A Serial Book Written in Twelve Monthly Episodes
The residents of The Coach House Trailer Park are just as run-down as the park itself. In fact, they’ve all come here to die. Then one day, on a crisp January breeze, Willow Goodhope sweeps into the neighborhood. She moves into the lonely little shack on the other side of the driveway, bringing her potted plants, her Elderberry gifts, and her outrageous laughter. The Coach House residents can’t resist her charm as she breathes new life into hardened hearts, but there’s something about Willow, a terrible sadness that hovers at the back of her enigmatic eyes, and it has everyone talking, wondering, worrying. Kathy overhears her sobbing in her kitchen. Doc catches her burning letters in her fire pit. Myra swears she drinks alone out on her patio in the middle of the night. Patti knows the beautiful girl is after her husband, and Eddie and Donny, forever-feuding brothers, are competing to see who can make her smile first, even though they’re both fairly sure she’d prefer her men with real jobs, real homes, and real teeth. What–or who–is haunting the mysterious Willow Goodhope of Elderberry Croft? Will her new “family” be able to rescue her before it’s too late?
Part 6: June Melody
The air conditioner began to rattle loudly in the window, and Myra Cordova crossed the room to thump on it with her scrawny fist. Once, twice, a third time, then it acquiesced, slipping back with a hiccup into a grumbling murmur. Eventually, if Myra lived much longer, the unit would have to be replaced.
“I bet I’m going to go before you do,” she grouched, as she made her way back to the stove where she’d been stirring up a batch of fudge. The boys were coming over this afternoon, as they always did, for a game of poker, and she expected Al would be bringing his sweet tooth with him, just as he always did, too. Usually, she opened a box of chocolates, or on a good day, made oatmeal cookies, or a brownie mix, but today, she was trying a new butter pecan fudge recipe from Willow Goodhope.
At the beginning of the month, Myra came down with a bug so bad, she’d been incapacitated for almost two weeks. Everyone in the park knew about it, she made sure of that, but besides Jack, who stopped by daily to check on her, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, til death parted them, only Kathy defied Myra’s self-inflicted quarantine to bring her clam chowder, Hawaiian sweet rolls, and the latest gossip rag from the supermarket. Kathy scoffed at the sign hanging from her front door, the words written with a pitifully shaky hand: “I’m very ill. Please protect yourself and stay away.”
“You’re such a hypochondriac, silly. You just have the flu.”
“You’ll be more sympathetic when you end up sick like I am,” Myra moaned, repositioning herself on the sofa so her pathetic state could be noted, and taken seriously by anyone who came to the front door. Having the flu on top of all her other ailments was tantamount to signing her death warrant, but if she had to die, she wanted to go with a clear conscience, knowing she’d done everything in her power to steer people clear of harm’s way.
“Just eat your soup, drink your water, and get some rest. In fact, you really should go to bed where you can sleep without interruption.” Kathy nodded her head in the direction of the short hallway that led back to Myra’s pink bedroom.
“Oh no, Kathy-la. If I go back there to sleep, I won’t hear anyone come to the door. Then people will worry, and then they’ll think something bad happened to me, then they’ll knock down my door, thinking my time has come, then—”
“Myra! Stop! You’re getting all worked up over nothing.” Kathy made a face, and Myra scowled back. Why did her friend always roll her eyes at her?
“You have a sign on the door that makes it pretty obvious you’re sick. You called everyone in the park to let them know, too, didn’t you?” Kathy paused, waiting for a response, but Myra just harrumphed and stared through the screened door, not wanting to be made fun of today. Especially not while she was sick.
Myra knew everyone thought she was just a silly old lady, but without her, this place would fall into shambles. She cleaned for Eddie when either of the apartments in the main building of the Coach House came up for rent, when Space #12, Willow’s place now, was between renters, and she kept the laundry shed swept and lint free. She did laundry for Al, for Doc, even for Kathy when she wasn’t feeling up to snuff. She cooked big pots of soup or chili during the winter—usually canned, but no one complained—and made certain she had assorted treats for the gang who gathered on her front porch all summer long. She was the first one people called when they needed a listening ear, a cup of sugar, or an extra roll of toilet paper. She knew the names and numbers of every Coach House resident, she knew the names of their pets, and she made a point to keep track of the comings and goings of everyone in the park, not because she was nosy, but because she didn’t want anyone to be neglected.
Myra hated to gossip venomously, but keeping each other informed was a complete different story. That’s what family did, and she thought of the folks here, both those she knew well, and those she knew through fleeting conversations at the mailbox, as her extended family. When one was sick, or sad, or happy, Myra made it her job to show up with soup, chocolate, or boxed wine, whichever best suited the circumstances.
And because Myra really liked her Sangria, circumstances usually called for boxed wine.
Now she was finally feeling better, but between the suffocating June heat outside, and the cantankerous air conditioner sitting like a squat old lady in the window, she was thirsty. She opened the fridge, held her dime-store tumbler under the spout, and filled it only half full with the ruby red drink that looked like grape juice and reminded her of church.
Bringing it to her lips, the chilled liquid cooled the inside of her mouth, then soothed the scratchiness of her throat, still a little raw from weeks of coughing. She stood with her hand on the refrigerator door, waiting for the first sip to finish teasing her senses so she could take another, then another, and refill her glass—half full—before putting her feet up in front of her favorite morning soap opera.
She didn’t have a drinking problem, no matter what Kathy said. She only had half a glass now and then; half a glass! Doc knew. He teased her about her kiddie juice every chance he got, but that’s because he thought alcohol should only come in a square bottle with a black label.
“It’s like you’re telling war stories, but you’ve never been in a trench, Myra.” Ironically, Doc, who had been in a few trenches himself, never told war stories, and the thought of all his bottled up pain made Myra want another half a glass of Sangria.
Just a half a glass, though.
The song was soft at first, just a hint of a melody drifting across the stillness. The summer night hung heavy and oppressive, even this close to midnight, and Myra was doing laundry late, preferring to tackle the heavy loads after the sun went down. The walk to the laundry shed was well-lit as she flip-flopped along the gravel driveway, her basket in one hand, propped on her hip, sipping from a tumbler of chilled wine in her other hand. She passed in front of the main house, around the opposite end, over the little wooden bridge that crossed the stream with its seasonally low water level, and passed between Kathy’s place and Willow’s. She paused when she heard it, the sound of guitar strings being plucked by light fingers.
