I stood up, feeling as though I needed to go back to the lake. “Died? Mozer died? How?”
“All I know is he apparently died in his sleep. Flint called this morning. He said he normally goes out and shovels for people first thing in the day and then goes back to Mozer’s around noon to have lunch with him. Mozer’s bedroom door was still closed, so Flint peeked in on him. He was in his bed. Gone.”
“Oh my gosh!” I sat back down and leaned forward in the chair. “I guess it’s a really good thing the lake house is pretty much ready for Flint then. He’s probably got to get moved out right away.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Mom said. “I don’t know anything about Mozer’s family. I’ve don’t know if he has kids or anything. He’s always been such an onry old cuss, I’ve kept my distance.”
“Yeah, he has,” I agreed. “Do you want me to go to the lake with you and talk to him? He might need a place to stay right away, like tonight.”
“Thank you Vicki, but you need to get yourself settled in your new place. I’ve left Ryan a message. He’ll drive out there with me I’m sure. I’ll call you if I hear anything else.”
“Okay Mom. Talk to you later.” I hung up and leaned back in the rocker. Life was so strange. I actually felt sorry for Flint: after all, Mozer had been his only friend, or so it appeared. And he’d given him a winter home for several years so apparently he enjoyed Flint’s company. I wondered if Flint would miss him or if he cared at all.
I sighed and thought about the unpacking I had to do. Best get to work. I knew Mom would call with an update as soon as she had one.
In the mean time, I wondered why I was suddenly feeling sympathetic toward the half sibling; the one that caused me to leave my beloved lake for this. Yet, as much as I wanted to blame Flint for my impulsive reaction to his presence, I knew I was the only one to blame for signing a year long lease on the seven hundred square foot box I now stood in and called home.
I decided to start with the kitchen.
Three weeks later I was as comfortably settled as I was going to get. Returning to work kept my mind busy and opened the door to a social life I hadn’t had in years. I’d forgotten how much fun it was to go out to lunch every day and stop on a Friday night for a drink and a bite to eat. My work friends welcomed me back as though I’d never left, even though it had been three years. I realized I’d missed them.
It was the third Friday and Jackie and Ben and I were talking about where to go for a TGIF toast and dinner when my cell phone sang out the tune I used for Mom. I answered quickly, hoping she didn’t want to linger.
“Hey, Mom. What’s up?” I struggled into my coat and got car keys out of my purse signaling to my co-workers I’d be just a second.
“Hi, Vicki. Are you on your way home?”
“Closing up the office, but not going home. Jackie and Ben and I are going to get a little dinner. Why? Is everything okay?”
“Everything is fine, I just thought you should know…”
“Hang on Mom.” I cut her off. “You guys go on ahead. I’ll just be a few minutes and then I’ll meet you there.” I waved as they headed toward the elevator. “Okay, Mom. Sorry about that. You said you thought I should know…”
“Yes, well, Flint still hasn’t moved into the addition but now it looks like he’s not going to need to.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Apparently, Mozer didn’t have any relatives still living, Vicki. He left everything to Flint; the house, his old truck, his fishing boat, and his retirement account. I spoke on the phone with Flint yesterday – he can’t believe it. He’s not sure how he feels about it, but the attorney said it’s all his weather he wants it or not. Oh, Vicki! I’m just so happy for him!”
Words escaped me. I sputtered a bit then gave up.
“Victoria? Are you there?”
“Sure…yes. I’m here.”
“Isn’t that the most wonderful news?”
“It’s unbelievable, Mom. It’s just…unbelievable.” I plopped down in my office chair, my legs a bit wobbly.
“Well, I won’t keep you, honey. I just thought you’d like to know. Have a good time this evening.” She paused, probably wondering about my odd reaction. “Victoria, you know you can live at the cabin any time you’d like. But this move has been good for you. You’re living again. And Victoria; I’m sure you don’t realize this, but that gentleman you work with, Ben? He’s had his eye on you for years. It nearly broke his heart when you married Richard – just as it broke ours.”
I barely held the phone to my ear, ready to drop it at the next word out of my mother’s mouth.
“It broke your heart that I married Richard? Why didn’t you tell me? I thought you liked him.” I fumbled with the phone as though it were foreign to me. I shifted in my chair as though it were hot or cold or made of stone.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me about Ben? How do you know he had his eye on me?” I felt hot tears sting my eyes. My chin quivered. I felt like a teenager again. “Why didn’t anyone…” I felt a sob jump out of me.
“We tried, Vicki. Believe me, we tried. Now, you pull yourself together. Go out and have a nice time. I happen to know Ben’s been though a nasty divorce himself. You two have a lot in common.”
It was easily an hour before I got to the brewery Jackie and Ben and I had decided on. I was afraid they would be about ready to leave by the time I got there. Looking around, I spotted Ben at a table by the window. Jackie must have been in the restroom. I took my time as I approached our table.
Ben was handsome, that was for sure. But mostly he made me laugh, all the time. His good nature was contagious and I felt better while in his company than any other time of the day, even if it were just at work.
He looked up and smiled that endearing smile. I sat down across from him.
“Sorry that took so long. My mom…”
“It’s fine. No worries.”
“Jackie in the restroom?”
“No, she had to go home. I’m not sure why, she just said something about the dog and the neighbor and said she’d see us on Monday.”
“Oh. Well that’s too bad, but it’s okay. We can still have dinner, can’t we?”
“Of course,” Ben smiled and leaned slightly forward. “It actually works out quite well. I’ve been wanting to ask you out to dinner Vicki, without Jackie, so what would you say to me asking you out right now?”
I couldn’t hold back my smile. “I’d like that.” I said. “Would you like to take me out tonight?”
“Yes, I would,” Ben played along. “I’d like to take you right here.”
“Here it is, then!” I raised the glass of beer he’d poured for me in a toast. We clinked mugs and I giggled. For the first time in many years, I felt young again, young and free and happy.
The addition turned out to be a good idea regardless of who lived at the lake house or who just came and went. It offered the convenience of a second bathroom and a nice private bedroom with it’s own outside door opening up to a small porch with a nice lake view.
Flint and I eventually made peace, since the threat of having to run into each other on a daily basis was gone. He was doing a great job fixing up Old Man Mozer’s house and making it his own and he and Vern had become a kind of novelty around the lake. Everyone wanted to befriend Flint, and Vern had more treats handed to him than most dogs dream of. It felt as though everyone had been rooting for Flint all along-everyone but me that is. I was ashamed of myself, not knowing why I’d felt and behaved the way I had.
Mom was enjoying spending a lot of time at the lake house, loving what Flint was doing to his new home, spending time with Ryan and his family and with me and Ben. She was happy and content with the way life worked itself out, if you just allow it to, as she liked to remind me.
And Ben and I, well, we had wedding plans and a house to build. The property purchased was on the lake, close to our family lake house. Ben and I decided our own unique-to-us place was in order. Ryan and his family would inherit the family house, as well they should. After all, he’d always been the one to take care of everything at the lake.
We would retire together, us siblings. All three of us at the lake, in our own homes, in our own space, yet together. I looked forward to Ben and me hosting holiday dinners; having Mom and Ryan and his whole brood, and yes, Flint and Vern. I’d been buying dog treats while grocery shopping lately and noticed I’d been finding reasons to drop in on Flint now and then, mostly to give him a bad time about something. Eventually Flint and I settled on a comfortable relationship, referring to each other as nothing other than “You Creep”.