When Annie arrives home there are eight messages on the answering machine. Four are from Peter Axelrod, her boss at Quality Life. Two are from her friend, Sophie. One is a recorded sales pitch from an investment company, and the last is from Michael.
“Where are you?” he asks, that all-too-familiar tone of impatience thick in his voice. “Call me, I’ve got something to ask you.” The message ends with a click. There is nothing more; no explanation of what he wants to ask.
When Annie arrives home – Friday Fiction
For a brief moment Annie allows herself to think it might be the question she waited years to hear, but recalling the tone of his words she knows such a thought is foolish. His voice wasn’t the sound of a suitor looking to propose; it was that of a man wanting to know if his suit is back from the cleaners. Annoyed. Impatient.
Still warmed by the afterglow of her visit with Ophelia, Annie is in no mood for another confrontational discussion and clicks past the message. Instead of returning Michael’s call, she telephones Sophie.
Before the second ring, Sophie picks up the receiver . She has caller ID so she knows it is Annie.
“Where have you been?” she asks.
It strikes Annie odd that she often goes for a week or more without a telephone call from anyone, and now both Sophie and Michael have asked where she’s been.
“I was only gone for a week ,” she says. Her words have the sound of an apology.
“You should let somebody know when you’re going away,” Sophie replies. The somebody she refers to is herself. “I called your office and they said you were out for the week. It struck me strange that you’d go away without saying a word, so I asked the receptionist if she was sure it was Annie Cross she was talking about.”
Annie laughs. “I’m the only Annie there.”
“Yes, but to leave without telling me…”
“When I left I thought I’d be back on Monday, but as it turned out I was having such a good time I decided to stay the week.”
“Did you go to Atlantic City without me?” Sophie asks accusingly.
“No, Burnsville. It’s a small town just past Richmond.”
When Sophie asks what is in Burnsville, Annie tells of her visit with Ophelia. After she tells of her visit with Ophelia, she says, “Imagine a potpourri that gives off the fragrance of whatever you like.”
“Maybe that’s what I need,” Sophie answers, “ because all I’m smelling around here is dirty diapers.” From there she launches into a lengthy story of what a terrible week it has been. The twins, she claims, have been almost unbearable.
The twins are toddlers, both boys, and both with the pale blonde hair of their daddy . Annie finds it hard to sympathize with Sophie’s complaint, because she would trade places in a heartbeat. Sophie has what Annie wants: a loving husband and two adorable babies to hold in her arms.
For the first time in months Annie is truly happy and she is anxious to share the stories of how she looked back and saw a young Ophelia in the arms of her Edward, how she felt the tinge of life in the rusted bicycle. She wants to talk about the magic to be found in growing things, but Sophie gives her no chance.