The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part VIII:   That's Pronounced :  'Shuh -Tock-Wuh'

For disclaimers, see Part I

It was Friday night in Stonecreek, and it seemed that a lot of the residents were in their houses, with nothing better to do besides sit and stew about their lot in life.

Chloe had stopped at Bob's Video Shack, and returned the movies she had rented only hours earlier. The same clerk was working as when she rented them. Chloe just slid them across the counter at the girl, and turned, and walked out.  She went home, pulled out a book, and tried to read. She kept looking to the telephone, willing it to ring, wanting to dial a number. Neither happened.

Sara, not wanting to face her brother and nephew, who had seemingly disappeared sometime before,  during, or after, her blow up at Chloe, had walked over to her little bungalow near the 8th hole.  She went into each room, turning on the light, looking around, and then turning the light off. She switched on her TV, and ignored it. She spent a lot of time sparring with her conscience, alternately playing the advocate for her behavior, then berating herself for it.

Marcy, who knew her argument with Dave was silly, and that she had baited him into fighting with her, sat and sketched and smoked cigarettes, one after the other.

Dave, being Dave, talked a bit with Nelson about the argument he had with Marcy, but neither of them could figure it out. He and Nelson had gone to the local diner, and Dave ordered a meatloaf dinner, and Nelson had two pieces of pie and a Coke.  When they pulled up to their house an hour later, Chloe's car was gone. They cautiously entered the house, and noticed that the couch and coffee table had been moved back to their proper positions. Nelson idly opened the fridge, found the leftover Chinese food, which he promptly took out, nuked, and ate.

Jeanette, whose parents were out for the evening, took more pain pills and clutched a heating pad to her aching ovaries.

It was eleven o'clock in the morning,  Saturday, and Dave was pacing around the kitchen, waiting for Nelson to get his ass in gear.  They needed to drop off Nelson's truck to Dave's buddy who was moving today, and then get Nelson to the high school by noon. Dave had thought about calling Marcy, but thought he would wait and try to talk with her in person when he went to pick up Nelson at four. He didn't have a clue as to what to say to her anyway, because for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what he had done wrong, or how they had gotten into the argument in the first place. "Nelson! We have to leave in 15 minutes!"  He could hear the shower running, he knew Nelson couldn't hear him, he just felt like bellowing.

Sara came through the door into the kitchen.  Dave looked at her, she at him. He didn't like the way she looked, a little haggard, like she hadn't gotten much sleep.

He watched her carefully as she opened the refrigerator door. She slammed it shut.

"Nelson killed off the leftovers last night." Dave said, reading her mind.

"I see that."

"You want to talk about it?"

"I knew you were going to say that."  Sara sat down tiredly at the kitchen table. "Oh hell, Dave. I don't know if I was right, or she was wrong, or what. I don't know if I went overboard in my reaction. I probably did."  She idly played with the salt and pepper shakers.

"How did it end up?"

"I asked her to leave. She did."

Dave carefully picked his words. "Sara, do you think she honestly likes you?  I'm not talking romance here. But likes you. Wants to be your friend."

Sara sighed, and just as carefully thought about her words before she replied.  "Well, yeah, I do. But I don't like my friends playing me.  I've had way too much of that. Everyone skirting around things, not coming to the point of what they want. It's like they 're playing a chess game, where they 're thinking six moves ahead all the time. 'If I do this, and this, and then that, and that, then I will get her to do this'."  Sara looked to Dave to see if he understood. "Why didn't she just come out and ask me if I would do this choreography thing for her?  I don't get it."

"Maybe because she knew you would say 'no'."

Sara looked up at him in surprise. "Why would she think that?"

Dave shook his head, and smiled gently at his sister. "Because that's what you do, Sara. Everything is a 'no' with you, until someone convinces you otherwise. "

Sara didn't understand this, and she looked to Dave for explanation.

