• Sheila & Swede

The Hills Have Lies - Ep. 18

The Hills Have Lies © 2018 Lili Grouse

I mostly succeed in keeping myself in an upright position when meeting the new vet – just a minor stumble on the threshold upon entering the kitchen. Nonetheless, it gets me unwanted attention from everyone there – Mom, Dad, and the blond man supposedly named Seth. His blue-gray eyes are alert and he moves to stand as I enter. Dad simply turns his head.

“There she is,” Dad says and smiles. “Did you smell the apple pie?”

“Mom told me we had company,” I say and walk up to the stranger, offering my hand. “Hi, I’m Hannah.”

“Seth Carson,” he introduces himself with a full, warm smile. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Your parents are obviously very proud of you.”

I try to cover my surprise, but I suspect I need more acting classes to pull that kind of improv off. Thankfully, Dad steps in and saves me from coming up with an appropriate response.

“Of course we are. Now sit.”

I roll my eyes at Dad and his obvious hunger for pie. Didn’t we just have dinner? Seth sits down at the same time I do, in the available seat opposite him. I hope he doesn’t topple over in my old chair.

“How was your day, Seth?” Mom asks as she sets down a small pitcher of custard in the middle of the table. “Did the Michaelsons’ heifers co-operate?”

“They were having trouble with their hooves,” Seth says to me by way of explanation.

Apparently, this is already common knowledge where my parents are concerned. “I think we found the problem, so they should be fine,” he answers Mom’s question and she clicks her tongue as she starts to pour the coffee.

“I told Lucille they should check them for ringworm.”

“It’s not ringworm,” Dad shakes his head and holds up his coffee cup. “Not this time of year, and not with the heifers. You remember that winter our calves had ringworm, and you just had to cuddle with them anyway,” he says to me and I feel like sinking through the ground.

Does he have to tell this story to everyone who will listen? Wasn’t it bad enough that I had those rashes all over my face and arms and was made fun of by the other kids?

“It’s not at all uncommon for humans to contract it when you work closely with animals,” Seth says, sounding completely non-judgmental if not a tiny bit patronizing. That could, of course, just be my imagination.

“Oh, Hannah would sneak out and sit with the calves, letting them lick her. But you learned your lesson, didn’t you, honey?” Mom says and sets the apple pie down on the table, handing the pie cutter to Seth. “Go on, guests first.”

“Yes, I don’t make a habit of letting animals lick me these days,” I mumble and sip my coffee.

“Oh, don’t be silly,” Mom admonishes me. “Dogs’ saliva is cleaner than humans’. I read that somewhere.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You have a dog, Seth, and you’re a veterinarian, so you must know these things,” Mom turns the vet – someone she obviously considers the resident expert on dog spit.

“Well,” he clears his throat, “it’s true in the way that bacteria in a dog’s mouth are specific to their species, so it doesn’t harm humans. That, of course, is dependent on the dog being properly vaccinated and cared for.”

“Mm. See?” Mom nods, obviously content with his reply.

“What kind of dog do you have?” I ask as I cut a small slice of the pie.

“He’s a flat-coated retriever/border collie mix. He often comes with me on calls, actually.”

“Oh, but you didn’t bring him tonight,” Mom remarks, looking around as if she’s somehow missed the pitter -patter of paws.

“No, my niece insisted on looking after him tonight.”

“How old is your niece?” I ask.

“She’s five.” I guess I look as stunned as I feel, because he laughs. “My sister is his primary caregiver whenever he’s over there. Cecily just likes to pretend she’s the boss. Well, most of the time she is.”

I can tell from looking at him that he adores his niece – his face lights up and there’s pure love in his eyes. Must be nice to have someone in your life that you feel that way about.

“Do they live close by?”

“Yeah, they have a house just outside the town center.”

“Town center? You mean the post office?”

Last time I was here, the nearest town had a population of about 150. If you look it up on the Internet and search for Attractions, it actually says ‘none’. The closest city of more than 1,000 people living in it sits on the border to South Dakota and it’s a 15-minute drive from here.

