A Wicked Yarn – Emmie Caldwell

Lia surveyed the scene before her with contentment, a feeling that not so long ago she doubted she would experience again but which she now savored. Her gaze wandered over the vendors who lined the huge barn, readying their booths for the start of the Crandalsburg Craft Fair: quilts, pottery, jewelry, suncatchers, and so much more, along with her own knitted goods. It was a beehive of activity and amazing colors as the craftsmen set out their wares, and she was so glad to be a part of it. She knew Tom would be proud of how she’d pulled her life back together after losing him. It had been hard, and required plenty of help, but she’d done it. Not the same as her old life—and never would be—but fine. She scolded herself. It was more than fine. Her new life was good! Lia turned to her booth. Was it ready? Cabled crewnecks hung at the back, along with lightweight summer cardigans. Baby blankets, sweaters, and pink-and-blue-ribboned caps lay at one end of her front counter, knitted place mats, coasters, and two afghans neatly folded at the other. Her stocktaking was interrupted by sharp, attention-getting claps. Belinda Peebles, the craft fair’s manager, marched through the center of the barn, her strident voice carrying to the rafters. “Come on, people! It’s almost ten! Enough with the dawdling. Get yourselves together!” Dawdling? Lia’s eyelids twitched.

She hadn’t noticed any dawdling. She saw vendors reacting to the unwarranted scolding with annoyed looks or ducking out of view. Lia knew Belinda was often edgy before the beginning of a fair weekend, but this seemed more than usual. She caught Belinda’s eye as she circled Lia’s way and pulled her over with a subtle head motion. “You okay?” Lia asked. “I would be if this group would get its act together!” The fair manager impatiently brushed back a strand of dark brown hair that had dared to slip out of her bun. “This is a big weekend. Mother’s Day!” “Everyone knows that, Belinda,” Lia said gently. “They’re probably on pins and needles themselves. A little pep talk would go a long way, I’d say.

Remember Miss Jenkins revving up our soccer team before a game and what a difference that always made?” Lia was glad to see a smile creep across Belinda’s face and added, “You know we all appreciate the work you put in for the craft fair.” Belinda stared into Lia’s blue-gray eyes a moment before nodding briskly. She gave a determined tug to straighten the knit tunic that hugged her sturdy frame and took a few steps back from the booth. “Good luck, everyone! We have a large crowd already gathering out there. I know it’s going to be a great weekend!” Faces cleared, and Lia heard a few mild cheers. She gave Belinda a thumbs-up as the manager walked by, heading toward her office and looking less tense, though still not happy. That concerned Lia, who owed a lot to her old friend. She knew that Belinda came across to many as difficult and overbearing, but Lia knew about her softer side. It was because of this considerate friend that Lia had made the move from York to Crandalsburg, a wrenching but ultimately healthy change for her after Tom died so suddenly. Belinda recognized how painful it had been for Lia to be surrounded by daily reminders of what she had lost and brought her to the small town where she lived, beginning with short visits.

Those visits eased Lia into making it a permanent stay. And it was Belinda’s craft fair that now gave Lia a new and exciting purpose: managing a booth filled with hand-knitted items, both her own and those of her knitting circle back in York. She and the group had long run out of people to knit for and ached for new challenges and outlets for their skills. Knitting for the craft fair connected delighted buyers with their lovingly made items and gave joy to all. A win-win, they all agreed, with Lia taking a modest percentage of the total sales to compensate for her time and efforts. When Bill Landry, who worked security for the fair, opened the doors of the Crandalsburg Craft Fair at precisely ten o’clock, Lia focused on the surge of shoppers, all looking excited and eager—a very good sign. They fanned out, some turning to the booths at each side of the entrance, while others made beelines for particular booths. Lia was delighted to see a pair of women heading her way. “This is it, Carrie,” the older of the two said to her companion. “This is where I bought those place mats.

Ninth Street Knits.” Lia smiled at the mention of the name she and her knitter friends had chosen. Ninth Street was the location of Jen Beasley’s home, just outside of York, where they’d met weekly for so many years. “Hello again,” Lia greeted the auburn-haired woman. “You bought the light green place mats a couple of weeks ago, didn’t you?” “Yes!” The woman looked pleased to be remembered, and Lia blessed her ability to recall faces, though names were a different thing. “They went great with my kitchen colors, and Carrie, here, loved the little daisies knitted into the corners.” “Do you have them in yellow?” Carrie asked. “Let’s see.” Lia quickly found one set of yellow place mats and pulled them from the pile. But Carrie’s face fell.

“There’s no daisies,” she said, which was true. These were flower-free, though Lia had worked in thin stripes of white. “Look, there’s daisies on these blue ones.” Carrie’s friend found a set in navy blue. “The dark color really sets off the white flowers.” “But I wanted yellow, to set off my new dishes.” She looked over to Lia. “Can I order them?” “Absolutely.” Though Lia had knitted the blue place mats, she was currently in the middle of an ambitious, multicolored afghan. But she knew her fellow Ninth Street Knitter Maureen Evert had the daisy pattern and would have the time.

