More Weather Woes

hurricane

The next morning did not look promising for our two foiled tourists. Raylene and Winnie stood by the window frowning as they watched the advancing storm drench the city.

“I don’t wish for the wind, but we could use some heavy rains like this back home,” Raylene commented as another gray cloud dropped yet more water on the streets below. “It would do the crops a world of good.”

“Don’t be silly, Raylene. If we got a rain like this back in Moose Knee it would flatten all the crops for a thousand miles around.”

“Not if it came at the right time, like in March before the farmers started seeding.”

“If it came in March, it’d freeze and the whole country would be one big skating rink.”

“I suppose,” Raylene admitted. “And we’d never want a wind like this.” They watched as another branch fell from one of the trees in the park beside them.

“I declare! They must not use enough fertilizer around those trees if the branches break so easily,” said Winnie. “I’m going to mention that to the Manager next time I see him.”

“Remember, this is a hurricane. It would take an amazing tree to stand up in this gale — and we’ll see a lot higher wind yet before the day is out. The Manager said the hurricane may knock out our power and we’ll be without until they get the generator running.”

“He’d better give us a discount for that.”

Raylene rolled her eyes. “It’ll only be for fifteen minutes or so.”

“ ‘Every penny counts,’ is what I always say.”

Right then the phone rang. Raylene picked up the receiver and recognized her daughter Naomi’s voice.

“Hi, Mom. How are you two managing down there? We hear Hurricane Celestine is moving into that part of Florida.”

“We’re watching its arrival right now.”

“And how’s Cousin ‘Thistle’ enjoying herself? She hasn’t blown away yet?”

Raylene sighed. “I wish…”

“Well, you knew…”

“I’d hoped…”

“For a miracle?”

“I guess.”

“Dream on! Cousin Winnie will never change. She delights in disaster.”

“But I thought…”

Winnie interrupted. “I wish; I hoped; I guess; I thought. Are you paying by the word? Long distance rates are too high for that kind of babbling. Say something sensible or hang up.”

“Cousin Winnie thinks we’re babbling and I should hang up,” Raylene told her daughter. “I guess neither of us are feeling very cheerful this morning. We may spend the whole day in this room watching the rain fall.”

“Poor Mom. I’ll have your martyr pin ready when you get home. Would you like it engraved? How about Semper fidelis or Veni, vidi, vici Florida?

“Maybe just Mea culpa.”

Naomi laughed. “Bye, Mom. Have a great time — once the storm is over.”

Raylene said goodbye and turned to her cousin Winnie. “Come on. Let’s go down to the lobby and see what everybody else is doing. We can’t just sit here and ooze gloom all day long.”

Winnie’s face brightened. “Maybe we can have tea with that nice widower from Hershey, Pennsylvania. Love his accent — I could listen to him all day!”

Raylene smiled. Miracles do still happen, she thought as went to her room to grab her purse.

Better Weather on the Way

PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

Photo copyright: Sarah Potter

Many thanks to our gracious host and purple aficionado, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for giving us our weekly prompt here at Friday Fictioneers and to Sarah Potter for supplying the photo prompt. My initial response was zilch, having locked my muse in my sewing closet last weekend. However, she won’t stay there when a challenge like this presents itself. Today she popped up to remind me of dear old Whiny…Winnie.

Another vacation trial for the peevish Winnie and her long-suffering traveling companion, Raylene. To read the first part of their Florida adventure, click here.

GOOD NEWS

Winnie was staring out the window when Raylene looked up from the TV screen. “Are you happy now,” she asked. “That nice manager gave us a room with a better view.”

Winnie scowled at her. “But it’s still snowing in Florida, of all things. How will we manage Disney World tomorrow in this mess?”

Raylene hit the power switch. “I have good news for you, dear. The weatherman says there’s a hurricane barreling toward the Florida coast as we speak. Should hit here tomorrow about noon. That’ll wash away all this snow.”

Winnie eyed the outdoor scene. “Well. Thanks be!”

funny-hat-woman

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

—Winnie in Florida hoping for sun 🙂 —

Winnie’s Views

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot. This photo has been donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only and must not be used for any other purpose without express permission of the owner.

My contribution this week to Friday Fictioneers, a group graciously hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, open for anyone who wishes to contribute a hundred-word story in response to the prompt picture.

Winnie’s View

Winnie frowned. “Deplorable view.”

“You didn’t want a spectacular view. You asked for the cheapest room,” Raylene reminded her. “Anyway, we’re not staring out that window all day, we’re touring historic Tallahassee. We’ll see gorgeous views aplenty.”

“That travel agent said it never snows in Florida and the day we arrive they get snow squalls. False advertising. However will we manage?”

