And then he follows everyone else out the door.
When it’s just Honey and me, I spin in a circle, examining my new home. The house is small, with just two bedrooms and one bathroom, but it’s perfect for me and my little dog.
“Well, Honey, what do you think? Home sweet home?”
I walk to the bedroom that overlooks the marsh. It’s dark now, with only the green light at the end of Bishop’s coop shining in the night. Is he fishing now? I’m tempted to walk outside to see, but instead, I set up my sewing machine and pull my secret sketchbook out of my sewing bag.
It’s time to bring the designs to life. This diva needs a new wardrobe.
Hazel’s been my neighbor for a week, and despite my invitation to use my dock whenever she’d like and to let me know if there’s anything she needs, I haven’t seen much of her. In fact, I’ve seen her less this week than I have any other week for the past twenty years. Besides brief walks with Honey, she’s hardly left the house. At least, not when I’m at home.
It seems my worst fears are confirmed. I blew up our relationship that night on the dock. And now she’s avoiding me.
On Saturday morning, my phone rings. Glancing at the screen, I’m surprised to see the mayor’s name. I answer right away. “Mayor Tuck?”
“Hey, Bishop. We’re starting to get worried about Hazel. Have you seen her?”
My heart thuds in my chest. “What’s wrong? Why are you worried?”
“Tuck says I’m overreacting, but none of us have seen her in a few days. She sounds normal on the telephone; says she’s enjoying just the solitude of her new home. But it’s been a week. Does she seem depressed to you?” Despite the concern in the mayor’s voice, I do a silent fist pump. If Hazel’s avoidingeveryone, then maybe I haven’t ruined things with her after all.
“I’ve seen her walking Honey, but I haven’t talked to her much,” I admit. “She’s spending a lot of time indoors, but she seems fine otherwise.”
“Can you check on her? I’d do it myself, but I don’t want to be a nagging mother.”
“Of course. Perhaps I’ll invite her to join me for lunch at Pete’s Bar and Grill. We both know she’s a sucker for fish tacos.”
“Thanks, Bishop. You’re a peach.”
When I walk up to Hazel’s house, I can hear music blaring inside. I raise my hand to knock on the door when I spot Hazel through the door’s glass window. I freeze, transfixed.
She doesn’t look depressed. On the contrary, she looks morealivethan I’ve ever seen her.
She’s wearing a hot pink strapless romper so unlike the conservative dresses that she usually wears that I can’t help but wonder if her body’s been inhabited by a body-snatching alien. The bun is gone, too, leaving her wild, curly hair free to tumble down her shoulders.
She’s dancing around her living room and singing along with the radio. As I watch in amazement, she raises her hands above her head and belts out, “I am the fire!”
My mouth goes dry, my knees are weak, and I grasp the doorframe to keep from falling over. Hazel has always been the most beautiful woman in the world to me, but this is somethingelse.
I try knocking, but she doesn’t hear it over the music. So, I wait for the song to end and try again. She spins, spotting me through the glass pane in the door. Her hands cover her mouth in surprise. The next song begins to play, and she holds up a finger to signal for me to wait. When she steps aside and out of view, it takes every ounce of willpower not to shout at her to come back. She’s gone for an agonizing second. Then the music cuts off and she’s back, walking toward me.
She opens the door with flushed cheeks. I’m not sure if it’s due to embarrassment or exertion from the singing and dancing, but the pink flush makes her even more gorgeous. She pushes her blonde curls out of her face. “Hiya, neighbor. Come for some sugar?”
I can feel color the warmth seeping into my own cheeks. I probably look like Judge Malcolm when he saw the marijuana billboard Sean wore on his chest to court. I know I should say something, but all I can do is stare at her.
Her face pulls into a big smile. “In movies, neighbors are always popping by to ask for a cup of sugar, you know?”
Is she messing with me?She knows as well as I do thatsugaris synonymous withkissingin the South.
I tug at my collar which suddenly seems to have grown rather tight. “I was just checking in. No one’s seen much of you this week.”