Two couples walked hand in hand toward the front gate. The Aherns led the way, but they stopped, turning back to the Snyders as all reached the property wall. “Well, we’ll have to get together again soon,” Sam said to Eric. “Maybe next time someone can make a boysenberry pie.”
Sam didn’t look at Lynne as he finished speaking, but he did smile in her direction. Lynne nodded, as Eric squeezed her hand. “Yeah, I’m about ready for pie.” Eric’s tone was light. “But only if you make that custard Sam.”
“It’s a deal.” Sam looked toward the house. “Maybe next weekend, at our place. I found a new recipe for pork chops, we’ll give it a try.”
“And maybe by then Stanford will have gotten your pictures back to you.” Eric again gripped his wife’s hand. “He swears he didn’t sell them, and I’m holding him to it.”
“You and me both.” Renee smiled, then tugged on her husband’s arm. “All right, let’s go. You gotta cook for me tonight.”
“Oh, the dishes!” Lynne glanced back at the house. “I nearly forgot them. I’ll be right back.”
She was glad for an excuse, and maybe if she was lucky, Renee would be on her heels, not making Lynne have to endure any more idle banter. She might ask Renee if they could make the dinner for the subsequent weekend, or maybe at the end of March. Not for Eric, but for Sam and Lynne and the vast space that still separated them. Lynne wanted to know what Eric had told Samuel Ahern, then later she would ask Renee how Sam had taken it. But at least things with Renee were nearly normal. After both women had a good cry, they had gone upstairs, where Lynne showed Renee the next series Eric wanted to exhibit. Renee had been silenced by the array of canvases, all landscapes, with only hints of birds. None were as impressive as that blue barn, but other aspects captivated, mostly due to how fine were the details, be they of trees and shrubs, fields awaiting harvest, sunrises and sunsets. Or Lynne’s favorite, a collection of horses, standing under a large oak tree, either swatting flies with their tails or nuzzling their noses together, mares and their colts alongside stallions and their mates. Lynne had been reminded of the horses Sam had seen inside that blue barn; was he excited for that painting’s return, or was he anxious, for the hawks would come back as well. Maybe they wouldn’t be as hard to view, for they faced the sunset, not staring out from the canvas.
Lynne sighed, collecting the paper bag with one hand on the bottom. Glass casserole dishes were heavy, and as she turned for the door, she stopped in her tracks. “Oh, I didn’t expect you to….”
Sam cleared his throat. “Here, give that to me, it’s not light, I suppose.”
His tone was straightforward and quickly Lynne handed the bag to him. “Thank you, I mean, for being so kind. I mean, for all the cooking. Both of us really appreciated it.”
He nodded, then inhaled. Lynne did too, thinking back to the last time they had stood alone in this kitchen. He had been so angry, slamming the door on his way out. She couldn’t read his mood now, but at least he had come for the dishes. It was a start, if nothing else.
But Sam didn’t step away. He stared at her, the first time he had looked directly at her since that rainy, miserable day. He had his scarf and gloves back; Renee had returned those items on one of her trips, delivering dinner. Now the weather was nearly spring-like, and he wouldn’t need them for months. Then Lynne sighed. Maybe Sam would pack them away for good, or give them to charity, the handkerchief too. She smiled weakly, then cleared her throat. “Again, thanks Sam. You’re a much better cook than me, Eric, and Renee combined.”
He nodded, then allowed a small grin. “Well, nobody makes a pie like you do.” Then he coughed. “I hope we see you guys next weekend, if Eric’s feeling up to it.”
“Oh, well, sure. Of course.” She nodded, but wasn’t certain if he meant it. “We don’t have anything going on, well, Stanford might come see us, otherwise….”
“Well, if he’s around, bring him along. If we don’t have our paintings back by then, I can harass him in person. But do let me know, so I can get enough chops.”
“I will, uh-huh, you bet.”
“Mmmhmm.” Sam nodded, then tapped his foot. “Well, Renee’s probably wondering if I got lost, or if I’m trying to wheedle that pie recipe from you.” He chuckled, making Lynne blink away tears.
“Probably,” she said, wiping the corners of her eyes.
“Yup. So, okay. Next weekend, unless, like I said, Eric’s not up to it.”
“Sure. Next weekend.”
Sam turned around as Lynne answered him. As he reached the doorway, he faced her. “He told me what happened, just so you know. Can’t say I believe him anymore than I do you and Renee, suppose I’ll just have to see it for myself, if it ever happens again.” Sam glanced at Lynne, then to the bag in his hands. “I’ll let you and Renee sort out the details for dinner. Just remember if Stanford’s gonna be there….”
“I’ll be sure to let you know.”
Sam paused, then met her gaze. “Thanks. Thanks Lynne.” He nodded, then headed through the doorway as Renee called his name.