Demolition Premonition – Amy Boyles

There are some days when life throws a curveball at you and it’s easy to hit out of the park. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly easy, but you still manage to connect your bat with the ball. Then there are other days when not only does life send about a dozen curveballs your way, but it also manages to send a tsunami of rain in your direction as well. This was one of those days. I stood in Malene Frederick’s living room, staring at her. Only seconds before, Malene had pulled the bun off her head, taken off her glasses and yanked off her housecoat, revealing much younger-looking clothing beneath the billowy dress. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you were my grandmother?” I whispered. Yep, that was the tsunami and curveball I was facing. I’d known Malene for years and never had an inkling that this was the case—that she was my grandma. Malene exhaled in disappointment. I don’t know who she was disappointed in—me or her. “I should have told you. I know that. It wasn’t easy keeping this a secret from you. So many times I wanted to reveal it.

But you needed to come to terms with some things first.” Sounded like a lame excuse to me. “Because I needed time to deal with my powers, you used that as an excuse to keep this secret?” “Let’s face it, Clem, that’s true.” Lady, my talking dog, padded over from a corner that she’d been sniffing. “You never did like your magic. You appreciate it more now, but only because John’s been helping you with it. Of course, you’ve got to figure out if you’re sweet on John or not. He is pretty cute, and he seems like he’d do just about anything for you. But he might be one of those guys that once you sleep with him, he doesn’t care about you anymore. Let me think about that for a minute.

” My dog shook her head. “Nah. I think John would still want you even if you gave him a piece.” Shame licked up my neck in the form of heat. “Can we take one problem at a time?” I snarled. I could talk to Malene about being my grandmother, but I did not want to even think about John—or Rufus, as I knew him. And I certainly didn’t want to think about what Lady, my dog, was suggesting. What in the world? Talking dogs should be limited on what they can talk about—food and birds. They absolutely should not, under any condition, be allowed to discuss someone’s private life. Maybe Lady needed a muzzle.

“Why do you think that you ended up here, in Peachwood?” Malene asked. “Coincidence?” I said. She sat on the couch and pointed to the cookies and tea she’d prepared. “Please eat.” “I’d rather stand,” I said sharply. All right, I get it. I should be rejoicing to find a grandmother that I never knew existed. But y’all, I had known Malene for years. Years. She’d had every chance to tell me this secret ages ago.

But she’s chosen not to. Let me just say that I was a little ticked off about the whole situation. She nibbled on a shortbread cookie. “After your parents died, I thought that you might come here then. But you were determined to get your education, so you had focus. It was when something else happened to you, something that left a traumatic wound, that you found yourself here, in Peachwood. That was how the call of magic worked. You would arrive here when you were ready and not a moment before.” Tears brimmed my eyes. “I needed you when Mama and Daddy died.

I needed someone then. It was the perfect opportunity for you to come to me. You needed me, too. Weren’t you hurting when you discovered what had happened?” Her eyes flared with surprise. “Of course I was. Your mother meant everything to me.” “Then why did you have a feud with her to begin with? Why did you let your differences make such a wedge between the two of you?” Anger and frustration burned through my veins like lava. Malene could have been part of my life years ago, but she chose not to be. When I was bruised and broken over both of my parents’ deaths, I could have used a grandmother to ease some of the pain. She wrung her hands.

“I should have told you. I’m sorry that I didn’t. But I was worried that meeting me would be too much. That it would have sent you into shock. I kept watch over you. I had people check in and tell me how you were doing.” “So you kept tabs on me,” I said bitterly. “Wow. That makes me feel so much better.” My attitude was disgusting even to me.

It wasn’t right to be this angry and take it out on Malene. She’d never been anything but kind. I exhaled a deep shot of air and knuckled a tear from my eyes. “I’m sorry that I’m acting like a child.” “You ain’t acting like a child,” Lady quipped. “You’re acting like Clem.” “Thank you, Lady.” “You’re welcome.” Wasn’t it best to have a grandmother? Before, I was alone in the world. But now I had family to share my life with.

That was the lesson here, what I should be taking from this encounter. But still a flicker of resentment flared in my belly. It told me that I should have known earlier, that it was unfair of Malene to have kept this from me. It also suggested that she might never have told me if I hadn’t found the picture of my mother on her shelf. Of course, now that I thought about it, that might have been Malene’s way of telling me her identity. Maybe she was terrified to say the words and needed a mechanism to draw out the truth. Maybe, just maybe, she was as broken and fragile as I was. I forced my lips into a smile that started out tight as a rope. But after a few moments the muscles in my face and heart softened. Was it worth it to be so angry at Malene? She’d kept the truth from me, yes.

But in her mind, Malene had done what she needed to do. This woman had watched over me and made me a chocolate dessert darn near every few days just so I wouldn’t go hungry at breakfast. The least I could do was find it in my heart to forgive her and take a moment for both of us to grieve the loss of my mother. I picked the picture I’d dropped off the floor and crossed to sit beside Malene. Her brow wrinkled in worry. I clutched the frame to my chest. “Now, Grandma. It seems you’ve got a lot to tell me, don’t you?” “She sure does,” Lady said, poking my leg with her nose. “Malene’s got a ton of dirt to dish, and I want to hear it all.” I laughed and scooped Lady into my lap.

