Category Archives: Residents

1.68 Coffee and Critters

My sack of deep-fried perfection sat forgotten in my lap. 

Now I understood why cops eat doughnuts and drink coffee, they’re essential tools in stimulating the cognitive processes. 

Continuing to wrack my brain – I didn’t think I’d spoken or been spoken to while we traversed the walkway. I certainly hadn’t sung the sea shanty. 

The Sea Shanty.

That’s how she knew where we went, the last line before the refrain, ‘Now we are bound for Nevermore.’ (Plus a bit of dumb luck on her part, we might have gone anywhere)

But why? What would Ms. Hettie gain by calling Little Ben? 

That’s why I suppose they call them the million dollar questions – if they were easy – anyone could answer them. Uncrossing my legs I rubbed my calves and thighs, ignoring the pins and needle sensation running down them and into my feet.

“If you don’t finish eating those up you’re going to find yourself surrounded by seagulls soon.”

The voice’s good point removed me from my revery, prompting me to nibble one of the bite-sized bits of perfection. Proving my theory wouldn’t happen today, and while I’d put the Sunny Valley Farm problem to bed, I still had other irons in the fire.

Me: “Good morning Mazy.”

Mazy is Nevermore’s Resident Naturalist.

Mazy: “Good Morning Caretaker.” 

She stood next to me, and we watched the critters scamper to and fro enjoying their unexpectedly easy breakfast.

Mazy (excited): “Oh! There’s my little guy! The little grey squirrel with the white tuft on the top of his tail, he’s eating some crumbs from the middle mound! See, right there!”

Mazy loves her squirrel buddy very much. Orin’s sweet on Mazy. Which is why he’d tried his hand at extortion during our escape. The quickest way to her heart is to help one of her critters. Since Joseph actually sent him to help us (and the fact he’d played a practical joke), Orin couldn’t really hold me to my promise. But I didn’t feel like splitting hairs about it. 

Me: “Mazy, I will come by and feed him as often as I am able, but it won’t be every day…”

Mazy (smiling widely): “No problem! A couple of extra meals a week should fatten him right up! I’ll let you know if he moves from this thicket, but I think he’s chosen his favorite tree now.”

Me (putting on my serious face): “Mazy can you do me a favor and pass a message to Joseph for me?”

Mazy: “No problem!”

Me: “Tell him that she’ll arrive in five days.” 

Mazy (upbeat as ever): “Easy! I’ll go let him know now.”

On that note, she skipped away following her squirrel buddy (and presumably also towards Joseph) into the thicket. Since it was finally light enough, I slid with less grace than an elephant on ice, off of the Princess’s hood. Climbing into the car I put the remaining doughnuts in my lap (they were in a bag btw – though at this point with the amount of powdered sugar on my person I am not sure that distinction really mattered) made sure my coffees were accessible and set out for a drive.

If my maths were correct (and most math done when you are trying to sleep is) the early start to my day meant I could drive up, buy fifty bucks worth of marshmallows and be back before I needed to start my shift. 

Switching my stereo over to the cd player I settled into the beautiful drive into the mountains – the Princess and I alone on the road.

1.58 Penny In The Air…

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Orin (calling down to me): “We really got the old ticker going tonight didn’t we!”

The heat of my anger welded me in place. 

Unlike the Inebriated Three. 

They were, for the first time, taking a real interest in remaining free of police custody. Wood dashed to the curb intensely surveying a deserted Ash Street.  Apparently, it did not meet his expectations because he started intently texting someone. Laney meanwhile crouched down and pressed her eye against the gate’s keyhole while Beatrice mimicked her attitude only with her ear against the timbers. 

Laney (whispering): “Wood, see if anyone’s coming thru the other gate.”

Orin (leaning backwards in an exaggerated motion): “Nope, not a soul that way!”

This sent the idiot urchins on the wall into more guffaws.

Wood (after a quick check agreed): “Nothing.”

