Within an hour and half Nora was check out of the bed and breakfast, on herway to her first visit to a Piggly wiggly then homemade dinner, Nora had eaten out for far to long. Even making dinner was an acceptable diversion from her writing, everyone must eat right? She had never avoided writing but she began to look at her laptop as a weight and found it increasingly difficult to write about love when she couldn't feel love only sorrow. Nora decided to enjoy her dinner cleaned the mess and then sat lifeless in front of her laptop. She slowly opened the computer and pulled up her current document. Taking a sip of wine out of the mason jar, which was the only glass wear in the cabinet Nora picked up her cell phone to call John. Nora didn't want to talk to Regina even though she is a dear friend being her publisher; the corrections would come up during the course of the conversation which is exactly what Nora was trying to avoid.
As Nora filled John in on her southern get away Nora began swilling the cheapwine. The third glass down Nora knew she would get no work done she shut the computer and took the conversation to the swing located on the front porch. The dark was as thick as the humidity. Nora felt safe wrapped in the night hiding from herself as well as the world. The fifth glass of wine Nora ended the conversation and staggered to bed where she slept like she hadn't in nearly a year. In the morning Nora didn't feel so tranquil as the cheap wine left her with less desirable hangover from hell the drums keeping a steady beat in her head. She immediately brewed some coffee and again found herself swinging on the front porch. That swing was like a drug, 'when I get home I getting a porch swing' Nora thought to herself. For fun she pulled out the cabin packet of information and began to read, gently gliding back and forth taking in the Southern air and the quiet that only the country provided. One section looked interesting, fishing; Nora could hear the river calling who was she to deny the river, yet another dodge to work on the book. But first sufficient coffee must be digested along with food.
Nora took the shed keys from inside the cabin and went to see what kind of gear available. There she picked up a fishing pole, tackle box then it dawned on her she would have to go into town for bait. She scanned the shed and in the corner was a small frig, and in the frig . . . . Bait. Nora thought, "how red neck." Nora held no desire to be locked into a computer screen making changes to an already perfect manuscript. So Nora picked up the gear and walked about half mile to stand on the banks of the river. She baited her hook then cast it in the current caught it. Nora repeated this several times and even moved further down the river but no hits.
She decided to call it a day, Nora stood up lost her footing, the bank gave and she fell into the river down a rather muddy embankment. Catching a root on the way down, Nora grabbed hold and slowly crawled up to the top of the bank. Nora had mud in places she didn't want to think about once back at the top she turned looked at the river, and was grateful to the river for allowing her to walk away. At first panic set in, Nora thought of the worst, but she saw herself out of this jam and this empowered her. She walked confidently back to the cabin with fishing gear intact her white peasant blouse and skirt now black with Mississippi mud honestly there was not one white spot left on either garments. It was almost as if she was baptized, in mud.
Nora put the equipment in the shed then found herself standing in front of an opened door to the cabin; she looked down at her clothes came giving to a train of thought she didn't want to clean mud of the floor as well as her. With a stroke of genius she went around the back of the cabin and there it was a garden hose. Nora propped up the hose in the tree turned on the water then just stood there and let the water flow over her. Slowly the mud began to wash away, Nora had never taken a shower outside, she thought why not? She slowly peeled off her mud stained clothes wrung the extra water out then threw them over a low hanging branch.
Nora began to enjoy the outside shower the water was so cold and so invigorating. Just as Nora was absolutely secure she heard a vehicle, soon after a door open and shut. There she stood in the middle of the day buck naked, at first she panicked but then a calm took over as she collected her thoughts Nora quickly shut off the water grabbed her drenched clothes that was now sticking together like industrial strength Velcro. With the strangers getting closer Nora became frantic as she was unable to untangle the soaked 100% cotton garments.