“I want to know everything,” I said. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.” Malene plated a cookie for me. “You know that your mother and I disagreed on a lot. Unfortunately it caused a fissure in our relationship.” “A what?” Lady said. “A fisherman?” “A fissure,” I explained. “A tear that’s like a seam.” “Oh, got it.” Lady daintily took my cookie between her teeth and murmured, “Continue.

” “I didn’t know she had died until after.” Malene’s lower lip trembled. “That’s when I started keeping tabs on you. You would need guidance with your magical abilities. Since your mother hadn’t given it to you, you would have to get it from someone, so I put a little bug in your ear that if anything ever happened, you would come here, to Peachwood.” Malene stopped. I stared at her. “Is that it?” She nodded. “That’s it. Nothing more to say.

” “Oh, I thought the story would be longer. You know, I figured there might be a point when you tried to contact me, or maybe you dressed up in black robes and would occasionally show up for important events in my life. I’d never know who you were until now.” She quirked a brow. “Do you remember someone like that?” “No,” I admitted. “I don’t.” “Good, because if you did, we might have a bigger problem on our hands.” “How’s that?” Lady asked. “Well, a hooded figure usually represents death,” Malene explained. “This town is just now starting to become magical again.

If I have to figure out a way to beat death, we’ve got a real problem because I’m not up for the job. Clementine here would have to do it.” I took a bite of shortbread cookie. The buttery confection crumbled in my mouth. A little moan of pleasure escaped my mouth. That was when I realized that Malene and Lady were staring at me. “Sorry.” I brushed crumbs from my lips. “If death did show up, how exactly would I be the one to fight him?” “With your spell-hunting abilities. That’s how.

” Malene clapped my shoulder. “Ouch.” “Sorry.” For an old lady she had a lot of strength. “Listen, you’ve got John for spell hunting. You don’t need me, too.” “Nonsense. It’s in your blood.” “Malene, I’ve got a business to run. Magical Renovations takes up all my time.

I don’t have the wherewithal to add on a side gig.” She fingered her surprisingly silky looking gray hair. “If that’s how you want be, then fine. But one day, spell hunting might save your life.” “I’ll be fine.” Malene took a pair of dark oval sunglasses from the table and put them on. “Suit yourself.” “You okay? You look like you’re about to go get your eyes dilated.” “For your information, this is my style. I’ve been keeping a low profile so that you wouldn’t find out my identity.

But now that you know the truth, I can return to wearing my shades.” “Inside?” This was baffling. “Can you even see?” “I can see just fine. Now, finish your shortbread. I have to let the ladies know of this development—that you know who I am.” By ladies, she meant Urleen and Norma Ray, her quilting bee buddies. “Oh? Is our time here finished?” Malene’s expression softened. “Of course not. Let’s have dinner tonight at the Country Buffet. But we’ve got to get there by five o’clock sharp.

After six, all the old people start coming in and the place begins to smell like Depends.” Oh, was that a thing? “Okay. I’ll be here at—” “Four fifty. That’ll give us time to get over there.” I nodded. “See you then.” I CHAPTER 2 arrived at Malene’s on time. We had turned our clocks back the night before and dusk was already coating the sky in dark purple. Malene answered the door wearing a sparkling red dress. She looked more prepared for a night out in Vegas than dinner in Peachwood.

I glanced down at my jeans. “Am I dressed okay?” “No one expects you to try hard, Clementine. You’re young. Well, young-ish, since you are in your thirties. You can get by wearing skinny jeans and a halter top. Unless your boobs have fallen.” She inspected my chest. “Have they fallen yet?” I hugged my arms. “No,” I said, offended. “At least, I don’t think so.

” I glanced down at my barely there bosom. “How would I know if they’ve fallen?” “Because you’ll get belly button lint in them.” “Oh, if that’s the case, then I am A-OK. There’s no lint in these girls.” Malene headed toward the sidewalk, took one look at my truck and said, “We’re riding in my car.” “What car? That old boat you’ve got?” “I sold it today.” “Today? Like, after I left?” She nodded. “There was no point in keeping up my charade of being an old lady.” “But you are an old lady.” “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.

” Malene led me to the detached garage. She tapped a combination in a keypad. “It’s easy to buy and sell a car these days. You can purchase online. Someone will deliver your vehicle and take your trade-in. Voila! See my latest?” My jaw dropped. Inside the garage sat a cherry-red Mazda Miata convertible. The two bucket seats were smaller than my butt, I swear. I pointed at the vehicle. “Are you sure that you can get into that? Don’t you have bursitis or something?” Malene smoothed her coiffed hair.

“Just because I’m old, that doesn’t mean that I have bursitis.” “Oh, sorry,” I replied, feeling ashamed. “I was pretty sure that I’d heard you mention it before.” “Get in the car and stop your yammering before I un-invite you to dinner.” I ducked my head in embarrassment. “Yes, ma’am.” I got in the car and fastened my belt. Even though I was pretty sure that Malene wasn’t going to speed or anything, I still wanted to obey the laws. The shiny new key dangled from a furry rabbit’s foot on a chain. “You ready? I haven’t taken this baby out yet.

