Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter 30


   “Soon,” the contractor said. “Soon, Mrs. Grant.”

  
“Soon is a relative term, Mr. Campos. Can you give me a firm date?” I asked as we stepped over, around and through construction, looking at the week’s progress, which actually was considerable. Workmen were present this Saturday, setting tile in the master bath, finishing cabinet installation in the expanded kitchen and pantry, and installing pot lights high up in the newly vaulted ceilings in the living and dining areas. Last week they had finished laying tile in the kitchen. I had seriously wanted to keep the old linoleum, but Campos had shown me several patches beyond repair and warned of the dangers of asbestos. I’d relented and picked out a durable tile to match the cabinets he was installing.
   “I think I’ll have it all finished mid-August, including the final walk-through. It’s gone really well. The weather has held. Even though everyone else in the state wants rain...needs rain, it has made it easier for us. Now if we can just get those granite countertops from Fort Worth, we’ll be in good shape.”
  “If?”
  
   “Don’t worry. I’ll have you in by the fifteenth at the latest. I promise. Contract calls for penalties if I don’t, and I’m not real fond of penalties,” he said with a smile. “By the way, is that yellow tabby cat hanging around yours?”

 
“What? No, it’s not. What yellow tabby cat?”

  
“I think she’s lying on the back deck right now. Been here almost every day ... just  makes herself at home. Real friendly gato.”
   “Well, not my gato. I’m sure she belongs to one of the neighbors. No later than August 15th you say?”
   I liked this man and thought he was doing a great job with my additions. He’d even made some suggestions for improvements beyond the architect’s plans, and I have taken some and left some, choosing to spend my money wisely on quality upgrades with no frills.

  
“Definitely.”

  
“That’ll work. Thanks,” I said, relieved somewhat. An original estimate by the architect of six weeks’ work had been stretched to eight by the contractor, and I was eager to get settled in my new house. And was excited that afternoon because Colin was coming to see it for the first time. I was hoping he would approve. Then I asked myself what would happen if he didn’t. “Nothing,” was my answer ... I loved it, and that was all that mattered. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what he thought. 
   Late in the afternoon Colin knocked on the open front door, peering in, curious about what type of house Maggie would live in, and what type of additions she’d approved. He didn’t much like changing the feel of a house, and he hoped she hadn’t modernized the charming cottage too much. But who was he to judge? It was her house, after all. Still, it would be interesting to see what she’d done.

   Hearing the knock, I stepped out of the kitchen area and invited him in. He began looking around and then heard a deep voice bellowing, “Murphy!”
  He turned and smiled broadly at my contractor. “Campos! Don’t tell me you’re here robbing this little lady blind? How are you friend?” They shook hands and slapped each other’s shoulders enthusiastically as I frowned ... Uh oh, I thought. Robbing me blind?
   “Bueno, Murphy, but tell her the truth. I’m the best damn contractor in Lubbock County, with the most reasonable and fair prices, and you know it. ’Fess up, amigo!”
   Still smiling broadly, Colin turned to me, “He’s right. He really does quality work and is honest to the core. How’d you find him? Yellow pages luck?”

 
“Uh, why no. Doug recommended him.”

 
“Doug? The guy you were with at La Diosa?”

  
“Yes, Sharon’s guy. Remember?” Why did it bother me he thought I was with another man?

  
“Oh, Sharon’s Doug. Yeah, I remember.” Turning back to Campos, he said, “So show me around, mi amigo. What damage have to done to this beautiful old house?”
   “Damage?” he said in mock horror. “I’ve brought out it’s full potential, my friend. Wait ‘til you get a load of this master suite ... it’s a beauty ... and then there’s the studio outside, but we’re not near done with anything yet ... there’s still ...” and they disappeared into the back of the house, leaving me standing by the front door, arms crossed in wonder.

   “Maggie?” I heard Colin yell a minute later. “You comin’?”

  
I’m coming, I said to herself. After all, it is my house.

