Authors: Lynn Cahoon
“You don’t need to worry. Justin adores you.”
Amy picked up her milkshake and drained it. “He does, doesn’t he?”
“Darn right. Hey, I wanted to thank you for pushing the council to support the library fundraiser. I know you were the driving force behind their covering the room cost.” Aunt Jackie and Sasha had gone to the last council meeting to ask for the funds.
“I didn’t do much. The grant funding was a no-brainer. The high school library has been out of date since before I went to school there.” Amy polished off her French fries. “I’m surprised you’re not heading up this project. Literacy is kind of your hot button.”
“I wanted to give Sasha the opportunity to put this one together, especially since it’s for the age group of her book clubs. She said she could use it for a project next fall in one of her classes. The woman’s a dynamo.” I glanced at my watch. “I better get home. Emma’s probably dancing in the kitchen waiting for me to let her out.”
I waved goodbye to my friend and headed toward the end of town and my house. I’d inherited the place from Miss Emily. She’d been the catalyst to my giving up a corporate law associate position and moving to South Cove. The woman had been a friend, mentor, and even surrogate mother to me before she died. I found out that not only had she willed me the house, she’d also given me her substantial fortune. I call the money the Miss Emily Fund and so far, the money has sponsored a couple scholarships as well as funded an anonymous donation to the South Cove Elementary library when the school board cut their book-buying budget to almost nothing last year. Sure, it was in my best interest for them to be able to order books from my store, but mostly, it drove me crazy thinking they’d prioritized sports over books.
Books should always win. I guess that’s why when I designed my perfect small business I made it part bookstore, part coffee shop. The idea was genius and I’ve never regretted it.
Strolling towards home, I thought how lucky I was to be able to walk to work. No fighting traffic, no crazy drivers, and no paying for parking. When I worked in the city, my monthly parking bill was as large as some people’s daycare budget. Here, my new Jeep didn’t even leave the garage most days. I watched as a tour bus unloaded passengers in front of The Train Station. Good thing we’d eaten early, Diamond Lille’s would be packed in about ten minutes. As the last of the group crossed the street, a motorcycle weaved through the pack, gunning his engine and zooming too close to a woman wielding a walker. Glancing up the road as I ran over to her to make sure she was all right, I thought it might be the same bike I’d seen that morning. When I reached the woman, she waved me away.
“I’m fine. The jerk just scared me, that’s all.” Then the gray-haired woman lifted up one hand and flipped off the disappearing back of the motorcycle dude. I smiled as she finished crossing the street and hoped I was as feisty when I got to that age.
Returning to the sidewalk, Harrold stood in his open doorway watching me. “That was almost a train wreck there.” His eyes sparkled at his joke.
“The speed signs are clearly posted. I don’t know why those types even get off the highway. They can’t see anything as fast as they go through town anyway.” I leaned down and petted Levi, Harrold’s new rescue dog. “How are you today, buddy?”
“He’s getting fat. Your aunt keeps feeding him from the table when we eat at home.” Harrold absently reached down and petted the dog’s neck. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.”
I held up my hands. “Don’t look to me for advice, I’ve never been able to stop her from doing something she’d put her mind to.”
“I hear you’re doing a fundraiser for the library. Jackie’s all excited.”
Harrold and my Aunt Jackie had been dating for a few months. They had the same interests, enjoyed each other’s company, and seemed like the perfect match. Of course, before Harrold, Aunt Jackie had been spending time with Josh Thomas. What that couple lacked in common interests, Josh made up for in his earnest adoration for my aunt. In the end, the one-sided love hadn’t been enough for her, and now Harrold was part of our group.
“The library needs so much updating, it’s not funny. We donate a lot of books, but those kids deserve a well-rounded experience. I think the fundraiser might become an annual event.” I realized I hadn’t checked in with Sasha about the last-minute planning before I left the shop. I made a mental note to talk to her tomorrow before the Summer Beach Blast took up our attention for the week. Which gave me exactly five minutes first thing in the morning.
