When I was young, I kept up a fairly regular correspondence with one of my cousins. I can remember sitting at my desk with pen in hand as I considered what interesting stories I had to tell her. My life was moving forward, but most of the time it seemed to be terribly uninteresting and often it felt as if nothing much had changed since the last letter I’d sent. How do you make a fairly mundane life seem … exciting? That’s where stories come in. See … even the most boring things can make for pretty great stories, especially when there is a connection between the story teller and the reader.
The two of us kept up a fairly regular and interesting correspondence for years. It was wonderful to read about the normal and everyday parts of her life because she was sharing them with me as part of her story.
That’s how I feel about Polly and her life in Bellingwood. Now, she has a lot of things go upside down in the week or two that you get to see her, but the rest of the time is pretty mundane. And that’s what makes her so wonderful. She loves her life that way. Even the everyday things – going out to coffee or lunch, making breakfast, sitting on the porch, watching the kids play outside, putting them to work cleaning bathrooms when they misbehave. On and on. It’s all just life. Nothing radically changes until you look back on it and realize how great the differences are between now and five years ago.
That’s the joy of Bellingwood. There’s always a story.
There’s always a story in your life, too. I just think that’s awesome.
Book 22 – Vignette 03 – What a Long Day
Rachel Endicott flipped the lights off in the kitchen at Sycamore House. Billy had stopped in to see her when they got back into town after work. He and Doug were playing baseball tonight out of town somewhere and wouldn’t be back until late. She’d promised to check on Doug’s dog before going home to take care of Big Jack, the dog Billy brought into their marriage. She’d never expected to fall in love with a dog, but Billy had warned her that it wouldn’t take long.
It hadn’t. The goofy dog was as much a part of her family now as Billy was. There was nothing quite like coming home to the joy of a furry beast racing across the room to say hello.
She was exhausted tonight. This had been one of those days that wore her out and it had gone on much longer than eight hours. The perks of running a business. She couldn’t complain too much, the salary was awesome, but still. Long days like today wore her out.
One of her servers, Leslie, called in sick at the last minute. She hadn’t bothered to find someone to cover for her, and it was too late for Rachel or Lindy to make any calls. They were both slammed with getting food out of the kitchen on time. She’d begged Kristen to come in from the office. Kristen could only be there for a little while. There were too many meetings happening on site today and she busy enough without having one more thing to do, but she’d helped them get through the luncheon.
Then one of the freezers started making a horrible noise and even before Rachel could call the repairman, it stopped working. They’d madly moved everything upstairs to the extra freezer. That was fine, except it was going to take two weeks for someone to get here to fix the thing and that just meant extra steps for everything she had to do. If that wasn’t enough, when Lindy opened up a package of laundered table cloths, they were wrong . No one in Bellingwood used blue checked cloths, especially not Sycamore House. She’d called about it and was assured that it would all be sorted out tomorrow. Fine, but that didn’t help her today. They’d used a different color and got through it.
Early this morning she’d met with a bride who had no idea what she wanted to serve at her reception. No idea at all. Rachel had remained calm, though she wanted to shake the girl. It was only the first meeting with this bride. There would be more. She only hoped that the next meeting would be more productive.
After that, she’d met with a young woman to plan meals for a three-day conference. The host of the conference was a non-profit group and the young woman doing the planning wasn’t happy with Sycamore Catering’s prices. She expected Rachel to give her a discount since the event was ‘so very important.’ Rachel sent the girl off to Jeff for that one. He insisted that she let him handle those negotiations. If it was something that he and Polly wanted to support, they would. Otherwise, he’d work it out. The thing was, Rachel had seen the names of some of the speakers they were bringing in. She recognized one of them – the man had spoken here before and she knew exactly how much he charged to speak at events like this. If they could afford him, they could afford to pay for food.
Her mind was ready to turn off. She was grumpy. She was also really hungry. People thought that she ate her own food while she worked, but after cooking all day and then having it come back into the kitchen in all manner of disgusting ways on people’s plates, she rarely wanted to eat it. Extra food that hadn’t been served was packed into freezer containers. Two different pantries picked up Sycamore House’s and Sweet Beans’ extras on Fridays and Saturdays.
She unlocked the door to Doug’s apartment and started up the steps, surprised that Doug’s dog, Hawkeye, wasn’t waiting to greet her. On the nights the guys played ball out of town, Rachel took Hawkeye for a quick walk so he wouldn’t have to wait.
“Hawkeye, are you here?” she called out. She grabbed the railing to stop herself from falling backward when she saw a figure out of the corner of her eye. Then she laughed. “What are you doing here?”
Anita Banks, Doug’s mostly-regular girlfriend, stood at the top of the steps with Hawkeye at her side. She grinned at Rachel. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to give you a heart attack. I was in Webster City and decided to stop by and check on Hawkeye before going home. We just got back inside a few minutes ago. I should have told you.”
“No, that’s okay.” Rachel took a deep breath. He heart rate was back to normal. “I’ll just head home, then. It’s been a long day.”
“Yeah. I know about those. Today wasn’t, but yesterday sucked,” Anita said. “It was like three Mondays all in one day. I swear I ate every single bag of Cheetohs in the machine. The orange …” She rubbed her fingers and thumb together on her right hand. “Oh, the orange. It was everywhere.”
Rachel laughed. “And the Mountain Dew?”
“So much Mountain Dew. Do you need one of those right now?”
“I should just go home,” Rachel said.
Anita nodded. “Yeah, I get it. You’re tired. I’m not tired, but I am starving. All those Chee-tohs yesterday and I skipped lunch today. That makes all sorts of sense.”
