“Hurry up and grab your bag Joe!” I want to get on the road and we still have to stop and get groceries.”
“We can get groceries at Lucy’s general store. You need to stop being so frazzled or your going to ruin your own good time! Didn’t anyone ever tell you part of the fun is the journey to get there? So, relax I’m ready, let’s go!”
“I am just so excited! I haven’t seen Christine face to face in 2 years. I can’t wait to catch up with her!” Jenny exclaimed!
“She’s bringing her new boyfriend, right? Do you know anything about him? I hope we have something in common, so when you girls start squealing and clucking, we can get lost!”
“Squealing and clucking, really? What are we farm animals? Do you think we’re going to Old McDonalds farm? You are so weird! Let’s go!” Jenny shouted and rolled her eyes as she walked out the patio door.”
She gave the door a shove, so it shut right in her husband’s face. He gave her a crooked smile and grabbed his eye like he was in pain.
Jenny didn’t fall for it for one second though. She and Joe were constantly busting each other’s chops as he called it. They loved to laugh and usually it came at the expense of one another. They climbed into their beat-up Jeep Wrangler and headed North.
It was an uneventful 2 and a ½ hour drive to the cottage, but Jenny hardly noticed the time pass. She read her book the entire way and now felt extremely relaxed.
As they turned East off the main highway she looked up as the tires hit the gravel. Butterflies began ballet dancing in her stomach. The cottage came into view and she sucked in an excited breath.
“Alright, alright take it easy. We are almost there, no need to hyperventilate”, Joe teased his giddy wife of 5 years.
She smacked his arm lovingly, but hard enough to let him know not to push it. She tried to give him “the look” but couldn’t keep the smile from creeping across her face.
Joe had barely shifted to park and Jenny was out the door like a shot. Christine’s blonde curls came bounding down the steps with the rest of her and ended up right in Jenny’s arms. They embraced and cried and embraced again. They walked arm in arm up the wide steps to the covered porch and into the house.
Joe looked around and saw no sign of the new boyfriend and wondered why he hadn’t come out of the house. He grabbed the bags and cooler and walked to the door.
“Well I guess I am on my own with the bags”, he shrugged to himself.
Upon entering the cozily decorated cottage a delightful smell wafted to Joe’s nose.
“What is that delicious smell?” He asked while poking his head in the doorway.
Christine replied with a gigantic grin, “It’s beef stew and fresh bread,” she let out as if she’d been holding it in for hours. “I know August isn’t the month to start soups and breads, but I was famished, and it sounded so good! I stopped at the farmers market at the edge of town and they had the most wonderful selection of fresh vegetables and the George’s Farm had a stand with their prize-winning beef! I bought it all!”
“I don’t care what month it is, this smells like heaven!” Joe reassured his wife’s best friend. “I thought we were four this trip?” He asked with a raised eyebrow, “I don’t see any sign of another person here.”
“Um, well Matt sort of couldn’t make it, so it’s just me. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but it happened very last minute. Are you mad, Joe?”
“I am not mad one bit. I will stay out of your hair and let you girls catch up. Call me when you’re ready to eat.”
Joe left room with his hands in his khaki shorts and strolled back out onto the porch. He opened the white cover of the blue cooler he left there earlier and grabbed a cold bottle of his favorite beer. He slowly lowered himself into the Adirondack chair while taking the country air into his lungs. He let out a slow exhale and felt he could now relax.
“Really,” Jenny asked, “Last minute decision? You were so excited for us to meet him when I talked to you last week. What happened that he couldn’t make it?”
Christine sat at the small island and put her head in her hands. Her shoulders began to move up and down slowly.
“Are you crying? Oh my gosh, what is going on?” Jenny rounded the island and took Christine into her arms.
Christine cried for a few minutes into Jenny’s shoulder and finally brought her head up to face her friend.
“I am so embarrassed. I never meant to start off our vacation with blubbering in your arms. “
“You don’t be ridiculous. I am here for you and if you are going through something then I am here for that too!” Jenny reassured.
“Well I don’t even know where to start really except that, I’m pregnant.” Christine looked down at her hands and let her head hang.
Jenny couldn’t hide her surprise and covered her gaping mouth with both hands.
“You are what?”
“I’m gonna have a baby and I have no idea how I am going to do it alone.”
“Ok maybe you should start the story a little before that. What is going on?” Jenny prodded.
“You know Matt and I have been dating for a few months. Last week I wasn’t feeling good at all, so I went into my doctor. She confirmed it. When I told Matt, he flipped out. The panic on his face was undeniable and he left without another word. He isn’t returning my calls and he won’t see me.” Christine sobbed as she let it all go.
This was the first time Christine had truly mourned the loss of her new relationship. She was so angry with Matt and frustrated with her situation that she hadn’t even had time to be sad. Now that her friend was beside her and she had a sympathetic ear she felt safe enough to pour out her heart.
Jenny simply listened as Christine laid out her situation. It wasn’t good. Christine Lived in a tiny one bedroom that was not big enough to raise a baby in. She wasn’t married and the prospect was now gone out of her life. She worked at small bookstore and made enough money to support her book addiction and tiny apartment, not much else.
The two friends sat on the overstuffed sofa in their comfy clothes while walking down memory lane. Christine had stopped crying and seemed to be coming back to herself. They ate the delicious stew and ate the homemade bread in the living room and hadn’t moved since. Joe was such a trooper. He made tea and brought snacks but did not interfere in the girl talk.
Jenny looked up as he was headed back through the rounded white archway to the kitchen. He turned to look back and their gazes met. She smiled warmly and he winked at her. She felt so loved at that moment and felt more horrible than ever about her friend’s situation.
