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Enid

Enid was a good girl. Everyone in town said so. Mrs. Jenkins at the post office would be the first to tell you how kind Enid was to all the old folk. And what Mrs.Jenkins knew, everybody knew.

At least until last Sunday. The church picnic went as planned and Enid's Sunday chicken was as usual praised by all the good folk of Bonneville. All the folk of Bonneville were good folk, that is unless you thought about Mike Sellars down at the Hollow, but the Hollow wasn't inside the limits so nobody really thought about Mike Sellars too much - nobody that is except Enid.

Once or twice a long time ago she'd been inside Hollow House with its pretty colored windows and big winding staircase of rich mahogony. Enid didn't know it was mahogony. She only remembered that it seemed quite silent inside, and peaceful.

Enid liked when it was quiet. She liked to walk out past the meadow, past Wilkin's barn down to the stream which marked the limits. There she'd sit for hours watching the water lap against the stones. She's gather some daisies for the Home, leave some crumbs for the birds and often she'd wade into the creek splashing water on her sun warmed face.

It was then that Enid usually thought about Mike Sellars. Being in the middle of the creek she could see past the bend down into the Hollow and sure as not she'd seem him hoeing in the green patch or sitting in the shade of an old oak just chewing on a blade, nodding his head gently in the breeze. She wondered why he lived in the Hollow and why no one in Bonneville much cared for him.

Everyone in Bonneville said Mrs. Sellars had been, well you know, kinda queer upstairs like. Sorta mental. Happened all of a sudden they said but Mr. Sellars bein' the man he was well he wouldn't hear of an institution and so with a bit of patience he set about keeping her at the Hollow, hoping every day that Mrs. Sellars would soon come round.

And then Mr. Sellars took that heart attack. Some fancy city folk paid for the funeral according to Mrs. Jenkin's who said she got it straight from Mr. Will. of Willburtanski's Parlor. That happened about five years ago they figured and Mike was just about sixteen.

Same as her now she thought and wondered what it was like to be really grown up. Not that she didn't think she was grown up but she was just finished her-eleventh grade and Aunt Isabel still made you be in bed by nine, exceptin' special occasions of course.

Enid wondered if Mike Sellars had to do anything. After all, who would make him. Mrs. Sellars had died just last Spring and as everybody said only Mike and the ghosts lived down at the Hollow now.

This particular Sunday, Enid went for her usual walk after the picnic and after splashing about in the stream she thought she might make a daisy chair for old Mr. Jake at the Home. He liked daisies she knew and she thought she might put it on him when she served supper it bein' his eightieth birthday and all. Imagine getting all the way to eighty.

She smiled, remembering how old sixteen seemed. She tried to imagine herself at eighty but decided she's settle for eighteen. Then she'd really be old, old enough to vote, to go to work at the 5 and 10 even old enough to go to nursing school far away if she really wanted to. It was a delicious thought which tempted a series of well played day-dreams, but before she could even begin on her favorite she heard someone splashing, quite closeby.

It wasn't exactly someone. It turned out to be a beautiful red setter and Enid knew it was Mike Sellars dog. Hadn't Mrs. Jenkins been sayin' just the other day that decent folk in Bonneville didn't have no truck with folk using big hunting dogs? What's a person need a big dog for 'ceptin to pertect hisself, she'd say. And what's a certain party perfecting hisself for, I'd like to know, she'd add, to anybody listening.

Mrs. Jenkins did indeed want to know. It bothered her not to know things. She didn't like people who kept secrets and she thought that Mike Sellars was being awfully secretive livin at the Hollow by himself with a big dog to protect him. And since Mrs. Tonkins thought so it got to be general knowledge that the Sellars boy was trouble and trouble was an unfriendly word in the Bonneville vocabulary.

But Enid liked dogs and she specially liked the rich colour and silky look of this one. He reminded her of the staircase for some reason. She was rather surprised when the dog came upstream, shook himself off and moving slowly, sniffed his way toward her. She heard a voice yell " here Joshua," without thinking she called " over here."

Close up he was a little taller and a little thinner than she'd expected. The glasses were also a surprise – she couldn't recollect seeing him wearing those before. He had an old fishing hat angled on a mop of sunny hair and Enid couldn't imagine being-- less afraid of anyone. A thought which suddenly made her start. She looked at him rather anxiously for a moment then said, " I like your dog."

