Mary Verdick - Author
Mary Verdick - Author
All Rights Reserved © Mary Verdick 2003
In the days that followed she had moments of totally freaking out, when it hurt so much to remember what she’d lost that she didn’t want to go on living. Then, completely unexpected, her great-aunt Weezy, who was one of her favorite people, called with what Mrs. Fox dubbed a “wonderful idea.”  Phoebe didn’t think it was all that wonderful, but her mother acted as if it was the answer to a prayer.
Her great-aunt Weezy, who’d moved to a retirement residence in Santa Fe, after years of  living and working in New York City, wanted to visit her hometown of Denver “One more time,” as she put it, to see her older sister Jenna, Phoebe’s grandmother.  It was a relatively short trip from Santa Fe to Denver, less than four hundred miles, but Weezy couldn’t fly because of an inner ear problem. The train seemed to take forever, she said. For the same reason the bus was out of the question. “But I have this nice little Dodge Dart,” Weezy told Mrs. Fox, “and if I drove I could stop along the way if I got tired.  Only I don’t want to drive alone, it’s too boring. So-o I was wondering—do  you suppose Phoebe would go with me to share the driving and keep me company, if I sent her a round trip plane ticket from Hartford to Albuquerque?”
“Why, I don’t see why not,” Mrs. Fox said, and went on to tell Weezy how “delighted” Phoebe would be to accompany her, even though she was the one who was delighted—and why not? After all, it answered the question of, “What to do with Phoebe?” for the next two weeks, which was beginning to be a real problem, since the Foxes wanted to go to Europe for their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. “But I have this nice little Dodge Dart,” Weezy told Mrs. Fox, “and if I drove I could stop along the way if I got tired.  Only I don’t want to drive alone, it’s too boring. So-o I was wondering—do  you suppose Phoebe would go with me to share the driving and keep me company, if I sent her a round trip plane ticket from Hartford to Albuquerque?”




“Why, I don’t see why not,” Mrs. Fox said, and went on to tell Weezy how “delighted” Phoebe would be to accompany her, even though she was the one who was delighted—and why not? After all, it answered the question of, “What to do with Phoebe?” for the next two weeks, which was beginning to be a real problem, since the Foxes wanted to go to Europe for their twenty-eighth wedding anniversary.
When they’d planned the trip back in June, the twins had just gotten jobs as junior counselors at a summer day camp, and Phoebe would supposedly be in New York, studying at the School of American Ballet. But when Phoebe flunked her audition it was back to square one. Her parents didn’t want to take her to Europe with them. What kind
of romantic anniversary trip would that be having a failed ballerina tagging along behind them?  But they felt they couldn’t leave her alone in her present state of mind. The unexpected trip west would take care of things.
“You’ll be helping Aunt Weezy and it’ll give you a chance to see Gram again, whom you haven’t seen in ages. And not only that,” Mrs. Fox hesitated, then continued, her voice elaborately casual, “since you’ll be in Denver anyway, you might as well pop by Franny’s and see the baby—even if the poor little thing doesn’t have a father.”
“Franny’s baby has a father. The baby’s father is just not married to the baby’s mother.”
“Don’t remind me!” Mrs. Fox shuddered. “How that sister of yours, an intelligent girl, could divorce a perfectly marvelous young man—”
“A doctor yet!”
Her mother glared at her. “Don’t be impertinent. You know perfectly well what I mean.  How your sister, a girl with everything going for her, could leave her nice young husband to take up with that—that cook is beyond me. And then having a baby with him! Well, it defies all common sense. Not to mention decency. That’s why your father and I have washed our hands of Miss Franny. She’s made her bed and now she can lie in it.”             
Which she seemed to be doing pretty well, Phoebe thought wryly. If Franny were upset by her parents’ attitude she gave no indication of it in her emails. Probably because, like Phoebe, Franny knew their mother would relent in time. 
           In spite of all the bluster, the dire threats of cutting Franny out of their will, both girls knew their mother was dying to hold her first grandchild in her arms. So while she might talk unforgiving  it was temporary, proven by the fact that she was encouraging Phoebe to visit Franny and the baby in Denver to bring back a firsthand report.
          “I am sort of curious as to what that little girl looks like,” Mrs. Fox admitted. “Now if she has Franny’s features and is half as light and graceful as you—”
Phoebe wrinkled her nose. “God, Mom, don’t wish that on the poor kid!” As for herself, she hoped little Shilo Dawn would keep her feet firmly planted on the ground and have no dreams of Sugar Plum Fairies ever dancing in her head.
Then she’ll never be hurt, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut to keep the silly tears from falling. The plane was late landing in Albuquerque, causing Phoebe to run through the terminal so fast she got a stitch in her side. Her breath came in short, ragged little gasps and she was convinced she’d never make it outside. But with a last spurt of energy she dashed through the doors—only to see the shuttle for Santa Fe pulling away from the curb.
