A Hudson Sisters Novel #3
April 2018 (03-26-18)
ISBN-10: ISBN-10: 1501145126
ISBN-13: 97-81501145124


Chapter Two
Allie sat in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch, waiting for Barney. Changing into a soft navy t-shirt dress hadn’t taken Allie long, and since she kept her makeup to a minimum these days, mascara and a swipe of dark pink on her lips would do. She wore hot pink sandals on her feet, big gold hoops in her ears, and two inches worth of gold bangles on her left wrist. Her hair was pulled back into a high pony tail in an attempt to keep it off her neck, but it still hung past her shoulder blades. She was thinking it might be time for a trim when she heard the door open.

“I always said we Hudsons clean up real good.” Barney grinned as she stepped out onto the porch, her white cardigan folded over her arm. She wore a pretty black and white sundress, gold earrings, and black strappy sandals. Her still-blond hair was blunt cut and came to her chin to frame her face. Even in her seventies, Barney looked darn good. “Shall we go?”

“We shall.” Allie followed Barney down the steps and onto the sidewalk. “What’s your buddy Tom doing for dinner tonight?”

Barney shrugged. “He’s driving into Scranton to see a cousin. He invited me to tag along, but I didn’t feel like going.”

“Sounds like things are moving pretty fast between you two.”

Barney made a face. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t want to go. Though it’s been nice, having someone my age to spend time with.”

“You have a lot of friends your age in town and you spend lots of time with them,” Allie reminded her.

“Yes, but Tom is different. He left Hidden Falls a long time ago. I don’t remember him coming back very often. I’m not sure we have a whole lot in common anymore.”

“He must have come back to visit his parents, and his mother after his dad passed away.”

“If he did,” Barney said, “I didn’t notice.”

“How could you not have noticed? You live right across the street,” Allie pointed out.

“Maybe I was just too caught up in my own life. For so many years, I was so wrapped up in the responsibility of being president of the bank. I knew what just about everyone in town was doing financially. I knew who hadn’t saved enough for their retirement, who had a child in college and two more kids right behind, who’d lost his job, who had another child on the way and couldn’t afford it. I can see it now, but I couldn’t see it then. I felt like I had the weight of the entire town on my shoulders.”

“Because you wanted to solve everyone’s problems.”

“Like my dad before me, and his dad before him, and his…well, you know.”

“That’s a heavy weight to carry, Barney.”

“Don’t I know it. I lost twenty-two pounds after I retired.”

“Because you were getting more exercise? Not sitting all day?”

“Sitting all day?” Barney rolled her eyes. “I’ve never sat all day. But after I retired, I realized I was a stress eater. Once I eliminated the stress, I didn’t feel like snacking all the time. Plus retiring cut out all those birthday, retirement, wedding, and new baby parties in the break room. I bet I ate the equivalent of twenty whole cakes over the course of my working years.”

“Do you ever miss it?”

“I miss the structure my days used to have. I miss the interaction with the other employees. I miss seeing all the folks who came into the bank, the new babies, the retirees, the little kids clutching their savings books in one hand and a fistful of birthday money in the other. I don’t suppose there’s much of that anymore, what with online banking and such.” She paused as if reflecting. “But I don’t miss the responsibility. Or the stress.”

They crossed Hudson Street at its intersection with Main, passing the corner drug store, a vacant storefront that had housed the town’s only book store, a sporting goods store where one could purchase everything from guns and ammo to pink Wellingtons and flowery Laura Ashley garden gloves, the beauty salon, and the Hudson Diner, in that order. Traffic was light from four-thirty in the afternoon on any given day, so there were few cars on the street.

“I heard the bookstore is reopening in a few months,” Barney had said as they passed the empty storefront. The large glass window in front read Hudson Bookateria. “I hope they change the name. The last two owners have carried over the original and it hasn’t seemed to bring either of them any more luck than the first owner had.”