Turning her head this way and that, she frowned, unable to discern from where it came. Kathy often played her music until all hours of the night, but it was usually Hawaiian ukulele tunes, not classical guitar. And this sounded lonelier, a solitary instrument lifting its notes to the heavens. She glanced over at Willow’s little Elderberry Croft, but the lights were all out, even the twinkle lights on the front porch. The cottage was still, as far as she could tell, tucked in for the night.
Then it stopped altogether, followed by a hushed silence. Soon a whirring of a cricket’s song picked up where the guitar left off.
Myra suddenly remembered the Shadowman. Her heart started up a racket inside her chest that rattled her ribs together, and she made a mad dash the rest of the way to the laundry shed, pulling the chain that hung from the bulb on the ceiling, and closing the rickety door behind her. It didn’t matter that Eddie assured her the guy wouldn’t be back. He’d confronted him last month, and made it clear to the man that he was wandering around private property, and was not welcome. She dropped her basket of dirty clothes on the floor and leaned her back against the door, listening for the sound of stealthy footsteps. The glass in her hand shook, the remaining liquid sloshing around a little, and she quickly downed the rest of it and set it on top of the dryer. If the Shadowman was out there, she might just be spending the night in here.
“I’m not going to make it out alive, am I, God?” She tried to keep her voice from trembling, but it was after eleven, and no one in the park was ever up this late, except for Kathy. But tonight, even her lights were already out. “I could scream ‘til I’m blue in the face, and no one will hear me.” Her eyes prickled with unshed tears as a lump of fear formed itself in the back of her throat. What was she going to do?
Eying the basket of clothes, she opted to stay busy. Maybe the mundane task of washing and folding laundry would help calm her down, help her come up with a solution to her dilemma. She opened the dryer and peered inside, the towels she’d thrown in an hour ago, dry and fluffy and soft to the touch. She pulled them out, piled them on top of the dryer, then replaced them with the jeans and tee shirts from the washer. Into the washer went the load of whites, detergent, and a half cup of bleach, and she set to work folding, the large towels stacked in the basket, the washcloths and hand towels in a growing pile on the dryer.
There it was again! This time, the guitar seemed fuller, richer, sweeter, until Myra realized there was a voice accompanying the strings, soft words, indecipherable over the rumble of the dryer. But the song was more than just music, it was a cry, and Myra didn’t need to understand the words to hear the message.
Longing. Like the cold that settles into your bones in the dead of winter, and no matter how many layers you wear, or how closely you draw up to the fire, it’s there, that deep ache that won’t let you rest, that won’t leave you in peace.
It had to be Willow. Myra’d never heard anyone else here sing like that. Oh, Patti had a pretty voice, and she could certainly carry a tune, but Patti sang more like a Lemon Sister. Not this gypsy haunting that lingered in the air like mourning.
She reached up and gave the chain above her a quick tug, knowing that if she opened the door with it on, the rectangle of light would blaze across the way toward Willow’s place, interrupting the music. And Myra was certain she did not want the song to end. She had to hear it better; it called to her.
Leaving her basket of towels on the floor, she slipped out into the warm night, and moved a little ways toward Elderberry Croft, stepping just out of the spotlight of the lamppost that monitored the comings and goings of the residents at night. Now she could hear what Willow sang.
In the lingering silence I still hear your whispered sigh.
But your hand in mine tells me you’re leaving
You must not know how much I need you
That every moment you stay keeps me breathing.
So far away, you’re drifting, so far from me,
I can’t reach you anymore, anywhere.
But my heart won’t set you free.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, Myra could make out the shadowy form of Willow, perched on the low ledge that bordered the stream, her legs dangling in the shallow water. She cradled a guitar in her lap, the neck more upright than out to the side, almost like she was playing a miniature cello. Flickers of moonlight cast off the surface of the water flowing around her ankles, and Myra saw the girl bring a bottle to her lips, and take a long draw from it, before resting her cheek against the instrument in her arms.
Sitting alone in the dark, singing love songs to someone who’s drifted too far away, drinking away the pain of heartbreak. Myra turned and quietly made her way back to the laundry shed, unable to bear being a witness to the young woman’s suffering a moment longer.
As she pulled the door shut behind her, the song continued, this time just the lonely guitar. Myra closed her eyes and leaned against the door in the tiny dark space, listening, her own heart breaking for her neighbor.
After a few more moments, she tugged on the light cord again, suddenly too weary to contemplate coming back one more time tonight to move the wash to the dryer. She’d take the dry load home now, finish folding it there, and be back first thing in the morning. She scooted the basket closer as she swept the rest of the unfolded towels into it, cringing at the noise it made clunking up against the metal casing of the dryer. She did not want Willow to know she was there; she felt like an intruder. Scooping up the washcloths and hand towels, now in a hurry, she dropped them both into the basket, hoisted it to her hip again, and reached up to turn off the light.
A piercing pain shot through her heel, wrapping around her ankle and scurrying up her calf, and in the split second before she screamed, the spine-chilling echo of a rattle registered in her mind. The flick of a nubby tail waved at her as it disappeared into the crack between the two machines, the rattlesnake more interested in finding another cozy place to curl up for the night than in inflicting any more hurt on Myra.
Myra shoved open the laundry shed door, her foot beginning to throb. “Help!” She cried out, hoping her voice would carry across the way to Willow, hoping the babble of the brook and the girl’s playing wouldn’t drown out her call.
She twisted her leg a little to peek at her foot, but the sight of so much blood started her panicking. She thought she might pass out from pain. “Help me! Willow!” She could barely stand to put weight on the toes of her right foot, and she took a few more hobbling steps before she stopped. Visions of dying right there in the middle of the driveway, her underwear in the washing machine for anyone in the world to discover, flashed through her mind. “Willow!” She cried out again, then saw the girl moving toward her.
She collapsed on the ground, relief making her legs give out altogether. By the time Willow bent over her, the tears were falling, and she rolled to her side, clutching her stomach, the thought of what was to become of her making her nauseous.
“What happened?” The smooth voice washed over Myra like remnants of Willow’s song.
“A rattler! A rattle snake bit my heel. Call 911.” It was just a harsh grunt, her jaw clenched around the words. Remembering the silhouette of the bottle, Myra squinted up at Willow, hoping the girl wasn’t too drunk to help. Then she noticed the bottle in her hands; not alcohol, but sparkling water. She sighed with relief.
“Don’t move. Be still, and try to stay calm, okay? You don’t want that venom moving through your system any faster than it has to. I’ll be right back.” Willow was on her feet, darting back to her cottage, sure-footed. She disappeared under the shadowy porch momentarily, before the lights in the house came on, one by one, flooding the area where Myra lay with light.
