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A Hoe Lot of Trouble
By Heather Webber
Wheeler PublishingCopyright © 2004 Heather Webber
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThou shall not stuff pictures of thy husband down the garbage disposal.
I made a mental note to add this to my list of personal commandments. I'd put it right after "Thou shalt not eat more than two pints of ice cream in one night" and just before "Thou shalt never wear the correct size jeans." Priorities and all.
I opened the cabinet under the sink and stared at the root of my problem. My newest commandment wasn't a result of sudden regret at the loss of the photos. Instead it came from the fact that by stuffing pictures of the two-timing weasel down the disposal I had caused the sink to clog.
Little Kodak bits of my husband's head floated around the sink's stainless steel basin. I found an odd sense of peace seeing Kevin Quinn drowning -- even one-dimensionally -- but I couldn't risk Riley seeing the pieces. I fished them out and shoved them in the trash can.
I stared at the stack of prints I'd yet to destroy and picked up the top one. It had been taken soon after I met Kevin. I'd been twenty-one and fresh out of college when Officer Kevin Quinn pulled me over for speeding. Being somewhat desperate -- since I'd already gotten two tickets in the previous six months -- I faked being sick. I still remember with startling clarity the mad dash I'd madetoward the tree line, where I'd given a fair imitation of that Exorcist girl -- without the head spinning, of course.
Officer Kevin let me off, but later that night showed up at the off-campus apartment I'd shared with my cousin Ana with a pot of chicken soup.
Looking back, I should've taken the ticket.
We looked so disgustingly happy in the picture I was holding.
Kevin, the weasel, hadn't changed much in the last eight years, at least physically. He was still one sexy piece o' man. Six foot, three inches. Short, jet-black wavy hair. Clear green eyes. And a smile that made my knees go all spongy.
He'd been eight years older than me, a widower with a seven-year-old son and a boatload of baggage, but when he looked at me with those vivid green bedroom eyes, smiled that mischievous smile -- I'd never had a prayer of escaping, heart intact.
Okay, I admit it. I hadn't wanted to -- until recently.
I looked down at my younger, naive self. My mother liked to think all her kids looked like movie stars. According to Mom, my younger sister Maria was the spitting image of Grace Kelly. My older brother Peter? George Clooney. And amazingly, there was some resemblance in a slightly out-of-focus way.
Mom, however, never specified who I looked like -- she just kept telling me I had a face for the movies. Which left me wondering if I had more in common with that Exorcist girl than just that incident with Kevin.
But I didn't think so. Or at least I hoped not.
Unlike my sister, I'd never be movie-star gorgeous. She was French baguette where I leaned toward ... pumpernickel. But I'd never minded. My heart-shaped face had its own unique charm I've grown fond of during our twentynine years of cohabitation.
As I looked at the picture, I realized I hadn't changed much since I met Kevin either. My shoulder-length brown hair was still styled in that same nondescript bob. My lips were still too full, my smile too wide. Though they could pass for brown most of the time, my eyes remained a dark muddy green, but nowadays they had tiny lines creasing their corners.
Kevin had said I was beautiful.
And I'd believed him.
Until two days ago.
Sighing, I split the photo in two. Tucking my half into my robe pocket, I dunked Kevin's half into the full sink, enjoying it almost as much as I would dipping a Krispy Kreme into hot chocolate. As I tried to figure out what to do about the sink full of water, the phone rang.
I checked the clock. It was early.
"Hello?" I said with an edge to my voice that was sure to frighten any telemarketers.
Didn't sound like a telemarketer, and although the female voice sounded oddly familiar, I couldn't place it.
"Yes." My tone still warned that I was in no mood to buy a time-share in Costa Rica.
"It's Bridget," she said. "Tim and I got your message and your card. Thank you."
My mouth dropped open. I'd called and left a message on her machine the other day, but I hadn't expected her to call me back. Not for a while, at any rate. Not with all she had going on.
I wrapped the phone cord around my finger. "I was so sorry to hear about Joe."
Bridget's father-in-law, Joe Sandowski -- "Farmer Joe," as I used to affectionately call him -- was found dead in one of his cornfields early last week. Ordinarily the death of a man as old as Joe wouldn't raise a plucked eyebrow, but apparently, according to the local paper, there had been something (which was never specified, and left inquiring minds wanting to know) found at the scene that indicated his death had been anything but natural.
"Thanks," Bridget said. "We're sorry too."
An irrepressible sadness tightened my throat. Although I hadn't seen Joe Sandowski in years, he'd played a pivotal role in my life. His love for the outdoors had rubbed off on me to the point where I'd gone to college for landscape design.
Soon after graduating I had opened my own run-of-the-mill landscaping business, which, through a quirky twist of fate, two years ago had morphed into what it was now: Taken by Surprise, Garden Designs. TBS was one of a kind in this area of Ohio, in the country really. We specialized in surprise garden makeovers ...
Excerpted from A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber Copyright © 2004 by Heather Webber. Excerpted by permission.
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