by Lucinda Lynx
Helen gets away from the hospital and meets April, Leo and some of April's relatives.
|Bear Ditch House
Place: Bear Ditch House
I took a deep breath and pulled the yellow door open.
This had to be a veranda or some sort of porch. I could see windows on my right and behind me. On my left I could see small, white doors. Where did they go? One of them had to hide the stairway to upstairs. I took another deep breath and pulled the brown kitchen door ahead of me open. It was as big as the door through which I had entered the porch. The only difference was the color. Its’ hinges creaked, and if someone was inside, he or she sure heard my arrival.
I entered into a big room. On my right I could see a white, wooden couch under a window. The couch had been made more comfortable with a thick rug. On the brown, wooden floor I saw woven, striped rugs.
In the back of the room a red – haired, slender woman was cooking something for the dinner. The scent of meat filled my nostrils. Maybe she made meat soup.
Just when I was about to say a greeting, I heard a joyful cry from my right. I had just time to turn my head, before a petite strawberry blonde woman with glasses bounced up from the couch and rushed to me. She hugged me as if she had been afraid I’d vanish into thin air.
“Helen! You came!”
I hugged her back, but reminded myself to be cautious because of the baby.
“Nice to see you too April,” I said. “You were here after all.”
“But of course I am!” April said.
She pulled me to sit next to her, before she seemed to realize something, or rather someone, was missing.
“Where’s Uncle Jason?”
“He left to see the shore with some Leo Inman,” I replied.
Now the woman, whose attention had been in her cooking, got alert.
“Aren’t you going to introduce that friend of yours at all?” she asked from April.
“Sorry Auntie,” April said.
She winked me to come closer and walked to the woman.
“Aunt Bonnie, meet Helen Eames, my good friend.”
She had a pause and looked at the other woman.
“Helen, this is my Uncle Jason’s wife Aunt Bonnie.”
Bonnie Nutt reached out her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
I shook her hand. “The pleasure is all mine.”
“The dinner will be ready soon,” Bonnie said. “Don’t go too far.”
“We sit and stitch here on the couch,” April said.
# # #
Ten minutes after Auntie Bonnie had met Helen, I heard some noise from outside. A car approached the house and stopped on the yard.
Helen turned to see from the window. She saw the gray Toyota Camry.
“That’s the car that picked me up from the hospital and brought me here,” she said.
“It’s my Uncle Jason’s car,” I said and smiled.
“He is always in time,” Bonnie said and smiled.
Soon someone stepped through the porch door. The steps approached the kitchen door, and a moment later two men had stepped in. One of them was bald. No moustache, no beard, no hair and no glasses. That was my Uncle Jason.
The other was older. He had brown, short and curly hair that looked like he had forgotten to comb it straight. He wore glasses. He was Leo Inman.
“Hi,” Uncle Jason said
“Hi,” I said and smiled.
“You’re in time as always,” Aunt Bonnie said to Uncle Jason and smiled.
“Is this your usual dinner time?” Leo asked from Uncle Jason.
“It is,” I replied.
“April’s right,” Uncle Jason said. “Bonnie and I always eat at noon, when we’re here.”
Uncle Jason realized Leo didn’t know Bonnie.
“Leo, meet the light of my life, Bonnie Nutt,” Leo said and gestured towards the red – haired woman next to the stove.
When Leo stepped closer, Jason spoke again.
“Leo, this is my wife, Bonnie Nutt.”
Bonnie reached out her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
Leo shook her hand. “I’m happy to meet April’s relatives,” he said.
Uncle Jason and Aunt Bonnie looked at each other. Aunt Bonnie lifted her eyebrows to her husband. Uncle Jason shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, now that you know each other, I could show you around a bit,” I told Leo. “Aunt Bonnie will call, when it’s time to eat. She wants to cook in peace.”
I led him to the porch, where he could see the two, tiny doors on one wall on his right.
“The door closer to you is the one leading upstairs, and the one further from you is the tiniest walk – in closet I’ve seen in my entire life.”
