Authors: Teagan Kade
* * * * *
Published by Teagan Kade
Copyright © 2015 by Teagan Kade
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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“Just the gas?”
The guy behind the counter wears a shirt that says ‘big rig’ with an arrow pointing to his crotch. Given his gut, I can’t imagine he’s seen his dick in years. He eyes me lewdly, chewing jerky.
“Yeah, thanks, Aaron.”
This takes him by surprise. He looks to his shirt, looks to see if he has a nametag on. “How’d you know my name?”
He squints, as if this will help further clarify the situation. “Hey, hey, I know you. You’re the what’s-her-name girl from school.” He looks to the heavens for divine inspiration. “Alice! Alice Everett, right?”
I rummage through my purse for gas money. “Guilty as charged.”
Aaron leans back. “Wow, what’s a swanky city girl like you doing back here in little ol’ Rosie?”
It’s a good question. I don’t really know the answer myself.
“It’s just time,” I tell him, handing over the bills.
“Nothing’s changed,” he laments.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” I toss him a wink before leaving.
Outside, the sun beats down like a fiery hammer. I’ve forgotten just how hot it can get out here, but it’s true what they say. The air
cleaner. It may not have the hustle and bustle of New York, but Rosie – population 1000 – has its own charms.
I turn back onto the highway, past the ‘Welcome To Rosie! Timber town!’ sign when a cop car swings in behind me from the side of the road with a
I pull over.
A single officer gets out, hand on his weapon and wide-brimmed Stetson casting his face into shadow.
I wind down my window and he leans in, taking off his Aviators. What a cliché.
“Ma’am,” he starts, “are you aware of the speed limit on these roads?”
I turn to him. He stops. “Alice?” he says. “Alice Everett?”
“Dan,” I reply, unable to stop the smirk that’s pulling at my lips. “Dan Winter. Long time no see.”
It’s a wonder we never dated in high school. It’s not that I didn’t find him attractive, and time has treated him well as he leans by my window, but he always seemed more interested in sport than chasing tail.
I spot the sheriff badge on his shirt. “You’ve moved up in the world.”
He looks down at the silver star. “I guess you could say that. And you? Heard you made it big out in the Apple.”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“What brings you back to Rosie?”
That damned question.
“I suppose I just needed a break, you know?”
He shakes his head, smirking himself. “Look,” he says, “I’m going to let you off now, you hear, on account of making a fresh start, but on one condition.”
He’s smiling, but it’s not the kind of corporate Cheshire grin I’m used to. It’s warm, inviting, everything I came back for. “One dinner, my treat.”
No more guys for a while, remember, Alice?
“I’m flattered, Dan, but I’m not really on the dating market at the moment.”
“Did I say a date? Dinner, Alice, that’s all. Two friends catching up.”
I’m not going to be able to get out of this one. “Fine,” I relent, “dinner.”
“You stayin’ with your folks?”
“Great. See you at eight.”
He steps away, that same coy smile on his face, shaking his head as he gets back into his patrol car and turns around in a cloud of dust and debris.
No dating, huh? That went out the window fast.
“Alice, darling!” The hug Mom delivers threatens to collapse my lungs. Dad smiles on from the porch.
“How are you, kiddo?” he asks, as we move inside out of the heat.
“Good, Dad. Couldn’t be better.”
But he knows. I can see it in his eyes. Nothing gets past him.
Mom pats a space on the sofa next to her. “Seen anyone you know yet?”
“Aaron, at the gas station.”
Mom shakes her head. “That good-for-nothing. Been working at his daddy’s station since you left.”
I clear my throat. “And Dan.”
“Yeah, he’s a sheriff now.”
“Fine young man,” Dad chips in. “Done this town an awful lot of good since you’ve been gone.”
Mom winks. “Bit of a looker too, if you know what I mean.”
I slap her playfully on the shoulder. “Mom! Jesus. I’m here one minute and you’re already trying to hook me up. We agreed…”
She puts her hands out in supplication. “Yes, yes, I know what we agreed, but a mother can dream, can’t she?”
I smile. It comes out naturally. “It’s good to see you guys.”
“Good to see you too, hon,” they reply in unison.
My old room’s exactly as I left it, right down to the diary on the shelf and the dusty CDs on my desk.
I stretch out on my bed and stare at the ceiling.
You’re here. You’re home.
For the first time in a long time my inbox is empty when I open up my laptop. I check the usual feeds, call my editor, but it all seems so distant now.
Dan shows up bang on eight. It looks amusing having a police car out front until I remember the last time one was here.
Dan’s dressed casually when he steps out. Gone is the beige and badge to be replaced by a tight-fitting tee and jeans that hug him in all the right places. I have to admit, he’s looking fucking fine.
He approaches me with his hands in his pockets. I stand above him on the porch, leaning against the timberwork for support lest my knees weaken and I should have to be whisked away for treatment.
Pfft, yeah, right.
“Sorry, Alice, but every restaurant in town’s booked up solid tonight.”
“Is there still just the one?”
He kicks the dust. “Man, I just can’t get anything past you. Yeah, just the one, Torony’s, I’m afraid. This isn’t exactly the hub of fine dining New York is.”
“Not yet, but give it time. Although it looks the same, things are changing around here. You’ll see it firsthand soon enough.”
I shift my eyes down to his chest. “Not everything has changed, it seems.”