"He is nice, isn't he. Keeps me company - and/sees that I eat on time," he added smiling.

Thinking of something to say, she said "I guess you'd be Mike Sellars," and then she looked up into the friendliest eyes she'd seen in awhile and added "hi, I'm Enid Blakesley."

" Joshua and I were just going to have some chocolate milk, weren't we Josh. Shall we ask the lady to join us." Josh's ears flopped at the mention of chocolate and Enid chuckled when she thought of things she'd heard.

They both stood waiting for her. and as she took the offered hand up the bank, she smoothed her skirt and said she thought a chocolate milk would be just the thing right about now.

It was after seven when she left the Hollow and she never thought to lie when people asked her where she'd been so late. Eyes looked questioningly at her, especially Mrs. Jenkins eyes. But Enid remembered her afternoon and kept a smiling silence. Enid definitely knew some things that Mrs. Jenkins didn't know, and, on thinking it over she kind of liked it that way.

Sara

Sara was a disturbing girl. Just when he thought he'd quite got rid of thoughts of her, as if by magic she would quite suddenly appear and put askew his too well ordered day. Love once a consideration, no longer reasonable. She bothered him.

On a bicycle, riding out the sunlight basking in the goodness of it all, and out of nowhere, Sara. If only she had less of an inviting dimple. She always smiled at seeing him and it always seemed to catch him.

Hi. Hello he'd say, slowly taking her into the situation. Never really quite prepared for Sara he was often unsure of what to say. It seemed important to maintain that distance.

She often chuckled to herself. She liked to laugh and laughter suited her. She blinked, nodded toward a bike path, and beckoning him follow she added, I know this place.

Damn her anyway. What did she really want of him. Why did she keep reappearing and more so why should it disturb him. He knew it shouldn't. He rationalized his life at least once every day.

She rode carelessly through the trees following the path and chattering as the gentle breezes played against her. He told her that life was as usual; they exchanged tidbits of idle gossip and as could have been predicted she suggested they stop at a park nearby for a bit.

As if scripted they sought the shade of a friendly elm and Sara settled in contented like a kitten. She seemed to be smoking a lot these days and the also forecast joint soon came to light. Sometimes he smoked with her but sometimes he deliberately avoided the contact. He was not sure which disturbed him more for Sara stoned was unpredictable.

She unearthed a bag of cherries and once again she plunged him into one of her unexpected chronicles.

Summertime Lovers

A quick kiss, yet tender with a touch of promise and he was off. Monday. The kids were still asleep. Sunrise had declared itself and Jeff was off to the city. Melissa ran a slender almost delicate hand through tousled hair and wandered slowly back to bed. It was a very nice weekend she thought to herself and contemplated Wednesday with a smile.

"And so it goes", said Jean that afternoon over the Monday bridge game. "Now you see em, now you don't. I wonder what they do without us all week. In fact I really don't think I want to know. If I enjoy my freedom here why shouldn't George enjoy his in the city. I like the beach, my kids like the beach, my girl likes the beach, even George likes the beach when he's here, so why should I mind whatever George does to relieve himself, so to speak."

Melissa, Chessa and Annie all smiled a little to themselves. Melissa wondered what she might have said instead; and wondered if she should wonder what exactly Jeff was doing about the same problem.

Every summer for the past four summers Melissa experienced the same momentary panics. What if...what if Jeff was... well balling some other woman for instance, keeping a mistress, visiting those massage places... well any of those unpleasant alternatives. Every time she added up all the possibilities she decided that it really was too heavy to think about just then. Later maybe. When the kids were asleep exhausted from the Monday night ritual of bowling and baths. If only they liked tennis, she mused, but seeing the sidetrack she put herself back in the game.

" Jeff's sure been away a lot lately eh Lissa", said Chessa laying her cards slowly and methodically on the table. "Urn huh" said Melissa nodding her head equally as slowly as she thought, damn her anyway. I mean she knew that Chessa's Harold was no damn saint. In fact, she wondered if Chessa even suspected Harold. Harold was quite a guy, tall, shaggy, curly hair and a truly fabulous body. She really wondered if Chessa knew of Harold's happening last summer. She saw Jean look around, taking in the heavy slience. Jean lowered her head and quickly played the Jack of Spades. In spite of herself, Melissa smiled at the irony.

