​​​Arnett Oldstone Sebring

          My name is Arnett Oldstone Sebring, and I should not be judged by the one worst thing I did in my life.

          I am Judge Cyrus Oldstone’s only daughter and born innately attuned to how people are judged and why. Inside courthouses, truths can be locked away, files sealed, gag orders issued.
          Early in my twenties, certain secrets were gaveled into obscurity until they did not exist. Pretense overtook reality. And all after I stood in judgment before my father for a youthful—he said rebellious—indiscretion. For punishment, I was banished to Cassel, Maryland, into the care of two older brothers.
          Time ticked forward from a new beginning. I’m a grandmother now, but in all ways, I remain a product of my upbringing. All hail the power and protection of black robes and judicial benches. My self-righteous daughter-in-law, though, having dug around in dark file rooms and leafed through dusty record books, wants to judge me for the one, or two, possibly three worst things I did in my life. I’ve grown exceedingly resentful of her in the last few days.


Lizbeth Sebring
         
My name is Lizbeth Sebring, and I should not be judged by the one worst thing I did in my life.
          My mother-in-law, Arnett Oldstone Sebring, would shout to the universe that the worst thing I did was use my son Chad against her in an unconscionable and unthinkable way. That event happened yesterday. I revel still in my daring, the pleasure made sweeter because it was a long time coming.
          In my heart, I know the worst thing I did, I did to myself. The act was perpetrated literally at my entrance into the Sebring family twenty years ago.
          Here’s what I’ve learned in that time: Nobody keeps secrets like the Sebrings keep secrets.
 

Callie MacCallum
          My name is Callie MacCallum. I should not be judged by the one worst thing I did in my life.
          Wives everywhere and the heavens above will no doubt hasten to judge me for my lifelong love affair with a married man. Well, maybe not the heavens as I’ve thought about it since. The heavens might possibly have intervened with some powerful twist of good fortune.
          I didn’t grow up with any peculiar ambition to become the hated other woman. No young girl does. To the casual observer, I was just another woman in love, so in love with Jack.
          Eighteen months passed since Jack’s death. I thought I was done with his wife. But here came Arnett Oldstone Sebring, red-faced and charging across my front lawn. She would rip open old wounds with her exploding, jealous rage.


Beebe Walker
          My name is Beebe Walker, and I should not be judged by the one worst thing I did in my life. 
          At 46, I committed a litany of crimes and unpardonable sins. I would say they were my cross to bear, but I recently gave up the church and so have resolved not to pepper my speech with biblical overtones.
          That soul-searching decision—dumping the church, not the overtones—left me passionless, numb, and indifferent, which was exactly how the executive board members of Trydestone Lutheran Church described a downturn in my suitability as their pastor. The president of the board fired my ass. Oh, yes, the new Beebe has learned to swear.
          With me in the mix, Arnett Oldstone Sebring, Lizbeth Sebring, and Callie MacCallum make for an odd collection of women.
          While I’m in their company—away from civilization in Cassel, Maryland, and ensconced in a cabin in the West Virginia mountains—my mind keeps projecting the outcome of our week together in disquieting snippets, revealing dark passages of a road rolling away from me.


 Lucius Dameron
          My name is Lucius Dameron. I will not judge one of these women by the one worst thing she did in her life. No one knows better than I, acceptance is key. I am Baron, West Virginia’s self-proclaimed gay carpenter and meddler extraordinaire.
          My carpentry talents were hired several months back by the town fathers to give Baron’s old 1892 train depot a facelift. After restoration, it will look out at the world again as a visitors welcome center.
          The minute Arnett, Lizbeth, Callie, and Beebe walked into the train station’s lobby, I welcomed them, and my meddler extraordinaire persona skipped forward through the sawdust. I embraced them and their lives of absolute necessity, with glee in my heart, and the right tools in the box.
          With hammer and chisel, tapping and probing, I will open up the nearly fossilized secrets hiding inside my lovely, lovely assortment of women.

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