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The Sparrow Sisters

"All stories are true. Some of them actually happened."

Three sisters in the third pew nodded sharply in unison as John Hathaway looked out over his congregation; this made him stutter in an otherwise seamless sermon.

Patience Sparrow rocked in the pew until she made her sister Sorrel look away from the altar. Nettie Sparrow leaned in so that she could see both her sisters and smiled when she noticed they were already bent toward each other. Someone’s stomach growled. It was Easter Sunday, and the women were ready to bolt. It wasn’t that the sermon was dull, or that they already knew how right the Episcopal minister was. Some stories, told enough, became as true as their words. Any of these sisters could tell you that. It’s just that they were hungry. The three swayed back and resumed their attentive poses.

In the last pew but two, Henry Carlyle sat on the aisle. He was not a regular at the First Episcopal Church on the green. He was too new in town to be a regular anywhere, although he thought the little bakery down the street from his house was so good he might start showing up there every day. The phone in his pocket vibrated against his thigh, and he put his hand over it before the woman next to him got the wrong idea. She’d already shot him several curious glances, and he’d let his heavy, dark forelock fall over his eye to block her out. Henry needed a haircut. The phone buzzed again. He knew it was work; Henry didn’t have a friend in Granite Point, not yet anyway. Sampling the churches in town was his sorry attempt at meeting people. He watched the three heads a few pews up from his. He’d seen them laughing, acting up really, their shoulders shaking like naughty kids. A soft snort floated up from the redhead when the blonde in the middle nudged the others. Their behavior seemed so unlikely; one of the women (they were women, he had to acknowledge) had graying hair. Henry knew he’d have to slip out to answer the call, but before he did, he told himself a story about the women: how they couldn’t convince their husbands or kids to come to church with them, how they were best friends or neighbors who would pick up their Easter des­serts at the bakery after the service. But his story wasn’t true because how could he know anything at all about the Sparrow Sisters? The true story would come later.


Chapter One 

Lupin creates a fresh color in the cheek and a cheerful countenance

Once there were four Sparrow Sisters. Everyone called them the Sisters, capitalized, and referred to them as a group, even when just one had come to the post office to collect the mail. “The Sisters are here for their package,” the postmistress would say, calling her clerk to the desk. Or, “What do you know, the Sisters are taking the train into the city.” All four had left Granite Point over the years on school trips to Boston and for the symphony or the museum, but they always came back; it was home. The only Sparrow sister who did leave town forever did so in the hardest way. The oldest Sparrow, if only by seven minutes, was Marigold, Sorrel’s twin. She was the real home­body, the one people still shook their heads over, and she actu­ally left Granite Point just twice; the first time to accompany her father to a meeting with lawyers upon the death of her mother and the last upon her own death, in a smallish wooden box nestled inside an Adams’s Hardware bag on the arm of her twin. Sorrel took Marigold to the Outer Beach, past the break north of the seal colony, to scatter her ashes in the Atlantic.

Now there were only three Sparrows left in the house at the top of the hill overlooking the far harbor. Long ago this house that their great-great (and more) grandmother Clarissa Spar­row built had rung with the shouts and laughter of her four sons and the many Sparrow sons that followed. It was made of the timber used to craft the whaling fleet that sailed out from the harbor and into the dark waves. Her husband was a sea captain so fond of his trade that Clarissa chose wood from her father’s shipyard with the idea that if George Sparrow loved his boat so much, surely he would be called home to a house made of the very same wood. She’d even built a widow’s walk high above the street so that she could watch for him to sail back to her. Eventually, the widow’s walk would earn its name several times over.

By the time the Sparrow Sisters lived in the house on Ivy Street, lanes and hedges and other houses had grown up, block­ing all but a narrow sliver of the deep blue water of Big Point Bay. Ivy House, as everyone called it, stood tall and white as it had for all those years, home to the last of the Sparrows alto­gether. The house was beautiful and spare with high ceilings and windows of wavy glass. It was most often filled with the flowers and herbs, vegetables and fruits of the Sparrow Sis­ters Nursery. Like their mother, Honor Sparrow, dead now for twenty-some years—gone on the very day her youngest daugh­ter, Impatiens, arrived—the sisters all had green thumbs. It was ordained, really. They had each been named after a botani­cal, mostly flowers, and as their mother kept producing girls, the names became slightly ridiculous. But Honor was a keen gardener and in darkest winter, calling her daughter’s names reminded her that spring would come again. For months after her death the older girls hated their names and all they recalled for them. By the time they founded the Sparrow Sisters Nurs­ery, though, each thoroughly embraced their names as the sign they were.

