When Lives Collide
One week stretched into two and Frank had not seen Nancy. They delivered groceries which quickly disappeared. Frank was growing more upset as each day passed because he had discovered loneliness, and he knew Nancy was a very lonely person carrying some huge burden. He was feeling guilty because he knew he had said something that had upset her, but he didn’t know what except that it was like he had thrown a switch.
He went back to their roots and tried a note.
I am so sorry for whatever I did or said that has so upset you. Please accept my apology for my clumsiness. I want you to know that I am available anytime if you need help with something at your house or even if it is just a person to listen. Listening is something I do well and keeping my mouth shut I do even better. I want you to know that I have told no one that I know who lives next to me. This might be important to you.
Your worried and upset friend,
It was already dusk when Frank put the note and another jar of maple syrup on her porch. He didn’t knock out of fear of… he wasn’t sure what he was afraid of, but he didn’t knock.
Thirty minutes later, after dark, there was a knock on his door. He opened it to find Nancy standing there with the maple syrup in one hand and the note in the other. She looked upset and appeared to be exhausted. She opened her mouth to say something and broke into tears.
He said, “Come in,” and put his arm around her intending to lead her to the couch, but she wrapped her arms around him and the waterworks flowed.
He got her inside out of the mosquitoes and closed the door. Then they stood there while she sobbed and sobbed and Frank thought he had made things even worse for this poor woman.
When she got control of herself she apologized for getting his shirt wet.
“I think you needed to do that Nancy. I want you to know that whatever has gone so wrong in your life to bring you here tonight I will do whatever I can to help.”
“I think right now I need to talk and not to answer questions. When you talked about a barbecue with the neighbours, I panicked. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I have one question and only one question that I need to ask you and I want you to know that whatever your answer is I will do nothing with the info unless you agree to it.”
“Are you in trouble with the law?”
“I am in trouble, very serious trouble, but it is not with the law, and they can’t help me.”
“What is your biggest problem right now tonight which I can help you with?”
“You had mentioned, when I came to your barbecue, that you were a loner but had only recently discovered loneliness with the passing of your wife.”
“I recall telling you that.”
“Well, I recently discovered that I am not a loner but I need to be in hiding and avoiding people.”
“But you don’t feel comfortable telling me why. That’s OK. Tell me as much as you want when you want. I am here for the winter so there is no rush. Why don’t you tell me about your childhood unless that is part of your problem?”
She talked, and the words flowed. She had bottled up a lot and although she was not revealing anything about her need to hide, she was becoming more relaxed. An hour later with non-stop talking her head nodded, and then she continued. Frank thought to himself this is good. She is relaxing from all the tension she has built up trying to be someone she is not.
About the tenth time her head bobbed, she said she should be going. Frank said he would walk her home but the mosquitoes would be bad.
“I have several spare bedrooms here, and we were always set up for unexpected guests so there are new toothbrushes and soap. My wife used to use the bathroom on this floor for her nightly rituals, so I think you would find anything you might need.”
“Nancy you have had a rather big emotional trauma just now and I think if you are honest with yourself you don’t want to be alone in your house tonight. There is a lock on the bedroom door on this level and my bedroom is upstairs. Come daylight you can disappear without a word or if I find you still here, I will make you a lovely breakfast, but I warn you there will be more maple syrup.”
“Why are you being so nice? You don’t really know me and my problem could be anything. I could have lied about not being in trouble with the law.”
“You didn’t lie and when I was in business, I met some fantastic liars. In a nutshell, I am lonely and so are you and thus we can be a big help to each other. I was raised to help others when they need help. Let me show you the bedroom.”
The next morning Nancy was sitting at the table when he came down.
“I am glad you stayed. How did you sleep?”
“I slept like the dead but I have been awake for quite a while thinking.”
“Did you reach any conclusions with all of that thinking?”
“Well, I decided that you are a nice man. I never knew either of my grandfathers who died before I was born, but in my dreams, they would be like you. You aren’t as old as my grandfathers would be. Safe is what I feel when I am with you. You are treating me as you would your own daughter. I also decided that I need to trust you because I am not doing well on my own. But I have to be fair and tell you that my life is in danger, and I have no idea how long it will be at risk, and that anyone who gets near me is also at risk.”
“Is it really that bad Nancy?”
“Frank, I am not exaggerating. If you associate with me, you could end up dead. Now if you want, I will leave, and we will not have any further contact. I will hope that will make you safe.”
“A young person sees life going on forever, but a person my age knows that death is an unpleasant guest who could arrive at any moment. My life has become meaningless and boring since Luella died. I will probably live longer being your friend than going on lonely and friendless.”
“Do you like pancakes?”
“Frank, are you being serious?”
“I joke a lot but believe me that deep inside I am one of the most serious people you will ever meet. What would you like on your pancakes?”
“I hope you don’t come to regret your decision, but I thank you for it. Right now in my life I very badly need a friend.”
“I love maple syrup and butter.”
Breakfast rolled into lunch and then dinner and Nancy talked and talked. After dinner, she thanked him and said she should go. Frank told her that the bedroom was always available. He wanted to exchange phone numbers because he said the note system leads to a lot of tears and the phone might be better. She laughed. It was the first time he had heard her laugh, and it was like music. Luella used to laugh like that.
