Two weeks later and the people of Bluebonnet Creek were still reeling from the accident at the machinery plant. There had been several deaths of men from all over the county, including a couple from town. Three local men had been severely injured and one was still hospitalized. Talk was still about the men’s progress and what had gone wrong at the plant.
Val did her best to stay quiet and out of Matt’s way. Instead she turned to her cooking, the only thing she had to offer, and once a day would take a full meal to one of the families affected by the blast.
Meanwhile, she was beginning to feel like she could see the nearing of a finished house and couldn’t help but be excited. This month’s project was the sunroom which stretched along the side of the house and reached by two doors--one from the kitchen and one from the living room. This would be the project room. The morning sun hit it quite strongly so she had an air conditioning company run venting into the room and then she hung three ceiling fans down the length of it. Lighting would be critical in here for the groups of meeting-goers, quilters and scrapbookers she envisioned here, so task lighting was next. Next to the price of the kitchen, it was her most expensive room but she knew it would be the heart of her business.
The wood floors were in decent enough shape that she decided to skip the sanding and went right to the painting. She wanted the floors tough and durable. Once painting was done, she placed several long craft tables with chairs throughout the room.
Outside the Violet Society was true to their word. They supplied the labor by bringing in teenagers working on various civic projects so Val paid only for the wholesale plants she purchased and the food she fed to the hungry teen horde.
The fall planting would show its true colors come spring, but she had plenty of sketches from the Violets and enough evergreen plants in to be able to envision the finished garden. She selected some old chairs and benches from a storage shed at the back of the garden and placed them in spots that would beckon anyone seeking peace and quiet. The garden paths all led to a gate that opened to the last stretch of lawn before the river. Come spring, the garden would be beautiful and every year that passed would only add to the effect.
She didn’t see Matt for weeks, but she knew he had his hands full and was spending a great deal of time traveling to and from Houston and Austin to visit the local boys still hospitalized. He called her when he could and she reported on the house, knowing he liked to hear news that would distract him from his work. She cooked for him, too, and would leave small meals in his fridge once she found the house key placed so obviously under his doormat. She’d rolled her eyes when she’d made that discovery. Doctors. Sometimes they were so clueless when it came to practical every day matters. Their brains had too much space taken up by all the ways to save lives, she reasoned.
Cassie came over the day Val brought home the work tables and chairs. Together they began unloading.
“I’m glad you decided to listen to me about Matt,” Cassie said on their second trip to the truck.
Val raised an eyebrow. “Listen to you?”
“Yeah, listen to me. Remember? I’ve been telling you all along that you were made for each other and should be together. Now you’re cooking for him and you two talk on the phone like lovebirds.” She grasped one end of a table and Val grabbed the other.
“You are such a know-it-all. But you know what? Nothing has been settled. We’re still trying to figure things out.” They walked sideways across the yard to the front door.
“But you love him, don’t you?”
Val turned and climbed the steps backward and led the way through the front door.
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
“Why not?” They carried the table through the living room and into the sunroom.
Once it was standing in place, Val looked at Cassie. “Sweetie, I know you want things to work out perfectly, and I really appreciate that. But not everything can work out. I can’t lose myself over a man who might not be the one. Right now he’s my friend. A friend I care a lot about, but that’s it.”
Cassie sighed. “Why are you making this so difficult?”
“Difficulty now means I avoid heart ache in the future.”
“But he’s your soul mate, Val!”
Val paused at that. Cassie was so impassioned about the two of them. It was as if all along she could see everything clearly and Val was looking through a fog.
“Maybe so, Cassie. But somehow we ended up on different paths.”
“Why can’t the paths cross and become one?” Cassie stepped closer and gave Val a hug. “I want you to be happy.”
Val returned the hug and then pulled away far enough to place her hands on Cassie’s arms and shake them gently as she tried to make her point. “I know you do, Cassie, and you’re such a wonderful friend to me. But sometimes, no matter how badly we want things to work, they can’t.”
Cassie’s eyes grew wet and she shook her head. “You’re such a fool, Val.”
Val smiled. “I know that.” She waved her hand at the house. “Only fools try an endeavor like this.”
Cassie nodded and they walked back out to the truck. “This is very true. I did think you were crazy to begin with.”
They spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures of the house’s interior so Val could get her print materials and website ready. Late in the day, the Violets arrived, bringing a final plant for the back porch.
“Doris, it’s beautiful!” Val said as she carried the potted fern, lush and full to the porch.
“Just don’t let it get too cold out here.”
“I won’t. I promise to take good care of it. Can you ladies stay for supper?”
“If it wouldn’t be too much trouble for you, dear.”
“Not at all.” Val glanced at Maribelle. She was sitting in one of the wicker chairs and she was patting her skin with a handkerchief even though it was sixty degrees outside. Val peered at her. She looked pale. Val bent over her and touched her arm. Her skin felt cool and clammy.
“Maribelle, are you all right?”
The other Violets turned their attention to Maribelle the moment the words were out of Val’s mouth.
“I’m fine,” she breathed, fanning herself. “I’m feeling a little poorly at the moment, but maybe if you fetched me a glass of water, dear?”
Val straightened and met Doris’ eyes. “Doris, want to help me with that water?”
She turned and walked quickly into the kitchen. Doris was right behind her.
“Call Dr. Schaffer,” Doris said the moment they were out of hearing of Maribelle. “Her blood pressure must be too low and I know Maribelle would never admit it to us.”
Val nodded and turned to the phone. She pressed the numbers of Matt’s pager and then hung up after leaving her own. She nodded to Doris. Less than two minutes later Matt called.
“Hey Val, what’s up?”
She could hear the alarm in his voice. She never paged him. He’d given her the number hoping she would, but she knew it was really for emergencies. She never even called his cell but would leave messages at his house or office.
“Are you in town? I’m with the Violets and Maribelle doesn’t seem to be doing well.”
“Has she taken her blood pressure medicine today?”
Val repeated the question to Doris who stepped back to the porch and returned a moment later with a quick nod.
“Yes,” Val reported. “But she looks awful, Matt. Should I take her to the hospital?”
“Yes, can you drive to Austin? I’m there now and can meet you.”
Val nodded and repeated the direction to Doris.
Doris took the phone from Val and spoke into it. “Matt, it’s Doris. We’ll get Maribelle to the hospital but I wanted to ask how your interview went. Will it be Austin then?”
Val stared at Doris as she listened and nodded into the phone. “All right, we’ll talk more later. Meet you at the hospital.”
She handed the phone back to Val. She pressed it to her ear but Matt had hung up. She returned the phone to its base and then frowned at Doris. “What was that all about?”
“Nothing. Just the good doctor exploring his options and apparently some of them are located in Austin.”
“Val dear, we need to get Maribelle over there right away.”
Val shook herself. “Oh, yes, I’ll get my truck ready. You and Cassie walk her out.”
Doris nodded and turned away but not before Val saw the slightest hint of satisfaction in Doris’ eyes.
So was that the way it was going to be? Even as she prayed that Maribelle would be all right, she couldn’t help but wonder if the idea Matt had told he wanted to work on was simply relocating and getting out of her life completely.
Or maybe he thought he’d found something that wouldn’t require so much time. But in Austin? What about her bed and breakfast?
She grabbed her purse and hurried out to get the truck started. Once they were sure Maribelle was okay, she and Matt were going to sit down and have a long talk.
It was about time someone listened to her.