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this is not my beautiful house....



Updated: 2017-10-22T00:07:29.804-03:00

 



good Methodist kid

2017-05-22T21:39:16.779-03:00

We are all amalgamations of our upbinging. Good or bad, that's just the way the chips fall, and it's up to each one of us to tweak these parts and bits and make ourselves into who we want to be.

That process can take years. A lifetime, even.

Two tenets I carry with me are the Methodist creed (commonly attributed to John Wesley, although not found in any of his writings)  'Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.' And something less famous, although no less thought of, ' Do nice things, and nice things will happen to you'. Call it karma, call it common sense, call it whatever you like - it's something I believe in.

Today, at the end of a brilliant three day weekend, one where we all did something fun, both collectively and by ourselves, three days of blue skies and open-window freshness, I went to the car to pick up Cass at the beach where he was with a group of friends and found not one, but two gifts meant to make me feel appreciated for a small thing I'd done.

I love them.  I've been smiling all night. If you do nice things......

Back to work tomorrow.



(image)



Lovely day Lovely day (A lovely day)*

2017-05-20T18:52:29.781-03:00

This has turned into a most awesome day, my friends.

 The first day of a three day weekend, weather switching from melt-your-face-off heat into sweet late spring sunshine, and so much possibility in every sigh of the wind.

Bear called up the stairs "Want to go to breakfast?"

I actually had to wake the kids. They sleep harder now than when they were small. After enjoying food not-cooked-by-me (yay!)  we went through the car wash, drove through the countryside in search of a new flooring shop that has been advertising itself all over Facebook but was still not open on Saturday ????? and chatted and laughed and I only had to stop two sibling puckers. (Named, of course, for the faces I get when I shut the arguing down.)

Cass's music boomed through the speakers. Now, Cass and I don't always agree on music -he's been going through a shudderingly awful rap stage- but this was bouncy. And techno, in a way that brought to mind the (unimaginably number of years ago) time when I was in my first car, going to go pick up my friends for a high school dance. Weirdly similar. I was musing on how everything old is new again (oh my god, rompers are back!) when the boy informed me with a smug twinkle that he knew I'd love it, as it was a song from 1986.

Apparently he'd heard it on the bus heading home from the track meet, and now it was on his playlist. So everything old IS new again. (But this time, NO ROMPERS.)

We stopped at a lovely new market, then drove home, planning a barbecue. After Bear remembered that our grill is out of commission, he and Cass found an old washer, yanked it's insides out, and now I have a fire pit.

I am so excited to try it out. Not tonight for supper, tho', as there's a partial fire ban on, and we can't have a fire until after dark. But SOON.

Tonight we're eating the first batch of potato salad.

Hello, summer.

*title, of course, from the Bill Withers song(image)



spring needs to spring

2017-03-30T20:54:56.357-03:00

It's been interesting around here lately.

We're just coming out of an unseasonably late ice storm, which whirled the trees and coated everything in frozen water and despair. Today, the sun came out again and people squinted and smiled at the glints coming off the still frozen branches, amazed at the blue blue sky and hoping that this truly was the last, that there will be spring, and soon.

My daughter is struggling with something at school, which has impacted the way she sees everything around her.  She's asked for help and been blown off twice by adults that ought to have taken her concerns seriously. Suffice to say, I can't *wait* for parent-teacher.

Meanwhile, the teenager has been recommended to go into 'fancy' math classes. I plan to ask him more about those tomorrow while I take him to go get new glass in his (three-week-old) new glasses. (Long story short: the teen was with a group of friends at a hockey game, someone rooting for the other team shoved one of his friends, Cass dove in to save his friend and.....forgot????.....he had glasses on. They sailed through the air, skittered under some seats and boom! Weren't crushed or broken but had some horrible scratches. You know the news is not good when the first thing you hear when you answer the phone is "Mom, I'm sorry") Thank god for Vogue Optical. Vogue definitely isn't the cheapest, but their repair or replace promotions have been a god-send the last few years.

Tomorrow is work, appointments, popcorn and movie night. This weekend is possibly a tea festival, definitely another hockey game, most likely some walks with the big camera and welcoming spring.

Because jeez, after the last month, we all need it.(image)



humpday

2017-02-22T19:35:04.217-04:00

It has been a long, hard, slog of a day.

Work was the usual, with just a soupçon of extra crazy. Many phone calls today, many clients talked to. Manymanymany.

My cat has a mysterious chunk of fur missing from the back of her neck. I suspect she and her brother have been wrestling again.

I've started drinking more tea than coffee. Who am I??? I have always loved coffee. Tea, right now, just feels homier and more comforting. And since I was gifted a tea-monkey (it's a tea strainer shaped like a wee monkey and it's arms grip the sides of the cup!) I've been drinking loose tea.
But tonight is all about a straight tea bag of lemon zinger in an old cup, pyjamas, and going to bed early.

My brain, she is tired.(image)



something smells like French Toast

2017-02-20T10:11:46.354-04:00

Lolling in bed on the last day of a three-day-weekend, I have things to do but the bed! She whispers sweetly about naps and reading and no, I must be strong and GET UP, for I've things to do, work keys to find, and a walk to take. Catch you later.(image)



Second verse, same as the first

2017-02-19T17:55:01.051-04:00

Holy hell, is this thing on? (Taps mic)

Well. In the latest round of The Song Remains The Same, I've left two jobs I very much liked and gone to one full time (full-time!!)  gig that I....wow, it's hard to describe how I feel about it. It's a fast paced always-changing never-the-same-two-days-in-a-row job that I both love fiercely and loathe, but it comes with fantastic coworkers and (usually) leaves me feeling like I've done something productive and meaningful at the end of the day.

Still two kids, one husband, a dog. But we've added a house rabbit.

I've started cleaning and purging, which usually means Spring must be on its way. Given that last week we had huge snowdrifts after a blizzard wound its way over Nova Scotia, this may be wishful thinking.

But I hope not.(image)



Crowded house

2015-11-04T20:06:35.671-04:00

There are multitudes in my head tonight. I really have to start journaling or at least jotting things down, because the characters in my head are getting louder - and now they're all having conversations with each other, and things are getting muddled. That's never good.

I've been toying lately (or the idea has been toying with me, I'm not always sure who's leading who) with what makes me happy, and writing things down?? That makes the list, in spades.

So! Here I am. How've you been? That's a great colour on you.

Let's go on an adventure, shall we?
(image)



Placeholder

2015-09-09T06:42:51.213-03:00

I have Got to start writing again in this space. I had a dream last night that I came here and it was gone -swept away like so much blog-dust.  And that would be sad.(image)



Wow, all the babies have grown up.

