Read Marriage Seasons 01 - It Happens Every Spring Online

Authors: Catherine Palmer,Gary Chapman

Marriage Seasons 01 - It Happens Every Spring (10 page)

"Relax, Patsy. No one's going anywhere. Your clientele is so
loyal we'd all move to Timbuktu with you if you decided to pull up
stakes. Pete Roberts isn't about to scare us off." She patted her hair
as she eyed Patsy in the mirror. "If you want to know what I think

"Well what?" Patsy demanded.

"I think he's got a little thing for you. He's teasing you the way
boys do, Patsy. Trying to get your attention and make you notice

"Pete Roberts is no boy! He's at least forty, and I hear he's been
married twice and was an alcoholic so many years his liver's pickled. Oh, what am I doing? I don't mean to gossip about anyone, but
I am not a teenager playing silly flirting games. I am a businesswoman, and I've worked too hard to ... to..."

Esther reached up and laid her hand on Patsy's arm. "Your nose
does drip when you get mad, doesn't it?"

Patsy sniffled as she began rummaging through a drawer.
"Where is my pick? People are always taking things out of my station. I've lost a pick and two combs and no telling how many
bobby pins. I had a wedding last Saturday morning, and I couldn't
find a bobby pin to save my life. Have you ever tried to style an
updo without bobby pins? That bride was determined her hair
would be at least a foot high, and I must have spent an hour hunting for some way to hold it in place. Curls and braids and daisies.
Oh, let me tell you, I just about had a fit. I finally had to go into the
back room and hunt through all the boxes until I found some new
packs of hairpins. It was a nightmare."

"Maybe you like him just a little bit too," Esther said. "He's very
nice. He keeps his stock organized and his shelves dusted. Charlie
said Pete has the cleanest minnow tank at the lake, and you know
Charlie has seen them all. If you want to catch crappie, there's
something to be said for healthy, lively minnows."

Patsy clamped her mouth shut and began finger-combing
Esther's hair into place. As she worked with the curls, she did her best not to think about Pete Roberts next door. Though she had
tried to be kind to him, she could find no excuse for his behavior.

Esther Moore was dead wrong about him. Maybe Pete was nice
to his customers and kept a tidy store. Maybe he had used his
blasted weed whacker on the flourishing dandelion patch in front
of her beauty salon the other day. And maybe Patsy had seen him
eyeing her from his pew at LAMB Chapel the past three Sundays in
a row. But that did not mean he had a "little thing" for her. And she
certainly didn't like him. Not even a little bit.

"Oh, that looks so pretty," Esther spoke up as Patsy began spraying the style into place. "You always do such a good job. It's no
wonder everyone in Deepwater Cove and most of the west side of
the lake comes to Just As I Am. You have the power to transform us
all! In fact, I think Brenda Hansen is looking better than she has in
months. When that homeless man she was taking care of ran away,
I predicted she would go right down the drain. But she sure has
perked up. Maybe it's that new haircut you gave her."

Patsy shrugged. She had enough to worry about with Pete Roberts threatening to start up one loud engine or another next door.
Which made her think about poor, simpleminded Cody and how
scared he had been when he ran out of the salon that day. Which
led her to wonder what had really brightened up Brenda Hansen so
much. Her husband hadn't seemed too thrilled when he came in
for his monthly haircut-he said their basement was all torn apart
and some handyman had practically taken up residence in the
Hansens' house. Which brought Steve's glum face to Patsy's mind
and led her to recall how hard she'd had to work to repair his haircut. Which took her right back to Pete Roberts and his infernal
weed whacker. That man was just about all she could think of these

Brenda tore off a strip of blue, low-tack painter's tape and began
to edge the molding around the staircase in the basement. It had
taken the best part of two days to tape the windows, doors, floors,
and ceilings, but she didn't mind. Nick LeClair kept his radio
tuned to a country station, and Brenda had discovered to her surprise that she liked the twangy Southern music-especially the ballads. She had grown up in St. Louis listening to rock and pop, but
some of the country songs almost made her cry. She told herself it
was hormones.

Lately, everything had seemed a little out of whack. At forty-five
she was probably too young for menopause, but maybe not. Her
emotions had leaped onto a roller-coaster ride that never stopped.
Feeling almost as crazy as she had in her teenage years, Brenda
swooped up into giddy happiness one minute and then plunged
into tears the next.

It was Steve's fault.

After their fiasco the night he brought home the stringer of fish,
they hadn't touched each other and had barely spoken.

"You just saved my bacon!" Nick exclaimed as he stepped
through the basement's sliding door this morning. "I've got the
paint, and you've done the taping!"

"I was wondering where you were," Brenda said. She rose from
the floor and faced him.

Nick wore his usual chambray work shirt, jeans, boots, and
baseball cap. He wasn't handsome like Steve, he drawled like a hillbilly, and sometimes he messed up his grammar, but Brenda had
come to enjoy the man's jovial company. In fact, she went to bed
each night replaying their conversations in her mind, and when
she woke up the next morning, she waited to hear his pickup
crunching the rocks on the driveway.

"I asked the hardware store to shake up the paint," he was saying
as he crossed the basement floor, "and then I realized we couldn't
start on the Serene Green sewing zone until we'd taped it off. But
there you go, girl, always one step ahead of me."