“We’re used to snow. What a pretty orchid!”

Winnie sniffed. “Plain white. Goes with the cheapest room, likely.”

“Come, let’s order our breakfast. Don’t want to keep the others waiting.”

“It’s starting to drizzle. Wish I’d brought my umbrella.”

“We’ve Got Your Back”

antique-car-al-forbes

Photo courtesy of Al Forbes

He heard the ocean roar, felt the wind, smelled the sea air. He waved to his brother, who’d just loaded up that old car he’d bought, then winced as his nephew pinched his arm. “Car, Car.”

Pierce shook him hard and Carson opened his eyes.

“Hey, Car, where you been?” Pierce shouted over the whump-whump of a chopper lifting off. Carson jerked, instinctively grabbing his rifle.

Norstrom snorted. “Stateside. Where we all wanna be.”

“Guess I zoned out,” Carson admitted, watching two women in burkas sifting through some rubble.

Pierce squeezed his shoulder. “It’s okay, buddy. We had your back.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My response to today’s prompt has been influenced by the book I just finished reading: Rescuing Finley by Dan Walsh. An excellent book! Chris Seger, a US marine who lost a leg in Afghanistan, suffered severely from PTSD. Finley was a shelter dog trained to work with ex-marines like Chris and Amy was the prisoner who trained him. All three of them had their future redeemed because of this program.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for sponsoring the Friday Ficitoneers and to Al Forbes for the prompt picture. This photo is copyright and may only be used in connection with this prompt, or with permission of the owner.

Job Satisfaction

Thanksgiving Day:

Along with the other men in the family, Conlin headed for the living room after the feast. With a deep sigh of contentment, he plopped into his recliner as his brothers and brother-in-law began discussing the perks of their respective jobs. Phil, his younger brother, had been promoted to district manager back in August and chattered enthusiastically about his new position.

Conlin could have put in a few comments about his own job — he was happy enough doing what he did in Human Resources and could tell a few tales out of school — but today he didn’t feel much like talking. Maybe he was too full of turkey and trimmings?

No, that wasn’t the whole picture. At the moment Conlin was sated physically and more or less content with his life, his home, his job. Yet he sensed a void but couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He brushed the feeling aside, flipped up his footrest and leaned back. Totally comfortable now, he listened to the others until their voices became a fading drone and his eyes closed.

In a dream he saw a long road that stretched before him as far as he could see, with neither curve or hill to vary the route. My path through life, he thought, nice and easy.

Too easy. Same old, mile after mile, day after day.

Next he was running on a treadmill, round and round, like the gerbils he and his boys had watched at the pet store. They made that wheel spin, but they got nowhere. What a life! Anything would be better than this, he thought. Suddenly he spotted an open door on the side of cage. Yes! He jumped up, grabbed the frame and threw himself through the door. Then he was free falling… The sensation made him jerk.

Phil’s voice penetrated his dream. “Dozing off, brother? Too much food?”

Conlin lowered the footrest. “I guess so. Had a dream — you know those ones where you feel yourself falling?”

“Yeah. Wonder what causes those?”

Conlin was awake now, listening to the conversation, but the dream remained in the back of his mind. He saw himself trudging along the road, then running in the treadmill, going round and round, getting nowhere. Did the dream mean anything? Was his subconscious mind trying to send him a message?

Two days later:

Conlin drove his son to the hardware store the Saturday after Thanksgiving so Tyson could pick up paint and nails to finish his birdhouse. As he stood beside the hardware store counter waiting for Tyson to collect everything he needed, another fellow came along and set four identical light fixtures on the counter.

Conlin nudged his arm. “Hey, Larry. Good to see you. What are you up to?”

The man turned toward him. “Conlin, old buddy. How are you?”

“I’m good. And yourself? Are you doing some renovations at your place?”

“Actually, these are going to be for our new club house. A couple of other guys and I have been concerned about the youth in the low-rent housing in the next subdivision. They have no place to hang out, and you know how it is…a lot of single moms…very few male mentors…drug peddlers and gangs looking for recruits. We figure the boys might need a hand if they’re going to stay out of trouble, maybe a supervised place where they can go after school.”

“Sounds like quite an undertaking.”

“Maybe. We can’t save the world, but we decided to do what we could and half a dozen other guys have offered some volunteer time every week. So we chipped in and got us a small abandoned garage on a paved lot. We’ll fix it up, maybe put up some hoops for basketball, that kind of thing. A lot of these boys have been shifted around from school to school, too, and need help with the basic subjects. Come to think of it, you were always a whiz at school. Maybe you’d be willing to put in a few hours now and then?”

