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Old 02-28-2016, 11:22 PM   #101
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"It was for my own information. I didn't think I needed to bore or upset you by bringing up those peoples' opinions. You already knew they were wrong, and there was never any need to revisit a useless argument. Besides, we had nicer things to talk about. Still do," he smiled. "Real things in our life. Sunshine and Sunshine Inn. Our cat and human friends, whose opinions we really do value and cherish. Our plans. What we want for dinner. Important things."

She smiled. "You are the best friend anyone could ever have."

"So are you. You take good care of me, too. You kept my secret for three years, til that day at the shop, keeping me safe. I think we make a good team." He looked over at the beautiful pile of chocolate-and-cream silky fur still sound asleep. "With a most impressive sidekick."

She smiled and petted him. "I think you're right. As usual."

Summer was on the way in the sunny days of June, and the big B&B bustled with guests in and out. The flowers and azaleas in the beds in front of the stores downtown were in bloom, splashing colors up and down the streets. Suzanna's insurance had come through, and again, there were changes to the Friendship Parlor. She had printed out flyers announcing the change and distributed them to as many people as she could, and the stores were passing them out to customers. And again, they all came to see it.

Today was the third of the seven days of the open house, and she was exhausted but jubilant. This room looked even better than it did before, so many folks had told her. That pleased her to no end.

Sunshine the B&B cat was wildly popular. He hardly ever spent the night at the cottage now, and guests who had him in their room sometimes asked to buy him. Suzanna had decided not to charge extra for him in the room, but did ask that the guest leave a tip for the folks who took care of his box and fed him. The tip jar was often overflowing, and the staff enjoyed the extra money.

Sullivan's Antiques and Gifts was booming too; with the success of the B&B parlor, it seemed to revive an interest in antiques and Carrie was busier than ever. Sunshine Inn was attracting a lot of attention out of their county, and more and more tourists were discovering the B&B in the charming little mountain town, and they were discovering the stores as well. Since the B&B opened, Carrie's business was up by 30% and still going. Lowery's Porch was closing an hour later now to accommodate the out-of-towners, and Ralph was delighted. Many people were doing better because of Sunshine Inn, and they never failed to tell Suzanna of the increase in business they had.

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Old 02-28-2016, 11:23 PM   #102
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One of the oddest of these was the lumberyard. The owner, Padraig Brennan, an Irish immigrant from Galway, stopped by to tell her he appreciated her restoring the old place back to its former beauty.

"Really?" asked Suzanna, puzzled. Maybe he just liked looking at it, she thought.

"Yep. Got a lot of these do-it-yourselfers around here who decided they needed sunrooms or wraparound porches after seeing what you did. They're adding dormers and all kinds of things. Great for the lumber and hardware business," he smiled.

She hadn't thought of that. "Oh, my...that's great! I'm glad," she replied, delighted.

He had shaken her hand and left, and she stared after him, amazed. Maybe this was good for the town, she thought. No one's complained yet. She hoped no one would.

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Old 02-28-2016, 11:25 PM   #103
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End of Chapter Six.

More to come!

The next chapter made me cry and then feel so very good!

With love,
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:27 PM   #104
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Thank you Cat and Joyce! Lovely book!
She who dies with the most toys, wins.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:28 PM   #105
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Chapter 7 – The Curve in the Tunnel

The phone rang at one o’clock on a Saturday morning, jolting Suzanna awake and startling Meows on the laptop. She grabbed it.

"Hello? Carrie? What...I'll be right over." She hung up and flung herself out of bed. Sunshine was spending the night with a guest, and Meows jumped after her as she began to dress in a hurry.

"What's wrong with Carrie?" asked Meows, worried.

Ignoring the question, she asked, "What time does the Bear's Den close?"

That was the closest local bar. "In about an hour," he said. "What's wrong with Carrie?"

"Kyle just left her. We're going over there," she said, pulling on a shirt.

Meows frowned. "Poor Carrie. Why did you ask about the bar?"

"Because that's the only place I can think of that might sell me a little brandy, Carrie is horribly upset. He took the dogs."

"Mind if I tell the others? I was on Messenger with them."

"Make it fast. We're out of here as soon as I get dressed," Suzanna replied.

He nodded, and went to the laptop and pawed away furiously. Suzanna didn't want to know what invectives he was using, because it was obvious he wasn't happy. He had the computer off just as she grabbed her purse and keys.

"Let's go," she said, and he jumped to her shoulder. She strode quickly out to the truck, and he hopped into the passenger seat. Backing out a little too fast, her tires squawked in protest on the asphalt driveway. Meows's eyes widened, but he didn't say a word. They drove to the bar, and Suzanna went in while he waited. She returned a few minutes later with a small bag.

"I probably broke several laws doing that," she said, backing up again and turning out onto the street. "But the bartender knows me. All he asked is that I wouldn't drive if I drank."

Meows laughed. "Fat chance of that happening. You won't even get near a car when you've had a drink."

"True. But this is for Carrie. She's upset."

"Why did he leave her?"

"I don't know yet. I can't imagine why he would. I never knew of any problems between them."

"Are you sure the dogs are gone?" he asked nervously.

