Leo and I got off to an early start, beating most of the holiday traffic. We arrived at Eliza’s cottage by mid-afternoon. She and Claire were already there, and so were Teresa and her friend Lena. All four of them came out to greet us, and to help us unload.
Teresa introduced us.
– “Colin, Leo – this is my friend Lena.”
– “Umm … hi.” was the best I could manage. It took me another moment to gather my wits. You see, Teresa had neglected to mention that Lena was tall. Like, over 6 feet tall. (I learned later that she was 6’1″) She was remarkably attractive, with long, straight blonde hair, big brown eyes, and those classic east European features: a narrow face, accentuated by long, straight hair, and high cheekbones.
– “Hello.” she said, offering me her hand. “I have heard much about you.” Then she corrected herself. “Teresa tell me much about you.” If Lena was learning to speak English, she had a lot of work to do, but her accent was quite appealing.
– “You too.” I said, shaking her hand. “I mean, Teresa has also told me about you.” Damn, I was having trouble concentrating. If her pretty face wasn’t enough of a distraction, she had long arms, and incredibly long legs. She made Eliza look like a hobbit.
Leo was no better. He just stared, with his mouth open. I gave him a nudge. “Let’s get the car unloaded.”
Eliza’s cottage was a very large 2 storey, 4 bedroom house, with an attached garage and a basement. It was more like a house than a cottage. Leo and I carried the beer downstairs, where there was a second fridge specifically for the chilling of sudsy beverages.
Upstairs, Teresa inspected the wines we had brought, and gave our selections the seal of approval. “Great job, guys.” she said.
Eliza was going through the liquor bottles. “White rum, dark rum, spiced rum … yeesh! Did you get enough rum?”
– “If you need more, we can make a liquor run tomorrow.” said Leo.
Eliza rolled her eyes. “I was being sarcastic.” she said.
– “So was I.” said Leo.
– “Can we do anything to help?” I volunteered.
– “We’ve got everything under control here.” said Teresa.
– “How about outside?” I asked Eliza. “Did you want the grass cut?”
– “That’s right. “answered Eliza. “You’ve been here for closing before. Sure, the grass needs to be cut this weekend. Might as well do it now, if you’re willing.”
– “I’ll help him.” said Leo.
We got the lawnmower out of the garage, and filled it up with gas.
– “Did you see that girl?” he said.
– “Lena? Pretty face, right?”
– “Face? I couldn’t see that high! Christ, her tits were over my head.” said Leo.
Eliza’s cottage sat on two acres of prime lakefront land. There was a copse of trees behind the house, but most of the grass was out front, between the house and the lake. There was a boathouse and a dock, and a large stone patio with a firepit and a massive barbecue. Overlooking that was a large deck, adjacent to the kitchen. Still, there was quite an expanse of grass to cut. It took us well over an hour, with Leo taking over about halfway. I used the trimmer while he finished up.
By the time we were done, we were both a bit sweaty. I realized then that with 11 people staying over, hot showers were not going to be easy to come by.
– “Feel like a swim?” I asked him.
– “You nuts? It’ll be fuckin’ freezing in there.”
I explained the shower issue. “Besides,” I said, “it’ll be a great way to wake up in the morning. Hell, we’ll have to go in tomorrow to get the dock out.”
– “Somebody will have to go in tomorrow.” said Leo. “Why do you assume that person is going to be me? Even if I have to go in, I can wait. For now, I’m grabbing a shower.”
Undeterred, I changed into shorts for swimming, and got my towel. There was no point in delaying the inevitable: I dove off the end of the dock. It was cold enough to make me catch my breath, but as I surfaced and began treading water, I realized that it wasn’t that bad. Our unseasonably warm summer had phased into an unusually warm autumn.
Teresa and Lena had heard the splash, and were standing on the deck when I emerged.
– “How is it?” called Teresa.
– “Better than I expected.” I told her. “Too cool for swimming, but a quick dip won’t cause heart failure.”
She laughed, and then translated for Lena. As I dried off, another car arrived. It was Craig, arriving with Ben. Eric was with them. I shook hands with all three, and thanked Craig for bringing Eric, as I had asked him to.
– “No problem. Glad to.” he replied.
– “Hope you’re ready to go, Colin.” said Ben. “Of course, I’m going to win this thing, but it’s always better if you make it a challenge.”
– “I’ll try my best.” I answered. I was never quite sure how to take Ben. In my humble opinion, he was an arrogant asshole. But others seemed to like him, so I might have been wrong.
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