“What would you change it to?” Through the window, Allie could see a long row of shelves along one wall that went all the way to the back of the store.

“If I owned it, it would be Barney’s Books.”

“Catchy.” Allie nodded slowly. “Not to mention original.”

“You asked.”

Moments later they arrived at the Greenbriar Café, known to the locals as the Goodbye due to its reputation as the place in town to take that special person who was no longer all that special. It’d been rumored that many a break-up had taken place there, though no one could name anyone who’d admitted to having been dumped at one of their tables.

Allie grabbed the door and stepped back for Barney to enter. The hostess station was unmanned so they stood and waited for a minute or two before a waitress approached.

“Hey, Miss Hudson,” the young woman smiled. “I’ll have a table for you in just a minute.”

“Thanks, Degan.” Barney looked around. “Where’s Judy? Don’t tell me the owner actually took a night off?”

“She’s in her office. I’ll let her know you’re here.” Degan gathered two menus and led Barney and Allie to a table.

“Not too crowded yet,” Barney noted as they sat.

“That’s because it’s barely five-thirty. Who eats dinner this early besides really old people?”

“Watch it, girlie.” Barney’s eyes were fixed on the menu. “And I shouldn’t have to remind you that you’re eating dinner ‘this early’.”

“Only because I’m with a…” Allie covered her mouth to cough. “Senior citizen.”

“You may say senior. You may not say old, elder, or advanced age. And never geriatric if you know what’s good for you.” Barney put the menu down. “I’m going with the trout.”

“Is it boney?” Allie asked.

“It’s a fish, Allie. Fish have bones. You watch for them, you pick them out. Should one get into your mouth you remove it.”

“No, thanks. I’ll go with the coconut shrimp.” Allie held the menu in both hands. “And for the record, I never think of you as being old. Or senior, even.”

“Well, thank you. In that case dinner’s on me.” Barney looked to be about to say something else, when Degan returned to the table.

“Miss Hudson, Judy asked me to ask you if you’d come back to the office,” the waitress said.

“Of course.” Barney handed her the menu. “I’m having the trout and a large iced tea.” She looked at Allie. “I’ll be back in a few.”

“Iced tea for me as well,” Allie said. “And the coconut shrimp.”

“I’ll put that right in for you.” Degan took Allie’s menu. “I’ll be right back with your teas.”

She was true to her word, and Allie was just about to take a sip when the café door opened behind her. She turned, more from reflex than curiosity, in time to see Ben Haldeman come in with a pretty dark-haired young woman who was chattering away. It appeared to Allie he was hanging on every word. She turned away from the door and focused way too hard on her iced tea. Degan led Ben and his date to a table in the back. When Allie looked up again, she realized he was seated directly in her sight line.

She inwardly groaned. Was she really going to have to be looking at him all through dinner?

The only good thing was that he hadn’t seemed to notice her at all.

Allie sensed the exact moment when he did. She could feel his eyes boring into her and made herself busy checking her email and her Instagram account on her phone lest she make eye contact with him. She put the phone down when she realized she’d read the same email four times.

What, she wondered impatiently, was keeping Barney?

Degan brought salads for her and Barney, and Allie kept her eyes on her plate, pushing around the lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers until she finally began to eat. A few minutes later, Barney came bustling out from the back room, in such a hurry she failed to even see Ben, who’d been about to greet her. She pulled out her chair and sat, her face white, her expression grim.

“Barney, what’s wrong?” Allie asked.

“The worst. The absolute worst.” Barney’s breath came in quick bursts.

“What? Are you all right? You look like you’re about to start hyperventilating.”

“It’s Judy. She’s leaving for New Mexico and…”

“Whoa. Slow down. Start over,” Allie reached a hand across the table to rest on Barney’s. “Take a deep breath.”

