A Ruthorford 4th!
“No, no, no!” Teresa waved the hand-tatted handkerchief at the boys toting a picnic table across the slopping lawn of the bed and breakfast. “Not too close to the creek. We want plenty of room for the quilts to be set up for everyone to see the fireworks.” She used the dainty handkerchief to dab at the light sheen of sweat on her neck, then tucked it back into the waistband of her khakis. That handkerchief or one similarly pretty, had become a symbol. It bespoke more to her inner feminine side hidden beneath her customary attire of a crisp shirt tucked into a pair of khaki pants. As owner of Abbott Bed & Breakfast, it wasn’t often that she donned more than a serviceable costume—one fit for helping strip and remake a room in a hurry, or shoulder a tray of food from the kitchen.
She felt the arm around her shoulder before Morgan’s soft voice touched her ears. “Why don’t you slow down for a second? It looks fabulous.” Morgan squeezed her friend’s shoulder and placed a tall glass of sweet tea in her hand, the outside of the glass already wet with cold beads of water.
“Thanks,” Teresa smiled at the sun-kissed face of the redhead standing next to her. She never stopped being awed by the natural beauty of the young woman still considered new to their town, even after becoming such a part of it.
Looking almost identical to her deceased birth mother, Morgan’s emerald green eyes sparkled in merriment as she twisted the mass of red curls atop her head, fastening it with a clasp. “Have you seen Dorian?”
Distracted, Teresa’s gaze moved over the lawn and the bevy of people setting it up for the 4th of July get together. “I haven’t seen him since this morning. He got a call from Miss Alice and Miss Grace. Maybe he’s still at their place.” She raised the glass and took a sip before resting the cold glass against her forehead. “That really helped.” She pulled out the handkerchief once more to wipe the beads of moisture from her forehead.
“That’s right,” Morgan said. When Dorian had told her about the ceremony involving Ruthorford’s legendary birds carrying sparkling streamers, she knew she’d see something few outsiders ever saw. At her flurry of questions, Dorian merely shrugged, adding, “The owls and falcons are the purview of the sisters. I remember sneaking over there as a kid, having heard stories. I’d just managed to step into the barn when a huge owl swooped past me, knocking me to the ground. Miss Alice appeared out of nowhere, lecturing me about trespassing and then feeding me so much pie that I completely forgot why I was there. Some things are meant to remain a mystery, I guess.” Morgan figured with him working with them, he knew more than he was telling, but she let him distract her with a kiss. She now smiled at that memory.
“No,” Teresa called to several girls, her voice bringing Morgan back to the present. “Spread those quilts further apart and closer to the bank. Has anyone seen Rowe?”
“He’s down by the creek giving last-minute instructions to his cousins,” a young voice called from the side of the building, where wisps of smoke carried the aroma of the roasting pork, beef, and chicken drifted across the lawn, promising another bountiful BBQ, this time by Eryk, a last-minute replacement for Teresa’s recently deceased husband.
“Good,” Teresa called back. “Make sure Eryk gets some tea.”
Morgan noticed the frown etching Teresa’s brow. “You okay?” she asked.
Teresa patted Morgan’s hand. “I will be.”
Teresa burst out with a laugh as she turned and watched Mike Yancy stop a tray from slipping off the shoulder of Sandra, who’d been helping run the Abbott Bed & Breakfast since Bill became ill. For all his juggling, Dr. Yancy still managed to get a glass of ice water down the front of him and, almost a second one, when Sandra spun around to apologize. Still smiling, he walked over and handed Teresa a flower. “Good thing I brought a change of clothes,” he laughed heading up to the bed and breakfast to change.
Teresa glanced down at the flower and called to Mike’s retreating back, “You didn’t get this out of my side garden, Mike Yancy, now did you?” But the smile on her face told Morgan she wasn’t all that upset if he had.
Sandra smiled sheepishly and shrugged her shoulders, almost upsetting the tray once more. Others carted trays of plates, napkins, knives and forks to the buffet line near the building. Over the years, the arrangement had changed little, the bed and breakfast having perfected the best way to serve large amounts of food to the horde of residents that would soon descend upon the annual cookout and fireworks celebration.
“I almost forgot,” Morgan said, pulling a picture out of her pocket, “I found this in my mother’s things. Do you think it’s Miss Alice and Miss Grace?” She handed Teresa the picture.
Teresa studied it. “I wouldn’t be surprised. I heard they were quite the athletes in their day.” She laughed, looking at the picture. “What would this make them, a hundred and something?” She glanced over at the two women directing traffic around they buffet. They looked to be in their seventies, maybe. But, hadn’t they always, she thought to herself and looked once more at the picture before handing it back. “You can ask them if it’s them. I’m sure not going to.”
Morgan pocketed the picture. “I don’t think so.” She laughed.
Teresa took another sip of tea. “You know, I can’t remember when it’s been this hot in Ruthorford. Or dry.” She looked across the wide creek that had narrowed from lack of rain.
“Bask made sure the new fire engine was delivered this morning. We have two already in position,” Morgan reassured Teresa, knowing Teresa would find it in herself to worry about things easily left to others.
Teresa nodded, reassured. After all, Bask was Ruthorford. He single handedly ran the Abbott House, the foundation that owned Ruthorford, and ensured that what went on in Ruthorford, stayed in Ruthorford.
“Why don’t you take a break and cool off,” Morgan suggested, lightly touching her arm and giving a low-level push. “I’ve got things covered here. I think I saw Mike come back out and head over to the buffet table,” she added. “People are starting to find their spots.” It was one of her greatest hopes that Mike and Teresa would one day resume the friendship they’d had before Bill had returned to Ruthorford and become match-mated to Teresa.
