Just another Saturday morning. Way, way too early to be up on a morning she didn’t have to work. But she was heading over to the storage place to see what she hoped would be Dawn’s ex-boyfriend.
She grabbed her checkbook and tossed it into her purse. Before heading toward the coffeepot, she took another long, critical look at her reflection. She wondered how old Dawn was. She wondered how old she looked. At just weeks short of 31, she still got carded regularly, though whether that was due to her youthful demeanor or simply caution on the part of those selling alcohol she could neither tell nor care. Peering closely into the mirror, she saw no sign of silver hair, no indication yet, at least, of damage from the Florida sunshine. “I still look pretty young,” she decided.
After a cup of coffee fortified with a shot of her father’s homemade Kahlua, she headed for the warehouse. The tall gates were opened, and there was a lot of traffic around the storage units as people moved stuff in and out and around. She caught sight of Scott heading toward the office. She parked the car in front and deliberated whether she ought to wait for him to come out to her, or if she should just go into the office and see what he had planned.
He was shaking hands with a couple who had just rented a unit. He set the contract down on his desk and went over to a map on the wall showing the layout of the property, pointing out just where they would find their unit. She surreptitiously glanced at the signature on the bottom: ‘Scott Brickel’, it read. He had nice handwriting. For some reason, that seemed important. (In the long run it wouldn’t matter a whit.)
He finished with the couple, and as they left, he turned to her, holding his arms out for a hug.
“I broke up with Dawn last night. And, her car was finished and she doesn’t need my help any more, and she’s seeing someone else too, so that worked out well, right?” he said, hopefully. And reminding her of what she’d said last night after he’d kissed her, he gently brushed her lips with his own. Just that small action made her feel giddy, stirring something inside her that she quickly forced back. It was not nearly time, and clearly not the place.
“We shall see,” she responded. “Are you working all day? Should I maybe come back another time?”
He ran a hand through his curls. “I didn’t expect to be working today. My dad was supposed to be here by now, but he stayed down in Stuart on the boat last night so I had to open. But I can hang the sign and just keep an eye out for anyone needing me. We have to go buy the parts now. I can drive…”
“No!” she nearly shouted. “I mean, I can drive. And we can put the top down.” Memories of last night’s harrowing drive down I4 would remain with her for a while.
While he picked out the brake parts she checked him out. He was a smoker (not a problem, as she was a veritable chimney herself.) He seemed quite sure of himself though this was perhaps betrayed by the observation that he bit his nails. He had an excellent tan and an athletic build. His hair, probably in need of a cut, ran to curls. His eyes were astonishingly blue with the curliest, longest lashes she’d ever seen. He had a broad smile revealing two rows of chicklet white, utterly straight teeth, and beautiful, full lips, the top one brushed by a healthy mustache…ginger in color! There was a small cleft in his chin, a strong jaw. He was not classically handsome, but he was indeed, beautiful.
“We’re ready,” he said, turning from the counter. “He’s given us his discount. That saved you about $19. Not great, but it’ll buy lunch.”
“Was that a subtle hint?” she queried, writing a check for the parts.
“Nope,” he smiled. “I’ll buy lunch when we’re done.”
Riding down 17-92 toward the warehouse, she noticed the ABC liquor store, conveniently located just outside the warehouse gates. “I’ll just be a minute,” she said, pulling in, “unless you want to come in with me?”
He hopped out of the car and walked in with her, greeting the man behind the counter by name. “So, you know everyone in Sanford, right?” she asked. They reached the walk-in cooler where she grabbed a six-pack of icy Heineken Dark beer. “I’ve been in Sanford for years and don’t know as many people as you seem to have met in your…what…8 months here. Will you drink dark beer?”
“I’m actually not really a drinker,” he revealed. He reached past her for a 2-liter of Pepsi. I’m a pop drinker.”
“Pop! That’s a funny thing to call soda!” she said.
“Soda!” he replied, “that’s a funny thing to call pop!”
“I keep forgetting you’re not from around here,” she said. “I wonder what other things you mid-westerners have different words for.”
“We say ‘ruff’ for the top of the house”, he offered. “Not different, just different pronunciation.”
“You’re from…Michigan, right? I’ve never been there. What’s it like?”
“Cold, snowy. I’d much rather be in Florida. especially the Keys.”
She paid for the beer and Pepsi, and as they walked back to the car, she said, “I’ve lived in this state for more than ten years and I’ve never been to the Keys.”
“I’ll take you some day,” he said, solemnly. “There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching the sun set over Mallory Square. The people gather nightly to watch, and applaud the sunsets.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” she replied. “I’d love to see the Keys,” she thought to herself. “How did I never get there?”
He offered her the key to his room so she could put the beer in the mini-fridge. “Wow, this is really small,” she observed. There was a nice bathroom and the huge sound system typical of most young guys and not a whole lot else. She availed herself of the surprisingly tidy bathroom before heading back outside.
When she stepped out into the heat, she could see that he already had the car up on a hydraulic jack. He’d taken off his shirt and was lying on it under the car. She cracked a beer and watched him complete the job quickly.
He let the car down off the hydraulic jack (borrowed from one of the guys who rents a unit to do his car work in, he’d told her.) Putting the tools away, he then shook out his shirt, slipped it on and opened the driver’s side door.
“Test drive. Are you coming with me?”
“Yikes!” she said silently. “Sure,” she said aloud.
He pulled out of the warehouse and into 17-92 traffic. His driving was much better than the previous evening. Perhaps it was just the van? He took a corner into a neighborhood and began to stop and go, applying the brakes, easy, then hard, trying them at different speeds.
“I think you’re going to be okay,” he said. “See? No more screeching and squealing.” He was right. He’d done a great job. Her car was quiet again, and…bonus! It stopped when you needed it to!
“Thank you so much. I know this would have cost a fortune at a garage.”
“So when do I get my payment? When can I drive it?” he grinned at her.
She asked him if he’d heard of the Zellwood Corn Festival. He gave her a curious look and told her that he’d not.
“It happens every year. It’s this big festival they hold in a corn field with music and beer and crafts and most of all, corn on the cob and ham and potato salad. It’s fun and if you’d like to go, it just happens to be today and tomorrow. Are you free tomorrow? If so, you can drive there…carefully.”
He grinned at her. “I’m up for it. What time?”
“I will be here by 11am. My brother and his wife were planning on going with me. You’ll like them.”
They were at the warehouse now. He turned the car off and invited her to come in and hang out for a while. He turned on the music, pulled out a well-equipped tray and a bag of very clean pot, and rolled a neat joint. Striking a match to the end, he inhaled deeply. Taking another hit, he offered it to her. She declined, and opened another Heineken.
“I do need to get some food,” she told him. “I haven’t eaten yet today.”
“Two beers and nothing to eat yet? That’s not good.”
“Well, you see, beer is like a food. Beer is made from grain and grain is food…”
He stubbed out the joint and grabbed her hand. “We’re going to Carli’s for one of the best subs you’ve ever eaten.” He started in the direction of the shop outside the gate on the other side of the liquor store. As they walked, he didn’t let go of her hand.