I couldn't get Maud to talk about Mama anymore. She'd huffed at me when I asked if she'd like to stay the night and called for a taxi, and we'd had twenty minutes of horrible, stilted conversation while she waited. She had said that the house looked terrific, but I was left with the impression we hadn't talked about what she really came to say when she offered her cheek to be kissed and finally said goodbye.
I puzzled on that the rest of my evening - if showing up and warning me off finding out my history wasn't the purpose of her visit, than what on earth had been?
The next morning came without any clear answers, and I yawned my way through breakfast. I was finding Wood's leash for the walk to the grocery when he woofed once and went to the back door, waggling all over the place. I went to the door, telling him he was a very undignified dog indeed, and went immediately tongue-tied and clammy at the sight of Porter on my porch.
I quelled the silly girl inside me that wanted to sigh with how handsome he looked, forced my features into a delighted (I hoped not foolish) grin, and sang out "Good morning!"
He smiled. "Katie. I brought you something." He held out a crumpled lunch sack. All sorts of romantic, foolish things popped into my head - flowers? Candy? Jewelry? A letter professing undying love?
Where, I asked myself, did that thought come from??
He tipped the contents out into his hand. "I saw these up at Hanover Ridge, and I thought they'd match that little chest of drawers. Was I right?"
I touched one of the antique drawer pulls, admiring their soft shine. "Perfect. Thank you."
His voice was very soft. "Katie?' He was so close, all rugged hair and big dark eyes and Porter....
And then Porter Ryan kissed me, there on the porch with the sun lighting up the flowers we'd planted and the breeze sighing in agreement and my knees just disappeared. He stepped back and smiled down at me. 'Good morning. What should we do today?'
That evening, after a day spent refinishing, sanding, and painting the chest of drawers in the hallway (it wore its new coat of pale pale blue well, and the little knobs twinkled like stars) and two long walks around the town and sandwiches eaten near the pond, we sat watching Wood run through the yard and talked about the Peach Festival. I was telling Porter about the committee I was on 'The women there are very kind and very, very politely trying to kill each other. It's funny watching them smile and knowing that the other shoe will be dropping any moment. But that will be over soon - the Festival is next week!"
Porter laughed. "I hope this town will survive!" He eased himself out of the rocker, looked toward where the first stars were beginning to peep out of the sky, blew out a breath, and asked "Kate, how invested are you in finding out about your Mom?"
It took me a minute to catch on. "Very invested. Why?"
"Because I think I might know where she went."