Brenda laughed. She liked the way Nick called her "girl," as
though she were just a kid. They had discovered they were only a
year apart in age, but that was about the only similarity between
them. Brenda had grown up in the same house and neighborhood
with the same set of parents and siblings all her life. Nick seemed to
have been riveted together from various bits and pieces, like one of
those whirligigs Missouri gardeners built to the keep the crows

He had been raised with parents, stepparents, brothers, sisters,
half brothers, half sisters, stepbrothers, stepsisters, cousins, family
friends, and the occasional stranger all living under one roof. But
that roof had altered through the years as changes in the family
structure moved him from rental houses to trailer parks to apartments. Once he had even lived in his car for nearly a year.

Along the way, Nick seemed to have lost parts of his tackedtogether self. While splitting kindling, he had cut off half of an
index finger. A little sister had drowned, and then his parents got
divorced. During Nick's rodeoing days, his first wife had left him. "My heart wasn't the only thing that got broke," he had told
Brenda, his blue eyes misting with tears as he spoke. During that
brief period, he had snapped his leg three times and shattered an
elbow. Later, his second wife had miscarried his first son. And part
of his left ear was gone, lasered off during a brush with skin cancer.

Still in his second marriage, Nick LeClair now lived in a mobile
home near Camdenton, had grown children, and loved his two
grandbabies. Though he didn't go to church, he said he believed in
God. Family and faith weren't the only things that enriched his life.
Though he had barely graduated from high school, Nick informed
Brenda proudly that he never once considered going to college.

"Didn't need it," he assured her, "because I have the gift of

Nick insisted he could look at a bare slab foundation and see an
entire house right down to the plumbing and wiring. He could
remodel a room in his mind without even needing a blueprint.
And, he told Brenda, he could see right through people.

"You're a bona fide artist," he drawled as he carried cans of
paint through the basement door and set them on the concrete
floor. "I'm not kidding. When the paint guy at the hardware store
saw the colors you had picked out for the basement, he liked to
have had a cow. He told me every one of those greens was used on a
video the paint company sends out to help train the salespeople.
Neither of us could tell the difference between one shade and
another when we looked at the samples, but once we had them all
mixed up and we opened the lids, we could see it was a perfect
range. I told him, I said, `That lady I'm working for is an artist, pure
and simple.' And he said, `Let me tell you what, Nick; I do believe
you're right.' Not only did you get the colors right, Miz Brenda, but
you're a whole step ahead of me with the taping."

He straightened and grinned at her, his cloudless blue eyes
shining in the sunlight that streamed through the basement windows. Nick might have broken a few bones and plastered his arms
with tattoos, but there wasn't a thing to mar the man's perfect white teeth. Unlike most of the construction workers Brenda had
met through the years, he didn't smoke. His mother had died of
emphysema, Nick explained, and that made up his mind for him
at an early age. Still smiling, he stripped off his jacket and hooked
his hands in the pockets of his jeans.

"Well, I'm ready to change your life, girl." He reached down and
picked up a paint roller. "You ready?"

Swallowing, Brenda stepped toward him and took the handle.
"Let's do it."

Steve flipped shut the door to his gas tank and hurried into Rodsn-Ends. There was serious business afoot, and he wanted to discuss
the situation in the privacy of the tackle shop. For days now, gossip
had been swirling around the lake like a nasty green oil spill. He
had heard rumors in Deepwater Cove, Tranquility, and even as far
away as Camdenton and Osage Beach. Steve figured if anyone
knew the true story it would be Pete Roberts.

As the front doorbell tinkled, the burly man glanced up from a
table full of engine parts in his repair area. "Well, if it isn't Steve
Hansen, the king of real estate," he boomed. "How's it goin', my
friend? Did you finally run low on gas? I swear if you start a trend
with that hybrid of yours, you'll run me out of business in no time

Steve worked up a smile. "No chance of that. Besides, you've got
boats, four-wheelers, and Jet Skis to fill."

"Hey, did you hear the news?" Pete hopped up and made his
way toward the cash register.

"I might have," Steve said. "Are you talking about the ... uh..."

"I'm talking about the NASCAR hauler that stopped by here the
other day. I tell you what-you should have been here, Steve. It
was no ordinary trailer. It was a monster."

"Is that right?" Steve tried to muster interest. NASCAR was a popular sport at the lake, and now that he recognized Pete's enthusiasm, he noted the display of calendars and photographs of
brightly colored, decal-covered stock cars on the tackle-shop walls.
Pete even had framed autographed pictures of various drivers
lined up in a row near his workbench.

"It was an official NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series transporter," Pete went on, beaming as if Dale Earnhardt himself had
just stepped down from heaven for a visit to Rods-n-Ends. "The
driver let me have a look inside, and it was something else. In the
front, the crew has a private office with a TV and a sofa. Behind
that, in the upper level, I could see the two trucks sitting there like
royalty. Beautiful! Below them was storage for parts and tools, and
the crew even had a set of lockers. I don't think the president of the
United States gets as good care as a stock car. I would have given
my right arm for a look under the hood of one of those babies. You
ever seen a NASCAR engine? The trucks have cast-iron, 5.7-liter
V8 engines with aluminum cylinder heads. Each one has a maximum displacement of 358 cubic inches. Can you believe that?"

"Pretty amazing," Steve said. He had begun to think stopping
at Rods-n-Ends had been a bad idea. Trying to repair the everwidening gulf with Brenda, he had volunteered to come home in
time for supper. She wanted to discuss activities and plans for the
upcoming spring-break vacation. Their two younger kids, Jessica
and Justin, would be home from college, and Brenda wanted to
make a special occasion of it.

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