Through her squinted eyes, she spotted Willow’s guitar propped against the front steps, leaning precariously to the left, as though perhaps the instrument was a little tipsy, and not the musician. She made herself focus on the shape of it, the hourglass curve of the body, so like a woman’s; the long straight neck that held the keys to every song. She finally closed her eyes and listened to the sounds of the night, trying to recall the haunting melody Willow had played only moments before.
Hurrying steps, then a cool hand was pressed to her cheek. “Myra. I’m going to wash your foot, okay? I’ll try not to hurt you, but I need you to relax and stay calm. The paramedics are on their way.”
“Call Eddie,” she moaned, not bothering to open her eyes. “He needs to get that snake. Before it gets anyone—else.” She grimaced, her heel on fire.
“Hush now. Everything will be okay. I already called him and he’s on his way.” Myra felt the younger woman’s cool hand on her ankle, and she flinched. “I’m sorry. We need to make sure your heel is clean, okay?”
Myra nodded, and clamped her lower lip between her teeth, holding her breath against the anticipated pain.
“Breathe with me, Myra. Deep breath in through your nose, slow breath out through your mouth. It will help you stay calm.”
The cool washcloth on her foot shocked her overstimulated senses, and she let out a short shriek, jerking her leg away from Willow’s touch. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m such a baby.” Tears were spilling out of the corners of her eyes and her stomach sloshed threateningly.
“No, Myra. You’re being very brave. I’m going to try again, okay? I’ll just put the washcloth over it; I won’t touch it. Breathe with me.”
This time she was more prepared, and held still while Willow placed the washcloth over her heel and poured water over it in a slow, gentle stream.
“Hey.” Eddie had arrived. He was out of breath and looked like he’d been hauled out of bed. His tee-shirt was askew and his hair stuck out at odd angles, but to Myra, he was a sight for sore eyes. “How is she?” He directed his question to Willow, and Myra, for once, remained silent and let the two of them talk about her, uninterrupted.
He dispatched himself to the laundry room, his heavy gloves and snake hook in hand. Myra knew he was a pro at catching rattlers, and she sighed with relief, knowing the park residents would be safe to do their wash in the morning. Every year, between May and September, the snakes were on the prowl, and he rarely got through a season without having to deal with at least one of the frightening creatures. Myra had complete faith in him.
Thinking about the others coming to do their laundry reminded her of what was in the washer. “Willow, my laundry! I have all my personal things…” Another wave of pain forced her to clench her teeth together.
“Shh. Don’t worry about your laundry. I’ll take care of it for you.”
“Tell Kathy. She owes me,” Myra moaned.
Willow chuckled softly. “You need to stop worrying about everyone else, Myra, and focus on you right now.”
“I’m here. Tell me what?” Kathy’s face appeared over Willow’s shoulder, her thick black hair mussed and wild, eyes puffy from sleep.
“My laundry. I don’t want anyone seeing my underwear.”
“No one cares about your underwear, silly.”
Myra squinted up at her friend. A pebble was digging into her hip, but she didn’t dare move. “I’m not being silly. Why do you always say I’m silly?” Myra snapped at her, something she never did.
Kathy straightened, her features disappearing as the light behind her threw them into shadows, but not before Myra glimpsed the wounded look in her eyes. Kathy harrumphed. “I’ll fold your undies for you, don’t worry. I don’t know why you’re so worked up over them. Everyone wears underwear. Okay. Not everyone. But everyone has seen them before. Well, maybe not everyone has seen your underwear before. But I’ll hide them for you so you can go on pretending your skivvies don’t exist.”
“And you call me silly.” Myra let her eyes drift closed. Were her lips tingling? Could she feel her toes? Why did it burn so terribly?
The paramedics arrived shortly, flashing lights, but no sirens. For that, Myra was glad. It didn’t matter, though; before long, between the emergency crew and the light-sleeping neighbors, the place was milling with activity. Jessie, a strapping young man, his biceps bulging beneath the blue shirtsleeves of his uniform, immediately began asking her pertinent questions, and she tried to answer them as best she could. A woman with gentle hands, who introduced herself as Lisa, picked up her foot and began to examine the bite, while another fellow held a light for her. A few moments later, Lisa raised a hand to get Jessie’s attention.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” she nodded at her co-worker. “Myra, you said you were bitten by a rattler?”
Myra nodded, and glanced over at Eddie, who was just emerging from the laundry shed with a black plastic trash bag.
“Right here.” He held the bag aloft. “It’s a rattler all right.”
“Hm.” Lisa turned to the paramedic holding the flashlight. “Pete, can you take a look here?” Pete bent forward, and studied Myra’s heel too, then shook his head.
“No puncture wounds.”
“Right,” confirmed Lisa. She looked up at Eddie. “Was there by any chance glass or something else sharp in there that she might have cut her foot on?” She turned back to Myra. “Your heel is badly lacerated. Did you actually see the rattler strike?”
“There’s broken glass all over the floor in there. Looks like a cup or a jar or something.” Eddie came a little closer, the black bag still clutched in his hand. Myra eyed it warily. “I figured she dropped it when she got bit.”
“Myra? Is it possible you might have just cut your foot on the glass and not been bitten by the rattle snake after all?”
Silly woman. Silly old woman. Kathy was right.
All that rigmarole over a stupid cut. And it was her fault, too! Her empty wine glass, knocked off the dryer in her hurry to get back to the comfort of her own home, away from Willow’s misery.
“Poor rattle snake,” she murmured. “Slaughtered because of the foolishness of a silly old woman.” She’d probably scared it with all her movement, and like most snakes, it wanted nothing to do with her, and had been scurrying off to safer places.
At least the cut was a good one. Apparently, when she bent to pick up her laundry basket, her foot slid sideways off the back of her flip-flop, and her heel came down on the jagged edge of the broken glass. Fourteen stitches and a big old bandage, a round of antibiotics, a set of pain-in-the-rear-crutches, and a promise to not put any weight on her foot, and to keep it elevated as much as possible until her follow-up appointment in five days.
Willow Goodhope, bless her heart, accompanied her to the hospital, then made sure she was settled before she headed to her own little place around three o’clock in the morning. Six hours later, she’d been back at Myra’s front door, a banana-elderberry bundt cake in hand, along with a pretty set of white stoneware mugs, and some kind of herbal tea. “Something to soothe the nerves,” she said, by way of greeting. “And the bread is just because.”
