All Good Things by Leigh Somerville picks up where her first novel It All Started with a Dog left off, answering the question, “Will Rachel Springer marry John Turner?” Just when Rachel thought the biggest challenge was choosing a wedding dress, her ditsy friend Susan shares a painful secret that shakes her already shaky confidence in love. A bequest from Rachel’s grandmother — and a near-death experience with John’s grandson, Ben — help her make the decision that changes the lives of every character in the book.
Many loving women, including her grandmother, had helped her father raise his two children in the years afterward. And in her adult life, women friends had continued to fill the role of mother for her. But sometimes, when she observed a special look pass between a young mother and her child, Rachel felt a longing.
She closed the front door quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping child and walked toward the barn. Ralph saw her coming and ran down the hill toward her. The farm always seemed to take at least five years off Ralph’s life, and he leaped and bounded toward her like a puppy. At one point, he stopped to grab a stick in his mouth and rushed toward her to play fetch. Rachel pulled the stick out of his jaws and tossed it toward George, waiting at the barn.
“This dog is a natural born farm dog. You need to move him out of that dirty old city to a place where he can run free like he was meant to,” George said.
“Do you hear that, Ralph? He wants to take you away from the pigeons and all your friends on the Circle. The whole Capitol would collapse if Ralph left town. He’s one of the chief ambassadors there, aren’t you, boy?”
Ralph ran between the two, back and forth. Finally, George threw the stick toward the woods. Ralph ran into the underbrush but couldn’t find it.
“Come on, Ralph, we’ve got something to show your mistress.” Ralph came when he was called and trotted off down the path through the woods in front of them.
“The farm looks wonderful, George. You’ve done miracles with the place.”
George stared off into the woods and didn’t say anything, but Rachel knew he was grateful for her compliment. “I’m happy here, Rachel,” he finally said. “I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again. Didn’t think I’d ever work again. Feel safe.”
They walked on for a while in companionable silence, listening to the woods sounds. Ralph chased several squirrels, occasionally looking back to make sure Rachel had seen his bravery.
“My cousins are lucky to have found you. I’m afraid they were getting overwhelmed by the place and had started to let it get pretty run down.”
“I love this farm, and they’re good to share it with me. There’s only one problem.”
Rachel waited. She knew from her professional experience not to push. Finally, she stopped and turned to him. “What is it, George? Something I can do to help?”
“I get lonely, Rachel,” he said. She could see his shoulders sag with the loneliness. “Your cousins have each other. They’re still so much in love, and sometimes I feel like a fifth wheel. They don’t mean to make me feel that way. In fact, they go out of their way to include me in everything they do, but . . .”
“I know, George,” Rachel said, walking on toward the river. Even though she didn’t. Rachel had that unusual ability to be totally fulfilled alone. She’d never really known what lonely felt like. All her life, friends had felt sorry for her being single, but she’d never wanted to change that status. Never felt the need. She was the exception, she knew. George was the rule.
Suddenly, he veered off the path toward the river and inched his way down the bank to the water. Ralph leaped over the edge toward him. George held up his hand to help Rachel down the incline.
It was only after she reached the sandy beach that she saw what he had wanted to show her. A tower of rocks stood like a monument in the middle of the water. At its highest, it was taller than George and about as wide as a refrigerator.
“It just appeared one day,” George said. “I have no idea who did it or why, but he, or she, must have been tall.”
“And strong,” Rachel said. “Some of these rocks are heavy.” She reached out to touch the artwork. The sun created a mosaic of colors that glistened with the water. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered. “What a beautiful surprise. Thank you for sharing it with me. Thank you.”
Ralph lay in the water looking up at the rocks and the people admiring them. And then, without warning, he leaped to attention and rushed around and around it, splashing water in a mad dance of utter glee.
“This dog is crazy,” George laughed.
“No, just happy,” Rachel said.
“Me, too,” George said and joined Ralph in his water celebration. He grabbed Rachel’s hand, and the three splashed around the river rocks until Rachel became dizzy and begged to stop.
“We wore her out, Ralph,” George said, joining Rachel where she sat on the riverbank. Ralph came to sit next to the two where they rested, admiring the mysterious tower.
“Have you shown this to my cousins?” Rachel asked. “Maybe they’d have some idea who did it.”
“I haven’t shared it with anyone except you. Didn’t want to. In fact, I don’t think I want to know who did it. Might spoil the magic. You do believe in magic, don’t you, Rachel?”
Leigh Somerville has had a long career as a full time writer doing business as Studio McMillan in Winston-Salem. Currently, she is the Director of Marketing & PR for Twin City Stage. Formerly, she was Editor of Winston-Salem Living and wrote as the Scene & Heard columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal for 10 years. She has contributed to regional and national magazines. Her work includes ghost-writing memoirs and legacy letters, facilitating writing workshops and retreats, coaching and public speaking.
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