It was a week before the first visitor. Marietta discovered Corinne James had certainly been correct when she’d described the house as being more than fully furnished. The tiny cottage was like a fairytale, with everything inside seemingly chosen with care and an artist’s eye. The beds were downy, dressed with lavender-scented linen sheets and topped with stacks of embroidered French quilts. The old leaded glass windows sparkled and shone, each offering views of the blue grey sea. The kitchen was already stocked with everything Marietta could think of needing, including fresh fruit and farm eggs. There was even a stack of seasoned firewood neatly arranged by the backdoor. Marietta meant to phone Corinne to inquire who’d been so generous but, strangely, there wasn’t a phone in the whole of the cottage. Marietta assumed people these days generally relied on their mobile phones, but couldn’t seem to get an adequate signal on hers. She knew it was something she’d have to rectify soon, but the quiet so suited her, she didn’t place it high on her list of priorities.
That morning, the sun woke her. It streamed into her room almost audibly, like some sort of heavenly laughter, flooding every corner with pink and gold and beckoning her to the window. She sat in her chair as she pulled on her slippers, looking out at the early sunlight dancing on the sea and once again, as she’d done often over the past week, she marveled at her good fortune. This place was paradise.
Heading down the stairs to the kitchen, Marietta heard a knock on the back door. She paused. Having had no contact with anyone since she’d arrived, she’d found she liked the solitude and now wasn’t sure if she wanted to have visitors. She peered around the corner to see if she could catch a glimpse of her caller before she chose whether or not to open the door. Finding this impossible, she decided to risk it and answer.
“Just a second”, she called.
“Ok”, came a small voice. A child? Marietta opened the door to see a tow-headed boy of about eight standing on her doorstep, wearing a red sweater and a big grin. He had a wire basket on his arm, full of eggs.
“Some of these here are still warm”, he said proudly. “Thought you’d like ‘em. Figured you was about to run out by now.”
“Oh, did you bring the others? They were so good. I’ve had a couple every morning this week. I had no idea who’d brought them. I’m happy to be able to thank you! Come inside, that’s a stiff wind out there this morning. I’m Marietta, by the way. What’s your name?”
Still grinning, the boy followed her inside, placing the basket of eggs on the pine kitchen table. “My name’s Robbie. But you don’t have to worry ‘bout thankin’ me for them others. These here are the first ones I’ve brought you. But if you like ‘em, I’ll bring you more when you need ‘em. Won’t be no trouble.”
“You’re very kind, Robbie. Thank your Mother for me, too, will you? And do you have any idea who did bring the others. They were here the day I moved in.”
“Well, no ma’am, I don’t know who might’ve brought those. “Spose it was one of us, though.”
“I see”, said Marietta, as one by one she placed the warm eggs into a large bowl. This was confusing, but she didn’t want to hit the boy with too many questions. He was just doing her a kindness, after all. “Where do you live, Robbie? I’d love to come thank your Mother in person.”
“Oh, you can’t do that, Mrs. She ain’t come yet. Might not be a long time now before she does, though. I left pretty early, you see.” His grin was wider than ever even though Marietta was sure the expression she was returning to him was odd and questioning.
“Um, well… can I get you a biscuit, Robbie? Maybe some hot chocolate? It’s had to have been a pretty chilly walk up the hill this morning.”
“Oh, no ma’am. Ain’t got time today. Maybe another mornin’?”
“Certainly, Robbie. Come by anytime.” Marietta couldn’t help but be taken by the little fellow. That grin was infectious. She waved him goodbye, expecting him to head back down the road. Instead, he took the pathway that led down to the sea, his empty egg basket still swinging on his arm.
It was later that afternoon when the dog showed up. Marietta had spent the day on the fat floral sofa writing letters, attempting to explain her choice to move away to several friends to whom she knew she owed some sort of clarification. She’d also written Macon, anticipating his irritation at her seemingly rash decision as well as his resentment at being handed the duty of selling her house. It was in the middle of this letter that she decided not to get a phone line put in.
She'd put the last stamp on the last letter and was considering getting up to put the kettle on when she heard a snuffling sound coming from the front porch. Leaning out over the back of the sofa she craned her neck to see out and spied a large black dog sitting in front of the door. He had a white star on his furry chest and a plumed tail that was wagging as if he was home. And sure enough, when she opened the door, the big dog ran in, jumping and leaping as though she were his long lost love.
“Whoa there, boy”, she said as she danced out from the circle of his exuberance. “We don’t know each other that well.”
But the dog didn’t seem to agree with her. He romped from room to room, with Marietta chasing after him, before finally racing up the stairs to the tiny back bedroom under the eaves. There he stopped in front of the closet door, turned to Marietta and barked, loudly.
“For pity’s sake! You don’t live here, you know.” Marietta paused, winded, at the door to the room. “This has been fun, but you have got to get on home now, boy.” But, continuing to bark, the dog had now started pawing at the closet door, turning occasionally to look Marietta square in the eyes.
“Oh Lord, ok then. I’ll show you there’s nothing in there for you.”
Crossing the room, she grabbed hold of the old brass doorknob and pulled. With a crack the door swung open, revealing a large padded dog bed covered in red and black tartan squeezed inside on the floor. Marietta stared. She slowly turned to look at the dog. He was now sitting calmly on the floor behind her, and she could swear he was smiling. She pulled the bed out of the closet and headed back downstairs with it bumping along behind her. When she dropped it by the front door, the big dog sat for a moment, then got up, placed a corner of the bed in his mouth and pulled it resolutely to a spot just to the right of the fireplace. He then climbed inside, circled a couple of times, and lay down with a sigh.
“Well, I’ve always liked dogs”, she said out loud. “But you have to belong to somebody. You’re too pretty not to. You can stay here tonight, but I’ll have to get out tomorrow and find out who your owners are. Till then, you’re probably hungry. I’ll see what I can find you. “ Marietta went into the kitchen to get something for the big dog to eat, but when she opened the pantry door she felt her knees go a bit weak. She felt around behind her for a kitchen chair and sat down with a plop.
There on the pantry floor sat a large bag of dog food and a bowl. The name Roy was painted on the side in gold letters. After a moment or two, Marietta called out in a weak and watery voice, “Roy?”
The big dog bounded into the room and gave her his paw.