Myra watched the younger woman wander around the small kitchen, humming softly to herself, as she waited for the water heating up in the yellow kettle on the stove top. Willow wore her hair scooped up into a jumbled mass of curls on top of her head. Her floral peasant blouse kept slipping off one shoulder, revealing the lacy strap of the tank-top underneath. Denim cut-offs that weren’t short enough for Hollywood, over purple Capri leggings, and strappy Gladiator sandals gave her a carefree, youthful air that Myra envied.
“Do you like sugar? Or cream? Both?” Willow turned toward her, her smile bright, in spite of her lack of sleep.
“Why are you so chippy this morning?”
“Chippy?” Willow’s eyes widened. “Well, I don’t know about chippy, but I don’t think coming over here all crabby pants and grumbling would help either one of us. So what’ll it be?” She held up a mug.
Myra lay stretched out on her pink and green floral sofa, her foot propped up on a cushion, the television remote and a stack of gossip magazines within reach on the oval coffee table, thanks to Willow’s attentive care. “I’ll take sugar. No cream, please.”
“Sugar, no cream. Coming right up.” She brought the mugs over and set one down on a coaster, before handing Myra a plate of sliced cake. The dark elderberries gleamed like jewels lodged in the crevices of each piece. “Careful. The tea’s still hot.”
Myra sighed and closed her eyes for a moment, her emotions still in an upheaval over the whole fiasco she’d caused. “Why are you being so nice to me?” she murmured, almost afraid to hear the answer. She kept her face averted. “You must think I’m as crazy as a loony bin.”
“I don’t think you’re as crazy as a loon, or a whole loony bin! You had every right to be terrified. A rattler?” Willow slipped into the forest green armchair across from the sofa, folding one leg beneath her. “I think you’re terribly brave.”
Myra shook her head, and pushed herself up a little, finally meeting her neighbor’s eyes. “I’m sorry I kept you up all night. I really was trying to sneak away and not interrupt you at all.” She hesitated, but only for a brief moment, then continued. “You seemed so sad last night.”
It was Willow’s turn to look away; she dropped her gaze to the mug she held between her hands. When she finally spoke, her voice trembled ever so slightly. “I wish you would stop apologizing. In fact, I should probably be the one apologizing, because as terrible as this sounds, I’m kinda glad you got hurt last night.”
Myra frowned, but she didn’t know quite what to say in response, so she clamped her mouth shut and waited for her to explain.
“You were right,” Willow continued. “I was sad last night. I was feeling terribly sorry for myself, and I think I would have continued to get sadder if you hadn’t had your little crisis when you did.” She looked up, blinking, her eyes glistening. “I was missing my family something fierce last night.”
“Oh. Well.” Myra reached over and picked up the full mug from the coffee table. Bringing it to her lips to fill the space left by her lack of something to say, she blew on the surface of the dark liquid, and sipped gingerly.
“Do you have family, Myra?”
The subject change seemed abrupt, and she stumbled over her words a little. “Do I have a family? Of course. Everyone has a family.” The tea really was nice. The floral taste floated over her tongue, and she could feel the warmth of the liquid sliding down her throat, soothing, comforting. “I have three sisters and a baby brother, still living in Costa Rica. And my mother is still alive. I go see them all every year.”
“Oh wow! Costa Rica? You must love going home.” Willow’s face brightened, and she settled deeper into the chair, her own plate of banana bread balanced on her lap.
“This is home, Willow. This is my home. I go visit my family, and then I come home to this.” Myra spread one arm out, a gesture meant to encompass her small mobile home, with it’s distinctly feminine decor, and all the Coach House Trailer Park as well. “This is home.” She loved this little place.
“Right. I’m sorry. That was rather presumptuous of me, wasn’t it?”
“No, no. It’s okay. It’s just that everyone thinks I’m a silly old woman without a husband, stuck here like I have no choice, living here on borrowed time. But I love this place. I choose to live here.” Myra nibbled on the cake. It was soft, moist, and the tangy berries complimented the sweet banana flavor just right. “This is delicious. Thank you.”
Willow nodded, working on her own piece. Myra took another sip of tea. “My husband died almost forty-five years ago, and for a while, I thought I might die, too. I was too young to be a widow, only twenty-eight years old, and I was six months pregnant with our first baby. I grieved too much for Rudy, and so did our baby, because he died before he had a chance to live. Little Rudy went back to heaven to be with his papa.” She loved the idea of her two guys planning and waiting for her to join them one day.
“Oh, Myra.” Willow’s voice cracked. “I’m so sorry.” She brought a hand up to cover her mouth. “I’m so sorry,” she said again, her words catching on their way out.
Myra nodded, acknowledging Willow’s genuine response. She hadn’t intended to talk about Rudy to Willow, at least not this morning, but the opportunity had come about so naturally, and now she warmed up to the chance to share her husband with someone new. Besides, it took her mind off the fool she’d made of herself last night. “Rudy drove a delivery truck for a uniform company. His route took him all the way from Palm Springs into Los Angeles. Sometimes he put 200 miles a day on his truck.” She tucked her hair behind her ear and adjusted her hips beneath her, trying to get more comfortable with her foot propped up the way it was. “You have to remember. This was back in the seventies, when everyone wore uniforms. Everyone. Rudy was a favorite. His customers loved him. He joked with the guys and flirted with the ladies. He was a good man, Willow.”
Willow nodded. “I’m sure he was, if you’re the woman he chose.”
Myra beamed at the compliment, and continued. “He rolled his truck one day trying to avoid hitting a young man who’d pulled out of a side road without looking. Rudy was thrown out, and the doctors said that he probably died on impact. This was before the seatbelt laws and his truck didn’t have doors.”
“Myra, Myra!” Willow used her napkin to dab at her eyes. “How terrible.”
“I know. Yes, it was terrible. Terrible in every way imaginable.” Myra’s heart felt heavy, as it always did when she thought about the difficult year that followed. “Rudy’s kid brother, Jack, was living with us at the time. You’ve met him.”
“Jack? The guy who comes to play poker with you and the others here? I didn’t know he was your brother-in-law!”