The visitor knocked on the door a local by the name Jared 'J' Green, you see Jared enjoyed fulfilling every red neck stereo types. When no one answered his knock he looked around and noticed the car in the drive, somewhat concerned he yelled out, "hello." Jared said loudly and then under his breath, "I don't remember your name lady."
Nora replied with a very shallow, "I'm back here but I . . . ." continuing to separate the clothes.
Jared just headed on back and when Nora heard his footsteps getting very close.
"Please stop." Nora shouted out but not in time. Just as the word stop registered with Jared the two were face to face. Or face to chest is more accurate. Stunned Jared slowly said, "Well that's something ya don't see every day." Meanwhile Nora desperately tried to cover herself with a cotton see through peasant blouse while the skirt lay on the ground. After a lingering gaze Jared came to his senses and turned from Nora. "Well how about I give you some privacy . . . ya know better yet I'll getcha a towel." Jared said nervously stomping off straight into the cabin's bathroom, retrieved a towel. He politely held the towel out for Nora with his eyes diverted and she quickly took the towel and wrapped it around her petite frame.
Nora's reply, "Well now that I am somewhat dressed how can I help you?" And for the first time Nora took a good look at her very bearded long haired visitor, a solid look was out of the question while she stood nude; as she was admiring his frame Nora noticed he wasn't wearing shoes. Nora paused for a moment and thought to herself, "If I ran into this person on the street I would be clutching my purse, but here I'm standing here nearly naked." But the integrity he showed in her quandary spoke volumes to Nora allowing her a look at the gentleman.
"Well I let in just over yonder but I'm not the only one. I was just stopping by and lettin ya know that I would be pulling out later this afternoon. Just a courtesy really. Tammy mentioned that there was someone stayin here." Jared mumbled nervously pushing his warn fishing cap back and forth on his head, trying not to look Nora in the eye. But when he would take a moment to catch her eye he noticed her stunning green eyes.
"Well please consider me informed. And I am so sorry about this you see I went fishing and I fell in and had to crawl up a very muddy embankment. Well even you can figure out the rest. I was told this cabin was isolated." Nora said as the humiliation truly set in her attempting to rationalize in a towel to the strange man in front of her.
Jared grinned widely at the Yankee and said insulting politely which made Nora feel even worse. "Yes I can figure that one out. As far as the cabin secluded, yes but isolated, not so much. Now I know you're new to the parts but we do have showers inside."
Nora quickly replied, "yes I know I have used it actually it is a wonderful shower." Jared decided he had spent enough time with the Yankee so he politely tipped back his hat and said. "Fair warnin I'm not the only one in these parts that let in down here. So the showers should probably be an inside activity." Jared said placing an emphasis on activity with his slow southern drawl. Nora forced a smile at Jared.
Jared went to the river the best place in the whole Earth for him. Peace came to him on the river, well usually but today was a little different he couldn't take his mind of the Yankee. But as soon as he took in his first fish her, the Yankee fluttered around in the back of his brain while fishing took precedence. And occasionally a smile would run across his face when he thought about the Yankee in that very clingy wet white shirt. Jared knew he had to come through he had bring in the fish for his brother's first of the year fish fry. Jared took in a good hall that day and was proud to take the catch back to his brother's wife to prepare for the fish fry. But first a fresh cup of coffee at the diner. Jared belliedup to the counter and without an order Tammy brought him his coffee.
"Well J how was the river today?'' Tammy asked as she wiped the counter.
"Well it's been an interesting day, that Yank was outside taking a shower, well let's just say . . . well I believe that's enough said." Jared calmly replied as Tammy hung on every word with pleading eyes.
The thin man sitting next to Jared just smiled and offered the following words, "Yankee's ya just never know."
"You know it Darwin." Jared replied to the man and the people in town called him that as they suspected that he was in fact the missing link of evolution.
"What was she doing taking a shower outside?" Tammy added getting the conversation on track.
