The May sun burned his forehead, but he’d been used to these harsh twists in the weather closer to summer. Earlier it had been so cold, he’d donned his hoodie when he walked out of Mrs. Covender’s basement accommodation to see to his daily chores.
“I won’t be back,” he’d told the septuagenarian when he handed over the keys to the small studio room he rented from her later on.
The old woman’s niece walked in as he headed out, and his head spun. Who? He lingered at the entrance.
“Lacy baby,” Mrs. Covender cooed. “You never say when you’re stopping by.”
“Aunt Ann, I called. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten,” the young woman said.
“You did? Oh, is today the 15th?”
“Yes, it is. And I’m not staying longer than two cups of coffee.” Lacy’s noisy kisses on her aunt’s cheeks sent a strange sensation down Thomas’s loins.
“Dear Thomas, do throw the trash before you leave, dear.” The landlady raised her best voice.
“Who is he?” Thomas heard Lacy say before he closed the door. And then, “Aunt Ann! You can’t take in strangers all the time! What if he’s a psycho or something?”
Who cared? He did look psychotic. He’d not shaved in four days, and his anger burned hot through his cold blue eyes.
About half an hour later, a white sedan drove past and stopped just a few meters ahead. Thomas looked at it and shook his head subconsciously. He wasn’t leaving yet. Lacy was right. Mrs. Covender shouldn’t take in strangers anyhow, and he hoped when he got his act together and his heart rate normal, he would go back and take her basement again.
In the three months of his stay, he’d paid part of his rent with manual labor. He cut her lawn, did her laundry, threw her trash, and sometimes, much to his amusement, did her nails.
The driver of the car pressed the horn tentatively. Thomas waved. When the horn went off a little longer, he paid attention.
A head full of brown curly hair sprung into his view, and his stomach tightened.
He got to his feet and walked over to her. “Ma’am?”
She cleared her throat. She had the most remarkable grey eyes. “Are you going my way?”
If she warned her aunt not to house strangers, she shouldn’t pick hikers either.
“Depends,” he mumbled. He knew only one other woman who had those same grey eyes, and that woman wasn’t mixed.
“I’m heading toward Baltimore.”
City girl. He hated all of them. “I’ll stop—” He had no clue where he’d stop. “Before you enter the city.”
“I live in Elicott City. So I won’t get to Baltimore, actually.”
“So? Where are you headed at?”
He got into the car. “Nowhere actually. I’ll find a job, stay a bit and then move on.” He was talking too much. “What did your aunt say about me?”
She pulled back on to the road. “That you do more than your due around the house.” She shrugged. “She hated to see you go.”
Now, that was more than necessary. Her silence proved it too. He was drawn to her. He knew why but couldn’t bring himself to admit it. She was Mrs. Covender’s niece, the one the old lady spoke about often. He never imagined what she looked like, never cared.
The rest of the drive was in strained quiet. This was one of the reasons he moved around a lot. He couldn’t develop or maintain relationships.
His heart pounded. You have to know about this girl, the sane voice in his head admonished. She was beautiful, and young, and wore no ring.
Those were not the reasons for his conflict. If he wanted any girl, he could have gotten. He didn’t want any girl anymore.
“I’ll stop here,” he said before the thought formed in his heart. He combed through his dark blonde shoulder-length shaggy hair.
She slowed down though. They were in a beautiful semi-rural community called West Friendship. The houses looked huge and far between but it was the signpost of the Elementary school that drew Thomas.
He frowned. “Why? Because I’m stopping here.”
She pulled the car over to the shoulder. “You didn’t want to stop here.”
“I do now. Thanks for the ride.” He opened the car and rushed out of it. He slammed the door after him.
His shoelaces dangled and he remembered what he’d been about before Lacy stopped for him. He’d walked away from the house. Never hoping to see her again.
She drove off without a word.
Thomas watched her go. For eight years he’d roamed the states and counties around his former home in New York. Slowly, he’d drifted farther off, and been in the State of Maryland for almost three years. The longest he had stayed in any state since Molly was brutally killed in a senseless drunk-driving accident, taking their unborn daughter with her.
Not once had he second-guessed his decision to sell everything he’d built with Molly and become destitute. Till now.
Why did Lacy look so much like Molly? Everything was the same, except Molly was full Caucasian and Lacy was mixed.
Thomas Garet dropped on his butt and wept for the first time in eight years.
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