Sorrel, Nettie, and Patience might well have gone on as they were accustomed, planting and reaping, selling the abundance of their labors, cooking for each other and listening to the opera every Saturday afternoon as Sorrel did the ironing, ful­filling the roles of town eccentrics. Although to be fair, Sorrel was not yet forty, hardly biddy material. But then the old town doctor, Eliakim Higgins, retired and set in motion everything that came after. He’d delivered all but one of the girls and cared for each of them on the rare occasions that they fell ill. He had diagnosed Marigold, and overseen her chemotherapy, as point­less as it turned out to be, in the seven months it took her to die. Dr. Higgins was very attached to the sisters, even more so after he’d been unable to save their mother and then Marigold.

But at seventy-six his hands were not as steady nor his eyes so clear. He decided to leave his practice for the creosote-scented air of Arizona. Although there was a group medical practice in Hayward seventeen miles west, Dr. Higgins had always been the town’s first choice. Well, he and then Patience Sparrow, whose reputation for curing everyday maladies like cradle cap and insomnia had turned her gift into an unexpected sideline. She was more often paid in eggs and striped bass, hand-knitted sweaters and fresh quahogs, than cash, but still. Her ability was cultivated along with the plants at the Sparrow Sisters Nurs­ery, and it wasn’t long after college that Patience decided she would stay in Granite Point and go to work with her sisters. Her degree in botany wasn’t the reason the Nursery called to her. It was the Nursery that called her to study. In fact, if the older girls hadn’t invested their inheritance and, even more, their hearts, in the land, Patience might well have wandered away and had a very different story indeed.

The Sisters remained close to the doctor (he was, after all, as alone as they were), but after Marigold they were never his patients again. The spring after Dr. Higgins left town, a young doctor straight out of Massachusetts General by way of the army bought the small shingled house and practice on Baker’s Way where Dr. Higgins had lived and worked for over forty years. The arrangements were made quietly through a Boston firm, leaving little time for speculation in town and even less for real digging. The young man remained a mystery.

Henry Carlyle moved in quickly, alone, on a cold Wednes­day in April. He’d collected few things over the years in medi­cal school and then the service. The neighbors watched Dr. Carlyle, muffled in a dark blue sweater, sleeves pushed up over his elbows as he unloaded the rented van. Movers had already brought all the big stuff, so what Henry now carried into the house was expected: boxes, lamps, two suitcases, and a large duffel. The oddest item was a long single shell and oars. Henry slid it out effortlessly, shouldering the impossibly thin boat before he went back for the oars. His little audience behind their twitching curtains might have wondered where he meant to row—the glacial lake, Frost Fish perhaps, or the still pond down Arey’s Lane? But the snoopers were more curious that the tall, broad-shouldered doctor limped, and as the van began to empty, the hitch became more pronounced. By the time Henry Carlyle climbed into the van to return it to the U-Haul in Hayward, he’d begun to wince with every step. His first patients would try to divine how he’d been hurt but, although he was attentive and gentle in his examinations, Dr. Carlyle re­vealed nothing personal beyond the fact that he was a product of Yale Medical School (class of 1999—the diploma was on his wall).

Henry Carlyle was just a year or so younger than Nettie Sparrow, and on the day she came to see him, she couldn’t help but notice the way his dark hair curled behind his ear. There were strands of gray in it that led Nettie to think that while it might be youthful in its length, perhaps it showed he hadn’t had things so very easy. She sat on the crinkly paper covering the old leather examination table, the first and likely the only sister to consult Dr. Carlyle. She was a bit of a hypochondriac, but really, who could blame her after Marigold and her parents? Nettie had been fighting a chest cold for weeks, it seemed, so she made an appointment, convinced it was pneumonia. The nurse who doubled as receptionist at the practice had gone to high school with Nettie. Sally Tabor had waggled her eye­brows as she beckoned Nettie closer to the counter. She leaned in to whisper, which wasn’t easy given that Sally was heavily pregnant.

