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Chapter Two

Alanna fumbled for her phone, slapping at the beep. Opening one eye, she picked it up to see what the fuss was. A text message.

Send me a photo of a table in your room. I need to deliver a letter for you.

It’s 3 AM! I’m going to have to take the sounds of my text and email notifications. I’m not in Montana anymore. Come on Uncle James, you should have remembered.

Since she was awake anyway, she turned the bedside lamp on and shrugged out from under the fluffy down comforter. There was a desk in her room across from the bed. A big armoire stood beside it. Cardamon’s cottage was over three hundred years old. Built fifty years after Murphy’s pub, it didn’t have closets and had only been updated to reflect plumbing and kitchen modernization. That and electricity.

She liked the minimal amount of clothing the black stained oak cabinet housed. She didn’t think she’d need much in the way of fancy apparel. She framed the picture, focusing on the corner of her desk where it snuggled up to the massive oak planks of her wardrobe, and snapped the shutter. Attaching it to her message, she texted back.

It’s 3 AM here, but I heard your text come in. I’m turning off sound alerts for my messages and emails. I keep forgetting we’re so many hours ahead here. I bet you did too. Thanks for playing delivery boy, Uncle James.

Oops, sorry. I will keep that in mind. This came in the mail for you yesterday. Andrew asked me to shift it to you. I wanted to get it out of the way before I forgot about it. You should have it by the time you finish reading this message.

The faint pop as the letter arrived, caught her attention. Uncle James was accurate and prompt as he promised, and she pulled the chair out to sit on. The letter was more of a package. The address was faded, and it looked like it had been wet at one point in its travels. The script was neat block print, giving very little hint as to who the sender was.

She turned it over, looking for a return address and found nothing. Only the post mark hinted at where it came from. Somewhere in Florida, the date was six years ago just before her birthday. Curious she flexed the envelope gently and realized there was something very stiff inside it.

Sleep forgotten, she slid her thumb under the flap on the back and slid it along loosening the brittle paper and folding it open. Excitement bubbled in her, as she peered inside.

A sleek brushed silver picture frame with a portrait in it was stuck inside. Wiggling it free she set it under her desk lamp only to stare at the two women it portrayed. They looked like they were in love, their arms wrapped around each other as they looked into each other’s eyes. She turned it over.

The inscription on the back was dated July 4th, 2014. On our wedding day, with love Hallie and Ginger Ascot.

Oh my God, I wish this had come to me back then. I wonder what else is in the envelope. But I wonder if I would have understood what I do now. Ginger had become part of her life again. She was even starting to call her mom, even though Blaire had her heart. It was kind of crazy having three mothers.

Alanna slipped her hand inside and found a single sheet of paper folded into thirds. Unfolding the heavy paper, she started to read.

Hello Alanna,

You have no idea who I am and it`s a complicated story. I`m Hallie Ascot. I met your mother a couple of years ago and it wasn`t long before I fell in love with her. Her soul was tortured, and she was under so much pressure from her family to conform to being straight, married and having kids.

She`d kill me if she knew I`ve tracked you down. I want you to know, she`s never forgotten about you. She cries for you in her sleep. I can`t tell you how hard it has been for her to work her way out of the black pit she was in. I met her when she was on leave after boot camp. She had to enlist or face jail for her drug habit and a long list of minor offences committed while she was high or trying to get high again.

She`s a Marine now. In officer`s school, and the military is sending her to school to learn about explosives. She`s going to be a bomb tech. And she did me the honor of marrying me a few weeks ago.

She`s been sober and clean for eight years now, and she`s saving her alimony for your college fund. I`m so proud of her I could burst, and I hope you will be too.

I`ll understand if you don`t respond. But I had to try.

Hallie Ascot

Alanna stared at the address. The same one she had now, and the phone number was the exact one she had in her cell phone contact list. Her heart did a jitter and tears slipped down her cheeks.

I wish I could go visit them now. I`ve been giving Ginger a bit of a cold shoulder. Yeah, she`s getting to be mom in a lot of ways, but I need to tell her and Hallie it changes now. I think fate was wise keeping this from younger me. I don`t know what dad and Grammie would have done. This is better, I`ll tell them when I go home for Thanksgiving.

She picked up her phone and to send one more message as she climbed back into bed. Searching her phone contacts, she clicked on Blair Quade.

Mom I need to talk to you. This letter has me a little upside down. Call me, but remember, I`m eight hours ahead of you.

She plugged the charging cable in, and turned over to let sleep claim her, and heard the faint ping of a message coming in.

Right, remember to fix the notifications.

Alanna stretched, reaching up to grab the wrought iron headboard, as she came back to awareness. The bed was comfortable, and she considered turning over to go back to sleep, and then her stomach rumbled, and she looked at the time. She slipped down the short all into the bathroom, quickly brushing her hair. It still seemed strange to see the deep brown with auburn highlights in the mirror. Her hair had been black until Fagan’s demons attacked. Black like Ginger’s and like Grandma Gloria’s.

“Cardamon? Are you in here?” Alanna called from the top of the stairs.

“In the kitchen, child.” She grinned at his smooth Irish burr.

Taking the stairs in a rapid descent, she swung around the corner to find her Grammie’s cousin sitting at the table snacking on slices of apples and sections of orange.

“You shouldn’t have let me sleep in like this. I’ll never get used to the time shift.” Alanna said as she filled the kettle with water.

“You’ll get there soon enough. I thought we should take some time this morning in my workshop.” His bright blue eyes reminded her of Aunty Morgan’s, and they were the same as Grammie’s too.

“I can’t wait to learn more about herbs, potions and tonics. I learned a lot from Chen Chi.”

The bright orange kettle whistled, and she turned to look for tea.

“On the shelves under the cupboards, child,” Cardamon said, anticipating her need.

“Is there any bread? I’ll make some toast for myself and then we can get started,” she dropped the tiny silver tea ball into her cup and poured steaming water after it.

“There’s no hurry. The herbs will wait, and I want to hear what has upset you.”

The keen blue of his eyes pierced hers. She should have known her tutor would pick up on her turmoil even though she had put a firm squash on her emotions.

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