Seth chuckles. “No, actually I consider the auto repair shop to be the center. But I guess that’s just a matter of perspective.”

“Do you live in town?”

“Yes, I-“

“Oh, you should go into town and see Seth’s office,” Mom interjects.

“I-“ I start to object, but I can’t figure out how to without sounding rude. Instead, that little word just hangs in the air, waiting. Seth is the one who speaks first.

“Yes, by all means, come on down whenever. I’m often out on calls, but you could call ahead. The clinic has a landline.”

Of course it does.

“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” I say politely, hoping that will put an end to this conversation.

“I was just saying to Hannah earlier that you haven’t been into the city much,” Mom says, shattering any hopes of moving on to another topic. “Do you have any plans for Saturday night, Seth?”

Oh. My. God. I’m literally being set up on a date by my mother. I might actually log on to Twitter tonight and read some mean tweets, because even a character assassination is sounding less painful right now.

Seth is probably just as uncomfortable with the idea as I am, because he shifts on the chair and his mouth opens a few times without making a sound.

“Let the kids work it out for themselves,” Dad says dismissively. I feel like hugging him on the spot.

“Well, they’re both here now, so I don’t see the point in waiting,” Mom huffs. “But, by all means, go ahead. Far be it from me to interfere.”

Great, now Mom’s feelings are hurt. Time to do a little pandering. “You’re right, Mom. It makes sense to talk now that we’re all here. But I’m sure Seth has better things to do on a Saturday night. We could go into the city some other time.” There. I’ve just bought us both some time, and by the time we-

“Actually, my schedule is wide open this weekend,” Seth says and puts his pie fork down. It clinks on the empty plate. “Maybe you’d like to show me around the city on Saturday afternoon?”

I force a smile. “Sure. Sounds great.”

He nods in confirmation and pushes his chair back. “Well, I should probably get going. Thank you for having me, Selma, Ed. The pie was great.”

“Do you want me to box some up for you?” Mom offers, looking a little disappointed he’s leaving already. Me, I can’t wait to go finish unpacking. I might just send off a text to Cole while I’m at it, too.

“No, thank you,” he smiles and pats his belly. “If I eat any more tonight, I might just have to buy some new jeans this weekend.”

Yeah, not likely. Seth’s shirt fits loosely over his stomach, it’s only stretching a little across his chest. How come every guy I meet looks like they stepped off the cover of a magazine?

Okay, I get why that might be the case in L.A., but what are the odds of it happening out here?

Mom lets Seth go without making too much of a fuss, and I feel my body relax as I hear the rumbling of his car engine outside.

“Thanks for the pie, Mom,” I say and put my plate and coffee cup in the dishwasher. “I think I’m going to finish unpacking now and then go to bed. It’s been a long day.”

“All right, honey,” Mom says and puts away the pie. “See you in the morning, bright and early. You can help with the milking.”

“Can’t wait,” I say, keeping the sarcasm to a minimum. Manual labor will be good for me, keep my mind occupied with something other than Cole doing a sexy photo shoot with Crystal next week.

“Hey, are you ready to go?” Seth asks as I open the door to him on Saturday afternoon. I’ve showered and put on a pair of jeans and a flowery top. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

“Sure. Mom, I’m going!” I call out, knowing my mother is somewhere nearby, pretending she’s not eavesdropping on my conversation.

“Okay, honey, have fun!” she calls back and I grab my bag and jacket, in case it gets chilly later. I don’t expect we’ll stay out too late, but since Seth is driving, I’m at his mercy.

“So,” he says as we head off, “I just want you to know I’ve never asked your Mom to set us up. Your parents have been really welcoming towards me, and I didn’t want to offend them, but I’m not looking for a relationship right now. I can always use another friend, though,” he adds, looking over and smiling at me.

“Thank you. That really takes the pressure off,” I say, relaxing a little in my seat. “And just for the record, I’m sort of seeing someone back in L.A., so I haven’t asked my mom to set me up with anyone, either.”

