“Joanie? This is Fern.”
“Lands sake, Fern, I thought you would never call me. Me and Mr. Cuddles are just stupefied. Stupefied I tell you. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
Fern looked over to the dusty wineglasses. She was regretting the fact that she had not hidden more bon bons in the glass. Or a bottle of wine. “Joanie!” she snapped, knowing full well how long Joanie could go on and on with her “oh dears”.
“So you do think so? Oh, Fern, I was so afraid of that. I should have never told her to never step into my house again. But poor Mr. Cuddles! Just because she dislikes cats doesn't mean she had to insult my poor Mr. Cuddles! His feelings were so hurt! But I had to tell her that right in Mr. Martin's Pharmacy when I stopped in for my chocolate coke because she is so sour on poor Mr. Cuddles you know. Lands sake, I just don't know what came over me! But now she is dead and I just know they will come for me. Even you agree with me....oh, and then what will happen to my poor Mr. Cuddles when they lock me away?”
Fern was digging through every shelf in the pantry. There had to be some chocolate in there somewhere.
“Joanie...focus. Focus! No one thinks you had anything to do with Clara's death.”
“You really think so? My lands, I have been calming Mr. Cuddles telling him not to worry...”
“And you shouldn't.” Snapped Fern. No wonder she had given up dying her hair. With friends like Joanie you were just going to go gray. She glanced at the clock. Not much more time before Days of our Lives came on. Fern suddenly remembered the stash of carmellos in the freezer and with that she began pulling out ice cube trays for her sweet tea as she tried again, with force, to reason with Joanie.
“Now Joanie, you know Clara was supposed to be bringing the dessert to Book Club Thursday night.”
“Oh my lands, oh my. Will we still have book club? Mr. Cuddles was …..."
“Yes.” Fern interrupted, sticking the Carmelo bar in the microwave and wondering at her thought process on that one. FROZEN Carmelo bar? Really. It'd take forever to thaw! “Clara, as rigid a rule keeper as she was, would prefer us to move ahead with our plans. But, Joanie, now you will have to make the dessert. And you know she was going to make us some sort of broccoli spinach surprise so you might as well go over there and find out what it was so it doesn't spoil. That would be plumb wasteful.”
“You mean,” Joanie whispered, “break in?”
“Bless her poor healthy heart, Joanie, Clara would want us to use up all her organic something or another. And it's really ours anyhow, it being for book club and all.” Fern slurped down a brick of the Carmelo bar. Once you got past the freezer burn, it was pretty good. “Now, I have to go so you call me and let me know what to expect you to bring tomorrow night at book club.” She hung up before Joanie could get another word in.
Days of our Lives was waiting.
Joanie stared ahead at the brick house on the other side of the perfectly kept hedges. Clara always kept those hedges so straight. The little brick house that had always seemed so cold seemed especially so now.
But Fern and Amelia couldn't be without dessert for book club, that would never do. She would have to go over. They were counting on her.
“Lands sake, Mr. Cuddles,” she stroked the big yellow cat in her arms, “You needn't worry so. I'll just run on over and be back in a jiffy.” She scooped a bit of vanilla ice cream out for Mr. Cuddles and put it at his place on the table. “Here now, you work on that while I am gone.”
Joanie glanced into the mirror next to the door and reapplied her passion rose lipstick before she headed out her pink door and over to Clara's.
Arriving at the back door, she knocked and waited a moment. “Lands sake,” she giggled, “I'm glad Mr. Cuddles didn't notice me doing such a thing. Knocking.” She peeked into the window but, as always, the shades were pulled tight. That Clara. She felt a bit of sadness. All that sourness had made Clara live a dull life. So rigid. Not trusting, not even of her dearest, cutest friend. Joanie tried the door, but it was locked as always. And Clara never had given her a key.
“Well, molten lava cake it will have to be,” she said aloud to herself, because the thought at being at an empty house, even a fellow book clubber, was a bit eerie. She stumbled back a bit and when she did, her foot kicked a paper bag, hidden a bit from view behind the watering can. Funny, mused Joanie, Clara had never really watered much of anything that she had noticed.
Joanie creaked down to look at the bag. “For the cobbler” read the black permanent marker. She peeked in and spied two quarts of blueberries.
“Well, I suppose molten cake will be next book club,” Joanie reasoned,, thankful she wouldn't have to break in after all to use up the organic something or another Fern was sure was there in the house. The farm market vendor must have known in advance what Clara had needed this week and dropped it off all neighborly like. “Lands sake, Mr Cuddles will be all worried over me. I best get back.”
She scurried over to her pink door and found Mr. Cuddles finishing his little scoop of ice cream. She checked her reflection in the little round mirror by the sink and reapplied her passion rose lipstick that had faded a bit.
Getting out the strainer, she dumped the blueberries in to wash them. “Lands sake, what's this?” she picked up a tiny folded note in the bottom of the quart box. “What could it be?”
She opened the note and her eyes went wide, the empty quart box dropped to the floor. Mr. Cuddles jumped at the unusual interruption of his usually docile rest on his cat nip smelling chair. Quickly, Joanie grabbed her phone. “Don't you worry, Mr. Cuddles,” she assured him and shakingly dialed Fern's number.
“Fern! Oh Fern! Lands sakes alive, the blueberries!”
A knock at the door interrupted her as she hustled over, forgetting to check her reflection before throwing open the door, very unlike her. But the note! Fern!
A deep thick voice that was dripping in foreigner accent greeted her. “Hello, Joanie is it?” A Dutch looking version of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger stood in her door way. “I am Hans, a, ah, friend of Clara's.”
The phone clattered to the floor.
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