“Mary’s still asleep?” Tina asked of Sean, who had just entered the kitchen.
“She had a rough night. She was up for a while, I don’t know how late it was when she came back to bed,” said Sean, “She’s sleeping now, I didn’t want to wake her.”
“We’re just about out of groceries, would you be a dear and run into town for me?” Tina said, “I've got a list.”
“No prob,” Sean said, “is ice cream on it?”
“Get what you like dear, enough to last us through the week. You have any idea how long you’ll be staying?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s up to Mary I guess. She has to talk to her lawyers this afternoon, something may have come up but I hope not, not before Thursday at the least,” Sean said as he picked up the shopping list, “Is Fareway still the best store in town?”
“It’s the only real store unless you wanted to drive all the way to Prairie Du Chien.”
Sally O'Donnell closed her suitcase. She had spent the previous night in a flurry of activity, copying files and emails from Roger Ramsen’s computer, visiting the hospital where Roger was in intensive care, talking with Roger’s daughter Nora Clarkson (the wife of Senator Clarkson) and making arrangements to fly back to Seattle, where she had a condo. The prognosis on Roger was grim; if he did recover at all he would be significantly impaired. Sally knew that Nora would consolidate her control over Roger’s estate. The two women had never been close and since the disaster of ‘Billygate,’ Sally had felt a profound chilliness from Nora. As Roger’s mistress, Sally doubted she would be in line for anything, after she found Roger’s will on his computer, she knew it. The USB drive that she had filled with Roger’s files was her only insurance against getting blamed for any of Roger’s misdeeds—his criminal activities which Nora would be only to happy to pin on her. Sally was a partner in a company operating on the west coast giving self-help seminars to failing real-estate agents. It wasn’t a complete scam, and the seminars had done very well after each housing bubble burst. Sally thought her role in them was to be a cheerleader for the losing team.
Tina was making coffee.
“Is Sean around?” asked Mary.
“He’s in town picking up some things,” Tina said, “Are you hungry? Can I make you some eggs? I don’t have any bacon or bread. Or would you rather have cereal? He told me that you had a bad night.”
“I’ll take some eggs, and the cereal,” Mary said. “I was up reading some of those letters to Emily that we found yesterday. Tina, do you know who ‘John’ was? He evidently wrote the letters, but the return addresses had been torn off of all the envelopes.”
“He was probably one of her sugar daddies,” said Tina, “Emily was discreet. It could have been anyone with the money to support her in style. I took a look at those dresses you unearthed. I doubt she could afford that kind of wardrobe with money she earned from her paintings.”
“Tina, about Emily… ” Mary said, quietly, “Emily came to me last night. It was as if she was in me, somehow. I heard her voice.”
“I know what that is like. Let her help you, but don’t let her take over. She’s only as powerful as you allow her to be.”
Mary ate her shredded wheat in silence as Tina scrambled four eggs. When they were done, Tina placed the plate in front of Mary and said: “Take it all, you’re eating for two now.”
“More like eating for three,” said Mary, “What do you think Emily wants with me? What is the purpose of all the revelations I’ve been experiencing?”
“What is the purpose of any revelation?” Tina said. “What good has any prophecy done? We’re all still down here on the ground, crawling around as if we were ants on a rock. Overall, nothing ever changes much. Changes? Indoor plumbing, now that was a change for the better.”
“When she’s with me… and even before that, ever since I became pregnant, in fact, I’ve felt that I am on the verge of a greater understanding, a new awareness, something that could change the world.”
“Be careful, Mary. I’m not saying that to discourage you, I just don’t want you to end up the way Jesus did. Or the way Emily’s grandmother did.”
“Well, I’m not the son of God. I’m not even a blessed virgin, so at least that part of the story will be different. I’ll be careful, but I won’t be timid.”
“Be true to your nature,” said Tina.
Sean approached the supermarket checkout line with a full cart. The tabloid magazine cover stories were all about media stars—television, movies, music. The iceberg lettuce of culture, he thought, to be grazed upon and forgotten with no nutritional value. Still, it was hard to ignore. Sean’s own taste of fame had been exceedingly bitter: arugula, he thought. He could understand why many celebrities eventually became hermits.
“Hi Sean,” said the cashier, “Do you remember me? Suzie Johnson? I heard that you were in town.”
“Ah, oh yeah, Hi, Suzie. It’s been a long time. How on earth did you recognize me?”
“I followed that story about you, when you were in Iceland, you and your half-brother. Who’s that woman who’s here with you? I mean, I’m not trying to be nosy, but… you know, people talk, and you’re probably the most famous person from Decorah.”
“Mary is my fiancee,” said Sean.
“Oh,” There was a long pause in the conversation as Suzie finished scanning his groceries. “What brings you back to Iowa?”
“We’re in town to help Tina sort through my mother’s things. She’s selling the farm and moving into town. Last winter was pretty hard on her. How about you? What are you doing these days?”
“I’m married, with a seven-year-old,” said Suzie, “She’s great. Life is pretty good, I guess, no international adventures. Just a regular life. I never got out of Decorah.”
“It’s good to hear that you’re doing okay. Nothing wrong with having a regular life.”
“Forgive me for asking, but when are you getting married?” Suzie asked.
“Any day now… maybe Thursday.”
As Sean put the groceries in the car he thought about the way his life had played out so far, how different his path had been from Suzie’s. The play-acted ‘wedding’ which he and Suzie had performed when they were children had been silly, but was, in its own way, perfect. It was a moment of happiness; the moment that everyone is searching for. And no matter how long the happiness received from it lasts, it remains but a moment in time.