Lisa dropped her bags on the floor and hugged her mother.
“Hey, sweetie,” said her mother with a smile. “Ready for summer?”
"Finals were brutal and I think I've sprained my brain, but it's good to be done for a while. Wow, your famous chocolate chip cookies! I'm starving."
Her mother smiled indulgently as Lisa piled a plate with cookies and grabbed a glass of milk. It wasn't until the plate was empty and she was wiping crumbs off her mouth that Lisa looked properly at her mother.
“What’s up, Mom? You look worn out.”
Her mother smiled and shrugged.
“Your grandmother’s been a little demanding lately.”
“Let me translate. That means she's been running you ragged, complaining non-stop and guilt tripping you every step of the way. Please shoot me if I ever end up like her. Why do you let her get away with it?”
“Lisa!” her mother remonstrated. “She’s a lonely old lady.”
Lisa rolled her eyes.
“She can’t help being old, but she can help being grumpy. Whose fault is it if she’s lonely? She’s alienated all her friends who haven’t already died. Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll go over to see her this afternoon. I do love the old biddy, you know. I just hate the way she takes advantage of you.”
“She has always been a glass half-empty kind of person, but recently the glass has never existed as far as she’s concerned. It does get a bit wearing," her mother said wearily. " She’ll be glad to see you though.”
“Hah. You mean she’ll be glad to have someone else to complain to."
Lisa enjoyed the short walk to her grandmother’s house. It was a beautiful summer day. Knocking on the front door, she hummed, happy that the weight of college was off her mind for a while.
The door opened and Lisa stooped to hug her grandmother, noticing that she seemed to have shrunk again since her last visit. Her grandmother’s pale blue eyes widened in surprise behind her thick glasses.
“Lisa? What’s happened to your mom? She promised she’d come today. I had a shopping list for her, and she said she’d do some weeding in the back garden.”
“Hello, nice to see you too, Grandma,” said Lisa, waltzing her grandmother around. “Mom’s busy, so I said I’d come.”
“Stop being foolish,” said her grandmother irritably. “ What are you so happy about anyway? Come on in and we’ll have a cup of tea.”
“It’s a gorgeous day out there,” said Lisa.
“I suppose it is, other than a sky-high pollen count, and that rain yesterday set my arthritis off,” said her grandmother. Lisa took a deep breath and silently prayed for patience as she followed her grandmother into the kitchen.
“Gran, why don’t you let me make the tea?” said Lisa, watching in alarm as her grandmother poured boiling water into the teapot with shaky hands.
“I’m not helpless yet,” came the retort. “And you still haven’t told me what you’re so chirpy about.”
“Well, you know how you’re always going on about me ending up on the shelf?" said Lisa. “I think that might be about to change.”
“You’ve met a young man? Finally. Be careful, now. I don’t want to hear about you getting pregnant. You know there’s ways to prevent that, don’t you?”
“Grandma! I just met him a couple of days ago when I went to a concert with some friends.”
Her grandmother gave a rare smile.
“Don’t act so shocked. I’m not such a dinosaur that I can’t remember what it’s like to fall in love and love can make people act foolish.”
“I don’t know about being in love, but he is cute and funny. His name’s Luke. Was it like that with you and Grandpa?”
“Oh, I wasn't talking about your grandfather. But that’s a story for another day. When will you see this Luke again?”
Lisa almost choked on her tea, unsure whether to laugh or squirm.
“I don’t know. We swapped numbers, but he was busy with family stuff this weekend, helping his grandfather, I think.”
Before she could say anything else, the roar of a lawn mower started up, invisible behind the high hedge which separated her grandmother’s garden from next door. Her grandmother swigged her tea with satisfaction.
“He’s finally getting that grass cut,” she said. “I had to put in a complaint to the homeowners’ association. That garden was turning into a wilderness. Bringing the whole neighborhood down.”
Lisa frowned. Her grandmother’s feud with old Mr. Crenshaw next door had been going on for as long as anyone could remember.
“Why didn’t you just talk to him instead of making an official complaint? He’s getting old and the garden’s probably just too much for him.”