2015-07-03T22:52:41.453-03:00


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Beneath the waves

2014-07-25T00:06:23.285-03:00

Porter caught me to him as soon as the door closed behind her, and I went, shuddering, into his arms.  "That was terrible, Katie. Are you okay?"I took a deep breath of his scent, searching my heart. Was I okay? Sad, yes. Heartbroken for how sorrowful my mother must have been. Chagrined by her life had gone from a cheerful, happy existence to a black and grey shroud of depression.  But okay? "I think so.""It's good to know that she didn't walk away from us." I told Porters shirt front. "And horr-" my voice broke, and I took a big gulp. "Horrible to know that she couldn't."He murmured something and brushed my lips with his. Dizzy, I tightened my grip around his neck and sighed."What are you going to do about Maud?" "I don't know yet. I know things can never be the same between us. God, Grand Dad will never forgive her. No matter what happens between she and I, her life will never be the same.""Will she tell him?"He was really so, so kind. Did it make me a bad person that I wanted to lose myself in him and forget for a little while what had happened today? Tempted, I stared up at him and sighed.He caught my look and his lips twitched. "Later, Katie. Right now I think you might need a little diversion. Come with me." Taking my hand, he led me out to the disreputable old truck. "We," he said, smiling a bit, "are going for a drive. There is to be no talk about what happened. We'll come home in a few hours and talk it to death, I promise. But not now. Right now we need fresh air and something else to think about."Although I thought it was a crazy idea, I was charmed.Porter kept it light and casual as he turned the truck toward the hills that fringed the area. He pointed out squirrels and cows in a field and kids with fishing poles, all heading home for their suppers. He patted Wood when the hound insisted on laying his head in Porters' lap. It wasnt hard to follow his cheery statements with nonsensical replies until a swell of misery overcame me and I stared into my lap, ignoring his banter. I thought I was hiding my big fat treacherous tears well, but he slowed and stopped on a hill and reached out to catch one on his fingertips."Oh, Kate. I'm so sorry."I was undone. He tugged me closer, undoing my seat belt and folding me against his heart. I snuffled and snorted and wept against him until I reached a point where I felt marginally better, and then he kissed me long and deep and pulled me out of the truck to stand beside him."Look at the sky."It was a fantastic display of pink and orange, shading down to grey. Here and there, tiny points of light showed through as the first stars peered out. In the valley below us, porchlights and streetlights were beginning to come on. It was a magical and comforting scene, and I sucked in a breath, sadness forgotten for a moment.Porter took my hand, stroking my fingertips. "I know you're sad and sick and angry right now. But look, Katie. Look at the town, and look at the sky. Can't you feel your mother's peace? Look at the stars.  She's with you, Katie. Every day. She always has been."Looking out over the display, I felt something hiccup in my chest. Something creaked, like an old rusty door cracking open, and suddenly I knew...Porter was right.Mama had never left me.The next day was hard. The family was all there, Grand Dad looking older and sadder than I had ever seen him. Ford hugged me for a long time, his usual smile gone, all bonhomnie absent.I drank a lot of tea with Clay, and listened: to the birds, the bonging of the grandfather clock on the mantel, Maud's explanations interspersed with her noisy sobs, Wood's tail swishing across the floor, Grand-Dad's voice, sore with unbelieving and despair, ringing through the closed parlour door.It was a long, turbulant day. At one point Grand-Dad asked me to take him down t[...]



Mama's jacket

2013-07-09T23:23:39.857-03:00

There was a hush, then the guys leaned forward, reinvested in the conversation and focused in on my unhappy aunt."Well?"She let out a furious huff of breath. "Katherine, I have been over and over this - why do I have to tell you this again? I - "I cut in. "Because, Aunt Maud, I want to know. Where is my mother's coat?"Her eyes blazed.  "I did the best I could, Katherine Alice. I did the best thing I could think of for you, and your brother. I did the best I could. Why are you digging this up now? Let the dead lie."Maud! Just tell me. What happened to her coat? I grew up hearing all the whispers, all the lies, all the parts of the fiction that you orchestrated. Mama put on her coat and went out in the night and was never seen again. Tonight you said she was in her nightgown. Where did it go?""I threw it under the dock!" Maud snapped, then looked ashamed.  "I went back up to the house but Phillip was dead drunk and Alice wasn't coming up - she was dead and I thought....I took a big rock and I wadded the coat around it and threw it into the water. She was gone! There was no getting her back! There was no....." she trailed off, studying my face.Porter had my hand, his long fingers wrapping tight around my own. I pulled strength from him and faced my aunt, calmness flooding through me. "You thought that here was a tidy way to end a giant mess. No one had seen. You could just....walk away. Walk away, comfort your grieving brother, mop up the spilled milk, erase the crazy from the family tree. Was that it?"She looked rebellious. "You grew up fine.""I did. I was lucky enough to be loved by my father and my grandparents and my great aunt. But there was a hole in my life, and questions always in my heart. Maud, how could you?"My voice broke a little, and Wood whined, shoving his big head at me again. I patted him absently while I kept my eyes locked on Maud's troubled face while her expressions cycled through belligerence to dignity to confusion to quiet sorrow."I did" Maud said, heavily, slowly, sadly, "what I did, to protect you, Kitty. I thought your mother's....illness....was like a cancer - if I cut it out of your life completely,  everyone would recuperate. Everything would be different - I never imagined how much this would haunt you - but really, was it so bad?"Was it bad? Knowing people thought your father killed your mother? Hearing the whispers? Wondering what I could have done that was so awful to make Mama run away -and stay away - from me forever? Feeling flawed all my life?  Was it bad??""Katherine, you can't imagine how terrifying it was, watching Alice go mad and seeing your father try to cope. He tried for so long. He even gave in when she said she wanted another baby -even after three doctors told him it was a terrible idea -he thought it would give her some grounding, some joy." She looked at me sorrowfully. "Alice was good with babies. Stanton told me to hush, but I knew this wouldn't end well, I knew it."I was flooded with the relief of finally knowing what had happened and rage that it had.Maud clasped her hands in her lap and looked down at the tabletop. "I'm sorry that I couldn't save your mother, Katherine. I'm sorry you and your brother grew up not knowing. That I couldn't protect you from that. I'm sorry I couldnt find the words to tell your father or your grandfather the truth. But I'm not sorry I protected you from years of being labeled the lunatic's children."We were silent -I was struggling with what to say- and she looked up at me. She looked old, I thought, and exhausted. She waited a minute, then spoke into the suddenly loud silence, making Clay jump a little in his seat. "I suppose," she said, heavily, "that you'll want the truth to be known now."Was that what I wanted? I had no idea. Although...[...]



