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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 41 of 55

Chapter 14 (June word prompts: wonder, lily, gossamer, eyes, empathy, lazy, sunny, beings, regret, leprechaun)


It was 1:00 by the time we got to the house. I enjoyed the scenery on the way, seeing it for the first time on a sunny day. Even though I’d been on the road twice before it had been dark both times. As we drove by the Wasp Nest I wondered if I would have even noticed it without the neon lights making him look so magical. I barely noticed the road we had turned down to get to Theresa’s house. I would have missed it entirely if not for the mail box on the highway. The address we sought was two roads down on the same side of the highway. I was surprised to see a little shopping district between the two. We stopped at the small market and bought some drinks to take with us, not knowing what we would find when we arrived.


The house looked very different up close than it had when looking at it from above. I tried to look for the circle I had noticed but could see nothing. Perhaps if was only visible from a distance or in the dampened grass.


We drove around to the side that I had not been able to see. There was a patio in front of some French doors leading inside. There had once been a beautiful garden to one side. Although now neglected, there were some brightly colored day lilies blooming which gave some life to the place. Dominating the garden area was a fountain , in the center of which was a dancing leprechaun. Of course the water wasn’t running now, but that did not spoil the charm of the mythical being.


This made me think of Peter, who was lingering behind. His eyes were on something I was unable to see and then I thought of his talk of Japanese lanterns and realized this would have been the patio he had described. I thought he must be remembering how it had appeared at another time. I could empathize with that. I had the same feeling every time I went back to my own home town.


“It looks like Roger isn’t here yet, so we can’t get inside to check that out, but everything looks fine out here”, said Theresa. “We might as well sit for a while and sit over there in the shade. I’ll give him another call.” She pointed over toward a concrete table and benches beside a weeping willow tree. It’s gossamer-looking fronds completely hid the small pond beyond.


It was a charming place. Just listening to the sound of the faint bubbling of the pool made me feel lazy indeed. I wanted to stay there for a very long time and felt some regret when my musings were interrupted by the sound of horses hooves on the pavement.


(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 42 of 55

Chapter 13 (June word prompts: wonder, lily, gossamer, eyes, empathy, lazy, sunny, beings, regret, leprechaun)


I was very interested in what Peter was describing, as was Theresa. I realized for the first time that property would be one of her neighbors. On the other hand Officer Brooks seemed to have no interest at all. He gave his form a once over, thanked us for the information and turned away.


Peter called after him. “If you want to check it out I can show you the path.” Officer Brooks seemed not to hear.


“I think it needs to be checked out”, he called even more loudly.


Officer Brooks kept walking toward the ambulance that seemed to be getting ready to leave. I thought Peter was going to run after him, but instead he began to do a little dance. I knew he was unconscious of his movements born of impatience but I realized I no longer saw him as an Easter Bunny nor a clown. I suppose it was his slight build and his green pants, but I couldn’t help but think of a leprechaun and I greatly wanted to scamper with him on a mysterious path up the mountain.


I could see his frustration from the look in his eyes. I could only think there was more to his connection with the house in the valley than he had told. I could only wonder what that connection might be, but I felt some empathy with him as I had been unable to rid my mind of it since I had seen it on that first day.


“I would like to check it out too.”


Peter seemed surprised at my statement. I wasn’t certain he realized we were still there.


Theresa was fast to express an interest too. “I have my car and I would really like to make certain that the place is OK. I would think Roger would know if anything was amiss, but I would feel better to know for myself.”


Peter seemed to cheer up at this prospect. “Do we need permission to go off campus?”


“I don’t think it’ll be a problem”, said Theresa. “Our painting schedule is already spoiled for the day and I don’t feel like being lazy and just sticking around here. Why don’t we mention it to him and we’ll plan to leave right after lunch.”


Doris had joined our group just in time to hear the last of our conversation. “Would you mind if I rode along? It’s such a nice sunny day and I would love to see more of the surrounding area, especially since I’m missing the rest of the trail.”


