“Mrs. Watson?” I called, banging on the door again. I glanced up at the ever-blackening clouds. Although I had Mrs. Watson’s cake in a box, it would be my luck to get caught in a downpour with it. This was my third attempt to please her, and I couldn’t afford another mistake on the amount she was paying me. Whoever said “the customer is always right” had obviously never dealt with Yodel Watson.
I heard something from inside the house and pressed my ear against the door. A vision of my falling into the living room and dropping the cake when Mrs. Watson flung open the door made me rethink that decision.
“Mrs. Watson?” I called again.
“Come in! It’s open! Come in!”
I tried the knob and the door was indeed unlocked. I stepped inside but couldn’t see Mrs. Watson. “It’s me—Daphne Martin. I’m here with your cake.”
“Come in! It’s open!”
“I am in, Mrs. Watson. Where are you?”
“I know! I—” Gritting my teeth, I walked through the living room and placed the cake on the kitchen table. A quick glance around the kitchen told me Mrs. Watson wasn’t in there either.
Man, could this lady get on your nerves. I decided to follow the voice. It came from my left, so I eased down the hallway.
On my right, there was a den. I poked my head inside.
I turned toward the voice. A gray parrot was sitting on its perch inside its cage.
“It’s open!” the bird squawked.
“I noticed.” Great. She’s probably not home, and I’ll get arrested for breaking and entering . . . though technically, I didn’t break . . .
It was then I saw Mrs. Watson lying on the sofa in a faded navy robe. There was a plaid blanket over her legs. She appeared to be sleeping, but I’d heard the parrot calling when I was outside. No way could Mrs. Watson be in the same room and sleep through that racket.
I stepped closer. “Are you okay?” Her pallor told me she was not okay. Then the foul odor hit me.
I backed away and took my cell phone out of my purse. “I’m calling 9-1-1, Mrs. Watson. Everything’s gonna be all right.” I don’t know if I was trying to reassure her or myself.
Everything’s gonna be all right. I’d been telling myself that for the past month.
I lingered in the doorway in case Mrs. Watson would wake up and need something before the EMTs arrived.
I turned forty this year. Forty seems to be a sobering age for every woman, but it hit me especially hard. When most women get to be my age, they at least have some bragging rights: successful career, happy marriage, beautiful children, nice home. I had none of the above. My so-called bragging rights included a failed marriage, a dingy apartment, and twenty years’ service in a dead-end job. Cue violins.
When my sister Violet called and told me about a “charming little house” for sale near her neighborhood, I jumped at the chance to leave all the dead ends of middle Tennessee and come home to Brea Ridge, where I grew up in southwest Virginia. Surely, something better awaited me here.
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