The Orchard (Paperback)
On the idyllic shores of Flathead Lake, Montana, Alisen Embry finds purpose and comfort tending her late mother’s cherry orchard adjacent to the family’s beloved lake house. Though pained by the loss of her mother and her father’s estrangement, it is Derick Whitney—the man she fell in love with four years earlier—who truly influences Alisen’s view of her future . . .
Derick and Alisen wanted nothing more than to spend eternity together; however, intolerance and secrets forced Alisen to make a shattering choice between her family and the man she loved.
But destiny always has a way of setting things right . . .
Now the Embry family has found themselves hopelessly in debt, and they realize renting the lake house is the only hope of saving the cherished or- chard and family home. When Alisen discovers the new tenants have a connection to her past, her life takes an unexpected turn. Will fate find a way to reconnect what was broken so many years before?
- Size: 6" x 9"
- Pages: 223
About the Author
Nearly every one of Krista Lynne Jensen’s elementary school teachers made a note on her report card pointing out that she was a daydreamer. It was not a compliment. So, when Krista grew up, she put those day dreams down on paper for others to enjoy. When writing, she fuels her creativity with chocolate covered cinnamon bears and popcorn. When shes not writing, she enjoys reading, hiking, her family, and sunshine. But not laundry. She never daydreams about laundry. Krista is a native of Washington State and now lives in the northern Rocky Mountains. Through her stories she places characters in settings she loves, brings them to life, and challenges them to fight for what they want. The Orchard was inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Flathead Valley, Montana, a favorite family vacation spot. If she had a cat, she would call it Jane. She is the author of Of Grace and Chocolate, 2012.
Chapter 1April 2008
“I feel colorless,” she whispered to the sunset.
Alisen Embry, at age twenty-three, had climbed a tree. Again. She wasn’t focused on the aged branches supporting her body but on the sloping view before her: the rows of carefully pruned treetops stretching down the hill, the roofline of the big house dark against the dusk, the silhouette of the boathouse and dock melting into calm, rippling water. Fading sunlight shot straight across the tiny waves, and she imagined the lapping sounds this far up in the orchard, this far up in the old cherry tree. A breeze caught her hair, and a few curls escaped the ponytail at the back of her head, feeling their way across her face and catching on her mouth. She absently pulled them away, tucking them behind her ear.
This was her place. These were her cherry trees. That was her house and her dock. Sort of. How many times had she sat in this very spot, watching the day close, breathing in the air around her, listening to sounds of home?
A car whooshed by on the highway just twenty yards behind her.
How could they leave this place?
She knew the answer to that question: she would leave this place if it meant keeping it.
Her gaze narrowed toward the house. She knew her father was there, probably making his way to his leather club chair with his GQ Magazine in hand and reading glasses tucked neatly into his shirt pocket.
Alisen had always struggled with the idea of her mother, intelligent, easy-mannered Anne Riley, falling in love with handsome, egotistical Keith Embry. How he had fallen in love with her was never a question. Anyone who knew Alisen’s mother loved her. But a person had to earn Keith’s approval. His acceptance. And somehow, Anne had succeeded both in winning his heart and tempering his superiority.
But even as a young girl, Alisen had asked her mother why she had picked him. Anne saw the reasons behind her daughter’s question. Keith could be aloof, abrasive. She had sighed with a smile, and her simple answer was that she hadn’t. Love had picked him for her.
Only days after Alisen had asked the question, Anne Embry had fallen off a ladder in her carefully nurtured orchard and broken her neck—and the hearts of those closest to her.
The funeral had been a blur of faces and words and pats on Alisen’s shoulder. She’d stared at the portrait of her mother surrounded by roses and ferns and tried to figure out how she would not touch that face ever again, not hear that voice ever again. It wouldn’t make sense to her thirteen-year-old mind.
But the questions that came after the funeral hit harder.