ripples of memory

2013-06-20T23:33:33.468-03:00

Her chin came up and she looked like her old fierce self. "I searched all over. Usually she just stalked the paths near the house, but that night I ran all the way down to the lower garden before I saw her."I didn't dare move. Or breathe. Maud drew a shuddery breath and went on."Kitty, I yelled my head off but she just...didn't... stop. She was just ahead of me on the path down to the river, and I was screaming like a banshee. She looked back once - I remember how serene her face looked in the moonlight - but then she turned again and went on."Clay made a stifled noise. "The river!" he half-whispered. "The river flooded its banks that night!"My great-aunt looked at him, her mouth trembling. "The river was washing over the edges of the dock there. Alice went out on the dock, tipped her head back to look at the moon," Maud sniffled and went on "stepped off the edge, and went down like a stone.""I ran after her, of course. It was eerily quiet that night, and if you hadn't seen the ripples, you never would have known anything had happened. I watched and waited but she never....she never....""She never came back up."I was fighting down sobs. "Why didn't you go after her?"Maud looked ashamed and oddly triumphant.. "I don't swim, Katherine Alice. And your father was ...." she searched for the right word, and I stepped in, icily furious."Drunk?"She nodded. "I went running back up toward the house, screaming out for him. It wasn't until I couldn't wake him up that I thought of what would happen when people found out.""When people found out my mother was in a drowning accident?""No, Katherine. When people found out your mother was wandering around outside by herself in a nightgown while her child slept and her baby - her starving baby -  wailed. What kind of woman would do that?"Her mouth firmed. "I was protecting you. People would say your mother had a lover. That she was meeting him near the river and after a quarrel decided to run away. That she never loved her children or her husband. Rumours would start, and soon you and your brother would be bastards."I sucked air down to my toes. "Aunt Maud. They said that anyway."Before my eyes, she aged. "I know, Katherine." she half-whispered. "What could I do? I moved you out of here. I gave you a new home, a good life. Phillip wouldn't have been any better knowing the truth - he'd still have taken shelter in a decanter - and there was noone else that needed to know." She ignored Clay's indrawn breath. "I didn't realize until a few years later that this man here" - she nodded towards Clay -"had cow eyes for your Mama, or that she had been such friends with Minna Clairborne.""I regret hurting them."Porter's arm was around my shoulder now. I didn't feel alone.Looking at her, I could see the toll this had taken on her. The years of secrets. The years of regrets."Maud," I said, leaning forward, "what did you tell Grand-dad?"She leaned back in her chair, surprised. "Stanton? He knew Alice was going downhill. He knew she couldn't handle being a mother. He knew she...." she trailed off.Drily, I filled in the obvious blank. "That she was thinking of leaving?"Maud snapped."That she'd decided to leave. She was going to go home. She was going to give up. Stanton knew she was unhappy. He didn't need to know she was dead. It was kinder to let him think she'd just left without saying goodbye."All the years of not knowing where my mother was. The years of whispers and taunts, of not thinking I was good enough, that I'd been left... came down to one woman's fears. All of them.I heard the clicking of toenails and then Wood shoved his head into my lap. Smiling a bit through my tears, I petted his silky ears and ruffled his neck fur. "Oh, good doggie. Such a good boy." He broke the ten[...]



out in the moonlight

2013-07-06T09:34:59.579-03:00

Maud's face was taut with rage. "Katherine Alice. How could you sit here and listen to...to this nonsense! I loved your mother."I goggled at her, unsure if I was really seeing her or not. "Maud? Why are you here?"She snorted, delicately, and stepped into the seat Clay scrambled to offer. Ignoring his furious blush and his protests that he hadn't meant it, that he'd only thought she was involved in the beginning, she looked straight at me, seething."I came here.....because Minna Clairborne called me. She seems to think you needed me to be here for this festival of yours, that you needed me to see what you've done over your summer. Now I walk in here and you're listening to lies. Katherine Alice, did I raise you this way?"Porter's hand was warm around mine, his presence calming. His eyes when they met mine were confused but steadfast. He had no idea what was happening, but offered love and support."No, Maud, you didn't. I'm really glad you came for the festival. This is, though, my home, and you should have called to let me know you were coming.Clay and Porter and I were discussing the night my mother disappeared. Do you have something to add?"Maud made a rude noise. "I'd love to hear this conversation."Porter looked over at her, his dark eyes flashing. "The night Katie's Mama disappeared, you were here. What happened, Maud?"Maud was vibrating a little in her chair, the anger pulsing up from her clenched hands into the taut cords in her throat. I could tell she really wanted to tell the gardener's son that he was meddling in things that weren't any of his business, but she held it in. "Katie? You call her Katie?"Porter nodded. "I do."Maud dismissed him with a flick of her eyes and centered in on me. "You know she was wandering out of the house at night, right?"I shook my head. Clay nodded. "I did hear something about that."I shot him a narrow-eyed look but kept silent.Maud snorted. "Two gorgeous babies, a husband that adored her, a new house, gardens to play in. None of it was enough for her. She wouldn't sleep, wouldn't eat, wouldn't nurse you - she said she could feel her life being sucked out of her when she did - walked all over the property in her nightdress (Maud's voice was scandalized. You'd have thought poor Mama had been caught voting Democrat) and wouldn't tell us what was wrong. I begged her, Katherine Alice. She was asleep. Like her light had gone out. We'd bring her the baby - you - and she'd smile and coo but the minute we left her with you she'd just let you cry.She started stalking the grounds soon after that. You were hungry all the time. We tried you on goats milk and cows milk and honey and water, but you were never full. Never happy. Always red-faced and screaming. It got so your Daddy was the only one who could talk Alice into feeding you at all, and only if he distracted her long enough. Most of the time she'd listen to him for awhile then reach down and yank you away, and you'd squall loud enough so she'd leave. Go walking in her gardens, her blouse all rucked up and barely covering her.Maud went on, her finger stabbing the air for emphasis. "She was going to leave your father, you know. She was going to move back home - Stanton tried to talk her out of it, but she was determined - and leave Dover with a toddler and a baby. And Alice wouldn't have looked back.""There was something broken in her. And she was getting wild. There were nights when I'd come up to Bailey and she'd not come to bed all night. Dover would rock you and rock you and rock you, but even though you were wailing loud enough to wake the neighbors - Minna even offered to feed you, since she'd just had Julia, but your father wouldn't hear of it - your mother was indifferent. She'd coo at you [...]



memories

2013-03-03T20:35:36.489-04:00

Porter tried another tack. "Dad, when did Minna and Maud last talk?"

