Spring McDonald watched from her window seat on the second floor as Jacob Barton chose only the most perfect daffodils from his flower garden. His movements were gentle as he snipped them at the base and laid them in a basket that curved up on two sides.
She pulled the afghan tighter around her shoulders to cut the chill. Summer would be here before she knew it, but spring was her favorite time of year, and not just because her mother had named her after the season. There was something about new growth. Seeing bright green shoots push their way up through the dirt gave her hope.
Jacob caught her attention with a wave of his hand. Spring returned the gesture and smiled.
A glance at the clock told her she needed to get ready. The Port Townsend Book Club was scheduled to meet tonight. They were two chapters away from finishing the autobiography of Amelia Earhart.
Spring imagined herself flying high above the clouds. She’d never been in an airplane. It was one of many dreams she had yet to fulfill.
Her thoughts turned to the day eight months ago, only two weeks after turning nineteen, when she received the diagnosis from her doctor: Rheumatoid Arthritis. She’d known something was wrong for years; the aches, pain and stiffness had gotten worse as time passed, but it wasn’t until she met with a rheumatologist that she began to realize just how serious her situation was.
Arthritis had changed everything. Spring refused to let a diagnosis define who she was, even as it seemed to consume every part of her life. She couldn’t imagine living sixty years in constant pain.
It wouldn’t be so bad if people understood, but they didn’t. They couldn’t. It wasn’t just the inability to move without feeling bone grind against bone, it was not knowing when inflammation would cause a flare-up. Canceling plans at the last minute was common. Coming up with the energy to appear normal was a full-time job some days.
Spring headed for the bathroom to get ready, tossing the afghan on the window seat. Half an hour later she passed one of three doors she never entered in her parents’ home. She still didn’t think of it as hers, even though she had the paperwork to prove it.
Her hand traced the words on the door to her brother’s old room. Rafe’s Room it said. The familiar sadness returned. As usual, she said a prayer. “God, take the stain away. Bless this house. May what happened here never happen again. Amen.”
She quickened her pace as she passed the second door she never entered, saying the prayer again. When she descended the stairs and was standing in front of her parents’ room, she repeated the prayer for the third time.
Spring wondered if there would ever be a day when the memories of her childhood wouldn’t haunt her. She’d thought of selling the house after her parents died. It would have been easier. There was some part of her that longed for a history she could touch.
She and Rafe barely spoke now. He’d turned wild early on. She had no one but herself to rely on, although she was beginning to feel more comfortable with the people in the book club, especially Autumn, Summer and Winter. It seemed natural somehow that all the seasons should be friends, even though they were quite different from each other.
Once in the car and on her way, Spring stopped at the corner grocer to pick-up cookies and juice, then headed for the bookstore where the book club met each Monday night at eight o’clock.
“Hey,” Winter Montgomery said when she entered Mind Travels, “food’s here. What kind of cookies did you get?”
“Two kinds: chocolate chip and ginger snaps.”
“Perfect. I like ‘em both.”
“Hi, Spring, how are you feeling today?” Summer Lansing asked.
“It’s a good day.” Spring lowered her eyes as she headed for the staircase leading up to the second floor. She hated when people asked her how she was feeling. She felt singled out. If she had her way, no one would ever know she had anything wrong with her, ever.
“Hi there, neighbor,” Jacob Barton said.
“Hi. Your daffodils are beautiful.”
“I wish I could take credit for them. Martha’s the one that planted the bulbs. I figure the least I can do is cut ‘em for her and put ‘em in a pretty vase.”
“I’m sure she’ll be glad to see them when she comes home. When does she get back in town?”
“How’s your daughter and the baby?” Autumn Fieldstone asked.
“I got pictures.” Jacob pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and scrolled down to the photos he wanted everyone to see, then passed the phone around.
“She’s adorable,” Spring said.
“Just like her mama,” Jacob said.
“Spoken like a true father,” Winter said.
