Kay’s Story (Part Twenty-One)

Stop! This is the twenty-first episode!

Looking for the beginning of Kay’s Story?

 

Right after the service ended, Jeff disappeared into the men’s room to change his clothes for the picnic. Even though he had been unsure of the formality of the church setting, he had the good sense to know that suits plus grass and ketchup usually don’t mix well.

Kay paced as she waited for him in the overflow hall, bouncing Destiny gently with each step. She was dying to ask him what had happened during the prayer time, but something inside told her to let Jeff initiate the topic. He was visibly moved when he had returned to his seat and she couldn’t help wonder what he was thinking. Whatever it was, it seemed to be good.

She thought about how very little she really knew about Jeff. Maybe this picnic would be a good chance to get to know him a little better.

The door to the restroom swung open with a squeak and Jeff appeared, looking much more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt.

“Hey, there you are. Jeff, would you mind holding Destiny while I grab my cooler from the car?”

“Not at all.” Jeff reached out and took the baby in his arms, both pleased and terrified at the same time. His big hands dwarfed her little frame, yet he cradled her as if she was made of glass.

“She won’t break, y’know.” Kay smiled encouragingly at him and started for her vehicle.

A few minutes later, the cooler was unpacked, the picnic blanket spread and Jeff was sitting with a happy Destiny cooing on his lap.

The sun was shining down with all its summer glory and a gentle breeze kept it from getting overwhelmingly hot. Kay spun in a slow circle before collapsing contentedly next to them on the checkered blanket. “Ahh, it is just the perfect day! Thanks for holding my little punkin’.” She took Destiny back into her arms and reached for her bottle. “Jeff, just so you know, the burgers and hot dogs are over in the tent towards the back of the church. Each family was supposed to bring their own chips, soda, dessert and such, but the main course is provided. I don’t think the first batch is quite ready yet, but if you want to meet some of the guys, they’ll be hanging out by the grills.”

“Hey, you trying to get rid of me already?” Jeff twisted his face into a playful pout. Kay mock hit his shoulder and made a shooing motion with her free hand. “You bet I am! Skedaddle, mister! I can’t help you meet people if I hog your free nanny services all day.”

Jeff flashed her a grin as he stood. “So, seeing I’ll be over there anyway, what do you eat? Burgers or dogs? Please tell me you aren’t one of those tofu girls…”

Kay snorted. “Tofu? I don’t think so. Give me a dead cow smothered in salty tomato goodness any day!”

“So… does that translate into a burger?”

“Heh, it translates into whatever form of meat is done cooking first. I’m not picky. I’m a true carnivore. Thanks for offering to grab it.”

Kay watched Jeff walk away and sent up a silent prayer that somehow he would connect with the guys. He just seems so different from any other man I’ve ever known… not that I’ve known many well… Kay began mentally ticking off a list of males in her life. Dad, Uncle Mich, Cousin Freddy, Grandpa… Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

Her thought process was suddenly interrupted by a super bubbly female voice.

“Kay! Where DID you find that hunk? So, are you claiming first dibs or is he fair game?” Cassy, the owner of the voice, melodramatically batted her eyes.

Usually, Kay was able to tolerate Cassy fairly well, but suddenly her Barbie doll looks and “Gossip Girl” persona were almost completely unbearable. She gritted her teeth and forced a laugh. “Seriously, Cassy! He’s almost a total stranger, you know nothing about him, and besides, he isn’t some purse to be fought over at a store. He’s a human being with a personality and the ability to choose himself. Maybe he doesn’t WANT a girlfriend!”

Cassy tilted her head to the side, looking confused for a moment. “Wait a second. You’re trying to tell me that he’s gay, aren’t you?” She sighed, her glossy bottom lip protruding in a babydoll pout. “I shoulda known… all the really cute ones are.”

Kay sputtered on her sip of rootbeer, soda fizzing out of her nose in a most unbecoming manner. “NO! I didn’t say he was gay! Cassy!” She dissolved into giggles, the indignant look on Cassy’s face only making it funnier.

Just then, Jeff reappeared, with a plate in each hand. “What’s so funny? Did I miss a joke?” Cassy opened her mouth to respond, but Kay waved her hand to silence her. “Don’t ask, Jeff, just don’t ask.” Kay tried to stifle her amusement, taking the plate from his hand. “Potato chips? Soda?”

