“Christine called.” Arthur was sitting in a lawn chair with a glass of lemonade atop his generous belly. He still wore dirt-stained gloves, and the knees of his grey sweatpants were black.
Lane found himself unable to speak while his mind turned into a shovel digging and turning over memories just as he’d spent yesterday turning over the soil in the flowerbeds. He thought, I had it under control; I could handle it by not thinking about it. Now, just mention her name, and I’m back where it all started. “The flowers look great.” He looked around the yard at the annuals and perennials Arthur had planted today for their first summer in this house. It looked like a Monet. All of those impossibly bright waves of colour running up against and into one another.
“Did you hear me? I said Christine called.” Arthur glared at Lane.
“I heard you.” Lane was already exhausted with memories of her. He thought about what she looked like and realized that today he probably wouldn’t recognize her if he bumped into her on the street.
“She wouldn’t leave a message. She did say that she’ll call back tonight at ten. It’s just enough time.” Arthur drained the last of the lemonade and took off his gloves.
“Enough time?” Lane thought, Things should start to get easier now with this family. We’ve had more than enough time since it all happened.
“We have to pick up Matt at the bus station in thirty minutes.” Arthur took a closer look at Lane.
“He planned on being gone for at least a week. It’s only been two days.” Lane reached into his pocket for car keys.
Arthur walked over and put a hand on Lane’s shoulder. “I’ll drive. Matt left a message. He sounded pretty upset. He asked us to pick him up.”
Lane looked up at Arthur.
“Christine’s call has really shaken you.” Arthur led the way along the deck and out the gate to the driveway. He put his palm on Lane’s cheek. “This is how I felt when Matt arrived with no warning, and no time to prepare myself.”
Automatically, Lane looked around to see if any of the neighbours had witnessed the public display of affection. “What did she say?”
Arthur opened the Jeep’s passenger door, then walked around the front.
Lane got in and shut his door.
Arthur got in behind the wheel. “Put your seat belt on.”
Lane heard the sound of waves sifting their frothy way up a beach. His mind wandered in and out of focus. His hand guided the seatbelt automatically into the lock. “What did she say, exactly?” He looked at the deck and the honeysuckle growing up the chain link mesh.
Arthur started the engine. “She said, ‘This is Christine. Is Lane there?’ I explained you were at work and she said, ‘I’ll call back tonight at ten.’ It’s a good thing we kept the same phone number.”
“No indication of where she was calling from?”
“None.” Arthur eased out of the driveway. “I’ve been trying to remember how old she is.”
“Seventeen.” Lane’s cell phone rang. He reached instinctively into his sports-coat pocket. “Hello.”
“Lane? It’s Harper. We’ve got a missing cowboy. You and I’ve been assigned to it. I’ll call you later when I’ve got more of the details.” Harper hung up.
Lane closed his phone.
When they reached the Greyhound bus station on Ninth Avenue, he tried to recall how they got there.