“Look out,” she said, glancing behind her to be sure her boss wasn’t in earshot. “He’s as handsome as anything and as chilly as Big Point Bay in January.”

Nettie was in mid-giggle when Dr. Carlyle came to the door­way and called her name. She followed him down the hall, her fingers at her lips as she saw his limp. Now, as she sat watching him glance through her chart (a thin file that was proof of both the Sparrow Sisters’ hearty constitutions and their mistrust of doctors), she hoped that Sally was wrong about him.

Dr. Carlyle looked straight into Nettie’s eyes as he put the file on the table beside her, which made her heart flutter just enough to worry her.

“Nettie, is that short for Annette?” Dr. Carlyle asked.

“It’s short for Nettle.” Nettie hated the way her voice qua­vered as she shivered in the office gown. “Stinging nettle tea was the only thing that soothed my mother’s hives when she was carrying me.”

Henry laughed and then apologized. “That’s unusual.”

“Yes, well,” Nettie said, “All our names are unusual.”

Henry took her pulse and temperature, laying a gentle hand against her forehead for a moment. He breathed onto his stethoscope to warm it before he slipped it under her gown. Nettie noted the small courtesy and decided there and then that this Dr. Carlyle was a suitable replacement for Dr. Higgins—not that she would be seeing him again. Just being in his office made her feel traitorous, and she regretted her moment of panic. Or was it rebellion? Patience could smell a doctor a mile off.

After listening to her lungs, Dr. Carlyle determined that she did not have pneumonia but rather a stubborn case of bronchi­tis and prescribed antibiotics and rest. Nettie left his office in an unreasonably grateful state, prescription in hand, feeling better already. There was only a moment of hesitation when she con­sidered the reaction of the pharmacist. Since Marigold’s death none of the Sisters had needed Mr. Howe’s services. It had not gone unnoticed. As she waited for her medicine, Nettie knew that his clerk had her ears pricked as she unnecessarily straight­ened the magazines on the rack next to Nettie.

When Dr. Carlyle brought her chart to Sally, he saw that Nettie had left her jacket on the chair nearest the counter. It actually belonged to her sister Patience, but Nettie was feverish and distracted; she’d grabbed the first thing she saw as she snuck out of Ivy House that morning. He picked it up to give it to his nurse, but the smell of tarragon and thyme and something almost cool made him pause and hold it a little closer. Sally eyed him as she took the coat from his hands and signaled the next patient. Henry was already planning what would be the first of many house calls since arriving in a town that seemed abso­lutely determined to stay trapped in the amber of a time long past. The last patient was dispatched by 5:30 so Henry had just enough time to listen to a filing lecture from Sally before he washed the disinfectant off his hands and face. As Henry picked up the jacket Nettie had left behind, he remembered how his father had always told him that he should start as he meant to continue, so Henry decided that he’d make Nettie Sparrow his first house call. He buttoned his vest and stepped out into the slanting light.

Back at the house Sorrel and Patience settled their sister in her room. Patience brought her white pepper, ginger, and honey mixed into hot water and tied a length of eucalyptus-scented flannel around Nettie’s neck. Then she went back to the Nurs­ery. Patience had a talent for healing, but she wasn’t much for nursing and certainly not for a sister who chose to bypass her in favor of a stranger.

This is how Dr. Carlyle found Nettie that early evening when he stopped by to check on his patient and return the jacket. Propped up in her bed, a thick eiderdown pulled up to her shoulders, even in the warmth of the house, Nettie was shocked when the tall doctor walked into her room followed by a clearly discombobulated Sorrel.

“Well,” he said. “I see someone has their own ideas about medicine.” Dr. Carlyle leaned down, his hand on the iron bed­post for balance, and took a deep sniff of Nettie’s flannel. “Eu­calyptus?” he asked, cocking his head as he inhaled, his long lashes casting his gray eyes in darker shadow. Poor Nettie felt a shiver leap up her neck.

“My sister made this,” she stuttered. “And the tea.”

Henry picked up the cup and sniffed again. It was an odd smell, sharp from the pepper, soft from the honey.

“Patience has the gift,” Sorrel added from the end of the bed. “She’s quite popular here in town.”

“Popular as in all the boys like her?” The doctor laughed.

