Who I Am With You(8)

By: M. Lynne Cunning



It only took a minute or so for the door to whip open again. Katie stood there wearing an embarrassed grin. “I’m sorry,” she greeted him. “I didn’t realize Mason had banished you to the porch. Please, come in.” She stepped back, giving him room to enter the house.

“It’s no problem, Katie. He’s quite the kid.” Chad stepped in past her, being sure to keep his dew-covered boots on the mat.

“He’s definitely something,” she quipped, then turned to holler for Mason. “Mase, come on! Hurry, please! You’ll miss the bus!” A second later, Mason came running around the corner from the hallway, his backpack awkwardly bobbing up and down behind him. He headed for the door, stopping only to grasp the brown paper lunch bag Katie held out toward him. “I’ll only be a minute, Chad. Travel cups are in the cupboard to the left of the window. Feel free to make yourself a coffee while I walk Mason to the bus. It’s freshly brewed.”

“Bye, Chad! Don’t collect the chicken eggs without me! You’ll do it wrong!”

Humor danced on Katie’s lips as she gave Chad one last glance and disappeared out the door, breaking into an easy jog behind Mason as the screen door swung shut behind her. Silence enveloped Chad and he watched the two of them hike out the laneway until his line of sight was obscured by the tree branches.

“I guess it’s just you and me,” Chad mumbled to the half-filled coffee pot. He hummed the tune of one of his favorite Johnny Cash songs while he rummaged through the cupboard to get a travel mug and a spoon, realizing then that an ancient radio was playing the song through dusty speakers. It must have been a local station playing, but the reception was still carrying a constant hum of static despite the antenna being slid as far as it would go against the windowpane. He felt intrusive, sifting through the contents of someone else’s house without them there, but Katie had offered him the hospitality –

and besides, he needed the caffeine if he was going to make a good impression and survive his first day. He would never admit it to her, but Chad was pretty sure he hadn’t done a full day’s worth of physical labor since he was in his late teens. Staying up all night in smoky bars while playing guitar and singing hardly constituted as physical work. He just hoped he could keep up with Katie. He had a feeling she was relentless.

He was just about to pour the steaming coffee into the thermal mug when a ringing sound interrupted the silence. Foreign to his ears, it took Chad a moment to realize it was the cell phone in his pocket ringing. He dug it from his back pocket and stared confusedly at the glowing screen. No one had the number, and no one knew he’d gotten rid of his old phone. So, who was calling?

“It doesn’t answer itself.”

He turned abruptly to see Katie watching him from the other side of the screen door. The phone continued to ring shrilly as they stared at each other. Chad shoved the phone back into his pocket and went back to pouring coffee into the mug in front of him.

“Probably just a telemarketer,” he explained. “You want me to pour you some of this, too?” He held the coffee pot up in askance.

Katie nodded as she came inside, standing on her toes to reach a travel mug from the top cupboard for herself. “Probably a telemarketer? You’re telling me you don’t have caller display?”

“No. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all. I just thought I was the only one still in the dark ages. I don’t even have a cell phone, to be honest. Or satellite television, for that matter.” She glanced toward the living room as though to confirm the TV set was, in fact, still there. “Mason just watches movies on the DVD player. Over and over and over.” A wry smile formed on her lips.

“You don’t have a cell phone? And you live way out here by yourself?” Chad hadn’t meant to sound as alarmed as he did, but the protectiveness that surged through him suddenly was difficult to ignore. He leaned against the counter and eyed Katie disbelievingly as the heat from the mug seeped into his hands.

“Cell service is patchy at best out here. Besides, I have a regular phone here in the house and in the office at the stables.” Katie didn’t seem to see the danger in such a situation. Then again, Chad was pretty sure he and Katie had lived vastly different lives up until now.

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