Laura, A Link, A Look, A Leap of Faith

By Gilmoradict

Abigail Holt settled a large carry-on bag over her shoulder, tucked a well-packed handbag under her arm and balanced a frothily wrapped pink package just below her chin as she sailed purposefully out of her front door. The diamond windowpanes of the home trembled as Abigail pulled the door firmly closed with her foot. Stopping almost immediately, Abigail raised her eyes to the sky and shook her head. Twirling around as she juggled her load, she fumbled to locate her keys, re-open the door and hurry back into the house.

Moments later, the dark-eyed blond again swept with determination through the door. This time a white teddy bear boasting a floppy pink bow was tucked securely under her arm.  Once more glass shook as Abigail swung the door shut and hurried down the front walkway. The bear smiled mutely as it jounced helplessly along in Abigail’s grip.

Later that day…

“Laura, she is absolutely gorgeous! And I don’t think I’ll be the only person to say she looks a little like her Grandmother Holt!” Abigail’s voice trembled rapturously.

“Really?” Laura was tired and slightly distracted as she looked down at the head nestled on her shoulder, running fingers idly through the soft hair tickling her chin.

“She’s sleeping so peacefully! And those eyelashes! Do you know how rare it is for a newborn to have eyelashes already?” Abigail was completely smitten with the infant before her.

“Mother, I’m sorry, but I’m exhausted.  Would you mind if we cut this short?” Laura yawned as she gently attempted to disengage from the force that was Abigail.

“Of course, dear,” Abigail offered amiably as she continued. “You know, Laura, I’ve been thinking.  I hate being so far away from my grandchildren. I’m thinking about moving – to live closer, be more involved in their lives.”

Laura sat up, the dreamy expression in her soft brown eyes sharpening as she unceremoniously pushed the young man who had been dozing half on top of her off onto the floor. “Move!? From California?”

“Binky!” the young man uttered plaintively as he searched groggily for the glasses that fell when Laura pushed him to the floor.

“Yes, Laura. From California.” Abigail voice sharpened suspiciously, “Who’s there? I thought you were studying!”

“I am, Mother. Milton is the TA for my physics lab. He’s been going over my notes with me.” Laura attempted to process her mother’s declaration. “You want us to move to Connecticut?”

“Yes, Laura. It makes such wonderful sense!  Wouldn’t it be nice to be near Frances and Donald, Danny, the new baby, and your grandmother?” Abigail’s enthusiasm was palpable. “You’re done with school now, there’s absolutely nothing holding us in California.”

 “But, Mother, we can’t move to Connecticut! I’ve been accepted as an apprentice at Havenhurst Detective Agency in Los Angeles starting two weeks after graduation! I was planning to live at home in LA!”

“Laura, please tell me you aren’t serious about this detective business! It’s time for you to settle down now and decide on a real career.”

Milton had begun to gather up the various notebooks and papers that were scattered around where Laura was sitting. She grabbed his wrist and held on as if to anchor herself against the storm Abigail inevitably created in her life.

“Milton, wait,” Laura pleaded as she pressed the mouthpiece of the phone against her body.

“I need to get back to the lab, Binky. Thanks for the nap.” Milton’s smile was warm as he leaned in to kiss Laura’s cheek.  “I’m sorry I fell asleep.  It’s not that you’re boring...”

“I know. You find me comforting.  I’m glad I help you relax.” Laura said ruefully. ”It’s o.k. Milton. I got a lot out of reading through your notes while you slept.”

“You’re due in lab in an hour for your final. And I can’t help you if you’re late.” Milton closed Laura’s dorm room door quietly behind him, leaving her to her mother.


Abigail’s voice penetrated her daughter’s consciousness and Laura pulled the phone from her side.”Yes, Mother, I’m sorry. What were you saying?”

“I’ll book a flight for you for the weekend!” Abigail continued cheerfully. “You are going to absolutely fall in love with this beautiful little girl! And wait until you see how big Danny’s gotten!“

“Mother, I’m looking forward to seeing both of them, but I’m in the middle of finals right now. I just CAN”T come visit Frances and the babies until after graduation…You are going to come back in time for my graduation, aren’t you?” Laura’s voice was less steady than she would have liked.

