Some time later I felt something warm lay beside me on my queen size bed. It must be Nomad. I didn’t bother pushing him off, he was so warm. I’ll worry about the dog hair later. Some time after that I remembered a voice talking to me. Tiffi . I must have responded because I had a bad case of cotton mouth and she gave me some water and more pills.
I must have slept through dinner and all night long, because I woke up to a horrible growling and the sun in my face. My arm was at an awkward angle and Ernesto was curled in an unnatural ball in my armpit. He’s such a heat-leach. I hear some bowls clanging downstairs and sit up quickly, spilling Ernesto on the floor and making him hiss. My head swims and there’s a pounding in my temples. I ran my hands through my hair and felt two distinct lumps; one on the back of my head where it must have hit the floor and the other just inside my hair line on the right side of my forehead. The previous day’s events come back like a swarm of bees, buzzing included.
Carefully, I swing my legs around to side of the bed to stand when I get a hard throbbing in my head. Tiffi was downstairs. I better stop her before she goes all out on a huge breakfast. She tends to overdo the hospitality when it comes to the food but not the clean-up.
The second floor was so drafty I grabbed my slippers before going downstairs. Man, my whole body ached. I got most of the way down before Nomad and Dingy clicked into the living room.
“Hi, there, boys. How are you?” I said in a high sing-song voice.
Nomad started breathing heavily with excitement and Dingy hopped on his hind legs like they were little springs.
I heard Tiffi call from the kitchen, “Kat, is that you?” She came walking out of the kitchen wearing my apron. “Oh, you! I was going to make you breakfast in bed. Go back to bed.”
See what I mean?
“Oh, Tif, that’s okay. I’m not really that hungry. I think I’ll just have cereal and coffee.” I’m lying, of course. I’m starving, but I really don’t want to clean up the mess.
“Oh okay, then,” she said, disappointed. Damn. “How’s your head?”
“Good. Your mom called. Three times.”
I groaned. My mom is the town busy-body. She was probably wondering about the accident. If I know mom she had her CB up and running during the storm and her contacts waiting at the ready. It was an addiction for her. If she wasn’t the first to hear something juicy she was devastated. I was meaning to ask her about the letter since I found it. I wonder if she knew of a couple named Danny and Beth.
We both walked into the kitchen and I let her pour my cereal and milk while I sat at the table. She really is sweet, just, she tries too hard. She sat down across from me and started eating.
“So,” she started to say, mouth full. “Who’s the bad boy?”
“What,” I said incredulously. “Who are you talking about?”
“You know, Mr. Gray-Eyes.”
“You mean Tom? He’s not a bad boy, he’s a firefighter.”
“Oh, come-on. I can spot them a mile away. He walks with a chip on his shoulder and dresses all messy, but it’s real I-don’t-care messy, not on-purpose messy.
“Give me a break, he just got off work. He probably didn’t sleep all night. You should know better than anyone how that goes. Besides, I saw him at the bank and I know he walked back to the station and it was really windy.” I explained about my purse spilling.
“What does that mean, ‘I should know better than anyone’?” She looked affronted.
Ha! I’ve turned the tables. I paused and faked a thoughtful look. “Hmm, maybe… Jack?”
“Huh-uh! Don’t try that on me, missy.” She pointed a finger at me, smiling. “I know all your tricks. So what really happened at the Logan house.”
It was my turn to look affronted, “I told you. An owl was in the second bedroom and it flew out and I stumbled into the rotten railing. I started to fall, but Tom caught my arm and then the floorboards gave and we both fell.”
“So he fell on top of you.”
How did she know that?
“What?” I’m stalling.
“He had a pretty big shiner, Kat. He said he hit it on your head when you guys landed.” She stared at me.
Will she think I’m some kind of hussy, now? I mean, I’ve been with Parker for, well, forever, and as soon as I break up with him I jump the nearest single guy. I guess I could tell her. She was my oldest friend.
“Okay,” I burst out. “Okay, after we fell and I came to, we kinda, sorta… kissed.”
Tiffi’s jaw dropped. Then she frowned at me.
“I knew it! I could tell something wasn’t right.” Then she had the audacity to look smug. “This is just what you needed after breaking up with Parker, Kat.”