Clay set his coffee mug down.  "I guess - the last time I saw them together was the day the children left. Minna wanted to keep you here, you know. She said it was inhumane to take you both away from where you'd grown up, where your father was, where your mother would expect to find you. Maud said that people were beginning to talk -she was right- and that she would bring the babies back the minute Alice re-appeared. After Minna carried on a bit, Maud said she'd think about it, but then the next morning y'all were....gone."

He stared at the table, rubbing the grain slowly with his thumb. "I'd never seen Minna cry like that. She would come over and put her baby down on a blanket in the garden and wander around, weeping big silent tears and touching the apple trees. Then she'd go down and stare out over the river, hugging herself and shivering. Her eyes were red for weeks. Minna thought the world of Alice, and having you taken away was awful for her."

I thought for a minute. "So Maud just took Dover and I and left Daddy here?"

He nodded. "Phillip was like a sleepwalker. He wasn't very capable of taking care of you, Kitty. He didn't really know what to do with a baby - Alice had taken care of Dover  -  and when you would fuss he'd try to figure out what was wrong and then get irritable when you wouldn't stop crying. It wasn't the best situation.
       Maud told Phillip she'd take you both back to Rowland and find a nanny for you. Dover could start school there if he was there long enough, and that way Phillip could concentrate on trying to find Alice."

"Instead" I broke in "we never went back. Daddy died still mourning Mama, and Grand-Dad and Maud just....took us in."

Clay looked relieved. "Yes."

Porter was holding my hand so tightly I was wincing a bit. "But Dad, you didn't believe Alice just disappeared, did you? So tell us - who did you think murdered Alice?"

Clay looked miserable.  "I thought....I thought...."

A sound from the hallway brought his head up. There stood Maud, a look of distaste on her face.

"I thought" said Clay, all in a rush, "that Maud had killed her."



(image)



long time coming

2013-06-20T22:28:25.170-03:00

Clay sighed. "It's been so long. A long long time to think someone's involved without having any proof."I stood up and went to the stove, bringing the pot with me and refilling the mugs.  I worked to keep my voice calm and non-judgmental. "Was there someone you thought was guilty?" Any reason you didn't turn them in?He snorted. "It's a small town, Kitty. I've been thinking about this for years."Porter moved to grab an apple out of the big copper bowl I kept on the table. "Dad, who do you think did it?"His father looked old. Old, and tired. "I've thought it was just about everyone at one point or another. When the posters started getting papered over with lost dog and flea market notices, your Great-Aunt came down and stayed with you kids while your father got reacquainted with a bottle.When Maud took you two and moved away, people ...stopped talking about it. Then your Daddy's Mama claimed the house after your Dad died,  the trees grew in so you couldn't tell anything was here, and people just....forgot. Shit, (he looked at me guiltily, and I nodded to acknowledge the slip, and he went on) after the Fosters' house burnt a couple of years ago, this place stopped being the 'haunted' house for the kids, even. People just pushed Alice into the past, and forgot her."He raised his head and caught my eye. "I didn't forget."I was holding Porter's hand now, clutching it tightly, his hand running soothingly over my knuckles."So help me, Clay. Tell me what you know."He began hesitantly. Life living near the woman he'd always had a soft spot for had been hard. It was hard being near her, seeing that (he threw me an apologetic glance) the man she'd married didn't deserve her, that she was big-bellied with another child that would tie her to this man forever. She was so happy, so overjoyed to be having another baby, even after the bad time she'd had with her first."She loved you from the moment she knew you were coming," Clay said gently. "Don't ever, ever forget that."I was swallowing back sobs that wanted to rise in my throat.  How, I wanted to say, do you go from loving a baby with your whole heart to leaving, just leaving, and never coming home? How do you leave? And how do you not come back?I  nodded. There just didn't seem to be much to say."I stayed near, you know. I tried to help as much as I could. I've never let your mother's gardens go wild, not even the ones down by the river.And when your grandfather said I could live here, I did. I couldn't (he reddened) bear to stay here, not here where she lived, but I love the little house. It keeps me close to her."Porter put a peeled orange in front of me. I was suddenly bemused by the thought that we were going to eat the fruit bowl for breakfast, the three of us, and had a quick second of shame that I hadn't cooked something. Then I caught myself, thanked him with a quiet word, and got back to the conversation."Who did you suspect?"He shot me a crooked grin. "Right off the bat, your father. I think most of the town did. He and Alice had been having rows since they found out she was pregnant again, and having Maud come by all the time didn't help much. She was.."I stopped him. "Maud was here?"Clay wore a quizzical smile. "She was here a lot, Kitty. She'd come down, spend a few days, help your mother, then leave again and do the same thing the next weekend. I thought Phillip must have bitten his tongue a lot, having an extra wife. But she was a great help, especially after you were born. She organized people to fill sand-bags when the river started rising, you know. The night your Mom disappeared.""Huh" I said. "I don't think I ever knew she was here when that happened."Clay sh[...]



crush (crushed)

2013-01-01T17:32:39.727-04:00

Clay's mouth hung open. He sounded dazed and horrified. "You what?"

Porter's hand was still cold in mine, but his voice was clear and resolute. "I heard you, Dad. I heard you tell Mom to get the shovel. Now why did you do that?"

Clay looked at me, and I shivered. He still looked like the kindly man who had smoothed my transition here and helped me in so many ways, but was he? Was he my friend? Or had he hurt or (my mind shied away from completing that thought) done something to my mother?And if he had,  how could I ever trust my instincts again? Suddenly the thought of knowing my mothers' fate wasn't as appealing as it had been.

But Clay was still speaking, his hands tight on the mug before him on the table, his eyes cast down, his voice far away.

"I think", he said, picking up the salt shaker and moving it around restlessly, " that I loved Alice from the very first time I saw her." He smiled across at me. "Not that she paid me any mind, though. She was always someone else's girl. I used to stare at the back of her hat in church and wish that just once she'd turn around and beam one of those wonderful haunting smiles towards me.But I don't think she ever really saw me.I was just the kid from down the street."

His grin faded. "She fell in love and married and had your brother the same year I married Grace. Gracie was a beautiful, kind woman - you have her eyes, son  - who knew she wasn't the love of my life. I think, though, that she never knew who was. I tried to spare her that. We were happy."

Porter stirred. "I know Mom loved you, Dad. What happened that night?"