   By the time we’d finished the contractor’s grand tour, all the workmen had gone for the day, and Campos left the two of us alone, promising to be back to work early Monday and to call Colin soon for a night of poker.
   Still looking around at all the details, I followed Inspector Colin, amused at his “mms” and “oohs,” wondering if he really liked it.

   Going through the entire house once more, opening drawers, cabinets and closets, looking at the workmanship, the style, running his large hands over the corners and carvings, he returned to the living area and stood next to the huge stone fireplace, turning to me. “This is well done, Margaret Grant. Well done.”
   “Thank you, Professor Murphy. Your admiration is appreciated.”

   “Actually, it’s better than well done. I’d say you upgraded the charm and functionality of the house without sacrificing its character. I can’t imagine how it could be better. If you paid a fair price for this ... and I’m sure you did, you’re turning it into a good investment property. And I’d kill for a studio like that  — the wall of windows was brilliant. Did you know you can see the park from there?”

  
“Yes,” I said laughing, “I did know. But I’m turning it into a home, not an investment property.”
   “Right, a home. But still, the return on your dollar would be impressive.”
   “I’m planning on staying quite a while in my home,” I said, emphasizing the word “home.”
   “Okay, I got it. I’m impressed ... you seem to be a woman of many talents.” He moved toward me, giving me a direct gaze before putting his arms loosely around my waist.

 
Surprised, I put my hands on his upper arms, leaned back and looked up at him skeptically. He bent down and kissed my forehead lightly, released me suddenly and said, “I’m starved! What’s for dinner?”

  Startled, and a little breathless, I said after a moment, “Ah, Murphy, as you saw when you walked through the kitchen three times, I don’t have ...”

  
A solid knock on the front door cut me off. Colin went to the door, opened it wide and grinned. Josh stood there, a huge McAllister’s restaurant bag in one hand, two giant drinks in the other.

   “Josh!” I said, pleasantly surprised.
   “Mrs. Grant! How nice to see you. Mom said she’ll be in town in a few weeks and wants to personally deliver your cleaned blanket. Said she’d be in touch, so she’ll call you soon!”
    Colin took the food, handed it to me, and gave Josh several bills that included a large tip, judging by the young man’s grin as he left, calling out, “Good night! And thanks, Murphy!”
   “Dinner’s here, m’lady. I remember you eat club sandwiches, and I ordered one sweet tea and one regular ... you choose.” He made a makeshift table with discarded wood and two saw horses. Then found boxes for chairs, brushing away sawdust.

  
“Well, bring it here, Mrs. Grant, don’t just stand there. I’m hungry, remember?”
   I moved toward him, handing him the fare. Just then, a flash of yellow caught my eye, and I turned to see an enormous tabby cat running down the hallway to the master bedroom, tail high in the air.
   “Your cat?” Murphy asked.
   “No! Can you help me get her out of here?”

  
“Why? There’s lots of windows open. She’ll probably leave in a few minutes ... just curious about the renovations, I’m sure. You sure she’s not yours?

  
“Of course I’m ... Let’s eat, Murphy.”
   Grinning, he opened the bag to set food on the table and said, “I’d told Josh I’d be by McAllister’s the week after the Fourth with a big tip but didn’t get the chance, so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. My promise to Josh and seeing this house you’re renovating. I got you an oatmeal raisin cookie. Figured you for the oatmeal raisin cookie-type. Is that right? Sit, sit.”
I laughed as I sat,. “Oatmeal raisin’s my favorite.” This man was full of surprises, wasn’t he? I opted for the regular tea to balance out the cookie.

   We spent the evening eating our take-out and then walking the block, commenting on the quaint old houses, planning my garden tasks, and getting to know each other better. With relief, I noticed the visiting cat cross the neighbor’s yard. I needed to make certain all the windows were shut tight.

