Authors: Lynda Bailey
ON THE CORNER OF
HEARTAHCE AND HOPEFUL—MIC
This is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and
incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
ON THE CORNER OF HEARTACHE AND
COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Lynda Bailey.
Published by Linda Bailey. All rights reserved. No part of
this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission of the author.
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Book Design by Hot Damn Designs
First Edition, 2012
To Suzanne and Jacqui. Thank you
so much for your insightful and kick-butt critiques!
And as always, to my husband,
Pat. I couldn’t do any of this without your rock solid support. I love you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
On the Corner of Heartache and Hopeful—Mic
Michaela Anderson inhaled a
breath of lilac scent. She closed her eyes, adjusted her sweaty grip, sucked
her upper lip in between her teeth then slowly released the air. Her arms shook
with fatigue from having been over her head for so long, but she knew she was
close. So close.
She drew another
long pull of oxygen into her lungs. This time, she held it and squeezed her
eyes shut. A growl of frustration gurgled in her throat.
The rusted nut
gave way under her pressure and the air gushed from her lungs. “Got it!”
A chorus of
“Yeas!” along with a smattering of applause greeted her announcement as the
clatter of her ratchet wrench echoed in the cramped garage.
Before the nut
was dislodged from the bolt, she stopped and lowered her arms. Blood rushed
down her limbs, making her fingertips tingle. She hopped off the makeshift
platform, positioned under the belly of the eight-year-old Toyota sedan, and
tossed the ratchet to Abe Vincent, the best transmission mechanic in three
“Think you can
get this tranie ready to send to the shop in Lincoln by this afternoon?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem, now that we’ve got that last stubborn bolt loose.” He
grinned. “You must’ve had a real restful vacation to display such strength huh,
She wiped the
transmission fluid off her arms with a shop rag. “Right. That and being blessed
with small hands.”
met her statement and she walked to the water cooler to refill her plastic
bottle. She observed her four-man crew hustle about working, not only on the
Toyota, but also doing a lube, oil, filter on a Saturn sedan.
wandered outside, past the lilac branches swaying the gentle morning breeze,
where the traffic was light. As usual. The corner of Heartache and Hopeful in
Tatum, Nebraska wasn’t the epicenter of anything much except Nebraska cold,
Nebraska heat, Nebraska dust and wind.
street, the bus station stood empty. The one and only MC6 Coach, which had
outlived the 80s but still chugged along like clockwork, had left before dawn
that morning. Catty-corner from Mic’s shop sat a tiny strip mall, able to host
five businesses. Three were shuttered. Just a fitness club and a yogurt shop
managed to scratch out a semblance of a profit. Across from the mall was a
vacant lot, boasting the last vestige of prairie grass in a forty mile radius
along with a huge honey locust tree. She sighed.
Home sweet home
visit to Denver had been restful. And unsettling. Seeing Carmen always was. Not
because Mic didn’t dearly love her cousin, and Carmen’s husband and kids, but
because every visit brought home what Mic didn’t have—her own family.
She didn’t have
a husband to hog the mirror for his shave while she brushed her teeth in the
morning. She didn’t have kids who made mud pies and needed to be hauled to
baseball and soccer practices. She didn’t have the life portrayed in all those
romance books she loved to read. In other words, she didn’t live in a magical
kingdom where a prince charming would save her from her ho-hum life. Like life
was ever magical.
Tears stung her
eyes. She pivoted from the activity in the garage towards her office. She still
choked up remembering how Carmen had asked her to be godmother to little Kayla
Rae, the newest addition to the Rutherford family. A bittersweet honor.
from behind pivoted her. Her youngest mechanic, Boyd, a high school senior working
for extra credit, sprinted across the crowded floor. He dodged the various
rolling tool cabinets, while escaping his brother Glenn, who had a glob of
transmission fluid stuck to his cheek.
“Come back here,
you little bast—”
The curse was
cut short when Glenn snagged Boyd’s shirt. He put his youngest brother in a
headlock and delivered a noogie with a handful of degreaser soap. Abe and Chuck
looked on with wide grins.
Boyd whined. “It was an accident.”
“So is this,”
Glenn said, rubbing in the soap. “Besides, your hair could stand a good
Abe clapped his
hands, chuckling. “All right, you two. Enough. Get back to work.”
With a shake of
her head, Mic headed into her office. She may not have a family, but she
definitely had children. The ’62 Mercury Comet pulling into the lot stopped her
short and tripped apprehension across her neck.
was her most loyal and punctual customer. Mic could set her clock by the octogenarian’s
promptness. Ester always scheduled her tune-up appointments, and her next one
wasn’t due for six weeks. She wouldn’t show up unannounced. If there was a
problem, she would have phoned ahead.
strapping grandson unfolded his broad-shouldered frame from the vintage sedan,
Mic’s uneasiness became a distant thought. Her pulse rate climbed and her
breathing turned shallow. Ever since her junior year of high school, she’d had
a secret crush on Scott Trehune. But then what
female wouldn’t? The man was drop-dead-gorgeous, with jet black hair, tanned skin,
rippling muscles, and the most intense green eyes on the planet. She held her
breath waiting to see him each time he left New York City to visit Ester.
