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Annabelle Crouse is determined to reopen her great-grandmother's boarded-up house--and her shunned life. Many years earlier, after an unexplained absence, Julianne was relegated to a separate home by a rigidly unforgiving husband, and the Crouse women have suffered the disgrace of her assumed guilt ever since.
Despite her family's strong disapproval, Annabelle is driven to pursue her mission through cobwebs and dust, finding the clues and the coded story left behind by her great-grandmother -- Why did she go? And why did she return? Annabelle has to know.
Only one person, a man she grew up with but never noticed, stands with Annabelle as she discovers the parallels between her story and her great-grandmother's--two women, generations apart, experiencing what love truly is.
Page Count: 332
Word Count: 79721
"Mine to tell," Kyle said suddenly. It was a jolt. I was yanked from my mental tumble into a pit of unredemption. Alex looked up too, a quizzical expression on his face. "Julianne left a story behind," Kyle continued. "Some of it speculation and rumors by people who don't know, and the rest of it by her own hand. It was a love story. One that was countered with suffering."
We were all quiet. I looked at him, my heart melting as I heard his masculine voice speak of love and suffering. I wanted to lean across the table and hug him, but I was too afraid.
Alex leaned back in his chair. "What my father went through didn't feel like love when we were little."
"But maybe it was," Kyle persisted, his tone smooth and even. "Does love always turn out the way we want it to?" Then he looked at me. "Julianne Crouse was a fine woman. We haven't finished her story, but she suffered, and she was fine indeed."
Tears came to my eyes. "Thank you," I squeaked. Kyle stood and walked around the table to me. He helped me stand as he thanked them for their time. He retrieved Julianne's picture, took my hand, and together we went to the door, Alex and his wife following us.
"I hope you're right," Alex said, running his hand through his thin, brittle hair as we stepped outside. "My father had some things to come to terms with, but he was a good man. A better man later in life, when he told us he was sorry. I never knew for what."
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