This post is part of Fiction Friday, a series born out of my ongoing desire to be a novelist. These stories are meant to be read independently. They are fictional vignettes inspired by glimmers from my life.
Dottie knocked on Iggy Stone's door at a quarter past seven. It had been two days since their conversation at the Co-op. Two days was plenty of time for Dottie to reconsider her offer, but nothing had happened in those forty-eight hours to convince her that she shouldn't drive across town to Iggy's one-story home.
"Dottie," said Iggy, when the door opened, "it's nice to see you again."
She followed him into the hallway, looking for a place to take off her shoes but seeing no opportunity to. She noticed Iggy was wearing his sneakers.
"It's a lovely house," Dottie said. "It looks like you're all settled in, aren't you?"
"I guess I am," said Iggy.
"And you've been here for…"
"Ah," she said. "That's right."
Iggy showed her the way through the house to the backdoor, which he held open for her to walk through first. The backyard was square, and bordered with a tall wooden fence. There was a path of round stones that led to a small dining table and two chairs. The rest of the yard was a tangle of green.
"As I mentioned to you the other day," said Iggy, "I'm having a tough time telling the difference between what to dig up and what to leave. It all looks the same to me, you know?"
Dottie crouched down and cupped her hand around a cluster of tiny flowers. She had to concentrate to not lose her balance. "But you do know these ones aren't weeds, right?" she asked Iggy.
"Okay," he said. "But what about this?"
Now he was kneeling, too, his long legs folded beside hers. He was pointing to a plant that at first she couldn't place the name of. In her mind, she flipped through the yellowing reference book that she kept on a low shelf at home. It came to her. "Mountain mint," Dottie said. "Funny, that's not often seen around here."
They slowly continued around the yard. By the time they reached the side of the yard with the table and the chairs, the light was almost out of the sky. A lamp mounted to the back of the house had flickered on automatically by then, joined by the soft lights cast from the neighbors' homes. Dottie had sunk into such a trance of pointing out and naming the plants that she had all but forgotten her reservations about coming to Iggy's house. Spending this short about of time in his company, and him becoming less of a stranger to her, made those rumors in her head sound even more ridiculous. Iggy wasn't the kind of man who burned down a building, was he? Weren't people who did things like that angry, cynical, unpleasant? People like that weren't kind to middle-aged women in grocery stores, were they?
"I've taken up too much of your time," Iggy was saying to her. "I didn't realize how late it'd gotten."
"No, no, it's fine," said Dottie.
They stood. Dottie's legs felt weak from kneeling for so long, as if all the blood had drained out of them. She rested a hand on the back of one of the chairs and glanced back toward the house.
"I really appreciate you coming by. I hate to say it, but you're the first visitor I've had," Iggy admitted.
"Oh?" she asked.
"I know what people have been saying," he said, and then Dottie felt a speck of hope appear, then quickly disappear as he finished what he was saying: "I guess I don't blame them, really."
"It's none of our business," Dottie said, her face suddenly burning.
"It's late. I'll walk you out to your car."
"No," she said. "I'm fine, thank you."
He opened the backdoor for her, as he had done when they had first come into the backyard. Her pace quickened as she navigated through his narrow hallway and out the front door, down the two wide steps, and out toward her car that was parked directly in front of the house. Her keys were already in her hand. Before opening the car door, she paused, and looked over her shoulder toward the house. Iggy was standing in the living room, at the window, watching her go. He raised a hand, waving once before retreating.