Noone knows where Laicie came from. She arrived one afternoon, hopping out of the tire-filled bed of a rusty truck with a cheerful wave for the driver. She was wearing one of her soft plaid shirts that smell like wood chips, and her eyes, cornflower blue, were taking everything in like the town was something special. She’s young, pretty in a way you have to think about, head cocked, staring because she doesn’t mind. But when Laicie smiles, you wonder what made you have to look so long to recognize something so beautiful. Her hands are big, calloused from all the odd-jobs she works through here and there; fixing fences, changing car oil, and even building a bookshelf or two.
Old Jim was the only one who could’ve known Laicie was coming. But he was never the type to talk to people if he didn’t have to, even about something big like his daughter moving in with him. She makes him go to the church socials every month now, and she watches, chuckling, as he drinks lemonade and listens to the church women talk about quilting and tabby cats and whether roast chicken is better with rosemary or thyme.
Every week, Laicie goes into town to pick up a gallon of milk, a box of saltines, and some carrots or apples. She drives Jim’s pick-up truck and whistles to kids skipping rope on the side of the road, her sleeves rolled up past the tattoos scrawled across her forearms. She calls them her mistakes.
It’s been years since Maggie died. They haven’t talked about her yet, or why Laicie left, or why Jim never remarried, but somehow, they don’t need to. At night, they sit together, quiet, and Laicie sews the buttons back onto Jim’s shirts, or reads Emerson, or stares into her coffee mug, and Jim smiles because that’s what Maggie used to do.