If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Penelope straightened up after cleaning the last litter box, maneuvering around Esther’s chair to get to the kitchen sink without interrupting Esther’s story. Things at the service had gone from bad to worse at the service after Penelope had left, with one couple screaming at each other and another having to be separated by the younger Morley brother.
“Did anyone ever figure out who the man in her bedroom was in that one picture?” she asked when Esther paused. “I’m pretty sure I recognized the rest of them.”
“I thought almost all of them were in her bedroom.”
Penelope grabbed a paper towel to dry her hands. “No, not the house she shared with the mayor. The house she was living in when she died.” Belatedly she realized that Esther might never have been inside since it hadn’t been retrofitted to accommodate a wheelchair. “The one with the twining ivy wallpaper.”
“Ah, the one with the very young man with his face hidden by the pillow. No, I didn’t hear anything about who he might be.” Esther wheeled over to the kettle. “Maybe he was an actual boyfriend. He certainly couldn’t have been old enough to be worth blackmailing.”
Penelope made a face as she accepted the mug of chamomile tea and sat down at the tiny formica table. “Can you imagine? You’d have nothing to talk about.”
Esther settled in across the table with her own drink. “Perhaps she didn’t talk to him much. But I agree. It takes half a century to civilize them to the point of being good company.” She blew across her mug and raised her eyebrows as she looked at Penelope.
“Jake’s excellent company, yes.” Penelope tried for a look of innocence as she looked up at the ceiling.
Esther sighed and shook her head. “Rumor has it he’s waiting for you to propose to him. I suppose it’s a sign he’s enlightened or something.”
A few drops of tea splashed onto the table when Penelope put her mug down. “Since when do you and CJ gossip about people?”
“Since the two of you need a swift kick in the pants to make it official. What are you waiting for? You’re crazy about each other and the finances would work out better for both of you.”
“He wants a big production. I’m trying to figure out what that means.” Penelope sipped her tea. “On a budget,” she added as Esther opened her mouth.
“What’s wrong with dinner, candles, wine, and wandering hands?” Esther’s laugh was drowned out by the roar of a car racing down the street.
Penelope hid a smile as she glanced over to the window facing the street. “These older houses really let the noise in, don’t they?”
“That’s one thing I won’t miss about Jezza. She used to race her Mustang out of the neighborhood like a bat out of hell. She must have had a stack of tickets.”
Penelope finished her tea and got up to wash out her mug. “Do you need anything else before I go?”
“No, but if you don’t have a good plan for this big production by tomorrow, I swear I’m going to arrange something myself.”
Penelope choked back a laugh. “I’ll figure it out, don’t worry.” She let herself out the side door and walked to her next client, watching the cars as they drove by.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)