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I WAITED UNTIL EVERYONE WAS EATING AND then dashed back to my room for a shower. While helping serve breakfast, Id come up with a solution that would pacify Miss Lavender Pants and her crew. The hot shower felt good until I stepped out into the cold room. So cold that steam rose off my hot body. Great! Just what I needed! Fog inside, too. I threw on fresh clothes and got back to the dining hall just as everyone was having their second cup of coffee.

I stood between the tables to make my announcement. Even though most of the retreaters arent here, were going to have some workshop sessions after lunch. At the word lunch Commander Blaine popped out of his seat.

Dont worry about lunch, he said. Im setting up a do-it-yourself sandwich bar. I waited until he sat down to continue.

Dinah Lyons will be putting on a writing workshop, followed by a crochet class with Izabelle Landers. Since there are so few retreaters, Im hoping all of you will support Dinah and Izabelle and come to both sessions.

I was relieved when I got a round of affirmative nods. However, Bennett said not to count on his wife participating. As the meal broke up, Miss Lavender Pants went over to Commander Blaine to shower him with praise about breakfast and his plan for lunch. I had to laugh at Dinah. She kept trying to ignore Commander, but when Miss Lavender Pants explained that Edward, the lawyer, was her brother and made the point that she was unattached, the spark in Dinahs eyes gave her away. She was interested, even if she wouldnt admit it.

I headed over to the administration building to check on the fog news. The redheaded desk clerk had his head down on the counter. When I woke him, he said nothing had changed.

Commander Blaine came in behind me, carrying a large box. He put it down on the long table set up for our campers registration.

Mind if I put these underneath? he asked, pulling the boxes of folders to the edge of the table.

It looks like no one is going to be coming until this fog lifts, so why not? I said, wondering what he was doing. He had my boxes out of the way in a flash and flipped the lid off the box hed brought. It took me a moment to figure out what was in it, and then I recognized rows of gift-size shopping bags. What are those for? I asked as he began to put them in rows on the table.

He took the rhinestone clipboard off the table where Id put it and flipped to the schedule. Its the first activity I have planned. After the afternoon workshops, theres a smores break.

Right, I said, remembering his smore discussion earlier. But are you sure you want to do that with so few people here?

Yes. I think its even more important to do something special. He took out a pile of long wire forks and stuck them in a metal container, then picked up one of the treat bags to show me its contents. There was a packet of marshmallows, four graham crackers, and four pieces of chocolate. This is your basic everyday variety, but I have also made up gourmet versions. He showed me the stickers on the fronts of the bags. He was a little over the top, insisting on listing the different fillings. Did I really need to know there was a choice of dark chocolate, white chocolate, plain milk chocolate, milk chocolate with peanut butter, chocolate with almonds, and chocolate with coconut?

I thought I would put the things out now, so I could go to the workshops like you asked. Commander Blaine didnt say it, but by the way his eyes brightened, I imagined he was thinking about Dinahs workshop in particular. I helped him set up the rest of the bags. There were far more bags than people, but he wanted to make sure everyone could have their choice. By the time we finished, it was noon. Commander rushed ahead to make the final arrangements for lunch while I looked for Dinah.

All I can say is your fussy friend is a gem, I said as Dinah and I walked into the dining hall.

Hes not my friend, Dinah protested, though he deserves points for breakfast and lunch.

The lights were on in the dining hall and something smelled good. Commander came out from the kitchen and said hed set up the sandwich bar and hot soup.

Everyone seemed satisfied with lunch. Mason had brought me some tomato soup and a Swiss cheese sandwich, but I was too keyed up about the afternoon to eat.

I was glad Id picked Dinahs workshop to kick off with. Her years of teaching English to reluctant freshmen had made her a master at handling any kind of group. This crowd would be a snap. Right after lunch, I led the group to a small building that housed meeting rooms. A long table was at the front along with several rows of school chairs with table arms. From inside, the trees just a few feet away melted into the thick white. The bonus was that all the white reflected back into the room, making it seem brighter.