After Barney was able to collect herself, she took one last big breath. “Judy’s parents are in Arizona. Her father’s had a stroke. Her mother is in the early stages of dementia. She has to leave Hidden Falls. She’s going to go out there to stay and care for them herself rather than put them in a senior care center.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. I’m sure she’s terribly upset, but I don’t see…”

“She’s going to close the Goodbye, Allie. Do you know what this place means to this town? It’s place to go for breakfast or lunch with your friends or where you meet them for coffee. It’s where you and your family pop in for dinner on those nights when you don’t want to cook. It’s Hidden Falls, Allegra Jane Hudson Monroe. Closing the Goodbye is going to change everything.” Barney looked like she was about to cry.

“Well, I understand that you love the place but there is the diner right across the parking lot.”

“No one meets up at the diner. It’s always been the Goodbye.”

“So maybe it’s only temporary. Maybe it’ll only be closed for a short time.”

“She’s going to sell it. She has no idea how long she’ll be in New Mexico, or if she’ll ever come back.” Barney was obviously distressed.

“Maybe Judy has a sister or a brother who could take over and keep it running until she gets back.”

“Her brother is there now, but he can’t stay forever. He has a family and a business to run in Michigan. Judy’s children are scattered all over the place and they all have young families, and none of them have ever had any interest in the restaurant business. Oh, I just can’t imagine Hidden Falls without the Goodbye.” Barney shook her head. “It’s been my favorite place forever.”

“Well…” Allie tried to think of another solution. “Has she thought about maybe hiring someone to live with her parents and take care of them?”

“You don’t treat family that way when there’s a crisis like this. You don’t push your responsibilities off on someone else. You take care of it if at all possible.” Barney appeared personally offended. “How is it you don’t understand that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe being the daughter of a woman who drank herself to death and wanted nothing to do with her children could have something to do with it. Or maybe having a father who died without telling his daughters he was sick, who arranged to be cremated before we even knew he’d died, who had two wives — though we’re not really sure what Susa’s legal status was — and children who never knew about each other.” Allie added pointedly, “Who never even told us about you.”

Barney sighed. “It’s hard to argue with any of that. God knows you didn’t have very good role models.” She tapped her fingers on the side of her glass. “There has to be some way to fix this.”

“Maybe she could hire someone to run it for her,” Allie suggested. “Surely there’s someone around who’s capable of running a restaurant. She could keep the same staff, and just have someone acting like a kind of overseer. I mean, how hard can it be?”

“I’ll suggest that to her, though she may have already thought of that herself.” Barney started to rise from her seat, but Allie reached across the small table to place a hand on her arm.

“Wait until after you’ve finished eating.”

Degan appeared with their meals, and the two women ate almost in silence, each with their own thoughts, Barney obviously still perturbed about the status of her favorite restaurant and Allie focusing on not looking over Barney’s shoulder in Ben’s direction.

Who was the dark-haired woman? Allie hadn’t seen her around before. An old girlfriend? A new girlfriend? She tried to push it away by telling herself she really didn’t care who he was with or what he did. She’d made a mistake, yes, she had, and she’d been the first to admit it. She’d done everything she could to apologize but he’d thrown her apology back at her. He’d forfeited his right to her friendship, if that was what had been building between them. He could date every woman over the age of consent for all she cared.

She unconsciously flipped her pony tail and savagely speared a green bean on her plate while she thought about how little she cared.

“I’m going to run in the back and talk to Judy again,” Barney said as she pushed back her chair.

“You finished that whole thing already?” Allie stared at the remains of Barney’s fish, which consisted of the head, a long string of bones, and the tail.

“It was a small trout. I won’t be long. Order me a coffee, please. And take a look at the dessert menu and order us something from there.”

“Wait, I don’t know what you want.”

“But you know what I like.” Barney got up and headed to the back room once again.

Allie finished her dinner, once again resorting to her phone lest she glance at the third table from hers. Degan stopped by to clear the table and bring the dessert menu. Allie ordered their coffees and moments later, Degan returned with two dark green mugs with the Green Briar logo. Allie took as long as she possibly could to look over that night’s offerings.

