by L.A. Tucker
Part III: So, What's the Plan?
For disclaimers, see
Chloe's Tuesday at the library was progressing along swiftly. She would be done at 4, so she made plans to head over to the high school to post the results of the audition on the school's bulletin boards outside the theatre and main office. That way, the kids would see them first thing on Wednesday morning as they arrived at school. Marcy had said she would be there until around 4:30, and then was heading over to Dave's house to meet him, they were going into Erie for dinner and a movie. Marcy sounded really excited. She and Dave didn't exactly do the dating thing the the last time around.
Chloe stood in front of the library's old ditto machine, an old crank job with the heavenly smelling ink. She was copying off the cast list to be posted, the rehearsal schedule, and contact numbers for everyone involved in the play. Hell, everyone that showed up for the auditions is on that list. They're all involved in the play. She had even broken the rules, and had a few juniors signed up to be understudies for the lead roles. If we have an outbreak of the flu, we're going to have to change the playbills to read 'The Fort Lafayette Soon-To-Be-Seniors Proudly Present ...' The pages were rolling off the ditto, and Chloe picked one up and held it under her nose to savor the oddly intoxicating odor. I think sniffing fresh ditto paper is the closest I've ever come to doing drugs.
The thought of 'doing drugs' brought the image of Sara D'Amico back to the forefront of Chloe's brain. That's an awful way to think of her. But I can't help it. There were those rumors that Sara had been in trouble with drugs while she was in Hollywood, all the gossip rags said it, and even Marcy mentioned it the other night. But I don't know if Marcy was just repeating the rumors or if she heard it directly from Dave. Hopefully that was old news now, and doesn't bear being concerned about. I doubt very much that Sara, Dave and Nelson are spending their time snorting cocaine between fertilizings of that golf course.
Then there's that other 'doing drugs'. Chloe had spent a good deal of her time the last two days reading about the causes and treatment of panic and anxiety disorders. She had learned the basics, that they were more common than she'd thought, and depending on the severity of the disorder, were quite debilitating and disruptive to the person suffering from them. There were so many variables involved that Chloe hadn't even hazarded a guess as to the reason why that maybe Sara was a victim to them. Two things did stick out in her mind. Statistically, women were more likely to suffer from them, and oddly enough, the panic attacks didn't manifest themselves until many of the women had entered their 30's. So it came to happen that perfectly functioning women, maybe outgoing and confident all their lives, were suddenly susceptible to panic attacks so severe, that so very shook them to their very core, and perhaps became so frequent and overwhelming that they couldn't cope. And they ended up having their whole lives altered. The other thing that stood out as a listed cause these harrowing disorders was that they frequently were a by product of some traumatic life event. So Chloe felt safe in assuming that A: Sara was in the right age group, gender bracket and had displayed the symptoms, and B: she sure as hell had been experiencing some trauma in her life. The most common treatment for panic disorder was a combination of behavior therapy, counciling and medication. Chloe wondered if Sara was taking any medication. Oh hell, why torture yourself about this? It's not like you can call her up and just casually take her to the diner for dinner. Marcy explained that Dave said Sara rarely left the family land, and when she did, it took her days of planning to psyche herself to do it, and even then, she would end up not going. It must have been quite demanding on her nerves to show up, even in secret, at Nelson's audition last week . She must really love him. So Sara D'Amico was apparently very isolated, perhaps even maintaining a self-imposed isolation just for the sake of her own sanity? I'm just guessing here. Even if Chloe wanted to make an effort in Sara's direction, it might not be something Sara would be interested in. Is this something that's going to get better? Should I even bother?
Why did I ever start reading about this stuff? Everything I've read has told me that Sara D'Amico is an impossibility for me. I just can't recall ever being so drawn to anyone like this before. I'm setting myself up for big time disappointment, even if I could think of a way to get to know her.
The four o'clock hour drew near, and the twin high school juniors, Byron and Justin Devers, who worked part-time evenings, showed up a couple of minutes late. Chloe gave them a list of some mindless tasks to perform so they wouldn't spend the whole evening making paper airplanes and smacking each other with the small return date stamp. Chloe threw on her coat, took one last sniff of her ditto sheets before she stuffed them into her canvas briefcase, and headed outside to her car. It was warming a bit, the temperature was above freezing for once, and the snow was beginning to thaw. The skies were darkening already with the swift sunset that comes on a winter's day. Can Spring be far away? Knowing this area, Chloe knew the answer to that question was a resounding 'yes'. It had once snowed here in June, for graduation ceremonies. Brrr. Pretty soon I won't be wearing these big muck luck boots every day like a uniform, and I can get into my summer sneakers. Happy toes.