“Of, course. You haven’t kissed anyone else for how long?” She leaned in close like she didn’t want to be overheard and whispered, “So, how was it?”
“It was really sweet.” I described his lips and his hair.
Tiffi looked starry eyed and smiled.
“So, are you gonna go out with him?”
I thought for a moment. “I don’t know if he’ll want to. I was the biggest klutz, and then I didn’t even say thanks for taking me to the clinic.”
“I bet he will. He was pretty concerned. He actually wanted to be the one to stay with you over night, but I wasn’t about to let some strange guy in your house all night long after you had been injured. I felt kind of bad for telling him no because he looked all wounded and insulted.”
“You know, like he knew we couldn’t trust him or something.”
I carried my empty bowl to the sink and looked out the window. I could see the dog’s tracks in the snow drifts indicating that Tiffi had already taken care of the dogs. We had a lot of snow last night. I wondered when we’ll be able to dig out the office. That’s when I remembered something.
“He’s buying the Logan house. Cash.”
“What? In full?” She spun around in her chair.
“Yep. He said he had a lot saved up in the last two years and he could pay cash.”
She whistled. “I wonder how he got all that cash on a fireman’s salary.”
“Who knows? People make all kinds of money with investments and the stock market and such.”
“Yeah, I guess,” she replied.
“Well, I’m going up to take a shower. I’ll let you know when I’m out.”
I better get going to help shovel the town. Maybe a couple of aspirin first. And a shower.
* * *
This was heaven. I stood under the hot water for a few minutes and thought about the previous day. That was the kind of spontaneity I was looking for in Parker. At least Tom is buying the house. Now I won’t have to show it to anyone else while imagining Tom’s silky soft lips on mine and where else I’d like them to be. It will save me some embarrassment and awkward silences.
I wonder if he’s regretting what happened yesterday. We don’t even know each other. Maybe he would like to go out sometime. There’s bowling or Maggie’s Grill n’ Pub or… That’s about it until spring or summer. The library has movie night once a month if we wanted to go out, but it costs the same to rent it and take it home. That’s the problem with a small town. We go to larger cities to do the typical fun things that city-slickers do. When they move here they ask what there is to do, and we say go into the city.
When I gooped up my hair with conditioner I saw the side of the shower curtain slowly open. I see Nomad’s nose poke through and I scold him for barging in. Massaging my hair I imagine Tom slipping in with me and kissing me with that half cocked smile and lifted brow. I was surprised at how muscular he was. He looked lean, but when we were hip to hip, he didn’t feel boney. He felt…
Okay, stop! I need to cool my jets if I want to take advantage of single-hood for more than a day. We should try to be friends first. I don’t know how old he is, where he moved from, or if he’s ever been married, or if he has a criminal record, or if he goes to church…
That reminds me, what is today? Friday? I need to call Claudia to let her know about me and Parker. She won’t have to help me sneak meat into my diet anymore. We’ve had an agreement that every Sunday I come over for breakfast as long as I helped her get her crew ready for church. She has three boys, a husband, and a house in the country, a golden retriever, and she’s a stay-at-home mom. She has a perfect, albeit frazzled, life. Her husband, Richard, is always trying to set me up with his pompous co-workers; all lawyers. As if. I know ‘realty’ is just a stone’s throw away from ‘lawyer’ in reputation, but come on. I don’t try to keep criminals running about the streets.
I padded into the bedroom, threw on some insulated sweat pants and a long sleeved t-shirt and dialed Claudia.
Richard answered the phone. I could hear the boys cheering in the background. School must be canceled.
“Hey, Rich, is Claud around?” I shouted.
“Kat! We’ve been wondering what happened to you. Yeah, she’s here somewhere,” he shouted back and I heard call out, “Claud!”
I waited a few moments and I heard her say into the phone, “Hold on a sec, Kat” and she muffled the phone with her hand.
It didn’t do any good. She put on the air of a stern dictator and bellowed, “I will have peace in this house while I am on the phone! The first boy to say a peep will be the first to start shoveling the drive-way!” There was a silent pause and I heard her uncover the phone again. “Sorry about that Kat.” I heard a high pitched voice say, “Peep” in the background and some stifled giggles. She muffled again and I heard her say, “You. Outside. Now.”
