Note: We've had so much fun with serialized stories that I'm trying my hand at one again! Here's the first installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. Enjoy!
Summer was coming to Florida. Daylight now extended nearly to my bedtime. The sea grapes had blossomed, scattering tiny white flowers across the grass. Snowbirds, our visitors from the northern states who flee to the South to escape bad weather, had all gone home. With them went their wallets, forcing me to be more and more creative as I tried to think up ways to keep the cash register at The Treasure Chest ringing. Every day, I spent time on Pinterest and Etsy, hoping to conjure up new ideas for turning trash into treasure.
"Cara, dear? Do you have a minute?" Honora tapped me in the shoulder, forcing me to tear myself away from a Pinterest board featuring cool ideas for Cinco de Mayo.
"Of course," I said, pushing back from my desk. "What's up?"
Honora adjusted her glasses and patted the gray bun of hair resting on her collar. Even though the days had grown warmer, she still dressed formally, favoring seersucker shirtwaist dresses with narrow white patent leather belts. "I have a favor to ask. Rather a large one, I'm afraid."
All sorts of ideas flitted through my mind. Did she need to borrow money? Did her daughter EveLynn need a reference for her soft goods business? Did Honora need a few days vacation? However, my father taught me it's better to stay silent than to plunge ahead and stir up trouble.
So I waited.
Honora slipped into the chair facing my workspace. "I have a friend. A very, very dear old friend. Her name is Helen Berger. Like me, she's facing the twilight of her life. But sadly, her health is also declining. Recently Helen was diagnosed with inoperable cancer."
I swallowed hard. My own mother had died of breast cancer. The months after the diagnosis had been grim, and the last weeks of her life had been ghastly. "I'm so sorry."
"Yes, well..." Honora reached into her pocket and withdrew a linen handkerchief. Slowly, she rubbed her glasses' lenses clean. "She's moving from her apartment into assisted living. A prelude to hospice, really."
I bit my lip rather than charge ahead. Probably Honora was going to ask if I'd buy up Helen's worldly goods. After all, that's how our shop got started. The old owner, Essie Feldman, bought goods from estate sales. I might be interested, but only if the price and merchandise was right. My mind bounced figures around, thinking of what I could budget, when Honora interrupted with...
"And she has a pet that needs a home."
"A pet?" This wasn't at all what I expected, but it wasn't as unusual as I'd predicted. My friend and co-worker Skye had been teasing me that I was running an animal shelter as well as a haven for misfits and second-hand junk. I didn't mind her jokes. Jack, my rescue Chihuahua is my constant companion, often sitting in my lap while I work at the computer. Luna, the gray cat who was given to me when her owner died, likes to sit in our display window and sun herself. She's pretty aloof except at night when she curls up in the crook behind my knees.
"Yes. A bird. A cockatoo."
I frowned, because I'm not really a bird person. In fact, they sort of terrify me.