I kicked the back door shut, dumping the plastic grocery bags onto the kitchen counter, easing the ache in my arms. If Johanna were hosting this morning, she’d have something homemade baking in her oven, the appealing aroma filling her immaculate kitchen.
Well, one thing was for certain—I was not Johanna.
Winston’s frantic barks sounded from upstairs. Seconds later, he was scampering around my feet, his sudden appearance meaning I’d forgotten to lock him in his kennel. Again.
“Bad dog.” A halfhearted reprimand. “You’re not supposed to be down here.”
I pulled items from the plastic bags. Please don’t let me have forgotten anything during my mad dash through the grocery store.
Cream for Johanna’s and my coffee—although she was going to have to make do with my Keurig coffeemaker, not French press.
A small box of sugar so Payton could enjoy her coffee with the preferred three heaping spoonfuls per cup.
A premade fruit salad.
Nothing fancy. But at least I wouldn’t look like a complete failure.
I suppose to a casual observer, Johanna, Payton, and I—the three remaining Thatcher sisters—appeared successful. And yet, while we might claim certain professional and romantic achievements, we still struggled to find our way as sisters.
At times Pepper’s words—the ones Payton had shared with Johanna and me several months ago—seemed more of a taunt than an encouragement.
“Sometimes you just have to forget all the other stuff and remember we’re sisters.”
Shouldn’t a role you acquired at birth be simple? Something you learned to do, along with walking and talking and navigating adolescence?
But then Pepper’s death at sixteen splintered our already-precarious bonds.
I selected three mugs from a kitchen cupboard. This was no time to try to unravel the complicated dynamics between me, Johanna, and Payton—not when they’d be here any minute. And not with so much riding on this morning.
It’s funny how much hope people put into a cup of coffee.
Social media—Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Pinterest and even millions of people’s text messages around the world—overflow daily with memes and GIFs lauding the miracle qualities of coffee.
Coffee is the gasoline of life.
All I need is coffee and mascara.
Behind every successful person is a substantial amount of coffee.
I drink coffee for your protection.
Drink coffee and do good.
And now . . . now coffee would be the glue that bonded the three of us together.
Coffee and a book, if Payton’s latest “we should do this!” idea succeeded.
Despite our determination to try to be better sisters—to overcome the damage to our relationships caused by Pepper’s death . . . and secrets . . . and not knowing how to even relax with one another—it was all too easy to succumb to a lifetime of bad habits.
Of course, I knew my given position in the Thatcher sisters, volunteering to have our first Saturday morning book club meeting at my house. There were times I doubted that I’d ever get my “Is everybody happy?” theme song out of my head.
It didn’t matter that I had a full-time job. That I battled unrelenting fatigue. That Geoff and I were starting renovations on our house next week. I laughed and brushed off their multiple “We can do this, Jillian,” offers with lighthearted responses of “I’m good. Really. This isn’t a problem at all.”
And then I’d resorted to a last-minute trip to the grocery store for premade options for this morning’s breakfast.
“A girl has to do what a girl has to do” was fast becoming my mantra. Only I was doing less and less and hoping to get by.
Winston scratched at the back door leading from the kitchen to the yard, distracting me from my musings on the power of caffeine mixed with a heavy dose of self-doubt.
I bent down and ruffled his white ears before opening the door. “Sorry to leave you sitting there.”
A knock at the front door signaled the arrival of one sister—most likely Johanna, who was always early.
She greeted me with a quick hug, setting her leather purse and her book on the small oak table Geoff and I kept by the front door. At least she’d brought her copy of the book we’d chosen. The question was, had she read it?
“Good to see you, Joey. How are you?”
“Tired.” Johanna slipped off her leather sandals, looking trim in black capris and a red flowing top with cutout shoulders. “Between my work and Beckett’s schedule at the academy, life’s crazy.”
“Still, it must be nice having him in the same state at least.”
“He might as well have kept his original assignment in Alabama. The superintendent at the academy keeps him so busy dealing with speeches and briefings and I don’t know what else, we barely see each other.”
“But you see him more than you did when he lived in another state, right?” And not seeing each other was the norm for Beckett and Johanna.
“I’m not keeping track of hours and minutes.”
“One thing I know is you and Beckett can do this. You’ve managed a long-distance relationship for years, which means you can manage crazy hours with both of you living in the same town. I remember how excited you both were the weekend he drove into the Springs.”
“You’re right, Jilly. I’m still getting used to this new phase. It was so sudden.”
“Why don’t you go make a cup of coffee? I apologize that it’s from a plastic pod and not your preferred French press. But I do have cream . . .” Had I taken the time to put it in the fridge? Payton pulled up in front of the house as I started to close the door. “I’ll wait here for Payton.”
“Sounds good.” My oldest sister disappeared in a light cloud of her Coco perfume.
Payton released her long auburn hair from its ponytail as she half ran up the sidewalk. “Hey!”
“No need to run—you’re not late.”
“I lost track of time.” She shook her head, strands falling around her shoulders.
“Well, come on in.” We shared a quick hug. “Do you want coffee or water?”
“Both sound great. I’m dehydrated and undercaffeinated—a bad combination, especially if I want to get along with Johanna this morning.”
“Don’t start.” I resisted the urge to shake my finger at Payton.
“It was a joke.”
In the kitchen, Johanna had arranged the fresh-from-a-plastic-container muffins onto a plate. The premade fruit salad now sat on the counter in a white ceramic bowl.
“Thanks.” I retrieved a serving spoon from the drawer. “I could have done that.”
“I figured I would make myself useful while I waited for my coffee.” She gave Payton a slow once-over. “Did you just come from the gym?”
“Technically, yes, but I was coaching, not working out. I met one of my JV girls for a private lesson. She wanted to work on blocking.” She raised both hands, waving aside her explanation. “Sorry if you’re offended, big sister. I couldn’t shower if I wanted to be here close to on time.”
Johanna hadn’t commented on my casual attire of relaxed jeans and a navy-blue Broncos T-shirt—a well-loved gift from Dad. But Johanna and Payton would find something to bicker about even if they’d taken a vow of silence. And me? I would always be the designated driver of the emotional vehicle that carried our merry little trio.
Taken from Moments We Forget by Beth K. Vogt. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author:
Beth K. Vogt is a nonfiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind doors marked Never. Beth’s first novel for Tyndale House Publishers, Things I Never Told You, released in May 2018. Moments We Forget, book two in the Thatcher Sisters series, releases May 2019.
Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner, a 2016 ACFW Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RITA Award finalist. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. A November Bride was part of the Year of Weddings series by Zondervan. Having authored nine contemporary romance novels or novellas, Beth believes there’s more to happily ever after than the fairy tales tell us.
An established magazine writer and former editor of the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth blogs for Novel Academy and The Write Conversation and also enjoys speaking to writers’ groups and mentoring other writers. She lives in Colorado with her husband, Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.