"Sara, you live your day to day life as a 'no' -- won't do that, can't do that.  It's your safe, protected little world. We have to convince you that whatever we want you to be involved in won't rock your world. That the simplest things aren't a threat to you. Nelson and I had to pester and wheedle you to leave here the other night, just to go look at a friggin' horse. And you love horses. And everything turned out all right, right?"  She nodded her head, a sheepish 'yes'. "Well, after you reading your hard and fast life rules to Chloe the other day, your controls on 'how to be around you', do you think she felt secure enough to just approach you honestly and ask you to do this?"

Sara just looked to the shakers again, and clicked them together a few times.

"Sara, we all have to plan on how to approach you about things. Answer me this:  do the words 'Chloe' and 'conniving little bitch' go together?"

Sara laughed out loud at the absurdity of that statement. "No, Dave, not at all. Not for a minute."

"So you get mad at her for being ... creative in her approach to you."

Sara knew he was right, she just hated admitting it. She sighed, and pushed the shakers away from her. "I guess I should talk to her, apologize."

Nelson came into the kitchen, practically shining from his recent shower. "Hey." He opened the fridge, and closed it again.

"Your dad said you killed it all off last night. Short term memory loss, Nels?"

He looked at her and grinned guiltily. "Yeah.  Hey, Dad, can we stop on the way and ..."

"Yeah sure, we can pick up something." Dave tilted his head at Sara. "How about I pick you up on the way to pick up Nelson, and maybe you can take a few minutes and talk to her? Otherwise, you'll have to call her, and, well,  I just think apologies are better in person.  I need to talk with Marcy, too."

Sara was about to shake her head no, but caught Dave's eyes and quickly nodded a 'yes'. "I gotta quit being so predictable, I guess."

Dave patted her on the shoulder, and he and Nelson headed out.

Dave had called Sara, and said he would pick her up a little before 3:30 so they could head out to the school.  She hadn't accomplished much with her day, she spent a good deal of it starting things, and then getting distracted, and then not finishing them, and starting something else.  She nervously paid careful attention to her appearance today, something she rarely ever did, fussing with her long dark hair, picking out the right clothes, even worrying about her socks.  She changed her shirt several times. For every minute that passed, the clocked seemed to be going back two minutes. She was just about to change her shirt yet another time, when she heard Dave's honk from out in her driveway. She ran a brush through her hair one last time, grabbed her barn coat, flipped on her porch light, locked the door behind her, and climbed into the Explorer.

Dave could see the strained look on her face, and knew what the drill was. He kept quiet on the drive to the school, just glancing over to gauge any physical clues that Sara may be in the midst of a panic attack. Her face was still and her breathing was even, although she kept her eyes closed the whole way there.  When Dave pulled into the parking lot behind the school, he was surprised to see very few cars parked there. Dave pulled the vehicle into a slot near the doorway, and put it into park, and turned off the engine.

"Sara? We're here."

Sara opened her eyes, and took in the sight of a nearly empty parking lot. There were only 4 or 5 cars in the lot, but Chloe's was one of them.  She let out a small sigh of relief. I don't think I could psych myself up again to do this anytime soon. I just need some air before I go in there. She nodded grimly to Dave, and got out.  She breathed in the cool, moist air, and noticed the beginnings of some snow flurries beginning to fall.  Dave stood nearby, knowing he had to be ready to get her out of there quickly if she asked.  She took another cleansing breath, and nodded at him.

"Don't leave without knowing what's happening with me, OK, Dave?" she reiterated, feeling a comfort in her brother's presence.

"I won't be far, Sara. I'll leave the car unlocked. If it gets to be too much, just come out here. I won't be long, I promise."

One more cool breath in, and Sara and Dave started towards the building. They entered the small back hallway that led to the theatre. They made their way to the theatre doors, and Dave looked at Sara once again, once again she nodded her readiness. Dave opened the door, and peered in. He looked around.

"Nobody in there, it's dark." said Dave. They continued up to the end of the hallway. Left led to the cafeteria, right led to the gymnasium.  Dave looked at Sara and shrugged.

