Becoming Emma

 

Chapter 1

This couldn’t be right.

Emma Carey paused on the footpath and stared up at the stately Victorian house, the gray and amber exterior glowing in the morning light. Surely this historic mansion, adorned with turrets and gingerbread and a weathervane shaped like a whimsical half-moon, couldn’t be her new workplace!

Only moments before, striding from a bus stop near downtown Mount Belleford, Washington, Emma had been filled with anticipation. On this sunny August day, the breeze off nearby Belleford Bay was soft and cool against her flushed face. And crossing the street, she caught a glimpse of the snow-capped peak of Boulder Mountain, looming to the east above the dark green foothills surrounding the town.

Yet now that she was supposedly at her destination—a non-profit Irish cultural center—all the beauty of her new city didn’t ease her tension. Peering at her mobile, Emma realized she was running late despite the assiduous use of a new scheduling app. Plus she kept looking around for office buildings, but saw nothing but impeccably maintained older homes with manicured lawns. She checked the directions again on her mobile: the Ireland Place office was at 13 Parkland Circle. And an elegant little sign on the lawn confirmed it:

13 Parkland Circle

So what was she meant to do now?

Emma’s heart pounded with nerves. If only she’d done a reconnaissance mission yesterday! Her younger sister Hazel had suggested it—well, not really suggested, since the girl wasn’t a great one for giving advice. But she did email Emma with an extremely mild remark, that it mightn’t hurt to nip over to her new workplace before her first day, to get the lay of the land. And as a veteran of many new jobs in faraway locales, Hazel was one to know these things.

All the same, by now Emma was running so behind schedule that she’d no choice but to ask for directions.

With her new, decisive personality (she’d acquired it only weeks ago, after her thirty-first birthday, so she wasn’t quite up to speed with being forceful and assertive) she hurried up the footpath. At home in Dublin, knocking on a stranger’s door was no big deal: someone would actually open it, smile at you, give you the direction you needed, and ask you in for a cup of tea.

Passing a mass of cream hydrangeas in full bloom, Emma clutched her handbag, climbing the entryway stairs to the porch as fast as her pencil skirt and new ankle boots would allow. Straightening her blazer, she pinned on what she hoped was a friendly yet professional expression, and made herself reach for the doorbell. Oh, God, I’ll make a crap first impression, and it’ll be no one’s fault but my own…