Between the Lines

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Chapter 6

Keeley stood in the foyer of her new home, grinning like a kid at the entrance to Disneyland. The last six weeks had been beyond hectic. She’d wondered more than once if she had lost her mind, but finally, here she was, the proud new owner of a soon to be spectacular Victorian, and a newly certified yoga teacher. The location of her mind was still an open question, but the answer would have to wait. The next few weeks promised to be even more insane, because there was a long laundry list of work to do before the yoga studio would be ready to open. The contractor she’d found through the real estate agent would be there soon to finalize the work schedule. Keeley wanted to move in as soon as possible, so getting a bedroom and bathroom ready would be the first priority. The rest of her personal living space could wait until after the studio was completed. Even the thought of living in a construction zone for several weeks did not dim the smile on her face, or cause the least abatement of the excitement coursing through her. She had been gripped by fear more than once over the past few weeks, wondering if she was making a colossal mistake, but right now everything felt wonderful in her world.

She heard the sound of a vehicle pulling up on the gravel driveway at the back of the house, and a moment later there was a sharp rap on the back door. Keeley went to let in the man that was going to be primarily responsible for the makeover. She planned to do as much of the work as she was capable of herself, all the painting at least, and maybe some of the tiling, if it wasn't too difficult. The more she could save on the renovations, the better, since it would likely be some time before the yoga studio made any money.

Daniel Freemont was younger than she would have expected a contractor to be, but Donna Woods, the real estate agent, had assured Keeley that he was very well qualified. Keeley had gone to check out the renovations he’d done on the nearby music shop, which had allayed her initial concerns. She’d been so focused on the house, and the changes she’d wanted to make, that she hadn’t paid much attention to Daniel himself, other than noticing his youth, and his good looks. Now she was reminded that he was a very good looking man. His thick blond hair showed a tendency to wave where it reached his collar, and his dark blue eyes were framed by thick long lashes that any woman would envy. Whenever he smiled, which didn’t seem to be all that often, unfortunately, a dimple appeared on his right cheek. What was it about dimples on a man? They were irresistible! His jeans and work shirt were clean and well worn, showing off a physique that probably earned him appreciative glances from many if not most women. Wow, thought Keeley, how could I have forgotten what a gorgeous hunk he is? But he wasn’t there as eye candy, she reminded herself sternly. She invited him in, and offered him a coffee from the pot she had brewed earlier. He accepted, and with only a small twinge of guilt at her lack of willpower, she poured herself another cup as well. One of these days, she was definitely going to cut back on her coffee consumption. But apparently it would not be today.

They went over the plan that had been roughed out previously, as well as the estimate of the costs and projected time frame for completion of each item. Although well over a hundred years old, the house had been built of high quality materials, such as solid brick and old growth hardwood floors. There had been a substantial renovation done about thirteen years previously, which had carefully meshed together the original Victorian and a more modern style. Daniel assured her that the work had been of the highest standards, and it did look good even to her untrained eyes. What mainly needed to be done now were aesthetic updates, some plumbing upgrades, and most importantly, turning the large front parlour into a spectacular yoga studio. The hardwood floors were in decent shape, but needed sanding and polishing, and Keeley planned to paint all the rooms, as well as the trim. The wood moldings needed to be re-stained to restore them to their original beauty.

Once she was in the position of having a regular income, Keeley planned to purchase some Persian style rugs to complement the hardwood floors. She had spent a large percentage of her precious spare time these past few weeks haunting estate sales, flea markets and thrift stores. She had managed to amass quite a few treasures, including a Victorian style sofa she planned to reupholster with a modern chevron fabric, an old armoire that would be wonderful in her bedroom as soon as she painted it a crisp white, and a carved wood mirror frame that would be gorgeous in the downstairs powder room. Her best find was a marble-topped wooden kitchen table.

Daniel appeared to be less than enthusiastic when Keeley told him she planned to do some of the work herself, but he did not voice an outright objection. He promised he would have the master bedroom and bathroom ready for occupancy within a week. Keeley had hoped it would be sooner. She had been staying at Kira’s since the sale of her previous home. She was starting to feel that she may have worn out her welcome from Kira’s boyfriend, although Kira assured her that was not the case.

Just as Keeley and Daniel were finishing their discussion, along with another cup of coffee, there was a knock on the front door. Keeley opened the door to find Donna Woods standing there, smiling her trademark high wattage smile.