“It’s fine with me”, said Theresa. “I’ll tell you what. I see Dalton over there now. I think I’ll make certain it’s OK to go and then I’ll call Roger and ask him to meet us there. I think he’s supposed to be looking out for the place since he lives next door. I don’t want him to think we are intruders.”


I watched as Theresa walked over to our leader. I might have been mistaken but I thought I saw regret on his face. I hoped we could get back to our schedule for the rest of the week. But in just a moment I could tell he was giving his approval and I couldn’t help feeling excitement about a coming adventure.


I thought what strange beings we are. Our emotions seem to be on a roller coaster. Our disappointment in one activity can suddenly change to enjoyment over the contemplation of yet another. I was still anticipating the afternoon when I glanced up to see the camera on the eave of the dining room and was reminded of this mornings events that I had almost forgotten with thoughts of exploring that house. The lens of the camera was obscured by a thin gossamer film of dust and grime. It appeared it hadn’t been disturbed in a long while. Of course that didn’t mean it wasn’t operational.


We were the first to enter the dining room and the room was empty. I thought we were out of luck and would have to wait until Theresa had an idea. “Let me go ask Lily if we could get a sandwich or something if lunch isn’t ready yet.”


It certainly helps to have a local in the group, I thought.


(To be continued)



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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 43 of 55

Chapter 12  (Word Prompts: fresh, face, brooks, mud, balloons, circle, weathered, confetti, dancing, wasp)


By this time, Betty was sitting on the stretcher that had been pulled from the ambulance. I hoped this meant her condition wasn’t serious. I very much wanted to talk with her before I said anything to the officer who seemed to be waiting for me to say something he could write on the new form he was holding.


He had the kind of fresh face that some men have that makes them look 16 even when they are much older. I wondered why he had chosen a way of life in which a look of authority and maturity would be beneficial. While I was contemplating the reason for his choices, I glanced at the name tag that was displayed on his chest just over his shiny gold badge. The name Brooks made me remember about my suspicions.


I tried to explain that many of the paths seemed to have changed over the past weekend. I told him about the mud that shouldn’t have been there. He seemed to question my statement about it happening over the weekend and asked how I knew. I thought that was a stupid question. Certainly someone would have noticed a large red 13 painted on a stone right on the path if it had happened before then.


He pointed up to the edge of the weathered building that served as our dining room and meeting place. I hadn’t noticed the cameras posted there before. I wondered if they had the tapes from the weekend. There hadn’t been time to look at them since we began to notice irregularities this morning. Perhaps they would find the culprit very easily and the mystery would be solved.


I’m not certain when Peter had joined our circle but he was now standing right beside me. I tried very hard to think of something other than clowns or an Easter bunny but that wasn’t easy since I just noticed that his pink shirt was covered in tiny polka dots that seemed to remind me of confetti.


He seemed to have been standing there long enough to know what was being discussed. “You know there is another way up there don’t you?”


Since I had very little knowledge of the area there might have been hundreds of ways up here, but for Theresa that was different and she seemed surprised.


He looked at me. “There’s a path that leads from that house we were looking at. We all came up here as kids. This was where we had our first beer and smoked our first cigarette.”


“I didn’t know you were a local”, said Theresa.


“I’m not anymore, but I was raised here. My best friend lived in that house and I spent as much time there as I did my own. It’s sad to see it so empty and lifeless now. I was standing there today thinking of the parties we once had in that yard. Lights would be strung out on the patio and there would be balloons and Japanese lanterns. There would be music and dancing into all hours of the night. It seemed the entire town would come, not just the kids. But it’s true some of the paths have been changed. Betty told me that she was certain the path that she was exploring when she stumbled into the wasp nest had not been there before. That was what made her curious.”


“Did you say that house is empty now?”


“Yes, I think it’s tied up with someone’s estate at the moment. It’s been deserted for the past couple of years.”


I thought about the light I had seen from there last week and the tire tracks this morning. “I think someone should check it out”, I said. “I’m not certain it’s as empty as everyone thinks.”


