Take one heroine and hero gripped in relationship limbo. Stir in a possible media scandal. Sprinkle lightly with a three-year-old child. Add one mother-in-law, a former boyfriend, a celebrity reporter hot for a story break and a Hollywood starlet.
Knead above ingredients. Cover and let rise in a warm place. Bake for 31 chapters.
Yield: Ellie’s Song, the story of shy folk artist Ellie Kellson who loves country singer Lane Walker, but abhors the media attention he needs to be a successful singing artist.
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Walker to Wed! Top of the charts country singer Lane Walker to marry Robyn Jeffrey. The marriage unites one of Nashville’s leading men with one of
Hollywood’s rising stars. The couple met during a promotional tour for Walker’s latest album, “Lonely Eyes.” No date has been set.
Ellie Kellson stared at the crisp words printed on the shiny magazine paper as they melted into a shimmering, illegible block of text. Tears dripped on the hand resting at the bottom of the page while her right hand, reaching for the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, faltered and fell to the hard, flat surface of the table top.
She scrunched her eyes closed, cutting off the unexpected waterfall. It had taken over three years,but the future she always dreaded had arrived.
And it didn’t include her.
A silent sob shuddered up from her chest, surprising her with its intensity. She’d forgotten how mind numbing the pain could be. Time had helped her corral her feelings until only sorrow remained. A sorrow she hugged to herself because no one except her immediate family knew about her life with Lane Walker. Everyone else saw what she wished them to see: a young woman who left a small town full of hopes and dreams to return two years later pregnant and unmarried. Only her parents and sister knew the name of Ashlee’s father.
Her family and the faceless bureaucrat at the Alabama Department of Public Health who had amended Ashlee’s birth certificate.
Ellie had deemed it prudent not to complete the birth certificate paperwork at the Tassanoxie Medical Center. Too many eyes, too many ways for a father’s name to be bandied around their small town. She’d paid the extra money six months after Ashlee’s birth to amend the birth certificate via the Internet.
Experience had taught Ellie that tears never proved helpful. She grabbed a napkin from the holder, her fingers comforted by its nubby texture as she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. The gardening she’d planned for this sunny Saturday morning no longer held any appeal.
In the kitchen, she dumped her unfinished orange juice into the sink and rinsed the residue away while she wrestled with the idea of Lane’s engagement. All too soon she was grabbing bowls, measuring cups and spoons. The mixer and flour canister came next and she stacked everything on the earth-toned counter top.
The telephone rang as she was raiding the refrigerator for butter, milk and eggs. She grabbed the handset, plugged in the earpiece and said, “Hello.”
“What time’d you get home?”
“The usual, about ten.” The question and answer had been a weekend ritual since she took a part-time job two years ago.
“Doing anything special this morning?” her mother asked.
“Nope.” Ellie measured out one cup of flour, dumping it into the mixing bowl. “After I mix up this batch of cinnamon bread, I’m going to put in those tomato plants you left yesterday.” She stirred the mixture vigorously.
Her mother sighed. “I should’ve had the gumption to tell you, but it seemed easier to let you read about it.”
“Read about what?” Ellie was in no mood to give her mother any slack.
“Eleanor Anne Kellson, don’t patronize me,” her mother snapped. “I left Aunt Geraldine’s Country Stars magazine open to the page I wanted you to see, and told you to read it before I bring Ashlee home this morning. I know you read it, you know you read it. You wouldn’t be making cinnamon bread if you hadn’t read it. We all know cinnamon bread is one of your all time favorite recipes for working out problems.”
Ellie stared at the teaspoon of yeast she held over the bowl. Baking cinnamon bread had seen her through many adolescent storms, but her homestyle therapy failed miserably with Lane. She had baked dozens of loaves of cinnamon bread during the last month she lived with him. Given as gifts to a homeless shelter, no one would have guessed the bread symbolized the failure of a relationship as her life fell apart like a poorly stitched quilt.
Yeast showered into the bowl.
“Young lady,” her mother continued, “you’ve got a stubborn streak as wide as the Chattahoochee River. It’s gonna get you in trouble one day.”
Ellie poured milk into a glass measuring cup.
“Maybe, now he’s about to marry a Hollywood harlot you can get on with your life.”
“Actor,” Ellie corrected, as she dumped butter into the milk. No way was she going to agree with her mother that she could now “get on with her life.” She opened the canister of cinnamon and let the pungent aroma tickle her nostrils. For all its failure to mend her relationship with Lane, the smell of cinnamon had a calming effect she’d never been able to explain. “I think they’re all called actors now whether they’re male or female.”
“Harlot, as far as I’m concerned.”
She knew better than to argue with that tone. Her mother had definite opinions about the decadent morals of entertainment people. She’d been vocal in her relief when her daughter left the wicked Lane Walker and his depraved lifestyle.
“If L-lane wants to get married, it’s fine with me.” She bit her lip, paying it back for the way it quivered when she said Lane’s name.
“‘It’s fine with me,’” her mother parroted, “which is why you’re elbow deep in cinnamon bread. I know this news upset you, but I can tell you’re not gonna discuss it with me so I might as well get on with why I called. I have to run to the grocery store so I’ll bring Ashlee home as soon as we’re done, y’hear?”
“See you then.” Relieved to be out of the conversation, Ellie returned the handset to its base and her attention to bread making. It didn’t take long for the dough to become stiff enough for kneading. She dumped it onto the floured counter and sank her fingers into the sticky mass, locking herself into the soothing rhythm of kneading as she pushed, folded and turned the dough.
If she hadn’t made it a standing rule never to discuss Lane, she might have laughed at her mother’s claim the news of his engagement “upset” her. What a description for the feelings that lacerated her soul. One little announcement smashed her long-held illusion he would one day walk through her front door and beg her forgiveness. She pounded the innocent dough, punishing the stretchy mass for the countless nights she had cried herself to sleep. “No...more...tears,” she promised as she twisted and pulled the dough.