Chapter 18, Oliver’s Return
I was doubled over in laughter. My sides felt as if they were being stitched, cinching my stomach closed. I was sitting with my mom at Overlook Pass. We had just had a picnic, its remnants still on the table. Mom was wearing a long dress and jacket; I was wearing a white blouse and blue suspendered skirt. It was a cool day, but all that was needed was a sweater.
Out of breath, but still smiling, Mom asked, “You ready, Ivy? Let’s get this packed up and I’ll drop you off at Grandma’s.”
“But I don’t want to go to Grandma’s!” I missed being with my Mom. I missed the store. I missed Ava.
She wouldn’t look at me, busying herself with cleaning up. “Honey, I have to go to the store–”
“Then take me with you! I haven’t been there in a week! And what about Ava? She’s going to think I hate her, and I miss her terribly! This is NOT fair!” I was on the verge of tears. What was happening? What did I do to make my mother so upset with me that she didn’t want me around anymore?
“Ivy,” Mom was losing patience, “There is a lot going on right now and I don’t need the distraction. You are going to your grandmother’s. Period.”
“But Mom, why can’t I just go home then? I’ll stay upstairs and be good. You won’t even know that I am there. I miss my room! I miss my bed!”
“NO!” Turning steely eyes on me and put her hand on her hip, a fearsome sight. “I do not want to hear another word about it!” She didn’t yell, but the fierceness of which she spoke those words rattled my bones. I felt my eyes go wide with the intensity taking residence within her movements. With clipped efficiency, the picnic basket was packed and on her elbow. There was no trace of the joy we had just shared.
She stalked off toward the car, me in tow. I struggled to keep up with her, but I was too afraid to take my time, lest she punish me. Why am I not allowed in my own house? What is with Mom’s mood swings lately? As we approached the car, Mom faltered in her steps, leaning over the hood of the car to reach a piece of paper under the wiper blade.
I watched her open it, her hands trembling. She leaned up against the car to support herself. As she opened the once folded note, her hand went to her mouth as she read, face paled. I thought she might faint. Desperate to get to her before she fell, I ran up to her and hugged her tight. I didn’t know what to do to help, but I thought if I hugged her she would stay standing.
Shaking, she peeled me off her. I felt like an unwanted rag doll. “Get in the car,” was all she said. Tears stung my eyes. I climbed into the back seat.
The sound of a car door slamming pulled me from my slumber. I felt groggy, mouth covered in moss. I can tell its daytime, though clouds blanket the earth. Unsuccessfully, I run my fingers through my hair; they get caught in a knot, a brush severely needed. A knock resonates through the cabin; quick footfalls are followed by the opening of the door. I am curious and tiptoe toward the landing, slowly lowering myself onto the steps, much like my younger self in my previous dream.
“Good morning, Todd,” Stella greeted him. There was concern wrapping her voice.
“Good morning. How is she?” Todd replies in much the same tone as Stella. I feel I haven’t heard the music that is his voice in forever, though it’s been a day; or has it been two? I presume this question is in relation to me. If I am scared, I can only imagine how they feel.
“She wanted to be alone and opted for the locked room. I checked on her about an hour ago, she was sound asleep.” I heard walking upon the door closing. Their conversation wafted toward the family room, where I assumed Ava waited.
There was shuffling as they settled themselves into their respective places. I heard the crackle of the fireplace, the drop of a log having been burnt in half settling in the hot coals.
“Ok, so what have you learned?” Todd was all business. He was prepared to do all of the listening, and none of the talking.
Even I could hear Stella’s exhale before she began talking. While I have no idea what is about to be said, I can picture Stella meeting Ava’s eyes asking for permission to start. Why this scenario? Well, I have learned to distinguish the difference between Stella’s sighs. She spoke slowly, succinctly, “I did some digging on Oliver. Apparently, he went away for school, got into drugs and failed out. He had a few random jobs over the years, I assume to feed his habit. Then in 1990, he checked into rehab and was in and out for three years.”
“He returned to Copseville the spring of ’94." Ava had an air of reflection about her as she spoke. "The drugs definitely showed their ravage on his body. I remember when he first got back…”
I remembered too, but only just now: Ava and I were sitting in the bookstore behind the counter, playing a game of some sort. Mom was helping a customer. She was all smiles and she could sell anything. The door opened and a young man breezed through the door. He looked around searching for someone, stopping once his eyes locked on Mom. Anger flushed his face.
I remember thinking, Uncle Oliver? He looked so old. Older than Mom, but she was his big sister. He was fun, growing up, always playing with me outside. The man I knew was no longer in that body.
He strode right up to her, pulling her by the elbow toward the counter. “I’ll be back in a moment, ma’am,” she said, smile never wavering.
“We have to talk.” He spoke hard, forcing the words out slowly.
Mom turned to me, sadness transplanting joy. “Ivy, please take Ava to the kitchen. There are brownies and milk. I’ll come back and join you in a few minutes.” Afraid to stay, we hopped off our stools, abiding Mom’s request. I heard her say, “Oliver, not here, in the office.”
They closed the door behind them.
Stella began talking, or I just now tuned back into their conversation. I have no idea how long I was in that memory. "Rosemarie didn't live here from 1983-1990, having moved back with Ivy the summer of '91. I also learned that Carter Sanders, Ivy’s grandfather, fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars prior to opening Reticence Unlocked in 1982–”
"I met her that summer and we hit it off. We were joined at the hip almost every day after that. If I remember correctly," Ava jumped in, clearly traveling back in time, "she never met her grandfather before moving to Copseville. There was this one time Lillian divulged information about Carter; which was rare. She almost never spoke of him. She said he would share his travels with her and she would write his experiences into wonderful fantasies and mysteries, though I didn't begin reading them after I got back here from college. He had seen a lot in the wars, making it hard for him to come back here. Based on how she talked, I gleaned that his travels became longer, using the search for antiques as an excuse. Today we would probably say he suffered from PTSD. I do remember that there was some talk that something had happened to him while he was overseas, but nothing more than that..."
“Ava and I have also been talking about Ivy’s lack of memories, and I particularly am concerned how she never remembered this cabin. I shared the recurring memory of the secret lavender room with Ava, and how if Ivy stayed her beginning in 1991, it is quite odd she isnt having more memories pertaining to her life in this cabin. That’s when Ava said that Ivy didn’t live in this house…at least not until her mother and grandmother stopped bringing her to the bookstore–”
“Ivy lived above the bookstore with her mom, Rosemarie. In an apartment.”
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