If you find grammatical or spelling errors, they are not the fault of my editor who did try to fix my work. I’m very thankful to blackrandi for her tireless efforts.
Like previous efforts, I wrote this to hone my skills. Any feedback is welcome and the more specific the better. I hope you enjoy the story.
I could hear my cellphone ringing as I fumbled with the keys. My hands were still wet, and I’d gotten sand on them from brushing off my paddleboard. For some reason, that was making it even more difficult. I finally fumbled the key into the lock and got the door open, just as the ringing stopped. I didn’t recognize the tone, which meant that whoever it was, they hadn’t called in a while. I dripped my way across the tile floor to the kitchen counter and looked at the caller ID. Amanda. I hadn’t talked to my cousin in over a year. No wonder I didn’t recognize the number. School would be out in a week, and she probably wanted to come and spend a week at the beach, which was fine by me.
I was about to return the call, but my freezing fingers had a hard time with the phone. A hot shower first, and then I’d call. Early May was too soon and too cool for rational people to be out in the ocean. If I were a rational person, I wouldn’t be a middle school teacher, either.
After using most of the hot water and steaming the bathroom windows and mirror thoroughly, I slipped on some dry shorts, picked up my phone and dropped into my recliner. I hit redial.
“Hey, Danny. Thanks for calling back.”
“Hey. Sorry I didn’t get it sooner. I was out for a paddle. What’s up?”
“I could use a bit of help.” I thought she sounded a bit embarrassed.
“Okay. What can I help you with?”
“I want to jump right in, but let me back up a bit. This would have been easier if I hadn’t divorced Tony, but he was such a jerk. I can’t even believe I said that. Nothing was easier with him. Anyway, when Dad died and left me this place, I thought I had it made, but I had no idea what the upkeep would be.”
“I thought he owned it free and clear.”
“I wish. I still owe almost three hundred thousand on it.”
“That’s a lot but when you consider how much that place is worth, it’s not that bad.”
“I had it appraised. Danny, this place is worth nearly eight million. The stocks and bonds he left have been enough to make the payments, but not enough to pay it off.”
“So, you either need cash or an income stream. How short are you?”
“My budget shows I’ve got enough to last almost two years, but then the well goes dry.”
“And you don’t want to sell it.”
“I love this old place.”
“So, what do you want to do?”
“You remember the guest house down the hill, right?”
“I remember. It was like servants quarters or something, wasn’t it?”
“That’s it. It hasn’t had anyone in it for years and I was thinking I could rent it out, but then I thought I could do better if I turned it into a bed and breakfast. I talked with an agent, and she said I could make enough not just to make the payments, but to double or even triple them.”
“That sounds great. What’s stopping you,” I asked.
“This is where I ask for help.”
“I kinda figured. What can I do?”
“It needs a lot of work. Not just paint and dusting; I’m talking about a major renovation. I talked to the guy at Lowe’s, and he recommended a couple of contractors. I had them price it out. Danny, if they do all the work it needs, that two years of cash will be gone in three months.”
“I’ve got a chunk of change in the bank. Stocks actually. I’d be glad to help.”
“I knew you would if you could, but I actually had something more in mind. What do you have planned for the summer?”
“Up until recently, I planned to work toward my brown belt and enter a few races, but it’s been a couple of years since I did any remodeling and I wouldn’t want to get rusty.”
“Really? You don’t mind? I can pay you, just not now. I could pay you as soon as I open for business.”
“Let’s not worry about that. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with this place while I’m up there. School has a couple more weeks, and I’ll need to figure out what to do with this place. How soon would you be ready for me to start working?”
“You do what you need to, but I’m anxious to get started.”
We caught up on family matters for a while, I got a few details on what she thought needed to be done and that was it. I hadn’t seen her since shortly after her dad died. I’d promised to help her any way I could. Her grandmother was my great-grandmother and she’s older than me, but not by much. The important thing is that she’s my closest relative, geography wise. Everyone else is on the West coast, but Amanda lives just outside Asheville, only about four hours away.