“I’m hungry too,” Rachel said. She really didn’t want to go out, but on the other hand, if she did, she might actually eat better than a peanut butter sandwich and bowl of popcorn. “Do you want to get something in town?”
“Yeah. What are you thinking?” Anita sat down on the top step, letting Hawkeye climb on to her lap.
“You want to go to the Alehouse or Mexican?”
“Doug and I had Mexican last night. Do you mind going to the Alehouse?”
“That sounds great.” Rachel laughed. “I could use some onion rings. And fried pickles. And French fries. They just put soft pretzels on their appetizer menu.”
“Appetizers and a burger?” Anita said dreamily. “I’m in heaven.”
Rachel heaved a big sigh. “I should take Jack for a walk first.”
Anita smiled down at her. “Tell you what. How about I pick up the food and bring it to your place. Last night when I was out of my mind, Doug brought dinner to me and let me sit in my shapeless clothes in my own apartment on my big ole comfy couch. I could do that for you tonight, especially since the boys are out of town. When do they usually get home?”
“Not until late.”
“See, you need some pampering. You can complain about your day to me while I keep filling your plate. You deserve it.”
“You’d do that?” Rachel and Anita were friendly, but Rachel always figured that was because Billy and Doug were such good friends. Anita was a few years older than all of them and she’d never felt like they were close.
“Absolutely. Tell me there’s a trashy movie on that we can watch. Do you have wine?”
That was a funny question, though Anita didn’t realize it. Rachel had so much wine. Working closely with the owner of a winery meant that gifts came in the form of a variety of flavors and pretty bottles. She and Billy didn’t drink that much unless they had people over. “Yeah. I have wine.”
“Cool. So, you’re going to walk your dog and I’m bringing way too much food for the two of us to consume. Unless we do. Then we just don’t tell anyone what we did. And I want to talk to you about going up to Minneapolis this fall.”
Rachel frowned. “Minneapolis?”
“Or Kansas City. I’m dragging Doug to a Ren Faire this year if it kills me. It would be easier if you and Billy went along. We’d have so much fun. Have you ever been to one?”
Rachel’s eyes grew big. “Uh, no?”
“Seriously, girlfriend. You have to experience this. Especially one of the big ones. We’ll have to get you guys a costume. I’ve already got mine.”
“If it’s on the weekend, I can’t leave.”
Anita glared at her. “You’re kidding me, right? You can never take a weekend off? That’s cruel and unusual.”
Rachel glanced away. She could take time off, she just needed to schedule far enough in advance that she and Lindy had enough help on hand. Of course, Rachel hated worrying whether or not everyone who was supposed to show up, would show up. Who would have thought that Leslie would duck out on her today? She hadn’t been sick yesterday. Ten to one she was in Ames with one of her girlfriends.
“I don’t know. It’s hard around here Everything happens on the weekends.”
“What if we went Labor Day weekend? We could go up on Sunday and come back Monday?”
Anita wasn’t letting her off the hook with this one. She really wanted them to go.
“We could maybe do that. I’d have to talk to Billy.”
“Fantastic.” Anita jumped up, gathering Hawkeye into her arms. She put him down on the floor. “You go home. I’ll get food. Then we’ll sit in your apartment and get silly-drunk and I’ll have to beg Doug to come get me.” She waggled her eyebrows. “He likes it when I’m a little silly.”
“Don’t all boys?” Rachel asked with a giggle.
Anita rolled her eyes. “No kidding. They’re so shallow.”
Rachel laughed and let out a snort. “Ahh, no kidding.” She put her hand on the door handle. “I’ll see you in a while.”
“Crocodile,” Anita called out, turning away. “Later, gator!”
Rachel got into her car and looked at herself in the mirror of her visor. She was a sight. Her hair was all over the place. She’d rubbed the eyeshadow and mascara off her right eye this afternoon, so she looked really lopsided. When she’d dropped a pan into the sink, it had splashed up and she’d gotten soap in that eye. This was why she scheduled meetings with clients in the mornings before everything fell apart and she turned into a filthy mess.
The thing was, though? She was smiling again. She laughed at her cockeyed face. It was hard to imagine Anita Banks being grumpy because she’d had a bad day. The girl was always happy. She was so good for Doug, who still wasn’t sure if he was ready to grow up and be an adult. She let him be exactly who he was, knowing that in time, he’d figure it out. He was such a good guy. Just because he wasn’t ready for a life-time commitment didn’t change that about him.
She pulled into the parking lot at her apartment. Big Jack would be ready to go out. Just a few more minutes and she could change her clothes and collapse on the couch. When she got to the front door, she heard him panting on the other side.
“Are you ready to go outside?” Rachel asked the dog. She bent at the knees and hugged him, letting the dog shower her with love, then sniff her to see where she’d been. He was in the hallway before she put her hand on his leash. His tail wagged so hard, he threw himself into the wall as he turned to make sure she was following him.
“Stop. Sit,” she said and held out the leash. The dog saw what she had and obeyed. When she leaned over to snap it onto his collar, he leaned up and slurped his tongue across her cheek. Rachel wiped it off and laughed, then kissed the top of his head. “Big ole goofball. I don’t care what kind of a bad day I’ve had, you make it better. Now we need to do this thing because we’re about to have a guest.”
She took him outside and waited while he marked the first corner. There were several dogs in the building and Jack needed to make sure that every blade of grass was marked as his own.
Tonight would be fun. In fact, she could hardly wait. Billy always said she worked too hard. A renaissance festival? In Minnesota? That was just crazy stuff. If he wanted to go, she’d make it work. They might actually have a great time. Rachel chuckled to herself as she wondered if they’d be cool with an electric-blue-haired gothic vampire. She’d have to see what Anita thought about that.