The Birthday Gift
by Giselle Renarde
eBook ISBN: 9781609820879
Meredith is a cake-baking, apron-wearing small-town mom. Her guiding principle is “What would June Cleaver do?” until she stumbles upon two delicious hunks getting hands-on. June Cleaver would have run for the hills! Not Meredith. Things really heat up when one man’s wife appears… and encourages Meredith to join in!
eXcessica Publishing ‖ ARe ‖ Nook
Meredith untied her apron as she hurried along the tree-lined path. This wasn’t the first time she’d forgotten to take it off, making a quick dash to the grocery store. Head in the clouds! At least she’d remembered to put on shoes this time. Last week, she’d met snide grins from other customers when she got all the way to the checkout before realizing she had on fuzzy bedroom slippers.
Were those supermarket acquaintances sympathetic to her absentmindedness? Hard to say. There was a time, not long ago, when Meredith knew just about everyone in Sheridan, but the times, they were a’ changing.
“All these newcomers infiltrating our town…” her parents grumbled, bowing their heads gravely. Like a timid child, Meredith could never disagree with her stern father and critical mother. With her parents, there was to be no argument. But was there not an exotic appeal to the new families moving into her quiet neighborhood? They came to Sheridan from all corners of the earth and brought with them vibrant clothing and zesty foods. There was a whole big world out there, and its inhabitants were coming to Sheridan.
Slipping her favorite apron—the one with pale pink roses and mint green leaves—over her head, Meredith folded the garment in half and wrapped it around her arm. June Cleaver would never have made a blunder like this! The TV character was a figure of aspiration, for Meredith. “They don’t make ‘em like June Cleaver anymore,” her father used to say when they watched the black and white re-runs. How proud she felt when her husband Jeff argued there were still rare specimens of that breed in existence, citing Meredith herself as an example.
Jeff was a darling. He deserved a wonderful birthday gift, if only she could dream one up. Simple was always best. It was the simple pleasures that kept the impending boredom of life at bay: gardening, reading to Thomas and Jane, baking a cake. In fact, this very Saturday morning, Meredith was heading to the store to purchase the makings of a strawberry shortcake for Jeff’s birthday. She had the flour at home, but needed fresh strawberries, butter, whipping cream… what else? Oh, why hadn’t she written a shopping list?
Because Jeff had rushed her out the door that morning, without even giving her time to throw a shawl over her shoulders. What good fortune the morning sun shone warm as cashmere. She’d chosen to walk through Granite Park rather than down Sheridan’s suffocating main streets. It seemed like there were twice as many cars on the roads as there had been even five years earlier, and the exhaust fumes were overwhelming on the hotter days of summer.
As Meredith strolled along with the cotton skirt of her sensible blue dress flapping in the breeze, a sudden chill ran down her spine. Something wasn’t right. A twig snapped behind her. Somebody was watching her every move, she was sure of it. Oh goodness, she could scarcely breathe.
Swallowing hard, Meredith worked up the courage to take a look around.
There wasn’t a soul in all of Granite Park, from what she could see. It must have been a squirrel, or a sparrow, or perhaps a hare. Silly girl, so jumpy. Of course there was nothing to be afraid of, but she quickened her pace nonetheless.
Not ten seconds later, heavy footsteps fell against the path. How could that be? Nobody was there a moment ago.
Meredith’s heart raced. She stole a quick peek over her shoulder without slowing her gait. Sure enough, there was a man following her. The imposing figure’s face was obscured by dirty brown hair. Where could he have come from? And was there something familiar about the lanky man in grubby clothing? It was hard to say from such a brief glance.
Meredith’s body took over at the helm and she was off like a shot toward the path’s end. There was only one house nearby, and Meredith darted for it. It was a large Victorian crawling with ivy, probably a summer home for business folk from the city. She tapped anxiously at the front door, but there was no response. What could she do? She had to get in. Someone was after her!
There wasn’t a moment to spare. Good thing most of Sheridan’s residents didn’t lock their doors. Meredith slid unobtrusively into the dark home, bolting the lock behind her.
eXcessica Publishing ‖ ARe ‖ Nook