Tuesday, April 2, 2019

"The Goodbye Café"

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel.

Stewart applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, The Goodbye Café, book three in The Hudson Sisters Series, and reported the following:
Well, I admit I was skeptical, but I opened The Goodbye Café and there I was, at the very crux of my character’s personal cross-road. Allie Hudson Monroe is a divorced mother of a fifteen-year old daughter, Nikki. Allie has her moments – she’s snarky, sarcastic, and in the past, has been an admitted mean girl. She’s also having a hard time with alcohol. She’s in her deceased father’s family home in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains with her two sisters – one she’s just met – and they’re renovating a run-down, boarded up 1920s theater built by their great-grandfather. Unless and until the theater is restored, their father’s entire estate – which is sizable – will go to charity. California girl Allie is stuck in that no-where town until they’re finished. Her daughter has come to stay for the summer – and there’s no one on earth Allie loves more. While Allie can’t wait to get back to her life in L.A., Nikki is starting to make noise about not going back.

The scene on page 69 starts out with Allie in her room, more than ready to dive head first into that bottle of vodka she has stashed in her bathroom, when Nikki knocks on the door, wanting to talk. Allie chooses to forego that drink she thought she needed because she sensed her daughter needed her. It’s the first conscious step Allie takes to get her drinking under control – and the beginning of her awareness that something is going on in her daughter’s life in CA that she doesn’t want her mother to know about.
One little drink wouldn’t hurt anything, right? And she was working her tail off these days between the theater and now the Goodbye.

She’d convinced herself she deserved a nightcap when she heard a light tapping on the door.


“Come on in, Nik.” Obviously, the nightcap was going to have to wait.

Nikki came into the room wearing a short pink nightshirt, her phone in her hand.

“Were you in bed?” she asked.

“Just thinking about it,” Allie told her. “What’s up?”

Nikki shrugged. “Just wanted to see what you were doing.

Allie knew her daughter. She never just wanted to see what her mother was doing. Something was up.

“Come in and sit.” Allie sat on the bed. “Did you find a recipe for your brownies?”

“I did. They’re going to be awesome. I’m going to test them early in the morning, and if they’re really good, I’ll make more and bring them to the Goodbye.” She drew up her legs and hugged them. “It’s exciting, isn’t it, owning a restaurant? I was happy Aunt Barney gave me my own assignment. I promise I will make the best brownies ever, and no one will say that Mrs. Kennedy’s were better.”

“I’m putting my money on you, kiddo.” Allie leaned forward and tucked a long strand of hair behind Nikki’s ear.

“Thanks, Mom.” Nikki tapped the cover of her phone and looked around the room. “You have more fresh air in here. The rooms in the front of the house don’t get the breeze like you do.”

Allie leaned back against the headboard and slid under the sheet. The day was starting to catch up with her, now that she’d slowed down.

“Mom, what happened to all the pretty jewelry you used to wear? Those gold bracelets and the diamond earrings?”

“They’re over there in the dresser in a little jewelry case.”

“Can I see them?”

“Of course.”

Nikki got up and went to the dresser, then returned to the bed. She took out Allie’s bracelets and put them on, then held them up to the light. “Why don’t you wear these anymore?”

“They’d get in my way when I’m trying to paint, and besides, Hidden Falls isn’t a very fancy place. I’d feel overdressed if I wore them every day.” Allie watched her daughter switch the bracelets around.

“Is everything okay, Nik?”

Nikki nodded, but a moment later asked, “Why can’t we stay here in Hidden Falls?”

“Because our lives are in California. Your father. Your school. Your friends.”

Nikki laid down next to Allie. “They have a good high school here. Dad can get on planes and fly everywhere for his job or for his vacations, he can get on a plane and come and see me.” She paused. “And I have better friends here.”

Allie raised an eyebrow. “Does that include Courtney?”

“It includes everyone.” She scooched closer to Allie, curled up, and closed her eyes. “Can I stay here for a while, Mom?”

“Of course you can.” Allie leaned over and turned off the lamp on the bedside table. “All night, if you want.”

“Just maybe for a few minutes.” Nikki yawned.

Within minutes, her daughter was sound asleep, the bracelets still on her arm, but wondering what had happened between her and her long-time best friend kept Allie awake for a while longer. Eventually she chalked it up to normal teenage drama, closed her eyes, and gave in to sleep.
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--Marshal Zeringue