   I showed Colin the studio space again, talking about my desire to start drawing and painting, although it’s been years since I’ve touched either sketchpad or canvas.
    “It was hard for me to get started designing when I first came here, too ... to Lubbock, that is. The classes helped, and one thing just led to another. I think the first step is always the most difficult in the creative process. At least it is for me. But then once I get going, I sort of lose myself in it. I love transforming wood into something useful as well as good-looking. Functionality and form, as I tell my students.”

  
“What type of things do you build or design?”

 
“Design and then build. Mainly furniture. Cabinets, desks, benches, things like that. I like detailed work but in a finished product that looks simple, like the wood was always meant to be that way. Like Campos did on those kitchen cabinets of yours. That’s real quality there, you know. You’re lucky to have him on the job. It’ll really pay off for you in the long run ... great investment.”

 
“Home, Murphy. Home. And I like quality. Do you hire out? Do commissions, I mean?”

  
“Only for special people,” he said smiling at her. “What’d you have in mind?”

  
“Oh, nothing, yet. I haven’t enough furniture to fill this place, just some mattresses and box springs in storage, so I don’t know what I need or want. But maybe we can talk about it after I’ve moved in ... hopefully in mid-August.”
   “Is that when Campos said he’d be finished?

  
“Yes. August 15th at the latest.”

  
“His word’s good as gold, so August 15th it is. I know some Saddle Tramps who’d love to earn a little cash by helping you move in. You have some furniture in storage you said?”
   “Yes, but not much. Probably need only two guys. Who would you recommend? Josh? Jamie? Will he be back by then do you think?
   “Josh for sure, and if Jamie’s not back, I volunteer my services, but mine won’t cost you. I’ll check with them if you’d like, and we’ll plan the move for the Saturday after completion. How does that sound?”
   “That’s great, thanks. I’ll count on it,” I said, pleased he would commit to helping several weeks away. That meant he was either an extremely considerate man, or he enjoyed my company enough to imagine seeing me through the next month, at least.

   “That way, I can see what furniture you do have and how large of a commission I can talk you into,” he said with a mouthful of leftover cookie and twinkle in one impossibly green eye.
   Mercenary, I thought.

   When darkness fell, we sat on the stone wall of the front porch and looked out over the serene park, watching stars begin to twinkle in the sky. 
   “As a student,” I said, reminiscing, “I played in that park. Flew kites, kissed a boy or two, and made snow angels on the slopes of the playa over there. But we called it Flint Park back then because Flint Street runs right next to it.”

  
“Makes sense. What’s it called now?”

  
“Tech Terrace Park.”

  
“Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Isn’t that the name of the neighborhood?”

  
“It is, but it’s still Flint Park, to me.”

   “Kissed a boy or two, huh?” Colin asked playfully.
   “Or three,” I said smiling, remembering again the Saddle Tramp with the red corduroy shirt.

  Around 10 o’clock, Colin bid me good night with a light peck on the cheek, saying he needed to be up for early Mass. He wanted to see me again. Could he call next week? The Cactus Theater is playing Poker and Lace again on Saturday. We could get tickets, maybe? 

 
“Yes, especially if you bring cookies,” I told him playfully. After he left, I closed all the windows because of the nosy cat and locked the doors because of the construction equipment inside. Then climbed into my Volvo and headed for the Nest, grinning like a schoolgirl who’d just been asked to the prom. Of course he could see me next week ... with or without cookies ... and the next and the next.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chapter 29

   Just before noon last Wednesday, a shadow darkened my office door and I looked up, startled to see Colin standing there, hands shoulder-high on the door frame, leaning in, looking at me intently. 
   “Hi, Maggie” he said, a tentative look on his face.
   “Hi,” I returned. What was he doing here? An errand from Monsignor Fitz?
   “Free for lunch?” he asked. I started to say no, but heard instead Elaine’s unusually loud voice quickly saying, “Yes, she’s free!”  Colin turned toward Elaine and smiled as she moved to the door, calendar in hand. Sticking her head inside in front of him, a little quieter now, she said, “Well, you are free, Boss. Not a thing on your calendar for at least two hours or so.” 

