A Repeat In Time

Chapter 1: Frances Carlyle

Joanie, for the first time in weeks, was busy at the Barkary. Because of some unusually hight business, she had abandoned the radio station for the day to help her friend Brittany out. The two young women were both busy taking orders when a young girl, who looked about 16, walked in. She stood patiently in line, twiddling with her black framed glasses a little while she waited. Her blondish hair was back in a ponytail and she wore jeans and a cute little top. She carried with her a black book bag and a pink poodle purse, which naturally attracted Joanie's attention. "She must really love animals," Joanie thought to herself.

As Joanie was staring off into space, the line moved and the next customer had to get Joanie's attention with an "ahem." "Hmm…….?" Joanie looked around until she saw the customer. "Oh, sorry, how may I help you?"

"Busy day?"

"Yeah."

"Anyway, I think a box of those new liver treats would be awesome for my dog."

"Coming right up."

As Joanie went to fetch a box for those liver treats, Brittany began to ask the next customer in line what she wanted. This next customer happened to be the 16-year-old girl that Joanie had seen enter the shop. Joanie listened as Brittany said her pleasant "How may I help you?" and when the girl asked if a woman named Joanie still worked here, Joanie's ears perked right up. Brittany smiled, "Yeah, she's here today. We're extra busy, and Joanie took a day off from the radio to come help me out. Joanie?" she called. Joanie came over, as Brittany told her, "I"ll get those treats. This customer wants to speak with you."

"No problem." Joanie headed to the counter where the girl was waiting. "What can I do you for?" She asked, smiling a bit.

"Umm, hi, I don't know if you remember me or not, my name is Frances. Frances Carlyle." Joanie looked puzzled, until Frances explained herself. "I was a kid back when you knew me. You helped me with a school service project to feed shelter dogs a few Thanksgivings ago……?"

Suddenly, a light bulb went off in Joanie's head, and she hit her forehead gesturing "Duh!" to Frances. "Now I remember. Sorry, Fran. I've been awfully busy with everything. I started my own radio station block, Hannah's growing up, my sister just got married, my brother runs a bed and breakfast, my dad is growing older, my love life is nothing to think about, and to top it off, we just got back from London. So I have a hard time remembering other things when I have so much going on now."

The line of impatient customers gets longer. Joanie notices this and wraps up the conversation with Frances. "Fran, can we do this another time? The Barkary is unusually busy. Oh! I know! Do you mind helping us take orders right now? We can talk later. What do you say?"

"Well, I don't have anywhere I could be."

A few hours later, they get ready to close up as the last few customers get ready to leave. Frances has already gotten to be "one of the girls" and has her own Barkary shirt. She gladly does any task Joanie and Brittany ask of her. But, still, Joanie notices that something is troubling her young friend. And, she knows the perfect way to get it out of her.

"Fran, do you want to come to dinner with the family? It's Friday, so everyone will be there: Dad, Syd and Owen, Robbie, Tina, and the boys, me, Hannah, and I think Leo is stopping by. What do you say? And, Britt, do you want to come?"

"Sorry, Jo, I can't, my parents expect me," Brittany said apologetically. "Maybe some other time."

"Okay, what about you, Fran?"

"Well, like I said earlier, I don't have anywhere else to be."

Everyone is in the kitchen as Joanie and Frances come in. Pots are boiling on the stove, miscellaneous vegetables await their fate in a salad, and something is cooking in the oven, as Tina, Owen, Jim, and Robbie labor over the counters. Syd is trying to pitch in, but everyone kicks her out. Everyone knows she can't cook! She is put in charge of little Nick, who is screaming in his high chair. Pete and Hannah carry various dishes in to the dining room table. No one notices Joanie and Frances come in, until Syd glances up. "Joanie, you're home! We wanted to surprise you with dinner. Now it won't be a surprise anymore……"

"Syd, you aren't helping to surprise me."

"Well, they won't let me."

Joanie goes to the countertop where everyone is working. "Alright, everyone out! I'm home, so I take over. Out!"

"Joanie, we were only trying to give you a break from cooking dinner," Jim explained.

"Yes, but I'm the cook around here, Dad. Out, I said!"

"But, Joanie.....," Tina protested.

"OUT!" And, everyone filed out, except Syd, who was cradling Nick. "Syd, you, too."

"Yes, ma'am." Syd took Nick, put him on her hip, and walked out of the room. Once out of there, she handed Nick back to Tina, who was anxious to hold her son. Then, Syd and Tina went off to find the guys to get away from Joanie's orders.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Joanie instructed Frances to make the salad. Then, she got busy herself, watching the stove and the oven. In about twenty minutes, everything was done and on the dining room table, ready to eat. Frances took her place at the table while Joanie rounded up everyone else. They gathered at the table, sat down, and waited for someone to say grace. That someone would be Joanie, just so she could make a special announcement about Frances afterwards.

Everyone welcomed Frances to the house and went around reintroducing themselves and the new additions to the family since Frances had last been here. The dinner went smoothly with everyone glad they turned the food duties over to Joanie. Afterwards, when the last slice of apple pie was eaten and the last sip of drink had been drunk, everyone offered to help clean the kitchen up to give Joanie and Frances a rest. Of course, Joanie didn't accept. This would be the perfect time to talk with Frances.