“Oh, no,” Nettie said. “Patience isn’t interested in boys any­more.”

Henry laughed again. “All grown up or already taken?”

Sorrel gave a laugh. “Patience is the baby, Dr. Carlyle, and none of us are taken.” She blushed and desperately wanted to unsay the last bit. “She has a gift with herbs and plants,” she continued. “Everyone comes for her remedies.”

Now Henry turned to look at Sorrel. “Remedies?” he said with a frown.

“Oh, yes.” Nettie sat up straighter; she had heard the dis­approval in the doctor’s voice and was already on the defen­sive. “Patience has inherited an ancestral ability and the recipe book. She has the touch; ask anyone.”

Henry Carlyle didn’t know whether to be alarmed or just amused that this unseen Sparrow sister had managed to hood wink an entire town. He was pretty sure that he didn’t like it. He might have left with nothing more than a vague feeling of disappointment about how gullible people could be, had Pa­tience not come home just then, the back screen door slam­ming behind her with a loud clap. Nettie started, and Sorrel escorted the doctor from the room, down the front stairs, away from the kitchen, hoping to get him out of the house before he had a chance to meet their sister. She nearly made it, too. Henry had his hand on the front door when Patience wandered in from the kitchen, her arms full of chamomile. The little flowers brushed her chin with yellow pollen, and her hair had sprung loose from its messy twist.

The sisters had lived in an isolated state for so long that Pa­tience was shocked to see a strange man in her front room. Almost as soon as she felt that shock, Patience was embarrassed, and then she was irked.

“Who is that?” she asked her sister, completely ignoring the man himself. Sorrel spluttered out Henry’s name and purpose. She saw the face-off that was setting up and clapped her hands at Patience, an unspoken request for civility from her prickling sister. The entire scene was so unexpected that it brought out the worst in all three players. Henry didn’t want to lecture this very pretty woman he’d barely met. He realized she was the snorter in church on Easter, the redhead, and as he stared at her, he became fascinated by the precarious nature of her hairdo. In the last of the sun it appeared like a halo around her head. But, perhaps because he was new to Granite Point and eager to establish his authority, Henry spoke, his voice harder than he meant it to be.

“What’s all this I hear about your remedies?” The dismissal was clear and Patience, for the first time in days (a record), turned snappish.

“I beg your pardon?” Patience asked with a bit of a bark. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Sorrel flinch.

The doctor looked at Patience with a mixture of surprise and anger. It was not a pretty look. His brow lowered, and his jaw stood out sharply as he clenched it. As for the object of his irritation, two hectic spots of red bloomed on her cheeks and, to her horror, tears sprang to her eyes, threatening to spill over her burning face.

Sorrel ushered Henry out as she excused her sister’s outburst in calming tones. As soon as the door clicked into place, she rounded on Patience.

“How could you be so rude!” she snapped. “Honestly, I think you put all your care, every bit of it, into your remedies.”

She stomped out into the back garden, leaving Patience star­ing at the black-and-white checked floor. A hot tear dropped at her feet. It smelled of chamomile, as did her skin and clothes, but there was nothing soothing in it for Patience. Sorrel lost her temper with her sisters so infrequently that Patience wasn’t sure if she was (damn it) crying because of Sorrel’s angry words or over the very odd reaction she’d had to Henry Carlyle. Sim­mering under her anger with Dr. Carlyle was a wholly un­expected tug. If Henry had been captured in that moment,

Patience had been caught too. She would never tell her sisters, but Patience had already noticed Henry, twice. One evening as she walked home from Baker’s Way Bakers, Patience had looked up to see him standing at his window. He hadn’t seen her in the darkness, but she was able to pick out the slump of his shoulders, his fingertips pressed against the glass. She’d wondered what his story was. Patience had sidled closer to the building across the street so she could look at him for another minute. When she saw him coming out of the post office a week later, she ducked her head and fiddled with her phone.

Patience swiped at her cheeks and pulled her heavy hair back up into a ponytail. “Really,” she muttered, “get a grip,” and walked down the hall to the kitchen.

