Authors: Lesley A. Diehl
Tags: #General Fiction
By Lesley A. Diehl
Copyright 2012 by Lesley A. Diehl
Cover Copyright 2012 by Ginny Glass and Untreed Reads Publishing
The author is hereby established as the sole holder of the copyright. Either the publisher (Untreed Reads) or author may enforce copyrights to the fullest extent.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold, reproduced or transmitted by any means in any form or given away to other people without specific permission from the author and/or publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to the living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Also by Lesley A. Diehl and Untreed Reads Publishing
Mother Gets a Lift
Murder with All the Trimmings
Buzzards! In a children’s book? She must have been out of her mind. Kaitlin slammed shut her laptop and clenched her teeth to keep from screaming out loud and upsetting her neighbors. Today the thought of wrinkly-headed birds inspired nothing except a picture of Zack as road kill, a flock of vultures circling overhead, and her driving off, middle finger raised in a final salute to the man.
“Damn writing, damn husband.” She shoved her hand into the candy jar on her desk and came up empty.
“And now I’m out of chocolate, too.” Her eyes filled with tears.
Get a grip, honey
, she said to herself.
You’re unraveling faster than a pull in a cable knit sweater
And she thought things were bad a month ago, in April, when she’d called her mother, hysterical over a chance meeting with her ex in what used to be
“Can I use the house in the Catskills for the summer?” she’d pleaded.
“What happened, dear?”
“I bumped into Zack with that woman.”
“And you said something embarrassing?”
“No, I threw my grande skinny latte at her. Then ran out. I was hoping for third degree burns, but I think she’s got the skin of a rhino. Now I’m worried what I might do next time.”
So her mother, Arlene, gave her the house in the Catskills, the house she’d grown up in. She always liked the mountains.
why can’t I write here?
she asked herself as she headed down the stairs to the kitchen and rummaged around in the cupboard, searching for the stash of candy she’d hidden there. She found it, sank to the floor and tore open the package.
The smell of cocoa beans and mint assailed her nostrils. She tucked her nose closer to the opening and inhaled deeply before inserting her hand to extract a piece. A terrible notion crossed her mind before she could anesthetize her thoughts with a bite of candy.
What if I can never write again?
After she’d polished off the entire bag—thirty calories per piece, serving size three pieces, approximately ten servings each container—and unzipped her jeans to allow for the expansion of her stomach, she felt immeasurably…worse. She had to get control over her life. She certainly couldn’t get Zack back, probably didn’t want to; she hadn’t written one word in her new children’s book featuring a southwestern buzzard named Becky in the month since she’d moved into the house in Aldensville; and applying copious amounts of chocolate as a bandage to her wounded psyche had only served to make her fat. Her mother had noticed the gain in weight last week when she’d visited.
“You look positively…” Arlene had paused and placed a finger on her lips, then continued, “positively tubby.” Then she proceeded to open every cupboard door, removing the boxes of cookies and candy she found there. She even searched out Kaitlin’s favorite hiding place at the bottom of her lingerie drawer.
“Now, get some exercise. You’re in the mountains. Get out there and breathe some of that good, fresh air everyone around here always talks about.”
Remembering her mother’s words, Kaitlin swiped the side of her hand across her sticky mouth and crumpled up the empty cellophane bag.
That’s it, the thing I can control. I’ll start biking around Aldensville. The fresh air will clear my mind and the exercise will help me lose weight. No one ever forgets how to ride a bicycle. Right?
* * *
Someone had aired up the tires on her old Schwinn, probably Bosco, her mother’s driver, who always looked out for her, when she was a child and even now. She smiled at the memory, lifted her leg over the bike, and started down the drive. Folklore about always remembering how to swim or ride a bike couldn’t have been more off.
“Get off the street until you learn how to steer that thing,” yelled the driver of a passing car as she wobbled out of her drive.
Maybe she should ask Bosco to attach the training wheels next time he came around. A blackbird called out from the maple in her yard, as if mocking her efforts.
“Screw you,” she yelled back and continued her zig zagging ride down the block. At the edge of the village she ascended the road leading to the state park and congratulated herself for managing the steering and balance better.
By the time she got to the top of the hill, sweat ran down her face and trickled between her breasts. The chocolate lay in her stomach like bad fish, and she worried she would throw up. Enough exercise for this evening, she decided, and paused at the top of the rise.
She stood at the edge of the road and surveyed the village of Aldensville which lay below her. There was Main Street, many smaller streets intersecting it, and two streets running parallel to this major artery, one of them following the Kinderkill River which marked the northern boundary of the village. In the gathering dusk of evening, she could just make out her house from here and watched as shadows wrapped the green of her maple tree in dark velvet.
She climbed back on the bike and headed downhill. Downhill caught her by surprise. Downhill meant she would go faster. Faster meant less control. Terrified, she stood on her brakes, lost her balance, and slid off the bike halfway down the hill, dislodging gravel as she came to a stop.
“Damn,” she said. She paused to catch her breath and right herself, and to assess any damages. A few insignificant scratches.
