‘Beep… Beep… Beep,’ her alarm rang as she tried to hide her head under the soft white pillow case. It was no use though, the alarm continued to beep and she found the energy to toss the pillow aside while shielding her eyes from the beam of sunlight shining on her face. She groped around the night stand for the radio clock, finding it she smashed all the buttons till the noise diminished. “Finally,” she blinked and took in the room again. It was different in the day light, noticing how the shadows played around the room as the curtains fluttered around the open window. Stretching her arms above her head and giving a short yawn she decided it was time to see to it that her friend had the same pleasure of being awake as she did.
After tying her sun robe she quickly turned her attention to the coffee pot that had automatically started brewing coffee when the alarm had awoken her. Taking a napkin she slid it around the rim of two cups and brushed out the bottom. Coffee brewed and poured and no sooner was she out the door, friend’s room key in-between her teeth. She fumbled for a second, spilling a little coffee on the carpet, but managed to open the door without too much hassle. Jill was still asleep, the alarm looked mangled. The battery casing was open and the batteries were scattered on the floor, the plug had been tugged out of the wall.
“Come on Jill, wake up!”
A moan came from the covers.
Kelly set the drinks down on the desk then walked over to the bed and started to shake the mattress, “come on, its sunny out, I want to eat down by the pool.” Kelly quickly ducked as a pillow zoomed past her head. “Really?” Taking a handful of the quilt she tugged hard pulling it and the sheets off her friend exposing Jill to the light shining through the hole in the curtains.
Jill started to throw a mini tantrum with a growing grin on her face, “okay I’m up, did you bring me coffee at least?”
“Do you really think I would dare try to wake you up without any coffee?” Kelly giggled.
“Best have some cream and sugar in it too.” Jill retorted.
It took Kelly a few moments to look through the small drawers of the desk, “found some,” then handed it to Jill.
After mixing her drink Jill took a sip and spit it out, “god this is horrible stuff, how much coffee did you add?”
Kelly blushed deeply, “I just added a couple tablespoons I guess, I don’t make coffee at home.”
Shaking her head Jill smiled at her friend, pushing her toward the door, “go get dressed and we will go find out what they have for breakfast here, maybe they have waffles?”
“You know Jill–” Kelly take another bite of waffle, “I haven’t had a vacation since before my mother passed.” Kelly looked up at Jill who was intently studying the sausage patty on her own plate as she doused it with a heap of Vermont maple syrup from the local sugar house.
Jill thought for a moment more while she cut into her patty then replied, “We’ve been friends for nine years and you never really talk about your mom.”
Sighing Kelly looked back down at her plate, empty now she pushed it away. Hurt and dark feelings started to show on Kelly’s face, “I’ve never opened up to anyone really about everything that went on.”
Jill’s fork hit the plate with a clink then she sat forward in her chair pursing her , a look of concern edged on her face, “Kelly maybe it is time, maybe you can let some of those feelings free here.”
The sun crested over Jay’s Peak, making the pool dance with sparkles of reflected light. Kelly looked around taking in the view. A few people made their way to the pool side claiming the white Adirondack lawn chairs, no kids were at the B&B as far she could tell.
“The mountain is very beautiful, today,” said a guest named Lisa as she walked by towards the pool.
The angle where the B&BS sat gave a great view of the ski lift side. On the hillside the birch and maple trees were covered in green leaves and the breeze blew through them making a soft rustling sound.
Their table’s white linen blew in the wind and their table had been set with white and blue china. They had ordered mimosa’s, waffles, and sausage for breakfast and could smell a roast cooking from the open kitchen windows for lunch. Mrs. Boulie the owner had told them the house had been built in the early 1900’s with nine bedrooms. All the rooms were painted white and the outside yellow with blue shutters, surrounded by a white picket fence around the property. The local gardening club maintained a few apple trees grew in the back yard and the flowers out front. “The premise itself is large enough to host a small wedding of thirty people,” Mrs. Boulie told them last night.
Kelly sat quietly taking in the beauty of their surroundings and was abruptly brought back to the conversation by Jill again saying, “Maybe you should open up? It would be good for you.”
“It hurts losing your mother,” Kelly’s face started to loosen from the mask she usually wore as she spoke. “When mom passed things changed between my dad and I, school got worse, family ignored me, friends left, and I never felt more alone.”
Jill reached her hand out and put it on Kelly’s, “well you’re not alone now.”
Kelly looked Jill in the eye, “I don’t know if I can really trust anyone to be there for me now,” she said. “I’ve been hurt too much in life to trust enough in anyone to not abandon me.”
“Well Kelly, I haven’t left you in nine years, I think that earns something.”
“Yes, true enough sweetie,” replied Jill with a widening smile.
