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Authors: Jackie Weger

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The House on Persimmon Road








The House on Persimmon Road

by Jackie Weger

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 (


This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.


Published By: Jackie Weger


The House on Persimmon Road


Copyright © 1989 by Jackie Weger

Digital Release: July 2013


Cover, Page Layout and Design, Scanning and Editorial Services

Taliesin Publishing Services

Cover Art: Georgia Woods


All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Table Of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

About the Author

Chapter One

This was it. The house on Persimmon Road. She had followed the hand-drawn map without error. Justine let her hands slide from the steering wheel to rest in her lap. The house stood amid ancient moss-draped trees and knee-high weeds. One glance told her that far from the magical and glowing description the agent had sent, this place was only going to add to her burdens. Damn it! And he had made it sound so grand.

“Spacious great room, huge kitchen, wraparound porch in Alabama’s rich delta land. Just needs a little elbow grease.”

Elbow grease! Wrecking ball was more like it.

She could sense the other four occupants in the station wagon were growing restless: her mother, her mother-in-law, and her children, Pip and Judy Ann. No one was saying a word. Not good. Justine would have sighed, but she didn’t want to show her own trepidation and disappointment lest she open herself up to a litany of “I told you so’s.”

Judy Ann leaned into the front seat. “Listen, Mommy, let’s just go back to Virginia and live where we did. I don’t like it here.”

Justine forced a smile. “We can’t do that, sweetie. This is our new home.”

“I don’t like it!”

“Give it a chance, darling. We haven’t even gotten out of the car! Look! There’s a squirrel. Go make friends.”

“I’ve seen squirrels before.”

“Not in your own front yard, you haven’t. Don’t turn pouty yet, sweetie. Give it a few hours. Okay?”

Weeks ago, when life had her up against a rough wall, Justine heard about this house and felt she had been given a sign. She’d had a premonition that the move and the house would be the central focus of a new start for all of them, that things were finally going to change for the better. She gave an inward shrug. It wasn’t the first time she had read a situation wrong. Or a person. If there had been a laugh left in her now, Justine would’ve bellowed at her own stupidity. The only thing left to her was to make the best of a poor situation. At least she was getting darn good at that. “Well, everybody out,” she said, forcing cheer.

“Who did you say told you about this place?”

Justine gave a small laugh. “I could’ve predicted you’d ask that, Mother. I really could.”

“Well, who, then?”

“Just a friend I worked with once. Her grandparents used to lease it during hunting season. She spent Christmas with them one year.”

“You must have done something terrible to her,” injected Agnes, who was sitting in the back seat very much under protest.

Justine sighed with a forbearance she had learned over time. Agnes Hale had been part and parcel of her household for more than twelve years and very often required as much, if not more, attention than the children. As the family’s senior member, Agnes felt her place was in the front seat at all times. That Pauline had beat her to it today left no room for appeasement. Sitting ramrod straight between the children, Agnes had been derisive and nitpicking since they’d driven away from the motel earlier that morning.

“The house can’t be as awful as it appears, Mother Hale.”

“It looks pretty bad from here,” said eleven-year-old Pip.

“It looks spooky to me,” added Judy Ann.

“It’s just all the shade around the house.” Justine spoke soothingly, knowing the eight-year-old was easily upset. Judy Ann was a child who needed a secure anchor in life; she thrived on sameness. Changes in routine frightened her. Justine had found it necessary to present a calm facade in front of Judy Ann even when she herself pulsed with insecurity and anxiety. Like now.

“Look at those grand old trees, darling. It’s lovely here. And that porch—it wraps all the way around the house, just as the agent said. Imagine sitting there on summer evenings in rocking chairs, watching the sun go down—”

Agnes Hale thumped her walking cane on Justine’s shoulder. “Imagine the chiggers and mosquitos, maybe even bats.”

Justine held her tongue. Agnes had never in her life seen a bat outside the horror movies she was addicted to on late-night television.

“Now Agnes,” cooed Pauline in defense of her only daughter. “Justine is doing the best she can under the circumstances. Let’s not fault her too soon. If this property is the best she could do, we’ll manage just fine.”

“My mother, my champion,” Justine said, knowing full well her mother’s support was thinly given, wouldn’t last, and was voiced chiefly to antagonize Agnes. “How about all of you hold off on the criticism until we’ve seen the interior, then you can let loose. I was told there are lovely fireplaces in every room.”

“We didn’t mean to criticize you, dear.” Pauline cut a look at her archenemy. “Did we, Agnes?”

“I certainly didn’t. I can’t speak for you, of course.”

Justine opened her door to let in a breeze, then began rummaging through her purse.

Pauline arched her eyebrow. “Don’t tell me—you’ve lost the key.”

“I wasn’t sent a key, Mother. I’m looking for the two little bombs I made last night. I thought I’d let you and Mother Hale each have one, just a little something to occupy your time.” Justine found the crumpled pack of cigarettes, dug one out, lit it, and inhaled deeply.