"Best I could tell she went fishin and fell in and got real muddy. I would like to think there is hope for her if she is fishin. You hear what I'm sayin Darwin?" Jared added as he slowly sipped on his coffee. And Darwin responded with a head nod and a grunt.
"Well y'all I'm gone, need to get to those fish they won't unload themselves and get ready for the fish fry." Jared said pushing the coffee cup away standing and exiting the diner. And after he left Tammy was on the phone telling her best friend Betty about J's naked encounter with the Yankee. And it didn't take long for the word to get around town.
Meanwhile Nora attempting to put the humiliating day behind her dressed and went into town, but had no idea that would be worse idea that showing outside. Nora found herself at the Piggly Wiggly roaming up and down the aisles, when suddenly a familiar voice. "Mrs. Reynolds . . . YooHOOOO. Nora."
Nora didn't want to turn and face the long legged blonde but half the store heard her and her hand was forced so she turned to face Tammy. When Tammy spoke it was like her words were dripping like honey from a cone.
"Well hello, how are you?" Nora politely asked along with a very forced smile.
"Real good, real good. You aint been to town since you rented that cabin. We were wonderin how you were doin out there." Tammy said brushing her long blonde hair up behind her left ear. Suddenly Nora realized how tall Tammy was in the store under the harsh lights Tammy seemed to tower over her.
"Well I'm doing fine just came into town for supplies today." Nora said trying to hedge away from Tammy but Tammy wasn't having it she just moved with her with one wheel of her cart stuck in one position.
"Well I heard you met J?" Tammy added with a knowing wink.
Unsure what to say Nora just answered sharply, "Yes I got a quick lesson in the difference between isolated and secluded."
"Well we're havin a fish fry tonight at my house you are more than welcome to stop by." Tammy said sincerely as she noticed Jared really seemed taken with her. "And you know J got some real beauties out there today gonna be good time. Well we live at the end of Maple Street on the North end of town; just look fur the place with the most trucks in the driveway. Well I best get my shoppin done lots to do you stop by ya hear." Tammy quickly went and she left Nora standing stunned that the whole town probably knew how she and 'J' met. Nora
quickly and quietly finished her shopping stood patiently at the check-out. Finally Nora was the next in line. She slowly watched the cashier ring up each of her items, not by a scanner but on a circa 1970 register. And it suddenly struck Nora that in the South everything is done at a slower pace, well accept for the gossip.
Jared found himself in his cramped apartment just over the diner he owned. He often wondered what he would do without Tammy after Liz's death she was a God send, she stepped in and ran the diner and kept Jared from going off thereservation. Jared roamed around the apartment and found himself in the spare bedroom that held his dead wife's belongings, carefully tucked away and available to him anytime he wanted to hold her things. Jared couldn't bring himself to take the final step disposing of them. But something was different today the thought of the naked northern crept into his mind even though he tried desperately to push it out and as the idea broke through a smile always accompanied something his face was not used to . . . smiling.
Nora sat outside of Tammy's house and as she looked around the packed driveway she noticed her's was the only car every other vehicle was a truck or atv of some kind. As she sat deep in thought trying to come to a conclusion as to what she was doing here, a knock at her window. It was Jared, Nora slowly rolled down the window, "well how are you? I bet your wondering what I'm doing just sitting here." Nora asked with a smile.
"I would expect you're contemplatin runnin." Jared said returning her smile with
a wide grin and as he did the corner of his eyes winkled very slightly.
Nora shook her head rolled the window up and opened the door and handed Jared the pie she had made.
"This looks homemade?" Jared blurted out without really thinking.
"Yes, you sound surprised, you know us Yankee's know how to cook as well. Actually this is my grandmother's recipe." Nora said completely taken back she was flirting with Jared she nervously headed to the front door.
"Well I must admit I am surprised." Jared said falling into step with Nora.
Nora quickly made her way to the front door then politely knocked. "Not here darling, they out back and will not hear ya, just open her on up and go in."
