*crosses fingers and prays for no blue screen*
After Funke and the attempted robbery, I sat down to design a security system. The robot could wait.
I had no inclination to “buy a burglar alarm” as Officer Edmonds had suggested. Instead, I set up a computer system that analyzed anyone approaching the front door. If the figure did not match anything in the supplied database, it would send an alert directly to the police department.
After the first false alarm, I insured that it could aptly recognize the local wildlife as well.
Thomas went out and set up fencing around the perimeter of our property, complete with a huge gate. He then had Shaye start planting her trees along the fence in order to provide some amount privacy.
It was odd having a fence. I remember the backyard being surrounded by a fence back at our childhood home on Water Lily Lane. But it was a low fence. I distinctly recall Thomas being able to leap over it easily, usually late at night to sneak back into the house after visiting Maywood Dr. I remember myself hopping it a few times when returning from the graveyard. But this fence…it was very tall and imposing, with not much space at all between the bars and no one would be hopping over it.
Shaye transplanted her garden to behind the garage. This left Lucky enough room to romp in the grass to his little heart’s content.
We installed a buzzer for visitors or, much more likely, delivery persons, and shifted the mailbox to the outer side of the gate. The newspaper girl began leaving the paper outside the gate, ringing the buzzer to let us know it had been delivered.
After we had taken these safety precautions, Thomas and I received word from the police that the robber had been hired by one Dr. Sabrina Funke to “mess with the Mayfields”. We were hesitant to press charges, however. The woman was suffering from the onset of dementia, the whole reason she had chosen to retire early.
Thomas took it upon himself to convince the Funke family to put her under closer surveillance, perhaps in a retirement home, where she could no longer stalk Donovan. I proceeded with my security system and left the talking to him.
I rubbed my eyes and sighed. Spencer Funke, Dr. Funke’s eldest son, was too bull-head to actually talk to half the time. He’d worked under his mother for her last years at the Landgraab Labs, and was convinced that the whole situation was our fault. For his mother’s trespassing, as well as her mental health. That we were somehow staging it all just to make her look bad. I wish I could say I was surprised, but his mother wasn’t the only Funke with stalker issues.
But his sister, Irene, was amiable enough. She was more concerned with her mother hurting herself than over her indignity of being shoved into a nursing home.
I remembered Irene from high school. She’d been further along than me, but Chloe would often have study sessions with her and Malcolm Landgraab. She was nice, a hard worker, and had dated Malcolm for a while. They’d broken up at some point, seeing as she was now dating Shark Racket and he had a daughter with Kaylynn Langerak.
Our lawyer kept talking about how we could sue Dr. Funke for damages and all that, but honestly, I just wanted it to be over. Since the summer, we’d all been slowly sinking into a peaceful routine. And now we were all on edge again. Chloe was adding some kind of “containment field” to her security system, and Medea wouldn’t let Donovan out of her sight. I couldn’t blame them. I’d started teaching Lucky to be a guard dog.
The last court session had gone well in our favor, but had been excruciatingly long. I hadn’t bothered to continue talking to Spencer. I’d just left to grab some coffee and get some fresh air. There was an actual cafe in Sunset Valley now, and I’d been meaning to stop by for a while. Yeah, I’ve got time to kill before work.
It wasn’t a far walk to the cafe, but the clouds were already drizzling and threatening a storm later on. Something warm and sweet for such a dreary day. Pumpkin spice, perfect! I choose a nice window seat and watched the rain for a bit, sipping my drink.
“Well, whaddja know?” a familiar voice crooned behind me.
I stiffened and slowly turned around.
Darlene Bunch smirked down at me. The years had been a hell of a lot kinder to her. She’d grown into those long legs and had let down her hair for the day. She’s beautiful.
“Hi,” I murmured, then shook my head. “Um, hello, uhhh, how’ve you been?”
She shrugged, dropping gracefully into the chair across from me. “I had my nephews this weekend, a bunch of hellions.” She smiled fondly. “Holly’s hoping for a girl this time, but the doctor’s said not to count on it.”
