Elsie stepped out of the airport shuttlebus and gazed around in horror. Cars lined both sides of the wide street in front of Mama’s house. There were only two reasons for so many cars—a party or …a death.
Mid-afternoon in a Florida retirement community. The stillness and silence were absolute. It wasn’t a party.
She barely noticed the shuttle driver dropping her suitcases and cat carrier on the sidewalk beside her. Surely she wasn’t too late? Tears filled her eyes as she stared at the front garden Mama had worked so hard to create—coral-flowered hibiscus, yellow ixora, violet bougainvillea, even orchids growing in a magnolia tree. It was flourishing, while Mama…
A short, sturdy woman hurried out Mama’s front door. Watching her hustle down the path, Elsie felt as wooden and heavy as an old oak tree. She didn’t move until the woman flung her arms around her and said, “Sweetpea, I’m sorry—”
Then Elsie Leabeck, librarian, gardener, equestrian and mature adult, gulped in a deep breath of the soft Florida air and screamed at the top of her lungs, “Mama, how could you?” (take out then)
Mama’s hugging arms had the strength of a woman who dug deep planting holes and hauled bags of peat and manure around her garden. But Mama wasn’t supposed to be strong.
“You said you were on your deathbed with pneumonia,” Elsie yelled. “I broke the lease on my townhouse, quit my job, put Emberly on a horse van and rushed down to take care of you.”
“I said I was sorry. Hello, beautiful kitty,” Mama cooed, picking up Sampson’s carrier.
“Put Sammy down. We’re not staying.”
“Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Mama said. “Aren’t you glad I’m not dying?”
Elsie gritted her teeth. I love my mama, I love my mama. Maybe if she repeated it enough times, she’d remember why.
“You know you hated that job and those horrible Maryland winters, Sweetpea. You kept saying you wished you could live in Florida, too.”
“When I heard about the scumbucket who pulled a knife on you, and all so he could be first for some silly library computer, I knew I had to get you out of there.” Mama’s face flushed an irritatingly healthy pink. “You just needed a little kick in the patootie to get you to do what you wanted to do all along.”
Elsie knew who she’d like to kick in the patootie. Instead she buried her face in her hands. Yes, she’d been scared when she saw that knife. Yes, she’d dreamed of living in a kinder gentler place than the DC suburbs. But why oh why had she told Mama? She should have known Mama would move heaven and earth to keep her “baby” safe and happy.
“Now, come on, slowpoke,” Mama called, heading for the house. “Everybody’s waiting for us.”
Elsie lifted her head. “Everybody who?”
“The Peas, of course. They wanted to give you a welcome party, so the least you can do is look happy.”
The Peas? Oh right, Mama’s community garden group, Peas on Earth. Her stomach growled when she thought of party dishes created by the old-fashioned “make it from scratch” housewives who probably belonged to the group.
First thing she’d do though, even before she had a bite to eat, was call her boss and her landlord, cancel the moving van and the horse transport, reverse everything she’d just done.
She was surprised at the heavy feeling that settled over her. She wanted to go home, didn’t she? Sure Maryland winters were a mess, and the library job was turning into ‘babysit the free computer users’ instead of the research and reader’s advisory that Elsie had always loved. And making a garden in Maryland clay was backbreaking work. But her friends were there and that’s where she belonged. Yes, she’d go home as soon as she made sure Mama was really all right.
Elsie snapped up the handles and dragged her suitcases down the front path lined with yellow daylilies, fragrant pink roses, and bouncy portulaca. The intense colors faded into a haze and Elsie rubbed her forehead. She must be more tired than she’d realized. Then she smelled it.
Smoke! Coming from Mama’s front windows
Ok, this is a good start in a cozy. The backstory fits in nicely with the action. It's a tad rotund in the writing, but I'd read 50 pages to see how it goes. And what is it with mothers in these writing samples?? We've had what..three?..that are maniacs? Grandmother Snark is elevating a tastefully threaded eyebrow and fixing Miss Snark with a beady eye.