At this point, Cassy seemed to recover and tried to make her move. She smiled coyly and held out a daintily manicured hand. “Hi, Jeff. I’m Cassy and Kay and I are just the BEST friends. I’m sure she’s told you ALL about me already. Oh, oh dear. Potato chips? Kay, darling, do you know how unhealthy those are? Not to mention fattening?” She deftly looped her arm around Jeff’s and began to steer him away. “Come with me, Jeffy. I have these organic sun-dried banana chips that are absolutely divine.” She blinked up at him. “I don’t usually share my favorite foods, but for you, I think I’ll have to make an exception.”

 

To be continued…

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Kay’s Story (Part Seventeen)

Stop! This is the seventeenth episode!

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Will this day ever end? Kay was at her wits end. Tending to a baby and running a store at the same time was proving to be one step away from insanity.  Brian didn’t believe that a store in such a small town needed more than the most basic skeleton of a work crew. That meant that Kay held the position of cashier, bagger, manager, stocker, and customer service all at the same time. Kay dug her fingernails into the palm of her hand as she saw Mrs. Peabody turn the corner and make a beeline straight for her.

Her sharp voice pierced the air with its usual enthusiasm. “Kay, dear, did you know that the pickles aren’t in the right spot?”

“Oh, I’ll take a look Mrs. Peabody. Are they not with the mustard and ketchup?”

“They are indeed, my dear. That’s the problem! Anyone knows that pickles are a canned good and should be with the jam and preserves.” The baby woke with a start at this loud declaration and began to whimper.

Kay took a deep breath and reached down to scoop Destiny out of her carrier. She knew any sort of reasoning, no matter how logical, would be useless. “Mrs. Peabody, Brian decides the location of the merchandise. I merely stock the shelves. If you’d like to speak to him, he should be back in about an hour.”

“I might just do that. Although, I can’t see why you will not just move it yourself. That man would probably never notice.” Without hardly pausing, she switched topics. “That baby shouldn’t be here, you know. Babies can catch all sorts of things being around the public like this. Besides that, mothering can hardly be done properly while working. It just isn’t practical! Mothers should be home, with a good strong man to work for the family’s bread.”

Kay’s temper was bubbling nearer to explosion by the second. Forcing a civil smile, she shifted her now calm baby to the side. “Mrs. Peabody, did you want to buy something?”

“Well now, yes I did. I guess I’d better go fetch my fixings or Mr. Peabody will have a late supper tonight. I’ll be back in a minute.”

Kay rolled her eyes as she kissed Destiny’s forehead and put her back in her snug little spot behind the register. She heard the bell over the door tinkle and straightened to greet the next customer.  Oh! It’s him! The stranger… what’s his name again? Jeff? Self-consciously, she brushed a stray bit of hair behind her ear and grinned as her approached.

“You’re back. I guess the talking green beans didn’t scare you too bad, huh?” Immediately she wished she hadn’t opened her mouth. Stupid. Stupid, Kay! He probably doesn’t even remember you. To her surprise, he held out a small thermos to her. She instinctively reached out for the cool cylinder, then stood awkwardly, holding it. “What’s this?”

“Coffee milk. I told you I’d bring some! I figured that the thermos would be a little more sanitary than walking all the way here with an open glass of milk.” He smiled expectantly. Aren’t you going to try some?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I mean, after you went through all this trouble, I owe you that much.” She unscrewed the lid and sniffed at the contents. “Hm, smells like coffee… this isn’t some kind of prank, is it?”

Jeff’s blue eyes sparkled mischievously. “Not very trusting, are you? I promise there’s nothing but milk and my mythological coffee syrup in there.”

She took a sip. The flavor was something like coffee icecream, with the bite of the bitter bean, softened by the creamy milk and lots of sugar.

“It’s good!” He chuckled and reached for the thermos.

“Nuhuh!” Kay playfully took a step back. “You can’t have it back until I drain every drop. Now I see your ulterior motives! You got me hooked on this stuff so that I will convince Brian to find some and order it.”

Jeff put up his hands in mock surrender. “You got me!” Their laughter was interrupted by a very loud and rather fake cough. “Young man, are you purchasing anything? I wouldn’t want to cut in front of the line…” Mrs. Peabody’s arms were full of precariously balanced produce and several glass jars.

