THE WRITTEN WORD
by Mickey Minner
Melissa held the door as Dillon walked out of the café then followed her down the half dozen steps to the sidewalk. Stopping at the bottom, she looked around at the empty parking lots around town. “Doesn’t appear there’ll be much business at the shop today.”
“You’re probably right. I was thinking about taking the boat out this afternoon? Maybe we could—”
“Wish I could, Babe. But I promised to take some pics of the falls for the magazine. I thought I’d head up there today.”
Dillon didn’t try to hide her disappointment. “Oh?”
“I’m sorry, Babe. But I did promise.”
“I wish you’d cut back on the number of assignments you accept.”
“Being freelance, I can’t be too choosey. And if I start turning down assignments, they’ll just find someone else to do them.”
“I supposed this means you can’t help me inventory the shipment due today… like you promised.” Dillon said when Melissa made no movement in the shop’s direction.
“I… um… I need to go back to the house and get my camera. I’ll try to be back by the time the mail truck comes.”
Dillon closed the distance between them, expecting a goodbye kiss from her wife but, instead, Melissa turned away, walking briskly down the sidewalk. “I love you,” Dillon whispered to the retreating woman. “Be careful.”
Julie casually wandered along the lake shore, stopping periodically to pick up a unique looking pebble or other item of momentary interest. She looked around for a place to rest and enjoy the scenery. Not too far down the beach sat a pair of benches placed facing each other, an obvious arrangement for visitors to carry on a pleasant conversation while enjoying their surroundings.
From her new vantage point, Julie had an unobstructed view back down the beach to where Dillon was sweeping the walkway that fronted the curio shop. She could also see anyone that entered or exited the café; pulled into the store or stopped at the gas pumps; and any cars that drove through the town’s only intersection. But what drew her interest was the grouping of residences occupying a small hillside behind town and Melissa making her way toward one of them.
She stretched her arms out along the top of the bench back and turned her face skyward. The morning sun felt good as it warmed her skin. She rolled her head to the side and spotted Dillon, her arm resting on the top of the broom handle and her chin resting on her arm. She was looking wistfully out across the lake surface.
After arriving home, Melissa moved aimlessly from one room to another until she finally sat at the unused desk in the room set aside as an office. She looked at the wall above the desk where a row of neatly lined up books occupied a shelf hung specifically for them. And at the framed certificates and accolades those books had been awarded. The books, shelf and frames were all in need of a good dusting.
Where did it go wrong, Babe?
Unlike the second desk in the room that was cluttered with piles of papers and stacks of books, her wife’s desktop was clear. It was also rarely used anymore and Dillon almost never visited the room after she had abruptly given up her writing career. A decision she had never discussed nor explained.
She thought back on ten years of marriage and on the woman she had fallen in love with. The woman she still loved.
Where did we go wrong?
The soft ticking of a clock was the only sound in the room and even it became too much for the troubled woman to accept. She stood. Grabbing her camera bag off her desk and left the room pulling the door shut behind her.
Dillon was cleaning the glass tops of the display cases that encircled her desk. She looked up when the door to the shop opened. “Hello, again.”
“Hi. I thought I’d come back and look at what else you have. I was… sort of interrupted earlier,” Julie said nervously.
Her cheeks colored remembering the reason for the woman’s rapid departure that morning. “I’m sorry about that. My wife was away last night and… well…”
Julie smiled as she approached Dillon. “I understand. Don’t worry about it.”
“Thank you. Many wouldn’t be so kind.”
“It’s okay. Really,” she said reaching for Dillon’s hand. She withdrew a second later when the door opened and a man carried a large box inside.
“Afternoon, Bobby. You need any help?”
The mailman set the box on the floor. “I’ve got two more just like this one in the truck. You can hold the door open if you want.”
“Sure thing. I’ll be right there.” Dillon looked at Julie, “please look around. And let me know if you need any help,” she said walking around the display cases to do as the mailman had asked.