Her father had shut himself away for days and left Aunt Rachel, his wife’s sister, to take care of Alisen and her two sisters. When he’d finally emerged looking perfect and unruffled, they had gone to him, looking for assurance and comfort. Looking for their father. Elizabeth, the oldest and so much like Keith in most ways, reached him first. And although he pressed a hand to Elizabeth’s cheek and shushed little Amanda as she dissolved into hysterical tears, it was his actions toward Alisen that had sealed the changes in her life forever.
She’d waited for the acknowledgment, no matter how slight, that he was still her father and that things would be all right. Her insides were already a hard knot, constricting if she tried to breathe, not letting her exhale. The tears rolled from her eyes like someone hadn’t turned off the garden hose completely. Hesitating and coming no closer, he’d allowed his gaze to come to her face. For just an instant, she’d seen open pain, but he’d quickly closed it up and hidden it somewhere she could never find. In his appraisal, Alisen had felt for the first time just how much like her mother she was: her dark waves of hair, her round blue eyes, and the natural rose of her cheeks and mouth. But Alisen had felt colorless.
He’d held a hand out toward her, palm down, closing his eyes . . . and had turned away.
Alisen wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, and the fire of color above the trees in front of her came into focus.
A faint star caught her eye to the south, and she knew it was not as bright as it would be when darkness completely took over the sky.
She looked around as though someone might see her here in the dark, a fully grown woman perched in a tree, and wondered if she was too old to make a wish on a star. Obviously not too old to climb trees. She closed her eyes.
Star light, star bright . . . Her thoughts trailed off. She opened her eyes.
With a sad smile, she deftly climbed down and dropped to the soft orchard floor, spongy with mulched tree limbs.
Darkness was not a problem. Alisen knew every tree, every path, dip, and mound down the hill. As she reached the lower boundary, the glow from the house threw the branches into sharp contrast. Buds were just beginning to form and would soon swell to bursting. The orchard would fill with fragrance and become a playground for humming bees, bouncing in frantic joy from limb to limb. The scent always brought reminders of things sweet and bitter.
She strode around to the front of the house, ignoring the dock. The Embry home might have better belonged somewhere in the Mediterranean or Central America, not there in Montana. The red-tiled roof and white stucco played along with the grand charade, as did the giant clay pots and ornamentals. All the patio lights glowed above each arched window and entry. The effect was stunning. But so was the electric bill.
“Let him have a few more nights of neighborhood envy.” Word of their situation would travel fast in the lake community. She hoped people would be kind.
She walked past the deeply carved mahogany door and followed the brick path past a large, silent fountain, then around to a side door.
There, waiting as though by appointment, was Jane, the stray orange-and-white tabby who, years earlier, claimed their place as her own. Alisen pursed her lips, remembering her father’s reaction when the cat’s first introduction was a pounce on his unsuspecting lap and a rub right into his black, cashmere sweater.
“Naughty Jane,” Alisen whispered and smiled wryly as she opened the door to the long, narrow mudroom, the only room the cat was allowed in.
Purring rose around Alisen’s legs as she scooped cat food into a dish and filled the water bowl. Alisen crouched down and rubbed Jane’s neck. The purring grew louder.
“We should have named you Motor,” Alisen observed.
She let Jane finish her meal, closed the door behind her, and made her way upstairs. A mirror hung at the top of the landing. Several large mirrors hung on the walls around the house so a person could check their appearance before continuing to another room, another activity. Alisen resented them.
Vanity. The word made her cringe. It was the reason they had to leave. The reason they had to buckle, to cave. Putting on appearances, keeping up with the “Joneses,” holding their place in social circles. It had all come with a high price tag.
She paused at the mirror. By the world’s standards, she was an adult. She felt it and had felt it for some time now. But sometimes she felt thirteen again.
She passed the mirror. She knew how she looked. Tired.
She had been beautiful, had even felt it. She had been loved the way a girl wanted to be loved, and dreams had pulsed through her like sweet water through parched limbs. Now she just felt worn. Maybe after this mess with the finances was straightened out—maybe a change would be good. A fresh start. She straightened her shoulders and went to find her father.