Leo nodded to signal me, that he had listened, or at least heard my words. We stepped back through the big, brown door into the kitchen. The actual kitchen area was just a stove in the corner. The sink was on the left side of the stove and the dish drying cabinet had been placed straight above the sink. The dining table was in the middle of the room lengthwise. The room had windows on three walls. On the fourth wall there were two doors. One of the doors led to the room, in which the walls, the ceiling and the furniture were green. Even the carpet had a shade of green.
The other door led to the room, where the walls, the ceiling and the furniture were all white. Only the floor had been painted light cocoa brown.
“That green room is my Uncle’s and Aunt’s bedroom, when they’re here, and that other room, where almost everything is white, is the drawing room, but it’s used only, if necessary.”
Leo nodded again. “Am I sleeping in that room?” he asked.
I shook my head.
I closed my eyes and pondered for a while. I remembered one summer when I had used the couch my uncle had placed into the kitchen to the right side of the kitchen door under the window crosswise. “I sleep in the old outbuilding. Helen sleeps upstairs. You could use that kitchen’s couch. There’s place for one.”
Aunt Bonnie, who stood next to the stove whipping some cream, heard our discussion.
“That’s the only spot available,” she said.
“So be it then,” Leo said. “Where’s the toilet? I don’t need it now, but when the time comes, I’d like to find out where it is.”
I rushed out and Leo followed me. I went around the corner behind the old barn.There was a small, wooden, red door.
“That’s the toilet,” I told Leo.
“So, it’s an outhouse,” he said.
I nodded. “Bear Ditch House has no toilet inside,” I told him. “If you want to wash your hands, you must do it in the barrel next to that small, red sauna building,” I told Leo and pointed at the small, one room building opposite the old stable building.
# # #
At the dinner I knew I had to use my chance to get to know April and her relatives a little better. Bonnie Nutt was someone I had not had a chance to meet before Jason had brought me back.
“April has told me, that when her father was a little boy, he could see the sea shore from the kitchen’s window,” I said.
Bonnie nodded. “That’s true. But after many years the earth has risen from the sea so much you don’t see the sea anymore.”
“I always thought it is that side where the sea is,” April said and pointed at the window of the back wall of the kitchen. She laughed. “I also thought the fields of this house were there.”
When I looked at that direction, I could see birches swaying in the wind. I had no idea what was behind them. Maybe some sort of forest.
“If I get your point right, you looked at the wrong direction,” I completed her thought.
“It was the window under which you sleep I should’ve looked at. But when Dad mentioned the trees, and I saw trees from that window, I believed those were the trees that covered the view. It’s easy to fall into such thoughts, when my maternal grandma’s place still has the lake in view, and one can see it clearly through the one and only kitchen window. This is my paternal grandma’s place, even I never met her. She was born in here and lived here as long as her name was engraved in stone.”
“We’d like to hear how the two of you met in the first place,” Bonnie said and tasted for the raspberry quark she had made for dessert.
“April and I met through an email list. It was called The Quill. The members of the list told each other the small accidents of their lives and pondered the possible stories we could tell about them.”
April nodded and ate another spoonful of raspberry quark from her small glass bowl. “Each of us had to write at least one story once a month.” She sighed. “I wouldn’t have been able to write any more any faster.”
“Is the list still active?” Helen asked and sipped some milk from her glass.
“No,” April said.
“She’s right,” I said. “Terry River was the first one to coach us and manage the list, but then the list had to be run down.”
“Why?” Helen asked and took a bite from her bread.
“Terry needed the page for some other purpose,” I said.
“But we were lucky,” April said. “Grace Carleton took the reins from Terry, and The Quill could go on.”
“But didn’t you just say that the list isn’t active anymore?” Helen asked, and ate the third spoonful of raspberry quark.
“That’s true,” I said. “Grace got sick and died only four months after Terry had given her the reins.”
“That must have been a big disappointment to all of you,” Helen said. “Not to mention sad.”
“Indeed,” April said.