My feet were still cold, so I grabbed the heating pad from the bedroom and put it on the floor in front of my chair so I could warm me feet. I worked through a few scenarios and came up with what I thought was a great plan. I live just a couple of blocks from the beach. I’d fix up the house, get a small storage unit for my personal things and rent the place out for the summer. I checked the market rate for beach homes within walking distance but not on the beach. It looked like I’d clear over $10,000 for the summer and be able to help Amanda at the same time.
Before I called her back, I talked to my friend, Franco, and he agreed it was a great idea. Living a block closer to the beach but on the same street, he would help keep watch on my house. I’d miss the beach for the summer, but I liked the idea and called her back the same day. Needless to say, she was thrilled.
After painting my front porch, re-caulking the bathroom tub and enlisting Franco’s help and his truck to put a few personal things in storage, my home was ready for renters. The price was right and with the help of an agent friend, I booked it through the summer in less than a week. Franco’s son would be home from college for the summer and agreed to clean between renters. A week later, when the end of school year faculty lunch was over, I was on the road, my small car filled with luggage and clothes. The three best things about being a teacher are June, July and August, and the best thing about living at the beach is, well, the beach. I was on my way to work the summer away in the mountains, but I was smiling about it and I didn’t quite know why. The extra cash from renting my place helped, but it wasn’t that. Something about helping family, I guess. My dysfunctional family was never really there for me, and Amanda’s wasn’t there for her either, so perhaps that was it.
I had let my mind wander as I drove, sort of drifting with the music until I made it to Spartanburg, where I stopped for gas. Watching a lady come out of the little Speedway store reminded me of my mom, then family, then Amanda. When my mom walked out on my dad, I was 14. Amanda was only a couple of years older, but she had called to talk with me. I was pretty messed up and we talked for an hour, and then again a week later. We saw each other at the odd wedding or funeral, and we’d talked off and on over the years. Then, when my dad died a couple of years ago, we talked at length. Since then, we’d talked a couple of times, mostly about her daughter and her schooling. I gave her some tips on goal setting and motivation that she said worked pretty well. Her family was dysfunctional. My family was dysfunctional. I guess this was the two of us trying to break that chain. Whatever it was, I liked it and felt good about being able to help.
I found her driveway up a winding mountain road, almost hidden behind overgrown bushes. Those would have to be cleared and she’d need a sign at the street if she expected anyone to find the place. I pulled up the long equally winding driveway at the dinner hour. Flowers around the front of the house were blooming early, and the scent of honeysuckle was strong. I stepped out and stretched, looking up at the majestic old house. It was a European sort of home with a stone first floor and a lot of exposed timbers on the second. It looked like it would last forever. I remembered from years ago that the guesthouse was down the hill to my right, and the stable and a couple of other buildings were in back. With a bottle of Pinot Grigio in hand, I walked up the steps to an oversized oak front door and knocked.
Suddenly, this whole idea seemed strange. I hoped I wasn’t wasting my time or that what they needed wasn’t beyond my ability. Why I hadn’t asked more questions before I agreed to come up? The door opened and it was too late for any of that, and none of that mattered. Amanda opened the door in that frantic sort of way you get in when everything is coming at you at once. She realized who it was, breathed a heavy sign, smiled and wrapped me up in a bear hug. It was worth the trip just for that. I felt like her knight in shining armor, and I hadn’t even seen the dragon yet. So, I stood there getting hugged and hoped the dragon wasn’t too big.
“You, cousin, are a sight for sore eyes. I’ve got so much...” she said took a deep breath and continued, “ ... to tell you, but it can wait. Come on in,” she said, relieving me of the wine and pulling me inside. The home was in the kind of disarray only someone with a big “to do” list could make. Blue painter’s tape framed the walls, tarps were ready to be spattered on, furniture had been pulled away from walls and there were boxes everywhere. She led me to the kitchen, but before we got half way there, turned and hugged me again.
