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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 71 of 92

Chapter 20 (Word prompts: message, transition, rejection, traveler, hope, request, golden, mesmerizing, drizzle, crow )

Craig was doing his best to transition between his worried self into the excitement of the evening that was in front of him. On the way home there was a slight drizzle on his windshield. He’d paid little attention to the news or weather reports for the past several days. Surely Jason would have prepared for all weather conditions. This was not his first party on the island and he was well aware that anything was possible.

He had been surprised by Stan’s request that he keep quiet in regards to sharing the secret. It rather went against his usual habit of absolute truth. At the same time he couldn’t help but wonder what he had in mind. From the sparkle in his eyes he knew there was a plan bubbling away.

By the time he reached his street he had come to the point where he was excited about the evening for an entirely different reason than just seeing Madison. He was wondering if he should give her a call to confirm the time when there was a sudden thud on his windshield. It happened so fast that he wasn’t certain what had happened. It only took a few feet to stop the car since he was going at such a slow speed, He got out and noticed something black lying on the street but then it took flight and he realized it was just a crow and had only been stunned by the impact. He was pleased that the bird had not been injured but it seemed a bad omen all the same.

He was almost shaking as he opened the door to his house. His previous thought of a dog hit him again as he was struck by the silence. This rollercoaster that he was having with his emotions was feeling way too familiar. He seemed to be going from one extreme to the other with amazing speed. He eyed the coffee pot but knew that was part of the problem. He’d had enough caffeine for the present. A stiff drink was more appropriate at the moment, but the last thing he needed was to show up at Madison’s with the smell of alcohol on his breath. He wasn’t certain how he knew but he felt certain this would be a deal-breaker as far as she was concerned and the last thing he wanted to feel at this point was Madison’s rejection. He decided to give her a call to confirm the time and hope for the best. As it happened he got only her voicemail and had to leave a message.



It had taken longer than she had planned to do the bit of shopping. She hadn’t realized there would be twenty miles to drive to the nearest department store to get the few things she needed for the evening. Luckily the same store carried groceries so she was able to pick up some other things at the same time.

Madison was excited about the upcoming evening. It had been a long time since she had gotten all dressed up for a date. Yes, she had decided this would be considered a date. That was when she realized she would need some things that she hadn’t brought with her when she thought this trip would be only a couple of days. Not being a seasoned traveler, there were a wide assortment of things left out. She needed some additional make-up and a curling iron in addition to the additional clothing that she had already discovered. By the time she had finished the cart was piled high.

She managed to keep separate the things that she would need for the evening, as well as the groceries that would need to be refrigerated and was relieved to find that she could carry all of that in one trip. The additional bags could be left until later. She wanted enough time for a leisurely bath and time to do something with her hair. She planned to be mesmerizing in her new outfit and thought she just might be succeeding as she looked at her reflection in the mirror and watched her golden earrings reflect the bathroom light.

(To be continued)


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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 72 of 92

Chapter 19 (Word prompts: twisted, teacup, impulse, child, mirror, conversation, fate, spider, tiny shoe

So many thoughts were twisting their way through Craig’s mind as he drove away. In his rearview mirror he could see Pearl still sitting on the front steps. He should have taken her tea cup with him so he could fix it, but he knew Sean would not have approved and would have caused more problems for the children. At least he had replaced the tiny shoe for her.

Rarely did Craig feel the need to talk about something that was bothering him, but this was one of those times. He wasn’t certain he entirely trusted his strong feelings in this situation. He was aware that Pearl was very close to the age his own child would have been had fate not intervened. Perhaps that was causing him to exaggerate the feeling of doom that was overtaking him. Yet he couldn’t ignore the fact that this situation had so many threads that even a spider would be confused by the web. Of course webs were intended to catch prey and he was certainly feeling entangled.

As far as he knew there were only three people who carried the secret of the missing Joanie. He would talk with Jason at the party but felt he needed to be more certain of his own doubts and fears before speaking to him. Joyce might be the children’s aunt but they didn’t seem to be making the best decisions for the children’s welfare. On the other hand, he wasn’t certain what he would advise doing himself.

He thought of talking with Madison, but he would see her later too and he really wanted this to be a social engagement. That was something that seemed very important. The other person was the sheriff but bringing the law into the children’s situation was what they had tried to avoid all along.

It seemed he was out of options and then he realized he had to bring someone new into the picture and he thought of Stan. He had proved himself over the years as to his ability to both listen and keep confidences when needed. Following the impulse he headed back to the Men’s Den, hoping Stan would still be there and have some time to talk.

The shop appeared empty when he stepped through the door but he knew there was a buzzer that rang in the back so he didn’t feel the need to call out. Someone would appear soon so he just decided to fill the time looking around, perhaps some therapeutic shopping would help his mood. He had to admit that the idea of adding to his wardrobe was probably a good sign. He spotted a shirt in a reddish color. He had never owned anything that bold but it appealed to him. He heard a sound behind him and turned, expecting to see his friend, but caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror instead. He was struck by the change in his face from the time he was here just a few hours before.

Stan saw it too. “What has happened? Are you having buyer’s remorse already?”

“No, don’t worry. I’m not planning to return anything, in fact I might buy more. But I was wondering if you have time for a real conversation.”

Stan instinctively knew that this was more than just something casual and led him to the back without a word. There was already a pot of coffee going and he poured some into a mug reading “Men’s Den”. Craig started to make a joke of if but then he wasn’t feeling much like joking at the moment.

