Over the next month Steve had a driver’s license and was driving a Bentley for Mrs. Bradford.
The morning was cool. It was early fall. The leaves had begun to change and there was a liveliness to the morning. The glow of the sun off the leaves gave the appearance of warm embers on a crisp night.
After Mrs. Bradford’s morning coffee she prepared a meal in the kitchen. It was a picnic lunch; fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob, and an apple pie. Near noon she brewed a pot of coffee and emptied it into a thermos. She packed everything needed for a picnic in a basket and summoned Steve who was ironing freshly laundered curtains.
“Could you put that aside for the time being and drive me out to the country for awhile,” Mrs. Bradford said.
Steve pulled the plug on the iron. “I’ll get the car and pull it around, Mrs. Bradford.”
“I have a picnic basket on the kitchen table,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Take that with you and place it in the back seat.”
“Where will we be going?” Steve said.
“To a small pond purchased some years ago,” Mrs. Bradford said. “It will take us a good thirty minutes to get there.”
Steve drove with Mrs. Bradford in the back seat giving directions. At last they pulled into a lane paved with black top. Weeds had forced their way through it in some places and overgrown on the side of it.
Steve stopped the car near an old boathouse near a small lake.
“Bradford Lake,” Mrs. Bradford said. “It is so beautiful our here. My mother and father used to come out here and motor on the lake.”
“Is this my next project?” Steve said.
“No, but I’m going to restore this place,” Mrs. Bradford said. “I want you to take charge of it for me. Hire people to do it. “There’s an old boat in the boathouse. It’s quite handsome. I suspect it needs to be restored. It’s been too many years to recount.”
Steve got out of the car and opened the door for Mrs. Bradford.
“Grab the basket,” Mrs. Bradford said. She pointed toward the boathouse. “On the other side of the boathouse is a fireplace. Start a fire and we’ll heat the corn that’s wrapped in foil. There is a blanket in the trunk. You will find a sandy beach on the lake, spread out the blanket and we’ll have a picnic together. Would you like that, Mr. Joseph?”
“Yes, I would,” Steve said.
They sat and ate slowly with interludes between bites talking about the warm sun, the mild breeze, the vibrant colors, and shimmering water. Mrs. Bradford spoke of old times long forgotten and only recalled because of the mood and pleasantness of the day. She seemed to drift to a gentle time of love, nostalgia, and romanticism.
“Have you ever been in love, Mr. Joseph?” Mrs. Bradford said.
“I don’t know,” Steve said. “At my present state I’m not sure of what it is.”
“It is stronger than death, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said. “Even my husbands philandering nor death has ever diminished my love for him. Have you ever seen a pathetic sad looking dog. It needs somebody to care for him. That was my husband. Like a dog,” she smiled brightly, “he always knew who fed him and where home was.”
“I think I know what you mean,” Steve said.
“Not really, Mr. Joseph,” Mrs. Bradford said.
“I don’t think you brought me out here to talk about love,” Steve said.
“I hired a private detective to find our who you are,” Mrs. Bradford said.
“Do you know?” Steve said.
“Yes,” Mrs. Bradford said looking out over the shimmering lake.
“Please tell me,” Steve said looking at her as if begging.