Dave headed towards the cafeteria, Sara turned right to go to the gymnasium.  She stopped at a water fountain along the way, and got a quick drink. She looked down the hallway behind her. Dave must have already gone into the cafeteria. Sara made it to the gymnasium doors, took another deep breath and tried the door. It was unlocked, so she pulled on it, and walked in. The lights were on, but she didn't see anyone. She walked out to the center of the basketball court, looked around and was turning to leave, when Chloe came out of the girls room door to her right.  Sara saw her first, and stood still, hands in her coat pockets. Chloe was paging through her clipboard. She looks beautiful. Chloe had on a forest green silk shirt, and a pair of dark brown linen pants. Sara thought, not for the first time, how she just seemed to glow. Her shoulder length reddish hair looked like she had just combed it. Chloe stopped for a moment, writing something down on her clipboard, and absently tucked some hair behind her ear.

"Hey." said Sara, knowing that there was no way to avoid startling her.

Chloe nearly dropped her clipboard, and looked at Sara with wide, surprised eyes.  "Jesus, you scared me. What are you doing here?"

"Dave and I came to pick up Nelson ..." Sara said in a low voice, and started walking towards Chloe. "And ..."

The gymnasium door swung open, and a blonde woman came in, wearing a coat, and carrying another. All three women started,  and then nervously laughed. Sara recognized the blonde, it was Audra Simmons. Audra Simmons.

"Hey, Chloe,  I got your coat for you.  You about ready to go?  Hi, Sara." said Audra cheerfully. "What are you doing here?"

Sara felt some weird feeling of being caught in a time warp. "Dave and I came to pick up Nelson ..." and she stopped, and looked at Chloe.  Chloe wasn't looking at either of them, she seemed to be focused on the basketball hoop at the end of the court.

"Yeah, I'm ready." Chloe turned her attention to Audra, who was smiling at her. She took her coat from Audra, and began to put it on.  Sara stood there in silence.

"I didn't know if you wanted to stop at your house before we went, we can if you want." said Audra, oblivious to the tension.

Chloe shrugged her coat on, and started to button it. "Well, I probably could use a sweater, if that would be all right ... " ,her voice trailing off.

"No problem, our reservations aren't until 5." Audra looked at Sara. "We're going out for dinner up at Chautauqua." she said in explanation. Sara opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. She looked at Audra again, and then at Chloe, who finally met her eyes, but quickly looked away.

Sara said it once more. "Well, Dave and I just came to pick up Nelson." She looked away, and found that her feet were walking her to the gymnasium door. "I'd better go find them before they leave without me." She put her hand on the door, and pushed. "You two have a nice time at dinner." She smiled, merely a show of teeth, and went out the door. Straight down the hallway to the cafeteria, where she saw Dave quietly talking with Marcy. "Dave. Dave. NOW." she said, and when she saw that he had heard her, and understood, she turned and left.

Dave tapped Marcy on the arm and said, "I gotta go. Bring Nelson home for me, OK?"  He saw her nod, and he smiled a quick thanks.

Dave hurried out to the hallway,  and just as he was going to turn the corner to go down the hallway that led past the theatre, he saw Chloe and a taller blonde woman exiting the gymnasium far up the hallway.  He kept on going, past the theatre and out the doors to the parking lot.  Sara was already in the Explorer. He climbed in, and looked at her.

Her eyes were closed, her teeth gritted. "Just get me out of here. NOW."

He started the motor, and drove away. The thickly falling snowflakes tightly blanketed the vehicle, making Sara's world appear to shrink even smaller.

After dropping Chloe's car off at her house, and procuring a sweater to ward off the increasingly inclement weather, the pair headed in Audra's Civic for just beyond the New York state line, and the small town of Chautauqua.  Chautauqua, known world wide as an artist's community, is a closed community of carefully cared for Victorian houses, set along brick roads, and lit by street lamps that imitated the gas lights of the late 1800's. Chautauqua is also a small lake, marked with cabins with small  docks. Tiny candlelit restaurants also line the lakeside, providing customers with both a quiet intimacy and lush view of the water, whether dotted with sailboats in summer, or frozen over and shimmering in the moonlight, as it was this night.