  
I gave her “the look,” and Elaine retreated to her own desk. “Guess I’m free, Professor Murphy,” I said resignedly, picking up my purse and walking up next to him. He was still smiling, and I walked past him to face Elaine. “I have my Blackberry if you need me.”

  
“Oh, we won’t need you, Boss. You just go and have a nice long lunch. Don’t worry about a thing. Have fun now, you two!” And with that, Elaine ushered us out into the hallway. Although my back was now to her, I was sure she was grinning widely as she watched us walk toward the stairs.


   “My truck’s out front, or we could walk? Thought we’d go to Gardski’s. I’m pretty hungry,” Colin said tentatively.
  “Gardski’s is fine. Haven’t been there in a while,” I replied cooly.
    We opted for a quicker trip in the truck as it was sunny, close to a hundred again with a little bit of hot dust kicking up in the dry wind, and Gardski’s was at least a half-mile up Broadway. I was a tad apprehensive about my freshly dry-cleaned linen suit as we approached the old brown pickup truck — at least I thought it was brown — it was hard to tell with the amount of dirt and grime covering the exterior. But climbing into his filthy vehicle, I was taken aback by the pristine condition of the interior, especially as opposed to the mud-caked outside. It even had modern air conditioning and seat belts, obviously not factory installed judging by the age of the truck. 
“Nice ride,” I said sincerely.
   “Thanks. Had it for a while.”

    A while, indeed, I thought. Must be from the early 60s, with its brown leather bench seat, chrome dash instruments and old radio. A vintage Chevy pickup. If he cleaned the exterior, I think it could have been used in the latest Chevrolet commercials touting durability.

   As we drove the few blocks down Broadway to the restaurant, we talked minimally of the weather and not much more. When we parked, he jumped out and started to walk around to my side, but I was already out and had closed my door before he could help. We walked silently to the restaurant’s front door.
   Gardski’s is a two-story European-style building with high-pitched gables and dark beams crisscrossing the light olive green exterior stucco walls. Sometime in the 1940s, it had been built as a fashionable residence on Lubbock’s main brick street. A wide stone porch now served for outdoor seating, and the living areas downstairs, as well as the upstairs bedrooms, had been converted into small, intimate dining rooms, complete with white tablecloths and decent china. A small bar was also upstairs.
  I was once again taken back 30 years, as this had been a favorite fancy-date destination, but then the restaurant was called the Brookshire Inn. Not much had changed except the name — the food was still unusual and delicious and the hospitality unmatched in the city. We settled into a small corner table in the front room and ordered. Colin evidently was hungry, as he asked for their biggest steak with all the trimmings. I love their spinach artichoke chicken, but opted for the lighter club sandwich on such a hot day.

   When the waiter left, Colin unexpectedly reached across and took my hand in his. I looked up in surprise, started to pull away, but the pain in his face made me change my mind.
   “I’m sorry I haven’t called. I had to go out of town. Jamie Chavez’s mother died and I went to help him take care of things.”

  
“Oh, Colin, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” I put my other hand out to him, and he took that one, too.
   “I wanted to call, but ... but I didn’t,” he said squeezing my hands and then letting go and sitting back. He looked away. “Hard thing to lose your mother.”

   I hadn’t wanted him to let go. In fact, I wanted to move around the table to comfort him. Instead, I looked at him compassionately and said simply, “Tell me.”
   He smiled a little and told me. Jamie had called him around four-thirty the morning after the Fourth, saying it looked pretty bad. His mother had gotten the terminal diagnosis just after Christmas but kept it to herself. When she was hospitalized in mid-June, she allowed the hospice worker to call him. They thought she had only five or six weeks left. When Jamie came, they moved her home so Jamie and hospice volunteers could tend to her around the clock.
   