“I wanted to be the first to welcome you to the neighbourhood, and make sure everything was going well,” she told Keeley brightly, but it soon became apparent that Daniel was the real reason she was there. She made the appropriate comments to Keeley, asking if there was anything she needed, but her attention was mostly focused on Daniel, or Danny as she called him. She hung on his every word, not that there were many of them, since he had suddenly become a lot less talkative in her presence. She’s infatuated with him, Keeley thought. Good God, she has to be ten years older than he is. The memory of her own thoughts upon seeing him at her door intruded, and Keeley was embarrassed to realize Donna was not doing anything she herself had not done just a short time ago. How pathetic for both of us, she thought.

Daniel told her he had some things to finish up on other jobs that day, but assured Keeley he would start work on her house the following day. Donna trailed out after him, and Keeley watched her hover by the door of his truck, talking animatedly to him until he started the truck and drove off. It seemed obvious that the woman’s feelings were not returned, which was really not surprising, given the age difference. Keeley felt a spurt of sympathy for Donna. She was quite attractive, and would be even more so if she used less makeup and brought her hair style into the current decade. And maybe if she smiled less. Suddenly Keeley felt ashamed of her criticisms of the older woman. She decided it would be much more productive to stop judging Donna, and get back to what she needed to be doing about the house.

Keeley spent the morning finalizing her paint color choices, and making a couple of minor adjustments to the renovation plan. She hoped Daniel was the flexible sort, although the changes she wanted to make were really nothing that could make a difference to him, she was sure. When hunger struck, she headed over to the coffee house to get some lunch. It was already after two o’clock, and only one of the tiny tables inside was occupied, by a woman reading a book with a picture of a vampire on the cover, and eating a bowl of soup.

The pretty, slightly plump woman behind the counter smiled at Keeley in welcome. “Hello.What can I get you?” she asked pleasantly.

“Everything smells so good. I’m not sure I can decide,” Keeley answered.

“Take your time.” Then, as Keeley looked from the handwritten menu to the sandwiches, wraps, scones, muffins and pastries in the display case, seemingly unable to make a decision, she laughed. “The special is half a turkey sandwich on focaccia with a bowl of carrot ginger soup. It’s been a big hit.”

“I’ll have that,” Keeley decided. “It sounds delicious.”

The woman started to assemble the sandwich. “Are you the one that bought the Victorian house across the square?” she asked.

Keeley smiled happily. “Yes, I just took possession today.”

The woman at the table looked up from her book. “You bought the haunted house?”

“Lily!” The woman behind the counter paused to scowl at the customer.

“Haunted house? What do you mean?” Keeley asked.

Lily flushed. “It’s just a joke,” she said defensively. “It’s not really haunted, of course.”

The other woman was shaking her head, and looking annoyed. “Some people have a strange sense of humour,” she said, looking at Lily pointedly. She turned back to Keeley. “The Martins lived there before,” she explained, naming the people Keeley had bought the house from. “David Martin worked away a lot, and Laura was nervous being alone. She claimed there were evil spirits around the house, but of course it was all in her imagination. No one else ever saw anything out of place. Don’t let it worry you. I’m Claire Robbins. I own this place. The person with foot in mouth disease there is my sister, Lily Benson. She owns the bookstore next door, and, as you can tell, reads too many horror novels.”

Keeley laughed. “I’m Keeley Kavanagh. I’m planning on opening a yoga studio once the house is renovated. If people think the house is haunted, they may not want to come there for classes.”

“No one really believes the house is haunted,” Claire repeated. “A yoga studio will be welcome in town. The only place offering yoga around here is the gym, and the atmosphere in there is not really suitable for yoga, even though Nikki is a great teacher. Are you hiring any teachers, or are you planning on teaching the classes yourself?”

“I’d like to hire a good teacher,” Keeley said. “Do you have contact information for Nikki?”

Claire provided the number, reiterating that Keeley was not to pay any attention to what Lily had said. Lily, after welcoming Keeley to the neighborhood, finished her soup and went back to her bookstore.

Clair brought the sandwich and soup to the table, and sat down on the edge of a chair, looking uncomfortable. “I’m sorry Lily said that about the house being haunted,” she said. “Things come out of her mouth before she thinks about their impact. It’s sort of a neighborhood joke, and she never considered how it might sound to someone not in on the joke. I hope you won’t let it bother you.”