“Oh, Laura. You know how proud I am of you, graduating from Stanford with honors and all, but I don’t see how I can leave Frances alone with a newborn and an active one year old.” Abigail sighed. “Just wait until you have children, Laura. You’ll see. You’ll need me then too.”

“I’m sure I will Mother.” Laura said quietly, rubbing her temples with her thumb and forefinger, trying to avoid the headache that often followed exchanges with her mother. “I’ve got to get ready for class now. I really have to go. I’ll call you back later tonight. Give Frances and the babies a hug for me.”

“Wait, Laura; Frances wants to say hello.” Abigail passed the phone to Frances, who juggled the baby briefly before handing her to her anxiously cooing grandmother.

“Laura, I’m so sorry. I know the timing here couldn’t be worse.  I’m going to send Mother home in time for your graduation – I promise! Donald’s parents are dying to come see the kids and help out.” Frances glared at Abigail as she spoke, a look that was lost on her mother, as the doting grandmother was completely besotted with the pink bundle she held in her arms.

“Congratulations, Frances. I’m glad everything went well.” Laura made a valiant effort to sound upbeat for her sister. “I can’t visit right away, but I’ll come out as soon as I can. I love you.”

“Love you, too, Laura. Good luck with finals.” Frances’ bright voice faded as Abigail took the phone back, rocking the softly fussing newborn in her other arm.

“I’ll talk to you tonight, Laura.” Abigail set the phone back in its cradle without waiting for Laura’s response.


Laura firmly wrote the last figures on her lab exam, closed the blue book and looked up to re-enter the world she had shut out in her focus on physics. Milton was the only person remaining in the room, other than her professor.

Smiling, she handed her blue book to her physics professor. He took her hand and pressed it warmly in farewell.  Laura’s intense interest in her studies, an interest that took her well beyond the syllabus material even for courses outside her math major, had created close relationships with nearly all of her professors. 

Milton followed Laura out into the hall. “Hey. Are you willing to put some of those investigative instincts to the test Laura? Someone messed with my lab set up again. I’m never going to finish my doctoral program without rock solid data, and someone is tampering with my results. I’ve gotten nowhere with campus security - they think I’m crazy.”

“You are crazy, Milton, but not the way they think you are.” Laura grinned. “You’ve been spending your nights in the lab, haven’t you? How could anyone be tampering with your set up?”

“All I know, Laura, is that new lines of data are appearing on my printout and odd pieces of equipment are out of place, just enough to cast doubt on my results.”

Laura’s deep brown eyes took in Milton’s desperation and she reached out to put her hand on his shoulder. “Of course, Milton.  My next final is Russian lit. I’ve already gotten most of the basics outlined. I’ll meet you here tonight and decide on an approach. Thanks for your help this afternoon, by the way. I breezed through Dr. Thomas’ final.”

“You would have with or without my notes, Binky, but you’re welcome.” Milton covered Laura’s hand with his own and patted it. “Did your mother give you a hard time about having a guy in your room?”

“No, she was too caught up in her new granddaughter to worry about me for a change. She threw me a little bit of a curve, though. She wants to move to Connecticut to be near my sister and her family.” Laura sighed, and then turned to leave, smiling over her shoulder at Milton as she walked away. “One problem at a time. First, Russian Lit. Then, physics lab rats.”




 Laura sat cross-legged on a lab table across from Milton’s workstation, tapping a pencil thoughtfully on the notebook balanced on her knees.

“Milton, you leave at different times every night, right?”

“Huh?” Milton looked up from the spectrometer where he had been absorbed, surprised to find Laura in the lab with him. He struggled momentarily to move his attention from his research to the fact of her presence. “Oh, umm, right. I leave whenever I’ve come to a good stopping point. Sometimes it might be ten o’clock, sometimes as late as two or three in the morning. When the data starts coming together, I lose track of time.”