Teresa looked around once more before answering, “I think I will,” she said and smiled at Morgan, “after I check on Eryk.” As she turned and headed across the lawn toward the side of the old Victorian, she called over her shoulder, “…and not because of any push you did.”
She heard Morgan’s laugh as she rounded the corner and saw Eryk taking a long swig of tea. “I’m glad to see you’re hydrating.”
He turned and looked at Teresa, his eyes crinkling. “If my magic was any good, I’d make it a Long Island Iced Tea.”
She rose on tiptoe and planted a kiss on his cheek, still awed by Dorian’s twin. “Hmm. I’ve heard of water into wine, but never tea into liquor.”
“Have you seen Jasmine?” he asked, laughing and eying his glass.
“I think she’s with Dorian. She is keeping an eye on Brinn,” Teresa supplied. Brinn was the hawk that had attached herself to Jasmine and followed her back to Ruthorford.
Teresa strolled down the backside of the buffet, taking inventory as she moved. “We’ll need more potato salad in about ten minutes. Make room for Miss Grace’s pies. And bring more napkins,” she called after the young woman who took off to do her bidding.
Teresa let her gaze travel from the chatting residents heaping potato salad onto their already food-laden plates, across the lawn, to the table where Becky and Talbot Briscoe sat with Morgan, their adopted daughter, and the twins. Dorian now sat next to Morgan, his arm slung possessively across the back of her chair. Miss Alice stepped up, planted a loud kiss on Dorian’s cheek and offered the pie she was serving. Teresa smiled as she watched Miss Alice serve, not one, but two hefty slices of pie onto Dorian’s raised plate. She was glad he was taking the opportunity to share a bite with his family before he and Eryk manned the fireworks station across the water. They were the obvious choice to set off the impressive fireworks display, since they could do it from a distance. With their natural abilities, they could probably set them off from this side of the creek. However, Bask insisted they be set up and managed from the other side of the water. As if thinking up the devil, she saw the tall, lean man making his way to Dorian, stopping to say hello as he went. He caught her eye and waved.
At the table near the old willow tree, Brenda Garrett had joined Kateri Chance and Rowe Davis. Kat’s latest showing had been a huge success at the Gallery in town. Rowe scooted down to make room for Dink, who’d better not be discussing business today. She managed Elements, the Native American store, and was a pit bull when it came to merchandising. Not to worry, Teresa saw Brenna and David McKenzie join the group and knew the young owners of Chapters, Ruthorford’s bookstore, would keep the table lively and steered away from shop talk.
The sound of children running drew her attention and she allowed herself one moment of concern as she watched them race under the willow toward the water. As if materializing from thin air, Rowe’s cousins stopped the youngsters before they could fall into the rock-strewn creek.
Yes, from what she could see, most of Ruthorford was here. And they all were enjoying themselves, in spite of the heat. With the large fans positioned in the ancient trees, the warm air kept moving, so no one seemed bothered by the temperature.
She watched Dorian give Morgan a quick kiss before heading off to set up the fireworks show. Most everyone had filled their plates and found a spot, either at a table or on one of the quilts. The heat sensitive foods were already being moved inside and desserts were taking their place. She reached over and grabbed a cold kabob of strawberries, melons, and peaches, plucking a ripe Georgia peach from the end and popping it into her mouth. She smiled at the cold sweetness.
She felt Mike Yancy’s hand on her back as he managed two loaded plates with the other.
“Think you got enough food?” she teased.
“One’s for you. I know you won’t eat and I can’t have you wasting away,” he teased back.
“Stop that,” she chuckled and swatted at him, letting him lead her to their table, set away off to the side but with a clear view. Tradition had it that for the next few moments, the staff watched the buffet, letting Teresa enjoy a few moments of “down time.” While she and Mike were munching on the final bits of BBQ and discussing the success of the day’s events, the lights, strung throughout the trees to illuminate nighttime dining, blinked out, the only light from the sparklers children waved in the air. Within moments, the night sky burst into an explosion of red, blues, and yellows, to gasps and squeals of appreciation . Pinwheels, star-bursts, giant chrysanthemums, purple comets, willows, and serpents filled the sky. Oooh’s and aaah’s rose from the crowd as display after display filled the night.
When the sky finally darkened, no one moved. Everyone waited in anticipation. In the distance, the silence was broken by owls screeching, and hawks screaming. The sound of beating wings grew louder. From the bend in the river, above the trees, streamers of sparkling light appeared, moving like long serpents, following the course of the river. A collective ahh rose from the crowd, as the large birds flew over the lawn, carrying streamers of shimmering iridescent colors. As they passed the creek, they released their burdens. The ribbons of light dropped downward, caught in the breeze, twisting and undulated, at last coming to rest on the water, setting it afire with sparkling colors, created from energy infused crushed gems painted on woven sheaths of grass. As the ribbons absorbed the water and sank, the lights floated downward, given the moving water a multidimensional quality. All of the birds slipped off into the distance, except one lone hawk, who circled until she found Jasmine and lightly landed on the woman’s gloved arm. Jasmine turned and lifted her arm so Brinn could stretch her wings and, with a flourish, they bowed. The crowd offered light applause, not wanting to frighten Brinn. As the light from the gems winked out, the trees, once again sparkled from hidden lights. Quietly, the Ruthorford descendants rose and bade their farewells, feeling the connection, the unity, and the magic they shared.
MAY YOUR 4TH OF JULY BE AS MAGICAL!
Enjoy the stories of Ruthorford’s descendants. Meet Morgan and Dorian in THE SHOPPE OF SPELLS, Jasmine and Eryk in MEADOW’S KEEP, and Glynda and Tom in GLYNDA’S DARE. Don’t forget Kat and Rowe in PENNYROYAL CHRISTMAS. All are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.