Sunday, May 21, 2023

Mrs. Kenneth James Stevens Wants A Baby by Leanne Dyck (Ch 20)

 Chapter nineteen: Kate drives Aster to Kenneth James' property, but there's a groove of trees and chest-high grass and... The place looks uninhabited. 

photo by ldyck

Chapter twenty

Kate slid open a set of glass doors and walked inside. “Welcome,” Aster heard her say. And Aster realized that Kate wasn’t an axe murderer. No, it was far worse. “To your new home,” Kate said.

But maybe it only looked bad from the outside. What was that tired old meme? Don’t judge a book by its cover. Aster peered through the door at... Unpainted plywood flooring. How could Kenneth James live...? How could she live there?

“Your husband is a genius,” Kate said. “He bought almost all his building supplies from salvage stores. And what he didn’t find there he scavenged from local contractors. This cabin stands as a fine example of island life. Simple. Uncomplicated. Or, I should say, how island life used to be, in the good old days. You know, I’ve heard stories about entire houseboats being constructed from driftwood. Back then people were resourceful, industrious, inventive. But now, everyone wants the newest, the biggest, the best. No one wants to make. Everyone wants to buy. Yes, even here on this island. They all... Oh, who am I kidding, we all play catch-up with our neighbours. The more expensive things are the more trouble you have. Things break down and then you just have to replace them.” Kate looked back through the door at Aster. “Come in. Come in, before the mice do.”

“Mice?” Long, pink tails. Sharp teeth. Aster felt something furry brush her leg. “Mice!” She threw herself forward into the cabin and slid the door closed with a thud, the glass vibrated.

I’ll give you the grand tour." Kate smiled. "You’re in the living room and library.”

Aster stood in front of a varnished bookshelf. Kenneth James’ self-assembled party of Canadian authors danced merrily across the shelves. A reading chair was to her left and another was to her right.

The chairs looked comfortable but the upholstery didn't match or even coordinate. A small round end table stood beside each chair. The table to Aster’s right was weighed down with reference books. A mug balanced on top of the stack. A single paperback and a tea cup and saucer waited for Aster on the other table. Kenneth James had been thinking of her. The thoughtfulness made her sigh.

Kate turned around to face the sliding doors. “And back there is Kenji. Oops, I'm sorry. Kenneth James. I really am trying to remember. It’s just that—.”

“Do more than try, Kathleen. Remember.” And because Kathleen had been helpful, Aster added, “Please.”

“Kenneth James is a mouthful. How about KJ?”

“KJ? Most assuredly not, Kathleen. K J is his initials. They are not a name.”

“Oh, okay, then. Back there, by the door, is Kenneth James’ desk.”

The desk—a rectangular piece of unpainted lumber balanced between two three-drawer filing cabinets. It looked like something a college student would have in his dorm room. A laptop was barely visible under a rat’s nest of paper. Other paper surrounded the desk on the floor.

“So, I guess, Kenny Jim is completely out.” Kate was hoping for a laugh or a chuckle but was met with icy silence. Quickly changing the subject, she asked, “Do you know how to cook on a woodstove?” She stepped aside so that Aster could have a better look at the black metal box that stood on legs and had a pipe running out of its back to the ceiling.

A wood what?”

“Stove. Don’t worry, Dar—.” Kate looked up at the ceiling and then down at the floor. She mumbled something but there was a smile on her face when she looked at Aster. “Darling, K—. Kenneth James will teach you. You don’t mind if I call you darling, do you? I call all my friends darling. It’s a habit of mine. I know we’ve just met. What, less than an hour ago, but I hope we’ll become good friends. Against the wall over there are a fridge and a washer and dryer.” A small fridge and an apartment-size washer and dryer stood against the opposite wall. “I feel like a real estate agent. Please, walk this way.” She took a step or maybe two and put a hand on the cupboard. “This is your kitchen sink.”

“Where’s the bathroom sink?”

“This is your bathroom sink.”

I thought you told me it was the kitchen sink.”

“It is. It’s both. And it’s your bathtub.”

How? I can’t fit in there.”

“You use a facecloth.” Without looking away from Aster, Kate reached into the sink and pulled out a pot scrubber. She threw that back, looked into the sink, and pulled out a facecloth.

“Where’s the...the...toilet?” Aster winced.

“We passed it on the way to the house.”

“On. The way. To the house?”

“Yes, it’s outside.”

“Behind a tree?”

Oh, no. Don’t worry. It’s in a proper outhouse.”

“Worry? Why would I worry?” Aster frowned at Kate. “Let me think, possibly because I’m stuck in this...this...whatever this is.”

Kate showed Aster a piece of wood that hung on the wall and flipped down to form a table. Chairs hung beside it and Kate took one down to show Aster how easy it was to set the table for meals. Then Kate said, “Well, I hope you enjoyed your tour. See, I told you your husband was a genius.”

“Enjoyed? But it can’t be over. That can’t be it.” Aster wanted to cry. “There’s no TV—.”

“You can use the laptop to—.”

“Or microwave or espresso machine or walk-in closet or...or...or bedroom. Where’s the bed? Do I curl up in a corner like a mouse? It wouldn’t surprise me. But there’s no corner big enough. Do I hang from the ceiling like a bat? There’s no hook. Kathleen. Kath-leen, where is the bed?”

Kate shrugged.

“There must be a bed and the fact that you can’t find that bed gives me hope that you may not know everything about this place. There could be more. There could be a...a...a secret passageway leading to—to—a microwave, a walk-closet, an—anunderground place.” Aster noticed a curtain that hung from the ceiling to the floor in the corner of the room. “Kathleen, what’s behind this curtain?”

“Huh, that curtain...? I don’t—.”

“The passageway,” Aster sang and tore back the curtain to reveal the pass—. No, only a queen-size bed on a platform of bookshelves, surrounded on both sides by bookshelves. She crumpled into a reading chair, head in hand.

This isn’t exactly what you were expecting, is it? And you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and maybe disappointed.” Kate put a hand on Aster’s shoulder. “Moving from the city to a remote island is a big adjustment. Just give it time. You’ll get used to things. Having your stuff around you will help make this cabin feel more like your home. I’ll go get your suitcases.” Kate had to make two trips but eventually delivered all of Aster’s luggage. The trunk-size suitcases filled the cabin.

It took some hunting but Kate eventually unearthed a piece of scrap paper and a pen from Kenneth James’ cluttered desk. “This is my cellphone number.” Kate handed the note to Aster.

Aster didn’t look up. She didn’t stretch out her hand. She just kept staring at the floor.

Kate left the note on top of the paperback on the end table beside Aster’s chair.

Aster was still staring at the floor when Kenneth James finally came home.

He pulled her into his arms. “You’ll grow to love Mayne Island,” he promised her.

photo by ldyck

Mrs. Kenneth James Stevens Wants A Baby

Chapter twenty-one

If the uninhabited property wasn't bad enough then there's the rustic house... The reality of her new home hits Aster hard.

My wonderful weekend...
I just had to jot down a quick note to tell you about my wonderfully inspiring weekend. 
Saturday, Mayne Island welcomed spring by dancing around the Maypole to the music of the pipe and drum. The entire thing filled me with such positive, life-affirming energy.
To only be topped off, just a few minutes ago, with author Arleen Pare's retrospective. If ever have an opportunity to listen to Arleen read her poetry go. I'm sure it will leave you smiling from ear to ear as it did me. 
There now. Doesn't that sound like the best way to start the week.