Authors: Patricia Fry
by Patricia Fry
Author: Patricia Fry
All rights reserved
© 2016 Matilija Press
“No! No! Stop! Please stop!”
It took Michael a moment to realize it was his wife calling out in the night. He gently shook her. “Savannah, wake up. You’re having a bad dream.”
“Huh?” She opened her eyes and glanced frantically around the room. “Oh Michael, I had a bad dream.”
“I know, hon,” he said, still sounding groggy.
She took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around him, holding on tightly for a few moments before resting back against her pillow. “That was frightening.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Well, it was weird.” She squinted into the darkness. “It didn’t actually make much sense. There were all these hands reaching out toward Rags and I was trying to fight them off.”
“Yes, only hands. Everything was in slow motion.” She paused before saying, “…except the hands. They were, like, frenzied…and they were all trying to grab Rags. Poor cat. He was so scared, but he didn’t seem to be able to move. I don’t know why. And I couldn’t get to him. The harder I tried to reach him, the farther away I got.”
Michael chuckled a little. “So what did he do to make the hands so mad?”
Savannah thought for a moment. “I’m not sure. He was being accused of something. I don’t know what. I just wanted to grab him and carry him to safety, away from all those evil hands. Michael, they were going to tear him apart. It was like a mob.”
He grinned. “A mob of hands?”
“Well, yeah.” When she realized he was making fun of her, she let out a sigh. “Oh, I guess you just can’t understand someone else’s nightmare.” She reached up and turned on the bedside lamp. “Hi Ragsie,” she cooed when she saw their large grey-and-white cat sprawled across his bed on the other side of the room. “Everything okay, boy?”
“He looks okay to me,” Michael said. “I guess he doesn’t know he was in your dream.”
“I’m glad of that. I don’t ever want to see him that frightened.” She turned off the light and lay back on her pillow. “I don’t ever want to be that frightened again, either.” Suddenly, she raised herself up on one elbow. “Michael, Kira was with him.”
She nodded. “It’s odd, but she wasn’t frightened. She just stood there watching…silently watching, all quiet and calm like she usually is. I was afraid for her, too. I sensed those hands were after both her and Rags and…” She started to cry. “…I couldn’t do anything about it.”
“It was a dream. That’s all,” he said, holding her and stroking her hair. “You and Rags are safe at home with me, and I’m sure Kira is sleeping soundly in her bed next door.”
“I’m not so sure they’re safe,” she murmured.
“Who?” he asked, frowning.
“Rags and that little girl.”
Michael grimaced. After Savannah had remained quiet for a while, he asked, “Do you think you can sleep now?”
“No more bad dreams,” he said, caressing her face with one finger. He kissed her. “Only good dreams now, okay?”
“Okay.” She rolled over and squeezed her eyes tightly closed, her thoughts coming like rapid-fire:
I’ve got to find out what’s going on in this neighborhood. Surely that child isn’t to blame. And Rags—how could he possibly be involved? It doesn’t make sense. But everyone’s on edge, including me. It’s unnerving, to say the least. Are we in danger? Or are we all overreacting? Someone is violating our privacy. But who and why? If that little girl is playing a role in all this, she could be in danger. And if her parents are putting her up to it, all the more reason to worry.
When she felt Michael roll close to her and envelop her in his arms, she let out a sigh.
I must get a grip. I can’t let this concern continue to fester.
Savannah thought back to her first encounter with their new neighbors. It was a week earlier, right before their friends, Colbi’s and Damon’s, wedding. She was in her orchard with fifteen-month-old Lily checking for buds on the trees when she heard something. “What is that?” she asked out loud. She listened for a moment, thinking,
It must be a dog howling in the distance
. “Do you hear that doggie, Lily? I think it’s an oof-oof crying—maybe a beagle.”
“Oof-oof?” Lily said, pointing at Lexie, who had followed them to the orchard. “Oof-oof, goggie,” she repeated, laughing.
“Yes, that’s our oof-oof doggie,” Savannah said rather distractedly.
