Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction
Date of Publication: May 23, 2017
Number of Pages: 320
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As a San Antonio architect, she’d have vowed her career was to investigate the history and create new functions for the structures everyone else saw as eyesores. The old German farmhouse in Comfort, Texas, might be the screeching end of that dream job. The assignment seemed so ideal at the start; generous clients, a stunning location, and a pocketful of letters that were surely meant to explain the ranch’s story. All that goodness crashed louder than a pile of two-by-fours when her grandfather announced he’d lured Colette’s ex-husband back to San Antonio to take over the family architecture firm. Now, not only does Colette have to endure the challenges posed by Beau Jefferson, the client’s handpicked contractor, a house that resists efforts to be modernized, and letters that may hold the secret to buried treasure, but she also has to decide if she has the courage to fight for her future.
Set against the backdrop of the Texas Hill Country, Colette and Beau have to rely on plans neither of them constructed in order to navigate the changes of a house with a story to tell, and a future they couldn’t even imagine.
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"Kimberly Fish's unique writing style snatched me out of my easy chair and plunked me down into the middle of her character's life where I was loathe to leave when my real life called me back. Her descriptive visual writing drew me in on the first page. Can't wait to read more stories by Mrs. Fish."
--Vickie Phelps,Author of Moved, Left No Address
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Interview with Gianna Du Paul—80-year-old grandmother to Colette Sheridan
A reporter from a leading architecture magazine has arrived at Gianna Du Paul’s spacious home in Castroville, Texas to take pictures of Colette Sheridan’s first treehouse construction project. The reporter thinks this will be an interesting sidebar to the profile he’s writing to feature Colette as one of the “up and coming trendsetters under forty.” She’s built (or at least, designed) several, multi-layered and delightfully quirky treehouses across the San Antonio area and he finds this first one a fascinating peek into Colette’s psyche.
It’s a breezy day in Castroville, but Gianna has insisted they sit under her pergola on the back porch to visit. She’s provided a French press of dark-roasted coffee and apricot cookies to entice her guest—a gentle fragrance of hyacinth drifts down from the vine interwoven on the pergola’s beams.
She arranges her broomstick skirt to disguise the knee brace she’s wearing after a recent fall as she waits for the reporter to finish photographing Colette’s treehouse down on the banks of the Medina River. Colette’s dog, Henri—aka Cornbread—snores at her feet.
“That is a hobbit-sized treasure box,” the reporter says as he sits on one of the iron chairs around the bistro table. “What kid wouldn’t want to play for hours in a treehouse with secret doors, private drawers, and a fire pole that lands in the shallow water of the river?”
Gianna shrugged. “It’s the delight of every single child who visits, and the bane of every parent. Not only does every child want a duplicate at their own home, but I haven’t had a guest yet that could leave here without getting soaked.”
“A problem for their parents?”
“Just my housekeeper who must run a quick load of laundry.”
“So, why did Colette build it?” He asked pressing the record button feature on his cell phone. “She doesn’t have children of her own.”
Gianna sighed and folded her arms across her middle. “It was a test of courage. She was at the bottom of her confidence and needed to do something creative to find her way back to the top and also to prove to herself that she could complete a vision.” She decided to add one more tidbit. “But mostly because she was mad at me for letting her grandfather’s original treehouse rot.”
“She speaks of you fondly; you two must be close.”
“Yes, of course. As long as she does what I tell her we get along famously.”
He smiled. “And does she do what you tell her, even with her architecture business in downtown San Antonio?”
“Almost never. It is the Sheridan in her; she must figure out things on her own—in her own time. But because she has the best of all her relatives in her heart, she is almost always darling to be around. She gets that from me.”
The reporter reached for the French press, “May I?”
“Please, help yourself. I would pour for you but I was at my daughter’s goat farm recently and fell in the pasture. My shoulder doesn’t hold up as well as it used to.”
“I’m sorry to hear that—do you have many children and grandchildren?”