“You are? But then why-?”

“I haven’t told my parents,” I answer before he can finish asking. “It’s still new and it’s also a bit complicated.”

“Complicated, huh? Not that it’s any of my business, but you’re young, in your early 20s, right?”

“I’m turning 23 this fall.” Which by Hollywood standards isn’t exactly considered young.

“Right. So, you’re young. Maybe too young for relationships to be complicated?”

“You haven’t spent much time in Hollywood, have you?”

“Can’t say that I have, no.”

“Well, I’m still pretty new to it myself, but I’m starting to think there isn’t much about that lifestyle that is uncomplicated.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

“It is what it is,” I say with a shrug. “Has anyone ever told you that you sound like a shrink?”

Seth laughs. “My sister may have pointed that out once or twice, yes. Would you believe I took an animal psychology class when I was training to be a veterinarian?”

“No. Is that a real thing?”

“It is. Except it’s called Animal Behavior. It’s actually one of the services offered at the college’s veterinary clinic.”

“So… you can talk to cows? Is that how you figured out what was wrong with the Michaelsons’ heifers? You’re the cow whisperer.”

“I wish. No, but I know a little something about how to handle aggressive behavior. You’d be surprised how often that comes in handy.”

“Maybe I could hire you to handle my social media,” I joke, then catch myself. I shouldn’t be complaining to Seth – I just met him, for crying out loud.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin. I mainly use the Internet for research.”

“What century did you say you were born in, again?” I rib him a little, just to keep the conversation light.

“Okay, I deserved that,” he grins.

“You did practically call me a kid,” I remind him, “so, yes, I’d say so.”

“Sorry about that. And I was born in the 80s, so I should be more invested in technology, but out here… it just doesn’t seem all that important.”

“Hey, I’m not exactly a wiz, either. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t until I started working on this show that I started using social media. I still don’t have Facebook.”

“What? Even an old geezer like me has Facebook,” he says in mock horror.

“Yeah, well, contrary to the social butterfly my parents paint me out to be, I didn’t have a lot of friends in school, so I don’t have anyone I feel the need to reconnect with. The people currently in my life all use other apps as their main form of communication.”

“Your boyfriend is big on social media, then?” he asks as we pull in to the only parking garage in the city.

I’m tongue-tied trying to properly label my relationship with Cole. We haven’t exactly discussed what we are to each other – other than friends who kiss when no-one’s looking – and who occasionally kiss other people for appearances’ sake. If that’s not complicated, I don’t know what is. Even so, I can’t really go into detail about it, so what’s the harm in letting Seth label Cole as my boyfriend?

“You could say that.”

“Is he on the show with you?”

“Do you watch it?” I ask instead of answering his question.

“I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s on my to-watch list.”

“Mm. Right after Flying Doctors and McLeod’s Daughters, right?”

“Haven’t seen either of those, actually.”

“So what is on your watch list?” I press on. If I can get him talking about TV, books and music, maybe he’ll forget I haven’t answered his question.

“I’m not sure I should tell you,” he cringes and takes his car keys out of the ignition.

“Why? Are they X-rated?” I tease.

“Worse.” He leans in and says in a stage whisper, “PG.”

“Okay, now I have to know,” I insist as we climb out of his truck and head for the elevators.

“Fine. But promise you won’t laugh,” he points his finger at me and I can’t help but grin.

“Sorry, no can do.”

He lets out an exaggerated sigh. “Little House on the Prairie.”

I stifle a laugh, but it comes out as a snort. “Can I ask why?”

“It was just something that I only caught an episode or two of when there was a re-run on, but I liked the vibe. It was the kind of family I dreamed of having but never got to have.”

My good humor washes away with the sound of his somber voice. “Seth, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-“

“Oh, hey, there’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m perfectly content with my life today. No harm, no foul.”

We ride the elevator in silence, the air seemingly filled with words unspoken.

“Okay, so where do we go first?” Seth says in a chipper tone and I try to put the tense moment out of my mind.

To be continued...


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