“Oh, uh, that’s…cool,” I fumbled over my words. She smelled like honeysuckle. And it was really distracting!
“Mom said you’ve been by recently.” She cocked an eyebrow at me.
“Uh, yeah, um…” I finally see her for the first time in four years and all I could think about was escaping! And her hair. And her eyes. And those shorts that hugged her ass just right…Stop it!
“What’d ya think?”
“It’s, uh, empty,” I admitted.
She threw back her head and laughed. “Right?! She tell you Lisa’s a Sargent now?”
“What she doesn’t know is that Lisa’s also got a kid on the way,” she whispered conspiratorially. “Guess who’s.”
“VJ,” I said smiling. They’d been on and off since I’d known them.
Darlene nodded, giggling. “VJ! She’s living with him now. No intention of telling Mom either.”
“Oh, Mom’s been weird since Dad died.” She shrugged. “She wants everyone back home, she keeps asking to see her grandkids, she wants to know when I’ll get married…” she trailed off and shook her head. “Faye’s got it worse. Since Marc and Malika’s wedding, Mom’s been hounding her to find “a nice family guy” and for Malika to start popping out babies!” She threw her hands in the air, huffing angrily.
I smiled. It felt like old times. Darlene complaining about her crazy family, me letting her voice wash over me. Just spending comfortable time together.
“So, how’s work?” I vaguely remembered Dr. Bunch mentioning that Darlene had some job with “outrageous hours”.
Darlene grinned, anger melting into pure joy. “Work is fantastic! Right after high school I joined the police academy, and now I’m working at the Valley Police Department as a Traffic Cop!”
She looked so excited! It was hard not to smile as well.
“I’m hoping to get promoted soon, but I’m making a decent chunk of change right now. I’ve got my own place. Life is really, really good right now.”
Life is good…wish I could say the same. My smile slipped and I sighed.
“Um, your mother mentioned…a boyfriend?”
“Yeah, Hank Goddard.”
I forced myself to smile and not cry. “Hah, that’s great! You deserve happiness.”
“We split up,” she interrupted before I could continue.
For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Here was my chance! Offer condolences, some time together and…what? Pick her up in a rebound? I sighed. “I’m sorry,” I murmured and stood up.
“Welp,” I took a deep breath. “I’ve got, uh, somewhere to be…and I’ve kept you from your coffee! Sorry ‘bout that.”
“That’s it?” she asked, peering up at me, her expression unreadable.
“You’re not gonna sweep me off my feet, up into the mountains to watch the stars?” Her face was a blank slate.
I rubbed a hand over my face and sighed. Darlene, you have no idea… “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to,” I finally muttered. I couldn’t meet her eyes. “But, ya know, I’ve given you enough trouble. You’ve got this whole life you’ve built up for yourself! And I’d rather not wreck that. You deserve better than an old flame, and I’ve got problems a’plenty that you shouldn’t have to deal with.” I shrugged again, slid her a five for a fresh cup of coffee and turned to leave.
I didn’t expect her to follow me towards the door. And I certainly didn’t expect her to grab a fistful of my shirt and yank me back around!
“That’s it?!” Darlene hissed. “Four goddamn years and I don’t even get an explanation?! Beautiful promises of a life together and soft kisses and prom night and going through every day like it’s a beautiful fucking dream and then you up and vanish into thin fucking air for FOUR FUCKING YEARS! And now you’re back and I don’t even get an excuse?! A reason WHY?!”
I blinked at her. “Uhhh…?” I took a breath, sighed it out and tried again. “That’d be a helluva long story.”
She released me, but continued glaring. “You’ve got 10 minutes.”
We finally caught up with Darlene Bunch! She’s a hard girl to get a hold of! Thomas asked her out and on dates multiple times. Then I took him and Chloe down to the coffee house, and there she was!
Okay, I’m posting this before my computer shows me it’s blue sad face again.
I’ll see you from my tablet, and, once again, thanks for reading! ^_^