What was Barney doing back there with Judy? How long could it possibly take to make a simple suggestion?

After Degan’s third stop at the table to see if Allie’d made a decision, she ordered two peach cobblers and hoped Barney’d hurry back. Allie added cream and sugar to her coffee and focused on drinking it for another five minutes or so. Finally, when she was just about to go to the back room herself to see what was going on, Allie glanced up to see Barney coming her way. This time, however, her aunt was smiling — glowing, even.

She must have talked Judy into keeping the restaurant open. Good for her, Allie thought.

“Success?” Allie asked as Barney took her place at the table once more.

“Yes. And it’s going to be a wonderful adventure.” Barney’s eyes were sparkling.

“What? A wonderful adventure for who?” Allie slowed her attack on her cobbler so Barney could catch up. “This is delicious, by the way. Do they make this here?”

“An adventure for all of us,” Barney told her. “Judy said a woman in town makes the desserts and brings them in. Always delicious.”

“Go back to us.” Allie’s fork stopped half-way to her mouth. “Define us.”

“Us. We.” Barney took a bite of the cobbler. “Oh, this is fabulous. We’ll have to keep her on.”

“Barney.” Allie pushed her plate to one side and rested her forearms on the table. “Us? We? Adventure? Please tell me you didn’t offer to babysit the Goodbye while Judy’s in New Mexico.”

“Of course not.” Barney took another bite. “I bought it.”

“You bought…” The words died in Allie’s throat.

“This wonderful café.” Barney waved her fork around. “Well, I haven’t actually bought it yet. We have to go through all the things one does when one buys a property. But yes. The Goodbye Café is going to have a new owner. Me.”

For a moment, Allie thought her head was going to explode, and she fought to put words into a coherent sentence.

“Barney, why would you want to do this?”

“Because someone has to, and the sooner the better. I’m here. I can do it sooner.”

“Judy could sell it to someone else. It doesn’t have to be you.”

“If she puts it on the market, it will sit vacant until a buyer is found.” She spoke slowly and deliberately as if addressing a young child. “Which will not only deprive the town of the café for an undetermined amount of time but will also drive the price down. Judy has owned the Goodbye forever. She’s worked very hard to make it the wonderful place it is. She should get fair market price. She should not have to take a loss.”

“Why are you assuming no one else would pay her what it’s worth? Maybe there are other people in town who value the café as much as you do.”

“Well, I’m sure there are many who value it as much, who have as many good memories here as I have. The difference between them and me, is that I can afford to pay cash for the place and Judy can leave without a sale hanging over her head.”

“But are you sure you want to do this at…” Allie stopped in mid-sentence. The words on the tip of her tongue would not be well received.

“At my age?” Barney arched an eyebrow and quietly placed her fork on her plate. “Seriously, Allie?”

“I didn’t mean…well, it’s a lot of work, I’m sure. I just meant are you sure you want to take on all that work and responsibility after we just talked about how good it feels for you not to have the responsibility, that’s all.”

“I’m quite capable of running a business. I ran a bank for many, many years, and did so quite successfully. If I want to spend some of my money to buy something that will bring me a great deal of pleasure, I’m going to do it.” She pushed her chair back from the table. “Besides, I have three able-bodied nieces living with me. I’ll have all the help I need.”

Barney stood and lifted her bag off the back of her chair. Signaling Degan, she said, “You can give the bill to my niece.”

And with that, Barney swept from the Goodbye.

“Oh, crap.” Allie muttered as she dug her wallet from her bag. “Me and my big mouth.”

Degan handed her the bill, and Allie did a quick calculation of the tip. Before she could count out what she owed, a shadow fell across the table.

“You just can’t seem to help yourself, can you?”