The air around her had taken on a sharp, astringent smell, the soft chamomile burned away in a matter of moments. Sorrel smelled it as she gathered laundry from the line; it was so strong even the sheets were imbued. She knew that sometimes Pa­tience’s rich interior life, a thing of bright colors, strong scents, and a good deal of swearing, burst forth. The smells that fol­lowed her were the most noticeable, and even the town had learned to interpret at least some of the scents that wrapped around the youngest sister. Her graceful surface was often at odds with the force of her emotions. When that happened, everything and everyone around her knew it. Her sisters had gotten used to it: her internal struggles externalized. In fact, they could read Patience as easily as Patience read the people she helped. The three sisters were as tightly entwined as the bittersweet they battled each fall, and as stubborn. If the town ever wondered why they didn’t break away—and it did—no one dared to ask them.

All the Sparrow Sisters were naturally beautiful, each in very different ways—except for the twins, of course, who were eerily identical. So even the three who were left in the house had the certain confidence that came with knowing you needn’t worry about your looks. They were never self-conscious around the men in town, which made Patience’s reaction to Dr. Carlyle all the odder. In fact, as the years passed and neither Sorrel nor Nettie married, everyone stopped bothering about them. A natural New England reserve meant people didn’t give in to curiosity often, and really, it was easier to assign them the status of the slightly sad single Sisters than to keep wondering. The girls seemed unconcerned and went about their days, each as lovely in their own way as the flowers they tended. Sorrel’s black hair became streaked with premature white, which gave her an exotic air, although the elegance was somewhat ruined by the muddy jeans and shorts she practically lived in. Nettie, on the other hand, had a head of baby-fine blond hair that she wore short, thinking, wrongly, that it would look less child­like. Nettie wouldn’t dream of being caught in dirty jeans and was always crisply turned out in khaki capris or a skirt and a white shirt. She considered her legs to be her finest feature. She was not wrong.

Patience was the sole Sparrow redhead, although her hair had deepened from its childhood ginger and was now closer to the color of a chestnut. It was as heavy and glossy as a horse’s mane, and she paid absolutely no attention to it or to much else about her appearance, nor did she have to. In the summer her wide-legged linen trousers and cut-off shorts were speck­led with dirt and greenery, her camisoles tatty and damp. The broad-brimmed hat she wore to pick was most often dangling from a cord down her back. As a result, the freckles that feath­ered across her shoulders and chest were the color of caramel and resistant to her own buttermilk lotion (Nettie smoothed it on Patience whenever she could make her stand still). When it was terribly hot, Patience wore the sundresses she’d found packed away in the attic. She knew they were her mother’s, and she liked to imagine how happy Honor had been in them.

On the surprisingly warm June day on which Dr. Carlyle threw the Sparrow Sisters into a swivet, Patience was wearing a pair of Sorrel’s too-loose shorts rolled down at the waist until her hip bones showed below her tee shirt. She hadn’t expected a visitor, and certainly not a stranger, so it wasn’t until she went back into the kitchen and caught sight of herself in the French doors to the dining room that Patience realized how undressed she really was. She stared for a minute and then she laughed. Ha! she thought. No wonder he was so unbalanced.

Patience wasn’t vain, but she knew what the sight of her bare midriff could do to a man. It made her laugh again as she pulled the chamomile flowers from their stems. But when she thought about how silly her sisters were, how completely “girly” their behavior had been in front of the doctor, her smile faded. And when she recalled how Henry Carlyle’s jaw had hardened as he looked at her, Patience dropped the chamomile into the sink and slapped the cold porcelain, her tears completely dried, as teed off at him as Sorrel had been at her.

Outside Ivy House, the doctor stood for a full minute before he turned to walk back to his practice. The scent of herbs and grass and damp soil trailed in the air behind him. He turned in a circle trying to focus on the scent, and for the second time that day he sniffed like a rabbit and tried to pinpoint what it was.

When Henry got back to his shingled house on Baker’s Way, he wavered in front of the door to the apartment he lived in over the “shop.” It was after six, and there was no real reason to go back into the office, but he did so anyway. It was too quiet in his apartment, which struck him as funny, really. The one thing he’d craved in the hospital was quiet. The one thing he didn’t have when he was deployed was solitude. Now that he had both, it made him restless. So he unlocked the door and turned on the lights in the office. There were always notes to dictate, charts to catch up on; paperwork was not Henry’s strong suit, and he usually left anything to do with organiza­tion to the last minute, or to Sally, who he’d inherited from Dr. Higgins. He found a pile of patient files with a yellow sticky on his desk and growled as he toed his chair out.