(To be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 44 of 55

Chapter 11  (Word Prompts: fresh, face, brooks, mud, balloons, circle, weathered, confetti, dancing, wasp)


When we reached the end of the path I expected to see the other members of our group and perhaps Dalton George. I was not prepared for the flashing lights of several state patrol cars and the group of men in uniform. It was almost like they were having a party except the balloons and confetti were missing.


When I got closer I could see that there were more members of the workshop than just our group, some I knew and others I had only seen from a distance but I thought there must be parts of at least two other groups represented. Then I spotted Betty who had several people gathered around. One of the officers were telling people to move away and let her have some air. I asked a woman whose face was unfamiliar what was happening. She said that Betty seemed to have stumbled into a wasp nest and an ambulance was on the way.


Just then yet another group appeared. I saw Donna and went over tell her the news, knowing that she and Betty were good friends but I stopped in my tracks when I saw that her shoes seemed to be caked in mud. I hadn’t seen any muddy places last week.


“What happened?”


Donna laughed. “It’s my own fault. I decided to go off the path to check out some wild flowers. They just looked so pretty dancing in the wind like that. It turned out that there was some mud between the path and the flowers. I didn’t think there was anything out there so I wasn’t being careful.


Theresa came up just in time to hear the end of the story.


“Which path did your group take this morning?”


“We were on the same one that we explored on Thursday. I didn’t remember there being any source of water around there”, said Donna.


“There isn’t”, said Theresa, “Not unless there’s been some bad weather and we haven’t had more than heavy dew since everybody got here.”


Donna shrugged, holding up her foot. “Well, there’s something making mud there today. I think I need to clean off these shoes before they are ruined completely.”


She was about to leave when she noticed the ambulance pull up. “What happened?”


“Oh, that was what I came to tell you. It looks like Betty stumbled into a wasp nest and got stung. She’s being checked out.” Without another word, Donna went running over to the ambulance.


Theresa looked deep in thought. “You know, there are a lot of strange things happening today. There really is no water source that I know of except the ones that cross the path and that was on Friday and Wednesday of last week. Both of those are on the other side of the hill.”


“Do you mean there is no water on this side of the hill?” Of course I was thinking of the sound I’d heard, although I hadn’t actually seen a brook. Then I thought about the tracks that I had seen at the house. It was a big circle about the size that a vehicle would make if it were turning around.


“There’s something really odd going on here, I think we need to tell the officers before they leave. I’m wondering if there’s a connection between these things. The three groups who have had an unexpected event have all been on this side of the hill. The others seem to be doing OK, at least so far.” I was mainly thinking out loud.


Theresa looked a little skeptical but she followed me over to an officer filling out a form attached to a clip board. At first he was paying little attention to my worries, but then something got his attention and he put away the page he was writing and took out a fresh one.


(To be continued)

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Re: House in the Valley

Message 45 of 55

Chapter 10  (Word Prompts: fresh, face, brooks, mud, balloons, circle, weathered, confetti, dancing, wasp)


Theresa must have known what I was thinking by the look on my face.


“No, it’s not Peter”, she said. “This paint is not fresh. It was probably done sometime over the weekend when nobody was around. Does anyone have a cell phone? I think we need to report this vandalism.”


Olivia had her phone but there was no reception when they tried to use it. McKenzie thought we should all return to home base so that any evidence left by the vandals would be undisturbed. We had quite a lively discussion but the fact remained that this was protected land and it was against the law to damage it. We could only hope this was the extent of the damage. Finally a vote was taken and, since the mood of the day seemed to have been dampened anyway, it was decided we would return. Theresa said she would find Peter and let him know.


I suddenly felt badly that I had suspected him of this crime without any reason and thought I needed to apologize in some way. After all, he had done nothing to antagonize me. It wasn’t like me to automatically dislike someone as I had him. I thought there must be something that had been triggered and was curious to discover its source.


“I’ll go find Peter“, I told Theresa. “It would be better for you to lead the others back and since you are more familiar with the territory, you can give the authorities better directions to find it.”