“Yep. He lived with us after he left home, trying to get his feet under him. He was younger than Rudy by seven years, and when my husband died, Jack took it on his own shoulders to look after me.” She shook her head briskly, remembering, her hair swishing around her jawline in opposite motions. “That was no easy task for any man, let me tell you, no less for a twenty-five year old who had just lost the brother he loved like a father. Aye-yi-yi! I was loco with grief, and I couldn’t understand why God didn’t take me, too, and one night, I took out my misery on poor Jack. I screamed at him, I called him all sorts of terrible names, I told him to leave me alone, to get out and let me die. And that boy, he just took it. He stood there while I threw things at him. Dishes, a lamp, books, whatever I could get my hands on. Sure, he ducked and dodged as best he could, but he just stood his ground and let me attack him.” She snorted softly, remembering. “I finally stopped throwing things when he started bleeding. I hit him with a hummingbird figurine Rudy had given me to remind me of Costa Rica, and it split open his forehead.” She lifted a hand and drew a line down the side of her face with her forefinger.
Willow just shook her head in response, as though she could find nothing to say.
“When I saw the blood gushing down the side of his face, I passed out. Laid out, cold. Jack carried me to the couch, and when I came around, and we’d both calmed down a little, I took him to the hospital to get stitched up.” She grinned sheepishly at Willow. “He told the doctor he ran into an open cupboard door.”
“My goodness! I’ll never look at Jack the same again.”
“I know. The man deserves a cape. He’s been my hero ever since.” Myra waved a hand in the direction of her foot. “And ever since then, I pass out at the sight of blood. Last night, I mistook my lightheadedness and tingling fingertips as the effects of a rattle snake bite, but it was really just because the sight of my own blood was making me woozy.”
Willow shook her head slowly several times before finally leaning forward to speak. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“Who? What do you mean?” But Myra knew exactly who and what the girl was talking about. “Jack?”
“Yes, Jack.” One of Willow’s curls kept dropping down over her forehead and getting caught in the eyelashes of her left eye. After repeatedly tucking it back up into the clip, she released the whole pile of hair and let it tumble down around her shoulders.
“He wanted to marry me. He asked me many times,” Myra acknowledged. “But I knew it wouldn’t be fair to him. I’d always compare him to Rudy, my true love, and Jack would always come up short. I couldn’t do that to him. Or to any man, for that matter.” Myra shrugged her thin shoulders. “I never stopped loving Rudy.”
“Did Jack ever get married?” The girl’s voice was low, sad in the aftermath of Myra’s story.
“Yes, he did. He met Linda in night school, and married her. She was his teacher, in fact, and several years older than he was. She was divorced and had two children already, but I’ve never been close to them.” Myra waved her hand around at the room again. “Shortly after he moved out, I sold the home where I’d said goodbye to the three most important men in my life—Rudy, our baby, and then Jack, even though that was my own choice—and bought this little place.” She beamed. “My home.”
Willow’s voice was gentle, understanding. “I feel a little like that about Elderberry Croft. I didn’t buy it, but that doesn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s utterly and completely me over there. No one else’s. And I love it.” She reached out and set her empty plate on the coffee table. “So I have a very nosy question to ask you, then. How does Jack’s wife feel about him coming over here to play cards with you, especially when he looks at you like that?”
Myra felt her cheeks flush. She knew he still had a soft spot for her, had always been a little in love with her, but it surprised her to hear that this young woman could see it so clearly. “Linda died about two years ago.”
“Leaving Jack single again! Available!” There was a new twinkle in Willow’s eye that had nothing to do with unshed tears, and Myra wagged a finger at the girl.
“Oh no, no, no.” She shook her head in time with her words. “It doesn’t work that way when you’re old. We’re comfortable with the way things are. He comes to visit me a little more often, now that his wife is gone, and I’m happy for his friendship. I don’t know what I would do without him, but neither would I know what to do with him. I can’t imagine sharing this place with anyone else, not even Jack.”
“Myra, I think you’re just being stubborn. I think you two should have a date night. I can arrange it for you. Talk to Patti. I’m good at that kind of thing.” Willow’s sadness was quickly dissipating.
“No, no, no, Willow. It’s just too late for some people. I’ll be seventy-two this year, and Rudy isn’t too far behind me. Besides, my doctor says I might not last much longer. My heart isn’t as strong as it used to be.” Myra wasn’t about to admit to this girl that there were times, more often these days, when she noticed Jack looking at her, when she’d turn and find his eyes on her, and quickly look away.
“But maybe your heart will find new strength if you open it up to Jack. It’s never too late for love, Myra. Never!” Willow pushed herself up out of her chair and scooped up the empty plates and mugs, taking them to the kitchen sink where she made short work of washing them.
When she returned to the chair, her mouth was set and her eyes intent. She laced her fingers together on her knees, and said, “Thank you for telling me about Rudy, Myra. And about your baby. And Jack. I’m honored that you shared them with me. I need to go run a few errands, but I’ll be back later to check on you, okay?”
Willow left her with a promise to return at lunch time with food, and Myra sat contemplating her bandaged foot, resting like a prized possession on its pillow. She knew what Jack’s reaction was going to be this afternoon when he came by. Put out, at first, for not calling him last night, then attentive and caring and… and spousal. He would see to it that she had everything she needed. He would offer to sleep on the sofa. He would make sure she took her pain pills and antibiotics, that she ate three full meals, and slept comfortably at night, and didn’t do more than she was supposed to do, and…and all the little things a husband would do for her. All the things she’d missed out on since Rudy left her alone. All the things she’d only glimpsed in the tender gestures Jack had made toward her over the years, held in check first by her resistance, then by his vows to Linda.
She sighed deeply, her mind and heart in a quandary now, Willow’s words making real the thoughts Myra had kept stifled for the last few years. Jack was her dearest friend, and the thought of messing things up by changing their relationship this late in life scared her more than anything. What if it didn’t work? What if Jack’s unrequited love for her had become a habit to him, losing its authenticity? What if he didn’t really love anymore, after all these years? Did she love him enough to risk it?
Jack arrived on her doorstep, all in a fluster, right before noon, a container of her favorite clam chowder from the deli counter at the local grocery store in one hand, a potted petunia in the other. “I got a call from Eddie,” he explained. “He told me you’d been hurt, and needed help.”
“Eddie called you?” Bemused, Myra questioned him again. “How does Eddie know what I need? He hasn’t been by to see me.”
Jack lowered himself into the chair Willow had vacated, and visibly relaxed. “I’m glad to see you’re doing okay. I was really worried when I found out you couldn’t even walk.”
Suddenly Myra caught on. “Willow!”
“Is she the one who went with you to the hospital last night?” Jack frowned, pinning her with an admonishing glare. “And why didn’t you call me?” Just as she’d anticipated.
“She was there when it happened, Jack,” Myra explained. “It was almost the middle of the night and you were sound asleep. By the time you would’ve gotten here, I was already being stitched up.”
