Please accept my sincerest apology for the thieving delay. We apparently haven’t been kicking her backside frequently enough.
As we walked back into the field, we generously doled out the crap to Alison for what everyone agreed was a cruel prank. Actually, a few deemed it so cruel that they suggested she be disqualified from competing for the illustrious Bimbo Babe. But, like I said, it was crap. I assumed there were others in the mob who saw it as gutsy—especially for Alison. Plus, she was quick thinking—damn quick. I hadn’t even decided whether I could credibly pull a prank, and there she was, having us all running before the damn trees were even planted.
The trees. Yes, the trees. Let’s see. Where were we?
“Let’s get going on Susan and Maggie’s trees,” Holly said.
She continued, “Maybe by then, Janice will be back.”
Claudia swatted Alison. “You and your partner have been very disruptive today.”
Spontaneously, Alison caved. “I’m sorry!” She squinched up her face. “I really am. I—”
Claudia swatted her again. “Don’t you dare apologize. Fair is fair.”
Susan snorted a laugh. “Alison, we need to get in our weekend quota of complaining. Oh, and thank you for timing your—” She spun to look at Maggie. “I forgot to hit the bathroom when we were at the house.”
“Want me to give you another ride?” I turned to point at the wheelbarrow I assumed sat right behind me. Except in the fervor of our complaining, no one had thought to bring it back with us. I pointed at the house. “I can go get the wheelbarrow.
“Thanks, Kate,” Susan said. “I’m okay at the moment. Let’s just get our trees in.”
We hurried to do just that.
Laura and Maggie were halfway through digging the plum-tree holes when a honking horn heralded Janice’s return. She got out of her big-ass SUV, loudly issuing apologies and making sure she wasn’t too late to plant her and Alison’s trees. Holly assured her we were nowhere near finished.
“Does anyone want any coffee?” the redhead shouted. “I’m buying.”
I wildly wagged my hand in the air as did several others.
“You got it,” she said before disappearing into the house.
Digging resumed, and shortly, Janice appeared with a carafe wedged between her ribcage and arm, and mugs dangled from various fingers. I helped her distribute the trove.
As I sipped the blazing hot stuff, I listened to Holly questioning Janice about Noelle and her missing key.
“It’ll show up,” Janice assured her. “Probably in some stupid place right in front of her face.”
Holly returned to the group, and Janice clinked her mug to mine, wanting to know whether she had missed anything.
Easily guessing her reaction, I was not at all thrilled to tell her what Alison had done.
“Go, Al!” she roared before I even finished telling the tale. “That’s my girl!”
Mightily, they high-fived, and any remorse Alison might’ve had frickin’ blew away on the pollen-carrying wind.
That, of course, caused the bitching to begin anew, and that, of course, caused Alison and Janice to recount our dastardly deed of picking the flags from their area as they tended to the injured Claudia. That, of course, would’ve escalated the whole thing had Holly not screamed, “Florist!”
My entire body flinched and flooded itself with adrenalin.
Following Holly’s pointing finger, we whipped our heads to the road to see a little white utility truck pulling onto their lane. Big green letters on the side spelled “Pender Floral.” By the time it stopped parallel to their front door, Holly stood beside it.
With great busybody-ness, we watched a man exit the truck and head to the rear with Holly in tow. As the door swung open, she nearly jumped up and down with excitement. Then, she dashed into the house and raced back out seconds later. She handed something to him, and astute reporter I am figured it was a tip. He took his turn to hand her something, and then he slammed shut the door.
Obviously giddy, she skipped her way back to us, carrying a huge paper-wrapped bouquet. “Somebody sent me flowers!” she proclaimed. “Was it you, babe?”
Laura mastered the deer-in-headlights look. I doubted she was uncertain whether she had sent them or not so I assumed she hadn’t. She probably just did a panicky run through of her mental calendar in case she had missed something: something big, something unforgivable, something fatal. She cleared her throat. “Is there a card?” she asked her.
“Getting there,” Holly answered as she undid the stapled top. Then, with little white envelope finally in hand, she shoved the bouquet at Ginny, who held it for her. She removed the card, read, and then smiled very broadly. “It says, ‘To the love of my life.’” Her eyes sped to Laura. “Awww,” she gushed as did a few others. Then, very unceremoniously, she seized the bouquet from Ginny and ripped off the paper to reveal a humungous bouquet of red tulips and white lilies. Nearly bowling Laura over, she and the bouquet gave Laura a tremendous hug. “That’s so sweet, babe! Thank you so much.” She kissed her a big long one.