Craig talked for almost an hour. He began with Madison and his idea of renting her barn for a studio. Stan was shocked at the news of the missing Joanie and marveled at it being kept so quiet in a town where it seemed everybody’s business was known. He was sad to hear about Sean, who he had known better than Craig since he had been a customer of the store during better days. He knew that Jason had arranged for his rehab, but had not known that he was a family member.

Just as Craig was winding down the buzzer rang telling of a customer. Stan pointed to the coffee pot, which was now fresh, and indicated that he would be back. Craig poured another cup and found he did feel better now that he had shared the story with someone. It was as though a load had been lifted and he was anxious to meet the evening.

He was ready to leave when Stan returned. “I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but I’m on the guest list for the party tonight. I think it would be a good idea if you keep quiet about my having any of this story, I think I might drop a few questions of Jason and Joyce and I’m curious as to what they will say and how far they will go to keep the secret. I’ll have to say I certainly feel some intrigue here and I can’t wait to meet your Madison. She sounds like quite a woman.”

(to be continued)




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Valued Social Butterfly

Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 73 of 92

Chapter 19 (Word prompts: twisted, teacup, impulse, child, mirror, conversation, fate, spider, tiny shoe)

Craig paid a visit to the barber shop and then to his favorite men’s shop. He was thinking that a nice sport’s coat would be in order for the party. He was in luck and his old buddy from high school was working. Stan had begun working there while in college and now was part owner. He always had good suggestions as to what would be appropriate for any occasion.

As fate would have it, Stan was alone in the shop which gave them time to visit too. There were some people it was easy to have a conversation with, and Stan was one of those. Next to Jason, Stan had been his biggest support after Stephanie had been killed.

It seemed as though it had been no time at all since they had visited. All it took was that twisted smile and that sparkle in his soft brown eyes and Craig knew he would be buying more than just a sport’s coat. That was one of Stan’s biggest assets as a salesman.

"Well, am I to assume you plan on finding something to wear other than jeans and a T-shirt? If not, you need K-Mart on the other side of town.”

They gave each other a quick hug, the way men do with a tiny pat on the back. “You got me”, said Craig. ‘I’m ready for a change. I’m going to Jason’s party tonight and I want to look nice. Frankly, it’s been so long since I’ve done anything social I don’t have a clue what to wear.”

“I think I can fix you up. Am I to assume you have a date?”

This caught Craig as a surprise. “Oh, you must have been talking to Jason.”

“He might have mentioned something.”

“I don’t know if it’s a date or not, but Madison and I were both invited and we are going together.”

Stan seemed to accept this as an answer and left it up to Craig to add any more information if he wanted. Craig wished he could talk more about what had brought them together so much recently but he couldn’t without talking about Joanie and that seemed to still be a secret.

Before long Craig was looking at himself in the full length mirror. He looked like a different person with the hair cut and clothes. Stan had given him a pair of light tan slacks and a darker tan sports coat, both of which were of a linen-type fabric that Stan swore would not wrinkle like linen. There was a new shirt of brown and blue stripes to be worn with the collar open and shiny dark brown loafers for his feet. He had also picked out a solid blue dress shirt and a tie in case he wanted to dress the outfit up more. The bill was healthy but, considering this was the first shopping trip in more than a year, he felt he had gotten a lot for his money,

He drove by Jason’s office and wasn’t surprised to see the parking lot empty on a Saturday. He was certain Joyce would have him at home getting ready for the party. But Craig didn’t want to go back to the empty house. There was a lot of time before time to get ready for the night. He pulled into a parking space outside the diner and went inside. There was a waitress working that he didn’t know. Somehow it made him think that things were changing all around him. She seemed friendly as he ordered coffee and a slice of pie. She told him her name was Theresa and she was a student at the Junior College in the next town. He made a mental note to leave a good tip.

It was an off time at the diner and there were only a few customers. Craig didn’t have to feel guilty by taking his time in the booth that was usually for more than one person. Theresa came over twice to refill his coffee. There was no one else there that he knew so he spent his time watching a spider spin his web outside the window. She seemed an industrious creature oblivious to being watched by the fellow on the other side of the glass. Craig found himself hoping that the web wouldn’t be noticed because he knew that it would be destroyed immediately if Josie were to see it. She kept the outside immaculate and would never tolerate this small work of art.

After about forty five minutes a large group came in and Craig felt his booth would be needed so he left a $20 bill on the counter beside the cash register and left. He was feeling generous today.

On an impulse he drove down the street where Joanie and Sean lived. He found he missed the children and wondered how they were doing. He had not talked to Sean and was thinking it might be good to touch base there and see if there was any news before seeing Jason.

He recognized Pearl sitting on the front stops and wondered where everyone else was. Somehow he didn’t like the idea of the tiny girl being all alone like this. He could tell she recognized him but she didn’t smile as he walked toward her. When he got closer he saw tear stains on her cheeks. He sat down on the step beside her after he moved her tiny shoe. He wondered why she was wearing only one with just a sock on the other foot. He unbuckled the Mary Jane and slipped it on her foot. She looked up at him as though noticing him for the first time. He buckled it up and gave her foot an affectionate pat.

She handed him a teacup without the handle. It was child size and had little blue and white flowers around the rim. Then she handed him the handle.

“Do you want me to try and fix it?” He knew the answer before she nodded her little head. “What happened to it?”

“It got broke.”

“I think a bit of glue will put it back together. Where are your brother and sister?” She looked toward the front door.

Craig knocked on the door but found it open. It was quiet inside. He knew where Johnny’s room was as he had shown it to him so he headed down the hall in that direction. The door was partially open so he tapped it and got no response. He opened it all the way and saw the small figure on the bed. He seemed to be asleep. He took the blanket off the chair in the corner and spread it over the little figure.