There it is again. It sounds closer. I don’t think that is a dog. What in the heck is it?
She looked around, then picked up Lily and walked with her in the direction the sound seemed to be coming from. However, as she moved closer to old-man Crankshaw’s property next door, the sound stopped. She stood in place with the baby for a moment.
There it is again. Is that an animal or an infant, maybe?
she wondered. As she took another step forward, she saw something move, out of the corner of her eye. “Oh, hello,” she said. But the figure—a little girl who appeared to be about eight or nine years old—darted through the orchard toward the Crankshaw house.
“Bay-bee,” Lily said, pointing.
“Yes, she has a dolly, doesn’t she?” Savannah watched the child disappear through a gate in the fence that had recently been erected around the large lot. “I wonder who she is,” Savannah said.
Maybe Mr. Crankshaw’s granddaughter
, she thought.
Hmmm, the sound has stopped.
I’ll bet it came from that little girl’s doll. It seems that all toys have sound, these days.
Laughing a little at herself, Savannah hugged Lily to her. “Well, we’d better stop being nosey neighbors and finish our work. Good idea?” she said, bouncing the toddler in her arms and making her giggle.
Suddenly she heard another voice. “Hey, there are my two farmer girls.”
“Hi, hon. Home from work already?” Savannah asked, greeting Michael with a kiss.
“Yeah.” He took Lily from her and lifted her over his head. “Are you helping Farmer Mommy?”
“Oh yes, she’s a big help. She does enjoy playing out here.” She chuckled. “Do you like her overalls? I found those at the secondhand baby shop the other day.”
“Cute,” he said, smiling at the baby. Then, studying some of the branches on the plum tree, he asked, “So do you predict a good crop this season?”
She nodded. “Should be another great year.”
“I hope so. We’re almost out of your canned plums and apricot jam.”
“Well, you eat that apricot jam like it’s…”
He laughed. “…like it grows on trees?”
“Yeah. You may have to settle for peach jam and plum jelly for a few months until the apricot crop comes in.”
“Now, that would be roughing it, wouldn’t it? I like all your jams and jellies. It’s just that apricot is my first choice. When it’s gone, I go to my second choice.”
“Which is?” she asked.
“Peach.” He made a face. “Just don’t make fig jam. I hate fig jam. I like the figs, but not the jam…arrgh.”
“Okay.” She looped her arm in his. “Shall we go see if we can find something you like for dinner?”
“I like everything you cook. You know that.”
Savannah squeezed against Michael playfully. “Good answer.”
“So how are the wedding plans coming along?” he asked as they approached the steps to the wraparound porch.
“Finally done, I think. I’ve had a nice day off to catch up around here and Colbi’s being treated to an afternoon of relaxation. Her future mother-in-law took her for a facial and massage. Helena cleaned her house and did the shopping for the food. Damon and Harrison put the finishing touches on the great outdoor space they created at Colbi’s house. The wedding should go off without a hitch tomorrow. By the way, when is Adam arriving? Is he excited about being in the wedding?”
Michael laughed. “Oh, I don’t know about that, but he’s always eager to spend time with us. Marci and Eric are coming up this way for the weekend—something to do with a business they’re trying to start. So they’ll drop him off here sometime in the morning and pick him up Sunday afternoon.”
“Cool. Guess I’d better arrange for us to go riding while he’s here. He’s really hooked since our trail ride a few weeks ago.” She faced him. “Hey, want to join us?”
After contemplating the invitation, he nodded. “I just might. Sure, that sounds fun.”
The following Sunday morning, the Ivey household was alive with chatter and activity.
“Oops,” Adam said, “I spilled the cat food. Where’s the floor scooper? I’ll clean it up.”
“I have a better idea,” Michael said, grinning at his ten-year-old son. “Lexie,” he called. “Lexie, Adam has a treat for you.”
“Oh, good thinking, Dad. Here, Lexie. Come lick this up.” When Adam saw the Afghan-mix dog hesitate, he prompted, “It’s okay, Lexie. Dad says it’s okay.”
