Authors: Sherri Wilson Johnson
Song of the Meadowlark
By Sherri Wilson Johnson
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4 (NIV)
Song of the Meadowlark, Second Edition
Text copyright © Sherri Wilson Johnson, 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Cover design by Lynnette Bonner at
Cover Images © Bigstock Photo, Bird sitting on prison fence at sunset, ID 18950624 and Beauty Sunshine Girl Portrait, ID 63290605.
Background images from PublicDomainPictures.net.
All scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, NIV.
All Rights Reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the author. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Song of the Meadowlark is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide authenticity and are used fictitiously. All other characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination.
In loving memory of my dad,
REV. WILLIAM (BILL) ARTHUR WILSON, who passed away while I was writing this novel.
His love (expressed by pinching my nose or poking me in the side) and his knowledge of the Word of God challenged me to be the best person I could be.
To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—thank you for giving your life for me and for answering the Prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) I’ve been praying regularly.
To my husband, Dan, who keeps on believing that I can write more stories.
To Kayla, Seth and Thea, I couldn’t be more proud to be your mom (and mother-in-law). Keep walking in the Lord. He’ll never fail you.
To all of my family and friends, for your love and support.
To my writing friends, for talking shop with me.
Cora Buchanan drove her ’68 Camaro through town down Columbia Avenue, the places she’d become accustomed to in her years of living in South Carolina with Clark zooming past her. She pointed her car toward I-26 East, her green eyes filling with salty tears. This picturesque place had become a prison to her since Clark had left her to fend for herself, giving her no choice but to move in with his parents.
Merging on to the highway symbolized the launching of her new life—slow, cautious at first, and then no looking back. She’d waited for a year—to the day—for Clark’s return. She couldn’t wait any longer. Moving away from Lake Murray would leave more of a void in her than moving away from her Florida childhood home had when she’d betrayed Mom and Dad and married Clark against their will. But it had to be done.
Ben and Judy, the best in-laws anyone could ask for, seemed sure God would work out the details of her life, that their son would return to Cora. If only her faith could be that strong. She still had so many doubts. When he’d left last June, he’d taken most of her hope with him.
When Cora crossed into Georgia, Taylor Swift’s latest cd blaring through her speakers, she smiled at the welcome sign boasting a giant peach. She was one state closer to seeing this thing through. The temperature held at 85 degrees, and the sunshine beaming down on her car warmed her chilled heart; the wind whipped her cares away. White, fluffy clouds painted pictures across the Georgia sky, blue like a bluebird’s wings today. Hopefully, the weather would remain clear until she got to Florida because she hated driving in the rain.
Another two hours went by as Cora admired the beauty of the land—pine trees and crape myrtles, black-eyed Susans and old oak trees. Unique mailboxes dotted the edge of the road along the way—a giant emerald green fish, a miniature mail truck, and a mailbox about the size of a washing machine. An old man in overalls climbed down off his tractor to retrieve his mail from his cow shaped mailbox, scratching his belly. “Aww, he’s so cute.”
The green grasses and golden hay made way for the city. Cora’s stomach growled, and she stopped at a sandwich shop outside of Atlanta for a roast beef sandwich, fries and water. The cold drink burned as it slid down her throat.
Cora rubbed her bleary eyes and jumped back into the car again, stopped for gas and checked her tires, then headed toward I-75 South. She squinted in the afternoon sunlight, and cars zipped by like something from a futuristic movie. “Good grief, where are they in such a hurry to get to?”
Once on I-85, Cora battled construction along the highway. The roads were extra narrow with cement barriers along the shoulder to keep cars from veering into the construction zone. “I hate this!” She gripped the steering wheel until her knuckles whitened. If she could make it through this stretch of road and get to Columbus before having a nervous breakdown, she’d stay the night there and give her body a respite.
Cora passed rolling hills and tall spindly oak trees. Call boxes were every mile or so and white crosses lined the roadway. It seemed like forever since she’d seen another vehicle.
“I didn’t think 85 was this remote.” It had been a while since Cora had seen a road sign, a mileage marker, or an exit. By now she should be to Columbus. A sinking feeling reached her stomach. Had she missed an exit and headed in the wrong direction? Up ahead, a sign read I-185.
“I-185? How did I get on 185? What happened to 85?” She hit the steering wheel with her hand and let out a scream. Why hadn’t she brought her GPS? The late afternoon sun caused a glare on her windshield, and she rubbed her tired eyes again, scratchier than sandpaper. “I’m going to have to stop and ask for directions.”
The sign up ahead read
, and Cora clicked on her blinker. As she pulled off the highway, looking for somewhere to get coffee and use the restroom, her car lunged forward, and her gears shuddered. She gripped the steering wheel to keep it on the road. She drove down Main Street and passed a Piggly Wiggly, a Burger Hut, Mike’s Barber Shop, and there, a block up the road, a service station.
Cora made it to the station and climbed out of her car, rubbing her hands on her jeans. What type of people would she encounter here in this out-of-the-way town? The red lettering on the white sign at the top of the building announced
Millburn Service Station
. Maybe there’d be someone nice inside.