The door was open in the next room and he peeped in to see the remainder of the tea set on a little table. It appeared the girls had been having a party. There were two dolls at the table, but no little girls. He hadn’t noticed Ruby in the living room as he had gone through so he went back in that direction. He assumed the kitchen was on the other side. Perhaps that’s where she was. But where was Sean. Johnny was too young to be left to baby sit his little sisters, if that’s what had happened.

He found Ruby sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal. “Where’s your father? Isn’t he here with you?”

She ate another spoon full of cereal before giving a little shrug to indicate that she didn’t know. Craig’s heart melted as he looked in her eyes and read there that she thought she was in trouble. He had known Johnny felt responsible and now he saw that Ruby felt the same way. He didn’t know what to say that would show her that whatever was going on was not her fault.

He was thinking what to do, as he didn’t want to leave the kids alone again, when he heard the front door slam closed. At the sound of it, Ruby jumped out of the chair and went into the back yard, leaving him alone in the kitchen.

It had been several years since he had seen Sean but he could tell at a glance that rehab was obviously not working. Sean appeared to not recognize Craig and began to accuse him of breaking into his house and threatened to call the police. Craig was tempted to tell him to do just that but was afraid that would make it even harder on the children as they could well find themselves in the system. He tried to quiet things down with an apology and left.

He was now far from a party mood.

(to be continued)


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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 74 of 92

Chapter 18 (Word Prompts: clinging, warm, dusty, angel, discouragement, confession, transparent, storm clouds, tears)

The house was dark when Craig came in the kitchen door. He thought he was accustomed to the emptiness but on this night it really hit him. Perhaps he should get a dog. It would make it much nicer to be greeted at the door by a wagging tail.

He had been feeling excited on the way home, the way he always did when he had a new project in mind. Thinking of college and going through his old files brought back some nice memories. He thought he knew exactly where to find what he was looking for.

He switched on each light as he walked through the house, automatically making it seem warmer and the storm clouds that threatened to overtake him were chased away little by little. The dusty surface of everything showed up in the light and he was reminded how long it had been since he had actually been here for more than a few minutes. It was discouraging to realize that the fun he had been having for the past few days had made it more difficult to return to his ordinary life. Then he felt guilty that what he was calling fun was actually brought on by the misfortune of Joanie and her children. Was it a sin to think in those terms? For a moment he wished he was Catholic so he could go to confession and talk about all these things that haunted him at times. He could be absolved of the guilt he felt from this and so many other things too.

Craig could feel the depression descend. He remembered the therapist saying :“HALT”. It was dangerous to be hungry, angry, lonely or tired. “Well,” he thought. “I can do something about the hungry part.” He went to the freezer and grabbed a TV dinner without even looking to see what it was before popping it into the microwave.

The TV added some noise and made him feel a bit less lonely and he felt good that he had taken care of himself. After eating a dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and green peas he felt better. The local news had mentioned nothing about a local missing woman and he marveled that the news had not gotten around. He had thought Jason was going to go public today. Perhaps something had happened to prevent that.

He was in a much better mood as he headed toward the room he had used as his studio. He knew the boxes were piled up in the corner of all his old college stuff. He had always intended to unpack them and put them in some sort of order, but had never quite gotten around to it. Maybe now was the time.

He flipped the light switch and his drawing board was bright in the darkened room. How had he forgotten what he had been working on the last time he was in this room? The baby angel was staring at him. It was the last illustration he had worked on for Stephanie’s last children’s book. She was always so transparent. He had known when she showed him the copy to illustrate that she was actually telling him that she was pregnant after they had tried for so long. It had been a happy time, those next six months, only to be ended by a drunk driver on a winter night. And then the tears came.

He flipped the light switch off again. He felt he was clinging to some semblance of sanity. He felt if he turned loose he would be lost forever. Somewhere in his mind he knew this wasn’t true. He knew he had been through this before and had survived, but that didn’t make it any easier. For the second time this night he thought “HALT”. He had fixed the hunger part and thought he had helped the loneliness with the TV. He thought about calling Jason but then he realized he had been sleeping on Madison’s sofa for the past few nights and was probably tired, He prescribed a shower and a good night’s sleep for himself.


Craig awoke feeling a lot better. He had made it through another night without a dream of headlights aiming at him from out of the darkness, as he knew had been the last thing Stephanie had seen before her life ended  along with that of his unborn son. The dreams were no longer coming every night, as they had in the beginning but they were still frequent enough that he was grateful for a night without them.

Then he remembered that this was Saturday, the day of Jason’s party and his first date in more than fifteen years, if this could be called a date. It didn’t matter if Madison considered it a date or not. He felt like he was back in high school thinking of taking a new girl to the dance.

 What would he talk to her about? He had already realized how little he actually knew about her. Their conversation thus far had been more about him: his studio in the barn and the responsibility he felt for the children. He needed to remedy that, but first things first.

With a mug of coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, he sat down and the computer and Googled “Madison Morrison”. He wasn’t surprised to see that several were listed so he scrolled down until he found one that sounded possible. Most of the items seemed to be stories published in the local paper involving the art scene. He looked at several of them but got little information other than finding that she was an active member. He was beginning to feel like a stalker when he thought about FaceBook. Perhaps he would ask her about it and if she had her own account he would ask about helping him with it.

Feeling as though he had a plan, he decided to run some errands. A haircut was in order and perhaps some new clothes too. It had been so long since he had cared about his appearance. Only later would he realize what this signified.

He was on his way to the car when he heard the feminine voice from next door.

“Good morning, Craig. It’s a really beautiful day, isn’t it.”