Conlin hesitated. It seemed like a worthwhile project — and it would definitely be a new adventure for him. “Tell you what. I’ll come around and have a look at what you’re doing, then we’ll see.”

Almost a year later:

Conlin’s stomach growled as he leaned over the boy studying the textbook. He glanced at his watch. Supper should have been half an hour ago — no wonder he was hungry.

When his stomach growled again, Manny looked up and grinned. “Better fill it up soon, Mr C, or it’s gonna eat ya alive.”

Conlin mussed the lad’s hair and grinned. “I’ll survive somehow. You’re almost done, Manny. Just finish this page and I’ll drive you home.”

“Sure.” Manny got busy on the last few math problems and five minutes later closed his textbook. “All done.”

“Great, buddy! Let’s go home.”

“Thanks for staying and helping me, Mr C. I really appreciate this,” the boy said as he opened the car door.

Conlin climbed behind the wheel. “Glad to do it. You’re worth it, you know.” Manny gave him a huge smile in response.

As he drove Manny home he remembered. “Hey! Thanksgiving is next week. Is your family doing anything special?”

“Maybe going to my grandma’s,” the boy replied. “I hope so, anyway. She knows how to make great mashed potatoes and gravy. Mom’s are always lumpy and her gravy’s like glue.”

“If that doesn’t work out, let me know. Your family’s welcome to join us.” He gave Manny a big wink. “My wife makes good mashed potatoes and gravy, too.”

Conlin dropped Manny off and headed for his own home. His stomach growled again as he turned the next corner. His mind went back to last Thanksgiving Day, to the void he’d felt and the dream he’d had. He may have the same day job, but he’d escaped the treadmill. Yeah, he thought, glancing at his watch again, I may be late for supper sometimes, but life’s a lot more satisfying now.

Word Press Daily prompt: Sated

Hey! Do I Know You?

quebec-city-202152_640I’m strolling along the quiet alley, soaking in the summer sunshine and glancing into store windows as I pass. In a lot of them I see the same stamped t-shirts, carvings, and miscellaneous ‘Made in China’ key-chains hawked to tourists on every commercial street in every city. We have a few shops back home in Swift Current where I could likely buy the same thing.

But, hey, I’m a tourist here, so why not pick up a few trinkets? I enter one of the tourist traps and come out again with a key-chain for Mom and a stuffed mini-beluga whale for my seven-year-old sister.

If truth be told, I’m not actually a tourist. I came here to Québec City as a summer student after finishing Grade 12 and my primary goal is to become fluent in French. Back in spring I went online and discovered a neat little academy here offering eight week crash courses so I showed the site to my folks.

They were enthused, too. “Learning French will open doors,” Dad said. “If you stay here in Swift Current, knowing French may not be such a big advantage. But if you want to work somewhere else, land a government job, or travel, it’d be a handy thing to have.”

quebec-815376_640So my folks shelled out for the course and lodging, I emptied my precious bank account for spending money, and here I am. I may not be able to afford t-shirts and souvenirs for all the folks back home, but atmosphere is free. So today I’m absorbing the ambience of this historic old town.

Being it’s Saturday and no classes, I decided to come downtown and just mingle. See how much I can pick up from the conversations around me. Get a bit more of a tan on this beautiful summer day. Feels like time to take a break now, though. Sit awhile and sip on a cool glass of iced tea.

I’ve already passed half a dozen little restaurants along this street, with their neat outdoor tables. I come to another with appealing colours — and appealing prices on the posted menu by the door. I get in line and request a table on the patio; soon the hostess leads me to one and I sit down, tossing my shopping bag on the chair.

I catch the eye of the girl sitting alone at the next table and smile. She looks about my age. I wonder if she’s from Québec City or maybe some other part of the province? She definitely looks French. I contemplate starting a conversation, but what if I can’t understand a word she says? Would she be willing to bear with me and help me out if I get stuck?

I suppose a bit about the weather shouldn’t be too hard. I open my mouth, but then shut it again when the waitress shows up with her drink. Anyway, she looks a bit worried. Maybe she has something more important on her mind and hopes I’ll mind my own business?

Then she looks over at me again and sends me a shy smile, like maybe she does want to talk. Oh, dear! What if I really can’t understand a word she says? Come on Emily, I tell myself. Crank up your courage and give it a try.

I begin with “Bonjour. Il fait beau aujourd’hui.”

She nods. “Oui, c’est ça. Est-ce que vous êtes d’ici?”

No, I’m not from here, I mentally answer. Her French doesn’t sound local. Maybe she’s a tourist from some other country? Maybe she’s hoping to make the acquaintance of the locals and here I am trying to take up her time. I’d better tell her the truth.

