The next day, I spent time in the garden tending the mint beds in front of the bedroom area of the house. Their aromas filtered into the rooms and helped me sleep. Megan and Rose Prairie played with a ball on a string. Robespierre sat in his Sphinx position on the stone walk leading from the front door to the street. He watched the pair. Did he yearn to play but felt such nonsense beneath his dignity? A smile brushed my lips as I wondered if he felt his age kept him from play.
A moving van backed into my neighbor’s driveway. Several minutes later, a bright blue eco-friendly car parked on the street. A tall, blonde haired woman wearing jeans and a white tee with some slogan printed on the cloth got out. I couldn’t read what was written there. Large sunglasses and a baseball cap obscured her face. She half ran to the steps and climbed to the porch. My new neighbor had arrived and promised to be interesting.
The movers emptied the truck and carried the usual furniture inside. They followed with dozens of boxes and office equipment.
While watching the move, I gathered basil and mints for our evening meal. I pulled weeds from the beds.
“Hungry, Grandma Kate.” The small girl planted herself in front of me.
“Is it lunchtime already?”
“My tummy says yes.”
I clasped her hand and we walked to the house. A parade of cats followed. The pair scampered over the slate foyer and turned toward the kitchen. Robespierre and Rose Prairie dashed to sit beside their bowls in expectation of being fed. I chuckled. Megan’s pet had learned the drill.
She giggled. “They are so silly.” She shook a few nuggets into each bowl. She ran to the powder room to wash her hands. I assembled a peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. A glass of chocolate milk, apple slices and two cookies completed her meal. I entered the pantry and selected a round basket and placed it on the counter.
Megan skipped to my side. “What you doing?”
“Making a welcome basket for our new neighbor.”
“Can I come with you and see her?”
“Yes.” I pulled a loaf of banana bread from the freezer and filled a tin with an assortment of cookies. A half dozen small jars came next. Each contained a different blend of mint and tea. The jars had ribbons with an attached card telling about the tea.
Two cats observed the process. Though curious, I knew the basket was safe. I had trained Robespierre to stay off the counters and the kitchen table. Rose Prairie usually followed the older cat’s lead.
I joined Megan at the table. My lunch was slices of tomato and the rest of last night’s crab salad. After delivering the basket, Megan and I would drive to a local farm to replace my stock of fresh veggies.
The moment we finished lunch, Megan wiped a chocolate moustache away. She ran to the door. “We go now?”
“Just a minute.” I inspected her clothes to make sure she hadn’t spilled a bit of lunch to stain her shirt. I looked for the cats. They were curled in Robespierre’s bed.
“Rose Prairie come, too?”
“Not today. We don’t know our neighbor. Cats could make her sneeze.”
I lifted the basket. Megan opened the door and walked beside me to the gate in the privet hedge between the two yards. When we reached the Dutch Colonial, I rang the doorbell.
My new neighbor opened the door. She was beautiful and blonde. I had expected blue eyes but hers were a brilliant green. “Hello, I’m Katherine Claybourne from next-door and this is my granddaughter, Megan. We would like to welcome you to the neighborhood.” I handed her the basket.
“How lovely of y’all. Reminds me of home. I so wondered about my neighbors.” She paused. “Oh, I’m Sabrina Gates.”
Her smile warmed me. I felt an instant connection. I turned to leave. “Once you’re settled we’ll visit again.”
She shifted the basket. “Why wait? I’m dying for a break. Why don’t y’all come in?”
“If it’s no bother.”
We stepped into a central foyer with stairs leading to the second floor. On one side double doors opened into the living room. On the other side a hall led past a small room, a powder room and into the kitchen.
Sabrina placed the basket on the table. Like a child opening a birthday present, she pulled out the jars and read the labels.
Megan climbed onto a chair. “Grandma Kate make some really good cookies.”
Sabrina’s laughter filled the room. “Would you like one of the really good cookies?”
Megan looked at me and I nodded. “One.”
She turned to Sabrina. “She say one. I’m four and gonna be five when I get my birthday. How old are you?”
“Not a polite question,” I said.
“Oh, do you have any children?”
“I don’t but I do like children.”
“My daddy like them, too. He makes pictures. Him needs a girlfriend.”
I hid a grin. Was the child match-making?
Sabrina finished her exploration of the tea jars. She selected one. “I’ll brew a pot of this one.” She had chosen pekoe and peppermint. She took a pinch and sniffed. “Smells great. I just finished making sugar syrup for sweet tea.”
“Sweet tea?” I looked around the room. The walls had been painted off white, the same color as the ones in the foyer and the hall. Were all the rooms the same color?
“Sweet tea’s a Southern thing. You’ll see.” She put water to heat and filled a tea ball with leaves from her selection. While the water heated, she examined the banana bread. “This will make great breakfasts with cream cheese.” She pulled a large jar of clear liquid from the refrigerator and hung the tea ball on the side of a pitcher. When the water boiled, she poured it into the brewing pitcher, waited for the water to color and then added the syrup and ice.
“I read your first book. Well-written and held my attention to the end. I’m waiting for a copy of your second to be available at the library.”
“Wait a minute.” She dashed from the room and soon returned with two books. “Now you won’t have to wait. What is your name?”
“Katherine or just Kate.” She signed both books and handed them to me. “Thank you.”
“Tell me about the town,” Sabrina said.
“It’s really a village. People are generally friendly. They don’t pry into your business too much.”
“Sure isn’t that way at home. I lived in a small town not far from
Everybody thinks your doings are their business. I think I’ll like living
“Tell me about writing your books.”
She smiled. “They’re adventures. Nothing like my life. My heroines are gutsy. Not at all like me.”
“I’m sure that’s not so. Here you’ve left home and moved to a place where you know no one. That takes courage.”
Pain crept into her green eyes. She shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about why I moved away but you’re so easy to talk to. I feel like I’ve known you for years.
She must feel the same connection as I did. “I know. It’s odd but sometimes that happens.”
She rose and took glasses from the cupboard. “Megan, would you like milk with your cookie?”
Megan shook her head. “Tea.”
Sabrina frowned. “Is that all right?”
I nodded. “She likes to taste the different kinds.”
Sabrina opened the cookie tin. “These look delicious.”
“Grandma Kate makes the bestest.” She pointed to one of the cookies. “I help make those ones. Chocolate with peanut butter chips.”
“Then that’s the one I’ll try.”
I sipped the tea. A hit of sugar zapped my palate. My new neighbor was right. The flavor reminded me of peppermint candy.
“Where do you buy the tea?” Sabrina asked.
“I grow the mint, dry the leaves and blend them into either pekoe or oolong. Recently I’ve experimented with green tea. Haven’t had much success since the green is so delicate.”
Her green eyes sparkled with interest. “How did you begin?”
I set my glass on the table and checked Megan. She sipped her tea and licked her lips. “Tastes like a candy cane.”
“When my husband and I bought a Victorian house, the mint leaves were well established. When I moved here, I transplanted a variety.”
“Is the handsome man I saw earlier your husband?”
“How long have y’all been married? Daddy and Mom just celebrated their thirty fifth.”
“Almost a year.”
“You’re teasin’ me.” She bit into the cookie.
“Not a bit. For years I was a widow.” Megan had finished her tea and cookie. “We should go. No sense wearing out our welcome.” I handed her a slip of paper. “Again, welcome to the neighborhood. These are my home and cell numbers. Try the house first. I always forget to turn the cell on. If you have any questions, call.”
“I will and thank you for all the gifts.”