A week later, two of my childhood buddies and fellow lake residents, Norma and Sheri, joined me in my cozy living room for a girls night in. The fire I’d built in the big rock fireplace crackled and danced while we made ourselves comfortable in the old leather furniture, soft as butter from years of wear. I set out some snacks and poured everyone a glass of red wine and we toasted the three of us.
“To hanging out in no-man’s-land all winter long,” Sheri lifted her glass and Norma and I joined in with a soft clinking together of my grandmother’s crystal goblets.
“Hey,” Sheri began as she settled into the big leather chair, “I saw Ryan out here again the other day. What’s he been up to?”
“Ryan? My brother, Ryan?”
“The one and only,” Sheri nodded.
“I have no idea.” I felt myself squint. “What do you mean ‘again’? I didn’t know he was here at all.”
“Yeah, he was talking to Flint a couple of days ago. I figured he was making arrangements to have Flint shovel for you, or something like that, but it is strange he didn’t come and say hello.”
“He was talking to that guy from the camp ground? The one living in the VW Bus?”
“Yes, Flint Riggins. You’ve met him.” Sheri was giving me the look she uses when she wonders if I’m ever going to catch up or catch on.
“He came by the other day and shoveled for me,” I offered sounding a bit whiney. “I should have asked him to do it on a regular basis. I could use the help.”
“Well, why didn’t you?” Sheri asked in her patronizing tone. “I sent him so you could. He was looking for more jobs.”
“Oh, so you’re how he ended up here.” I sat on the sofa and curled my feet up under me. “I don’t know why I didn’t ask him to just show up when it snows. The guy kind of gives me the creeps. He looks at me like he knows me or has a secret or…or like he wants to say something but doesn’t. Don’t you think there’s something weird about him?”
“No,” Norma shrugged.
“He’s a nice guy,” Sheri said. “Just messed up from one of those wars…Desert Storm I think. Gordon’s talked with him quite a bit. He says he’s a good guy. He just has issues; you know- PTSD and stuff.”
“But he lives out in the woods in the middle of winter with four feet of snow on the ground.” I was feeling crabbier by the second. Why couldn’t they just agree the guy was creepy?
Sheri caught Norma’s eye and they chuckled. “Actually, Vicki, he’s living with Old Man Mozer for a while, just like he did last winter, remember? He shovels so he can buy groceries. Mozer lets him stay as long as he buys the food.”
“Oh, I guess I forgot,” I shrugged.
“Well, do you remember being at my house along with Flint and his dog Vern for Thanksgiving last month? And Old Man Mozer was there, too. Remember Thanksgiving Vicki?” Norma cracked herself up. “You’ve been absent for three years now. Time to come back to earth.”
“I think the only thing she remembers is all the crap Richards put her through.” Sheri chimed in. “Norma’s right Vic, you need to move on. You’ve been stuck in the land of poor me for two long and Lord knows you’re not getting any younger.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snapped. I could feel my good mood deteriorating fast.
They eyed each other again. “My, are we feeling a little bit defensive or what?” Sheri smiled and sipped her wine.
“Yes, I guess I am.” I replied and took a bigger sip of wine. “You two sound just like mom. I have moved on, by the way. And what difference does it make if I’m getting any older? Of course I’m getting older. So are you.”
Norma sighed and shook her head. “Doesn’t mean a thing Vicki. You’re right, we’re being just like your mom.”
“Speaking of Mother,” I changed the subject. “She’s coming to spend next week with me and says she has some ideas about adding on to the house. I don’t know why she would put money into this place. I mean, three bedrooms is enough especially when it’s hardly used by anyone but me until summer rolls around.”
“I wouldn’t argue with adding on.” Sheri said. “Just think, you could add another bathroom so you don’t go so crazy in the summer. And it would be great to push out the kitchen like you’ve talked about. Why not?”
“I wound normally be excited about the idea, but I feel like there’s something she’s not telling me. Like the reason, the real reason behind it. I think she’s hiding something. She’s been quiet lately too. Not like herself.”
“I think you’re paranoid is what I think,” Norma said.
Sheri chuckled. “Well, I’m glad she’s coming to visit you and I think adding on is a great idea. I’ll have you over for dinner when she’s here. I like catching up with her.”
“I like catching up with her two, but ever since Dad died she’s been preoccupied. She’s always out there, thinking, like nothing’s settled in her mind yet. I’m going to take the opportunity to talk with her about it. After all, it’s been nearly two years. I just want to know what she’s holding back, and I don’t know why, but it’s making me a little nervous.”
To Be Continued