Wild Ice

By: Rachelle Vaughn

JD thought he could get used to sharing the property with a bunch of birds. It would be better than a nosy neighbor or well-meaning family and friends. At least Mel would get a kick out of watching the geese fly around like lunatics.

“Do you cook, Mr. Mason?”

Joan’s shrill voice cut through his serenity and he turned to glare at her. “No.”

“Well, with a kitchen like this you might be inspired to start.” She ran her hand over the island, looking like she was auditioning for a job on The Price is Right. Again, she waited for his reply and when he didn’t give her one, she moved the tour upstairs. “There are four spacious bedrooms upstairs, each with its own adjoining bathroom...”

To further add to Joan’s frustration, JD gave each room only a passing glance. While she practically fell over herself over the master bathroom and its garden tub and imported floor tiles, JD only nodded. While she raved about ample storage space and soaring ceilings, JD only muttered “mmm-hmm.” While she gushed about custom light fixtures and dual-pane windows, he kept on walking.

Joan probably interpreted his lack of enthusiasm for disinterest, but JD didn’t need Joan to “sell” the place to him. The truth was he didn’t even need to look at the inside to know he was going to buy the place. He already knew that the minute he drove up to it. But buying it sight unseen would raise even more eyebrows and questions from Little Miss Million-Dollar Smile and that was the last thing he wanted.

A year ago JD would have oohed and awed over the custom kitchen and four-car garage with custom workbench, but today he couldn’t care less about the crown molding, coffered ceilings and state of the art amenities. Now, his only concern was that the house was secluded, private and miles away from the godforsaken Red Valley city limits. He’d lasted six more months in Red Valley than he thought he would and he couldn’t wait to see it in his rear-view mirror for good.

“Okay,” Joan said on a sigh after showing him the enormous walk-in closet. “Let’s go back downstairs and have a look at the backyard.”

In the dining room, Joan pushed open the French doors and moved aside. JD stepped onto the patio and was greeted by the twittering sounds of an orchestra of birds. The location was perfect—except for the noise, of course—and the house was more than JD could have asked for. The birds seemed cheerful here and a bit too upbeat, but he wouldn’t hold that against the place.

“Are you a wildlife enthusiast, Mr. Mason?”

“No,” JD answered. He could tell that his short, abrupt answers were ruffling Joan McKinnon’s feathers, but that didn’t keep him from giving them.

“The reason I ask is because this property borders the Red Valley National Wildlife Refuge.” When JD didn’t respond, she continued on unfazed. “The refuge is made up of 35,000 acres of ponds and seasonal wetlands that provide a habitat for waterfowl.”

She sounded proud of herself for doing the research, but JD wasn’t impressed. Any fool could look information up on the internet and spout it out during a sales pitch.

“So, these birds are always here?” he muttered.

Joan straightened her shoulders, preparing to put a positive spin on the unique location. “They’re only here for a little while in the wintertime during their migration. It’s such a romantic setting, don’t you agree?”

That was the second time Joan had tried to sell him on the romance of the place and JD wasn’t buying it. “How many acres did you say it was on?” Again, he already knew the answer to the question but he wanted her to earn that hefty commission she had coming.

“Twenty. The property is long and narrow and runs horizontal to the house. There’s a creek straight back that runs along the edge of the property. On a clear day, the peak of Mt. August is visible to the north.” She peered into the distance looking for the mountain.

JD didn’t care about the mountain. As majestic as it was, he’d seen enough of Mt. August in Red Valley to last a lifetime. What interested him were the twenty acres of tranquility around Teal Manor.

His eyes swept over the land and when he looked to the left, he noticed that a small cottage sat nestled in the trees. It was closer to Teal Manor than he would’ve preferred, but it didn’t look like anyone lived there anyway. JD wouldn’t have even noticed it, but one of the windows glinted in the sunlight and caught his eye. Maybe he and Mel could live there instead. It certainly wouldn’t be as daunting as the oversized mansion. “Is the cottage included?”

Joan sighed as if the sale depended on her answer. “No, I’m afraid not. The property line ends right before it on the north side.”

“Does anyone live there?” JD squinted, but it was hard to get a good look at the place with all the trees surrounding it.

“I’m not sure if it’s currently occupied or not. I can find out for you,” she offered eagerly.

“That won’t be necessary.”

They stood in silence for a moment as JD watched flocks of geese fly overhead. Despite the constant quacking, it seemed rather peaceful out here. How could it not be? It was miles away from civilization.