“Don’t know what’s in these but they weigh a ton,” Bobby groused setting a second box next to the first.
“I ordered some sculptures. Miniature osprey, trout, elk, moose, that sort of thing. They’re delicate so I’m guessing the company packed them well.”
Bobby carried the third box inside, a clipboard and some loose envelopes riding on top of it. “Sure hope that’s what it is and they didn’t ship you a load of bricks.” As he moved past, Dillon snatched the items off the box.
“If they did, you’ll be carrying them right back out to your truck. Where do I sign?”
“Hang on a sec,” he said as he placed the box with the others. Straightening up, he looked at the paperwork in Dillon’s hand. “Right there. You want to check the contents first?”
“No. Melissa is going to help me inventory them and she’s not here yet. No sense in holding you up because she’s late.”
Bobby accepted the clipboard when Dillon held it out to him. “Okay. You’ve got your incoming mail. Any out going?”
“Not today. Thanks, Bobby.”
The mailman tapped his brow in a mock salute. “It’s my job, ma’am.”
Dillon laughed. “Get out,” she scoffed, playfully attempting to swat his arm.
“See you tomorrow,” he said scooting out of her reach.
“I’ll be here.” Dillon looked at the boxes then turned her gaze out the window. She hoped to see Melissa but the road was empty, as was the sidewalk. “Damn.”
Julie moved from the rear of the shop where she had been standing. “Problem?”
Dillon turned to her customer. “Um. Not really. I need to match the contents of these boxes to the invoice. It’s just easier to do with two people but it seems I’ll have to take care of it myself today.”
“I can help. I mean… if you want.”
Dillon hesitated. Another look outside confirmed that her wife was not going to appear any time soon. “Sure. If you don’t mind, I don’t. Let me get a knife to get these open. Why don’t you pull the desk chair out here? That way you won’t have to stand while I do the unpacking.” Dillon crossed to the back of the shop and the storage closet where she kept a box knife. When she returned to the boxes, Julie was sitting on the chair, pen in hand, waiting for her next instructions.
Melissa placed her camera bag on the passenger seat before lifting the gallon jug of water off the floor board and unscrewing the lid. The afternoon was warm and she had drunk all the water she’d carried with her on the hike to the waterfall. After quenching her thirst, she turned the key in the ignition. Letting the engine idle for a few minutes, she took another drink from the jug then leaned over to place it back on the floor board, her eyes skimming over the face of the dashboard clock. “Dammit. When has it ever taken me this long to make this hike?” Maybe when it became too hard to face her, came the answer. “Shut up.” She shifted the truck into gear, a cloud of dust and gravel billowed as she sped out of the parking area.
“Ooh, I love that one,” Julie gushed as Dillon unwrapped a bald eagle, wings spread wide and struggling fish clutched securely in the bird’s talons.
“It is nice, isn’t it?” she held the sculpture up to catch the afternoon sun coming through the window. “I think there are supposed to be six of these.”
Julie glanced down at the invoice. “Yes. Six.”
Dillon set the eagle on the floor and set about removing the others from the box and un-wrapping them. “Is that everything?”
“I think so. Let me double check.”
The sound of squealing tires made them look up. They watched as a pickup skidded to a stop in front of the shop.
Seconds later, Melissa rushed through the door, stopping abruptly when she saw the women sitting in the middle of a pile of wrapping material— one looking at her with distain; the other with disappointment. “I’m sorry, Babe,” she began as she hurried to Dillon’s side. “Time got away from me. Just tell me what you need me to do.”
Dillon looked at Melissa. Why is everything you do always more important than me? “It’s okay. We just finished.”
“Yes… Oh, my gosh.” Dillon blushed as she twisted around to face Julie. “Here, you’ve been helping me all afternoon and I never even asked your name. Talk about bad manners.”
She smiled. “Julie. And I should have introduced myself a long time ago.”
