Chapter 26: There’s always a loose end or two
Copyright © 2015 by Brian Bixby
“Okay, okay, what’s the big secret?” Donna’s been all questions since I told her I’m going to explain what’s been going on with me and everything since we moved here. Little does she know. But she’s been nice about it. The whole way from the house to the stream, she’s only asked me every other minute what’s going on. So now we settle down on the big rock in the stream, the one where I communed with nature several weeks ago.
That’s actually working out well, this “beloved by nature” status, at least the last few days. Having my mother go shopping with me for A-cup bras to replace my old ones got her in a good mood again. Her little daughter is growing up. Sigh. It would be a lot better if she just didn’t have to say it in that tone of voice. But that’s part of her mother-giving-daughter advice routine, I guess. I can live with that. And in the process of giving me all sorts of advice, she’s also unloaded a lot of her bitterness about Stan. I sealed the deal by telling her that my first crush was on Stan. She was thunderstruck at first, and then couldn’t stop laughing for five minutes, right in the middle of a store. Glad I entertained her. Her laughter did wonderful things for my ego, not. I hope she finds the first time I have sex equally funny.
Oh, and Miranda was right. I now have an absolutely hopeless crush on a guy in Donna’s class. How hopeless? I’ve seen his girlfriend. She’s gorgeous. But just wait. In another couple of years, the way I’m growing, I’ll be gorgeous, too. Or at least I’ll be able to take her down in a fight.
But that’s the future. Right now, I reach into the backpack, pull out two glasses, and hand them to Donna. And then I pull out my first surprise: a bottle of white wine swiped from the fridge. With an appropriate flourish, I yank out a corkscrew and say to Donna, “You and I, sis, are going to have a good time while I tell you what’s been going on.”
Donna’s smiling, but she shakes her head. “I can’t believe you swiped that. In fact, I can’t believe we are doing this. Mom’s going to miss us at dinner. Or do you plan that we show up drunk? That’ll really do us good.”
My grin gets wider. “It’s all taken care of. The Rev. Honoria Blood’s running interference for me. All Mom knows is that we two have gone off and are doing one of those sister things together. ’Cause that’s exactly what we’re going to do, except that she doesn’t know we are going to drink this entire bottle of wine as we watch the sun set through the trees. I’ve been planning this for a while, Donna, and nothing is going to spoil this. Besides,” I say as I pop the cork, “I’m hoping this will impair your judgment, because you’re not going to believe what I have to tell you otherwise.”
I’m sorry I haven’t written in you in a while. It’s just that
I’ve just been so busy
No, the real reason I haven’t written in you for much of the summer is because I’m “happy miserable.” That’s my coinage, btw, patent pending, all rights reserved.
What is happy miserable? It’s having your best friend in town really happy, but not because she’s with you. Cindy’s been spending time getting training from Miranda, and apparently experiencing the entire range of dragon-human sexuality. I’m really, really happy for Cindy. She’s got her act together, at least compared to the way she used to be. She’s really happy. It’s just that I’m such a small part of it. Is that petty of me? Yes. So I’m petty. But I’m trying to rise above it. Maybe when school starts again we’ll be friends again every day.
Happy miserable is having a crush on someone you hardly on anyone. The happy part is that Stan is not one of them anymore, nor will he ever be again. The miserable part was sneaking around following Mark D’Antonio and then seeing him and Pam O’Neil making out in Lake Netherfield. The happy part is that I’m definitely over Eric. The bad part was falling for him again when we went back to Boston for a visit and doing something really, really stupid, like trying to seduce him. The happy part is that I was succeeding. The bad part was why: Eric will have sex with any girl. I’m not sure whether the black eye he got when I figured that out was a good or bad thing. Was I being petty again? Well, yes, but in a good way, because I could have kicked him in the balls. He would have been very vulnerable right then.
Happy miserable is watching my mom date local men.
Happy miserable is hanging out with my sister and hearing how well her romance is going. Well, the new one, that is. Forget that, that’s just happy.
Happy miserable is spending a couple of hours on a nearby llama farm. There really is more to llamas than shit. Unfortunately, some of it is worse than shit. I have a new respect for llamas, especially their teeth.
Happy miserable is hanging out with Honoria and Pluto. No, that’s another of the happy ones. Honoria seems so normal, but she’s maybe the oddest person in town apart from people like Miranda or Cindy. She talks to everyone, and sometimes seems to know everything.
