“You learned a lot from those other knitters in Seattle, didn’t you?”
“I did,” Courtney said. More than she could possibly explain to anyone who hadn’t taken part in those weekly sessions.
Elise was close in age to her grandmother—certainly older than anyone else she called a friend—yet that was how Courtney viewed her. They all kept in touch, and Elise phoned her every few weeks. Bethanne did, too. Courtney almost wished her father had stayed in Seattle longer so she could’ve introduced the two of them. She knew, from Lydia and Elise, that Bethanne was seeing men from time to time; it wasn’t something Annie talked about. Bethanne’s booming party business kept her busy these days, which Annie did like to mention.
All her Blossom Street friends—Bethanne, Lydia, Elise and the others—had helped Courtney deal with the grief of losing her mother. Five years had now passed since her mother’s death, and while the pain wasn’t as raw as it had once been, Courtney had never completely filled the emptiness in her life. But she’d seen how Bethanne’s love for Andrew and Annie had carried her through the divorce. Maybe, years from now, when she had children of her own, she’d find that same kind of strength and completeness. Bethanne’s love for her kids, Elise’s for Aurora, Lydia’s for Cody—these mother-child bonds reminded her of what she, too, had once had. That feeling was one of gratitude as well as sadness. Courtney recognized anew how deep her mother’s love had been.
Lydia and Margaret reminded Courtney of her relationship with her own sister. She was close to Julianna in much the same way Lydia and Margaret were close. They supported each other and they bickered. Courtney found it entirely natural. She’d once heard Lydia explain that it hadn’t always been like that, but seeing how well they worked together now, this was difficult for Courtney to believe.
After a couple of months, when they’d all considered each other friends, Lydia had talked about her experience with cancer. Courtney would never have guessed that Lydia had gone through chemotherapy and radiation. When she’d said this, Lydia had been absolutely thrilled and claimed it was proof she had “stepped outside herself.” Courtney wasn’t sure what that meant but was happy about Lydia’s reaction.
“Thanks, Court,” Heather said, collecting her knitting and leaving the dorm room.
“Glad to help,” she said and sat back down at her computer.
She read over her e-mail to Lydia. “I realized again that living in Seattle was a blessing in more ways than I could count. A Good Yarn—” That was where she’d stopped when Heather came in. But she knew exactly what to say next.
“Mom, phone!” Annie shouted from the top of the stairs.
“Which line?” Bethanne called from the kitchen, her hands buried in hamburger.
“Business line. Do you want me to take it?”
“I’ll get it.” Bethanne nearly groaned. The party business was doing so well that she was booked months in advance. She washed her hands, then walked into the room that had once been Grant’s office—her office now—where she kept the schedule for the upcoming parties.
She answered the call, scheduled an appointment for a consultation and went back to the kitchen, where she was shaping small meatballs around green olives for a six-year-old’s Halloween birthday bash. Not long afterward, Annie drifted downstairs.
“You need any help with those?” she asked.
“Not now, but I will later.” Annie had been a valuable asset the previous summer and still was, even in her senior year of high school. Bethanne had hired her on a part-time, as-needed basis, which was good for both of them. She had several other assistants, but working with Annie kept them close and connected. “That’s why I pay you the big bucks, you know.”
“Very funny, Mom.”
The phone rang again and Bethanne looked from her hands to her daughter. “Do you want to get that for me?”
“Hey, I have to earn those high wages you’re supposedly paying me, don’t I?” Annie joked. She reached for the receiver and answered “Parties by Bethanne” in a professional tone.
Her daughter was almost an adult; every once in a while Bethanne realized that with a jolt of recognition—and pride. A year from now she’d be alone, with both her children in college. The thought no longer terrified her. When the time came she’d be able to afford it, which thrilled her. And she certainly wouldn’t be lonely or at loose ends…. In fact, she’d been giving some thought to expanding her business in untraditional ways. One plan involved Lydia—a knitting party, in which Bethanne would serve food and drinks, and Lydia would teach everyone how to knit. The idea was still in its infancy, as was another idea for a children’s storytelling party that Elise would help her with.
“It’s Paul,” Annie told her. “Do you want to phone him back later?”
Bethanne still saw Paul on occasion, but it had been a couple of months since they’d talked. “Tell him I’ll call him back. I’ve got an errand to run and I’ll be home after six.”
“Where are you going?”
“Lydia’s,” she answered, finishing up the meatballs and arranging them on a baking tray.
“Here.” Annie held the phone against Bethanne’s ear. “You tell him all that.”
Bethanne quickly agreed to meet Paul for coffee at the French Café across from A Good Yarn. “See you at six,” she said.
