Some Past Perceptions
Life is pain…anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
—The Princess Bride
He lost his father and his finger the same day.
On the drive back from the funeral, Lance clutched the pamphlet from the service, the one with his father’s picture. Throughout the ceremony, Lance still believed they would find his father. It was all a mistake. His father would be located. He was still alive. But as the mourners walked one by one past the candles and the photograph and said their goodbyes, Lance began to believe his father was truly gone. He lost hope. He finally believed his father was dead.
They pulled into their driveway followed by a long stream of cars vying to line the curbs. The doors opened on both sides of the vehicle. The wind caught the pamphlet in Lance’s hand and carried it away. Instinctively, he chased after it. That’s when Mr. Harper mowed Lance’s finger off. Lance grabbed for the memoir and his pointer finger was dismembered by the lawn mower.
At the hospital, he mourned the loss of his father and the finger.
After that, Lance felt like the dead among the living. Nothing seemed to have meaning. Nothing made him feel better. And nothing could possibly make him feel worse. Or so he thought. Then his mother announced they were moving because she wanted to open a crystal jewelry shop. Perhaps he could feel worse.
On the drive to their new destination, U-Haul in tow, his mother read the description from a tourist brochure. That she could read and drive, he never understood. It made him nervous. He used imaginary foot petals to brake from the passenger seat. Even having no license, he was sure he could do better. Anyone could do better if they just watched the road.
Two nerve-racking hours later they came to the base of the mountain on which the town was set. A sign stated: Historic Jerome $Billion Dollar COPPER CAMP.
The truck made the climb up the narrow two-lane highway encountering curve after curve. Lance almost regurgitated. The higher they went, the steeper the drop became out the window. With each twist, he became more aware that if she continued to read, they would probably perish. He said nothing, half hoping they would perish.
They made this final leg from Phoenix to Jerome, with his mother still reading:
“Jerome is perched on a thirty degree slope, two thousand feet above the towns of Clarkdale and Cottonwood. Due to the steep incline, gravity has pulled a number of buildings down the mountainside. The town once thrived on copper mines, but is now supported by tourism. Once the fifth largest city in Arizona, it is now a ghost town of five hundred residents.’
“—A ghost town!” His mother emphasized this as if it were an attractive feature. “Just think! We’re moving to a ghost town!”
Lance remained silent. But as usual, his mother probed for a response.
“Don’t you think it sounds exotic and exciting?”
“Mom, I don’t know if that’s what I’d call it. Basically you’ve told me we’re moving away from not only my friends, but civilization in general; to a town that has a tiny population with hardly anybody my age. You told me it’s so small that there isn’t even a grocery store, and you said geologists have predicted the entire town will slide downhill into oblivion at some point. And the best thing you can come up with is that there are dead people to hang out with. I’m sorry. I’d call it creepy or pathetic at best.”
“Oh.” Pause. “Well. If that’s how you want to look at it. But just you wait. Just you wait till you see our new house.”
When the moment arrived to actually see this new house, Lance figured he could have waited even longer. She pulled the truck up to the front of the structure. He looked in disbelief. Disbelief that made him freeze in his seat. Disbelief that made him immobile. Disbelief that encouraged him to leave his seatbelt on.
Apparently this house was one of the first to line Hampshire Avenue before reaching Main Street. If you could call it a house. Shack was a more appropriate term. His mother jumped out of the vehicle, with her ‘sheets’ swaying in the wind. Lance had decided to call them ‘sheets,’ because as far as he knew, no one else draped themselves in flowing garments. She referred to them as fabrics, but Lance knew better. “A sheet by any other name is still a sheet.” After his father’s death, she began dressing in these printed draperies, and each day she wore the same large gaudy blue quartz stone necklace. The combination made her look like a New Age nutcase. She pranced to the front of the car, spun around several times, and spread her arms announcing, “Ta-da!”
Lance scanned the structure. It appeared to be single story with dilapidated wood siding that may have been coated in paint at one time, but perhaps not—the building may have been erected before the invention of paint. The wood slat porch seemed an ancient piano keyboard with several keys missing. The two front windows were boarded over. Mortified, he consoled himself. This was a joke. Mom was messing with him. He turned his head expecting to see the real house across the street. To his dismay, there was only an incline of steep dirt. She must be serious. He began to fantasize about living in the back seat of the pickup and made a mental note not to remove his seatbelt.
“Come on Cruzy, come and see!”