“Thank you so much for coming,” she said with hands on my shoulders. “If you only stay a couple of days or even a week, it would be huge.”
“Amanda, I have to stay longer,” I told her. “I’m committed for the summer.” I guess I hadn’t told her that before because her jaw dropped. “My house is rented out for the summer. If I don’t stay here and help, I’ll have to find some other relative to stay with.” I smiled at her shock. “School starts in August, and I have to be back a couple weeks before that. Until then, I can paint, drywall, repair plumbing and whatever else you need. If it’s electrical I can call an electrician. Other than that, I’m yours.”
She dragged me into the kitchen and we sat at a breakfast nook where she had a pad and paper with lots of doodling’s that were probably her notes. She ripped off the top page to start with a blank sheet and began asking questions.
“You know how to drywall?”
“Yup. Spent a summer in college working for a home restoration company.”
“Good enough. Flooring; wood or tile? Do you know how to install floors?”
“It was part of my job.”
“Molding and trim?”
“Plumbing? Or maybe even a room addition? I need a new bathroom in the guesthouse. No one wants to use a communal bathroom.”
“I might be able to manage that. Depends on how complicated it is. It’s within the realm of possibility, but I’d definitely want to contract the foundation.”
“That’s most of what I need done. I can’t believe it, Danny. I was hoping you could do some of that, but I need ceilings scraped and painted and I thought that would be a big help.”
“I might have done a little painting,” I offered smiling. “I’ve got nearly three months, but it sounds like you have more work than I could complete in that much time. We should do a walk through so you can explain exactly what you want and then we’ll prioritize it so you get the most bang for the buck.”
She dropped her head into her hands and stared at her list. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for until I saw that she was beginning to collect a little puddle of tears. I don’t know women; I mean, who does? I know when to keep my mouth shut, so I did. After a couple of minutes, she finally spoke again. “What kind of a hostess am I? You just got here and I’m planning out your stay. Are you thirsty? Hungry? Look at the time. It’s dinner time and I haven’t started anything.”
Amanda was beside herself. I pulled out my phone and with her help, ordered pizza and asked her to show me around while we waited. I brought the notepad to jot some things down while she gave me the grand tour, starting down at the guesthouse. With each room, I prioritized what she wanted done, wrote down a time and materials estimate. By the time the doorbell rang and pizza was delivered, I had five full pages of notes.
Over a Papa John’s large combo and a couple of Coronas, I told her what I’d come up with. I could do most of the work myself and it would take the entire summer and probably an extra month or maybe two, sometime later. I gave a very rough material cost estimate, which was higher than what she expected and then we tried to prioritize. We agree that even though it would be the most expensive option, adding an extra bedroom and two bathrooms would be the best way to tackle the guesthouse. Pouring a foundation and running the plumbing and electricity was outside my skillset, but I could do the rest. We put the main house work at the end of the priority list and left the easy stuff for last. By the time she pulled ice cream out of the freezer, we had a plan.
First on the list, was to remove the popcorn ceiling from the guesthouse. It had suffered water damage in one room from a leak, and it seemed prudent to simply get rid of it all. I liked that idea because it was inexpensive to do, would be messy and therefor good to get out of the way early, and as an added bonus, it was transformative. A hard day or two of work could transform the appearance of the entire guesthouse. I’d go from there to painting, cabinets and countertops, and then I’d work on floors. Top to bottom. If we could get that all done in a week to ten days, I’d have a better idea on my pace and how long an addition would take. I didn’t want to leave it half-finished. She was so enthusiastic that I could have started that night, but while I had been sitting on my butt driving, she had been working and was tired.
We grabbed a couple more Coronas out of the fridge and retired to the oversized great room, complete with a huge stone fireplace and sliding glass doors leading to a large deck with a view of the valley below. We picked a comedy from the Netflix offerings and sunk into dueling recliners to enjoy the movie. I woke up as the final credits rolled and debated whether to wake Amanda or not. I finished my then lukewarm beer and she came around when the music faded. Great movie.