Shaking his head, Clay looked back into the years. "I'd spoken to Alice a few days before - we'd talked about her new baby girl and how happy she was - and then the river began to rise, and everyone's attention turned to filling sandbags and keeping the water out of the town. Your father was looking for your Mama, and he'd asked me to keep an eye out for her while I was around town." He sighed. "They....disagreed sometimes, Katherine. Your Mama spent some nights at Minna's house. By the time the waters weren't such a threat anymore, Alice was nowhere to be found."

"Porter" he said gently, "you don't really think I....." He broke off and then went on, his voice stronger."I looked for her every day. I wanted her to come home."

I could barely see through the tears in my eyes. He was telling the truth, anyone could see that. He'd loved and lost and he'd just laid his entire soul bare, and I believed him.

Porter stretched his arm out. "Dad. I'm sorry."

"But help us. Who else could it be?"





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twilight

2013-03-03T19:17:53.972-04:00

It was something, Porter told me, hunting for words, his eyes focusing on events far back in time, that he remembered from when he was a boy. Something that had stayed with him, but until he heard my mothers story and met me hadn't really made any sense.

"I remember my father coming in from work," he said, his hand touching mine, "and I remember how angry he was. My mother was sleeping on the couch  - she usually did when he was working late - and he blew right past her - no hello, no kiss, no how was your day. I was at the top of the stairs - I'd been up in my room playing with a toy and my flashlight. Even that young, I didn't sleep very well, and it had been thundering. My father shouted for my mom "Gracie! Get up! Alice is gone!"

I slid my my fingers around his, noticing that his hand was cold in mine. "It sounds like your Dad was really upset when Mama disappeared, Porter. Were they friends?"

He nodded. I couldn't understand the tenseness that still flooded from him. "Why does that memory make you angry?"

"Because, Katie, my Dad didn't grab a flashlight or a bullhorn or round up my mother into a rescue posse and go beating the woods. My father told my mother to put on her dark coat and to grab the shovel."

I sat back, mouth agape, putting the pieces together, trying for a way that didn't paint Clay in a bad light, and failing.

Porter looked miserable. "I've been over this again and again in my head, Kate, trying to remember  more about that night. What stands out the most is my Dad was so angry. I'd never seen him that upset. He snapped at my mother  - he usually treated her like a queen - and roared at me to go back to bed when he caught a glimpse of me huddled at the top of the stairs."

I thought. Clay had always been so open, so friendly. But I had no experience with murderers, and couldn't trust my instincts. Or could I?

I listened to Porter's heart beat under my cheek. (When had I moved toward him?  He was comforting and familiar and smelt like paint thinner and fresh air, and despite what he'd told me, I was relaxing in his arms.)

He kissed the top of my head. "I think" he said, angling so he could see my face, "we need to talk to my father."

I nodded. "Tomorrow."
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light blue

2012-12-01T21:09:26.314-04:00

I couldn't get Maud to talk about Mama anymore. She'd huffed at me when I asked if she'd like to stay the night and called for a taxi, and we'd had twenty minutes of horrible, stilted conversation while she waited. She had said that the house looked terrific, but I was left with the impression we hadn't talked about what she really came to say when she offered her cheek to be kissed and finally said goodbye.

I puzzled on that the rest of my evening - if showing up and warning me off finding out my history wasn't the purpose of her visit, than what on earth had been?


The next morning came without any clear answers, and I yawned my way through breakfast. I was finding Wood's leash for the walk to the grocery when he woofed once and went to the back door, waggling all over the place. I went to the door, telling him he was a very undignified dog indeed, and went immediately tongue-tied and clammy at the sight of Porter on my porch.




I quelled the silly girl inside me that wanted to sigh with how handsome he looked, forced my features into a delighted (I hoped not foolish) grin, and sang out "Good morning!"

He smiled. "Katie. I brought you something." He held out a crumpled lunch sack. All sorts of romantic, foolish things popped into my head - flowers? Candy? Jewelry? A letter professing undying love?

Where, I asked myself, did that thought come from??

He tipped the contents out into his hand. "I saw these up at Hanover Ridge, and I thought they'd match that little chest of drawers. Was I right?"

I touched one of the antique drawer pulls, admiring their soft shine. "Perfect. Thank you."

 His voice was very soft. "Katie?' He was so close, all rugged hair and big dark eyes and Porter....

And then Porter Ryan kissed me, there on the porch with the sun lighting up the flowers we'd planted and the breeze sighing in agreement and my knees just disappeared. He stepped back and smiled down at me. 'Good morning. What should we do today?'



That evening, after a day spent refinishing, sanding, and painting the chest of drawers in the hallway (it wore its new coat of pale pale blue well, and the little knobs twinkled like stars) and two long walks around the town and sandwiches eaten near the pond, we sat watching Wood run through the yard and talked about the Peach Festival. I was telling Porter about the committee I was on 'The women there are very kind and very, very politely trying to kill each other. It's funny watching them smile and knowing that the other shoe will be dropping any moment. But that will be over soon - the Festival is next week!"

Porter laughed. "I hope this town will survive!"  He eased himself out of the rocker, looked toward where the first stars were beginning to peep out of the sky, blew out a breath, and asked "Kate, how invested are you in finding out about your Mom?"

It took me a minute to catch on. "Very invested. Why?"

"Because I think I might know where she went."