Lance winced. She called him Cruzy because he had a Tom Cruise smile. Or so she thought. He failed to see the resemblance and hated it she used the nickname in front of others. She opened the car door.
“Come on—the best is yet to come!”
Reluctantly he unfastened his seatbelt, climbed out and followed her flowing sheets to the front door of the house. He stumbled on the uneven porch planks. After much jiggling and shoving, his mother forced the door open. Dust plumed about them. They entered what appeared to be the living room, but would later become known as the storefront. To the left of the living room, a door led to a bedroom. Straight ahead and past the living room was a tiny kitchen. To the right of the kitchen, a bathroom and another small room. That was it. That was the extent of the shack.
“Ta-da!” His mother announced again as she traipsed across flooring that billowed like the surface of a skateboard park. “And look, Cruzy, this is the best part!” She bolted through the kitchen area to open a door to a back porch. Lance followed on heavy feet. She flung open the rear door and again announced, “Ta-da! Isn’t the view breathtaking?”
They were perched on a mountainside two thousand feet above the Verde Valley just as the brochure had predicted. And the view was panoramic. Lance had to give her that. Off in the distance sprawling mountain ranges layered in whites, browns, and reds, were dotted with shrubbery like a berry landscape parfait. Periodically a row of craggy cliffs jutted as if dragged upward by a giant dinner fork. He would probably have enjoyed the incredible view except for the fact that the porch looked like it would cascade down the mountainside at any moment. He glanced down before stepping out. He could see the supporting pillars through the porch slats.
“Don’t you just love the view?” She was beaming.
“No?” She looked puzzled and hurt. “Cruzy, this is the best that life has to offer!”
“Mom, this looks like life is offering me death. And soon. Did you have this place inspected to see if it’s structurally sound?”
“Well…no…but all the houses are built this way. I’m sure it’s safe…it’s been here over a hundred years!”
“Mom, this view is making me nauseated. I’m going to have nightmares.” He turned to walk back inside. One of the porch slats cracked under his weight. He hurried back across the threshold, ran out to the truck and jumped inside.
It took a great deal of coaxing before Lance admitted inwardly that he really had no option. He reluctantly removed his seatbelt a second time. With great resentment, he stepped out to help unpack the U-Haul.
The first box was one of his. “Where’s my room?” He asked in a flat tone.
“Well, now, I know it’s small. It was the laundry room, but we don’t really need a laundry room because…Ta-da!” From a box she produced an old-fashioned washboard—the kind used in large tin buckets to hand wash clothes.
“Mom, quit saying Ta-da, because every time you say it, something terrible happens.”
“Look, this is a more natural way to do laundry anyway. It’ll give me exercise and then I can hang the clothes on a line and air-dry them. They’ll smell mountain fresh!”
“And…well, there was only one bedroom, so we’ll need to put you in the laundry room.”
He had already noted the laundry room was to the right of the kitchen and bathroom and carried a box to view the room. He figured it couldn’t be more than six feet wide by eight feet long.
“No wonder you didn’t want me to bring my waterbed.”
“Yes, unfortunately, it would have been too big for your room.”
“No. Unfortunately, it weighs more than the house. It would have sent us downhill for sure.”
“Stop being such a sourpuss. Look, your room has a window overlooking the view! That’s why I thought you’d like it. Mine isn’t much bigger, and it looks onto the street.”
Lance looked out the window. He felt queasy again at the drop.
They hauled the parts of his grade-school bed from the U-Haul to the laundry room and pieced it together. His mother had insisted on keeping the bed even after she bought him a waterbed. This was consistent with her habit of hanging on to everything. She kept it for sentiment just like she kept all his baby teeth in a baggie pasted to a scrapbook page. This was another embarrassment he endured at her merciless hands—showing the scrapbook to her friends and talking of his teeth and his Tom Cruise smile.
The grade-school bed was a bunk with a desk underneath. It actually fit in the room, but it was the only thing that would fit in the room. The desk area was positioned over piping for the non-existent washing machine, and it didn’t take Lance long to figure out he would bump his knees on the plumbing when he sat at the desk.
“Where am I going to keep my clothes?”
“Mr. Harper will be coming up this weekend. He’s bringing some of his sub-contractors, and they’re going to help fix the place up and give you some shelving.”
“Great. Mr. Harper and a bunch of power tools. That sounds safe. Don’t worry about me. I have nine fingers left.”