I grabbed my gear from the car and she showed me to a bedroom I could call my own for the summer. It hadn’t been used in years, and could have been a hotel room for the lack of personality. It was downstairs, between the kitchen and mudroom, and away from the other bedrooms; I liked it just fine. The bed was one of those elevated four-posters but the mattress was comfortable, and that’s all I really cared about. I hit the sack and was out like a light.
Ready for a new day, I stepped out of the bathroom to the strong smell of bacon. Was being next to the kitchen a blessing or a curse? I threw on some jeans and a work shirt and joined Amanda as she was finishing up with bacon, eggs, grits and we sat down to eat.
Amanda looked much refreshed from a good night’s sleep. At five nine or so, she was taller than my mom or any of my other aunts or cousins. Her wavy brunette hair reached the middle of her back and I loved her widow’s peak. I have no idea why, but I’ve always found that to be sexy. Little curls framed her pretty face. Clear brown eyes with just a few laugh lines, a long, thin nose and Cupid’s bow lips. If I were shopping for her, I’d probably guess she wore a size six, a little small up top, but with a nice waist and thin hips she still looked good. Real good. Better than family should look, that’s for certain.
We put the dishes in the sink and took her ‘95 Ford pickup truck down the hill to Lowe’s. With her card we purchased a dozen tools I knew I’d need, more tarps and a small shop vac. She also had some duplicate keys made for me. On the drive back, she asked what I did to prepare my house to rent for the summer and if I’d saved all my receipts for tax purposes. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. Live and learn.
It was midmorning by the time we got back, and I was anxious to start. I grabbed my new tools and went to the guesthouse to start. The four-bedroom guesthouse would have been a fine home for a small family. It wasn’t as old as the main house, not by a long shot. I guessed it had been built in the forties, was in reasonably good condition and could be in great shape with a little TLC. I moved the furniture from one half of the house to the other and double sealed the hallway with a tarp, put more tarps on the floor, opened a window and turned on a large fan for ventilation, then started soaking the ceiling. After connecting the shop vac to my texture scraper with an extended hose, I wet part of the ceiling and when it had soaked a few minutes, started scraping. It’s a simple task made difficult by being overhead and tough on the neck and shoulders. Combine that with the incredible amount of dust and debris, and the simple task becomes laborious and unpleasant.
I had one room finished and was halfway done with the second, when Amanda showed up with sandwiches and sweet tea. My safety glasses and mask were covered with popcorn residue and when I took them off, I saw she’d put her hair up and was painting something an eggshell white. She led the way to the veranda on the far side of the house where the view was spectacular. The estate was on a hill and from several places; there was a view of the valley below and more hills in the distance.
She asked, and I told her about my job teaching, my hobbies; karate, jujitsu and paddle boarding. She said I would have to tell Kayla when she got back. I tried to picture her daughter, but the last time I’d seen her she was probably twelve and had pigtails and braces.
“How is she doing?”
“She’s doing good. She’ll get her license next year and that will be a relief. She gets back from camp Friday night and she can tell you what’s new in her life.”
“What kind of camp?”
“Volleyball. She’ll be a sophomore and almost played varsity this year, so she will next year for sure. Might make varsity softball as well. She’s such a jock.”
“That’s a good thing, right?” I asked, knowing not every parent appreciated sports in their kids’ lives.
“It’s definitely a good thing. If she sticks with volleyball, she may be good enough to get a scholarship when the time comes. I wish she would take some classes in martial arts though.”
“Why is that?”
“She needs it to fight off the boys.” I laughed a little but she gave me a look that said she was serious. “She was molested several times last year, and I don’t think it’s going to get better. Is what you’ve studied practical? Does it work, or is it for competition and stuff? I know some of it is pretty worthless.”