Waving goodbye to Harrold and Levi, I ambled my way back home. Since the spring rains had just ended, the lawns were green and the flowers blooming. Everyone was edgy about water still, since one good rainy season didn’t mean the drought was over, but it was a good start. And I enjoyed the green landscape much more than the brown it had been during most of the winter months.
Emma sniffed my hand when I reached down to greet her after unlocking the front door. “Yep, I’ve been visiting Levi.”
She woofed at me and ran to the kitchen door. Apparently I’d been forgiven for visiting her buddy without her, or she just really had to go outside and she would pout later. Emma was my golden retriever and a gift from Greg. She was also my running buddy. I took a mental inventory of my energy level after the workout with Amy and decided I had enough juice to take a quick run. I went upstairs and changed and when I got back downstairs, we headed to the beach.
The parking lot was filled with cars and I remembered too late that Mary and Darla were setting up for the start of the Summer Beach Blast. Toby was supposed to drive the food truck down this afternoon right after his shift. Sasha and Nick were charged with stocking the insides.
The truck had been parked in our back lot since I’d had it repainted at Bakerstown Auto Detail. Now, instead of the deep green sixties theme, the truck was a tan with black letters. A large cartoon coffee bean sat relaxing in a lawn chair and reading a book. The truck was cute and I thought branded our store well. This was our first outing since we’d bought the truck from Dustin Austin a few months ago. Lille was still giving me the evil eye when I ate at her restaurant. She’d been in the running to buy the truck originally, but had banned the first seller from her establishment once he revealed he’d sold it to Austin.
Her loss, my win. Besides, Austin had promised not to sell the truck to Lille. Homer Bell, the truck’s first owner, had a long memory. And he had liked the food at Diamond Lille’s so his banishment still irked the man.
Emma looked up at me as we crossed the parking lot. Typically, I let her off her leash here and we’d run together down to the shoreline. Today, there were too many people for me to take a chance on her mowing down someone in her excitement to greet them. “Sorry girl, you’re just going to have to stick with me today. I’ll fill up your swimming pool when we get home.”
Greg had brought home the kiddie pool in late May and Emma loved splashing in the water. She even had pool toys. Yes, we were that kind of dog parents. Of course, Greg was only in our lives part time, but I was hoping he’d come on full time sooner than later.
As if I’d wished him by rubbing a magic lamp, Greg crossed the beach and met me halfway to the ocean. Squatting, he rubbed the dog’s ruff. “Hey Emma, I didn’t think you’d get a run today.” He looked up at me. “Are you feeling okay? That workout was brutal.”
The workout was a specialized martial arts program. Most of the time today had been on exercises that focused on the core muscles. I had a feeling that my stomach was going to be screaming in the morning when I awoke, just from the sheer number of crunches we’d done. Attending twice a week, the class would either get me in amazing shape or kill me. I wasn’t sure which would happen first.
Greg didn’t have to know that. I smiled. “I thought it was great.”
He laughed. “You’re lying. But I love you anyway. How come you picked that specific class to attend anyway? Bruce is doing a self-defense for women class that goes in the evening. Matt said Darla’s excited about going.”
“You think I need to be in an all-female class? What, I can’t keep up with the guys?” I tried to keep my tone even, but depending on Greg’s answer, I knew I might go all postal on the guy.
“Oh, no. You’re not getting me to fall for that. I was just wondering why you joined the class. I’m not saying what class you should take. Momma didn’t raise no fool.” He stood, giving Emma a quick pat, and then kissed me. “I’ve got to get back to checking out the setup for the festival. Should I stop by later? Maybe we could head out to Sally’s Deck down the road for dinner and a couple beers?”
“I’d love to not have to cook. And if we go to the winery tomorrow night, Blake’s band will be playing and we can dance.” Emma nudged me with her nose on my leg. “Looks like I’ve got to get going too. See you tonight.”
I started jogging down the beach and whispered the words I still hadn’t been able to say directly to Greg but I was practicing. “Love you.”
As I ran, I thought about my relationship with the handsome Greg King. We’d been a couple for over a year now and even though we’d moved past the making out stage, we both still hung on to our own homes and routines. My last boyfriend had moved in with me after we’d been dating a month. One morning, I realized he hadn’t gone home for over a week. That’s how I knew he’d moved in. We’d never talked about it.