Beatrice (consternation clear): “They were right behind us.”

Ruby: “Nope! It was just us honey.”

Paul: “A bit of wind and nails raking over cement makes it sound like a whole hoard is on your heels.”

Walking over to Wood I wordlessly pulled on his lapel exposing the flasks residing in his bandolier. Slipping the last one out of the line that lay across his chest, I slowly unscrewing the top then took a deliberately long draught of spiced rum. All the while eyeing the chortling miscreants atop the wall. Their mirth sputtered out quickly under the waves of fury they finally felt rolling towards them.

Me (turning to Beatrice): “No, I think we succumbed to the sinister atmosphere of a cemetery at night.”

Beatrice (glancing at the top of the wall for a moment): “We knew they’d been chasing us, so we thought we heard feet behind us.”

Alice (contrite): “Sorry Caretaker. We didn’t mean to scare you and your friends…”

Paul (crestfallen): “….it’s just when we saw you wearing those silly costumes causing such a commotion….”

Orin (sheepish): “…we just couldn’t resist.”

Laney (looking up at me, hope unmistakably sprouting): “So no one’s on the other side? Our imaginations were working overtime?”

Me (looking first at Laney, then up to the Residents): “This is how these places get such rotten reputations, they play tricks on you.”

Orin (pleading): “Don’t be mad Caretaker. Please? Joseph sent us to help you. He and the others lead the search parties up to the Manor and Great House so you could get away. We just got carried away.”

Beatrice: “We should still get while the getting’s good. They’ll figure we gave them the slip eventually.”

Wood (beating me to the punch and with visible relief): “Don’t worry I think I see out chariot now!”

With our luck, it will be a patrol car. 

A wave of exhaustion engulfed me, extinguishing all traces of the fury threatening to explode moments before. Did Wood add Xanax to the rum tonight? More likely my adrenaline finally ran out. The Residents sensing my anger withering away, burst into a chorus of apologies aimed at all of us (irregardless that only I could hear them it’s the thought that counts).

Iris: “Looks like a station wagon Caretaker.”

Me (wondering out loud): “Why is Robbie driving Aunt Pearl’s car?”

It turns out the Resident’s weren’t the only ones playing games this evening….When the silver station wagon pulled to the curb, I figured out who Wood been texting. 

Stifled giggles erupted when Aunt Pearl and Uncle alighted from the car.

Aunt Pearl: “Well good morning! Funny running into you here.”

Yes, a real coincidence. 

Aunt Pearl (stepping on to the curb and waving her hand): “Your costumes are wonderful. Now line up in front of the gate so I can take a group picture!”

The Residents knowing they were still in the doghouse valiantly attempted to keep it together. Only an occasional muffled tee-hee-hee escaped their lips. 

Aunt Pearl (pumping he arm): “Give me a nice ‘AARRGGHHH!’ for the camera.”

If it was possible for the Residents to die of laughter they might have at this point. I really couldn’t blame them.

Aunt Pearl: “Phoebe stop glaring at Dourwood and smile!”

Wood, who’d adopted the countenance of an angel, beamed the entire time Aunt Pearl performed precise micro adjustments to our costumes, hair, stances and facial expressions. All so she could capture the perfect piratey portrait of the four of us (and the trip down memory lane, of every Halloween photo shoot we’d endured as kids, was just an added bonus). She didn’t even break stride when discovering one of our number was a complete stranger to her – ‘Don’t worry dear I’ll send a print to your folks.’ And didn’t Beatrice looked just thrilled at the prospect. 

Uncle watched the entire process with a rather amused expression – despite my pleading glances.

Joseph (wryly calling down): “You might want to head out now. The search parties are dispersing.”

Please let the earth open up and swallow me now.

1.57 Run!

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What did I do to piss off the fates? Or perhaps they were as capricious as advertised. Because we had less than a quarter mile left to travel when a  Resident called out the first warning.

Paul: “Incoming!”

