Before she headed to the bathroom to wash up, she went to check on Axel. “What if I help you get in your wheelchair so you can freshen up for the night?”
“Freshen up? He snorted. “I wouldn’t mind brushing my teeth.”
“Let’s do it.” She put a hand under his elbow and helped him to his feet, steadied him when he turned to lower himself into the chair. He could do it on his own if he had to, but she could tell it wore him out. The more he moved, the better off he’d be. She pushed him into the bathroom and handed him his toothbrush and toothpaste. She got a clean washcloth for him. When he’d finished, she wheeled him back to his room and helped him settle back in bed.
“You’re not too bad at that,” Axel said.
“I’ve had practice.”
He grunted. “Wouldn’t mind doing that most nights.”
“No problem.” She didn’t make a big deal out of it, or he’d refuse. When she’d finished up, she turned out lights as she headed to her room. Once there, she changed into her pajamas, got comfortable on the air mattress, and called her mom.
“How’s it going?” Mom asked.
“About what we expected. Axel doesn’t like anything I suggest. I’m going to call different social services tomorrow to see what’s available. Axel doesn’t want to leave this place.”
“It’s in bad shape, though, isn’t it?”
“It looks horrible, but the house itself is really solid. Once you get past how it looks, you realize that it could be a really nice house if someone did something with it.”
There was silence on her mom’s end for a minute, then Mom sighed. “Someone told me once that the house was beautiful when my grandma was alive. I can’t picture it that way, too many bad memories growing up, but I suppose you’re right.”
“I can see it,” Karli said. “It has simple, clean lines.”
It was a large, two-story house with the open porch that ran across its entire front. Six, straight columns ran from the roof to its cement floor. A wide chimney was centered on the left exterior for the fireplace in the living room. An eyebrow arch let light in the attic.
“Keagan said he’d bring friends over on Saturday, and they’d fix the porch column. Can you believe that?”
“No.” Her mom sounded surprised.
“People are really nice around here. Mill Pond isn’t what I expected.”
“I’m glad it’s better for you than it was for me.”
“I don’t have Axel for a dad, or Eloise for a mother.” She was beginning to think that Eloise was no prize, either. When they hung up, Karli thought about her family. All twelve of Axel’s kids had run from him as soon as possible. Her sister, Nora, had sort of done the same thing. She’d wanted to leave Indianapolis for some place more glamorous for years. Karli loved Indiana, loved being close to her mom and dad. She was happy to travel, to stay in some new place for a few months, but Indiana always called her home.
She looked out the parlor’s long, narrow window at the side yard. Dead weeds bent at odd angles in the beam of the security light near the mudroom’s door. Frayed ropes hung from the branches of two trees. What was left of a hammock? It would be a perfect spot for one.
She pulled the drapes and reached for her book. She couldn’t help but smile at Catherine Bybee’s romance, Not Quite Mine. Would she ever find her happily ever after? Maybe. Maybe not. And it didn’t matter. She didn’t need a man to make her happy. But even as she told herself that, her thoughts drifted to Keagan.