   She worsened sooner than the doctors anticipated, and Jamie called Colin to help him figure out how to get his elderly grandparents to Idaho as quickly as possible. They live in Canyon, a mid-sized community ninety miles north of Lubbock and were unable to get to their daughter’s side by themselves — both are in their late 70s and speak only rudimentary English. Living on a small pension, they didn’t have the means to fly, nor the necessary skill sets, especially in this time of uncertainty and sorrow for them.

   Colin would bring them — he didn’t have classes just now. Jamie had protested, but Colin had said, “Do you need me, son?”  When the answer was a simple “yes,” he’d made some quick arrangements and headed to Canyon. He picked them up in a rented full-sized sedan — his truck obviously not suitable for this trip. Knowing a parishioner who owned several of Lubbock’s largest car rental facilities and who would, of course, do anything for Father Sean’s brother, allowed Colin to lease the car long before normal business hours. He arrived in Canyon early that morning.

   They drove straight through, stopping only for food, fuel and restrooms, the grateful grandparents—abuelos—taking turns napping comfortably in the large back seat, or praying fervently for their only daughter, worn rosaries constantly moving in their hands. The speedometer showed a steady pace of about 15 miles over the legal limit, but if the grandparents noticed, they understood the urgency of their journey and didn’t protest. Although Colin’s Spanish was much better than their English, conversation was limited since each was preoccupied with their own thoughts.
   Heading north through Amarillo, then across a sliver of the Oklahoma panhandle, they easily reached southeastern Colorado. Colin couldn’t remember if the Caprock made as dramatic a showing this far up on the plains as it did in West Texas. Maybe someday he would drive up here and find out.
  
   Their journey took them north, northwest up to Interstate 70. Making a left turn, they headed for Denver, and in early evening turned north again to Cheyenne. He knew the route through southern Wyoming was a lot less up-and-down than traveling straight west from Denver to Salt Lake City. They stopped for a late dinner at the Crossroads Cafe in Cheyenne, a clean, mid-sized truck stop Colin was familiar with. When they entered, heads turned toward the unlikely trio of travelers.
   Jamie’s grandmother was a tiny woman with the smallest hands Colin had ever seen on an adult. She was slim, plainly attired in an inexpensive print dress with a shawl draped over her thin shoulders despite the heat. Her gray hair was pulled back and piled in a bun, slightly askew from the trip. Standing, she was only as tall as Colin’s elbow. At six feet, three inches, he said he felt like a giant with a china doll, tiny and frail. When she sat in the booth, her feet didn’t come close to reaching the floor.

   Her husband’s feet touched, but only with the help of the thick heels on his snakeskin boots—he wasn’t much taller than his esposa. He wore his best jeans and a Wrangler-style shirt with pearlized snaps. His dark weathered face under the straw cowboy hat revealed decades of hard outdoor labor.
   When they settled in to order, other diners lost interest and returned to their own meals. Along with their hearty dinner entrĂ©es, Colin suggested the fried pickles, assuring them there were none better in the entire country.

  When the cheeky, heavily made-up waitress brought out the order of half a dozen warm sliced pickles with crisp brown crusts, Jamie’s grandfather gathered the courage to try one, declaring it as “No es mala ... no es mala,” but his wife wrinkled her nose, stubbornly refusing to even taste the “evil-looking unnatural things” while crossing herself several times.

   The waitress indignantly turned on her heel and marched back to the kitchen in a huff, obviously insulted. They could hear her loudly relating the “unbelievable behavior of those stupid Texans” to the cook, who peered out at them menacingly through the small order-up window. Although restrained, the men had their first laugh since the beginning of their journey. Jamie’s grandmother was calmly devouring her chicken-fried steak, feet swinging, seemingly oblivious to it all.

   As it grew dark, they followed Interstate 80, part of which was the old Oregon Trail. Colin had been here before and was sorry his passengers couldn’t see the amazing landscape as they crisscrossed rivers and drove through fascinating rock formations. There was one stretch, he remembered, where huge 50-foot boulders looked as though God had been playing on a beach, dripping gigantic globs of wet red sand into softly molded piles resembling make-believe castles.