She looked around. No one had noticed her tumble with the exception of a large gander and his flock of ladies who had settled in for the evening in the yard to her left. They jerked their tail feathers back and forth, rustled their large breasts, and chorused hisses and honks, warning her to quiet down and move on. The yard and the road were theirs. She was infringing upon their “hood.”
She ignored them, her attention drawn by the flashing lights of an ambulance parked only half a block away at the bottom of the hill in front of Leda Pippel’s house. Everyone in town knew Leda, the newspaper’s advice columnist. Kaitlin had even considered asking her opinion about how to overcome writer’s block, but had difficulty composing the letter, so she gave up.
She watched two EMTs carry a body on a stretcher to the vehicle. Old Dr. Henry Baldo, the village physician, accompanied them. The driver turned off the lights and slowly pulled away from the curb. Someone, surely someone she knew, was taking that final ride.
The doctor walked back into the house. She leaned on her handlebars and stared into Mrs. Pippel’s dimly lit living room. Someone else joined the doctor there, but she couldn’t identify the individual, partially hidden by the window drape.
The two figures exchanged words, the other person leaning toward Dr. Baldo, who retreated several steps. The doctor whirled around and fled through the front door. Several moments later the back door of the house opened, and a figure appeared, and, wraithlike, slipped into the deep shadows of the trees in the side yard.
Something wasn’t right in that house.
The sounds from the geese grew louder and turned her attention away from Leda’s and back to her position on the hill. What she saw was the gang of aroused geese advancing toward her.
Oh, oh. Time to move.
She struggled to get her leg over the bike and began a wobbly descent to the bottom.
“Watch out,” she called. She sped by on the other side of the street and turned onto Brook Avenue. Her warning came too late. Dr. Baldo stopped midway to his car, startled to see a tsunami of feathers and webbed feet closing in on him.
“Take cover,” she shouted over her shoulder, pedaling to outdistance the hoard. When she looked again, Dr. Baldo had reached the sanctuary of his vehicle. Geese now thwacked their wings like whirligigs, some flying onto the automobile’s hood and roof while the gander and a few of his female sergeants waddled around the car, biting at the tires with their bills.
She was relieved Dr. Baldo found safety in his car even though the geese now held him hostage there. But something about the scene at Leda Pippel’s house bothered her. Whatever it was, like the boogeyman pursuing a child, it chased her home faster than any gaggle of territorial geese could.
The phone was ringing when she peddled into the drive, threw the bike onto the lawn and ran for her porch. She banged through the front door and grabbed it on the next ring.
It was her mother with one of her “ideas,” another crazy notion which Kaitlin breathlessly rejected—relatives moving in on her.
“Honey,” Arlene said, “it’s the least I can do. Cousin Mary took us in when your father abandoned us and we hadn’t two nickels to rub together.”
“But I told you I needed the house to pull myself together, to write, to get over Zack. I can’t work with anyone here.”
“But you’re not working now,” pointed out her mother.
She had just hung up the phone when she heard the clack, clack, clack of wheels on the sidewalk out front. The noise got louder and was followed by the clunk of a heavy object on the steps and the ring of her doorbell. She flung open the door. In the doorway stood a woman clad in a silver spandex top hugging her ample breasts and a pair of matching tights that looked several sizes too small for her shapely hips. She stuck out her hand.
“I’m Mary Jane. Your mother probably told you about us. And this is my nine-year old son Jeremy.” Mary Jane pushed a slim, brown-haired boy forward. “Shake Kaitlin’s hand, sweetie.” Kaitlin had missed seeing the boy as he was all but hidden by an enormous suitcase on wheels.
“Can’t,” he said, and he was right. He clutched a black and white cat to his chest. “Her name’s Hester.”
“This really isn’t a good time,” Kaitlin said. Her thoughts returned to poor Dr. Baldo trapped in his car and the concern she had run away from something she should have looked into. Now her immediate worry became how to get rid of her unwanted visitors. “Uh, Mom didn’t say anything about pets.”
“She’s really more of a companion than a pet,” said Jeremy.
“Like us,” said Mary Jane. “We’re all companions.”
“Companions? What kind of companions?” Her brain shuttered at the oddness of this conversation, one better held in the house rather than out on the steps for all her neighbors to hear. “Come in,” she said.
She couldn’t help comparing Mary Jane’s choice of attire to her own holey tee-shirt from college and dirty cut-off jeans. Their legs were about the same length, long, muscular and slender, but that, she realized, was where the similarities ended. Mary Jane’s blonde hair cascaded down her back while Kaitlin’s mop was short and brown, a very nondescript brown, cut in a style reminiscent of bowl cuts given to children by their mothers. And where Mary Jane seemed to spill from the inadequate anchorage of her stretchy top, Kaitlin knew that garment would hang on every part of her, with the exception of her stomach, of course. She moved one arm across her abdomen to hide it and, with the other, she held the door wide so that Mary Jane could maneuver the suitcase through the opening.