"I have sent the latest offering to you.""No, Piper, it makes perfect sense." Grace took a swallow of her beer. The storm door slammed shut. "Wait. Hurricane Brenna's passing through." She heard footsteps running upstairs. Grace counted two seconds before hearing a door closing.
"So I am a suspect."
"I'm watching you so you don't accidentally have sex or something."
"No! No no nono nonononono!"
"It's clear out here," Piper said at the other end of the phone call. "I thought the weatherman said sunny all week."
Turning her attention back to her call, Grace said, "What?"
"There's no hurricane."
Grace shook her head. "My sister's being weird right now. And I think we're too drunk to go to a bar."
"No such thing."
"No, there's a law. I think there's a law." The storm door closing again interrupted Grace. "Oh, great, fallout. Piper, hang on."
Matt entered the kitchen as Grace set the phone's handset down on the island counter. "Grace, is you're sister okay?"
"Depends what you mean by 'okay'." Grace held up a finger to stall Matt. She picked up the handset. "Piper?"
"I gotta go. I'll explain later. Just call Yesi and get her to pick up a case of beer and me and we'll meet you at your place. Okay?"
"Sounds good. Bye, Grace."
"Bye." Grace hung up. "So, Brenna . . .."
Matt looked over at the stairs behind him. "Maybe I should talk to her myself."
"Up in her room?" Grace pointed vaguely upwards. "Yeah, no. Bad idea."
"What's going on?"
"Wrong?" Grace blinked. "Oh, hormones. That time of the month. Affects us women differently. I need chocolate. Brenna gets . . . all weird."
Matt looked dubious. "Are you sure? I mean--"
Grace cut off the police officer. "Positive. You think this is bad, imagine living with it. Go back to what you were doing and I'll handle it." Grace's curiosity overcame her. "Um, what were you two doing?"
"I started fixing her light and we got talking about high school and shit then . . . I guess Bren has memories she doesn't like." Matt sighed. "Can you tell her that I didn't mean anything, that I'm sorry I brought back bad memories?"
"Yeah, sure. You go back to light fixing and I'll deal with my sister." Grace shooed Brenna's guest back out the kitchen. Once Matt had returned outside, she let her head hang. "That time of the day, more like," she muttered. Grace walked with an unsteady gait to the living room, correcting her direction every few steps. She picked up Brenna's cell phone from the table and scrolled through the contacts list. Finding the number she wanted, Grace placed the call.
"Hey, Bren," Missy said as she picked up at her end.
"No, it's Grace."
"Grace? Is there something wrong?"
"Yeah, Bren is killing my buzz. Can you come by? I think she needs someone who actually gives a damn right now." Before Missy could say anything, Grace disconnected the call. She tossed the phone back on the table. "There. You owe me, Bren."
Missy screeched to a halt in front of the Halliday home. The old Volvo shuddered for a moment, not used to the maneuver. Grace's call made it sound Brenna was in deep trouble. Of course, the bitch of a sister couldn't elaborate over the phone. Missy considered herself lucky that Grace even bothered to call. The leggy blonde shut the engine off and got out of the station wagon. She had stopped behind Brenna's van. Seeing the well tanned man with trim black hair closing the back doors told Missy everything she needed to know.
"Hey." Missy approached the man. Recognition twinged in the back of her mind. "Is Brenna home?"
"Yeah, but she's not feeling well." The dark-haired man cocked his head. "Melissa?"
Missy stopped in her tracks. "Yeah. No way!" She finally placed where she'd seen the man. "Matt! Small world! What are you doing here?"
Matt hooked a thumb at the lavender Savana. "Brenna had a burnt out light. I'm saving her the cost of a ticket. What about you?"
"I got an odd call."
"Want me to go in with you?"
"Not yet. Go get something to drink. Make Grace do it." Missy headed towards the Halliday house, leaving Matt to finish closing up Brenna's van. Not bothering to knock, she entered and headed directly upstairs. She did, however, knock on her friend's bedroom door. "Brenna," Missy announced in a soft tone, "may I come in?"
Hearing a muffled "Yes" through the door, Missy entered the bedroom. If she hadn't already known purple was Brenna's favorite color, stepping into the room would have told her. Various shades, from the light hue of lavender used on the walls to the dark purple comforter. Brenna was curled into a ball on to even violets painted on her desk, chair, and dresser. Stepping deeper into the den of purple, Missy knelt down beside Brenna. "Everything will be okay, Bren." She patted her friend's shoulder. "Come on, sit up."
Brenna rolled on to her back. She snuffled. "Hi."
"Hi, yourself. Up. Come on." Missy helped the young brunette sit up. "Almost jumped him, huh?"
Brenna scowled at her blond friend. "What?"
"Matt, the guy working on your van." Missy licked her lips. "Can't blame you. Man, did he turn out well."
"I-- I almost acted-- I-- I nearly--"
"You almost ravished him right on the spot."