Good morning, Mrs. Greer. Yes it’s a beautiful day. You are looking especially well.”

“Well, it seemed a good day to spend some time in the yard. Have you been involved in another of your projects? I’ve noticed you’ve been away from home a lot.”

“Yes, it’s been a new project.” The temptation was strong to tell someone about this new project, but Mrs. Greer was certainly not the one. That would be the quickest way to get it all over town. “I really appreciate you keeping a watch on the place when I’m away.”

She started to say something, but Craig was impatient to do his errands. “You have a nice day, Mrs. Greer.”

(to be continued)

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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 75 of 92

Chapter 17 (Word Prompts: clinging, warm, dusty, angel, discouragement, confession, transparent, storm clouds, tears)

Madison looked at all the boxes filled with Robert’s papers knowing that she had promised to look through them. She actually went in and sat at the table. She looked at the empty chair where Craig had sat. There was still a stain on the cloth where Ruby had dropped some spaghetti sauce, or had that been Pearl? She thought of Johnny’s eyes, so watchful for a child so young. She had to wonder what storm clouds he had witnessed during his short life or what awaited him in the coming weeks.

She surveyed the stack of boxes and chose one that was open and seemed less dusty than the ones sealed with transparent tape. Those she thought might have been from his parent’s house. She had no idea when his mother had died, although she had been contacted at the death of his father as she had been named in the will. It had meant a lot to her that he had left her one of his paintings that she had encouraged him to try after his retirement. There were so many happy memories connected to those times even if they were mixed with a lot of tears.

She knew immediately that this was not the box she had hoped for but her curiosity more than balanced her discouragement when she found a signed reproduction of one of her paintings. From the number on it she could see it was one of the first ones sold. Then she was even more surprised to find a small original that predated the reproduction. She had no idea he was purchasing her work. She wondered if the dates gave her an idea of when he had moved into this house as there were no galleries handling her work in this area, at least not yet.

She continued to dig through the box. There were no more paintings but there were notices of gallery openings and reviews of her work. She knew he had been keeping track of where she was living because of the infrequent phone calls, usually made when he was drinking and wanted to cleanse his soul with some confession or other, but this made her think she had been in his thoughts during his more sober moments. At the bottom of the box was an album that turned out to be filled with photographs. Most were from their days together but the latest ones were of her on the tennis court that had been taken after she moved away. Most surprising was one that she knew was after she re-married because she was with her step-children, which brought up a whole other set of memories and regrets.

She closed the box, unsure how she felt about this and wishing she had not found them. It just brought up more questions. Had he been a guardian angel or a stalker? Had he been clinging to the past? Had he been hoping there could be a future together?

A sudden shiver reminded her that the temperature had dropped and she went into the other room for the shirt she had removed earlier. It felt warm as she slipped it on.

Tedi and Daisy had followed her into the room. They were looking at her awaiting a decision as to what she intended. Madison was as unsure as they were. It suddenly felt wrong for her to be in this place. What had she been thinking to be staying with so many ghosts? She sat down on the sofa and immediately felt better when both dogs jumped up beside her. One thing was certain. There would be no more boxes opened on this night, possibly ever.

(To be continued)

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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 76 of 92

Chapter 16 (Word Prompts: clinging, warm, dusty, angel, discouragement, confession, transparent, storm clouds, tears)

Madison listened to the sound of the truck fade into the distance. It was entirely too warm in the room and she removed her shirt, leaving only the black tank top underneath. She was transported to the moment when Craig’s shirt had been removed and how his T-shirt seemed almost transparent as it was clinging to his body.

She needed to get these thoughts out of her mind. The boxes of Robert’s papers were waiting for her in the dining room where she had stacked them. Perhaps those held the information she wanted. Yet, this was not the time to go through Robert’s belongings, not when the memory was so fresh of the tears she had already shed while going through his closet. She was on an emotional roller-coaster and she needed to get off. This was not what she was looking for when she was driving north.

Tedi and Daisy could always sense when she was upset. She felt a wet nose nudging each hand and large brown eyes were looking up at her. At least that gave her something to focus on for the moment. Laughing at them she headed toward the kitchen and the box of treats on the shelf. They would help her hold off the storm clouds, for a while at least.

She washed the few dishes in the sink and then sat down at the table and noticed her sketch pad lying there. She was hoping to lose herself as she had done before while involved in a project. It seemed to be working when she realized almost an hour had passed and decided to celebrate with another cookie and lemonade. It tasted so good. This had to be the best batch of cookies she had ever made. Tedi and Daisy were watching for a morsel to fall in their direction but she tried to explain that raisins were not good for them, so she got them another treat instead.

She picked up the sketch pad, thinking to start something new, but after staring at the blank page without an inspiration she felt all the discouragement of the past few years descend upon her so she reached for her journal instead. She remembered the support group that she had attended after her divorce from Martin. They had talked about the need to make a kind of confession of all of your wrongs. After she had done this someone pointed out that it should also include the wrongs that had been done to you. She had felt a lot better after making that list, cleansed somehow. Now she realized all of that had been focused on Martin and a similar list needed to done with Robert in mind. Being in this house had stirred up a lot of memories and opened old wounds that she had believed were in the past and forgotten.

She began to write in her journal but soon her hand began to cramp and she changed to the computer. It seemed the words were pouring out and she was powerless to stop them. She wrote of how they met, when it seemed he was an angel who appeared out of nowhere when she was late for work on the first cold morning of the winter and her car wouldn’t start. He was visiting his parents across the street and saw her difficulty and offered a ride to work, and then home again to take care of the car. She had invited him in for a drink which extended to dinner and a four year relationship. She stopped before she wrote of the ending. She had already thought of that too many times and now realized that wasn’t really the end at all.