“Eddie said you were doing laundry.” Jack shook his head and scrubbed his face with his hands. “Laundry, Myra? At midnight? What if that Shadow character was hanging around here again? What if you ran into him, or some other unsavory fellow? You can’t just wander around in the middle of the night and not expect something bad to happen.”
“Don’t be silly, Jack. The only thing I really have to worry about here is the kind of unsavory fellow who crawls around on his belly in the laundry room, and now, thanks to Eddie, he’s not an issue either. Actually, the only person I have to be afraid of is myself. I’m the one who did this.” She waved dismissively at her foot. “And I’m fine. A couple stitches, a few days with my foot up like a pampered princess, and everything is back to normal. You should stop worrying so much.”
Jack leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. She could see the muscles in his jaw working, twitching, and she knew he was trying to hold back his rebuttal.
“Look, Jack. I have lots of help around here. Willow has already been by to visit and brought me breakfast. I’m sure Kathy will show up at some point today. You know she’s never out of bed before noon, but she’s got my laundry. Eddie is looking out for me, and Al, once he knows I’m disabled, he’ll be over here all the time.”
“Humph. Doesn’t he have a job?” Jack didn’t open his eyes.
“Who? Al? Of course, he has a job. But he’s off work by one in the afternoon every day, so he’ll be available whenever I need help.”
Jack suddenly straightened and sat forward in the chair, just like Willow had done, but with much more vehemence. “Al? Why Al? I’m available, Myra! I’m available now, not at one o’clock. I was available last night at midnight, awake and alert and sitting around doing nothing, but you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t bother asking me. I’m available to bring you breakfast, and do your laundry, and take you back to the hospital for your follow-up appointments. I’m available for anything you need. Or want.”
They stared at each other in stunned silence following his rant, gazes locked across the few feet that separated them. Finally, Jack spoke again, gentler, but no less fervent. “All you have to do is ask, Myra, and I’m yours.”
“Oh.” It was all she could think of to say.
Jack stood and began patting his shirt pockets. “I’m going outside for a smoke. You all right?”
“I’m fine. Thank you.” She didn’t like to cry in front of him because it always made him worry, but she felt the tears welling up anyway. “I’ll just rest for a bit, and when you’re hungry, come back in and we’ll share that soup you brought, okay?” She hoped she looked exhausted, even though she felt so wound up she thought she might start bouncing around the room like a corkscrew.
She watched him as he made his way out to her front porch, quietly pulling the screen door closed behind him. At one time, Jack was a tall man, but now his shoulders sloped away from his neck and rounded over his chest, as if protecting his heart, the organ that took up residence behind his ribcage. He’d never been heavy, but his lean frame now looked gaunt to Myra, like he’d lost weight since losing Linda. And perhaps he had. Linda had done most of the cooking for them, even up until those last days before she slipped away in her sleep. Myra had been the grateful recipient of Linda’s wonderful meals for thirty-odd years, and even though she hadn’t ever gotten to know Linda’s children well, the two women had been friends, if not bosom buddies.
Maybe Jack was just lonely. After all, he’d never really lived alone. He went from his mother’s home, to their home, then to Linda’s home, and now, for the first time in his life, he lived all by himself. Myra remembered that feeling, right after Jack married and moved out, how vacant her house—and subsequently, her life—seemed, and when a friend told her about The Coach House Trailer Park and the mobile home up for sale, she’d jumped on it, desperate for a change, for new life, for new faces and new scenery.
She said a teary goodbye to the ghosts of Rudy and little Rudy who had taken to wandering around their home right before she moved, and when she climbed into the front seat of Jack’s overstuffed station wagon, she didn’t look back. Jack reached for her across the console, and she let him wrap his sturdy, work-roughened, and very real fingers around her hand. They drove in silence together, and she couldn’t imagine making that journey with anyone else.
Myra awoke some time later to the sound of muffled voices outside the front door. Men’s voices, and there were at least two, maybe more. She lay still, trying to pick out the different timbres, identifying cadences that determined who was out there. Jack, of course, Al, and it sounded like Eddie, and another voice, too. Who could that be? Opening one eye, she peered up at the plain white clock on the wall beside the pantry. Good gracious! She’d been asleep for over an hour!
Sitting up, she carefully lowered her foot to the floor, and reached for the pair of crutches leaning against the end of the couch. She needed to use the restroom, and she really did not need all those silly men out there offering to help her. She’d do it on her own, quickly, before they found out she was awake.
As she hobbled and wobbled the short distance to the bathroom, she thought about Shelly Little over in Space #8, and how she’d fallen and twisted her ankle just a month or two ago. She, too, had been forced to keep her foot elevated, but she’d borrowed a walker from Richard Davis in Space #10, who had an extra one. “I need to call Patti,” Myra muttered, feeling clumsy and dangerous on the crutches. In just one morning of using them, her armpits were already sore, her left hip was aching from the strain of supporting her weight, and her neck and shoulders were tight and tense. And all she’d really done was get in and out of bed, and up and down off the sofa a few times to go to use the restroom. This simply would not do.
Besides, maybe, just maybe, she’d pick Patti’s brain about the date night Willow had set up for the Davis’ back on Valentine’s Day. Maybe.
She tripped her way into the small room, closed the door behind her, and leaned against the vanity counter, lifting her gaze to look at her reflection. “Aye-yi-yi!” Myra’s thin, silky hair tangled nest-like around her face, as though she’d tossed and turned for hours, and the shadows beneath her eyes belied the truth that she’d slept well. “Thank goodness those boys didn’t see me like this!” She reached for a brush, and as she did, one crutch slipped out from under her arm and crashed to the floor, the aluminum frame clanging loudly against the porcelain toilet bowl on the way down, startling Myra with how loud it was. Without thinking, she took a step and let out a cry of pain, and a moment later, Jack was pounding on the door.
“Are you all right in there?”
Trying not to moan, she dropped clumsily to the toilet, and bent over to take a look at her foot. Fortunately, she saw no blood seeping through the white gauze; she was a little worried about toppling over in a dead faint all alone. “I’m fine, Jack. I’m just using the toilet. I’ll be right out.”