“No. Je ne suis pas d’ici. Je viens de Swift Current Saskatchewan.”

“Swift Current!” she squeals. “Well, hi! I’m from Moose Jaw.”

“That’s terrific! So close to home,” I exclaim. Then add, “My Aunt and Uncle live in Moose Jaw. I wonder if you know them?”

(Note to non-Saskatchewan folks: Swift Current is about 174 km—108 miles—west of Moose Jaw.)

Using Word Press prompt: precious and Word Press prompt: street

Susan, Lady of Leisure #1

HER LAST DAY

“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

A Canadian Tale, Eh?

Today’s Daily Prompt, “Second-hand Stories” challenges us to retell one we’ve heard recently. A few days ago I read a little tale in an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay and have decided to retell it with a Canadian flavour.

One morning a Calgary police officer was cycling along on his usual beat when he saw a middle-aged man walking down the street. The man was dressed like a lumberjack and waddling along the sidewalk behind him was this beaver, eh.

The policeman braked and got off his bike. “Excuse me, sir, but what’s with this beaver and why is it following you around?”

The lumberjack looked back at the beaver. “He’s my pal, eh. I’ve brought him along with me so he can see what the big city looks like. But he’s having a hard time keeping up.”

“Listen,” said the officer, “we can’t have wild animals roaming around like this here in the city. You should take him to the zoo.”

“That might be a good idea,” the lumberjack replied. “Where can I find it?”

The policeman gave the lumberjack instructions on how to get to the Calgary Zoo. “You’ll have to take the bus from here, but watch out that beaver doesn’t bite anyone along the way, eh?”

“Don’t worry. He won’t bite anyone unless they’re made of wood.” He chuckled, then turned to the beaver. Come on, pal. We’re going to the zoo.”

The next morning the policeman was patrolling his beat when he saw the lumberjack again. This time he was going in the opposite direction — and again the beaver was waddling along behind him.

The officer stopped short. “Hey, Mister. I thought you were going to take that animal to the zoo?”

“I did.” the lumberjack replied. “And my little pal liked it so well I decided today I’d take him to the Stampede.”

Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”


Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.

 

So Who Is She?

PAULA’S PICNIC

Part Two

A dozen people were already at the picnic spot when Paula arrived. She started to unload her stuff when a voice behind her asked, “Can I help you carry something?”

It was Brent Waters. Brent with the kinky red hair, faded grey eyes and the joie de vivre of a tortoise. He smiled shyly at her and picked up her lawn chair. “It’s a decent enough day for a picnic, isn’t it?”

Paula glanced around. “Yes, I hope we’ll have a good time.” she answered. And mentally added, If you’d just beat it and Derrick would come to help this damsel in distress.
Right now, however, Derrick was nowhere to be seen––and for once Paula was glad. No point him getting wrong ideas about her and Brent.

Sounds of laughter came from several ladies sitting together beside the picnic table. Brent must have decided that’s where she’d want to be, because he unfolded her chair right beside Melinda.

“Hi,” Paula said as she sat down.

“Hi, Paula. Good to see you. Looks like we’re going to have a great day for our picnic,” said Anne.

They all chatted for awhile, mostly about how the kids did in school last term and workplace woes. Someone fired up the barbecues and started grilling.

Finally Paula couldn’t help herself. She said to Sally, another single lady sitting nearby, “Looks like most of our group is here. I don’t see Derrick, though. I wonder if he’s going to make it?”

Sally grinned at her and she turned red, then was annoyed with herself. ‘Oh, how can you guess?’ she thought with a sigh.

Then Melinda turned to her with a really sober look and said, “You know, I heard…”
“Melinda!” someone shouted. “Tamara needs the bathroom. She’s calling frantically.”
Melinda jumped up and ran toward her toddler, scooped her up, and dashed to the ‘Ladies.’
Paula was almost glad. That look said ‘bad news’ and she wasn’t sure if she could take it. Not right here, with everyone watching her reaction. She’d find Melinda later.

Just then Derrick’s car pulled into the parking lot. Paula glanced at Sally and saw her wink.
Derrick jumped out, his usual dashing self, and the tingles went up and down Paula’s spine again. Then he hurried around to open the passenger door and the most gorgeous blonde Paula had ever seen got out of the car. She and Derrick walked toward the others.
For a second Paula’s mind went blank, then scrambled for a reasonable explanation. Maybe it’s his cousin, in town unexpectedly––and what else could he do but bring her along? At least they’re not holding hands.

He can’t have a girlfriend! Paula inwardly screamed. Not after what he said at the singles’ group the other night. Not after the way he winked at me. He can’t have somebody else!


And now, dear readers, would you like to hazard a guess?  Who is this lady?