Monday evening when Catherine arrived home she found a single deep red rose lying by her apartment door. Delighted, she picked it up and unlocked her door, glancing around for a card she might have missed. Nope, nothing.
She texted her date from Saturday to thank him, but it soon became embarrassingly obvious he hadn’t sent it. Awkward! If not a florist, how had someone gotten inside the gated apartment complex? How odd. She thought of her neighbors and how little she knew them.
Ouch! She had been clutching the stem too tightly and now there was blood on her hands…
Catherine pondered the question of who the rose was from all evening. She couldn’t shake the sense of someone having been in her apartment, but knew she was being ridiculous. The gentleman from the security company that managed her building had reassured her that no one would be able to get in or out unless they had a pass code or key.
Thoughts of calling the police flitted briefly through her mind, but what would she tell them? That the innocent blood-red rose on her kitchen counter somehow meant something sinister? Right, she could see the police officers’ smiles already. She double checked her door and window locks before turning out the lights and drawing the blinds.
There, off in the distance, did she see a pinprick of light from a match or lighter? But there was no following glow of a cigarette. Still, she stepped quickly aside as she continued to peer out an opening, glad that the wooden blinds hid her shape from outside view. Nothing. Really, what was wrong with her overactive imagination? She needed a good night’s sleep and things would look better in the morning.
In the distance, a tall man cupped his hand around the match as it caught and turned away from the building to light his cigarette, shielding the flame from the night breeze. Nothing seemed amiss in the area, so he got into the van and started his drive home.
Mitch hoped he’d found the right girl after all this time. His little sister would be about 27 or so now, if his memory was right. By the time he’d driven home, he convinced himself that maybe Catherine Delaney deserved to be left alone to live her life in peace. But other than his wife, Sam, he had no other family and it would be nice to think that someone cared about him. And that he had someone to care for, too.
He pulled into the garage and parked the van, closing the door after him against the dark and dampness and prying eyes. Sammy was waiting dinner for him, he knew, and she smiled that sweet and tentative smile that he loved as soon as she saw him.
“Honey, how was your day?” he enfolded her in a big hug and held on tightly. “Mitch, I’m good, so good,” she said excitedly. “I made a celebration dinner for us.”
“Wow, just because I got home on time today?” he laughed, taking off his gun walking into the living room to secure it in the safe. She knew how uncertain his schedule could be and he was surprised she’d make a special dinner without letting him know about it first.
“Come on, babe, sit down and I’ll dish everything up.” Sammy was already hurrying into the kitchen and he saw that she had, indeed, made a big pan of lasagna and her lasagna was one of his favorite things. There was salad and she was just lifting perfectly toasted garlic bread out of the oven.
“My, God, honey, that smells so good,” he almost felt as though he was drooling and picked up his napkin quickly to check. Nope, just starting to salivate over that wonderful tomato and garlic and melted cheese aroma.
Sammy sat down beside him and picked up her wineglass, which seemed to hold something other than the red wine he had in his. “To family,” she said.
Mitch clung to his wineglass with difficulty. Had she suspected he was looking for his long-lost sister? He knew he should have talked to her about this sooner…
“—in about the middle of December!” she finished, looking so thoroughly pleased with herself that he felt bad he’d missed the beginning. “Mitch, you’re all right, aren’t you? I know we hadn’t really talked about me getting pregnant right now, but these things happen –“ Her face fell as she realized he wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying. Oh, no, he looked – disappointed.
A very sweet friend of mine, Patty at Scarlett 79, was kind enough to nominate me for this award. I told her I’d play along, but since I’ve shared ad nauseam about my breast cancer and resulting baldness and now short white hair and new boob (and that was just since August) I cannot imagine there’s much mystery remaining!
Rule 1: Put the award logo/image on your blog.
Rule 2: List the rules.
