Hey there. I’m Leta Petkas Parker, and you can probably tell from my name that I’m Greek. Greek families love food and cooking — and eating, though I try to keep the eating part under control. At only 5’2”, I’d be a little butterball if I indulged as much I’d like to. Since I’ve retired to the Cotswolds from the States, my new friends have come to expect my Greek salad whenever they eat at my cottage — that and the occasional pan of pastitsio or spanakopita.

How did I get to England from my home in Atlanta? Tragically, my husband Henry died in an accident nearly two years ago. I threw myself back into my corporate career, thinking the long hours and weekly business trips would chase the pain away. All that did was exhaust me. What did the trick was my spur-of-the-moment decision to retire to the Cotswolds, something I’d always dreamed of.

And here I am, living in a storybook cottage with my dog and cat Dickens and Christie, making new friends, and making my way. We three have a daily routine. Only after Christie gets her milk and Dickens visits the garden am I allowed to take my cup of coffee to our cozy sitting room. I get the fire going, read the paper and play Words with Friends before I attack the day.

Okay, okay, I don’t exactly attack, but I did keep my side job writing columns after I moved “across the pond.” I love writing, and my readers tell me they enjoy hearing about life in the picturesque village of Astonbury. Back home, I wrote about the deer in the yard, fall festivals, trips to the mountains — whatever struck my fancy. Here, it’s trips to quaint villages, overnights to Oxford and the joy of walking country lanes.

Several mornings a week, I take yoga at the Let It Be yoga studio on High Street, often with my friend Wendy. Now that she’s retired from teaching high school English in the States — if you can believe it — she’s back here living with her mum, Belle. Nearly 90 years old, Belle is a pistol. The fascinating thing about Belle is that her mother knew J.M. Barrie, the person who wrote “Peter Pan.” They became friends when he summered in the Cotswolds.

That’s why Belle’s daughter is named Wendy, and her twin brother’s name is — you guessed it — Peter. It was Peter who told me I could buy a refurbished London taxi to drive around in, and that’s what I did. How cool is that?

Wendy and I bonded right away over our love of books and shopping. She’s not quite the word nerd I am, but we both attend the monthly book club meetings at the Book Nook. Between the yoga studio, the bookshop and Toby’s Tearoom, we spend lots of time on High Street.

Dickens and I walk almost every day, and our favorite destination is the pasture where we feed carrots to Martha and Dylan, the donkeys. For a longer walk, we continue to the Olde Mill Inn, where I visit with my friends Libby and Gavin, and Dickens romps with their cat Paddington. Dickens says his favorite pastime is diving in the pile of dirty linens with Paddington as the rooms are being changed out.

Did I mention that Dickens talks to me? And I understand him? Odd, I know, but I’ve been able to talk to the animals since I was a child. I also converse with my black cat, Christie and my friends’ pets. Dickens is a happy-go-lucky little fellow. His feline sister? She’s sassy and persnickety, but I still love her. I’ve successfully kept my Dr. Dolittle talent to myself — can’t have my friends thinking I’m a crazy woman. Even Henry didn’t know about my strange ability.

Yes, I was living the dream ... until Dickens and I stumbled across a dead body ... of a friend.

Who knew I had an inner Nancy Drew? In a flash, Wendy, Belle and I had embarked on solving a murder mystery. And, believe it or not, we solved it! Even we were surprised.

But that was a one-time thing, not something we planned to ever do again. And we meant it, really ... until another dead body appeared ... in our peaceful little village. Everyone thinks I’m the instigator, but honestly, Wendy ‘s hellbent to get involved, at the risk of once again irritating the heck out of Gemma, our local detective-sergeant. And Belle? Ever since she got a taste of playing Miss Marple, there’s been no stopping her ...

Want to know the whole story? Grab “Bells, Tails & Murder” at Dunwoody’s Enchanted Forest or order a copy from Amazon. Dickens & Christie can’t wait to hear what you think!

Author Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com.

Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/, and/or read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.

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