# # #
Anita and I had set the date. I had made up my mind after Anita had told me about Leo. Anita wanted him to know she had moved on. She had chosen me instead. We’d tie the knot.
Anita had given me one invitation and told me exactly, what I should do. I had taken the flight from Anchorius to Daubenton. I had not been able to continue my trip right away, so I had spent the night in Daubenton and from there I had taken the flight to Calidris the next day.
After my flight had landed I had picked up my luggage.
Finding a car had been my next concern, but I had managed to find a local company that rented cars. I had checked the fuel, filled the tank and driven here to the Bear Ditch House.
I stepped out of my car and closed the door. The yard was quiet. The big, wooden, orange – red building stood in front of me in the evening sun.
I took a quick look around, but didn’t see anyone. I walked across the lawn and up the stairs. Two stony ones and four wooden ones led me to the door.
I opened the door hoping I wouldn’t keep too much noise. I pulled the door shut behind me to make sure it would not slam shut and wake the people inside.
This had to be some sort of veranda. I saw the small doors on my left. They did not interest me. The big, brown one ahead did.
I stepped to it and opened it. Its’ hinges creaked, and the noise sounded like some horn in my ears. Warning! Burglars coming!
I pulled the door shut behind me and looked around. One big white closed door on the left. On the right side of the door stood a little chest, and on the right side of the chest was yet another door. One of the big white doors had to be the master bedroom and the other might be a drawing room.
On my right I could see the big table in the middle of the room lengthwise and two big wooden benches on each side of the table.
On the end of the table under the window crosswise I I could see a white, wooden couch. Someone lay on the couch.
I took a closer look.
I had found the person I had searched for. Leo Inman.
I had to sit down on the wooden bench to think for a while. Waking Leo up was out of the options. I noticed Leo had left his daytime clothes on the small chair next to the wooden couch. I turned my attention to Leo’s trousers. I searched for the pocket where he kept his wallet.
I found the pocket.
I slipped the invitation into the same pocket with the wallet, and after making sure the wallet would not fall out of the pocket I put the trousers back to the position in which they had been when I had entered the kitchen.
I walked out of the kitchen and the house. Once outside I sighed relieved. Mission accomplished!
Leo would get a shock of his lifetime.
I stepped into my car and drove away.
# # #
I gasped. “I have never seen this before!”
I opened the card and read it.
"Mr. Landon and Anita Inman invite you to join us at the celebration of our marriage Saturday June 30th in 2001 at the beach in Anchorius.
I stared at the card unable to believe what I saw. My former wife had already found another man, and now they were getting married! I had known, of course, that this had been only a matter of time, once I had seen Anita wearing the new engagement ring, but I hadn’t expected, that they’d tie the knot this summer. A blackbird’s feather could have knocked me out.
“Leo, is everything all right?” Jason’s voice alerted me.
I looked at him. “I’m fine. I think I’ll go and take a walk.”
# # #
“There’s no hope,” I told Helen. “The Quill people don’t even give any feedback my texts anymore.”
“Did they do it before they stopped?” Helen asked.
“What happened?” Helen asked.
“If only I knew! At first some of them said I am writing well. But now they say I live the same way I write. They mean my style. In their eyes it’s passive, even if in my opinion my sentences are in active, not in passive.” I made a few stitches to calm my mind. “If I don’t remember my limits but rush here and there and everywhere, I’ll get sick. It’s not an option for someone like me.”
Helen looked at me. “I know I shouldn’t tell you this, but when you were asleep, I read some of your texts. In my opinion you write just fine.”
I shook my head. “Thanks, but you don’t know, what the members speak about me among themselves. “ I rubbed my temples. “They say that even if I wrote the simplest piece my text would be full of spelling and grammatical errors.”
Helen frowned. “How is Leo involved? Is he one of the members?”
I nodded. “Yes he is. The Quill brought us together in the first place. I must admit, that he has very sharp eye. That’s why I liked him in the first place.”
“So the Quill is the root of your relationship, if one could say that,” Helen said.
