It was Sarah's. Even after ten years, he would know her slightly husky voice anywhere.
Calvin's relief that everything was okay with his sister was quickly replaced by surprise that Sarah Bartow was calling him out of the blue to get together and catch up on old times. Instead of slowing down, his heart rate sped up even more. For ten years, he hadn't heard from her--why would she be calling him now?
But even though something told him it would be smarter to keep his distance, the truth was, Calvin simply couldn't resist the thought of seeing Sarah again.
He picked up the phone and dialed Lakeside Stitch & Knit.
By 5:25, Sarah's feet were killing her and she was dreaming of a hot bath and a bottle of wine. All afternoon she had been running around the store, helping customers, searching for colors, needles, patterns. How did her mother and grandmother do this six days a week?
With only five minutes until she could lock the door and collapse on one of the couches in the middle of the room, two women came in, laughing and carrying big felted bags. "I'm sorry," Sarah said in as polite a voice as she could manage, "the store closes in a few minutes." Just then, the store's phone rang and she grabbed it. "Lakeside Stitch & Knit. How may I help you?"
"Sarah, it's Calvin."
God. She had been so frazzled for the past few hours that she'd almost forgotten she'd asked him to call her here. Now, with her guard down, the sound of his low voice in her ear had her reaching for the counter to steady herself. Just like that, ten years fell away so fast it made her head spin.
"Hi." She couldn't say anything more for the moment, not until she caught her breath, not until she pulled herself back together.
"So, about tonight, that sounds great. How about we meet at the Tavern at seven thirty?"
If she left right now, she would have just enough time to shower and change and redo her hair and makeup. "Seven thirty is perfect."
She put down the phone and was reaching for her bag when she realized she wasn't alone. The two women she had spoken to at the door were sitting on the couches looking like they planned to settle in for the night.
"I'm sorry," she said again, "but I really do need to close the store." Time was already ticking down on the prep she needed to do--both with her appearance and her emotions--for her meeting with Calvin. Even though it wasn't like they were going out on a date or anything. Tonight was simply going to be two old friends catching up, with some business tacked on to the back end.
The older woman with bright red hair nodded. "Of course you do. Our knitting night is about to begin."
Oh no. How could she have forgotten about the Monday night knitting group? Her plans to go home to shower and change went up in smoke. "It's been such a busy day in the store that I forgot it was Monday night." The women just stared at her as she babbled unconvincingly. "Can I get you two anything?"
The slightly younger woman with shiny gray hair laughed. "Not to worry, we always come prepared." The women produced four bottles of wine, along with a big plastic container full of chocolate chip cookies. Sarah's stomach growled as she tried to get her exhausted, overwhelmed brain to remember where the glasses were.
Fortunately, the knitting group regulars were way ahead of her as they opened the small doors of the coffee table and began to pull out mismatched tumblers for the wine.
More long-buried memories came at her, joining all the others that had been scrambling into her brain all day. It had been her job, after everyone had gone, to wash out the glasses in the kitchen sink, dry them, and put them back under the coffee table. Her grandmother always told her how important her role was, that wine made people comfortable, that it let them talk about the secrets they shouldn't be holding inside.
The Monday night knitting group had been going on for as long as her grandmother had owned the store. Olive said the group was as important to her as family--and that they'd been responsible for keeping her sane more than once over the years. As a little girl, Sarah had loved sitting on the floor, listening to the women talk, laugh, and cry. But by ten she had grown out of this--not just the knitting group, but anything to do with yarn or the store.
Sarah still remembered her last ever Monday night at Lakeside Stitch & Knit. She had been sitting next to Mrs. Gibson and only half listening to her complain about her swollen ankles to the woman next to her. Sarah swore Mrs. Gibson was always pregnant. One of her kids was in Sarah's fifth-grade class, and Owen had five younger siblings already.
Sarah had been working on a scarf for her father in a zigzag pattern, but she kept screwing it up. Bad enough that she needed help unraveling it and then getting it back onto the needles so she could fix her mistakes. Her mother and grandmother were both busy helping other people, and she had no choice but to turn to Mrs. Gibson.