Little Ben may hate teen trespassers, but he was too cheap to replace the lights they’d broken. Without a street light or steady moonlight (the moon had decided to flirt with us), The Crossroads were very dark indeed.

Brilliant for kids climbing over the wall – abominable for escaping pirates. 

So how did they spot us? 

Didn’t matter. The Inebriated Three stopped singing when the leaves started skittering and crackling a few yards behind us. The hunters were hot on our tail. 

Without urging they sped up.

Laney clung to my hand so hard it hurt.

Wood (softly calling to me): “I can hear them.”

Beatrice: “So can I, but I can’t see…”

Orin (shouting): “Run!”

Me (panting): “Orin it’s too dark, I can’t see well enough to run!”

Even before the sentence finished, I felt a frosty hand slip into mine, leading us into a reckless run to the gates. He slithered around the sunken graves while we merely attempted to avoid stumbling, falling or twisting our ankles on their fringes. The serpentine pattern of our run completely confused me. Our feet ate up the ground, but when the moonlight momentarily skipped over the grass before us, the Gates appeared no closer. All the while the hiss and crunch of our opponent’s feet running thru leaves behind us grew steadily louder.

Our legs pumped, our breath bellowed, and we hung on to each other even harder trying to combat the sweat streaking our palms.

Wood (panting): “Where are they?”

Unheeding of our distress Orin continued pulling us forward on the twisting path forged by the unceasing information called out by the other Residents.

“Fifteen yards behind you!”

“Second group cutting diagonally west trying to cut you off!”

“A third group just arrived!”

Chief Escape Artist, my ass, should’ve taken a swig from one of the innumerable passes the flasks took this evening. Maybe then anxiety wouldn’t be howling in my head, and my heart wouldn’t be readying itself to explode from fear (yes I know alcohol isn’t the answer – but right now it really was). Though the Inebriated Three didn’t sound particularly calm at the moment either, so perhaps it doesn’t dull anxiety as much as I hoped. 

The Residents gave us no quarter.

“Four heading in from the east.”

“Little Ben just arrived.”

“Two people down out of the closest group – but one’s still gaining on you.”

Even over their calls, I could hear snapping and skidding of those after us.

Beatrice (pulling up from a stumble): “My god, how many are back there?”

Wood (gasping): “Are we close?”

In answer, the Moon emerged for a moment to send a beam to illuminate the gates which were fifteen yards away. With one last burst, our legs screaming for relief, we surged forward snaking our way between the last of the markers. 

Alice: “The Gate are still free! Hurry!”

Orin slowed, then his hand disappeared from mine and was replaced by the rough wood of The Crossroads’ gate. Frantically my hands sought the lock, my ears keenly attune to the whispering leaves and grass behind us. 

Me (running my hands over the gate): “The lock, find the lock.”

“Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” The Resident’s chanted. Our panic was practically palatable.

Beatrice (yelling): “Here!”

“Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” Their voices riding the shrieking fear dancing across my nerves.

Fumbling with my keys, almost in tears when they slipped from my fingers, I finally found the lock and slid my key home. Twisting it I pulled the gate open, we fell thru, slammed the sucker closed together and I locked it in a flash.

Leaning against the gate, we all blinked at the sight before us – the well-preserved houses of Old Town tucked up tight, glittering under the diligent efforts of Jack Frost and ambient light. The utter peace and stillness of the night entirely at odds with our racing hearts and whistling lungs.

Nothing (other than our panting) broke the silence of the neighborhood; no rattling keys, turning locks, shouting, pounding, creaks or groans from the other side. 

Nothing split the sense of peace until Orin, and the other Residents started laughing like loons from the top of the wall.

Startled it took a moment for the other shoe to drop.

1.56 Yo-ho-ho and A Shot of Rum

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(The ingredients for spiced rum according to Wood’s Gran’s recipe.)

