Alpine Icon

Alpine Icon by Mary Daheim

Book: Alpine Icon by Mary Daheim Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Daheim
Seattle. But that wasn't my point.” Now Vida had squared her shoulders and sat at her desk with fists on hips. “Laura O'Toole is a mouse. I can't imagine her speaking up at any kind of meeting. Why on earth is she running for the school board?”
    A mental image of Laura crossed my mind. She was fortyish, too thin, more dark than fair, and, as Vida had noted, very quiet. “Who knows?” I shrugged. “Didn't we hear Laura and Buzzy were separating? Maybe they, have, and this is some kind of gesture on Laura's part to become independent.”
    Vida harrumphed, but before she could say anything else, a young woman entered the news office. Her Armani suit, Chanel handbag, and stylish short blonde hair made her look as out of place in Alpine as a Monet at a shopping-mall art sale. It took me a faltering momentto recognize Alicia Wells, Francine and Warren's daughter. Vida, of course, was much quicker, and of course remembered Alicia's married name.
    “Alicia Lowell! How nice. When did you arrive in Alpine?” Vida's gracious greeting sounded almost genuine.
    Alicia's smile was brittle. “This afternoon. I got in a couple of days early. My meeting in Chicago was can celed. How are you, Ms. Runkel?” Without waiting for
    Vida to reply, she turned to me. “And Ms Ward, is it?”
    “Lord,” I replied. At least she hadn't called me Lard, as Carla had done in one of her more memorable typos.
    “I'm waiting for Mother to close the shop,” Alicia went on, her Delft-blue eyes taking in her surroundings. Judging from the crease in her forehead, she found the news office only slightly more edifying than a charnel house. “She asked if I'd walk over here to invite you both to dinner Friday night.”
    “Oh, pity!” Vida cried. “I already have an engagement.” She gazed at me over the rims of her glasses. “Mr. Bardeen. We're going to see a musical in Everett.”
    It may or may not have been true. Mr. Bardeen was real enough, however. Vida and Buck, a retired air-force officer, had been seeing each other for over a year.
    Fortunately I, too, had an excuse. “My brother and maybe my son are arriving from Arizona Friday. How long will you be in town?” I asked, aware that I was climbing out on'a limb that Alicia probably would be delighted to saw off behind me.
    “I'm not sure,” she answered. “My return is open-ended. I work for myself as a children's-book illustrator, so my schedule is fairly flexible.” The slim figure in the expensive suit retreated to the door just as Ginny stumbled into the office.
    “I'm going home now,” Ginny said in a thin voice.“Everything's done, and I don't feel so good. It must be this awful weather.”
    Alicia's eyes followed Ginny out of the office. “The weather? It's gorgeous. What is she talking about?”
    Vida's courteous mask slipped a notch. “How long have you been gone, Alicia? Four years? You know we natives don't do well without rain. Don't tell me you've turned into a New Yorker!” Vida made the appellation sound as odious as the Ku Klux Klan.
    Alicia had the grace to laugh. “I haven't forgotten. But summer in New York is beastly. If we weren't air-conditioned, I'd die. Blue skies, eighty-five degrees, and almost no humidity seem like heaven to me.”
    Apparently having succeeded in bringing Alicia back down to earth—or at least with one foot on her native heath, Vida nodded. “I understand. But lack of rain is a serious matter, especially in a logging community. The woods are closed. The forest-fire danger is extreme.”
    A faintly wistful look touched Alicia's face. “I remember all that. There was one summer that we couldn't even use the barbecue. And some kids I knew from high school got in trouble because they roasted marshmallows upriver from the holding pond.”
    Vida tipped her head to one side. “Yes, very difficult. But I imagine you have problems in New York, too.”
    The understatement was taken seriously by Alicia, who still seemed caught up in

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