I could tell Theresa was unsure about my plan. I thought as a local she felt some sort of responsibility but she knew what I said was valid.


“Just point me in the direction where to find Peter.”


“That’s easy”, said Theresa laughing. “Do you remember how you got lost up here last week? Well, I caught a glimpse of Peter taking the same path.”


I was happy to hear this news for two reasons. It was nice to know that someone else could make the same mistake and I’d had a hard time getting that view out of my mind. It would be nice to see it again.


It had turned into a lovely day for a walk. The sun was high but there was still enough of a breeze to keep it from being too warm. There was a path on the right that I hadn’t noticed the last time I’d come this way. It looked inviting and I thought about exploring. After a few feet the ground became more rocky and I thought I could hear the sound of a brook someplace very near. This made it even more inviting. I remembered the stream that ran across my childhood home and the feeling I had while sinking my toes into the mud beside the water. In the summer there had been so many dragonflies that their dancing wings might have been confetti floating before my eyes. This made me think of my neon wasp that I had promised to visit, so I added this to my list as I continued on my journey.


I came to a bend in the path and caught a glimpse of a bright pink shirt that seemed totally out of place in this weathered surroundings. I really sounded catty, even to myself and had to ask myself if I would have the same feelings if it was a woman wearing this outfit. I knew I wouldn’t even though it was not a color combination I would choose. And I had to admit it looked no more out of place than the orange shirt I had worn while sitting in that same place a week ago. That would have been what Donna had seen when she called to me.


I stood where I was for several minutes before making myself known. I almost felt I was intruding on some private moment as I watched the young man observe the scene below. I remembered the flashing light I had seen and wondered if he had noticed something similar.


I walked a few paces back and called out. I didn’t think he was going to respond, but he did. “I’m here”, he called.


I walked on down. “I took this wrong turn myself last week”, I said.


His expression told me he didn’t understand what I was talking about.


“The group was going further up the hill”, I said. “But as it turns out, we’ve found some vandalism and are returning to home base to make a report.”


By this time I was at the edge of the precipice. There was no flashing light but there was the faint remnant of a large circle in the yard that hadn’t been there before. Actually it was just an arc on the driveway but there was a corresponding arc on the grass in the yard.


Something about the circle looked familiar and as I stood there I tried to place where I had seen it before. My thoughts were interrupted when Peter joined me at the edge and I again had that same uncomfortable feeling.


“I think we should hurry back. The others will be wondering about us and the authorities will be here soon.” I was leading the way back to the main path and all the way wondering why I was no longer thinking of Peter Rabbit as I had before. Now it was the image of a pink and green clown holding a large quantity of balloons.


(To be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 46 of 55

Chapter 9   (Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter, manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


Now that we had all of our group we dropped by the dining hall to pick our lunches and bottle of water. The wind had died down and the sun was out and warming up nicely. This promised to be a good day for mountain climbing, if that was what we could call this. I was certain in this part of the country it would be considered barely a hill, but it was pretty big by my standards.

It was amazing how quickly we entered wilderness after leaving the camp. The, now-familiar path was unwinding in front of me and I thought of how strange and a bit scary it had had seemed the week before. I wondered if Doris was feeling this now, so I appointed myself as guide and positioned myself beside her to begin the climb. I was also curious about the 13 appearing on her shirt. I had heard it spoken as a part of the time and that had struck no cords for me.


I was pleased to notice that our token male, who I now thought of as our Easter bunny, had run ahead of the group. He had introduced himself as Peter, and I had to bite my tongue to keep from making a crack about Peter Rabbit. I wasn’t proud of myself for this, but between the perfume that was on the flowery side and the clothes, I just couldn’t help myself.


I was trying to think of a way to start a conversation with Doris. It didn‘t seem right that I just ask about her T-shirt, especially now that it was covered again. I felt it had some sort of special meaning since it‘s one of those things that people sometimes have strong feelings about, either positive or negative. That was why it seemed meaningful to me from my dream. I consider it a positive number, especially for women.