“You know we don’t speak,” said her grandmother. “Why do you think that hedge is so high? That way we don’t even have to look at each other.”
Lisa shook her head.
“This is like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Good thing neither of you are armed. Do you even remember what started it?”
“I prefer not to discuss it. Now, let me show you that flower bed that needs weeding.”
“Happy to do it as long as you don’t stand over me supervising,” Lisa said firmly, ignoring her grandmother's offended expression. “It’s too hot for you to stay out there anyway.”
Donning sun hat and gardening gloves, Lisa knelt down and began pulling the weeds. Butterflies danced around her and there was a pleasant scent of cut grass from next door as the lawn mower droned on. Suddenly the sound sputtered and died, and Lisa heard a yelp of panic. Dropping her trowel, she pushed aside the foliage of the hedge to see what was happening. A tall young man was clutching his throat with one hand and frantically rummaging in his pockets with the other.
“Luke?” she said in surprise. He was too preoccupied to respond. Lisa felt a lurch of fear as she noticed that he was gasping for breath.
She rushed into the house.
"I'm going next door...it's Luke and he's having some sort of emergency. Call an ambulance," she said, rushing past her astonished grandmother.
"Now, young lady, don't you have anything to do with those people next door..." her grandmother started to say.
Lisa fixed her with a steely glare and yelled back over her shoulder.
"Grandma, call the ambulance now! I don't have time for your nonsense."
Her grandmother huffily muttered something, but grabbed the phone and began dialing.
Lisa hammered on Mr. Crenshaw's door.
"What business do you have over here?" he said angrily as he recognized her. "Hey, wait! Who said you could come in? I'll have the police on you."
"Luke's in trouble. We've called for help," she said, pushing past him and running through the house to the back garden. Mr. Crenshaw tottered after her.
Luke was sitting on the grass, holding a pen syringe with which he had just injected himself in the thigh. To Lisa's relief, although still pale, he was breathing more easily. He stared at her and smiled weakly. She sat down on the grass beside him.
"What happened? Are you okay?"
“Lisa? What are you doing here? I got stung by a bee and I'm quite allergic. Thank goodness for these shots,” he said.
"I was visiting my grandmother," she said.
He laughed, the color slowly returning to his face.
"So, your grandmother is the old witch next door?”
“And your grandfather is the old fool next door. Romeo and Juliet stuff here,” Lisa said, grinning. “We need to sort these two out.”
They heard the ambulance siren in the distance. Mr. Crenshaw and her grandmother appeared, looking concerned but studiously ignoring each other.
"Luke, are you feeling better?"
"I'll be fine, Granddad. This is Lisa, the girl I was telling you about."
Mr. Crenshaw nodded suspiciously at Lisa.
"He'll be fine, Lisa," snapped her grandmother. "You come home right now."
Lisa stood up, hands on hips.
“This stops here and now, Grandma. Luke could have died. I don’t know and I don’t care what your silly quarrel with Mr. Crenshaw is about. Don’t make me choose between seeing Luke or you, because I can tell you now I’ll choose him.”
Luke sat up slowly.
“I second that, Grandad.”
Mr. Crenshaw and her grandmother glared at each other, each drawing breath to speak, just as the ambulance drew up, siren still blaring.
"Never mind," Mr. Crenshaw said. "I'll let them in."
"That's not necessary," said Luke. "I'm much better now."
"You listen to your grandfather and let them check you out, young man," said Lisa's grandmother. "Better safe than sorry."
She raised her eyebrows as she realized Luke and Lisa were staring at her in surprise.
"What are you two looking at? It's just common sense. Lisa, don't forget I still need you to get my groceries."
She narrowed her eyes at Luke.
"Tell your grandfather I haven't forgiven or forgotten. I just don't want my Lisa to be upset."
She tossed her head and stumped off towards her house.
Luke smiled at her retreating figure and shook his head.
"You think peace might break out?"
“Hallelujah,” Lisa laughed, stepping aside to let the paramedics pass. “It’s a beginning.”