He stood and walked over to the counter and brought her back a steaming mug. “It’s on the house.”

“Thanks.” She wrinkled her nose at him. “Why? Do you work here?”

“Yeah. If you ever want a frappachino or anything, let me know.”

Shaw didn’t look like the barista type. “How long have you worked here?” she asked. The coffee he’d brought her was black, like his, but she decided not to add sugar or cream.

“Since it opened. My aunt and uncle own the place. I manage it for them.”


Shaw pulled a sketchbook out of his backpack, which rested on the floor next to the window. “My work’s pretty amateurish compared with yours.”

Tanni hated it when people said that. They demeaned their own efforts because she was supposedly so talented.

Tanni sipped her coffee as she started flipping through the pages of his sketchbook. The first bitter taste warmed her instantly. She studied each page. Shaw had talent, although the first few sketches, done in charcoal, were dark and weird. Buildings that had collapsed, blighted landscapes, a battlefield.

Suddenly Tanni turned a page and came across a field of blooming yellow tulips against the backdrop of a blue spring sky. The piece was done in pastels, so she was careful not to smudge it. She was surprised by the abrupt change in subject matter.

“I was up in the Skagit Valley,” he said.

Tanni felt his scrutiny. He seemed to be waiting for her to comment.

“Well?” he pressed. “What do you think?”

“What do you think?” she asked him.


“It’s your work. Do you like it or not?”

He didn’t seem to know what to say.

“This,” she said, shoving the sketchbook across the table. “The one you did after seeing the Skagit Valley. What did you feel while you were working on it?”

“Peace,” he said after a moment.

“This?” She flipped the page back to the previous one, done in charcoal, a picture of the cratered devastation after an earthquake.

Shaw raised his shoulders. “I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do.” She wasn’t going to let him sidestep the question. “You wouldn’t have drawn it if you weren’t feeling something.”

“Anger, all right?” he said with barely controlled emotion. “My mother told me she didn’t want me drawing those kinds of pictures in the house. That made me mad. I hate being censored, as if I’m only allowed to have the thoughts and emotions she thinks are okay.”

“I feel it,” she murmured, studying the picture again.

“You feel what?”

She raised her head, meeting his gaze. “Your anger.”

He frowned.

“That’s the true sign of an artist. If I can feel what you did while you were creating this sketch, then it’s good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’ve got to believe in yourself, Shaw. No one else will if you don’t.” It was as simple to Tanni as that. She and her father had often discussed art, even though he wasn’t the artist; her mother was. He’d told her that craft and technique were important but they were a means to an end, which was the expression of emotion. It could be a reaction to something outside the artist, but it had to express what the artist felt about the scene or person or situation.

“Did you feel the peace?” he asked eagerly, turning the page back to the yellow tulips.

She stared at the tulip picture a long time and then answered truthfully. “Not really.”

It obviously wasn’t the response he’d expected. For a few seconds, it looked as if he was going to grab the sketchbook and shove it in his backpack. A moment later, he asked, “Why not?”

“You didn’t have any real feelings when you painted that.”

“I did so!”

“No, you were too concerned about color and shadowing to recognize your feelings about what you were seeing.”

His eyes narrowed. “I didn’t know I’d have to get all touchy-feely to be an artist.”

“Art is feelings,” Tanni said. “That’s what it is to me, at any rate.” Her sketches in the past year were the outpouring of her emotions after losing her dad. Her classroom scribblings were about her thoughts and feelings. Wasn’t that the point? As her dad had said, any great piece of art made you feel. It used to annoy her when he used her mother’s quilts and fabric collages as an example, but okay. She knew what he meant.

Shortly after her father’s funeral, her mother had escaped into her workroom and hadn’t come out for days. Tanni knew her mother must have slept some and eaten, too, but she never saw her do either. When Shirley finally emerged, she’d constructed a huge fabric fire-breathing dragon that Tanni had to admit was an incredible piece of art. No one needed to explain to her that the dragon was death. After her creative frenzy, her mother was better—more herself, less frantic. The dragon still hung in her workroom. Few people saw it and Tanni suspected the new owner of the Harbor Street Gallery would love to have it on display if her mother would agree. She wouldn’t—at least, not yet.

“The emotion is what makes your art so good then,” Shaw commented.

“I guess.”

“Do you ever draw people?”


“It’s hard, you know.”

She did. “Is that what you want to draw?”

Shaw leaned back in his chair. “I think so.”

That sounded bogus to her. “You think so? You mean, you’re not sure?”

