Home > A Cup of Silver Linings (Dove Pond # 2)

A Cup of Silver Linings (Dove Pond # 2)
Author: Karen Hawkins



 CHAPTER 1  Ellen


Standing beside her daughter’s open grave, Ellen Foster dug her fingernails into her palms as the annoying sound of a kazoo wafted through the wintry, pine-scented air.

A kazoo.

At a funeral.

Worse, the kazoo wasn’t playing anything remotely appropriate, like “The Lord Is My Shepherd” or “Amazing Grace,” but instead ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

Ellen tried to ignore the other mourners who were silently lip-synching the song as they swayed to the music. Safely hidden behind her large sunglasses, she closed her aching eyes for a long moment. It was all so tasteless. But then, everything Julie had planned for her own funeral was, so far, bizarre and uniquely tasteless. Julie would have loved it. She was always good at irking me. Frightfully so.

Ellen pressed her lips firmly together, holding back both a torrent of tears and the deep desire to shout a curse. She’d never uttered a curse in her entire life. Not once. But right now, it was all she could do to keep it inside. She was discovering that grief was a devious beast, a bitter mixture of loss and regret that ripped its way through her heart not once but over and over again, leaving her exposed and furious.

Two elderly women wearing Game of Thrones T-shirts under their open coats stepped up to Julie’s shiny black casket, which had been painted with outrageous red glitter flames along each side and signed with Julie’s familiar swooshing signature. With military precision, the women unfolded a huge dragon flag and draped it over the casket, nodding at the preacher as they rejoined the other mourners.

The purple dragon flag fluttered in the chilly January breeze, one heavily lashed eye seemingly locked on Ellen. The kazoo began playing once more, the lilting notes of “Macarena” drifting into the air.

Ellen cast a baleful gaze at the sky. That’s not funny, Julie. Not even a little.

The echo of Julie’s hearty, unchecked laugh rang through Ellen’s mind, so immediate and clear that for one glorious second, hope flared and she instinctively looked around, searching the small crowd for her daughter. The almost-instant realization that the laugh was just a memory was followed by bone-crushing disappointment. I’ll never hear that laugh again.

Chest aching, Ellen silently sucked in a deep, shaky breath. I don’t have time for this. I should be thinking about how I’m going to help Kristen. My granddaughter deserves a happy life, and I’m going to make sure she gets one.

To accomplish Project K, as Ellen had labeled it in her Louis Vuitton Noir Epi leather agenda just this morning, she had to accomplish three Action Items. Focus on the Action Items, she told herself as the preacher started tapping his toe to the kazoo’s hum. Kristen is all that matters.

Ellen closed her eyes and ignored everything going on around her.

Item One: Make it through the funeral without crying.

So far, so good, mainly thanks to the heavy cover provided by her sunglasses. All she had to do was fight her way through the next fifteen or so minutes, and she could move on.

Item Two: Fix up Julie’s house and put it on the market.

That would be a big one, as, from what Ellen could tell, Julie’s creaky old Queen Anne–style house hadn’t been updated since the ’70s. Worse, now that Julie had lived in it for the past ten years, every closet and corner was piled high with kitsch. All of it has to go.

That the house wasn’t in the best of shape and was stuffed with useless craft-quality items wasn’t a surprise. It was just one example in a long line of examples of Julie’s refusal to grow up. Not only had she become an artist rather than get a real job, but she’d also deliberately had a child without the benefit of either a father or a steady income. Poor Kristen. The opportunities she’s missed—I can’t bear to think about it.

Fortunately for her granddaughter, Ellen was ready and able to handle things from here on out, and the money made from the house sale would go straight into a college fund.

Which leaves Item Three: Get Kristen out of this backward town and to my home in Raleigh where she can begin living a normal, orderly life. Of all the Action Items, that one would be the trickiest. Ellen slanted a glance to her side where Kristen stood, loudly puffing out “Macarena” on her neon-green kazoo. Ellen tried not to gaze too long at the teenager’s purple-streaked hair or the small diamond that twinkled in her nose.

Don’t stare. Ellen jerked her gaze away from Kristen, away from the dragon flag–draped casket, and instead focused on the trees in the distance. Ellen had to proceed carefully where her granddaughter was concerned, as they barely knew one another thanks to Julie and her stubbornness. But with some time and effort, Ellen was convinced she and Kristen would grow closer and finally have the relationship they should have had all along.

Kristen tilted her kazoo to a jauntier angle and finished “Macarena” to a boisterous round of applause.

Ellen bit back the urge to snap out, This is supposed to be a funeral! Although it would be almost impossible to tell by how these supposed mourners were dressed. Behind the safety of her dark sunglasses, she eyed the residents of Dove Pond, who wore a wide range of mismatched, garishly colored clothes, just as the handwritten funeral invitation had requested.

She flinched at the memory of that invitation. When she’d found it in her mailbox just three days ago, she’d thought it a horrible joke. Julie’s flowing script had adorned bright construction paper, breezily inviting her mother to “the funeral of all funerals, date TBA.” The invitation had requested that everyone wear bright colors, as Julie didn’t wish to leave the earth in a parade of dull black or gray. She’d also added that she wanted no weeping, as dying wasn’t really so hard “once one got over the surprise of it.”

It had been ten years since Ellen had heard from her daughter, who’d stormed out of Ellen’s world the same way she’d entered—screaming and red-faced, refusing to be held or told what to do. After their last argument, Julie had cut her mother from her and Kristen’s lives. Ellen had been horrified when Julie had refused to allow her to even see her granddaughter, saying she didn’t want Kristen’s mind “polluted” by Ellen’s “stuffy views.”

In those first few months, Ellen had reached out repeatedly, desperate to see her granddaughter, but her calls had gone unanswered. As the silent weeks expanded to even more silent months, Ellen had decided to give Julie some space, thinking her daughter would come around more quickly if she didn’t feel pressured. After that, Ellen had only called on birthdays and holidays… calls that had gone to voice mail so often that—as time wore on—she’d eventually stopped even that.

Which was why Ellen hadn’t taken the invitation to her daughter’s future funeral seriously. Ellen had never understood Julie’s sense of humor, so she’d just assumed it was some sort of cruel joke and had tossed the invitation into the closest trash can.

But then, the very next day, Kristen had called, crying. In between Kristen’s hiccupping sobs and broken words, Ellen had learned that Julie had died after a two-year fight with breast cancer.

The invitation was real, and Julie was gone.

Stunned, Ellen had numbly assured her granddaughter she’d be there as soon as possible and hung up. Time had slammed to a halt and for some reason, Ellen had found herself staring down at her feet. She’d been wearing a pair of blue Manolo Blahnik Decebalo pumps with gold trim, adorned with large crystal brooches. If she closed her eyes now, she could still see her long, narrow feet in those shoes while tears she didn’t even know she was crying fell onto the blue velvet, shimmering in the late-afternoon sun, brighter than the sparkling brooches.

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