Landy Wisdom was a survivor. Her former husband's abuse hadn't broken her spirit--no, she'd picked herself right up and helped run the local Underground Railroad for battered women. But when it came to love, Landy felt that the train had left the station. She'd built a wall around her heart no man could breach...until journalist Micah Walker showed up and bought the hometown newspaper.
For Micah, returning to small-town life was a culture shock. But it was more shocking to see how things had changed for the local debutante. In high school Landy had seemed untouchable. Was she still? Micah would find out, as he patiently, tenderly dismantled her defenses to reveal the warm, compassionate woman underneath....
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Debutante's Second Chance by Liz Flaherty
Window Over the Sink, Taft Tribune: Sometimes I miss having heroes. All the ones I knew when I was young seem to have developed feet of clay and leapt without conscience from the pedestals I placed them on. But today I lay on an uncomfortable cot and gave blood. I looked around at the people who gave their time freely, at the others who gave their blood just as freely. I saw a minister, a newspaper editor, a registered nurse who was spending her day off inserting slender needles into veins, half the Taft High School baseball team still wearing their practice jerseys. And I realized there are heroes all around us, and they don't need to be on pedestals because they don't have time for that kind of nonsense.
Landy Wisdom didn't look at all the way Micah remembered her from high school. Her hair had been the color of sunlight then, her eyes like the darkest of the lilacs that grew in studied profusion in her grandmother's side yard. Her figure had been lithe and nubile in her designer jeans and silk blouses and cashmere blazers. Her clothes hadn't been bought at JC Penney or Kmart like most everyone else's, but on shopping trips to Cincinnati and Louisville. She'd been, in a town without a social scale, a debutante. Her grandmother had owned the brewery and was one of the few people in town who had servants. Landy's boyfriend had been the high school quarterback, the son of Taft's best-known attorney, who'd gone on to stardom at Notre Dame.
But there had been more to Landy than that. Her best friend had been Jessie Titus, whose grandmother had kept house for old Mrs. Wisdom. Landy had aided with her grandmother's charities, but she'd been hands-on help. She'd washed dishes at dinners, cleaned up after dances and walked every inch of every walkathon ever held in Taft.
Micah remembered talking to her once as she slogged through rain for crippled children. She hadn't had a raincoat because she'd tossed it over the shoulders of the minister's wife, and mud splashed up her legs as she walked.
"Who are you?" he'd demanded. He'd been so angry then, furious at the "haves" in what he was finding to be a "have-not" world. The fact that Landy Wisdom didn't fit into his idea of a "have" made him even angrier. People who had it all didn't share things when that sharing got them wet, cold and muddy.
"I'm just Landy," she'd said quietly, a hurt look in her eyes, "and I'm sorry you don't like me."
Twenty years later, standing in line in his London Fog raincoat and watching Landis Wisdom as she wrote down information for the Red Cross blood bank, Micah felt a niggle of shame because he'd put that look in her eyes. Good writing and solid investments had made him into one of the "haves" he'd so despised, and along with the money had come the realization that there really wasn't that much difference in people.
But he still wondered who she really was, and what had happened to the debutante he remembered. The hair color had deepened to the hue of honey, the eyes to violet. She wore a navy blue sweater with faded jeans and no makeup, no jewelry other than tiny pearls in her ears, not even polish on what appeared to be chewedto-the-quick fingernails. Her figure had thickened a little over the years, but not much. She still looked nice.
But not like a debutante. Not like the richest girl in town. She'd evidently not jumped on the plastic surgery bandwagon, because small lines had carved themselves into the skin at the corners of her eyes, at the outer edges of her mouth, in her forehead between her eyebrows. She looked every minute of her thirty-six years. "Are you a first-time donor?"
He realized with a start that the husky voice he heard was hers and that she was speaking to him.
"First time here," he said, suddenly remembering why he was in the basement of the Taft United Methodist Church. "I just moved here two weeks ago, but I have a Red Cross card somewhere." He rummaged in his wallet, feeling as clumsy and foolish as he had on that walkathon.
"Well, I'll be damned." Another voice, softer and filled with laughter, made him look for its source.
"Look up, Landy, and see who you're waiting on."
"Don't swear in church, Jess. Our grandmothers will come back and haunt us." But Landy looked up, and Micah saw recognition leap into her eyes. They were like pansies, not violets. Dark and mysterious and tragic.
"Micah Walker." She sounded glad to see him, and the welcome in her voice opened up a warm place inside him, a place he wasn't about to look into. "I heard you and your dad moved back. You bought the Tribune?"
He nodded, and Jessie said, "About time someone bought that rag. Maybe you can turn it into a real newspaper."