Following through on our threat…
LAC 22 Chapter 2
We spent half an hour chatting and nibbling before the artist and the cop herded us into their living room to “get the show on the road.”
They stood in front of the back door as we overtook the couch and the floor.
“First of all,” Holly began after we settled in, “we’re calling our weekend ‘Arbor Earth Day for April Fools.’”
Laura quickly added, “We thought about adding something to do with taxes and Easter bunnies, but we decided to keep it nondenominational.”
We rolled our eyes as we exchanged the mandatory glances.
Ginny piped in, “Laura, maybe you should’ve added something to acknowledge the fact that you got shot a year ago.”
Laura narrowed her eyes at her, and I wasn’t at all sure whether her pissy look had to do with the subject or the spotlight.
Ginny continued, “The further away we get from that day, the better in my book, but I, for one, think it’s important to be grateful you’re still here and to acknowledge the hard work you did to move beyond it.”
“Hear! Hear!” we shouted just as Holly latched onto the red-faced Laura. It was not with Holly’s usual exuberance, though. It seemed very solemn, and I suspected they, or at least Holly, had observed the horrid anniversary and piled onto the shitload of work both of them had done.
Laura kissed her. “Let’s not go there, Hol,” she said, loud enough, I figured, for us all to be warned. She did, though, toss a thank-you in Ginny’s direction before saying, “Let’s stick with the program and get our weekend underway. Arbor Earth Day for April Fools, Hol,” she reminded.
Holly shook her head, perhaps dislodging thoughts of anything else. Then, she resolutely nodded, drew a deep breath, and feigned a smile. The procedure seemed to cause her bubbles to rise, and finally, she genuinely smiled. “For the Arbor Earth part, we’ll be planting our trees,” she said. Then, in a more excited tone, she explained, “We decided we don’t get to Crappie Cabin often enough to visit our DWD tree so we need a DWD forest.”
I had suspected the bringing of trees had a greater significance than merely landscaping their property and fueling stereotypes about sex-starved lesbian couples. I liked being right, and I liked the idea of a whole forest of DWD trees.
Laura snickered. “A forest conveniently planted on our bare land.”
“But,” Holly quickly said, “we promise, promise, promise to share when our forest starts bearing fruit.”
Again, the mandatory glances ricocheted around the room, and approval was undoubtedly unanimous.
“And for the April Fools part,” Holly happily continued, “it’s really quite simple. Each of us, including Laura and me, has to pull a prank on everyone before nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
What? Pull a prank? … Seriously? Did they not know I sucked at such things? Hell, my face could glow lava red when I merely contemplated something underhanded, and even more so if anything required stealth and/or the appearance of innocence. Me pull a prank? Yeah, right.
I had little time to rue my imminent failure before Laura whiplashed us with specifics.
“At nine, we’ll vote on whose prank was the best, and whoever that is gets Bimbo Babe for the month.”
“Where the heck has Bimbo Babe been?”
“I can’t even remember the last time we saw her!”
“Ginny and I have had her,” Kris boastfully proclaimed, and Ginny jogged our memories, “We won her that weekend last fall when Kate and Claudia tortured us with their Crazy Eights games.”
Janice groaned. “Beads, bucks, and mind—”
Alison’s elbow stopped her from rhyming.
Regardless, that unspoken compound word gave Claudia and I reason to high-five. I began to think maybe there was hope for me. If I could so willfully mess with them then, why the hell couldn’t I pull a frickin’ prank? Okay, if I could think of one.
“Well, we have Bimbo Babe now—at least temporarily,” Holly said, “and winner gets to take her home.” She paused before saying, “One very important rule, though.” Her hands went to her hips, and she severely narrowed her eyes at Susan. “Absolutely no practical jokes having to do with your pregnancy or that baby.”
Laura added, “If you say you’re in labor, you damn well better be in labor.”
Susan gasped with indignation. Hand to heart, she challenged, “Would I ever do such a thing?”
“Yes, you would,” Maggie confidently said, “but you had better not! I would freak.”
“And my babe of a cop would call the paramedics.”
“I would not.”
“And probably a SWAT team.”
“I would not!”
“I would not!”
“And traffic control guys.”
“I would not!”
“Hell, she’d order all traffic to stop.”
“Except for every county cop and city cop in the state that she’d order to the water-breaking scene.”
Laura’s eyes were wide, way wide. “How the hell did this get turned on me?”
“Because you’d freak right along with Maggie, babe,” the artist said, patting the cop’s back. “And you’d jump right into serve and overprotect.”
This, I did not doubt, not at all. At Crappie Cabin when I downed way too frickin’ much champagne, she was seconds from calling an ambulance. Again, at Crappie Cabin, she nearly summoned one to the bottom of a sledding hill when Jaye twisted her ankle. Oh yeah, she’d frickin’ freak all right.