Chloe turned the engine over, once, twice, three times. She heard a weird buzzing sound each time. She tried holding the pedal to the floor, as her dad had taught her so long ago, and then let up again. She turned the key. Bzzzzzzzz. Maybe I flooded it. I'll wait a minute and try again.
The Final Jeopardy theme music played in her head. OK, here goes. Click. Bzzzz. Click. BZZZZZZZZZ.
Chloe stomped back into the library, and noticed that 'March 2 2001' was already prominently stamped on Byron's forehead.
Byron looked sufficiently guilty, and mumbled, "Sorry, Ms. Donahue."
"Uh, huh. I gotta use the phone."
She dialed Marcy's cell phone number. Two rings, and Marcy answered.
"Marcy, is that you? It's Chloe."
"I had a paintbrush in my mouth, sorry."
"What're you doing? Can you come get me from the library? The Subaru has gone belly up and I don't feel like dealing with it right now."
"My Miata always starts right up. You ever think about getting a car from the new century? Even one from the last decade would be a step up."
"Yeah, well, can you come get me? What are you doing?" Chloe hated repeating herself.
"Yeah, I can come get you. I'm supposed to meet Dave at 5, the movie starts at 5:40, and then we were going for dinner..."
"Tell me about it when you get here. I guess the kids can wait until tomorrow afternoon to find out who's in the play."
"On my way, cranky butt."
Ten minutes later, the little red Miata slushed its way into a parking space in front of the library, and Chloe opened the passenger door and got in. Marcy was securing her ever present cell phone in her shoulder bag.
"Using your floor as an ashtray again?" Chloe sniped as she settled in.
"This one in the dash fills up after three butts, and they bounce out when I hit a goddamned pothole, so shoot me." Marcy helped Chloe snap her seatbelt, and thunked her on the shoulder for being bitchy.
"Don't tempt me. If I weren't the non-violent type..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, tell it to your parole officer...." Marcy pulled out of the parking space and headed out into traffic.
"Um, Marcy, I hate to be a back seat driver, wait, this car HAS no back seat, but you're going the wrong direction to my house."
"Huh. Whattya know. Too many paint fumes, I guess. Hey, did I tell you that you're coming out to Dave's house with me?" Marcy innocently queried, a nasty smirk threatening to erupt on the corners of her mouth.
Chloe stopped fussing with the radio tuner. "WHAT?"
"I want to stop there first, and leave my car there, so... we can drop you at your house on the way to the movie theatre in his car. He doesn't really fit too well in this car. It's the same direction..." Marcy explained, trying to keep her voice light and matter-of-fact.
Chloe shifted a bit in her bucket seat. She didn't like surprises. These kind of surprises. Sara doesn't like them either.
Marcy bit the inside of her cheek to keep the grin off her face. "Don't worry, I called first."
"And...?" Now Chloe was feeling downright anxious.
"She's there, he's not yet. She knows we're on our way. She sounded fine with it." Marcy chewed on that a moment. "Sorta."
This is going to be fine. They're only going to to be here a few minutes. I can handle being sociable for a few minutes. I know, well, I've met both of them. And I've been daydreaming, pretty much non-stop, about one of them, and coming up with some pretty lame ideas about how to see her again.
Sara had unzipped out of her usual orange coveralls, and was aimlessly puttering around the garage in a pair of jeans and and old barn jacket with a gray hooded sweatshirt underneath. Now I don't look so much like I 'm working on the state road crew patching potholes. She leaned over, and looked in a greasy old mirror that was propped up on a work table. Her face was clean, and her hair, well, it was there. She had it pulled back in a ponytail today, and when tied back like that, it usually stayed in good shape for the most of the day. Having it pulled back was a little safer, too, considering she worked around engine's moving parts a good bit of her day. She sucked in her cheeks, and raised her brows. Hey, that's attractive. That scar wasn't going anywhere, so there wasn't much she could do about that. She flashed her teeth in the mirror , and checked for any remainders of her lunch that might be lodged there. She ran her tongue along the front of them, and then sucked the front ones just for good measure. She checked her hands, and then her nails, she grabbed a flat head screwdriver and ran the edge under a few of them.