"Yes, unfortunately. Damn these stoplights!" she cursed, slowing down for another one. "That's why you're coming this time. I may go back and get Bart and Belle and their stuff. I don't know. C'mon, light!"

The light turned green, and she took off through the empty streets. Once out of town, she turned onto a narrow road that wound its way steeply
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:32 PM   #106
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up a mountain, then into a driveway. Gravel was flying behind the truck as she willed the vehicle to go faster. They pulled up in front of a huge 2-story log cabin, and piled out. Suzanna grabbed the bag and Meows.

"Remember, she doesn't have a litterbox. You'll have to let us know when you need to step outside."

"Okay," said Meows from her left shoulder.

Without knocking, Suzanna yanked the front door open and blew in.

"Carrie!" she called from the foyer.

"Up here," came the sobbing reply. Suzanna flew up the stairs in the direction of a lighted room and went in.

Carrie was sitting on the bed, a box of tissues next to her. Suzanna didn't say anything. She put Meows and the bag down and sat next to Carrie and put her hand on her shoulder.

"I'm here for you," she said simply.

Carrie sobbed, and couldn't say much for a while. Then the whole story came out.

Kyle was supposed to have spent the weekend at home with her. Instead, he stayed for a few short hours, telling Carrie he was leaving, and telling her she could have the house, half their savings and investments, the shop, her Jeep, and he would provide alimony for her.

"He was so matter-of-fact, like we were discussing the weather, not the end of eighteen years of marriage!" cried Carrie. "And he said he was keeping the dogs. I was so numb by then I guess I agreed, hell, I don't know. Then he left."

She began to cry again, and Suzanna looked at Meows. He was seething with rage as his snapping green eyes met hers. Kyle must be a real piece of work to do this to Carrie.

"Honey, did he say why he was leaving?" asked Suzanna.

Carrie shook her head. "Not a word. No reason, no nothing. Just that he was leaving, and said he would be back this week to get his personal things. He'd call and let me know when. That was it. Eighteen years -- poof! I can't believe it. I never knew he was even unhappy. We didn't fight or anything, we never have. I thought we had a good marriage, even if he was gone a lot."

"Oh, no. I'm so sorry, Carrie. Here, wait a minute."

Suzanna turned and gently touched Meows. "Meows, keep her company while I fix us a drink," she said.

Meows promptly crawled into Carrie's arms and licked a tear on her cheek. Suzanna got up and took the bag downstairs with her.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:36 PM   #107
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"Carrie, can you get your dogs back? I know how much you love them."

She shook her head. "No. They were actually his dogs until he started being away so much, and I guess they rightfully belong to him. I know he loves them, and he will take very good care of them."

"Then I guess it's time Bart and Belle moved in here," he suggested with a smile.

Carrie hugged him. "Yes. At least I have them, and you and Suzanna and the others."

He looked up at her with sympathy. "It's not the same, though. But we all love you."

Suzanna ascended the stairs and heard what he said.

"He's right, Carrie, we do love you," she agreed, handing Carrie a small glass of brandy.

"Um, don't drink that yet, Suzanna," Meows said. "You have an errand to run."

She and Carrie looked at him quizzically, then Suzanna realized what he was talking about.

"Oh! I'll go get Bart and Belle and their food and box and what they'll need for tonight," she said.

Meows nodded at Suzanna. "And I'll stay here with Carrie and take care of her til you get here with them."

"Suzanna..." began Carrie. "Could you...would you and Meows be able to stay tonight too? I don't want to be alone."

"Absolutely. I'll swing by the cottage first and grab some overnite stuff, then go get the cats. We can stay as long as you need us."

"Thank you," said Carrie with a sob.

Suzanna leaned over and planted a sisterly kiss on the top of Carrie's head and set her drink down on the nightstand. "Meows, make sure she finishes her drink. When she's done, give her this one too. Be back in a bit."

"Okay," replied Meows, patting Carrie's knee with a gentle paw. "I will."

Suzanna yanked up her purse and sped downstairs and out the door. A second later, they heard the truck start, and then roll out of the driveway, going a little bit more slowly this time.

"What a friend," said Carrie.

"The feeling is mutual, believe me," smiled Meows.

Carrie was quiet for a moment, sipping her drink. "I don't know what I'm going to do now."
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:39 PM   #108
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The cat felt badly for her. "Of course you don't. This is a terrible shock to you right now, and your emotions and nerves are overloaded. Don't worry about it yet. Just take it one day at a time, and the answer will come."

"Tell me something. Was Suzanna as bad as me when her husband left her?"

"Absolutely. Probably even worse. You get to keep your shop; she was forced to sell out of the law firm and start over. But she did it, and she did a good job of it. You will too. You just don't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet because this tunnel has a sharp curve in it. When you get through the curve, you'll see the light," he assured her.

Carrie looked at him. "What's the curve?"

"Coming to terms with the circumstances and dealing with it head-on. That will take a while, after the shock and numbness and anger and grief wears off a little and you realize you're still alive and loved and a human being worth something. You'll get there, and then you'll know what to do."

