WE DO GO TO DINNER, a Chinese restaurant Meredith knows with fierce, painted dragons on the wall and a large shield just inside the entryway. A fish tank is set near the reception counter, with bubbling water and at least ten exotic small fish, two bright blue with yellow tails, one a brilliant red. The host ambles up and says without us ask- ing, “A Filipino man designed the tank with all the unusual flora. He is brilliant but unreliable. If something goes wrong, he is never avail- able. Those two dappled fish, that hover in the tentacles of that odd- looking plant almost never leave there, because the other fish chase them. The plant has sharp thistles that bother the others, but not those two. There is also a baby eel, but it hides under thecoral.”
The food is okay–I like the crispy noodles and dip–but in all truth, the conversation is better. It is like a bonus to sit across from Meredith and, careful not to stare, look into that Technicolor counte- nance, with the dancing green eyes and rose-colored cheeks, and, of course, the striking, reddish hair.
“But, I still don’t understand how in this faraway locale–at least far away from Simi Valley, California–anyone from the past would catch up to Claire. And if not from the past, then who would be so pushed out by her beliefs that he or she would want to kill her?”
“That’s the mystery. Your sister is tuned into just about everyone here, and I’ll bet she can identify who might be so offended. Besides that, she knew Grandmother quite well, and I am almost sure was in on much of her history.”
“My little-big sister, Charlotte, on the inside of a full-blown who- dunit! Wow! I always knew she was crafty, but a sleuth, a wannabe private eye? No way.”
“That’s what you have to do, now, Greg. Find out from your sister who she might suspect.” She stops, and adds, in a most appeal- ing way, “For me. Aside from her blindness, Claire was a sturdy woman. I need to know the truth about her death.”
I want desperately to say, “Anything for you, Meredith!” but in- stead and as usual, I reply, “Of course. I’ll see Charlotte tomorrow morning. It’s Saturday, and you can come with me. We can…cross- examine her together.”
“She doesn’t know me very well. Might be she’d speak more freely to you alone.”
I hesitate, aware that my request is for me, my need to be in Mer- edith’s company, and say, “I don’t think so. And anyway, I’d like for you to know her better.”
She smiles–I think she wants to be there but doesn’t want to seem as if she’s pushing–and places her hand on my forearm. Grand moment! With a demure shyness Meredith says, “Okay, if you insist.” A one-way fixation is the most frustrating experience. As a sometimes counselor, I know we cannot live our lives on “if only.” But, damn it, if only Meredith could see me.
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