Carly Mae awoke to morning sunlight warming her face and fierce grumbling in her tummy. She’d missed both lunch and supper the day before and was famished. After changing into shorts and T-shirt, she padded barefoot out of her room, Buster at her heels. Once downstairs, she let the dog outside, then shuffled toward the kitchen. Familiar voices mingled with the smell of pancakes on the griddle. Buoyed by the bloom of a new day, she was hopeful she’d be able to break the news to her family that Jasper couldn’t be trusted and figure out how to wrestle the town from his grasp. She slowed, however, when she heard snippets of a disturbing conversation—the second in as many days.
Missy, Blanche and Ray didn’t notice her listening, mouth agape, at the doorway. She had reached the threshold when, after incessant needling from the twins, Missy admitted Damon wasn’t the twins’ birth father. Velda had broken up with Damon, who was away at college, when a riverboat gambler detoured up the Bendy to escape from a handful of passengers who claimed he’d cheated them. He seduced lonesome Velda, promised her a life more lavish than she’d ever dreamed, and then abandoned her when he learned she was with child. Ever devoted to Velda, Damon came home to marry her and claim the twins as his own.
“So we have a different dad? Where is he now?” Ray asked.
“Did he ever look for us?” Blanche chimed in.
Missy shook her head. “I’m sorry to say, my darlings, he was killed in some fight over a card game. He’d been cheatin’ again. I’m not even sure you were born yet when that happened.”
With anxiety clogging her throat, Carly Mae stomped into the room and glared at Missy. “When were you planning to tell me all of this?” She turned her wrath on the twins next. “And how long have you kept your suspicions from me?”
“Oh, my dear, it’s not what you think.” Missy moved with arms outstretched toward Carly Mae.
Later, if the four people in that room could have changed that moment, every one of them would have. But how could they have predicted what was to come? This was lamented in whispers throughout Kiminee in the tense months that followed.
Carly Mae shunned her grandmother’s entreaty. She blasted through the house, sprang onto the porch, down the steps, and across the lawn. Missy was next through the door, followed by Blanche and Ray.
“Come back here right this minute, Carly Mae Foley!” Missy called.
The crushed teen turned to face her grandmother. “Why should I? You’re just like Jasper, hiding things we need to know.” She spun around, leaped onto the sidewalk and sprinted away.
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