Chapter 45

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Using a box cutter, Pet sliced open a bundle of shingles. She stepped from the back of Barlow's van and wiped her brow. The March afternoon was uncharacteristically warm. Barlow waited patiently for her on top of the roof of the school bus shelter. She lifted three sheets of shingles up to him. That was all she could handle at one time. It amazed her how Barlow could carry an entire bundle under his arm up a ladder and onto a roof. Her man certainly was strong.

It had been his idea to rebuild the shelter from the ground up, making it twice the size of the original. "More houses along our old road means more kids," he had said.

The workout from knocking down the old structure and constructing the new one did her good. Having been laid up for weeks and then on doctor ordered limited physical activity caused her muscles to atrophy; she needed to rebuild her strength. This project provided the perfect activity for her to do so. It wasn't lost on her how rebuilding the shelter was also symbolic of the rebuilding of her relationship with Barlow.

During her recuperation, he continuously reassured her how he would never leave her again. Her heart filled with joy over hearing those words, and Barlow had proven his love by having rushed to her rescue, facing death, and driving her to safety during the worst snowstorm of the winter.

Howie Boy remained in prison without bail while awaiting trial. With all the resources at his family's disposal, the DA argued how he would be a flight risk. The judge agreed. Uriah Collier had suffered a stroke and would spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair. He was old, and the stroke may have resulted from natural causes, but Pet wanted to believe the stroke had been caused by seeing his only son and heir fall from grace.

Barlow stopped hammering. "Hey, quit slacking and keep up with me."

She rolled her eyes in mock indignation and handed up another three sheets. "Slave driver."

"It's good practice," he said, "for when we build our own house."

They had pooled their money and bought a corner lot in the New Bloomfield housing development. Barlow's construction crew was due to break ground any time now.

She watched as Barlow nailed the shingles in-place, admiring him.

He stopped and said, "That'll do it. Only thing left is the ridge cap."

Pet raised a hand to her forehead, shielding her eyes from the sun. "Why don't you come down and take a break?"

"Don't mind if I do." He descended the short ladder, and Pet handed him a bottle of water from the cooler.

"Thanks." He twisted the cap and gulped it down. He ran his hand along the smooth exterior of the shelter. "I'm glad we decided to go with vinyl siding instead of the original T-111 material. This shelter should last a good long time."

"I hope the kids appreciate it."

"If they don't, I'm sure their parents will."

The structure looked neat and trim, but Pet had something else on her mind. "Let's sit in the shade."

Barlow followed her inside the shelter. They had built-in benches running the length of the interior walls for the kids to sit while waiting for the school bus. The wall facing the road had a three-foot opening as an entrance and exit.

Pet grabbed Barlow's hand and pulled him down beside her onto one of the benches. She looked into his eyes. "Remember the afternoon we did it in the old shelter?"

"How could I forget."

"Think we should christen this one?"

Barlow chuckled. "In broad daylight? Anyone driving down the road and glancing in would get quite an eyeful."

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