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Bette got out of bed, grabbed her robe (Pippa’s really, but she’d been using it long enough) and padded through to the kitchen. It was early September, the air in Topanga dry and still. The bifold door that led to the yard, that led to the studio, was open. She wished Pippa wouldn’t do that, not while Bette was still asleep, but old habits died hard it seemed.
Bette poured coffee from the ever-full filter jug and took herself to the step. Pippa’s cat, a pale orange tabby called Ray, trotted across the yard to say hi. Bette stroked him, marvelling as she always did at the loudness of his purring as he closed his eyes, his scrunched up whiskers glinting in the honeygold sun. A memory: Tina’s hair splayed across her shoulder as she lay sleeping on their bed in the old house. Silken waves that smelled of that apple-y coconut stuff she used back then . . .
She inhaled slowly.
She always smelled so fresh, so sweet . . .
Ray dropped suddenly onto his back, curling his spine and giving Bette a ‘come hither’ look that she knew better than to trust.
‘Uh uh,’ she said, patting his paws lightly, ‘I know you . . .’
His favourite move was to let you rub his tummy for about three seconds and then grab your hand and try and shred it to pieces.
‘But you’re so pretty,’ Bette murmured, sipping her coffee; admired his slow-blinking amber eyes and the thick white tufts of his soft belly fur; listened for the knock of a woodpecker, caught the scent of warm earth, the occasional susurration in the trees. How quickly she’d fallen in love with this place, so gentle, so full.
The cat grew sleepy. The coffee worked its magic. Bette ran her hand through her hair and thought about last night. Dinner in the studio while Pippa talked about her latest pieces. Bette was interested, but she’d also had a bear of a day and would’ve been fine with an episode of Grand Designs and early bed. As it was, Pippa wanted to work late so Bette went to bed alone and watched it on her phone.
She looked up at the trees; their delicate silhouettes against the cerulean sky. This whole week was blocked out for following up leads from her European trip, but one day in and she’d already had enough.