BobbyKyle woke me up.
Well, not him, exactly, but his giant, belching-smoke machinery did. I sat straight up in bed and discovered that a man with a worn gimme cap was felling limbs right next to my window. He winked as I yelped and dove for my robe.
By the time I hit the kitchen, hair still wet from my shower, the roar of his big truck was gone and he was seated at the table with Clay, both men deep in conversation, coffee cooling in front of them.
"Hey, Miss Kitty" said Clay easily, "what's going on for today?" He nodded his head towards BobbyKyle. "Bobby tells me he met you this morning."
BobbyKyle had a firm grip and a shyer smile than I would have thought for someone who had already seen me in my nightgown. "Hullo, miss" he said, shambling to his feet and shaking my hand. "I'm so glad someone's come back to live here. This old lady (he gestured at the room) was getting lonely all by herself." He looked around the kitchen. "The inside's not bad. There's a big spot of the gingerbread over the eaves that's broken though, and there's some rot in the porch. Don't you worry. We'll get her shining."
"No one better for that then BobbyKyle. He practically grew up here. He'll soon set her straight." BobbyKyle launched into a complicated tale of neighbors and Sunday dinners and climbing apple trees and while I didn't quite understand it all, by the end of it I knew he loved the old house I had and would make her new and proud again.
We were wet from washing all the windows (our chore for today)and covered in bits of leaves and debris, BobbyKyle still shearing branches high above us, letting the sun come sparkling through to the windows when I heard a discreet cough and turned to see my Grandfather, holding a grip of flowers, eyes twinkling down at me.
"So, Katie, I see you've met Clay. What do you think of your new house?"
I launched myself at him, feeling suddenly homesick and very small when I felt his arms around me.
"Hey now." he said softly, patting my back. "No tears. I came to bring you these and to see what you've done to the old place."
I felt less shaky, and raised a smiling face to him. "Come inside and see what we've dreamed up."
I had Grand-Dad settled at the kitchen table with tea and the drawings that Clay and I had worked so hard on before I spoke. "Grand-Dad, why didn't you tell me this was Mama's house? And what do you want me to do here in Bailey this summer?"
Grand-Dad put down his cup."I didn't tell you, Katherine, because I wanted you to fall in love with the place before you found out its' history." He chuckled. "That didn't happen, huh?" He twinkled again. "I wondered if Ford would remember."
"Katherine, I wanted you to live here because I think you can find your Mama." He waved a hand. "I know that everyone thinks she's gone. I can't, though - there's a part of my heart that refuses to believe my daughter is dead. So, I brought you down here. You alone in this family have the guts and determination to find Alice, and bring her home."
I opened my mouth to protest - this happened years ago! Teams of trained police officers couldn't find her! How on earth could I - and closed it with a snap when I saw his face and the trust shining out of his eyes.
"All right, Grand-Dad. I'll try."