Settled by German farmers along the Guadalupe River in 1872, Gruene, Texas thrived for years as a commercial cotton hub, only to be decimated by a 1920s boll weevil blight and doomed by the Great Depression. A half century later, the community was annexed by New Braunfels, having found new footing as a center for tourism and art. One of the town's most famous landmarks, Gruene Hall, opened in 1878, and in 2001 made Forbes' "50 of America's Best" list as Best Country Honky-Tonk.
Luna Meadows had waited tables at Gruene's Gristmill Restaurant while in high school. As a young man, her father had worked at Gruene Hall. It was there where he'd met her mother, and though Luna was born a year later, it wasn't until her fifth birthday that her parents tied the knot in a celebration of her birth, their joining, and the purchase of Meadows Land—the farm in nearby Hope Springs where they raised Delaine Merino sheep for wool.
Today, the street outside the dance hall was barricaded, and big white tents set up for a craft fair sponsored by one of the area guilds. The early March sky was cloudless and blue, the sun warming air cooled by what was no doubt one of spring's last cold weather fronts. In the Meadows Land booth, Luna's mother, Julietta, demonstrated spinning and weaving while her father, Harry, hawked their wares.
Wares which included Luna's scarves.
Cameron Diaz had been the first celebrity to wear them, picking up several in the tony Austin boutique that sold Luna's Patchwork Moon collection of uniquely textured and colored creations, each of which told its own story. Soon after, paparazzi shots of the scarves around the necks of Katie Holmes, Emma Watson—even Brad Pitt—popped up in entertainment rags.
Though she'd grown up watching her mother throw the shuttle of weft yarn through the shed of the warp, it wasn't until confined to bed after a car accident as a teen, her broken hip keeping her from the funeral of her best friend, that her mother brought her a portable loom, along with hand-spun-and-dyed woolen and worsted.
Even burying her nose in big books with big stories had not kept Luna's mind off her loss. Somehow, her mother had known weaving would do what reading hadn't been able to, and Luna had lost herself in the colors of harems and spices and exotic flowers. Violet that burst like crushed grapes. The sunshine of saffron and topaz. Joyous persimmon and cool, moody jade.
She loved what she did, loved being able to pay her own way and to contribute to the family coffers, but she did not love the notoriety. The attention screwed with her process, and so she let those who wore her scarves do her advertising for her, agreeing to an occasional interview as long as accompanying photos were of her work and not her.
The locals who knew her got a kick out of keeping her secret. Their doing so allowed her the freedom she was enjoying today, roaming the streets, where impatiens bloomed in sidewalk whiskey barrels, browsing the wares in the guild members' booths, breathing deeply of the smells spilling from the food vendors' carts, cotton candy and funnel cakes and sausage-on-a-stick, and blending in, unnoticed, just a regular girl having fun.
Recognizing Dolly Breeze's quilts folded on frames beneath the Hope Springs Crafts Club tent, Luna headed that way. Working with a sixteen-inch hoop, Dolly sat in a rocking chair, the fabric of a crib-sized quilt like a waterfall over her lap. She gave Luna a quick wink, then returned her attention to the two seamstresses who sat with her. Both had their own small projects—one a needlepoint Christmas stocking, the other what looked like a crocheted place mat—well under way.
Luna listened to their chatter about old bundles of lace found in sewing baskets, and guild members who couldn't whip a stitch to save a life, and pattern thieves who deserved to have their thumbs cut off, all the while admiring the craftsmanship of the items on display. The cards of old buttons amused her, as did those of antique braid trim.
"Oh, I meant to tell you," Dolly said, speaking to the woman working on the place mat as Luna picked up a vintage roll of glass head straight pins. "One of the foster children who used to live with May and Winton Wise? She bought that old Victorian of theirs from the Colemans."
"And, this is the best part. She's going to open a café. Jessa called me yesterday and told me to go by and talk to her because she's looking for a cook."
"Which girl is it?"
"She's Kaylie Flynn now, Jessa says, but she used to be Kaylie Bridges."
Luna's head came up, her nape tingling, her stomach tumbling to her feet. She squeezed the paper roll, the pin heads gouging her palm, the cardboard buckling from the same pressure crushing the air from her chest.
"Kaylie Bridges. The one who used to bake all those brownies?"
Dolly nodded, leaned closer, but still spoke loudly enough to be heard outside the booth. "And whose mother went to prison for child endangerment and distribution of illegal narcotics."
Luna knew the story better than most, knew details these women as outsiders couldn't. She'd been told them all in confidence, told them by a family friend. Told them by a man who'd come home from his Gulf War deployment to tales of violence and drug abuse and a child at risk.
A man who'd been looking for his daughter ever since.