Thirty and a Half Excuses Page 1

Chapter One

I had never been more scared in my life.

Sure, I’d been frightened out of my wits before, like when I was sure Daniel Crocker was going to shoot me or when Jimmy DeWade planned to take me to the woods outside of town and kill me. But after those momentary flashes of terror, my life returned to normal. Well, as normal as my life got.

This fear had seeped into every cell of my body, and it clung to me day and night, gnawing me from the inside out.

This time I wasn’t afraid of dying.

I was afraid of failing.

“Tomorrow’s gonna be a big day. I think we’re ready.”

I jumped at the sound of Violet’s voice and spun around. She was leaning on a broom, surveying the abandoned floral shop we’d rented for our business.

I nodded, trying to swallow. “Yeah.”

Three months, several hundred thousand dollars, a small business loan larger than both of our houses put together, and lots and lots of hard work had resulted in this moment: the eve of the grand opening of the Gardner Sisters Nursery.

“We’re still waiting on that shipment for flowering kale, but I think we’re all set with the traditional flowers people expect.” Violet set the broom in the corner and straightened a pot of Kalanchoe that was already perfectly arranged. Her eyes found mine and she smiled. “This is happening.”

I took a deep breath, feeling like I was about to hyperventilate. “Yeah.”

When Violet had first mentioned the idea of opening the nursery several months ago, her husband Mike had just announced he was leaving her. I had other plans at the time—I was supposed to move to Little Rock with my boyfriend Joe—so when she asked me to be her partner, it took me a while to warm to the idea. But once I did, I realized I wanted it as much as Violet did.

Now I was scared to death. There was more than me and my dog Muffy to worry about if the nursery failed. Violet was hinging her two children’s futures on this venture.

She grabbed my hands and squeezed. “We’re gonna be great.”

Violet had spent most of her life taking care of me and reassuring me. I’d made tremendous progress over the last four months, but right now I needed my big sister’s support. I nodded. “Yeah, you’re right.”

She squeezed again. “Trust me. We’ve done our homework. We know what we’re doin’.”

Violet had done most of the homework. She’d researched her plan for the nursery for over a year before ever mentioning it to me. She was the brains and the backbone behind this venture, and I was the capital, investing the money my birth mother had left me in her will.

Violet had always poured her all into being a wife and mother. But now that her marriage was failing, she needed to devote her attention to something else. It turned out that she had a head for business, which gave her the confidence to thrive. I’d never seen her happier or more fulfilled. But sometimes I wondered if there was something else making her happy that I didn’t see.

“You almost done there?”

I patted dirt around the plants I’d just finished potting. The container was overflowing with fountain grass, pansies, marguerite daisies, and coral bells. “Yeah, I just need to clean up.”

Violet rested her hand on my arm. “Rose, relax. We’re going to be fine.”

I searched her eyes and some of the confidence I saw there soothed my nerves. Deep down I believed we would be successful, but I was finding it hard to overcome more than two decades of being told how worthless I was and how I’d never amount to anything. Every time I tried something new my mother’s voice would fill my head, stealing all my confidence and joy. But I’d wasted the first twenty-four years of my life giving her power over me. I wasn’t going to give it to her anymore, even from the grave. I lifted my chin. “I know.” And I meant it.

Violet dropped her hand and walked to the counter as my peripheral vision began to fade to black. A tingling filled my head, a sure sign a vision was coming on, and I tried to relax—fighting them did no good. I’d had visions since I was a child, and there was no stopping them when they came. Whenever I had a vision, I saw it from the perspective of the person closest to me, a talent that had gotten me into more trouble than most people face in a lifetime.

Everything faded away, and I was standing in the nursery parking lot, surrounded by a crowd. A man with highlighted, poufy hair and a too-perfect tan shook my hand, his bright-white teeth nearly blinding me. He turned to the crowd and smiled, saying, “As a new member of this community wanting to support local businesses, I’d like to order enough flowers to cover the entire grounds of the New Living Hope Revival Church!” The crowd broke into loud applause.

As the vision faded away, I blinked. “We’re gonna get a huge order.”

Violet was bent behind the counter. She stood, her eyebrows lifting. “What?”

I offered a soft smile. “I just had a vision that Henryetta’s newest minister is going to order enough flowers to cover the grounds of his church.” One of the inconvenient side effects of my visions was that I always blurted out what I saw. Usually I wished I could keep it to myself, but this one I would have wanted to share anyway. Visions containing good news were rare.

“Jonah Pruitt? The televangelist? Do you know what this means, Rose? The publicity we could get?” Violet squealed and danced in place. “I told you!”

I inhaled deeply. “My visions don’t always come true, Violet.”