Evvie Drake Starts Over - Linda Holmes Page 0,3

seven, and she did not trust her father with her recital hair or her Matchbox cars.

“She’s a planner, that one.”

“The other day she called me ‘Father,’ ” he said. “Like we’re on Little House on the Prairie.”

Evvie frowned. “That’s ‘Pa,’ though.”

“Who am I thinking of? Who’s called ‘Father’?”

“Priests,” she said. “And Captain von Trapp.”

“So can I tell her you’re coming?”

“Of course,” Evvie said. “Now tell me who you want to stash in the apartment.”

“Right, right. I actually have a friend who’s going to be in town for a few months, and he’s looking for a place to live.”

She frowned. “What friend? Somebody I know?”

“My friend Dean.”

Her eyes got a little wider. “Baseball Dean?” She knew one of Andy’s friends was a pitcher, but she’d never met him.

“Not anymore,” he said. “He retired recently. He’s going to come up here and take it easy for a while. Enjoy a little of our fine salt air and all that.”

“I always forget professional athletes retire in different decades from normal people. What is he, mid-thirties? And he retired? Must be nice.”

“It’s a little more complicated than that. Which you would know if I didn’t steal all your issues of Sports Illustrated.”

“I probably still wouldn’t read them,” she admitted. “There’s a new one at the house, by the way.”

“I know,” he said. “Dean’s in it.”

She snapped her fingers. “Wait. Baseball Dean is the head case?”

Andy squinted at her. “He’s not a head case. He lost his arm. I mean, not his arm arm; he lost his pitching arm. He has both arms. And he’s not crazy.”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Well, he was a very good pitcher, and then all of a sudden, he was a very bad pitcher. Other than that, no idea.”

Just then, Diane Marsten stopped by the table. She ran the thrift store Esther’s Attic, which had been her mother’s before it was hers. Diane often ate at the Compass on Saturdays with her husband, sometimes in the unsanctioned company of her little dog, Ziggy, who didn’t seem to be around to thumb his tiny nose at the health code today. “Morning, you two.”

“Hey, Diane,” Andy said. “How are things?”

“Can’t complain.” This, Evvie knew from experience, was not true. Diane turned and put a hand on her shoulder. “Good to see you out and about.”

Evvie shot a look at Andy, then screwed on her smile. “Thank you, Diane. It’s good to see you, too.” Diane provided a few updates about neighbors with ailments (politely vague to the point of futility, like “troubles with his system”) or personal issues (same, like “the business with the one daughter”), then went off to enjoy her French toast. “Honestly.” Evvie sighed.

“She cares about you, Ev.”

“I know. I know. But they all…hover. ‘Out and about,’ she says, like I had the flu. They act like all I’m doing is”—she switched to a hard whisper—“sitting at home grieving.”

“She said it was good to see you.”

Evvie shook her head. “It’s the sympathy. It’s all the pats on the arm, all the soft voices. That tree-planting thing at the clinic is in a couple of weeks, and it’s going to be even worse then. Everybody’s just going to sit there and watch me cry.”

“You don’t have to cry. Everybody knows how much you loved him.”

In fact, everybody didn’t know. Andy didn’t know.

“I don’t get it,” Evvie said. “Nobody pities Tessa Vasco because her husband died and she’s not out partying all the time.”

“Tessa Vasco is ninety-two.”

“So?”

“So you are not ninety-two. And unlike Tessa Vasco, you don’t need a walker or an oxygen tank to go to the grocery store.” He wiped his mouth. “And not to pile on, but I feel like I have to point out that Tessa does water aerobics.”

“Why would you know that?”

“Because my mom also does water aerobics. She’s only sixty-nine, though. Little less embarrassing for you.”

Evvie put one hand up. “All right. It was a bad example.”

“So can I get back to trying to sell you on a tenant?”

She looked around the restaurant, then back at Andy. “Why does a professional athlete want to rent an apartment in my house? I thought they lived…I don’t know, on private islands or something.”

“Dean lives in Manhattan. World’s least private island. He says he can’t get a cup of coffee without somebody taking his picture. He wants to get out of the city for a while, and I told him I thought up here, people would leave him alone. He’s not staying long enough to buy a place,