I wish Nelson or Dave would show up before they do. That'd take some of the pressure off me. Then I could pretend to myself that I do this every day, that I deal with folks other than my brother and nephew on a regular basis. Sara snorted. That's a laugh. I hide from the mailman every day.
She heard a car coming up the drive, and nervously fluffed her dark bangs one more time, and adjusted them to cover the scar that ended halfway up onto her forehead. I can do this. I have to find out. I have to get through this, and then maybe, if my gaydar is correct, maybe I can get her to come out here for dinner some night. Cap'n Crunch and Little Debbies. Ha. But Marcy probably already told her about how we met. Oh yeah, too good a story not to share that. She pursed her lips and stuck her tongue out at herself in the mirror. Loser. Her heart picked up its rhythm, and she sucked her teeth one more time. Act. Act like you have confidence. Play a part. Maybe that will work.
It was dark out, being the middle of February in the Northeast and nearly 5 pm. The lights in the garage were on, as well as the security light shining over the wide snow covered unpaved parking area between the barn and house. Sara stepped out of the building just as Marcy was slowly easing the Miata to a stop in front of it. The engine shut off, and two car doors opened. Marcy had gone all out in honor of date night, and was wearing a dress with high leather boots. Tonight her mop of hair shown a rather unique amber color under the floodlight. She had a satchel hung over her shoulder, and she looked every inch the eccentric art teacher. Chloe, who had been picking between her front teeth with the edge of an old matchbook while fussing with her hair in the vanity mirror, put out a foot to get out. And was unpleasantly surprised to find that her foot never made contact with solid ground until it had passed through about 9 inches of dirty slush water. What is it with me and holes, anyway? The leg of her khaki pants was soaked up to the knee. Oh, yeah, way to make a good impression, Chloe. My foot is soaked, my sock, too, and there's enough water still in my boot to keep a goldfish alive. Yup. Hope Dave gets here soon.
Chloe hauled her canvas bag with her, and she and Marcy tried to walk over to Sara, who stood a good twenty yards away, but it was close to impossible to walk in a straight line to her, because of the many slush puddles that marked their path. So they haltingly wove left and right, together then apart, as Sara watched them approach like two college freshman staggering back to the dorm after their first kegger. She couldn't help but see and smile at poor Chloe's soaked leg. Her amusement at the sight helped soothe her rattled nerves, and she called out to them, like an interior designer directing the hanging of a picture over a sofa.
"Marcy, go left. Chloe, a little right, yeah, ooh, watch out, that's a big one coming up. No, Chloe, go right, a little higher, no, that's too high. Marcy, I'd move yourself a little to that end, head for that pile, I think it's safe to step on."
Marcy and Chloe had made it, and both grinned, triumphant, at Sara. Marcy looked up at their amused blue eyed guide. "Thanks for the help. I think we might have lost Chloe in those last few yards if it hadn't been for you directing traffic."
"Yeah, one of those holes might have swallowed her right
up, and we wouldn't have found her until May." Sara said quietly, but
her voice held a chuckle.
"Looks like one of them already tried to get her."
Chloe self-consciously looked down at her soaked pant leg. "Good thing I'm a terrific swimmer." Dork. Spaz. Geek. Pick one, I'm it.
"Any fish down there?" Sara couldn't help wanting to tease the poor embarrassed redhead.
"There may be one or two in my boot." Chloe shook it in demonstration.
An awkwardness quickly settled in, and the three women looked around, not at each other.
Sara cleared her throat to break the silence. "What say we go into the house until Dave gets here? He should be here any minute. Nelson, too." Please.
Chloe was happily anxious to share the good news with Sara's shy nephew. "Nelson? Good, then I can tell him! I was going to have Marcy post the results at school tomorrow, but he can find out tonight, if he gets here in time." Please.
Sara turned to her, and looked at her for the first time directly in her expressive green eyes. Ahhh, just like I remember them. But so much better in person. "Curly?" she said, hopefully. Ohoh, there go my nerves.
"Curly." Chloe stated with a shy grin, and watched as Sara's face eased into a delighted smile. It's nice to see Sara smile like that.
They all started, haltingly, towards the house. Sara pulled up short and mused, "This might be easier if you two follow me. I know the best way to get there from here. And one wet leg is enough ..."
Marcy kidded her. "Are you sure we can even get there from here?" Marcy took a long hard look up and down Sara's tall, strong form. "Might be easier if you just piggy backed us both over to the porch."
Sara was suddenly feeling a little more confident. "One, or both of you at the same time?"
