“Don’t you have any furniture?” Beth pushed the snow out of the way to force the door open. She helped Stephanie get into the house, then headed back out to the car to get all the luggage.
Stephanie stood in the quiet, dark living room and felt nothing. There is no life here. Where there had been a crackling fire, there was now a soot-covered hearth, just cold stone and brick. She hobbled over to where the mound of blankets still lay in a forgotten jumble on the carpeting.
She could almost imagine his body lying there, grinning up at her, beckoning her to join him. His arms reached up for her and she fell into them. He rolled her over and looked down into her eyes, all laughter pushed aside and in its place a passion that she could feel emanating from every part of him.
His breathing was heavy, his sandy-colored curls fell across his forehead and she reached up to push them out of his eyes. Those eyes. They could pierce right into her soul. He leaned down to press his lips to hers and the wind from the open doorway blew snow across the room, breaking the spell and reminding Stephanie that he was never going to kiss her again.
She rolled over into the blankets and held them to her face, trying to shield herself from the cold and the hurt, trying to hide her tears from her well-meaning older sister. He was never coming back, and she was going to sleep alone for the rest of her life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Stephanie woke feeling stiff from sleeping on the floor, tears crusted on her cheeks, hungry and needing to use the bathroom. Her sister was nowhere to be seen. Did she leave me here alone? She wrapped one of the blankets around her shoulders and hobbled across the room. There was a note near the door scratched on a piece of paper Beth had torn from a scratchpad.
I went to the grocery store, be back soon. –Beth
“Good, I’m starving.” Stephanie grumbled as she kept hobbling over to the bathroom. The toilet seat was up, like a guy had been the last person to use this bathroom. Jared. Stephanie sat down on the floor, leaned against the wall, and stared at the cold toilet seat and what it represented. “I never should have complained when he left that stupid toilet seat up.”
“Are you sick?” Beth rushed into the bathroom, her purse draped over her arm and three bags of groceries in her other hand. She set the groceries down and crouched closer to Stephanie.
“The toilet seat is up…” Stephanie looked up at her sister and bit her lip.
“I see that.” Beth looked confused. “Did you throw up or something?”
“I didn’t lift up the toilet seat, Beth.”
“Well, I haven’t used this bathroom. I used the master bathroom because it was the only place I could find soap and a towel to dry my hands.”
“Jared used this bathroom.” Stephanie took a deep breath and looked back over at the toilet.
“Squirt, Jared’s not here. He’s not coming back.” Beth put a hand on Stephanie’s shoulder.
“I know that.” Stephanie shrugged out from under her sister’s comforting gesture. She spoke through clenched teeth. “Before we left for the island, he was the last person to use this bathroom, and he left the toilet seat up.”
Beth reached over and closed the lid.
“What are you doing?” Stephanie almost lunged across the room.
“If you wanted sympathy and sugar-coating, you should have had mom drive you home.” Beth reached down and helped Stephanie to her feet. “You’re not going to leave a toilet seat up for the rest of your life just because Jared was the last person to touch the darn thing, and you’re going to snap out of this slump and get on with your life. Now, get yourself out from under this nest of blankets and get cleaned up. We’re going shopping. You need furniture!” Stephanie watched in shock as Beth stomped away to put the groceries in the kitchen.
“Well, I’m never washing these blankets!” Stephanie called after her, as if yelling would somehow help the situation. She wrapped the soft cloth closer and pressed it around her face. She mumbled as she closed the bathroom door. “They smell like Jared.”
“I don’t blame you for that,” Beth called from the kitchen. “He always did smell good.” Stephanie smiled just a little, holding the blanket close to her nose, remembering the feeling of having him there.
“Yeah…” she whispered. “He did.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“We want Amish furniture.” Stephanie pouted and crossed her arms. The salesperson was trying to sell her on a large, plush sectional that was nowhere near what she wanted in her new living room.
“Rephrase that,” Beth said. “You want Amish furniture.”
“I want Amish furniture,” Stephanie grumbled. “There’s a store over near Gladwin that sells handmade, classic, Amish furniture. Made by Amish people. We had been planning to go shop there.”
“I would assume Amish furniture would be made by Amish people.” Beth shook her head and sighed. “You know, handmade furniture is going to take weeks to get once you order it. They don’t just wave their magic wands and furniture is delivered to your house.”
“I know that. I’m willing to wait.”
“Well, let’s get a few normal pieces of furniture now so that you and I can have a place to sleep and sit to watch television while you’re waiting for your fancy furniture to be handmade.”
“How long are you planning to stay with me?” Stephanie hobbled after her sister, who hurried off towards the mattress sets.
“How soon are you getting that walking cast off?” Beth stopped and looked down.
“I don’t know. A few weeks. But, I think I can try to learn to drive with it on.”
“Well, I guess our next shopping trip will be to a car dealership.” Beth turned and kept walking.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Well, you were right. The furniture there is incredible, and you drove all the way there and back with minimal problems.”
“Be careful Beth,” Stephanie said. “That almost sounded like a compliment.” The sisters grinned at each other.
“I love you, Squirt. But I should probably be getting home to my husband.”
“I’m sure he misses you.” Stephanie looked out the window.
“I’m sure he does.” Beth reached over and held Stephanie’s hand for the last few minutes of the car ride.
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.