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Chapter 7

  • When Sunday came around, I was excited about going to the Brewers' house for a BBQ. I had spent all day Saturday alone at the house, working on little projects and finishing up the garden. Eating nothing but sandwiches and soup was getting to me. I found myself forcing the food down me, and only when I was starved. I missed fresh meals.
  • Even if the city was lonely in its busyness, it was comfortable for people like me who were alone most of the time. No one judged you or bugged you for going out to eat alone, sitting alone in the parks, and fresh, good food could be picked up in every neighborhood deli or market. We have the grocery store, which doesn’t have a deli, and the diner, which is the local hangout. In both places, you could expect people to talk to you and ask you questions. You couldn’t simply sit in a booth and be alone while you ate. Someone was going to come to sit by you and ask those same pointed, prying questions.
  • I didn’t mind eating with Adrian’s family, though. After I got over the initial annoyance of Adrian’s crude jokes and gruff mannerisms, I found I actually enjoyed his easy personality. His whole family was just as they appeared. They didn’t put up a front when others were around. I admire that kind of genuine attitude.
  • I decided to stop at the grocery store and get something to bring. I don’t want to go empty-handed. I should have asked them if I could bring something so I wasn’t going into the store blind. He said something about burning hot dogs. Could I bring some potato salad? Oh, yeah. No deli.
  • I’m floating up and down the aisles, scanning the shelves for inspiration, when Chris from the diner appears from around the soda aisle.
  • “Well, look who it is. Missy, right?” he smiles brightly at me. He looks a lot more put together today. He’s wearing nicer jeans and a plaid button-down shirt. His hair is combed and not in the sweat-stained backward hat he was wearing before.
  • “Hello,” I smiled politely back at him.
  • “Grocery shopping?” he asks, looking into my empty basket clutched in my hands.
  • “I’m going to a BBQ. I was trying to figure out what to bring.” I looked around the store nervously. Some people stopped to stare, whispering to one another like I was in some big scandal talking to this man.
  • “Are you going to the Brewers’? If it’s them, Rick is probably cooking tri-tip. Nothing fancy. Just grab some chips or drinks. Dre likes Coors Light and Britt likes Pepsi.”
  • Small towns, I think to myself, smiling. Everyone knows everyone’s business, but in this instance I’m grateful. I would have been searching forever trying to think of something. Chris’s smile grows wider like he’s proud of himself for being so helpful.
  • “Thanks! What about Hailey? Do you know what she likes?”
  • “If she’s like her mama, sour candy and easy money,” Chris scoffs, “She’s more like Adrian, though, so probably chocolate ice cream.”
  • “You seem to know everyone,” I laughed at him, “You know Hailey’s mom. Do you know if she will be there today?”
  • “Small town,” he smirks, making me laugh again, “I went to high school with Dre and Monica. She doesn’t live here anymore and they haven’t been together for a couple of years. I doubt she will come. Britt hates her and she would rather make Dre do the driving.”
  • “Oh,” I said, not wanting to pry anymore. It’s not my business. I shouldn’t have asked at all.
  • “So you and Dre a thing?” Chris smiles down at me, folding his arms so his hands are tucked under his armpits. Without the grease stains and scruffed-up appearance from Friday night, he seemed like a nice guy. Maybe he made me uncomfortable before because of all the loud friends he had around him.
  • “No,” I shook my head and laughed softly, not minding the prying question for once, “He’s fixing up my house for me and his sister has been nice to me since moving here. I like their company. It gets lonely eating by yourself and I like them. First people that I got acquainted with here.”
  • “Well,” Chris bites his lip, tilting his face and raising an eyebrow at me, “I can be good company. Next time you don’t want to eat alone?”
  • I looked around the store again and saw almost everyone, all 6 people in view, stopped and stared at us. I sucked my lips in anxiously. If I turn him down, the whole town will know by tomorrow morning. That will make it even harder to adjust to the new town.
  • “Hey, just as friends. Not a date or anything,” he laughs nervously.
  • I cock my head to the side, assessing him again. He seemed genuine and he helped me a lot with deciding what to bring. There’s no harm in a meal, right?
  • “Just as friends?” I asked, quirking my head to the other side as he smiled brightly.
  • “Just a meal shared between two friends,” he nods, “Can I get your number?”
  • “Sure,” I handed him my unlocked phone. He enters his number on the dial pad and calls himself, smiling as his phone buzzes in his pocket.
  • “Mind if I add myself on your Instagram too?” I giggled and nodded at his eagerness. In the plaid button-up and his hair combed, he reminds me of a little boy in church, scoring extra donuts at the welcome center.
  • “Cool,” he hands my phone back to me, “I’ll text you later, then?”
  • “Sure,” I nodded to him, “Thanks for your help. I’d still be wandering around in there if I hadn’t run into you.”
  • “Anytime,” he nods, watching as I walk away and around the aisle. I grab a six-pack for Adrian and a twelve-pack of Pepsi. I decided to also grab a kid’s juice jug for Hailey and several bags of chips. Lastly, I pick a pint of chocolate ice cream, the basket now heavy in my hands. I’m struggling as I carry it to the register when Chris comes jogging up the aisle, lifting it from my hands.
  • “Let me help you with that.”
  • “Thanks,” I don’t miss the smirking stares that earned us, but I’m getting used to the nosy observers. I smiled, not having the heavy burden any longer, and followed behind him as he carried my basket and his to the register. He sets mine down first and helps me unload it before emptying his own.
  • After paying for my stuff, Chris tells me to wait for him so he can help me carry my bags out.
  • “You were quite my knight in a plaid shirt today,” I boasted as he lifted the soda and beer and set it in my front seat.
  • “I’m known for my chivalry,” he chuckles, closing the door for me and walking me around to open the driver’s side door. He even offers me his free hand and helps me in the car. Chivalrous indeed. Like a Japanese host, I think to myself. He offers me a small wave before getting in his own truck and driving away while I’m still fumbling in my bag for my keys.
  • I grimace to myself thinking about the last time a guy was this nice to me. Barry was quite chivalrous too. That’s how it all started with him. Being nice to me, helping me when no one else would. Chris may be a nice guy, but the chivalry thing sent red flags going off in my head. Friends were all I would allow him to be. I resolve myself again to not get swept away by a man.