Allie didn’t need to look up to know it was Ben. While he may not have heard everything, he’d apparently heard enough to know she and Barney had had words.

“And it would be your business because…?” She opened her wallet and took out the appropriate cash without looking up.

“Barney is one of my favorite people. I hate to see her upset.”

“Family business, Sheriff. Butt out.” She knew her insistence on deliberately mis-stating his title no longer amused him — of course she knew he was chief of police — if in fact it ever did, but she didn’t care.

“Allie…” His voice lowered and deepened at the same time.

“Excuse me. I need to go and you’re in my way.” She stood and until he took two steps back, they were almost face to face. They stared at each other for a very long moment.

“Ben?” Ben’s date had apparently been headed to the door but doubled back when she realized he wasn’t with her.

“He’s all yours.” Allie stepped around him, handed Degan the check and the cash, and left without looking back.

Anger and frustration quickened her steps so she arrived at the house before she cooled off. Rather than go inside and face an angry Barney, Allie walked up the driveway and into the back yard and plunked down on one of the lounges. Her first impulse was to go up to her room and take a few quick sips from her vodka stash. But Nikki would be home sometime soon, and there was no way she was going to let her daughter see her tipsy or worse. As hard as it was to resist that deep-seated pull, even knowing how a few drinks would take the edge off, she wasn’t going to risk it. Besides, she would be back at the Sugarhouse in the morning, painting the intricately traced designs, and that was no work for shaking hands.

And there was some small amount of pride in feeling she’d overcome something that was so strong, yet so destructive to everything that meant something to her. Not just Nikki, but her relationships with Barney — such as it was at that moment — Des, and Cara, who was the only one who shared her secret. She hadn’t intended on showing that side of her to anyone, but one night a few months ago, she’d overdone it, and when Cara tried to awaken her, she’d been unresponsive. Eventually, Allie had come around, but Cara had warned her in no uncertain terms that if it ever happened again, she’d call 911 without hesitation, and whatever the repercussions might be, Allie would have to deal with them head on, alone. Since then, Allie’d been very careful about what she drank, and when.

She’d also noticed that she was better able to reason when she was sober. Who would have guessed?

Right now, she needed her wits about her. She’d offended Barney and she needed to apologize before the wound caused by her unintended remarks began to fester. Allie wasn’t accustomed to apologizing, but she was learning there were times when you had to put your own feelings aside for the sake of people you cared about. And she cared very deeply for Barney.

Allie stared up at the back of the beautiful house her aunt had opened to her and her sisters, the house she hadn’t known about before they’d arrived on her doorstep, suitcases in hand. Barney’d known they were coming, of course, but she hadn’t met them, and couldn’t have known what she was getting into. Allie and Des had grown up in a mansion in Beverly Hills, where luxury was a given, due to her father’s success as an agent to the stars, and her mother’s own stardom when she was young, before alcohol had gotten its teeth into her and her reputation among the producers in Hollywood had gone from “difficult to work with” to an automatic “don’t even bother”. But Allie’d never lived in a house like the Hudson mansion. A glorious Victorian, with all the frills and delightful touches of that era, it was also a warm and welcoming home thanks to Barney. There were always fresh flowers in the house and piles of books everywhere, and comfortable furniture that even Buttons, the dog Des had rescued, was invited to curl up on now and then. There were meals around the kitchen table — mostly prepared by Barney herself — where the conversation flowed from one topic to the next, no limitation on subject or point of view. Barney had opened not only her home, but her heart to her nieces and had shared her life with them.