   Driving along in the dark, Jamie’s grandparents slept, and Colin thought about Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, which, according to signs, were directly to their north now. He’d been through that area twice, the first time as a young FBI agent. The assignment had gone terribly wrong and one of his fellow agents had been killed before they “got their man.” Colin had never experienced the death of someone close to him before, and although he knew he was not to blame, he was surprised at the intensity of his feelings. He had requested, and received, an extended leave of absence.

  After gathering his hiking gear, he’d spent the next few weeks exploring Yellowstone and the mountains high up around Jackson Hole. Living off the land for most of the hike, he had serious discussions with “the big man” about the nature of life and living, right and wrong, good and evil. Sean had joined him for one weeklong leg of the journey, and they’d grown even closer, the young priest and the young government agent exploring their spirituality in the face of the world’s reality.

   Colin had come back to the agency with a new determination – and a newfound inner strength that had served him well during many subsequent assignments and missions, and deaths.

   Much of the reminiscing, the geography and spiritual journey he left out of his accounting to Maggie. When the Gardski’s waiter appeared with their food, Colin seemed surprised and stopped his narration. They ate in silence – automatically and without tasting.

    “You speak Spanish?” I asked matter-of-factly after several bites.
   Without looking up from his plate, he replied in the same manner, “Comes in handy working in Southern California and Arizona.”
  
   I was curious, but now wasn’t the time.

   After a few more bites to quiet his hunger, he continued the story. By dawn’s light, he and Jamie’s grandparents were skirting the northeastern corner of Utah and driving into Idaho, north of the great salt lakes. They’d ended their journey in Blackfoot, Idaho, population just over 11,000 – billed as the Potato Capital of the World. Situated between the western edge of the Salt River Mountain Range and the eastern edge of the Snake River Plain, Colin immediately saw a resemblance to Llano Estacado ... endless flat fields of potatoes could easily be mistaken for endless flat fields of cotton.  Not only was Blackfoot the agricultural center of east Idaho’s potato industry, but it was home to the Idaho Potato Museum. Colin didn’t think he would visit it this trip.
    After taking the grandparents to Jamie’s home, Colin had checked into the nearby Super 8 Motel of Blackfoot, complete with complementary Super Starter Breakfast and a modest price. After some much-needed sleep, he remained on the periphery of the small family to give whatever assistance he could.

   Jamie’s mother had lingered for a full three days after their arrival, accepting Last Rites from her parish priest and spending a little time alone with each of her family members and close friends before she died peacefully in her son’s arms.

   “Jamie was devastated,” Colin said. “He immediately bolted the house and ran down the street. I followed and caught up with him a few blocks away at the high school football field. He was so angry. Angry with God, with the world, with himself for not realizing she was ill.”
   I said gently, “Everybody grieves in their own way. And sometimes, especially if it’s the first time they lose someone close, they act out because they don’t know how to act. My boys ... they grieved so differently from each other for their father. I tried to help, but I was grieving, too. It’s a hard thing to go through, but necessary. I’m glad you were there for him.”
   “I am, too, but maybe Sean should have been there instead of me.”
   “But he didn’t call Sean ... Father Sean ... did he? He called you. He needed you.”

  
“Maybe. Anyway, I planned to stay only through the memorial service but then there were so many details to take care of ... it seemed appropriate for me to be there for the boy. He was still so lost. His mother had been his whole world. Maybe it did help that I was there.”
   “I’m sure it did, Colin. It was an amazing thing to do.” 
He quickly shrugged off the compliment, not even aware I had twice now called him Colin instead of Cailean. I thought he was thinking instead of his brother and of their large family, which always had and always would be there for each other. How fortunate he and Sean were.

    Jamie’s mother had asked to be cremated and have her ashes rest in the cemetery at the small church in Canyon where she grew up.