When she arose from the computer it was dark outside. She was hungry and knew Tedi and Daisy must be too. They had been exceptionally quiet while she was writing and deserved a special treat. There were hamburger patties in the freezer and she took out three of them to cook. Of course she was followed closely, expecting something to fall on the floor, not knowing that tonight it would not be accidental.

After the treat of a hamburger and French fries, both of which was shared, Madison was feeling a lot better and ready to attack the dusty boxes filled with Robert’s papers.

(To be continued)




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Re: The Inheritance Revisited

Message 77 of 92

Chapter 15 (Word Prompts: overdressed, hope chest, spider, filmy, repressed, trash pile, extreme, fan, kitchen)

Craig was about to head toward the house, which he had been wanting to do all afternoon, when he saw Daisy and Tedi heading in his direction. After getting ear scratches they both began to investigate the recently cleared space. He had to laugh when he saw Daisy with her face covered in the filmy webs. It didn’t seem to bother the dog at all.

It did seem to bother Madison, who was following them with a plate of cookies.

“Are those spider webs I see covering my dog?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so, but you can rest easily. I have seen very few actual spiders. They seem to have vacated the premises.”

She looked happier with this news. “I brought some cookies. I thought you might be ready for a snack. There’s coffee in the kitchen if you want, but I thought you might want something cold instead.”

He took a cookie from the plate. “Thanks, these are great. I have some water over here so that’s all I need.” He took a swig from his bottle and took another cookie.

She was looking around for a place to set the plate when she saw the pile of wood.

“Is that what was in the trash pile? That’s cedar, isn’t it? It smells like my mother’s cedar chest.”

“That’s right. If it’s OK with you, I was thinking about seeing if it can be cleaned up enough to use it for the hope chest I plan to build. I really like to use old materials for my projects, especially if they have a story attached.”

“It’s fine with me, only I don’t know of a story attached to this. I have no idea how Robert would have gotten a bunch of old wood unless it was left over when you built the house. That doesn’t sound like much of a story.”

“Well, I can definitely say that it is not my left over building materials, but I need to do some research to find out the better story.” He told her about his memory of the band of hippies who had once lived in the area and the possibility of this being the site of their commune.

Madison was excited to hear this news. “Do you remember the name of the artist you studied in college? I was thinking that I might look him up on-line and it might tell where he lived.”

“The only thing I remember is that he was classified as a “primitive artist” and I wasn’t a fan at the time. We might be able to Google primitive art and if I saw the name it would ring a bell.”

“Well, will you be able to take a break soon? I’ll go inside and get started.”

He watched her flee toward the house. She looked really nice in that over-sized red and black shirt. Did she know those were his college colors? Were they her college colors? He realized how little they really knew about each other and was rather surprised to realize he wanted to know these things. About that time she turned around to call the dogs inside. The sun hit her hair making it look more red and lighter than it did normally and the excitement on her face made him feel things he hadn’t felt in a long time. All those feelings that had been repressed since Stephanie’s accident seemed to be returning. He wasn’t certain if he was entirely comfortable with that. There was enough going on already to further complicate a situation that was already extreme, to say the least. He decided to give that some thought later as he followed Madison into the house.

The afternoon sun was streaming through the windows in the great room where the computer was set up. Craig knew immediately that he was overdressed and glad that he was wearing a T-shirt under the long sleeved shirt, which he removed and draped over some cardboard boxes beside the stairs.

Madison seemed to be concentrating on the computer screen in front of her and he wondered if she was aware of his entrance. Her silhouette was back lit from the windows giving her a golden glow. But now was not the time to delve into those feelings that had been stirred, not when he finally felt he was finding some sort of normalcy in his personal life.

He walked over to the computer and was looking over her shoulder at the screen when he felt a nudge on his leg and leaned over to pet the fuzzy face looking up at him. He was unaware that his left hand had touched Madison’s shoulder until he felt the jolt flowing through his entire being.


Madison heard the kitchen door close and knew Craig was on his way. The timing was good. The computer was just coming to life but had to go through it’s little routine before she could begin the search. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him pass by her and head to the stairs. She had planned to tell him it was going to be a few minutes if he wanted to go upstairs to freshen up but was just in time to see him remove his shirt an drape it over the box. It seemed her heart had skipped a beat.

She hadn’t noticed that he was sweaty in the barn, but now, with the sun coming through the windows it seemed his arms were glowing and his T-shirt was fitted to his body showing every muscle. His hair was damp as it had been the night before. She had admired it then but now, something in the way he removed the shirt, seemed entirely different.

She quickly turned back around toward the computer. There were thoughts and feelings surging through her body that she had never wanted to feel again. All they had ever done for her in the past was to bring misery.

The computer screen was glowing now and she began to Google primitive artists. Was she mistaken or was her hand shaking? Then she felt his hand resting on her shoulder and there was no doubt. Hoping it sounded natural she jumped up telling him to see if anything rang a bell. She was halfway to the kitchen before she thought to ask if he liked lemonade. Tedi and Daisy were following her thinking something edible might fall to the floor and she was praying that her furbabies would help her to calm down.

Luckily she had spotted a plastic pitcher in the cabinet. She didn’t think she would be safe with a glass one at the moment. Taking it to the table along with the packet of lemonade and the sugar container, she sat and tried to collect her thoughts.

What was wrong with her? She had just been sobbing about a relationship over years before and here she was having feelings for a man who simply wanted to rent her barn. What was with her and unavailable men? Never mind her latest marriage that came close to destroying her completely. She was still trying to rebuild her life. This was no time to wreck it again.