“Okay, yes. I want to draw people.” He made it seem like a big confession.

“You didn’t show me any of those pictures.”

“No, I—”

“Why not?” Although she asked the question, she already knew. Shaw was afraid her criticism would rob him of the joy he derived from his portrait work.

“Show me one,” she said.

He straightened. “I didn’t bring any.”

“Yes, you did, otherwise you wouldn’t have mentioned it.”

He blinked as if he couldn’t believe she’d read him so easily.

“Let me see.” Tanni wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Shaw stared down at the table. “It’s no good. I did it fast and—”

“I don’t care. I want to see it. Besides, you asked me to look at your art. That’s why I’m here, remember?”

His hand hovered protectively over his backpack.

“Did you feel anything while the pencil was in your hand?”

A hint of what could’ve been a smile flickered in his eyes. “Yeah, I felt something.”

“That’s great.” She waited and when he continued to sit there in silence, she said, “So, are you going to show it to me or not?” She was getting impatient. Either he showed her his real work or she was out of there.

Slowly, reluctantly, Shaw reached inside his bag and withdrew a second sketchbook. He hesitated before he slid it across the table.

Tanni opened it. When her eyes fell on the picture, her breath froze in her lungs.

“It’s me.”

“Yeah…I know.” He spoke in a low, halting voice.

“Tonight, while I was at the bonfire.”


In a few quick lines Shaw had captured her defiance and isolation, her anger and pain. Her long straight hair was flung about her face by the wind, half-covering her mouth and her chin. Her posture revealed a combativeness, a sense of lonely struggle. In those simple, economical lines Shaw had revealed her. He’d drawn the essence of her, Tanni Bliss, as she was right now.

Her throat thickened with tears.

“It’s bad, isn’t it?”

She couldn’t answer him.

“I told you it was no good.”

“Wrong,” she whispered, despite the lump in her throat. “It’s some of the best portrait work I’ve seen.”

Shaw stared at her intently. “You aren’t just saying that, are you?”

She shook her head, regaining her composure. “Nothing I ever did was this good. Besides, I’d never tell you something was good if it wasn’t.”

She could see that pleased him. “Maybe we could get together again,” he suggested.

Tanni nodded. “I’d like that.”


“Anytime,” she said softly.

“Tomorrow? Oh, forget that, it’s Thanksgiving and you’re probably tied up with family and stuff.”

“What time?” She didn’t care what day it was; she wanted to be with Shaw.

“You can get away?”

She nodded again.


“I’ll meet you here at five,” she promised.

Shaw stretched his hand across the table and clasped hers. He held on tightly, intertwining her fingers with his own. Perhaps, Tanni thought, she’d found a friend, after all.


Early Thanksgiving morning, Emily Flemming tiptoed into the kitchen, moving as quietly as possible. She didn’t want to disturb her sleeping husband or the boys. As was their tradition, her parents had driven over from Spokane to spend the holiday with her family. She could hear her father snoring in the back bedroom, the sound comforting as she made a pot of coffee.

Soon the house would be bustling with activity. Dave and her father would be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television, while the boys raced around the house and Emily and her mother worked in the kitchen, preparing the twenty-two-pound turkey for the oven. Most likely these few moments of peace were all she’d get. If she was going to pull off today’s dinner without her mother suspecting anything was awry, then Emily would need this time.

She’d always been close to her mother, and it wouldn’t be easy to fool Barbara Lewis. Emily sat at the kitchen table, taking deep calming breaths, trying to control her emotions. Her unopened Bible rested in front of her. She’d begun reading it every morning, seeking and finding solace in Psalms.

The coffeepot gave one last sizzling refrain. She got up and had just reached inside the cupboard for a mug when her mother strolled into the kitchen.

Barbara tied her long housecoat at the waist and covered a yawn. “I thought I heard you up and about. My goodness, what time is it, anyway?”

“It’s early, Mom.”

Barbara frowned at the oven clock. “It isn’t even five!”

“I know.” As it was, Emily had awakened before three, tossing and turning before giving up any hope of going back to sleep.

Her mother sat down. “The coffee smells great. Is it ready?”

“It is.” Emily poured a second mug, added cream to both, and brought them to the table, joining her mother.

After a few sips, Barbara looked directly at Emily, who tried to meet her eyes but couldn’t.

“Something on your mind, Em?” her mother said, eyebrows raised.

Hoping to distract Barbara, she murmured, “I was reviewing our menu. I was thinking we should make a double batch of stuffing this year. Everyone loves leftovers.”