Home > Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2)(4)

Any Day Now (Sullivan's Crossing #2)(4)
Author: Robyn Carr

“Rumpus room?” she asked.

“Our old apartment,” Cal said. “It’s in the basement. The pipes clang sometimes but it’s comfortable. And no roommates.”

They visited for almost two hours when Sierra noticed that Sully was getting a little fidgety. Very likely he wasn’t used to sitting around, swilling coffee and yakking. “I think it’s about time I got Cal back to the barn and to work or Maggie will never get her house. And, Sully, give me a couple of days to figure out my schedule and the town and I’ll come around to lend a hand.”

“I’m capable if you have better things to do,” he said, standing up from the table and giving his jeans a yank up into place.

Out of habit, Sierra picked up cups and napkins along with Maggie, carting them back to the kitchen. She stopped to look around a little bit, intrigued by the supplies that ranged from food to ropes to tools. There was even a bookshelf full of secondhand books.

“This place is a popular stop off for campers and hikers,” Maggie said. “Through-hikers who have taken on the Continental Divide Trail count on this place to restock and rest for a day or two. There’s even a post office—they can pick up mail here.”

“Are there a lot of them?” Sierra asked.

“All summer,” Maggie said. “They’re amazing. It’s quite a conquest, the CDT.”

“Is it a long trail?”

“It’s 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada.”

Sierra gasped. “Are you kidding me?”

Maggie shook her head. “It’s a pretty interesting group that passes through here in summer—everyone from hikers and rock climbers to families camping for vacation. There are quite a few RVs and fifth wheels here from spring through fall—lots of people enjoying the wildflowers and then later, the autumn foliage. It’s a beautiful place.”

“You’re so lucky to have grown up here,” Sierra said.

“I didn’t grow up here. My parents divorced when I was only six. I didn’t see my dad for years, then only as a visitor. I lived for some time here. I’ve always loved this place. And now, I’m going to raise a family here.” She absently ran a hand over her stomach.

“Pretty soon, too,” Sierra observed. “I hope you get the barn remodeled in time.”

“Hopefully before the first snowfall on both. I’m going to have to make sure Cal gets a plow...”

* * *

Sierra went back to Timberlake and continued her exploration of the town. The hostel was right next door to The Little Colorado Bookstore and, like everyone in the Jones family, she felt the promise of books pulling her in. Books had always been their salvation, their only means of learning while they traveled, the only real entertainment they had.

This store was tiny and packed to the rafters, specializing in books about Colorado—livestock and ranching, wildlife, history, mining, plants, crops, insects, anything and everything Colorado and its history, including lots of maps. They also carried fiction pertinent to the state. She learned that it wasn’t a busy store, but the customers were steady. The owners were the Gibsons—Ernie and Bertrice, a couple in their fifties. They were more than eager to tell her all about the store, founded by Ernie’s father a long while back. They liked to work the weekends when tourists were around because they were experts on both the state and the merchandise.

They also did a big mail-order business—people contacted them from all over the world to find specialty books and other collectible volumes, valuable maps and papers that the owners had curated over the years.

The store had four leather armchairs spaced around the stacks where people would sit to page through special books and there was a long table in the back of the store where patrons could look at maps or loose papers. She noticed a man tucked back in a corner with a big book of maps balanced on his lap. He must have been in his fifties or maybe older, but he had a familiar look about him. His hair was sparse on top but he had a ponytail. He wore a T-shirt with a peace symbol on it, the popular local fashion of khaki shorts, hiking boots with white socks and a pair of glasses balanced on his nose. With a start she realized he looked a little like her father, at least in style—he had that aging hippie aura about him.

Growing up with Jed had been filled with challenges, but Sierra loved him deeply. He was like a lost boy at times and while he could go off on manic delusions for days on end—complex theatrics in which he was the star physicist or inspired prophet—she had always found him amazing. She was a teenager before she understood that inside his mind must be a maze of confusion. But Jed had always been a gentle man. They were all so lucky that way. He was nonviolent and, if you ignored the fact that his behavior was crazy as a loon, highly functional. And he was sweet to Sierra. She was the baby of the family and Jed and Cal both doted on her. It was kind of magical in a way. Jed was nuts and Cal was like the white knight, always making sense out of chaos.

The man in the chair looked up at her. Grumpy. So Sierra did what she did best—she smiled at him. He smirked but she knew she had melted him a little bit. Since she was a little girl she’d known how to charm her way out of a bad situation.

