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Excerpt from: Big Book Betrayal

Pink liquid splashed onto white linen as Clarissa Davenport’s hand wobbled, causing the ladle to miss the glass cup. She grimaced for a second, but finished pouring the punch and handed it to a female guest, who took it and moved on. Clarissa dabbed the stain on the tablecloth with a napkin, then laid that aside to resume her erect posture and smile, once more the unflappable President of the Wyndham Library, known affectionately to its members as FOWL.


“Really, Mom? Already?” the young woman next in line murmured. Sherry Rollins, even tinier than her slim mother, tossed her blonde French braid over a shoulder, her expression mingling concern and disgust.


“Et tu, Sherry? Already with the ‘really’s’?” Eyes defiant, Clarissa lifted her chin and with exaggerated care poured another cup of punch and offered it to her daughter.


Shaking her head sadly, Sherry accepted the drink, moved to a nearby table and began filling a plate with delicate sandwiches, tiny quiches, and petits fours.


“Your mom’s such a gracious hostess,” Librarian Juanita Wills murmured as she slipped up next to the younger woman. “The Friends are lucky to have Clarissa representing them.”


“Not counting that bobble with the punch, you mean? Mom’s lucky that FOWL occupies so much of her time. Though not enough, unfortunately.”

 

Sherry glanced around the room. “Nice turnout.”

“Well, opening a new wing on a public library is a big deal these days. So many libraries are dealing with budget cuts or closing altogether.”


…The long-time president of FOWL, Clarissa had presided over many meetings and social occasions in her cool, elegant way, so the earlier moment of clumsiness with the punch seemed quite unlike her….


Everyone was entitled to an occasional slip, Juanita reminded herself. Even Clarissa….Was the FOWL president over-tired today for some reason? Or—scary thought—could she be suffering from some illness she didn’t want known? Something like Parkinson’s? Juanita fervently hoped not….


“I don’t like to gossip,” Eva Brompton said to Juanita later that day…her pleasantly round face distorted by a frown. “But this concerns the head of the Friends of Library group, so I thought you should know about it.”


“Clarissa? What’s up?”


“Well . . .” Eva’s voice dropped to a murmur, “I heard she got stopped by the police for suspicion of DUI the other night.”


“Driving under the influence? Clarissa?”


“My source said she failed to stop at a stop sign. Then her car wobbled out of the lane she was in. A cop pulled her over and asked some questions, but she convinced him she’d just let her attention wander and she’d be more careful. He let her go with a warning.”


 “Well, anyone’s attention can stray momentarily. Happens to me sometimes—not often when I’m driving, fortunately.”


“But don’t you think Clarissa seems less in control lately?”


“…I wonder if she’s on a prescription medicine that’s affecting her, or if—God forbid—these are signs of some illness.”


“Goodness, that would be awful.”


“It would. But let’s not jump to conclusions.”