Practically dancing in place waiting for Orin’s return I couldn’t work out which of the three fates would be worse if we were caught – becoming fodder for the police blotter. Explaining to the police (and Little Ben) what possessed us to bury rubber ducks in an empty field in the first place. Or the horror of calling Aunt Pearl to bail four pirates out of jail at one a.m.

The tree of humiliation bore rich fruit tonight.

Apparently, the Inebriated Three didn’t share my anxiety of capture (while they all still wore their tricorn hats, they currently embodied the philosophy of Yo-ho-ho And A Bottle Of Rum, thus their new nickname). The flasks of spiced rum they insisted on passing around each time we slowed down or stopped bore a portion of the responsibility for their lax attitudes (yet another one, or possibly two, made an appearance in my Orin inspired absence). 

The joys of being the designated getaway driver.

Me (trying for calm): “Time to put that away, guys. We need to get ready to run.”

A scene from a Three Stooges movie ensued while they endeavored to comply with my request. Helpless I stood back and tried not to split a seam at their earnest efforts to simply stand. 

Laney, the first to get up, stood on the tails of Beatrice’s greatcoat. This caused Beatrice to fall over when her ascent to an upright position was unexpectedly arrested. Wood was fine until Laney careened into him when Beatrice yanked her coat out from under Laney’s foot. All the while, trying to maintain radio silence, they pantomimed their displeasure to each other.

When they were upright and moderately stable (and trying to figure out exactly where they’d misplaced their dignity), I turned around to see if Orin had returned. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I discovered him standing inches away from the end of my nose.

Me (aggrieved): “Seriously, are doing that on purpose?”

The peanut gallery gathered behind Orin broke into a chorus of chortles at my demand. And judging by the number of Residents gathered on such short notice the Inebriated Three and I had managed to cause quite a brouhaha this evening. Their questions/comments solidified this idea; Wow you really are dressed as pirates./Did you miss us?/Did you know the police are here?/I’ve never seen Little Ben move so fast./I haven’t had this much fun in forever…. Their comments went on for a while. 

The fact I was at the root of this uproar added to the Resident’s delight – the pirate costumes were just icing on the cake.

Wood: “Morticia are you talking to someone?”

Me (using the spirts they’d drunk in my favor): “Nope.”

Me (speaking to the Residents: keeping my voice low so hopefully the Inebriated Three wouldn’t hear): “Thanks…” 

Orin (cutting in, turning to the Residents): “Here’s the plan. John, Peter, and Stu follow us to the west. Ruby, Sandra, and Iris the same to the east. Alice, you run ahead to the gate and call the all clear – if it is. I’ll lead them on. Everyone else fan out and keep a weather eye for incoming trouble. Ready?”

While Orin relayed orders to the Residents I eyed my friends – Wood looked to be holding his liquor well, Beatrice wove just slightly in place, and Laney was dancing to music only she could hear. Fantastic. The perfect illustration of the influence body mass played in drinking. With a sudden flare of inspiration (or perspiration or both) I knew how to navigate them through the marble maze which stood between us and the gates.

Me: “Laney take my hand, Beatrice you take Laneys, Wood you take Beatrice’s.” 

Laney (in a slurring reworking of a Beatles’ song): “I want to hold Wood’s han-an-and.”

Me (trying to keep it together): “Ok, Wood switch with Beatrice.”

Beatrice: “Why?”

Me: “This way I can lead you through the headstones, and you won’t trip and break your necks.”

Orin (thoughtfully): “Well it has been a while since we’ve had a newcomer….”

Beatrice: “But I want to hold your hand.”

Ignoring both Orin and Beatrice, I lead our chain out from the safety of our hiding spot. With a few initial herks and jerks, we settled into a nice rhythm.

Laney (singing softly): “Following the leader. The leader. The leader. Following the leader where ever she may go. Tee dum. Tee dee…..”

Laney’s love of aliens is only eclipsed by Disney – figures she’d find a fitting song – from Peter Pan no less. 