Now, you know Laura well enough to understand that having her sentimentality on display causes her great embarrassment. Yet, she did not look embarrassed. Contrarily, she didn’t look happy for pleasing Holly, and she didn’t look damn proud of herself for scoring partner points. Nope. Nothing. Nada. It was the blankest frickin’ expression I had ever seen. Something was not right.
“I’ll get them in a vase for you, Hol,” Laura volunteered, dropping her shovel and nearly ripping the bouquet from her. “We wouldn’t want them to wilt.”
“You are so sweet, babe!” She turned to us. “Isn’t she the sweetest? I am so lucky.”
Laura nearly sprinted to the house.
No. Something was not right. Odds were damn good she had not sent them. But, then, who the hell had? Was Holly naive enough to assume that all sweet things in the world came from Laura? Um, okay, yes, I had to admit she was. But, why the hell hadn’t Laura told her she had not sent them? Um… Because she was off dispatching a SWAT team to surround the house of whomever had? Jesus, who the hell had? Noelle? Jesus, no! As sisters, they were very close, but “love of my life” did not at all summarize their relationship. Who, then? Who? My eyes traveled to the house, knowing full well it contained someone going nuts. I imagined the SWAT team’s sirens.
Continuing to monitor the front door, I half-listened to Holly carrying on about being the luckiest person in the universe. No one argued the point. Then, she urged Maggie to resume digging while she took to the hole Laura had been working on.
Quite a few moments passed before that front door finally released Laura in our direction. Intently, I watched her approach, and as she neared me, she simply stared at me, her eyes narrowed in seriousness.
“B-word,” I cautiously teased.
“F-er,” she replied.
Her laugh made me figure she was all right, that any crap had been drown in a vase of flower stems. Or, maybe she had fingerprinted the card and relaxed, trusting the SWAT team to take care of the rest.
Maybe I was wrong; that happened on occasion. Maybe she had sent them, But, still, why the weird reaction? Okay, maybe she had sent them, but the florist screwed up the order. Maybe they should’ve been delivered on Monday, not on a crowded Saturday. That was plausible.
She headed to the plum-planters who were now depositing naked root balls into the holes. Holly kissed Laura before speeding off to do her crooked/not-crooked thing. Laura looked at me and shook her head.
What the hell did that mean? I wanted the goddamn scoop: Did she or did she not send the frickin’ flowers, and if not, who the hell did? I wanted a goddamn “Sutter! Cigarette?” to give me the opportunity to solve the mystery.
But, that was not to happen. As the plum-planters filled their holes, Holly asked whether Alison and Janice or Claudia and I wanted to plant our trees next. Claudia and I looked at each other, shrugged, and then looked to yoga and massage. Janice, however, simplified the decision-making process.
“You guys go,” she said. “I screwed things up by leaving so we’ll go last.”
“Holly, Kate and I will go,” Claudia announced.
“Go for it,” she said, “and let’s see if we can actually get them planted without any interruptions. Although, getting flowers wasn’t really an interruption.”
A few of them groaned rather loudly, probably in preemptive protest of another nauseating soliloquy on Holly’s luck and Laura’s sweetness.
Claudia and I grabbed shovels, and Laura pointed to the specific spots where we were to dig. I aimed the shovel and was about to shove it in when Ginny ripped it from my hands. The unexpected jarring nearly landed me on my ass.
“I’ll dig it for you, Kate,” Ginny volunteered.
“What? Why?” This was my frickin’ hole where my frickin’ apple tree would share its pollen with the green-eyed one’s. “I’ll dig it,” I assured and tried to get my shovel back from her.
She would not relinquish it. Instead, she slammed it into the ground and then jumped on it to force it into the earth.
“Ginny!” I yelled, but she paid no mind. Then, it dawned on me. “Ginny, I know what the hell you’re doing. Knock it off.”
“Just let me,” she said, depositing the first hunk of dirt. “I want to.”
Her actions were penance; I knew that. How the hell, though, could she figure that digging a hole for me would be reparation for what happened between her and my mother? Then again, I could ask her to army crawl across the field for me, and she would have. She would’ve done anything I asked of her—and the more demeaning the request, the more eager she probably would’ve been.
When she aimed the shovel anew, I grabbed it and yanked with all my might, except despite her petite stature, she had one hell of a grip.
“Just let me dig the hole for you!” she pushed. “You’re angry with me. We have issues. It’s the least I can do.”
I wanted to scream. “You’re making it an issue. You’re putting it between us—every frickin’ chance you get. How many times do I have to—” I became suddenly aware of many, many eyes staring at us. Instinctively, I shut my mouth and tried to get the shovel from her before she stabbed it into the ground again.
“What issue?” Susan asked.