Several minutes later, she emerged from the bathroom, thrusting her shoulder against the lightweight door. Jack stood only a few paces away, and around her dining table, sat Eddie, Al, and Eddie’s younger brother, Donny. Of course. He’d moved back in with Edith last month, and wherever Eddie was, Donny was also. Eddie wasn’t letting Donny out of his sight these days, and Myra thought that was a good thing. As handsome and charming as Donny was, the guy was trouble, with a capital T. In the month he’d been here, she’d seen him stumbling in at all hours of the night, usually a bit on the toasty side, slurring his words and singing raunchy country songs about beautiful bodies and blue jeans. Myra had known Edith and her boys for years, and she knew Edith was blind to her younger son’s true nature, poor woman. Clearly, Eddie was trying to step in and teach Donny some responsibility, but Myra couldn’t help wondering how effective it would be in the long run. Donny didn’t seem inclined to change, at least not when Eddie was all tucked up in bed at night and the younger man was cut loose.
They all watched her in silence as she made her way back to the sofa, Jack right behind her, both hands extended, ready to catch her if she happened to go down. When she was seated, and had repositioned her foot back up on the cushions with Jack’s help, she turned to her audience and flashed a self-conscious, but pleased smile. “Hi guys.”
A rumbling chorus of male greetings filled the room, and Myra giggled. “So does this mean we’re still playing Poker? I just need to eat a little first, okay?”
Just then, there was a knock on the door, and Willow’s wild-hair-framed face peered in through the open screen door. “Hi Myra! Hi guys! Can I come in?”
Myra beckoned with her hand, and turned back to the men at the table, preparing to ask one of them to dig out the cards from her junk drawer. But the look on Donny’s face stopped her, and she clamped her mouth closed as she watched the strangest set of expressions pass back and forth between Eddie and Donny. What on earth was going on?
Donny stared at Willow for several moments, his sapphire blue eyes wide with appreciation. Then his brows raised in question, and his gaze darted from Eddie to Willow, then back again. Eddie, in return, scowled and blushed—he actually blushed!—and although it was just barely noticeable, Myra saw him shake his head quickly, his eyes narrowing, warning, maybe even threatening.
Donny stood and crossed the room, holding the door open for the woman. “Come in,” he welcomed her, and stuck out a hand. “You must be our new neighbor in Space #12.”
Willow smiled politely, and returned his handshake, but Myra was pleased to see the girl wasn’t responding to Donny with much warmth. Smart cookie, she thought. She knows a cad when she sees one.
“I’m Donny, Eddie’s brother, and Mom’s favorite.”
“Nice to meet you, Donny.” And with that, Willow withdrew her hand, and stepped around the man, quickly crossing the room to the chair she’d sat in earlier. Myra didn’t miss the smug grin on Eddie’s face. He almost sneered at Donny, who seemed undaunted by Willow’s obvious dismissal.
“How are you, Myra? How’s your foot? Have you eaten lunch?”
“I’m fine, honey. Jack brought me some soup, but I fell asleep before I could eat any, so I’m just now getting ready to have some.”
“Here you go, Myra.” Jack had already reheated and served up a bowl of the chowder for her, and brought it to her on a tray, with a spoon, a glass of apple juice, and a slice of buttered bread.
“Thank you, Jack.” Myra avoided Willow’s eyes, but her cheeks burned as she thought about their earlier conversation.
“I brought the bread,” Al declared, his voice gruff; almost impatient. “I made it myself. In my bread machine.”
Myra tore off a thick chunk and popped it in her mouth before smiled brightly at him. “Thank you, Al. It’s delicious!” Poor thing. He, too, had once had a thing for her, and she’d even gone out for a meal once or twice with him, but when he tried to make things official between them, she put a stop to that right away. She knew for a fact that Al was just lonely, that he simply wanted female companionship something fierce. Well, she was happy to be his friend, but he was not her cup of tea; not by a long shot. He drank too much, he smoked too heavily, and his red nose and basketball belly protruding from his otherwise slender frame did nothing for her. Al wasn’t a bad sort, and if forced to choose between him and the handsome Donny, she’d take Al any day. No, he wasn’t a bad sort, just not her sort.
She glanced over at Jack who’d located the cards without her asking, and had pulled up a another chair to the table. He nodded attentively, and she brought a spoonful of chowder to her mouth. She loved this soup, and the fact that Jack knew it was her all-time favorite, and had thought about it on his way over, made her belly warm before the soup did. Seemingly satisfied with her silent appreciation, he began shuffling the deck, his movements intentional, methodical.
Donny made his way back to the table, too, but sat opposite his brother, instead of beside him, an impish grin spread across his face. “So, Willow,” he began. “Tell us about yourself. Are you married?”
“Don!” Eddie ground the single syllable out between clenched teeth; quiet, but firm.
“What? It’s just a question.” Donny was enjoying himself.
“Leave her alone.” The statement came out like a sledgehammer strike, and everyone turned to stare at Eddie, surprised by his uncharacteristic insistence.
“It’s all right,” Willow said, standing and turning to face the men seated around the table. But before she could continue, there was another knock on the door. Doc had arrived.
“Come in!” Donny called out. “You’re just in time! We’re getting to know the new girl.”
“Donny.” This time it was a growl. “Show some respect or get out.”
“Seriously? You’re going to kick me out of Myra’s house for wanting to get to know this woman you can’t stop talking about?” Donny leaned back in his chair, his feet just out of range of Eddie’s booted toes, smug and confident. “Beautiful name, by the way. Suits you, Miss Willow Goodhope.” He winked at her. “Or is it Mrs?”
Doc removed his hat as he came inside, and his calculating gaze swept around the room. “Hey, Myra. Good to see you’re alive and well. Ms. Goodhope.” He nodded in Willow’s direction, then he went on to greet the guys. “You making trouble again, Donny-boy?”
It was like a pinprick in a Mylar balloon, the air slowly leaking out, deflating Donny, just a little. No one called him Donny-boy but Doc, and everyone knew it was only because Doc could hardly tolerate the kid. And Donny knew better than to make waves with the soldier.
“Nope. Just curious.”
“Curiosity killed the cat, they say,” Doc commented.
Willow swept gracefully into the kitchen, past the table of men, past Doc still standing just inside the front door, and Myra watched the men’s eyes follow her every move. She shook her head and rested back against the cushions of the couch, her bowl of soup half-eaten. “You don’t have to tell these man-children anything, Willow,” she declared. “They’re only interested in the way your pants fit anyway.”
“Myra!” Willow spun around at the sink, obviously surprised, but a grin played across her mouth.
“What? Look at them. They’re all but drooling, just watching you walk across the room. I’m the invalid here, and no one is even looking at me.”
“I am.” Jack spoke quietly, and sure enough, Jack’s whole body was turned toward her, every ounce of his attention on her.
