Andy waved goodbye to her grandchildren as her son pulled out of the driveway, then closed the front door and went back inside. She took in a long breath and started picking up the leftover mess. How had she gotten to the point in her life when a mess was no longer acceptable? All those years of raising her own children and now, the first thing she did when the grandchildren went home was put her home back in order rather than relax and think about the fun she had with them.
It wasn’t as if she had much else to do. This house was much smaller than the farmhouse where she and Bill had lived for so many years. Keeping things clean out on the farm was always a challenge. Whether it was dust that blew in through the open windows, kids tracking in mud after doing chores, or everyone dropping their stuff wherever they stopped when they walked in the door, it was a challenge. Fortunately, Andy had the wherewithal to insist they clean up after themselves.
Back in those days, she’d had her own busy life, teaching high school English. After Bill died, she retired. She could afford it and life was so frighteningly different following his death. Their oldest son, Bill, Jr., talked to her about moving into town and she let him insist. He was absolutely right. He had a family that would fill that house while he ran the farm with his brother, John. And she certainly didn’t need to care for that big old house by herself. But sometimes it felt as if she’d left her life somewhere in the dust and wasn’t sure where to find it again.
It was a good thing she had Lydia and Beryl. Beryl. Hah. That woman was always coming up with some new thing to pry Andy out of what Beryl termed a boring old life. Who could be bored when Beryl Watson was your friend?
Andy put the last bit of trash into the bin and wandered to the sink. “Bill Saner, I’m trying to figure this out,” she said, looking toward where he was buried in the cemetery. Her kids thought that she was strange. Why would she want to live next to the cemetery?
The real question for Andy was why it would be a problem? There certainly wouldn’t be any noisy parties. And if there were, that was an entirely different concern. She wondered if people really thought the dead rose every night to clang their chains together, dancing back and forth under the light of the moon.
That thought made her chuckle. Beryl had thought her choice of location was wonderful. She had all sorts of ideas for parties on Andy’s back deck. Zombie haunts, witches on broomsticks, scary music played into the cemetery. Charlie Heller wasn’t known for his sense of humor, so Andy put a kibosh on Beryl’s wildest imaginative ideas. She hadn’t been able to stop her from decorating the back deck with paper skeletons, orange lights, and spooky witches for the last couple of Halloweens. Not that anyone would see them unless they wandered the paths of the cemetery. The front of Andy’s home was tastefully decorated for trick-or-treaters and their parents. She didn’t let Beryl near that decorating.
Andy gave her head a quick shake and smiled. If not for her friends, she’d be a boring, boring woman. Just to remind herself of how bad it was, she opened what she lovingly called her junk drawer. There was no junk. Everything was where it belonged. If she took out the stapler, a stapler-sized space was left. Whenever Beryl left after spending time in the house, Andy opened this drawer and found that it had been disturbed in a multitude of ways. She also had to check the toilet paper. Andy preferred that it come off the top and she generally folded a neat little triangle at the end. Beryl flipped it upside down and shredded the last piece, if for no other reason than to make Andy giggle.
And the strange little gifts that Beryl left around the house for her. One time, Andy went to bed and discovered a plastic snake under her pillow. Another time, five plastic spiders showed up inside the glass body of the lamp beside her sofa. It took a while for Andy to figure out how to unscrew the thing to get them out. How Beryl had made that happen in the short period of time she’d been alone, Andy had no idea. She’d found candy in coat pockets and strange jars of jam and syrup tucked into her cabinets. Once there had been a bottle of tequila tucked into her freezer. It was always something.
When Andy confronted Beryl about the crazy gifts, her friend informed her that when Andy’s life became more interesting, she’d stop trying to spice it up.
Spice it up. Hah. At least Beryl wasn’t interested in matching Andy with single men in town, but mainly because Beryl didn’t spend time getting to know single men in town. As crazy as the woman was, she was a hermit.
Andy poured another cup of coffee and headed for the dining room where she could look outside the glass doors leading to her deck. It was too chilly today to spend time on the deck and look out at the cemetery. She’d walked along the paths back there so often that she knew where nearly everyone was buried. If her kids knew that she talked to them, they’d probably commit her. So many interesting lives had been led by those people. More interesting than Andy’s, that’s for certain.