I turned serious. “What I’ve studied works on the street. If she’s an athlete and interested, I could probably teach her enough in the time I’ll be here. It depends on her and if she’s interested and committed.” I had taught karate before but not jujitsu. I thought about it a minute and then the simple truth that I’m a teacher and I teach young people sort of shouted at me. An hour of lessons three times a week for two months, maybe more if she was really interested; I could teach her a lot in that much time.
“Well, you’re already doing plenty, but if both of you are interested, this mom would breathe easier if she knew at least a little.” I finished my sandwich, pickle, and chips and washed it down with the rest of the tea. She took my plate and was ready to leave.
“If I don’t start back up soon my shoulders will freeze up. I should have half the house done by dinner. I’ll vacuum the dust out and try to get the other side tomorrow. Hard work but it’s going fast.”
“If you need anything just holler,” she said, and started back up to the main house. I watched her walk away and thought she had a nice walk and a great ass. Then I thought, “You just noticed you cousin has a great ass.” She did have a great ass, but she was my cousin. First cousin once removed, I thought, and then pushed that right out of my head and got back to work.
The rest of it went quickly, and the ceiling underneath the popcorn was remarkably smooth, all things considered. Except for a couple of small repairs in one room, all I’d have to do was paint it. I dragged the tarps to the door and folded them, trapping all the crap inside, then put the shop vac to work. The floor would need multiple passes but it would be good enough for the time being. There would be more dust to follow, anyway. I put my two fans to work and left the doors open so the air could clear. I’d walk back down and lock up before bed.
That night, Amanda was grilling steaks and after a quick shower and change of clothes, I joined her on the back deck, which had that same great view of the valley below. When she went back into the kitchen for a serving plate, I watched her walk away and that thought was back again, ‘She has a great ass.’ That precipitated an internal argument, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of argument that you can’t win. Except that Mr. Hyde did win and Dr. Jekyll had to agree that she had a great ass. I was still watching as she came back out on the porch, and Mr. Hyde told Dr. Jekyll that she looked as good coming as she did going. Mr. Hyde wanted to get me in trouble.
Both Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll could appreciate my cousin’s good looks. As soon as they agreed on all that, I kicked them out of my head as Amanda served dinner. We ate on the deck and talked about our dysfunctional families.
Between us, we had cousins in Michigan and Oregon, a brother in California and a sister in New York, of all places. She thought she had an uncle that was still alive, but hadn’t talked to him in ages. Then we went from dysfunctional and distant families to our own. She had no love interests, and mine had taken a very lengthy hiatus in Virginia. Kayla was enough family to keep Amanda busy, but she was afraid she was missing out by not having a dad and perhaps that it was too late to correct that deficiency. She didn’t want to get married just to give her a dad. I mentioned a friend of mine referring to her ex-husband as “Turdman” and that got a laugh. She said it was perfect because sometimes Kayla could be a little turd. Not often, but every now and then.
We talked about the work on the house. I explained that I would finish removing the popcorn the next day, but wanted to wait to paint it. There was simply too much dust in the air, and she thought it was something Kayla and she could do, anyway. Our conversation on remodeling tapered off as we moved indoors to take what would become our end-of-the-day resting spot, in oversized brown leather recliners. I kept my seat upright so I wouldn’t drift off to sleep, but it wouldn’t have mattered when she changed the conversation.
“Do you think I’m crazy to be looking for a father for Kayla?”
“If you want to look for a husband for you, that’s fine. Just don’t go looking for a father for Kayla. If you do that, you’ll both be disappointed. In fact, if you’re going to do that, why not just let Kayla pick out a dad.”
“I think that’s what I’ve been doing. All the men I meet, I evaluate by what kind of a father they would make.”
“Do you think you’re a good mom?”
“I think so. I try to be.”
“Does Kayla think so?”
“Well, she doesn’t have much to compare me to, but she doesn’t complain about me. I’d guess she thinks I am.”
“Good. Now, how long did it take you to become a good mom?”
“I see your point. Even if I find a great guy, the only way he’ll be a great father is if he already has been.”
“He’d have to grow into it just like you did.”
