to her maternal family.
“Zoe!” Stacy said, loudly and lovingly as if they were old friends, when in fact they’d met once at the grocery, introduced by Selma Wiggins who worked the cash register up front. The Wiggins lived not far from Zoe’s parents, and Selma had worked at the grocery forever. Her husband had driven the trucks that hauled the furniture made by the companies that had kept Corbin Meadow in business decades ago. Now he was retired, but he always said driving truck for the local companies was the best route he’d ever had.
“I was just thinking that if I’m going to be in town for any amount of time, I needed to get involved. I’m wondering who sits on the council now and when the next council meeting is?” Zoe said.
Stacy rattled off a list of names, most of which Zoe knew, at least vaguely. They were all people in her parent’s generation except for one, Andrew Carter.
“I think the next council meeting is on Thursday this week. It’s usually Tuesday night but with the storm coming in yesterday, it got moved to tomorrow,” Stacy said. “It was on the website. Do you have the URL?”
Zoe said she did. She’d looked it up but the date had seemed wrong. Now she knew why. Her momma’s night out had always been Tuesday when she was on the council.
“Is there something you were hoping to get on the schedule?” Stacy asked.
“I was just wondering what the status of Elaine’s proposal to bring in more tourism was,” Zoe said.
Stacy was quiet for a moment, but Zoe heard the sounds of papers flipping and then a few clacks on the keyboard. “Okay, here it is. She was supposed to talk about a proposal to re-face the Main Street businesses, charging the landlords half and the town putting in half—no way that was happening—and then also looking at having a summer festival wrapped around handcrafted furniture and woodworking. She was thinking of calling it Timber Fest or something like that.”
“Sounds interesting,” Zoe said. “Can I get notes on that before tomorrow? Can you email them to me?”
“I don’t see why not,” Stacy said cheerfully. “What’s your email?”
Zoe rattled it off, thinking. She had a feeling, an uneasy one. It wasn’t a black feeling like she had when Elaine had died, but there was something wrong.
“I like the idea of Timber Fest,” Zoe said. “It picks up on the town’s history and can draw in new people. Plus it can educate them about handcrafted furniture.”
“You sound just like Elaine!” Stacy laughed and then stopped abruptly as if she only just remembered what had happened. “I’ll miss her.”
“Elaine was a good person,” Zoe said. “I bet she’d have accomplished a lot for the town. Think of the revenue something like the Timber Fest would have brought. I bet done right, in a year there’d be enough to pay for most of Main to get their fronts redone the way she was thinking about.”
“Maybe,” Stacy sounded hesitant.
They said their goodbyes, and Zoe sat and stared. She had a lot of ideas. Maybe getting the town on the map with tourism first was the way to go. Then she could continue her momma’s work on bringing more industry to the town so that it wasn’t dying. Not that Corbin Meadow felt like it was dying but it was sort of in stasis, as if nothing had changed since long before she was born. It was time for the town to come into the twenty-first century.
The house dimmed slightly, clouds passing over the sun, though the rain wasn’t coming down quite as hard. Zoe looked at her phone to read the pages Stacy had sent her but she wasn’t quite able to get a decent connection.
Zoe pushed herself off the sofa, frustrated. She walked out to the front room to see if the connection was better there, but she still wasn’t able to get anything. Looking up, out at the rain, the sky not quite as dark as it was an hour ago when she’d kicked Taran out despite his hints at waiting until the storm passed, she caught a glimpse of a shadow turning the corner near her garage.
Zoe went to the back of the house to see who was coming around into back yard. Once back in the family room, she stood by the sliding door, looking out at the chair she had left angled towards the yard earlier this morning, but there was no one there. Zoe waited for some time expecting to see someone, perhaps a crazy meter reader or something, but no one showed up. Not even a dog running loose.
Zoe rubbed her arms against the sudden chill she felt, not from the air which was far too hot for the season, but because of the sudden sense that she’d started something she should never have begun.
Still, she was the daughter of two of the most notoriously stubborn people in all of Corbin Meadow. She’d see this through now that she’d decided to get involved, forgetting for a moment that until she’d made that call to Stacy she hadn’t really decided if she’d stay there for a few days while she worked out her situation with Tyler or if she’d move closer to home. She’d not really thought about actually staying in Corbin Meadow, had really just been considering moving to Raleigh or perhaps Charlotte, but now that she had a plan, she wasn’t going anywhere. She was lucky, she knew. As a lab tech she could probably find a job pretty much anywhere, just so long as there was a hospital. Hickory wasn’t a horrible commute.
Zoe could imagine the discussion she would have with LeAnne over the move. Going from a city like Portland, which she had loved, to a small town like Corbin Meadow, which she couldn’t wait to escape. There was no way her friend wasn’t going to laugh at her and tell her she was nuts. At least LeAnne would understand about wanting to make a difference in the town and she’d understand that there was a greater possibility of doing that someplace small, like Corbin Meadow, than there was in a bigger place.
Despite the slightly nagging feeling that she’d set something dark in motion, Zoe felt good about her decision. She couldn’t wait until later that night when she’d be able to call her friend and discuss it.
Chapter 12 will be coming next Friday. Don’t want to wait? Find the book here.