“No ma’am. Sorry about that. Would you like some help?” Without waiting for an answer, he caught a sliding tomato from the top of the pile and rescued a tipping jar of pickles. Setting them down, he started to back off, but Mrs. Peabody wasn’t about to let this newcomer get away that easily.

“So, are you Miss Kay’s young man? It’s about time she got herself a boyfriend. Matter of a fact, I was just telling her that earlier today, wasn’t I, Kay dear?” Without waiting for a response, she chattered on. “You seem like a strong one, you have a job I hope?”

The look on Jeff’s face reminded Kay of a mouse under a cat’s paw. “Um, I’m looking for a job, actually. I just moved here a few weeks ago. The corner of his mouth twitched ever so slightly as he continued. “And I’m afraid I must clear the air, I’m not this lovely lady’s “young man” either. I just stopped by to repay her for a favor she did for me the other day.”

The whole time, Kay had been frantically scanning all the merchandise, trying to complete the transaction as quickly as possible. She pushed the paper bag of groceries forward. “Excuse me, I hate to interrupt, but that will be twenty nine dollars, Mrs. Peabody.” “Oh, okay dear. I really don’t mean to pry; you know I just want the best for you.” Picking up her purchases, she turned towards the door. “Nice meeting you, young man. You youngsters have a good little chat, now. Bye, dears!”

The minute they had the store to themselves, they both burst out laughing. “Wow, I can’t believe you are still standing here, Jeff. Escape would have been the first thing on my mind! Awkward!”

Gasping for air, he chuckled out, “I couldn’t leave, remember? You still have my favorite thermos! I was held hostage against my will!”

“Oh, sorry about that.” She tipped back her head and finished off the milk, before handing it back to him. “Uh, just so you know, regardless of what Mrs. Peabody might think, I’m not desperate for a boyfriend.”

“I didn’t think you were. Gah- that doesn’t sound right. I mean, you seem like a very confident and posed woman.” He scuffed his toe on the floor. “What I’m trying to say is, I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I forgot what the talk in a small town can be like. You’re just the first person who has really been nice to me since I moved to the area and I wanted to say thank you somehow.”

Kay reached out and grabbed his hand in a firm handshake. “Hey Jeff, feel free to consider me a friend.” The warm expression on her face gave him a jolt of boldness.

“Do you want to do something sometime after you get out of work? Maybe you can show me what locals do for fun around here?”

In response, Kay lifted Destiny up so Jeff could see her. “This little munchkin isn’t exactly up for a social life most nights.”

Jeff’s eyes opened even wider. “Oh wow, a baby! I didn’t know you had kids… She’s beautiful. What’s her name?”

“Destiny Marie. She and I have quite the story. “I’m in the process of adopting her. Something Mrs. Peabody and a lot of other people think is totally crazy.”

Jeff ran a finger across the baby’s downy cheek. “I think it’s great, Kay. I really do. How about weekends? Would that work for you and little Destiny?”

Kay took a deep breath and sent up a silent prayer for wisdom.

“This Sunday, my church is having a picnic after the service. If you’d like, you could come as our guest. I’d give you a chance to meet some folks.”

“I’d love to! Is it the little brick church on Main Street?”

“Yup! Tell you what, meet me out front, at quarter of ten. I’ll be driving the Volkswagen Bug. You can’t miss it. It’s the only Bug for about fifty miles in any direction.”

“Thanks, Kay. I’ll be looking forward to it!”

Kay wondered to herself as Jeff left the store whistling happily. Who would have thought that Mrs. Peabody’s meddling could start such a good thing?

…to be continued…

Kay’s Story (Part Fifteen)

Stop! This is the fifteenth episode!

Looking for the beginning of Kay’s Story?

I’m going to be a mother!

This statement of realization is usually followed by another eight or so months of pregnancy for most women. For Kay, it was her giddy chant as she made her way down the steps of the courthouse. She practically skipped all the way to her car.

The process wasn’t completely over yet, there was still a six month trial period before the adoption could be finalized. But today was the beginning! Today, Destiny Marie was coming home!

At the hospital, Makayla greeted her with a warm embrace. “I knew you could win this! Congratulations. I know you will be a wonderful mother to little Destiny. Here are the release papers. The doctor signed them earlier. You can take your baby home, Miss Kay!” Together, they bundled the baby into her shiny new carrier.

