The Green Man Series | Volume 2
After solving a grisly local murder the previous year, Sylvia thought her life had settled into a happy and predictable routine. Instead, changes occurred that caused her to doubt everything: her job, her relationships, and her entire existence. Finding her neighbor’s body on her beach along with subsequent attacks on other women in her community made her wonder – would she be next? Could the Green Man help her find her answers?
Paperback, April 2015, ISBN: 978-1503276086
The Leafing: An Excerpt
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
Sylvia stood staring at the dying embers of the bonfire. Her feet were numb with cold, and hot tears stung her freezing cold cheeks. Owen stood with her, his arm around her as she stared at the dying fire in disbelief. The Green Man had stepped into the fire smiling a warm, yet wry smile on his brown face of living wood. She had watched his tall body, which was covered in rich brocade made of leaves, with a crown of holly bright with scarlet berries on his head, disappear into the leaping flames as though they were a cozy blanket. He was gone in a flash as the tall flames engulfed him with a loud whoosh. Tears had coursed down her cheeks while others cheered the onset of the solstice and toasted the beginning of longer days. As everyone headed back to Marian’s house for food and drink, Owen supported her. As she glanced back, Sylvia had one last hope that the Green Man would reappear as he had so many times this last year. It was only when the fire had died down to charred embers that Owen noticed a large chunk of wood left in the ashes.
“Look, Syl,” he said amazed, “Look at this.”
Sylvia gasped at what she saw. It was the wooden mask, almost identical to the one she had found last spring, now laying among the embers. Owen gingerly pushed away smoldering embers with his booted foot to get to the chunk of wood. Bit by bit he pushed it through the ashes to Sylvia. She reached down to pick it up, not heeding Owen’s warning that it might be hot to touch. The smooth wood was strangely cool. Yes, this mask was identical to the one she had found, what was it, seven months ago? It was the day of her grandmother’s funeral when she had stormed out of the house in angry grief, and found this mask lying on the ground. It had sprouted one leaf, then two, and finally turned into her beloved, father-like, Green Man. He had guided her these past months as she and Owen discovered a horrible ecological disaster in the making and solved a murder as well. He had shown her that she had the gift of seeing auras. He had been her rock in times of need. Sylvia already missed him.
Now Sylvia stood, holding the velvety smooth mask of wood and a silly smile played on her lips. It was a message to her from the Green Man. She was sure of it. She was sure that he would return. She looked up at Owen with her tear stained face, and he laughed, and brushed away a tear or two. They stood for a moment or two longer, standing close to hold their warmth. They looked at the sparkling night sky, and the dying embers of the bonfire, before returning to Marian’s warm house and the festivities therein.
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
Sylvia Ash was a quiet, unassuming person and she liked being that way. She had skated her way through college keeping up decent grades, but, not really being prepared for anything specific with her liberal arts degree. She would admit to most people that college was fun. Yet, seven months ago, when her beloved grandmother had died, after a brief, but intense bout with cancer, she was jolted into reality. Sylvia had inherited Gran’s house that perched at the upper edge of the Chesapeake Bay in a small community that had grown from summer homes in the 1940’to the year round homes that now dotted the shoreline. Many of the homes were inhabited year round by the summer people of years ago. It was an aging neighborhood. As the original owners passed away, usually, the home was taken over by a child, to retire along the bay. A few of the homes had been sold and later knocked down by young entrepreneurs with nouveau riches to build spectacular homes of unusual architecture on small lots. Still the majority were modest cottages overlooking the Chesapeake with beautiful full grown trees and decent sized yards where neighbors led quiet and serene lives.
Sylvia’s home was white clapboard with a fieldstone foundation, and a huge stone chimney that matched the stone fireplace inside. It was a tribute to the Craftsman architectural movement. Sylvia loved this house as it looked unassuming from the lane in front of the house, but inside it was open, airy and filled with light. She loved to curl up on the couch, and watch the panorama of sky and water change, moment by moment, through the French doors and large floor to ceiling windows in the living room. Sylvia also loved to curl up in front of the stone fireplace in the study, in the front part of the house that faced the lane. Sylvia had always felt this was more her home than the cookie-cutter, Colonial, suburban Philadelphia home where she had grown up. After her father died, when she was ten, Sylvia was sent to Gran to spend her summers and vacations, while her mother climbed the corporate ladder in the local banking industry. She now held a comfortable position, and always urged Sylvia to do as she had done, by working her way up through the system.
Sylvia had no interest in the banking world. She worked for the local Thurmont Company, a sister company to some of the big chemical corporations in the area. She worked in the public information office with a sweetheart of a boss. For the moment she was content where she was.
