and vases had broken.

'Oh, Lord,' I muttered. 'I thought she was kidding.'

'Kidding about what?' Eileen asked.

'What the hell was that, a sonic boom?' shouted Amanda, the African American weaver in the booth across the aisle.

'The artillery,' I shouted back.

'Artillery?' Eileen echoed.

'The what?' Amanda asked, dropping a braided rug and trotting over to our booth.

'Artillery,' I repeated. 'For the Siege of Yorktown. That's what this whole thing is celebrating, you know – '

'Yeah, I know,' Amanda said. 'October 19, 1781. The British finally throw in the towel and surrender to George Washington and the Revolutionary War is over. Whoopty-do. Let freedom ring, except for my people, who had to wait another eighty years. So what's with the sound effects?'

'Another of Mrs. Waterston's brainstorms,' I said. 'She hired a bunch of guys to fire a replica cannon to add to the authenticity of the event.'

'You mean, like a starter's gun to open the fair?' Amanda asked.

'Demonstrations for the tourists, maybe,' Eileen suggested.

'Actually…' I said.

Another thunderous boom shook the encampment. This time we heard fewer shrieks and more angry yells.

'Actually,' I began again, 'she's going to have them firing continuously, to simulate the siege. Washington's troops shelled the British nonstop for a couple of weeks before attacking their entrenchments.'

'She's going to have them doing that all day?' Eileen asked.

'Probably all night, too, unless someone can find an obscure county ordinance to stop it.' Someone like me, probably. I'd already promised half a dozen townspeople who'd seen the artillery setting up that I'd find a way to silence the cannons at bedtime. Now that the shelling had actually begun, I'd be swamped with complainers any second – and no matter how irate they were, none of them wanted to tackle Mrs. Waterston directly.

'Bunch of loonies,' Amanda muttered.

No argument from me.

'Bad enough I have to dress up like Aunt Jemima,' she said, as she returned to her own booth. 'And now this.'

'Oh, but you look… wonderful,' Eileen called. 'So authentic!'

Amanda looked down at her homespun dress and snorted. She was right, unfortunately. I'd always envied Amanda's stylish urban wardrobe, with its vivid colors and offbeat but sophisticated cuts. I'd never before realized how well her chic outfits camouflaged a slightly plump figure. And when you threw in the cultural associations an African American woman raised in Richmond, Virginia, was bound to have with colonial-era clothing…

'Oh, dear,' Eileen murmured. From the sudden crease in her normally smooth forehead, I could tell that the last point had just dawned on her. 'This must be awful for poor Amanda! Do you think we should – '

'Look sharp!' hissed a voice nearby. 'Here she comes! Put away your anachronisms!'

'Oh, dear, Mrs. Waterston will be furious that you're still unpacking!' Eileen exclaimed.

'I still have fifteen minutes,' I said, turning to see who'd given the warning. Just outside our booth I saw a man, a little shorter than my five-feet ten inches and slightly pudgy, with a receding chin. I had the feeling I'd recognize him if he were in, say, blue jeans instead of a blue colonial-style coat, a white powdered wig, and a black felt hat with the brim turned up in thirds to make it into a triangle – the famed colonial tricorn hat.

'Oh, you look very nice, Horace,' Eileen said.

Horace? I started, and peered more closely.

'Cousin Horace,' I said. 'She's right. You look great in costume. I almost didn't recognize you.'

Cousin Horace looked down at his coat and sighed. Normally he loved costume parties – in fact, he assumed (or pretended) that every party he attended was a costume party, and would invariably turn up in his beloved gorilla suit. Usually even Mother had a hard time convincing him to take the ape head off for group photos at family weddings. I wondered how Mrs. Waterston had managed to browbeat him into putting on the colonial gear.

'It's just one of the standard rental costumes from Bestitched,' he said, referring to Mrs. Waterston's dressmaking shop. 'You'll see dozens just like it before the day is out.'

'Well, it looks very nice on you,' Eileen said.

'Meg, you have to talk to Mrs. Waterston,' he said. 'She listens to you.'

News to me; I hadn't noticed that Mrs. Waterston listened to anyone – except, possibly, Michael. What Horace really meant was that no one but me had enough nerve to tackle Mrs. Waterston.

'Talk to her about what?' I said, feeling suddenly tired. Cannons? Anachronisms? Or had some new problem arisen?

'Now she's going on about talking authentically,' he added. 'Avoiding modern slang. Adopting a colonial accent.'

'Oh, Lord,' exclaimed Amanda from across the aisle. 'Who the hell does that witch think she is, anyway?'

Horace glanced at me and skittered off. Eileen looked pained.

'Who died and made her queen?' Amanda continued.

'Great-aunt Agatha,' I said. 'Who didn't actually die; she just decided that at ninety-three, she didn't have quite enough energy to continue chairing the committee that organizes the annual Yorktown Day celebration. Mrs. Waterston volunteered to take her place.'

'Yeah, she's got enough energy,' Amanda said. 'It's the common sense she's lacking.'

'We'll probably be seeing a lot of Mrs. Waterston,' Eileen said. 'She's Meg's boyfriend's mother.'

'Oh,' Amanda said. 'Sorry.'

'Don't apologize on my account,' I said. 'You can't possibly say anything about her that I haven't said over the past year. Though not necessarily aloud,' I added, half to myself.

'Take my advice, honey,' Amanda said. 'Dump him now. Can you imagine what she'd be like as a mother-in- law?'

Unfortunately, I could. I'd spent a lot of time brooding over that very prospect. But for now, I deliberately pushed the thought away, into the back of my mind, along with all the other things I didn't have time to worry about until after the fair.

'Oh, but you haven't met Michael!' Eileen gushed. 'Here, look!'

She walked across the aisle to Amanda's booth, digging into her wicker basket as she went, then pulling out a bulging wallet. She flipped through the wad of plastic photo sleeves and held up one of the photos. Amanda peered at it, her face about three inches from the wallet.

'Not bad,' she said.

'He's a drama professor at Caerphilly College,' Eileen said. 'And a wonderful actor, and we all think he's just perfect for Meg.'

'If you could lose the mother,' Amanda said. 'Is he going to be around today?'

'Of course,' Eileen said. 'He and Meg are inseparable!'

Well, as inseparable as a couple can be, living in different towns several hours' drive apart and trying to juggle two demanding careers that didn't exactly permit regular nine-to-five hours. Another reminder of problems I was trying to put on hold until the damned craft fair was over and done with.

'Okay, I'll try not to say anything too nasty when 'Blue Eyes' is around,' Amanda said. 'If I recognize him. My glasses are banned,' she said, with a disapproving glance at me. 'Not in period. Only wire rims allowed.'

'Sorry,' I said; shrugging. 'Anyway, Michael's pretty hard to miss.'

'Everyone's a blur from two feet away,' Amanda grumbled.

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