STORY 4, Part 7

"Did you know your Aunt Ruth brought a water witch out here before she bought the land?"

I didn't. In fact, there were many things about Ruth's past she didn't divulge. She must have spent time here, though, since Walker seemed to know it all.

"That's the truth. Heard all about it when I used to come out here as a kid. Get you a propane tank, hot water, lights. Nice. What about that pool?"

I was tempted, but not very. How could I keep on letting him think that I was some rich divorcee from the city--able to indulge in whimsical dream projects and keep his buddies employed in the bargain?

"Look, I want to pay you for the well. I can't thank you enough for all you've done. But I'm a waitress. I can't afford the propane, or the pool."

He pulled his head in, hunched his shoulders, and fell silent.

"Guess not," he said finally. He walked out, got in the truck, started the engine and soon disappeared over the hill.

The valley was empty. I wandered from one hut to the other, putting things straight. I picked up the box with the button collection and started sorting through it. I expected to feel lonely, kept looking for the feelings that said this time I was really, truly alone. Instead, I began to feel a rising, methodical rage. In the main house was the crazy glue I'd brought to mend a window latch--grabbed up that and the army knife. Out by pool I sat on the low bench and looked at the buttons.

These are the things of my life, I thought. This is all there is. The spare button from my wedding-day going-away-suit. While I held the opaque, lavender disc, out of my fingers bloomed a long-ago day, the smell of the gardenia corsage, the crisp linen, the future a shower of shiny rice. I glued it to the smooth wall. It glinted in the transparent light, a half-life of pain stored inside.