After driving in  persistently falling snow showers, the two friends made their way into one of these small restaurants. They were seated in a cozy dining room, so completely lit by hurricane candles that it seemed that the invention of electricity hadn't yet reached this small hamlet.  The quiet incandescence of the candles encouraged communication in low tones and discouraged raucous laughter. The glow from the globes surrounding the candles cast a light that would mask any fault, and  accentuate the smallest of perfections.  The women were seated at a table that afforded an unencumbered view of the snow swirling down on the frozen lake. Words said in this atmosphere would be said with an economy; it would be an assault on the senses to clutter the air with wasted, ill chosen conversation. It was a perfect romantic setting, that encouraged long looks and softly spoken phrases.  Both women fell easily under the spell of the view, the candles, and the easy camaraderie between them.

After ordering a glass of white wine for Chloe, and some mineral water for Audra, the women simply  embraced the atmosphere, and relaxed.

"This is just what I needed." sighed Chloe. She looked at the softly glowing countenance of her dinner partner. "Thank you for thinking of this."

"My pleasure.  I love this place."

"I've never been here.  The last time I came up here, years ago, I believe I was at that restaurant " and she pointed towards the far side of the lake, "over there. Somewhere."

"It's a little hard to see it. I'll take your word for it." Audra grinned, but made an effort to look where Chloe was pointing.

"I can't believe Chautauqua is so close, and I haven't been here in years.", said Chloe, regret in her voice.

"We used to come up here for concerts, Mel and I, in the summers. Symphony, rock and roll, choirs, zither players. We ran the gamut. Have you ever been to a concert in the little open air amphitheater they have here?"

"Many times. I saw a wonderful presentation of a ' A Midsummer's Night Dream' there, too. " Chloe reminisced. "Just the perfect way to present it, too, under the stars of a summer sky. I don't think that play should be performed any other way."

Their waitress appeared and took their orders, and just as quickly, disappeared.

Chloe laughed softly after her departure. "I almost forgot there were other people here besides us. She startled me."

"Expecting snow fairies to supply us our repast, are you?"  I think I could believe in them on a night like this.

"Something like that."  Chloe took a small sip of her wine, and twirled the stem of her glass between her fingers. Her mind turned quickly to Sara, and then she just as quickly firmly locked out any further thoughts of her. I want to have a nice evening.

The two women relaxed even further, and let small passages of time pass without conversation. They stole small glances at each other, looked out into the night, and felt their aches fall from their shoulders.

The waitress again unobtrusively appeared, deposited their salads, and faded from view.

"I'm thinking not only is she a snow fairy, but she is a ghost, too." remarked Audra.

"I think she drops from strings from the ceiling, and they just 'poof' pull her back up there again.", giggled Chloe. As if to prove her point, the waitress floated in, replaced Chloe's wine glass with a fresh one, and was gone.

"Are you sure this Chautauqua, and not Cueste Verde, the setting for 'Poltergeist'?" teased Audra.

"Hey, you were the one driving. I never pay attention to road signs as a passenger. I've put my life entirely into your hands tonight."

"Is that right?" murmured a very pleased Audra.

Chloe raised her wine goblet, and motioned for Audra join her in a toast. As they touched glasses, Chloe noticed the reflection of the candle's glow shining in Audra's eyes.  "Absolutely."

Dave looked out his living room window again. "Damn, would you look at it out there? It's practically March, and it just keeps coming and coming. I'm never going to get the course open by the middle of April."

Marcy patted the couch beside her. "Will you calm down already?  This is the Northeast, it is doing exactly what it always does this time of year. Come and sit down. Wishing it away doesn't work, I've tried."

Dave, still steaming about what he had no control of, peeked out the window one more time. "I'll tell you this, you are NOT driving home tonight in that little Matchbox car of yours."

Marcy patted the couch one more time, this time with a little more emphasis. Dave settled down beside her. Marcy leaned a little on her side, and put her head on his shoulder. "Well, bub, I'm not staying here, if that's what you're trying to say. No way.  I know Nelson's all grown up, and he probably knows we are more than shaking hands all night when you stay at my place, but I'm still a teacher in his school. I do have some dignity and morals."

Dave snuggled into her, and then stealthily gave her a small tickle to the ribs. "You, dignity? Since when? And don't even get me started about morals."