The next day Frank’s phone rang shortly after breakfast, and it surprised him to hear Nancy’s voice.
“I would like to go for a paddle with you but I don’t want us to be seen together because I am afraid for you if my problem comes calling.”
“I have the perfect solution but you will have to give me until lunchtime to get ready. Don’t eat. I will call you. You will need to bring your bathing suit.”
Frank was glad he hadn’t taken the floats off of the plane yet. He went to the airfield then taxied the CH701 back to his dock. He tied his canoe to the float and then hustled up the path to make a quick picnic lunch. Then he called Nancy and said she should come over and bring her bathing suit but to wear long sleeves and pants and to bring a light jacket.
When she arrived, he locked up the house and guided her down to his dock. He explained that they would fly to a lake about thirty minutes away that was only accessible by plane. They could have a picnic lunch, go for a paddle and since there was a nice clean sand beach they could also go for a swim if she wanted. She told him she really loved swimming and also that she had never flown in a small plane just big commercial jets and military helicopters. Frank said nothing but the mention of military helicopters did not escape his attention.
On the flight back after a wonderful day, Nancy said it was the most relaxed that she had been since she ran in fear for her life.
The next day was rainy, cold and windy. This was the first sign that summer was over. Nancy called and invited him to her place for lunch. During lunch, Frank told her that her grocery deliveries were unusual and would attract attention. How would she feel about just giving him a grocery list, so he could pick up her things when he did his own shopping? He could tell that she really didn’t want to impose, but that she knew he was right about attracting attention, so she agreed.
The following day was clear with low wind. Frank called Nancy to tell her he had to get the wheels on the plane and asked if she would be interested in helping? Since he was the only plane at the airport, he told her they would see no one. She agreed. So he drove his pickup over to the airport and then walked home.
He called Nancy to come over, and they taxied to the airport. They took all morning to get the plane into the hangar, the floats removed, and then it was lunchtime. Frank had brought a picnic lunch for them. They sat in the hangar’s doorway eating and watched wild turkeys meander down the edge of the runway looking for food. After lunch, they got the wheels on and Frank said he had to go up for a quick test flight before he took a passenger, but then he would like to take her for a flight.
After they were in the air, she asked where he was taking her, and he said he wasn’t taking her anywhere she would take him. He gave her flying lessons, and it thrilled her beyond words.
When they were coming in for landing Frank said “Oh Oh” and Nancy thought they had a problem. Frank apologized for accidentally misleading her and said there was another vehicle parked by the hangar. He thought it was the airport owner who he only saw about once a year. Frank said they would just pretend that it was a practice landing and continue flying while he figured out a way to get around the problem of Nancy remaining invisible.
Frank flew over the airport high enough it would just look like a plane passing by. He got a better look and was sure it was the airport owner. He told her that there was an abandoned pasture about a mile from the field he could land in. If she was OK with waiting there for him, he would land and put the plane away and then drive to pick her up, but she would be alone for at least forty-five minutes to an hour. The more he thought about it the less he liked the plan.
His next idea was to land the wrong way according to the wind. That would mean that instead of landing and then taxiing up to the hangar he would land and be taxiing away from the hangar. He would go to the end of the runway and when he turned the passenger door would be hidden from the hangar. Nancy could hop out and scurry into the forest and wait for Frank to drive past her on the way out of the airport. She was agreeable. He warned her she must be very careful not to go forward into the propeller. He opened the glove box and gave her a tube of insect repellent. It was early in the day, and they might not be bad but just in case he said.
He came in high with the engine at idle. Landing planes are silent, and he intended to make this landing super quiet hoping that the owner wouldn’t even notice them although the wheels would squeal at touch down. They glided past the hanger and Frank landed as close to the end of the runway as possible. As he started the turn, he reminded her to watch the propeller then took off her headset and opened her seat belt. She got the door open while Frank had his hand on the key ready to switch off the engine if she made the least move toward the propeller. She scooted like a fox and disappeared into the forest.
The owner wanted to chat but Frank said he was late for an appointment and had to go but would call later. He slowed down as he approached the forest where Nancy had disappeared, and she popped out at the right time and was into the truck. She was laughing but said it was too bad it was serious business because she had fun.
They arrived back at Frank’s, and he invited her in for dinner. She agreed but only if she could cook for him. After dinner, they played a game of Scrabble, and he discovered he was badly outclassed. However, two words that Nancy used were not familiar to him and when he challenged her on them they turned out to be obscure human body parts. Frank realized her biological knowledge included detailed info on human anatomy.
After the game, they talked and Frank found that he was being pumped seriously about his life. He didn’t mind now that he felt comfortable with Nancy. She yawned and told him she had had a wonderful day and didn’t really want it to end. Would he mind if she stayed in the spare bedroom? He told her yes, any time.
Frank was an early riser and when he came down Nancy’s door was still shut. His kitchen window faced toward her house, and then he saw a guy walking around the house. Frank was out the door in a flash.
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