Resting an elbow against the driver side door, I absently twisted a lock of hair around my finger, pointedly ignoring the phone that accidentally on purpose now rested underneath my pack on the passenger’s seat. The five missed calls from Little Ben, failed video chat with Leo, and the single text from Beatrice lurking next to me could go unacknowledged for a few minutes more.
We knew approaching him was a long shot, but not a single one of us ever imagined a scenario where Mr. Ikeda refused to hear me out. For fork’s sake, Leo and I managed not only to get inside the sit-in last night (which was no mean feat in and of itself), we negotiated an end to it. Both the Naturalists and the Historical Society signed new leases, promised to get the picketers from their sister organizations to go home this afternoon, and issued a favorable press release.
I mean…it took the six of us over fourteen hours to accomplish this coup, but we did, and Mr. Ikeda didn’t want to hear it? I…I…I managed to stammer out a ‘thank-you for your time’ thru a plastered on plastic smile before fleeing the scene for the comforting confines of the Princess sitting on the curb outside his house…
…I just couldn’t bring myself to start her up. Because there isn’t enough time to fashion a door number four before tomorrow morning’s deadline…
Going to the bank branch is a non-starter. If their CFO won’t listen there’s little chance they will……We are not selling to the Rye City Council, even if our refusal means cutting off our noses despite our faces. Watching the workmen wrench all the headstones from the ground and build a ballpark over the old bones…I can’t even….The Residents…….Maybe we can get an extension to keep Nevermore off the butcher’s block?
It would give Little Ben, and I time to get a better handle on the contents of his father’s safe. I’m sure not every piece of property we discovered last night is rented out at the moment. Perhaps we could make enough money from selling one or two of those lots to make up the shortfall? Or, for that matter, we could satisfy the bank with Sunny Valley Farm – then we wouldn’t need to negotiate uncharted waters of these heretofore unknown Nevermorian assets. The majority of Little Ben’s plans got sent to the scrap heap yesterday, without even a whimper from him, what’s one more?
Leaning my head against the rest, feeling rotten at the thought, I cast about for another option…. Unfortunately, the baying of the rowdy three cut my brown study short.
Unable to bear the thought of being invited on a walk with Mr. Ikeda and his horde of hounds (or alternatively being ignored by all of them), I finally slotted the key into the Princess’s ignition. Pulling away from the curb, I drove down the street without any definite destination in mind.
I continued driving to Nowhere (man what a great name for a bookshop) until the winter sun started sinking in the sky. In the murkiness of twilight, sitting at a stoplight, I finally realized the Princess’s tires had, in a meandering serpentine kind of way, been steadily aiming me at Nevermore rather than Nowhere. Understanding that putting off bad news wasn’t actually helping anyone – I took the shortest route to the main gates.
Creeping past Little Ben’s cottage, annoyance at the man begun to balloon when the dark windowpanes failed to show the barest flicker of an incandescent lightbulb. He’d promised, on a stack of bibles (though only figuratively), last night/this morning to stay put until I swung by to tell him how the meeting went.
(The fact that said meeting occurred several hours in the past and I’d willfully ignored my phone since – didn’t hinder my growing ire a whit.)
Hitting the brakes, I leaned sideways and hunted for my cell. Finally freeing it, one glance at the glowing screen lanced the bubble of irritation inside me. I’d missed no less than twenty-two texts and thirteen calls from Little Ben over the last couple of hours. Mentally kicking myself for my thoughtlessness, I opened my messages. Scrolling past the first few variants on ‘how did it go,’ I glommed onto the next relevant note; ‘Guessing it didn’t go great Heading to Pop’s to look at more papers.’
Figuring I’d see him soon enough, I left the rest of his communiques unread/unplayed.
Wending my way thru Nevermore to Big Ben’s house, I practiced my apology to Little Ben for going AWOL. Then tried to find the words to tell him we’ll probably need to forfeit Sunny Valley Farm.
Rounding the last bend, it didn’t take the deductive powers of Nancy Drew to figure out Little Ben was still inside the house. Even if his orange hybrid hadn’t been in the drive, and it was, every window from the attic to the cellar was streaked with light. Pulling the Princess in behind Little Ben’s car, I grabbed my pack off the passenger seat and jogged to the front door where, unlike earlier today, my knocks went entirely unheeded.
Unwilling to cool my heels on the front porch, I tried the knob – which turned in my hand. Letting myself in, I stood at the base of the stairs in the foyer and did my best impression of Aunt Pearl calling my cousins and I (as kids) to supper from the front porch of our house.
“Ben?! It’s Morticia, where are you?”
The muffled voice, coming from somewhere in the rear of the house, set my feet in motion. It also, and unsurprisingly, grew louder as I drew closer to its source…it also grew deeper? Pausing, I listened to a familiar cadence creep down the hall…a distinctive baritone I hadn’t heard in nearly two years was clearly telling someone off…..Using the ticked-off bellowing as a beacon, I took off in a headlong run down the hall. Ignoring the pricking of my toes, my heart’s not so subtle attempt to beat itself free of its cage and the fact my breath sounded akin to a malfunctioning whistle on a boiling tea kettle – I galloped forward like Hades himself was on my heels. Hurtling into the room seconds later, arms akimbo with helter-skelter hair, I could only blink at its occupants.
The ironed haired gentleman, standing with his back to the flaming fireplace, broke off from bawling out his son. Chuckling at my wild-eyed entrance, he held his arms wide and gave me a wonderfully warm smile.
“Hey, Kiddo, I’m glad to see you….”
Bent at the waist, my lungs rapidly re-oxygenating my blood thru swift, shallow gulps of air, Big Ben’s words buzzed like so many bees in my ears……head…….chest……until their buzzing finally shook loose a few choice ones of my own….
“WHERE THE FORK HAVE YOU BEEN YOU INCONSIDERATE ASH-HOLE!”