Wilfic: A Wilfair Prequel by Caitlin #1

One of my favorite things? When I open an email to find new Wilfair fiction written by a reader.

Reader Caitlin #1 has taken on a prequel idea, an idea that brims with nature and whimsy and includes the hotel's citrus topiaries. Thank you, sweet lady! Love it.

                                     Please Rate the Value of Small Opportunities 

     I wasn’t spying, exactly.
     Lurking? Maybe. Monitoring? Possibly. Standing among The Wilfair’s citrus topiaries on a slightly chilly November afternoon, watching Gomery Overbove scoop dead leaves out of the Motel Fairwil pool, hoping he wouldn’t notice my presence?
     If you wanted to be precise about it, well...yes.
     It wasn’t intentional. I had been heading for the motel lobby, to make yet another noise complaint about late-night skinny dippers in the pool, when I spotted Gomery sooner than I expected. And rather than act like the mature, confident, nineteen-year-old hotel manager I was supposed to be, I instead panicked and froze.
     I watched him finish his task, hang up the pool scoop, straighten one of the chairs on the deserted pool deck, and head back towards the motel lobby. As he placed one hand on the door handle, he turned his head -- and looked straight at me.
     Crap. I ducked behind a tree, staring hard at an orange. I pretended it was the most riveting thing I’d ever seen, when in fact, if I were making a list of the most riveting things I’d seen in the last five minutes, the orange would be a distant fifth. Items one through four on that list? The man currently redirecting his steps toward the Wilfair-Fairwil property line.
      “Fair?”
     I reluctantly edged out from my leafy and clearly inadequate hiding spot. “Um, hi. I was just, uh...inspecting the topiaries. You know.” I nodded emphatically.
     Gomery’s eyebrows raised the tiniest bit, but he didn’t question my excuse. “Everything shipshape?”
     “Oh, yes. Everything seems to be, uh, in order here.” I gave a fakely hearty thumbs up, then wished I could take it back.
     “Don’t you have gardeners or landscapers or something for that?”
     “Oh, well, you know, as the manager, I should really be, like, overseeing everything. Supervising. Managing. You know. Okay. Bye now!” I hurriedly turned to make my escape.
     “Were you by any chance supervising the pool as well, just now?”
     Busted. “Um. Maybe?”
     Gomery sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets. “The pool’s not yours, nor is it going to be yours anytime soon,” he said softly but firmly, though he addressed himself more to my ankles than to my face.
     “I know. Sorry. I just...I’ll just be going. Sorry. Sorry.” I started to back away.
     “Wait.” He held out a hand. “Please. Is there anything else? Anything other than the pool that we could talk about?”
     “Um. I,” I began, casting about for the words to follow, when something small and red further distracted me, as a ladybug alighted on Gomery’s outstretched arm. “There’s, like, a ladybug on your arm,” I pointed out helpfully, albeit obviously.
     “So there is,” Gomery replied, his voice slightly hushed. I watched intently as he slowly rotated his forearm and the beetle crawled toward his now-upturned palm. “They’ve been everywhere lately, trying to find warmth as the autumn weather cools down. Monty complains, but I kind of like them. Some guests love them, too, especially the kids, but then they also complain about them in the pool.” He coughed, then gave a “what can you do, you know?” shrug.
     I wondered if the cough indicated that Gomery regretted mentioning the pool again. He adjusted his glasses with his non-insect-holding hand, then placed the tips of his thumb and middle finger together, preparing to flick the ladybug away. He paused for a long moment, fingers of one hand tensed in the palm of the other, before finally sending his new friend on its way.
     “Were you going to say something else?” he asked politely, but I wasn’t listening. “Fair?”
     “The ladybug is in your, um, your hair now.”
     “She must like me.” Gomery dimpled. “Give me, and her, a hand?” He bent his head towards me.