“What about you, though? You’re not a dad, but then you are one to your students, at least sort of, right?”
“Some of them come from pretty messed up families.”
“Ours are model families compared to some of these kids. Half of them come from one-parent homes; they bounce back and forth between parents who think that’s what’s best for their kids. It isn’t. I can’t think of a single case where the whole week with Dad, week with Mom thing has been a good thing. So, I guess I get to be Mom and Dad for some of them.”
“That can’t be easy. I bet you have some great stories.”
“I wouldn’t know where to begin. A lot of them start with ‘what were you thinking?’”
“I might have said that to Kayla once or twice, or maybe a couple of hundred times.”
We talked about parenting for a couple of hours and when our conversation slowed, I excused myself to lock up the guesthouse and hit the sack. I was pretty tired. There’s a big difference between standing on your feet all day teaching and standing on your feet all day scraping ceilings. I’d be sore the next morning. I took a couple of Naproxen and fell asleep.
I managed to keep my mind on the task at hand for the rest of the week, finishing the ceilings, ordering cabinets and countertops, replacing a toilet and vanity and a few other odds and ends. I was at Lowe’s Friday night, purchasing a pressure washer when Amanda called me and said she was on her way to pick up Kayla. She asked, and I agreed to pick up Chinese.
When I pulled up the driveway, they had just pulled up in Amanda’s truck and stepped out to watch me pull in behind them. I grabbed the bag of food expecting to be introduced to my second cousin, but apparently, there was another priority. Kayla hadn’t seen me yet because she was staring at my car with her mouth open, but I saw her. She looked like an even taller, thinner version of her pretty mother. I guessed her to be five eleven or more. Her hair was in a long braided ponytail; her eyes were that same rich brown color as her mom. The braces were long gone, leaving a beautiful smile I’d like to think I was the cause of, but she was looking at my car.
I drive a 30-year-old sports car, but it’s a looker, iconic even; a 1980 Ferrari 308 GTS and it gets attention no matter where I go. It’s expensive to maintain, gets terrible gas mileage, has no trunk space and looks faster than it is, but damn, it looks good. Kayla thought so, too. I hadn’t closed the door yet and I offered her the driver’s seat, which she happily accepted, sliding in gracefully.
“This is your cousin, Danny,” Amanda said loudly, trying to get her attention. “Why not say hello?” but Kayla was inspecting the interior, running her hands over the wheel and then the stick shift. “Kayla?” and again, no response so she tried a different approach. “Kayla, this is the guy on the wanted poster I saw at the post office. He’s been using his car to abduct teenage girls. Why don’t you go with him and I’ll have more Chinese food for myself.”
“That’s fine, Mom. Eat all of it,” she finally responded. She had heard every word, but was too busy to answer.
I had passed the Chinese food to Amanda and was watching Kayla appreciate my car. “Want to go for a quick spin before dinner?” I asked, and her eyes lit up. She looked at her mom who nodded.
“A short one, Danny will be here all summer and I’m sure you’ll have other chances.” I started to walk to the passenger’s side of the car and Amanda quickly said, “I don’t think so. You drive, Danny.” I’d been kidding and everyone knew it but Kayla appreciated the humor at her mom’s expense and we traded places.
I slid into the driver’s seat as she slowly ran her hand over the hood, then door and slid into the passenger’s seat beside me, I struggled to think of her as a 15 year old. I’ve had 8th grade students that looked like high school sophomores before, but Kayla was a high school sophomore who could easily pass for a college student, and not just a freshman. It wasn’t just her height. There are lots of tall girls in high school. There were a lot of cute girls in high school, too, but Kayla looked like a woman and moved like a woman and she certainly wasn’t giggly. I couldn’t imagine her taking a duck-face selfie. I could however, imagine her being the subject of sexual assault and could see why Amanda wanted me to teach her some self-defense.
The car started with its distinct low throaty rumble. I put it in gear and when she had her seat belt buckled, eased down the driveway, nice and slow.
“What do I call you? Mr. January?”
