SLIGHTEST IN THE HOUSE
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On some level she was aware that an elderly woman had come out of the darkness and put her arms around her. Meredith heard her say that everything would be all right. But on another, more conscious level, the one where all of her senses saw, felt, processed and recorded what was happening, Meredith watched two black body bags being loaded into the back of an ambulance. Then she watched the ambulance turn around and drive off in the opposite direction. Her long, tumbling mass of blond curls hung loosely over her face, shielding it. For Beth, the reality of what had taken place would come later. But Meredith had seen what had happened and understood. That knowledge was now seeping through every pore of her body.
Seventeen-year-old Meredith and her four-year-old stepsister, Beth, face the numbing reality of suddenly losing their parents in a freak accident. With no other family, they are taken from their mobile home in Georgia to go live with a grandmother they have never met in a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. Beth soon adjusts to her new environment; but Meredith withdraws from everyone and everything, unable to blot out the image of the horrible crash that killed her parents. It is only when she reaches out to a homeless woman that Meredith is finally able to find herself and face her demons. With the help of her grandmother’s long-employed staff, a family doctor, a museum curator, an attorney who is more than just her grandmother’s legal advisor, and, of course, her conniving grandmother who is dealing with her own guilt for having been estranged from her son and his wife (Meredith’s and Beth’s parents), Meredith is able to pull herself from the depths of despair into a life filled with faith, hope, and generosity.
Slightest in the House is a contemporary novel with strong, interesting characters from different walks of life, brought together because of life’s difficult and often unexpected circumstances, and bonded together by their faith and belief that everything works out as it should.
Read an Excerpt
Joseph had no trouble locating Mango Street or the apartments. The town of Palmetto was small, and all of the streets seemed to run north and south, and east and west. After parking next to the curb, Joseph waited by the car as Elizabeth walked up to the front door and knocked. A woman wearing jeans and a loose-fitting blouse opened the door.
“I’m Elizabeth Wallingford,” she said to the woman. “I understand my granddaughters are staying with you.”
The woman told Elizabeth her name was Anne Reynolds, “and this is my husband, Ron,” she said as she led Elizabeth into the dimly-lit living room. A man who had been seated across the room stood up. He was dressed in a policeman’s uniform, and the dark circles under his eyes indicated that he hadn’t slept in a while.
“We are terribly sorry for your loss,” he said putting his arm around his wife. “Ricky and Rachel were good friends of ours.”
“We are just so sorry,” repeated Anne.
Elizabeth nodded and then quickly glanced around the somewhat cluttered room. Her eyes paused on the young child who was curled up in a chair asleep.
“That’s our daughter, Christie,” said Ron.
Elizabeth continued to look around the room. Toys and games littered the floor. An old black and white Western movie was playing on the television, but the sound had been turned down. And then she saw them. A thin young girl—almost a young woman—with long blond hair and big blue eyes. So much like her mother. The jeans she wore were too short, even for her petite body. And the shoes on her feet looked as though they should be on someone else. Standing next to her was a much younger child holding some kind of stuffed toy with a ridiculous-looking bandage covering its rear end. A remnant of a tail hung limply over the bandage. Where the jeans on the older girl were too small, the dress on this child was much too large. The laces on her tennis shoes were frayed and knotted, and a rather large gaping hole in one of the shoes exposed the small bare toes within. Unlike her older half-sister, this child had short, dark hair, straight and fine, and her eyes were a golden brown. She was the image of her father, Elizabeth’s son. Elizabeth’s breathing quickened as the overwhelming sadness of the situation consumed her. Sensing the fear and uncertainty—and distrust—in these two young girls—her granddaughters, it was this that kept her own pain from being unbearable.
“Meredith . . . Beth, I’m your grandmother. I have come to take you to your new home.”
Beth put her small hand into Elizabeth’s jeweled one, and the three of them walked unspeaking out of the house. Ron carried what few belongings the girls had out to Joseph which he quickly loaded into the car—a brown tattered suitcase, a small wooden trunk with a brass lock in the middle, and a ripped paper shopping bag that contained a few books and toys. There was a smaller canvas bag with what looked like a computer in it. Meredith’s no doubt, Elizabeth thought as she watched Joseph put it in the back with the other things.
“We really didn’t know what to pack,” explained Anne apologetically. “Meredith and Beth picked out what they wanted.”
Elizabeth nodded. So paltry, she thought, noticing the shabbiness of everything. But she mustn’t allow herself to think about that. Somehow she would make it up to them and to their mother. Somehow she would make it up to her son. And she prayed that she would be forgiven.
“Thank you for your kindness,” Elizabeth said to Ron and Anne, her emotions just under the surface. She didn’t trust herself to say any more and she slipped into the backseat with Meredith and Beth. Once settled, the big car slowly drove away.
It was daybreak.
About the Author:Barbara Casey is the author of over two dozen award-winning novels and book-length works of nonfiction for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Several of her books have been optioned for major films and television series.
In addition to her own writing, Barbara is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency. Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan.
In 2018 Barbara received the prestigious Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and Top Professional Award for her extensive experience and notable accomplishments in the field of publishing and other areas.
Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with three cats who adopted her: Homer, a Southern coon cat; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.
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