She laughed, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "So how am I getting home, huh, fella? You going to make me walk?"

"I'll drive you. In my 'grown-up' car, like Chloe calls it."

Marcy got up off the couch, and looked out the window, and a small frown came to her face. "Speaking of our dear madam librarian,  I'm getting a little concerned about her, too. She and Audra went to Chautauqua tonight for dinner, and they have to drive back in this." She turned and looked at him. "When's the last time you saw a plow go by?"

Dave frowned, and looked at the clock. It was nearly 10 pm. "It's got to be more than an hour now. Do you think they would be headed back by now?"

Marcy looked a little more troubled. "I think Audra said they had reservations for ... five o'clock. They had to have left by now, the restaurant wouldn't stay open too late in this crap."

"They're big girls, and if it gets too bad, there's plenty of places for them to stay, there and along the way back."

Marcy thought that over, and said, cryptically, "That's what I'm afraid of."

Dave raised a puzzled brow at that statement. "Why don't you just call her, and see if she's home yet?"

Marcy didn't answer, she walked to the phone, and dialed a number. After a few moments she said, "Marcy here. Just checking to make sure you two made it home safe. Give me a call at home and let me know are alright." She hung up the phone, and said needlessly, "Answering machine."

She reached for Dave's hand, and pulled him up off the couch. "Now go tell your son that you're taking me home, and that we have another all night Scrabble tournament planned."

Not more than a few minutes later, a snow covered Honda Civic pulled into the driveway behind Chloe's Subaru. Audra turned off the motor, and turned to Chloe.

"Whew, that only took, what, a little over two hours to get here? For what normally takes less than an hour?"

"There's got to be close to seven inches out there, and it had just started snowing when we left for the restaurant. Just look at my car." Chloe nodded to the large white form in front of them.

Audra's headlights, still on, lit the nearly unrecognizable large clump of snow ahead of them.  She laughed, and said, "Thank god we got behind the one and only plow running between here and the New York state line, or I think we might still be in New York right now."

"For sure. C'mon, let's get into the house and warmed up. I'm getting colder just looking at it all. And it's still coming down like crazy."

The two women, not properly dressed for the bad weather, trudged up the walk and Chloe unlocked the door to her house. She flipped on the small light near the front door, and they both stamped their feet to get the snow off.

Audra swiped some of the snow off the shoulders of her coat, and looked around. "Still looks the same. Books. Books. And look! More books!" Audra kidded,  knowing that Chloe's passion for books didn't end with her job.

Chloe was already taking off her jacket, and then hung it on knobbed rack on the wall. "Get your coat off, and stay awhile. I'm going to make us some hot chocolate, or coffee. You have a preference?"

Audra hung her coat next to Chloe's. She rubbed her hands together. "Hot chocolate sounds perfect. I need to get some circulation into my hands again, I've been gripping that steering wheel for the last two hours .."

"Have a seat, I'll be right back."

"I think I'm going to use your bathroom, if you don't mind. I drank entirely too much water tonight."

Chloe's laughter carried from the kitchen. "Thank god for the designated driver rule."

Chloe was getting some cups out from the cupboard when she noticed the blinking light on her answering machine. She touched the Play button, and heard Marcy's message. Audra caught the tail end of it as she entered the kitchen.

"Marcy still mother henning you, huh?"

Chloe smiled and said, "Yeah, always. I guess I'd better call her. It'll just take a sec." Chloe picked up the phone, dialed ,and waited, and then said "Mom?  Me and Audra just got back. We're fine. Thanks for caring. Talk to you tomorrow."

Audra came over and stood next to Chloe. "Ooh. You're making it the old fashioned way, you're heating the water in a teakettle, instead of the microwave. I'm impressed."

Chloe tapped out the powder from two envelopes into the cups. "So, I'm not Julia Childs. So sue me." She glanced out her kitchen window, the snow was coming down just as thick as before. "And I'm thinking that you shouldn't be trying to drive home to Erie in this stuff either." She turned and found Audra standing directly in front of her.