“No wonder you fall asleep whenever you’re with me,” Laura said dryly.

“Honestly, Laura, you have a hypnotic affect on me.” Milton smiled faintly.”The sound of your voice, the smell of your soap, your beautiful soft hair…I promise you, I don’t fall asleep with anyone else!”

Laura rolled her eyes. “No offense, Milton, but I’d appreciate your not sharing that information around campus. Just how often has your work been tampered with?”

Milton tried to decide if he had somehow offended Laura, before turning again to his research problems. Scowling, he thought for a moment. “It doesn’t happen every night, but it has happened with increasing frequency. I’d say six nights out of seven. The night security crew thinks I’m crazy. No one has been seen coming in or going out of either of the entrances. The crew even increased the number of times they walk past the physics lab to make sure there isn’t anyone here who shouldn’t be. They sort of implied that I was making excuses for the shortcomings in my data.”

Milton was glowering by this point.

 Laura jumped down from her perch on the lab counter to place a comforting hand on Milton’s shoulder. Her voice resolute, she assured her friend, “Professor Thomas doesn’t believe that. No one who knows you thinks that. We’re going to figure out what’s happening, Milton. I promise.”

Milton smiled wanly, and gave Laura a one armed hug. “You’re the best, Binky.”

“Well, not yet, Milton, but I’m going to work hard to become a bona fide private investigator - if my mother doesn’t drag me off to Connecticut to become a something more to her liking.” Laura’s brow furrowed as her conversation from earlier in the day played back through her mind.

“I know how much being a private investigator means to you, Laura. You’re not going to let anyone keep you from pursuing your goals.” Milton put his hands on either side of Laura’s face, looking steadily into her eyes. “Focus, right? That’s one of the things you and I share.”

Smiling back at Milton, Laura gestured at the fold-out beach chair she’d brought in with her. “Thanks, Milton. Why don’t you take the first turn in the chair and get some sleep.  Dostoyevsky and I still have a lot of ground to cover.“

“Well, now that I’ve lost my train of thought here…” Milton kissed Laura’s forehead, then set about straightening his workstation and notes. Within minutes he had settled into the beach chair, yawning.

 Laura sat down on the floor next to him, opening her notebook and settling the text book in front of her.

“We make a good team, Laura,” Milton said, leaning sideways to be close to her. “I’m glad the other men in your life wear heavy coats and beards, drink vodka, and speak with accents.”

Laura turned around to grin at Milton. “What makes you think that isn’t exactly what I’m looking for in a man?”

“No, no, Laura. You’re looking for a brilliant doctoral candidate who shares your passion for learning, is dedicated to his dissertation and…” Milton teased hopefully as he fell, with a smile on his lips, into dreamy slumber.

“I don’t know, Milton,” Laura whispered as she looked speculatively at her sleeping friend. “I think the only person I want to find just now is me.”

For the next two hours, Laura reviewed her Russian Lit notes to the soft accompaniment of Milton’s snores. The low light of the half-lit physics lab was bright enough to light the pages she perused, but Milton and she were both tucked into the shadow cast by the lab tables.

A low creaking sound followed by the eerie sight of steam rising into the lab, startled Laura. Her dark eyes wide, she reached back to shake Milton’s arm, covering his mouth with one hand to ensure his silence.  Remaining admirably still, Milton rested one hand on Laura’s shoulder as the two watched and listened.

Deep voices shushing one another and what could best be described as deep male giggling followed. Slowly a head rose above the table and after a cursory look around the lab, a voice assured his unseen companions, “Coast is clear!”

Laura and Milton sat statue still in the shadows as two, three, four and finally five dark clothed young men entered the shadowed lab. Like the giant rats Laura had likened them to, they cast about in search of –  what? Laura puzzled. What were these intruders after?

“Shh! Shhh!” one cautioned reaching for a small diode that sat on the table. The others each picked up similar small objects. Several times the intruders bumped against the lab table and one another, as they milled about, before one by one, they disappeared from sight.

