Excerpt: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

Heather Webber’s Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Book Type:

Women's Fiction

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Excerpt: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe
By Heather Webber

Excerpt: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

Brimming with charm, heart and a touch of magic, MIDNIGHT AT HE BLACKBIRD CAFE will sweep you away with a story about finding your way, your future, despite the secrets hidden in the past. Author Heather Webber delivers a compelling and delightful tale, out tomorrow! I’m so excited to share a sneak peek with you today!

Not that I had met everyone in town since I arrived from Boston, but it sure felt like I had.  It had been an intense week, starting with the fateful call that my grandmother Zora “Zee” Callow had passed away unexpectedly of natural causes. I’d made a whirlwind trip down here to Wicklow, a rundown small town nestled deep in the mountain shadows of northeast Alabama, to make funeral plans and meet with GrannyZee’slawyer. I then went back to Boston to pack my few belonging and forfeit the room I’d been renting in a quaint old colonial only one T stop away from UMass Boston, where I’d recently graduated.

I’d loaded my car, mentally prepped myself for a seventeen-hour drive, and headed south. I temporarily moved into the small apartment above the Blackbird Café. Buried my beloved Zee. And un-successfully evaded most of my kind yet nosy new neighbors who wanted to know anything and everything about Zee’s secret, mysterious granddaughter, Anna Kate Callow.

Me.                                                                                                                                          

There had been an endless stream of visitors these past few days, and I’d never seen so many zucchini loaves in all my life. Each neighbor had arrived with an aluminum foil-wrapped loaf, an anecdote about living in Wicklow, a long story about Zee and her café, and relentless queries about my age, my upbringing, my schooling, my mother’s passing four years ago, and my father’s identity. I hadn’t minded the stories of Granny Zee at all, but I dodged most of the personal questions, especially the ones about my father. I wasn’t ready to go there quite yet.

It had been an exhausting, emotional week, and I didn’t want to even look at zucchini for a good long while.

Now this daybreak meeting. Who were these people?

A wave of muggy, warm air slapped me in the face like a wet towel as I pushed the window sash upward. It creaked in protest against the swollen wooden frame. “Hello? Hello!”

At the sound of my own voice, my head throbbed, pulsing sharply against my temples. I’d spent most of yesterday with Bow and Jena Barthelemy, the café’s only employees, readying the café for its re-opening this morning. The energetic duo had given me a crash course in running the place, everything from ordering to inventory, tickets, and the point-of-sale system. I’d prepped dishes and familiarized myself with the menu and kitchen layout. The day had been nothing short of overwhelming, but Bow and Jena swore up and down that I’d catch on quickly enough.

Now, on my knees at the crack of dawn, craving strong coffee and utter silence, I questioned for the umpteenth time this week why on earth I’d moved, even short-term, to this tiny, two-stoplight. I didn’t belong here. I should be back in Boston, finalizing my plans for my move an hour west to Worcester, where I was going to start classes at UMass medical school in mid-August.

Then I remembered.

Zee.

More specifically, Zee’s will.

“There, there!” someone shouted from below as he gestured into the backyard. Then he added in a somewhat shamed tone, “Nevermind. It was a crow.”

A chorus of grumbles echoed.

“Hello!” I shouted again.

No one seemed to hear me.

Grabbing my robe, I quickly covered up my knit shorts and tank top and ran a hand over my unruly hair. The stairs creaked as I hurried down them. The pine treads were polished in a dark satin finish that came from decades of use. I could easily imagine GrannyZee zipping up and down these steps, which was strange considering I’d never seen Zee do so. In fact, I had never even set foot in the Blackbird Café—or Wicklow, for that matter—until earlier this week.

Wicklow had always been forbidden territory, a family commandment created by my mom, Eden, the moment she left this town at eighteen years old, vowing that we would never return. That had been twenty-five years ago, when she had been just six weeks’ pregnant with me. While growing up, every time I had asked about Wicklow, Granny’s café, the blackbirds, my paternal grandparents, whom she hated with her whole heart, and of course, my father’s tragic death, Mom stubbornly clammed up.

Not that I could wholly blame her silence—after all, she had lost a lot here in Wicklow, including the love of her life and almost her freedom when she’d been accused of murder. Yet it had always seemed to me that the thing she’d lost most was herself.

The double refrigerator hummed as I glanced at the soffit above it, to the stenciled words that flowed from one side of the café to another.

‘Under midnight skies, Blackbirds sing, Loving notes, Baked in pies, Under midnight skies.’ Zee had taught the verse to me as soon as I was old enough to speak full sentences, much to my mother’s dismay.

Once, when I was seven years old, the two of them had a huge argument when Mom came home from work to find Zee teaching me how to make her café’s famous blackbird pie. Mom had sent me straight to my room, but I could easily overhear the fight over me, Wicklow, and yes, blackbird pie, of all things, which wasn’t made of actual blackbirds at all, but fruit. Heated, bitter words from my mother. Pleading ones from my grandmother.

“I don’t want you talking about the blackbirds to Anna Kate any-more,” Mom had said. “Promise me.”

Mom meant business if she asked for a promise. Callows prided themselves on not breaking promises. Not ever.

Granny had sighed loudly. “You can’t keep the truth from her for-ever. She needs to know. She deserves to know. It’s her heritage.”

“She’s not ever going to step foot in Wicklow, so she doesn’t need to know a thing.”

“You and I both know that’s not true. One day she’ll end up in Wicklow, same as you. Your roots will pull you back where you belong.”

“Not if I can help it.”

“But darlin’ girl, you can’t stop it, no matter how far you run.”

“Promise me,” Mom repeated, the words tight, sharp.

It took Zee forever to answer before she said, “I promise not to say another word about the blackbirds.”

My mother had come by her stubbornness honestly—she’d learned it straight at the knee of Zee, who wasn’t one to back down when she believed in the strength of her convictions.

Later that night as Zee tucked me into bed, she offered to tell me a bedtime story.

“This story stays between the two of us, Anna Kate, y’hear? Promise me you won’t tell a soul.”

I’d promised. It had been the first of many secrets we shared, all of which had been kept to this day.

Taking my hand in hers, she started the story. “Once upon a time, there was a family of Celtic women with healing hands and giving hearts, who knew the value of the earth and used its abundance to heal, to soothe, to comfort. Doing so filled their souls with peace and happiness. Those women held a secret.”

“What kind of secret?”

“A big one.” Her voice dropped low, her southern accent wrapping around me like a warm blanket.“The women are guardians of a place where, under midnight skies, spirits cross from this world through a mystical passageway to the Land of the Dead.”

“The Land of the Dead? Is that like heaven?”

“It’s exactly like heaven, darlin’.”

As Zee had spun the tale, I suspected the story wasn’t the least bit make-believe, despite how fantastical it seemed. Guardians and leafy passageways and messages from beyond delivered through pies. It should have been absurd, utterly laughable. Instead, it had sounded like history.

Heritage, even.

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