(The opening of the novel, as well as some of the main character’s backstory, has changed. Myrtle, being the evil muse that she is, might demand further changes before publication. But here is the opening scene. This is from the rough draft. Hope you enjoy!)

***

If anything happens to me, go home to Mossy Creek. I mean it, Meggie. Go there and find Serena Duchamp. She’ll know what to do. Promise me, Meggie. Please. Do this for me and for you.

I first read those words two weeks ago when my mother’s attorney handed me a file of paperwork. Mr. Chandler’s expression was appropriately serious. There might have been a hint of compassion in his rheumy blue eyes but I hadn’t noticed. All I’d wanted was to get out of there. I’d had more than my share of people offering their hollow condolences and well-wishes over the last few days. They no more fooled me than they had my mother.

Damn them. If they cared so much, why hadn’t they been there for her when she’d needed them?

Why hadn’t I?

The latter was easier to answer than the former. I hadn’t been there because she didn’t tell me she was sick. I would have gone AWOL if necessary to get to her in time. Not that it would have been necessary. I hadn’t been active duty in almost seven years. I wasn’t even a member of the Reserves any longer. Much as I’d hated giving it up, it had been the Reserves or my job and I needed my job. It allowed me to not only keep a roof over my head but to help supplement Mom’s expenses as well. I should have realized something was wrong when she quit protesting the money I sent at the beginning of each month. I thought she’d quit because she knew I would keep sending it, whether she wanted me to or not. It was my way of repaying her for all the sacrifices she’d made for me when I was younger.

Damn it, I should have listened to the doubts and asked her straight out what was going on. Now it was too late. She was gone, leaving me with more questions than I had answers, not the least of which was why she wanted me to go “back” to some hole-in-the-wall town in Texas named Mossy Creek. The only problem was I didn’t remember ever being in Mossy Creek. So how could I go back to it?

If that wasn’t enough, who was this Serena Duchamp and what was she supposed to help me?

Instead of Mom telling me she was sick, I’d been blindsided by a call from her minister. I’d listened in disbelief as he told me Mom “was no longer with us.” Yep, that’s exactly how he put it and it took me several moments to realize what he meant. I’m sure he thought I must have been in denial when I asked why he was calling to tell me she’d changed churches. It never occurred to me that she might actually be dead. My mother had always been bigger than life, even if she stood just under five-feet tall. She had been a force of nature. She had to be to survive in Maxon’s Mill, Kansas. Despite having lived there since I was a toddler, Mom had been an outsider. Oh, those living there had no problems coming to her when they needed something, but they never accepted her – or me.

Now they could all rot in Hell as far as I was concerned. To prove it, once old man Chandler filed the probate papers, I packed up my mother’s things, sold what furniture I didn’t want and put everything else into storage in Wichita. I didn’t trust the locals enough to leave it there. Her house was on the market, the attorney taking care of the legalities. And I had no reason to ever return to the town that had never made us feel welcome.

Instead, I was on my way to a town I’d never heard of until opening Mom’s last letter to me, one she’d known wouldn’t be delivered until after her death. But what did it mean?

And why had she never mentioned Mossy Creek or this Serena Duchamp before if they were so important?