As the afternoon turned to night the conversation moved onto the deck. The trio did not want to miss the sunset. The sky was a brilliant orange and the sun a vibrant yellow as it descended in the west sky. They were quiet for a long period of time.
The emotion of the day, the scrumptious food and the peace of the woods made Christine very sleepy. She laid her head back on the cushion and closed her eyes. Both Jenny and Joe looked up as a quiet hum came from Christine’s direction. They realized that she was fast asleep and snoring on the wicker love seat. Jenny grabbed the blanket from the sofa and covered her dear friend.
Sometime during the night Christine must have awoken and found her bed, because she walked sleepily out of her room that morning, which was attached to the kitchen.
“Good morning.” She said as she yawned.
“Hey sleepy head. Are you hungry?” Jenny asked with a warm smile.
“I am starving! What are you cooking?”
“Bacon, French toast and eggs. What do you feel like eating?”
“I will have some bacon and French toast. I haven’t been able to eat eggs.” Christine admitted.
Jenny set a steaming cup of coffee in front of her and Christine began to shake her head no.
“Don’t worry, it’s decaf. I know the rules.” Jenny waved her hand and walked back to the stove.
“What do you mean you know the rules? How do you know the rules and I know nothing? I have read three books in the past week and I had no idea of all the things I need to be aware of.”
“Well Joe and I have been trying to have a baby for about a year now. It hasn’t worked out, but I plan to be prepared when it happens.” Jenny admitted.
“What? You didn’t tell me that! How could you not tell me that?”
“Christine, it’s a highly personal thing and when it doesn’t happen it’s embarrassing and really sad. Every month I would get so excited and then…nothing. I wanted to tell everyone at first, but it seemed like it was for Joe and me only. Then after so many failures I just didn’t want to tell anyone.”
“Oh my god, I am so sorry! I feel like an idiot and a horrible friend. I had no idea you were going through that and then I come in here and sob about my pregnancy. You must think I am such a monster!”
“I do not think you are a monster. You weren’t ready for this and it’s a complete surprise. You can feel the way you feel. I’m fine, really. It’s just a little frustrating. Don’t you apologize for anything. You needed to get it all out and I am so glad I am here for you!” Jenny encouraged.
For awhile neither of them said a word. Christine ate her breakfast and Jenny busied herself by cleaning the kitchen.
Jenny finally broke the silence by asking, “Have thought about what you will do? Are you going to ask your mom for help?”
“I don’t know,” Christine exhaled loudly. “She’s here and I’m in the cities. She won’t move there; I have asked her to come for years and she always says this is home. I’ll have to think about it some more. I mean it’s all so new, I haven’t even had time to process it let alone decide what I’m going to do.”
“I get it. Have you noticed how amazing this kitchen looks after the upgrades? I love this tile backsplash and this granite island is amazing! It’s become so cozy. I remember it being much more plaid and woodsier before.”
“You mean like a lumberjack would step out of the bedroom? Yeah, that’s the way I remember it too. You just completely changed the subject. Did you do that on purpose?”
Jenny just shrugged and smiled.
“I guess Sandy decided the plush shabby sheik look would appeal to renters more than the rugged look. Funny when we were kids this was just the cabin up the road and now it’s a popular pick on Airbnb. I had to look for a couple of different options, because she was booked most weekends!” Christine exclaimed.
“Having the lake just up the road helps a lot. People are opting for more of the out of the way destination these days instead of a concrete jungle with crowds and lines. My mom said that Aunt Sandy is doing very well renting this out and she is having a blast with her Bed and Breakfast too. Who knew that old 2 story, white house would end up being a popular destination? We used to pretend it was haunted remember?”
They both laughed at the memory of Jenny’s aunt trying to assure them that no ghosts lived in the attic. They weren’t buying it. They stayed up all night waiting with flashlights one weekend during the summer when they were children. Nothing ever happened, but it was a great memory.
Jenny’s face lit up suddenly and she blurted, “You should talk to Aunt Sandy about moving in here and renting it out? You would be close to your mom and much closer to me.”
“Are you crazy? You just said that she loved renting this to short term weekend people. I am sure she doesn’t want a fulltime tenant. And besides I have an apartment and a job in Minneapolis.
“Really, you are going to raise a baby in that closet you call an apartment? And with no help in the city? Come on this would be perfect! I could come when ever you needed me and think of all the family and friends we have here. You would never be alone! And mom just told me that the librarian has told the town council she is retiring, so?”
“So, what? You want me to be a librarian? I am pretty sure we moved away from this place so we could be alone, remember? Small town and everyone knowing your business?”
“Yeah but now it’s different, now you need help and the comfort of home. Just think about it. I will go and talk to Aunt Sandy with you! She will definitely not object. She will love it!”
Again, they were squealing and hugging and crying as Joe walked in the room. He shook his head and started to walk out, but Jenny grabbed him and pulled him in for a good morning kiss.
“Guess what? Christine is moving home! Isn’t that a great idea?”
“Actually, yes it’s a great idea. You will need support and you will have all you need right here. So where are you going to live, at your mom’s?”
“No, I guess I’m moving to the cottage”, Christine said with a huge grin.
For the first time in over a week Christine felt a sense of peace. She knew she was making the right decision and she knew that she would be taken care of.
The trio walked to the porch for one last breath of fresh air.
Jenny smiled and hugged Christine, “I will be back next weekend to help you unpack and get everything settled. I am so excited to have you so close!”
Christine hugged Joe and thanked him for putting up with their antics. Joe just smiled and said, “Anytime!”
Christine waved her friends off and stood on the porch for a while longer. All was the way it should be, and she was home.