Inside the office, a young man stood behind the counter locking up the cash register and the desk drawer. The smell of gasoline, new tires, and oil filled Cora’s nostrils, sending a wave of nausea to her stomach.
“Excuse me.” Cora scratched the back of her neck. “My car just died. Can you help me?” She fiddled with her keys.
“We’ll see. Let’s go take a look at it. You new in town or just passing through?” The attendant wiped grease off his hands with a rag covered in oil and pushed open the door, leading the way outside to the parking lot.
“I’m passing through. I’m from Lake Murray, South Carolina headed for Florida.” The man seemed pleasant enough and not creepy.
“You got a long way to travel. Welcome, even if it’s only for a short time and under bad circumstances. My name’s Bobby Millburn. I own the place.” He regarded the station with a prideful grin.
Bobby lifted the hood, looked around, and wiggled some wires. He got down on the ground and slid his body underneath the car. After a few minutes, he pushed himself out from underneath and stood, wiping his hands on his rag, then adjusted his cap.
“Do you think you can repair it?”
“From the looks of things, it’s your transmission. I can repair it, but I ain't so sure if we can get the parts for ya right away.” Bobby considered her with a slight frown on his grease-smeared face, his plain blue eyes teeming with obvious empathy. A pickup drove past, and the driver honked. Bobby waved his rag in the air.
“I was afraid the transmission had gone out. It’s been slipping a bit lately. How long?”
“A week, probably. We don’t get many cars like this in here.” He took a long admiring look at the classic automobile.
“Is there anyone else around who could get me out of here by tomorrow?”
“I don’t think so. I’m pert near the only repair place around these parts. I’ll tell ya what, though. I’ll try to find someone for ya—maybe someone a town or two away. Do ya know where you’ll be staying tonight?”
“No, wasn’t planning on staying. I got off the exit and came straight here.”
“I could check around for ya in the mornin’, and let ya know if anyone has the parts or if the repairs can be done sooner than a week.”
“That’d be great. Do you know of an inexpensive place to stay?”
“Shore do. Go up this street and over two blocks. There’s a bed-and-breakfast, Apple Springs Inn, on the corner. Ms. Lottie McCallister runs the place. You can get a wonderful meal and a comfortable room. She won’t charge ya much neither. Tell her I sent ya.”
“Thanks so much. I really appreciate your kindness.”
“Would ya like me to drive ya up there?” Bobby shut the hood and clapped his hands together.
“Oh no, that’d be asking too much of you.”
“But you have your luggage with ya. You can’t carry all of it.”
“It’s on wheels.”
“I don’t mind.” He grinned.
Cora sighed. “I am pretty tired. I’ve been driving all day.”
“Give me a few minutes, and I’ll lock up.”
* * *
No more than fifteen minutes passed before Cora stood in front of the Apple Springs Bed-and-Breakfast Inn. This historic home, probably from the early 1900s, had elegant country charm with its porches, ferns, and swings. The oak trees towering above the house had to be more than a hundred years old.
Cora’s nerves settled, and she relaxed her tense shoulders. Bobby helped her with her bags as they entered the inn. Cora’s nose filled with the scents of potpourri and lemon polish on antique furniture.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’d like to get a room for the night.”
“She’s leaving her car with me for the night. I told her you’d do her right. Have a good day, Ms. Lottie.”
“Thank ya, Bobby.”
Ms. Lottie, barely over five feet and round like a ball of dough, gray hair gathered into a knot on top of her head, wasn’t a quiet woman. Her voice demanded attention as she led Cora up creaking stairs to her room. “Supper is at six o’clock. I like my guests to be on time.”
“I won’t be late.” Cora closed the door behind her and surveyed the room’s antique furnishings. More lemon and potpourri scent wafted over her. The first door she opened revealed an ample closet. The next door, a bathroom. She let out a gasp of excitement. She wouldn’t have to share a bath with the other guests. She stashed her bags in one corner of her room and opened only the suitcase with her traveling clothes and toiletries. After freshening up in the bathroom, she changed into a pair of jeans and a cotton blouse.
Cora turned on the television and flung herself onto the soft antique bed. The room resembled Grandmother’s cozy guest room; vermilion walls darkened the space. She had thirty minutes until dinner. She should go help Ms. Lottie, but her legs felt cramped from riding all day, and her head pounded. And, after all, she was a guest. She’d rest up a bit before going downstairs.
This would be a good time to call Ben and Judy. What should she say to them though? Should she tell them her car had broken down or leave out that little detail? If she told them, they’d want to come get her.
Swallowing her pride and inhibitions, she plugged her cell phone into the wall to charge her dead battery and dialed her in-laws. As she’d suspected, they wanted to come get her, but she insisted she’d be fine and that she was enjoying the adventure.
Next Cora called Mom and Dad to let them know only that she’d stopped in Lewistown for the night and would be on her way soon. If she told them about her car breaking down, Dad would leave immediately to come get her.
She left her room for dinner, and it hit her. How was she going to pay for her car repairs? She had no idea how much it would cost—or how much the expenses of staying at the inn would be. Would she run out of money before she even left Lewistown?