Audra reached her arms around Chloe's waist, and pulled her close, looking deeply into Chloe's eyes. She touched her nose to Chloe's and said, with a catch in her voice, " I think you're right, I'm not going anywhere tonight." Her lips met Chloe's softly, and she waited but for a moment, and then felt Chloe's arms slide up around her neck. She pulled Chloe in even tighter, and kissed her with all the fervor borne of years of hopeless longing, unfulfilled fantasy, and now, finally, wondrous reality.

It was Sunday morning, and Nelson and his aunt were getting ready to head out to Charlie Shemps house to take a ride on Cargo. "I wasn't sure you were going to come along today. Dad said that," Nelson paused uncomfortably, "that you had a bad day yesterday. That you had an anxiety attack.

Sara leaned back in the kitchen chair, and stirred her coffee. "That's kind of true, Nelson.  I spent alot of time thinking about this last night. To tell you the truth, I spent so much time thinking about it, I didn't even notice the all the snow until I woke up this morning.  Look at it, it looks like a foot fell out there."

Nelson smiled, and settled into the chair across from her. "Yeah, Dad drove Marcy home last night. Guess he got stuck."

Sara winked at him, and returned his smile. "I was watching the weather channel, and it's supposed to get up into the 50's today. All of this will be gone by tomorrow morning. " She sipped her coffee. "This is such screwy weather."

Nelson stretched his long legs out, and put his bare feet on an empty chair. "So, you had a bad day yesterday?"

Sara got up, and poured herself another cup of coffee. "You're going to make me talk about this, aren't you?"

"Dad said you wouldn't talk to him about it.  So, being the second in command, it's my duty to pester you in Dad's stead."

"Nels, for a guy that doesn't talk alot himself, you sure are asking alot of me."

"OK, then use little sentences. We have an hour and a half before we have to be at Charlie's. I'm all ears."

Sara reached across, and squeezed one of Nelson's toes. "And all feet, too." She stirred some milk into her coffee.  "I was anxious about going to the school yesterday. I wanted to talk to Chloe, and tell her I was sorry for the other night. I said some pretty unfair things to her. And you know me, I'm not much for apologizing. So I worked myself into a state before Dave and I even left for the school. "

Nelson's smile gently urged her to continue.

"Well, I get there, I'm already a mess, because I feel bad about what I said to her. I found her in the gymnasium. I just got out a 'hello' to her, and she really hadn't said anything to me, or me to her, when this woman, an old friend of hers, swoops in and takes off with her.  I never got to apologize. I never really got a handle on how Chloe was feeling, if she was mad at me, or just feeling badly, or what."

Nelson scratched his leg. "So, do it again. Try again. Chloe's such a nice person, I'm sure she'll understand."

"Nelson, it's not that simple. I left there so fast, I thought at the time I was simply having one of my panic attacks. But there's more to it. I left there, yeah, because I was anxious, but when I thought about it last night, I realized why I really left."

"Not because of the anxiety attack?" Nelson's brows turned downward.

"I think that was a part of it." Sara pushed her cup away from her and looked out the window and the brightening blue skies beyond. "But I think, no, I know, what really was the biggest part of my having to get out of there.  I just had the most overwhelming feeling ... that I blew it. Blew whatever chances I had with Chloe." She sighed, and continued her staring out the window.

Nelson, not well versed in the matters of the heart, said, "How can you blow it just because of one fight?"

"Timing is everything. One fight, no chance to apologize, and one very interested old friend."

"You mean, interested, interested?"

"Yeah. They were leaving on a date."  Sara's voice tightened on that word, 'date'.

"Oh." Nelson shrugged his shoulders, and said, "One date. What could happen from one date?"

Sara got up, and watched the icicles dripping from the gutters from over the window. She turned and looked at him.

"Plenty, Nelson. Plenty."


" I absolutely love this bed. It has got to be the greatest bed I've ever been in." crowed Audra, happily hugging a pillow in her arms. "And these quilts, how old are they? They're so soft..."  She snuggled deeper under the covers.

Chloe came out of her bathroom, dressed in a terry cloth bathrobe, toweling her wet head. She grinned at the blissfully happy Audra, who was rolling around in the bed like a puppy getting its belly scratched.