" Mrs. Sandpiper said she'd meet you at the beach. She took lunch", Claire told her as she traced peculiar noises into the porch. Melissa, still struggling to keep her eyes open to the morning light, nodded at Claire and glanced toward the porch. She had to laugh. Who could help but laugh at the unpredictable ways of children. All children of course, but hers especially. Especially right now. Nick and Nolle grinned at her. "Where did you ever dig those up? They must have belonged to our ghosts." She fingered the maj tiles the kids were tossing into an old chamber pot Victorian by design but probably early World War II reject she figured.

Nick and Nolle had been up since seven. Although it was Tuesday it might have been any Tuesday. She and Annie had planned on Chinese and a movie with the kids at Plimpton about fifteen miles inland. Claire was off, Tuesday and Sunday, same as Annie's girl. They'd planned it so and it was understood they'd at least do dinner together.

Josh Sandpiper had almost always been away at camp or fancy schools or on exotic trips with his parents so no one was surprised to hear he'd married a girl while away. No one was even really surprised that he'd met her in Hong Kong of all places. But the fact that she was half Burmese that really surprised a lot of people.

Annie's father was a British pilot, shot down just like in the movies. Annie's mother a nurse. She nursed him, they fell in love, just like in the movies. Annie's mother died quickly when Annie was just two and Annie grew up in Hong Kong where her father worked as a test pilot. Annie had told her all this over coffee one Monday morning after Jeff and George and Harold had left for the city. Josh was away for two months. Annie was pregnant once again, not allowed into Malaysia where Josh was building planes. So she'd come to spend the summer at his family's summer home. And as she further confided to Melissa that day, she spent a lot of time regretting it.

Melissa and Annie became friends over the next two months, developing a liking and respect of the other's individuality. Annie listened thoughtfully as Melissa unloosed fears of life and love, marriage and divorce. Annie spoke of her life without a mother, of her gentle father and of her distinct distaste for most of Melissa's friends. She did not like the life of a beach wife, particularly amongst Josh's friends. Poor Annie Melissa said to herself as she rinsed her mug and went about giving Tuesday its chance to happen.

Chessa seemed particularly quiet this Tuesday. She let her kids eat too much junk, a distinct oddity for Chessa and she even agreed to a Wednesday night sleepover for all the kids at her place. Nice but heavy. Melissa knew then that something was wrong. It wasn't like Harold to miss a Wednesday. Unless of course. Too late she saw the trap and as she glanced up she felt Chessa watching her as she watched Chessa, trying to figure the whole thing out.

The guys usually arrived around seven, Melissa like the others would have fed her kids and sent up a prayer for an early bedtime. It was nice to be alone during the week. But Wednesday nights were nice too.

She'd spent the afternoon doing her hair, her toes, her nails, her face and anything else she could think of. Jeff had taken to bringing down wine when he came. In fact, she remembered smiling - last weekend he'd brought down champagne. Just felt like it he'd said.

So it was no wonder Chessa was looking upset. Melissa figured she'd be upset too; wondering yet not really wanting to know. Thoughts like that could she give a girl the downers.

Even Annie who didn't much like Chessa was rather sympathetic. It was later Tuesday as they sat by a fire sipping brandied coffees that Melissa told Annie of how she and Jean stayed in the city over night last summer and how she'd walked in on Jean and Harold. She hadn't thought that Chessa knew, Jean had pleaded for her silence, but now she really wasn't sure. Perhaps she'd sound out Jeff tomorrow watching his eyes to see the truth behind them.

She loved Jeff's eyes. They were deep and blue with long lashes which she dearly envied. She liked most things about Jeff. Inspite of all the hassles, they seemed to get along. Summers at the beach gave Melissa time to catch up with herself from frantic over crowded winters. She liked the lazy days, the gossip, the magic moments with her kids and especially she liked Jeff's comings and goings. It was romantic. Almost like being young again - single – spending hours getting ready for dates, time enough to be together but not to bounce off each others nerves.

As the Wednesday parade began she saw Jeff's Mercedes stop down the road. George got out. How he was alone. As she turned her head she caught a glimpse of Chessa ducking her head quickly inside. She felt a momentary twinge of compassion but as Jeff stopped the car, wine in one hand, mail in the other, she felt her lips go dry and her heart go faster. Welcome back lover, she said softly as he bent to kiss her.

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Copyright © 2019 Rokie Bernstein