“Have you been on one of these workshops before?”


“No, this is my first. How about you?” Her voice was pleasant and she seemed genuinely interested. I felt strange knowing that I was attempting to manipulate her.


“This is my first one here but I’ve been to painting workshops before. This one is a bit different from the others but I think I like it.”


“How is this one different?”


“The ones I’ve been to before have been more lecture and demonstration from the artist leading the group. For this one it’s left up to us to do our own thing and then he critiques them in the evening when we all show our work. The emphasis seems to be on gathering ideas that we will sort out and perfect later. I think this suits me better.”


“That’s interesting”, she said. “I really didn’t expect to be on my own this much.”


“Well, I don’t really feel on my own. I know the other day when I took a wrong turn, it was immediately noticed and they came to find me. I don’t know if they planned it or not, but it seems

in each group they had some people who were familiar with the terrain.” I really hadn’t thought about that until now, but it seemed true. Even now that our original group had broken up, there were locals that must be familiar with the scenery.


“Does that mean it’s OK to stop and take a rest? This bag is getting heavy and it’s time for this jacket to come off.”


“There’s a place right around this bend up ahead where there’s a stone outcropping that makes a pleasant place to sit. It’s also an interesting place to sketch.”


When we rounded the bend Theresa, Olivia and McKenzie were standing at the out-cropping. Peter was no where in sight and they looked very angry. We rushed ahead to see what was wrong. No words were necessary as Theresa pointed to the outcropping. A large 13 had been painted in red paint onto the flat stone.


(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 47 of 55

Chapter 8

(Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter, manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


We spotted McKenzie and Olivia as soon as we walked down the steps. It seemed they hadn’t moved but they each had their backpacks which must have already been packed. As we approached I noticed what a nice smile McKenzie had. There are some people that I know immediately I want to know better and she was one of those. I had the feeling it would be a pleasure to be in the group with her.


By the time we reached them the sun had enlarged the crack in the clouds and the path much brighter than just a few minutes before. I was glad I only packed my jacket as I would be removing it very shortly. Theresa was about to say something when we were startled by a voice behind us.


“Are you Group 2?”


I turned around to see a woman I’d never seen before. She was tall and very athletic looking in her warm up suit and tennis shoes. Instead of a back pack she was carrying a gym bag. The wind blew her short hair and the open jacket, exposing a red T-shirt with a large 13 in white numerals on the front. I thought this was interesting and perhaps if she spoke the word I would know if this was what I was looking for. But at least we had one more of our group and a new person to get to know. Maybe breaking up our little group was a good thing after all.


She introduced herself as Doris and explained she had only just arrived as she had to cancel for the first week due to a family emergency. We introduced ourselves and gave her a brief idea of how things worked and what our schedule would be. I don’t know why, but I sensed a tenseness in her and a sadness. She didn’t seem like an artist but perhaps some time in nature was what she needed in order to unwind.


“I thought there were supposed to be six in our group. Does this mean I’m not the last one? I hated the idea of holding everyone up.”


“We thought there would be six also”, said Theresa. “But so far nobody else has shown up.”


McKenzie looked at her watch. “I suggest we give it another ten minutes and if nobody’s here we go without them.”


“What time is it now?” asked Olivia.


“It’s exactly 9:13”, said McKenzie as she looked at her watch. “I think we need to leave no later than 9:30. That’s already later than we’ve begun on the other days.”


No one voiced an objection but we were all anxious to be on our way. I have never found it easy to wait and I have little tolerance for people who are late. It seems to me it’s a manipulation to say that they are somehow special and don’t have to abide by the same rules as the others. Perhaps this is why I was already of a mind to dislike the figure who approached almost ten minutes later. It wasn’t until he was very close that I realized this person wearing an outfit that resembled more of an Easter egg than appropriate clothing for a hike was actually a male. To make matters worse, when he joined the group I realized that he was wearing something that I’m certain was classified as an aftershave but to me was a perfume and it threatened my allergies. I wondered if I should take an antihistamine now or just try to stay away from this new member.