"Yeah." Brenna's cheeks turned red. "That."
Missy laughed. "Okay, up."
"I can't go back down there! He--" Brenna floundered for the words.
"Bren, he was in our class. He's well aware that you're a flake."
"I am not a flake, Missy."
Missy pulled her friend into hug. "Bren, Bren, Bren. You were never like most of the class, Matt included. He already knows you're not like everyone else." She let Brenna go. "I could explain what happened to him if you want."
Brenna narrowed her eyes. "You wouldn't."
"Try me." Missy stood up. "Coming? Or do I talk to him myself?"
"I'm coming. I'm coming." Brenna scrambled out of her bed, rumpling her deep purple comforter. She slipped on her sandals. "I can't believe you're doing this."
Missy wrapped her right arm around Brenna's shoulders to help guide her. "Have I ever given you bad advice?"
Brenna shook her head. "Unless you count the trip to Tijuana."
"That was Customs being completely paranoid. Totally not my fault." Missy directed Brenna into the bathroom. "Get cleaned up."
Matt leaned against Brenna's lavender Savana, still bewildered. What should have been a simple light bulb replacement somehow became a major blow out, and he wasn't sure if was his fault or not. Brenna's younger sister had said she was taking care of it, but then Melissa from high school showed up and the younger sister was just sitting on the porch. Matt drained the rest of his Coke. Even if it didn't clear things up, the caffeine would keep his mind alert. Though, he had to admit that Brenna's little sister had grown up nicely.
A black Challenger pulled into the driveway. Brenna's sister dashed over to greet the driver. Matt crushed the Coke can without a thought, then set it down on the Savana's bumper. He walked over to join Brenna's younger sister and the older man. "Hello," he said, his hand held out.
The older man shook the proffered hand. "Hello."
"Oh, Dad, this is Officer Matt, Brenna's friend," the sister introduced. "Matt, my dad. Brenna's too." A battered red Chevy pick-up truck stopped in front of the house. "Oh, gotta go." Brenna's sister kissed her father on the cheek. "I'll be out late at Piper's. I'll call!" The young woman dashed over to the truck and jumped into the passenger side, leaving both men staring. The truck pulled away, leaving a small noxious cloud of exhaust lingering in the air.
"That's Grace," Mr. Halliday said. "Very outgoing."
Matt nodded. "That's the word I was looking for."
After an awkward pause, Mr. Halliday said, "Officer Matt, huh? Not the same Matt that let Brenna off without a ticket, is it?"
"Um, yeah." Matt's cheeks reddened a little. "I was just working on the light when . . . well, I have no idea what happened."
"I see." Mr. Halliday looked over to Melissa's Volvo. "Then you probably have no idea why my old car came back?"
Matt glanced at the faded blue station wagon. "Was it stolen?"
"No." Mr. Halliday swept an arm at his black Challenger. "I traded it in for that. I didn't think the old heap would get lonely."
The front door opened. Melissa led Brenna outside. The smaller woman noticed her father. "Daddy!" Brenna ran over and launched herself into her father's arms.
"Mr. H!" Melissa called. "Hey, thanks for the car!"
Mr. Halliday waved to Melissa, keeping one hand around Brenna. "Hi, Missy. You bought that?"
"Yeah, it showed up on the lot the other day, ready to go. I didn't know it used to be yours. Funny, huh?"
"Definitely. Not going to stay for dinner?"
Melissa shook her head. "Maybe another night. Me and Bren have stuff that needs to be done, though. Hey, Matt, got a minute?" She nodded to her car.
Matt joined his former classmate at the station wagon. "What's up?"
In a low tone, Melissa said, "Look, I don't know what happened here, but don't beat yourself up over it. Remember how Brenna was in high school?"
"Yeah, sure, I suppose. Did something happen to her back then?"
"Probably not the way you're thinking, no. Whatever happened was because she was confused over her own emotions."
Matt glanced back at Brenna with her father. "She was always sensitive."
"Like no one could imagine."
"I suppose finding that body today didn't help."
Melissa blinked. "Body?"
"Didn't Bren tell you? She found a body downtown today. Gruesome sight. I can't blame her for being upset."
"No, she didn't tell me." Melissa looked over to Brenna. "Hey, Bren! We better get going!" She returned her attention to Matt. "Do me a favour?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"Call Brenna tomorrow. On the phone. She'll be feeling better then."
"Call tomorrow. Sure."
Brenna arrived at Melissa's Volvo. She forced herself to smile. "Hi, Matt," she mumbled. "Sorry for-- Sorry."
Melissa opened the door for her friend. "Get inside." She turned to Matt. "Hey, thanks."
Matt waved to the two women as they left. He heard Mr. Halliday come up beside him. "Ever have the feeling that something happened, but whatever it was just went over your head?" Matt asked.
"Come on," Mr. Halliday said. "I'll put some coffee on, then we can talk."
"You can't have her!"
"A dangerous haunted beach house?"