Sweet Thyme Baby – 44

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

44

(Start at the Beginning of Sweet Thyme Baby)

(Click here to read Section 43 first)

 

Lovey was at the market when Sharon got there a little later. She and Hamish were at one of the bistro tables playing checkers while Sam made sandwiches for a line of lunchtime customers.

 

Lovey said, “I’m yearning to have this boy stay with me tonight.” She wrapped her paisley shawl around him. “Sam’s heading out for his job interview and you’ve got this market to run? How ’bout it, Sharon?”

 

She thought of the conversation she and Lance were going to have when he got home and she wanted Hamish away from that.

 

“Could you take him now, Lovey? So Sam and I can talk?” She crouched in front of Hamish. “Is that okay with you?”

 

He threw his arms around her. “I love you, Mommy.” And scampered out of the market after Lovey.

 

Tying on her apron, Sharon stepped behind the counter to help her brother.

 

He asked, “You okay?” She nodded though she didn’t smile.

 

Ham and cheese and cranberry mustard with arugula.

 

Roast beef, horseradish cream and sliced beets on a French roll.

 

Plain old peanut butter on white with sour cherry jam.

 

By the time Sharon turned the door sign to closed, her feet hurt but making salads, slicing cheese and vegetables were routine jobs she’d done a hundred times. Her thoughts ranged free while she worked and now she was more certain than ever about what she had to do.

 

She asked Sam, “When does your shuttle come?”

 

“Twenty minutes or so.”

 

“You have everything.”

 

He patted the pocket of his khaki work shirt and then his pants pocket. “Tickets, cash and credit cards. Why? Are you worried about me?”

 

“We have to talk before you go.”

 

“I’ll be back tomorrow. Before noon.”

 

“Please, Sam.”

 

They sat at the bistro table, knees touching; and her thoughts drifted to Lance and Janet, Victor Detroit and Joel sitting at another table, leaning forward as she and Sam were now, speaking quietly. She took a deep breath. “I’m going to leave Lance.”

 

Sam heaved a long sigh.

 

“I don’t know him anymore. He and this fellow Victor Detroit and Janet and Joel Jackson, I’m sure they plan on doing Dee out of her garden. Maybe not all at once, but eventually. I think that’s why Janet’s part of the scheme.”

 

“You can’t divorce Lance because of Dee.”

 

She almost wished she hadn’t started the conversation. “People change.” It was the truest thing she had to say. “Lance met Joel Jackson in college and he’s been like an obsession to him. Joel has this thing he calls a muscular theology. A kind of ends justify the means religion.”

 

“I’ve seen him on TV.”

 

“In Texas?”

 

“We love our preachers, Sharon. Even when they broadcast from California.” Sam shifted, too long legged for the little table and the delicate chair. “You know I’ve never been crazy about Lance. I always thought you were too good for him. But I never thought he was a schemer.”

 

There’s much he did not know about Lance, she thought.

 

When was it permitted to share with outsiders the secrets of a marriage? She would not tell her brother that Lance had forced himself on her the night before. She would not admit that she was a little afraid of him now.

 

“Lance wants us all to think he’s strong and confident. But the truth is, he’s full of doubts and insecurities and it terrifies him. That’s Joel’s great appeal. He has no doubts and he never asks a question he can’t answer. He sees himself as God’s…muscle. When Lance is with Joel, he feels connected to God in a way he just doesn’t otherwise.”

 

“With this Joel behind him, he thinks he can’t be stopped.”

 

“That’s right.”

 

Sam looked at his watch. “I have to go around to the parking lot and wait for the shuttle.” He stood up. “Under the circumstances, I feel like I shouldn’t leave you alone, Sharon.”

 

“I’ll be okay.”

 

He kissed her. “Be careful, little sis.”

 

*

 

Maggie was baking, apricot muffins with chopped walnuts.

 

“She must have said something about where she was going, George. That clunker isn’t all that reliable, you know.”

 

“She’s never been gone overnight. What if she doesn’t come back?” Pinkus said.

 

“Of course she’ll come back,” George’s mood of gloom and doom had lifted with the news that Hamish was safe. “Don’t be a negative, Pinky.”

 

“She loves us and she loves the garden.” Maggie warmed her backside at the open oven. “Even so, I wish there was someone we could ask. Did she ever talk to you about her family or friends?”

 

Pinkus huffed.

 

George said, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

“You know perfectly well. We’ve talked about it often enough.”

 

“What have you talked about?” Maggie asked.

 

“What do we really know about Dee? The three of us were here when she came and Con and Carlotta just accepted her, no questions asked.”

 

“And now you’re doubting their judgment? When they welcomed you and George like members of the family?” She gave the muffin tin an angry rap to loosen the muffins. The hollow of her throat shone with perspiration. “I’m not going to say a word against our Dee. Pain goes deep, that’s what I know, and hers goes deeper than most.”

 

“Wait a minute,” Pinkus said. “We do know someone to ask. The man in the expensive shoes who came to see her. The one she didn’t like.”

 

“Victor Detroit.” Maggie rapped the pan again and the muffins popped up like corn kernels. “Sleazoid.”

 

“He’s staying at the Inn,” Pinkus said.

 

George said, “You call him.”

 

“Me?” Pinkus remembered something his mother used to say when his father was down in the basement inventing, leaving her to give the bum’s rush to the debt collectors. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world and cleans up the dog poop. “Very well. Give me that phone.”

 

“Put it on speaker,” Maggie said.

 

After a few minutes, a male voice echoed in the kitchen. “This is Victor Detroit.”

 

“My name is Walter Pinkus. I work over at the Ryan’s garden shop. With Dee Larue.” He took a deep breath to stop his voice quivering. “We haven’t met but you were over here the other day.”

 

“What’s up?” Detroit asked. “I’m late for a meeting.”

 

“Well, we were wondering, since you knew Dee before… That’s right isn’t it? You knew her before she came to the garden?”

 

“Way before.”

 

“Okay. That’s what I thought.”

 

George said, “Just ask him.”

 

“Ask me what?”

 

Pinkus cleared his throat and took another breath. “Dee’s gone.”

 

There was no response.

 

Air hissed from between Maggie’s teeth.

 

“We were wondering if you might have any idea where we could reach her.”

 

Victor Detroit said, “Fuck the bitch. She’s gone and done it again.”

 

Copyright © 2012 by Drusilla Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

 

Click here to read Part 45 of Sweet Thyme Baby

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