“Lance! Don’t talk like that. Mr. Harper feels devastated about what happened. He said he was distracted by all the cars because your father had so many friends. I’m sure that’s why he’s helping us and not charging anything. I won’t have you saying anything rude to him! Accidents happen. You need to shape up. You can’t go through life feeling sorry for yourself. Things happen for a reason. I don’t know what the reason was for the loss of your finger, but someday something good will come of it. It breaks my heart to see you suffering, but hating Mr. Harper won’t change anything. Hating this house won’t change a thing. Hate changes nothing.”
They finished unloading the U-Haul in silence. Lance hated silence and almost missed his Mother’s incessant Ta-da-ing. Maybe she was right. He should try to lighten up a little.
She handed him his keepsake box.
“We can have an extra shelf installed for your baseball trophies.”
That did it. Why did she have to bring that up? She knew he would never pitch again with his pointer finger missing, and baseball and Dad were synonymous. Dad was his coach. He grabbed the box from her and marched through the kitchen, flung open the back door, and stomped with surprising confidence across the wobbly back porch.
“You know what? I do like this view!” He heaved the contents of the keepsake box over the rail and watched the trophies, glove, baseballs, caps and cards, all tumble and fall and roll and mix with the steep landscape of rock and brush far below, as contents tumbled and careened into oblivion. This act gave him a sense of satisfaction, of separation, of closure, to a chapter in his life he never wanted to visit again.
When he was certain the trinkets were irretrievable, he turned and saw his mother watching from the kitchen. She looked pale. She looked exhausted. She looked sad and frightened.
She fought back tears, turned, and walked softly to her bedroom and shut the door.
Lance climbed onto his bunk bed and wiggled onto his back. The ceiling was only a few inches from his face. He regretted what he had done, not because he wanted the memorabilia back, but because he knew he had hurt his mother deeply. She was so happy when they arrived. Why did he feel so out of control? Like he had to lash out? Maybe they could have had fun today, maybe even have unpacked and ordered a pizza—except there was no place to order a pizza in this Godforsaken ghost town. But that was beside the point. He felt angry and frustrated, like he had ruined everything. But actually, everything had already been ruined for him. It wasn’t his fault his father died, that his finger was missing, the house was a shack, the town was deserted, his keepsakes were bunk. It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t his fault.
“It’s not my fault!” He yelled at the ceiling six inches from his face. Then he punched it emphatically as best he could given there was no room to develop momentum in his swing. The ceiling plaster crumbled on impact, landing on his eyeballs. Blinking painfully, he flipped over to wipe his face on the pillowcase and told himself his tears were brought on by the plaster.
Lance dreamt the house slid downhill. As a result, he woke for his first day at the new high school, in a panicked sit-up hoping to confirm the shack was still on its footings. The quick upright motion caused him to bang his head on the ceiling plaster. Any kind thoughts he’d had about reconciling with his mother were immediately knocked from his consciousness. His mood was instantly cross. His intention to walk through town with her after school was vetoed upon viewing the growing goose egg on his forehead. He peered in the cracked mirror over the pedestal sink. Great. I look just great. He showered in lukewarm water becoming angrier by the minute.
His mother was sipping coffee at the tiny kitchen table. She was still silent. The silence was acceptable this morning. Lance knew if he said anything at all, it would be more offensive than usual. He grabbed a glass of milk, swallowed some plain un-toasted bread, and left for the bus stop. She had pointed out its location yesterday with a zealous Ta-da. As the door slammed, he thought he heard a, “Have a good day, honey.” This almost made him feel bad. Almost. But he decided the muffled kindness from his mother was nothing more than the groaning door hinges.
The bus came. Lance hoped it had good brakes for the drive-down-vomit highway. He envisioned the newspaper saying, “School bus takes flight,” like some freakish version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As he got on the bus, he couldn’t help but notice the first two passengers behind the driver’s seat. Seated next to the window was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She was delicate with an otherworldly hue of porcelain skin. Her nose was slightly rounded, and her cheekbones high. She had large, light blue eyes and not a hint of make-up. Around her neck she wore a faded pink floral scarf, and her light brown hair was bunched upward in a clip, its volume cascading in straight disheveled lengths, this way and that, to her shoulders. It appeared she had put it up in a hurry. It was the type of hairdo one could do in the dark. But the mess didn’t matter. She looked exquisite.