Savannah chuckled. “Yeah, we’ve told her
so many times when she tries to eat the cats’ food that she’s afraid she’ll get in trouble if she does.” She put her hands on her hips. “This probably isn’t the best solution to cleaning up the mess.”
“Awww, she knows the difference between licking up kibbles off the floor when we tell her to and eating out of the cats’ bowls, don’t you think so?” Michael asked.
“One can only hope,” she said. “Come on, Lexie-girl. It’s okay; you can have these kibbles—a special treat today.” She then announced, “Hey buckaroos, the chuck wagon’s open.”
“Huh?” Adam questioned.
Michael grabbed the boy playfully around the back of the neck. “She means hey there, cowboys, grub’s ready.” When Adam still looked confused, Michael said, “Let’s eat, shall we?”
“Oh yeah, chuck wagon,” the boy said, laughing. “Because we’re going on a trail ride, like cowboys.”
Once the laughter ceased and everyone had begun eating their horse-shaped pancakes and scrambled eggs, Savannah said, “Adam, you did a great job at the wedding yesterday. Did you have fun?”
He nodded, then took a swig of milk. “Yeah. What was I again?”
Michael laughed. “The flower-girl tender—you were in charge of the flower girl.”
Adam looked at Lily. “She wasn’t very cooperative.”
“That’s why she needed a tender,” Michael explained.
“I liked the food, especially that tall cake.” He cocked his head and continued, “Did you know each circle of the cake was different flavors? I had the chocolate-raspberry one, the pudding one, and the strawberry one.”
“Which one did you like best?” Michael asked.
“Now that’s a hard question.” After thinking about it for a few moments, however, he said, “Probably the pudding one. I love pudding.”
“I think they call that filling custard—it was a lemon-curd custard. That was good, wasn’t it?” She turned to Adam, a serious look on her face. “Now, did you eat anything else or did you fill up on cake?”
“I had sandwiches, olives, pickles, and potato salad and…oh, yes, some beans.”
“Sounds like you ate your way through the wedding, Son.”
The boy looked pensive before saying, “Maybe that’s why I liked the wedding—it tasted good.” He added, “Robin and I had fun playing with Dolly and Molly, too.”
“Who’s Robin?” Savannah asked.
“Someone’s little girl. She came to the wedding with her dad. He knows Damon. Colbi said we could go inside and play with Dolly and the new kitten because they looked sad watching everyone through the window. Molly really likes to play. She can jump almost as tall as Robin is.” He looked at Lily, who held a spoon in one hand and picked up pieces of pancake to eat using the other. “She could probably jump right over Lily.”
“Well, I’m glad you had a good time,” Savannah said. After a while, she stood and began clearing the dishes. “Everyone get enough to eat? We have a big day ahead of us.”
“Yes,” Adam said after drinking the last swallow of his milk. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth. “That was good. Are we taking a picnic lunch?”
Savannah couldn’t help laughing. “Adam, you’re already thinking about your next meal?”
“Well, yeah,” Michael said, standing tall and attempting to sound like John Wayne, “A cowboy’s gotta plan ahead, don’t he?” When he noticed Lily laughing at him, he tickled her. “We don’t want to run out of grub on the prairie, do we chickadee?”
By then, Adam was also laughing.
Michael looked down at his son. “Ready to ride, ke-mo sah-bee?”
Savannah stood watching him, shaking her head. “Okay, Mr. Wayne and Tonto, let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”
“Whatever you say, Annie.”
“Hey, Dad, who’s Annie?”
“Ever hear of ‘Annie Get Your Gun?’”
Adam frowned. “No.”
“Well, come along, lad. Let’s git our boots on and I’ll tell ya the story of Annie Oakley.”
“Dad’s silly,” Adam said when they rejoined Savannah and Lily in the kitchen a little while later.
“Yeah, he’s a hoot,” she said, stepping out through the kitchen door with a plastic bag of trash.
Adam laughed. “A hoot? Hey, Dad, Sav…I mean,
said you’re a hoot.”
Michael slipped on his jacket. “She says a lot of things about me.”