“Dr. Carlyle, please try to keep up,” Sally had written in purple ink. He huffed and deliberately moved them aside so he could put his bag on the desk. Henry opened the old satchel, meaning to restock it with saline, Tylenol, a suture kit. The scent of chamomile slipped out, or at least that’s what Henry thought. He snapped the bag shut and crossed to lie down on the exam table. The paper rattled under him as it did under his patients. Not for the first time he wondered what he thought he was doing in this town of fishermen and spinsters, shop­keepers and faith healers.

The smell of cookies replaced the chamomile, and Henry figured that the little store down the street, Baker’s Way Bakers, was probably just closing, the last of the stock set aside for dis­count sale in the morning. Henry coughed, certain he could feel the flour on the back of his throat. He gave in to fatigue, a very different kind than that of his residency in Boston. There he’d felt hollowed out by exhaustion, a dark place inside wait­ing to be filled by the desperation and panic of a city hospital. Remembering that, Henry understood, again, why he’d left and why he’d come to Granite Point. He dozed off, slightly hungry for cake, the ache in his leg a nervy hum.

When Henry woke, it was full dark, and a small circle of lamplight puddled on his desk. Sitting up, he had a renewed sense of purpose; maybe it was the half hour of oblivion. Henry had trained himself to sleep quickly and deeply. He grabbed the charts and made his way upstairs, opened a beer, swallowed three aspirin, considered a Vicodin, and sat at the kitchen counter to work. There weren’t too many patients yet: Dr. Higgins’s practice had begun to wind down before he did, but Henry had high hopes. Already word of his kind manner and good looks had filtered down to the young mothers, their babies swaddled tight even into June, their toddlers already in bathing suits. News traveled fast, no doubt about it; rumors even faster. The women speculated that he’d left heartbreak behind in Boston, and their husbands figured he’d seen too much death in Iraq, too many sick people, accidents, and car wrecks at the hospital. Both were right, although his heart had broken far from Boston.

Hunger drove Henry back outside. He set aside his papers and slipped on the blue sweater. He was more susceptible to the cold since his return. The tree peepers seemed to echo the insistent buzz of pain in his leg. He walked slowly, trying to make his gait as even as possible. He was used to the way people’s eyes flicked to his leg when he walked through the hospital or into his own waiting room. But, he realized now, Patience hadn’t lowered her gaze, not even for an instant, as she stood with her arms full of damp flowers. Henry stuck his hands in his pockets as he rounded Main Street, glad that the lights of Doyle’s were bright.

He took a seat at the bar. Frank Redmond approached, drying his hands on a stained white cloth.

“What’ll you have, Doc?” he asked, and Henry snorted.

Frank looked at him, eyebrows raised.

“It’s just that you’re so welcoming and I just had a run in with . . . I have no idea what.” Henry laughed. “Pretty tight, this town.”


“Well now,” Frank said, already pulling a pint for Henry. “There’s some who might take offense at that, coming from an inlander.”

“Oh, I’m sorry”—Henry raised his hand—“I only meant that nearly everyone I’ve met is . . .” He stopped. “Just, I’m sorry.”

Frank was chuckling as he watched Henry fumble. “Shit, Henry, I’m just messing with you. Inlander, like that’s even a word.” He handed Henry a menu and moved off, still smiling.

Henry looked at the menu, not really seeing any of it. He’d have a grilled cheese and leave it at that. What Henry was seeing was Patience: the way her hair stuck to the dampness at her neck, the smudge of dirt over her eyebrow, the spark of anger he’d drawn from her even as he suspected that the last thing he wanted to make her was angry. Henry thought that making her smile would be wonderful, and he felt his own lips twitch.

“So?” Frank was back. “See something you like?”

“Oh yes,” said Henry and shook his head to clear it of the springy green scent that seemed to cling to Patience, even in memory.

When his sandwich came, he ate it in silence, listening to the chatter of the locals who were Frank’s bread and butter until the summer season got underway. He wiped his mouth and reached for his wallet, shifting on the stool until he had to slide off to keep his balance. He landed harder than he meant to on his bad leg and grimaced, dropping the wallet.

