Remember when I I said I forgot to ask Beatrice about something when she toured me through the Lavender Lady? When she lured me into a very reasonable lease?
Yeah, I figured it out.
The penny dropped when I started searching for the promised storage area.
It turns out Beatrice owned a rather nice espresso machine, so I finished unpacking and arranging my books (then rearranging them when I imagined a better way), rebuilding my bed and hanging up my clothes in two days.
However during said process, an island coalesced into existence in the center of my room. Unopened boxes which contained useful yet redundant items; a second set of dishes, silverware, pots and pans, my dinner table and such. While putting my stuff away, I’d poked my nose into all kinds of interesting corners of the apartment and I knew this mythical storage spaces wasn’t inside our four walls (I did earmark a few places for further investigation). Now why didn’t I just ask Beatrice? She left the day after I moved in for Scotland. Pulp sent her to a book festival and she wasn’t going to return until the following Saturday. I didn’t think my itch to finish (and to quit barking my shins on the boxes) warranted a transcontinental call.
Which is why on I found myself on my tiptoes peeking in outbuildings around grounds. I found a tool shed and potting bench, a root cellar (which could also double as an oubliette), a garden shed (which I couldn’t see inside because of some very thorny rose bushes and a locked door) and the garage – which looked promising, but the only thing in it was a vintage Chevy Impala, not a single shelf in sight.
That’s when she caught up with me.
A voice croaked behind me: “What are you doing? Casing up my house?”
Startled, since I hadn’t heard her approach, I whipped around and saw the cutest little old lady standing on the walk. She looked like an advertisement with her long braid of silver hair, rosy cheeks and pleasant plumpness. She wore a frilly apron over her sweater and jeans and a pair of sensible shoes on her feet. I could just imagine her baking sugar cookies for her grandkids’ school bake sale or knitting red woolen mittens for neighborhood kids. I tried to discreetly look around for who’d spoken me – because the voice I heard didn’t match the person standing in front of me.
The vision of sugar and spice opened her mouth: “Well? Are you one of the thieves who robbed me?”
Seriously, the croaking ten-pack-a-day-washed-down-with-a-half-a-bottle-of-bourbon voice came from her and she thought I burgled her house. Fantastic.
Me (with my brain still trying to align incongruous sensory input, fell back onto Aunt Pearl’s axiom ‘politeness never hurt anyone’): “No ma’am. My name is Phoebe Arden, Beatrice’s new roommate…”
Her (cutting me off without any attempt to conceal her suspicion, she barked): “Doesn’t mean you’re not a thief.”
Me (trying again): “I’m not ma’am. Beatrice left for a week and forgot to tell me where the storage space is. So I was seeing if I could find it myself.”
Her: “So snooping then?”
Me (praying she had a cellphone in one of those adorably frilly pockets): “I’m not snooping, ma’am. I am just looking for someplace to put my extra boxes. Call Beatrice, she’ll tell you who I am.”
Her (snorting and crossing her arms over the geese frolicking across the apron top): “Don’t need to. I know who you are and I don’t like snoops.”
Me (an idea finally dawned on me): “I am not snooping. Are you Ms. Hettie?”
Her (a sneered marred the laugh lines around her mouth): “Who else would I be?”
Me (irritated by her manner and lack of manners): “So if you know who I am, you know I’m not going to rob you and I am not snooping around. Will you show me where the storage space is?”
Ms. Hettie: “Beatrice can show you when she gets home.”
With that she turned on her heel and disappeared around the corner of the garage – leaving me gaping like a fish at her unwarranted unpleasant attitude. Then I remembered Beatrice’s comment in Altar about Ms. Hettie and the other shoe dropped, “…when she gets nervous she gets cranky, well crankier.”
Well hell, I forgot to ask Beatrice what her definition of cranky was. Maybe calling her in Scotland wasn’t such a bad idea?