I nodded. “I haven’t met anyone from the list face to face before. Leo is the first one.”
“Am I wrong, or is there something going on between the two of you?”
I looked at Helen and made a few stitches on my project. “You’re closer to the truth than you know.”
“Is it something serious?” Helen asked.
I lifted my head from my project and looked at her. “Yes and no.”
Helen frowned at me. “Why can’t you tell me straight, what is going on? I can’t read your mind.”
“Leo is in love,” I said and turned my attention back to my stitching.
Helen didn’t say anything for a while. We both kept stitching, until I felt my mind calm enough to tell her more.
“His way of speech reveals there’s only one thing he wants from me. He calls me darling and says my signal calls are like a sunrise for him. If you ask me that is not the kind of love that lasts until death comes and separates. Helping me with my texts is his excuse to get near me.”
I put my needlework on my lap, took a handkerchief from my sleeve and wiped my eyes. “Sorry to bother you with this. You and I barely know each other. What do we have in common, except that needlework course back then? You’re young enough to be my big sister or cousin.”
Helen made a few stitches in her project.
“When was Leo born?” she asked.
“In 1934,” I said.
Helen did some quick math in her head. “In other words he’s forty – five years older than me and thirty – five years older than you.”
# # #
As we sat in the swing with April after lunch and stitched, I had time to think. That morning April had told me about how Leo had a crush on her. Leo was old enough to be my father or even grandfather. April was ten years my junior. I needed a father figure for my baby. The baby already had a biological father, be it he was dead. I didn’t know if Leo had a wife or if he had divorced. If he had divorced, I was in luck. I’d snatch him to myself as soon as I could and marry him before the baby would be born.
April had also told me, that Leo had told her she should practice describing things. In that I admitted Leo was right. It was hard to see, where April’s characters were during their adventures. April of course saw them and their surroundings in her head, but she seemed to presume the readers could do the same.
“I see a woman approaching,” April said, alerting me from my thoughts.
I closed my eyes and leaned back. “Describe her.”
April concentrated for a moment. “She is probably taller than me, but shorter than you,” she said.
“How is her hair?”
“They’re brown, wavy and over her shoulders.”
“What does she wear?”
“Brown cable cardigan, but under it she has a white shirt. She also wears jeans."
“What about her shoes?"
“They’re brown, simple walking shoes.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. It sounded as if April had described Janet Boyce, one of my best friends ever.
“If I didn’t know, I could swear you’re talking about Janet Boyce,” I said without opening my eyes.
“Maybe she does, and it’s Eaton now,” a third voice joined along, a voice April heard for the first time, but I had heard it before, and it came right from next to the swing.
I opened my eyes. “This can’t be! Janet!” I bounced up from the swing and hugged her.
Janet hugged me back. “It’s nice to see you too, Helen,” she said after we had ended our embrace. “But who is this blonde friend of yours?”
I looked down. “Sorry, Janet, I totally forgot her for a moment.” I closed my eyes for a moment. “Janet, meet April Silver, my friend and former student. April, this is Janet Eaton, my good friend. She teaches creative writing at the university in Calidris.”
April shook Janet’s hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
Janet nodded. “The pleasure is mine.”
April anchored her needle, folded her canvas and put it in her needlework bag she had with her. “The two of you must have a lot to talk about. I think I’ll go inside to see, what Auntie Bonnie is doing.”
April stood up from the swing and walked across the lawn.
Janet stayed silent, until the yellow, wooden door had closed behind April.
“I came here as soon as I got your text message,” Janet said. “Is April the one I should help?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Why don’t you do it yourself?”
“I’m needed elsewhere.”
Janet frowned. “I don’t understand.”
“Leo needs me,” I told her.
“Who’s he?” Janet asked.
I told Janet everything that had happened since I had called April from the hospital.
“That’s terrible,” Janet said after I had finished. “No wonder April feels her creativity is gone.”
“Now you understand,” I told her.
Janet nodded. “I’ll see what I can do with her.”
# # # END OF CHAPTER 2 # # #