When I returned to the house, I came to a halt at the front porch. She seemed like she’d been at it for a few minutes. I watched in silent amusement as a hundred-pound bundle of energy, Christy, paced back and forth in high dudgeon. She wore plaid flannel pajamas that were a couple of sizes too large, which made her look like a kid playing dress-up. They were fluffy white bunnies, complete with cotton-ball tails. The result was less than earth-shattering, and I couldn’t help but laugh. She didn’t recognize me at first, but then her eyes widened. Sayuri owned two more houses in the neighborhood, one across the street and one a block away. We sat at the dining room table and made small talk until Wren brought up the subject of the other renovations. ” “I can’t believe you have all these shoes and purses.” I pointed at the pile of dress bags on the bed. My mother was the most important, but I was so much like her that I couldn’t think of a time when she hadn’t influenced me. I’d also learned the meaning of compassion and the value of public service. Well, not at first.” “Me neither.” “I’m glad we did.” “Me too.” She breathed a deep sigh. Then we ignored the advice of age and experience (Trip’s father and stepmother) and drove to Knoxville. Kendall had taught me to take off my blinders and learn from my mistakes. She was just the unfortunate woman who’d suffered because I’d been paying too much attention to the “what” and not enough to the “why.” With Wren I’d learned that things happen for a reason. “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years.” I chuckled. We probably should have listened, but we were young and eager.
” She tried to decide if I was making fun of her again. I didn’t understand a word she said, although I didn’t really need to. Rough edges, cut corners, half-assed work.” “I don’t even know how some of it passed inspection,” Trip said. “But it certainly isn’t up to Hughes-Whitman standards.” “Whitman-Hughes,” Trip corrected absently. Trip and I worked our way through the living room, octagonal front room, and the little main-floor bedroom. ” Christy ignored her and said to me, “Sayuri lives next door. “It’s just a house.” “That’s a bit like saying Michelangelo was ‘just an artist.’” Her five-foot-nothing glare wasn’t very intimidating. She reminded me of Susan, especially the way her mind worked. “But the work isn’t something I’d brag about.” Wren started to say something else, but I stopped her again. “We had it inspected before we bought it.” “Okay, maybe not ‘a mess,’” I said to placate her. Wren and Christy concentrated on the kitchen and dining room. Sayuri asked something that sounded suspiciously like, “But they’re so young. ” She smiled when she said it, but her dark eyes didn’t echo the sentiment. I watched their conversation and slowly reevaluated Sayuri. But it’ll be a problem if we find anything structural.” “Or any serious code violations.” “Exactly.” “And these other two houses might also be a mess—” “Our house isn’t a mess,” Wren objected. “These other houses might take up a lot of our time, especially if we find problems.” He turned to Christy. Does she want to hear the truth, especially if her contractor isn’t… Most of them had fine bones, even if they’d seen better days. ✧ ✧ ✧ We spent the rest of the day unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. Wren had forgotten to tell her about the change in plans.