Linda Maye Adams

Writing in Public, Story 6, Scene 9


9

The next morning, Nikki stopped at the hotel’s dining room to fill her belly before her day at the house.  She hadn’t brought any old clothes with her for dusty rooms, so she’d put on jeans and a print t-shirt with a big-eyed cat, hoping for the best.   She’d added her ankle boots, since those would protect her feet and were comfy, besides.

The dining room had buffet set out for a continental breakfast.  Serviceable but basic.  She inspected the hot food side, lifting lids and finding French toast sticks, sausage, and oatmeal.  The sausage smelled wonderful but appeared overcooked, so opted for the oatmeal.  She added a big spoonful of peanut butter to the oatmeal, and then a little spoonful of raspberry jam.

Needed flavor, she told herself, but if she’d had chocolate ice cream, she would have added it to the oatmeal, too.

She stopped at the pastry selection and added a sticky roll to her plate. When she turned to find a place to sit down, Brian was standing in front of her.

“Can we talk?” he said.  He dressed in her favorite shirt, a form-fitting purple button front.  He’d also slathered on the cologne, which now reminded her of the fakey vanilla scent from yesterday.

“What’s there to talk about?” Nikki said.  “I told you I wanted to come up here alone.  You ignored that and now you’re trying to convince me that you’re right and I’m wrong.”

She marched over to the nearest booth and set the tray down hard enough that two people nearby glanced up.

Brian circled around her and sat in the seat across.  “I just want to help.”

“You have a strange way of showing it.”  Nikki sat down and began to eat the oatmeal.  She wasn’t about to miss her breakfast.

“C’mon, that’s not fair.  You know I have more experience with these things.  Why I–”

Nikki fixed him with a stern look.  “You haven’t had a relative die yet. How would you have more experience?”

That caught him off guard.  He opened his mouth to respond, then closed it, evidently thinking better of it.  Probably the smartest thing he had done since he’d gotten here.

“My two aunts died,” Nikki said.  “I may not have seen them since I was little, but I do remember them.  I want–I need time.  Not you pressuring me because you’ve got dollar signs in your eyes.”

The moment that last sentence was out of her mouth, she regretted saying it.

His face purpled darker than the shirt.  “That’s not fair—”

Nikki dropped her spoon on the plate with a clatter.  “Then explain why the only option you keep giving me is to sell the house.  If money isn’t the reason, then what is it?”

“Nikki, please, honey.” Brian’s hand snaked across the table and closed over hers.  His hand was calloused and warm. He gave her the smile that had always charmed her.  This time, it didn’t make his eyes light up.

“You going to answer my question?” she asked.

“What would you do with it?  You don’t have time to care for it.”  Brian was practically squirming.  He wanted to say something, and she was betting he knew it was something that would make her angry.

The estate lawyer had warned her that the perceived money (he knew how much the house as really worth) would bring out the worst in people.  She’d expected it from some members of her family, but not Brian. She’d thought he’d be level headed and practical about it.

Nikki fought down the anger in her voice.  “I.  Don’t. Know.  That’s why I wanted time alone here.  Go home.”

She left him at the table, staring after her.  He’d probably be here when she got back.  She might have to make a decision she didn’t want to make.

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