It was December 23rd, and Sylvia was melancholy. This was her first Christmas without her grandmother. Pulling out the decorations and ornaments that had been with her family forever, gave her an ache in her heart like a sore tooth. Her good friend and surrogate grandmother, Marian, had left for England the day before with her beau. Sylvia’s significant other– Owen had left to be at home with his family. So Sylvia sat alone, curled up on her favorite part of the couch looking at the Christmas tree, waiting patiently for her mother to arrive for the holiday. She sat and played with the gorgeous holly necklace Marian had given her as a holiday gift and the holly earrings Owen had given to her. She had seen the set of botanical jewelry at nearby Longwood Gardens and wanted it as soon as she saw it. The leaves represented were her grandmother’s namesake, so it had double the meaning for her this holiday season. Sylvia knew that her mother and Owen’s mother, Anne would be disappointed that it wasn’t a diamond engagement ring. Sylvia and Owen knew that both of them were not ready for marriage. Not yet. She didn’t admit to her mother that Owen had also given her garnet lingerie to match the garnet holly berries in the jewelry as well as a low cut garnet colored sweater, that felt soft as a kitten with the angora yarn woven through it. There were some things that were ‘too much information’ to be shared with her mother.
Sylvia sighed heavily. She and Owen had been through a lot in the six months they had known each other. Sylvia had found the murdered body of one of Owen’s colleagues, just when their relationship had started to get interesting. They hung in, together, through his trumped up murder charge and jailing, as well as through the discovery of, and solution to an environmental accident at Thurmont, the corporation where they worked. They were close. Sometimes too close, Sylvia thought. Lately, some of the excitement had gone from the relationship, and Sylvia felt as though the relationship was plodding along. What was worse is that she wasn’t sure she wanted to do anything about it.
Everyone else’s relationships seemed to be heating up. Their mutual friend Marian was now enjoying a relationship for the first time since her husband died a few years ago. She and Jon were taking off to exotic places frequently and enjoying each other immensely. Sylvia’s best friend, Gwen, from college was hit hard with romance and love at first sight with her now fiancé after a whirlwind romance. She used to tease Sylvia unmercifully about Owen. Now the tables were turned, and Sylvia was just as unmerciful in teasing Gwen. Gwen was now visiting her in-laws-to-be over the holidays, and was in an anxious state of making wedding plans. Sylvia’s visit a month ago to Gwen had been almost a weird version of a television reality show. Gwen dragged her from store to store to look at wedding gowns and attendant dresses as well as poring through all of the bridal magazines. The thought of planning a wedding was somewhat terrifying to Sylvia. She couldn’t get quotes from the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral” out of her head. She definitely didn’t want to end up as a meringue bride all puffed up with lace and chiffon. Her friend Gwen, on the other hand, who was drop dead gorgeous, wanted all the trimmings to send her down the matrimonial path. Sylvia teased her frequently about being a near ‘bridezilla,’ coining the phrase from a popular television program. Sylvia knew Gwen was as detail oriented in her personal life as she was in her career as an accountant.
Sylvia stared out into the night while waiting for her mother to arrive for the holiday. Lights from across the bay twinkled in the night and Christmas carols played softly in the background. She wished for snow to fall to add to the season. With a gasp of delight, Sylvia watched as a few flakes began to fall, then turn into a windy squall of dazzling white against the night sky. She lit a couple of candles in the room, turned out the lights, and turned on the lights on the deck. She could now watch the beauty of the snowflakes falling through the lights of the deck creating patterns in the black night sky. Her wish had been granted.
A moment later the back door opened with a swish, and a gust of cold air rushed across the kitchen and into the living room.
“Syl, where are you?” her mother’s voice called out.
Sylvia got up from the couch, and went out to greet her mother.
“Merry Christmas,” she said greeting her and giving her a hug.
“Merry Christmas,” her mother answered. “Why are you sitting in the dark?”
Sylvia flushed slightly. Her mother frequently thought many of her actions were foolish.
“I was watching the snow fall,” she admitted. Changing the subject, she said, “Can I help you bring your things in from the car?”
“Yes,” her mother replied. “I am lucky the snow just started to fall. It’s getting a little slippery out there,” she told her, motioning to the door.
Sylvia went out the door to retrieve her mother’s things. She blinked in the falling snow that was light, yet steady. The small, cold flakes stung her eyes and the breeze that was almost constant on the bay, made her shiver. She pulled out Mary’s suitcase and some bags and made her way back to the kitchen and shivered when she got inside.
“Brr,” she said shivering to her Mom. “Can I get you a glass of wine?”
