Linda Maye Adams

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 6


6

The warm sunshine did little to help brighten Nikki’s mood.  The hotel had a patio that overlooked a rustic garden, fragrant with late summer blooms.  It should have cheered her because she liked looking at nature, but Brian had left her furious.

She took off the anorak jacket and draped over the railing, resting her arms on it.  A lemon-yellow butterfly did a prima donna dance, fluttering along the tops of the milkweed, and never quite satisfied.

Brian’s words clanged in her ears.  Was she being indecisive about the house?

Ever since she’d gotten the news, everyone had been telling her to sell the house.  They all seemed shocked when she said she hadn’t made up her mind.  Even her cousin, who had roamed the house with her when they were children, had seemed mystified because the choice was so “obvious.”

The butterfly landed on a purple milkweed, wings folding and unfolding leisurely.  Then it was off again, dancing in search of another flower.

She couldn’t help it: a smile spread across her face.  The butterfly had an innocent charm in its mission to find the next flower.

A dog collar rattled behind her.   She glanced over her shoulder.  It was the man she’d seen out by the house earlier, Randy.  He was carrying Molly.

“Does that dog walk?” she asked.

“I carry her around people,” Randy said.  “She’s so small that she’d get tripped over.  And I’m on a mission.”

“A mission?” Nikki said.

“Mmmm.  Erin, the hotel clerk, said you needed a friend.  She volunteered Molly.”

Nikki turned around, resting her hips on the railing.  “So you just come to the hotel when Erin calls?”

His face reddened, which she found quite charming.  “I was visiting Erin.  She’s got all the great stories in town.  Right now, the story seems to be you.”

“I’m a story, huh?”

Randy shrugged, then set Molly down. “New person in town is always a story.”

“So what are they saying?” she asked.

Molly wandered in Nikki’s direction, dragging the red leash behind her.  A cold nose touched Nikki’s foot, officially inspecting her.

“That you look like Adelia Chandler,” Randy blurted.  “There’s a picture of her in the library, taken after the house was built.”

Adelia.  Nikki had heard of her great-great-grandmother, though she’d had to work to find out.  It was amazing how, even with all this information available online, that her own father had no idea who she was.  His knowledge of the family stopped with his father, his grandfather having died long before he was born.

“Adelia lived in the house?” she asked.

She liked the way Randy’s smile lit up his face.  “Oh, they had grand parties,” he said.  “No, not parties.  Galas.  Balls.  It was a very different time.  It took so long to get anywhere that people came from all over to see each other and celebrate births and weddings.”

Nikki imagined what that must have been like.  Women in elegant dresses and petticoats—fanciful colors of course—sitting on the fainting couch as they talked.  A man in a three-piece suit with a gold watch fob stretched across the front seated at the piano, fingers racing across the keys.

“Can you tell me what happened with my two aunts?” she asked.  “You must have known them.  I visited them when I was little, but it seems like…I don’t know, like they fell out of time.”

Molly barked once, reminding them both that no one was paying attention to her.  Nikki scratched behind the dog’s ears.  When she stopped, Molly nudged her.  More!  More!

“I always walked Molly in the area,” he said.  “Both of your aunts would come out sometimes and talk to her.  They were elderly, very frail.  They liked that Molly was so small.  Some of the bigger dogs like to jump.”

His voice fell off.  Pain showed on his face.

“I got a cold and didn’t go out for a week,” he said.  “When I passed by the house, there was a pile of newspapers …”

Nikki turned back to watch the fluttering butterfly.  “My family was here all the time when I was growing… Christmas, summer vacation.  But after a while, it just stopped.  I don’t know why.”

“Have you looked inside?” Randy asked. “Maybe they left something behind.  If you’re scared of spiders, we can send Molly in first.  She’ll bark at them.”

Nikki laughed.  Out in the milkweeds, the butterfly stopped its frenetic fluttering and landed next to another butterfly.

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