This was a shame because I’ll have to admit he looked interesting. I had noticed very few men at the workshop and they were in a cabin of their own so had all been in the same group the previous week. At the same time, I thought anyone wearing lime green slacks and a pink shirt would have stood out. This made me think perhaps he had donned this outfit just for us. I suddenly felt underdressed and thought I might be a bit more careful in my dress the next day. Then I kicked myself, thinking I was doing the exact thing that I dislike when a man enters a group of women. The group seems to change. I would be watching myself and the others as we started up the trail.


(to be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 48 of 55

Chapter 7   (Word prompts: pleasure, wind, warming, Easter, manipulation, breaking, unwinding, crack, thirteen, perfume)


It had been a remarkable day and it was hard to believe that it had been less than 24 hours since we drove down that dark, winding road into another world. I hated to leave and yet it was with real pleasure that I looked forward to rejoining the others for the second week of the workshop. It was again dark by the time we got everything cleaned up and our laundry packed and loaded into the car. As we headed toward the highway, I had the vision of unwinding the road that had seemed so winding the night before. We passed the Wasp Nest and the still-fluttering wings seemed to be waving at me. In my imagination I told him I would be back and then felt sad that I had made a promise that I might not be able to keep.


We were so late getting back that everyone was already in their own cabins. We met Mary Margaret and Della who had left the gathering a bit before us. They were now a lot more animated than they had seemed only a few days before and now they were excited. There was to be a meeting after breakfast and some changes were going to be made in the group structure. We would remain in our original cabins but we would be drawing names to choose who would be in the painting groups. I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t fond of the idea of breaking up our little group but I had found there were other interesting people that I would like to get to know. Della also said we would be returning to the same places we had visited the week before but not necessarily in the same order. The schedule would be posted in the morning also.


I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, probably due to the fact that I had not slept well the night before. I was awake at the crack of dawn which is very unusual for me, not being a morning person. Everyone else was still asleep.


I thought about getting up and dressed but I hesitated to disturb the others. I stayed in bed and tried to remember what I had been dreaming. I believe that dreams carry messages from our subconscious and I like to remember them if possible. This morning all I was getting was thirteen. The odd thing was that it was coming to me, not in the form of the numerals, 1 and 3, but as a spoken word. I had studied dreams enough to know that this was supposed to mean something to me, but the message could be a manipulation of the symbols. Hopefully it would surface over the coming days.


My meditation was interrupted by the ringing of the bell that acted as the alarm clock for the workshop. I found myself counting the repetitions and knew I would be obsessing over my dream until I figured out what it meant. At least it did not seem to bring a message of dread along with it.

We all got dressed quickly and proceeded to the dining hall where we would find hot coffee waiting for us along with all the other breakfast fixings. I was not accustomed to eating breakfast at home but it was a necessary meal here since we were on our expeditions over the middle part of the day and would be given a bag lunch to take with us. It usually contained a simple sandwich, a piece of fruit and an energy bar. That along with our bottle of water would get us through until the evening meal.


This morning the coffee was more welcome than usual. It seemed a change in the weather was coming which is frequent in the autumn of the year. The wind had picked up overnight and the leaves were beginning to fall from the trees. I hoped this didn’t mean that a storm was coming. I was looking forward to returning to the trails we had found the week before. There hadn’t been enough time to really explore.


While we were having breakfast a hat was passed around and each of us took a number. Mine was “2”. I was pleased to learn that Theresa had also gotten “2”. I hoped that meant that we were still in the same group, but we were the only ones of our original six. Even Mary Margaret and Della were in separate groups. I wondered how often that had happened for them before. They seemed closer than any sisters I’ve ever known.


After breakfast we all gathered with our new group. I was pleased to find that Olivia was a member of our group. I had enjoyed her at the cookout. She was happy that a friend of hers was a part of our group. She and McKenzie had been childhood friends who still got together even though they lived in different areas of the country. McKenzie and Theresa were friends since they were both local. That made a nice foursome since there seemed to be a connection for all of us, but we were still waiting for the other two members when Donna came around with a basket for us to draw out our agenda for the week.