Rule 3: Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Rule 4: Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well. Okoto Enigma’s blog
Rule 5: Tell your readers three things about yourself.
a) I adore writing fiction, though I started my blog as a book reviewer, hence the name
b) I love sports, especially the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and have ever since I was a teenager taking the El to games! (The El stands for elevated train, which is a form of public transportation in the Chicago area)
c) My favorite color is turquoise, though I love black clothing
Rule 6: You have to nominate 10 to 20 people. Nope. If you would be so kind, please copy this and tell us about yourselves if you are so inclined. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just hate to make people feel obligated…
Rule 7: Notify them.
Rule 8: Ask your nominee any five questions of your choice, one weird or funny question.
My five questions to answer:
What is your dream job? Naming the nail polishes for OPI. Or being a published novelist.
If money were no object, where would you live?? Hawaii. Would you work?? Only at getting a tan!
What is your favorite kind of animal??? Dogs. Do you have any animals?? Two sweet old dogs
East Coast or West Coast?? I like both, have spent more time on the East Coast
What is your favorite food of all time??? Crabcakes
Who’s going to win the Stanley Cup ??? I cannot bring myself to care after the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated 😦
Rule 9: Add a link to my best post. This is the first fiction piece I posted.
You can find earlier excerpts from The Reunion here
“So, can we see the rest of the place?” Jen was surprised at the excitement she felt in looking around at the inn. “I haven’t been in here except maybe once or twice when we were kids.”
Brian paused. “Well, maybe tomorrow or the next day if that’s okay. I want to give the floors time to dry really well before we walk on them. The plumber and electrician are coming in tomorrow, too, so maybe the day after and I’ll give you a personal tour?”
“Sure, that would be nice. I’d love to hear about how you decided to buy and run an inn in our old hometown.”
“Well, actually, I’d love to tell you. Why don’t we get dinner tonight and catch up?” Brian was proud of working in the invitation he’d been planning. Jen smiled, “Thanks, I’d like that. “
Jimmy and Pam stood off to the side with slight smiles on their faces, as though none of this was unexpected. Jim turned slightly and Jen thought she saw him wink at Pam. Uh, oh, was this part of the problem with Pam’s husband? She’d bet money that Pam didn’t even realize she was flirting with Jimmy, but if Kevin had seen that look… No, she was probably overreacting. When exactly would Pam and Jimmy ever see each other in this town?
“So, Pammie, we should probably get out of the guys’ way, don’t you think?” Jen wanted to hurry her sister out of the old inn before anything else could happen.
“Oh, of course, sorry. We didn’t mean to hold up all your work!” Pam was immediately apologetic and Jen felt stupid for saying anything. After hugs all around, Jen and Pam took their leave and Brian promised he’d be back at the house by six so he and Jen could get dinner.
Dinner out with Brian turned out to be a lot of fun. Jen had showered and dressed before Brian got home and he hurried to clean up so they were able to leave the house by 6:30. She had already fed and walked Jack and he curled up in his dog bed with a look over his shoulder that clearly admonished her for leaving him again. Jen patted his sweet head and promised quality doggy time later. With a wave of his plumy tail, Jack closed his eyes and drifted to sleep, his favorite evening activity anyway.
Brian had picked a little steak and seafood place for dinner that was about a 30 minute drive away, closer to the city. The hostess led them to their table, smiling sweetly at Brian as she seated them while managing to ignore Jen the entire time. Brian winced apologetically as the hostess walked away, but Jen just smiled and shook her head.
The food was heavenly. Jen had scallops, one of her favorites, grilled to perfection and served on a bed of wild rice and sautéed vegetables. She was glad to see that Brian liked his steak medium rare, because anything rarer than that would have left her nauseated. She liked an occasional piece of beef, too, but she preferred hers more than just warmed over lightly.
“So, Jen,” Brian started after clearing his throat, “I really feel like I should apologize once and for all about senior prom in high school. I was such a geeky idiot back then – yes, I get the irony – still a geek even now, but I like to think I wouldn’t be as big an idiot now. I’m afraid I was more worried about my lack of dancing and romancing skills than I was about hurting your feelings, and I’ve felt terrible about that.”
