“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the forty-fifth annual Cumberland Creek County Fair
Pie Competition,” said Elsie Miller, who stood behind the table.
DeeAnn was cool. She wasn’t worried at all. Her pie was brilliant. It was a delicious,
modern twist on an old classic. How could it go wrong? The first part of the contest
was just simply watching the judges taste the pies and listening for their reactions.
Then they reconvened and announced the winners later in the week, on closing night.
“This first pie is a French silk coconut cream pie made by Macy Freed,” said the head
judge, and they all dipped in with their forks, taking morsels of the deep brown,
creamy pie. They each took only one bite. From their expressions, the pie was good
but not astounding. They sat nodding and smiling politely. She knew those smiles.
DeeAnn had been watching this same group of judges for years. Her eyes found Macy
glaring at her. What? Why? What had she ever done to Macy? True, she hadn’t given
her that job, but Macy would never have worked out at her bakery. DeeAnn was heading
in a hip vegan direction with much of her business, and Macy was not interested. And
didn’t even want to learn. That said a lot about her.
A twinge of guilt poked at DeeAnn. She knew the family needed the money. But her decision
was a business decision and nothing personal. Still, she could see that Macy might
have been taking it very personally.
Her husband elbowed her, and when she looked at him, he grinned. “You’re next?”
She shrugged, Macy’s look of hatred etched in her brain. DeeAnn wanted to be liked.
She knew that not everybody could like her, but still it hurt when someone was blatant.
“Next, we have a twist on an apple pie.” DeeAnn’s heart lurched. “Apples and Hearts
is the name of the recipe,” said the judge.
DeeAnn wanted to gag. That was not much of a twist—everybody knew about it. You just
added red cinnamon hearts to the recipe, and voilà. But it was surprising to hear
it was Rachel Burkholder who had entered it. Was she finally losing her touch?
DeeAnn allowed herself even more hope—she figured Rachel was her biggest competition,
but not with a recipe like that.
The judges took their bites, made their notes, and moved on. More nods and smiles.
Next up was her pie. She was certain. Beads of sweat pricked at her forehead. Her
husband, Jacob’s arm went around her.
“Next, we have an entry from DeeAnn Fields, an apple–green chili pie with cheddar
and walnut crust,” said the judge, nodding in DeeAnn’s direction with a smile. Oohs
and aahs from the crowd.
This could be it, DeeAnn thought. This could be my moment. At last!
The judges took their forks, plowed into the pie, and almost in unison brought their
forks to their mouths. DeeAnn felt as if she had stopped breathing. She also felt
as if everybody was watching her. Jacob rubbed her shoulder.
She wanted to scream and run and dance around the hall. That was her pie. She thought
it was the best one on the table.
“Ackkk!” one of the judges said, spitting it out. Another judge tore up and off the
platform, heading straight for the bathroom, but she didn’t quite make it, spitting
the bite of pie all over the floor. The remaining judges were in a state of disarray.
Red-faced. Spitting. Downing water.
“What? What happened?” DeeAnn stood.
“You tell us, DeeAnn. Take this ridiculous pie and leave,” said Elsie.
“What? I don’t understand. . . .” DeeAnn felt as if she were in the middle of one
of those dreams where all of a sudden you were not wearing any clothes. Yes, she felt
naked. But something in her forced her to find the strength to hold her head up and
walk to the table to grab her entry.
When she turned around, Jacob was standing with his arms out, ready to lead her out
the door. Paige, Sheila, Vera, and Annie huddled in the back of the room, then left
as the next