Meade tossed the mail on the kitchen counter.
She’d spent the better part of the afternoon with the cosmetics buyer at Saks and had dodged two calls from her father. On the drive back to Liberty she’d foolishly snapped open her cell phone only to discover Theodora, of all people, on the line. The old battleaxe said she’d be visiting the Williams estate tomorrow morning to discuss important matters. The prospect of spending even a few hours of Thanksgiving with her was unpleasant. Meade had been about to press further when Theodora abruptly ended the conversation.
And now this. A filthy kitchen. Meade set her face like someone with lockjaw. Setting down her briefcase, she fingered the stack of instant chocolate packets strewn across the counter. Three mugs sat on the table with marshmallows surrounding them like so many snowballs.
“Blossom, where are you?” No reply. Sighing, she retrieved Melbourne from his cage in the corner of the kitchen. “Blossom? I know you can hear me!”
The teen appeared in the doorway. “What?” She cradled an algebra book in one hand and a bag of chips in the other.
“Did you have friends over this afternoon?” Probably some of the girls from Liberty High had stopped by. Which wasn’t a crisis even if they had left trash all over the countertops. “I don’t mind if you entertain friends while I’m working. I simply wish you’d pick up after yourself.”
“I’ll clean the kitchen when Dad and Mary get back tomorrow night.”
“You’ll do it now. I’m dropping you off at your grandparents’ house in the morning.” Where the girl would spend the holiday, thank God. “It looks like Huns invaded. Your new stepmother doesn’t want to come home to this mess.”
“Okay, okay—I’ll clean the kitchen.”
Melbourne yipped and Meade lowered him to the floor. He trotted over to his food bowl, which was empty, and eyed her plaintively. “Who was hanging around with you this afternoon?” she asked, pulling the dog chow from the cupboard.
“Mr. Shaeffer was here.”
“You let a man in the house? While I was at work?”
“It’s okay. He’s the reporter from Akron. He interviewed me last summer.”
The newspaper article, now framed, hung above the desk in Blossom’s bedroom. “He’s back?” Meade asked warily. She hated reporters. Bad publicity had destroyed her father and sent her mother to her death. “Is Mr. Shaeffer writing about you?”
“Another feature. A really big one.”
“How long did he stay?”
“About an hour. Birdie came with him. They’ve gone back to the restaurant.”
Anxiety tripped up her spine. She’d offered to take her father to the restaurant last night. He’d refused, mumbling something about a promise not to visit The Second Chance for several days. Baffled, she’d dropped the invitation.
“The new waitress at The Second Chance.”
Had the new waitress insulted her father? Landon’s depression was hard for some people to take. Filling the dog’s bowl, Meade wondered if he’d had a run-in with the new employee. Yet her sense of unease warned that something more was going on here.
The silence lengthened, and the niggling sensation increased. At the sink, Blossom had turned on the tap. But the girl wasn’t washing the dishes. She was staring at Meade with her eyes growing wide.
Nearing, the teen tipped her head to the side. “You know what? Gosh, I don’t know why I didn’t notice earlier.”
Sighing, Meade stared longingly at the door. A hot bath. A drink. She was exhausted, and in no mood for small talk. “Notice what earlier?”
Blossom hesitated, and the uncomfortable sensation brought Meade’s attention back to her. “Birdie is a blonde, like you,” Blossom said. “I mean, her hair’s longer and she wears funny clothes, but…”
The teen blew out a stream of air. “Never mind.” She returned to the sink. “It’s stupid. Forget it.”
Meade opened her mouth, reconsidered. The sensation pooling inside her warned not to press Blossom further.
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