It was such a sweet apology and Jen couldn’t help but smile at him. “I was angry for a while, but believe me when I tell you I’ve gotten past it, Bri. I even had a boyfriend and a fiancée and an admittedly brief marriage, so you don’t need to spend another moment thinking about it. In fact, I’d really like to hear more about what’s been going on with you all these years.”
Those lovely hazel eyes of his brightened as he pulled out his phone. “Well, after I finished my degree, I got married, too,” he said, “and we have a teenaged daughter.”
At her gasp of surprise he looked a little confused then smiled again as understanding dawned. “Oh. No, not cheating on the wife. We’ve been divorced for a few years now. I wanted to move back to the small town and she wanted to move on to an even bigger city. Cities are just not for me, I’ve found. And when I heard that the old inn was for sale last year, it seemed like the perfect time to move back to Brim. This is my daughter, Casey.”
“Brian, she’s just beautiful!” And she was, all long blond hair and big light eyes and that tall, thin coltish look that Brian had growing up. “It’s hard to put my finger on it, but she definitely takes after you, doesn’t she?”
“Yeah, thankfully she’s got Sherry’s good looks, but she kind of has my build, I guess, although I’m not sure she’d be pleased to hear that. Right now we’re not on the best of terms. I put my foot down about her traveling this summer with a group of kids. She starts college in the fall and that’s a big enough step without backpacking around the country with friends.”
“Mm-hmm, that must be difficult, but –” Jen began.
He looked pained. “Her mother thinks it’s just fine for her to be alone for a month with a bunch of guys and girls I hardly know, not even sure where they’re going to be exactly or what they’ll be doing. I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it was like to be a teenaged boy! And just being safe nowadays. I mean, the stories in the news…” He shuddered.
“But she’d be traveling with several other teenagers in a group?” I’m a little confused as to why he’s totally freaking out.
“Sure, but three girls and three guys, I can just see there won’t be a lot of good judgment going on there. I mean, her boyfriend is a pretty good kid, but he’s heading off to school in Michigan in the fall anyway. And Sherry says she knows these other kids, but really? How well can she know them?”
“Brian, I do understand, but Casey’s what, 18, 19? And she is going to be out from under her parents’ roofs pretty soon anyway. You won’t have a lot of say so when she’s away at school, especially what she’s doing at night or on the weekends. It sounds like you did a great job raising her and now you’ll have to trust her to make good choices.“
Whoops, she knew she’d really stepped into it when his smile thinned and his eyes narrowed. “And you know this from your vast experience with child rearing?”
“El, it’s Jason. Call me, please. Something came up.” Ellie thought of the good-looking firefighter she’d met at Gran’s. He was surprisingly charming and fun and they were going to dinner.
When Ellie called back, Jason explained he was babysitting his 4-year-old nephew, Zak, for the weekend as Zak’s mom had premature labor pains.
“Sorry, El, I hate to cancel, but they’re dropping him off soon. Want to visit the zoo with us tomorrow?” He sounded hopeful.
Zak was all innocence, holding Ellie’s hand as they walked. “Are you gonna marry Uncle Jason and have a baby like my mom?”
My theme this year was 100 word fiction. So, no, don’t count this line. This is a continuation of Ellie and Jason’s story from E is for Easter which you can find here. And thanks for reading all my little stories this year!
Yvonne was certain that Billy’s family would never love her. She hadn’t come from old money or belonged to a country club and she didn’t like cornbread or sugar in her iced tea.
She was a perfectly nice girl from the Midwest with a good education, a great job and a love for Billy that would never quit. But she longed to be part of his family, not just that nice Yankee girl their son married…
Billy pulled her close for a kiss. “I’m sure they’ll come ’round. But it’s okay either way, darling, cause we’re our own family now.”
My theme this year is 100 word fiction. (So, no, don’t count this line.)