Next to her was a heavyset boy. His brown skin and features indicated he was Hispanic. His dark eyes sparkled while hers, in contrast, appeared haunting and sad. They were the strangest pair. Lance realized he had inadvertently paused in his observation of the couple. He caught himself staring and quickly continued past, sitting several seats behind them. There were many empty seats. He wondered why the two of them were sitting together. Toward the back of the bus was a handful of students. The ‘in’ crowd, thought Lance. Three boys lounged with legs flopped over the seats in front of them or across the aisle onto neighboring seats. Two or three girls chomping gum and laughing sat behind the boys who spoke of last year’s baseball season. He deliberately tuned them out.
For the duration of the twisty, nauseated commute, he observed the strange duo and was thankful he hadn’t eaten much breakfast. He would probably have tasted it twice. From the looks of the height of the Hispanic boy, even in a seated position, Lance surmised he was at least six feet. He wondered if they were boyfriend and girlfriend or if they just happened to sit together today or perhaps both had misbehaved and were assigned to sit behind the driver. He even wondered why he was wondering so much. He would possibly see them around campus and could deduce more. Perhaps what intrigued him most was they did not speak once the entire trip.
The high school was in Cottonwood at the base of a looming mountain. When Lance stepped off the bus he wanted to kiss the flat ground. The unusual duo walked off together. He later saw them at the lockers and noticed their lockers were located next to each other. His was on the opposite row facing theirs at the far end. This allowed him to glance again. They were still not speaking. He lost sight of them during his first three classes: English, history, and physical education.
Throughout the day, no one approached him. No one said, “Hey, you’re new around here.” He knew that in a town this small, everyone knew everyone. He noticed the curious glances at his right hand, the one with the missing finger. It pained him to be treated as if he were contagious, a misfit, an outsider. As if others feared feeling obliged to ask what happened. He might as well have painted his hand bright orange and written Freak on his forehead.
He ate lunch alone with his left hand, leaving his right under the table.
His last class was chemistry. By then, his chest and throat were tight from tension and sadness. Chemistry had once been his favorite class and his father had been his junior high science teacher. He refused to think of his father.
He watched some of the boys from the back of the bus enter the classroom and sit together. Then, the mysterious duo entered. A class in common. At least he could focus on something beside his father. He watched the couple with curiosity. They walked to a corner table and sat next to each other at one end. All of the tables were elevated with stools for chemical experiments. Each table sat six students. No one else sat at the duo’s table.
The professor walked to the front of the class and smacked the blackboard with a long, cubed, plastic yardstick. The noise got everyone’s attention and dented the blackboard. Lance noticed half the board was dented. This particular smack landed directly under the instructor’s name.
“My name is Mr. Taber. I do not write on this half of the chalkboard. I use this half of the chalkboard to get your attention. If I have to smack it more than once, you will have an extra chapter of reading. Twice, two chapters and so forth. I’m sure you can do the math.”
Lance thought this an odd introduction. He studied the instructor’s face. He was late thirties or early forties with sandy blond hair and dark-rimmed bifocals. His eyes, which continually peered over the top of his glasses, looked soft and the corners had smile lines. Lance hated comparing other teachers to his father, but if he weren’t mistaken, the board whacking was an attempt at humor and not ill temper. His dad always used humor when teaching science. Enough. Lance had long ago learned to control his thought patterns regarding his father.
“Chemistry.” The instructor began. “There is much to be learned from the matter around us. Things we see every day contain secrets and explanations for the world we perceive. It is not uncommon around here to see people treasuring crystals. They wear them around their necks and carry them in their pockets. I prefer to wear ties and keep change in my pockets, as both prove more useful. There is something, however, to be gained from examining these rocks of admiration. We will begin the semester by growing crystals.”
It’s a conspiracy! Lance did not want to believe what he was hearing. He had panicked the day his mother announced she was moving him to No-Where’s-Ville and opening a crystal shop to sell trinkets, jewelry, and incense. He decided right then she had gone over the edge. Dad would have kept her from going over the edge. And now we live on the edge. The edge of insanity—the edge of a cliff… The instructor’s voice brought him out of his inner pining.
“Crystals remind us of the structures upon which our universe is built. All matter, everything that is physical and solid, owes its existence to the organizing properties of crystals. Crystals are structures that are formed from a regular repeated pattern of connected atoms or molecules. Crystals grow by a process termed nucleation.
