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Authors: Pamela Browning

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BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
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"I'm going to bed," Lisa said. She sounded discouraged, disheartened, upset.

"I'll talk to you tomorrow," Jay told her, and he hung up gently. Afterward he sat in his darkened living room, staring at nothing and wondering about everything.

* * *

A week went by, and Connie caused no further problems. Lisa began to relax again. Jay came over every night, lending support and bringing gifts. He brought Connie a toy monkey on a stick because it reminded him of the picture she had drawn for Adele, and he brought Lisa a steering-wheel cover for her car because she'd complained that the steering wheel felt too cold on chilly mornings. He gave Connie a new set of paintbrushes and Lisa an outlandish ponytail holder with neon ribbons trailing from it. He even brought Adele a box of mints. It had no effect, however. Adele never came out of her room when Connie was in the house.

Finally, when Lisa had given up hope that things at home would ever improve and when Connie had stopped asking curious questions about "the lady in the bedroom," they came home for dinner one night during a cold snap and found a pot of stew simmering on a back burner of the stove.

Adele walked briskly into the kitchen. "I thought stew might taste good on a chilly night like tonight," she said matter-of-factly.

Lisa set down the bag of groceries they'd brought and took off her jacket, which she hung on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. Connie stood and gawked at until Lisa gave her a gentle nudge.

"Why don't you set the table, Connie?" Lisa suggested.

"I'll put my backpack in my room first," Connie said.

When Connie had gone, Lisa said, "It's good to see you out and about, Adele."

Adele stirred the stew. She said nothing.

Lisa tried again. "You'll like Connie if you give her a chance."

"I don't want to get attached to her. She'll be leaving, won't she?"

"In the meantime she needs a lot of love and attention."

"All right, all right," Adele said. "Would you mind making a salad? This stew's been ready for half an hour." Lisa thought Adele's expression softened when Connie came in and began to set the table, but she couldn't be sure.

The stew was delicious. "How do you make this, Adele?" Connie asked.

Adele chewed slowly before swallowing, and Lisa held her breath. She didn't think she could bear it if Adele was rude to Connie. But Adele only said, "Oh, it's just a matter of a little of this and a little of that."

"A little of what and a little of
what?"
Connie persisted.

"A little carrot and a little potato, and I always add dill. I
like
dill," Adele said thoughtfully.

"I don't know what dill is," Connie said.

"You don't?" Adele said in surprise.

"Nope. It sounds like your name. A
dill,
" and Connie laughed.

Lisa was surprised to see Adele's mouth turn up at the corners. "I have dill seeds in the garage," Adele said.

"It's something that grows? In the ground?"

"It's a plant. We could start some seeds in a flower pot," Adele said.

"Connie could set the pot in her window where it will catch the sun," Lisa suggested quickly.

"Oh, wow! And grow a plant? Of my own?" Connie wriggled with delight.

"Well, I don't know if you'd want to grow a plant," Adele said, and it seemed to Lisa as if Adele was about to slip back into her uncommunicative state.

"Connie helps Jay in the garden at school, and she's painting pictures of vegetables to decorate the dining hall at the mission's community center," Lisa said desperately.

"Did you like the picture I gave you?" Connie demanded of Adele.

"I—I liked it fine," Adele said reluctantly, picking at her meat.

"It's my favorite because I liked the monkeys at the zoo. And the elephants. Have you ever seen a flamingo, Adele?"

"A flamingo—why, yes, when my second husband and I went on our honeymoon to the Bahamas, we went to a show of flamingos parading around. It was lovely. Very lovely." For a moment she looked like the old Adele, the one Lisa remembered before Megan's accident.

"I could draw you a picture of flamingos to go with the monkey picture. I'd
like
to draw a flamingo picture. How about if you show me how to plant the dill seeds after dinner and I draw you the picture tonight? Is that a fair trade?"

Adele wrinkled her forehead at Connie. "I don't think—" she began, but Lisa interrupted.

"I bought potting soil the other day," she said. "I'll clean up the kitchen while you and Connie plant the dill seeds."

"Oh, good! I can hardly wait!" Connie beamed and Adele shifted uncomfortably in her chair, clearly aware that there was no getting out of participating in the evening's activities short of throwing down her fork and stomping back to her bedroom.

The phone rang. "Oh, Lisa, may I answer the phone?" Connie hopped up and bounced restlessly on the balls of her feet.

"Go ahead," Lisa said.

Connie ran into the kitchen, grabbed the phone out of its cradle and said, "Hi, Jay! I kind of knew it was you. Are you coming over? Oh, good! Here's Lisa."

Lisa took the phone eagerly.

"What's on the agenda for tonight?" he asked.

"Adele and Connie are going to plant seeds, and Connie is going to draw a picture of flamingos," she said.

"Adele and Connie? Have I missed something?"

"I'll explain later. Anyway, tonight I happen to be free," she said.

"How free? Can we go skinny-dipping in the river?"

"Where do you get these ideas?" Lisa asked.

"They occur naturally whenever you come to mind. If you're not interested in swimming, how about if I bring Hildy over and we all go for a walk along the river road? Would you mind?"

"No, and I'm sure that Connie would enjoy it," Lisa said.

"I hope Hildy will. She's perked up in the last day or two, so I think the exercise will do her good. We'll see you in an hour or so."

"I'll tell Connie," Lisa said.

"I love you," he told her.

And she said, "I do, too."

"Can't you say it?"

"Not at the moment," Lisa said cautiously.

"At a later moment, then. And I expect you to show me just how much."