Makayla leaned forward and kissed Destiny’s forehead softly. “You get your happily ever after, Child. It’s about time somebody did.” She straightened up and faced the proud new mother. “Kay, you two come visit me sometime, you hear?” She brushed a happy tear from her face and grinned. “Get outta here, Girl. What are you waitin’ for? You’ve spent more time in here than any healthy person should.”

Kay laughed, scooped up the carrier and started down the hall. “That is for certain. Bye, Makayla! Thanks for everything.”

As she buckled the car seat into her car, tears suddenly sprang to her eyes. “God, thank you for this baby you’ve given me.” She prayed out loud during the short drive home, listening in wonderment to the incredible sound of contented cooing coming from behind her.

 To be continued…

Kay’s Story (Part Fourteen)

Stop! This is the fourteenth episode!

Looking for the beginning of Kay’s Story?

The store hadn’t been this empty for a long time. No one wanted to be inside on a sunny day like this one. Most people were out, preparing their gardens or fixing fences that had collapsed under the winter’s heavy snowfall. Kay grabbed another case of canned green beans and continued the mundane task of stocking shelves, letting her mind wander.

So far, everything was going according to plan. Sinja, a lawyer who attended the same church as Kay, had agreed to give her pro-bono legal advice. Kay’s apartment was to be approved as a child safe residence, just as soon as the necessary changes were implemented. She had the inspector’s signed report, along with copies of the paperwork from the contractor she’d hired to fix the problem areas.

But deep down, Kay couldn’t help feeling slightly worried. Baby gates, childproof locks, finishing the upstairs loft to create a nursery…. so much to do and so little time or money to do it with.

She soberly addressed the shelving unit, vocalizing the debate in her brain. “True, my friends are wonderful, but part of me just doesn’t like all these people helping. I want to be seen as confident and independent. I want to prove that I can do this myself!”

Ahem. Kay whirled around at the sound of a throat being cleared behind her and found herself staring into the bemused face of a young man who looked to be a maybe eight or so years older than her.

“I’m sorry, can I help you? I was just… I was distracted. Thinking. Out loud.” Kay felt heat rising from the tips of her toes, as tried to make her face look normal.

The stranger’s grin widened. “I figured as much. I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look at a can of green beans with such a serious and determined glare before. I almost wish I could have waited for the veggie’s reaction.”

Now, Kay’s face was beet red and she was starting to get more than a little annoyed. “Is there something you need?”

“Yes, of course. I’m sorry, here I am teasing you and you don’t even know my name. I’m Jeff and I just moved into the area from out of state. I’m pretty lost, as far as the way things are set up here. I was hoping that you could point me in the direction of the coffee syrup?”

“Coffee syrup??” Kay raised one eyebrow and tried to determine if he was pulling her leg.

“Uh, you know, the stuff you add to milk to make coffee milk. Like chocolate syrup, but coffee flavored. Comes in a brown bottle, about yea high?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing in my life. I’ll ask my boss, Brian, but you might just be out of luck.”

She shook off her flustered state and put on her customer service persona. “Hold on for one moment, please. I’ll go ask him right now.”

She found Brian in the back room and after listening to a five minute rant that repeatedly made use of the words “jeezum crow” and “crazy flatlanders”, Kay returned with the news that no such thing existed in the store or any of their supply catalogs.

“You’ve really never had coffee milk?”

Now it was Kay’s turn to smirk at his incredulity. “Nope. And amazingly enough, I’ve survived just fine so far.”

“Well, I’ll just have to ask my sister to send me some in the mail and I will personally bring you a glass. Say, I told you my name, but you never mentioned yours.”

She wasn’t sure if he was flirting and momentarily considered ignoring him, but somehow that seemed too rude.

“I’m Kay.” After wiping her dusty palms on her jeans, she reached out for a handshake and inwardly scolded her heart for suddenly beating faster.

To be continued…

The demise of the candy heart brigade, by Toni Cross

 

Brutally crunching up tiny sweet hearts

Those stale remainders of February

Whose ranks were once a veritable rainbow

Now only a few distasteful colors are left

Mainly the greens and the yellows

Their death cries are pathetically corny

They call me “Sweet Love” and “Angel”

As if these attempts at seductive platitudes

Could halt my ever chewing teeth

Or still my craving for more