Shaking her head, Detective Overprotective did her best to change the subject. “We’ll plant the trees first, get cleaned up, if need be, and then get a fire going out back. Just a lazy day for you to pull off your prank.”
“Any questions?” Holly asked. Finding none, she directed us to the front door.
Janice, however, declared her need of the bathroom and for some reason felt compelled to stick her tongue out at me as she aimed for the hallway. I had no choice but to reciprocate.
Outside, Laura immediately snagged my sweat jacket sleeve and tugged me with her to the side of the garage. There, a wheelbarrow and a slew of shovels awaited. If memory served me, it was the very same wheelbarrow Laura had slept in the night of her big-ass angry bonfire when she learned what Holly had done in reaction to a bad-news-bearing police captain and reporter showing up at the door. Yes, indeed, the passage of a year since that horrific day was gratefully acknowledged by me; the further away the better, indeed.
Laura instructed me to carry the shovels, and I clumsily stacked the five mismatched things and scooped them up. Barely balancing the load across my arms, I followed her back to the driveway where trees were being carefully extricated from vehicles. No jaws of life required.
Janice had returned, and she and Laura managed to load four of the potted trees, two upright and two on their sides, into the wheelbarrow. Laura said she’d come back for the others, but non-pregnant people readily volunteered to carry them. Experience told me they weren’t heavy as much as they were awkward.
Ginny, her tiny frame bear-hugging one, needed a bit more information, though. “Where exactly am I carrying this?”
Holly pointed to the field adjacent to our parked vehicles. “We’re going to plant them out there,” she explained. “See where Laura and I already put our pots by the trees we planted last year?”
A squint made us privy to the hiding-in-plain-sight location.
Ginny nodded and led the charge, but we were immediately stopped by Detective Overprotective.
She asked the pregnant schoolteacher, “Do you need help getting out there? We can give you a ride if need be.”
After a dramatic rolling of her eyes, Susan replied, “Uh, I’ve been walking an hour a day every single day, rain or shine. It’s good for me.”
“Oh yeah, sure,” Janice said, “make us all look flippin’ lazy.”
“Well, I’d offer to race you,” Susan said, “but it could take me a week. I never meant I was fast.”
That proved the excuse needed to continue the meandering theme of the day. Very slowly, we headed into the field and kept pace with Susan, the penthouse severely screwing with her center of gravity, making her kind of waddle. Had she worn her zombie makeup, her gait would have made a very convincing sight.
By the time we arrived near their two potted trees, I was damn happy to relinquish the shovels from my sissy arms. The tree carriers moaned as they set down their pots.
Holly explained, “We bought the land next to ours last year to keep neighbors at bay.”
“Speaking of which,” Laura said, madly poking people to get their attention. Then, she pointed. “The land across the road is for sale, if any of you would care to buy it.”
“It’s fifteen acres, mostly wooded,” Holly furthered. “We can’t afford it after buying this hunk, but any of you would be welcome neighbors.”
“Well, I’ll just get out my checkbook,” Susan said, laughing.
“Not a bad investment, though,” Laura informed with a punctuating index finger. “The further Granton spreads, the more valuable this land will eventually be.”
Alison had an index finger of her own. “Maybe instead of a DWD forest, we should work on creating our own subdivision.”
“Sweet, but who the hell would find our weekends a fun retreat anymore?”
“Good point. We’d be sick of each other.”
“I wouldn’t get sick of any of you,” Alison said just as someone’s cellphone sounded.
The call’s recipient was Janice, and she hurried to retrieve her phone from her pants pocket and look at the screen. “It’s your sister,” she told Holly. “Probably something to do with the spa. I better take it.” She answered, and we watched her walk a few yards away.
A moment later, she turned around to see all us busybodies gawking at her. “She misplaced her key,” she informed Holly. “I just have to run to town and give her mine, otherwise she won’t be able to lock up this afternoon.”
Holly was obviously not happy, and Janice continued, “I’ll hurry and get it over with.” Then, she looked to Laura. “Please save Alison’s and my trees to last so I can help plant them. I wouldn’t want to miss that.” When Laura nodded, she kissed Alison, declined her offer to go with her, and zoomed off to the SUV—blocked in by the vehicle of the apologetic vegan racing behind her.
Now, Holly apparently believed that massage therapists were an untrustworthy breed. Before Janice even pulled onto the road, she had called her sister. “Did you really lose your key, or is this an April Fools joke?” After a pause, she said, “Well, I know it’s not the first of April, Noelle! Did you or did you not lose your key?” After another pause, we learned this was no joke. She scolded her, disconnected, and then repeated for us what our busybody selves had already figured out.
“She’ll be back soon, Hol,” Laura assured. “Let’s just get on with our tree planting.”
We were not fools; we awaited our Arbor Earth Day orders.