This is the second installment in a series, so if you have not already done so, you might want to read Part I before continuing.
“So, tell me all the local gossip,” Danielle said as she blew over the top of her steaming cup of tea until she made small ripples on the surface of the hot liquid. “Anyone I should avoid? Certain people I shouldn’t invite over with certain other people?”
“No, nothing like that,” Gloria said, putting a plate of cookies on the table. “There’s nothing as exciting as all that around here. It’s pretty quiet for the most part. My husband, Otto, runs the neighborhood watch but, frankly, I think they’re the only ones making any trouble around here. I’m convinced they just use it as an excuse to get out of the house. They probably walk around the block once and then head out to the bar.”
“What about the girls? Do you have any get togethers without the guys around?”
“I host a Christmas party every year to which I invite all the women in the neighborhood, and only the women. We get together and drink and complain about our husbands and celebrate getting through the holidays.”
“That sounds lovely.”
“It is.” Gloria looked down and blushed, but her smile was pleased. “I’ll be sure you get an invitation when it gets to be that time of year.”
“I look forward to it. Anything else, or are we only allowed to enjoy ourselves once a year?”
“There’s also a book club that meets once a month. Harriet runs it. She and her husband live right next to you on your southern side.”
Danielle glanced out the window to confirm the house as she said, “I’m not really much of a reader.”
“Honestly, it’s more of an excuse to get together and drink wine than anything else. Most people at least start reading whatever book is being discussed, but there are always a few who don’t finish before the meeting, so you don’t have to feel pressured. Even if you just read the jacket cover you should be fine.”
Danielle smiled her acknowledgement of the advice and sipped her tea as she looked back out the window where a woman was walking a baby in a stroller and a small boy was walking behind it with his arms stretched up to try to help his mother push.
“That’s Harriet and her two children, Caleb and Hannah,” said Gloria.
“Is it mostly families around here?”
“No one lives alone?”
Gloria smiled a polite, stiff smile. “Well, it’s mostly just houses around here. Even a lot of the bungalows I think are too big for most people living on their own, but some do stick around after their families have moved on. For example, Jason’s wife died a few years ago and his daughter is living in Austin, so he’s on his own, but still very much a part of the community. Kiera lives on her own, but, well …” She took another sip of her tea and seemed ready to leave it at that, but Danielle wasn’t.
“But what?” Danielle set down her tea, head raised and eyes wide, suddenly much more interested in the conversation than she had been up to this point.
“She’s just a little … different.”
“Well, she mostly keeps to herself. No one really knows much about her. She’s our resident crazy cat lady.”
“She has cats?” Danielle perked up even more, which was not the reaction Gloria had been anticipating.
“Tons,” Gloria said with a nod.
“How lovely. What does she do for a living?”
Gloria crinkled her brow, as though she had never thought about this question. “I’m not sure anyone knows. Like I said, she mostly keeps to herself. I’ve hardly ever seen her leave her house, so I’m not even sure she has a job. Probably just a really large inheritance or a divorce settlement.”
“No one’s ever bothered to ask her?”
Gloria smiled her tight, polite smile again. “Most of us don’t like to discuss money, and as a loner, we figure she’s better off left to her own devices.”
To be continued…
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