She filled the pitcher with water and stirred until the sugar seemed dissolved. After filling two glasses with ice she thought she was calm enough to carry them into the other room without spilling them. There was really no need for a tray.

She stopped at the door and she was reminded of her sight of him walking away from the barn on that first night when she had discovered him there. She told herself she had just been spending too much time in his company. She was accustomed to having time for herself and that’s what she needed now. All she had to do was to find a tactful way to suggest they go their separate ways for the evening.


Craig heard her steps as she drew near and he knew there was no way he could concentrate on what he was reading if she was in the room. He couldn’t remember being this distracted over a female he had just met since high school and then he had hormones to blame. He hadn’t even had this kind of a reaction when he first met Stephanie and he knew she was the love of his life. Perhaps they had just been spending too much time together. He was accustomed to having more time on his own.

“Has anything rung a bell?” she asked as she put a glass of lemonade beside the keyboard.

He was relieved when she took her own glass over to the sofa a few feet away.

“No. I see some familiar names, but I don’t find a connection with this area. Perhaps there’s something in my old textbooks from college.”

“That’s a great idea if you still have them. You could check into that and I could see if there is anything in Robert’s papers regarding the title search they would have made when he bought the property.”

Madison failed to notice how he fled from the room grabbing his shirt on the way out. She was too busy trying to catch her breath.

(to be continued)


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Chapter 14 (Word Prompts: overdressed, hope chest, spider, filmy, repressed, trash pile, extreme, fan, kitchen)

Craig dropped the children off at school after explaining to them that their father would be the one to pick them up in the afternoon. They asked no questions and seemed to accept the news with less excitement than he expected. He realized they had talked very little about the life they led at home and thought perhaps he should have asked more questions himself.

Perhaps Jason had more information. He understood there was a privilege between and attorney and his client, at the same time there was a rather extreme situation here. He not only found himself right in the middle of the problem but had brought Madison into it. At the very least he deserved more information.

He kept thinking about her back as she left the kitchen after their little talk. He couldn’t help thinking she had more on her mind that she was saying. He was not a big fan of secrets and lately he seemed to be up to his neck in them. It was bad enough feeling ignorant about what had happened to Joanie and ill-equipped to help the children through their ordeal, but he felt that Jason was keeping a lot from him too and that caused him to feel distrusting of his oldest friend. Now he felt that Madison was keeping secrets too.

He contemplated going by Jason’s office and confronting him but then decided that was not the setting for the conversation. He would be much more likely to talk to him in a social setting. In the end, it would be better to repress these thoughts and concentrate on the tasks of the day.

He decided to go by his place to pick up some work clothes. He was definitely overdressed to clean out the back of that barn. There was no telling what he would find there. He didn’t even know if the trash pile had been made by Robert or by the people who had owned the place before the original house had burned down and Robert had purchased it.

He grabbed some old jeans and a flannel shirt to put over his T-shirt. He thought long sleeves would be advisable in dealing with spiders which he expected to find in abundance. Then he decided to get his heavy work boots in case there were snakes making their home there too. When everything he could think of was loaded into his truck he decided to have lunch before tackling his project.

He was a bit early for the lunch crew at the diner, but that was fine. He grabbed a booth, the one he usually shared with Jason, thinking it was possible he might show up too. If not, he had some thinking to do of his own.

“Hey, Craig.” called Josie as he walked through the door. “You want your usual coffee?”

“That would be great, Josie.” She reached the booth at almost the same time as he did.

“Is Jason joining you?”

“I hope so. He wasn’t certain he could get away.”

“That man works way too hard. He hasn’t been here for lunch in weeks except when he’s met you. I don’t know what he’s been doing. It’s not good for a man’s blood pressure to work too hard or to skip lunch. Maybe you could talk to him.”

“Well, if he doesn’t show up soon, I won’t be able to wait. In fact, can you go on and bring me the special.?”

“You want mashed potatoes and green beans with that meat loaf?”

“You’re a mind reader, Josie.” He knew she was smiling as she walked away. That had been a standing joke between them ever since she had bought the place over five years earlier. He also had the answer to one question. The news of the missing Joanie was still a secret or there was no way it wouldn’t have been the first thing she would have told him about, even if she didn’t know of his connection with the children or Jason’s connection with the family.

There was no sign of Jason and no more conversation with Josie as the place began to fill up with the lunch crowd. Craig finished his meal, including a slice of apple pie and left the money on the table along with his usual liberal tip. On his way out of town he drove by Jason’s office and noticed his car was gone.

Even though it was the afternoon, it was still cool in the barn. He parked his truck in the back to make it easier to load anything in there that needed to be carried away. He stood looking at the pile of debris, covered with a massive amount of filmy spider webs and was grateful for his forethought in bringing the heavy work gloves.

Once those were cleared away, he saw there was a pile of wood underneath. He began a pile in the opposite corner and thought he might have found a treasure. Some of it seemed to be old barn wood, much older than the barn in which he was standing. He tried to remember who had lived here before Robert and what had happened to them. He wondered if there had been a previous barn on this site too. He thought the present one must be at least 20 years old, if not more. That meant it could have been built when he was in high school or college and had other things on his mind than barn building.

He also found what appeared to be some solid cedar and wondered if it could be cleaned up to use on the hope chest. He liked to use materials that had a history if possible. It gave more meaning to the piece and he could share the story with the new owner. He made a mental note to check into the history of the property. Jason might have some information on that. He had a hard time getting Jason out of his mind. He also had a hard time keeping Madison out of his mind as he thought how she might be interested in the history of the property too.

