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Old 02-28-2016, 11:50 PM   #111
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we drive by the inn and look for Suzanna's truck. If it isn't there either, then I bet they are all at Carrie's. Fair enough?" Joyce suggested, yawning.

"Now?" asked Pook.

"Right now. As soon as I get some clothes on."

Pook and Saav raced to the door and waited. Joyce dressed quickly, grabbed her purse and keys, and they got into her car. Their first stop was the shop. Pook and Saav bounded in through Bart's cat door, and the shop was empty. Bart and Belle weren't there, and Belle's box and their food bowls were gone.

"Not there," Pook said as she jumped back into the car, followed by Saav.

"Okay, then at least Suzanna picked them up and took them to Carrie. Next stop, Sunshine Inn."

They drove by slowly. No blue truck.

"Okay, Carrie's not alone," sighed Saav. "That helps."

"Can we stay home and wait online for them to IM?" asked Pook.

"Sure. Carrie always calls on my cell anyway," said Joyce. "We won't make a move until we hear from them, one way or another."

That seemed to make the girls feel at least a little better. After a long, anxious night, they fell asleep in front of their laptop, waiting for the sound of the computer chime to alert them to an incoming instant message.

Joyce tucked their afghans around them, and headed to the kitchen for tea. She let the dog outside to the fenced-in back yard, then took her cup and went out on her front porch to read the paper and wait for a call.

June was an especially bad time to separate with all the weddings going on. At times Carrie thought she would scream if she heard "looking for a wedding present" one more time. In her home, Carrie felt like a stranger, a lonely stranger. If it hadn't been for Suzanna and the cats and other friends, Carrie would have given up and crawled under a rock, never to come out.

One morning in early July, she pulled up in front of the shop, and something made her look up. She had just put the house up for sale; she didn't want to live in it any more, surrounded by all those memories. Not knowing where she would go when it was sold, she looked up at the second story of the building that held the restaurant and the shop. She and Ralph were the owners of that building, each owning half although Ralph's restaurant was almost twice the size of the shop.

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Old 02-28-2016, 11:53 PM   #112
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They'd been there for fourteen years, and at times they tossed around ideas for the second floor, but never did get around to doing anything to it. But now...

Her heart leaped. Bart and Belle looked up at her questioningly. Quickly, she opened the shop door and they went in.

She ran to the back room and up the steps to the unfinished second floor, which stretched from one end of the building to the other, empty except for dust. She paced back and forth, looking, squinting, checking the windows and the floor. It was sound enough.

Carrie raced back downstairs and grabbed a sheet of paper and a pencil. Bart and Belle jumped up on the counter and watched. She was drawing out a rough sketch of a floor plan.

"What's that?" asked Belle.

"An idea. How would you guys like to live above the shop if I built us an apartment up there?"

Bart twitched his whiskers and smiled. "I'd love that."

"Me too," said Belle. "I always liked it here."

Meows bounced into the shop from the rear cat door. "Good morning, Carrie, Belle, Bart. How are you all doing today?"

"Wonderful! Carrie's gonna build us a house upstairs we can all live in!" exclaimed Belle. Meows and Bart traded a rather proud-big-brother look. She loved life and everything it had to offer.

"Well, I need to know if Ralph would mind if I put in a little apartment over my part of the building. He owns half of it," said Carrie.

"He'll be in the restaurant in just a moment. I saw his car pull up in the alley when I came in," said Meows. "Suzanna will be by in a few minutes. A guest accidentally cracked a lamp globe in the library and she needs to order a replacement. You can talk to her about your apartment plan, too. She did a great job with Sunshine Inn."

"Yes, she really did," said Carrie.

Ralph poked his head in. "Good morning, cats! Morning, Carrie!"

Everyone greeted him, and Carrie asked, "Ralph, do you have a minute?"

"I have hours and hours for you, dear. What's up?" he smiled.

"Would it be okay to build a small apartment just over the shop area so I can live there? I put the house up for sale."

