Long ago she had given up purchasing almost all types of hard copy books. If she bought books --- and she did in profusion --- she bought electronic ones, except for picture books, which she bought occasionally. She had three e-book readers: one at the office and two at home --- one of them at home had a larger screen and the ability to read PDF files --- not including the capability to read e-books on her computer. Her shelves are lined with thick necks and souvenirs, mostly, and the few picture book she had.
Her condominium had all of the economies you would expect of an accomplished accountant who also happened to be a woman. Compared to her parents' home in the avenues, though, it was modest, too modest to keep up appearances, if you asked Mary Lou's mother, Elizabeth.
Heber James Thompson was Mary Lou's father. He went by Heber, not James, a choice Mary Lou never quite understood. She could, of course, comprehend why he might have gone by Heber if that's what his parents had wanted him to go by as a youngster, but why he hadn't chosen to go by James when he was old enough to make that choice remained a conundrum for Mary Lou.
Heber was a physician with a family practice, and he had worked diligently through the years; there was never any complaining about his ability to provide for the family, at least, in providing for their physical welfare. He had invested well and made connections with the influential throughout the area. By every standard of the valley and city the Heber Thompson family lived in, they lived on the borderline of ostentatious. Elizabeth didn't work --- never had done --- she volunteered. She served on this committee and that exempt organization's board. She belonged to the country club and to her enduring sorority she had joined in college. Both Heber and Elizabeth practiced their religion, which was authoritarian and hierarchical, and they both participated in its laity, and to the degree they thought they could, they required the same of their children.
The house Mary Lou grew up in, which was still occupied by her parents and her youngest sister, the baby of the family, had seven bedrooms: one occupied by Heber and Elizabeth, four of them occupied by each of the children --- Mary Lou was the second one born --- and two were spare bedrooms, intended for guests or projects. Each of the bedrooms had its own individual bathroom and walk-in closet.
Of course, the housework and upkeep of the grounds was too much for the family to do. They had always hired people to come and clean the house and take care of the yard. It had been an effortless existence, for the most part, other than that over the years, especially, as she grew into a young adult and then into a young woman, Mary Lou began to question her parents' values and beliefs.
The Thompson's were a tall lot, and that characteristic of the family did not escape Mary Lou. She was close to six foot tall, and in her younger days, had considered it a curse. While her two younger brothers relished being bigger than most of the other boys growing up, Mary Lou didn't like being taller than everybody else, especially the boys when she was a youngster. She had never really gotten over being tall, but she had grown to accept it and not think much about it. She was a couple of inches taller, for example, than Bob Orr.
Up until she had finally separated from her family and, to a great extent the culture in which she had been raised, she had boasted about her practical condominium that she had so well organized over against her parents' monstrosity of a house, although she always did so with some degree of sarcasm, realizing, as she did, that she was far from living totally green or being adequately responsible when it came to protecting the environment or giving to charity.
She now referred to the old house she had grown up in as the castle on the hill whenever she was talking about it with her friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. The one feature of the property the house was on that she liked and had never ridiculed was the land that went with it. It was a substantial tract that went up the mountainside --- some twenty acres worth. She just hoped her parents never sold off that property and allowed anyone to subdivide it. She didn't expect an inheritance. Her parents had more or less disowned her, but if she had had the choice of property --- and their state was substantial and included more land and investments than just the property with the house --- she would've chosen to have the property that went up the mountain. She would have seen to it, also, if she got that property, that was never developed. She wouldn't even bother it to build her own home; she was more than happy right where she was living, in that condominium.
While Mary Lou was estranged from her parents and her siblings, she still visited her grandmother, occasionally, who was now residing in an assisted living center out south in the valley. Her grandmother --- her mother's mother --- remained quite lucid and told interesting stories from her childhood and youth. Sometimes, Mary Lou took a tape recorder and recorded her grandmother talking to her. Mary Lou intended to transcribe at some point in time her grandmother's stories.