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a warning shot

2013-02-01T21:39:59.645-04:00

The next morning (after being woken by a cold dog nose and a fine slop of slobber) I was drinking coffee and rubbing Wood absently with my foot, thinking about last night,  when I heard a 'Hellooooo!" echo through the downstairs. It was Julia. Wood scrambled up and made a beeline for her, woofing the whole way. "Well, hello there, gorgeous." Julia said, leaning down and ruffling his head. The hound sighed and rolled over on his back, all paws in the air. Men seemed to do that around Julia.She eyed me. "Taking the day off?" I nodded, suddenly aware of how my paint-splattered jeans and tee shirt looked less than crisp next to her own garb, and tried to resist the urge to pull at my clothes.I was so glad to have a day off. I wanted nothing more than to hole up in the house, admire all the work I'd done, and maybe indulge in a giant bubble bath."I thought we could go over ......"she broke off, seeing my face fall, and revised (fairly obviously) what she had been going to say. "To Bangs Falls and look at dresses for the opening night of the festival. There'll be a dance, you know." She eyed me, a grin creeping over her face. "After, of course, we go over these figures for the refreshment tent."Ah well, what was a bath compared to going shopping with a friend? I smiled back. "Of course. After the figures. Just give me a minute to change."I was a tired girl that night. I'd spent far more than I'd planned to, but Julia had a talent for finding outfits that made me look as if I had a shape, and I'd enjoyed myself immensely. I'd even brought back a collar and lead for Wood. I was totally unprepared for my doorbell to ring as I held up clothes so the dog could stare puzzledly at them. (Wood's brain: Is a food? No? Oh. Next item: Is a food?)I recouped a little as I went for the door. It must be Julia, I thought, and had a smile on my face as I swung the door open "Did you forget something? I think we forgot my......" and trailed off, because it wasn't Julia at the door.It was Maud. I stared, open-mouthed. She stood silently regarding me for a few moments, then rolled her eyes and huffed. "Really, Kitty, I know I taught you more manners than this. Invite me in, girl, and close your mouth before the flies get in."I gathered my thoughts. "Of course, Aunt Maud. Come in. Did Ford bring you here?"Aunt Maud shook her head, her eyes darting everywhere, taking in all the changes I'd laboured over - the new soft paint colours, the lacy curtains, the  furniture now covered in pale fabrics.  She looked askance at Wood's dog bed, sitting near the fireplace. "Kitty! Do you have an...animal living here?"I grinned. I couldn't help it. "Aunt Maud, meet Wood. He's the one sniffing your shoes right now."She squeaked a bit and jumped back, then took in his waving tail and foolish look of doggy devotion, and ....smiled? Aunt Maud smiled? and put out her hand. My dog rose to the occasion, not jumping or slobbering, just calmly accepting her murmurings as his due and snorting when she stopped patting his head.I'd never had a dog at the Rowland house because Maud was so set against them - they dropped hair everywhere and dragged dirt in the house and rolled in disgusting things and would probably eat the supper right off the table, to hear her tell it. So to see her calmly making friends with my hound was a little surreal.She looked up after a minute, with a wistful smile on her face. "I've missed having a dog about." I goggled at her. She coloured a bit and then pulled some of the old steel back into her spine like a well-worn coat. "Kitt[...]



under the stars

2013-03-03T19:14:47.332-04:00

The past month had been a whirlwind. Clay and I had been working hard on the house, Julia had convinced me to serve on the festival committee, and I'd acquired a dog. Porter was around enough to make my breath catch, helping his father paint and plaster, sending me long slow smiles, disappearing in the afternoons, reappearing with parcels and packages under his arm, always with that steady look. I was breathless a lot, and it didn't all seem to be from the work..I was sprawled across the rocker, tiredly studying the stars just starting to peep out past the porch roof and trying to work up some enthusiasm to go figure out dinner when a cough and a footstep alerted me that I had a visitor. Wood, the half-grown hound pup Clay had found skulking around the junkyard when he'd been dropping off a load from the basement, lifted his head, thumped his tail once, then relaxed again. I wasn't surprised when Porter stepped into the circle of light - Wood had spent two weeks with Clay and Porter before finding his way up the drive and into the house. (I had better treats.) Now he showed no signs of leaving and I..... liked it. I'd never had a dog, but he was company and it was nice to have life in the house. His foolish face smiled a lot, and he was a pretty good listener.The ghost of Mama seemed to have retreated. These days, I was living fully in the present - working hard, learning who I was, growing up. Maud would be surprised."My, Miss Kitty, you do look a sight" Porter said, half-mockingly. "Did you and Dad finish everything today?"I was sleepy and content where I was and suddenly, horribly aware of what a wreck I must look like. This is my house, I told myself sternly, ignoring how my stomach leapt when I saw him. I look tired and a mess because today has been long and hard and I got a lot done. But...."No, not everything. But quite a bit. I'm learning a lot. I think I ask more questions than your Dad has time for, but he's been terrific. And look at the house!"He rocked back on his heels and stuck his hands on the pockets of his jeans. "She's coming alive, all right."I scrambled up and went out on the lawn, admiring my home. Pink, purple and yellow coneflowers and lantana rioted in the windowboxes and lined the newly re-bricked walk, lending happy colours to the scrubbed brick of the steps and chimney and re-whitewashed siding. Soft light glowed in the windows, Wood snored on the porch, and the dusk dressed the old house like a dowager in her best dress.I was happy, I realized suddenly, and couldn't resist a quick turn on the grass. Porter put out his hand and pulled me to him, grinning, then spun me away. "A dance, Katie? Under the stars?" He hummed something under his breath and lowered his head to mine, his arms continuing to shuffle me slowly around the square.His voice died after a minute, and I lifted my head to see him staring intently at me. Instantly blushing (and glad that the deepening twilight made it likely he couldn't tell) I swallowed a few times and blurted the first thing that came into my head "I like it when you call me Katie."Porter looked amused. "You do, huh? I find it much easier to make a girl pay attention to me if I call her by her name. 'Hey you' doesn't work as well." He was stepping back, diffusing the odd tension that had sprung up between the two of us when he took me in his arms, and I was grateful to him for it."No, I mean it. The only one who calls me Katie is my grandfather. Maud called me Kitty the first time she saw me, and it stuck."He studied my face. "You look like a [...]



tea and flowers

2013-03-03T19:12:46.197-04:00

Julia's house was stunning. Stunning. Like something out of a magazine. I was feeling a little country-mouse-goes-to-town while I waited on the porch, but that disappeared when I saw Julia's wide welcoming smile. "Katherine! You came. I think Momma's in the sunroom - come on back and we'll go find her."Minna Clairborne was a tiny woman with the face of an angel and a back bowed by years of illness.  She waved me into a chair near hers and chirped "Oh, you look just like your Mama! Alice had the same eyes and pretty little hands. I'd know you anywhere, child. Come tell me what you've been doing."Julia brought in teacups and passed around sweets while I regaled them both of what had been happening  this summer, how I'd uprooted myself and come to Bailey, how people were changing the house around me, how waking up to diesel engines and the sounds of work-boots clomping didn't phase me anymore.Julia whistled. "Sounds like everything in your life changed. Are you missing anyone back home?" She waggled her eyebrows at me, ignoring her mother's shocked hiss. "Julia!""Oh, Momma. Besides, that handsome Porter's back in town for the summer, and living right on her doorstep. If he's going to have a broken heart, I'd like to know about it. Might want to stand in line." She laughed at her mother's expression. "I'm kidding, Momma. Porter Ryan is still just the boy who used to pull my pigtails."I felt a quick twinge of something - was it relief? - that pretty, smart Julia didn't see Porter  - well, that way -  and changed the subject to Aunt Maud, feeling my cheeks heat up."Aunt Maud hasn't been here to see the house. I wonder if she's waiting until it's all finished?"Mrs. Clairborne patted my hand. "Maud always was a firecracker. She gave your mama fits when she and your daddy first got married - wanted everything to be proper all the time, when your Mama was more....relaxed, dear. Alice was a gentle soul, but she could get riled up with Maud - I swear the first year they were married she must have threatened to leave six or seven times. 'Get that woman off my back, Phillip,' she'd laugh. 'You never knew what you were marrying into!' And he'd grin at her and tell her she brought the crazy into the marriage. Of course when they had your brother, he had to take care of your mama for awhile while she got her strength back, and that summer was when things changed. Alice never told me what they said, but things were never the same between Phillip and Maud after that." She smiled. "But people have a way of taking little insults and blowing them up out of proportion. By the time Dover was in knee-pants, things were simmered down. But then, a few days after your Mama ran over here all excited to tell me she was having another baby, Maud showed up on her doorstep and there was a hummer of a row. Maud was screeching  and your mother was shouting back that she'd do as she pleased and your father was stuck in the middle of it, trying to make peace where there was suddenly none."Mrs. Clairborne jumped as the clock bonged. "My! You shouldn't have let me go on like that. Julia, why don't you take Katherine out and show her the gardens and I'll clear away these tea things. Katherine, Julia will invite you to tea again soon - next time I'll try not to get stuck in stories about long ago!"I had so many questions, but I dutifully followed Julia out to the gardens and admired the flowers and shrubbery there. Sinking down on a bench, Julia smiled at me, twining some blossoms around her fin[...]