Why couldn’t our pursuers helpfully tick like the Crocodile? I ejected the analogy from my brain quickly. My heart didn’t care for it one bit since the Crocodile got Captain Hook in the end. Maybe we were one of the Lost Boys? In disguise? Stifling a giggle, I banished the picture of Orin zipping around us like Tinker Bell. 

The Inebriated Three picked up the chorus (softly): “Following the Leader. The Leader…..”

We were a quarter mile away when I heard Alice’s faint all clear call – perhaps sensing my relief – the Fates threw a spanner in the works.

1.55 With Friends Like This…

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An excited squawk from a walkie three rows away sent us scurrying behind one of the larger mausoleums in this section of Nevermore. 

That’d been a near thing. 

Who knew Seth (the newest groundskeeper) could summon that much stealth? Counting off a hundred heartbeats (sounds like a long time, but my heart was beating a brisk tempo at the moment) I slowly eased an eye around the corner, trying to catch even the smallest movement. Despite not seeing a single hint of our pursuer my heart refused to settle down into a normal rhythm.

Me (whispering): “Wood can you see anyone?”

Since no one’s yelling ‘got you’ or ‘their over there’ I will take it as a promising sign. Maybe this time we’d lost them? Hope springs eternal.

Wood (softly): “Nope, nothing.” 

It seems Laney and Beatrice came to the same conclusion, or they were just tired from all the running and/or rum, either way, they’d sunk down to the ground for a rest. Wood joined them, leaving me to keep my eyes peeled for motion amongst the tombstones.

Me (taking a beat to talk to them): “We’ll catch our breath here for a few minutes then make a final push for the Crossroads.”

The Tricornies murmured their agreement and settled into more comfortable sitting positions. Inching around the side of the vault trying to get a better grip on our surroundings, I nearly screamed when a figure stepped out in front of me.

The Figure: “Caretaker, did you hear about the kids running around Nevermore in costumes tonight?”

As my hands were covering my mouth, trying to keep the squealing I was doing on the inside, I couldn’t reply to Orin’s question right away. 

Orin (taking in my current attire – long coat, embroidered vest, linen shirt, bandolier and the dark plume in my tricorn hat): “I think you might have.”

Seems the dip my toes took in the creek during our hasty exit from the farm numbed them to a greater extent than I’d realized. Well, that explained why it hadn’t hurt very much when I’d kicked that rock – I’d chalked it up to wearing boots instead of sneakers (tomorrow’s bruise tally will prove fascinating).

Me (whisper yelling): “Orin! You nearly scared me to death!”

Orin (dismissively): “Don’t worry, no one’s died of that in years! Hey, aren’t there supposed to be more of you?”

Stepping around me he peered around the corner of the crypt and started laughing. Following behind, I glimpsed the three Tricornes as he must have – Beatrice one leg in the air pulling up her sock inside her boot, Wood with his phone aglow and Laney taking a slug from yet another flask (which she whipped behind her back when she saw the whites of my eyes). All of them wearing full pirate regalia. 

Me (hissing at Wood): “Are you trying to get us caught? Put the phone away! Laney! Seriously?”

Doing a one-eighty, I tried to glimpse any activity amongst the shadows, while my ears strained to hear any tell-tale sounds of feet on grass (Orin’s laughing didn’t help my efforts). Stepping back around to the side of the vault I beckoned Orin to follow me.

Me: “Orin. Orin! Please stop laughing! We need to get to the Crossroads, can you help us out?”

His laughter slowly died during my plea, the silence stretching between us while I watched his wide grin slide into a sly smile.

Me (trying to wrangle what little patients I currently possessed): “Okay, what do you want?”

Orin (taking a moment to think): “You know Mazy’s squirrel? Could you make sure it has enough to eat this winter?”

This night just keeps getting better and better.

Me: “Done. Now, will you help?”

Orin: “No problem Caretaker. Let me round up some other Residents.”