Ralph looked around, and frowned. "That's a good idea, but I have a better idea. Come with me."

Carrie and the cats followed Ralph upstairs, and he began pacing off an area. "You see, I have almost twice the room you have downstairs. To

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Old 02-28-2016, 11:57 PM   #113
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make it even, you should have the same-sized space up here that I have downstairs, which would leave room for a storage area for me. We both win. The space is divided evenly between us. You get a larger, more comfortable apartment, I get a storage space I really do need now that business has picked up so much," he explained.

Meows looked at Bart. "Now that is exactly what I call fair."

Bart and Belle nodded. "It is," Bart agreed.

Carrie looked surprised. The question of who had how much space had never occurred to her. "Are you sure about that?" she asked him.

"Of course! And it would make sense for you to build a place here. At least for now, in town, closer to your friends. Later on, if you get a house, a bigger apartment is a better rental investment than a smaller one, especially with the downtown location and alley parking right behind the police station. It would be a good start for you, a good investment later on, it raises the property value, and old dead space gets a function. What do you say?"

"Go for it!" shouted Belle from the doorway, completely taken by Ralph's idea.

Carrie and Ralph laughed.

"I think I'll do what she said. I think I'll go for it," she said, smiling.

"Then it's a deal? You build the apartment, I'll build the storage area?"

"Deal," she agreed, and they shook hands on it with the cats as witnesses.

"Well! Now! We finally settled on something for this floor after all these years," he boomed, as they headed back downstairs.

"That's going to be a big apartment, though," said Carrie.

"That's the whole idea," Ralph grinned at her. "I have a big restaurant."

"And a very nice one with excellent fare," added Meows.

"Thanks, buddy. I'm glad you think so," Ralph replied. "Well, I gotta go cook. Cats! breakfast is ready!"

They followed him to the kitchen, and Carrie turned and went into the shop.

Meows had been right. She had gotten through the curve, and the light was now in sight.

A week later, the din upstairs was unbearable. The cats couldn't stand it, and they stayed with Sunshine in the cottage behind the B&B instead of the shop. Carrie and her customers had to yell at each other to be heard, but no one complained. It was just as bothersome to Ralph's customers too, but people liked Carrie and were happy to see her move right into their midst.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:15 AM   #114
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Not only that, but in tiny towns like Stony River, news traveled fast and everyone knew Carrie's husband had left her and she hadn't been herself for weeks. But now she was bouncing back, becoming more like her usual happy self each day. Several asked to see the work going on and took a peek with Ralph or Carrie.

Towns like Stony River don't forget favors either. Many people remembered Carrie's two truckloads of furniture for Sunshine Inn when the front parlor was damaged so badly and Suzanna had barely been able to make ends meet at the time. Over the years, she had helped others, giving valuable things away to auctions to help handicapped children and other charities, and her unfailing help to Ralph every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. A family's home partially burned one year, and she provided two rooms of furniture and beautiful lamps and vases when they rebuilt. Some of the work on her new apartment was provided to Carrie for free or a much lower cost. The electrician installed heavy-duty copper wiring and charged her for the cheaper aluminum. Somewhere along the way he forgot to charge her for labor. Paint and lumber from Brennan's Hardware, for some reason, was missing from the bill she got. Somehow she got twice as many windows as she paid for. Half the town was laughing up their sleeves as they'd see her go argue with people about the bills, and they found it hard to keep a straight face when they told her the bill was correct, she must be tired, oh well, if it's a mistake, it's a mistake, who cares...and Carrie was totally confused.

"Nothing is adding up right," she told Suzanna one night over dinner at Suzanna's cottage.

Suzanna was in on the whole thing too. "Really? Are you sure?"

Carrie looked offended. "I've kept my own books for over fourteen years. I know mistakes when I see them. These bills are wrong."

"Well, if you're not being overcharged, I wouldn't worry about it if they refuse to do anything about it. Mistakes do happen, and people do like you, so maybe they really don't care if you didn't pay full price for something. How many times have you given huge discounts to people and given things away? Sometimes it just comes back," explained Suzanna.