She gave Carrie a form to fill out and an estimated time frame for the finished product, then collected the deposit. By the time they were done, new customers had arrived to browse. Lia was kept pleasantly busy for several minutes. When there was a lull she sat on her folding chair and pulled out the burgundy-colored square that would eventually be part of the afghan. As she knitted, she observed the action and the atmosphere of the craft fair. Booths were filled with a mind-boggling array of wares in all sizes, shapes, and colors, as well as media: wood, leather, glass, metal, fabric, and clay. Then there were the canvas and paper paintings of Joan Fowler and framed photographs of Mark Simmons. Most vendors were artists in one way or another, in addition to her booth neighbor Olivia Byrd, who made herbal soaps, and Zach Goodwin, who brought in honey from his hives. Where Lia fit in, she wasn’t sure. Somewhere in the middle worked for her.

A glance at Olivia showed her to be a bit frazzled, which was ironic since one of the things she sold, besides her handmade soap, was an essential oil that promoted calm. She had lip balms, too, and herbal bath salts that sent lovely aromas wafting over to Lia, who was sure the wonderful scents affected her customers in a positive way as they fingered her items, putting them in the best mood to buy. Olivia’s stress appeared to come from her struggle to find a particular lip balm among the many for an impatient customer. Lia was glad when Olivia finally found it. It was a small sale, but satisfying every customer was important, especially when your business was slow, as it had been for Olivia lately. When the woman left with her purchase, Lia caught Olivia’s eye and smiled encouragingly. She was about to say something, too, when she heard her name called and turned her head. Belinda leaned over the side of Lia’s booth that edged the walkway leading to the office. “When you get a chance, would you come back for a minute? I need to talk.” “Sure.

” What about? rose to Lia’s lips, but she’d have to wait to find out. Belinda had already turned away. Lia continued to work at her afghan square until a new customer appeared at her booth. She stood to help the young man decide on a Mother’s Day gift of cozy knitted slippers, but part of her mind remained on Belinda and what she wanted to discuss. It was clear something was bothering her friend. Chapter 2 Alfred is selling the barn,” Belinda stated flatly as soon as Lia took a seat in front of her desk. Lia’s mind went blank. Alfred? Then it came to her. “Alfred Schumacher?” Lia had heard about the Schumachers, how they’d owned the barn for generations, gradually selling off farmland but managing to hold on to a few acres surrounding the large barn. The craft fair used the empty fields for parking and to accommodate booths outdoors during milder months.

“Why?” Lia asked. “Rather, why now? After all these years.” “Alfred says he’s getting too old to deal with it. I think the offer was too good to turn down.” Belinda sank her head into her hands, a rare show of emotion other than impatience. “I’m sorry,” Lia said. “What does this mean for the craft fair? Will the new owner let it go on?” Belinda lifted her head slightly and shook it. “The new owner—assuming the sale goes through—is Darren.” Her eyes hardened. “There’s nothing he’d like better than to destroy me and everything I’ve worked for.

Once he gets his hands on the property, the craft fair is done for.” “Oh!” Lia had met Darren but didn’t know him well. He and Belinda had been married briefly. It was during a busy time in Lia’s life, when she was working as a surgical nurse while also guiding their daughter, Hayley, through the turbulent teens. The busyness of both couples, in fact, had limited their opportunities to socialize. Lia remembered finding the man pleasant and charming, at least at first. She remembered Tom commenting that he’d met used-car salesmen who were more sincere than Darren. “Darren’s a businessman, Belinda.” Lia had tapped into her memory and come up with the fact that he was a real estate developer. “Surely he wouldn’t sink money into a property simply to hurt you, would he?” Belinda laughed grimly.

“You think not? You don’t know him. He never wanted the divorce, you know.” She grimaced. “Not because he cared anything about me, but because it disrupted his life. It made him look bad, and he hated that. Really hated it. This is a man who’ll get his revenge, no matter how long it takes or what it costs him.” Lia knew that Belinda and Darren’s divorce had been a bitter one, but Belinda always kept the details to herself. It didn’t appear she’d come out terribly well, financially. She put in long hours managing the craft fair as well as other events at the barn and wasn’t living in luxury.

“What will you do if you lose access to the barn? Can you move the fair somewhere else?” “No,” Belinda said. “This is it. The Crandalsburg Craft Fair thrives in great part because of its proximity to Gettysburg. We’re within reach of tourists and day-trippers who come to see the historic town and battlefield. When they have enough of history, they wander over to us to shop. There’s no other affordable facility large enough in the area.” Belinda rubbed at her face. “If I move the fair site too far, I lose the tourists as well as most of my vendors, who live locally. They won’t want to drag their goods back and forth any great distance.” Lia saw the worry on Belinda’s face.

She’d spent years building the weekend craft fair as well as filling in the week with other activities in the barn, things like meetings and receptions, and even dance classes. To lose access to what had become her life would be devastating. Less devastating would be the effect on the Ninth Street Knitters, but it would be a huge disappointment, just when things had barely got going for them. It had become an important part of Lia’s recovery, too, and frankly, the added income had made a difference, not only to her but to others in the group. “Don’t you have a contract with Alfred?” she asked. “Of course. But unfortunately for me there’s a clause that lets him off the hook.” Belinda’s face hardened. “Darren won’t get away with this.” “What do you mean to do?” Lia asked a little worriedly.


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