“Some of the locals would have you believe there are healing properties in crystals. I don’t know anything about that. The only mystical property they possess, and of which I am aware, is the power of protection. If you locate an exceptionally large geode, you can strike someone on the head with it for protection.” His yardstick hit the board. “That was a demonstrative whack.”
The students laughed. His voice was theatrical and he emphasized every few words, making it hard to not pay attention. Most science instructors, with the exception of his father, were dry. Lance had a rare positive thought. Perhaps looking at crystals in a scientific manner would help him endure his mother’s fanaticism about the silly stones.
“You will learn the different shapes and structures of crystals. The shapes are isometric, tetragonal, orthorhombic, hexagonal, trigonal, triclinic, and monoclinic. The properties are covalent, metallic, ionic, and molecular. I don’t expect you to know all this today. But I do expect you to know all this tomorrow.”
Groans came from the students. In response, the instructor whacked the board. “That was a warning whack.”
Some giggles and then silence.
Mr. Taber went on to elaborate on the lengthy list of hard to pronounce defining principles of crystals, ending with a “Read chapter one for tomorrow. And know everything I discussed. I will be calling on you at random.” Then he whacked the board to stress his sincerity. “That was an emphatic whack.”
They shuffled out of the classroom. Lance strategically lingered behind the strange duo. He followed them to the lockers and then to the bus. For the duration of his spying and throughout the entire ride home, the pair spoke not a word.
The next three days played out the same. Lance attended school and observed the two intriguing misfits. Each day, they were inseparable and silent. Lance wondered at the girl’s obvious lack of concern for her appearance. Every day, her hair was bunched in the same careless knot, and the same faded pink scarf was draped around her neck.
At home, Lance pretended each night to have entirely too much homework. This helped him avoid walking down town through Main Street with his mother. He had yet to see Main Street, but had no interest in it.
By Friday there was deviation from the established pattern. Lance boarded the morning bus and noticed the porcelain girl’s Hispanic friend was missing. Rather than sitting at the window, she was seated along the aisle—as if to protect the window seat from occupancy. Lance paused. This was his chance.
“May I sit with you?” He surprised himself by his boldness. She looked up startled, saying nothing. From the back of the bus, an obnoxious boy from the in-crowd shouted, “She’s mute, you moron!”
Lance turned and squinted toward the toxic voice as if confused. The voice continued loudly. “She’s a mute, dumb, doesn’t speak, can’t communicate, not a word, doesn’t talk—no talkie—get the point? Oh—wait—you don’t get the point. You can’t even point!” Laughter erupted at the reference to Lance’s disfigurement. His hand felt red hot, and he wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or anger. But this was not a time to be meek. Had they only mocked his deformity, he’d have let it go. But to spew out cruelty at a frail girl.
At five foot eleven with dark hair and dark eyes, and after years of playing sports, Lance looked intimidating. He walked slowly toward the hecklers, not saying a word. They watched with uncertainty as he approached. Lance singled out the boy who had spoken. He was wearing a baseball jersey, Number 6.
Lance leaned his right hand on the seat rail in front of Number 6. This allowed jersey boy to fully view the missing finger. Lance spoke in a low voice glaring at the perpetrator. “You know, I lost this finger to a switchblade,” he lied.
“Cutting cheese?” The smart aleck responded.
“No. A gang fight.”
“So you’re not good with knives.” Six smirked and his buddies laughed.
“I keep the other guy’s ear in a box. As a keepsake.”
The group looked a little taken back.
“I have connections in the valley,” Lance continued. “They’ll do anything I ask. You get the point?”
Some forced laughter came from the group, and Number 6 thrust his face forward in a sneer, but said nothing.
Lance turned and walked back to the front seat. He wondered if he should shove his hand in his pocket, but hesitated as the porcelain girl glanced at his absent finger. In an ironic turn of events, this glance seemed to alter her opinion of him. She silently slid toward the window, a clear invitation for him to sit next to her. He felt the disfigurement caused everyone else to shrink from him, but now had somehow served as an opening for this girl to trust him. He quickly sat down, his heart pounding. It dawned on him that her large missing friend was perhaps not a boyfriend, but a bodyguard. No one had ventured to speak ill of the girl until the big Hispanic’s absence. He wondered, what now? What to say to someone who can’t answer back. He spoke without thinking.
“Thanks for the seat. I’m Lance. I’m new around here. It seems like a tough crowd.”
Instinctively, he took out his notebook and a pencil, leaning it in her direction. “What’s your name?”