In the home Allie and Des had grown up in, there’d been a cook who prepared adult meals even when the girls had been small. There’d rarely been anyone other than the two of them at the table at meal time, and when their mother was present, there was little conversation, because their mother had very little interest in her children, very little interest in anything that didn’t directly pertain to her. Except of course when Des had her own TV show and Nora got to be the stage mother in charge of the girl who starred in Des Does it All. By that time, Nora’s own career was non-existent, and her only tie to the stardom she so desperately craved was through her young daughter. The fact that Des hated being on TV had never been a concern to Nora, nor had she even noticed Allie’s growing resentment of Des’s success. It was the height of irony that Allie would have given anything to have had her own TV show, but she’d been born without a lick of talent, while Des, so very talented, hated everything about it. The resentment had driven a wedge between the two sisters they’d only recently dealt with. The Hudson home west-coast style was far from a happy one.

Allie watched the light in the kitchen go out and moments later, a lamp’s glow shine through the sitting room window. She thought about Barney’s life up until now. Years before, her fiancé, Gil Wheeler, had died when he’d fallen from the rocks overlooking the falls for which the town had been named. She’d been single all her life, and as far as Allie knew, no one had ever shared that house once her family was gone. Barney had many friends and even now, gave her all to the community. But there must have been times when loneliness set in, nights when she wandered from room to room, unable to settle herself, much the way Allie herself had done after Nikki had left their home to live with Clint during the week. How had Barney coped? How had she spent her holidays and who did she turn to in the middle of the night when she needed comfort or guidance? Had she been happy? Would she have been more content had she sold this place and bought a smaller home for herself?

Allie sighed as she watched the fireflies dance through the increasing darkness, knowing she couldn’t avoid going inside and doing what she had to do to try to make things right with Barney. She just wished the right words would come to her, and so far, they hadn’t.

She turned at the sound of a car in the driveway and flinched. She should have gone straight into the house and apologized while it was just the two of them. She craned her neck to see who was the first of the crew to arrive home.

Joe’s pick-up truck came into view and parked next to the carriage house. Allie was pretty sure it would be a while before Cara jumped out and headed for the house. Lately, Cara had spent as many nights at Joe’s house as she’d spent at the family home. It would be no surprise to anyone if Cara decided to stay in Hidden Falls with Joe once the theater was ready to reopen.

Besides, though Allie and Cara had not discussed it, there was talk about Cara turning the first floor of the carriage house into a yoga studio much like the one she’d owned in Devlin’s Light on the Delaware Bay, where she’d been born and raised.

Allie started to rise, the window on private time with Barney closing rapidly, but she’d underestimated how long it would take Cara and Joe to say goodnight. Before she could stand, Cara was making her way along the path to the house, stopping once to wave goodbye to Joe as he turned the truck around.

“Hey, whatcha’ doing out here alone in the almost-dark?” Cara asked when she spied Allie sitting on the lounge. “Allie? You okay? What are you doing?”


Cara laughed. “From what?”

“From Barney. And it’s not funny.”

Cara sat on the edge of the lounge cushion. “What’s going on?”

“I stuck my foot in my mouth. I know. Shock, right?”

“There are some things you do better than most people, agreed.” Cara pulled a leg up under her and asked, “What happened?”

“Judy Worrell’s moving to New Mexico to take care of her parents.” Allie blurted. “Barney bought the Goodbye Café.”

When Cara didn’t respond, Allie poked her leg with her foot. “Say something.”

“My mind is still trying to wrap itself around Barney wanting to buy the Goodbye.”

“Not wanting to. She’s agreed to do it.”

“What? For real?” Cara’s eyes grew wide.

Allie nodded. “She went into the back room with Judy, and when she came out, Barney was grinning from ear to ear. She told me ‘we’ were in for an adventure. We. As in us. You, me, Des. Nikki. We’re going to have some swell fun running a restaurant.”

“Why would Barney do that? You’d think at seventy-something — do we even know how old she is? — she’d want to stay retired and not have any daily obligations again.”

“That’s pretty much what I said that got me into so much trouble. She snapped at me and left the restaurant and stuck me with the check.”

“So unlike her,” a dismayed Cara said.

“I know, right?”

“But did she say why she did it? She must have had a good reason.”

“Pretty much that she feels she owes it the community to keep the restaurant open. You know how she’s always felt this heavy civic responsibility.”