Nora just looked at Jared and watched in disbelief as he just opened the door and walked right in. She hesitantly followed him. The party outside was getting louder and louder to Nora as they navigated the house, suddenly she grabs his arm, Jared turned he saw the look of horror on her face.
"I've been here long enough to know that virtually every breathing person outside that class door has the knowledge you have seen me naked and I am some kind of crazy Northerner that showers outside and God knows what else." Nora said hanging her head slightly
"Look, we are simple people, I'm a simple man. There is no hidden agenda here just people looking to have some F-U-N, so relax, eat some good food, maybe some conversation and most important have some fun." Jared said patting her hand. Jared could sense the fear on her it was a familiar sent, he felt it after Liz died. Not knowing what to say to people he had known all his life.
Nora took a deep breath and jumped right down the rabbit hole. Once out on the back porch Tammy immediately noticed the two came in the door together. Tammy had waited patiently for all her guests to show but she was really looking forward to seeing Nora she felt the same broken soul in her that she did her brother in law. After all Tammy had made it very known that Nora would be attending and everyone there was waiting to see the Northerner. Tammy went right up to Nora and Jared and welcomed her guest.
"Well darlin you made it. I am so glad, and you have a pie. You can take that on over to desert table." Tammy said at the speed of light so fast indeed Nora couldn't make out a single word partially from the accent but mostly from the sheer speed and pitch.
Jared leaned into Nora and spoke softly with a slow southern tone, "You can put you pie over yonder."
"Yonder." Nora thought to herself. Seeing the lost look on her face Jared pointed to the table. Nora placed her pie on the table and turned, Jared was talking to a portly man who was also standing next to the tub of ice filled with beer. Nora went to the drink table and quickly got a wine cooler since her only choices where various soda's, beer or wine coolers. Nora quickly walked away and found a corner to sit, but that didn't last long as Tammy literally rang the dinner bell. Unfortunate that the corner she chose to sit was in close proximity to the dinner table suddenly the people and children sprawled over the rather large patio and pool area converged on the area Nora was sitting, a redneck title wave. Surrounded by people one trying to talk louder than the person standing next to them, Nora had to take immediate action and worked her way from the crowd. Nora barely squeezed her way through two rather large women, but Jared once again was there helping her out of an awkward moment. And for the first time she noticed his piercing brown eyes instead of his overwhelming beard. Such a deep brown that they almost look like two pieces of coal but when hit by light you could slightly see the many shades.
"I know it can be . . . well a bit over whelmin." Jared said quietly again in a low assuring voice.
"Yes, I have been to huge conventions that are . . . well let's say a lower decimal." Nora said without thinking and the words had no more passed her lips and the gravity of her words set in. It must have been evident on Nora's face.
Jared quickly replied, "why do you think I spend my time on the water. It's quiet."
Nora smiled widely at Jared then shyly looked away. Nora couldn't believe but the scruffy looking man was appealing to her. Again Nora found herself flirting with this man, then the guilt would set in.
"We should get in line because one of the rules; every man, woman and child for themselves. See that older man thick glasses and very skinny that Uncle Joe ya know I believe he is checking out your pie, well this is his second time in line." The two laughed out loud and Jared really caught Nora's eye and he began to notice warmth in her beautiful green eyes. The two locked in a intense gaze then broke it nervously taking their place in line.
Tammy watched Jared take to Nora in relief, for she had not seen him smile in such a way in a long time. Ronnie Jared's stocky brother sat next to his wife and they began to fill each other in on their day. And it did not take long for him to bring up Nora and Jared's first meeting.
"So I hears ole J got a good look at the Northerner?" Ronnie said desperately trying to contain his giggle.
Tammy only reply a toothy grin one that Ronnie had seen many times before but ignored it and kept on talking.