"I hope you won't be too disappointed," she said, watching Adele out of the corners of her eyes. Adele had begun to stack the plates at the table, but Lisa knew she was avidly listening to every word.

"I'm never disappointed with you. 'Bye," he said, and the dial tone buzzed in Lisa's ear.

"Tell me what?" Connie said close behind her, and Lisa, taken by surprise, jumped.

"Jay will bring Hildy over and we can all go for a walk," Lisa told her.

"I love Hildy. She's almost like a real person. Better, maybe," Connie said with a happy grin.

"Hildy can count better than most people," remarked Lisa.

Adele raised her eyebrows. "A dog that does arithmetic?" she said skeptically.

Lisa explained, and Connie laughed. "Hildy can't add. I know how Jay does it," she said.

"How?" Adele asked, sounding interested.

"He holds the dog biscuit in front of Hildy's face, and after she barks the correct number of times, he drops his hand just the littlest bit, and Hildy knows to stop barking," Connie told them gleefully.

While Lisa was still mulling over this revelation, Connie confronted Adele.

"Aren't you going to show me how to plant the dill, Adele?" she asked.

"Well, I thought maybe tomorrow," Adele said.

"You said before that you'd show me tonight. Tonight, tonight, tonight!" Connie said playfully, grabbing Adele's limp hand and pulling her toward the door that led to the garage. When the door swung shut behind them, Lisa could have sworn that Adele was holding back laughter.

Lisa listened to the two of them in the garage for a moment, decided that Connie's banter was exactly what Adele needed, and hung her apron up behind the kitchen door. With Connie and Adele keeping each other busy, she hurried to her room and chucked her work clothes in favor of jeans and a black turtleneck topped with a favorite sweater.

She stopped for a moment to stare at herself in the mirror. She looked like the same person that she'd been a few weeks ago, but she certainly didn't feel the same. She was in love. She loved Jay so much that to be apart from him caused her to ache physically, created a hollow in her very soul, made her conjure up constant thoughts of him.

She heard a car door slam outside, ran to the window and saw Jay coaxing Hildy out of the back seat. She hurried to let them in, but Connie had seen them too. They both stood at the door, waiting while Jay urged Hildy along, and when at last they were inside, Connie knelt on the tile floor, burying her face in Hildy's silky fur.

Jay captured a quick kiss and smiled down at Lisa. "Let's ask Adele to go on our walk," he said.

At the sound of her name, Adele appeared in the entrance to the kitchen. She was carrying two clay pots.

Connie jumped up. "See, Lisa? See, Jay? Adele and me planted seeds in these pots and we're going to put them in the sun and water them so they'll grow. It's better than our garden at school because they'll be inside. Come on, Adele, let's put one in your window and one in mine."

Adele didn't say a word. She merely shrugged and followed Connie down the hall to their rooms, an amused expression on her face.

"Well, that's something," Jay said, pulling Lisa into his arms and kissing her properly this time. Hildy sighed and lay down across their feet, resting her chin on her paws.

"Mmm," Lisa said, slipping out of the circle of his arms before Adele and Connie reappeared. If Adele's look was suspicious, Lisa pretended not to notice;.

"How about it, Adele? Would you like to go for a walk with us?" Jay asked.

Connie danced around them. "Please go! It'll be dark and scary and Lisa and Jay will want to walk beside each other and whisper, and you and I could walk together."

"You could walk with Hildy," Adele told Connie in a small voice.

"Hildy may be able to do arithmetic, but she sure can't talk to me. Adele, please?" Connie was irresistible as she eagerly waited for the answer.

A ghost of a smile flickered over Adele's lips. "All right, I'll go. Is it cold out?" she asked.

"You'll need a jacket," Jay said.

After they had all put on something warm, the four of them stepped out into the cool night air. Overhead the stars shone in sharp brilliance and the moon flickered through the pine branches. An uncertain breeze wound around the house and blew the soft green scent of the water into their faces; Lisa and Jay smiled at each other, a secret smile sharing their own special happiness, and Hildy even managed a few frisky steps before settling down to a more sedate pace.

Connie pulled Adele along until they were walking ahead of Lisa and Jay, and Jay took Lisa's hand. The road was deserted; houses here were far apart, and the only indication that anyone else lived nearby was the glow of incandescent lights along the edge of the river.

Connie ran back to them. "Let me take Hildy's leash," she begged. "I promise I won't let her get away."

Jay handed the leash over. "I'm not worried about that," he said. "It's been a long time since this old dog has wanted to get away from anyone."

"Especially me," Connie said with a great deal of satisfaction. "Hildy
loves
me."

Connie and Hildy soon caught up with Adele, and Jay and Lisa deliberately lagged behind.

"What happened with Adele? She seems much better," Jay said.

Lisa explained, and Jay laughed. "I didn't think she'd be able to hold out forever," he said.

"There's no figuring Adele's moods." Lisa took Jay's hand and wound her fingers through his.

He pulled her close long enough to kiss her temple. He would have liked to do more than that. Perhaps later; maybe they could steal a few moments together after Adele and Connie went to bed.

Up ahead, they saw Adele and Connie stop. It was so dark that they couldn't see what was happening; perhaps they were merely waiting for Lisa and Jay to catch up.

But then Connie knelt, and as Jay was beginning to wonder why he couldn't make out Hildy's shape, Connie called, "Lisa? Jay? Come here! Hildy's lying down in the middle of the road, and we can't make her get up!"

Chapter 11

BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
5.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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