I couldn’t help but think that whereas the passing of the hat reminded me of Harry Potter, the basket reminded me of Easter and I wondered if I would get a chocolate bunny. However, I was never to find out because Theresa reached in an pulled out a piece of paper. We all gathered round and found that today we would be the group to climb the hill that we had climbed that first day. I had been looking forward to returning there. So much had changed since I had taken the wrong turn.


We looked around but saw no one who seemed to be looking for our group so we all headed back to our cabins to gather our supplies. The wind was still stronger than on the previous days so I added a jacket to my backpack. I looked around to see if there was something else I should add but saw nothing and Theresa was waiting at the door. I could see the sun peeping through the clouds and knew that the air would be warming in just a few minutes. Now I was anxious to get going too. I went outside and noticed that there’s a different aroma when the clouds go away and the sun comes out. I thought if someone could bottle that and the feeling that goes with it they would have the best perfume ever.


(to be continued)

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Re: House in the Valley

Message 49 of 55

Chapter 6


(Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


One by one the chairs around the kitchen table were occupied by my housemates with Theresa being the last to arrive and the only one who was wearing clean clothes. I thought she also smelled good and had probably brushed her teeth too.


We were still drinking coffee and having a breakfast of toast with a variety of jams, jellies and preserves that had been hiding in the frig when Theresa suggested we could be doing our laundry while we got things ready for our cook out. I had forgotten all about my suitcase that was still in the car. Donna and Betty had forgotten too so the three of us ventured outside with the keys to the car.


I was unprepared for the sight that greeted me just outside the door. I’d had no idea from the little I had seen from the headlights on the drive here of the open space rimmed with trees, both hardwood and evergreen. The trees rose to a great height in the distance that made me think of getting lost on that first day. This house was much more grand than that cottage had been but it seemed to be about the same distance away.


We had apparently crossed a patio on our way inside the night before. It was much larger than I would have thought. Along with a gas grill that appeared to be the deluxe model, there was a picnic table that would seat at least eight people. This was just outside the door, handy to the kitchen. On the left side was a patio table with four chairs. The entire thing was bound by a brick wall in front of a mass of flowers. I recognized petunias of many colors. There were also some baskets of bright red geraniums scattered near the patio table and near the door.


I was surprised to see a large barn in the distance. It appeared to be older than the house but something told me it was still in use. Somehow the thought of Theresa and a barn seemed perplexing to me. She didn’t seem the horsy type and had impressed me as much too obsessive to be out in a barn cleaning out the stalls, but then it’s hard to know a person in just a few days.


We all went back inside and decided instead of taking up the entire day doing laundry, we would mix our clothes together. In that way we could separate the darks from the lights and still have only two or three loads. For some reason it became a fun game as we tossed our undies into the machine and we were giggling like children. I had not felt that carefree for as long as I could remember. There was not even a thought of the ultimatum that I had felt hanging over me.


We were still snickering as we joined Theresa in the kitchen. She seemed to have things well under control having taken the makings for the cole slaw from the frig that we had bought the night before. She was cutting up the cabbage. Donna began to peal some carrots and Betty got the beans from the cabinet that we had also bought. I began to peal and chop the onion for both the slaw and the baked beans. We thought that would be good with the hamburgers and hot dogs to be cooked on the grill. Of course we were making more than enough for just four people.


There was no need to worry about left overs. Mary Margaret and Della were the first to arrive along with a tub of fried chicken. Then our threesome from the tour of town arrived with another member of their group and another friend from yet another of the groups. At this point our foursome had become eleven. They had also brought more food to add to the offerings. They had located a deli and had potato and pasta salads along with a supply of cold cuts and three types of bread.


The tables were becoming over-full when Beth went outside and backed her van up to the side of the patio and opened up the back. “Tail-gate party”, she announced.


At this point Theresa went over to the freezer. We had not seen the products of her baking binge that she had told us about, but she pulled out three bags of cookies and a chocolate cake. We certainly were having a feast.


