This is really why Bernadette got into construction. She could feel the perspiration beginning to form on her forehead and neck and just a hint of fatigue brought on by using her body to construct a building where there was once nothing.
The building project she'd started for Kratt about two months ago was going along fine. It was starting to take shape. Of course it took a bit of convincing on Bernadette's part for Kratt to free up a little more cash so she could build him exactly what he'd envisioned.
The foundation was complete, the framing was up and they would be finishing the roof in the next two days. They were using the daylight hours and unseasonably mild weather to full advantage.
Usually by this time in mid January the rains would be starting in. So far, so good thought Bernadette as she continued hammering in the roofing nails with quick, expert movements.
"Hey babe, where's my lunch?" She heard Alex croon.
Bernadette looked down at the construction site gate to see a shock of blonde hair walking through it with a lunch pail and a smile. She sat back on her haunches and watched as her brother Matt came trotting out to meet her while addressing Alex with a hand gesture for harassing his girl. Alex laughed it off saying he was just jealous.
Bernadette couldn't help but echo that sentiment. I guess that is what being in love looks like, she thought as she continued to watch Matt give Sue a hug and chaste-like kiss. She could see the smile and light on her brother's face from where she sat up on the half-finished roof. Matt ignored the teasing catcalls from the crew and led Sue over to a lunch table by putting a loose arm around her waist.
Bernadette watched a few seconds more and then continued hammering in her roof nails in perfect rows.
Bernadette missed her brothers. Pathetic, thought Bernadette as she strummed along on her old six-string guitar. It was Sunday morning and she'd given her crew a much needed day off and she decided to give herself one too.
Truth be told, she'd hoped her brothers would stop by and want to watch the football play off games or want to play a game of pick up basketball at the nearby park. But she knew they were out with their girlfriends.
It was strange to see both of her brothers in steady relationships. Mark, the most shy of all the Rand children always found asking girls out exceptionally hard. People who didn't know him often mistook his shyness for snobbishness. For that reason, he dated very little.
The only long-term relationship Bernadette ever remembered him having was with Shelly, a girl he met before joining the service. She never really got the full story on why they broke up, but she knew it involved differences in what they wanted out of the relationship. Bernadette imagined he was getting pressure from not only her, but also her family to get married.
Bernadette could tell quite easily that Jump wasn't that kind of person. She had gotten along well with her when Mark brought her over for Thanksgiving. She could easily see the attraction for Mark. She was pretty, athletic, extremely quick witted and had that dry sense of humor Mark himself had. He'd moped around a bit when she had left for Vermont for Christmas and was subjected to lots of good-natured teasing from his siblings.
Bernadette liked this serious yet smart woman Mark was dating. She saw some potential here for the couple to be happy, and that made her happy.
Everyone was surprised when Jump had even explained her nickname to Bernadette, which apparently was a big deal, given Mark's experience when he asked her about it. Funny, even though she didn't know the woman well at all, she had a hard time picturing her doing what she did to earn the nickname. She'd explained that it was many years and many beers ago.
Bernadette was surprised when she found out that Mark took Sue's advice on going to the surf shop to meet her. And to ask her out, if mountain biking could be considered a date. They'd been seeing each other now for close to four months.
As for Matt and Sue, well, it seemed they were ready to get married. They'd only been dating about a month longer than Mark and Jump but it seemed they'd been made for each other. Perhaps Matt had found 'the one'.
She was not a believer in stuff like love at first sight and soulmates, but Matt and Sue certainly made a strong case for finding someone that 'fit'. That's how her Dad once described his and her mom's marriage. "We just fit, Bernsy. Like two puzzle pieces." It was a simple analogy, but one that made sense.
She herself had not really given any thought to dating in the past few years. First, with her mother's passing, then her job and remodeling her house, she just hadn't the desire or time.
Even seeing her brothers involved didn't stir her to action as far as finding someone. That day watching Matt and Sue eating lunch together, she could almost see herself wanting that but she really was pretty happy with her life. Her career was doing well; she had a great little house that kept her busy as well. And she had her family.
She considered herself pretty lucky to be in the place she was. Even in dark times, like when her mother died, she had her family. She had been essential in keeping them together and they had given her reason to get out of bed everyday.
When she would think of her mom now, it was mostly happy memories. She remembered when she was about 17 her dad had gotten a well paying job with the city and her mom was home a little more. Some of Bernadette's best times with her mom were during these years. She was at the age when her mom started treating her like the adult she was and it made Bernadette feel all the more closer to her mom.
As mother and daughter, they would joke about the antics of the boys or share a concern over Carrie's choice of friends. It was during these conversations that it became evident her mother was proud of her. Proud of her part in raising her siblings. It was something Bernadette would always carry with her in her heart.
