Authors: Karen M Cox
Also by Karen M. Cox
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
FIND WONDER IN ALL THINGS
Copyright © 2012 by Karen M. Cox
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any format whatsoever. For information: P.O. Box 34, Oysterville WA 98641
Layout by Ellen Pickels
For my husband
Against his nature, he showed me patience,
so against my inclination, I took a leap of faith . . .
I first thank Jane Austen — for her wit, her humor, her incredible gift to the world. How I wish she’d had more time here to share her stories with us!
Second, I express my deepest thanks to the folks at Meryton Press: Michele Reed for taking on a Persuasion-inspired book, Ellen Pickels for her copy editing skills and expertise, and Gail McEwen for accepting the supreme challenge of editing the manuscript and figuratively holding my hand while we made the tough decisions.
While writing this story, I received valuable advice from some special people, so special thanks are due to Karen Adams for honest and hilarious feedback, to Terry Jakober, for encouragement and reality checks, and to Jane Vivash for wanting more from the characters in just the right places. In addition, the great readers at
A Happy Assembly
generously shared their interest, offered support, and made thoughtful comments on an earlier version of the story.
Finally, I thank my family: My husband — a conversation we shared one summer morning started this story percolating in my mind. My son — his casual bravery first lent me the courage to share my writing. And my daughter — she brings me joy every day just by being her indomitable self.
James Marshall bent over the tackle box, picking through the various lures from Mr. Pendleton’s collection, a bucket of bait on the dock beside him. He was so engrossed in his task that he nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the harsh hiss from behind.
“Quick! Over here!” Stuart Pendleton urged him in a stage whisper as he raced by the aft end of the Pendleton’s houseboat.
“Wha — ?”
“We’re hiding from Laurel and Dylan and Crosby. You wanna take the runabout up to the tunnel, don’t you? If the little brats find us, then Mr. Elliot will make Virginia mind them — and then she can’t go with us. Hurry!” He waved his hand in a frantic gesture, urging his friend to follow.
James hopped up on the weather-beaten boards of the dock and took off after his buddy. “Where are we going? It’s a dock; there aren’t too many places to hide.”
“Virginia said to wait behind the ice machine up by the gas pumps.”
The boys ran up the dock, their traitorous footsteps thundering in their ears till they reached the marina shop and the safe haven of the gas pumps behind it. Stuart grabbed the metal pipe rail and sailed over it, landing in a crouch, ready to spring at any moment. James followed, but he was too skinny and little to leap over it like Stu. He climbed carefully over, and the two middle-schoolers huddled close together, peering around the corner of the ice machine to watch for enemy six-year-olds and the eleven-year-old tagalong.
“You don’t have to hide, you know,” a voice piped up from behind, making James’s heart leap into his throat.
He and Stu whirled around to see a girl sitting cross-legged between the gas pumps, eating cookies from a bag, a Coca-Cola can beside her. She looked at them, munching as they gaped at her.
“Laurel, how did you — ?”
“You don’t have to hide,” she continued as she brushed crumbs from her lap and wadded up the bag, “because Daddy took the boys fishing this morning. They won’t be back till lunchtime.” She stood up and swept her long, red braids behind her. “So all four of us can go to the tunnel.”
“You’re not going,” Stuart declared. “You’re too little.”
too little. I’m eleven, and I can run as fast as you.”
James took a dubious look at the little round frame and short legs. “I don’t know. . . Stuart runs pretty fast, Laurel — faster than me even.”
She turned. Big, blue eyes that seemed to take up half her round, lightly freckled face pleaded with him. “I’ll keep up, I promise. I won’t be any bother.”
James wavered. “Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt — not really.”
Stuart shook his head. “I don’t want to be babysitting all day while we look for artifacts.”
Laurel looked at him with disdain. “There aren’t any real ‘artifacts.’ Most of the stuff is just old junk you tourists dump off your boats.”
“Then why do you even want to go?”
Laurel opened her mouth to answer, but a soft voice drifted from behind them. “I said she could go, Stu. She was going to be all by herself today.”
The boys turned around, and another girl stepped around the corner of the ice machine. Her hair was red too, but more of strawberry blond, a gentler color that matched her gentle demeanor. She walked over, put her arm around her younger sister’s shoulders, and faced the two boys with a self-assured smile.
James watched in amusement as his friend stammered and stuttered and finally acquiesced. He’d noticed a difference in Stuart that summer where Virginia Elliot was concerned. The previous year, he and Stu spent long days on the runabout, exploring around the lake, talking about Reds baseball, and fishing. But this year, Virginia had been a constant in most of their plans. Granted, she wasn’t a ‘girly girl’ — growing up on the lake had ensured that she could fish, water ski, and hike as well as any boy — so James had to admit it wasn’t a huge pain to have her around. She didn’t care much for baseball though, and there were some things the boys couldn’t discuss when she was there — like
, for instance — and now, she was Stu’s favorite topic.
Stuart looked sheepish, but James just shrugged. “I don’t care if the kid comes with us.”
Laurel beamed at him, and he gave her a grin in return.
“Come on, then.” Stuart’s voice was gruff in an attempt to sound nonchalant. “I want to get going before it gets too hot.”
The four made their way down to the slip where the Pendletons kept Stuart’s runabout. He dug the life jackets from under the seats and passed them out. He inspected one, checking it over and sniffing it for mildew before handing it to Virginia with a magnanimous smile. James fished out one for himself and tossed the last one to Laurel.
“This one stinks” — Laurel wrinkled her nose — “and it’s got moldy spots on it.”
“Sorry, kiddo,” Stu answered. “That’s the only child-sized life jacket I got.”
She sighed and put her arms through the armholes, struggling to fasten it around her plump middle.
“Here.” James reached over to loosen the belt. “You’re bigger around than that,” he muttered, so busy fiddling with the strap that he missed the stricken look on Laurel’s face.
Virginia noticed, however, and she stepped over and took the vest out of his hands. “I’ll do it. It’s got nothing to do with the middle. You have to put the bottom strap between her legs ’cause it’s a child jacket.” She tossed a scathing look at James over her shoulder. “That’s all.”
He held up his hands in surrender and backed up a step. “Sorry — didn’t mean to offend.”
“Never mind all that.” Stu was impatient to get started. “Let’s go.”
James grunted. Girls were so weird about things. No guy would care if he were bigger than some other guy; in fact, he’d be proud of it.
The girls settled in the bottom of the runabout, almost in the center. Virginia’s arms and legs surrounded Laurel in a loose but protective cage. James untied the ropes while Stu submerged the prop and started the engine. “Hop in,” he told James.
James stepped over the girls and sat in the bow. Stu pushed off, hopped in the aft end, and they drifted away from the dock, idling toward the boundary of the no-wake zone. Once in the middle of the lake, Stuart engaged the motor in running gear, and they were off toward their summer morning’s adventure.
James turned and faced into the wind, closing his eyes and letting the warm sunshine wash over him as the cool spray sprinkled his face and hair. A bump in the ride lifted him off the seat and reminded him he had a duty to perform. He opened his eyes, shielding them from the sun with his hand, while he maintained a lookout for logs or other debris just beneath the surface of the lake.