For some odd, lovely reason, people from my past came out of the woodwork this past week.
I received a cryptic voicemail from my friend Mark. The brief message suggested there was something I knew that he needed to know.
I talked at length with my friend Mike. Mike and I have known each other since junior high, for god's sake. He's one of the most pensive, intelligent, relevant people I know. We had a long, very textured conversation, some of which was obligatory catch-up, most of which was so much more than that.
My lovely college friend Dorie was in town for her reunion, and we had an amazing evening catching up on my back porch.
And tonight, after way too long, my friend Cass called.
What are the odds; all of these random people from the past dropping into my life very serendipitously this past week?
I've loved every minute of it. There's nothing like old friends.
But enough about me.
Let's catch up on the ladies.
They'd arrived in Bozeman ahead of schedule. After some passive/aggressive pestering from Maisie, Stella decided a brief detour at the Cat's Paw didn't sound like such a bad idea.
So while Stella took a bathroom break and took a walk around the Paw a few times, Maisie headed for the tables.
It didn't take long for Maisie to convert her original kitty into a pile of money.
It was all discreetly tucked away, and Stella didn't know a thing.
Everyone has secrets. And now Maisie had a thick stack of secrets bankrolled between her breasts.
During her search for Maisie, Stella had become distracted by the Wheel of Fortune slot machine. She'd had three spins at the Wheel, and every time she thought she'd hit the jackpot.
Stella had spent some time making her donation. That's what she heard her friends say when they'd lost at gambling.
Eventually, Stella found Maisie at a blackjack table.
"It's time to go," Stella said, insistently.
She felt like she was interrupting something.
"Oh! I'll be right with you!" Maisie slid off her high stool and spent some time saying her goodbyes to a group of people with whom she'd obviously become wildly familiar.
"The service starts in 10 minutes," Stella said. "We're lucky Bozeman's a small town, and we're close."
The woman Maisie used to be, the woman she'd had a chance to become for an hour or two, nicely folded itself back into the person Stella expected to see as they left the casino.
"Well," Stella said. "That was fun."
"It's nice to see the sites," Maisie said. Even to her, the response seemed forced.
"Bob." That's all Stella said. It could have been a verb or a noun. Maisie didn't know what to say, so she kept her mouth shut.
Enough time passed, and Stella understood that Maisie didn't know what she'd meant.
"That was his first name," Stella finally said. "Bob Engelbright."
They were welcomed into the Open Arms with all the information they needed.
And they were hungry. They'd both been tempted by the buffet at the Cat's Paw, but they knew they had bigger fish to fry.
Stella was handed a program as she and Maisie headed into the makeshift sanctuary at the Open Arms. Apparently this type of event happened with frequency.
Stella did a double-take.
All the color drained from her face.
Maisie could tell right away that something was wrong.
They were seated, waiting for the ceremony for Mr. Bob Engelbright to begin when Stella regained her composure.
Stella tipped her head, and momentarily leaned on Maisie.
"I think I know someone here," Stella whispered.
"Things could get ugly."