“Yes but buying a demanding business…unless she’s planning on hiring someone to run it.” Cara paused. “Which would be so uncharacteristic for Barney, who’s so used to being in control. Who thrives on control.”

“It’s the responsibility-thing. She doesn’t want the café to be closed while Judy tries to sell it — says the town needs the Goodbye open, it’s everyone’s favorite place to eat and to meet up with friends, yada yada. The other part of that is she’s afraid Judy won’t get what she deserves from the sale if the place sits on the market for however long it would take to sell it. That the price will drop, and Judy will end up taking whatever someone is willing to pay for it.”

“And she doesn’t think anyone else in town would step up?”

“Apparently she isn’t willing to take that chance.”

“Boy, that Barney.” Cara bit a cuticle thoughtfully. “Have you ever known anyone like her?”

Allie shook her head. “It’s hard to believe anyone is that altruistic, isn’t it? I mean, she could wait a few months and get a better price, but she’s more concerned about being fair to her friend.”

They sat in silence for a moment, both contemplating the mystery that was Barney Hudson.

“She said so many of the town’s memories are there.”

“Then there’s the answer. She’s going to protect the Goodbye the way she’s protected this house and Hudson Lake and the bank and the park and the rest of the town. The way Reynold Hudson protected the men who worked in his coal mines and their families.” Cara smiled. “And us, now that she has us.”

“Well, she’s planning on using us to work at the Goodbye, so don’t get too sentimental. When was the last time you waited tables?”

“When I was sixteen. And I wasn’t very good at it,” Cara admitted. “You?”

“You’re kidding, right? How ‘bout never?” Allie pulled her knees up on the lounge. “Before you came home tonight, I was thinking about Barney living alone here for so many years. Why didn’t she sell this big house, move into something smaller, more manageable for a single woman?”

“Because she understood what it meant to the town to have a Hudson living here,” Cara said without hesitation.

“That’s what I think, too. She understood her place in Hidden Falls. She still does.” Allie swung her legs over the side of the lounge and stood.

“So what are you going to say to her?”

“What I should have said back at the Goodbye when she told me she’d just bought it.”

Allie went into the house and followed the trail of light down the long hallway to the sitting room. She stood at the threshold, her hand poised to knock, when Barney looked up at her expectantly.

“May I come in?” Allie asked.

Barney nodded and closed the book she was reading after marking her page with a folded piece of paper.

“I owe you an apology.” Allie stepped into the room and sat on the chair opposite Barney.

“Yes, you do.” Barney’s voice held no reproach, no animosity, no bitterness. Just her usual matter-of-fact, speak the truth tone.

“I’m sorry. I had no right to question you. Not what you do with your life nor what you do with your money. I think it’s admirable what you’re doing for Judy and for Hidden Falls.”

“What exactly do you think I’m doing?”

“I think you’re taking care of business, like you always have done.”

At that, Barney smiled. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for understanding.”

“It took me a while to see the light. But I get it, and while it doesn’t excuse what I said earlier, and it probably doesn’t matter, but for what it’s worth, I’m really proud of you.” Allie swallowed a lump in her throat. “I’m proud to be your niece.”

Barney looked down at her hands that gripped the book. A moment later, she raised her head, her eyes moist. “That may well be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.”

“Thank you. Am I forgiven for tossing in my two cents where they weren’t needed?”

“Of course you are.” Barney opened her arms and beckoned Allie into a hug. “Which doesn’t mean that you won’t be working your butt off at the Goodbye.”

“Barney, I don’t know anything about restaurants or waiting tables or cooking.”

Barney smiled broadly.

“Neither do I, dear. So unless one of your sisters has some experience we can draw from, we’ll all be learning together.”

Excerpted from The Goodbye Café by Mariah Stewart. Copyright © 2019 by Mariah Stewart. Excerpted by permission of Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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