Dinah set down her supplies while everyone but Commander found a seat. He hung around the front, offering to help. She gave him a stack of small notebooks and pens to hand out. Dinah leaned against the front of the table and began to talk memoir writing.

I had never seen my friend in action, so I took a seat at the back of the room.

Anything can get you started, Dinah began. Im going to give you what may seem like a silly assignment, but when we read what youve written, youll see how your take on it is unique and shows who you are. She paused to build up the suspense. I want you to write about orange soda for ten minutes. I heard a collective huh, and for a moment I wondered if she knew what she was doing. She seemed to expect the panicky stares, and told them just to put their pens on the paper and write anything that came to mind. She set a timer, and surprisingly, after a few moments everyone began to write. When the bell went off, Dinah told them to stop.

Okay, lets see what you wrote. Anyone want to start? Miss Lavender Pantss attorney brother raised his hand first. His piece had something to do with a client who claimed to have found a dead roach in a bottle of the bright soda.

My client took the settlement they offered before we went to court. I know I would have won if she had just agreed to let me go to trial. Like everything else, I just didnt get my fair chance.

There was a smattering of applause as he sat down. Now I got what Dinah had said. Edward had certainly tipped his hand that he felt like a victim.

Izabelle volunteered next. Edward had just read his piece-she presented hers.

Orange soda, she said, making eye contact with members of the group. Personally, I dont like it. I think it looks like paint and tastes like carbonated candy. Izabelle must have had very good recall of what she wrote as she glanced only occasionally at her paper as she spoke. No wonder she volunteered. She had said something about wanting as much opportunity as possible to be in front of a group before she went out on the road with her mystery craft presentations.

I was going to say I never drink it, but then I remembered there was one time. My sister and I went to Tina Geysers birthday party. It was in her backyard, and so hot I could feel the sweat drip down my sides. Some of the kids turned on the sprinklers and started running through the spray. Mrs. Geyser came out and yelled at them. I always thought she looked like the evil queen in Snow White. She said unless we all sat down at the picnic table, we would have to go home without having cake.

Izabelle made sure she still had everyones attention. Nobody could accuse her of having writers block.

Tinas mother brought out plastic glasses of soda on a hammered aluminum tray. There were two glasses of orange soda, and the rest were lemon-lime. My sister got all upset when Mrs. Geyser started at the other end of the table and Billy Palmer took one of the glasses of orange soda.

I have dibs on the other, she called out, but Mrs. Geyser said there would be no dibs, and she would have to wait her turn like everybody else. Each time somebody reached for a glass, my sister moaned because she thought they were going to take the orange. But nobody did. Mrs. Geyser got to me, and my sister started to relax. I pretended to reach for a glass of lemon-lime, but at the last second, I took the orange instead. I drank the whole glass while my sister cried. I guess she didnt get it was a joke.

And neither did the rest of us. There was a moment of dead air, and then a hesitant trickle of applause as Dinah stepped in and commented on Izabelles good use of storytelling. That was how Dinah won over all those unruly freshmen. She knew how to find the positive.

Dinah glanced at her watch and said there was time for one more person to read. Adele was out of her chair before Dinah finished the sentence. Adeles piece detailed how she had played orange soda in a modern dance recital and described being dressed in yards and yards of orange gauze.

While Dinah gave them the next writing assignment, I left to get some soft drinks ready for the break. I hoped that after all the attention orange soda had just gotten, nobody asked for any, since all we had was cola and lemon-lime. I came back at the end of the allotted time and announced that the next workshop would begin in twenty minutes.

Bennett stopped on his way to the door. Sorry, heres where I draw the line about being a good sport. Im probably doing you a favor. My attempt at crocheting would give you nightmares. Commander excused himself as well, saying he had to make sure the fire pit was ready for the next activity. I thought Miss Lavender Pantss brother and Mason might make some excuses, too, but they both surprised me by saying theyd be back. Izabelle pointed to a large plastic box under the table and asked if I would set up her supplies before she rushed out.