“I think Danny would be just fine. I guess you could call me cousin, some people call me DJ, but I don’t like that very much. Danny is good.”
“Cousin. Cuz.” She rolled it around a bit. “I think Danny is best.” We reached the end of the driveway and I turned right to go up the hill. “Is it very fast?”
“It’s not slow, but there are plenty of cars on the road that are faster.” I opened it up quickly, enjoying the winding sprint up the hill. One of two mods I’d made was installing a shorter shifter for better control and it was a lot of fun to drive. Two miles up the hill, I pulled into a scenic turnout I’d spotted earlier in the week to turnaround and asked, “What do you think?”
“I want one,” she answered with a bright smile, then “Go.” So I did. We were only gone ten minutes but the speed and mountain curves were enough to get her heart pounding. I eased back into the driveway and as soon as I parked she thanked me and was out racing to the house, undoubtedly to tell her mom how cool my car was. It’s a lot of fun to introduce a young kid to something new and exciting.
Over dinner, they both asked question about my car. I told them I had grown up watching Magnum PI and I thought he had the coolest car in the world. One day, on a whim, I looked them up on a website and found one in Atlanta that no one was bidding on. I was able to purchase it for just under $20,000, and now, just a few years later it was almost impossible to find one in decent shape for under $60,000. Amanda remembered, but Kayla had never seen a Magnum PI so we looked for it on Netflix. Amanda and I enjoyed the episode. Kayla gave her analysis, “Cool car, sappy dialog, shorts are really short, grow a mustache.” That was it.
I asked her about volleyball camp and she shared what she had learned things from how to properly execute a two or even three man block, to her new and improved topspin serve. Her passes were now softer and more accurate and on top of all that, she had made new friends from all over the country. She was an enthusiastic storyteller and fun to listen to. It was still light outside when she’d talked herself out, so Amanda took her on a tour of the guesthouse while I cleaned up the kitchen and put away the leftovers.
I was washing a few dishes when I watched them leave the guesthouse and walk back toward the main house. Amanda had her arm around Kayla’s waist as they walked and talked. My shoulders were killing me and I had plenty of work to do, plus I was missing a summer at the beach, but watching them made me glad I’d come. It was good to connect with family.
“You’ve gotten a lot done, Danny,” Kayla said with approval as they came in through the kitchen door.
“He’s been busy,” Amanda added.
“Well, I normally talk for a living so I’ve got a lot of energy to spare. I bought a pressure washer and plan on getting the outside of the guesthouse tomorrow, give the dust another day to settle before painting. It’s monotonous, but not so hard on the body. I’ll take Sunday off and then start painting Monday. Hopefully, I’ll get that done by the time the cabinets come in.”
“You knocked out the ceilings faster than you thought so you’re ahead of schedule. Do you think you can do the addition this summer?”
“I think we need to schedule some concrete, have the plumbing and electrical done. I worked up the material costs. The lumber is about the same price anywhere in town, but Imperial will deliver free and put the lumber where we want it. You got a checkbook ready for that?”
“Absolutely. What else do I need to do?”
“We need to pull permits, and before you open for business, we need to clear the driveway, especially by the entrance. I’ll run electricity down the hill, but you’ll need to pick out a sign. You won’t need to do that until you’re about ready for business, though.”
“What should we be doing tomorrow?”
“I’m pretty sure you’ve got your own list of things in the main house. As long as you’re happy with what I’m doing, I’ll just keep plugging.”
“I’ve got no complaints.”
“So, can I go over to Vanessa’s tomorrow afternoon? You don’t need me here, right?” Kayla asked.
“You’ve been gone for a week. Get your workout in and then I’ll give you your to-do list.”
“Really,” she asked feigning disappointment. She knew she would have work to do.
“Yes, really. Or, you could decide what sport to forfeit next year and help me then. You’ve got volleyball in August, softball in January, and track and field in March. Which is up for grabs?”
“None of those, except I’m not sure if I’m going to do track this year.”