“Thank you, Jack. Now the rest of you. Are you going to be polite to Willow, or am I going to have to insist on you leaving?”
The laugh that burst out of the red-haired girl startled everyone, and when Willow stopped chuckling, she said, “You guys are awesome. I’m so glad you’re treating me like one of you, looking out for me like I’m your kid sister. I was an only child, you know.” And with that, Willow effectively declared her position in the group as a sister, a family member, not a potential love interest. She filled a glass with water for herself, then turned and leaned against the sink. “Donny, in answer to your question, I honestly don’t know if I’m still married or not. I don’t believe I am. And in answer to the question none of you asked out loud; the man you all refer to as Shadowman? He told Eddie he was my husband. He might be right. I haven’t been to court to make sure, but I suppose it’s time I take care of this, isn’t it?”
The room filled with silence, then finally, Doc spoke. “Ms. Goodhope, you do what you need to do. You’re safe here with us, you hear? You have nothing to worry about while you’re living in this park.” He took a step toward the table, pinning the youngest man there with a steely stare. “Isn’t that right, Donny-boy?”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Grow up, and maybe I will.” Doc’s smile never wavered, but his words made it very clear that he didn’t think this was a joking matter. “You’re on Coach House turf now, and you’re going to behave like a gentleman around the ladies.” Then he nodded in Willow’s direction. “We all are. And I’ll start. Thank you for taking care of Myra. And for helping to set a few other things straight around here. I’m not a big one for change, but when it’s good, I can’t argue with it.”
“Thank you, Doc.” Willow replied. “I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has said to me in a long time.”
“Here, here!” Myra raised her glass of apple juice in the girl’s direction. She really wanted a glass of Sangria, but her doctor had warned her about mixing her pain pills with alcohol. Maybe this was a good time to learn to cut back a little on her consumption.
By the time the card games were over and the house was empty again, save for Jack and Willow, Myra was exhausted. “But I’m so antsy,” she declared. “I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin!”
“I wonder if it’s your pain medicine,” Willow suggested.
Myra shook her head. She knew what it was, and it wasn’t an allergy to any medication. She needed a drink. Not badly. Not to the point where she’d go crazy if she didn’t get one. But just enough that she knew settling down would be nearly impossible without a half a glass of Sangria. Taking a deep breath, she admitted it to them. “It’s withdrawals, I’m sure of it. My body is craving a drink something awful. But I’m not allowed any alcohol because of my pain medication.” She tried to keep it nonchalant, but her voice caught a little, and she had to swallow hard before continuing in a half-whisper. “I think I drink too much.”
“Well, then this is a good opportunity to get that under control.” Willow was beside her in a moment, dropping down to sit on the very edge of the sofa. She took Myra’s hand and stroked the back of it with her long, pale fingers. “You know what I believe? I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and understanding, has a way of taking even the ugly things in life and using them for His good, for our good. Maybe all of this is His way of reminding you of what’s important.” She reached over and smoothed a strand of hair away from Myra’s face, then shot a quick sideways glance at Jack, who hovered close by. “What can we do to help? What can I do?”
Myra shook her head, tears starting to form. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I just feel awful. And guilty. And so embarrassed. If I hadn’t been drinking last night, I wouldn’t be lying here like a silly old lady with the shakes, my foot all busted up.”
“Hush. Stop.” Jack came around the coffee table and perched on the arm of the couch, resting his large, knobby hand on the top of her head. She instantly felt covered, cared for.
“Willow?” Her voice was quiet, her request something she hadn’t really considered until she opened her mouth to ask. “Would you—I mean, I’d love it if you’d…if you’d bring your guitar over and sing a few songs for me. It would be like David playing and singing for King Saul to soothe his spirit.” Where did that Sunday School memory come from?
“I’d love to!” Willow’s face lit up at the suggestion. “And if that will help soothe your spirit, even better. Although,” she shrugged, smiling wistfully. “I don’t know how soothing it will be without the background vocals of the stream. That thing is like music to my soul.”
Several minutes later, Willow settled back in the forest-green armchair, her guitar, obviously old by the wearing away around the strings, propped on her lap in that funny way, the neck standing almost upright. Willow explained when she saw Myra’s curious look.
“This was my daddy’s guitar and when he first started teaching me to play it, I was too little to comfortably reach the frets and strum at the same time. So he had me hold it upright like this. I can play it the other way, but this is how I prefer to play. My poor daddy regrets letting me cheat every time I play for him.”
Jack sat comfortably in a chair pulled up close to Myra, nursing a cup of coffee. He’d brought a cup to Willow, but Myra declined. “The caffeine might make me feel worse,” she sighed.
Willow gently strummed the strings as she adjusted the tuning pegs, her head dipped low over the guitar. Then she began to play, soft chords at first, followed by flowing arpeggios, her fingers moving fluidly even as she kept rhythm by tapping the hollow instrument with her pinky finger. It was an old hymn, one Myra recognized, about a fountain of blessings, and it flooded her with comfort.
Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
The song continued for a few more verses, Willow’s playing remarkably like Celtic stringed instruments and Irish drums, her lilting voice adding to the effects. When she eased into the song she’d been playing the night before, Myra sighed, and turned to find Jack watching her, the emotion in his eyes raw and unfiltered.
This time, she didn’t turn away, but held his gaze, letting her own filters fall away as Willow’s song continued to wash over her.
In the lingering silence I still hear your whispered sigh.
But your hand in mine tells me you’re leaving
You must not know how much I need you
That every moment you stay keeps me breathing.
So far away, you’re drifting, so far from me,
I can’t reach you anymore, anywhere.
But my heart won’t set you free.
Why couldn’t she and Jack find happiness together? Why did she insist on holding him at bay, on denying the fact that she breathed easier—that she breathed at all—because he was in her life? Wasn’t forty-five years of mourning enough?
In the echoes of twilight, I still hear your whispered sigh
Your words like storm clouds sweeping in
You must not know how much I love you
That every beat of my heart calls out your name.
Come closer, my beloved, be near to me.
Just hold on to me, I’m here.
My heart won’t set you free.
She held out her hand, her fingers reaching for him, the beat of her heart calling out his name. “Jack,” she whispered, knowing he wouldn’t hear her over the beautiful music.
But somehow he did. His calloused palm brushed against hers like promises on a summer day.
Come closer, my beloved, be near to me.
Your love has set me free.
The End of Part 6: June Melody
I hope you enjoyed learning more about the mother hen of the Coach House Trailer Park, Myra Cordova, in Part 6: June Melody.
Do come again in July for Part 7: July Madness.