While I rewrite the stories that appeared in my 2014 book, The Green Crystal Stories, I’m offering the original stories here in chapter-by-chapter installments.
“The past is but the beginning of a beginning.” —H.G. Wells
Chapter 1: December 24, 2000
Part 2 of 2
“I think you should do it,” Daniel said when he climbed in bed and sat next to her.
“But I’m a director of nursing, not a bookstore owner. Besides, her store makes very little money.”
“We don’t need it — I make enough for both of us.” He pulled the blankets to his naked chest. “Besides, the direction the hospital is going, it’ll be a Band-Aid station in a few years and you’ll be out of a job.”
Addison slapped the bed. “The hospital’s future isn’t as grim as people make out.”
Daniel put an arm around her. “It’s in a perpetual recession. You’ve been laying off nurses since the day we met. It’s only a matter of time before your hours get cut as well.”
“Things are going to get better.”
Daniel shook his head. “When’s the last time you got a raise?”
“We have a salary cap right now.”
Addison frowned, then felt his body heat and cuddled close. He rubbed her neck, kissed her shoulder that had the dime-size freckle she disliked, all the while releasing the tension in her shoulders and back. She said, “I worked at Aunt Peggy’s store while going to college, pretending I owned the place on days she left me alone. In some of my notebooks, I drew sketches of turning the upstairs apartment into a tea and coffee room and a place for shoppers to sit and read.”
“Sounds to me like kismet — something that was meant to be.”
“That’s what Aunt Peggy called it, like I was chosen at birth by the retail gods to own her store.”
“You know, I could sell my artwork there. I think the locals would like not having to drive to the New Cambridge gallery to buy my prints.”
She pondered Daniel’s words, but still felt frightened. “I don’t know. The place needs a lot of work.”
Daniel shrugged. “We can use money from my savings.”
“Tom would never have allowed me—”
Daniel placed a finger against her lips. “I’m not Tom Matthews. What’s in the past is over and done with, never to be again. It’s just you and me and the future.”
Addison nodded; she still looked worried. “It’s the dead of winter and the wiring needs updated and the lights replaced, not to mention the walls need repainted and the floors carpeted. And those old curtains—”
Daniel chuckled. “Not so fast. It’ll get done in due time.”
Addison sighed. “But the hospital needs me. My nurses need me. This is flu season.” She ran her hands over his naked back and down his hips. She stopped. “I’ll break her heart if I say no.”
“So don’t break her heart.”
Addison moaned. “I don’t know what to do. My heart says yes, but my head says no.”
“Go with your heart.”
He released her and she followed him until she lay snuggled in his embrace, feeling his heart beat against her breast, his gentle hand stroking the back of her neck, which helped ease the butterflies in her stomach.
“If I do this,” she said, “you gotta be there for me.”
“I’m always here for you.”
Addison smiled and closed her eyes. Sleep tugged at her.
Daniel rolled away and headed downstairs. He never went to bed without drinking a glass of warm milk. Addison grimaced, unsure how anyone could like warm milk, and then dozed for several minutes until he returned to bed. He held Jane Holcomb’s diary.
“You keep a diary?” he asked.
“Not mine. It’s somebody’s that Aunt Peggy wants me to read.”
Daniel leafed through it and looked at the photograph inside. He turned to Addison and studied her careworn face, then looked again at the picture. He turned it over and read the back.
“What?” Addison asked, observing him with one eye open.
“So, is this Jane a relative?” he asked.
“No,” Addison mumbled from her pillow. “At least, I don’t think so. She’s someone Aunt Peggy met years ago at the Holcomb Manor across town.”
“Who are the Holcombs?”
“You’ve lived here twenty years and you don’t know the richest people in town?”
Daniel shrugged. “There’s a Holcomb Hall at the college, so they probably give money. But no one named Holcomb has ever bought any of my art.”
“Well, Jonathan Holcomb can definitely afford it. He owns the plastics plant. And his daughter, Sara, owns most of North Ridgewood Plaza.”
Daniel stared again at the photograph. He held up the diary and asked, “Care if I read this?”
Addison mumbled an okay and snuggled closer to him. Daniel kissed her on the forehead, then opened the book and read. When he finished, he turned off the light and stared long at the darkness around him. He did not sleep.
At four o’clock, he took the diary to his attic studio and read it again. When he finished, he pondered the pages: their words, their accusations too insane to comprehend, all in a shaky but otherwise flowery handwriting that looked too familiar.
He left the diary on his drawing table and met Addison in the bedroom as the six o’clock alarm swept them in a rush that was Christmas Day.