“A quart of the chowder, Frank.” Patience stood at the end of the bar, an old hoodie over her tee shirt. The stretched hem came to the middle of her thighs; she looked naked beneath it, but her dirty boots and slouchy socks dismissed that image with an oddly childish look.

Henry paused, his head just below the bar, his wallet half­way to his hip pocket. Damn it, he thought. It felt as if his little reverie had called Patience to Doyle’s long before he was ready to see her again.

“How’s Nettie?” Frank asked.

“She’s better,” Patience said shortly.

Frank lowered his voice, and Henry had to strain to hear him.

“She went to the new guy, didn’t she?”

“Yeah,” Patience said. “She gets nervous, you know.” She shuffled through some bills as Frank brought the soup.

“No charge, P,” Frank said. “I still owe you for Claire’s mi­graines.”

“Thanks.” Patience shoved all but a couple dollars back into her pocket. “See ya.”

“Yup.” Frank turned back, and Henry stood up slowly, care­ful not to look toward the front door as it swung shut behind Patience.

“Where’d you go there?” Frank asked.

“I dropped my wallet,” Henry answered and opened it to pay for his dinner. Frank took the money, and Henry asked, “Not on the house for me?”

“When you cure my wife’s headaches in the time it takes to make a martini, I’ll tear up your bill too.”

Henry felt the heat rise up his throat. He put a hand on the bar to stop Frank. “You seriously think her stuff works?”

“I seriously think it does, and so do most of the people in this town.” Frank looked at Henry. “What do you know about the Sparrow Sisters?”

“There are three of them,” Henry said. He took a last swal­low of his beer. “That’s all.”

“That’s true,” Frank said and let the name Marigold flit through his head. “And you were hiding from Patience be­cause, what? She doesn’t like you?”

That was a question; she sure didn’t seem to like him. “I wasn’t hiding,” Henry said. “How long am I going to be the new guy?” he asked.

“A while,” Frank said.

Henry stepped back, preparing to leave, but Frank stopped him.

“You should know that the Sparrow Sisters are something of a legend in Granite Point. Their family history, hell their own story, it’s as much a part of this place as the harbor.” Frank closed the register. “I’m surprised you’ve seen one in your office. They aren’t much for doctors after Marigold. Dr. Hig­gins was one thing, but the rest of the medical world, let’s just say the Sisters aren’t exactly fans.” Henry faked a shudder. “I wouldn’t want any of them pissed off at me.”

“I’ll remember that,” Henry said. Too late, he thought as he walked out and right into Simon Mayo.

“Whoa, there,” Simon said as both men grabbed each other’s elbows.

As Henry apologized, he gave a slight hop to take the weight off his leg. He watched Simon’s eyes travel down.

“So, the city doctor meets the country lawyer,” Simon said as he stuck out his hand. “I’m Simon Mayo.”

“Henry Carlyle,” Henry said as he shook. “The new guy. How do you know me?”

Simon gestured to Henry’s face and leg and smiled. “I’m afraid you’re already famous.”

“Oh” was all Henry could come up with.

“Can I buy you a beer?” Simon asked.

“I’ve got work to do,” Henry replied.

“Another house call to the Sisters?” Simon’s voice thinned, and Henry heard the shift.

“No, I’m finished there.” Henry shook his head. “How does everybody know everything?”

Simon nodded and smiled again. “Very small town,” He said. “I’ll let you go, then.”

Henry watched him walk into Doyle’s. The light spilling around Simon’s shoulders and the familiar greetings he got from people in the bar reminded Henry of the extent to which he was under scrutiny in Granite Point. Somehow Henry had ended up in a town with three odd sisters digging around at their nursery, making “remedies” in a cauldron no doubt, and he was the curiosity.

Frank had slipped out from behind the bar to watch Simon and Henry through the big window. He reckoned that the new doctor had a lot to learn about the Sisters if he wanted to belong in Granite Point. Frank understood, or at least his wife had taught him, that each sister had a life that held in its small­ness all the detail of a much larger tragedy. He’d listened to the story of the Sparrows because Claire had told it to him. If Henry seemed a bit undone by Patience, maybe it was because her story was still unwritten. 

The Sparrow Sisters
by by Ellen Herrick

  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062386344
  • ISBN-13: 9780062386342