“Sounds crazy over there.”
“Yeah, well, there’s no school so they’ve been chanting while I‘ve been in the shower. So, come out with it. Someone saw your Passport at the clinic last night.”
I told her everything that happened at the house, except the kissing, and then my concussion. She made the appropriate gasps and then asked the right questions to make sure I was feeling okay.
“All right. What else?” She asked. She could always tell when I was holding back. I wasn’t ready to tell her about Tom.
“I broke up with Parker.”
She gasped and said, “Shut. Up.”
“Wow. It’s about time. I mean, why?”
“Well, you know the whole meat and organic thing. And, well, you know, the sex was getting kind of boring. Actually, I just don’t think I was in love with him anymore.”
“So what happened? What made you up and decide?”
I told her about walking in to tell him and his reaction.
“He just said ‘okay’? Maybe he was just in shock.”
“That’s what Tiffi said. I think that we just both knew it was time to end it. We weren’t going anywhere and we all know his views on marriage. I want to have kids someday, you know? I can’t do that without being married.”
“Oh, honey, I know,” she said sympathetically.
“I want what you and Rich have. I want a house out of town and rowdy kids on snow days and I want a husband. I want to get married in church with a pastor and the whole legal marriage license. Not a self-proclaimed life partner. I am going to miss him, though.”
“I’m so sorry, Kat. Well, we were all kind of expecting it. You’ve been tip-toeing around more than usual lately so we knew it couldn’t last too much longer. We knew you had to get fed up with it sooner or later. I’m just surprised it took you this long. And don’t worry; you’re hot and smart and financially secure. It won’t be too much longer to find a new guy.”
“Well, yeah, I guess.” There was silence for a moment. I didn’t like that she used the word we. It meant she and our mother were talking about me. I debated telling her about Tom. If I held anything back she would know. Better to tell her.
“Well, I did meet a guy, but I don’t know what to do about him yet. I made-out with him.”
“What?! You hussy! When?”
I told her about the bank and the kiss and filled in the rest of the blanks.
“He waited for you and helped you to the car and everything? Kat, lock him in the basement. Or at least ask him out.”
“I know, but I hardly know him. I don’t know how old he is or where he moved from or if he’s ever been married, or if he’s just one of those sweep-you-off-your-feet-and-leave-you kind of guys.”
“Well, for goodness sake. Don’t be stupid about it. Take it slow. Ask him out on a date before jumping his bones-”
“I didn’t jump his bones…” but I really wanted to.
“… – and ask Jack about him. He’ll tell you if there’s anything fishy.”
“I am not telling Jack what happened; he’s like a brother. He’ll get all protective and threaten the poor guy.”
I heard Tiffi coming up the stairs and into my bedroom. I motioned for her to sit on the bed with me.
“No, I agree, but if you want to start seeing this guy you should definitely check him out.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” I was getting uncomfortable with this subject. “Hey, I forgot. I found this letter yesterday. Let me read it to you.”
I ran downstairs to get it from my purse, Tiffi close behind, curious. I read them the letter from Danny Boy. Tiffi was dumbfounded and grabbed the letter from me when I was finished.
“Wow, I wonder what happened,” Claud said.
“I don’t know. He’s obviously very sorry about it whatever it was. I don’t think he cheated on her, because it says he was stubborn. Couldn’t she forgive him for that? I mean, if I would have broken up with Parker out of sheer stubbornness we would have been done years ago, but I stuck with it because I don’t believe in quitting when things get rough.”
Tiffi mouthed, what a bitch. I stifled a laugh.
“Well, I guess it all depends on what he was stubborn about. Maybe she couldn’t tolerate it anymore,” Claud said.
“If Parker had even an ounce of expressiveness as Danny Boy I would have entered into ‘life partner-hood’ a long time ago.”
Tiffi rolled her eyes.
“Well, maybe this new guy will have a couple of ounces,” Claud teased.
“Maybe. Hey, I gotta go. I think we’re gonna try to make it into the office.”
“Ok, well, I’m glad you’re not hurt. Be careful in the snow. And don’t forget to call Mom. She’s driving me crazy.”
I hung up the phone just as the doorbell rang followed by two berserk dogs’ barking.