On those words, he walked out of sight. Orin might have laughed, but we needed the Resident’s help. We were at the edge of the old original section of Nevermore – after that would be the Crossroad’s burials.

Where we’d have absolutely nothing, except for the night, to hide us from sight. 

1.50 Dealing

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We’d both employed the same cunning strategy – waiting. Perhaps my “plan” wasn’t as lame as I’d previously thought. 

The coffee seemed to need a few more minutes to seep into my system to bad I didn’t have the time. Even in this deluge maintenance would be working (death doesn’t wait for a sunny day) and I really didn’t want to answer the inevitable questions they’d ask if they ran across me sitting in my car. I had a feeling my hair would give away last night’s sleeping arrangements. 

Which meant Joseph and I had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Joseph (still looking amused): “So why were you waiting for me?”

Me (taking another swig straight from the thermos): “The Stalker, isn’t a Stalker, she’s a Woman In White.”

Joseph (his gaze sharpened): “Tell me.”

Me: “I found her genesis point when I went up into the mountains…”

While I laid the relevant events from the Fall Foliage Tour into a coherent narrative, Joseph sat in the passenger’s seat listening, his fingers tracing the inside band of his grey fedora over and over while I talked. 

Joseph (enunciating each word): “You think she will come here, at some point.”

Me (nodding): “Yes. After I got back I asked Aunt Pearl about the whole affair, she told me Tiffany’s father still lives in Rye, so I expect she’ll come to Nevermore. When she does, we’ll need a plan.”

Aunt Pearl also hinted at some other old gossip about Tiffany, but wouldn’t repeat it, “not wishing to speak ill of the dead.” 

Joseph: “A plan?”

Me (nodding): “If she’s allowed to wander the grounds she will find a Resident then hunt down the others. She won’t hesitate to increase her own power at their expense. With my odd hours and the uncertainty of when she’ll arrive we need to coordinate. You can contain her until I get here and salt her bones directly, right?”

Utterly oblivious to my companion, I failed to notice his amusement and continued to spout off half-formed ideas.

Still Me (spacing out for a moment): “Sarah would call me the moment she arrives if I asked…. Though if she’s cremated that would eliminate all our worries since fire purifies everything… I could ask Sarah to try to steer things that way…Then there’s the rubber ducks, work, sabotage, and I’ll need to shower sometime…”

Joseph (interrupting my revery, amused): “Phoebe.” 

Me (fretting): “I could sleep in my car here after she’s found so I could be on hand more.”

Joseph (plonking me in the forehead with his index finger): “Phoebe. The Residents and I can manage her. What do you think happened before you came here?”

Me (puzzling): “I never put much thought into it.”

My brain jumping the tracks, how did they cope? The first burial happened in 1840, Nevermore (as it is now) came about in 1846, and I’ve been coming here for twenty-seven years, so that leaves one-hundred-and-seventy-eight-years unaccounted for. Something to think about later…

Joseph (catching my attention again): “…Woman In White.”

Me (my mind reversing from its derailed state): “Pardon?”

Joseph: “I will handle the Woman In White.”

Me (nodding, my head still not entirely on this portion of the conversation): “Okay, I’ll leave her to you…”

Joseph (a hard look creeping into his eyes): “You have a handle on Little Ben’s expansion? I assume there’s a problem.”

Me (nodding, diverted by the small opening he’d given me): “Yes to both…How did the Residents cope before I came?”

Joseph (his hands finally still): “They have me. I protect Nevermore and the Residents from all threats.”

Me (slowly sinking into the quicksand of the conversation): “Like Women In White, Stalkers, Walkers, and Soldiers?” 

Joseph (somber): “And anything else.”

Me (feeling small): “So Nevermore doesn’t really need my help.” 

Joseph (his tone commanding me to meet his eyes): “You value those who’ve been forgotten. You find the lost and bring them home. You protect those who undervalue you – no matter the cost. You are Nevermore’s most unique Resident because you choose to be here. You are needed, never doubt that.”