She walked around town a little bit, stopping in at the diner for a midafternoon ice cream. She chatted with the waitress Lola, a fortyish woman with two kids. Lola had been working in that diner for years—when she was married with small children, when she was divorced and a single mother, now still single, working two jobs and trying to finish her education by going to school part-time. Lola gave Sierra the gossip on the diner—what the boss was like, which fry cooks were dependable, who on the kitchen crew would back her up. She also told her where to buy the khaki shorts and white golf shirts that would be her uniform at the diner.

Sierra wandered the town after that, dropping in at the drugstore, checking out the small grocery. She noted two law offices, a small storefront clinic, a hair salon and barbershop. There was a furniture store—custom designs. There were three small art galleries, one liquor store, one jewelry store, a bank, a consignment shop that tied up some time as she browsed, two churches and the fire department. The guys were washing down one of the rigs in the drive—nice eye candy. The police department was just across the street from the fire department.

The next day she drove to Leadville to buy her uniform and spent the day looking around that town. She found a bigger bookstore and a great little grill that served wonderful burgers. She then drove out to the barn to check in with Cal who was up to his eyebrows in what appeared to be crown molding. There was a lot of hammering and sawing going on upstairs and Cal was painting the molding. She told him all about Timberlake and Leadville as if he didn’t know for himself. Maggie came back from Sully’s, dirty from gardening, and informed Sierra she would be joining them for dinner, then went off to shower and change.

The next few hours proceeded like a beautifully choreographed dance. Sierra ran the Shop-Vac around while Cal cleaned up his paintbrushes and folded up the tarps. Tom and his son came downstairs covered with sawdust and Sierra laughingly vacuumed them off. Tom and Cal had a beer, and some corn chips and salsa were put out. Sierra had a Diet Coke with Jackson while Maggie, refreshed, fixed herself orange juice. Cal began to putter in the kitchen getting chicken ready to put on the grill. Tom and Jackson left and the three of them were like a small, cordial family. Maggie told Sierra to be sure to check on Cal while she was in Denver working. The dinner of chicken and vegetables, casually thrown together, was delicious and nutritious. Then the dishes were cleaned up. It was like the fantasies Sierra had. Fantasies of a family, of feeling normal, of belonging.

She watched as Cal was kissing Maggie’s neck and rubbing her belly. Then she remembered it wasn’t really hers. It was their life and she was a guest.

Sierra borrowed trouble and darkness. It was a bad habit. A dirty little secret she kept. Deep inside you’re very lonely and unhappy, her inner voice reminded her.

“I have to get going,” she said. “Thanks for dinner and everything.”

“Don’t run off,” Maggie said.

“Don’t you have to get up early and head for Denver?” Sierra asked.

“Not that early,” she said.

“Get some sleep,” Sierra said. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

As she drove back to Timberlake she asked herself, Can I make this work? Must I always feel like some weird outsider? She knew that Cal and Maggie weren’t doing that to her.

When she got back to town, still early in the evening, there seemed to be a lot of activity in the hostel. Sure enough, a group of young girls had come in and they were loud. There was lots of laughing, shouting, talking at the top of their voices. She got to her room and saw a duffel on the second bed in her room, but the rambunctious girls were just a room or two away. Well, Sierra wasn’t going to undress for bed in that case. Most of her belongings were in her car and she had only her backpack with her. She’d go back to her car in the morning for fresh clothing and shower and change then. This was the downside of staying in a hostel—it was a busy young people’s kind of place and one traded privacy for cheap housing.

She sat on her bed and dug around in her backpack for something to read. Out in the car she had several books on recovery that were nearly memorized by now. She didn’t feel like that tonight. She pulled out her copy of Pride and Prejudice. It was battered all to hell. Sierra carried three novels—Pride and Prejudice, Forever Amber and Gone with the Wind. That pretty much established her as a tragic but hopeful romantic. It had been hard to leave Wuthering Heights behind and that was telling. No happy endings for Sierra. Not yet.

The noise escalated and Sierra hoped someone would complain. Mrs. Singleton didn’t stay the night in the hostel—she had her own small house in town. The young man who was left in charge for the night was pretty social; he might not mind the noise. Or the girls. When Sierra had checked in there were no single rooms and Mrs. Singleton said that chances were good no one would need a bed in a double and if anyone did, it would most certainly only be let to a woman.

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