The Opening of The Whisper of Time
It figured that I would get lost. Kyle was always telling me I had a terrible sense of direction. “Turn left,” I would say, and he would answer “Which left, Gwynn, yours or mine?” I used to think everything Kyle said was charming.
I’d since found out that Kyle, like GPS, had a limited range. Out here, in the middle of Vermont farm country, my GPS had stopped functioning. A signal kept insisting the phone was searching for a satellite, but it was becoming pretty clear that the satellite was nowhere to be found. It was hiding, perhaps, from the snippy woman’s voice that commanded me to turn left when I wanted to turn right.
Luckily, the real estate agent had given me directions. I’d scribbled them down on the back of an envelope and was now trying to decode them. The agent’s name was Vera Applegate, which I thought sounded like Vermont. I could almost hear Kyle, “What, exactly, does Vermont sound like?” And I might try and explain that it sounded like rolling green hills and stone fences and cows lying under huge old maple trees. None of it would have made sense to Kyle.
“Take route 153 from West Rupert town center and turn left on Witches Hollow Road,” I read aloud. My bulldog Tyrone cocked his head from where he sat in the passenger seat of the VW bug. “I know, right? Which was town center, the shopping plaza or that quaint green with the historical marker and the gazebo? And how far from town center?” Tyrone lost interest in my pondering and went back to doing what he does best, sticking his head out the window and letting the wind blow his jowls back. Miss Kitty, my tabby, was pacing the back seat with a bad case of nerves. I’d let her out of her carrier back in Saratoga, because she had been yowling. She had stopped complaining aloud, though the prowl wasn’t much better. I kept waiting for her to land on top of my head so that she could navigate.
The road wound this way and that through the hills. I had slowed to a crawl, nearly coming to a stop at each intersection to read the road signs. Some of them looked like they had been posted in the eighteenth century and never updated and some were missing all together. An old truck, that looked like something out of the fifties, with a huge toothy grill, eased up behind me, the grill nearly kissing my VW’s back bumper. I hate tailgaters, so in defiance I slowed even more. The truck beeped, making Miss Kitty jump and then the driver throttled up the engine and roared past me. I caught a glimpse of a nice looking sandy-haired man with a Jack Russell terrier on his lap. In that instant, I got the notion that the dog was driving the car.
“Don’t get any bright ideas,” I said to Tyrone. I went back to searching for Witches Hollow Road. A wonderful name, isn’t it? I could picture a trio of old crones stirring a steaming black cauldron, throwing in mysterious ingredients like eye of newt and chanting spells.
That the farm was on Witches Hollow Road was only one in a long list of features which made me take the leap and buy the place. I could hear Kyle saying it was an impulsive thing to do. At least it wasn’t compulsive, I argued back to his voice in my head.
I had, on the trip from Manhattan, scripted out the whole of the argument we’d have when he found out what I’d done. He would storm into the farm kitchen (lots of sunlight, wide oak plank floor), take the bowl of muffin batter from me and ask “Have you gone stark raving?”
And I would take the batter back, and calm as you please I’d start putting it into muffin tins. “I need a change. This is a change,” I would say.
“Who buys a farm sight unseen?” Kyle’s mouth would be set tight, his hazel eyes squinched together.
“It’s an investment.”
An investment. I loved that part. It’s what Vera Applegate said after I’d called for information on the too-good-to-be-true classified in the Sunday Times. Old Homestead. Needs some TLC. There had been a picture next to the ad, the farmhouse like something out of a picture book, an old barn sitting on an emerald meadow. Twenty Acres. Small private pond. I was enchanted.
I’d been looking at estate sales for a long time. Each week, I’d open the Times and imagine what it would be like to live in the rambling Gothic in Portland Maine, the brick row-house on Beacon Hill in Boston, the painted lady on Martha’s Vineyard. Window shopping is what it had been, a Sunday morning pastime in the tiny basement apartment on Tenth Avenue.
“We love the city,” Kyle would say when I pointed out the cedar-shingled beach house in Hampton. “And we could never afford it.”
He was right. We couldn’t have afforded any of them. And they would have stayed tight in my imagination if I hadn’t seen the price on Auld Lang Farm. I thought it was a typo.
When I called Vera, price was the first thing I asked about. “We can get you financing. You would only need five percent down.”
I quoted the price again. “Is that right?”
“Sticker shock.” I could hear Vera chuckle through the phone lines. “We’ll run through the numbers and find a way.”
I hadn’t the heart to tell her that I didn’t think it expensive. Quite the opposite. I began to wonder what was wrong with it. “It needs a little work, updating,” Vera said. “Nothing too daunting.”
I pondered the house for a week. I even asked my friend Gloss to do a Tarot reading. “Big changes in your future,” Gloss announced.
“What kind of changes?”
“I see a farmhouse. Somewhere pastoral. And a man. Ooh, he’s your destiny. The love of your life.”
This was spooky. I hadn’t told Gloss about Vermont. “Kyle is the love my life.”
Gloss shook her head. Her earrings- a string of silver hearts- began to chime. “Never was never will be.” Gloss had advised me not to marry Kyle. She insisted that he was no way no how the man I was supposed to be with.
“I’m still married, you know.”
“You shouldn’t be.” I had never believed her, though a sliver of doubt about my future with Kyle had found its way into my brain.
That in itself might have been enough to convince me to buy the farm. But the universe wasn’t through throwing signals. A few days later, I was told Bow and Meow, the veterinary clinic where I worked, was closing. My boss, Ted Carlin, was going to retire.
“You’re a damn fine vet, Gwynn. You’ll find another job.” With that scant bit of reassurance, Ted handed me a list of places where he thought I could apply. Most were in the city, but one, right at the bottom of the list, was in Rupert, Vermont. A Dr. Henry Bolger was looking for a partner. It didn’t register at first.
“Rupert?” I asked Ted.
“In Western Vermont, near New York I think.”
Then it dawned on me. Auld Lang Farm was in Rupert! How much of a coincidence was that?
Though I still wasn’t convinced, mostly because I wasn’t sure I could talk Kyle into moving to Vermont. He was a fireman with the NYFD and he wasn’t likely to give up his job. Just the same, I called Dr. Bolger. I figured I might as well cover my bases.
“Yup. I’ve been working in New York City.”
“I’m a Brooklyn boy myself.” We talked for quite a few more minutes and after that, Dr. Bolger said. “Well, you want the job or not?”
My heart was pounding. Did I want the job? “Sleep on it,” Dr. Bolger suggested.
Sleep? How was I to sleep with the universe making such a racket?
Though how was I to convince Kyle? The universe, it seemed, had an answer for that as well. Sometimes, fate can hit you over the head so hard it hurts.