The other day, Narelle, Elizabeth, and I (along with some guests), recorded the StoryChats podcasts for June. Yes, we record four shows in one day. Yes, we record well in advance. (Blame my husband’s work schedule for that. The rest of us do.)
I’m not sure which episode, exactly, we were recording at the moment. I think it was the one on contemporary marriages of convenience, when Narelle mentioned one of my books and commented that she didn’t remember how old, exactly, the heroine’s daughter was, but it was probably five, because (and I paraphrase) that seems to be Valerie’s favorite age to write.
I smiled and nodded. Because there would be a stack of evidence to support Narelle’s claim.
But I had two thoughts simultaneously. One: I obviously need to branch out a little more. And, two: she hasn’t even read A Wide and Pleasant Place yet, with not one, but two, five-year-olds in it!
Brittany Santoro is the heroine, and she’s preparing to work a six-month contract with the Town of Galena Landing. She’ll be staying with her cousin Gina for that time period. (Gina, if you’ve tracked through my Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, is Tony’s sister. Tony’s a chef. Which you don’t need to know to enjoy A Wide and Pleasant Place.)
So… let me introduce you to two little girls. The first one on the page is Emma, Gina’s daughter.
“…And this must be Emma. She’s sure grown.”
A pixie plopped onto the top step wearing a tutu and a plaid shirt buttoned up askew. “That’s because I’m almost five.”
“Wow, that really is big.”
“Yes. I’m going to kindergarten next year, but that’s not for a long time.”
“I bet you’ll be really good at school.”
The little girl nodded and leaned closer, pinning her blue gaze on Brittany. “Mama will miss me.”
Once, Brittany’d had all that confidence, too. It had vanished somewhere between four and twenty-four. “I’m sure she will.”
Gina chuckled. “Come on, Emma. Wash your hands, okay? Then you can help me put some cookies on a plate.”
“Okay.” The pixie studied Brittany. “They are molasses cookies, and they have sprinkles on them.”
“Oh, yum. My favorite.”
The cousins don’t know each other well. Gina is quite a bit older, and they grew up in different towns, but Brittany is thankful for her cousin’s hospitality and is absolutely smitten with Emma. I admit, Emma was still four at the beginning, but her birthday party happens during the story, so it counts, okay? Okay.
The second five-year-old to show up in the story is the hero’s daughter, Scarlett. Treyan Ackerman has been divorced for about three years. He works for the Town of Galena Landing and lives on the farm he and his brother inherited from their grandfather. He’s a weekend dad, and his ex drops Scarlett off at Town Hall every Friday afternoon at 4:00. Except Treyan works until 5, something Kayla refuses to hear or acknowledge.
Now, the town administration has decided to wedge a desk for Brittany into Treyan’s office, replacing the visitor seating, where Scarlett usually spends that hour coloring. On the first Friday after Brittany is hired, Treyan brings Scarlett up to the office, and the girl is not impressed to find her coloring spot gone. Brittany has the opening line in this excerpt.
“Well, listen. I’ve got my projects wrapped up for the week.”
Of course, she did. “Congratulations?”
She tossed him a smile. “So why don’t Miss Scarlett and I go down to the bench by the sidewalk, and she can play a game on my phone until you’re done.”
“You’d do that?”
Scarlett stomped her foot. “But I want to color.”
“Or I have a notebook and some pens in my bag. Do you like glitter gel pens, Scarlett? I have lots of colors.”
His daughter sidled closer to Brittany, clearly intrigued. “I like glitter.”
Wasn’t that just like females, bonding over sparkles?
“If it’s okay with your dad.”
“I can’t believe you’re offering.” He couldn’t believe Scarlett looked okay with it.
Brittany shrugged. “It’s not like I have anything exciting to do for the next hour, and I happen to like hanging out with kids. They’re a lot more fun than many adults.”
“You’re not wrong.”
“I know.” She grinned and slung her messenger bag over her shoulder. “What do you say?”
“Um, sure. But I owe you one.” A big one.
“I’ll collect sometime.” She held out her hand. “Want to come? I have almost one hundred gel pens in my bag.”
Holy Toledo. She could be the Pied Piper of all the kids in Galena Landing with that stash.
“Okay.” Scarlett tucked her hand in Brittany’s and gave a little skip. “See you later, Daddy.”
I have four grandgirls, and the youngest is now five. I’m loving every minute… and thankful I’ll get to experience five one more time when my seven-month-old grandboy gets there. Meanwhile, yes. My Costco-size container with one hundred gel pens is always out when the grandgirls come over. Why do you ask?
Have you picked up A Wide and Pleasant Place yet? The Kindle version is now available to buy or borrow on Amazon! The paperback is also available, while the audiobook should be online sometime this summer.
Question for you: What’s your favorite age in real life? How about in fiction?