   Wanting to get away from the memories and return to Texas, Jamie had said, “There’s nothing left for me here now.”  I knew exactly what that felt like, twice over. 
   So he gathered what he wanted to keep of his mother’s possessions and arranged with friends to sell their small house and most of the furnishings.

   Early yesterday, Colin, Jamie and Jamie’s grieving grandparents caravanned back through the Rockies — a little slower this time — to the modest home in Canyon. Jamie was still up there with them, waiting to return to Lubbock in another month for the fall semester, his senior year.

   To his amazement, the first thing Colin had wanted to do when he returned was talk to Maggie. He’d learned long ago to trust his instincts, and sitting there with her he knew he’d been right. The burden had been lightened in the telling.
   “When he gets back,” I said tentatively, “I’m willing to talk with him ... I, um, I lost both my parents when I was about his age.”
     “Maggie, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

    
“It’s not something you would know. But I can tell you it’s hard, just starting out in life to be independent, to be on your own, and then all of a sudden you have to be on your own. There’s no one at home to run to if things don’t go right, or if you get scared.”

  
Now it was Colin’s turn to take her hand and share the pain.
   “I don’t know how I would have gotten though it without Sharon and Carol. They were lifesavers. And Sharon’s parents, too.” I looked away, remembering. After a few moments, I shook my head and took back my hand, saying, “So, I do know what he’s going through, and if he’d like some reassurance that it will get easier, I’m your man ... or woman.” I smiled bravely. 

He gained a new respect for this interesting woman who was, as his brother had said, not his type.

   When he dropped me off back at the office, he asked to see me again. “I’ll phone you later in the week,” he said, and I smiled, already looking forward to the call. Guess he does like me a little, I thought quietly as I walked up the stairs. Good ... because I like him more every time I see him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chapter 28

  
  One week later, there is still no call from Professor Cailean Patrick Murphy. I hadn’t seen him at Mass on the one early morning weekday service I’d attended, nor on Sunday. And Father Sean was always surrounded by admiring parishioners — besides, what would I say to him, “Why hasn’t your brother called me?” That was totally out of the question.

   So last week I concentrated on work at the office and my new house, stopping every day to check on the progress, consulting with the new architect and the contractor who oversees the subcontractors, and making crucial decisions. Although we have really only begun, I am amazed each day at the progress. I’ll have to start shopping for more furniture soon, I know, but it can wait until Sharon gets back at the end of the month. Wish she were here now to talk to. Since there really isn’t any “news” about the “non-priest,” I haven’t made any overseas calls. But I do realize just how much I miss my friends.

   I also miss Doug’s cooking and find myself doing takeout for dinner most nights, once even stopping at McAllister’s—like a fool.  I thought maybe I’d see Josh and could casually ask if he’d moved in to Colin’s house, or something? But Josh wasn’t working that night, and yes, I chided myself all the way back to the Nest. “Silly, foolish woman. That’s what you are Margaret Riley Grant. Acting like a lovesick teenager. I just won’t think about him anymore.” And so I didn’t, at least until I crawled into bed at night.
   Damn him, was what I think whenever I do allow Professor Murphy to come to mind, which unfortunately is often. He’s just not interested in plain-Jane me, I’ve decided. When I think about the La Diosa encounter, isn’t it reasonable to assume if he’d been even a little intrigued, he would’ve at least glanced in my direction that night and surely seen Sharon instead of assuming Doug was my date?
   Damn him. What a fool I’ve been to think a handsome, charismatic guy would be the least bit interested in plain old me. He’d asked me out to dinner because he felt guilty about running me over and eating the last piece of pizza. And Monsignor Fitzpatrick had probably asked him to show some pity for the new widowed parish member, that’s all.
  
   Then why ask me to join him on the Fourth? And why hold my hand? I swear I can still feel the heat of his touch. Damn him. He’s probably holding more than Dixie’s hand right now. 
She wrapped her arms around herself for comfort but found little.