julia and porter

2012-10-14T23:24:22.027-03:00

Mrs. Thayer ruffled up her feathers and scowled across the room. "Pheobe! I don't know where you left your manners, but you certainly didn't bring them here!" Miss Brooks looked chastened but unbowed. "Gloria, you know that last years' festival was poorly attended, and never so much as the day of that play." A quiet murmur of support ran around the room. Mrs. Thayer looked furious. Before she could speak, the woman sitting to my immediate right rapped her notebook sharply on the table. "Ladies! We are not here tonight to decide the details of the gala - tonight's meeting was to discuss general ideas only. Besides (she stared down everyone until they fell silent.) Kendall Thayer is away at university now, and will NOT be returning to our fair city for the next festival." I could have been mistaken, but I could have sworn I heard a soft 'Thank God' come from her lips as she fussed with her papers. "Now, who is leading the refreshments committee this year?"I tuned them out, smiling and nodding in the right places,wondering why on earth Grand-Dad had been so insistent that I involve myself with this group, and busied myself watching faces.There was a lot of feeling expressed about just how this years' festival would be run. Last year, I idly thought, could not have been good. The women were hard into it, several sharp conversations going on at once, their heads dipping with emphasis, voices rising. The woman to my right (Julia, I suddenly remembered, her name is Julia) let out a tiny 'tsk!' of annoyance, then sighed and let them all go. She glanced my way and our eyes caught. She shrugged a shoulder, and I realized she was very near my age. "I time it." she said, simply. "It does them good to get the irritations off their chests. And last year  there was- well, there is a lot of irritation over last year. I give them seven minutes, and then I'll call them back into order. That way", she said, flashing a surprisingly fond smile at the still-quarreling women around the table, "no one will have time to say anything they'll really regret, they'll feel better for getting it out, and we can all get back to business. You must be Katherine - I'm Julia Clairborne. It's a pleasure. My mother couldn't be here tonight - but she'd love to meet you. Come around tomorrow for tea?"I was taken aback and charmed, all at once. "I'd love to" I said at last. "Oh! " she said, glancing up at the big clock hanging on the wall. "Time to reign in the passions. Ladies. Ladies!"And we swept into a storm of signing people up to head committees and assigning tasks to others. The big clock boinged twice more before we adjourned, and Julia bid most of them goodbye before turning to me. "Clay will be able to point out where we live, but I think you've probably seen it. The big yellow house at the corner, right before your driveway.""We're neighbors?""We are. And Momma would love to see you. She was friends with your Mom when she first moved here, and she remembers you as a tiny girl. Come by tomorrow after lunch?""I think I'd really like that."I stepped out into the hot sun and looked around for Clay. Not seeing him (the hardware store? The bank? Where would I look?) I set off towards the end of town, mulling over the meeting and trying to put faces to names. I walked past the tall man lounging against the bumper before I realized that I was standing in front of Clay's truck."Well now", a voice drawled. "You must be Kitty." I looked up. "I'm Porter. Dad said to com[...]



time and tide

2013-03-03T19:09:07.757-04:00

BobbyKyle woke me up. Well, not him, exactly, but his giant, belching-smoke machinery did. I sat straight up in bed and discovered that a man with a worn gimme cap was felling limbs right next to my window. He winked as I yelped and dove for my robe. By the time I hit the kitchen, hair still wet from my shower, the roar of his big truck was gone and he was seated at the table with Clay, both men deep in conversation, coffee cooling in front of them. "Hey, Miss Kitty" said Clay easily, "what's going on for today?" He nodded his head towards BobbyKyle. "Bobby tells me he met you this morning." BobbyKyle had a firm grip and a shyer smile than I would have thought for someone who had already seen me in my nightgown. "Hullo, miss" he said, shambling to his feet and shaking my hand. "I'm so glad someone's come back to live here. This old lady (he gestured at the room) was getting lonely all by herself." He looked around the kitchen. "The inside's not bad. There's a big spot of the gingerbread over the eaves that's broken though, and there's some rot in the porch. Don't you worry. We'll get her shining." Clay nodded."No one better for that then BobbyKyle. He practically grew up here. He'll soon set her straight." BobbyKyle launched into a complicated tale of neighbors and Sunday dinners and climbing apple trees and while I didn't quite understand it all, by the end of it I knew he loved the old house I had and would make her new and proud again. We were wet from washing all the windows (our chore for today)and covered in bits of leaves and debris, BobbyKyle still shearing branches high above us, letting the sun come sparkling through to the windows when I heard a discreet cough and turned to see my Grandfather, holding a grip of flowers, eyes twinkling down at me. "So, Katie, I see you've met Clay. What do you think of your new house?" I launched myself at him, feeling suddenly homesick and very small when I felt his arms around me."Hey now." he said softly, patting my back. "No tears. I came to bring you these and to see what you've done to the old place." I felt less shaky, and raised a smiling face to him. "Come inside and see what we've dreamed up." I had Grand-Dad settled at the kitchen table with tea and the drawings that Clay and I had worked so hard on before I spoke. "Grand-Dad, why didn't you tell me this was Mama's house? And what do you want me to do here in Bailey this summer?" Grand-Dad put down his cup."I didn't tell you, Katherine, because I wanted you to fall in love with the place before you found out its' history." He chuckled. "That didn't happen, huh?" He twinkled again. "I wondered if Ford would remember." "Katherine, I wanted you to live here because I think you can find your Mama." He waved a hand. "I know that everyone thinks she's gone. I can't, though - there's a part of my heart that refuses to believe my daughter is dead. So, I brought you down here. You alone in this family have the guts and determination to find Alice, and bring her home." I opened my mouth to protest - this happened years ago! Teams of trained police officers couldn't find her! How on earth could I - and closed it with a snap when I saw his face and the trust shining out of his eyes. I nodded. "All right, Grand-Dad. I'll try." [...]



