Oil & Vinegar

By: Mairsile Leabhair


I couldn’t write without the wonderful support of my family and friends. Joyce, Fox, thank you! Love you!

And as always, may the glory go to God.

Chapter One

Connie Yarbrough-Morrison

I leaned over and plucked a blade of grass from the ground. I was about to toss it away when a ladybug landed on my hand, its small orange shell with black polka-dots gleaming in the sunlight. Spring was my favorite time of year. The earth in renewal always lightened my soul. No place was more beautiful than April in Roanoke, Virginia.

The ladybug flapped its wings as if to say hello, and I slowly held my hand up and smiled at it. The tiny bug crawled up my hand and down my index finger. “Look, honey. The ladybug is bringing us good luck.”

My mother always told me when I was a little girl that if a ladybug landed on my hand I would have good luck. Placing my hand on the top of the cold stone, I waited patiently as the bug crawled off and onto the surface of the granite tombstone. The ladybug crawl down the face of the upright headstone and came to rest on the words, Died April 28, 2016. My wife, Meredith Morrison, had been killed two years ago at age twenty-three in a violent bank robbery shooting. I was the dispatcher who took her call.

“911, where is your emergency?”

“Help us! –garbled– Someone’s shooting at us!”

“What is your location, ma’am?”

“Green Market Trust downtown. Hurry, please!”

“Officers have been dispatched, ma’am. Can you get to safety?”

“Connie! Is that you? He’s got a gun, Connie.”

“Meredith? Oh, my God! I thought you had the day off? Get out of there!”

“He’s right in front of us. No, please don’t shoot!”

“Meredith? Hold on, Meredith, help is on the way! —pop, pop, pop, static— Meredith!”

The police said that the killer, who used a semi-automatic rifle, didn’t know what he was doing. Apparently, all he wanted was his fifteen minutes of fame. The cops had killed him. How famous can you be in hell?

Listening to the cries for help as a 911 dispatcher, I knew firsthand how fragile life could be. At my insistence, Meredith and I had filled out living wills, last will and testaments, and life insurance to be sure our last wishes were on record. I really didn’t think we’d have to use them so soon in our marriage. Meredith was a bank teller, and I was a 911 dispatcher, so we didn’t have much. Just a cat named Bubbles and two student loans between us, which Meredith’s life insurance paid off. My wife’s last will and testament was more of a love letter than a list of items to distribute. In her will, she asked two things of me.

Connie, take care of Bubbles for me and find love again.

One I would gratefully do, the other would never be allowed to happen.

Bubbles was Meredith’s twelve-year-old Ragdoll cat. A color-point, semi-longhaired breed with the most gorgeous blue eyes. Bubbles was very laid back and never met a stranger, much like Meredith, who’d raised her from a kitten. If you didn’t like Meredith’s cat, Meredith didn’t like you. Luckily for me, I love cats. Once a week, I would put the harness and leash on Bubbles and take her to the cemetery so Meredith could visit with her. I knew how silly that sounded, but it was a comfort to me, and I could feel that it comforted Meredith, also.

The cat sniffed at the ladybug. Finding it not very interesting, she curled up on Meredith’s grave and began grooming herself. Bubbles always had a thing about lying on my wife’s face, and I guess she still did. That was also a comforting feeling. Something normal in an abnormal world.

“It’s been two years, honey, and I’m so lonely for you.” What I couldn’t admit to her, even in death, was that caring for her cat was all that kept me from crawling inside that grave and joining her. It would be so easy. “I spoke with your mother yesterday, and she’s coping as best she can. My mom even got on the phone and spoke with her. I think they have a bond, you know, between mothers-in-law, and I am very thankful for that. My parents have been wonderful to me since I moved back in with them, but I think they’re getting tired of my indecision. I can’t say that I blame them. I’ve been mooching off them for two years. I just can’t seem to find the courage to go back to work.”

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