Chloe's imaginative and hormonal mind went right into visualization mode. She could carry me in her arms. I could put my arms around her neck. I don't weigh that much. She could carry me right up to the front door, over the threshold, right into the kitchen, through the living room, and march us right into the b...
"Earth to Chloe. Ready for the trek?" nudged Marcy. Oh, it doesn't take much to see where her mind is at!
They were nearly to the door, playing a funky kind of Twister with right foot mud, then left foot snow pile, when Dave pulled in the drive in his Explorer.
"Hey look, Dave owns a grown up car. Instead of a Barbie Dream House car, like yours." Chloe pointed at the Miata.
Marcy wasn't about to let her get away with that. "At least mine runs and isn't taking up valuable parking space in front of the dry cleaners right now."
They all stopped on the front porch and stood waiting for Dave.
"I was thinking of bending down and kissing the porch. Dry land, you know." quipped Marcy, eyes glued to her tall honey slopping his way over to them.
"Oh, he's such a manly man." Chloe said, affecting a bass voice. "Not even trying to avoid the craters."
"It's winter. Wait 'til summer, and a bumble bee comes around him. Then he acts more like RuPaul ... he runs like a girl." Sara grinned, and waved her wrists in the air in her best 'nancy boy' imitation. The three of them laughed, picturing the image of Dave that Sara had described.
Dave hopped onto the porch and gave Marcy a very chaste kiss on the cheek. His cheeks were ruddy and flushed, and Chloe and Marcy, seeing brother and sister together for the first time, both had the same thought. They look so much alike!
Sara held open the front door, and with sweeping hand, motioned them all inside. "Hey Dave," she said loud enough so everyone could hear, "I've seen you give mom hotter kisses than that."
"Izzat right? Well, I better fix that. Don't want to give Marcy here the wrong idea about me and mom." With that, he swooped down, took a startled Marcy in his arms and planted a big, fat wet one on her. It took only a moment for her to respond, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and returned the smooch with a fervor.
Chloe was a little embarrassed and looked at the ceiling. Sara walked over and leaned against the counter and tried to ignore them. The kissing continued. Sara drummed her fingernails on the counter. Chloe made squishing noises with her soaked foot. Dave and Marcy came up for air, then started in again.
Chloe decided to make some fake conversation. She glanced at Dave and Marcy, who were still sucking air out of each other's lungs, and said airily, "Is it warm in here or is it just me?"
Sara was definitely getting warm, even if it was her own brother involved in this little display. "No, it's not just you. But I know where to find a bucket, and some cold water to put into it..." She raised her eyebrows at Chloe, hoping to find a fellow co-conspirator.
"Sounds like a plan." Chloe grinned.
Dave and Marcy, lips all red and smooched soundly, finally broke apart. "I like how you say hello.", gasped Marcy, looking a bit winded.
"Wait 'til I have to say goodbye, I'll show you a thing or two then..." Dave raised a rakish brow in response.
"Sara, you got that bucket handy? I think I'm gonna hurl here..." Chloe looked plaintively at Sara, who just grinned and nodded.
Dave harrumphed and smiled. "Hey there Chloe, long time no see. Nice that Marcy dragged you over here. I haven't seen you around much since they switched my route. Still Marian the Librarian?" Still as beautiful as ever ...
"Still wearing those cute brown shorts in the summer, Dave? You have the cutest dimpled knees."
The two old acquaintances laughed, and exchanged a quick hug.
Dave turned to his sister. "So, you've been introduced to Chloe? She's the book pusher down at the local library. I've heard stories about her strong arming folks for late fees that would turn your hair white."
Sara looked suddenly nervous. "Yeah, we met..." and she started moving across the kitchen floor and leaned up into the doorway to the living room, just a little behind Dave, obscuring his view of her.
Chloe started ,"Yeah, I met your sister there when ..." and her eyes fixed on Sara, who was standing behind Dave and frantically making slashing motions across her throat, then she moved her finger to her lips in the international sign of 'Stuff a sock in it!'
"...Marcy introduced us. She fished me out of the swimming hole that is better known as your driveway." Chloe somehow figured that Dave didn't know about Sara's appearance at the auditions last week. Maybe I had better not say anything about the auditions until I get better idea of what's going on. "My Subaru went kaput in front of Stefanelli's Dry Cleaners, and I'm thinking about calling a priest for last rites for the old piece of ... "
Dave nodded his head and thought for a moment. His eyes lit up with an idea. "Hey Sara, if Nelson can tow Chloe's rust bucket up here, think you could take a look at it?" He turned to her, knowing that he had put her on the spot, and she didn't like being put in that position. Maybe, this time, she can handle it?