Luckily the guy moved out just as silently. We’d had another fight, the third one that week, and when I’d come home from work, his stuff was gone and I never saw him again.
Greg stayed over sometimes and we’d had weekends together in various locations, but neither of us had brought up the subject of the next step. Maybe it was time to stop practicing those words and actually tell the guy.
As I circled back around to the parking lot and the road to my house, I’d made up my mind. I was going to tell Greg I loved him.
Just not tonight.
My cell rang as soon as I got inside the house. I stood at the sink and after pouring a glass from a pitcher I kept in the fridge, I took a big gulp of water fro as I checked the display. Aunt Jackie.
“Hey, what’s going on? Don’t tell me there are issues with the food truck.” I brought my glass of water over to the table and sank into one of the chairs.
“Why are you always looking for trouble, nothing’s wrong.” My aunt’s theatrical sigh told me she was on her last nerve and the festival hadn’t even really started.
“So why are you calling me on a Tuesday afternoon? You never call. What’s so important that it couldn’t have waited until tomorrow?” I flipped through the mail and sorted out the junk, piling it so I could run it through the shredder in my office later today. Shredding envelopes was surprisingly satisfying. I wish I could do the same thing with the bills that I piled in the other stack.
“Well, shoot me if I thought something might be worth knowing.” My aunt could actually make her voice ooze disapproval over the phone and when she did, I knew I was crossing from being annoying to being out of order.
“Sorry, I’m grumpy.” I rubbed my forehead, wishing away the migraine I felt coming on. “Please tell me what’s going on.”
I could almost hear the shrug my aunt had perfected over the years. “I guess so.” Her voice dropped. “I had a woman come in and ask about a job. Don’t worry, I told her no, that we were full up at least until after school starts. We’re growing so fast, we might need to hire then. But I’m getting off subject. Like I said, I told the woman we weren’t hiring.”
I still didn’t know the direction this discussion was heading. I sipped my water, waiting her out.
“The woman’s name is Ivy Corbin. She swears she’s Kathi’s sister.” Aunt Jackie paused, letting the news settle in.
my aunt had my attention. “I don’t understand. Kathi should have tons of openings soon, and could probably use her now to start planning the storefront. Why would she be looking for a job with us?” I put the glass down on the table.
“I wondered the same thing, so I asked her why she wasn’t working for her sister.” My aunt greeted a customer, then came back to the phone conversation. “She said that the two of them didn’t work well together. I guess she’s in town trying to mend their relationship.”
“Does Kathi even know she’s here?” I looked at the cabinet where I kept my chips. I had fresh salsa in the fridge. Deciding I was more bored than hungry, I walked the stack of mail into my home office and turned on the shredder.
“I don’t think so. Hold on a second.” I could hear my aunt ringing up an order, so I shredded some of the credit card offers I’d gotten that week. I could probably open a packing shop with all the shredded paper I created just from junk mail.
Finally, I heard my aunt back on the line. “Anyway, I called for something else. I wanted to talk to you about the finances for the library event. Can you come down and we’ll go over the plans?”
“Can’t I look at them tomorrow morning?” I glanced at the wall clock: two o’clock. Greg would be here at six, which left me time to walk back into town, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it.
“No, I need to send out deposits today. It won’t take long and you need to be more involved in the planning.” The unspoken rebuke was clear in her tone. She’d seen through my plan to leave this event to her and Sasha, mostly because I didn’t like the whole event-planning part.
I knew my aunt wasn’t going to give in, so I turned off the shredder. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.” I let Emma outside. She loved spending afternoons on the back porch, guarding her domain from the rabbits and any other little creatures that happened to visit. Typically, I’d be curled on the swing, reading and sipping a glass of iced tea. I know, rough life. Emma did three circles, then plopped down hard on her bed when I let her back in, showing her disappointment in our change of plans. Glancing at the shed-turned-Toby’s apartment, I didn’t see his truck and figured he was still at the shop. I didn’t spy or keep track of his comings or goings, but sometimes, I did feel a little safer knowing that the part-time deputy, part-time barista was only a few steps away if he was home.