It was this pride mother had in daughter that kept Bernadette going after she died too. Through sleepless nights of not knowing where her brothers were, to keeping Carrie from making one terrible mistake after another, to keeping her father alive, she did everything in her power to get everyone through.
Now, both brothers were productive, happy young men and Carrie was happily married to a wonderful man and about to have a baby. Even her dad had seemingly started to come out of his own dark hell. He started talking about her again. It was something Bernadette had little hope for before, but it was happening.
A single tear found it's way down Bernadette's cheek and curved its way to the corner of her mouth. She brought the back of her hand up and wiped it away slowly and then leaned up, set her guitar down and rested her forearms on her thighs, interlacing her fingers. She closed her eyes and smiled for a moment picturing her own mom's smile. Then with a deep sigh she dropped her head and scrubbed her face with both hands.
Okay Bernsy, enough deep thoughts, time to get busy. And she did by going to the back room and sanding doors to the tunes of Coldplay's latest CD.
It was a slow day in the surf shop. The weather had turned downright frigid in late January and people were taking refuge in their own homes or heading up to the ski slopes not too far away. Sue was propped up on the counter in the storeroom, watching more than helping Jump with an inventory count.
"You know, Jump, you should add a ski/snowboard part to the shop. We are only a couple of hours from the mountains and you could probably just build off of your regular clientele. I know most of them ski in winter."
Jump paused from her counting and turned to Sue. "You think it could work?" Then more to herself, "The shop is doing well, but it could do better during the cooler months…I would have business from my regulars who surf and ski or snowboard…" Suddenly both women smiled widely at each other. "I know who could help with the addition!" Sue added in a singsong voice.
Jump's smile dropped like marble in a bucket. She'd avoided thinking about it all morning, but now… Sue immediately knew the source of the frown.
"When does he leave?" Sue asked gently.
"February twelfth." Two weeks. Jump sat heavily on the worn stool and sighed. She looked at her watch. Mark was cutting out of work early from the site and coming to take her to lunch.
"Listen, Sue, I love the idea of adding a ski shop. Talk to Matt about it and perhaps we can work something out when the weather gets warmer."
They heard the bell go off signaling a customer had come into the shop. Sue hopped off the counter and went to the front. Jump turned to finish her counting when she felt eyes on her. She grinned before she turned, knowing who it was already.
Mark took a step forward as she slowly walked into his open arms. "Well, hello again." He said around a smile. "I hope you didn't mind that I let you sleep this morning." He said as they looked at each other. He had left a note on her nightstand asking if he could meet her for lunch today. Her answer was a light peck on his lips and a shy smile.
"Ready to go get some lunch?" He asked as she released him.
"Yep, let me get my keys." She said as she turned from him to reach over a box and grab them.
"Is everything alright?" Mark asked as they headed to his car. He'd sensed something for a few days and finally decided to ask. Jump was hard to read sometimes, but he definitely felt a shift in mood from her.
She took a few seconds and finally gave him a noncommittal "yeah" which they both knew wasn't the truth. But he didn't want to press the issue because he would be leaving soon. He only wanted to enjoy the time they had together.
This isn't fair to him, thought Jump as he opened the door to his car for her. I'm already saying goodbye instead of enjoying what time we have left.
He rounded the car to the driver's seat and looked at Jump as he started the car. She sensed this and met his eyes and let a small smile form on her lips.
In that instant, she knew that this was going to be an opportunity that would be lost to her. He'd leave and it would be the end of their budding relationship. The latter would be her decision and she felt powerless to change it.
Why can't it be like Matt and Sue have? Thought Jump. She felt an overwhelming sense of guilt building also. She had no idea why she was having a hard time letting go, even when she didn't feel like she was in love with him.
As he started the car, her eyes slowly shifted towards the passenger window and she looked out of it focusing on the late morning shadow of the lifeguard tower and falling deep into thought.
Bernadette finished measuring the last door to be cut for the day. It had started raining in earnest yesterday, so the site was shut down for the day. They'd been real lucky with the weather and had made a lot of progress with the warehouse/office she was building for Kratt.
She'd really been concentrating on the project and leaving her little beach house to when she had time. Now with possibly a few days off, she decided to get some work done on it.
"Hey, about time you dragged yourself away from your honey." Bernadette called to the footsteps she figured to be her brother Matt. "Now wipe that shit-eating grin off of your face and get to work. Obviously we can't paint today, but there's plenty to do!"
When there was no comment forthcoming or even a chuckle, she turned around to see a very sad looking Mark. "What's up? She said standing up and dusting off her hands on her jeans.
He sighed heavily and picked up a measuring tape, playing with it while he worked out the words in his head. He'd come straight over here when he'd left Jump's apartment, a place he'd been at for the better part of three months.
"It's over Bernsy. We decided to call it quits. It's stupid really. I'll be gone for a year, you know? It's not fair to either of us."