“The memories are still fresh,” said Kelly. “I remember my father coming home to tell me about my mother passing.” She began to tell Jill the memory.
Fred just got home from the hospital, he absentmindedly hung his hat on the coat rack then sat heavily on the wooden chest that held their winter wear. The entry way seemed really lonely all of a sudden, the loss of his wife struck him like a sack of bricks and he began to cry. His shoulders heaved as he sobbed into thick calloused hands, the dirt was still under his nails from working in the garden with Sara his wife and their daughter Kelly. The clock ticked by as he sat there alone in the hall as the sun passed by him turning into the shadows of dusk. He heard a door open further in the house, a small voice called out, “daddy, are you home?”
Picking himself up off the chest he struggled to maintain his balance. He felt a wall of stress and despair making him panic as he thought out the words he would tell Kelly. A lump seemed to have stuck in his throat and he was unable to answer back as the small voice down the hall called out again, a little closer this time, “daddy?” She paused, “are you home yet?”
The world collided and mashed together into a whirlwind of thoughts, a desire to run, the pressure of fatherhood, depression, grief, and madness as he began to make his way towards Kelly’s voice. The words slipped out of his mouth like his throat had been covered with sandpaper, “I’m here sweetie.” He turned the corner and saw her standing there, a cup of water in her hand, her hair hanging loosely around her chubby young face. She was wearing a sun dress her mom had picked out for her at the mall last month on one of their shopping dates, a pretty blue with white floral patterns. Her bare feet padded against the hardwood floor towards him and she wrapped her arms around his middle pressing her face against him, holding him tightly as she sensed that something wasn’t right.
He held her tightly while he looked up towards the ceiling whispering a prayer of support to whatever angel might be nearby to hear his plea. “Sweetheart, today at the hospital.” He broke off not knowing the right words, “I mean, today… Mom; well… Mom went today… she went to live with the Angels.” When he stopped speaking tears began to leak out of his eyes and he held her tighter to him.
Tears formed in her eyes as she tried to comprehend the new. The news itself was not unexpected. Her mom had been battling health issues for many months now. She also felt sad seeing her father so grieved, and it hurt to know that she would never get to see her mom again. There were a lot of emotions that tired in her. She felt deprived of the things that she would never get to experience now, she also felt jealousy towards her friends because they still had their mothers. All these emotions started to twist together as her father continued to hold onto her, the longer she thought things over the more distant and angrier she became. She wasn’t angry at her mom or dad, she was angry that life is so unjust to take something from her that it freely gave to her other friends. ‘Why did she deserve so much pain,’ she thought.
When it all became too much to bear she began to hit her father with the blunt sides of her fists, tears streaming down her face. He bit his lip and closed his eyes and said, “I know it’s so unfair.” He never let go of her though.
“Why?” She asked, “couldn’t the doctors of done something for her?”
“They did everything that they could for her,” said Fred.
“I just don’t understand, Dr. Smith was saying that he could fix her,” she replied.
“It isn’t as easy as that sweetie, there were difficulties that we didn’t know about–” He said “The cancer was progressed too much, the surgery only had a thirty percent success rating.” He knew that he was being factual, but the emotions were so raw that he felt closed off to some of the parts of him that he needed to access for her. He was angry at the doctors, the hospital, and life for taking away the mother of his daughter and his wife.
Pressure was building inside Fred’s chest and he started to feel as if he was having an anxiety attack. His breathing became shallow and he leaned against the wall for support as he still held onto Kelly. Fred closed his eyes and tried to breathe evenly and regain some composure. It was no good though, the feeling wouldn’t pass.
“Are you okay?” Kelly kept repeating. Worry crept over her face, seeing her father like this didn’t help her feel she could find the support she needed in him. She felt emotionally vulnerable and because of his grief he seemed so distant and unavailable. It really hurt losing her Mom and she needed a shoulder to grieve on too.
The sun peaked over the mountain bringing a few more people out of the B&B to the poolside to enjoy the late morning. Kelly and Jill each had ordered another mimosa as Kelly shared her story. “That’s when things really started to change between my father and me,” Kelly said taking a tissue from her purse and dabbing her eyes, choking back a light sob. “I’m sorry,” she paused, “it is hard to think back to that time for me, a lot of negative memories.”
“We all have our demons,” Jill said.
“Yeah, my demons seem to have sharp teeth and bite really hard though,” Kelly said. “I always feel like I’m bitching when I talk about my past… I don’t really want to be a burden on anyone with my problems.”
“Friends help each other,” Jill said.
“Friends also hurt each other—”
“People who don’t care about their relationships and are out for themselves Kelly,” Jill replied. “Those are the people who use and abuse others.”
“I’m still afraid of getting hurt, Jill.”