Milton and Laura looked at one another in confusion, as if to confirm in the other’s eyes what each had seen.

When silence once again reigned in the lab, Laura cautiously stood, Milton rising behind her. In tandem they walked around the counter and looked down at the floor from which the steam and the visitors had arisen. A slow smile crept across Laura’s face.

“Steam tunneling, Milton!“

“Huh?” What are you talking about?” Milton asked in bewilderment.

“For those who have spent their time here slightly less dedicated to academic pursuits than you, Milton, steam tunneling is a time-honored Stanford tradition!” Laura smiled sympathetically at her friend. “I’ve been tunneling once or twice - I should have thought about the possibility, but this entry way is practically invisible from above.”

Taking in Milton’s baffled look, Laura gestured with her hands. “There are tunnels under the campus to bring services to the various buildings. Kids have found certain access points and it’s sort of a rite of passage to go steam tunneling at least once while you’re a student here. Sometimes they make a scavenger hunt out of it and bring back proof from different stops they’ve made along the way. The physics lab must have been one of those stops.”

“Are you saying my research has been compromised by fraternity boys and sorority girls?!” Milton said, two spots of color rising in his pale complexioned cheeks.  “But I haven’t seen them any of the nights I’ve been here working late!”

“Milton, are you aware of your power of concentration? When you’re at work in here a fire engine could roll through and you wouldn’t hear it!”

“Am I really that oblivious, Binky?”

“Remember that focus, Milton?” Laura grinned sweetly up at Milton. “Com’on; help me.”

With a shrug, Milton move to help Laura shove one of the heavy lab tables to hold the trapdoor shut. 

“All right, Friend. I think your research will be safe now. Why don’t we get something to eat? Then I need to grab a couple of hours of sleep before my Russian Lit final.”

Dragging Milton by one hand, Laura strode purposefully down dim halls of the physics building.


Two weeks later…

Leaping slightly to grasp a branch just above her head, a branch worn smooth by her grip, a Levi-clad Laura swung her long legs to a higher limb.  Climbing nimbly upward, she settled into a niche where the trunk of the tree split, safely hidden from the ground by thick foliage. Turning slightly to one side, Laura ran her fingers reflectively over letters carved into the trunk long ago by her childish self, at an age when she had thought such an action marked this tree as hers.

The sounds and sights of the suburban landscape below soon absorbed her attention. Little had changed in the years she had been away at Stanford. A pristine white picket fence still enclosed the Johansson’s yard. The roof behind her sported a forgotten Frisbee. The voices of children at play were tangled in the cool breeze. The trees were a little taller, perhaps, and the houses a little more faded in the bright California sun, but basically, it was the same familiar view that had comforted Laura whenever she retreated here in years past.

A single tear welled up and ran down Laura’s cheek before she realized she had allowed the thought of leaving this house and this yard forever to spoil the comfort of her retreat. Angry fingers brushed the tear away as Laura’s chin rose. This yard had been the place where her father had taught her to pitch, amused by his daughter’s persistence, ball after ball hurled until it was too dark to see her father’s raised glove. The front room of this house still held the overstuffed chair she had shared with him as they watched “Atomic Man” fight crime, Teddy occasionally curled next to them, his thumb in his mouth.

It was this home the Holts had come to, numb and bewildered, after Teddy had been pulled under the dark ocean water and where they had sat stiffly as family and friends brought cakes and casseroles in futile efforts to console. This was the last place her parents lived together, each of them pretending things were normal. This was the place her father had finally left them alone in. Laura felt on some level she ought to be glad to leave this house and its memories behind. And yet…

“Laura…” Abigail called, peering up into the tree. “Are you ready for dinner?”

“Sure,” Laura answered, too startled to come up with one of her usual evasions of her mother’s company. “How did you know where I was?”

“Laura, you’ve been hiding up in that tree since long before you were tall enough to reach the branches. Did you really think I didn’t know where my own daughter was?” Abigail laughed as she waited for Laura to swing down to the ground next to her. “And your window saw more entrances and exits than a freeway ramp.”

