The House on Olive Street (31 page)

BOOK: The House on Olive Street
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“Speaking of white houses…?” someone asked. All eyes turned to Barbara Ann.

“Okay, we have our dust bunnies,” she shrugged. “Sometimes the dishwashing crew is out sick…or maybe out playing. But I don’t have any lawn mower motors in my bedroom and things are so much better than they once were.”

“And books?”

“Well, I’ve had all the same problems I had before. You know, they string me out for too long, they make me change too much, they hem and haw and ask me to revise books so that the characters are more complex—whatever the hell that means. But I’m just enjoying myself. I finally figured out that I’m doing what I want to do and it’s not a flawless business. There are ups and downs in everything. After the experience I had a couple of years ago, thinking my career was over and then having it come back twice as big, I am just not willing to let them get that much of my soul anymore. That’s my fault—creating my own problems out of fear and envy and…

“What did you ask? I’m fine. I’m happy. I’m doing what I want to do and I’m going to be a grandmother.”

“Really?”

“Matt and Stacy? When?”

“October. And he gets his degree in architecture in June. We’re all pretty stable.”

“Elly? What are you going to do?”

“Retire.”

“What?”

“You can’t! All those years you said school was all you had!”

“Well, I have a lot more now. Thirteen grandchildren for one thing. And by the looks of things, we have to prepare ourselves for
great
-grandchildren.”

“Elly, how can you not work?”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t work. I’ll do a little writing. I’m going to set up an office in what was Ben’s wife’s sewing room. I might be going soft, but I’m not going domestic. I’m going to do the biography. I’ll take on a few reviews, an occasional article.”

“I thought you hated children! You never once said a pleasant thing about a child in all the years I’ve known you.”

“I didn’t want to get involved. I didn’t think I’d ever have any. I stayed away from all that mothering nonsense. It’s too cloying for me. But Ben’s children are different, somehow. They loved me before they knew me, as if they had decided that if I was what made Ben happy, then I would make them happy, too—even if I had a horn growing out of my head. He and his wife must have been remarkable parents. And I am left to enjoy the bounty.”

“Oh Eleanor, that’s beautiful,” Barbara Ann said, sniffing.

“Stop it now. You know how I hate all that sentimental shit.”

A bell started ringing off in the distance.
Dong, dong, dong.
“Elly!” Ben was calling. “Elly. Dr. Marshall is leaving now. Come say goodbye.”

“This can’t be ending already,” Sable complained.

“To the contrary, it’s just beginning. Remember Gabby’s letter? The things she bequeathed us? Have any of you thought about that?” Elly asked them. “I have. I ask myself all the time—is it even possible she knew us that well without us knowing it? She wanted me to have
a garden of virgins to tend…. Look at them,” she said, throwing an arm wide to the many young children scampering around the lawn. “I always assumed children would hate me—I have so little patience and such a grumpy personality. It’s the oddest thing. They’re mad about me.”

“And I am something of a Girl Scout leader, indeed,” Sable said. “Gabby did say, a number of times, that if I had the courage to tell the truth about my past, it could help people. I don’t think it’s the telling that helps, but owning where I came from and looking for ways to help young girls get through that maze is giving me new purpose. Yes, I’ve thought about Gabby’s gifts a lot. Barbara Ann certainly didn’t need a lesson in how to love from that chapter in the Bible, but she needed a lesson in what kind of love she deserved in return.”

“Amen,” Barbara Ann said.

“And Beth,” Sable said, dropping an arm around her shoulders, “needed to defend herself against the dark knight.”

“We never toasted Gabby,” Beth said.

“Of course we have,” Elly said. “We toast her every day by doing just what she expects of us. We persevere. We carry on. Is there something more to life? I guess we’re never done. I used to resent that—having something be over before I was done. I’ve decided that’s a gift. Never getting done means there’s always something left to do, some challenge yet to face, some thrill still to seek. Gabby would like that.”

ISBN: 978-1-4268-5602-0

THE HOUSE ON OLIVE STREET

Copyright © 1999 by Robyn Carr.

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, MIRA Books, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

MIRA and the Star Colophon are trademarks used under license and registered in Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

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BOOK: The House on Olive Street
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