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Authors: Pamela Browning

Sunshine and Shadows (9 page)

BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
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"Connie is special," Lisa said. She flipped through a Miami guidebook looking for information about the zoo.

"This Connie is going to pick up and leave as soon as the crops are in and then you'll be attached to her, which will make you feel sad after she's gone. Keep your emotional distance if you know what's good for you."

"I can't do that," Lisa said firmly, for once wishing that Adele had managed to keep emotional distance from her, Lisa. "I'd better call Jay," she added as she escaped into the kitchen.

She punched out Jay's phone number on her cell phone as Adele paused in her knitting and peered over the top of her glasses at Lisa, who stood just inside the open door.

"Who is this Jay, anyway?" Adele asked in a slightly elevated tone of voice.

"A volunteer at the school," Lisa said, glad that being on the phone kept her from elaborating.

Jay answered his phone on the third ring.

"Jay, it's Lisa," she said.

"How did it go with Nina today?"

"Nina agreed that Connie could go to the zoo," Lisa said with a hint of jubilation.

"What did you do—twist her arm?"

"I did worse than that. I'm not sure I even want to tell you." She grinned into the phone.

"It can't be that bad. Come on, what gives?"

"I told her that we'd take Connie's cousins with us."

Jay laughed, a long drawn-out and delighted laugh.

"You don't mind?"

"Not a bit, although I'm beginning to doubt your sanity. You haven't decided to back out, I hope. I'm going to need all the help I can get to keep up with Mike and Alejandro, Ruy and Felipe."

"Don't worry, I'm looking forward to it. I've met Mike and Alejandro. What are Ruy and Felipe like?"

"Ruy and Felipe are even more so, if you get my drift. More noisy, more nosy and more trouble."

"More cute?"

"Did you think Mike and Alejandro were
Jay asked incredulously.

"In their scruffy way," Lisa said with a laugh. She'd thought they were adorable.

"All four boys are bright and active and loud, and our day at the zoo will probably be as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. It's just that I didn't anticipate
the monkeys," Jay said.

"I told Nina that we wouldn't pick the kids up until ten on Saturday morning so that Connie can do her chores before we go. That seemed to be a big problem as far as Nina was concerned," Lisa said.

"She makes Connie work too hard," Jay said darkly. "Scrubbing floors, cooking, taking care of the boys. Connie never gets a chance to be a kid."

"From what I can tell, not many of the children at the mission do, but at least this Saturday five of them will have a treat."

Jay's voice softened. "Thanks to you. I'm glad you invited the boys." He paused, and, assuming that the conversation was over, she tried to think of a graceful exit line.

"Am I going to see you before then?" he asked unexpectedly.

Her heart skipped a beat. "I'll be at the mission all day tomorrow and Friday." He must have been thinking about her almost as much as she'd been thinking about him.

"I'm not due there until Monday. Why don't we go out tomorrow night? I think we should fortify ourselves against Saturday's ordeal, don't you?"

Lisa smiled into the phone. "And how would you suggest that we do that?" She hoped she didn't sound coy, but she was up for anything he might suggest.

"Dinner? A movie? A moonlight walk along the ocean?"

"Any of the above," she said. She liked the way he'd segued into an invitation.

"A walk, then. Want me to drive over and pick you up?"

"How about if I meet you at your place?"

"If you don't mind, I'd like that. I'll treat you to one of my famous smoked-turkey sandwiches afterward," he said.

"It's a deal for a meal. What time?"

"Seven o'clock? That gives me a chance to clear things up at my office."

"I'll see you tomorrow," Lisa said. She was still smiling when she hung up and walked slowly into the living room.

"It sounds as though you like the guy," Adele said.

"Oh, I like him, all right." Lisa was unable to keep the telltale lilt out of her voice. "And I'm pretty sure he likes me, too.

"There's a movie we'll both enjoy on the movie channel. Bette Davis and Paul Henreid, or is it Conreid? Well, whatever. It got three stars in the guide."

Lisa fought the smothered feeling that swept over her at the idea of yet another night of companionable television-watching with Adele.

"That man who called—what's his name again?" Adele asked as the movie's theme music swelled.

"Jay Quillian," Lisa said. She liked the sound of it.
Mrs. Jay Quillian. Lisa Quillian. Lisa Sherrill-Quillian.
She wished she had a piece of paper so she could write it down.

"Jay Quillian—no, I don't know anyone by that name. There are so many new people moving into the area all the time—it's hard to keep track of who's who. I remember when I used to recognize every name from here to Delray, not to mention Fort Pierce and Stuart. Now I never know anyone, and they've built all those big ugly condoms everywhere for those people to live in. Why, Florida must be the fastest growing state in the whole U.S."

"'Condos,' Adele. The abbreviation for
condominium is 'condo,'" Lisa said.

"Condo, condom, whatever you call it, we never heard anything about them before and now they're all over the place," Adele replied.

Hiding her amusement, Lisa settled back on the couch and counted on the program to silence Adele. It did, but instead of watching Bette Davis artfully exhaling curls of cigarette smoke, Lisa lapsed into thoughts about tomorrow night, which were far more interesting. She pictured herself walking beside Jay, the wind whipping their hair around their faces and with the ocean stretched out like infinity beside them.

* * *

Jay's two-story town house was located in a large development about a block from the ocean. Lisa recognized his car parked outside the cypress-fenced courtyard, its open gate illuminated by soft lights.

She rang the door bell and waited. When Jay finally threw the door open, he wore a slightly abashed look and had obviously been toweling his hair.

"I'm too early," she said when she saw him.

