No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
They were driving down the Don Valley Parkway and Hailey was enjoying the fall colors. Nan was right—it was good to get out.
It was a lovely fall day with a bright blue sky and towering cumulus clouds—not a day to be worried about funerals or stalkers.
Nan was smiling at her.
“I’m glad to see you’re relaxed.”
“I was getting a bit too intense,” Hailey admitted.
“Seriously though, what is your mental image of yourself?” asked Nan.
“I don’t know—a damsel locked in an ivory tower, I suppose.”
“You see?” Nan parried, “That’s my point. Waiting for a white knight to rescue you is going to get you nothing but heartache.”
“Oh, so we’re back to that, are we? Finding a man? Next thing you’re going to tell me is beauty is the only thing worth having in a woman”
“Well, if it is, then you’d suit the part. My God, Hailey, have you looked in a mirror lately? You could be a model.”
“Yeah sure. But you’re forgetting, I’m damaged goods. Better not market me unless you’re prepared for lawsuits.”
Nan’s angered flared. “You are not damaged goods. I hate what Sean Mappin has done to you. The man is an ass. Suing you for breech of promise—how ridiculous.”
“Well, ridiculous or not, he robbed me of two years of my life. Sorry if I cancelled his wedding plans and am a little gun shy as a result.”
Nan’s jaw dropped and Hailey instantly regretted snapping. “Oh, Nan, I’m so sorry. I know you only want what’s best for me.”
“It’s true, I do,” she sniffed.
Hailey softened. “Look, I’ll tell you what—after the funeral is over and all this is behind me, I’ll come out with you to Sweetwater’s and get back into circulation. Okay?”
Nan looked at her tearily, “You will—you mean it?”
“I do. And by the way, you missed our exit.”
“Oh no! —That means I’ll have to go up the Parkway.”
Hailey laughed. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get to see a little more fall color. We’ve got lots of time.”
They spent the morning wandering from stall to stall with Nan buying more than she could possibly eat in a week. Around noon, they took a break.
“Are you planning on doing preserves or throwing a big party?” she asked Nan as she handed her a coffee.
“I guess I went overboard, but I figured I’d share some of the stuff with you and that way when I visit, I won’t be tempted with chocolate-coated strawberries.”
“As if that’s all I eat—I only bought them as a treat. I didn’t expect you to inhale them.”
“I only ate them because you had no All Sorts,” she sniffed.
Hailey laughed. “Well, here’s to your October resolution,” she smiled, lifting her coffee cup in a mock toast.
“Oh, I get it—October Revolution—a very witty pun. You’d better dumb down your humor though if you’re really serious about attracting a man.”
“So, are you saying men are dumb?”
“Not dumb,” she snickered, “just intimidated by smart women. I mean, c’mon—an historical allusion before noon? Give me a break.”
The mention of allusions reminded Hailey of her theory about the late night phone call.
“Oh, that reminds me—I think that prank call was made by one of my freshmen students. We were recently studying a poem by John Donne—U.R. Dunn—Get it?”
“No, not really,” Nan frowned. “How are you John Donne?”
“I think it had something to do with the poem we were studying—A Hymn to God the Father. As I recall there was quite a spirited debate in the class about sin and guilt—you know, the usual Puritan preoccupation.”
“Even granting that—what’s that got to do with you? Unless, of course, you’re harbouring some hidden sin I’m not aware of—and if you are, how would this student know about it?”
Nan looked concerned, as if Hailey might actually be harbouring some deep, dark secret.
“Don’t worry, I’m not having a clandestine affair,” she laughed. “ It’s probably more figurative—such as, I sinned against him by unfairly judging one of his papers and giving him a low grade.”
“Even still, the guy’s pretty whacked to go to all this trouble of finding your unlisted number and stalking you. Whatever happened to asking for an interview to discuss his grade?”
“Come to think of it, nobody did contest a mark and nobody had any questions about this last set of papers.” She furrowed her brow. “Maybe I’m wrong—it might not have anything to do with that at all.”
“Hmm. It just gets curioser and curioser. Oh, maybe I’ll just have to ask that new tenant in my townhouse complex —he’s a policeman—works with the K-9 unit. If this happens again, I’ll ask his opinion.”
“You can’t go and ask a neighbor to investigate a situation as if you were borrowing a cup of sugar.”
“Why not? What are neighbors for?”
“Aha! Now I discover the real reason you’re being so supportive. You really do have your eye on the policeman, huh?”
Nan turned crimson. “No, seriously, he seems a nice guy, but taken, I think—I saw him with a tall red-headed girl—and of course, like you, she was gorgeous.”
“Well, thanks, but I was just kidding. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Besides, I don’t want to involve the police, even if they are handsome and available.”
“You might want to rethink that,” Nan winked, “it might be a way to by-pass the dating game at Sweetwater’s.”
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.