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She’d made a genuine effort to socialize, with the hope of marrying again. The closest she came was when Aurora turned fifteen, but Elise discovered that Jules, a symphony musician she’d been dating, had a wife and two daughters living in San Francisco. Devastated, she’d avoided relationships ever since. There was something to be said for a simple life.

Looking perturbed, Elise’s daughter rounded the hallway corner. “John, I told you to leave your grandmother alone,” Aurora chastised. She reached for his arm and dragged him away from Elise’s door. “I’m sorry, Mom. I told the boys to let you sleep in this morning,” she added, casting Elise an apologetic glance.

“It’s all right, I was awake.” Living with her daughter, a stay-at-home mom, and her family might not have been part of Elise’s retirement plans, but for the moment this arrangement suited them both. Her furniture was in storage and her life on hold, but she had a roof over her head.

While Elise waited for the lawsuit to get settled, she paid Aurora and David rent. The amount was small at their insistence, but it was still a boon to the tight family budget. Elise also helped her daughter with the children. David, Elise’s son-in-law, was a computer specialist who set up software systems for companies across North America and was often away for a week or two at a time. Elise and Aurora, always close, were company for each other, and Elise appreciated her daughter’s encouragement and support.

“Can you take us to the park this afternoon?” John pleaded.

“Perhaps,” Elise said, hating to refuse him anything. “I have a few errands to run this morning and I don’t know how long they’ll take.”

“Can I come?” John was such a dear boy, anxious to go and see and do. He’d raced into the world a full month early and had yet to stop.

“No, sweetie, you’ve got kindergarten this morning.”

His face fell instantly but he accepted her refusal with a good-natured shrug and quickly disappeared down the hallway to join his older brother.

“I thought I’d go down Blossom Street and check out that yarn store,” Elise informed her daughter.

She could tell Aurora was pleased about her renewed interest in knitting. After a recent visit to her attorney’s office, Elise had walked down the renovated street and noticed the yarn store, which she’d mentioned to Aurora.

Elise was pleasantly surprised by the changes on Blossom Street. For years the area had been an eyesore, with its seedy-looking establishments. The renovations weren’t what she’d expected. Instead of tearing down the older buildings, the architect had refurbished what was already there and renewed a deteriorating neighborhood. The shops were appealing with awnings and flowers and sidewalk displays. The impression she’d been left with was of a warmly traditional neighborhood, a lovely little world unto itself. It was hard to believe that just a few blocks over, high-rises stretched toward the sky. Just down the hill were the huge financial enterprises, insurance complexes and other major businesses that made up downtown Seattle.

While looking in the window of A Good Yarn, Elise had noticed a sign that advertised knitting classes. She might not be able to enjoy her retirement the way she’d hoped, but she wasn’t going to become a recluse afraid to spend a dime, either. Besides, knitting might keep her mind off her financial difficulties.

After a cup of tea in her room, Elise dressed for the day. She’d maintained her slim figure and chose a peach-colored pantsuit that was both stylish and comfortable. Although it was early June and sunny, the weather remained cool and she would need the matching jacket once she got outside. She pinned a small pink cameo over the top closure of her white blouse. It was the nicest piece of jewelry she owned. Maverick had given it to her before they were even married and she loved it and wore it often.

To his credit, Maverick had stayed in touch with their daughter, although not as regularly as Elise felt he should. For her own part, she wanted nothing to do with him, but she didn’t begrudge Aurora the opportunity to know her father; she never had. She considered their relationship entirely separate from her. She paused, frowning. Twice that morning she’d thought about Maverick. It wasn’t as though she ever really forgot him—how could she with her grandson so physically similar—but she rarely indulged her memories of him. She didn’t want to think about him or remember the days and nights of love.

After running a brush through her shoulder-length brown hair, she tied it back at the nape of her neck. Untouched by gray, it was her one vanity. Her hand froze as yet another memory wrapped itself around her heart. Maverick had loved her hair down. She’d worn it in a tidy bun at the library but at the end of the day, the first thing he did was reach for the pins to loosen her thick tresses. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel,” he’d whisper and she’d smile…. Irritated, she tightened her lips and cast the thought from her mind.

Aurora was pouring milk into bowls of cereal when Elise walked into the kitchen.

“You look nice, Mom,” she commented.

Compliments embarrassed Elise and she dismissed her daughter’s words with a shake of her head.

“Have a good day at school,” Elise told the boys as she opened the front door.

They watched her leave, their faces glum, as if she’d abandoned them to some malicious fate. Her grandsons were her joy but she hardly knew how Aurora managed. She marveled at her daughter’s skill as a wife and mother.