"Must have been one hell of a meetin, they together fo dinner and all. I bet she bought that pie." Ronnie said taking a long sip of his beer when he glanced up he caught Tammy's gaze and the look on her face was her grin from hell, the grin that says you are SOL, you see with Tammy the level in which she clinched her teeth said it all the tighter the more pissed she was. Ronnie diverted the conversation to the fresh fish and how good it was. Tammy politely nodded her head in agreement and slowly softened her smile.
As the dinner rolled on Ronnie could take it no longer and addressed the Northerner with the question that everyone wanted to ask but would not, with a little liquid courage Ronnie cleared his throat and the words just came right on out.
"So Nora, what is it you do for a living?" Ronnie asked as he smiled widely at the woman, while being kicked under the table by Tammy. Pay back for the clinched grin, this was their dance a dance they perfected over 12 years of marriage.
"I am a writer." Nora replied then promptly taking a drink of iced wine cooler creating a shield between her and the burly man at the other end of the table. At this point Nora did not know they were brothers. And if she held her wine cooler just right she obscure the man completely.
"Well what u write darlin?" A older woman spoke up who happened to be Ronnie and Jared's mother. She gently smiled and pushed her salt and pepper hair behind her ears, as if to hear every word.
Nora took a moment to organize her thoughts and spoke slowly. "I've published a collection of short stories right after college. I've also written several articles for the Tribune, Chicago Tribune. But recently novels and my most recent is 'Ghost Writer'. I am in negotiating regarding the movie rights currently." With those words the loud table suddenly went quiet leaving her to wonder if she had said something wrong.
Jared a man of few words said slowly, "You mean to tell me you wrote 'Ghost Writer'?"
Still unsure what she had said firmly replied, "Why yes, yes I did. You sound surprised."
Jared sat up in his chair took a sip of beer and asked, "Why that means you wrote 'Groomin the Dead'?"
Nora was intrigued that was a little known short story she had wrote in high school and was later published in one of her collections and was one of her favorites. Nora smiled at the bearded man and quietly said. "Yes that would be correct." Suddenly the simple man didn't seem so simple; there was some intelligence behind the bearded man, it made her want to strip away the beard to get a real look at the man.
Jared sat back in the chair and caressed his beard and suddenly Nora looked differently to him as well. Jared said something next that even surprised him and brought the second hush at the dinner table that night. "If you would like to go fishing and actually catch somethin let me know and I'll take you out. . . . fishin of course." Nora smiled at Jared and blushed a bit and then Jared leaned across the table and whispered, "Clothing is optional."
The blush turned into a full blown red face and wide smile as Nora didn't know what else to do. Then suddenly an inner calm came over Nora, what people were thinking didn't really matter. She nodded and boldly said, "That would be very nice."
The rest of the evening was spent sneaking peaks at each other at every opportunity or exchange jabs that only the other would get a reference to a book. Tammy noticed something absent from Jared his usual scow or distant look, he as focused and engaged, she would be damned he was happy. Jared was her brother by marriage and by friendship so she would keep her eye on the Yankee. Nora and Tammy would get along fine as long as she didn't do harm to her dear friend. Nora finished desert and went to Tammy to thank her for a lovely evening.
"Tammy thanks so much for the invite, it was a very nice." Nora said softly extending her hand.
"Well darlin hand shakes won't due down here." Tammy said getting up from her chair standing over Nora, arms folding over and bringing her in a deep hug.
"Now ya be careful goin home. Com on in to town sometime, I'll show ya round. . . J . . . J . . .(she yelled at Jared) why don't ya walk Nora to her car." Tammy shouted across the patio interrupting deep conversation between Jared and Ronnie.
Jared happily followed Tammy's orders walked Nora to her car. "Well when are we going fishing? Nora asked coyly.
"Well is tamarrow work for ya?" Jared replied with a smile.
Just at Nora's car door she turned, "No, tomorrow is not to soon. What time tomorrow?"
"In the afternune good for ya?" Jared said as the gravity of the flirting and the first date potential filled his head. Suddenly he wanted to crawl under a rock.