The day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon marked a summer where anything at all could happen. The brother you’d given up for dead in a war everybody hated could suddenly turn up alive, and the sister you’d protected all her life could finally be getting married. Any other woman would have been happy with the sudden turn of good fortune, but not Sis Blake. She was scared of happiness. Let too much joy seep into your life and you’d soon find yourself hunkered beside twisted wreckage wondering what you did to make everything turn out so wrong.
As if Sis needed any more evidence than her own history to tell her something awful was heading her way, the Amen cobbler cooling in the kitchen at Sweet Mama’s Café gave off the scent of secrets, a spicy smell so sharp it could cut away everything you held dear.
Still, Sis kept her troubled thoughts to herself. There was no sense spoiling things for her sister. Emily was humming as she sliced into the cobbler, serving up hope by the spoonful.
“Eat up, Sis.” Emily’s face was radiant with happiness and heat from the ovens. “It’s the best I’ve ever made.”
Sis forced herself to eat so she wouldn’t be the one who wiped the smile off her sister’s face, and Emily went back to her baking and humming, every now and then glancing out the back café window.
What was she seeing besides a backyard lit up with red and blue Christmas lights, though it was July and so hot in Biloxi the seagulls abandoned the beaches along the Mississippi Sound and pecked at Sweet Mama’s display windows trying to get inside where it was air-conditioned? Was Emily seeing a six-year-old son who needed a daddy? Was she seeing a little boy born out of wedlock and tagged with ugly rumors by a few vicious gossips Sweet Mama had run out of the café with a broom? Or was she seeing what Sis did, an endearing little boy in an outgrown Superman suit who was thriving in a family of women?
Even that worried Sis. Get too complacent and bad luck would hunt you down. The bite of Amen cobbler went down hard and sat in Sis’s stomach like an accusation.