Not know what to say and trying not to cry – I moved on – Joseph doesn’t do tears. 

Me (blinking rapidly): “Since I’m not here as much right now, how can I find you if I don’t want to ask a Resident to pass on a message?”

Joseph (looking at me thoughtfully, pausing for a beat longer than I’d anticipated): “Knock on a gate, Toby will lead you to me.”

Me: “What’s a Toby? And any gate?”

Joseph (smiling): “He’s shy. But I think he’s ready for you to meet him. And yes, any gate in Nevermore.”

Me (startled into dry eyes): “Wait, there’s a Resident I haven’t met yet?” 

Joseph smiled, put on his hat an exited the Princess, the rain (plus his grey suit) erased him almost instantly from my sight. So many layers to the conversation, but no time to consider them if the clock on my dash was correct. I had precisely forty-five minutes to get home, shower, change and eat before my shift starts. 

Aspirin, I also needed to take many aspirins, not being able to turn my head right – due to a stupid crick – won’t make my day any easier.

(Unsplash Picture Credit Here)

1.14 Ointment Meet Fly…

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(A very civilized contract signing!)

I couldn’t hide the grin spreading across my face. The relief at landing in such unexpectedly pleasant surroundings was palpable (with this many books and the promised freedom to borrow would help save a tremendous amount of money – up side? It will keep me from actually acting on any impetuous impulses – in my defense I haven’t ever actually stolen anything – just keeps the mind limber to think how you might try). We both knew she had me, so why act coy? “I would love to move in!”

We settled on terms:

Money: a very reasonable amount.

Move in Date: as soon as I wanted – in fact I left with a set of keys.

Parking: In the alley where it was acceptable.

Schedule: Beatrice’s travel dates.

No fuss, no muss.

I couldn’t pin down the nagging sensation that I forgot to ask Beatrice something, but relief overwhelmed all other emotions quickly. If it was important I would think of it again.

One interesting fact, Old Town where the Lavender Lady resides is only a few minutes from my previous employer. Driving up to the cemetery I spotted a knot of Residents hovering just inside the wrought iron gates.

Right – ointment meet fly.

Pulling over to the side of the drive a bit farther down the lane from the gang (I didn’t want the Princess dinged by the inattentive bereaved) I flexed my toes and waited for the pins and needles to recede to manageable levels and for them to catch up. While I waited I stuck my hands free device in my ear and pulled my phone out of my pocket. When I exited the Princess the Residents started peppering me with questions.

“What is going on?”  “What’s Little Ben doing to the cottage?”  “Why are your things in boxes?”  “Why aren’t you  working in the utility shed?”  “Why did Ben make the rounds this morning?”

I leaned against the pink door letting them slowly peter out. Trying to talk over them would only mean I’d have to repeat myself (I found most people couldn’t talk and listen at the same time). I’d intentionally put this adulting step off; they don’t take change well and I didn’t know how best to sugar coat the news for them. So I just followed my Aunt Pearl’s example and pulled the bandaid off fast, “Ben laid me off last week and I have to move out of Nevermore.”

Wind whipped around us, blowing my hair into my eyes and stray leaves around my knees. Shouting above the noise, “We will work this out. Now stop!” Immediately the wind died down to a persistent (if annoying) breeze and another round of twenty questions started.

“Why?”  “Will you still visit us?”  “What will happen to Nevermore?”  “What is Little Ben going to do now?”  “Can we visit you?”  “Will he hurt my squirrel?”

We stood and talked, and talked and talked – me reassuring them I would not be far away. Yes, I would come and visit them. Yes, they could visit me. Yes, I would explain any changes Ben made to Nevermore. By the time they dispersed, only a gentle breeze blew and dusk settled in around us – I longed to take out my camera, the left-over light of a Fall day made for excellent pictures. But my heart wasn’t in it. I retreated further from the idea when an orange hybrid pulled up next to the Princess.

This should be entertaining.