Time for Lemonade!

by Ann Levy

Whew!!!! It has been one long, sweaty drive home! I'll have to get the car AC fixed after I get paid, Nita reminds herself. She can't wait to kick off her heels and peel off her stockings as soon as she gets inside her bedroom. Once there, she realizes that a shower seems like a perfect idea, followed by her at home outfit - a tank top, shorts and flip-flops. Suddenly, she remembers the package from Ned, a guy from work. He's a nice, if odd, man.

She'd found it on her desk after lunch. Ned must have left it for her, after making sure she wasn't there. The phone had been ringing when she came back to her desk and saw it, so she'd put the package aside, opening it surreptitiously when she had a free moment. I wonder how long it was sitting on my desk, and if now I'm considered "Ned's territory". She hates that the office is worse than a high school clique; that everyone keeps track of who's interested in whom that way. Guess you never completely outgrow things, she thinks. When she'd opened it, she saw it was a pink pencil holder, with four beaded pencils in it, and "Have a Groovy Day!!" printed across the front in balloon letters. Good Lord. He must think I'm twelve. In the 70s..

She throws it on the seat when she gets in her car. Later, MUCH later, she turns into her driveway and sees a couple of the Leroy kids with a lemonade stand in their front yard across the street. The louder one is going down the driveway, taking orders from the drivers who've stopped their car down there. She watches as the kid takes the order, yells it up to the stand, and then his brother runs it down to him. They deliver the filled cups to the drivers, who never have to leave the luxury of their cool cars. The kids are very careful never to set foot off their driveway. Nita is struck by the cleverness of their idea. Enterprising, she thinks! Those are smart kids.

She pulls into the garage, gathers up her purse, and the gift from Ned. What to do about it?.... Yes, definitely ignore it. Maybe he'll get the hint. He'll just move onto his next crush in his socially awkward, I-want-to-get-back-to-my-lab-before-they-notice-I'm-gone, way. Ned's not a terrible guy, just not her type. She distractedly tosses it on the counter on her way to the bedroom.

She comes out of her room admiring her new flip-flops as she walks. There is a huge bang from outside. She feels as if two huge invisible hands are pressing the sides of her head. The windows rattle. She looks around for the source, in a panic. No, the house is fine, all quiet. She moves out to the front room, facing the street. The boom sounded like it came from outside. She twitches the curtains aside. The kids are fine, although they're all cowering with their hands over their ears and looking over at the house next door. It's been empty for a month, and it's on fire. She watches as their mother runs out the front door, looks around wildly to check on her kids, and rushes them inside. There is one car waiting for lemonade at the end of their driveway, but it leaves as the driver thinks twice about his thirst. Sirens approach. Mrs. Leroy must have called 911.

Suddenly, Ned's gift package starts to whine. The whine grows louder and louder, now accompanied by a buzz. She closes her eyes and covers her ears with her hands. Abruptly the whine and buzz stop.

She opens her eyes to find herself in the doorway of her bedroom, heading toward the kitchen in her new flip-flops. She'd just bought them yesterday. Nita recalls trying them on last evening, right before she'd gone to bed. She'd walked in her pajamas into the front room, looking out over the still street. She'd marveled at the quiet, remembering the bustle that fills the street every day. The Leroys account for a large part of that bustle. The street is deceptively calm now. It reminds her of how it was at night when she'd first moved here. Even then, she'd seen the potential the neighborhood had. She'd scrimped and saved to put a down payment on the tiny house across the street, when it went on the market. She liked being a landlord, and living across the street gave her a chance to watch over her property. She frowns as she peers over at the empty house, and notices the flickering glow of a light. She's surprised. The house has been abandoned for weeks since Jeff disappeared, one step ahead of his creditors. She sighs. She liked him, liked seeing him wave from his porch as she pulled away in the morning. Guess I was wrong about him. Thank God for first and last!

The glow she sees, the one that makes her think of the campfires from her Girl Scout days, must just be a trick of light. The house has been long empty. She makes a mental note to re-advertise the house for rent. She makes another mental note to ask Mrs. Leroy tomorrow if she's seen anything suspicious.

The next afternoon, Nita remembers that she wants to call Mrs. Leroy, her memory triggered by the lemonade stand. The kids have picked a great day for it, hot and muggy.

There is a huge bang from outside. Jeff's house is on fire!. She watches as Mrs. Leroy runs out her front door, looks around wildly to check on her kids, and rushes them inside. Sirens approach. Mrs. Leroy must have called 911. The house sways with a second, smaller explosion. Nita watches as Jeff's porch crumples to the ground. Suddenly, Ned's gift package starts to whine. The whine grows louder and louder, now accompanied by a buzz. She closes her eyes and covers her ears with her hands. Abruptly the whine and buzz stop.

She opens her eyes to find herself in the doorway of her bedroom, heading toward the kitchen in her new flip-flops.

She'd noticed the empty house across the street as she'd driven up. She makes a disgusted noise now, remembering that she'd told Mrs. Leroy that she'd put new locks on the doors to discourage squatters. Mrs. Leroy had called to tell her that she'd seen some activity in the house the night before. Nita will have to stop to buy the locks tomorrow, before she puts on her "home" shorts. She's not budging from her air-conditioned house, now.

There is a huge bang from outside. She runs out to the front room, facing the street. The boom sounded like it came from outside. She twitches the curtains aside. The kids are fine, although they're all cowering with their hands over their ears. She glances next door - her house over there is on fire! She watches as Mrs. Leroy runs out her front door, looks around wildly to check on her kids, and rushes them inside. Sirens approach. Mrs. Leroy must have called 911. The house sways with a second, smaller explosion. Nita watches as the porch crumples to the ground. There is a loud crash from behind the house. There goes the back porch! And I just had that put on, she moans to herself. Suddenly, Ned's gift package starts to whine. The whine grows louder and louder, now accompanied by a buzz. She closes her eyes and covers her ears with her hands. Abruptly the whine and buzz stop.

She opens her eyes to find herself in the doorway of her bedroom, heading toward the kitchen in her new flip-flops.

She spies an empty cupcake pan in the dish drainer. Moving to put it away, she reflects back on the last time she used it. It was when she'd made a batch for Jeff, right after he'd lost his job. She'd taken them over to his house, climbed the porch steps and rang the bell. She remembers being nervous, strange because she thinks of Jeff as such a gentle, sad, man. But she knows the emotional upheaval that can follow losing a job, and she doesn't know what she'll encounter in Jeff. And this latest loss came on the tails of his wife and kids moving out, and then came his divorce. I don't want this to seem like I'm coming on to him, I just want to say a "You've got a friend, I'm here if you need me" sort of thing. But there'd been no answer; she remembers checking in the driveway and not even seeing his car. So she'd left the cupcakes inside the screen door, along with the note "Just thinking of you and wanted to say things will get better!!! Call if you want to talk!". He'd been in that house alone, ever since. She tries to recall the last time she's seen him. It was two days ago, in the morning, by his mail box. So maybe he's sending out resumes, and those were replies in the mail. I hope he finds something and ends up staying, I need his rent money.

Also, Jeff is a nice guy, and she doesn't want to see his life implode; she wants him to be around. He's got too much....potential. She's been imagining him and his potential ever since he moved in.

Once she has her shoes on, she heads outside with some coins for a glass of lemonade. And practically the first person she sees is Jeff! He's headed over to buy some lemonade from the trouble twins. She grins and waves, then starts across the street. He returns the grin, and stops to wait for her beside his mailbox. She thinks, this has been a good day! One could say Groovy!

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