“What was that about?” Annie asked.
“I think Paul’s going to tell me it’s serious with Angela,” she said, and the news cheered her. His relationship with this new woman in his life sounded promising.
“How come you’re going to Lydia’s?” Annie asked next, eyeing Bethanne suspiciously.
“You’re certainly nosy,” she teased.
“Inquiring minds want to know.”
Bethanne laughed and shook her head. She should’ve realized that keeping anything from Annie was an exercise in futility. “If you must know, I need another ball of yarn for my current project.”
“And your current project is?”
Bethanne heaved a sigh of resignation. “A sweater for my daughter.”
“That pink cashmere sweater is for me?” Annie cried, absolutely delighted if the smile on her face was any indication.
“Yes, for you, but no longer a surprise.”
“Mom, I love that sweater and I’m so excited you’re knitting it for me.”
Bethanne knit almost every night; it was her one true relaxation. At the same time, she was practical enough to like the fact that she could produce something both useful and beautiful. It seemed like a hundred years ago that her teenage daughter had taken the initiative and signed Bethanne up for the knitting class. She’d graduated from socks to sweaters and was planning to knit an afghan to give Andrew for Christmas.
Bethanne left the meatballs baking in the oven, instructing Annie to take them out in half an hour. As she drove to the yarn store, she found herself thinking about the day Grant had walked out. That had been the worst moment of her life, but every day since had been better than the one before. She was independent and happy; her children were doing well.
Both Andrew and Annie had worked on improving their relationships with their father, and they were at peace. She knew Grant wasn’t happy, and in many ways she felt sorry for him. However, he’d made his choices, and she couldn’t and didn’t concern herself with him anymore. She had her own life to live.
Luckily there was a space directly in front of A Good Yarn and Bethanne took it, hopped out of her car and placed the appropriate coins in the parking meter. She only had a few minutes before Lydia closed the store.
“I was afraid I wouldn’t make it in time,” she said, walking through the door.
“Bethanne!” Lydia sounded delighted to see her. Coming around the counter, Lydia hugged her, then brought out the skein of pink cashmere she’d put aside. “It’s the same dye lot as the original,” Lydia assured her. She stepped back to the cash register. “It’s so wonderful to see you.”
“I feel the same way,” Bethanne said. “I’ve got a free Friday afternoon next week, so I’ll drop in for the charity knitting session. How’s everyone?” She hadn’t been in two weeks and missed seeing the women who’d become so special to her.
“Everyone’s great,” Lydia told her. “Jacqueline is still in seventh heaven over her new granddaughter. She brought pictures.”
“More pictures?” Bethanne said with a laugh. She paid for her wool, glancing around the store. It was easy to see that the little shop on Blossom Street continued to thrive. She loved the new designer yarns and the increased inventory. Lydia had scored a success, and Bethanne hoped her own fledgling business would emulate it.
“Can I tell everyone you’ll be by next week?” Lydia asked, handing Bethanne her purchase.
“With bells on,” she promised and tucked the skein in its A Good Yarn bag inside her large purse.
Lydia smiled. “You look really good.”
“Thanks,” Bethanne said, and blushed a bit at the attention. She’d gotten plenty of that lately and wasn’t quite sure why. She felt good and suspected it showed. Life felt good. Her world had been thrown into upheaval, and had taken a long time to right itself.
When she left the yarn store, she saw that Paul had arrived at the café and had a table. He stood when she entered, waving. She waved back, saw Alix at the counter and sent her friend a smile before joining Paul.
“Angela will be here in a few minutes,” he explained, indicating the third mug on the table.
“How is she?” Bethanne asked, pulling out her chair and sitting down.
“Angela’s engaged,” Bethanne repeated in shock—before she comprehended his meaning. “To you!”
“I should hope so,” Paul said with a laugh.
“Congratulations.” Bethanne half stood to hug him. “That’s just fabulous!” Her instincts had been right, and this news was all the validation she needed. Falling in love with each other would have been easy, but it would’ve been like taking refuge in a safe harbor rather than venturing out into riskier seas. She’d needed courage to take the stand she did. Paul hadn’t wanted to get involved with anyone else, and in the beginning he’d found the transition from potential lover to friend difficult. Time and distance had helped.
“I didn’t think I’d ever fall this deeply in love again,” he confessed. “In fact, it’s better the second time around.”
“It’s your turn,” he said.
“Perhaps, but I’m in no hurry.” And she wasn’t.
The door opened and a tall, lovely brunette walked into the café. Her eyes scanned the room; when she saw Paul, her face relaxed into a smile.