"Not like this it doesn't. I've always paid my way."

"And you do. Sometimes life has other ideas, or it's karma, whatever. Don't worry about it. It's going to be a great apartment! The cats are going to love it," Suzanna said, trying to change the subject. Carrie was in for a real surprise in a couple weeks, and Suzanna was the orchestrator of that one. If Carrie didn't quit fussing about the bills, Suzanna was going to be unable to keep a straight face. She really didn't want to blow it, it was going too well. Carrie was totally befuzzled.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:21 AM   #115
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"Oh, yes they will. They're helping to decorate too. Don't ever give Belle free rein over decorating your place, Suzanna. It'll look like a really gaudy brothel."

Suzanna laughed. "I'll bet. She loves bright colors."

"I can't believe it will be ready to move into by September! They're days ahead of schedule."

Her friend nodded. "They're not building a house, so rain doesn't bother them. The little balconies in the front and back are really nice touches."

"Ralph likes it too. He's been such a wonderful help with this, and he's using his accounts to get me a really neat stove and refrigerator at a real discount," Carrie said. She sighed. "I can't help but think how great this little place is going to look. And you know why? Because it's mine. All mine."

Suzanna nodded. "That's what I love about the inn and all here. It's an incredible feeling."

"That it is," she agreed. She looked out the window at her Jeep in the driveway, and another thought struck.

"What's out there?" Suzanna asked, following her gaze.

"Something else that needs to be changed," said Carrie.

"The Jeep? What's wrong with it?"

"Kyle picked it out for me two years ago. I never wanted a Jeep. I wanted a Subaru station wagon. He said the Jeep was better, but I still like the Subaru better. That Jeep's kinda high off the ground and can be hard to get in and out of," said Carrie.

"Well, then trade the thing in on what you want. Whatever's practical for you. You don't want to get stuck with anything you don't want in your life ever again," smiled Suzanna. "You are creating your own world this time."

"Yeah, I guess I am, aren't I?"

Two weeks later, a truck pulled up to the back of the store, and the driver went to Carrie in the front.

"Are you Carrie Sullivan?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, coming around the counter. "May I help you?"

"Where do you want the Jacuzzi?"

"What Jacuzzi? I didn't order a Jacuzzi. I ordered just a regular bathtub."

"Hmm. Says here that order was cancelled and this replaces it, and shows you paid for the difference," he said, showing her the paperwork.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:36 AM   #116
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"That's not right," said Carrie. "I didn't pay for it. There has to be a mistake. Besides, a Jacuzzi won’t fit.”

"There isn't any mistake here, ma'am, see? And it’s the style that fits in a conventional tub space.”

"He's right. There is no mistake," said a chirpy voice behind them. Carrie whirled around and saw Ralph and Suzanna. "The paperwork's faked," laughed Suzanna.

The driver laughed. He was in on it too.

"What the -- ?" Carrie was really confused.

"There were three Jacuzzis ordered for the B&B," said Suzanna. "Four arrived. I thought, well, if I need a spare, I'll have one. I had the money for the extra one, so I paid for it. It's been sitting in my basement ever since, waiting for a home. Taa-daa!"

"Oh my God," breathed Carrie. "I can't take this, Suzanna, really, I --"

"Give me five hundred and fifty-four reasons why and I'll take it back," she teased.

"Oh YOU!" Carrie laughed.

Suzanna laughed. "Oh, by the way, your refund on the regular bathtub you ordered," she said, giving Carrie an envelope.

"How did you pull this off?" asked Carrie.

"It's a secret. Now answer the man's question," she smiled.

"Oh! Upstairs, um...in the bathroom. The big bathroom off the master bedroom," Carrie told him quickly.

"Okay," he grinned, and disappeared.

"I can't believe you. A Jacuzzi. That's going to make me late for work, you know. I won't want to get out of it," said Carrie, hugging her friend.