Sheila stopped at the front and offered to help me. Dinah pulled out the box and put it on the table. Adele joined us and assisted in laying out hooks and balls of yarn, along with some samples and several copies of A Subtle Touch of Crochet with notes attached saying they were for sale.

I put a pile of printed directions with the other things. Much as I would have liked to participate in the crochet workshop, I felt obligated to act as an observer. Just looking at the hooks on the table made my hands long to crochet. Later, when I was alone, Id have some time. With everything set up, Dinah, Sheila, and I took seats in the back. Adele stayed in the front, patrolling the teacher zone. As usual she was a walking advertisement for her craft. Over her black turtleneck and black leggings, she wore a long vest made out of classic granny squares done in ruby red, creamy white, and black edging. I always said Adele and I had our differences, but I would never dispute her crochet ability. If only she hadnt worn the hat, she would have looked fine. It was newsboy style, and even if it was masterfully crocheted, the way she had it pulled low on her forehead just looked silly.

Miss Lavender Pants, Edward, and his wife, along with the knitting couple, came back in and took their seats. When Mason arrived, I realized that was everybody-everybody but Izabelle.

As soon as Izabelle returns, well begin, people, Adele said. She had put on her authority voice and was beginning to strut across the front. The door opened, and Izabelle came in, carrying a shopping bag. Shed added a few touches to her outfit, all crocheted. I saw her do a double take at Adeles position. She made a face and stepped in front of her, putting some sample scarves and baby blankets on the table. I just want you to get an idea of some of the possibilities.

Izabelle turned back toward the group and took off her black wool jacket. As she stepped closer to the class, I saw Adele look up. Her gaze stopped on Izabelles neck, and her mouth opened into a troubled expression. Whats that? she said, pointing at Izabelles neck.

This? the crochet presenter said, touching the fuzzy white puffs. Its just something I made with this stitch I came up with. Ill be demonstrating it in a later session. I call it Izabelles Cloud.

But thats my work, Adele said, stepping close to her. I invented that stitch. You just figured out my stitch and then added on to the piece I started.

Before Izabelle could respond, Adele looked frantically from me to Sheila to Dinah. You saw it. Remember I called it the marshmallow stitch? And then my work disappeared. Adeles gaze stuck on me. You said somebody in our group probably picked it up by mistake.

Neither Sheila nor Dinah had much recollection; I, however, did remember Adele saying something about her work disappearing.

Izabelle looked at Adele with a condescending smile. Im sure youre mistaken. I came up with this stitch eons ago. She lifted her shoulder-length hair to show the choker that consisted of four white, fuzzy puffs with spaces in between. It appeared to tie at the back.

Adele was not to be dissuaded. I know thats my work. It disappeared the other day when you came by the Hookers meeting. I can prove it, too. I spilled a little pink pearl nail polish on the back of it. She reached toward Izabelle. Take it off and let me have a look.

Izabelle was no longer smiling. She glared at Adele. Dont be ridiculous. I dont have to prove anything. She picked up one of the hooks and shoved it toward Adele. If this is your work, lets see you do a sample of your marshmallow stitch.

I cant repeat it. I was just experimenting when I made the stitch. I was going to undo my stitches and write down what Id done, but my work disappeared first. Adeles voice cracked. She must have realized she was losing ground.

Izabelle glanced toward the crowd. Sometimes people want to be crochet designers so badly, they imagine theyve come up with something fresh. She pulled out a printed sheet and said it was really an advanced stitch, but she had directions in case anyone was interested.

Her words were like lighter fluid on a campfire. Adele lost it and went to grab Izabelle. I stepped in to block Adele before she made contact, and put my arm around her. I started to usher her toward the door while whispering that she was making a scene.

Pink, I am not making a scene, she said. She is. She pointed at Izabelle. Just before I got Adele out the door, she stomped her foot and turned back one last time.

Dont think this is over. Youre not going to get away with this.

CHAPTER 6 | A Stitch In Crime | CHAPTER 8