Book 4, The Girlfriends Series
Available On: Amazon
In the middle of a Saturday morning, two days after Christmas, my dad launches a thunderbolt into my world. My mom, who evaporated when I was four, has sent me a letter.
As he hands over the promised message, his eyes brim with tears. He moves closer on the couch in our family room and gently squeezes my shoulder. Dread saturates my brain now that the moment is here. Maybe reading this is one giant mistake. All I know is that once I open the letter, my life will change forever. Finally, I’ll understand why she disappeared. I’ve imagined every possible reason. But now is the moment of truth.
Taking a gulp of air, I rip the envelope open and study the shaky handwriting. Forcing the words from my throat, I read aloud so that my best friend Steph and my stepmom Diane, who are sitting on the other sofa, can share in the news.
My darling daughter Rachel,
I tried many times to connect with you. But I couldn’t do it. Years have passed, I know. I don’t expect you to forgive me. I can’t forgive me. But…now, I’m ready to explain. I’ve spoken with your father. Hopefully he can arrange the details. Right now, I’m living in Prickly Pear Junction, Arizona. I’m looking forward to seeing you.
I stare at Dad, searching for his reaction, and he pulls me into a hug. Memories from the past float through my mind.
“Rachel, I thought this letter was important and that you should know where your mother is living. She phoned me last week. We’ve talked, but I haven’t made any firm plans. I wanted to speak with you first.”
His eyes are red and he turns away to wipe his face. I slowly re-examine the note, inspecting each line for a clue. A bubble of annoyance expands in my brain. This letter tells me nothing. Absolutely nothing.
How can she do this to me? I’ve waited years to hear from her and now all I have is this meaningless bunch of sentences. Why didn’t she say something that would help me?
Steph shoots across the room and pulls me to my feet. “I’m so sorry—I know you expected more.”
“Yeah,” I mutter as I race upstairs to my bedroom, abandoning the letter, just like my mother abandoned me.
Steph follows, grabs my shoulders, and gives me a shake. “Talk to me, Rachel. What are you thinking?”
“I just want to understand. After twelve years of waiting to hear something, I need to know what’s going on with her. Is that too much to ask?” I collapse onto my bed and pound the pillows in frustration. “I don’t want to wait. I want to talk to her today.”
“Rachel, get up.”
I turn over and look at her through bleary eyes. “And don’t think that food will be the answer to this. I’m not always starving.” Well, not always, but most of the time.
“I know you. Eating won’t solve this problem. But what can I do to help you feel better?” She crosses her arms and gives me one of her serious, no-nonsense stares.
I sit up slowly and hug my knees. “Here’s the thing. I thought—I mean I really, really believed—I’d discover something new about what happened when she lived with Dad.”
“Maybe today isn’t the day.”
“You’ve got that right,” I say on a sigh. “I can’t imagine their conversation. My mom’s disappearance hurt him, too. Even after all these years, some days he can’t hide his resentment.”
Steph sits next to me. “Listen, nothing has really changed. You knew she was out there somewhere.”
“But things are different now. Fiona or my mother—I never know how to think about her. I can’t remember much of my life with her. Now she wants to meet me. Why? After all these years! What does she want from me? I thought I was ready for this moment. I dreamed about this moment. But now that it’s here, I’m a mess.”
“Well, at least we know your mother is somewhere in Arizona.”
“Right. Dad thought she was living in New Mexico. But I guess not. All I’ve heard is that she moves around a lot. She works in restaurants. That’s all I know.”
“Don’t you want to meet her? This is just nerves, Rachel. You’re in shock.”
I shake my head. “I don’t know what to think. I’m stunned that she wrote to me. I mean, I wanted her to write, but it’s going to take a while to sink in.”
“Hey, turn around. How about one of my famous neck massages?”
As Steph vigorously kneads my tight muscles, I let my mind wander. What would happen if I went to Arizona? What would that accomplish? So, I would meet my mother. Then what? I’ve always considered the meeting, but I’ve never thought about what would happen next.
“Rachel, let’s look up this Prickly Pear place and find out some information. That might help you make up your mind about whether or not you want to go.” Steph slides her phone out of her pocket. “I’ve never heard of the town.” She taps the name into Google. “Woo-ee! Check this out. You won’t believe it. You’re totally going to adore this.”
“Read it to me.”
I flop back onto the bed and close my eyes. Steph’s voice drones on and on about the vegetation, the weather, the hiking trails, and the Jeep tours available at Prickly Pear Junction, just outside of Phoenix. Yeah, yeah.
Suddenly my eyes fly wide open. Wide, wide open. “Read that part again, please.”
“Sure. ‘This sleepy town is more new age than Sedona. Tourists will discover opportunities for aura readings, crystals, vortex information, flower essences, the Tarot, and other occult practices. Explore the events of the past and their influences on the present. Open your mind and spend your holiday in Prickly Pear Junction.’”
“Steph,” I shriek. “I’m meant to go there. I know it. I know it.”