"You know," the woman had said, "it's no surprise you're having trouble with this scarf. Owen told me how smart you are. You're going to go out there and do big, important things like your daddy. You really don't belong here with us knitters, do you?"
Sarah was pulled back to the present as she heard a throat being cleared and looked up to see the red-haired woman holding out a glass of wine. "I didn't know Olive and Denise had hired anyone new. Wait a minute. I need to put my glasses on." After a few moments of peering, she said, "Sarah? It's Dorothy. Dorothy Johnson."
Sarah suddenly realized why the woman looked so familiar. It was her hair that had thrown Sarah off, red instead of dark brown, and the fact that she seemed to have shrunk several inches in the past decade.
Dorothy introduced her to Helen, who had moved to Summer Lake five years earlier. "I would have guessed who you were eventually," Helen said. "You really are the perfect combination of Olive and Denise."
"I look more like my dad," Sarah said automatically.
"I can see James in you, certainly, but if you ask me, you take after the women in your family more. I'm so sorry about his passing. We all are."
It was hard to hear her father's name on a stranger's lips, harder still to be reminded that he was gone.
"Thanks. Please don't hesitate to let me know if there's anything else I can help you with," she said before moving to the door to welcome in more Monday night knitting group members.
She didn't recognize many people--obviously, a lot of new people had moved to the lake in the ten years she'd been gone. But when Rosalind Bouchard walked in, Sarah couldn't help but do a double take. After all, it wasn't every day that she met a reality-TV star. Ex-star, actually, given that Rosalind's retirement had recently been all over the press, along with her new anti-online-bullying foundation--and, of course, her relationship with Drake Sullivan, who had been one of New York City's most eligible bachelors. Sarah's mother and grandmother had repeatedly told Sarah how lovely Rosa was and that they hoped the two women would get a chance to connect one day soon.
"Hi, I'm Sarah." Sarah didn't want to do anything to make Rosalind feel uncomfortable, and since she was feeling more than a little tongue-tied, she decided to keep it simple. "My mother and grandmother can't be here tonight, so let me know if you need anything."
"Finally, we meet! Olive and Denise are so wonderful. And you look just like both of them. I would have recognized the family resemblance if you hadn't told me who you are. I'm Rosa."
Her smile was so wide as she stuck out her hand that Sarah couldn't help but smile back while they shook, even though she was stunned by Rosa's proclamation of just how much she thought Sarah looked like the other women in her family. What did Rosa see that Sarah was missing?
"I swear this store has been the ultimate haven for me," Rosa went on. "There have been more times than I can keep track of when I would have been utterly lost if I couldn't come here and get out of my head and recharge. Plus," she added with a laugh, "it helps that your grandmother has a zero-nonsense meter. If she so much as suspects that I'm about to spin off on something that shouldn't be worth any of my mental or emotional energy, she's already there sh
utting it down."
How right her mother and grandmother had been about Rosa being sweet and easy to talk to. Sarah said, "They adore you too."
Rosa's grin grew even bigger hearing that. "I'm going to stop talking your ear off for now, but I hope we'll get a chance to talk more later."
Sarah hadn't thought she'd have a chance to make new friends in town, not when she was going to be here for only a couple of weeks max. Then again, this whole day had been pretty surprising so far...
Fifteen minutes after six, the wine was flowing with nary a needle in motion when one final woman pushed in through the door. "Sorry I'm late."
"Brownies will make it all better," Rosa said. "You do have brownies, don't you?"
"Why do you think I'm late?" the latecomer replied with a laugh, but to Sarah's ears it sounded forced. She put her tray on the table, then looked up in surprise. "Oh. Sarah. I didn't expect you to be here."
Sarah hadn't seen her old friend in years. Now, as she took a good look at Catherine, she almost didn't recognize her with so many extra pounds on her once fit frame.
"Catherine, how are you?"