This Heart of Mine(8)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Life was good. She might never have a Great Love Story like Phoebe's, but at least she was blessed with a wonderful imagination and an active fantasy life. She had no complaints and certainly no reason to be afraid that her old restlessness might be rearing its unpredictable head. Her new hairstyle was nothing more than a fashion statement.

Hannah threw off her coat and crouched down to greet Roo, Molly's small gray poodle, who'd scampered to the door to greet them. Both Roo and the Calebows' poodle, Kanga, were the offspring of Phoebe's beloved Pooh.

"Hey, stinker, did you miss me?" Molly tossed down her mail to plant a kiss on Roo's soft gray topknot. Roo reciprocated by swiping Molly's chin with his tongue, then crouching down to produce his very best growl.

"Yeah, yeah, we're impressed, aren't we, Hannah?"

Hannah giggled and looked up at Molly. "He still likes to pretend he's a police dog, doesn't he?"

"The baddest dog on the force. Let's not damage his self-esteem by telling him he's a poodle."

Hannah gave Roo an extra squeeze, then abandoned him to head for Molly's workspace, which took up one end of the open living area. "Have you written any more articles? I loved 'Prom-Night Passion.' "

Molly smiled. "Soon."

In keeping with the demands of the marketplace, the articles she freelanced to Chik were almost always published with suggestive titles, although their content was tame. "Prom-Night Passion" stressed the consequences of backseat sex. "From Virgin to Vixen" had been an article on cosmetics, and "Nice Girls Go Wild" followed three fourteen-year-olds on a camping trip.

"Can I see your new drawings?"

Molly hung up their coats. "I don't have any. I'm just getting started with a new idea." Sometimes her books began with idle sketches, other times with text. Today it had been real-life inspiration.

"Tell me! Please!"

They always shared cups of Constant Comment tea before they did anything else, and Molly walked into the tiny kitchen that sat opposite her work area to put water on to boil. Her minuscule sleeping loft was located just above, where it looked out over the living space below. Metal shelves on the downstairs walls overflowed with the books she adored: her beloved set of Jane Austen's novels, tattered copies of the works of Daphne Du Maurier and Anya Seton, all of Mary Stewart's early books, along with Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Danielle Steel.

Narrower shelves held double-deep rows of paperbacks—historical sagas, romance, mysteries, travel guides, and reference books. Her favorite literary writers were also well represented, along with biographies of famous women and some of Oprah's less depressing book club selections, most of which Molly had discovered before Oprah shared them with the world.

She kept the children's books she loved on shelves in the sleeping loft. Her collection included all the Eloise stories and Harry Potter books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, some Judy Blume, Gertrude Chandler Warner's The Boxcar Children, Anne of Green Gables, a little Sweet Valley High for fun, and the tattered Barbara Cartland books she'd discovered when she was ten. It was the collection of a dedicated bookworm, and all the Calebow children loved curling up on her bed with a whole stack piled around them while they tried to decide which one to read next.

Molly pulled out a pair of china teacups with delicate gold rims and a scatter of purple pansies. "I decided today that I'm calling my new book Daphne Takes a Tumble."

"Tell me!"

"Well… Daphne is walking through Nightingale Woods minding her own business when, out of nowhere, Benny comes racing past on his mountain bike and knocks her off her feet."

Hannah shook her head disapprovingly. "That pesky badger."


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