“Jessie and the baby are doing fine.”
“What’s her name?” Spring asked.
“Marigold. We’ll probably end up calling her Mari.”
“That’s pretty,” Autumn said. “I’ve always liked having an unusual name.”
“Me, too,” Summer said.
“Me, three,” Winter said.
Everyone gazed at Spring waiting for her to chime in. “I like it, too,” she said, grateful when the attention had turned back to the photos of the baby.
“Sorry to interrupt. Summer, do you have the flyers you wanted me to distribute?” Jared Richards asked.
“They’re in the box on top of the two-drawer filing cabinet at the bottom of the stairs.”
Spring couldn’t help noticing Jared’s casual confidence, nor his warm brown eyes or the slight bulge of muscles hiding under his jacket.
“See something you like?” Autumn said.
Spring’s face flushed immediately. “No. I was just…” She couldn’t think of an excuse.
“Making googly eyes at Boy Wonder,” Winter said.
“I was not.” Spring squirmed under the scrutiny. “Shouldn’t we get started?”
“I’ll get started on a cookie,” Winter said.
“Summer, what do you know about your flyer guy?” Autumn asked.
“Jared? Oh, he’s great. He’s in college. I think he’s twenty or twenty-one. Very polite. Always on time and dependable. Why?”
“I think Spring’s got a crush on him.”
Spring tried not to let the teasing get to her, but her face turned from light pink to crimson.
“Stop giving her a hard time. I’ll introduce you, if you want.” Summer said.
Spring shook her head, wishing she was invisible. “There’s apple and grape juice. Help yourself.”
“Changing the subject. Good tactic,” Winter said with a wink. “I’m all about the food. Hand me a couple of those chocolate chip cookies, Jacob.”
Relieved that the topic of conversation had been changed once again, Spring relaxed.
“I’ve found Amelia to be fascinating,” Anne Marie Daniels said. “I really can’t imagine having enough guts to fly a plane solo over the Atlantic Ocean.”
“I can,” Winter said.
“Well, of course you can. You’re a risk taker. But think about it. Back in Amelia’s time women didn’t do such adventurous things.”
“No, they stayed home like dutiful wives and cooked and cleaned for their husband and families,” Autumn said, reaching for a glass and filling it with grape juice, then snagging four ginger snaps.
“There’s still a question about her death. Do you think the male pilots considered her a threat?” Mr. Jefferson asked.
“What kind of threat could she be?” Winter asked. “Wouldn’t it further aviation to have more pilots?”
“Maybe the men didn’t like the Ninety-Nines,” Autumn said. “All those women gathering together could only mean trouble.”
“You got that right,” Jacob said. “I never know what to expect when I see a group of women talking. Usually it means I’m in some kind of trouble.”
“That’s because you’re always up to no good,” Summer said.
Spring always felt a bit lost in the book club banter. When she finally thought of something to say to contribute, they were already onto another subject. Sometimes she thought her brain didn’t work fast enough.
One-on-one she didn’t have a problem, but when she was in a group of three or more, she felt intimidated and weak.
“After reading this book, I think I’d like to learn to fly a plane,” Anne Marie said.
“They have classes at the airport in Cornwall,” Mr. Jefferson said. “I don’t know how much they cost, but it might be worth checking out.”
“I can see it now,” Winter said. “Anne Marie Daniels takes over where Amelia Earhart left off.”
“How long does it take to learn to fly a plane?” Summer asked.
“I read somewhere the Federal Aviation Administration requires forty hours of logged flight time, but you have to pass an exam with a certified FAA examiner. I’d guess if you doubled the hours of flight time, you’d probably gain enough experience.”
“I wouldn’t mind learning to fly,” Jacob said. “Why don’t we try and work it out so we can go together, Anne Marie?”
“Sounds good to me.”
“What will your wife say?” Mr. Jefferson asked.
“Nothing, if I don’t tell her,” Jacob answered with a grin.