"You are a very wise cat. I'll remember that," she said, a little smile coming for the first time.

"Nah, I just read a lot," he said, and winked at her. "Now be a good girl and take another sip or two of that vile stuff in the glass."

That almost made her laugh. "Okay, Meows."

Suzanna arrived back at Carrie's house in record time with Bart and Belle. They rushed up the steps to where Suzanna pointed, and piled on the bed. Carrie gathered them in her arms.

"You okay, Carrie? Here we are," said Bart.

Belle sniffed Carrie's tear-streaked cheek. "Oh, no, you've been crying."

Bart bristled. "Did he hit you, Carrie? I'll shred him."

"No, no, he didn't. I'm just sad, not physically hurt," Carrie replied.

Suzanna appeared in the doorway. "Have you eaten anything yet?"

"No, and I don't want to yet. But I'm starting on your drink now, which seems to help."

Suzanna laughed. "Okay, give me your empty glass and I'll make myself one. Where do you want their box and bowls?"

"In the utility room next to the kitchen. That will do for now. I don't want to think."

"Gotcha." Suzanna winked, and headed downstairs. Belle looked around at the beautiful room with its warm log walls and rich colors.

"Wow, you have a pretty house," said Belle. "It's so different from what you have in the shop."
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:43 PM   #109
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"I didn't pick out the house or do the decorating," said Carrie. "Otherwise it would be quite different."

"You can always change it," suggested Meows. Bart nodded, as Suzanna had brought them up to speed on the way there.

"I guess so," she replied.

Belle kneaded the soft comforter, careful to keep her claws in. "This is nice and soft."

Bart looked around. "This is the first time we've been here."

"Me too," said Meows. "It is a lovely home, even if it is different from the shop."

"Can we sleep on your bed with you tonight?" asked Belle.

"Oh yes. Tonight and every night. If Suzanna brought your beds we'll take them back to the shop tomorrow, since there are four beds to choose from here."

Belle's eyes widened. "Wow, that's neat! But I like this one. It's yours."

"And yours too," Carrie said, tickling the kitten's whiskers.

Suzanna came in with her drink. "The bowls and box are in, and so are the plates Ralph left. I brought those so they'd have their treats. Now where do you want me?"

"Right now? In here with us. Later on, pick one."

She smiled, and perched on the other side of the bed. "All right."

Pook and Saav waited by the computer, but Meows, Bart and Belle never came back.

"I guess Suzanna picked them up too, on the way," Pook guessed.

Saav sighed. "Think we need to wake Mom up?"

"I don't know what she can do. It's almost four in the morning, and she’ll be up in a couple hours. We can tell her then, and maybe she can call Carrie later or go by the shop and see what's happening."

"This is awful. Poor Carrie. I wonder why he left."

Pook shook her head. "I don't know, Saav. I guess we'll find out later."

"Well, at least Carrie's not alone. That jerk took her dogs!" Saav grumbled.

"Look at it this way: she still has Bart and Belle. She might move them from the shop to her house, and bring them in every day to the shop," said Pook.

"If she gets to keep the shop," Saav muttered unhappily.
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Old 02-28-2016, 11:46 PM   #110
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"He's got his own business, and makes lots more than Carrie. He'll let her keep it. They'll probably split their stuff down the middle and leave it at that."

"Yeah, I hope, but we've heard some pretty awful stories about separations and divorces. You can't help but worry when it's happening to your friend," Saav sighed.

"I know. I'm just trying to put a more positive spin on it, though. We really don't have any facts right now, except he left and took the dogs, Suzanna and Meows are there, and she probably picked up Bart and Belle, since the dogs are gone. But we really don't even know that for sure; it just looks that way because none of them are online."

Saav pawed at the keyboard. "I'm going to email them and tell them to email us as soon as they can. We don't know where we're going today, since it's Saturday. I'm worried."

"Me too," Pook agreed with a sigh. "This is no fun."

Joyce got up around 6:30 and walked out to the kitchen to put the water on for tea. Pook and Saav bolted from their vigil by their laptop and ran to her.

"Mom! Kyle left Carrie last night," cried Pook.

"Yeah and he took her dogs!" exclaimed Saav. "Come read this last IM from Meows!"


"Come see," said Saav.

"Okay," she said, following Pook and Saav to the livingroom, where the girls' laptop was set up for them on the coffeetable. Saav pulled it up, and Joyce read it.

"Oh my God," she sighed. She glanced at the clock. "Carrie's probably had a long night, and it seems to me Suzanna would probably have stayed with her. I think as soon as they're up, one of them, probably Suzanna will call us, since they know you girls know just the beginning. Somebody will let us know how Carrie's doing."

"I hate not knowing!" Saav fussed.

"I do too, Saav. But I'm sure she's okay. Like the IM said, we know Suzanna and Meows went to her last night, and I think if Meows had returned home, he would have IM'ed you. He didn't, so my best guess is that they stayed, and Bart and Belle may be there too. Suzanna's not the type to bug out on someone when they're down."

Saav still looked disgruntled.

"Okay. How about I drive you to the shop right now. You girls can buzz in through the cat door and see if Bart and Belle are there. If not, then

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