Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Eight by Eight, Jill and Patricia Hood-Colby

 

Summary:

The Hood-Colby family’s obsession with numbers crops up once again not long after Jill and Patricia’s eighth wedding anniversary.

Jill Hood-Colby rolled over and opened one eye to check the clock. What she saw was confusing enough that she opened the other eye and lifted her head off the pillow to be sure she was seeing it clearly. Her brain settled back on the track of wakefulness and she confirmed it couldn’t be 2008 because she was in the mayor’s bedroom and she could hear Isabel’s music playing down the hall. But somehow, her wedding bouquet from eight years earlier was sitting propped against the lamp. She sat up and let the blanket fall away.

When she touched the lilies, she realized they were silk. It was a perfect recreation of the flowers she’d carried down the aisle on their wedding day. She smiled wider as she bent down to see if they had a scent. They didn’t, of course, but they were still remarkable. She kicked the blankets away and carried the flowers out of the bedroom.

Isabel, somehow only three months shy of her third birthday, was chattering downstairs in the kitchen. Jill put on a robe and went down with the flowers tucked into the crook of one arm. Patricia was at the stove dressed for work below the waist – skirt and pantyhose – with her pajama shirt on top in case of messes. She looked up as Jill entered, her face already lit with a knowing smile even before she saw the flowers. Isabel twisted in her chair and beamed up at her.

“Hi, Momjay,” she said.

“Hello, little girl.” She bent down and kissed the top of Isabel’s head.

Patricia left the stove. “Good morning.”

“Hello.” Jill let her lips linger against Patricia’s a moment longer than usual before she pulled back. “They’re absolutely beautiful. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I wish we could have saved the original bouquet, but…”

“These are just as good. But our anniversary was last week. We had the big dinner and… the other stuff.” She grinned at the memory. “You gave me a gift then.”

Patricia said, “I did. And our anniversary was actually just over a week ago.”

Jill laughed and shook her head. “Which means we’ve been married eight years and eight days. Nice number.”

“I thought it was a good day for us to celebrate. We’re all about numbers, right?”

“That we are.”

She smoothed down Jill’s hair. “If you want to hop in the shower, your breakfast will be ready by the time you get out.”

“Sounds perfect. Over-easy?”

Patricia nodded. “If that’s what you want.”

Jill passed by Isabel again and crouched down. The girl swung around to look at her, face set in a ridiculously serious scowl. It faded when Jill poked her nose and then quickly brushed both cheeks with a crooked finger.

“Are you being good for Mama Trish?”

“No,” Isabel said matter-of-factly.

Jill kissed her forehead. “Well, try to be better until I get back, okay?”

“Okay, Mamajay.”

She looked at Patricia and raised her eyebrows questioningly. Patricia lifted one shoulder and waggled her hand. Translation: she’d been a little bit of a pain, but nothing too bad. Isabel was in her terrible twos, and she spent three or four mornings every week throwing tantrums.

Jill paused to display the flowers in a vase on the coffee table before she went upstairs to shower. Isabel was such a little person, full of emotions and opinions that sometimes made it hard to keep her on the right page. The flowers reminded her of just how long she and Patricia had been married, but it couldn’t have been that long. Could it…? Eight years of marriage, nine years of being together, and she was still as over-the-moon as she’d been that day they met in the laundromat. She still remembered how it felt picking out the original bouquet, how her hands had shaken when she thought about the fact Patricia Hood was agreeing to spend the rest of her life with plain old Jill Colby.

But the passage of time was undeniable. Their baby was walking and talking. Michael was an adult now, basically. He had come home for the summer and she was startled to see he’d grown a beard. He was taller than her now, almost taller than Patricia, and Jill dreaded the day she would have to look up into Isabel’s eyes. She itched to run back downstairs and hold her baby while she could, before any more time slipped by without her noticing.

She dressed for work and went back down. As promised, Patricia had just finished plating her eggs and bacon. They passed in the dining room, pausing long enough for a kiss as Patricia went up to finish getting dressed. Jill sat with Isabel and alternated between eating her own breakfast and helping Isabel with her fruit smoothie so it wouldn’t end up all over her and the floor.