Speechless, Laura stood meekly next to her mother, her arms crossed tightly as if holding on to what secrets of her childhood remained. 

“It’s a good backyard, isn’t it?” Abigail looked around them. “Trees to climb, a tire swing, a hammock, the brick barbeque. Shade to sit in on hot days and plenty of sun for the flowers. Nice neighbors, too.”

“Do the Johansson’s still live next door?” Laura asked.

“Laura! Don’t you keep up with Mary Beth anymore?” Abigail asked incredulously. “The two of you were such close friends!”

“I haven’t talked to her since high school, Mother,” Laura said sheepishly. “We sort of drifted apart.”

 “I believe she’s getting married soon. The older two boys are already married and Carol has a couple of grandchildren.”

“That’s wonderful, Mother,” Laura said with a polite smile. “They’re a fabulous, close family. It’s great things are going well for them.”

“Yes, well, things are going well for our family, too. Graduation was very special, Laura. I was glad I came back for it. You know, I spoke to several of your professors at the math department reception. You made quite an impression on Stanford. It was an honor to be Laura Holt’s mother!”

Dimples appeared around Laura’s mouth as a real smile replaced the one she had assumed. “I’m glad you came, Mother. It meant a lot to me that you were there.”

Mother and daughter stood in silence for some moments before Laura continued.


“Yes, Dear?”

“During the ceremony, when I was walking down from the stage, I looked up toward the hill behind where people were sitting.” Laura looked down at the ground. Her voice grew husky. “I saw a man just standing and watching, his back straight and his shoulders square, a fedora angled on his head just like Daddy’s always was.  While I was looking up at him, he raised his hand - just for a moment. I had to look down to see the stairs and when I looked again, the man was gone.”

Abigail stood still for a moment, staring across the backyard without seeing before she sharpened her focus on Laura. “That would be just like your father – standing and watching without ever really talking to the people who…Try not to think about it, Laura. I spent far too many years of my life already trying to be what your father wanted or needed. It just never made any difference to him. We need to move on with our lives – we have you know.”

Laura nodded.

“Laura, listen to me.  I have a proposition for you.” Abigail turned to face Laura, deep brown eyes seeking a matching set. Giving her daughter an encouraging smile, Abigail tucked Laura’s arm under her own and turned the two of them to face the cool breeze of evening and the spreading oranges and pinks of sunset.

Abigail continued, saying “I know you planned to come live here this summer to pursue this detective business...and I’ve always supported you girls in whatever you wanted to do.”

Laura’s eyebrows shot up, but she managed to avoid contradicting her mother.  “But you want to be of more help to Frances and the babies just now. I get that, Mother.”

“Laura, this house is mine. Your father kept up the payments and transferred the title into my name after he left. I don’t have to sell it immediately to move to Connecticut. I could manage at your grandmother’s for a while.”

Laura waited, unwilling to guess at what her mother was suggesting. “Grandmother has always said we were welcome any time.”

“She’d love to have you move east as well, dear, but I know you have your heart set on this internship of yours. Stay here in the house, Laura. I know you won’t be earning much as an intern, but maybe you could find a roommate to share expenses. I‘ll take some time looking for the right place in Connecticut, and we’ll talk about selling the house in a year or so, depending on how everything works out for both of us.”

Nearly speechless, Laura enveloped her mother in a hug. “Thank you, Mother! You have no idea what this means to me!”

“Oh my, Laura!” Abigail smiled, startled at Laura’s enthusiastic embrace. “Let’s go inside. I put together a casserole out of what I found in the fridge. After we eat I’ll help you pack for our trip east tomorrow. You are simply not going to believe how much Danny has changed and how fast he can move; and the baby is simply precious.  Now. Tell me about the interesting young man with glasses hovering around you, Barbara and your other girl friends. The one who calls you Binky?”

“He’s just a friend, Mother!” Laura winced and stood still in the cool night air as her mother continued into the house.  

“And I’m his favorite security blanket. He may never get any sleep without me on campus.” 