“I have fourteen grandchildren and four children. Monique, Colette’s mother, is the one who recently married a goat farmer, and she’s moved to the backside of the moon. I don’t know why she persists in putting more mileage between us. It is most cruel of her.”
“Colette doesn’t live far from you, does she?”
Gianna sighs. “Ma belle, Colette. She will not decide on a house for herself. She is living in her grandfather Sheridan’s house in Terrell Hills because he has retired to an assisted living facility for the foreseeable future. It is so unfortunate to see such an obstinate man brought down, but that is what stress will do to you—it will kill you one day.” She leaned forward and narrowed her eyes. “Listen to what I tell you: life is too short to live it in a constant state of greed and competition. There must be room in your life for love and pleasure.”
The reporter’s eyes widened. “Well, I, uh, appreciate your thoughts.”
“Are you married? Serious with anyone?”
“I, um, not really.”
She shook her finger at him. “Do not waste another moment. Find someone to share life with; passion brings down blood pressure.”
“You’re French, aren’t you?”
“I am a Texan.” Her accent gave her away. “But my parents were born in France. I can see you are very smart. Are you writing a pleasing picture of Colette for your magazine, or are you going to bring up that nasty business with Julian Bertolini?”
“The Bertolini angle is certainly part of her story.”
“It is more of that greed and competition—a blight on the soul.”
The reporter stared into his cup of coffee. “So, about the treehouse—Colette used plans?”
“Of course,” Gianna patted her left breast. “She built from the heart. It is where the best designs come from—passion.”
“Okay,” he set his cup down. “I think I have what I need for the feature.”
“You must want to know about our family. We are very tight knit; my son, Jean-Mark lives here in Castroville. Did you know that Castroville was settled by the French Alsatians? It has a unique style of construction and design that clearly separates the houses and businesses from the limestone buildings those Germans built all over the Hill Country.”
The reporter glanced to Gianna’s long, L-shaped, stucco white house with wide, green shutters. Its rooflines were tucked into the shade of tree branches. “So, this is an example of that architecture?”
“Yes, of course. My husband was a very successful business man. We bought this land along the riverbank in the sixties and have added on to it over the years.” She placed a cookie on a linen napkin and pushed it toward the reporter. “The DuPauls are quite well known in this area. My son runs the ranch we started when beef cattle became one of our investments.”
“About the treehouses -- did Colette have a template that she used to create the multi-storied platforms? How did she run electricity for the chandelier?”
She waved her hand in the air. “I don’t know about electrical lines, but I know she sketched her plan on notepaper she had in the tote bag. She sat where you are sitting just now, and drew out her designs and her supplies list, then went to the lumber store and built it. Now that I think about it, it was very near my 80th birthday party, and I insisted she clean up the yard of all that debris before the tent company came to install my outdoor dance floor.”
“I’m afraid to ask, but do you enjoy dancing?”
“What? You think I’m too old? I love to Salsa, but my partners can never keep up.” She turned a bit in her chair, her shoulder raised a bit higher. “Beau thinks I dance divine. He’s not very good at the Salsa, but he’s marvelous at the two-step. That man can glide across a dance floor like a sailboat on a lake.”
The reporter glanced at the leather watchband on his wrist. “I probably need to head back to the city now. I’m supposed to meet Colette and Beau for a lunch interview.”
Gianna had not lived 80-odd years to not recognize a man who had a decided urge to flee. It was a shame that these young men didn’t have enough grit to be willing to enjoy a solid conversation with an intelligent companion. She shuddered to think what the future of the world would be when men—people in general—couldn’t bear to be spontaneous in the company of an exceptional woman. But, then maybe, she was a dying breed. Very few women she met had the same verve that DuPaul women seemed to have.
She hoped Colette would plan to have children. Maybe they would name a daughter after her—a little dark-headed Gianna to carry on the family line. That would be fitting end to the Master Plan for her life.
She has since published in magazines, newspapers, and online formats and in 2017, released the first novel in a series set during the World War II years in Longview, Texas—The Big Inch.
She lives with her family in East Texas.
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July 31 - August 14, 2017
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