Sara, surprised at the thought, unexpectedly found herself immediately and cheerfully agreeing. "Sure. Be happy to." She looked right into Chloe's green eyes to show her that she meant it. "I'm pretty good with cars. Would you mind letting me have a go at it?"
Chloe returned the look and said, "Really? That'd be so great. Usually I have to get a tow truck to come haul it to a dealership 15 miles from here."
"She does magic with motors. There's greasepaint and grease in that woman's blood.", said Dave proudly. She looks like she's doing pretty good with these two women being here. She doesn't even look like she's going to jump out of her skin. This is good. And the looks she's sneaking at Chloe ... Marcy was right. These two might be a match. And Chloe is looking at Sara like she's a Peanut Buster Parfait on a hot summer day. Now onto Phase II of the plan...
Marcy was feeling smug about having the presence of mind to call Dave on her cell phone on the way to picking Chloe up, and discuss some matchmaking between them. This might be the perfect time to set the Plan in motion. I wasn't expecting an opportunity to occur so soon, I was sure that we'd have to do a lot more fancy footwork to get these two together and see if sparks flew. But Chloe needing a ride, and me having to stop at Dave's anyhow, well it seemed to be the fates stepping in. Now onto Phase II of the plan...
"Um, Marcy?", said Dave, who was thinking there was more than one actor in this family, began his previously agreed line readings here on the kitchen stage. "Bad news hon, we aren't going to be able to make that movie. Mark Benson from the zoning licenses board wants to move up our meeting from next week to tonight. I promised to meet with him at 6:15 at the Embers, down on Route 5. He's bringing his wife, and he suggested I bring you along, too. Would that be all right? " The Embers was in the opposite direction from Chloe's house. WAY out of the way.
Marcy feigned disappointment. "Oh, how could I turn down a lovely romantic business dinner with you? Sounds like the perfect evening." Marcy paused, and then pretended to remember something. "Oh wait, how's Chloe going to get home? By the time we get clear out to her house, and then down to the Embers, it's going to be nearly 7 o'clock." Marcy planted a disturbed frown on her face. "Is there some way you can get in touch with Mark to make it later?" Meryl Streep's got nothing on me.
"I don't have his home phone number... damn." sighed Dave, glad that he and Marcy were performing their hastily agreed upon lines to perfection. Hehehehe.
Chloe was standing there listening to all of this, feeling as left out as a piece of patio furniture in January.
"Maybe you could give me a ride?" she said, slowly lifting her eyes to meet Sara's.
"I, uh, um, can't drive." mumbled Sara. Can Chloe see that big flashing LOSER sign on my forehead? She turned away, fidgeting with something invisible on the counter.
Dave jumped in to save the rapidly deteriorating situation. "Wait! Nelson should be home any moment. He can give Chloe a ride home, AND tow her car back here. That'll kill two birds with one stone." He turned to Chloe. "Would that be alright , Chloe? Would you mind? Nelson should be home any time now." Of course, Nelson is in Erie at the mall and then going to a late movie. He won't be home 'til after 11. I am a bad, bad brother.
"Well, if Sara doesn't mind me hanging around a bit, I guess that would be OK." Chloe said, hesitating. I hope Nelson is late. Fortune is smiling upon me tonight.
"I guess I could rustle us up something to eat. Nelson will be hungry when he gets home." Sara said, quickly recovered from her bad mood. Sorry, Nelson, but I hope you get a flat tire. Please get a flat.
"It's all settled then." Dave cheerfully declared, and then glanced at his watch. "Oops, we'd better get going, Marse, if we're going to get there on time." Yeah, to the imaginary meeting that isn't going to take place at 6:15. At the Embers. Please let this turn out OK, or Sara is going to drag my body all over my virgin little golf course with that tractor that she loves so much and toss me off a cliff.
Marcy decided to get going while the going was good. "OK, Dave. Let's haul butt." She gave her librarian friend a quick questioning smile, just to make sure that she was comfortable with remaining there at the house with the tall actress, and was pleased with the reassuring smile she got in return. She then turned to Dave and sweetly said, "And hon, do you think you could piggy back me over to your Explorer?" This'd better work, or they're going to find me hanging by my ankles over the stage on opening night.
With a wave, they were out the door, and Sara and Chloe
Continued in Part IV
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