Patricia returned, hooking her bag over her shoulder. “Grandma will be a little late, but she promises she’ll be here in twenty minutes. Can you stay?”

Jill nodded. It was much easier for Patricia to be late to her job, but twenty minutes was a big enough window that she wouldn’t have to rush.

“Call me when you get to the office.”

Patricia paused on her way out the door. “Why?”

“Because sometimes I miss you.”

“Okay… love you. Bye.”

“Love you, too. Bye.” They blew a kiss to each other and Jill went back to focusing on the baby.

Outside, the sun had just barely started to color the town. Patricia adjusted the collar of her blazer as she walked to the car. Traffic was never very bad unless it was tourist season or a ferry had just arrived and, even if it was crowded, City Hall was less than a mile away. But leaving this early meant she could get into Coffee Table Books right after it opened. Amy Warren made the best coffee on the island, challenged only by Jill, and Patricia hadn’t felt like asking her to take the time.

She stopped and got her coffee and headed in to work. Bigger cities might have City Halls that were bustling all day every day, but Squire’s Isle didn’t need that level of micromanagement. Most of the lights were still off when she arrived. A janitor on the ground floor was wrestling with a floor waxer and offered a “Good morning, Mrs. Mayor” as she passed.

Outside her office, in the empty cluster of desks where her staff would spend the day, she slowed and looked toward the desk she had once occupied. “December Harbor City Hall, this is Patricia. How may I help you?” A thousand lifetimes ago. Divorced and closeted and taking a risk with a whole new career. She would never have planned on rising to the highest office. She never looked at Mayor Dugan’s door and whispered, “Someday.” She’d also never seen herself as a wife or a second-time mother, but fate had a tricky way of forcing people to follow its path.

She turned on her office light and stood on the threshold for a moment to take in what was sitting on her desk: a tall green vase with eight cream-colored tulips surrounded by a low crown of eight red dahlias. She chuckled quietly as she crossed the office, the sound becoming louder as she took the card and confirmed who had sent them and why.

“I know we already celebrated last week, but 8 years and 8 days just seemed so very us. You don’t have to get me anything in return; just enjoy the flowers. – Your Devoted Wife, J.”

Patricia laughed and tapped the card against her hand. She examined the flowers – real, scented, and obviously delivered the night before judging by how the dahlias had spread their aroma throughout her office. She took out her phone and dialed Jill’s number.

“I concede that you won,” Jill said in lieu of saying hello. “Recreating my wedding bouquet? How dare you, sweetheart, how dare you.”

Patricia laughed. “I think we’re even. These flowers are absolutely gorgeous.”

“I had them delivered to your secretary and he snuck them in after you left last night.”

Realization dawned on her. “Is that why you took me out to dinner?”

“I may have had ulterior motives, yes.”

“Evil genius. I may have to punish you by taking you out to dinner tonight.”

Jill sighed, “I did do the crime…”

Patricia smiled again. “Eight years and eight days. Seems hard to believe. What do you say to at least eight more?”

“Sounds good to me, beautiful. Someone has to help me wrangle this little child… hah.”

“What?”

“I just realized in eight years, she’ll be ten years old. That’s how old Michael was when I started dating you. Seems hard to believe.”

Patricia said, “It really does. It’ll be even harder to believe when we look back and wonder where the time went. She’ll be ten years old, I may be in my fourth term as mayor…”

Jill laughed. “Here’s hoping. Oh. I think your mother just pulled up. I’ll let you get to work and go let her in. Text me about dinner.”

“Will do.”

They hung up and Patricia touched her flowers once more. The petals could be preserved in a book. Something they would find in another eight years or maybe eighteen or even thirty, and look back on their eighth anniversary like it was yesterday. She grinned at the thought and went around her desk. She needed to at least turn on her computer before she spent the entire day staring at the flowers and dreaming about future anniversaries.

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