Tom froze. He hadn’t expected anyone. Had Paul said something? The knock came again.
“Don’t answer it, man,” Paul said.
“What do you mean? They know we’re in here,” Tom said.
A voice came from the other side of the door. “Tom? It’s me, Olivia Gardner.”
Olivia Gardner. Why was she, of all the girls he knew, standing outside his front door? She wasn’t the type of girl he would usually go out with.
Tom answered the door and saw her standing there. A warm breeze floated in, airing out the tiny apartment. Olivia’s face twitched. She knew instantly what they were doing.
“Oh, I’m–I didn’t mean to interrupt. I can come back later,” Olivia said, turning to leave.
“No, no it’s fine. You want to come in and hang out?” Tom asked.
She paused. Of course she wanted to go inside. She looked at Tom’s blond, wavy hair and his deep blue eyes. “Okay,” she said.
She stepped inside. “Hi Paul.”
Paul lazily waved his hand with half-closed eyes.
“What are you doing here?” Tom asked.
She hadn’t considered that. She hadn’t let him know she was coming. She thought it would be easier that way. Instead, she had walked aimlessly from the beach, hoping to come up with a reason along the way.
“I just wanted to ask you about the chem homework,” she said.
Tom laughed. Olivia was an ‘A’ student. There was no reason for her to be there.
“Why are you really here?” Tom asked.
She couldn’t answer him. He liked watching her green eyes dart around the room, searching for an answer.
Tom smirked. “I’ll save you the time. Do you want to go to the dance with me?”
“Of course I’ll be there, Aunt Magnolia,” Annette Gardner said, rolling her eyes as she twisted the telephone cord.
“You know I just haven’t seen you girls in so long, and Olivia! I haven’t ever met the girl. Of course you sent me some lovely pictures, darlin’. But I do just miss my family, and your poor mother, God rest her soul.”
“Redmond, Olivia, and I will be down to see you and Uncle Vinton in a few weeks. I’ll give Louise a call and see what she and Michael are up to.”
“I do hope you’ll all be able to pay us a visit. We haven’t had anyone down to the house in years. To tell you the truth, the place is getting kind of lonely, all those big, empty rooms just echo when I go to sleep at night. We sure need some noise to fill those old halls.”
“I’ll talk with you soon, Aunt Magnolia. Bye, bye.” She hung up the phone.
Annette sat at her writing desk, looking over dates on her calendar. She thought about all the days she spent at Oak Creek with her family. She had been missing her mother and father lately. Stella and Edward had died within a year of each other–of broken hearts, she assumed. They had been apart far too long. It would be nice to see the old house again, or so she hoped.