      “It could be a he. The ladybug, I mean. There must be some man-ladybugs, right? Or else there wouldn’t be, uh, baby ladybugs.” I swallowed nervously. Gomery Overbove was asking me, his family’s sworn enemy, for help. Not only that, he was offering me a free pass to touch his hair, to boot. His fascinating hair that curled in sixes and eights. And here I was, babbling about ladybug reproduction instead. Hopeless, that’s what I was. Hopeless.
     The face attached to that head of hair dimpled further. Fleeps. Not helping. “That’s true,” he agreed. “Must be rough for those man-ladybugs, always being mistaken for their female counterparts.” He bent his neck again. “So. Care to help him or her out?”
     My gloved hand hovered for a second, and then two, half an inch above the curl where the beetle perched. I mentally chastised myself for pausing too long, and then, ever so carefully and gently, I lowered my fingers and scooped up the insect stowaway.
     Gomery’s hair was undoubtedly the most exciting thing with which my glove had ever been in contact. Even through the satin barrier, my fingertips could feel that his hair was smooth and enticingly soft. As I reluctantly moved my hand away, I saw the curl I’d just touched spring back into place. Fleeps, again.
     I would have liked to ask the ladybug to describe exactly how it felt to crawl through those sixes and eights, since my fingers were unlikely ever to find out. Or to ask my glove how it felt, for that matter. Fortunately, I had enough presence of mind left to know that trying to live vicariously through an insect or an inanimate object was downright ridiculous, and not to do either of those things in Gomery’s hearing.
     Instead, I stood awkwardly and silently, still holding the ladybug in my cupped hand. I watched her, or him, crawl slowly over my palm, briefly contemplating if I might be able to keep it as a pet, the better to remember this moment. With a sigh, I decided against that idea, then prepared to shake my small charge free.
     “Wait.” Gomery laid a single finger on my gloved wrist, then pulled it away a fraction of an instant later. It was a move so fleeting, I might have imagined it. “Make a wish.”
     “What?”
     “When a ladybug lands on you, it means you get to make a wish when you help it fly away.”
     “But it landed on you, not me. It’s, like, your wish.”
     “I got to make one a minute ago. You can have this one.” He smoothed his tie.
     “No, I can’t.” ...Take this from you, too, I thought but didn’t say.
     Gomery sighed. “Please. I’m giving it to you.”
     I couldn’t look him in the eye any longer. “O...okay,” I faltered, barely louder than a whisper. “Thanks.”
     Gomery shrugged but didn’t say anything, waiting patiently while I searched for a wish that would befit the current situation.
     I wish the Overboves and I could be friends instead of foes, I thought, not for the first time and probably not for the last. Then I brought my hand near to my face, and set the ladybug airborne on a puff of breath. I watched my new friend fly away in the direction of the motel’s tar bubble.
     My old foe cleared his throat. “I should, uh, get back to work.”
     “Oh. Yeah, me too.” I nodded.
     “Okay. Well, bye, then.”
     “Bye.” I waved weakly, then watched for a moment as Gomery turned away and strode to the motel lobby.
     As I set out through the topiaries, I couldn’t shake a sudden, furtive hope that sharing something small, like a wish on a ladybug, might be a solid first step on a path to sharing other, larger things.

cr: Clearly Ambiguous

3 comments:

Kelly said...

Nice work Caitlin #1, love this!

Also, ladybird wishing! My sister and I used to do that all the time when we were kids. If any other insect landed on me I'd scream and flap, but ladybirds mean wishes, so they're allowed to stay. I wonder why my mum never told me that spiders granted wishes too.

(ladybug is a vastly more sensible name, it never occurred to me before how random it is that it's called a ladybird here)

Caitlin #1 said...

Thanks, Kelly!

Wilfair Book said...

Kelly, agreed. This fic is so sweet and hits all of the perfect Wilfair points for me. I won't lie, I had sort of a stressful bus ride last night, and a sore back to boot, but reading this cheered me up, lickety-split.

Also, I had no idea that ladybugs are called ladybirds in England! I shall use that new knowledge somewhere.

 
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