” I eased back onto the leather seat and rested my arm on the lip of the door. “Oh, I’m ready. Let’s do this.” The engine purred when Malene started it. She put the gear shift in reverse and hit the gas. I slammed into the dashboard. “Whoa!” “Sorry. Got your seat belt on, right?” “Yep.” She winked at me. “Good.

You’re gonna need it.” With that, Malene reversed all the way down the drive and onto the street. She hit the brake, put the car in first and off we went. I did not realize it when Malene had her old boat of a vehicle, but now I saw that my grandmother had a lead foot. Y’all. We went sixty miles an hour in a zone marked thirtyfive. She flipped off at least two other old ladies on our way to the buffet—just for going too slow. “If you can’t run with the bulls, stay home,” she yelled at one octogenarian. I slid down onto the seat, making myself as small as possible. By the time we reached the restaurant, Malene had run at least one stop sign, cussed out half the town, and had just about made me poop my pants with fear.

When she finally parked, I snatched the keys from her hand. “I’m driving on the way back. You’re going to get us killed.” She got out and glared at me. “I’m sorry, Clem. But you don’t know what it’s been like pretending to be an old lady.” “You are an old lady. You don’t have to be a fragile one, but you still are.” Malene pulled out her compact and smoothed her hair. “I spent so much time trying to keep up my disguise so that you wouldn’t suspect anything that it’s going to take me some time to adjust.

I might go overboard at first. Don’t worry, I’ll calm down.” “Before or after you give me a heart attack?” She considered that. “I’m not sure.” I rolled my eyes. “Come on. Let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.” Malene led the way into the Country Buffet. The big thing that this place traded in was apples.

The owners had an orchard not far outside of town, and they sold all sorts of apple-related food in the buffet—pies, fritters, strudel, crumble, and crisp. Not to mention that you could also buy a baked apple filled with honey and cinnamon. To top it off, the storefront sold tons of apple-related stuff. The store offered T-shirts with the slogan, If You Can’t Apple Them, Join Them. It was a saying in town and, in my opinion, had no real meaning other than to be a way to sell apple merchandise. This time of year, all the merchandise was brown and forest green, the colors of fall. Silk leaves dangled from a wire that ran across the open rafters of the building. It was like stepping into a forest. I wondered if there were any fake animals set up somewhere eating apples. You know, like a display.

Sure enough, as we got closer to the hostess station, there it was—a menagerie of Bambis and Thumpers sniffing and eating apples. I knew there was a reason that I never came to this place. “I know the decor is a bit over-the-top,” Malene whispered. “Says the woman wearing the red sparkly dress,” I murmured. She gave me a death stare. “But they do have the best apple fritters in town.” “I like big fritters, and I cannot lie.” We followed the hostess into a sparse dining room. “Good,” Malene whispered over her shoulder, “we’ve beaten the old folks. No diapers stinking up the place.

” “Says the old lady.” As we strode through the dining room, I heard someone calling my name. I glanced over to see my neighbor, Willard Gandy, approaching. “Clem, Malene. How’re y’all today?” Malene turned to give Willard a once-over. “Willard,” she said sourly, “we’re doing fine. Just having an early dinner.” Willard peered at Malene closely. “Malene Fredericks. What’s gotten into you? You changed your hair.

And where’s your housecoat and slippers?” Her eyes narrowed. “For your information, Clementine here has found out that I’m her grandmother. Her one and only living grandparent. Seeing as how the cat is out of the bag, I didn’t see any reason to keep wearing those foolish old clothes. I can finally be myself.” His eyes widened. “You’ve been wearing the other so long that I forgot you had this in you,” he murmured. “You never did have a good memory.” Wanting to stop World War III from happening inside the buffet, I took a slight step toward Willard and noticed that he’d left a woman alone at his table. She was middle aged with strawberry-blonde hair swept back in a ponytail and wore rich-looking clothing in demure fall colors.

“Willard, you’ve left your company.” “Oh,” he said. Malene looked past him to the table. Her expression soured. “That isn’t company. That’s Bailey Darsey. Her daughter’s a ho.” “Malene,” Willard warned. “I will not have you speaking that way about Bailey’s daughter…even if it is true.” My grandmother’s (boy, thinking that word was going to take some getting used to) face twisted in triumph.

“Like I always say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Are you and Bailey going necking after you eat a plate of apple fritters?” “Malene,” Willard said, shaking a finger at her, “I’ll have you staying out of my business.” “Your business doesn’t concern me anyway,” she said, sounding satisfied. “I couldn’t care less what you do.” “It’s ‘could care less,’” he corrected. “That’s what you’re trying to say. And you’d better keep your voice down because Bailey’s daughter is with us.” “Oh, Willard, you’ve sank too low this time.” Malene took a menacing step forward. “It’s one thing to go at it with the mother.

But having both of them at once is a new low. Even for you.”

.

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