For as long as she could remember, Jilly MacPherson had always loved October. She loved the vibrant colors, the smoky scent in the air, and the feeling of things being just on the brink of change. Jilly lived at the end of a street on the edge of town, in a big Victorian house that had more room than she would ever need, a huge garden out back, and an apple orchard on the hill. She shared the house’s thirteen rooms with three cats she’d rescued from the county shelter and their nemesis, Jinx. It was a peaceful life that was just right for Jilly, in spite of what the townspeople often said about her. But after almost a year of living here alone, she was used to their talk, and she seldom felt lonely. It was infinitely better than the life she’d left behind.
She added a final pumpkin to the shop’s window display and stood back to view her work. Tomorrow, she would begin to paint the smaller pumpkins with faces. Those always went over well at the farmer’s market. Right now, she needed to clean the walkway that was suddenly covered with maple leaves.
She had just finished raking them into a neat, multi-colored mountain when a football came sailing out of nowhere and landed in the middle of it, missing her head by inches. She heard children’s voices.
“Now you’re gonna get it. I’m tellin’ Dad.”
“But I didn’t kick it! Kevin did.”
Jilly turned around just in time to see one of the neighborhood boys pedaling his bike as fast as he could in the opposite direction. It didn’t surprise her. She’d had run-ins with Kevin before, like last week when she’d caught him smashing pumpkins in her garden.
A moment later a small boy of about six or seven stood next to her. He looked terrified.
“I-I’m s-sorry,” he managed to say.
“No problem.” Jilly leaned down to pluck the football from the nest of leaves. She bounced it up and down in her hand before handing it back to him. “Is it yours?”
The boy nodded.
“How come Kevin had it?”
“Because he’s a bully,” the other child piped up. “Dad said we shouldn’t even play with him, and now Robbie’s in trouble.”
“It’s not my fault,” Robbie wailed again. “And if you tell Dad, I’ll pull your hair!”
“Oh yeah? Well, let’s see you try it.” The kid whipped off a baseball cap and swung her dark braids temptingly close to the boy. When he reached for one, Jilly figured this had gone far enough.
“Hold it now, folks,” she said and stepped between the two who were obviously brother and sister. “I’m sure we can settle this peacefully. First off, my name’s Jilly MacPherson, and since I’ve lived on this street for a while I know just about everybody in the neighborhood. But I don’t think we’ve met before.”
She waited. The boy scuffed one worn sneaker over the other and mumbled, “Robbie Spencer. She’s Cathy.”
“We’re not supposed to give our names to strangers. Especially not her.” The girl reached out and gave his arm a yank. “Come on, there’s Dad. We better get home.”
She hauled her brother down the street to where a late model SUV had pulled to the curb. Jilly recognized the driver when he stepped out—a tall, athletic man with a thatch of curly black hair. He’d moved into the neighborhood this past summer, and Jilly had heard he was the new biology teacher and football coach at the high school.
The girl clutched her brother’s sweatshirt sleeve and chattered to the man. When he looked Jilly’s way, she quickly snatched up her rake and went to work on the leaves again. No need for him to see her staring like some nosy busybody. Heaven knew this town had enough of them.
Excerpt from October Spell from Autumn's Gold.
Stop by tomorrow for an excerpt from Bus Ride to Love.