As he was getting to the bottom of the trash pile he found something that he thought she would definitely find interesting. There was a mountain of broken glass, pottery and tiles of different colors. It was more than would be accumulated with normal household usage and he thought it resembled supplies used in a mosaic. Then he remembered there had been a colony of hippies who had lived around someplace. The kids had all been warned about staying away from them because of the drugs they were using. He remembered seeing that one of them had turned out to be a well-known artist that he had actually studied in college. Had this been the site of their place?

Now he knew Madison would be interested in that.

(To be continued)

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Chapter 13

It was difficult to relax, even after a nice warm bath, complete with bubbles, candles and soothing music. Madison was unsure if it was the late night coffee, the fact that Craig was sitting at the kitchen table or the entire situation, Ever since her divorce she had been proud to say that the best thing about being single was that she didn’t have to be involved with other people’s problems and she could always find a solution to her own.

Now, here she was up to her neck with other people. She wanted to be angry at Craig who had brought these issues into her house. But then she realized it was actually Robert who had caused her to be here in the first place. As she crawled into bed she realized she had no right to be angry at anyone. For some reason she was in the middle of a situation and her job was to recognize this as A F**king Opportunity for Growth (otherwise known as an AFOG) and to learn the lesson it presented. With this realization she felt her body begin to relax and she drifted into sleep filled with dreams of spiders weaving intricate webs connecting the house with Craig. Strands reached out to small children who were running and playing with Tedi and Daisy. She was standing behind the window being protected from the filmy substance that was attempting to cling to the glass and perhaps find a crack.

Madison knew she was alone in the house as soon as she opened her eyes. It was chilly in the house and she grabbed her robe before going downstairs. It was gray outside the windows, so foggy she could barely see the barn. She could see that Craig’s truck was missing and felt a chill as she remembered the film on the windows from her dream.

The kitchen greeted her with a warm pot of coffee and a note propped up on the table. She had a pretty good idea about what the note was saying so she took the time to butter two pieces of bread to put in the toaster oven and take the jar of peach preserves from the frig before sitting down with the coffee.

Dear Madison,

I hope we didn’t wake you. We tried to be quiet. I’ve taken the kids to school and have some errands to run so I don’t know what time I’ll be back to begin work in the barn. As far as I know Sean will be able to get the kids at Day Care this afternoon although I gave him your number as well as my own in case there’s a problem.

I need to thank you again for helping me out with this. I’ll try not to bother you today.


Madison read the note and wondered why she felt disappointed. Wasn’t that dream last night about feeling trapped with the closer connections with people than she wanted? She looked around the kitchen for her journal thinking it was obvious some things needed to be worked out in her mind.

She had been so deep in her thoughts that she had completely forgotten about the toaster oven until the kitchen began to fill with smoke. Jerking the tray and tossing the burned toast into the sink she walked over to turn on the fan to clear out the kitchen. She must have called out since both Tedi and Daisy came running into the room and began to sniff around. Not knowing if Craig had fed them, she put a scoop in each bowl and was thanked with doggy smiles. She was about to make more toast but decided to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead. She didn’t trust herself with more toast right now. There were too many thoughts that were running through her head, all those repressed memories that weren’t really repressed at all..

She began to write and it was as though that hope chest that Craig was going to build had suddenly opened and all those old hopes and dreams began to fly out in the world. She found she wanted to know these children that had shared her house for the past two nights. She was looking forward to sharing her barn with Craig. She wanted to get to know the other people in the area and feared the party would be cancelled.

Madison had written so much that her hand began to cramp but she had some answers and felt much better as she got another cup of coffee. Either the self therapy she had received from writing or the coffee was giving her a burst of energy.


She really had no idea what time Craig had left with the children although she thought school was probably around 8:00. That meant he could be back any time and she remembered the cookies she had planned to make. He had promised not to disturb her but there was nothing to say that he would mind being interrupted with a cup of coffee and cookies this afternoon.

She began to mix the ingredients and turned on the oven. As the kitchen began to heat up and she was more active she discarded the robe, realizing she was overdressed. Looking down at her pajama pants and the T-shirt she had slept in made her think of Craig standing at the stove last night. Of course she was wearing shoes, but she was certain no one would think of her as sexy at the moment.

As soon as the cookies were out of the oven she went upstairs to change clothes. Looking at her almost empty suitcase, she was painfully aware that she was staying much longer than she had planned. Her couple of days was stretching into a week at least. She needed something to put on while she did some laundry. She decided to check the closets to see if there was something she might use. There had been a time when Robert had thought she looked really cute in one of his shirts. There were a lot of memories that weren’t bad.

The door was closed to the closet in the master bedroom. The bed was still unmade from the night. She began to straighten the sheet and blankets that resembled a trash pile when she noticed there were a few pieces of their clothing there and the teddy bear that she had seen Ruby holding the night before. She could see the indentations their heads had made in the pillows and imagined Johnny sleeping between his sisters they way he had sat in the back seat of the car. She gathered up the clothing to add to her laundry and made up the bed.

Opening the closet she was reminded at how extreme Robert had been in his habits, which made it even more of a mystery at the condition of the rest of the house. There were three tie racks hanging on the rail nearest the door. One held solid colors, one for stripes and another for plaids and patterns. Another special hanger held an assortment of belts. In the back of the walk-in area were plastic garment bags that she knew held suits. There were eight of those, but her eye was drawn to the line of shirts. There was a variety of dress shirts,, both solids and striped. They all appeared to be fresh from the laundry, which reminded her that she didn’t remember seeing an iron, not that she used one very often. She noticed several plaid shirts, one was black and red that she thought would work with her black leggings. As she was removing that one she saw the bright yellow and turquoise print shirt, a souvenir from one of their trips to Jamaica. He had bought it to go with her yellow and turquoise jump suit, even though he looked really silly wearing it.