Donald Mcalister. He’d died when Andy was a little girl, but her mother had told her stories about the drunken Scot who wore his kilt in local parades and sang to the pretty young women as he passed them by. Andy wondered what the rest of his story was. She’d thought about it over the years, but couldn’t even make up a tale that got him to that point in his life.
Fergus and Magnolia Gordon were buried not far from Andy’s back door. Their story wasn’t quite as illicit. He’d been a hard-working farmer and she’d been known as the queen of pies. Whenever the church had a potluck, Magnolia’s pies were gone before Andy could get to the dessert table. She hated to admit that was one of the biggest disappointments of her childhood. Never once had Andy been able to taste one of those amazing pies.
Her phone buzzed with a text. Andy tapped it open and smiled. Lydia wanted to know if she’d like to join Beryl, Sylvie, and Lydia to meet the new owner of the old school building. That could be interesting. Andy already had a life full of memories from working in that building. She’d heard that someone from Boston had bought it and Henry Sturtz was involved in its renovation.
Henry Sturtz. Now, that was a good man. He’d been in a couple of her high school classes. She couldn’t understand how he’d never managed to find a wife. His parents had moved to Arizona and he was living in the family home. He had a good business. Not too big, not too small. It would be enough to keep a family happy and content, especially if his wife wanted to work outside the home. Andy could seen him as a great parent. His younger sister, Lonnie, was in Ann Arbor, Michigan finishing her doctorate. Lonnie might never be a mom. She was as independent as they came. Bright and sweet, but strong and independent. It would take quite a person to land her as a wife.
Lydia hadn’t said much about the woman who bought the school. She didn’t know how old she was or where she’d gotten the money to buy the old building or why she’d come to Bellingwood. They’d heard she was a librarian from Boston, but that was it. Bellingwood already had a librarian, so why had this woman come here? Andy hoped she wasn’t a complete dingbat, throwing money around because she had some. She also hoped that the woman would be interesting and decent.
She hated not being in on things. When she worked in the school, gossip floated through the building and she had to pick and choose what she’d believe and what was pure garbage. Most of it was garbage, but at least Andy knew what was going on in the world. After Bill died and she’d retired to live at the farm, she lost all of her newsy connections. Even moving into town hadn’t helped all that much. When she ate at the diner with Lydia and Beryl, she’d pick up little bits and pieces of things, but it was mostly depressing stuff. Who was dying, what business was closing, whose kids were rushing away from Bellingwood as fast as they could. Andy wondered if her generation would be the final nail in the coffin of this little town. Boone would absorb everything – the library, the post office, even the churches.
“You’re ruminating,” Andy said to herself. She re-read Lydia’s text.
Sylvie Donovan. She’d also been a student of Andy’s in high school. Then the poor woman got herself involved with Anthony Donovan, a real peach of a man. There was some rumor that Sheriff Merritt had become involved in that whole thing, but Andy didn’t know much. Lydia never discussed the things that her husband did as sheriff. Sylvie had two young boys. It took Andy a moment to remember their names. Jason and Andrew. Not Andy, not Drew, but Andrew. That’s right. He’d made that clear one Sunday morning in church when someone had called him Andy. The boy corrected the person with a smile, but he was not going to be called by a shortened name. Sylvie worked at the grocery store. She was a pleasant young woman, much more so now that she was free of her husband. Lydia had brought her along several times when they all went out together. Evidently, she was going to be part of Lydia’s group of friends no matter what.
It was good for Andy to get to know new people. One of these days she needed to stop thinking about how she’d had to leave the home she’d known for nearly an entire lifetime and start living in this house like she loved it. She needed to quit relying on her children and grandchildren to be her social outlet. They had lives of their own. Dragging along a grandmother who was as boring as Andy wasn’t nearly as much fun as it sounded.
She was doing it again. If Beryl or Lydia heard her speak this way to herself, they’d have plenty to say.
Andy stood and walked over to the doors looking out on the cemetery. “What do you think, Bill? We’re both in town now. Is it time for me to put aside my self-pity and start looking for excitement? Not that our lives were ever that exciting. But I can’t sit here pining for a life that will never exist again.” She huffed an uncomfortable laugh. “I could, but I’m certain that would ensure I joined you out there in a very short time. I’m not ready for that. I love you, but it’s time to think about me again.” It was as if she heard him sigh. “Right. Think about me for the first time.”
She turned back, picked up her phone, and sent a return message to Lydia. “Name the time. This should be fun.”