(#7 the end)
Maggie smiled, remembering her life so long ago. “My given name is Mary. There was a time I placed my worth in the hands of others. I lived in a grand house high in the city. I had wealth. And influence. I had many prominent friends.
“One day I became ill. I was afraid because I knew they had no cure. I’d lost loved ones into that abyss of torment and pain. Then, I met someone. He made me see what was truly valuable. He offered to heal me. Many stories were spread about me. And many lies. I’ve been charged with everything from prostitution to sainthood. The truth? Did not matter.
“None of us know how much time we have.” Maggie looked firmly into Lisa’s eyes. “There are many who love you.”
“I’ve lost everything today.” Lisa sighed. “But, today wasn’t real, was it?”
“Sometimes we’re given a glimpse of what could be. There are times we’re all afraid. We’re all dying a bit, until we let go and trust.”
“Trust what?” Lisa asked.
“Not what—who. Who will you trust?” Maggie returned to her earlier question. “To whom do you belong?”
Dallas softly whined. Maggie patted her head. “We must leave. You will choose. Remember, no decision is itself a decision.”
Lisa pressed her palms against her eyes as she thought about what Maggie said. She remembered the lessons from her grandparents. They knew. She thought of her family.
She must go home!
Ahead, beyond the last gnarly bristlecone, a red glow flickered. Behind her, Maggie and Dallas were already walking back toward their camp. The black sky sparkled with stars as she made her way up the hill. The red neon sign of the Coral Canyon Diner came into view.
She tiptoed in bare feet across the empty parking lot and pushed open the glass doors. Round, red vinyl stools on stainless pedestals lined a white counter. Red and white booths flanked the front wall, while black and white linoleum tiled the floor. A small neon sign beamed the word “OPEN.”
A man, short, but rugged and strong, stood behind the counter slicing pie. Brass keys jangled from his belt as he nodded. “Welcome. I’m Pete.”
“Hello. Is there a phone I may use?”
“Sure.” He pointed to an ancient black rotary at the far end of the counter.
Lisa dialed Edison’s cell.
“Hi, Hon. Is everything ok?” Edison sounded surprised.
“Hi….” Darling had been on the tip of her tongue, but she hesitated. “Yes, but I’ve had some car trouble. I’m at the Coral Canyon Diner on the road to Pinto Rojo off I-10. Can you come help me?” Lisa blinked back sudden tears at the sound of his voice.
“I’ll be right there. It’s only 5:30. I’ll get Tif and Christian to take Mason on to his game and catch up with them after I get you.”
“Thank you. I’ll wait here. And… Edison?” Lisa paused. “Thanks for coming. I-I love you.”
“I love you, too, Hon. See you soon as I can.”
Lisa hung up. Had he said “5:30?” It must be later. She instinctively touched her naked wrist.
“Excuse me, do you have the time?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Pete pointed to the clock above the door. “5:32. Hungry? Tonight’s special is fresh fish.”
“No, thank you. My husband’s on his way. My car broke down near the bridge. I walked here along that path through the woods to find you.” The clock had to be wrong, Lisa thought, far too much time had passed since she first stopped.
“Woods? It’s all flat scrub desert as far as the eye can see around here. You sure you don’t want a plate?”
“No, thanks. I don’t have any money to pay.”
Pete slid a plate of fresh broiled fish in front of her. “It’s on the house.”
Lisa perched on a stool and began to eat. She hadn’t realized how hungry she’d become and the fish was superb. Pete prepared himself a plate and they talked of their families, their lives, their friends.
“This is delicious. I wouldn’t have thought that stream was deep enough for fish.”
“My brother lives on the coast and they came from him. What stream? There’s no stream for miles this time of year.”
“Back up the road. There’s a sign: Coral Canyon Diner, three miles. That’s how I knew you were here.” Lisa licked a finger as she polished off the last bites of her fish.
“You sure you’re ok? There’s nothing around here, but scrub desert. That old gulley’s been dry for months. Nothing grows there,” Pete said kindly.
“You must be mistaken. I met a woman camping by the stream. There was grass. Bushes and gardens grew in the trees. She helped me find the path to here.”
They heard a car crunch to a stop in the gravel.
“That’s Edison.” Lisa peeked out the window. “Please, let me get some money from him and pay you.”
“No, it’s on the house. You go with your husband and get back to your family.” He opened the doors for Lisa as the afternoon sun spilled into the diner.
“Thank you for everything.” She shook his hand.
“It was my pleasure.”
Pete watched her get in the car, then whistled. “Come on, girl, time for dinner.”
Lisa’s breath caught as she looked back through the rear window and saw a silver-blue Great Dane walk up to Pete. Edison turned the car onto the road.
She realized he was talking. “… and I wanted to get you first. I’ll try to get it started before we call for help.”
It had been daylight when the car broke down. She’d seen a stream—with water. She’d met Maggie—and Dallas. She remembered the feel of the grass. The darkness and fog. She remembered the funeral, the glow of the sign. Now it was light. What happened?
“Are you ok?” Edison asked.
“Yes. It’s been a strange day.”
“Well, here’s your car.” Edison parked on the side of the road. They both got out and walked over to hers. “Where are your shoes and coat?”
Before she could think of an answer he had her car unlocked. “Here they are. That was smart to not get them damaged in the gravel.”
There on the seat were her shoes, Rolex, pearls, coat. Everything. Perfect and clean.
“Let me help you with your coat. It’s getting chilly.” He held up her coat.
Lisa felt her wallet and car keys in its pocket. Holding up her keys, she saw Tiffany’s leather fob. And there, among the others, hung a brass key engraved with double C’s.
Edison turned the ignition with his key. The engine purred to life.
“Well, it seems to be fine now. You’ll be a little late, but you should still be able to make your auction.“
“Edison? Could you let me go home and change? I’d rather go with you to watch Mason.”
This is a work of fiction.
Any resemblance to actual people, places or events is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012-2017
No part of this may be reproduced in any form
without express written permission from the author.
Until next time. Be sweet.