“No worries, “ Keeley replied. “I have that same problem myself.” Claire smiled, and left Keeley to enjoy her lunch, which tasted just as good as it smelled. When it was time to ask for the bill, Clair refused payment, saying the first lunch was on the house. She also told Keeley to let her know when the yoga classes started, as she would be interested in taking a class, and she would bring her sister, even if she had to drag her there. She also said that Keeley could put a notice up on her bulletin board, letting people know the class schedule. Pleased that she’d met some of the neighbors, and already had at least one potential student, maybe two if Lily came, Keeley went off to track down Nikki, the yoga teacher. Nikki answered her phone, and agreed to meet Keeley at the coffee house in an hour. In the meantime, Keeley decided to make the rounds of the shops on the square, and meet a few more of the neighboring merchants.

By the time she was scheduled to meet Nikki, Keeley had chatted with the clerk at the new age gift shop which was appropriately named "It’s Magic", and made a mental note to take Kira there. It was exactly the kind of shop her friend would love. She’d also met the owner of the Hardware store on the corner, Sam. His shop seemed to carry just about everything, and would be a fun place to explore when she had more time. The hobby store was staffed by a young man, who didn’t seem very interested in talking to her once he found out she wasn’t there to buy anything, and had his head back in his graphic novel before she’d even turned around. Amused, Keeley walked into the centre of the square to the gazebo, and looked around, first at the buildings flanking the square, and then at the park itself. It really is lovely, she thought, with all the colour coordinated flower beds, the curved pathways, and the benches. I wonder if they have music here in the summer. I’ll have to ask Claire or Lily. She took one final look at her new home, seeing in her minds eye the finished result, where the building and yard were restored to their full potential. Smiling in happy anticipation, she crossed over to the coffee house, and pushed open the door for the second time that day.

An attractive young girl in trendy workout clothes was sitting at a table with a steaming beverage in front of her. She looked up and smiled. “Are you Keeley? I’m Nikki.” She put out her hand and shook Keeley’s firmly.

Why is everyone I meet lately so young, Keeley wondered. Am I getting old? After debating with herself for a moment, she ordered a latte, and sat down with Nikki.

“I hear you’re a great yoga teacher,” she began.

Nikki nodded. “ Yes, I am,” she said confidently, but not brash or bragging. “I’ve been hoping someone would open a real studio. Teaching at the gym is okay, but it's not exactly my dream job.”

The two women discussed Keeley’s plans for the studio, and the various classes that she was thinking of offering. “I just finished my two hundred hour course, and other than that, I’ve never taught yoga before,” Keeley told the younger woman. “I’ve taken yoga classes for about ten years, but I really need someone who can take on most of the responsibility, at least in the beginning.”

“Then you’ll want to see how I teach, so why don’t you come to one of my classes at the gym, or would you prefer I give you a private lesson?” Nikki asked.

“Will your employer at the gym be upset at losing you, and at having another studio for competition?”

Nikki shook her head. “No, I seriously doubt that they will. Greg and Amy were never really interested in offering yoga, they just went along with it because I asked them to. And they won’t be losing me, because if I’m working part time for you, I can still continue to work there part time, as a personal trainer.”

Keeley was impressed with Nikki’s confidence and knowledge. She had a strong feeling that Nikki would be a good fit for her business, as long as she was as good a teacher as she, and Claire believed. She made arrangements to attend one of Nikki’s classes at the gym later that week.

By the time she was in her car and heading back to Kira’s, Keeley was pleased with the progress she’d made that day, and feeling happy with life in general. She stopped to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate with her friend. She also picked up a six pack of craft beer for Mitchell, Kira’s boyfriend. When she got to Kira’s, it turned out that Mitchell was out that evening with friends, so it was just her and Kira for the celebration, which was actually a relief, although she didn't acknowledge that to Kira. Keeley felt sure Mitchell resented her staying there, even though she made sure to be out as much as possible to give the couple time alone. When she’d suggested the possibility to Kira, her friend insisted he was okay with the arrangement, but Keeley wasn’t convinced, and was looking forward to moving into her house. She told Kira what had been said about her house maybe being haunted, and Kira decided right then she would go out to Ashton the next day with Keeley to see if she could sense any negative energy in the house. Either way, she told Keeley, it wouldn’t hurt to do a smudging.

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