“Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace, for having me over for dinner,” I said as we sat down to eat.
“What, are my mom and dad here?” Mr. Wallace said. He glanced around, as if his elderly parents were hiding someplace in his house. Then he looked sternly at me. “How long have I known you, Gill? Maybe 20 years? I’m Bill and this is Nancy, OK? 20 years. That’s a long time. Yeah, I remember back then, Jess talking about you…”
“…all of the time and Nancy and I wondering who you were. Finally, Jess introduced us. It was good to meet you. I really thought you guys would get married…”
“…and was surprised when her talk about you changed. Back then I wouldn’t have minded you as a son in law…”
“…and it certainly would have been better than what we ended up with.”
“Of course, here it is, 20 years later and I might just get you as a son and law yet. And I’d be proud to call….”
“OK, OK, I’ll quit embarrassing our guest and our daughter.” I looked over at Lyndsey. She was blushing brighter than I was, but she winked at me when she saw my look. I knew she was reminding me that she had warned me. “I don’t understand what’s wrong, anyway. Guys like plain talk, don’t we Gill?”
“Yes sir, we do, Bill. Though sometimes, plain talk can be a little, well, uncomfortable.” I laughed. “Anyway, everything looks great, Nancy. I cook for myself on most nights, but this is so much better than I could do on my own. It smells so delicious!”
“Well, help yourself to whatever,” Nancy said. “And eat as much as you want. I just put a bit on the serving plates here, but there’s plenty more in the kitchen.”
“Oh, speaking of Jess,” Bill said, “I heard she’s helping you with your garden again.”
“Yes. She was out yesterday and we got a great start on it.”
“Now you tell her for me that she needs to join her dad’s business. We’d do so much better together than competing.”
“I knew you did a little work like that, but I didn’t know it was much of a business.”
“’Not much of a business’ – well, that tells you how well I’m doing competing against my daughter then, doesn’t it?” He winked at me. “I’ve been doing a few lawns and such for years, my entire life really, but I decided to try to turn it into a real business a few years back, after I retired. It was funny when I found out that my biggest competitor was my own daughter.”
“Come on dear, you do enough as it is,” Nancy said. “We really don’t need the extra income and I don’t want you having a heart attack or stroke working on someone’s lawn when it’s 94 degrees outside.”
“I know, I know, but being outdoors working helps keep me alive.”
“Hey Dad, most of Jess’ yard and garden work either geso through her house work, like with Gill here, or is something she does for Nate. From what she tells me, most of it is through Nate. Unless you partner up with him, I’m not sure how you’d do that.”
“I’m sure I could get Jess to work with me without partnering up with Nate. It’s just that she is so, I don’t know, wishy washy. I mean sometimes she seems normal and then she says or does something that, I don’t know. She can be so damn frustrating.”
I hadn’t said anything to Lyndsey about the conversations I had the day before, but I felt that I should steer the conversation to a safer topic.
“Oh, thinking of Jess, did she tell you about Bob Lancing?”
“Yes, she called last night and said something to Nancy about it. It’s just terrible. I asked around today and found out a bit more. They took him out of ICU yesterday. He’s still in serious condition, but should recover. Sounds like no head injury, so that is always a plus. But yeah, just awful.”
“I called Linda this morning,” Nancy said. “She’s doing as well as can be expected. Oh, Gill, she told me to let you know how much she appreciated the flowers. He couldn’t have any in ICU, but now he has some in his room. And of course she loves the ones you sent to her at home. I can’t tell you how much it helps to have people remember you. So thank you, from them and from me.”
“You never told me you sent flowers,” Lyndsey said.
“I didn’t? It must have slipped my mind. Anyway, I wanted to do something, and couldn’t think of anything else, so….”
“Lyndsey, I’m telling you, you need to marry this man…”
“Mom! Anyway Gill, it was a sweet thing to do.”
“I agree,” Nancy said, “it was. Anyway, sweetie, would you like some more meat? There’s plenty in the kitchen.”
“No thank you, Nancy, I’m set,” I said.
“Say Gill, I’ve heard rumors that you’ve taken an interest in the old Goode Mansion,” Bill said.
“Well, yeah, a bit. I have always found history so fascinating, but I hadn’t really thought of it much for Amesbury. It appears that so much local history, as well as local legend, is tied up around the Goodes and that mansion. It’s just fascinating.”
“That’s right, you’re from ‘Away’, aren’t you? You seem so much like a local that I sometimes forget. So it’s all new to you. I grew up with it. Don’t tell my girls, but I used to sneak up there when I was kid. Martha chased my out of the house on more than one occasion!”
“Dad! I never knew that. And you used to say you’d whip my behind if you caught me going up there. Not that it stopped me or anything. Oops, I let it out.”
“Of course I knew you were going up there. We all went up there. Except for Gill here, of course. Were there local legends where you grew up? Any rites of passage that kids had to go through?”
“Every place has its local legends, but not many like this. People talked about haunted houses, but I never knew anyone who actually claimed to see a ghost, at least not like the Goode Mansion.”
“There is a lot of history there,” Bill said.
We ate in silence. I knew the Wallaces, but had spent very little time with them. I could see where Jessica got her quick wit. And even with the teasing about me marrying Lyndsey, I felt very relaxed in their house.
“You guys have plans for the weekend?” Bill asked.
“We’re going to hang out here and watch a movie or something tonight,” Lyndsey said. “I haven’t told him this yet, but Gill is going to take me out dancing again tomorrow, though we can skip Zimmerman’s and just have pizza or something.”
“Nothing during the day tomorrow, though?”
“We’ll, not really. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about it yet.”
“Then you wouldn’t mind me stealing Gill for a few hours, would you?”
“Uhm, I don’t know. Gill?”
“Sure Bill. What did you have in mind?”
“I have a little chore to do and wouldn’t mind some help. I think you’d love it.”
“Great. I’ll pick you up at 8:30 AM then.”
“OK, it sounds like a plan.”
“Now you two go in the other room and let us clean up,” Nancy said. “We’ll come in and bug you in a bit, but we’ll head up for bed early. I’m in the middle of a great book and won’t mind it.”
“OK Nancy, sounds good.”
“Yeah, we’ll leave you alone to your movie,” Bill said. “You can kiss or cuddle or whatever then. I just don’t want to catch you up to any shenanigans, so be sure to go over to Gill’s house before you get to the tearing each other’s clothes off stage, OK?”
Both Wallace women were bright red, but I knew that this time my blush was deeper.