She hesitated and then took the pencil from his hand. Slowly she penned out a word. When her hand withdrew, he saw she had written quite beautifully, in spite of the lurching bus—a word in calligraphy. It was only one word. Whisper.
Lance was uncertain. “You want me to whisper?” His mind raced. He had heard of people with missing senses, how their other senses would be heightened. Could it be in the absence of speech, her ears were sensitive?
She gave a faint half smile and shook her head “no.” It then dawned on him this was her name. “I’m sorry—it’s a beautiful name, I just never heard it before.”
She smiled and looked toward the window. Again he wondered, what now? In an effort to fill the silence, he found himself talking. He spoke of his move to Jerome, how his house was a shack, that his mother was imbalanced. He told Whisper he’d left all his friends behind and that he hated this town, the new school, and his bedroom was so small he bumped his knees on the plumbing when he used his computer, and on and on. He even mentioned his father had died. As he listened to himself, he realized he needed to speak and needed a friend. For some reason he could talk to this girl. Not because she couldn’t answer, but because he felt himself trusting her. She looked at him intently, occasionally nodded and seemed to absorb everything he said. Each time she looked up, he couldn’t help but notice the sorrow in her eyes. He felt she was empathizing, but also that her sadness was much deeper than his. He felt less tension in his chest, and gratitude for her interest. For the first time in a long time, he felt almost happy. When they got off the bus, he walked her to her locker and then thought about her all day. He had spewed out his life story. What would he say to fill the silence on the ride home?
In chemistry class, Lance had been assigned a partner for an experiment. Mr. Taber announced he would help Whisper with her project in the absence of Manuel.
So that’s her friend’s name.
Every so often, Lance glanced in Whisper’s direction and smiled. She would give a faint smile back and her sad eyes would gleam slightly. Lance gave himself a mission; for as long as Whisper would befriend him, he would do everything he could to make her smile.
During the course of the experiment, the class became loud. Mr. Taber performed the warning whack. Engaged in the task of working on their creations, the class did not respond. Mr. Taber hit the chalkboard a second time. A few students acknowledged the impact and knew this would mean an additional chapter of reading. Some of them tried to shush the others to no avail. A third smack resounded heavily. “Three chapters of additional reading,” Mr. Taber announced.
No one dared groan for fear of a fourth. This mishap, which upset everyone else, gave Lance an idea.
After boarding the bus and again sitting next to Whisper, Lance produced his chemistry book. “I figured since we have so much extra reading, I’d read one of the chapters on the ride home.” He looked for the slight smile of approval, got it, and began reading aloud.
Lance already knew the terms, the principles, and the subject. On many nights, he and his father had talked late into the evenings of science and of the universe. They had sat on the back porch listening to classic rock, and had talked, disputed, and theorized. His father would throw out a theory and wait for Lance to draw his own conclusion.
As Lance read, he extrapolated and expounded on the ideas in the book. Not to show off to Whisper, but to share a subject he missed discussing with his father.
Whisper seemed interested. The twisty road, however, was not conducive to reading. Two-thirds of the way home, he began to feel sick. He paused and held his hand over his mouth. Whisper seemed amused. She didn’t laugh, but gave the biggest smile he’d seen yet. She reached out and slapped his book shut to prevent him from becoming even more ill. Lance laughed out loud at himself and her action. Of course, he thought, everyone knows not to read on a winding road.
When the bus came to his stop, Lance stood and nodded toward his house. “That’s my shack. If you and Manuel are bored this weekend, stop by. The guy that mowed my finger off is coming to fix up the house. I’d like to make a point to be absent when he hauls out the table saw.”
She looked startled, then relaxed and nodded. She seemed to realize he was attempting to be funny. It was difficult for Lance to leave this new friend. He hoped she would accept his invitation. A weekend alone with his mother and Mr. Harper would be difficult to withstand.
As soon as he went into the house, his mother again asked if he would like to walk through town with her. Lance resisted, explaining the extra reading he’d been assigned in chemistry. She looked disappointed, but hauled her order catalogues out onto the kitchen table. She’d been deciding what inventory to order for her new shop.
“Honey, I met a local jeweler. I’ve got a great idea for the store. I can order the crystals in bulk and get them cheap if they aren’t already in a setting. This local fellow will set the jewelry for me and I can work out a price with him. Then I can also have input into creating the designs of the settings. It’ll be great!”