"Just don't look down from the edge of it. You'll get dizzy. I know I do."

Audra peeked out from under the covers, and moved her head over to the edge of the mattress and looked down. "Oooh, I see what you mean. It's got to be 5 feet off the floor. A person could get hurt ..."

"Three feet, 4 inches. I measured. It was my great grandmother's bed. And the quilts were my grandmother's."  She grabbed her hairbrush off her vanity, and ran it through her hair.

"You should think about padding the floor around it, just in case ..."

"Oh, just in case, huh? In case something like ...this should happen?" Chloe grabbed a pillow, and quickly thunked Audra over the head with it.  Just as Audra had grabbed the other pillow, and was planning on retaliating,  Chloe's phone rang. Chloe threw her pillow down on the bed, and grinned, "Hold that thought, or actually, forget that thought. I'm a sore loser at pillow fights."  Chloe answered the phone before the answering machine picked up.


"Hello yourself. See you made it home safe and sound." Marcy yawned into the phone.

"Yup, we did. We just chained ourselves to a snow plow, and let them pull us along.  Where're you at?"

"At home. Dave and I had a late night, we stayed up all night worrying about you ..."

"I'll just bet you did." Chloe smirked.

"Did Audra make it home alright? That was some nasty storm last night, Dave is sure the golf course won't be opening until July or so ..."

Chloe had taken the cordless phone into the kitchen with her, and tucked it under her chin while she made a pot of coffee."Hang on a second, Marse."  Audra was standing in the doorway, mouthing 'shower' and pointing towards the bathroom. She laughed at Audra's broad expressions."Geez, you're wonderful at charades. I bet you're a blast at parties. There's clean towels in the cupboard in the bathroom."

Audra stuck her tongue out at her, and went into the bathroom.

"OK, Marse, I'm back."

A small silence ensued. "I guess Audra didn't get home safely."

"Nope. Listen, Marse,  can we talk later? I want to throw some breakfast together for her, and help her get her car cleaned off.  She has to get to her parents' house by one, some family gathering." She glanced at the kitchen clock. "And it's nearly eleven now."

"Can I stop by later?  I have to go get my wind-up car from Dave's driveway. Or maybe I should just let it thaw out for a day or two. The snow's higher than the car."

"Sure. If you see my car out there, that means I'm home."

"Alright, I'll probably see you later then."


Nelson had his new, or borrowed, Stetson on in honor of his first time on a horse. He and Sara were traveling up Route 20, heading east to Charlie Shemp's house.

Nelson adjusted his hat in the rearview mirror. "Well at least the roads are clear. I hope we can make it up that long driveway to Charlie's house." And I hope I don't fall off that horse.

Sara was picking snow out of her hair from the snowball fight that she and Nelson had while cleaning all the snow off of his truck. She felt a cold, small trickle go down her shoulderblades, and she shuddered. "Damn, Nelson, you got snow down my back."  I hope I get a chance to ride that horse.

They had passed through town, and were coming up on the old '76 station, and now were just a few minutes away from Charlie's.

"Slow down, Nelson, we've got a 'hat' in front of us. They probably just got out of church." I love that term, 'hat'. AKA, old people driving so slow that it it made the most patient person erupt into uncontrollable road rage rants.

Nelson slowed the truck down, and tapped the steering wheel impatiently. "You'd think they would at least go the speed limit. The roads are clear now. Jeez."

Nelson continued his grousing, when something else caught his attention. "Hey, Aunt Sara, isn't that Chloe?"

Sara didn't answer him right away. She was already taking in the scene that they were slowly passing. It was Chloe, all right. She had a broom in her mittened hands, and was helping to clean the snow off of a yellow Honda Civic. Audra playfully brushed snow from the hood onto the small redhead . Already grinning, Chloe smiled even broader after catching sight of Nelson in his truck. She waved at him and  Nelson beeped, and waved back.

"I told you, Nelson."  Sara turned her head and looked farther up the road.  'Timing. Timing is everything."

Continued in Part IX

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