“I shall leave you to become better acquainted,” Penelope said, with a presumption that took Douglas’s breath away. “I must be off to do some errands that Louise would find terribly tedious, I’m sure. And she needs to make friends here. Douglas, you are forever a gentleman.”
The woman swept out of Marilyn’s house, leaving Douglas to consider how to make this moment less awkward for poor Louise. He thought one good start would be for him to put his cleaning supplies away, and offer tea. He turned toward Louise to say so, but she beat him to it.
“Well, that’s my big sister,” Louise said with a grin. “She lives in a world entirely of her own making. I adore her for it, but it creates a series of awkward moments that would be at home in a nineteenth century novel.” She laughed, a small but delightful bark of a laugh. “It’s lovely to meet you, Douglas, but please don’t feel obliged to follow Penelope’s instructions. I’m very capable of being on my own. In fact, there’s a coffee shop just a few blocks from here that I’ve been quite eager to try. I thought I’d walk down there. Of course, if you’d like to join me, you would be welcome. Please consider this invitation entirely optional. You likely had your own plan for the day before my sister offered up the chance to babysit me.”
Douglas laughed in relief. “A grand plan, as you can see,” he said, gesturing toward his cleaning supplies. “But to be honest, a break for a walk and a coffee sounds lovely. I have no doubt you do not require company, but if I wouldn’t be intruding, I’d love to walk with you.”
The smile Louise beamed by way of answer sent a warm arrow to the same place in Douglas’s chest where the damp fish of anxiety had been so active just moments before, as he pondered how to help his son David.
It was a most welcome substitution.