Several months later

“It would work out great for both of us. I can cook - all vegetarian meals , real healthy, shop and keep the yard up. You’ve got room for a garden back there. I could grow fresh tomatoes and beans, peppers and melons. The money you’d save on groceries would just about cover the rent you’re looking for.” A slow voiced, incense-permeated woman with an unsmiling child balanced on her hip, stood on the Holt front porch, staring fixedly at Laura. “You’d hardly know little Boo was here. He’s a real quiet kid.”

Laura reached out to smooth “Boo’s” hair away from his dirty face, sorry that she couldn’t somehow help this solemn waif, but unable to accept his mother’s offer to trade work for rent. Laura needed actual money to help cover the costs of living here. “I’m so sorry. I just don’t think it’s going to work out.“

Closing the door firmly, Laura sighed as she watched the odd little pair meander slowly down the walk. This was at least the fifth prospective renter who had inquired about sharing the house with her. Each had seemed more unsuitable than the last, beginning with a teenager hoping to share a room with a couple of her friends, a woman seeking to run her plastic-ware business out of the home, an over-the-road trucker who wanted to park a semi on the street, a brassy fast-talking woman who worked in real estate - more interested in selling the house than living there - and now this lost soul. 

Laura needed to find a roommate soon. Abigail wasn’t going to be able to help Laura pay utilities on the LA home forever. Donald and Frances lived nearly thirty miles from the girls’ grandmother and Abigail had been looking for an apartment closer to the young family. Once she settled on a place, Abigail’s resources would be needed to support herself in her new home in Connecticut.

Laura settled into the overstuffed chair she had once shared with her dad while they watched “Atomic Man.” Her feet had never hurt quite so much and she pushed her shoes off with her toes. Trying to look like a professional on her budget didn’t allow her the luxury of the best in footwear. And running was one thing, running in high heels was another thing altogether.

Havenhurst was going to be a challenge in so many ways Laura could barely begin to list them all. Nearly every one of the men who worked there had hit on her at least once in the months since she’d started.   She’d been given a desk with drawers too warped to open in a spot so close to the surrounding desks that she had to slide her legs underneath to have room to sit down. She’d been given a phoned with so much static she couldn’t hear anything said over it. None of that mattered because she was on the move all day anyway. It seemed as if everyone had a task for her.  She hadn’t eaten lunch sitting down in week and she was too tired to think about meals once she got home.

Home was the only good part of each day. While it had been a little intimidating to come back alone to Los Angeles following her visit to Frances and her family, that feeling hadn’t lasted long. It was wonderful to be in the only home she could remember - to know her piano was waiting for her when she had the energy to play, to look out the same window she’d looked out all her life, to sit at her familiar kitchen table for breakfast and make coffee in her mother’s familiar percolator.

The doorbell rang.

Laura closed her eyes and contemplated pretending she wasn’t home. Sighing, she pulled herself out of the chair and glanced through the diamond-paned windows before cracking the door open.

Standing on the stoop was a pleasant, boyish-faced man with light brown hair and blue eyes. The three piece suit he wore made him look older, but Laura guessed he wasn’t much older than she was.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

“I know I should have called, but I picked up this address from the flyer posted at the market down the street and couldn’t resist driving by to take a look.” The young man had a sweet, gentlemanly way about him. “My name is Wilson. Wilson Jeffries. I work at the bank right across the street from the market, and I’ve been looking for an appropriate rental situation for several weeks. I’ve been driving nearly twenty-five miles each way to work, and in California traffic that’s about twenty miles too far. Would you mind if I took a look?”

The man’s smile was disarming. Laura opened the door a bit farther and took the slip with her address and phone number from his hand, a puzzled look on her face. “I’m the one who posted the flyer, but I thought I made it clear that I was looking for a woman.”

“Oh. I must have missed that detail.” The young man looked crestfallen.

Laura smiled to reassure him. “I’m sure there are other places nearby that you could rent. Isn’t there an apartment building just across Rose Acres Drive?”

