Say You'll Never Love Me(8)

By: Ann Everett

Shaking the thought away, Raynie made the bed, piled brightly colored pillows on top, and stacked a mass of stuffed animals against them. Once done, she brought in packing supplies from the garage. Silbie would never know how box by box, all traces of her mom and dad were disappearing. Goodwill came at noon each day to haul them away.

Once Raynie finished with Evan’s things, she’d tackle Celeste’s closet. That would be more difficult. She and her sister had similar taste. Bohemian style bordering hard-core hippie. A residual effect from childhood. Flower children of parents who had no TV, practiced free love, and smoked a little weed now and again. It’s a wonder she and Celeste turned out stable. Well, Celeste had. The jury was still out for Raynie.

First things first. Morning caffeine. She scooped the fresh grounds into the filter, then added water to the reservoir. As if in sync, she flipped the switch, and someone knocked. Maybe a wrong address, because other than a few people at Celeste’s service, and her next door neighbor, Raynie knew no one in Lubbock. Peering through the peephole, she recognized the person.

She pulled the knob and eased the door open. “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m Greta Elkins. We met at the memorial.”

“Yes, I remember. Please, come in.”

Greta eyed the boxes. “I won’t stay but a minute. I see you’re busy. Celeste and I, and two other mothers took turns carpooling the kids to school. We were wondering if you wanted to continue. Strictly up to you. If you do, next week would be yours.”

The coffeemaker hissed, and Raynie regarded her visitor. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, I don’t want you to go to any trouble.”

Raynie doubted that. She sized her up. Perfectly manicured nails. Tanned. Definite boob job. Gucci handbag. And the Donna Karan black pant suit Raynie recognized from a recent Neiman Marcus catalog with a price tag of almost three grand. Holy crap. How did Celeste keep up with this kind of friend? She didn’t. Not according to the clothes in her closet. “No trouble. I was about to have some.”

“In that case, I’ll join you.”

Greta followed Raynie into the kitchen and eased onto a bar stool with such fluid movement, the pant suit didn’t even wrinkle. “I love this cute little house. Such a simple design. Morning light comes through the windows and cheers the whole area.” She fingered the diamond cross resting against her windpipe. “How are you making it?”

The question didn’t sound sincere. Nothing about Greta Elkins did. Raynie poured the drinks and slid a mug across the bar, then claimed a stool for herself with a lot less grace. “All right, I guess. This much responsibility is new. For most of my life, it’s been me, myself, and I. My sister left some big shoes to fill.”

Greta sipped, then held her drink in mid-air. “I know this is hard. You’ve lost a loved one and relocated. Frankly, I couldn’t do it. Silbie is lucky to have you.”

“Thanks, but I think I’m the lucky one. She’s a sweet child. Celeste and Evan were good parents. I’m terrified I won’t measure up to their standards.”

“All new mothers are scared. I didn’t sleep for a month after I came home with my first one, and I had a full-time nanny. Be thankful you don’t have a newborn.”

She’d not thought of that. An infant would be a nightmare. But since her sister’s death, Raynie’d had plenty of sleepless nights. Most of the time, she cried herself into exhaustion, but sometimes, even tears didn’t work. “That’s a good point.”

Greta ran a finger around the rim of the cup, her frosted nail polish glinting in the sunlight, and Raynie suddenly felt inadequate. Like she was the visitor. Just another reason she wanted to leave this place. She belonged in Austin, not some dusty-cowboy-farming-flat-land where she didn’t have a single friend.

“I still can’t believe Celeste is gone. And Evan too.” Greta’s eyes fluttered. “It’s such a tragedy. Fortunately, Silbie’s young enough she’ll rebound faster than an older child since she’s in a stable environment.”

“She’s getting better. Still cries at night and gets in bed with me before morning, but during the day, she doesn’t talk about them as much. I never know what to say and worry it’ll be the wrong thing.”

Greta patted Raynie’s arm. Another fake gesture. More to show off the big rock on her finger. Must be difficult for Miss Fancy Pants to lift her hand. Damn thing was at least five carats.

Greta smiled. “Silbie and Katie are best friends. We’ll schedule some play dates. Give you some time to yourself. I know how important that is. I do so much charity work, it’s hard to find quiet moments.”