I remind myself that I don’t yet know if it’s even Lila, and until I have the facts, I have no business assuming the worst.
“Do you know where I can find her?” I ask. Earlier this morning when I was waiting for the rental car kiosk to open, I performed a dozen searches trying to find an address for “Delilah Hill in Summerton, OR,” only to come up empty-handed every time. For all I know, she doesn’t even live here. The obituary Roland found was from last December. People move all the time.
“I’m sorry … how do you know her again?” the woman asks.
“We’re old friends,” I say. “We lost touch. I’d like to see her again. She was a very special part of my life many years ago.”
The woman and her husband exchange wistful grins before she turns back to me. “Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard, George?”
“It is,” her husband says, picking bits of scone from his white mustache.
“Does she still live around here?” I ask.
The woman takes a deep breath. “Well. Let me think. Last time I saw her was back in December at Jane’s memorial service. And I know Ted’s over at the Willow Creek Center. You know, I don’t know where Delilah lives these days, but I can tell you they used to live over in the yellow house on Bayberry Lane.”
This is good. This is a start. I can work with this.
I ask the barista for a to-go cup and thank the elderly couple for their help, and then I head to Bayberry Lane.
I spent the better part of the morning at Willow Creek with Grandpa. By the time I left, he seemed to be in better spirits, though he was still calling me “Junie.” The important thing is, I got him to eat three-fourths of his breakfast, so it was well worth the trip.
I hover over the kitchen island as I take a bite of my turkey sandwich lunch, and then I circle a Help Wanted ad in the paper for a part-time assistant at a local insurance agency with one of my daughter’s Mr. Sketch scented markers that smells like cherries.
A couple years after MJ was born, I finished my dental hygiene program at the local community college and landed a good job at Kellerman Family Dentistry here in town, but as it turned out, Dr. Chad Kellerman was a sexist asshole who had no sympathy for the fact that I was a single mom and sometimes motherhood and working a 9 to 5 schedule got in the way of each other.
I worked for him for five years before Grandma got sick, and between running her to doctor’s appointments and taking Grandpa to his part-time job and running MJ to kindergarten and soccer and dance, I was spread paper thin and had no choice but to quit my job.
We were fortunate in that the money Bertram sent more than covered expenses, but now that Grandpa’s at Willow Creek and Grandma’s stipend is no longer coming, we’re going through our monthly budget faster than ever. Plus, I want to set a good example for MJ. I don’t want her to think all I do is relax all day between running her all over town. She doesn’t see everything I do during the day or all the hours I spend with Grandpa at the care center. She needs to see me work, just as I grew up watching my mother’s insane work ethic.
Eventually I hope to land another full-time dental hygienist job, but with Grandpa and everything going on, I’m going to have to take something part-time.
I take another bite of my sandwich and turn the page, circling another job for a part-time receptionist at a bank.
There’s a knock at the door just as I’m finishing the last of my turkey on rye, and I wipe my hands on a napkin before heading that way. Sometimes Ms. Beauchamp gets deliveries that need signatures, and she’s designated me as an approved third party. Anytime there’s a knock on the door this time of day, it’s almost always FedEx.
I swing the door open, prepared to greet Mark the FedEx driver.
Only it’s not Mark the FedEx driver.
It’s Thayer Ainsworth.
I found her.
I found Lila.
“Oh my god.” She gasps when she sees me, and then she takes a step back, though I can still see her perfectly through the screen door that separates us. “What are you doing here?”
“Lila,” I say, breathless and frozen with shock. “It’s you. I can’t believe it’s actually you…”
She steadies her hand on the interior knob, eyes shifting.
“You can’t be here.” She glances over my shoulder, peering up then down the street. She’s closer now, and though we’re still separated by a thin gray screen, I can tell she’s just as stunning now as she was a decade ago.