“Cathy…if you’re wasting my time right now…” Mary warned, as she bashfully gazed at Jason’s and back at her friend’s expectant face.
“Relax will you!” Cathy retorted, none of the excitement dimming from her face or eyes at Mary’s obvious skepticism. “She’s a new neighbor. I really like her, And I know you will too!”
She laughed, and added, pulling Mary into the ice cream parlor. “Come on! You know how picky I am! If I say she’s great, then you’ll think she’s awesome.”
“Do you really think I have so little critical judgment?”
“Oh, stop. You’re seriously overthinking this.”
“Whatever yourself. One day, I am going to strike that word from your vocab. I am, like, so serious. As serious as the grave even.”
Mary opened her mouth to retort that like was as bad if not worse than whatever when she saw they were nearly where the two friends were. Charlotte was standing across from a stranger. And she was talking with her. Easily. Mary felt a shiver start at the top of her head and travel down her spine to the heels of her feet. But before she could work herself into a real panic, Cathy had pulled them over and announced with a flourish.
“Here I am, now we can party.”
“Whoo, party!!” The stranger giggled, her sparkling blue eyes turning toward us. There was an air of joy about them that already had many warm up toward her. A little anyway.
Cathy’s eyes widened, and Mary groaned. She forgot that Cathy and Charlotte hadn’t met yet. Cathy’s eyes flashed, as she took in Charlotte at a glance. “Who’s the big kid?”
“Cathy, meet Charlotte. Charlotte, this is Cathy.” Mary said in her slow, shy way. “Charlotte this is the girl I told you about that is the star of the team.”
Charlotte smiled a tiny smile and nodded, as she couldn’t shake hands with a potted plant to carry. My praise must have warmed Cathy, and she grinned back infectiously. “Well, I guess it’s fair, since I got a good’un for you to meet, and this is a good’un for me to meet? What’s the plant for? How did an older kid like you become friends with this little kid? Ah well, you can answer later.” Waving off Charlotte, who had opened her mouth as though about to answer. “Come on, I got a great table, and don’t want to lose it!”
The three followed her to the table, a nice corner booth. Charlotte flashed Cathy a quick warm smile. “Wow, you have a real knack for finding good tables.” She praised, as she shifted the large plant from one hip to the other.
“It’s a gift.” Cathy shrugged without a shred modesty.
“Um, right.” Charlotte’s smile faltered a shade. Pleading a moment, she walked herself and her plant to the owner of the shop and began conversing.
Susan sat down and twirled her hair as she looked around. “Nice place. Not as crazy-ville as where I came from. I kinda like it.”
“Where are you from?” Cathy asked the blunt way of her question shown Mary, who was pulling another chair over so everyone could sit comfortably apart or snuggly together as they preferred, that this must have been something Cathy been wanting to ask for a while now.
“This small town near LA.” Susan shrugged, nonchalantly.
“You came from LA?” Cathy gasped. “That must have been something!”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
A silence stretched over the table. Susan was busy looking around her. Cathy grabbed a menu and was perusing it. Mary shook her head at Cathy. “Why are you bothering to look at that. You know what you’re going to get already.”
“Yeah, yeah. I just want to see if there is anything new.”
“And?” Both Susan and Mary chimed in. Then they glanced at each other and laughed. Cathy laughed too, shrugged and said. “Yeah, knickerbocker glory. Again.”
“Do you really get that all the time?” Susan asked. She didn’t seem rude to Mary. She simply oozed warmth and interest in whoever she happened to talk to, so far that Mary seemed to notice.
“Yes. I grew up eating them.”
“Oh. Where did you grow up?” Susan asked as she leaned forward, resting her tiny pointed chin on both balled fists.
“Oh, smashing!” Susan giggled, putting a goofy face on. “Simply smashing. Care for a spot of tea, what?”
Mary hid behind her book, fearing the worst. Cathy’s temper was rather remarkable, as the whole softball team they were on found out by day two of practice. But Cathy surprised her, instead of exploding, she just rolled her eyes and said shortly. “Eh, shut it already. Your accent stinks anyway.”
“I guess I’ll have to work on it, what?”
“Whatever floats your boat, I guess.”
Both Mary and Cathy turned to stare at Susan. Susan just shrugged, grinned, and picked up her menu.
“Whew, glad that’s over,” Charlotte said, as she settled in the seat Susan brought over earlier. “That pot was heavy.”
“What was it for?” Mary asked, softly, understanding flashing in her hazel eyes.
“You know Mom. A person is hopelessly deprived if there are no plants in their home. So she asked me to bring it down to Mr. Rizoto.”
“Did you grow it? It looked familiar.”
“Of course. It’s one of my most favorite Ferns. Came out pretty nicely, if I say so myself.”
“If you feel you can say that, it must have been a prize-winner,” Mary said warmly, reaching out to pat her taller friend’s shoulder. “Your green thumb is legendary.”
Charlotte gave a short laugh and thanked her friend for the praise with a grateful smile.
“You garden?” Cathy asked, staring hard at Charlotte. “Why?”