Chapter 3B – Blue Cottage

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Cassette 2 Entry 1

After listening to Dr. Willowby talk we both needed a change of atmosphere so we went to a bookstore. I hoped a book there might pull Peter out of the depression he was in. It wasn’t a funk he was in and certainly wasn’t a rut. It was a full-blown depression. But didn’t it work. After about five minutes he simply walked out of the bookstore. I was in a blind panic that I had lost sight of him. I ran out the store and looked for him. I spotted him about a block away. After a vigorous jog I caught up to him and pushed him him towards the door of a bar. After we were both seated in a booth Peter leaned towards me and whispered in my ear.

“What are we doing here? I don’t drink,” he whispered. He looked at the tacky decorations.

“Maybe you don’t but I most certainly do. After hearing all that stuff you’re going to experience I need a drink. I’m going to have a rum and coke. What would you like to drink?. My treat” was my only answer.

“Mineral water. My throat really didn’t care for Dr. Willowby poking around with that damn scope. It’s sore as hell.”

The endoscope had gone up Peters’ nose and dropped down into his throat. Dr. Willowby directed where the camera went and it gave him a view of Peters vocal cords. A view that could only be called up close and personal. I watched Peters face while the scope was inside him. He clearly didn’t care for the experience. Dr. Willowby asked me if I wanted to take a look at Peters vocal cords. Just the idea gave me the creeps. And I shook my head rather stiffly.

Just then a waitress arrived and asked for our orders.

“I’ll have a rum and coke. Go light on the rum. And my talkative friend here will have some mineral water.” I was trying to lighten the mood. It didn’t work either. The waitress smacked her gum, rolled her eyes, and vanished with the speed of summer lightning.

When she disappeared I leaned towards Peter. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say but I but I needed to say thank you.

“Peter, I want to say something and I don’t want you to interrupt me. I want to thank you for asking me to come along. You have no idea what it meant to read your letter. I’m on indefinite suspension. And I’m not allowed to do anything a journalist can do. I can’t even write a grocery list on toilet paper-”

Just then Peter smiled for the first time in a very long time and started to chuckle albeit silently. He leaned forward to say something, pushing the dessert menu aside. Peter whispered that he was trying to imagine me writing on toilet paper. When I tried to imagine myself writing on toilet paper the image made me chuckle too. Then he said something I hadn’t thought of and it really made me think.

“Who is going to know if you write anything?” he whispered slowly trying his best to say every word correctly.

Buddha, had probably said those things to scare me silly, which he did, and to get me to think. He probably knew I’d discover there wasn’t any way for CKMT to know if I was writing anything.

“I just want you to know what you that what you said in your letter meant a great deal. You gave me a reason for being”. I didn’t know it at the time but I put my hand on top of his.

***

As Peter forecast, he was too depressed to drive. So I drove. He soon learned I tended to speed. And every time I did he tapped on the dashboard. He had every reason to tap. As his primary caregiver, my job was to keep him alive. Plus it was his car. I decided not to say anything as he studied the contents of the binder Dr. Willowby gave him. Suddenly he slammed the binder shut and cursed. I pulled the car over to the side of the highway and tried to get him to tell me what was wrong but he was in a foul mood. He wouldn’t say anything. He put the iPad in his lap and started typing. When he was finished he held it up and pointed it at me. “I’ll tell you at home.” For some reason, the words “at home” felt somewhat comforting.

When we got home he got out of the car he slammed the car door with murderous fury and almost tore the screen door off its hinges. When he was inside he stomped into his study and slammed its door shut. The part that worried me the most was when he locked the door. I moved towards the door with the intention of knocking. When I was just inches away from the door I heard what sounded like sobbing. I knocked on the door and called out.

“Peter! What’s going on? You can talk to me. I really want to know. I need to know. Please unlock the door. You’re scaring me.”

After a few minutes passed I heard some sounds from inside that I really couldn’t identify. Then I heard a clickity-click sound of the door being unlocked. When the door opened Peter almost fell into my arms. He was exhausted and his eyes were red. I held on to him as strongly as I could. We slowly walked over to the couch. After Peter sat down he leaned forward and started typing on the iPad. When he was finished he pushed the iPad into my lap.

I just can’t take it. It hurts so much. The last straw was when I read I was going to be Dr. Willoughby’s patient for another five years. But the thing that hurts the most right now isn’t physical. It’s emotional. I want to say something really important to you but my voice won’t let me and it’s infuriating. Plus its frustrating as hell.