"No, you're exactly on time, and promptness is a quality that I admire in a woman. Except when it catches me like this." He ushered her inside, ran a careless hand through his damp hair, and laughed. "Make yourself comfortable—walk around, read a magazine, get yourself something to drink. Excuse me for a minute, I'll be right out," he said before disappearing through a door.

When she heard the hum of a hair dryer, she looked around curiously. Her first impression was of neatness, of everything in its place. The living-room furniture was modern, all black and white and chrome, unlike her own mixture of older rattan pieces inherited from her parents and supplemented by Adele. She walked around the room, evaluating the bright colors and clean lines of the paintings adorning the walls.

The kitchen turned out to be spare but well equipped, and she looked around in surprise as a closet door creaked open and a big, furry, and very perplexed dog peered out. The dog blinked at her from behind a curtain of shaggy hair, and Lisa almost laughed at its baffled expression. The dog, which overcame its amazement at finding her there, rolled over on its back and presented its stomach. Lisa complied to this request for a stomach rub, tentatively at first, then with more enthusiasm. It was a cute dog, if something that big
be cute.

When the dog began to fidget, Lisa stood up and wandered into the living room, the dog padding companionably along behind. On the marble-topped coffee table, a bedraggled copy of
The Florida Bar Journal
peeked out from a slightly more respectable-looking
magazine, and the room, with its leather couch, entertainment wall with large-screen TV and dhurrie rugs over a cool tile floor, was inviting.

She sat down on the couch and picked up the
The dog collapsed softly at her feet and watched her with its tongue lolling out.

In a minute or two, Jay appeared in the doorway. "I should have warned you about Hildy," he said. "She's part Old English sheepdog and I don't know what else. She's thirteen years old, has a heart ailment, and is hard of hearing, but she's my best girl—has been ever since she was a pup."

"She's beautiful," Lisa said. The dog stretched blissfully, exposing her stomach again. Lisa good-naturedly took the hint and bent over to scratch it.

"I got Hildy when I was fifteen," Jay explained. "She more or less runs things around here."

"Let's take her along on our walk," Lisa suggested.

"She might like it, but this time she's staying home. She hasn't been eating normally for the past day or so, and I'm worried about her." Jay ordered Hildy back into the kitchen and paused for a few moments to murmur reassurance.

The kitchen telephone rang, and he answered it. Lisa was curious about the conversation, which proceeded in fits and starts and ended abruptly.

When Jay came out of the kitchen, he looked agitated.

"Let's go," he said, and she wondered if the phone call had been bad news.

"Is anything wrong?" she asked as they strolled through the courtyard and out the gate.

"Not for me," he said ruefully.

"For someone else?"

"A client of mine. My partner just called with new information about a divorce case I'm handling," he said.

"I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have asked," she said.

"My work can be nerve-racking sometimes. People expect me to solve their problems, and I can't always provide a Band-Aid solution," he said.

They were walking along the dark street, passing in and out of the circles of light cast by streetlights on the corners. Around the corner, Lisa glimpsed the aquamarine glimmer of a swimming pool.

"Tell me about your work," she said. "What kind of practice do you have?"

"A little of this, a little of that," he said, looking more comfortable now. "I handle a few traffic cases, some divorces, real-estate closings—whatever comes my way."

It was a warm January night in South Florida, and at that moment the sky seemed alive with stars and possibilities. To their left the ocean curled upon the sand, the waves foaming milky white in the pale light. To their right an occasional car whizzed past, stirring up eddies of sand. They passed two teenagers on skateboards and one elderly couple strolling hand in hand.

"Thank goodness for the ocean," Jay said. "I like to take a walk almost every night. It helps get the kinks out of my system after a tiresome day in court or maybe a long day at the mission."

The breeze was soft beneath her hair, and the ocean rolled in lazy billows toward the shore, the surf spending itself upon the sand. At the bottom of the stair to the sand, Lisa slipped her shoes off. She nudged them with her toe until they were hidden beneath the bottom step. Jay did the same.

"Which way—north or south?" she asked when they reached the line of dry matted seaweed above the high tide line.

"You call it," he said.

"North, then," she said.

Their feet punched deep holes in the sand as they walked. Jay stayed a slight distance away, and she would have liked to shorten the distance between them. The best way seemed to be to involve him in conversation, so she smiled up at him and used a tried-and-true gambit that usually worked.

"Tell me something about yourself that no one knows," she said.

Was she imagining it, or did he draw away slightly? Her conversation-starter usually elicited a self-conscious laugh and then a minor revelation, such as the confession of a silly habit or a memory of a childhood folly.

"There's not much," Jay said after a long moment, and she stared at him, wondering what nerve she had hit.

"Actually," he said, recovering smoothly, "I'd rather know something about you. How did you become a dietitian, anyway?"

If that was the way he wanted it, she could oblige. Not too many people ever asked.

"In college, I watched as my girlfriends took up one fad diet after another. I didn't approve of what they were doing to themselves. Later I realized that the whole point of eating is to provide ourselves with good nutrition, and it was a revelation. I'll start nutrition classes at the mission as soon as possible," she told him.

"I suppose the migrant families have a lot to learn," he said. "Moving around the country and living on so little money makes it difficult for them to eat properly."

"Most people need education about what to eat. Sometimes I sit in a restaurant and watch people gobbling down fat-filled hamburgers and French fries dripping grease, and I want to shake some sense into them."

"Uh-oh," he said warily. "Now I'm worried about what you'll think of my famous smoked-turkey sandwich."

"Don't worry, I've been known to wolf down a few French fries from time to time," she said reassuringly.

"Speaking of food, let's head back. I'm definitely getting hungry."

BOOK: Sunshine and Shadows
3.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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