“I try to keep myself in shape. I don’t play ball any more, but I coach the little ones. Passes the time.”
If he had a puppy tucked under his arm he couldn’t be more adorable, and that’s the problem. He seems
perfect. We’d settle down, have 2.5 kids and journey to the one fancy restaurant in town on Saturday night with our coupon and enjoy our one night out a month. I could never do it. I’m too much of a free spirit. I’m too reckless for him.
I twist my lips together. “What shall we do then?”
“Have dinner with us!”
I almost collapse into Dan’s arms in shock as Mom blows in behind me.
She’s got her apron on. “I’ve cooked enough for everybody.”
“Were you eavesdropping, Mom?”
She slaps me with her oven mitt. “Never! Now, what do you say?”
“I really don’t think-” I start, but Dan interrupts. “Sure, Mrs Everett, if you think it’s no problem.”
“Nothing is a problem for you, Dan. You know you’re welcome any time.”
I shake my fist to the heavens and bring it back to my side just as Dan takes my elbows. “I hope that’s okay?”
I give in. “Sure, why the hell not?”
We head inside. Mom wasn’t kidding. She’s made enough to feed the entire town. The table couldn’t get any more colorful.
That aside, I have no complaints about her cooking. I’ve missed these roasts and cook-ups. Wholesome just-add-butter home cooking like this is hard to find in the Big Apple. There are only so many cronuts, Nutella scrolls and blueberry buckwheat waffles one can consume, after all.
Mom and I are seated on one side of the table, Dan and Dad on the other. A cuckoo clock from Mom and Dad’s Great European Adventure (Read: generic bus tour) chimes on the wall to mark the hour.
“Tell me, Dan,” says Dad, passing down the potatoes, “how’s the job?”
“Good, Mr Everett.”
I stifle laughter by shoving a roasted carrot into my mouth.
“You see,” Dan continues, “crime doesn’t rest. Those Millertown boys certainly keep us on our toes. You’ve heard about the robberies, the shootings, of course?”
“Damn terrible thing.”
“We’ve apprehended two of them over the last week, but it’s hard to plug up the flow, you know?”
“Without a doubt.”
“Millertown?” I query. “Did I miss something?”
“It’s not like you remember, hon,” says Mom. “The mill shut down and the place went to the doghouse. I wouldn’t even drive through it myself.”
Dad gives her a knowing nod. “Very wise, Mrs Everett. Best to steer clear.”
All I see is a story title. “You think the crime stems mainly from Millertown?”
Dan wipes his mouth. “Oh, I know it, Alice. They’re become pretty brazen, too. Most of these burglaries were carried out in broad daylight. Millertown had a bit of a rep when you and I were in school, but now it’s worse than 1980s New York, full of low-lives and street scum. Like your dad said, steer clear.”
“Hmpf,” is my only reply.
Inwardly, just one thing is running through my mind: You
to get there.
Dad spears another forkful of beans. “Say, Alice, did you know Dan here did a tour of Afghanistan?”
This is news. I turn to him. “You were in in the Army?”
He looks down at his food. “Yeah, for a year or two there.”
“Wow,” and I mean it.
Dad claps him on the shoulder. “Making us proud, he was. Serving your country is a wonderful thing, son, but there’s just as much that needs doing here in Rosie. Am I right?”
Dan nods again, but something’s off. Talk of the Army has spooked him. I make a mental note to enquire further.
Mom puts down her knife and fork, always a dangerous sign. “Dan hasn’t had much luck on the lady front, Alice. Pickings are slim around here, as you know.”
He laughs. “Thanks, Mrs Everett, but I’m doing just fine.”
She waves it off. “Oh Dan, I think you and Alice would make such a cute couple.”
Suddenly Mom jumps out of her seat, shaking her finger at me. “Alice! What did you kick me for?
I roll my eyes, “God, Mom! Just… leave it.”
Dan can’t stop sniggering. It’s nice to see him happy. He was always so damn serious in school. I heard his pop had a mean right hook. He often showed up with Exhibit A in the form of a shiny black bruise around his eye the next day. Apparently his folks passed not long after I left.
Mom won’t stop. “I’m just saying, he’s a real catch.”
I place my own utensils down. “So why don’t
go out with him?”
“Oh, Alice. What would your father think?”
My parents exchange a sickly air kiss. I want to spew up all over the table. “I came back for this?”
I’m thankful when Dan changes the subject. “How are you finding being back, Alice?”
“It’s,” I hunt for the right word, “nice. Quiet, for sure. I almost miss the sirens.”
Dan pipes up. “I can help out with that, cruise the patrol car past and give the sirens a blast at 2am. Don’t think it would go down so well with your neighbors, but the offer’s there.”
I give him a mock hat-tip. “Thank you, sir.”
The small talk continues, but none of it probes into the deeper issues at hand. I help Mom wash up as Dad and Dan discuss sports in the den. Normally I’d be averse to such stereotypical gender roles, but here in Rosie it almost seems unnatural not to go with it.
“I’m serious,” Mom says, examining her make-up in the mirror of a dish she’s drying, “you should jump on him before someone else snaps him up.”
“Jump on him? Can you even hear yourself?”
She shakes her dish towel. “You know what I mean. Have some fun. Let your hair down.”
I peer around the corner as Dad lambasts Dan with his ‘I could have been a quarterback’ story. The poor bastard gives me a knowing wink.
Possibility swirls. “Maybe I will.”