Agnes poked her daughter-in-law’s shoulder. “You know, Justine, I think it’s precisely those kinds of remarks that made Philip leave you. Not to mention your smoking. Such a filthy habit.”

Pauline smirked. “He left you, too, Agnes.”

“Well, of course. A man has to cut the umbilical cord sometime!”

“Aged forty is
it a bit thin, don’t you think?”

“Enough!” Justine said, grinding the cigarette in the ashtray. “Everybody out! Right this minute, and not another word. Pip, you let down the tailgate and unload the suitcases. Judy Ann, go with Mother Hale to the porch steps. Both of you can sit there in the shade. Mother, you come with me. We’ll inspect the house. We need to have an idea of the layout to tell the movers where to put the furniture.”

“If they can find the place,” said Agnes, sotto voce, refusing to budge. She hugged to her thin chest the straw bag in which she kept her treasures: contest newsletters, postcards, stamps, pens, and pencils.

Justine dispensed one of her looks. “They had the same map we did.”

“Sorry,” the old woman uttered with a little toss of her head, which had the effect of making the apology meaningless.

Ignoring the sense of dismay that was overtaking her, Justine got out of the car and stretched.

“Just smell that Alabama air! It’s going to be good for us here. I can feel it. Think positive everybody. Look how big that house is. We can each have our own room. Why, it seems to go on forever.”

“I don’t want my own room,” said Judy Ann. “I wanna sleep with Gram like I always have.”

“Well, okay,” Justine said to keep the peace. “But only until the newness wears off the house.”

“Newness wore off that house about two hundred years ago,” said Pauline, delivering her opinion with a delicate sniff of disapproval.

“I don’t mind that it’s old, Mother. It’s nice to know there’re a few things in this world that last. There’s a stained-glass transom over the door. That’s unusual, don’t you think?”

“You don’t want to know what’s running through my mind right now, so don’t ask me what I think.”

“But, you’ll tell me… all in good time?”

Pauline issued an aristocratic snort. “Philip ruined you. You used to be such a sweet child.”

“I used to be a lot of things. The past is finished. Let’s leave it alone.”

“You can’t go on forever keeping your emotions bottled up, you know.”

“Mother, my emotions of the moment are focused to cope with the present.”

Justine turned away and faced the house. The agent’s letter had made her picture a once elegant home fallen on hard times—sort of like herself. Not that she had ever been elegant in the exacting sense of that word. But she sure knew about falling on hard times. The greatest appeal about the old house had been the price of the lease. It was cheap enough that she could assure all of them a roof over their heads for a year or more while she got a computer programing business up and running.

Thinking of work, the goals she had set, made Justine’s stomach tighten. She could do it. She had to—failure was not an option. She brushed aside the inner dread before it overwhelmed her and gave her attention to details of the house. The porches leaned, the roof was patched, the screened door was off, propped against the wall. Windows were wide and tall, bracketed on each side by faded green shutters. Had she arrived at dusk she might have thought it sinister because of the way it was secluded so, in shade and shrub and weed. But it was a brightly lit June morning: birds chattered, flies buzzed, and squirrels abounded. Now that she was out of the car and looking at it head on, the house, for all its exterior faults, looked as if it were welcoming them.

Pauline locked her arm through her daughter’s as they walked up the crooked stone path.

“Now, Justine. Philip’s leaving was not your fault. You shouldn’t think that. Just be thankful he cut a deuce while you’re still young. If you’re pleasing and appealing, you can always get another husband.”

“Oh, I’m sure I can, Mother. Just think what I have to offer. A smart-aleck eleven-year-old son, a frightened eight-year-old daughter… stretch marks. My mother lives with me, not to mention my ex-mother-in-law. I’ll just tell the first man who throws himself at me that I got Agnes in the divorce settlement and you as my inheritance. He’d be so thrilled, he’d swoon.”

“Men don’t swoon, dear. That was Victorian women. I only meant you ought to lose five pounds. Don’t be such a cynic. If a new man comes into your life, why, Agnes and I will just fade into the woodwork.”

“You and Agnes, fading?” Justine laughed. “That’ll be the day.”

“I do expect that my stay with you will only be temporary, until—”

“I’ve heard that rant before. Agnes said it more than twelve years ago.”

“Put her in a nursing home.”

“Mother! I couldn’t do that—to either of you— ever.”

“Of course, not me, I still have my wits about me.”

“So does Agnes.”

“That’s debatable.”

“Mother… you

“I said I would be kind to her face. I didn’t make any promises about behind her back.”

Justine sucked in a breath. It was fruitless to continue the conversation. Her mother had tunnel vision when it came to Agnes.

They climbed the porch steps. Pauline tried the doorknob. “Locked.”

Justine cupped her hands and peered through a windowpane into a wide hall. “I’m sure the key must be around somewhere.”

“Are you sure you weren’t supposed to pick up the key from the estate agent?”

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