Madison felt the tears rolling down her cheeks.

(To be continue)

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Chapter 12 (Word Prompts: overdressed, hope chest, spider, filmy, repressed, trash pile, extreme, fan, kitchen)

Madison thought her knees would give way as she was flooded with all the repressed memories that began with the words, “We need to talk”. She couldn’t remember a single time that these words had led to cause for celebration, regardless who had been the one to utter them. She was grateful for the kitchen chair and hoped Craig didn’t notice that she almost collapsed into it rather than sitting gracefully as she would have preferred.

She took a few minutes to try and collect her thoughts before answering. She pictured the spider outside and her feelings at watching her weave her filmy web. Once again she pledged to live in the moment instead of jumping into either the future or the past.

Craig didn’t seem to notice her silence and just proceeded to make a fresh pot of coffee. Madison felt herself bracing for some bad news and thought a stiff drink would be more in order than a cup of coffee. At the same time, she knew that would be a mistake and suddenly realized she had seen no evidence of alcohol in the house at all. Would it all be kept in that old bar she had spotted in the basement if Robert had still been the alcoholic that she had known? Her pondering was interrupted by a mug of coffee being placed in front of her.

“Sorry there aren’t any more cookies”, said Craig with a smile. “I guess I should have bought some.”

“Perhaps I can make some tomorrow.” Madison was grateful for this meaningless chatter, although she knew that was not what Craig had in mind.

They each took a sip of the steaming liquid. It seemed to Madison that Craig was struggling to find the correct words.

“We have gotten a bit side-tracked on our original idea of renting some of your barn space and I was wondering if you had made a decision on that.”

Madison was relieved that the topic was nothing earth shaking and yet she felt there was more to it than just a simple statement.

“I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but I’m wondering what sort of timing you had in mind.”

Craig acted uncomfortable with that question and took another sip of coffee before answering. “Originally I didn’t really have a time element in mind but now I’m thinking that, if you agree, I would like to set things up over the weekend.”

“Does this have something to do with the children and the topic of the hope chest you were talking about at dinner?”

Craig’s mood seemed to change as a grin appeared, not only with his mouth but also in his eyes. “You are extremely perceptive, aren’t you? Yes, it has to do with both, although the children more than the hope chest.”

“Am I to assume you are planning on the children being around more than just tonight?”

“Right now I don’t know what to expect. I talked to Jason about it tonight. He spoke with their father and it appears he will be able to come tomorrow night. He also talked to the sheriff and thinks they will be finished with their house so they can stay there this weekend with Sean. It will depend on how that goes as to how long before he can be permanently released from rehab and if he will be in the position to take custody of the children.”

“But what about Jason? He told me tonight that the children are his nieces and nephew. If this stretches on would they not go a stay with him and Joyce? In fact, why are they not with them now? I don’t understand.”

Craig got up and poured more coffee into both cups. Instead of sitting back down at the table he began to pace the kitchen floor.

“I don’t really know how to answer that question, I’m not certain I totally understand it myself, but for the time being Jason wants to keep his distance between himself and the children. I don’t think the children know about the family connection. Besides, he’s afraid that Joanie’s abduction, or whatever this is, has something to do with him and Joyce.”

He sat back down at the table. “Which reminds me, Jason wanted me to ask you to go with me to the Island on Saturday. You were planning on going, weren’t you?”

“You mean they are still planning on having a party under the circumstances?”

Craig took a deep breath. “Jason says Joyce is adamant that she wants things to be completely normal. This means there will be a party, as planned. I don’t know how she’s going to handle it but Jason says she would have to give an explanation if it should be cancelled.”

“I must say, I really don’t understand what’s going on at all, but yes I’ll be glad to go with you. I hadn’t totally decided to go or not, but I’ll feel better about it going with someone instead of going alone. I bought something to wear while I was out today but now I’m worried about being overdressed under the circumstances.”

Madison hadn’t thought this was funny but Craig seemed to find it so. He was laughing so hard that tears were forming in his eyes and threatened to roll down his cheeks. “Being overdressed is the last thing you have to worry about”.

He was still chuckling as he picked up Madison’s sketch pad and began to fan himself with it.

“I don’t understand any of this”, exclaimed Madison.

That just seemed to set him off again.

This time it took him a bit longer to calm down and tears were really rolling down his cheeks this time. Madison just watched him and wished she understood the joke too. “I’m sorry”, he said. “I know you are in the dark here but I’m certain you will understand later. Until then, I want to thank you, again. I really needed that laugh. I’ve been a bit stressed out here lately.”

“Would it help if I said you could go ahead with your plans for the barn?”

“Yes, I think perhaps it would. I could clean out that trash pile in the back tomorrow and perhaps bring some tools and supplies over here on Saturday before the party.”

“That sounds fine. I have just one request. I want to see what’s in the trash pile before you throw anything away. That shouldn’t be a problem since I plan to be here tomorrow.” She didn’t add that she planned to make more cookies.

Craig seemed more relaxed than he had since she had come home, while she was totally wired with the late night coffee. At the same time, her body was tired as was her mind. This had been more emotional than it seemed and it was hitting her that she badly needed to be alone.

“If that’s all we needed to talk about, I need to go upstairs now.” She left him still sitting at the kitchen table with a big grin on his face.

(to be continued)

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