Elise sometimes feared she’d failed on both counts. She was never meant to be a wife, and her two years of married life had proved as much. Aurora was the one treasure she’d managed to salvage from that shipwreck of a marriage. Her daughter, as tall as her father at six feet, was a blessing beyond compare. In more ways than Elise cared to admit, they’d grown up together. Thankfully they’d stayed close.

Maverick had faithfully paid his child support each month, and when the spirit moved him, he’d phoned Aurora from wherever he was currently living, which seemed to be in a different part of the country each time. Soon after their wedding, he’d given up any pretense of an ordinary job—although he’d been quite successful at insurance sales—and devoted his energy to gambling. Roots were a detriment to a professional gambler. And if settling down wasn’t conducive to a gambler’s life, a family was even less so. While Elise was in labor, her loving husband had started up a poker game in the waiting room and completely missed the birth of his only child.

Catching the #47 bus, Elise rode it down Pill Hill toward Blossom Street, getting off three stops before the Seattle Public Library, which had recently undergone a huge renovation. Through her work at the school library, Elise had met some of Washington’s most influential librarians. They included Nancy Pearl, who’d organized the “If All Seattle Reads the Same Book” program. Cities, large and small, across the United States had followed Seattle’s lead. Elise was delighted that this idea had become so popular. It demonstrated that the library remained an important part of the community.

Stepping off the bus, she clutched her purse close to her side. The area had once been known for its pickpockets and muggers. That didn’t seem to be the case now, but one could never be too careful.

She walked past Fanny’s Floral and stopped to admire a display of purple carnations. She’d never seen carnations in quite that color before and was tempted to bring home a bouquet for Aurora. She probably shouldn’t waste money on flowers, but still…Well, she’d think about it.

A snoozing tabby cat was curled up in the display window of the yarn store. Elise opened the door and a small bell rang. Apparently accustomed to the sound, the cat didn’t stir.

“Good morning,” a pleasant-faced woman greeted her. Another, older woman stood by the counter and nodded in Elise’s direction.

“Yes, it is,” she said, instantly warmed by the younger woman’s friendliness. This was an attractive shop, well-designed and not overcrowded with yarn. Elise liked that she could see over the top of each display case. “I’ve come to inquire about classes,” she said, distracted by the colors and textures all around her. There were projects displayed on top of the cases, cleverly arranged on wire frames. Her eye was drawn to a sweater with a dinosaur knit into the front. Both Luke and John would love that. Perhaps one day she’d make it for her grandsons.

“We’re enrolling for a sock class this week.”

“Socks,” Elise repeated, unsure this was a project that interested her. “I’ve knit with five needles before, but it’s been a long time.”

“These are knitted up on two circular needles,” the woman told her. “Here, let me show you what I mean.” She led Elise toward the middle aisle, where a row of plastic feet displayed knitted socks. The patterns were intricate—far more complicated than Elise cared to tackle. It’d been years since she’d picked up knitting needles and she wasn’t eager to sabotage her efforts with a project beyond her capabilities.

She was about to say as much when the woman explained that the designs were part of the yarn itself.

“You mean I don’t have to do anything but knit?”

“That’s correct. The yarn is self-patterning.” She went on to list the price of the class, the day and the cost, which included all the supplies she would need. “By the way, I’m Lydia Hoffman and that’s my sister, Margaret. She works with me.”

“Elise Beaumont,” she said and smiled at both women. On closer inspection it became more obvious that they were related. The older one, Margaret, was large-boned but the other, Lydia, was petite with delicate features. Yet their faces were similar in shape, with pronounced cheekbones and large dark eyes. When she realized she was staring, she added, “I recently retired and thought I’d take up knitting again.”

“That’s a wonderful idea.”

Elise smiled at Lydia’s enthusiasm. Margaret’s attention had returned to whatever she was doing at the counter, which apparently involved catalogues and order forms.

“A class seems like a good place to start,” Elise said.

Lydia nodded. “I’m so glad you decided to stop by.” She continued toward the back of the shop, where a table and chairs were set up. “If you’re free on Friday afternoons, I’d like to invite you to our charity knitting sessions, too.”

“Another class?” Elise could only afford one.

“Not exactly. There’s no cost. A number of my regulars come here to knit for different charitable projects and organizations. You’d be most welcome, Elise.” She talked about Warm Up America, the Linus Project and ChemoCaps for people undergoing chemotherapy.

“Do you supply the yarn?” Elise asked, conscious once again of her limited budget.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Lydia said. “Or at least some of it. Patrons have donated leftover yarn for the Warm Up America blankets, and anyone who purchases yarn for one of the other projects can buy it at a discount.”

“Perhaps I’ll do that.” Elise’s schedule was nearly empty and she was looking for ways to fill it. So far, she’d joined a readers’ group that met once a month at a branch of the Seattle Public Library, and had volunteered to fold church newsletters. A strong supporter of the local blood bank, she’d also volunteered to handle the desk every Monday morning until noon.