Seeing her brother in so much pain, her first instinct was to try and protect him. But she realized he was a grown man and it was decision they'd both made apparently.
So instead, she folded her arms around his lean frame and hugged him tight. She could hear him sniffling, but by the time he pulled away his eyes were dry if not their usual bright.
"What do you want me to do, hang the door?" He asked. She knew that was the end of the conversation and she would get no more from him. She was used to the way men dealt with these things from the line of work she was in, but it still pained her to see her brother like this. She decided to make it her mission to cheer her brother up the last few days he had in the States.
Jump was on autopilot. When she'd invited Mark to spend that first night three months ago, she'd intended to break it off the next day. She realized now how cruel that would have been but she figured it would be easier if he'd gotten at least something out of it.
She knew he wasn't that kind of guy though and kept inviting him over until it was understood he had a standing invitation. They got along really well and enjoyed spending time together. He was a great guy and treated her with such kindness and tenderness.
She also began thinking that maybe she could see herself with this man. Love can grow out of friendship, right? But as the time for him to leave neared, she began to distance herself. She just couldn't see herself waiting for him to come back.
She couldn't explain it except to say maybe they didn't know each other well enough yet. It would hurt to see him leave, that much she knew. What ever it was that was holding her back, it permeated the last few days of their relationship.
So, yesterday, two days before he was to leave, he must have seen the writing on the wall and asked her if they could talk. She dreaded what he had to say, but she planned on saying it if he didn't.
But he'd said it; he'd been the one to step up. As he spoke, full of reason and regret, she began to cry. She cried for her cowardess, she cried for the lost opportunity, she cried for the loss of his warmth and smell in her bed. But mostly she cried for her own inability to tell him what he wanted to hear, that she'd wait for him.
As much as she adored him, she wasn't in the habit of making promises she might not be able to keep. She didn't understand it either. She had no intention of dating anyone else. As she said to Sue five months ago, she was happy with her life. She would go back to that. Beholden to no one.
But still… Perhaps…when he came back they could see each other again. She'd said that when he rose to leave. He smiled and caressed her cheek using his thumb to brush away a tear. "I'd like that, very much." He said and then walked out the door, closing it quietly behind him.
"Fuck!" she'd exclaimed as she turned the key to get into the shop. It was raining hard and she couldn't get the damn door to unlock.
"Hey, lemme help." A friendly voice behind her. Tim. "Hey, Tim. Thanks." She gave him a watery smile as he unlocked the door and swung it wide for her to enter.
"You okay?" He asked, concern evident for the young woman.
"I've head better days. But, I'm okay." She changed the subject before he asked any more questions she didn't want to answer.
"What's the surf like today?" She asked as she flipped on the lights.
"Currents are real strong. I'm sittin' out today. Thought I'd come get some coffee and enjoy the storm."
"I probably shouldn't be open today anyway." She said as she continued to get the shop ready for business. "You want some company for a while?" Tim asked. "I could get you some coffee or something?"
"Thanks Tim. That would be nice."
"He asked about you, you know." Sue said casually as she was pulling in the postcard rack as they closed the store together. "He asked how you were, if he could write you." Sue looked at her as she said the last part of her sentence. "So? Is it okay?"
She knew Sue was trying bait her. She wasn't in the mood for any of it. Mark had shipped off yesterday and Jump thought it would be easier on everyone if she didn't go. Besides he needed to be with his family.
"I already told him he could…that day." Jump was really beginning to get tired of this conversation topic. She stopped sweeping and leaned on the handle as she looked warily at her friend. "Butt out, okay Sue?" Sue looked at her with wounded eyes. "Christ…" Jump said under her breath. She didn't mean the words to come out as harsh as they did. She apologized.
"Look, it's hard enough having Matt and Bernadette thinking I'm some sort of evil woman hell-bent on destroying their brother. He's a big boy. It was a decision both of us made. Jesus, you think I'm not hurting?" Jump looked away from her friend, suddenly bone-tired.
"I'm sorry, it's just that he was so devastated. You seemed to take it in stride. Like you do everything." The last remark chafed at Jump and her friend saw it. She walked to her friend and put an arm around her. "It's just so hard to tell with you Jump. You play everything so close to the vest, you know?"
Jump shrugged off her arm and looked up at her with hot, angry, red-rimmed eyes. "Look, I'm sorry I don't wallow or look for sympathy by displaying my emotions for everyone to see. It doesn't mean I don't have them! Christ, Sue, you've known me long enough to know that!"
Sue sighed heavily. Taking another long, slow breath she looked at her friend apologetically. "You are right, and I'm the one who is sorry."
Sue now took both of Jump's hands in hers until Jump would meet her eyes. "Let's go get something to eat. Just you and me, okay?" Jump smiled warily and nodded. After grabbing her purse, she finished pushing in the postcard rack and locked the door.
Continued in Chapter 5
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