Clyde and Wanda, The Cedar Cove Chronicles, Book Two is the second novel by Cynthia Ulmer
Seven years have passed since Clyde Jansan's neice, Lilly Jean was rescued from Horace Hammond's well. During that time, Clyde has married, has a four year old daughter and opened the hardware store he wanted. Life is good until mysterious sounds and sightings come from the abandoned Hammond house and Clyde's wife begins to discover the truth about her past.
July 13, 1950 was a clear sunny day in Cedar Cove, North Carolina. Farmers were out working their land; children were playing; swimming in creeks and ponds. And in the local hardware and feed store, Clyde Jansan was busy waiting on customers while his small daughter, Betsy, sat on a stool beside him, scribbling on a piece of paper. Clyde was ringing up a bag of fertilizer, some nails and chicken feed for Gilbert Hanes, one of the deacons of Cedar Cove Baptist church. “Nice day,”
Gilbert was saying as he took out his money to pay Clyde.
“Yep, sure is,” Clyde said, taking the money and counting it in his head as he put it in the register.
“Not many people at church last night,” Gilbert remarked as Clyde handed him his change.
“No, but we just started this Wednesday night business. It might take a while to catch on, especially with it being right in the middle of summer and all the farms around here.”
Gilbert nodded, “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. The deacons even told old Joe he would be better off to start this come winter, but you know Joe, once he gets his head set on something that’s it.” Clyde nodded in agreement as Gilbert continued, “Anyhow, I need to let you know your name came up a lot on those deacon ballots last night.”
“Me!” Clyde questioned and exclaimed.
“Yeah, James knows all about it—didn’t he tell you?”
“No, me and Wanda and Betsy came on home last night as soon as church was over. We even brought Vicky, Libby, Todd and Lilly Jean home because they didn’t feel like staying there while the deacons looked over those ballots. And I ain’t seen James or any of them this morning. I reckon they’re all busy.”
“James will probably be telling you soon, and I’m sure Preacher Joe will come around sometime. Just thought I’d let you know. We gotta have another deacon since Mr. Rhodes passed away last month. Preacher Joe wants seven just like in the Bible.”
Clyde gave a little laugh, “Well, he ain’t gonna get me.”
Gilbert nodded, “That’s what James said last night. He told Preacher Joe he didn’t think there was any chance of you agreeing.”
“I’m sure there had to be some other names on those papers last night. I put down Rick Benton. I know he ain’t been here long by Cedar Cove standards, but he really seems to be a good man.”
“Yeah, his name was on a few papers last night. His, yours and of course Harvey Stanley.” Gilbert paused, “I think most people would be satisfied with you or Harvey, but you know Clyde, most people just wouldn’t feel right about Rick being deacon. And it ain’t the fact that he’s only been here two years. It’s that German wife of his.”
Clyde nodded, glancing at Betsy who was still scribbling, as quiet as could be. Gilbert kept talking, “I know it ain’t right, but she makes me feel strange. Reminds me too much of the war. I was over there longer than you, Clyde, but I still don’t see how you can stand her—after all that happened to you over there.”
Clyde had lost most of his stomach and his left lung from a German grenade in North Africa. He shook his head, “It ain’t her fault. She didn’t do it. Blaming Frieda is like some German blaming Wanda for what happened to him.”
“Yeah, but Wanda is here where she belongs. Most people feel like Rick shoulda come home and got himself a good American wife.”
“I think it’s his business who he fell in love with and married. She’s not a bad person…”
“Pretty stuck up if you ask me. You can tell it just by looking at her.”
“She’s just quiet. So’s Wanda…”
“She ain’t just quiet. She thinks she’s better than everybody. Wears all those fancy clothes. Those hats with the feathers….”
Just then Betsy interrupted them, “Daddy, Daddy.”
Clyde looked at her, “What baby?”
“I tired drawing.”
“Okay,” Clyde rubbed her head and lifted her off the stool, hugged her to him, then sat her on the floor, “go play back over there with your other toys.”
Betsy skipped off to the small area where she had a doll bed, tea set and some blocks on a round rug. Clyde watched as she sat on the rug then turned back to Gilbert, who changed the subject by saying, “You sure got a cute little girl there, Clyde. She stay in here with you a lot?”
“Sometimes. Wanda’s not feeling too good today, so I brought Betsy with me. She’s not a problem. She knows to stay back here and play.”
Gilbert nodded, “Well, gotta be going.” He picked up his bag of nails.
“Don’t forget your fertilizer and chicken feed. It’s stacked up over there on the side like always.”
“I won’t forget. That’s the main reason I came.” Gilbert walked to the door and turned back right as he started to open it to go out, “Say, Clyde, is there anyone over at the old Hammond place?”
“No, not that I know of. Why?”
“Well, last night coming home from church Janie thought she saw a light over in the house when we passed by. I tried to look but I didn’t see anything. Of course I was driving and….”
“Ain’t nobody over there. Hasn’t been anyone over there since Horace got arrested, the boys sent to reform school and Tabor and the girls disappeared,” Clyde said.
“Yeah, I didn’t think there was anything to it. Janie’s just seeing things. Well, see you Sunday if I don’t have to come back for something else.”