Well, except once . . .
It’s a slow Thursday at the end of July. The hot weather’s keeping the tourists in their rooms, in the bars, or on the lake. So Honoria and I decide to go visit the coffee shop. I’ve been able to convince my mother that if her little girl is growing up, her little girl can drink coffee. I don’t know whether to thank Asenath and being beloved by nature, or Hestia and shaking up my mother a bit for that. But I’ll take it either way. Pluto doesn’t like going into that part of town, not enough grass and shade, so he stays behind.
Miranda’s in the coffee shop when we arrive, looking quite bored. I’m feeling good enough that not even Miranda’s teasing can bother me today. So I tell Honoria we should join her, and as we walk over to her table, I greet her. “Kidnapped any children lately, Miranda?”
Miranda cocks an eyebrow. “How about your brother Freddie?”
I have to laugh. Miranda came to dinner at our place a week ago, and thanks to my brother got one of her outfits ruined. Since they’re all black, I don’t see the big deal. I sit down and say, “Nah, after the things you told my mother that evening, you’d be the first suspect.” If Miranda ever wants to make a torture porn movie, she’s got the material in her head.
Miranda gives a hard chuckle and then favors me with an insincere smile. Honoria’s looking on, quite puzzled, and decides to change the subject. “Where’s your apprentice?”
Miranda leans back in her chair with a sigh of exasperation. “The Van Schachts are spending two weeks in Japan. My fool of an apprentice intends to go asking about Japanese dragons while she’s there.”
“C’mon, Miranda,” I interject. “She’s not that bad.”
“Have you ever tried to get her to stop talking when she gets onto one of her streaks?”
Well, actually I have, and succeeded, too, but I think I’ll keep the secret of how to get her to stop talking for a little bit longer. Instead I give Miranda an enigmatic smile.
Miranda scowls, and turns to Honoria. “Speaking of dragons, what have you done with that walking stick now that you’re no longer limping around?”
Honoria takes a sip of her iced-flavored-espresso-charged whatever before answering. “Oh, it’s someplace safe, where no one can get at it. I don’t know how long it will take for me to find the rightful owner, or even if there is a rightful owner.”
Miranda says something in reply, while I work on my coffee-cocoa drink. And then I look over toward the counter and almost choke to death.
“Jane, what’s wrong?” It’s Miranda’s voice.
I turn and see the two of them looking concerned at me. Damn right they’d better be. In a whisper, I tell them, “Look over at the counter. See the customer there with her back to us? See what she’s carrying on one arm?”
Honoria looks and turns pale. Miranda sees, swears under her breath, and gets up. Before either Honoria or I can react, she’s over and accosting the mysterious woman. No doubt asking her what she’s doing with what looks like the dragon-headed walking stick, the real one, the one Honoria just said she has safely locked up.
The woman says something to Miranda, and Miranda turns pale. And I mean paler than usual. For a moment, even her blacks look pale. And then the woman turns around and comes walking towards us. There’s a smile on her lips, a coffee drink in her right hand, and that is definitely the walking stick in her left hand, swinging with her walk.
The woman arrives at the table and announces, “I hope you don’t mind if I join you.” She takes the fourth seat at the table, puts down her drink, sits, and, with a wink at me, hangs the walking stick off the edge of the table between the two of us. Speaking to me, she says, “It was so nice of Honoria to take care of my walking stick for me until I could come to claim it, don’t you think?”
I look at her. She’s got brown hair and brown eyes, and is wearing a light sleeveless blouse with no bra over what is probably one of the shortest skirts I’ve seen in a while. If she didn’t have delicate features, I don’t think she could pull that look off. I peg her age as over thirty. She sees me looking her over and her eyes twinkle.
Okay, Jane, skip the fashion police. You’d wear that sort of thing, too, if you could get away with it. And none of this is addressing the obvious question. Honoria looks too stunned to ask, while Miranda is hanging back, so I guess it’s up to me. “Just who are you, ma’am? Some relative of Honoria’s?”
The woman looks very, very amused. She glances over at Honoria and then turns back to me. “Oh, I guess you could say I’m a long-lost relative of hers. She seems quite surprised to see me here, and I can understand why.” She extends her hand to shake mine. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Jane Harris. My name is Rebecca Maxwell, Rebecca Farnsworth Maxwell.”
The end of
Summer of the Netherfield Witch