"That's the whole idea. Then when you're late opening the shop, I'll just run around town telling people why," Suzanna said.

"Meanie," laughed Carrie.

"Could be worse. She could have told you she'd run around town showing pictures of why you're late," said Ralph.

"Oh no!" Suzanna choked.

"Oh, Ralph! That's awful!" laughed Carrie.

"The stove and fridge should be here within the week," said Ralph.

"Wonderful! Boy, it's really getting close! I'll be able to move in upstairs by the end of August. That's only thirteen days away. I can't wait."

"Neither can we. We've been since July the fourth without an excuse to have a party," Suzanna said with a grin.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:47 AM   #117
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Moving day arrived, and Suzanna left the B&B in her staff's very capable hands to open Carrie's shop and help her move. Joyce came by to help as well, since it was a Saturday. The cats stayed with Meows and Sunshine in the cottage, and Justin stopped in for a short time to hook up the cable to her TV and DVD player, reassemble her stereo system, set her computer up, and to give her his own housewarming gifts: second-floor wireless and a porcelain tea set he ordered from a shop in Ireland. Carrie was delighted.

It was a lovely, light and airy place, with a skylight in the living room and master bedroom. French doors led from the dining room to the little balcony, and the kitchen had a sunny breakfast nook. Carrie's bedroom featured a big bay windowseat, which afforded the cats a terrific view of the street, and of the big B&B on the corner.

Throughout the apartment, the polished hardwood floors gleamed, with colorful throw rugs here and there. It looked a little like the B&B, as Suzanna's and Carrie's tastes were quite similar, but more modern and updated. Carrie liked softer colors, where Suzanna liked a lot of contrast.

Last to come were the cats. They tore in through the cat door that evening, just as the shop was closing and Joyce had a chance to go get them. Because of the noise, the cats hadn't seen the place yet, preferring to wait, and Belle learned all about anticipation.

Belle wasn't used to highly polished hardwood floors, and came in so quickly that she skidded and bumped into an end table. She swatted the table.

"Animal!" she hissed, waving her tail at it and stalking away. Carrie and Suzanna shared a silent giggle.

"Belle's home," Carrie said drily.

The apartment looked perfect, and everything was in its place, due to careful planning and efficiency. The cats explored thoroughly, and were delighted to find cat doors to the balconies, where they could watch the comings and goings below. The bay window would soon be a favorite, and in Carrie's computer room, there was a small writing table that held Bart and Belle's laptop in front of the big window from which they could see the street and the B&B. Meows complimented Carrie on her decorating abilities, Bart couldn't wait to curl up in the bay window, and Belle eyed the pretty writing table with the laptop on it with interest. She couldn't wait to sit there and watch the world open up to her on the screen while her own little world went on below her within sight. Pook and Saav had never seen an apartment before.

"Where's the yard?" asked Saav.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:50 AM   #118
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"It's an apartment, built into a business area, and it's an upstairs apartment, so there really aren't yards, per se, in areas like this," said Meows.

"But the B&B has a big yard," Pook said.

"True, but it's different. B&Bs usually do have yards," Meows smiled. "Especially if you allow dogs there."

Suzanna brought out a champagne bottle, and Ralph brought up the cats' plates. He always saved some in a take-out box for Sunshine, too, who had a guest to keep company that day. Joyce headed home to catch up on cleaning her own home, promising to be there tomorrow for the house-warming. Pook and Saav congratulated Carrie and left with her. Soon Suzanna and Carrie sat at the table with two glasses and the bottle. Suzanna poured two glasses.

"To a new beginning," she said, raising her glass.

"It's about time," smiled Carrie.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:52 AM   #119
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End of Chapter Seven.

I do like this next part! Ha!

With love,
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:54 AM   #120
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Originally Posted by Dawgluver View Post
Thank you Cat and Joyce! Lovely book!
Thank you for reading this! There is very, very much more to come!

With love,

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