Leaves by Michael Baron

Book: Leaves by Michael Baron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Baron
Tags: Fiction/General
to go to the back room to get more ice cream, but Deborah stuck around. She told herself she should probably be back at the Inn by four o’clock, but she knew she could stretch that a little if necessary. She liked watching Sage interact with customers.
    When the pound cake ran out, Sage closed down the tasting. Over the next fifteen minutes, the store slowly emptied.
    â€œThe treats are gone and so is my clientele,” he said as he cleaned up.
    â€œWell, nothing attracts like free food.”
    â€œI can’t complain. I think this has been our busiest day yet.” He wiped down a counter with a damp cloth and then returned a display of gift baskets there. “I’m really glad you could come.”
    â€œMe too. Hey, I feel the same way about free food as everyone else. Definitely invite me to these things whenever you have them.”
    â€œYou’ll be the first call on my list.” He looked directly into her eyes, looked down for a second, then looked back up at her. “What if I invited you somewhere else?”
    Deborah felt a little charge. “What did you have in mind?”
    â€œA drink sometime this week?”
    â€œI think I’d like that.”
    He smiled. “When are you available?”
    â€œIt would have to be pretty late. Unless you want to go on Wednesday. The dining room is closed that night.”
    â€œWednesday would be great.”
    Deborah nodded. She didn’t want to make too much out of this, but she was thrilled at the opportunity to get to know Sage better. She noticed the clock on the wall and that it was a quarter to five. “I definitely need to go. My staff is probably wondering what happened to me. I’ll see you Wednesday?”
    â€œAbsolutely. I’ll give you a call.”
    Deborah waved and then exited the store. She’d meant to buy a couple of the toppings before she left, but thought it would seem foolish if she went back in now. Maybe I’ll ask him to bring me some when I see him on Wednesday , she thought.


Monday, October 11
Twenty days before the party

    Maxwell got up in the middle of the night because he had to go to the bathroom again. Decaffeinated coffee didn’t keep him awake because of the caffeine; instead it kept him awake because he had to pee. Most people learned these things earlier in life.
    He flicked on the bathroom light, closing the door as quickly as he could. He didn’t want to stir Annie, but at the same time, he’d learned from messy experience that he wasn’t very good at doing this kind of thing in the dark. He stood for a second in the room to allow his eyes to adjust. As he looked down, the random pattern of the floor tiles seemed to readjust into a checkerboard. He blinked his eyes and shook his head, but the image held.
    His first thought was what the hell? Then another memory followed it almost immediately. It was of playing checkers with Tyler when Maxwell was twelve and the kid was just four. Some aunt who didn’t know much about what boys played with at that age got Tyler a checkers set for Christmas. Tyler seemed befuddled by the thing, and one afternoon Maxwell saw him with the board out, stacking the checkers on top of one another with no sense of purpose. Maxwell decided to show him how to play the game, which took some doing. The concepts of moving only in diagonals and only in one direction were a little hard for someone Tyler’s age to retain. Tyler seemed to like doing this with him, though, and he regularly brought the board out when Maxwell got home from school, hoping for a game.
    Maxwell let Tyler win most of the time, foregoing obvious opportunities for multiple jumps and being kinged. Then one day, maybe seven or eight months after they’d started playing, Maxwell realized Tyler was winning the game they were playing on his own. In fact, while Maxwell had barely been paying attention, his little brother had pulled off a triple jump. The

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