“Yes,” her mother agreed. “I brought a lovely red for us to try.” She went over to the bags that Sylvia had brought inside, and rooted around. “Here it is,” she said. “Can you open this while I take these things upstairs?”
“Sure,” replied Sylvia.
She took out two wine glasses, and the corkscrew. She poured two generous glasses of wine, ignoring the rule to leave room for the wine to breathe. She pulled out some cheese and crackers and nibbles, before she took everything into the study on a tray. Sylvia lit a small fire she had prepared, and sat down waiting for her mother.
“This is lovely,” her mother told her. She had changed from her business dress into comfortable, but stylish velour lounging pajamas and slippers. “Mmm,” her mother moaned when she sipped the wine. “This is good.” She leaned back in a lazy boy wing back chair, propped up her feet, and sipped the wine while nibbling cheese with her eyes closed.
Sylvia stared at her supine mother. She couldn’t remember when she had seen her mother so relaxed. Her mother was perpetually moving, and thinking about her work. She seldom sat down in a comfortable chair to kick back and vegetate. Sylvia was astonished at this change.
“How was Marian’s party the other night?” her mother asked, not bothering to open her eyes.
“Good,” Sylvia said vaguely. She knew her mother would not understand anything about the Green Man and carefully chose her words as she described the party. “You know Marian,” Sylvia told her, “The parties aren’t parties, they’re events. It was an interesting mix of people, and fabulous food, of course.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it,” her mother told her. “But I didn’t want to make the trip twice, and really needed to be at work these last couple of days. I can’t believe it’s been four months since I’ve been here.”
“That doesn’t seem possible,” Sylvia replied. “Are you sure?”
“The last time I was down was in September,” her mother reminded her. “Life became crazy in October, and you spent Thanksgiving at Owen’s family.”
“Wow,” Sylvia said. “Time has flown.”
“I’ve been a little sad about everyone being away for the holidays,” Sylvia admitted. “I guess I’ve become pretty used to Marian and Owen being around.”
Her mother nodded understandingly. “Marian has been like a surrogate grandmother to you hasn’t she?” her mother asked gently.
Sylvia agreed by nodding her head, not trusting her voice all of a sudden. She took a long drink of her wine, and stared into the crackling fire. She wanted to avoid talking about Gran. Her mother must have sensed it too and let the subject drop.
“How’s Owen?” she asked.
“Okay,” Sylvia said. “He’s visiting his parents for the holiday, of course.”
“Of course,” her mother repeated. “What did he give you for Christmas?” she asked, very curious.
Sylvia pointed to the holly earrings she was wearing, and told her about the sweater under the tree.
“They’re gorgeous!” her mother said, but Sylvia could tell she was a little disappointed. “No hint of a diamond?”
“No,” Sylvia said firmly. “After the past few months,” she told her mother. “We need some time.”
“You’re right,” her mother said, “you two have been through a lot. I guess I thought it would throw you together.” She hesitated before she added, “you two seem so right for each other.”
“We did,” Sylvia admitted, “for a while. But, we’re…” her voice trailed off not knowing what to say.
“Just remember you’re not getting any younger,” her mother said in a matter of fact tone.
“Oh, Mother!” Sylvia stage whispered emphatically. “Really!”
“W-e-l-l,” her mother explained, “You know the old saying about ‘they won’t buy the cow, if they can already get the cream.’”
“Oh, Mother!” Sylvia cried again. She refrained from rolling her eyes. “Really? That’s archaic.”
“Possibly,” her mother said. “Look, Syl, I don’t want to argue tonight,” she told her and sighed. She leaned back the chair again, and closed her eyes.
Once again, Sylvia was dumbfounded. She wasn’t used to a mother who would not argue. They had always had spats where Sylvia felt she couldn’t win in any fashion. Her mother always had to be right, and would find a way, either through arguing or guilt to bend Sylvia to her own wishes. Sylvia had always found it frustrating and wondered if that’s why she was shipped off to Gran’s every now and then, so that her mother could get a break as a single parent. Sylvia was puzzled by her mother’s current change in behavior, saying she didn’t want to argue after she brought up her personal relationship with Owen. Sylvia didn’t get it, but on the other hand, she didn’t want to argue either. She shrugged, knowing her mother wouldn’t see it with her eyes closed, and took a couple of small slices of cheese with crackers, sipping more at her wine.
“Have you had dinner?” she asked her Mom.
“I’m fine,” she told her. “I’m not really hungry.”
In a few minutes, her mother had dozed off. She must have been really tired thought Sylvia. Sylvia watched the fire slowly burn down. The phone rang and she jumped to get it hoping it would not wake her mother. Sylvia took the phone from the study and walked into the living room. She noticed there was a thin skim of snow out on the deck. It was still falling, but only a few flakes here and there. It must have been a brief snow squall.
