Sneak Peak at Deborah Heal’s New Book

My latest book is on a sad topic–the Cherokee Trail of Tears–but that’s not to say there aren’t moments of levity. Here Merri and our old friends Abby and John are preparing for an all-night “time-surfing” session in an empty apartment they may have sneaked into without permission:

Faint noises came from the hall. Merri and Abby started then looked at each other, wide-eyed. Someone knocked softly on the door, and a smile bloomed on Abby’s face. “It’s our secret knock,” she explained as she race-walked to the door.

“Of course you and John have a secret knock,” Merri said, rolling her eyes. “Doesn’t everyone?”

John came in loaded down with plastic shopping bags. How he managed to lug it all up without being seen was a mystery they didn’t take time to discuss.

“Wow, it’s dark in here,” he said, setting the bags on the kitchen counter. “I forgot to warn you about not turning on lights until I got something to cover the window.”

“And yet the little women managed to think of it themselves,” Merri said. “Amazing.”

John grinned and tugged at her hair. “Oh, stop, Merri Christmas. You know I respect your ginormous brain.”

“What’s all this?” Abby ignored them and began snooping through the bags. “You must have bought out the store.”

“It’s amazing what you can find at a Dollar Store. Did you know they have blankets there?” Out of the largest bag on the counter he removed a green blanket in a zippered vinyl case and held it for them to see. “It’s thin and wimpy, but it should work to cover said window.”

“What else?” Merri said, unable to tamp down her curiosity.

“These,” John said, handing Abby three flashlights. “Even with the windows covered we should keep the light to a minimum.” He handed a writing tablet and pen to Merri. “Because I couldn’t remember if you still have yours in your backpack. Toothpaste and brushes, as requested, and soap and paper towels as an added bonus.”

“I’m all in favor of good hygiene,” Abby said.

“One thing I’ve always admired about you, my dear,” John said. “Here are mixed nuts and cheese crackers in case we get hungry later. Bottled water because…well, you just never know, do you? And coffee—with sugar, my love—so we can stay awake.”

Grinning, Abby took the coffee from him. “My hero.”

“Instant?” Merri said without bothering to keep the disgust from her voice.

“What was I thinking? I’ll go back and buy a coffee maker. Maybe a waffle maker would be nice.”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Merri said. “But what about cups?”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he said and pulled three ceramic mugs out. “And last, but certainly not least, breakfast.” He opened the last bag, a white paper one in which Merri glimpsed three jelly donuts. “Unless you think we should eat them now before they get any staler.”

Abby took the bag from him, closed it firmly, and put it on the counter.

“Now,” John said. “Tell me what I missed while I was out foraging.”

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