Mic smoothed the
front of her dark blue shirt and spun her Cincinnati Reds baseball hat around
forward on her head. Wishing she could at least put on a dab of lipstick, she
settled for biting her lips as she walked out to meet him, her long braid
swishing against her back with each step.
Dressed in black
slacks, a white turtleneck and a black sports coat, Scott looked amazing.
Disappointment speared her because he wore sunglasses. No green eyes this
greeted with a smile. “Thought you were coming home for the Fourth of July. You
should check your calendar. You’re a couple months early.”
ribbing went unanswered and they stopped several feet from each other. Mic’s
anxiety returned tenfold. Even with the sunglasses, she could see fatigue lines
carving his handsome face. Her smile withered. “What’s wrong?”
It took Scott
several tries to swallow. He cleared his throat and turned to look at Ester’s
car. “Need to, uh, get
once-over done on the Comet.
Make sure she’s in good shape. Fit her in whenever you’ve got the time.”
Mic gave a slow
nod. “All right. I’ll check the book, but we can definitely get to it this
week. Maybe even today.”
again. “There’s, uh, no real rush. I’ll be in town for another week.”
hung in the space between them like a guillotine hanging by a frayed rope.
Mic’s lungs were
squeezed too tight to breathe and tears sprang to her eyes. “What? When?”
“She had a
stroke almost two weeks ago.” His husky voice caught. “She died last Tuesday.
The funeral was Saturday.” He paused. “There was a big write-up about her in
the Sunday paper yesterday.”
“I’ve been out
of town and just got back late last night.”
In her ears, the
excuse sounded paltry. Lame. And why hadn’t any of the guys mentioned this to her?
She reached out to touch Scott’s sleeve, then pulled back. Her hands were still
slimy with transmission fluid. How she wished she’d taken the time to wash up.
She folded her arms across her chest, hiding her hands under her armpits. “I’m
so sorry for your loss. Is there anything I can do?”
He shook his
head. “Thanks. Nonie had everything taken care of. I’m meeting with the lawyer
this morning to go over her will and such. It’s all pretty straightforward.”
Mic nodded. “Let
me get washed up and I’ll give you a ride to the lawyer’s office. Joe Prescott,
“Yeah, but don’t
worry about the ride.” Scott’s gaze shifted over her shoulder.
Mic turned to
see a powder blue Ford Excursion pull into the parking lot. Behind the wheel
sat the blond-haired beautiful Jaci Wagner, and the bane of Mic’s high school
Scott lifted a
hand in greeting and Jaci waved back. He looked at Mic. “I need to get going.”
He handed her the car keys. “Call me when the Comet is ready.”
“Will do,” she
forced herself to reply. She watched him jog to the SUV as
bloomed in the pit of her stomach. Why would the former
captain of the football team want sympathy from the grimy female grease monkey,
when he could find solace in the beautiful,
arms of a former cheerleader?
Mic whipped around and went straight to her office, closing the door behind
She sat at the
desk, the desk her late father had sat at for all those years before her. Ester
was dead. How could she not know her dear friend was dead? How could no one
have told her?
against her ribcage and she couldn’t seem to catch her breath. Moisture slipped
down her cheeks. Burying her face in her hands, her tears flowed unchecked.
Seated in Jaci’s “land yacht,”
Scott rubbed the bridge of his nose and stared out the window. He still
couldn’t believe Nonie was gone. His chest felt like it’d been carved from his
chest with a dull paring knife.
Ever since he’d
moved to New York, and became an investment banker on Wall Street, he’d done everything
he could to convince Nonie to move there too. She wouldn’t hear of it. Tatum
was her home. For better or worse, she used to say. But it had never been his
home. When both his parents were killed in an accident the summer before his
senior year in high school, he’d come to live with his only surviving relative,
his father’s mother.
hadn’t been home, Nonie was a different story.
was his home. His
bond with the feisty geriatric had been as strong as the one he’d had with his
mother and father. He bowed his head. A well of emotion choked his chest. God,
he missed her.
“Why were you at
lifted his head. “What? Oh, I dropped off the Comet for a tune-up.”
is an odd one, isn’t she?”
Jaci leaned over
the center console a bit. “You know, I heard she’s a lesbian.”
He crossed his
arms, his hackles rising in defense of the mechanic. “So what if she is?”
Jaci glanced his
way then back to the street, straightening in her seat. “Nothing. Just making
conversation. To Joe’s office, right?”
“I need to stop
by Nonie’s house first to get some paperwork.”
She made a left turn onto Asher Street. “It was a nice service on Saturday,”
she commented after silence engulfed the interior.
He uncrossed his
arms and stared out the passenger window, grief lumping in his throat. “Yeah.
Reverend Miller did a good job.”
were quite lovely.”
“How old was
your grandmother again?”
“Wow. My granny died
in her early sixties, but then she had cancer. It must be gratifying to know
yours died after such a long, fulfilling life.”