“I’m here to listen Kelly,” Jill said, “What you share is between us as friends… I want to help you and be a shoulder that it sounds like you haven’t had in a long time.”
“Sorry to interrupt,” said Bill. He stood there for a second noticing he had maybe interrupted a sensitive moment. “May I get you two ladies anything else from the kitchen before we close up to prepare for lunch?”
“I think two coffees for us please,” said Jill. “Anything for you Kelly?”
“No thank you, just the coffee,” said Kelly.
“Two coffees it is,” said Bill. With a bright smile and a nod to them both he turned and walked to the next table.
“Thank you,” said Kelly after a long pause. She took the last sip of her mimosa and leaned back enjoying the breeze that fanned her face, blowing her brown curly hair lightly about. She began to gather the emotions and thoughts that had hit her after sharing that brief story. Kelly almost felt like a pin cushion, nervous energy shifted about her body, and she shifted in her seat slightly. Unused to being so vulnerable Kelly closed her eyes and took in a deep breath and let it out a few moments later. “Okay, I think I’m ready to share some more.”
“Well Kelly I’m all ears,” Jill’s eyes trailed off over the yard. “I think we should maybe ask one of these couples if they want to join us on our nature tour later this afternoon. I think the Peterson’s would be really interested in it.”
“Yeah Jill that would be a great idea!” Kelly brightened up as she thought about their hike. “I really hope to get some good photos from the peak. Maybe after the hike we can find that sugar house Mrs. Boulie was telling us about last night and get some maple candies?”
“I think that would be a great idea, Kelly.” Jill’s mouth watered at the thought of buying a liter of syrup. “You know my grandfather used to tap maple trees in our backyard when I was a kid. He showed me how once.”
“Yeah, he tapped the tree and let me try some of the sugar water from it.” Jill’s face turned disgusted, “It was horrible! I didn’t believe him that he made syrup out of it.” They both shared a laugh and some of the tension eased.
“The weather is really beautiful out today Jill.”
“Yeah were going to have a blast!” Jill got up out of her chair and walked over to the pool side sliding off her sandal she dipped her toe in the pool. “Not too bad, kinda warm,” she put her sandal back on and walked back over to their table.
“Where is that coffee?”
“Oh, you’re one to talk about coffee Kelly!” Jill grinned wickedly. “After that crap you gave me to drink this morning.”
“Come on, you know I’m just kidding!” Jill said poking Kelly in the ribs. Kelly pouted but she couldn’t resist the humor and quickly smiled back at her friend.
“Okay Jill, I guess I’ll just have to take lessons from you on how to make coffee.”
“Not from me,” Jill said as she laughed. “I can’t make coffee for shit!”
“Oh here comes Bill now,” Kelly said clearing a spot for her new cup to go on the table.
Bill carried a tray full of various drinks and stopped at Kelly and Jill’s table first. “Two coffees, here’s the cream, and sugar,” he said placing each item. “I will be back around in about an hour or so to start to take lunch orders. If you need anything in the meantime Hank is still in the kitchen helping Mrs. Boulie fix lunch.”
“Lunch sure smells good, thank you for the coffee Bill,” said Jill.
“Yeah the waffles were delicious, tell Mrs. Boulie she did a fantastic job,” said Kelly.
“I’ll definitely pass it on to them,” said Bill. He turned around and headed down the lawn towards the next table where the Petersons were having a lively chat about some bird that had just rested in a nearby tree.
“Things were never the same,” said Kelly. She took a long sip of her coffee then stirred it with the straw, looking down into the cup watching the cream swirl around the edges of the clear glass. “That first year was utter hell. Dad was a different man altogether. He let the crops go to shit that year and did we pay for it. I didn’t think I would ever see him turn around. I remember being scared of him. He had changed so much. In his grief he became distant from me.”
“Sounds like hell.”
“It was in many ways,” Kelly’s eyes moistened as she spoke. “There were some good times in there, don’t get me wrong. It just seems that the bad memories outweigh the good ones. Why I remember it was my first time going to the river by myself that year. I spent a lot of time down there.” Kelly kept looking around the yard as she reminisced over the few good times she had.
Kelly’s eyes panned the yard and she watched the Petersons appearing to be having great time enjoying another new bird. Mr. Peterson pulled out his tablet and was looking up something. Lisa, a woman she met last night in the lobby dived in the pool, and Bill picked up tables as he meandered about the yard.
“I’m going to see if the Peterson’s want to come along on that hike later, Kelly.” Jill pushed her seat back and walked over to the table. Kelly watched Jill say a few words to them and the Peterson’s waved to Kelly as Jill spoke to them. Kelly smiled and waved back. Mrs. Peterson acted very enthusiastic when Jill returned back to the table.
