Don't Hex with Texas
“Yes, I’ve been back since January,” I said, shifting Lucy’s weight and trying to get her fingers untangled from my hair. If I wasn’t mistaken, this guy was Steve Grant, the quarterback, football hero, and otherwise big man on campus from my high school days. “How’s it going? Is there something I can help you with?”
Steve took in the baby I held. “I guess that’s why you’re back, huh?”
It was an interesting assumption to make, considering that Lucy was her mother made over, bright red curls and all, and looked absolutely nothing like me. “Um, no. This would be my niece.”
He looked immensely relieved. “Well, whatever the reason, it’s good to have you back. Say, we ought to get together some time, you know, catch up on old times.”
As far as I could recall, we didn’t have any “old times.” We’d had a class or two together, but otherwise, our interactions had been limited to me playing in the band while he played football. The dating pool must have really dried up if he was resorting to asking me out. “I guess this means I’m the only single woman left in town,” I said with a laugh.
“Whoa, what? No! That’s not what I meant. I mean, well, I saw you in the DQ earlier today, and I think the city’s been good for you. You’re so…sophisticated.”
I wasn’t sure the word “sophisticated” applied to someone wearing faded jeans and a seed company T-shirt with her hair coming out of a halfhearted attempt at a ponytail. “That’s awfully sweet of you to say, Steve, but I’m not really interested in dating right now, thanks.” I hoped he didn’t press me for details because it was hard to explain that I was still hung up on the guy I’d left behind in New York and he couldn’t possibly compete. It’s not like I was planning to join a convent if circumstances didn’t let me get back with Owen, but I just wasn’t ready to move on yet. “Is there anything else I can help you with? We’ve got a sale on lawn tractors.”
“Nah, not today. But if you change your mind, give me a shout. I’m sure you know how to find me.”
He gave me a wink before strolling out of the store. I had to admit that his backside in Wranglers wasn’t anything to sneeze at, but he wasn’t Owen, and I doubted anything else would do for a very long time.
I hadn’t even made it back to the office before my mother came running up the front steps and burst into the store.
“You are not going to believe what I just saw!” she shouted.
I flashed back to Thanksgiving in New York, when I’d spent much of the holiday trying either to
hide magical things from my mother or rationalize the things she did see. Then I remembered where I was. More likely, Mom had seen one of the local preachers making out in the backseat of a Chevy with the church secretary. Now, that would be news worth reporting, and she could most definitely be counted on to report it. I’d never seen a fairy or elf here, so I could safely rule that possibility out.
“What is it, Lois?” Beth asked cheerfully. I tried to take her cue and calm down. She acted like this was an everyday occurrence, and with my mother, it probably was.
“I was at the drugstore, and Lester Jones actually gave someone his prescription for free!”
I immediately relaxed. Lester Jones, the town pharmacist, was a notorious skinflint. If you were at his house for dinner and asked him for an aspirin, he’d charge you a nickel for it. Beth raised an eyebrow.
“Hmm, that is interesting. Maybe he’s had a change of heart and is trying to make up for all those years of overcharging. They did have a revival last week over at the Second Baptist Church.”
“I didn’t know Lester was a Baptist,” Mom said with a disapproving tone. “I didn’t think he was anything.”
“All the more reason he might have been ‘saved’ if he went to the revival,” Beth reasoned.
“Who was the lucky customer?” I asked. “Maybe it was someone who has some dirt on Lester, or someone Lester owes money to.”
“It was that weird kid—the one who got a scholarship to A&M and then flunked out. You know him, Beth, the one who used to be friends with Teddy.”
“Oh, you mean Gene Ward?” Beth asked with a frown. “That would explain a lot. His dad does own half the town. I wonder why he needed medicine.”
“Well, the boy did have his hand bandaged. It was probably antibiotics or something for the pain.”
That solved Nita’s mystery as well as Mom’s. From what I knew about Eugene Ward, he’d probably tried to take out the window so he could rob the motel, and then Nita had startled him so he’d run away before getting anything. He thought he was smarter than everyone else and could get away with anything, but he was also a big scaredy-cat. If he had been caught, his daddy would have bought off the Patels and bailed him out. He’d probably already paid off half the merchants in town after Gene’s assorted foolish stunts.