Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 3

She was sweeping the floor when I walked in. She paused mid-stroke and watched me brush past her. “Rose, we need to talk.”

I froze. My increasing animosity must have caught her attention, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to have this conversation. I spun around to face her, taking in a deep breath. “Okay.”

“Tomorrow’s Halloween, so I’ll need to leave early to get the kids dressed in their costumes.”

“Oh.” The band around my chest loosened. “Okay.”

“We can either close early or you can man the shop. Do you have any landscaping jobs tomorrow?”

I shook my head. “We’re in the middle of one right now, but the job site’s bound to be muddy with all the rain we’ve had the last couple of days. Besides, Bruce Wayne might not even be back to work tomorrow. He’s still nursin’ that cold.”

She put her hand on her hip. “Are you sure he’s sick? Maybe he’s just off getting high with his friends.”

“Bruce Wayne hasn’t gotten high since he started working for me.”

“That you know of.”

“You don’t know him like I do, Violet.” The resentment reared its head in me, ugly and large, and there was more attitude in my voice than intended. I was tired of her always criticizing my friend and thinking the worst of him. “He loves his job and would never do anything to jeopardize that.”

She started sweeping again. “Okay … if you say so.” She paused for a second. “Do you still want to go trick-or-treating with us? Mike’s still coming,” she grumbled. “I thought about talking him out of it, but he enjoys traipsing around the neighborhood more than I do.”

She had asked me over a week ago, but since then things had gotten more and more intense between us. But I loved trick-or-treating with the kids. Maybe because Momma had never let me and Violet do it. “Yeah, I’d love to see the kids in their costumes.”

“So why don’t we just close early and you can come over and help? I’ll make a pot of chili.”

I smiled. “I’d like that.” I’d been going to Violet’s for Halloween since Ashley was a few months old and my sister dressed her as an Anne Geddes flower.

Her back straightened and she offered me a stiff smile. “Then we’re good.”

We were far from good, but we’d do for now.

Chapter Two

I woke up the next day to my phone ringing on my nightstand. A dusky gray light filtered around my curtains, so I knew it was morning, just another overcast and dreary one.

My little dog, Muffy, whimpered when I leaned over to grab the phone. The display read 6:58 a.m., but no name appeared, just a phone number. “Hello?” I answered, still groggy.

“Rose, this is David.”

David Moore? “What’s wrong?” I shot upright, fear rushing through my veins. David was Bruce Wayne’s lifelong best friend and roommate. And also a notorious pot smoker who didn’t believe in getting out of bed before noon. So why was he calling me before seven in the morning?

“Nothin’s wrong. I’m just callin’ to tell you that Bruce Wayne can’t make it in again today.”

“Why are you calling and not Bruce Wayne?”

“Uh.” He paused. “He’s been up all night coughing and he finally got to sleep.”

“What are you doing up so early?”

“Who could sleep with all that coughing?”

Something didn’t feel right. “Has he gone to the doctor yet? He really needs to see one, David. I know he doesn’t have insurance, so tell him the nursery will pay for it.”

“Okay … I will.”

“He’s still not going to go, is he?”

He didn’t answer.

“Is he running a fever?”

“Well, yeah.”

“He could have bronchitis or pneumonia. He probably needs antibiotics.”

“Okay!” David sounded annoyed. “I’ll tell him.”

“David, you really need—”

“I said I’d tell him! I gotta go.” He hung up before I could say anything else.

I threw on a fluffy robe and a pair of flip-flops and took Muffy outside. My next door neighbor, Heidi Joy, waddled out her front door while I watched Muffy relieve herself on her favorite bush.

“Oh, hi, Rose.” She said, tucking her hair behind her ear self-consciously then cinching the belt of her robe over her protruding belly.

“How are you feeling?”

“Oh, you know. Tired. Same as always.” She came around the side of her house toward her trash cans. “Andy’s been picking up a lot more hours to help cover expenses, which is great, but it means he hasn’t been around as much to help me.” She spread her feet apart and leaned over to pick up a metal trash can.

I hurried over to her. “Heidi Joy, let help you with that.” I gently pushed her to the side and picked up the heavy can. “What were you thinking, trying to pick this up? You’re going to hurt yourself.”

Tears filled her eyes. “Andy already left and forgot to carry the cans out. I can’t let all these dirty diapers sit outside another week.”

I put the can down and pulled her into an awkward hug. “Then let me help you. We’re friends, right? Friends help each other. You’ve helped me plenty of times with Muffy.”

“I guess.”

I smiled. “Then ask me, okay?”

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