Stacey gazed out the back window and into the yard. There was no sign of Riana, who had now been living in the guesthouse for three weeks. Riana’s blinds were open, but the lights were off, so she couldn’t see anything inside the room.
Although Stacey had managed to keep things as business-like as possible, only speaking to Riana when necessary, she couldn’t deny that it had been hard. Every time Riana came to clean or to pick up her mail, she longed for more than just the polite “Hello” or “How are you?” and “Goodbye” they’d exchange, but she was strict with herself. It was especially hard when she was home alone with no one around to distract them.
Riana seemed cheerful and energetic most of the time, but sometimes she appeared to be sad and worried.
Stacey was surprised at just how often Riana won something, and how well she was doing at saving up money for a new house.
Stacey still resented Riana, even though what had happened was so far in the past and had ended up leading her to better things, but she also didn’t like the idea of Riana leaving anytime soon. Just because one tended to slow down sexually with age didn’t mean she still couldn’t appreciate something good-looking when it was around, and she liked having it around.
She wanted to know more about Riana, but she also liked the air of mystery that surrounded the girl which left a lot to be imagined and wondered about. From what she did know of her, she wasn’t what she expected. Maybe she really had changed a lot over the years. It happened sometimes. Especially to those who experienced a lot, both good and bad. Riana still seemed goofy and young at heart, particularly when Emma was around, but she also seemed more confident than she remembered her to be, and not as easy to manipulate. She figured Riana would be moody, insecure and not very bright, but this wasn’t the case at all. Riana had surprised her just the other day with knowing Spanish fairly well when she got a win-notice for a shopping spree at a clothing site run by a Hispanic company.
She also had a lovely singing voice and had even had some training when she was younger, singing in clubs for a while. She would sometimes hear her singing both in English and Spanish when she was out back either by the pool or on her way to bring her mail to her.
Emma kept wanting to record Riana singing and playing the piano so she could make videos for her friends at school, but Stacey insisted she stay away from her and not distract her from her work when she was cleaning the house. Yet she’d often find the two in the pool, and Stacey would have to shoo Riana away, reminding her that she’d been in it for over twenty minutes. This would usually be followed by a quick argument with Riana insisting that she ought to lighten up and “get a grip” in which Emma would find amusing and in agreement with.
She was just about to pull away from the window when she saw someone enter the yard and head for the guesthouse. Stacey had been beginning to wonder if she’d ever see any visitors, but here was the woman she assumed was Jessie, Riana’s childhood friend from the east.
The woman was just a few inches taller than Riana with dark blond hair. She had soft features and was casually dressed.
Riana, who’d obviously been expecting her friend, opened the door and stepped out.
So did Stacey, but since Riana turned her back towards her, only her friend noticed.
“Hey, how’s it going?” the friend asked just as Stacey appeared.
“As it usually goes around here,” Riana told her. “Stacey loves being a bitch, but she sure looks good while she’s at it. Just why are all the good-looking ones such bitches anyway?”
Jessie laughed and said, “I don’t know, Riana. Why don’t you just turn around and ask her yourself.”
Riana spun around to find a disapproving-looking Stacey standing behind her, arms folded across her chest. She felt the heat singe her face that had nothing to do with the desert heat, not sure whether she should be more embarrassed or worried.
“Maybe your friend can tell me why all the nutty ones have big mouths,” said Stacey.
Jessie laughed nervously and said, “Don’t worry, she’s harmless. I’m Jessica, by the way.” She extended her hand to Stacey. “My friends usually just call me Jess or Jessie.”
Stacey took Jessie’s hand hesitantly and Riana said, “Your favorite big mouth and her friend are going to the mall. Need anything there?”
“No, thank you,” Stacey answered, “I just wanted to let you know I’ll need you to clean as early as possible tomorrow morning because we’re going to Sedona and we won’t be back until late.”
“No problem. Would 10:00 be good?”
“Can you make it earlier? Like 8:30?”
“8:30 it is, but you better be nice to me for getting me out of bed so early.”
Stacey rolled her eyes, shook her head and turned to go back inside the house. “See you then,” she muttered as Riana and Jessie headed around to the front of the house.
“I don’t think she hates you,” Jessie said, barely seconds after Stacey shut the door.
“Hush! Wait till we’re in your car,” Riana said.
Once they came around to the driveway and got in Jessie’s car, they pulled out into the street, the air conditioner turned up high.
“If she really hated you that much, why would she let you live on her property?” Jessie asked. “I think she might even like you.”
“What?” asked Riana, shocked.
“I don’t know, Ri, it’s just a feeling.”
Riana didn’t believe there was any chance that Stacey liked her, even though she often spotted Stacey staring at the guesthouse when she didn’t know she was aware of it. Either way, she certainly had fun entertaining the thought as she and her friend enjoyed a fun day of shopping, browsing through stores, and eating in the food court.
“It’s so much nicer with you living back there rather than Aunt Hayden,” said Emma the next morning.
“Is that who lived there before?” Riana asked as she dusted Emma’s dresser.
“Yeah, before she moved to California. She was kind of like mom, you know?”
“Uh-huh,” Riana replied, giving her a knowing look with a wink.
“And I’m kind of sick of telling you to stay out of Riana’s way when she’s cleaning,” Stacey said, who had a wonderful knack for magically materializing at any given moment.
“I just came up to get something,” Emma said defensively.
“Well, get it and go on downstairs,” Stacey said firmly, casting Riana one of her infamous glares before she left the room to head downstairs as well.
Riana soon finished cleaning and prepared to leave. She had just made her way downstairs when she heard Stacey greeting some other woman who rang the doorbell. The woman spotted her a second later.
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Hey, wow! I didn’t know you two were still in touch.”
“Oh yeah. Best friends for life.”
To Riana, Judith had aged just as horribly as Stacey had fabulously. She’d always been heavy and a bit homely looking, but now she looked just awful. She was well over two-hundred pounds, her hair was goofy looking with the way it stuck out in random directions, and she looked a bit old. She was a bit surprised that someone like Stacey wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with her. Unless, of course, it made Stacey all the more appreciative of how well she was aging.
“We’re going to be leaving soon,” Stacey said, turning to gaze down upon Riana with an expression that was hard to figure.
“Okay, well, I’ll be off and out of your way then. Nice seeing you after so long, Judith.”
“Nice seeing you, too,” Judith said. “Don’t trip over all that hair.”
“Take care, Riana,” James called out as he was stepping out of the downstairs bathroom and she was heading out the back door. “You did a great job as always.”
“Thanks. Have fun today,” Riana said with a smile, returning to the guesthouse.