Between the Lines

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Chapter 7

The next day Keeley and Kira were in Ashton by 9 am, despite having drank the entire bottle of wine and staying up past midnight talking and planning. Kira was wearing sunglasses even though it was not a bright day.

“My eyes hurt,” she’d said when Keeley had looked inquiringly at the eyewear.

Keeley laughed. “You’re a lightweight,’ she teased, but she had a slight headache herself. By the time they reached Ashton, both girls were feeling better, and excited to start renovating the house. Keeley had brought Kira out two weeks previously, but that was before she had taken possession, so all they were able to do was look at the house from the front gate. Even though it was vacant, they didn’t feel right about what was effectively trespassing. Today, she parked on the gravel driveway at the back, and the girls got out of the car. Kira grabbed her bag which contained her smudging paraphernalia.

“I want to build a garage back here for my car, and have a paved parking area for people when they come for yoga. I’ll have to wait and see how the other renovations go first, though, because I want to keep a bit of a cushion in case it takes awhile to start earning money.”

Kira was nodding to show that she was listening, but had moved over to frown at the dilapidated garden shed near the edge of the property.

“The shed’s not worth repairing. I want to tear it down and have the garage built on that side of the driveway. It can double as a storage space as well. What do you think?”

Kira had begun walking slowly around the backyard, a troubled look on her face. Keeley’s heart sank. “What’s wrong? Don’t you like it?” she asked.

Kira looked up. “The energy does feel kind of heavy,” she said. “It might be the power of suggestion, because of what that woman said about a ghost, but I don’t think that's it. Don’t worry, though” she added quickly, seeing the look on Keeley's face. “I’m going to do a complete space clearing. That will clear the negative energy. It’ll be fine.”

Keeley deliberately shook off the feeling of discouragement she had started to feel. The house was definitely not haunted, and everything was going to be wonderful, just as she had planned. She wasn’t sure that she had as much faith in the sage stick as Kira did, but she would let her friend do the space clearing. It certainly couldn’t hurt.

Daniel drove up, parking next to Keeley, and got out of his truck. He started to unload some tools, and it looked like he was ready to start work. Keeley introduced him to Kira, who gave an appreciative thumbs up when his back was turned. She was incorrigible. While Daniel was getting organized, Keeley showed Kira the interior of the house, explaining the changes that would be taking place, and what she was hoping to achieve in the house. Kira was suitably enthusiastic, and by the time they had gone over the entire house, their earlier discomfort was forgotten. After watching a careful smudging of the entire house, and the garden shed as well for good measure, Keeley sent Kira off to check out the surrounding shops, with a plan to meet for lunch at the coffee house. She herself went straight to work, making a list of all the jobs she thought she could do herself. Daniel had no problem with the changes she wanted to make, and before she knew it, she was tackling the messy job of removing wallpaper in the master bedroom.

By the time lunchtime rolled around, she had accumulated a big pile of old, dusty wallpaper, with a significant amount of dust on her clothes as well, unfortunately. Daniel had arranged for a garbage bin to be brought to the property, but it hadn’t arrived yet, so she piled all the torn pieces of wallpaper on the back porch. She cleaned herself up as best she could in the downstairs powder room, since Daniel had turned the water off in the upstairs bathroom. Keeley was really hoping it wouldn’t be too many days before Daniel had the bathroom renovated. A shower would be wonderful, but was not possible at this stage. Thinking she looked reasonably presentable, if not exactly optimally well groomed, she left Daniel to eat the lunch he had brought from home, and went out to meet Kira.

Kira was talking animatedly with Lily and Claire when Keeley pushed open the door of the coffee house. All three greeted her with questions about the progress at the house, and laughed when they discovered a piece of wallpaper sticking to the back of her hair. Lily generously offered the use of her shower anytime Keeley needed it. Like many of the shops around the square, the second level of the book store held a residential apartment. Claire and Lily each lived above their shops, as did several of the other business owners.

“That’s so nice of you! I may have to take you up on it a time or two if Daniel doesn’t get my shower operational soon.”

“How is Danny?” Lily asked.

“Fine, as far as I know. He introduced himself to me as Daniel, but everyone around here calls him Danny. I guess you all know each other quite well?’

“Oh yeah. We all went to school together,” Lilly answered. “Of course, Claire is a lot older.”

“Right, I'm ancient” said her sister, smacking her on the arm. “Two whole years older. Danny was a popular kid in high school,” she added. “Everyone liked him. He’s still popular with the ladies. Lily for one is hot for him.”

“I am not.”

“Not as much as Donna Woods, maybe, but you have a crush on him. Admit it.”

Lily rolled her eyes, and Claire moved off to wait on a customer who had come in, still grinning. “I noticed Donna seemed very fond of him,” Keeley said to Lily. “But isn’t she a bit old for him?”

Lily laughed a little maliciously. “She’s the same age as Danny and me, although to look at her now, you’d never know it. We all were in the same class, and Donna has been after Danny ever since high school. It’s kind of sad really. He's never returned her affection, and she just can’t seem to give up and move on. Anyway, I’m pretty sure Danny isn’t seeing anyone right now, so the field is open, if you’re interested. I have to warn you, though, you’ll have some competition from the local girls.”

Keeley’s face burned. “I’m not in the market for a relationship. I was just curious about the people of the town, especially Daniel since he’s going to be working with me for a few weeks at least.”

“Sure you are. Well, I better get back to work. Hopefully, this afternoon will be busier than this morning was. The only traffic I had were browsers, not buyers. Have a good lunch, you two. Nice to meet you, Kira. Come visit me next door if you need something to do later. Let me know when you want that shower, Keeley.” With a casual wave at her sister, Lily went back to the bookstore.

Keeley couldn’t believe what a poor judge of age she had just proved herself to be. She had been sure that Daniel was much younger than she was, and Donna much older, but apparently they were both very close to her own age. She wondered how old she looked to people. Probably better for her ego if she didn’t ask, she decided ruefully.

Keeley and Kira ordered Claire’s lunch special, and sat down to catch up on their respective morning activities. Kira had spent most of her time in the new age store, as Keeley had been certain she would, and, as expected, she loved it.

“I met the owner, Marci. She’s really nice. We spent most of the morning talking, and she made tea for us. Her husband Mike is a chiropractor. They moved here two years ago. She bought the gift shop that was for sale, and renamed it It’s Magic. Isn’t that a great name for a metaphysical store? They’ve been doing quite well, too, although at first the locals were a little shocked by some of the stuff she carries. I guess there aren’t a lot of practicing witches and wiccans around here. She’s six months pregnant with their first baby. She has great merchandise,” she enthused. “Really unusual things. And the most gorgeous crystals. I could spend a fortune in there quite easily. If only I had a fortune.” Her shoulders drooped momentarily, but then she smiled, and bent down to reach into her bag. “I bought you a housewarming present. It’s staurolite, also called fairy stone,” she explained, pulling a twisted dark stone shot through with pink out of a tiny cloth bag. “This crystal protects against spirits.”

“Oh Kira, you didn’t need to do that.” Keeley took the stone being held out to her. It was very unusual and quite pretty. It felt warm in her hand. She smiled. “But thank you.” She knew Kira placed strong faith in the power of crystals. I’ll take all the help I can get, she decided.

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