“Yeah –” Jill took a sip of coffee. “Were going to leave at noon… Mr. Peterson is going to drive us all because there are not a lot of parking spaces at the start of the trail.”
“Fantastic, good thing we brought something to eat on the trail—” Kelly thought for a second. “Do you think we can get Mrs. Boulie to save some of that roast? It smells delicious.”
“I will ask Hank… I think Bill said he would still be in the kitchen,” said Jill. She laughed lightly then took another sip of coffee. “You’re always thinking about food, Kelly. You should have been a chef.”
“I want to get ready for the hike Jill.”
“Yeah we need to pack up anyway,” Jill said as she pushed herself away from the table again. “I will meet you in your room in thirty minutes… we can make sure we have everything.”
“Don’t forget to stop in the kitchen.”
“First stop,” Jill replied already walking towards the B&B. She rounded the corner of the building and headed towards the kitchen door while Kelly headed to the front desk. “Hello?” Jill stuck her head in the doorway. Hank had a butcher knife in hand cutting heads of lettuce for salad.
“Hello to you too,” Hank said setting the blade down on the cutting board. “What may I help you with?”
“We were wondering if we could get two plates of that delicious roast saved for dinner.” Jill asked. She noticed the kitchen was crowded, pots and pans were hanging in the center and there was only a small walk way around the entire square kitchen. The oven gave off an oppressive heat, but the smell was delicious. A few small windows by the sink let in some natural light, but the kitchen’s florescent lighting slightly buzzed and flickered overhead. Breakfast plates were piled in the sink and gave off a strong smell of maple syrup.
“Not a problem— what room number?”
“Were in rooms five and seven.”
“Names on the order?” asked Hank.
“Jill… room seven and Kelly… room five.”
“Yes Ma’am,” said Hank. “I will have Mrs. Boulie save the roast for you two… writing the order down now.” Hank jotted the order down on a green slip of paper and posted it on a string over the grill.
“Thank you, Hank.” Jill turned around and started to head back towards the front door, heading around the front of the building. She stopped and admired the flower garden. Jill wished she could grow plants.
Heading inside she walked past the front desk and Mrs. Boulie called out to her, “Message for you dear.”
“Oh?” Jill stopped with a look of surprise at Mrs. Boulie.
“A Mr. Halbert called this morning,” Mrs. Boulie said handing Jill a note. “Said for you to call back at this number,”
“Thank you, Mrs. Boulie.” Jill took the note from her and read the number, it wasn’t familure to her. “He didn’t say anything else?”
“No… just left the number.”
Jill pocketed the note and headed upstairs she was running late and she knew Kelly didn’t like it when people were not on time. She opened her door and headed straight to her rucksack. It was prepacked, but she wanted to be sure she hadn’t forgotten anything. She ran down the list quickly in her head then shouldered the pack and headed to Kelly’s room with a minute to spare.
Jill knocked and Kelly answered through the door, “one moment.” It took a full minute before Kelly opened the door, Kelly also had her rucksack on her shoulders. “I’m ‘bout ready.”
“Yeah, I think we just have to get the Petersons,” said Jill.
Both Kelly and Jill headed down the stairs to the main lobby and found Mr. Peterson already there. Mr. Peterson had on a pair of khakis a polo shirt and a wide brimmed hat.
“Susan will be right down,” said Mr. Peterson. “By the way call me Paul.” Paul took his keys out of pocket and unlocked the car from the lobby. “Why don’t you put your stuff in the trunk?”
“Sure,” said Kelly slinging the rucksack higher onto her shoulder. Kelly and Jill walked out the front and easily found Paul’s car, the trunk was open. “They must have an automatic opener.”
“I’d love to have one of those,” Jill said as she slung her rucksack off her shoulder onto the ground. She lifted hers into the trunk and waited for Kelly to put hers in before closing the trunk.
“Do you think we should go back inside Jill?”
“Nah.” Jill said kicking a stone across the parking lot. “Let’s go stand in the shade.” They waited five minutes and Susan and Paul came out of the B&B.
“Sorry about that, I couldn’t find my memory card for my camera,” said Susan.
“No problem Mrs. Peterson –” said Kelly
“Call me Susan,” she interrupted.
“Susan,” said Kelly. “I can’t wait to get to the top of the peak. I heard it is really breathtaking up there. People say you have a view into Canada and all around Vermont.”
They all piled into the car and drove off up the road towards the hiking trail. Each of them excited. Kelly felt anxious to see the beauty of the peak and off center from not finishing her story earlier with Jill. She thought to herself as they drove past the beautiful trees and rocks on the twisty road that perhaps she had finally found the outlet to help her let go of the pain. Without someone in her life she could trust for so long she had forgotten till now what it was like to share the deep dark hurts that hide in the closet.