He sat in the living room, just as she had pictured.
“Dad?” She tucked her hands in her pockets.
He took his reading glasses off, not really looking at her. “Yes?”
“I wanted to remind you of the meeting we have with Mr. Shepherd in the morning.”
After learning of the dismal state of their affairs, Keith had nearly shut down. He remained stoic and cool but indecisive and withdrawn. They all had to walk the fine line of directing important decisions and not pushing him over the edge.
“I’m aware of the meeting. I’ll be ready to go at eight forty-five. Remind Elizabeth, will you?” He turned back to his paper.
The coolness between them had increased lately. She felt his pride being assaulted at every suggestion she made. But she had already met with Aunt Rachel and John Shepherd. They had approved of her plan, and John had promised he would outline everything to the last detail so her father could have no choice but to see it was the best way. She wondered if it would be enough. Keith Embry, if anything other than vain, was stubborn.
She climbed another set of stairs and passed another immense mirror as she walked to her sister’s room and knocked.
“Yes?” came the bored reply.
“It’s me. I needed to talk to you about tomorrow.”
Elizabeth was sprawled across her silky brown bed, just closing her laptop, wearing dark skinny jeans and a form-fitting sweater. It was just barely eight o’clock, but Alisen had exhausted herself in the orchard, and Elizabeth looked freshly made up with her long golden hair brushed to a smooth sheen. A pair of strappy copper heels sat on the floor, and Alisen wasn’t sure if they were waiting to be worn or had just been taken off.
Elizabeth worked in fashion merchandising, traveling all over the world, staying in plush hotels, dating beautiful men she never brought home. She was home more often now but could take off in a moment’s notice without saying more than “Back in a week.”
Elizabeth turned her face to her younger sister and waited as if Alisen had interrupted an important style show.
“I just spoke with Dad.” I guess you could call it that.
Elizabeth raised one eyebrow.
“He asked me to remind you of the meeting tomorrow. We’ll be leaving at eight forty-five.” Elizabeth drew her lips together in disapproval, but Alisen ignored it. “I think this could save us from having to give up the house.”
“I’m not sure why you’ve been secretive. Dad deserves more respect than that.”
“Elizabeth”—Alisen kept her voice even—“this isn’t a secret. If it had been, you still wouldn’t know about it.” Elizabeth looked affronted, but Alisen continued. “I was talking with Rachel when the idea came, and since Dad wasn’t around, we immediately called John and ran it by him.” And we have to be careful with Dad so he doesn’t have some kind of breakdown, she added to herself. “We have to act quickly. You know that, don’t you?”
Elizabeth hesitated then nodded. “Of course I do. I don’t want to lose this place either.”
Alisen looked down at the plush carpet. “And I show Dad every respect owed him. I think after tomorrow, he’ll appreciate this and see it’s for the good of everyone. Including him.”
“Well, we’ll see.” Elizabeth was already picking up her cell phone. It was her dismissal.
Alisen wasn’t quite done. “I’m going to bed. Please let the cat out before you leave tonight.”
Alisen heard a mumble of sarcastic joy from her sister as she shut the door behind her. The corner of her mouth twitched upward. She leaned against the door with her eyes closed then headed up the hallway to her own room. She paused at Amanda’s old room.
It hadn’t changed much. Hot pink and orange and zebra stripes. The Black-Eyed Peas and Jonas Brothers smoldered at her from their places on the wall. But Amanda had married last Christmas. Amanda, who at nineteen had become a pretty, pouty girl, had fallen in love with one of the neighbors-turned-friends at the fruit stand. Greg Stewart came from a respected family, was in his final year of dental school, and was ready to enter a busy practice in town. Keith and Elizabeth had insisted on making a good public showing of the Embry name and had spared no expense for the wedding.
