Kelly, Jen, and Spencer met for lunch on the Friday before Spencer had to leave for a couple week’s training in Colorado. They met at the bowling alley where they ordered the daily special which was a taco salad. They chatted at their table, while the line to order from the Spare Time Grille grew longer. They’d gotten there just before the lunch rush.
The three of them sat in purple plastic chairs pulled up to a square table, also purple, near the center lanes. Large bowling pin designs were on the walls and a bright blue carpet with geometric designs covered the floor. A small room opposite the lanes housed additional tables and chairs for meetings and a small shop offering bags, balls, and shoes was situated behind the register.
Spencer drove home with thoughts of how he could convince Kate to do the right thing by Sarah. He understood her shock and knew she still grieved John’s death and understandably so. It hadn’t been that long ago that he was here and then suddenly not ever returning.
The summer temperature was still hot, but days were already getting shorter with the sun setting earlier. The car’s air conditioner kept his body cool, while his mind worked overtime. Spencer found himself pulling into his driveway, wondering how he got there. Apparently on autopilot. He spotted his neighbor lady walking over to his driveway and stopped to chat with her a few minutes.
I’ve been working on the rest of chapter 4 of Heir Force and ran across this section that should have been posted before Spencer Visits with His Neighbor. I had written that as a new scene and then forgot about this one. But you’re a forgiving bunch, right?
So this is right after Spencer let Kate know about John’s will and legal guardianship of Sarah. Kate gets a phone call from Jen and she drives over to Kate’s. This is where it continues:
The phone rang two hours later, waking her up. She thought at first not answering, but curiosity got the better of her. She looked at the caller ID. It was Jen.
“Hello,” Kate answered.
“Hey, Kate. It’s Jen, how you doing?”
“Awful.” She started to cry and moan.
“Kate? What’s the matter? I know John’s gone, but—“
Kate never gave Spencer’s situation a thought. She had only thought of herself. She swallowed her guilt and it was a minute before she could respond. “I’m sorry. I know it isn’t easy for you, either.” She wiped away fresh tears with her hand. She gestured back to the bathroom. “That’s not like me,” she whispered and started crying harder. She slid down the wall, plopping to the floor.
Spencer put Buttons down gently and sat next to Kate, wrapping his arm around her. Buttons tried licking her tears. Poor guy was as bewildered as they were. “I didn’t think so,” he said, tears running down his own face. “But I better not ever catch you doing anything that stupid ever again,” he said, his voice hoarse.
Plopping into a chair in Kate’s dining room, Spencer considered what he should do. Ordinarily he knew he was supposed to report Kate’s suicide attempt to their first sergeant, but he didn’t know if it was necessary. He didn’t see Kate as suicidal, just lost. And highly vulnerable. He’d have to keep an eye on her. He slumped down at the dining room table, his head resting on his arms, clenching and unclenching his fists.
Buttons came in, whimpering. Spencer sat up and looked for him. Buttons eyed Spencer with a nervous look. Spencer slowly lowered his hand and reached down for him. “Sorry, boy. Come here.” Buttons jumped on his lap and shuddered. “Sorry, life’s a little rough right now.” Spencer rubbed the puppy’s back, asking God what he was supposed to do now. If he was going to be any help to Kate, he had to keep himself together. He wiped away moisture from the corners of his eyes with his fingers. He didn’t hear Kate enter.
The next morning sunshine peeked in through the vinyl blinds of Kate’s living room and Spencer felt a chill. He realized he’d forgotten to shut and lock the patio door before Kate’s collapse. He rolled over and felt a bruise on his leg. He didn’t know where he was at first or why he felt so stiff. It had been a long time since he’d slept on a hard surface. He moaned and remembered why he was on the floor. Kate was still asleep and Buttons was curled up at their feet.
Spencer gingerly got up and walked around quietly, trying to get the kinks out. He bent his knees one at a time and waved his arms up and down over his head to get his joints to pop. Then he closed the door most of the way, but left the blinds partially open, turned the lamp off, and headed to the kitchen to see if Kate had any coffee. Normally he didn’t indulge, but he knew it would be a long day. Thank goodness it was Saturday.
Spencer found some coffee in a canister and started a pot in her small machine. He took out the eggs and turkey bacon and the pan he used last night. Before he started cooking, he opened her apartment door to check for a newspaper. He saw one, picked it up and unfolded it. The headline read, “Troops Pulling Out of Iraq”. He refolded it and tossed it in her recycle container under the sink. He knew troops were pulling out, bit by bit. But it was too late for John, and thus too late for Kate. She didn’t need the reminder.