Edna slid the sugar bowl across the table. “Ya know Laura, Michael should sell up and let this place go. It’s no good here now with all the farms being taken over by the banks.”
“I know Edna, but it’s the only life he’s ever known and since we couldn’t have kids it’s filled that space for him. Besides, we hardly talk anyway so I doubt the subject would be discussed.” Laura looked out the window at the rows of corn and thought how it was just like her life, orderly and seasonal with no change from one year to the other. The thought made her feel panic rise from somewhere deep in her middle, punching up and into her throat like a fist.
“I was just sayin’ Laura honey. I know how he is but it sure would do you good to get out of here. Have you ever thought of just up and leaving?”
Laura was taken by surprise and for a moment she wondered if Edna knew about she and Danny but she couldn’t possibly know or even suspect anything, they had both been so careful and discreet. She took a deep breath and prepared to lie but before she could let out the air from her lungs Michael walked in.
“Laura, I gotta go into Lincoln and see Morrison. We got some trouble with the combine and it’s gonna take more than me and Orin and tinkerin’ with it to get it goin’ again. I’ll be back late tomorrow night.”
Before she could answer he shut the door, jumped in Orin’s pickup and was off down the drive. Inside she felt a wave of freedom and relief at the prospect of having some time without the tension of his presence. Lately he’d been going into Lincoln a lot and she welcomed his absence. “Edna, you wanna stay the night and play some cards?”
Edna took a sip of her coffee, wiping her damp mouth with her hand before speaking. “Sure, I’ll just call Jimmy and tell him I’m over for the night. I have something to tell you Laura Jane, I had a call yesterday.”
Laura sat up straight at the mention of her middle name. Edna had been her best friend for twenty five years and the only time she ever called her Laura Jane was when someone had died or she needed to sleep over when Jimmy got drunk and mean. “Okay Edna, who died? The only time you call me that is when you have bad news.”
“No one died Laura Jane, but someone did come back from the dead, so to speak. I got a long distance call.”
“Oh for god sake Edna, spit it out will ya?”
Laura froze. The sound of his name being spoken after all this time sent an old sensation through her that thrilled but terrified her too. “What did he want?”
Edna put her cup down and slid her chair closer to Laura’s. “Laura Jane, I’m your best friend in the whole world right?”
Laura shifted in her chair all nerves, the heat rising to her cheeks. “Of course you are, I love you like a sister.”
Edna took Laura’s hands in her own. “Look Laura Jane, I know about you and Danny and I’ve known about since the first time he looked at you and you at him so lets not keep up the phony stuff okay?”
Laura took a deep breath before answering. “I love him Edna, more than life or breath. I try not to think about him because it can never be. He’s been gone nearly three years, not a call, or a letter. I just assumed he’d forgotten me and met someone else, someone who could be with him.”
“Well Laura Jane, you are gonna be in for a surprise then, because he’s on his way back but I should warn you, he isn’t coming alone. He’s married now, her name is Maria and she’s an actress of all things!”
Laura took in the shock of this new information but she soon felt the tears sting her eyes. She swallowed the salt water back down into a place where she kept all her sorrows. “Good. I’m glad.” The lie didn’t feel or sound genuine. She knew this day would come, that it was inevitable but she wasn’t fully prepared for the hurt. “He needed to do that Edna, it was the right decision to move on. I hope she makes him happy and that he makes her happy too.”
“He didn’t sound very happy to me Laura, he sounded harassed and tired.”
“Did he ask about me”?
“Yes, it was the first thing he did. I told him you were fine, that you were still here with Michael and he went silent for a while. Then he told me about his new wife and that he was coming back to get some of the sculptures he left behind. He said he wanted to finish one in particular, a bust he said was ready to be completed now that he was in the right frame of mind. He didn’t ask anything else after that and neither did I. It wasn’t a long talk but it was full of information and not the kind that words tell either. I’ll even go out on a limb here and say he sounded like he’d been cryin’.”
Laura leaned forward, interested and a bit worried. “What do you mean Edna? Is he sick? ”
“Not sick, no but I do think he’s confused about something and I think that something is you Laura Jane. What the hell did you do to that man, to send him away like that and put him in such a state?”
Laura looked out the window before answering. The setting sun always made the tops of the corn glow before it dipped beneath the horizon. It only lasted a minute, so beautiful dazzling and bright, almost supernatural. It was fleeting and impossible to capture for long just like so many things in her life. When the moment and the light had passed darkening the kitchen in a dusky blue, she turned to her friend. “I’ll tell you what I did to him Edna, I loved him. I think I loved him too much.”