“Of course, and I did look there. The apartment walls are paper thin. I could hear rather deafening rock music coming from one of the units the entire time I was touring the place. There is no way I was going to be able to get any work done there. Maybe you know how it is when you’re just starting out – I have hours of work every night.“  Wilson Jeffries gave the Holt home a last wistful look as he turned to leave. “Well, I’m sorry to have troubled you. Thank you for your time, Miss.  You certainly have a lovely home.”

 “This is my family’s home. I just live here.” Laura stood in the doorway appraising the man walking away. “Uh, Wilson – is that your name?”

 “Yes. Family name.” Wilson smiled sheepishly. “I’m actually the fourth.”

“I’m Laura. I’m pretty sure I’m the first – at a lot of things,” Laura said holding out her hand. “Listen, Wilson. I just got home from work, I’m starving and I’m exhausted. 

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I really should have called first.”

“I have interviewed more impossible housemate possibilities than I care to count. I really do need to find someone to share expenses. And there is plenty of space for two people here. Is there any chance we could talk at another time?”

“I’d like that.” Wilson walked slowly back up toward Laura. “If you’ll give me your number, I’ll call and set up a time to meet over a cup of coffee.”

Laura handed the scrap of paper back to Wilson and offered him her hand. “Great. I look forward to hearing from you.”

 Wilson smiled   “You know, Laura, my job at the bank involves evaluating risk for my clients. I have a good feeling about our risk factor.”

The phone rang. Laura turned slightly at the sound.

“Go ahead and answer it. Expect my call soon!” Wilson said as he stepped briskly away from the house.

Laura closed the door once more. The windowpanes rattled as she hurried across the room to pick up the phone.

“Laura?! Guess what I’ve just done?” Abigail’s voice held its usual bright enthusiasm.  “I’ve found the perfect apartment just a few miles from Frances and Donald. There’s a bedroom for you, too, when you want it.  I’m with Frances and the babies at her place, but I just signed the lease.”

“Mother, that’s wonderful! I know you’re ready to be in your own place.” Laura stretched the phone cord as far as it would go in order to put her feet up as she spoke to her mother. “When will you be back to pack up the furniture?”

“With my new part time job I’m afraid I can’t get away just now.  Anyway, it will be expensive to ship furniture east. I really don’t plan to bring much of it, Laura. I’d like to buy some new things. Make a fresh start!”

Laura looked around the family room at the familiar furniture of her childhood - at her grand piano, the tired old sofa and the family photos sitting on the table.

“That’s exciting, Mother.  Your timing is perfect for me, too. I’ve finally got some prospects for someone to share the expenses here; once I get that settled I should be able to swing taxes and utilities here without your help.”

“Now I hope it’s someone stable, someone with a good job who you can count on to help with expenses. Make sure you find out everything you can about this person before you allow them into the house,” Abigail fussed.

“I will, Mother! I promise.”

“Keep me posted, Laura,” Abigail sang. “Frances needs help with Danny right now – I’ll talk to you in a day or so. Oh, make sure you water the hibiscus out back.”

“I will! Good-night, Mother,” Laura replied, snagging her shoes in her free hand as she went back into the kitchen and  hung the phone up on the wall.

She continued slowly back toward her room, but after glancing in, walked across the hall to the room that had been at one time both her mother’s and father’s. Looking around the large, well-lit room speculatively, she thought back to the young man who had come looking for a place to live. Who said the perfect renter had to be a woman? Wilson Jeffries might be just the reliable, quiet someone she could count on to help with the expenses of living here.  He could have her old room!

 Entering her parent’s room and struggling past other items stored in the closet, Laura reached far into the back to pull out a slightly battered fedora.  Slapping it hard against her knee produced a faint cloud of dust and she sneezed. Laura stood in front of the mirror on the wall and placed the hat on her head.  She contemplated her reflection. A smiled lifted first one corner of her mouth and then the other.  Settling the hat more firmly, Laura tipped her head slightly. Dark eyes dancing, she addressed the woman in the mirror.

“Holt. Laura Holt. Pleasure to meet you.”   

The End

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