I spotted the first moving van before it swung onto the neighboring ranch and roared up the long, winding road to the main house or, as I called it, Barron’s Mansion, because it was so huge and magnificent. Another followed. I squinted, almost seeing the – I twisted the little wheel focusing on the company name – E.E. I. – Moving Empires and Estates For Generations. Ooh. A shiver raced up my spine. Those movers commanded high dollars. I bet antiques and dead animal heads from multiple safaris in Africa filled both vans. And… I didn’t know what else but… I had to see everything.
I put the binoculars down, ran inside, poured myself a soda, grabbed a bag of chips and some onion dip. Then, determined not to miss anything, I rushed back, to my back yard, positioned myself in a comfortable chair and grabbed up the binoculars.
This was better than a movie.
A giggle slipped out. What a great day. I would meet my new, one-ranch-over, neighbor. Everyone raved about her. Said she was fabulous. Really talented. Like over the top.
Like… I took a sip of soda and rolled my eyes…. Unbelievably creative.
Like I didn’t believe a word of it…
Not after the first two effusive minutes.
I got that she was popular. But, nobody was that great.
People exaggerate. Take one little thing and run it around the moon and back.
I just hate that.
Obviously, that was what was happening here.
That was her name.
A multitude of voices jumped into my brain. “Oooo, I hear Laura’s moving out by you. You’re so lucky. She’s so creative.“ “So nice.” “So beautiful.” “Oh gosh, just wait until you see all the things she can do.”
Then they’d blather on about the latest… whatever… she’d done.
And then… Oh my gosh… What was it about Laura and cookies? Every single person would go on for like – thirty minutes – about her cookies.
Sugar cookies for goodness sake.
Get a life people. There’s nothing that exciting about a sugar cookie.
I was dying to see this paragon of virtue, talent and perfection. From afar. Because when you meet somebody with a reputation like that, you have to be perfect too. So that you can be friends. Because you’re way-over-the-top-perfect too.
That’s what I’d do. Get perfect.
Tomorrow. So I could go over and snoop. Of course, I’d be lovely and take her some little something from a local bakery. Repackage it and act like I baked it. So she’d think I could cook too.
But today, I was staying in my pajamas. My comfortable pair. The faded flannel ones with the hole in the butt. I wasn’t taking a bath or washing my hair. Not until later on. Even then, I wasn’t planning to style it. Because I wasn’t going anywhere.
And, it was only me and the cows, and an occasional skunk.
When you live in the country, you don’t have to worry about fixing up.
The first dolly rolled out of the van. I squinted hard into the binoculars. Saw a huge, baroque china cabinet. I tightened the focus. Suddenly, little faces carved in each of the corners jumped into view.
A giant mahogany table with lion’s feet came next. So cool. Followed by a tall, four-poster headboard and chest.
Oh my gosh… I grabbed a handful of chips, dragged them through the onion dip and stuffed them in my mouth, hoping to soak up some of my envy and drool.
I sighed. I always wanted an antique china cabinet with little faces… and… Oh. The movers carried out four huge, gorgeous paintings in a row. Then came… urns… and… an antique armoire.
I always wanted an armoire.
That’s when it hit me. Of course people thought Laura was perfect. Everything she owned was perfect. And, beautiful. People, like that… Well, you just naturally think they’re perfect too.
But, I’m sorry. It’s just not a big deal to bake a sugar cookie.
But then, people just don’t expect someone like Laura to be able to bake… anything… much less a cookie.
Four guys emerged carrying a long, heavy, mahogany table. Twelve rich, tapestry-covered dining room chairs followed.
My breath caught. It was fabulous! No wonder everyone went wild.
I crammed in another fist full of chips and washed them down. Never taking down the binoculars.
I loved chips.
I rammed another handful into my mouth.
The doorbell rang.
I swung around and stared through the back door, which lined up shotgun style with the front door, both glass. A gorgeous woman stood there.
She saw me.
Cuss words crackled through my brain.
I forced the mouthful of chips down… then shot her a half-hearted wave. Never moving. I prayed she’d go away. Because I looked like crap. And… And… I didn’t want to talk to anyone… Especially someone that looked perfect. I eyeballed her. Brown hair, thick and shiny. Big, sincere smile… Dressed to kill. All couture. Holding a plate full of… sugar cookies.
Oh… Crap… It couldn’t be… My new neighbor… Laura…
I raked a hand through my hair and tucked it behind my ear. As if that would improve my looks. Then, even though I was dying of embarrassment, I stood and walked, as regally as I could, to the front door.
“Hi.” I said.
“Hi, I’m Laura. I’m your new neighbor. We’re moving in across the way.” She beamed, like she was thrilled to meet me. Like I wasn’t dilapidated. Like she hadn’t seen the binoculars. And me, spying. “I brought you some cookies.”
“Oh my gosh,” I blushed and blubbered, “I never look like this…”
“Oh stop.” Laura shushed me with a wave of her hand. “I had a pair of PJ’s just like that. They were the most comfortable pair I’ve ever had. If they didn’t get a hole in the butt, I would still be wearing them today.”
Then she offered me the plate filled with the most incredible looking cookies.
Grateful, I reached out and took one. Without thinking I bit it.
My taste buds exploded. My brain fumbled. That cookie was the greatest thing I’d ever eaten. I took another bite. Half the cookie broke off, bounced once and slid to a stop on the floor behind me. Without thinking, I whirled around, bent and grabbed it. Then, I eyeballed the floor, decided it wasn’t that dirty and shoved it into my mouth.
I heard a gasped. Saw Laura take a step back.
I flushed. Didn’t know if she’d seen the hole or if she didn’t eat food that fell on the floor.
I shoved the cookie into one cheek and said, “Five-second rule.”
“Oh.” A mischievous smirk broke and spread across her face. “We live by the five-second rule at my house.
She paused for a second, then grinned, “I can tell we’re going to become great friends. You want to come by my house sometime this week? You can help me decorating the place!”
That’s when I knew – everyone was right. Laura really was perfect.