on the screen of my life. I would hardly call
what we had, friendship. Acquaintance, perhaps.”
    “Really? I’m amazed I didn’t make a bigger
impression. After all, I saved your life,” he said, crossing his
arms and weaving on the back legs of the chair.
    I heard the groan of weakened metal and
picked up my cup to keep it from spilling. “I wouldn’t do that if I
were you,” I warned.
    He frowned. “Do whaa…?” The chair collapsed
beneath him, sending him crashing to the floor. His foot jerked up
and kicked the edge of the table as he hit, sloshing coffee out of
his cup and all over the legs of his perfectly creased, tan
    I started laughing, stood up and backed away,
my day pretty much made by the look on his face. I didn’t like to
think someone else’s misery could make me happy, but there are
    He glared daggers at me. “You knew that was
going to happen, didn’t you?”
    “No.” I set my cup in the sink and turned
back to face him, still grinning. “I can’t see the future — I can
only hope.”
    “Nice. Very nice.” He rubbed the back of his
head as he struggled to his feet. “I have a good case to bring a
suit against you,” he said, lifting the broken chair and eyeing it
    “Really? Bring it on.”
    He looked up and gave a short laugh, part
amusement, and part amazement. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? A
nice courtroom drama to fuel your resentment.”
    I counted to five, not able to make it all
the way to ten before I answered him. “Resentment against whom?
You?” I raised my brows, curious to know what twisted perception he
held of me. I watched as he calmly set the broken chair on its
side, slid it out of the way, and starting mopping up the spilled
coffee with a towel left sitting on the counter. On his hands and
knees he looked rather appealing, like a servant boy, docile and
willing to obey. “While you’re down there perhaps you should pray
for enlightenment.” I walked out of the kitchen, leaving him to his
    I settled into the chair by the fireplace,
ignoring his presence in my house, and glanced around the room from
my new perspective as a homeowner. Brighten up the walls with a
fresh coat of paint, maybe a more vibrant color, and add a set of
sofas and chairs, comfortable enough to fall asleep on, and it
would be livable. The paintings would definitely have to go. I
couldn’t stand seeing my uncle’s tortured soul twisting and
writhing on canvas in the daylight, much less at night in an empty
    I stood up and started pulling the smaller
works of art from the walls, setting them in a stack against the
couch. I couldn’t reach the large gold-framed canvas over the
fireplace without a ladder and some help. It looked as though it
weighed quite a lot.
    “What are you doing?” Handel asked from the
    I turned to face him, brushing the dust from
my hands. “A little housecleaning. You want to help?”
    He looked up at the painting I’d been
contemplating and stated the obvious. “You want that one down
    “Yes,” I said. “It’s horrible. Perhaps I
could sell them all to a rich, California snob who thinks art is
anything that resembles half-digested food.”
    He laughed lightly and placed his hands on
his hips. “Don’t look at me. I’m not that rich. I’ll get a ladder
though. I think there’s one in the garage.”
    “Thanks,” I said, as he turned to go.
    The sun filtered through the sheers covering
the front window and spotlighted the scratched and dulled finish of
the oak flooring. Another job to be done. Obviously, Uncle Jack had
not spent time in home upkeep. I sighed just thinking about the
work it would entail. Whether I sold the place or kept it, I would
have to make it livable again.
    New drapes needed to be ordered, the woodwork
stripped and re-stained, and carpeting replaced in the bedrooms.
The kitchen was a construction nightmare all its own. I didn’t even
want to think about that

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