“Sounds like I’ve got first dibs on your time this summer then. Get used to it.”
“Fine. I’m probably not going to get a lot of sympathy from you, either, am I,” she asked.
“A little,” I said but it was clear that she couldn’t count on me in that regard.
“Why don’t you show Danny your gym in the morning? I bet he’d like to see it.”
“You have a gym,” I asked, trying to help Amanda change the subject.
“It’s hardly a gym. I have some stuff to work out. I’ll be out there at seven if you want to see my ‘gym’,” she offered.
“I’ll be there if you’ll tell me where it is.”
“Behind the barn. I’ll see you in the kitchen at seven and walk back with you.”
I agreed, we settled in to watch a sitcom, which was their custom, and I hit the sack, leaving them to talk. I have no idea how late they stayed up, but the laughing kept up for quite a while. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d fallen asleep with women laughing in the background. It was nice.
The next morning I was in the kitchen at a quarter to seven, expecting to scramble some eggs, but Kayla was already there. She was draining a shaker cup of its green goodness, or whatever it was. She wiped her mouth, smiled a no-makeup dazzling smile and asked if I was ready to go. How could I refuse? We walked back past the storage shed and the barn to an older but well-maintained building about the size of a two-car garage. She opened the locked door, slipped inside and turned on the lights.
I’m not sure what I was expecting but this was more; way more. She had assembled a first rate home gym with everything from a squat rack to a roman chair and Swiss ball. There was a full set of dumbbells and kettlebells, large mirrors on one wall and an intimidating climbing machine with which I was unfamiliar. Opposite the mirrored wall were posters of Rachel McLish, Kerri Walsh, Misty May-Treanor and more female athletes that I didn’t recognize, but would certainly inspire any rising star.
“Mom gave me money to make this my own so I did,” she explained. “I ran out of cash before I got done, but I can do most of what I want. It’s leg day. As soon as I finish, I’ll come help you with pressure washing.”
“This is pretty impressive, Kayla. This must have set you back a pretty penny.”
“I bought a lot of it on Craigslist and at a recycled sporting goods store in Asheville. I got the kettlebells from a gym that was closing and the mats from a karate school that was getting rid of their old stuff to upgrade. The mirrors are from a dance studio. The only new stuff is the cable attachments.”
“That’s equally impressive. Anyone else on your team have anything like this?”
“No. I want to play at the college level before I’m finished with my junior year. That’s my goal. I probably can’t get a full scholarship for softball or volleyball, but if I can do both and if I can be competitive in track and field, maybe I can get a full ride. My grades should help.”
“That’s a pretty solid goal. What events do you compete in?”
“Hurdles and I want to do some distance, too. High school only has 100 meter hurdles but college has 400 meter hurdles, too. A lot of girls compete in hurdles in high school, but they don’t have the wind when they get to college. I want to develop that endurance for the 400 meter hurdles now.”
“So you take leg day pretty seriously, huh? You sure you’re going to have anything left?”
“That’s what my mom always says. I always have something left. I’m going to do the climber to warm up and then start with squats. Care to join me?” she smiled.
“Next time, and I mean that, but I want to grab some breakfast and get started. Thanks for the tour,” I said and started to turn. Before I did, she pulled off her tear away warmups and got on her climber. Once again, I had to remind myself that she was only fifteen. She had long but well-defined legs straight out of an art book. At the top of those legs, squeezed into very tight volleyball shorts was an incredible ass, marginally better than her mom. No fifteen year old should have an ass like that. It was a rock, and I marveled at it as she climbed. What I wouldn’t give to be younger. Younger and not her cousin. I walked to the house to make some breakfast and wondered if I could keep up with her when I joined her for a workout. Probably not on a leg day.
I dragged my new power washer to the guesthouse and put it together in three easy steps, just like the picture said. The sun was still low, so I started in the shade with the hope of enjoying some midday sun a little later. I sprayed a healthy dose of Krudcutter on one wall and waited for it to do its work.