Glory Ann scooped her daughter from the back seat, relishing the sweet pudge still lingering on the fifteen-month-old’s lengthening legs. The curly-haired tot pushed back from her mother’s embrace and bore her blue-eyed gaze into Glory Ann’s. “Down! Me do it.”
Glory Ann swiped a thumb across the child’s sticky cheek. “Okay, but stay close and no running. It’s Gramma Hawthorne’s birthday.” Her chest tightened. “And we must be on our very, very best behavior.”
Glory Ann put her daughter down and straightened the crumpled flounces of the tiny pink dress. She then smoothed the front of her own orange shift. “Now, hold my hand.”
It had been months since she’d been home to see her parents, and though her mother promised she’d come to Brighton, she had never made the one-hour drive. Not in the many months her little one grew in her middle. Not when she’d labored in the sterile hospital, longing for her mother’s hand to hold. Nor any other time during the fifteen months of her daughter’s life.
She took a shaking breath and found an anchor in her child’s tight grip on her thumb. It had seemed a fun idea to surprise Mother on her birthday, but with all the cars filling the driveway, it appeared she was a gate crasher, not even an invited guest to the only place that felt like home.
“Come along, love.” Glory Ann steadied her daughter as she toddled up the porch stairs. She didn’t bother knocking, the buzz of conversation inside pulling her onward. All went quiet before a chorus of “Happy Birthday” rose.
Glory Ann scooped up her daughter and together they entered the dimmed room but stayed outside the circle of familiar faces gathered around the kitchen table. The glow of birthday candles softened the lines on her mother’s face, making her appear years younger than Glory Ann ever remembered. Something in her middle twisted, and she fought back swelling emotion she couldn’t name.
The song ended and the room silenced as the company waited for her mother to blow out her candles. In the silence, the tiny girl in Glory Ann’s arms burst forth an exuberant “Happy birday, Gamma!”
Collectively the room shifted in their direction, and Glory Ann shrank back.
A gasp sounded to her left. Jimmy’s mother stood with her hand pressed against her chest, staring at the child. Glory Ann swallowed. Jimmy’s daughter. Surely Mrs. Woodston didn’t recognize . . .
Her father appeared at her elbow and steered her from the room just as her mother blew out the candles. He spoke over the applause, forced cheer straining his voice. “So glad you could make it, darling. Come, we have a room set up where the children can play and give the grown-ups their space.”
Glory Ann clutched her squirming child close and quickened her pace to match her father’s hurried climb up the steps. He pushed open the door to Glory Ann’s old room.
“Here, this will be a nice place for our little moppet to play.” His voice was light, but there was a tension around his eyes that made Glory Ann’s stomach knot up.
Glory Ann surveyed the room, clear of all of her personal artifacts and now sporting only a dresser and her old iron bed, covered with a patchwork quilt. “Where are the other children?”
“Oh, um, it’s just her.” He nodded to the toddler who now sat on the braided rug, running her fingers over the ridges, babbling quietly to herself.
Momma appeared in the doorway a tad breathless.
Daddy grimaced. “I’ll make sure all our guests are comfortable while you two chat.” He made his escape.
“My, my that sure was a . . . a nice surprise. You two showin’ up.” Momma folded her hands in front of her, spine ramrod straight.
Glory Ann knelt close to her child. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had company.” She tore her gaze away and stared at the filmy curtains where late afternoon sun made them appear ablaze. “You didn’t mention anything about a birthday party when I called last week.”
Momma crossed the room and sat on the quilt, then started toying with a frayed seam. “Honey, I love you and my sweet granddaughter. You know that.” She cleared her throat and lifted her chin. “But . . . but I think it would be best if you didn’t come to Humboldt for visits anymore. Let us come to you. Now that you have a little one, it’s too much hassle for you to make the trip.”
“I don’t mind it. It’s nice to be home.”
“Glory Ann, honey . . . I’m trying to be gentle about this. Visit if you want, but don’t bring the child back here. She’s . . . she’s like a facsimile. Those eyes. That fair hair. The older she gets, the less it can be denied. Jimmy’s mother about had the vapors after you left the room.”
Surely Momma was just being paranoid. Glory Ann’s pulse pounded in her ears, and her chest grew tight. “It’s wrong, what we’ve done. Keeping her from them. They lost their son. They shouldn’t lose the chance to know their only grandchild too.” She pulled her little girl into her arms and inhaled the comforting scent of her hair before the child squirmed away, entranced by a hatbox beneath the bed. She pulled it onto the rug and opened and closed the box full of Glory Ann’s keepsakes, whispering “peekaboo” over and over again.
“We should tell them the truth.”
Momma knelt in front of Glory Ann and gripped her arm. Her complexion, warm and rosy in the light of the birthday candles, had gone anemic. “You . . . you can’t. You’ll ruin everything.”
(c) Amanda Cox, Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2021. Used by permission.
Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons–but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.
1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.
This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.
About Amanda Cox
Amanda Cox is a blogger and a curriculum developer for a national nonprofit youth leadership organization, but her first love is communicating through story. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible and theology and a master’s degree in professional counseling. Her studies and her interactions with hurting families over a decade have allowed her to create multidimensional characters that connect emotionally with readers. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with her husband and their three children.