The aroma of fresh coffee greeted them as they entered the kitchen and two places were already set at the huge glass table near the windows.
Birdie had placed a spray of lavender, presumably cut fresh from the garden, in a cut-glass vase in the middle of the table and set out various jams and jellies along with two huge glasses of hand-squeezed orange juice.
“Now I know how the other half lives. Fitzgerald was right—the rich are different.”
“Yeah, they’re rich.”
Nan rolled her eyes. “You and Hemingway make quite the pair.”
At that moment, Birdie entered from the garden with cut Daisies in a wicker basket.
“Oh, Miss Hailey, you’re up! A Professor Kendall phoned and wanted you to call him back at your earliest convenience.”
“How about sometime next week?” Nan bristled. “How’d he get this number anyway?”
Hailey put up a hand to stop her before she got going.
“I left a message on his machine last night before turning in. Don’t worry, Nan, he’s just wondering what to tell the students.” She patted Birdie’s arm. “I’ll call him later.”
“I wish you’d let me sub for you for a few days.”
“That’s not necessary. Getting back to work is the best therapy for me and besides, mid-semester reports aren’t that far off. I’ll be fine—really.”
“Breakfast is ready,” Birdie announced, setting down a platter of scrambled eggs and bacon. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted pancakes too, so I decided to wait and ask.”
Nan’s jaw dropped. “You’re kidding, right?”
“She’s not,” Hailey laughed and then seeing Birdie’s perplexed expression, hastened to add, “We’re not used to being pampered, especially so early in the morning.”
“They say breakfast is the most important meal,” Birdie replied.
“Depends who you’re sharing it with,” quipped Nan.
A sharp kick in the shins stopped Nan in her tracks. Hailey smiled benignly at her from across the table.
Hailey’s cell vibrated noisily on the glass table.
“That better not be Art Kendall,” growled Nan.
It’s not, “ said Hailey, looking at the display. “It’s Brad.”
“Do you want some privacy?”
Hailey looked at her as if to say, are you crazy?
“Hey! You’re up early.”
Nan watched Hailey’s expression brighten and change like a reflecting pond. All she could make out of Brad’s words was the masculine purr of his voice and the cadence of his replies. He seemed perky though—too perky, thought Nan, for this hour of the day.
Hailey flipped the cell shut, her cheeks suffused with a pink glow, as if she had been inhaling oxygen.
“S’up?” Nan said flippantly, trying to disguise her curiosity.
“Nada,” Hailey deadpanned, pretending to stare vacantly out the window.
“Arghh! Are you going to tell me?”
“Brad and I are going hiking. He thought getting out and having a change of scene would do me good. He suggested Rattlesnake Point.”
Nan looked dubious. “Sounds dangerous.”
“It’s not. It’s up in Milton—part of a conservation area. Apparently, there are all kinds of hiking trails along the Niagara Escarpment.”
“Okay, Nature Girl. Sounds like it’s right up your alley.” She glanced out the window at the dark grey clouds racing above the yellow birch leaves. “Wear a jacket though— it could get nippy up there.”
Hailey studied the sky. “I think you’re right. Good thing I brought my North Face windbreaker with me.”
“That’s you—a regular Girl Guide. When’s he coming?”
Nan frowned at the clock. “That barely gives you half an hour. I better get going—I’ve got a curriculum meeting at ten anyway. I’ll check in with you later tonight.”
She got up to leave and Hailey hugged her tight. “Thanks for being there,” she whispered in her ear.
“We’re friends right? Comes with the territory, I’d say.”
“Goodbye Nan,” Birdie called from the dining room. The awkward sound of her name on Birdie’s lips made them both smile.
“Bye, bye Birdie,” Nan quipped and gave Hailey a big wink as she headed for the door.
Hailey walked out to the front room and waited at the window until she saw Nan’s sporty yellow Mini Cooper pull away.
An empty feeling came over her once Nan left, making her glad Brad had phoned. It wasn’t good for her to be alone, at least, not just yet.
She needed people around her and something to do.
Fake it till you make it—isn’t that what Trish always said?.
Well, faking was something she was good at—as for making it, well time would tell about that, but so far she appeared to be doing okay and that alone encouraged her.
Perhaps her worst fears would come to naught and the sad events of the past week would soon be all behind her.
But like the sky outside, there were dark clouds gathering on the horizon and despite her best efforts to be cheerful, Hailey sensed a coming storm.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.