“I am so sorry.” Dillon held out a hand. “Dillon. I’m glad to meet you Julie. And this late arrival is my wife, Melissa.”
Julie accepted the hand and apology. “Hi.”
“Thanks for offering to help, Dil. I really expected to be back earlier,” Melissa said more to her wife than the stranger.
“I was glad I was here. It would have been a lot of work for her to do alone,” Julie’s response held a tinge of reproach.
Melissa looked puzzled. “Yeah. I guess it would have been. I’ll clean up this mess,” she offered while Dillon carried the new merchandise to an empty shelf near the front of the shop.
Julie stood, dropping the invoice she had been marking onto the vacated chair. “Let me help you with that.”
“I do appreciate your help, Julie,” Dillon said as Melissa stuffed wrapping paper back into the empty boxes. “What can I do to thank you? Can I pay you for your time?”
She shook her head. “Absolutely not. I was happy to help.”
“But you’ve been here all afternoon. I have to do something.”
“Well… There is one thing. But I’m a little embarrassed to mention it.”
Melissa closed the flaps on one of the boxes. When she lifted it the corner brushed against a figurine.
“Careful, honey,” Dillon rushed back to rescue the teetering statuette. “Don’t want to break any before we’ve paid for them.”
“I shouldn’t have left them on the floor. Let me get the rest of them picked up before you move the other boxes.” With Julie’s help, Dillon quickly transferred the remaining sculptures from the floor to the display case. “All clear,” she patted her wife on the shoulder.
Dillon pushed the chair back to the desk. “Julie, you were saying there was something I could do for you.”
“And it is?”
“Okay, this is really embarrassing but I know who you are. And I’ve read all of your books. At least, twice. So if you wouldn’t mind…”
Dillon chuckled. “I’d be glad to autograph them for you.”
“Sure. How many do you have?”
“Like I said, all of them. But they’re back at the motel. I didn’t think I’d have the nerve to ask you.”
“It’s okay. Do you want to bring them here? Or, since you have that many, it might be easier if I just walked over there.”
“Oh, that would be great. If it’s not too much trouble.”
“After all your help today, it’s no trouble at all. Give us some time to close up the shop and we’ll come over.”
“Both of you?”
“Is that a problem?” Melissa asked. Most of the fans that came to Lake Como in search of Dillon were decent people but a few made her uncomfortable with their overly enthusiastic adoration of her wife.
“Um, no. Just asking.”
“Half an hour. Is that okay?” Dillon asked.
“What room are you in?”
“Twelve. It’s in the back.”
“I know where it is,” Melissa said.
I’m sure you do, Julie thought. “Half an hour then. Bye.”
Melissa watched her leave. “She’s creepy.”
Dillon sat down at the desk. “Why would you say that?”
“Because she is,” she said moving closer to the front windows. “She gives off some really bad vibes.” She continued to watch Julie as she walked across the intersection and up the highway to the motel.
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Well, she does.”
Dillon studied her wife. “She’s a fan, Melissa. That’s all. You know how some of them get.”
Melissa looked over her shoulder at Dillon. “Yeah, I know.”
“Did you get the pictures you needed?”
She turned and crossed the room to stand opposite her wife. “Look, I really am sorry for—“
“Yeah, I know.” Dillon cut off the unwanted apology. What’s going on with us? “Help me get things shut down?”
“Maybe after I sign the books,” Dillon said as the women went about their tasks, “we can go home. And talk.”
About us. “I don’t know. Just talk.” Like we used to.
Melissa poured the un-drunk coffee down the drain and rinsed out the carafe. Then she opened the basket and removed the filter and grounds, dumping them into the waste basket next to the counter. Dampening a sponge, she wiped off the counter. “I, uh… I’ve sorta made plans for tonight.”
Dillon sighed. Why won’t you talk to me? She forced her eyes closed to stop the tears forming in them.
Dillon looked up to find Melissa standing beside her.
“Let’s go over to the motel. Then I’ll walk you home.”
Return to the Academy