The hamburgers and hot dogs were on the grill and we were all getting to know each other. I was still intrigued by the barn and hoped there would not be a problem if I wandered over to look. I was surprised to find three of the stalls occupied. I know nothing about horses and didn’t want to disappoint them since I had brought nothing for them to munch on, so I just lingered in the doorway.


I watched the activity on the patio. It had been a long time since I had encountered a group this large of just women. It reminded me of college and those old sorority days. I hadn’t realized how much I missed that. It was with this thought that I rejoined the group and joined in a conversation with Olivia who was talking about suffering from empty nest syndrome and the need to decide what to do now that the children were gone. There seemed to be an epidemic of that going on.


In just a few minutes our hostess announced that the hamburgers were ready and we all fixed a plate and found a place to sit. I joined Olivia and Jordan at the patio table. A tiny wasp threatened my glass of lemonade but then it must have been not to his liking as he fluttered off to greener pastures. I was amazed to discover that I had no desire to join him. I was perfectly happy exactly where I was.


(To be continued)

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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: House in the Valley

Message 50 of 55

Chapter 5


(Word prompts: tiny, wasp, suitcase, lingering, flutter, perplexing, ultimatum, control, obsessive, encounter)


I realized in hindsight that I began to feel a kindred spirit as soon as Theresa said “ultimatum”. My own had been hanging over me since I left home and I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I packed my suitcase for the trip. I had to stop myself from packing more than I needed because of the thought that I might not be coming back home, even if I knew this was unrealistic.


Lost in my own thoughts, I lost track of Theresa’s story and when I tuned back into what she was saying it was perplexing to know the difference between what had been her words from those of my own fluttering around my head like that neon wasp I had seen on the way here. From what I could grasp Theresa was talking about how her husband and soul mate had died suddenly earlier in the year making it necessary for decisions to be made.


Donna was asking about the house, which brought a chuckle from our hostess. “Believe me, it has not always looked like this. I suppose it has been a part of the grief process that I’ve become a bit obsessive in trying to organize everything. I’ve been accused of being controlling before, but it has really come to the surface since Martin’s death. My therapist says it has been a way of trying to gain control out of the chaos that I’m feeling. I hated to admit that he was right, but by the time I was alphabetizing the books on the bookcase I had to agree.”


I looked at the bookcases on either side of the fireplace and was tempted to get up and see if they were all in order. I had already thought that they put my own overcrowded cases to shame and thought it might be good to be a bit obsessive some of the time.


I must have missed some more because when I tuned back in she was talking about friends. “After the first couple of weeks when everyone had come with a casserole or a cake and had gone back to their own lives, I realized that I had no friends of my own. We had socialized with other married couples or the parents of our children’s friends. Other than a few of the members of the co-op, that I would call work friends or acquaintances, I was on my own, not that it’s a bad place to be. It’s just for the first time in my life it seems I can do what I want but I have to decide what that will be.”


I thought this was something I didn’t know either. I knew I was going back home because there was no place else for me to go after the workshop was over. It wasn’t that I really wanted to go there. I had found myself living in a place that I didn’t know because of my husband’s job. I had left my own job and family when we moved. I had been making a little money with my painting and with some writing of children’s books, but I could do that anywhere. I even found myself being a little jealous of Theresa, even though I felt guilt at the thought. It wasn’t that I wanted Blair dead, but it would be nice if I had the decision-making taken out of my hands. And with the filing of divorce papers, nobody appeared with casseroles and cake.


It was with this thought lingering in my mind that I must have drifted off to sleep. When I awoke someone had placed a colorful quilt over me and a tiny dog had made himself comfortable in the folds. It appeared I was not the only one who never made it to bed for the night. Theresa seemed to be the only one missing from the place she had occupied on the sofa. I decided to get up and make some coffee while I tried to remember what I had been dreaming. It seemed I had encountered a stranger who had pointed me into the direction of a dim light in the distance.


(To be continued)

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