ight came early in the country.
The sun disappeared into the woods and shadows started slinking out from between the trees. Twilight brought a chill wind whipping across fallen leaves and in the distance the huddling hills were hidden in autumn haze.
That’s when David began moving through the farmhouse, locking the doors and windows.
It was a regular ritual now, but tonight Vera rebelled.
“For heaven’s sake, must you close things up so early? We’ll suffocate in here without fresh air.”
David didn’t answer. Instead he opened the kitchen cabinet, pulled out the vodka bottle, and poured himself a shot.
“Please, David,” she said, “couldn’t you wait until after dinner? I’ll have it on the table just as soon as Billy shows up.”
David was staring out the window, squinting at the woods across the road, but now he turned and his eyes widened.
“I thought he was in his room,” he said. “How often do I have to tell you I don’t want that kid outside when it gets dark?”
“But he’s just across the way—”
David turned so quickly that Vera got only a momentary glimpse of his face, but what she saw frightened her because he looked so frightened. And now he was hurrying to the door, flinging it open, rushing out.
As Vera moved to the window she could see him running across the road and into the tangled, weed-choked remnants of the vegetable garden beside the old Holloway place. Then he was swallowed up in the dusk and Helen lost sight of him.
I lost sight of him a long time ago, she told herself. Ever since we moved here to the farmhouse.
Perhaps it started even earlier than that, back in town, when David was terminated just before Easter.
“Terminated, hell!” he’d raged. “Bastards fired me, that’s what they did. Ten years working my butt off for the company and now they’re giving my job to a lousy computer!”
“It’s not the end of the world,” Vera said. “There must be other openings for controllers and you know a lot of people in the business. The thing to do is start making some calls, get out a résumé.”
So David called around and circulated his résumé. He had several promising interviews, a few nibbles, and no firm offers. By Labor Day they’d run through his severance pay, and it was then that Vera suggested moving to the farm.
“You’re out of your mind,” he said. “I’m an accountant, not a manure-spreader.”
“No one expects you to work the place, darling. But it’s only forty minutes from town on the turnpike and if you get a job—”
“If? I’ll land something, just be patient.”
“I am patient,” Vera told him. “But we’re already digging into our savings. And here you have a perfectly good piece of property your uncle left you, standing idle all these years, where we can live rent-free.”
“That’s crazy,” David said. “The whole place is rundown—cost a fortune just to fix it up halfway decently.”
Vera shook her head. “We’ve got our furniture and the appliances. Maybe we’ll have to spend some money on minor repairs, but the house is sound. I’m sure we can manage on far less than we’re paying here. Besides, it’ll be good for Billy, living in the country. And it will be good for you too, getting away from this rat race.”
“I don’t want to go there,” David told her. “And that’s final.”
Only it wasn’t final. Vera went right ahead on her own and made all the arrangements. Their lease on the apartment was up at the end of the month and by then she’d got the painters and carpenter and the electrical contractor working against the deadline. Just as she thought, it was no big deal.
The big deal turned out to be persuading David to make the move. But she kept after him, and when it came to facing the hike in the new leasing agreement he finally saw the light.
They’d moved in at the beginning of October, and even David had to admit she’d done a wonderful job transforming the old farmhouse into a