Was he falling for me? It sure sounded that way to me. And the thing that scared me even more is that I think I was starting to have feelings for him. Did I want to get emotionally involved with another person right now? Short answer is no. Or did I? My career was in tatters. I had nothing to offer. But I couldn’t deny I was starting to feel something.

***

My aunt Heather loved leaving notes. She made notes for everyone and just about covered every subject imaginable.

A few days after Peter got scoped he found a manila envelope behind his computer that was stuffed full with them. I was hiding out in my cottage, terrified he might ask me to marry him or something when he suddenly appeared at the sliding glass door. After knocking he entered and made his trademark “Hey You” sound. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor when he lowered the folder into my line of sight. The envelope was addressed to me yet it was in Peters cottage. It would seem my aunt was trying to play matchmaker in her final days. One the many notes were on how to lower the deck into the water. It seemed perfectly simple, and it was. I could lower the deck with an electric winch while somebody stood in the water to position it properly. Peter had a wet suit which allowed him to stand in the water without freezing to death. He offered to help me position the deck. I usually wore jeans but with the sun out and deck down I went into my bedroom put on my bikini. I got a copy of a J.D. Robb novel from the bookshelves and lost myself in the pages. While I lay in a deck chair trying to figure out who the Traffordville killer was, and soaking up as much sun as I could, I couldn’t help but notice Peter was looking at me. When he came out of the water he stood beside me. As he peeled off the wet suit some of the water droplets fell onto my back.

“Christmas that’s cold! Is the water always that cold this time of year?”

Peter picked up the iPad from my chair and typed his response.

“Water in May is usually cold. Sorry for losing my cool when we came home. I’m just not used to feeling like hell.”

There was it was again. The “we” word. Only this time it didn’t sound quite so frightening. It almost sounded normal. But I still didn’t know how I felt.

“You certainly look comfy. Are you?” asked Peter who was looking down at me and drying himself off.

“The sun is warm and the book is yummy. What about you? How’s the throat today?”

“Well, the cold water has numbed most of my neck. Do you mind if I say something personal?”

“Go right ahead” not expecting anything remotely scandalous.

He took the iPad and wrote something very long. Something I wasn’t expecting at all.

“One of the side effects of throat cancer is you can’t verbally tell a woman she looks like a million dollars. And you look like a million dollars.”

My jaw dropped open. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Then he typed something I was totally unprepared for.

“May I take my gorgeous next door neighbor to dinner? Gelert Gardens has Chinese food that is out of this world. Interested?”

I looked up at him. With the wet suit off he didn’t look as poorly as I originally thought.  But even though he obviously had feelings about me I was still unsure about how I felt about him. We needed to talk before we took the next step – whatever that was. “Can we talk?” I suddenly felt like Joan Rivers.

Peter sat in the shade while I moved beside him. I wanted to know what he was feeling yet at the same time, I didn’t. Plus I didn’t want to risk hurting his feelings. He’s too sweet a guy. He had been dealt a really lousy hand of cards by life and he really didn’t need any more pain in his life.

“I need to know how you feel about me. I don’t want to say or do anything to cause you more pain. Heaven knows you’ve already had more than your share. Is this invitation between neighbors or between potential lovers? I feel something but right now I don’t know what I’m feeling. Do you understand?”

I didn’t know it at the time but I was trying to make my point with soggy end of a towel. Peter opened his mouth, croaked out a few words and started looking foe the iPad.

Peter took the iPad from my chair and started writing his reply which seemed to take forever and a day. And I was getting antsy. Peter noticed this and moved closer so I could see the iPad. I put my head on his shoulder so I could see his answer as he wrote it.

“I will admit I have feelings for you. I feel something for you that I haven’t felt for any other woman. But right now the feelings are not romantic. Right now my invitation is from one neighbor to another neighbor and nothing more. The fact that I think you’re extremely attractive has nothing to do with the invitation. Now, if the friendship between the neighbors blossomed into something else I wouldn’t mind it. But right now my attention is centered elsewhere, on getting better. You’re new to this area. And you’ve expressed curiosity about this area. I want to show you a part of it before I get sidelined for a few months. Neighbor to neighbor and nothing more.”

The last line of his answer clinched the deal. Gelert Gardens here we come.

…more to come

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