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Chapter One

“Daisy Buchanan was an insipid, shallow, soulless woman,” Violet La Rue declared. “Jay should have found someone else.”
“But he loved her,” Nancy Peyton argued.
“Why?” Violet asked. She shuddered. “The woman was a horror.”
“She was old money,” Lindsey Norris said. “She was everything that the new money, like Jay Gatsby, aspired to be.”
It was lunch time on Thursday at the Briar Creek Public Library where the crafternoon group met every week to work on a craft, eat yummy food and talk about their latest read. Per usual, Violet and Nancy were the first to arrive.
Lindsey was the director of the Briar Creek library and this group had been one of her ideas to boost the popularity of the library in town.
“Buchanan was a bully. Remember when Daisy has that bruise?” Nancy asked. “What kind of man treats a woman like that?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve dated him, well, men just like him at any rate,” Beth Stanley said as she waddled into the room.
Beth was the children’s librarian and today she was dressed as a giant green caterpillar, the puffy underbelly of which seriously impeded her ability to walk. Dangling from one arm, she held a large basket of plastic fruit and food stuffs.
Lindsey lowered the sampler she was attempting to cross stitch and studied Beth.
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” she said. “You read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
“What?” Mary Murphy exclaimed as she stepped over the tail end of Beth’s costume to enter the room. “I thought we were reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.”
“We are,” Nancy said. “Beth read the caterpillar book to her story time crowd.”
“Oh, phew, you had me worried there,” Mary said as she plopped into the chair beside Lindsey.
“Well, you might want to take a gander at some of the picture books,” Nancy said. Her look was sly. “You know, if you and Ian ever decide to have some babies.”
Mary tossed her long dark curls over her shoulder and sent Nancy a grin. “My husband is all the baby I can handle at the moment thank you very much. Although, things seem to be progressing nicely between Lindsey and Sully, so perhaps you’ll have some luck there.”
“Ouch!” Lindsey jammed her thumb into her mouth before she bled all over her sampler.
“Interesting,” Nancy said, giving Lindsey a piercing look.
“Food’s here,” Charlene La Rue announced as she stepped into the room, bearing a tray of mini bagel sandwiches and a carafe of lemonade.
Like her mother Violet, Charlene was a tall, beautiful black woman with warm brown eyes and a smile that lit up the room. But while Violet had been a stage actress, Charlene was a local news anchor. Lindsey always marveled that she was able to balance her public life, be an exemplary wife and mother and still make time for their crafternoon Thursdays.
Nancy turned her attention away from Lindsey and tucked her cross stitch needle into the corner of her canvas cloth. She leaned forward to help herself to the sandwiches Charlene was setting out on the table.
“How is Sully?” Violet asked. “I haven’t seen him in ages.”
Violet and Nancy were not only best friends, they were also tag team buddies in the information seeking game. Where one left off the other stepped in.
“Did you know that The Great Gatsby is considered the greatest American novel?” Lindsey asked.
“There she goes, changing the subject,” Beth said.
She shimmied out of her caterpillar costume and hung it up on the coat rack. The static from the costume made her short spiky black hair stand up on end and she ran her fingers through it in a futile attempt to tame it. She grabbed her project bag from where she’d tucked it into her fruit basket and took the last remaining seat in the room.
“I am not,” Lindsey said. “I’m just keeping us on task. We’re supposed to work on a craft while we discuss our latest book which is…”
“The Great Gatsby,” the rest of the ladies said together.
“We know,” Charlene said. “It’s just that you’ve been dating Sully for a few months now, so we’re curious. Can we assume it’s going well?”
Lindsey glanced at Mary for back up, thinking that since she was Sully’s sister, surely she wouldn’t want to hear about his love life, but no. She nodded at Lindsey encouragingly. Lindsey just shook her head. Her crafternoon buddies were incorrigible.
“Hey, that’s not your Granny’s cross stitch,” Beth declared, looking at the cross stitch hoop in Lindsey’s lap. “I love that.”
“Well, we did say we were doing “subversive” cross stitch,” Lindsey said. She glanced at her sampler, which when she was done would read, “Books are my homeboys” with a border of books on bookshelves going around it. She planned to hang it in her office, if she ever stopped stabbing herself in the thumb because even with a round tipped cross-stitch needle it still hurt when it poked the skin and bleeding on the darn thing.
“You need a thimble,” Violet said. “You’re a hazard with that needle.”
“I have an extra.” Mary reached into her bag and handed one to Lindsey.
“So, what do yours say?” Lindsey asked the group.
“Mine says, “Bake your own damn cookies!” Nancy said.
Lindsey laughed. Nancy was not just her crafternoon buddy but also her landlord. After sixty odd years of living in Briar Creek, Nancy had come to be known for her cookie baking skills, which occasionally annoyed her as she had also become to be the go-to gal for cookie exchanges and bake sales.
Violet held up her cross stitch and in her best stage voice she read, “To be or not to be. That is not the question. The question is, what time is lunch?”
Nancy snorted and gave Violet a high five.
“I went with an old restaurant stand by,” Mary said. “Kiss my grits.”
Mary and her husband Ian owned the Blue Anchor Café, the only restaurant in town that just happened to serve the best clam chowder in New England.
“Love it,” Beth said. “Hang it by the cash register.”
“Mine is going in our master bathroom,” Charlene said. She held up a pretty cross stitch with a half finished border of red swirls. It read, “Cap on. Seat down. Or else.”
Mary cracked up and said, “If I pay you, will you make me one just like it?”
Lastly, Beth held up hers. It, too, had a pretty pink border and in the middle, it read, “#@&$!!”
“Oh, no you didn’t!” Charlene said with a delighted giggle.
“Yes, I did,” Beth said. “I wanted to drop in some really rough language, but I thought this was pithier and more imaginative.”
“I think Fitzgerald would approve,” Nancy said. “I do love his way with words. Do you remember how Nick describes Gatsby? “He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.”
“Lovely,” Mary said. “You can’t help but feel that Gatsby will be disappointed.”
“Which brings us to the biggest question in the book, do you think Daisy was guilty of the hit and run and Jay took the blame for her or no?” Beth asked.
A knock on the doorframe interrupted the conversation. It was Ann Marie, a part time worker for the library. She was somewhere in her forties, the mother of two rambunctious boys, and favored denim skirts and soft jersey shirts. As she explained it to Lindsey, keeping up with her boys took all of her energy so she did not own any clothing that required ironing. She wore narrow black framed glasses and was growing out her short brown hair which had hit the awkward stage of many lengths and was held in place by a handful of hairpins.
“I hate to interrupt,” she said. “But there seems to be an altercation happening out front.”
Lindsey hopped to her feet. “What sort of altercation?”
“Mostly, it’s a yelling match,” Ann Marie said. “Between Milton Duffy and Trudi Hargrave.”
Milton? The crafternooners exchanged baffled looks. Milton Duffy was a yogi. He didn’t yell.
“Excuse me,” Lindsey said.
“Holler if you need back up, boss,” Beth called.
Lindsey nodded and hurried from the room.