front porch

2013-03-03T19:07:11.849-04:00

After supper Ford ferried Clary to her cousin's house, and I cleared up the kitchen and wandered out onto the porch, making notes about what I wanted to do first. I was still thinking about Mama and wondering why Grand-Dad hadn't told me this was her home  - and what was I supposed to do with this information? - when Ford came back. He folded his long self into one of the (squeakily protesting) rockers and looked out over the shaggy yard. He took tea with a murmered thanks but stayed deep in thought until I poked at him."Ford? Why didn't Grand-Dad tell me he'd bought Mama's house? I know he didn't tell Maudie - she'd have been all over that as another excuse not to let me go. Another damned-fool reason to milk the past and hurt the girl, Stanton." My voice shook a bit, but I imitated Aunt Maud anyway.My uncle shook his head. "I don't know, Kitty. It seems like something you should have been told." He looked around with a frown.  "I must have been here before, but I don't really remember. I'm sure I don't remember Alice in this house."Shaking off his pensive mood, Ford grinned. "Well now, girlie, what are you going to do next?"Pump Grand-Dad for information was on the tip of my tongue, but I coughed back the words and took a long sip of my drink. "I think I'm going to spend tomorrow going through the house.  I'd like to poke around a bit and explore, and then Grand-Dad is going to have to explain this 'business' he wants me to help with. "My uncle checked his wristwatch. "I promised Clary I'd pick her up in an hour. But until then, what can I help you with? I heard you and Clary discussing a desk..."That night I didn't sleep well. I blamed it on the strange creaks and groans the unfamiliar house made, and the wind busily dragged tree branches across my bedroom window. I decided I wasn't just going to lie there, and was up and in the shower at seven a.m, mind full of errands to run and paint colours to pick and....Downstairs, I turned the corner and pulled up short when I realized there was a man in my kitchen. "Hi there" he said, holding out a mug of coffee. "You must be Miss Kitty. I'm Clay." I wanted to scream - should have screamed, most of my training had prepped me to scream - but his wide brown eyes and crinkly smile disarmed me a bit, and I took the offered drink. A few sips later and I was ready to talk."Just Kitty, please. You're the caretaker?"He laughed softly and shrugged a shoulder. "Something like that. Now that there's actually someone living in the big house, I'll get BobbyKyle down here to thrash back those trees. It'll give you more light. And I'll be around if you need anything."The coffee had loosened my tongue. "My uncle said you could tell me about the town."He shrugged, easy. "Sure. Anytime you want to hear a bunch of old stories, you let me know. I grew up here, married a local girl, raised my kids a few blocks from here.  My wife died a few years back. Her relatives owned our house, I had nowhere to go, and Stanton said I could stay here if I helped keep it tidy and running, just in case Miss Alice came back home. But it's too big for me - this place lost it's light when Miss Alice die....(he gulped and reddened a bit) ah....left - and so I stay here in the little house. It suits me better."I raised an eyebrow. "The little house?"He nodded. "It's at the foot of the driveway. I'm sure you saw it coming in."I was aghast. "The shack?"He chuckle[...]



bailey

2012-08-30T13:01:37.745-03:00

And within a few weeks, I did.Aunt Maud had not been keen about my moving out. Grand-Dad finally broke into her chain of 'but what if this happens' with a quiet 'Maudie, do you really think I would send our Katie-girl out into harm's way?' after which she sighed heavily and began writing lists of things I could take with me to my new summer place.It was arranged that Ford would drive me down, and to my surprise, Clary was in the front seat when we went out the door. Her face lit up. 'Kitty! Can you believe this? You're going to be living down the road from my cousin's house! Ford said I could ride along and I'll go see Judy Mae while you're getting settled. This is goin' to be so much fun!" Her enthusiasm made it easier to get in the car and ride away from the only home I remembered.I couldn't resist a backwards glance at the house - was that shadow Aunt Maud standing behind the etched glass front door? -  and then we were gone.Clary and Ford talked in soft tones while I lounged in back, cradling a wicker hamper that Clary's mama had sent with her so I wouldn't have to cook right away, and wondered if there had ever been a prettier day for changing destinies. Rowland slipped away as my thoughts went back and forth, and soon we were on the highway, avoiding trucks and laughing about signs on the side of the road. "The fruitcake capitol of the world?" My friend shot me a grin. "I didn't know Miss Venie had family here." She broke the tension, and we both giggled.Bailey was a pretty town - shabby old houses set under huge trees jockeyed for position with newer low-slung homes, most with kids' toys in the yards. The sidewalks were wide and only crazed slightly with moss and treeroots, and the park was green and deep and cool.I was beginning to get lost in my own sea of doubts - could I really live by myself? - when Ford slowed, then stopped the car. 'Taa-daa!' he said, pointing over the side of the car at a very overgrown patch of jungl-y bushes and vines. Off to one side there was a weedy driveway and a very small, ramshackle held-together-with-spit-and-hope building perched unsteadily on the edge.Clary wrinkled her nose. "Really? That's it?"Ford chuckled. " No, that's the shed. C'mon." He lifted one of my suitcases and a lamp and left me with the picnic basket, while Clara grabbed the mess of quilts and pillows I'd brought with me. We trudged up into the greenery, our feet making soft snicking sounds on the gravel. I was busily keeping branches away from my face when Ford stopped. "Well, Kitty, here it is."I looked up  - it seemed to take a long time - and followed Ford's outstretched arm. Tucked up atop a gentle rise set a light-coloured house with a porch. The trees pressed in on it, making it look very close and dark, and the whole picture had an air of sadness at being forgotten.Ford whistled. "I had no idea she'd look that bad. Grand-Dad said he'd had someone checking up on the house - he was told it was ready to move in. I'm not sure I should leave you here."But I was curious, and afraid that if I left, I'd never come back. "C'mon. Let's go see the inside."Ford produced a key, and the porch-boards groaned a few times but held when we walked across. The front door was a little warped and only gave way, screeching, when Ford strong-armed it, and the inside smelled close and stuffy but not musty, which probably meant there were no leaks in the roof. The interior[...]