Vicki Lawson pulled into the parking lot three minutes late.
That was fashionably late, right? She took a breath as she
grabbed her wicker basket of samples.
“Breathe,” she whispered. “This will go great.”
She’d known it was a long shot when she dialed the phone number
on the flyer. After last year’s debacle, she hadn’t expected to get a
booth at the Fall Festival—Julia, the festival chair, had absolutely
hated Mona’s jam and Vicki’s honey and had sent them packing. Her
exact words had been something like, “You’ll get a booth here over my
But Vicki had decided to try again this year—she and her best
friend, Mona, needed a venue to sell their products while Jammin’
Honey was being rebuilt. If Vicki could move some of her products at
the Fall Festival, she’d buy herself—and her dwindling savings
account—a little more time.
And the long shot might be about to pay off. When Vicki had
called, she’d found out that Julia wasn’t the festival chair this year, and
that the new chair would be delighted to take a look at Vicki’s
Vicki opened the car door and headed toward the warehouse.
The exterior of the warehouse looked festival ready. Straw bales
and pumpkins lined the outside, alongside a few scarecrows. Some
leaves were scattered by the entrance, and a large sign on the roof
announced the dates of the festival.
Pretty good advertising, Vicki thought. I feel festive already!
Then Vicki caught sight of Julia near the corner of the building.
Less festive, now. What’s she doing here?
Julia was tall, with chestnut hair and an impeccable sense of fash‐
ion. Today, her hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her belted
coat and skinny jeans looked effortlessly put together. But Vicki only
had time to feel a flash of envy at Julia’s sartorial sensibilities.
Something wasn’t right.
Julia was gesticulating wildly, arguing with an older man. By the
time Vicki drew near the door, the man had stormed off. Julia whirled
around and caught sight of Vicki, and her face reddened.
“Hey, Vicki,” Julia called, striding toward her.
Vicki paused, unsure what to do. Why was Julia even here if she
wasn’t the festival chair?
“Um . . .” Julia reached her. “That was my stepdad. He wants to sell
his paintings at the festival.”
“Oh.” Vicki opened the door halfway. “I thought Kristen was coor‐
dinating it this year.”
Julia glowered. “She is, but I’m the deputy chair. And I won’t have
his paintings here. They’re not very good, and he prices them way too
Vicki stayed where she was and let the door swing closed. Julia
seems . . . really upset. Despite her profound dislike for the woman, a
kernel of sympathy bloomed in her chest.
“He kept saying these paintings were different, that he’d price
them reasonably and that he wasn’t as protective of them, but I know
how he is about his stupid art. I can’t have him in the festival,” Julia
said. “We can’t be responsible for them. If one of his paintings got
damaged or stolen . . . well, he’d have a fit.”
“That looked like more than a painting issue,” said Vicki slowly. “Is
everything okay? It seemed pretty heated.”
Julia scoffed, but her chin trembled. “Family. You know the drill.”
“Family?” Vicki probed.
“My mom’s sick.” Julia stopped, looking almost surprised that the
words had come out of her mouth. “Never mind me and my problems.
It’s not a big deal. What are you doing here?”
It seemed like a big deal. But Vicki decided to keep that observation
to herself. “I’m here to talk to Kristen. She invited me to bring samples
Julia looked at the basket, rolled her eyes, and shoved the door
open. Vicki followed her inside.
A spacious room opened up before her, the exposed wiring and
piping along the ceiling offering a casually trendy ambiance.
Halfway across the space, a flannel-clad woman with braided red
hair was laying down some papers, spacing each sheet about ten feet
apart. She glanced toward Vicki and Julia and waved.
“Vicki?” she called.
Vicki nodded, then sneezed. The light streaming in from a set of
high windows illuminated the floating dust motes.
The woman jogged in her direction and stuck out her hand. “I’m
Kristen. Just mapping out vendor stalls. This is our first year in this
space, and they let us come in early.”
Vicki shook Kristen’s hand. “So good to meet you.”
Kristen pointed to a nearby table covered in a decade of dust.
“Yikes. This place needs a cleaning. But why don’t you put your basket
there, if you don’t mind, and we’ll take a look at your samples.” Then
she glanced quizzically at Julia. “Who was yelling just now?”
“Frank was harassing me again,” moaned Julia.
Kristen rested a hand on Julia’s upper back, and they stepped away,
Kristen’s voice becoming soothing.
While they were talking, Vicki placed her baskets on the table and
pulled out a handful of sample tins. After a minute, Julia and Kristen
returned to the table.
“Here are the samples,” Vicki said to Kristen.
Before Kristen could reach them or say anything, Julia snatched a
tin of the relaxing body scrub, opened it, and sniffed. She wrinkled
her nose and muttered, “I wouldn’t put this crap in the festival.”
Molten frustration welled up in Vicki’s chest. Well, I wouldn’t put
your crappy attitude in the festival.
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