“Hi Syl,” Owen’s warm baritone of a voice came over the line.
“Hi,” she replied a little breathlessly. His voice always had a way of finding its way right down through her center.
“I wanted to let you know I made it home all right,” he told her. “No snow and no crazed drivers.”
“Good,” Sylvia answered. “Thanks. We’re starting to have some snow here,” she told him. “Just a dusting, but it’s beautiful. I hope we get more.”
“Just as long as it melts by the 26th, okay?” Owen said. “I’m not looking forward to traveling on slick roads.”
“You’re right,” she said. “It’s too bad it can’t fall just on the grass and trees to look pretty.” Sylvia changed the subject. “How are your Mom and Dad?” she asked.
“They’re fine,” he said, “Happy I’m here. They send their best.” He yawned loudly in the phone.
“Sorry,” he said. “I think I’m tired. I’ll miss curling up with you,” he told her wistfully.
“Same here,” Sylvia said. “I’ll be thinking of you.”
They said their good nights and promised to talk in the next couple of days. Sylvia returned to the study to hang up the phone. Her mother was sleeping more deeply, and Sylvia banked the fire quietly, putting a warm throw over her mom before cleaning up the wine glasses, and going to bed. She was glad Owen would miss her. His absence left an empty space in her heart. The bed seemed cold without him and she shivered. Sylvia got up, and rummaged through Owen’s drawers. Finally she found what she was looking for, and put on a pair of Owen’s hiking socks against the chill, and snuggled deeply into the soft flannel sheets, pulling over Owen’s pillow to hug close to her body.
The Leafing is perfect if you're looking for a get-lost-in-a-book, yet light-read!!
The Leafing is perfect if you’re looking for a get-lost-in-a-book, yet light-read. It has a mixture of romance, suspense, and a hint of sci-fi. It picks up right where The Greening left off. The fictional setting is based on a location close to my home, so I enjoyed “recognizing” scenes, such as local restaurants, where Slyvia and friends visited. This is a fun, fast-paced, engrossing book!
Great reading. Can't wait for the next one!
Great reading. Can’t wait for the next one. Keep them coming Sharon!
Very enjoyable read!
The Leafing continues the Green Man series and I enjoyed catching up with Sylvia’s work and love life. With the murder of a neighbor and the troubles between Sylvia and Owen, this story kept me entertained and turning pages well into the night. I look forward to the next installment!
Awesome!!!! Can’t wait for the third book to complete the story!!!!
Make Way for the Green Man!
This is clearly a sequel to The Greening. It is another ecological murder mystery with help from the mythological Green Man. Once again, Ms. Brubaker has taken a very classical myth and updated it for modern readers in her newest murder mystery that takes place on the Chesapeake Bay. Well done!!
The twists and turns will keep you amazed!
Waiting for the next book! the twists and turns will keep you amazed!
Just the right blend of mystery, excitement, romance and environment!
“The Leafing” was just the right blend of mystery, excitement, romance and environment. I enjoyed being brought again to the Chesapeake Bay. Once I started, it was hard to put down. This book was just as great as “The Greening” and I anxiously await the next book in the series.
I am in love with the heroin in the stories!
This is another complex mystery but well done with some surprises you don’t expect. Plus I like the upper Chesapeake location.
A nice love story!
I enjoyed reading it, Sharon is a good writer, keeps you interested and involved. The ending was so beautiful, it made me cry.
Sharon Brubaker has done it again, another page turner!
The characters from The Greening are back, once again tangled in intrigue. Super mystery entwined in a love story. Can’t wait to follow their story in book three.
I am really enjoying the Green Man series!
I am really enjoying the Green Man series. Looking forward to the third book. The mystery, family lives, and love make it a great read. Thanks Sharon!
Non stop page turner!
Sheer rock on goodness.A fabulous who did what? when? Great page turner. You’ll just find yourself saying, “Sylvia , you go girl !!!!
Mary Lou T
An enjoyable and fast read!
Mrs. Brubaker is a wonderful storyteller, full of detail so you feel you are a part of Sylvia’s life, as she deals with romance, love, family, murder, kidnapping, and a new dog. As I got into the story I didn’t want to put it down. Nothing else got done until I finished the book. Can’t wait for number 3. Hope there are a dozen in the series. I could read these books for years.
Couldn't wait to read second book!
Sharon has captured again the life of Sylvia on the Chesapeake Bay! Couldn’t put the book down!! Can’t wait for the third in the series!