Harry Brown is a fourth generation Carding-ite. The males in his family—Harry very much included—have always been hard men, expecting to get their way in all matters of life, business and love.
While that attitude and perspective may have served them in generations past, it sure doesn’t now.
The change in attitude of the male line in the Brown family began with Harry’s eldest son, Gideon. That story is recounted in detail in my first novel, The Road Unsalted.
Gideon’s missteps started an avalanche of change in the Brown family. Over the course of my four Carding novels, doors opened and closed for Gideon and his ex-wife Chloe, Harry and his soon-to-be ex-wife Louisa as well as their two younger sons, Noah and Jacob. And now a lot of those issues are coming to resolution.
In the grand scheme of things, life is actually an accumulation of details, isn’t it? How we treat one another, the words we say, the actions and interactions of daily life, that is what we remember.
That is what matters.
And finally, we’ll settle in with our popcorn next week to watch the unexpected ways that change keeps flowing through Carding.
Welcome to Carding, Vermont where life always includes a dash of the unexpected. You can find the little town that no one can seem to find on a map right here in the Carding Chronicles and in the four novels of Carding, Vermont, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life, and Lights in Water, Dancing.
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“What do you mean Harry was sitting in a car with his new aide watching the house with a pair of binoculars?” Gideon’s eyebrows were halfway up his forehead.
“Yes, sitting right up the road as plain as could be,” Louisa said. “Jacob even waved at him.”
“I bet that didn’t go over well. Dad always needs to be in control,” Gideon said. “He’s going to push back against the divorce, you know. He raged at Edie for years after she left him.”
“Oh, I know,” Louisa said. “I had to listen to it all the time.”
Gideon glanced up, his face sharp. “I don’t remember that.”
“It was at night, after you boys were in bed,” Louisa said, her face shuttered by past pain. “He hated Edie because she got out of their marriage. He and his father never forgave her for that.”
“And then when she came back from Europe with Diana and Daniel…”
Louisa snorted. “Harry tried to tell people those kids were his. He made such a fool of himself. Edie been gone for more than three years and the twins were barely a year old when she returned. People were laughing at him and making jokes about how he couldn’t count to nine. It was so embarrassing.”
Gideon reached out to take his mother’s hands in his. “That new aide that Dad has now…”
“Connie Lindfors. What about her?”
“I don’t like the fact that she drove him up here so he could watch the house,” Gideon said.
“I thought it was a risk worth taking,” Louisa said.
Louisa grinned. “I’ve been your father’s legal guardian since he had his stroke so I can make decisions about his care. I’m the one who made the arrangements with Connie, not your father. My lawyer helped me set up an an investment account that earns enough to pay her so your father can’t fire her like he has everyone else. He has to accept that I’m not going back.”
Gideon squeezed her hands. “Do you know, that’s the first time you’ve admitted that.”
“Well, you can thank the girls for that,” Louisa said.
“You mean your coffee group?”
“Yep. Last time we got together, Ruth told me to stop dithering and imagine what life would be like if I went back to Harry.” Louisa smiled, an expression that was at once tired and triumphant. “Once I admitted that it would be more awful than awful, divorce was an easy choice. I’ve wasted too many years on your father. I’m not wasting another day.”
Now it was her turn to squeeze her son’s hands. “I think you need to do the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“Chloe’s not coming back, Gideon, and you need to accept that.”
His cheeks flushed and Louisa heard the incipient tears in his voice. “I know. It’s just that…I keep thinking that…”
Louisa squeezed tighter. “I saw her yesterday, at Edie’s. She sorting through her stuff, deciding what to keep, what to donate and what to throw away. She swears that when she leaves Carding, the only thing she’s taking is her traveling watercolor set.”
“I thought if I could just talk to her I could get her to come back.” Gideon shook his head. “But the truth is, I treated her like Dad treated you and Edie. I like to think that I‘ve changed, that I would never cheat again but I don’t trust myself to keep that promise.”
Louisa hunched forward. “Why do you focus on just that promise? If you define yourself as nothing more than a cheating man, that is all you’ll ever be.”
Gideon’s head whipped up and Louisa knew her words had struck home so she hurried on. “When you were a little boy, you begged me for a globe to put on the desk in your room. Do you remember that?”
“Yeah. I loved to dream about going around the world. I used to mark the places I wanted to see most,” he said. “After a while, the whole globe was covered with dots.”
“Traveling around the world, that’s a dream you could be true to, Gideon,” Louisa said. “I think you need to get away from Carding, away from your father and even from me. You’ve been stuck on the treadmill we created in your childhood for far too long.”
“But the business…”
“Your father is going to sell it,” Louisa said. “He doesn’t know that yet but I’ve made it clear in the divorce papers I sent to him that I want half of everything and that includes Brown & Sons. Gideon, if you don’t free yourself from him now, then when?”
Gideon stared at her and Louisa realized her words had reached him. She was silently exultant. “You need to shed this life, Gideon. All of it. Carding will be here if you decide to come back. And I’ll be around for a while longer.”
A sharp yip made her look down. Her new puppy was trying to gnaw his way through her slipper. She reached down to lift the little one up, nuzzling him.
“I think someone needs to get on with his day.” She kissed the top of her son’s head. “And I don’t mean the puppy.”
Gideon laughed as he stood up. He felt lighter and recognized the sensation as the release of a burden. “Does Dad know he’s selling the business?”
Louisa glanced at the clock. “I think he does by now. I put the divorce papers in the mail yesterday. They should have arrived at the house about an hour ago.”
She gave her son a thorough look. “I would be careful about answering your phone for the next few days. This is going to unnerve him and you know how mean he can get.”
“Yeah. I have to admit it’s unnerving me a little bit as well. Did you talk to anyone about this?”
“Just my lawyer. He’s been urging me to make a clean break for months now. Once I made up my mind, Edie helped me put together a plan to make sure your father gets the care he needs. That will make the divorce easier for him to accept,” Louisa said.
“So what’s this plan?”
“I’ve hired Connie to be his full-time housekeeper, and she’s going to live in the apartment you and Jacob built for me when I divided the house in two,” Louisa said. “Who knows? He may even marry her. Connie’s not adverse to that. Marrying your father would give her a nice retirement, if she can put up with him.”
Gideon spluttered. “Marry him? How in the world…?”
Louisa shook her head to stop his questions. “You just set your mind to the task of taking care of Gideon, all right? Leave taking care of Harry to me. I’ve had a lot of practice doing that.”
Gideon stood by the back door looking for all the world like a sail that had lost its wind. “I honestly don’t know what to do next.”
His mother gave him a little shove toward the door. “I would suggest going to buy a globe.”
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