Cam Kingston was inside the five bay company garage working underneath the hood of a car when his employee Homer Healy stepped into the bay.
"Some lady wants to talk to you," Homer reported.
"Who what lady?" Cam asked without looking up.
"I don't know," Homer shrugged. "She pulled in, I pumped her gas and fixed her windshield blade, and she asked for you. By name."
Cam wiped his hands on a rag hanging off the side of the car and he stepped out of the garage to see a late model sedan parked at the pumps. It wasn't until he got closer that he realized that it was Mrs. Synder from the old neighborhood.
"Hello, Mrs. Synder," he said pleasantly. "Good to see you."
"How are you, Camden?" She asked through the open window of the car.
"Fine, fine," he smiled, maintaining a safe social distance since neither of them were wearing a mask. "It's been a while."
"Yes," she agreed. "I don't get over to this side of town that much anymore."
"You look well."
"Thank you," she said with appreciation. "I thought you might want to know that Judee is home."
"Is she?" Cam asked, surprised by the news considering the worldly Judee vowed never to return when she left twenty years earlier.
"She's taking care of Uncle Joe up at the lake," Mrs. Synder said. "You should stop in and say hello."
Cam nodded. "I should," he acknowledged. "It's been a long time."
Mrs. Synder had aged since the last time Cam saw her. Her hair was streaked with gray. She wore too much makeup in hopes of covering her wrinkles and age spots. And she was wearing glasses now too.
"I just thought you might want to know, that's all," Mrs. Synder said as she started the car. "It's totally up to you."
"Have a nice day, Mrs. Synder," Cam said politely. "Thanks for stopping by. It was good to see you."
"Yes," she replied neutrally. "Good Day, Camden."
Cam watched Mrs. Synder drive away having absolutely no idea why she stopped by Kingston Trio Automotive Center for the first time in years.
Why did she think it was necessary to tell him that her daughter was back in town after all this time? Mrs. Synder never thought all that much of Cam or his family, annoyed that a successful gas station owner lived in the same fancy neighborhood as she and her family.
Judee and Cam stopped hanging out in high school even so it wasn't as if they were close, especially after all these years.
"Who was that, The Avon Lady?" Homer asked when Cam returned to the garage bay.
"Yes," Cam replied, knowing the description captured Mrs. Synder literally and figuratively.
Mrs. Synder was The Avon Lady. Mr. Synder was a well-known private practice lawyer but Mrs. Synder may have been even more popular with her Avon business. Why not? She looked the part, especially when she was younger, and she raised Judee to look, act and think the same way. Cam remembered that Judee said that despite the stereotypes and ridicule, her mom enjoyed a successful independent career.
"You wouldn't believe how powerful she is," Judee said. "It's kind of inspiring."
It was also flexible and convenient. Cam recalled that Mrs. Synder was always around for Judee's school activities, sports, and other commitments. She was usually home when Judee was – one reason why Cam never made it up to Judee's bedroom as a horny young adolescent teen.
Cam knew how proud Judee was of her mother. And how much alike the two were. Both were well dressed and stylish, well groomed ("I'm not a dog!" Cam could just hear Judee exclaim!) and attractive. In fact, Judee was voted Best Dressed in the yearbook.
And here Cam was working at what started out as Kingston Service Station, established by his grandfather. Then it was Kingston and Sons Service Station when his father joined the business. Then Kingston and Sons Automotive and Sales when the business expanded and became more successful, allowing Cam's parents to buy the family house down the street from the Synders.
Cam and his older siblings Adam and Barbara took over the business when their dad died and they came up with the more hip Kingston Trio moniker in an attempt to establish the business as their own. Adam was the car salesman, Cam ran the mechanical shop, and Barbara took care of the books, advertising, and most of the front office responsibilities.
Judee went off to see the world as promised – the last Cam heard she was an airline stewardess on an overseas route, but that was several years ago.
Cam's mom sold the house and her share in a local bakery after her husband died and she moved to South Carolina to live with the fourth Kingston sibling, Denise who married a military man and needed help with the kids.
Cam was widowed a few years earlier, sold his house, and lived in his sister's basement apartment a few miles from where they grew up. The married Adam owned a house in Mt. Griffin.
Seeing Mrs. Synder from out of the blue caused Cam to start remembering the good old days when everything was peachy and he was reasonably happy. His dad was alive, he hung out at the gas station learning the ropes, and Judee was his friend – before she started getting sucked into all the high school hype and social status which didn't include Cam, the son of a gas station owner.
It didn't help that Cam went to the Tech High School for obvious reasons.
But before all that change happened, there were fun times – including getaway trips to Judee's Aunt Marybeth and Uncle Joe's house at Sun Rise Lake in the summer. Those were among Cam's favorite memories and he was glad that Mrs. Synder let him come along instead of insisting that it was for Judee's girlfriends only.
"You should go visit Judee," Barbara said when she found out about The Avon Lady's invitation.
"I haven't seen her in forever," Cam replied as he reviewed bills in the front office, sitting next to his sister who had just turned forty a few weeks earlier, another reminder that their lives were being lived.
"You've only been dating cars since Samantha died," Barbara reasoned. "You need to try something new."
"Judee's something old."
"That's not a very nice thing to say," Barbara scolded.
"I don't mean her age," Cam replied. "I just mean what we were a long time ago. Sometimes it's best to leave the past where it belongs and not wreck good memories by bringing the present into it."
"What about the future?" Barbara wanted to know. "Your future?"
"I'm pretty sure it's not going to involve Judee Synder," Cam replied.
"Okay, maybe not," Barbara agreed. "But what harm would it do to go say hi to an old friend?"
"Get myself out of the garage?" Cam asked with a smile.
"Do it for me," Barbara replied, knowing she could sweet talk her kid brother into doing anything she asked.
"It will be your fault," Cam warned. "If this goes badly."
"Did I miss something?" Barbara frowned. "Did you do something stupid way back when?"
"No," Cam said. "We just drifted apart."
"Then what do you have to lose?" Barbara shrugged. "So she tells you to get lost again. Big deal. You come back here and play with your cars."
Cam laughed at his sister's well-meaning humor and spirit. She always did look out for him.
"How come you were never friends with her?" Cam wondered.
"I was a tomboy hanging around the garage just like you," Barbara laughed. "Why would I spend time with The Avon Lady's kid?"
"Do you think that's why Mr. and Mrs. Synder never hung out with Mom and Dad? Cam asked. "'Cause Mom baked bread and Dad fixed cars?"
"Of course," Barbara replied, rolling her eyes. "But that didn't stop Judee from being your friend. That's why you should check up on her. There's got to be a reason why The Avon Lady drove out of the past to tell you her daughter's up at the lake."
"What if it's bad news?" Cam worried. "What if she'd dying or something? I can't go through that again."
"I'm pretty sure it's the Uncle who's dying," Barbara replied.
Cam thought about it for a moment. "Okay," he finally decided. "I'll stop by."
"Good for you," Barbara said proudly, giving him a punch on the arm. "Maybe now I can stop worrying about you."
"I would have sucked an exhaust pipe by now if I wasn't going to make it, Barb," he told her.
"You always liked the lake," Barbara recalled. "Go enjoy it."
Cam nodded his head in agreement. "I will," he promised.