Eliza’s comfortable life ended when her beloved grandmother died. Her cousin Sandra swooped in and took it all, from the house to Eliza’s beloved dog, Miki. Nothing Eliza did worked but the one thing she would never give up on was saving Miki, no matter what it took.
Bottling the Cold, Hard Heart is a cozy mystery where family and tradition are the true threats to life, love and liberty.
Bottling the Cold, Hard Heart
By Meyari McFarland
Eliza paused just inside the back fence, heart pounding so hard that her head spun and her stomach churned. Her familiar old yard looked so very barren now. Sandra had stripped out the purple and gold irises that had clustered along the west side of the yard like sunlit storm clouds in the spring. Every single blueberry, concord grape and blackberry bush was gone, torn up as though they were worthless. There was no hope of wine this year, sweet and rich from the fruits of the garden Eliza and Grandmother had spent so many years tending.
Her old oak tree, trunk bent and twisted from the lightning strike that had killed half the tree when Eliza was ten, was gone. There wasn’t even a hummock or stump left. Sandra must have paid to have the stump dug out and the hole filled in before she covered everything in the yard with purchased blocks of dry-edged sod.
Even the old fence, broad boards that Eliza had once decorated with chalk drawings of suns, stars and moons, was gone. Every single bleached grey slab of wood had been whisked away. In its place was an eight foot tall cold, impersonal chain link fence whose only bit of personality was the green plastic coating over the bare metal. The Chelsey’s back yard looked startled at being exposed and old Mr. Quinn’s yard all but glowered, shrubs leaning away from the chain link as if offended by its presence.
Grandmother’s house was as unrecognizable. When Eliza moved in at eight, after her parent’s deaths, Grandmother had insisted on repainting the house in Eliza’s favorite colors. The roof had been covered with new burgundy shingles. Eliza, Grandfather and Grandmother had gleefully painted the siding forest green. The trim had been a rich golden tan. All the doors and window frames had been carefully covered with deep purple paint that made the little rambler look like a grand Painted Lady of the Victorian era.
Not now. The house was white. The shingles were black. Every scrap of color was gone, just like Grandmother’s life was gone, like Eliza’s life was over. Only Sandra’s desires and tastes remained.
Except for Miki, her precious little Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Miki, hopefully, was the last bit of life and color left in the house that had been Eliza’s home since her father killed her mother and then himself when she was eight years old. Now she just had to rescue Miki and go to jail for crossing Sandra.
Eliza wished for that old battered fence for more than just nostalgia’s sake as she edged carefully across the bricks of grass towards the back door. Anyone passing on the road in front of the house could see her there. With all the greenery gone, Eliza stood out like the sole red rose in a display of pure white lilies.
It hardly mattered that Eliza had parked her car a mile away and walked down the much quieter back lane that only garbage trucks followed to get here when there was no cover at all in the yard. Someone had to notice her, had to call the police soon. But no, Eliza couldn’t hear a single car. The afternoon was still and quiet as suited a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the month. Everyone in the neighborhood was gone, hopefully especially Sandra.
Birds sang next door, a strident Bluejay calling its claim to the neighbor’s garden worms, a little chickadee trilling as it hopped along the top of the chain link fence. The chickadee cocked its head at Eliza, taking in her wild hair, shaking hands, pale face. Then it flew away as if afraid to even look into Sandra’s yard.
And wasn’t that the heart of it all?
This was Sandra’s now. The yard stripped of flowers, trees, shrubs, the fresh sod laid down over the clover Grandmother and Eliza had favored, even the bare black paving stones by the back door with one pristine white-painted iron chair sitting by a carefully centered white ironwork table; it all belonged to Sandra when it had been willed to Eliza.
The Bluejay shrilled as it took flight in a clap of wings that startled Eliza back into the chain link fence. It clanged, startling her even worse. Eliza bit her lip against a scream that would turn to tears, to panic, to shaking and crouching by the gate instead of going in to rescue Miki.
“Miki,” Eliza whispered. “I have to save Miki.”
She pressed her hands to her mouth, shut her eyes. No matter how frightened she was of Sandra, Eliza had to rescue Miki. Grandmother had willed the house and everything in it to Eliza. Sandra had gotten the money, the investments she’d always prized over people and pets, but the house had gone to Eliza so that she’d always have a home for herself and Miki.
Not that the will had stood against Sandra’s lawyers.
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