“”Figures,” she muttered, dropping her carry-on. Frustrated tears welled up in her eyes. Oh, cut it out. It’s no big deal, she told herself as she fumbled in her purse for a tissue. She blew her nose. So she’d missed the stupid shuttle. So what? Her great-aunt Weezy had said that if she missed the two o’clock shuttle another would come at three, and she’d meet them both. So there was no need to even call Santa Fe.
She picked up her carry-on and reentering the terminal found a restroom. She went over to one of the sinks against the wall and splashed cold water on her face. Then raising her head she stared intently at her reflection in the mirror. But the reflection staring back at her looked so glum and unhappy she quickly looked away, absentmindedly tucking a strand of hair back into her bun.
After a few minutes, getting ahold of herself, she left the restroom and found her way outside again. Noticing a spot near the curb, which was partially in the shade from an overhang and would give a good view of the arrival of the shuttle, she yanked her purple T-shirt down over her jeans and sat down on her carry-on. But the light was too intense for her eyes, even in the shade it made her head ache, and brought the helpless tears into her eyes again. Closing them she leaned her head back against the building, telling herself she had to stop this senseless crying. It was stupid the way the least little thing could set her off. So she was unhappy not to be dancing anymore? So whose fault was that? Wouldn’t the fool shuttle ever come?
Finally when she’d almost given up hope of ever seeing it, the Shuttlejack careened around a corner and came to a stop right in front of her. Picking up her carry-on she climbed aboard, sitting down in the first vacant seat. A pleasant looking man with steel-rimmed spectacles took the seat next to hers and tried to engage her in conversation.
“You live in Santa Fe?”
“No.”
“Interested in the art galleries?’
“No,” she said again.
Sighing he gave up. She stared out the window. Not that there was much to see. The countryside between Albuquerque and Santa Fe was monotonous, flat, and sparsely covered with grass. They passed sandy stretches and foothills, dotted with juniper and mesquite, now and then clumps of cottonwood, a few scraggly pines.  Even though it was only a little over an hour’s ride, the journey seemed to take forever. But finally the warm adobe buildings of Santa Fe started coming into view.
Soon they were entering the city proper, by way of the Old Santa Fe Trail. Turning down Alameda, they came to a big, sprawling hotel called the Inn at Loretto. The Inn, which looked like a gussied-up pueblo, was right across the street from Weezy’s retirement residence and was the first drop-off point for shuttle passengers. The driver pulled into the courtyard and shut off the engine.
Phoebe  picked up her carry-on and started down the aisle, and immediately spied Weezy waiting at the foot of the steps. A woman of medium height with carefully coiffed salt and pepper hair and rosy cheeks beneath eyes of deep, gentian blue, her great-aunt was seventy-years-old.  But she was still a looker, Phoebe thought fondly, in her denim skirt and wide Mexican silver belt, a soft white pullover showing off her slender body to perfection.
“Phoebe, darling!” Reaching out, Weezy gathered her great-niece in her arms. “Oh, how marvelous to see you! And what a brick you are to come all this way to help out your poor old auntie.”
“Hey, I was glad to come,” Phoebe lied. “Anyway it sure beats traipsing all over Europe with Mom and Dad—especially since they didn’t want me.”
“What?  Why, I can’t imagine anyone not wanting you,” Weezy said. Then added with a grin, “But their loss is my gain, as they say. And you know what, honey?” She squeezed Phoebe’s hand. “We’re just going to have the best old time, you and me.”
“I bet,”  Phoebe said, and she smiled back at her aunt gamely. But inside she was thinking,  Oh, God, how wrong can you be?
       ###   
They left for Denver early the next morning after a simple breakfast of cereal and fruit.  As they walked out on the second-story portale opening off Weezy’s apartment, the sun came over the Sangre de Christo range, striking a giant spruce at the end of the courtyard and setting it aflame. Next the sun moved on to the pool, turning it deep, iridescent blue, and drove the last of the shadows from the patio, gay with umbrellas and colorful flowers.
“Man, this is one neat place,” Phoebe said, impressed, as they made their way along the portale to the elevator. “You’d  never guess it was a retirement home, with a med center right next door, you said?  It just looks like any nice apartment complex.” “Well, that’s the  idea,” Weezy said, smiling. Reaching her car in the underground garage, they stashed their luggage and got inside. Weezy started the engine, heading for Route 285 through Española. “The management here does pretty well by us old folks,” she added.
“You’ll never be old,” Phoebe said. “But as nice as your place is, I still don’t see
why you live there.  I mean it’s not as if you’d broken your hip, like poor Gram, and had to live in an assisted-living place, because you couldn’t get around too well anymore. You look pretty spry to me.”


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