Thanks to the rising price of gold, my hometown of Golden, California,
was amid an unprecedented economic boost. That was one of the
reasons I was returning home for the first time in over five years.
Nerves fluttered through my belly as I parked my car, hiding under a
sunhat and glasses. My hometown hosted many faces I didn’t care to
revisit, as well as a hoard of memories I didn’t want to relive.
But sometimes, that’s what being an adult is all about, facing traumas
and ghosts, trying to better oneself despite them. At least, that’s what my
therapist said. And goodness knows, I’d done my best to avoid both her
advice and my trauma by practicing Balasana on the beach in Bali.
For the time being, only one person knew that I was back: my childhood
best friend, Tori Kemp.
Despite my anxiety, I walked into the small café on the outskirts of
Golden. With chipped paint and discolored tiles, the café was in desperate
need of updating, but that was hardly surprising. The café had been here
for over fifty years. It’d been my favorite place to visit with Steven.
My throat tightened at the thought of him, and I pushed down the
painful emotions bubbling in my chest. Across the open space, I spotted
Tori in a corner booth. We had ruled the schoolyard together and seeing
her now warmed my heart.
She leaped out of the booth and launched herself at me, giggling as she
threw her arms around my neck. Even though Tori and I were both in our
late thirties, I realized that she still had a youthfulness about her that I’d
Tori is everything I’m not.
She was a small-town girl with roots as deep as an ancient oak. And I’m
fairly certain she’d never once ventured outside of the county limits for
any extended period of time. On the other hand, I had spent the first year
of my five-year absence in Bali, learning to meditate and making worldwide
connections before relocating to Los Angeles for my career in architecture.
While I rose the ranks of the design world, Tori rose the ranks of Golden,
becoming an influential leader in our hometown. It was these two paths
that now brought us together. I had intentionally chosen this location,
knowing I was less likely to bump into someone I knew the further away
from town we were. Once seated, I adjusted my sunglasses and large hat,
and Tori smirked in my direction.
“You know,” she said, glancing over the top of her menu. “The disguise is
a bit much.”
I laughed. “I’m not wearing a disguise, Tori.”
“It certainly looks that way,” Tori said. “Take off the hat and sunglasses,
I glanced around the café before removing them, placing them next to
me in the booth. “This is weird for me, being back,” I admitted.
“I know,” she said. “Honestly, when I called you with the job offer, I really
didn’t think you’d take it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad you did. I’ve missed
“I’m sorry I’ve been so out of touch lately,” I said. “Things have been
pretty crazy in LA.”
“So you’ve told me.” She leaned forward on the table, sighing
melodramatically. “If work has been so busy… I’m curious why you’re
sitting across from me now. You said you never wanted to come back to
Golden. So, why take me up on my offer?”
“Renovating something unique like Golden’s historical Clock tower will
color up my resume. Sure, work has been decent in LA, but it’s all boring
cookie-cutter industrial parks and office buildings. If I want to get serious
in my career, I need a change, something other than boxy buildings in my
portfolio. And I can do it well. I like the artsy challenge that comes with this
The café’s server hurried over to take our order.
I ordered a ham and cheese panini with caramelized onions, a side
salad, and coffee.
Tori said, “Same, but with fries, not salad.” She flashed me a wicked smile
and shrugged. “You know me.”
The coffees arrived so quickly that Tori could hardly show me pictures of
her son, Nolan. He’d finished kindergarten now; he had been just a baby
the last time I’d been in town.
“He’s beautiful,” I told her as she put down her phone and poured a gob-smacking
amount of sugar into her black coffee. I grinned. “You haven’t
changed. I’m glad to know my favorite Golden girl is still Golden as ever.”
“So are you, Hope,” Tori said. “I’ll show you more Nolan pictures later.
Right now, I’m dying to talk business with you.”
I nodded. “I’m all business these days.”
Tori sipped her coffee, making a weak attempt to hide her sad smile.
“The committee’s meeting in the next few days, and they’d like to hear
your pitch not only for the Clock tower but for the museum and the
Golden Miner statue as well. The Clock tower is the most pressing, of
“Let me guess, the old legend still ringing true?” I asked, and Tori
The town of Golden had been riddled with superstitious nuts, going
back all the way to our Gold Rush mining roots. Legend said the town
would only be prosperous so long as the clock tower functioned. A freshly
redone Clock tower was bound to bring some of that Golden, California
luck, especially with the influx of tourists the place was now experiencing.
“All right, so they want the Clock tower done first, and I’m guessing they
want it done quickly, so it’s not down for long. And done well.” I grinned,
then sipped my coffee.
“Fast and perfect,” Tori said. “Which is why I recommended you. My spot
on the committee got you a place in the lineup, but it’s not going to
guarantee they hire you.”
“Of course,” I agreed.
“You need to really wow them with your proposal,” Tori said. “It needs to
be beautiful, have a detailed plan on how you’re going to get it done, and it
needs to be within budget.”
I smiled. “This isn’t my first rodeo, Tori. My first Clock tower renovation
maybe, but not my first time bidding on a job.”
She chuckled. “I know. Sorry. I would love for you to land this one.”
I nodded, scribbling down a few ideas in my notebook. “Clock tower
first….” I said, my voice catching.
I swallowed the lump in my throat, and Tori gave me a sympathetic
At that Clock tower, I’d shared my first kiss with my husband, Steven. A
lot of locals had similar nostalgic feelings. There was something romantic
about the antique tower, and that was something I planned on keeping
when I worked on the redesign. I needed to preserve that classical yet
whimsical quality. I suspected the committee felt similarly.
The lump in my throat grew to a knot in my stomach as I thought about
Steven. He was the reason I had left Golden. After ten years of a happy
marriage, I lost him to a tragic kayaking accident.
Now, everything in Golden reminded me of him.
The Clock tower especially.
“Are you going to be able to do this, Hope?” Tori asked. “You don’t have
to do it for me, you know? I called you because I know you understand
what the Clock tower represents for the town, but you don’t have to do it
for my sake.”
I flashed her an entirely unconvincing smile. “I told you. My resume
needs the boost,” I said. “And, once it’s all done, I’ll be back in LA where I
belong. Small towns… not my thing anymore. I prefer big cities. Places like
this make me feel claustrophobic.”
Tori nodded as though she understood.
But how can she?
Tori loved Golden. And Golden loved Tori. Every local knew her name,
and she relished the familiarity and comfort. She loved being a big fish in a
But me… in Golden again…
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Fast-paced and fun. I love these mysteires!”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”Diana Orgain is my new favorite author!”
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