Authors: Sydney Logan
Copyright © 2016 Sydney Logan
Published by Mountain Media
Cover design by T.M. Franklin
Cover image by Masson
All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Any books, songs and song titles, lyrics, television shows, or movies mentioned in this book are the property of the respective copyright holders and trademark owners.
Thank you for letting me borrow your name, even if you can’t read my books until you’re a teenager. Thank you for being my youngest and sweetest fan.
Angelina Clark gazed down at the shining candle. Its yellow flame flickered and glistened against the darkness of the living room. She had eagerly anticipated this day—her thirteenth birthday—since she’d been a little girl.
“Today is a special day,” her mother said, her voice solemn.
Growing up, Angelina had heard the legend that had been passed down from her grandmother. It was a fairy tale—much like Cinderella, but without the glass slipper or the wicked stepsisters. Instead, this story involved nothing but a shimmering candle and a simple song, both of which would allow the young girl to blossom into a strong and intelligent young woman. She would be beautiful and—at the age of twenty-one—would find her true love.
It couldn’t be a fairy tale without true love.
Angelina had always been a skeptical child and wondered if there was any truth to the story, but she had never been able to ignore the evidence. With long black hair and piercing blue eyes, her mother was stunning. Celia Clark was joyful, gifted, and wise, and her husband loved her as much today as he had on the day they’d married.
“Are you ready?” Celia asked.
Angelina nodded. Her heart was thundering, and her hands were trembling, but her mother assured her this was to be expected. The ceremony was an important rite of passage in a daughter’s life—a sacred ritual that had been passed down from her ancestors. One day, Angelina would sit on the floor with her own daughter, and her daughter’s candle.
“I’m ready,” Angelina said, her voice brave.
Her mother smiled proudly at her daughter as they joined hands. Between them, the candle danced, casting shadows upon the walls. Angelina closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and began to sing.
“True love and sweet whispers
Till death do us part;
Send someone to love
My Appalachian heart.”
Celia gave her daughter’s hand a reassuring squeeze. With her eyes still tightly closed, the young girl swiftly blew out the yellow flame.
The crimson sky was aglow along the horizon of the Smoky Mountains. Standing on the front porch with her dog by her side, Angelina had to shield her eyes from the brilliant glare as she stared at the natural beauty of the dawn. To her, it was just another pretty daybreak, but to her mountain mama, a red sunrise was a sure sign of rain.
I’ll need to remember my umbrella.
She inhaled deeply, letting the smell of the pines wash over her. So many times, Angelina had been tempted to move closer to town. After all, she was twenty-one years old, and none of her friends still lived at home.
Then again, none of her friends had a view like this from their front porch.
“Isn’t it pretty, boy?” Angelina murmured, stroking the dog’s coat. Cash, her faithful chocolate Lab, had been her constant companion since her tenth birthday. Fiercely protective and devoted, he always joined Angelina on her morning walks.
It was still early, and the fog had yet to lift. The sun was trying its best, but mountain mist was stubborn, and sometimes it was mid-morning before it finally disappeared. Angelina loved the haze, because it always dissipated, revealing the gorgeous green of spring and summer, or the pretty mosaic of auburn leaves in the fall. In the winter, blinding white snow covered the mountaintops and clung to the trees.
All of it was beautiful.
All of it was home.
“Angelina, breakfast is ready,” her mother called from the kitchen.
Just like that, Angelina’s peaceful morning was gone. Her mom’s exhausted tone served as a grim reminder that not everything could be beautiful all the time.
Celia Clark’s voice was always laced with a determined energy as she tried to remain strong for her daughter, but Angelina knew better. It had been nearly two years since her mother had buried the love of her life, and as much as Angelina missed her father, she knew her mom missed her husband even more.
“Come on, boy,” Angelina said, tugging the dog’s collar. Squaring her shoulders, she took another lingering look at the mountains before heading inside. The house smelled of bacon, eggs, and buttermilk biscuits. Angelina’s stomach growled as she and Cash made their way into the kitchen.
Celia looked up from the frying pan and offered her daughter a smile. “Good morning, Angelina.”
“How are you feeling today?”
“Oh, it’s a good day. Hungry?”
They took their seats at the table, and Celia handed her daughter a glass of juice while trying to disguise her tired smile. Celia Clark might have been the strongest woman Angelina had ever known, but she was a terrible liar.
“Busy day at the shop?”
Angelina nodded and swallowed her eggs. “The Massey brothers are dropping off some of their instruments today. They’ve built some beautiful mandolins and fiddles.”
Celia’s Strings was a little music store in the foothills of the Smokies. Samuel and Celia Clark had always loved music and wanted to offer a place for local artists to sell their instruments. Angelina had worked in the shop since she’d been old enough to count change.
Celia gazed out the kitchen window. “We always need more mandolins. They sell so quickly.”
Her breakfast remained untouched, but Angelina pretended not to notice. Instead, they talked about the store. Her mother always listened intently, but Celia’s desire to run the shop had died along with her husband. She’d been ecstatic when Angelina had offered to manage it herself.
“Happy birthday, Angelina.”
Angelina sighed. She supposed it had been too much to hope that her mom had forgotten today’s date.
“Twenty-one years old. What a wonderful year you’re going to have. I only hope . . .”
Celia’s voice trailed off, making her daughter’s heart ache. Her mom was doing that more and more—talking about the future and how she might not be around to see it.
Angelina shook her head. “I think this year is going to be just like all the others. You know I don’t believe in that old spell.”
Angelina had stopped believing in Appalachian magic long ago. If wishing made it so, her dad would still be alive, and her mom’s hair wouldn’t be falling out in the shower each morning.
Angelina Clark was officially a skeptic.
“You will,” her mother murmured.