Charlotte’s younger sister, Layla, was one year, two months and three days younger than her.
But, Layla was an old soul. An old soul who spoke truisms about life at every chance available. She made it a habit of practicing this gift on Charlotte. This time, Layla proclaimed one of her truths about life to Charlotte outside the door to the high school cooking classroom.
“You can’t expect something different if you go about doing things the same way.”
A retort brewed in Charlotte’s belly but never rose high enough for her to deliver. So she relied on her tried but not always true defense mechanism–sass to conceal what was, in fact, whining.
She spoke over her shoulder to her sister. “I don’t want anything different. I’m happy reading books and watching movie marathons.” She had learned to achieve this particular level of happiness after ending a two year relationship with a boyfriend who moved to a larger city. Charlotte didn’t have to move when she could visit different worlds anytime she picked up a book.
Like a mule that would lose the fight but couldn’t help resisting, she stopped short and dug her heels into the ground.
Layla collided into Charlotte’s back with enough force for her to grunt, “Oof.”
Like a row of dominoes, a chain of events that would change the course of the day ensued.
Charlotte careened into the back of a man that was at least a head taller than her.
He crashed into a metal rolling cart loaded with flour.
A silver metal bowl on the top rack of the cart wobbled. Time stood still and sped up simultaneously. The bowl rock back and forth. There wasn’t enough air for Charlotte to breath in, nor enough motion to change gravity.
That didn’t stop Charlotte from trying. She reached as though the extension of her arms would somehow convince the bowl to still in place. Then everyone would exhale a sigh of relief, maybe giggle about what almost was.
It didn’t work.
Instead, a cloud of white dust cascaded down the front of the man’s black t-shirt and forest green cargo pants.
Waves of oh no, oh no, oh no coursed through Charlotte’s chest, rising to her throat, eventually reaching her voice.
Even with a thin sheen of flour, the man was cute. He looked like one of the props from a Christmas movie that had gone wrong.
“Oh, I am so sorry.” Charlotte held out her hand in front of her like he was a puppy that she didn’t want to frighten. “I didn’t. We didn’t.” This was all Layla’s fault. If Layla would have let her stay home– like she wanted. None of this would have happened.
The guy’s jaw tensed just before his eyes darted to the corner of the room and landed on a tall lanky guy with an armful of kitchen utensils. The other guy seemed oblivious of the catastrophe that had just happened. He also seemed to be the only one. Everyone else in the room stopped and stared at the big kerfuffle.
Charlotte scanned the area around them. Where were the towels, a brushes, a vacuum cleaner —something to help erase the fine white dust that coated the front of his pants?
There were kitchenettes, metal bowls, mixers, tins with cookware, and bins of baking supplies. No towels.
In her desperation to find a solution, a flash of an idea rushed to the front of Charlotte’s mind. She had a clean Kleenex in her shirt pocket. Charlotte pulled it out and motioned to rub the man’s leg but thought better of it before her hand connected with him.
His thick brows raised to the line of his baseball cap. The subtle shake of his head said he wished the solution to their problem was that simple. “We’re going to need more than that.”
Charlotte’s heart did a little flip flop when the rich voice registered. This man could read her books to her anytime. Then, he called across the room, “Hey, Logan, come back with a broom, will ya?”
Then embarrassment set in. Charlotte was sure her face was one degree short of bursting into flames from the heat that rushed to it. She stammered her apology, “I’m sorry.”
She turned on her heel to face the cause of her troubles. Layla. Anger bled through Charlotte’s embarrassment. “If I stayed home…”
“Don’t put this on me,” Layla shook her finger in the no-no-no wag. “I wanted you to have a fun day baking cookies. Not take out G.I. Joe.”
G.I. Joe? Charlotte averted her attention back to the stranger. He straightened and puffed out his chest a little. Of course he would like what Layla said. She always said the right thing.
With the new identity association, the spattering of flour dust on the front of his pants gave him the “I can take out a robber while I’m baking you cookies” vibe. He flashed Charlotte a smile that burned all the resentment she had for her sister. “My name is Tegan.”
Before the unconventional introduction to Tegan, Charlotte was tired of Layla’s dogooder ways. But for once Layla was right. Well she was always right, but it was the first time Charlotte was happy about it. If Charlotte were to have met Tegan under normal circumstances, she wouldn’t have said a word to him. This time she said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Charlotte. Do you have a cooking partner?”
Tegan said, “I do now.”
Charlotte loved her sister Layla. Layla may have been younger than her, but she had an uncanny ability to sort out life.
So now you’ve met Lizbeth, Peter, Charlotte, Layla, Tegan and Logan. These six people will cross paths. Make sure to subscribe/follow so the updates will come to your email. Also leave a comment to let me know what you think of the story.
p.s. the cookie question from two weeks ago will come into play.
Categories: Small Town Stories