The Resident (part ten)
An Anniversary Party
Wissary’s tenterhooks helped obscure Desander’s own. A hundred things seemed to need organizing, for a party with four guests.
“No, we’ve got to have Jennifer. Would Gemma come?”
“Call Aura, Wiss, and find out if she can bring her friend. No, Gemma won’t.”
“But…” Wissary strolled into the study. “Did we really get to know anyone else from Oathbreach? Did we speak to Paul?”
Desander rose from his chair, took Wissary’s arm and steered him to the hall. “Go lie on the sofa. Have a good long talk with Aura. You know you want to.”
They went to the supermarket locals found tony, and visited the bakery for a pie.
“The kind you want is in the freezer section. You’re talking about the Oreos.” The woman behind the counter, having imparted all she had, shooed them.
They walked the freezer section in awe.
“Remember what John called pizza? I could have eaten that for a month,” Wissary sighed. “But he only had the one. But, look! Here! Scads!”
“I read something about fixing them on a grill.”
“Don’t, Des. No experiments. John’s party has to be perfect.”
Their cart began to overflow, and they had not left the rows of glass cabinets. French fries, pesto tortellini, macaroni and cheese (tinted both white and orange), chicken dinners with mashed potatoes, chicken wings with hot sauce, hamburger and bacon that were really soy, pies of extraordinary fluffiness…
“Ice cream, too? People like ice cream.”
“We’ll buy the little ones, and get seven. Or eight? But I feel like you won’t, my dear stick-in-the-mud.” A pause. “That’s an expression. John and I looked up all the ones with sticks. You call that stick-to-itiveness.”
Desander patted his partner’s back. “Eight. Bridge will probably be there.”
“Do you think?”
“I do, Wiss. Because he doesn’t like us, and he doesn’t want us…what? Spending time with Debra, I suppose. Bringing her back, reminding her of her life before she knew him.”
Wissary made a face of mock astonishment, and leaned into pushing the cart. “Oh, here we are at the last of the fabulous freezers. Let’s find out what else they have.”
“You wonder how I would know?” said Desander, catching up. “They have a history with John. They had, with Claudine. The Cheales, I guess we’ll call them, Aura and Debra. Were you listening at all, when Teconieshe was telling me, at the lunch…”
“And our friend, who visited.” Desander stopped himself, looked up beyond the bags of dog food, down to where toys and leashes hung.
“I want that,” Wissary said, of a plush tiger that he moved to unhook from the rack. “I’ll play with this myself. Do you mean our lister?”
And if he teased, asking, still he lowered his voice.
“I put a question to her she wouldn’t answer. Or…she said she might, but wouldn’t promise. She said, look for me when I arrive.”
“She said. Nice. I empathize with Bridge. It’s not comfortable.”
Desander opened his mouth, and Wissary said: “Being shut out of things.”
They moved towards the registers, arrested on the way by the smell of artisan coffees.
“Sorry, Wiss. I’ve got to take a look. I am sorry,” Desander added, choosing four, “that I have to be different with the lister. I only bring the point up, because I think Teconieshe is…from the same place as us.”
“It’s an airstrip. You keep saying airport. You and your Mom.”
Debra, at the sink beside her fiancé, thought sure, drag Mom into it.
She had picked up a fruit tray, knowing somehow that the tray itself, the brown plastic plate and the clear dome lid, would delight Wissary.
Also, that she would have something to eat.
Under the cabinets stood rows of soda jugs, and the freezer door took constant shoving against its burden of boxes. Aura and Stu had brought a baked goat cheese, stuffed with sausage and pearl onions…
Which would not help. Jennifer had brought a case of wine. (“I might visit now and again! Paul has kind of a thingy about my little aperitifs…”)
Wissary had, of a sudden, flown from the house, remembering a particular box of chocolates. Desander and the others were sociable in the living room. And the guest of honor, Des had whispered to Debra, was in his bedroom.
“I think John likes the party, though. He’s just shy of small talk.”
Yes, he is. Debra thought this forcefully…
But isn’t that your trouble, Deb? Let other people flow, as Mom says.
Today she was resolved to listen, to be interested in what interested Bridge. Not be angry he explained things to her, but take the explanation as a beginning…
“…so they would take the ten acres as an easement, if your grandfather can agree at least to that. I mean, he keeps it woods, it almost can’t make any difference. The strip has to go parallel to the road, so the trees won’t need cutting. Probably.”
“That’s good,” Debra said, neutrally. Because those bitches aren’t cutting our trees.
Teconieshe had made himself scarce for eighteen days, knowing his granddaughter was after him. And they all had waited for Desander and Wissary’s new plantings.
(Wiss, on the phone: “He wants to walk around each little pot to see how it meshes with the every other little pot at every…what do you people say?…damn, I think. At every damn angle.”)
Next, for their party arrangements, fussed over in secrecy, producing these amazing results.
“Did we really sell John’s house out from under him?” she wanted to ask.
The Resident (part eleven)
(2022, Stephanie Foster)