Alisen closed the bedroom door and moved on, even more in need of a shower and sleep. She wanted to be through with this night already and to be on with it. What it was, she had only a vague idea. But the sooner, the better.
Feeling heavy, she entered her room. A sense of peace greeted her, though she was barely aware of it. The soft green walls and white furnishings soothed her subconscious mind, and splashes of red in the lamp, the pillows, and the frenzied floral painting on the wall cheered it. She pulled herself over to her mother’s old trunk at the end of her bed and sat down, brushing her hand along the dark wood. On the wall hung a small painting in a gilded little frame: a bowl of cherries spilling out onto a warm wooden table. It was a simple, ordinary offering. Alisen didn’t know the artist’s name, but she’d always been grateful to whoever it was.
She remembered the day her mother had come across that painting. They were running errands in the tourist town of Bigfork, north of the lake. She and her mother had ducked into an antiques store for a quick perusal. Her mother had browsed intently.
“What are you looking for?”
“I’ll know when I find it.”
A few moments later, her mother’s hand reached out as if it had known all along and brought back with it the painting of the cherries.
“There. I found what I was looking for.”
“How did you know?” Alisen was amazed.
Her mother looked mysterious and excited. “I didn’t.”
The clerk at the store wrapped the painting in brown paper, and Alisen cradled the sacred bundle all the way home.
Then her mother had surprised her further by ceremoniously walking up the stairs with the painting held in front of her and continuing toward Alisen’s room. Alisen’s eyes had widened, and she had dared to hope. Her mother had stopped and motioned for her to open the door. She had swept across to an open wall, took out a nail and putty knife from her back pocket, and, using the handle of the putty knife as a hammer, installed the painting on Alisen’s very own wall.
They’d sat on the edge of the bed and surveyed her mother’s handiwork.
“Sometimes, when you don’t know what you’re looking for, that is when you find exactly what you need,” her mother had mused. Then she’d leaned into Alisen’s ear. “But you have to be looking.”
Alisen had grinned, and her mother had caught her up in her arms.
Alisen came out of her reverie, her arms wrapped around herself. She got up and walked over to the painting, brushing a little dust off the frame. “What am I looking for this time, Mom?”
She tilted her head to the side as if expecting to hear an answer.
by Carol - reviewed on June 12, 2013
Krista did a great job turning Persuasion into a modern tale while making it uniquely her own. I almost cried twice and I NEVER cried reading Jane's original tale.
Loved ths story!
by Jennifer - reviewed on April 27, 2013
I really enjoyed reading "The Orchard". I was pulled into the story, and even though I'm familiar with "Persuasion" and knew the story line, this still had a fresh feel. I loved the images of the story, loved the writing, loved the characters,loved the experience! So glad this is part of a trilogy I'm not ready to say good bye to the characters.
by Shauna - reviewed on March 15, 2014
A tender story of the heart, emotions, and the sometimes struggle of loving your family. SO GOOD! Alisen has been taking care of her mother's cherry orchard since her mother's passing. Her father has a hard time facing Alisen as she reminds him so much of his late wife. When Derick comes to the orchard after her graduation life seems to be happier. BUT... "intolerance and secrets" keep Alisen from following her dream of a life with Derick. NOW... Four years later Derick has come into her life again... "Will fate find a way to reconnect what was broken so many years before? A sweet read! Fully recommend it! LOVED IT!
Feelings, nothing more than Feelings
by Ranee - reviewed on June 18, 2013
Audience: Adult (Clean) Genre: LDS Romance Length: 245 pgs Rating: ***** Review: All. The. Feels. This book was inspired by the Jane Austen book Persuasion, which, along with Northanger Abbey, is my favorite of Austen's. So I pretty much knew I'd love it. But it also made Alisen's so-so-sweet romance with Derick so difficult because I knew what would happen. I despised her dad and aunt for a while there--all-out hated them. Krista just did a fantastic job of involving me with the characters so much that I was absolutely invested in what was happening to them. (see more reviews at http://raneesclark.blogspot.com)