End of the Rope
Meg balanced on the rickety scaffolding, spraying the old barn a bright red. She never heard Nicky’s Subaru drive in. What she heard was the dog yapping and Nicky calling her name. Her heart took a leap when she turned, partly because the board bounced under her weight and partly because Nicky did that to her.

“That looks dangerous.” Nicky peered up at her, her eyes shaded with one hand.

“It’s terrifying.” The scaffolding could collapse any minute or she might misstep and fall. Either was a real possibility, but how else could she paint the barn without it? “Wait a minute.” She emptied the spray gun and ran paint thinner through it.

Nicky hushed the little dog and held the ladder while Meg climbed down. When she reached the bottom, she leaned forward and kissed Nicky’s cheek. “Thanks for coming.”

Nicky touched her cheek and looked Meg up and down, “Have I got the right day?” Her dark eyebrows lifted in question.

Meg nodded, taking off her gloves. “I’ll just change and get Tango. Want to come inside? Get a drink of water or something?”

The old farmhouse was hot, even though every window was thrown open. The dog rushed into the kitchen and paused to glance around as if remembering he once lived there. They laughed.

“He’s a smart one,” Nicky said, opening a cupboard.

Meg headed for the bedroom to change into her show clothes. As she was pulling off her paint spattered T-shirt, Nicky appeared in the doorway with two glasses of ice water.

“It must have been hot up on that board.”

“Hot enough. Thanks.” She drank half the water before setting the glass down. “I need to take a shower. I’m a sweat-ball.”

“Hey, you look good sweaty.”

“Yeah?” Meg smiled at Nicky, taking in her dark blue eyes, noticing the gray strands in the nearly black hair that curled around her ears. She wondered if Nicky was thinking about their first bedding in this room all those years ago, of Meg hiding in the closet when Beth showed up in the middle of it, how they’d laughed guiltily outside afterward when their eyes met. Had she fallen for Nicky then and only realized when it was too late?